BELLEVILLE, ON: In the wake of the mysterious disappearance of approximately 40 sheep scheduled to be slaughtered by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) yesterday, Karen Selick, litigation director for the Canadian Constitution Foundation and lawyer for sheep-owner Montana Jones, said: “The Canadian Constitution Foundation cannot condone the brazen law-breaking by the unknown person or persons who stole the sheep.”
However, Selick noted that the CFIA also has an obligation to act within the law. She and her client have been questioning for several months whether the proposed slaughter is legal.
Selick said: “As a matter of administrative law, we believe the CFIA has fettered its discretion by adopting a blanket rule requiring the destruction of a particular genotype of sheep. The statute gives it the power to order the destruction of specific animals that might be infected, but that’s not the same thing as condemning a flock on the basis of its genes.”
Selick continued, “Montana Jones—or any farmer who might defy the CFIA—faces the possibility of imprisonment. This means her right to liberty under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is at stake. The CFIA therefore has the duty not to act arbitrarily or disproportionately. We think it is doing both.”
Live biopsies of the condemned sheep have all tested negative for the disease called “scrapie” and no symptoms of the disease have been observed in the flock.
Selick also questioned whether CFIA policy would have the desired outcome of eradicating scrapie, or the counterproductive result of driving it underground: “I have been speaking with many farmers recently and have often heard the sentiment that it might be better to ‘shoot, shovel and shut up’ rather than let anyone know your sheep is sick. The legislation and the CFIA’s harsh interpretation of it may actually make the situation worse, not better.”
The Canadian Constitution Foundation (“Freedom’s Defence Team”) is a registered charity, independent and non-partisan, whose mission is to defend the constitutional freedoms of Canadians through education, communication and litigation.