Mr. Speaker, the New Democratic Party supports Bill C-50. One has to wonder how many times a bill has to come before the House before it finally gets through, not only here but in the other chamber, which historically has been opposed to certain provisions of the bill. This is not its first incarnation in this chamber. I hope this is the last time we debate it here and that it passes.
The need for this bill is so obvious. I want to point out what for me was a traumatic experience this past weekend when I watched the clips of the puppy mill in the province of Quebec. It was almost indescribable. If people had not seen it on television, I do not think they would have believed how terribly these animals were being treated, housed and abused.
If it were an isolated incident, one could say that maybe it is not so obvious that we need this bill, but that is not the case. It has happened repeatedly. The worst part of this is the person operating that puppy mill under existing legislation, both provincial and federal, if convicted, at some stage very soon after a conviction could start up another operation, and one almost has to assume at some stage there would be a conviction for this conduct, whatever the charge. There is no way of prohibiting that under existing legislation.
The treatment of these dogs was horrendous. It had been going on for years. There was excrement on the floor that literally could be measured in feet rather than inches. A number of the animals had died and were rotting in the house. I can go on with these descriptions. It was horrendous and again not an isolated case.
The bill as is would have provided, as its previous predecessors, the authority for law enforcement officers across the country to both prohibit and enforce a law against such people which would be effective in preventing this kind of abuse.
We already have heard in the chamber today that it does not have unanimous support in the country. There are certain sectors that want further amendments, clarifications or protections. Those are the terminologies used. Generally the opposition to the bill is not about improving it. It is about killing it. There are certain elements and sectors within our society that want no regulation of their conduct whatsoever.
Interestingly, a number of the groups that work with protecting animals across the country have conducted surveys over the last number of years. It does not matter whether it is the urban dweller who is simply concerned about the way their pets are treated or farmers, fishers and hunters. In large majorities, every one of those sectors support the values, concepts and provisions of the bill.
Some leadership members are fighting it and trying to kill it. I have seen some of the amendments that already have been proposed. If we put them into play, we might as well tear up the bill and throw it in the garbage. The effect of those amendments is that it would exclude the ability of the bill to be used as an enforcement mechanism against wholesale parts of the community that raise and take care of animals. It would be written in such a way that it would not be applicable to certain sectors which would be excluded. Those are the kinds of amendments being proposed.
The bill has overwhelming support from individuals and community groups working with animals, spending their lifetimes, in many respects, taking care of them and protecting them. That includes most farmers, fishers, trappers and hunters. They do not want to see the animals they deal with treated cruelly. The legislation would go a great distance to deal with those individuals in our society who are not prepared to take necessary care of their animals and who are prepared, as in the case of that puppy mill, to abuse them horrendously.
I want to draw to the attention of the House an amendment that is in this new bill. It is one that I support. It should have been in from the beginning. It is as a result of representations by the first nations, Métis aboriginal community generally. It is a provision that recognizes their historical rights.
I say with some pride that there have been a number of environmental bills over the last Parliament where this provision was put in, sometimes at my instigation but sometimes at the instigation of other members of that Parliament. This is standard wording. We are trying to get it into as much legislation where there may be some encroachment on historical aboriginal rights. It is very appropriate that it is in this bill. It is one that all members of this House should support.
Beyond that, the bill has been before us on numerous occasions. We have had repeated elections that have interrupted its passage into its final form. As I said earlier, the other House has also, on occasion, tied it up and delayed it, the unelected House that really has no right to do this. This House has spoken clearly in the past that we want this type of legislation. We are acting as elected representatives for the greater number of members of our society who are saying we need this legislation.
We have not amended the Criminal Code with regard to cruelty to animals for almost 100 years. The existing legislation reflects a time that is long passed in our country. We are in a situation where there is very large support. It is support that crosses a number of sectors that deal with animals. It is very widespread and is one that we, as elected representatives, have every responsibility to get it out of bill stage and finally passed into law so it can be used to enforce protection for our animals.
Members will hear objections that the bill will somehow get hijacked by extreme radical animal rights groups. We have heard repeatedly that kind of accusation from some people who are trying to kill the bill. It is an excuse for doing away with it. There is no basis for that. If one understands how the criminal process works, the ability to use the bill by those very small number of extreme animal rights people cannot happen. There are any number of ways within the existing court system that our public prosecutors can intervene in that kind of process and shut it down if it is ever attempted.
The bill is to be used appropriately by our prosecutors to protect animals. It would not be abused. I believe that is very clear, except in the minds of those very few people who are paranoid about the potential for abuse by extreme and radical animal rights groups. This is not about that. This is mainstream legislation that the vast majority of Canadians want.
We will support the bill and we will do whatever we can to push it through the House as rapidly as possible.