Thursday, August 13, 2015

Bring Back New Westminster's “Vicious Dog” Pit Bull Law After Terrible Recent Attacks

Muzzled and leashed pit bull

New Westminster City has 'no plans' to reinstate vicious dog bylaw despite pit bull inflicting serious injuries to woman and man in their home

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Vancouver / The Tyee column

Tuesday August 4, 2015

By Bill Tieleman

"These breeds [pit bulls] should be regulated in the same way in which other dangerous species, such as leopards, are regulated."

- Annals of Surgery medical journal, April 2011

Despite a horrific pit bull attack that left a New Westminster woman with "life changing" facial injuries and a man also bitten, the city has "no plans" to reinstate a bylaw restricting vicious dog breeds that it repealed in 2013.

The New Westminster attack July 23 sent the woman to hospital with serious injuries while the dog was seized and is being held by New Westminster Animal Control Services.

Two children asleep in the apartment were unharmed.

"No matter how good they [pit bulls] can be, they can change on a dime. They are like walking sharks," Lori Hilton, a neighbour of the New Westminster attack victims told CBC.

The attack is the latest of several pit bull and pit bull mix incidents causing serious injuries in B.C. and resulting in the deaths of several smaller dogs.

'Vocal minority' fuel debate

In June, a nine-year-old Penticton girl was the victim of an unprovoked pit bull attack, requiring five stitches on her arm, which she used to protect herself when the dog lunged for her face.

But New Westminster Animal Control Services supervisor James Doan said after a bylaw review the city removed the "breed specific" rules on pit bulls. Those regulations had demanded muzzles, leashes and other restrictions on several breeds.

"Any dog can have an incident," Doan told The Tyee on Friday.

And New Westminster communications coordinator Ashleigh Young told The Tyee that: "There are no plans to amend the bylaw at this time."

While New Westminster repealed its restrictions, Burnaby continues to define pit bull breeds as "vicious dogs" that must be muzzled in public and in 2013 increased licensing fees for them and fines for incidents.

That's despite strong efforts of pit bull advocates to have the bylaw pulled.

Burnaby Councillor Pietro Calendino rejected pit bull owner arguments.

"I'll call it the vocal minority that's been addressing us, writing to us, again, as I said, passionate about their pit bull dog," Calendino said. "But we have a very silent majority out there that is in support of what the council is doing and they want us to not change our mind about... restraining vicious dogs in the public."

Ontario, which banned pit bulls altogether in 2005, has reported significant drops in dog bite attacks since then, while Winnipeg has prohibited the breed since 1990.

Just looking at recent news reports on pit bull attacks shows why a ban is necessary.

This year alone in the United States, 14 people have already been killed in pit bull attacks -- including seven children and infants.

In 2014 there were 27 people killed by pit bull attacks and 25 in 2013, according to non-profit, which tracks dog attacks across the U.S. Pit bull breeds accounted for 64 per cent of all dog attack deaths in 2014 and 78 per cent in 2013.

The Tyee covered an unprovoked pit bull attack on a six-year-old Vancouver girl in Crab Park in January that required 10 stitches to her leg and another four to her face.

In Calgary in May there were five dog attacks in five days connected to pit bulls, with one teenage girl sent to hospital.

"That specific breed has caused a lot of damage in the last five days," Calgary Animal Services Director Ryan Jestin told media.

And small dogs are often killed by pit bull attacks. In Nanaimo in
June, a woman's 13-year-old Maltese-poodle cross died after a pit bull crushed its throat while the owner walked her dog on Hecate Street.

More cities regulate pit bulls

Mia Johnson knows all too well how a sudden, unprovoked pit bull attack can take the life of a cherished dog.

Johnson and her daughter Laurel lost their service dog Yuri, a miniature pinscher, in Vancouver last November -- and no charges were laid against the owner of the pit bull that disemboweled Yuri.

Johnson has strong opinions about how New Westminster was convinced to drop its vicious dog rules by a group called HugABull Advocacy and Rescue Society.

"HugABull pressured New Westminster City Council to drop the pit bull ban by calling it 'antiquated legislation' and telling people the 'trend is towards repealing BSL [breed specific legislation].' Both are entirely untrue," Johnson said in an email interview with The Tyee.

"In the last three years, an additional 160 cities in the United States adopted BSL policies to protect their citizens from pit bulls. This was despite the fact that Best Friends Animal Society, the largest American pit bull lobby group who earned $66.6 million dollars in 2014 relentlessly campaigned against BSL during this time."

"Pit bull advocacy groups have a strong economic interest in not banning pit bulls, and people in cities like New Westminster suffer the consequences," Johnson concluded.

Pit bull supporters continually argue that the owner, not the breed, is the problem.

Unfortunately, that's just not what the evidence shows, nor does it take into account that pit bulls have been bred for centuries as fighting dogs.

And many of the child fatalities are the result of the family pit bull suddenly savaging a youngster in their own home.

In April, 10-week old Brayden Wilson was killed by a pit bull when his father briefly stepped outside to turn on a lawn sprinkler.

When he returned, his pit bull was attacking Brayden in his bouncing seat. The father tried to pull the dog off the infant and was then joined by Brayden's mother, who was bitten twice.

The father finally managed to pull the dog outside and shot it but Brayden was pronounced dead at hospital.

Brayden's grandmother Willetta Tate said the family owned the pit bull for eight years, during which it had been around two other children in the household, eight and 11 years old.

"It's just unexplainable. You just don't get it when you've had the dog so long, I don't know what could have happened. I don't know," Tate said. "Those kids, they sleep with him and everything."

Time to ban the breed

Sadly, fatal pit bull attacks often come from dogs owned by family or friends of the victims, including at least seven of the 14 deadly U.S. pit bull attacks so far this year.

And pit bulls' powerful jaws make a pit bull bite deadly, while their refusal to let their victims go ensures maximum harm.

"Bites from pit bulls inflict much more damage -- multiple deep bites and ripping of flesh -- and are unlike any other domestic animal I've encountered," Tucson plastic surgeon Dr. Christopher Demas testified in a Colorado court.

"Their bites are devastating -- close to what a wildcat or shark would do."

Owners are rarely charged when their pit bulls kill or injure, and not all dogs involved in attacks on humans and other animals are put down.

There were no charges in either the Vancouver or Nanaimo cases this year.

But even if there are charges, they come after an attack -- the only way to prevent those fatalities and injuries is with a ban.

That's why New Westminster City Council should reconsider its 2013 decision to repeal their vicious dog bylaw and put greater emphasis on the protection of citizens than the right to own a pit bull.

And it's why British Columbia should simply ban pit bulls.


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Top Conservative Leader in the World? Stephen Harper Is More Like Failed Republican Prime Minister

Prime Minster Stephen Harper with former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney
With Senate moratorium and more, Prime Minister abandons Conservative Party principles again.

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Vancouver / The Tyee column

Tuesday July 28, 2015

By Bill Tieleman

"If Stephen Harper were a Republican in the United States, he'd be at the top of his party... He's the top conservative leader in the world."

- Weekly Standard executive editor Fred Barnes


Because after the prime minister's abandonment last week of yet another of Canadian Conservatives' holy grails -- an elected, equal and effective Senate -- Stephen Harper looks more like a failed Republican.

So much for the vaunted "Triple E" Senate that Harper and then-Reform Party leader Preston Manning campaigned very hard for in the 1990s.

Now Harper says he'll simply stop appointing Senators until the provinces agree to change or abolish the discredited institution.

But as Canada slides into economic recession with the budget possibly out of balance again after years of deficits and state-funded stimulation -- all Kryptonite to Conservative supermen -- it's clear little remains of their right wing ideology.

Party's over

Instead, Harper presides over a sad tarnished Tory-ism that can hardly inspire either economic or social conservatives, with an election mere months away.

Sure, the Conservative government can still beat up on unions, the public service, scientists, environmental groups, the judiciary and other annoying enemies to throw some red meat to the right wing base.

But when it comes to meaningful lasting change, the party is over.

And with New Democrats taking over Alberta's provincial government, it means the lights have been turned on to tell Conservatives to go home.

That's a good thing for Canadians who want a socially progressive approach that includes supporting a social safety net, a key role for government in keeping corporations accountable, protecting the environment and promoting international cooperation.

However for die-hard Conservatives, Harper's years in power can only be seen as a lost opportunity.

"I know the things that we stood for back then. They ain't happening now. It absolutely disappoints me," former Calgary Reform MP Jim Silye recently told The Tyee's Jeremy Nuttall.

Since Harper became prime minister in 2006, social conservatives have watched efforts to reverse same sex marriages abandoned; marijuana be sold openly in Vancouver dispensaries over vehement Tory objections; and the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously reject a prohibition on physician-assisted dying.

Fiscal conservatives are equally appalled that Canada's debt has risen by over 12 per cent from 2006 to 2014 or that seven budgets in nine years had deficits or that federal program spending as a proportion of gross domestic product has actually gone up under Harper.

Even worse, it was the Liberals under Prime Minister Jean Chretien and Finance Minister and later Prime Minister Paul Martin that ended years of Brian Mulroney Progressive Conservative deficit budgets and reduced national debt.

Kryptonite buffet?

The Conservatives would rightly point to the worldwide recession of 2008 and financial crisis as overwhelming reasons to use state spending and corporate bailouts -- like Canada's $9 billion to General Motors and Chrysler -- to avoid further economic collapse.

But that doesn't change the fact that conservatives have long argued against any government intervention in free markets and opposed stimulus budgets.

And so ditching ambitious plans to reform the Senate is merely the last course of an unappetizing buffet of policy reversals for Harper.

The remaining question is whether Conservative voters will experience electoral indigestion in October's federal election.


Trans Pacific Partnership: The TPP Another Secretive Trade Deal Big Business Loves

But what's good for corporate Canada should be good for everyone, right?

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Vancouver / The Tyee column

Tuesday July 21, 2015

By Bill Tieleman

"The very word 'secrecy' is repugnant in a free and open society."

   - former U.S. president John F. Kennedy

Would you sign an important deal where the details were secret until after your name was inked on the page?

An agreement that you are told will be great, but could either cost you your job or boost your pay, help or hurt your working conditions, and allow you to be sued if you break the rules you haven't yet seen?

Of course not. That would be insane.

But that's exactly what Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government wants to do -- sign a deal we can't see that affects trade with 11 other countries, including major partners the United States and Japan.

You've probably never even heard of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, but Canadian International Trade Minister Ed Fast flies to Hawaii on July 28 for meetings that could finalize the secret negotiations.

However, big business sure knows the TPP -- and loves it.

"The TPP is the biggest game on the planet in terms of trade negotiations," wrote the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, and the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters in a letter endorsing the unseen deal.

But not so fast, Fast, said Don Davies, Vancouver Kingsway MP and NDP trade critic.

"We've got to wait and see the actual text of the agreement, consider it, consult the public and then decide," Davies told me this week. "The Conservative government approach to trade is to conduct negotiations in utter, total secrecy -- they've shut out Parliament."

Canadians are totally in the dark, Davies said, but not big business because "a select group of insiders have been briefed on it."

'We have to be defensive': NDP's Davies

In fact, the only real details emerging from TPP talks came when WikiLeaks published a secret draft chapter in January detailing how foreign companies would be able to directly "sue" governments through an Investor State Dispute Settlement process outside of Canada's legal system.

That means multinationals could force taxpayers to compensate them for any health, environmental, land use, financial or other government policies that they claim don't give them "fair and equal treatment."

The biggest possible threats to Canada include our dairy and poultry industries, where "supply management" regulations protect domestic farmers -- that is, marketing boards that regulate domestic production and put high import tariffs on foreign producers.

TPP also endangers copyright and privacy protection laws as outlined in The Tyee, with TPP being described as "digital free trade."

Davies is concerned about what he knows of the TPP, and more concerned about what he doesn't. But he is careful not to say that the TPP should be rejected sight unseen, nor endorsed without knowing the details.

"There is a potential plus to being at the table and in an agreement, but there are also threats," Davies said. "This is a U.S.-dominated trade deal -- and they protect their interests.

"Canadians should approach TPP with a balanced perspective. There is a cost of being out. We have to be defensive," he said.

That view contrasts with Harper's heavy emphasis on getting a deal and telling Canadians to trust him, and the federal Liberals' position of endorsing the TPP while wringing their hands and saying they'd try to improve it later, as they did on Bill C-51, the Conservative security legislation.

"It would be really devastating for Canada to be left on the outside, and it's the job of the government to negotiate a deal that benefits all sectors of the economy, absolutely including the supply-managed industries," Liberal MP and trade critic Chrystia Freeland said in June.

Kind of hard to tell how devastating when we don't know almost anything about it, other than it's very secret.

Davies said that's the Conservative approach to trade deals.

"Negotiate in secret, put a gun to the heads of your opponents, and try to force them to agree," Davies said. "Ultimately it's unproductive."

Deal about 'containing China': law expert

The list of countries involved in the TPP is also bizarre, with no obvious linkages: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

The exclusions have led many observers to conclude the deal is aimed at reducing the influence of China.

"The trade deal isn't primarily significant because of the economy. It matters because it's part of the broader American geostrategic goal of containing China -- which pointedly hasn't been invited to join the TPP," writes Noah Feldman, a Harvard professor of international law.

Meanwhile, Davies worries about how well-protected Canadians will be in a trade agreement with Brunei and Vietnam, which are not democracies.

"We are dealing with countries that do not meet normative, minimal standards in labour, human and environmental rights," Davies said, noting that Brunei has imposed a law that can punish same-sex acts with stoning to death.
American legislators are equally unhappy.

"A country that has laws that are anathema to American values doesn't deserve to be in our trade negotiations," said California Democratic Representative John Garamendi. "We need to send a clear message."

Malaysia is also repressive to gay, lesbian and transgendered people, whose rights are routinely violated by federal and state authorities.

So far, Canada's message has been clear -- no rights, no problem.

Unprecedented and unwarranted secrecy

And then there's the unprecedented secrecy surrounding all aspects of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The TPP draft chapter released by WikiLeaks shows that the U.S. has classified the text to keep it a secret.

"Even if current negotiations over the trade agreement end with no deal, the draft chapter will still remain classified for four years as national security information," law professor Margot Kaminski wrote in the New York Times.

"National security secrecy may be appropriate to protect us from our enemies; it should not be used to protect our politicians from us," she wrote.

Outspoken U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont agrees.

"It is incomprehensible to me that the leaders of major corporate interests are actively involved in the writing of the TPP, while the elected officials of this country have little or no knowledge as to what is in it," Sanders said.

But U.S. President Barack Obama, with support primarily from Republican legislators, got approval to "fast track" TPP negotiations with minimal interference.

Secrecy, violation of human rights by potential partners -- none of this worries big business in the least.

In one of a series of opinion pieces salted through major media, the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters even had the nerve to say that TPP endorsement is a no-brainer, unless -- shudder -- "partisan politics" intervene.

"Canada's participation in TPP should not be a tough decision, and even with an election looming, it is too important to be held hostage to partisan politics. Canada needs to be part of the TPP deal as soon as it is concluded," wrote CMA vice-president Jeff Brownlee.

Never mind that the most partisan prime minister Canada has seen is pushing the TPP through without legislative scrutiny or public consultation -- what's good for big business should be good for everyone!

Nice try.

Here's the real bottom line on the TPP: no details, no deal. It's that simple.