Calgary Commitee Meeting Review

On May 8th, 2013 the City of Calgary’s Community and Protective Services Committee (CPS) met to review the recommendations of the Calgary Council formed Shark Fin Task Force. It was also the first time that members of the public were allowed to address Aldermen to voice their concerns and desired action by Calgary City Councilors.

Summary of What Happened

Dozens of individuals attended and no members of the public spoke in opposition to Council proceeding with a By-law prohibiting Shark Fin, expressing the sheer urgency of this dire situation and demanding tangible action on the part of Council.
The Calgary Shark Fin Task Force report was presented by the Calgary Director of By-law Services, Tracy Bertsch and Task Force scientific member, Dr. Moehrenschlager, Head of Conservation Research at the Calgary Zoo, who spoke to the scientific information it contained.
The key concern of the task force was the limited amount of time they had to work with; positive progress was made but they simply ran out of time to come to a consensus solution.  As such the Task Force requested more time to work through the ideas and possible solutions on the table.

The Task Force recommendations were approved by CPS and some amendments were added:
– the Task Force suggested it report back in June 2014, this was amended to December 2013; likely in consideration of the numerous public calls on Council to address urgency for this situation
– if a bylaw were to be considered, that reference to “possession” and “consumption” within the bylaw be removed and that an 18 month implementation time frame be provided
– Administration is to identify a means to measure progress on the Task Force recommendations

The Task Force recommendations and the amendments noted above form the final recommendations to Calgary City Council.

What Happens Next?

CPS Committee makes it’s approved recommendations (above) to City Council for a final discussion and vote on May 27, 2013.
At this meeting, recommendations can be passed, defeated or changed by City Council.
Once a motion is passed by City Council, this represents a final decision.

The public is welcome to attend but not able to speak to this item at the City Council meeting on May 27, 2013.

While it is useful to have Shark Fin By-law supporters there, this meeting is likely to be less critical for our attendance than others in the past have been.  The CPS has already reviewed the detailed report and heard from the public on May 8th and approved it for recommendation to council.  Please come if you can, but don’t take the day off… we will need your attendance & support when we head back to Chambers in December!

More Details & Politics…  

(with Calgary’s upcoming municipal election on October 21, 2013 SFFC felt an observation of the May 8th happenings may benefit voters as part of their informed decision making process)

The morning started with the CPS being briefed by both By-law Services on the logistics and Dr. Moehrenschlager on the science.  Thereafter the floor was opened to the public beginning with a jovial yet particularly informative visit and dynamic presentation made by Councilor Kerry Jang from Vancouver who is working on the tri-cities by-law to ban the shark fin trade in Vancouver, Richmond & Burnaby, BC.  Mr. Gabriel Wildgen of Humane Society International also made a special trip in from Montreal to address local council expressing concerns for wasting time prior to moving forward with the local by-law when sharks are being harvested at such a radically unsustainable rate, never mind the animal cruelty involved.

At this point members of the public began to stand up and speak about there grave concerns regarding unsustainable nature of shark finning and the need to keep their municipal pride by having a council that understands it’s citizens can be conservative and also care about the environment, making responsible decisions representative of Calgarians moral and ethically responsible values.

Throughout the proceedings three of the citizen Task Force members also addressed Council.  Annette Fung, owner of Silver Dragon Restaurant requested Council to abandon the proposed by-law but ultimately supported the recommendations in the Task Force report.  Lilly Kwok, Executive Director of the Calgary Chinese Community Service Association spoke in favour of education and supported the recommendations of the Task Force report.  Ingrid Kuenzel, Shark Fin Free Calgary Board Member spoke in favour of moving forward with the by-law after amending the wording to become legally viable but also ultimately supported the recommendations of the Task Force as long as the sense of urgency was inserted into the timelines.  Two other Task Force members were present for the duration of the meeting; Jake Louie, Chairman of the Chinese Cultural Center and Ricky Man, owner of Treasures of China Restaurant, while the sixth Task Force member Kempton Lam was unable to attend.

Unfortunately for the first citizen to speak, Alderman Chabot choose to stroll late into the meeting, just prior to her speaking.  He then proceeded to grill her on by-law enforcement and science.   Though surprised by his condescending tone and  line of questioning  her answers were succinct and on point.  Had Alderman Chabot actually attended the CPS meeting on time he would have had his questions answered by both by-law and the scientist without ever having to ask.  Another citizen later, Alderman Chabot excused himself from the meeting and left only returning after lunch to take a brief nap during the remainder of the meeting and then vote.  Alderman Chabot is not officially on the committee but chose to be present to vote on the shark fin issue despite having missed most of the briefings, discussions & debates.

Alderman Demong, who is on the the CPS Committee also missed most of the meeting and appeared completely disengaged when he was present.  The exception being his only major comment of the day where-in he stated that this was not the city’s business and that this should be left to volunteers to deal with if they feel something needs to be done.  Perhaps Alderman Demong missed the two years of volunteer campaigning done by SFFC and the physical petition of over 11,500 signatures?  Perhaps he missed that all members of the task force are also now volunteers?  Alderman Demong was present to vote.

Other members of the CPS Committee; Alderman Mar – Chair, Alderman Keating – Vice-Chair, Alderman MacLeod, Alderman Pootmans & Alderman Stevenson were prompt, present and engaged in the process.  Alderman Pincott joined the meeting after another board meeting and Alderman Farrell who is not on the standing committee also joined the debates, both respectful and engaged in the process.

Shark Fin Free Calgary (SFFC) was shocked and remains concerned by an assumption of Alderman MacLeod’s late in the hearing, implying that SFFC was responsible for or had engaged in negative campaigning or cultural negativity.  This record was immediately set straight by Ingrid Kuenzel, SFFC board member and Task Force Member at the hearing but SFFC feels this must be addressed, in writing, on our website again.  SFFC is aware of messaging by a group opposing the Shark Fin By-law under the guise of seeking fair governance.  This small group has made numerous unfounded statements to this effect to the media and has frequently distributed non-scientific and inaccurate content.

The mission of Shark Fin Free Calgary (SFFC) is to gather support for and promote a municipal by-law preventing the sale and trade of shark fins in Calgary via positive, education based outreach with citizens of Calgary.
SFFC also works closely with city Council promoting this by-law.
SFFC strongly discourages any negative based campaigning, including protests, demonstrations and culturally insensitive comments or actions.
Our hope has bin to encourage a willingness to change, via positive collaboration with business that may be affected, by helping them to understand the drastic consequences to all of humanity resulting from the sale and trade of shark fins (& any other endangered animal parts).

Given the political roller-coaster that concerned Calgarians have observed in the news over the past year and knowing that SFFC has been campaigning with the support of over 11,500 Calgarians for two years now, may lead some supporters to offer more drastic solutions in an attempt to affect tangible action.
SFFC cannot control what some people feel needs to be done, what other approaches persons may engage in or what people want to or sometimes end up doing.

We have maintained our positive approach.
We will continue our education based outreach and we will continue to lobby for a by-law to prohibit the sale & trade of shark fins in Calgary.

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