Modernizing Animal Protections Act

An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Fisheries Act, the Textile Labelling Act, the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act and the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act (animal protection)


Nathaniel Erskine-Smith  Liberal

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


Defeated, as of Oct. 5, 2016

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-246.


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

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to consolidate and modernize various offences against animals.

The enactment amends the Fisheries Act to prohibit the practice of shark finning and the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act to prohibit the importation of shark fins that are not attached to the rest of the shark carcass.

It also amends the Textile Labelling Act to modify requirements in respect of animal hair and fur and cat and dog skin, hair and fur.

It also amends the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act to add products made in whole or in part of dog or cat fur or skin to Schedule 2 to that Act to prohibit those products from being imported into Canada or manufactured, advertised or sold in Canada.


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.


Oct. 5, 2016 Failed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Modernizing Animal Protections ActPrivate Members' Business

September 28th, 2016 / 6:40 p.m.
See context


Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in support of Bill C-246, proposed to ensure laws that prevent animal cruelty, shark finning, and the sale of products made from pet fur.

Because Canada's laws on offences against animals have not been substantively changed since 1892, constituents such as Robin Fru and Judy Daviduk, of Nanaimo, are urging me to move mountains against animal cruelty.

Large sections of this bill advance measures that New Democrats have proposed over time, and we would like to see these become law, and we would like to see the hard work of many community organizations, and parliamentarians of all stripes, recognized.

Most important to say up front is that this is about animal abuse, not animal use. The bill would not apply to lawful activities such as hunting and fishing.

The Department of Justice has been clear: this bill applies to criminal abuse, not lawful activities involving animals. However, because letter writers have conveyed to me that they fear the lawful activities of ordinary Canadians could be interpreted as being affected by this bill, we will introduce amendments to clarify that. The NDP wishes to protect the right to hunt, fish, farm, and trap legally, and we will propose amendments to clarify that. Hunters and anglers are vital conservation partners on Vancouver Island, and we need them to be part of the conversation about criminal animal cruelty.

The first part is about shark finning. Despite action by local governments to ban shark finning, Canada still imports several hundred thousand pounds of shark fins every year. This section of the bill would stop the importation of shark fins.

Thanks to the New Democrat member for Port Moody—Coquitlam, this measure came within five votes of passing in 2013. The only party that stood against it was the Conservative Party, even though 81% of Canadians polled supported a shark fin ban at that time.

One of the most comprehensive studies on shark fisheries was compiled recently at Dalhousie University, in Halifax. In it, scientists estimated that at least 100 million sharks are killed every year around the world. It may be 273 million each year. The study found that shark populations are being depleted faster than they can reproduce. This threatens the stability of marine ecosystems around the world.

The largest culprit is the illegal shark fin harvest, which feeds a growing demand for shark fin soup. Sharks are hooked out of the ocean onto boats and their fins are sliced off while they are still alive. The rest of the shark is discarded into the ocean, where, unable to swim without its fins, it sinks helplessly to the bottom to die. This powerful image was conveyed in the documentary Sharkwater. It was horrific carnage that I will not forget.

While sharks have survived earth's mass extinctions for over 400 million years, many shark species could be extinct within decades. A major environmental issue associated with shark finning is that the harvest is not specific to gender, size, or species. Therefore, we cannot target harvests to avoid endangered species, as we do with conservation-oriented fisheries.

A further biological complication is that sharks are naturally slow to breed and mature. This makes sharks particularly vulnerable to overfishing, and it makes extinction for many shark species increasingly likely.

This is why extinction would be absolutely terrible. Shark extinctions would significantly alter ocean ecosystems, and they likely already have, because sharks are vitally important apex predators. Like wolves and lions, their terrestrial counterparts, top predators control the population of grazers below them in the food chain. If left unchecked, this can destabilize entire ecosystems.

Specifically, sharks reduce the over-consumption and depletion of plankton by herbivorous fish. This is relevant to the pressing issue of climate change, because plankton are a carbon sink. Plankton absorb carbon, and when plankton die, they sink the carbon to the bottom of the ocean, where it sits. Without sharks, plankton populations will become depleted, meaning more acidic oceans and more carbon in the atmosphere.

Shark extinctions will exacerbate climate change. The health of the oceans, the climate of the planet, and ultimately the survival of our species might depend on sharks.

If by any chance people still believe the myth that sharks are bloodthirsty human eaters and ruthless killers that might harm our species, I will share this compelling stat with them. More people are killed each year by falling vending machines than by shark attacks. I ask members to please come together and support the ban on shark-fin imports for all our sake.

The second part of this bill includes provisions to strengthen and modernize existing animal cruelty offences. These provisions have been advanced by many members of Parliament, including former New Democrat, Peggy Nash. They passed third reading in the House several times, and they were once even approved in the Senate. These changes are needed. For example, a man was acquitted of beating his dog to death by a baseball bat, but he was acquitted because the dog died quickly. As well, willful neglect of domestic animals has been hard to prove. This bill today, instead, proposes a gross negligence offence for failing to provide adequate care, where an individual is found to have departed markedly from a standard of care that a reasonable person would use.

Finally, in this bill, the courts would be allowed to impose a lifetime ownership ban on repeat offenders of animal cruelty. Ninety-two per cent of Canadians polled support updating the Criminal Code to make it easier to secure convictions for animal cruelty offences. I hope parliamentarians will stand with these people.

The final part of the bill proposes to ban the sale of cat and dog fur, and also to require source labelling of fur. This would match the laws in the U.S. and the European Union. A 2012 Toronto Star investigation revealed that cat and dog fur is used in children's toys, boots, and in trim on coats. Three NDP MPs have previously attempted the measures contained in this bill to ban the sale of that fur and to require source labelling for cat and dog fur.

In conclusion, I want to say again that this bill is not about hunting and fishing. If it were, I would not support it. This is about animal abuse, not animal use. The bill applies to criminal abuse, not to lawful activities involving animals. My riding is built on commercial fisheries. It is full of hunters and anglers doing vital preservation work, and our riding is very dependent on recreational and sport fisheries. Because I do not want anyone to fear that lawful activities like those would ever be affected by this bill, there is an amendment we would propose in committee to clarify that this would not affect lawful hunting and fishing.

Finally, Robert Brodgesell of Ladysmith reminded me of Gandhi's words: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”. I urge Parliament to vote together and show leadership to end animal cruelty in Canada.

Modernizing Animal Protections ActPrivate Members' Business

September 28th, 2016 / 6:50 p.m.
See context

Parkdale—High Park Ontario


Arif Virani LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise today as the member of Parliament for Parkdale—High Park and speak on behalf of my constituents in support of Bill C-246, legislation that would strengthen animal protection in Canada.

I want to start with a now familiar quote, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”. That was Mahatma Gandhi. His words, uttered over half a century ago, remain as relevant today as ever. I say that because the last time animal cruelty laws were substantially changed in Canada was 1892. That was the first year Lord Stanley's cup was competed for by hockey teams in the Dominion. That was 124 years ago. Legislative change in this area is long overdue.

I applaud the member for Beaches—East York for introducing legislation that would help bring Canada's animal protection laws into the 20th century.

Before I even read Bill C-246, I heard about it from the engaged residents of my riding of Parkdale—High Park by mail, by phone, through email. I am moved by the passion and dedication of my constituents, people like Ms. Barbi Lazarus and Mr. Kirti Shah, from the Toronto Vegetarian Association. They have been advocating for fair animal treatment practices in our community and around the country for years. Mr. Shah shares the same faith as my wife, Jainism, a religion that teaches about non-violence and respect for all living things. They understand that the kinds of practices Bill C-246 would prohibit have no place in Canadian society.

However, I did not simply hear from adult advocates. In my riding, I also heard from youth. On a visit to the class of Mr. Davis Mirza, at Keele Street Junior Public School, I heard from Grades 5 and 6 students about their concerns. They were shocked to learn how long it had been since changes were made to Canada's laws respecting animals. They demanded that we, as parliamentarians, do better to ensure our laws reflect the values of all Canadians, including our young people who care deeply about animal welfare.

I have listened to the concerns of my constituents, and I am committed to doing better by supporting this important bill, which I seconded on May 9 of this year.

However, it is not just the people in Parkdale—High Park who are concerned about animal welfare. Canadians across the country and across the political spectrum care deeply about this issue. A key indicator of this are a few facts: 5,630 people have signed e-petition 509 in support of Bill C-246; 13,000 Canadians signed e-petition 123 relating to the use of cat and dog fur; and on, 48,000 signatures were collected in support of the bill.

Let us turn to the bill. Bill C-246 addresses issues that I consider, to be frank, largely uncontroversial.

First, it would ban the sale of cat and dog fur in Canada. It would require labelling that shows the source of all fur. Amazingly, in our country we do not have labelling requirements for animal fur garments. As I have learned through the advocacy of residents in my community, like Josie Candito, a tireless champion of animal rights in Parkdale—High Park, cat and dog fur is used for trim on coats, the lining in children's boots, and the exterior of toys. This is all permitted to occur because we do not have the necessary prohibitions in place. Bill C-246 would change this.

Second, Bill C-246 would ban the importation of shark fins. I venture to guess that most Canadians are unaware of what shark finning actually involves. Let me explain it briefly. Shark finning is the practice of catching a shark, cutting off its fin, and simply discarding the remainder of the shark's body back into the ocean. The still live, finless shark is completely unable to swim, sinks to the bottom of the ocean, and drowns. This heinous practice has been illegal in Canada since 1994, but the importation of shark fins continues unabated.

In 2015 alone, 318,000 pounds of shark fins were imported into Canada. Municipalities such as Calgary and Toronto banned the importation of shark fins, but their bans were overturned in court because they were not under municipal jurisdiction. The Court ruled that only the federal government has the power to impose such a ban. Clearly, this is Parliament's cue to take action.

This brings me to my third point in relation to the bill. Bill C-246 also answers the Supreme Court's call for clarity on the issue of bestiality. Allow me to explain.

In the case of D.L.W., our Supreme Court acquitted a man accused of bestiality where the sexual conduct involved a dog and the man's teenager stepdaughter. Because the act in question involved a disturbing act of oral sex and not physical penetration, the Supreme Court of Canada overturned the man's conviction.

In his majority ruling, Justice Cromwell said:

The term bestiality has a well-established legal meaning and refers to sexual intercourse between a human and an animal.... It is manifestly not the role of the courts to expand that definition. Any expansion of criminal liability for this offence is within Parliament's exclusive domain.

As can be imagined, the public response to this decision was incredulous, not because of the judge's interpretation—Justice Cromwell was simply applying the law—but because the actual definition of bestiality was so narrow. We do not need to be lawyers, we just need to apply some common sense to recognize that the bestiality prohibition ought to prevent all sexual acts with animals as exploitative. Whether penetration occurs or not is not the issue and should not be determinative.

That is exactly what this bill will address, a legal void. It will expand the definition of bestiality, as the Supreme Court invited this Parliament to do to cover all “sexual activity between a person and an animal”. This will improve on an important goal, preventing the sexual exploitation of animals in all of its forms, a goal that I am confident all members of the House believe in pursuing.

Fourth, I would like to address some misunderstandings about this bill. Bill C-246 is geared towards preventing animal abuse. It does not affect or prohibit legitimate animal use. Therefore, in the latter category, the rights of anglers and hunters are not compromised by this bill, nor are the rights of livestock farmers.

Concerns about the impact of this bill on legal, accepted practices is unfounded. Allow me to explain. To contemplate a situation where police, conservation officers, and prosecutors across this country would somehow investigate and begin charging and prosecuting hunters, anglers, or farmers engaged in well-accepted animal practices is simply not credible. As a former crown counsel who practised law for 14 years, I know firsthand that police and prosecutors are far too preoccupied with serious criminals to use their precious, limited resources to chase after our important farmers or law-abiding anglers and hunters. Legitimate, well-accepted animal use practices are not the target of this legislation. The target is animal abuse.

Let me provide some examples. Dog fighting, for instance, is not simply a foreign problem. It has reared its ugly head recently in Tilbury East Township in Ontario, where they seized 31 pit bull-type dogs in a case involving 5 different individuals.

Another example of animal abuse is puppy mills. One such mill was discovered in Windsor this past June. A total of 14 dogs were found in the possession of a single woman, and the dogs' physical condition had seriously deteriorated. One of the dogs, a Shih Tzu, was found with six pounds of dried feces attached to its long, matted fur. Those are the types of abuse targeted by this bill.

The proposed amendments in this legislation to the animal cruelty provisions of the Criminal Code would facilitate prosecutions of animal abusers, moving the criminal standard from “willful neglect” to “gross” or severe “negligence”. In addition, this bill will close some of the loopholes that currently exist regarding animal fighting, and those who benefit economically from it. This includes criminalizing receiving money for fighting animals, and breeding, training or transporting an animal in order to fight another animal.

The fifth point that I want to make is that Bill C-246 is based on sound evidence. There are numerous studies and journal articles demonstrating that animal abuse is often a precursor to later, more serious criminal activity, including domestic violence. So there is an important public interest in enacting legislation that targets animal abuse, and works to deter such behaviour. This observation was made in previous submissions and speeches on this legislation.

By enacting Bill C-246, Parliament can deter animal abuse, which will have the derivative effect of helping to address some of the root causes of violent crime in this country, including violence against women.

I would urge members to get behind Bill C-246 not simply because it is based on sound evidence, but also because it is ethically sound. To circle back to the quote from Gandhi I mentioned at the outset:

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.

This observation rings true, because more so than any other un-empowered group, animals are truly voiceless. They cannot advocate for themselves. By definition they require others to take up their cause. In 2016, some 124 years since the last significant change to the animal cruelty provisions in the Criminal Code, I believe its high time we took up that call as parliamentarians. That is why I am supporting this bill.

Modernizing Animal Protections ActPrivate Members' Business

September 28th, 2016 / 7 p.m.
See context


Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-246, modernizing animal protections act.

I want to start by saying that before my life in this place, I was a full-time beef farmer. All the livestock farmers I know have pets, dogs, and I was no different. Nobody has more respect for animals than those people.

I am speaking not just for myself as a parliamentarian and not just for the farmers in my riding of Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, but for farmers everywhere, and also people who hunt, fish, and trap. This is a bill that has them very concerned.

Bill C-246 is a reiteration of several other pieces of similar legislation that have come before the House over the years. Having been a member of Parliament since 2004, I can say that I have seen some variation of the bill in almost every Parliament I have been a part of. It has been voted down every single time due to concerns that it goes too far and endangers legitimate animal use. I will express these same concerns here today.

The riding I represent is a rural riding. It is home to a lot of farmers, hunters, anglers, and trappers. For the constituents of Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, animal use has always been a vital part of their everyday life. For this reason I will be speaking against the passage of Bill C-246 at second reading, as I feel that it would endanger the livelihoods of the many residents of Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound and across Canada, and possibly put an end to the number of farming, hunting, angling, and trapping traditions across Canada.

I will start by stating that I am fully supportive of legislation and initiatives that seek to promote better welfare for animals and I am in full support of harsher penalties for those who are wilfully and intentionally cruel to animals. Those who are knowingly cruel to animals should face the full force of the law. Nobody is disputing that, and anybody who opposes the bill does not dispute that aspect of it. In fact, in the last Parliament I was pleased to vote in favour of Quanto's law, which was a piece of legislation that enhanced legal protection for service animals of police agencies and the Canadian Armed Forces.

Furthermore, I note that the bill contains provisions surrounding shark finning, which again, I am opposed to, but shark finning has been illegal in Canada since 1994. We should not even be talking about it. There is no need. It is illegal already.

Overall Canada has very good animal welfare legislation at both the provincial and federal levels, but I am always open to discussing potential problem areas to ensure that animal welfare is upheld. These are not the measures with which I have great concerns.

When it comes to Bill C-246, I am concerned with four specific sections of the bill. The first is a section of the bill that moves the provision in the Criminal Code surrounding animal cruelty out of the section dealing with offences against certain property and into the section dealing with offences against persons. This could be the start of a very dangerous trend. Essentially, moving animal cruelty provisions from that section of the Criminal Code to this section of the Criminal Code begins to suggest that animals are entitled to the full rights of human beings and have the right to be represented in court. I find this deeply troubling, as it could be the beginning of the end of hunting, farming, angling, and trapping.

To put this in perspective, it does not mean we do not respect animals, but if I had to choose between one of my family, like one of my grandkids and my dog, in terms of rights, I think there is only one obvious way I would choose. I hope I never have to do so, but the bill could do that.

Furthermore, Bill C-246 contains a number of new provisions that redefine what constitutes criminal activities against animals, the first of which is the inclusion of a recklessness test that would be included alongside the wilful test. What this means is that wilfully causing harm or suffering to an animal has always been illegal, but the bill would add a new host of actions that would fall under the test of recklessly causing harm or suffering.

The problem here is that what constitutes recklessness is not clearly defined. Would hitting an animal with a car constitute reckless harm or suffering? We have all hit animals, or most of us have, if we drive in rural Canada. Would hitting an animal cause reckless harm or suffering? I do not think so. It is not intentional, but accidents happen.

These are the loopholes that make the bill so dangerous. I would not want to see anyone slapped with a criminal record for hitting a racoon, deer, or whatever with a car.

My greatest concern is the following provision, which I will read. Under proposed subsection 182.1(1) it 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;

This opens up a very serious can of worms that would result in the criminalization of farming, hunting, angling, and trapping in Canada. The words “brutally” and “viciously” are used here to describe what could constitute an offence against animals under the Criminal Code. A major problem here is that there is no definition of what is meant by brutally or viciously. Furthermore, these terms are completely brand new to any sort of legislation related to animal cruelty in Canada, the U.K., Australia, and the U.S.

Further still, no Canadian court has every interpreted this language, so we do not know how this will play out once this legislation comes into force. I have heard from a great number of constituents and stakeholder groups that this has the potential to criminalize any sort of animal use in Canada. The language is simply too vague. It is unacceptable.

For example, the group PETA states that animals are not ours to kill, eat, wear, experiment on, or exploit for entertainment. It would seem as though PETA would certainly claim that slaughtering cattle for beef production would constitute a brutal or vicious act against animals. There goes our agriculture industry.

PETA would most certainly state that shooting a deer, moose, or turkey would be a brutal or vicious act against animals. There goes recreational hunting in Canada. A fish with a lure in its mouth: gone is the recreational fishery. A muskrat or beaver in a trap: there goes our trapping and fur trade.

I think members see the point I am trying to make. Because the provisions in the bill are so open to interpretation, and because the interpretations are so wide-sweeping, we could see the end of many different traditions and practices related to animal use in Canada.

While I do not think it was the intent of the sponsor of the bill to criminalize these activities, it is most certainly a major problem with the legislation. Furthermore, a simple solution would have been to clearly state a list of activities that are exempt from the provisions in the legislation. This list should include ranching, farming, hunting, fishing, trapping, and medical research. This would ensure that these legal activities would not result in the handing out of criminal records for otherwise lawful activities.

Finally, I want to discuss a host of proposed changes that have been sent to me by the sponsor and that many stakeholders have been talking about. I appreciate the efforts made by the sponsor to enhance the bill and respond to concerns from the farming, hunting, angling, and trapping communities. However, there is no guarantee that these amendments will be proposed and adopted by the committee.

Therefore, at second reading, I cannot support the bill as currently drafted. I took some interest in what my colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice, said when he spoke to the bill in the first hour of second reading. He stated that,

Animal cruelty is an important social issue that deserves a comprehensive legislative response. It needs broad public consultation to allow us to get this right. The best way forward is in the review of the Criminal Code that will take place in the future. This way we can hear and attempt to address the concerns of Canadians engaged in legitimate activities of hunting, fishing, ranching, medical research, etc.

While I do not always agree with my hon. colleague on all issues, on this issue he has hit the nail right on the head. We need to consult with those who have expressed concerns about the bill so that we can ensure that we protect animal welfare in Canada in a way that does not criminalize traditions that rely on animal use.

In closing, I would like to say to the member that I truly appreciate that he tried to fix this after the fact, but he could have drafted the bill with the right kind of consultation in advance. I would be happy to work with him on something like that, and there are probably other members in my caucus who would work with him, but we just cannot support it the way it is.

Modernizing Animal Protections ActPrivate Members' Business

September 28th, 2016 / 7:10 p.m.
See context


Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to Bill C-246 today and I thank the member for Beaches—East York for bringing it forward. It deals with three rather loosely related issues: animal cruelty, the importation of dog and cat fur, and shark finning.

I have received a lot of feedback on this bill from constituents, most of it in favour of the bill because it seeks to strengthen animal cruelty law, but I have also heard serious concern from outdoor enthusiasts who felt that the bill might have inadvertently caught up hunting, fishing, and trapping in the web of animal cruelty provisions.

I have had meetings with three hunters' groups in my riding who expressed this concern clearly. I assured them then and I assure them again that this is certainly not the case and if it were, I could not support it. That said, I would be happy if the committee would explore amendments that would make that crystal clear, and perhaps list the legal activities that would be excluded, as the previous member stated. This is really about criminal cruelty, not legal hunting, fishing, trapping, or agriculture.

I would like to spend the rest of my time talking about the third issue dealt with in this bill, and that is shark finning. Finning is the practice of removing fins from live sharks on board fishing boats, and tossing the big animals overboard, where they die a cruel death. In that sense, finning might belong in this bill about animal cruelty, but it is really the impact on shark populations, and how that changes our ocean ecosystems that I think is a deeper concern.

Many Canadians might not know how widespread, important, and diverse sharks are in Canadian waters. There are 28 species of sharks off of our shores, most of them large predators. Some are at the top of the food chain, and play a key role in shaping our marine ecosystems. Like many large predators, they are slow growing, slow to mature, and slow to reproduce. These are all features that make their populations very sensitive to overharvest, especially the overharvest of adults.

Sharks have been suffering serious population declines in recent decades for a variety of reasons. Of the 245 species of sharks in the world, 65, more than a quarter, are on the red list compiled by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. They are at some real risk of extinction.

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, COSEWIC, has assessed six species of Canadian sharks and listed three as endangered, and three as species of special concern. The two main causes of population declines are fisheries bycatch and shark finning. These two issues are related since many sharks caught in other fisheries, such as the longline fisheries for tuna and swordfish, are routinely finned and tossed back.

Estimates of the numbers of sharks finned each year are difficult to calculate, but all estimates are mind-bogglingly high. A 100 million is the standard answer, but some estimates are over twice that. This practice is changing our oceans forever. Can anyone imagine 100 million bears disappearing from our forests each year, and what that would do to our ecosystems, or what about the loss of 100 million lions from the plains of Africa?

Some species are particularly hard hit by finning. The scalloped hammerhead has declined by over 90%, one study suggesting the loss of 98%, over a period of 30 years off the east coast of North America. Data from the same coast indicates that the population of oceanic whitetip sharks, once one of the most abundant large animal species in the world's oceans, declined by over 70% between 1992 and 2000. That is 70% in only eight years. This species is rapidly becoming functionally extinct, so I heartily support this bill, and its effort to curb the trade in shark fins. It is a good first step, an essential first step, but Canada could and should be doing more on both the national and international stages to make an impact here.

The government has made a lot of effort to get the message out that Canada is back on the world environmental scene, but we are sorely lagging in many aspects of global environmental action. For example, we could be co-operating with other nations in the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, which have been calling for meaningful bycatch limits for sharks during the tuna fishery, but both Canada and Japan have been dragging their feet on this issue.

We could take the bold step to promote the listing of all shark species in appendix II of CITES, so that the international trade in shark fins can be better regulated.

In our own backyard, Canada needs to reinvest in fishery science and monitoring. Setting regulations about bycatch, and creating laws about shark finning will accomplish little if there is not a significant government presence on our coasts to actually witness what is happening to our oceans.

We could put more emphasis on science, when government receives listing recommendations from COSEWIC. COSEWIC makes annual recommendations on species to add to the species at risk schedules, and government then decides whether to act or not. Bird species are almost always added as a matter of course, but fish species have only a 50-50 chance of being listed because economics often trumps the science of endangerment. We must rebalance this policy to ensure that our ocean ecosystems remain healthy into the future.

I reiterate that I will support the bill. It is about criminal acts of cruelty, not legal hunting, fishing and trapping, agriculture. I support it both for its strengthening of the animal cruelty law, and for its steps to support the conservation of sharks.

Modernizing Animal Protections ActPrivate Members' Business

September 28th, 2016 / 7:15 p.m.
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David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I take no pleasure in rising today on Bill C-246.

I am, first and foremost, a rural MP. I was born in Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts. I grew up in Sainte-Lucie-des-Laurentides. At home, we grow and produce most of our own food, including vegetables and meats. Our farm participates in WWOOF, a worldwide program that matches volunteers with organic farms.

I have a fishing licence in my pocket. My father has a hunting licence. We raise chickens, ducks, and geese. We also eat a lot of game. In October, much of my riding empties out because people go deer and moose hunting. People think of the year as a succession of open seasons.

All year, farmers prepare their animals for slaughter so they can sell the meat and feed cities. That is normal, everyday life for people in the regions.

All over the world, there are legitimate reasons to raise and slaughter domestic animals or to hunt, trap, and fish wild animals. The world population of chickens, as an example, exceeds the world population of humans by a factor of about 7:1.

While there are legitimate reasons to work with animals, there are people who have abused them. For example, worldwide problems, such as puppy mills, the wonton waste of shark finning without using the rest of the animal, poaching of elephants and rhinoceroses for their ivory, allowing animals to fight, killing animals purely for sport, or slaughtering them in torturous and unethical ways are all places where the great majority of us would agree improvements must be made.

However, that is not, despite the appearance of social media pressure, the goal of Bill C-246.

The bill, as written, and as is before us here at second reading, is not a moderate bill looking to tangibly and positively improve animal welfare. It is an overreaching bill by a passionate advocate whose incredible work on this file I deeply respect, even if I do not agree. There are few Members of this place ever to have put their heart and soul into a cause they believe in as completely and selflessly as the member for Beaches-East York, and I think we all respect and appreciate that .

However, that is not what is before us. What is before is a bill, not a person, and the effect of the bill is to risk criminalizing currently legal animal activity.

I do not believe my family belongs in prison for sustainably feeding ourselves. I do not believe tens of thousands of my constituents should risk prison for feeding their families, either.

We are reassured in supporting statements that the bill has no effect on currently legal activity. However, the only reassurance we have is the statements of those supporting the bill. The language of the bill itself is not so ambiguous.

Section 182.1(1)(b) reads, for example:

Everyone commits an offence who, wilfully or recklessly,...

...kills an animal or, being the owner, permits an animal to be killed, brutally or viciously, regardless of whether the animal dies immediately;

It is easy to argue that because killing an animal necessarily results in its death, the act is inherently brutal or vicious. Bringing a legal case against anyone who kills any animal in any circumstance is therefore enabled by this act. There is no exception for aquaculture, agriculture, hunting, fishing, or even accidents, and the instantaneous death of the animal is explicitly removed as a factor for consideration.

To add insult to injury, the Criminal Code, section 429(2) currently reads:

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.

While Bill C-246 would fix the gender-specific references to be gender neutral, it would also remove the justification defence from sections 444 to 446 of the Criminal Code, which are the sections that currently deal with animal welfare.

The penalty is set at up to $10,000 or five years in a federal penitentiary, and regardless of the probability of conviction, the case needed to bring some of these situations to trial would be established by this open-ended bill.

A federal penitentiary is no laughing matter. There is one in my riding at the former cold war missile base at La Macaza. I toured that facility this summer, and I do not wish to return there as a result of our fall harvest.

We are assured by proponents of the bill that the legal system would not tie itself up in these legals cases. This letter I received in my office, for example, reads, in part:

The Canadian Sportfishing Industry Association's claims about how Bill C-246 would impact fishing are ludicrous. They state that “Even the act of baiting a hook with a worm would be considered an act of cruelty according to the Bill.” [The MP for Beaches--East York] and law professor Peter Sankoff contend that such claims about the effects Bill C-246 would have are preposterous. Can anyone imagine Canada's criminal justice system wasting time and resources to attempt to prosecute someone over such a ridiculous allegation?

Yes, I can imagine that. Because, were C-246 to receive royal assent as it is written, a law telling police and prosecutors to do exactly that would be on the books, having been placed there, after thorough examination, by a majority of parliamentarians, and remaining there until one or several judges, being faced with such a ridiculous allegation in their court room, struck down that law.

Moreover, the bill contradicts its proponents on this very point. It creates section 182.5 which states:

For greater certainty, nothing in this Part shall be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from the protection provided for existing aboriginal or treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada by the recognition and affirmation of those rights in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

If the bill does not risk a creative new application, why would it need an exemption? It begs the question, what purpose is a law whose authors do not wish it to be enforced? Why go through the trouble of authoring and presenting a bill if the hope is that the justice system would ultimately ignore or reinterpret it? If the desire of the drafters of this legislation is to ensure that existing, accepted, or common practice not be affected by this bill, why does it not state that?

The proponents tell us that it would have no such effect. However, in the case of a disagreement between speeches in Parliament and the text of the resulting act, it is the text of the act that would form the basis of the criminal case.

No one here is against stopping the genuine abuse or mistreatment of animals under any circumstances. However, my job here is also to protect the people who work with animals, live with them, take care of them, live by them, and feed the rest of us.

I want to highlight the good work of the National Farm Animal Care Council, which consists of farmers, processors, the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, national animal welfare associations, provincial farm animal care councils, and so on. They work on a collaborative basis to enhance codes or practices on our farms. They also adhere to core values, such as accepting the use of farm animals in agriculture, believing that animals should be treated humanely, and supporting projects that are scientifically informed. That is the way we work to improve animal welfare in Canada. Unfortunately, Bill C-246 could undo the good work of those organizations by unfairly targeting them through the legal system.

We have been told that this bill will be modified at committee to address the many concerns that have been raised, which I have only barely scratched the surface of here today. This presupposes the outcome of the committee hearing. As members know, committees are their own masters. To modify the substance of the bill, the unanimous consent of the chamber is required. We have seen that this is not achievable.

Procedurally, a bill at committee cannot simply be redrawn. Amendments may be proposed by members, but it is up to the committee to adopt or reject them. Significant changes are not in order, and the chair of the committee and the Speaker of the House have a responsibility, a duty deeply established in parliamentary convention, to rule as out of order any changes that are beyond the scope of a bill.

To get a bill to committee, the House must agree with it in principle. To change it, the committee must keep it within that principle.

For me to vote for this bill at second reading, I must agree with the text as it is written in principle. I do not believe that hunters, fishermen, trappers, farmers, homesteaders, and others working with animals belong in prison. I do not agree with the bill in principle. I hope that my colleagues will have the wisdom and the foresight to reject the bill, to kill it without further pain or suffering.

Modernizing Animal Protections ActPrivate Members' Business

September 28th, 2016 / 7:25 p.m.
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Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague across the way and I have a lot in common. As co-chair of the parliamentary outdoor caucus, I share that role with a Liberal from Newfoundland and Labrador. Sometimes these issues cross party lines and we are supportive of one another across the aisle as well.

I have three concerns with this bill. First, it would potentially criminalize traditional practices of hunting, trapping, angling and fishing, and farming. Second, it would change the definition of animals from property to people. Third, we already have extensive animal rights protection laws in Canada.

I will start with the first.

I think most of us have gone fishing with parents or family, and likewise hunting. A lot of us in this place have backgrounds in farming and agriculture, and have raised cattle to be harvested for hamburgers, steak, or whatever. Certainly, as was mentioned by my colleague on this side of the House, the last people who would want to be cruel to an animal are members of the groups that know those animals and see them every day, like farmers, hunters, fishermen, and anglers. To potentially put these groups of individuals into a place where they could be accused of being criminal is too far-reaching for us.

A key change in what the bill proposes is the new kill an animal offence. Proposed subsection 182.1(1) states:

Everyone commits an offence who, wilfully or recklessly...

kills an animal or, being the owner, permits an animal to be killed, brutally or viciously, regardless of whether the animal dies immediately;

kills an animal without lawful excuse...

The concern are the words “brutally or viciously”. For this chamber of 330-plus individuals, brutally and viciously have different definitions and different meanings. For one, brutally and viciously is understood as something that is inhumane, that affects an animal in a negative way without concern for the animal's sensibilities.

However, another meaning could be considered for the common practices of even catching a fish for instance, where once people catch a fish, they have to end its life so it can be consumed and eaten as a filet for supper. That could be deemed to be brutally or viciously killing. That is my concern. We have groups of people that have traditionally fished, hunted, and trapped, etc.. They would now be potentially accused of treating animals brutally or viciously. I know the member who put this bill forward said that would not be the case, but the potential for that definition to be taken far and wide is what concerns a lot of us in this place.

I will speak to the second point as well, about the changing in definition from property to people. The change is significant because it would take animal cruelty offences out of the section dealing with offences against certain property and would move it to the section of the Criminal Code dealing with offences against persons. That distinction is very important because instead of involving property, we would have potential offences against human-type individuals, which certainly would put it into a different level in the Criminal Code than I think most of us would consider acceptable.

Again, I want to get to the premise of Bill C-246. On this side we, and I know many on that side too, do not want to see cruelty to animals. I have a family pet. We have had family pets in the past and we cherish them as members of our family. However, to hold them as members of the family equitable to the human beings in our family is going too far, and I agree with my colleague who said that earlier.

Last, we already have extensive legislation that deals with animal cruelty in Canada. To say that we need more legislation to make sure that this does not happen is just not necessary.

I thought it was interesting that one of the members who said they were going to support this particular bill talked about a certain case of animal cruelty. I think it was dogs that the member said were abused. They were emaciated and down to a fraction of what their healthy weight should be. They were acknowledged as being abused and it was dealt with in the system. The owner was charged and the case went before the courts.

That is an example of the current laws in this place working. It already functions well in dealing with animal abuse and cruelty. We do not need more laws on the books to go even further.

I will go a bit more into what our current laws are, because I think people out there who are watching us tonight may not know and may think that we need laws. Therefore, I will state the laws that we actually do have, or part of them.

The offence is in part 11 of the Criminal Code entitled “Wilful and Forbidden Acts in Respect of Certain Property”. These are current laws on the books.

Section 445.1 states:

Every one commits an offence who

(a) wilfully causes or, being the owner, wilfully permits to be caused unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal or a bird;

That is fairly comprehensive in dealing with animal abuse in my mind. Other subsections are more specific. Section 445 prohibits “wilfully and without lawful excuse...kills, maims, wounds, poisons or injures dogs, birds or animals”.

Section 446, “Causing damage or injury”, states that one commits a crime who:

(a) by wilful neglect causes damage or injury to animals or birds while they are being driven or conveyed; or

(b) being the owner or the person having the custody or control of a domestic animal or a bird or an animal or a bird wild by nature that is in captivity, abandons it in distress or wilfully neglects or fails to provide suitable and adequate food, water, shelter and care for it.

Those are just a few parts of the laws that are already on the books to deal with animal cruelty, although I applaud the member.

Shark finning is another one of those practices that is already on the books that cannot be done in Canada legally. If one is caught doing it, one will be charged. Those are laws that are already on the books currently today.

As co-chair of the parliamentary outdoor caucus, I have really learned to appreciate this part of our Canadian heritage. Our forefathers started this place. Hunting and sustenance fishing were part of what we did, and farming as well. It was all part of our tradition, and not just that, it was necessary for our survival. Therefore, to now come in with legislation that would potentially criminalize that historical activity unnecessarily, to us, is an overreach.

Again, I have gotten to know a lot of these folks who would be captured up in this type of legislation, me included, because I fish and hunt. We cannot ask for a bigger group who wants to help the conservation efforts in Canada proceed. Ducks Unlimited and many other groups are supportive of conservation. They do tireless work to see that animals are healthy and that they have places to grow and prosper. To affect this group of really good, well-meaning folks with possible charges of criminal activity, again, goes further than we want to go.

Again, I applaud the member for his intention. As I said, my family appreciates our pets. We had an English Bulldog, but lost our dog a year ago. When it died, it impacted our family. We care about animals, too, but we just think that Bill C-246 goes too far.

Likewise, I will be standing with my colleague on the Liberal side, from Newfoundland and Labrador, my co-chair in the parliamentary outdoor caucus, and we will both be opposing the bill.

Modernizing Animal Protections ActPrivate Members' Business

September 28th, 2016 / 7:35 p.m.
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Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank Canadians across the country for caring about, for speaking up for those without a voice, and for standing up for improved animal protections.

My colleagues have been inundated with correspondence in support of Bill C-246. I want in particular to thank Ruby's Love Letter Legacy, an organization that came together to stop puppy mills, and Animal Cruelty Legislation Advocates Canada, both grassroots organizations working to improve our animal protection laws.

When I introduced this legislation, I said that members from all parties support ending animal cruelty. I do not think this is a partisan issue and I do not think it should be. I would stand alongside farmers, like my in-laws, who would disown me, by the way, if I did anything to animals. I stand alongside farmers, fishermen, and anglers against animal cruelty. As any number of colleagues here today have said, this is about ending animal abuse, not ending animal use.

When I introduced the bill I said the bill would bring our laws into the 21st century. I overstated the case. This is a basket of modest measures, all things considered, to improve our animal protection laws.

There has been a ton of confusion about the bill giving animals' rights, the right not to be tortured and abused, if we want to call those rights.

What would the bill do? The bill would do three things, and we have touched on some of them.

Let me speak first about shark finning. Some folks in the House have said that shark finning is already illegal so we do not have to worry about shark finning. The Globe and Mail reported that last year over 300,000 pounds of shark fins were imported into the country. When they are tested they are commonly found to be from endangered species.

Other countries have bans on the importation of shark fins. Ten states in the U.S. have bans on the trade of shark fins. When we look at Australia, there is actually an international norm, a landed shark requirement. The terrible practice is when the shark's fin is cut off and the body is wasted at sea. So, what do countries do? They require that the shark be landed intact and then be finned.

If amendments are required, I am perfectly open to that idea. We in the House should stand against the practice of shark finning and against importing shark fins into Canada.

Let me speak about fur labelling and banning the sale and importation of cat and dog fur. I do not know who could stand in favour of importing and selling cat and dog fur. There have been numerous petitions in the House against the practice. It has been banned in the EU and the U.S. for years. Why Canada would lag in this area is beyond me. The EU and the U.S. require fur labelling. Big companies in Canada already do this. A Canada Goose jacket comes from coyote. Why all companies should not be subject to this practice as a matter of consumer choice is beyond me.

Now, with regard to animal cruelty in the Criminal Code, I have been accused of drafting this legislation in a wrong-headed way. This legislation was drafted in 1999 by the justice department, so ignore my opinion. Instead, take the opinion of the justice department that drafted it, take the opinion of the hon. Anne McLellan, take the opinion of the hon. Martin Cauchon, take the opinion of the hon. Irwin Cotler, all of whom had proposed identical legislation. If you do not trust them, take the opinion of the Cattlemen's Association and the Dairy Farmers of Canada, who in 2004, among many other animal use organizations, wrote a letter to the hon. Irwin Cotler to ask for this legislation to be passed. What legislation? The identical legislation that is before the House with respect to these Criminal Code amendments.

Now, I recognize that we are over a decade later. People do not have the institutional memory. People are worried about this legislation. I listened, I consulted, I met with more agricultural sector groups in my tiny office. I am not the ministry of anything. We consulted broadly over the spring and summer. We heard concerns. Some people said they are political concerns and not policy concerns. I did not particularly care. I am pragmatic enough to know I want something to pass. I want to improve our animal protection laws.

So, I proposed amendments. I proposed amendments to limit the Criminal Code to three specific things: amending the bestiality provisions to address the Supreme Court case; expanding the definition of animal fighting, because no one is going to complain about criminalizing profiting off of animal fighting, breeding, or training animals for the purpose of fighting; and limiting the Criminal Code amendments, the third piece, to gross negligence. Why? Because every standard across the Criminal Code with respect to negligence is a gross negligence offence, a marked departure from the norm. Why would animal cruelty be any different, but right now it is. It is the only standard in the Criminal Code that is willful neglect.

That is it. It is just these three changes.

As far as the process goes, our job in the House is to support legislation if the object of the legislation is something that we can support at second reading. Guess what? If the changes are not made a committee, and I will be the first to propose changes when I address the committee, the bill will come back to us at third reading and we can vote it down. If these changes are not made, I encourage all members to vote it down. If members do not vote in favour of it at second reading, I encourage them to tell their constituents that they do not care about the object of the bill, which is to end animal cruelty.

Modernizing Animal Protections ActPrivate Members' Business

May 9th, 2016 / 11:05 a.m.
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Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

moved that Bill C-246, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Fisheries Act, the Textile Labelling Act, the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act and the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act (animal protection), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I put forward Bill C-246, the modernizing animal protections act, to improve our country's animal welfare laws.

I have often been asked why I chose to introduce the bill.

First, animal welfare matters to me personally. Yesterday was Mother's Day, and I thank my own mother for instilling in me the value of respect, including respect for animals. Second, animal welfare matters to many of my constituents. I can joke about the percentage of dog ownership in my riding, but during the time we put out a call for ideas for a bill, we received more correspondence on the issue of animal welfare than any other. Third, I am interested in ideas that cross traditional party lines, and I believe animal welfare is an issue of concern for all Canadians, from farmers to hunters to anglers to pet owners, including supporters of every political party.

I have a great deal of respect for the members for Ajax and Vancouver Centre and previous Liberal justice ministers McLellan, Cauchon, and Cotler. Each of them introduced nearly identical provisions to modernize and strengthen our Criminal Code.

These changes are targeted at animal abuse, from animal fighting to deplorable puppy mill conditions, not animal use.

The bill seeks to accomplish three goals: first, a ban on the importation of shark fins; second, a ban on the importation and sale of cat and dog fur, and a requirement to label the source of fur; and third, the modernization and strengthening of existing animal cruelty offences in our Criminal Code.

With respect to shark finning, it is estimated that more than 70 million sharks are killed every year for their fins. The practice is cruel. Their fins are cut off and the shark's bodies are thrown back into the ocean while they are still alive. They are left to sink to the bottom of the ocean and drown. It is as cruel as it is wasteful.

Canada has banned shark finning within our borders since 1994, but we remain complicit in this cruel practice. The Globe and Mail recently reported that Canadians imported over 300,000 pounds of shark fins last year alone. We represent 1.5% to 2% of the global market. The bill would ban a person from importing or attempting to import shark fins into Canada.

These amendments were drafted based upon advice from the Library of Parliament and legislative counsel. If there is a better way of addressing these concerns, I ask that such matters be resolved at committee.

I want to specifically thank the member for Port Moody—Coquitlam for bringing this matter to the attention of the House in 2013. His legislation was narrowly defeated at second reading. I believe it is time to correct that mistake.

Canadians across the country agree. We want to protect the world's oceans. When polled in 2013, 81% of Canadians surveyed supported an importation ban against shark fins. Similar bans have been led by those in the Chinese community, including Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, who helped to ban shark fins in Toronto in 2011. Chinese American senators have introduced shark fin bans in Hawaii and California. Both businesses and the government in China are moving away from serving the product.

If necessary, I am open to a change that would limit the ban to countries that do not have the same regulations as we have here in Canada; that is, requiring that a shark be landed before its fin is removed.

With respect to cat and dog fur, the bill seeks to ban its importation and sale. It also seeks to require that all fur products be labelled as to the source of fur. Large companies, such as Canada Goose, already follow this best practice. Again, if there are any concerns with particularities in the drafting of the provision, they should be dealt with at committee.

There is an e-petition before the House with more than 13,000 signatures, calling on the government to ban the importation and sale of cat and dog fur. Such measures have already been adopted by the EU and U.S., and it is time for Canada to catch up.

Finally, with respect to the Criminal Code amendments, I have received questions about the meaning of proposed new subparagraph 182.1 (1 )(a). That is the provision that states that it is a crime to wilfully or recklessly cause unnecessary pain or suffering to animals. This provision would not affect any animal use practices. I know that, because the same provision has been in the code for decades, and it has never stopped animal use. Some have incorrectly suggested that the word “recklessly” is being added. This is blatantly false. The current section 429 of the code already applies the word “recklessly” to existing animal cruelty offences.

Here is how my bill would change the code. First, it would close loopholes related to animal fighting. It is not currently a crime to profit from animal fighting, nor to train or breed animals for the purpose of fighting. The bill would make these activities criminal.

Second, it would close a loophole in the definition of bestiality.

In Australia, it is a crime to engage in any sexual activity with an animal, yet due to a recent decision of the B.C. Court of Appeal, bestiality in our Criminal Code requires penetration. The court stated that it is up to Parliament to expressly amend the code if it deems a change necessary. That is exactly what this bill aims to do, make all sexual conduct with an animal a crime.

Third, it would create a new offence of brutal and vicious killing to close a loophole where an owner had killed his dog with a baseball bat but the judge acquitted on the basis that the dog died immediately and there was no evidence of pain and suffering. This language was drafted by the justice department in 1999, and previous justice minister Cauchon stated categorically that such a change would not affect animal use practices. When I consulted with the current justice department, it had no concerns whatsoever with this part of the legislation.

Reasonably, any concerns of unintended consequences should be addressed at committee. We can hear from criminal law experts, and if the amendments could plausibly affect accepted animal use practices, their language should be changed or an exemption list be added to ensure that they do not have that effect. I accept that.

I am open to reasonable amendments and have repeatedly said so. My in-laws would disown me if my changes stopped farming, fishing, or hunting, as they have owned a farm outside of Sarnia since 1834. As a lawyer, I do not believe that the Criminal Code should be used to regulate accepted practices. It is in place to punish egregious and immoral conduct in our society. Had I intended to affect farming, I would have done so through the Meat Inspection Act or the Health of Animals Act, not the Criminal Code.

Fourth, it would allow judges to ban animal ownership if one is convicted of animal cruelty for a second time, getting tougher on animal abusers.

Fifth, the bill would change the current animal cruelty offence of willful neglect to one of gross negligence, a standard applied to every other criminal negligence offence under the Criminal Code, modernizing our legislation. The current willful neglect standard can make prosecution difficult. Under a gross negligence standard, there is no mental element to the offence, and the crown need only prove that animal cruelty was caused by conduct that is a marked departure from the norm. That remains a very high standard. Clumsiness, incompetence, and ordinary mistakes will not be criminalized.

An example of a recent case of criminal negligence is the conviction of the Albertan parents who failed to take their sick baby to a doctor for over two and a half weeks and resorted only to natural remedies until the baby died. Criminal negligence requires a significant departure from what is generally accepted in our society in order for the moral censure of a criminal punishment to be appropriate.

Finally, my bill would move animals from the property section to a new part entitled “Offences against animals”. This is a symbolic change. Animals will remain property at law, but it recognizes that animals are different from tables and other kinds of property. It recognizes that an offence against animals is wrong because it is wrong to harm animals, not because it is wrong to damage another person's property, which just happens to be an animal.

Previously, the Criminal Lawyers' Association testified at committee that the removal of the animal cruelty provisions from the property section would not cause the loss of any available defences under the code. This part is important. When it was studied at committee in the Senate, the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters and the Poultry Welfare Association both hired counsel to testify. Each noted that its only legal concern with the removal from the property section would be the potential loss of the colour of right defence. They proposed one specific amendment to fix that. To address those concerns, I added that proposed amendment at proposed section 182.4 of my bill. If any concerns remain, again I am open to amendment. The purpose of this bill is not to affect accepted animal use in our society.

A broad range of groups support my bill.

First, I am proud to say that the Canadian Centre for Abuse Awareness supports the bill. The CCAA is a national charitable organization with a mandate to reduce the incidents and impact of child abuse through education and public awareness. As John Muise, director of public safety at the CCAA, retired veteran police detective, and former board member at the Parole Board of Canada, notes that research confirms the link between abuse of animals and other forms of violence including child abuse.

The CCAA appreciates the targeted approach taken in this bill in a number of specific areas. Of note, this legislation, when passed, would close a “sex with animals” loophole successfully used by a child sexual abuser in court. The CCAA believes this evidence-based PMB is deserving all-party support, and looks forward to testifying in support of the bill at committee.

Second, the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association supports the bill. The CVMA is the national and international voice of Canada's veterinarians. The CVMA writes, “Veterinarians are often the first professionals to examine an abused animal. The CVMA continues to support efforts to strengthen the Criminal Code's existing animal cruelty provisions...strongly supports passage of C-246 at second reading and looks forward to providing more detailed and in-depth input at the committee hearings.”

Third, humane societies and SPCAs across the country support the bill. The Montreal SPCA states, “Cases of severe neglect...are unfortunately not uncommon, and changes need to be made to facilitate the prosecution of these offences.”

The BCSPCA states that, “The bill closes loopholes related to animal fighting and creates a gross negligence offence for animal cruelty to make it easier to prosecute cases such as deplorable puppy mill conditions.”

The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies has written to every member of Parliament in support of the bill. Each year, SPCAs and humane societies investigate more than 45,000 complaints of animal cruelty and neglect. As organizations entrusted by governments and by Canadians to enforce the law, the member societies of the CFHS regularly witness the impact of inadequate and antiquated animal cruelty sections of the Criminal Code of Canada.

This is not new legislation. The Criminal Code amendments were originally drafted by the Department of Justice in consultation with animal use organizations. There was near identical legislation that passed this House at third reading on three different occasions, and passed third reading at the Senate on one occasion, subject to minor proposed changes.

Many current members of Parliament have voted in favour of that legislation, including the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, and the members for Cape Breton-Canso, Malpeque, Yukon, Kenora, Vancouver Centre, Scarborough—Guildwood, Brome—Missisquoi, and Steveston—Richmond East.

That legislation included the brutal and vicious language, “lawful excuse” language, and the addition of the gross negligence standard.

It was not only supported then by current colleagues, it was also supported by animal use groups. For example, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture supported that legislation in 2004, and a broad coalition of animal sector groups wrote a letter, dated November 22, 2004, to the then minister of justice, Irwin Cotler, to support the legislation. The letter was signed by, among others, the BC Cattlemen's Association, The Canadian Cattlemen's Association, the Canadian Association for Laboratory Animal Science, the Canadian Sheep Federation, the Dairy Farmers of Canada, the Manitoba Cattle Producers Association, and the Ontario Farm Animal Council. The letter stated:

Canada's animal-based sectors, as represented by the undersigned, wish to express our support for the swift passage of certain amendments to the Criminal Code: Cruelty to Animals provisions. This national coalition, on behalf of over one million Canadians we represent, join with others who are expressing support for improved animal cruelty legislation. Specifically, we are calling for the reintroduction and adoption of the measures contained within Bill C-22[...]

It is our hope that the consensus that has already been achieved in Bill C-22 will result in the re-introduction and passage of this important legislation as rapidly as possible.

Bill C-246, my legislation, reintroduces that important legislation. The previous member for Peterborough, a riding with a cross-section of rural and urban communities, the hon. Peter Adams, said this in 2004:

This is legislation that is important to all those who care about animals. It is equally important to those who own pets as it is to farmers who care for their livestock. [...]

It simply brings old provisions designed to protect animals into the 21st century. Enough is enough.

That was 12 years ago, yet the words still ring true today.

The purpose of a vote at second reading is to vote on the objects of the bill. I have laid out these objects and reiterated that the intention of this bill is not to affect animal use practices. I ask for members' support at second reading, such that any concerns, questions, and potential drafting errors, can be addressed properly at committee.

I ask for members' support to improve our animal welfare laws.

Modernizing Animal Protections ActPrivate Members' Business

May 9th, 2016 / 11:15 a.m.
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Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's efforts to bring better animal welfare standards in Canada. As an out and proud cat lady, I am very excited to hear that.

I have two questions that I think some have concerns around.

Paragraph 182.1(b) talks about an animal being killed “brutally or viciously”. I wonder if my colleague could tell us if that is defined in the bill right now or if he would be looking to define it such that certain methods of slaughter for agricultural animals would not be included in that.

The other component is paragraph (d) under the same section, which talks about injections of poisons or an injurious drug or substance. Could the member talk about an intent for definition around that? I do know that there will be people who run animal modelling facilities at research institutions across the country, who will be concerned about definitions therein.

Modernizing Animal Protections ActPrivate Members' Business

May 9th, 2016 / 11:15 a.m.
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Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is important to clarify some of the language. I tried as much as possible to state that quite clearly this is not intended to affect and will not affect animal use practices.

With respect to the two provisions in particular, the poison section is already in the Criminal Code. That provision has long been in the Criminal Code and has never stopped animal use practices. We ought not be worried about that particular provision.

In fairness, the brutal and vicious provision is not legislation that I drafted. It was originally drafted by the Department of Justice, in 1999. The minister is stating categorically that it will not affect animal use practices, but I completely appreciate that some might want to see that in black and white. That is exactly why I am asking to get this bill to committee. Let us have criminal lawyers testify as to its plausible effects, and if there is any possibility that would affect any animal use practices, let us either remove that provision or put a definition section in the bill.

Modernizing Animal Protections ActPrivate Members' Business

May 9th, 2016 / 11:20 a.m.
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Fin Donnelly NDP Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague from Beaches—East York for the work he has done on this bill and for bundling a number of animal welfare concerns into one bill.

I know he is well aware, as he referenced it in his comments earlier, of the work that I did in the last Parliament on banning the importation of shark fins to Canada. He has acknowledged that, and I certainly provided as much material as I could. Unfortunately, in the past Parliament, it was defeated by five votes. It was a very close vote. With a majority Conservative government, unfortunately, it did not pass. Over 100 million sharks a year, as he knows, die due to this cruel practice.

My question is this. There has been a lot of misinformation spread by certain Conservative members in communities across the country, and I wonder if my colleague could talk about the Criminal Code amendments and the misinformation that has been spread about hunting and fishing in this country.

Modernizing Animal Protections ActPrivate Members' Business

May 9th, 2016 / 11:20 a.m.
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Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, I first want to highlight that the member mentioned the bundling of various provisions. I have heard attacks on omnibus legislation. First, all of the provisions are related to animal welfare, the same topic, but more than that, it is seven pages. If it is an omnibus bill, it is the shortest omnibus bill that the House has ever had the opportunity to debate.

To the member's point about misinformation, there has been far too much misinformation. For example, I have highlighted the fact that I am not adding “recklessly” to the bill, though there have been comments that I have. There have been comments that I am aiming to stop hunting and fishing and that this bill would do that. It simply would not do that. There is not a single criminal lawyer in the country who suggests that would happen, and previous testimony at committee, in the House, and the Senate, has stated absolutely the opposite.

Modernizing Animal Protections ActPrivate Members' Business

May 9th, 2016 / 11:20 a.m.
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Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the hon. member for Beaches—East York for bringing forward this very important legislation. I also had a private member's bill in the past that dealt with shark finning.

My question is one the member has actually anticipated. When a bill affects many other bills, sometimes people make the blanket statement that it is somehow illegitimate as an omnibus bill.

The legitimate use of many statutes in the same bill is when they speak to one purpose. I wonder if the member would expand on the purpose, which is to take a great step forward against animal cruelty in Canada.

Modernizing Animal Protections ActPrivate Members' Business

May 9th, 2016 / 11:20 a.m.
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Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her question and her work on the issue of animal welfare.

The purpose of this bill is to take a step toward bringing Canada's animal welfare laws into the 21st century. I referenced the former member for Peterborough who said that very thing in 2004, and yet no action was taken. The attempts to ban shark finning were narrowly defeated.

The EU and the U.S. have banned cats and dogs for sale and importation for many years. Canada lags behind them.

Some of the offence provisions in the Criminal Code, which we are hoping to update and modernize, have not been updated for over 100 years. It is time for Canada to bring its animal welfare laws into the 21st century.

Modernizing Animal Protections ActPrivate Members' Business

May 9th, 2016 / 11:20 a.m.
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Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Red Deer—Lacombe.

I rise in the House today to speak against Bill C-246, the so-called modernizing animal protections act. I am very proud to represent the vast constituency of Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa in west central Manitoba. My riding is primarily agricultural and—

Modernizing Animal Protections ActPrivate Members' Business

May 9th, 2016 / 11:20 a.m.
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Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB

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.

Modernizing Animal Protections ActPrivate Members' Business

May 9th, 2016 / 11:30 a.m.
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Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise to speak in support of Bill C-246. I salute the member for Beaches—East York for his leadership in bringing this back to the House. I say “bringing it back” because we have seen the three initiatives here in different forms introduced by different parties over many years. Bringing it together and modernizing our animal cruelty bill just makes sense, and I commend the member for his efforts to do that.

I have proudly seconded this bill, and I wish to note very clearly that, this being a private member's bill, members will take different positions on it. However, as my friend from Port Moody—Coquitlam pointed out, initiatives such as the one dealing with shark finning came within five votes of becoming the law in this land. I certainly hope we do not lose this opportunity to do the right thing this time.

We can be proud that this bill builds on the work of so many others and of so many different parties in the House. Part of this bill would follow through on an initiative championed by my colleague, the member for Port Moody—Coquitlam, to implement a measure widely supported by Canadians; namely, a long-overdue ban on the importation of shark fins.

Members have heard that it is estimated that, shockingly, 100 million sharks are killed each year simply for their fins, the rest of the carcass discarded. Their fins are cut from their backs and the bleeding sharks, often still alive, are tossed back into the ocean where they sink to the bottom and drown. As a result, one-third of all shark species is threatened with extinction. In Canada, the fins of endangered and near-threatened shark species are regularly consumed. We can do better as Canadians.

Of course, our ocean ecosystem needs sharks. They are a vital apex predator, yet their populations are plummeting. This is an international conservation crisis. We should all be disturbed by this ongoing practice, and we should be acting quickly to implement measures that will eliminate the trade in illegally obtained shark fins.

A number of Canadians cities have joined this fight, attempting to ban the sale and consumption of shark fins. In 2012, however, a court ruled that these bans were beyond municipal jurisdiction. Since these municipal bans were struck down, the consumption of shark fins in Canada has increased by 85,000 pounds. Therefore, the bill calls out for appropriate federal legislation, so I commend my colleague for bringing this to the attention of parliamentarians so we can do the right thing. Canada must show global leadership in the fight to stop this cruel practice, by implementing an import ban. As a country, we can and should end our role in the trade of fins.

I want to say how proud I am of the work of a group called Fin Free, of school groups across the country, and particularly of the work of Margaret McCullough, an instructor at Glenlyon Norfolk School in Victoria. She has organized children to fight for shark fins at the provincial, municipal, and federal levels, to fight for a ban on shark finning which came so close in the last Parliament to being realized. I have met with the students on several occasions, and I can assure members that their passion for this issue is truly inspirational.

From meeting with elected officials and business owners to participating in a documentary film on shark finning, those students have worked hard to make this long-overdue measure a reality. Because of their work, and the work of thousands of others like them across Canada, we came so close, as I said, in 2013, five votes. I know we can deliver this change for those children and for people all over Canada demanding that we as Canadians play our fair part in this international conservation crisis in addressing it head-on.

This bill would also update Canada's existing animal cruelty offences. As the member for Beaches—East York noted, these have not been updated substantively since 1892. While I know it is the member's intention to bring anti-cruelty laws into the 21st century, I would settle for the 20th century. In fact, Camille Labchuk, the executive director of Animal Justice, said this bill would “... help Canada “move past our status as the country in the Western world with the worst animal protection laws and help us take a first step in the right direction”.”

These measures on animal cruelty have not only been proposed in the House before by members of more than one party, they have actually been passed by the House on no less than three occasions. However, I must acknowledge that some have raised concerns about whether the bill would affect the millions of Canadians who enjoy hunting, trapping, and fishing every year. I have been assured that this is neither the intention nor is it the effect of the bill, which would address only criminal conduct with regard to animal cruelty.

I am happy to say that my examination of the bill so far has given me no reason to doubt the words of the minister and officials of the Department of Justice, who told the House, both in 2002 and in 2005, that these amendments would not impact lawful activities involving animals, including hunting, trapping, and fishing.

One need only look at the existing sections of the Criminal Code to understand the way in which these offences are designed and applied. Section 444 of the Code makes it a crime to kill cattle without a lawful excuse. Section 445.1 makes it an offence to willfully cause unnecessary, pain, suffering, or injury to an animal. Of course, these provisions are neither designed for nor apply to farming, fishing, hunting, or research, as has been suggested earlier to the House.

We hope to get the bill to the committee where we can study it in greater detail. We can hear from criminal law expects at that time. We can see whether the Department of Justice is right, which I think it is. At that point, if amendments are required, the hon. member for Beaches—East York has made it abundantly clear that he would be open to amendments of clarification. One such amendment which I will be moving, if we get it to that stage, is one that is extraordinarily simple. It would go something like this: “For greater certainty, this bill has no impact on hunting, fishing, and trapping”.

What else do we need?

My province of British Columbia consistently puts in its legislation “for greater certainty” clauses to ensure that certain bills dealing with land use or resource development do not derogate from aboriginal or treaty rights. Those bills are almost rote now in British Columbia legislation. “For greater certainty” clauses are typical, and everybody understands that.

First, let us be clear that the animal cruelty sections have been over-pronounced by the Department of Justice, having none of the effects that the hon. member, my colleague from the Conservative Party, has addressed.

Second, the member has made it clear that he would be willing to entertain an amendment of that sort, which would take out any such concern that the House might have. Consequently, I see no reason why it cannot proceed. It is addressed, after all, at those who wish to combat intentional, reckless cruelty to animals in particular. There is no legal basis whatsoever on which to dispute the analysis of the justice department that these provisions already have no effect on lawful activities involving animals.

The last part of the bill, the third item, is relatively straightforward. It would ban the sale of cat and dog fur in Canada and require source labelling for fur products. This would match laws found in the United States and Europe. This measure, which has already won the support of tens of thousands of Canadians through one of the e-petitions that are now possible under our advance rules, is necessary to prevent the kind of horrifying stories revealed in the 2012 Toronto Star investigation that found dog and cat fur being used to make children's toys.

In conclusion, the bill is a collection of measures that are long overdue and well-considered, having been introduced, studied, and, in some cases, passed by the House in the past.

It deserves further study. It will get further study at the committee if we can agree to send it there so we can do our part, as Canadians, to modernize our animal cruelty laws to no longer be part of the problem with shark finning, and to deal with the issue of dog and cat fur that the bill would so carefully address.

Modernizing Animal Protections ActPrivate Members' Business

May 9th, 2016 / 11:40 a.m.
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Scarborough Southwest Ontario


Bill Blair LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-246, a bill introduced by my colleague and friend from Beaches—East York, which aims to strengthen the law concerning animal protection.

As I understand it, the bill has three main objectives. The first objective, already spoken about previously by my friend from Victoria, was to ban the importation of shark fins by amending the Fisheries Act and the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act.

The practice of cutting fins from live sharks and discarding the remaining animal into the sea, allowing them to sink to the bottom of the ocean to either die from suffocation or be killed by other predators, is cruel and wasteful. It allows fishing vessels to operate more profitably, but it goes without saying that shark finning is a cruel and wasteful harvesting of this animal.

The bill seeks to amend the Fisheries Act to create a prohibition on shark finning. I would point out, however, that the practice of shark finning is already banned in Canada through licensing conditions administered under the Fishery (General) Relations, and any violation of shark harvesting licensing conditions is a chargeable offence under the Fisheries Act. As such, the proposed amendment to the regulations may create some confusion or redundancy.

The second purpose of the bill is to ban the sale of cat and dog fur in Canada by amending the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act and to require fur source labelling by amending the Textile Labelling Act. I am a confessed dog person, and I support my colleague's recommendation for providing greater clarity to the use of these products and to ensure that appropriate protections are extended as required.

My primary concern with the proposed amendments to the Criminal Code made by my colleague concern those sections of the act intended to modernize the animal cruelty provisions in the Criminal Code.

I agree that the animal cruelty regime does merit significant reform and I would like to take the opportunity to applaud and commend my colleague from Beaches—East York for his strong efforts and advocacy in bringing this important matter forward. I do, however, believe that there is going to be a larger review of the Criminal Code taking place under the mandate of the justice minister and I believe that the changes to the animal protections in that code should be the subject of broad public consultations prior to moving forward.

Bill C-246 proposes to create two new offences. The first offence contained in proposed subsection 182.1(1), regarding the killing or harming of animals, states that:

Everyone commits an offence who, wilfully or recklessly,

(a) causes or, being the owner, permits to be caused unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal;

(b) kills an animal or, being the owner, permits an animal to be killed, brutally or viciously, regardless of whether the animal dies immediately;

I believe that there is considerable merit in the proposed amendments brought forward by my colleague from Beaches—East York, but I also wanted to share with the House some of the concerns raised by my colleagues from various jurisdictions across this country.

The first concern that has come to my attention is in regard to conflicts and exemptions within the bill. Bill C-246 does not have a list of exemptions for specific lawful activities such as ranching, hunting, fishing, trapping, medical research, etc. The bill may inadvertently create a conflict of law, making existing legally regulated activities illegal by the very nature of their existence.

In addition, the bill raises concerns regarding constitutional issues in that it may effectively render hunting, fishing, trapping, ranching, and other heritage and indigenous activities illegal because they may be deemed to be brutal or vicious, or they may have an inherent reckless level of activity as part of their very nature.

This new test of “recklessly” that has been added to “wilfully” under proposed section 182.1 for causing unnecessary pain, suffering, or injuries to an animal expands upon the kind of conduct that could become criminal, as one who sees the risk and takes the chance that pain and suffering may occur. This has caused a great deal of concern among those who are hunters, trappers, and fishers across this country as this risk may be inherent to the very nature of those activities. Even if they are practising their sport or commercial or traditional activity lawfully and by prescribed socially accepted practices, they may come into jeopardy.

I listened very carefully to my friend's comments and his reassurances that these matters will not be connected to those traditional activities, but there is a very legitimate concern across this country with respect to their potential impact, and therefore, I must unfortunately advise that I cannot support the bill as it is currently proposed.

I know that many stakeholders across this country are concerned that these new offences of killing an animal in a brutal or vicious matter go too far and may capture traditional animal slaughter practices. I am aware that when these matters were previously discussed in the House there were a number of reassurances provided to those members, but a great deal of public concern still exists.

Canadians who enjoy hunting or fishing, or raise animals to be slaughtered for food are deeply concerned that these practices could be captured by these new offences, notwithstanding my friend's reassurance. Given the strong concerns that were expressed when a similar bill was debated, I think it would be most appropriate to broadly consult with Canadians across the country before pushing forward with any legislative amendments.

I believe that most Canadians would agree that animals deserve our protection apart from any property interests that may be attached to them. I am certainly not disagreeing with the need for strong legislative action to protect animals. Studies have confirmed that a person who abuses animals is much more likely to begin doing the same to people, and there is also research linking animal abusers to increased incidence of domestic violence.

However, it is my strongly held view that aspects of Bill C-246 are sensible and appropriate from a criminal law perspective. I believe that any reform to the animal cruelty offences in the Criminal Code deserves the benefit of broad public consultation and further study.

Animal cruelty is an important social issue that deserves a comprehensive legislative response. It needs broad public consultation to allow us to get this right. The best way forward is in the review of the Criminal Code that will take place in the future. This way we can hear and attempt to address the concerns of Canadians engaged in legitimate activities of hunting, fishing, ranching, medical research, etc.

We want to ensure that any legislative changes are appropriately balanced and do not impinge on the rights of Canadians to continue enjoying these important activities. These are activities that are not only traditional but an important part of our economy, and I know Canadians feel very strongly about them.

Canadians are concerned that they do not want to feel that the enhancements that we put in the Criminal Code may put them at increased risk of prosecution as a result of engaging in these traditional activities. It is too difficult, in my opinion, to do this within the context of the existing private member's bill and its associated processes. The best way forward is by a comprehensive review of the Criminal Code that will allow consultations to take place.

I look forward to a full debate on this matter in the House.

Modernizing Animal Protections ActPrivate Members' Business

May 9th, 2016 / 11:50 a.m.
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Blaine Calkins Conservative Red Deer—Lacombe, AB

Mr. Speaker, as I sit here listening to the debate this morning, I can see that this is obviously a very passionate issue for a lot of the members in the House.

I want to thank my colleague across the way, who I have gotten to know through committee work and a bit of work outside of normal duties. I totally respect this individual. I respect his right to bring the bill forward and have it discussed. I personally wish that we were not having this discussion, because I believe that some of the proposed changes in the legislation would have a potential impact on the constituents who I serve. It is very courageous, and I mean this with the greatest of respect, particularly for a new member of Parliament to bring forward what I consider to be a very large and ambitious piece of private member's legislation. He can be commended for that. We do not know what the final decision is going to be, so we will see how it goes.

I want to thank the parliamentary secretary for bringing forward a very respectful position, I assume on behalf of the government, on how it is going to deal with this. I am going to go into some examples in the bill. I do not disagree with all parts of the bill. The question that I have, though, is not about the intended consequences, but always the unintended consequences. That is what I am going to get at.

The bill is quite large in its scope. It deals with shark finning. We have known from debate in previous Parliaments that Canada already, through its current practices and so on, does not allow this in its own waters and does not allow through its regulatory regime the importation of fins from sharks that have been finned. However, if it is the will of the House at some particular point in time to pass that legislation, I would not be personally affected.

In fact, as somebody who is a zoologist with a fisheries and aquatic sciences degree, I understand the importance of the ecosystem, the entire web of the food chain. I know that a top predator is always welcome in the system and understand that we do not want the extinction of any species through these harvesting practices. It is something that I would at least be open-minded to. It is something that I could deal with. Had the bill only dealt with that aspect of things, I could maybe find my way to supporting it at some point in time.

The bill also goes on to talk about dogs and cats. This is a heartstrings amendment. People think about their little dogs at home being used for their fur at some particular point in time. I say this as a pet owner. I was a dog owner as a youngster growing up on a beef farm in central Alberta, and our dogs were used quite differently, by the way, on the farm.

Our dogs on the farm were work dogs. We loved them, we respected them, and they respected us, but we had a completely different relationship with the blue heelers and other dogs that worked on the farm, helping us herd cattle, helping us protect our assets, and so on. That was a completely different relationship. When our dogs behaved and performed well, they were rewarded. When they were out of line and needed to be corrected, we used appropriate methods to correct the behaviour of our dogs. This is something people learn at any dog training school, or whatever the case might be.

However, that is a far cry from my little lap dog, because now I live in town. Regrettably, there was not enough room on the farm for all of us kids, so I live in town now and I have a little lap dog. I have a completely different relationship with that dog than the dogs I had growing up on the farm. Therefore, no, I would not want that to happen, but I am in control of that, because I am the dog's owner, I am the dog's master, and I can decide whether that animal ends up in some other type of situation. I have that ability and responsibility, and I take care of my family dog. I do not know of any families that do not love their pets. My dog is part of the family. If she is watching, she will not understand a thing I am saying, but she will at least see me on the screen.

I am very concerned about the bill trying to make everything homogenous. It assumes that every animal is part of the same experience. For example, for people who have only lived in town—and I am not saying this in a derogatory way, in any way, shape, or form—who have had pet dogs their whole lives that have been lap dogs, they have a very different world view of their pets than somebody who might be working on a farm. That is my only point in bringing this up.

I am also a hunter and an angler. I have spent years of my life training. I have a zoology degree in fisheries and aquatic sciences. I have a conservation law enforcement diploma. I spent years researching fish. I spent years working as a conservation officer, protecting the environment, protecting wildlife, conserving our resources, and I am very proud of the past that I have had.

I can say that the vast majority of people I work with in this community are the most ethical, responsible people one has ever met. When they see this piece of legislation and see the clauses in the bill that say anybody who kills either recklessly, violently, or brutally, they think, “If I catch a walleye to take home to feed my family and I bonk it on the head in the boat, does that mean I am going to go to jail?”

The sponsor of the bill would have us believe that is not the case, and I believe his intention. However, do we know for sure? Here is an example.

Animal rights activists use every opportunity they can to advance their agenda. That is fine. That is their right. They may do whatever they lawfully can. They are entitled to that. We are a free and open society, and they have that right. However, here is an example of how these things can go sideways. It actually pertains to the agricultural sector.

We know that cameras are put in livestock facilities from time to time in an effort to advance an agenda. Sometimes they do good; sometimes they do not. I can say, however, in no uncertain terms that a number of constituents have come to me having documented people who they know are stalking their farms. These people are driving their vehicles up, parking lawfully on the edge of the road, photographing, and documenting farming practices. I myself have heard phone calls and recordings of individuals who have left threatening messages on family farm answering machines, because they did not like the type of farming in which the farm was actively engaged. These are the same folks who belong to such organizations as PETA or any other animal rights coalition groups. I am not saying all of them would share that same agenda, but certainly folks use these kinds of methods and techniques to intimidate, brow-beat, and otherwise try to shut farms down. They become the self-proclaimed purveyors of social licence of this particular issue and use these methods to advance their own agendas.

My sincere fear is that, if the bill were to pass in its current form, it would create ample opportunities, motivation, and no end of people trying to use the legislation. All they would need is a willing judge and a simple case of negligence.

The test right now in the Criminal Code has a very high bar for how one could be charged, and so it should. A criminal offence is a very serious matter. In the legislation put forward, all it simply means is a little neglect. Who gets to decide that?

In the section in dealing with punishment, it states:

...being the owner, or the person having the custody or control of an animal, wilfully or recklessly [—recklessly is not defined anywhere—] abandons it or negligently fails to provide suitable and adequate food, water, air, shelter and care for it;

That care could be something as simple as grooming the matted fur on one's dog. The penalty for that could potentially be a criminal record.

These are the things that are sending a complete chill into not only parts of the industry, but the hunting and angling community.

We all want good animal welfare standards. There are parts of the bill that would improve animal welfare. I agree wholeheartedly with my colleague when he talks about raising animals for the purpose of fighting, betting, and these types of things. I do not think many people in Canada would actually disagree with that. If the bill did only that, then I am sure my colleague would have the support of the vast majority of the members of the House. I do not mean this maliciously, but I am hoping the overambitious agenda of the bill will be the end of it before it even has an opportunity to get to second reading.

I am very pleased to hear the parliamentary secretary say a much more rigorous and consultative approach needs to be taken to ensure that everyone with a vested interest is involved. First nations people have been left out in the cold on this. Dealing with dog and cat fur, it is quite traditional to use husky fur in the use of garments. Would that be a problem with this legislation?

We know already about the ambitious campaign against the seal hunt. The use of the hakapik is a veterinarian-approved process. It stands the rigours of all the scientific evidence we have, but has been brutalized in the public media around the world. It has resulted in the exponential growth of the seal population off the Atlantic coast, while at the same time creating economic havoc, particularly for vulnerable coastal communities that rely on this traditional lifestyle.

There are countless communities that do this. There are farmers, ranchers, and people who live off the land. It is not just first nations people who live off the land. They want to be assured that all members of Parliament in the House understand the gravity of what could potentially be at risk here.

While I commend my colleague for bringing the bill forward, I cannot in good conscience support this bill.

I should mention that we had discussions. He honourably came, sat down, and talked with me, because he knew my feelings on this. I respectfully told him that I could not support the bill. Therefore, it will come as no surprise to him that I rose to speak on this piece of legislation today.

I will always stand up for the people in animal husbandry, farming, ranching, and the hunting and angling community. I will always make sure we preserve these traditional ways of life, and I will not open up any opportunities for the unintended consequences of these industries to be sacrificed, such as they could be with this bill.

Modernizing Animal Protections ActRoutine Proceedings

February 26th, 2016 / 12:15 p.m.
See context


Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-246, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Fisheries Act, the Textile Labelling Act, the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act and the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act (animal protection).

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to introduce the modernizing animal protections act, a bill to help bring our country's animal welfare laws into the 21st century.

The bill addresses three specific and achievable goals. First, it aims to end the cruel practice of shark finning by banning the importation of shark fins. Second, it aims to strengthen and modernize our Criminal Code, from closing loopholes related to animal fighting to introducing a gross negligence offence for animal cruelty, as proposed by former Liberal governments, through the hon. Anne McLellan and Irwin Cotler. Third, it aims to ban the sale of cat and dog fur in Canada and to require source fur labelling.

Canadians across our country, from farmers to pet owners, care about animal welfare. We expect our leaders and our legislators to protect those who cannot protect themselves.

Our government ran on a platform of fairness, and the bill directly addresses the fair treatment of animals in our society.

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