Supreme Court Decision May Help Animals Access the Justice System

Animal Justice is applauding a new Supreme Court of Canada decision on public interest legal standing that may help animals access the justice system in the future. Animal Justice lawyers intervened in the case of British Columbia (Attorney General) v Council of Canadians with Disabilities, which was about how and when public interest standing should be granted, including when an advocacy organization can launch a case on behalf of someone else. 

For a case to be heard in court, an individual or organization must first be granted legal standing. When a case directly affects a claimant, they can seek private interest standing. But when the case is a matter of public interest—as are many cases involving animals—a claimant needs public interest standing.

Animals are often shut out of our legal system. They don’t yet have standing to file lawsuits on their own when they are mistreated, and courts have regularly denied public interest standing to people and groups who try to help animals through the court system.

During the case, Animal Justice told to the nine judges of the Supreme Court that it’s essential for advocacy groups like Animal Justice to be granted public interest standing to launch legal challenges to help suffering animals, and on their behalf. Animal Justice intervened alongside 22 other interveners—more than is typical at the Supreme Court—representing a diverse range of marginalized groups, including refugees, prisoners, the environment, and more.

The Supreme Court decision recognizes that vulnerable groups already face “formidable obstacles” in bring cases before the courts, and emphasizes the importance of public interest standing in ensuring that marginalized voices can be heard.

We hope this ruling will be an important step toward expanding access to the court system for animals and animal advocates, and ushering in a more compassionate legal system.