The Provincial Animal Welfare System: Providing protection for the canary in the coal mine?

city_scope_logo-cmykWith a pair of high-profile St. Thomas court cases in the past couple of years dealing with abuse and neglect, this week’s announcement the province is proposing a new animal welfare system is encouraging news for animal advocates.
The legislation was introduced Tuesday (Oct. 29) by Solicitor General Sylvia Jones and, according to a release from MPP Jeff Yurek, “includes the strongest penalties ever in Canada for people who violate animal welfare laws and a more robust enforcement system.”
No specifics, however, are contained in the release introducing the Provincial Animal Welfare System (PAWS) Act as to what those penalties may be.
“Ontarians can be confident that the government is proposing a system that will protect animals,” assured Jones.

In June of this year, the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals ceased enforcement of violations covered under the OSPCA Act and a temporary amendment act is in place in the interim.


Solicitor General Sylvia Jones at the Oct. 29 announcement outlining the Provincial Animal Welfare System.

In those recent court cases, 20-year-old Cody Yeo of St. Thomas, who abandoned two dogs and a cat in a sweltering apartment with no food or water, was sentenced in February 2017 to four months in jail and was hit with a 10-year prohibition on owning any animal.
Tarrick Fakira-Martin was charged in July of last year after the body of Lady, his German shepherd, was found buried in a shallow grave in the area of St. Catherine and Meda streets in St. Thomas.

Tarrick Fakira-Martinjpg

Tarrick Fakira-Martin with Lady. (Facebook photo)

On the final afternoon of the three-day trial, Dr. Murray Hazlett, a veterinary pathologist at the University of Guelph, documented a half-dozen separate diagnoses including a fractured femur that had healed improperly; older wounds on Lady’s face; bleeding around the kidney; acute bleeding over the skull; fluid and blood in the lungs; and a ruptured liver.
Justice Glen Donald will deliver his decision on Nov. 15.
Lois Jackson, the founder of All Breed Canine Rescue and for eight years the chair of the city’s Animal Welfare Committee, has been advocating for better practices at the animal pound at the city works yard.
It’s a woefully inadequate structure that lacks even the most basic of amenities.
While she is not familiar with all of the inner workings of the PAWS Act, she is guardedly optimistic the penalty provisions will send a clear message to abusers.
Otherwise, Jackson stressed, as in the case of Lady’s owner, “What message are you sending out to the community? It’s alright to beat a dog to death. And you probably won’t get anything out of it.”
Jackson has revamped an ages-old analogy when pressing for greater involvement by city staff and members of council on animal welfare issues.

“When they talk about homeless people and drugs, youth, poverty and low-income seniors, that translates over into animal issues.”

“Animals in trouble are the canaries in the coal mine. Because, when there are people problems, there are animal problems.
“So, when you see an increase in animal issues, you can bet the community is in trouble socially. And, I’ve seen that for 20 years.”
To illustrate that argument Jackson points out, “If, all of a sudden, the pound starts getting senior dogs, dogs with bad teeth, dogs that have been bred half to death then dumped, those are issues that are societal issues, not animal welfare issues.”
As she has reminded elected officials on numerous occasions, taking care of people means you are taking care of animals.
“What we see, generally, is neglect and abandonment is because of society’s issues.
“When they talk about homeless people and drugs, youth, poverty and low-income seniors, that translates over into animal issues.”
You have to send a message that animals count because people count, stressed Jackson.
“And, animals rely on us. Yes, we have to put money into homelessness but you also have to provide animal services under the mandate of the municipality.
“Many owners in St. Thomas can’t afford to properly feed their pets. Animal welfare issues are complex and vast. All I ask is please run an effective, decent dog pound.”
Will PAWS be a motivating factor at city hall in returning animal services to the radar screen?

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Based on a letter sent to council members from Dan Leonardes, president of the St. Thomas Jumbo Jets Swim Team, there is growing support for a community centre and indoor swimming pool for the city.
He notes the response to an online support petition is “overwhelming.”
swimming pooljpgHe continues, “We feel this is indicative of the wider public’s opinion on the matter, and not merely the opinion of special interest groups.”
Proponents of the centre and pool encourage city council and staff to apply for federal and provincial funding available for community culture and recreational projects.
Should the city’s application be accepted, the upper-tier governments would step up with 63 per cent of the facility’s costs.
At the reference committee meeting Monday (Nov. 4), city staff will provide council with an update relating to the Community Culture and Recreation Funding application.
You can access the online petition here.


Tickets are now on sale for the 42nd edition of the St. Thomas Sports Spectacular scheduled for Jan. 23 of next year at St. Anne’s Centre.
Head table guests confirmed so far include 1996 American League Cy Young Award winner Pat Hentgen and former Leafs’ captain Rick Vaive.
Sports SpectacularjpgAlso set to appear are Blue Jays’ catcher Reese McGuire, Olympian Sarah Wells, WWE Hall of Famer Tito Santana and WWE Diva Legend Kelly Kelly (Barbara Jean Blank).
Rounding out the sports celebs who have confirmed to date are former Boston Bruins’ player and coach Terry O’Reilly, Detroit Tigers’ legend Darrell Evans and Canadian Olympic Softball star Jenny Caira.
MC for the evening – his 6th year in that capacity – is Blue Jays’ broadcaster, Mike Wilner.
Tickets are $75 and available from any committee member, Fan of the Sport on Talbot Street downtown or online at
Proceeds to St. Thomas Special Olympics and Community Living Elgin.


Up until this week, Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek found himself in the odd position of facing charges for something entirely beyond his realm of responsibility.
In his capacity as environment minister, Yurek and a trio of wind turbine companies had been charged under the Environmental Protection Act by a Chatham-Kent resident who claimed her drinking water had been contaminated by the construction of the turbines.
Yurek’s office had reiterated in a statement that approval of the wind turbines lay at the feet of the previous Liberal government.
Well, much to Yurek’s relief, the Crown withdrew the charges against him on Wednesday (Oct. 30).
In a statement released later that day, Yurek indicated “This government and I will always take the public’s concerns about wind projects very seriously and will continue to stand with the families living in Chatham-Kent to make sure what happened under the previous Liberal government never happens again.”
Speaking with Yurek on Thursday, he explained under the Environmental Protection Act, “if you go to a justice of the peace you can charge just about anyone provided you have some semblance of evidence.”
He continued, “And then it goes to a review by the attorney general’s office on whether or not to proceed any further.”
With Yurek off the hook, what is the next move for the impacted residents?
“I think they are going to look at their options going forward,” suggested Yurek. “But as a government, we’re listening to the folks down there and trying to help them out. I don’t know what route they’re going to take.”

“So, even if it does come back in the future, municipalities are still going to have a say on whether or not they build these turbines.”

As to the alleged water contamination, Yurek said “I’ve spoken to Monte McNaughton (MPP for Lambton-Kent-Middlesex) and he has seen some samples. We’ll see how we can find some resolution for them.”
Yurek advised an expert panel has been struck by the health ministry “to carry out a health hazard impact assessment. The expert panel has been meeting regularly since July 2019 and the final report is anticipated by the end of 2020.”
Yurek pointed out, “We’ve moved forward with ending all future wind turbine projects but also we’ve returned municipal say as to whether or not they go forward with these turbines which puts more local control on the project development.
“So, even if it does come back in the future, municipalities are still going to have a say on whether or not they build these turbines.”
It was in July of last year that Yurek announced, “The government has decided to cancel the Dutton/Dunwich wind turbine project. The majority of the community and municipality have been against this project from Day 1.”

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It didn’t take long for the province’s Made-In-Ontario Environment Plan (part of Bill 132, the Better for People, Smarter for Business Act, 2019) – introduced Thursday (Oct. 31) in Toronto by Minister Yurek – to earn a failing grade from environmentalists.
According to a release from Yurek’s office, the plan is a commitment “to hold polluters accountable, bring violators back into compliance quickly, and support local environmental projects.”
This will be achieved through the expanded use of “administrative monetary penalties to a broader range of environmental violations and reinvest the money to support projects that provide local solutions to environmental issues.”
The funds collected from these penalties, according to Yurek, would be put toward projects such as “restoring habitats of endangered species, tree planting, litter clean-up, and other priorities.”
In essence, stressed Yurek at Thursday’s announcement, “the lawbreakers are paying for the environmental improvements in our province.”
In fact, argues Keith Brooks, programs director at Environmental Defence, the fines are not being increased at all.
Brooks is quoted in an article that appeared Thursday, written by Alastair Sharp in the National Observer, an online website focused on news through the lens of energy, environment, and federal politics, according to Media Bias/Fact Check.

“These fines used to be maximum daily amounts, and now they’re maximum per contravention.”

Speaking with Yurek following Thursday’s announcement, he advised the monetary penalties should be in place within the next year.
“So we can kind of stop the games going on with certain industries where they are fine with going to court and fighting it and then continuing to pollute.
“These monetary penalties will just stop it. They will be charged and they will have to pay to fix their issue or else continue to pay these fines.”
As to the severity of these fines and what they will relate to, Yurek responded, “We have roundabout ideas, but we want to see what the full basket of charges will be included.
“But, there is illegal discharge of wastewater, selling pesticides without a permit, anything to contaminate drinking water. Those will be part of that set process and the fine amounts will range anywhere from $1,000 to $100,000, depending on how severe the charge is.”
According to an Environmental Defence release quoted in the National Observer, “Under the Water Resources Act, for example, the maximum fine used to be $100,000 per day. In Bill 132, the proposal is for it to be a maximum of $200,000 per contravention.”
Brooks went on to observe, “They’re saying they’re increasing the fines, but they’re not. These fines used to be maximum daily amounts, and now they’re maximum per contravention.”
As for air quality violations, Yurek would only say “Those will potentially be in there as well. We’re looking to expand this to anything that is going to protect land, air and water.”
With the scrapping of the Green Energy Act, the province aims to deal with greenhouse gas emissions through a greater reliance on low-carbon vehicles, cleaner fuels and tougher industry standards.
Are these fines an example of the latter?
You can read the full National Observer article here.

(Editor’s note: Following publication of this post, Whitney McWilliam in Minister Jeff Yurek’s office forwarded the following clarification.)

The Ministry is not lowering any penalties. Currently, the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks is not permitted to levy environmental penalties on many offences. This is a gap in the Ministry’s compliance and enforcement toolkit, which is why we are proposing to expand the list of environmental offences these penalties can be applied to. 
The changes, if passed, would allow the ministry to levy a penalty of up to $200,000 per contravention under the Environmental Protection Act and Ontario Water Resources Act, $100,000 per contravention under the Safe Drinking Water Act and Pesticides Act, and $10,000 per contravention under the Nutrient Management Act. 
Unlike the current environmental penalty regime, if the economic benefit exceeds the statutory maximum – the penalty can exceed the statutory maximum in order to recover the full economic benefit the violator incurred as a result of the violation. If the Ministry determines the offence is greater than this, the Ministry reserves the right to take offenders to court. The proposed expansion of administrative monetary penalties is more complex than what is provided in the Environmental Defence release. 
There are in fact instances where there are higher penalties than before, and we’re expanding the ability to charge these monetary penalties to offences that are currently not even allowed to be subject to monetary penalties. It’s also of note that the Ministry still has discretion to pursue charges once determining the severity of the offence. 


REMEMBRANCE DAYJPGSouthwold – Sunday, Nov. 10, 9:30 a.m. Shedden Keystone Complex.

Port Stanley – Sunday, Nov. 10, 10:45 a.m. Veterans Park in front of the Legion.

Port Burwell – Sunday, Nov. 10, 1:30 p.m. Legion, 21 Pitt St.

Vienna – Sunday, Nov. 10, 11 a.m. Vienna Cenotaph 6226 Plank Road, Vienna.

Dutton – Sunday, Nov 10, 7 p.m. Dutton Community Centre.

West Lorne – Nov.11, 10:45 a.m. West Lorne Cenotaph, 171 Graham St.

Springfield – Nov. 11, 9:15 a.m. Springfield Cenotaph.

Aylmer – Nov. 11, 10:30 a.m. Aylmer Legion, 211 John St. N

St. Thomas – Nov. 11, 10:30 a.m. Memorial Garden, Moore and Talbot St.


Last week’s interview with re-elected MP Karen Vecchio prompted vigorous debate on our social media forums including this on the City Scope Facebook page from the Liberal candidate in Elgin-Middlesex-London riding, Pam Armstrong.

“Karen got the same percentage as she did in 2015. The NDP got almost 11,000 votes and more people voted this time around. But Karen did win, fair and square and I congratulated her personally as well. Numbers are arbitrary and can be viewed under different lenses.
2015– the left got around 28,000 votes
2019-the left got closer to 29,000 votes
“Thanks for the honest coverage though. I won’t be going away. I learned a lot and will be back.”

Armstrong followed that up with this claim.

“The NDP vote was quite strong in this election compared to 2015 so this did split our vote.”

Ken DeVries piggy-backed on that by noting the following.

“The Green vote rose even more. Don’t see it as a splitting of the vote but voters willing to vote for what they really believe in. When Ericha (Hendel) represented the Greens despite not being able to campaign and did so well, shows voters giving affirmation to the candidates, knowing there was no way a “vote against” movement would succeed.
“As a Liberal, see what the NDP, Greens, and even CHP and Libertarian had on their platforms that were worthy of advocating. The CHP has openly said that other parties can take on the policy planks of their platform. All parties want a better Canada, just come from different perspectives and with somewhat different goals.”

Reader Ted Shelly certainly didn’t mince his words.

“I think Karen has worked very hard for our riding in the past four years and am sure she will continue to do so for the next four it will be a project when you know the ruling party is a pack of thieving liers.”

On Twitter, Jim Foster was in agreement.

“So true, Trudeau has shown he will do anything to stay in power.”

The Other Mike Tweeted a rebuttal to the above.

“Oh, the hypocrisy of that statement. Trudeau tried to run on the good Liberal record and Canadians got the smear & lie platform from Scheer and the Conservatives. Heck, all the Conservatives did was recycle their sad 2015 platform.”

The Other Mike followed that up with his take on Doug Ford’s role in the federal election.

“LOL. I love it when Conservatives try to play that card. They shelved Doug Ford for over 5 months because they absolutely knew he was a liability to Conservative chances here in Ontario, and then they complain that the Liberals did what Conservatives feared they would.”


An extra hour of sleep is in the offing if you remember to put your clocks back one hour before bed tonight. It’s also a good time to change batteries in all smoke and CO detectors.

MASCO Canada Ltd. is hosting a job fair on Tuesday, November 12, from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Elgin Mall. Bring your resume or you can apply online at

Questions and comments may be emailed to City Scope

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