House of Commons Hansard #113 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was amendment.

Topics

Question No. 226
Routine Proceedings

June 6th, 2003 / 12:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Scott Reid Lanark—Carleton, ON

With respect to the employment insurance EI, programme expressed as averages: ( a ) what is the waiting time to receive EI benefits after an application has been filed in each EI region; and ( b ) what has been the waiting time in each EI region from January 2000 to the most recent quarter?

Question No. 226
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Brant
Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart Minister of Human Resources Development

The employment insurance’s, EI, goal is to maintain service levels to 28 days for claims for benefits. This means that the department has an established national performance target of advising claimants of entitlement to benefits and is issuing payments within 28 days of the commencement date of a claim, which is achieved in 75% of the cases.

Statistics and performances are not available by economic region. Therefore they are tracked and reported nationally and regionally for Canada and by province.

Nationally, for the period January to March 2003, EI benefits were issued on average within 16 days of receipt of the claim for benefits.

Please find attached a chart which highlights actual performance results by province on a quarterly basis.

Average number of days from receipt to payment

Question No. 226
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul MacKlin Northumberland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Question No. 226
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Question No. 226
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion in relation to the amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-10B, an act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals).

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals)
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

When we interrupted for statements by members and question period, the hon. member for South Shore still had some time remaining.

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals)
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to finish my time in debate on Bill C-10B, the cruelty to animals legislation.

As hon. members know, the cruelty to animal legislation was sent from this House to the Senate. The Senate, in its wisdom, amended, improved and changed the legislation and sent it back to the House of Commons in a better and more correct form in my opinion.

In my previous comments on Bill C-10B, I explained a number of points to which the Progressive Conservative Party took great exception in the legislation and therefore found many reasons to put in amendments to try to improve the bill.

There is a need to improve the legislation. As I said earlier in debate, the legislation is over 100 years old. It is obviously time for the bill to be modernized to reflect the current views and opinions of people, and to reflect the current public attitude about animals.

Without question, we agree with parts of the bill. I do not have any difficulty outlining those parts.

For instance, we have absolutely no problem with that part of the bill that states that no one should wilfully poison an animal or leave bait out where an animal can get hold of it. It is against the law to in any manner encourage, promote, arrange, assist or receive money for the fighting or baiting of animals, including training an animal to fight another animal. That is the bear pits and the bull pits of medieval society, and we have come a long way since those days. It needs to be an illegal activity to build, maintain, keep or allow to be built, made, maintained or kept, a cock pit or any other arena for the fighting of animals on premises. We can see in the language that there is very clear legislation that prevents cock fighting, dog fighting, baiting of animals or the type of activity with which most members of society would not want to be associated in any way shape or form .

The other thing of course is that anyone who raises animals to be released and immediately shot is also doing so against the law. I think that has been changed slightly to allow people who raise pheasants on pheasant ranges to release the birds in the wild and then they can be hunted. I do not think the legislation is trying to persecute those individuals.

Proposed section 182.6 defines law enforcement animal, meaning a dog, a horse or any other animal used by a police officer or public officer in the execution of duty. Everyone commits an offence who wilfully or recklessly poisons, injures or kills a law enforcement animal while it is aiding or assisting a police officer or public officer engaged in the execution of their duties or a person acting in aid of such an officer.

That type of legislation and that type of amendment to the old act is important, and they are amendments that we would support in the Progressive Conservative Party. The basis of clause 2 to amend section 182.3 states:

(1) Every one commits an offence who

(a) negligently causes unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal;

(b) being the owner, or the person having the custody or control of an animal, wilfully or recklessly...

This is the key sentence “wilfully or recklessly”. It goes on to state:

--abandons it or negligently fails to provide suitable and adequate, food, water, air, shelter and care for it; or

(c) negligently injures an animal while it is being conveyed.

It goes on to define negligent as meaning departing markedly from the standard care that a person would use. I have absolutely no difficulty with that part of the legislation and I and the PC Party support it 100%.

Again I do take exception to clause 2 of Bill C-10B that amends subsections 182.2 (a) and (b) where it states, “causes or, being the owner, permits to be caused unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal”.

The difficulty is in the definition. We are not sure what that definition is. I have a great deal of difficulty in allowing people to subjectively decide from their background what that definition is, and in this case that subjective decision would be made by a judge.

When one looks at “kills an animal or, being the owner, permits an animal to be killed, brutally or viciously, regardless of whether the animal dies immediately” as being a punishable offence, at first glance one would say that it should be an offence. However when one understands there is no real definition to “brutally” or “viciously”, it becomes much more difficult. What is a brutal and vicious act in the mind of one person may not be the same in the mind of another.

I know what it means to me, and I do not think I want to discuss that in public debate, but I do not know what it means to the government. Therefore, people who work in slaughterhouses, people whose livelihoods depend on processing animals, farmers, fishermen and hunters, have yet to see “brutally” and “viciously” described and thoroughly explained. I am concerned and worried about that.

There needs to be a clearer definition in the legislation. We all know what unnecessary pain is and we would agree with that. The rest of it is more subjective and very troublesome to this otherwise good piece of legislation.

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals)
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Madam Speaker, my intervention will be very brief but I do want to stand in the House to indicate my strong support for Bill C-10B in its original form, in the form in which it was adopted by the House and sent to the Senate, I believe, in October of last year.

We as New Democrats, certainly I, as the member of Parliament for Burnaby--Douglas, strongly supported the provisions of Bill C-10B, which was Bill C-10, that strengthened the protection of animals. I would note that the current provisions of the Criminal Code date back almost 100 years. The original code in fact dates back to over 100 years. The original code was enacted in 1892. The animal sections of the Criminal Code were written basically to protect working animals, such as cattle and horses. These sections have only had very minor changes over the course of the past 100 years.

Therefore the changes that were passed by the House last fall were long overdue. Some would say that the bill, even as it was finally adopted by the House, was already somewhat watered down in terms of the importance of protecting animals in Canada.

I want to say very clearly that what I believe the Senate has done to the bill, both in terms of splitting the bill and now sending it back to the House watered down, is totally unacceptable. We strongly reject the amendments that have been proposed by the Senate in a number of areas.

It seems to me that what the Senate has basically done is it has caved in to industry as opposed to standing up to protect animals in this country.

There have been a lot of misconceptions about what Bill C-10B actually does. For example, I would point out that Bill C-10B does not actually widen the scope of what is a criminal offence in terms of the definition of animal itself. Currently, under the existing provisions of the Criminal Code, there is no definition of an animal. Bill C-10B actually narrows it by incorporating a definition.

Theoretically today, and I emphasize theoretically, a person could attempt to bring a criminal charge against somebody for harming a fish, a worm or, as my friend from Nova Scotia suggested, for boiling a lobster. However the reality is that a crown prosecutor would never allow such a charge to proceed.

As well, it is very important that we finally move animals and the protection of animals out of the property section of the Criminal Code. This is very important. To some extent it does elevate the status of animals. I think that is long overdue. It has been clearly documented that there is a link between violence to animals and violence toward humans. It is highly appropriate to protect animals because they can suffer whether someone owns them or not. Therefore taking the animal protection provisions out of the property sections of the Criminal Code is a provision that we welcome.

However, like the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, the International Fund for Animal Welfare and many others, we reject strongly the attempt by the Senate to weaken the bill as it was passed by this House.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare has pointed out that every day in Canada an estimated 110 animals are abused or killed, and there are too many examples of terrible cruelty to animals that we must vigorously prosecute and condemn.

As I said, the existing provisions of the Criminal Code with respect to the protection of the rights of animals are hopelessly outdated. We believe that the Senate has abrogated its responsibility to Canadians, to listen to Canadians, the vast majority of Canadians, who want to strengthen the protection of animals in Canada. Instead, what it has done is it has watered down that protection. We say that is totally unacceptable.

I once again want to reiterate our strong support for effective and tough animal protection legislation. We want to see the legislation adopted in the form that it left the House in the first place. We think the Senate itself, as we have said for some time, should not exist as an unelected and unaccountable body. What better example of the abuse of that Senate power than the way in which it has dealt with Bill C-10B.

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals)
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Tom Wappel Scarborough Southwest, ON

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to speak today to this issue. I want to explain first why it is that I am speaking to this issue.

For over five and a half years I was a full member of the justice committee and took a very active role in the issues of the justice committee. Having done that, I have always kept my eye out on the agenda of the justice committee so I could see what was going on in the justice committee, attend when I thought it was important, review the transcripts when I thought it was important and talk to my colleagues when I thought it was important.

When this particular bill in its original form came before the committee I was asked by the then chairman of the Liberal Party's rural caucus to attend the hearings, particularly because I am a lawyer and because I think that the then chair felt that I would take a look at this legislation in an objective manner.

I agreed to do that at the request of the then chairman and I did sit in on the committee hearings insofar as they pertained to Bill C-10. At that time it had two parts, namely the part respecting firearms and the part respecting the protection of animals. My remarks of course will be completely restricted to the part respecting the protection of animals.

As a member of the committee I was able to listen to evidence and to ask questions with respect to the evidence that we heard. We heard a lot of compelling evidence from a lot of people on different sides of the issue.

What was common to all people was that everyone wanted to make sure that animals were protected from unnecessary and cruel pain. I doubt very much if anyone in Canada would argue that it is perfectly acceptable to inflict purposeful pain on an animal.

However numerous legal issues had to be dealt with in respect of the provisions of Bill C-10 which dealt with the protection of animals. I want to mention a couple of the things that occurred while I was sitting on that committee and while I was reporting to the then chair of the Liberal Party rural caucus.

After listening to all the evidence we were talking about various amendments that might be able to go through. In late 2001, I wrote to the then parliamentary secretary to the minister of justice setting forth some friendly suggestions that I had to amend the bill to make it better, make it stronger, make it able to more easily protect animals while at the same time not being assailed by people because they thought it was somehow affecting their day to day livelihoods.

I just want to discuss a couple of the amendments that I suggested at that time. I will turn my attention to the very beginning of the bill. The bill in its form as passed by the House of Commons defined animal. It defined animal to mean “a vertebrate other than a human being and any other animal that has the capacity to feel pain”.

We heard compelling testimony from organizations such as the Poultry Welfare Coalition, the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, among others. A couple of those briefs made some recommendations to leave out that portion which said “any other animal that has the capacity to feel pain”, for a variety of reasons, including that there was no scientific unanimity on what animals have the capacity to feel pain, and that it would not be fair to litigate this ad nauseam in the courts with the attendant legal costs of calling scientific experts.

I recommended to the parliamentary secretary at that time that that particular definition be amended in the following way: “In this part, animal means a vertebrate other than a human being, whether privately owned or otherwise, which is hereby deemed to need protection from cruelty because it feels pain”.

The reason I did that was because those who were advocating changes wanted to link the concept of the protection of animals to the fact that they feel pain. I had no problem with that.

The point of my amendment was to say that vertebrates feel pain and obviously my amendment did not include animals that have the capacity to feel pain or may have the capacity to feel pain but are not vertebrates.

Interestingly enough, the bureaucracy at that time rejected that amendment outright. Lo and behold, the Senate held its hearings. What did it recommend as an amendment to the definition? It recommended that animal be defined as a vertebrate other than a human being. In effect, that is exactly what I recommended to the parliamentary secretary to the minister of justice and exactly what was rejected by the minister of justice at the end of 2001.

The Senate decided that the definition of animal should be limited to a vertebrate other than a human being. I applaud it for that for the reasons that I suggested that the amendment should proceed.

I see that the Minister of Justice now has moved a motion which reads:

That a message be sent to the Senate to acquaint their Honours that this House agrees with amendments numbered 1 and 5 made by the Senate to Bill C-10B, an act to amend the Criminal Code....

In fact, the Minister of Justice has now accepted an amendment which is exactly what I proposed at the end of 2001 and which was rejected. It just shows how ridiculously this place works. It is a shame that in many instances the bureaucracy cannot conceive of the fact that anybody but the bureaucracy can come up with an idea or with a suggested amendment that actually might make the bill better.

I am pleased to see that the Senate made the definition of animal to be that of a vertebrate other than a human being. I am glad to see that the Minister of Justice has finally seen the light and has agreed to that amendment years after I suggested it.

I have a second thing I want to talk about. I note that they are agreeing to some suggested amendments in the French version, and I have no comments on that. I do, however, want to comment on an amendment the Senate suggested to add to section 182.5.

The bill as passed had in it a protection, shall we say, of common law defences and the section as it passed reads as follows:

For greater certainty, subsection 8(3)applies in respect of proceedings for anoffence under this Part.

The document I am looking at is a document that says “Bill C-10B as passed by the House of Commons, October 9, 2002”.

Section 182.5 referred to subsection 8(3) of the Criminal Code. If we go to subsection 8(3) of the Criminal Code we see that it states the following:

Every rule and principle of the common law that renders any circumstance a justification or excuse for an act or a defence to a charge continues in force and applies in respect of proceedings for an offence under this Act or any other Act--

In other words, it is carrying on common law justifications or excuses. The debate at the time had to do with whether that was specific enough to allow the legal justification for the act, or that there was colour of right to do the act. Certain recommendations were made but they were rejected by the government to, shall we say, specifically state what the situation was.

I recommended to the parliamentary secretary that section 182.3 be amended in line 12, at that time, by adding “negligently or with legal justification, excuse or colour of right”. Why? To specifically remind people that legal justification or excuse or colour of right defences were allowed. The government said no.

Now the Senate has recommended that section 182.5 be amended to read as follows:

No person shall be convicted of an offence under this Part where he proves that he acted with legal justification or excuse or with colour of right.

Those were virtually my words at the end of November 2001. Obviously, since I agreed with them at that time, I agree with them now. The Senate was right in making this suggested amendment.

What does the government say with respect to this suggested amendment? It is interesting because the government agrees with the principle set out in amendment numbered 4, “namely, the desire to reassure Canadians that no defences are lost, but, because the wording of the amendment would codify a reverse onus by requiring an accused person to prove his or her innocence on a balance of probabilities”. The government thinks the latter is a bad idea and it proposes an amendment to replace section 182.5 with the following:

For greater certainty, the defences set out in subsection 429(2) apply, to the extent that they are relevant, in respect of proceedings for an offence under this Part.

I know I am talking legal jargon, but what does this mean? The Senate wanted to ensure that the defences of legal justification or excuse or with colour of right remain. Yes, the amendment does say “where he proves that he acted with legal justification or excuse and with colour of right”, and yes, that does put an onus on the defendant. The government, in its response, says that it agrees with the sentiment but not with the exact amendment of the Senate because it puts a reverse onus on the defendant.

If we look at the amendment proposed by the government, which no longer refers to subsection 8(3) of the Criminal Code but rather refers to subsection 429(2) of the Criminal Code, subsection 429(2) of the Criminal Code says:

No person shall be convicted of an offence under sections 430 to 446 where he proves that he acted with legal justification or excuse and with colour of right.

The government is proposing an amendment to put in the defences in subsection 429(2) because the Senate amendment reverses the onus and requires the defendant to prove this, yet the very section that the government is quoting to prevent this reverse onus calls for a reverse onus and requires that the defendant prove that he acted with legal justification or excuse and with colour of right.

I suggest that indeed the so-called problem that the Minister of Justice observed, which was the reverse onus problem, has not been solved by the government's proposed amendment because it has merely quoted subsection 429(2) of the Criminal Code which calls for a reverse onus on the defendant. While one possibly might agree with the government's rationale for not agreeing with the Senate amendment, the government's proposed resolution does not resolve it. In fact, it maintains the reverse onus on the defendant. I do not know what was going on when these responses were being prepared to the Senate's message, but I think somebody goofed.

I know that after fourteen and a half years I have become very cynical about this place and about how much ordinary members of Parliament are listened to, and in particular how much ordinary members of Parliament are listened to by the bureaucracy, which I dare say in my view is just about never.

I implore justice department officials to look at subsection 429(2), which clearly calls for a reverse onus on the defendant. How can they quote in their suggested amendment to protect against the reverse onus on a defendant a section which requires a reverse onus? It simply does not make logical sense. I am urging the government to look at that and thereby leave the amendment the way the Senate proposed the amendment. There is nothing wrong with the proposal that the Senate has put forward.

The final point I want to make about the Senate amendments concerns the third amendment. The Senate proposed in a particular section that a clause be added which reads as follows:

No person shall be convicted of an offence under paragraph (1)(a) if the pain, suffering, injury or death is caused in the course of traditional hunting, trapping or fishing practices carried out by a person who is one of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada in any area in which Aboriginal peoples have harvesting rights under or by virtue of existing aboriginal or treaty rights within the meaning of section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and any pain, suffering or injury caused is no more than is reasonably necessary in the carrying out of those traditional practices

The clear intent of that amendment is to protect the traditions of our aboriginal peoples. I want to give two potential examples. Suppose aboriginal people go out to hunt caribou and choose for reasons best known to them to use a spear or bow and arrow as opposed to a high powered hunting rifle. Suppose that the arrow hits its mark but does not kill the caribou immediately. That caribou may, obviously in pain, travel across the tundra for some period of time with the hunter following it until it drops and dies. That example has been the way of life of the aboriginal people since time immemorial. They are afraid that the bill might cause someone to be charged for inflicting unnecessary pain and suffering on such an animal.

Let us take another example. A trapline is set for a beaver and it gets caught in the trap. It can either chew its foot off, which would be terribly painful, or starve to death or die of thirst in the trap because the hunter only visits the trapline once every week. Would that be chargeable? That is also something that has been done for millennia in different ways and I can see why the aboriginal peoples would be concerned that some overzealous person might lay a charge under these particular amendments.

This is clearly why this amendment is there. I do not care for different laws for different folks. All Canadians should be bound by the same laws, but if there were traditional rights or aboriginal rights that precede Canada, they would have to be honoured. I do not have a problem with that. What does the government say in response to this? The government says that it:

Disagrees with amendment numbered 3 because it is unclear and creates confusion about whether the intent is to create a different test for liability of aboriginal persons and because there is no clarity as to what “traditional practices” are and how law enforcement can be expected to act accordingly;

This is a ridiculous comment because the government says there is no definition of traditional practices, but we have countless examples in the House of the government amending the Criminal Code without defining certain words. I will not even bother getting into it because the history is well known, but it does not seem to trouble the government when it feels like it to put in amendments to the Criminal Code without defining certain words. Of course it would be up to the circumstances of each particular case to determine whether a particular aboriginal group had a pre-existing or section 35 or treaty right to do what it did if it were charged with cruelty to animals.

That must decided on a case by case basis. It clearly is dependent on the facts of the case. To say that we need a definition of certain words or to say that it is unclear in my view is simply disingenuous. I fully support the protection of animals from undue cruelty. I fully support Bill C-10 and the Senate amendments that I have mentioned do strengthen the bill and I support them.

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals)
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to follow the member for Scarborough Southwest because in listening to his remarks it was gratifying to learn that other members on this side had the same concerns about the definition of animal in this legislation and took action.

The member for Scarborough Southwest would be interested to hear what I said in this place on June 3, 2002, when this legislation was before the House at third reading stage. I rose and I said:

Throughout its long journey through the House of Commons I have struggled in the background with the definition of animal in the legislation and tried to change it, unsuccessfully, I regret to say. I am hoping that when the bill goes on to the Senate that the senators will take some of my concerns to heart--

And of course, what we have before us today is the senators did take my concerns to heart. They have changed the definition of animal. My concern was exactly the same as the concern expressed by the member for Scarborough Southwest. The definition of an animal in the original legislation was far too broad. It defined an animal as a vertebrate other than a human being and any other animal that has the capacity to feel pain.

Well, it does not take much imagination to know what would have happened if that definition actually made it into law. There would have been unlimited litigation as various animal rights organizations brought forward cases claiming cruelty to crustaceans, octopus, squids, amoebas, you name it, worms even could be included. That definition was so broad that virtually any sentient creature could have been included. It is still a puzzle to me as to why the justice department steadfastly defended a policy that was so obviously in the interests of the radical animal rights organizations and so obviously would have taken up so much time in litigation.

I was interested to hear the parliamentary secretary defend the original definition by saying that the original definition was drafted with a view to bringing some clarity to the law to enunciate that vertebrates were included. Well, that is obvious. There was never a question about that. He went on to say that the original definition “would have allowed the Crown to prosecute a case in respect of a non-vertebrate if it was prepared to meet the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the animal had the capacity to feel pain”. And here is where we get into this whole problem of where people look at words in their legalistic sense and do not look at what the words actually mean, and what they actually connote in the broad sense.

Any sentient creature has the ability to feel pain. If we take an non-vertebrate animal from the sea and cut it, it will react. It will shrink back. I am reminded of the fact that the Discovery magazine very recently had quite an article on a scientist in the United States who had made a career of studying squid. The way he would get the squid is it was basically by hook and he would pull them out of the water. He noted rather elaborately in his article that the squid very obviously showed all kinds of indications that they were experiencing pain. They flushed red, they did this, that and the other thing.

Now the issue that the justice department officials, who formulated this policy that has this capacity to feel pain definition in it, is they ignored the question of whether an animal suffers or not. When we talk about cruelty to animals, what we are really talking about is causing another creature to suffer.

I submit to you, Madam Speaker, as I did numerous times in the various speeches that I have done on this topic before, is that if an animal basically does not have a brain, if it basically does not have a sense of--

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals)
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

An hon. member

That do not have a brain.

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals)
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

I see one of the members of the Canadian Alliance immediately interjected, but I can assure you, Madam Speaker, that I was not thinking about them in any context. But returning, because it is an important point.

If a creature does not have a brain and it does not have a sense of presence, it does not have the ability to suffer.

The justice department officials, in their arguments in defence of the broad definition, suggested that science was still examining whether creatures had the capacity to feel pain. It is a complete misreading of the science on the issue. The science on the issue is really about what creatures have the capacity to suffer, because every creature has the capacity to feel pain if it reacts to hot and cold, to things that cause it discomfort, to things that injure it.

It was, as the member for Scarborough Southwest said, a very, very difficult journey for those of us who objected to that definition and could see the very negative consequences that must flow from it.

I even went to the extent to do access to information requests on where this definition came from, where was the policy developed in the Department of Justice. You would be interested to know, Madam Speaker, that in getting answers to those questions, what I discovered was that the majority of organizations and other people who were consulted on this animal cruelty legislation and on what definition would be appropriate said that it should be applied only to animals that could be defined as vertebrates, other than human beings.

It was only the radical animal rights organizations that suggested the definition should be extended to all creatures that have the capacity to feel pain, including the International Fund for Animal Welfare, for example, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and the Animal Alliance. These are organizations that are at the extreme end of the debate on what constitutes cruelty to animals.

I was disappointed to see that the justice department officials, the policy makers, chose to take this very, very broad definition instead of the definition of the more respected organizations. I could never explain it. I still do not understand why this happened.

One of the difficulties in the legislation now is the Access to Information Act does not permit members of Parliament and people in the public, ordinary Canadians, to ask the Department of Justice officials to explain the rationale because they claim solicitor-client privilege in their advice to ministers. I would very dearly love to have seen what it was, what the actual advice was to the minister on the definition of animal. We will not see that.

The important thing to bear in mind is, however, that in the end, I think the correction has been made. It has been done by the Senate instead of by the government in the process of the bill through the House of Commons.

I think it gives great credit to the Senate. It does show that the other place has an important role to play in our parliamentary life. Because it is true that sometimes no matter how hard we work on this side of the House, both on the government benches and the opposition benches, when we try to raise red flags about aspects of legislation that may have vast, unintended consequences, often, I regret to say, we are not heard here. This is a fine instance of where the Senate has intervened and has done, in my view, the right thing.

I would add one final point, that this is the second time this week that I have spoken in praise of the Senate because it has amended legislation that it has received from the House.

Ironically, the legislation that the Senate amended that we debated was an amendment to the Lobbyists Registration Act, Bill C-15. Again the Senate did an improvement that was not originally on the government agenda.

I refer you to the point, Madam Speaker, that I had mentioned earlier in my speeches, that there is evidence, or there is the suggestion at least that policy on the definition of animal may have been unduly influenced, in my view, by the tremendous lobbying that was done by very powerful animal rights organizations using professional lobbyists.

Unfortunately, in my research using the Access to Information Act and the Lobbyists Registration Act, I was never able to make the connection between the organizations that were lobbying for this huge, broad definition of animal and who they were lobbying. It will remain unknown, I think now forever and it is gone now, who it was in the bureaucracy that paid such heed to those who sought the broadest possible definition of animal and turned a deaf ear to those very, very fine organizations, very credible organizations, that suggested the definition of animal should be simply a vertebrate other than a human being, which is the definition that the Senate has given us and that the government has now, at this late date, finally accepted.

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals)
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate.

The bill has followed a rather long and circuitous route to this point. Clearly there is a need, given the duration since legislation of this sort has been before the House of Commons. It is somewhere in the range of 100 years since we have updated this particular section of the Criminal Code that deals specifically with the issue of cruelty to animals. This is something concerns all Canadians and something that invokes a very emotional response from most.

It is my view and the view of the Progressive Conservative Party that this is the type of legislation because of its broad ramifications that we have to be extremely careful with.

The Senate has played an important role in what I would describe as refining and improving this bill. The bill deals in great detail with the need to protect animals, balanced of course with the livelihood of Canadians whose virtual well-being and existence are derived from their interaction with animals. I am speaking of course of the traditional farmers, hunters and trappers just to name a few.

The need to hold those accountable and punish individuals who would intentionally injure or kill animals is without a doubt a priority. Further to that point there is clear evidence now coming from various sources and psychological studies that link individuals, youth, who show aggression and have abusive tendencies toward animals with a tendency to do the same to fellow humans. That underscores again the importance of the Government of Canada reacting to this and bringing forward legislation which sends the proper message of accountability, denunciation and deterrence for individuals who would be prone to abuse animals.

The cases of cruelty toward animals that have come forward and the cases that I myself have been involved in prosecuting are totally disturbing and would shock the sensibilities of most Canadians.

I am supportive of many aspects of this legislation. I believe that the consultation on this bill was extensive. We heard from all sectors of those affected and groups that have taken on the specific task of protecting animals. Their input was comprehensive and very helpful in drafting the bill.

The decision to remove the current Criminal Code provisions which deal with animal cruelty from the property section of the Criminal Code is one which has invoked a very strong, and I would suggest, negative response. The proprietary aspects of animal use have always been extremely important to animal cruelty laws, but also important to those individuals who derive their livelihood from working with animals.

Moving animal cruelty out of part 11 of the Criminal Code removes the protection that animal users had by virtue of section 429(2). This important section currently permits acts to be done with legal justification or excuse or with colour of right, therefore providing a built-in exemption for activities in particular that involve hunting, trapping and farming where there would be an unwitting or unjust finding that an individual has contravened the law in the pursuit of their livelihood. That built-in protection was removed when we took these animal cruelty sections out of the property sections and put them in a stand-alone scenario.

I do, however, share the concerns of many Canadians that the definition of animal cruelty involving any animal that has the capacity to feel pain was in need of amendment and of further clarification. Through such a definition I believe we have found the proper balance.

Concerns were expressed early on in our deliberations at the justice committee that there might be some stretch that would involve prosecutions for things such as baiting a hook or boiling a lobster. These types of activities are obviously a stretch to suggest that they would have resulted in prosecution. Nevertheless, when we are dealing with something as important as this, it is important to give clarity to those affected.

Therefore our party has been unequivocal in its support for improving and enhancing the Criminal Code provisions dealing with animals and cruelty to animals.

There were a number of changes made by the Senate which highlighted the usefulness of the Senate to examine something like this. In a calmer light certain provisions were enhanced and were changed. The aboriginal exemption was one which was highly contentious, one which is I believe welcome and has again struck the balance needed.

The former minister, when dealing with this issue of carelessness over the drafting of Bill C-17, the original bill, used words such as “wilful”, “cruelty” and “unnecessary pain” in the drafting of this bill, Bill C-15B. However I hearken back to the decision to take it out of property and put it into a stand alone section. That in my view was a mistake. It would have been much simpler to make these amendments and leave it in the property section. The argument against that was that it would inhibit the ability to prosecute those cases. I think that was a false argument and a false premise.

Enhancing this law is the purpose. I believe that has occurred. The protections that were built in by leaving it in the property section would in no way inhibit the accountability aspects. The elevated fines and the elevated potential jail time would still be there and would still be available to the crown to pursue through prosecution.

The aspects of the legislation which touch upon the need to prevent any sort of needless pain or suffering of course are also embraced and quickly supported by our party. There are many examples, as I referred to earlier, where cases that proceeded through the courts resulted in inadequate fines and inadequate results that did not send the proper message to society.

The laws to protect animals must be very clear and unequivocal in sending the message to individuals who are prone to this type of activity.

I took the step of introducing to the House of Commons a bill specifically aimed at identifying prosecution in the area of puppy mills. This is something that came to public attention in recent years where animals, not just dogs, were being raised for mass sale commercially and where animals were treated to the most abysmal conditions. This is still a problem and perhaps is in need of a specific reference in the Criminal Code to address anyone so inclined.

The traditional practices were under examination throughout this process of drafting the bill. Hunting, fishing, farming and many other legitimate activities do not fit the description of mean spirited, violence or intentional cruelty toward animals.

Therefore it is imperative that we throughout these discussions underline that animal cruelty legislation must be clearly targeted against individuals who engage in brutal activities against animals, not the legitimate type of activities that we are all aware occur.

When one considers the need for this type of progressive legislation, there were a number of discussions that already took place here with respect to the need to have a fulsome discussion that engaged Canadians and allowed them to come and reflect upon these potential changes. I believe this process has been one of the most comprehensive and one of the most useful in which I have personally partaken.

I support the provisions of the bill which provide the crown with the ability to prosecute an offence for individuals who wilfully or recklessly or without regard for the consequences do so. That type of language leaves no doubt as to the malice aforethought, as it is often referred to, of an act, that there was an intention to cause the harm.

The sections go on to list the type of activity that would fit that description. This is clearly an area where judges, prosecutors and defence, those involved in the prosecution of the case, will have an opportunity to put forward what I would suggest are common sense arguments based on the evidence.

Where it sometimes does become blurred is where individuals who are the owners of property and premises where animals are kept and the line can then become grey.

My colleague from South Shore referred to an animal that might accidentally have its head caught in a fence and therefore choke itself. There is a high threshold expected if every farmer is required to ensure in every instance that the fences will not cause this unintended result. I suggest that the common sense doctrine will have to be applied in any situation where that would occur.

I agree as well that everyone commits an offence when they fail to provide reasonable care to animals. Thus we are talking about the aspect of neglect, acts of omission, where premises are left in a dangerous condition or animals are left in such condition that their well-being is in question. This again is something that would be viewed objectively based on evidence that would be adduced.

I support the sections of the bill which allow courts to prohibit individuals convicted of cruelty from owning an animal in the future. That is a very important consequence. Where a person, who has been convicted under these sections, has demonstrated this recklessness and has met that threshold before a court of law, that should be the consequence. They should not be permitted to be in possession of animals, having caused that type of harm and distress to an animal.

Presently the sections I believe did not adequately reflect the seriousness of this type of offence. I hope this will raise the benchmark that judges have applied to individuals convicted under the current sections of the Criminal Code.

I have the greatest respect for those individuals in particular who have come forward and who have participated in this process to ensure that not only their personal interests, but the interests of all Canadians who work with animals are protected.

The legislation, coupled with the Senate amendments, is a great improvement upon the original bill. I do not intend to get into a long recitation on what happened with the legislation, but clearly we have seen the bill divided and subdivided on a number of occasions. The legislation was before Parliament in a previous session. It did not pass. It went back to committee. It has been back and forth between the House of Commons and committee, and the Senate as it now appears.

We have seen, although the process itself can sometimes be elongated, that it can work. Some of the necessary changes that did not occur in our House were dealt with very effectively in the other place. I commend our senators for having taken such an interest and picked up the cudgel on this to improve the legislation as we now see it.

Having said that, this bill is long overdue. It is one that has been extremely contentious. I am satisfied, having spoken to those who will be most directly affected and those who have taken such a passionate interest in the protection of animals, that we now have a bill with which I think people can live.

There is always room for improvement. I suggest any bill that is churned out of this place will be subject to examination by the courts. The process itself, as I referred to, is not always pretty. It is a bit like, and I hesitate to use this example, sausage-making. People do not want to see how it is made but it is the result that counts.

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals)
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I just listened to the closing comments of the member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough. I thought his analysis of the bill was right on.

However there is one part of this, and he related to it briefly in his closing remarks, that stands out above the rest. There is a lot of discussion, and I have engaged in it myself, about the Senate and the role of the Senate in this bicameral Parliament that we use in Canada. A lot of our colleagues are saying that perhaps we should just throw the Senate out and get rid of it altogether. I say this to the member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough. What would have happened to this legislation had that been the case, had there been no body of sober second thought?