Written by Mary Giuffre: I’ve never been a fan of government. For most of my life I’ve voted because I’m supposed to and until the past few years I didn’t given much attention to the whys and wherefores of my country, my province or my municipality. Then, while witnessing and living under the lunacy of the last Canadian Prime Minister and because I’m a stickler for accountability, gradually, I got sucked in.
I started allowing myself to watch the news. When my husband droned on about politics it no longer sounded like ‘wawa’ in my ears and I actually started believing that if I stood up, perhaps someone would listen and I could do something to make the world a better place. So rather than just joining an advocacy group like any other semi-normal person might, I jumped into my sneakers and ran for office in our last municipal election. It was a very big mistake…gratefully I LOST…and I’m still extremely relieved, as once I declared, information was shared, and I was horrified at the thought of being counted among those less than credible individuals elected to govern of our township.
The thing is, we all know it’s impossible to un-ring a bell. I heard what I heard, knew what I knew, and I could not stop paying attention to corruption at all levels, so when last year’s Federal election rolled around, I was ready to vote! Well almost, I had no idea who I was voting for, but I knew I was voting Harper OUT!
So with hundreds of thousands of other Canadians, I didn’t vote FOR Justin Trudeau, I voted AGAINST Harper. And despite my objections to Bill C-51 and the TPP, when PM Trudeau took office, I became totally smitten with that smart, funny, articulate, charming and handsome breath of fresh air. His kind and gentle way, his very hip Canadian-maple-leaf socks, his open acceptance of other cultures, and his Parliament Hill yoga poses pulled me in. And then there is the fact that we share a Christmas birthday. He and his “because it’s 2015” government won me over and I finally believed that a government body truly cared about ME, US, the LAND and our FURRY, FEATHERED and FINNED friends.
People want and need leaders, strong leaders, compassionate leaders, because they want to do the right thing and to do things right. Most of all, they want leaders who cannot be swayed from doing what truly IS the right thing.
Rallying people isn’t a new role for me. I produced TV for national networks for years, so I have mega experience herding cats. Last fall before the new government was elected, I organized ‘Ruby’s Legacy’, a massive citizen’s movement to help STOP PUPPY MILLS IN CANADA. I have chosen to speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves, and by reaching out to dog lovers across the country our group is 4,200 strong, including some international supporters, as animals have no concept of borders.
Our ‘Ruby’s Legacy’ inner circle has met with, and is working diligently to support the efforts of a first-time Liberal MP, by encouraging our members to send RED letters to MPs of all parties in support of his private member’s Bill c-246, ‘the Modernizing Animal Protections Act’. Nathaniel Erskine-Smith is a leader – a new, bright light on Capital Hill. Nate has guts. Despite fierce opposition he’s vowed to bring our laws into the 21st Century and has bravely taken on the pathetic and embarrassing state of animal welfare in this country.
When I’ve spent time with Nate and his first assistant Andy Goodridge, I can’t help but admire this generation of remarkable men and women, which includes my nephews and nieces of the same age. Brought up by parents who have encouraged them to stand up, they are bold and fearless individuals brimming with appreciation and compassion for all things, because they don’t subscribe to the antiquated and erroneous attitude that man’s domination over animals and the environment includes abuse. Instead they get that everything on the planet deserves unconditional respect, just because it’s here. It’s what makes them great leaders.
So why am I feeling so disgruntled with the work I’ve chosen at this stage of my life? Because our government is still packed with elected members overflowing with self-importance, rather than compassion.
Over the past 3.5 months Ruby’s Legacy has sent over 5,000 letters telling our government they want changes to our animal welfare laws. I’ve sent personal email correspondence to EVERY FEDERAL MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT with hopes of drumming up support for Nate’s bill and received only one response. ONE. Robert-Falcon Ouellette the MP for Winnipeg Centre sent me a hand-written letter of acknowledgement and support. Very nice Mr. Ouellette…oh yes, you are of that compassionate generation I mentioned!
After sending a second round of letters, this time via Canada Post, to the ninety-nine Conservative MPs, with copies to the PM and Justice Minister, (a total of three-hundred letters!) my SECOND response came by way of a phone call from the office of a French Canadian MP. In my absence, his assistant informed my husband that letters sent to Francophone MPs would have a better chance of being read if they were written in French and that his MP had instructed him to “toss out” English correspondence. Really? If I don’t speak French, how would I be able to read a response that arrived in French? AND it’s my understanding that as a Canadian I have the right to receive service from my government in the official language of my choice…Hmmmmm.
My own MP who I’ve met on numerous occasions, knows me by name, and friended me on Facebook when I was running for Township Council, hasn’t responded either. I understand that MPs have a lot of people they represent, but isn’t somebody in that office in charge of constituent correspondence, especially when it’s over three months old?
Despite the lack of response and determined to save mill dogs from an insufferable fate, my husband and I travelled to Ottawa for the Bill C-246 debate earlier this week. A first time visitor to the House of Commons as witness to the debate of a Private Members’ bill, what I anticipated to be history in the making, digressed into officious pontification.
Passionate and articulate, MP Erskine-Smith spoke to a sparsely populated House of chattering MPs, who appeared only marginally interested in the proceedings as they surfed the net on their laptops. (You can see it all from the Gallery.) First he complimented past Justice Ministers and members who have put forward near identical legislation in the past. He provided details on the breadth of his bill and spoke to every possible concern presented to him by those opposing it. Nate explained that animal welfare is non-partisan issue. He reassured farmers, anglers and hunters that no currently accepted practices would be influenced by this bill, making clear that THE BILL IS ABOUT ANIMAL ABUSE, NOT ANIMAL USE and that he is wide open to discussion about changing language that will clarify any concerns on any point.
Questions and speeches then came from all parties. Conservative MP Michelle Rempel began with sincere questions and seemed satisfied with Erskine-Smith’s responses. Green Party Leader, MP Elizabeth May, who had previously introduced legislation around shark finning, encouraged Nate to speak further about the greater purpose of taking this step forward against animal cruelty in Canada.
We were off to a compassionate start which continued with NDP MPs Fin Donnelly and Murray Rankin who stood in firm solidarity with MP Erskine-Smith. Donnelly had also taken on the shark finning issue in the past. (Personally I couldn’t help but be amused over the Fin – shark finning connection.) And Rankin made an educated and impassioned speech, requesting they take Bill C-246 to committee for discussion over the legal details.
In sadly partisan style, Conservative MPs Robert Sopuck and Blaine Calkins where completely closed down. First they proved they have limited knowledge of Parliamentary proceedings, as their presentation protocol had to be corrected by the House Speaker – which drew serious mocking from other members. Sopuck’s ramblings made it obvious he hadn’t listened to anything Nate said in his opening address. This opponent had taken a stand and wasn’t budging, blathering on and on…impact on hunting, fishing and farming…PETA and animal rights advocates taking over government…animal testing… He spoke of unintended consequences, hidden agendas and based on what I heard from Nate’s speech, Sopuck was just making things up as he went along.
Far too charming, Calkins eloquently patronized MP Erskine-Smith with far sweeping statements. Calkins congratulated him on the magnitude of his undertaking, presented an obvious lecture on distinction between urban vs. rural dogs, then reiterated several of Sopuck’s already superfluous statements. He boasted more than once about his degrees in Zoology, Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, then spouted a completely ridiculous statement about NOT KNOWING ANYONE WHO DIDN’T LOVE THEIR DOG! Mr. Calkins if you had paid attention to even one case of cruelty towards a dog, you couldn’t possibly say something so ludicrous.
The biggest shock and major disappointment of the debate came from the Liberal Party itself. In a totally awkward speech, Bill Blair the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice, addressed the House. With one hand he complimented MP Erskine-Smith’s efforts and with the other he did his best to dress him down. (Fortunately this generation doesn’t falter easily.) Fumbling through a folder of hand written pages, we witnessed Blair searching for notes and scrambling for words. He stated something about studying the whole Criminal Code which needs an overhaul and basically struck a blow at the unsuspecting Erskine-Smith with the information that his own government would not support his bill. Nate was noticeably taken back and spoke out more than once asking for legal proof of Blair’s statements.
Today, I’m thoroughly disappointed with our government…Canada has been given the opportunity to update animal cruelty regulations in the Criminal Code 13 times in 16 years. These changes are not new and they have never actually been voted down, but instead have been dismissed through government tactics, which appears to be happening yet again.
We Canadians are not getting the compassionate “because it’s 2015” government we were promised. Animals are suffering and dying at the hands of abusers and getting away with it because our government is refusing to protect them.
It’s now 2016!!! PASS THIS LAW then study the whole damn criminal code on your own time. The animals don’t have that kind of time!
The 4,200 voices of ‘Ruby’s Legacy’ as well as the over 45,000 individuals in Canada and abroad who have signed a petition supporting Bill C-246 have spoken out loudly and clearly. Overhaul Canada’s seriously out dated Animal Welfare laws!
OPEN YOUR EYES and YOUR HEARTS! DO THE COMPASSIONATE THING and VOTE YES to Bill C-246!