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B.C.’s sled dog uproar erased other issues worth barking about

This is an editorial I wrote for today’s issue of The Voice about the recent Sled Dog Task Force and the speed of which the provincial government reacted to the public furor created by the massacre of 100 dogs.

Photo: Christine Zenino

Yesterday’s Sled Dog Task Force’s report brought swift legislative action from the premier aimed at tackling B.C.’s “terrible black eye” of animal cruelty.
The resulting animal cruelty laws, now Canada’s toughest, were met with applause from animal lovers across the province. But what does the genesis and speed of the task force and its legislative success say about B.C.’s political discourse?

“British Columbians have said clearly that cruel or inhumane treatment of sled dogs or any other animal is simply not acceptable,” Premier Christy Clark said in a press release yesterday.

Are there not a host of more pressing problems British Columbians find simply unacceptable?

Direct action was taken over the slaughter of about 100 dogs, yet the public inquiry into allegations of police malpractice and incompetence during the investigation into the missing women has been beset by delay after delay.

Shortly after public outcry erupted from news reports of the dogs’ massacre, the task force was set up with an order to complete their inquiry and report back within 45 days.
Contrast this with the years it took police, and society as a whole, to recognize dozens of women from Canada’s poorest postal code were being abducted and murdered by a serial killer. As early as the summer of 1998 the press were reporting a huge uptick in women disappearing from the Downtown Eastside. The police force reacted sluggishly and didn’t merge the investigation with the RCMP until April of 2001. By that time, numerous media reports had detailed the outcries for action from friends and families of the victims.

Politics dictate the government must listen to the concerns of its constituents, the priority of these concerns is another matter altogether.

In dog-friendly Metro Vancouver many people were rightly horrified with the mass “culling” of the sled dogs. More than 200 dog owners showed up at a February rally against the massacre in the affluent suburb of West Vancouver.

From 2007 to 2009, over 68 impoverished infants died in B.C. Twenty-one of these deaths were investigated further and just below three-quarters of the infants were aboriginal.

It took a full decade of leading Canada in child poverty rates for the provincial government to begin reforming the children and family ministry and sketching out the basics of child poverty plan.

Much like in the media, it seems easier in politics to respond to a sensational problem which affects proportionately less people than tackle a more nuanced issue that impacts us all.

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