While the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake has been unable to put a stop the protests of the horse and carriage businesses in the Old Town, councillors, before walking away from the table for the last time this term of council, publicly expressed support for those businesses.
As one of its final actions for the this term, council passed a resolution outlining the importance of the service to NOTL, as a method of transportation for residents and visitors, and as a traffic-calming measure, slowing traffic on streets and making them safer for pedestrians and drivers. The resolution said the businesses providing this service do so in a positive manner, “and are wonderful stewards for their customers and their livestock.”
“We have something special and different here,” said Coun. Jim Collard. “I think we should send the message to the Region that we don't want to mess with that.”
A group called At War for Animals Niagara (AWFAN) began staging weekend demonstrations against the horse-drawn carriage rides several months ago and plans to continue, protesting against “speciesism,” or humans using animals for their own gain. The Town has looked at ways to stop or at least control the protests, but there is little it can do—protestors are protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights.
Collard, writing to one of the protesters, said he explained the businesses use working horses which would likely “cease to exist” if they weren't working.
The response he got, he said, was “that's great, horses are continuing to global warming through their excrement, so get rid of them.”
Coun. Betty Disero said when she came to NOTL, she saw that part of the charm of the town was the horse-drawn carriages.
When she stood with the Sentineal family the day after the huge protest earlier this summer, she said, and watched the families with children who took carriage rides, she saw the joy on their faces when they got into the carriage for their trip around town.
“I know many people who specifically, for very special moments in their lives, or as a Christmas gift to a relative or having special friends come to visit, order a carriage to take them to a play or high tea. This part of NOTL is really inviting. It's part of our strength and our brand,” she said.
“I was pleased and proud to stand with them and support them. They are part of our heritage. We need to protect them, we need to raise them up and celebrate them. I for one am happy to do it.”
Coun. Martin Mazza said the Sentineals need to hear the support from the town. “They're good people. They've been a great family and their staff are family. I think when the protesters showed up there were more anti-protesters than protesters. It shows what they mean to our community, and our community recognizes that.”
Councillors unanimously approved the resolution, which in addition to supporting the businesses, said since the Niagara Region Police Services board licenses the carriages, the Lord Mayor, on behalf of council, would provide a letter to the Region showing its support.