An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals)

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.

This bill was previously introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session.

Sponsor

Peggy Nash  NDP

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Introduced, as of Oct. 16, 2013
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

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

This enactment adds a new Part to the Criminal Code for animal cruelty offences and repeals the existing provisions relating to animal cruelty that are found in Part XI of the Code (Wilful and Forbidden Acts in respect of Certain Property).

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.

Third ReadingCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 8th, 2019 / 5:15 p.m.
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NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Mr. Speaker, let me just pick up again on Bill C-246, the Liberal backbench bill that the government defeated. It would have also dealt with the things that are in this government bill. We could have done what is in this bill before us, and more, by passing that private member's bill.

Perhaps most importantly, Bill C-246 would have moved offences against animals out of the property section of the Criminal Code and into a new section dedicated to offences against animals. This would not only have been an important legal reform; I think it would also be a very important symbol of our need as humans to rethink our place in the natural universe and to see ourselves as part of the web of nature on which we depend for our very survival, rather than seeing the Earth and all of its beings as simply property for us to use and discard when we are done.

I have spent a lot of time on this private member's bill because it puts the much narrower government bill in front of us into a proper context. The fact that the government used its majority to defeat a more comprehensive reform of animal cruelty legislation tempers the credit the government should get for bringing forward this bill today.

At this point, I also want to give credit to the Conservative member for Calgary Nose Hill, who pushed the government to act on the very narrow definition that the Supreme Court found by introducing her own private member's bill, Bill C-388, in order to make sure that the government was forced to bring forward its own bill instead of having to deal with hers.

The member for Calgary Nose Hill did acknowledge some concerns in her caucus that attempting to modernize and strengthen animal cruelty provisions might affect farmers and hunters. I also want to acknowledge concerns in indigenous communities that reforms of animal cruelty legislation should not infringe on aboriginal rights and traditional hunting practices.

However, like the member for Calgary Nose Hill, I believe we can update animal cruelty legislation and at the same time avoid unintended impacts on farmers and hunters and unintended consequences with regard to aboriginal rights.

Perhaps I should mention that I am not a hunter, nor have I eaten meat for more than 35 years. I am a proud dog owner, although I resisted the temptation today to wear a t-shirt with a picture of my poodle on it under my jacket. I should also say that my support for this bill will keep peace at home, as my partner is a very passionate advocate for animal rights.

In fact, New Democrats in this House have consistently advocated reform of animal cruelty laws. The member for Port Moody—Coquitlam has proposed his private member's bill, Bill C-380, which would have banned the importation of shark fins. He has been working very hard on the Senate bill, Bill S-238, which is a parallel bill, to make sure that we pass that bill before the House rises to help end the cruel practice of shark finning.

Both the member for Vancouver East and the member for New Westminster—Burnaby have introduced motions to ban the import of products containing dog and cat fur. Former Toronto NDP MP Peggy Nash had a private member's bill, Bill C-232, to strengthen animal cruelty laws, as did former NDP Quebec MP Isabelle Morin, so this is not a new cause for us to take up. This is something we have been fighting for for many years in this House.

At the justice committee, the member for Beaches—East York moved an amendment to Bill C-84, which was adopted unanimously and which broadened the government's too-narrow bill, and three very important provisions were added to the bill in committee.

The first of those allows a prohibition order on animal ownership for a certain period, as determined by a judge. The second makes it an offence to violate an order prohibiting animal ownership, meaning that someone could actually be prosecuted for violating that order of prohibition. The third allows restitution orders to compel those convicted to pay for the care of animals injured. Those were quite important aspects from his own private member's bill on which the member got consensus to bring into the bill before us today.

A separate amendment was also adopted to add bestiality to the list of offences covered in the Sex Offender Information Registration Act. As the member for St. Albert—Edmonton very clearly pointed out, the reason for doing this is that abuse of animals is often an indicator of other forms of abuse, in particular of child abuse. This becomes information that is very useful to the police. I thank him for bringing forward that amendment to this bill.

Those two amendments, one with three provisions and one with one provision, added important aspects to Bill C-84, even though it remains, as I said before, less than the comprehensive reform of animal cruelty legislation that I would like to see before the House.

Still, Bill C-84 does redefine bestiality more broadly than the court decision and it does prohibit a broader range of activities associated with animal fighting, so I and my fellow New Democrats are supporting this bill.

I would have to say personally that even if it only contained the provisions banning activities associated with animal fighting, I would support this bill. It is important to ban promoting, arranging and profiting from animal fighting. It is important to ban breeding, training or transporting animals to fight and it is important to ban keeping any arena for the purpose of animal fighting. I think these are very important steps.

I am not going to go on for a long time, despite the accusations of the government that the reason that we wanted to speak was to delay the bill. I am not even going to use all my time today. I want to conclude by saying that the reason I wanted to speak is to bring our attention to the fact that there is still a lot of work to do on animal cruelty after we pass Bill C-84.

We are missing the opportunity for that comprehensive reform that I have been talking about. In particular, I believe this bill should have included basic standards of care and housing for animals. It could also have included restrictions on tethering animals, in particular dogs, a practice that, since it is unregulated, can be a severe threat to the health and safety of dogs. Of course, tethered dogs are much more likely to bite, and specifically to bite children. In fact, according to the Montreal SPCA, tethered dogs are three times more likely to bite and five times more likely to bite children.

Again, after Bill C-84 passes, there is much more work to do beyond fixing the additional provisions of the Criminal Code that I mentioned earlier. Most important, of course, is the work that needs to be done on protecting endangered species and the habitat that they depend on. This past week, we saw the release of an alarming report from the United Nations intergovernmental science-policy platform on biodiversity. This report documents the unprecedented and accelerating rates of species' extinction at rates never before seen in human history. The report warns that more than one million animal and plant species are facing extinction within the next few decades as a result of human activity.

What we do need now, and I mean right now, are bold measures to protect and preserve the ecosystems that the endangered plants and animals depend on. Since I arrived in this House eight years ago, I have been an advocate for emergency action to protect the southern resident killer whales, as we are at the brink of losing a species, each of whose name is individually known. Instead of a bold and urgent recovery plan for the orcas that would mobilize large-scale habitat restoration where appropriate and put millions of hatchery chinook in the water, this work is being left to volunteers, and they have undertaken this work without any government support. Instead of support, we have a timid recovery plan that tries to manage declining stocks of chinook by relying on fishing restrictions when everybody knows that what we actually need—not just the whales, but all of us—is more fish in the water.

In conclusion, while passing Bill C-84 is an important step forward in animal protection, it is only a first step in a process that will require us to re-examine our place in the natural world.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 29th, 2018 / 1 p.m.
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NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to be partaking in today's debate on Bill C-84. It touches some subject matter which is difficult to talk about, but that is often the case with the Criminal Code. The Criminal Code is a gigantic statute that has to cover everything that could possibly go wrong in society and figure out how we amend and correct that behaviour, but also how we dole out punishment.

Bill C-84 is specifically aimed at addressing gaps in the Criminal Code that exist with respect to animal bestiality and animal fighting. Supreme Court decision R. v. D.L.W., from 2016, was referenced by both the Minister of Justice and the hon. member for Calgary Nose Hill.

Specifically, Bill C-84 would update section 160 of the Criminal Code to include a broader and more comprehensive definition of “bestiality” and would amend paragraph 445.(1)(b) and subsection 447(1) to address animal fighting, specifically building facilities to harbour animal fighting and also promoting or making money from the event.

Canada's animal welfare laws have not been substantively changed since the 1890s, which has to say something to anyone listening to this debate.

I want to acknowledge the member for Calgary Nose Hill, who brought forward a private member's bill on this issue, Bill C-388. In her drafting of Bill C-84, the Minister of Justice lifted Bill C-388 and included it. Therefore, that is an acknowledgement of the work the member for Calgary Nose Hill has done.

I know the member for Calgary Nose Hill was recently in a bit of a tussle with an iPolitics columnist on an article he recently wrote. He was looking at some of the statistics that existed with this crime. There is the Supreme Court of Canada case I mentioned and there has been one case in federal court. Even in the province of Alberta, which is home to 4.3 million people, six people were charged with that offence between 2013 and 2017. Therefore, it is not a very wide ranging crime. It is certainly an abhorrent one and one we should we should rightfully close in the Criminal Code.

What I am concerned about is not really what is in Bill C-84, which I hope will receive unanimous consent in the House to have it sent to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. I am mostly concerned about what is not in it. I also agree with the member for Calgary Nose Hill's assessment of the glacial pace of justice reform by the Liberal government.

The minister came to power with a mandate letter from the Prime Minister, signalling bold criminal justice reform. We had a series of four government bills, which I will not number. Every time a new justice bill was added, like an amoeba, it would swallow the components of the first one and progressively get bigger and bigger. However, they were all languishing at first reading. Finally, we arrived at Bill C-75 and there was action on that bill, which I believe is currently at the justice committee. However, it has been a pretty glacial pace.

I like and respect the Minister of Justice. I was our party's justice critic for the entire 2017 year. It is a complex subject matter and requires a lot of responsibility and maturity to approach it. However, I have to judge the minister on her performance and I would not really give her a passing mark on the legislative front with respect to the promises made within her mandate letter.

I want to now move to a story from my riding, a story of Teddy the dog. This really goes to the heart of what is not included in Bill C-84. I will give my support to the bill, but I know constituents in my riding will be sorely disappointed. Teddy the dog was one of the most brutal cases of animal abuse the BC SPCA has ever witnessed.

In February of this year, officers came onto a property and found an adult dog tethered by a few inches. It was standing out in the wet and the cold in a pile of its own feces. The officers found a collar imbedded in that dog's neck that had caused the dog's head to swell to three times its original size, because it had been left on the dog from the time it was a puppy. The collar had never been loosened. When the officers removed the poor animal named Teddy and brought it to the veterinarian, the vet had to surgically remove that collar, which exposed the dog's trachea and a mound of infected flesh. Unfortunately, that dog passed away from its injuries.

It is far too often in this country that we hear of cases like that. Changing our laws would not be the magic bullet to solve this problem, but it would be one key, critical component, especially when we have such obvious gaps in our system.

There was a rally in my riding in March, where, as I said earlier, we had people from across the political spectrum. We had supporters of the Conservative Party, the Liberal Party, my party and the Green Party. They were all united, because they cared about animal welfare, and they cared that the state of our animal cruelty laws is not up to what it should be right now.

During that rally, I made a commitment that despite the defeat of Bill C-246, put forward by the member for Beaches—East York, I would continue pressuring the Minister of Justice to close these gaps and address the shortcomings of our current criminal law.

The unfortunate fallout from the case of Teddy the dog was that some people in the community felt that they could take the law into their own hands. A great deal of racism came out of it, because it involved a property on a first nation reserve. Therefore, I want to take this opportunity to remind constituents in my riding that racism and vigilantism have no place in our community. While we must always stand on guard for animal welfare, and certainly prosecute to the fullest extent of the law those who are found guilty, we have to let the law do its job. We have to believe in the rule of law. We cannot support or condone in any way people taking up a case for themselves. I want to make that very clear.

As I mentioned in my question to the Minister of Justice, not only this Parliament but previous Parliaments have wrestled with the idea of the inadequacy of the Criminal Code provisions with respect to animal cruelty. There have been a number of Liberal bills and New Democrat bills over previous Parliaments that have dealt with this issue.

I will get to the bill put forward by the member for Beaches—East York, but first I want to mention the bill put forward in a previous Parliament by the great Irwin Cotler, probably one of the most revered Liberals ever and a former minister of justice himself. He introduced Bill C-610. It only made it to first reading, but that particular bill tried to make some important updates, specifically with respect to failing to provide adequate care. Bill C-610 was introduced on June 6, 2014. I want to read into the record the speech Mr. Cotler gave at that time:

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and introduce this legislation, which amends the Criminal Code's provisions on animal cruelty. In particular, it creates a new offence of inadequate and negligent care of animals. The bill establishes an offence for anyone who negligently causes unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal or a bird, or, being the owner, wilfully or recklessly abandons it or fails to provide suitable and adequate food, water, air, shelter and care for it. It also punishes those who negligently injure an animal or bird while it is being conveyed.

He went on to say that “Canada's animal cruelty laws are woefully out of date.” He left it at that.

The former member for Parkdale—High Park, Peggy Nash, introduced Bill C-232 in the last Parliament. The hon. member for Vancouver Centre, in the previous Parliament, introduced Bill C-277. There has been multi-party support for these initiatives, but every time, they seem to have run into roadblocks.

Coming up to the most recent attempt in this Parliament, Bill C-246, which was introduced by the member for Beaches—East York, unfortunately I was not present for that second reading vote. I was travelling with the Special Committee on Electoral Reform at that time. I was substituting on it. We were hearing from the great people of Atlantic Canada about how great it would be to have some electoral reform. Unfortunately, the Liberals did not see it the same way. We will see how that conversation goes on in the future.

In any case, I think the member for Beaches—East York acknowledged that his particular private member's bill probably bit off more than it could chew, as it was trying to cover so many different angles. The more a private member's bill covers, the more areas people can find problems with and reasons to shut the whole thing down. I know that there were concerns raised by my Conservative colleagues, especially with respect to legal activities such as ranching, hunting, fishing, trapping, medical research and so on. I think there are ways to proceed with legislation that would address those concerns.

My wife and I have a small farming property. I come from a rural area of Vancouver Island. My constituents like to hunt and fish, and many of them are farmers. I would not support a piece of legislation unless there were specific provisions to protect those activities. I have some of the best salmon fishing in the world right off the west coast of Vancouver Island, which I enjoy. That is something that is a part of our heritage.

I raise animals. Most farmers will say that looking after the welfare of their animals is good for business. We do not want to have animals that are sickly or in poor health. I can attest to that. I have chickens, turkeys and lambs. When they are happy and well looked after, they do very well. It is in my interest not only from a moral point of view but from a commercial standpoint. There are always going to be those few bad apples who give everyone a bad name. However, that is specifically what this law has to be designed for, to weed out the bad apples and go after those who are the poor farmers who give everyone a bad name, and so on.

In 2016, when the member for Victoria, who was our party's justice critic and is now back to being the justice critic, rose to give our party's response to Bill C-246, he addressed those concerns. He said that we can insert clauses into the Criminal Code that start off with the phrase “For greater certainty” to make the necessary changes.

I heard concerns during that debate from Conservatives who wondered about jurisdictional and constitutional issues, because we know that the provinces have their own animal cruelty laws, as does the federal government. However, the supremacy of the criminal law power could easily override provincial legislation to ensure that we were not ending up with a patchwork quilt and that the law applied equally in each province, no matter where one lived. The Supreme Court of Canada has held that valid criminal law requires a prohibition, a penalty and a criminal law purpose, such as peace, order, security, morality and health. A change with respect to animal cruelty could easily satisfy all of those.

Here we are three years into the government's mandate, which I alluded to in my opening remarks. With respect to Bill C-84, there is so much more that could have been included in this bill. I said to the Minister of Justice during questions and comments that, with respect, the provisions in Bill C-84, which is not a very big bill, are very much the low-hanging fruit. I do not see how anyone in this place could raise any legitimate concerns about the bill, except for tinkering around the edges, such as whether some words could be modified. The general purpose of the bill is to broaden the definition of “bestiality” and to make sure that we have an all-encompassing law that goes against animal fighting. We are not going to find any significant objection to that.

However, the minister saying, after the defeat of Bill C-246, that the conversation would continue, that the Department of Justice would be having ongoing consultations with stakeholders, I think led many Canadians to believe that reform was actually coming. Therefore, when I announced to my constituents that we had Bill C-84 and what was missing, I had to convey a sense of disappointment.

Honestly, I think I and many constituents and many Canadians across this country were expecting a lot more, not only because it is three years into the government's mandate but because it is also two years after the defeat of Bill C-246. I know that the member for Beaches—East York has conveyed publicly that Bill C-84 is an obvious choice and is the low-hanging fruit. However, there is a sense of wondering what else is coming.

The Liberals are masters of the long promise. They say that they are continuing to engage with people, but I would not be surprised if we have to wait until the 43rd Parliament before we get some action. Who knows who will be in power at that point to deliver it?

My party has long supported animal cruelty measures. I have mentioned all the private members' bills. We could have included in this legislation, and I hope this is something the committee on justice and human rights will look at, some provisions for basic standards of care.

If I look at the case of Teddy the dog, in my riding, he was tethered with a chain just a few inches long and was having to stand in his own pile of feces. The B.C. SPCA has some specific recommendations the government could take note of. Basically, they want to see, for any dogs or animals that are tethered, five freedoms respected: freedom from hunger and thirst; freedom from pain, injury and disease; freedom from distress; freedom from discomfort and freedom to express behaviours that promote well-being. That is a starting point. There are lots of suggestions out there. There are many different stakeholders involved in this issue, and this is something the government could have taken note of.

As I referenced in my earlier questions and comments, I have written to the minister on this issue on behalf of constituents. Prior to Bill C-84 being introduced, I conveyed in my correspondence to the justice minister the concerns of my community about how many cases of animal cruelty exist across this country and that this particular case acted as a catalyst. People are demanding more action.

The minister did respond in June of this year. Again, it was not really anything concrete. She assured me that the government was intending to review all the options to improve any gaps in protection resulting from the existing Criminal Code provision, which is something that has not been done yet. The minister agreed publicly that animal cruelty is a significant social issue that needs to be addressed, and so on. There are many public comments that come from the government that signal an intent to do something, but when we actually get something concrete, like Bill C-84, we see that it has not amounted to much.

Just to highlight how important this particular issue is and why these gaps are so important, I want to speak about some of the statistics. It was reported, I think a couple of years ago, that there are approximately 45,000 animal cruelty complaints in Canada every year, but only one in 1,000 result in charges and far fewer in convictions. That is a significant difference between complaints and actual action in the court system. It says to me that there is definitely a need for this legislation.

I will conclude by saying that we support these gaps being addressed in the Criminal Code. Bill C-84 is an important first step. The Minister of Justice can be assured that we, as a caucus, will be supporting this bill going forward to committee, but we will remind Canadians that there was so much more that could have been done. It is a sad day that, after three years, we are still going to have to wait for those meaningful parts to be addressed.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)Government Orders

June 11th, 2015 / 3:40 p.m.
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NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is a very interesting question. I challenge the member. For example, my bill, Bill C-232, is about toughening up our laws on animal cruelty for companion animals.

I ask the member if he is in favour of animal cruelty. Does he think that people who torture dogs and cats should be able to walk scot-free? Does he believe that people who torture service animals should be able to walk scot-free without any penalty? If he does, I think that is an affront to the sensibilities of most Canadians. I do not agree with that.

I think we need to take a law from 1896 into the 21st century. The bill we are debating today certainly takes one step. The point I have been trying to make today is that perhaps we need to look at our overall animal cruelty laws to make sure that we are treating all companion animals fairly and not subjecting them to cruelty and abuse. That just makes good sense. I do not know why the member would stand on the side of people who would want to torture dogs and cats.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)Government Orders

June 11th, 2015 / 3:30 p.m.
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NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I trust that does not take away from the time I have been allotted to speak on the bill.

As I was saying, the bill that I have introduced goes further than the bill we are talking about today. For my friend who maybe missed the discussion earlier, that is in fact the relevance of my remarks. The bill we are debating is on a specific aspect of animal cruelty, namely the creation of a new offence for killing service animals. This is certainly a problem in part of a larger problem in the whole field of animal cruelty.

The point I was making, again for the benefit of the member who might not have picked up on everything I was saying, is that given our animal cruelty laws have not been updated in any comprehensive way since 1896, I was attempting, in my more comprehensive Bill C-232, to update the Criminal Code to recognize that animals were thinking, feeling beings and not just property. The bill would amend the Criminal Code, which would lead to a greater likelihood of conviction for animal cruelty offences more broadly against all animals. For the member's benefit, service animals, working animals, would be included in that approach.

There is a great scope of work that needs to be done on animal cruelty legislation. The whole area of puppy mills is certainly one where, to make a quick buck, animals are treated in absolutely terrible and neglectful conditions. Sadly, at the same time, we have puppy mills pulling in consumers who do not really know and are unsuspecting of the conditions that these puppies are coming from. Yet, at the same time, we have an epidemic of overpopulation of companion animals, such as dogs and cats.

I again salute organizations like the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, which has a finding Fido adoption program. I think it is tremendously helpful for people who would truly like to treat an animal with care, attention and love, but who may be unsuspecting victims of puppy mills.

Service animals that are on duty in our country, whether they be police, military or other service dogs, perform an invaluable service for Canadians. The training they receive is absolutely excellent. These are very impressive animals. When someone wilfully exhibits cruelty to these animals, wilfully kills these animals, it is important they be held to account. Those who commit these senseless crimes certainly need to face the judicial system and pay a serious penalty.

However, I would again caution including mandatory minimums and consecutive sentencing in the bill. It would take away the sentencing discretion from the courts. I do not think that is a good direction for the country. We have seen it in so many other bills and laws that have been created by the Conservative government and previous governments. It has been clearly demonstrated by the Department of Justice that mandatory minimums do not really deter crime. Therefore, it begs this question. Why include mandatory minimums and consecutive sentences if they have not proven to be a deterrent?

I see my time is almost up. I could continue at some length. The whole area of animal cruelty is something to which the House needs to devote further attention. It is unfortunate that our animal cruelty laws are not being updated in a comprehensive way. I think that is what most Canadians would like to see. However, the bill on its own is a step forward. Again, I want to thank my colleague for introducing it.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)Government Orders

June 11th, 2015 / 3:15 p.m.
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NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-35, an act to amend the Criminal Code, pertaining to law enforcement animals, military animals and service animals. I thank the many colleagues who have had the opportunity to speak to this bill today.

I want to begin by saying that the New Democrats and, I am sure, all members in this House would condemn animal cruelty. Animals obviously are sentient creatures; they feel pain. It is unfortunate that the laws in this country are so archaic when it comes to animal cruelty. Our animal cruelty laws essentially date back to 1896 with a small amendment a few years ago. They essentially treat animals like property, and it is very difficult to get a conviction in this country for animal cruelty. Most thinking Canadians would say today that is really an anachronism because, again, everyone in this House would be opposed to any form of animal cruelty.

I will come back to animal cruelty in general, but I do want to speak very specifically to the bill at hand, Bill C-35. It is referring specifically to service animals and it would create a new offence, that of killing or injuring a service or law enforcement or military animal while the animal is on duty. it has a minimum sentence of six months if the animal is killed while a person is perpetrating the offence; and if sentences are imposed they would be served consecutively.

This bill has been called Quanto's law for a dog that was killed in the Edmonton Police Service in the line of duty. He was stabbed to death while trying to stop a suspect a couple of years ago in 2013. The bill, which my Conservative colleague has introduced, is trying to strengthen the penalties against those people who would attack law enforcement animals or any service animal.

We are in favour of toughening up animal cruelty legislation. We do have a concern about the mandatory minimum sentences. We think that is a problem. I have already spoken about that in my question for the member opposite, whereby judges really have their discretion removed by mandatory minimum sentences. My colleague had talked about the law evolving and being a living thing, and that is why judges reflect the law. It is because they are living judges who reflect the norms of the day and they interpret the law based on all of the circumstances at hand.

We are also concerned about consecutive sentencing for a similar reason, in that it would remove any discretion from the legislative system. The member opposite seemed not to hear the comment that I made, but I clarified for him that the justice department has said that it is not in favour of using mandatory minimum sentences as a deterrent. They do not think it is an effective deterrent, and that has certainly been the practice so far. We are generally in favour of the thrust of this bill.

I remember in Toronto a death that outraged everyone in our city. That was the death of a police horse named Brigadier in 2006. In that situation, the police horse was on duty and a person who had been stopped by the police was angry. He got in his car and intentionally drove it into Brigadier, almost killing him. The officer who had been riding him had to put him down. It was something that horrified our city. Torontonians would agree that this kind of practice, this willful and criminal act of attacking and killing a service animal is unacceptable and it needs to be dealt with.

I am very much in favour of the act itself and creating this offence. It would distinguish between someone who kills a service animal with intent and someone who might do it accidentally. That is an important distinction, because it is quite possible that through an innocent action a service animal could be killed, just as bystanders or anyone could be killed through an innocent action. The bill is for someone who is held criminally responsible and we would support that.

I remember the outrage in Toronto at the death of the horse Brigadier. I think most Torontonians would support this kind of initiative, with the caveat that we do not think that having a mandatory minimum sentence or consecutive sentences is a really wise move. In a way, it diminishes the bill, which would otherwise have very enthusiastic support. The goal has enthusiastic support, but the bill has been weakened by the inclusion of these measures.

I do want to speak a bit more about the whole issue of animal cruelty. Views have changed about animals over the last more than 100 years. Our laws currently recognize animals as property, not as creatures capable of feeling pain.

Animals can suffer cruelty in a variety of ways. They can suffer cruelty from neglect. One of the things that first got me involved in thinking about animal cruelty legislation was a situation that occurred in my riding in Toronto in the neighbourhood of Parkdale. It was a hot summer day and some passersby noticed a dog that had been left in a car with the windows rolled up. It was evident that the animal was in serious distress. It was really upsetting for everybody around. Ultimately, the window was smashed open in order to rescue the dog. Unfortunately, over the course of a summer, somewhere in this country there are animals that suffer in similar situations and not all of them are rescued. Some animals have died through that kind of neglect.

We have seen other examples of neglect. We have seen companion animals that have been starved or that have suffered from dehydration or inadequate shelter. We live in a very cold country, yet animals are left outside when it is 30 degrees below zero. We have seen animals that are left with parasitic infections, infestations or that are ill or injured, and their owner failed to seek adequate medical care. These are all examples of neglect. I have seen pictures of animals whose nails have not been clipped or their hooves not trimmed, which causes a great deal of pain to the animal.

Then there are situations of absolute wilful cruelty to animals. There are some awful examples of that. There was a situation a couple of years ago where a group of huskies was no longer needed in the north. Tourists had taken these husky teams out on runs. A staff person was assigned to kill all of those beautiful husky dogs. I think the country was horrified by that. It was a terrible situation.

We have also heard about situations where animals have been wilfully burned, or cut or tortured in some way. Obviously people who would do that have a serious problem. It is very upsetting, and I do not know what law would stop that kind of cruelty in 100% of the cases.

Neglecting to update our animal cruelty laws for more than 100 years sends absolutely the wrong message. People have to really be aware that animal cruelty, whether it is neglect or intentional abuse, is wrong and that animals need to be treated with proper care and attentiveness.

I want to salute the work of organizations, like the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, and all the member humane societies across the country, and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. They do terrific work in educating Canadians. Certainly, they have called for Canada's laws to be upgraded. They do an admirable job, for example, of trying to deal with puppy mills or getting animals adopted.

I also want to give a salute to the Moosonee Puppy Rescue, the group that takes dogs that are left to run wild, in not great conditions, up north. It tries to find them adoptive homes.

I also want to spend the last few minutes talking about the importance of updating all of our animal cruelty legislation. Back in 2011, I introduced Bill C-232, calling for an amendment to the Criminal Code to improve the treatment of animals.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)Government Orders

June 11th, 2015 / 1:05 p.m.
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NDP

Paulina Ayala NDP Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine.

Bill C-35 was announced in the 2013 throne speech. It proposes to amend the Criminal Code and create a new offence to specifically prohibit the killing, maiming, wounding, poisoning or injuring of law enforcement animals, military animals and service animals.

Anyone found guilty of such an offence could be sentenced to up to five years in prison, with a mandatory minimum sentence of six months in prison. The NDP is opposed to any form of animal cruelty, and we have been defending that position in our legislative work for a long time. By way of evidence, two of my colleagues have already introduced bills on this subject.

For example, my colleague from Parkdale—High Park introduced Bill C-232, which seeks to move animals out of the property section of the Criminal Code and create a section on animal cruelty. Under the existing legislation and the Criminal Code, a person must own the animal or have some connection to it in order to be found guilty of animal cruelty. That means that if a stranger savagely kills an animal, he cannot be convicted under the law.

For example, the definition of “animal” is inadequate. It must be reviewed and so must the provisions of the Criminal Code. Bill C-232 would allow the justice system to deal more effectively with animal cruelty offences and increase the possibility of conviction for animal cruelty offences. This is a good bill. My colleague met with thousands of people who support this bill. I would therefore like to ask the minister and my colleagues across the way if they will work with us to regulate and enhance animal cruelty offences.

I would also like to talk about Bill C-592, which was introduced by the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce-Lachine. This bill seeks to better define what an animal is under the Criminal Code and define what is meant by intent and acts of cruelty. I would again like all my colleagues across the way to tell me whether the Conservative government will support these bills, which seek to modernize the Criminal Code and better regulate the treatment of animals.

We all agree that Bill C-35 is a step in the right direction, but we need to do more. There is still more work to be done. Something that bothers me a little is that the Conservatives have once again introduced a minimum sentence, which prevents judges from using their discretionary power. In reality, individuals are sometimes sentenced to prison terms that are longer than the minimum. This shows that judges are capable of making a proper judgment.

Bill C-35 is known as Quanto's law, in tribute to a law enforcement dog in Edmonton that was killed when trying to intercept a fleeing suspect. The offender was sentenced to 26 months in prison for animal cruelty. In this case, the judge used his discretionary power and relied on jurisprudence, existing laws and the evidence presented. This is how it should be. It is up to the courts, to an experienced judge, to determine a fair sentence for the offence. With Bill C-35, the government is once again showing its propensity for wanting to take away the courts' discretion.

As I said earlier, New Democrats believe that animal cruelty is disgraceful. We care about protecting these animals that are so dear to so many people. I want to share some examples of dogs that have demonstrated their loyalty to humans. In an exceptional case in France, Zarco was awarded the bronze National Defence Medal, which is normally handed out to human beings.

Very few animals, even those that are faithful law enforcement assistants, have received that honour. Zarko, who was specially trained to find lost people, was amazingly effective.

He began serving in 2002 alongside his master, officer David Monteil. Bearing badge 4637, the dog participated in 145 searches and 54 interventions with the Peloton de surveillance et d'investigation de la gendarmerie in Narbonne. Throughout his seven years of loyal service, Zarko, a French dog, saved lives and helped catch criminals. In 2006, he found the trail of a 78-year-old man lost in the vicinity of Narbonne, as well as that of a 79-year-old woman with Alzheimer's. She had wandered away from her retirement home and gotten lost. Zarko found her. In July 2007, in the stifling heat, Zarko saved a man with serious mental illness who was intending to commit suicide. The following August, he found the driver of a stolen car who had fled. In January 2008, near Lézignan, Zarko performed another miracle when he helped find a six-year-old child with autism who had left his parents' home. The child was half naked, wet from falling in water-logged ditches, and shivering with cold. In October, in Port-la-Nouvelle, the four-legged police dog found the body of a motorcyclist killed in a traffic accident whose body was submerged in a creek that ran through dense vegetation. On March 26, 2009, as Zarko was nearing retirement, he performed one last deed and found a 73-year-old man with diabetes and Alzheimer's who had left his home five hours before. This is a truly remarkable example.

I would like to talk about an example that is a little bit closer to home. Samba is a hero. This dog saved the life of his owner, Ms. Karin Hennelle, who is 68 and in a wheelchair. One day, when she was on her daily outing with her dog, a truck approached when she was about a kilometre away from home. There was a lot of gravel on the road, so the truck was driving down the middle of the road. Ms. Hennelle decided to get off the road. She moved over to the side of the road at the edge of a ravine. The truck went by, but the wheels of Ms. Hennelle's wheelchair slid on the grass. The wheelchair slid and Ms. Hennelle fell into the ravine. She said: “I felt myself falling. It felt strange.” Ms. Hennelle tumbled five metres down into the ravine until a tree stopped her fall. She had fallen. She would no longer be with us were it not for Samba. That is when the dog took action. Ms. Hennelle said: “I told the dog to go up and get help. Of course, I did not really think he understood me, but he went onto the road and barked as loud as he could.” The dog caught the attention of a farmer, and firefighters then came and rescued Ms. Hennelle. She says that she owes her life to her dog.

Now I would like to give a more institutional example. Until 1981, there was no Canadian guide dog training facility. The MIRA Foundation created the first such school in Sainte-Madeleine in Quebec. In order to get a guide dog before 1981, one had to turn to schools in the United States. However, those institutions provided no services in French. All services were in English. On October 21, 1981, MIRA proudly introduced the first two guide dogs trained in Quebec. Since that time, MIRA has been pursuing its goal to increase the independence of people with disabilities by providing them with dogs bred and fully trained to respond to their adaptation and rehabilitation needs.

We are talking about service dogs, animals that are already protected under the law. However, we are indebted to these animals, with whom we live every day, animals that are so important in our homes. They joyfully welcome us home after a long day at work. They are often more pleased to see us than our own children are. These dogs can console an adolescent in tears or simply be a good companion for a small child or senior. That is why I urge the government to support the two bills introduced by the NDP on animal cruelty.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)Government Orders

June 11th, 2015 / 10:50 a.m.
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NDP

Ève Péclet NDP La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to Bill C-35.

I am pleased to support this bill, and I think I speak for all of my colleagues when I say that all forms of animal cruelty are unacceptable.

There is no doubt that to us Bill C-35 acknowledges the importance and value of animals and especially our attachment to these animals, such as police or military dogs and horses and even service animals in general, such as dogs trained to help people with a disability or people who are visually impaired.

I think it is very important to highlight the crucial role these animals play indirectly in our lives. People may not be aware, but police dogs play a very important role.

The name Quanto's law is a reference to an incident that took place in Edmonton, in which a police dog named Quanto was stabbed to death.

These dogs, like Quanto himself, have played a role in many arrests and investigations. They play a role in our daily lives, and it is very important for us to be here together today to recognize the work not only of law enforcement dogs, but of service dogs who help people with disabilities on a daily basis. These animals support them, help them achieve their potential and accompany them every day.

In committee, we heard very moving testimony that showed us just how close an animal and a person can become and how much we are really all alike. In that sense, it is very important to recognize the merit of the bill, which I will explain in a little more detail.

The bill creates a new Criminal Code offence:

Every one commits an offence who, wilfully and without lawful excuse, kills, maims, wounds, poisons or injures a law enforcement animal while it is aiding a law enforcement officer in carrying out that officer’s duties, a military animal while it is aiding a member of the Canadian Forces in carrying out that member’s duties or a service animal.

This new offence will be added to the section of the Criminal Code on cruelty to animals.

It is important to note that this provision fully recognizes that law enforcement dogs are like police officers. Many witnesses mentioned that in committee as well. Obviously, these dogs do not talk or drink coffee, but they are like police officers because they are trained to do a specific job, such as detecting drugs or tracking a kidnapped child.

These animals are trained to do a job, one that police officers may not even be able to do given humans' limited sense of smell, for example.

These dogs are even trained to do some things that humans cannot do. Because of their special qualities, these animals play an extremely important role in our police forces, and so do service animals. We therefore support that clause because it is well written in that respect.

However, I do want to raise one concern. Numerous organizations and experts have recommended against minimum sentences on the grounds that they do not actually reduce the crime rate. Rather, prevention, education and other approaches solve the problem upstream rather than downstream. Unfortunately, minimum sentences never achieve the stated goal of reducing the crime rate.

The courts are quite capable of judging the severity of a crime and the aggravating factors. For example, in Quanto's case, the court sentenced the accused to 26 months in prison and made sure to mention that 18 of the 26 months were punishment for having stabbed the law enforcement dog to death. The sentence in Quanto's case was two times longer than what is set out in this bill. It is clear that the courts and judges can use their discretionary power to judge aggravating factors and the gravity of an offence. Forcing them to impose a minimum sentence removes that discretion.

Nevertheless, I will conclude my aside and my criticism by saying that subclause 445.01(1) is well written. Here is the first sentence:

Every one commits an offence who, wilfully and without lawful excuse...

This first subsection is written so as to ensure that mandatory minimum sentencing does not apply to those who are defending themselves. Furthermore, in committee, the witnesses said that at least that clause was written so that it will not apply in cases where people fear for their lives and have to defend themselves, which can happen in extreme situations, and those individuals will not automatically be sentenced to the mandatary minimum. This subparagraph is very well written and limits the cases that will be ultimately affected by mandatory minimum sentencing.

In some situations, we do not know how people will react. The witnesses made it clear that there are times when people fear for their lives and have to defend themselves against an aggressive animal. That clause is very well written. Adding the expression, “wilfully and without lawful excuse” means that only those who kill an animal in bad faith are targeted.

As the parliamentary secretary pointed out, someone could decide to drive their car straight into a police service horse. These people have an abnormal desire to kill an animal, as in the case of Quanto, where stabbing a dog to death was considered an aggravating factor.

Since that clause is actually very well written, the NDP will support the bill. However, I still wanted to raise that concern, because the Conservatives have passed many bills that amend the Criminal Code to impose mandatory minimum sentencing. This has been denounced by the Canadian Bar Association, the Barreau du Québec and many other associations, including defence lawyers associations.

A number of associations are saying that, unfortunately, minimum sentences do not produce the desired effect, which is to lower crime. What is more, they add an extra burden on the provinces and the justice system.

For example, last year, a Quebec justice system report noted an increase in costs associated with the number of mandatory minimum sentences. That is the case not just in Quebec, but also everywhere else, including the United States. The more mandatory minimum sentences are imposed, the heavier the financial burden on the provinces and the resources within Canada's justice system. Unfortunately, we are entering a vicious circle that is long on delays and short on resources. There are not enough judges and crown prosecutors. I think we need to take a balanced approach when it comes to our justice system. It is important to emphasize that, even though we recognize the importance of protecting animals.

That brings me to my second point. I think it is important to note that the witnesses unanimously agreed that the bill was necessary. We too often hear people talking about service animals. As I said, we are talking not just about police or military service dogs, but also service dogs for people with a disability or with reduced mobility. The witnesses unanimously confirmed the importance of recognizing the support these animals provide in our lives and how extremely important it is to protect them.

However, one witness from the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, the CFHS, said that Bill C-35 was a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, that is often the case with the Conservatives. They take a step in the right direction, but they never see things through.

The fact remains that the section on animal protection should be revised and improved to protect all domestic animals. Far too often we hear in the news about people torturing animals. Videos on YouTube and even Facebook show puppy mills and mills for other animals. There are really some very troublesome cases of animal cruelty happening. It is important to go a bit further and establish better protection for all domestic animals in the Criminal Code.

That brings me to the initiatives brought forward in the House of Commons by my NDP colleagues. For example, my very hon. colleague from Parkdale—High Park introduced Bill C-232. I know that it is extremely important for her. She has been working very hard for many years to help protect animals and to bring this issue to Parliament's attention. I would really like to thank her for all of her hard work.

Her bill, Bill C-232, would make it possible to move animals out of the property section and create a separate section dealing with animal cruelty. They would not be recognized as people under this legislation, but they would no longer be considered property. Animals are living creatures.

Bill C-35 does this for law enforcement animals, military animals and service animals, but not for all domestic animals. My colleague's bill would address that issue and provide additional protection for animals by moving them out of the property section of the Criminal Code and creating a section for living creatures.

Her bill would also allow the justice system to better define such situations and to deal more effectively with animal cruelty offences, which would increase the possibility of conviction for such offences.

I would also like to thank my colleague from Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine. I know how much she cares about protecting all of our animals. She has worked extremely hard on this issue since she was elected. I would like to thank her for that. She also introduced Bill C-592, which would provide a better definition of “animal” and would change the definition of “animal cruelty offence” to include the notion of intent.

My colleague, the parliamentary secretary, mentioned this. Unfortunately, the notions of neglect and intent are currently unclear and remain undefined in the section dealing with animal cruelty. This means that people who commit animal cruelty offences can use different forms of defence. We must take this step to define what constitutes intent in the section dealing with animal cruelty offences.

I thank the parliamentary secretary for the interesting statistics he shared. These figures show that this phenomenon is much more common than we think. Unfortunately, when someone pleads guilty to other offences, the animal cruelty offences are often dropped. For example, this is the case when someone pleads guilty or signs a plea bargain with the crown. These measures could also make it possible to see more convictions in cases of animal cruelty.

With respect to sentencing, I would also like to mention that in Saskatchewan, for example, the maximum sentence for animal cruelty and for injuring a law enforcement animal is two years. This bill already has a five-year maximum. Accordingly, we see the legislator's clear intent to punish those who injure, mutilate or kill law enforcement animals during the course of their everyday work. I would like to thank all the police and customs officers who work with these animals. I know how important this bill is to them. We support them in their work and now through the bill being studied.

However, I would like to reiterate the two concerns I described. It is a step in the right direction, but it would now be appropriate to go further and to update the animal protection provisions. Minimum mandatory sentences are not always necessarily the solution for preventing crimes.

We will support the bill. I would like to thank the parliamentary secretary for his initiative and the good work he has done, which has allowed us to have this important debate in the House of Commons.

On that note, I thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, and I will now be pleased to answer my colleague's questions.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)Government Orders

November 28th, 2014 / 12:40 p.m.
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NDP

Anne-Marie Day NDP Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to speak to this legislative measure, which is so important that it was part of the throne speech in 2013. I have to say that as I was preparing for this debate, I learned a lot about the work done by service animals. Whether through their work with the police, the army or disabled people, history proves that bonds develop between animals and humans.

This bill is designed to amend the Criminal Code in order to add protections for service animals by toughening sentences in cases of violence against these animals.

I would like to talk to my colleagues about three key aspects of the bill: the important role that service animals play in Canadian society, the government's overuse of minimum sentencing and the message that this bill sends to judges.

In the history of humanity, the domestication of animals was an important step in the emergence of civilization. Clearly, we have made significant progress in how we treat animals. Over time, we have created laws prohibiting all forms of animal cruelty. The NDP has done its share to defend animal rights by introducing bills C-232 and C-592, for example.

As for service animals in particular, humans are able to fill certain gaps by using trained animals. We just have to look at the canine units at law enforcement agencies. Whether we are talking about the RCMP, the provincial police, the Canada Border Services Agency, or the Canadian Armed Forces, animals play an important role in ensuring public safety.

They are used in many situations, whether for helping in search and rescue, detecting explosives or drugs, or pursuing criminals. They are used for tracking missing persons, crowd control, and so forth.

This bill is also referred to as Quanto's law in memory of an Edmonton police service dog who worked with a sergeant. Quanto was stabbed to death trying to stop a fleeing suspect. He had an exceptional service record. He was a decorated dog and was involved in over 100 arrests.

We often think of dogs in canine units, but we must also acknowledge the work of equine units in certain law enforcement agencies. The horses help enhance police officers' visibility in locations that are hard to access.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the exceptional work of service animals who help the disabled to be more functional in our society.

One of my constituents, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from his deployment in Afghanistan by the Canadian army, recognizes how important his service animal is to his healing process. These animals become a little like family members.

We must not underestimate the cost of training and raising these animals. It costs the RCMP $60,000 to train a single German shepherd. The RCMP currently has 157 police dogs in service across Canada. It costs the MIRA Foundation $30,000 to train a service dog. In spite of the costs, we appreciate the work these animals do.

I think that everyone in the House agrees with everything I have said so far. We all appreciate the work that canine and equine teams do. Problems arise when we take a closer look at the clauses in this bill. As they say, the devil is in the details.

I have a number of questions that I hope we can get some answers to. How many service dogs are attacked each year? What is the real impact of minimum sentences on offenders? What deterrent effect will there be?

I would really like the Conservatives to show us some studies that clearly demonstrate the deterrent effect of minimum sentences. That is why this bill needs to go to committee. In his spring 2014 report, the Auditor General expressed concern about overpopulation in prisons. The needs are desperate and growing, but prisons cannot keep up. Stretch an elastic too far, and it is liable to snap and hit you in the face.

The Auditor General even found a direct correlation between mandatory minimum sentences and overpopulation in prisons.

By continuing to increase minimum sentences, we endangering the very people who use service animals in their work. Is that really what the government wants?

Correctional officers are one of the professional groups at high risk of violence in the workplace. What is even more troubling is that the Auditor General's office believes that prison capacities have been stretched so thin that this could adversely affect offender rehabilitation.

Canadians believe in rehabilitation and social reintegration in correctional environments, but overusing minimum sentences, as this government is currently doing, really worries me and the people of my riding.

Canadians also believe that the efficiency of the justice system depends on competent judges who carefully examine each case individually and render decisions in accordance with our laws.

For the past few years, however, the government has been tying the hands of judges. It is taking away their power to make decisions based on each individual case. As we know, the Conservatives have been rebuked several times in Supreme Court decisions, which is a waste of time and money for Canadians.

We therefore have to be careful about the scope of these laws, so as to not limit judicial discretion in Canada. We must not take any more discretionary power away from our courts of justice.

The NDP denounces any form of cruelty to animals. That is a fact. I would like to take a moment to recognize the terrific work being done by all kinds of service animals and their teams.

However, it is important to think seriously about the consequences of minimum and consecutive sentencing. That is why I recommend that the bill be studied further by experts in civil society, people who use service animals, and above all, legal experts.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)Government Orders

November 28th, 2014 / 10:55 a.m.
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NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to start off by commending you, because that does not happen very often in this place. Your reminder about relevance in reference to the speech that was just given by the member for Timmins—James Bay is very important.

Oftentimes in this place, Mr. Speaker, each one of us has aspects of our representation about which we are very passionate. In the case of the member for Timmins—James Bay and the first nations people who are in his riding, he is very concerned. The striking comment from the police officer when they found that young aboriginal woman's body and when he compared that to the fact that Canadians would be more concerned about puppies, that was of course a flashpoint for my friend from Timmins—James Bay.

I know you were attentive, Mr. Speaker, because you allowed that debate to go perhaps a little long, straying away and then bringing it back with his comments. I appreciate the fact that you had the understanding of the passion, and I just want to commend you for that. That is not something that is usually done in this place.

I think the other reason for the frustration level for members on this side of the House is not that we are not supportive of bills and legislation to protect animals and service animals like the police or RCMP dogs, horses, or other animals. In fact the NDP has supported bills in this House before. I recall Bill C-232 and Bill C-592.

It is the fact that here we are, having a fulsome debate on this, which is more than reasonable, following times when we have had far more complicated legislation before the House and have had time allocation forced on us, more than 80 times now by my reckoning. Once in a while that level of frustration will percolate to the top in the comments we are making.

I can understand my friend, the member for Timmins—James Bay, expressing those concerns earlier.

I also want to commend the member for La Pointe-de-l'Île, the critic for the NDP, who reviewed Bill C-35, Quanto's law, for us and offered her recommendations and thoughts.

I might be able to bring a kind of unique perspective to this debate. In 1996, I was putting together, at that time, the largest civil demonstration in the history of our country in Hamilton. It was a protest against the Conservative government of Mike Harris at the time. We wound up with 105,000 people on the streets of Hamilton.

The point I wanted to make is that I had 28 years in the labour movement and, from time to time, either on picket lines or in various demonstrations, I have observed people who are taking part who quite often were provocateurs outside of the activists who had put together the particular event. I have seen on occasion where they had plans, for instance, to injure the horses of police officers with screwdrivers and implements like that.

I understand that when we are dealing with the use of service dogs and horses in crowd control in those circumstances, sometimes there are people who are very extreme.

In our case in Hamilton in 1996, we met with police services and the fire service, and I had individuals in charge of our security. We had 500 of our own marshals. At that particular event, we had about 40 troublemakers—I will not call them activists—who came with the intent of disrupting the event. We were able to discuss the matter with them and with our own marshals and limit their activities to the point where they peacefully demonstrated.

In the end, we can see the importance of having some kind of reaction to the abuse or killing of police service animals. We are in support of this bill going to committee. We do have some problems with the assignment of actual penalties, where the judge does not get to make the decisions. We believe we put our judges in courts to guide us and lead us in the law and to make those appropriate decisions.

November 25th, 2014 / 9:10 a.m.
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Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

I'd like to follow up on the whole notion of animal rights. I'd like to read a couple of quotes from Hansard from a few weeks ago by a couple of NDP MPs. This was in the debate regarding Quanto's law, which is a law to protect service animals. The NDP quite obviously wants it to go a lot further.

I want to read from the October 27 Hansard what Jean Crowder from Nanaimo—Cowichan said regarding a private member's bill, Bill C-232, which was introduced by her colleague from Parkdale—High Park. That's Peggy Nash. She said, “This bill would remove animals from the section of the Criminal Code on property and create a new section for animal cruelty offences.” As I said, this is an NDP-supported private member's bill. She went on to say, “In short, animals would be considered people and not just property.”

Later in the debate, Françoise Boivin, the NDP MP for Gatineau, said regarding animals, “These harmless, defenceless creatures deserve the same protection that we afford to children and people with mental or physical disabilities.”

As someone who's fought the animal rights wars as you and I have, the implications of these statements would be staggering if ever implemented. They would end all hunting, trapping, sealing, and most importantly, medical research, plus the raising of livestock.

How do you think these kinds of statements will be received in eastern Canada, specifically Newfoundland and Labrador?

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)Government Orders

October 27th, 2014 / 1:50 p.m.
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NDP

Laurin Liu NDP Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, since this is my first time rising in the House since the events of last week, I would simply like to take this opportunity to commend the work of our police officers, our House of Commons security forces and the RCMP, and all their courageous deeds.

On behalf of the people of Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, I wish to extend our sincere condolences to Nathan Cirillo's family.

I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-35, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (law enforcement animals, military animals and service animals), a Conservative bill that has passed first reading in the House.

I am proud to say that I really hope this bill is examined in committee so that we can hear what many experts and stakeholders think on this matter.

We need to have a closer look at this bill in order to revisit the two most important problems in the bill: the introduction of minimum sentences and consecutive sentences.

In concrete terms, this bill amends section 445 of the Criminal Code by providing for a new offence when a service animal or a law enforcement or military animal is killed or injured in the line of duty. The bill also provides for a minimum sentence of six months if a law enforcement animal is killed in the commission of an offence. It also makes the sentences imposed on a person consecutive to another sentence imposed for any other offence arising out of the same events.

I think the Government of Canada needs to examine bills dealing with animal cruelty. The 157 police dogs in service in Canada and the 53 teams of dogs and trainers with the Canada Border Services Agency are important to Canada's security. They are important resources for our police officers and those who patrol our borders.

There are two important points to note about this bill: it creates another minimum sentence and it makes changes regarding consecutive sentences.

Before I continue, I would like to talk about the current legislative provisions related to animal cruelty. It might be interesting for Canadians to know that presently, according to sections 444 and 445 of the Criminal Code, anyone commits an offence who wilfully kills, maims, wounds, poisons or injures cattle or who, wilfully and without lawful excuse, kills, maims, wounds, poisons or injures domestic animals.

Subsection 429(2) of the Criminal Code also provides a defence.

(2) 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.

The Criminal Code also sets out some provisions concerning animal cruelty, including section 445.1, under which it is an offence to cause unnecessary pain to an animal.

I would remind the House that the NDP introduced a number of bills designed to amend Canadian laws concerning animal cruelty.

In particular, I would like to mention the work of the hon. member for Parkdale—High Park, who introduced Bill C-232, An Act to amend the Criminal Code concerning cruelty to animals in order to repeal animal cruelty provisions that are included in the part of the Criminal Code that governs animal well-being, acknowledging that they can feel pain.

Interestingly, data from new scientific studies show that animals can feel pain. An interesting aspect of the bill introduced by my New Democratic colleague from Parkdale—High Park is that these changes will better protect strays and wild animals. We know that existing laws do not protect them well enough.

Before question period starts, I would like to comment briefly on Bill C-592, which was introduced by my colleague from Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine and is also designed to protect animals from cruelty.

For those following today's debate, it would be interesting to get more information on these bills and support the work of these members so that these bills can move forward and provide better protection for animals in Canada.

I know that I will have a little more time after question period to make my case, but I would like to talk about mandatory minimum sentences because this is not the only Conservative bill that includes a mandatory minimum sentence. According to the Canadian Bar Association, there are now at least 57 offences with mandatory minimum sentences, while in 2005, there were only 29. We are very concerned about that.

I look forward to continuing my remarks after question period.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)Government Orders

October 27th, 2014 / 1:50 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for that informative speech.

One of the issues that has come up with regard to animal cruelty and this particular piece of legislation is that we had two private member's bills proposed by New Democrats before the House.

One is Bill C-232, which was introduced by my colleague for Parkdale—High Park. This bill would remove animals from the section of the Criminal Code on property and create a new section for animal cruelty offences. In short, animals would be considered people and not property. Part of the reason the bill was introduced is that the current definition of “animal” is inadequate.

The second is Bill C-592, which was introduced by the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine. This bill seeks to better define what an animal is under the Criminal Code and what is meant by “intended acts of cruelty”.

I wonder if the member could comment on the fact that although the Conservatives have been in government since 2006, they still failed to introduce good legislation with regard to animal cruelty.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)Government Orders

October 27th, 2014 / 1:15 p.m.
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NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a very strange and bizarre contradiction that we see from the government.

I was in the House, as was the member, when a number of bills came forward in an effort to ensure our cruelty laws were updated. I take special note of Bill C-232, a bill the member had a great deal to do with. I do not understand why the Conservative government did not support any of those efforts. It would seem that it may have been influenced by outside interests that perhaps put pressure on them to overlook the reality of the kind of cruelty that my colleague described in regard to the Labrador puppy.

In this particular case, there does seem to be an overreaction. I think it has a great deal to do with public perception, the way the public and the media reacted to the very unfortunate case of this particular dog. It was unfortunate. All cruelty to all creatures is absolutely unacceptable. However, we have to come back to what we know and what we understand, and respect for our courts and respect for the kinds of things that work in terms of sentencing. This is not it.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)Government Orders

October 27th, 2014 / 1:10 p.m.
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NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I remember a few years ago, in Toronto, when Brigadier, a beautiful Belgian cross horse, was struck and killed by someone fleeing in a getaway car. It shocked and outraged the entire community.

My community of Toronto was shocked and horrified just a couple of weeks ago when animal services announced that a black Lab puppy was in their care. It was the most severely abused animal they had ever seen. It had acid burns, broken bones and internal injuries. Clearly all protections for animals, especially service and companion animals, need to be improved, as the member for London—Fanshawe said. I put forward Bill C-232 to improve our animal cruelty laws, and we have not found support on the other side of the House.

Why does the member think that the government side would not support general laws to improve the welfare of animals and to improve the struggle against animal cruelty, but that it would overreact and in fact undermine the situation with some of the provisions in Bill C-35?

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)Government Orders

October 27th, 2014 / 1 p.m.
See context

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I also want to thank the member opposite for bringing forward a bill that takes into account a need to respond to the killing or injuring of a service animal.

As a compassionate community, we are well aware of the many times that animals have come to the assistance of people and have served as law enforcement animals, military service animals, or service animals that support persons with disabilities. The stories are many and legendary.

One example is that during Hurricane Katrina, a 19-year-old dog saved his 80-year-old owner from drowning. A 19-year-old dog is perhaps even older in years than some of us here in the House. This particular situation was very poignant inasmuch as the elderly gentleman, George Mitchell, said that he would have given up his struggle against the surging waters of Katrina had it not been for the actions of his long-time pet, his long-time friend. Clearly there is a sentient reality to animals, and we have to be very cognizant of that.

There is also the example of Yoshi, a police service dog in Waterloo region. Yoshi had served the community since his deployment in 2009 and was known as a top cop. He was highly skilled in capturing suspects, finding narcotics, and finding missing persons. This last skill of finding missing persons touches us closely. We think of elderly people who have gone missing and children who are lost. Service dogs are incredibly important and instrumental in addressing those kinds of situations.

Bill C-35 is called “Quanto's law” in remembrance of Quanto, the police service dog killed in Edmonton trying to stop a fleeing suspect. The assailant was charged with animal cruelty and sentenced to 26 months in prison. The decision in this case was made at the discretion of a judge and was based on years of jurisprudence, existing law, and the evidence presented in court. That is how it should be. A sentence should be determined in a court of law by an experienced judge in an effort to ensure the sentence fairly reflects the crime. That is at the centre of our concerns about Bill C-35.

Bill C-35 is laudable in its sentiment, and we should indeed be concerned about animal cruelty. Section 445 of the Criminal Code sets out penalties and fines for those guilty of injuring all animals other than cattle.

I want to be very clear: New Democrats condemn all forms of animal cruelty, a position that we have supported for a long time. We have expressed those concerns over the past number of years regarding this Parliament's inability to truly protect animals. Members may recall some of these situations, because at present, animal cruelty crimes are considered property offences. It is not an offence to train animals to fight other animals or to receive money from the fighting of animals. There is no specific offence for particularly violent or brutal crimes against animals, and no additional protection is afforded to law enforcement animals.

Bill C-35 seeks to change that by bringing forward specific and additional protection for law enforcement and service animals. However, we have to look carefully at what is proposed in this legislation.

Bill C-35 would create a new offence, as I said, for killing or injuring a service animal, a law enforcement animal, or a military animal while the animal is on duty. It proposes a minimum sentence of six months if a law enforcement animal is killed by an individual while that individual is perpetrating an offence. It proposes that sentences imposed on a person be served consecutive to any other punishment imposed on that person for an offence arising out of the same event or series of events.

Like all Conservative legislation, the devil is in the details. This is a laudable bill but it has been tainted and undermined by introducing minimum sentencing, which clearly reflects what we can only call a repressive agenda. It does not take into account that we have courts and jurisprudence with respect to those courts and sentencing. We once again see a government showing its desire to deprive those courts of their discretion in sentencing, which is a very important part of a workable and intelligent justice system.

I am certain that every member of the House knows that there are circumstances. There is nothing that is absolute. There is no situation that can be absolutely deemed like any other. We have many examples of that in the courts. We simply cannot forget that and set it aside.

The Conservatives should also be aware of the consequences of minimum and consecutive sentencing on the criminal justice system. In this case, we have to hear from the experts about the consequences of minimum and consecutive sentencing. That is why we are recommending that the bill be studied carefully in committee. We need to hear from experts on what the consequences of this particular legislation could be and would be. We have to pay attention to those experts and to warnings from the courts.

I am sure members are well aware that in January of this year a B.C. judge challenged Ottawa's tough on crime legislation and found that mandatory minimum sentences violated the charter rights of those being condemned. I am concerned that Bill C-35 would also face such challenges. The Supreme Court is looking at a specific B.C. case regarding a criminal who was convicted of drug trafficking. In that case, Judge Galati said that in that situation a one-year minimum sentence would constitute cruel and unusual punishment, which is prohibited under section 12 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. At the time, Judge Galati declared the law in question to be of no force and effect in B.C. That is why it is now being heard by the Supreme Court. It is important that we wait for the decision and rely on the wisdom of that court before we go ahead with any other legislation that could be challenged under the charter.

The lawyer in that case said that mandatory minimum sentences are problematic because they remove the discretion of judges. He said that the federal government's enactment of mandatory minimum sentences was more political than reasonable. This notion that being tough on crime would somehow make us safer is a misconception. We are no safer now than we were 10 years ago. That is a simple fact.

Other jurisdictions have eliminated or have begun to reduce mandatory minimums, most notably the United States. They are moving away from those practices because they are found to be ineffective. Most Commonwealth countries with mandatory minimums have an escape clause so that judges can bypass the minimums when they deem it necessary. Therefore, we are going in the opposite direction of much of the rest of the world at a time when our crime rate is historically low.

Finally, I would like to say that New Democrats, of course, condemn all forms of animal cruelty. We have held that position for a very long time and have supported legislation such as Bill C-232 and Bill C-592.

We do believe that this particular bill is undermining what is otherwise a laudable idea. We have to be very careful of that. We have to be very cognizant of that.