Urging cool heads as media circus looms

Community of Pemberton: Are you ready for the media circus that will descend on the usually sleepy Spud Valley on May 24?

Even though the SPCA's Marcie Moriarty said not much will happen at the initial court date for the case of Whistler's infamous sled dog "cull," the May 24 hearing will be the media's (and public's) first chance to get a glimpse of Bob Fawcett -a day many have been waiting for since news of the mass dog killings first broke early last year. It will be quite the spectacle in a town where most people don't even realize that a courthouse exists.

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Still, we think it was a wise move to schedule Fawcett's initial court appearance in Pemberton instead of North Vancouver or elsewhere in the city. The comparatively "remote" location will likely keep some lookie-loos away and possibly help minimize security issues. Nonetheless, locals should still expect quite a crowd and lots of cameras.

We also hope the powers that be decide to keep the case at the Pemberton Provincial Court, if for no other reason than to hopefully reduce some of what will be rampant media sensationalism and probable animal-rights activism.

Media and security issues aside, we echo Sue Eckersley's comments this week that the formal charges and possible trial will hopefully bring some much-needed resolution and understanding to the horrible mass killing of sled dogs that Fawcett described in his Worksafe B.C. claim.

While we now know that sufficient evidence was found at the mass gravesite north of Whistler to indicate that multiple dogs suffered when they were killed and for Crown to lay charges against Fawcett, there is still so much about the so-called "cull" that remains a mystery. For starters, why were only 54 bodies found when Fawcett's worker's compensation claim said he killed up to 100 dogs over two days in April 2010?

There are also outstanding issues around that claim: Why didn't Worksafe B.C. officials alert the authorities to criminal activity when it was reported to them? And how did the claim get leaked to the media?

A trial might not result in answers to such questions. In fact, even if the case goes to a full trial, we might also never find out how a longtime sled dog caregiver and reported dog lover could do the kinds of disturbing things Fawcett describes in his claim.

Talking off-the-record to those who know Fawcett, his reported actions of April 2010 were out of character to say the least. And the descriptions of post-traumatic stress he says he suffered in the aftermath indicate he has paid a psychological price for those actions. Not to mention the impacts the whole messy affair has had on Fawcett's wife and children, including threats to their safety.

While it's convenient and rather tidy to have an individual to blame in a case that has drawn the attention and outrage of people around the world, we hope the court process will facilitate a deeper look at how this incident could have happened. There's still so much that just doesn't seem to add up.

We're not trying to make excuses for Fawcett or justify his reported actions. But as he's pushed into the public eye through the pending court proceedings, perhaps it bears repeating that he was once regarded as a leader in the dog sledding industry and that he and his family remain part of the local community.

Yes, those who break the law must be held accountable for their actions. But according to Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the accused are innocent until proven guilty.

- Jennifer Miller

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