Vigils for animal welfare in Canada continue with great hopes for election on May 2

Just many other groups have Facebook to help communicate their cause and inspire action, so is Vancouver resident Crystal Arber leading a global pack to bring awareness to Animal Cruelty legislation in Canada.  Arber, an MSW Candidate, was struck by the senseless and heartless executions of the Sled Dogs in Whistler BC and decided she could not just let things go on status quo. “These sled dogs cannot die in vain. We need to be their voice!” Seems thousands of other people agreed with her. For her, though, thousands are not enough; her goal is millions.

After some research, she discovered that animal cruelty legislation remains virtually unchanged since 1892. Animals are still considered property even though the majority of the population comprehends and views them as  sentient beings.

“They feel, they understand, and they display joy. Because animals are still considered property, it seems to give some people justification for abuse.” Arber says.

Arber has a goal of 100 cities around the world, and is halfway there.

Since mid February, 27 “walks” to highlight Canada’s lack of effective animal cruelty legislation have taken place already from Italy, across Europe and in to Canada through to the US.

Her April 23rd Vigil organizers in Canada, from North Vancouver BC and in every province are making a lot of noise as well as those organizers from England, South Africa,Australia, and US. And the media is listening even if the Harper government is not.

For local residents North Vancouver will hold its Vigil at the foot of Lonsdale at the New Shipbuilders’ Square. All local MPs and MLAs including Premier Christy Clark have been invited, and North Van Mayor Darrell Mussatto will be speaking.

MPs are also getting involved, letters. MP Mark Holland, drafter of Bill C-229,  spoke  in Waterloo about the fight for effective Animal Cruelty legislation.

“That’s really the focus of these Vigils”, Crystal explained. “We will have petitions on site at every Canadian vigil for people to sign. If the amendments to the Criminal Code of Canada were in place, as proposed in this bill, any offense would be enforced more effectively and efficiently. For example, we’d have less people getting away with a slap on the wrist for beating a three month old puppy to death, like what happened in Victoria early 2011.”

When asked how much Bill C-229 will cost Canadian taxpayers, Mark Holland, MP for Ajax Pickering since 2004, says “it is expected (to cost) nothing to implement. There really is no reason for them (the PCs) not to do this at all..” If anything, it will increase enforcement, he confirms, and it will increase the effectiveness of our court system, where currently, offenders have very little accountability. When someone harms an animal, they rarely are convicted because of our current Criminal Code. That is what needs to change.

“There is no need to make this a partisan issue – it is just the right thing to do.” He added, “I am happy to pull my bill if they agree to introduce it as government legislation. We badly need these changes passed.”

Libby Davies, NDP MP Vancouver recently said in the House on March 7 2011, “All these important citizen initiatives have focused our attention on what needs to be done. Animal cruelty laws must be effective and they must not be stripped down in the Senate. I urge all members to join together to protect animals and prevent animal cruelty.”

In fact, all the Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc support changing legislation based on Bill C-229. So why is the bill being stopped? Holland attributes it to the complacency of the Conservatives who feel they have already done enough to support animal cruelty legislation. John Weston, Vancouver PC MP says in a letter to the editor North Shore News February 4, 2011 in response to the “despicable act” of the sled dog executions:  ” Our federal government supports the fight against animal cruelty. We need to send the message that animal cruelty is unacceptable in Canadian society. That is why our government helped pass Bill S-203 into law during the last parliament, a bill that increased the maximum penalty to five years for acts of animal cruelty.”

In a written reply to Mr Weston, Mr Holland said “You mention that your government “remains open to future initiatives to combat animal cruelty.” If that is true, then why has your government consistently ignored countless calls made over years to get a bill like C-229 through Parliament? …. demands have been made by … residents who live in West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, the riding you represent in Parliament.”

Bill C-229 allows for all regular hunting, fishing, farming, ranching, as long as these continue lawfully.

An election has been called for May 2, and the petitions for this Bill are still valid because they state “based on Bill C-229. If the public would like to get involved and make their voice heard, or to sign a petition, there are vigils happening in almost every area in Canada on April 23rd.

It seems the international population understands what the Canadian Conservative party does not.

More information about the Vigils in your city or around the world can be found at http://www.april23rdvigil.com. This site also has a repository on all the press received regarding the Vigils so far and is updated daily. Mark Holland’s website which contains the very short history on Animal Cruelty legislation in Canada is http://markholland.liberal.ca/cruelty-to-animals/

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