Mr. Michael O'Sullivan: Robert and Anne Burr send their regrets. They're the foundation I'm representing. The other people who sit on the board also have extensive experience in animal protection. One of them served as the chief executive officer of the BC SPCA for 17 years and has worked in animal protection for 25 years. Robert Burr served on the board of directors of the Ontario Humane Society, chaired a number of committees, was an OHS inspector, and also worked and ran the Oakville Humane Society.
I did have a couple of observations. As we said originally, we believe that self-governing bodies have an inherent conflict of interest. I've heard suggestions that more people should be added to the Animal Care Review Board. We would respectfully suggest that in fact the Animal Care Review Board be phased out and replaced with a court process. I think we're underestimating the ability of the courts to deal with matters. They deal with hundreds, if not thousands, of issues from a wide range of problems that face society, and I think they'r e eminently capable. To have either the OSPCA or other special-interest groups reviewing cases which could result in criminal charges, I think, is an inherent conflict of interest and should not happen.
I did say earlier, too, that I believe the OSPCA should continue its function but not under the current mechanisms or the way it's structured. As many of you know, at a federal level, the Corporations Act is going to be amended and a new section struck to deal specifically with charities. The provincial government is also following suit, and it will in fact require all charities to reapply for their corporate papers under that act.
Our recommendation is that the OSPCA be split into two functions, one which is a law enforcement unit that reports directly to the minister, the same way any other police force does, with all of the inherent mechanisms and fail-safes; and secondly, that the OSPCA be able to carry on its good charitable work to help animals, shelter animals, education, legislative proposals and so forth. That would eliminate some of the conflicts of interest that you've heard today.
I listened very carefully to the presentation from the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums. I'� m not sure if they're still here or not, but one recommendation I have would be that if they say that their voluntary standards are superior to what this bill proposes, perhaps the committee and the Legislature could take a look at their standards and incorporate them into the regulations, and the fail-safe would be that failure to follow those regulations would result in attendant penalties.
I'm aware that the OSPCA has been investigated by the Attorney General's office, the Solicitor General's office and the Ontario Public Guardian and Trustee seven to eight times combined. I refreshed my memory with a 1982 report that was written, and regrettably, although it had good suggestions, 26 years later many of its recommendations have still not been implemented.
This legislation is critical because it not only gives us a chance to look at legislation that has not been amended in 53 years, but perhaps even more significantly, it's going to chart the progress of animal protection for the next 20 or 30 years to come. So I think everyone would agree that it's very important that we get it right.
Mr. Trow mentioned the inherent unfairness with the property tax relief, and I'd like to amplify that. Our charity, along with any of the other 600 groups that are operating throughout the province, whether they're incorporated or not, doesn't receive any tax dollars. We didn't receive any of the $7 million that you've already given to the OSPCA, and any of us that have property still have to pay taxes. We would respectfully suggest that unless you're prepared to grant those types of exemptions to any registered charity working to help animals, the Ontario SPCA not be given that special privilege. It's prejudicial and it's unfair.
With respect to section 10, we'r e very concerned about it, as we said earlier. Perhaps even more disconcerting is that there has been a great deal of public controversy around this entire piece of legislation, there has been tremendous debate during first and second readings by the MPPs concerning the legislation, and when any reference is made to any part of it, in particular to section 10, the OSPCA is missing in action. No one has heard anything and no one has seen anything on their website. As far as we know, no one has received any communications from them. In our respectful view, that just makes things worse. If in fact it's not their intention to misuse this authority, then why haven't they come out and said that they are not going to?
Again, there's an even more important issue at stake here with respect to the reputations of organizations. This bill has not only been formulated over a period of a couple of years, but it's had second reading, so they've already been able to convince the Legislature that other groups are somehow doing something wrong, and that's also going to be a public perception. So if you move forward and you remove people's names, you're going to completely cut the legs out from underneath them with respect to reputation and goodwill. They are not going to be effectively able to disagree with government policies or with the policies of other groups that could be harmful to animals. More importantly, you'll tell the public that in their eyes, the reason why they lost their name and their identity was because they did something wrong. None of us has done anything wrong except disagree.
We also believe, as I said earlier, that you need better training for the inspectors. Again, I would call on specialists like the Canadian association of zoos, parks and aquaria. If they say their inspectors are better trained than OSPCA inspectors, then maybe they could be enlisted to train OSPCA inspectors. Again, I have to repeat myself, I guess: In a perfect world, everything would be voluntary, but that's not the world that we live in. In my opinion, self-regulation by any body, including humane societies, is a recipe for disaster.
About seven weeks ago, I went to the OSPCA headquarters in Newmarket. I didn't have an appointment, and so the chief executive officer was not able to see me. I asked for a copy of their bylaws, and after a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, I was told that the bylaws were secret and I was not allowed to look at them. We could not find them anywhere through Industry Canada, through the corporations branch, or through any searches that we did. I heard someone describe some groups as "private charities." There is no such thing as a private charity; they're a public charity. You can't be a public charity and a public police force and, when you're asked questions by people, say, "That's secret. You're not allowed to know."
When we asked how we could become a member society or apply, I was shown a piece of paper for an individual membership, which would have required me to sign a legally binding affidavit that, sight unseen, we agreed with their bylaws now and forever and would agree to uphold them. You can't ask someone to do that. It's impossible.
Other concerns we have: There obviously are a lot of stakeholders. We reiterate that we think there should be much broader public consultations, and we would respectfully urge the committee that when the Legislature reconvenes, this not be put to a third reading, that there be six to eight months of public consultations. We know that the committee put an ad in the newspaper in North Bay, London and Ottawa; we think it ought to go into more places than that. There were only five and a half days' notice given as a deadline before people could respond, and of course we're in the middle of summer vacations. I suspect there are a lot of people who would like to appear before the committee or would like to make submissions, and they simply don't know about the opportunity.
Mr. Garfield Dunlop: Thank you very much once again for your presentation. I think you sum it up in a fairly accurate way. I'm hearing the same thing that you've actually mentioned here today, like the consultations. Even when the bill was introduced, this briefing note came out from the ministry and said that all this consultation had taken place, and yet when we checked with the organizations that were mentioned, virtually no consultation had taken place. I'm with you on this and I hope the government will listen to some of these concerns, because I think that when we get to third reading we're going to have some people very disappointed in the outcome in light of the fact that I don't expect the government will make a lot of amendments, because they'v e got a majority here at the committee hearings. But I hope they'll listen because, as we look at all the organizations across the province that have some real concerns about the warrantless entry and things like that, I think we're going to find even more of the kinds of concerns you've brought forward today. So I'm with you on that and I really appreciate your support.
One of the conflicts of interest I spoke about is that the chief inspector is the chief police officer. He, right now, has an agent sitting on his board of directors. Imagine Julian Fantino showing up at an Ontario police commission meeting and finding out that a constable who reports to him sits on the board and is his boss. You can't have that kind of a mechanism because it's a recipe for disaster.
You had begun to answer in the last round one of the concerns of Mr. Levac. I would cede some of my time so that you could continue on; you were lopped off there. He had said that section 6 was there to prevent fraud: somebody coming to your door, impersonating an SPCA or a humane society. I suggested that fraud is covered by the Criminal Code already. But you were about to say something further to that, and I'm wondering if you could just continue.
Mr. Michael O'Sullivan: Absolutely correct. There are already sufficient mechanisms to deal with that issue: the Competition Bureau, consumer affairs, the newspapers, the police. The suggestion that use of the name "humane society" or "SPCA" is anything less than about money, power and politics is just simply not the case.
For 53 years, the Ontario Humane Society failed to enforce the current section 6, which goes even further and says that any group, meaning any two people, incorporated or unincorporated, right now who profess to say they'r e working for the welfare of animals have to become a member of the OSPCA and agree with them. The section has never been enforced and right now there are 600 groups in the province that are in violation of the law, by looking at it. This again, by amending it, would hone in-it's about fundraising competition. It has nothing to do with animal welfare or fraud.
Finally, I was threatened with the section of the act that exists now when I ran the Windsor/Essex County Humane Society, because we were not affiliated with the OHS. We deliberately disaffiliated with them because there was a great deal of dysfunction at work. They threatened to use this section and I said, "Fine, let's go to court and sort this out once and for all." And they never made good on the threat. So they're coming to you asking for something they can't get any other way because no one is going to listen to them because it's absolute nonsense.
Mr. Michael O'Sullivan: Absolutely. As I mentioned in my presentation, Robert and Anne have worked in animal welfare for 40 years, and Robert actually sat on the board of the OSPCA, was an OSPCA inspector and ran the Oakville humane society, which is an affiliate, and worked for the Toronto Humane Society, and actually founded and sat on the board of the Upper Credit Humane Society, which is also an affiliate. So he's very well versed in these matters.
Mr. Dave Levac: The points you continue to make are-I want to make sure I get this right-that you believe there's an inability of the OSPCA to fulfill their mandate by their training or by their action for power. Am I getting this right?
Mr. Michael O'Sullivan: What I'm saying is that I think the OSPCA should continue with its work. But after observing them closely and working with them for 40 years, they can't do it under the current mechanisms by which they operate. It's not fair to them, it's not fair to the public and it's not fair to animals.