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.