House of Commons Hansard #6 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was farmers.

Topics

Committee Business and Reinstatement of Government Bills
Government Orders

October 7th, 2002 / 3:20 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Lanctôt Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in the House to share with it the Bloc Quebecois position on the amendment proposed by my colleague from the Canadian Alliance concerning exclusion of Bill C-15B from the first session of the 37th Parliament.

I must begin by making it clear that the Bloc Quebecois is in favour of concrete and appropriate measures against the scourge of animal cruelty. This is a serious problem and one that merits our full attention and consideration.

This is a problem that has been with us far too long and one we have a duty as parliamentarians within a democratic system to address and to come up with the appropriate remedial measures for.

I stress the term “appropriate”, because this is the basis of our opposition to this animal cruelty bill. I must point out that the Bloc Quebecois also agrees with the amendment proposed by the Alliance, since its effect would be to set aside this bill, with its serious problems relating to gun control.

With respect to cruelty to animals, I want to say again: this refers to acts of extreme violence deliberately committed against creatures unable to defend themselves and win recognition of their rights.

Although the intention of Bill C-15B is good on the face of it, the Bloc Quebecois opposes it for two main reasons. First, because of the lack of protection for legitimate activities involving animals, and second, because important powers are being taken away from the chief firearms officer, who currently reports to the Quebec government.

In the last Parliament, an amendment to the bill was put forward requiring that the bill be referred back to committee for detailed consideration of clause 8. Therein lies the crux of our opposition. Clause 8 sets out how the bill will be applied, and its flaws are too big to be ignored.

One of our main objections to Bill C-15B is the disgraceful lack of explicit defences—I stress the word explicit—for legitimate activities relating to animal husbandry.

We want to stress that the clause in Bill C-15B concerning firearms would benefit from a thorough review as well. As far as the Bloc Quebecois is concerned, that part of the bill is actually a camouflaged decrease of the powers of the chief firearms officer, who currently reports to the Quebec government.

The Bloc Quebecois is in favour of the creation of a new section in the Criminal Code, which would institute an innovative concept, the object of which would be to completely change the concept of what an animal is. This way, an animal would no longer be considered as property, but rather as an entity specifically mentioned in the Criminal Code.

However, the Bloc Quebecois is opposed to any change to the Criminal Code that would have a significant negative impact on all those who are involved in a totally legitimate way in animal husbandry, hunting or scientific and medical research.

Such an amendment is very important, because the application of the Criminal Code will be forever altered. It goes without saying that such a change in perception must not be detrimental to what is already in place. And this what we fear will happen if Bill C-15B is reintroduced without a thorough and in-depth analysis. All this because of the current wording of the bill. It is obvious that we will no longer look at animals in the same way as before and that we will no longer treat them like before.

We support the amendment to the extent that it will have the effect of revisiting Bill C-15B and amending it thoroughly when it is before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, while seriously taking into account all aspects of the proposed changes.

So, the proposed changes must not have the effect of radically and forever changing the lives of those who have been involved for many years in animal husbandry or scientific research, among other activities.

We are asking the government to recognize that an in-depth review of clause 8 of the bill is essential in terms of its form, but particularly its substance. We are asking for the explicit addition, in the new part V.1 of the Criminal Code, of the defences provided under section 429 of the Criminal Code.

Section 429 includes the defences called “colour of right” or legal justification or excuse. These defences are specifically mentioned in that section, but they are not included in the new part V.1.

The Bloc Quebecois recognizes the urgency of the tragic situation that keeps recurring daily. In proposing this amendment, parliamentarians are asking for an in-depth review of the bill by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

The Bloc Quebecois believes that it is essential to closely review clause 8 of the bill, because that provision is considered to be the cornerstone of the criteria for protecting legitimate activities involving animals, including animal husbandry, hunting and scientific and medical research.

Bill C-15B caused quite a controversy from the outset. We all received correspondence from constituents asking us to support the bill. I had the opportunity to present the Bloc Quebecois' position and people said they supported it. Basically, the Bloc Quebecois believes that animals must be protected, while acknowledging the legitimate activities related to the animal industry.

We repeat that we stand for increased protection for animals. However, we also support specific protections for those who work in the animal industry. Under its present form, Bill C-15B displays a flagrant lack of respect, when it comes to the legitimate practises of the animal industry as a whole.

We cannot support the bill with its current wording, because of this unacceptable and unfortunate flaw. For this reason, we believe it is preferable to review and amend Bill C-15B.

We base this on the fact that there are currently explicit means of defence for activities related to the animal industry. These means are found in section 429 of the Criminal Code.

Section 429 of the Criminal Code protects those who raise livestock, hunters, the animal industry and researchers. Our problem with it is that these protections are not included in the new part V.1 of the Criminal Code.

The primary purpose of this bill should have been to increase penalties for any reprehensible and violent activity involving animals. In the case of a cruel offence, the penalty should be serious enough for those who committed it, and serious enough to deter anyone contemplating such vile behaviour. But this is not the case with Bill C-15B, because it lumps all violent actions together, whether or not cruelty is involved.

Officials from the Department of Justice told us in committee that the government's intent was not to deprive those who take part in legitimate breeding, hunting or research activities of the protection to which they are entitled. How can this be the case when the current protection that is specifically laid out in section 429 of the Criminal Code is not included in clause 8 of the bill?

We have some serious questions about what the officials from the Department of Justice have to say. Their information is so ambiguous as to end up being contradictory, which is the main reason for our disagreement.

It is all very well to tell us that the legal experts have covered all the bases, but we have serious doubts about that. If indeed everything were covered, why not include the protection currently given to legitimate activities in the new bill? In other words, why refuse to include explicitly the rights set out in section 429 of the Criminal Code in the new section V.1 of the code? No one can give any coherent answer to this, not even in committee, because the very structure of the bill is totally at odds with the government's intention to protect legitimate activities.

This makes no sense. Once again, I ask why the specific and explicit defences set out in Criminal Code section 429 are not being repeated here? Once again, it is important to state that these are not reproduced in the new part V.1 of the Criminal Code, not even implicitly, regardless of what the justice department may think.

Section 429 applies only to sections 430 through 446 of the Criminal Code. The government claims we can quite simply apply the general defences of section 8 of the Criminal Code, in other words common law defences. If this were the case, why would the legislator have specified, “legal justification, excuse or colour of right” in subsection 429? Why would the legislator have specifically and explicitly set these defences out in section 429 if common law defences were implicit for such offences? Let us get serious here. The Minister of Justice tells us he considers that section 8 of the criminal code, that is common law defences, could apply to all legal, legitimate activities involving animals. Why then is he refusing to include them explicitly, if they are already there in section 429?

Why not include what has been there for a very long time? One of the first principles one learns in law is that the legislator is not deemed to speak in vain. Everyone in the legal profession knows that. If the legislator has made provision to apply section 429 to certain sections, that means it does not apply to the entire Criminal Code. Thus, if the legislator has deliberately specified that these protections will apply only to certain specific sections, and not to the code as whole, it is because that is what was intended.

The Bloc Quebecois moved amendments to correct this situation, but they were all rejected in committee during the last session. What an unfortunate thing.

The Bloc Quebecois repeatedly tried to reconcile stakeholders' demands, but a majority of committee members rejected the idea. I should point out that this was rejected by the majority only when the time came to vote.

When stakeholders from the animal industry appeared before the committee, those who support protection for animals against cruelty showed respect. All the stakeholders from the animal industry want protection against cruelty to animals. However, they want to keep their defence rights, which are truly specific and which were included in section 429.

Again, these rights are the colour of right, the legal excuse and the legal justification. These rights are explicitly provided under that section. Why not take them and include them in the new part V.1? This is where we have a problem. This is why not just the Bloc Quebecois but the whole animal industry fears that frivolous suits could be launched, even in the case of sporting activities.

I can think of activities such as hunting with hounds and the roue du roi. The hunting season is on, right now. These are activities in which hunters have engaged for a long time. However, there will no longer be any specific defences, if this bill is passed. We will have to rely on implicit defences that are based strictly on common law defences.

Therefore, let us be serious. If the government really means it when it says that the purpose of Bill C-15B is to not adversely affect the animal industry, then it must review clause 8 again and take into account the amendments moved by the Bloc Quebecois during the proceedings of the Standing Committee on Justice.

The Minister of Justice must realize this, because during the last session, I asked him questions on this issue and he was never able to explain why he did not want to include explicit defences. He would only say, “We rely on the implicit nature of clause 8 for common law defences”. But I will explain something truly ridiculous that happened during the meetings of that committee.

Amendment No. 1 was adopted and it was even proposed by the government, following my representations. Clause 8, dealing with common law defences, was explicitly included. The government felt that it would appropriate to explicitly include clause 8, which deals with general means of defence for the entire Criminal Code. This is done explicitly for clause 8 of the Criminal Code, but not for the means of defence provided in section 429. We definitely have doubts about how serious the government is and about the motives behind Bill C-15B.

This is why, unfortunately, the Bloc Quebecois has no choice by to vote against this bill, whose ultimate purpose should be to protect animals against cruelty, not to adversely affect the animal industry. We tabled amendments to correct this situation, but they were all rejected in committee.

As we have been saying since the beginning, the Bloc Quebecois supports the creation of a new part in the Criminal Code to include a new definition of what an animal is. The idea is to give animals a new definition and new legal protection.

However, it is unacceptable that this should be done without respecting the defences that are currently available to the whole animal industry. The decision not to include the existing defences is very worrisome, particularly for that industry.

It is important to point out that we currently have the necessary tools such that offenders could be punished, while breeders, hunters and researchers could be protected. But this is obviously not a priority for the government.

The amendments proposed by the Bloc Quebecois should be accepted. I agree with the amendment proposed by the Canadian Alliance to the effect that Bill C-15B should not be reinstated at the stage at which it was during the last session. This bill must be reviewed. We must take a serious look at all its implications for the animal industry.

I am not saying that we should not add new clauses or that we should not protect animals against cruelty. The Bloc Quebecois wants to preserve the provisions dealing with animal cruelty, but this must not be done at the expense of the whole animal industry.

The Bloc Quebecois therefore supports the amendment, because it would send a clear message to the government that it is imperative to review the contents of Bill C-15B. We are of the view that not including the defences found in subsection 429(2) of the Criminal Code in the new part V.1 will have the effect of depriving those who legally kill or cause pain to animals of the protection they are currently afforded.

Section 429 of the Criminal Code is clear. It says that legal justification or excuse and colour of right constitute specific protection for whoever takes part in a legitimate and legal activity. It is therefore essential to include these specific safeguards in the provisions of new part V.1 of the Criminal Code.

According to the evidence given by Department of Justice officials in committee, subsection 8(3) of the Criminal Code should apply.

They said that defences of legal justification or excuse or colour of right are implicit in section 8. Why not include them explicitly in the bill as the entire animal industry is requesting?

These protections are not implicit, because they must be made explicit. We insist on this request. The means of defence currently laid out in section 429 of the Criminal Code must be specified in the new part V.1.

So, if I may conclude--

Committee Business and Reinstatement of Government Bills
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

The Speaker

I regret to inform the hon. member that his time has already expired; 20 minutes goes by very quickly.

Committee Business and Reinstatement of Government Bills
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Lanctôt Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Speaker, perhaps you could seek the unanimous approval of the House so that I might finish my comments.

Committee Business and Reinstatement of Government Bills
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

The Speaker

Is there unanimous consent to allow the hon. member to conclude his speech?

Committee Business and Reinstatement of Government Bills
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Committee Business and Reinstatement of Government Bills
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Committee Business and Reinstatement of Government Bills
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Lanctôt Châteauguay, QC

Unbelievable.

Committee Business and Reinstatement of Government Bills
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services.

Committee Business and Reinstatement of Government Bills
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Mississauga South
Ontario

Liberal

Paul Szabo Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, I do understand the member's concern. He has expressed I think some important points, in his view, with regard to certain legislation, but the debate is now with regard to the overarching motion about the reinstatement of bills and related testimony, and reinstituting committees et cetera. I do want to get the debate back to some of the principles and hopefully share with members some of my views with regard to why Parliament has not been disadvantaged by the prorogation or reinstatement.

The House prorogued in late September. I think it would be interesting to look at some of the research material. Members well know that the principal effect of ending a session by prorogation is to terminate business. That is the historic purpose of prorogation. At that point, members are released from their parliamentary duties until Parliament is reconvened. All unfinished business normally drops from the order paper; technically, it dies on the order paper. All the committees lose their powers to transact business. It provides a fresh start for the next session. It is a fairly terminal situation and rhetorical questions have been asked about it. Why have we prorogued? What was the purpose?

There is precedent in this place such that even after prorogation, with unanimous consent of the House to reinstate legislation, it can be reinstated at the same stage it was at prior to prorogation, or the House has also historically adopted amendments to its standing orders to carry over legislation to the next session following a prorogation. There is some precedent for prorogation, but it is interesting to note that in regard to the bills that were in process at the time of prorogation, whether they were at some stage in the House of Commons or going through the Senate, it is being asked that all of the bills that were in process be reinstated.

So the question is valid: Why was there a prorogation? Precedent plays an important role in this discussion. The fact is that it has historically been the case that mid-mandate the government would prorogue. We have, in each of the parliaments since 1993, at mid-mandate prorogued the House and come out with a throne speech to refresh the mandate.

That is exactly what is happening, but was it necessary to prorogue? I think it is a valid question. I think it was. We probably could have simply carried forward with a statement by the Prime Minister, maybe, with regard to our plans for the coming period, but I think it was important that there was a prorogation, that there was a throne speech and that it got the kind of attention it did to frame the legislative intentions of the government for the remainder of its mandate. It was an important thing to do.

Certain strategic events have occurred since the last election, probably the most significant of which was September 11. It created in this place a demand, a need, to deal with certain legislation and to bring forward new legislation with regard to the security and safety of Canada. There were a number of other consequential bills that came forward. At the same time, there was also the legislative agenda of the government as laid out in its election platform during the last election.

I think the issue of whether prorogation was necessary, et cetera, is really a moot point. In fact, all the bills that were in place continue to be as if the House had not prorogued. That is in fact what is being asked for now. On top of that, the prorogation date and the day at which the House resumed were very close, so theoretically there was no productivity of the House compromised by having a prorogation at a time during which the House had not been scheduled to sit in any event. So the question then becomes one of what we are talking about.

A number of members are taking the opportunity of this motion to discuss some of the bills that are of particular interest to them or to their party and to again renew the arguments of debate that they had at a time when the bills were at certain stages, depending on which bill it was. In going through this, I tried to listen to the arguments. Of course the classic came up: private members' bills. We have established the principle that private members' bills that have not changed in substance can be reinstated at the same stage. I can understand that fully, absolutely, knowing the process we have to go through to get a private member's bill crafted, selected in a lottery and made votable and to get it through the various stages, along with the time it takes and what is really the luck of the draw, because if members are too late in a particular session we may not have enough time in the legislative calender to actually get through the full stages.

Private members' business is almost an impossible scenario to go through. We have had very few pieces of private members' business go through, so I think that is not the meatiest argument that we could make with regard to reinstating legislation.

The reinstatement, for obvious reasons, has some advantages. Clearly where legislation has been brought forward by the government, has proceeded along a certain path and has in fact passed second reading, there has been some time invested by this place, from the beginning of the process up to second reading. Maybe I should just very quickly review the process. First reading is simply the introduction of the bill in this place. From a private or confidential document in presentation at first reading, it becomes a public document. It gets a bill number and it is printed for all to see, the public included. Second reading, as members know, is debate in the House, a debate among members about whether or not the general direction or the thrust of a piece of legislation is something that they can work with and whether this is a good starting point. We go through a process in accordance with the Standing Orders to have this debate at second reading, after which time it goes to committee.

At committee witnesses are heard as necessary. There is extensive discussion among all parties. All official parties are represented on all committees. There could be amendments at committee. Following that process the bill will go through a process of clause-by-clause: Are we happy with this and can we report it back?

It comes back to the House at report stage and another opportunity for report stage amendments whereby the bill can again be amended. After report stage and another vote by the House of Commons, then there is third reading. Again some limited amendments or motions could be made at third reading, one of which could be to refer it back to committee.

So throughout the entire legislative process within this Chamber, there are numerous opportunities, numerous steps, at which members have the opportunity to argue their case, to seek support, to try to get a minister to appreciate the importance of a certain amendment or to make other changes that would be consequential to other developments.

So this House really is dynamic. Bills are not just tabled at first reading and then stay exactly the same as what is passed. We have numerous cases in which bills have changed substantially, one of which is the species at risk act. I must admit that it had one of the rockiest roads I have ever seen, but as a consequence of the work of many hon. members that legislation was changed substantially and now in fact is at the Senate.

Following the House of Commons process, once we pass third reading the bill goes to the Senate. The Senate has a similar process to deal with legislation. It can also hear witnesses. It can do almost anything it wants. The Senate is a separate entity unto itself and members have the opportunity to sell their ideas again. As we can see, without carrying on this part of the argument very long, parliamentarians, whether they be in this place or in the other place, have numerous opportunities to affect legislation from first reading right through to royal assent. It is important to understand that opportunities are not lost. By virtue of the fact that we are proposing to reinstate the bills at the legislative point they had last completed, it means that there would be no time or no opportunity lost to members.

Some will argue that what really has been lost is a bill that passed at third reading in the House of Commons and is referred to the Senate. They will argue that they have lost their House of Commons battle, that they have given it their best shot but did not win the case. Members do have an opportunity at the Senate but may not be sure about it if the House has given it passage at third reading, because unless there have been material changes in the facts, the Senate may not be in a position to consider certain changes simply because they are opinions which one parliamentarian has that does not agree with the others.

I think the point here, quite frankly, is that to deny the approval of this reinstatement motion because there are bills that members maybe did not win the battle on is to simply ask the House to sacrifice all the work that has been done on all the bills so that they get another crack at the same bill all over again. I think we have to assume that Parliament did its job to the best of its ability and it is now at another stage.

I do not believe that members can ever argue successfully that they have lost an opportunity to express the will of their constituents, to express their views and their convictions on matters of importance to them. It is on the record and the record is there. In fact, with regard to those bills that have passed second reading and are now before committee, we also have proposed that there be a reinstatement of the testimony. I think that is very important. Witnesses, however, even though they would have their previous testimony reinstated, can always be called again, and we can call more witnesses, the reason being, as we all know, that committees are the masters of their own destiny. They have the rights of a committee to do what they as committees feel like doing.

Many committees have done excellent work on important pieces of legislation. I do not have to tell hon. members of the good work that committees can do when they set aside the partisan issues and start looking at the substantive issues of good legislation, of what they can do to contribute to good legislation. I know that far and away most committees have been operating on a very productive basis and have done a wonderful job on behalf of the people of Canada on a non-partisan basis.

I was on the finance committee and I know a couple of members across who are currently on the finance committee. We all know that the important work done on prebudget consultation and special studies such as those on bank mergers or productivity issues has produced important reports for the House.

With regard to legislation, work has been done and we have to assume that Parliament has done its job and done it to the best of its ability. In the event that there are events or circumstances that were not known at a prior point, as long as that bill has not received royal assent there is always still another opportunity to have the legislation amended. I will give an an example of this. I think it is useful to give an example of how things might have changed between June 21, when the House rose the last time for the summer recess, and today. In fact, this has to do with Bill C-56 on assisted reproduction and with related research. I have taken a lot of personal interest in the bill. I want to raise with the House some of the points that could demonstrate how something might change.

I am not supporting an effort not to reinstate the bills. I want them reinstated. I want changes to this bill, which is now at committee, but I have opportunities to do that. If I cannot achieve that at committee, I will have an opportunity at report stage. I will have another opportunity at third reading. I will have another opportunity when it goes to the Senate, if I can convince the Senate, or any of those other stages, of the relevance or the validity of the points I wish to raise.

The story came out with regard to the stem cell issue and reproductive technology. Part of Bill C-56 is about stem cells. As members know, stem cells have been found to be very important cells. They can become virtually any cell in the human body. If they can be harnessed and so-called tweaked to become any other cell in the body, they can then become the instruments for therapies and cures for a host of diseases, like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, diabetes and cancer to name just a few.

There is no opposition that I have heard of right now, from anyone, to stem cell research, full stop. There is no opposition. So what is the issue? The issue is, where do we get the stem cells?

When the legislation first came out it came out in draft form. The draft bill from the Minister of Health and sent to committee for its consideration had one overriding premise: that stem cells, which can come from virtually any organ in the human body as well as placentas, umbilical cords and umbilical cord blood, and from aborted fetuses, could also come from embryos, which are fertilized eggs. The overriding premise was that embryos and stem cells coming from embryos had more potential than any of the other stem cells and therefore the legislation should permit embryos to be used for research purposes. The problem starts to get a little complicated from there, the reason being that to get those stem cells we have to destroy the embryo. We have to kill the human being.

Then the ethical question is, do we destroy one human being to help another human being? That is a very difficult argument for some. For myself, no, it is not very difficult at all. I believe that life begins at conception, period. That is my position. Other members have different views. On top of that, the embryonic stem cells have a different DNA from that of a potential patient. That means there would be the problem of immune rejection. It also means there would be lifelong anti-rejection drugs. They also found that stem cells from embryos had a tendency to create spontaneous tumours when injected under the skin. So suddenly there were these problems, but the researchers were saying they still wanted to use them because they had more potential. Why would we do that when adult stem cells, or those stem cells that come from the human body, could do that?

On November 21, finally, we got the research. It showed that stem cells from human blood, from bone marrow, could become any cell type in the human body, proof positive from the Stem Cell Institute at the University of Minnesota, totally ratified. I would like to read into the record that Dr. Alan Bernstein, the president of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research said that this was a “beautiful paper” and stated:

Aside from the ethical issues, if one could take one's own adult... stemcells from bone marrow and use them to cure Parkinson's disease, youwouldn't have to worry about [immune] rejection problems. Sothis would be just a huge advance.

He went on to state:

In general, there has been a dogma that's grown up over the years that cells that are neurons are not going to switch and become blood cells tomorrow, or muscle.

In other words, they are not going to change, but he said:

As a result of this research, it looks like the minimum one can say is the old view... is going to have to be modified.

The president of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research has said uncategorically that the old view has to be modified. Bill C-56 has to be modified because the original premise that embryonic stem cells had more potential than non-embryonic stem cells has been totally dismissed by third-party research, by ethical research, and it has shown that we can continue to pursue cures and therapies for those requiring them without getting into the ethical argument.

I should also point out that even Dr. Françoise Baylis on the board of governors of CIHR has pointed out that only 2% of embryos donated for research purposes would be useful for research purposes, as 50% of them do not survive the thawing process, the cryogenic process of in vitro fertilization, and the balance of them would not meet quality criteria. It is estimated that there are only about 500 embryos out there. That 2% means that all this argument about embryonic stem cells has to do with 10 embryos. We are searching in Canada for 10 embryos so that we can do research. Based on the evidence that I hope to provide to committee, to anybody else in this place and to the Senate, there is no need to go to embryonic stem cells. We have, based on the research from stem cells from human bone marrow, the ability to do the research necessary to treat all illnesses and diseases.

Committee Business and Reinstatement of Government Bills
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Howard Hilstrom Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, after the proroguing of Parliament, it is once again my pleasure to be back here to debate with members of the opposition party and, in particular, the members of the governing Liberal Party.

We are speaking today of the omnibus motion and the amendment by my party to have two bills separated out, Bill C-15B and Bill C-5. They are such bad bills that they should be separated out so Parliament can reconsider the votes held, re-examine the issues and do it right.

It was very interested to listen to the hon. member for Mississauga South, I believe, talk about members of the official opposition and the fact that we were talking about the merits, the reasons and all the facts behind debating Bill C-15B and Bill C-5 again. Somehow it is not good when we on this side of the House talk about redebating bills, particularly when we talk about this big omnibus motion, but that member himself sees fit to go into a lengthy debate on his pet bill with regard to stem cell research.

What we have is a debate on an omnibus motion that the rules are good when for use by the government side, but if the opposition plays by those same official rules, then somehow it is bad.

We intend to speak up about bills that are bad and about the fact that those bills have ended up back here because Parliament was prorogued. It is necessary for Parliament to once again pass a motion that will reinstate those bills that died on the Order Paper to their former position. I do not think it is a waste of Parliament's time, as the Liberal government has put forward, to talk about the substance of the issues of those bills that died on the Order Paper.

The question of whether it was necessary to prorogue Parliament in the first place is one that deserves a bit of comment because that has put us back in this position of having to debate this and some of the very same bills that were already been passed.

The proroguing of Parliament was done so that there could be a throne speech. That throne speech was to lay out some grand visions for Canada, its problems and opportunities for the future. We expected something new in a throne speech. What did we get? We got talk about trying to do something about health care, child poverty and first nations problems, everything from education through to health and governance issues. There was talk about infrastructure. The opportunity was there for the government and the Prime Minister to do something about those topics. He has had 40 years as minister of various portfolios, including as the Minister of Indian Affairs, and as Prime Minister since 1993 to have fixed those issues or to have laid out the plan and instituted it. By proroguing Parliament, he was trying to make these promises again as if they were something new and that somehow that would make things all right.

The Prime Minister has said that he will not be around very long, that he will quit and make room for the next leader of the Liberal Party. However he has insisted on trying to set out an agenda, committing Parliament to vote in the future to spend money on his promises in the throne speech. It is pointless.

Should I be in the House as the various spending bills, which the Prime Minister has promised, come up, I can guarantee that I will not have my hands tied for votes in the House because that Prime Minister wanted to have a throne speech and therefore prorogued Parliament.

With regard to the question the member for Mississauga South raised about saving time and reinstating these bills, what point is there in trying to save time when a really bad piece of legislation, which was opposed by many members on the government side and the opposition side, was passed because of the terrible whipping backbench Liberals received. That legislation, Bill C-15B, ended up going to the Senate.

Bill C-15B has an interesting little story onto itself. It goes to the very essence of whether we in the House should simply pass this omnibus motion and put everything back in place the way it was, or should we have a second thought and look at this again. From the Liberal point of view, I cannot imagine that they would not be really excited about having a second chance to look at the legislation contained in this omnibus motion.

With regard to Bill C-15B, while it was going through the House and committee, the Liberal rural caucus with its chairman, the member for Dufferin--Peel--Wellington--Grey, criticized and pointed out that this was a really bad bill. They said it hurt medical research and the livestock industry. They said it would hurt hunting, fishing and other pastimes that involve the use of animals in our daily lives.

However, when push came to shove, at the final vote in the House at third reading stage, the Liberal rural caucus members, including the chairman, stood up and voted in favour of Bill C-15B. The question immediately arose: Why, when members and their constituents were opposed to a bill as in the case of rural Liberal caucus members, would they vote for that legislation? The truth of the matter is, the Prime Minister told them that if they did not, there would be certain repercussions in any number of ways. He told them they could forget about their future political careers.

However that could not be said to the general public. That could not be said to our farmers and ranchers. They could not tell these people that they had been whipped by the Prime Minister and leaders in cabinet, so they had to come up with some other reason. What did the reason turn out to be? The member for, and he has a long riding name so I want to get it right--

Committee Business and Reinstatement of Government Bills
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. While the member is looking for that additional information, could he assist the Chair and indicate if he is sharing his time or will he be taking up the remainder of the time allocated to him?

Committee Business and Reinstatement of Government Bills
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Howard Hilstrom Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will be using up my full time because of the importance of this issue.

In any event the member for Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey and other members, but this member in particular, had to come up with a reason why they would vote for a bad bill for farmers when they knew that the farm associations, lobby groups and farmers in their own ridings did not want it.

The reason was because a promise had been made by the justice minister to the Liberal rural caucus that the bill could be amended in the Senate, that they should just vote for it, that it would be amended and then things would be all right for the livestock industry and medical research.

That was a fine enough reason. There was a public press release, and I am not telling any stories here or making anything up. It turns out that when the bill went to the Senate, the senator who was responsible for shepherding the bill through the Senate, said that absolutely no deal had been made to amend the bill. I could stand to be corrected, but I think justice minister himself denied that he had made any deal to have it amended in the Senate. In fact I do not know how the House could force the Senate to amend a bill anyway. That is totally up to the senators. That is what happened.

The exact case the Canadian Alliance is putting forward now is that the House, including the member I have been talking about and the Liberal rural caucus, should now separate Bill C-15B, the cruelty to animal legislation and Bill C-5, the species at risk legislation, out of this omnibus motion, pass what is left of it to reinstate the bills to the position they were at before Parliament prorogued. Where we in the House collectively made a mistake on Bills C-15B and C-5, we would now have the opportunity to correct that mistake. The Canadian Alliance members will take that opportunity to correct the mistake made on the cruelty to animal legislation, by separating it, not having it sent back to the Senate and let the government reintroduce a new bill that satisfies the very concerns of the livestock industry, medical research and others who are so opposed to these bills.

What a glorious opportunity to simply do that. I have heard from my friends in the Bloc Quebecois and the other parties that our motion to separate the bills is a good one. Let us correct the mistakes that have been made. How many times in life do we say “I wish I had done things differently” then have the opportunity to go back and correct those mistakes?

We have seen the broken promises from the justice minister and the member for Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey, promises that were not kept or promises that were never made in the first place. We do not know. It was tangled web that they got themselves into. Who would have ever known in that the members in the Liberal rural caucus would have to own up to the tangled web they wove by having the bills come back from the Senate, back into our own little hands right here in the House of Commons? This is a glorious opportunity for those members to stand up and say that they made a mistake when they passed those bills in the first place and now they will not have them come back.

Should we expect the Liberal members who are opposed to Bill C-15B and Bill C-5 to stand and vote against their own government? I would hope they would. There is an opportunity for them to go to the Prime Minister and to the other cabinet ministers and tell them that they do not want to vote against the government on this omnibus bill, so why do they not take those bills which they are opposed to, Bill C-15B and Bill C-5, out of the omnibus motion and they will vote for the rest of it.

That could be done without any embarrassment on the side of the Prime Minister or the cabinet or the individual members who are so opposed to that bill. There is an opportunity, and it is getting a little late for them to do that now, that they may have to vote against their own government. So be it.

We have had a lot of talk in the House about reform of Parliament. There is talk about individual members not having enough clout to do anything about some of the major issues coming along. When it comes to having clout with a majority government, the Liberal rural caucus has enough members who are elected, in essence, by farmers that they should at this point represent their constituents by defeating this omnibus bill to correct the mistake that they made earlier on.

If that does not happen, we go back to our ridings and put out another press release saying that the Senate may fix the mistakes in the House because we had two chances at it, but we did not fix it; perhaps the Senate will do it this time. That will be seen as another false hope for change.

I would like to talk about Bill C-15B. That included the Firearms Act. The Firearms Act, from day one when it was first brought in going back as far as the federal Progressive Conservatives when former Prime Minister Kim Campbell started to bring in firearms legislation, had the ultimate goal registering all rifles and shotguns, having no due regard that the people who owned rifles and shotguns were not criminals.

If they were criminals, why would they be given a registration and licence for firearms? This was to nail the poor average citizen who just happened to own firearms or wanted to own firearms. This is another good reason why Bill C-15B should not go back to the Senate to be passed.

Under the firearms amendments there is a new commissioner of firearms being established, who would report to the justice minister thus taking away from the commissioner of the RCMP this coordinating effort on the registration of firearms. We would create a brand new bureaucracy, a new commissioner of firearms, and have that new commissioner report to the justice minister. More costs going up constantly and not solving one crime.

In my riding there was a man whose son had been in trouble under the Young Offenders Act. Police went to the house and asked if there were any firearms in the house. The man said that he did have firearms, but that his son did not. The son did not have access to the gun cabinet. He did not have the key. The police had to get it from the father. The father had committed absolutely no crime, but his firearms are in police custody right now because somehow this act has a catch-all clause that says “if something happens”. As a result, police have the authority to take people's guns away. This man was a law-abiding citizen who did absolutely nothing wrong, yet his guns have been seized and locked up.

We have a lot of good reasons to have Bill C-15B and Bill C-5 separated away from the omnibus bill. Let us bring it back into the House of Commons. Let us do it right, then all our constituents will be happy. I appreciate the time today that I have been given to speak on these bills. I hope that it has made some impression on those Liberal rural caucus members. I am sure that when they reconsider they will vote the right way this time.

Committee Business and Reinstatement of Government Bills
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Marceau Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to take part in the debate on the Canadian Alliance motion, a motion we will, moreover, be supporting.

Before I begin my few comments I will congratulate, if I may, my colleague for Châteauguay who has, right from the start of the debate on Bill C-15B, or its prior incarnation, done an admirable job on a very complicated issue. He has always listened with an open mind to the various interests, often contradictory, and has succeeded in adopting a balanced position.

As we know, in public policy, a balance is sought between the various stakeholders and their interests. The very sensible and very balanced middle of the road position of the Bloc Quebecois is a result not only of the painstaking efforts but of the willingness to listen of the hon. member for Châteauguay, and I must congratulate him.

The prorogation of the House and the Speech from the Throne brought one thing home: this government has never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. This government has never really had the knack of using what was there to use in order to reach optimum solutions. I will explain.

What a missed opportunity. What a great opportunity missed to go back to the drawing board, start over. A missed opportunity, particularly in this case, to take into consideration the questions, the concerns and the objections raised in order to start again, to chew it over and digest again, in order to come up with a bill that better balanced all the issues and all the concerns it raises.

What does Bill C-15B represent? Principally, four amendments to the Criminal Code. First, to create a new section, part V.1 of the Criminal Code, dedicated exclusively and solely to the protection of animals and to cruelty toward animals.

Second, it increases the penalties for animal cruelty offences.

Third, it amends the Firearms Act in order to bring its administrative procedures up to date.

Fourth, it also amends the Firearms Act to give more powers to the commissioner of firearms, resulting in decreased powers for the chief firearms officer, who reports to the Government of Quebec.

The intention behind this bill is a laudable one. The government acted in response to a well orchestrated and well-justified campaign. Thousands were calling for more effective legislation with respect to animal cruelty and for cruelty to animals to be punished.

Since the beginning, the Bloc Quebecois has supported several elements of the bill, particularly the first point that I was mentioning, the creation of a new part in the Criminal Code, which would see the transfer of provisions about animals from part XI of the code, acts in respect of property, to a new part V.1 of the Criminal Code, which would deal solely with animals, and increase related penalties.

However, the Bloc Quebecois can no longer support the bill, because it does not protect the legitimate activities of breeders, farmers, hunters and researchers.

The spirit of the reform is, of course, to protect animals. It would have been imuch better to specify certain elements in the legislation, so as to reassure the animal, farming, medical and sports industry regarding any risk of frivolous prosecution.

The Bloc Quebecois was in favour of the bill in principle, if it could have been amended to reflect the means of defence currently laid out in part XI of the Criminal Code.

That is why the Bloc Quebecois—courtesy of the member for Châteauguay—asked that the means of defence in article 429 of the Criminal Code be added explicitly to new part V.1 of the Criminal Code.

The Bloc Quebecois is also opposed to the bill because it would remove a number of powers and responsibilities from the chief firearms officer, who currently reports to the Government of Quebec. Essentially, the Bloc Quebecois is against the bill because it provides for no specific protection for legitimate activities carried out in the animal industry, hunting and research and because it removes enforcement powers from the Firearms Act that are currently held by the Government of Quebec.

Bill C-15B consolidates current Criminal Code provisions regarding cruelty to animals and includes some new elements. Given that animals are currently considered as property instead of human beings, the penalties and possible recourses are essentially minimal. Lenient sentences, as we know, encourage repeat offences.

We support increased protection for animals, but on the condition that the legitimate livestock, sporting and research activities are protected, which is not the case with the current Bill C-15.

The definition of animal in the bill, as “a vertebrate, other than a human being, and any other animal that has the capacity to feel pain”, is too broad. That is what section 182.1 of the Criminal Code provides, in the new part V.1.

This another example of change, besides moving animals out of the property section, which shows how animals will be viewed in the Criminal Code from now on, that is as creatures capable of feeling pain.

Hence the concerns of stakeholders in the animal industry. Could a farmer who deliberately poisons a rat—a vertebrate—be convicted under section 182.1 of the Criminal Code and be liable to the maximum sentence of five years in prison? The bill does not specify either what is meant by “kills an animal without lawful excuse” in paragraph 182.2(1)( c ). Is a hunter who “kills an animal without lawful excuse” also liable to a sentence of five years in prison?

Similarly, Bill C-15B could cause problems, particularly for breeders and the entire sport hunting industry in Quebec, as well as for medical and scientific researchers.

A better balance between these two opposing interests should definitely have been struck, which Bill C-15B as it stands does not do. The Bloc Quebecois also fears that there may be unjustified legal proceedings, which will create significant costs for the industries mentioned earlier, that is the animal industry, sport hunting, and research.

Another problem with Bill C-15B is that adding a new section to the Criminal Code will have the effect of moving animals to a section of their own, without transferring the defences available under section 429 of the Criminal Code, in the property section. The fact that the means of defence are not included in the new part V.1 will result in those who legitimately and legally kill animals or cause them pain being deprived of the protection currently afforded them under section 429 of the Criminal Code. Such a provision would ensure lawful justification, excuse or colour of right.

Although Bill C-15B contains provision for lawful excuse for certain offences, as well as the common law defences set out at the present time in section 8 of the Criminal Code, these are inadequate because they apply only to offences under sections 182.1 (c) and (d) and are much narrower than those set out in the current provisions.

It would have been so simple to take the defences set out in section 429 for property offences and transfer them to the new part V.1 which would be the part reserved for animals.

Furthermore, section 8 of the Criminal Code, which responds to the concerns of various stakeholders, states that common law defences render a circumstance a justification or excuse.

According to the government, the rules of common law are still in force, but it has chosen to reaffirm them in the new part of the Criminal Code. We have serious misgivings about this. On the one hand, legal experts tell us that defences provided for under section 8(3) of the Criminal Code apply all the time and, on the other hand, the government chose to include them explicitly in its bill. This lays the appropriateness of this approach open to question.

The first common law defence is that of necessity. The three evaluation elements for this defence are: first, the existence of an imminent danger or peril; second, the absence of reasonable legal alternative; and, third, the proportionality between the harm caused and the harm avoided.

The second defence is the inducement to commit an offence, or police provocation. This defence may be used when, during the course of a criminal investigation, peace officers provide an opportunity to commit an offence, in the absence of a reasonable doubt that such an offence would be committed.

The third defence is due diligence. This involves a reversal of the burden of proof, in that the person accused of an offence under a regulation must prove, under the balance of probability, that he acted with due diligence. This becomes a reasonable restriction on the presumption of innocence.

A fourth defence is intoxication. If the intoxication is induced by the accused himself, it is not a defence. However, it can be a defence for a crime of general intent, if the intoxication is such that it is not associated with a reasonable person.

Finally, the last defence under the common law is known as an alibi, where the accused endeavors to prove that he was in a different place when the offence was committed.

As everyone knows, Quebeckers and Canadians are very attached to the moral principle of ensuring the wellbeing of animals. Many are concerned about this issue and feel that animals should be better protected against criminal behaviour. Many studies have also confirmed the existence of a close connection between cruelty to animals and aggressive criminal behaviour. Therefore, it appears that imposing harsher penalties on those who are cruel to animals could help prevent violent crimes against people.

However, we must start from the premise that, in its current form, this bill is unacceptable to all those who are directly or indirectly involved in the animal industry.

For the great majority of stakeholders in the animal industry, these new provisions are likely to increase the likelihood of criminal charges against those who work in the industry or who engage in recreational activities such as hunting and fishing. Moreover, producers are also asking for protection of their livelihood, which is normal.

Someone who owns an animal industry and who, legitimately or legally, earns a living and provides for his family and children has the right to expect that his livelihood will not be threatened by a poorly drafted piece of legislation. These producers are asking for assurances that they will not be hauled before the courts because of their professional activities. We can understand that.

Stakeholders in the animal industry are saying that this bill is poorly drafted, but there is also the case of hunters and sports associations. This is an industry that generates millions of dollars every year and that creates thousands of jobs in Quebec and in Canada.

According to a number of hunters and people who engage in sport hunting, the bill was drafted as though hunters, fishermen and trappers did not exist. Indeed, it is extremely difficult to reconcile the legitimate activities of hunters, fishermen and trappers with the bill in its present form.

The severity of the new bill would be such that a sport hunter could fairly easily be charged with a criminal act for which a means of defence had not yet been anticipated, even with all the necessary permits and authorization for hunting, fishing or trapping.

Three offences would be created for acts committed against animals not necessarily causing death, but pain, suffering or injury. However, the bill goes even further, by including unnecessary. If a fisher loses a fish, if a hunter only injures game, how can necessity be used as a defence?

If Bill C-15B were passed as is, many people think that hunters, fishers and trappers would all be guilty.

As well, aboriginal communities, which have always practised these activities, would also be in the same boat.

The Bloc Quebecois proposed a compromise to ensure that those who intentionally cause suffering to animals receive the appropriate punishment, while protecting the means of defence of those who cause suffering in the context of legitimate activities.

The Bloc Quebecois supports this compromise. It has championed it, but the government wants nothing to do with it.

The animal industry has problems with the bill. So do hunters and sporting associations. There are also, however, the universities and colleges, their researchers.

You yourself know this, Mr. Speaker—you were here in the House when the former Bill C-17 was introduced in the fall of 2000—the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada asked that certain provisions of the bill be clarified in order to ensure that Canadian universities were not subject to unjustified legal action.

On March 15, 2001, that same association adopted a resolution to express to the then federal Minister of Justice, who is now the Minister of Health, its concerns about the proposed amendments to the Criminal Code regarding the treatment of animals. These changes could inadvertently jeopardize legal university research that uses animals in compliance with the standards recognized in Canada and abroad by the Canadian Council for Animal Care.

As we know, Bill C-15B includes major amendments to a provision of former Bill C-17. Section 182.3, which the government proposes to add to the Criminal Code, states that “Everyone commits an offence who negligently causes unnecessary pain to an animal”. The term “negligently” means “departing markedly from the standard of care that a reasonable person would use”.

The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada is very pleased that these amendments were made. To a certain extent, they reflect its concerns. However, according to the association, the bill does not at all identify a behaviour “departing markedly from the standard of care that a reasonable person would use”. The amendments made by the government between Bill C-17 and Bill C-15B did not clarify the situation at all.

Bill C-15B also includes changes to the Firearms Act and part III of the Criminal Code. One of the amendments proposed addresses airguns. Although the Department of Justice claims that the intention of clause 2(2) of the bill is to exempt a weapon if it meets either of two criteria, there is still some confusion because a double negative is used.

We proposed new wording for this article, which would eliminate any confusion. Unfortunately again, despite all the listening to the various stakeholders that was done, the government refused to respond to the Bloc's fears, which it wanted to see eliminated by redrafting.

I could go on and on about this bill. I am getting the signal that I do not have much time left, so I would just like make one more point—and this is one of the reasons we oppose this bill—which is that this bill would create a firearms commissioner, which will have the effect of diminishing the powers currently held by the chief firearms officer, who currently reports the Government of Quebec.

In short, the bill as drafted is unclear. On the one hand, it does not strike a balance between those, ourselves included, who are in favour of enhanced protection for animals, and the others, the various associations of industries involved in animal husbandry, sports, hunting or research, who want to see this important objective of animal protection balanced by the acceptance of various legitimate and legal industries, which are the livelihood of thousands of Quebeckers and Canadians.

Committee Business and Reinstatement of Government Bills
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to support the opposition amendment to the motion that would enable ministers to reinstate government legislation from the last session. The opposition amendment would exclude Bill C-5 and Bill C-15B from that motion.

Both the species at risk bill, Bill C-5, and the legislation dealing with animal cruelty, Bill C-15B, should not be reinstated. The official opposition, other opposition parties, as well as several members of the government side, belatedly but nevertheless, have raised numerous and legitimate objections to these bills in the course of debate. Unfortunately, the ministers responsible for the bills, and the federal cabinet, have consistently refused to address any of these concerns.

Bill C-5 and Bill C-15B deal with different provisions. They both negatively impact on Canadians in similar ways, particularly rural Canadians. This is more and more a trend that we see in the government. It is not concerned about what is happening in rural Canada. It is simply concerned about vote rich cities. We saw it in the throne speech where it talked about a commitment to infrastructure. However, the wording of that commitment was intended to convey benefits upon urban centres rather than rural areas.

These particular bills, Bill C-5 and Bill C-15B, are more than that. They do not simply ignore the valid concerns of people in rural areas but in fact impact negatively on those Canadians. Under both bills there is a real potential that the livelihoods of rural Canadians would be put at risk.

As the member for a primarily rural riding, Provencher in southeast Manitoba, I am proud to represent a large population of farmers who are some of the most committed stewards of both the environment and of animals in this country. I am concerned that these two pieces of legislation, while no doubt are well-intentioned, will put rural Canadians who are already facing overwhelming challenges, both in terms of the environment and in terms of trade practices, into an unworkable situation.

Many of my colleagues have spoken about the drought that has occurred in Canada this last summer. In my riding we have been suffering from flooding. Southeast Manitoba has been inundated with water. Many of my farmers, whether they are dairy farmers or other types of farmers, have been severely affected by flooding. Despite those kinds of environmental issues that they are already facing, they do not need the kind of legislation that is being proposed both in Bill C-5 and Bill C-15B.

In the case of Bill C-5, the most serious flaw is that the federal government would be permitted to expropriate land from property owners without full or guaranteed compensation. The issue of compensation was debated at length at committee stage of the bill. All Canadians are concerned about our environment. The real question is who will bear the cost of the measures that must be taken in respect of those environmental steps.

I think we will see that similar debate develop in the context of the Kyoto accord. Whether or not one agrees with that particular accord, the question is, who bears the cost of this particular government action?

In the case of Bill C-5 the answer must clearly be that if the Canadian public considers it to be a good thing to preserve endangered species and their habitat, then the burden of protecting those species and the habitat must not fall on a particular segment of our society. It must fall on the shoulders of all Canadians equally.

This issue was debated at length at committee. Unfortunately the amendments proposed by my colleagues requiring mandatory compensation were defeated. Instead the environment minister indicated to the committee that compensation would be given out on a case by case basis. For the rule of law, compensation on a case by case basis simply is not acceptable.

Property owners need to know that there are criteria, that there are laws in place, and that compensation is determined by reference to an objective standard of laws. It cannot simply be granted at the whim or on the best wishes of any particular minister. While some compensation is certainly better than none, this lack of a commitment to compensate all property owners is disconcerting for many Canadians, especially those who are property owners.

We need to ensure that those property owners who buy this property to farm it for example can go to the banks on the strength of that property and say they require a mortgage so that they can pay for that property. However if the banks realize that property or the use of that property can be expropriated without any guarantee of compensation, what prudent lender will lend money on the flimsy guarantee of the environment minister saying that he will consider compensation on a case by case basis?

This is simply not the way things are done in a civilized country, in a country where we need to respect private property. Private property is the basis of our wealth. If we allow governments to introduce legislation that undermines the basis of our wealth creation, we will cripple our economy.

Another serious flaw in Bill C-5 is that the bill provides for various offences in which a very low level of mens rea is required, mens rea of course being the ingredient in a criminal offence of a guilty mind. We have on the one hand the actus reus and on the other the guilty mind or the mens rea. In a true criminal offence both elements must be present, the actus reus and the mens rea.

Those who committed offences under the legislation would be under what is called strict liability. This means the courts would be required to take into account the level of criminal intent of the accused for sentencing purposes only.

The issue or level of criminal intent is a very low requirement. The person who commits the act is held strictly accountable for a breach of the provisions of the act and as I said, the courts can then take into account in sentencing the degree of that guilty mind or mens rea. It still is almost unintended that an individual could be held liable for a criminal offence. This makes many landowners and farmers in my riding, and it should make people all across the country, very nervous.

There are hundreds of species at risk. That is admitted. Steps need to be taken. However, it is not always easy to recognize these species. The landowners and farmers could be faced with expensive and cumbersome criminal prosecutions, even where they are not eventually found guilty. Many farmers and landowners today are working under difficult financial circumstances and the idea of having to defend themselves against criminal charges for unintended actions is alarming.

We have seen in the American context with similar legislation where the right to property is threatened and governments have not put in place sufficient assurances to provide compensation or to clearly delineate the level of criminal intent required, that individuals are being proactive. As soon as they hear rumours that there might be an endangered species on their land they are going out to till the soil or rip up the habitat so that government inspectors and enforcement officers cannot determine whether in fact there was a species at risk on the land.

The intention here, which is to preserve endangered species, will in fact result in the destruction of species. I think we can take the American experience as a clear example of where that happened.

Instead of writing into the law assurances that Canadians will be compensated for their losses and not prosecuted unjustly, the government has simply asked Canadians to trust it. Not only has the government failed to calculate long term costs to every Canadian taxpayer from the legislation and failed to estimate or even consider the burden it may place on landowners or farmers, it has ignored the need of the public to be informed and consulted on matters that their way of life depends upon.

This approach serves not only to foster mistrust on the federal government but ultimately renders the legislation less effective as it does not promote a spirit of cooperation between those who are making the laws and those who must adhere to them.

I note in this particular context the right of the federal minister to impose federal standards on provincially owned land. This is not just federal land in a province, it is provincially owned land, and contrary to the division of powers, the fact that civil rights and property within the provinces are the jurisdiction of the provinces, there is a unilateral approach by the federal government moving in to deny the provinces and individuals in those provinces control over their natural resources.

The federal government needs to step back and fashion a new approach that is cooperative and respectful not only of the spirit of the Constitution and the division of powers, but the private property that is owned in these provinces.

In respect of Bill C-15B, the government expects Canadians to simply trust it that they will not be unjustly prosecuted. As the justice critic for the official opposition, I have said for months that in its current form the bill poses serious concerns for not only farmers, but others who depend on the legitimate use of animals for their livelihood, including scientific researchers.

I do not think that anyone including government members wants to see farmers, sporting groups and scientific researchers unjustly prosecuted for carrying out traditionally accepted practices involving animals. However animal rights groups in Canada have already stated their intention to use this legislation as the basis for such prosecutions and the bill as it stands does not preclude the possibility of such prosecutions.

We have repeatedly asked the Minister of Justice to provide certainty to Canadians who depend on the use of animals that their livelihood will not be threatened. Unfortunately, the Liberal cabinet has consistently refused to make the necessary protections explicit in the law. The former justice minister and now the present justice minister have said the defences that are required are implicit in the law, that they are not intended to allow for these prosecutions against scientific researchers, farmers, hunters, and others in the animal food production industry. The position of the minister is that they are not intended, that they are implicit.

Speaking as a former lawyer and as a former prosecutor, defences are not implicit in the law in our Criminal Code where we have a statutory Criminal Code. Defences and their applicability to any particular provision are spelled out in the Criminal Code as they are presently spelled out in the Criminal Code. The movement of these new animal cruelty charges into a new section of the Criminal Code leaving the old defences behind leads to the inescapable legal and statutory conclusions that the intent is to alter the defences that are available in respect of those offences.

I say to members opposite and specifically to the former Minister of Justice and the present Minister of Justice that if they have already conceded that those defences are implicit in the law, why not make them explicit? What not provide that certainty? Why not make it explicit to scientific researchers, people in the medical field, hunters, sports people and farmers?

The chair of the rural Liberal caucus, the member for Dufferin--Peel--Wellington--Grey, has also echoed these same concerns about Bill C-15B in the House of Commons. He asked the Liberal rural members to vote for the bill on the assurance that the Minister of Justice gave him that the bill would be amended once it went to the Senate.

When the bill went to the Senate, the Senate indicated it had no intentions of amending it. The minister then said there was no obligation and he had no intention to make any amendments. Now is the opportunity for Liberal rural members, specifically the member for Dufferin--Peel--Wellington--Grey, to make good on their word that they will protect farmers and people in rural Canada.

Committee Business and Reinstatement of Government Bills
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Hillsborough, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to government Motion No. 2, a motion that would allow for the continued business of Parliament in this new session.

It is my view that the motion is important as it allows for the reinstatement of government bills and the continuation of committee business. I believe there are nine bills that are being reinstated and a number of committees in the House which have important business before them to be reinstated. Simply put, the reason comes down to common sense.

When the House was prorogued a lot of work had been done by certain committees prior to the date of prorogation. All the motion does is reinstate all the work done by the committees prior to that date. I realize that committees have the option of reinstating their own work but it is much simpler to do it in Parliament in the House of Commons.

However, if we accepted the argument being advanced by the official opposition, then the committees would have to go back and start from square one and go through all the hearings, the witnesses, the reports and the tabling of documents that have gone on for the past month and sometimes years.

I have asked to speak to the motion because it has a special interest to me. I am on the public accounts committee and the finance committee and both those committees have embarked upon relatively significant issues. They have spent a lot of time, energy, effort and resources going through the issues and I, at this point in time, do not want to throw out the baby with the bath water. I want to get on with the work of Parliament.

The motion states:

That, in order to provide for the resumption and continuation of the business of the House begun in the previous session of Parliament it is ordered:

  1. That any evidence adduced by any Standing or Special Committee on any matter not reported upon in the previous session shall be deemed to have been laid upon the table in the present session;

I will speak directly now to the two committees with which I am involved because those are the two issues for which I have intimate knowledge. The first one is the public accounts committee.

As I believe everyone who reads newspapers in Canada is aware, in the last three to five months we have had an extensive investigation of the Groupaction affair. We have had at least six to eight witnesses. We have had very heated discussions among all members as to the procedures to be followed, the witnesses to be called and the witnesses' right to counsel. It was extensively published in all media outlets. We had a couple of hearings in camera. We had two hearings in the summer, one in July and one in August. The work of the committee was almost done. The only thing we had left to do was to finalize the report. If it had not been for the summer recess this work would have been done, the report would have been filed in the House and we would be looking for a government response.

However, because of the summer recess, the report, which I understand is in draft form, has not been done and has not been filed in the House. If the motion does not get passed by Parliament then we will have to go back and do the whole thing again: call the same witnesses, have the same arguments, et cetera. Of course we would take another six months of time.

I believe every person in Canada watching this show tonight would agree with me that it is incumbent upon that committee and Parliament to get that committee's report filed in the House as soon as possible so that a response can be made by the government of the day.

The second committee is the finance committee. As everyone is aware, the government back in I believe 1994 or 1995 started a new procedure to get the views of all Canadians before the budget was tabled in the House of Commons. Prior to that, the budget document was cloaked in secrecy. Only a few people knew what was going on and only a few people had dialogue on the budget. This has become a very significant process involving democracy.

The finance committee starts to hold hearings in the fall and it holds hearings very extensively. It travels to the west coast and the east coast. I am not exactly sure of the number of different groups and organizations that appear before the committee but it is at least 300 or 400 different groups and individuals. These groups put an awful lot of time, energy and resources into presenting their submissions. Many of the groups are very well organized. They have their own economists and they come forward with excellent papers dealing with their views and positions as to what should be in or not in the upcoming budget.

That process started in April of this year. We had a large number of hearings with a large number of groups. We received their submissions. Under normal circumstances that process would continue on and we would file a report by November or December of this year. That report would be considered by the government when preparing the budget, which would be tabled by the Minister of Finance in the House.

If we look back at the number of reports of the finance committee and the pre-budget consultations, the results are not always immediate. However if we were to go back and read the recommendations made by the committee we would find that a significant number of the recommendations that were made did find their way into the budget that was eventually tabled by the Minister of Finance. In other words, the government is listening to the people of Canada.

The process has been started and a tremendous amount of time has been spent, not only by the committee members but, more important, by the groups, organizations and individuals who made submissions to the committee. I do not know the exact number but the submissions have been substantial.

If the motion does not pass the House the proponents to defeating the bill have suggested that we go back, start again, ask those groups to present new submissions and come back before the committee. It would just delay the matter that much further. With all due respect, that lacks common sense.

Another issue I would like to speak to is the costs, the costs of travel, of bringing in witnesses and of having hearings. It would all have to be repeated and duplicated but for what purpose?

If we listen to the official opposition it is because it does not like one particular bill, the species at risk bill. That was debated in Parliament long before I arrived here. An act has gone to the Senate. This particular bill pits the agriculture community against the animal rights community. It was a compromise. It is not perfect. I am sure there are people out there watching this show who are not totally happy with all the provisions of the bill. However a lot of work and effort has been put into the bill. It has gone before the committee. Hearings have been held and evidence has been adduced. It has taken up a lot of time, effort and energy of a lot of people in the House to come forward with this bill.

I want to bring to the attention of the House the reinstatement of the special committee on the non-medical use of drugs. I believe most members are aware of the extensive amount of work that committee has done hearing evidence and researching the whole issue. I believe it was near the completion of its mandate and was almost ready to file its report. The Senate has already filed its report and I believe the Canadian people want that report to be filed by the House of Commons as soon as possible.

I did some research on this issue. This matter has come before the House many times before, in 1970, 1972, 1974 and 1986. It seems to be a common procedure that when the House prorogues to reinstate bills that died on the order paper and committee work that was in existence. I believe that in 2000 the same procedure was followed.

I want to point out that the very same procedure is followed for private members' bills with the consent of all parties in the House. Private members' bills that died when the House was prorogued are automatically reinstated pursuant to a bill that was adopted in the House. I see the same argument being advanced in this motion also.

Another committee is the subcommittee on the status of persons with disabilities of the human resources development committee. This is a very timely matter. It is an important issue and it is one that the Canadian public deserves to hear from Parliament on.

I want to highlight how ridiculous this is. Let us look at the heritage committee. As I believe most people are aware, the heritage committee was in the middle of a very extensive study on the Canadian broadcasting system. The committee has travelled, heard witnesses, done research and put a lot of time into this initiative. Therefore the motion would also support this committee in the completion of this very important study.

In conclusion, those are just some of the examples of what we are dealing with in the House. I will come back to my point on the public accounts committee and the finance committee that would benefit from this motion. It would benefit the committees, it would benefit the House and would benefit the Canadian public

Therefore I urge all members to support the adoption of the motion.