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

11:30 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Roy H. Bailey Canadian Alliance Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Madam Speaker, this party has long been saying that we want increased penalties for those people who abuse or do not properly feed their pets.

I will tell my colleague that people sometimes only get a general picture and think it is a wonderful thing. However if they really looked at it and were given an explanation of what it means to people living in the country, then I am quite sure they would not support it.

I will provide a case in point. On the 20th anniversary of the charter of rights, a questionnaire went out asking people whether they agreed with the charter of rights. A high percentage said they did. However, if those same people were asked whether they knew anything about the charter of rights, the response would have been a low number.

I remember as a boy that people who were cruel to animals were reported. We want it to be quicker than that. We want it to be well known that people who are cruel to animals, be it a cat, a cow a horse, will face severe penalties.

What we are saying is that we do not want the term cruelty to be left with the definition that the minister chooses to put to it. Cruelty can mean anything. Listening to me right now may be cruelty for the hon. member in the back. All I am saying is that the bill must be applicable to those people who have to live with it.

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

11:35 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Anders Canadian Alliance Calgary West, AB

Madam Speaker, when my colleague from North Vancouver talked about Francis Fox banning satellite dishes a chill ran down my spine because I spent time talking with Francis Fox in Montreal. I believe he is now a vice-president with Cantel. It is shocking to think that he works for a telecommunications company. I hope his view on satellite dishes has changed. However, it sends a deep chill down my spine to think that he stood in this place years ago to ask for a ban on satellite dishes and now he is the vice-president of a telecommunications company. It is scary how this place works.

The question I have for my colleague pertains to his province of Saskatchewan. I recently read about an event known as the gopher derby. This is an event where people try to liquidate as many gophers as they possibly can and collect the tails as proof of their deed. I think the person who gets the most wins some sort of prize. The event is put on by the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation.

I live in a place where gophers are prevalent. Admittedly, I live in the city but when one drives past Nose Hill one will see little gophers eating their little buddies because they are cannibalistic. If a gopher dies or is run over, some of its little buddies will run out onto the road and eat it. We see that all the time when we travel along 14th Street in Nose Hill.

We have some bleeding heart Liberal do-gooders in the cities, like my hon. colleague says, who usually do not have gophers, I will call them the bleeding hearts brigade, who are opposed to people taking out their .22s or their small rifles to hunt gophers and instead prefer the use of strychnine. I do not know why it is but they somehow think using strychnine is a morally superior solution to people hunting gophers with .22s.

In our neck of the woods we think of these things as little varmints. They cause injury to livestock. My colleague mentioned how when animals step into gopher holes they sometimes fracture or break their legs. I have seen that type of thing before and have heard many a tale about it.

What does my hon. colleague think the Prime Minister would do if those prized golf courses of his, which he likes to spend so much time on, were infested with gophers? Let us use the example of the one in Shawinigan which I think he had part ownership in but which he kind of sold, as the story goes on in terms of what his involvement was with that whole Shawinigan affair. Anyway, I wonder how the Prime Minister would react if some of those golf courses he loves so much were infested with gophers.

What does my hon. colleague think about us bringing some gophers from his neck of the woods in Saskatchewan and transplanting them on the Prime Minister's golf course and letting them run wild in a breeding program to aerate the soil? What would the Prime Minister do? Does he think the Prime Minister would then be in favour of a gopher derby?

I will make a comparison. When I was a small child growing up in Winnipeg we had so many mosquitos we could literally wipe down the side of our arms and off would come mosquito debris and our own blood because there were so many of those things. In Newfoundland there is a situation where there are five million, six million, seven million seals off its coast, and the number keeps growing. They are working their way up the rivers to try to find more food. In British Columbia, where I also lived growing up, we had spiders everywhere. Why is it we do not hear about people trying to ban a hunt on spiders? Certainly they did try to do that with the seals but of course it was Europeans who did not have millions of seals on their coasts. We would not have heard Lloyd Axworthy stand up in this place and talk about how we must preserve the mosquito.

What does my colleague think the Prime Minister would do if he had gophers on his golf course?

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

11:40 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Roy H. Bailey Canadian Alliance Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Madam Speaker, I have a little story to tell my colleague. I am not much of a golfer but I did go to the golf club once. At the first tee I took my first swing and I made a hole in one. It went off course, hit a gopher hill and then ran down. No golfer has ever made a hole in one like that.

To answer the question, the owners of the golf club would get rid of the gophers. If this bill passes, those golf courses in gopher country will get rid of the gophers and the government will not go after them. All we need to do to live in comfort with everyone is to take the words that have been said and put them into the legislation. Does the government have the courage to do that?

In closing, how does everyone think we control rats? We feed them a poison which causes them to bleed internally. Nobody has ever mentioned cruelty to rats.

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

11:40 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Fitzpatrick Canadian Alliance Prince Albert, SK

Madam Speaker, I have a few preliminary comments about the firearms registry.

I wish the government would recognize that the firearms registry a totally failed experiment. It was ill-conceived. Let us be honest, it was more about politics than good legislation at the time. It is going nowhere and is costing the country a huge amount of money. It has created another unnecessary bureaucracy in this town and there are enough of those already without more of them.

I would like to relate my experience as a practising lawyer. One of the most troubling problems I encountered was the inadequate protection for people, and women generally, who were stalked or harassed by really dangerous people and quite often because of a marital breakdown. The resources were not in place.

I recall a number of years ago when a new mayor was elected in New York City, one of the most crime infested places in the world. The mayor was elected on a law and order platform. He was going to reduce crime and improve public safety in that city. What did he do? He hired more police officers. What did he do with those police officers? He put them on the streets where the crimes were happening.

Lo and behold, guess what eventually happened? The crime rate in New York City dramatically decreased. He was not filling up prisons with prisoners. He was deterring crime in the first place. Today, if I am correct in my figures, New York City has a lower violent crime rate than any city in Great Britain with 500,000 people or more. That is public safety and is an effective use of public resources.

Why is the government not looking at cancelling a useless program that is costing us a lot of money and instead putting money into useful programs that actually do increase public safety and provide protection to our citizens?

The problem for a lot of our law-abiding citizens is that the government does not protect them. The resources are not in place. It does politically correct things like passing more laws. I think the government believes that if it wanted to make cats bark all it would have to do is pass a law. I am convinced of that. Some of those people over there are unreal.

I practised law for 25 years. I wish I had the time to go through all the useless legislation that has been passed that interferes with our ability to make common sense decisions in our day to day lives.

I want to address the rest of my comments to the cruelty to animals amendments in the legislation. I want to make it perfectly clear that the amendments in the bill are all about harassment and mischief. Who will be the object of the legislation? Who are the criminals we are targeting under this one? Under the firearms legislation it was duck hunters, but who will be the object of this legislation? Will it be the livestock producers, the hog producers, the poultry producers, the turkey producers and anyone else who is involved in the caring for animal? Will it be the fishermen, the sports fishermen, the medical researchers, the agricultural researchers, the furriers, the trappers and many others? Most of these folks are just trying to make a living, support their families, get their kids through school, support their communities, pay their banks to get by and also support us by paying our salaries in Ottawa.

The legislation before us is about harassment and targeting those individuals. This is not a time for any of them to be targeted by more government interference.

In the U.S. one of the national parties has compromised itself by getting into bed with an organization called the American trial lawyers association.

We have seen the absurdity in the United States of those sort of policies. People with cancer sue tobacco companies because they did not understand that tobacco was not good for their health. Individuals sue a franchise coffee maker because they did not understand that coffee was hot. A person tried to commit suicide by jumping in front of a subway train and lost his legs because he jumped too far and successfully sued the New York transit authority on the basis that it should have anticipated someone would try to commit suicide and should have put up guards.

Most of this sort of stuff is pure absolute nonsense. We do not need that in this country. Anyone in the United States who has any common sense would agree that sort of intrusion by the litigative nature of the American society causes people a lot of additional costs and impairs the economy.

We heard from the friends of the government in committee, the animal rights groups. They came in droves. I recall a number of those spokespeople identifying lawyers who were supportive of the legislation. Quite honestly I would identify the lawyers that were mentioned as being akin to the American trial lawyers group. They were enthusiastic supporters of the bill. I am sure many of them are even members of the American trial lawyers association.

I am disturbed because the Liberals are bringing American style litigation into Canada. This is something we do not need. Much anti-Americanism sentiment comes from members of the government from time to time. However in this area they seem to be enthusiastic endorsers of something that is unnecessary and negative.

When we stand back and look at it the Liberals generally would like to see a society dominated by courts, judges and lawyers. Why do they want to do that? It is good for the lawyers and it seems to be good for the Liberal Party. However I am not exactly sure it is good for the Canadian public.

With a certain provision in the bill the Liberals have done something that even the Americans have not done. They have introduced the concept of tort and negligence right into the criminal code. I had never heard of that concept ever existing in any other common law or democratic society that I know of where we start introducing concepts of tort and negligence and litigation directly into the criminal code.

Let me draw the House's attention to the actual section. The section has absolutely nothing to do with tinkering with existing legislation. This is an entirely new addition to the act. Subsection 182.3(1) states:

Every one commits an offence who

(a) negligently causes unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal;

Let us use an actual example. I am a sport fisherman and I do catch fish. When I catch a fish I have to do something with it. I could put it in a tank and when I get back to shore I could kill it. I could put it on a rope and hang it beside the boat in the water and when I get back to shore I could kill it. I could have a club in the boat and hit it over the head until I kill it. Or I could throw it in the boat and let it jump around until it dies itself. Another possibility is a method I use, I learned it from an aboriginal person. I take the fish by the head hold it firmly and break its neck. In my view that is a good way to kill a fish because it puts it out of its existence quickly. For ice fishing most people just throw the fish out onto the lake and it slowly freezes to death.

In this subsection everyone commits an offence who negligently causes unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal. According to this definition the fish has a vertebrae so it is an animal. Under the legislation any sport fisherman could be looking at a charge under the section. Animal rights groups would be hiring their own lawyer to prosecute the case.

The Liberals say they have put something in place that would protect people against private prosecution. There would be a preliminary hearing first to decide whether the charges should proceed or not. That is just absolute nonsense. I know what a preliminary hearing is; I practised law for 25 years. It is a trial within a trial. There is a magistrate, a lawyer on the other side and witnesses.

I envision the fisherman walking into a courtroom full of animal rights activists, their witnesses and their lawyers. That will be a very costly venture. People who go in there had better have a lawyer and some witnesses or they will lose and face charges. That is just that one subsection.

However it does not stop there. In subsection 182.3(b) it reads:

...negligently fails to provide suitable and adequate food, water, air, shelter and care for it;

When a farmer hauls livestock to market it is an hour and a half drive and it is 85° outside does that mean the facility that he is hauling in should have temperature adjustments so the livestock is being hauled in at 72° or room temperature? If it is 5° above freezing should there be a heater in there so that it is 20° above zero? What about the food, water and other matters that are raised in there? Should the truck be stopped to feed the animals and give them water? Subsection 182.3(c) states:

negligently injures an animal while it is being conveyed.

When we look at all of these provisions I suggest there is not an existing agricultural practice that would not be open to attack under the legislation.

People say I am just pandering and raising fears that are not real. They should look at the experience in Europe, England and the U.S. where this type of legislation has been introduced and listen to what the radical animal rights groups are saying.

I find it particularly disturbing. We had one justice minister who got on his high horse to introduce this useless firearms registration. It is all about politics and nothing about good public policy.

The thing I find disturbing, when I go through the animal rights website and look at the material, is who the animal rights groups backed, strongly supported and put all their resources into in the last federal election to make sure they won and defeated all those “crazy firearms people” and “wing nuts” as they call them.

In the Edmonton riding, where the past justice minister came from, they backed her to the teeth and now she is delivering the bacon. She is delivering a piece of legislation that they wanted.

There is another provision in the bill that really bothers me. It is how what is negligent is determined. I doubt anyone on that side of the House has the slightest clue what process would be used to determine what negligent is. Sometimes I wonder whether any of the folks on the other side of the House ever spent two minutes in a court of law in the country, let alone knowing what that would mean. Subsection 182.3(2) states:

For the purposes of subsection (1), “negligently” means departing markedly from the standard of care that a reasonable person would use.

I know what that will entail; I have seen it. When one is involved with negligence cases in the court one hauls in a whole pile of expert witnesses and they tell the court what they think reasonable care is. Usually the people who have the most and best experts win the case. They are very expensive. Expert witnesses can easily cost $5,000 a day and the more the better. The rich and wealthy have a major advantage in this sort of thing.

It would have been so simple. The Canadian Alliance and other parties wanted a simple amendment whereby we would determine the standard based on the practices of the industry. In agriculture the practices that have been longstanding would become the test under this arrangement, but no, the government would not accept that proposal. We would not stand in the way but it did.

This is another area that seemed so simple to me. When talking about fishermen and the way they kill fish, the accepted practice would be an absolute defence. For a livestock producer, the acceptable standard would be an absolute defence to the charges. It would alleviate the concerns that all these groups and producers in our economy are concerned about, but the government would not do it. It is so simple.

I guess the reason it will not accept that sort of standard as a defence is because it is promoting the radical animal rights groups objectives. They want to challenge every existing standard we have in place. They want to challenge every one of them and make it perfectly clear that is their objective.

Bill C-15B underscores the whole approach of the Liberal government. There was a government recently elected in British Columbia whose name matches up a lot better with liberty than that party's does. It actually believe in that word. The government in British Columbia committed itself to reducing one-third of the regulatory burden in that province.

It defined regulatory burden as a regulation that restricts the freedom of an individual or imposes obligations on the individual. It found 400,000 specific regulations that fit that definition. I would be curious to know if the government across the floor would submit itself to that sort of review, how many regulations we would find in Ottawa. It would absolutely be frightening.

Another thing the government of British Columbia discovered when it looked at the regulations and analyzed them was that for every dollar it costs the government to create laws and regulations, and enforce them, it costs the people affected on average something like $17 to $20. Here is a government that is passing a cruelty to animals law but it does not care about the consequences to the industries affected. It passed it because the minister made a deal with animal rights groups to get this thing shoved through. This will cost the affected industries a lot of money.

The government is good at that. It likes to pass laws and interfere with our day to day lives and our abilities to make decision without worrying about the costs. It just does it. The government is always pushing for environmental impact studies before something is done. I wish sometimes that before we pass laws in the House that we have an economic impact study of the laws before they are ever passed.

In conclusion, the Liberal way is more about more regulation. The Liberal way is more about more government. The Liberal way is more intrusion in our day to day lives as citizens. Liberals, contrary to their name, place very little value on personal freedom and liberty. They believe the government is better equipped on this matter to take over that role, to start making the decisions for individual citizens and to transfer more and more power to the bureaucracy in Ottawa. This is despite the fact that the Canada pension plan is in huge difficulty. We have probably more people working in fisheries in this town than we have actual fishers. We have an agriculture industry--

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


The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

I apologize to the hon. member but his time is up.

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


Canadian Alliance

Rob Anders Canadian Alliance Calgary West, AB

Madam Speaker, I fondly appreciate my colleague's reference to property rights and personal freedoms and liberties. I prize those things.

Just recently there was a show on PBS called The Commanding Heights . It was one of the best examples I have ever seen. It was a thumbnail sketch of economics and the theories involved since the 1920s until today. It talked about Austria, the rise of its school of economics and Ludwig von Mises. There were interviews with people like Milton Friedman. It also had some wonderful anecdotes of Margaret Thatcher as well as some of the speeches taken from Ronald Regan. The show addressed the transformation.

The Liberal government has missed some of the lessons that were learned in this video. One lesson that strikes me the most is that Pierre Elliott Trudeau, when he was prime minister, used the very language in The Commanding Heights when he nationalized Petrofina and turned it into Petro-Canada. He tried to meddle with the markets as much as he possibly could. He thought the government deserved a position of commanding heights within given industries. Liberals and Tories over the years have recognized that just does not work. However it came out of a sense of failure. They were led to understand it because of the mounting budget deficits and the fact that the programs they were instituting to meddle with industry were not working. The Commanding Heights show laid out beautifully that evolution had been happening. The Liberals across the way only caught up to it after the rest of the world had pretty much passed them by. We had a growth of government coming out of the second world war because people turned to the war for its solutions and to its surmise. Afterward government continued to grow because of the Keynes model of economics stemming from its problem with the great depression. People thought that was a way of solving it.

However, the Austrian school of economics always knew. People like the Friedrich Hayek, who wrote the book the Road to Serfdom , knew that the strategy would not work. They knew that governments always would produce failures when they intervened and intruded too deeply because they did not know its place. They had no business trying to govern industries they knew nothing or little about.

With property rights, liberty and personal freedoms, the government across the way still continues to want to meddle in private property rights and personal freedoms and liberties when it really does not have a place in it or understand a lot of it. It tries to implement solutions from 3,000 kilometres away and this does not solve the problems. In many circumstances it actually makes the problems worse.

An illustration of this point is when Margaret Thatcher was facing Scargill and his labour unions with regard to the coal strike in the U.K. which came out of the winter of discontent in 1979. There were massive strikes and garbage piled up on the streets.

She had the fortitude to build up the coal supplies in England. She had been asked if she would rather have 180,000 people in the coal industry on strike and out of work or would she capitulate and let the largest public sector union in the country rule the land. When the whole thing was said and done, she faced down Scargill and some of the union goon tactics.

This might sound shocking, but by the time it was all settled, out of 180,000 coal workers, in a poorly run industry that used massive government subsidies to keep itself alive, only 3,000 people still work in that industry, which is pretty profitable. It is incredible to consider that that industry was over employed to the tune of 177,000 workers. Over 90% of the people were employed in an industry maintained by governments subsidies which was not viable.

What does my hon. colleague think of the government trying to assume the commanding heights, whether it be morally, financially or industrially, in areas where it has little or no business, intruding on private property rights, liberties and personal freedoms?

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

12:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Fitzpatrick Canadian Alliance Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question. I have been sitting here trying to figure out which government department in Ottawa is the department that I can really rate out as a quality department which does a first rate job. It certainly is not health care. It obviously is not defence and national security. Fisheries I have already mentioned. Agriculture is in a real mess. For aboriginal affairs, the government had to pass a law allowing special treatment on sentencing native youth because its programs for 125 years had been a total and absolute failure and disaster. It flies in the face of a liberal, Martin Luther King, who said “I want to live in a society where we will be judged on the basis of character and merit and not on the colour of our skin”. Here is a Liberal government, in name only, coming up with laws that separate and divide people on those arbitrary criteria. That is shameful.

I left the state of Minnesota and came back to Canada in the late 1960s, just a year or two after Pierre Trudeau came into power. Our dollar was 92¢ against the U.S. dollar. Our standard of living was almost identical. I came back because this was the land of opportunity.

Today we have a 62 cent dollar. Our standard of living is 70% of the U.S. In fact, if we take the black community in the United States, its per capita income is about equal to our per capita income in Canada. The experiment of Pierre Trudeau of a bigger state, more government and the state making decisions for people was a failed experiment. I wish people on that side of the House would recognize it.

The strength of this country is the people of this country and their freedom and liberty, not the power in this town, Ottawa. The faster we can get a government in power that understand that and gives power back to the people, this country will turn around and not head in the way of Argentina.

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

12:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Anders Canadian Alliance Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have a quick question for my hon. colleague on the gopher derby. I happen to be in favour of the gopher derby in Saskatchewan. Those little varmint gophers are causing us lots of problems. Using a .22 on them is as good as using strychnine.

What does my hon. colleague think about some of those bleeding heart brigade Liberals who want to save the gopher, even though they would not want the gopher crawling around on the Prime Minister's golf course? They are perfectly happy to have them scrambling around the Saskatchewan prairie, helping to mess up the fields of farmers or break the legs of cattle. What does he think about the gopher derby?

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

12:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Fitzpatrick Canadian Alliance Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, that is another part of our heritage in Saskatchewan that the government and its do-gooder friends do not recognize. They want to revise Canadian history their way and get rid of the traditions in our country.

Maybe we should take a lot of our Liberal colleagues out there and get them to participate in our gopher derby, then they might understand that it is not such a bad deal before the radical animal rights--

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

12:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. The Speaker is going to go for it. Resuming debate, the hon. member for Kelowna.

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

12:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Werner Schmidt Canadian Alliance Kelowna, BC

Mr. Speaker, my hon. friend, my colleague from North Battleford, made a very strong case, as did my colleague from Calgary, in terms of the liberties that are involved. Bill C-15B is a very significant piece of legislation that does seem to be somewhat intrusive.

I want to make it abundantly clear that one of the things we in the Canadian Alliance want to underline time and again is that we are absolutely not in favour of cruelty to animals. We do support the intent of the legislation, which would make cruelty to animals a more serious offence. There is no question about that and I want to make that abundantly clear so that no one misinterprets or misunderstands why we are opposed to the bill. We have no criticisms of those aspects of the bill, but we do criticize its intrusiveness, which creates problems for other people.

I would like to suggest that there is a fundamental principle of legislation we need to observe in all legislation and that principle is this: the legislation must make sense. Legislation that makes sense actually achieves what it intends to achieve and it protects the legitimate interests of citizens and the pursuits of those citizens in various legitimate enterprises, and in particular, farmers, ranchers, fishermen and medical researchers.

Now I will try to look at this piece of legislation from that perspective. First, then, I would like to recognize that the legislation before us now in Bill C-15B could open up the possibility that farmers, sporting groups and scientific researchers will be unjustly prosecuted. They may even be persecuted. Animal rights groups in Canada will certainly use this new legislation as the basis for such prosecutions, and in fact have already stated their intentions to do so, notwithstanding that some people argue they will not.

I will refer specifically to a quote from Liz White, the director of legislative revision, Animal Alliance of Canada. She stated:

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. That’s what this is all about. Make no mistakes about it.

My learned friend is a legal person and understands what the legal processes are. He understands exactly what that kind of statement means. The federal minister has assured us that what is lawful today in the way of legitimate activities in the courts would be lawful when the bill receives royal assent. The problem is that these new provisions arguably narrow the scope of what constitutes legitimate activities.

Am I the only one who has concerns about this? I am not trained in the law, but I do know something about logic and I do know something about how things work. I would like to refer the House to the Canadians for Medical Progress, Inc. This is a group of very sophisticated researchers who know what they are talking about. They have examined this omnibus bill. Pierre Berton, the senior patron, says this:

I am writing on behalf of Canadians for Medical Progress to request that, if you haven't already done so, you take a close...look...The intent of the legislation is to deal more stringently and effectively with incidents of extreme and unacceptable abuse to animals.

Who would disagree? I do not. The vast majority of Canadians would heartily endorse this, that is agreed, but he continued and stated:

However, some amended components of this section of the bill as drafted could have serious and paralyzing consequences for medical science. Essentially, they will remove animals as property, and will be interpreted as conferring person-like status on animals. In my opinion, this is an asinine, ludicrous approach toward solving the problem of animal abuse.

These are not my words. These are the words of significant, respected, well qualified and successful researchers in the field of medicine.

I will go on and look at the other parts of the bill. Canadians for Medical Progress has as one of its objectives:

Making representations to the government for the enactment or protection of legislation permitting and supporting biomedical research.

We ought to do that. We should have that. The group has other goals. It wants to promote “health research awareness, the science of biomedical research and the knowledge and practice thereof”. It wants to co-ordinate its “activities with those of similar organizations and societies and individuals” and it wants to hold “conferences, meetings and exhibitions for the discussion of biomedical research”. That is what these organizations do. The quotes I have just read are the words of people who do these kinds of things.

Canadians for Medical Progress also stated that it:

applauds the efforts of the drafters of this new legislation on their goal... We wish to affirm our belief that the wanton cruelty to animals is plainly not acceptable, and should be subject to the full force of the law.

However...the present wording, although totally unintentional, could open the door to costly and paralyzing private prosecutions, based on unfounded and frivolous allegations, against responsible, legitimate and ethically sound research. The key here, though, is the cost and time expenditure that could be inflicted on researchers and their research activity, regardless of potential litigation outcomes.

I know, and so do the members of the House, that in Canada the litigation process is not so much dependent on what is right or what is just, but rather on how much money and time the people who are litigating have to spend on the issue. Do we really want to get into the position where our researchers have to spend millions of dollars defending themselves instead of devoting that money to the legitimate pursuit of research to solve some of our medical problems we need to address? That is the issue here. Why would we create a law that would make it difficult for these people to conduct legitimate research using animals such that they would have to go to court to defend themselves about whether the use of those animals is cruel or not? That is at the heart of this concern.

People will say “but that is the medical group”. No, it is not just the medical group. I have some documentation here and if I have time I will read it into the record as well. It is from the Canadian Cattlemen's Association, from the fishermen's association and from the veterinary association. A lot of people are deeply concerned. Their concerns are not frivolous concerns. These are not people who have looked at this legislation and just have said it came from the Liberal government and therefore they would throw it away. Their concerns are not political concerns. They are legitimately concerned that this legislation will threaten, will paralyze, a legitimate activity that they want to do on behalf of improving the health and welfare of Canadians.

I want to review this briefly. What did the former minister of justice state at the time the bill was introduced? She stated:

...what is lawful today in the course of legitimate activities would be lawful when the bill receives royal assent.

If that is really what she meant, why would she then create legislation that really puts into question whether that in fact would be the case? Her statement in effect is self-evident. However, it is misleading. Of course the new provisions will not prevent legitimate activities from being carried out, but the law only prescribes illegal activities. The problem is, therefore, the concern that these new provisions arguably narrow the scope of what constitutes a legitimate activity. That is where the difficulty comes in. It is the scope of that activity. If it was not the minister's intent to prohibit the presently acceptable and legitimate activities in Canadian agriculture or fur industries, she should have amended the legislation to clarify the intent in those provisions.

Therefore, at best, in my opinion, the bill begs the question of whether it makes sense and whether it protects people. In practical terms I think it fails to do what the minister originally intended to achieve. I think that is a very major concern.

Let me be a little more specific with regard to farming. Farmers are constantly faced with challenges. They are influenced daily by weather, commodity prices, transportation costs and federal government intervention.

Most farmers would add certain animal rights groups to this list. Some groups target livestock producers, labelling them as cruel, inhumane and barbaric. I will provide an example that shocked me. I did not know that this had happened but apparently it has. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, PETA, has launched an anti-dairy campaign targeting schoolchildren. It is essentially telling them that if children drink milk they are responsible for the torture of cows. Just imagine. Why would anyone do that? My colleagues and I in the Canadian Alliance, including my party's agriculture critic, are concerned that groups such as PETA are about to be armed with a powerful new weapon against farmers. I hope this never happens but apparently this is already taking place.

I certainly agree with the vast majority of Canadians that we need harsher penalties for those who deliberately abuse animals. Unfortunately, because of the way Bill C-15B is currently worded, many ranchers, hunters and medical researchers may be subjected to harassment and prosecutions and could be convicted of abuse even though they properly care for their animals.

We have two suggestions. The Canadian Alliance is demanding two major changes to Bill C-15B. The first is that the bill's definition of an animal must be amended. The current definition reads:

--a vertebrate, other than a human being, and any other animal that has the capacity to feel pain.

Because this definition is too broad it could interfere with the abilities of farmers to eliminate pests and of researchers to find cures for diseases. We must change the definition.

Second, we are calling for the legislation to protect from costly, frivolous prosecutions those who legitimately use animals. Currently the criminal code provides protection from harassment and prosecution, but because the bill will move animal cruelty out of the property offences of the criminal code this protection effectively would be removed. The justice minister has the ability to introduce legislation that would strengthen and modernize the current cruelty to animals provisions of the criminal code without threatening those who legitimately use animals, but so far the minister has refused to be explicit in the legislation and ensure that the courts have no ability to interpret Bill C-15B in a way that parliament did not intend.

That is at the heart of this: that the courts not interpret the legislation in a way that was not intended by parliament. I do not think there is any quarrel from our side of the House about the intent of the legislation being noble. It is. Therefore let us word it in such a way that it indeed can achieve what it was set out to achieve.

Now I will speak to the other part of the bill, which for some crazy reason is in this bill but in my opinion should not be, and that is the amendment to the firearms act. What that has to do with cruelty to animals I do not know, but it was put together so I need to separate it out and refer to it in particular.

Mr. Speaker, I think you are very well aware, as are all members of the House, that as far as the Canadian Alliance is concerned the whole firearms registry and Firearms Act should be scrapped, repealed, done away with, but let me refer to a particular aspect of this amendment. It deals with criminal law. Criminal law is our most serious form of law. A violation of criminal law, including a violation of any prescription or regulation that exists by way of an order in council, and by the way this act does exactly that, can result in a criminal record and imprisonment.

It is therefore inappropriate to create criminal law that is not to be found in the act but must be sought in a maze of current, revised, overlapping and obsolete order in council regulations. Why is it so significant that this has gone through the regulations part? All of this stuff is dealt with in the regulations rather than in the law itself. While regulations made under the authority of orders in council may have a place in regulatory law, we submit that they should not be included in criminal law. The regulations are simply not sufficiently available to rely on them as a valid way of setting forth criminal law.

Those affected by them are not usually subscribers to the Canada Gazette . It would be inappropriate to believe that everyone knows them or can know them and they are not easily available to either crown prosecutors or defence lawyers. It is possible to know the criminal code and other criminal law and in fact it is the duty of us to know that. However, it is not possible to know the regulations unless one has a subscription to the Canada Gazette or makes it one's business to read it.

Mr. Speaker, I think you have read many of them and I am sure you recognize how difficult that exercise can be. The regulations change frequently and with insufficient publicity.

It is my understanding that in a recent court case the crown and defence lawyers argued the exact meaning of certain terms in a particular regulation. The entire case turned on the exact wording of the regulation and was eventually decided by analysis of that wording. It was not the legislation, the act of parliament, but it was the regulation which is an act of the privy council.

The severity of that problem is well illustrated by a blunder enacted into law by parliament in the current Firearms Act and in particular, order in council, described as the Prohibited Weapons Order No.12 made by order in council 1992-1690 of July 23, 1992 and registered as SOR/92-471. I have to beg the indulgence of those who are watching because there is a lot of technical stuff. It was not registered as SOR/92-471. It was registered as SOR/92-599-01. SOR/92-471 was an earlier order in council that was replaced by SOR/92-599-01.

Similarly in subsection 12(5) a particular order is described as the Prohibited Weapons Order No. 13 made by order in council P.C.1994-1974 of November 29, 1994 and registered as SOR/94-741. It was not registered as SOR/94-741. It was registered as SOR/94-829-01. SOR/94-741 was an earlier order in council and was replaced by SOR/94-829-01

If you can make sense of all that, Mr. Speaker, you are very good. I had to read it several times to figure out exactly what was going on. It was a real mess. The crystal clarity of it is that it is a mess. That is the part that is clear.

The bill fails. It does not make sense because in my opinion it does not protect the legitimate activities of farmers, hunters and so on in their use of animals. Also, it relegates to regulation what should be in the legislation. If it cannot be enforced in legislation, why would the government relegate it to regulation? The government thinks it can be enforced in regulation what it has given up in legislation.

There are very serious problems with the bill. On the intent we agree and I want to repeat that. We totally agree with the intent of making it a more serious offence to abuse animals and to treat them cruelly. There is no problem with that. However some of the clumsy ways in which this is being introduced is so ridiculous that the bill should be withdrawn and redone. There are some things in the bill that are really worthwhile and there are other parts of it that should be thrown out.

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

12:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Canadian Alliance Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague on his eloquent speech. He lost me for a while with all those numbers, but nonetheless I found his speech was very useful in painting a picture of what is wrong with the bill.

Time and time again, instead of trying to bring all stakeholders together the government likes to pit one group against another. It is a divide and conquer mentality that does not bring people together. A perfect example of that is in this bill. I would imagine the majority of Canadians want to see significant legislation against cruelty to animals. The opposition obviously believes in that principle, as my hon. colleague said. The government should try to put together a bill that would bring people on both sides together.

People in the rural communities are obviously very concerned about the ramifications of the bill. Others from urban communities do not quite understand some of the contradictions that exist in the bill. Could my hon. colleague focus on that particular dichotomy? I think a lot of people unfortunately are confused by the government's way of approaching the bill and it does not understand why people right across the country would not want to support something like this.

Perhaps my hon. colleague could focus specifically on the fact that we in the opposition are in favour of protecting animals against cruelty. However a dichotomy exists and it is pitting landowners, agricultural producers, ranchers and all the people involved with livestock against people in urban areas who do not quite understand some of those delicate arguments and why we have concerns with the bill. If the member could focus on that for a moment it would help Canadians see why there is a problem.

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

12:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Werner Schmidt Canadian Alliance Kelowna, BC

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague from Edmonton has a way of putting one on the spot. That is one of the most difficult social, political and economic questions that exists in Canada today. There is a conflict between urban and rural people on certain issues and my hon. colleague has clearly articulated that difficulty.

There are some people, like those in the group PETA, who are actually under the illusion that people who drink milk are being cruel to cows. I grew up on a farm. I know what happens when a cow is lactating and producing milk. It would be cruel to the cow not to milk it. It needs to have the pressure released from the udder where the milk is collected.

It is a very serious issue that needs to be carefully understood. The hon. member asked me to be specific so I will be and it is the exact opposite of what the PETA group is trying to indicate.

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

12:30 p.m.

An hon. member

Relieve the pressure.

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

12:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Werner Schmidt Canadian Alliance Kelowna, BC

An hon. member said that we have to relieve the pressure. We have to relieve a lot of pressure in the House. There is extreme difficulty with certain urban members in the House who do not understand there are some legitimate farming concerns that are none of their business. They do not understand those issues and they should keep their cotton-pickin' hands off them because these matters will stand in their own way. For anyone in the House to believe that farmers, hunters and fishermen are deliberately cruel to the animals they depend upon for their income, health and welfare is a lot of nonsense.

I suspect that some members in the House really enjoy going to Hy's Steak House for a steak. How in the world can they justify eating that piece of steak, claiming it is okay but it is cruel to drink a glass of milk?

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

12:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Anders Canadian Alliance Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, my question follows up almost precisely on the comment my hon. colleague just completed with.

When I was at the University of Calgary taking my degree in political science, there were people from all the different political parties in our clubs office. They shoved Liberals, New Democrats, Tories, and Reformers at that time, all in the same office. It was a hairy situation but at least we had some good arguments and got to know each other's points of view.

I remember one young Liberal, whom I will not name, who had gone through a metamorphosis, I guess we could call it. She had subscribed to the theory of anthropomorphism.

She started off as a meat eater. She ate meat, dairy, fruit, vegetables, grain products and all sorts of things that one would normally consider part of a healthy balanced diet. Then she went to university and started hanging out with a lot of Liberals, ivory tower thinkers and elitists. She eventually started to feel guilty about eating meat. She did not think it was healthy for her. It was not even a question of health. She felt that eating meat was morally wrong. It was a very bizarre scenario. She gave up meat. However, once one starts down the slippery slope, one can go pretty far, and she did.

She started off for the first few months thinking that she would not eat meat because somehow it was wrong to take an animal's life, despite the fact that is what they were raised for. In any event, she thought “I am not going to take an animal's life”.

There are lacto-ovo vegetarians who consume dairy products, milk, cheese and other things derived from those sources. She eventually got to the point where her Liberal friends had convinced her that if it was not good for her to eat meat because it took an animal's life, then how could she in good conscience drink milk or eat cheese because in a sense the animal was being kept for the purposes of extracting the milk. It was an animal captivity issue then. She eventually quit drinking milk and eating cheese.

One would think that is where the absurdity would end but it did not. The slippery slope keeps on going. It gets slicker as one goes further down and the tangent goes further.

Based on talking with her Liberal elitist friends again, she decided she would not eat something that was a grain because the cutting machine had chopped the plant while it was still vibrant and living and able to stand on its own. I am trying to remember the argument but basically if the thing was still supporting itself, she determined that if one hacked it down and took the grain from the top of its stalk that was also harming a form of life. With anthropomorphism, why not have the strand of grain be just as valuable?

She eventually came down to the idea that the only thing she could eat was fruit that had freshly fallen from the tree because it was actually in the process of dying or decaying.

The question for my colleague is, has not anthropomorphism gone too far?

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

12:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Werner Schmidt Canadian Alliance Kelowna, BC

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague has included the answer in his question. He is absolutely right. Any particular position taken to an extreme becomes ridiculous.

The word we need to look at in all these things is balance. We need to look at what we are really trying to do and revert to the original principle. Does it make sense? Does it protect the legitimate interests and activities of law-abiding Canadian citizens or does it make it criminals out of people who are pursuing a legitimate exercise?

The hon. member has put it in perspective very effectively and accurately.

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

12:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Canadian Alliance Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to stand and partake in the debate on cruelty to animals. This is the third time I have spoken against certain provisions of Bill C-15B. It is important to remind the House that the Liberal government initially brought the bill forward as an omnibus bill that brought together good pieces of legislation with the bad and the ugly. Today we are left to deal with the bad and the ugly.

The Canadian Alliance would not support a bill brought forward in that manner. We in the Alliance strongly opposed Bill C-15 and worked to have it split. We gave quick passage to the first part of the bill, Bill C-15A. Today we are debating Bill C-15B. My colleagues and I oppose Bill C-15B because it would have detrimental and far reaching effects on the farming communities and rural areas that constitute the majority of the riding I represent in Crowfoot in Alberta.

As I stated during debate on Bill C-5, the endangered species act, farmers do not need any more Ottawa made laws to drive them further into the ground. Many of my constituents, like those of all rural MPs including members on the other side of the House who appear poised to sell out their rural constituents, are struggling to survive. Our rural constituents are struggling to keep their farms viable. They are struggling to protect and preserve a way of life. They are struggling to provide for their families in the fashion to which they have become accustomed.

I will exemplify my point. For those here who do not subscribe to the Western Producer I will read the headline from March 21. It reads “Rural Exodus Hits Saskatchewan the Hardest”. The article goes on to say Saskatchewan has lost 13,162 rural folk since 1996.

The province I represent, my home province of Alberta, experienced a population growth of 10.3% between 1996 and 2001, a rate that far exceeds the national average. The national average over the same period was about 4%. This shows Alberta has a growing economy and the population is portraying that. However Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan have all experienced what we call a population shift. This is prevalent and evident in my riding. Individuals are leaving the farms. They are leaving rural Alberta and moving into urban centres.

Alberta's saving grace has been its natural resources. It has been its oil, gas and tourism industries. The part of Alberta that has benefited most from the movement of population is the corridor between Edmonton and Calgary. It has seen the most substantive growth.

In September last year the Canadian Federation of Agriculture produced some facts about farm incomes. CFA president Bob Friesen said:

On the surface, the numbers might project farmers will be fine, but scratch the surface and you find a completely different picture.

From 1996 to 2000 total farm cash receipts rose by 12%. However when inflation is taken into account the increase drops to 5% in real terms. The numbers are also influenced by the livestock sector which has remained fairly stable and in some cases seen an increase. Crop receipts by comparison have declined by 14%. As the CFA president pointed out, it is important to note that cash receipts do not indicate final farm income. They reflect gross revenue, not the input costs associated with farming.

Expenses for farmers rose by 13% during the same period. Fuel costs alone went up 27% and were expected to rise another 10% in the next year. Fertilizer prices were expected to rise 33% during that period. We stood in the House last year debating farm input costs. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture said that all in all the year 2001 would be remembered as an historic low point in Canadian agriculture due in part to increasing input costs but more specifically to the environmental conditions facing farmers.

Environmental and drought conditions are factors over which farmers have no control. Parts of British Columbia were hit by drought while wet conditions on Vancouver Island affected the apple crop. Alberta and most of Saskatchewan were so dried up that most fields looked like parched pavement. Walking through a pasture in Hanna I could feel the grass crunch and break underneath my feet. I saw dugouts that were with caked mud on the bottom. I watched grasshoppers part in clouds for a person walking through a pasture.

In parts of Saskatchewan and Manitoba crops were lying in water, flooded out and destroyed. The drought experienced in the maritimes was made worse by an invasion of army worms that hit the potato and forage crops hard. While in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland blueberries were less than plentiful, Prince Edward Island horticulture crops were down 50%.

My colleagues and I are not prepared to stand idly by. Canadian Alliance members of parliament will not stand by and watch the demise of the family farm in our respective provinces. That is why we have fought so hard for agriculture over the past years and for a system that adequately meets the needs of farmers. That is why we are opposed to this piece of bad legislation before the House today.

As we get into the cruelty to animals section I will make it abundantly clear that the Canadian Alliance Party does not condone intentional acts of cruelty toward animals. We therefore fully support increasing the penalties for offences relating to such acts.

I do not think any Canadian believes behaviour such as mutilating animals or tying dogs to trees and beating them to death should be condoned. We need to throw the book at these individuals. However we are adamantly opposed to the broader definition of animal that appears in Bill C-15B. By including non-human vertebrates and “all animals having the capacity to feel pain” the new definition would extend legal protection to a number of living organisms that have never been provided that kind of protection in the past.

We are also opposed to the provisions of the bill that would leave farmers and ranchers open to frivolous or costly lawsuits for performing routine farm practices which have been commonplace for centuries.

At the outset when the bill came before committee a number of rural Liberal members of parliament gathered at the committee to share our reservations. However promises from the Department of Justice have obviously appeased their concerns. Despite the negative impact the bill would have on their rural constituents they now appear ready to toe the old Liberal Party line to the detriment of rural Canada.

The chairman of the Prime Minister's task force on agriculture, the hon. member for Haldimand--Norfolk--Brant, has said that with the bill's assurances that any attempt to charge a farmer with cruelty would have to be vetted and approved by a crown prosecutor, an overwhelming majority of rural members are now able to support it.

The hon. member for Malpeque, Prince Edward Island, echoing the words of his Liberal colleague, has argued that the pre-study of cases before a judge and crown attorney would take frivolous actions out of the system so farmers would not have to pay for them or spend time in court. He claims this would allay a lot of our concerns. I will make it abundantly clear to the House that this would not alleviate the concerns of the official opposition Canadian Alliance. The proposition might even be cause for concern in that it would potentially cause an undue burden on judges, crown prosecutors and our already overtaxed judicial system.

I do not know the exact figures. However from the complaints I have had in my office it would appear to be taking an inordinate amount of time to move cases through the courts. We hear of instances where it is two months, six months or years before court cases get a date for hearing. It is unacceptable, and Bill C-15B would make a bad situation even worse.

Bill C-5, the Endangered Species Act, coupled with the legislation we are debating today and the potential prosecutions that would occur as a result of Bill 68, would put a tremendous strain on our courts which would hear cases against law abiding citizens based on unfounded allegations with no requirement of criminal negligence or mens rea.

For the past 50 years animals have been successfully protected under the special property section of our criminal code. We see no reason for the changes being contemplated by Bill C-15B. Historically animals have been classified as property under common law. During the feudal period when the law was first developed, cattle included oxen, cows, donkeys, mules, sheep, goats, horses and chickens and was considered a person's most valuable means of survival and wealth. As such cattle was a seminal form of chattel or personal property. It was viewed for centuries as chattel or property. The law regarding personal property was based on cases regarding rights of possession with respect to cattle. Because of its economic use and benefit cattle was recognized by law to consist of domestic animals, distinguished from pets, that in some cases were tamed, bred, and used for farming, food and draught.

As a farmer with a herd of cattle, although now that I have become a member of parliament it is a smaller herd, I can attest to the fact that we still consider cattle as property and one of the most valuable means of wealth and survival. This is especially true in the riding of Crowfoot.

Let us consider what it would mean for the people of Crowfoot, in Hanna, Oyen and throughout the riding, to take away cattle from the property section. As an owner of cattle it is my property. This puts me in the position of being its owner. Being an owner gives me the responsibility to look after that which is my property.

I can hardly wait. I can imagine what groups like the SPCA and others would do as they came out and saw cattle being neglected. The farmer would say they were not his property. He would say he had turned them out into stubble fields where there were bush patches. He would say he had turned them out in winter to go and secure their own food because they were not his property. However because I am the owner of cattle and they are my property it is incumbent on me to look after that which is mine.

To reiterate an earlier statement, we in my party see no reason for the definition of animal to be expanded. For these reasons alone we in my party are adamantly opposed to Bill C-15B.

With respect to the part of Bill C-15B that would amend the Firearms Act, I stand by our party's longstanding position that we would repeal Bill C-68. I stand by our reasoning for not introducing amendments within this section of the legislation. With 22 pages and some 63 clauses of firearms amendments, Bill C-15B is a clear admission by the Liberal government that Bill C-68 was a complete and total failure.

Bill C-68, the hallmark of the Liberal government, consisted of 137 pages of new laws with respect to firearms and weapons. It has failed. The first enabling regulations introduced in November 1996 added an additional 85 pages while those introduced on October 30, 1997 added approximately 65 pages to our changing firearms laws.

It is important to note, especially for those who were not here in 1995, that there was a provision in Bill C-68 that stipulated that when amendments were made to the bill the amended regulations would not have to be reviewed by parliament. The justice minister could enforce or enact firearms regulations without parliamentary review if the regulations in his or her opinion were “immaterial or insubstantial” under subsection 119(2) or urgent under subsection 119(3).

To date the government has enacted legislation using these subsections 16 times. Furthermore it has failed to report these changes to the House as required by the Firearms Act. The government failed to report them to the House until the Canadian Alliance, the official opposition, exposed this and it was forced to. Effectively, these regulating powers negate our parliamentary system of checks and balances which are supposed to ensure that the government of day does not use extra, autocratic or dictatorial type of powers.

It may be immaterial and insubstantial. It may be urgent in the opinion of the Minister of Justice, or it may be material or very substantial and it may not be urgent at all in the opinion of parliament. To my colleagues who represent large rural consistencies their firearms are viewed perhaps more as a tool than as a weapon. Regardless of our opposition and animosity to the Firearms Act we must be apprised of any and all changes to the legislation in a clear and concise fashion. All Canadians must be aware to avoid unintentionally breaking any of these encumbering laws.

Despite what the Minister of Justice said in defence of Bill C-68 there still remains serious criminal repercussions for Canadians who fail or inadvertently fail to properly register their firearms.

Bill C-68 created three different penalties for failing to register a firearm: a maximum penalty of a summary conviction procedure of six months or a $2,000 fine under firearms section 112; second, a maximum term of imprisonment of five years on summary conviction under the criminal code subsection 91(1); and finally, a different penalty for knowingly neglecting to register a firearm with a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years under the criminal code subsection 92(1).

Bill C-68 also provided the Minister of Justice with almost autocratic powers that Canada has not seen since the War Measures Act. Subsection 117(15) of the legislation empowered the justice minister to declare any firearm that in his opinion is not reasonable for sporting or for hunting purposes to be declared a prohibited weapon by a simple order in council which is immune to judicial or parliamentary review. Talk about losing rights. Talk about the rights of the property owner and the gun owner being set aside, actually pulled away.

Subsection 104(1)(b) of Bill C-68 states:

An inspector may not enter a dwelling-house under section 102 except

with the consent of the occupant or under a warrant

However, if consent is not given the Firearms Act empowers police and inspectors to obtain a warrant to enter a home even where no evidence exists to believe that a crime has been committed or is about to be committed. Prior to Bill C-68 section 101 of the criminal code prohibited entrance into a dwelling house without a warrant except in cases of fresh pursuit. A warrant could only be issued or obtained when a police officer had reasonable proof that a crime had been committed or was about to be committed.

The intrusive nature of Bill C-68 and the huge powers that are being bestowed on the Minister of Justice alone demonstrates why the legislation was and still is viewed as an attack against decent law-abiding firearm owners. It is an unjustified attack.

Firearm owners support measures aimed at reducing the criminal use of firearms. The Liberal government has never shown how this ill conceived piece of legislation, with its mountains of regulations, complicated regime of licensing and registration, would accomplish this one simple objective. It has never shown and never been able to prove that Bill C-68 would reduce the criminal use of firearms.

Bill C-15 and Bill C-5, the endangered species legislation, as well as Bill C-68, pit rural against urban, are confrontational wedge issues against rural Canadians and their way of life. That is why Canadian Alliance members will continue to fight for the constituents that they represent and that is why we remain opposed to these Liberal made laws that insult and disrespect our rural lifestyle.

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

1 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Anders Canadian Alliance Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague talked about some of the firearms aspects in the bill. I would like him to give us his words of wisdom and thoughts on this.

The Liberal government across the way wants to restrict firearms, encourages the grabbing of guns, wastes nearly $1 billion, lusts over the concentration of power, brings forward an unjustified act and burdens us with complicated regulations. With all those nasty things that the government has done I want the folks at home who may be watching to think about this as well.

Why has the government not done some really concrete things that would reduce crime and go after criminals and the criminal misuse of firearms? Why has the government not increased the budget for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police? Why has the government not increased the budget for the armed forces or for the coast guard to ensure that no terrorists enter this country? Why has the government not looked at those who have a history of violence and focus on them? Why is the government not focusing on keeping prisoners off our streets and keeping our streets safe? Why is the government continuing to encourage early parole so that some serious repeat offenders get turned back out on the street? Why is it that the government treats people who are charged under the Young Offenders Act with kid gloves thus allowing them to go out and re-offend until they finally commit a heinous crime as an adult and get stuck in the prison system? Why is it that the government has sex offenders in our jails who do not have mandatory rehabilitation and counselling?

These are all tangible things. The government operates under the perverse logic that it would register all firearms belonging to law-abiding people and spend $1 billion doing it, but by golly it would not spend money to make sure that persons who are a good risk of re-offending stay behind bars longer or serve their full term in a jail cell or that the resources are put out on the street to try to find some of these creeps.

It boggles my mind how the government would fritter away and waste our taxpayers' dollars on something that would aggravate a lot of law-abiding people across the country and make criminals out of honest folk, when there are such obvious things it could have done such as going after people who misuse firearms who are the real problem.

I know where the problems are. The Kingston jail about one hour south of here is full of problems. There are a whole bunch of rapists, murderers and the whole nine yards in that jail. However the government sees fit to spend money going after law-abiding gun owners rather than going after criminals and ensuring that they serve their full sentence or are unable to make million dollar appeals with regard to conditional release. That ought to send a shiver down the spine of every single taxpayer in this country. The government has misplaced priorities and does not go after the real problems, but it would frustrate innocent civilians.

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

1 p.m.

An hon. member

No registration of pedophiles.

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

1 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Anders Canadian Alliance Calgary West, AB

That is another good example. My colleague beside me said that the government does not go after some of the creeps who are pedophiles and create a registry of them. Why does it not do tangible things? Why does it not do the stuff that would produce real results so that people walking the streets would feel safe? Instead, it would blow $1 billion on a registry that does not have any tangible proof of a benefit, but it would not put money into the RCMP or the coast guard or any of those types of things that would result in real effects on the bottom line of crime. I would like my colleague to comment on that.

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

1:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Canadian Alliance Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, the very simple answer is because we have a Liberal government in power. I believe it thinks in the far recesses of its mind that people are basically all good, that there is never anything negative, evil or wicked and it is environment that changes everything.

Everyone is good but if there happens to be a firearm available people will use it. It is not the individual who is wronged. It is the fact that a person has access to a firearm that brings about a huge scope of wickedness and evil.

Let me make it abundantly clear that the Canadian Alliance believes that individuals who use a weapon in the perpetration of a crime should be given the maximum sentence possible. We should throw the book at them and we should make it so that they are unable to ever secure the property of a firearm again because they have shown that they are irresponsible and unable to make the choices that would make the society in which we live safe. Consequently, we then take away the right of people to hold, have and secure a firearm or whatever weapon.

When I listened to the excellent question that was asked by my friend from Calgary I was reminded of the election campaign in 2000. I entered the nomination late. I was not sure exactly what the main pressing issues in Crowfoot would be. I thought it would be agriculture and the tax burden that was facing Canadians.

I am reminded of when I went to Oyen, a community which neighbours my colleague from Medicine Hat in the south end of my riding. I sat down and spoke with I believe someone by the name of Perry who owned a farm implement dealership. He asked about the firearm legislation. He said he had never broken the law in his life and now all of a sudden he was being put into a position where he could be a criminal and may face a prison term if he refused to register his firearms. I remember leaving that meeting having told him that we would immediately repeal Bill C-68 and have no intention of turning any legitimate firearm owner into a criminal in this country.

I remember going to one of the grocery stores in Oyen. I was handing out brochures and came across a rancher who I am sure was six foot ten. He wore a big, black cowboy hat. I told him I wanted to give him a brochure. He asked what it was? I told him it was a political brochure and that I was running for election in that constituency. He said he did not take political brochures. Now I am six foot one and a half and I stood looking at this guy. He asked what I would do with the firearms legislation? He said that he used firearms regularly, sometimes daily on the ranch. He asked what I would do about it? I told him we would throw it out. Then he asked me for a brochure. It is a way of life.

I want to get to some of the other questions. There must be changes to our prison system. This is my passion. We must give more respect to our police force by first of all showing that we are committed to increasing the numbers of police officers across this country. We want to see prisons bring back--

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

1:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I know there is a lot of wanting around today. The hon. member for Selkirk--Interlake.

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

1:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Howard Hilstrom Canadian Alliance Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-15B, which deals with cruelty to animals changes to the criminal code and various changes and amendments to the Firearms Act.

As a cattle rancher from Manitoba, I and the Canadian Alliance support very strongly that cruelty to animals be prohibited. We strongly support that persons being cruel to animals should be heavily fined. There should be heavier penalties than what is in the current legislation. Courts and crown prosecutors should be fully funded so they can take action against those who are cruel to animals.

There are other aspects around the cruelty to animals amendments which have nothing to do with cruelty to animals. It has to do with the philosophy being put forward by animal rights groups, humane societies and others in society. They would like us ultimately to get to the same point as some sects in India that sweep away a bug in front of them in order not to step on it and harm an animal.

The legislation is very bad. Why did we end up with these aspects in the cruelty to animals part of the bill? The reason is that animal rights groups have circulated letters stating that in fact they take full credit for getting the current Minister of Health elected in Edmonton. They can take credit for it and I am sure they had a big impact, but that is not the way government works. A minister is to govern for all Canadians, not just a little pressure group, a group of animal rights promoters.

Who has the minister turned against in Canada? Let me quote a pretty significant individual in our country. This has to do with medical research. For crying out loud, that is the first group the health minister has turned against, people in medicine and specifically medical research. I will quote Pierre Berton, the senior patron of Canadians for Medical Progress Inc. Remember, we are talking about the health minister. He said:

In my opinion this [C-15B] is an asinine, ludicrous approach toward solving the problem of animal abuse...if passed in its present form, creates a disturbing potential for the animal rights movement to begin a step by step process involving litigation and the incremental influencing of legislation, congruent with putting their spin on “public education”.

How precise this gentleman of letters is. This gentleman writes books that convey to Canadians the very essence of being Canadian. He describes so clearly what is wrong with the animal cruelty legislation.

What do we do about it? As I go through my speech, I want the backbench Liberals who have an opportunity to vote according to their constituents and according to what learned people like Mr. Burton have said, to stop the legislation. I want them to kill it and come back with legislation that increases the penalties for cruelty to animals to make sure we can prosecute those who are cruel to animals.

Who else besides the medical people are against the bill? The health minister comes from a big agriculture province, as do many of the other Liberal members. In fact, every province has agriculture.

Every livestock group in this country is against this cruelty to animal legislation. It puts farmers, ranchers and fur producers under the gun with the threat of being taken to court by a group of people that is pushing the issue. That group of people is the justice minister and the Liberal government.

The former justice minister, who is now the health minister, started all this business. I do not understand why the Liberals are so against agriculture, farmers and ranchers and the use of livestock for human food. I do not understand why they are against furs for warmth and the whole economic activity that those industries create.

The essence of the cruelty to animals bill has been stated. The status of animals is properly in the criminal code and should be maintained. The defences of legal justification, excuse and colour of right should be explicitly maintained for the legitimate use of animals. Of course, the definition of animal as is currently in the bill should be amended. Defining an animal as a vertebrate other than a human and having the capacity to feel pain is what will be used.

As Pierre Berton would say it is furthering the animal rights agenda. It is reaching to the point where under the law, animals are equated to human beings with the same rights and I was going to say obligations, but I do not think that could be there because animals are not human beings.

The other aspect of this bill is the firearms provisions. On the firearms provisions, the House passed special funding legislation this past winter in order to put another $114 million into the firearms registry budget. That brought the budget up to around $150 million for the past year. This coming year it could get even higher. Certainly it is not likely to be less. It is approaching $700 million or maybe more. We will have to see what the actual figures are. We have to question whether or not that is wise spending on the firearms registry.

On the animal cruelty changes, there are some good changes and some bad changes. In the firearms legislation that is presently being amended, there are no good changes.

The Canadian Alliance stands for firearms control in Canada. Canadians never were allowed to carry around registered handguns as a matter of course. There was legislation. I was a police officer for 30 years. If there was an indication that a person was going to harm somebody else with a firearm or by any other means, a police officer could get a court to take those firearms away. The police officer could get the court to prohibit the person from having firearms if the person was considered to be dangerous.

Let us look at how registration worked with handguns. I cannot remember any criminal case that was ever solved in my 30 years of police experience and I worked in drug dealing in Winnipeg which is a major centre. I worked in rural policing for 15 years. The registration system never worked for solving any crimes whatsoever. It simply ensured that the legislation did not allow handguns to be carried around.

I support that. I do not want handguns carried around in the streets. However, we do not want to make it so that firearms owners cannot shoot them at the local shooting range. Who was carrying around unregistered handgun? The drug dealers, those in organized crime, those who were running the prostitutes on our streets. They did it in spite of firearms registration. That is who we are talking about here, criminals who need to be taken care of in our legislation and judicial systems.

Honest law-abiding citizens are on the other side. It is absolutely ludicrous to pass laws and spend $700 million in order for these people to perform the purely administrative function of buying a licence. Why could that $700 million not go to Gimli, my hometown in Selkirk--Interlake, to the centre for abused women. Unpaid volunteers help out at that centre. They struggle and try to do the very job the government is not doing because it is blowing money away on a foolish registration system for rifles and shotguns that will do no good.

With my broad range of experience as a police officer for 30 years, I say that is not the case. Right away the minister will say that the police chiefs love this legislation and think it is the greatest thing in the world. I reckon if I were a police chief getting $100,000 a year from the federal government to run my association, I would probably be in favour of the legislation too.

That is a sad commentary. According to an animal rights group, the Minister of Health, who is the former Minister of Justice, owes her election to its activities. The payback is that she has said “Do you want this legislation? The farmers and ranchers are all against it but we are going to give it to you.”

That is what she is saying to those groups that say the only thing they will ever accept is if there is not one firearm in this country except those carried by the police and the military. They are trampling on the rights of every Canadian who legitimately owns that property. They are saying that the firearm registry will make it so miserable and tough for Canadians that they will eventually give up and say “I cannot have firearms because the government is going to charge me. It has made so many laws that it will lay charges for travelling around with a rifle or a shotgun, for not registering it, or for not filling out the right form to transfer it”.

I can guarantee that if the government stays in power, we will end up with the justice minister picking on every little iota of a description of an offence in that act in order to take away the guns of every Canadian.

The ministers cannot cater to one group. They are supposed to be governing for all Canadians. They are catering to these little groups.

I am 100% in favour of prevention of crime. I am 100% in favour of what we had prior to this legislation in regard to keeping handguns off the streets. Prohibited weapons such as sawed off shotguns and fully automatic firearms were prohibited before this legislation. It was good legislation. We had a safe country.

The other day the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice was speaking about statistics. The first statistic I would like to talk about is the court challenge that the provinces, seven of them in any event, including the Northwest Territories, had with the firearm registration. It went to court in Edmonton, Alberta.

I know some of the justice lawyers too. I was in charge of a proceeds of crime unit in Winnipeg and did some of the initial work on the legislation that the government brought forth in order to seize assets from organized crime and from drug dealers in particular.

At that court challenge the justice lawyers brought in statistics to show how great the legislation was and how bad things were, that there was not legislation in place. They quoted the RCMP. They said the RCMP had put out statistics substantiating the position of the government and its legislation.

It was challenged in court by the lawyers of the province. Lo and behold the statistics were drastically misused. In fact the RCMP subsequently publicly said that the justice department had misused its statistics and what the government lawyers had said in court was not true. It should have been a contempt of court.

Let us look now at the justification of the parliamentary secretary. He was trying to substantiate how great the legislation is. He said that in 1998, 63% of all female domestic homicide victims, as if there were no male victims of any kind of crime, were shot with ordinary rifles and shotguns. Holy samoly, that has to be a large number.

Let us look at the facts which are quite clear. It is 63% of what the total deaths, or homicides, of victims were and that number could very well be 10 or 15 of the total.Then the rifle, whether it was registered or not, would have been just as lethal. The problem was not with the rifle or the shotgun. The problem was the individuals who were under tremendous stress for whatever reason did not have social services or did not have the abuse centres or did not have a government funded organization that could help them with their mental problems. That $700 million would go a long way in Selkirk--Interlake to help people with those kinds of problems.

Registering these guns will not help stop this kind of abuse. That is the injustice of this firearm legislation, and a terrible waste of the moneys that we see being put into it.

I would like to see a comparison. If I spent $700 million across the country to prevent spousal abuse, instead of spending it on registering rifles and shotguns, I swear to God I would save a lot more lives. The money would be spent on social services and helping people with problems rather than on making criminals out of honest, decent citizens.

I think I have made my point that the government has misjudged this legislation. I ask that every Liberal backbencher look at the cruelty to animals legislation and the firearm legislation. I ask them to stand up and represent their constituents the way they know they should, send the bill back, kill it now, and come back with good legislation, the kind they know should be in there. That is what I would like to see.

I would like to move a subamendment to the amendment of the member for Provencher. I move:

That the amendment be amended by adding:

“and that the committee report back to the House no later than June 21, 2002.”

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

1:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I will consult with the table. In the meantime, I will follow up with questions and comments.