Roger writing the LAWmag
21
Aug 2014

Quebec Minister Promises Changes to Animal Legal Status

Rochelle DuhaimeThe Quebec Civil Code, much like laws pretty well everywhere, accord a living being (other than a human being) the status and concordant rights roughly equivalent to those of a chair.

Some prominent animal law authorities have1 argued in courts of law and lobbied aggressively to change this. Why? Because, simply put, if an animal is without legal standing in a court of law, his/her state/treatment/abuse/neglect cannot be contested on his/her behalf by another. Therefore, it is difficult if not impossible to impose sanctions or even to apply existing anti-cruelty laws to any effect. This change of status, agree other experts2, will not change their rights in law but will enable courts to enforce stricter sanctions.

So let’s put this statement made by the Minister3 on August 7th in perspective. Recent controversy over the ministry’s inability or unwillingness to act to close down an undeniably cruelly operated fur farm is overlaid on the province’s well-publicised shame record as the top puppy mill source in North America, the ongoing embarrassing baby seal hunt mediatisation, and the Ministry’s animal police’s well documented and lamented lethargic responses to cruelty reports.6 Québec is #12 on the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF)’s annual cruelty roster7 and seems unable to move up. France, which Québec is about to emulate, recently modified its Code Civil to recognise an animal as a sentient being (unlike that chair), able to feel and experience pain and suffering. Critics point out this was already coded in rural and penal French laws8 and was reflected in the EU Treaty of Lisbon.9 Is Québec then proposing only a cosmetic change of definition without addressing the fundamental questions of animal rights under the law?

Of course, only time will tell as the province enacts other changes to the Civil Code and seems to have a healthy appetite to modify laws and procedures to streamline and simplify their somewhat archaic and poorly perceived regal legal systems.10 The province’s poor track record of enacting meaningful change to animals’ plight may not augur well for the future. However, where lawmakers may quail before powerful lobbyists, the pressure of enlightened public opinion less tolerant of excuses and panaceas may force those changes through the courts.


REFERERENCES & CITATIONS

  • NOTE 1: htttp://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/1304228/speciesism « speciesism » argument and animal rights; also see activists Gary L. Francione http://: www.abolitionistapproach.com/books/the-animal-rights-debate-abolition-or-regulation/#.U_ON6GNsF5d and ALDF http://aldf.org/cases-campaigns/ and Peter Singer https://www.princeton.edu/~psinger/
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  • NOTE 2: La Fondation de 30 Millions d’Amis in http://www.thelocal.fr/20140416/animals-to-no-longer-be-furniture-in-france
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  • NOTE 3: http://www.ledevoir.com/politique/quebec/415268/paradis-veut-inclure-un-nouveau-statut-aux-animaux-dans-le-code-civil ; and statement by Minister Paradis confirmed by phone with press agent C. Fraser at MAPAQ
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  • NOTE 4: http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/horrific-conditions-at-quebec-fur-farm-spca-1.1959940
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  • NOTE 5: http://www.spacanada.org/en/campaigns/puppy-mills.html
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  • NOTE 6: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Changeons-le-statut-juridique-des-animaux-de-compagnie-au-Qu%C3%A9bec/286878538091050?fref=photo and https://fr-
  • fr.facebook.com/pages/Action-citoyenne-responsable-des-animaux-de-compagnie-au-Qu%C3%A9bec-ACRACQ/382485385121659?fref=nf
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  • NOTE: 7 [retrieved from the Internet net prior to 2-2014-08-22 at http://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/2013-REPORT-canadian-rankings.pdf]. The California-based ALDF is self-described as follows: "For more than three decades, the Animal Legal Defense Fund has been fighting to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. Founded in 1979 by attorneys active in shaping the emerging field of animal law, ALDF has blazed the trail for stronger enforcement of anti-cruelty laws and more humane treatment of animals in every corner of American life. Today, ALDF’s groundbreaking efforts to push the U.S. legal system to end the suffering of abused animals".
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  • NOTE 8: Socialist Deputy Colette Capdevielle quoted in http://www.thelocal.fr/20140416/animals-to-no-longer-be-furniture-in-france
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  • NOTE 9: Changes to art 6b http://www.consilium.europa.eu/documents/treaty-of-lisbon?lang=en
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  • NOTE 10: Belley, Jean-Marc, Une justice de la seconde modernité : proposition de principes généraux pour le prochain Code de procédure civile, Jean-Guy Belley, 46 McGill LJ 317 (2001)

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