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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.

Topics

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

The Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

The Speaker

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to, amendments read the second time and concurred in)

The House proceeded to the 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.

An act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2001 / 3:30 p.m.

The Speaker

There are nine motions in amendment on the notice paper at report stage of Bill C-15B.

Motions Nos. 2 and 3 will not be selected by the Chair as they are identical to motions proposed and defeated in committee. All remaining motions have been examined and the Chair is satisfied that they meet the guidelines expressed in the note to Standing Order 76.1(5) regarding the selection of motions and amendments at report stage.

Motions Nos. 1 and 4 to 9 will be grouped for debate. The voting pattern is available at the table.

I shall now propose Motions Nos. 1 and 4 to 9 to the House.

An act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant McNally Canadian Alliance Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There have been discussions with all parties and I believe that if you seek it, you would find unanimous consent that the report stage motions standing in the name of the member for Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough be now put in the name of the member for Prince George--Peace River.

An act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

The Speaker

Is it agreed?

An act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

An act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Howard Hilstrom Canadian Alliance Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. In attempting to make amendments to the bill, I was attempting to have the name of the bill changed. I have been advised that is not entirely possible. I would ask the Chair if that is the case or not.

An act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member is absolutely correct. I understand he tried to put forward such an amendment and it was ruled out of order.

I will seek out the authority for that. I had asked about it earlier and am satisfied that it was in accordance with our practice that such an amendment not be allowed at report stage. I will get the citation for the hon. member later.

An act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Howard Hilstrom Canadian Alliance Selkirk—Interlake, MB

moved:

Motion No. 1

That Bill C-15B be amended by deleting Clause 8.

An act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Liberal Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

moved:

Motion No. 4

That Bill C-15B, in Clause 8, be amended by replacing line 5 on page 3 with the following:

“other animal that has the capacity to experience pain.”

An act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Howard Hilstrom Canadian Alliance Selkirk—Interlake, MB

moved:

Motion No. 5

That Bill C-15B, in Clause 8, be amended by replacing line 7 on page 3 with the following:

“who, wilfully or recklessly, and in contravention of generally accepted industry standards,”

An act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Kenora—Rainy River Ontario

Liberal

Bob Nault Liberalfor the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved:

Motion No. 6

That Bill C-15B, in Clause 8, be amended by replacing lines 32 to 43 on page 5 and lines 1 to 16 on page 6 with the following:

“182.6 (1) In this section, “law enforcement animal” means a dog, a horse or any other animal used by a peace officer or public officer in the execution of their duties.

(2) Every one commits an offence who wilfully or recklessly poisons, injures or kills a law enforcement animal while it is aiding or assisting a peace officer or public officer engaged in the execution of their duties or a person acting in aid of such an officer.

(3) Every one who commits an offence under subsection (2) is guilty of

(a) an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than five years; or

(b) an offence punishable on summary conviction and liable to a fine of not more than ten thousand dollars or to imprisonment for a term of not more than eighteen months, or to both.

(4) The court may, in addition to any other sentence that it may impose under subsection (3), order the accused to pay all reasonable costs associated with the loss of or injury to the law enforcement animal as a result of the commission of the offence if the costs are readily ascertainable.”

An act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

moved:

Motion No. 7

That Bill C-15B, in Clause 8, be amended by adding after line 16 on page 6 the following:

“182.7(1) In this section, “service animal” means a dog or any other animal used by a person with a disability.

(2) Every one commits an offence who

(a) assaults, injures or causes the death of a service animal; or

(b) assaults, injures, causes the death of or poisons, or in any way attempts to poison, a service animal while it is kenneled, penned, transported or otherwise held.

(3) Every one who commits an offence under paragraph (2)(a) or (b) is guilty of

(a) an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than five years; or

(b) an offence punishable on summary conviction and liable to a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars or emprisonment for a term of not more than eighteen months or both.

(4) The court, in addition to any sentence that it may impose under subsection (3), must order the offender to pay all restitution costs, including training costs, resulting from the service animal's being killed or otherwise rendered unable to perform its duties.”

Motion No. 8

That Bill C-15B, in Clause 8, be amended by adding after line 16 on page 6 the following:

“182.8 The court may order the production of any additional evidence or the issuance of a summons to any persons, including experts, whose testimony the court considers appropriate or necessary to confirm evidence relating to any section in this Part.”

An act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

The Speaker

I cannot put Motion No. 9 to the House. Accordingly Motions No. 1, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 have been put to the House and are now ready for debate.

An act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Canadian Alliance Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I am seeking clarification regarding Motion No. 9. I believe that is the motion of the member for Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough.

An act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

An hon. member

He is not here.

An act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Howard Hilstrom Canadian Alliance Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, the amendments we are putting forward are an effort to make the bill better and reflect what is needed in Canada by way of protection for animals but also for the protection of the livestock industry in this country, the way of life of hunters, trappers, fishermen, and all those who use animals in the normal course of earning their livelihood or in their cultural way of life. Across the country this includes hunting and other pursuits that happen to involve animals.

Motion No. 1 is a reflection of the fact that we in the Canadian Alliance would like to have full protection for the livestock industry up front. By up front I mean that in the bill itself it is clearly and explicitly stated that farmers and ranchers can carry out their normal activities without fear of malicious prosecution.

Mr. Owen has advanced the idea, and it is in Bill C-15A a related bill, that there would be a preliminary hearing type of situation where a complaint or criminal charge is laid by a private individual. There would be a court process by which the informant, the private individual, could go before the judge. The attorney general of the province would be there. This process would determine whether or not it was a vexatious, malicious type of prosecution. It specifically says that the person accused does not necessarily have to be there.

It seems that the person who is the subject of the information complaint, the person charged, would be absent. In any court proceeding that I am aware of, it is vital that the accused be able to protect himself from a legal point of view at all stages of the complaint. In an information and complaint that is malicious and vexatious in nature, by an animal rights group for instance, what will happen is that group will be at an in camera hearing and the charge will be thrown out because it is malicious and vexatious. However, it will never come to the public view that the animal welfare groups are trying to use the law to cause problems for the livestock industry.

My amendment would delete clause 8. It seems to me if we cannot have full protection for our livestock industry and users of animals, we would be better off staying with the present legislation which is in effect until it is repealed and this legislation is put in its place. The purpose of the motion is to delete the cruelty to animals amendments and leave the law as it is until the government can come up with better cruelty to animals amendments.

An act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I just want to caution members to please refer to each other according to their riding or portfolio. I think the member mentioned a name and probably more appropriately should have referred to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. The member mentioned Mr. Owen, I believe.

An act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Vancouver Quadra B.C.

Liberal

Stephen Owen LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the member opposite that this is an extremely important issue to all Canadians. The cruelty which is visited upon animals, in a vicious, neglectful or willful way, is unacceptable to Canadians and the legislation deals with that demand.

The effect of Motion No. 1, as the member opposite said, would be to do away with the bill altogether. That is simply unacceptable.

After consulting with the public in 1998 on the current cruelty provisions in the criminal code and by virtue of receiving petitions with over 10,000 signatures and about 100 letters a week being sent to the Minister of Justice, it is absolutely clear to the government that the vast majority of Canadians want the anti-cruelty laws to be modernized and strengthened. That was the evidence before us in committee right across the board, whether it was people representing the agricultural industry, hunting and fishing interests, medical research or the general public.

This is extremely important legislation. People want to see people who act viciously toward animals dealt with strongly. I must say that some of the strongest testimony came from members of the agricultural industry, an industry that is one of the backbones of our economy, our culture and our society. They are the people who are closest to animals in many ways in our society and they know best that the humane treatment of animals is immensely important.

The bill is an important matter of public policy. It is a strong part of government policy and it will go forward as far as the government is concerned.

Looking at Motion No. 4, the effect of the motion would be to substitute the word “experience” for “feel” in the sense of experiencing pain rather than feeling pain, talking within the definition of animal. The word “experience” when used as a verb, as is proposed in the motion, is capable of several meanings. The Oxford dictionary defines experience as: meet with, feel, undergo, learn or find. That could lead to confusion in the interpretation of the legislation. Of course, many of those meanings have no relation to what we are talking about or focusing on in the legislation.

The word “feel”, however, is defined in terms of being conscious of a sensation, that is, the ability to feel pain. It establishes that the animal must have the capacity to sense pain. Mere physical reflex in the absence of a developed nervous system of course is not enough. I would urge the House not to approve that motion.

Motion No. 5 presents a major problem for the government. It would result in fewer protections being offered to animals than is currently the case. The reference to contravention of industry standards introduces a notion into criminal law which is unprecedented, that is, that standards set by industry would determine whether or not a person was liable for cruelty offences under the criminal law.

The Supreme Court of Canada in the Jorgensen case made it very clear that approval by a provincial body as a matter of law cannot preclude the prosecution of a charge under the criminal code.

There is also a very good chance that such an amendment would ultimately be ruled to violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms on the basis that the law was so lacking in precision that it did not provide sufficient guidance for legal debate as to the scope of prohibited conduct. The law must be sufficiently clear so that Canadians know that they are at risk of being prosecuted if they commit a particular act.

The reference to industry standards is important. It raises a number of questions. Would those standards have to be passed by a provincial legislature? If not, would voluntary codes of conduct be an industry standard? Would industry standards that were not well publicized still be relevant under the section? Who would determine what was a relevant industry standard?

Reference to industry standards in the heading of the offence relating to intentional cruelty offences would suggest that industry standards, which condone certain activity, would excuse that activity.

In that regard, it is interesting to note that the activities listed in paragraphs (e), (f), (g) and (h) are prohibited outright. The wording of the motion suggests that what is intended is to have industry rather than the criminal courts determine what is legal and not legal in the country.

In that sense, simply the reference to “industry standards” would not have any true relevance to many of the offences listed.

That being said, an amendment in committee does, specifically for the purposes of greater clarity, refer to the applicability of section 8(3) of the criminal code, which applies all of the common law defences to offences under the code and under this section by specific reference.

In terms of the common law defences that are available currently under the law, the bill when passed will not remove any defences that are now available.

Further, the use of the word “negligent” in section 8 makes it clear, in the sense of the criminal meaning of negligence, that the activity to be criminalized under this section would have to significantly depart from the ordinary standards.

That is a high standard to meet for a criminal charge. It makes it clear that things that are lawful now as ordinary parts of business practice, agricultural practice, hunting and fishing, and medical research, will continue to be protected as they are now.

Motion No. 6 is an important recognition of the value of police dogs to the police services generally. The new offence created by the motion 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 is important. It could be a horse or a dog but that great expense, time and care has been put into the training of this animal. Of course, that would be an immensely valuable tool, as well as a very expensive one to replicate.

The offence provision, as redrafted, makes it clear that the law enforcement animals are being protected because of the risk they face on a daily basis in the course of assisting peace officers and public officers. This small amendment to this section that was amended in committee makes it clear that there is a discretion in the sentencing judge as to whether the costs of replacing the animal should be part of the sentence. It may be that the person has no ability to meet that provision and therefore it should not be a mandatory requirement.

When I look at Motion No. 7, the government recognizes the extremely valuable services provided by animals that assist persons with disabilities. However, the motion should be resisted because it undermines the general policy of the animal cruelty provisions: that all animals deserve the same protections under law.

The law enforcement animal provision is a clear exception to this general rule but it is rationalized on the basis that these animals are at risk on a daily basis because of the nature of their work in assisting those involved in law enforcement. The amendment could create uncertainty in the law, the one reflecting animals assisting persons with disabilities, because the disability is not defined.

If distinctions between animals are made on the basis of their utility to humans, it can be argued that there is no policy basis for not creating specific offences for each type of animal that is a working animal of some sort.

I will briefly mention Motion No. 8. I urge all members to resist the motion. It would create specific provisions relating to the conduct of trials in animal cruelty cases. It is not clear, in the face of provisions in the Canada Evidence Act relating to the receipt of evidence by experts, as well as well developed case law in this area, why it is necessary to create a specific provision for judges in animal cruelty cases.

It should be noted as a general principle that it is crown counsel, rather than the judge, who calls evidence in support of the prosecution and the defence. It is the defence, rather than the judge, who calls evidence in support of the defence.

The motion would potentially create uncertainty in the law. It is unclear whether it would replace existing statutory provisions and powers of common law for the court to oversee the conduct of trials and the reception of expert and other evidence.

An amendment of this nature would have cost implications for the provinces and territories.

It would be irresponsible to agree to a motion of this nature without consultation and without an examination of the larger implications of such a provision.

An act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, with the indulgence of the House, I rise on a point of order.

I was called out of the Chamber briefly when the Speaker was putting the motions. I understand that Motion No. 9, which was to be called in my name, was not moved.

I would seek the unanimous consent of the House to have that motion moved now.

An act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

An act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.