Evidence of meeting #72 for Justice and Human Rights in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was dog.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Sergeant Troy Carriere  Staff Sergeant, Canine and Flight Operations Section, Edmonton Police Service
Stephen Kaye  President, Canadian Police Canine Association
Diane Bergeron  Executive Director, Strategic Relations and Engagement, Canadian National Institute for the Blind
Barbara Cartwright  Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Federation of Humane Societies

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Mike Wallace

Ladies and gentlemen, we will call to order meeting number 72 of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Pursuant to the order of reference, Friday, November 28, 2014, we're dealing today with Bill C-35, an act to amend the Criminal Code with respect to law enforcement animals, military animals and service animals.

We have a panel of four witnesses today, ladies and gentlemen. We'll give them each about 10 minutes for their presentations followed by questions and comments. We will then summarize what we will do with the bill from there.

From the Edmonton Police Service we have S/Sgt Troy Carriere, staff sergeant. From the Canadian Police Canine Association, we have Mr. Stephen Kaye, president. From the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, we have Madam Diane Bergeron, executive director for strategic relations and engagement. From the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, we have Ms. Barbara Cartwright, chief executive officer.

That is the order we will go in.

Mr. Carriere, the floor is yours for 10 minutes.

3:30 p.m.

Staff Sergeant Troy Carriere Staff Sergeant, Canine and Flight Operations Section, Edmonton Police Service

Good afternoon.

I have a prepared statement that I'll read to everybody this afternoon because it has a direct link to why we're here.

On October 7, 2013, a police service dog, Quanto, and his handler, Matt Williamson, were called to the area of 90 Street and 118th Avenue at 5:15 a.m. in regard to a stolen vehicle in the city of Edmonton. A pursuit with the stolen vehicle began through downtown Edmonton. The stolen vehicle struck a median near a service station, was disabled, and the driver fled on foot. The suspect refused to follow police direction to stop. As a result, police service dog Quanto was deployed to apprehend the subject. The suspect was engaged by Quanto in the parking lot near the RCMP K division, which is also located in the city of Edmonton. During the apprehension, the suspect stabbed Quanto numerous times. The individual then dropped the knife and was taken into custody by police. PSD Quanto was rushed to an emergency veterinarian clinic but sadly died from his wounds at approximately 5:30 a.m. on October 7.

The suspect, Paul Vukmanich, 27 years of age, was wanted on a Canada-wide warrant for his arrest for armed robbery. He was subsequently charged with several weapons offences, resist arrest, and cruelty to animals.

The loss of PSD Quanto was devastating to every member of the Edmonton police service canine unit, especially Constable Williamson and his young family. Hundreds of emails, phone calls, Facebook posts, and other messages over social media were sent to the Edmonton Police Service. There was overwhelming response and support from the community and other policing agencies from across Canada. This tragic event struck a public nerve that, in my 22 years of policing, I have never been witness to.

On February 28, 2014, Vukmanich—again, 27 years of age—pleaded guilty to animal cruelty and other offences including evading police. Crown and defence lawyers recommended a plea deal for 26 months. The presiding judge specifically said that 18 months of the sentence was for the dog's death. While the judge said he wanted to impose more time, he decided that the recommendation wasn't so out of line that he could overrule it. The conviction was a precedent for animal cruelty charges.

The crown had also requested on behalf of the Edmonton police service that Vukmanich be ordered to pay the estimated $40,000 to police to cover the costs of a new dog and its training, and that's a very conservative cost. The judge said that the restitution matter should be handled by a civil court. This placed a financial burden on the Edmonton Police Service as a result of Vukmanich's actions that day.

The animal cruelty charge was successfully prosecuted in this case, but having participated in this process, I did feel there was a significant gap. The animal cruelty charge is very wide in its scope and was not designed to speak to specific incidents involving service animals who are poisoned, injured, or killed while in the execution of their duties by the illegal actions of an individual or individuals, whether intentional or recklessly committed.

Bill C-35, in my opinion, will address the need to have a specific offence section that addresses such incidents that unfortunately service animals face on an all too common basis. The way the bill is framed is pretty common-sense based and uses plain language. This will allow law enforcement and crown prosecutors to align the appropriate charge section with a specific incident.

As in all criminal offences, there is a wide range on the spectrum of what the alleged crime was, the circumstances leading up to the incident, and what the appropriate punishment should be. Regarding the adage of whether the punishment fits the crime, I believe that Bill C-35 does have the appropriate dual-offence sentencing criteria.

As an indictable offence, the minimum sentence is appropriate in my opinion. A significant event would have to take place, such as the death of a police service dog, for a crown prosecutor to proceed with an indictable offence. Therefore, I support a six-month imprisonment term. There has to be a deterrent, or in some cases, consequences to prevent further offences.

As a summary offence, I feel it's very important that a fine be an option, as there is a significant financial burden on law enforcement. This can be seen not only in the loss of law enforcement service animals but veterinarian bills, loss of time for a canine team, and the overtime that usually results while a service animal recovers from its injuries.

Since the inception of the Edmonton Police Service canine unit in 1967, there have been five police service dogs killed in the line of duty. These range from being struck by a vehicle while pursuing a suspect to stabbings and gunshots.

Fortunately these incidents are rare, but in the past 10 years we've had two other police service dogs survive after being stabbed, and others struck with objects, punched, kicked, pepper-sprayed, and attacked by other dogs.

Without a doubt, canine teams across Canada have one of the most difficult jobs, with the most unknowns and the most hazards in the communities that they serve. But that is also why these dedicated and impassioned police officers sign up to do the job. This is why they train, why they mentally prepare for every possible situation that can think of, and then put it into action when it comes time.

Regardless of all the training and preparation, some situations that occur, such as the event on October 7, 2013, can shock and devastate the most experienced handler. I believe we owe it to law enforcement animals to provide a level of protection. They dedicate their lives to the protection of the communities they serve, and some make the ultimate sacrifice when necessary, with total disregard for themselves.

Thank you.

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Mike Wallace

Thank you, Staff Sergeant, for that presentation. I appreciate your responsibilities—from four legs to wings. I see you are in the flight operations section. Thank you very much for coming here today and presenting.

Next, from the Canadian Police Canine Association, is the president, Mr. Kaye.

The floor is yours.

3:35 p.m.

Stephen Kaye President, Canadian Police Canine Association

Good afternoon. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to appear before you this afternoon.

My name is indeed Stephen Kaye, and I am the president of the Canadian Police Canine Association. I represent hundreds of law enforcement canine handlers from across Canada. I'm here to share some insight into why our association believes it is critically important that there be additional measures to protect service animals.

I served nearly 30 years as a police officer. During that time I tried to be as brave, courageous, and helpful as I could be. There were situations and times when I was absolutely afraid. When I was a canine handler, I had a tool that didn't know what it meant to be afraid. I had a friend that faced the brunt of the risk, and an animal eager and driven to precede me into the most dangerous of situations. They were my service dogs.

Over the years I've been asked by countless numbers of people what it's like to work a service dog. This is very difficult to articulate if you have never experienced it. These are animals that want only to work, to do the thing they have been so painstakingly trained to do. There is no greater joy for a service dog than to simply go to work. lt takes months and months and tens of thousands of dollars to train one. Once deployed, they train every day for their entire careers in order to remain as skilled as possible. A service dog lives to work; and tragically, at times they die for it as well.

The functions they perform are, in many cases, completely unique. Law enforcement does not have a machine or scientific instrument that will do many of the things these animals can do. Tracking a criminal from a crime scene to where he or she may be hiding, for instance, well, there simply is no other device available to us that will do this. Finding a bomb secreted deep inside a structure or an aircraft, well, we might be able to locate it after much time and effort, but the odour of the explosive cannot be hidden from a specialty service dog.

To suggest that law enforcement has become dependent on these uniquely specialized creatures is simply an understatement. They have become as public a servant and ambassador for us as has any human member or officer. Some people may not care very much for the police, but a service dog always draws a crowd and much attention at public presentations.

I can't tell you the number of times I have been approached by people who have a belief that these animals are already protected by legislation that is identical to that which protects police officers. Most people mistakenly think these laws that are extended to police officers are also relevant to service dogs. They believe they are viewed as officers as well. lt was always with no small amount of humility that I had to correct them and say this is in fact not yet the case. Every person I have shared this with over the years is dumbfounded by this. We have the ability with this legislation to change that.

I think it's a mistake to view this legislation as an amendment to protect dogs and horses for the police or law enforcement. I did not own a single dog that I deployed. I was that animal's handler and its partner, but these animals are owned by and serve the communities they deploy in. They are in fact the public's dogs. They are their dogs, which we are very privileged to work to help keep their communities safe and to bring those intent on disruption or harm to account.

Matt Williamson of the Edmonton Police Service experienced the public's outcry and sorrow when Quanto was stabbed and killed. The city of Edmonton lost one of its dogs, and the outpouring of grief and support was overwhelming. I have to confess, though, I knew this would happen, because I saw and felt the very same thing in 2001 when my own service dog was shot and killed. As much as this has impacted me, Matt, and our families, it has scarred our communities as well.

I have stood many times surveying dark basements, alleys, terrain where I knew somebody violent and possibly armed was hiding. Not once was I excited to enter those areas. Yet every time I had a dog with me, it was everything I could do to hold them back from racing into that abyss and risk. lt seems as if at least once a month there are stories of these animals being punched, kicked, choked, thrown, stomped, stabbed, sprayed, submerged, even bitten, and thankfully less frequently but still too often, sometimes killed. We accept this saying that at least it wasn't a person, and this is true, but they are still a living, breathing being that is trying to help us do the right things. Not protecting them and deterring people from mistreating them is simply unacceptable.

These animals are highly trained and loyal to a fault. If I went up to the roof of this building and gave my service dog a command to jump over the ledge, he simply would without hesitation and likely as quickly as he could. Of course I'd never do this, but that's how much they trust us, believing that we won't do anything to place them unnecessarily into harm's way. Yet every day, somewhere in this country, they precede human officers into high-risk events and certain danger. They do it because they're asked, trained, and prepared for this. They hope when it's done that they might get a scratch behind the ears, a pat on the side, or a bit of play with their handler. They have no comprehension they may be injured or killed protecting us.

They give us everything they have every time we ask. They don't question it, rationalize, or consider risk. They don't show fear or ask for help. They just do. lt's wrong for us not to recognize and protect them for their unique role and to put something in place to deter those who would harm them. Quanto's law is important indeed but it could just as easily be called Hrain, Nitro, Cyr, Bandit, Caesar, Chip, Justin, Cloud, Valiant, Cindy, and a host of other dogs' names. These are all dogs that have died serving their communities.

Thank you.

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Mike Wallace

Thank you, Mr. Kaye, for your presentation.

Our next presenter from the Canadian National Institute for the Blind is Madam Bergeron. The floor is yours, madam.

3:45 p.m.

Diane Bergeron Executive Director, Strategic Relations and Engagement, Canadian National Institute for the Blind

Thank you very much for inviting me to present today.

I am here first and foremost as a person who is blind and who uses the service of a guide dog—Lucy, who is under the table attempting to behave herself. Second, I am here as a representative of the CNIB who believes that this law is very important for the people we serve across this country.

When I was five years old, I was diagnosed with an eye condition called retinitis pigmentosa, or RP for short. The doctor told my parents I was going to lose my sight and become completely blind. My parents were devastated. I thought this was a very interesting piece of information for about five minutes and proceeded to go outside and play with my friends because I was the same person before the information as I was afterwards, and at five I just didn't get it.

When I was 10 years old, my parents were told that my sight had diminished to the point where I was considered legally blind, which is approximately 10% sight or less. My parents took me to the CNIB, registered me as being someone who is legally blind, and I got large-print books at school. Again, it was no big deal. I was the same person as I was the day before.

It wasn't until the age of 16 or 17, when my sight had diminished to the point where I could no longer identify faces in front of me, that I realized—this is going to be an issue; I am going to have some problems.

People who know me today would never consider me as someone who ever lacked in confidence or had a problem with self-worth or self-esteem. I have to tell you that at 16 or 17, when I had big, thick, coke-bottle glasses and suddenly had to use a white cane, my confidence level was as low as it could possibly be. I didn't know what to do. I didn't know how I was going to go through life, so I decided I needed to learn some skills.

Using a cane is very independent and freeing for many people. There are hundreds of thousands of people in Canada who use a white cane and get around independently, and who are really capable with it. I was clearly not one of them, because it just didn't do it for me. I didn't like it. I was embarrassed by it and didn't want to use it, which resulted in a blind woman running around the town bumping into things, tripping over things, and quite frankly becoming a safety concern for many people. It was time for me to have another option.

In October 1984, I decided to go to Leader Dogs for the Blind, in Rochester Hills, Michigan, and I was partnered with my very first guide dog, a golden retriever named Clyde, otherwise known as Classic Clyde.

That day in October in Michigan—I like to tell people I was only two at the time but that would be a lie—leader dogs gave me two things. One was a dog that could take me around, keep me safe, and guide me. The second thing they gave me was a clear understanding that not having sight did not mean you couldn't have vision, hopes, and dreams.

With my dog and the dogs since—there have been many—I have travelled from Montreal to Victoria. I've been to the United States, in many of the states. Last year, I travelled alone with Lucy to England, Scotland, and Norway, just with my dog. I have gone through many college campuses and university campuses. I have obtained two college diplomas, a bachelor's degree, and a master's degree. My sights at that time were set on more adventure, because I had four extra feet to help me.

Since 2009, I have gone skydiving, rappelled down the outside of the Sutton Place Hotel in Edmonton, 29 stories—while dressed as a superhero, I might add—and driven a stock car. In the last couple of years, I have decided to challenge myself just a little bit more by doing triathlons, including two half Ironmans, and this year, at the age of 50, I am going to compete in my first full Ironman at Mont Tremblant. None of this would have been possible without the starting dog of Clyde. Over the years, my dogs have guided me to so many places, but most of all they have guided me towards my hopes and dreams.

As Stephen has already expressed very clearly, with the loss of a dog, whether it be through violence, illness, or just the end of a working relationship—because, just like humans, these dogs retire—we all go through a period of grief. That grief is no different for us than it would be if it was a family member, because truly these dogs are our family members.

There is a lot of time that is invested into training the dogs and the people. Sometimes I think we focus on the fact that our dogs have been injured, and we should. We should also remember that the person who works with these dogs goes through extensive training. This isn't just about, here, have a dog. My dog didn't fall out of the sky wearing a harness and I grabbed it and walked away. That just didn't happen.

My dog went through a year of puppy-raising, six months of training, and then we were introduced. We spent four weeks together, training together, where I had to leave my family and dog to go to work with them. Then it takes another six months to a year for us to become a good working team because this relationship isn't about turning a switch on or off. This relationship is built on trust, love, and a strong bond. This is a massive amount of time out of a person's life.

I'd like to tell you about a friend of mine who lives in the United States, Denver actually. Judy is her name. Judy went home with a dog from Leader Dogs for the Blind. We were in class together and I met her beautiful chocolate Lab. We trained together, spent the time in residence, and she went home. Not long after she went home there were problems happening in her apartment building. Her dog started shying away and falling down and she couldn't figure out what was going on with this dog. It took her some time to realize that there was a gentleman in the building who didn't like the fact that she had her dog there because it was a no pets building, and if he couldn't have a dog there she shouldn't be able to have one.

Since she couldn't see him she had no idea that every time she left the building he would walk up beside the dog on the left side, which was the other side from her, reach underneath the dog, grab its feet from the other side, and flip it over. She thought her dog was falling. Somebody saw it and told her. The dog was so devastated it had to retire after only six months. She went back to Leader Dogs and got another dog, but the problem didn't stop, it happened again. With that dog it got so bad with these attacks that when the dog saw the gentleman on the other side of the street it would bolt to try to run away. Again, a second dog was ruined by the same attacker.

She decided it was time to move, as she couldn't deal with this. On her third dog she moved to another apartment building but had no understanding that her stalker wouldn't go away. He continued to stalk her to the point where she eventually left town and moved out of state to go live with her family. It took four dogs ruined. Not once was this gentleman ever charged with anything because he was not attacking her so therefore it was not assault on her. He never physically hurt the dog so therefore it was not damage to a dog. Plus, there was never anybody who could prove it. She was told since she could not visually identify him she could not be a proper witness. This situation was devastating not just for the dog but for her; she had to continue through life dealing with that issue.

From a CNIB perspective the CNIB provides services to people across this country who are blind and partially sighted, and we have been doing so since 1918. I haven't been there since 1918 just so we're clear. We provide rehabilitation services, peer supports, camps for kids, and all sorts of counselling and other supports to help people to learn about technology, how to get around with orientation and mobility, and so on. Although CNIB does not train or provide guide dogs to their clients, we have a good understanding of what these dogs mean because we get to see them in service every day. We get to see what they do to build confidence, to empower people, to provide them with independence and freedom, and we get to see their devastation when bad things happen.

I personally have never had a person attack my dog. I have had another dog attack my dog, and that one incident caused that dog to have to retire. She could no longer work because she turned aggressive. We cannot have aggressive guide dogs out on the street. I think it's important for us to understand that a dog is not just a dog.

I hear a lot of people say to me, what a beautiful dog. I heard this several times in the last 30 minutes, as a matter of fact. She is a beautiful dog. She is a kind dog, and I would suggest she has the biggest heart of anybody in this room, but she has a job to do. She is a tool for me for my independence. I would tell you that she is not just my sight; she is my entire life. I hope to never go through the situation that Quanto's owner has gone through. I pray that will never happen. But laws like this will help people to understand that this is not just a dog. This is an animal that is dedicating her life, her service, to an individual who needs her.

I feel for Quanto's owner and for Stephen and for all those others who have lost their animals, and I am thankful that they have given us the opportunity to include service dogs for people with disabilities in this legislation. They serve...just because.

Thank you.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Mike Wallace

Thank you, Ms. Bergeron, for that presentation.

Our next and final presenter this afternoon is from the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies. Ms. Cartwright, the floor is yours for 10 minutes.

3:55 p.m.

Barbara Cartwright Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Federation of Humane Societies

Thank you.

I have this lovely speech prepared but I must admit I find that the testimonies of the three esteemed people whom I have the pleasure and honour of sitting with are very impactful, so I might cut some of my stuff out to save going through what I could never possibly describe as well as they have.

Let me start by saying thank you for inviting me to appear as a witness before the justice and human rights committee. I do want to start by thanking the committee for their attention on this important matter and for their hard work on behalf of all Canadians.

My name is Barbara Cartwright and I am the chief executive officer of the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies. I'm appearing before you today to bring the support of humane societies and SPCAs from across the country for Bill C-35, an act to amend the Criminal Code with regard to law enforcement animals, military animals, and service animals.

The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, also known as the CFHS, is a national organization that represents humane societies and SPCAs. These are the very humane societies and SPCAs that your constituents depend on to care for the abused and abandoned animals in your communities, but also for law enforcement, to provide humane education, and to celebrate the human-animal bond.

The federation represents 51 diverse members from all 10 provinces and two of the territories, with their millions of individual supporters. The CFHS represents the largest SPCA in the country, actually on the continent, which is the British Columbia SPCA, which has 37 branches across the province. We also represent some of the very smallest SPCAs and humane societies in the country, including Happy Valley-Goose Bay SPCA, located in a central part of Labrador; the Northwest Territories SPCA in Yellowknife; and the Charlotte County SPCA in St. Stephen, New Brunswick. I tell you that to give you an idea of the scope of support for this bill all across the country.

Since we were formed in 1957 the CFHS has worked toward positive, progressive change to end animal cruelty, to improve animal protection, and to promote the humane treatment of all animals. We were founded by four key individuals in 1957, and I want to tell you a little bit about them because each of them, I think, would be very proud of this moment and this legacy that's carrying forward in animal protection with Bill C-35.

The first was Lieutenant-Colonel Taylor, the past-president of the Ottawa Humane Society, who was instrumental in encouraging people to join together nationally to have a voice for animals at the national level. Gord Gunn was the honorary secretary of the Ottawa Humane Society, but more importantly was a soldier in World War I and witnessed the suffering of war horses. He developed a keen interest in preventing animal cruelty and protecting those that work with us. Dr. Cameron was the chief veterinary inspector for Canada for fifteen years and also the veterinary director general of Canada. His outcry against the inhumane slaughter of farm animals in Canada sparked the interest in creating the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies.

But most importantly, we were also founded by a senator, Senator McGrand from New Brunswick. Throughout his life the senator recognized and advocated for respect for all life. He believed passionately in the importance of humane education, the humane movement, and the lifelong commitment to protecting animals. He understood the vulnerability of animals and children. He was adamant that human violence and animal abuse could not be separated. He raised awareness about the cruelty link: the connection between those who commit acts of violence against animals and then escalate that towards violence against humans. He was the primary driving force behind the Senate of Canada's study on this violence. lts report, entitled “Child at Risk”, was completed in 1980 and examined early childhood experiences as causes for criminal behaviour.

The legacy of Senator McGrand continues today as we discuss Bill C-35, which makes it an offence to:

wilfully and without lawful excuse, kills, maims, wounds, poisons or injures a law enforcement animal while it is aiding a law enforcement officer in carrying out that officer’s duties, a military animal while it is aiding a member of the Canadian Forces in carrying out that member’s duties or a service animal.

At the CFHS we understand and appreciate the bond between human and animals, the bond that we've heard spoken about today, and we promote the respect and humane treatment of all animals. We believe that all animals used by humans should be provided with the highest levels of protection to ensure their health, welfare, and safety.

Everyone who has a companion animal understands the invaluable way in which these animals enrich our lives. The animals covered in Bill C-35 are the ones that immeasurably improve the quality of our lives as a community in ways that we may never have a direct ability to touch and be involved with, but they impact our society significantly.

Enforcement and military animals have been given the job of protecting us. They provide us a multitude of services, and I won't go into them because I think they've been outlined clearly by the prior speakers. But these are jobs that they do willingly, and sometimes, as we've heard, they pay the ultimate sacrifice. These animals play a special role in protecting our communities and therefore deserve our greater protection.

Service animals, as we heard from Diane, are specifically trained to address and assist people and to enrich their lives by providing them medical assistance and allowing them greater independence and greater dreams, which is fantastic. The animals that guide the blind, signal to the hearing impaired, or provide other services to people also need greater protection. These animals measurably improve the quality of life of Canadians. The proposed legislation is aimed at denouncing and deterring the willful harming of these specially trained animals. Bill C-35 honours and recognizes these animals and the important contribution they are making to our society.

As we know, Bill C-35 is named after Quanto, and I'm not going to discuss Quanto at this point in time because Troy already ran through that for us, but I would like to just mention Brigadier, a different animal, a police horse that was compassionately euthanized after he and his rider, Constable Kevin Bradfield, were struck in a hit and run incident. The driver of the vehicle was charged with dangerous operation of a vehicle causing bodily harm and failing to remain at the scene of an accident. It is believed that he deliberately struck the horse and the rider. Brigadier sustained fatal neck and rib injuries in the accident.

Many of our member societies have enforcement authorities and appreciate the relationship between officer and animal. As well, they appreciate the value of deterrents and denunciation. In many other jurisdictions, police and military animals are afforded greater protection in recognition of their service to society, but also as a recognition that an attack on them is also an attack on our rule of law and order. For example, in the U.S. the intentional injuring or killing of a police dog is a felony, subjecting the perpetrator to harsher penalties than those in the statutes embodied in the local animal cruelty laws, just as an assault on a human police officer is often a more serious offence than the same assault on a non-officer.

The CFHS and all its members support the justice and human rights committee in dealing with this important update to the Criminal Code. The animal cruelty sections of the Criminal Code don't go far enough to protect these animals and were in fact originally enacted in 1892, with only minor amendments in the 1950s and again in 2008.

As the justice and human rights committee attends to the urgent need to address these crimes against these animals, Canada's humane movement would like to bring to your attention other weaknesses in the Criminal Code and ask that you consider them in the future at another time. These include that it's not an offence to train animals to fight other animals, nor is it to receive money from the animal fighting. Crimes of neglect are hard to prosecute due to the term wilful neglect, which is outdated language. There is no specific offence for particularly violent or brutal crimes against animals, and cattle and other working animals actually have more protection than other species. We have specific proposals on these matters that we would be pleased to discuss with you at another time.

To conclude, I want to draw your attention to what the CFHS is doing to improve conviction rates against those who commit acts of animal cruelty. This January the CFHS launched the national centre for the prosecution of animal cruelty to provide resources to crown prosecutors who are looking at cases such as these ones that you have heard today. The centre provides support and information to the community that reflect current best practices in prosecuting animal cruelty.

As the national voice for animal welfare in Canada, ensuring that the Criminal Code effectively protects animals is, and always will be, an important focus for us. We are grateful that you are considering Bill C-35.

Thank you.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Mike Wallace

Thank you for that presentation, Ms. Cartwright.

Maybe for today we'll be the standing committee on justice and humane rights, instead of human rights.

4:05 p.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Mike Wallace

What we'll now do is go to our question and answer period. Our first questioner from the New Democratic Party is Madam Boivin.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Thank you all for being here. Thank you, Staff Sergeant, for reminding us about Quanto and making him more than just the title of a bill, making him feel almost human to the committee.

Thank you, Mr. Kaye, for telling us about all the other dogs. It doesn't matter how many. One is already too many.

Madam Bergeron, I'm in awe of what you're doing. It's amazing what you can do and it just makes us humble in that area. I'm of those people who said your dog is beautiful, so I am guilty as charged. She is very quiet. Way to go, Lucy.

Ms. Cartwright, thank you for everything the SPCA does around this country for animals. I always say, and will always repeat very proudly, how much I find that we need to protect those who are most vulnerable. We love animals but they can't defend themselves. If we don't take measures to defend them, I don't know who will.

I don't want to discuss law too much with you because we had other panels for that. I just have two basic questions. The first one is for Staff Sergeant Carriere and Mr. Kaye.

Do you think the sentence in the Quanto case would have been different with Bill C-35 or would it have been similar? I'm not saying it's a good or a bad thing. Is it more the fact that Bill C-35 is finally pinpointing and creating a category...? I heard the minister say, unless I didn't understand him correctly, that the sentence was all right in the Quanto case, which seems to say that the Criminal Code, as it is right now, could be seen as sufficient to address the type of situation that was present in the Quanto case.

I would like to hear you both on that factor.

For Ms. Bergeron and Ms. Cartwright, my question concerns the fact that we kind of put them in an order. The police dogs seem to have a higher standing with Quanto's law than assistance dogs or military animals. Are you okay with that? That's all I want to know from your side.

Maybe we could start with Mr. Carriere and Mr. Kaye.

4:05 p.m.

S/Sgt Troy Carriere

Sure, and I'll speak a little, in particular, to what we saw dealing with Quanto and working with the crown prosecutor. Unfortunately, we have to have a special crown prosecutor assigned because of the cases that we see in Edmonton to deal with animal cruelty charges. He was an exceptional individual who helped us work through this. We were fortunate, I think, in the sense that this was a guilty plea overall, which makes it easier than going to trial. I don't know if we would have seen the same sentencing if it hadn't been an agreed statement of facts. I know 18 months for some may seem significant enough. I disagree. This is where I see the new bill being appropriate.

Again, we have to look at a couple of important points.

In this case, with the new bill it's consecutive, whereas in a lot of cases it's concurrent when we go to court with other charges.

We have a five-year maximum with the indictable component of this new bill if there's a service animal killed in the line of duty, such as Quanto, which I think is also appropriate. There has to be a strong deterrent. This is partly a bit of my opinion of what I saw with the public. As a police officer, do we have our own biases? Absolutely. Unfortunately, we see the crimes too often, and of course, you may get a little jaded. But what I saw and heard clearly from the public was that they wanted a bill to deal with this specifically. They wanted a bill to make sure there was a deterrent, and if somebody did hurt a service animal, that there was some punishment that fit the crime.

I'll give you an example of how far some comments that came to me went. I had an email from an individual who is in his late fifties now, from Calgary. I can't remember all the details, but it stuck in my mind because he himself as a young man in the seventies had been involved in an incident with the Calgary Police Service. One of their dogs was injured severely and he was the accused in this instance. He was charged with some weapons offences and did his time. It was two years or less, for sure. But now that he reflects back on his time, he feels there needs to be a bill to protect these service animals. I guess that one touched me a little, because here was an offender realizing that there wasn't a significant section to deal with this.

Speaking of the crown on this case, it's such a wide scope with an animal cruelty charge that it would have been very difficult, if we'd gone into a trial situation, to debate the fine parts of it. Then I think we heard that an animal cruelty charge was never put in place to deal with situations that law enforcement has seen, again, unfortunately, on an all too common basis. I think somebody talked about the fact that we're here talking about a service animal that was killed, but on a very regular basis I see my service animals being hurt. There has to be something done, because again, I think we all agree that we have to speak for them. If we don't, then who does?

I have dealt with people trying to submerge my dog underwater. I have seen him when he's been kicked in the face and having to get several sutures, and again, they do this without question. I think any handler who's done any time on the street will say with 100% certainty that their dog has probably saved their life.

I can think of a specific incident where an individual I was tracking in downtown Edmonton was waiting to ambush me with a pool ball in a sock. I had no idea he was there, and I can thank my service dog for finding him and dealing with him, because I would probably have been the subject of a massive injury had he not been there.

So do I think this is appropriate? Absolutely. I think it is necessary and it's time. I think it's been all too long. I thank the government and each of you for supporting this bill, because that's what I'm hearing from many people.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Mike Wallace

Thank you.

Ms. Cartwright or Ms. Bergeron, the second part of the question. I don't know if you remember now.

4:10 p.m.

Executive Director, Strategic Relations and Engagement, Canadian National Institute for the Blind

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Mike Wallace

Okay, the floor is yours.

4:10 p.m.

Executive Director, Strategic Relations and Engagement, Canadian National Institute for the Blind

Diane Bergeron

I'd like to emphasize that this is my personal perspective. It is my opinion that when an animal that is doing service, whether it be a police dog or a service dog for someone with a disability, is attacked by somebody, it should be treated as though they are attacking the person, not the animal.

Police officers serve our community and so do their dogs. My dog serves only me. Do I think that when police officers are attacked the sentence should be stronger? Absolutely, because they're there to protect me. I feel the same about service animals.

I don't believe my service dog is any less dedicated, devoted, or trained, but I do believe there is an understanding that a police dog is giving up their life for our community. So I'm perfectly fine with the emphasis being on the police dogs. I'm just thrilled that people understand that dogs like mine are at the same risk and should also be considered within this legislation.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Mike Wallace

Thank you very much for those questions and those great answers.

Our next questioner is Monsieur Goguen from the Conservative Party.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Goguen Conservative Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thanks to all the witnesses for sharing their experiences and heightening the value of the service animals that protect us in situations of danger each and every day. Also, kudos to the four-legged witness down there, Lucy, who is being very quiet.

Mr. Carriere, I think you touched on a very important distinction that Ms. Boivin was talking about in Quanto's case, where there were 18 months attributed and the total sentence I think was 24 or 26 months.

4:15 p.m.

S/Sgt Troy Carriere

It was 26 months.

April 29th, 2015 / 4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Goguen Conservative Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Of course, in that instance, Quanto was killed. The act goes on to create an offence not only for killing animals but also for maiming, wounding, poisoning, and injuring. We know by the definition of this act that the whole purpose of the act is denunciation and deterrence in regard to wounding animals that of course can't speak for themselves.

The Supreme Court of Canada recently reflected upon the question of mandatory minimum sentences, and of course, the whole issue there was a mandatory minimum sentence that was proportionate to the crime committed. My sense of this is the sense of ordinary Canadians, and I don't think the ordinary Canadian or the ordinary dog lover would have any kind of problem with a mandatory minimum sentence of six months being imposed for the maiming, killing, or wounding of a service animal in the enforcement of the act's powers.

What's your sense of that? Perhaps we're not even going far enough. Look at the value of these animals, the amount of training, the work ethic, the courage, and the unyielding will to follow your orders.

What are your thoughts?

4:15 p.m.

S/Sgt Troy Carriere

I think I touched on it a little bit. To answer your question from a public point of view—and I'm certainly not speaking for all the public, of course—it was a very wide range of the public that I received feedback from, and they were all very supportive of a need for this, to a point where we had to temper that feedback, in the sense—I think we've touched on it here—that they put it in line with losing a police officer. Personally, as a police officer, I think there is a distinction between the two. Do I love my dog? Absolutely. Is he still a tool? Yes. Does he protect the police officer? For sure. Would I want to lose a police officer over a service dog? No.

However, in the very strongly worded feedback that I received from the public, from Ottawa all the way to Victoria, and from the U.S. as well, they all were saying that something needed to be done. Some were completely awed by the fact that there isn't a bill in place or any legislation at this point.

I do agree with you that the minimums are definitely minimums. Could there in fact be a stronger minimum? I think there's definitely a possibility. Maybe that's something we'll reflect on later, after we see this bill go through, hopefully, but I do think that it's not over the top by any stretch.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Goguen Conservative Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

It's a good starting point.

4:15 p.m.

S/Sgt Troy Carriere

It's a very good starting point. Again, it's what the public wants, and that's what I'm focusing on a lot here, because again, as a police officer, I have some strong opinions on the criminal justice system but I'm interpreting what I have heard from the public. As I said, it was from a wide range of people, from out east all the way to the west and down to the U.S., so it was a very strong opinion that was given to me.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Goguen Conservative Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

It doesn't shock their sense of common decency, this six months for sure as a starting point.