Opinion » Editorial

Justice in sled dog massacre starts with making facts public



In matters of truth and justice, there is no difference between large and small problems, for issues concerning the treatment of people are all the same.

– Albert Einstein

The recurring nightmare that the sled dog massacre has become surfaced again two weeks ago when Robert Fawcett was in court to plead guilty to one count of animal cruelty.

Since the story of the April 2010 dog killings broke in January 2011, people have, rightfully, been outraged. Details of how the dogs were reportedly killed shocked and appalled. Emotions ran high.

So high there were some strong overtones of vigilantism, enough to warrant the RCMP investigating "serious" threats made on social media and through email, although no charges have been laid.

When Pique columnist G.D. Maxwell suggested that as despicable as the dog slaughter was, the mob mentality displayed by some under the cloak of anonymity was worse, some people were further outraged. Some suggested Pique was trying to cover up this hitherto dirty secret.

To some, such as the Seattle resident who threatened to take out full-page ads urging people to boycott Whistler, the entire community was guilty. There was also the Rossland artist who passed along a drawing of a dog with a halo and a thought-balloon that said "F&#@ Whistler".

From Rainbow to Rome there were vigils and calls for "justice."

But 20 months after the story first surfaced we know precious little more about what actually happened in April 2010 in the Soo Valley. All of the horrific details made public have come from one source: Fawcett's leaked WorkSafe BC compensation claim for post-traumatic stress. He made no statement in court when his guilty plea was entered. In fact he has not made any public statements, although comments have been attributed to him on a website for people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

A SPCA investigation of the site of the killings discovered the remains of 54 dogs, contradicting Fawcett's WorkSafe claim that he killed up to 100 dogs. But that is the only significant detail of the SPCA's 1,000-page report that has been made public in the year since it was completed.

The SPCA's Marcie Moriarty said two weeks ago: "This investigation was about uncovering the facts in a particular case of alleged animal cruelty that shocked people around the world. But it was also about ensuring that all sled dogs and other working animals are protected from suffering and abuse. Only by fully investigating these allegations could we send a clear message that we are a humane society where brutality and violence against animals will not be tolerated."

If the facts about the dog killings are finally made public — and they should be — that will happen at Fawcett's Nov. 22 sentencing hearing. That date happens to be the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday and the opening day of Whistler's ski season. That's unfortunate timing for Whistler as there are some who continue to see the community complicit in some way with the dog killings.

But that is of lesser concern; the priority is to make public the facts and to learn from them. Moriarty said: "Only by fully investigating these allegations could we send a clear message..." But it is not enough to investigate; the findings need to be made public if a clear message is to be sent. In the absence of the facts too many assumptions are made.

Changes have been made to the sled dog business. A provincial task force produced new regulations and British Columbia's Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act has been amended. The law concerning cruelty to animals is now said to be "the toughest" in Canada.

Sled dog operators have all been hurt by the massacre. They were under greater scrutiny last winter and will be again this winter.

Around the periphery of this tragedy changes have been made. It is finally almost time to end the recurring nightmare. But finding justice in this matter starts with bringing the facts out in public.