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Introducing two bills to protect dogs and encourage responsible pet ownership

Today in the Legislature I introduced two bills aimed at ensuring the humane treatment of dogs who end up being seized, while upholding public protection from dangerous dogs. The first bill is entitled Bill M239 — Animal Liability Act, 2017 and is based on similar legislation in Manitoba. It ensures that owners of animals are held liable for the actions of their animals. I introduced a very similar version of the Animal Liability Act last year. My office and I subsequently undertook extensive discussions with numerous stakeholders. Earlier, we summarized some of these discussions, including the relationship of my bill with Section 49 of the Community Charter.

Our extensive consultations led us to tweak the Animal Liability Act, 2017 and to also propose amendments to Section 49 of the Community Charter. These changes had been recommended by the SPCA and are found in Bill M238, Community Charter Amendment Act, 2017.

Below I reproduce the text and video of my introduction of the two Bills. I append our media release at the end.


1) Community Charter Amendment Act, 2017


Text of Introduction


A. Weaver: I move that a bill intituled Community Charter Amendment Act, 2017, of which notice has been given in my name, be introduced and read a first time now.

Motion approved.

A. Weaver: I’m pleased to introduce a bill intituled the Community Charter Amendment Act, 2017. This bill makes a number of changes to section 49 of the Community Charter, which regulates special powers in relation to dangerous dogs. It adds legal clarity for proceedings and appeals in accordance with the Offence Act. It restricts the definition of a “dangerous dog” to a dog that kills or seriously injures a person or animal without provocation. It also creates standards of care for dogs held in long-term impounds, requiring that they have access to outdoor space and daily exercise. For seriously ill dogs in need of veterinary care, a compassionate-release clause is included.

These are the changes that the BC SPCA has been calling for after seeing too many situations in which vague legislation has led to unjust suffering of impounded dogs. With this act, we seek to ensure the humane treatment of dogs who end up in the system, while upholding public protection from dangerous dogs.

I move that the bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.

Bill M238, Community Charter Amendment Act, 2017, introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.


Video of Introduction



2) Animal Liability Act, 2017


Text of Introduction


A. Weaver: I move that a bill intituled the Animal Liability Act, 2017, of which notice has been given in my name, be introduced and read a first time now.

Motion approved.

A. Weaver: I’m pleased to be introducing a bill intituled the Animal Liability Act. According to the Canada Safety Council, more than 460,000 dog bites occur each year in Canada. Over the years, British Columbians have called on B.C. legislators to act. Here in B.C., we do not have adequate laws to ensure that owners are liable for the actions of their pets or animals. Indeed, we only have liability being imposed on the basis of scienter doctrine, negligence or, in some cases, the Occupiers Liability Act.

This bill would ensure that owners are liable for any damages resulting from harm that the animals cause to a person or property. This bill, based on similar legislation that exists in Manitoba, is designed to ensure that owners of animals take ownership seriously and are held responsible for the actions of their pets.

I move that the bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.

Bill M239, Animal Liability Act, 2017, introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.


Video of Introduction



Media Release


Weaver tables bills to ensure responsible pet ownership and the protection of dogs
For immediate release
March 9, 2017

VICTORIA B.C. – In 2015, Buttons the Therapy Dog – who worked at hospitals comforting and cheering up patients – was so aggressively attacked by another dog that he had to be immediately put down.

The owners of the violent dog had been instructed to keep their pet secured and muzzled because of an incident with a different dog just a few months prior. When Buttons walked by with his owners Yvonne and John McDonald, however, it had been left unrestrained. Because of existing B.C. laws, irresponsible pet owners seldom face any consequences for the actions of their dogs. Since losing Buttons, Yvonne and John have been advocating for the need for animal liability laws in B.C.

Today in the legislature, Andrew Weaver, Leader of the B.C. Green Party, introduced the Animal Liability Act, 2017 and the Community Charter Amendment Act, 2017. The Animal Liability Act is modeled on Manitoba’s legislation and makes owners directly liable for any damages caused by their pets. The Community Charter Amendment Act would add legal clarity and humane treatment standards to Section 49, which regulates special powers in relation to dangerous dogs. Consideration for the circumstances around a dog attack are introduced, as are standards of care for dogs held in long term impounds. For seriously ill dogs in need of veterinary care a compassionate release clause is included.

“The evidence clearly points towards irresponsible pet owners being the problem, but right now our legislation only penalizes the dogs themselves,” said Weaver.

Currently, if a dog severely bites someone, under Section 49 of the Community Charter that dog could be seized and destroyed, but the owner would not necessarily face any charges, be responsible for any damages, or be restricted from future pet-ownership.

“We need clear liability legislation so that owners are required to ensure their pets responsibly trained, well taken care of, behave safely – and that they are held to account if their pet does behave in a dangerous manner,” said Weaver.

“Ultimately I brought this issue forward because there is a gap in our legislative framework in B.C. regarding pets and pet ownership liability. Other provinces have addressed it, and while I don’t think it is wise to follow Ontario’s lead in banning certain breeds, we do need something to ensure that pet owners are responsible for the behaviour of their pets and that there are stiff penalties for not being a responsible pet owner.”

The Animal Liability Act does not, nor is it intended to, put full liability on pet owners if their dog acts out of self defence or in response to aggression. The context that led to a bite is as important as the fact that a bite took place.

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Media contacts
Mat Wright, Press Secretary
+1 250-216-3382 | mat.wright@leg.bc.ca

 

Introducing a bill to prevent sexist high heel dress codes in the workplace

Today in the legislature I introduced a bill in the legislature designed to prevent employers from setting varying footwear and other requirements based on gender, gender expression or gender identity. As a result, for example, this act would prevent employers from requiring select employees to wear high-heeled shoes in the workplace. The Bill is entitled: Bill M237 — Workers Compensation Amendment Act, 2017.

Recently the Tyee published an article highlighting a discriminatory practice in the restaurant industry wherein female workers are being forced to wear high heels. This followed another Tyee article written in 2015 focusing on the controversy that erupted when the Cannes film festival banned flat shoes on women attending the event. This footwear can be extremely uncomfortable and unsafe.

Earlier this week the UK parliament debated a petition to end sexist high heel dress codes. Ending this practice will be put to law there shortly.

Below I reproduce the text and video of the bill’s introduction.


Text of Introduction


A. Weaver: I move that a bill intituled the Workers Compensation Amendment Act, 2017, of which notice has been given in my name, be introduced and read a first time now.

Motion approved.

A. Weaver: I’m pleased to be introducing a bill intituled the Workers Compensation Amendment Act. This act amends the Workers Compensation Act to prevent employers from setting varying footwear and other requirements based on gender, gender expression or gender identity. As a result, for example, this act would prevent employers from requiring select employees to wear high-heeled shoes.

The Tyee‘s recent series on sexism in B.C.’s restaurant industry shone a spotlight on the harassment and sexist dress code policies faced by servers across British Columbia. Many employers require that female staff wear high heels. This footwear can be extremely uncomfortable and unsafe.

This week, the U.K. Parliament is debating a petition that would ban employers from requiring high heels at work. As Samantha Power, former U.S. ambassador to the UN wrote, highlighting the absurdity of this law: “The next petition should be one requiring men to wear high heels for a nine-hour shift before they insist women do.” We are very far from an inclusive, gender-equal province, and today, International Women’s Day, seems an appropriate time to take this overdue step.

I move that the bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.

Bill M237, Workers Compensation Amendment Act, 2017, introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.


Video of Introduction


Bill 7 – 2017: Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Amendment Act

On Thursday last week we debated Bill 7: Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Amendment Act, 2017 at second reading. Every member of the legislature that rose to speak to the bill was in support of it.

Below I reproduce the text and video of my contributions to the debate.


Text of My Speech


A. Weaver: It gives me great pleasure to rise and speak in support of Bill 7, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Amendment Act, 2017. Like every member that has spoken before me in the House, I too, obviously, will be voting in support of this bill. It’s a bill filled with good news. But let’s explore some of the details a bit further. This bill provides a framework, which is important, for the licensing and/or registration of commercial breeders of cats and dogs.

Hon. Speaker, as you will know, earlier today I had a remarkable young woman in the Legislature, up there. This young woman was deeply and profoundly concerned about the health and well-being and ability of people to have miniature goats in their backyard. One of the questions, obviously, that I’ll be raising in committee stage is: does this legislation apply to the breeding of miniature goats, for example?

The details of this bill — like what I’ve come to see far too often in my four years — are not actually in the bill but are left for regulation down the road, by order of the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council. And like every other bill we’re being asked to support here, we’re essentially saying: “Trust us to do what is right.” It really leaves one to wonder whether the government has actually done the necessary groundwork to know how this bill will play out through regulations, rather than just putting in a feel-good bill in the lead-up to an election.

I could actually see this. I can imagine TV commercials, as we enter the NHL playoffs, where we have cute little puppies, with people hugging them and saying: “The B.C. government is here for you. We’re here for you and the puppies.”

Interjections.

A. Weaver: I’ve given them an election suggestion. So you heard it here first, in the B.C. Legislature. The B.C. NDP and the B.C. Greens, of course, could do the same thing and say: “We supported this bill,” as we hug our puppies, in the lead-up to the election.

Truly, this is an important bill. But we’ve had four years in this Legislature to deal with substantive issues like this, and it has taken till pre-election time to actually bring this forward.

While many of the details are actually left to regulation, we do know, for example, that an external agency will be designated by future regulation, and that external agency will administer the system. Lots of vague language there. The agency’s inspectors will be responsible for inspecting and enforcing relevant standards of care. A lot of vague statements there too. Inspectors will be able to apply for a warrant to enter a residence if the owner’s consent is not provided. That’s obviously good.

Breeders found to be engaging in irresponsible practice may be subject to “an administrative action,” including having their licence or registration suspended or cancelled. Operators will be able to request a review or reconsideration of the administrative actions taken against them.

This bill has the support of the SPCA. We know that, as well, after they consulted, and the government consulted, with a variety of stakeholders.

One of the things that I would have liked to have seen in a bill like this — much as I would like to have seen in the Wildlife Act, for example — is where government actually has specific language that states that you are not going to be granted a licence if you have committed an offence against a similar type or piece of legislation in another province.

Now, why I say that is that in the case of wildlife, we have stories coming forth of guide outfitters who, in other provinces, have actually been fined for offences through not appropriately abiding by the rules of the province. Yet in B.C., the Wild West of B.C., it doesn’t matter who you are, we’ll give you a guide-outfitting licence. That is irresponsible, which is why I would have liked to see something a little stronger here in terms of who gets licences.

The essence of the bill falls into two sections: section 4 and section 5. These, actually, are designed, in the first case, to impose prohibitions and duties on operators who must be licensed or registered to engage in a regulated activity. For example, it requires a licence. A regulated operator is to make available to an inspector their licence or a certificate of registration and display the licence or certificate and provide information to the public.

Also, an operator may not charge a fee for providing information to the public or a person who may acquire an animal from an operator. The problem here again…. It has been alluded to by two of my colleagues, the member for Cowichan Valley and the member for Nanaimo–North Cowichan. The member for Cowichan Valley is well-known within this Legislature for looking at legislation under a microscope, peeling through the details with a fine-toothed comb, searching for jiggery-pokery in any form or any fashion.

It’s interesting what he was able to find here. It’s not his. He gives credit to the person who brought it to him, but he received some important information, and that is something I would like to explore. I’m sure the member for Cowichan Valley will as well at committee stage. It’s to the effect that we’re introducing red tape, regulation, for the people already following the law. Those who don’t follow the law are likely not going to be coming, knocking on doors and saying: “Give us a permit. We’re going to actually display that permit so that everyone can tell that we’re not actually following the law.” The underground aspect of those kind of puppy factories that we’re introducing legislation for….

It’s not clear to me that this is actually being dealt with, or the extent to which there are some proactive measures taken by the government to seek out such people. Do they simply have to wait until somebody makes a complaint and then follow the legislation subsequent to receiving such a complaint?

As I mentioned, section 5 is the other meaty part of this bill. That sets out the procedures for applying for a licence or registration and provides inspection power for enforcing the licensing or registration scheme. It also provides a designated agency to establish a minister and enforce a licensing or registration scheme and for training and oversight of employees as licensing officers, reviewing officers and licensing inspectors.

Again, you know, when you read the bill, there’s nothing really of any substance to criticize. There are a few concerns that my friend and colleague from Cowichan Valley has noted, but this is really a bill about protecting animals. I’ve heard each and every person here speak to this. What I noted in their speeches is every person talked about the love of their dog that they had when they were a child. But let me tell you: I didn’t have a dog as a child. I didn’t have a dog as a child because I was allergic to dogs, and my mother was allergic to dogs. So I can’t speak with passion to the love of my dog. However, when I left home, my parents….

Interjection.

A. Weaver: I did watch Old Yeller. The member for Peace River South pointed out that Old Yeller evokes passion in anyone who watches it. It was a very disturbing movie to me when I was a child to see Old Yeller get hydrophobia and start to turn against the young boy who once was his soulmate, his partner. That was troubling. Perhaps Old Yeller had actually got that from a puppy farm. We’re so lucky today that that will be regulated by this particular government. This government is actually stepping in to do what Old Yeller’s little boy couldn’t do, which is protect the future of their puppy from the puppy farm and the diseases they get.

My parents did have a lovely dog, and we have several of them. They were non-allergic dogs, so they were able to have them when I was older. They were delightful pets. They were passed down from family to family because others got old and they couldn’t take care of the dogs.

I remember my parents’ dog’s first name. It was Lisitsa. Lisitsa is a Ukrainian name. I believe it means fox. I could be wrong, but I believe it meant fox. It was a lovely name for a very vibrant dog that kept my parents company. We had a subsequent dog. It was Lisa. It was another dog, very similar. It, too, was loved by my parents. Even thought it was hypoallergenic, I couldn’t enjoy the pleasures of dogs. So while I understand, having watched Old Yeller, the importance of this bill, I could never actually feel it personally like the member for North Vancouver–Seymour or the member for Cowichan Valley — all these heartfelt stories. The member for Nanaimo–North Cowichan with his husky.

I missed out in childhood. Maybe I should be seeking therapy over that, after listening to these speeches here today.

Interjections.

A. Weaver: Some of of the members opposite feel the same way.

Anyway, the reason I bring that up, of course, is this is a very important bill. I’ll be speaking in support of it. I have. I will be following up in committee stage. It is important that we treat our pets properly.

But there are so many other issues facing the people of British Columbia. Why is this government not bringing in legislation to deal with affordability issues? Why is this government not dealing with a very problematic aspect of our society, which is the liability of pet owners for the behavior of their pets?

On the order paper, you’ll see some bills there. I spoke last session about the Animal Liability Act and changes. This time I’ll speak about the Community Charter so that we can actually ensure that not only the breeders of pets but also the owners of pets are held accountable for their treatment and ownership of the pets that they have under their care.

This is important. The government is missing that. It’s not dealing with this. It’s going with the election ad during hockey games, holding puppies and saying: “We are here for you, British Columbians. We are here to support your puppies.” I mean, really. There are so many other issues we should be debating. We should be talking about health care. We should be talking about education. There are so many bills. What about poverty? What about social welfare rates? Why aren’t we seeing legislation here? Why are we focusing on a number of bills that are brought forward?

The last session of this government being in office. We’re dealing with the Budget Measures Implementation Act and a lovely bill to protect puppies. We all agree it’s a lovely bill. There are a couple of other bills that we’re getting, but there’s nothing. This is a government that is so lost, so out of touch with the issues facing British Columbians that they’re pulling bills off the shelf that they’ve had to fill the time rather than actually standing up and dealing with the prevailing issues in British Columbia.

The fact that…. This time four years ago we had been promised 100,000 jobs, a $100 billion prosperity fund, a $1 trillion increase in GDP, elimination of the PST, thriving schools and hospitals, three LNG plants and all of us wealthy in their lead-up to the last election. Where is it? It’s not here. Why aren’t we talking about that?

Are we going to see them taking out ads in the hockey games, hugging puppies and saying: “We’re here for you, British Columbians; we’re here for your puppies”? Or are they going to stand up and say: “We’re sorry we misled you for the last four years by promising you nonsense, despite the fact that the lone B.C. Green MLA in this Legislature said it wasn’t going to happen in 2012, said it wasn’t going to happen in 2013, said it wasn’t going to happen in 2014, said it wasn’t going to happen in 2015”?

Around that time, the minister of hot air and gas pointed out that I was going to eat my words, and he was looking forward to that time. He knew more than I did because he meets with these people. Two years later here we are. Where is it? It’s misleading.

What are we doing? We’re debating here the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Amendment Act. Well done, B.C. government. Well done dealing with those issues that are affecting everyday life for British Columbians here. Let’s talk about puppies. Give me a break. Obviously, I support this bill, but there are so many other bills that we should be talking about. That is what we should be spending time here, and that’s why I’m going to sit down now, because I hope we get to those other issues and to talk about them as we come forward.


Video of My Speech



Paying tribute to a remarkable young woman

Today in the legislature I had the distinct pleasure of hosting Jillian McCue on a job shadow. Jillian is the remarkable young woman who spent three years trying to get Saanich to allow her to have miniature goats in her back garden. I took the opportunity to make a two minute statement highlighting her inspirational achievements.

Below I reproduce the text and video of my speech.


Text of my Statement


A. Weaver: I’d like to pay tribute to an inspirational young woman who I have the distinct honour of hosting on a job shadow today. Her name is Jillian McCue, a 13-year-old grade eight student at Gordon Head Middle School.

I first met Jillian in April 2013 during a meet-and-greet that I was attending in the lead-up to the last election. Midway through the event, Jillian, then only nine, entered and requested that I ask the audience to sign her petition. I didn’t know who she was or what the petition was about, so I suggested she make the pitch directly. It was compelling, grounded in evidence, and eloquently and passionately delivered. Jillian was setting out to change the fact that Saanich municipal bylaws did not permit miniature goats to be kept in backyards, and she convinced every single person in the room to sign the petition.

She’d done her homework. She learned that in 2007, Seattle city council approved keeping miniature goats as pets. She undertook her own research to disarm the potential criticism that goats would be smelly. Participants in her goat-poo smell study were asked to smell two bags: one containing dog poop and the other containing goat poop. They were then asked to rate the smelliness on a Likert scale of 1 to 5. Her survey data confirmed her hypothesis. On average, dog droppings smell twice as bad as goat poop.

Armed with her research, a petition signed by 132 people in her neighbourhood and well-structured PowerPoint slides, Jillian made a presentation to Saanich council. She was peppered with questions that she easily handled, and Saanich subsequently referred the matter to no less than three separate committees. So began the grueling municipal approval process.

Jillian persevered.

She presented to each of the committees and fielded many questions. She responded to numerous media requests. Three years later — yes, that’s three years — Saanich finally agreed to allow a pilot project to be undertaken. Jillian was able to obtain two miniature goats.

After watching Jillian navigate the complexities of municipal politics, I’m convinced that her determination, skills and ability to take on big challenges could allow her to achieve one of her life goals. That is to be the Prime Minister of Canada.


Video of my Statement


Introducing Endangered Species Legislation for British Columbia

Today in the legislature I introduced a private member’s bill entitled Bill M 225 — Endangered Species Act, 2017. This Act builds off the Ontario Endangered Species Act and the B.C. version of their legislation tabled by the BC NDP in 2011. My office was grateful to work with Gwen Barlee from the Wilderness Committee and environmental lawyer Sean Nixon from EcoJustice to close loopholes and make the bill more proactive and preventative. I also incorporated language from the United State Federal Endangered Species Act to make it more effective and comprehensive. Of note is the addition of a section that mirrors the US Endangered Species Committee, known as the “God Squad” because of the substantial impact of its decisions on the natural world. 

Below I reproduce the text and video of the speech I gave as I introduced the bill. I also include the accompanying media release.


Text of my Introduction


A. Weaver: It gives me great pleasure to move that a bill intituled Endangered Species Act, 2017, of which notice has been given, be introduced and read a first time now.

Motion approved.

A. Weaver: I’m pleased to be introducing a bill intituled the Endangered Species Act, 2017. The world is in the midst of an extinction crisis, and humans are the driving force. British Columbia is the most biodiverse province in Canada, but it is also the home to more at-risk species than any other province. Half of British Columbia’s assessed species are deemed at risk.

In addition to identifying, protecting and rehabilitating at-risk wildlife populations and habitats, this act seeks to introduce proactive measures that will prevent healthy species from declining in the first place. The act substantively expands upon the Ontario Endangered Species Act, the B.C. version of their legislation tabled by the B.C. NDP in 2011 and the American federal Endangered Species Act. Under the guidance of lawyers and advocates who have worked tirelessly on this issue, I was able to close problematic loopholes and make this act more proactive, transparent and effective.

Of note is the addition of a section that changes how exemptions are made. Under this new section instead of being left to the discretion of the minister, if government or industry want to take actions that will result in a species going extinct, it is required to go through an independent publicly disclosed board review.

I move that the bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of this House after today.

Bill M225, Endangered Species Act, 2017, introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.


Video of my Introduction



Media Release


Weaver introduces Endangered Species Act
For immediate release
February 27th, 2017

VICTORIA B.C. – The entire world in is the midst of an extinction crisis and humans are the driving force.

“In Canada, British Columbia is the most biodiverse province, but it is also home to more at-risk species than any other province,” says Andrew Weaver, Leader of the B.C. Green Party. “Half of B.C.’s assessed species are deemed at risk.”

“B.C.’s biodiversity is globally significant, rapidly declining, and lacking any substantial legal protection – this Act aims to change that by bringing into force standalone legislation to safeguard British Columbia’s native wildlife species and their habitat.”

In addition to identifying, protecting, and rehabilitating at-risk wildlife populations and habitats, this Act seeks to introduce proactive measures that will prevent healthy species from declining in the first place.

“Compared to reactive government efforts to intervene in a habitat already out of balance, preserving healthy ecosystems is easier, more cost effective, and avoids needless animal suffering,” says Weaver. “Furthermore, as the global climate warms and precipitation patterns shift, having a complete ecosystem within which animals and plants can try to adapt will be essential.
“The Federal Species at Risk Act and B.C.’s current non-binding patchwork approach to protecting wildlife is clearly not working. The biodiversity in our province is prodigious, but it is not without risk. We will lose it if we do not act.”

This Act builds off the Ontario Endangered Species Act and B.C. version of their legislation tabled by the B.C. NDP in 2011. It incorporates language from the United State Federal Endangered Species Act to make it more effective, proactive, preventative, and comprehensive. Of note is the addition of a section that mirrors the US Endangered Species Committee, known as the “God Squad” because of the substantial impact of its decisions on the natural world.

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Media contact
Mat Wright, Press Secretary
+1 250-216-3382 | mat.wright@leg.bc.ca