House of Commons Hansard #118 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was provisions.

Topics

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Charles Hubbard Miramichi, NB

moved that Bill S-213, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, Bill S-213, an act to amend the Criminal Code dealing with cruelty to animals is one of two bills before the House dealing with cruelty to animals. It is a Senate bill that was introduced in the House on December 11, 2006, following its approval in the Senate on December 7.

Senator John Bryden prepared this legislation and has had the support of many of his colleagues. Today at second reading I am asking for the support of this assembly to refer Bill S-213 to the justice committee for review and recommendations.

Since the dawn of civilization, mankind has had a close relationship with animals, with nature and with the environment. Evidently all was not perfect and, as a result, Canadian legislators, more than 100 years ago, saw the need to develop sections of the Criminal Code to take particular individuals who would abuse, mismanage or neglect animals to court.

Today we continue to hear reports of persons who cause undue harm to animals and of persons who are injured or killed by them. Today, there are press reports of a keeper at a zoo in the United States who was killed by a jaguar.

Municipalities, provinces and the federal government are called upon to legislate and regulate definite standards that we must follow with regard to our relationship with animals. In this debate, we must think in terms of both domestic and wild or natural animals, which are usually the responsibility of the provinces.

Domestic animals, whether household or farm related, have close ties with their owners. Owners are expected to provide food, shelter and protection. This is an expensive business and owners are usually prepared to spend a significant amount of income on their so-called pets.

Within our urban areas, this ownership and related care is a fast growing industry, with food, grooming and veterinary costs, yet in cities and in urban areas we have problems with pets that often are large and sometimes do things in the environment that cause problems for our sewage and drainage systems. We see problems related to that activity.

In rural Canada, animals offer similar enjoyment to their household owners, but most are managed to provide food and clothing or to do work for their owners. Also, our cities and rural areas have wild animals that live naturally without our help. Our heritage is reflected by the beaver, which helped explore our continent, and the polar bear, which symbolizes our present struggle with the environment.

Then, too, we must not forget the medical and scientific community, those researchers who use animals to study the health of mammals and our biological connections to them.

This legislation, Bill S-213, does not attempt to define standards by which owners or participants in relations with animals are judged. Rather, it is presented as an amendment to present legislation that will increase penalties on those considered by our society as abusing animals. It is a common sense approach to a standard of acceptable behaviour.

Undoubtedly there are those who want us to go further. However, it appears that there has been difficulty in reaching a consensus on developing explicit legislation. For example, there are concerns that certain pets are dangerous to the security of others; concerns with the killing of animals by hunters and especially aboriginal peoples in northern and remote communities; the assessing of farming operations; the confinement of animals at farms, in zoos or with the circus type of presentations; the monitoring of horse racing; the utilization of animals by university and scientific researchers; and above all, the elimination of pests in both urban and rural settings.

The list goes on. It is within the context of this debate that I offer to present Bill S-213 to the House.

The intention of Bill S-213 is to update the penalty provisions dealing with animal cruelty within the Criminal Code. In summary, Bill S-213 amends sections 444 to 447 of the Criminal Code by making all animal cruelty offences hybrid offences, meaning that prosecutors can choose, based on the determination of the seriousness of the offence, whether to pursue an indictment or summary conviction in a particular case. Previously, sections 445 to 447 were punishable only by summary conviction.

Bill S-213 also increases the maximum penalties. For offences of cruelty, the maximum penalties under summary convictions are increased to be a sentence of 18 months in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. For offences of neglect, the maximums are changed to a six month prison term and a $5,000 fine. In comparison, depending on the seriousness of the charge, those guilty of an indictable offence can be charged with either a term of up to five years in prison for cruelty offences or a term of up to two years in prison for offences of neglect.

Bill S-213 also makes two other changes to the Criminal Code. Under proposed subsection 447.1(1) it adds an order of prohibition and restitution. It allows the court to prohibit an offender from owning, having custody of, or residing with an animal for a period of time of any length or permanently, whereas the maximum now is only two years. As well, the accused may be ordered to pay any related costs for the care of an animal when it is under the care of another person or organization as a result of the commission of an offence.

Now that I have presented a brief description of this bill, I wish to address its place within the history of animal cruelty bills debated in this House. Amendments to the Criminal Code on cruelty to animals were introduced in December 1999 as part of an omnibus bill aimed to amend the Criminal Code. This was Bill C-17. After it died on the order paper, a similar bill, Bill C-15, was introduced in March 2001, but upon being referred to committee, this bill was split into two sections. Bill C-15B became an act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals) and the firearms act. However, it too died when Parliament was prorogued in October 2002.

Bill C-15B was later reintroduced as Bill C-10. Approved in this House, it reached the Senate committee for consideration and again the bill was split, this time to an act to amend the farms act, Bill C-10A, and an act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals), Bill C-10B.

Bill C-10B was the birth of the first bill solely dedicated to animal cruelty amendments. This bill, however, also eventually died on the order paper, as did its successors, Bill C-22 and Bill C-50. It is clear to see that the animal cruelty bills of the past have been victims of serious reservations and timings.

These attempts to amend animal cruelty legislation have been subject to considerable debate. Throughout this evolution, numerous stakeholders have been consistently critical of the proposed amendments pertaining to the substance of the bills and the nature of the offences.

It appears that the only consensus that has been drawn around the animal cruelty provisions in the Criminal Code was in regard to the proposed changes to the punishment for offences. These recommendations have remained virtually consistent throughout the different reincarnations of the animal cruelty bills. Bill S-213 is a replication of these penalty amendments. It attempts to change nothing in the Criminal Code. It does not attempt to redefine animal cruelty or to make new offences.

In response to the opposition to the bills previously studied in the House of Commons and the Senate, Bill S-213 attempts to simplify the issue and focuses animal cruelty legislation on penalties. It does this in order to amend legislation that was first enacted in 1892. These penalties were consented to in recently defeated legislation. Bill S-213 therefore responds to the demands to update Canadian law in accordance with public opinion on the seriousness of crimes of animal cruelty.

There have been several stated reasons for changing the animal cruelty provisions of the Criminal Code. First, the current penalties fail to reflect the seriousness of the crimes against animals. Second, the prohibition on offenders owning animals needs to be extended and Bill S-213 enables the court to place a permanent ban on ownership. Third, the court will be granted the means of ordering an offender to pay for the care needed for an animal as a consequence of an offence.

As mentioned above, in response to this impetus for change, Bill S-213 includes all of these in the amendments. This bill will update the Canadian Criminal Code in response to the desire to offer more protection to animals and to increase the power of prosecutors to advocate stronger punishments. It will ensure that crimes of animal cruelty will be taken more seriously, as they should be. Bill S-213 recognizes that changes to the penalty provisions are needed at present.

We cannot deny that there may be opposition to Bill S-213. Some critics contend that this bill does not afford animals enough rights, but what those critics may not so readily admit is that the reason many of the previous bills did not pass is that they potentially disrespected the rights of those dependent on animals for their livelihood. Farmers, university and scientific researchers, aboriginal peoples, and fishers and hunters have all had serious concerns.

The issue at stake, therefore, is that legal implications of changes beyond those in the penalty provisions are uncertain. Previous attempts to redefine offences of cruelty against animals have been interpreted by various stakeholders to threaten the legalities of animal use.

Indications are that Bill S-213 has wide-ranging support. Public support for this bill has been expressed by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, the Canadian Federation of Biological Societies, wildlife federations and recreational associations from all 12 provinces. They have all indicated support.

By not proposing amendments beyond the penalty provisions, Bill S-213 ensures that what is legal today would remain legal tomorrow. Most important, Bill S-213 protects the rights of animals and offers better tools of prosecution, yet it does not offer new grounds on which to challenge legal animal use practices. However, amidst the debate on the matter of animal cruelty, these issues have been clouded.

Recently in this House and in the media the issue of animal cruelty has been getting more attention, but let us question what the issue really is. Our laws need to be improved. Penalties need to be increased. It is very important that the animals within our society receive proper care, proper protection and proper concern by our legislators.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the presentation by the hon. member. I would like to ask him one question and get his opinion.

It seems that in the past few years there have been many heinous crimes committed against animals. I am thinking in particular of the growing interest in cockfights. I also understand that now there are scheduled arena events between pit bulls. There are puppy mills. All of that is not to mention the individual convictions that have taken place over a number of years.

Does the member strongly believe that what it is going to take to shut down certain operations of that nature is more severe penalties?

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Charles Hubbard Miramichi, NB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for the fact that he has spoken in the public domain recently on this very important issue and for his question. I would hope that as society progresses we will see the termination of such things as puppy mills. Cockfights certainly have been prohibited by Canadian legislation for a long period of time. I know there are concerns about certain dogs. I have not heard not much about the so-called dogfights, but I know that certain dogs certainly are a menace to some people in society. I know that certain municipalities are attempting to control the fact that some of these dogs may be at large.

I know and I hope that as Canadians, if we work together at all levels of government, we can see that animals are treated properly, that they are respected and, above all, that they are enjoyed by the people who see them as some of their closest friends.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I support Bill S-213 but, as the member knows, while many of the veterinarian colleges seem to support the bill, the Atlantic Veterinary College does not. It uses the argument that penalties are not enough, that the legislation needs to move further in terms of puppy mills and those areas.

How does the member respond to the suggestion that just increasing penalties will do the trick when many in society feel that it is cruel the way puppies are raised in puppy mills? How does the member feel this bill would deal with that effectively?

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Charles Hubbard Miramichi, NB

Mr. Speaker, the member for Malpeque has been a farmer most of his life. In the last number of years he has spent in the House he does done a tremendous job for his people back on Prince Edward Island and for all Canadians as a supporter of agriculture.

In terms of his question, we must remember that the amendments would place heavy fines on individuals and prohibitions from owning animals on those who have puppy mills or are abusing animals. It is sad to see in the press that some people have such a love of cats that they will be found to have 25 cats in their households under very unsanitary conditions. These people may do this through a love for their animals but we must have regulations to deal with it and prohibition would probably be the main one in terms of those who have puppy mills and attempt to breed a lot of dogs to have available for sale in various places without proper pedigrees or registrations.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

Fundy Royal
New Brunswick

Conservative

Rob Moore Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Miramichi for sponsoring the bill in the House. I also want to recognize Senator Bryden for bringing this issue to the forefront.

As we all know, Bill S-213 passed the other place and was reported back from the Senate legal and constitutional affairs committee with only one amendment. The amendment deleted the second clause of the bill which was the coming into force provision. With that provision deleted, the bill would come into force without the need for an order in council.

Bill S-213 amends the Criminal Code in relation to the sentencing of offenders convicted of animal cruelty. It does not create new offences or modify existing ones.

Currently, the Criminal Code provides a number of distinct animal cruelty offences. Some offences prohibit very specific forms of conduct and others are more general in nature. They include: wilfully killing, maiming, wounding, injuring or endangering cattle; wilfully killing, maiming, wounding, injuring or endangering animals other than cattle which are kept for lawful purpose; wilfully causing unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal; causing unnecessary pain to an animal by failure to exercise reasonable care; abandoning an animal in distress; baiting an animal; injuring an animal during transport; releasing a bird from captivity for the purpose of shooting it immediately upon its release; neglecting to provide adequate food, water and shelter or care to an animal; and keeping a cock pit.

The two most frequently charged offences are those of wilfully causing unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal and causing pain, suffering or injury by neglect. These types of actions are in fact what most Canadians think of when they think about animal cruelty. Cruelty can be intentional, meaning the result of conduct that a person knows will or would likely cause harm, or it can be the result of gross negligence, severe inadvertence or just plain indifference to the potential suffering of an animal.

With respect to maximum available penalties, all offences, except those in respect of cattle, are summary conviction offences only. This means that the maximum sentence that an offender can get is six months in prison, a $2,000 fine or both. This maximum applies no matter how heinous the act of cruelty.

By contrast, offences in respect of cattle are pure indictable offences and subject to a maximum of five years imprisonment. One question raised by the law and addressed by Bill S-213 is whether this distinction is still justified. I will return to this point shortly.

The Criminal Code also contains what is called a prohibition order. This mechanism allows a judge to order a convicted offender to refrain from owning an animal for up to two years. Prohibition orders are not just meant to punish. They are mostly preventative. They actually work to keep animals away from animal abusers. In this way, they are aimed primarily at preventing future cruelty toward animals. Prohibition orders are actually imposed relatively often in animal cruelty cases. The courts clearly feel that the prohibition order is a valuable tool at their disposal in dealing with people who abuse animals.

Bill S-213 appears to propose three changes to the current animal cruelty regime, all in the nature of penalty enhancements. All the measures address concerns that have been identified with the existing law. Concerns with the law can be clearly and simply stated: the penalties are too weak to deter and punish animal abuse. Bill S-213 responds to this concern. No reasonable person would disagree that a maximum sentence of six months for even the worst case is inadequate and trivializes animal cruelty.

There is strong agreement across all sectors that the low maximum penalties for cruelty are both inadequate to denounce animal cruelty as acceptable and to punish acts of cruelty when they do occur.

To respond to this concern, Bill S-213 would amend the sections of the Criminal Code that set out the various offences of animal cruelty and describe the maximum penalties for those offences. It accomplishes its objective in the following three ways.

The first aspect of Bill S-213 increases maximum terms of imprisonment. To do this, Bill S-213 makes all offences hybrid, meaning that the prosecution may choose to proceed by way of summary conviction or by way of indictment, depending on the seriousness of the case. Currently, all the offences, except those in relation to cattle, are straight summary conviction offences.

Bill S-213 would then separate offences into two categories: first, for injuring animals intentionally and, second, for injuring animals by criminal neglect. This is an important distinction. Some people commit cruelty on purpose and others commit cruelty not on purpose but rather by extreme neglect. Under traditional criminal principles, knowingly or intentionally doing something is more blameworthy than doing the same thing by gross inadvertence. Accordingly, the maximum available penalties are normally much higher for crimes that involve deliberate action than for crimes committed by negligence.

The current six month maximum applies to cruelty committed by neglect as well as cruelty committed intentionally. Bill S-213 would address this by distinguishing between the two types of cruelty. Bill S-213 would assign different maximum penalties to each, according to the different degree of seriousness.

For the new category of offences that require intention or recklessness, the maximum term of imprisonment would be increased to 5 years on indictment and 18 months on summary conviction. The new 5 year penalty would also cover the offence of causing pain, suffering or injury by a failure to exercise reasonable care or supervision. For the other offences, such as abandoning an animal in distress or failing to provide suitable water, food or shelter, the maximum penalty on indictment would be raised from 6 months in prison to 2 years.

The separation of offences according to their degree of fault and the assignment of different maximum penalties would be consistent with other types of criminal offences.

Of course, the increase in the maximum terms of imprisonment would also better reflect the seriousness of animal cruelty and better accord with Canadians' views on this terrible crime.

A second aspect of Bill S-213 would remove the current two year maximum duration of an order prohibiting an offender from possessing or living with an animal. As I mentioned, the courts are fond of prohibition orders in animal cruelty cases and in some cases have found creative ways to extend a prohibition order past the maximum term of two years. The courts and the public clearly agree that some offenders should be denied the privilege of having animals in their homes for longer periods of time than just two years. This change would respond to those concerns and would enable courts to more adequately prevent future offences by prescribing whatever duration was appropriate.

Third, Bill S-213 would introduce a new power to allow the sentencing judge to order the offender to repay the cost of medical care and other forms of care that another person or organization spent caring for the animal that was victimized. Often, animal welfare agencies or humane societies take in animals that have been abused. If they take in an abused animal and the person who abused the animal is later convicted, this new power would be a means of holding the offender financially responsible for the cost of their crime. Making offenders reimburse those costs associated with the crime, like other kinds of restitution in the Criminal Code, would help to foster a sense of responsibility in the offender. It would also help animal welfare agencies recoup the cost of their work.

Under the applicable provincial legislation, agencies can recoup the funds associated with caring for neglected animals from the people responsible for neglecting them. It is important to recognize some of those agencies, like the SPCA, that help with animals that have been abused.

Those are the three principal amendments in Bill S-213. Together they constitute a significant improvement to the current law and one with which all Canadians would agree.

The government supports Bill S-213 and encourages all members to support it as well.

Of course, many members in the House are aware of past legislative efforts to improve the animal cruelty laws. As members are well aware, none of the bills introduced by the previous government over the course of about five years ever passed both chambers.

In addition, it is well-known that there was some disagreement concerning controversy over those bills. Some animal industry groups feared that certain changes would open the door to their being prosecuted for their traditional activities. We do not need to get into the details about that long and drawn out history.

What we have before us today is a private member's bill that has one simple objective: improving the law's ability to deter, denounce and punish animal cruelty and make offenders take greater responsibility for their crimes. It is for those reasons that I encourage all hon. members to support Bill S-213.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I, too, want to congratulate the member for Miramichi on sponsoring the bill introduced by the hon. senator, who was a member of this House and a colleague of mine when I was elected in 1993.

Everyone knows that the debate on cruelty to animals goes back a long way. Six other bills have been introduced in six years: Bills C-10, C-10B, C-15B, C-17, C-22 and, lastly, C-50, the most recent bill, which was introduced during the last Parliament.

Six bills have been brought before Parliament. The bill we are discussing this morning is the seventh. What is more, the member for Ajax—Pickering has introduced an eighth bill. All this has us thinking about the type of legislation we want.

One thing is certain: the status quo is not an option. It is unbelievable that, with one exception, the Criminal Code provisions on cruelty to animals have not been reviewed since 1892.

The situation can be summarized as follows: the punishment for people found guilty of wounding, neglecting, abusing, maiming or killing animals cannot exceed six months in prison or a $2,000 fine, except in cases where cattle are wilfully killed.

Certainly, the bill we are discussing this morning has merits. But it can be improved. I want to be very clear, for those who are watching. The Bloc Québécois will support the Senate bill, Bill S-213. And we also hope that this House will support Bill C-373, introduced by the member for Ajax—Pickering.

The bill before us this morning has three main points in its favour. First, it corrects the outdated sanctions, which are far too mild. These sanctions pertain to people's relationship with animals in the 19th century, when the Criminal Code was conceived.

This bill will make courts more likely to impose stricter sentences on those who commit offences against animals, that is, those who are convicted of misconduct against animals, such as mutilation, killing, negligence, abandonment or refusing to feed animals.

The minimum sentence, when prosecuted by indictment, will be five years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000. The Bloc is pleased with that provision of the bill. That provision can also be found in Bill C-373, introduced by the hon. member for Ajax—Pickering.

This bill also corrects the existing anomaly that a court—through a prohibition order, which courts may impose —can prohibit the owner of an animal from having an animal in his or her possession for a maximum of two years. The bill before us today gives the courts the power to impose such a prohibition order for the owner's entire lifetime.

The third benefit of this bill is that it allows for restitution mechanisms through which the courts can order an individual to pay the costs if an animal has been taken in by an animal welfare organization, for example. A court could therefore order restitution and individuals who committed offences of negligence or intentional cruelty could be forced to pay the organizations that have taken in mistreated animals.

These three benefits alone represent a considerable improvement to the state of the law and warrant our support of this bill.

A number of our constituents have written to us comparing Bill S-213 from the Senate and the bill introduced by the hon. member for Ajax—Pickering that I hope will be debated later. If memory serves me correctly, the hon. member for Ajax—Pickering is 124th or 126th on the list. The political situation being what it is, Parliament may dissolve. We hope not, even though the Bloc Québécois is confident about the future.

In the event that Parliament dissolves before the bill by the hon. member for Ajax—Pickering is debated, we propose that this House fall back on the bill from the Senate. In any event, the short-term gain would be the possibility of increasing maximum penalties for those found guilty of mistreating animals.

I want to be very clear. The Bloc Québécois supports this bill. We would also want Bill C-373 to be passed, and for our constituents to know that these bills are not incompatible or mutually exclusive. The following three provisions are not incompatible with Bill C-373: increasing the penalties for animal cruelty offences; extending orders of prohibition on owning an animal; and implementing restitution mechanisms for individuals to compensate animal protection organizations. That is why the Bloc Québécois will support both bills.

Before explaining why this House should vote in favour of Bill C-373, I want to say that I know that my caucus colleagues and other parliamentarians in this House have always been concerned, when we have debated previous bills on protecting animals and on cruelty toward animals, about ensuring the ancestral rights of the first nations under section 35 of the Constitution, so as not to compromise legitimate hunting and fishing activities, and about legitimate research activities that may involve doing research on animals.

No one wants this House to adopt measures that would end up penalizing hunters and fishers. Senate Bill S-213 provides guarantees in this regard that may not be as attractive as those found in Bill C-373. Clause 3 of Bill C-373 sponsored by our colleague for Ajax—Pickering clearly states that, if the bill is adopted:

3. Subsection 429(2) of the Act is replaced by the following:

(2) No person shall be convicted of an offence under sections 430 to 443 where he proves that he acted with legal justification or excuse and with colour of right.

This means that a hunter or fisher cannot be prosecuted for such activity if it is deemed an aboriginal right or if he or she has a hunting or fishing licence, and this activity is recognized by the legislator. I say this because I am convinced that several parliamentarians in this House have heard representations on the balance that must be maintained between our desire to protect animals against cruelty and the right of hunters, fishers and aboriginal peoples to carry out activities that are recognized in law.

The bill introduced by the member for Ajax—Pickering clearly sets out this guarantee. In conclusion, we hope to amend the Criminal Code insofar as these provisions are concerned. We recognize the three major benefits of this bill and we hope that the House will also adopt Bill C-373. These two bills are a winning combination.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill S-213. I would like to advise the House that the NDP will not be supporting the bill.

We take the issue of cruelty to animals very seriously. The current animal cruelty laws were enacted in 1892 and have not been substantially altered in 114 years of Parliament's rule over this land. The answer to dealing with these issues is not simply to cosmetically increase the sentences that are being meted out for offences that are not enforceable in the first place and have not been enforceable over many years.

There have been many instances of animal cruelty where the RCMP has not bothered with charges because the punishment meted out was not worth pursuing the case and it was impossible to prove wilful neglect. We need more of a deterrent. We need something that speaks to the nature of animal cruelty in a modern context.

Hon. members who have spoken before me have talked about the history of dealing with this issue in Parliament over the last seven years. Parliamentarians and governments have tried to focus on this issue and have found that it is impossible to move modern legislation through the two Houses that deals with animal cruelty.

The former government's Bill C-50 was not allowed to pass through the Senate. In 2003 it had support from animal protection groups, animal industry groups such as farmers, trappers and researchers, the vast majority of Canadians, and all parties in the House of Commons.

We have seen a disconnect when dealing with this issue of animal cruelty. We are stuck. We are only dealing with this bill now, not another companion bill, that would achieve support in the House and in the Senate. On the one hand we can put this bill forward which will cosmetically increase the penalties for animal cruelty, but it will not deal with the fundamental issues of a modern animal cruelty bill. That is not adequate. It should not be adequate to parliamentarians. It was not adequate in 2003 and I fail to see how it has become adequate today.

When we look at animal cruelty and the opportunities for the misunderstanding that comes with harvesting of animals, with the use of animals in agriculture, those things cry out for a clear definition. They cry out for a modern bill that would set the terms and conditions by which human beings could deal with animals. Without that, the deterrents are meaningless.

My constituents have spoken to me on this issue and have urged me not to support Bill S-213. I see their logic. I am concerned. The hon. member for the Bloc said that if we set higher deterrents without understanding the nature of cruelty to animals and without outlining it carefully in the legislation, we may find that it will lead to difficulties in different industries in the future.

My constituents still are part of the trapping industry. My constituents utilize animals in a modern fashion. When I look back through the history of trapping, humane traps were designed by trappers in response to their understanding of the nature of cruelty to animals. That is admirable. The industry looks at how it conducts business and regulates itself to a great degree. The understanding of the nature of that can lie with the industry very well.

In my own home community of Fort Smith, the Conibear trap was originally developed by a trapper who worked for many years in the bush. He saw how leghold traps worked and how effective they were and how the tools they used worked with the animal population they were harvesting.

Those types of issues need understanding in a bill. It is not good enough simply to increase the sentences for the actions of society toward animals. We need to understand how to use the law to make society work better with animals. That requires more than simply raising the penalties in a law that was first enacted in 1892 and virtually has not changed since then.

I do not think that this action today is correct. We need to look at the question in its entirety. Parliamentarians in the past have done that. We have not been able to come to a full consensus in both houses but we have a duty to Canadians to act correctly in this fashion.

Our party's justice critic may have an opportunity to expand on this in further debate. I urge members to consider carefully what is being done here.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin my remarks by thanking my fellow New Brunswicker, the member for Miramichi, for introducing this important animal protection bill in this House.

The members who spoke before me this morning have clearly described the legal reasons why we have now reached the point where we must take action to improve the protection of animals and prevent cruelty to animals. In fact, this Parliament has expressed that feeling on several occasions in recent years. It did so unsuccessfully, however; it was unable to receive royal assent for a bill that would modernize the rules regarding penalties and the concept of animal protection.

The author of this bill in the other house is Senator Bryden, an eminent legal expert. As the parliamentary secretary said this morning, the senator has worked very hard to build consensus among a number of groups, around this bill and around the serious need to expand and strengthen the penalties available to judges when someone is convicted under the cruelty to animals provisions of the Criminal Code.

I have supported other bills in the past, like those introduced by my government at the time, to modernize the animal protection provisions of the Criminal Code. As other members, including the member for Hochelaga, have mentioned, those bills were not adopted or given royal assent before an election intervened or before the term of a Parliament ended.

Our colleague in the other house, the author of this bill, rightly decided that there was one aspect of the subject on which there was significant consensus: the need to increase the punishment, to expand the tools available to judges and prosecutors for sentencing someone who breaks the law or dealing with someone who has been convicted of violating these provisions of the Criminal Code.

In the past, other bills may have been too ambitious. As my colleagues have said, that does not mean that Bill S-213, which is now before this House, should not pass just because we are waiting for some more comprehensive reform in the future.

It is my opinion that if this House decides to support this bill today, that is a very good start. It is an acknowledgement, and a clear message to prosecutors, judges and the police, stating that this Parliament believes in animal protection and has sent a message against cruelty to animals in all its forms.

However, we recognize the need for balance. I believe the member for Hochelaga talked about balance.

In rural regions like mine, there are hunters, commercial fishers, recreational fishers and farmers. There are also people belonging to first nations. It is my privilege to represent in this House a first nations community, the Mi'kmaq. They have a long-standing tradition of using animals for perfectly legitimate purposes. These ways of using animals do not constitute animal cruelty at all. Moreover, for many people, this is also a research-related issue. We have made major progress in medicine because researchers have used animals in their research. I think that balance is essential in this respect as well.

These cases do not constitute animal cruelty in the same sense as the examples my colleague from Wild Rose brought up when he asked the member for Miramichi a question. Those were examples of abhorrent behaviour. I think there is consensus in this Parliament—at least I hope there is—that the sentencing regime in the Criminal Code must finally be modernized.

I was very pleased to hear the parliamentary secretary support this bill on behalf of the government. As all members are well aware, striving for perfection can sometimes prevent us from doing what is achievable.

This morning colleagues have described some of the very important technical reasons that Bill S-213 merits adoption by this House. The other place has studied this question extensively. Senator Bryden from New Brunswick has done an outstanding job at building consensus around one element that received not much objection, which is the issue of modernizing the sentencing regime.

Bill S-213 in a very compelling way sets up a system of hybrid offences. This is a long-standing tradition in criminal law where prosecutors can decide based on all the circumstances of the case if in fact the offence is one of deliberate cruelty to animals and would obviously require a more severe sanction than perhaps might one of neglect. By allowing prosecutors to proceed by way of indictment as a more serious criminal offence with much more serious prison sentences attached to a conviction under indictment, Parliament sends a very compelling message to those who might seek to abuse animals either by committing an act that the courts hold to have been an abuse or cruelty to animals or those who may neglect animals and fail to provide the essentials which, in turn, also are offences under the Criminal Code and appropriately should be.

Colleagues should think carefully before seeking to achieve a more global reform of the legislation with respect to cruelty to animals and miss the opportunity before us today to modernize in a very important way the sentencing regime. This can be a very good first step toward perhaps finding at some future point another balance in terms of other bills that may come before the House. A great deal of work has gone into this.

Discussions lasted a long time, especially in the other place. A consensus was reached and I urge my colleagues to review the list of organizations across the country that support this bill. These groups represent, among others, urban communities, hunters, researchers and veterinarians.

I know that my time is running out, so in closing, I would like to congratulate the member for Miramichi, who took the initiative to introduce Bill S-213 in this House. I would ask my colleagues to acknowledge the work that has been done to find balance on this issue and to recognize, as I do, that this is an excellent first step that will modernize the animal cruelty provisions in the Criminal Code.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Wild Rose will have 10 minutes, of which five minutes are today.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will cut my speech short today and try to cover a couple of points that I think were missed in the discussion this morning.

First, in response to my Liberal friend who just spoke, we have a history of owners of operations such as puppy mills who pay a $2,000 fine, relocate their operations and continue on with their mills.

There are two things I like about the bill. First, it increases the penalty for those kinds of operations. The second is the prohibition. They are ordered never to engage in that activity again. The ownership of animals should not be any part of their privileges.

The bill has a lot of good things in it that need to be moved forward. Is there room for improvement? Possibly so, but in order to get the improvement, this needs to pass second reading and get to committee. We need to listen to the witnesses and testimonies before committee, and if it can be improved, that is the time to do it.

The NDP would simply reject the bill and say that the status quo is good enough. However, the status quo is not good enough for Canadian people, of whom I am aware. They want to see some serious changes. If we reject Bill S-213, then the status quo will remain in effect for quite some time.

The bills that were previously mentioned would be forever getting to the House. We are operating under a minority government, never knowing when an election is going to be called and whether a bill is going to die. I would like to see this bill passed before any election occurs, and not have it die on the order paper. We have to show society that we are serious about doing something on these issues.

The one major thing we missed in all the speeches is the fact that studies have shown that a high majority of individuals sitting in penitentiaries today because they have violently attacked human beings, young children in particular, have a background of animal abuse prior to their convictions for these kinds of other violent crimes. There seems to be a connection.

If we keep that in mind, maybe we can realize the importance of getting the bill through the House and getting it approved as quickly as possible so we can try our very best to break that connection with increased penalties, more severe punishment and prohibition.

Any individual who mistreats an animal, as in some of the cases of which I have most recently been made aware, should not be allowed to own another animal for the rest of his or her life. We do that for many other kinds of crimes. In particular, I think of guns. If people misuse guns, there is a very good chance they will never own another one. It should be the same thing for pets or other animals.

There is also a myth out there that this will not cover wildlife and stray animals. They are already fully protected in the Criminal Code. However, we need are courts, adjudicators and Crown prosecutors who are willing to push the envelope when these things, these individuals, get to court. We need them to say loudly and clearly that the activities they have engaged in are unacceptable in this society and that they will pay dearly for their crimes.

I listened to the Bloc member who talked about the SPCA taking possession of animals when there was misuse. We have to be very careful. Not too long ago, I reported on a case in my riding of a farmer who took a culled cow to the market. He was charged because the cow had cancer eye. He spent $17,000 of his own money to fight it in court. He could have paid a $1,000 fine and not go to court, but on principle, he took it to court and won the case. Those kinds of incidents have to stop.

Let us get the bill to committee. We have to hear witnesses and have them testify as to what they would like to see in changes and amendments. Then we can move on with what I think is one of the most important issues of this year.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

Noon

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

When Bill S-213 returns to the House, there will be five minutes left for the hon. member for Wild Rose.

The House resumed from February 12 consideration of the motion.

Anti-terrorism Act
Orders of the Day

Noon

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity today to make some brief remarks. I have only 10 minutes to speak to the Anti-terrorism Act, which was passed by the House. I do not think a single member of Parliament would disagree that at the time we were in a climate of considerable fear and apprehension.

I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to my colleague, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh. He has provided astounding leadership around the issues with which we have been grappling ever since.

Members who have been following the anti-terrorism debate in the House will know that my colleague from Windsor—Tecumseh has filed a minority report in relation to the two issues principally before us now, those sections of the Anti-terrorism Act that pertain to investigations and preventive arrests.

It will surprise no one that I am in absolute agreement with my colleague, the justice critic for the New Democratic party. In fact, all my colleagues stand together to oppose what we think remain provisions of the act that were clearly recognized at the time to be out of balance with what was necessary to achieve, weighing off security demands against civil liberties and human rights.

The fact that the government is not prepared to allow the sunset clause to apply to these two provisions is a clear and an alarming signal that it has not learned the lessons, lessons well learned by a great many Canadians at a grave expense and a tremendous cost to those victims of the overzealousness of some of these provisions.

No one has said this better than the NDP justice critic. Terrorism cannot be fought with legislation. It must be fought through the efforts of intelligent services, combined with appropriate police action. There is no act of terrorism that is not already a criminal offence, punishable by the most stringent penalties under the Criminal Code. This is obviously the case for premeditated, cold blooded murders. However, it is also true for the destruction of major infrastructures.

It is very much the view of the NDP that if in any respect the Criminal Code is lacking, the legislation is insufficient to deal with the threat of terrorism, then this can be amended. If the police do not have the full legal means needed to deal with terrorism threats, then that legislation should be amended. No one has brought forward the amendments that would address this in the Criminal Code.

In our view, the lessons of post 9/11 absolutely lead to the position we have taken today, and that is we have to learn those lessons and apply them. This means we should let those two overzealous measures expire as the sunset clause indicated.

As we began the debate on the legislation, there was a truly superb coalition effort of Quebec Muslim and Arab organizations. They came to the Hill and sought the opportunity to meet with members in all caucuses. I am not sure if they succeeded in doing that. However, it was an excellent experience for the NDP caucus to hear the presentation of that coalition.

I will briefly quote from what is an excellent brief. I want to ensure that it goes into the record. It was one of the most concise and intelligent analyses of the issues we face. The second point in the recommendations brought forward in their analysis of what happened post-9/11 reads:

In Canada, antiterrorism laws...and the applications of the Security Certificates have created a socio-political climate of prejudice fueling Islamophobia and Arabophobia. Canadians and Quebeckers of Muslim faith or Arab heritage are singled out as a threat to national security which is affecting their rights and liberties.

If anyone questions whether that is an accurate description of what has happened to a great many Canadian Muslims and Canadian Arabs post-9/11, simply look back on the disgraceful question period that took place last week. At the sheer mention of the anti-terrorism provisions subject to the sunset clause, the Prime Minister stood in and by reference, by innuendo, spoke about a family member of a member of the House in terms of him being a candidate to come before the secret investigations.

Nothing could more stringently underline why the sunset clause should apply to those investigations. Instead of the Prime Minister creating such innuendoes, he should have been asking, if he has learned any lessons at all about RCMP leaks, why these leaks about someone who may or may not appear before a secret investigation were being given to the public? Why would the Prime Minister participate in referencing what had to be leaks coming from the RCMP? I hope members of the House will reflect on lessons that need to be learned.

I want to briefly quote from the final words of Maher Arar, which he shared with an audience of people across political party lines. However, it was a grave disappointment that only the leader of the Conservative Party, the Prime Minister, chose not to attend the event. The other party leaders were there. Also a large number of representatives from the other caucuses were there, except the government caucus. This again leads us to believe the government has not learned the lessons of the overzealousness post-9/11.

Here are the words of Maher Arar on that evening of tribute to Monia Mazigh and Maher Arar for the work that they had done for Canadians around the issue of the appropriate balance between security and civil liberties:

—I want to remind you that our rights and freedoms are an inheritance, paid for dearly by countless others before us who saw or experienced injustice, and fought it, often not for themselves, but for those who would come after them. We need to respect this inheritance for its value to us and to our children, as well as for the price others paid for it.

Finally, there was a truly superb address given at the outset of that evening. It was a very fine, insightful, scholarly address by Dr. Tyseer Aboulnasr, who said in part:

Friends, let us never forget that nations are not judged by the laws they write up and lock up in libraries, nations are judged by how they act at times when their dedication to these laws are truly tested. Every country that has chosen to sacrifice the liberties of its citizens and hold them in shackles has done that out of belief that this is necessary for its security. We, Canadians, know better. We know that security without liberty is simply imprisonment. Nothing is more secure than a maximum security prison. We deserve better. We cannot let Canada turn into a maximum security prison by imprisoning one Canadian without the presumption of innocence till proven guilty and without the full opportunity to defend themselves.

For that reason I was genuinely shocked. The day after this superb speech was made in tribute to Maher Arar and Monia Mazigh, the former solicitor general, under the Liberal government, stood in the House in answer to a question I raised. He said that as far as he was concerned we had achieved exactly the right balance between security and civil liberties in the post-9/11 era.

I respectfully disagree with him and I urge members to see the wisdom of letting the sunset clause of these two overzealous measures take effect. They are covered in the Criminal Code and can deal with future threats of terrorism, which we all take very seriously.

Anti-terrorism Act
Orders of the Day

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Ignatieff Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to the government's motion relating to extending certain clauses of the Anti-terrorism Act that are subject to sunset at the end of this month.

The Liberal opposition has thought long and hard on this issue. This party, while in government, introduced the Anti-terrorism Act and this House passed certain provisions subject to a five year sunset which we are considering in the House today.

The position of my party is clear. These provisions providing for preventive arrest and investigative hearings should sunset and they should sunset because they are flawed.

The Commons committee and the committee in another House that reviewed these provisions believed that while some of the provisions are worthwhile they were seriously flawed. The committees had made extensive recommendations on how to address these flaws, how to ensure they better contribute to our public safety and how to better safeguard against the potential abuse of human rights.

The Liberal Party is proud of its record on defence and public safety, and I want to stress that this record is in line with civil liberties.

The point is that government has ignored the recommendations of the House and Senate committees. The government has failed to present to this House clear proposals to extend these provisions in a modified form which take into account the concerns of parliamentarians.

In fact, the government has not formally engaged the opposition in any way. It has not submitted any proposals to us. We have known since last October that Canada's Anti-terrorism Act needed a complete review. The government has done nothing.

This has presented the House and the country with an up or down choice. The government seeks to present all parties in Parliament with the following choice: vote to extend these provisions or risk being labelled as soft on terror.

Let me be clear. This party has never been soft on terror. As the leader of my party has repeatedly stated, if the government presented this House with clear proposals to redraft the anti-terrorist legislation to take into account the sensible suggestions made by the House and the Senate committees, the official opposition would act expeditiously and responsibly.

To repeat, the party has never been soft on terror. The House knows and the government knows that after the attacks of 9/11 the Liberal government acted decisively and we will always do so.

The Liberal government at the time also knew something else: measures that may be necessary in an emergency must always be reviewed once the danger has abated. That is why the original legislation included sunset clauses so that, once the immediate danger had passed, Parliament could calmly assess whether those measures should be renewed and, if so, how.

This is where we are today or where we ought to be if this country were led by a responsible government. If this country were led by a government that said, “We are in a minority position in this House. Let us reach out to the opposition. Let us listen to what the committees of the House and the committees in another chamber said. Let us come back with revisions to the legislation that better balance security and liberty”, we would have responded positively. Instead, in the government everything is political. Everything is an opportunity to jam the opposition.

That is fair enough. We are all politicians in the House, but there are some issues on which we should try to put politics aside and put the security of our country first.