Say what you will about Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante’s first eight months in office, when it comes to animals, her Projet Montréal administration has been doing exactly what they said they would. Even her staunchest opponents can’t argue that fact.

Soon after taking office, they scrapped former mayor Denis Coderre’s much-maligned pit bull ban and promised a new, thorough animal control bylaw based on research. This past Thursday, they delivered.

Here are some of the highlights of the proposed plan, already approved by Montreal’s Executive Committee and up for vote by the full City Council tomorrow:

Calèche Ban

Montreal has issued 24 permits for horse-drawn Calèches to operate this year and in 2019, but won’t be issuing any more. As of 2020, horses pulling tourists through the streets of Old Montreal in the hot sun will be a thing of the past.

This follows several videos in recent years of horses collapsing on the “job” as well as years of opposition to the practice from Plante’s party and over a century’s worth from the Montreal SPCA. The plan also involves:

  • A move towards electric-powered calèches
  • Funding renovations of the Griffintown Horse Palace and converting it into a museum and potential living space for horses (something started under Coderre)
  • Finding new homes for the horses currently being used, which counters the calèche industry’s claim that the horses will have to be slaughtered

Rescue Not Breeders

As of July 2019, pet stores in Montreal will only be permitted to sell dogs, cats and rabbits that come from animal shelters, not from breeders. This is certainly a bold move that will prompt resistance, mostly from pet stores, but the Plante Administration is surely prepared for that.

What’s really fascinating and encouraging here, though, is that Montreal is effectively turning adopting a rescue pet from an ethical choice many currently make into the most standard and efficient way to bring an animal home in the city.

It’s the Owner, Not the Breed

While Coderre’s Pit Bull Ban is now a thing of the past, the Plante Administration hasn’t forgotten about what prompted it in the first place: a woman who died because a dog attacked her. The new bylaw deals with dangerous dogs by focusing on specific dogs that are violent and their owners, not with blanket targeting of entire breeds.

Under the new plan, if a dog bites a human, the dog’s owner is required to report it within 72 hours and muzzle the dog when outside until experts trained by the city do their job. These inspectors will classify the dog as either normal, potentially dangerous or dangerous and determine what restrictions, if any, need to be applied. The owner pays for the evaluation.

This is clearly one area where Montreal’s new administration is sticking to their promises while backing them up with logic and research.

* Featured image by Jean Gagnon via WikiMedia Commons

That didn’t take long. Less than a month after taking office, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante’s Projet Montréal administration announced they will fulfill an important campaign promise: getting rid of former Mayor Denis Coderre’s controversial breed-specific legislation (BSL), often referred to as the pit bull ban.

In a press release, Craig Sauvé, Sud Ouest City Councillor and the Executive Committee (EC) member responsible for the city’s animal management, announced that the EC will officially vote to suspend the articles of Bylaw 16-060 which deal with a specific breed, cross-breed or traits of a breed of dog that Coderre’s administration had passed in late 2016.

Montreal headfirst jump into breed-specific legislation drew the ire of dog owners, the SPCA and international animal rights activists last year. Projet Montréal, then in opposition, had characterized it as legislation written “on the back of a napkin” and Plante’s promise to eliminate it and replace it with something based on evidence could very well be one of the main reasons she was elected.

In the press release, Sauvé claimed that this was just a “first step” as the party plans to work on new legislation dealing with dog attacks but focused on the upbringing and bad owners, not the breed. This will, of course, be done in consultation with groups like the SPCA.

For now, dog lovers can breathe a sigh of relief that Montreal’s costly, confusing and wildly unpopular experiment with breed-specific legislation will soon be a thing of the past.

 

* Featured image via WikiMedia Commons

The City of Montreal is a mess and it’s time for change. The municipal elections are this November and candidates are clamoring to show that they are most qualified to fix our construction problems, frivolous expenditures and lack of accountability. Unfortunately, most people don’t seem to take an interest in municipal politics, and it’s easy to see why.

Federal and Provincial politics deal with sexy issues like healthcare, education, Native rights, law enforcement and treaties. Municipal politics deals with dogs and decorations and infrastructure. They’re not sexy but they are important, so this article will give you a crash course on Montreal’s upcoming elections and some of the issues at hand.

First, let’s talk about dogs.

In June 2016 a dog mauled a Pointe-Aux-Trembles woman to death. In response, City Hall under current mayor Denis Coderre introduced a bylaw requiring that dogs be muzzled in public, banning pitbulls and other “dangerous breeds”.

The rules were met with outrage from everyone, arguing that the law created arbitrary rules in an attempt to prevent something that’s impossible to predict. It pushes the notion that certain breeds are more prone to violence than others and has forced many dog owners to consider leaving the city rather than getting rid of their beloved pets in order to conform to the bylaw. Despite the outrage, the bylaw stands.

Projet Montreal led by Valérie Plante is by far Coderre’s greatest competition, and they have a few things to say about the current mayor.

The party’s website says:

“Like you, we care for the safety of all. And like you, we also know that policies based on a dog’s breed or appearance (BSL) are ineffective in protecting the public.”

Rather than banning some breeds, their focus is on responsible pet ownership including providing financial incentives for pet sterilization, and better control of the sales and life conditions of pets. It’s clear that should Projet win the election one of their first orders of business will be abolishing the pitbull ban.

Now let’s talk about expenditures.

This year is Montreal’s 375th anniversary and we should be celebrating, but how much celebrating is too much?

Anyone who plans a party knows that one must work within a budget, especially if the money is not yours.

In honor of the City’s anniversary, Coderre spent $39.5 million to light up the Jacques Cartier Bridge with LED lights. Coderre also took the liberty of spending $3.45 million on granite tree stumps on Mount Royal, which strike many as not only frivolous, but impractical. As Sue Montgomery, Projet Montréal’s candidate for borough mayor of CDN/NDG recently mentioned, the design of the stumps doesn’t even allow people to sit on them, as they’re slanted in such a way people and objects slide right off (unlike actual tree stumps).

Where did the money for these things come from?

It came from the taxpayers, which means that we’re footing the bill. Was there public consultation about this? Did the mayor seek our consent before using our money to buy these things?

Not really.

One of Projet Montreal’s big platforms this election is that of accountability. They want the city’s leadership to answer to citizens the way they’re supposed to.

Coderre’s goal for all these projects was to put Montreal on the map, but as many of Coderre’s critics have pointed out, the city was already on the map. We have the Jazz Festival, the Just for Laughs festival, Francopholies, Nuits d’Afrique, Carifest, the fireworks competition and tons of other annual events that draw thousands of tourists every year. Most of us agree that the money spent on cosmetic additions was a waste. That money could have been better spent fixing a Montreal problem so great it’s become a joke:

The problem I’m talking about is municipal construction.

Projet Montreal calls the problem “Kône-o-Rama” and vows to “end bad traffic management by creating a traffic authority, ready to intervene to eliminate obstacles on roads, sidewalks and bike paths.”

The problem, however, is much more than that.

Construction projects, while often necessary, are poorly managed. Highway exits are closed, but the signs indicating as much are often placed too close to the site of the work, leaving motorists struggling to find alternate access points to their destinations, creating delays.

Where sidewalks are closed for construction, workers seldom indicate alternate footpaths for pedestrians, something that especially puts the city’s disabled, elderly, and people with babies at risk. Where businesses are blocked off due to holes in the street, the best construction workers offer is a wobbly and unsafe ramp to get to the door. Not to mention the noise, the dust, and the lack of proper safety barriers.

It has become such a joke in this town that souvenir shops now offer ceramic salt and pepper shakers in the shape of traffic cones with the city’s name on them.

Coderre has been conspicuously silent about all of this, while Projet Montreal is demanding remedies as part of their accountability and accessibility platforms. They want to see coordination between the construction projects to make sure cyclists and pedestrians are kept safe and the city is accessible for everyone.

Projet Montreal is not the only party to challenge the current administration.

Other parties include Vrai Changement, pushing leader Justine McIntyre for mayor of the Pierrefonds-Roxboro Borough. Vrai Changement is running on a platform of economic development, less dependence on motor vehicles, and improving public transportation. Unfortunately, the party focus seems primarily on the Pierrefonds-Roxboro and Lachine boroughs and not on the city’s overall well-being.

Coalition Montreal has candidates running mostly in the Côte des Neiges and NDG borough. They are pushing Zaki Ghavitian for Borough Mayor and hoping leader Marvin Rotrand, former vice-chair of the STM currently on the city council, retains his council seat representing Snowdon. Whether they present a candidate for JMayor of Montreal remains to be seen.

More than any other election, the municipal one is the one most likely to affect our daily lives. Stay informed and when the time comes, VOTE.

Panelists Katie Nelson, Cem Ertekin and Jerry Gabriel join host Jason C. McLean for a look at the big worldwide, national and local stories of 2016. Plus 2017 Predictions!

Panelists:

Katie Nelson: “Paid professional social justice warrior”

Cem Ertekin: FTB Managing Editor and contributor

Jerry Gabriel: FTB contributor

Host: Jason C. McLean

Producers: Hannah Besseau (audio), Enzo Sabbagha (video)

Report by Hannah Besseau

Recorded Sunday, December 11, 2016 in Montreal

WATCH:

LISTEN:

 

Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons

A lot has happened over the past few days concerning Montreal’s controversial Pit Bull Ban (officially the Animal Control Bylaw). On Monday, when the whole thing was supposed to go into effect, a judge issued a two day suspension.

Then, on Wednesday, Justice Louis Gouin of the Quebec Superior Court agreed with the SPCA’s lawyers and granted an indefinite suspension on the parts of the law dealing with “Pit Bull-Type Dogs” until a proper hearing can be held. The sections that affect other breeds of dog as well as other animals such as cats are still in effect.

Now, today, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre dug in his heels and announced that the City of Montreal will be appealing the decision in a letter posted on his Facebook Page and the official city site. With no sign of Coderre backing down, and the courts waiting to rule, let’s take a look at just what this law entails:

Some politicians are fortunate enough, or charismatic enough, to have their own Mic Drop moment. The kind of no-nonsense moment they will be remembered for fondly. Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, on the other hand, just had a Cut the Mic moment, literally.

It happened at a Ville Marie Borough Council meeting. Thanks to Gerald Tremblay, the Mayor of Montreal is the defacto Mayor of the Ville Marie Borough as well, but that’s a story for another day.

Resident Kim Doucet was speaking out against Breed-Specific Legislation (BSL) and Coderre’s proposed ban on pit bulls. Members of the public are allowed to ask questions at council meetings and Doucet had already cleared it with Borough officials that she would deliver a statement, about a minute and a half in length, before getting to her question.

A little over a minute into her statement, this happened:

Predictably, people started sharing the video of what had happened. According to Radio-Canada, the video, through all the uploads on multiple platforms, was seen over 40 000 times. Coderre’s demand to “cut the mic” was amplified through the megaphone that is social media.

When Coderre took matters, and a jackhammer, into his own hands last year and decided to personally destroy the groundwork for one of Canada Post’s misguided Community Mailboxes, he came across as, well, kinda cool. When he was lowered into our sewer system to personally inspect raw sewage being sent directly to the St-Laurence, it came across as a damage control photo op. Now, ordering that Doucet’s mic be cut, he just looks like an asshole.

And a misguided one at that. Not only was Doucet following the rules of the council meeting, she was making a very good point about how BSL has never worked, a point Coderre didn’t want to hear. Well, she shared her full statement in a video, if you want to hear what the Mayor refused to.

It’s important that you do. Because, when the dust has settled, what are people going to remember? A soundbite that evokes Coderre’s lack of patience for people who disagree with him. The focus won’t be on his sheer populism at the expense of what a large chunk of the population he supposedly serves wants. It won’t be on his willful ignorance of the fact that Christiane Vadnais, the woman whose death caused this whole mess was probably not even killed by a pit bull.

No, we’ll be talking about Coderre being a dick to a citizen. By demanding that Doucet’s mic be cut, he has raised the volume considerably on his own lack of respect for the people he is supposed to serve. It’s up to the rest of us to make sure that the issue he was trying to silence doesn’t get drowned out in the process.

* FTB is currently conducting a poll on the proposed Montreal Pit Bull Ban and Breed-Specific Legislation. You can still vote.

UPDATE: Coderre’s plan was adopted by Montreal City Council with a vote of 37 in favour and 23 against on September 27, 2016

On June 8, 2016, fifty-five year old Christiane Vadnais was found dead, mauled by a dog in Pointe-Aux Trembles. Under pressure from outraged citizens, Montreal City Hall reacted, and on June 18th, Mayor Denis Coderre announced that he would ask the city council to approve a ban on new pit bulls. Ten days later, on June 18, 2016, Coderre’s office issued a communiqué detailing his plan to ban pit bulls and other “dangerous breeds” of dogs starting September 2016.

Coderre’s plan would allow existing pit bull owners to keep their dogs provided they sterilize them and put a muzzle on them in public. It also includes working with the police to sensitize the public to the ban and create “canine squads” to meet with pitbull owners and remind them of the bylaw. In defense of the ban, Coderre said :

“Responsibility for one’s animal is an obligation,”

In light of all the debate regarding whether or not certain dog breeds are more dangerous than others it’s time to take a step back and look at the laws regarding dog ownership in Canada.

In Canada, dog laws are a civil and municipal matter, meaning that complaints regarding dogs and dog owners fall under the jurisdiction of individual cities and provinces. In Quebec, article 1465 of the Civil Code says that:

“The owner of an animal is bound to make reparation for injury it has caused, whether the animal was under his custody or that of a third person, or had strayed or escaped.”

The law also says that anyone making use of the animal is liable with the owner for the damage it caused.

That means that if an animal – which could be a dog, cat, or even a tarantula – is under your care or that of a third party, you can be sued for any damages to property or harm to people or animals caused by that animal. The only way to avoid being held responsible is to prove that what the animal did is in no way your fault as an owner or guardian.

That could mean proving the victim didn’t take any reasonable precautions to protect against the animal’s behavior, showing that it was the fault of a third party, or that what happened was an Act of God i.e. the hurricane lifted your dog up and smashed it so hard against your neighbor’s house that it broke a window. The burden of proof in these cases is on the plaintiff, the one who claims your animal caused the damage, but this same burden is a lot lower. Unlike in criminal cases, all the plaintiff has to prove is that your animal more likely caused the damage and not beyond a reasonable doubt.

Municipal rules are another matter.

In the City of Montreal the current bylaws regarding animal ownership are very specific about owners’ obligations. The bylaws – which, while listed separately for each borough from Ahuntsic-Cartierville to Villeray-Saint-Michel- Parc-Extension, are all virtually identical – have a concise list of actions by animals that are considered to be public nuisances for which the owner can be held liable. As per the bylaws, nuisances by animals include damages to other people’s property, biting another animal or a person, and barking, howling or screaming loud enough to disturb the peace.

If an animal has caused a public nuisance, the owner is considered in violation of the bylaw. If you’re found guilty of violating animal control bylaws the penalty could be anything from a fine to your dog being put in the pound or even euthanized.

Fines range from one hundred to four thousand dollars depending on whether it’s a first, second, or third offense. If your dog is put in the pound, you can claim it in three days, providing you pay the pound fees.

A dog that bites people has to be muzzled in public for ninety days following the complaint. Whether a dog is put down or not is at the discretion of the City, which can order the animal to be euthanized if the authorities believe it is a danger to public health and safety. Once the order has been issued, the owner must bring the animal to a pound or vet to be put to death.

The problem with existing laws about animal control is that they only work after someone has gotten hurt. There are rules about leashes and muzzles but not everyone obeys them and police have better things to do than write tickets for dog owners. It is only when a child gets bitten or someone dies that the authorities intervene.

Coderre’s proposed change to existing bylaws is trying to prevent something that cannot be predicted. The notion that certain species of dogs are more prone to violence is highly debated, even outside circles of bleeding hearts.

With new evidence proving that the dog that killed Christiane Vadnais was not a pit bull and owners swearing to move if the ban is imposed, the only question that remains is whether the ban will go forward or City Hall will admit defeat and walk away from the proposed ban with its tail between its legs.

* Featured image: dawn.com Creative Commoms

UPDATE: Coderre’s plan was adopted by Montreal City Council with a vote of 37 in favour and 23 against on September 27, 2016

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre is trying to bring in a pit bull ban by September. If the City Council approves, new pit bulls will be banned across the island and existing pit bull owners as well as the owners of a few other as-of-yet unnamed breeds will have to register their dogs, spay or neuter them and put a muzzle on them when in public.

Coderre’s move came about because of the death of 55 year old Pointe-aux-Trembles resident Christiane Vadnais. She was found in her backyard and police suspect she was mauled by a pit bull.

While the Montreal approach is not as harsh as what Quebec City plans to do in January or what Ontario has already done, it has quite a few responsible and loving dog owners understandably upset. While their argument against this ban may stem from a very personal place, their love of their companion animal or animals, there is less emotional argument against breed specific legislation like this:

Breed specific legislation does nothing to stem dog attacks because it’s bad dog owners who make their dogs violent and dangerous. We should go after them instead of arbitrarily punishing thousands of innocent dogs and responsible and loving dog owners.

The Montreal City Council will weigh in on this in September, but now it’s your turn to have your say. We’re launching a poll on this subject. You can vote in this post and on the sidebar of any page on this site.

Usually our polls revolve around pop culture distractions…like elections (sorry, not sorry). In order to liven up the mood, we usually include a few somewhat comedic choices (like voting for Stephen Harper, sorry, not sorry). That’s not the case this time. There are only three choices:

  1. Yes, you support the Montreal pit bull ban as proposed by Denis Coderre
  2. No, you don’t support it and are against breed specific legislation
  3. You support BSL but don’t like Coderre’s plan for it

So have your say below this paragraph and, if you want, explain why you voted the way you did in the comments. Also, please feel free to share this poll with your friends. Maybe your votes can sway our elected officials.

Do you support Montreal's proposed ban on pit bulls?

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* Featured image by Hugo A. Quintero G via Flickr Creative Commons