By Vicki Van Linden, Advisor
Canada 150 is upon us. Let’s make Canada 150 a time for reflection as we look to our future and our past.
It’s true that we Canadians have a lot to be grateful for. We enjoy relative peace, prosperity, and safety, compared to many nations.
We are grateful to live where free speech is protected, and the right to protest legally and engage in our democracy makes political activism possible. While many of us are fortunate, we still live in a society where people are disenfranchised, where poverty and human suffering still exist.
We recognize too, that weak animal and environmental protection laws continue in Canada, perpetuated by our federal and provincial governments, and resulting in our national failure to progress more quickly regarding respect and protection of non-human animals and the environment. Even very basic protections are denied animals, perpetuated by Canada’s very weak laws.
That’s why, for Canada 150, we need to celebrate our growing community of people who care about animals and the environment. We need to celebrate our Canadian family which includes all living beings and the natural world.
We look back and see that Canada is a nation forged on the exploitation of animals and the environment. The early fur trade is celebrated in Canadian mythology as the beginning of our nation. Yet it wiped out entire populations of beavers in regions across Canada, all to enrich European businesses. Canadian beavers were seen only as a resource to be commercially exploited.
Canadian politicians still see Canada as a resource-driven economy, seemingly unable to embrace fully the necessary change to address pressing issues like global warming. We need leaders who will work with Canadians to develop a progressive, sustainable economy and who will challenge those governments that still pander to the so-called heritage industries like animal agriculture, logging, resource extraction, hunting, fishing, and trapping.
Today, commercial hunting out-fitters and guiding businesses lobby for political influence. And they get it. Foreign sport and trophy hunters are welcomed into Canadian forests to kill native wild animals for their pleasure and entertainment. And these out-dated practices are justified as part of ‘heritage.’
Worse still, these same interests successfully influence governments to keep all animal protection laws weak. It seems that they fear that if the social status of any animal is raised, if Canadian law recognized that living animals are far more than inanimate possessions, that their activities may be seen for what they are – the cruel enjoyment of causing the suffering and death of other living beings.
Canadian animal transportation laws for farmed animals going to slaughter are some of the worst in the westernized world. Farming practices confine animals in abhorrent ways, and there is little sign of hope in sight. Even dogs in puppy mills and those brutalized in dog-fighting get no increase in protection from our Canadian government. In the 21st century Canada’s governments cannot even shut down puppy mills! And, our Prime Minister wears the dead carcasses of coyotes on his coats.
Our responsibility is to stand in defence of animals and the environment. Our mandate is to challenge the status quo and build a political constituency that demands real protection.
Let’s never give up.
And in celebrating Canada 150, let us remember those who went before us – those who founded humane societies, established rescue groups, fought for farm animals, advocated for wildlife and challenged the lack of protection for the environment – when our movement was in its infancy.
Let’s honour their memories and celebrate Canada 150 by resolving to fight to protect animals and the environment every day.