Bill C-349: A Progressive Step Towards Protecting Vulnerable Communities

| July 14, 2023

Access to veterinary care can be challenging for many people, but it is particularly difficult in remote northern communities. Recognizing this issue, Brendan E. Hanley, Member of Parliament representing the Yukon, has introduced Private Members Bill C-349. In summary, this bill designates the 28th of September every year as “National Rabies Awareness Day”. Focusing on combatting rabies in Canada, this bill outlines a comprehensive strategy for all Canadians to participate. Bill C-349 highlights the significance of consulting and collaborating with Indigenous communities to make sure their knowledge and perspectives play an integral role to improve the lives of animals across all of Canada. 

How Does Rabies Affect Northern Communities Face?

Remote communities, including Indigenous communities, encounter distinct challenges in dealing with rabies due to their geographic isolation and limited access to veterinary services. In the north, rabies freely circulates among Arctic fox and red fox populations, and rabid wildlife poses a threat to roaming dogs, thereby endangering both animal and human safety. While encountering a rabid animal might not be a pressing concern for individuals in southern Canada, this is a living nightmare for those residing in northern regions. 

How Will Bill C-349 Help?

Bill C-349 offers a coordinated approach to combat rabies across Canada, ensuring that animals from coast-to-coast-to-coast have access to proper care and vaccinations. This national strategy also recognizes the need to establish rabies vaccination programs, including lay rabies vaccination programs where appropriate, particularly in northern communities. Supporting community-led initiatives, Bill C-349 empowers people to take charge of the health and safety of all animals, thereby protecting the most vulnerable. 

Additionally, the bill highlights an intriguing aspect of studying the barriers to the use of non-surgical contraception for animals, with a specific focus on dogs. This research aims to explore alternative methods for population control, which can significantly contribute to reducing the spread of rabies. By continuing to incorporate and highlight Indigenous narratives, we can implement strategies to protect all individuals living with the land. 

Inclusion of Indigenous Perspectives

A crucial aspect of Bill C-349 is the emphasis on consulting and collaborating with Indigenous communities. By incorporating their knowledge, experiences, practices, and perspectives, the legislation ensures that the national strategy is inclusive and effective. Recognizing the importance of Indigenous consultation in combating rabies, the bill sets an example for integrating diverse cultural values and traditions into public health initiatives. Taking a collaborative approach for success respects and honors Indigenous cultures and values while striving for effective prevention and control strategies. 

Bill C-349 represents a significant step forward in addressing the challenges of rabies in Canada’s remote communities. By establishing National Rabies Awareness Day and a comprehensive national strategy, this initiative prioritizes the health and well-being of animals and people across the country. Through collective efforts, Canada can make substantial progress in combatting rabies while respecting and celebrating the diversity of its people.