FYI: Three Updates For A Sunday

Below are three updates of issues discussed over the past thirty days:

1. October 11: Is "Innocent Nudity" Expression? My follow-up blog referred to the case of Gwen Jacobs, who was charged with an indecent act under s.173 of the Criminal Code for appearing topless in downtown Guelph on a hot summer day. She was later acquitted by the Ontario Court of Appeal on the basis that her act was not committed in a sexual context, which was a required element of the offence. At the time, she was hailed as a fearless advocate for the rights movement. Today Gwen is still an activist and on Friday she appeared with her daughter at Occupy Toronto to lend her support. For those wondering, yes, she did have her shirt on - it was cold out! However, thanks to Gwen, breastfeeding at that public event or really anywhere now is acceptable.

2. October 18: Wristbands Are In Effect: The "Keep A Breast" Campaign. Doing a quick Google search reveals this story has received a lot of attention. Commentators on websites, journalists, and bloggers alike all seem to be against the ban. Some comments even set the campaign side by side with Movember, the prostate cancer "grow a moustache" fundraiser. One online article is particularly moving as it reveals some girls wear the wristbands in honour of a loved one who had breast cancer. This becomes particularly meaningful considering, on average, 64 Canadian women a day are diagnosed with breast cancer and 14 women are dying daily of the disease. If you are unable to find the wristbands for purchase, you can go here to post a virtual wristband on your Facebook page or Twitter account.

3. October 21: Where The Wild Things Are. In this post on animal rights issues, I mention Lucy the Elephant in the Edmonton Zoo and the fight for her release. The matter is currently before the Supreme Court of Canada. But what of Lucy and her plight? Recently, the City of Edmonton has decided to take steps to winterize Lucy's enclosure at the zoo. Why now after Lucy has already spent umpteen winters in the Northern Alberta City? The move is after recommendations from a "third party specialist" who examined her. Although the renovation is welcomed by animal rights groups such as PETA, who are involved in advocating for Lucy's release, the gesture does not go far enough over fears she will not survive the harsh winter. As of November 7, both parties to the SCC action have filed their arguments at the Court. It is now a race against time but there is surprising evidence that Elephants can, in fact, run. Go Lucy go!

Where the Wild Things Are

The escape of wild animals in Ohio is a story which has caught my attention. It is a sad story. The suicidal exotic zoo owner released some 50 wild animals, including tigers and lions, before shooting himself in the head. Tragically, the animals were shot and killed by authorities in an effort to protect the public. In the aftermath, animal rights activists push for legislative reform in a State, which, shockingly, has no regulation for the keeping of exotic animals. 

Here, in Alberta, we do have provincial legislation to regulate and protect wildlife, exotic animals, and domesticated animals as found in the Wildlife Act and the Animal Protection Act. We also have cruelty to animal sections in the Criminal Code, found in sections 444 to 445 and 446 to 447.  

Oddly enough all of these Criminal Code sections are found under Part XI of the Code entitled "Wilful and Forbidden Acts in respect of Certain Property." True, animals are owned but to conceive animals as property conveys the wrong message. The focus is off. Instead of protecting animals because they are living things, our society protects animals because, like a book, they are owned. It is, therefore, this ownership quality of an animal, the concept of damaged goods, which we have decided to protect through our criminal law. 

But the world is changing and our raison d'etre for protection of animals must change too. Peter Singer, a Professor of Bio-Ethics at Princeton, has been a long-time proponent of animal rights after the publication of his book Animal Liberation in the mid '80s.  Since then, animal rights has become a movement with increasing number of supporters. A recent Slaw blog on "Animal Law and Animal Welfare Groups" caught my eye. Additionally, the Supreme Court of Canada will be deciding on a leave application filed by Zoocheck Canada and others on the release of Lucy the Elephant from the Edmonton Zoo.

It is clear animal rights as an emerging issue will require a more thoughtful approach to the protection of animals and, perhaps, a much needed review of Criminal Code sections.