An Act to amend the Criminal Code in respect of cruelty to animals

This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.

Sponsor

Irwin Cotler  Liberal

Status

Not active, as of May 16, 2005
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment would amend the Criminal Code by consolidating animal cruelty offences and increasing the maximum penalties.

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.

Universal Declaration on Animal WelfarePrivate Members' Business

October 1st, 2009 / 6:10 p.m.
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Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Motion M-354 to support the development and adoption of a Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare at the United Nations.

We are in favour of a Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare at the United Nations, provided an in-depth study is done. The Bloc Québécois is aware that animals are living beings and that it is important to respect them and treat them with dignity. That is why we are supporting a universal declaration on animal welfare in principle.

The purpose of this declaration is to develop a series of principles acceptable to all those who recognize that animal welfare is a major issue with respect to the social development of nations worldwide.

The Universal Declaration of Animal Rights was formally proclaimed in Paris on October 15, 1978, at UNESCO headquarters. This universal declaration is a philosophical position on the relationship that should henceforth exist between humans and animals. The text was revised by the International League of Animal Rights in 1989 and published in 1990.

The Bloc supports the international efforts made. It also believes that cruelty towards animals is unacceptable and that the federal government must take action to ensure that it is roundly condemned. In recent parliaments, our party has carefully examined the issue of bolstering the law in order to explicitly condemn animal abuse and to put to an end to cruel breeding operations.

Although some amendments were recently made to the Criminal Code, the Bloc Québécois believes we must do more and it is in favour of a real reform of the animal cruelty provisions.

The current maximum sentences under the Criminal Code are too lenient for the seriousness of the acts committed.

The Bloc also favours making the ban on owning animals indefinite in order to prevent certain foreseeable animal abuse from taking place. A breeder who has been found guilty of mistreatment should not have the right to re-open a kennel the day after being sentenced. We call those operations puppy mills.

Above all the Bloc Québécois feels that the definition of the term animal should be included in the Criminal Code. At present, the section on cruelty to animals is found under property offences. That does not seem to reflect today's reality.

That is why, during committee study of Bill S-203, the Bloc Québécois proposed the idea of introducing a definition of what an animal is, sought to protect stray as well as domestic animals, wanted to clarify the criterion for negligence, thereby making it easier to prove, and proposed an amendment to formally ban training cocks to fight.

Unfortunately, the Bloc's proposed amendments were rejected and the committee agreed on February 14, 2008, to report the bill without amendments.

That did not stop the Bloc Québécois from supporting Bill S-203 in that it was a small but real step in the right direction and it did not prevent the possible study and adoption of a more comprehensive bill in line with Bill C-50. The NDP tried to kill the bill.

But Bill S-203 would have helped protect animals from certain forms of cruelty—one of the concerns of the Bloc Québécois—and would have increased the maximum penalties set out in the Criminal Code to reflect the seriousness of the crime, sent a message to people who mistreat animals, and sent a message to judges who would have had to take this into account in their sentences. In fact, the seriousness of a crime is partly determined by the maximum penalty a criminal may be subject to.

Bill S-203 also enabled judges to prohibit an individual found guilty from owning or residing with animals for a period of five years, and to order the offender to reimburse the costs incurred by their actions. Lastly, Bill S-203 did not threaten legitimate activities involving the death of an animal, such as agriculture, hunting and fishing.

The NDP and the Liberals had some twisted logic. Instead of voting in favour of improving the bill—it is true that there is more to be done—they preferred to stick to the status quo that they so fiercely protest. They passed up a perfect opportunity to participate in the advancement of animal rights.

If the NDP and the Liberals truly had animal protection at heart, they would have acted differently. They would have followed the Bloc Québécois' example and acted 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, more comprehensive bill.

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 any proposals brought forward on this matter again.

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.

In closing, of course we support the principle of Motion M-354. We think it is important to adopt a universal declaration of animal welfare, but we also think we must go further. As legislators, we must go ahead with a real reform of the Criminal Code in order to really address the fundamental problem of cruelty to animals.

Animal Cruelty LegislationPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

May 8th, 2008 / 10:10 a.m.
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NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present a petition from constituents in my riding calling on the government, specifically the Minister of Justice, to bring forth government legislation that would protect our animals from abuse and cruelty. They call on the government to have the legislation so that it is in keeping with Bill C-50, which was before the 38th Parliament, and to in fact institute a regime which would provide that safety for our animals.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

April 4th, 2008 / 2:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the member in our caucus who coordinates private members' business, I have followed this bill very carefully.

It is a bill by Senator John Bryden, who was successful in having the bill move through all stages in the Senate. It has been passed in the Senate and has been referred to the House of Commons and is now being sponsored by the member who tabled the bill here.

It is a very simple bill. It increases penalties, I believe up to 10 years.

Having spent all the time working on private members' business, in my experience private members' bills should not try to do government business, because our rules simply do not provide sufficient debate in Parliament to properly scrutinize any private member's bill.

Private members' bills that come before this place are usually a paragraph long. They are simply trying to make a very specific, focused change.

Under our rules, only two hours of debate are allowed at second reading. That might be 12 speakers. Of the 308 members, only 12 people could even speak.

Then the bill goes to committee. Committees are busy. Private members' business items are a nuisance and they very rarely get a lot of attention there, but let us assume the committee spends a meeting on one. That is another couple of hours. Then the bill is referred back to the House, if it passes at committee, and it gets another two hours at report stage and third reading. In grand total, a private member's bill at all stages in the House may only get six hours of debate. It is ridiculous to think that one could do very much at all stages in just six hours.

Senator Bryden was aware of that. He knew that the only way he could demonstrate the importance of updating animal cruelty legislation was at least to take one step, one step that everybody would understand and that people would be able to take a position on without a lot of debate, because there is not a lot of debate. That is where we are today.

Interestingly enough, there is another private member's bill, Bill C-373, by the member for Ajax—Pickering. That bill was Bill C-50 from a prior Parliament. The justice minister of the day, the member for Mount Royal, had this bill. It was a comprehensive bill but a controversial bill nonetheless. It was quite controversial. There was a lot of debate. There were a lot of issues and a lot of changes were being proposed.

That is going to happen again with a full, comprehensive bill to update this archaic piece of legislation in the manner in which it is needed. We cannot possibly deal with it during private members' business. There just is not enough time to properly consider the bill.

I am speaking in favour of Bill S-203 for the reason that Senator Bryden proposed it, and that is to say, I do not see the government having an appetite to do this. It should be a government bill. It should have the broadest possible and necessary debate within the House to make sure when we correct this that we do the job right, and we cannot do it right in a private member's bill.

The possibility was suggested that maybe we could do this by getting a private member's bill into committee and then making all of the amendments to almost overlay this other bill into the small bill. I have a feeling that probably would not be possible, only because it would be beyond the scope of the bill and it probably would be out of order. There may be some problems.

There also have been some myths about Bill C-373. Many people have written to me saying that I have to vote against Bill S-203 because if that passes, then nobody will have any incentive to make any changes in the future, that it will have been already dealt with.

That is not right. Any piece of legislation can be amended at any time and from time to time. This is one demonstration of the importance of this issue. I hope that the House as a whole would agree that we need to have changes to the animal cruelty legislation.

This bill should in fact be the catalyst to get the government to propose legislation. I encourage and sincerely ask the government to please come forward with legislation which emulates Bill C-50 and any other improvements in there that would make the bill even better. Give that bill to the House and let us work with it. It has to be a government bill. If it is not a government bill, it will never get the proper time for debate and the scrutiny that will be necessary to make a good piece of legislation.That is the real problem.

To suggest that if we passS-203 it is going to stop anything, that is simply not the case. It is incorrect. There will be changes in the future, but unless the House is going to have a piece of legislation in front of it that members can properly address, I do not think it is going to happen.

I can say for sure that if the Liberals form the next government, it will be part of our platform to introduce comprehensive legislation to bring it up to date, into the current realities, on animal cruelty legislation. It is an important piece. We had it the last time we formed government. The then minister of justice, the member for Mount Royal, had Bill C-50 and it will come back.

Bill C-373 is in front of me. It is quite a long bill. These are just the amendments to the existing legislation. There are six pages of amendments. No one is saying that six pages of amendments even in themselves are going to be enough. We need to have comprehensive debate on this legislation when it comes before the House. It needs to go to committee. We need to hear from stakeholders from across the country, those who represent the agricultural industry, farmers, fishermen, anglers, pet owners and those who just understand that we have legislation right now on which it is very difficult to get prosecutions and convictions.

It is a serious problem and Parliament should deal with it. The only way it can deal with it right now is either to have the government table a bill at least covering the items in Bill C-50 from a prior Parliament or at least to pass Bill S-203 to send a signal to Canadians that this is an issue that is important enough to Parliament that we will set the stage for the government to take action. And if it does not, then another party forming government will in fact bring it in. We had it before.

The NDP members are against everything these days. I do not know what it is. I know they have talked about maybe asking the Liberal member to give up his bill, give it to the NDP and one of its members will do it, but it is not going to work.

We all have to understand that with a private member's bill we are not going to get unanimous consent to do the kinds of things we have to do. It is not going to happen in this mix of the House. We need to have a bill that has that full and comprehensive debate, to make sure that all the questions that people have from coast to coast to coast are answered and that the legislation reflects the priorities of Canadians with regard to animal cruelty legislation. We have to hear that and we will not hear that on a private member's bill.

I acknowledge 100% that S-203 takes one small step. It is not that it does not want to do more, but that is all that is possible using a private member's bill.

I am going to support the bill and I am going to continue to fight on behalf of all those who want current, updated and effective animal cruelty legislation.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

April 4th, 2008 / 1:55 p.m.
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NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak against Bill S-203, and to do so very strongly.

Before I begin my comments as to why our party is opposing this bill, I want to pick up on a couple of points that have been stated in debate and, I hope, provide a responsible refutation of those points.

For my Conservative friend from Winnipeg who said that the amendments brought forward by my colleague from Windsor—Tecumseh are not plausible or reasonable, I would just confirm for him that they were done with very direct intent. It was to delete the bill simply because the bill is wrong. He put the amendment forward because this a bill that does not deserve to be passed.

My friend from Winnipeg should know that the member for Windsor—Tecumseh did not fall off the turnip wagon. He knew exactly what he was doing. He was ensuring that this bill would not go further.

It is strange that, at the same as the Liberals have one of their members putting forward a progressive piece of legislation that is a private member's initiative, they would even think of supporting Bill S-203. Why would the Liberals settle for half measures?

I hope the members of the Liberal Party will take stock of the bill and the juxtaposition between Bill S-203 and Bill C-373, the private member's initiative from the member from Pickering.

I have a comment for my friends from the Bloc. The point that has been made time and again is that this is not good enough. In fact, the Bloc knows that when my colleague from Windsor—Tecumseh brought forward amendments at committee to replace this bill with what is progressive legislation, which was actually Bill C-50, that was the time for us to change the bill. However, sadly, that did not get the support of all the members of the committee.

What is wrong with the bill? I guess I will start with the people who, day in and day out, advocate for more responsible animal welfare. These people are not extremists. These people are responsible citizens. They are looking at the proposition that was brought forward by one of the members of the Liberal Party, which we support, as being the way to go. They believe that Bill S-203 will only take us half way. What is the problem with that? The problem is that this issue has been languishing since the 1800s. It puts Canada at the bottom of the list in terms of progress on animal welfare globally in progressive circles.

In fact, if we adopt Bill S-203, it says that it is as good as we could get. Every member who has spoken today has said that it is okay because it is the best we can do for now.

That is not good enough. It is not good enough for this House because this House, before, passed progressive legislation that was much better than this, which is a cut and paste, so to speak, from the member from Pickering's bill, and that was Bill C-50.

What happened to Bill C-50? It went to that other place and got done in, which is part of our problem with the other place. It has decent people there but the institution has absolutely no right to take a bill that has been passed by consensus here and gone through committee and then let it sit there. It is wrong, and most Canadians feel that way about it.

In fact, I was honoured to join people this past weekend in my riding of Ottawa Centre just down the street from here. I joined in with everyday people who asked all members of Parliament to vote against Bill S-203 because it is the wrong way to go. They say that very deliberately, with conviction and with great intelligence.

In fact, Simone Powell and Beth Greenhorn from my riding, who helped organize a rally this past weekend, said just that. They wanted to know why members of Parliament were going to pass a bill that is inferior when we have progressive legislation right in front. I told them I had no idea why.

The NDP has been very clear. We will be supporting Bill C-373 but we will be voting against Bill S-203 because it is the wrong way to go.

We have a party that says that this bill is the best that can be done at this point. We took the content from Bill C-373, which was Bill C-50, and put it into committee as amendments so this bill might have a chance of working but members from the other parties did not want to do that. They did not want to be responsible for animal welfare.

I will explain some of the problems with the bill. We are taking laws from the 1800s and basically moving a nanosecond in terms of progress. We do not understand that it is wrong to have this kind of protection in property rights. It reminds me of the time in Canadian history when women were not considered persons. We now have animals considered as properties. The problem with the law is that it is wrong.

For anyone to suggest that we just torque up some of the fines and pass a law that will suggest that judges have a little more in their toolkits to extend the sentences is troubling and strange, particularly for the Conservative Party, which is saying that we need to be very deliberate with judges and tell them exactly how it is.

My friends in the Liberal Party should know that in making laws in legislation we must be deliberate. We must categorize them. Nomenclature is extremely important. If we are not able to properly define animals, animal welfare and understand where it belongs in terms of the law, then we should not bother trying to fix something that is not fixable because that is the problem with Bill S-203.

The bill says to Canadians that we can only do a little bit, that we cannot actually do the right thing. We can only do a little bit and we will eventually get to it and fix it down the road, maybe with Bill C-373, if it comes on the order paper later, or if it is a matter of having others put proposals forward.

Why is it that with each proposal that has been put forward since 1999, all of them have died on the order paper? Why do they die when they go to the other place? Canadians want to know that. People who work for the protection of animals want to know why that is.

This is something that has been pointed out to those who are looking to have more progressive legislation and are 100% against Bill S-203. They have said the following:

It is shameful that, in 2008, our parliament is considering entrenching animal cruelty offences from the Victorian days.

Further to that, they say:

This bill is simply 19th century legislation adjusted for inflation and we must put a stop to it.

I could not agree more. If we do not address the loopholes that exist in Bill S-203, we are admitting that we cannot fix the problem. It means that either we do not understand the problem or we do not care to fix the problem.

Again, why is it that when this place, through consensus in committee back three parliaments, passes a bill and sends it to the other place, the other place decides that it is not good enough? With all due respect, the Senate does not represent my constituents. The Senate should be saying that this is what the House has given to it and it needs to ensure it gets through and that it is responsible. Its decision to kill the bill was not only reprehensible but it was anti-democratic.

At the end, our party will stand with those who want better legislation, progressive legislation, which is why we will vote against Bill S-203 and, in doing so, will vote to protect animal welfare and not go backward.

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.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodePrivate Members' Business

March 10th, 2008 / noon
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NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak in the debate on the animal cruelty legislation before us today, a private member's bill that comes from the Senate.

In am pleased to speak on it because I am so frustrated and share the frustration of so many of my constituents with the lack of progress in Parliament on new legislation to protect animals. Many attempts have been made to do this, but they have been stalled or turned down by the Senate over the years. Time and time again, the legislation has failed to go forward.

Now we are presented with this very flawed legislation, legislation that does not address the important problems that we face in society when it comes to dealing with cruelty to animals. As we already have heard this morning, the legislation in front of us is not comprehensive. We need a comprehensive reworking of the animal cruelty laws in Canada.

The legislation currently on the books dates from 1892, and much has changed in our understanding of how we should deal with animals since then. We need to have comprehensive legislation.

The bill today only deals with the question of penalties associated with acts of animal cruelty. It does not deal with fundamental issues like changing the idea that animals are seen as property and not as sentient beings. This needs to be changed. We need to understand that an animal is a sentient being, not just a piece of property. The legislation before us does not deal with this.

For many years, one of the problems with the current legislation is it is almost impossible to get a conviction. That is one of the key frustrations. We have legislation now, but there is less than a 1% conviction rate when it comes to dealing with and punishing people who have been found to have committed cruelty to animals. That is not acceptable.

The bill before us would increase the penalties, but it would do nothing to enable officials to obtain convictions against those who would perpetrate cruelty to animals. That is absolutely unacceptable.

We need comprehensive legislation that updates our understanding of animals in our society and our understanding of our responsibility for them. We also need to make it possible to convict those who would commit acts of cruelty to an animal.

When the justice committee looked at the bill, my colleague from Windsor—Tecumseh had a stroke of genius. He proposed an amendment that would replace the provisions of this Senate private member's bill with the old provisions of Bill C-50, a bill that the House supported in its day and sent to the Senate, a bill that was comprehensive legislation, a bill that would not only increase the penalties for those convicted, but would also make it possible to obtain those convictions.

I cannot understand why Liberals and Conservatives on the justice committee would have voted down that amendment when it was found to be in order by the chair. It just does not make sense.

Canadians want action on animal cruelty, and we have stalled too long. The Senate has overturned the efforts of the House of Commons too often in this regard. We have to ensure that we have good, comprehensive, enforceable legislation on this issue. Canadians demand it.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodePrivate Members' Business

March 10th, 2008 / 11:40 a.m.
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NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, we have a Senate bill in front of us today, a private member's bill, which, quite frankly, is a joke. In spite of the speeches from the other three parties, the Conservatives and the Liberals in particular, in support of Bill S-203, it remains a joke.

One of the first things I learned when I went to law school was that if we were going to have effective deterrents to anti-social or criminal behaviour, there had to be laws that could be enforced so that people who were inclined to anti-social or criminal behaviour knew that they would be caught. Everything that I have ever learned since then with regard to how we prevent or deter deviant behaviour to society has confirmed that basic rule.

At the present time the legislation in the Criminal Code with regard to animal cruelty is around 112 years old. There were very minor amendments in the 1950s, but it has not changed since that time.

Today, the reality is that of all the animal cruelty cases in this country, less than 1% of the perpetrators of those offences are ever charged. The reason is that our prosecutors right across the country and in the territories know that the law is so inadequate as it stands that they cannot get convictions. If I have time I will go through some of the examples, but that is the reality today.

In addition, in this bill there is a gross dereliction of responsibility by the political parties in this country and in this House. They are prepared to allow an unelected irresponsible Senate to dictate how we deal with the issue of animal cruelty.

We have heard the history from some of the other members. The bill with regard to animal cruelty in its most recent reincarnation was Bill C-50 which passed back in the 38th Parliament. The legislation has been passed twice by the House of Commons, the elected body in this country, and has been refused to be passed by the Senate twice.

When Bill C-50 was introduced the last time, it was clear that it had all party support because its prior incarnation had in fact received votes in this House from all parties. It was not even the Conservative Party at that time; it was the Alliance. All parties supported it. There were few exceptions; it was not unanimous, but all political parties supported it. It went through this House with overwhelming support and then got stymied by that unelected irresponsible other house. That is where things were until this bill came forward from the Senate.

We hear the argument why not just support the bill. I will say why we should not support it. It does not do anything. It is as simple as that. It does not do one thing to increase the rate of conviction. All it does is increase the penalties. It does not allow our prosecutors to get any more convictions. It does not allow our judges to convict any more people. That less than 1% conviction rate is going to continue.

We will get the odd case where somebody is convicted and perhaps gets a stiffer penalty, and I repeat perhaps. The reality is that it is not going to change the conviction rate.

We have an alternative. Again I think in particular of the Liberals on the justice committee. I introduced the amendments that would have brought the old bill, Bill C-50, into this bill. It would have dealt with the issues that are important with regard to actually protecting animals. It would have brought it into the 21st century. I do not have time to go through all of the points. I introduced those amendments and they were accepted by the chair of the justice committee as proper and admissible. The member of the Conservative Party who is chairing that committee accepted them as proper amendments.

The amendments mimic exactly the private member's bill from the Liberal member for Ajax—Pickering; it is exactly the same. The Liberals on the committee voted those amendments down. The meaningful reform that has passed this House twice was voted down by a combination of the Liberals and the Conservatives on that committee. The Bloc stood with me. The Bloc then moved some other amendments, which did not go as far as C-50 but would have made some significant progress. What happened? The same coalition of Liberals and Conservatives on that committee voted them down.

I want to be very clear about why I believe we absolutely should be voting this bill down. It was made very clear by Senator Bryden, the author of this bill, that the Senate would not accept a bill from this House. Again, a totally irresponsible unelected body is telling members of the elected House that it does not care what we think or do, but it is not letting this bill through. That reinforced my strong belief that we have to get rid of the Senate. That was the attitude.

Neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives have the political will to challenge the other place on this bill. They basically have thrown up their hands and said, “Okay, senators, whatever you want, we are not going to buck you”. That is what we are faced with and our animals will continue to be treated as we saw this past weekend with those horses in Alberta. In that case, 29 horses died. Local officials knew for two years about the abuse that was going on. The amendments that I proposed, C-50, the private member's bill from the member for Ajax—Pickering, would have allowed them to move much earlier to protect those animals and perhaps none of them would have been lost.

That is the reality of what we are faced with today. There are two political parties that are unwilling to challenge the unelected Senate, and then trying to convince the Canadian public that Bill S-203 is anything meaningful and is going to somehow deal with the issue. That is where the farce is. That is why I say this bill is a joke, because it does nothing like that.

I want to make one additional point. We did not hear from the member from the Conservative Party who spoke to this bill this morning, that the current governing party was prepared to do anything about bringing C-50 forward as a government bill, to put in place a law that in fact would protect our animals. It is not saying it is going to do that. The reality is that because of the attitude in the Senate and the lack of political will by both the Conservatives and the Liberals to challenge them, they are not in fact going to bring forward anything further. We are just never going to see these amendments as long as that attitude remains in place.

At this time, 110 to 115 years later, we need to update the legislation to have in place meaningful protection for our animals. In my riding an individual clipped the ears of a dog so that the dog would look fiercer. The dog was used for fighting. We saved that dog and got him adopted, but the reality is that person could already own another dog. We cannot prevent that from happening.

There are all sorts of other provisions. We can think of any number of other abuse cases. There is the one out in Alberta where a dog was dragged behind a vehicle, repeatedly injured, grossly and brutally attacked. There were minimal consequences as a result. That is what we need to bring to an end and that is what Bill S-203 does not do.

It is time for this Parliament to do what it is supposed to do in terms of protecting our animals.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodePrivate Members' Business

March 10th, 2008 / 11:30 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate today at report stage on Senate Bill C-203. This bill would amend the Criminal Code to impose harsher penalties for animal cruelty offences.

This bill is causing quite a stir among people and organizations calling for improved animal cruelty legislation. The current legislation has not been amended since 1892, 116 years ago, when animals were seen as having a utilitarian function rather than a role as companions, which many animals have taken on over time.

In addition, it so happens that Bill S-203 is being debated before Bill C-373, introduced by the member for Ajax—Pickering. Essentially, Bill C-373 is a repeat of Bill C-50, introduced by the previous government, which is more in line with the needs expressed by animal activists. Moreover, the Bloc supported Bill C-50 in principle. But we will analyze Bill C-373 later in the parliamentary process.

Bill S-203 is not perfect. The witnesses who appeared before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, which I sat on at one point last week, often mentioned the obvious flaws in this bill that we have noticed.

First, Bill S-203 does not clearly define negligence, which means that it will still be difficult to prove that someone is acting negligently towards animals. Second, Bill S-203 provides little protection for wild or stray animals. Third, it keeps the categories of animals currently protected by the 1892 legislation: cattle, dogs and birds.

Under Bill S-203, animals would remain primarily property. The bill does not even deal with individuals who train animals for fighting. Moreover, Bill S-203 contains no provisions to address violent, brutal, extreme acts against animals.

I could go on, but it is important to remember that the major flaw in this bill is its failure to define what an animal is.

By refusing to clearly define what they are, Bill S-203 leaves far too much room for interpretations that would avoid heavy penalities and does not depart from the concept that animals are property. We know that the current maximum sentences under the Criminal Code are too lenient for the seriousness of the acts committed against these living beings.

In addition to the fact that Bill S-203 does not jeopardize legitimate activities involving animal death, such as agriculture, hunting and fishing, it addresses the problem I have mentioned: it increases the maximum sentences and the fines. That is a little better than what we had before.

Judges will have a little more latitude in cases involving animal cruelty. For example, a judge could require an offender to cover the costs incurred by his barbarian actions. We have made progress in the fight against animal cruelty.

However, I think this improvement is minimal, even inadequate when we consider the overall problem. In my eyes, Bill S-203 is just a transition, a step toward something more substantial.

If there is one thing people can count on, it is that the Bloc Québécois does not settle for doing the minimum. We are progressive people with foresight and we will never hesitate to do better for those we represent or for anyone else.

When Bill S-203 was tabled in the Standing Committee on Justice, we listened with interest to the various witnesses.

That is why we are well aware of the bill's limitations. 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.

All the Bloc Québécois proposed amendments were rejected. Unfortunately, the committee agreed on Thursday, February 14, to report the bill without amendments. It seems that only the Bloc Québécois truly wants to move quickly in the fight against animal cruelty.

If the other parties had been acting in good faith, if they had put partisanship aside for a minute to make animal welfare a priority, they would have been willing to accept these highly necessary amendments that are adapted to the way things are now.

Instead, we have before us a report saying that Bill S-203 is fine as it is. Only stiffer maximum penalties can remedy the situation. Why act proactively now when Bill C-373 is scheduled to be dealt with shortly? Cruelty against animals will not subside or stop, just to make us feel better, until the study of Bill C-373 can be completed.

From a strictly historical perspective, I remind the House that Bill C-373 stems directly from six previous bills which either died on the order paper or were defeated. There was therefore no progress on the issue. As for Bill S-203, it is the third in a series of identical bills that had the same fate at a time when governments were somewhat more stable than the one we have now.

I can only sympathize with the animal rights advocates who, like us, were seeing a great opportunity to completely overhaul this old legislation. Again, the opportunity is slipping away.

Those who interfered will undoubtedly be judged by the people for this blatant lack of initiative, especially on an issue so close to the heart of the public.

I take comfort in the thought that, at least, the Bloc Québécois has done its part, working beyond mere partisanship and putting forward good ideas that would satisfy animal rights advocates. Protecting animals against certain despicable actions will always remain a concern of my party.

At any rate, we are back where we started with an unamended Bill S-203 with all its flaws. That is all that is on the table at this time. The members of the Bloc Québécois are practical people.

Nonetheless, increasing penalties sends a clear signal to criminals—their actions are reprehensible—as well as to the judges who will have to take these factors into account in making a determination.

I will conclude by saying that passing this timid bill will not in any way hinder the future consideration or passage of a more comprehensive piece of legislation like Bill C-373.

I think that the bill introduced by the Liberal member provides better guarantees than Bill S-203, as clearly pointed out by witnesses before the Standing Committee on Justice.

I hope that the House will also pass Bill C-373 when it comes before us. We believe that these two bills are a winning combination to significantly reduce cruelty to animals.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodePrivate Members' Business

March 10th, 2008 / 11:10 a.m.
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Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, we have all heard about a number of high profile cases of animal abuse. One case was Daisy Duke, the pet dog that was dragged behind a car in Didsbury, Alberta; Princess, a house cat in Alberta that was microwaved; Queen Waldorf in Niagara Falls who was found abandoned on a beach with dumbbells attached to her neck; and the list goes on.

The reality of animal abuse is that every day, in every part of our country, animal abuse is occurring. The people who are watching their pets or wild animals being victimized are asking why we have no laws to go after these individuals and why the laws that we have are so weak. People on the front lines are dealing with animal abuse day in and day out and seeing tragedy after tragedy but they are not able to do anything about it.

I talk with SPCA officers who, on a daily basis, receive these calls but they cannot do anything because their hands are tied. I understand their frustration, as people who love animals, when they witness this abuse, but they are more than people who love animals. I have witnessed how angry they get when they visit those same homes where individuals who torture dogs is the precursor to violence against human beings, such as domestic abuse against a spouse or against the children. They and Canadians are left to wonder why this type of crime is something Parliament simply has not done anything about.

In fact, as was mentioned by the previous speaker, the laws that we have in place today have essentially been unamended since 1892. That is not to say that in the last number of years Parliament has not tried because it has. If we look at the bills that have been put before this House over the last number of years, there is Bill C-17, Bill C-15, Bill C-15B, Bill C-10, Bill C-10B and, as recently as the last Parliament, Bill C-50. In this Parliament, we have my private member's bill, Bill C-373 and Bill S-203, which we are debating today.

I had a great deal of opportunity to work on Bill C-50 in the previous Parliament and to bring all stakeholders together to find common ground, to ask that all sides make compromise and work on something that would work, not only for those who were proponents of protecting animals, but for those who legitimately use animals for their businesses or for their livelihood.

In doing so we found mere unanimity. We found that almost all groups reached a point of compromise on Bill C-50. In fact, this bill or a similar bill was able to pass through the House of Commons twice. It was the will of this House that strong, effective animal cruelty legislation be adopted and moved forward. It was the will of this elected body that we have animal cruelty legislation that reflected the desire of Canadians. However, both times it was the Senate that stood in our way, the Senate that disagreed and wanted amendments.

We almost got there in the last Parliament but, unfortunately, an election got in our way. One would have thought that after all the work and compromise, upon our return to Parliament we would have immediately embraced that compromise and introduced legislation that addressed animal cruelty.

The reality is that did not happen. It was left to private members' bills to address this gaping hole in our Criminal Code, one introduced by myself and one introduced by Senator Bryden in the form of the bill that is before us today that is seeking to be amended, Bill S-203.

One could ask why we simply do not adopt Bill S-203 as a first step and then we will get to the rest. We could do all those things that Parliament had already agreed on at some later date.

I will give a few reasons why Bill S-203 should not be adopted. I will start with the fact that only one-quarter of 1% of animal abuse complaints result in a conviction. Essentially what this bill would do is go after sentencing. One can imagine that if we are only addressing sentencing, when there are convictions on only one-quarter of 1% of the problem, we are only dealing with one-quarter of 1% of the problem, which effectively would do almost nothing to address the issue.

I just want to list a number of things that Bill S-203 does not do that I think people will be surprised to learn. It does not make it easier to convict the perpetrators of crimes toward animals. It does not make it easier to punish people for crimes of neglect toward animals that they are responsible for. It does not offer greater protection to wild or stray animals which often have no protection at all. It does not clarify the confusing language in existing legislation that deals with types of animals differently. It also fails to make it a crime to train animals to fight each other.

These terrible crimes we see where they are pitting animals against animals and ripping each other apart, it would do nothing to deal with that.

The second point is this. When does the House, as an elected body, accept from the Senate a lower standard? For this House to pass legislation twice and then to be told by the Senate that it is too much, too effective, too far and too fast and then to turn it down, one wonders why.

When the Conservatives introduced a bill to get tough on crime, in their words, and then sent it to the Senate, they said that they would not accept any amendments by the Senate. They gave the Senate a limited amount of time to address the bill and said that if the Senate did not pass the bill that they would have an election. Why? It was because crime was important and they needed to address it.

They told the Senate that it needed to listen to the elected will of the House and yet when it comes to animal cruelty there is a double standard. They were willing to say that the House had spoken and that it worked for years to compromise and create effective legislation but, on this bill, crime is not important, it is not a priority, even though, as I mentioned before, it does not just impact animals, it is often a precursor to violence against human beings.

Senator Bryden addressed the issue when he talked about those who wanted effective animal cruelty legislation losing the lever they would have if this bill gets passed. Unfortunately, he is quite right. It is one of the things that those of us who are concerned about our ineffective animal cruelty laws worry most about.

The bill is essentially a placebo. It does nothing to address the real issue of animal cruelty in our country. It will be held out as action when none has been taken. It will be held out as a faint offer of having done something so we can tell our constituents that we acted on animal cruelty when we did nothing more than pass an empty, vacuous bill. We will lose that lever to finally change and amend our laws.

We have already waited 116 years. We embraced years of compromise. As a House, we adopted effective legislation. We will now let the Senate tell us to throw all of that away and to entrench essentially Victorian laws with antiquated notions about what animals are about.

I have a last point on why Bill S-203 should be opposed. Can anyone imagine trying to pass a bill that purports to do something about animal cruelty when every animal welfare group in the country is opposed to it? I am not talking about animal activists. I am talking about those who are on the front lines of dealing with abuse and torture of animals. I am talking about SPCA officers, the humane society and veterinarians who see tortured animals come into their offices and see nothing being done about it. These are the people crying for action and they are not alone.

In fact, Canadians overwhelmingly support effective animal cruelty law. A recent Nanos Research poll found that 85% of respondents supported legislation that would make it easier for law enforcement agencies to prosecute perpetrators who commit crimes against animals, including wild and stray animals. I have a petition of over 130,000 Canadians, which has been presented before the House, in opposition to the Senate bill and calling on support for my bill, Bill C-373.

I do not care if the bill gets passed as my bill or as a government bill. I will gladly give up my bill to anyone in the House who can get it passed and get it passed immediately. I will make the offer to the government today that I will withdraw my bill and offer it to the government as its own so that we can move forward with effective legislation.

I want to talk about what effective legislation can do, which is Bill C-373. It would allow for the prosecution of negligent animal owners. It would protect the rights of those who work and must kill animals for their livelihood. We would protect those in agriculture and animal use industries. It would offer equal protection to pets and farm animals, as well as wild and stray animals. It would make it illegal to train animals to fight one another. It would make it a crime to kill an animal with brutal or vicious intent.

We need effective animal cruelty legislation. The option exists for us to take action today. Let us reject this watered down, vacuous placebo bill and finally do something about animal cruelty.

February 14th, 2008 / 4:20 p.m.
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NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

What we are doing here is moving the legislation that was passed in 1892--so back in the 19th century--into the 21st century. In that regard it was interesting to hear the Minister of Justice, who was in front of the Senate two weeks ago, making exactly the same argument about the need to update legislation that's over 100 years old. I think the points he made at that time, and it was particularly around the age of consent, were very well taken. That part of the bill was one I strongly supported, and I still do.

By the same argument, that same sentiment applies to Bill S-203, and in particular the amendments I'm proposing here. We're moving away from an attitude we had as a society, and the way we treated animals at that period of time, to the way we want them treated and expect all of our citizens will treat them at this period of time.

Mr. Chair, I'm cognizant of the time. The amendment deals with a definition of moving animal.... The sections right now, 444 up to 447, are a treatment of animals as property. We're in effect reallocating that attitude of them as sentient beings. So the first thing we're doing is to move that “animal” be “a vertebrate, other than a human being”, as the definition for animal. That gets repeated in the balance of the amendments.

Mr. Chair, in that regard we're attempting to move away completely from the concept of animal as property to animal as a sentient being. You heard again today the importance of that type of approach in terms of treating people who obviously have serious psychiatric, emotional, psychological problems, and who show clear signs of violence by mistreating, abusing, or killing animals. By shifting that definition completely away from property to one of sentience, it's part of the way we, as a society and as a legislature, are addressing that issue. I think that part needs to be said, and it needs to be emphasized. So that's proposed section 444.

With respect to proposed section 445, we heard today from WSPA in terms of not being able to charge people for abusing animals on the basis of our inability to show a clear intent--one could say an almost absolute intent. With the concept of mens rea, the concept of intent in our criminal law is very clear. But the way the current sections of the code are written, and more importantly, Mr. Chair, the way they've been interpreted, is that we need to introduce a broader concept. So these offences would be not only wilful ones but also reckless ones.

I think of some of the cases I handled as a defence counsel with respect to animals being allowed to starve and no one being convicted of that, even though it was obvious that the animals were abused by neglect rather than physically abused by using instruments to torture them. In proposed section 445, we're moving away from pure absolute intent to bringing in the concept of recklessness. I want to say to the committee that that concept is not simple negligence; that concept of recklessness is a higher standard, but it is less than the absolute wilfulness that is in the existing one.

Mr. Chair, we go on in that section to deal with a whole bunch of specific types of conduct that would become offences. I'm assuming members have read this. I think the expansion of the poisoning section is important. That's proposed paragraph 445(1)(d). Again, it broadens what is in the existing code.

I think we've all been particularly sensitized to the whole concept of using animals to engage in fighting because of the recent conviction of Mr. Vick in the United States, and 445(1)(e) broadens it to the point of encouraging, promoting, arranging, assisting, and receiving money for the fighting or baiting of animals. It covers, as best we can see, all of the possible conduct that goes on in that activity now and makes it a very clear criminal offence.

The next one, under proposed paragraph (f), is specifically dealing with the issue of the cockpit. We've got a problem in the existing part of the code because there are provisions on cockpit fighting but it's it's very narrow as to what is a cockpit. What we've done here is we've kept “cockpit”, and then we've added “or any other arena” to the wording that's already in the code .

I'm told by a number of the animal welfare groups that one of the common areas where they carry on cock fighting is a temporary site in underground parking garages, and that clearly would not be an offence under the existing sections of the Criminal Code. That allows us to get at that kind of conduct, because right now--at least from what we're hearing from the animal welfare people--it is the most common arena. So it'll now be covered.

The next section's pretty straightforward. It's a continuation to make sure we catch all of those.

Then in subsection 445(2), which is in Bill S-203 now, so it would be replacing that, we just had some discussion on this in response to Mr. Bagnell's question about changing from simply what has traditionally been an offence treated as a summary conviction offence to a hybrid offence that'll either be a summary conviction or indictable, generally speaking, based on the seriousness of the conduct. Also, the indictable offence would be used much more often if there's a repeat offence, but at the prosecutor's discretion.

We are then moving to more of the negligence part of it in proposed section 446, which covers the negligent causing of unnecessary pain. This test is again a somewhat lower standard. It really is addressing this primarily to the owners of animals or those serving as their designate or delegate in terms of controlling an animal. So we're introducing a new test that would incorporate the concept of negligence.

I think the easiest analogy--although I'm somewhat reluctant to use it--is the type of cases that we have currently in our child abuse regime, where you've got assault by the custodial parent or other caregivers and a separate offence for neglect, and that concept has now been incorporated into 446.

In subsection 446(2), we're in effect defining “negligently”. This is of concern because of the farmers, the trappers, the fishers, and the hunters. “Negligently” is being categorized, I think, quite clearly. If you go back to the negotiations we had in running up to both Bill C-50 and Bill C-22, which was the precursor of Bill C-50--that was the bill that went to the Senate and was rejected--there were a great deal of negotiations around that standard because it was, I think, a very sincere concern by the groups who raise animals or hunt or fish.

So “negligent” means “departing markedly from the standard of care that a reasonable person would use”.

That's a standard that's well established in each one of those sectors, whether it's farming, fishing, or hunting. If you move markedly from that standard, you are eligible to be convicted for negligently causing harm to, or the death of, an animal.

Part of the scaremongering that has gone on in regard to this legislation has turned on the prospect of the stereotypical animal rights person using this proposed section 446 to bring private prosecutions against farmers, fishers, hunters, and people who do research with animals. But each one of those sectors of the economy have long-established standards. So all that has to be done is to establish that they have met that standard.

It's important to realize that this is not going to produce a tidal wave of charges. I don't want to give the fearmongers any openings on this point. Right across the country, because of amendments to the Criminal Code, private prosecution is extremely limited. It has to be approved by the local prosecutor, in the form of the Attorney General. So there are strict limitations and controls. If a private prosecution is attempted, the prosecutor will allow it only if the conduct in question falls below the established standard. If it does not, the attempt will be disallowed.

So I think we have a very tight mechanism within our criminal justice system—in the definition, the standards that have been set in the various sectors, and in the ability of our prosecutors, in the form of the Attorney General, to prevent malicious or frivolous private prosecutions from getting into the courtroom.

It's a valid concern. Over the years, I have had any number of clients who had to defend themselves from government action that had no reasonable chance of prosecution. Quite frankly, the risk of this is greater from our government agencies than from private prosecutors. But in any event, I think we've shut that door as tight as possible, and I don't think we're going to see any tidal wave of prosecutions.

In proposed subsection 446(3) it's the same thing. These offences would be treated as either summary or indictable offences, with the prosecutor deciding which one.

In proposed section 447, we're expanding the authority to impose penalties in addition to incarceration or fines. These are incorporated in part in the existing Bill S-203, but there are some additional ones here. In effect, they're giving the prosecutor, and of course the court, the authority to order that a convicted person can no longer have animals under his control. There can be an order made, which is already in existing Bill S-203, to order the convicted perpetrator to compensate the agency that took care of the animals. I think those are the two points.

In proposed section 447.1, there are defences. These are common law defences and they are not being affected at all. They would still be allowed.

In my criminal law course during my first year of law school, I remember being given an example of somebody being charged with shooting a deer out of season. But it turned out, when it came before the court, that the deer was actually attacking the man who shot it. The defence raised was a common law defence--it wasn't in the statute, this was a provincial statute--of self-defence, in effect. The person, of course, was acquitted. It's those kinds of defences that are in subsection 429(2). Those defences continue to be in existence. They will not be impacted by either the recklessness clauses or the negligence clauses. Those defences will still exist.

This was one of the feints we got from the Senate sending back Bill C-22 , because we didn't put the non-derogation clause in.

It was interesting at that time, Mr. Chairman...and I feel like an historian telling these stories. But the reality was that we were just beginning to consistently put the non-derogation clause into legislation. There was all sorts of environmental legislation going through at that time, and I can recall that we began putting it in at that period of time, but we had not done it in Bill C-22 because when it went through the House of Commons, we had not started putting it into the legislation.

Anyway, that was one of the excuses the Senate had for sending it back. It wasn't their real opposition to the legislation. But that is now incorporated. It was in Bill C-50 and is now in this amendment as well.

In proposed section 447.3, we're simply being clear that we also want special provisions. Mr. Chair, this came from our police forces across the country, where animals were being targeted. These are animals police officers use--horses and dogs--and they were being specifically targeted. For instance, we had drug houses that were booby trapped specifically to get dogs, including poisoning, but also booby trapped generally with other types of obstructions that would kill an animal--a dog--rather than a human being. So we heard that. We heard that in a number of demonstrations where horses were being used by police officers, the horse was being targeted by demonstrators trying to get at police officers.

So we have built in specific provisions for that. We heard from a number of police forces across the country in that regard.

The final proposed subsection 447.3(4) does, as is the case in the other sections, make specific provisions that provide for the cost of treating the animal to be taken over by the perpetrator of the conduct, who has now been convicted.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

February 14th, 2008 / 4 p.m.
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NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Are you aware of any draft legislation coming forward from the department that would, in effect, reintroduce the old Bill C-50?

February 14th, 2008 / 3:55 p.m.
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NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

What I'm really asking you is, since this Conservative government has been in place, has there been any consultation with you or any of the other groups that you're associated with of trying to move forward the old Bill C-50?

February 14th, 2008 / 3:55 p.m.
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Programs Officer, , World Society for the Protection of Animals (Canada)

Melissa Tkachyk

Specifically on Bill C-50, I have not. But certainly as a campaigner I've had tremendous experience in trying to push things forward, and when something is tweaked a bit, it is extremely difficult, in my experience, to make further changes to it afterwards.

As well, I am concerned about the public perception. I do agree with Mr. Holland that this entrenches a problem, but it's also about the public perception when a government deals with something. I don't think it's a far stretch to say that the government would put out a press release and the groups that support Bill S-203 would put out press releases, and none of those would mention that this bill has deficiencies that need to be addressed urgently.

February 14th, 2008 / 3:55 p.m.
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NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

I was going to start with a statement just to refute both the questions we've had from the Liberals and the Bloc. I understand the politics of this. I'm just surprised that we're not getting the same kind of response from both of them.

I want to pursue, to some degree, the line of questions from Mr. Ménard.

Ms. Tkachyk, have you taken on any consultation with the current government of trying to prioritize the old Bill C-50, Bill C-373? Have you had any indication from them of a willingness to prioritize it, to move it up? Because you know, I'm sure, of the difficulty and how long it will take Mr. Holland's bill to get to the top of the list.

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.

February 5th, 2008 / 5:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

What I think I'm hearing is that the animal welfare groups made compromises with respect to getting to Bill C-50—as did many of the animal user groups, by the way; I'm not just talking about one side. Both sides made compromises to get to a middle point.

What we're seeing with Bill S-203 is that it's the bill where there's no compromise; it's the bill that is only addressing concerns on the animal-use side. None of the issues I'm hearing are really being substantively dealt with on the animal welfare side.

This brings me to my last question. This would be to you, Kim. You talked about how Canada sized up relative to the rest of the world. What you didn't get a chance to say is—and it's embarrassing, frankly—that we're behind nations such as the Philippines. That's something we should really hang our heads about, I think, personally.

How would Bill S-203, after it was passed—I hope it doesn't happen, but let's just presume and say it did get passed.... How would Canada stack up against the rest of the world?

February 5th, 2008 / 4:35 p.m.
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NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Last week, again, the coalition, in spite of some of their other opposition to Bill C-50, indicated a willingness to have that section in Bill C-50 about animals being killed brutally put in as an amendment to this bill. Would your association take the same position?

February 5th, 2008 / 4:30 p.m.
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NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

All right.

Mr. Farrant, the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters had a request, when Bill C-50 was working its way through the House, that they be exempted from the legislation. Is that correct?

February 5th, 2008 / 4:30 p.m.
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NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

I don't want to put words in your mouth, but if I'm hearing you correctly, you would lay charges in six to seven times more cases if the code were brought in line with what was C-50 and is now Bill C-373, the private member's bill.

January 31st, 2008 / 5:35 p.m.
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Executive Director, Ontario Farm Animal Council, National Coalition of Animal-based Sectors

Leslie Ballentine

Those are the two major ones. We would have liked nothing better than to come before a committee collectively with those who support Mr. Holland's bill, or Bill C-50, or whatever you would like to call it. We tried to accommodate that, because it makes it much easier for you as legislators.

January 31st, 2008 / 5:35 p.m.
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Executive Director, Ontario Farm Animal Council, National Coalition of Animal-based Sectors

Leslie Ballentine

No, we agreed to Bill C-50.

Criminal Code

April 25th, 2007 / 6:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to rise to speak on this bill. When I first came to Parliament nearly three years ago, animal cruelty was an issue that was indeed top of mind for me, something I was very concerned about. That concern was driven by what I had seen as a municipal councillor with both the city of Pickering and the Region of Durham, where again and again animal abuses were not prosecuted, where we saw that the laws that existed in Canada were completely ineffective and did nothing to deter animal abuse.

Of course when I came here to Ottawa and learned that it had been 1892 since last our legislation with respect to animal cruelty was changed, I wanted to embark on trying to modernize it, on trying to work with Parliament to get to a point where we could get those who are involved in the animal use industry and those supporting animal welfare to meet in the middle, to find a compromise and to find effective legislation.

Before we even got to that point, Parliament had already dealt with Bill C-17, Bill C-15, Bill C-15B and Bill C-10, then getting to Bill C-50 in the last term of Parliament. So for nearly 10 years Parliament had been wrestling with this issue.

The problem with the existing law rests in a number of different places.

One is that it treats animals as property, essentially affording as much protection to an animal as would be given to a chair in our house. For most Canadians that is not acceptable. It is a Victorian notion we have grown out of. It also did nothing to protect stray or wild animals that could be viciously killed for any reason. It gave no protection against brutally or viciously killing even domesticated animals. It did nothing to stop training animals to fight one another or receiving money from those fights.

It was clear that we needed to take action. Bill C-50 at that point came forward. It was an opportunity to bring the different groups together to look at why legislation had failed in the past. In fact, by the fall of 2004, shortly after that June election, as many as 30 animal industry groups came together representing a broad range from agriculture to fur and to animal research. They sent a letter to the then justice minister urging a quick passage of the reintroduced government bill.

That was Bill C-50. It represented compromise. It represented an acknowledgement that in the animal use industry there were legitimate uses that should be permitted, whether or not for agriculture or whether or not in hunting, but on the other side it recognized that we have a lot of work to do to better protect animals and to provide animal welfare.

Unfortunately, we did not get the opportunity, because of the brevity of the last Parliament, to pass Bill C-50. It had broad support, not only from industry groups and animal welfare groups but from this Parliament. I expect it would have passed, but we ran out of time.

In this Parliament I have put forward a private member's bill, Bill C-373, and we also have a bill that moved more quickly through the Senate, Bill S-213, which is before us right now and which we are talking about this evening.

Let us talk for a moment about Bill S-213 and the deep concerns I have with this legislation. First of all, the main thing the bill does, and in fact really the only thing it does, is deal with sentencing. This is a huge problem, because sentencing represents only a very small fraction of the real problem.

In fact, when we look at it, we see that less than one-quarter of one per cent of animal abuse complaints lead to a successful conviction. That is what this bill deals with: one-quarter of one per cent. If we hold Bill S-213 out as some kind of solution for animal cruelty, we are being dishonest. The only thing it deals with is that enormously small percentage of successful convictions. If we are serious about animal cruelty, certainly we must do more.

We also know that Bill S-213 will not make it easier to convict perpetrators of crimes toward animals. It will not make it easier to punish the people who commit crimes against animals or neglect animals. It will not offer protection against torture for stray or wild animals. It will not make it a crime to train animals to fight one another. In short, Bill S-213 just does not get it done.

If it were just a placebo, if we could just pass it and move on and hopefully get to my bill or some other version of what Bill C-50 was in order to pass effective animal cruelty legislation, then that would be one thing. My fear is that it will do more than that. My fear is that if we pass this placebo bill that does nothing, that addresses only one-quarter of one per cent of the problem we are dealing with in regard to animal cruelty, it will be held out as if we have done something.

I have listened to many speakers talk about animal cruelty. They talk about what happened in Didsbury. They talk about the terrible abuses that occur in our country today and go unpunished and they hold this out as some kind of solution. It is not.

If we do that, if we turn to Canadians and say that we have a solution for animal cruelty and it is Bill S-213, we are misleading them. Worse yet, it may destroy the ability to actually bring forward effective legislation. So if this does not do anything, why move forward?

I would like to talk for a second about some of the things my Bill C-373 should be able to do, or I would encourage the government to bring in a bill in the same vein.

An effective bill on animal cruelty should allow for the prosecution of negligent animal owners. It should protect the rights of those who work and must kill animals for their livelihood, such as anglers, hunters, trappers, farmers and biomedical scientists, et cetera, but it must prosecute individuals who harm animals without lawful excuse or who do so in a malicious way.

An effective bill must offer protection to pets and farm animals as well as stray and wild animals. It must make it illegal to train animals to fight one another. It must make it a crime to kill an animal with brutal or vicious intent, whether or not the animal dies immediately. This is one of the problems with our current law.

This would ensure that the perpetrators of grievous crimes, those who make the headlines, are actually brought to justice. We need to take that one-quarter of 1% into a figure we can be proud of and demonstrate that we are actually doing something.

Why do something about animal cruelty? The first thing that would come to mind, obviously, is hopefully because we would care, because we would have some compassion toward animals, because we would feel they deserve dignity and our protection. One would hope that this argument would be enough reason to protect animals.

However, there are other reasons. Certainly as Parliamentarians we have to consider the will of the Canadian electorate. We have to consider the will of those we represent. Anecdotally, we would all say, Canadians by a large measure want to see effective animal cruelty legislation, but SES also conducted a poll on behalf of the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies in which 85% of respondents said they supported legislation that would make it easier for law enforcement agencies to prosecute perpetrators who commit crimes against animals, including wild and stray animals.

This means that 85% of Canadians said that existing legislation does not cut it. And Bill S-213 does not cut it. In fact, a petition was before the House with nearly 120,000 signatures, an enormous number, and it said that Bill S-213 did not do it, that it was placebo policy and it was essentially entrenching all of the same problems that we have today. The petition said that we needed to modernize our laws and, whether or not that is Bill C-373 or some other bill that accomplishes those aims, we should move forward with it.

The third reason we should care about animal cruelty, if those first two are not compelling enough, is that it is a precursor to violent behaviour against human beings.

In fact, Dr. Randall Lockwood, a Washington, D.C. psychologist who is also the vice-president of the Humane Society of the United States and one of the world's leading experts in the field of animal cruelty, states, “While not everyone who abuses animals will become a serial killer, virtually every serial killer first abused animals”. Of course this has been brought to the attention of the justice minister. He has been talked to about it and is made sick by this, it is said. It will continue to be brought to his attention until something is done.

We have every reason in the world to take action and yet we have not. In fact, we are still arguing about dealing with a non-measure that we are going to try to hold out as action. That is why groups like the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association and so many others oppose Bill S-213 and urge the passage of Bill C-373 or other such effective legislation.

It is time that we listen to those voices, that we listen to voices of reason. It is time that we pass something that, frankly, should be motherhood. It is time to take effective action on animal cruelty and stop playing games or trying to pretend we are taking action. We need to stand up and either vote for Bill C-373 or have the government bring forward effective animal cruelty legislation.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

February 26th, 2007 / 11:40 a.m.
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NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill S-213. I would like to advise the House that the NDP will not be supporting the bill.

We take the issue of cruelty to animals very seriously. The current animal cruelty laws were enacted in 1892 and have not been substantially altered in 114 years of Parliament's rule over this land. The answer to dealing with these issues is not simply to cosmetically increase the sentences that are being meted out for offences that are not enforceable in the first place and have not been enforceable over many years.

There have been many instances of animal cruelty where the RCMP has not bothered with charges because the punishment meted out was not worth pursuing the case and it was impossible to prove wilful neglect. We need more of a deterrent. We need something that speaks to the nature of animal cruelty in a modern context.

Hon. members who have spoken before me have talked about the history of dealing with this issue in Parliament over the last seven years. Parliamentarians and governments have tried to focus on this issue and have found that it is impossible to move modern legislation through the two Houses that deals with animal cruelty.

The former government's Bill C-50 was not allowed to pass through the Senate. In 2003 it had support from animal protection groups, animal industry groups such as farmers, trappers and researchers, the vast majority of Canadians, and all parties in the House of Commons.

We have seen a disconnect when dealing with this issue of animal cruelty. We are stuck. We are only dealing with this bill now, not another companion bill, that would achieve support in the House and in the Senate. On the one hand we can put this bill forward which will cosmetically increase the penalties for animal cruelty, but it will not deal with the fundamental issues of a modern animal cruelty bill. That is not adequate. It should not be adequate to parliamentarians. It was not adequate in 2003 and I fail to see how it has become adequate today.

When we look at animal cruelty and the opportunities for the misunderstanding that comes with harvesting of animals, with the use of animals in agriculture, those things cry out for a clear definition. They cry out for a modern bill that would set the terms and conditions by which human beings could deal with animals. Without that, the deterrents are meaningless.

My constituents have spoken to me on this issue and have urged me not to support Bill S-213. I see their logic. I am concerned. The hon. member for the Bloc said that if we set higher deterrents without understanding the nature of cruelty to animals and without outlining it carefully in the legislation, we may find that it will lead to difficulties in different industries in the future.

My constituents still are part of the trapping industry. My constituents utilize animals in a modern fashion. When I look back through the history of trapping, humane traps were designed by trappers in response to their understanding of the nature of cruelty to animals. That is admirable. The industry looks at how it conducts business and regulates itself to a great degree. The understanding of the nature of that can lie with the industry very well.

In my own home community of Fort Smith, the Conibear trap was originally developed by a trapper who worked for many years in the bush. He saw how leghold traps worked and how effective they were and how the tools they used worked with the animal population they were harvesting.

Those types of issues need understanding in a bill. It is not good enough simply to increase the sentences for the actions of society toward animals. We need to understand how to use the law to make society work better with animals. That requires more than simply raising the penalties in a law that was first enacted in 1892 and virtually has not changed since then.

I do not think that this action today is correct. We need to look at the question in its entirety. Parliamentarians in the past have done that. We have not been able to come to a full consensus in both houses but we have a duty to Canadians to act correctly in this fashion.

Our party's justice critic may have an opportunity to expand on this in further debate. I urge members to consider carefully what is being done here.

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.

Animal CrueltyPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

December 12th, 2006 / 1:10 p.m.
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NDP

Denise Savoie NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have another petition to present with regard to animal cruelty stating that Bill S-213 will not meet the needs of Canada's animals and, unlike its predecessor known as Bill C-50, will do little to prevent further abuses.

Therefore, the petitioners call upon the government to veto Bill S-213 and, instead, enact legislation similar to Bill C-50 which would safeguard animals and hopefully lead to less violence.

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

October 30th, 2006 / 3:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-373, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals).

Mr. Speaker, we recently learned of the death by brutal torture of Daisy Duke, a Labrador Border Collie cross, in Didsbury, Alberta. This outrageous action highlights the failure of Parliament to modernize Criminal Code provisions dealing with animal cruelty.

Our present laws date back to 1892 with only minor amendments. Bills to modernize our animal cruelty laws have been introduced in every Parliament since 1999, but they have all died on the order paper.

This bill that I am introducing today is identical to Bill C-50 in the 38th Parliament. It is the product of countless hours of debate, testimony and study. Previous versions of this bill were in fact passed by both Houses of Parliament but failed when both Houses could not agree on minor amendments.

I not only call on all members of the House in all parties to get behind this bill but on the government itself to reintroduce this legislation as government legislation. It is time we passed proper legislation for the protection of animals and stop failing Canadians.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Business of the HouseOral Questions

November 24th, 2005 / 3 p.m.
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Hamilton East—Stoney Creek Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I see the hon. member across the way is displaying his charm once more.

I also think the hon. member understands clearly that the call for the election and, ultimately, if there is an election caused, it will be the opposition members who will have to take responsibility since they will be voting to dissolve Parliament and we will be voting to sustain Parliament in order to continue the work that I will now lay out.

This afternoon we will continue with the opposition motion.

On Friday we will call consideration of the Senate amendments to Bill C-37, the do not call bill; report stage and third reading of Bill S-36 respecting rough diamonds; report stage and third reading of Bill C-63, respecting the Canada Elections Act; and second reading of Bill C-44, the transport legislation.

We will return to this work on Monday, adding to the list the reference before second reading of Bill C-76, the citizenship and adoption bill; and second reading of Bill C-75, the public health agency legislation.

Tuesday and Thursday of next week shall be allotted days. There are some three dozen bills before the House or in committee on which the House I am sure will want to make progress in the next period of time. They will include the bill introduced yesterday to implement the 2005 tax cuts announced on November 14; Bill C-68, the Pacific gateway bill; Bill C-67, the surplus legislation; Bill C-61, the marine bill; Bill C-72, the DNA legislation; Bill C-46, the correctional services bill; Bill C-77, the citizenship prohibitions bill; Bill C-60, the copyright legislation; Bill C-73, the Telecom bill; Bill C-60 respecting drug impaired driving; Bill C-19, the competition legislation; Bill C-50 respecting cruelty to animals; Bill C-51, the judges legislation; Bill C-52, the fisheries bill; Bill C-59 respecting Investment Canada; Bills C-64 and C-65 amending the Criminal Code.

In addition, there are the supplementary estimates introduced in October that provide spending authority for a wide variety of services to the Canadian public and we the government would certainly like to see this passed.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

November 23rd, 2005 / 4:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to present the most recent of many petitions signed by thousands of people who deplore the delay in the animal cruelty legislation.

The petitioners believe that the delaying tactics of the Conservatives has been a great disservice for animals, animal lovers and groups such as farmers. The petitioners want the legislation passed soon. The petitioners point out that there have been several highly publicized examples of deliberate cruelty to animals and that this affects the work people such as veterinarians.

The petitioners call upon Parliament to expedite the process of enacting Bill C-50 to law and ask all members to exercise good conscience in so doing.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 21st, 2005 / 6:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Barry Devolin Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Madam Speaker, I hope the member does not crash either. I look forward to as long and illustrious career as he has had.

In terms of Bill C-50, I think all Canadians would agree that we would oppose cruelty to animals. That is not the issue here. I am not a lawyer, and I say that as often as I am given the opportunity, but I have been told by lawyers that one of the problems in prosecuting these cases is often the challenge of actually getting sufficient evidence to get a conviction. It is not so much that there are not laws on the books and quite frankly, it is not even so much that this bill would necessarily change the laws so much. The problem is gathering sufficient evidence. I suspect that is a problem that this bill, whether it passes or does not pass, is not really going to change.

In my riding there is a non-partisan farm council which I speak to regularly. Its members inform me about agricultural issues and advise me on different things. One of the members of the farm council runs a fox farm where foxes are raised and sold for their fur. They have concerns with this bill that something such as tattooing numbers on an animal's ear may be challenged at some point in the courts. Their concerns are valid in terms of their fear about what this bill will actually mean once it goes through the courts, as opposed to being concerned about what the intent is of parliamentarians.

They are concerned because animal rights activists in the country, who I believe represent a very extreme view, do not represent the mainstream and would like to see all practices that involve animals ended. They have said quite boldly and defiantly that if this bill passes, they will work hard to push this new legislation to its limits in the courts. They will test it. They will prod and probe to see exactly how far they can push it. I suspect they will keep their eyes on which area they are in and who the judges are. That is not to insult judges but just to recognize that they may know that some judges may be more or less sympathetic to their views and that that may establish case law.

Several years from now we may be standing in this House talking about how we all thought Bill C-50 was a good idea because of what we intended, but unfortunately the real world result of it was different. At the end of the day it will be the courts that will interpret the bill. What the courts decide will be what actually happens on the ground.

I mentioned earlier in a question to another member that only last week I met with representatives from the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters. I come from a rural riding in central Ontario. There are many people in my community who enjoy hunting and fishing as a recreational activity. Quite frankly many of them use the spoils from that activity as a way of augmenting their food supply over the course of a year.

I listened carefully to the representatives from the OFAH and they made a couple of points. Their first point was that if there were a couple of amendments made to this bill, they could live with it. They never said they would like it, but they did say that if a couple of important amendments were made, they could live with it.

They have a concern with the phrase “the owner, permits an animal to be killed, brutally or viciously, regardless of whether the animal dies immediately”. I do not know what that means. I suspect that if the bill stays the way it is, that will be the subject of interpretation in the court. I am sure that will be one of the areas that is probed. I do not think it is unreasonable to suggest that any time any animal is killed, on some level it is brutal or vicious. I do not know how one could kill something in such a way that no one could suggest that it was brutal or vicious.

Anyone who has ever visited a slaughterhouse knows it is not a pretty sight. There is the old joke that making legislation is like making sausage; the less one knows about how it is done, the better one will like it. That suggests that sometimes the process of producing the food we eat every day may be something with which people are not that familiar and they may not be that comfortable if they knew about it.

The point is, as a society I think it is acceptable for us to use animals, both agriculturally as well as recreationally and that many of those uses involve the killing of those animals. It is very reasonable for an organization like the OFAH to raise this concern and to say that it has a real problem with some of the wording. While the OFAH is not suggesting that the framers of the bill are deliberately going down this path, I think it is concerned that we may inadvertently go down this path, whether it is through sloppy language or whether it is through someone who was involved in the drafting process who may actually have an agenda that is a little different from the mainstream of people who support the legislation. That is important. The will of this place is not always done. The will of this place is as determined by the courts and we will have to see that.

It is a very responsible position that my party has put forward, which is that in principle, and I would say obviously, we agree with the suggestion that cruelty to animals is wrong. It is very reasonable that we have looked at the bill and said largely our party can support it but there are at least a couple of amendments that are absolutely necessary to make the bill acceptable. One of the things I have learned in a year and a half in this place is that often a bill comes forward and it is not exactly the way we like it. We have to decide if we are going to vote against the bill because it is not perfect, or whether we are going to vote for it and hope that at the committee level the amendments can be made to make it the way we think it ought to be, in which case we could support it at the end of the day, but I guess we could oppose it at the end of the day if the amendments were not made.

That is a reasonable position. That is the position the Conservative Party has put forward. I think that concerns of organizations like the OFAH are also very reasonable. Quite frankly, it is unreasonable for legislators, for members of Parliament to stand in this place and suggest, “Do not worry. We have looked after it. Trust us. The fine print is all okay. Nothing unintended will happen. We know exactly what the real world implications of the bill will be. We can anticipate with great accuracy how this will work its way through the courts and at the end of the day, what the real world impact of this will be”.

I think that the concerns brought forward by the OFAH and others, and in fact many of my colleagues, are legitimate. I also think that animal groups, which I would suggest do not represent the mainstream but in fact represent a very narrow slice on the extreme, do have an agenda. The fact that they are excited about the bill and that they think the bill moves things in the direction they would like to see, in itself causes alarm among many people in the mainstream whether they are farmers, fishermen, hunters or others who use animals.

Earlier today I heard it said that those who use animals in research are often at the forefront or at the edge of the wedge of this issue, and that they are comfortable with it. That may be true. I do not know, but I accept it as true. I come back to my point which is that they operate in a controlled environment and maybe they have been satisfied that their concerns have been addressed in the fine print and in the detail, but I think that there are probably other groups that do not feel that way.

The suggestion that the bill needs to be looked at more carefully is reasonable. There are at least a couple of amendments that need to be made to the bill, which is reasonable. For us to suggest to Canadians that they should not worry and to trust us is not reasonable. Canadians need to look at these things themselves. Shining the light on this bill, if in fact it is a good piece of legislation, I am sure it will survive that process. If it is not, then what it deserves is what it will get.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 21st, 2005 / 5:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

It is not sloppy legislation. If the hon. member across says that it is sloppy legislation, then he had better go to all these groups, including the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, and tell them that all of them are wrong, if that is what he thinks. The hon. member across is entitled to say that all of the agricultural groups are wrong and maybe he can go tell them that they are wrong.

I understand tomorrow will be a big lobby day on the Hill for some of the agricultural industries, particularly in supply management. The reason I know this is that I am sponsoring the event, which will be a large social event. Perhaps the member could tell them how they are all wrong in supporting this bill. They will be pleased to know how the hon. member thinks he is so much smarter than all of them. They might have a different opinion of the hon. member after he has told them that but he is perfectly entitled to do so.

I will be at the lobby event tomorrow shaking hands with the hon. member when he enters the room to explain all this to my constituents, agricultural constituents and all the others across Canada who support the bill.

Just in case the hon. member and others did not get it, I will repeat what I said. The industry organizations wrote, as in paper, to the Minister of Justice before this legislation was introduced and requested it. All these agricultural organizations and everyone else who asked for the bill, who the hon. member says are wrong, wrote and requested this. With no disrespect, these people know a little bit more about agriculture than some of us and they are in favour of the bill.

These same groups wrote again to the minister in February 2005, three months before Bill C-50 was introduced, and again requested its introduction. I just happen to have the text of that letter here and it says, “We once again ask you to move forward with the reintroduction of Bill C-22”. Bill C-22 was the original bill as I indicated a while ago. People in the agricultural sector asked, not only once for the bill but they wrote a second letter asking for it again.

The moral of this story is that no matter whether one lives in urban Canada or rural Canada the issues are not that different. There will be people on the margins here and there, on the extreme side one way or the other, but no one can tell me that my constituents who work in agriculture are less conscious of proper animal husbandry and less conscious of issues involving cruelty to animals than people living in the urban parts of my constituency who may never have been inside a slaughter house or anything close to it. One might know more about how it is done than the other, and as someone who was raised on a farm I believe that, but that does not mean that one group is less concerned about animal welfare than the other.

When it is time for a cow to give birth, how many of us know that a farmer will be up all night attending to it? They take a lot of care in feeding their animals. Sometimes they are more careful with feeding their animals than they are with their own diet, but that is another matter.

All of that is to say that this is good legislation for either rural or urban Canada and it is supported by rural Canada.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 21st, 2005 / 5:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak in support of Bill C-50, an act to amend the Criminal Code in respect of cruelty to animals.

As we have heard, a number of members on the other side of the House oppose the bill currently before it. We have just heard a member say that only specific interest groups, such as vegetarians and others he mentioned supported the bill—I have nothing against vegetarians, although I am not one myself—however, it is quite wrong to say that such is the case.

In 2003, the House passed the bill in question, which was sent to the Senate. It then proposed amendments, which the House considered and adopted. The bill could not be passed for lack of time.

I repeat what I said earlier. Some of these amendments were supported by the Canadian Federation of Agriculture. It is not an interest group that deserves to be described as marginal or the like.

I heard the member for Leeds—Grenville claim that we in Canada passed laws that were not found anywhere else. People from outside Canada visiting his riding come from the state of New York, a few kilometres from where he is from, and the laws are that much stricter there.

I am not a believer in there being no laws at all. Of course, there should be a law, in criminal law, to prevent cruelty to animals while protecting the people of Canada, those who hunt and fish and pursue other similar activities. There is no need to say agriculture and the slaughter practices need to be protected—it goes without saying. These areas are clearly not covered by this bill. The proof of this is that national groups representing farmers have already confirmed it.

I will give another quote, “This amended legislation”, that is the bill as it is with the two amendments from before, “is technically sound and is as strong as ever”. With that, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture encouraged Parliament to pass the legislation.

As I said a while ago, the legislation then died on the order paper in the other place where there continued to be attention paid to two other amendments which were not requested or supported by industry groups or by the House. That is where we were in 2003.

Let us fast forward a little. In November 2004, several months after the opening of this Parliament, the Minister of Justice received a letter from a large coalition of industry groups that explicitly requested a retabling, which is not really the right word, but the reintroduction of a new bill on the issue of cruelty to animals with the amendments that I described, and those amendments are in the bill.

I will get back to the comments by the member for Prince Albert and the member for Leeds--Grenville. I will read into the record the names of these groups: the British Columbia Cattlemen's Association, the Canadian Cattlemen's Association, the Dairy Farmers of Canada, the Manitoba Cattle Producers Association, the Ontario Farm Animal Council and the Dairy Farmers of Canada. They must know a little about animals. How about the Ontario Egg Producers? Some people were mentioning chicken a while ago. Those are the groups of people who are supporting this. Those are the people who asked us to go ahead with this bill.

I can go on. Some people will want to ask about hunting and about the raising of animals for fur. I am glad they asked. We have the Canada Mink Breeders Association, the Fur Institute of Canada and the Fur Council of Canada. People may then ask whether those using animals for research are against the bill. No. The Canadian Animal Health Institute, the Canadian Association of Laboratory Animal Sciences, the Canadians for Health Research and Canada's Research Base Pharmaceutical Companies are all in favour of the bill.

I say to the Conservatives across the way that it is high time they start to get with it. This is not an urban issue versus rural. It is nothing like that.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 21st, 2005 / 5:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to provide some input as a city person. The last speaker somehow assumes that I do not know very much about animals.

However, I am proud to say that a couple years ago I started an outdoor caucus for the Liberal caucus in conjunction with Ontario anglers and hunters. It was an excellent group. I believe there were over 52 members, all who are sport enthusiasts, fishers or hunters of various sorts.

Sporting is an important element of Canadian culture, such as sport shooting and fishing. It is not restricted to the non-urban centres of Canada.

I understand the member is in an area where this is of particular concern. I appreciate he is here representing the issues of his riding. It is interesting that his party has supported the bill twice already, but the member still has a responsibility to make a reasoned argument, and I believe he has done the best that he can.

Of the people who have written to me, I have received input on both sides, but more on the side of why a bill, which is trying to deal with the problem of cruelty to animals, cannot get passed in this place within a reasonable period of time, if we think in the macro context.

The previous speaker has raised one of the questions that perhaps some definitions are unclear and that people who are very much interested in the rules of the game with regard to their activities in terms of sport hunting and fishing are a little concerned that there may be too much latitude and too much breadth in the proposed legislation.

The member will know that there are provisions under the Criminal Code, some of which go back into the 1800s. I think amendments have been made as recently as in the 1950s. However, the important point is there are provisions relating to cruelty to animals such that all of the common law defence is available to those who would be charged of an alleged offence. Therefore, all the tools of any offence under the Criminal Code are available. That is important for the member to know.

The other aspect has to do with the whole question of do we have to define brutality and viciousness. Some members have said that hunters and fishers would never do anything to be cruel to an animal. That would certainly be our wish, but we are talking about human beings. From time to time, there are some fairly horrific circumstances. I am not sure if I had to sit down with the member, whether I could come up with what would constitute viciousness or brutality.

Conceptually it puts us in the ballpark and every circumstance must rest on its own merit. Every one will be different. I am not sure whether we as legislators can somehow put a black and white definition within legislation which would then possibly exclude some aspects.

Members have a right to suggest that if we allow too much latitude to the courts, that latitude may be so broad that it may have unintended consequences. People who never had any thought whatsoever of being cruel to an animal may find themselves in front of the courts. That is problematic. We know the courts are not perfect. We know lawyers are not perfect.

However, we have to rely on the fact that our country is based on the rule of law and the protection of the rights and the freedoms of individuals. If we are not going to respect the courts, if we do not feel that we have the tools, then that raises a whole other problem. It has to do with the confidence in the courts. That is an important question that maybe has not been fully debated yet. I know we have often run nose to nose with not only Supreme Court decisions, but also appeal court decisions and a few others, which create a domino effect and get us into some of these difficulties.

If legislators are starting to believe that, imagine what the public feels. It sees anecdotally some stories about this or that and what happened to that poor person. Not all parliamentarians can serve on the justice committee, hear all the witnesses and deal with all these issues at committee. We therefore second it to our colleagues on that committee to do the work and to ask the right questions. I know all the members on the committee and I am very confident that those members will explore these concerns.

When we go through first and second reading, that is where the concerns should come out. That is when members who are not on the committee or are unsure whether report stage motions will be a place where they have an opportunity to make amendments if they feel there are some, should put those issues on the table, issues that are vitally important to their constituents or to themselves based on their reading, but without having had the benefit the briefings and hearing the witnesses and examination by the members.

It is very easy in this place to talk for or against almost any bill. We can if we make a premise. In this case there are certainly many opportunities to have a premise. Fundamentally, when we talk about cruelty to animals, I think Canadians, regardless of whether they are urban or rural or anything in between, understand that if there is unnecessary pain, if there is something other than what was intended, we need to have a law that covers that. If we look at the United States for instance, its animal cruelty legislation is enacted in each of the individual states.

For example, New York State's agriculture and markets law, chapter 69 of the consolidated law, section 332 to 379 states that an animal includes “every living being except the human being”. That is even broader than we have in the bill. In Bill C-50 an animal is defined as “a vertebrate, other than a human being”. As a member said to me, this takes worms off the hook.

Canada needs to have a law on cruelty to animals. We have had many iterations. We have gone through this for a number of years. There is a great sensitivity to the arguments that have been raised by the anglers and hunters. I want to be absolutely sure that when we ultimately get legislation, and I hope we will, that all parties and stakeholders across the country, including the public at large who are not involved in these kinds of activities, will understand that it is in the best interests of all. It is part of our culture and value system. There has been a significant need to finally bring this into being.

We have to rely on those who are familiar with the law to judge each and every circumstance on its own merit. It would be extremely difficult to define what constitutes brutality and viciousness other than in general terms. However, we know, if we are to respect the law and make laws that will be respected, we have to make every effort to deal with those divergences in terms of the concerns. No matter how we produce these laws, there needs to be some flexibility within the legislation because every case has something a bit different. The laws of Canada are made that way. They have served us well, and the time has come for Bill C-50.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 21st, 2005 / 5:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Gord Brown Conservative Leeds—Grenville, ON

Madam Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak to Bill C-50, the animal cruelty bill.

Like others before it that attempted to legislate against animal cruelty, this bill as presented is flawed. It is flawed in such a way that it could attempt to make criminals out of law-abiding citizens in my riding of Leeds--Grenville. It will do this in a similar fashion as the long gun registry, and in fact it will target many of the same people as the long gun registry, the hunters, the fishers, the farmers, as they conduct their normal day to day affairs.

We need to ensure that the people who live in the city and who only go to the country to view the scenery stop writing bills that affect the hard-working rural residents of Canada.

Bills such as Bill C-50 are spawning local political action groups such as the landowners associations and the Rural Revolution. Bills such as this are frustrating rural residents and pitting them against politicians and those who enforce such poorly written legislation. Bills such as this are further damaging the fragile rural economy in Canada, and in particular my riding of Leeds--Grenville.

Not only are the residents in danger of being charged under this particular bill, but visitors to my riding could also be targeted. The economy in my riding relies heavily on visitors. They come from the cities. They come from the United States. They come from Europe and from the Pacific Rim. They come to enjoy the outdoors.

Leeds--Grenville prides itself on being an outdoor recreational playground boasting some of the finest fishing and hunting in the world. The giant muskie found in the waters of the St. Lawrence is celebrated both on and off the river with several communities boasting local tally boards for those anglers skilled enough to catch one.

Recently in Leeds--Grenville, many residents and visitors were on the water in their small boats and homemade blinds stocking up on their yearly supply of ducks and geese. This probably sounds cruel to city folk with idealistic dreams about the food chain, but it is a necessary part of many people's lives in Leeds and Grenville. We do not need to spend too long carefully walking the shores of the St. Lawrence to recognize that there are a lot of geese in the area and a little hunting is not going to hurt the population.

Currently, folks are involved in another annual event, the deer hunt. Here is another creature that is in plentiful supply. Without some of its natural predators readily available, the deer population explodes and hunting has become part of that cull process. In fact, we have seen many accidents throughout eastern Ontario because of the exploding deer population. The deer hunt is also the traditional way in which many people supplement their food supplies for the winter. The deer hunt is so revered in the riding that many folks do not actually plan events during the time of the deer hunt.

All this is to say that hunting and fishing are as much a part of the rural lifestyle in Leeds and Grenville and throughout Canada as riding a bus is natural to the lifestyle of city dwellers. Residents in my riding object to portions of Bill C-50, which for the first time in Canadian history make it an offence to kill an animal brutally or viciously without defining the terms “brutally” and “viciously”.

The bill also does not exempt from this offence the killing of animals in the normal and lawful conduct of commercial fishing and hunting. Residents in Leeds and Grenville request that this specific section of the bill be revised to provide an explicit exemption for the killing of animals in the course of hunting and fishing.

Traditional animal use industries and recreational fishing and hunting should be exempted from prosecution under this legislation. I would look to the time when we did have the support of our hunting and fishing organizations in order to get this bill through the House. My research shows that many jurisdictions that have animal cruelty legislation provide such exemptions. Without such an exemption, I and residents of Leeds and Grenville are convinced that certain animal rights groups will bring forward criminal complaints under the legislation against fishing and hunting enterprises and the thousands of sports people in my riding.

These organizations have already declared their intent to use the revised legislation to challenge traditional animal use industries and recreational fishing and hunting. Justice officials from the government advise that if such changes are brought forward, there are sufficient offences to get the charges dismissed. I would advise the justice minister that this is not sufficient.

The point is not whether residents of Leeds--Grenville can pay for a lawyer and beat the charges at great expense to themselves and the court system. The point is hunting and fishing enterprises are already licensed by various levels of government to conduct their work. Hunters and fishers are also licensed and must abide by laws. They should not have to get out of bed in the morning wondering if some other citizen with a larger cash reserve is going to take them to court that day and they will have to defend themselves against frivolous charges.

I understand the intent of the legislation is to increase the penalties for animal cruelty offences and to simplify, modernize and fill the gaps in the offence structure of the animal cruelty regime. I am as much opposed as anyone else to animal cruelty. In fact, I am sure anyone in the House and most Canadians would be opposed to any cruelty to animals. It is absolutely shameful and appalling how some people mistreat animals and they must be held accountable. That is what we should be striving for in the bill, not turning our hunters and fishers into criminals.

Without the requested exemptions in Bill C-50, there is considerable legal opinion that the proposed legislation amounts to significant changes to the law which are detrimental to animal use industries, fishers and hunters. On behalf of the residents of Leeds--Grenville, I request that these changes be made before the bill is permitted to proceed any further. With these exemptions included in the bill, I would be happy to stand in my place and support a bill that fights against animal cruelty.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 21st, 2005 / 5 p.m.
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Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca B.C.

Liberal

Keith Martin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure today to speak to Bill C-50, an act to amend the Criminal Code in respect to the cruelty of animals.

I know most of us in the House have been approached by many of our constituents profoundly and deeply concerned about the protection of animals, in particular cruelty to animals. I venture to say that all of us in the House are firmly opposed to the cruelty to animals. It is a motherhood and apple pie type of issue.

The challenge we had though was trying to ensure that we had a confined piece of legislation that worked and was able to prevent cruelty to animals. That it would prevent those heinous actions that are committed by people who must be psychologically deranged to harm animals in that way. However, we also wanted to have legislation that would enable us to protect and ensure that the normal use of animals, be it by farmers or in research, would be carried on without the fear of prosecution. That, indeed, was the challenge that we had.

I think we have come up with a bill that strikes a balance. Over the last while we have shared and worked with groups, be they in agriculture and farming, or in the scientific and research sector, or the pharmaceutical areas, to craft a bill that was able to balance those needs. Normal activities would not be prosecuted, but only those actions that are taken by certain individuals. I might add that we know that those individuals, particularly when they are younger and commit acts of violence against animals, torture or even killing animals in a heinous fashion, are actually harbingers of future psychological problems and in fact future violence.

In other words, the actions by the young who commit these atrocious acts of violence against animals is a red flag, a harbinger of things that could come in the future, and particularly more egregious violent acts that take place against humans.

Some interesting studies have been done in fact to map this out. Good scientific research has been done to demonstrate this, so we now watch for those children and young people who are engaging in acts of violence against animals. We now know that we have to be very careful and engage these young people in a way that should offset and prevent future violent actions that we see sometimes in adults.

They study looked at populations of sadistic murderers, sadists, those who have committed violent acts against adults. Research has found that a majority of those adults who were incarcerated in jails for committing those violent acts, if we look back in their history, started off committing violent acts against animals when they were younger. They would torture the family pet, kill the family pet or kill other pets in the areas. I think the public at long last will be very happy with this bill.

In 2003 the other place made two amendments that the House adopted on this particular initiative. These two amendments were specifically requested by industry organizations. The reason, as I said before, was that these two amendments were there to satisfy their comfort level and their fear of prosecution.

For example, with regard to these two amendments, Canadian farmers said that they were 100% behind these two amendments and that this amended legislation was technically sound and was as strong as ever. With that, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture encouraged Parliament to pass this legislation. Unfortunately, the legislation then died in the other place which is where it continued to be paid attention to and the amendments were not requested or supported.

Let me fast forward a year. In November 2004, several months after the opening of Parliament, the Minister of Justice received a letter from a large coalition of industry groups that explicitly requested retabling of the animal cruelty amendments that had died. This group included a variety of organizations including the B.C. Cattlemen's Association, the Ontario Farm Animal Council, the Manitoba Cattle Producers Association, and it also included organizations involved in trapping such as the Canada Mink Breeders Association and the Fur Council of Canada.

It was also supported by other groups such as the Canadian Animal Health Institute, the Canadian Association for Laboratory Animal Science, and Canadian research based pharmaceutical groups as well as the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association.

We have heard from a wide variety of groups. We have passed these amendments through those groups. They have gained support among these groups. That is why they are in the House today.

These industry organizations wrote to the Minister of Justice before the legislation was tabled and specifically requested that these amendments be tabled and passed. That is why I hope, at the end of the day, members of the House will see that these particular amendments are apolitical, but are intended to protect animals within our country and that they are reasonable and balanced.

When the bill is studied in committee, I am sure committee members will be interested to hear what those groups have to say. I am also certain that the groups involved will reiterate their positions and the points I made here.

It is true that the coalition does not include hunting and fishing organizations, and that the anglers and hunters continue to express concerns. As a matter of logic, we could ask how it could be that animal researchers, agriculturalists, trappers and veterinarians all feel adequately comfortable that these amendments manage to strike a balance that enables the normal use of animals for food and other needs while on the other hand ensuring that we have legislative capabilities to arrest, prosecute and have the full force of the law applied to those individuals who commit heinous acts against innocent animals?

The simple matter is that hunters, animal researchers, veterinarians, farmers and trappers alike do not need to invoke any defence to justify their activities, but let us be clear about what the law actually prohibits. It only prohibits the wilful, reckless or criminally negligent affliction of pain that is known to be avoidable and unnecessary. In the case of the new offence, the law prohibits the intentional killing of an animal with brutal or vicious intent.

Let us think about that for a moment. If a person were to knowingly cause more pain to an animal than is necessary, if a person were to fall significantly below the reasonable standard of care, and if a person were to brutally or viciously intend to kill an animal, how could we not say that this person is engaged in wrongdoing?

I want to emphasize that we are excluding from this the normal activities of hunting, trapping, fishing, research, and the production of food products that are a normal aspect of civilized society.

These acts, though, must be punished. The reason why we are bringing the bill forward is that we cannot have a loophole in the legislation. We need to enable the courts to prosecute adequately those individuals who do commit acts of wanton violence and torture against animals. There are no excuses for that kind of behaviour.

The reality is that the vast majority of all industry participants take great care and cause no more pain than is required to meet their objectives. When the killing of an animal is required, the intention of such a person is one of respect toward that animal and the humanity expressed by that person. They kill the animal with a method known to be effective, quick and relatively painless.

If this is the case, there is no cruelty and therefore there is no crime. The humane use and killing of animals is not a crime, but simply a fact of life since the beginning of time. The Menard case, the leading case on cruelty to animals, makes perfectly clear that in an industry setting, causing only necessary pain is not a crime.

Let me say a few words, if I may, about concerns that have been expressed about the offence of brutality or viciousness in the killing of an animal. It has been said that the phrase “regardless of whether the animal died instantly” must be removed because it precludes the person who caused immediate death as some kind of offence and could be charged.

Let me conclude by saying that I think in principle, most members, if they read the legislation, can see that we have tried to strike a balance. The objectivity of it can be found in the fact that groups that are involved in the use of animals and animal products, and in the killing of animals, support the bill. They recognize that on one hand we have to have the legislative capabilities to address and prosecute those who torture and kill animals needlessly and on the other hand protect those who kill animals under law abiding activities in this country, including hunting, fishing, trapping and research.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 14th, 2005 / 6:10 p.m.
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Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Madam Speaker, I would have a comment. This is a good bill to the extent that the minister has put his foot down and will finally be legislating against animal cruelty. There is a problem, however. The hon. member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke illustrated it perfectly. We are mixing apples and oranges, mixing the gun issue with the hunters, pets, poultry farmers and auctions. Everything is all mixed together.

The committee will have to go back to the drawing board and develop categories within the bill. That is what matters. When Bill C-10 was discussed, this was already a problem. The same happened when we discussed Bill C-22, and it is happening again with Bill C-50. Everybody mixes everything up. How can we ever arrive at safeguards for everyone—aboriginal people, farmers, hunters, fishermen—as well as the industry? This can never be achieved because it is such broad legislation.

I hope the minister will listen to what animal welfare groups are asking for to fight animal cruelty.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 14th, 2005 / 5:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Madam Speaker, as the member of Parliament for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, I am pleased to participate in today's debate regarding this most recent attempt by the government to amend the Criminal Code in respect of cruelty to animals.

Eastern Ontario boasts a vibrant hunting and fishing culture. The settlers who came to Renfrew County survived in the wilderness by logging, farming, hunting and fishing. These were heritage activities that are very much a part of our culture today.

As people most in touch with the land, rural people have the greatest interest in being good stewards of our environment. When the farmers, hunters and fishermen of Renfrew County speak, they do so with the wisdom of being generations on the land. That same wisdom is available to the government, if it would only listen.

It is very clear from the record of the government and the numerous, previous, failed attempts to move forward to protect animals from unnecessary cruelty, that it is not committed to this goal. In every previous attempt, the Liberal Party chose to ignore the concerns of ordinary folk, like the people of Renfrew County, and brought forward flawed legislation that did not take into consideration the rich, outdoor heritage of all Canadians.

The current piece of legislation that is before us today is no exception to the anti-hunting, anti-fishing, and anti-rural Canadian bias that has become the policy of the Liberal Party. I have been contacted by many worried constituents about the impact the current legislation will have on individuals who enjoy the out of doors and the criminalization of heritage activities.

I wish to thank the efforts of constituents like Mr. Alfred Beck from the Pembroke Outdoor Sportsman Club in assuming a leadership role in our community to protect the rights of hunters and fishermen.

There seems to be a conscious effort on the part of certain individuals and anti-hunting organizations to misrepresent traditional farming and fishing practices of rural Canadians. Many of these urban based organizations promote ignorance about rural farming practices in order to evoke sympathy as a fundraising tool. Other organizations promote fear campaigns against rural Canadians based on intolerance. Some animal rights organizations seek to end all uses of animals by people. To them, certain farming practices, hunting and fishing are cruel.

What has to be of concern to reasonable people is that their way of thinking has made it to a Prime Minister desperate to draw attention away from the numerous scandals that infect his party. This could explain why this particular piece of legislation is before us today.

What is clear is that farmers, fishermen and hunters, including recreational fishing and hunting, must be exempted from the frivolous court challenges that threaten their activities and that will result if the government continues to refuse to listen to the many groups that are worried about the legislation.

Organizations that are worried about Bill C-50 have cause. The Animal Alliance of Canada has already stated publicly that it will target hunters and fishermen for court action once the legislation has been passed. Organizations like the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters and the Canadian Sportfishing Industry Association have provided the Liberal justice minister with a detailed legal opinion outlining their very real concerns about Bill C-50.

The justice minister would rather see an angler or hunter go through a costly and lengthy process of being charged and brought to trial than seeing justice served if the legislation were passed without amendment.

The people of Renfrew County are well acquainted with frivolous court challenges. The last several years have seen small sawmill owners dragged into court over the question of whether or not sawdust is a hazardous waste. Forget the fact that sawdust is used as mulch on gardens, including the flowerbeds on Parliament Hill, this did not prevent these hardworking sawmill owners from being charged and having to spend thousands of dollars on legal fees defending themselves in court.

Law-abiding hunters have been turned into criminals by a federal government that thinks that going after hunters is somehow going to stop shooting deaths in Toronto. Handguns have had to be registered since 1934 and that demonstrates how grossly incompetent the Liberal gun registry is. The fact that the Liberal Party has spent over $1 billion to register seven million firearms when it only cost $8 million to register 14 million cows is further evidence of the incompetence of this government.

Not content to harass hunters, now the Liberal Party has set its sight on fishermen with Bill C-50. Hunters would prefer to spend their hard earned dollars to preserve wildlife habitat, something Ontario hunters have contributed millions of dollars toward, instead of spending their money on lawyers and courts because some anti-hunting organization has targeted their group as its next fundraising poster campaign.

Many groups are on record as being opposed to Bill C-50. Let us be clear. Contrary to comments made by Liberal members, like the member for Whitby—Ajax, those concerns are real, based on past experience with this government and legislation like the firearms registry. Groups in opposition to this bill support measures to protect animals from unnecessary cruelty. As a constructive alternative, these groups have endorsed an initiative from the other place that is a reasonable alternative to the bill now before us.

It is important to congratulate the many groups that are supporting a constructive preference. As an MP from Ontario, I am pleased to acknowledge the following stakeholders around this province who represent the millions of Canadians for whom the wise use of animals remains a way of life and who provide important socioeconomic benefits, including billions of dollars annually to the Canadian economy.

I wish to acknowledge the Ontario Farm Animal Council, OFAC, on behalf of its founding member organizations: Chicken Farmers of Ontario, Dairy Farmers of Ontario, Ontario Egg Producers, Ontario Cattlemen's Association, Ontario Institute of Agrologists, Ontario Federation of Agriculture, Ontario Pork Producers’ Marketing Board, Ontario Turkey Producers' Marketing Board, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, Ontario Fur Managers Federation, Ontario Sheep Marketing Agency and Ontario Veal Association. These organizations are joined by sister organizations from across Canada asking this Parliament to protect heritage activities of rural Canadians.

As has been so completely demonstrated by the sponsorship ad scam scandal, special interest lobbyists dictate to the Liberal Party what they want. Bad legislation, bad policies and bad government are a consequence of the control of special interest lobbyists that get in the way of responsible government.

It is a sad statement that the problem of the democratic deficit, in addition to the massive misappropriation and misuse of public funds that is the legacy of the current Prime Minister, is the inability of the government to listen to ordinary Canadians, particularly when it comes to poorly drafted legislation like Bill C-50.

I would have thought that after all the previous failures by this government to protect animals from unnecessary cruelty starting six years ago, the government would have tried to get this legislation right. Instead, once again, this government refuses to work with individuals who are most affected. Once more we have a half measure that pleases only those special interest groups that it thinks it can trade support with votes.

It is not enough that the federal government has imposed on hunters a $2 billion gun registry scheme that transfers scarce dollars into a bloated bureaucracy that does not work. Those funds would have been better spent on front line policing, giving our police officers the resources to deal with the exploding crime problem in places like the streets of Toronto.

As much as the federal government tries to discourage heritage activity like hunting with its bloated gun registry, hunting is important to our economy and to our society. The hunting and fishing industry has an estimated annual value of over $10 billion to the Canadian economy. While Canadians enjoy the great outdoors, it is the people who support hunting and fishing who pay a disproportionate share for the preservation of wildlife habitat through the many fees, regulations, courses and taxes that only they pay, so that everyone can enjoy our forests and wildlife habitat.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 14th, 2005 / 5:40 p.m.
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Yukon Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Madam Speaker, I am very happy to again speak to the bill. As members have mentioned, it has been before the House a number of times. We are doing our speeches in themes on various aspects of the bill, so I am going to talk about the dramatic connection between animal cruelty and violent crimes by human beings.

In summary, the bill is very old and just needs an update to enhance the provisions to provide stricter penalties for animal cruelty. Vast numbers of Canadians want this. It makes sense. It is one of the most responded to bills for MPs. People should note that it does not change any of the traditional activities. There is nothing new. People can still hunt and fish and do research and sports with animals and there will still be traditional aboriginal hunting and fishing. All that remains the same. There are no changes here and there are no more chances of being prosecuted in those areas than there were before. That is very important for the traditional uses for agriculture, hunting and fishing in my riding.

Today I would like to talk about the overarching objective of this legislation, which is to have the justice system treat animal cruelty offences more seriously. This is entirely consistent with society's moral condemnation of the abuse and neglect of animals.

There is an even greater societal interest in taking the abuse of animals more seriously. Brutality and abuse do not exist in a vacuum. Many acts of cruelty have implications beyond the pain and suffering felt by the animal in question.

There is increasing scientific evidence of a link between animal cruelty and subsequent violent acts toward people. Studies have confirmed a statistically meaningful correlation between acts of animal cruelty and other forms of criminality, ranging from property crime to crimes of violence.

In the United States, the correlation between animal cruelty and violence began to be studied in earnest in the 1980s and 1990s. Recently some studies have also set out some interesting findings in this area in Canada. Let us take, for instance, the issue of domestic violence and partner abuse. A number of significant studies in the United States clearly showed an important link between animal cruelty and domestic violence. These studies were largely based on questionnaires given to women who fled to shelters.

Building on the U.S. studies, a few years ago a number of Canadian studies were undertaken with a view to gathering the same kind of data. The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals began looking at this issue in the late 1990s. In 1997, the OSPCA launched a violence prevention initiative. In furtherance of that initiative, it began conducting shelter surveys to gather data. The OSPCA did a shelter survey in 1998 and again in 2000.

The surveys involved 21 women's shelters from across the province. Of 130 women who responded in the survey done in 2000, 85% had a pet in the home within the last year. Of those women, 44% stated that their partner had previously killed or abused one or more family pet, while another 42% stated that their partner had threatened to hurt or kill a family pet. These are astounding and frightening statistics. More disturbing, 43% of the women said their concern for the welfare of the pet prevented them from leaving the abusive situation earlier. In other words, concern for the well-being of a pet may have put the lives of some women at greater risk by keeping them emotionally tethered to the home.

It should be noted that as part of its violence prevention initiative the OSPCA has called for the passage of this legislation on many occasions.

Building on the U.S. and Ontario work, another study was undertaken in Calgary in 2001. This study surveyed 100 women entering two shelters for abused women and children in Calgary. Sixty-five per cent of the women who responded either owned or had owned a pet within the 12 months prior to the questionnaire.

Of these women, more than half stated that their abuser threatened to hurt or kill or actually did hurt or kill the animal that lived in the home. More than 25% of pet-owning participants stated that they delayed their decision to flee their abusive environment because they feared for the safety of the animals they would be leaving behind.

The Canadian studies suggested numbers similar to those found in the American studies. For instance, a 1997 national survey of 50 of the largest shelters for battered women in the United States found that 85% of women and 63% of children entering shelters discussed incidents of pet abuse in the family.

Another dimension of family violence that has been looked at is the link between animal cruelty and the abuse or neglect of children. In one study of 57 families under the care of child welfare authorities, pets had been abused in 88% of the families in which children had also been physically abused. In two-thirds of the cases, the abusive parent had injured or killed the family pet, and in the remaining one-third of cases it was children who had abused the pet.

Children who witness animal cruelty inside the home stand an increased likelihood of committing animal cruelty themselves. Children act out what they learn at home. In other words, the pattern of abuse repeats itself.

Even when a child does not act out the aggression he or she sees at home, child welfare experts are coming to an agreement that displays of animal cruelty in front of a child can amount to a form of child abuse in and of itself. Children naturally love animals and can experience deep bonds of affection for their pets. If that pet is abused by a parent in the house, the effect on the child can be extremely destabilizing.

It cannot be compared to a child witnessing a parent destroying a television or a chair, which undoubtedly in itself would be frightening; an attack on a beloved pet, a living and breathing playmate for the child, can have a truly devastating effect on the psychological makeup and development of the child.

These studies teach us many important lessons. First, we can estimate that at least with respect to the households in which family violence occurs, there appears to be at least one companion animal in somewhere between 50% and 80% of those families. That represents a very large number of families.

Second, these animals are not mere property of the family, like the television or the car. Quite the contrary, people care a great deal about their pets, often regarding them as a member of the family and according them a correspondingly high degree of care, attention and respect.

Third, when someone exhibits violence toward a person, they are at an elevated risk of being violent toward an animal and vice versa. Violence and anger do not discriminate. They will be aimed at the most vulnerable, whatever the species.

Finally, the emotional bond between people and their pets is such that when violence is done or threatened against the family pet, there can be serious emotional or psychological consequences for the people who love the pet.

We intuitively know all of this, but when research and studies bear out our instincts, we need to pay attention. If we want to take domestic abuse seriously, we have to take animal cruelty seriously as well. If we care about the well-being of children, we also have to care about the well-being of animals. Treating animal abuse like a crime of violence will help not just the animals but people too.

There is a reason why numerous jurisdictions in the past decade have enhanced their criminal laws in respect of animal cruelty. Forty-one U.S. states now have criminal laws that make at least some form of animal cruelty a felony. Ten years ago, less than 20 states had felony cruelty laws.

In 1996 the United Kingdom enacted a statute that specifically targets cruelty to wild animals. Last year, the U.K. launched a reform of a new draft statute dealing with animal cruelty to kept animals as its existing statute is almost 100 years old.

Several jurisdictions in Australia have also revamped their animal cruelty regimes in recent years.

In the last decade, a number of provinces have also amended or totally revamped their animal welfare legislation. Just by way of example, Alberta amended its law in 2000, Saskatchewan in 1999, and British Columbia and Manitoba in 1996.

It might interest members to know that many provincial animal welfare statutes apply broadly, not just to domestic pets. Provincial statutes do not treat cruelty to animals as a matter of injury to property interests.

For instance, in Alberta the definition of an animal says only that it does “not include a human being”. In Saskatchewan, the legislation applies to “any animal other than a human being”. In Manitoba and New Brunswick, the law applies to a “non-human living being with a developed nervous system”.

In conclusion, I note that we do a great disservice to women and children who live in fear of abuse or who witness abuse of their beloved pets by insisting to them that the animal cruelty they witness in their homes is a matter of property crime. It is time to recognize animal cruelty for the act it is: an act of violence. It is time to pass Bill C-50. I urge all members to work cooperatively to pass the legislation.

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November 14th, 2005 / 5:30 p.m.
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NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Winnipeg Centre as well as the House for permitting us to split our time today to talk to Bill C-50, an act to amend the Criminal Code in respect of cruelty to animals. As has been noted, this has been through several procedures in the House in the past and we have not had a resolution of the bill. Hopefully, it will happen at this point in time.

There is an important acknowledgement that there is trapping as well as a history in our agriculture industry about animals and our farm culture. Separate to that there is an urban aspect of the bill that is very important.

I live in and represent an area of Windsor West where we have a significant urban population of 120,000 in a small geographic region. We have witnessed some terrible abuses to animals. In fact, back in my days on city council in 1997, I called for public hearings on feral cats in the city of Windsor. That created a big outrage in many respects. There were suggestions by some citizens that we should terminate these animals immediately, whereas others tried to look for solutions to increase the adoption and care of these animals as well as prevention techniques, which are very important.

In the debate at that time people came forward and said that they were treating animals, especially cats, with very improper actions. Some were poisoning the feral cats. Some were killing them outright. As well the humane society of the day was left to deal with the situation of capturing as many of them as possible. Then they would often be terminated because they were not adopted.

What came out of that process was a willingness to deal with the issue. The issue is that animals and pets in our culture are not just property. They are beings. They have a soul, a spirit and they are part of our lives. There is an ownership aspect. When we have the custodial care of a pet, we should care, nurture and ensure that its life is protected.

What came out of our hearings, which I think will be a step forward in Bill C-50, was the Jazzpurr Society for Animal Protection in Windsor was able to work with the city of Windsor to create a no kill policy. We have a spay and neuter program that assists in the reduction of the feral cat problem. As well we work on adoption and other measures.

It is important to note that there has to be support by governments with those types of initiatives for community groups and organizations. When Bill C-50 is passed, penalties will be involved.

The member from Winnipeg Centre also spoke of puppy mills and the well documented case on television about the atrocious behaviour of confining dogs. This is not acceptable and there should be penalties.

Another aspect in the bill, which has not been discussed very much, is the penalties for the treatment and poisoning of animals, especially law enforcement animals. In proposed section 182.7 it states:

(2) Every one commits an offence who wilfully or recklessly poisons, injures or kills a law enforcement animal while it is aiding or assisting a peace officer or public officer engaged in the execution of their duties or a person acting in aid of such an officer.

Windsor, Ontario has been instituted a fantastic program for police dogs. These dogs have become the partners of the officers. They spend not only the time on the job together but they spend part of their life together. It is important to note that a special bond and relationship develops. As well as the contribution dogs make to the community in terms of enforcement on drugs and protection of officers, there also is the public awareness for our children.

To injure, maim, poison or kill that dog is something that is traumatic to not only the officer but also to the force and the community. We need to have penalties in place that are much stronger because that is something we have not addressed at this current time.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 14th, 2005 / 5:25 p.m.
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NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleagues for the spirit of generosity that we feel in the House of Commons today.

On behalf of the NDP caucus, I am happy to have an opportunity to share our views on Bill C-50 in the first session of this 38th Parliament. I should note that I believe I spoke to this bill during the 37th Parliament and I spoke to this bill in the 36th Parliament, if I remember correctly.

I note that it is called an act to amend the Criminal Code in respect of cruelty to animals. I would volunteer that it would be cruel to MPs if we had to debate this bill for very much longer. It seems like I have dedicated a good chunk of my career to this bill and beyond all reason I think, too. If we were to canvas people around the country, there is a great deal of goodwill from well-meaning people around the country who would wish that we could adopt this bill and many of the provisions in it.

Without even speaking to the specifics of the bill, I think people are asking Parliament to recognize the status of animals that this bill actually contemplates. This bill, if nothing else or in its simplest form, would elevate animals from a simple material possession owned by someone to the status of an actual live being.

Anyone who has ever owned animals or even pets and looked into the eyes of their dog are ready to accept that this is not a possession, this is a being with a spirit, this is a being that has feelings, and this is a being that deserves to be treated in a humane way. I am speaking for a lot of animal lovers around the country when I say that we celebrate the idea of being able to recognize that cruelty to animals should be acknowledged as a crime and that penalties for cruelty to animals should be greater than they are currently today.

I am also cognizant, though, of the points raised by my colleague from the Conservative Party that we do not want to go over the deep end to where we are somehow criminalizing activities that are part of our culture and heritage. If anything, hunting, trapping, fishing and farming certainly, and raising cattle are part of the Canadian identity. It would be foolish for us to go over the deep end and imply that by putting a worm on a hook to go fishing is somehow violating the rights of that worm. We do not want to get silly with this.

This idea, this shift, from viewing animals as simply property that can be treated however the owner of that property sees fit and viewing an animal as a sentient being, a being with, I will not go as far as to say a soul but with a spirit, a life force that we acknowledge and recognize. That is a quantum leap in law and in the way that we craft our legislation.

This issue has been a difficult one because we cannot deal with the subject of cruelty to animals without allowing emotions to creep into it. Many of us viewed television screens in the last week where yet another one of these puppy mills was revealed in a news magazine-type television broadcast. It was horrifying. It made Canadians angry.

It is fitting and appropriate that on the heels of that revelation we should be dealing with this issue in the House of Commons today. It makes me feel proud because if anything, the very thing that this bill seeks to enforce and to address is the thing that we witnessed in that television show where people were not being cruel to animals in the process of raising them or even slaughtering them for use and food, they were being cruel to those animals based on pure greed.

We believe in the New Democratic Party that there is a place in our legislative regime to enforce laws dealing with cruelty to animals in a much more disciplined way. I hope that the spirit of cooperation that exists in the House of Commons today can manifest itself in a new law that gets tough on those who would be cruel to animals.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 14th, 2005 / 5:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Madam Speaker, I want to offer a couple of suggestions for amendments and get the hon. member's reaction to them.

First, I want to make the comment that I do not think this is necessarily an urban-rural issue because I know of many people in our large cities that love to hunt and fish. This will have a very chilling effect on that. It does not protect normal farming practices. My question would be, why not put amendments in this bill to protect normal hunting and fishing practices and introduce amendments like other areas that have this kind of legislation?

I will quote from a number of states that have included in this type of legislation a section that read something like this: “It is an exception to the application of this section that the conduct engaged in by the actor is generally accepted and otherwise lawful: (a) fishing, hunting or trapping” or from another state, “fishing, hunting or trapping of wildlife controlled and regulated pursuant to the natural resources and Environmental protection acts”.

Many farmers use practices to control pests and rodents, that kind of thing, around their farmyards and they could be at risk. I want to read a bit more of the Lang Michener brief, so the member does not think I am somehow making this stuff up. It states:

While there are legislative mechanisms ensuring that both the federal Attorney General and provincial Crown Attorneys are able to oversee private prosecutions and intervene when appropriate, the Attorney General and the Crown Attorneys are not required to do so. The fear of private prosecutions by animal rights groups is not unfounded. So it is likely that individual anglers or hunters will be charged under Bill C-50 and will be drawn into the criminal court system for a period of time, whether or not such matter proceeds to trial.

Even if anyone charged under this section is ultimately acquitted, or if the Attorney General or Crown Attorney were to intervene to stay the proceeding, this long and involved process will certainly be costly and difficult for the anglers or hunters involved. Such prosecutions will clearly have a chilling effect on anglers and hunters across Canada.

This is the issue I am raising. Why can we not put an amendment in here to protect fishing, hunting and normal farming practices?

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November 14th, 2005 / 5:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to make a few remarks in connection with Bill C-50 before the House at this time. It is noteworthy, as other speakers have mentioned, that this issue has been before the House for a number of years. It has proven to be very difficult legislation to get right and to get through the House and the Senate. The Senate has been one of the obstacles, I think, in getting this through.

Originally the legislation became tangled up in a couple of omnibus bills and at some point we all recognized that the bill, even by itself, was troublesome and difficult. Fortunately, the bill now stands on its own and I think the government has taken the view that rather than trying to rewrite the whole piece, reinvent a good portion of the wheel, that it would go back to basics and has essentially in this legislation reused the language that exists in the Criminal Code.

There has been some modification to the language and some rewriting but essentially the government is of the view that for the most part the legislation is simply restating what is already in the Criminal Code. There are some notable exceptions to that and those exceptions are the main point of debate, or at least they should be.

I think all or most of us in the House can agree that there was a need to modernize the language, to update the legislation and to legislate tougher sentences. The trick, given the dynamic that is out there across Canada in the various communities, is to get that piece correct. The principal dynamic that I think has been the biggest obstacle is that we have a rural-urban divide here. Some of the push for this new legislation has come from urban areas and part of the urban politics include what some have referred to as animal rights activists. That is not necessarily a pejorative term, and it perhaps is not to the people who are looking out for our animal friends all across the country, but they do want firm legislation that protects animals from pain and unnecessary death. The problem is not their objectives at all. It is perhaps how they carry on their work. In rural Canada we have people who have been taking care of animals and who have been the experts in animal husbandry for centuries and doing it without much of a problem and they provide the food for our tables. They have been serving our country and serving open mouths around the world for centuries and taking care of animals.

The rural perspective, the farm land perspective on cruelty to animals, would be just fine but when we begin to measure what happens on the farm, whether it is a big production or a small production farm, and we combine that with those who I will call the animal rights activists, we end up with disagreements. As we go to legislate, while almost everyone agrees on the principle that we had to modernize and beef up the sentencing, the actual definitions become very important. The people on the farms want to ensure that when we as legislators pass the new law that we do not adopt a definition that will interfere with their families' abilities on the farm to take care of their animals and to slaughter the animals in the ordinary course as they might do for food and as they have been doing for centuries, whereas from the urban perspective we have individuals who, for what they believe are excellent reasons, do everything they can to reduce the killing of any animals by humankind and certainly they want to reduce suffering among animals caused by any source.

Everyone in that morality plight that I have just described is actually doing a fairly good job right now, but as we legislate, these differences in perspective are coming out and our challenge in the House is to find some legislation that satisfies both and everyone in the middle as best we can.

One of the things that may assist us in the event that matters do end up in court is the discretion of the judge. There may in fact be differing perspectives, rural and urban. One of the rather ugly urban perspectives has to do with the scenario of a person conspicuously torturing and killing a domestic animal or pet. These ugly incidents often end up in newspapers, magazines and in the electronic media, and the public says that we, in Canada, have to do something to prevent that from happening and where it does happen, to firmly respond.

I suppose it is a little bit unfair to say that part of the resolution here will lie in the hands of a prosecutor and a judge, but at the end of the day, those two perspectives may have to be managed by the courts, the prosecutors and the judges.

I say that, acknowledging right up front, that we do not want our social problems to be managed by judges. Judges are there to resolve conflicts and to make decisions about guilt or innocence. It is unfair to ask our judicial community to be the arbiters of everything that goes on in society. However, I do offer the judicial process, at the end of this, as being a kind of spill safe mechanism to ensure that community standards and community perspectives are brought to bear in dealing with these portions of the Criminal Code.

I want to dwell briefly on the language of the provisions. As I said earlier, the bill, for the most part, continues language and concepts already existing in the Criminal Code. The offence of causing unnecessary pain to an animal stays the same, give or take, but the sentence is increased from the current six month maximum to a five year maximum. This upgrades the sentence into what we call a hybrid offence where it may be summary conviction or indictable, depending on the discretion of the prosecutor, but the maximum sentence goes up to five years.

There is a new provision that I will not read from the statute, but it involves brutally or viciously killing an animal. That offence also has a five year maximum and it too is a hybrid offence.

The concept of causing pain by negligence or allowing pain to happen by negligence, certainly wilfully, has an increased sentence as well. That would be a sentence of two years maximum. That would keep it as a summary conviction offence.

I note that the bill is only four pages long. In terms of a piece of legislation around here, that is relatively small.

The issues that I have attempted to address, the issues that colleagues around the House are attempting to deal with, all revolve around setting a threshold that it will be a criminal offence and defining it in a way that it will not impair the ability of our farmland communities to raise livestock and produce food the way they have always done so well for us.

We are looking for the magic solution. In my view, at this point, I think the government has come forward with a good vehicle and I am prepared to support it. At the same time, I am also interested in any debate that ensues and its disposition at committee should it pass the House at second reading.

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November 14th, 2005 / 5:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Madam Speaker, I refer again to the main point I was making in my speech. Bill S-24 would be much preferable to the present bill. I would like to read a bit more of this legal brief rather than give my opinion and the question the member has asked will be answered.

These concerns are met by the provisions of Bill S-24 in s. 445.1(1)(a), namely, “Everyone commits an offence who wilfully causes or, being the owner, wilfully permits to be caused unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal or a bird”. This offence extends to activities which do not result in the death of an animal, and to those which do.

The second point made in the Lang Michener letter is:

The phrase “regardless of whether the animal dies immediately” in s. 182.2(1)(b) prevents any participant in recreational hunting or fishing charged under this section from making the argument that because the death of an animal is immediate the death should not be considered to be brutal or vicious. Depending on the circumstances of the case before the court, such an argument may or may not succeed but it is not reasonable to prevent an accused from making this argument. Immediate death is a widely accepted definition of humane killing and this section attempts to change this standard. It is a commonly held view that it is more humane to kill an animal promptly and exactly than to allow an animal to suffer for a long period of time. In R. v. Jones, the judge found that it was more humane to kill an animal quickly and cleanly than to allow it to suffer a prolonged death.

I want to get to point three, which goes beyond what the member has asked. This is a very important part of this legal brief. It reads:

If Bill C-50 becomes law, animal rights groups will harass and prosecute anglers and hunters. Liz White, a director of the Animal Alliance of Canada, one of Canada's major animal rights organizations, stated:

“The onus is on humane societies and other groups on the front lines to push this legislation to the limit, to test the parameters of this law and have the courage and conviction to lay charges. That's what this is all about. Make no mistake about it”.

In the second reading of Bill S-24, Senator Bryden quotes Dr. Bessie Borwein, Special Advisor to the Vice-President of Research at the University of Western Ontario:

“There are animal rights groups in Canada that have specifically and publicly stated their intention to use Bill C-10 [previous versions of Bill C-22 and Bill C-50] to further their agenda. They say they will use the law to press charges and to test it to the utmost. They will use peace officers or authorized organizations like the SPCA or humane societies sympathetic to their cause in order to press this...”.

That is where I rest my case and that is why we oppose the legislation. Unless amendments are made to protect these traditional hunting and fishing activities I cannot accept what the members opposite are telling me.

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November 14th, 2005 / 4:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I as well am very pleased to participate in the debate of Bill C-50. Over the summer I received many complaints about Bill C-50. I am glad I have a chance to share these concerns with my fellow MPs before the bill goes to committee for further work.

The government has been at this since December 1999. We have had this bill around in one form or another for the last six years. We have seen Bills C-17, C-15, C-15B, C-10, C-10B and C-22. Now it is called Bill C-50 and the Liberals still do not have it right.

I am going to be giving members some legal opinions rather than just discussing some of my own opinions. I am going to read into the record a brief from a lawyer. Before I do that, I want to make a couple of personal observations about the bill based on my own experience on this issue.

Our young people really need to experience our natural created environment. Fishing is a wholesome sport that makes our young men and women appreciate the world around them. This is not something only for our aboriginal people. Getting close to nature is a very healthy, therapeutic experience that has no substitute. It is a wholesome alternative to some of the activities our youth can get involved in and that lead to serious problems for them and society. We should be encouraging more outdoor activities that bring us closer to the created world. As it stands, Bill C-50 would discourage some of the activities that our young people could engage in to appreciate the world around us, activities such as hunting and fishing.

I would like to see hunting and fishing promoted. That would do more to preserve the environment than any big government program or course of study at some educational institution. Participating in activities like hunting and fishing provides an incentive to maintain a healthy, natural environment. That is why we need to make an amendment to proposed paragraph 182.2(1)(b). Without an amendment, we will discourage many of youth from getting out into the great outdoors. We will also discourage people who normally would want to preserve the environment from doing so.

Those are the two personal notes I wanted to add for members before I get into the legal critique of the bill.

I am going to read into the record a letter written by Mr. Peter R. Hayden, Q.C., of the Lang Michener law firm. This legal opinion was prepared on behalf of the following organizations: the British Columbia Wildlife Federation. the Alberta Fish and Game Association, the Manitoba Wildlife Federation, the Ontario Federation of Anglers & Hunters, the Fédération québécoise de la faune, the New Brunswick Wildlife Federation, the Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers & Hunters, the Canadian sport fishing industry and the Canadian Sporting Arms and Ammunition Association.

This letter from the Lang Michener firm was written to our Minister of Justice, the Attorney General of Canada, here in Ottawa. It states:

We wish to register our strong support for the swift passage of Bill S-24 introduced by Liberal Senator John Bryden and to state our opposition to the passage of Bill C-50.

Bill S-24 accomplishes the Government's primary objective in the reform of animal cruelty provisions, namely increasing the maximum penalties for existing offences of animal cruelty, as is done in Bill C-50. We object to the balance of Bill C-50 because, as Senator Bryden says of Bill C-22 and Bill C-50, they would substantively change the law of animal cruelty, and negatively impact “Canadians who hunt and fish lawfully”.

Specifically, we object to s. 182.2(1)(b), which, for the first time in Canadian history, makes it an offence to kill an animal brutally or viciously without defining those terms and does not exempt from this offence normal hunting and fishing. This new offence will be used by animal rights activists who will employ provisions of the Criminal Code to bring private prosecutions to harass lawful anglers and hunters.

For the reasons cited below, the oft-cited defences of legal justification, excuse, and colour of right in the Criminal Code would not be of much assistance to an angler or hunter charged under Bill C-50.

While you and your Department have said that the offence of cruelty to animals is not intended to forbid conduct that is socially acceptable or authorized by law, such as hunting and fishing, Bill C-50 will have the ultimate effect of intimidating anglers and hunters who will be discouraged from participating in the outdoor heritage activities of hunting and fishing for the fear of prosecution.

This legal brief continues under the title “Support of Bill S-24”. It states:

According to the Department of Justice, the primary objective in revising the Criminal Code's animal cruelty sections is to enable the courts to impose longer sentences commensurate with the severity of the animal cruelty offences. Bill S-24 achieves the goal of increasing penalties that may be imposed in cases of animal cruelty and allows the Crown to proceed either summarily or by indictment to achieve a result suitable to the crime committed. Bill S-24 also retains many current sections and offences under the Criminal Code, which has the additional advantage of leading to certainty of interpretation of these sections owing to the well established body of decided cases on the current animal cruelty provisions of the Criminal Code.

The next subtitle is “Anglers and Hunters Do Not Support Bill C-50”, under which it is stated:

The Associations on whose behalf we are writing to you do not support Bill C-50. We understand that you received a letter dated November 22, 2004 (the “Coalition letter”) purporting to be from all of Canada's animal-based sectors, which outlines the group's position of support for the “swift passage” of certain amendments to the Criminal Code “as rapidly as possible”, namely the proposed animal cruelty provisions as contained in Bill C-22 which are the same as Bill C-50, with the exception of the provision for the protection of existing aboriginal or treaty rights in s. 182.6.

The Coalition letter did not in any way represent the interests of Canadian anglers and hunters. We note that these Coalition members have since sent a letter to Senator Bryden joining the Associations in registering their full support of Bill S-24 and their support of the rationale presented by Senator Bryden in moving second reading of Bill S-24.

The next subtitle is “Problems with Bill C-50”, under which it is stated:

We have serious concerns about Bill C-50 and we have set out below what these concerns are.

The Department of Justice has clarified that beyond increasing penalties for existing animal cruelty offences, the objective of Bill C-22, and accordingly Bill C-50, is to “simplify, modernize and fill gaps in the offence structure of the animal cruelty regime”. As Senator Bryden says, the changes to animal cruelty law in Bill C-22 and Bill C-50, other than the increasing of penalties, amount to significant changes to the law which should require very careful and open debate.

Let me emphasize that phrase: “significant changes to the law”. I would also like to read for members a quote from a footnote in this letter, referring to Liberal Senator John Bryden speaking in the Senate:

[T]hese housekeeping amendments went further than modernizing language and simplifying the law. Arguably, they would be substantively changing the law....If there is a consensus that the law on cruelty to animals needs reforming, then let us have that debate, but let us do so honestly, openly and in a transparent manner, engaging the Canadian public and parliamentarians as these important issues require.

Let me continue with the Lang Michener letter to the justice minister:

To that end, we would like to set out our serious objections to Bill C-50, other than the increasing of penalties, on behalf of the Associations.

  1. S. 182.2(1)(b) makes it an offence to kill animals brutally and viciously, regardless of whether the animal dies immediately.

Hunting and fishing necessarily involve the killing of animals. Animal rights groups consistently attempt to portray these traditional Canadian heritage activities as inherently brutal and vicious. Under Bill C-50, a hunter or angler may be prosecuted and convicted of the offence of killing an animal brutally or viciously for engaging in normal hunting and fishing practices.

The killing of animals simpliciter has never been the activity the legislature intended to prevent. The killing of animals is a necessary result of most animal use industries and of hunting and fishing. Canadians' concerns regarding animal cruelty do not relate to the act of killing animals--

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 14th, 2005 / 4:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Michael John Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, it does have an impact on people who graduate from cruelty to animals to being cruel and inhuman to other human beings. Again, we are talking about vicious and brutal acts. As kids, many of us witnessed activity among our friends where animals were hurt in some way. I never saw some of the really brutal examples of animal violence that we hear about in the news, but I certainly have seen friends do things that they should not have done.

Society has evolved. I would expect and I know that my children are more respectful of animals than children were in my generation. We have come some way and the bill recognizes that. The fact is that this will obviously catch some people earlier because what they are doing will be criminal at an earlier stage due to the bill. This means that we may well have less violent offenders and get a chance to catch people and rehabilitate them before they go on to injure human beings. That is a bit of a side benefit of Bill C-50.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 14th, 2005 / 4:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Michael John Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-50, amendments to the Criminal Code in relation to cruelty to animals.

Members who have been in the House longer than I will remember from the last Parliament when the bill was Bill C-22. This legislation has been before this House consistently since 1999 when it was first introduced in an omnibus criminal law bill, Bill C-17.

Canadians from all walks of life have expressed and continue to express support for stronger animal cruelty laws. I know the minister continues to receive countless letters in support of these amendments. I have certainly received letters and heard concerns from my constituents. As MPs we hear from a lot of people. I heard from someone this morning in relation to the puppy mill in Quebec which my NDP colleague spoke about previously. This issue is very much on the minds of Canadians.

For various reasons the bill has never passed both this House and the other place in the same form. It is true that when it was first introduced, a degree of discomfort was felt by a number of industry stakeholders, farmers and animal researchers, about the potential negative impact of the legislation on their activities. These are legitimate concerns and they have been addressed.

Over the past five years, significant work has gone on in Parliament, in the chamber and in committee, as well as in meetings and discussions with concerned parties to bring a greater consensus in support of this legislation.

In the summer of 2003 when a final set of amendments were made to the legislation, a broad based coalition of industry groups came to feel more comfortable with the legislation and in fact supported these amendments, alongside animal welfare groups and veterinary associations. These groups even wrote to urge the minister to re-table this very legislation.

Since that set of changes, not just those people who advocate for the interests of animals, but also many of those whose livelihoods actually depend upon the use of animals are now eager to see these amendments become law. Those groups include organizations representing the agricultural sector, trappers, fur farming industries, and the animal research community. This indicates that we have addressed a wide range of concerns.

One of the objectives of the reforms is the enhancement of existing maximum penalties for animal cruelty. Today even the most heinous mutilation or torture of animals can result in only six months' imprisonment or a $2,000 fine. There is widespread consensus that these maximum penalties are too low to deter or denounce behaviour that we know happens across this country. Our views toward animals have changed a lot in this country and in this world over the past number of years.

Part of the penalty enhancement reform involves making these offences dual procedure and giving the Crown the ability to proceed by indictment in the more serious cases. In those cases, the maximum penalty goes up from six months in prison to five years, and the ceiling of $2,000 is removed, in keeping with the sentencing for all indictable offences in the code.

There are more specific sentencing measures in addition to these general standard ones. Currently there is a two year maximum on orders preventing the offender from owning or possessing animals. This two year maximum ceiling will also be removed so the courts will have the power to make an order for any length of time the court considers appropriate.

In addition, Bill C-50 will introduce a new power for the court to order, in addition to any other sentence, that a convicted offender repay the costs of taking care of the animal in question. If a person or organization took in the animal after the cruelty incident, the person who committed the offence would be responsible.

In every province there are statutorily created societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals. We all know those. These agencies are under a legal obligation to protect animals from cruelty by seizing and caring for them when they are in distress, for example a puppy mill, yet these statutory bodies receive very little in the way of public funding. When they take in an animal that has been abused, care for it and provide veterinary services, food, shelter and comfort, they generally do so with money obtained from public donations.

We all know people in our communities who do this kind of work. In my community of Dartmouth--Cole Harbour, I think of people like Judith Gass, a former Progressive Conservative candidate in the 1993 federal election, who does great work. I also think of the many vets in my riding who talk to me about the concerns they have when they see animals in distress.

Bill C-50 will make it clear that the offender may be found responsible for repaying the costs associated with his or her criminal act. That is good sentencing policy. By holding the offender accountable for the costs, we do a better job at educating the offender about the consequences of his or her crime and hopefully this contributes to his or her rehabilitation.

Law reform is about more than adjusting numbers. It is also about making sure the substance of the law prohibits all forms of misconduct and does so in the clearest possible language and provides the most coherent structure of offences. Bill C-50 also contains a number of elements that accomplish this important set of objectives.

The amendments will create a new offence that directly targets the wilful killing of an animal with brutal intention, such as by strapping an explosive on the animal--we have heard of that--or fastening the animal to a railway line. These types of acts, which most people consider impossible to imagine, are perhaps the most despicable form of cruelty we can imagine and may not be caught by our existing law if the person had or could prove a legitimate excuse for killing the animal. We are closing this loophole so that even when the law allows a person to kill an animal, he or she cannot do it with the intention of being brutal.

Euthanasia, slaughter, hunting practices could be humane. The hallmarks of humane euthanasia are that the methods are tried and true. They involve a minimization of pain and suffering. They are reproducible and reliable and do not pose any risk of failure or risk of harm to others.

Sometimes a person who kills an animal has another set of intentions reflected in acts that are not reliable methods of killing, which pose risks to that person or to others and which have uncertain and non-reproducible effects. Exploding an animal in a microwave, which we have heard of, or dropping it from a tall building are examples. If someone kills an animal with that state of mind, there is a good chance he or she is being deliberately brutal. The law must clearly prohibit and sternly punish this type of behaviour.

Another set of changes will clear up some of the language that is currently confusing. The code now has a set of offences in relation to cattle, a set of offences in relation to animals that are kept for a lawful purpose, and another set of offences for all animals. This produces duplication and some overlap. There are also omissions. For instance, there are special provisions on cockfighting and the keeping of cockpits. We know, sadly, that dog fighting also happens in our country. Why should our law not also prohibit that? There is no reason.

Bill C-50, a comprehensive law reform package in this area will rectify that deficiency. It will also remove current language, such as “dogs, birds and other animals”, which is a phrase that can do nothing except confuse. It will also remove the nonsensical notion of wilful neglect, which does not exist anywhere else in criminal law because it conflates two entirely different concepts. Wilful means deliberate and intentional, whereas neglect means inadvertence. Combining these two into one concept is bad criminal law. Bill C-50 will rectify that.

The bill will also provide a definition of animal when none currently exists. That definitely will be a “non-humane vertebrate”, for example. Today, there is no definition. This means that a worm or a snail or any possible living creature would probably be included. Since many industry groups have expressed concern over such an interpretation, Bill C-50 brings desirable clarity to the question. Without Bill C-50, the question of the scope of the law remains open and it leads to uncertainty.

Finally, Bill C-50 will create a new part of the Criminal Code with the title “Cruelty to Animals” as a chapter devoted just to these offences. This will permit the offences to be taken out of part XI, “Wilful and Forbidden Acts in Respect of Certain Property”.

I am aware that this change has been the subject of debate and discussion, but let us be clear about it in the bill. This change will not and cannot have the effect of altering the legal status of animals as property. The fact that animals are property is a result of property law, which is within the constitutional authority of provinces, not of this Parliament. The common law of this country and that of our Commonwealth cousins bears out centuries of jurisprudence that firmly establishes that animals are the property of the people or of the Crown. There are some people who would disagree with that. There are people who were referred to earlier as radical in this cause. This is a mainstream bill. This is not an extreme bill. It is legally impossible for the relocation of offences from one chapter of the Criminal Code to another to have any effect whatsoever on the legal status of animals as property.

The bill reflects the mainstream and widely held view of Canadians that the people with whom we share this planet are worthy of more respect than maybe we accorded them years ago. The bill is a meaningful and reasonable solution that addresses the needs of many stakeholders, people who work with animals, people who own animals, as well as people who just like to be with animals. The bill provides a sensible solution for all Canadians. I urge the adoption of Bill C-50.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 14th, 2005 / 4:15 p.m.
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NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

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.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 14th, 2005 / 4 p.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to Bill C-50, an act to amend the Criminal Code in respect of cruelty to animals, and convey the Bloc Québécois' position in this respect.

Allow me to read the summary. It states:

This enactment would amend the Criminal Code by consolidating animal cruelty offences and increasing the maximum penalties.

So, the intention is to create a separate section in the Criminal Code for cruelty to animals and to increase the penalties for criminal offences committed by those found guilty of cruelty to animals.

We have heard two kinds of arguments from the Liberals and the Conservatives. That is why we are in favour of the bill being referred to committee. Efforts have to be made to ensure that there is a proper balance between protecting animals and protecting legitimate activities. In fact, that is what the Bloc Québécois has always sought in this House: to ensure that, while protecting animals, we remain able to assure the animal, farm, medical, sports and other industries that they can pursue their activities without being under constant threat of prosecution. Naturally, this is not easy, and it is much more complicated.

There have been examples such as the recent one in Quebec, where about a hundred dogs were seized. They had been so badly looked after that over half of them had to be put down. It is necessary to make it a criminal offence to raise dogs for personal use and not to respect their needs.

There are good animal breeders of course, but those involved in this industry, as well as farmers and those using animals in the medical field, or for sport such as hunting and other activities, need to feel at ease.

Here is some background information. This is the sixth time this bill has come up. It has been numbered C-17, C-15B, C-10, C-10B, C-22 and C-50. I must point out that the Senate has blocked it every time. This raises a lot of questions.

I will simply read out part of the bill, so that we can raise the questions together. The first clause is an addition to section 182 of the Criminal Code. It will therefore become 182.2(1). It reads:

Every one commits an offence who, wilfully or recklessly... (c) kills an animal without lawful excuse.

This refers to the commission of a criminal offence. The other sub-clauses are far clearer:

(b) kills an animal brutally or viciously—

(d) without lawful excuse, poisons an animal, places poison—

It is never easy to use examples such as poisoning an animal. The dictionary definition of animal is a simple one, “animal means a vertebrate, other than a human being”. We then have the following definition of vertebrate: “animal sub-phylum consisting of all organisms possessing a vertebral column made up of bony or cartilaginous vertebrae. The vertebrates are made up of the following five categories: fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.” So both a rat and an ox fall within this definition.

Two weeks ago, we debated a bill on strychnine. It involved examining its use by farmers to rid themselves of rodents on a large scale. Rodents are obviously vertebrates.

Finally, in reading the definition providing that every one commits an offence who, without lawful excuse, kills an animal or poisons an animal, we might ask what the lawful excuse is. In this respect, we must refer to sections 444 and 445 of the Criminal Code, which set out a means of defence, that is, the lawful excuse. Subsection 429(2) provides that: “No person shall be convicted of an offence under sections 430 to 446 where he proves that he acted with legal justification or excuse and with colour of right”.

That assumes then that a lawful excuse is possible as a defence. It also means that a person has been charged. A person draws on the part of the Criminal Code that provides a lawful excuse because that person has been charged. The way the bill was written, it provides for lawful excuses. However, it is not very clear in the case of certain industries. We can understand then their concern about being accused voluntarily or involuntarily or frivolously and having to defend themselves.

The problem when a charge is laid is the wait until a trial is held for acquittal on the grounds of there being a lawful excuse. The trial has to be held. Problems of public perception can arise when a charge has been laid. This is sort of what the Bloc Québécois wants to do.

We support a bill preventing cruelty to animals. Never again must anything like what happened in Quebec on the weekend recur. Over 100 animals were in such terrible condition that over half of them had to be euthanized, because their master, or owner, who deserves no such recognition, was cruel to them. There must be the right to charge such a person and punish them, in the end. The problem is that it is hard to strike a balance.

That is why the Bloc Québécois is in favour of making a decision today and sending this bill back to committee. We will then have a chance to hear, we hope, as many witnesses as possible from sports associations, farming groups, the medical industry, the animal breeding industry and so on. These people could explain to us their experience of the situation.

I am sure these people do not want any cruelty toward animals either. Nonetheless, they want to be able to operate in accordance with the law and without a constant threat over their head every time an animal has to be slaughtered during their operations and for a possible suit to be filed against them. They would then be charged and their names would be in the media and in the papers. They would get only one chance to use the lawful excuse defence.

The Bloc Québécois wants to protect this balance between legitimate activities and criminal activities involving cruelty to animals. Rest assured, the Bloc Québécois will fully support this.

Not everything in this bill needs to be redefined. I will read subclause 182.2(1)( e ):

Every one commits an offence who, wilfully or recklessly—

in any manner encourages, promotes, arranges, assists at or receives money for the fighting or baiting of animals, including training an animal to fight another animal—

Of course we can all agree on this. Such discussions were held in committee. Some provisions of this bill are quite interesting. Subclause 182.2(1)( f ) reads as follows:

—makes, maintains, keeps or allows to be made, maintained or kept a cockpit or any other arena for the fighting of animals on premises that he or she owns or occupies—

Subclause 182.2(1)( g ):

—promotes, arranges, conducts, assists in, receives money for or takes part in any meeting, competition, exhibition, pastime, practice, display or event at or in the course of which captive animals are liberated by hand, trap, contrivance or any other means for the purpose of being shot at the moment they are liberated—

I see that I have only one minute left.

It is clear that this concerns the offences set out in ( h ), which states: “being the owner, occupier or person in charge of any premises, permits the premises or any part of the premises to be used in the course of an activity referred to in paragraph ( e ) or ( g )”, referring to animal fights and other things.

The Bloc Québécois does not question the entire bill, but rather it is a question of striking the right balance between legitimate breeding, hunting and scientific and medical research activities, meaning the animal, farming, medical and sports industries. All we want is for the workers in this industry not to feel constantly in danger of being accused of cruelty toward animals when they operate their business in accordance with legitimate and legal practices. That is the balance we are seeking. The men and women we represent can rely on the Bloc Québécois to defend the interests of animals and ensure that people guilty of cruelty to pets will get what they deserve, meaning jail time. We agree with the increased sentences proposed in the bill. All we want is a fair balance between legitimate activities and cruelty to animals.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 14th, 2005 / 3:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Vic Toews Conservative Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address Bill C-50, an act to amend the Criminal Code in respect of cruelty to animals.

It has been a great source of frustration for many Canadians that the government has been attempting to legislate changes to animal cruelty offences since 1999 without success. Several versions of this bill have wound their way through the House and Senate only to die on the order paper. The parliamentary secretary did go through those previous versions. There were concerns that the proposed amendments could have criminalized some common and lawful activities such as catch and release fishing, trapping, hunting, and even some farming practices.

We are not just talking about our friends the animals, which is how urban people might view animals, and we have lots of animal friends. I have a dog who is a friend. Animals are also used in the context of agriculture, and those animals are not necessarily our friends. We have to recognize that animals play a dual role in our society. I recall the 2% strychnine solution being argued here regarding our friends the gophers. Gophers destroy thousands of acres of land every year and kill or hurt other animals that fall into gopher holes. We have to remember that all animals are not our friends.

Throughout the debates on these bills, Conservative MPs and senators strongly expressed their desire to prevent abuse of animals, but sought legal protection for those who use animals for legitimate, lawful and justified practices. The Senate was ultimately successful in amending Bill C-10B to narrow the definition of animal and to ensure that current legal defences for legitimate practices would be maintained.

Bill C-10B was reprinted in the House of Commons as Bill C-22, and was supported by the Conservative Party in light of the Senate amendments. However, the bill died at committee in the Senate in May 2004 before the last general election.

As the parliamentary secretary has explained, this enactment would amend the Criminal Code by consolidating animal cruelty offences and increasing the maximum penalties.

One of the things we have to realize is that these changes to the Criminal Code will not make it easier to prosecute animal offences. It is very difficult to prosecute animal offences. We hear about all kinds of horrendous examples such as skinning a cat, or putting cats into microwaves, those kinds of things. The point is that these changes will not make it any easier to prosecute those types of offences. The injustice that is often done is a result of inadequate evidence to prosecute the offence.

I am not necessarily opposing these amendments. We have voted on them many times already. I am suggesting that when there is a conviction, meaningful sentences should be put in place. There have been philosophical debates about whether an animal is property or whether it is not quite a human being, as some animal rights activists would have us believe, but the point is that appropriate penalties need to be in place so that when these difficult cases are successfully prosecuted, meaningful sentences are imposed.

One of the concerns that many animal groups involved in agriculture, fishing and hunting have mentioned to me about the current bill is that it would make it illegal to brutally and viciously kill an animal regardless of whether or not the animal dies immediately. I have a lot of concerns about that particular provision because it really takes an urban person's point of view about the killing of an animal. Many urban people look at the practice of killing a particular animal as being brutal and vicious and therefore that practice should be stopped. The real point we need to consider is not simply whether it looks brutal or vicious, but whether the animal in fact dies immediately. We want to minimize the animal's pain. I think all of us are agreed on that.

I am concerned that what we are doing here is taking a key relevant factor in determining whether or not something is brutal or vicious and making it irrelevant. We need to take a look at that particular issue. That more than any other issue has raised concerns for the groups who depend on animals for their livelihood.

I have no concern about raising the penalties. If there is genuine cruelty to animals and a prosecution is successful, we need to prosecute those cases vigorously and impose appropriate penalties.

There is one thing I find remarkable about Liberals. I wish Liberals would speak as passionately about human victims as they sometimes do about animal victims. I am very concerned about human victims. This is perhaps an appropriate segue into that entire issue.

I raised in question period the issue that under Bill C-70 a judge will be able to impose house arrest on someone who rapes a woman. The minister said that there would be exceptional circumstances where that would happen. I asked him in question period today under what exceptional circumstances should people who rape women serve their time at home. I am concerned about that kind of thing.

I am concerned about brutality toward animals, but I am also very concerned about the brutality that we demonstrate to other human beings. When we catch those animals who commit crimes against their fellow human beings, we say we should leave the door open for exceptional circumstances so that the poor rapist can serve his time at home. I am concerned about that kind of thing and I dare say most Canadians are.

I am concerned about drug dealers who are peddling poisons that kill our children. I am concerned about that. Yet under the Liberals' Bill C-70, drug dealers who are repeat offenders can get house arrest. I wish Liberals would talk as passionately about keeping those kinds of animals behind bars, those who would do that kind of thing to our children and fellow citizens.

I have pointed out a very practical problem with this bill. I hope the parliamentary secretary looks at that particular issue. At the same time I would encourage the parliamentary secretary to ask the Minister of Justice what he is doing in Bill C-70 to allow vicious, brutal rapists and drug dealers who are destroying our youth and communities to get house arrest in exceptional circumstances. We were assured by past justice ministers, Allan Rock and others, that it would never happen that conditional sentences or house arrest would be used for violent offences.

I want to see some amendments to this bill. I think it is moving in the right direction. We have had this debate over and over. I remind the parliamentary secretary that he should show the same concern for human victims as he does for animal victims.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 14th, 2005 / 3:40 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I have a comment and then I want to ask a question.

It is very appropriate, in my opinion, to introduce a bill to prevent cruelty to animals. This bill is essential. We have been talking about this since I arrived in the House of Commons. We had Bills C-10 and C-22. Now, we have Bill C-50. I hope that this bill contains many improvements. I will make what may be an unfortunate parallel. It would have been nice to see legislation banning cruelty against human beings, particularly psychological harassment, in the same way that we are now considering legislation on cruelty to animals.

My question is as follows. It is not so much how animals are killed, which is important to animal rights groups, but rather the care they receive, whether they are en route to the slaughterhouse, force-fed, given water and food, cared for, from the day they are born to the day they are slaughtered. For those who have concerns about this, is there a section in the bill that mentions protection for animals in this very specific regard?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 14th, 2005 / 3:25 p.m.
See context

Northumberland—Quinte West Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to the provisions of Bill C-50, an act to amend the Criminal Code relating to the cruelty to animals.

The legislation has a long and notorious history in Parliament. Members will no doubt remember that the legislation has been before the House on a number of occasions over the past five years. These animal cruelty amendments were first introduced in Parliament in 1999 as part of an omnibus criminal reform bill called Bill C-17 but died on the order paper. They were later reintroduced as another omnibus bill, Bill C-15, in a subsequent Parliament. That bill was split into two portions and the portion which contained the animal cruelty amendments again died on the order paper. The amendments were next re-tabled as Bill C-10 which were again split and again the portion with animal cruelty died on the order paper. In the last Parliament, these amendments were known as Bill C-22. Today we are discussing the same amendments in Bill C-50.

The history of the bill is a long and winding road, which includes two highly unusual incidents of bill-splitting and several messages being sent between this and the other chamber. Given the occurrences of rare parliamentary procedures and ping-ponging of the legislation, a person unfamiliar with this history might come away with the impression that the legislation is still controversial and lacks broad base support.

I would like to take this opportunity to remind the members that in actual fact this House has passed this legislation several times in the last two years with support from members on both sides of the House. In addition, hon. members should recall that the legislation has a history of accommodation and compromise that has brought together groups that advocate for animal welfare, as well as groups that advocate for people whose livelihoods depend upon the use of animals. Let me explain.

Over the past five years there has been spirited and comprehensive debate about the impact of the legislation in both this House and the other place, in committees in both places, in the public domain and in the media, not to mention the innumerable meetings between stakeholders and various government officials. As a result, specific amendments have been made on a number of occasions to this bill. These were not legally necessary changes, I would submit, but were adopted by the government with a view to providing greater clarity about the issues of concern.

These accommodations did not compromise protections against animal cruelty. The end result was that a large number of industry stakeholders came to support the legislation. The ministers received the written support of a broad based coalition of industry groups, including a letter from earlier this year urging the government to re-table these very amendments just months before this bill was tabled.

This coalition of stakeholders includes representatives from the agricultural sector, animal research and the trapping industry. The legislation is not meant to and will not negatively impact on the lawful and humane animal related industries and these industries have now acknowledged that. Of course, animal welfare organizations, as well as veterinary associations, police associations and provincial attorneys general, continue to support the legislation wholeheartedly.

The only difference between this legislation and that which was last passed by this House as Bill C-22 is the inclusion now of a non-derogation clause that reaffirms the applicability of existing constitutional protection for traditional aboriginal practices. This was included after discussions between the minister and concerned senators over the potential impact of the legislation on aboriginal persons.

In every other respect, the legislation we have before us today mirrors exactly that legislation which was passed by this House many times already and which stakeholder groups on all sides of the issue urged the government to re-table.

With that brief history, let me make a few basic points about the legislation.

The first point to note is that Bill C-50 is not about new law. It is about better law. The criminal law already contains a range of offences that prohibit cruelty to animals and has since 1893, but the law is a messy jumble of archaic terminology and piecemeal amendments made on a few occasions since 1893.

The first goal of the bill therefore is to modernize, simplify and rationalize the law as well as to fill in certain gaps in legal protection. This objective is accomplished by a variety of measures, including: removing the distinctions in the law that originate from another century; removing overlapping offences; improving the coherence and functionality of the law by removing problematic language, such as “dogs, birds and other animals”; eliminating the illogical notion of “wilful neglect” that is not found anywhere else in our criminal law; and filling in gaps by creating new offences of killing an animal with a brutal or vicious intent and training an animal for the purpose of fighting another animal.

One other change that bears mentioning is the creation of a new chapter of the Criminal Code devoted specifically to animal cruelty. The new chapter would not change the legal substance of offences but would allow us to stop categorizing animal cruelty as property crime and to symbolically reflect that animal cruelty is most appropriately characterized as a gross violation of public standards of acceptable behaviour, as oftentimes it is a serious offence of violence. In fact, there is increasingly scientific evidence of a link between animal cruelty and subsequent violent offending against humans, particularly in the context of domestic violence. The women and children who are forced to witness animal cruelty know that it is not about property damage and it is time our Criminal Code recognized this reality.

The second goal of the amendments is to increase and enhance the penalty regime for animal cruelty offences. The way that society traditionally recognizes the seriousness of a particular conduct is through the penalty that it prescribes for that conduct.

Bill C-50 would make the law more coherent by clearly distinguishing criminally negligent conduct from wilful cruelty for the purposes of providing different sentencing ranges. The person who keeps too many cats and is unable to care for them all commits a different kind of criminal offence than one who skins a cat alive, and Bill C-50 would ensure that penalty ranges reflect this.

The current maximum penalty for animal cruelty, six months in prison or a $2,000 fine or both, would be increased accordingly for both kinds of crime. For intentional cruelty, which would be made a hybrid offence, the maximum penalty on indictment would be increased to five years and on summary conviction to eighteen months. For criminally negligent offences, the maximum sentence would be increased to two years.

Another change is the removal of the current two year cap on orders prohibiting a convicted offender from owning or living with animals. The length of a prohibition order would be in the discretion of the judge and he or she would make the final determination. The courts would also be given a clear power to order a convicted offender to repay to a person or to an organization, which most likely would be the animal welfare society, the costs associated with the caring for the animal the offender was convicted of abusing.

These penalty enhancements, coupled with the other set of reforms that bring greater simplicity, coherence and rationality to the laws, will work together to signal to judges, prosecutors, police and the general public that the abuse of animals is about violence and that cruelty is a matter of serious criminal law.

To be effective, good criminal law must not only provide adequate penalty ranges, it must also be clear, coherent, complete and must reflect the true nature of the misconduct and the societal values at stake. The full range of legal reforms is necessary to bring our 19th century criminal laws in this area into the 21st century.

Over the course of many years that animal cruelty amendments have been before Parliament, Canadians have consistently voiced their strong support for legislative change in this area and their expectation that the legislation will be passed without delay. I urge all members in the House to ensure that occurs as soon as possible.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 14th, 2005 / 3:25 p.m.
See context

Kings—Hants Nova Scotia

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberalfor the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved:

That Bill C-50, an act to amend the Criminal Code in respect of cruelty to animals, be referred forthwith to the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

PrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

November 14th, 2005 / 3:25 p.m.
See context

The Speaker

At the request of the chief government whip, the vote on the motion, as amended, will be deferred until tomorrow evening at 5:30 p.m.

(Bill C-50. On the Order: Government Orders)

May 16, 2005--The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada--Second reading and reference to the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness of Bill C-50, an act to amend the Criminal Code in respect of cruelty to animals.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

November 3rd, 2005 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

Hamilton East—Stoney Creek Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon, we will continue the debate at third reading of Bill C-54, the first nations resources bill.

When this is complete, we will consider reference before second reading of Bill C-50, respecting cruelty to animals. I expect that this business will carry over to tomorrow. We will then add to the list second reading of Bill S-36, respecting diamonds and second reading of Bill C-44, the transport bill.

When the House resumes on November 14, we will return to second reading of Bill C-68, the Pacific gateway bill; Bill C-66, the energy bill; and Bill C-67, the surpluses legislation.

We will also then return to any business from this week that is unfinished and if time permits, consider second reading of Bill C-61, the marine bill.

November 15 and November 17, as the hon. member across the way would have known weeks ago had he been at the House leaders meeting, will be allotted days. On Tuesday evening, November 15, we will have a take note debate on the Canadian mission in Afghanistan.

Accordingly, I will propose the required motion pursuant to Standing Order 53.1(1). I move:

That a debate pursuant to Standing Order 53.1 take place on Tuesday, November 15 on the subject of Canada's military mission in Afghanistan.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

October 27th, 2005 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

Hamilton East—Stoney Creek Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member, unfortunately, takes the opportunity every Thursday to ask the same question, knowing the answer will be exactly the same because it is factual.

The opposition days will begin the week of November 14, and I indicated that some weeks ago to the opposition House leaders. At that point, I thought the matter had been dealt with and that we would focus on the agenda, which is important to Canadians.

We will continue with the second reading of Bill C-67, which is the surpluses bill. Should this be completed, we would then return to the second reading debate of Bill C-66, the energy legislation. We do not sit on Friday. On Monday we will commence the second reading debate of Bill C-68, respecting the Pacific Gateway. We will give priority to these bills over the next week.

On Tuesday evening there will be a take note debate on cross-border Internet drugs.

If debates on the major bills that I have referred to are completed by late next week, we will then turn to report stage of Bill S-38, respecting the spirits trade, second reading of Bill C-47, the Air Canada bill, Bill C-50, respecting cruelty to animals, second reading of Bill C-44, the transport legislation, second reading of Bill C-61, the marine bill, reference before second reading of Bill C-46, the correctional services bill, report stage of Bill C-54, the first nations resources bill and other bills that will perhaps come back from committee that we would like to get into the House for further debate.

In order to bring about that take note debate on Tuesday, I move:

That a debate pursuant to Standing Order 53.1 take place on Tuesday, November 1 on the subject of cross-border Internet drugs.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

October 20th, 2005 / 3 p.m.
See context

Hamilton East—Stoney Creek Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I find the last part of that question a little puzzling, given that the hon. member was at the meeting where I in fact outlined the opposition days. They will begin the week of November 14 and will go right to December 8. We are meeting our commitment and our obligation to provide seven opposition days during this supply period.

We will continue this afternoon with the second reading debate of Bill C-65, the street racing bill, followed by Bill C-64, the vehicle identification legislation, Bill S-37, respecting the Hague convention, Bill S-36, the rough diamonds bill, and reference to committee before second reading of Bill C-50, respecting cruelty to animals.

Tomorrow, we will start with any bills not completed today. As time permits, we will turn to second reading of Bill C-44, the transportation bill, and reference to committee before second reading of Bill C-46, the correctional services legislation. This will be followed by second reading of Bill C-52, respecting fisheries.

I expect that these bills will keep the House occupied into next week.

On Monday we will start with third reading of Bill C-37, the do not call legislation. I also hope to begin consideration of Bill C-66, the energy legislation, by midweek. We will follow this with Bill C-67, the surpluses bill.

Some time ago the House leaders agreed to hold a take note debate on the softwood lumber issue on the evening of Tuesday, October 25.

We also agreed on an urgent basis to have such a debate on the issue of the U.S. western hemisphere travel initiative on the evening of Monday, October 24.

Accordingly, pursuant to Standing Order 53.1(1), I move:

That debates pursuant to Standing Order 53.1 take place as follows:

(1) on Monday, October 24, 2005, on the impact on Canada of the United States western hemisphere travel initiative;

(2) on Tuesday, October 25, 2005, on softwood lumber.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

October 6th, 2005 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

Hamilton East—Stoney Creek Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I understand from the member's question that he was obviously not at the last opposition House leaders' meeting where the entire agenda up to December 15 was laid out, including the seven opposition days to which he has referred.

In terms of background, I might also suggest to the hon. member that back in 1973 when there was a minority Parliament, the House opened on January 4 and all seven opposition days were held between March 5 and March 26. Back in 1979, when the House opened on October 9, opposition days started November 6. Opposition days clearly are the purview of the government to schedule. We have scheduled all of them for the opposition parties.

The House will continue this afternoon with the second reading of Bill C-54, the first nations oil and gas bill, followed by second reading of Bill S-38, respecting trade in spirits, and report stage and third reading of Bill C-28, the food and drugs bill.

Tomorrow we will begin with Bill C-28 and if it is completed, we will proceed with second reading of Bill S-37, respecting the Hague Convention and Bill S-36, respecting diamonds.

Next week is the Thanksgiving break week and I wish all hon. members a very happy Thanksgiving.

When the House returns on October 17, we will consider second reading of Bill C-63, respecting the registration of political parties, followed by report stage and third reading of Bill C-49, the human trafficking bill, second reading of Bill C-65, the street racing bill, Bill C-64, the vehicle registration legislation, and report stage of Bill C-37, the do not call bill.

As the week continues, we will add to the list reference to committee before second reading of Bill C-50, respecting the cruelty to animals, Bill C-44, the transportation legislation, Bill C-47, respecting Air Canada, the reference before second reading of Bill C-46, the correctional services bill, and by the end of the week we hope to begin debate on the energy and surplus bills that are being introduced this week. There is also ongoing discussions about a take note debate that week.

As members can see, there is a heavy agenda and important legislation. As I said and as I laid out to the opposition House leaders at our previous meeting, in the post-Remembrance Day segment of this sitting, we will consider the business of supply and we hope to be in a position to deal with the final stages of many of these very important bills before the end of the year.

Animal RightsStatements By Members

September 29th, 2005 / 2 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, over the course of the summer I was truly taken by the number of constituents, and indeed Canadians, who spoke up on the issue of animal cruelty and the lack of strength in the current legislation.

The last time these laws were changed was in 1956 and those were only minor amendments from the changes made in 1892. In fact, animals are still in our property section and are really afforded no protection. As various abuses occur, the reality is that nothing is being done.

The House has been dealing with an animal cruelty bill since 1999. We are now on our seventh incarnation of the bill. It is imperative that we take action. Bill C-50 is hopefully going to be presented to the House soon. It needs to be passed by all members of the House with great expediency. It is essentially the same bill that was passed previously. The bill that is currently before the Senate is woefully inadequate. It does not protect animals. It keeps them in the property section.

It is important to say this because there are a lot of people in the hunting community who have received false information. They have nothing to be worried about—

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

May 16th, 2005 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

Mount Royal Québec

Liberal

Irwin Cotler LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-50, an act to amend the Criminal Code in respect of cruelty to animals.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)