House of Commons Hansard #122 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was animals.

Topics

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

Reform

Dave Chatters Athabasca, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to be able to engage in this debate today on Bill C-17.

I have some real concerns about the bill and what the bill is proposing to do in a number of areas. Of course it has been said time and time again that it is an omnibus bill and it covers a lot of territory. I have also heard a number of people express the opinion that the intent of the bill is honourable and that they support the intent of the bill. However, in the seven years I have been in the House and been an elected member, I have become perhaps somewhat cynical about the intentions or the motives behind some of these things.

It seems to me if the government were serious about dealing with some of the issues in the bill, it would have certainly separated out the issues and brought them forth in individual bills. Many of them could have proceeded through the House without controversy and probably have been supported by all parties. Instead, the government lumps it all together with issues that are very controversial and others that are not as controversial, and what we get is a bill such as this one, which in my opinion is absolutely full of holes.

I am suspect of the government's motives on the issue. For example, the government expresses great concern about dealing with the sadistic perverts who would impose horrendous cruelty on animals. Yet this same government that is so offended by the possibility that people do that. They do that, and I find it extremely offensive, along with probably everybody else. It is the same Liberal government that gave somebody something like a $15,000 Canada Council grant to produce a piece of art with dead bunnies hanging on it to display in our National Gallery. Does that not fit with this concern for the welfare of animals and the needless cruelty to animals? One immediately becomes suspect of the intention of the bill.

Even regarding the clause in the bill on toughening up the penalty for disarming a police officer, one thinks that is a good idea. We could support that idea, but when we look at history, disarming a police officer has for some time been a criminal offence. The government in its wisdom thought the penalty needed to be greater for disarming a police officer. Instead of imposing the law that exists by imposing upon the courts a minimum sentence of three years, which is the current maximum sentence, apparently, and forcing the courts to treat it as a more serious offence, the government introduces a bill that places a maximum penalty of five years for disarming a police officer. Rarely, if ever, do the courts impose a maximum sentence on anybody for any offence, and it is very unlikely that the courts will impose the maximum sentence.

What did the government achieve by raising the penalty from three years to five years and making it a maximum penalty? I do not think it has achieved anything except some political rhetoric and some smoke and mirrors to convince the public that it is concerned with the offence and to respond to the police association's call for stiffer penalties. If it were really serious, it simply would have imposed a minimum sentence of three or five years for that offence, but it did not. I am suspect of the government's motives in terms of this bill.

If we go to the other clause of the bill concerning firearms regulations and the cosmetic changes being made there, again I become suspect, simply because the regulations that accompanied Bill C-68, which never came through the House, never saw the light of public debate in the House of Commons, are far more onerous than the changes that are part of the legislation being introduced to the House. I ask myself what motivated the government to bring this in as legislation rather than simply changing the regulations around Bill C-68 and solving whatever the problem was that it intended to solve.

I become suspect of the government's motives in introducing an omnibus bill. Certainly I see all kinds of loopholes that could and probably will at some point be in the courts dealing with the legislation.

I see some real conflict in a couple of places with the provincial wildlife act. The bill specifically includes the practice of baiting as a criminal offence. In many provinces in Canada, including my own, the practice of bear baiting both in the spring and in the fall is a common practice and one that is legal under the provincial wildlife act. Now the bill is in conflict with the provincial legislation and no doubt will take precedence over the legislation.

Another clause that in my opinion contravenes the provincial wildlife act is the clause dealing with subparagraph 446(1)(c) of the criminal code, which says:

being the owner or the person having the custody or control of a domestic animal or a bird or an animal or a bird wild by nature that is in captivity, abandons it in distress or wilfully neglects or fails to provide suitable and adequate food, water, shelter and care for it;

In my province of Alberta, under the wildlife act it is against the law to keep a wild animal in captivity, injured or otherwise, and to provide food for that animal. That is an offence under provincial law. I know that because I am married to a woman with a heart as big as all outdoors when it comes to animals. On occasion she receives from many people wild animals that have been injured and hurt. Her heart goes out to them and she spends a great deal of time and care nursing them back to health, trying to help them regain strength to go back into the wild. On more than one occasion provincial wildlife officers have threatened to prosecute her for doing that, because that is not a legal practice. Bill C-17 is in direct conflict with the provincial wildlife act.

As I was listening to members making their speeches and reading the bill, something came to my mind about the definition of the animal the bill is in fact meant to protect, animal meaning a vertebrate other than a human being and any other animal that has the capacity to feel pain. It struck me that it is just a matter of time until the pro-life movement looks at that clause.

It has been determined by the courts on more than one occasion that a fetus or an unborn baby is in fact not a human. It is something else, something other than human. I would argue that it would be pretty hard to say that a fetus is not a vertebrate. Certainly the practice of aborting that fetus could be considered cruelty to that animal and that issue could be taken to court.

I am sure most of us realize a raging debate is ongoing in the country now about the practice of abortion and whether or not the fetus feels pain from that process. People are saying precautions should be taken to mitigate that pain. The bill would lay open anybody performing an abortion to prosecution. That seems to me a serious loophole and certainly beyond, I am sure, what the government intended to do with the bill.

Moving on to the whole clause on cruelty to animals, we have heard over and over again of some real problems, loopholes and concerns among a number of groups. Having been in the business of animal husbandry all my life, it concerns me. I cannot believe that the government, with the resources at its disposal, the best legal minds in the country, could not draft a bill that would be able to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law those who would wilfully and criminally be cruel to animals and at the same time would provide wording that would protect livestock producers, trappers, and harvesters of animals.

The existing act says no one shall wilfully be cruel to animals. I suggest probably everybody in the House at one time or another wilfully did something that caused pain or was cruel to an animal, a vertebrate. We have heard discussions all day about the various ways in which that is done. Unfortunately in my years of raising livestock I have on many occasions had to wilfully inflict pain upon my animals in the business I was in. I took no pleasure from that. In fact it was very difficult and heart-wrenching sometimes to have to do some of the things that have to be done when one is in the business of raising livestock, but it is a necessary part of that business.

We heard discussion about baiting a mousetrap and catching a mouse in one's house, cabin, barn, or wherever. I defy anybody who has ever seen a mouse caught in a trap to say that animal does not suffer and that is not cruel. I raised this point earlier today in questions and answers. I defy anybody in the House to tell me that taking a live lobster and dropping it into a pot of boiling water does not cause pain and is not cruel. We could go on and on and on.

We heard a number of members raise the concern of the religious and cultural communities that since biblical times have engaged in the practice of ritual slaughter of animals. It is quite common. I have seen it performed, and I can certainly assure everyone that no one could deny it inflicts pain and cruelty on that animal. We have not prosecuted, and I hope it is not the government's intention to prosecute, those people who do those things. It has not been the practice of courts nor law enforcement officers to enforce the letter of the law when it comes to that.

This generally goes back to one phrase, the phrase that protects people who wilfully and knowingly inflict pain: that they did not have criminal intent. Removal of that clause no longer requires there to be criminal intent to be prosecuted and is extremely dangerous. It lays open to prosecution anybody who engages in any of those activities that I mentioned. I cannot believe that the lawyers involved in the drafting of the bill could not have achieved the intent without laying open to prosecution legitimate livestock producers and everyday, average citizens in the course of their lives. The bill is extremely offensive and dangerous.

The inconsistencies in the bill blow me away. I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why cruelty to animals would have been put in the sexual offences section of the criminal code. Why would we put it there? That does not make any sense to me. What connection is there between cruelty to animals and sexual offences? It is as incomprehensible as throwing the disarming of a police officer into a bill designed to prevent cruelty to animals.

It would have made more sense to me, having had a number of representations over the last year and a half, for the government to have provided an extraordinary penalty in the cruelty to animals legislation for someone who would deliberately and wilfully kill a police dog in the line of duty. It would make much more sense to me to have an extraordinary penalty put in the legislation to deal with the killing of a police dog than the disarming of the police dog's master. It does not fit there and it does not belong there.

The bill is very confusing. I hope we will have adequate opportunity in committee to get answers to those questions. The debate has been going on all day in the House and the government has not been responding to any of our questions and has not provided any insight into the intent of any particular clause.

There is another area that I want to raise. We have heard a lot of discussion today about the rural-urban split. That is where the bill runs into trouble because urban people do not understand the raising and slaughter of livestock for food and all the rest of it. I am not sure the rural-urban split really applies here nearly as much as what we have been led to believe simply because the concept of being cruel to animals is not restricted to people on the farm. Certainly people in the city engage in activities that are just as liable for prosecuted as people raising livestock.

The animal rights movement has been working for some years to portray animals as something other than what we, in the livestock industry, would consider them to be.

I read an article recently about the need for a bill of rights for primates and how that would protect the rights of primates. We then get into the rights of animals, how distasteful it is to raise animals in confinement, how they should be running free and all the rest of it.

I understand that perhaps urban people would not understand what that is all about but we have a Hollywood version of animals. My grandson and I recently watched a movie about a pig raised on a farm. The pig's father was sent off to the slaughterhouse to be slaughtered and become bacon on the table. The poor family was left behind and the young pig had to take responsibility for his family. It was terrible, sad and it went on and on. Needless to say, the young pig eventually rescued his father from the slaughterhouse and saved the day.

The whole concept of seeing animals in that context is ludicrous. Some years ago I saw a movie with Chevy Chase where he tied his dog to the bumper and dragged it until it was no more. That was supposed to be a comedy.

I see I have run out of time so I will save the rest of my remarks for another day.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

Reform

Darrel Stinson Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Madam Speaker, as I listened to the member's speech many things came to the forefront, the first being the many scopes to the bill.

In this piece of legislation that the government is trying to put through, why would it put under cruelty to animals, penalties for disarming police officers? It almost seems like the government is putting part of a bill through so it can use it to campaign on. If we have a problem with the cruelty to animals aspect of it and do not vote for the total package it could be said that we were not standing up for penalties being imposed on people who disarm peace officers, which is not the case at all.

The government has come before the House and the Canadian public with a bill that is half rotten and half good. What we are being told from the government side, I would say to the hon. member who just spoke, is that we should hold our noses for the smell on the front end and hope that the rose at the back end will outweigh it. That is one of the problems I have with the bill.

This piece of legislation does not exactly define what cruelty to animals is. When some of us from rural areas happen to go into large cities we often see people walking around with large dogs. Many of these people live in apartments. When we see a dog that weighs 140 or 160 pounds being kept inside a small apartment, some of us see that as a cruel act. What is the definition and how far is the government willing to carry it? Who will lay the charges? Does the bill lay it open to anybody to lay charges against a person? If that is the case, will they come forward and identify themselves or can it be just used as a malicious act upon somebody who is no longer liked?

The bill has no beginning and no end. We are leaving it again to the courts and judges to decide the law when that should be our job here.

I would like to know if the hon. member has answers to these questions. I cannot seem to find the answers anywhere. I have not heard any of the government members stand up to speak on this issue today so that I could ask them questions.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

Reform

Dave Chatters Athabasca, AB

Madam Speaker, I am glad to see that I am not the only one to become cynical in our time here.

The member raises some good points. Again, I am being cynical, but if the government really were serious about addressing the problems outlined in the bill, it could have done so far more effectively than it did with this bill. I believe that by making this an omnibus bill and by leaving it so wide open to interpretation, part of the intent was to simply confound the opposition, as the member said.

It works to some degree. As an opposition party, we look at each bill, we listen to the critic, and we debate whether or not we support the legislation. This bill has provided a conundrum to the opposition in that we generally support some aspects of the bill but not others. I think it is intentional by the government to create that environment within the opposition. The intention is not as honourable as perhaps we would like it to be. The desire to solve the problem that exists is not nearly as strong as it could be.

On the other aspect of the member's comments dealing with the rural-urban split, I would agree with him that the concept of a rottweiler or a great dane living in an apartment building in the city is no less distasteful than a pig or a chicken being raised in a pen or a cage without adequate room to exercise and to enjoy the freedom and the light that perhaps it should be allowed to enjoy. The concept of a rural-urban split is less than what we are suggesting it is.

I hope the government allows us the time in committee to have a thorough discussion, and that the government will be open to the suggestions in committee to change the bill to actually achieve some good things that are honourable and should be achieved. If the government would allow that to happen, then I think we could turn this into a bill that has merit and that we could support. Certainly in its existing form it is unsupportable.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Reform

Werner Schmidt Kelowna, BC

Madam Speaker, I heard my hon. colleague suggest that not one member from the Liberal side of the House has spoken to the bill today. That arouses in me probably the greatest cynicism I have ever had here.

It seems to me we have some intelligent human beings sitting on the Liberal side of House who put the bill together. One begins to wonder that they have absolutely nothing to say about the bill. Are they so ashamed of the bill that they would not dare say anything in opposition to what we have suggested here as serious questions or flaws in the bill? Do they just want to bury their heads, so to speak, and just let the bill go? Or, could it be that the real intention of the bill is to once again appear to be doing something but in fact not be doing anything?

Yet there is an insidious, deep seriousness with the bill that could have an impact on a whole host of things. It could destroy certain individuals who are trying to make an honest living through hunting or through the raising of animals for food. Just what is going on here?

It becomes significant that we answer some of these questions. As the hon. member has said and as my hon. colleague over on the other side of the fence has said very clearly, we must get clear definitions of what is meant in the bill and of what cruelty to animals actually is. Let us be clear about this. We are not hearing anything from the government.

I know some of the members who are sitting in the House right at the moment, and I know some of their capabilities. They are not rising. What is it? Is it because it is the way we have it here and they are ashamed of their legislation? Or, is it because they do not want to create the impression or tell us the truth about what they actually want the bill to do? Could the hon. member comment on that?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Reform

Dave Chatters Athabasca, AB

Madam Speaker, my colleague makes a good point. I mentioned in the question and comment section earlier that during one of the presentations I overheard from the backbenches the hon. member for Simcoe—Grey suggesting this provides protection for livestock producers. That should be a big issue in his riding, simply because it is one of the largest cattle producing areas in the country. I am really concerned that the particular member is going back to Simcoe—Grey and telling his constituents that this bill in fact provides protection for his cattle producers because it simply is not so. That would concern me. I could understand that from some of the urban members who perhaps do not have an interest in the bill, however they should.

I really would have enjoyed hearing the member for Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey make some comments in response to our concerns today. I understand he is a livestock producer and many of these concerns—

Criminal Code
Government Orders

6 p.m.

Liberal

Murray Calder Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey, ON

Chicken farmer.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

6 p.m.

Reform

Dave Chatters Athabasca, AB

He says he is not a livestock producer, he is a chicken farmer. That is okay by me, but as a chicken farmer he should have some of the same concerns that we have raised about the bill. I would be fascinated to hear him explain to us why he is not concerned about legislation to provide some protection, not only to himself as a producer, but to the other livestock producers in his constituency.

The silence is deafening over there. It is really worrisome to those of us on this side who represent cattle producers. I think the only answer is an election. It will be another issue on which we can fight the election in our ridings. We will come back after the election as government and we will reintroduce the bill in a form that will provide that protection. That is the answer.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

6 p.m.

Reform

Maurice Vellacott Wanuskewin, SK

Madam Speaker, for the sake of our viewers who are tuning in across the country, those who are arriving home from work, getting that channel zapper and tuning in to hear the debate in the House of Commons today or those who are just getting up from the supper table, putting their feet up or getting their slippers on, we are discussing Bill C-17.

This is a Liberal bill that is before us. It is an act to amend the criminal code, cruelty to animals, disarming a peace officer and other amendments and the Firearms Act, technical amendments. That is the title, and as it suggests, it is an omnibus bill, which is to say that this often odious method of government mixes some good with other unrelated problematic legislation, which is what is before us this hour.

We have no objection to the latter two other aspects of this bill which are the disarming a peace officer, which is a good and necessary thing, and the technical amendments to the Firearms Act.

Bill C-17 would make it a criminal offence for everyone who, without the consent of the peace officer, takes or attempts to take a weapon that is in the possession of that peace officer when the peace officer is engaged in the execution of his or her duty. Everyone who commits this offence is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, or is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 18 months.

As I previously stated, we support this particular amendment. In fact, in my constituency, a place called Warman, Saskatchewan just north of Saskatoon in the Saskatoon—Wanuskewin constituency, there is a large recreational centre that was put together by the good folk of that community and possibly with some government money. It is called the Brian King Centre and was named in memory of a wonderfully dedicated member of the Saskatoon police force who was killed in the line of duty when he was jumped by two individuals who took his gun. In commando style, they had him kneel on the banks of the river in Saskatchewan shot him through the head and killed him. He left a young widow and children. It was a very tragic story. This would be one particular address to that kind of situation.

We need respect for authority. We need respect for RCMP officers and for city and municipal police. The Canadian Alliance supports our police officers across the country and respects this particular part of Bill C-17.

I note this past Sunday on Parliament Hill there were numbers of dignitaries and police officers. It is an important event that occurs on an annual basis where we recognize our police officers, those who have lost their lives in the line of duty. I referred to just one, but there have been other police officers who have been jumped, assaulted and shot with their own guns.

Without question we want to give this kind of a tool to the judiciary with respect to justice officials so that they can prosecute in a very serious way those who have disarmed a police officer. Of course, in these other cases there were murder charges for the criminals who killed the individual from my constituency, Brian King.

The section in Bill C-17 concerning the amendment to the Firearms Act is simply a technical amendment. It is a cosmetic thing. It simply grandfathers the inventories of prohibited handguns held by businesses in mid-February 1995 so they can sell to individuals eligible under the act. A further amendment adjusts employee licensing requirements so that it better reflects appropriate firearms safety training for employees as opposed to some of the non-restrictive firearms.

We have no problem with those two parts of Bill C-17. However, as we said before, omnibus bills are quite objectionable. It includes excellent and very necessary legislation combined with flawed legislation, using good legislation to slip through flawed and problematic legislation. That is the problem.

The government's side will say, as it is already setting up to do, that the official opposition does not support making it a criminal offence for disarming a police officer. That will be the spin and its approach to this. Members can mark my words on that. That is the approach that will be taken, especially if past history is an accurate judge of this. That is how it handles the omnibus bills. It slips through these nefarious, unpopular and sometimes not good pieces of legislation by way of something that is good.

The genesis of changes to cruelty to animals is to no longer treat cruelty to animals as a property crime. We have some basic agreement with the intent of this part of the bill. What the government is doing though is making a new provision, moving the cruelty to animals to section 4 of the criminal code under sexual offences, which would be renamed sexual offences, public morals, disorderly conduct and cruelty to animals. That is currently contained in sections 444 to 446, part XI of the criminal code. This section of the criminal code protects a person from being convicted of an offence if that person acted with legal justification. That is the way it stands now. It is adequate. It serves us quite properly.

However, agricultural groups, anglers, hunter groups, and the Fur Council of Canada want cruelty to animals to remain in section 444 to 446. They fear that by moving the cruelty section to sexual offences it will make it easier for them to be prosecuted. They argue quite rightly that those who lawfully and legitimately harvest animals for business will not be protected if the cruelty section is changed. They are not reassured by the minister's words. She has said that it does not pertain to them or apply to them and that it is not an issue, yet for some strange reason they are not at all reassured by the her words.

Therefore, as has been indicated by members before, we are going to be moving an amendment at committee stage to have the animal cruelty provisions back under sections 444 to 446, or make those necessary changes to section 182.1 to comply with and allay the concerns of these farmers, hunters and agricultural groups and others who harvest animals.

The second point of the cruelty to animals section of Bill C-17 that causes concern is the amendment in the bill which proposes to take out the words wilfully or wilful as a defence if a person has been charged. That has been mentioned before. The removal of those words would make prosecution easier but not proper in many instances where one is involved in the legitimate slaughter of animals or the raising of animals for legitimate use or harvesting. We all appreciate that when we eat meat at mealtime it is because we have animals that can be killed humanely, quickly and prepared for our tables.

We believe there is reason to add the terms wilful and wilfully back into Bill C-17 to assuage or allay the concerns of various individuals.

The Canadian Alliance will be moving an amendment at committee stage to ensure that legitimate individuals involved in animal operations are not unduly subject to criminal intent.

There is another part of the bill which was referred to before, but it bears repeating because many people have tuned in since those features were given. The amendment that proposes that criminal intent for animal cruelty can be simply civil negligence is a part of the bill which causes concern for legitimate animal operations. It lowers the burden of proof, if you will. Agriculture groups would like to see “wilful neglect” or “marked departure from the exercise of reasonable care” put back in and maintained. It should be reinstated. It should not be something like a civil negligence which is a lower burden of proof and could possibly be used to prosecute farmers trying to carry out normal farming operations and cattle management, et cetera.

We as well will introduce an amendment at committee stage to ensure there is the proper recognition of that need to protect legitimate farm operators from prosecution.

The fourth area of concern in Bill C-17 is what is called animal care provisions. The bill proposes convictions when there is any pain or suffering or injury to an animal. In other words, animals have feelings too.

Currently the criminal code prohibits unnecessary pain. It is only common sense and one does not have to be a legal beagle or a lawyer to know that removing the word “unnecessary” could open up a whole area for conviction. As someone pointed out, putting a worm on a hook could become a problem for a fisherman if somebody was a little overzealous and got on that case. That is unrealistic and it is too loose and open for interpretation and prosecution. We will move an amendment to re-establish the word “unnecessary” to protect anglers and others who are conducting a sporting activity.

The fifth area of concern is where Bill C-17 states that anyone who kills an animal or being the owner permits an animal to be killed brutally or viciously, regardless of whether the animal dies immediately, is guilty of a criminal offence. Again that part is very subjective and is open to a lot of latitude. It is very ambiguous and must be defined more clearly.

The bill raises the penalty for intentional cruelty to an animal from the current penalty of six months to five years and lifts the cap on the fine which is currently $2,000. This is appropriate in the area of cruelty to pets and where cruelty can be established in other practices.

The lifetime ban on owning an animal without doubt is appropriate in cases of pet abuse.

The intent of the bill on the whole is legitimate. No one wants to see animals abused in any way, but there is a need to clarify the language surrounding some of the parts that we have cited here so as to ensure that legitimate individuals involved in the raising and harvesting of animals are not subject to unnecessary and unfair indictment.

We will support the bill at second reading, but we warn the government that it needs to amend the bill to meet the legitimate concerns that have been outlined. If it does not, we will oppose it at third reading.

Last but not least, I want to draw attention to a very cruel irony which has been alluded to before. It is the cruel irony that we take the kind of steps included in this bill to protect animals from any pain, but we have no protection for vulnerable preborn children right through the entire nine months of a pregnancy.

We can use a saline solution and burn the skin off a tiny, vulnerable pre-born child. We can violently suction a baby's arms or legs or other body parts. We can tear them violently apart, no problem, from limb to limb, but the speedy branding of livestock may bring criminal sanctions. To be consistent, we need to have some basic protection for a preborn child. We have got the order of importance mixed up here to some degree.

We also need to show respect for human life, the sanctity of life. All life must be returned—

The House resumed from September 20 consideration of the motion, and of the amendment.

1911 Census Records
Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Order, please. I am afraid that at this point I must interrupt the hon. member. It being 6.15 p.m., pursuant to order made earlier today, the House will now proceed to the taking of several deferred recorded divisions. Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

1911 Census Records
Private Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

The Speaker

Pursuant to order made on Wednesday, September 20, 2000, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded divisions on Motion M-160 under private members' business. The question is on the amendment.

(The House divided on the amendment, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Division No. 1387
Private Members' Business

September 26th, 2000 / 6:50 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the amendment carried.

The next question is on the motion as amended. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Division No. 1387
Private Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Division No. 1387
Private Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

On division.

Division No. 1387
Private Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the motion, as amended, carried on division.

(Motion, as amended, agreed to)