Dog rescue organizations in Canada hope the federal government will have a change of heart over its ban on street dogs from more than 100 countries.
In June, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) announced that commercial dogs — dogs intended for resale, adoption, fostering, breeding, exhibition and research — at high risk for rabies will be banned from entering Canada starting Wednesday, Sept. 28, regardless of when import permits were issued.
Rabies is a viral disease that attacks the central nervous system of mammals, including humans, the government’s website notes. The CFIA said dog rabies kills 59,000 people every year in countries affected by the ban, including Afghanistan, Ukraine and mainland China.
“It’s very disheartening,” said Baladi Dog Rescue of Ontario co-founder Lindy Lystar. The London, Ont., group has been working with a rescuer in Cairo and has flown some 30 dogs to the region.
They’re a little bit scared, so they do need some extra care and love and training, but they’re great dogs.– Lindy Lystar, Baladi Dog Rescue of Ontario co-founder
“We have some very close friends in Egypt that are out there on the street every day and they see the horrors that these dogs have to go through,” said Lystar.
“She’ll come out of her house and there’s 10 or 20 dogs poisoned on the street, and she feels so helpless,” she said, referring to just one of the horrible ways street dogs are treated generally.
Most of the regions affected by the ban are in Africa (including Egypt), Central and South America, Asia, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.
“It doesn’t make a lot of sense,” said Lystar about Canada’s ban.
The dogs in Egypt are given vaccinations — including against rabies — their blood is tested for diseases, and they’re spayed or neutered before making the trip to Canada, Lystar said, adding there’s also a requirement that they be tested to assess a dog’s immunity to rabies before they leave Egypt.
“They’re a little bit scared, so they do need some extra care and love and training, but they’re great dogs,” said Lystar who has her own Egyptian dog, a short-haired, pointy-eared blond pet named Louise.
“They’re loyal dogs. They’re protective. They’re so intelligent.”
Animal rescuers are rushing to bring dogs into Canada before a ban on importing dogs from 113 countries considered high risk for rabies comes into effect.
CBC News reached out to the CFIA and hadn’t received a response at time of publication.
In July, the agency said Canada did not have any active cases of “dog rabies,” a strain different from the rabies typically found in wildlife such as skunks, foxes, raccoons and bats. However, it noted, in 2021, dogs with rabies were imported into Canada, prompting the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and provincial public health authorities to ask the CFIA to take action to address the risks from imported dogs.
Vet association’s past president says ban needed
Canine rabies has become a growing concern in Canada since the U.S. implemented a similar ban last year, prompting some rescue groups to redirect their efforts to send more dogs to Canada, Louis Kwantes, past president of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, told The Canadian Press.
“We always knew that the risk was there,” Kwantes said. “But when it’s actually in your country, that theoretical risk becomes a real and present danger.”
While the CFIA’s stance may seem severe, Kwantes said he believes it’s warranted given the risks that canine rabies and other contagions that are endemic to other countries pose to Canada’s human and dog populations.
Two cases of rabies in dogs imported from Iran — one of the banned countries — have been confirmed in Ontario since July 2021, according to the province’s Agriculture and Food Ministry.
Both dogs had received rabies vaccines that aren’t licensed in Canada before their arrival, Ontario officials said. A total of 49 people who came into contact with the dogs received rabies post-exposure prophylaxis, a type of treatment that is estimated to cost about $2,000 per person.
Kwantes said these cases are illustrative of the danger posed by even a single case of canine rabies making its way into the country. While dogs are routinely vaccinated against rabies, most Canadians are not, he said. Given the close relationship between them, the canine variant is cause for concern, he said.
Many of the banned countries don’t have robust veterinary systems, said Kwantes, raising concerns about fraudulent vaccine certificates or inadequate inoculation.
Ways dogs treated ‘breaks your heart’
Ahead of the government’s ban that begins Wednesday, Fida Kablawi of London, Ont., returned with nine dogs from Egypt after a two-month stay in the capital city.
“I’m an animal lover, and it breaks your heart, and there’s so many of them.
“It’s sad. It’s surprising, shocking sometimes,” she said. “There’s a lot of poverty. [People] have so many other problems to deal with that to them a suffering dog on the street is not a priority.”
Kablawi first visited Cairo in 2020 on a work trip, and was so taken by the city’s street dogs that she’s returned multiple times to fly dogs back with her. She works with Baladi Dog Rescue and through fundraising, pays for the dogs’ medical bills, the paperwork and the flights.
The dogs are only allowed to leave the country once Egypt’s Ministry of Agriculture checks them out and signs off on the paperwork, said Kablwai.
“Most of the ones that we pick have had a really rough time — they’ve been neglected or they’ve been tied to a roof and chained and starved,” she said. “The ones with the tough stories, the ones that we feel need the most love, the ones who have had it the worst, we try to bring over to give them a better life.
“I do believe Canada will change this [the ban] with just maybe some stricter laws when the dogs enter the country,” she said.
Rescuers have been calling for better regulations, including quarantining, vet checks and behavioural assessments, to ensure the safety of both the dogs and families who will home them.
Canada’s military forces are “ready” to meet their commitments should Russia’s war in Ukraine spread to NATO countries, but it would be a “challenge” to launch a larger scale operation in the long term, with ongoing personnel and equipment shortages, according to Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Wayne Eyre.
Eyre told Joyce Napier on CTV’s Question Period in an interview airing Sunday that while the forces in Europe are “ready for the tactical mission they’ve been assigned,” he has larger concerns about strategic readiness. He said there’s a lack of people and equipment, and further concern around the ability to sustain a larger scale mission in the longer term.
The Canadian Armed Forces are still struggling to retain staff, with nearly 10,000 fewer trained personnel than they’d need to be at full force, and equipment stocks below what they require.
“We’ve got challenges in all of those,” Eyre said, adding the numbers reflect what’s been “let slip over decades, as we’ve focused on the more immediate (needs).”
Eyre said Canada’s military would be “hard pressed” to launch another large-scale operation like it had in Afghanistan, as an example, without having to redistribute its resources around the globe, as threats evolve.
“The military that we have now is going to be increasingly called upon to support Canada and to support Canadian interests, to support our allies overseas, but as well at home,” Eyre said, citing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, climate change impacting the landscape in the Arctic, and an increase in digital and cybersecurity threats.
“It’s always a case of prioritization and balancing our deployments around the globe, not just with what, but when, and with who … and getting that balance right is something that that we’re working on,” he said. “Could we use more? Yeah, absolutely. But we operate with what we have.”
“We prioritize and balance based on what our allies need, and what the demand signals, just to make sure that we achieve the strategic effect the government wants us to achieve,” he also said.
Meanwhile Defence Minister Anita Anand said on CTV’s Question Period last week that Canada should “be able to walk and chew gum at the same time,” and balance its NATO commitments with securing the Arctic and promoting peace in the Indo-Pacific.
Eyre said his number one priority is getting Canada’s armed forces up to full strength, with an attrition rate of 9.3 per cent between both regular and reserve forces, up from 6.9 per cent last year. The Canadian Armed Forces Retention Strategy was released just last month.
“We are facing the same challenge that every other industry out there is facing in terms of a really tight labor market,” Eyre said. “Every other military in the West is facing the same challenge.”
He explained the organization is working on streamlining its recruitment process, among other changes, to meet the increasing need, with the goal to get numbers up “as quickly as possible.”
“Ideally, would have been yesterday,” he said. “We’re looking at where we can accelerate the recruiting, the training, and optimizing our training pipeline.”
Soccer wasn’t really a thing when I was a kid. I grew up in the 1970s and ‘80s. Sure, we all had soccer balls. And we played a lot of what should be more accurately called, Kick and Run. But I – and all my friends – did not really know the rules, the teams or the players. We might’ve heard of Pelé, but not more than that.
We followed hockey, baseball, football (CFL and NFL) and basketball, in that order. I did occasionally watch soccer on TV, but that was because we didn’t have a lot of channels and the soothing English accents often lulled me to sleep.
Things are much different now. My 13-year-old son is a massive soccer fan. He plays on a team three or four times a week. His schoolmates include a lot of second-generation Canadians, whose parents came from soccer-obsessed nations. He watches Premier League and Championship League matches. He’s watches La Liga and Bundesliga. He watches World Cup qualifiers and could tell me the backstory on most of the players. In fact, he watches classic games on YouTube and plays FIFA22 on his PS4 and as a result, knows more about Pelé than I ever did. But, because of him, I now watch enough football to know a game is a match, a goalie is a keeper and I know which plays end up in corner kicks or throw-ins.
I once asked him, “How well do you know the Germany national team?” and he said, “Not very well.” He then proceeded to name seven of their 11 starters. It’s a different world.
I still know almost nothing compared to the other soccer dads, but like millions of Canadians, I watched Canada’s qualifying matches and I know we have a great team, with some stellar players who are worth watching. The qualifying matches regularly beat both hockey games and CFL football when it comes to viewership.
But we should care about more than just the matches themselves. The World Cup is one of the biggest and most lucrative sports spectacles on Earth. This will be the first one hosted in the Middle East. And although Qatar may look shiny and new on TV, it’s mired in what many Western nations believe to be medieval and backwards policies on working conditions, LGBTQ2S+ and women’s rights.
Finding people to talk about it in Qatar is NOT easy. One of W5’s goals this week was to talk to migrant workers to describe how they were treated, their living conditions and their labour rights. Most were too afraid to talk to us.
And to confound things, there have been many stories of journalists being detained or arrested for reporting on migrant workers. Last week, a Danish reporter was live on TV from Qatar and when asked what things were like there, he directed his camera operator to pan left – revealing security officials in golf carts, who immediately tried to stop the live hit. The next day Qatari officials apologized, but the message was clear: we can stop you from reporting when we want. It’s a fascinating video that’s been viewed millions of times around the globe.
The Qatari government denies they’ve put any restrictions on media. In a tweet, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy says “several regional and international media outlets are based in Qatar, and thousands of journalists report from Qatar freely without interference each year.”
Not everyone is convinced. Qatar ranks 118 out of 180 countries in the 2022 Press Freedom index, published by Reporters Without Borders. Freedom House, which is a U.S.-based freedom watchdog, gives Qatar a 25 out of 100 score on Global Freedom, which includes freedom of expression. (Canada ranks 98 and the US ranks 83).
A Reuters Institute column from last week on press freedom in Qatar suggests authorities obscure press freedom laws, by hiding behind trespassing laws.
“One of the most common risks when doing journalistic work in Qatar is to be accused of trespassing. This is what Halvor Ekeland and Lokman Ghorbani of Norwegian state broadcaster NRK were accused of when they were arrested by officers of Qatar’s Criminal Investigations Department in November 2021, while covering World Cup preparations. The journalists were held for over 30 hours before being released without charge. They deny they were filming without permission,” says the article.
A little insider info: I have personally written, “we don’t want you to get arrested, but…” at least twice in correspondence with our team in Qatar. I’ve never encouraged anyone to break the law of course, but sometimes doing our jobs leads police or security into thinking they have a duty (or at least a right) to stop you.
OTTAWA — Haven’t you herd? A dramatic tale of 20 escaped cows, nine cowboys and a drone recently unfolded in St-Sévère, Que., and it behooved a Canadian senator to milk it for all it was worth.
Prompting priceless reactions of surprise from her colleagues, Sen. Julie Miville-Dechêne recounted the story of the bovine fugitives in the Senate chamber this week — and attempted to make a moo-ving point about politics.
“Honourable senators, usually, when we do tributes here, it is to recognize the achievements of our fellow citizens,” Miville-Dechêne began in French, having chosen to wear a white blouse with black spots for the occasion.
“However, today, I want to express my amused admiration for a remarkably determined herd of cows.”
On a day when senators paid tribute to a late Alberta pastor, the crash of a luxury steamer off the coast of Newfoundland in 1918 and environmental negotiators at the recent climate talks in Egypt, senators seated near Miville-Dechêne seemed udderly taken aback by the lighter fare — but there are no reports that they had beef with what she was saying.
Miville-Dechêne’s storytelling touched on the highlights of the cows’ evasion of authorities after a summer jailbreak — from their wont to jump fences like deer to a local official’s entreaty that she would not go running after cattle in a dress and high heels.
The climax of her narrative came as nine cowboys — eight on horseback, one with a drone — arrived from the western festival in nearby St-Tite, Que., north of Trois-Rivières, and nearly nabbed the vagabonds before they fled through a cornfield.
“They are still on the run, hiding in the woods by day and grazing by night,” said Miville-Dechêne, with a note of pride and perhaps a hint of fromage.
She neglected to mention the reported costs of the twilight vandalism, which locals say has cost at least $20,000.
But Miville-Dechêne did save some of her praise for the humans in the story, congratulating the municipal general manager, Marie-Andrée Cadorette, for her “dogged determination,” and commending the would-be wranglers for stepping up when every government department and police force in Quebec said there was nothing they could do.
“There is a political lesson in there somewhere,” said the former journalist.
Miville-Dechêne ended on what could perhaps be interpreted as a butchered metaphor about non-partisanship: “Finally, I would like to confess my unbridled admiration for these cows that have found freedom and are still out there, frolicking about. While we overcomplicate things, these cows are learning to jump fences.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 26, 2022.
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