Madam Speaker, in listening to my colleague's wisdom on so many issues pertaining to the bill, I was so excited, especially when he mentioned that I was to stand and speak, and how I would delay the bill. I beg to differ on that part because I know that my words will be just illuminating to the other side, to make changes to the bill, to improve the bill and to actually have democracy work in this place once and for all. I know you have faith in me, Madam Speaker, to be able to so do. I hope not to let you down.
As I stand in this place at this time of the day, the energy and the electricity in this place are beyond words. I am so excited to see that there is an audience here who wants to hear what I have to say and what I would like to add to the bill. For the people who have been tuned in watching their legislators talk about the bill, I am sure it has evoked a lot of emotion.
Cruelty to animals is something that all Canadians clearly are concerned about. Almost everyone I know has a pet of some sort at home. They love their animals and they want to make sure those animals are loved and protected and that no one abuses their well-being. I do not think we would find very many Canadians who would disagree with that sort of principle, but in attempting to look at the bill we are discussing here today, Bill C-15B, the cruelty to animals bill, there obviously are some concerns, which many of my colleagues have raised during today's debate, as to how in fact this may affect one side of the equation in trying to approach protection of animals.
As I said in one of my earlier comments when I was asking one of my colleagues a question, it seems to me that the government, when producing legislation, tends to try to divide and conquer Canadians rather than bring all stakeholders together, which is such a shame. We saw that sort of attitude when it came to the endangered species legislation. We have seen that sort of attitude with other legislation. Instead of trying to find consensus and bring the various stakeholders together, the attitude is to divide and conquer and see if it can pass legislation where unfortunately one side over the other will be negatively affected.
When I talk about the stakeholders in this case, I am talking about people who are involved in the production of animals in the form of livestock, such as ranchers and farmers, and those who are obviously far from that sort of production and activity, people who live in urban centres or larger towns. Unfortunately many of the arguments on both sides are not coming out. They are not being dealt with effectively and are not being held at merit for the base of their arguments.
In my own riding I have had so many constituents who have taken the time to communicate to me how important they feel the bill is and how they would like me to support it. I think I will support it on that basis because I have had an overwhelming indication from my riding that my constituents would like me to do so. That still does not make it right, because on the other side, the rural arguments I spoke about, there are real concerns. The government has done such a terrible job in trying to raise those effectively so that we can get people on the same page.
We know what the bill is supposed to do. I will just take a moment to read it into the record. The stated purpose of the bill is to consolidate animal cruelty offences and increase the maximum penalties. It also provides a definition of animal and moves cruelty to animals provisions from the property offences part of the criminal code.
A lot of Canadians may ask what has changed since the last time this type of bill was presented in the House or since the last time we debated it. The government has made certain changes from the previously proposed legislation dealing with cruelty to animals, Bill C-17. The main change was a requirement for a person to act “wilfully or recklessly” in killing or harming animals. However, there are still significant concerns that many organizations, businesses and individuals have with respect to the bill. I started to talk about some of those concerns among some industry people. The people who do have concerns about this legislation, and I will go on to talk about some of them, are agricultural groups, farmers and industry workers. As well, one of my colleagues addressed the idea of medical researchers quite thoroughly this afternoon in regard to some of the concerns they have raised.
All these groups have consistently said that they welcome amendments to the criminal code that would clarify and strengthen provisions relating to animal cruelty. They obviously do not condone intentional animal abuse or neglect in any way. Many of these groups obviously rely on the production of livestock. Their whole livelihoods are based on that. In the production process, some of them actually have relationships that are of the utmost respect for these particular animals because they know that their livelihoods are based on that. The last thing they would ever imagine is to put any type of livestock under any form of cruelty. In fact, they look at ways to be able to minimize the risk or hurt to many of these animals in their production processes.
Many of these groups in fact support the intent of the bill, as its objective is to modernize the law and increase penalties for offences relating to animal cruelty and neglect, but they do, however, have some concerns as to how far the bill can then penalize them if there is an unfortunate feeling that there has been neglect on their part. As I have said, many of them have never approached the issue of animal cruelty in a negative way. They do not intent to hurt the animals. Despite the minor improvements to the legislation, these groups advise that the bill requires significant amendments before their concerns are alleviated. There are a number of main concerns they have raised.
I would like to focus on just a couple of these issues. My colleagues have talked about a few of these issues, especially when it comes to the definition of animal. The definition in the bill is so broad that we could have a number of challenges in court and a lot of confusion as to how animals may fall into these categories. It sure raises fear in my mind about what sort of door the government is opening by not looking specifically at how we can tighten up that part of the legislation.
There is also this idea, which I think hits it on the head, of moving the animal cruelty section out of property offences to a new section in its own right. That is seen by many as emphasizing animal rights as opposed to animal welfare. This is a very important point because the significant alteration in the underlying principles of the legislation is something that needs to be carefully considered. The Canadian Alliance told the government in committee, at question period and in other ways, that this is something that really needs to be considered carefully. The Canadian Alliance asked government members to retain the cruelty to animal provisions in the property offences section of the criminal code but they refused.
It becomes a fine line, especially when it comes to the idea of animal welfare and animal rights. That is something we all have to come to terms with, because when it comes to the development and production of many of these animals there is no doubt that the concern among Canadians is that these animals are being treated properly, cared for and not being abused. As I pointed out, many of these groups that have a concern with the change realize that it is the last thing that they do when they approach how to treat these animals. They actually treat them with the utmost respect and try to make it as painless as possible and give them the best conditions they can have outside of the wild.
I would like to take a moment to talk about the whole process of trying to put forward amendments. We in opposition try really hard to work with the government, to improve its legislation and support it where we can, but we are shut out at every turn. The opposition has tried on a number of occasions in committee to make legislation better. We know that there is a majority government and that the government will pass the legislation it wants passed.
What disappoints us is that when we try to put amendments forward and try to work with the government to improve legislation so that everyone can live with it happily ever after, the government is concerned only about itself and its own interests and refuses to bring stakeholders together. That is just a shame. I wish we could work together more effectively to protect animals and to bring all stakeholders together but in fact the government is going to force the opposition to vote against the bill and that will not do animals any good.