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)

Sponsor

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith  Liberal

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

Status

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.

Summary

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.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

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

February 5th, 2019 / 10:25 a.m.
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NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Thank you very much.

Professor Sankoff, first of all, thank you for your leadership in this area and thank you for intervening in the R. v. D.L.W. case. I think it's great.

You started by saying that we have in Canada, sadly, among the worst laws on animal cruelty in the western world. Thanks to the leadership of Mr. Erskine-Smith, we tried to make a dent in that in Bill C-246, but the Liberal majority voted it down. Maybe after the election we can get back to the basics on that.

Your analogy to polygamy was intriguing. You talked about how there's a possibility in an individual instance of no harm to the individuals involved, but society says the risks are high enough and the vulnerability of the children are great enough that really we should proceed notwithstanding the lack of any particular harm in a given case. You use that as an analogy to bestiality, which I thought was a very apt one.

I'd like you to talk a bit more about that from the perspective of harm to the animals, which you focused on, almost like animal rights, Professor Singer's work and all of that. It's as distinct from the difficulty, as you pointed out, of proving psychological harm and all the other things.

Talk a little bit about that and see if that vision can be implanted in the current law as proposed in the narrow compass of Bill C-84.

February 5th, 2019 / 10:20 a.m.
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Parkdale—High Park, Lib.

Arif Virani

Let me pick up on that, because I think it's an important point.

You've outlined a number of things. You've raised about seven different points. Some are directly under federal jurisdiction and relate to the Criminal Code. Some relate to other aspects of federal regulations, such as transport. Others relate to the commercial sale of animals, such as puppy sales, etc.

I'll put to you something that came up earlier. I'm not sure if you were able to listen in on the first hour of discussions, but Nate Erskine-Smith, who is sitting right next to me, was the author of Bill C-246. He talked about whether there's an appetite out there to go in a broader direction. There are so many different things out there. We have things before Parliament about cetaceans—dolphins and whales—things like shark finning and bans on the cosmetic testing on animals. There are a lot of ideas out there.

Would it make sense to you to aggregate those ideas in terms of having some sort of broader discussion, consultation and analysis about how the federal government can lead a discussion on animal rights and take it forward in a more comprehensive way?

February 5th, 2019 / 9:35 a.m.
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NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Thank you, Chair.

Thank you to all of our witnesses for being here.

I'd like to start with you, Ms. Cartwright and Humane Canada, and acknowledge with thanks your organization's 40 years of advocacy and all of your member humane societies. You do amazing work for which we all should be grateful.

For Canadians watching at home and others, you correctly said that Bill C-84 is a modest bill. Dr. Crook has talked about it being a first step and Ms. Labchuk has called for a complete overhaul. Canadians might ask why we are here with these two clauses, essentially. The answer, of course, is that the Liberal majority chose to defeat Mr. Erskine-Smith's Bill C-246, which would have been more comprehensive, which would have done the comprehensive reform that the minister has once again committed to, but we are two years later and no closer to that review. I really appreciate and support Mr. Erskine-Smith's suggestion that there be an all-party, non-partisan commitment to this, some kind of committee, and I would be pleased to be a part of it.

The first question relates to what Ms. Cartwright said about the prevalence, the connection between sadism and bestiality being most impactful upon children. Professor Crook, you also, in a letter supporting Bill C-246, wrote as follows for veterinarians: “There is overwhelming evidence of a direct link between abuse of animals and violence towards people, especially other members of the family—children, spouse, elders.” What is that evidence? Both of you have referred to it. I'd like you to speak a little more, each of you, about where that comes from, perhaps starting with you, Ms. Cartwright.

February 5th, 2019 / 9:30 a.m.
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Adjunct Professor, Health Management, Atlantic Veterinary College, Canadian Veterinary Medical Association

Dr. Alice Crook

CVMA has long supported changes to the Criminal Code regarding the abuse and neglect of animals. We also see this bill as a good start, addressing two particularly egregious sections. We most recently supported Bill C-246 and the provisions there. We see that as a longer-term goal and it's really important to get the provisions in Bill C-84 passed.

February 5th, 2019 / 8:55 a.m.
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Executive Director, Animal Justice

Camille Labchuk

Good morning. Thank you.

I am an animal protection lawyer and the executive director of Animal Justice. We work to ensure that animals have a voice in Canada's legal and political systems. We work with legislators and citizens to improve laws protecting animals and we push for the vigorous enforcement of laws that are already on the books.

We also go to court to fight for animals when necessary and it was in this context that we first started working on the issue of bestiality. Animal Justice intervened in the Supreme Court case of D.L.W., which has brought us all here today. We were the only intervenor. We tried to convince the court to interpret the bestiality offence to include all sexual contact with animals. Unfortunately, we weren't successful.

After the D.L.W. decision came out, we heard from countless Canadians, as I'm sure this committee has as well. Most were shocked and had a really difficult time understanding how it could be that something so appalling as the sexual abuse of animals could be considered legal in Canada.

My own response was that, unfortunately, it was no surprise at all, because federal animal cruelty laws in this country haven't been updated since the 1950s. The D.L.W. case was perhaps the most headline-grabbing manifestation of how problematic our cruelty laws are, but there are countless other ways and other examples I could point to that show how our outdated and poorly crafted laws let down animals.

We've fallen very far behind other western nations and very far behind our own values as Canadians as well. People in this country do care deeply about animal protection, and I think that sentiment only grows as we learn more and more about the cognitive and social capacities of animals and more and more about how they suffer at human hands.

I was pleased to hear the Minister of Justice say at the last committee meeting that Bill C-84 is only a first step towards overhauling our cruelty laws, because clearly, more must be done. When Mr. Erskine-Smith's Bill C-246 was defeated, the government committed to a comprehensive review of the animal cruelty provisions in the Criminal Code. That was more than two years ago, and we're still waiting for news on that review. The public, and I believe most importantly the animals that are victims of cruelty, are deserving of a timeline and clarity on next steps.

To move on to the bill, Animal Justice supports what Bill C-84 does. I won't spend too much time explaining why we do, but I will propose two very straightforward amendments to make Bill C-84 even more effective at protecting individual animals. Rather than just penalizing offenders, we want to ensure that this bill provides tools for law enforcement and judges to protect animals from further harm.

To start with the bestiality provisions, there's no disagreement in this room that bestiality is abhorrent and heartbreaking. We've advocated against it since the D.L.W. case. We assisted Mr. Erskine-Smith with his Bill C-246, which would have closed the bestiality loophole, and with Ms. Rempel in her Bill C-388, which would have done the same thing.

Bill C-84 does close the loophole by ensuring that the term “bestiality” encompasses all sexual contact with animals. That's a very good thing, but it misses one other glaring loophole. That's the fact that right now there's no sentencing tool for judges to ban a person convicted of bestiality from owning, having custody of, or residing in the same location as animals in the future. Judges can already impose this type of ban, which is known as a prohibition order, in the case of somebody who's been convicted of an animal cruelty offence. We think it's very important that judges have this option as a sentencing tool for bestiality offenders as well.

I assume that the reason it wasn't already proposed by the government is simply due to the historical location of the bestiality offence in the Criminal Code. The general animal cruelty offences, apart from bestiality, are in sections 445 through 447, but bestiality is in section 160 of the code, housed with other sexual offences. This is because bestiality historically has been more about punishing deviant sexual behaviour than about punishing or enjoining conduct that's harmful to animals. Prohibition orders—bans on keeping animals—just were never contemplated for sexual offences, so it makes sense that the bestiality offence hasn't had an accompanying tool such as this.

Clearly, however, we're here today because the bestiality offence has evolved and is evolving. Today our rationale for criminalizing it is not just to protect humans but also to ensure the protection of vulnerable animals who cannot consent to sexual conduct. This vulnerability justifies protecting animals from those convicted of bestiality offences as well.

I'm proposing that this can be done by adding the bestiality offence to the sentencing provisions in subsection 447.1(1) of the existing Criminal Code. This would let a judge impose a prohibition order for all of the animal cruelty offences and also the bestiality offence. I will provide the committee with my proposed amendments after this meeting so you can take a look at them.

Many prosecutors will tell you that one of their top priorities in sentencing is not just how much jail time they get for an offender or how much of a fine they can get, but actually getting that prohibition order, so they can keep animals away from individuals convicted of abusing them. I don't think I need to elaborate on why it's a monumentally bad idea to give people convicted of bestiality free and legal access to more animals.

Many other jurisdictions have already empowered judges to use prohibition orders this way in cases of bestiality. This includes our neighbours south of the border: the states of Alaska, Illinois, Maine, Missouri, Nevada, Tennessee, Texas and Washington.

I will now move to the animal-fighting provisions. Forcing animals to fight, injure and kill one another for the trifling sake of human entertainment also, obviously, deserves our consideration. I was pleased to review the government's charter statement on this piece of legislation. It recognizes that in the proposed animal-fighting section, section 2(b) of the charter, freedom of expression, may be implicated, to the extent that the bill restrains communication between individuals about issues. The government points out that violent expression, such as promoting animal fighting, does not promote the values underlying section 2(b) of the charter, and so wouldn't be implicated here. We see this as a very important recognition that our laws do value animals and preventing violence against them.

I take no issue with the provisions in the bill, but I do propose considering a further amendment to repeal subsection 447(3) of the Criminal Code. That's the mandatory provision that imposes an automatic death sentence on any birds seized from cockfighting rings. This issue was raised at the committee's last meeting.

There is a clear intent in the Criminal Code to outlaw all types of animal fighting. Paragraph 445.1(1)(b) is the main existing animal-fighting offence, and it prohibits all fighting of animals or birds. The code doesn't distinguish between different types. It doesn't matter what species of animal is used.

The amendment in this bill to subsection 447(1) transforms the offence of keeping a cockpit to one of keeping an arena used for any type of animal fighting, so there is a clear intention to bring all animals in equally. Yet subsection 447(3) requires only the killing of birds seized from animal-fighting rings, not for dogs or other species. In our view, this is completely needless, and it ties the hands of authorities when there may be a better option for the birds.

We think the fate of any bird seized should be decided on a case-by-case basis. This is already done for dogs and other animals rescued from fighting rings. There is no principled reason that roosters or birds forced to fight should be automatically killed. It may be appropriate to rehabilitate them. It may be appropriate to send them to a sanctuary, where they can receive lifelong care and still enjoy a high quality of life.

Repealing the provision wouldn't interfere with the ability of authorities to humanely euthanize birds when that situation is deemed to be appropriate. This is already done with dogs, if the need should arise. Provincial legislation generally empowers enforcement agents to do this, with the assistance of a veterinarian who can make the assessment about the bird's well-being.

I'm concerned that there's a real danger the public might lose confidence in the administration of justice, should they see a situation where an automatic death sentence is imposed on the animals for a seemingly senseless reason.

One recent high-profile dogfighting case in Ontario proves this point. I know Mr. MacKenzie will be familiar with it, as it occurred close to his riding.

There was a bust of a dogfighting ring in Chatham, Ontario, in 2015. I will skip through some of the details, but the Crown and the OSPCA sought an automatic death sentence for most of the dogs implicated in the case. The public was outraged by this. I attended those court proceedings. We had some involvement in the case. There were protests outside the courtroom every time there was an appearance. People were shocked that the dogs could be automatically killed without an individualized and appropriate assessment.

In the end, there was a reasonable solution reached. There were new assessments done on these dogs and most of them were sent to a rehabilitation facility in Florida, where most of them are doing pretty well.

The laws in this case are different, but I use this to illustrate the point that there's no public appetite for the mandatory killing of animals, without considering that they are each individuals and that they have individual circumstances and individual needs.

We already treat offenders as individuals in sentencing. That's a well-established principle in criminal law, so I would say it's only fair to treat animals who are victims as individuals too and treat them with compassion, because their lives do matter.

Here's a quick note on how many birds may have been killed under subsection 447(3). There are no national statistics on animal cruelty prosecutions, so it's difficult to know for sure, but here are a few numbers. A 2008 bust in Surrey, B.C., resulted in 1,270 birds being seized and killed, a 2009 bust in York Region resulted in 74 birds being seized and killed, and a 2016 bust near Cornwall resulted in 38 roosters being seized and killed. We're talking about a significant number of lives.

That's it for my submission. I'll be happy to respond in the question period.

January 31st, 2019 / 9:40 a.m.
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Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

David Lametti

That is indeed correct. I just wouldn't characterize a good first step as being stuck with something. I think it's a positive step moving forward. I know my predecessor committed at the time we were discussing Bill C-246 to a more comprehensive review of animal protection legislation, criminal and otherwise—

January 31st, 2019 / 9:40 a.m.
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NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Minister, a 2015 Environics poll done for the International Fund for Animal Welfare indicated that the vast majority of Canadian respondents would support changes to the code that would make it easier to convict individuals for animal cruelty.

Today you alluded to Bill C-246, which I know you supported. It's a bill that my friend, Mr. Erskine-Smith, introduced, but 117 Liberals voted it down. Our party supported it. It was a comprehensive animal cruelty reform bill. For the public who are watching this and are deeply concerned about animal cruelty, of course we're stuck with these two limited measures that your government proposes to make to the code. The bill that my friend, Mr. Erskine-Smith, had introduced would have gone much further.

The problem is that in this committee we can't go beyond the reforms that are before us, these two very specific sections of the Criminal Code, these two issues. I guess for the people watching—because you spoke with respect to Bill C-246 of the need to continue to look at this bill—I'd like to ask you again if that's a measure that you, in your new role, might be prepared to look at afresh.

January 31st, 2019 / 9:30 a.m.
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Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

David Lametti

I'm happy to provide information. Certainly there are the other private members' bills, including Bill C-246, that raised a number of different concerns that need to be looked at. We're happy to provide that information to you.

Remind me, Ron, of the second part of your question.

January 31st, 2019 / 9 a.m.
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Beaches—East York, Lib.

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith

Thanks very much, Minister, for being here. I also appreciate the support you gave to Bill C-246 before you were a minister.

Your home province of Quebec has recognized that animals are sentient. I want to get at some of the general principles for why we want to protect animals in the Criminal Code. You noted in your comments that animals are oftentimes an important part of our family. Would you agree that animals are sentient?

Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins ActPrivate Members' Business

November 29th, 2018 / 5:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak on Bill S-203.

I am opposed to this bill. The bill is fundamentally flawed. I was interested to hear the previous two speakers conflate this particular bill with environmental conservation and the conservation of whales. This has nothing to do with conservation or the environment.

Any population ecologist worth their salt only considers the numbers of individuals who are in the population. With this particular bill, even though the previous speakers tried to conflate it with environmental protection, the only thing that counts are the numbers of cetaceans that are out there, the population size.

This bill will do nothing for the conservation of cetaceans or, indeed, the understanding of the natural world. This particular bill, in my view, is an emotional reaction to a problem that simply does not exist.

In terms of cetaceans, I know that the government is always pointing out the problem populations, and quite rightly so, the southern killer whale, the Atlantic right whale, the belugas in the St. Lawrence. I am pleased to say that in Manitoba, off the Churchill estuary, we have a population of beluga whales of 55,000 individual animals. Studies have shown that population is stable and/or increasing.

Obviously, interacting with cetaceans in the wild is desirable, but many Canadians simply do not have the opportunity to do so. I was interested in the parliamentary secretary's comments about the Arctic and narwhals. I think I am one of the few people in this House, apart from the member for Nunavut, who has actually seen narwhals and experienced their beauty in the wild. It is something that very few people will see. They are remarkable creatures.

Many Canadians, however, do not have the opportunities that people like myself or those in the science community have had. Viewing cetaceans in captivity may be the only opportunity for many to understand cetaceans. Again, if the only place a person from an urban area who does not have a chance to get out in the wild and view cetaceans can learn about cetaceans is in captivity, obviously there are communication tools that various facilities will use to inform the visitors about cetaceans, cetacean conservation and the issue of the endangered species, for example. These are very important communications tools.

Regarding Ontario, I have been advised that there was a lengthy public debate in Ontario, which included the creation of an independent and international scientific advisory panel. They produced a very comprehensive report. There was the creation of a technical advisory group, composed of stakeholders from across the country. There were public hearings. I have been advised that provincial legislation has been passed that expressly permits keeping marine mammals in humane care, and creates and implements stringent regulations regarding the care and treatment of marine mammals.

The member for Saanich—Gulf Islands talked about the issues of animal cruelty and so on, and it reminds me of the debate we had on Bill C-246. The slippery slope is alive and well when it comes to this type of legislation. Who knows where it will lead, to rodeos or medical research? Who knows where this will lead once a bill like this is passed?

In terms of Marineland, again the founder of Marineland, John Holer, who is sadly now deceased, spoke to the Senate committee on May 16, 2017. Some of the takeaways from his testimony were that Marineland employs over 100 people year round and 700 during the operation season; Marineland has employed over 50,000 people in its 56 years of successful operation; Marineland does not seek or rely upon any public funding; Marineland annually commits approximately $4 million a year to advertising, reaching more than 15 million people across Canada and the U.S.; and Marineland attracts close to a million visitors yearly to the Niagara region.

Obviously, the entire regional economy benefits from this tourism opportunity. Also of tremendous importance, thousands of special needs children, at least 3,500 per year, visit Marineland through special programs, including events like Autism Day.

What is important is looking at the population of cetaceans. I go back to the point that this particular bill has nothing to do with environmental conservation. Nobody should be led to believe that it does.

However, the humane holding of cetaceans in captivity, following veterinary-approved codes of practice, is a conservation tool that can be used to educate Canadians about cetaceans.

I recall, for example, the great debates that we had on Bill C-246, the animal rights bill, a private member's bill that a Liberal member of Parliament tabled. Thankfully, a number of people in the government caucus voted against that bill, despite the protestations of the member who introduced the bill that it would not affect any of the animal-use communities.

The animal rights movement is clever in how it pushes forward legislation or policy change. The process is to start with something that seems innocent and then keep going and going, and pretty soon who knows what will be banned? For example, once we ban cetaceans from captivity, what is next? Let us look at beluga whales for example.

There are 55,000 beluga whales in the Churchill River estuary during the summer months. They are hunted by Inuit people from Arviat further north. Taking a few and putting them in captivity would mean nothing to the population of beluga.

Right now, however, polar bears are allowed to be held in captivity. Winnipeg has a world-famous, multimillion dollar polar bear exhibit. The number of polar bears is less than half that of beluga whales. What is next? This can go on and on.

Some people have a real antipathy towards zoos in general or animals in captivity, but this is how these campaigns start and this is the reason I will be actively opposing this legislation.

In terms of cetaceans, and as someone who has been to the Churchill River estuary and seen beluga whales, I have also been fortunate enough to see narwhals, which are incredible creatures. I can certainly understand the attachment people have to these beautiful creatures. Again, we admire them because we are taught about the beauty of nature and wildlife in facilities that are responsible and effective. However, without these facilities, many Canadians would never see such creatures.

The parliamentary secretary talked about the conservation of cetaceans. I want to tell him and the government caucus about the devastating effect that the new marine mammal regulations will have on the community of Churchill.

As I said, in the estuary in the summertime beluga whales are there in the thousands. As soon as a boat is launched, they swim up to it and there is nothing that can be done about it. These ridiculous marine mammal regulations that the government is insisting on enforcing would potentially kill this $10 million industry.

I made a statement about Churchill earlier in the House today. Ecotourism is a $10 million a year industry, employing 300 people. But the community of Churchill is on the ropes economically, and the whale and polar bear watching industries are the lifeblood of that particular community.

In the new marine mammal regulations, there is a minimum distance requirement of 50 metres. In the Churchill River estuary, which is not a very large area, there could be 30,000 beluga whales. How can they be avoided? Interestingly enough, the marine mammal regulations do not apply to large vessels that may be plowing up and down the estuary. They can plow through belugas willy-nilly, pardon the pun.

In terms of the ecotourism industry in the Churchill area, the very gentle environmental “use” this industry makes of the Churchill River estuary is the ultimate in sustainability, yet the government is promulgating marine mammal regulations that could potentially put that industry out of business.

I heard about the situation with humpback whales in Conception Bay. The operators there offer people the opportunity to slip into the water and swim with the whales. That would be completely banned under the new regulations. I have been told that the operator in Conception Bay lost $60,000 in business.

None of these regulations will have any positive impact on cetacean populations whatsoever. I guarantee there has been no scientific proof that these marine mammal regulations will improve the situation of cetaceans in Canada. All they will do, as the Liberal government has done over and over again, is to hurt remote rural communities. I find that unacceptable.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 29th, 2018 / 4:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-84, an act to amend the Criminal Code, bestiality and animal fighting.

Animal rights, updated animal cruelty laws and anything to do with taking care of our animals are very important to Davenport residents, so I felt it was important for me to speak to the bill.

I have received hundreds of letters over the years since I have been elected and a number of calls to action around improving our animal cruelty laws and many of the issues that have been talked about in the House in our discussion on Bill C-84.

Before I begin my formal remarks, I want to acknowledge the work of my colleague from Beaches—East York who introduced Bill C-246 two years ago. This proposed legislation was intended to modernize many aspects of Canada's animal cruelty laws. While the bill was ultimately defeated, I did vote in favour of it, not only because of the overwhelming support of it by Davenport residents but because I personally felt the time had come for us, on a fairly big scale, to update the legislation in a number of ways.

However, it was partly due to the member's efforts that the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada committed to review the animal cruelty offences. She engaged in a broad public consultation that led to proposing Bill C-84, which is what I will speak on today. I will focus on a couple of areas.

I think we can agree that bestiality, its links to child sexual abuse, cruelty to animals and the issue of animal fighting are major concerns in Canada. Therefore, Bill C-84 proposes to do a few things, including providing a clear definition for bestiality as well as strengthen and modernize Canada's animal fighting laws. I will focus on these two issues in the bill, which have broad support.

First, Bill C-84 would fill a gap identified as a result of the 2016 Supreme Court of Canada's decision in the case of R v. D.L.W. in relation to the prohibition of acts of bestiality. In the D.L.W. decision, the Supreme Court was asked to interpret the scope of the bestiality offence under the Criminal Code. Surprisingly, it was found that the Criminal Code did not contain a definition of bestiality.

In considering the origins and historical evolution of the common law bestiality provision, the court stated that penetration had always been one of the central elements of the offence. The court refused to interpret bestiality in such a way as to broaden its scope, saying that the decision to broaden the definition fell squarely within the responsibility of Parliament. The Supreme Court decision in the D.L.W. case allowed us to identify a gap in the law that the bestiality offences in force did not apply to persons who committed sexual acts with non-penetrating animals, even in the presence of children or with children.

Many stakeholders, including child and animal advocates and even some provincial governments, urged the federal government to act on the D.L.W. decision and to fill deficiencies identified by the Supreme Court. The first amendment proposed in the bill therefore is to define the term “bestiality” in the Criminal Code to prohibit “any contact, for a sexual purpose, with an animal”. This proposed legislative amendment will serve several important purposes, such as the protection of children and other vulnerable persons who may witness or be forced to witness an act of bestiality.

The proposed legislative amendment contains a strong public safety component. Research shows that violence, including sexual violence against women and children and violence against animals, are not separate and distinct issues. Rather, they are part of a broader context of violence that is inextricably linked.

In fact, research conducted by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection on images of child sexual exploitation on websites reported that between 2002 and 2009, 35% of all images analyzed involved serious sexual assault, including bondage or sexual servitude, torture and bestiality. This data demonstrated that there was a clear link between bestiality, child sexual abuse and other forms of violence.

In addition, since the D.L.W. decision, the case law analysis on this issue also revealed numerous cases where offenders convicted of possession of child pornography were sadly viewing images of children aged one to 16 engaging in bestiality acts.

Case law further demonstrates that when sexual violence against a child involves an animal, the level of criminal behaviour may be particularly serious, and acts of sexual violence committed do not always involve penetration.

Since the D.L.W. decision, bestiality offences under the Criminal Code do not apply in cases where the offender commits sexual acts with non-penetrating animals. The impact is that animals are only protected from non-penetrative sexual acts by persons when the sexual act causes physical injury to the animal and is therefore an offence for cruelty to animals. Likewise, children are only protected from being compelled to commit or witness acts of bestiality without penetration when other sexual offences against the child apply.

Bill C-84's proposal to define bestiality fills this gap by making it clear that all acts of sex with animals are prohibited under the bestiality provisions of Canada regardless of the circumstances. In other words, society has no legitimate interest in allowing people to commit sexual acts with animals, especially in the presence of children or with their participation. The bill proposes to define bestiality as “any contact, for a sexual purpose, with an animal”.

The meaning of this sentence is well understood and established in law. This expression is found in several other provisions of the Criminal Code, such as child pornography, luring on the Internet and making sexually explicit material available to a child.

In the 2001 Sharpe decision, the Supreme Court of Canada interpreted the sentence in the context of the child pornography offence to mean that the act, viewed objectively, was committed for the sexual gratification of the involved child. It would be noted that the proposed definition clearly would not intended for animal breeding activities such as artificial insemination.

I would now like to highlight the provisions in the bill to strengthen Canada's animal fighting laws.

At the moment, the Criminal Code prohibits anyone from encouraging or assisting in the fighting or harassment of animals and anyone who constructs and maintains an arena for cock fighting on the premises that the person owns or occupies or to permit such an arena to be constructed, maintained or guarded on those premises. The bill would ensure that all activities contributing to animal fighting would be prohibited and that all animals would be entitled to the same protection. This would be achieved by amending section 445.1 of the Criminal Code to prohibit a wider range of activities, such as promoting, organizing and participating in animal fights.

In addition, Bill C-84 would ensure that section 447 would prohibit all arenas of animal fighting, not only those that would be committed to cock fighting. While there are no reliable statistics on the extent of animal fighting in Canada, given the clandestine nature, we know that animal fighting activities are often related to organized crime, including illegal gambling, trafficking, illicit drugs and weapons. Although cock fighting has become a thing of the past in Canada, the incidence of other forms of animal fighting, particularly those including dogs, has increased.

The animal fighting offence reforms proposed in the bill will achieve a number of important goals, including the following two. They will make it clear that all forms of animal fighting are prohibited. They will strengthen our ability to bring to justice those who commit these heinous crimes and to track the number of cases.

I would like to point out that the broadening of the scope of animal welfare offences does not involve legitimate activities such as hunting, training or the use of dogs for protection purposes. Rather, it targets acts of gratuitous violence that have no place and no legitimate purpose in our country.

Although this is a relatively short bill, the proposed amendments are necessary to fill real gaps in the criminal law.

In short, the bill is part of the firm commitment of the Minister of Justice to examine and strengthen the animal cruelty laws. I hope all members of Parliament will join me in supporting the proposed reforms. I encourage all members of the House to unanimously support the speedy passage of Bill C-84.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 29th, 2018 / 4:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Peter Fonseca Liberal Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Davenport.

What this bill brings forward is a balance: more protections for animals against animal cruelty, and also an understanding of the important work that farmers need to do.

We are going to talk a lot about the legislation, but nothing brings it more to life than a story. I was listening to the member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford talking about Teddy the dog and the abuse it suffered and how the community has rallied. We have heard from citizens from coast to coast to coast how important this is. That is significant. We know these stories have happened in all of our ridings and it is important for us to protect those who do not have a voice, our animals. That is why it brings me great pleasure to be able to speak to Bill C-84, an act to amend the Criminal Code (bestiality and animal fighting). This bill proposes several amendments to the Criminal Code to improve and expand the law in respect of these two issues.

Historically, discussions surrounding the criminalization of certain types of behaviours toward animals have tended to generate significant controversy and strong passion on various sides. As we experienced during the second reading debate on Bill C-246, the modernizing animal protections act, it is not always easy to reconcile competing interests in this area of the law. Despite the challenges we see time and again on these broader questions, I believe it is important, as a starting point, to recognize that the measures proposed in this bill focus on two issues that enjoy broad support. In fact, I understand that a wide variety of stakeholder groups have written to the Minister of Justice in support of these specific proposals. In addition to the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies and the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, and a diverse range of stakeholders from the agriculture sector have equally expressed their support, again striking the right balance.

It is clear that there is more we can do as parliamentarians to protect animals and to condemn those who intentionally subject them to harm. When we can all come together, we can get important things done. That is precisely what this bill seeks to do. Bill C-84 seeks to better protect children and other vulnerable persons and animals in a couple of different ways.

First, there are amendments to existing offences in relation to animal fighting. Causing animals to fight each other is generally done for the economic gain of some people and the entertainment of others. In all of its manifestations, it is an abhorrent behaviour that has no place in Canadian society. It has long been prohibited under criminal law. Animal fighting can be a complex enterprise involving many people at different stages of the operation. Because there are a variety of activities carried out by numerous different people, possibly in different places, it can make it challenging to define the scope of the offence and to prosecute those offenders. In fact, animal fighting has been shown to be linked to organized crime. We might suspect the reason for this is that it is a profit-generating activity, which is what criminal organizations are only interested in. This potential link with organized crime is yet another reason to take seriously the measures proposed in this bill.

Criminal law seeks to define offences by identifying specific actions that are prohibited. The time has come to update the existing prohibitions to ensure that all of the various activities done in support of animal fighting are clearly prohibited. That is precisely what this bill does. The existing offence in paragraph 445.1(1)(b) of the Criminal Code prohibits encouraging, aiding or assisting the fighting of animals. The problem with this is that it is not entirely clear what conduct is or is not prohibited. Therefore, the bill would expand this offence so that it would expressly prohibit a range of additional activities that are done in support of animal fighting. It would add the following to the list of prohibited activities: promoting, arranging, receiving money and taking part in animal fighting, as well as training, transporting or breeding an animal for the purpose of fighting.

The objective of such reforms is to more clearly define what conduct is prohibited in order to facilitate the investigation and prosecution of these offences. Related enforcement actions would be facilitated, because it will be very clear when behaviour is criminal and when it is not. Enforcement bodies will not have to ask themselves whether breeding animals for the purpose of fighting or receiving money from animal fighting are prohibited since the various links on the chain of an animal fighting operation will now all be set out very clearly.

This change would greatly benefit the animals that are deliberately subjected to harm in the most brutal of ways for human entertainment and profit. There is no social value to these activities, only cruelty for its own sake.

It is vital that the law be clear, that animals be protected from the full range of activities that are done in support of animal fighting, and that law enforcement be equipped to detect and stop this crime at whatever stage they find it.

A related amendment is a proposed change to the offence of keeping a cockpit, dealt with in section 447 of the Criminal Code. The narrow scope of this offence is likely a result of the historical era in which it was enacted, a time when animal fighting would have primarily involved cockfighting.

Today we know that animal fighting can take other forms, most notably dog fighting. Bill C-84 would therefore broaden the current offence so that individuals who make or maintain arenas that are intended to be used in fighting by any type of animal are subject to criminal law.

I would also note that research continues to show a correlation between animal cruelty and other forms of criminality and violence. While these proposed reforms target one form of animal cruelty, the broader context remains relevant. Where individuals participate in the senseless brutalization of animals, this kind of behaviour represents a threat to public safety that we must all be concerned about.

The other major component of this legislation addresses bestiality. There have always been offences prohibiting bestiality in the Criminal Code, including prohibiting the compelling of a person to engage in bestiality and inciting a person under 16 years of age to engage in bestiality or engaging in it in the presence of an individual, as dealt with in section 160 of the Criminal Code.

However, there is currently no definition of bestiality in the Criminal Code. In the 2016 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. D.L.W., the court held that the common law definition of bestiality is limited to sex acts with animals that involve penetration. This ruling generated a lot of commentary, with many Canadians feeling that it left out many of the offences and forms of behaviour that are harmful and equally deserving of prohibition.

While interpreting these offences is in the domain of the courts, creating new offences or expanding the scope of the existing ones is something that only Parliament can do, and this is precisely what Bill C-84 proposes to do. The bill proposes to amend the relevant section, section 160, to define bestiality for the first time in the Criminal Code.

It is entirely appropriate for Parliament to define the scope of key terms in criminal offences, as this is in fact what defines the scope of criminal conduct. It is our responsibility not just to ensure clarity in the scope of criminal offences, but also to ensure that the scope of criminal offences keeps up with modern times and adequately protects the public from offensive behaviour in a way that is consistent with our collective values.

I am confident that Canadians will support these proposed measures, which aim to clearly identify as unacceptable certain forms of conduct that are harmful to animals, to children and to the whole of society.

I urge all members to support this legislation to ensure its swift passage. This is the right piece of legislation that will bring that balance by protecting animals from cruelty and also ensuring that farmers will be able to do their jobs. Stakeholders are onside. It is time to move forward.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 29th, 2018 / 1:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Toronto—Danforth.

I am very pleased to have this opportunity to speak to Bill C-84, a bill that proposes several amendments that would strengthen the Criminal Code's response to bestiality and animal fighting.

I have been passionate about animal protection all my life. During my five years on Oakville's town council I had the opportunity and privilege to work with the Oakville & Milton Humane Society and its former executive director, Kim Millan. I have spoken at length with Kim, as well as former OSPCA officer, Laura Mackasey , and current OSPCA officer, Caitlin Jones who are the front line when dealing with animal cruelty cases. I can remember so clearly Laura and Kim saying to me, “We want to do more, but our hands are tied by legislation.” I was actually shocked at how our laws had failed to keep up with the realties of our world.

I was an early and vocal supporter of the member for Beaches—East York's private member's Bill C-246, and met with my local humane society about the proposed legislation. It also publicly supported the bill because it deals with animal cruelty on a daily basis and knows how critical it is to update our laws. Quite frankly, those on the front line of animal cruelty need governments to step up and give them the tools they need to protect animals.

The bill before us today reflects the Minister of Justice's commitment to review animal welfare laws in the wake of the defeat of Bill C-246. She held extensive consultations all across Canada. Bill C-84 is an excellent first step, but quite frankly, there is more to be done by all levels of government to end animal cruelty.

I will highlight one issue which was brought to my attention by someone who has worked in the field for many years. We need to ensure that any person convicted of an offence of animal cruelty should be prohibited from ever owning an animal again, and if the person is prohibited from owning an animal in one province, that restriction should apply in all provinces. It is my hope that this is something that could be considered at committee.

We know there is a direct link between animal cruelty and child abuse and also between animal cruelty and domestic violence. That is why we must take the abuse of animals seriously. Research from the University of Windsor found a strong correlation between the abuse of human family members and the treatment of companion animals. Childhood sexual assault is also linked with animal sexual assault. Barbara Cartwright, CEO of the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies has stated that not all people who commit animal cruelty are serial predators, but as far as we know, all serial predators have committed acts of animal cruelty. We also know there is a correlation between animal fighting and guns and gangs. Bill C-84 also tightens the law around animal fighting.

I am sure most Canadians are shaking their heads asking why these changes have not been made sooner. I agree, but I applaud the government for bringing Bill C-84 forward.

On the specifics of Bill C-84, I will now focus my comments on the bill's amendment, which arises in the wake of the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in 2016 in the case of D.L.W. In this recent decision, the court limited the meaning of the term “bestiality”. I cannot stress enough how important Bill C-84's bestiality amendment is. Specifically, it would serve to protect vulnerable people, especially children, as well as animals. To be clear from the outset, criminal liability must result whenever any kind of sexual act with animals occur. While difficult to talk about, it is a subject that we must address because of the very real consequences of a lack of legislation on this issue.

The term “bestiality” has never been defined in statute in Canada, but it forms the basis for criminal liability in three distinct Criminal Code offences. Canada's bestiality provisions find their origin in ancient British law, and the offence was included in Canada's first Criminal Code in 1892. The recent Supreme Court case was the first time the Supreme Court of Canada had the occasion to consider the meaning of the term “bestiality”. Because there was no statutory definition of the term, the court examined its history and its interpretation at common law to determine its meaning.

The court found that sexual penetration has always been one of its essential elements. Nothing in the legislative history of Canada's bestiality provisions was found to have changed its original meaning at common law. Importantly, the court also noted that any changes to the scope of existing criminal offences must be made by Parliament.

The circumstances of the D.L.W. case are disturbing, to say the very least. Without elaborating on the extensive and sustained sexual abuse that the accused perpetrated against the victims over a period of approximately 10 years, the court was asked to consider whether the activity constituted a form of bestiality. The majority of the court answered the question in the negative because of the historical interpretation given to the offence.

The decision stated that the courts must not create new crimes that Parliament never explicitly intended and expanding the scope of bestiality to include all sexual acts between humans and animals would do just that, largely because, in the words of the Supreme Court, “there is not, and has never been in Canada, any statutory definition, exhaustive or otherwise, of the elements of bestiality.” The court also pointed to the ongoing significant policy debates about what the focus of this sort of offence ought to be and once again clarified that it is for Parliament, not the courts, to expand the scope of criminal liability for this ancient offence.

Bill C-84 proposes an amendment that would achieve exactly what the courts have suggested. Specifically, it would define “bestiality” as “any contact for a sexual purpose with an animal”. It would mean that accused persons, like the one in the D.L.W. case, would no longer be acquitted simply because the sexual abuse in question did not involve penetration. This is an appropriate and necessary response to the Supreme Court's decision. As parliamentarians, it is our duty to ensure the criminal law protects the most vulnerable, especially children. Involving animals in harmful contact is often indicative of a propensity for even more serious offending.

As I stated earlier, there is an established link between animal cruelty and child abuse. The D.L.W. case is a case in point. We must extend the criminal law's protections in this regard. Undoubtedly, the Criminal Code contains other offences that could apply to the conduct at issue in the D.L.W. case. At the same time, the proposed changes would send a clear message that forcing others to engage in sexual acts with animals and involving children or animals in this kind of activity is harmful and will not be tolerated.

The bill's second focus on animal fighting is also an overdue change to our legislative framework in Canada. Our society does not tolerate these abuses of animals and I am pleased the government has introduced Bill C-84 to protect the vulnerable, animals and Canadian society in general. It is my hope that this legislation will go a long way in also helping people like those who work with the Oakville & Milton Humane Society, as well as the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, to do their jobs more easily and give them the legislative framework they have been calling for.

I call on all members of this House to support this bill.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 29th, 2018 / 12:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the member for Calgary Nose Hill mentioned, I went through an arduous journey for Bill C-246. My in-laws are in a small southwestern Ontario community, Camlachie. No one really knows where it is, but it is outside of Petrolia. If people do not know where Petrolia is, it is outside of Sarnia.

A cousin of my father-in-law is a chicken farmer. The Chicken Farmers of Canada was very much opposed to and worried about some of the language in Bill C-246. It was worried about language that had to do with a case where a dog was killed with a baseball bat and died immediately. The judge acquitted because there was no evidence of pain and suffering. I did not come up with the language; the justice department came up with it. It was debated for 100 hours in this place and in the Senate. The bill was passed in both places, but unfortunately died before it became law.

However, the cousin of my father-in-law came to me and asked me what was going on, that the Chicken Farmers of Canada was worried about this and should he be worried. I explained that the language said that it would be a crime to brutally or viciously kill an animal, regardless of whether the animal died immediately. They were worried about that language, the unintended consequences. He stopped me asked me why anyone would want to kill an animal brutally and viciously.

I tell this story because I want to thank the member for her advocacy and for her suggestion. It is important that we have everyone, members of all parties and stakeholders from across the spectrum, from animal rights groups to animal sector use groups, come to the table and discuss the language and what it would be designed to do. If we do that, there is a way forward and a way forward to get back to where we were in 2004. I would certainly commit today to being part of that conversation with the member for Calgary Nose Hill and members across the way. Would she commit today to working across the aisle to make that happen?