Animal associations

Canadian Animal Law Conference returns to U of T

Camille Labchuk care deeply about animals.

She says seeing images of commercial seal kills on the news left an indelible impression on her as a child growing up on Canada’s east coast.

“Years later, I was working in Ottawa, in politics, and I had the opportunity to go with a non-profit organization on the ice floe to monitor and film the seal hunt and use that footage,” explains Labchuk.

“This led to the European Union banning the entry of commercial seal products onto its borders, which has helped reduce the seal hunt on the East Coast and saved hundreds of thousands of baby seals from dying. ‘to be brutally killed.’

Inspired by her fellow politicians and other animal advocates, Labchuk earned a law degree at the University of Toronto to advance her interest in animal advocacy and is now the executive director of Animal Justice, a nonprofit organization. non-profit that fights for animals in court. The organization has lobbied for stricter animal protection laws and better enforcement of those currently in place.

Earlier this year, Animal Justice intervened in British Columbia v. Council of Canadians with Disabilitiesa case before the Supreme Court of Canada that tested public interest standing – whether a public interest group could litigate on behalf of an individual.

“We wanted to emphasize that animals cannot sue as individuals because they have no legal status. Their only way to access the justice system is to rely on groups like Animal Justice and others to pursue these claims. The court confirmed that a broad interpretation of public interest quality is important to many marginalized groups.

As presenter, Animal Justice will also play a key role in bringing the annual Canadian Animal Law Conference to the U of T Law School September 16-18.

“We’ve partnered with the University of Toronto over the past few years,” says Labchuk, who adds that an American conference has been around for decades. His organization therefore felt it was important to bring the exchange of ideas to Canada. “The conference was scheduled to be held in person in 2020, so we are thrilled to finally have the chance to bring us all together.

“The conference is open to everyone: lawyers who practice in the field – including those who may have a small voluntarily parallel practice – people who want to get into the field, new law graduates and law students who run animal rights clubs, as well as those involved in advocacy.

Conference sessions include “Dangerous Dog Litigation: Navigating Tribunals in British Columbia and Ontario,” “Animals and Family Law: Slow Progress but Tangible Opportunities,” and “Ag Gag: Legal, Political and Social Implications of Exosing Factory Farms.”

“Ag Gag refers to a set of laws that first appeared in the United States that were designed to cover up cruelty to animals on farms,” says Labchuk. “A common theme in these laws is shutting down the ability to share information, such as banning photos and videos inside farms or slaughterhouses or banning undercover work in In Canada, we have long escaped Ag Gag, but the agriculture industry finally started pushing for these laws in 2019.”

The event will begin on September 16 with a series of presentations by scholars in collaboration with the North American Animal Law Conference sponsored by the US-based Brooks Institute for Animal Rights Law and Policy.

Angela Fernandez, an animal rights researcher at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law, says she’s seen renewed interest among students in her animal rights course.

Loveland Chair in Indigenous Law at the University of Toronto, Professor John borrowswill present “Animals in Law in Relation to Indigenous Law”.

“When people think of Indigenous rights versus animal rights, they think of people who want to protect animals and how that conflicts with hunting or fishing rights,” says the professor. Angela Fernandezresearcher in animal rights at the Faculty of Law of the University of Toronto.

“What we’re really trying to do is move the conversation forward and get people thinking about potential points of similarity and synchronicity. For example, by looking at legislation where animals are viewed the way Indigenous peoples view them: as beings worthy of respect. How might this work with Western settler, colonial ideas and approaches, which currently offer little or no protections for animals? »

Fernandez, who applies a historical framework to her study of law and is cross-appointed to the history department in the U of T’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, says she’s seen a surge in interest in her course animal law, with close to 50 students enrolled last year and this fall.

She has previously received the Teaching Award from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of the Students’ Law Society (SLS) and the Indigenous Law Students’ Association (ILSA) for including the perspectives, topics and aboriginal law in the content of his course.

In his academic presentation, “Animals as Property, Quasi-Property or Quasi-Person”, Fernandez focuses on terminology that challenges the traditional distinction between property and people for animals, arguing that it should be thought of as a continuum rather than an either/or binary.

She says that even though animals are legally property, we can find ways to treat them as different from property.

“For example, you can set up a trust for your pet after you die to make sure there’s money so they can be taken care of,” says Fernandez, whose article was published in the Animal Law Fundamentals series organized by the Brooks Institute. “There is no other equivalent property where you could do this.

“I put all these examples together to say, ‘Well, legally, aren’t we saying animals are more than property, or they’re special property? “”

Fernandez is an invited member of BASAN – the Brooks Animal Studies Academic Network – which leads projects and collaborations between animal rights researchers in the United States and Canada.

Many of the presenters and conference attendees are among the most prominent names in the field and have completed a JD or graduate degree at the U of T. They include a graduate of the JD program Maneesha Deckhadirector of the Animals and Society Research Initiative at the University of Victoria and holds a master’s degree Man Ha (MH) Tsecurrently a doctoral candidate in the animal rights program at Harvard University.

One of the highlights of this year’s conference will be a virtual keynote address by world-renowned philosopher Martha C. Nussbaum, eminent Ernst Freund Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago. His book, Building capacity: the human development approachlays out a philosophical approach for humans to live their best lives, which she will discuss in relation to animals.

“His presence at this conference is really important for the field,” Fernandez said.