Longueuil Deer: Court of Appeal to Hear Me Goldwater, SPCA & Sauvetage Animal Rescue

Oct 26, 2022

Goldwater, Dubé, a Canadian leader in family law since 1981, and senior partner Me Anne-France Goldwater, are delighted to announce the decision of the Quebec Court of Appeal and Hon. Justice Stephen W. Hamilton, accepting that the court hear a landmark case that aims to protect the rights of sentient animals living in close proximity to urban population centres.

Judge Hamilton ruled on October 25 that there were grounds for appeal after animal protection organizations and a concerned Longueuil citizen took the south shore municipality to Superior Court in an effort to cancel a planned slaughter of 70 or more white-tailed deer at Michel-Chartrand Park. The plan, which Me Goldwater characterized as improvised, initially involved the use of pistols for the slaughter, but public safety concerns prompted the choice of a much less humane hunt by crossbow, with the city pledging to distribute meat from the carcasses to local food banks which would be in violation of food safety guidelines.

“…I am of the opinion that the situation is exceptional and that the best interests of justice require that leave to appeal be granted,” wrote Justice Hamilton.

The lawsuit, initiated by the nonprofit Sauvetage Animal Rescue and supported as an intervenor by the Montreal SPCA, advocates for a science-based and humane solution to the overpopulation problem. Me Goldwater has famously opposed plans to cull the beloved animals, describing the city’s plan as fundamentally flawed and incompatible with best practices in suburban animal control across North America.

“I am delighted that the Court of Appeal has decided to hear our appeal on behalf of Sauvetage Animal Rescue, who plan to do just that: rescue these magnificent animals,” Me Goldwater said. A separate appeal by the Montreal SPCA will also be heard again by Quebec Superior Court, as per the appellate court judgement. “We bring different perspectives on the importance of animal rights. The fact that the Court of Appeal is willing to tackle an issue like this is an important step forward.”

Solutions on the Table

The fate of the deer population in Michel Chartrand Park is a longstanding issue in Longueuil. Sauvetage Animal Rescue had proposed a plan in 2021 to ensure their careful relocation to protected sites in Quebec but delays and indecision prevented the plan from even being considered.

Me Goldwater and her colleague, Me Louis Cornillaut, petitioned the Court to order Quebec’s Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs and the City of Longueuil to work with experts in the domain of deer population control to develop a humane alternative plan that respects the spirit of Quebec’s Animal Welfare and Safety Act.

The steps of the proposed TNRM method include:

  1. Trap the deer under veterinary supervision and then Treat them on-site for parasites (such as ticks) to prevent animal-borne transmission of Lyme Disease from the ticks to people and other animals.
  2. Neuter the deer: vaccinate the females with contraceptive medication or surgically sterilize the males.
  3. Transport and Release them in new locations such as wildlife refuges and natural habitats.
  4. Maintain the population by providing long-term veterinary care and food.

Sauvetage Animal Rescue is in the process of putting forward a proposal by a specialized firm to manage the deer population. The Connecticut-based White Buffalo Inc., which has published over 70 peer-reviewed studies about fauna management strategy and organized the relocation of approximately 1,975 deer in one New York State project alone, has determined through a preliminary analysis that Longueuil’s deer qualify for relocation.

“After years of legal battles, we remain committed to working with the City of Longueuil on a humane relocation plan,” said Me Goldwater. “There are municipalities that have come forward and are willing to receive many of these animals on vast tracts of protected land. The solutions available carry some risk to the animals but do not compare to the brutality of a slaughter by crossbow.”

Me Goldwater added: “We believe, and will argue for the courts to acknowledge, that there is an innate value to animal life, and so any decision pertaining to the welfare of animals should always favour every other alternative over euthanasia or slaughter.”

Moreover, Sauvetage Animal Rescue has maintained that “a number of biologists and veterinarians who specialize in this domain and who work for a company that had developed a contraceptive vaccine are ready to work with us and cover all logistical expenses, at no cost to the taxpayer.”

Me Goldwater would also encourage the City of Longueuil to seek out scientifically- validated methods of dealing with growing urban deer populations, especially from jurisdictions elsewhere in Canada and the United States where animal welfare legislation and best practices are well-established.

The acceleration of climate change is pushing wild animal populations closer to urban centres, raising questions about their safety in such close proximity to humans. The case of the deer in Longueuil is a flashpoint for animal rights in Quebec and cause for collective reflection on how to better live together.

Photo: Les Amis du parc Michel-Chartrand

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