Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The member for Red Deer—Lacombe will also be speaking.
My riding is primarily agricultural. In addition to producing grains and oilseeds, the land supports thriving cattle and hog industries. My constituency is also blessed with vast tracks of natural habitats and numerous lakes that support hunting, angling, and trapping activities that are critical to our way of life and our thriving tourism industry.
The wise use of our fish and wildlife resources, and the efficient, humane, and environmental sound raising of livestock are critical to maintaining the economy and the way of life in my riding. It is my duty as the MP to vigorously defend our way of life against the ill-conceived Bill C-246.
Let me be clear. We all support animal welfare, but animal welfare is a far cry from animal rights. Canada has good animal welfare legislation at both the provincial and federal levels. However, Bill C-246 is a Trojan horse that would advance a pure animal rights agenda.
The animal rights movement is very clear that its primary goal is the elimination of all animal use. Animal Justice Canada strongly supports Bill C-246, and it is “working to enshrine meaningful animal rights into Canadian law, including the right of animals to have their interests represented in court, and the guarantee of rights and freedoms that make life worth living”.
The group PETA, on the masthead of its website, proudly states that “Animals are not ours to [kill], eat, wear, experiment on, or [exploit] for entertainment”. Then there is PETA's famous line, “When it comes to pain, love, joy, loneliness...a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy”.
There are many other animal rights groups that are advancing the same agenda and strongly supporting Bill C-246. We are known by the company we keep.
The Criminal Code of Canada, and all provinces, have comprehensive provisions that criminalize various kinds of animal cruelty and neglect. The courts have for decades consistently interpreted these provisions as not intending to forbid conduct that is socially acceptable or otherwise authorized by law, such as hunting, fishing, medical research, and slaughter for food.
What would Bill C-246 change? I am looking at the Criminal Code side. I am not looking at the cat and dog or shark finning matters.
First, offences against animals would no longer be offences against certain property. This significant change would take animal cruelty offences out of the section dealing with offences against certain property and move them to the section of the Criminal Code dealing with offences against persons, giving rise to the suggestion that animals are no longer a special type of property but are potentially entitled to rights that are similar to persons.
Second, there is an inclusion of the new “recklessly” test. The new section 182.1 includes the test of “recklessly” to the existing “wilfully” test for causing “unnecessary pain, suffering, or injury to an animal”. This would expand the kind of conduct that could be criminalized.
Third, with regard to the new “kills” and animal offences, the bill would add two new offences that are not currently in the Criminal Code. Section 182.1(1) says:
Everyone commits an offence who, wilfully or recklessly,
(b) kills an animal or, being the owner, permits an animal to be killed, brutally or viciously, regardless of whether the animal dies immediately;
(c) kills an animal without lawful excuse;
This “brutally or viciously” test is completely novel and does not appear to have been previously used in any Canadian statute or interpreted in any Canadian court. This provision does not appear to exist in any legislation in the United Kingdom, Australia, or the United States. It would create a new and very broad offence. For example, would the current method of cooking lobster by placing them live in a pot of boiling water be criminalized?
Currently, killing an animal is not the focus of the Criminal Code. Cruelty, not killing, was a focus of the offences. This new test would force a court to evaluate the method of killing that is chosen, and if it falls within the test or there is no lawful excuse, it criminalizes the behaviour. Lawful excuse is not defined in Bill C-246.
These two sections, depending on how they would be interpreted by the courts, could have the effect of criminalizing many recreational, agricultural, commercial, and scientific activities, such as medical research, and religious practices such as kosher or halal butchering.
Four, there is the addition of a negligence standard. This widening of the test for criminalizing from “wilfully” under the current section, to the much lower “negligently” test in the new bill, could have the potential of criminalizing far more types of behaviour.
It must be noted that anyone convicted under the expanded provisions would now have a criminal record that would follow them for the rest of their lives, affecting international travel and employment prospects.
A person will no longer have to be willfully cruel to be criminalized, just clumsy, incompetent, or unlucky. For example, this section could create consequences for accidentally striking an animal with a vehicle. This is a vast expansion of criminal liability to areas of activity that should not be affected by the criminal law or are already regulated under other existing federal-provincial legislation.
Fifth, there are no specific exemptions for legal conduct to offences listed.
The bill provides in182.5 that common law defences in subsections 8(3) and 429(2) of the Criminal Code are not effective. However, these are defences to the commission of the offence, not the exclusion of otherwise legal activities from being criminalized under the Criminal Code.
These specific legal activities, ranching, hunting, fishing, trapping, medical research, etc., should be clearly listed in the bill so that otherwise legal activities should be taken out of the Criminal Code completely and not criminalized.
There are also possible constitutional issues. All provinces have animal cruelty laws. I have read every one of them. Where a federal bill criminalizes an activity that is deemed lawful and regulated under provincial law, constitutional issues relating to the validity of the statutes arise. This is another reason to clearly and specifically spell out which otherwise lawful activities are not criminalized.
The Criminal Code is meant to contain laws that criminalize certain actions or behaviours. It is meant to be broad enough to allow enforcement but specific enough to target particular actions. The problem with this legislation is that it is not targeting specific actions. We do not actually know what action may be considered criminal with this vague language. It does not even provide a list of activities that are permitted.
In terms of Bill C-246, many people mistakenly think this is a rural versus urban issue, or it is all about hunting, angling, trapping, and ranching. If enacted, Bill C-246 could affect all Canadians.
Let us look at medical research. Most, if not all, animal rights groups oppose animal-based medical research. Canadians must realize that most significant medical breakthroughs result from animal-based medical research. Approximately 60% of all cardiovascular research is conducted on animals. The Heart and Stroke Foundation, on its website, notes:
Remarkable progress has been made tackling cardiovascular disease in Canada over the past 60 years with death rates declining by more than 75 per cent. This has largely been due to research advances....
It must be noted that all surgical techniques are developed and tested on animals before they are applied to humans. Humanity owes a great deal of gratitude to those animals that are sacrificed so that we might light.
I, and hundreds of thousands of Canadians, are alive today because of cardiovascular advancements, which were developed using animal experimentation. If we were to stop performing medical research on animals, we are basically saying that we should stop making life-saving medical breakthroughs. This is not acceptable to me or anyone else.
Some of these groups want to stop using animals, while others would prefer to push even further and use vexatious litigation to punish those who use animals in any manner. The effect of their campaigns have been devastating for remote, rural communities, such as those represented by the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and others that depend on sealing and trapping. Those communities are represented by MPs from all parties in the House.
I do not approve of wilful cruelty to animals, however, words are very important, and I fear the language in Bill C-246 will not, in fact, crack down on those who wilfully harm animals, but instead will put legitimate and necessary animal use practices in legal jeopardy.
I cannot vote in good conscience for legislation that could potentially cast a chill over medical research on animals, potentially criminalize ranchers, trappers, and jeopardize traditional outdoor activities, such as hunting and angling, along with the many other legitimate animal use practices that are vital for our economy and well-being.
I would ask my colleagues to consider these serious concerns, and vote against Bill C-246.