Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to be here today to take part in the third reading debate of Bill C-35, the justice for animals in service act, also known as Quanto's law.
The proposed amendments to the Criminal Code support the Speech from the Throne commitment to bring forward Quanto's law in recognition of the daily risks taken by police officers and their service animals. The proposed amendments would create a specific new offence prohibiting the killing or injuring of a law enforcement animal, a service animal, or a military animal.
I note that the bill defines each of these terms. A law enforcement animal is defined as a dog or a horse trained to aid a law enforcement officer in carrying out that officer's duties. A military animal is defined as an animal that is trained to aid a member of the Canadian Forces in carrying out the member's duties, and a service animal is defined as an animal that is required by a person with a disability for assistance and that is certified, in writing, as having been trained by a professional service animal institution to assist a person with a disability.
Quanto was a five-year-old German shepherd Edmonton police service dog that was fatally stabbed on October 7, 2013, while assisting the police in apprehending a suspect. Quanto and its handler, Constable Matt Williamson, were in pursuit of a suspect in a stolen vehicle. When the vehicle became disabled at a gas station, the man jumped out and fled. Constable Williamson ordered the suspect to stop or he would send in Quanto. When his calls were ignored, Constable Williamson deployed Quanto. Unfortunately, as Quanto caught and held the suspect, the suspect began stabbing the dog with a knife. Quanto was taken for medical treatment, but his injuries, sadly, were fatal.
The Criminal Code has contained offences relating to the treatment of animals since 1892, and the current set of offences has existed since 1953. The penalties in the existing law were increased in 2008. The offence of killing, maiming, wounding, poisoning, or injuring an animal that is kept for lawful purposes, as set out in section 445 of the Criminal Code, was used to prosecute Quanto's killer.
However, the maximum sentence that may be imposed when this hybrid offence is prosecuted as an indictable offence is five years of imprisonment. The law provides that the court may, in addition to any other sentence, on application of the Attorney General or on its own motion, order that the accused pay the reasonable costs incurred in respect of the animal as a result of the commission of the offence.
Finally, paragraph 738(1)(a) of the Criminal Code authorizes the court to order the offender to pay the costs associated with training a new animal as restitution for the loss of an animal when the amount is readily ascertainable.
The person who killed Quanto was sentenced to a total of 26 months' imprisonment on various charges arising out of the tragic events of October 7, 2013, of which 18 months were specifically for killing Quanto. The accused was also banned from owning a pet for 25 years.
Quanto's killing was only the most recent instance in which a police service animal was killed in the course of a police operation. Another high-profile incident involved of death of Brigadier.
Brigadier was an eight-year-old Toronto police service horse killed in the line of duty in 2006. In that case, a driver in a fit of rage, while waiting in a line at a drive-through ATM machine, made a U-turn and barrelled right into the horse and the mounted officer. Both of Brigadier's front legs were broken, one so badly that he could never have recovered. The horse had to be put down.
The person who drove the car was subsequently convicted, including for dangerous driving causing bodily harm to Brigadier's mounted officer.
Members of this House will be aware of the many ways law enforcement dogs assist their handlers in protecting the public. A police dog is trained specifically to assist police and other law enforcement personnel in their work, such as searching for drugs and explosives, searching for lost people, looking for crime scene evidence, and protecting their handlers. Law enforcement canine units, like Quanto's unit in Edmonton, are a common component of municipal police forces as well as provincial police and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
When I visited the police service in my region of York, at the invitation of York Regional Police Chief Eric Jolliffe, I had the opportunity to see the canine unit at work. I was given a complete demonstration and was joined by the Minister of Justice of our country. I heard very compelling evidence and support from the police officers who are working with these animals on a daily basis.
In 1995, after an absence of 23 years, a new version of the Montreal police canine unit was established. Today this canine unit has 11 officers and 10 operational dogs. The unit supports Montreal police officers in their investigations and daily activities. It is also called upon to work on certain operations where its specialties are required. For example, the unit will co-operate with police forces throughout Quebec that do not have canine units or will work with dog handlers on other police forces during major events. It participates in media, community, and cultural events, at schools and community meetings, and on television shows to promote the canine unit and the good work of the Montreal police service.
The dogs in the Montreal police canine unit specialize in specific types of work. Some dogs have general purpose training with a specialization in narcotics detection. Other dogs have a specialization in searching buildings, and some dogs have specialized explosives detection training.
On the international front, a number of American states, such as Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, and Oregon, have enacted laws making the intentional injury or killing of a police dog a felony offence and subjecting perpetrators to harsher penalties than those in the statutes embodied in local animal cruelty laws, just as an assault on a police officer may result in harsher penalties than a similar assault on a member of the public.
With respect to law enforcement horses, after they undergo special training, they may be employed for specialized duties ranging from the patrol of parks and wilderness areas, where police cars would be impractical or noisy, to riot duty, where the horse, because of its larger size, serves to intimidate those they want to disperse. Police horses provide the officers who ride them with added height and visibility, which gives their riders the ability to observe a wider area. However, it also allows people in the wider area to see the officers, which helps deter crime and helps people find officers in those instances when they need one.
This bill proposes to extend specific protection not only to law enforcement animals but to trained service animals and military animals. Service animals perform tasks that help their disabled human masters live independent lives. Most service animals are dogs, such as Seeing Eye dogs. However, other kinds of animals may be trained to be service animals. The cost associated with training a new service animal is significant.
The Canadian Armed Forces uses a variety of animals on a contracted basis as required. For example, animals assist members of the Canadian Armed Forces by sniffing for bombs. Each of these animals is required to have received specialized training that enables it to accomplish specific tasks in support of its human handler.
It should also be noted that this offence only applies when the animal is killed or injured in the line of duty. Animals that do not fall within the scope of the new offence are nonetheless protected under the existing animal cruelty provisions of the Criminal Code.
As with the existing section 445 of the Criminal Code, the proposed offence would require the offender to have intended to kill or injure one of these animals. That way, accidental or negligent conduct would not be criminalized. Like section 445 of the Criminal Code, the new offence would carry a maximum penalty of five years of imprisonment or indictment of 18 months and-or a fine of $10,000 on summary conviction. However, it is important to note that the proposed amendments would also require courts to give primary consideration to denunciation and deterrence as sentencing objectives in respect of the new offence. Furthermore, we must underline that there would be a mandatory minimum of six months of imprisonment where a law enforcement animal was killed in the line of duty and the offence was prosecuted by indictment.
Bill C-35 also includes a provision that would require the sentence imposed on a person convicted of assault committed against a law enforcement officer to be served consecutively to any other sentence imposed on the offender for an offence committed at the same time.
The murder of a police officer is classified as first degree murder and is punishable by life imprisonment with a mandatory minimum period for parole eligibility of 25 years. The Criminal Code specifically prohibits assaults committed against police officers in the performance of their duties for a number of offences, including subsection 270.(1), assault on a peace officer; section 270.01, assault with a weapon or assault causing bodily harm on a peace officer; and section 270.02, aggravated assault on a peace officer.
Regrettably, data from the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics adult criminal court survey reveals that there are still too many assaults on police officers in our country. From 2009-10 to 2011-12, there were a total of 31,461 charges laid under section 270.(1), 345 charges laid under section 270.0, and 20 charges laid under section 270.02.
In 2009, the Criminal Code was amended to require courts, when sentencing persons convicted of such assaults, to give primary consideration to the objectives of denunciation and deterrence of such conduct.
I am sure that we all recognize that such attacks not only put the lives or safety of the individual officers at risk but that they also attack and undermine the justice system more broadly. Recognizing that the wilful killing or injuring of a law enforcement animal also undermines the justice system more broadly, the bill would require that the sentence imposed on a person convicted of the wilful killing or injuring of a law enforcement animal would be served consecutively to any other sentence imposed on the offender for an offence committed at the same time.
I could go on and on about this subject. However, I will close my remarks today by indicating that I am looking forward to the quick passage of the bill at third reading, and I sincerely hope that we can get the bill to our colleagues on the other side of the House and passed before we recess for the summer.