Statement by Senator Nancy Greene Raine on dog sledding

Senators' Statements

Dog Sledding

November 30, 2016

The Honourable Senator Nancy Greene Raine :

Honourable senators, I rise today to speak about dog sledding and to give you a little background to a story that ran in The Globe and Mail today about a documentary film that is touted as shining a light on the sled dog industry.

First, let me tell you that a red flag went up for me when the young woman who runs the dog sledding operation at Sun Peaks contacted me yesterday. She and her husband have built a very nice small business by providing a great experience for resort visitors. I know that they treat their dogs very well, almost as members of their family. So when she told me that they were being targeted with a boycott by the producer of this movie, I was concerned. It is just not right when a movie or its producer can threaten the livelihood of a young couple and their children.

There is no doubt that there have been some disturbing instances where commercial dog sled operations have done terrible things, including the cull of dogs after the 2010 Olympics in Whistler, but it is simply not right to infer that all dog sled owners are the same. I have seen how the dogs are treated at Sun Peaks and I am pretty sure that this represents the standard of care that is provided by many small businesses across Canada. Sled dogs are a special breed, and they love to run, to work hard and to live outside in the cold. This is not animal cruelty. Having these dogs relegated to becoming house pets might, in fact, be much harder on them.

When the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples travelled to Nunavut at the end of April last year, we saw first- hand the importance of husky dogs to the traditional Inuit way of life. While they are somewhat replaced by the snowmobile today, they are still a large part of most northern families.

Honourable senators, what concerns me is that this movie goes beyond focusing on some disturbing instances of animal cruelty, but what really disturbs me is that the producer has also been promoting a boycott on social media of all dog sledding.

We all know what happened when the seal hunt was targeted by misguided animal rights activists. Let's not let dog sledding be treated the same way. Thank you.