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.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

Peter Fonseca Liberal Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 29th, 2018 / 1 p.m.
See context

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

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

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will bridge the questions between my colleague from the NDP and my colleague from Beaches—East York regarding how we move forward, but also bring in the concerns of some of my colleagues who have raised potential implications here.

The way forward is to first recognize that the only comprehensive committee we have had on this type of issue has been the hearings on Bill C-246 in this Parliament. This probably warrants a larger study so farmers, hunters, anglers, medical researchers and animal welfare groups can come in, sit down and talk about these things, so we not crafting legislation out of the blue but in response to a coordination and collation of concerns in a parliamentary session. I wish we had more time in justice committee, but to me we could absolutely do in a justice committee study. I am sure one of my colleagues would propose that.

Also, the key thing here is respect. I have colleagues for whom a large part of their riding is involved in either hunting, angling or agriculture and they have legitimate concerns. Let us ensure they are at the table with animal welfare groups and then come up with legislation that might not make anybody happy but does the right thing.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 29th, 2018 / 12:20 p.m.
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NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, my question is not so much about what is in the bill but what is missing from the bill. We have been waiting for two years for this, since Bill C-246 was defeated. I know that many Liberal and New Democrat MPs in previous Parliaments have tried to tackle the issue of animal cruelty.

With respect, animal bestiality and animal fighting are the low-hanging fruit. They are easy, and I do not think there will be any objection in the House to supporting this bill. However, one of the Minister of Justice's predecessors, the Hon. Irwin Cotler, attempted in the last Parliament, through Bill C-610, to significantly update parts of the Criminal Code for failing to provide adequate care.

I had a horrific case of animal abuse in my riding involving Teddy the dog. He was tethered from puppyhood, with his leash left on until he grew into an adult. They had to surgically remove the collar.

There are huge gaps remaining in our Criminal Code, and we can put provisions in there that protect the rights of farmers, hunters and anglers. I come from a rural riding, and I would make that a fact before supporting any legislation. There are sections that have not been updated since the 1890s.

It has been two years since the defeat of the private member's bill, Bill C-246. The Minister of Justice came to office with an agenda to reform our Criminal Code. Where are the other provisions and when can we expect them? Why continue a study? When is the action actually going to come?

An Act in Relation to FirearmsGovernment Orders

March 28th, 2018 / 4:25 p.m.
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Fundy Royal New Brunswick

Liberal

Alaina Lockhart LiberalParliamentary Secretary for Small Business and Tourism

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time today with my colleague, the member for Scarborough—Rouge Park.

I am pleased to rise today and continue my participation in the legislative process to amend firearms regulation. I stand today as the representative of a largely rural New Brunswick riding called Fundy Royal, a riding where firearms are associated with hunting and sport. It is a riding where the vast majority of firearm owners are law-abiding, dedicated to the community, and very aware that there is growing gun crime in Canada, especially in big cities.

It is for this reason that when our party's 2015 election platform was introduced, which did include a section on gun control, I began consulting with those who were interested in the topic to ensure that I had considered it from many different perspectives, and also to counter the Conservative Party's narrative that the long gun registry would be reinstated. To clarify, Bill C-71 does not implement a gun registry, regardless of how many times that is said by the opposition.

When I was elected, I made a conscious decision to carry out my duties as a member of Parliament with the goal of listening and being persuasive rather than playing into partisan games to the detriment of my constituents. An example of my approach is my analysis and vote against Bill C-246, the modernizing animal protections act, because of the detrimental impact it would have had on our rural area.

I am glad to have been consulted by the Minister of Public Safety in advance of the tabling of Bill C-71, which allowed me to seek meaningful feedback from stakeholders in my riding, whom I now consider my firearms advisory council.

I want to take this opportunity to thank Ron Whitehead and the representatives from many of the sportsmen clubs and fish and game clubs in Fundy Royal for lending me their time and for providing candid feedback, which I was pleased to see had an impact on the drafting of this legislation. It has been my priority to identify the realities of firearm ownership in rural Canada, and to bring that perspective to be considered alongside urban concerns, which are legitimate and do need to be addressed.

In my riding, a firearm is seen as a tool. For generations, law-abiding Canadian gun owners have safely used their firearms for hunting and sport shooting, as well as predator and pest control. Canadian farmers, hunters, and sport shooters are among the most safety-conscious gun owners in the world.

This is in stark contrast to other cultures, where firearms are used as weapons. A weapon is something that is used with the intent to injure, defeat, or destroy. Our challenge is to address the crimes that are being carried out by weapons, while respecting law-abiding firearm owners. It is a fine needle to thread, but through consultation, I believe the minister has found that balance.

I am very pleased that the conversations I have had with my advisory council are reflected in the legislation as it was tabled. I would like to take a few minutes to reflect on what I heard from this group.

To begin with, there were several actions that we have already taken as a government that were well received by the council, for instance the recognition that Bill C-71 is part of a larger strategy to ensure that firearms do not find their way into unlawful hands. This is a strategy that has seen an investment of $100 million each year to the provinces and territories to support guns and gangs police task forces to take illegal guns off our streets and reduce gang violence. It is a strategy that has modified the membership of the Canadian firearms advisory committee to include knowledgeable law enforcement officers, public health advocates, representatives from women's groups, and members of the legal community, to work alongside sport shooters and hunters. It is a strategy that has made investments in border infrastructure and technologies to enhance our border guards' ability to detect and halt illegal guns from the United States entering Canada.

The Fundy Royal firearms advisory council also brought forward the concept of taking a closer look at mental health to combat gun violence. It implored the government to make sure there are enough resources available to do thorough background checks and to find a way to identify red flags.

Bill C-71 proposes to strengthen background checks. Authorities determining eligibility would need to consider certain police-reported information, including criminal and drug offences, a history of violent behaviour, and mental illness spanning a person's life, rather than just the last five years. The licensees will continue to undergo eligibility screening, as they do today.

Through the course of my discussions with constituents, the following items each resulted in recommendations that I would like to bring to the attention of the minister and to our committee as we enter that part of the process.

Currently, most gun retailers across Canada are keeping track of who buys guns and ammunition. Bill C-71 proposes to make that best practice standard across Canada. My constituents voiced concerned about the accessibility of the information gathered, and I am pleased to see that the bill requires law enforcement to have judicial authorization to attain this information in the course of an investigation.

Up until this point, legislation has required that only those licensed can purchase firearms and ammunition. However, there is no verification required. Bill C-71 proposes that the seller verify the validity of the licence to make sure that the licence is not under review or has not lapsed. I have heard from those in my constituency who are seeking clarification on how they would complete that verification, something many constituents assumed was already the current practice.

Canada currently issues an authorization to transport, or ATT, for the transportation of restricted and prohibited firearms. There will be no change for those who transport from home to an approved range in the owner's home province. However, to better track the movement of restricted firearms to gun shows, gunsmiths, across the border, or to other uncustomary locations, a separate authorization to transport would be required. I would ask the minister to consider a few points on this measure as well.

First is that consideration be given to including transportation to a gunsmith in the ATT. A firearm that is damaged or not functioning properly could be a safety hazard, and adding an additional step to transport the firearm for repair may not be in the best interest of public safety.

Second, I would like to recommend, on behalf of my constituents, that ample resources be committed to the Canadian firearms program so that the processing of ATTs and verifications of licences could be done in a timely and efficient manner so as not to impede the normal activities of firearms owners.

I think it is agreed in Canada that we all want to make our communities safe from the illegal possession and use of firearms. Doing so does not mean making radical changes or placing unreasonable measures on responsible firearms owners, but it does begin by recognizing that we have an issue. We may not in Fundy Royal, but it is happening in areas across Canada, and we must allow some flexibility to address the fact that there was a 23% increase in firearm-related homicides in 2016 compared to 2015. That is the highest rate since 2005. In 2016, shootings were the most common method of committing murder in this country, exceeding stabbings for the first time since 2012.

My family and I are blessed to have been born in Atlantic Canada, and I grew up in a time when the term “lockdown” did not exist. Kids today cannot say that. They practice them all the time. We really need to acknowledge that even in Atlantic Canada, 56% of violent gun crimes occur outside of cities.

I appreciate the approach taken by Robert Snider, president of the Moncton Fish and Game Association, in reviewing this legislation. He recently said in the Times & Transcipt:

We have looked thoroughly at the recently introduced legislation and while we neither endorse the legislation nor vehemently oppose it, we have taken a more pragmatic, neutral position of “we can live with it” for now.

The legislation will have minimal or no impact on our members who hunt.

As I said before, from the beginning of my term I have worked to engage and listen to my constituents, concerned firearms owners, and stakeholders from across New Brunswick, and I can personally say that I have learned a great many things through those discussions. I was proud that the president of the Moncton Fish & Game Association chose to publicly compliment my approach, but I want to thank everyone who took the time to speak up.

At the end of this stage of debate, this legislation will proceed to the public safety committee, where MPs from both sides of the House will have an opportunity to hear from witnesses, stakeholders, and concerned Canadians. I very much believe that better policy will be achieved because of MPs speaking to their constituents, and I look forward to ongoing discussions on the path forward.

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.
See context

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.