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

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (law enforcement animals, military animals and service animals)

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

Sponsor

Peter MacKay  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

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

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to better protect law enforcement animals, military animals and service animals and to ensure that offenders who harm those animals or assault peace officers are held fully accountable.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

June 15, 2015 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.

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

June 11th, 2015 / noon
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Conservative

Robert Goguen Conservative Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, the bill is definitely a step in the right direction, a direction mentioned in the hon. member's question.

However, with respect to animal protection, we must also consider and respect provincial jurisdictions. Ideally, if we want to work with the provinces, there must be greater consultation and they must agree.

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

June 11th, 2015 / noon
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Liberal

Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I was interested to hear my colleague say that the government will vigorously defend any claim of unconstitutionality with respect to the mandatory minimum sentences contained in the bill. My first question is somewhat rhetorical: how that is working for the government so far?

My other question relates to a discussion that we had at committee with respect to the lawful excuse defence. Within the Criminal Code, there is a lawful excuse defence that applies to Quanto's law. However, there was a new lawful excuse defence inserted into the Quanto's law bill that the officials from the Department of Justice said was redundant.

Can the parliamentary secretary explain and defend the reason for inserting into Quanto's law a redundant provision with respect to lawful excuse?

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

June 11th, 2015 / noon
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Conservative

Robert Goguen Conservative Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I was under the impression that this speech dealt with protecting law enforcement animals. It was not intended to be a dog's breakfast. We are actually doing pretty well in the constitutional realm. We do, of course, defend all our laws vigorously on a constitutional basis.

With regard to the essence of the offence, it was explained by one of the members of the committee who used to be an RCMP dog handler that when a dog is released to apprehend an offender, there is always the warning “I am letting the dog go.” In essence, when the dog is released, the offender knows that he or she is about to be attacked by the dog. The intent is that there not be an additional mental element inflicted upon the crown to try to prove. The RCMP always advises the offender that the dog is going to be released, so it is not necessary to have this wilful and specific intention available as a defence when the offenders are often advised that the dog is coming.

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

June 11th, 2015 / noon
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NDP

Dany Morin NDP Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am going to go back to the question posed by my NDP colleague from Trois-Rivières. Although we recognize that this bill is a step in the right direction, my colleague asked why the Conservative government did not go further and protect all animals, thus sending a clear message that the abuse or killing of a companion animal, whether our own or our neighbour's, is unacceptable. The federal government has at its disposal the Criminal Code of Canada, which is outside the provincial realm. I obviously hope that if a bill were brought forward, there would be discussions with the provinces.

Why is the Conservative government not interested in making the abuse or killing of an animal illegal and a Criminal Code offence?

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

June 11th, 2015 / noon
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Conservative

Robert Goguen Conservative Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I believe that the majority of Canadians would be open to possible changes with respect to animal abuse. In this case, however, we wanted to protect animals used in a very specific context. That does not preclude changes in the future. We know that many Canadians love animals. It remains to be seen. That said, we should not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

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

June 11th, 2015 / noon
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London North Centre Ontario

Conservative

Susan Truppe ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, I am proud and honoured to add my voice in support of Bill C-35, the justice for animals in service act, also known as Quanto's law. This is yet another piece of legislation that our government has introduced with the goal of making Canadian communities safer. In this case, the focus of the legislation is on deterring persons from harming law enforcement animals or other service animals as well as from assaulting law enforcement officers.

From the outset, there has been broad support in principle in this House and across the land for this legislation. What concerns there may have been with regard to one aspect of this proposed legislation, the mandatory minimum penalty of six months' imprisonment for the killing of a law enforcement animal that was assisting a law enforcement officer in carrying out his or her duties when that offence is prosecuted by way of indictment, have, I believe, been addressed in the course of the justice committee's study on the bill.

Before I go further, I want to express my appreciation to all the witnesses who appeared before the justice committee and provided their helpful perspectives on the legislation. It is the personal experiences and expertise they share with parliamentary committees that help us to better understand the objectives of proposed legislation and to sometimes improve it through amendments.

The most common type of law enforcement animal in use today is probably a police dog. Police dogs are specifically trained 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. Police dogs must remember several hand and verbal commands. The most commonly used breed is the German shepherd.

In the United States, anyone who kills a federal law enforcement animal will face fines and up to 10 years in prison. Similar statutes exist to protect police animals from malicious injury in every one of the states in the United States except South Dakota.

It is the sad truth that Quanto's law could have been named in honour of several other police dogs that have been killed in the line of duty. The Canadian Police Canine Association maintains a valour row on its website. Quanto's story is there, as are accounts of how 10 other law enforcement dogs were killed in the line of duty between 1965 and Quanto's death in 2013.

However, as the association's president admitted before the justice committee, the valour row does not present a complete picture; it includes only those animals that have been brought to the association's attention.

Bill C-35 recognizes and honours the important contribution that police dogs such as Quanto make to law enforcement. However, Bill C-35 also acknowledges the very important role that other service animals play. Through the work of the justice committee, we are more aware of the invaluable assistance that service animals provide to persons with disabilities. I am pleased that the bill would recognize the importance of other service animals. Service animals are trained to assist in performing some of the functions and tasks that persons with disabilities cannot perform for themselves. There are several different kinds of service dogs, including guide dogs, hearing dogs, mobility dogs, seizure alert/response dogs, psychiatric service dogs, and autism dogs.

I suspect that the type of service animal with which most people are familiar are Seeing Eye dogs used by individuals who are blind or have low vision. However, there are other types of service animals that assist persons with other kinds of disabilities in their day-to-day activities. These animals require the same type of recognition and the same type of protection from persons who would wilfully cause them harm.

A psychiatric service animal is a dog that is individually trained for people with an emotional or psychiatric disability so severe that it substantially limits their ability to perform at least one major life task. Psychiatric service dogs would be considered service animals under Bill C-35.

Proposed subsection 445.01(1) would create a new Criminal Code offence that would be distinct from the general offence of cruelty to animals in section 445 of the Criminal Code.

In terms of how this new offence would improve the protection of law enforcement animals, military animals, and service animals over the protection offered under the existing animal cruelty provisions of the Criminal Code, I would note that the enhancement is chiefly about sentencing.

While section 445 and proposed section 445.01 share the same maximum penalties whether the crown proceeds by way of indictment or by way of summary conviction, proposed new section 718.03 of the Criminal Code would require the courts to give primary consideration to denunciation and deterrence as sentencing objectives in respect of the new offence described in subsection 445.01(1).

While courts are required to impose a sentence that is proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender, this amendment would have a significant impact on the sentence imposed by the court. It is worth noting that courts are currently required to give primary consideration to denunciation and deterrence as sentencing objectives in regard to assaults committed against peace officers or other justice system participants.

Another important aspect of Bill C-35 is its proposal regarding the sentencing of persons convicted of committing any type of assault on a law enforcement officer, whether it is a common assault, an assault causing bodily harm, an assault with a weapon or an aggravated assault. It would require that a sentence imposed on the offender convicted of having committed such offence be served consecutively to any other sentence that might be imposed on the offender, arising out of the same event or series of events.

For example, there is a report of a break and enter. As the police arrive a suspect is seen running away from the house. A police officer engages in a foot chase with the fleeing suspect. The officer quickly catches up to the suspect and tackles him. The suspect pulls a knife, stabs the officer, wounds him and endangers his life. The officer is taken to the hospital and thankfully survives. Later, the offender is convicted of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, pursuant to 270.02 of the Criminal Code. In addition to being convicted of breaking and entering into a dwelling house contrary to section 348, in such a case the proposed amendment would require the sentence imposed for the aggravated assault to be served consecutively to the sentence imposed for the break and enter.

In closing, Bill C-35 would be a fitting legacy for Quanto. It is my view that the spotlight that has been placed on the intentional killing or infliction of harm on law enforcement animals as well as service animals will not soon be forgotten. By enhancing the protection afforded to these working animals we would also be making Canada a safer place for all.

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

June 11th, 2015 / 12:10 p.m.
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NDP

Philip Toone NDP Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech.

Although the bill is commendable in itself, there are still some issues. My colleague spoke about some service animals that do not belong to a law enforcement agency or government agency. In committee we heard about private service animals. However, that is unfortunately not reflected in the bill before us.

In the speeches made today we heard about the fact that private service animals are just as dear and precious to their owners as animals that provide a service for government institutions.

How does the member explain this omission from the bill, especially considering the fact that this issue came up in parliamentary committee?

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

June 11th, 2015 / 12:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Susan Truppe Conservative London North Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to agree that service animals are certainly very important for many people.

We do have a provision. For example, if animals do not fall under the definition of the proposed new offence they would be protected under the existing animal cruelty provisions included in section 445 of the Criminal Code. It provides that anyone who wilfully and without lawful excuse kills, maims, wounds, poisons or injures a dog, bird or animal that is not cattle and is kept for lawful purpose, is liable for up to five years' imprisonment when the offence is prosecuted by indictment. Therefore, there are other provisions for other animals as well.

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

June 11th, 2015 / 12:10 p.m.
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Conservative

LaVar Payne Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to my colleague, the member for London North Centre. She originally talked about some of the crime legislation that has been brought forward for the protection of Canadian citizens, as well as victims.

My question for my colleague is, why is our government introducing the justice for animals service act, known as Quanto's law?

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

June 11th, 2015 / 12:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Susan Truppe Conservative London North Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, part of the reason we introduced the legislation is it fulfills our commitment made in the 2013 Speech From the Throne. It is to recognize the daily risks taken by police officers and their service animals in their efforts to enforce the law and protect Canadians and communities. The legislation honours Quanto, a police dog stabbed to death while helping apprehend a fleeing suspect in Edmonton. Quanto had four years of decorated service and had participated in more than 100 arrests. It also recognizes the vital role that service animals play, such as guide dogs, in helping persons with disabilities form a better quality of life and lead more independent lives, or animals used by the Canadian Armed Forces.

This keeps Canada safe. The government is committed to ensuring that people who wilfully harm these animals will face the full force of the law.

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

June 11th, 2015 / 12:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if my colleague would comment on a previous question of why not other animals.

Would my colleague agree that in the case of other Criminal Code offences, in offences against a police officer, assaulting a police officer, police officers are human beings? They represent law and order and authority in this country. These service dogs and service animals represent law and authority, and I would suggest that is why we have this law. They are service animals in service of not only the individual but also of their community and their country.

We have also previously heard NDP members talking about mandatory minimum sentences and how Republicans in the United States are reducing their sentences. That is because they are about five times what our mandatory minimum sentences are.

I wonder if my colleague could give some examples of how consecutive sentencing provisions would work.

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

June 11th, 2015 / 12:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Susan Truppe Conservative London North Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, consecutive sentences are an important part of the bill.

I will give an example. An RCMP car stops a car the officer suspects is operated by an impaired driver. The driver exits the vehicle and assaults the police officer. The driver is convicted of impaired driving.

Under the existing section 718.02 of the Criminal Code, it requires that a court that imposes a sentence for assault on a police officer to:

...give primary consideration to the objectives of denunciation and deterrence of the conduct that forms the basis of the offence.

Under the proposed amendments, the court would be required to order that the sentence imposed for the assault of the RCMP be served consecutively to any term of imprisonment imposed for the impaired driving.

The same thing could be said for a trained police dog involved. If, for example, the perpetrator stabs a police dog, the perpetrator would be charged with injuring the police dog and the sentence would be served consecutively to the sentence for the break and enter, or whatever the scenario was.

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

June 11th, 2015 / 12:15 p.m.
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NDP

Philip Toone NDP Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise to speak, for the second time, to Bill C-35, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (law enforcement animals, military animals and service animals), also known as Quanto's law.

Quanto was a police dog in Edmonton that was stabbed to death when trying to intercept a fleeing suspect. That was in October 2013. The suspect pleaded guilty to animal cruelty and other offences, including evading police. He was sentenced to 26 months in prison and banned from owning a pet for 25 years. I want to say that this bill is commendable in itself. I think it sends a message to society that it is unacceptable to stab a police dog and that there will be serious consequences. Once again, that is commendable.

However, I want to get back to the topic of minimum sentences, because I think that is a flaw in the bill before us. Unfortunately this flaw was not fixed in parliamentary committee.

Barbara Cartwright of the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies appeared before the parliamentary committee. I will quote her testimony, which shows that we need to amend the Criminal Code.

I will quote her in English because she testified in English.

....Brigadier, a different animal, a police horse that was compassionately euthanized after he and his rider, Constable Kevin Bradfield, were struck in a hit and run incident. The driver of the vehicle was charged with dangerous operation of a vehicle causing bodily harm and failing to remain at the scene of an accident. It is believed that he deliberately struck the horse and the rider. Brigadier sustained fatal neck and rib injuries in the accident.

This is a repugnant act that I think would have benefited from the modifications that we have in front of us to send a clear signal that this is precisely the kind of act that this House and our society in general condemns.

This bill applies only to animals working for the state. I will come back to that because it is an important point.

As my colleague said in her speech a few minutes ago, this measure was presented by the government in the 2013 throne speech as we began the second session of the 42nd Parliament. Specifically, the government wants to amend the Criminal Code to create a new offence specifically prohibiting the killing, wounding, poisoning or injuring of trained animals working for law enforcement, people with disabilities or members of the Canadian Armed Forces.

In the 2013 throne speech, the government alluded to private service animals and people with disabilities. Unfortunately, that is not reflected in the bill before us. Government members said that that is already in the Criminal Code. Section 445 of the Criminal Code sets out penalties for animal cruelty. Some provinces, including Quebec, have recently adopted their own penalties for animal cruelty.

I asked this question the last time I gave a speech on this bill, and I am asking it again: If this is already in the Criminal Code, why are we studying a new bill, considering the severity of the penalties?

Section 718 of the Criminal Code of Canada outlines sentencing principles.

From this section we have seen that appeals have been brought before many courts, on a number of occasions and at many levels, specifically challenging the fact that the sentences are inappropriate, that they are cruel and unusual, and that they go beyond what is acceptable in a free and democratic society.

Just in the past 10 minutes I heard one of my Conservative colleagues suggest that authorities in the United States are seriously backtracking on minimum sentences. He thinks this is happening because their mandatory minimum sentencing went too far in the first place.

However, he failed to mention, or perhaps he does not realize, that in Canada, there are many cases before the courts right now, and that over the past few years minimum sentences have been overturned in many cases in Canada.

We should really look at our own jurisprudence to properly understand why minimum sentencing is very problematic for our courts today. In the most recent cases, trial judges have even refused to apply some elements of minimum sentences, because they felt they constituted cruel and unusual punishment.

We have to ask ourselves the following question: when we impose minimum sentences, why do we not trust trial judges, who should be capable of applying the appropriate sentence according to the circumstances?

We are in no position here in Parliament to presume in advance what sentences should be handed down under the circumstances. That is why the trial court is in the best position to hand down the right sentence according to the circumstances.

In French we refer to the lower court judge. I think it is even clearer in English. It is the trial judge. The appeals courts are superior courts, and the Supreme Court of Canada is the highest court in the land.

Superior court judges do not decide on the facts and the merit of the cases, but determine whether the law has or has not been properly applied. In some cases, the law or certain aspects of the law are overturned. Sentences that have to be imposed under the law are overturned when superior court justices feel comfortable doing so and believe that the sentence is cruel and unusual. It is really up to the trial judge to hand down an appropriate sentence according to the circumstances.

We have to trust our trial court judges because they are capable of handing down a reasonable, fair and appropriate sentence according to the circumstances. When we impose minimum sentences, we are setting aside the role of the trial judge.

I do not understand why the government often, not to say always, focuses on establishing minimum sentences when many experts believe that they will be overturned by the appeal and superior courts.

It seems like Parliament is creating jobs for lawyers, who continue to bill their clients for proceeding with appeal after appeal, and ultimately dealing with an issue that was already, and repeatedly, considered by our courts. I would like to see bills that strike a better balance.

Once again, imposing harsher sentences than those provided for in the Criminal Code is probably commendable. It signals that Parliament considers it unacceptable to attack a law enforcement animal.

In my opinion, sending a very clear message is the right thing to do. By moving to impose harsher sentences, Parliament is expressing, in probably the best way possible, its intention to make it clear that we do not approve and that it is completely unacceptable to attack a law enforcement animal.

However, the minimum sentence is still problematic. I assume that this aspect of the bill will eventually be challenged in court. It will cost the individual in question and the government a lot of money. From the examples that I have seen recently, I seriously doubt that this aspect of the bill will stand up in court. Once again, the government is unfortunately heading for a loss in court. I am wondering why the Conservative government insists on adding minimum sentences when sentencing is the role of the trial judge.

It seems as though the government did not spend a lot of time thinking about private service animals, despite their promise in the 2013 throne speech. The government decided to ignore that aspect and is telling us not to worry because it is already covered by section 445 of the Criminal Code. What is more, I heard the parliamentary secretary saying that we had to respect jurisdictions because privately held service animals fall under provincial jurisdiction. Perhaps I misunderstood, but to my knowledge, the Criminal Code is an area of federal jurisdiction and we have the tools to address that issue.

Let us say that we are infringing on provincial jurisdiction by adopting this minimum sentence. When the guilty parties are given a minimum sentence of six months, they will be sent to a provincial prison at the expense of the provinces.

Once again, the federal government is creating laws and then making the provinces bear the cost and responsibility without any federal assistance. The government is instituting minimum sentences that will cost the federal government nothing but will increase the burden of the provinces, without even consulting the provinces to try to come to an agreement.

The government has done this sort of thing time and time again. The Conservatives like to boast that they want to balance the budget. However, the most recent budget is not really balanced because they helped themselves to $1.4 billion from the employment insurance fund. They simply found another source of revenue and now they would have us believe that the budget is balanced. Meanwhile, what they have done is imposed heavier burdens on poor people in Canada, while the wealthy reap the benefits. That was just an aside.

Let us get back to the bill. The Conservative government has repeatedly downloaded the cost of its bills onto the provinces even though the federal government should bear those costs. Minimum sentences are an excellent example of that. We have seen this over and over in a number of areas, including health, where provincial transfers have been cut. They say they have a $54 billion, 10-year infrastructure program, but last year, the Conservatives spent only about $250 million. Moreover, they took away so many of the eligibility criteria that this has basically turned into another way to transfer the costs to the provinces.

The Conservative government seems to have no qualms about introducing and passing bills with no regard for Canadian taxpayers. It has no problem making them pay, but it would have us believe that the federal government has nothing to do with the fact that provincial income taxes have to go up significantly or their services have to go down significantly to make up for the costs the federal government is forcing them to absorb. That is not a real partnership. A confederation should be a real partnership.

Unfortunately I do not think that is what we have in this country, and the bill before us is a fine example of that. I want to stress once again that the parliamentary secretary is trying to convince us that we cannot help private service animals because that would interfere in a provincial jurisdiction. That is completely untrue. In any case, the government has no problem interfering in other areas of provincial jurisdiction. It makes absolutely no sense that the government would claim today that it cannot interfere in a provincial jurisdiction when it has done so many times.

I want to get back to the bill before us. Those 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, as I mentioned earlier. The maximum sentence is therefore five years and the minimum is six months if a law enforcement animal is killed while helping a police officer enforce the law and if the offence is prosecuted by indictment. If a law enforcement animal is wounded or killed in the line of duty, the sentence imposed for this offence would be served consecutively to any other punishment imposed on the perpetrator.

That is another aspect of minimum sentences that I find difficult to accept. Consecutive mandatory minimum penalties take away the discretion of trial judges, who are the ones in the best position to determine a reasonable sentence according to the circumstances. The goal here is to ensure that society understands that attacking an animal in service to the state is unacceptable. A penalty must be imposed that reflects the circumstances before the court. The judge is the one in the best position to determine the appropriate sentence. If someone is convicted of certain offences and if mandatory minimum penalties are imposed for any other crime that individual is convicted of, a consecutive sentence means that all of these mandatory minimums would be imposed one after the other, and that individual could stay behind bars for a very long time. Consecutive sentences are very rare in Canada. They are much more common in the United States. We must try to avoid that trend here in Canada. We should not be following the U.S. example and start imposing consecutive sentences. People in the United States can now serve sentences of over 100 years. There is no explanation for how the U.S. got to that point. Perhaps they got there by gradually eroding the trial judges' ability to impose reasonable sentences according to the circumstances. We are not doing Canada's justice system any favours by imposing tougher sentences, tougher than what is considered fair and reasonable in a free and democratic society.

The government should reread section 718 of the Criminal Code, which sets out the principles to be upheld in sentencing. The government has gone astray. I do not believe that it realizes that the purpose of sentences is not just to indicate to people that certain activities are unacceptable in society. Sentences are also intended to ensure that the guilty party can be rehabilitated. We want to find ways to help that person reintegrate back into society. As far as I know, putting someone in prison for years and years can teach him to be a better criminal and commit other crimes in the future. Leaving criminals in crime school is not the best way to run our penitentiary system in Canada. That is why section 718 contains a number of sentencing principles.

I believe the bill before us includes some aspects of section 718. However, I think we got off track when it comes to other aspects of that section. I hope that the government will think about that in future bills. The government failed to include private service animals in this bill. Perhaps it is time to introduce a bill to correct that mistake.

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

June 11th, 2015 / 12:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, again I want to thank and commend my colleague for his speech.

I agree with what he said about mandatory minimum sentences and the relationship between the federal and provincial governments and the burden this creates. It is clear that the federal government's actions have consequences for the provinces. However, my question has to do with mandatory minimum sentences.

We heard the parliamentary secretary indicate that the government will vigorously defend any constitutional attack on the mandatory minimum sentences contained in this piece of legislation. I would be interested in his reaction to that.

Second, in his critique of the mandatory minimums, there is a discretion retained within the prosecution to proceed summarily and avoid a mandatory minimum, or by indictment, in which case the mandatory minimum applies. Does he consider that relevant to his critique?

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

June 11th, 2015 / 12:35 p.m.
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NDP

Philip Toone NDP Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his comments and questions.

Certainly when one proceeds either by summary conviction or by indictment, that is often a question of what the various parties will be able to negotiate, and I would not want to see negotiations go off the rails because of minimum sentences that might colour the negotiations. It is unfortunate that we always have to keep minimum sentences in mind during certain proceedings, and this would be one of those cases.

Regarding the parliamentary secretary's vigorous defence of those mandatory minimums, at justice committee I asked the Minister of Justice how much all of this is costing the Canadian public to continuously be defending what is often indefensible. How much money is being invested to defend the minimum sentences the courts are throwing out on so many occasions? Regrettably the minister did not give us an answer. It would be interesting if the ministry could actually give us the number. How much are these minimum sentences costing the Canadian public, especially when they are so hard to defend?