House of Commons Hansard #166 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was firearms.


An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals and Firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Howard Hilstrom Canadian Alliance Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, we have a lot of political activity in regard to the cruelty to animals legislation.

In the winter 2002 newsletter from the Animal Alliance of Canada Liz White talks about how she and her organization are big supporters of the Liberal government. In the letter they are trying to raise funds. Liz White is doing this specifically to work on political campaigns on behalf of the Liberal government. This is a serious issue where ministers of the crown are so directly influenced by political activity and fundraising, not for the good of animals, not for humane societies or the issue of preventing cruelty to animals, but for the political purpose of electing people like the Minister of Health which was done in the last election.

Should we condone and allow these fundraising efforts to go unchallenged where people like Liz White, who says zero use of animals for anything, go unchallenged to raise money for the political use of the Liberal Party of Canada?

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals and Firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Keith Martin Canadian Alliance Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, everybody has a right to raise money and anybody has the right to raise money for any organization. However, what we must ensure for any of us is that there is no connection between the raising of funds and political favouritism. That is what we must ensure. We must ensure that no fundraiser will have an influence on the voting abilities of any of us, particularly ministers of the crown. We must ensure that does not happen.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals and Firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant Hill Canadian Alliance Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I heard my fellow physician colleague talking about the firearms provision in the bill and as a practitioner who has spent a significant amount of time in the emergency department as he has I am quite interested in his comments as to whether or not the Firearms Act will have any impact whatsoever on the emergency department in terms of the number of injuries from firearms?

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals and Firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Keith Martin Canadian Alliance Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. friend and fellow physician for this question because one of the statements that the former minister of justice put out was that Bill C-68 would make Canada safer by reducing suicides.

As my hon. friend knows full well individuals who are about to commit suicide will not be getting a firearms acquisition certificate. They will not take a course. They will not have the waiting time and they will not going acquire that weapon and then shoot themselves in the head. I have seen many people kill themselves, some with firearms but most people actually kill themselves through other means.

Bill C-68 will not decrease suicide. We get accused of being against gun control and against public safety because we are against Bill C-68 but the fact is that we are in favour of public health. We are in favour of keeping Canada safe. That is why the majority of police officers, 70% to 95% of frontline police officers, are opposed to Bill C-68, son of Bill C-68, and Bill C-15B that we are debating today. Why would police officers be opposed to that? Surely they would be in favour of public safety. So are we. That is why we are opposed to this.

The bill would draw valuable resources away from where it ought to be, away from police officers who can apprehend the criminals who are using this; away from the justice time that we can use to prosecute individuals who are serious, violent offenders; away from the money and resources needed to put those same violent offenders behind bars so they will not prey upon innocent Canadian civilians. That is why we are in favour of laws that will ensure that there will be people at the border to apprehend the illegal weapons coming into this country.

The Alliance is in favour of public security, we are against cruelty to animals and we are opposed to Bill C-15B because it is a very bad bill.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals and Firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

David Anderson Canadian Alliance Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise today, as others have, to speak to Bill C-15B. The bill deals with two main items: animal rights and the issue of animal cruelty. It also deals with firearms. I would like to speak first to the section dealing with animals and animal cruelty.

My first question is, what does the bill change? If we were to take a look at the old Part XI which deals with wilful and forbidden acts to certain property, where it talks about cruelty to animals, it states:

Every one commits an offence who wilfully causes or, being the owner, wilfully permits to be caused unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal or a bird.

It is straightforward and easy to understand. It is clear and concise. The government could have fixed this legislation by increasing the penalties for abuse to animals. It would have taken very little to fix this legislation. Rather than do that it has chosen to introduce a whole new section to the criminal code called cruelty to animals. This has a number of defects to it.

We have tried to improve this legislation with amendments as recent as today. My colleague from Selkirk--Interlake made a good amendment the other night. It was to protect primary producers, farmers and ranchers by amending clause 8 to read: “who wilfully or recklessly”. He added the words: “and in contravention of generally accepted industry standards”. He threw that in to protect farmers and ranchers. The government turned the amendment down. My question is, why?

As my colleague previously pointed out we see the government in the hands of so many special interest groups that it does not seem to be able to govern for the benefit of the general Canadian public. There is a total disconnect with rural Canada. It is obvious in so much of its legislation, which I will address in a few minutes.

The legislation is flawed right from the beginning. The first part states:

In this Part, ‘‘animal’’ means a vertebrate, other than a human being, and anyother animal that has the capacity to feel pain.”

I have asked this question before. It seems such a strange matter that I ask why we would define anything by its capacity to feel pain. In the old legislation it said that we commit an offence if we have injured or caused suffering to an animal or a bird. That is pretty straightforward. The definition has now been broadened to the point that we are not even sure what it means. It seems to me that the government should be aware of what an animal is. We do not need this definition. It does not contribute to clarity of the legislation.

The parliamentary secretary spoke yesterday and what I heard was not of comfort to me. I am not sure if he understands the implication of the legislation. He should. He is supposed to have been working on it. However, there are a number of things he said that concerned me.

First, he said that the clarity and certainty of the legislation is achieved. I would suggest that is hardly true. I have talked a bit about the definition being vague and hard to understand. Second, the old bill was far cleaner and clearer. There was no complicated understanding of it. It could have been left. It would have been clearer.

I find it interesting that once again the government has used that old liberal method of legislating which is that we use the extreme to justify the average. We have seen that in so much of its legislation over the years. I noticed the parliamentary secretary used a couple of examples of why the legislation was justified. One of them was that he wanted to defend against people tying animals to railway tracks. Then he used the famous urban myth of people putting poodles in the microwave oven and that we needed to stop people from doing that.

I have an objection that I have had for years. We take extreme examples and then make legislation that will deal with them and apply it to our entire culture. We have seen this so many times.

The parliamentary secretary also said that the government has stated repeatedly that what is lawful today would stay lawful. We have heard the former justice minister saying that as well. I find it interesting that once the legislation is passed it is not the government's decision whether what is lawful today would stay lawful. Judges would indeed decide this.

I have a quote from one of the animal rights activists and I will not even give her the publicity of using her name. She said:

My worry is that people think this is the means to the end, but this is just the beginning. It doesn’t matter what the legislation says if no one uses it, if no one takes it to court, if nobody tests it. The onus is on humane societies and other groups on the front lines to push this legislation to the limit, to test the parameters of this law and have the courage and the conviction to lay charges.

The intent to use this legislation as a tool to restrict the use of animals in things like research and agriculture seems clear. I find it frustrating as a former producer involved in agriculture that farmers have more reason to be responsible toward their animals than anyone else does. In 40 years of living in a small community, I can think of only one occasion on which it was necessary for officials to deal with animal abuse. It involved an elderly person who was not taking care of her cattle herd and the RM took care of the problem. It took the cattle away and fed them as they should have been.

This bill has a number of main legislative weaknesses which I would like to speak about for a few minutes. First, the definition of animal, as I have mentioned, is far too broad.

The second legislative weakness, as my colleague from Provencher mentioned, is it fails to maintain traditional defences, particularly the one of “legal justification, excuse and colour of right”, that currently exists under subsection 429(2). These must be retained to protect producers and people who are involved with normal animal husbandry as part of their lives.

Third, the bill fails to maintain animals as property. It moves them to the criminal code, which clearly does not need to happen. Canadian agriculture has always been based on the idea of ownership of animals. The government is changing the legal status of animals and it is directly affecting the farmer's position. The legal right to use animals for food production comes from the proprietary rights of farmers and producers to those animals.

This change will lead to a risk of prosecution for farmers. We already have a history of frivolous prosecutions as I think the member for Provencher just mentioned. Drs. Rapley and Wolf of the University of Western Ontario found out about this problem several years ago.

Again one of the animal fanatic groups writes in its literature “This elevation of animals in our moral and legal view is precedent setting and will have far reaching effects”. I find it interesting, as the member for Selkirk--Interlake said, that this lobby group is actively raising money for the government and for the Liberal Party in election campaigns. It makes one wonder for whom this legislation is written. It is certainly not for the Canadian public.

I would like to move on to the second half of the bill which deals with firearms legislation. We are all fairly familiar with Bill C-68 which has been an ongoing joke in parts of the country. It was passed with great fanfare and greater opposition several years ago. It was interesting that a bill that was to have cost $80 million has blossomed into something over $700 million officially. It has apparently has cost around $1 billion so far. It takes $100 million each year to keep this bureaucracy going.

I would to remind some of my colleagues that indeed that could pay for another two new Challenger jets for the cabinet if this was set aside. We have pleaded with the Liberals on the grounds that it could put more police officers on the frontlines. They do not seem interested in hearing that but they may certainly be interested in hearing that it could have two additional Challenger jets.

The government continues to tout its polling. We heard yesterday that the majority of people apparently support Bill C-68 but that in fact is not true. If people are told that something was free and then asked if they want it, they will usually say yes. On the issue of gun control, if we asked people if they knew that this was going to cost $1 billion, that it would continue to climb and would they support it, we would get a completely different answer, which is that most Canadians do not support it and have no interest in supporting it.

The bill and the amendments to it have been a complete failure. I find it interesting that the government now admits that it has 320,000 plus gun owners who have not yet registered. We do not know what the real number is. The government has always lowered those figures, so it is probably far more than that.

Even more interesting than that, since January of this year the government has lost 38,000 gun owners. It decided it was going to run this free registration of guns for people and sent notices to the people who had already registered. As it turned out, the 38,000 certificates that went out to gun owners were returned by the post office. Somehow those people are lost. That is just one example of how the legislation has been a complete failure.

As well, six provinces and two territories continue to oppose Bill C-68. I find it interesting that non-residents can be exempted from the Firearms Act but not Canadian citizens under the amendments. I guess the question is: what is equal protection and equal benefit under the law?

Fourth, aboriginal groups have just said that they will continue to ignore Bill C-68. The government obviously has no intention of holding them accountable.

I have a few statistics I found interesting because Statistics Canada keeps a very close watch on Canadians. I will read a couple of those dealing with the gun registration.

Of the 542 homicides in Canada in 2000, stabbing, beating and strangulation accounted for 58% of them and firearms for less than one third of them. It is fairly obvious that violent individuals are the problem more than are the guns.

Of the 183 firearms homicides in 2000: 58% were committed with handguns which is interesting because handguns have been registered since 1934 so obviously the registration is working very well; 8% were committed with firearms that are completely prohibited; and 31% were committed with a rifle or shotgun.

The 67 years of registering handguns demonstrates that registration is a complete flop. Despite 67 years of mandatory handgun registration, the use of handguns in firearms homicides has been increasing since 1974. Conversely, firearms homicides with rifles and shotguns that were not registered dropped steadily over the same 27 year period. It makes a sane person wonder why the government would commit 1,800 staff and waste more than $700 million trying to register these rifles and shotguns.

Of the 110 handgun homicides committed between 1997 and 2000, 69% of the guns were not even registered. This is despite the fact that the law has been in effect since 1934. Does the failure of gun registration as an effective government policy get any more obvious than this?

However there may be another suggestion. In 2000, 67% of persons accused of homicide had a criminal record and 69% of them had previously been convicted of violent crimes. At the same time, 52% of homicide victims also had criminal records. Obviously the government is hitting the wrong target by requiring innocent farmers, hunters and recreational shooters to register their firearms. Criminals are the real target, not duck hunters. The government made the wrong choice six years ago and it is making the wrong one again.

I will quote Ontario Solicitor General Bob Runciman who told the Senate standing committee in 1995 that in national terms $85 million, which was the initial estimate, would put 1,000 customs agents on the border, $500 million would put an extra 5,900 police officers on the street. The federal alternative is to use the money to register every shotgun and bolt action .22 in Canada. It takes no great brilliance to figure out which would have a greater impact on crime.

There are a dozen other problems with the legislation. I guess for years judges have complained that the firearms legislation is so poorly drafted that they cannot even understand it or make it enforceable.

I want to read one of the amendments in the bill and see if anyone here can figure out what it is talking about. Plain English might be a little better.

Subclause 10(3) says the following:

Section 2 of the Act is amended by adding the following after subsection (2):

(2.1) Sections 5, 9, 54 to 58, 67, 68 and 70 to 72 apply in respect of a carrier as if each reference in those sections to a chief firearms officer were a reference to the Registrar and for the purposes of applying section 6 in respect of a carrier, paragraph 113(3)(b) of the Criminal Code applies as if the reference in that section to a chief firearms officer were a reference to the Registrar.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals and Firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

An hon. member

Try to obey that law.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals and Firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

David Anderson Canadian Alliance Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Try to obey that law, exactly. It was taken to a lawyer and it took one lawyer more than two hours to try to figure out exactly what that section was trying to say and what it was trying to fix.

Changes to the process, the authority and the documentation of the transfer of firearms between dealers and individuals and between individuals are extremely unclear. Even with these amendments it does not help. If these amendments are passed without change it will result in ever escalating error rates, and I talked about those a little in the gun registry, making it even more useless to the police than it is already.

The amendments in the firearms legislation use the words prescribed and regulation somewhat near 30 times. All these words mean is that the government does not know exactly what the amendments mean or how they are to be enacted or enforced. It will just leave these important questions until later, until it gets outside parliament where we do not have the opportunity to debate them.

It used the same technique 75 times in Bill C-68 and we have seen how good the results were in that bill.

Bill C-15B does other things like transfer the powers to a provincial minister to exempt employees and businesses from applications of the Firearms Act. It gives any designated firearms officer any of the duties and functions of the chief firearms officer. The act gives the CFO a considerable amount of power, even some of the powers of a provincial minister.

The bill amends the definition of a firearm. The government is trying to ensure that millions of air guns and pellet rifles will no longer be considered firearms under this law, which they have been up until now if one can possibly imagine that. Our children are not even allowed to go out and go clinking because their guns are considered to be firearms under the legislation.

This new wording is confusing. The definition has not achieved its objective. In fact some legal interpretations say paint ball markers will now become firearms.

In 1995 the justice minister ignored 250 amendments proposed by our party. The government ignored many of the substantive amendments proposed by the Liberal dominated standing committee at the time. It has taken five years and $600 million for the government to see that it has made mistakes.

We have an admission of how well it has worked with the fact that this legislation has come back to the House this time. The government has had to introduce a 20 page bill and 160 clauses of amendments to try to correct its previous legislation.

Actually it has worked so well that the government had to rebate the fees to register guns. The government has gone out to the provinces and said that it will make that free. It charged people $18, then turned around and said it would make it free. It had to rebate the money to the people at an estimated cost of $25 each. So that was another real money maker for this program. No wonder the bill continues to climb.

Yesterday the parliamentary secretary gave us a warning that we should heed. I would suggest that what he said threatens the freedom of all Canadians. The quote that I think I accurately heard was that the success of Bill C-15B builds on the success of the firearms legislation so far. There are two mistakes there. First, Bill C-68 has been a complete failure. Second, Bill C-15B continues that way of error.

What concerned me more than that was that he then said that this would lead to the next step which was the fulfillment of the United Nations firearm protocol. This protocol calls for the removal of all firearms from all civilians, that means every Canadian except for the police and the military.

Interestingly enough, this has been taken up by at least two cabinet ministers. When Bill C-68 was brought in, the minister of justice apparently said that and this fall one of the other cabinet ministers said that as well. Canadians need to understand that the noose is tightening, not loosening, on their ability to own guns and on their gun ownership. Actually, I would suggest to Canadians that the government is in fact coming to take their guns.

Ironically, one thing the bill does is it encourages people to use guns, at the same time the government is trying to stop that. There is an infamous use it or lose it provision that is built into the bill. The section gives the CFO the authority to refuse or revoke a licence and a registration for restricted firearms if the owner cannot prove the firearm was used for the purpose for which it was originally purchased. If the person originally bought it for target shooting and if it could be proven that it was not used for that but was used fairly regularly, the authority would be able to remove the gun from the owner.

The government has widened that a little so that it only changes to include any purpose at all listed in section 28. People need to be aware that the clause is there.

There are a number of other critical areas that are not addressed in the bill. They include things like the criminalization of paperwork. If paperwork is sent in and there is an honest mistake in it or if the people employed at the firearms centre make a mistake, then it is the individual's fault who submitted the paperwork and the person is seen as a criminal.

Second, it gives extended search and seizure powers to the police. The police basically have unlimited powers to come into a person's place of residence and try to force the person to co-operate with them. I think we would find that this is odious to all citizens.

Third, registration has been a problem. It is interesting that people I have talked to have registered several guns. I know one gentleman who registered five weapons. He got back 10 registration certificates. He had more registration certificates than he had guns. I am not sure what people will do with those certificates.

There has been arbitrary prohibition and confiscation. The bill addresses only part of that. If members look at page 15 of the bill, the customs agents at the border are allowed to confiscate guns as people come across the border. They are not obligated to give the guns back, even if the person just wants to return to the country from where they came.

One of the main problems is massive non-compliance. We see the failure of the system. I mentioned earlier that we have lost 38,000 gun owners. I do not know where they have gone to, but they have moved from their addresses and the government cannot find them.

We have large concerns about privatization. As this is privatized who will be responsible for keeping the important information dealing with this system?

I would like to suggest that the Alliance does have some positive suggestions dealing with the legislation. We presented a large number of good amendments. We would suggest that it keep part XI in the code as it is presently. We would ask the government to resist turning this agenda over to those people who have no connection and little understanding of animal rights. It is interesting that there was no consultation with the producers, farmers and those people who are involved actively with animals.

We would ask that the government leave the definition of animal undefined, that it increase the penalties as in part XI of the code and, uniquely, that it begin to apply and actually enforce the law.

That has been the main problem with the law up to now, the animal rights part of it in particular. They have not applied the penalties that are there and people have turned around and said that the legislation is defective. If they increase the penalties and have the heart to apply those penalties in the animal rights areas, the legislation will work. We look forward to that.

As my colleague from Esquimalt--Juan de Fuca said, it is important that we defeat this bill. We certainly look forward to doing that in the near future.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals and Firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Howard Hilstrom Canadian Alliance Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, on April 3 the Dairy Farmers of Canada wrote a letter to me stating that they are very opposed to this bill. The animal rights organizations, including organizations like the Winnipeg Humane Society, have taken direct aim at livestock production.

I would like to talk about chickens for one second. It is deemed that it is cruel to chickens to debeak them which is done when they are being raised in order that they do not attack each other. The cages they are raised in are considered to be cruel. The use of antibiotic growth promoters is considered to be cruel to chickens because it makes them grow a little faster than they would naturally. It is also believed that suspending a chicken upside down in the slaughterhouse when it is killed is cruel to chickens. These are agricultural issues.

I have corresponded with Liberal members. I have a letter that states:

As a farmer, I can say with conviction that whether you raise chickens, pan-Canadian historically significant Canadian horses, or engage in other agricultural pursuits, federal law must not prevent the practice of legitimate and industry recognized activities.

When there is a free vote in the House, how should a member vote in regard to this kind of legislation if one is standing up for agriculture? I am referring to the member for Dufferin--Peel--Wellington--Grey. I would like to see that member stand up for his constituents.

I would also like to see the minister of agriculture stand up for agriculture. We have heard nothing from him in all this time concerning the fact that he should be against this kind of legislation which is bad for farmers and agriculture.

Maybe sometime we will hear from the agriculture minister that he too is opposed to this legislation. It will dramatically lower the incomes of farmers at the same time as he is trying to bring in programs that would raise the incomes of farmers. On one hand he is supporting legislation that is ruining farmers' incomes, including those of some members of the House who raise chickens, but at the same time he is asking what he can do to help farmers out. Could the member comment on that please?

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals and Firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

David Anderson Canadian Alliance Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I find it interesting that the legislation in section 182.2 states:

(1) Everyone commits an offence who, wilfully or recklessly,(b) kills an animal or, being the owner, permits an animal to be killed, brutally or viciously, regardless of whether the animal dies immediately

I find that interesting. I know that animal rights groups are going to bring that in. They are going to try to redefine the idea of what brutally or viciously is. It was not included in the previous legislation. There is no reason for it to be included in this legislation.

On the issue of whether government members will stand and oppose the bill, I would ask that the rural members show some of the backbone they claim they have every time before we go into a vote. I would ask that they vote against the bill. Clearly it is in the worst interests of their constituents if they have farmers or ranchers who will be affected by this. I certainly would expect that those people who are involved directly in primary production, as is my friend from Dufferin--Peel--Wellington--Grey, as he so eloquently lets us know on a regular basis, would do the right thing. I know he will do the right thing.

I agree with my colleague it is important that the minister of agriculture take a leadership role on this issue. Why should those of us in opposition continually have to raise the issues that are important to rural people and to farmers and ranchers?

The minister of agriculture is supposed to represent the interests of those people. It would be a big step for him to take the lead on a bill like this one, or on another bad bill such as Bill C-5 which is the species at risk bill. Many people across Canada are asking that someone take the lead on it. The Canadian Alliance has done that. We ask that the rural members on the other side and the minister of agriculture stand and defend producers' interest there as well.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals and Firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.


Murray Calder Liberal Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think the member for Cypress Hills--Grasslands knows full well that as the chair of the national rural caucus I have repeatedly led the charge on trying to get a better deal from the government for rural Canada which includes farmers. The member for Selkirk--Interlake is a former RCMP officer. He will be able to tell the member for Cypress Hills--Grasslands whether or not what I am about to say is correct.

The member is talking about frivolous vexatious charges. The process that is laid out in Bill C-15A which would deal with the type of charges that could come from Bill C-15-B is very simple. If somebody does not like the way I am operating my chicken farm, he or she can go to a justice of the peace to lay a charge. The justice of the peace then takes the charge to the judge and the crown attorney. They look at the charge and say whether or not it will stand up in court. The member for Selkirk--Interlake knows full well from his past experience that a crown justice will not go to court unless he has a really good chance of winning the case.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals and Firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

An hon. member

It is not his case.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals and Firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.


Murray Calder Liberal Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey, ON

No, but it will have to be his case to charge in court.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals and Firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order. We are getting somewhere here and a great deal of interest has been sparked, but let us do this in an orderly fashion. The member for Dufferin--Peel--Wellington--Grey.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals and Firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.


Murray Calder Liberal Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey, ON

My question for the member for Cypress Hills--Grasslands is very simple. Given that is the process, how does he think he can improve it, or does he think it works?

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals and Firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

April 11th, 2002 / 3:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

David Anderson Canadian Alliance Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I find it interesting that the member is demonstrating how little he understands rural people and rural agriculture. He may have the money to challenge people in court, but many of the people I know are under pressure primarily because of the government's policies and they do not have the money to fool around in court like that.

I would challenge him to walk the walk instead of just talking the talk. I expect that when we vote on the bill at third reading, he will have the courage of his convictions and will stand up to vote against this bad piece of legislation.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals and Firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Canadian Alliance Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, I was quite interested to hear the comments on Bill C-15-A. It sets up a whole new system of preliminary hearings and will in fact cost farmers more money. Maybe the chicken farmers have more money than other farmers, but I represent a lot of chicken farmers in my riding and I know they do not have the time nor the money to spend on frivolous prosecutions, which they will have to go to court to defend even to get the charge thrown out in that whole preliminary hearing system.

I want to focus on the issue of gophers. I have heard all kinds of discussion about the protection of gophers in other speeches.

When I was young I worked on my uncle's farm. There were two ways to get rid of gophers. One was with a .22. If we did not have the ammunition or the money to buy a .22, the other way was to put water down the hole. When the gopher came up, we disposed of the gopher in the most expeditious way. I am not saying that is the best way to get rid of gophers, but I know that gophers are a huge problem for farmers in western Canada.

Perhaps the member could tell us a little bit about the problems caused to livestock and even humans falling down the gopher holes and breaking their legs.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals and Firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

David Anderson Canadian Alliance Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, one of the things I want to point out about gophers which again goes back to the gun registration is that people have been trying to adhere to the regulations. There is a 1-800 number they are supposed to call which has been a complete failure. I told some of my constituents I would mention that. I want to make a point of it. It is important that the justice ministry understands that it has been a complete failure.

I also want to talk about the situation in western Canada. This spring we are looking at some very serious things. One of them is gophers. Last spring we had an invasion of gophers. We will continue to have that. We will have other problems as well with drought. There is a chance there will be a lot of grasshoppers in the area. I wanted to make the House aware of some of those things.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals and Firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant Hill Canadian Alliance Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thought I would take a few moments to talk about Bill C-15.

I consider there is a bit of a victory in the bill. My colleagues across the way will be surprised when they hear that. The victory is we started out with Bill C-15. Bill C-15 was an omnibus bill. That omnibus bill had some subjects in it that had nothing whatever to do with agriculture. The victory is that we had the omnibus bill split into two.

One part related to child pornography. That bill was handled very expeditiously in the House.

I give credit to the minister opposite who did that, who listened to the opposition, who forcefully said that an omnibus bill that had many different elements would not allow us to vote fairly. I believe that was a victory for democracy and a victory for the processes in the House. I started with the only positive comments I am going to make directed toward the minister.

I consider myself to be a nature lover, a naturalist. I am an individual who spends quite a bit of my free time outdoors. I am also a pet lover. I have a great interest in pets. We have a dog in our home at present, a cute little Jack Russell Terrier pup called Lloyd. Lloyd, being a pet at home, is very popular, especially with my wife. When I am away from home, this little dog warns her if there is someone around or some animals around and she feels more comfortable. I say that to express my particular feeling about pets and about animals.

I have spent a lot of time hunting. I had a black Labrador Retriever that I trained myself. That dog gave me enormous enjoyment. We would spend many hours together. I taught that dog how to sit, stay, come and go after the pheasants I sought. His name was Sam Hill. Some very interesting commentary has been made about the name Sam Hill. I wanted to name him Boot, but Boot Hill did not seem entirely appropriate.

I will use that preface to say I believe that cruelty to animals and pets is awful and should be punished. It should be punished vigorously. I preface my comments with that, my love for animals, my love for pets and my feeling that animal cruelty is wrong.

I believe however that the bill has taken an approach that is not correct, not accurate, not proper. I will talk about my concerns related to the bill.

Concerns have been directed toward me as an MP who has a very large rural constituency primarily of individuals with livestock, farmers and ranchers. That is one area of significant concern for me as their representative.

The second area of concern relates to medical research. Since I have a medical background and have had quite a bit to do with medical research, the concerns that have been expressed to me by my medical colleagues are significant.

Fishermen, hunters and trappers have also been quite prominent in the letters that I have received in relation to the bill.

Because my colleagues have spent a lot of time on the rural aspects of this issue, let me focus my initial comments on medical research. There is a value toward experimentation that relates to the animal kingdom. I will give some examples.

The use of new medication that has not been tried on humans is often experimentally used on animals. Much of the initial research on stem cells has come from the animal model. I am particularly interested in the use of adult stem cell research and that has borne significant fruit.

Environmental effects on humans is often tested in a way that is gentle and kind and not cruel relating to animals.

I have listened to a number of individuals. I received a letter from an animal activist not so long ago. She wrote that she loved animals more than she loved humans. That sentiment frankly drives some of the individuals who are animal activists.

I do not feel that way. I value humans more than I value animals. The use of animals in medical research is a profound way of protecting humankind. I am quite concerned when my medical colleagues who do animal research are put in a position where they could be not only criticized but prosecuted due to the way the bill is laid out.

Ethical standards for animal research must be fair and they must provide protection for the animals so that there is nothing improper done. Frankly the bill is not adequate in that regard.

I would like to talk briefly about the ranchers that I represent in my riding of Macleod. This is the southwest corner of Alberta in which some of the major ranches exist. I have yet to have one single member of the ranching community express to me satisfaction with the approach of the bill. This is really quite significant because if we do not have the support of those who are the husbands of our livestock, we do not have the support of the main components of those who look after livestock.

My riding is in the west, in the foothills approaching the mountains. It is some of the finest grasslands. There are thousands of ranchers in the area. One would think that I would have one that might say the bill is appropriate, but there has not been a single one and I am in touch with many of them.

Here are the activities that ranchers undertake with their cattle: they brand them, they ear tag them, they vaccinate them, they deworm them, they castrate them, and they squeeze them. They tell me that any one of those activities taken out of context could be criticized as cruel and they believe affected by the legislation.

We represent a huge number of rural constituents. We have sought mechanisms to be certain that these practices would be set aside as normal practices of industry. The amendments we sought that would have done that have been denied us.

The rancher is in a position of authority when it relates to the livestock. That position of authority is one that could be abused. An abuse of that authority should not be tolerated. However their practices are well established and time honoured and I object to the way they can be criticized.

It is not good enough frankly to just criticize a bill and say that it is not sufficient. I believe in being constructive in that regard. We have looked at the broad ways the bill could be and should be improved. I will go over, in a broad sense, where those improvements should have come.

Taking property rights and making them criminal is inappropriate unless the defence for these offences would follow. That has not taken place in the legislation. That leaves those medical researchers and ranchers who may be charged under the act, and it will happen as sure as I stand here, with defences that are less powerful than they should have.

We just heard in the interchange between members about private prosecutions and the frivolous nature of those private prosecutions. I listened to the member for Dufferin--Peel--Wellington--Grey say that it would be easy for them to be reviewed by a judge.

I have had very little to do with the judicial system, thankfully, but I do know that our judges are profoundly busy and this is not an extra duty that they should have and not an extra duty that they should be asked to entertain. There should have been a review of frivolous prosecutions by the attorney general of each province. That frivolous review would very quickly be set aside. We asked for a review by the attorney general of each province to prevent frivolity and it was denied.

The big improvement was the protection of general industry standards when it came to our ranchers and farmers. That would be so straightforward. Activities such as branding and ear tagging that I mentioned earlier could easily have been looked after in that regard.

I spent a fair amount of time on the animal cruelty portions of the bill but as a representative of rural Canada I would be remiss if I did not talk a bit about the firearms component.

I have vigorously debated against the registration of firearms and I stand here vindicated in some of that criticism. When I originally debated this with the justice minister of the day I said to him as plainly as I could that costs were not being accurately reflected. I did that because I had gone to other jurisdictions that had gone down this road, particularly New Zealand and some states in Australia, and was told that the costs had ballooned. The cost factor was predicted. I am not proud to say this but I feel vindicated in saying that the costs were not properly given to Canadians. The costs have been enormous and have gone up.

The other thing I said to the justice minister at that time was that the compliance rate would be poor. That has not been proven yet because there is no legislation in place to finally force everyone into registering their firearms. To be legal an individual needs an acquisition certificate or a possession certificate.

I am saying again that the compliance rate on firearms registration will not be what is required in order to get the result that the justice minister wanted. We need 100% compliance by all honest citizens to pick out dishonest citizens. I will tell the justice minister again that the compliance rate will never approach 100%. I say that knowing there are constituents of mine who simply do not know where their firearms are today. They do not know where they are because they are certain that the idea of confiscation is there.

The other thing I said to the justice minister was that the bill would have no impact on criminal misuse of firearms. There would be no decrease in suicides. There would be no decrease in murders with long guns. I stand by that statement. I will say it to everyone who will listen. Statistically I know this will not take place by looking at other jurisdictions that tried firearms registration and by looking at what pistol registration has done to criminal misuse, murders and suicides. There has been no impact.

The bill is trying to improve firearms registration and I suppose I should say good luck. I am using this as a platform to say that long gun registration in Canada has been a failure and will continue to be a failure. I wish there could have been a sunset clause in the legislation. I would feel better if there was a sunset clause stating that if there had been no decrease in criminal misuse the bill would be tossed into the dustbin of history.

The only thing that will replace the Firearms Act is a change of government. A change of government is necessary. It will be a sad thing depending on how deeply we go into the hole as it relates to firearms registration in this country.

Let me summarize what I have said on Bill C-15B. It is a victory for those of us who felt the omnibus bill that preceded it was far too broad. The bill was split off and the child pornography section was passed quickly. I do believe that Bill C-15B should have been substantially amended and still could be substantially amended. I stand firmly on that.

I talked about my medical colleagues involved in medical research as being singled out and potentially prosecuted by the bill. I talked about farmers and ranchers in my riding, none of whom support the bill. I predict that they will be prosecuted under the bill as surely as I stand here for things such as branding and dehorning, which are standard practices on farms and ranches.

I am saying that the firearms registration provisions in this country today will be and have been ineffective. They will not be complied with by legitimate honest citizens. The costs are enormous and there will be no impact on the criminal misuse of firearms.

I wish to say a few words on the issue of the medical community and biomedical research. In my training as a surgeon I was involved in the use of animals in a vivisection sense. This was to allow someone doing surgery to actually operate on live tissue rather than doing the dissection that we did on tissue that was preserved. This allowed me, as a young budding surgeon, to be more adept with dissection, identification of nerve tissue and artery, and all the other tissues that are available.

I have had individuals say to me that is a complete total disregard for animals. I object to that. As I said before, I believe there are priorities there. Would anybody like me, as a young surgeon, to not have been experienced with tissue and to experience tissue on their child for the first time doing surgery?

Therefore I say to the animal activists who themselves will someday face surgery, this is one of those practical issues in research in which the use of animals and the use of invertebrates in some cases is valuable for the medical community. I really want to stress that.

I talked about the ethical standards, the fair use of animals to be certain there was no ethical behaviour. That is quite important. I have been able to tour some of the labs that raise animals used in medical research. I have been surprised by how clean and how gentle the animals are treated. They are treated with respect and dignity. That is quite appropriate.

Do I give any credit to the animal activists for that? Yes, I do. Animal activists have a position in this regard in raising public awareness of practices in that regard. Those individuals who are nature lovers and naturalists do take some credit for that and I give them credit for that.

One thing that I do not give them credit for is saying that they love animals more than humans, which is completely inappropriate.

I have not talked much about the definition of animals used in the bill. The definition broadens significantly how animals have been defined in previous legislation. It includes non-human vertebrates and all animals having the capacity to feel pain. I have asked for the definition to be explained to me better. It has not been explained to me well enough for me to understand because every single animal has the capacity to feel pain.

This goes down to the very tiny cell. Cellular animals have the ability to feel pain from heat, not the pain that we would normally talk about from a blow, a scalpel or from a pin prick but from heat. That pain is demonstrated by a withdrawal from that heat. I can see the potential problems of that definition being used in a way that is completely inappropriate.

There are some ethical concerns here as well. They involve issues related to definitions that I believe we have not even considered. In my view, the definition is much too broad. In this legislation we have gone away from animal welfare, which I support, to animal rights. To talk about animal rights is to talk about an area that is very, very dangerous, because there is a hierarchy of activity in this world.

I am opposed to Bill C-15B not on the basis that it goes about trying to prevent cruelty to animals but that it has not ruled out my concerns in relation to animal husbandry, to the ranchers and farmers whom I represent, that it has not adequately represented the concerns of the medical researchers and, finally, that it continues with firearm registration, which is an issue that is completely inappropriate in Canada.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals and Firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, I highly appreciate the depth of knowledge the hon. member has shown in regard to the bill. As a medical doctor, he has a great deal of knowledge about the use of animal tissues.

He also highlighted his views on ethical concerns about branding animals and dehorning animals. I have a degree in agriculture with a specialization in animal sciences. I understand where the member is coming from and I thoroughly appreciate his views. I would like to know how the member, as a surgeon, feels about scientific and experimental use of research animals. I would like to hear his ideas. Most of the scientific development of the last few years has taken place because of investment in research and development.

How does the member compromise his views on scientific research and the experimental aspect of animals and distinguish that from the ethical aspect of animals being used in research and experiments?

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals and Firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant Hill Canadian Alliance Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I do think that the animal activists have had a valuable place in our society. They have tried to make sure that animal experimentation and use of animals is ethical and proper.

Recently I did a little more work on the issue of stem cell research. Of course that is a bill that has come before the House and has ethical, moral and scientific components to it. In that regard I have found the use of animals and animal tissue to have been very profoundly useful for the advancement of this science. It does show me that we can use those tissues and animal science in an ethical and moral way.

I did mention that I believe adult stem cell research has fewer ethical concerns than does embryonic stem cell research. I am very keen to see adult cells used so that we do not have the ethical component that does arise there. My concern in that regard is to remove, as much as we can, any of the ethical concerns the public does have in terms of medical science.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals and Firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Abbott Canadian Alliance Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, again it is my privilege to stand and speak to this bill, although, as with many of the bills that come to us from the Liberals, I can assure everyone that the content of the bill does not contain anything with which I am particularly happy.

The first item that I would like to draw to the attention of members is that in my constituency we have a tremendous number of very responsible firearms owners. They are taking a look at the content of this bill and other provisions that have been brought forward by the Liberals over a period of time with respect to the original bill, Bill C-68, which absolutely makes them want to pull their hair out.

They are looking at the fact, for example, that the government has spent and is in the process of spending more than $700 million on a useless gun registry when in fact the government very proudly talks about the fact that it will be spending $200 million to protect us from terrorism. I think that spending $200 million against terrorists, Osama bin Laden and his ilk, versus $700 million against law-abiding Canadian gun owners is just obscene. I think the tinkering around the edges contained in Bill C-15B is an example of the government making policy and laws on the fly.

The difficulty we have with this is that it is all bits and pieces. This is an omnibus bill. Omnibus, for those who are interested, simply means that it is a catch-all, a bill where the government threw everything into the hat. Originally this was Bill C-15. In this omnibus bill, the government thought it would do more tinkering around the edges with respect to the issue of gun registry. The tinkering around the edges is absolutely inadequate. The only thing we should be doing with respect to the gun registry is immediately withdrawing it and replacing it with measures that would actually make our streets safer.

It must be said that it is understandable that we should know who should be allowed to legally posses and carry firearms. That is logical and totally understandable. I do not see having a licence for that as posing any particular problem. As a matter of fact, it could well be a benefit. It certainly would give the prosecutors and the police in Canada the ability to take action under law that might be required to diffuse particular situations. The whole issue of this useless registry is that it is sending millions and millions of dollars completely down the drain. I say with respect to Bill C-15B and the whole issue of the tinkering with the firearms registry that it is an absolute waste of time and an absolute waste of money.

I also mentioned that the bill is designated as Bill C-15B as opposed to Bill C-15A, which supposedly we will be discussing at some future point in this parliament, because what the government did at the outset was create a grab bag of things that do not relate to each other in any way, shape or form. For example, what indeed does cruelty to animals have to do with the gun registry? I do not see any connection there at all.

Bill C-15A supposedly also has to do with protecting children, and we will be having a debate about that later, as well as the whole issue of safety for police officers. What does that have to do with cruelty to animals? Only when the Canadian Alliance dug in its heels and said no, it would not be going that route, and this goes back to last June, did it finally force the government into a situation where a legitimate vote could take place on the issue of Bill C-15B, primarily on the issue of cruelty to animals.

The fact that it decided to continue to have the catch-all of the change with respect to gun registry still contained in Bill C-15B was something that was really quite unfortunate, but nonetheless those are the choices that the government made.

What does the bill do? First, with respect to cruelty to animals, there is not a person in the House, much less anyone in the Canadian Alliance, who would not want to see the protection of animals. Of course we do. Any humane human being does. The stated purpose of the bill is to consolidate animal cruelty offences and increase the maximum penalties. It also provides the definition of animal and moves cruelty to animals provisions from part XI of the criminal code, property offences.

A couple of days ago when we were speaking at report stage on this, I drew out the point, and I draw it out again, that if we are moving the cruelty to animals provisions from part XI of the criminal code, property offences, to another part of the criminal code, that is not just incidental. I pointed out, hopefully fairly forcefully, that an animal is an animal, a human is a human and a human may own an animal. That is pretty simple and straightforward, but not in the minds of animal activists, particularly extreme animal activists. That is what the Canadian Alliance Party and I are concerned about. We are concerned about the fact that if the definition of animal is removed from property offences and put into a different section, this will really open up the door to the potential of vexatious prosecution.

We have been told not to worry about it, that no crown prosecutors would do anything like that, but I had some action take place in my constituency under Bill C-68, which of course is also covered under Bill C-15. That is why I am speaking to it. We had police who unfortunately exercised authority in an area in which they had no right to exercise authority. Not only was the gun owner in this instance personally out of pocket for the cost of the lawyer, that owner was also personally out of pocket for the cost of a door being broken down. There was no authority. Finally when the matter went to court, at great expense I should say, we ended up with a situation where the judge said the police should not have done that. In other words, whenever there is new legislation there is always a trial of the new legislation, either by the police or, secondly, by the prosecution.

Where are we going by removing animal provisions from part XI of the criminal code? What has changed since Bill C-17, which also dealt with these issues? The government has made certain changes from the previously proposed legislation dealing with cruelty to animals, Bill C-17. The main change was the requirement for a person to act “wilfully or recklessly” in killing or harming animals.

However, many organizations, businesses and individuals still have significant concerns with respect to the bill. Who are they? Agricultural groups, farmers, industry workers and medical researchers have consistently said they welcome amendments to the criminal code that would clarify and strengthen provisions relating to animal cruelty and that they do not condone intentional animal abuse or neglect in any way. Many of these groups in fact support the intent of the bill, as the Canadian Alliance and I do, as its objective is to modernize the law and increase penalties for offences relating to animal cruelty and neglect. However, and this is the however, despite the minor improvements to the legislation, these groups advise that the bill requires significant amendments before their concerns are alleviated.

The Liberals have a terrible tendency that I have noted particularly of late. Perhaps it comes from smugness or complacency or the fact that they feel they know everything and what is best for everybody. I do not know what it is. However we end up with recommendations for legislation, whether it is in Bill C-15B or Bill C-15A, or the species at risk act, SARA, that are heartfelt recommendations that reflect the values and concerns of the people to whom we answer. Liberals just stonewall them or at the very best they take them, tinker with them, pound them down, make them almost useless and then insert them. Then they say “See we made the amendment that you want”.

One of the central concerns with this 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 phrase “legal justification or excuse and with colour of right” in section 429(2) of the criminal code currently provides protection to those who commit any kind of property offence. Note the word “property”. 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 those provisions outside of the ambit of that protection.

Our party asked that the government members make the defences in section 429(2) explicit in the new legislation and they refused. This is the kind of pattern that I was talking about where we make any kind of reasonable arguments and we are just simply refused out of hand.

Moving the animal cruelty section out of the ambit of property offences to a new section in its own right is also seen by many as emphasizing animal rights as opposed to animal welfare. I know this is the third or fourth or perhaps the fifth time that I have said it, but those who choose not to listen try to say that I and the people in my party are not concerned about animal welfare. Nothing could be further from the truth. What we want to ensure is animal welfare. What we want to avoid is animal rights.

This significant alteration in the underlying principles of the legislation is something that needs to be carefully considered. The Canadian Alliance asked the government members to retain the cruelty to animals provision in the property offences section of the criminal code but it refused. This is not a small issue. This is a giant issue.

I say again, I and every member of my party are concerned about animal welfare. We support the bill in its intent to protect animal welfare. We reject the bill in terms of animal rights because we know where that is going. We know under animal rights that there are many activists. We have seen them, we have heard of them, we have seen their publicity and we have seen some of their very vicious and dangerous activity in which they have become engaged. We must stay away from it. Yet the government will not do anything about it.

Many groups are concerned that elevating the status of animals from property could in fact have significant and detrimental implications for many legitimate animal dependent businesses. Another major and very serious concern is that the definition of animal is too broad, it is too subjective and it is too ambiguous.

That is so typical of the kind of legislation that the Liberals consistently bring forward. What did I say it was? It was too broad. It was too ambiguous. That is so typical of just about every piece of legislation.

In committee just yesterday we were discussing Bill S-7, which by the way came to us through the back door from the other place. The bill is so incomplete and is such a skeletal kind of issue. I asked the Liberals in the committee how in the world could we possibly pass something like that. I asked how we could even be discussing something like it when we did not know what the rules, the regulations, the implications would be. There is no meat, there is no muscle, there is no sinew on the bones of the words that are on that piece of paper.

Of course the Liberals said they would get around to it, to just give them some time. They said they would go to the CRTC, have some hearings and after the House rubber stamped it they would then know what the legislation would be; years after.

I cite another example in my particular critic role, that of blank recording medium. When that was brought forward in 1997, we were told it would be 25¢ charge per cassette. Five years later in the year 2002, the 25¢ per cassette charge somehow has gone to $200 to $400 per machine on equipment that now has the capacity to record more. Twenty-five cents to $400 strikes me as a bit of a jump.

I say with respect to Bill C-15B, the difficulty we have with it is we simply do not know where it is going because of the imprecision of the definition of animal. The definition marks a significant departure, by providing protection for an extremely wide range of living organisms that have never before been afforded this kind of legal protection. Where is that going? What are the unintended consequences of that? That is a statement of fact, we have no idea where it is going.

In terms of practical difficulties on how this definition is worded, it could potentially cause enormous problems by extending the criminal law to invertebrates, cold-blooded species such as fish, as well as an extremely wide variety of other types of both domestic and wild animals.

There is nothing in the mind of somebody who is an aggressive activist that would amaze me. Aggressive activists will take a look at this legislation and will push it as far as they can conceivably push it. Is it possible that somebody could be harassed by an activist, potentially by somebody in uniform who has an overzealous approach to things, a conservation officer or whomever? Is it not possible that somebody working with fish could end up with a problem because it is not precise?

The Canadian Alliance asked the government members to delete or modify this definition but they refused. In her speech at second reading, the justice minister assured us that what was lawful today in the course of legitimate activities would be lawful when the bill received royal assent. She promised the House that these changes would not in any way negatively affect the many legitimate activities that involve animals, such as hunting, farming, medical or scientific research.

The minister's statement was self-evident but misleading. Of course the new provisions will not prevent legitimate activities from being carried out. The law only proscribes illegal activities. The problem is and therefore the concern is that these new provisions arguably narrow the scope of what constitutes legitimate activities.

I say again on behalf of the people of Kootenay--Columbia, I have a wonderful group of people in my constituency. We are about 82,000 people strong. We are the backbone of Canada. These are people who love animals. These are people who understand the relationship between animals and nature. These are the hunters. These are the people who go fishing. These are the people who look after the environment in which these animals live. These are the farmers. These are the ranchers. These are the pet owners who treat their animals with respect, as every member of my party does and I do. On their behalf, I stand here and say that this bill must be voted in the negative.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals and Firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Canadian Alliance Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to associate myself with the sentiments expressed by my colleague regarding the critically important distinction between animal rights and animal welfare. While I understand that the bill does not explicitly define an entitlement of animals to rights, we know based on the experience of our charter and judicial activism over the past two decades that there is a tendency in this country for legal activists to consciously expand the meaning of legislation to the point where it no longer in any way resembles the original intent of parliament, particularly with respect to putative rights claims.

In support of my colleague's contention, I would point out the fact that there is a strong and growing movement within certain spheres of academia by certain so-called rights theorists, such as the new head of bioethics at Princeton University, the ignominious Peter Singer, to define animal rights as carrying the same moral quality as human rights. In fact, Dr. Singer proposes that a pig carries more rights than a newborn human infant and in fact has published articles to this effect in prestigious international academic journals. The notion articulated by my colleague is not an outlandish one. In fact, it is very much rooted in new post-modern ethical theories that are being articulated in major western universities. Therefore, the spectre of animal rights is very much a prescient one which should concern all of us in this bill.

I would also point out, in support of my colleague's argument, that the entire tradition of western civilization, the entire intellectual edifice, is predicated in part on the idea that there is a difference in kind and not degree between human beings and animals. While we are all creatures of a common God, mankind is created in the image of that God who grants animals to us for our stewardship. This is an idea which is consistent in every tradition of moral philosophy, from the ancient Hebrew scribes through to the classical Greek philosophers. Aristotle in De Animus articulated this. Thomas Aquinas articulated this in Summa Theologica . Even the enlightenment thinkers such as John Locke articulated the very clear moral distinction between man and beast, to use the traditional language. Therefore, I would support my hon. member's contention on that.

I have a question for him based on the broadening of the definition of “animal”, in fact an entrenchment of a definition which heretofore have been left to the common law. Bill C-15B proposes to define animal as including non-human vertebrates and “any other animal having the capacity to feel pain”.

My colleague from Portage--Lisgar, the official opposition justice critic, has raised a very interesting question which I would like to pose to my colleague from Kootenay--Columbia, namely this: given that the courts in Canada have defined the human fetus, prior to full delivery from its mother, as a non-human and given that the human fetus is clearly a living entity of some sort, in fact a vertebrate, and given that the human fetus according to all scientific evidence begins to feel pain from something like six months from the onset of gestation, would my colleague not agree with me that there are at least very strong potential grounds in the bill that advocates for the rights of the unborn human fetus could use it in a way unintended by the government to assert a right of protection against unreasonable pain for the human fetus? I would like him to comment on that.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals and Firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Abbott Canadian Alliance Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is quite an amazing question and not a simple one. My speculation, because I am not a lawyer, would be that his thesis certainly would have some validity. As he says, a vertebrate, other than a human being and any other animal that has the capacity to feel pain, does not take a giant leap from that point to where he has arrived.

As I indicated in my presentation, I am concerned primarily with the fact that we are going into uncharted and unknown territory with the bill. The examples I used, with which I am personally familiar from my critic role, are such that I think I have expanded to the point of this being a pattern of the government where it creates a skeleton, does not know where the skeleton will go, does not put any muscle, sinew, fat or skin on the skeleton, and then lets the courts work it out. Therein lies the problem.

Although we sometimes accuse the courts in Canada of being activists, in fact they are not activists. They are simply doing the bidding of the Liberals where the Liberals are deficient, incapable of bringing forward proper, meaningful, well defined legislation, the courts are simply being given a carte blanche. As a matter of fact they have been given a job as a result of Prime Minister Trudeau and the charter and the whole charter industry that we presently have.

Certainly that was a very profound question from my colleague. I have no idea where it will go but it is certainly food for thought.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals and Firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, I fully condone the sentiments expressed by my hon. colleague. He worked hard on the bill to cover a diverse range of issues and answered the technical, tough question asked by another colleague.

This particular bill is very compassionate because we have to deal with those who cannot defend themselves, the animals with which human beings have had a relationship for a very long time. We have been cohabitating with animals for such a long time that animals' rights, bioethics and those things are becoming important to the civilized society we live in.

The welfare of animals completely depends on the human race. We have a sort of symbiotic relationship with many species of animals. When we domesticate animals we have an emotional respect for our pets.

However, sometimes it is very difficult to draw a line when we look at the professionalism of working animals and those kinds of things. It is a different issue for some people if we look at the different aspects of dealing with animals, for example the transporting of animals. When we transport chickens they are crowded and hungry for long periods of time. Their conditions are so adverse that I received a letter from one of my constituents saying that chickens were flying out of the truck because they were not properly transported.

Similarly there are other ethical concerns such as the pornographic issue of animals having sexual acts with animals. It is very difficult to draw a line between bioethics, harassment and cruelty to animals.

I would like to ask my hon. colleague if he could throw some light on the harassment, cruelty or offensive types of human behaviour toward animals.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals and Firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Abbott Canadian Alliance Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am not chicken but I want to make it perfectly clear that I and the people of the riding of Kootenay--Columbia are totally opposed to bestiality.

Because of the way in which the legislation has been put together; the fact that we could very well have researchers under siege, as we presently have in many parts of the world; the fact that ranchers, farmers and pet owners could be under siege, along with the researchers, the bill is just an ill-thought out piece of legislation.

The bill must be defeated and yet I rather suspect that the whip will be on with the Liberals. Once again they will pull forward with this legislation and once again we will create a situation of more work for the charter industry.

I congratulate the Liberals. They have done their job. They have kept the lawyers employed.