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

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in November 2003.

Sponsor

Martin Cauchon  Liberal

Status

Not active, as of Nov. 20, 2002
(This bill did not become 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.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

April 4th, 2008 / 1:50 p.m.
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Bloc

Carole Lavallée Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, true to its reputation, the Bloc Québécois carefully read Bill S-203 when it was before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. It listened with interest to the various witnesses and is well aware of the limitations of Bill S-203.

We are aware of the importance of properly protecting animals from cruelty, so we proposed a series of amendments to improve Bill S-203. Among our proposals was the idea of introducing a clear definition of what an animal is. We also sought to protect stray as well as domestic animals. We also wanted to clarify the criterion for negligence, thereby making it easier to prove. Finally, we also proposed an amendment to formally ban training cocks to fight. Unfortunately all the Bloc's proposed amendments were rejected and the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights agreed on February 14, 2008, to report the bill without amendments.

That is not stopping the Bloc Québécois from supporting Bill S-203 in that it is, in fact, a small but real step in the right direction and does not prevent the possible study and adoption of a more complete bill in line with Bill C-50.

The Bloc Québécois does oppose the amendments proposed at report stage by the NDP. These amendments seek nothing less than to kill the bill. Their first amendment would remove the title and their second amendment would remove the rest. The NDP's logic in all this is especially twisted. Instead of voting in favour of an improvement to the legislation, even though we know a lot remains to be done—it is true—the NDP prefers the status quo that it nonetheless vehemently criticizes. Where is the logic in that?

If the NDP truly had animal protection at heart, it would act differently. It would follow the Bloc Québécois' example and act responsibly. Although the Bloc Québécois is aware of the limitations of Bill S-203, it finds that this bill is a small but real step in the right direction, and does not hinder the possible study and adoption of another bill I will speak about shortly. The Bloc Québécois is making no secret of this. It is in favour of a real reform of the animal cruelty provisions and will seriously study this matter again, unlike our colleagues, apparently.

Introduced by the Senate, Bill S-203 is the result of a long legislative process. Indeed, in recent years, six bills were introduced by the Liberal government of the day, specifically, Bill C-10, Bill C-10B, Bill C-15B, Bill C-17, Bill C-22 and Bill C-50. To those we can add those proposed by the Senate, namely, Bill S-24 and Bill S-213, the two predecessors of Bill S-203.

All those bills sought to modify the offences set out in the part of the Criminal Code that deals with cruelty to animals. Some of the bills went even further, however, and proposed real reforms to this bill. The Bloc was particularly in favour of the principle of Bill C-50, which would have created a new section in the Criminal Code to address cruelty to animals, removing this topic from the sections of the code that deal with property.

However, since that reform raised a number of problems, Bill S-24 was introduced in the meantime, to allow much more modest changes. Bill S-203 is a copy of Bill S-213, which was itself a copy of Bill S-24—I hope people are able to follow me.

The Bloc Québécois is in favour of Bill S-203, even though we are aware that it does not go far enough. But it is better than nothing. Such a bill will send a message to anyone who mistreats animals. Protecting animals against certain despicable actions will always remain a concern of the Bloc Québécois. The current maximum sentences under the Criminal Code are too lenient for the seriousness of the acts committed.

The bill does not jeopardize legitimate activities involving animal death, such as agriculture, hunting and fishing. This bill, however, is less comprehensive and therefore does not replace Bill C-373, which is a revival of Bill C-50. However, we are not here to discuss that bill today.

The bill amends the Criminal Code to increase the maximum sentences in cases of cruelty to animals. For prosecution by indictment, the maximum sentence is five years. For summary convictions, sentences can range from six to 18 months, along with a possible $10,000 fine.

In the past, judges could prohibit those found guilty from owning or residing with animals for up to two years. Now that ban can be for life. The judge can now require the offender to reimburse costs arising from his or her actions.

Obviously, the bill does not solve all of the existing problems. As I said earlier, this is a baby step, but these new penalties will provide better protection for animals until such time as animal cruelty provisions can be reformed significantly.

By increasing the penalties, we are sending a message to criminals as well as to the judges who have to take this into account in sentencing. The seriousness of a crime is determined in part by the maximum penalty that can be imposed on an offender.

We are also hoping that by making the ban on owning animals indefinite, we will be able to prevent some animal abuse from taking place.

The bill we are considering this afternoon has three major advantages. First, it corrects an anachronism. When the Criminal Code was first drafted back in the 19th century, society did not regard animals the way it does now. The relationships between people and animals have changed, so it makes sense for the Criminal Code to reflect that. Everyone agrees that the current penalties are not severe enough. Bill S-203 goes a little way toward correcting the old-fashioned, weak penalties. The old penalties were based on how people interacted with animals in the 19th century.

The second good thing about this bill is the fact that, as penalties become more severe, there is a good chance that the courts will become stricter with those who are found guilty of crimes against animals, such as mutilation, slaughter, neglect, abandonment, or failure to feed them.

This bill would change the minimum sentence. From now on, if a case is tried as an indictable offence, the minimum sentence will be five years in jail. The fine will go up to $10,000. As it happens, both of these provisions are in the member for Ajax—Pickering's bill, Bill C-373.

There is another excellent change. Henceforth, a court may ban an animal owner for life—or I should say a former owner—from having an animal in his possession. Bill S-203 will now allow a court to impose a prohibition order for life on this owner, whereas the current legislation provides for a two-year prohibition.

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

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

A number of our constituents have written to us comparing this Senate bill and the bill introduced by the member for Ajax—Pickering to be debated later. The Bloc Québécois will vote in favour of a step in the right direction rather than sticking with the status quo denounced by all. In other words, it is better than nothing.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

April 4th, 2008 / 1:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Charles Hubbard Liberal Miramichi, NB

Mr. Speaker, today we again bring before the House further discussion and debate on a bill dealing with animal cruelty. It has been a long journey. In fact, between the House of Commons and the Senate, this legislation has been debated over and over through different bills for more than a decade.

We are really dealing this afternoon with Bill S-203, a bill that was presented in the Senate by Senator Bryden and which I introduced in the House some weeks ago. Basically we are dealing with amendments to the Criminal Code in sections 444 to 447.

The debate of this has been long. It has affected many people. In fact, many members of Parliament are receiving emails from different groups who stand on different sides of Bill S-203.

Today, I would like to present my argument in terms of the bill that has come from the Senate, a bill that reflects the need for changes in the Criminal Code which would place greater emphasis upon animal cruelty and to those who might be accused or involved with cruelty to animals.

Many people are affected. In fact, when we looked at other bills in terms of Bill C-10 and so forth, we began to realize how broad our constituency was in dealing with those involved and affected by animals. We found in fact that one of the largest jurisdictions is with people who have family pets, but of course the livelihood of many people involved in farming is also affected by what we might do in the House in terms of legislation.

We found that universities and university researchers, and those involved in research for humans dealing with animals, have great concerns of what legislation might produce. We have minor groups such as those who maintain zoos and those who are involved with circuses. In the previous legislation, we were also involved with fishermen because fish became part of the debate on previous legislation.

Above all, we have hunters and trappers, many people in our first nations communities who historically depended upon wildlife for their livelihood.

When we look at all these different groups, we look at what proposals come forward, what animal rights groups say to us, what pet owners say to us, and above all, those in our farming communities. It is interesting to note that in terms of pets, many Canadians have tremendous affection for the cats, dogs, horses, birds and those pets which they maintain in the vicinity of their homes.

When we look at American statistics, this industry, the industry of providing health resources to pet owners, approaches $40 billion U.S. a year. So it is a growing industry. We have to respect and certainly pay great thanks to those who love their animals, those who care for them, those who maintain them, and those who are so interested in any legislation which the House and Parliament would provide.

I am not sure that the Criminal Code is the right place. Probably in future parliaments, we will see special legislation outside the Criminal Code. In terms of animals and cruelty, and respect for animals, the care for animals, we also have our provinces who have a vested interest in some of this because in terms of our wildlife, most wildlife species are protected under provincial legislation.

However, I would like to answer a few of our critics who have called upon some members of Parliament not to support Bill S-203. I personally have some difficulty with that logic because Bill 203 does not preclude the necessity or the fact that further legislation could be brought to the House which would improve upon this legislation. It would tend to see that the various groups that I mentioned are not seriously and adversely affected. It would indeed demonstrate that all of us as Canadians can enjoy the fact that we as a Parliament and as a nation can see that our animals are properly protected and that we can find joy, warmth and comfort in the relations that we have with them.

Bill S-203 basically deals with any person who kills, maims, wounds, poisons or injures cattle, or kills, maims, wounds, poisons or injures dogs, birds or animals that are not cattle and are kept for a lawful purpose.

If people were to commit offences under the Criminal Code with that description of it, they could be charged with an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than five years. That is a very serious penalty for those who would be convicted. Furthermore, if the court should decide it is not an indictable offence, there could be fines of up to $10,000.

This cruelty, in section 445.1, says that anyone who wilfully causes or, being the owner, wilfully permits to be caused unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal or a bird or anyone who assists at the fighting or baiting of animals or birds, or promotes, arranges, conducts, assists in, receives money in such circumstances, can be convicted of an indictable offence and receive up to five years in prison.

Section 446 goes on to state that anyone who, by wilful neglect, causes damage or injury to animals or who is involved with a domestic animal or a bird or an animal, whether it be wild in nature or in captivity, who abandons it in distress or wilfully neglects or fails to provide suitable and adequate food, water, shelter and care, would be committing an offence.

Furthermore, Bill S-203 also attempts to preclude from ownership of animals people who are guilty of these offences. The court, under section 447.1, may make an order prohibiting the accused from owning, having the custody or control of, residing in the same premise as an animal or bird during any period that the court considers appropriate, but in the case of a second or subsequent offence, a minimum of five years.

What I am advocating today is that the House could approve at report stage and third reading this legislation. I know it is not perfect, but it is a tremendous improvement upon the present legislation which was put in place almost a century ago.

There is another bill, in fact, that is before the House. It is further down than my own. However, there will be an opportunity in the future for another government or another member to bring a private member's bill before this assembly that can be debated.

I hope that as time progresses we as Canadians can develop legislation which is valuable to all, protects our animals, birds and fish and, above all, does not cause harm or unjustness to our farmers, fishermen, and those who rely upon these species for their livelihood.

February 14th, 2008 / 3:35 p.m.
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Melissa Tkachyk Programs Officer, , World Society for the Protection of Animals (Canada)

Thank you, Chair and honourable members, for allowing me this opportunity to speak about an issue that is of utmost importance to the World Society for the Protection of Animals, and to Canadians.

WSPA is the world's largest international alliance of animal welfare organizations. We work in partnership with more than 850 organizations in 170 countries. Our global partners include the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the American Humane Association, the American SPCA, and many others. WSPA holds consultative status with the United Nations and observer status with the Council of Europe. We work to improve animal welfare standards around the world through field work and advocacy.

WSPA Canada is based in Toronto. We are a Canadian charity and have more than 30,000 supporters across the country, and hundreds of thousands worldwide. If one takes into account the supporters of our member societies in Canada, we represent the voices of over 200,000 Canadians.

WSPA joins its member societies, the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, the Ontario SPCA, and other international groups, such as the International Fund for Animal Welfare, in opposing Bill S-203. It is suggested that this bill was introduced to improve the protection of animals, yet not a single animal protection group in the country supports it. We oppose this bill because it is not an effective improvement to the current animal cruelty provisions in the Criminal Code, which haven't been significantly revised, as you know, since first enacted in 1892. This antiquated bill does not address the deficiencies in the current legislation, which allow so many animal abusers to slip through the cracks unpunished.

As you know, the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies was already before this committee. They've calculated that less than 1% of animal abuse complaints made across the country lead to a conviction. Bill S-203 increases sentencing penalties; this is the only change it makes. We do not support this bill because we do not believe these increases are very useful if law enforcement officers are unable to prosecute animal abusers in the vast majority of cases. What difference does increasing penalties make if offenders cannot be successfully prosecuted?

Bill S-203 requires the court to prove that someone wilfully intended to neglect an animal. We have heard from SPCAs across the country that the burden of proof is too high, and that it is one of the main reasons so few complaints about animal abuse lead to convictions under the Criminal Code. Prosecutors have not been able to convict people who have starved their animals, because they cannot prove that the owners intended to cause harm, even though any reasonable person knows that animals, like people, need food daily and suffer when they are hungry, and that an emaciated body clearly indicates that an animal has been starved for a long period of time. The inactions or actions of the offender should be sufficient to convict them in these cases.

We believe the language in Bill C-373 makes this offence much clearer and will, therefore, improve conviction rates in cases of neglect.

Bill S-203 does not make it an offence to breed, train, or sell animals to fight each other to death, so long as the person is not found actually present at the fight. I'm sure you understand that illegal blood sports are not exactly publicized. Dog fighting should be prohibited as explicitly as cock fighting is in this bill. It is our submission that training dogs to fight and being in possession of dog-fighting equipment should both be prohibited. We believe this is necessary to crack down on the people who are participating in and encouraging this brutal blood sport. Great Britain's Animal Welfare Act takes it even further by making it an offence to profit, publicize, and promote any animal fighting.

Like the antiquated legislation currently in force, Bill S-203 provides less protection for unowned animals, even though stray, feral, and wild animals suffer just the same. So it's not an offence to kill, maim, poison, or wound unowned animals without a reason or a lawful excuse. It is legal now, and would continue to be legal, to beat a stray dog with a baseball bat, so long as the dog dies quickly. WSPA strongly believes that all sentient animals should be equally protected from being killed, maimed, poisoned, or wounded, in addition to being protected from suffering and neglect.

If the government is serious about tackling crime to build stronger and safer communities in Canada, it should not ignore the strong relationship between crimes against animals and crimes against people. Research shows that people who abuse animals are more likely to commit future acts of violence against people. Some of the most notorious serial killers abused animals before they murdered people. Their first crimes against animals should have served as an early warning that they were predisposed to harming people next.

The government has the opportunity to pass effective legislation that not only addresses animal abuse effectively, but can also help stop a cycle of violence in our communities. I do believe that if people are taught to respect the sanctity of animal life, it will contribute to the respect for the sanctity of human life as well.

I have summarized our main concerns with this bill, but there are many other problems, which I won't elaborate on, including the fact that it retains the illogical categorization of animals and the strange definition for cattle that is currently in the Criminal Code. As well, Bill S-203 still distinguishes animals as property, and it categorizes offences against them as property offences. Unlike inanimate objects, animals have the capacity to feel pain and suffer. Since their sentience is why we have legislation to protect them, this very basic fact should be reflected in the language of the law and how these types of offences are labelled and how the offender is punished.

Your committee has heard a lot of unfounded hysterical fears that the amendments animal protection groups support, such as those that are in Bill C-373, will somehow affect the right to hunt, trap, and go fishing. Some stakeholders have accused this bill's opponents of having an ulterior motive, such as an underlying animal rights agenda. Comments like these are absolutely absurd.

WSPA and the many other groups that are supporting Bill C-373 are simply advocating for legislation that effectively protects animals from horrific acts of cruelty, abuse, and neglect. Amendments like the one Bill C-373 proposes strikes a great balance between effectively convicting and punishing those who abuse animals, while protecting those who legally use animals.

During his deputation to your committee, Senator John Bryden acknowledged that his bill dealt only with one part of the problem, but that additional amendments should be made later. The committee is therefore being asked to pass deficient legislation on the grounds that some stakeholders would be uncomfortable with the changes sought by other stakeholders. Should we not be asking instead whether there is any validity to their concerns? If these stakeholders are concerned that the right to use animals is not adequately protected, then the solution, I would think, is not to maintain loopholes in the law, but to clarify the rights of these groups.

WSPA would gladly support this bill if it could be amended to resemble Bill C-373, which is essentially the same bill as the previous bills, Bill C-50, Bill C-15B, Bill C-10, which were twice passed by the House of Commons. Those bills were based on nearly 10 years of consultation, received broad-based support--that's support from all different groups that use animals, including support from all political parties--and also received strong public support.

This bill is clearly flawed if people who starve animals to death, bash stray dogs with bats, and train dogs to fight can slip through the cracks unpunished. This bill does not address the current loopholes, archaic language, and inadequacies in the original legislation. It retains them.

Bill S-203 does not deliver what Canadians are demanding from their government. Canadians do not view animals in the same way as people did in the Victorian era. They want modern, effective, and enforceable legislation that protects animals from reckless acts of cruelty. We have waited a long time for strong legislation to protect animals, but I'm afraid the proposal that is before your committee right now is just not worth that wait.

On behalf of WSPA, I'm asking you today to oppose Bill S-203. It's taken more than 100 years to make changes to our animal cruelty law. Let's make sure the new legislation is worth the wait.

Thank you.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

February 26th, 2007 / 11:30 a.m.
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Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bankruptcy LegislationAdjournment Proceedings

October 9th, 2003 / 6:15 p.m.
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Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine Québec

Liberal

Marlene Jennings LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Solicitor General of Canada

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville for the opportunity to rise in this House and to speak about some of the important changes that are taking place to streamline the firearms program and make it more efficient.

As the hon. member is aware, over the past several months the government announced several key initiatives to improve the program and provide better services to Canadians across the country. On February 21 the Minister of Justice, joined by the Solicitor General, tabled an action plan to deliver a firearms control program that provides significant public safety benefits while setting the program on a path to lower costs.

The action plan responds to the Auditor General's recommendations contained in her report of last December.

In fact, the government has already begun to implement these actions which are based on the recommendations of the Auditor General.

On April 14 the Canada Firearms Centre was transferred from the Department of Justice to the Department of the Solicitor General. I think everyone, the key players and partners, agrees that this is a natural fit for the Solicitor General portfolio, as enhancing public safety is one of its main focuses.

The action plan states the government's intention to consolidate the headquarters function for the firearms program in Ottawa. This has already occurred.

In addition, on May 30, a firearms commissioner was appointed. Reporting to the Solicitor General, the commissioner has full authority and accountability for all federally administered elements of the Canadian firearms program.

Moreover, according to the action plan, the position of financial controller has been filled. This individual is responsible for risk analysis and for data and report integrity. And he must ensure that resources are used in accordance with the program's financial plan. The controller must also report the results.

On May 14 Bill C-10A received royal assent. The amendments to the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act are administrative in nature and their goal is to streamline the Canada firearms program. Several of these amendments require regulations or amendments to existing regulations before they can take effect.

Accordingly, on June 13, 15 proposed regulations were tabled in Parliament by the Solicitor General. All but one of those amend existing regulations. The tabling of those proposed regulations is another important step in the continuous improvement of the firearms program.

There is also, first, public consultation through the official gazette on regulations and, second, consultation with Parliament. Canadians are invited to share their ideas and their comments on the Canadian firearms program and on the proposed regulations on the Web site of the Canada Firearms Center.

The simple facts that I have given, and that is not the whole story obviously, show that the government has put into practice or is putting into practice the recommendations of the Auditor General. The government is consulting Canadians and its goal is to ensure that this program is efficient and practical.

SupplyGovernment Orders

October 2nd, 2003 / 3:40 p.m.
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Oak Ridges Ontario

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, it is like being in Back to the Future , if anyone has seen that movie. We had this discussion back in June. It is the same sequel and the same cast of characters, but at least the Alliance, for a change, is being somewhat consistent. The fact is, as everyone knows, I have said many times that when it comes to municipal government issues that party's sincerity is somewhat interesting since it historically has never supported municipal governments in the past. I will go through an array of issues with them.

It is very good to talk about a little history. For those who obviously are not aware, first of all, my friend and colleague from Dauphin—Swan River and I worked together over the years through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities when I was president of that organization. I remember the very dry days back then, when the government of the day did not even entertain the issue of national infrastructure.

In fact, for those who may not remember, in 1983 the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, and at that time there was a $17 billion national infrastructure deficit, went to the government of the day and said, “We need to get into a tripartite arrangement on traditional infrastructure, roads, sewers, bridges, et cetera”. The government said it would entertain that. Unfortunately, the government was defeated in the 1984 election. Then along came the Progressive Conservatives, with clearly a heavy emphasis on the conservative and not on the progressive because they did not support the national infrastructure program during their entire time in office.

Therefore, it was this government and this Prime Minister that in 1993 pledged to in fact bring in the first national infrastructure program, a tripartite arrangement. True to the Prime Minister's word, in 1994 that came in and I had the pleasure of working with the government at that time as part of the FCM in terms of making sure that this program came into effect.

Since 1993 this government has invested over $12 billion, and when one leverages that, over $20 billion, in terms of national infrastructure. The fact is that the party over there opposed it in 1993 and it opposed it in 1997. It is good at that, but now that party knows it is popular and it knows that after three programs this has become extremely important.

This motion is a little weaker than it was before, but basically it is inviting the government to have discussions with the provinces on the issue of sharing a portion of the gas tax. I can tell members that this government would be more than happy to talk to the provinces and territories anytime. My concern, and I have raised this many times, is the mechanism by which, if we vacate the tax route, in fact we will be assured by the provinces and territories that municipal governments, whether they are urban or rural, will in fact get the money.

In terms of the motion before the House today, I certainly can support it, because it simply is asking that we enter into discussions. I can tell everyone that this government can do that and will do that and will hear what the provinces and territories have to say.

But the reality is that this is only a portion of the issue. The real issue is, how do we ensure that? We believe on this side of the House that if we have a tripartite arrangement all three orders of government in this country participate fully as partners. If one is going to fund a third of the money, one should have a third of the say. I have always commended the government of Alberta for the fact that the government of Alberta has always had at the table municipal, federal and provincial representatives in terms of the approvals.

The fact is that this government needs to take no lessons from the party across the way because, simply put, it is this government that not only brought in the national infrastructure program but renewed that program in 1997, in fact, if the hon. members across the way would look at the record. The problem is that when we sign agreements with the provinces, each agreement is different.

Therefore, to my good friend from British Columbia, at one time a previous government of British Columbia was suddenly ordering all sorts of buses that were showing up in municipalities and not necessarily what they wanted.

From the beginning we have said that the program must be municipally driven. As a former municipal politician, we at the municipal level know what the needs are in terms of the communities, whether it is roads, sewers, bridges, whatever. Therefore, when we look at a five and 10 year capital forecast, we want to ensure that we can put forth projects and hopefully get the support of the province and, obviously, the Government of Canada.

I have always said that if they are proposing it, then I, as a member of Parliament, support it because they obviously know what their needs are in the community. It is not up to me as a member of Parliament or up to the Government of Canada to tell a city X what its needs are. The fact is this was such an important program.

I know we are not allowed to use props so I will not show it, but in the January and February Forum of the FCM of 1997 I read an article that was devoted to infrastructure. At that time we were talking about getting the first national infrastructure program extended, and the Prime Minister was prepared to listen.

On the team Canada mission in 1997, I had the opportunity to meet with the Prime Minister and the premiers, except the premier of British Columbia. The Prime Minister and the premiers were prepared to entertain an extension of that program. In the end we got that extension. Some were a little later than others. Ontario was very slow. In fact it only agreed at the eleventh hour before the federal election was called in April of 1997. However we got it and it was extended. If it were not a good program, we would not have municipal governments supporting it continually.

We have a deficit in Canada when it comes to infrastructure. Had we acted in 1983, we would be in a lot better shape.

Respecting the constitutionality, municipal governments, which are creatures of the province, and I hate that term myself, they get their powers or not from the provinces, and we accept that. We also accept that there was a vital role for the government to play in a number of areas, in partnership with our municipal cousins and obviously with the provinces and territories. That over the years has been very successful.

Members also will know that we introduced the strategic infrastructure fund, another very important program, for larger projects in the urban scheme as well.

In my own area, the greater Toronto area, we were able to benefit by an announcement at the end of April of $435 million, matched by municipalities, by GO, TTC and others and by the province, finally. We were able to commit over $1 billion to improve the transportation infrastructure in the greater Toronto area. Why? Because these were proposals that they made. Not the Government of Canada, not the Ontario government, but the municipal authorities, which is very important.

I point out that when we talk about allocation of dollars, our friends across the way often talk about the fact that we are not giving enough.

I remember the days, and it is sometimes very useful to have some history behind one, when we argued at the FCM for a 10 year program. Remember that under the Conservatives we never had a program. Then when the Liberal government came in, we got a program, then we got another renewal and then we got another program. Under the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister we have committed to a 10 year infrastructure program in this budge.

I said earlier that it is important for municipal governments to plan ahead. He said that we would put a down payment on it. Of course the word that some members in this House do not use, and it is shameful they do not, is the word leveraging. It is the role of other governments and the private sector to contribute to federal funding to ensure we can advance these programs. When we talk about leveraging, it is not simply the federal government.

The provinces of British Columbia, Alberta and across the country have benefited significantly from these programs.

The hon. member in his speech this morning talked about the fact that we had to vacate this money. I am not sure how much he would like us to vacate. I assume he is also suggesting where we will find extra dollars because he will then be complaining about other federal programs that the government needs to be funding. At the same time, the government is prepared to come to the table, as we always have.

A few years ago we had Bill C-10 which was a very important issue regarding payments in lieu of taxes. In 1949 the then Liberal government had an informal agreement in which it agreed that in lieu of taxes it would pay a certain amount of money to municipal governments for services for federal properties.

I believe in 1992 under the Conservatives there was an arbitrary 10% cut. What happened was there could be a CTV building and a CBC building in a riding and one received a 10% discount. It was unfair and unreasonable and the municipality was still providing services to both.

This was something that the government had been pushing for years. Bill C-10 came to the House a few years ago. The government passed legislation which said that the Government of Canada would be treated like any other taxpayer. The government had to pay on time, otherwise it would pay interest. There would be guaranteed payments. The government would know what the assessment would be. If the government did not like the assessment on a federal property, then it would go through the procedures that every other taxpayer had to go through.

That party over there voted against it. If it really were interested in supporting municipal governments, I would have assumed it would have supported something like Bill C-10 as an example.

I would also point out that the issue here is simply accountability. I certainly believe that with municipal governments there is a new partnership. The Prime Minister launched the Prime Minister's task force on urban issues. The government made a number of recommendations. The government talked about a national transportation study, a national housing strategy and other recommendations.

Of course the naysayers over there really do not understand what it is all about. One day they will the fact that when we enter into partnerships, we are talking about true partnerships. We are talking about financial partnerships and policy issues. It is obviously hitting the right accord because even the Alliance gets it, which is good to see. I really welcome that because for years I had to deal with those on the other side who were not as positive.

The fact is we are talking about investments in cities. We also are talking about other investments. The government has done that in health care. It has done it with universities. It has done it in an array of areas such as housing which is very important. It makes these cities more liveable. Canadians cannot have liveable cities if they do not have the right infrastructure.

Provinces have the ability and the tax room that the government has. They have the same fiscal capacity as the Government of Canada. Municipal governments clearly are restrained. In some provinces they have more levers than others in terms of being able to raise taxes.

The most antiquated form of taxation I still believe is property taxes. Unfortunately they are dealing with that.

We want to see an arrangement where we can play a constructive role respecting provincial jurisdiction and at the same time work cooperatively with them. However I do not think it would be wise to simply write a cheque to province X and not have a clear direction of where that money is to go.

My colleagues on the other side talk about strings. I find that a rather odd statement because to me there has to be accountability, whether it is a national health council to track where the money goes. The transfers are for Canadians, not for the federal government. If money is transferred to the provinces, Canadians should know where it goes. I believe that accountability, whatever order of government it is, is extremely important.

The government has taken action in many ways. If it were not for the Liberal government, the Autoroute 30 around Montreal would not have been dealt with. The Red River floodway is very important. We know the Government of Canada stepped in and worked with the province of Manitoba, again cooperatively. These are cooperative efforts. The Government of Canada is not saying that the provinces have to do X. That is probably why this side of the House has so many former municipal colleagues. They know the work that the government has done since 1993.

We are not ashamed of the fact that we have had three national programs and we have worked in areas of housing and others. The national homeless strategy involved working cooperatively with other orders of government and with grassroots communities across the country. The Minister of Labour took the lead in that area. The results were very positive, and $753 million came from that. This is about partnership and about working together.

The hon. member would like us to talk to the provinces and territories about the issue of gas taxes and that is very much a reality. That can be done. However it will not work unless we ensure that moneys that go to the provinces wind up directly with the proper formula for rural and urban municipal governments.

I will not say that we have all the answers because we do not. However we know the other side has no answers at times. We on this side of the House have not just talked about these issues but have delivered on these issues. There is a big difference between talking about them and doing something about them.

The member across the way is too young to remember the 1993 infrastructure program, but if he had been around he would have known about the tremendous work that the government did. Other examples of the government working collaboratively with municipalities are the municipal enabling fund and the green municipal investment fund. It was this government that empowered the FCM with $200 million originally to work on issues dealing with the environment such as improving air quality et cetera. The 10% club was formed to reduce CO

2

emissions by 20% over 10 years. This is true cooperation. It is not talking about it. It is delivering.

The government even delivered to the riding of my friend across the way, and I know he is very appreciative. He should talk to his former mayor because he might actually learn a few things about municipal government. He was a good mayor and a very popular mayor.

We also have to look at the fact that the government has set an agenda. We believe that investing in municipal governments and in infrastructure is extremely important. Therefore we continue to look at all reasonable options. At the same time, the government will not go back into a deficit. We continue to ensure that we balance the books. We will ensure that issues such as paying down the national debt and investing in the social fabric of Canada continue. We can only do that if the dollars come and we account for those dollars.

Unfortunately, we had to deal with a $42.5 billion deficit. I am amazed that we did not get credit for the fact that at the same time as we had the $42.5 billion debt, we still invested in the national infrastructure program. Why? Because it returned tax money and created jobs. It was a very important initiative even when we did not have the money. Look at the highlights. We have a 10 year program, people are investing and it is good for the economy.

SupplyGovernment Orders

October 2nd, 2003 / 10:35 a.m.
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Oak Ridges Ontario

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the member talks about hypocrisy and scandal. I assume he is looking in the mirror because the Canadian Alliance, the former reform party, has never been a supporter of municipal governments in our country.

I will give members a simple example. A few years ago we had Bill C-10 before the House. It dealt with the issue of payments in lieu of taxes to ensure that we had guaranteed payments to municipal governments for federal properties within their jurisdiction. The party over there voted against it.

That party has not supported national infrastructure programs. That party has a shabby record on dealing with municipal governments. However, I can tell the member that this government is prepared at any time to work with provinces and municipal governments on the issue of national infrastructure. We do not need any lessons from that party, absolutely not.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals)Government Orders

September 29th, 2003 / 4 p.m.
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NDP

Lorne Nystrom NDP Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I also want to say a few words on the bill before the House. This is a bill has been before the House before. The bill was split into two parts, one dealing with gun control regulations and the other one dealing with animal rights and animal welfare. The bill was split in two parts by the Senate.

The NDP supports Bill C-10B in terms of the animal rights and the animal welfare part of the bill. We have made that clear before in debate.

What has happened in the other place is that the Senate decided to weaken the bill through amendments that it has sent back to the House of Commons.

This place is elected and members are responsible to the people of this country. The Senate is not elected and senators are not accountable. The Senate is not a democratic institution.

I believe the House of Commons should make amendments to bills and that it should be predominant in any kind of a standoff between the two Houses. I think that is very important.

It is very important that we do not get into the situation where we have a precedent built where the unelected chamber is able to send a bill back to the House with several amendments and the House does not return the bill rejecting those amendments.

There is no place in a democratic society for an unelected legislative institution. This is an institution that changes laws. I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that you are amongst the 90% to 95% of the Canadian population that does not agree that we should have the Senate as it exists today. About 90% to 95% of people polled have shown time and time again that they do not want to keep this unelected institution. I guess the 95% of people who are saying that are divided as to whether or not we should just abolish the Senate all together or whether or not we should have an elected chamber.

If we were to have an elected chamber, we would get into the debate as to what kinds of powers that particular House should have. I have seen this debate go on year after year. In fact, this was one of the big stalemates in the constitutional debate of 1981-82. It was also a big stalemate prior to Charlottetown.

I remember the negotiations of the House of Commons special committee that I had the privilege of sitting on for a number of months. The committee talked about everything in terms of the Constitution back in 1991, after Meech Lake collapsed in 1992-93.

We had the Beaudoin-Dobbie committee and the Beaudoin-Edwards committee. We dealt with the division of powers, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, minority languages, and everything that was in the Constitution, an amending formula, et cetera. The most difficult issue we faced on that particular House of Commons all party committee was the question of the Senate, and what should be done about the other place. Everywhere the committee went people wanted to either abolish the Senate or have one that was elected that reflected the people of the country.

I am hesitant to accept amendments that come from the other place when it does not have a mandate from the Canadian people. In fact, the amendments that the Senate moved to Bill C-10B in terms of animal rights and animal welfare weaken the bill. We have had no changes in terms of animal welfare legislation since 1892. Here we have a bill that has gone through the House of Commons and it is now being weakened by the Senate.

I think the time has come where we do one of two things: we either reform and elect, with different powers, the other place, or else we abolish it. My position is very clear; we should abolish it. In fact, we had at one time five different provinces that had a senate or an upper house. If we were to go to Prince Edward Island and look at the Legislative Assembly in P.E.I., we could visit the chamber that was the upper house. It is the same thing in Quebec. In fact, Quebec was the last province that abolished its upper house. There were five provinces that had an upper house, but they do not have one today.

I believe we could take the original purpose of the Senate, which was the power of a check and balance on the House of Commons, and incorporate it into this place through parliamentary reform.

If we had stronger, more independent parliamentary committees, free election of chairs, the right of a committee to initiate its own legislation and bring it into the House, to timetable legislation, and fewer non-confidence votes, then we could bring the checks and balances, which the Senate is supposed to represent, into the House of Commons. If we were to do that, this place would be a much more democratic place and more representative of the people of the country.

We all know how exciting it is to see a free vote in private members' hour on a controversial issue but if we had stronger committees they would be able to take a stand more often in opposition to the Prime Minister of the country. I think that is the direction in which we should be going.

I have been open in the past to the election of the other place. In fact, I was a supporter of the Charlottetown accord and did a lot of work across the country campaigning for that accord on the “Yes” side. Part of that accord was a vision of an elected Senate with regional equality and greatly reduced powers. However, no matter how we looked at it, it became very difficult to come up with a configuration of the Senate that was accepted by all the Canadian people.

I noticed in a press release that the future prime minister, the member for LaSalle—Émard, still supports in principle the idea of a triple-e Senate as pushed by the Alliance, but it is very difficult to push the triple-e equality across the country when we give the same number of senators to Prince Edward Island, Quebec and Ontario. Prince Edward Island has 120,000 to 130,000 people and Ontario has 10 million or 11 million people but both would have an equal number of senators.

To change the Senate we would need a constitutional amendment which requires the agreement of at least seven out of ten provinces, representing half of the people in the country. The only way we will get agreement from Quebec, which has 7 million to 7.5 million people, with its distinct difference from the other provinces because of its language, culture and civil law, and the only way we will get agreement from Ontario to have an equal number of senators per province, is to have the powers in the Senate so radically reduced that it would become almost meaningless.

If the powers were so radically reduced then we would have a backlash in many other smaller provinces as to why bother at all. It is like the dog chasing its tail. It is a never ending story that I have seen during my 30 years in Parliament. It has been a never ending story since Confederation.

I am really surprised with the Alliance Party members. They always talk about smaller government, less government and too many politicians. If we had an elected Senate in the country we would legitimize the place immediately because they would be elected and have the same mandate as we have in the House of Commons. If we were to do that the expenditure on the Senate would not be the current $60 million a year. It would double or triple because senators would need riding offices, many more committees, facilities and services in order to reflect what their electors would be saying and put them on an equal par with the House of Commons.

We would then have another 100-plus politicians in the country. I do not think we need that. I think we can bring those checks and balances, that sober second thought into the House of Commons by reforming this place, by making sure our committees are meaningful, by having fewer confidence votes, by having fixed election days, fixed throne speech days and fixed budget days. We would take away some of the powers that are now in the Prime Minister's Office and Privy Council Office and distribute them around the House of Commons to all members, as all members of the House should be equal.

However that has not happened. I remember about a year ago reading the autobiography of John Crosbie who used to be the minister of transport. He wrote that one of the goals of Brian Mulroney when he came to office was to abolish the Senate. However when he became prime minister he came under pressure to appoint some of his friends to the Senate, and then more friends and more friends and he continued down the same old merry trail. The same thing has happened ever since Confederation.

We have people sitting in the other place, most of whom are decent and hard-working people, but some of them have abysmal attendance records because they are accountable to absolutely no one.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals)Government Orders

September 29th, 2003 / 3:30 p.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Progressive Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague who just completed his remarks. I would just like to point out that we would have a better chance for unanimity if we were to support the amendments brought forward by our colleagues from the other place, as the hon. member mentioned.

I rise to oppose the very narrow and unusual motion that we have before us today and to urge the House to accept the amendments from the other place to Bill C-10B.

We have two legislative chambers in our system. This is the second time the House has considered amendments on this bill from our colleagues in the other chamber. That is very unusual. Insistence on amendments by the other house is not at all a common occurrence. When it does it, it has a reason for doing it. We have a duty to treat very seriously this unusual, non-partisan, principled initiative by the other chamber.

Two explicit mandates of the other chamber are highly relevant to this debate. One is the obligation to apply sober second thought, to look carefully and precisely, in a non-partisan way, at proposals which might be denied the careful attention they require in the House.

I note that these amendments are not at all partisan. They are supported by members of the Liberal Party in the other place, as well as by members of my party. Otherwise, they would never have been adopted because the Liberal Party has a majority in that other house, too. These amendments are driven by principle, not by partisanship, and so they should be here.

The other obligation of the other place is to protect minorities, in this case principally the aboriginal minority of Canada whose livelihoods depend disproportionately on hunting and fishing and who are faced with a double blow in the language the government insists upon.

First, the government's language calls into question again the practical existence of traditional rights which have existed from time immemorial, which have been upheld by the courts and have been affirmed by clause 35 of Mr. Trudeau's famous Constitutional Act of 1982. It is ironic that the present temporary Prime Minister desperately claims Mr. Trudeau's accomplishments as part of his own threadbare legacy in the Constitutional Act and at the same he insists on this language which dilutes those very constitutional guarantees.

Second, the government's language says perversely that if those traditional and established aboriginal rights are ever to be exercised, that can occur only after the immense expense of a trial and an appeal.

We are not dealing here with Power Corporation, Canada Steamship Lines or other wealthy corporations with tailor-made tax havens in Barbados. We are speaking of aboriginal people living on the most marginal of incomes. The double standard of the government could not be more clear.

The government is prepared to change the rules to give giant shipping corporations new tax loopholes and now it tries to change the rules to take away from low income aboriginal people, whose major income is through hunting, one of the few protections they enjoy.

The amendment proposed by the other place would stop that double standard, and I would hope members of this House would have the conscience to support that amendment here.

The parliamentary secretary stated on September 25, 2003 that this legislation has had a long journey. Indeed, it has. My party has been unequivocal in its support for improving and enhancing the Criminal Code provisions dealing with animals and cruelty to animals. However this has been a troubled bill precisely because for so long government ministers have failed profoundly to understand the realities of life in rural Canada. That has been a recurrent blemish on the government.

It is devastatingly evident today in the failure to provide effective help to farmers and to ranchers whose futures have been devastated by the BSE outbreak.

While the Prime Minister was in New York not talking to the one American who could speed up the full opening of the borders, President Bush, farmers and ranchers on the prairies were killing their cows because federal aid has been too slow at home and federal action has been ineffective in the United States.

Each time the House has rejected the amendments of our colleagues in the other house, they in the other house have sat down, considered the arguments of this House and refined the amendments. The amendments before us today are refinements and improvements to the bill.

Let us go back to June 2002. Members of Parliament from all parties were clearly concerned about the impact of the bill on traditional farming and ranching practices. There was concern that branding or castration of farm animals might be considered to be causes for charges to be brought against farmers and ranchers.

The Edmonton Journal reported on June 4, 2002 that the current government promised, “to consider future amendments to parts of animal cruelty legislation”. The Minister of Justice averted possible trouble by agreeing “to look favourably on Senate amendments to the bill”. It was later reported that while the government did not intend to bring in amendments in the other place, the justice minister “would consider carefully an amendment if the Senate passed an amendment”.

Subsequently, the definition of animal proposed by the Senate has resolved some of these concerns. That amendment has been accepted by this House. The Senate is now proposing that the government drop its insistence on the defence that is defined as “killing without a lawful excuse” and substituting instead the words “causing unnecessary death”. It is intended to limit a blanket prohibition against killing animals.

We do not want to see farmers and ranchers charged with cruelty to animals for attempting to cull an epidemic of groundhogs on the farm or dealing with predators. Real life is more complicated than the laws we write here and our laws must reflect the reality which ordinary Canadians have to face as they earn their livelihoods.

Rather than having aboriginal people continually seeking redress of the courts to prove their rights, the amendment, which the government proposes to reject, would clarify that no aboriginal person would be convicted of an offence if the pain, suffering, injury or death were caused in the course of traditional hunting, trapping or fishing practices, provided that any pain, suffering or injury caused was no more than is reasonably necessary in carrying out traditional practices.

The Senate amendment, be clear about this, would not create any exception that would allow an aboriginal person to commit cruelty against an animal. In fact the Senate felt it would be in accordance with section 35 of the Constitution Act of 1982 to give aboriginal peoples an opportunity to exercise their constitutional rights that protected traditional hunting and fishing practices without fear of being arrested and unfairly accused of cruelty to animals. In other words, the rights of the aboriginal people would be recognized at the moment of the arrest rather than after a Supreme Court decision over an appeal of a conviction.

The House of Commons now has the opportunity, as the courts have done for 20 years, to do everything it can to ensure that federal laws protect the rights of aboriginal people. In the other place our aboriginal colleagues argued passionately that here was an opportunity to protect aboriginal hunters who were trying to earn a living to feed their families.

The government has made a point of naming aboriginal Canadians to the other place. Presumably that was not just for window dressing. Presumably it was because they knew those aboriginal members of the other place would bring their special knowledge and that they would be listened to by members of both Houses who were not aboriginal, who did not have that experience.

If that is so, I ask the House to listen to what our colleague Charlie Watt said in a standing committee in the other place on legal and constitutional affairs. He said:

Many of the traditional tools utilized by Aboriginal people—especially the Inuit in the far north—are for conservation purposes so that time, energy, and wildlife are...not sufficiently covered by law in terms of recognition of those traditional activities—perhaps even to the point that the lawmakers do not understood them well.

For that reason, we made a sincere attempt to move an amendment such that an Aboriginal person, if charged, would at least have a reasonable defence to rely on. We do not have many provisions in law that are clearly made for Aboriginal people to protect themselves...

Thus spoke an aboriginal member of the other place, appointed because of his special knowledge by this government. What the government is proposing in this motion is to strike away one of the few specific protections that our colleague Charlie Watt, in the other place, has just referred to.

The government is arguing in its rejection of the amendment that there is no clarity as to what traditional practices are in the criminal law context and that the police would be confused in laying charges. We all know that training has been provided to police in other cases of complicated legislation regarding, for example, organized crime and law enforcement.

Justice Canada could easily offer to train police officers in cultural awareness of traditional aboriginal activities. It would not be a big challenge. It would not have to train officers in Toronto, or Vancouver, or Montreal, or Winnipeg or Calgary where no one claims an aboriginal right to hunt. The choice is simple. Do we train a few officers or do we impose an unfair burden on whole populations of aboriginal hunters?

The fourth amendment was to restore the element of colour of right that is currently applicable to criminal property offences.

The amendment put forward by the other place stipulated, and I quote:

No person shall be convicted of an offence under this Part where he proves that he acted with legal justification or excuse or with colour of right.

This seemingly complex defence is defined as follows: in R. v. Watson, the Newfoundland Court of Appeal said, in 1999, that the colour of right is the honest belief in a state of facts or law which, if it existed, would deny the existence of a guilty intent to commit a crime, meaning mens rea .

That is currently stipulated in section 429(2) of the Criminal Code.

Up until last June, the justice minister had rejected this amendment, arguing that it would reverse the onus of proof and require the accused to prove his or her innocence beyond the balance of probabilities.

In the Watson case, both parties had agreed that the colour of right would not call for a reverse onus.

However, in its second message to the House of Commons, the other place decided to reintroduce its amendment, since the members of its Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs had agreed that the phrase “to the extent that they are relevant” was a pointless and unjustified attempt to limit the colour of right, which could eventually hurt some defendants or lead to unjustified convictions.

Members of the other place have debated this issue thoroughly. We should very seriously consider accepting those amendments. We should not provoke an unnecessary fight between chambers over these measures simply because their common sense and good judgment disagrees with the drafter's preferred by the government of the day. It is not often that the other chamber insists on its amendments, and we should consider carefully the reasons why it has done so today.

Canadians want improved legislation to deal with cruelty to animals. This type of legislation has broad ramifications and the Senate amendments clearly improve the bill, providing a balance between protecting animals and protecting the livelihood of Canadians. We should accept these amendments and get this legislation working to deal with genuine cases of cruel treatment of animals.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals)Government Orders

September 29th, 2003 / 3:10 p.m.
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Bloc

Robert Lanctôt Bloc Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Speaker, once again, here we are speaking to Bill C-10B. Of course, the first speech I made on Bill C-15B established that we had proposed a number of amendments, unfortunately rejected at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Fortunately, however—and it is rare for those of us this side to be able to say this—the Senate accepted the Bloc Quebecois amendments. As a result, it has been made possible at last to include the definitions of subsection 429(2) of the Criminal Code in this bill.

At last, all industries involved with animals, whether research, hunting or any other, now have a legitimate excuse to do what they have always done, while being totally secure about their dealings with animals.

This, as hon. members are aware, was necessary. In this connection, we congratulate the government for the progress made, despite the length of this process, to achieve the goal of animal protection. There will now be a new section in the Criminal Code. Animals will be struck off one section in which they were considered things. At last there is a section specifically on animals: 5.1.

It is not enough simply to look at what kind of a case an attorney might make. The definition of cruelty to animals was spelled out in a section. But now, there are legitimate means and especially means of defence under section 8 that are common law defences. It is in fact an explicit defence that is set out in the current legislation for anything regarding means of defence provided in section 429(2).

I commend the committee. Unfortunately, I could not attend all the committee meetings. At first, the Liberal members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights agreed with us on the amendments and the concept of having explicit defences.

As I said earlier, I do not understand why this was rejected. Unfortunately, I was not at the committee. What made the committee members change their minds on including these explicit defences? Was it the evidence they had already heard or the evidence from animal industry people who appeared before the Senate committee and are probably the same people who expressed their concerns at the House committee?

It was simple. If the Bloc amendments and my amendments had been accepted, Bill C-15B would already be passed. All this is a waste of time. Fortunately, the bill will be passed as desired.

I have a lot more respect for the members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, because they openly said they were concerned the bill would not be explicit. It was based on a manner of saying that implicitly, there are defences. But it was clear in the section that explicit defences were being provided.

The legislator does not talk needlessly. If something is included in this section and was not consistent with section 8 of the common law, then the legislator was not talking needlessly. I have a hard time understanding why my colleagues voted against these amendments in the end. They said that section 8 of the common law applied implicitly. That is true, but why were defences included that are specific to section 429?

I tried to get explanations through the questions I was able to put to witnesses, who shared my concern. Fortunately, today, while the result is not ideal—the Senate did not include all the amendments put forward by the Bloc Quebecois—but the cornerstone, the most important aspect, that is the defence under section 429, was taken into account.

I must add that the Bloc Quebecois has supported from the start the creation of a new section 5.1 to protect animals and prohibit cruelty against animals.

I want to come back to committee work. Early on, we heard between 20 and 30 witnesses, who told us various things. They said they too wanted tougher penalties for cruelty in order to protect the animals. But what the husbandry industry wants most of all is the assurance that all they have been doing all those years will continue to be considered as defences. Naturally, these defences may be common law defences under section 8, but also be defences under subsection 429(2).

Witnesses answered our questions. A concern was expressed. If implicitly there were protected, why have wasted all these months before finally understanding? The government finally understood that, with respect to the rights explicitly provided for in the Criminal Code, no amendment was put forward to take them away, but to include them. We must realize that if the provisions concerning animals are moved to a new and separate section 5.1, I think it is clear and obvious that they have to be included.

I would be curious to know whether this was achieved through lobbying or if someone finally realized that implicitly and explicitly is not the same thing.

If today it is explicitly provided for under section 429, the credit goes to the Bloc Quebecois and myself, as the member for Châteauguay. I fought long and hard in committee to put that point across. Clause by clause, I took the time to explain that these amendments were necessary. Why were they rejected? That is incredible.

Today we are obliged to revisit this important bill, now amended, as it might have been earlier. That is why I mentioned the work of the committee. That work is interesting while one is doing it. When it comes to the clause by clause study, all the effort by the witnesses who came to make things clear and explicit is swept aside.

Some of the hon. members only attend for the votes and do not even listen to the witnesses. Why is that? Because they come to vote unanimously along the party line. But in this case, the party line was faulty. We can see that today.

By way of the Senate, this House is now ready to accept my amendments, including the very cornerstone.

How is it possible that these same hon. members, who are sitting today on the same committee, have gone back in time to when the bill was introduced, and now they have changed their minds? All the explanations have been given once or twice. During clause by clause study, these amendments were presented as well.

There was some logic. I recall the Minister of Justice of whom I asked questions on several occasions. He would rise and say, “To the hon. member for Châteauguay, I say it is implicit; the animal industry, the hunters, researchers, all the people concerned will be able to continue in the same way”. That was the minister's response.

But I prefer the response the minister is giving me now, because now it is clear. We will not be obliged to use section 8, the common law provision. It can be done using specific defences and it is sometimes necessary to use this article; that is obvious.

Still, in other specific cases, section 8 would not have made it possible to arrive at the same result. Luckily, section 429 will finally be included in the new section. Why is it important to include it explicitly?

First, it will ensure the support of the Bloc Quebecois, because this is a very important bill. We must protect these animals. We have all seen films of puppy and kitten mills, and the harm that can be done to animals. Unfortunately, we were in an uncomfortable situation. We supported the principle of amending the Criminal Code in order to provide for harsher penalties and to include a new section.

However, due to the government's stubbornness, we were forced to vote against it. Then, we were forced to tell our constituents exactly why we had done so.

During the speeches, people said, “Yes, you support the amendment and animal protection and the imposition of stiffer penalties. But why did you vote against the bill at that time?”

When we met people, we realized that even lobbyists for animal rights groups understood the amendments we wanted to make. The government wanted to do even more than people were asking it to do. The goal was to stop such cruelty. People came to my office and told me, “Sir, we agree with your amendments. People must realize that the entire House could vote in favour of such important legislation”.

I never understood why, but there was an underhanded attempt to hurt the animal industry. I am pleased that lobby groups got involved, not just those wanting to protect animals from such cruelty. The entire animal industry, including producers and breeders, also wants to protect the animals.

They came to give evidence and said, “Of course we want people who are cruel to animals to be punished”. People who are cruel to animals do not need protection. People sometimes know of a cruel neighbour but, because of this neighbour, the entire industry is perceived as being cruel to animals. Sometimes, the animals are raised, taken to slaughter and killed for food.

They were put in a situation where a group of individuals or a slightly zealous crown attorney could have brought charges against the animal industry, because the new legislation was flawed. There were no provisions to protect that industry.

It was simply and implicitly told, “You have the right to these means of defence”. In Canada and Quebec, what would happen to researchers using rats and mice. There is a need, however, for this, and standards were established to ensure that animals do not suffer. This industry has strict standards and it respects them.

These people could end up facing prosecution. Why? Because of a poorly drafted piece of legislation which was missing a crucial element, namely providing specifically for these rights of defence.

I am very pleased to have the opportunity today to speak to these issues again, even though it should have been done earlier. I want to say a word about the power of those people who come to testify before a committee. This shows how important it is to come and meet the members to make them aware of various specific aspects. Those who came before our committee know a lot more about animals than the 301 members do. There are perhaps some members in the House who work with animals, but they are not the majority. I am not one of them since I am a lawyer. I do not know a lot about animals, but I do want to protect them.

We obviously need a solid piece of legislation. Now, with more specific provisions regarding the rights of defence, attorneys will have more forceful arguments when they go to court because the rights of defence are specified. Prosecutions will then focus on those people who really are cruel to animals. This important bill has more teeth. It provides for stiff fines and possible imprisonment. It also provides for follow-up.

This raises awareness, especially if such a bill has the unanimous support of the House.

I heard my colleagues from the Canadian Alliance say that they were against this bill, just as I did when it was not clear enough. I want to remind my Alliance and Bloc colleagues of the work that was done to vote against this bill when it was poorly drafted. However, I supported this particular aspect because it was important for the animal industry throughout Canada and throughout Quebec. I now hope that government members understand that.

On such a technical issue, that was the way to go. It was up to the members of the committee not only to talk to the justice minister but to make their colleagues understand how crucial this was. Surely there are members who represent rural regions where animal industries can be found or urban areas where research companies, pharmaceuticals companies and other companies using animals for research purposes or simply for providing food are doing business. Hunters should not be forgotten either. These people have rights, and not only vested rights. We should avoid referring only to “vested rights”. In a society like ours, in 2003 and soon 2004, we have to be able to say that cruelty to animals is now prohibited.

Why should this bill now be agreed to by everyone? Why should it be unanimously passed in the House? Because the implicit defences are now explicitly recognized. The time has come to send a clear message to everyone. I know that the animal industry will now support this bill, just like the Bloc Quebecois and hopefully the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservative Party.

The House should overwhelmingly support this bill in order to send a clear message to the public. Cruelty to animals is over. I hope that the penalties will be tough enough and that we will have the money to fully prosecute lawbreakers.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals)Government Orders

September 25th, 2003 / 5:20 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the minister for giving us a wonderful legal speech, including legalese galore. One has to really think hard about some of these things, especially when one says that if killing is done without unnecessary pain, then it is done without unnecessary pain. That is awfully close to circular reasoning, but I guess that is what lawyers do in court and that is one of the things that is necessary to make our legal system work.

I would like to comment on Bill C-10B, cruelty to animals. In general it would be fair to say that the purpose of any such law would be to prevent the abuse of animals, the infliction of unnecessary pain, in fact to assure the humane treatment of animals in all instances. On the other hand, it should also serve to protect people who use animals in normal everyday living and they should hopefully, by our laws, be prevented from being continually dragged into the courts and having to defend themselves against practices which are judged by some others to be cruel, yet they are practices which have been used for many years.

I think for example back when I was a youngster. I know that probably, Madam Speaker, you tire of my stories from my youth, but we did among other things have animals on the farm, obviously. We had cows, pigs, horses, sheep, chickens and on occasion we had geese. Without those animals in those years, we would not have been able to live. They provided us with, in some case, the bare necessities of life, including food and other things.

I remember very fondly, even though at that time there were no laws that governed this, my dad particularly was very careful that we treated our animals with respect. We did not treat them as if they were humans, by no means, but we treated them in such a way that they did not have to endure unnecessary pain.

I know occasionally animals, especially large animals like cows, have to be dealt with rather harshly because they have to be controlled to prevent human lives in the barn from risk. I know for example that when we had bulls on the farm, they always had rings in their noses. When we took the bull out, we had a rope around his neck but we also had a rope through that ring. If he misbehaved, then there would be a tug on the ring on the nose. It was a very good persuader. He always followed us exactly the way he was supposed to because he wanted to avoid that pain.

Now the question is, is it painful to have a ring in the nose of an animal? Is that cruel? Should a person go to jail if he does that or be fined? I say that is much to be preferred to having one of the children in the family, of which I was one, suffer injury or death. We had to do these things to control these animals. Of course, once they are trained, they behave reasonably well and normally we do not have to take these extraordinary efforts.

It would be a tough sell to say that having a ring through one's nose is an act of cruelty because all we have to do is go down to the mall nowadays and we will see many teenagers and even older with rings in their noses and, dare I say it, in a whole bunch of other places, which really boggles the mind in my view, but then I guess I am a little old fashioned.

In any case it is very important that we continue to permit those who deal in animal husbandry to do so without fear of being prosecuted and to have to spend a lot of time in court and a lot of money on lawyers.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals)Government Orders

September 25th, 2003 / 5:05 p.m.
See context

Northumberland Ontario

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to introduce the debate on the message from the other place insisting on further amendments to Bill C-10B, an act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals).

Let me remind the House that we have been on a long journey with this bill. Animal cruelty amendments were originally introduced in 1999 in Bill C-7, a small omnibus criminal law amendment bill.

Bill C-17 died on the Order Paper when Parliament prorogued in 2000 without having completed second reading.

In March 2001 the government introduced Bill C-15, a new and larger omnibus criminal law bill containing the animal cruelty amendments. Some revisions had been made to the amendments to clarify the scope and the intent of the measures. Subsequently, the House split Bill C-15 in 2001 and the animal cruelty amendments and other amendments became known as Bill C-15B. The House passed Bill C-15B in June 2002. It died again when Parliament prorogued that summer.

In October 2002 the bill was reintroduced as Bill C-10 and referred directly to the other place. In November the other place referred Bill C-10 to the committee on legal and constitutional affairs with an instruction to split the bill into two portions. The animal cruelty amendments became known as Bill C-10B.

Committee hearings in the other place commenced in early December 2002 and concluded on May 15, 2003. Bill C-10B then received third reading and was passed in the other place on May 29, with five amendments.

The House debated the amendments on June 6, 2003. The House accepted the amendment to the definition of animal and a small technical amendment to the French version of the bill.

It also accepted the spirit of the amendment that made express reference to the defences of legal justification, excuse and colour of right, with a modification that removed an unconstitutional reverse onus and cross-referenced the currently applicable subsection 429(2) instead of reproducing the defences because this more clearly would indicate to the courts that existing case law should continue to apply to this new regime.

However, the House rejected the other two amendments that came from the other place. One of these was an amendment that would have replaced the offence of killing an animal without lawful excuse with the offence of causing unnecessary death to an animal. The other amendment was one that would have provided an express defence for aboriginal practices that do not cause more pain than is necessary. Both amendments were rejected on the grounds that, first, they were legally unnecessary; second, they were confusing; and third, had unclear legal effect.

The House urged the other place to pass the bill in the form in which the House approved it. A message was sent to the other place to acquaint them with the position of the House.

The other place considered that message and we are now in receipt of its response. The other place is insisting on the two amendments that the House rejected, with a small revision to the aboriginal defence amendment, and would further modify the legal justification, excuse and colour of right amendment adopted by the House.

The government's motion before us today makes clear that the government does not support the amendments that the other place is insisting upon. The House rejected two of them in June and continues to oppose them. As for the proposed change to the colour of right amendment, the government opposes that as well.

These animal cruelty amendments have been before Parliament in one form or another for nearly four years. A lot of hard work and discussions have taken place over that time between the government, and various individuals and groups concerned with the legislation.

In an effort to clarify the law as much as possible, even if the clarification was not required as a matter of law, the legislation has been amended three times already since it was first introduced in 1999.

In the view of the government, the form of the bill passed by the House in June satisfies the remaining concern of the stakeholders that have followed the progress of the legislation. It constitutes a compromise that strikes the correct balance between clarifying the law as it applies to animal industries without diluting the purpose and effect of the legislation.

With the participation of the other place, this hard work and compromise has brought the bill to a form that animal welfare groups on the one side and animal industry groups on the other side can all support.

In short, it seems that no one is asking for these additional changes that the other place is insisting on. The other place may think they are crucial, but this House does not, nor do any of the organizations that represent the people who work with animals.

Let me address each of the amendments in turn. The first amendment would replace the offence of killing an animal without a lawful excuse with the new offence of causing unnecessary death to an animal.

The government is of the view that the defence of lawful excuse is a well developed and well understood defence. The courts have interpreted on many occasions that it is a flexible, broad defence that is commonly employed in the Criminal Code of Canada. It is fairly and consistently applied by courts.

More importantly, since 1953, this defence has been applicable to the offence of killing animals that are kept for lawful purpose. It has a history in the context of animal cruelty offences.

The government is convinced and satisfied that the defence of lawful excuse offers adequate and unambiguous protection for lawful purposes for killing animals. No witnesses who testified at the committee of this House or of the other place testified that this defence was unclear or unsatisfactory.

For all of these reasons the government remains convinced that maintaining the defence of lawful excuse in relation to offences for killing animals continues to be the best and most appropriate manner of safeguarding the legality of purposes for which animals are commonly killed.

Further, the government does not believe that the proposal of the other place would improve the law. In fact, it is likely that the proposal would actually give rise to confusion and uncertainty. The proposal would use the term “unnecessary” to apply to killings, but the term “unnecessary” as it has been judicially interpreted does not logically apply to the act of killing. “Unnecessary” is currently only applicable to the acts of causing pain, suffering or injury. It has two main elements: first, a lawful purpose for interacting with an animal; and second, a requirement to use reasonable and proportionate means when accomplishing this objective.

It is clear that in terms of the act of killing only the first part of the test for “unnecessary” is relevant and logically applicable. The question is, was there a lawful purpose? To ask the question about reasonable means makes no sense. It is not a qualitative assessment but rather a yes or no question about whether there was a good reason for the killing. This is why the defence of lawful excuse works and the concept of “unnecessary” does not.

It is currently an offence to kill an animal without a lawful excuse. It is also an offence to kill an animal with a lawful excuse but in a manner that causes it unnecessary pain. These are currently two distinct and separate offences.

The proposal would fold the elements of these two different offences into each other. This could lead to a reinterpretation of the well developed test of “unnecessary”. In short, this will add confusion rather than clarity to the law. For these reasons the government does not accept this amendment.

With respect to the second amendment, the amendment which would create a defence for traditional aboriginal practices, the government does recognize that a small change was made that removed an element that was overly broad. The amendment would create a defence for traditional aboriginal practices that cause no more pain than is reasonably necessary. The government agrees that this should indeed be the case and in fact already is the case. Therefore, the amendment is not necessary.

By virtue of the way the offence is defined, it is already the law that aboriginal practices, that cause no more pain than is reasonably necessary, are not currently offences. If we cause no more pain than is reasonably necessary, we are not causing unnecessary pain, which is what the offence requires. If we are not committing an offence, we do not need a defence. Nothing in Bill C-10B will change this.

The government believes that the existing law and the bill, without the new and special defence, already achieve the objective sought by the other place.

There is no need to mention aboriginal practices specifically. The law is already flexible enough to consider all situations and contexts. In addition, by adding a new and special defence for aboriginal practices when one is not necessary, this proposal could unintentionally create mischief.

It is confusing to create a defence for actions that are not a crime. The government does not believe that the law would be improved by creating a defence that is legally unnecessary and has the potential to confuse rather than clarify the interpretation of the offences.

The final proposed amendment in the message from the other place relates to the defences of legal justification, excuse and colour of right set out in subsection 429(2). The proposal would remove the phrase “to the extent that they are relevant” from the amendment that was passed by this House in June. The government believes that these words are helpful and should remain.

The defences in subsection 429(2) of the Criminal Code apply to a variety of different offences, including animal cruelty. The inclusion of the phrase “to the extent that they are relevant” is intended to signal to the courts that the existing manner of applying those defences to animal cruelty offences should not change. It makes clear that the intention is to maintain the status quo, not to alter it.

The words are clear and not capable of being misunderstood. The defences are available in any and all cases where they are relevant. The relevance of a defence to a particular case depends on the specific circumstances and the facts of that case. The phrase guarantees an accused access to these defences when they are relevant. It does not limit or otherwise take away a defence that could be raised.

There can be no possible unfairness to an accused person to be denied a defence that is not relevant. That is just common sense. For these reasons, the government does not agree with the amended amendment proposed by the other place.

The government would once again like to thank the other place for giving Bill C-10B such thorough consideration and attention, but the government believes that the time has come to pass Bill C-10B in the form this House approved in June.

This bill already safeguards humane and reasonable practices involving animals and has the support of groups representing hunters, farmers, fishers, animal researchers, and those representing the welfare of animals. There is a tremendous degree of consensus now and a strong desire on the part of these organizations and hundreds of thousands of Canadians to see the bill become law.

I urge all members of the House to vote in favour of the government's message which rejects any further amendments and requests that the other place pass Bill C-10B as quickly as possible.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals)Government Orders

September 25th, 2003 / 5:05 p.m.
See context

Thornhill Ontario

Liberal

Elinor Caplan Liberalfor the Minister of Justice

moved:

That a message be sent to the Senate to acquaint their Honours that, with respect to Bill C-10B, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals), this House continues to disagree with the Senate's insistence on amendment numbered 2 and disagrees with the Senate's amendments numbered 3 and 4. This House notes that there is agreement in both Houses on the need for cruelty to animals legislation to continue to recognize reasonable and generally accepted practices involving animals. After careful consideration, this House remains convinced that the Bill should be passed in the form it approved on June 6, 2003.

(1) This House does not agree with the amendment numbered 2 (replace “kills without lawful excuse” with “causes unnecessary death”), on which the Senate is insisting. This House is of the view that the defence of “without lawful excuse” has been interpreted by the case law as a flexible, broad defence that is commonly employed in the Criminal Code of Canada. It has been the subject of interpretation by Courts for many years, and is now well understood and fairly and consistently applied by courts in criminal trials. This defence has a longstanding presence in the Criminal Code, including being available since 1953 for the offence of killing animals that are kept for a lawful purpose. The House is convinced that the defence of “lawful excuse” offers clear and sufficient protection for lawful purposes for killing animals. There are no authorities that suggest that this defence is unclear or does not cover the range of situations to which it is meant to apply. For all of these reasons, this House remains convinced that maintaining the defence of “lawful excuse” in relation to offences for killing animals continues to be the best and most appropriate manner of safeguarding the legality of purposes for which animals are commonly killed.

The House disagrees with the Senate that the proposed amendment would provide better protection for legitimate activities. The House is of the view that the amendment would not bring any added clarity, and would give rise to confusion. The term “unnecessary” has been judicially interpreted to comprise two main components: (a) a lawful purpose for interacting with an animal, and (b) a requirement to use reasonable and proportionate means of accomplishing the objective (i.e. choice of means that do not cause avoidable pain). Only the first part of the legal test for “unnecessary” is relevant to offences of killing, namely whether there is a lawful purpose. It has been the law for many decades that persons who kill an animal without a lawful excuse are guilty of an offence. It has also been the law since 1953 that if they kill the animal with a lawful excuse, but in the course of doing so cause unnecessary pain, they are guilty of a second, separate offence. To collapse the elements of these two different offences into one will invite a re-interpretation of the well-developed test of “unnecessary” and will add confusion, rather than clarity, to the law.

(2) This House does not agree with the modified version of amendment numbered 3 (creating a defence for traditional aboriginal practices), on which the Senate is insisting. This House appreciates the recent clarification of an ambiguous component of the amendment, and agrees with the Senate that traditional aboriginal practices that cause “no more pain than is reasonably necessary” should be lawful. However, this House does not agree that the proposed amendment is necessary. Aboriginal practices that do not cause unnecessary pain are not currently offences and will not become offences under the Bill. This House believes that the Bill, as worded, already achieves the objective sought by the Senate.

This House remains convinced that creating a defence for this purpose is not legally necessary and may create unintended mischief. Any act that has a legitimate purpose and does not cause unnecessary pain does not fall within the definition of the crime, and cannot be the subject of an offence. A defence only applies where the conduct actually falls within the definition of the crime and is excused for other reasons. It is illogical and confusing to create a defence for actions that do not constitute a crime. More specifically, as causing unnecessary pain is not a crime, it is not meaningful to create a defence for Aboriginal persons who cause no more pain than is reasonably necessary. In addition, there is no need to mention aboriginal practices specifically; the law is already flexible enough to consider all fact situations and contexts.

The House remains convinced that the wording and effect of the amendment are ambiguous and unclear. For example, there is no clarity as to what “traditional practices” are in the criminal law context and whether there is sufficient clarity to guide the police in their law enforcement duties. In the absence of a demonstrated need for clarification in the law, this amendment could also create mischief by generating a different test for liability for Aboriginal persons. This House does not believe that the law would be improved by creating a defence that is legally unnecessary and has the potential to confuse, rather than clarify, the interpretation of the offences.

(3) This House does not agree with the amended version of amendment numbered 4 (the defences in subsection 429(2)). The defences of legal justification, excuse and colour of right set out in subsection 429(2) of the Criminal Code are applicable to a multitude of different kinds of offences including offences of animal cruelty. The defences apply differently depending on the elements of the offence under consideration. The phrase “to the extent that they are relevant” is included to indicate to the courts that the Bill is not intended to change the defences that are currently relevant to animal cruelty offences, or the way that they apply. It makes clear that the intention is to maintain the current availability and interpretation of defences, and not to alter it. This phrase sends a clear message to the courts that in any and all cases where the defences are currently relevant, they continue to be. Whether a particular defence is relevant will depend on the specific circumstance of each case. The phrase guarantees an accused access to these defences when they are relevant; it does not in any way limit access to defences that are relevant on the facts of the case. For these reasons, the House does not agree with the amended amendment proposed by the Senate.

Business Of The HouseOral Question Period

September 25th, 2003 / 3 p.m.
See context

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalMinister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member across is a little impatient with his future holidays. He will probably have to wait some time.

This afternoon we will continue to debate second reading of Bill C-48, the natural resources taxation bill. I understand that the bill is nearing completion.

When it is complete, we will then debate Bill C-50, the veterans' benefits bill sponsored by my colleague, the Minister of Veterans Affairs, followed by the consideration of the Senate amendments to Bill C-10B, the cruelty to animal bill.

If time is left, we would deal with third reading of Bill C-17, the public safety bill, and second reading of Bill C-46, the market fraud bill.

In the unlikely event that we do not complete all of that this afternoon, on Friday we would begin with a reference to committee before second reading of Bill C-41, the amendments and corrections bill. The opposition House leader and I have had a brief conversation about this

We would then proceed with Bill C-37, respecting improvements to Canadian Forces pension benefits.

We will then return to any bills already mentioned today in the unlikely event that some of them are not fully completed.

On Monday, we would begin with Bill C-17, the public safety bill, and then return to the list previously described.

Tuesday, September 30, and Thursday, October 2, shall both be allotted days.

Points of OrderThe Royal Assent

June 11th, 2003 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

The Speaker

Order, please. I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:

Rideau Hall

Ottawa

June 11, 2003

Mr. Speaker,

I have the honour to inform you that the Honourable Ian Binnie, Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court of Canada, in his capacity as Deputy of the Governor General, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bills listed in the Schedule to this letter on the 11th day of June, 2003, at 8:25 a.m.

Yours sincerely,

Barbara Uteck

Secretary to the Governor General

The schedule indicates the bills assented to were Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, Chapter 9; and Bill C-10, An Act to amend the Lobbyists Registration Act,Chapter 10.