Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise again today and tell the House about the Bloc Quebecois' position on the proposed amendment to the amendment with respect to the date the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights is to submit its report.
I wish to reiterate that the Bloc Quebecois is in favour of tangible and appropriate measures to fight the scourge of cruelty to animals. This is a serious problem which merits all our attention and all our energy. This problem has gone on for too long and it is high time that we face up to it and take the appropriate corrective action.
Again, what we are talking about are acts of unheard-of violence deliberately committed against creatures unable to defend themselves and win recognition of their rights.
Despite all Bill C-15B's good intentions, the Bloc Quebecois still opposes it for two main reasons: the lack of protection for legitimate activities involving animals, and the fact that important powers are taken away from the chief firearms officer, who reports to the government of Quebec.
An amendment to the bill was put forward requiring that the bill be referred back to committee for detailed consideration of clause 8, which sets out how the bill will be applied.
We are in favour of this amendment because it specifically addresses one of our main objections to Bill C-15B, which is the defence for legitimate activities relating to animal husbandry.
It is noteworthy that the section addressing firearms would benefit from a thorough revision as well. The Bloc Quebecois maintains its position on this camouflaged decrease of powers in favour of the chief firearms officer.
We are in favour of the creation of a new section in the criminal code which would institute an innovative concept, the object of which would be to completely change the concept of what an animal is. A animal would no longer be perceived as property, but rather as a specific named entity in the code.
We want to make it clear that we are opposed to this, if it is going to have significant negative repercussions on all those who are involved in a totally legitimate way with animal husbandry, hunting or scientific and medical research.
This is a very important amendment, because it will mean a definitive change to the application. Such a change must not be done in such a way as to have a detrimental effect on what is already in place. And that is exactly what the present wording of Bill C-15B is going to do.
By changing the description of what constitutes an animal, we will no longer look at animals as before and will no longer treat them as before. Yet this innovation must not result in a radical and definitive change in the lives of those who are currently involved in animal husbandry or scientific research in particular, and have been for many years.
With this amendment to the amendment, we recognize that it is essential to look at clause 8. We also acknowledge the urgency of the tragic situation that occurs daily. By introducing this amendment to the amendment, parliamentarians are clearly establishing the limits of a very tight deadline within which the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights must report back to the House on its indepth study of clause 8 of this bill.
The Bloc Quebecois is in favour of this amendment to the amendment in that it establishes a reasonable opportunity to carefully, meticulously, review clause 8 of this bill, a clause which may be considered the very cornerstone of the criteria for protecting legitimate activities involving animals, including animal husbandry, hunting and scientific and medical research.
Bill C-15B is very controversial, and has been from the very beginning. We all receive mail from our fellow citizens asking us to support this legislation. I had the opportunity to discuss the Bloc Quebecois' position with a number of these people, and they support our position, which is to protect animals while recognizing the legitimate activities related to the whole animal industry.
We, like the stakeholders, want increased protection for animals. However, we also support specific protection for people in the animal industry. The problem is that, in Bill C-15B as it is currently worded, there is a blatant lack of protection for these legitimate activities in the animal industry.
Again, the Bloc Quebecois cannot support the bill in its present form, because of this unacceptable and deplorable flaw.
There are currently specific defences for activities relating to the animal industry. These defences are provided for in section 429 of the criminal code, which explicitly protects those who raise livestock, hunters, the animal industry and researchers. These protections are not included in the new part V.1 of the criminal code.
As we said before, the primary purpose of this bill should have been to increase penalties for any reprehensible and violent activity involving animals. The penalty for a cruel offence should be serious enough to deter anyone contemplating it. But this is not the case with Bill C-15B, because it lumps all violent actions together, whether or not cruelty is involved. This is unacceptable.
Officials from the Department of Justice told us in committee that the government's intent was not to deprive those who take part in legitimate breeding activities of the protection to which they are entitled. How can this be the case when the current protection that is specifically laid out in section 429 of the criminal code is not included in clause 8 of the bill? This begs the question. We have reason to seriously question the statements made by the representatives of the Department of Justice.
We have been told that they are legal experts who have anticipated everything. Yet, if this is the case, why were the protections found in the current legislation not included in the new bill? It makes no sense. Why not include the specific protections found in section 429 of the criminal code? These protections are not repeated in the new part V.1 of the criminal code, even implicitly. According to the wording in section 429, these protections only apply to sections 430 to 446 of the criminal code. All we want is to apply the general rights of defence to clause 8. However, at the request of the Bloc Quebecois, clause 8 was explicitly included in the bill, but the government did not want to include explicitly the defences set out in section 429. It makes no sense.
How can we interpret these protections as applying to the entire criminal code? It is simply not logical. Why not include that which has existed for such a long time? The legislator is not deemed to speak in vain. This is a legal principle known to all experts. If legislators have taken care to specify that protections only apply to certain specific sections and not the entire code, that is their intention.
We introduced amendments to this effect, but they were all rejected in committee. The Bloc Quebecois believes that it is essential to take the appropriate measures to satisfy all of the stakeholders. It is possible and perfectly feasible.
As I said before, the Bloc Quebecois supports the creation of a new part of the criminal code for a completely new definition of animal, thereby granting a new designation and legal value.
However, we cannot accept it if the current protections are not respected. The fact that the means of defence that currently exist are not included concerns us.
Unfortunately, I am out of time. I only had a page and a half left to read. I wonder if it is possible for the House to give its unanimous consent for me to finish my speech.