Bill C-15 (Historical)
Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2001
An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to amend other Acts
This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2002.
Anne McLellan Liberal
Not active, as of Oct. 3, 2001
(This bill did not become law.)
October 30th, 2006 / 5:05 p.m.
Christian Paradis Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources
Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to rise today to take part in the debate on second reading of Bill C-22, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (age of protection) and to make consequential amendments to the Criminal Records Act.
Essentially, Bill C-22 proposes changes to the Criminal Code to better protect young people, age 14 and 15, against any form of sexual exploitation by adult predators. That is a rather clear and simple objective that the members of this House should understand and support.
It is also an important element of our government’s commitment to tackle crime. We recognize that families should be able to raise their children without fear of sexual predators. In that regard, Bill C-22 enables us to take a very big step toward the achievement of that commitment and, I would even go so far as to add, to satisfy the expectations of Canadians.
The age of consent, or the age of protection, is the age at which the Criminal Code recognizes the capacity of a young person to consent to sexual activity. In other words, it is the age below which any sexual activity with a child or young person is prohibited.
At present, the Criminal Code prohibits all sexual activity with a child under two categories of offences: general offences of sexual assault of a child or an adult, and specific offences that apply only to children. Those prohibitions deal with any form of sexual activity, whether it consists of sexual touching or sexual relations.
The criteria under which an assault is “sexual” was established almost 20 years ago by the Supreme Court of Canada in the case of R. v. Chase, a 1987 case in which the court concluded that sexual assault is an assault which is committed in circumstances of a sexual nature, such that the sexual integrity of the victim is violated. This criterion requires any court to consider all the circumstances, such as the part of the body touched, the nature of the contact, the situation in which it occurred, and the intentions of the accused.
Bill C-22 does not seek to amend the already well established legal status on this question. In fact, it proposes rather to build on the approach adopted by the Criminal Code concerning the prohibition of sexual activity with those who have not reached the age of consent
Currently, the minimum age of consent to sexual activity that is in any way exploitative is 18 years. This applies to prostitution, pornography and sexual activity involving a relationship of authority, trust or dependence or situations in which a young person is exploited in some other way.
The bill does not change the existing age of protection for these purposes.
For other kinds of sexual activity, however, the current age of consent is 14. There is only one exception to this rule: 12- and 13-year-old youths can consent to sexual activity on condition that their partner is less than two years older than they are, although this partner may not be 16, and the relationship is not one of trust, authority or dependence or a relationship in which the youth is exploited in some other way.
Bill C-22 does not change this two-year age proximity exception, although it does advance the age of consent from 14 to 16 years. It also creates a new age proximity exception for 14- and 15-year old youths.
More specifically and as is currently the case with the age proximity exception for 12- and 13-year old youths, Bill C-22 would create a new age proximity exception that would allow 14- and 15-year-old youths to consent to sexual activity with a person who is less than five years older on condition that this relationship does not involve a position of authority, trust or dependence and is not exploitative in any way.
The bill contains a broader age exception for 14- and 15-year-old youths in recognition of the fact that they are more likely to engage in sexual activities than 12- or 13-year-olds and the peer group of secondary school students is generally larger than that of children in intermediate school. This measure also reflects the general purpose of Bill C-22, which is to better protect 14- and 15-year old youths against adult predators while avoiding the criminalization of consensual sexual activity among adolescents.
This is not the first time that we have studied a proposal to extend the age of protection from 14 to 16 years of age. This issue has actually been raised, studied and debated on numerous occasions over the last 20 years.
Allow me to mention some of the landmark reports on the subject.
First, in 1981, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, together with the Minister of Health and Welfare, struck the Committee on Sexual Offences against Children and Youth. The committee was given a very broad mandate to examine the incidence of sexual offences against children and adolescents in Canada and to recommend improvements to laws protecting adolescents against sexual abuse and exploitation.
The committee, often referred to as the Badgely committee after its chair, Robin Badgely, submitted its report in 1984. This was the first comprehensive interdisciplinary report to provide a national overview of the sexual abuse and exploitation of children in Canada. The committee made 52 recommendations that addressed the need to reform criminal and evidentiary law, as well as social services and programs to better protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation.
The committee studied existing Criminal Code prohibitions concerning sexual activity with children. For example, at the time, the only thing a man was absolutely prohibited from doing was having sexual relations with a female who was not his spouse and who was under 14 years of age. Sexual relationships with 14 or 15 year old girls were prohibited only if the girl in question was “of previously chaste character” or if the accused was more to blame than the girl for the behaviour.
It is easy to see why the committee recommended modernizing these prohibitions to protect both boys and girls, not only from sexual relationships, but also from all forms of sexual activity, regardless of whether they were “of previously chaste character”.
It is interesting to note that the committee also recommended that the age of protection be raised from 14 to 16 years. However, even though several of the committee's other recommendations were followed in what was then Bill C-15, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Canada Evidence Act, which came into force on January 1, 1988, the age of protection was not raised.
Former Bill C-15 required that Parliament review the implementation and the effectiveness of these reforms four years after they came into force. In June 1993, the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs, chaired by Bob Horner, tabled its report on the four-year review of the child sexual abuse provisions of the Criminal Code and the Canada Evidence Act (formerly Bill C-15).
Once again, the issue of age of consent was examined. Some of the submissions the committee received recommended raising the age of consent from 14 to 16 and including a close in age exception of three years. However, the committee concluded that the testimony received did not warrant raising the age of consent.
So it is that Bill C-22 is before us today. The issue is still there; it has not gone away. But do we have more evidence today than in 1993 to justify raising the age of consent? I think so, and I believe that the people of Canada think so as well.
First, children and adolescents continue to be greatly exposed to the risks of sexual assault and exploitation.
In 2005, Statistics Canada said that children and adolescents accounted for 61% of all victims of sexual assault reported to police. According to its report, and I quote, “Sexual assaults are largely crimes committed against children and young people.” [Juristat: Children and youth as victims of violent crime, April 2005].
As well, the adolescents that Bill C-22 is seeking to protect better are among those at highest risk of being victims of sexual assault. Again according to Statistics Canada's 2005 Juristat, girls aged 11 to 17 account for a high proportion of victims of all types of sexual assaults committed against children and adolescents: 31% or nearly a third of victims were adolescent girls between 14 and 17, and nearly 23% of victims were adolescent girls between 11 and 13.
These same adolescent girls are also more likely to be lured over the Internet. Luring over the Internet has been an offence under the Criminal Code since 2002. The Criminal Code prohibits the use of the Internet to communicate with a child or an adolescent for the purpose of committing a sexual offence or an abduction.
In 2005, Cybertip.ca, a national tipline for reporting the online exploitation of children, reported that during its pilot phase from September 2002 to September 2004, 10% of the tips it received were about online luring.
In 93% of cases, the victims were young girls, most of them—about 73%—between the ages of 12 and 15. Given the popularity of the Internet among teens, we have every reason to believe that this trend will continue.
For example, three years ago, Statistics Canada reported that 71%—nearly three quarters—of 15 year olds used the Internet at least a few times a week; 60% said they used it primarily for email and chatting. My source is a document entitled Canadian Social Trends published in the summer of 2003 by Statistics Canada.
The 2004 report of the Canadian branch of the World Internet Project, which was released in October 2005, included a survey of Canadian Internet users and non-users. In the survey, parents estimated that their children spent an average of 8.9 hours a week on the Internet.
Third, young Canadians engage in sexual activity relatively early. Let us look at some of Statistics Canada's data about sexual activity among youth.
In May 2005, Statistics Canada reported that the percentage of teens who said they had sex for the first time before turning 15 has been increasing since the 1980s. As reported in The Daily on May 3, 2005, it is estimated that 12% of boys and 14% of girls have had a sexual relationship before turning 14 or 15. In 2003, an estimated 28% of 15 to 17 year olds reported having had at least one sexual relationship.
Fourth, many other countries already recognize that 14 and 15 year olds are at risk of sexual exploitation. Their age of protection is higher than Canada's 14.
Take the Commonwealth countries, for example, where the criminal law derives from the same sources as Canada’s. We find that the age of protection is 16 in England, and 16 at the federal level and 16 or 17 at the state level in Australia. In New Zealand, the age of consent is 16. If we look south of the border, we find that the age of consent is 16 at the federal level in the United States, and that it varies essentially from 16 to 18 at the state level.
It is particularly worth noting how Hawaii recently dealt with this question. In that state, the age of consent was set at 14 until 2001, when it was temporarily raised to 16 so that additional analyses and studies could be done. In 2003 it was permanently raised to 16, and an exception for age differences within five years was adopted for all sexual activity with a young person 14 or 15 years of age.
Today we know much more about the risk of 14 and 15 year-olds being sexually exploited than we did 20 years ago. It is now time to act on what we know.
I am aware that some people have decided that Bill C-22 serves no purpose, arguing that former Bill C-2, which dealt with the protection of children and other vulnerable persons, extended the existing prohibition on sexual application to cover young people aged 14 to 18. That amendment imposed a duty on the courts to consider all of the circumstances of a sexual relationship with a young person, such as the age of the young person, any age difference between the two partners, the evolution of the relationship and the degree of control or influence by the older partner over the young person, in determining whether the situation was a case of sexual exploitation.
That amendment was simply not sufficient. It did not adequately clarify things and it did not protect young people aged 14 and 15. However, that is what Bill C-22 does. Bill C-22 eliminates all conjecture and draws a very clear dividing line: if you are more than five years older than a young person who is 14 or 15 years old, you are prohibited from engaging in any sexual activity with that young person. This rule will provide protection for all young people 14 and 15 years of age against anyone who is more than five years older than them.
It is not the aim of Bill C-22 to criminalize all sexual activity on the part of young people. In fact, this bill provides for very clear and very reasonable exceptions, to ensure that sexual activity between young people to which they have freely consented is not criminalized. Bill C-22 will not operate to criminalize marriages or common-law relationships involving a partner who is 14 or 15 years of age and a partner more than five years older than that person that exist when it comes into force. There will be an exception for those cases.
However, there should be no doubt regarding who will be held criminally liable under Bill C-22: any adult who is five or more years older than a young person with whom he or she engages in sexual activity. This is not just something that must be done to protect young people against sexual predators, it is also the only fair thing to do.
Cruelty to Animals
June 18th, 2002 / 2:45 p.m.
Martin Cauchon Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
Mr. Speaker, I do not understand what the hon. member and his party have against Bill C-15B. It is a bill which modernizes the provisions of the criminal code which were essentially outdated. We did not have, believe it or not, in our criminal code a definition of animal. We had to create new offences as well. Basically the new provisions that we will have with Bill C-15B will put our country in line with what we see in other countries in the world.
Having said that, the bill is in the Senate. As I said, if there are amendments, the Senate alone will decide that.
Cruelty to Animals
June 18th, 2002 / 2:45 p.m.
Martin Cauchon Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
Mr. Speaker, what the hon. member is talking about, is a bill that we are very proud of on this side of the House, Bill C-15B. It is there to modernize a section of the criminal code, create a definition of animals as well, which we did not have, create new offences in that field, which is very important, and increase penalties.
On this side of the House, we are very proud of what we are doing on the issue of cruelty to animals. Having said that, if there amendments, the Senate will decide that.
Independent Public Inquiry
Private Members' Business
June 14th, 2002 / 1:55 p.m.
Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB
Madam Speaker, I am honoured to support this timely motion put forward by my colleague from Saskatoon--Wanuskewin in view of his concern about a problem in Canada. I commend my colleague for bringing it forward. The motion reads:
That this House appoint a committee to conduct an independent public inquiry into Canada's sentencing, corrections and parole systems for the purpose of identifying measures to provide meaningful consequences for offenders, reinforce public safety, and instill public confidence.
That sounds like a worthy goal but the parliamentary secretary completely dismissed the idea of bringing forward an independent inquiry to look at sentencing.
The last time the government attempted to amend the criminal code with regard to sentencing was almost seven years ago. In June 1995 Bill C-41 was rammed through the House of Commons much like Bill C-15B and Bill C-5 were rammed through this spring. The government attempted to pass legislation and then recessed for the summer. That is the way Bill C-41 went through the House.
Before I proceed, for the record I would like to state my opposition to the blatant disregard for democracy that the government has shown. To cut off debate on Bill C-5 and Bill C-15B as mentioned by the member from Yorkton an hour ago was nothing more than a cowardly act clearly demonstrating the government's desperation to have these contentious bills dispensed with given the growing opposition and the swelling dissent from within the Liberal ranks as well as the strong opposition from the Canadian Alliance.
Bill C-41 as stated earlier amended the criminal code providing an express statement regarding the purpose and principles of sentencing. Contained within that legislation were provisions for alternative measures, alternatives to prison for adult offenders. Bill C-41 contained conditional sentences where offenders sentenced to two years less a day could serve their sentences in the community under supervision rather than in prison.
The Canadian Police Association, an authority that even justice ministers often cite as law enforcement experts, commented on Bill C-41 but the commentary was anything but complimentary. In a brief submitted to the standing committee on justice the Canadian Police Association said:
Bill C-41 with few exemptions, is unwieldy, complicated, internally self-contradictory, duplicitous and what is worse in almost all of it, completely unnecessary for anyone with any knowledge of or use for the common law heritage of Canada.
The police association went on to say:
While it would attempt to codify basic sentencing principles, eliminating this most basic judicial discretion, at the same time it would bestow huge new discretionary powers to a whole range of persons within the justice system.The common thread in those new powers is that all are to the benefit of the offender in the sense of non-custodial consequences for criminal actions.
Where sentencing reform calls for protection, this bill offers platitudes. Where it calls for clarity it offers confusion and outright hypocrisy. It will almost certainly cause the already skyrocketing criminal justice budget to expand further still.
I could not have summed up what Bill C-41 accomplished better than what the Canadian Police Association did.
The government has a pathetic record when it comes to tightening the screws of justice. Conditional sentences are a prime example.
Since the introduction of Bill C-41 members of our party have requested amendments and subsequently asked that the criminal code be amended to restrict the use of conditional sentences. We have had ample reason to be concerned about the release of violent offenders, including rapists, back into our society and on to our streets. Pretty good reasons would be our daughters, wives and mothers and unfortunately, now we can even say our sons.
Sex offenders have the highest rate of reoffending. They have the highest recidivism rates and pose a serious risk to our safety and to the lives of our families. However, despite our repeated requests, successive justice ministers have refused to limit conditional sentences. As a direct result we see rapists walking free. We have numerous examples to prove this fact.
This afternoon I would like to mention a number of the appalling examples. On January 26, 1998, a Quebec court judge granted 24 year old Patrick Lucien and 23 year old Evans Sannon 18 month conditional sentences for sexual assault. The judge granted these lenient sentences although the crown recommended prison terms of five and four years for their heinous crimes. A community sentence was totally inappropriate and unacceptable for those two individuals who took turns raping an 18 year old victim while the other one held her down.
When questioned in the House about this case, the former justice minister said that she was satisfied to leave it in the courts. She was satisfied to leave that case and similar controversies to the courthouse rather than deal with the law here in the House. She was not prepared to amend the criminal code limiting the use of conditional sentences. We had then and still are requesting that happen.
The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights is planning to review conditional sentences, hopefully to an end of finally making them off limits for violent and repeat offenders, as we have been recommending for seven years.
Two weeks ago Chatham speech pathologist Larry Hyde was convicted of possessing some 5,000 images of child pornography on the hard drive of his computer. In the ruling the presiding judge described the images as very vile and yet Hyde was given an 18 month conditional sentence and ordered not to associate or communicate with anyone under the age of 18 unless he was accompanied by another adult.
Following the Hyde case, one newspaper said that conditional sentences for possessing child pornography seemed to be the norm across Canada. It is normal now. That is what we have come to in the country. It is normal to put these perverts back out on the street as quick as we can.
Last September, Daniel Isaac Sichel of New Brunswick was handed a six month conditional sentence for possession and trading of child pornography on the Internet. In December, Richard Blumhagel was sentenced to a nine month conditional sentence in a Windsor court for distributing videotapes of child pornography.
The only comforting news in the Hyde case is that the Chatham police have placed his photograph on the provincial sex offender registry.
Daily in the House we see members presenting petitions asking the government to make it a criminal offence for the sadomasochism of children and child pornography and yet we watch our courts put them back out on the streets with conditional sentences. It is a shame. Shame on the court and parole systems that allow such individuals to be walking our streets.
Limiting conditional sentences is only one of many changes that must be made to ensure offenders receive meaningful consequences. The other way, and perhaps one of the most important in my mind, is limiting parole and eliminating statutory release. Although the Canadian Police Association does recognize that there is a place for the conditional release of offenders, it believes that parole must be earned and not be an automatic right as is currently the case.
We completely agree with the Canadian Police Association. Criminals must earn their right to parole by the way they conduct themselves in prison and whether or not they better their lives by gaining a skill while in prison. Their right to parole should not be an inherent right.
National Parole Board statistics for 1999-2000 show the number of incidences committed by offenders on conditional release has increased. A corrections performance report states that the number of escapes from minimum security prisons are increasing.
Recent and all too frequent high profile people, such as police officers, as the member for Saskatoon--Wanuskewin mentioned, have been murdered by those who have been out on parole. Police officers who uphold the law and peace in the country have been shot and killed by individuals who have been out on parole. This is wrong.
We need a government with the will to make changes. The parliamentary secretary talked about reviewing the CCRA. The government accepted 48 of the recommendations two years ago but has failed to implement them.
Studies that are not accepted and nothing is done with them may as well be thrown in the fireplace. They do no good.
Committees of the House
June 14th, 2002 / 1:10 p.m.
Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE
Madam Speaker, we are a farmer friendly party and will be increasingly so. I do not know what Bill C-15B has to do with the report, but the chair of the rural caucus did his best to ensure the bill would be changed. I expect that when the Senate gets around to it Bill C-15B will be changed to ensure current farm practices relative to cruelty to animals--
Committees of the House
June 14th, 2002 / 1:10 p.m.
Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK
Madam Speaker, members of the Liberal rural caucus told farmers and their constituents they were strongly opposed to Bill C-15B. They promised amendments would be made in the Senate. This week on the Stirling Faux radio show in Saskatchewan Senator Joan Fraser admitted that when she spoke to the minister she learned there had never been any such agreement.
Can the Liberal member opposite explain why he and his party misled constituents and the farmers of Canada into believing that the Liberals were a farmer friendly party, that amendments would be made in the Senate, and that an agreement had been made when in fact--
Pest Control Products Act
June 13th, 2002 / 1 p.m.
David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK
Mr. Speaker, I am glad to rise and speak to third reading of Bill C-53, the pest control act. I know it is too late to make amendments to the bill but I hope to make some suggestions to which I hope the government will listen. Perhaps at some future date it will implement some of these suggestions and the positive changes we hope to see take place.
Unlike the debate earlier today in which the government found itself on the wrong side of an issue, the disability tax credit and having to defend its treatment of disabled persons, we find that this bill is politically correct in every way.
I think this bill is part of a trend. When I came to Ottawa, I was under the impression that bills would be written with a positive objective. It is surprising to me to see that a number of bills have been introduced with a negative objective.
The first one I came across was Bill C-15B, which was the animal rights legislation. It has a very strange definition in it where it defines animals as “any being that has the capacity to feel pain”. That is a very strange and negative way to define an animal. We could just as well have been defined animal as one that can feel excitement. It could have been defined either way. It was interesting that the government took a negative tact to define one of the major definitions in that bill.
When we read the primary objective of Bill C-53, once again we see that it has a negative tact of what it wants to do. It says that it is “in the national interest that the primary objective of the federal regulatory system be to prevent unacceptable risk to people and the environment from the use of pest control products”. It begins with the assumption that the bill needs to do something negative.
It is too late now to change the bill but the objective of the bill could have easily been to promote good health and environmental stewardship through the regulation of products which are used for controlling pests. That throws an entirely different flavour on the objective of the bill and its direction.
The perspective of the department is revealed in a large way by how it put the bill together. The objective sets the direction for how the bill will be enforced and how it will be applied. I have a lot of concerns about that. The words “prevent” rather than “promote” have been used . The words “stop“ rather than “provide” have been used. I think already we can see what the intention of the department will be in applying this legislation.
The bill also seems to be very politically correct in that it is discriminatory. Once again, by picking out special interest groups, the government misses out on protecting the people it should be protecting. In the preamble of the bill it mentions that we need to take into account the effects of chemicals on major identifiable subgroups, including pregnant women, infants, children, women and seniors. However it completely misses mentioning the effects on the people who use chemicals the most and who are most closely exposed to them, and that is men.
It is fine to identify the other identifiable subgroups. It is true that some of them are more susceptible to chemicals than others. In my constituency the men are exposed most closely to the majority of the chemicals. Men are working with them consistently. I would expect that to be fair government legislation should deal with everyone, not just the politically correct groups. It is an insult that seems to always accompany special interest politics by people who either do not really understand how things work right on the ground or bureaucrats who have an agenda.
I would like to talk a bit about the people at home. I come from an agricultural area where chemicals are used. The people who use them are primarily the men in our area. The farmers use them in spring to treat seed crops, fungicides and in a number of other ways. Later in the spring they use them for weed control and insect control. In the fall there are chemicals that are often applied as well. I suggest men do have special characteristics. There are a number of illnesses that are often ignored because it seems they are male in origin, while other more politically popular and perhaps more politically correct diseases get a lot of funding and attention from different places.
The bill discriminates. I am not too sure the people who wrote it realize that. My question would be this. How used to that way of thinking have we become that we begin to discriminate but do not realize it?
As so many other bills, this bill also has a coercive element to it. We have seen other coercive government thinking. We have seen the big stick approach in a number of other bills as well. Just lately, in Bill C-5, the government insisted on passing a bill without providing for compensation for landowners who would be affected by it. The government said that we should be comforted by the fact that at some point in the future it would put compensation in regulations.
We have seen it in Bill C-15B where there are very strong penalties for animal rights abuses, yet at the same time the government has chosen not to protect farmers and ranchers from frivolous claims and attacks on their normal way of life. We have seen it also in Bill C-68 which over the years has been a source of a lot of contention and problems.
We see it here again in terms of the transportation, disposal and handling of these products. Clause 6 reads:
No person shall handle, store, transport, use or dispose of a pest control product in a way that is inconsistent with...
Then it states the regulations and a couple of other options.
Later we see that the fines are very substantial. Penalties are severe: $200,000 or six months in jail for a summary conviction and $500,000 and three years upon conviction from an indictment.
I would suggest that farmers will be caught in this. It may be news to the government but containers are not always disposed of in the manner that the bureaucrats have decided is good. That happens for a number of reasons. Often the regulations are made with no accommodation for compliance. The regulations are set up but it is not practical to comply with them or there is no funding in place to make it possible to comply with them. Often there are physical barriers to compliance which includes things like no local facility to dispose of the product or the extra containers.
The best solution I saw on this was in my home province of Saskatchewan. It came out with a program where the containers were triple rinsed and then returned to the local landfill site. It was very successful, it was voluntary and it had educational component to it. Farmers were very happy to comply with the program. They just needed a bit of encouragement and some education on the fact that the program was there for them. Fines of $200,000 will not encourage compliance as much as encouragement and a good program with a bit of education.
I have some concerns as well about the re-evaluation process. Clause 16 talks about that. It mentions that all chemicals shall be re-evaluated at some point. It talks about the fact that if the pest control product was approved in the past years, then the review process would have to be implemented fairly quickly. There is a time limit on when new chemicals will have to be re-evaluated.
This could be a very good process or it could be a disaster. We need to know more about the provisions to re-evaluate all chemicals on the market. If the government tells everyone to begin from the start with these chemicals in order to get them re-evaluated, we will find ourselves with a very expensive, cumbersome process.
The PMRA has not exactly been successful at its registration of new products. I do not know that we can throw every chemical that we have approved in the last 30 years on it without causing a huge backlog. If the government expects companies to start over with the registration, it will be just about impossible. However, if at some point it is willing to set up with an ongoing evaluation system and give approval to chemicals that demonstrate that they are not a problem that are not causing problems in the environment, then this re-evaluation process could be an excellent thing. All of it depends upon the application of the process.
I have great concern over subclause 17(2) which talks about a special review every time any OECD country takes a product off the market. We know that trade concerns can often be hidden behind health and environmental issues. We have already run into that a number of times in other areas. I suggest this ties us too closely to other countries and their activities. The Liberal government seems to be very wary of getting too close to the United States, yet in this legislation says that if any OECD country decides to pull a chemical off the market, we need to do an automatic review of its registration.
If it is good to do it that way, why do we not do it the other way as well. If any one of the OECD countries approves a product, then we approve it as well and put it on the market. That would be a fair exchange. That is not part of this bill and it is not likely that would ever happen.
There are other concerns as well. One is harmonization. We were pleased to get one of the Alliance amendments through on harmonization. Under our amendment when an applicant applies for a registered pest control product or to amend the pest control product registration, they would now be able to submit information from reviews and evaluations conducted in other OECD countries.
We heard this a PMRA hearings. People want the opportunity to bring information here that has already been developed in other places and use as part of our registration. If we use a chemical under similar conditions, it makes good sense that we use that information. It avoids costly duplication for pesticide makers. It cuts down on the cost of the registration process. It actually hastens the process of getting those chemicals onto the market where they can replace some of the older and maybe more hazardous chemicals.
Minor use is one of my other concerns. A major shortfall in Bill C-53 is that it gives no consideration to minor use products. The agriculture committee has heard this a number of times. It is very important for horticulture and vegetable specialty crops. It is important that there be a discussion about minor use and the way it will work in Canada. Minor use applications are increasing as we go to more niche marketing.
There are a lot of times that the economy of scale absolutely does not support full registration. There was a situation last spring on the prairies regarding chick peas. Because the Bravo chemical was not working in stopping the ascochyta, I approached the government to try to get another chemical approved. It took some time but the other chemical, Quadras, was approved and it worked very well. However the approval process for that chemical took quite a bit of time. That approval time has to be shortened up. If a chemical is available, if it has been used in other places and if we seem to have similar conditions here, then it should be available quickly. This is important for Canadian competitiveness.
Fruit and vegetable growers have told us that they need these chemicals. If they are available in the United States, if they have been approved and are on the market and if we have similar conditions, we need to be able to use them. The government has recognized the importance of minor use but has done nothing about it.
Concern about access to minor use products was brought up prominently in the recent report of the agriculture committee on registration of pesticides and the competitiveness of Canadian farmers. According to the report:
Canadian farmers...do not have access to the same safe and effective pest management tools as their competitors, particularly American producers.
I was glad to be part of the committee that put that report together. It called for several improvements and I would like to read two of them to the House.
First, the committee has called for at least $1 million a year in funding for research and an analysis program similar to the U.S. IR-4 that will be developed in co-operation with agricultural stakeholders to generate the necessary data for approval of new minor use pesticide products or to expand the use of previously approved products.
A second recommendation is that an adviser on matters pertaining to minor use pest control products be appointed to intervene in decisions and policies to facilitate activities relating to minor use products. This adviser's mandate would include a special focus on harmonization issues with the United States such as the equivalency of similar zone maps and the consideration of data already existing in an OECD country. The adviser would report to the Minister of Health and the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.
Another concern the committee is that the bill does not address the issue of reduced risk products. It makes no provision for getting these new, safer reduced risk products directly into the marketplace. We need to expedite the reviews of such products.
The United States has reduced risk category and timelines in approving them. Last year the timelines to get these products onto the market was approximately 35% less than conventional pesticides. There are some big savings in terms of efficiency and cost.
Bill C-53 also does not mention any timelines for registration. That is an important change but perhaps it will be made later. There needs to be some timelines put on registration because presently this is taking far too long.
The health committee also heard from a number of witnesses that registrations were taking too long compared to the United States. That was consistent with what the agriculture committee heard as well. Our party has pressed for timelines to be drawn up but the government has chosen not to put them into this legislation.
I would like to take a few minutes to talk about the PMRA, which seems to be an ongoing problem in the agriculture sector. This legislation will be completely wasted unless changes are made to the PMRA.
Unfortunately, the bill does not bring accountability to the PMRA. Timelines are a concern within the PMRA, but also the audits that this legislation calls for do not go far enough. There is no requirement in the bill to report the financial information of the agency. We already saw the failure of that in the Canadian Wheat Board audit where wheat board directors were allowed to set the conditions for the audit.
The auditor general did a good job on the area she was allowed to study but she was not allowed to study the overall operations. She ended up doing a study of office management but could not study the overall efficiency of the board. Because of that she was prevented from reaching any conclusions about the kind of job the CWB was doing for farmers. I would not like to see the same thing happening with the PMRA. We need to know if the agency's objectives are being achieved in an expeditious manner.
Both the health and agriculture committees heard a number of times from witnesses their concerns about the PMRA. Many of their administrative and management practices were called into question repeatedly. The agriculture committee highlighted problems with the PMRA. We were told that seven years after the PMRA was started up it had advanced the pesticide registration system but the impatience and frustration of farmers persisted and was systematic of a glitch in the agency's overall operation.
We heard from many witnesses who were frustrated with having to deal with the PMRA bureaucracy and feeling that they could not get through the registration process. They could not talk with the people who could make decisions and often regulations were changed while they were trying to work on registrations.
The agriculture committee recommended that an independent ombudsman be appointed to facilitate discussions on the needs of farmers regarding pest control within the PMRA. We made a recommendation that the Auditor General of Canada conduct a value for money or performance audit to examine the management practices, controls and reporting systems of the PMRA.
We feel it is important that for the legislation to work that the problems within the PMRA be resolved if any of the worthy goals of the legislation are to be realized. The bill is only as good as the PMRA's ability to administer it.
I will go over the agriculture committee recommendations made regarding the PMRA. It is important that we get them on the record because we heard a lot of concern about these needs. The report that the agriculture committee submitted dealing with pesticide registration had four recommendations.
First, it recommended there be an ombudsman independent of the PMRA that would report to the health minister. Poor communication between farmers and the PMRA has been a concern. Having a third party reporting directly to the Minister of Health would certainly alleviate disputes. We thought it was a good idea and that the time had come for this to take place.
Second, it called for the auditor general to do a full audit of the PMRA. The PMRA has been slow in registering products. It has been far too slow. Bureaucrats from the PMRA told the committee that it was due to inadequate funding. There are people who would dispute that but the auditor general's recommendation would allow general performance and management practices to be audited for efficiency and we could then see whether this bureau is funded adequately or not. It would be important to do a value for money check to examine the management practices and the efficiency, or the lack of efficiency, that we may find within the PMRA.
Third, we called for a recommendation dealing with funding to enhance broader product access. More funding is needed for the approval of minor use pesticides. In the United States, for example, the EPA has approved 901 new pesticides and new uses for existing pesticides. The PMRA has only approved 24 products since March 2000. Are we getting good value for our money?
The committee recommended at least $1 million a year in funding from Agriculture Canada for research and analysis development in co-operation with stakeholders for the approval of new minor use products.
Fourth, we made a recommendation for a scientific data adviser. The PMRA often seems to reinvent the wheel every time an application comes in for a minor use product. The committee recommended an adviser on minor use pest controls to intervene in decisions and policies. The minor use registration is a growing and significant part of what the PMRA will do. It is important for it to have a scientific adviser in place to make good and quick decisions on minor use. The person could work specifically on the harmonization with the U.S. There should be some equivalency with the United States and encouragement to use existing data so that we do not have to repeat the research that was done several other times.
The bill is needed and it is time that it was passed. It is long overdue. We have some reservations about it and I have tried to make some suggestions of areas that the government might consider improving. I know that they will not be in the bill but hopefully in the future the government would take a look at putting some of these improvements into place. The government could have done a better job but the bill serves the purpose of beginning the process.
Species at Risk Act
June 11th, 2002 / 4:55 p.m.
Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK
Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate there is closure on the amount of time because there is a great deal more that I would like to say.
I want to make one observation right off the bat. The member for Davenport chastised us for not speaking up on the committee or doing this through the committee but he did not say anything when a Liberal member did it.
I would like to pose a question for the member and then make some comments.
One thing that needs to be put in legislation which is very questionable when it goes through the House is a clause that mandates a review of the legislation after a certain period of time, such as five years. It is known as a sunset clause or a clause that would create an automatic review by an unbiased agency or committee of the House to check to see whether the legislation is actually working. Why did the Liberal government not put one in? Would the member support that kind of thing?
We have to realize that once we pass legislation in the House, it is there forever. We have made many suggestions which have fallen on deaf ears.
The member for Peterborough wanted an example of where proper compensation was not made. I am completely familiar with the Firearms Act and it was not provided for in a proper way in that act.
Today many people are being deprived of their property. Because we do not have property rights in this country, we must have compensation mandated in the bill. Because it is not in there and it is left to the regulations, anything could happen. We need to have some kind of a revision after five years.
Many people in Canada do not realize that another problem with leaving it to the regulations is that we do not have an effective scrutiny of regulations system in the House of Commons. It flies in the face of democracy that the committee that reviews these and says they are not appropriate has no power to enforce the fact that regulations are not effective. That is the reason we have to get the bill right before it goes through the House. We do not have an effective scrutiny of the regulations in the House. I only became aware of that after a few years of experience in this place.
Compensation is not ensured. That is a serious problem which has been raised in western Canada. It may not be raised in Ontario but it is raised in western Canada all the time.
The other issue which the member for Davenport talks about is the creation of mistrust. What creates mistrust is the fact that in the bill there is what is called mens rea. People may be violating the law or have an endangered species on the land and are not aware of it and there is no obligation to make them aware of it. That is totally unacceptable but the government is letting that go through. That creates mistrust and it is a huge problem.
Bill C-15B passed and now that the bill has passed, we realize we did not get it right. The medical community is already concerned with what we have done in the House.
Is there a mandatory review mechanism in the bill? No. Why not? That should be mandated in every bill.
Would the member opposite support that kind of amendment being made before we go any further? It is critical that we get it right in the House before we let this legislation go. If we do not, we ought to stop it right here. That is what I am suggesting.
We are all in favour of protecting species but the way the bill sits, it is going to have the opposite effect.
Species At Risk Act
June 11th, 2002 / 4:30 p.m.
David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK
Mr. Speaker, as the hardworking member for Red Deer said earlier today, we wish that we were here celebrating the success of the bill and celebrating the passage of a good bill. Unfortunately we are not able to do that today.
I would just like to take a minute to respond to the comments of the member for Davenport. I was very concerned because I think it shows a lack of being in touch with Canadians to come in here and suggest that the bill does not create uncertainty, resentment and distrust among Canadian people, because it most certainly does among the people in my riding. They do not know what to expect from the bill. It concerns them and it causes uncertainty, resentment and distrust. It did not have to be that way, but unfortunately it has turned out that way.
I would like to take a little time to talk about the main issues we have with the bill. First I would like to say that the Canadian Alliance has consistently supported good species at risk legislation. We would like to see a bill that is effective, we would like to see a bill that is useful and we would like to see a bill that is realistic, that Canadians can deal with knowing they will be dealt with fairly in the legislation.
As I said, the main problem, which we have heard about all day today, continues to be the issue of compensation. The main objection to the bill is the government's refusal to protect its citizens by providing full market value compensation. I will spend some time talking about it, but the amount of discussion this has generated is interesting. I would suggest that it has been generated because the Canadian Alliance, and the Reform Party before it, has been very firm on this issue and has insisted that we need to have fair market value compensation for people affected by species at risk legislation.
The lack of compensation is the main problem with the bill. The bill does not provide for it. We can talk about it all day here, but there is an absolute refusal on the part of the government to put fair market value compensation into the bill. It continues to talk about regulations. I would suggest that it is talking about regulation and regulating things at the same time as it is taking away Canadians' rights. I will also assert that I think this is tied to a consistent position the Liberal Party has taken over the years, that being that it does not want to recognize personal property rights. This bill is in line with that position.
I am sick and tired of hearing government members justify the lack of compensation in the bill. It would be very simple to fix. If the government really thought it was an issue it could have been fixed very easily. It has chosen not to do that and I wish it would have.
The minister's speech here this morning sent up a lot of warning flags. I heard him say a number of things I would like to touch on. One of the things he said is that the government will work with landowners in willing partnerships. Without that fair market value compensation, though, it made me think of the movie The Godfather , when they made people an offer they could not refuse. I know that none of us want to wake up with a burrowing owl in our bed.
The government says it “shall” provide regulations. That does not guarantee anything other than more regulations. It does not guarantee producers a thing. Again the issue is that compensation must be at fair market value. It needs to be written into the legislation. There is now no mention of it in the legislation.
The minister also made a couple of other comments that really concern me. He said they would get started on general compensation regulations, and then there was a funny phrase in there: if needed. It may not show up in Hansard later on, but I found it interesting. It was almost a side comment that he made, that they would start on them if needed. If the government is not going to put them into the legislation then we certainly need them, immediately if not sooner.
He also made the suggestion that the government would be dealing with the claims on a case by case basis. I do not know of anyone other than other Liberals who would think that this is a good idea. I have an example from the past, which is the expropriation of land for the Suffield military base near Medicine Hat. The family of a friend of mine grew up in that area. The time came when the government wanted that land for a military base. The government talked to the ranchers and invited them to come to Medicine Hat individually to discuss with the government the deal that they could make on their ranches and their land.
The ranchers went in and made their deals, but the one thing the government had not counted on was that on the way home the ranchers all stopped at one place to have coffee. At that house they of course talked about the agreements and deals they had made. They started to realize that they were being treated quite a bit differently one from the other. They got together and went back to Medicine Hat together. I was told that they went in the front door of the building and the bureaucrats went out the back door and after that they ended up negotiating long distance. They all got the same deal in the end, but the danger was that they were being divided and conquered individually. When they finally got together and stood up for themselves, they were able to make a deal they could live with.
I get very concerned when I hear the minister say that regulations will be put in place over the next few years but until then the government will deal with things on a case by case basis. Given the government's record and recent history, I do not think Canadians should be at all comfortable with the fact that the Liberals want to deal with them on a one to one basis. There may be some good things in that for a small group of people but the majority of Canadians will not be treated properly.
I want to come back again to the fact that the minister and the members are still implying that compensation is included in the bill. I know we are running short on time and not many more members will be speaking on the bill. However, I would ask the government members to show some integrity in this.
Yesterday one member on the opposition side said that corrupt attitudes spread like scum on a pond. I understand how that happens but a little courage and clarity would go a long way. If government members would get up and say that the bill does not have compensation written into it but that they are supporting it anyway, the Canadian people could understand this and may even show them respect for having the courage to take a position.
Here is the reality. There is no compensation and I encourage the government members to admit it, stand up and take that position. Otherwise we will find a situation like we had last week when Bill C-15B passed without providing legal protection to farmers and ranchers. Afterward we saw government backbenchers are trying to justify it in their ridings. When they are called to account, they have no explanation for the position they have taken. The idea that we can pass it on to the other place and it will fix up legislation that we have the responsibility to fix here will not work.
Rural members of all parties could have worked really well on this legislation. The committee did that but the minister chose not to accept it.
Rural members need to work together. The opposition members have done their job on the bill. They have forced the discussion. They have brought in a large number of amendments, not frivolous ones, but ones where that dealt seriously with changing the bill. The Liberal backbenchers need to show some support and backbone in supporting these initiatives. It is not good enough for the rural backbenchers to come out of the woodwork, which happened with this bill to a great extent, only because they support one of the Prime Minister's challengers. We need to see rural backbenchers coming out of the woodwork because they are representing their constituents, not because they are trying to cause damage to someone else and gain political advantage.
The Liberal rural backbenchers have an obligation to their constituents and Canadians deserve better than what they are getting right now from the backbench on the other side of the House.
The second major issue is the legal rights of producers and farmers. Again, we saw the sad situation last week when Bill C-15B was passed without providing legal protection to farmers and ranchers. It was then justified later. Again, in Bill C-5 we see a situation where farmers and ranchers will not have the proper legal protection.
I have a huge concern about the attitudes behind the bill. There were two ways that it could have been put together. One was through a coercive way and the government chose that way. We saw it before with Bill C-68. Now there is massive non-compliance with the act. We will see ourselves in the same situation as the U.S. with the triple S. The government will come in and tell people what to do. The producers will react with a shoot, shovel and shut up policy which definitely does not preserve species at risk.
I also object to the fact that the government brought in closure to cut off debate on an important issue. This action does not give people the opportunity to finish the debate.
In conclusion, it may be too late to ask the government this, but it needs to take another look at the bill and include amendments that provide protection for landowners, both for full market value compensation and for legal protection. It should use the suggestions that we have made about providing compensation and set up the bill so that it uses positive incentives to encourage people to be conservation minded, that is tax incentives to provide technical assistance to stakeholders, farmers and producers. The government needs to eliminate some of the disincentives and provide payment programs if necessary to encourage people to co-operate.
The government needs to understand that farmers are the best environmentalists we have. We need to give them the tools to protect their environment.
We have heard about aboriginal working groups. It surprises me that there is no local working group and that is something the government should look at.
If the government is not going to make these changes, the government will pay the consequences both in terms of the loss of endangered species and at the polls.
Species At Risk Act
June 11th, 2002 / 1:30 p.m.
Roy H. Bailey Souris—Moose Mountain, SK
Mr. Speaker, the bill before us which we voted on last night is a better bill than it was when it first came from the government. A lot of the credit must be given to all the members on the committee, including the members in the opposition in that committee. There was very little friction in the committee. No one in this House nor anyone in the committee can say that the party which I represent is against protection of endangered species. That would be a grossly false statement for anyone to make across Canada.
Make no mistake that the changes that did take place were necessary and were because of the co-operation in that committee. In particular I would pay tribute to the committee chairman who led us very carefully and intelligently through days of debate. I was a standing member on the committee. I would be very insulted on behalf of my party and myself to hear anyone say in the future that we were against the species at risk legislation.
There are concerns. Many of my constituents are concerned about the possibility of losing income and benefits that they now have. For example, last summer we were plagued with an infestation of Richardson's ground squirrels which destroyed millions of acres of crop worth millions of dollars. The government would not allow us to use the same type of pesticide that had been previously used. The question that comes to my mind is, was there compensation from the government because of that tremendous loss? The answer is, no. We have been criticized for trying to control that infestation but not one of the organizations has come up with a suggestion as to how it would contribute to the losses of the farmers and ranchers.
I want to make it very clear, as have many of the previous speakers, that this is not a rural-urban issue in itself. This legislation directly affects less than 10% of the people. The last census indicates that the number of people who are actually engaged in farming, in the timber industry and so on is now in the single digits. They are the stewards of the land. In Canada, the people are mainly concentrated in the large urban centres. As a result, they do not understand the concept of compensating people when they lose part of the control of provincial land or how that affects their operation in the industry.
This bill has to be handled very carefully by the government. It has had the same effect as the gun registry legislation, Bill C-68 which divided the country between rural and urban centres. The majority of people are concentrated in large urban centres. They could not possibly see why rural Canada objected to the bill.
Recently there was Bill C-15B, the cruelty to animals bill. I talked with people in the large urban centres, some of whom are relatives. They asked what was wrong with the bill. They have never seen the practices on the farms regarding calves and therefore they supported the bill.
Now there is Bill C-5. One question that has not been answered is if 10 sections of land are lost under this plan to protect the species at risk, there is nothing in the bill that says the government would provide not only compensation to the person losing control of that land but also to the local government body that loses the land as a tax base. The issue is much bigger than what we think it is. The governments that will be affected are mainly the local and perhaps provincial governments.
All Canadians must understand that compensation must be there. We would not ask someone to give up 10% of his or her salary. The bill is designed to benefit all Canadians. Therefore, it does not bother me in the least when I hear the figure of $180 million being in the bill for compensation for those who would lose their income because of preserving habitat or anything else. The government must tell people that the money is there to protect those few Canadians who are the tenants and protectors of the species and who must be paid for their loss of income.
I also want to deal with something that I feel is terribly important. The bill says there must be a review in five years. I see nothing wrong with that. However, what if in the process of what this bill is designed to do there are real flaws regarding identifying species or regarding the provincial governments or tenants which cause all sorts of disagreements? Of course we cannot wait five years because if the problems are severe, five years will kill the whole bill and its effectiveness. We have to give serious thought to a procedure by which the committee or the government can come back and say that this part of the bill will be reconsidered before it self-destructs.
There is one province which brags, and rightfully so, that it is the only province in Canada that is rat free. That is Alberta. It is true that it is rat free. There are no rats, except the few that are not the four-legged ones.
The reason is that the province took a concentrated look at the damage the ordinary Norwegian rat causes which was in the millions of dollars. The provincial government embarked on a program to stop the loss of this agricultural waste and the province is now rat free. Some people would immediately say that Alberta has upset the ecosystem for years. That is ridiculous.
If and when the bill runs into that type of difficulty the flexibility has to be there because we will need to make some changes. I am sure of that.
The endangered species bill is all inclusive. It includes the federal, provincial and local governments as well as everyone else. Speaking for myself, I hope it is successful and that people understand that we are all for endangered species.
I hope the government realizes that the bill is not some kind of holy writ. If there is something wrong with it, it is hoped the government will move very quickly to remedy it through amendments in the House and in committee.
Canada Post Corporation Act
June 5th, 2002 / 6:40 p.m.
Paul MacKlin Northumberland, ON
Madam Speaker, I think it is clear that the member has stated before the House that the data he used in most of his intervention was really based on July 2001. The statistics that I referred to are statistics that are up to date and represent great improvements that we have made within the system.
The hon. member represents a party that has done everything possible within the House to stop the streamlining of this process and the making of this process more efficient. This was by the stalling and filibustering on Bill C-15B which finally forced the government to enter into time allocation to effectively bring it to a conclusion and advance it to the other place.
We are very pleased that we have now done so. It is now in the other place and we will see more benefits accruing to the legitimate firearms owners in Canada through that streamlining process. We look forward to having many registrations that will go through without error.
Canada Post Corporation Act
June 5th, 2002 / 6:35 p.m.
Paul MacKlin Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to provide an update on the firearm registration process and to reinforce the government's commitment to public safety. We have become accustomed to the hon. member's frequent allegations about this public safety initiative and I intend to respond to this one as we have with all others.
The hon. member is alleging that the firearms registry is of limited use to the police. Let us first be clear that this public safety program is much more than a gun registry. It is a multi-facetted, practical approach that addresses the prevention of firearm death, injury and crime deterrence. That is why Canada's law enforcement community recognizes and supports the firearms program as an important public safety initiative.
In its testimony on Bill C-15B we heard the law enforcement community reaffirm its support for this program and its essential crime fighting tools. The Canadian Police Association and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police outlined the significant public benefits available through this program, which combines the screening of the applicants, tracking of firearms and minimum mandatory sentencing to help deter, prevent and prosecute firearm crime in Canada.
Regarding the questions of the hon. member about errors in the system, I want to emphasize that errors reported to the Canadian Firearms Centre to date represent a tiny fraction of the firearm documents that have been issued.
As recently as April 27 of this year, 99% of the firearms in the Canadian Firearms Registry system were correctly registered according to identification and classification as required under law. Also, 99% of the licences were correctly issued to the right person living at the address stated with the appropriate privilege and safety training. There may be a small number of entry errors for which we have no statistics but when these are reported, they are dealt with promptly in co-ordination with the client. Firearms owners should verify the information on their firearm documents and contact us immediately at 1-800-731-4000 to report any anomalies and have the situation rectified.
There are currently 2.1 million individuals in the firearms database and firearms owners have been sending in their registration applications in unprecedented numbers. As with any other high volume operation, it is only natural to expect a small degree of entry error. That is why we remain vigilant and have recently made some improvements to further minimize the potential for error.
Over the past few months, the Canadian firearms program has completely restructured the registration process and implemented rigorous measures to ensure the integrity of the information. When the personalized registration application is returned for processing, the form is scanned including the bar code that identifies the licence holder. Manual data entry is eliminated which minimizes the potential for error.
Unquestionably, this program has been beneficial to the Canadian community at large. We believe it is an excellent program and it is working well. We believe that the errors that the member refers to are errors of at least a year ago.
Nuclear Safety and Control Act
The Royal Assent
June 4th, 2002 / 4:25 p.m.
I have the honour to inform the House that when the House went up to the Senate chamber the Deputy Governor General was pleased to give, in Her Majesty's name, the royal assent to the following bills:
Bill C-15A, an act to amend the Criminal Code and to amend other acts--Chapter No. 13.
Bill S-40, an act to amend the Payment Clearing and Settlement Act--Chapter No. 14.
Bill S-34, an act respecting royal assent to bills passed by the Houses of Parliament--Chapter No. 15.
Bill C-23, an act to amend the Competition Act and the Competition Tribunal Act--Chapter No. 16.
It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, Shipbuilding; the hon. member for Rosemont--Petite-Patrie, National Wildlife Areas; the hon. member for New Brunswick Southwest, Softwood Lumber.
An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms Act
June 3rd, 2002 / 6:20 p.m.
Steve Mahoney Parliamentary Secretary to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Crown Corporations
Mr. Speaker, whatever parliamentary secretary I am, I am not quite sure on this wonderful Monday in Ottawa. Whatever it is, I can assure members that I will continue to perform to the best of my ability.
Members opposite have come over and suggested that I do not know anything about animals. I find it interesting when people stand up in this place and talk about their family pets as if that is somehow the issue here. I e-mailed my wife to make sure that my 80 pound Lab Duke is watching, so he knows that I support obviously the proper care, nurturing and feeding of all animals, two legged, four legged or whatever kind.
What I find really interesting are the objections to putting in law the definition of animal and the concerns about that. Frankly, I do not have a problem with people expressing concerns on behalf of the farming community to ensure that we all understand the impact the bill would have.
The fact of the matter is most jurisdictions have defined animal. People at home watching might think that is kind of bizarre. Let me share some of the definitions. A broad definition of animal is consistent not only with definitions found in some provincial statutes, but also with some United States statutes.
Let me give some examples. The province of Alberta says that it does not include a human being, an exclusionary definition. The next definition from Manitoba and New Brunswick is “non-human living being with a developed nervous system”.
The definition from Arkansas includes every living creature. That is pretty broad, even more so than what we are talking about in the bill, which requires a vertebrae to be in existence.
Here is one that could apply to members of the opposition. It is a definition out of Colorado, Florida and Ohio. The definition reads “means any living dumb creature”. Those are not my words. That is the definition. If the shoe fits maybe they want to wear it.
It goes on and on like that. The point of the matter is what we are trying to do is put in place a definition so that when it does come to a decision in the courts, some rules will be there which can be followed.
One member opposite with the fifth party suggested that somehow this would impact mosquitos. Talk about going over the top, if we want a humane way to take care of a mosquito. It is so ludicrous that we have lowered the level of debate to the point where we are talking about somehow being charged for killing a mosquito that is in the bedroom trying to take some blood. This has become silly.
I think it is because members opposite feel the heat and the pressure that we have all felt. All of us have received, e-mails and phone calls. There have even been demonstrations on the front lawn of Parliament Hill . People have called on us to invoke closure, get the bill done and put in place some laws that will provide protection for animals. Have members ever in history seen a situation where people have demonstrated and called for the government to invoke closure? It is unheard of.
Let us put this issue of time allocation in perspective. The bill was originally introduced in this place as Bill C-17. That was December 1999. There were howls and complaints from members opposite that we needed to split the bill, that it was too much like an omnibus bill because it dealt with guns, animals and child pornography. I remember the hue and cry from members opposite that we needed to split it up so we could deal with the child pornography issue separately.
The government agreed and brought in Bill C-15A and Bill C-15B. It is almost like the opposition cannot take yes for an answer. We split the bill, and now we are dealing with the issue that concerns Canadians.
At third reading alone there were over 40 speakers in five days. Committee hearings took place and the bill was reintroduced in September 2001. Two years later there was a new bill. It was split at the request of the opposition and of caucus to allow us to deal with it separately.
There is fearmongering going on that somehow if someone killed a cow, maybe it should not have been killed because it never did anything and people say it is awful. Animal husbandry, the way of dealing with animals on the farm, is not being threatened. We are concerned about abuse.
I am sorry to say that just two weeks ago in my riding two dogs were left in a car for four hours outside a bar while their owner was inside and obviously had too many drinks. One of the dogs died and the second dog almost died. I have not heard whether or not it was able to pull through.
Should society not do anything about that? Should we not take it seriously, to make it a crime that is punishable? One can be punished for that kind of crime for up to five years. The fine can be up to $10,000. It is absolutely unconscionable that there is some perception that a farmer is going to be told he cannot take the tail off a pig or a lamb as we heard earlier, because it is cruel and unusual punishment. Clearly if it is part of common law and I would add if it is common sense and it is a tradition, then what we do not want is to rip the tail off. There is a proper procedure for doing it.
When I was in the Ontario legislature we dealt with the issue of research. Companies and people were using animals for research purposes. We recognize the importance of using animals for research but if it is done properly those animals do not suffer unduly. Care is taken with the animals. I invite members to take some time to visit a research lab to see the love, caring and tenderness of the people who deal with those animals, whether they are monkeys, hamsters or whatever they are. They are not people who are savagely trying to inflict pain and getting great pleasure out of it. They are people who are doing cancer, heart and blood research. They are doing research on the immune system and research in all kinds of areas that are good for human health. Those people are not in jeopardy with the bill.
What we dealt with in the province of Ontario was a private member's bill that would make it illegal to use a rabbit's eyes to test for cosmetics. Let us get real. Somebody drops mascara or something of that nature into the eye of a rabbit, or puts it in with a needle to try to find out if it will harm the eye or create an allergic reaction. Surely to goodness there are ways of determining that without inflicting that kind of pain on any given animal.
If it is for the good of humanity, for medical purposes and there are reasons to do this kind of thing, the bill would not prohibit it. There would be a defence based on common law. Clearly the bill would put the onus on the crown to prove that there was some kind of objectionable conduct. We have to realize that if we want to get to the bottom of this, if we want to attack the puppy mills, the people who put cats in microwaves or the people who leave their animals in hot cars in temperatures of 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, we need a bill with some teeth in it that will allow the government to stand up for the living beings that cannot defend themselves.
I want the Canadian public to know the kinds of objections that are being made here and how outrageous and ridiculous they are, such as the suggestion that the bill would actually create problems for someone who killed a mosquito. Imagine that someone actually said that.
Years ago when I was a member of Mississauga city council, a director of the humane society used a weapon to shoot dogs in our facility in Mississauga, having determined it was a safe and harmless way of killing seal pups. It was an Ontario humane society official who did it. There were pictures of dogs lying bleeding because the shot did not work or the gun missed. It was an appalling situation. At the time I took on the director.
An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms Act
June 3rd, 2002 / 6:10 p.m.
Howard Hilstrom Selkirk—Interlake, MB
Mr. Speaker, we are drawing to a close on the debate in the House on Bill C-15B regarding firearms and cruelty to animal provisions in the criminal code. We are drawing the debate to a close for the simple reason that the Liberal government is incensed with the fact that people in Canada do not agree with it all the time. The opposition parties on this side of the House represent those people and, in the case of cruelty to animals, we represent the farmers. The government is so incensed that it has brought in closure to shut down legitimate debate on those provisions of the criminal code.
We are not in the House to debate, kill time or just talk because people voted us in and we are supposed to be here. We are here debating real issues that affect real people.
What I have to say here will be parliamentary but it may seem aggressive when I say that the farming community right across the country, from sea to sea, is still opposed to the legislation. The most recent example that I have is from May 31, just a couple of days ago, when members of the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan said to the members of this parliament that they were 100% opposed to most of the provisions of the proposed cruelty to animals changes in the criminal code. However they are for stiffer penalties and are against the city people we see in the newspapers who have been skinning cats, crushing their heads and killing animals. They have enough common sense to be definitely against that.
They have also considered what the proposed law will do to farming and farming practices. I have heard a lot of debate in here about how farm practices are legal today and will be legal tomorrow. I have spent a lot of time over the years working in law enforcement and dealing with lawyers, crown attorneys and judges. It is my understanding that the criminal code, which is a federal law, takes precedence over the standards set by provincial organizations, the humane societies or farming groups. Why are we concerned? We are concerned because when the time comes that a charge is laid and it goes to court, the judge will not interpret that industry standard. The court will judge whether or not that animal was treated cruelly according to the provisions of the criminal code.
Why would that judge go against what the industry standard says? It is because the definition of animal has been changed. It has been changed to include any animal that has the capacity to feel pain. Another change is that it is no longer in the property section. Somehow animals can be on their own without ownership either by the federal government, in the case of wild animals, or by farmers.
As we have seen happen before, I think there is a very high likelihood that those judges will interpret this law in the very way it is written. I will not blame them for that. As the bill is written, if someone intentionally inflicts pain on such an animal, as in branding a calf or dehorning it after it is a few months old instead of as a little baby, the judge will say that the criminal code is quite plain on this, as we can read for ourselves. The judge will consider it an offence and he or she will find the farmer guilty. That is the problem. Is there any likelihood of that kind of a charge being laid? Absolutely, and it will not necessarily come from one of the animal rights organizations.
Today I had an interview with a young lady who is an aspiring journalist. She was talking about farming and we had a nice conversation. After she had finished her interview, she said that she knew the cruelty to animals bill was being voted on today. She urged me to vote against the bill. My point with regard to this young person and as it relates to young crown attorneys and young judges coming up, is that she has an animal rights agenda. As a journalist, she is in a position of power to help form public opinion through the persuasion of the pen.
The common sense of society is 100% against cruelty to animals. However the survival of mankind from the oldest times until the present says that after life itself there has to be food to eat and good quality food to eat, and that involves the use of animals for human consumption.
The hidden agenda being promoted by the animal rights people, including Mr. Rick Smith who is with the International Fund for Animal Welfare, is very clearly to move along animals from being property, like they have the government agreeing to, which is one step away from being property now, and to slowly attribute rights to the point where we will not be able to use animals for anything.
The other day I had a skunk at my ranch. Under this bill, I wonder if I was wrong in shooting that animal. It never did anything to me. It was not diseased as far as I could tell but I intentionally shot that animal. What right did I have to do that? In many areas like mine there are no policemen or people to do that job for me. However skunks have a tendency to contract rabies and a bite from them could kill a young child or a person. They certainly kill a lot of livestock. Would the bill make that kind of action on my part illegal? I suspect that may well be. The bill says that if one intentionally shoots or kills an animal, and then it goes into justification as to lawfully doing it.
I said I would be a little aggressive. I have to talk about the stand that was taken by the member for Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey, a leader in his party, a leader in his riding and a leader in the agriculture industry, especially in the chicken and feather industry. He has properly and rightly fought the bill for months. He had most of the rural members, who have farmers in their area, understanding that the bill was bad for agriculture and it was even bad for society as a whole.
What did the member say today? He said that he had changed his attitude, that everything was fine now and that he would vote for the bill. Why would the member do that? He said that the Senate would take care of it, that the Senate would make an amendment. We know that will not be the case. The member is misleading, not only his co-caucus members but the people in his riding. The Senate will pass the bill and it will be done and gone before July 15, which will be a sad day for agriculture.
I hope the bill comes back to the House so we can debate it again and maybe get it through the government's head that this is a bad bill for not only people in the country but also for people in the city.