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.

National Seal Products Day ActPrivate Members' Business

May 5th, 2017 / 1:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB

Madam Speaker, it is an honour for me to follow my colleague from British Columbia in support of Bill S-208, put forward by the member for Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, the illustrious chair of the fisheries committee.

I, too, serve on that committee. In fact, I have been on the fisheries committee ever since I became a member of Parliament, nearly seven years ago, and it has been a great committee to be on. Not that long ago, the chair talked about how many reports the committee had put out, 10 reports so far since this Parliament began. We have a very productive, interesting, and significant committee.

I very strongly support this bill. I represent a large rural area in Manitoba, and Manitoba is a coastal province. There are seals in Churchill in Hudson Bay. We do not seal hunt, but it is a coastal province.

For a prairie boy who grew up hunting, fishing and being the ultimate romantic when it comes to the outdoors, many years ago I got my hands on a book by George Allan England called, The Greatest Hunt in the World. He was on Captain Kean's boat in the 1920s and went on a seal hunt himself. As I read this direct account of the seal hunt, I could not imagine the toughness, the bravery, and the sheer guts it took for those men to go out on the ice every spring to harvest seals.

Canada's seal hunt is sustainable, and previous speakers have talked about the sustainability of it. Unfortunately, Canada's seal hunt has been the target of very unfair and fraudulent campaigns by the animal rights movement, led by groups like Animal Justice Canada, International Fund for Animal Welfare, and so on. It is clear that the sole purpose of these anti-sealing groups is to raise funds for themselves, and the collateral damage to coastal communities has simply been staggering.

A witness at the aboriginal affairs committee not that long ago talked about the increase in suicide rates in some Inuit communities, partly attributed to the collapse of the seal hunt. These people do not want to save cuddly animals. These people are a danger to rural and remote communities. The seal hunt is the canary in the coal mine. As somebody who has fought the animal rights movement and the people who want to shut down communities like the one I represent, the seal hunt, the canary in the coal mine, the tip of the iceberg, pick a metaphor, whether it is anti-logging, anti-trapping, anti-hunting, anti-mining, and, quite frankly, anti-oil and gas, it is the rural communities that bear the brunt of these campaigns. One of the reasons I became a member of Parliament was to protect and defend rural communities. I have had experiences fighting the good fight on all these issues.

Interestingly enough, again going back to the animal rights movement and the animal rights groups, these people do not care about cuddly animals. They want an end to all animal use, farming, ranching, trapping, and sealing of course, and sealing is the easiest target. However, if we look at all their websites, they also want an end to animal-based medical research. I do not know if members in the House realize it, but when I met with the Heart and Stroke Foundation some time ago, I asked point blank how much of the cardiac research was done on animals and it was 60%. Again, these anti-animal use campaigns can be extremely harmful.

I will also talk about the unfairness of countries that ban seal products. The European ban was completely uncalled for. It is easy for another country to point fingers at another jurisdiction and pay no political price for it, while being made to look like people who care about the environment. The U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act prevents seal products from entering the U.S., no matter how abundant seals are.

The animal rights movement caused a decrease in the seal harvest, and as colleagues talked about a minute ago, the number of harp seals has increased dramatically, from 1.8 million in 1970 to about 7.4 million now; and grey seals, from 13,000 in 1970 to 505,000 now. There are varying estimates, but the seals consume between 10 and 15 times what the east coast fleet harvests. It is quite clearly established that the high grey seal populations are preventing a recovery of the gulf cod.

Not that long ago, our fisheries committee submitted two reports to Parliament, one on Atlantic salmon and one on northern cod. In both studies, the seals were implicated in the decline of the Atlantic salmon in particular, and in the prevention of the recovery of the cod as well. Both committee reports recommended an expanded seal harvest, done humanely but expanded, to reduce the numbers of these seal species to improve the populations of Atlantic salmon and cod.

Nobody wants to wipe out the seals. However, I think it is our duty as human stewards of this earth to restore a balance that is completely out of whack right now.

I had the honour many years ago of doing work in the eastern Arctic, around Southampton Island, on Arctic char, and I had the honour of living with an Inuit family. I participated in a seal hunt and a walrus hunt. I have had a lot of experience in the outdoors, but I have had some Arctic experience. I do know what it is like to plunge one's hand into a freshly killed walrus and experience the joy and exuberance of the hunt when one is successful. It was an experience that I will cherish. I have eaten raw seal, raw walrus, and I found the tastes interesting, to say the least. It can be good.

I am very pleased, as well, to see an increase in demand for seal products, the seal oil, the high levels of omega 3. We have companies that are exploiting this. I applaud my colleague and the colleagues from all parties who support our traditions of sealing, hunting, trapping, and fishing. Many of us belong to an organization called the outdoor caucus, and I see a number of members wearing an outdoor caucus pin.

I want to finish up with the tale of Bill C-246. As we know, a Liberal member of Parliament introduced a private member's bill that many of us viewed as a closet animal rights bill. I was very pleased to see that many Liberal members of Parliament, and almost all Conservative members of Parliament, worked very hard to defeat that particular bill. We motivated people from all across the country to build a coalition of sealers, trappers, hunters, anglers, and medical researchers, who realized the implications of that particular bill.

While I must thank the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for his speech, and I listened with great interest to it, I would note that almost all of the NDP caucus voted for Bill C-246, except for one, the member for Kootenay—Columbia. I do not say this to be mean, in any sense of the word, but it is very important that we, as members of Parliament, stand on principle to protect our communities and the people who hunt, trap, fish, and harvest seals.

I must also say that sealing is largely a rural industry, but we have a lot of people who live in cities who love to hunt, fish, and trap. Again, I want to compliment my colleague for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, a Montreal area member of Parliament, who has chosen to throw his support behind the bill for a national seal products day.

In conclusion, I am very proud to support the bill. I am proud to serve with my colleague on the fisheries committee. I look forward to the bill being passed and being a very great help to the sealing industry, now and into the future.

February 23rd, 2017 / 9:50 a.m.
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Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

I just want to say thank you to our guests today. I really enjoyed the testimony.

Obviously, as our colleague Mr. Sopuck mentioned, we are supporting this. I've already spoken on it as well. I support it wholeheartedly. We're a hunting and fishing family, always have been. We're first nations as well. Our freezer is filled with what we call “jumper”—a lot of deer, moose, and salmon. I'm not back there enough to actually get it, but I'm still trying to find a good source out here.

There are things that I wanted to bring up because there are concerns on this side with respect to our Liberal friends. Ms. Jones, you spoke very elegantly and passionately about the third party, the animal welfare groups that are there. We're seeing them increasingly have an impact on some of the decisions being made. Let's make no bones about it; they're the same groups. Regardless of the name, they're the same groups that are standing beside our government officials when we're making announcements about MPAs and how that impacts our coastal communities.

Both of you, and Mr. Simms, and the senator, would know how that impacts the livelihoods of our coastal communities, our first nations communities. There are decisions that have been made in Nunavut, recently, regarding, perhaps, the limiting of economic opportunities in Nunavut. We have a parliamentary secretary now who voted in favour of Bill C-246, and I'm hoping that our Liberal colleagues who are here testifying had the conversation regarding the importance of this. Mr. Sopuck has mentioned the Liberal welfare caucus.

I want to know where your voice is when these groups are not just talking about the seal cull or stopping or banning seal products. Is your voice still as strong when they're talking about the MPAs, when they're putting forth the same groups that are influencing some of our government decisions?

Ms. Jones.

February 23rd, 2017 / 9:45 a.m.
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Liberal

Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Unlike my colleagues across the way, I did support Bill C-246, but for reasons that weren't related to the issues that you're here on. That was probably one of the problems with that bill. It reached a little too far and was a little too imprecise. Nonetheless, I think we have to support this and we have to get behind you.

Thank you.

February 23rd, 2017 / 9:35 a.m.
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Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB

Thank you.

It's a great honour for me to be part of this process. I strongly support this bill. As my Liberal colleagues on the witness list know, we all worked together to defeat Bill C-246.

Many years ago, probably 30 years ago, I got my hands on a book by George Allan England called The Greatest Hunt in the World. It is a 1920s account of the seal hunt in Newfoundland, complete with photographs from an actual seal hunt. The hardships that the people put up with in order to hunt seals is staggering to me.

I've had my own experiences in the Arctic—for a prairie boy—on a seal hunt and on a walrus hunt. For Mr. Tootoo's benefit, I do know what an ujjuk is. Also, when I helped butcher a walrus, not only did I get the tusks, I got the oosik as well. Anyway, that will just be between Mr. Tootoo and I.

Mr. Tootoo was right on when he talked about the importance of the seal hunt. There was testimony to the aboriginal affairs committee not that long ago, by Mr. Williamson, who talked about higher suicide rates in Inuit communities when the seal hunt was curtailed. This is not merely a game. This is very serious for people.

I come from a hunting community in the prairie region of Canada. Hunting is very much a part of my culture and way of life. Were I not able to hunt anymore, I'm not sure how I would be able to carry on. It is such an important spiritual activity for me and my constituents and my family.

The comments about the animal rights movement are spot on here, but I think we don't take them seriously enough, from the standpoint of them being deadly serious people. They're not funny. They're not nice. Ms. Jones made a very wise distinction between animal welfare and animal rights. We have to be very clear. One only needs to look at the websites of the animal rights groups, especially the ones who were supporting Bill C-246. They want to see all animal use banned—all of it.

Again, from our side of the caucus anyway, I led the charge against Bill C-246. One of the ways we were able to fight the animal rights movement was to build a coalition of all animal-use groups, and I strongly recommend that the seal industry be part of that. There is a group in the United Kingdom called the Countryside Alliance that protects and defends all animal use of all kinds.

One of the methods that we used as well in the fight against Bill C-246, in order to bring the rest of society into this fight, was to point out that these animal rights groups want to see all animal-based medical research banned. The average Canadian may not be part of the seal hunt, but everybody knows somebody who has been saved by animal-based research. For instance, 60% of cardiovascular research is done on animals.

Again, my strong recommendation, from a strategic standpoint, regarding the sealing industry, is to protect and defend all animal use, and then the rest of the animal users will come to your aid as well. The seal hunt is not an isolated thing. Our colleague, Blaine Calkins gave a terrific speech in the House in support of this bill, and brought in the entirety of the movement to curtail all animal use.

I'm going to ask a bit of an uncomfortable question here, knowing that my Liberal friends, as witnesses, are truly friends. Recently, a Liberal animal welfare caucus has been announced, and that has some great concern for us. I guess it's a concern for you as well. Also, the Minister of Justice said that animal welfare laws will be reviewed in the review of the Criminal Code.

I'll ask Mr. Simms this question. Do you see this Liberal animal welfare caucus as a source of trouble for us, those of us who want to protect and defend animal use? There are no guarantees, but can you assure us that the review of the Criminal Code will not in any way, shape, or form, affect traditional and accepted animal use?

I apologize for the long preamble.

National Seal Products Day ActPrivate Members' Business

October 27th, 2016 / 5:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Red Deer—Lacombe, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege for me to rise and speak to the bill.

As the chair of the Conservative hunting and angling caucus, I first want to pay tribute to my colleagues, the member for Cariboo—Prince George, who has spoken eloquently about this, and of course, my colleague from Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa. I know that my colleague from North Okanagan—Shuswap is about to follow up on this, and we will hear some very enlightened comments, I am sure.

This is an issue that transcends political party boundaries in the House. Therefore, members will see that my remarks will not be partisan, as some remarks can be in this place.

I want to talk about how important this issue is from the perspective of an Albertan.

Why would an Alberta MP want to speak to a bill that deals with national seal products? It is from my perspective of growing up on a farm in rural Alberta. I grew up on a Simmental cow-calf operation. We had milk cows, chickens, and hogs from farrow to finish, in a mixed farming environment. The connection I had with the farm, with the outdoor and rural way of life, led me to my passion, which is hunting and fishing. I love it.

I would ask for a show of hands, but I think it would be completely inappropriate. However, I think most members in the House, especially those from rural areas, love hunting and fishing.

What does that have to do with seal products? It is all about efforts, and there are efforts afoot all around the globe from anti-animal abuse activists who are constantly trying to shut down our rural and outdoor way of life. That is fine. In democracies around the world, everybody has the right to their opinion, the right to express those opinions.

However, I would be horrified if I lost the ability some day to ethically hunt for the food I want to provide my family with, or go fishing and spend time with my son, family members, and friends. We go fly fishing on the North Ram River or catch some beautiful brook trout in Gap Lake. I know that the same thing would be felt in all communities, and the pressure is there for all the coastal communities in our magnificent country to shut down the lawful seal harvest.

I will also come at this from a different angle. It was my privilege, because of my passion, that the good people of Canada paid for 70% of my post-secondary education. I was able to get into the University of Alberta and graduate with a zoology degree in fisheries and aquatic sciences. I furthered my passion by working for Alberta Fish and Wildlife on walleye experiments. I worked as a fishing guide in the north, and I was able to pursue that career. Therefore, I want to let people know how important wildlife management techniques are, from an aspect of governance and management, and one of the most effective wildlife management techniques that any government has is the issuance of hunting licences and hunting permits.

Imagine a situation where we have too much or too little of something. We can simply change the rules a little so that we could allow more wildlife, or more of something, to flourish in a particular area; and where we have a little too much of something, we can sell licences, tags, and permits to people. Not only does this generate a source of revenue for governments to be able to fund all kinds of various services and programs, and most notably these things go back into wildlife conservation efforts, but it also allows the government the ability to get rid of or to manage a problem when it has too much of something.

Most Canadians would be shocked to know—and I do not think that the average Canadian actually does know—that back before the moratorium on the cod fishery on the east coast, there were not nearly as many seals as there are today. There were slightly over one million seals. I spent a number of years on the fisheries committee, natural resources committee, and the environment committee in my 10 years as a parliamentarian. Members can correct me if I am wrong, but today I think we have in the order of six or seven times as many seals on the Atlantic coast of Canada.

At the same time, the cod moratorium in the early 1990s was very controversial and it very much impacted the industry and the way of life because of the inappropriate, some would say, mismanagement of the cod fishery. That stock has had a moratorium on it ever since. I am a fisheries biologist by training. That fishery should have recovered by now, and I know that in some places it actually has, but in the vast majority of areas, it has not.

This has cost so many people on the coast their way of life. I would not want that on anybody. I do not want that on the farmers I represent in central Alberta. I certainly do not want foolish policies affecting the way of life of my energy resource workers in central Alberta. I do not want this to affect the way of life of the people who live in our coastal communities. It is vitally important. This perspective is where I am coming from.

I applaud my colleague and admire his courage in bringing this bill forward, because bringing forward a piece of legislation that deals with this issue is often very divisive. It brings out emotions in people. It defies sometimes even logic when people use arguments one way or the other.

The bill focuses primarily on the traditional culture and heritage of Canada's indigenous peoples in coastal communities respecting the use of ocean resources. Why on earth would we not do that? Why on earth would we not promote seal products here in Canada. Why on earth would we not defend the people who earn a livelihood?

In some communities, the ability to harvest seals might only grant that family an extra $7,000 to $10,000 a year for the seal harvest, but if that family only has a household income of $15,000 or $20,000 a year, we are talking about a significant portion of their earnings. Some people live on those earnings. We should not even have to be defending this; we should be promoting this. The responsible harvest and use of these natural resources in a sustainable and ethical way is something we should be applauding, not admonishing.

We have heard report after report at the fisheries committee, the member who is the sponsor of this piece of legislation and I, saying how much has changed in the practice of seal harvesting over the years and how much more ethically and responsibly done it is today. However, in a world of social media and a world of celebrities, foie-gras-eating celebrities, in some cases, yacht-owning celebrities, in some cases, who take up charges that seem completely hypocritical, what do they say? We have blue sky, white ice, and of course, a harvest going on.

The reality is that it is completely ethical and sustainable to do so, and we should be not only applauding the people who do it but encouraging them and promoting them.

It makes complete sense from a wildlife management perspective. All parties in this House, when they are in government, have a great record of defending it, promoting it, and defending these interests at the European level, at the World Trade Organization, and so on. I think this piece of legislation, if passed, just puts one more feather in our cap as a nation as we promote this.

The bill also builds on the importance of ecological sustainability, through practices like the seal harvest, that help maintain healthy wildlife populations. I have already talked about that. One of my favourite events here on the Hill is Seal Day on the Hill. To have an actual day enshrined, not in a legislative way where we have a legal holiday but just as a day that recognizes the importance of this small but vibrant and necessary industry, is absolutely wonderful.

If we go to these dinners we see amazing products made out of sealskin. We have natural health products with seal oil and omega-3, amazing crafts that are made primarily by first nations and Inuit people. We have beautiful coats and beautiful mitts and boots. They are very beautiful, top-quality products. These products have a demand. There are people who are willing to buy these, and it makes complete sense that we would allow this to happen, and not only allow it to happen but encourage it to happen.

I can only say thanks to my colleague for sponsoring the bill and bringing it forward in the House of Commons. I want to thank all of my colleagues in the House of Commons who stand up against things like animal rights legislation posing as legislation dealing with animal welfare, as we saw with Bill C-246, legislation that would have actually been harmful to these efforts.

I want to thank all of the folks who work in this particular industry and risk their lives sometimes. Seal harvesting is one of the more difficult occupations one can have, but is done in a very safe and responsible manner. I wish them good health and safety as they continue with this.

I encourage all of my colleagues in the House of Commons to support this common-sense piece of legislation.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

October 6th, 2016 / 5:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to speak in favour of Bill C-230, an act to amend the Criminal Code regarding a firearm definition of “variant”, introduced by the great member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound. I would like to applaud that hard-working member for his great work to clarify this difficult and arcane issue and for his continued support for law-abiding firearms owners across Canada. I consider the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound a mentor, and I have benefited greatly from his wisdom.

The previous Conservative government also implemented the Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act, which enhanced the safety of our communities while ensuring safe and sensible firearms policy and cutting red tape for law-abiding firearms owners.

The Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act made common-sense changes to protect public safety, such as making firearms safety courses mandatory for all first-time licence applicants and strengthening provisions to prohibit the possession of firearms for those convicted of domestic assault. These are tangible measures to protect public safety, and I am very happy to see my colleague continuing to pursue this common-sense solution as presented in Bill C-230.

Many Canadians may not be aware of the difficulties our current firearm classification system places on businesses, hunters, sport shooters, and all gun owners in Canada. However, it is part of a larger trend in overburdening law-abiding firearms owners for no reason, simply based on stigma, not fact. Thankfully, Bill C-230 seeks to clarify what a variant is and would lead to a more transparent classification process moving forward.

I am an avid outdoorsman. I enjoy hunting and fishing and living off the land. I have had a 35-plus year career in environmental conservation. I have been using firearms safely and responsibly for as long as I can remember, and there are millions of Canadians just like me.

Far too often Canadians who enjoy hunting or sport shooting are overburdened with red tape, and even attacked for taking part in the lifestyle they enjoy, which has been part of our heritage for hundreds of years. Thankfully, the previous Conservative government consistently stood up for law-abiding firearms owners, and we continue to do that today.

I will digress from my prepared remarks to reiterate my gratitude to the members yesterday who stood up and defeated Bill C-246 from all sides of the House, particularly from our side, the Conservatives, but on the Liberal side too. That was a victory for not only law-abiding firearms owners but also legitimate animal users, and it was one of my most precious times in Parliament to see that happen.

The legislation, Bill C-230, is common sense and is needed. It is common sense because it defines a term that is used 99 times without being defined. The term “variant” is used an incredible 99 times in the regulations prescribing firearms and other weapons, but has no legal definition, which obviously leads to confusion. It is absurd that we allow something as important as this to go undefined and remain open to ever-evolving interpretations.

We have seen this far too often recently, most notably the classification decision in 2014 regarding the Swiss Arms Classic Green rifle. This decision was made through the stroke of a pen of unelected bureaucrats and led to the RCMP reclassifying the Swiss Arms as a variant of the SG 540, a prohibited firearm in Canada.

Thousands of people who were perfectly law-abiding firearms owners who held non-restricted firearms licences, and I have a non-restricted firearms licence myself, were made criminals overnight by simply possessing a firearm that they could have legally owned for more than a decade. Fortunately, our Conservative government stepped in and provided amnesty for those firearms owners and passed the Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act, which allowed those rifles to be reclassified to non-restricted, as they should have been all along.

It is unacceptable to allow for such an arbitrary system to exist without the clarification needed to prevent thousands of Canadians from becoming criminals unwittingly.

Beyond that, some of the classification decisions we have seen in recent memory have thus been baffling. Take, for example, the case of the Mossberg Blaze-47. The firearm has an outer plastic shell that is bent aesthetically to look like an AK-47, which is of course prohibited, as it should be. However, the firearm is not even close to being the same. It does not have any of the same parts. It is not the same size. It is not the same calibre, and it has a different magazine capacity. The guts of the firearm, so-called, are the same as the Mossberg Blaze rifle, which is non-restricted.

The government of day, and all of us, actually like to talk about evidence-based policy. The way that firearms like these are classified is a perfect example of ideology trumping evidence.

Somehow the RCMP firearms program deemed that to be a prohibited firearm, since it is a variant of the AK-47. It is no such thing. This is simply false. It merely looks similar. Talk about judging a book by its cover. That is not how to classify a firearm. It must be based on facts, on function, on structure, and on operation, not by the way it looks. To use an automobile metaphor, we could take a Volkswagen bug and plunk a Corvette body on top of that bug, but it is still a Volkswagen.

Not only do we have incorrect classifications coming forward to begin with, and then classifications changing without reason, it can also take years for the classification determination to be made at all. Any member who has a firearm retailer in their riding, and I have a number of them, has undoubtedly been approached about the length of time it takes for businesses to be provided with a classification prior to importation. Most firearms in Canada are actually imported.

I have heard of it literally taking years for a decision, meaning that by the time a certain firearm is permitted, the firearm is no longer a new product. If any of us were running a business that sells firearms legally, or trying to decide what products to import for sale to our stores, we would understandably be irate if the government forced us to wait months and even years before we could move forward with importing the product. If we allowed government to delay the entry of other consumer products like this, we would just be getting the iPhone 4 this year. I hope that is correct, because I do not even know what an iPhone 4 is.

Thankfully, in 2015, the member for Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, when he was minister of public safety, took action on this problem, issuing a directive to the RCMP. That allowed for 180 days to evaluate a firearm, decide its classification, and issue the firearms reference table. This classification number is needed to import that model into Canada. I doubt that many would claim that 180 days to make such a decision would be particularly rushed, and it provided certainty to retailers that a decision would be made. Unfortunately, the current government has rescinded that directive, allowing for those decisions to be delayed as long as it sees fit, with no means of accountability.

The bill seeks to help the RCMP in this regard, as it would provide more structure and certainty as to what a variant is, and ultimately make it easier to classify that firearm. This is about certainty. This is about making it clear and transparent as to what the rules are. The bill is not attempting to alter the specifications of what is non-restricted, restricted, or prohibited. This is trying to clarify what we base the term “variant” on when classifying firearms within those streams. This is not about trying to get firearms.

Just because the Liberal government says this is at odds with how the RCMP have classified in the past does not mean that the RCMP have been doing it correctly. In fact, more firearms owners would argue that they have not been.

It is time to help clarify what a variant is, based on facts and on how the firearm functions, not based on anything else. I urge my colleagues to consider the flaws in the current system and get on board with this legislation to provide a definition of a firearm variant. Allow us to accurately and consistently classify firearms while ensuring we protect public safety and the rights of legitimate hunters and sport shooters.

National Seal Products Day ActPrivate Members' Business

October 3rd, 2016 / 11:50 a.m.
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Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB

Mr. Speaker, like the previous speakers, I am very pleased to support Bill S-208 to declare May 20 as national seal products day and to also support the work of the chair of the fisheries and oceans committee, the MP for Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame. He is a good chair of the fisheries committee, which I have the honour to be on, and I see great progress being made.

The bill recognizes the traditions, culture, and economic importance of the seal hunt. The seal hunt began hundreds of years ago and employed thousands of people, and does to this day. These people were and are some of the toughest people on earth who literally risk their lives to provide for their families.

This whole experience was captured in the book, The Greatest Hunt in the World by George Allan England who, in the 1920s, took it up himself to sail with the renowned Captain Kean and be part of a sealing crew. The book, illustrated with photos from the era, showed the men working on the dangerous ice flows harvesting seals to feed their families. Their courage was unbelievable.

I had the good fortune to fish in Labrador this summer, and most of our guides were also seal hunters who described to me the importance of the hunt to them and their families. Quite clearly the tradition lives on.

Bill S-208 should not be looked at by itself. The bill is part of the effort by thousands of groups and individuals to protect and defend a way of life that is very dear to many Canadians. Whether individuals are hunters, trappers, ranchers, anglers, commercial fishermen, or guides, they know that their livelihoods depend on the natural world and the products that mother nature provides.

Accordingly, I was very pleased that the previous government under prime minister Stephen Harper passed a bill presented by then MP Rick Norlock creating National Hunting, Trapping and Fishing Heritage Day, which passed with the unanimous support of all parties. I get the sense from the speakers today that Bill S-208 will receive the same level of support, which is very good for the hunting, angling, and animal use community that members from all sides of this Parliament support this way of life. This is a very strong signal that Parliament stands ready to support and defend all legitimate and traditional animal uses. For this, I and my constituents are very grateful.

However, the well-funded and organized animal rights lobby continues its war against rural communities, and this time it comes in the guise of Bill C-246, sponsored by the member for Beaches—East York. It was quite disappointing for me to hear my colleagues from the NDP say that it will be supporting the bill; and yet again, well-funded animal rights groups have mobilized to pass this very bad bill, which will threaten, according to multiple legal opinions, all animal use in Canada.

One of these animal rights groups that supports Bill C-246, Animal Justice Canada, says on its website that 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.

Another group, whose notorious initials I will not say, have said, “Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment...”.

So much for medical research. By the way, in terms of medical research, people think that these animal rights bills and issues like those we are talking about are all rural issues. They are not. Sixty per cent of cardiovascular research is conducted on animals; so again, all of the entire animal use community has an interest in all of these bills.

Here is a quote from the Animal Alliance, regarding Bill C-246:

The onus is on humane societies and other groups on the front lines to push this legislation to the limit, to test the parameters of this law and have the courage and the conviction to lay charges.

That is what this is all about; make no mistake about it. The animal rights groups have a deeply hidden agenda to eliminate all animal use.

These groups have made millions of dollars on the backs of poor, remote, and coastal communities, and they continue with their dishonest propaganda to this very day by implying that the commercial hunt for seal pups exists when it has been banned for many years.

The previous government conducted a study on hunting and trapping, and we had a number of witnesses who described the importance of the seal hunt, one of whom was Mr. Dion Dakins, chair of the sealing committee for the Fur Institute of Canada, and he made a number of critical observations. He noted that:

...sealing is important not only for economic purposes but also for non-economic purposes and as part of our cultural fibre, whether in an anglophone, a francophone, or an Inuit community where people rely on the resource and these animals for their very subsistence. It has been described as a time-honoured tradition and a way of life among Inuit, francophones, and anglophones, each group of which demonstrates very individual harvesting techniques and expresses cultural pride in the activity.

Mr. Dakins went on to note:

...for four decades seal populations have grown exponentially. Since the European Union ban on seal products in 2009, the annual Canadian seal harvests have fallen well below the DFO-established total allowable catches. [Seal] populations have risen to new heights.

This is was also described by previous speakers.

The economic contributions to the Canadian economy from sealing can be significant. They were around $70 million in 2005 and 2011. In 2012, Mr. Dakins reports that the seal hunt saved our fisheries approximately $360 million of seafood that otherwise would have been consumed by overabundant seal populations.

Northwest Atlantic harp seal eat 15 times more fish than the entire Canadian fisheries harvest and the true value of the meat of the hunt is not fully understood. A viable commercial sealing industry is an essential tool in a fisheries management conservation regime. Sealing is part of the solution, not part of the problem.

With about 10,000 licensed sealers in Canada, there is the ability to manage this valuable resource. The problem lies in the bans, which are basically dismantling the seal harvest. The behaviour of the EU in this is disgraceful and given what the previous speaker talked about in terms of the seal harvest in parts of the EU, the hypocrisy is almost overwhelming.

The Fur Institute of Canada takes an active role in defending the important role of sealers in our ecosystem. They are out there making a living. Up to 35% of an annual income can come from the seal hunt. The hunt happens during times of year when few other economic activities are possible. With decreased demand for the product because of the bans, times are tough economically for many families who rely on this industry.

It is highly regulated. Canadian sealing has among the highest standards in the world for animal welfare as was described to me by my seal hunting friends in Labrador.

In Canada, seal hunting is also an instrument for conservation. Our fisheries committee is conducting two studies right now on how to recover the severely depleted populations of north Atlantic cod and Atlantic salmon, as seals are implicated in the declines of those two very valuable species. Research is also being done, and I hope it continues, on the very valuable products that can come from seals and be part of a new seal market.

In summary, I am very pleased to support Bill S-208 and the people who make a living and sustain themselves by seal hunting. I encourage all members to show their solidarity with those communities and vote for the bill.

Modernizing Animal Protections ActPrivate Members' Business

September 28th, 2016 / 7:35 p.m.
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Liberal

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

September 28th, 2016 / 7:25 p.m.
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Conservative

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 / 7:15 p.m.
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Liberal

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 / 7:10 p.m.
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NDP

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 p.m.
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Conservative

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 / 6:50 p.m.
See context

Parkdale—High Park Ontario

Liberal

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 change.org, 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 / 6:40 p.m.
See context

NDP

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.