Mr. Speaker, whatever parliamentary secretary I am, I am not quite sure on this wonderful Monday in Ottawa. Whatever it is, I can assure members that I will continue to perform to the best of my ability.
Members opposite have come over and suggested that I do not know anything about animals. I find it interesting when people stand up in this place and talk about their family pets as if that is somehow the issue here. I e-mailed my wife to make sure that my 80 pound Lab Duke is watching, so he knows that I support obviously the proper care, nurturing and feeding of all animals, two legged, four legged or whatever kind.
What I find really interesting are the objections to putting in law the definition of animal and the concerns about that. Frankly, I do not have a problem with people expressing concerns on behalf of the farming community to ensure that we all understand the impact the bill would have.
The fact of the matter is most jurisdictions have defined animal. People at home watching might think that is kind of bizarre. Let me share some of the definitions. A broad definition of animal is consistent not only with definitions found in some provincial statutes, but also with some United States statutes.
Let me give some examples. The province of Alberta says that it does not include a human being, an exclusionary definition. The next definition from Manitoba and New Brunswick is “non-human living being with a developed nervous system”.
The definition from Arkansas includes every living creature. That is pretty broad, even more so than what we are talking about in the bill, which requires a vertebrae to be in existence.
Here is one that could apply to members of the opposition. It is a definition out of Colorado, Florida and Ohio. The definition reads “means any living dumb creature”. Those are not my words. That is the definition. If the shoe fits maybe they want to wear it.
It goes on and on like that. The point of the matter is what we are trying to do is put in place a definition so that when it does come to a decision in the courts, some rules will be there which can be followed.
One member opposite with the fifth party suggested that somehow this would impact mosquitos. Talk about going over the top, if we want a humane way to take care of a mosquito. It is so ludicrous that we have lowered the level of debate to the point where we are talking about somehow being charged for killing a mosquito that is in the bedroom trying to take some blood. This has become silly.
I think it is because members opposite feel the heat and the pressure that we have all felt. All of us have received, e-mails and phone calls. There have even been demonstrations on the front lawn of Parliament Hill . People have called on us to invoke closure, get the bill done and put in place some laws that will provide protection for animals. Have members ever in history seen a situation where people have demonstrated and called for the government to invoke closure? It is unheard of.
Let us put this issue of time allocation in perspective. The bill was originally introduced in this place as Bill C-17. That was December 1999. There were howls and complaints from members opposite that we needed to split the bill, that it was too much like an omnibus bill because it dealt with guns, animals and child pornography. I remember the hue and cry from members opposite that we needed to split it up so we could deal with the child pornography issue separately.
The government agreed and brought in Bill C-15A and Bill C-15B. It is almost like the opposition cannot take yes for an answer. We split the bill, and now we are dealing with the issue that concerns Canadians.
At third reading alone there were over 40 speakers in five days. Committee hearings took place and the bill was reintroduced in September 2001. Two years later there was a new bill. It was split at the request of the opposition and of caucus to allow us to deal with it separately.
There is fearmongering going on that somehow if someone killed a cow, maybe it should not have been killed because it never did anything and people say it is awful. Animal husbandry, the way of dealing with animals on the farm, is not being threatened. We are concerned about abuse.
I am sorry to say that just two weeks ago in my riding two dogs were left in a car for four hours outside a bar while their owner was inside and obviously had too many drinks. One of the dogs died and the second dog almost died. I have not heard whether or not it was able to pull through.
Should society not do anything about that? Should we not take it seriously, to make it a crime that is punishable? One can be punished for that kind of crime for up to five years. The fine can be up to $10,000. It is absolutely unconscionable that there is some perception that a farmer is going to be told he cannot take the tail off a pig or a lamb as we heard earlier, because it is cruel and unusual punishment. Clearly if it is part of common law and I would add if it is common sense and it is a tradition, then what we do not want is to rip the tail off. There is a proper procedure for doing it.
When I was in the Ontario legislature we dealt with the issue of research. Companies and people were using animals for research purposes. We recognize the importance of using animals for research but if it is done properly those animals do not suffer unduly. Care is taken with the animals. I invite members to take some time to visit a research lab to see the love, caring and tenderness of the people who deal with those animals, whether they are monkeys, hamsters or whatever they are. They are not people who are savagely trying to inflict pain and getting great pleasure out of it. They are people who are doing cancer, heart and blood research. They are doing research on the immune system and research in all kinds of areas that are good for human health. Those people are not in jeopardy with the bill.
What we dealt with in the province of Ontario was a private member's bill that would make it illegal to use a rabbit's eyes to test for cosmetics. Let us get real. Somebody drops mascara or something of that nature into the eye of a rabbit, or puts it in with a needle to try to find out if it will harm the eye or create an allergic reaction. Surely to goodness there are ways of determining that without inflicting that kind of pain on any given animal.
If it is for the good of humanity, for medical purposes and there are reasons to do this kind of thing, the bill would not prohibit it. There would be a defence based on common law. Clearly the bill would put the onus on the crown to prove that there was some kind of objectionable conduct. We have to realize that if we want to get to the bottom of this, if we want to attack the puppy mills, the people who put cats in microwaves or the people who leave their animals in hot cars in temperatures of 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, we need a bill with some teeth in it that will allow the government to stand up for the living beings that cannot defend themselves.
I want the Canadian public to know the kinds of objections that are being made here and how outrageous and ridiculous they are, such as the suggestion that the bill would actually create problems for someone who killed a mosquito. Imagine that someone actually said that.
Years ago when I was a member of Mississauga city council, a director of the humane society used a weapon to shoot dogs in our facility in Mississauga, having determined it was a safe and harmless way of killing seal pups. It was an Ontario humane society official who did it. There were pictures of dogs lying bleeding because the shot did not work or the gun missed. It was an appalling situation. At the time I took on the director.