On February 5, 2019, I welcomed Parkdale-High Park’s Josie Candito, animal rights advocate and co-owner of Master Mechanic High Park to the Standing Committee on Justice to discuss our government’s Bill C-84 and how we can strengthen animal rights protections in Canada.
Listen or read below to find out what I asked Josie about!
Arif Virani: Josie, I’ve known you for a long time obviously as a business owner in the western part of Toronto in Parkdale—High Park. I’ve known you as an animal rights advocate as someone who helped, to be frank, educate me and others in the community about animal rights and about the importance of as you’ve just said, speaking up for those who are voiceless, creatures that are voiceless in Canada. I’ve also heard you speak about, and it’s come out in testimony earlier today, about the links between those who start with animal abuse leading to child abuse, abuse of women, even in some instances committing acts such as murder. So, thank you for that advocacy. I know that you’ve also developed a strong and robust network of other animal rights advocates in the Toronto area and beyond it. I wanted to ask you first of all, we’ve seen your brief and you’ve walked us through it. Tell me about some of the reception that you’ve had and heard of among the animal rights community about this bill and about the need to strengthen the laws that relate to bestiality and the laws that relate to bans on animal fighting. How is that piece of this legislation been received?
Josie Candito: Everybody is excited that this is a start. We look at each other and can’t believe it’s still not there, but we’re excited that it’s a step towards protection. These are just things that should have been there. We’re just in awe that we’re still talking about this and it wasn’t done years ago. We’re just glad it’s being dealt with. Then—hopefully—we can proceed, because we’re very excited about the rest of it, and keep going and catch up to the rest of the world.
Arif Virani: Let me pick up on that, because I think it’s an important point. I know you have outlined a number of things. There are about seven different points you raised; Some are directly federal jurisdiction and they relate to the Criminal Code. Some relate to other aspects of federal regulations like transport. Others relate to the commercial sale of animals, like puppy sales, etc. I’ll put to you something that came up earlier. I’m not sure if you were able to listen in on the first hour of discussions, but Nate Erskine-Smith—who is sitting right next to me and you can’t see him—was the author of Bill C-246. He talked about whether there’s an appetite out there to go in a broader direction. There are so many different things that are out there. We have things before Parliament about cosmetic bans and about cetaceans with dolphins and whales. We have things like shark finning. There are a lot of ideas that are out there. Would it make sense to you to aggregate those ideas in terms of having some sort of broader discussion, consultation and analysis about how the federal government can lead a discussion on animal rights in taking it forward in a more comprehensive way?
Josie Candito: A million per cent, but we have to move forward. These are great, and they need to be dealt with in the few points that this bill has, but there are a million other points. It’s a big project. To me this is just—like I said before—baby steps. There are so many more points. There are so many things we have to do, and I hope with everybody from different parties on this committee that you go back to your groups and tell each other that you need to work all together. This is something that everybody should want, and not just a party. Also, I understand that there’s a political side of protecting the fishing and the agriculture. We understand that this part needs to stay, but at the same time we have to find a way to protect the animals—all sorts of them. It doesn’t matter if it’s puppy selling or the cosmetic world. Whatever world it is, I think we have not even started. There’s a huge project ahead and a lot of work.
Arif Virani: Thank you, Josie. With my last question I want to ask for a little bit about your experience in the west end part of Toronto in aggregating people who want to discuss these issues. I remember very clearly your event called “WOOFEST”. I remember seeing the posters about it, and I was wondering what it was all about. It was both a fun event for me and my kids, but it was also an event where you actually advocated for animal causes, about animal rescue. You raised awareness. Also, the number of people who were there was tremendous. It really congregated a number of people. Do you think that’s an anomaly, or do you think people are much more concerned about animal rights than we presume? Also, if they are concerned about it, why are they concerned about it? What are you tapping into with events like WOOFEST?
Josie Candito: It’s so big. When I started this, everybody was like, how are we even going to come close to getting anything done. Everybody feels it’s like climbing Mount Everest. How do you get anywhere? Unless we attack it and understand that there are certain provinces, certain areas, or certain things we need to respect, where the country came from and that there is agriculture and an economy there, but we have to balance out the economy with the basics that aren’t being taken care of, so there has to be an understanding. We can’t all say that everybody has to stop eating meat. That’s not going to fly. Then everyone gives up. The last bill didn’t work, because everybody in agriculture and on the economy side were like “No way”, because their constituents were not going to fly for that. We need to balance it out and make everybody understand that we’re not going to take away their economy, but we also need to make [sure] the animals [are] treated a little more humanely. However, we also need to take care of the other side of when you buy a puppy, when you take care of a puppy and when you hurt a puppy…preventing you from getting an animal or a thing in doing all these laws. It needs to be tackled in areas, and that’s where these amazing lawyers who know their stuff inside out, with every bill and every law, can now come together, and all these groups can come together, and we can make a difference and get this forward. I think we’re 25 years behind where we’re supposed to be, but you have to tackle it, though. It has to get done.
Arif Virani: Thank you very much for your advocacy Josie, and thank you for being here.