House of Commons Hansard #149 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was animal.

Topics

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, studies have shown that individuals who are abusive toward other human beings as violent criminals often begin by abusing and torturing animals. How does the legislation address this issue and have an impact on the safety of our communities?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Michael John Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, it does have an impact on people who graduate from cruelty to animals to being cruel and inhuman to other human beings. Again, we are talking about vicious and brutal acts. As kids, many of us witnessed activity among our friends where animals were hurt in some way. I never saw some of the really brutal examples of animal violence that we hear about in the news, but I certainly have seen friends do things that they should not have done.

Society has evolved. I would expect and I know that my children are more respectful of animals than children were in my generation. We have come some way and the bill recognizes that. The fact is that this will obviously catch some people earlier because what they are doing will be criminal at an earlier stage due to the bill. This means that we may well have less violent offenders and get a chance to catch people and rehabilitate them before they go on to injure human beings. That is a bit of a side benefit of Bill C-50.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

November 14th, 2005 / 4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I as well am very pleased to participate in the debate of Bill C-50. Over the summer I received many complaints about Bill C-50. I am glad I have a chance to share these concerns with my fellow MPs before the bill goes to committee for further work.

The government has been at this since December 1999. We have had this bill around in one form or another for the last six years. We have seen Bills C-17, C-15, C-15B, C-10, C-10B and C-22. Now it is called Bill C-50 and the Liberals still do not have it right.

I am going to be giving members some legal opinions rather than just discussing some of my own opinions. I am going to read into the record a brief from a lawyer. Before I do that, I want to make a couple of personal observations about the bill based on my own experience on this issue.

Our young people really need to experience our natural created environment. Fishing is a wholesome sport that makes our young men and women appreciate the world around them. This is not something only for our aboriginal people. Getting close to nature is a very healthy, therapeutic experience that has no substitute. It is a wholesome alternative to some of the activities our youth can get involved in and that lead to serious problems for them and society. We should be encouraging more outdoor activities that bring us closer to the created world. As it stands, Bill C-50 would discourage some of the activities that our young people could engage in to appreciate the world around us, activities such as hunting and fishing.

I would like to see hunting and fishing promoted. That would do more to preserve the environment than any big government program or course of study at some educational institution. Participating in activities like hunting and fishing provides an incentive to maintain a healthy, natural environment. That is why we need to make an amendment to proposed paragraph 182.2(1)(b). Without an amendment, we will discourage many of youth from getting out into the great outdoors. We will also discourage people who normally would want to preserve the environment from doing so.

Those are the two personal notes I wanted to add for members before I get into the legal critique of the bill.

I am going to read into the record a letter written by Mr. Peter R. Hayden, Q.C., of the Lang Michener law firm. This legal opinion was prepared on behalf of the following organizations: the British Columbia Wildlife Federation. the Alberta Fish and Game Association, the Manitoba Wildlife Federation, the Ontario Federation of Anglers & Hunters, the Fédération québécoise de la faune, the New Brunswick Wildlife Federation, the Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers & Hunters, the Canadian sport fishing industry and the Canadian Sporting Arms and Ammunition Association.

This letter from the Lang Michener firm was written to our Minister of Justice, the Attorney General of Canada, here in Ottawa. It states:

We wish to register our strong support for the swift passage of Bill S-24 introduced by Liberal Senator John Bryden and to state our opposition to the passage of Bill C-50.

Bill S-24 accomplishes the Government's primary objective in the reform of animal cruelty provisions, namely increasing the maximum penalties for existing offences of animal cruelty, as is done in Bill C-50. We object to the balance of Bill C-50 because, as Senator Bryden says of Bill C-22 and Bill C-50, they would substantively change the law of animal cruelty, and negatively impact “Canadians who hunt and fish lawfully”.

Specifically, we object to s. 182.2(1)(b), which, for the first time in Canadian history, makes it an offence to kill an animal brutally or viciously without defining those terms and does not exempt from this offence normal hunting and fishing. This new offence will be used by animal rights activists who will employ provisions of the Criminal Code to bring private prosecutions to harass lawful anglers and hunters.

For the reasons cited below, the oft-cited defences of legal justification, excuse, and colour of right in the Criminal Code would not be of much assistance to an angler or hunter charged under Bill C-50.

While you and your Department have said that the offence of cruelty to animals is not intended to forbid conduct that is socially acceptable or authorized by law, such as hunting and fishing, Bill C-50 will have the ultimate effect of intimidating anglers and hunters who will be discouraged from participating in the outdoor heritage activities of hunting and fishing for the fear of prosecution.

This legal brief continues under the title “Support of Bill S-24”. It states:

According to the Department of Justice, the primary objective in revising the Criminal Code's animal cruelty sections is to enable the courts to impose longer sentences commensurate with the severity of the animal cruelty offences. Bill S-24 achieves the goal of increasing penalties that may be imposed in cases of animal cruelty and allows the Crown to proceed either summarily or by indictment to achieve a result suitable to the crime committed. Bill S-24 also retains many current sections and offences under the Criminal Code, which has the additional advantage of leading to certainty of interpretation of these sections owing to the well established body of decided cases on the current animal cruelty provisions of the Criminal Code.

The next subtitle is “Anglers and Hunters Do Not Support Bill C-50”, under which it is stated:

The Associations on whose behalf we are writing to you do not support Bill C-50. We understand that you received a letter dated November 22, 2004 (the “Coalition letter”) purporting to be from all of Canada's animal-based sectors, which outlines the group's position of support for the “swift passage” of certain amendments to the Criminal Code “as rapidly as possible”, namely the proposed animal cruelty provisions as contained in Bill C-22 which are the same as Bill C-50, with the exception of the provision for the protection of existing aboriginal or treaty rights in s. 182.6.

The Coalition letter did not in any way represent the interests of Canadian anglers and hunters. We note that these Coalition members have since sent a letter to Senator Bryden joining the Associations in registering their full support of Bill S-24 and their support of the rationale presented by Senator Bryden in moving second reading of Bill S-24.

The next subtitle is “Problems with Bill C-50”, under which it is stated:

We have serious concerns about Bill C-50 and we have set out below what these concerns are.

The Department of Justice has clarified that beyond increasing penalties for existing animal cruelty offences, the objective of Bill C-22, and accordingly Bill C-50, is to “simplify, modernize and fill gaps in the offence structure of the animal cruelty regime”. As Senator Bryden says, the changes to animal cruelty law in Bill C-22 and Bill C-50, other than the increasing of penalties, amount to significant changes to the law which should require very careful and open debate.

Let me emphasize that phrase: “significant changes to the law”. I would also like to read for members a quote from a footnote in this letter, referring to Liberal Senator John Bryden speaking in the Senate:

[T]hese housekeeping amendments went further than modernizing language and simplifying the law. Arguably, they would be substantively changing the law....If there is a consensus that the law on cruelty to animals needs reforming, then let us have that debate, but let us do so honestly, openly and in a transparent manner, engaging the Canadian public and parliamentarians as these important issues require.

Let me continue with the Lang Michener letter to the justice minister:

To that end, we would like to set out our serious objections to Bill C-50, other than the increasing of penalties, on behalf of the Associations.

  1. S. 182.2(1)(b) makes it an offence to kill animals brutally and viciously, regardless of whether the animal dies immediately.

Hunting and fishing necessarily involve the killing of animals. Animal rights groups consistently attempt to portray these traditional Canadian heritage activities as inherently brutal and vicious. Under Bill C-50, a hunter or angler may be prosecuted and convicted of the offence of killing an animal brutally or viciously for engaging in normal hunting and fishing practices.

The killing of animals simpliciter has never been the activity the legislature intended to prevent. The killing of animals is a necessary result of most animal use industries and of hunting and fishing. Canadians' concerns regarding animal cruelty do not relate to the act of killing animals--

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

The member's 10 minutes has expired.

Questions and comments. The hon. member for Etobicoke Centre.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Etobicoke Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, the members opposite, while debating this particular bill, have used a phrase a number of times and it sounds like they want to amend the legislation by adding the phrase “immediacy of death”. I really question the rationale of that. Either an addition of this sort of clause would jeopardize the whole bill or it would allow two very large loopholes in the bill.

The first loophole would be the actual act that leads to the immediacy of death. One can think of sets of circumstances where there would be immediate death but we would call what happens as being very cruel, for instance chaining an animal to train tracks. It is a horrible thing to think about and one can just imagine the terror that an animal would experience. Animals could be subjected to tremendous terror and yet death could be immediate. That would allow that type of loophole.

The second one is the assumption that all farmers do is harvest animals. In fact, there are chicken farmers who humanely harvest eggs and sheep farmers who harvest wool. Unfortunately, however, there are a few people out there who perhaps would harvest from these animals in a non-humane way. I am not quite sure why they would want to see this sort of clause “immediacy of death” added to the legislation.

Would the member opposite explain why in particular they want this clause and whether or not it would just allow a huge loophole that would render the legislation useless?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Madam Speaker, I refer again to the main point I was making in my speech. Bill S-24 would be much preferable to the present bill. I would like to read a bit more of this legal brief rather than give my opinion and the question the member has asked will be answered.

These concerns are met by the provisions of Bill S-24 in s. 445.1(1)(a), namely, “Everyone commits an offence who wilfully causes or, being the owner, wilfully permits to be caused unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal or a bird”. This offence extends to activities which do not result in the death of an animal, and to those which do.

The second point made in the Lang Michener letter is:

The phrase “regardless of whether the animal dies immediately” in s. 182.2(1)(b) prevents any participant in recreational hunting or fishing charged under this section from making the argument that because the death of an animal is immediate the death should not be considered to be brutal or vicious. Depending on the circumstances of the case before the court, such an argument may or may not succeed but it is not reasonable to prevent an accused from making this argument. Immediate death is a widely accepted definition of humane killing and this section attempts to change this standard. It is a commonly held view that it is more humane to kill an animal promptly and exactly than to allow an animal to suffer for a long period of time. In R. v. Jones, the judge found that it was more humane to kill an animal quickly and cleanly than to allow it to suffer a prolonged death.

I want to get to point three, which goes beyond what the member has asked. This is a very important part of this legal brief. It reads:

If Bill C-50 becomes law, animal rights groups will harass and prosecute anglers and hunters. Liz White, a director of the Animal Alliance of Canada, one of Canada's major animal rights organizations, stated:

“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 conviction to lay charges. That's what this is all about. Make no mistake about it”.

In the second reading of Bill S-24, Senator Bryden quotes Dr. Bessie Borwein, Special Advisor to the Vice-President of Research at the University of Western Ontario:

“There are animal rights groups in Canada that have specifically and publicly stated their intention to use Bill C-10 [previous versions of Bill C-22 and Bill C-50] to further their agenda. They say they will use the law to press charges and to test it to the utmost. They will use peace officers or authorized organizations like the SPCA or humane societies sympathetic to their cause in order to press this...”.

That is where I rest my case and that is why we oppose the legislation. Unless amendments are made to protect these traditional hunting and fishing activities I cannot accept what the members opposite are telling me.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to make a few remarks in connection with Bill C-50 before the House at this time. It is noteworthy, as other speakers have mentioned, that this issue has been before the House for a number of years. It has proven to be very difficult legislation to get right and to get through the House and the Senate. The Senate has been one of the obstacles, I think, in getting this through.

Originally the legislation became tangled up in a couple of omnibus bills and at some point we all recognized that the bill, even by itself, was troublesome and difficult. Fortunately, the bill now stands on its own and I think the government has taken the view that rather than trying to rewrite the whole piece, reinvent a good portion of the wheel, that it would go back to basics and has essentially in this legislation reused the language that exists in the Criminal Code.

There has been some modification to the language and some rewriting but essentially the government is of the view that for the most part the legislation is simply restating what is already in the Criminal Code. There are some notable exceptions to that and those exceptions are the main point of debate, or at least they should be.

I think all or most of us in the House can agree that there was a need to modernize the language, to update the legislation and to legislate tougher sentences. The trick, given the dynamic that is out there across Canada in the various communities, is to get that piece correct. The principal dynamic that I think has been the biggest obstacle is that we have a rural-urban divide here. Some of the push for this new legislation has come from urban areas and part of the urban politics include what some have referred to as animal rights activists. That is not necessarily a pejorative term, and it perhaps is not to the people who are looking out for our animal friends all across the country, but they do want firm legislation that protects animals from pain and unnecessary death. The problem is not their objectives at all. It is perhaps how they carry on their work. In rural Canada we have people who have been taking care of animals and who have been the experts in animal husbandry for centuries and doing it without much of a problem and they provide the food for our tables. They have been serving our country and serving open mouths around the world for centuries and taking care of animals.

The rural perspective, the farm land perspective on cruelty to animals, would be just fine but when we begin to measure what happens on the farm, whether it is a big production or a small production farm, and we combine that with those who I will call the animal rights activists, we end up with disagreements. As we go to legislate, while almost everyone agrees on the principle that we had to modernize and beef up the sentencing, the actual definitions become very important. The people on the farms want to ensure that when we as legislators pass the new law that we do not adopt a definition that will interfere with their families' abilities on the farm to take care of their animals and to slaughter the animals in the ordinary course as they might do for food and as they have been doing for centuries, whereas from the urban perspective we have individuals who, for what they believe are excellent reasons, do everything they can to reduce the killing of any animals by humankind and certainly they want to reduce suffering among animals caused by any source.

Everyone in that morality plight that I have just described is actually doing a fairly good job right now, but as we legislate, these differences in perspective are coming out and our challenge in the House is to find some legislation that satisfies both and everyone in the middle as best we can.

One of the things that may assist us in the event that matters do end up in court is the discretion of the judge. There may in fact be differing perspectives, rural and urban. One of the rather ugly urban perspectives has to do with the scenario of a person conspicuously torturing and killing a domestic animal or pet. These ugly incidents often end up in newspapers, magazines and in the electronic media, and the public says that we, in Canada, have to do something to prevent that from happening and where it does happen, to firmly respond.

I suppose it is a little bit unfair to say that part of the resolution here will lie in the hands of a prosecutor and a judge, but at the end of the day, those two perspectives may have to be managed by the courts, the prosecutors and the judges.

I say that, acknowledging right up front, that we do not want our social problems to be managed by judges. Judges are there to resolve conflicts and to make decisions about guilt or innocence. It is unfair to ask our judicial community to be the arbiters of everything that goes on in society. However, I do offer the judicial process, at the end of this, as being a kind of spill safe mechanism to ensure that community standards and community perspectives are brought to bear in dealing with these portions of the Criminal Code.

I want to dwell briefly on the language of the provisions. As I said earlier, the bill, for the most part, continues language and concepts already existing in the Criminal Code. The offence of causing unnecessary pain to an animal stays the same, give or take, but the sentence is increased from the current six month maximum to a five year maximum. This upgrades the sentence into what we call a hybrid offence where it may be summary conviction or indictable, depending on the discretion of the prosecutor, but the maximum sentence goes up to five years.

There is a new provision that I will not read from the statute, but it involves brutally or viciously killing an animal. That offence also has a five year maximum and it too is a hybrid offence.

The concept of causing pain by negligence or allowing pain to happen by negligence, certainly wilfully, has an increased sentence as well. That would be a sentence of two years maximum. That would keep it as a summary conviction offence.

I note that the bill is only four pages long. In terms of a piece of legislation around here, that is relatively small.

The issues that I have attempted to address, the issues that colleagues around the House are attempting to deal with, all revolve around setting a threshold that it will be a criminal offence and defining it in a way that it will not impair the ability of our farmland communities to raise livestock and produce food the way they have always done so well for us.

We are looking for the magic solution. In my view, at this point, I think the government has come forward with a good vehicle and I am prepared to support it. At the same time, I am also interested in any debate that ensues and its disposition at committee should it pass the House at second reading.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Madam Speaker, I want to offer a couple of suggestions for amendments and get the hon. member's reaction to them.

First, I want to make the comment that I do not think this is necessarily an urban-rural issue because I know of many people in our large cities that love to hunt and fish. This will have a very chilling effect on that. It does not protect normal farming practices. My question would be, why not put amendments in this bill to protect normal hunting and fishing practices and introduce amendments like other areas that have this kind of legislation?

I will quote from a number of states that have included in this type of legislation a section that read something like this: “It is an exception to the application of this section that the conduct engaged in by the actor is generally accepted and otherwise lawful: (a) fishing, hunting or trapping” or from another state, “fishing, hunting or trapping of wildlife controlled and regulated pursuant to the natural resources and Environmental protection acts”.

Many farmers use practices to control pests and rodents, that kind of thing, around their farmyards and they could be at risk. I want to read a bit more of the Lang Michener brief, so the member does not think I am somehow making this stuff up. It states:

While there are legislative mechanisms ensuring that both the federal Attorney General and provincial Crown Attorneys are able to oversee private prosecutions and intervene when appropriate, the Attorney General and the Crown Attorneys are not required to do so. The fear of private prosecutions by animal rights groups is not unfounded. So it is likely that individual anglers or hunters will be charged under Bill C-50 and will be drawn into the criminal court system for a period of time, whether or not such matter proceeds to trial.

Even if anyone charged under this section is ultimately acquitted, or if the Attorney General or Crown Attorney were to intervene to stay the proceeding, this long and involved process will certainly be costly and difficult for the anglers or hunters involved. Such prosecutions will clearly have a chilling effect on anglers and hunters across Canada.

This is the issue I am raising. Why can we not put an amendment in here to protect fishing, hunting and normal farming practices?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Madam Speaker, it is possibly true that previous legislative drafts tried to do that. The view of the government now is that it does not want to try to fix something if it is not broken. To import something called a standard of farming might seem to have merit except that the standard is going to change over time.

I will say to my hon. friend that I tried to create an urban-rural template, but most of the urban people who go hunting and fishing do it rurally, even though they are urban dwellers. I would lean toward not trying to enact a new standard, as he suggests.

Because the Criminal Code is not being changed very much by this, I would point out, the animal rights activists could actually attempt to undertake prosecutions now. It is not happening in a large way, so if we are not changing the code very much except by adding the “brutally and viciously killing” section, then the problem my hon. friend raises about an onslaught of private prosecutions could happen now even without these amendments.

I think the bill is headed in the right direction, but his advocacy for a standard of farming might well have further discussion at the committee stage.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I was hoping I could split my time with my colleague from Windsor West. Is that possible in this format? We would both like the opportunity to speak.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

Is there unanimous consent for the member to split his time?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleagues for the spirit of generosity that we feel in the House of Commons today.

On behalf of the NDP caucus, I am happy to have an opportunity to share our views on Bill C-50 in the first session of this 38th Parliament. I should note that I believe I spoke to this bill during the 37th Parliament and I spoke to this bill in the 36th Parliament, if I remember correctly.

I note that it is called an act to amend the Criminal Code in respect of cruelty to animals. I would volunteer that it would be cruel to MPs if we had to debate this bill for very much longer. It seems like I have dedicated a good chunk of my career to this bill and beyond all reason I think, too. If we were to canvas people around the country, there is a great deal of goodwill from well-meaning people around the country who would wish that we could adopt this bill and many of the provisions in it.

Without even speaking to the specifics of the bill, I think people are asking Parliament to recognize the status of animals that this bill actually contemplates. This bill, if nothing else or in its simplest form, would elevate animals from a simple material possession owned by someone to the status of an actual live being.

Anyone who has ever owned animals or even pets and looked into the eyes of their dog are ready to accept that this is not a possession, this is a being with a spirit, this is a being that has feelings, and this is a being that deserves to be treated in a humane way. I am speaking for a lot of animal lovers around the country when I say that we celebrate the idea of being able to recognize that cruelty to animals should be acknowledged as a crime and that penalties for cruelty to animals should be greater than they are currently today.

I am also cognizant, though, of the points raised by my colleague from the Conservative Party that we do not want to go over the deep end to where we are somehow criminalizing activities that are part of our culture and heritage. If anything, hunting, trapping, fishing and farming certainly, and raising cattle are part of the Canadian identity. It would be foolish for us to go over the deep end and imply that by putting a worm on a hook to go fishing is somehow violating the rights of that worm. We do not want to get silly with this.

This idea, this shift, from viewing animals as simply property that can be treated however the owner of that property sees fit and viewing an animal as a sentient being, a being with, I will not go as far as to say a soul but with a spirit, a life force that we acknowledge and recognize. That is a quantum leap in law and in the way that we craft our legislation.

This issue has been a difficult one because we cannot deal with the subject of cruelty to animals without allowing emotions to creep into it. Many of us viewed television screens in the last week where yet another one of these puppy mills was revealed in a news magazine-type television broadcast. It was horrifying. It made Canadians angry.

It is fitting and appropriate that on the heels of that revelation we should be dealing with this issue in the House of Commons today. It makes me feel proud because if anything, the very thing that this bill seeks to enforce and to address is the thing that we witnessed in that television show where people were not being cruel to animals in the process of raising them or even slaughtering them for use and food, they were being cruel to those animals based on pure greed.

We believe in the New Democratic Party that there is a place in our legislative regime to enforce laws dealing with cruelty to animals in a much more disciplined way. I hope that the spirit of cooperation that exists in the House of Commons today can manifest itself in a new law that gets tough on those who would be cruel to animals.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Madam Speaker, I have a comment and also a request to make to the hon. members of this House.

My comment is on the fact the bill before us, as a whole, is a good one. I think that for the first time, the Minister of Justice has put his foot down and intends to legislate in order to combat cruelty toward animals.

However, the bill could have perhaps gone further. In my opinion, it should contain elements requiring the provinces to introduce legislation on cruelty toward animals. Not every province has legislation on this.

Perhaps the bill needs to be a lot more specific. There are different types of cruelty toward animals. There is the cruelty of an owner toward a pet. Pets include cats and dogs, of course, but also ferrets and all sorts of small animals. There can be cruelty toward those types of animals.

This bill needs to go further in terms of cruelty of breeders toward their animals. Earlier I gave the example of companies that breed poultry for consumption and put 20 animals in a cage designed for 10. Sometimes these animals break their wings under those conditions.

The bill could also go further in protecting hunters.

These are all subjects that the bill does not necessarily address or mention. That is where the problem lies. The bill does not cover these specific matters. I am getting the signal that I need to hurry up, so I will be brief.

In closing, I just had a meeting with someone who works at the SPCA in Montreal. That was the message that agency wanted to get across to the hon. members of this House. It was my pleasure to convey it to you.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for those valid points. Often the cruelty of animals is at the institutional and commercial levels, when it comes to chicken farms and the raising of livestock in inhumane ways. There are individual and personal cruelties that we wish to address but we cannot forget the institutional and commercial cruelty that is sometimes prevalent.