An Act to amend the Budget Implementation Act, 1997 and the Financial Administration Act

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2002.

Sponsor

Paul Martin  Liberal

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2002 / 6:20 p.m.
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Mississauga West Ontario

Liberal

Steve Mahoney LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Crown Corporations

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.

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2002 / 6:05 p.m.
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Liberal

John Finlay Liberal Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, the cruelty provisions in Bill C-15B respond directly to the concerns of Canadians.

Over the past three years Canadians have been consistent and clear in their demands for action by the federal government to update the cruelty provisions and create stiffer penalties for acts of cruelty against animals. Bill C-15B would meet these expectations without changing the liability for intentional cruelty and criminal neglect. Nothing in the bill would in any way put at risk lawful and humane activities involving animals for purposes such as agriculture, hunting, trapping and research.

To be absolutely clear, the former minister of justice introduced an amendment that was adopted by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. The amendment states that all justifications, excuses and defences available in common law would apply to proceedings under the animal cruelty provisions. The amendment is the latest in a series of modifications to the animal cruelty provisions to address the concerns of critics.

The animal cruelty provisions in Bill C-15B were contained in a previous bill, Bill C-17, which was introduced in parliament on December 1, 1999 and died on the order paper when the federal election was called in October, 2000. The amendments had two primary objectives. First, they would have consolidated and simplified the existing law on animal cruelty by organizing offences in a more rational way and removing outdated distinctions and expressions. Second, they would have enhanced the penalty provisions by increasing current maximum sentences such as terms of imprisonment, fines, and orders prohibiting the possession of animals, and by creating a new power to order offenders to repay costs incurred by humane societies in caring for animals they leave unattended.

Bill C-17 was enthusiastically supported by thousands of Canadians. However a number of associations representing agriculture, hunting, fishing and animal research made submissions to the Minister of Justice expressing specific legal concerns about the bill, largely to the effect that the amendments could increase the risk of prosecution for people engaged in such activities. The minister benefited from the input of these groups. Although Bill C-17 would not have increased the risk of prosecution for people engaged in lawful activities, the amendments contained in Bill C-17 and replicated in Bill C-15B contain several important improvements that would make the intent and effect of the law more clear.

Such changes include: spelling out the necessary criminal state of mind with words like wilfully or recklessly instead of leaving it to the courts to interpret the proper standard; offering a definition that clearly establishes a standard of criminal negligence and removes all doubt that simple or civil negligence is not enough; adding the word unnecessary to the offence of negligently causing pain to clarify that there may be situations where the pain caused is necessary; clarifying and limiting the scope of the offence that deals with trap shooting to shooting at animals the moment they are liberated and not some time after, which would leave no room for people to argue that the section prohibited pheasant hunts in enclosed spaces; and taking animal cruelty provisions out of the part of the criminal code that deals with sexual offences and public morals and placing them in a separate part, thus clearing up the concern that it is inappropriate to group animal cruelty offences with certain other types of offences. With that we fully agree.

These improvements more clearly establish that the law deals with criminal intent and criminal neglect rather than the causing of incidental or unavoidable pain to animals in the course of lawful activities.

I suggest to the hon. members of the House that the concerns of industry have been heard. The government has done everything that could reasonably be done to accommodate those concerns.

Bill C-15B does not need any additional tinkering. It is time to act. I urge all hon. members to do the right thing and pass the bill.

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2002 / 5:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Bras D'Or—Cape Breton, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the bill at third reading.

It is time for the House to act on the will of Canadians. Legislation that would update animal cruelty provisions and provide enhanced penalties for animal abusers has been before the House in one form or another since December 1, 1999. That is two and a half years during which there have been numerous opportunities for organizations from a broad spectrum of interests to come forward and make their views known. They have shared their views with the Department of Justice, members of parliament, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, the media and other members of the public. There has been a full and comprehensive debate on the issue of the changes that must be made to modernize the animal cruelty provisions.

During that two and a half years the former justice minister listened carefully to the concerns of all Canadians, including industry. In fact, to be absolutely clear that criminal liability for intentional cruelty and criminal neglect had not changed, the former justice minister made several accommodations to industry when the animal cruelty provisions were reintroduced in Bill C-15 after an election was called and Bill C-17 died on the order paper. The accommodations did not change the legal tests for liability but provided further clarification about the elements of the cruelty offences.

After Bill C-15 received second reading in the House of Commons on September 26, 2001, it was referred to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights with the direction that the committee split the bill into two parts.

Bill C-15B contains the provisions regarding cruelty to animals and firearms. The committee heard from a wide variety of groups with diverse views on the issue of animal cruelty. At the committee hearings the Criminal Lawyers' Association confirmed that removal of the animal cruelty provision out of the property section would not cause accused persons to lose any available defences. The association did indicate however that if there was a desire to make this absolutely clear one of two options was possible: either make an express reference to subsection 429(2) of the criminal code which outlines defences of legal justification, excuse or colour of right; or specifically confirm application of the common law defences under subsection 8(3). Again, in the interests of accommodation to reassure critics of the bill, the government introduced a motion adopted by the committee to confirm application of subsection 8(3).

Following the suggestion of the lawyers association one would have thought opposition critics of the bill would agree that all accommodations could be made. They have been made without changing the test of legal liability. Unhappily, with the notable exception of the New Democratic Party, this does not appear to be the case. Critics among the opposition parties want more.

I take this opportunity to look at their position more closely. These critics have been clear that they are not supporting an exemption for industry. They maintain that all persons should be subject to the animal cruelty provisions. Yet, what they are asking for appears to be an exemption in anything but name.

Some members of the opposition parties maintain that the defences in subsection 429(2) of the criminal code provide them with a justification for their industry practices, even if those industry practices cause unnecessary pain, suffering or injury. They maintain that these defences effectively give industry the protection that anything they do pursuant to lawful purpose is itself lawful. This is simply not the law.

Equally inaccurate is the position maintained by some hon. members that the cruelty provisions prohibit the infliction of any pain or suffering and that it is the defences that legitimize the infliction of pain. This position completely ignores the tests for liability for cruelty that have been in the criminal code since 1953. The issue of defences does not even arise until after the crown has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the infliction of pain or suffering was unnecessary.

The test for unnecessary pain or suffering is clear in case law. The courts have recognized that avoidable pain is unnecessary. Pain is avoidable if there are equally accessible, reasonable, and affordable practices available to achieve the same lawful purpose.

What is interesting is that opposition critics maintain their position even though they have cited not a single case of support for their position and have been unable to identify any relevant offences under subsection 429(2) which would not be available as a common law defence subsection 8(3) of the criminal code.

I do not believe for a moment that industry wants its activities exempted from the application of the criminal code. Those members of the opposition who suggest that industry has this protection currently or who argue that somehow lawful industry practices would become unlawful after the bill is passed are misrepresenting the state of current law.

No one has been exempted from the application of the animal cruelty law. This has never been the law in Canada and the government is not proposing to change this law now.

One of the most basic notions in Canadian criminal law is that the law applies to everyone. Canadians have made it clear that they support a law which imposes at least a minimum standard of behaviour on everyone. It is time for this House to answer the expectations of Canadians and move on this legislation.

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2002 / 5 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of the constituents of Surrey Central to participate in the debate concerning Bill C-15B, an act to amend the criminal code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms Act.

The purpose of the bill is to reintroduce the proposed amendments to the cruelty of animals provision of the criminal code while consolidating animal cruelty offences that were introduced in Bill C-17 with a few changes, some of which we consider improvements and others which are of concern to Canadians.

Among the improvements are increased maximum penalties for persons found guilty of cruelty to animals, those who act willfully and recklessly in killing or harming animals. However, with a widened definition of the term animal, it creates a number of concerns for those who are dependent on the harvesting and husbandry of animals for their livelihood.

The new provisions would not prevent legitimate activities from being carried out. The law would only proscribe illegal activities. The problem is, and therefore the concern, these new provisions would narrow the scope of what constitutes legitimate activities. Why does the minister not simply raise the penalties for committing animal offences?

Problems arise with the definition of animal in the bill. The proposed definition of animal in Bill C-15 would include non-human vertebrates and all animals having the capacity to feel pain. This new definition would extend legal protection to a number of living organisms which have never before been provided that kind of protection. This definition is too wide and would open the door for the prosecution of those who earn their livelihood working with animals. Our key concern is that the criminal code would no longer provide the same level of legal protection presently afforded to those who use animals for legitimate, lawful and justified practices.

The phrase “legal justification or excuse and with colour of right” in subsection 429(2) of the criminal code provides protection to those who commit any kind of property offence. The parliamentary secretary to the minister attempted to assure the justice committee that it is the government's intention that the defences in subsection 429(2) of the criminal code would continue to apply to cruelty to animal offences and that those defences would be implicit in the new legislation. Both the Canadian Alliance and the Bloc members moved amendments that would have made these defences explicit and the government members opposed them.

However in the new bill animal cruelty provisions would be moved out of the general classification of property offences and into a section of their own which would remove these provisions outside the scope of that protection. By moving the animal cruelty section out of the range of property offences would emphasize animal rights as opposed to animal welfare. This is a significant alteration in the underlying principle of the legislation, and could elevate the status of animals in the eyes of the courts.

Our concern is that the legislation could open up the possibility that farmers, sporting groups and scientific researchers would be unjustly prosecuted. As a result, animal rights groups in Canada would use the new legislation as the basis for such prosecutions. They have already stated their intentions to do so. Liz White, a director with Animal Alliance of Canada, has said:

My worry is that people think that this is the means to the end, but this is just the beginning. It doesn't matter what the legislation says if no one uses it, if no one takes it to court, if nobody tests it. The onus is on humane societies and other groups on the front lines to push this legislation to the limit, to test the parameters of this law and have the courage and conviction to lay charges. That's what this is all about. Make no mistake about it.

The people who are most concerned about the bill are the agricultural groups, farmers, industry workers and medical researchers. They do not condone intentional animal abuse or neglect in any way. It is fundamentally important to the success of their livelihoods that they treat their animals with the care and respect that the bill intends to afford animals.

Moving the animal cruelty section out of the ambit of property offences to a new section on its own is seen by many as emphasizing animal rights as opposed to animal welfare. This significant alteration and the underlying principle of the legislation is something that needs to be carefully considered.

The Canadian Alliance asked government members to retain the cruelty to animals provision in the property offences section of the criminal code but they refused. Many groups are concerned that elevating the status of animals from property could have significant and detrimental implications for many legitimate animal dependent businesses. Our party supports increasing penalties for cruelty to animal offences. However we do not support the widening scope of what currently constitutes a criminal offence against animals.

The amendments to the Firearms Act are of an administrative nature and would simplify the registration process and reduce costs by incorporating information technology. My Canadian Alliance colleagues and I are opposed to these provisions on the basis that we have long held that the act be repealed entirely. We believe there should be severe mandatory penalties for the criminal use of any weapon. We are committed to keeping guns out of the hands of violent criminals as a necessary part of making our communities safer. We would replace the current firearms law with a practical firearms control system that would be cost effective and would respect the rights of Canadians to own and use firearms responsibly.

I support increasing penalties for cruelty to animal offences but I cannot support widening the scope and definition of what currently constitutes a criminal offence. This legislation would influence and cause the courts to interpret such offences in a different way which may have a detrimental effect and implications on farmers, hunters and agricultural producers.

The minister amended the bill to provide a screening mechanism for indictable offences. That would allow a provincial court judge to prescreen such prosecutions and decide whether they should proceed. The Canadian Alliance in no way condones intentional acts of cruelty to animals and supports increasing the penalties relating to such acts. However, while cruelty to animals cannot be tolerated, the criminal law should not be used as a tool by special interest groups to destroy the legitimate farming and related food production industry.

We will strive to ensure that the legitimate use of animals by farmers, sportsmen and medical researchers is protected.

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2002 / 4:20 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Reed Elley Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to say to my hon. colleague for Yukon that I respect him greatly as a person. I want him to know that the points I will make in my speech are valid points, and they are not being made just by me. They represent much of the opposition to the bill as it presently stands.

The bill before us today was introduced and discussed by the Liberal spin masters on many different occasions but I still do not think the government has it right. Bill C-15B reintroduces the proposed amendments to the cruelty to animals provision of the criminal code that were introduced in Bill C-17 during the last parliament with certain changes.

However, despite the minor improvements to the legislation, many people who are dependent on the harvesting and husbandry of animals for their livelihood still have a number of concerns with the bill.

One concern with the bill is that the definition of animal is too broad. The proposed definition of “animal” in Bill C-15B includes non-human vertebrates and “all animals having the capacity to feel pain”. This new definition extends legal protection to a number of living organisms which have never before been provided that kind of protection.

Another key concern is that the criminal code would no longer provide the same level of legal protection presently afforded to those who use animals for legitimate, lawful and justified practices. The phrase “legal justification, excuse or colour of right” in section 429(2) of the criminal code currently provides protection to those who commit any kind of property offence.

However, in the new bill the fact that the animal cruelty provisions would be moved out of the general classification of property offences and into a section of their own would remove these provisions outside of the scope of that very protection.

Moving the animal cruelty section out of the range of property offences to a new section in its own right, emphasizes animal rights as opposed to animal welfare. I think that is the big difference that we need to be clear on here. This is a significant alteration in the underlying principles of the legislation and could elevate the status of animals in the eyes of the courts.

This legislation could open up, for instance, the possibility that farmers, sporting groups and scientific researchers will be unjustly prosecuted. Animal rights groups in Canada will certainly use this new legislation as the basis for such prosecution and in fact have already stated their intentions to do exactly that.

Liz White, the director of legislative revision of the Animal Alliance of Canada, has been quoted as saying:

My worry is that people think that this is the means to the end, but this is just the beginning. It doesn't matter what the legislation says if no one uses it, if no one takes it to court, if nobody tests it. The onus is on humane societies and other groups on the front lines to push this legislation to the limit, to test the parameters of this law and have the courage and conviction to lay charges. That's what this is all about. Make no mistake about it.

Those are not my words. Those are the words of one of the directors of the Animal Alliance of Canada, an animal rights group. Animal rights groups are already gearing up to test this law. We hear reports of them harassing feedlot owners, cattle sales ring owners, rodeo workers and even veterinarians about possible cruelty to animals. Those are ordinary Canadians who make their livelihood working with animals. The bill opens up this legal Pandora's box which will cost Canadians much down the road.

The former federal justice minister has offered assurances that what is lawful today in the course of legitimate activities will be lawful when the bill receives royal assent. However the problem is that these new provisions arguably narrow the scope of what constitutes legitimate activities.

We have all been witness to time after time when we were told by the government “don't worry, it will never happen that way, just trust us”. In the present climate of the government in this country today, that is a statement that just will not wash with the Canadian public.

The long and the short of it is, unless it is clearly spelled out in the legislation, I do not trust the legislation. I believe the government has passed legislation before that will have devastating effects on the future of this country and yet may not be seen for years to come. This legislation is just one more example of that.

As I turn to the second part of the bill I note that the government has failed dramatically in its efforts to curb violence through its ill-fated gun policy. In spite of the overwhelming evidence that the Liberal gun registry has failed miserably both administratively and financially, the government blithely carries. The emperor has no clothes and yet no one on that side of the House is prepared to state the facts as they really are.

The Hells Angels think that the gun laws are just fine. Just ask one of their leaders who was recently convicted of a number of crimes and was known to be directly associated with the most elite division of this infamous motorcycle gang and yet successfully applied for a firearm acquisition certificate. Yet the minister stands before the House expecting to be believed when he states that the registration program is working just fine.

My colleagues in the Canadian Alliance have stated before and I will state again that we support increasing penalties for cruelty to animal offences but we do not support widening the scope of what currently constitutes a criminal offence. New animal cruelty legislation may cause the courts to interpret such offences in a different light. This could have significant and detrimental implications for farmers, hunters and other agricultural producers who are dependent on animals for their livelihood. If it is not the minister's intention to change what is lawful today, he should simply raise the penalties for existing animal cruelty offences.

The Canadian Alliance in no way condones intentional acts of cruelty toward animals and supports increasing the penalties for offences relating to such acts. However new animal cruelty legislation may cause the courts to interpret such offences in a different light. This could have significant implication on all those who are dependent on animals for their livelihoods.

With regard to firearms, we believe that there should be severe mandatory penalties for the criminal use of any weapon. We are committed to keeping guns out of the hands of violent criminals as a necessary part of making our communities safer.

Certainly if we ever become government, and it may not be long, we will replace the current firearms law with a practical firearms control system that is cost effective and respects the rights of Canadians to own and use firearms responsibly.

In closing, I believe we need to have a strong dose of reality injected into both this debate and this bill. Let us not get caught up in the hyperbole that can elevate any debate beyond the realistic to the surreal. All Canadians would agree that cruelty to animals is wrong and that realistic gun control should enhance the safety of Canadians. However, if we do not define the limits of the legislation in a careful and reasoned manner, keeping in mind the need to have realistic applications of these changes, then we are only making life more difficult for everyone and unhelpful to anyone.

For those reasons and the lack of reasoned ability to apply these new changes to the laws of the land, I will be opposing, on behalf of my constituents, Bill C-15B.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

May 30th, 2002 / 12:20 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Inky Mark Canadian Alliance Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate on Bill C-55 and on the amendment.

The bill is unnecessary, as was Bill C-36. Bill C-36 was unnecessary because we already had a new version of the War Measures Act known as the Emergencies Act. That is the purpose of the Emergencies Act. There is no reason the government cannot invoke the Emergencies Act during such times.

Since being passed by both Houses, how many times has Bill C-36 been used to fight terrorism? It has not been invoked once. I voted against Bill C-36 because it is bad legislation. It jeopardizes the values of a free society under the smokescreen and rationale of security. The real way to make Canada more secure is to have good intelligence, good police forces, good immigration policy and good customs and border personnel.

Bill C-55 falls under the same category as Bill C-36. If Bill C-36 has not been invoked up to this point in time why would the House and the country need another bill called Bill C-55, a so-called second version of Bill C-36 under the guise of national security?

Like Bill C-55, the Liberal government's gun control bill, Bill C-68, was not necessary. A report by the Library of Parliament to the House committee stated that Bill C-17, the former Tory bill for gun control which was brand new at the time, had not had time to be implemented before the Liberal government started another gun control bill. The Liberal government did not listen and we ended up with the big mess we have today under Bill C-68.

Canada has always had gun control. Handguns have been registered since 1934. Will registering all firearms make the country safer? Of course it will not. We all know that. Let us look at the statistics. Over the last four years since Bill C-68 was implemented gun murders have doubled. An Ontario study showed that 80% to 90% of illegal handguns are Saturday night specials that come over the border from the U.S.A. Canadians who own legally registered handguns are not potential criminals. This is an illustration of how unnecessary Bill C-55 would become.

Through Bill C-68 the government has criminalized all Canadians who use firearms legally. Unfortunately, Bill C-68 has divided Canadians along urban-rural lines. As has been said many times, rural Canadians use firearms as necessary tools in their culture and environment.

Canadians support gun control but not the kind created by the Liberals to gain votes from urbanites. There has been little accountability from the Liberal government regarding gun control expenditures. Other than buying votes and creating jobs in Liberal ridings the government's expenditures of over $700 million have done absolutely nothing for the health and safety of Canadians. I am comparing Bill C-68 to Bill C-55 because I hope doing so will foreshadow the bill's possible effects.

Cancer kills many more people annually in Canada than firearms. In 1999 there were 536 homicides of which 165 were shooting deaths. In 1997 there were 58,703 deaths due to cancer. The Liberal government has spent over $700 million on gun control in the last eight years. How much do members think the government has committed to cancer research? Since 1992 the government has committed only $25 million to breast cancer research. In the 54 years since 1947 only about $700 million has gone to cancer research. Those are pretty lopsided figures.

There is something wrong with this picture. Statistics Canada tells us we are 320 more times likely to die of cancer than by being shot. Is it not ridiculous that the Liberal government has spent over 25 times more on gun control than breast cancer?

Bill C-55 would give the optics of security. However it would do nothing more than give Canadians a false sense of security. It would attack whatever was left of the freedoms of being a Canadian and living in a democracy.

Part 6 of Bill C-55 would impact every firearm owner in Canada. In amending the Explosives Act it would give the government the right to regulate and put an end to the making, purchasing, possession and use of all ammunition. It would take us back to a time when one had to write in a permit book how much and what kind of liquor one purchased at a vendor. Will the next step be to control the amount of bullets and empty cases one can have in one's home? Part 6 of the bill defines “inexplosive ammunition component” as:

--any cartridge case or bullet, or any projectile that is used in a firearm--

Would plumber's lead come under this class? It has the potential of being made into bullets. Perhaps lead fishing weights and jigs would qualify. How about shotgun wads, felt pads and patches? I do not imagine too many Liberals even know what a patch is.

How would part 6 of Bill C-55 protect Canadians from terrorists? Terrorists would keep bags of bullets and empty cartridge cases hidden. As far as I am concerned, poor unsuspecting law-abiding Canadians would be the victims of another Liberal bill much like Bill C-68 and Bill C-36. With laws like C-55 why would law-abiding firearms users or any other Canadian trust the Liberal government?

The biggest problem in Canada is that the Liberal government thinks it knows what is best for Canadians. However it does not listen very well. We have heard over and over again that in Canada we have government by one Liberal. It is not far from the truth. Is it surprising to see the Liberal government embroiled in corruption charges in recent weeks?

The government pays only lip service to the needs of Canadians. Let us look at our problems in softwood lumber and agriculture. Europeans receive 56 cents on the dollar in subsidies. The Americans will end up with the same. The poor Canadian farmer fighting to survive receives only nine cents on the dollar in subsidies.

Like Bill C-68 and Bill C-36, Bill C-55 is nothing more than a snow job and a power grab. Canadians need to wake up before it is too late. Canadian values are being attacked daily by the Liberal government. It is time to change the government.

An Act To Amend The Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals and Firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

May 10th, 2002 / 10 a.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Peter Goldring Canadian Alliance Edmonton Centre-East, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-15B, an act to amend the criminal code and the Firearms Act. The stated purpose of the bill is to amend the criminal code by consolidating animal cruelty offences and increasing the maximum penalties. The bill would also add administrative provisions that are intended to simplify applications of the Firearms Act.

Bill C-15B re-introduces the proposed amendments to the cruelty to animals provisions of the criminal code that were introduced in Bill C-17 during the last parliament with certain changes. However, despite the minor improvements to the legislation, many people who are dependent on the harvesting and husbandry of animals for their livelihoods still have a number of concerns with the bill.

One concern is that the definition of animal is too broad. The proposed definition of an animal in Bill C-15B includes non-human vertebrates and all animals having the capacity to feel pain. The new definition would extend legal protection to a number of living organisms which have never before been provided that kind of protection.

Another key concern is that the criminal code would no longer provide the same level of legal protection afforded at present to those who use animals for legitimate, lawful and justified practices.

The phrase legal justification, excuse or colour of right in subsection 429(2) of the criminal code currently provides protection to those who commit any kind of property offence. However, in the new bill, the fact that the animal cruelty provisions would be moved out of the general classification of property offences and into a section of their own would remove these provisions outside of the scope of that protection.

Moving the animal cruelty section out of the range of property offences to a new section in its own right would emphasize animal rights as opposed to animal welfare. This is a significant alteration in the underlying principles of the legislation and could elevate the status of animals in the eyes of the courts. The legislation could open up the possibility that farmers, sporting groups and scientific researchers would be unjustly prosecuted.

Animal rights groups in Canada will certainly use the new legislation as the basis for such prosecution and have already stated their intentions to do so. Liz White, the director of legislative revision from the Animal Alliance of Canada has stated:

My worry is that people think that this is the means to the end, but this is just the beginning. It doesn't matter what the legislation says if no one uses it, if no one takes it to court, if nobody tests it. The onus is on humane societies and other groups on the front lines to push this legislation to the limit, to test the parameters of this law and have the courage and the conviction to lay charges. That's what this is all about. Make no mistake about it.

The former federal justice minister assured us that what is lawful today in the course of legitimate activities would be lawful when the bill receives royal assent. However, the problem is that these new provisions would arguably narrow the scope of what constitutes legitimate activities.

The changes to the Firearms Act are administrative by nature. The provisions of the bill are intended to simplify the registration process and to incorporate information technology to reduce costs. Regarding the Firearms Act, I refer to section 31 of the Canadian Alliance declaration of policy where it states:

We believe there should be severe mandatory penalties for the criminal use of any weapon. We are committed to keeping guns out of the hands of violent criminals as a necessary part of making our communities safer. We will replace the current firearms law with a practical firearms control system that is cost effective and respects the rights of Canadians to own and use firearms responsibly.

We support increasing penalties for cruelty to animals offences but we do not support widening the scope of what currently constitutes a criminal offence. New animal cruelty legislation may cause the courts to interpret such offences in a different light. This could have significant and detrimental implications for farmers, hunters, and other agricultural producers who are dependent on animals for their livelihoods.

We do not support the amendments to the Firearms Act as we have a long held feeling that the act should be repealed entirely and replaced with a practical, cost-effective firearms control system.

To reiterate, the Canadian Alliance in no way condones intentional acts of cruelty to animals and supports increasing the penalties for offences relating to such acts. Moving animal cruelty provisions out of property offences to a new and separate section of the criminal code could elevate the status of animals in the eyes of the courts. The defences currently available would no longer apply in the new section. The new definition of animal would include an extremely broad definition that includes a vertebrate other than a human being and any other animal that has a capacity to feel pain. This new definition would extend legal protection to a number of living organisms which have never been provided that kind of protection before.

The former justice minister stated that what is lawful today in the course of legitimate activities would be lawful when the bill receives royal assent. If it was not the former justice minister's intention to change what is lawful today why did she not simply raise the penalties for existing animal cruelty offences?

Without substantial amendments to address the concerns I have I must join with my colleagues of the official opposition party and oppose the bill.

SupplyGovernment Orders

May 6th, 2002 / 6:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Madam Speaker, it is interesting that the member stands up and accuses me of being irrelevant by addressing Bill C-15B, which I think has been mentioned by every Alliance member except him this afternoon. It was to that I was responding. He then proceeded to ask me a question on a topic I did not mention in my speech. This is surely irrelevance.

I would like to say that my point of view on this is very strong. I represent farmers. I have represented them since Bill C-15B was Bill C-17. I believe that it is our job as members to examine the legislation and to explain it as well as we can and truthfully to our constituents. That is what I have tried to do since the days of Bill C-17.

An Alliance member stood up earlier today and said that rural members on his side have recently discovered something about this legislation, but we have been working on it for three years and, by the way, to the satisfaction of many of our farmers. I believe this is what has happened. A year or so ago supporters of the gun lobby got a spurious legal opinion that included the matter of property, which is also an irrelevance, and they have been arguing that spurious legal opinion they have developed on the backs of the farmers.

As it came from the gun lobby and the hunting groups, why do they not use hunting examples when they are considering cruelty to animals? Why do they persist in raising all these standard practices of the farming community, which, as I have explained, have been protected for a half a century? Why do they do that?

I would say they are hanging the farmers out to dry. They should be talking to their farmers and educating their farmers on what not just this legislation but all legislation means.

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

April 30th, 2002 / 4:30 p.m.
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Northumberland Ontario

Liberal

Paul MacKlin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to address hon. members on the occasion of the consideration of an amendment to the motion to proceed to third reading.

It is time for the House to respond to the expectations of Canadians. Legislation that updates animal cruelty provisions and provides enhanced penalties for animal abusers has been before the House in one form or another since December 1, 1999. That is two and one-half years during which there have been numerous opportunities for organizations from a broad spectrum of interests to come forward and make their views known.

They have shared their views with the Department of Justice, with members of parliament, with the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, with the media and with other members of the public. There has been a full comprehensive debate on the issue of the changes that must be made to modernize the animal cruelty provisions. I want to take this opportunity to thank rural caucus members for their extensive contributions to the debate and the shaping of this legislation.

During the two and one-half years, the former minister of justice listened very carefully to the concerns of all Canadians, including industry. In fact, to be absolutely clear about the fact that criminal liability for intentional cruelty and criminal neglect had not been changed, the former minister of justice made several accommodations to critics of BIll C-17 when the animal cruelty provisions were reintroduced as Bill C-15 after an election was called and Bill C-17 died on the order paper. The accommodations did not change the legal test for liability but provided further clarification about the elements of the cruelty offences.

I would like to take this opportunity to briefly review the changes that have been made already to the animal cruelty amendments since Bill C-17 was introduced in the House two and one-half years ago.

Critics of Bill C-17 were concerned that the opening paragraph of the intentional cruelty offences did not set out an express mental element. Even though not required as a matter of law, the section was changed when it was reintroduced into Bill C-15 and retained in Bill C-15B to expressly require that the intentional cruelty offences must be committed either wilfully or recklessly.

The negligence provisions in Bill C-17 were also modified when they were reintroduced in Bill C-15. These modifications were made despite the fact that the Supreme Court of Canada jurisprudence made it very clear that they were not necessary as a matter of law. Nonetheless, in the interests of providing further clarification, subsection 182.3(1) was modified to include the word “negligently” as well as the word “unnecessary”.

The result is that the wording was changed from “by a failure to exercise reasonable care or supervision of an animal, causes it pain, suffering or injury” to “negligently causes unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal”. This modification was made even though proof of criminal negligence requires that the prosecutor must show beyond a reasonable doubt that the actions of the accused constituted a marked departure from the standard of care a reasonable person would exercise in similar circumstances.

Another modification between Bill C-17 and Bill C-15 was to accommodate the concern of hunters that the use of the word “when” in the trap shooting offence might be interpreted as restricting the ability of hunters to conduct penned hunting. It should be noted that in the current animal cruelty offences, the word “when” is used in the English version of the criminal code, whereas “au moment de” is used in the French.

The offence in Bill C-15 was modified to indicate that the prohibited conduct related to shooting animals “at the moment” they were liberated. This wording provides greater consistency between the English and French versions of the criminal code.

A definition of negligence was also added to the negligence offences in section 182.3 to make it absolutely clear that a criminal standard of negligence rather than a civil standard was required.

A further change between Bill C-17 and Bill C-15 was to move the animal cruelty offences out of the part of the criminal code dealing with sexual offences and public morals and into a separate part of the code that deals with animal cruelty offences alone. This change addressed the concerns of critics that it was inappropriate to group animal cruelty offences with offences against persons.

After Bill C-15 received second reading on September 26 of last year, it was referred to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights with a direction that the committee split the bill into two parts. Bill C-15B contains the provisions regarding cruelty to animals and firearms.

The committee heard from a wide variety of groups with diverse views on the issue of animal cruelty. At the committee hearing the Criminal Lawyers' Association confirmed that removal of the animal cruelty provisions out of the property section would not cause accused persons to lose any available defences. The association did indicate that if there was a desire to make this absolutely clear, one of two options was possible: either to make an express reference to subsection 429(2) of the criminal code which outlines the defences of legal justification, excuse or colour of right; or to specifically confirm application of the common law defences set out in subsection 8(3).

Again, in the interests of accommodation and to reassure critics of the bill, the government introduced a motion adopted by the committee to confirm application of subsection 8(3) of the criminal code. To add clarification to the negligence provisions, the committee adopted a government motion to specify the mental element of “wilfully or recklessly” for the offence of abandoning an animal in paragraph 182.3(1)(b) of Bill C-15B, as well as the mental element of “negligently” for the offence of failure to provide suitable and adequate food, water, air, shelter and care for an animal.

One would have thought that following a suggestion of the Criminal Lawyers' Association, as well as further clarification of the negligence offences, would have caused opposition critics of the bill to agree that all accommodations that could be made without changing the test for legal liability had been made.

Unhappily, with the notable exception of the New Democratic Party, this does not appear to be the case. Critics among opposition parties want more. Meaningful accommodations have been made as a result of extensive representations over two and one-half years.

It is time for the House to act. It is time for the House to answer the expectations of Canadians and to move the legislation forward.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

April 22nd, 2002 / 1:30 p.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is with some regret and trepidation that I rise to speak to Bill C-15B, the cruelty to animals legislation. I am sure all members agree that this legislation is seriously needed.

It has been 100 years since the legislation was updated. It is an issue of great importance to the country and an issue that needs to be dealt with by the Parliament of Canada. As I said, I rise with some regret and trepidation because as a member of parliament, a farmer and hunter, I cannot support the legislation. It needs to be improved and modernized.

What we have before us is the complete dereliction of duty by members of the Liberal government. This is a complete denial on their part of grappling with a difficult issue and coming out with an evenhanded and balanced approach to complex problems. This is not what has happened here.

I have no idea how rural members of the Liberal government, the agriculture critics, and the committee members will vote. Actually I have an idea how they will vote, but I do not know where they stand on this issue. I do not know why we have not heard more from the government side on this issue.

Bill C-15B is a bad piece of legislation. Anyone who has taken a moment's time to read it, who has a rudimentary understanding of rural issues, animal husbandry and cruelty toward animals legislation, and anyone who has the barest opinion on this subject cannot support the legislation. There is no way I can envision support for the legislation.

I received a letter from Doug Bacon, president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture. He writes:

The Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture and its members have been following the progress of the cruelty to animals section of Bill C-15B with close attention. Since a key component of the agricultural industry relies on animals, this proposed legislation has the potential to seriously impact our livelihoods.

We are supportive of many aspects of the legislation, including tougher penalties for animal abuse, and while the previous Minister of Justice was very compelling and her amendments helpful, we are not convinced...

This is from people the legislation is directed toward. The legislation is not directed toward some university student who throws a cat out a window albeit that would be a horrific offence. The legislation is not directed toward pet owners who neglect, abuse and torture pets every day in Canada. The legislation is directed toward people who are legitimate animal owners.

I do not know what category animals would be included once the bill is passed. However I do know in what category they would not be included. They would not be put in the property section of the legislation. What are they then? The government thinks they are kids. They are not kids and are not about to be kids. It is time for the government to wake up and smell the roses. It is time for the government to look at the legislation for what it is.

The letter continues:

Bill C-15B must be amended to ensure legitimate animal practices will not be frivolously targeted. We need your support to ensure:

  1. Animal cruelty provisions are put back in Part XI of the Criminal Code. Animals are property and such classification does not impede or prevent appropriate animal care practices;

  2. If animal cruelty provisions stay in Part V.1, it must be amended to read, Cruelty to Animals: Private and Public Property.

If pet owners want to think that their animals are somehow public property or somehow different than agricultural or domestic animals, so be it. A provision should be put into the bill to accommodate those people. I happen to disagree with that, but animals should not be put under the provision of being property for farmers because that is a huge mistake which will do nothing but generate millions of dollars worth of lawsuits that are just waiting to happen.

The last amendment reads:

  1. The definition of animal be amended as per the testimony of the Criminal Lawyers Association before the Standing Committee.

Mr. Bacon goes on to say:

These changes will not weaken the law but will serve to clearly establish in law the intention to protect the rights of animal users--an intention that has already been communicated by the minister. We are not asking for special treatment under the law, we are only asking for a law that will respect standard animal practices.

The bill was originally introduced in the House of Commons on December 1, 1999, as Bill C-17 and died on the order paper with the call of the election in October 2000. It is currently before parliament as Bill C-15B. It was studied by the justice committee and received testimony from numerous legal experts and representatives from both animal rights groups and organizations representing hunters, anglers, trappers, farmers and other stakeholders.

When re-introducing the bill, the Minister of Justice heeded the concerns of the opposition parties and stakeholders and made amendments from the previous Bill C-17 to provide clarification to the cruelty to animal provisions, encompassing those who willfully, recklessly or without regard to the consequence of their acts, cause unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal. Despite these improvements further amendments were needed before the Progressive Conservative Party could support these provisions dealing with crimes against animals.

It is not because this is not an important issue. It is not because this issue needs to be dealt with. It is because this is a bad piece of legislation. Certainly it is not the job of parliamentarians to leave the decision on what constitutes cruelty up to the courts. If we were to leave every decision that needs to be made in this country up to the courts, we would live to rue that day. We would regret it, it is quite simple. We cannot, as representatives of Canadians and protectors of animal rights, take farm animals out from under the property act. That would be a huge mistake.

It is a mistake that this parliament and other parliaments and Canadians would pay for. It would be impossible to guarantee the safekeeping of every animal owned, and I say owned because they are property, by every farmer in Canada. Without question, the bill needs to come before parliament but it desperately needs to be amended. It needs to be improved upon. We need to put it back in the realm of a bill that when we leave the House after it is passed, because the government will pass it, we can say it is a good piece of legislation and we did the right thing.

I expect there will be many Liberal members of parliament who, if they vote for the bill, will hang their heads in shame after they have done it.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals and Firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

April 11th, 2002 / 5:25 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Canadian Alliance Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, in listening to my colleague's wisdom on so many issues pertaining to the bill, I was so excited, especially when he mentioned that I was to stand and speak, and how I would delay the bill. I beg to differ on that part because I know that my words will be just illuminating to the other side, to make changes to the bill, to improve the bill and to actually have democracy work in this place once and for all. I know you have faith in me, Madam Speaker, to be able to so do. I hope not to let you down.

As I stand in this place at this time of the day, the energy and the electricity in this place are beyond words. I am so excited to see that there is an audience here who wants to hear what I have to say and what I would like to add to the bill. For the people who have been tuned in watching their legislators talk about the bill, I am sure it has evoked a lot of emotion.

Cruelty to animals is something that all Canadians clearly are concerned about. Almost everyone I know has a pet of some sort at home. They love their animals and they want to make sure those animals are loved and protected and that no one abuses their well-being. I do not think we would find very many Canadians who would disagree with that sort of principle, but in attempting to look at the bill we are discussing here today, Bill C-15B, the cruelty to animals bill, there obviously are some concerns, which many of my colleagues have raised during today's debate, as to how in fact this may affect one side of the equation in trying to approach protection of animals.

As I said in one of my earlier comments when I was asking one of my colleagues a question, it seems to me that the government, when producing legislation, tends to try to divide and conquer Canadians rather than bring all stakeholders together, which is such a shame. We saw that sort of attitude when it came to the endangered species legislation. We have seen that sort of attitude with other legislation. Instead of trying to find consensus and bring the various stakeholders together, the attitude is to divide and conquer and see if it can pass legislation where unfortunately one side over the other will be negatively affected.

When I talk about the stakeholders in this case, I am talking about people who are involved in the production of animals in the form of livestock, such as ranchers and farmers, and those who are obviously far from that sort of production and activity, people who live in urban centres or larger towns. Unfortunately many of the arguments on both sides are not coming out. They are not being dealt with effectively and are not being held at merit for the base of their arguments.

In my own riding I have had so many constituents who have taken the time to communicate to me how important they feel the bill is and how they would like me to support it. I think I will support it on that basis because I have had an overwhelming indication from my riding that my constituents would like me to do so. That still does not make it right, because on the other side, the rural arguments I spoke about, there are real concerns. The government has done such a terrible job in trying to raise those effectively so that we can get people on the same page.

We know what the bill is supposed to do. I will just take a moment to read it into the record. The stated purpose of the bill is to consolidate animal cruelty offences and increase the maximum penalties. It also provides a definition of animal and moves cruelty to animals provisions from the property offences part of the criminal code.

A lot of Canadians may ask what has changed since the last time this type of bill was presented in the House or since the last time we debated it. The government has made certain changes from the previously proposed legislation dealing with cruelty to animals, Bill C-17. The main change was a requirement for a person to act “wilfully or recklessly” in killing or harming animals. However, there are still significant concerns that many organizations, businesses and individuals have with respect to the bill. I started to talk about some of those concerns among some industry people. The people who do have concerns about this legislation, and I will go on to talk about some of them, are agricultural groups, farmers and industry workers. As well, one of my colleagues addressed the idea of medical researchers quite thoroughly this afternoon in regard to some of the concerns they have raised.

All these groups have consistently said that they welcome amendments to the criminal code that would clarify and strengthen provisions relating to animal cruelty. They obviously do not condone intentional animal abuse or neglect in any way. Many of these groups obviously rely on the production of livestock. Their whole livelihoods are based on that. In the production process, some of them actually have relationships that are of the utmost respect for these particular animals because they know that their livelihoods are based on that. The last thing they would ever imagine is to put any type of livestock under any form of cruelty. In fact, they look at ways to be able to minimize the risk or hurt to many of these animals in their production processes.

Many of these groups in fact support the intent of the bill, as its objective is to modernize the law and increase penalties for offences relating to animal cruelty and neglect, but they do, however, have some concerns as to how far the bill can then penalize them if there is an unfortunate feeling that there has been neglect on their part. As I have said, many of them have never approached the issue of animal cruelty in a negative way. They do not intent to hurt the animals. Despite the minor improvements to the legislation, these groups advise that the bill requires significant amendments before their concerns are alleviated. There are a number of main concerns they have raised.

I would like to focus on just a couple of these issues. My colleagues have talked about a few of these issues, especially when it comes to the definition of animal. The definition in the bill is so broad that we could have a number of challenges in court and a lot of confusion as to how animals may fall into these categories. It sure raises fear in my mind about what sort of door the government is opening by not looking specifically at how we can tighten up that part of the legislation.

There is also this idea, which I think hits it on the head, of moving the animal cruelty section out of property offences to a new section in its own right. That is seen by many as emphasizing animal rights as opposed to animal welfare. This is a very important point because the significant alteration in the underlying principles of the legislation is something that needs to be carefully considered. The Canadian Alliance told the government in committee, at question period and in other ways, that this is something that really needs to be considered carefully. The Canadian Alliance asked government members to retain the cruelty to animal provisions in the property offences section of the criminal code but they refused.

It becomes a fine line, especially when it comes to the idea of animal welfare and animal rights. That is something we all have to come to terms with, because when it comes to the development and production of many of these animals there is no doubt that the concern among Canadians is that these animals are being treated properly, cared for and not being abused. As I pointed out, many of these groups that have a concern with the change realize that it is the last thing that they do when they approach how to treat these animals. They actually treat them with the utmost respect and try to make it as painless as possible and give them the best conditions they can have outside of the wild.

I would like to take a moment to talk about the whole process of trying to put forward amendments. We in opposition try really hard to work with the government, to improve its legislation and support it where we can, but we are shut out at every turn. The opposition has tried on a number of occasions in committee to make legislation better. We know that there is a majority government and that the government will pass the legislation it wants passed.

What disappoints us is that when we try to put amendments forward and try to work with the government to improve legislation so that everyone can live with it happily ever after, the government is concerned only about itself and its own interests and refuses to bring stakeholders together. That is just a shame. I wish we could work together more effectively to protect animals and to bring all stakeholders together but in fact the government is going to force the opposition to vote against the bill and that will not do animals any good.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals and Firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

April 11th, 2002 / 4:15 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Jim Abbott Canadian Alliance Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, again it is my privilege to stand and speak to this bill, although, as with many of the bills that come to us from the Liberals, I can assure everyone that the content of the bill does not contain anything with which I am particularly happy.

The first item that I would like to draw to the attention of members is that in my constituency we have a tremendous number of very responsible firearms owners. They are taking a look at the content of this bill and other provisions that have been brought forward by the Liberals over a period of time with respect to the original bill, Bill C-68, which absolutely makes them want to pull their hair out.

They are looking at the fact, for example, that the government has spent and is in the process of spending more than $700 million on a useless gun registry when in fact the government very proudly talks about the fact that it will be spending $200 million to protect us from terrorism. I think that spending $200 million against terrorists, Osama bin Laden and his ilk, versus $700 million against law-abiding Canadian gun owners is just obscene. I think the tinkering around the edges contained in Bill C-15B is an example of the government making policy and laws on the fly.

The difficulty we have with this is that it is all bits and pieces. This is an omnibus bill. Omnibus, for those who are interested, simply means that it is a catch-all, a bill where the government threw everything into the hat. Originally this was Bill C-15. In this omnibus bill, the government thought it would do more tinkering around the edges with respect to the issue of gun registry. The tinkering around the edges is absolutely inadequate. The only thing we should be doing with respect to the gun registry is immediately withdrawing it and replacing it with measures that would actually make our streets safer.

It must be said that it is understandable that we should know who should be allowed to legally posses and carry firearms. That is logical and totally understandable. I do not see having a licence for that as posing any particular problem. As a matter of fact, it could well be a benefit. It certainly would give the prosecutors and the police in Canada the ability to take action under law that might be required to diffuse particular situations. The whole issue of this useless registry is that it is sending millions and millions of dollars completely down the drain. I say with respect to Bill C-15B and the whole issue of the tinkering with the firearms registry that it is an absolute waste of time and an absolute waste of money.

I also mentioned that the bill is designated as Bill C-15B as opposed to Bill C-15A, which supposedly we will be discussing at some future point in this parliament, because what the government did at the outset was create a grab bag of things that do not relate to each other in any way, shape or form. For example, what indeed does cruelty to animals have to do with the gun registry? I do not see any connection there at all.

Bill C-15A supposedly also has to do with protecting children, and we will be having a debate about that later, as well as the whole issue of safety for police officers. What does that have to do with cruelty to animals? Only when the Canadian Alliance dug in its heels and said no, it would not be going that route, and this goes back to last June, did it finally force the government into a situation where a legitimate vote could take place on the issue of Bill C-15B, primarily on the issue of cruelty to animals.

The fact that it decided to continue to have the catch-all of the change with respect to gun registry still contained in Bill C-15B was something that was really quite unfortunate, but nonetheless those are the choices that the government made.

What does the bill do? First, with respect to cruelty to animals, there is not a person in the House, much less anyone in the Canadian Alliance, who would not want to see the protection of animals. Of course we do. Any humane human being does. The stated purpose of the bill is to consolidate animal cruelty offences and increase the maximum penalties. It also provides the definition of animal and moves cruelty to animals provisions from part XI of the criminal code, property offences.

A couple of days ago when we were speaking at report stage on this, I drew out the point, and I draw it out again, that if we are moving the cruelty to animals provisions from part XI of the criminal code, property offences, to another part of the criminal code, that is not just incidental. I pointed out, hopefully fairly forcefully, that an animal is an animal, a human is a human and a human may own an animal. That is pretty simple and straightforward, but not in the minds of animal activists, particularly extreme animal activists. That is what the Canadian Alliance Party and I are concerned about. We are concerned about the fact that if the definition of animal is removed from property offences and put into a different section, this will really open up the door to the potential of vexatious prosecution.

We have been told not to worry about it, that no crown prosecutors would do anything like that, but I had some action take place in my constituency under Bill C-68, which of course is also covered under Bill C-15. That is why I am speaking to it. We had police who unfortunately exercised authority in an area in which they had no right to exercise authority. Not only was the gun owner in this instance personally out of pocket for the cost of the lawyer, that owner was also personally out of pocket for the cost of a door being broken down. There was no authority. Finally when the matter went to court, at great expense I should say, we ended up with a situation where the judge said the police should not have done that. In other words, whenever there is new legislation there is always a trial of the new legislation, either by the police or, secondly, by the prosecution.

Where are we going by removing animal provisions from part XI of the criminal code? What has changed since Bill C-17, which also dealt with these issues? The government has made certain changes from the previously proposed legislation dealing with cruelty to animals, Bill C-17. The main change was the requirement for a person to act “wilfully or recklessly” in killing or harming animals.

However, many organizations, businesses and individuals still have significant concerns with respect to the bill. Who are they? Agricultural groups, farmers, industry workers and medical researchers have consistently said they welcome amendments to the criminal code that would clarify and strengthen provisions relating to animal cruelty and that they do not condone intentional animal abuse or neglect in any way. Many of these groups in fact support the intent of the bill, as the Canadian Alliance and I do, as its objective is to modernize the law and increase penalties for offences relating to animal cruelty and neglect. However, and this is the however, despite the minor improvements to the legislation, these groups advise that the bill requires significant amendments before their concerns are alleviated.

The Liberals have a terrible tendency that I have noted particularly of late. Perhaps it comes from smugness or complacency or the fact that they feel they know everything and what is best for everybody. I do not know what it is. However we end up with recommendations for legislation, whether it is in Bill C-15B or Bill C-15A, or the species at risk act, SARA, that are heartfelt recommendations that reflect the values and concerns of the people to whom we answer. Liberals just stonewall them or at the very best they take them, tinker with them, pound them down, make them almost useless and then insert them. Then they say “See we made the amendment that you want”.

One of the central concerns with this bill is that the criminal code would no longer provide the same level of legal protection presently afforded to those who use animals for legitimate, lawful and justified practices. The phrase “legal justification or excuse and with colour of right” in section 429(2) of the criminal code currently provides protection to those who commit any kind of property offence. Note the word “property”. However in the new bill the fact that the animal cruelty provisions would be moved out of the general classification of property offences and into a section of their own would effectively remove those provisions outside of the ambit of that protection.

Our party asked that the government members make the defences in section 429(2) explicit in the new legislation and they refused. This is the kind of pattern that I was talking about where we make any kind of reasonable arguments and we are just simply refused out of hand.

Moving the animal cruelty section out of the ambit of property offences to a new section in its own right is also seen by many as emphasizing animal rights as opposed to animal welfare. I know this is the third or fourth or perhaps the fifth time that I have said it, but those who choose not to listen try to say that I and the people in my party are not concerned about animal welfare. Nothing could be further from the truth. What we want to ensure is animal welfare. What we want to avoid is animal rights.

This significant alteration in the underlying principles of the legislation is something that needs to be carefully considered. The Canadian Alliance asked the government members to retain the cruelty to animals provision in the property offences section of the criminal code but it refused. This is not a small issue. This is a giant issue.

I say again, I and every member of my party are concerned about animal welfare. We support the bill in its intent to protect animal welfare. We reject the bill in terms of animal rights because we know where that is going. We know under animal rights that there are many activists. We have seen them, we have heard of them, we have seen their publicity and we have seen some of their very vicious and dangerous activity in which they have become engaged. We must stay away from it. Yet the government will not do anything about it.

Many groups are concerned that elevating the status of animals from property could in fact have significant and detrimental implications for many legitimate animal dependent businesses. Another major and very serious concern is that the definition of animal is too broad, it is too subjective and it is too ambiguous.

That is so typical of the kind of legislation that the Liberals consistently bring forward. What did I say it was? It was too broad. It was too ambiguous. That is so typical of just about every piece of legislation.

In committee just yesterday we were discussing Bill S-7, which by the way came to us through the back door from the other place. The bill is so incomplete and is such a skeletal kind of issue. I asked the Liberals in the committee how in the world could we possibly pass something like that. I asked how we could even be discussing something like it when we did not know what the rules, the regulations, the implications would be. There is no meat, there is no muscle, there is no sinew on the bones of the words that are on that piece of paper.

Of course the Liberals said they would get around to it, to just give them some time. They said they would go to the CRTC, have some hearings and after the House rubber stamped it they would then know what the legislation would be; years after.

I cite another example in my particular critic role, that of blank recording medium. When that was brought forward in 1997, we were told it would be 25¢ charge per cassette. Five years later in the year 2002, the 25¢ per cassette charge somehow has gone to $200 to $400 per machine on equipment that now has the capacity to record more. Twenty-five cents to $400 strikes me as a bit of a jump.

I say with respect to Bill C-15B, the difficulty we have with it is we simply do not know where it is going because of the imprecision of the definition of animal. The definition marks a significant departure, by providing protection for an extremely wide range of living organisms that have never before been afforded this kind of legal protection. Where is that going? What are the unintended consequences of that? That is a statement of fact, we have no idea where it is going.

In terms of practical difficulties on how this definition is worded, it could potentially cause enormous problems by extending the criminal law to invertebrates, cold-blooded species such as fish, as well as an extremely wide variety of other types of both domestic and wild animals.

There is nothing in the mind of somebody who is an aggressive activist that would amaze me. Aggressive activists will take a look at this legislation and will push it as far as they can conceivably push it. Is it possible that somebody could be harassed by an activist, potentially by somebody in uniform who has an overzealous approach to things, a conservation officer or whomever? Is it not possible that somebody working with fish could end up with a problem because it is not precise?

The Canadian Alliance asked the government members to delete or modify this definition but they refused. In her speech at second reading, the justice minister assured us that what was lawful today in the course of legitimate activities would be lawful when the bill received royal assent. She promised the House that these changes would not in any way negatively affect the many legitimate activities that involve animals, such as hunting, farming, medical or scientific research.

The minister's statement was self-evident but misleading. Of course the new provisions will not prevent legitimate activities from being carried out. The law only proscribes illegal activities. The problem is and therefore the concern is that these new provisions arguably narrow the scope of what constitutes legitimate activities.

I say again on behalf of the people of Kootenay--Columbia, I have a wonderful group of people in my constituency. We are about 82,000 people strong. We are the backbone of Canada. These are people who love animals. These are people who understand the relationship between animals and nature. These are the hunters. These are the people who go fishing. These are the people who look after the environment in which these animals live. These are the farmers. These are the ranchers. These are the pet owners who treat their animals with respect, as every member of my party does and I do. On their behalf, I stand here and say that this bill must be voted in the negative.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals and Firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

April 8th, 2002 / 1:35 p.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the previous speaker for his remarks.

In going through Bill C-15B, it is important to keep in context how the legislation came about. It originally was before the House in the form of what is called an omnibus bill. There were a number of very complex and unrelated subjects that found themselves in the bill which caused a great deal of consternation I think for many members of parliament. It is a usual tactic that the government has employed to have its way, that is to essentially include a number of issues with which most if not all members agree and couple them with other pieces of legislation that the government would like to slide in, putting members of parliament in the uncomfortable position of voting against things of which they actually are in favour.

The strategical tactics unfortunately have blurred much of the merit of this particular bill. However the former minister of justice did climb down from her lofty position and agreed to some extent to split off parts of the bill to allow members to vote more freely and more in line with the wishes of their constituents and their own comfort levels.

We have before us a bill with a number of important amendments, which I would hope the government would consider, that would improve and in fact very much ameliorate the ability of the legislation to address the principle issue, and that is: helping to eradicate and give our law enforcement officials greater ability to enforce laws which are meant to curtail cruelty to animals.

We in the coalition are very supportive of any initiative that will bring about legislation dealing with crimes against animals. This legislation very much puts forward the spirit that we need to punish those who intentionally abuse or neglect animals. Cruelty to animals is an issue that has received significant public attention of late. In recent years psychologists have drawn clear parallels between a child's cruelty to animals and subsequent cruelty toward human beings in his or her adult life as one element to take into consideration.

We support as well the government's decision to put forward an ability for judges to remove barriers, to heighten the sentences and heighten the degree of deterrence that should emerge from cases where there is clear-cut, proven on evidence cases of animal abuse.

We do not, I hasten to add, adhere to the government's position in the legislation that to achieve the deterrents and to achieve the heightened degree of accountability, the government must remove the criminal code provisions dealing with animals from the property section of the code.

The proprietary aspects of animal abuse have always been very important in the prosecution of animal cruelty cases. Moving the animal cruelty provisions out of part XI of the criminal code removes the protection of legitimate based businesses that relate to animals and animal husbandry. By virtue of taking that section out of section 429(2) of the criminal code, this important ability to protect oneself by virtue of the law is removed. Let us be very clear about that.

The current section in the property law allows for legal justification, or excuse or colour of right to be claimed by a person who might be charged. Therefore it affords legal protection for acts which have always been seen as legitimate and outside the gamut of animal cruelty and always based upon the evidence. It is inappropriate and misleading in a malicious way to suggest that somehow removing these sections will protect animals any further than it currently does.

It currently is illegal to perpetrate any sort of cruelty against animals. The problem has been in the prosecution of these offences and further in the ability of the police to lay charges. That also ties very much into the resource allocation currently available for police in the country. Removing the cruelty to animals provisions from this section is of particular concern to hunters, trappers, farmers and to researchers. There is an important element in the use of animals for genetic research. People like John and Jessie Davidson would be the first to say that genetic research is something that has to be given a higher priority by the Parliament of Canada and the people of Canada.

These legitimate individuals who work and depend on animals for their livelihood have expressed very clearly to the government their concerns. They came before a committee. There was extensive study of this issue. Everything the bill seeks to achieve could be achieved by bringing about the amendments but leaving the current sections in the property section of the criminal code. Everything that is sought to be accomplished could be done so in that fashion.

We share the concerns of many Canadians, though, who have spoken about the definition of an animal. Any animal that has the capacity to feel pain does encompass in a large way any sort of cruelty that might be perpetrated. Yet through this definition, the government is putting at risk many activities that currently occur. We have heard examples of those. A farmer who puts a noose around an animal's neck to lead it to pasture or to pull it out of danger could potentially be charged.

We have heard ludicrous examples, such as putting a worm on a hook or boiling a live lobster. Potentially, if taken to the extreme, these types of activities could result in prosecutions. The sad reality of that is that the cost that would be expended and the delay in following through with these types of prosecutions, whether they be brought about by the crown or private prosecutions which currently can occur, would bankrupt and put out of business a lot of individuals who currently rely on animals for their livelihood.

Even the intentional act of stepping on a spider was one example that was given as cruelty to an animal.

My comments are in no way an attempt to make light of a serious situation but to point out that this type of law is very dangerous and should not be proceeded with in this fashion. This law could place fishermen, farmers, hunters, trappers, furriers or any individual that associates with animals at risk of frivolous prosecution and those who espouse radical views about animal protection.

The ensuing lawsuits could paralyze and bankrupt some businesses. It is well intended and there are many individuals who are well intended in their efforts to protect animals, but the reality is the horrific cases of animal abuse are currently illegal. It is a matter of enabling our system further to resource and through attention and priorizing the prosecutions for these types of offences. We support strengthening the criminal code and provisions dealing with animals and many of the improvements that are envisioned by the bill. This punishment and resource question is where the problem lies.

The minister did at least realize the carelessness that occurred in the drafting of the original bill, Bill C-17, and she was careful to now inject the word “wilful” with respect to cruelty and unnecessary pain being perpetrated in the drafting of this new bill.

Regrettably, the former minister did not see the need to keep the animal cruelty sections within the property sections of the criminal code. Thus, this improved legislation would not provide the adequate protection with which the majority of animal business people would be concerned. For that reason, sadly we are unable to support the bill.

We believe the legislation is needed and that further legislation is needed to prevent needless animal pain and suffering. An example that comes to mind is the case that many of us were transfixed on a few years ago when we heard about a Rottweiler dog that was dragged on a chain behind a pick-up truck. There was a case very recently in Kingston that was reported in the Kingston Whig-Standard of horrible abuse to a cat named Solitaire that was bloodied and battered. These type of cases are extremely offensive to the sensibilities of most Canadians.

The traditional practices of hunting, fishing and farming do not fit into the category of mean spirited violence, yet they could very much be caught up by virtue of these changes.

It is imperative that animal cruelty legislation be clearly designated to target those who would engage in brutal, deliberate acts against animals. Just as the other parts of this legislation which deal with firearms legislation, it is fine to try to redefine what the legislation does, yet we know it has been a complete and utter failure. The cost is prohibitive. The intent is such that individuals will not voluntarily participate.

For those reasons, and for reasons which I would like to elaborate on but due to limitations of time I cannot, our coalition cannot support the bill. We would be hopeful that the government would be willing to accept the amendments which would take away those sections which very much undermine the spirit and intent of the bill.

Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

March 20th, 2002 / 5:05 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Reed Elley Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Madam Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure to rise in the House today to take part in this debate on Bill C-15B, entitled an act to amend the criminal code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and to amend the Firearms Act.

I want to begin by stating categorically that I am a great lover of animals. I have a wonderful little dog at home that is probably the joy of my little girl's life and probably thinks I am the best guy in the world too. It is not a question of us on this side of the House and in this party not loving animals or caring for them. We certainly do.

I think that perhaps in our society very often we see great pendulum swings in the mood of society, in the way we approach social issues. If there is a great public outcry about a certain subject, the pendulum swings one way. Then it swings the other way as there is a public outcry on the other side of the issue. It is quite clear in our society, particularly North American society, and with the increase in technological advances and communication we have heard of a number of recent incidents in which animals have been used cruelly and sometimes killed outright by people who have absolutely no right to ever do anything like that.

I suppose that in response to those kinds of incidents, about which we have all heard, there are definitely lobby groups in our society that have pushed the government to bring in stricter laws and stricter controls in terms of cruelty to animals. Of course the government has also lumped in a bunch of other things in the bill, just to confuse the issue.

The stated purpose of the bill, of course, is to amend the criminal code by consolidating animal cruelty offences and increasing the maximum penalties. The bill also adds administrative provisions that are intended to simplify applications for the Firearms Act. Bill C-15B reintroduces the proposed amendments to the cruelty to animals provisions of the criminal code that were introduced in Bill C-17 during the last parliament, with certain changes. We remember some of the outcry at that time about this legislation. Unfortunately, even though there are a few minor improvements to this legislation, there are many people out there in our country who are very concerned about the legislation. In particular, people who are engaged in the harvesting and husbandry of animals for their livelihoods have a great number of concerns about the bill.

I know that government legislation cannot satisfy everybody. It will not satisfy everybody. However, when sufficiently large numbers of people in our country have registered tremendous disapproval of the bill, it is important for us as legislators to take into account their concerns. There are a number of groups across the country that simply do not feel the government is listening to their concerns. They do not feel that we have to go this far to satisfy one group and to perhaps somehow eliminate cruelty to animals.

What we are saying in our opposition to a number of clauses in the bill is that we do not have to go this far. One concern with the bill is that the definition of the word “animal” is far too broad. The proposed definition of animal in Bill C-15B includes non-human vertebrates and all animals having “the capacity to feel pain”.

Let me show how we can go from the sublime to the ridiculous on something like this. I happen to be a fisherman. That is what I do with my spare time outside the House of Commons. Of course I would rather be here, but in those times when I cannot be here I go fishing, I work in my garden or I take my wife out to dinner, not particularly in that order of priority, but we do have lives outside the House, do we not? I enjoy fishing.

Fishing, of course, means that at times one has to put a worm on a hook. Unfortunately I have not been able to communicate very well with the bait I use, so I have no authoritative voice with which to say whether or not the worm I use actually feels pain. However, in the enjoyment of my sport, shared with perhaps millions of others in the country, I have come to the conclusion that it is probably okay for me to do that and to pursue fishing without the possibility of coming under some kind of cloud of suspicion that I am being cruel to the worm.

However, there just may be someone in my area or in the country who feels otherwise. It is quite possible that some day I might have worm police knocking on my door to tell me I am being cruel to the worms and that under the provisions of Bill C-15B, which would have been passed in the House by that time, they have to take me into custody.

Of course, that would never occur, would it? To go from the sublime to the ridiculous in such a way simply could not happen, could it? However, it might just happen and it might happen for anybody else engaged in any sporting activity in the country that has long been recognized as recreational or that sometimes, for the benefit of those who need the food, is something that is quite legitimate and within the law.

When we see the pendulum in our society move from one pole to the other, very often things like this get caught in the middle. I believe, and I am sure many of my hon. colleagues in the House believe, that we need to have balance in the legislation. The government is not providing balance.

Another key concern is that the criminal code would no longer provide the same level of legal protection presently afforded to those who use animals for legitimate, lawful and justified practices. Think of all the farmers across the country who are engaged in animal husbandry of some kind or another who could possibly, and I am not saying that they would, be brought before the bar of justice because under the legislation they would be accused of somehow being cruel to animals. What does that do to the agricultural community in the country, which is suffering more and more every day? It is just one more nail in the coffin of the agricultural community in many ways.

We ought to think very carefully about these kinds of considerations and consequences before we pass this kind of draconian legislation.

Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

March 20th, 2002 / 4:15 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Rick Casson Canadian Alliance Lethbridge, AB

Madam Speaker, Bill C-15B is part of the bill we had asked the justice minister for some time to separate. This has been done and we appreciate that because there were two very conflicting aspects in one bill. One aspect was cruelty to animals. The other dealt with the protection of our children from child pornography and luring on the Internet. We appreciated that aspect and supported that part, but we had some concerns with the cruelty to animals portion.

As my colleague has stated, we in no way condone cruelty to animals. There should be strong legislation in place to deal with anyone who abuses animals in any way. Our concern comes when we look at the agricultural community, people who raise and use animals in their businesses, such as fishermen and farmers.

We are concerned that if certain aspects of the bill are carried out to the degree we think some people will want to push them, it will put animal husbandry practices into question and it will put the people who raise the food we need in harm's way. The whole issue of protecting animals is a balancing act, as is every bill that comes to the House. We cannot go too far one way or we intrude in one area, but we have to go far enough to make sure that what we are trying to do gets done. This is no exception.

We have received in my office, as I am sure have all members in the House, countless letters of support for the bill from animal rights groups. They are doing their job. They are making sure we are aware that this legislation is in front of us, that we need to be aware that cruelty to animals is a problem and that there needs to be strong legislation to protect animals. On the other side we also are receiving letters from people who are concerned for the way of life they have created and the fact that the bill, if it is put into law the way it exists, could very well jeopardize the actions that they take.

People in the agricultural industry and the people who deal with animals are very cognizant of how to treat animals. They do it in the best way they can because it is to their advantage to do that. An animal that is treated properly is one that meets the requirements of the final process. There are all kinds of examples I could put forward about the industry which has governed itself. It has brought forward its own means of regulation to make sure that what is done and what the animals face is right.

The University of Lethbridge is in my riding. Like many universities across the country, it does research. That is another aspect where we have to make sure the animals are treated properly. We have seen a huge movement in the right direction as far as how animals that are kept for research are handled. On the other hand we have seen some people outside the research circles who really do need firm legislation and should be put out of business. That hopefully is where the legislation will lead. We hope it will not lead to the detriment of research and to our agricultural community in general.

We have brought forward suggestions from time to time on what we think needs to be done with some aspects of the bill regarding protection of animals. We hope the government will recognize that the concerns we are bringing forward are indeed legitimate and need to be addressed. If the government can in any way through changes to this legislation recognize all sides of the issue, then that is what should be done to make sure people can buy into this and buy into the fact that our animals need to be protected and treated fairly.

One of ways Bill C-15B differs from Bill C-17 that was before the last parliament is that a person would have to act willfully or recklessly in killing or harming an animal. Many organizations, businesses and individuals have a significant concern with respect to this aspect of the bill, namely that we would need to prove a person was wilful and reckless in his or her treatment. The bill could then come into effect and the law could be applied to the person.

The intent of Bill C-15B is fine. Cruelty to animals is something many of us do not understand. However we need to make sure the bill does not go too far. It must not hamper legal and rightful agricultural producers and others by wrongly accusing them of cruelty.

The idea of elevating the status of animals from property into something higher has many people concerned and rightly so. It would open up a whole different area of legal challenges. At what point would we stop? Do plants feel pain? We would be opening up a whole new area that could and would be challenged because there are people who would take it to the maximum degree.

The definition of animal under the bill would include non-human vertebrates and other animals that have the capacity to feel pain. The definition marks a significant departure. It would provide protection for an extremely wide range of living organisms which have never before been afforded this kind of legal protection. This piece of legislation would change the scope of what is currently in place.

The definition has practical difficulties. As worded it could cause enormous problems by extending the criminal law to invertebrates, cold blooded species such as fish, and an extremely wide variety of domestic and wild animals. It would affect the entire fishing industry by raising concerns about how hooks should be baited and how fish are handled after they are caught. It should be done in a humane way but it still needs to be done.

We have asked the government to delete or modify the definition but it has not. The issue could be a major concern as the bill proceeds.

The previous justice minister assured us in a speech that activities that are lawful and legitimate today would remain lawful after the bill received royal assent. The statement was intended to put at ease some of the concerns being raised at the time. She promised the House the changes would in no way negatively affect the many legitimate activities that involve animals such as hunting, farming or medical and scientific research.

We hope we can hold the new justice minister to the words of his predecessor. The words mean a lot. They have gone a long way to relieving the concerns of some people. We hope we can make sure they come true.

The previous justice minister's statement was self evident but it could be misleading. She said the provisions would not prevent legitimate activities from being carried out but that the law would proscribe only illegal activities. That is a bit of a play on words that negates what she meant to say in the first place. We are concerned the new provisions would narrow the scope of what constitutes legitimate activity.

These are just some of the issues. As Bill C-15B progresses through the House and we get an opportunity to rise and speak to it we will bring out other aspects.

We in our party support cruelty to animals legislation. However we want to make sure it addresses the issue without invading other parts of society.