House of Commons Hansard #173 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was legislation.

Topics

Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2001
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2001
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2001
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The question is on the amendment. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the amendment?

Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2001
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2001
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2001
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those in favour of the amendment will please say yea.

Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2001
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2001
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2001
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2001
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2001
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Accordingly the vote on the amendment is deferred until the end of government orders tomorrow, Tuesday, April 23.

The House resumed from April 11 consideration of the motion that Bill C-15B, an act to amend the criminal code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms Act, be read the third time and passed, and of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

April 22nd, 2002 / 1:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gary Lunn Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to take part in the debate on Bill C-15B. The bill deals with cruelty to animals and the firearms amendments.

We in the Canadian Alliance in no way condone intentional acts of cruelty toward animals. We support increased penalties. However concerns have been raised that Bill C-15B would make it possible for the courts to interpret some offences in a different light. Concerns have been raised by farmers, hunters and other agricultural producers who depend on animals for their livelihoods that moving the animal cruelty provisions from property offences to a separate section would elevate the status of animals in the eyes of the courts. It is arguable that this is not the intent of the legislation but these concerns have been raised.

I support the firearms section of Bill C-15B although I am opposed to the firearms registry. The section would remove long firearms such as BB guns and pellet guns which are required to be registered under our present firearms legislation. This exemplifies what an unmitigated disaster Bill C-68 has been. The government originally said the legislation would cost tens of millions of dollars. The firearms registry has cost Canadians some half a billion dollars. It has had no impact at all on reducing crime. It is a tax on law abiding citizens.

Bill C-15B is another example of the government completely missing the boat. The government is bringing forward amendments because it realizes how ridiculous it is that BB guns need to be registered. The whole firearms registry is fraught with problems. The government will have to come back and amend the legislation over and over again. Instead of trying to tinker with the bill after spending hundreds of millions of dollars, the best thing the government could have done was repeal the entire long gun registry. I understand why the government is bringing forward the amendments. I only wish it had repealed the entire legislation with respect to the gun registry.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Dick Harris Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, in speaking to Bill C-15B I will focus primarily on the issue of farmers in Canada and how they could be affected by the application of the bill in its present form.

The bill's implications for farmers are quite significant. As we all know, farmers constantly face challenges in trying to carve their living out of a land filled with both domestic and wild animals. Farmers are influenced daily by weather, commodity prices, transportation costs and mismanagement of federal agricultural policies. Most farmers would add certain animal rights groups to the adversaries they face on a daily basis.

Some groups target livestock producers whom they label as cruel, inhumane and even barbaric. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, PETA, has launched an anti-dairy campaign targeting schoolchildren. It tell children dairy farmers are evil because of the so-called cruelty they inflict on their cows. This animal rights wacko group essentially tells kids if they drink milk they are playing a part in the torture of dairy cattle. That is the most outlandish line of thinking I could possibly imagine, yet it is only one of the things PETA advocates.

Bill C-15B which we are debating would change the way the criminal code deals with animal abuse. We in our party agree with the vast majority of Canadians who say we need harsher penalties for those who deliberately abuse and are cruel toward animals. Unfortunately, because of the way Bill C-15B is currently worded many ranchers, farmers, hunters and medical researchers may be subject to harassment, prosecutions and convictions for abuse even though they are properly caring for their animals.

The wording of Bill C-15B would give groups like PETA free licence to bring court proceedings against farmers, hunters and medical researchers who are not treating animals in a cruel or abusive nature. However because members of PETA believe they are, the wording of the bill may encourage them to bring charges. They could do so not because there was substance to the charges but because this is the way such animal cruelty groups think about things. PETA is the same group that tells school kids if they drink milk they are contributing to the torture of dairy cows because dairy farmers are cruel to their cows. We can see the connection between absurdity and the possible harassment some people in our society may go through because of this group.

Animal welfare groups such as the International Fund for Animal Welfare and the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals claim they have no intention of using Bill C-15B to harass farmers and researchers. However because of the past actions of groups such as PETA and the Animal Alliance of Canada we have a hard time believing their partners in the animal rights movement would follow that position.

I will read a statement by Liz White, a lawyer for the Animal Alliance of Canada, who foretold what might come if Bill C-15B passes in its current form. She gave a veiled hint of the group's intentions by stating:

My worry is that people think this is the means to the end, but this is just the beginning. It doesn’t matter what the legislation says if no one uses it, if no one takes it to court, if nobody tests it. The onus is on humane societies and other groups on the front lines to push this legislation to the limit, to test the parameters of this law and have the courage and the conviction to lay charges.

The intent to use Bill C-15B as a tool to restrict the use of animals in research and agriculture seems clear. Animal rights groups would jump all over farmers, medical researchers, hunters and anyone else whom they felt pet an animal the wrong way.

The Canadian Alliance is demanding two major changes to Bill C-15B to prevent frivolous and downright stupid charges from being laid. First, the bill's definition of animal must be amended. The current definition reads “a vertebrate, other than a human being, and any other animal that has the capacity to feel pain”. The definition is too broad. It could easily interfere with the ability of farmers to eliminate pests and the ability of researchers to find cures for diseases. This could get pretty serious in light of what some animal rights groups are saying.

Second, the Canadian Alliance is calling for Bill C-15B to protect people who legitimately use animals from costly and frivolous prosecutions. The criminal code currently provides protection from harassing prosecutions. However because Bill C-15B would move animal cruelty out of the property offences of the criminal code the current protection would be effectively removed.

The justice minister has the ability to introduce legislation to strengthen and modernize the current cruelty to animal provisions of the criminal code without threatening people who legitimately use animals. However he has rejected that. It seems he has fallen for the line of the animal rights groups. He has refused to be explicit in Bill C-15B and ensure the courts would not be able to interpret it in a way parliament did not intend.

We are concerned. The Liberals are counting on Bill C-15 to reach much further than they publicly state. There may be a hidden agenda behind the bill. The government has refused to protect farmers who legitimately use animals for the production of dairy and other agricultural products and researchers who legitimately use animals in trying to find cures for diseases. The wording of Bill C-15B would leave such people wide open to harassment by animal rights groups.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is with some regret and trepidation that I rise to speak to Bill C-15B, the cruelty to animals legislation. I am sure all members agree that this legislation is seriously needed.

It has been 100 years since the legislation was updated. It is an issue of great importance to the country and an issue that needs to be dealt with by the Parliament of Canada. As I said, I rise with some regret and trepidation because as a member of parliament, a farmer and hunter, I cannot support the legislation. It needs to be improved and modernized.

What we have before us is the complete dereliction of duty by members of the Liberal government. This is a complete denial on their part of grappling with a difficult issue and coming out with an evenhanded and balanced approach to complex problems. This is not what has happened here.

I have no idea how rural members of the Liberal government, the agriculture critics, and the committee members will vote. Actually I have an idea how they will vote, but I do not know where they stand on this issue. I do not know why we have not heard more from the government side on this issue.

Bill C-15B is a bad piece of legislation. Anyone who has taken a moment's time to read it, who has a rudimentary understanding of rural issues, animal husbandry and cruelty toward animals legislation, and anyone who has the barest opinion on this subject cannot support the legislation. There is no way I can envision support for the legislation.

I received a letter from Doug Bacon, president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture. He writes:

The Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture and its members have been following the progress of the cruelty to animals section of Bill C-15B with close attention. Since a key component of the agricultural industry relies on animals, this proposed legislation has the potential to seriously impact our livelihoods.

We are supportive of many aspects of the legislation, including tougher penalties for animal abuse, and while the previous Minister of Justice was very compelling and her amendments helpful, we are not convinced...

This is from people the legislation is directed toward. The legislation is not directed toward some university student who throws a cat out a window albeit that would be a horrific offence. The legislation is not directed toward pet owners who neglect, abuse and torture pets every day in Canada. The legislation is directed toward people who are legitimate animal owners.

I do not know what category animals would be included once the bill is passed. However I do know in what category they would not be included. They would not be put in the property section of the legislation. What are they then? The government thinks they are kids. They are not kids and are not about to be kids. It is time for the government to wake up and smell the roses. It is time for the government to look at the legislation for what it is.

The letter continues:

Bill C-15B must be amended to ensure legitimate animal practices will not be frivolously targeted. We need your support to ensure:

  1. Animal cruelty provisions are put back in Part XI of the Criminal Code. Animals are property and such classification does not impede or prevent appropriate animal care practices;

  2. If animal cruelty provisions stay in Part V.1, it must be amended to read, Cruelty to Animals: Private and Public Property.

If pet owners want to think that their animals are somehow public property or somehow different than agricultural or domestic animals, so be it. A provision should be put into the bill to accommodate those people. I happen to disagree with that, but animals should not be put under the provision of being property for farmers because that is a huge mistake which will do nothing but generate millions of dollars worth of lawsuits that are just waiting to happen.

The last amendment reads:

  1. The definition of animal be amended as per the testimony of the Criminal Lawyers Association before the Standing Committee.

Mr. Bacon goes on to say:

These changes will not weaken the law but will serve to clearly establish in law the intention to protect the rights of animal users--an intention that has already been communicated by the minister. We are not asking for special treatment under the law, we are only asking for a law that will respect standard animal practices.

The bill was originally introduced in the House of Commons on December 1, 1999, as Bill C-17 and died on the order paper with the call of the election in October 2000. It is currently before parliament as Bill C-15B. It was studied by the justice committee and received testimony from numerous legal experts and representatives from both animal rights groups and organizations representing hunters, anglers, trappers, farmers and other stakeholders.

When re-introducing the bill, the Minister of Justice heeded the concerns of the opposition parties and stakeholders and made amendments from the previous Bill C-17 to provide clarification to the cruelty to animal provisions, encompassing those who willfully, recklessly or without regard to the consequence of their acts, cause unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal. Despite these improvements further amendments were needed before the Progressive Conservative Party could support these provisions dealing with crimes against animals.

It is not because this is not an important issue. It is not because this issue needs to be dealt with. It is because this is a bad piece of legislation. Certainly it is not the job of parliamentarians to leave the decision on what constitutes cruelty up to the courts. If we were to leave every decision that needs to be made in this country up to the courts, we would live to rue that day. We would regret it, it is quite simple. We cannot, as representatives of Canadians and protectors of animal rights, take farm animals out from under the property act. That would be a huge mistake.

It is a mistake that this parliament and other parliaments and Canadians would pay for. It would be impossible to guarantee the safekeeping of every animal owned, and I say owned because they are property, by every farmer in Canada. Without question, the bill needs to come before parliament but it desperately needs to be amended. It needs to be improved upon. We need to put it back in the realm of a bill that when we leave the House after it is passed, because the government will pass it, we can say it is a good piece of legislation and we did the right thing.

I expect there will be many Liberal members of parliament who, if they vote for the bill, will hang their heads in shame after they have done it.