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

Sponsor

Status

Second reading (Senate), as of May 16, 2019

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Summary

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.

Elsewhere

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

Votes

May 8, 2019 Passed 3rd reading and adoption of Bill C-84, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (bestiality and animal fighting)
May 8, 2019 Passed Time allocation for Bill C-84, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (bestiality and animal fighting)
March 18, 2019 Passed Concurrence at report stage of Bill C-84, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (bestiality and animal fighting)

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 29th, 2018 / 4:25 p.m.
See context

Conservative

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.
See context

Liberal

Peter Fonseca Liberal Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 29th, 2018 / 5 p.m.
See context

NDP

Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to reiterate what I asked the previous speaker. This bill is based on a private member's bill, kind of an omnibus bill, about animal welfare and cruelty to animals that perhaps tried to do too many things at once. The government has taken two very simple parts of that bill and put them into Bill C-84. As my colleague from Longueuil said, it is sort of like motherhood and apple pie and, of course, everybody here is going to agree with that.

However, why did the government not do the perhaps more difficult work of broadening the scope to other real animal cruelty issues around the care of animals without getting into the problems of fishers, hunters, trappers and farmers doing their business in proper ways? We could easily have language in the bill that would protect those activities while getting at true animal cruelty, which this bill does not cover at all, even though in her speech, the member seemed to suggest that it does. It is only about bestiality and animal fighting, two things we can all agree are not proper things for Canadians to do. We should have tackled the broader subject.