Longueuil Deer: Me Goldwater’s Arguments Against the Slaughter

Dec 18, 2022

Read the Court of Appeal judgment here.

Goldwater, Dubé, a Canadian leader in family law since 1981, and its senior partner Me Anne-France Goldwater, will be heard by the Quebec Superior Court in the new year to defend a cause that continues to capture the public’s sympathy: opposing the planned deer slaughter in the south shore Montreal suburb of Longueuil — now suspended multiple times by the Superior Court and the Court of Appeal. The Superior Court continues to weigh a humane relocation proposal presented by animal welfare group Sauvetage Animal Rescue and Longueuil resident Florence Meney.

Honourable Judge Stephen W. Hamilton of the Court of Appeal ruled earlier this fall that there were grounds for an appeal after the nonprofit group and a concerned Longueuil citizen took the south shore municipality to Superior Court in an effort to oppose the planned slaughter of approximately 108 white-tailed deer at Michel-Chartrand Park. The Court of Appeal then granted the application for a suspension of the slaughter, and this suspension will remain in effect until the case can be heard and decided upon on April 24-26 2023.

The plan initially involved the use of guns for the slaughter but public safety concerns prompted the choice of an even less humane hunt by crossbow, with the city pledging to distribute meat from the carcasses to local food banks, a proposal which would be in violation of food safety guidelines.

Me Goldwater has described the solutions proposed by the City of Longueuil to be improvised and out of sync with best practices throughout North America. Here, she presents her basic arguments for cancelling the slaughter.

Preventing a Miscarriage of Justice

The first and most compelling argument to cancel the slaughter or at least continue the suspension until a final court judgment is that any decision to the contrary would be irreversible.

“If the city moved forward with the deer slaughter, there would be no more case and nothing left to plead,” Me Goldwater explained.

The Court of Appeal affirmed that the legal questions raised merit the attention of the court at trial. Killing the deer now would not permit the court to make a reasoned decision as to their fate.

The Humane Reflex

For animal rights activists in Quebec, the Court brought good news this week. It has shown openness to the argument that putting animals to death should always be a last resort.

“What I found even more important than our immediate victory was that the Court of Appeal was extremely receptive to our argument that when managing animal populations, putting them to death should be the last and not the first option,” Me Goldwater said. “It is the message the Court wanted to communicate to all of us, and it is what will guide me now that we are moving forward with the case. I cannot thank Me St-Amant enough who, on behalf of the SPCA, advances this audacious argument that I find so compelling!”

Wild vs. Semi-Domesticated Animals

As many supporters of the Longueuil deer slaughter have argued, Quebecers hunt thousands of deer annually. Why then should these deer be spared?
“We could debate how to manage deer populations in the most remote regions of the province but that is not the question being explored today,” Me Goldwater explained. “Those deer herds are accustomed to predation, they live a natural life in the endless forests of our vast province, and evolution has equipped them to be cautious and fearful of predators. But the deer we are concerned about live in a popular park in the middle of a residential neighbourhood in Longueuil. They have lost their fear of humans, and killing them as they walk up to the hunters looking for treats and a nuzzle, would be an act of barbarity.”

The distinction between wild and semi-domesticated animals is a crucial one, and speaks to the responsibility that humans and their governments have to their environment.

“These deer have a peaceful and serene life with their human neighbours. They have lost their fear of humans and no longer have the same prey reflexes after generations of living without predation,” Me Goldwater explained. “And so it would demonstrate unspeakable cruelty to plan to put them to death when other options are possible.”

Solutions on the Table

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 management 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:

  • 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.
  • Neuter the deer: vaccinate the females with contraceptive medication or surgically sterilize the males.
  • Transport and Release them in new locations such as wildlife refuges and natural habitats.
  • Maintain the population by providing long-term veterinary care and food.

“We therefore intend to do what is necessary to formulate our deer relocation and sterilization plan and have it approved by the Government of Quebec,” added Me Goldwater.

photo: Les Amis du parc Michel-Chartrand (APMC)

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