Survey responses from the Liberal Party of Canada

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The Liberal Party of Canada has responded. While they did not respond to most of our survey questions, they have provided us with their track record and additional comments about their position towards animal welfare issues which you can read below.

Your party’s track record and other comments on your party’s position towards animal welfare issues

Our Liberal government was proud to have supported the passing of the Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act, Bill S-203; An Act to amend the Criminal Code (bestiality and animal fighting) Bill C-84; and Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Act, Bill S-214.

Shark Finning: Liberals are concerned with the status of endangered shark stocks worldwide due to destructive and damaging practices like shark finning. In 2019, our Government announced that Canada would be the first country to announce a ban on shark finning, which has a devastating impact on global shark populations. The amendments to the Fisheries Act reflect the partnerships and advocacy dedicated to addressing this issue across Canada, and are a clear example of Canada’s ongoing commitment to improving the conservation and sustainability of our ocean environment.

Marine Mammals: When humans get too close to wildlife in their habitat, we risk disturbing and even harming marine wildlife. That’s why we amended the Marine Mammal Regulations to better support conservation and to protect marine mammals such as whales, dolphins and seals. Vessels are now required to maintain a minimum distance from marine mammals, including iconic and endangered species such as Southern Resident Killer Whales and North Atlantic Right Whales.

The Regulations clarify what it means to disturb a marine mammal, including: feeding, swimming or interacting with it; moving it (or enticing/causing it to move); separating a marine mammal from its group or going between it and a calf; trapping marine mammals between a vessel and the shore, or between boats; as well as tagging or marking it.

The amendments require vessels to maintain 100m distance with most marine mammals, including all whales, dolphins and porpoises unless otherwise specified. Where specific science advice is available, and based on feedback from stakeholders, a targeted minimum distance has been identified for individual species. For Southern Resident Killer Whales, a 200 metre minimum approach distance is supported by scientific advice. Unlike the Harper Conservatives, we believe in evidence-based decision making; so we have implemented species-specific approach distances based on the best available science.

Operation Thunderball: To crack down on wildlife crime, in 2019, Environment and Climate Change Canada’s enforcement officers participated in INTERPOL’s Operation Thunderball, an international enforcement effort in collaboration with the World Customs Organization, aimed at cracking down on wildlife crime including smuggling, poaching and trafficking. The month-long operation involved 109 countries and resulted in the seizures of tens of thousands of protected plants and animals worldwide, as well as products derived from them. This is the largest number of countries ever to coordinate efforts simultaneously on an environmental crime issue.

Environment and Climate Change Canada’s enforcement officers responded to over 100 complaints and tips received from the public concerning habitat and wildlife destruction. Enforcement officers also conducted dozens of inspections, enforcement activities and hunter checks, and led a series of border-crossing blitzes to look for evidence of illegal exports of Canadian species as well as illegal imports of exotic species.

Over the course of the operation, officers intercepted items such as pangolin carcasses, saiga antelope, sturgeon caviar, diet pills containing hoodia (an endangered African plant species), a wallet made with crocodile skin, and black bear bacula, testes and paws, among other items. In six incidents, compliance orders were issued to protect species at risk in Canada.

Worldwide, Operation Thunderball led to the identification of almost 600 suspects, triggering arrests. Further arrests and prosecutions are foreseen as ongoing global investigations progress. Global seizures reported to date include:

  • 23 live primates;
  • 30 big cats and large quantities of animal parts;
  • 440 elephant ivory pieces and five rhino horns;
  • More than 4,300 birds;
  • Just under 1,500 reptiles and nearly 10,000 turtles and tortoises;
  • Almost 7,700 wildlife parts from all species, including more than 30 kg of game meat;
  • 2,550 cubic metres of timber (equivalent to 74 truckloads);
  • More than 2,600 plants;
  • Almost 10,000 marine wildlife items.

Animal Welfare: Our Liberal government included an Animal Welfare Caucus, created by MP Alexandra Mendès to help government to develop regulations and policies to help strengthen protections for animals and improve animal welfare. We would support developing a party policy on animal welfare.

Animal Cruelty: We also support stronger action to prevent animal cruelty. Our Liberal government is proud to have delivered on our commitment to protect animals from abuse. We tabled and passed legislation (Bill C-84) which strengthens protections for animals to prevent animal cruelty. It makes engaging in any sexual activity with an animal, or compelling someone else to engage in such activities, especially a child, a serious criminal offence. This law also expands Criminal Code offences to include additional conduct associated with animal fighting. These amendments reflect significant consultation with child and animal protection groups as well as agricultural groups, and are an important step in protecting animals and the most vulnerable.

We will continue to engage on finding ways to strengthen our animal cruelty laws further. For example, our Government supports the elimination of animal testing for cosmetics and remains committed to the responsible and ethical use of animals in research and development. Any decision to undertake a more comprehensive reform of animal cruelty laws must take into consideration the concerns of all stakeholders, including rural Canadians, Indigenous communities and those who have concerns about the effect of any proposed legislative changes on legitimate animal uses, such as farming, hunting and fishing. We have committed to keeping this dialogue open and engaging on these important issues.

Protecting Whales: Our government believes that whales should be enjoyed in the wild and that is why we supported the passage of S-203 as well as made amendments to C-68 to ensure that whales and dolphins cannot be imported or exported unless it is in their best interest. Through the Fisheries Act, our Liberal government took leadership to ban the captivity of whales and dolphins and shark finning as well as the import and export of shark fins. We are the first country in the G-20 to ban the import and export of shark fins. Conservative Senators stalled both Bills in the Senate for over 3 years and Conservative Members further tried to kill the whale Bill in the House of Commons. Our government is firmly committed to the protection of biodiversity and the humane treatment of marine mammals and sharks.

The measures enshrined in the modernized Fisheries Act bans the keeping and breeding cetaceans — including whales, dolphins and porpoises through amendments to the Criminal Code, and would levy fines to lawbreakers of up to $200,000.

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora: At CITES 2019, our Government supported several proposals for the protection of certain species of wild fauna and/or flora against over-exploitation through international trade. Canada voted in support of a proposal to add Shortfin Mako to Appendix II of CITES, which was adopted by a vote of 102 support, 40 oppose and 5 abstain.

Canada supported a proposal to transfer the Zambian population of African elephant to Appendix II of CITES. Canada also participated in a consensus-based determination amending an existing CITES Resolution that encourages the closure of all domestic elephant ivory markets. Canada opposed a proposal that would have removed elephant populations from Appendix I, thereby maintaining their protections under CITES.

Protecting Marine Life: Plastic pollution is a growing threat in Canada and around the world. It’s a problem we cannot afford to ignore. With the longest coastline in the world and one-quarter of the world’s freshwater, we have a unique responsibility—and opportunity—to lead in reducing plastic pollution. Our Liberal government is taking bold action to ban harmful single-use plastics and make sure companies – such as large food retailers and product manufacturers – take full responsibility for collecting and recycling their plastic waste.

Our government has also stepped up to join global efforts to reduce plastic pollution. We adopted the Oceans Plastics Charter in 2018, are investing $100 million to address plastic waste in developing countries, and banned products with plastic microbeads to protect Canadian freshwater and marine ecosystems. By reducing plastic waste and supporting new innovative technologies, we will create economic growth that benefits everyone, and leave a better, healthier planet for future generations.

Ghost Gear: As part of our ongoing efforts to protect North Atlantic right whales, DFO and the Canadian Coast Guard undertook Operation Ghost Gear which retrieved over 9km of rope from the seafloor of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  Along with preventing entanglements, removing ghost gear from our waters keeps our oceans clean and increases sustainability of our fisheries, as lost gear catches and kills animals that would otherwise form part of the regular catch.

Our government is working with global partners, industry and communities to find real solutions to reduce plastic pollution and ghost fishing gear in our oceans. We are exploring different solutions to the gear used for fisheries including ropeless gear. Recently, Ashored, a Canadian company, received funding to design low-cost acoustically activated ropeless fishing system for use in the lobster and crab fisheries.  This ropeless system will help minimize gear loss and help prevent entanglements for North Atlantic right whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Along with all partners in Canada and the United States, coastal communities and industry, we continue to take all necessary actions to protect the whales.

Farm Animal Transport: It’s critical not only for the safety of animals but for the integrity of our farming products that CFIA has resources required to inspect and train as needed. We will continue to work to ensure CFIA has the resources it needs to do the job it is asked to do under animal transport regulations. CFIA developed new regulations based on the best available science.  As part of the Government of Canada’s commitment to regulatory review, we will routinely review the effectiveness of these amendments and make adjustments when needed.