iStock 85020113420th August 2019

Open Letter To Prime Minister Trudeau

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,   

As of today, Canada is still undecided or opposing actions to protect otters, whales, elephants, rhinos, rare woods, saiga antelope and glass tree frogs.  This does not reflect Canadian values and concerns for wildlife at home or around the world.

Having worked on CITES for at least 18 years longer than members of your government delegation and for more than 50 years on the ground in the wildlife field and undercover investigations in developing nations, I am very much aware of document-heavy matters, which in our hard-won experience, emphasize process over substance.  

Some background of our hard-won decades of experience on CITES deficiencies and past actions taken by government officials on behalf of all Canadians may be helpful and this is contained in the email to follow. 

CITES abject failures

  • Government produced documents lack up to date information or deliberately untruthful data
  • There is little or no active field investigations or comprehension of actual conditions on the ground
  • Fails to appreciate or assist in any meaningful way with the scarce human, financial and technical resources for effective education, administration and law enforcement 
  • Facing deadly gunfire from the latest automatic assault weapons, cutting edge communications, aircraft, vehicles and boats, fails to honour the tremendous dangers and sacrifices by poorly equipped wildlife rangers killed in action and their penniless widows and orphans left behind; and replaces their sacrifices and experiences with those of politicians, bureaucrats and vested interest wildlife traders
  • While improving very slowly, better concrete practical action plans and solutions within CITES and between other multilateral agreements, national/international criminal/civil laws
  • Even as nations tell the world they intend to keep violating CITES, fails to enforce any action against nations like Japan in violation on whaling and how this sets a precedent for all other species and encourages other nations to follow suit because there is no accountability or consequences
  • Failure to acknowledge or understand organized crime, money laundering, bribery, government corruption, and tax evasion 
  • The contribution of climate change, disease and habitat destruction which cause a critical damaging geometric cascade effect
  • Theft of natural resources and medicines from local people and global future generations
  • Fails to understand and promote that sustainable use can involve non-lethal and carefully structured ecotourism operations which have demonstrated that wildlife a single elephant or whale can contribute to an ongoing generational wide range of local people, goods and services in excess of USD $ 1 million throughout the animal's lifetime -- far in excess of a single North American trophy hunter who kills once a robs the population of its generosity ("When someone destroys a work of man we call him a vandal.  Yet, when someone destroys a work of God and nature, we call him a sportsman.")
  • Fails to acknowledge the core founding principles, intent, spirit and provisions  of CITES such as the rule of law, the precautionary principle, the rule of best available evidence
  • That every nation, no matter how small, has an equal vote
  • That every living thing has intrinsic value and that every species is important to all citizens of all nations 
  • That while wildlife and parts are bought and sold as commodities worldwide, and while they do not know or care which range states they inhabit, flying in the face of CITES and real international co-operation, exceptional and wrongful deference is given to the fate of a species simply because a range state demands it by sovereignty alone, or as Canada has done, taken out reservations which fail to protect species
  • That CITES CoPs are now held for only 2 weeks every 3 years because of financial costs never once weighed at all against the costs and suffering of species recovery and extinction
  • Calls to reform the CITES treaty are being driven by a calculating vested interest wildlife traders and corruption seeking to rewrite history, seeking to weaken the very bedrock foundations of wildlife protections and enjoy collateral trade advantages and cause even greater harm, when instead its the CITES Member nations themselves and especially, their own administration and operational creation, whom although given tremendous authority, which is rarely if ever used, the CITES Secretariat -- it is here that an immediate responsible cost-effective meaningful radical overhauls must be openly and publicly carried out with measurable action-oriented results for both the billions of people represented by the Member nations and the CITES Secretariat
  • CITES nations and the Secretariat operate under an outdated hidebound wilfully slow paper-heavy bureaucratic fashion that is entrenched and unwilling or unable to change, 
  • A CITES Secretariat that actively works against law enforcement, plays political favourites, faces ungrateful and irresponsible members who as of 16th August 2019, owe at least USD $ 2.9 million in back dues, only has an embarrassing tiny budget to protect all of the world's wildlife, with only a total average annual (2016-2019) budget of some USD $ 6.5 million, 
  • CITES is regarded as a toothless paper tiger by the tax weary public at large and by outlaw nations who continue to take advantage of CITES thereby harming people, animals, and the environment and future generations
  • And the replacement of all of the excellent analysis, action plans and solutions made available to CITES which are ignored for the sake of politics, trade, economics, financial and other collateral issues using wildlife as a bargaining chip 

No matter how thick CITES documents may be, they will not stop a poacher's bullet.

"... Canada, the most affluent of countries, operates on a depletion economy which leaves destruction in its wake. Your people are driven by a terrible sense of deficiency. When the last tree is cut, the last fish is caught, and the last river is polluted; when to breathe the air is sickening, you will realize, too late, that wealth is not in bank accounts and that you can’t eat money..."  Alanis Obomsawin, an Abenaki from the Odanak reserve, seventy odd miles northeast of Montreal 

CITES has become a Global Wildlife Stock Exchange which knows the price of every living thing and the value of none.  Tax weary Canadians expect more concrete actions that reflect their values and concerns for wildlife and nature at home and abroad.  In the past, in favour of trade, at the World Trade Organization (WTO), Canada has supported the drowning of dolphins and turtles in nets and the slaughter of seal pups.  At the International Whaling Commission and at CITES, Canada has supported the slaughter of whales and dolphins.

At CITES, Canada, has always voted against measures to protect rhinos and elephants and black bears from slaughter for their ivory, horn, bear galls and paws.  

In our view, because he was auditioning for the job of CITES Secretariat, in 1997 at the CoP in Zimbabwe, Committee Chair, David Brackett, Director General of the Canadian Wildlife Service, forbid any of the two hundred NGOs from speaking against the slaughter of elephants.  In the past, Brackett gave positive character evidence of a Canadian outfitter, Jerome Knapp, who illegally smuggled polar bear trophies into the USA.  

Upset with the CoP's decision in 1992 to list black bears on Appendix II and ignoring our own extensive undercover investigation in Canada (which led to banning the trade in all provinces) --  under threat of criminal and civil litigation, Brackett was forced to cancel and recall 20,000 his pre-signed blank CITES certificates for black bear parts.

All of which have resulted in the human caused extinction level events now faced by wildlife, habitat and threatens our very own survival.  Whatever we do to animals and nature, we do to ourselves.  We have one world, one future.  

And if the animals lose, then so does everyone else.

What we describe as The UN Global Extinction Report issued in May 6th, 2019 is best described by its' own summary and challenges

Current global response insufficient;

‘Transformative changes’ needed to restore and protect nature;

Opposition from vested interests can be overcome for public good

Most comprehensive assessment of its kind;

1,000,000 species threatened with extinction

Federal government studies have shown that over 95% of Canadians support the protection of wildlife and nature.  And that Canadians would contribute up to $ 400,00 to protect a single polar bear.

6 out of 10 Canadians share their homes with a family pet and based upon our 50 years of experience, that number is actually closer to 8 out of 10 families (some families can not have pets due to allergies, landlord and lifestyle time commitments).

I am therefore confused by your head of delegations words when we asked for specific details on your government's positions their answers: "...I do not have documentation on Canada’s views that I can easily share.  However, I’m happy to arrange a follow-up discussion with the relevant members of the delegation and myself for the key issues you wish to discuss..."   

You or other Members of your delegation may be aware of the genesis by which the Government of Canada was compelled to share this nformation publicly as far back as 1984, further to correct Canada's own glaring substantial failures to follow CITES (even though Canada helped draft as far back as 1972 and was one of five original signatories in 1975), and indeed even to pass Canada's own Species At Risk Act.  The Government of Canada wisely chose to follow the law rather than face class action litigation.  We played in the pivotal role in this regard.

In the intervening three years since the last CoP, and all of the intercessional regional, Animals & Plant Committee Meetings and other ongoing information updates, along with the 21 members of the Canadian Delegation, it is hard to understand why or how you cannot provide an information summary your team had prepared before you left Ottawa.

Rather than provide information that we can report back to Canadians on a piece mail basis, and especially because management and scientific decisions: past. present and future are so intertwined, we need all of the evidence, science and rationale that you are using to negotiate on behalf of all Canadians.  Please advise who has authorized the positions.  We also ask you to bear in mind, that we are the only Canadian NGO in attendance, and lour 2 member staff lack the resources of your 21 member delegation and support staff in Ottawa.

We look forward to discussing this with your delegation in detail tomorrow evening at the SSN Meeting. We've already provided information on otters, glass frogs, and rare wood today to your delegation.

Warm regards,

Michael  O'Sullivan
Chairman & CEO
The Humane Society of Canada
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The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) works to protect dogs, cats, horses, birds, rabbits and small animals, livestock, lab animals, wildlife and the environment. We carry out hands-on programs to help animals and nature, mount rescue operations, expose cruelty through hard-hitting undercover investigations, work to pass laws to protect animals, use a multidisciplinary approach, support animal shelters, and wildlife rehabilitation centers, and spread the word about how to help animals and nature through humane education.

The only organization of its kind, seven days a week, The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) works across the street, across Canada, and around the world helping people, animals, and the environment.

The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) depends entirely on donations to support our programs to help animals and the environment. All donations are gratefully acknowledged with a receipt for income tax purposes. If you would like to support our educational campaigns that protect animals and the environment please make a donation here. Because when it comes to fighting cruelty and violence, we don’t give up. Ever. 

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