House of Commons Hansard #88 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was election.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Government Policies
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Opposition Motion—Government Policies
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

Vote #110

Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

I declare the motion lost.

The New Democratic Party whip on a point of order.

Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. During the recorded division that just took place, no NDP member rose to vote on the Liberal opposition motion. I would like to inform all members that every member of the NDP caucus was present for this vote, and that our abstention reflects our desire to support unemployed workers rather than the Liberals' wish for an election.

Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

I see where the member is coming from, but it is not a point of order.

It being 5:45 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare
Private Members' Business

October 1st, 2009 / 5:40 p.m.

Liberal

Michelle Simson Scarborough Southwest, ON

moved:

Motion No. 354

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should support the development and adoption of a Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare at the United Nations as well as at all relevant international organizations and forums.

Madam Speaker, I am very honoured to rise today to present Motion No. 354.

Before I begin, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the member for Burnaby—Douglas who had a similar motion on the order paper. The member graciously agreed to withdraw his motion so I could proceed with the motion we are debating today.

I would also like to thank my caucus colleague, the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, for her continued support and counsel. She is extremely passionate about this issue and I am grateful for all of her support.

World Animal Week is set to begin next week, making the debate of this motion extremely timely for Canada to vote to support the development of a universal declaration on animal welfare, or UDAW.

What is the universal declaration on animal welfare? To put it simply, it is an agreement among people and nations to recognize that animals are sentient, suffer, have welfare needs and to ultimately end animal cruelty worldwide.

The UDAW refers to the welfare of sentient animals. Sentience is the capacity to have feelings and to experience suffering and pleasure. It implies a level of conscious awareness. Scientific research indicates that all vertebrates are animals. This is an active research area and knowledge of sentience among species continues to grow.

More than a billion people rely on animals for their livelihoods and even more for job and food security. For many others, animals are companions that enrich their lives. While it has been proven that animals can feel pain and do suffer, global recognition of the significance of animal welfare remains virtually non-existent.

The UDAW will be structured as a set of general principles that acknowledge and emphasize the importance of animal welfare. The purpose of these principles is to encourage all nations to put in place or enhance existing animal welfare laws and standards. The UDAW will not be binding legislation and does not, therefore, attribute legal rights to animals.

A draft text was developed at the Manila Conference on Animal Welfare in March 2003 and at the Costa Rica steering committee meeting in November 2005. This is the basis for work on the drafting of a universal declaration on animal welfare and is in part based on the following:

That animal welfare is an issue worth consideration by governments.

That the promotion of animal welfare requires collective action and all stakeholders and affected parties must be involved.

That work on animal welfare is a continuous process....

RECOGNIZING that animals are living, sentient beings and therefore deserve due consideration and respect;

RECOGNIZING that animal welfare includes animal health [and that veterinarians have an essential role in maintaining both the health and welfare of animals];

RECOGNIZING that humans [inhabit] this planet with other species and other forms of life and that all forms of life co-exist within an interdependent ecosystem;...

ACKNOWLEDGING that the humane use of animals can have major benefits for humans;

This draft text also outlines the principles of the declaration as being:

1. The welfare of animals shall be a common objective for all [states];

2. The standards of animal welfare attained by each [state] shall be promoted, recognized and observed by improved measures, nationally and internationally. [Whilst there are significant social, economic and cultural differences between societies, each should care for and treat animals in a humane and sustainable manner][in accordance with the principles of the Declaration];

3. All appropriate steps shall be taken by [states] to prevent cruelty to animals and to reduce their suffering; 4. Appropriate standards on the welfare of animals be further developed and elaborated such as, but not limited to, those governing the use and management of farm animals, companion animals, animals in scientific research, draught animals, wildlife animals and animals in recreation.

The next phase in securing international recognition of the welfare of animals is for this non-binding agreement to be endorsed at the United Nations. The achievement of this declaration would be a groundbreaking step toward improvements for animals around the world and would act as a catalyst for change for animals in the following areas:

In the area of environmental sustainability, responsible animal management provides a positive impact on land use, climate change, pollution, water supplies, habitat conservation and biodiversity.

In the area of human health, proper animal care reduces the risk of disease transmission to humans and food poisoning. The human-animal bond also has proven therapeutic effects.

In the area of disaster management, animals are critical elements of many people's livelihoods, food security and cultural awareness. It is essential that protection be considered in disaster reduction preparedness and response policies.

In the area of poverty and hunger reduction, caring for animals appropriately improves productivity and helps farmers to provide food for themselves, their families and their communities.

In the area of social development, people's attitudes and behaviour toward animals overlap with their attitudes and behaviour toward each other.

The UDAW is supported by a growing list of government and key ministries from countries around the world including all 27 members of the European Union, as well as New Zealand, Australia, Sweden, Fiji, Croatia, Cambodia, Bahrain, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Norway and Thailand.

There is also a great deal of support from the public. More than 50,000 Canadians have signed petitions in support of a UDAW. Many of these petitions have been presented in the House of Commons. The UDAW is actively supported by Canada's foremost animal protection organizations including the World Society for the Protection of Animals.

Some may ask why we need a declaration now. In recent years our understanding of animal sentience has progressed dramatically. As a result, animal welfare has developed into an issue that demands immediate attention. The scientific basis of sentience is directly linked to an ethical concern for animal welfare.

There is currently no acknowledgement by the international community of animal welfare being an issue of importance. Neither the scientific findings regarding sentience nor the links between animal welfare and human development have been recognized.

Positive change for animals will follow recognition of animal welfare. Improving animal welfare will have a positive impact on human welfare. Reducing the pain and suffering that humans can inflict on animals will guide our relationship with them. The UDAW represents a new national beginning for our relationship with animals.

The achievement of the declaration is an important step and will act as a catalyst for change in the following ways: by raising the status of animal welfare as an international issue; by encouraging all governments to establish or improve national animal welfare legislation and its implementation; by encouraging those industries which utilize animals to keep their welfare at the forefront of their policies and practices; and finally, by inspiring positive change in public attitudes and actions toward animals.

It is important to emphasize two points. First, the UDAW has yet to be finalized and is only in a draft form. The purpose of this motion is to urge the government to involve itself in the continued development of the text and to support it. Second, the UDAW is a non-binding resolution. Its purpose is to persuade other nations without animal protection legislation to put some in place.

The development of and support for a universal declaration on animal welfare does have an obvious relationship to the cruelty to animals legislation, but will not have a cause and effect relationship. As I mentioned before, the UDAW is a non-binding resolution. The passage of UDAW would not force any changes to our animal welfare laws that we do not as a nation choose to enact ourselves.

As for countries such as ours which have animal welfare legislation, it would provide an excellent opportunity to review current legislation to identify areas of improvement. We know that an update of our animal welfare laws is long overdue, although some work has already taken place.

A great deal of legislation has been introduced and debated in this House over the past number of years. Sadly, of all that legislation introduced, only Bill S-203 was successful in becoming law. While critics say that bill does not go far enough, which is something I concur with, I do think it is a small step in a positive direction.

It is my hope that this motion can be another step to influence not only Canada but the international community as well.

A universal declaration on animal welfare is not a conclusion; it is a beginning. It is a signal that, as a global community, we recognize the importance of animals in our lives and the positive impact they have on our way of life. It is a demonstration of our understanding that treating animals humanely is a benefit to our entire society. Supporting a UDAW is a simple, moral and principled action Canada could take with ease.

I strenuously urge all members to support Motion No. M-354.

Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare
Private Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like my colleague from Scarborough Southwest to explain why she stated that should the Canadian government develop and adopt a universal declaration on animal welfare, UDAW, it would not be binding.

Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare
Private Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Michelle Simson Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I stated in the speech, it is not binding. It is a resolution. It is an understanding and an acknowledgement how we as a nation feel about the welfare of animals.

Canada has led in so many areas in so many ways. I think it is time we got with the program on this. We are so far behind. There have been eight animal rights bills in as many years introduced in this House and only one bill has passed.

A declaration would be an excellent start. It would not be binding but, symbolically, it would say everything about us as a nation.

Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare
Private Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I really appreciated my colleague's speech on the motion before us, but I had some trouble understanding the link between her speech and her party's position on Bill S-203.

If I am not mistaken, the Liberals and the NDP opposed that bill. Obviously, Bill S-203 did not go as far as we would have liked, but it at least made it possible to end the status quo.

Why did the Liberals introduce this motion today? When it was time to make the necessary legislative changes, the Liberal Party remained seated.

Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare
Private Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Michelle Simson Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, with respect to that one bill, Bill S-203, it originated in the other place. It was extremely misleading in that it lulled Canadians into thinking that we were accomplishing something. For the most part, all parties were disappointed that it lacked any kind of depth or teeth.

This is a resolution. This is a commitment that we are looking for, which it is hoped will be heard around the world. This is about something we believe in as a nation, protecting animals, protecting those that have no ability to protect themselves.

Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare
Private Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Scarborough Southwest for introducing this motion this afternoon. It is a topic that I have an interest in as well.

I wonder if she could say a little bit more about how this might influence the debate in Canada around animal welfare. We know the UDAW would not be a binding resolution, should it be adopted, but how might this raise the level of debate in Canada around animal welfare issues? What might it bring to that discussion that would be helpful for us when we finally get around to modernizing our animal cruelty laws here in Canada? We know that needs to be done. We have been disappointed by the efforts to do that in the past.

How could this international discussion influence our discussion here in Canada?

Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare
Private Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Michelle Simson Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, it raises awareness of an issue that has not received enough time in the spotlight. It will also bring about discussion on the transport of animals and health safety. Given the fact that we are dealing with H1N1, which was called swine flu, all of these things come into play. This motion will put this whole issue into the spotlight, which it deserves.

Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

Calgary East
Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada takes issues of animal welfare seriously, and it strongly pursues issues of animal protection. For this reason, our government is actively involved in issues of animal welfare, both on the domestic level and internationally.

Canada has long contributed to the development of international standards for animal health and welfare. Since taking up the request of member countries to become the lead international organization for animal welfare, the World Organisation for Animal Health has become the main international institution for advancing the development of science-based animal welfare standards and thus for improving the well-being and care of animals worldwide.

The World Organisation for Animal Health has formulated a number of international guidelines for the humane slaughter of animals, killing for disease control and for the transport of animals by air, land and sea.

As a member of the World Organisation for Animal Health, Canada supported that body's Resolution XIV of May 2007, in which it was decided to support in principle the development of a universal declaration on animal welfare calling on countries to acknowledge the importance of animal welfare. The same resolution recognized that the World Organisation for Animal Health is the established international animal welfare standard-setting body.

Our government wants to make sure that the subject of animal welfare continues to be given the attention it deserves and that positive progress continues to be made in order to improve the well-being of animals as an end in itself. For this reason, we support in principle the development of the universal declaration on animal welfare as a reflection of Canadians' commitment to the well-being of animals and this government's vigorous commitment to their protection.

However, while the development of a universal declaration on animal welfare is a laudable goal, we do not believe that the United Nations is the appropriate forum to address this issue. The United Nations Charter does not give the United Nations a mandate to address issues relating to animal welfare. Rather, the United Nations focuses its efforts on matters more immediately related to human welfare, such as peace and security, human rights and economic development. To suggest a new mandate for the United Nations would carry the risk of further stretching that organization's already expansive responsibilities and it would be inconsistent with Canada's strong efforts to improve the effectiveness and focus of the United Nations in its mandated areas of activity.

This government is committed to ensuring that the United Nations pursues a course of reform to become more effective, more accountable and more democratic. We have made this a priority in our engagement with the organization. These reform efforts are wide-ranging and comprehensive, to achieve an organization that is more responsive to the challenges of today.

We actively support institutional reform of key United Nations organizations, including the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council, and of course the Security Council. As the Minister of Foreign Affairs has stated, we must make the Security Council more effective, more accessible and more flexible, more adaptable to the challenges and opportunities of a broader international community.

This government is committed to ensuring that the structure of the United Nations meets the needs of the 21st century. We push for greater progress in the United Nations business practices and management practices to improve the accountability and efficiency of that institution, and we support the streamlining of working methods to make the United Nations more relevant in international discourse.

For Canada, the United Nations remains indispensable for addressing the many global challenges that confront us today. Canada's current priorities include progress on peace and security, economic development, human rights, climate change and terrorism.

From the very founding of the United Nations, Canada has contributed ideas, energy and resources to help the United Nations accomplish its mandate. Today, our government is contributing to peace and security and making significant sacrifices in United Nations-mandated operations, in areas ranging from Afghanistan to Sudan to Haiti. All told, more than 3,000 Canadian soldiers, police officers, diplomats, aid workers and experts in correctional services and justice are currently deployed in the United Nations-led or United Nations-mandated missions worldwide.

Mr. Speaker, could I ask my colleague to complete this speech due to the cough that I have?

Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare
Private Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is it agreeable to the House that the member for Yorkton—Melville be allowed to complete the remarks of the parliamentary secretary?