Industry groups in Yukon decry lack of consultation on new animal protection bill

Yukon Environment Minister Nils Clarke, centre. (Kiyoshi McGuire/CBC - image credit)
Yukon Environment Minister Nils Clarke, centre. (Kiyoshi McGuire/CBC - image credit)

Multiple organizations say they have not been adequately consulted on a new bill aimed at improving animal welfare and protecting the public from uncontrolled animals.

During question period on Tuesday, the Yukon Party opposition raised concerns detailed in letters to Environment Minister Nils Clarke from a handful of groups regarding the new Animal Protection and Control Act.

Those letters came from the Wilderness Tourism Association of the Yukon, the Association of Yukon Communities, Growers of Organic Food Yukon, Yukon Agricultural Association, Yukon Outfitters Association and the Yukon Dog Mushers Association.

The Association of Yukon Communities said it was "not notified prior to the tabling of this legislation." The tabling of the bill also appeared unexpected for the Growers of Organic Food Yukon (GoOFY).

"Unfortunately, we have only recently become aware of the draft legislation and have not had an opportunity to study it in detail, to form a position on it and to offer constructive suggestions for its improvement," wrote Brian Lendrum, chair of GoOFY, in an email to the minister on Oct. 27.

Some of those organizations are calling on the legislation to be halted so further consultation can be done. Yukon Party leader Currie Dixon argued there's no reason to rush the law, that the government should hold off before passing it, as it did with the Better Buildings program which drew concerns from municipalities when first introduced.

"These groups are the most affected by this legislation of any other Yukoners. These are people whose businesses are affected by this legislation," Dixon told reporters.

"These are people whose livelihoods are affected by this legislation. And I think it's reasonable that we ask them what they think about it and let them provide some input."

Previous incidents

Bill 20 — or  the Animal Protection and Control Act — would replace three laws that the government says are outdated and result in low animal welfare standards. The government also says those laws left gaps and challenges with enforcing animal control.

Vincent Bonnay/Radio-Canada
Vincent Bonnay/Radio-Canada

For instance, the government has cited a Yukon government contractor who died in 2014 trying to wrangle feral horses. It has also pointed to a lack of laws that allow government officials to kill high-risk animals that pose a danger to the public, environment or property — like escaped boars in 2018.

The law would cover all animals, pets and livestock. It would also regulate pet stores, boarding facilities and animal rescue organizations.

The Environment minister said the proposed legislation followed an inquest into a Ross River resident being killed by dogs in 2015. The chief coroner recommended that the Dog Act be reviewed to improve the government's ability to address public safety regarding loose dogs, he said.

Consultation on the bill has happened since 2018, Clarke said, first with a survey that received more than 900 responses; 10 community meetings were also held.

Clarke said a second phase of consultation was done from 2019 to 2021 with discussions taking place with the livestock sector, veterinarians, mushers and others affected by potential changes.

When speaking to reporters, Clarke noted that "this is not legislation just for key stakeholders. It's for all Yukoners, both pet owners and non-pet owners."

He said the government is committed to "targeted consultation" as the law's regulations are drafted.

"I can understand that businesses do not want to have unduly more or unreasonable regulations. They do not want there to be unintended consequences. I do not want there to be unintended consequences," Clarke said.

"So we will work diligently with the business owners … and various other organizations to ensure these are the best regulations possible."