An Act to amend the Criminal Code (bestiality and animal fighting)



In committee (House), as of Oct. 29, 2018

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

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to

(a) define “bestiality”;

(b) expand the scope of the offence of encouraging, aiding or assisting at the fighting or baiting of animals or birds so that the offence

(i) includes promoting, arranging, receiving money for or taking part in the fighting or baiting of animals or birds, and

(ii) also applies with respect to the training, transporting or breeding of animals or birds for fighting or baiting; and

(c) expand the scope of the offence of building, making, maintaining or keeping a cockpit so that the offence applies with respect to any arena for animal fighting.


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.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 29th, 2018 / noon
See context

Vancouver Granville B.C.


Jody Wilson-Raybould LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved that Bill C-84, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (bestiality and animal fighting), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure I speak to Bill C-84, an act to amend the Criminal Code, bestiality and animal fighting, which brings forward important updates to the Criminal Code. Our government remains steadfast in our commitment to ensure our laws protect our most vulnerable and reflect our commonly held values. The bill is exactly about that.

As a government, we have brought forward important amendments to the Criminal Code, including by increasing efficiencies in the criminal justice system, cleaning up outdated and unconstitutional provisions, clarifying sexual assault laws and strengthening the impaired driving regime. These changes, along with those proposed in Bill C-84, reflect my ongoing commitment to ensuring our criminal laws remain clear, comprehensible and contemporary.

I am proud of our efforts in this regard and will continue to pursue law reform that is evidence-based and ensures our criminal justice system extends the strongest protections to Canadians, especially the most vulnerable.

Before I begin to outline the details of the bill, I would like to acknowledge the advocacy of many honourable members in the House, including in particular the member for Beaches—East York for his leadership and for initiating a very important discussion on this issue in his private member's bill. I would also like to thank the several organizations and numerous Canadians who have written in and advocated for many years. The bill is a result of their hard work.

Bill C-84 focuses on filling gaps in the Criminal Code and preventing violence and cruelty toward animals. It reflects significant consultation with child and animal protection groups, as well as agricultural and animal use stakeholders, and brings forward changes that reflect a common ground approach to addressing these important issues.

Clause 1 would add a definition of “bestiality” in section 160 of the Criminal Code to include “any contact, for a sexual purpose, between a person and an animal.” This responds to the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. D.L.W. in 2016, where the court held that the bestiality offences in section 160 of the Criminal Code were limited to sexual acts with animals that involved penetration. In arriving at that determination, the court examined the common law definition of bestiality, which originated in British law and was subsequently incorporated into our Criminal Code.

The broadened definition would increase protections for children, as well as other vulnerable individuals who may be compelled to engage in or witness bestiality, and animals, by ensuring the criminal law captures all sexual acts with animals, not just those involving penetration. By virtue of the definition's “sexual purpose” focus, legitimate animal husbandry and veterinary practices would continue to be excluded from the scope of the offence.

In its decision, the Supreme Court noted that courts must interpret the law, not change the elements of crimes in ways that seemed to them to better suit the circumstances of a particular case. Rather, it is Parliament's responsibility to expand the scope of criminal liability, should it elect to do so.

In the wake of this decision, child protection advocates as well as animal welfare groups expressed serious concern with the effect of the decision and called for law reform. I agree the gap identified by the Supreme Court requires a parliamentary response, and we are doing just that.

As mentioned, this bill responds to the Supreme Court's decision in D.L.W., by defining bestiality as “any contact, for a sexual purpose, with an animal.” This would ensure all contact between a human and an animal for sexual purpose would be prohibited. This would send a clear and unequivocal message to those who would wish to harm animals. This amendment would also provide increased protection to children who would be exposed to or coerced to participate in abusive conduct, as well as other vulnerable persons who may be compelled to engage in such conduct.

The proposed definition focuses on the broad term of contact for sexual purpose. The phrase “for a sexual purpose” has a well-established meaning in Canadian criminal law. It is used in a number of different instances in the Criminal Code, and I am confident the use of this consistent terminology will cover the offences in question.

In its entirety, the proposed definition is clearer and reflects Canadians' understanding of what this offence entails. It is also consistent with calls from animal welfare groups and agricultural stakeholders, including the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture.

At the same time, this definition will ensure that those involved in legitimate animal husbandry activities, including breeding livestock and veterinary medicine, will not be captured by these offences.

Currently, the Criminal Code has three main offences related to bestiality. Bill C-84 does not change the nature of the penalties related to these offences which, on indictment, carry maximum sentences ranging from 10 to 14 years in jail.

I would also like to note that the changes proposed in my criminal justice reform legislation, Bill C-75, will increase the maximum penalty on summary conviction for both offences to two years less a day. Such changes will contribute to a more efficient criminal justice system by encouraging proceeding by way of summary conviction where it is appropriate to do so.

There is a strong public safety rationale for Parliament to expand the scope of these offences, particularly as it relates to enhancing protections for children and other vulnerable persons. Research continues to demonstrate a well-established link between animal sexual abuse and sexual abuse of children, as well as other forms of violence.

I would note that the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies organized a conference in 2017, the purpose of which was to look more closely at these issues. The final report provides an overview of these issues. I commend the federation for its important work to promote a greater understanding of the severity of these issues.

We also see these links in criminal cases. Canadian criminal law shows that when sexual abuse of a child involves an animal, the extent of this horrible behaviour is most often severe and frequently includes a pattern of vicious treatment of both the child and the animal. With this bill we are ensuring that those in law enforcement, including prosecutors, have the tools they need to achieve justice for the victims of these despicable acts.

I would also like to discuss a second set of reforms contained in Bill C-84, which marks an important step in providing comprehensive protections for all animals. These additional measures will strengthen protections for animals by broadening the scope of the animal fighting offences in the Criminal Code.

There are currently two offences in the Criminal Code that specifically address animal fighting. The first is paragraph 445.1(1)(b), which prohibits encouraging, aiding or assisting at the fighting or baiting of animals. This is a hybrid offence with a maximum penalty of five years on indictment or a maximum of 18 months' imprisonment and/or a fine, not exceeding $10,000. Bill C-75 will also increase the maximum penalty on summary conviction to two years less a day.

Presently, this offence fails to capture a number of other associated activities with participating in the deplorable activity of animal fighting. Accordingly, Bill C-84 proposes to broaden the scope of this offence to include a wider range of activities, including encouraging, promoting, arranging and assisting at, receiving money for, or taking part in the fighting or baiting of animals, including prohibiting any of these activities with respect to the training, transporting or breeding of animals for fighting or baiting.

These are important changes and will ensure that all aspects of animal fighting are prohibited, ensuring that all persons in the chain of this criminal behaviour can be held accountable. I note, in particular, that the proposed changes also target the financial incentives associated with this crime and, in so doing, will act to discourage those involved with this unacceptable behaviour.

The second existing offence prohibits keeping a cockpit, which is section 447, and carries the same penalties as animal fighting. It too will see its maximum penalty on summary conviction increase through Bill C-75. This offence, as it exists in the Criminal Code, is extremely narrow in scope, a reflection of its historical origins when cockfighting was the primary form of animal fighting.

However, we know that, unfortunately, dog fighting has grown in prominence today. Bill C-84 amends this offence to ensure it extends to building, keeping or maintaining any arena for the purposes of fighting any animal. The fact of the matter is that all forms of animal fighting are cruel and abhorrent, and so our laws should appropriately extend to all animals. Simply stated, there is no legitimate or reasonable societal purpose to engage in animal fighting. This behaviour is cruel and must be stopped.

This is another important step our government is taking to ensure our criminal laws are contemporary and address conduct that is deserving of criminal sanction. It is important to note that animal fighting has often been linked to organized crime, including illegal gambling and the illicit trafficking of drugs and weapons. The changes we are bringing forward in Bill C-84 will improve the ability of law enforcement to prosecute criminals, track cases of animal fighting and protect public safety. By broadening the offence to include additional activities, we are ensuring that law enforcement is equipped to detect and intercept the crime at whatever stage it is discovered.

I would like to take a few minutes to speak specifically about dog fighting. Given its clandestine nature, it is difficult to collect statistics on the prevalence of dog fighting in Canada. In fact, dog-fighting operations often go undetected until law enforcement officers discover them while investigating other crimes. That said, we know that in May and October 2015 and in March 2016, the Ontario SPCA major case management team, the Ontario Provincial Police and the Chatham-Kent Police Service partnered together to end suspected dog-fighting operations. These three joint investigations led to the execution of 11 search warrants on three properties in Lanark County, Tilbury and Kent Bridge, Ontario. This resulted in the seizure of 64 pit bull dogs, documents, pictures, veterinary supplies, electronic equipment and hundreds of items related to the training and fighting of dogs.

The Ontario SPCA reports that dog fighting is undeniably taking place in Ontario. The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals reports that dog fights can last one to two hours and end only when one of the dogs is too injured to continue or has died. The dogs involved often suffer from deep puncture wounds, broken bones, and in many cases die from blood loss or infection.

As I mentioned, dog fighting, a terrible form of animal cruelty, is also linked to a wide range of other crimes, including illegal gambling and drugs and weapons offences. The primary motivation for dog fighting is gambling and participants often wager thousands of dollars, showing how lucrative it is for those involved.

I would also note that, according to the Ontario SPCA, when police raid dog-fighting events, they often find children present. Exposure to this type of abuse desensitizes children to violence and may itself be a form of child abuse. I am proud that we are taking important steps to limit and prevent this horrible abuse to animals and children. The proposed reforms to the offence, targeting arenas coupled with the changes to the animal-fighting offence, will target those who take part in training or receive money to train dogs to fight and who employ terrible techniques to increase the viciousness and ferocity of these animals. This so-called training can include abusively suspending a dog from a tree or a pole by its jaw and encouraging the dog to grab bait and hold on as long as possible in order to increase the lethality of its bite.

No animal should have to die as a form of human entertainment. It is unspeakably cruel and offends Canadians' values at the deepest level.

I am proud of these necessary changes we are bringing forward to protect animals from horrible situations of abuse. It is important for me to reiterate that this bill in no way interferes with any legitimate animal use. This bill seeks to protect public safety and ensures that we are doing more to prevent violence and cruelty toward animals.

We are focusing on aspects of protection that enjoy broad support and reflect our shared values. Again, the broadening of these offences will not interfere with legitimate animal uses, such as the training and work of service dogs, medical research, hunting, fishing or indigenous animal harvesting rights. Animal fighting and bestiality are in no way legitimate activities.

Before I conclude, I would like to reiterate that this bill is the result of significant consultation and there has been broad support expressed for these reforms. As mentioned earlier, the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture have called for these changes. The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association and many agricultural stakeholder groups have also advocated for these amendments to address animal fighting and bestiality.

As parliamentarians, many of us hear from concerned citizens who are urging action to modernize our animal cruelty offences. Similarly, in our consultations, a number of provinces have called upon Parliament to take action to address the gap identified by the Supreme Court in D.L.W. I am confident that this bill addresses these concerns.

I recognize that some would want the bill to go further by proposing additional reforms to animal cruelty laws. I believe it is critically important that we take steps now to address these particular issues, for which I believe there is broad support. Our government is committed to all of the appropriate protections that are extended to the most vulnerable, and we will continue to review this as part of our broad review of the criminal justice system.

There have already been some suggestions made, including by animal rights organizations, on the ways that we can strengthen this bill. As I have said with respect to other legislation, I welcome constructive suggestions that reflect the objectives of our proposed reforms and look forward to a fulsome and productive debate. I therefore urge all members to support this bill and help ensure its swift passage.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 29th, 2018 / 12:20 p.m.
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Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his recognition that there may not be many members of the House who would oppose the specific pieces of Bill C-84.

I have had the opportunity to talk with the hon. member about the horrific example of abuse that happened in his riding with respect to Teddy the dog. Bill C-84 reflects a consensus among individuals who want to make every effort to protect animals and protect vulnerable people, including children. In my office, I have received letters from many stakeholders across the country who support the quick movement of Bill C-84.

Does it go to the extent the member is talking about? This is a first step. We continue to have discussions with stakeholders who want this legislation, and the government, to go further. I am committed to continuing to have those conversations.

There is more we can do. Certainly there is a diversity of opinion around amendments and changes that can be made to the Criminal Code to modernize it. As the member said, there are many provisions that have been in place since 1892.

We continue to have these discussions to modernize the Criminal Code. Our government is committed to ensuring that animals are protected from cruelty and that we do everything we can to ensure that children are protected as well. Those discussions are ongoing.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 29th, 2018 / 12:25 p.m.
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Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question about the necessity to expand the reach of animal fighting to include dogs. As I mentioned in my speech, there has been significant study around dog fighting, which does exist in Ontario, by the Ontario SPCA major case management team, the Ontario Provincial Police and the Chatham-Kent Police Service. As I said, they have partnered to identify the reality that dog fighting does exist in Ontario.

I recognize the member's comments about individuals in his constituency raising this issue. In my own constituency, many constituents have come to me to ask the government to address it. There is probably not one member of the House who has not received letters from constituents about this.

The government's commitment in putting forward Bill C-84 is to ensure that we do everything we can to protect animals and protect vulnerable people, including children. The commitment I made here on the floor today is to continue this conversation as we proceed and to look toward modernizing the Criminal Code provisions.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 29th, 2018 / 12:30 p.m.
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Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister for answering some of those questions, and my colleagues who asked them. It feels like legitimate, real debate has broken out in this place this morning. It is a rare day. It is wonderful.

Before I start speaking in favour of Bill C-84, there are some people I would to thank. These people have worked very hard on this bill, which, to me, is the minimum this place could do in terms of updating Canada's very outdated and archaic animal cruelty laws. First is Pierre Sadik, Canadian Federation of Humane Societies; Camille Labchuk, Animal Justice; the member for Beaches—East York, who tabled a private member's bill earlier in this Parliament; and my legislative manager, Bari Miller.

These people have all helped me over the last year and a half in putting together a non-partisan consensus that we need to see some advancement in terms of the legal framework that Canada uses to protect the rights of hunters, anglers and farmers but also to acknowledge that animal cruelty has indicators and broader societal implications than on just animal welfare itself.

Today, we are speaking specifically to the provisions in Bill C-84. It has been nearly a year since I tabled Bill C-388, my private member's bill, which does include provisions that are in this bill, which responds to the 2016 Supreme Court decision, R. v. D.L.W., which the minister spoke to at length this morning.

For those who are listening this morning, who might not be familiar with the content of that particular decision, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld an acquittal of a British Columbia man who was charged with bestiality after compelling their family dog to sexually abuse their 16-year-old stepdaughter. In the decision, the Supreme Court found that existing provisions around bestiality do not adequately define what sexual acts with animals are prohibited under Canadian law.

The Supreme Court applied a very narrow understanding of sexual abuse that requires a penetrative act. This narrow definition created a loophole that allowed sexual abusers to avoid conviction and highlights how the definition of bestiality in the Criminal Code is severely outdated. The bill before us today responds to this situation by tightening up that definition of bestiality to prohibit sexual abuse of animals, including that beyond a non-penetrative act.

I have been disheartened, because there have been some discussions, both within the Canadian media and people abroad, saying that this is not a problem, it is a manufactured problem, and asking why we are even talking about this. First of all, I would argue that the definition needs to be tightened up, including taking into consideration some of the questions that my colleagues have asked about ensuring that animal husbandry activities are allowed.

This is important because, first of all, in the situation of the Supreme Court ruling, we have a 16-year-old woman, a girl who did not have justice dealt to her because the Supreme Court charged us as legislators with ensuring that this definition was closed. It has been over two years since this happened.

To me, this is justice in one case, and that is enough. However, broader than that, we also have to understand that since the Supreme Court ruling, there have been other cases that have had a similar lens applied to them and then had unfortunate consequences.

I will read from a story in the Winnipeg Free Press, published in April 2017. The title of the article is “Child-porn collector pursued 'dark fantasies', court told”. This man, Andrew Harrison pleaded guilty last week and was given a one-year jail sentence and three years of supervised probation as part of a joint recommendation from the Crown and defence lawyers. Investigators eventually tracked the IP address. He was convicted of child pornography, I believe.

However, the interesting part that is relevant to the bill is the following. Members of the Internet child exploitation unit also charged Harrison with bestiality after finding two videos of him involved in a sexual act with his dog, the court was told. However, that charge was stayed last week because it did not meet the new definition of bestiality, requiring penetration, as set out by a recent Supreme Court decision, according to the Crown.

This is one other case, but I do know anecdotally, from talking to stakeholders in the animal welfare community as well as others across the country, that there has been speculation that law enforcement officials have not been laying or attempting to lay charges related to bestiality that do not involve penetrative acts since the Supreme Court ruling, because they knew these charges would not pass the test set by the Supreme Court. This is why it is so important for us to pass this legislation. I frankly wish it had been done sooner, or in the context of some of the government's other justice legislation, but here we are today.

The other thing I want to lay out here is that the government had the opportunity to put this legislation in its previous bill and, therefore, to also study the terms laid out in this bill. What I do not want to see happen is the government not responding to legitimate questions from colleagues in this place around the definition and how it might apply to activities like animal husbandry or whatnot, because it failed to put this legislation forward earlier in this Parliament.

Again, I point to my Liberal colleague, the member for Beaches—East York. It is a rare day I can be found complimenting a Liberal in this place, but my colleague had a large piece of comprehensive legislation on a bunch of different animal welfare issues. He reduced that bill significantly through amendments to a few very tight issues. One of them is the bestiality provision, which we have in my private member's bill. Now the government, late in this Parliament, is trying to rush this through. It is therefore incumbent upon the government and the minister to answer these questions to ensure that the intent of the legislation, as she has described it is, is applied in fact.

Going back to why this is important and not an issue that should be ignored, there is a strong connection between abuse of animals and abuse of people. A provincial government of Australia website says:

Research has established a strong connection between abuse towards animals, and abuse towards people. When a person abuses an animal there is a risk that they may also be abusive towards other people in their lives. Children who experience abuse towards animals, or abuse within the home, are also more likely to abuse animals or perform acts of violence towards people later in life. They repeat lessons learnt in the home: to react to anger with violence, and to perform this violence on more vulnerable individuals. Animal abuse can take the form of physical violence, torment, neglect, or threats to safety – be it to household pets, wildlife, or farm animals. It is often used by the abuser to demonstrate power over other family members, and promote an environment of fear, vulnerability, and isolation. It commonly occurs alongside other types of abuse within the home.

There are other bodies of research that clearly show the link between the abuse of animals and abuse of people. Through the debate here today, in both aspects of the bill, the bestiality change, as well as the change to animal fighting, which I fully support, we have to acknowledge that we cannot turn a blind eye to the severity of this problem, because it escalates.

I personally think we have a responsibility to ensure that the rights and welfare of animals are protected, but we also have to understand that case law shows that it is a problem, despite the fact I have seen some articles recently saying that it is not. Moreover, research shows that by we in Parliament, by not taking action on this, might precipitate broader abuses leaning toward violence against people in our country, which is why it should not have taken two years for us to get to this point. However, here we are.

I want to thank people in the stakeholder community for their efforts on this because that community has been asking for this change for a long time. I also want to thank the over 8,000 Canadians who signed the petition seeking legislative change in this regard. There has been considerable pressure on the government from a variety of organizations across the stakeholder gamut. The Canadian Federation for Agriculture has spoken in favour of the bestiality change. The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association and the Canadian Cattlemen's Association also issued a letter to the Minister of Justice to implore her to remedy this legislative gap.

To my colleagues who have raised concern about the animal husbandry component, I have been assured by officials as well as members of these communities that they do not see any potential implications given the definition in case law. However, to the stakeholders who have written in support of it, we need to be very clear about the intent of this debate to say that this legislation was not put forward, and certainly not in my private member's bill, to prevent legitimate animal husbandry activities. Instead, it is designed to prevent the abuse of animals by humans undertaking sexual acts for their gratification by abusing animals.

As the Supreme Court case of R. v. D.L.W. demonstrated, violence against animals and violence against people are not distinct and separate problems. Violence against animals can be a strong predicator of violence against humans and the relationship between these acts of violence is known as the violence link. Very simply put, if a person wants to hurt animals, they are also more likely to hurt another person as well. I have gone into that in some detail today. I just want to reiterate this.

While the bill addresses the definition of bestiality, I have concerns that there are elements missing in Bill C-84, as it does not currently give judges the ability to ban bestiality offenders from owning animals in the future, something that is a standard for other animal cruelty offences under the Criminal Code. That means that someone who is convicted of committing a bestiality offence is legally allowed to own animals. However, someone who is convicted of animal cruelty is not allowed to own animals. A reasonable person can see why this is a problem endangering animals as well as humans, and I would like to see an amendment to the bill, possibly at third reading that could make this small change.

I also want to address critics of the bill who view it as a slippery slope. Again, some of my colleagues have raised the issue of animal husbandry. The concern is that perhaps farmers and other husbandry workers could somehow be criminally implicated by this small change in law. This law as well as my private member's bill ensures that contact with animals for sexual purposes is prohibited, and the key word here is “sexual”. Sexual offences appear in the Criminal Code in a number of different places, including the context of sexual interference, section 151; invitation to sexual touching, section 152; sexual exploitation, section 153; and most importantly, the section 271 offence of sexual assault.

To my colleague who was asking questions of the minister, this is my analysis. The word “sexual” has been clearly defined in case law. The leading Supreme Court case is R. v. Chase, 1987, 2 S.C.R. 293. Chase it makes it clear that contact will only be sexual in nature if it is objectively clear to a reasonable observer that there is a carnal or sexual context to it. To my colleague who raised this question earlier and asked the minister for evidence from case law, I would direct him to this case. The person's motive is also relevant and if they are motivated by sexual gratification, that would be considered in determining whether or not the contact is sexual. In other words, the key question that would be grappled with is whether or not the sexual nature of the activity were apparent to a reasonable observer.

To apply this to the issue at hand, it is abundantly clear that artificial insemination of cows or other animals in farming or science would in no universe be interpreted by the courts to be done for sexual reasons, one would assume anyway. Rather it is done for animal husbandry reasons or scientific reasons. There is no element of sexual gratification in either situation. Artificial insemination of animals is an accepted activity that occurs across a variety of sectors, and no reasonable person would view it as anything other than economically or scientifically motivated. I would also point out that the current law that requires penetration would apply to practices like artificial insemination already if we are interpreting it without the case law looking at intent.

Again, to my colleague's question of the justice minister, she could have expanded on that. I would expect her, if she is going to appear at our committee, to look at that particular definition and perhaps get more information to colleagues who might have concerns about that. In fact, there has never been a case that has used the existing law in this matter, using the current bestiality provisions to prosecute a farmer for the artificial insemination of an animal, given that the current definition deals with penetration.

It might also be helpful to make an analogy to the care given by a doctor or even a veterinarian. Doctors frequently have contact with a patient's sexual organs, and touching is not done for sexual purposes but for medicinal purposes. Similarly, a veterinarian who examines an animal's sexual organs would never be deemed to be engaged in sexual contact with the animal but contact for the purpose of veterinary medicine.

This is a very uncomfortable discussion to have, but sometimes hard discussions are needed, and we cannot shy away from having them. However, I am glad to see the bill finally in front of Parliament so that we can give police more tools to deal with dangerous sexual criminals.

The other component of the bill that I support is the ban on animal fighting. Some of my colleagues have had questions about the definition of animal fighting and the situations it would pertain to. At first glance, the proposed legislation is pretty clear in its intent to prevent animal fighting in a very specific context, and not with a broader set of non-specific definitions.

The reason this is also important to my NDP colleague's comment of a bare minimum in updating animal cruelty and animal welfare legislation in Canada is that this is another instance where animal abuse or cruelty can have broader societal implications for humans. For example, we know that dog fighting, in fact, most animal fighting, has been linked to gang activity or organized crime and illegal gambling. Therefore, if somebody does not want to look at the animal cruelty components of the proposed legislation, they should at least, at a bare minimum, look at the fact that this particular activity is known to have broader implications for crime in Canadian society. It is one of these rare situations where we have consensus among a broad variety of stakeholders that this is something Parliament should be passing and undertaking.

Some colleagues raised concerns with me that it might affect rodeos in Canada. I do not take it to read that way, but perhaps the Minister of Justice, the parliamentary secretary or officials could speak to the intent of it as well, which might get rid of some of the concerns that my colleagues have in that regard. As a member of Parliament from Calgary, I do not see rodeos as places where animals are fighting each other, or fighting to the death. That is not the case, and so I would not see that as the intent of this proposed legislation. However, perhaps the minister could clarify that to ensure that there are no unintended consequences from the bill.

Also, because I believe this may have come up, perhaps my colleague from Beaches—East York might want to speak to the fact that some of those concerns were raised during the committee study of his bill. Even though his bill was defeated in this place, the intent of that proposed legislation was to be specific and to deal with a specific problem. However, one of the approaches my colleague from Beaches—East York took in that somewhat frustrating journey with his private member's bill was, to my understanding, to try to update the animal welfare legislation by drilling down towards specific problems and then come up with specific legislation so there would be no broader impact on Canadian agriculture.

The feedback I often get from colleagues or stakeholder communities is whether this would affect medical research or someone's ability to run a ranch. I certainly do not think that is the case.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 29th, 2018 / 12:50 p.m.
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Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, having sat through a few speeches by the member for Calgary Nose Hill, I can attest to the fact that she does not say complimentary things about many Liberals, so I appreciate her comments today.

I am thankful that Bill C-84 has been introduced and that the justice minister has said that this is a first step. It is important that this is part of an ongoing move to improve, update and strengthen the animal cruelty provisions in the Criminal Code. However, what holds us back from that is this notion of unintended consequences, sometimes a scare tactic about a slippery slope.

We have a letter from animal sector groups, alongside the Canadian Federation of Municipalities, saying that we should pass Bill C-84 to tackle animal fighting and bestiality. That is what the justice minister has done.

In 2004, there was a letter from a long list of animal sector groups, asking then justice minister Irwin Cotler to pass Bill C-22. That was the long list of Criminal Code amendments in my private member's bill. My frustration is hearing some Conservatives say that they are worried about how it will affect animal husbandry. If those asking that question had read the case law and looked at the letter of support from the animal sector groups or even turned to common sense, what is lacking in this place sometimes, they would know this has nothing to do with animal husbandry and everything to do with the sexual abuse of animals.

If we want to continue to tackle animal cruelty, how do we get beyond the specious arguments about unintended consequences?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 29th, 2018 / 12:50 p.m.
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Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, what the member for Calgary Nose Hill has said in her remarks is very true. One thing I found out last year, as my party's justice critic and sitting on the justice committee, is this. When we look at bills amending the Criminal Code, we have to be so very careful even with the individual words used. While we are responsible in this place for writing the law, it is up to the court system to interpret it. Therefore, we always have to look at the ways it might be interpreted.

That being said, when I look at Bill C-84, a lot of my constituents, and these are constituents across the political spectrum, Conservatives, Liberals, New Democrats and Green Party members, are going to be disappointed with what is missing because of the very brutal case of animal cruelty in my riding. I acknowledge that changing the law alone will not solve this problem, but the fact remains there are thousands of animal cruelty complaints every year in the country and very few of them make it to an actual charge, let alone a conviction. There is room for specific language in the Criminal Code that would exempt the legitimate activities of animal husbandry, hunting and fishing.

Does my colleague have any thoughts about how to move forward? The justice minister is committed to having this conversation, but in my colleague's view, is there a way to amend the Criminal Code that would take action on these specific areas of neglect? We still have gaping holes in our criminal justice system aside from Bill C-84, and I know members of her caucus have raised these concerns. However, in her view, what is the way forward to tackle what the member for Beaches—East York is raising, what my constituents are raising and what Canadians across the country, from all political stripes, are taking about? Parliament has tried many times and failed every time. How do we go forward from here?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

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October 29th, 2018 / 1:25 p.m.
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Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I agree. This problem is a complex one. Many cases are very different from each other both in the crime that was perpetrated and also in the background of the people and animal involved. It always will require people working together at various levels. That being said, there are significant gaps that exist in the criminal law. I believe that in order for us to be effective, those are one of the key spokes in the wheel of this issue that we need to absolutely fix.

I welcome Bill C-84. As the member said, it is moving the ball forward. However, I will not withhold my criticism for his government and say that it has been moving at a pretty glacial pace on judicial reform both in appointing judges and in amending the Criminal Code, especially for a government that came to power with such bold promises of action.

Bill C-84 is welcomed, but I look at it as yet another missed opportunity where the justice minister, who is supposedly committed to this issue and has even made many statements in the media committing to it, lost the opportunity to put in provisions that not only New Democrats support but many Liberal members, including former justice minister Irwin Cotler have supported in the past.

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

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October 29th, 2018 / 1:40 p.m.
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Julie Dabrusin Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak in support of Bill C-84. It is a step forward on animal welfare issues. We have so much more to do, but I am happy to mark the start of the move toward better and stronger animal welfare legislation.

There are other related bills I expect to see shortly in this place coming from the other place on the captivity of whales and dolphins, on shark finning and on the testing of cosmetics on animals. Those are all important steps forward on animal welfare issues. I am really looking forward to participating in those debates and voting in support of those efforts.

Animal welfare issues are very important to me. I am a member of the Liberal animal welfare caucus. I would really like to thank the members for Brossard—Saint-Lambert and Steveston—Richmond East for their leadership role on that caucus. It is an important way for us to get more information and to learn more about what we can do to move things forward. It has definitely been a source of learning and advocacy for us.

As I said, this bill is a step forward. It ends the sexual abuse of animals and also gets rid of the cruel practice of animal fighting. Those are important first steps forward for us. It is hard for me to believe that we even need this legislation, and yet we do.

I was reading a little bit more about animal fighting. Once one reads about it and sees pictures, it is really hard to get images out of one's mind. It really centres us on why we need to take action.

I was looking at the Ontario SPCA web page about dog fighting. It described it this way: “Dog fighting is a sadistic ‘contest’ in which two dogs—specifically bred, conditioned, and trained to fight—are placed in a pit (generally a small arena enclosed by plywood walls) to fight each other for the spectators' entertainment and gambling.”

This bill goes beyond dog fighting, but let us focus on dogs for a moment and what I was reading about. Dogs die as part of this fighting, and this is not just about the dogs in the fights themselves. In the training process, there are also what are called “bait dogs”.

U.S. awareness about bait dogs, which are part of the training process, really came to the fore when a female pit bull named Turtle was found on the side of the road with many scars and wounds. The reason she had all those scars and wounds is that she had actually been used, attacked over and over again by dogs training for these fights as part of this cruel contest.

This dog, Turtle, was rescued, which makes her a lucky one despite the tremendous pain she went through. However, other animals are not able to be rescued. That is why we need this type of legislation and why I can speak so strongly in support of that need. We should never see that happen to animals at all.

I was also taken by another article I read in The Globe and Mail, which mentioned that U.S. dog owners come to Canada for dog fighting because we are seen as having lax legislation. I cannot even imagine that Canada would be seen as a place where someone would come because of lax legislation on animal cruelty. That is something we cannot let happen, and this bill takes a step forward in preventing it.

Canadians care, and that is also why this is so important. Two weeks ago, I went to one of my local churches, the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto, and it had a blessing of the animals service. People brought their animal friends to church for a blessing, and they got to talk about the important roles that our animal friends have in our lives. It was also a time to talk about the kind of advocacy we can do in support of animals in our community. I would really like to thank Kimberly Carroll of Animal Justice because she made a call to action that day and talked to us about the need to give a voice to animals, as they cannot speak for themselves.

That is what we are doing today in the process of this debate. Today is one more step in trying to give a voice to animals. I know this is important to people who live in Toronto—Danforth, and it is certainly important for me. It is important to how we want to see our community and country.

I want to cite the words of Albert Einstein. He said that “Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.” That touches me in terms of how I want to see an expanding circle of compassion, which I believe this legislation and the other bills we will be seeing coming from the other place move us closer to doing.

Gandhi said that “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Those are good points of balancing out. How do we want to see ourselves as a community?

Another aspect of the bill, aside from the animal fighting part, is about bestiality. It is another important part of what the bill covers. In 2016, there was a Supreme Court of Canada decision, and in it bestiality, as it is currently defined in our Criminal Code, was said not to include non-penetrative acts. There was an important dissent that was written by Supreme Court of Canada Justice Rosalie Abella, but the majority did not agree with that, and I would like to quote the decision because it is important. This legislation directly responds to it. The court decision stated:

Penetration has always been understood to be an essential element of bestiality. Parliament adopted that term without adding a definition of it and the legislative history and evolution of the relevant provisions show no intent to depart from the well-understood legal meaning of the term. Moreover, the courts should not, by development of the common law, broaden the scope of liability for the offence of bestiality. Any expansion of criminal liability for this offence is within Parliament’s exclusive domain.

The decision also said:

Courts will only conclude that a new crime has been created if the words used to do so are certain and definitive.

I would submit that that is what this decision does. It provides clear, certain, definitive wording. It is quite simple in fact. Our government response to that decision is that we amend section 160 of the Criminal Code by adding a subsection 4, which states, “In this section, bestiality means any contact, for a sexual purpose, with an animal.” It is simple, certain and definitive. That is why it responds quite well to the concerns that have been raised in that case.

By dealing with this, we are increasing our circle of compassion. I say that because I also want to talk about, and I know we heard this earlier today, that a link has been seen between animal cruelty and violence toward people. The Humane Canada conference in 2017 brought together experts to talk about these links and how they would be better addressed. In fact, similar conferences have been held in the United States. There will be a conference by Humane Canada on this issue in November this year in Toronto, discussing the link between violence against animals and violence against people. When the purpose of the conference was set out, it stated:

Violence against animals and violence against people are not distinct and separate problems. Rather, they are part of a larger pattern of violent crimes that often co-exist. Research shows a significant correlation between animal cruelty and crimes of domestic violence, the physical and sexual abuse of children, sexual assault and other violent crimes.

When I was reading and learning more about this, in domestic assault situations and domestic violence, sometimes the threat of violence to an animal friend in that household is one of the ways that control is exerted over the domestic partner as part of the violence. It is a more complex issue and the circle of compassion encapsulates our entire community. We need to end animal cruelty. It is as simple as that.

It is something that I personally feel passionately about. I am happy to see that we are here to debate and discuss it. I look forward to seeing the bill move forward. I want to thank the member for Beaches—East York who raised many of these issues in his bill earlier in the discussion. I am seeing this as one more step. We need to move it forward. Let us do it. Let us take the steps that we need to move forward on animal cruelty.

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October 29th, 2018 / 1:50 p.m.
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Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, as it is my first opportunity to rise today in the debate on Bill C-84, I want to thank my hon. colleague for Toronto—Danforth for her speech.

I did attempt to ask question earlier today of the Minister of Justice, because the bill is certainly good, but it leaves a lot of holes. We still need to move forward to eliminate elements of animal cruelty, and we need to do more around these particular issues.

I hope that we can get the bill to committee and that the government would be open to substantive amendments so that we can make more progress than Bill C-84 would make. I would be interested in my colleague's thoughts on what might be possible at committee.

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October 29th, 2018 / 4:15 p.m.
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Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to speak to Bill C-84. I would first like to mention that I will be sharing my time with the member for Markham—Unionville.

Bill C-84 seems to be another example of the government striking a valiant attempt to make a change, yet it is an incomplete attempt, much like most of the legislation we have seen coming forward from the government. Some of these previous shortcomings include Bill C-45, the cannabis bill, which just came into effect a few days ago. Even though that legislation was debated in the House and passed roughly a year ago, there still remain multiple enforcement agencies, municipalities, regional districts and first nations that agree it simply was not complete or ready. It did not give the provinces or municipalities time to prepare.

After that was Bill C-46, the bill that dealt with impaired driving, which was tied to Bill C-45. We have now heard that because of the way Bill C-46 was drafted, there is no proof that the systems in place and the science and technology around identifying impairment, which was fairly standardized when it came to alcohol, are going to be effective when it comes to drugs. Not only do we have another piece of flawed legislation out there, but we have communities and enforcement agencies trying to scramble to figure out how to deal with that.

The next piece of legislation I am familiar with is Bill C-71, the government's firearms legislation, which, in listening to its rhetoric, is aimed at reducing gun violence, gangs and so on. However, the bill does not mention gangs or gun violence at any point in time. All it talks about is registering firearms and making things worse for law-abiding firearms owners.

The most current is probably Bill C-75, an act to amend the Criminal Code. That is a bill the government introduced to bring modernization to the Criminal Code. That bill has been bantered back and forth many times, but it is now at committee stage. My colleague from St. Albert—Edmonton is currently on the committee studying that bill, and members are looking at stacks and stacks of amendments to another government bill. I experienced the same thing when I sat in on the discussion on Bill C-69, when I happened to be substituting on that committee. I believe there were 600 amendments to that government bill. The bill was 300 pages long, and I believe 300 or 350 of those amendments came from the government side.

I continuously see the government putting forward draft legislation for debate in this House that it has not thought through or consulted on properly, and it just ends up being hashed about at committee. We have seen the Senate return a number of bills to this House with amendments. Worst of all, we see communities, enforcement agencies and the public trying to figure out how they are going to manage or work around this poorly drafted legislation from the government.

Turning back to Bill C-84, an act to amend the Criminal Code with respect to bestiality and animal fighting, I praise the government for bringing forward legislation to deal with this. I agree we need to do what we can, as legislators, to bring in legislation to protect people, protect the innocent and protect animals from the abuses we have seen. Also, to protect them from the ways criminals have been able to skirt the laws through definitions, different interpretations in the courts and so on. On that point, I will give the government credit for at least attempting to do something right.

When I look at this bill, I also see where it comes up short in some cases. I compare it to an insurance policy. I think everyone here has had an insurance policy and has taken a close look at it. Some have possibly made a claim through that insurance policy only to find out that the claim is denied because in the fine print something was excluded.

We may get a chance to amend this bill in committee. Even though it is a short bill and one would not think it needs much amendment, I do not believe it is perfect and I will be talking to committee members about possible amendments going forward.

When I see that the bill includes a phrase that basically bans the fighting or baiting of animals or birds, I question whether that is going to impact our provincial hunting regulations. I have not yet been able to have full discussion with anyone to determine this. In some provinces, it is completely legal and within ethical standards to plant crops to attract wildlife, such as deer and elk, to certain areas for hunting purposes. Those are perfectly accepted standards that continue to this day. In fact, many of those standards actually improve the chances of correct and humane harvest of those animals because they are at a baiting station.

That is why I question the wording in this bill. I will be following through further on this to make sure that this bill, like many other bills the government has put forward, is not flawed after it gets through committee. I want to make sure we are protected in those ways.

Another thing that troubles me with this bill is why it took the government almost a year to introduce its own bill that is identical in most ways to a bill introduced by a member from our side of the House, the member for Calgary Nose Hill. Her bill was introduced in December 2017, and yet the government sat on it and did not move it forward for debate. The government could have had this process done by now and given credit where credit was due, to the person who brought the issue forward.

It seems to be a continuous mantra of the government to not do anything until it is caught not doing anything. We see it when we have witnesses appear at committee to give testimony. We see it in the Auditor General reports. It just seems to be a continuing theme.

In fact, I had the same experience myself. I introduced a private member's bill a couple of years ago to recognize volunteers in search and rescue situations. Just a few weeks later the government announced that it was going to create service medals for search and rescue volunteers. Again, it was not doing anything until it got caught not doing anything.

That is the case here. It is disappointing that the government has to be shown the way forward by members on our side. We see this quite often with the opposition day motions we bring forward. In fact, we had another one just last week. We put forward an opposition day motion that the Liberals could have easily acted on much sooner, but we had to force their hand by forcing the argument and putting it to them to make them step up to the plate. It is just another case of, as I said, not doing anything until they are caught not doing anything. Then they get caught in a bind and have to put out something that is not complete, not well-thought-out and not well-processed.

With that, I am finished my comments. I know I will be receiving questions on this.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 29th, 2018 / 4:25 p.m.
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Bob Saroya Conservative Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak on Bill C-84, an act to amend the Criminal Code, bestiality and animal fighting. While I am glad the issue is being addressed and I support this legislation. I am disappointed that it took so long for the Liberal government to act on these very simple, straightforward changes. On this side of the House, we have been asking for these changes for two years. We have been asking for the Liberal government to ensure that there is justice for these very disgusting crimes, and we are not alone. Thousands of Canadians have the same concerns and have been demanding that the government work to protect animals and victims of crime.

I am glad the government finally took these thousands of Canadians seriously. Bill C-84 aims to protect children and animals from cruelty and abuse. We can all agree that protecting children should be one of our top priorities. I am glad that we are able to provide protection for children and animals while still making sure that we are not causing undue hardship on legitimate and traditional farming, hunting and trapping practices, including indigenous harvesting rights. We do not want to fix one problem while creating another and I am glad this bill would avoid that.

Bill C-84 sets out to broaden the definition of bestiality in order to prohibit any contact for a sexual purpose between a person and an animal. The current definition of bestiality is very restrictive and has resulted in at least one charge being thrown out because the definition was too limited. We cannot allow any other cases to be thrown out simply because we have a definition that is so limited that criminals who prey on children and animals are not able to be convicted and sentenced.

On this side of the House, we stand with and support victims rights. We have been demanding that the government take action on this issue. In fact, almost a year ago, in December of 2017, my colleague, the member for Calgary Nose Hill introduced a piece of legislation that was exactly the same as the current piece of legislation. We knew that changes needed to be made a long time ago and we tried to address them. I am glad that we are addressing them now, but we could have avoided criminals slipping through the loophole that exists for sexual abusers over the past year if this important issue had been addressed much sooner.

The bill would also prohibit the ability to profit from or keep any facility for the purpose of animal fighting. Right now, the Criminal Code does address animal cruelty and specifically animal fighting, but this bill would help to expand the protection of animals and capture all activities related to animal fighting. That means that anyone who promotes, arranges or takes part in animal fighting or the baiting of animals would be committing a crime. Also, anyone who profits from animal fighting would be committing a crime.

It would also be against the law under this new piece of legislation to breed, train or transport animals for the purpose of animal fighting and anyone who is found to be building or maintaining any arena for animal fighting would be committing a crime. Right now, the current definition only references a cockpit, which is a place used for cockfighting, but it does not address the fighting of other animals. Under this bill, all arenas for all types of animal fighting would be captured.

One thing that does worry me about this legislation, though, is whether it will be passed by the time the House of Commons rises in June of next year. I am concerned that the government will not prioritize this legislation and ensure that it passes quickly. If this does not pass before June, it will have to be reintroduced, leaving an opportunity for further cases and criminals to slip through the loopholes of the existing legislation and definitions. That will mean that dangerous criminals who prey on children and animals may not be punished for their crimes simply because the bill did not become law quickly enough. I do not want to see that happen.

Again, it is so very important for this Parliament and the government to increase the protection for children and vulnerable individuals who may be compelled by another person to commit or witness sexual acts with animals.

Protecting children should always be a top priority, so I am glad to see this bill addressing the shortfalls that currently exist in that area. It is aIso important that we ensure that animals are protected from violence and cruelty, which the bill does set out to do. I am supportive of that as well.

I hope that the government can provide assurances to the House that the bill will be a priority and that these changes will be made as quickly as possible.

In conclusion, I will again state that I support the bill and I am glad that we are addressing these important changes. However, I am concerned about the timing and the lack of urgency that we have seen from the government on this issue.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 29th, 2018 / 4:35 p.m.
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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 / 4:50 p.m.
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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.