Lawyer Camille Labchuk gives animals a voice in court

Mitch MacDonald comment@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on January 4, 2016

Animal rights lawyer and former P.E.I. resident, Camille Labchuck and University of Alberta law professor, Peter Sankoff, before appearing in the Supreme Court of Canada recently to intervene on a landmark case regarding beastiality laws. The two appeared on behalf of Canadian charity Animal Justice.


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Ensuring that animals have their voices heard in court has always been Camille Labchuk’s life's mission. 

Fighting for the humane treatment of animals is a passion for for the former P.E.I. resident and Toronto based lawyer, who is now living in Cambridge, Mass.

As an animal rights lawyer and advocate, she represents clients from seals, horses and all forms of commercial wildlife and household pets.

Labchuk, executive director of the not-for-profit group, Animal Justice, gave animals that right to be heard during a historic case in Canada's Supreme Court recently.

In November, Labchuk and University of Alberta law professor Peter Sankoff, appeared in court on behalf of the Canadian charity in a landmark case regarding beastiality.

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Labchuk said the Crown’s appeal is a ground-breaking case that essentially decides whether all sex acts with animals should be considered beastiality. 

“Which is horrible and unfortunate to contemplate, but it happened to make its way up to the Supreme Court,” said Labchuk, during a recent interview with The Guardian.

The appeal marks the first time in Canadian history that the Supreme Court has considered legislation related to protecting the legal rights of animals.

The case stems from an appeal from a decision by the B.C. Court of Appeal that acquitted a man on a charge of beastiality.

In an earlier interview with the National Post Labchuk said, “without our intervention the court might not hear why protecting animals is a critical objective of Canadian law.” 

Labchuk called the case “novel” and said she believes it’s the first time the Supreme Court of Canada will consider legislation protecting animals from harm.

“The consequences are pretty far reaching,” she said. “If they reject the appeal, it will essentially legalize forms of sexual abuse of animals across the country.”

While she is still waiting for the outcome of the case, Labchuk said she already considers it a victory by ensuring that the perspective of animals will be presented in court.

It was also a personal victory for Labchuk and the Ottawa-based group.

“It was the first time we intervened on a case at any level of court,” she said. “Because it’s at the Supreme Court, that’s huge for us.”

While this case was a first for the group, it has been active in other advocacy initiatives, including an official complaint into the Canada Goose jacket company questioning its claims of humane trapping for its products.