Goldwater, Dubé denounces Quebec Environment Minister’s interference in Montérégie deer case

May 10, 2022

Goldwater, Dubé, a Canadian leader in family law since 1981, and its senior partner Me Anne-France Goldwater wish to express profound concern over the plan to introduce a new crossbow hunting policy for the Montérégie in the midst of a Superior Court trial examining the parameters of the practice in the very same administrative region.

On the same day Goldwater, Dubé and the Montreal SPCA were pleading their case before the Superior Court, the Quebec Minister in charge of Environment, Climate Change, Fauna and Parks, Benoit Charette announced on Wednesday, April 26 his intention to implement a new policy for national parks in the Montérégie region, giving the green light to hunting by crossbow as a means of population control.

“I can only deplore — and truly deplore — that the minister made such a decision while we were all in a courtroom,” Me Goldwater recently told Le Devoir, adding that the announcement is “making a mockery of the judicial process”.

The timing and tactics of Minister Charette’s comments may be viewed as disrespectful toward the Court, as well as toward the legal professionals working for months, even years, to find a humane and judicious solution to the problem of the number of deer in the park. After all, Me Goldwater added, “hunting is already permitted in the Montéregie, so the only reason Minister Charette would add permission to engage in crossbow hunting would be an attempt to mock these efforts to stop this cruel practice.”

Goldwater, Dubé would like to underscore the outstanding contributions of fellow attorneys, Montreal SPCA acting executive director and head of legal affairs, Me Sophie Gaillard, and the SPCA lead counsel, Me Marie-Claude St-Amant, of the firm Melançon Marceau Grenier Cohen, who also pleaded to save the animals.

The much-publicized case of the Longueuil deer of Michel Chartrand Park resumed Monday, April 24 after a Quebec Court of Appeal ordered the Montreal suburb to pause any plans for a hunt. The decision followed a lower court ruling that would have allowed the Montreal suburb to conduct a planned cull by bow hunters; a previous plan would have involved capture and the use of a captive bolt gun to slaughter the deer.

Responsible Hunting Practices

The slaughter of deer or any animal population may only be considered after all other possible avenues have been exhausted. The animal rights principle the firm seeks to promote is that killing any animal should be the option of last resort. Quebec law recognizes animals (including deer) are sentient beings who have biological imperatives, including the capacity to feel pain and joy.

Goldwater, Dubé is adamantly against crossbow hunts as a means of population control. This cruel approach, the firm argues, goes against Quebec’s animal welfare laws, especially when humane alternatives to overpopulation like sterilization are being successfully implemented in nearby jurisdictions like the states of New York and New Jersey.

Crossbow hunts are commonly banned in jurisdictions around the world for their cruelty. In Australia, for instance, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) recently reminded citizens that the practice is banned on public land as “surveys of deer hunters have found that deer shot with bows are approximately six times more likely to be wounded and escape than deer shot by professional shooters with rifles.”

The Ministry of the Environment acknowledges that deer shot by crossbows can easily take one to four hours to die, or even longer, if their wounds are not mortal and death results from infection. Dr. Geoffrey Autenne, a recognized expert veterinarian from Rouen, France, pointed out in graphic testimony last month the reasons for which bow hunting and crossbow hunting are banned in France.

The firm holds no position against deer hunting by rifle in territories far outside urban centres. However, in urban and peri-urban environments, these animals have adapted and modified their behaviour as they become accustomed to human kindness. These animal populations are in essence tame, not wild, and they no longer flee from humans.

Though Michel Chartrand Park in Longueuil is under municipal jurisdiction, the town is the largest in the Montérégie region and abuts the Îles-de-Boucherville national park, itself challenged by a deer population problem that could be impacted by the Superior Court decision, expected in the coming months.

“We could debate how to manage deer populations in the most remote regions of the province but that is not the question being examined with the deer of Michel Chartrand Park,” Me Goldwater explained. “A deer herd up north, away from the city, is accustomed to predation; in Longueuil, they are semi-domesticated, living in a park in the middle of a residential neighbourhood, where many residents feed them by hand. The distinction between wild and tame animals is crucial, and speaks to our shared responsibility — including Minister Charette’s — toward sentient beings under our care. This case is not about the merits of hunting animals in the wild, it’s about avoiding barbarism. Life is sacrosanct, period.”

Goldwater, Dubé is calling on the Environment Minister to retract his comments and delay a decision on the crossbow hunting policy pending a decision by Quebec Superior Court in the matter of the Longueuil deer. The firm would also like to extend an invitation to the Minister to meet in order to discuss best practices in animal control.

Photo: Les Amis du parc Michel-Chartrand

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