Ottawa’s Continued War on Wildlife
What is really behind the decision to turn the Wildlife
Strategy over to the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee?
Community members just window dressing
in a wildlife strategy shadow-boxing exercise
May 13, 2013: For over two years community members of the Wildlife Strategy Working Group believed that they were following Council’s direction to develop a progressive and comprehensive wildlife strategy for Ottawa. As it turned out they were wrong – they were just window dressing.
“It appears that the Eastern Ontario Deer Advisory Committee (EODAC) who was not even a member of the Working Group had more pull,” said Donna DuBreuil, President, Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre and spokesperson for the Ontario Wildlife Coalition. “EODAC, an advocacy group for hunting interests, submitted an “alternative strategy” described by a city staff person as your “basic trappers’ manifesto” and bingo, Mayor Jim Watson decides to hand off the City’s entire Wildlife Strategy to the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee (ARAC). This is the same Committee whose Chair has made it abundantly clear that lethal management is a front and centre option. The Mayor did this despite the fact that Council’s direction was to hold a joint meeting of the Planning and Environment Committee (PEC) and ARAC.
“We obtained correspondence through Freedom of Information that shows the Wildlife Strategy was on track to be placed on the agendas of the Environment and Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committees. A briefing note was sent out by the City Manager’s office at 4:11 p.m. on December 2, 2011 that laid out a detailed schedule of when the Strategy would be reviewed by the Working Group and internal staff before going to these committees,” said Liz White, Director, Animal Alliance of Canada and spokesperson, Ontario Wildlife Coalition. “Then, less than an hour later the mayor’s Senior Policy Advisor put the brakes on the plan, saying ‘I would like to chat about the timings on Monday…..also would like to know who has been consulted so far. There were some very reasonable input during the deluge and some balanced offers to help develop the strategy’. It is telling that there have been no further meetings of the Working Group since then.”
“We believe the decision taken in the mayor’s office is connected to the EODAC proposal submitted through the Rural Affairs Office. This proposal which has never been made public, although the Coalition has obtained a copy through FOI, is completely contradictory to the intent of the Working Group’s Wildlife Strategy in that it categorizes all urban wildlife as ‘nuisances’ and fair game for lethal removal”, said Donna DuBreuil, President of the Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre and a spokesperson for the Coalition.
In a letter responding to the Coalition last week, Mayor Watson defended his decision to hand over the Wildlife Strategy to ARAC, stating it has the mandate for wildlife, as approved by City Council in early 2011. See attached link (see 8.g)http://ottawa.ca/en/city-hall/your-city-government/standing-committees/agriculture-and-rural-affairs-committee.
“There is nothing in these terms of reference nor in the discussion or council minutes to support the Mayor’s claim that this authority would encompass general city-wide wildlife concerns” said DuBreuil. “It is, in fact, explicit that ARAC will ‘be responsible directly to Council for those items outside the urban boundary’. The Mayor should implement Council’s motion for a joint meeting and not try to justify what is simply a wrong-headed decision.”
“The Council motion reflected the fact that the vast majority of wildlife issues are urban/suburban concerns, as they are in all large cities. It would be entirely inappropriate that urban wildlife issues be determined by agricultural circumstances and the very different response used in agricultural areas. Imagine the huge and rightful uproar if urban and suburban councillors were to dictate a wildlife response for the agricultural community”, said Anita Utas, a Stittsville resident.
“Many Ottawa residents are concerned because the Wildlife Strategy has a major bias in its flawed reporting lines and little in the way of projects that go beyond window dressing. The creation of a Wildlife Biologist position reporting to ARAC and costing $100,000 a year will not solve urban wildlife concerns and is an unacceptable waste of tax dollars”, said Utas.