Animal Justice Fights for Animals in Canada’s Top Court

On November 9, Animal Justice argued before the Supreme Court of Canada in a groundbreaking case that will decide whether some forms of sexual abuse of animals are acceptable under Canadian criminal law.

This is the first time in Canadian history that the top court has considered any legislation directly protecting animals. It’s also one of the first times that animal advocates have been granted permission to make oral arguments before the Supreme Court. Animal Justice intervened to ensure the Supreme Court hears the perspective of countless animals who have no voices of their own. Whatever the outcome of the case, it was a victory for us to be there and speak for them.

The case – Her Majesty the Queen v. D.L.W. – is an appeal from a decision of the British Columbia Court of Appeal that seriously weakened the Criminal Code offence of bestiality. Instead of ensuring that all sexual abuse of animals remains illegal, the Court of Appeal ruled that only the penetration of animals is an offence.

As an intervener in the case, Animal Justice will ensure the Court hears why preventing harm to vulnerable animals is not only a fundamental societal value, but also a key objective of Canadian criminal law. Our lawyers Peter Sankoff, Professor at the University of Alberta Faculty of Law, Camille Labchuk, Executive Director of Animal Justice argued that it must remain illegal to sexually abuse animals in any way, shape, or form.

The stakes in this appeal couldn’t be higher. If the Supreme Court upholds the Court of Appeal decision, it will essentially legalize many forms of sexual abuse of animals right across the country. If that happens, we’ll take the fight to Parliament and ask the government to protect vulnerable creatures from sexual abuse and exploitation.

Resources:

The Supreme Court of Canada docket for R. v. D.L.W. is found here.
Animal Justice’s Factum is found here.
Animal Justice’s Motion to Intervene in the appeal is found here.
The British Columbia Court of Appeal decision is found here.

Want to learn more? Check out this video blog by Peter Sankoff to brush up on the details of the case, this article by legal blog The Court, and this BuzzFeed story to learn about the history of the offence of bestiality.