Motion No. 9
That Bill C-15B be amended by deleting Clause 9.
House of Commons Hansard #126 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was animal.
An act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders
Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC
Motion No. 9
That Bill C-15B be amended by deleting Clause 9.
An act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders
The Deputy Speaker
I draw to the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice that Motion No. 9, which had been put aside, has now been moved. I am prepared to give him a few moments to comment on Motion No. 9, if he has not already done so.
An act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders
Stephen Owen Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC
Mr. Speaker, I did not have an opportunity to comment on Motion No. 9.
The effect of Motion No. 9 would be to nullify the repeal of the current provisions in part XI of the criminal code. The result would be that there would be two different schemes in the criminal code dealing with cruelty to animal offences: the provisions currently in the criminal code, as well as the animal cruelty offences in the new part V.I. This is unacceptable to this side of the House.
The Deputy Speaker
Just before I resume debate, the Chair is prepared to respond to the point of order raised by the hon. member for Selkirk--Interlake.
I draw his attention to House of Commons Procedure and Practice , Marleau and Montpetit. On page 657, under “Chapter 16 The Legislative Process” and under the heading “Marginal Notes and Headings”, I believe he will find the answer to his inquiry.
John Bryden Liberal Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON
Mr. Speaker, I wish to speak to Motion No. 4 which would change a line in the definition of animal in the bill from an animal that is capable of feeling pain to an animal that is capable of experiencing pain.
The parliamentary secretary, with great respect to him, made a comment on Motion No. 4 and the record will show that there was a major contradiction in his statement. What he said, in effect, was that in order to be conscious of pain an animal has to have a central nervous system. I suggest that in order for an animal to be conscious of pain it has to have a brain.
The purpose of Motion No. 4 is simply to create a clarification in the bill whereby when the courts come to examine what we mean by cruelty to a creature the court will understand it to mean that the creature suffers. I suggest that in order for a creature to suffer it has to have a brain that is at least sufficiently of a high order that it is conscious of its surroundings.
In other words, the animal has to be conscious of suffering. I suggest that simply having a nervous system, such as a worm or an octopus, does not mean that an animal, while it may feel pain in the sense that it reacts to pain, is actually conscious of the pain in the sense of suffering. We have no way of knowing that.
In changing the word feel to experience I think we could all assume the courts would interpret the word experience in an appropriate sense rather than in a broad sense that is inappropriate. The sense, of course, that has been implied is that one has to have some sort of consciousness in order to experience one's own senses.
The choice of the word experience was simply to suggest to the courts that what we are talking about in the cruelty to animals bill are creatures that suffer, not creatures that are of such low order no one would assume they suffer. Even an amoeba will react to cold water or any other infliction of heat or dryness and so will a worm.
I want to make sure that when the courts look at this legislation they appreciate that the intent of parliament is to spare the suffering of creatures, not to extend the bill to every creature on earth. I am afraid that unless we limit it to the idea that an animal must be conscious of its surroundings we run the risk of the bill having too large a sweep.
This is primarily a technical change which I think would be of advantage to the bill. I hope that the justice department, which in fairness has not had time to review my motion in depth, will re-examine the whole distinction between experience and feel in the sense of being conscious of one's environment. Perhaps we can look forward to the justice minister's support for this motion when it comes time to vote.
Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-15B, an act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms Act.
Today we are debating the motions in amendment that have been tabled. We have heard the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice refute, reject and announce clearly that the Liberal majority will oppose the motions tabled, which we are currently debating, with the exception of Motion No. 6, tabled by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada.
Obviously, it is fair to think, and I say this to my learned colleague, whose Motion No. 4 was rejected, that the Minister of Justice alone is right in this parliament and that all those tabling amendments, with the exception of the Minister of Justice, have them rejected.
It is especially important since Motion No. 7, which I tabled, was further to Motion No. 6 of the Minister of Justice, who wanted particular attention paid to law enforcement animals.
Given their nature and the cost of training them and so on, the bill provides for substantial fines for those who, out of cruelty, destroy these animals.
My Motion No. 7 reads as follows:
(1) In this section, “service animal” means a dog or any other animal used by a person with a disability.
The parliamentary secretary says very candidly that we must protect animals, as suggested in the motion of the Minister of Justice. The minister's motion protects law enforcement animals. However, the Bloc Quebecois motion to protect a service animal is not accepted by parliament, because there is no clear definition of a person with a disability.
We heard a lot of things in the past year, but this takes the cake. I cannot believe that we would have to justify the term “disability”, or the expression “a person with a disability”. People with a disability should not have to come to the House or wherever to explain the nature of their disability.
Again, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice is lacking sensitivity when he says that this motion about a “service animal” cannot be accepted, because the definition of a person with a disability is too vague. This is an insult to all Quebecers and Canadians who have a disability.
We are not yet at the division stage, but as far as the Minister of Justice's proposal goes, relating to protection for a law enforcement animal, I trust that hon. members will understand that the same protection is being requested for a service animal, meaning a dog or any other animal used by a person with a disability.
I trust that the same protection and same penalties will be set for those who might harm these animals, which are so very useful to those badly in need of them in our democratic and free society.
Once again, we have a fine example of the mentality of the Liberal government, which announced “Zero. We are keeping none of these”. They are the only possessors of the truth.
What is more, it is not just anybody who holds the power. The Liberal member who has just seen his Motion No. 4 defeated has seen very clearly that the only person entitled to settle all differences of opinion in this House is the Minister of Justice. She is probably the only one capable of understanding how parliament works and the only one deemed capable of settling differences and ensuring, in the end, that there is protection for animals and all those who call upon the House for protection.
Once again, I repeat to Quebecers and Canadians that there are some things that are acceptable and tolerable. But there are others that are less so, and we have a striking example of that before us.
The only motion that gets passed is the motion by the Minister of Justice on the protection of law enforcement animals. Among the others rejected was mine, for the protection of “service animals, that is a dog or other animal used by a person with a disability.
As for this, I simply cannot understand why the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice came to explain to us that the problem with the motion was basically the fact that the expression person with a disability was not clear. They are worried that people without a disability will ask for protection under this clause of the bill.
There are some things I am prepared to hear in the House, but there are others that really have me stymied, and the Liberal members never cease to surprise me.
We have been told that the motions we moved will be rejected. Therefore members ought not to be surprised that the Bloc Quebecois will vote against this bill if it is not amended.
People need to understand. The Bloc Quebecois agreed to the legislation being amended, that there be a bill to amend the criminal code, in order to increase intolerance of persons who are cruel toward animals, or those who misuse firearms.
We had wanted to support the bill. The bill, as introduced, has some problems—I mentioned one—regarding service animals. But there are problems as regards ranchers, farmers, hunters and researchers.
Earlier, the parliamentary secretary spoke to us about amendments to section 8.3 of the criminal code moved in committee. This is an amendment by my colleague, the member for Châteauguay, an expert on the criminal code.
His amendment stated quite simply that ranchers, farmers, hunters and fishers should have the right to a defence of justification or an authorized excuse and colour of right.
Bill C-15B, as introduced, removes the right of defence from ranchers, farmers, hunters and researchers.
Today, the parliamentary secretary even said that although it was not explicitly laid out in the legislation, there would still be the same effect, that we must not worry and that even if the amendment were rejected, the result would be the same in the end.
In law, clarity is vital. I find fault with the Liberal majority, the Liberal members who sit on committee, who failed to understand that we really wanted to protect producers, farmers, hunters and fishers, many of whom earn their living in the animal production field so they would feel comfortable practicing their profession, their sport. The aim is to ensure reasonable and fair defence. We are talking legal justification, excuse or colour of right.
This is the reason for Amendment No. 8, which provides for access to experts for these people, in the event they are charged under this bill, to explain to them how to carry on their sport or their work without being charged with cruelty to animals.
We must always be able to express our opinions in the House or in committee with arguments that are neither unreasonable nor frivolous, as the Chair has said. They do not want frivolous amendments, and none was moved with respect to Bill C-15B. That is the fact of the matter.
The government is trying to get us to believe this bill says something it does not.
The Bloc Quebecois will oppose the bill simply because there is no guarantee to producers, farmers, researchers and hunters of legal justification, excuse or colour of right.
Inky Mark Canadian Alliance Dauphin—Swan River, MB
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to take part in the report stage of Bill C-15B.
I come from a rural riding. From my rural perspective, the bill is a threat to the livelihood of the people who live in my riding. It is certainly a dangerous and unnecessary move to take this out of the property section of the criminal code.
This afternoon we heard the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice say that the government's poll indicated somehow that Canadians support this. Unfortunately this is one of those bills that divide rural and urban Canadians.
We all know that the majority of Canadians, 75%, perhaps 85%, live in urban settings. Urban residents' optics and perspectives on animals are very different. There is a difference in optics in how they see their pets compared to the perspective of those who make a living raising animals.
I must say first that I had the opportunity to sit in on the justice meeting and listen to the witnesses on the bill, witnesses who came from the medical research community, the animal rights community and the trapping association. I must say that this bill is not about cruelty to animals legislation. This is a bill that moves toward the humanization of animals in the country.
The medical researchers in our universities are very concerned. They are concerned about the ways in which they use animals to do medical research for our benefit, for your benefit, Mr. Speaker, and for our children's benefit.
As well, the trapping association is concerned even though they have humane traps. With new technology, trappers have changed their methodology. This whole issue of trapping affects the aboriginal community in my riding. I have 15 aboriginal bands in my riding. They have a right to trap and hunt. Many still make their livelihoods through trapping. They say the bill puts them at risk. In fact we need to remind the House that this country was built on the trapping and trading of the beaver pelt. If that had not taken place this country would probably never have been developed.
I must remind the government members in the House that the agricultural industry in Ontario is second in terms of dollars to the auto industry. Those members must be told that again and again. If they do not believe that the bill and these amendments are a threat to the agricultural industry, certainly for those who raise chickens, hogs and other animals we consume, they are basically ignoring what is happening.
I come from a rural riding where farming, the raising of cattle, swine, chicken, elk and horses, as well as trapping are the economic backbone of Dauphin--Swan River. I hope this will be addressed by government members.
Tens of thousands of chickens and cows are slaughtered every day for human consumption. We have heard Liberal members talk about the debate over suffering and pain. That is an ongoing debate. The problem is, once we take this out of the property section of the criminal code and start perceiving animals from the perspective of humanity, then we are really on the slippery slope to something we may regret down the road.
I will relate to the House my own experience. Over 20 years ago I raised weanling pigs. One has to castrate pigs while they are still small weanlings. If urbanites watched me castrating these little weanling pigs in a barn, what would they think about cruelty to animals? Their optics would certainly be different from my optics.
In fact, tourism in my riding is a huge part of the economy. The bill would attack tourism in regard to the of hunting of wild game. Again, this relates to hunting by aboriginal people. I have not heard anyone speak on behalf of the aboriginal community today. Their traditional hunting patterns are put at risk by the bill.
Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC
The minister is here. He's listening.
Inky Mark Canadian Alliance Dauphin—Swan River, MB
I'm glad the minister of Indian affairs is listening attentively to our concerns.
The bill is like the gun control bill, Bill C-68, not that Canadians are opposed to gun control. I think Canadians are for gun control. However, again the optics are different in terms of how the legislation is perceived. The bill is very divisive. It divides Canadians along urban and rural lines. I believe it is not a cruelty to animals bill. It is a bill about the humanization of animals. There is no doubt that the coalition will oppose the legislation and many of its amendments.
Vic Toews Canadian Alliance Provencher, MB
Mr. Speaker, the stated purpose of the bill would be to consolidate animal cruelty offences and increase the maximum penalties. The bill would also provide the definition of animal and removes cruelty to animal provisions from part XI of the criminal code, that is, the property offence section.
Many groups have expressed concerns about the legislation: agricultural groups, farmers, industry workers and, indeed, medical researchers. Just recently we received a letter from the author Pierre Berton expressing his profound concern on behalf of medical researchers about what the bill would do in the area of medical research.
Many of the groups in fact support the intent of the law, as its objective is to modernize the law and increase penalties for offences relating to animal cruelty. However, despite some minor tinkering with the legislation as demonstrated here today in the bill, which is coming from committee, these groups advise that the bill requires significant amendments before their concerns are addressed.
One of the central concerns with the bill is in fact that the criminal code would no longer provide the same level of protection presently afforded to those who use animals for legitimate, lawful and justified practices. The phrase “legal justification or excuse and with colour of right” in subsection 429(2) of the criminal code currently provides protection for the offences found in respect of the property section. However, by moving the offences out of the property offence section and leaving the defences, in fact those defences no longer apply to the offences.
The minister, her staff and her parliamentary secretary have stated they somehow implicitly apply and that this should be good enough for members of the House and indeed for those who have expressed concerns about this legislation. However, when members of the Bloc and the Canadian Alliance asked Liberal government members to make the defences explicit in the new legislation, they refused.
Therefore I think there is a hidden agenda. There is a lack of frankness with the Canadian people about the true intent of what the bill is to accomplish. One of the interesting comments that the minister's parliamentary secretary made was in respect of the fact that one of the amendments to the bill will now confirm that the common law defences available under subsection 8(3) of the criminal code will continue to apply to any cruelty to animal offences.
Subsection 8(3) sets out the common law defences that we have inherited in our justice system and specifically already applies to all of the criminal code. It is not limited to any part. Yet the drafters of part XI, the property offence sections, found it necessary to include the specific defences that we find in section 429 relating to legal justification or excuse and with colour of right.
The parliamentary secretary said we would make it explicit that subsection 8(3) now applies to these offences that have been moved outside of the property section. Subsection 8(3) has always applied, so what the government is doing in a very disingenuous way is trying to lull people in agricultural or medical research or the other food production related businesses into believing that their concerns have now been met. In fact that is nonsense. Section 429 does not apply and those defences do not apply. To suggest that they implicitly apply is to mislead the Canadian people.
During committee I also listened with some astonishment to the fact that the minister had proposed screening mechanisms for all private prosecutions. We did not get a look at this. However, generally speaking, if there is controversial legislation, what ministers usually do, especially in the context of the criminal code, is require the consent of the provincial attorneys general to proceed with a prosecution in that jurisdiction. That is a time-honoured mechanism. The attorney general is there to prevent an abuse of the criminal court system.
The minister is now saying that she will not prevent these private organizations from bringing frivolous prosecutions by this time-honoured mechanism. We know that animal rights interest groups have indicated they will prosecute and take this law to the limits. Those are their words. However the minister has said that she will set up a screening mechanism which is very consistent with the type of cumbersome procedure that this government has enacted on previous occasions. Whether it is the organized crime legislation or Bill C-36, there is a real disconnect between the Department of Justice people who draft and propose these policy initiatives and the actual provincial prosecutors who have to go out and do the real work.
The mechanism being proposed is this. An information is sworn and then it is brought before a magistrate to prescreen to see if it is frivolous or vexatious. The purpose of requiring the information to be sworn is to determine that it is not frivolous and vexatious and that there are reasonable grounds to proceed. Now there will be another hearing at this stage. Imagine someone coming up in front of the magistrate saying that something is vexatious or frivolous. That person will be met now with another court hearing. Then the person could still be met with a certiorari application in the superior courts to quash the information. Then there is a possibility of a preliminary hearing to determine whether there is sufficient evidence for the matter to go to trial. Then we finally have the trial.
This is convoluted and is destructive of the criminal justice system. It will contribute to the backlog. Therefore, I am very concerned about the bill.
We have stated a number of reasons why the bill should not be supported. We have stated it in committee and we continue to voice our disapproval.
I want to make just a couple of comments in respect of the Liberal member who brought forward the animal service provision dealing with police dogs. We liked that amendment and supported it. What the Minister of Justice will do now with this amendment is water it down. I want the police officers and security agency people who use dogs in the course of their service to know that the Minister of Justice is watering down what a Liberal member first proposed.
My very last comment is that I support, and encourage my Canadian Alliance colleagues to support, Motion No. 7 brought forward by the Bloc member in respect of service animals.
Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to address Bill C-15B. The title of the bill is an act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms Act.
This bill was introduced at first reading on March 14, 2001, and at second reading on May 3 and 7, but it was not reviewed in committee before the summer recess of the 37th parliament.
The bill was split in two. It was the government's response to hundreds of letters and thousands of signatures from people asking for a more effective act regarding treatment, protection and penalties relating to animal cruelty.
Since most of the provisions of the criminal code on these issues dated back to the late 19th century, a growing number of associations and groups called for the legislation to be modernized, for the scope of the various offences to be considerably broadened, and for harsher penalties to be imposed for animal cruelty offences.
Because there is considerable support for a reform of the part of the criminal code dealing with animal cruelty, Bill C-15B gives rise to strong reactions and conflicting interests.
Initially, the Bloc Quebecois supported several elements of the bill, including the creation of a new part in the criminal code, which would see the transfer of provisions dealing with animals from part XI of the code, entitled “Wilful and Forbidden Acts in Respect of Certain Property”, to a new part 5.1, entitled “CrueIty to Animals”. However, the Bloc Quebecois can no longer support the bill, because it does not protect, among others, the legitimate activities of breeders, farmers, researchers, hunters and so on.
The purpose of this bill is to have more adequate means to deal with offenders who commit cruel and reprehensible acts against animals. The purpose of this reform is to protect animals.
However, while the Minister of Justice claims that the bill does not deprive the animal industry from its revenues, it would have been important to specify this in the legislation, so as to reassure the animal, farming, medical and sports industry regarding any risk of frivolous action.
This was not done. The minister simply amended the bill by adding the defences in paragraph 8(3) of the criminal code. The minister and the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights rejected the Bloc Quebecois' amendments, which would have explicitly added as a defence acting with legal justification or excuse and with colour of right.
The Bloc Quebecois was in favour of the bill in principle if it could have been amended to reflect the means of defence earlier allowed in part XI of the criminal code. That is why the Bloc Quebecois asked that the means of defence in article 429 of the criminal code be added explicitly to new part 5.1 of the criminal code.
According to my colleague, who defended this position in committee, these amendments were not accepted by the government members. In all committees, all we hear from these members is no, no, no.
The Bloc Quebecois is also opposed to the bill because it seeks to take away a number of powers and responsibilities which now fall under the jurisdiction of the Government of Quebec and give them to the chief firearms officer.
Since the gun registration scheme was first introduced, the Government of Quebec has set up agencies responsible for issuing permits—the Bureau de traitement and the Centre d'appel du Québec. Briefly, the Bloc Quebecois is opposed to the bill because it does not explicitly protect the legitimate activities of the animal industry, hunters and those doing research, and it takes away the Government of Quebec's authority to enforce the Firearms Act.
Bill C-15B contains the present provisions of the criminal code concerning cruelty to animals and adds a number of new provisions. Since animals are now considered goods and not human beings, the offences and recourses possible are essentially minor.
Enforcement of the legislation as it now stands results only in damages for loss of goods. In addition, because sentences are lenient, they encourage repeat offences. Animal rights groups have repeatedly called for better protection with respect to cruelty to animals. Respect for human beings begins with respect for animals.
The Bloc Quebecois is in favour of increased protection for animals, but only provided there is protection for legitimate activities involving animals, animal husbandry, sport hunting and fishing, and research. Such is not the case, even after the amendments proposed by the Bloc Quebecois, for all of them were rejected. The purpose of those amendments was to improve this aspect of the bill.
The initial premise has to be that all those involved directly or indirectly in the livestock industry judge this bill unacceptable in its present form. For the great majority of them, these new provisions are likely to increase the possibility of criminal charges against those who work in the industry or who engage in recreational activities such as hunting and fishing.
The demands by the chicken protection coalition clearly illustrate the concerns raised by Bill C-15B. The board of the Quebec federation of poultry producers called unanimously upon the federal government to amend Bill C-15B so that livestock producers would retain the legal protection they enjoy at the present time and be able to continue to exercise their legitimate profession without any risk of complaints or charges. All of the amendments proposed by the Bloc Quebecois relating to this were turned down by the committee.
I would also like to mention that the Ontario Federation of Agriculture is asking that the current wording of the provisions of Bill C-15B regarding cruelty to animals not be kept as is, but that it be amended to provide the agri-food sector with the legal protection that its members currently enjoy under the criminal code. It is a protection they deserve.
In conclusion, producers are asking for the protection of their livelihood and for the assurance that they will not be prosecuted for activities related to their work. The definition of animal could be a source of problems.
I would like to conclude by saying that the amendments moved by the Bloc Quebecois would have clarified certain provisions of the bill and would have made a clear distinction between hunters and people who voluntarily hurt animals just for the sake of seeing them suffer.
Unfortunately, the federal government has shown again its unwillingness to listen and its conviction that it knows it all. Had it been open to our excellent amendments, we could have supported this bill. However, such was not the case, and we will vote against the bill, because it needed to be improved.
It is obvious, with Bill C-27, Bill C-36, the one regarding marine conservation areas and all the bills that come before the House, that the government does not want to listen. It sees the opposition as totally useless.
Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON
Mr. Speaker, the NDP has supported the bill throughout, including some of the amendments that went through at committee stage. We supported it because we felt it was important.
We are at one of those times in our evolution as a society when we recognize that animals should be treated differently from other physical property. We should therefore create new provisions in our criminal law system for dealing with them. The underlying principle of Bill C-15B is one we strongly support.
We have heard a lot of criticism of the bill from the other opposition parties. However let us look at the section that would establish what an offence is. The terminology the bill uses and the behaviour and conduct it would prohibit make it hard to imagine there would be negative impacts anywhere near the extent suggested by some members of the House.
I grew up in a farming community. Just about all farmers I have ever had contact with were proud of the work they did and careful about the way they treated their animals. However that was not 100%. We have all heard stories and known of incidents where animals were not treated properly. The bill would go some distance in addressing how to deal with that type of conduct.
Some suggest Bill C-15B would inhibit the farming industry and hunters. That is not the case. It would prohibit behaviour that as a civilized society we are no longer prepared to tolerate. To suggest it would wipe out the hunting industry in Canada is fearmongering. To suggest it would seriously impede farming operations is not accurate.
With regard to the amendments that have been proposed, the first one would eliminate the whole intent of the bill. It would take out the willful and reckless conduct that leads to prohibited conduct. It is not a motion we can support given that it would remove the philosophical underpinnings of the bill.
Motion No. 5 would introduce the concept of generally accepted industry standards. When I saw this I asked whether it meant that if a puppy mill had industry standards we would work to those. If a course of conduct is not acceptable by general standards in other parts of the country but is acceptable in a local community, are we stuck with having to live with it? These are not the kinds of criteria we want in the bill.
A member of the Alliance Party talked about government Motion No. 6 that deals with how someone would be prosecuted should a police animal be injured or killed. We supported the amendment. We were not prepared to live with the wording that was there before. We supported the amendment because in such circumstances we need a concept of mens rea.
The bill did not have it before. This would introduce it. It is an appropriate amendment for dealing with situations where individuals are attacked by police animals or vice versa.
We had a provision before that would not have introduced any concept of mens rea or intent. It was more a negligence type of concept. In those circumstances it was not appropriate. We are quite happy the minister has seen fit to move the amendment.
We have heard significant criticism by the Alliance member from Manitoba about the screening process the minister proposes to introduce. I have difficulty with that criticism. As a former justice minister in that province the member should be aware that it is quite common to put a screening process in place whether it is done by a federal attorney general or a provincial justice minister.
We have done so when dealing with prosecutions for impaired driving, spousal and child abuse, and assault. We have done it for proper policy reasons: to use the system more efficiently, more appropriately and in most cases more extensively.
To deal with the fear people rightly have of the potential for frivolous prosecutions it is appropriate to put a screening mechanism into place. It will probably not be there forever. Assuming the bill gets passed into law, as we get decisions from the courts and it becomes clear what charges are appropriate the screening process will no longer be necessary.
The screening process is not a big deal. It is appropriate to deal with the fear, some of which is unfounded but which is out there in some communities, that extremists on the animal rights side of the equation would bring frivolous charges and people would be forced to hire lawyers and incur the costs of defending themselves.
We have a system across the country that allows charges to be screened out by a justice of the peace before they are laid. That methodology can be employed here successfully and appropriately.
In its totality the bill, like any other bill, is not perfect. It has been drafted by humans. Could it be done better? Perhaps it could, but I do not share some of the accusations against it. The former attorney general for Manitoba said the defences are no longer available. The defence of necessity is always available. I learned that in law school and have studied it through. It is still there.
If one is in a hunting or camping situation and is attacked by an animal, a bear in particular, one has the right to defend oneself. This includes killing the animal if that is the only way to preserve one's health and safety.
The provisions are still there. Members are suggesting we must write them into the section. They are not necessary. Nor are a number of the other amendments. The provisions are already in the bill. The amendments are not appropriate for what the bill is attempting to do.
David Anderson Canadian Alliance Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak today to Bill C-15. I come from an agricultural area. I am proud of that. I make as much mention of it as I possibly can.
Many of my friends are both ranchers and farmers. They live on the land. Animals are a big part of their lives. These are people who spend their time, especially in the spring, going out at night to check their animals and spend time with them. They spend their days gearing their lives to their animals. They go out in the middle of winter in the thickest of blizzards to find their animals when they need to. They love their way of life and what it is all about. It can also be said that they love their animals.
My wife has an uncle who has cattle. I had cattle for a few years myself. One time I was telling him about the curse of owning the beasts. He commented that “Cows know what they need to know in order to be cows”. I have found that to be true. That is about all they know but it is enough for them.
Mr. Speaker, I do not know if you have had the opportunity to calve out cows. I see you are nodding in the affirmative. We all know what an experience it can be. We go out in the middle of the night and find a cow that is trying to calve and having problems. We try to convince her to find her way into the barn when she wants to go in the other direction or anywhere but where we would like her to. We get her in the barn. She is fighting against calving but we manage to get the chains on and pull out the calf. We all know the feeling of satisfaction that comes from that. I have friends who have done it many times over the years and who do it very well.
I farmed for 25 years before I had the privilege of coming here. I only know of one case of what I would call animal abuse. In our part of the world which is southwestern Saskatchewan when there is abuse of animals the rural municipality is normally responsible for coming in. In the case I am thinking of an older person was no longer able to look after her animals. She had quit feeding them properly. My father-in-law happened to be the reeve at the time and was responsible. The rural municipality went in, seized the animals, got them the food and water they needed and was then responsible for selling the animals.
In 25 years of farming and 40 plus years of living in a rural community this is the only example I can only talk about in our area where people had trouble looking after their animals or were neglecting them.
This is why I have such a concern about the legislation. The definition of an animal would be changed. I think it has been put forward by people who are out of touch and have little information or connection with animals or animal life. The new definition is extremely broad. It describes an animal as:
--a vertebrate, other than a human being, and any other animal that has the capacity to feel pain.
The new definition would extend legal protection to a number of living organisms which have never before been provided this kind of protection.
I have not heard a lot of discussion about the definition but it strikes me that there is a bizarre aspect to it. The definition centres on the capacity to feel pain. I do not know if members have thought about it but I have never heard a definition that defined something by its capacity to feel pain.
This suggests that the people who came up with the definition have their own agenda. We heard that in committee where animal rights organizations made it clear they would take the legislation to the limit when they get the opportunity by challenging people about their animal care.
Moving the animal cruelty provisions from property offences to a new and separate section would elevate the status of animals in the eyes of the court. I assume that is the goal of the people defining them, but it is not a goal we need. Through the centuries and the millennia animals have been seen as property. We are now faced with a substantial change in their legal position.
The Lawyers Weekly has written that we have upgraded the standing of animals to creatures deserving of protection in their own right because of their capacity to suffer. This comes back to what I was saying. The definition is a strange one with a political agenda behind it.
The changes that the legislation will bring about would have a tremendous impact for many who are dependent upon agriculture and animals for their livelihoods, such as farmers and ranchers who are very responsible in dealing with their animals. Hunters obviously at some point will also be impacted by the legislation. Groups are already saying they will use this against hunters who hunt for the sake of sport and for conservation.
It is very interesting that we are moving into an area where we talk more and more about the environment, how important it is and how we need the government to interfere in it. I will talk a bit here about the agriculture department and its commitment to doing that as well.
We now have more animal life than we have ever had in my area. Over the last few years the farming communities have become much more responsible because of some of the changes in the hunting regulations. We are getting to the point where a lot of animals are becoming pests. I heard other MPs talking about deer coming into their backyards and eating the fruit off their apple trees and coyotes bothering their domestic animals and those kinds of things. The other day a Banff news report said it was having trouble. People were being told to make sure they did not act like prey because of the cougars, which are only too happy to look at people in that way.
Another group the legislation will affect is aboriginal people. I know they have a cultural connection to the wildlife and to their history which involved that. If the legislation is applied fairly across the country, it will also impact on them.
One of the most bizarre things about the entire legislation is the definition. We are in a situation now where animals will have more protection than human beings. In particular I am thinking of fetuses in their mothers' wombs. Research has consistently shown that fetuses react to pain and that they pull away from it. There are a number of videos that have been made showing the impact of them being torn from the womb and being destroyed. They react against the invasion of the womb by trying to get away. I would suggest that that probably is suffering as well.
We are walking into a situation where the government is willing to protect animal life at a level that it certainly is not extending for human beings. What are we coming to? We have some strange things happening in our country.
One amendment which has been put forward is the provision that a person must be acting willfully or recklessly in killing or harming animals. That is an improvement over the original bill, but it begins to leave the responsibility for determining these kinds of things to the courts. We have seen some of the present rulings by the courts, which do not leave a lot of us with great comfort. The judiciary is becoming more and more under the influence of many different radical pressures and organizations.
Another amendment, Motion No. 5, which was put forward by the member for Selkirk--Interlake, suggested applying generally accepted standards to animal treatment rather than the willfully or recklessly clause as suggested by the government. My colleague from the NDP said that he had some concerns about that. I do not think we have to say that if one small community does something then we call that generally accepted standards. However amending the clause as suggested in Motion No. 5 is a good option.
Farmers are being pushed from every side these days. They are trying to make a living. In many ways it seems like our agriculture department is more concerned about pushing environmental issues than it is about protecting agricultural producers. Farmers, as agricultural producers, do not ask for special treatment and they are not asking for special treatment with the bill either.
In conclusion, the Alliance members have had some positive suggestions. We have offered a number of solutions and presented a number of good amendments. I would like to suggest that we keep part XI in the code as it presently is. Just leave things alone. The law is working well. We need to enforce it. We are in favour of increasing the penalties if need be. Let us do that, but let us enforce it and apply it in those few situations where we have problems.
John Maloney Liberal Erie—Lincoln, ON
Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a few comments this afternoon on this debate. It was suggested a little earlier this afternoon, by I believe it was the member for Provencher, that we were watering down the amendment proposed by the member for Oshawa. I would suggest that is simply not the case. What we are in fact doing is simply clarifying it and making it such that it will stand the scrutiny of time and of the courts.
With respect to Motion No. 6, the new offence created by the motion introduced by our colleague the member for Oshawa, as presently worded, would extend application of the offence provisions to law enforcement animals whether or not they are actively engaged in law enforcement at the time the offence is committed.
This runs directly counter to the policy of the animal cruelty provisions as a whole. It retains the notion that particular animals should be treated differently from other animals. It is also unclear from the amendment whether these provisions would override the general cruelty to animal provisions elsewhere in Part V.I when offences are committed in respect of law enforcement animals. In some cases, there may be an overlap between elements of an offence under the amendments versus an offence listed in either subsection 182.2 or subsection 182.3 of Bill C-15B.
The offence provision, as redrafted, makes it clear that the law enforcement animals are being protected because of the risk that they face on a daily basis in the course of assisting peace officers and public officers. The offence applies when they are aiding or assisting a peace officer or a public officer engaged in the execution of their duties or a person aiding the officer. The offence in the amendment would criminalize the actions of anyone who wilfully or recklessly poisons, injures or kills a law enforcement animal while it is aiding or assisting a police officer or public officer in his or her work.
For accuracy, clarity and certainty in the law two references had to be changed: peace officer or public officer is well-known in criminal law and was substituted for the term law enforcement personnel. The notion of assault could not be retained because the assault provisions of the criminal code relate only to human beings.
The amendment does not include an offence of poisoning a law enforcement animal while it is kenneled, penned, transported or otherwise held because these are activities that are already covered in the general cruelty to animal provisions. Animals in these circumstances are not actively engaged in assisting a police officer or public officer and therefore a provision creating a specific offence for law enforcement animals in these situations would tend to undermine the policy of the cruelty provisions as a whole, that specific animals should not be given preferential treatment over other animals per se.
The amendment would also modify the restitution provision to make it comply with the requirements of criminal law. The courts have said that a restitution order in a criminal context must be logically related to the objectives of sentencing. The courts have held that a restitution is part of the overall punishment and must consider the total impact of the punishment, as well as the impact of the restitution order on the rehabilitation of the offender.
The Supreme Court of Canada has said that restitution orders should not be made where there is any serious contest on legal or factual issues about damages. That is why there is a requirement in the general restitution provisions in section 738 of the criminal code that the damages must be readily ascertainable.
Symmetry, clarity and certainty in the law is achieved if the restitution order in the context of law enforcement animals is similar to the restitution provisions in Part XXIII of the criminal code regarding sentencing.
Just before I leave this part, again I would like to compliment the member for Oshawa for bringing forth his amendment and bringing it to our attention and to the attention of the committee. It certainly has been an area of concern for him and for many of our police officers who have these animals that assist in law enforcement.
I would also like to make one further comment. I believe it was again the member for Provencher who suggested that the so-called screening amendment was being advanced in a sort of underhanded or less than straightforward way. I would simply point out the fact that this amendment was advanced in Bill C-15A, was considered by the justice committee and this House, was voted on I believe by the government as well as by the official opposition and passed.
It has gone through. We looked at it for roughly six months. It has been considered by the committee. We heard witnesses on it, and it certainly cannot be said that we are doing anything in a perhaps less than straightforward manner. It has been dealt with under Bill-15A and that party voted for Bill-15A.
Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC
Mr. Speaker, I am perhaps just following up on the comments of the hon. member who just spoke. I would point out that whenever we consider anything the government has done or is doing, we always do it with a certain degree suspicion because of its actions in the past.
I am not sure if I would completely agree with him that government members are acting in the most forthright manner in how they have handled the bill. It took a lot of effort by a great many individuals out in the real world, as well as all the opposition parties, to get them to split the bill into two bills. There has been considerable debate about that.
The one thing I would agree with him on is that at least we have had substantial debate on this bill and on this issue throughout its course through the Chamber. I only wish the Liberals would have applied that same high degree of debate and committee time to other legislation, notably Bill C-36, instead of invoking time allocation and ramming it through the House.
I will now focus my comments on report stage of Bill 15B, specifically the amendments that are before the House dealing with those sections and clauses that deal with the cruelty to animals. Like many who have spoke before me, I have heard from a great many of my constituents concerning this issue. I think all parliamentarians, regardless of party, have heard loud and clear from their constituents.
Unfortunately, as others have pointed out, this is an issue that to some degree pits urban versus rural people. Being from a riding that is roughly a quarter of the geographic size of British Columbia, a huge rural riding, the eighth largest riding in the country, obviously this bill and the way that the law, once enacted, could be interpreted by the courts is of great concern to the rural folks of Prince George--Peace River. They have made their concerns known to me.
Who are the stakeholders who have the greatest concerns with this legislation? Again, as other speakers from the coalition and other parties have stated, they are quite numerous. Medical researchers have been greatly concerned about the legislation because of the work they do in trying to advance the cause of disease prevention. Trappers certainly have reason to be concerned about it.
I want to specifically address hunters, guiding and outfitting and the economic benefit that this brings to my home province of British Columbia, specifically to my region of northeastern British Columbia, the Peace River--Prince George area. I also want to mention the potential for low income, local hunters as well. When we talk about big game hunting, we are not dealing specifically with guiding and outfitting. We are also dealing with the local hunters who are in many cases low income people who rely upon wild meat to provide a certain amount of sustenance to their families.
I remember my own youth. I am not sure exactly how much meat would have been in our diet, if we would not have had my father out hunting and getting the odd moose, or caribou or deer to put meat on the family table.
As well, people have raised concerns about the aboriginals. They have talked about their concerns with Bill C-15B and the provisions on cruelty to animals. The member from the Canadian Alliance who spoke before me is a past farmer like myself. He spoke quite eloquently about the potential impact on the agricultural sector industry and on people from his riding in Saskatchewan.
Let us use the case of farmers for example. If farmers had to spend time in the courts and incurred costs to defend themselves because of provisions of the law that would see them subjected to charges of cruelty to animals for their practices in the husbandry of animals and the way they raise their livestock, obviously at some point those costs would have to be passed on to the consumer. Although urban people may say that legislation such as Bill C-15B does not directly impact them, down the road it very well may.
Another stakeholder of concern is the rodeo industry. What will it mean for the Calgary Stampede, the Williams Lake rodeo and such organizations depending on the interpretation of the law down the road?
I am in support of the two amendments that I put forward on behalf of my colleague for Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough who originally had the amendments in his name. I am disappointed that Motion No. 3 was ruled out of order because a similar motion had been made at committee stage. Therefore it was dropped and we will not get to vote on it at report stage. That motion would have removed the definition of “animal”. It is of great concern. My colleague from the Canadian Alliance spoke about that a few minutes ago.
Motion No. 9, which is also in my name, deals with the deletion of a clause that would move cruelty to animals from part XI to part VI which would take it away from the classification it has always had. For some 50 years we have had animals protected under the property section of the criminal code. Motion No. 9 would see that maintained for the future, rather than see it moved.
If the intent of the legislation is to increase the penalties to those who abuse animals, then obviously we would all find ourselves in agreement with the intent of the legislation. No one, except the cruellest of the cruel, would want to see insufficient laws or penalties in our country to deter abuse of animals. With the possible exception of child abuse, I cannot think of anything more horrendous than abusing a defenceless animal. If that was the case and the legislation was specifically targeted to that and it was very clearly defined, we would not have the problems that we see with the legislation. Unfortunately it is not clearly defined.
Interestingly enough, when I was having my morning coffee at home and was reading through the paper, I noticed a story in the Ottawa Citizen about a case of animal abuse and cruelty. A Belleville man who apparently had been out hunting after dark had mistakenly shot a pony instead of a deer. The article says he was drunk and stoned at the time. He received what I would classify as quite a harsh sentence. According to the story the man received five months for killing the pony and for animal cruelty and two months for an unrelated assault charge. In addition he received a fine.
The point I am making is that the laws we already have obviously can deal very harshly with those that are involved in the abuse of animals. That is good and is something we all support.
I would suggest that Bill C-15B is causing great concern for a number of industries. I wish I had more time to get into the potential impact it might have on industries such as guiding and outfitting, big game hunting and some of the other industries that are especially important not only to Prince George--Peace River but to all of British Columbia. Maybe at third reading I will have a chance to make those additional points.
Betty Hinton Canadian Alliance Kamloops, Thompson And Highland Valleys, BC
Madam Speaker, the Canadian Alliance in no way condones intentional acts of cruelty toward animals and supports increasing the penalties for offences relating to such acts. There should not be any question at all about that.
For many years I have been owned by dogs. They run my life. I love them dearly. They are wonderful animals to have in one's life. I cannot tolerate anyone who would deliberately be cruel to a small animal such as that. The proposal in front of us affects far more than small animals. We have rules and regulations in place and if we were to enforce those fully, I think we could do everything possible to eliminate cruelty to small animals.
My concern with the bill is with regard to ranchers. I have the privilege of representing a riding that is surrounded by ranchers. There was no consultation with the producers on this bill. If the government had talked to the producers, they would have reassured it about the way they treat their animals and the investment that they have in the animals and we would not have the kind of wording that there is.
It is very disturbing to me when someone who has absolutely no idea of a lifestyle is prepared to jeopardize that lifestyle. Maybe in the minds of some of the Liberal members they believe that ranchers are an uncaring lot. Nothing could be further from the truth with regard to ranchers.
Ranchers are the original entrepreneurs of the country. They have to go through hardships and have incredibly difficult lives. For anyone to think that they would deliberately damage an animal or be cruel to it is beyond my comprehension.
They inoculate their animals. They care for their animals. After the delivery of little calves in the dead of winter, some of the ranchers in my riding actually go so far as to take them into their living rooms or kitchens to make sure they are safe and that they will be all right. That is the kind of concerned people we are talking about.
They hand feed these little animals to keep them going. They make every effort to ensure that the animal is safe. They inoculate. They do all of the proper things. To put them in a position where they could become criminals with this bill is intolerable to me.
We must understand the situation ranchers face. For instance, if there was a herd of 100 cattle and 10 were lost for whatever reason, the entire profit margin would be lost. Ranchers are business people and profit is important but the maintenance and safety of the animals is far more important to them.
The comments from the minister are incredibly disturbing. This has been raised over and over again and her comment has always been that it was not the intent of the bill to condemn ranchers but to protect animals. If it is true that the intent is to protect animals and not to put ranchers in a position of being charged with criminal acts, then that should be made very clear in the writing of this legislation but it is not.
We should define cruelty and eliminate any concern or fear that those in the ranching community would have that they may be treated as criminals. I do not think that is too much to ask under the circumstances. It would go a long way toward making it a more palatable bill.
Business of the HouseGovernment Orders
December 6th, 2001 / 5:10 p.m.
Don Boudria LiberalMinister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. First, I want to apologize to the hon. member. I had hoped to get consent for the motion that I am about to put a few minutes ago between two speakers but that was not possible so I apologize to the hon. member.
There has been consultation among parties and I believe that if you were to seek it there would be consent for the following motion. I move:
That, notwithstanding Standing Order 76, the House may consider Bill C-23 at report stage at second reading on Friday, December 7, 2001.
This is for the convenience of members. Instead of doing it Monday, it would be done tomorrow.
Business of the HouseGovernment Orders
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)
The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Business of the HouseGovernment Orders
Some hon. members
(Motion agreed to)
The House resumed consideration of Bill C-15B, an act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms Act, as reported (with amendments) from the committee, and of Motions Nos. 1 and 4 to 9.
Betty Hinton Canadian Alliance Kamloops, Thompson And Highland Valleys, BC
Madam Speaker, as I was saying, if the intent of the bill is not to put ranchers in the position of being charged with criminal offences, then it needs to be clearly defined. I do not think it is asking too much to make that clear. It disturbed me very much when the minister commented that this was not the intent and that if this were to happen, it would be taken care of through a court of law.
I outlined earlier the tenuous position some ranchers find themselves in. When a rancher has 100 head of cattle and loses 10, he has lost all of his profit. The minister is asking that these people, who are the original entrepreneurs of the country, to put themselves in a position of having to go to court to defend their way of life and take a chance that a criminal action may be brought against them. That is completely and totally unfair. It makes absolutely no sense at all to put people in that position.
Ranchers, farmers and people who are in these positions are not able to go to court. If a law has been created properly, which is what we are trying to have happen, why in the world would it get to the point where people would have to go into a court of law to defend themselves? Those are the parts that are absolutely wrong.
The new definition of animal includes is extremely broad and includes “a vertebrate, other than a human being, and any other animal that has the capacity to feel pain”. This new definition extends legal protection to a number of living organisms which have never before been provided that kind of protection. This is a case of overkill. The bill goes too far in one direction.
One of our main concerns of the bill is that the criminal code would no longer provide the same level of legal protection presently afforded to those who use animals for legitimate, lawful and justified practices. The example that I used today was ranchers.
The phrase “legal justification or excuse and with colour of right” in section 429(2) of the criminal code currently provides protection for those who commit any kind of property offence. However, in the new bill the fact that the animal cruelty provisions would be moved out of the general classification of property offences and into a section of their own would effectively remove these provisions outside the ambit of that protection.
The Canadian Alliance asked the government members to make the defences in section 429(2) explicit in this new legislation, but they refused. If there is no hidden intent, or hidden agenda as I have heard other colleagues say today, why not define that clearly and take that burden off the ranchers in Canada?
The Canadian Alliance in no way condones intentional acts of cruelty toward animals and it supports increasing the penalties for offences relating to such acts. However, while cruelty to animals cannot be tolerated, the criminal law should not be used as a tool by special interest groups to destroy the legitimate farming and related food production industry. We will strive to ensure that the legitimate use of animals by farmers, sportsmen and medical researchers is protected. That is our job.
All we are asking is that the Liberal side of the House take due consideration and make the necessary amendments so we can work together and get what we want out of the bill. We need to work together in order to ensure that everyone's rights are protected and that the ranching way of life in Canada is not destroyed intentionally or unintentionally by poorly worded legislation.
Kevin Sorenson Canadian Alliance Crowfoot, AB
Madam Speaker, I have already had the opportunity to speak to Bill C-15, Bill C-15A and Bill C-15B. I was not expecting to speak to the bill, but the lack of speakers from other parties has allowed me the opportunity. That is not an attack on any other party. I appreciate the opportunity to recollect some of the concerns that the bill brings forward.
When Bill C-15 initially came forward we were disturbed by what we saw. We saw an omnibus bill that brought in many good things, but there were a number of specifics that were worrisome to the Canadian Alliance as well as to other members of the opposition.
We applaud the government for splitting the bill after pressure from the opposition. It allowed for quicker passage of Bill C-15A which dealt with child luring, disarming of a police officer and other items. It allowed us the opportunity to take the second portion of Bill C-15, study it and bring witnesses forward so that we could deal with the concerns regarding the cruelty to animal clause and the firearms issue. That is exactly what happened over the last month.
It has been a busy three months since September 11. When we have not been dealing with terrorism bills in the justice committee, we have been dealing with the cruelty to animal clause.
For us to stand in the House to explain the frustration in the agricultural sector over the last few years, it would be an understatement no matter what we tried to say. We have watched as commodity prices have fallen and input costs have gone up. Other government practices have been ineffective. Many of the agriculture programs that we would have liked to have seen from the government have been forgotten, put on the back burner or totally ignored. Due to the lack of government support there have been steps taken by the federal Liberals that would actually raise additional concerns for our farming community and food production groups.
What we see in Bill C-15B is exactly one of the concerns. This is a bill that is very divisive. It pits urban against rural. It is much like Bill C-68, the gun registration bill, which was a divisive bill. The Liberal government said we needed Bill C-68, but it pitted the urban sector against the rural sector.
Legislation dealing with cruelty to animals does the same. The agriculture sector in western Canada would say to those who are involved in defined cruelty to animal cases that there should be tougher and harsher sentences. Cruelty to animals charges should be taken seriously. Agriculture would say those who willfully bring pain on animals or refuse to look after animals need to be prosecuted.
The bill takes some of the practices that our ranching and farming communities are involved in and puts them into question. Regardless of what the minister said about acceptable practices when she came to committee, animal extremist groups and other animal rights groups have said that we need to use the legislation as a basis to bring forward prosecutions. We need to push the legislation on to the front burner and use it as a reason to prosecute.
One individual who spoke in committee referred to the legislation as only the beginning. She said the onus was on humane societies and other groups on the frontlines to push the legislation to the limit, to test the parameters of the law, and to have the courage and the conviction to lay charges. She warned us not to make any mistake about it because that was what it was all about.
What was she saying? She was saying that in Bill C-15B we have the opportunity to take the legislation that was asked for and make it a springboard for prosecutions of our farmers, ranchers, trappers, including aboriginals and all others it would affect.
I have been on the farm for 40 years. I understand a number of things about farming. One of the concerns that has been brought forward so eloquently by the member for Cypress Hills--Grasslands is that the margins are simply not there to be brought and hauled before a federal or provincial court to fight a prosecution for the sake of the humane society getting it on the agenda. Farmers and ranchers move back in fear of having to defend common practices of farming.
The government says to trust it. It has said that a few times. It said that Bill C-68 would cost $85 million. We find our trust level around the Liberal government diminishing as time goes on because Bill C-68 has cost $685 million. Who knows where it will end? Perhaps it will be at least $1 billion.
I want to mention that we have seen other bills come forward too. We have seen the species at risk bill. The phone in my constituency office in Crowfoot rings constantly. I have received hundreds of letters dealing with the species at risk bill. The government is saying that to keep these species it needs to take farmland or any type of land and protect it. It says that there would not be any compensation, or maybe a little compensation, but to trust it because it would not take huge numbers of acres; just what it needed.
The calls keep coming. We have received numerous calls and correspondences from individuals who have grave concerns about how this would impact on their livelihood and on legitimate activities.
The moving of these sections from the property section into a separate section in the criminal code is something which causes great concern. For example, section 445 deals with wilfully and without lawful excuse killing, maiming, wounding, poisoning or injuring dogs, birds or animals that are not cattle and kept for a lawful purpose. We have heard the member for Cypress Hills--Grassland talk about the changing of the definition of animal to something that feels pain.
A few nights ago in the House we discussed the strychnine bill. Gophers feel pain. It is not necessarily an acceptable practice by a lot of animal rights groups but it is another case of an exercise that is needed on ranches and farms. We support any kind of bill that would genuinely deter cruelty to animals. Bill C-15B does not. It is an attack on western agriculture and farming practices. Even though amendments have been brought forward in good will they do not suffice.
Myron Thompson Canadian Alliance Wild Rose, AB
Madam Speaker, I will continue down the line that my colleague from Crowfoot started on. There is no farmer or rancher that I know of who approves cruelty to animals of any nature whatsoever. However there are common practices to which we have become accustomed over the last hundreds of years that have been acceptable to society.
Suddenly we get this kind of legislation. My colleague from Crowfoot is right when he says that we have an example of a piece of legislation that begins on a slippery slope to some real problems for people who are working hard, trying their darndest to make a decent living by raising livestock or whatever the case might be.
Government is once again coming up with legislation that will sooner or later ride on its back like a chunk of lead. Instead it should be a helpful body for people to get their produce to market and make a decent living. The government is not smart enough to realize that, and that really bothers me.
Government members are telling us to trust them. They are saying that the legislation would work the way it is supposed to work. I have absolutely no trust for the Liberal government. I encourage all my ranching buddies and cattlemen to have no trust in it either. It is untrustworthy.
Business of the HouseGovernment Orders
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)
Order, please. The hon. member for Jonquière advised me in writing that she would be unable to introduce her motion during private members' business on Friday, December 7, 2001.
Since it has not been possible to arrange an exchange of positions in the order of precedence, I am directing the clerk to drop that item of business to the bottom of the order of precedence.
Private members' hour will thus be cancelled and the House will continue with the business before it prior to private members' hour tomorrow.
It being 5.30 p.m. the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.
Aboriginal AffairsPrivate Members' Business
Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB
That this House urge the government to call a full public inquiry into the death of Dudley George, fatally shot on September 6, 1995, at Ipperwash Park, during a land claims dispute related to the land, treaty and cultural rights of the Stoney Point aboriginal people.
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to have this one hour debate on the untimely death of Dudley George during the tragic events at Ipperwash.
When an unarmed man is shot and killed during a peaceful protest it should be cause for great alarm and great concern. It should be, I argue with the motion, the subject of a full federal inquiry to get to the bottom of what happened.
The facts surrounding Dudley George's death are not in dispute whatsoever. The person who pulled the trigger has been charged, tried and convicted of this wrongful death. Therefore, we do not need any kind of an investigation about the actual killing of Dudley George.
However, what the country does need to know is whether there was political interference in the actions the police took at Ipperwash. In other words, did the premier of the province of Ontario improperly interfere and influence the way the police officers handled themselves in the events leading up to the death of Dudley George?
We have presented this issue to the federal government because we believe it is appropriate and that it is within the federal government's jurisdiction to undertake the inquiry, although it would have been more appropriate if the province of Ontario had undertaken a full provincial inquiry. As more evidence has come forward we know the premier and at least one, and possibly as many as three, of his senior cabinet ministers are in a conflict of interest situation and therefore have steadfastly refused to allow the truth to come out surrounding Dudley George's death.
We do not need a full two year, multimillion dollar inquiry. I know that is the fear some people have. When they think of federal inquiries they think of the Somalia affair or the APEC affair. Frankly, given that it is a very specific thing we need to know, we do not contemplate the need for a two year investigation. It could be very short and focused. I have heard that with any degree of co-operation it could be over in a six week period. Then we would know if there were police involvement in an improper way.
The real point here is that the very definition of a police state is when politicians can interfere with police officers to have them do their bidding for some purpose other than the enforcement of the law.
I will not dwell on the very sad details of Dudley George's death. The point I would like to make is that the federal government had knowledge that the native protesters at Ipperwash were unarmed and had no plans of violent action because it had a CSIS plant among the aboriginal people the whole time. This was readily admitted.
The CSIS report to the federal government during the days leading up to the incident stated that there were between 27 and 35 individuals, many of whom were women, children and elders; that they were unarmed and had no plans for any kind of violence; and that the park they occupied was closed for the season. No tourists were around and no one could be inconvenienced if these aboriginal people occupied the park for a day, a week, a month or even until the next spring when the park opened again.
It seems that no one had any urgency to clear these people out of the park other than the premier of Ontario. He did not want to be seen to be soft on aboriginal occupancy type issues. He remembered that only a year earlier the premier of Quebec had lost an election partly because he was viewed as being soft on the Oka crisis by letting it get out of control. We believe the thought process of the premier of Ontario was similar. He had just been elected to his first term of office and was not going to be namby-pamby about one of these nuisance aboriginal occupancy issues.
Even though the information from CSIS, in the days leading up to September 6, 1995, said nothing about any kind of imminent violence, on September 6, we now know, Premier Harris and one of his cabinet ministers met with the OPP. That evening some 200 OPP officers, armed with rapid fire machine guns and armoured personnel carriers they had borrowed from DND, went in with a great sense of urgency to get these people out of the park that night. That was when the situation hit a crisis fever pitch and escalated into an armed conflict.
No one has ever been able to indicate that the aboriginal people involved were armed at all, although hundreds of shots were fired by the police. Dudley George was killed, another fellow was shot, a dog was shot to death and an aboriginal person was literally beaten to death and then resuscitated on the way to the hospital. The level of violence was extreme.
I made the point earlier in the House of Commons that when some middle class college kids were pepper sprayed at UBC during the APEC demonstration, as vile as that action was, it caused a full public inquiry that went on for years. When an unarmed aboriginal man is shot and killed at a peaceful protest, no full public inquiry is held. I should also add that Dudley George was the only aboriginal man to be killed in the 20th century on a land claims disagreement issue. That in itself should be worrisome to the point where we should be as a nation very interested in getting to the bottom of this matter.
It is not just the voice of the NDP caucus. While this is actually a private member's motion, it is not just my lone voice as a member of parliament calling for a federal inquiry. I am in very good company. I would like to indicate some of the international attention that this issue has generated.
Other groups that are calling for a full inquiry include: the United Nations human rights committee; Amnesty International; the Ontario ombudsman; the Chiefs of Ontario; the Assembly of First Nations; the Canadian Labour Congress; and both provincial opposition parties, the Liberal Party and the NDP at Queen's Park.
Interestingly enough, the former minister of Indian affairs, Mr. Ron Irwin, went on the record a number of times calling for a full public inquiry into the death of Dudley George because, frankly, he was left out of the loop. He had information that the occupancy of this provincial park actually had merit. DIAND had letters on file from the 1930s when the park was formed in which the aboriginal people were complaining that the proposed park was their historical burial ground. DIAND had the historical record on file that at least proved there was some justification for the actions the aboriginal people were taking. I think the reason Mr. Irwin was so offended was that he could have brought some light to the issue if he had been brought into the loop. Instead, it became a matter where we have a letter from the current Deputy Prime Minister, who was then the acting solicitor general, volunteering the loan of an armoured personnel carrier to the OPP siege of the Ipperwash gates.
Therefore there was involvement from the federal Liberal government but not enough involvement from the minister of DIAND, so he was one of those actively calling for a public inquiry.
In its report on the status of human rights conditions in Canada, the United Nations made reference to Ipperwash eight times. In its concluding observations about Canada, it stated:
The Committee is deeply concerned that the State party so far has failed to hold a thorough public inquiry into the death of an aboriginal activist who was shot dead by provincial police during a peaceful demonstration regarding land claims in September 1995, in Ipperwash. The Committee strongly urges the State party to establish a public inquiry into all aspects of this matter, including the role and responsibility of public officials.
Amnesty International went further when it called the killing of Dudley George a possible extrajudicial execution. This is along the lines of a Stephen Biko issue in South Africa.
We have the United Nations human rights committee calling for a federal inquiry. We have a professor, Bruce Ryder, a constitutional law expert, calling for a federal inquiry and reminding us that the federal government has the right to call this type of inquiry under the peace, order and good government clause on any issue, but further, that the federal government is justified and jurisdictionally correct to call a federal inquiry because of the fiduciary responsibility by DIAND for aboriginal peoples and land claims, which was the origin of this whole dispute, and the involvement of DND, as Ipperwash was the neighbouring property to a military base which was the first activism taken by the Stoney Point people.
The third thing, I suppose, would be the issue that DND loaned an armoured personnel carrier to the efforts at Ipperwash to lend further force to the approximately 200 police that were already there to oust the 27 to 35 protesters. If there were more justification needed, the fact that there was a federal government CSIS plant among the aboriginal people the whole time making believe he was a member of the American Indian movement and reporting back to the federal government, surely the federal government cannot deny that it was involved.
We are not looking for blame here. We are looking to find out if in fact the premier of Ontario acted in an improper way and if he did interfere with the police action.
I suppose we are hoping, as a result of a inquiry, if any stated goal were necessary in order to justify opening up such a thing, that we could develop some accepted protocol for dealing with this type of thing in the future, because a lot of aboriginal people and a lot of groups around the country have had to resort to occupying ministers' offices, occupying pieces of property that are under land claims and blocking roads. Incidents like this have been happening across the country and we need to know that these will not resort to lethal force on a regular basis. We need to have some series of tests or justifications before sending in tactical riot squads that are armed with machine guns capable of firing 800 rounds per minute and killing people a mile away. The action taken at Ipperwash was a serious reaction to what was, in this case, a peaceful protest, which many protests are.
We would hope that the recommendations from an inquiry commission would give some direction to the federal government as to how it might conduct itself in the future in cases of occupancy.
I hope I have explained clearly enough that it is not our purpose to open up every aspect of the case. As I said, the actual pulling of the trigger is a stated fact and has been proven in a court of law. Sergeant Deans, who actually pulled the trigger and killed Dudley George, has been charged, tried and convicted. We are not interested in revisiting that. We are interested in the days leading up to the terrible tragedy of the death of Dudley George. Was the premier of Ontario improperly influencing the Ontario Provincial Police in the action it took? I look forward to hearing comments from other parties.