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House of Commons Hansard #197 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-15b.

Topics

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Beth Phinney Liberal Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition signed by many hundreds of Canadians who are calling upon parliament to enact legislation that would allow the federal government to work in tandem with provincial and municipal governments to ensure that the ongoing needs and potential for growth of each and every Canadian humane society, SPCA and registered wildlife sanctuary shelter are met without infringing upon the operational philosophy of any of the above mentioned animal facilities.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

June 3rd, 2002 / 3:20 p.m.

Halifax West Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, Question No. 143 will be answered today.

Question No. 143Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Progressive Conservative Saint John, NB

Concerning the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation programs to assist handicapped persons make modifications to a residence, does the government have plans to raise the income threshold for assistance and is there a process of automatic review of the threshold?

Question No. 143Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Mississauga West Ontario

Liberal

Steve Mahoney LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Crown Corporations

The residential rehabilitation assistance program for persons with disabilities, RRAP-D, provides financial assistance to improve the accessibility of existing properties occupied or intended to be occupied by low-income persons with disabilities. To operationalize this objective, income thresholds for various unit sizes have been developed in all areas of the country to income test clients under the CMHC renovation programs, including RRAP-D.

The income thresholds are based on the median market rent, MMR, for units of different sizes. Given these MMRs, it is possible to compute the minimum annual income required for a household to afford adequate and suitable rental units in a geographic area without spending more than 30% of income. In areas where rental options are non-existent or severely lacking, the annual income required to afford the cost of financing and servicing various sized modest single detached units is utilized. This approach assumes that where there are no rental units, an appropriate housing solution involves the construction of a dwelling.

Depending on the jurisdiction and the applicable federal-provincial-territorial agreements in place, the income thresholds are reviewed on an annual basis or, at a minimum, once every five years. Increases are implemented if they are warranted.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Halifax West Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, if Question No. 149 could be made an order for return, the return would be tabled immediately.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 149Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Canadian Alliance Yorkton—Melville, SK

With regard to the Canadian Firearms Program: ( a ) what is the total amount of money spent on the program since 1995; ( b ) how many employees are working in and for the program; ( c ) how many police officers and police personnel are working in the program; ( d ) how many employees in the program are paid for by the federal government; ( e ) what is the total number of firearms registered; ( f ) what is the total number of firearms still to be registered; ( g ) how many firearms transfers have there been since December 1, 1998; ( h ) what is the total number of valid firearms licence holders; ( i ) what is the total number of gun owners that still don't have a firearms licence; ( j ) what is the error rate in the firearms licencing and registration system; ( k ) in what percentage of all violent crimes are firearms actually used in the commission of the offence; ( l ) what percentage of all homicides are committed with handguns and prohibited firearms; ( m ) what percentage of firearms homicides are committed with registered firearms; ( n ) what percentage of firearms homicides are committed with firearms that should have been registered but were not; ( o ) what percentage of all homicides are committed with long guns; ( p ) what percentage of all robberies are committed with handguns and prohibited firearms; ( q ) what percentage of all robberies are committed with long guns; ( r ) how many times are firearms used by citizens for self-defence every year; ( s ) how many individuals have a record in the Firearms Interest Police data base; ( t ) how many people are prohibited from owning firearms; ( u ) how many violations of these firearms prohibition orders have there been; ( v ) how many guns have been seized from these prohibited firearms owners; ( w ) how many times have these prohibited firearms owners been checked to make sure they have not acquired firearms illegally; ( x ) how many people have had their firearms licences refused or revoked; ( y ) how many guns have been seized from these refused and revoked licencees; and ( z ) how many times have these refused and revoked licencees been checked to make sure they have not acquired firearms illegally?

Return tabled.

Question No. 149Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Question No. 149Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Question No. 149Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from May 10 consideration of the motion that Bill C-15B, an act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms Act, be read the third time and passed; and of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.

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

3:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Carol Skelton Canadian Alliance Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise this afternoon with a heavy heart to speak to Bill C-15B, the cruelty to animals act.

Farmers and ranchers in Canada are facing hardships like we have not seen in recent years. The old timers in our area are saying that it is worse than the 1930s. The economy is bad, the weather conditions are bad and we are facing a severe drought.

The future of agriculture in Saskatchewan is uncertain. The stress and worry that our farm families are facing is hard to grasp. Over the last two weeks we have sent letters out to all the rural municipalities in my riding. By next Wednesday at least, the RMs in my whole riding will have been declared disaster RMs.

We look at farm families and what they have to live on. I heard last fall that the average income for a farm family in Saskatchewan was $7,000. I look at the bill as another impediment for those farm families to make a living and to succeed. The livestock industry in our province has been one success. The bill is just another nail in the coffin of profitable business.

Also of great concern to the province of Saskatchewan and right across Canada is the recent U.S. farm bill. The huge subsidies that the American government are offering American producers will have a definite negative effect on Canadian agriculture as a whole. Input costs continue to rise while income to farm families continues to fall. Faced with this crisis situation the Liberal government chooses to turn a blind eye to agriculture programs in Canada because it continues to inadequately fund them and inefficiently run them. These are programs that the government sponsors and says are so good for our farm families.

While the neglect shown by the government has been passive, the bill that is before us today is an open, aggressive attack on agriculture. This is not fearmongering, as the government would like Canadians to believe. It is a simple fact. The legislation before us would have a negative effect on farmers and ranchers throughout the country. When we talk to chicken farmers--

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

3:25 p.m.

The Speaker

I hesitate to interrupt the hon. member, but I made a mistake in recognizing her. The hon. member has already spoken on this subamendment so she is not eligible to speak again unless there is unanimous consent to permit her to make this speech. Is there unanimous consent for the hon. member to speak a second time?

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

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

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

3:25 p.m.

The Speaker

I am afraid I must move on to another speaker. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member. It was my mistake for recognizing her in the first place.

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

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Lanctôt Bloc Châteauguay, QC

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.

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

3:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

A page and a half is the equivalent of approximately two minutes. Is there unanimous consent to allow the hon. member to conclude his speech?

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

3:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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

3:35 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Lanctôt Bloc Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Speaker, we now possess all the tools necessary to create an approach that would punish true offenders while protecting farmers, hunters and researchers. But this is not what the government wants to see.

We are of the view that not including the defences found in subsection 429(2) of the criminal code in the new part V.1 will have the effect of depriving those who legally kill or cause pain to animals of the protection they are currently afforded.

Section 429 of the criminal code is clear. It says that legal justification or excuse and colour of right constitute specific protection to whomever takes part in a legitimate and legal activity. It is therefore essential to include these specific safeguards in the provisions of new part V.1 of the criminal code.

According to Department of Justice officials, subsection 8(3) of the criminal code should apply. They say that defences of legal justification or excuse or colour of right are implicit in section 8. Why not include them explicitly in the bill as the entire animal industry is requesting? It is completely illogical to refuse to do so. These protections are not implicit because they are explicit only for certain sections of the criminal code, specifically section 430 and those which follow.

The Bloc Quebecois is adamant about this. The means of defence now provided for in section 429 of the criminal code must be included in new part V.1 of the criminal code.

In addition, we are of the view that going back to committee for consideration of this point is more than necessary. It is vital to ensure that the bill truly meets the needs of all parties.

The committee proceedings must be entirely democratic in order to consider all the effects of this problem of cruelty to animals. In addition, it is our role in committee to ensure that there will be no possible conflict in interpretation of the new provisions.

Unfortunately, today the government has brought in a motion for closure. Unfortunately, we know what is going to become of this amendment to the amendment.

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

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Mac Harb Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in support of the bill. It is my hope that this legislation will go through the House and move on to the next stage so that it becomes law.

This legislation deals with two elements, first, the harmonization of what we already have in a place, and second, to introduce new penalties and increase some of the other penalties.

The first element of the legislation would harmonize some of the definitions and issues that we have in the bill. That is a timely matter. As we know this legislation has not been touched for quite some time. I commend the minister who has brought this legislation before the House. It has gone through a substantial amount of consultation with various parties and interest groups, the community as a whole, and people at the provincial level. This has all been done with one thing in mind, and that is to bring to parliament legislation that reflects the needs of the communities, deals with the substantive issues that the government is trying to address and to harmonize some of the definitions and issues and bring them up to date.

On the second issue it is important for the government to take the action it is taking on the issue of enforcement. It is important for us to create a high level of awareness in our communities that cruelty to animals is not acceptable. We must put measures in place to protect animals.

Along with outreach, information and education there must be a level of enforcement. Individuals must be told what needs to be done but at the same time they must be shown the consequences if that does not take place. The introduction of the measure for protection came as a result of a number of studies that have shown over and over again that those who have tendencies to abuse animals would have tendencies to abuse human beings. That correlation does exist. Simply put, to introduce and strengthen those measures is the right thing to do.

Earlier my colleague raised a number of concerns. I have also heard from some of my constituents who have also raised some concerns. For example, one of the issues that has been raised in the House deals with certain provisions in Bill C-15B against the killing or poisoning of animals without lawful excuse that, in their views, would make industry more vulnerable to prosecution.

It is important to know that offences which prohibit the killing or poisoning of animals without lawful excuse are set out in parts of the legislation, mainly subsections 182.2(1)(c) and 182.2(1)(d) respectively. The words lawful excuse are expressly mentioned in the offence provisions because they form an integral part of the definition. The activity itself, the killing or poisoning of an animal may be a lawful activity, for example, slaughter, pest control, defence of persons or other animals, protection of property, legal authorization such as hunting, fishing or trapping, and euthanasia. Lawful excuse is a flexible concept designed to provide access to an unlimited variety of excuses or justifications.

Depending on the nature of the offence and the circumstances in which it was committed it is impossible and unwise to envisage every situation that could amount to a lawful excuse for a particular offence. Whether or not there was a lawful excuse for an offence is a determination that must be made on the basis of all circumstances as presented by the evidence.

Another issue that had been raised concerning a certain element of Bill C-15B was whether or not the criminal code had the effect of criminalizing activities in various regulated sectors or setting standards of behaviour. The answer to this is quite clear. The criminal law in relation to cruelty to animals does not at all prohibit legitimate socially accepted or regulated activities that do not inflict unnecessary suffering on the animal. A vast body of jurisprudence on animal law supports this particular position.

If we look back over the past 100 years, since animal cruelty laws have been in place, there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that the criminal law is being misused to target legitimate hunters, fishers or people working on the farm. On the contrary there is every indication that the only acts that result in a criminal offence are of sheer or senseless brutality taken against an animal, or they come as a result of criminal neglect in the feeding or care of animals. The criminal law is applied generally and sets a minimum standard of behaviour which must be adhered to by everyone.

There have been other questions raised by my colleagues dealing with the possibility of a third party alleging that someone has committed a cruel act against an animal. This deals with the whole issue of frivolous or vexatious prosecutions. This particular issue would be dealt with by the courts. In other words, one would have to go through a lot of hoops before being able to establish a legitimate complaint against a third party.

Individuals would have to put their name on the line by making the allegation. The court would have to look at the allegation and assess whether or not there was reason to believe a particular offence had taken place. Before a procedure would move to the next step a judge would have to be fully satisfied that there was ample evidence that supported the claim of the third party that someone may have committed a cruelty to animal offence. Once it moves to the next step there are ample numbers of protective measures in place to prevent those kinds of frivolous actions from taking place. The criminal code also deals specifically with false allegations. An individual who makes a false allegation against a third party is subject to prosecution.

Having listened to some of the comments of my colleagues in the opposition as well as hearing from some of the special interest groups in the communities and looking at the legislation itself I can say in all fairness that it strikes a strong and good balance between the needs of those who are legitimate hunters or trappers and the protection for our animals. It is my hope that this legislation would go through the House smoothly and become law as soon as possible.

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

3:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Canadian Alliance Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have a few comments to add as well. The first issue I want to address is the issue of Bill C-68, the long gun registry.

As we know, that registry is now an $800 million boondoggle. It spends about $100 million a year of taxpayer money. We are very concerned. What the bill is doing is stripping more resources out of the health care and frontline policing.

These amendments are being introduced on the basis that this will introduce administrative efficiency. Administrative efficiency is important if someone is going somewhere. In this case we are placing into effect laws that provide efficiency on a road to nowhere. We are not going anywhere with this legislation. In fact, all we are doing is flushing taxpayer money down the toilet.

If people want to persist in being efficient in doing that, then the House has fallen a long way from the aim of providing good government to the people of Canada.

The second issue is, of course, the contentious issue regarding the animal cruelty sections. Members of the Alliance caucus have stated over and over again that we support tougher legislation in terms of penalties. We see that even with the existing legislation rarely does the crown ask for sentences that reflect the maximums permissible now. Nor do the courts impose anywhere near the maximum.

If this is what the bill would do, it will not accomplish anything in terms of creating tougher penalties.

What has caused me some concern today is an announcement by the member of parliament for Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey, in which he says he is now of the opinion that the bill is a good bill, on the basis that the Minister of Justice has promised him that we will see amendments not in this House, but in the other House. The Minister of Justice does not want to see the amendment that he is proposing scrutinized here. He is promising the rural members of the Liberal caucus that there will be an amendment produced in the other House.

If that amendment is worthy of consideration, why does the Minister of Justice not have the courage to put it before the elected representatives of the people to determine whether in fact this does ease some of our concerns?

I have had the opportunity to speak to the Minister of Justice about the bill. I said that there were a few minor amendments in terms of legislative work that could be put in place to make the bill satisfactory. One of these was simply giving substance to the assurances that were brought forward by the former minister of justice.

As we know, the sections are being moved out of the property sections of the criminal code and there will be a new shrine to animals in a particular part of the criminal code. Unfortunately, what the former minister of justice and now this Minister of Justice have failed to do is take those defences from section 429 applicable to property offences and also transfer them to this new area of the law.

The Minister of Justice has raised a very unique argument. The Minister of Justice says that not only are they implicit in the criminal code, but those same defences are available under subsection 8(3). This really does damage to the minister's credibility and indeed to his legal powers of observation.

If those defences in subsection 8(3) which relate to common law defences were exactly the same as those in section 429, which are now being destroyed, why did earlier parliaments see fit to have specific defences put into place in section 429 with respect to the animal cruelty sections? How could it be that by removing those specific guarantees made in respect of animal cruelty, we can say now that they were always there, that they were duplicated in subsection 8(3)? That is absolute nonsense. It does not stand the test of legal analysis.

What the minister is doing is honouring a political commitment that was made to radical, urban based animal rights groups, which was, if they were to help the former minister of justice in her riding in the last federal election, she would introduce this bill. We know that the agenda of these radical, urban based animal rights organizations is to destroy the animal production and husbandry business in Canada. That is simply their agenda.

What really bothers me is that the humane societies are all on board with these radical animal rights organizations. Of course they have been bought off. There are specific amendments that provide certain financial incentives for the humane societies to participate in the destruction of a rural way of life and animal production in Canada. That is really shameful. Unfortunately what the humane societies will learn is that once this legislation is passed, these animal rights organizations will turn on them in the same way that happened in the American experience.

I do not think we need to wait to allow history to repeat itself here. Aside from the very good work that human societies have done in investigating and enforcing not only criminal code provisions but provincial statutes, we have to be mindful of the concerns that have been raised with this bill.

It is not just in respect of the livelihood of farmers, ranchers and long established practices that are indeed humane, but with scientific researchers. We had the eminent Canadian, Mr. Pierre Berton, indicate in a letter to the committee, a letter which has been distributed in the House, that he was concerned that this legislation would put a chill into health research, research that helps Canadians in respect to so many issues.

I find it interesting that the Liberal majority would support legislation that permits scientific experimentation on human embryos, yet allow full protection to animals, so that animals are protected from research. Animals receive a higher priority from the government than human embryos do. Where is the rationale?

The Liberals can correct this by bringing the amendment they are talking about into the House, if they have the courage to face the members who are elected by the people of Canada rather than doing a shuffle with a back door deal with rural Liberal caucus members.

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

4 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I wish to congratulate the member who preceded me as well as my colleague from Châteauguay for his participation and work during consideration of this bill. I know he also works very hard on the justice committee.

In my view, the bill boils down to the simple issue of whether we can accomplish all that we set out to do in the protection of animals and still leave the bill in such a way that it protects and provides assurances to legitimate animals users, and by that I mean farmers, hunters, furriers and researchers?

Can we leave all these new protections within the property sections, within the existing sections of the criminal code that provide those colour of right excuses that have long been held very dearly by those individuals in the group I described? The answer to that is yes.

It was interesting that the member for Provencher pointed out that there may be some assurances that were given that might explain the voting that took place here today by rural members of the Liberal caucus. Previously they expressed outrage and seemed quite prepared to vote against their government if the bill was to remain in its current configuration.

That may very well be and we may see some of the discussion that took place on the floor of the House repeated on the floor of the other place. I suspect that may be the case but the behaviour here today was bizarre. I do not say this lightly, but members of the Liberal caucus today who were so adamant before in standing against the government on the legislation did appear a bit like hand shy, whipped puppies when it came to the vote today. There is real concern that the cave-in, which took place, may be the result of a behind the scenes deal.

It goes without saying that Bill C-15B does have some legitimate and positive changes that would bring about a greater sentencing range for those convicted of cruelty to animal offences. In my view and the view of members of the Progressive Conservative Party, there is a need in legislation currently to up the ante and punish those who intentionally abuse or neglect animals.

Cruelty to animals is an issue that has received significant publicity in recent years and months. Psychologists are drawing parallels between children's cruelty to animals and their subsequent cruelty and behaviour toward other humans.

While I am supportive of many elements of the legislation dealing with crimes against animals, there are still legitimate concerns that stem from the decision to remove the current criminal code provisions dealing with animal cruelty from the property sections of the criminal code and create, in essence, a new section.

It was suggested that a new section could also have brought with it the existing protections found in part XI of the criminal code. Those sections permit acts to be done with legal justification, excuse or with colour of right. They go back to the very origins of the drafting of the sections pertaining to animals that were contained in those property definitions.

There is still an opportunity to get it right and to get it right in the first instance. The importance of having those protections is clear. There is a real and legitimate fear on the part of animal users and participants in businesses that require the use of animals and practices that might be perceived by many from an ivory tower perspective to be cruel. I am talking about legitimate practices such as branding, castration, methods of slaughter and methods of medical and scientific research that have a very legitimate practice. Those of the feint of heart and those who may be a bit squeamish about this often sit down and enjoy a nice steak or sport their leather belts and boots. That is the reality.

Providing those protections under the property sections of the code permit acts to be done legitimately within certain parameters that have long been respected, respecting the need to be using safe and fair practices when it comes to animals.

I share the concerns of many Canadians and many members when it comes to definition of animal, involving any animal that has the capacity to feel pain. There was some concession made by the previous minister of justice. There was a spirit I suppose of co-operation and perhaps reasonableness when the current minister's predecessor heard from many stakeholders on this issue.

The previous bill was careful to insert the words “wilful cruelty” and “unnecessary pain and suffering” in the drafting of the bill, yet there was an intransigence when it came to the changing of the issue of property.

Members have expressed concern on behalf of stakeholders and their constituents over the lengthy, protracted and costly litigation that could result in both the criminal and civil courts. The potential private prosecutions could be costly and paralyzing. We all know that when a dispute disintegrates into this type of litigation it can literally bankrupt the participants. It can bankrupt the individual who stands accused. Regardless of the outcome the end result might well be that many farmers, fishers, and those involved in the fur industry and privately funded scientific research face bankruptcy by the time the issue is resolved.

Protection is being denied. Neither the Minister of Justice nor anyone on the government side of the House to date has made a legitimate case as to why we cannot achieve all the protections and necessary elements. No one has explained why we cannot up the ante when it comes to sentencing and give prosecutorial teams or individuals greater ability to hold to task and bring to justice persons who deliberately or recklessly cause harm to animals. All that could be accomplished by leaving these offences in the property section of the criminal code.

The fears people have with respect to the firearms registry are apropos to what has happened because similar guarantees were given at the time of the passing of Bill C-68. The government claimed it would only cost $85 million. That has gone out the window. The cost has ballooned to over $800 million and is climbing. Yet the registry is still not up and running.

Was the gun registry a legitimate expenditure? Was it good value for the dollar? Are the Hells Angels lining up at kiosks at the mall to participate in the gun registry? Absolutely not. Will criminals give their fingerprints before robbing houses? No, they will not. Will they register their guns before using them for illegitimate purposes? Absolutely not. It is based on a completely false premise.

That is why members of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada do not support changing or tinkering with the gun registry. Making changes to the gun registry at this point would be like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic . The ill-founded, ill-conceived, overblown, expensive and bureaucratic gun registry system will eventually collapse under its own weight. The police cannot rely on it. It will not achieve the public purpose for which it was sold to Canadians in a time of heightened awareness and fear about firearms. The assurances given to Canadians including the Canadian Police Association among other groups have been completely abrogated.

Why should we trust the government on this one? The government says legitimate animal stakeholders should not be concerned because protections would be there. I will make the point clear: There would be no compensation for individuals who wound up before the courts for legitimate practices concerning their animals, just as there is no compensation for gun owners who have their property seized. We are opening a door that is unnecessary and that may result in costly and protracted litigation. For what reason are we doing it? We are doing it for reasons that cannot be enunciated, explained or articulated by the government.

I regret that the Progressive Conservative Party will not be supporting the legislation. We had an opportunity to get it right. Perhaps those in the other place will have more success in convincing the government that we have an obligation to recognize that Canadians, particularly those in rural Canada, have needs that must be recognized and supported by the government.

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

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I will talk about a couple of the points members of the opposition party, the Alliance, made recently.

First, they suggested we propose an amendment in the House instead of in the Senate that would help rural Canada. The member should understand legislative procedure better. We cannot propose an amendment here because an amendment and a sub-amendment have already been proposed. It is not possible procedurally. He should be aware of that. He should also be aware that when an amendment goes before the Senate it must come back here to be approved anyway. Amendments must be debated and approved by parliament before they are agreed to.

Second, the same member tried to create a myth that we would not be able to do research on animals after the bill was passed. The case law with respect to the issue is obvious. The Ménard case says the application of the law would be the same under Bill C-15B as it is now and that research would be quite appropriate.

The purpose of Bill C-15B is to consolidate, simplify and modernize the existing provisions to increase maximum penalties for cruelty to animals and take care of injured animals. I do not think anyone in the opposition would disagree with increasing penalties for people who abuse animals so the issue is taken more seriously. I think they would have a hard time with their consciences if they voted against increasing penalties for those who are cruel to animals.

I have had a lot of input from those in my riding who work in the humane society and others who strongly support the bill. It has been a large percentage of the input I have had on the issue.