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 liberal.

Topics

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Yukon
Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for an excellent outline of the bill. As he mentioned, this is a very popular bill among Canadians. They have been waiting a long time for it. I am delighted that we have brought it to the House to get it through.

He also made the important point that there is no intention with this bill to restrict the traditional activities of hunting, fishing and agriculture, and research and sports, the normal lawful uses of animals. This is very important for my riding as well, of course.

These points were raised. My question, though, is about how they have been raised numerous times and we have been provided with all assurances by the justice department that this is not in the intent of the bill. I would not be voting for it and I would not be so enthusiastic, for instance, if it restricted the traditional hunting and fishing of aboriginal groups, et cetera, but all this has been asked about and the justice department lawyers have assured us that there is no problem here.

My concern is that the member is asking to recall all these witnesses. As he mentioned, I think this is the sixth iteration of the bill. Have we not heard all those witnesses? Do we not have that on record so we could refer to it? The member is very experienced and has been here for some time. He knows that we are going to run into an election, so once again this is going to be deferred and once again a bill that people are waiting for is going to be put off for another lengthy period of time.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, in response to the first part of the member's question, with respect to aboriginal people, I will read the bill's clause 182.6, which states:

For greater certainty, nothing in this Part shall be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from the protection provided for existing aboriginal or treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada by the recognition and affirmation of those rights in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

Clearly, this bill does not target aboriginal people. I want this to be clear, because we have an aboriginal territory in my riding. This covers the first question.

Now, with regard to calling new witnesses, I would say that the committee has to be vigilant. If other organizations representing industry want to be heard, I believe that the committee should hear them again. Each time the bill is reintroduced, it is a slightly different bill. Often, these organizations propose changes to make the legislation more acceptable. The message that has to be sent to industry is that there will be a bill. If people want to help us draft it, so that they are more comfortable with it, I encourage them to make suggestions and propose amendments. All the better if these are clear. Should some not be so clear, I am confident that the committee will invite representatives of those industries which may have positions to clarify. I am not saying that we should start everything over, but, if some positions are not so clear, we should make sure that the industries concerned are afforded an opportunity to come and propose interesting changes or adjustments to us.

Business of the House
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Beauséjour
New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I do not mean to interrupt our colleague's speech, but discussions have taken place among all parties concerning the debate scheduled for tomorrow in committee of the whole pursuant to Standing Order 53.1 and I believe you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That during the debate in committee of the whole on Tuesday, November 15, 2005, on Government Business No. 21, pursuant to Standing Order 53.1, no quorum calls, dilatory motions or requests for unanimous consent shall be entertained by the Speaker, and that the duration of this debate be a maximum of five hours, not four.

Business of the House
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Does the hon. member have unanimous consent to move the motion?

Business of the House
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the House
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the House
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

November 14th, 2005 / 4:15 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, the New Democratic Party supports Bill C-50. One has to wonder how many times a bill has to come before the House before it finally gets through, not only here but in the other chamber, which historically has been opposed to certain provisions of the bill. This is not its first incarnation in this chamber. I hope this is the last time we debate it here and that it passes.

The need for this bill is so obvious. I want to point out what for me was a traumatic experience this past weekend when I watched the clips of the puppy mill in the province of Quebec. It was almost indescribable. If people had not seen it on television, I do not think they would have believed how terribly these animals were being treated, housed and abused.

If it were an isolated incident, one could say that maybe it is not so obvious that we need this bill, but that is not the case. It has happened repeatedly. The worst part of this is the person operating that puppy mill under existing legislation, both provincial and federal, if convicted, at some stage very soon after a conviction could start up another operation, and one almost has to assume at some stage there would be a conviction for this conduct, whatever the charge. There is no way of prohibiting that under existing legislation.

The treatment of these dogs was horrendous. It had been going on for years. There was excrement on the floor that literally could be measured in feet rather than inches. A number of the animals had died and were rotting in the house. I can go on with these descriptions. It was horrendous and again not an isolated case.

The bill as is would have provided, as its previous predecessors, the authority for law enforcement officers across the country to both prohibit and enforce a law against such people which would be effective in preventing this kind of abuse.

We already have heard in the chamber today that it does not have unanimous support in the country. There are certain sectors that want further amendments, clarifications or protections. Those are the terminologies used. Generally the opposition to the bill is not about improving it. It is about killing it. There are certain elements and sectors within our society that want no regulation of their conduct whatsoever.

Interestingly, a number of the groups that work with protecting animals across the country have conducted surveys over the last number of years. It does not matter whether it is the urban dweller who is simply concerned about the way their pets are treated or farmers, fishers and hunters. In large majorities, every one of those sectors support the values, concepts and provisions of the bill.

Some leadership members are fighting it and trying to kill it. I have seen some of the amendments that already have been proposed. If we put them into play, we might as well tear up the bill and throw it in the garbage. The effect of those amendments is that it would exclude the ability of the bill to be used as an enforcement mechanism against wholesale parts of the community that raise and take care of animals. It would be written in such a way that it would not be applicable to certain sectors which would be excluded. Those are the kinds of amendments being proposed.

The bill has overwhelming support from individuals and community groups working with animals, spending their lifetimes, in many respects, taking care of them and protecting them. That includes most farmers, fishers, trappers and hunters. They do not want to see the animals they deal with treated cruelly. The legislation would go a great distance to deal with those individuals in our society who are not prepared to take necessary care of their animals and who are prepared, as in the case of that puppy mill, to abuse them horrendously.

I want to draw to the attention of the House an amendment that is in this new bill. It is one that I support. It should have been in from the beginning. It is as a result of representations by the first nations, Métis aboriginal community generally. It is a provision that recognizes their historical rights.

I say with some pride that there have been a number of environmental bills over the last Parliament where this provision was put in, sometimes at my instigation but sometimes at the instigation of other members of that Parliament. This is standard wording. We are trying to get it into as much legislation where there may be some encroachment on historical aboriginal rights. It is very appropriate that it is in this bill. It is one that all members of this House should support.

Beyond that, the bill has been before us on numerous occasions. We have had repeated elections that have interrupted its passage into its final form. As I said earlier, the other House has also, on occasion, tied it up and delayed it, the unelected House that really has no right to do this. This House has spoken clearly in the past that we want this type of legislation. We are acting as elected representatives for the greater number of members of our society who are saying we need this legislation.

We have not amended the Criminal Code with regard to cruelty to animals for almost 100 years. The existing legislation reflects a time that is long passed in our country. We are in a situation where there is very large support. It is support that crosses a number of sectors that deal with animals. It is very widespread and is one that we, as elected representatives, have every responsibility to get it out of bill stage and finally passed into law so it can be used to enforce protection for our animals.

Members will hear objections that the bill will somehow get hijacked by extreme radical animal rights groups. We have heard repeatedly that kind of accusation from some people who are trying to kill the bill. It is an excuse for doing away with it. There is no basis for that. If one understands how the criminal process works, the ability to use the bill by those very small number of extreme animal rights people cannot happen. There are any number of ways within the existing court system that our public prosecutors can intervene in that kind of process and shut it down if it is ever attempted.

The bill is to be used appropriately by our prosecutors to protect animals. It would not be abused. I believe that is very clear, except in the minds of those very few people who are paranoid about the potential for abuse by extreme and radical animal rights groups. This is not about that. This is mainstream legislation that the vast majority of Canadians want.

We will support the bill and we will do whatever we can to push it through the House as rapidly as possible.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, my NDP colleague seems very concerned by this bill and by cruelty to animals. I know he is very concerned in this regard. I think he worked on Bill C-10, which I worked on as well.

He mentioned cruelty to animals and what we saw on TV on the weekend. It is not an isolated case. Canada is the only country without legislation to protect its animals. Puppy mills, for example, come from the south. The U.S. has laws in this regard. The fact that people in the states face such a law brings home the fact in Canada that we do not have such a law in a given field. We can set up puppy mills and the result is what we saw on television on the weekend.

Care must be taken with this bill, because it is comprehensive. This is the most important consideration. It covers not only cruelty to animals, but cruelty by industries and businesses in the animal trade.

I have a chinchilla rancher in my riding, and he is not comfortable with this bill. It makes him a bit nervous. When it comes time to slaughter his chinchillas, what is to stop him being accused of animal cruelty?

Then there are the hunters, and the poultry producers. Everyone knows that poultry are killed at an abattoir. This is done very quickly and the animal does not suffer. There is no problem there. The problem comes in shipping them. They put 20 in a cage that normally takes 10. When we buy turkeys with broken wings at the supermarket, that is exactly what has happened. Many turkeys end up with broken wings because 20 of them were shipped in a cage that should have held 10.

Sometimes we buy pork that is as tough as old boots and not good to eat. This is not always because it is boar meat. We are also sold meat from pigs who have been exposed to the cold. A person needs to have been a farmer to really understand what cruelty to animals is.

So this is my question for my colleague from the NDP. Can he assure me that this bill, which will be reworked in committee, will be scrutinized in order to differentiate between cruelty toward animals belonging to an individual—for example cruel treatment of an individual pet—and cruelty towards animals by farmers and companies. This is one part of the bill.

Then there is the other part. What about bow hunters, for instance, who do not finish their prey off with the first shot? Will they be accused of animal cruelty? What about fishers? Can the NDP member give us assurance that the bill will address both aspects of cruelty to animals?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, as a member of Parliament, I am not the one who should have to give this assurance. The hon. member should look at proposed subsection 182.3(2), which provides some protection for hunters, farmers and fishers.

There is a standard of care that a reasonable person in that operation would apply. It is the standard within that operation. We are saying that as long as the standard is met with respect to, for example, the way chinchillas are raised, treated and eventually killed, there is no breach of this legislation. The bill is quite clear on that. This is not an assurance coming from me; it is in proposed subsection 182.3(2).

The other provision is in proposed section 182.5. I always remember this one from law school. It refers specifically to the hunter. When confronted by an animal a hunter has to protect himself or herself and take whatever measures are necessary. It is like a self-defence argument. That provision is retained in the legislation as well.

There is no issue here. There is a paranoia in the country. That may be part of the problem with respect to the person the member mentioned. That person may be over-concerned. The basic standard of care, the section that is going to protect operators who are dealing with animals in whatever form, is the standard for that industry. The full protection is clearly set out in the bill. I believe the concern that is being expressed is unwarranted.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for New Brunswick Southwest, the Environment; the hon. member for Québec, Child Care.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Michael John Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-50, amendments to the Criminal Code in relation to cruelty to animals.

Members who have been in the House longer than I will remember from the last Parliament when the bill was Bill C-22. This legislation has been before this House consistently since 1999 when it was first introduced in an omnibus criminal law bill, Bill C-17.

Canadians from all walks of life have expressed and continue to express support for stronger animal cruelty laws. I know the minister continues to receive countless letters in support of these amendments. I have certainly received letters and heard concerns from my constituents. As MPs we hear from a lot of people. I heard from someone this morning in relation to the puppy mill in Quebec which my NDP colleague spoke about previously. This issue is very much on the minds of Canadians.

For various reasons the bill has never passed both this House and the other place in the same form. It is true that when it was first introduced, a degree of discomfort was felt by a number of industry stakeholders, farmers and animal researchers, about the potential negative impact of the legislation on their activities. These are legitimate concerns and they have been addressed.

Over the past five years, significant work has gone on in Parliament, in the chamber and in committee, as well as in meetings and discussions with concerned parties to bring a greater consensus in support of this legislation.

In the summer of 2003 when a final set of amendments were made to the legislation, a broad based coalition of industry groups came to feel more comfortable with the legislation and in fact supported these amendments, alongside animal welfare groups and veterinary associations. These groups even wrote to urge the minister to re-table this very legislation.

Since that set of changes, not just those people who advocate for the interests of animals, but also many of those whose livelihoods actually depend upon the use of animals are now eager to see these amendments become law. Those groups include organizations representing the agricultural sector, trappers, fur farming industries, and the animal research community. This indicates that we have addressed a wide range of concerns.

One of the objectives of the reforms is the enhancement of existing maximum penalties for animal cruelty. Today even the most heinous mutilation or torture of animals can result in only six months' imprisonment or a $2,000 fine. There is widespread consensus that these maximum penalties are too low to deter or denounce behaviour that we know happens across this country. Our views toward animals have changed a lot in this country and in this world over the past number of years.

Part of the penalty enhancement reform involves making these offences dual procedure and giving the Crown the ability to proceed by indictment in the more serious cases. In those cases, the maximum penalty goes up from six months in prison to five years, and the ceiling of $2,000 is removed, in keeping with the sentencing for all indictable offences in the code.

There are more specific sentencing measures in addition to these general standard ones. Currently there is a two year maximum on orders preventing the offender from owning or possessing animals. This two year maximum ceiling will also be removed so the courts will have the power to make an order for any length of time the court considers appropriate.

In addition, Bill C-50 will introduce a new power for the court to order, in addition to any other sentence, that a convicted offender repay the costs of taking care of the animal in question. If a person or organization took in the animal after the cruelty incident, the person who committed the offence would be responsible.

In every province there are statutorily created societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals. We all know those. These agencies are under a legal obligation to protect animals from cruelty by seizing and caring for them when they are in distress, for example a puppy mill, yet these statutory bodies receive very little in the way of public funding. When they take in an animal that has been abused, care for it and provide veterinary services, food, shelter and comfort, they generally do so with money obtained from public donations.

We all know people in our communities who do this kind of work. In my community of Dartmouth--Cole Harbour, I think of people like Judith Gass, a former Progressive Conservative candidate in the 1993 federal election, who does great work. I also think of the many vets in my riding who talk to me about the concerns they have when they see animals in distress.

Bill C-50 will make it clear that the offender may be found responsible for repaying the costs associated with his or her criminal act. That is good sentencing policy. By holding the offender accountable for the costs, we do a better job at educating the offender about the consequences of his or her crime and hopefully this contributes to his or her rehabilitation.

Law reform is about more than adjusting numbers. It is also about making sure the substance of the law prohibits all forms of misconduct and does so in the clearest possible language and provides the most coherent structure of offences. Bill C-50 also contains a number of elements that accomplish this important set of objectives.

The amendments will create a new offence that directly targets the wilful killing of an animal with brutal intention, such as by strapping an explosive on the animal--we have heard of that--or fastening the animal to a railway line. These types of acts, which most people consider impossible to imagine, are perhaps the most despicable form of cruelty we can imagine and may not be caught by our existing law if the person had or could prove a legitimate excuse for killing the animal. We are closing this loophole so that even when the law allows a person to kill an animal, he or she cannot do it with the intention of being brutal.

Euthanasia, slaughter, hunting practices could be humane. The hallmarks of humane euthanasia are that the methods are tried and true. They involve a minimization of pain and suffering. They are reproducible and reliable and do not pose any risk of failure or risk of harm to others.

Sometimes a person who kills an animal has another set of intentions reflected in acts that are not reliable methods of killing, which pose risks to that person or to others and which have uncertain and non-reproducible effects. Exploding an animal in a microwave, which we have heard of, or dropping it from a tall building are examples. If someone kills an animal with that state of mind, there is a good chance he or she is being deliberately brutal. The law must clearly prohibit and sternly punish this type of behaviour.

Another set of changes will clear up some of the language that is currently confusing. The code now has a set of offences in relation to cattle, a set of offences in relation to animals that are kept for a lawful purpose, and another set of offences for all animals. This produces duplication and some overlap. There are also omissions. For instance, there are special provisions on cockfighting and the keeping of cockpits. We know, sadly, that dog fighting also happens in our country. Why should our law not also prohibit that? There is no reason.

Bill C-50, a comprehensive law reform package in this area will rectify that deficiency. It will also remove current language, such as “dogs, birds and other animals”, which is a phrase that can do nothing except confuse. It will also remove the nonsensical notion of wilful neglect, which does not exist anywhere else in criminal law because it conflates two entirely different concepts. Wilful means deliberate and intentional, whereas neglect means inadvertence. Combining these two into one concept is bad criminal law. Bill C-50 will rectify that.

The bill will also provide a definition of animal when none currently exists. That definitely will be a “non-humane vertebrate”, for example. Today, there is no definition. This means that a worm or a snail or any possible living creature would probably be included. Since many industry groups have expressed concern over such an interpretation, Bill C-50 brings desirable clarity to the question. Without Bill C-50, the question of the scope of the law remains open and it leads to uncertainty.

Finally, Bill C-50 will create a new part of the Criminal Code with the title “Cruelty to Animals” as a chapter devoted just to these offences. This will permit the offences to be taken out of part XI, “Wilful and Forbidden Acts in Respect of Certain Property”.

I am aware that this change has been the subject of debate and discussion, but let us be clear about it in the bill. This change will not and cannot have the effect of altering the legal status of animals as property. The fact that animals are property is a result of property law, which is within the constitutional authority of provinces, not of this Parliament. The common law of this country and that of our Commonwealth cousins bears out centuries of jurisprudence that firmly establishes that animals are the property of the people or of the Crown. There are some people who would disagree with that. There are people who were referred to earlier as radical in this cause. This is a mainstream bill. This is not an extreme bill. It is legally impossible for the relocation of offences from one chapter of the Criminal Code to another to have any effect whatsoever on the legal status of animals as property.

The bill reflects the mainstream and widely held view of Canadians that the people with whom we share this planet are worthy of more respect than maybe we accorded them years ago. The bill is a meaningful and reasonable solution that addresses the needs of many stakeholders, people who work with animals, people who own animals, as well as people who just like to be with animals. The bill provides a sensible solution for all Canadians. I urge the adoption of Bill C-50.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to put on the record that I am not as enthused about this legislation as the member opposite appears to be. I am from a farming area, I am surrounded by farmers and I am a farmer myself. I know that there are concerns in the agricultural community about the implications of the bill. There are also concerns in the hunting community. A few minutes ago my colleague from the Bloc talked about the fact that this is just too undefined for us to be able to pass this comfortably.

In his intervention, my colleague from the NDP talked about the fact that he is comfortable with proposed subsection 182.3(2), which states:

--“negligently” means departing markedly from the standard of care that a reasonable person would use.

On the surface that does not look too bad, but I am concerned about the courts getting involved because we have had indications from the animal rights organizations that they want to use this legislation to impact traditional farming practices. We are aware of the fact that all it takes is one judge to rule. We have had social engineering in this country before, whereby one judge in a province has ruled and governments have not appealed that ruling. We find that social engineering has changed things considerably.

Does the member have a concern about this? Is he concerned about protecting the farmers in the rural communities? Does he have any suggestions for improvements or amendments we could make which would ensure farmers and hunters that we are going to protect them and let them have their traditional practices?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Michael John Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, the intent of the bill and certainly my intent in supporting it is not to infringe upon the rights of hunters or trappers or anyone who practices either a traditional way of life or a recreational way of life that is not meant to be wilfully destructive to animals. Large numbers of recreational, hunter and trapper groups have looked at this legislation and have given it their okay.

It has come before the House on a number of occasions and was modified over the years largely to address the concerns indicated by the hon. member. I would like to indicate from the bill itself that the existing gap in the law is filled by proposed paragraph 182.2(1)(b), which prohibits “brutally or viciously” killing an animal. The proviso makes clear that this offence is primarily concerned with the nature of the act itself and what that act reveals about the person, vicious being defined as bad-tempered, spiteful and violent.

There is always a motive involved in this. People who hunt and who have done so for years, and who have taken hunter safety and hunting courses and know how to kill an animal in an appropriate way, will not be affected by the bill. Those who go out of their way to be vicious in the conduct of hunting or trapping or any other type of activity that involves animals will be affected by this and I think that is appropriate.

The purpose of the bill is not to take away from traditional ways of life, whether it is agriculture or hunting or fur trapping. Over the years the bill has modified itself to answer many of the questions people had about this. I think the bill does a good job. This can certainly be discussed at committee, but it is an improvement over what we have seen before and it is well worth supporting.