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Victoria considers tighter reins on horse-drawn carriage tours, pet sales



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  • Victoria councillors are considering tightening city regulations governing horse-drawn carriage tours, but that’s not enough for at least one council member who says it’s time to put the downtown rides out to pasture.

    Councillors are set to debate wholesale changes to the animal control bylaw Thursday to consider the health and identification of carriage horses and to prohibit pet store sales of dogs, puppies, cats, kittens and rabbits.

    The debate last week did not resolve issues that were raised on carriage horses.

    Coun. Ben Isitt said council is considering incremental changes to prolong a business that should be phased out of the city.

    “This is just scratching the surface,” he told last week’s meeting. “If we’re serious about animal welfare these animals need to be in rural areas, on farms, not working in a dense urban environment under these conditions.”

    The City of Montreal adopted new rules last year to protect the welfare of horses working in the city’s caleche industry. Former mayor Denis Coderre also tried to place a one-year moratorium on the popular tourist draw in 2016 after several accidents involving the horses were caught on camera, but that decision was later reversed after a judge ruled the carriages should be allowed to continue operating.

    Horse-drawn carriage tours of Victoria’s scenic Inner Harbour and bucolic Beacon Hill Park are popular tourism attractions, but they have often been dogged by animal rights proponents who say the trips put stress and hardship on the horses.

    Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe said she did not want to engage in a debate at this time about the future of the carriage horse industry.

    She told council last week her proposed bylaw amendments seek to protect the horses and their passengers.

    “My goal is to make sure the health of the horse and the safety of the passengers are being considered,” Thornton-Joe said.

    The changes include ensuring individual horses display identification numbers and health records to allow for improved animal monitoring by city licensing officers and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Highly visible numbers also help public reporting of potential issues involving horses, she said.

    “People, when they do want to complain, they say, the brown horse that was on Government Street,” said Thornton-Joe. “This would help to identify more quickly which animal.”

    A spokeswoman for Victoria’s Tally-Ho Carriage Tours said the company is preparing to make a statement on Victoria council’s plans, but was not prepared to comment on Monday.

    Tally-Ho has been in the tour business using horses in Victoria since 1903. Its website cites three key goals, including “to ensure the horses are healthy and happy in their work at all times.”

    But Isitt said his concerns about the horses go beyond criticism of the business case. He said pollution from animal waste is also an issue.

    Horse urine flows freely into the Inner Harbour, he said.

    “That seems to be a violation of the storm sewer bylaw,” said Isitt. “What kind of enforcement action is going on in relation to that? Are we basically ignoring that infraction?”

    A city official said the carriage operators are required to remove horse manure but the issue of horse urine has not been addressed.

    Council is also considering renaming the animal control regulation to the animal responsibility bylaw to also stop the sale of dogs, puppies, cats, kittens and rabbits at pet stores.

    “The only exemption is if these animals are offered for adoption from a recognized animal rescue society or shelter organization, at which time the current bylaw policy would still apply,” city council documents say.

    Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

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    Alberta suspends caribou protection plan, asks for assistance from Ottawa



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  • EDMONTON — Alberta is suspending portions of its draft plan to protect threatened woodland caribou, saying more research needs to be done and that Ottawa needs to help out.

    Environment Minister Shannon Phillips told the house Monday that the province is acting on concerns about the economic impacts of the protection plan.

    “The federal Species at Risk Act is an extremely inflexible instrument that has already had negative economic consequences (in Alberta),” said Phillips.

    “We are going to do our best to make sure that we protect jobs on this.”

    She said she has sent that message in a letter to her federal counterpart, Catherine McKenna.

    Phillips is urging the federal government to help Alberta come up with a workable solution rather than have Ottawa impose an environmental protection order.

    Alberta’s draft plan is in response to a federal deadline under the Species at Risk Act passed last October and is designed to help threatened woodland caribou recover in 15 different ranges.

    The province released its draft plan on Dec. 19 and then held a series of town hall meetings.

    “The public meetings were attended by thousands of Albertans who are concerned about the impact caribou range plans will have on their communities and on the industries that support those communities,” stated Phillips’ letter, which was co-signed by Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd.

    The province plans to spend more than $85 million in the next five years to restore caribou habitat by eliminating seismic lines, building birthing pens and bringing in other measures.

    It has already invested $9.2 million and the estimated cost over the next 40 years is $1 billion.

    Phillips said the feds need to step up on planning and consultation, and on the money side as well.

    “Caribou recovery cannot occur without an infusion of federal funds to restore habitat necessary to ensure population growth,” she wrote.

    “While we need more time and partnership from the federal government on this matter, we also need your support in not prematurely implementing federal protection orders that will not have effective outcomes for Canadians and Albertans.”

    The federal government has the option of imposing an environmental protection order if a province doesn’t come up with a plan to protect the caribou. The order would halt any development, such as oil drilling, that could harm the animals.


    Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

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    Five Things to know about Canada’s forthcoming peacekeeping mission in Mali



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  • OTTAWA — The Liberal government has unveiled Canada’s 12-month UN peacekeeping commitment to the west African country of Mali. It includes two Chinook helicopters to provide medical evacuations and logistical support, along with four smaller, armed Griffons to act as escorts for the larger transports. Here are five things to know about Mali and the mission.

    1. Lots of Canadian aid dollars. Mali has relied heavily on Canadian foreign aid, with only the United States and France contributing more. In 2014-15, Canadian development spending reached $152 million. Since 2012, Canada has also contributed $44 million in humanitarian aid following the country’s 2012 crisis (more on that below) and about $10 million to support the UN peacekeeping mission, making Canada its ninth-largest supporter.

    2. The 2012 crisis. It started when soldiers overthrew the country’s president, creating a power vacuum that was filled by an Islamic insurgency. The fall of Libya in 2011 busted the locks off Moammar Gadhafi’s arsenal, spreading weapons across north Africa, which armed various militia groups, including al-Qaida linked organizations. France led a war in 2013 that succeeded in driving the jihadists out of the stronghold they established in northern Mali. A UN peacekeeping force was established that year, and it has become its most dangerous mission with more than 160 fatalities.

    3. Canada’s drop in the peacekeeping bucket. Canada’s contribution of 250 personnel is far less than many of its allies. The UN mission comprises more than 13,000 troops. Germany, the country whose air support operations Canada will be replacing, has authorized the deployment of more than 1,000 troops. In addition to the UN mission, Germany has contributed 350 troops to a training mission for Mali’s military. France has 4,000 troops deployed to a counter-terrorism mission in northern Mali separate from the UN’s peacekeeping efforts. “This announcement is a small but important step towards Canada’s re-engagement in peacekeeping,” said peacekeeping expert Walter Dorn of the Canadian Forces College in Toronto, noting that Canada’s contribution to peacekeeping has hit an “all-time low” of a couple of dozen.

    4. The political peace process. In June 2015, a peace agreement was signed between the Malian government, Tuareg rebels and other rebel groups. The Tuareg first sparked the 2012 rebellion, but that was soon hijacked by the better-armed jihadists. Those jihadists are outside the peace process. Gen. Jonathan Vance, Canada’s chief of the defence staff, said “there is a prospect of a brighter future for Mali” but that “the basic deconstruction of Libya and the rise of terror groups, terror armies” has to be addressed.

    5. The human rights situation. The UN’s latest report on the human rights situation, tabled last month, offers a grim update of the situation in Mali. Between January 2016 and June 2017, it documented 608 cases of human rights violations involving almost 1,500 victims. These occurred across the country, including Gao, where the Canadian air contingent is expected to be based, and further north in Timbuktu. The perpetrators include signatories to the peace process and “non-signatory and splinter armed groups.” The vast majority of the victims are men. The abuse included illegal detention, torture, extrajudicial executions, recruitment of child soldiers and sexual violence.

    Sources: Government of Canada, The United Nations, Deutsche Welle

    Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

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