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.


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

4:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

What do the hunters say in your riding?

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

4:10 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

I am glad the hon. member has raised the issue because it is the next part of my speech. Not only the hunters but the trappers, fishermen and even the farmers in my riding are very happy that the rural caucus has done a lot of work to make sure the bill would not harm any practices that have been allowed in the past. I compliment the hon. member for Huron—Bruce for making these points and bringing them forward to ensure Bill C-15B is totally acceptable and would not harm the ways of life that are so important to the trappers, fishers, hunters and even the farmers of the Yukon.

Although the debate has gone on so long it is disappointing because no new points have been brought up. However I will again refute the two or three points brought up in criticism of the bill. First, some argue that under Bill C-15B a whole bunch of frivolous lawsuits might be undertaken against innocent people who could not afford the time or effort. This is not true. Cases would need to go to a hearing. Cases brought forward by private individuals trying to do something vexatious or frivolous would be screened out at that stage. Almost every offence would be a hybrid offence which means it would fall under this category. The only exception would be if someone broke the law by owning an animal when he or she was not supposed to.

Second, an unfounded complaint is that the bill would expand the definition of animals too far. I am sure some members of the opposition support preventing cruelty to animals, but some are arguing Bill C-15B would catch all sorts of animals that were not included before. However there was no definition before so anything was eligible. Bill C-15B would limit the number of animals the law would apply to.

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

4:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Leon Benoit Canadian Alliance Lakeland, AB

It is a wide open definition now. That really helps.

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

4:10 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

The opposition is very animated this afternoon.

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

4:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Canadian Alliance Portage—Lisgar, MB

Justifiably so.

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

4:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Leon Benoit Canadian Alliance Lakeland, AB

Make your own speech instead of these departmental speeches they give you.

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

4:15 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Once I have finished my speech I will give members a departmental speech if I have time so they can enjoy them both.

The last item suggested by the opposition is not true. Opposition members are suggesting that taking the offences out of the property section would remove the defences people could use if charged. However all the defences would be available under section 8.3 of the criminal code. That would not change. People would have all the same defences they had before through case law. They could still embark on the types of activities they were allowed to before.

The opposition's arguments have been refuted. As long as the debate has been going on I have not heard any others.

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

4:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Leon Benoit Canadian Alliance Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. A little earlier today we heard the government House leader saying all the speeches that needed to be given regarding the legislation had already been given. Why then are government members are still giving speeches and denying us the opportunity to give ours?

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

4:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

That is not really a point of order.

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

4:15 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, this speech has not been given by anyone else. I have been making it up to refute some of the invalid points the opposition has made with respect to the bill.

I will speak to an aspect of Bill C-15B which has not been the subject of recent discussion and has not been given enough emphasis in terms of the importance of the legislation. While taking animal cruelty offences more seriously would be entirely consistent with society's moral condemnation of the abuse and neglect of animals, an even greater societal interest would be served by the provisions of Bill C-15B. There is increasing scientific evidence of a link between animal cruelty and subsequent violent offences against humans, particularly in the context of domestic violence. A number of studies in the United States have clearly shown the link. Recent Canadian studies have also put out interesting findings.

Last year a study was conducted of 100 women entering two shelters for abused women and children in Calgary. Some 65% of the participants were either pet owners or had been pet owners in the last 12 months. More than half who owned pets said their abusers had threatened to kill or hurt or had killed or hurt their pets. More than 25% of the pet owning participants said they delayed their decision to seek shelter from violence for themselves and their children because they feared for the safety of the animals they left behind.

One American study has noted that while most animal abusers will not commit sensational murders, serial killers almost invariably have histories of animal abuse earlier in their lives. Many notorious serial killers including Albert DeSalvo, the Boston strangler, have had histories of animal abuse that started in their youth. There is increasing evidence of a link between animal abuse early in life and subsequent violence against humans. As one report noted, the literature suggests an association between a pattern of cruelty to animals in childhood or adolescence and a pattern of dangerous and recurrent aggression against people at a later age.

One of the first formal studies in this area examined the life histories of 84 prison inmates in the United States. The research found that 75% of those charged with violent crimes had an early record of cruelty to animals, fire setting and bedwetting. A later study of psychiatric patients who repeatedly tortured dogs and cats found that all of them had high levels of aggression toward people and had also been victims of brutal parental punishment as children.

The link between animal cruelty and the abuse or neglect of children has been examined in other studies as well. In one study of 57 families being treated by local child welfare authorities because of incidents of child abuse, pets had been abused in 88% of the families in which children had been physically abused. In two-thirds of the cases the abusive parent had injured or killed the family pet. In the remaining one-third of cases it was the children who had abused the pet. In describing animal abuse as symptomatic of family dysfunction, one study notes that the research strongly suggests animal abuse is not the result of some personality flaw in the abuser but a symptom of a deeply disturbed family.

Insight into the dynamics of animal cruelty offences can be gained from research that examines the reasons given by offenders for their actions. In examining violent offenders with a history of animal abuse, researchers have found that some offenders resort to cruelty to control the animal's behaviour. Others have hurt or killed an animal to retaliate for an action by the animal such as barking. A third motivation is prejudice toward specific types of animals, most commonly cats.

I hope people understand that there are ramifications of the bill in terms of determining that cruelty to animals is an offence of violence. It would be of benefit to our society to realize the seriousness of it in that respect.

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

4:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Reed Elley Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to say to my hon. colleague for Yukon that I respect him greatly as a person. I want him to know that the points I will make in my speech are valid points, and they are not being made just by me. They represent much of the opposition to the bill as it presently stands.

The bill before us today was introduced and discussed by the Liberal spin masters on many different occasions but I still do not think the government has it right. Bill C-15B reintroduces the proposed amendments to the cruelty to animals provision of the criminal code that were introduced in Bill C-17 during the last parliament with certain changes.

However, despite the minor improvements to the legislation, many people who are dependent on the harvesting and husbandry of animals for their livelihood still have a number of concerns with the bill.

One concern with the bill is that the definition of animal is too broad. The proposed definition of “animal” in Bill C-15B includes non-human vertebrates and “all animals having the capacity to feel pain”. This new definition extends legal protection to a number of living organisms which have never before been provided that kind of protection.

Another key concern is that the criminal code would no longer provide the same level of legal protection presently afforded to those who use animals for legitimate, lawful and justified practices. The phrase “legal justification, excuse or colour of right” in section 429(2) of the criminal code currently provides protection to those who commit any kind of property offence.

However, in the new bill the fact that the animal cruelty provisions would be moved out of the general classification of property offences and into a section of their own would remove these provisions outside of the scope of that very protection.

Moving the animal cruelty section out of the range of property offences to a new section in its own right, emphasizes animal rights as opposed to animal welfare. I think that is the big difference that we need to be clear on here. This is a significant alteration in the underlying principles of the legislation and could elevate the status of animals in the eyes of the courts.

This legislation could open up, for instance, the possibility that farmers, sporting groups and scientific researchers will be unjustly prosecuted. Animal rights groups in Canada will certainly use this new legislation as the basis for such prosecution and in fact have already stated their intentions to do exactly that.

Liz White, the director of legislative revision of the Animal Alliance of Canada, has been quoted as saying:

My worry is that people think that 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 conviction to lay charges. That's what this is all about. Make no mistake about it.

Those are not my words. Those are the words of one of the directors of the Animal Alliance of Canada, an animal rights group. Animal rights groups are already gearing up to test this law. We hear reports of them harassing feedlot owners, cattle sales ring owners, rodeo workers and even veterinarians about possible cruelty to animals. Those are ordinary Canadians who make their livelihood working with animals. The bill opens up this legal Pandora's box which will cost Canadians much down the road.

The former federal justice minister has offered assurances that what is lawful today in the course of legitimate activities will be lawful when the bill receives royal assent. However the problem is that these new provisions arguably narrow the scope of what constitutes legitimate activities.

We have all been witness to time after time when we were told by the government “don't worry, it will never happen that way, just trust us”. In the present climate of the government in this country today, that is a statement that just will not wash with the Canadian public.

The long and the short of it is, unless it is clearly spelled out in the legislation, I do not trust the legislation. I believe the government has passed legislation before that will have devastating effects on the future of this country and yet may not be seen for years to come. This legislation is just one more example of that.

As I turn to the second part of the bill I note that the government has failed dramatically in its efforts to curb violence through its ill-fated gun policy. In spite of the overwhelming evidence that the Liberal gun registry has failed miserably both administratively and financially, the government blithely carries. The emperor has no clothes and yet no one on that side of the House is prepared to state the facts as they really are.

The Hells Angels think that the gun laws are just fine. Just ask one of their leaders who was recently convicted of a number of crimes and was known to be directly associated with the most elite division of this infamous motorcycle gang and yet successfully applied for a firearm acquisition certificate. Yet the minister stands before the House expecting to be believed when he states that the registration program is working just fine.

My colleagues in the Canadian Alliance have stated before and I will state again that we support increasing penalties for cruelty to animal offences but we do not support widening the scope of what currently constitutes a criminal offence. New animal cruelty legislation may cause the courts to interpret such offences in a different light. This could have significant and detrimental implications for farmers, hunters and other agricultural producers who are dependent on animals for their livelihood. If it is not the minister's intention to change what is lawful today, he should simply raise the penalties for existing animal cruelty offences.

The Canadian Alliance in no way condones intentional acts of cruelty toward animals and supports increasing the penalties for offences relating to such acts. However new animal cruelty legislation may cause the courts to interpret such offences in a different light. This could have significant implication on all those who are dependent on animals for their livelihoods.

With regard to firearms, we believe that there should be severe mandatory penalties for the criminal use of any weapon. We are committed to keeping guns out of the hands of violent criminals as a necessary part of making our communities safer.

Certainly if we ever become government, and it may not be long, we will replace the current firearms law with a practical firearms control system that is cost effective and respects the rights of Canadians to own and use firearms responsibly.

In closing, I believe we need to have a strong dose of reality injected into both this debate and this bill. Let us not get caught up in the hyperbole that can elevate any debate beyond the realistic to the surreal. All Canadians would agree that cruelty to animals is wrong and that realistic gun control should enhance the safety of Canadians. However, if we do not define the limits of the legislation in a careful and reasoned manner, keeping in mind the need to have realistic applications of these changes, then we are only making life more difficult for everyone and unhelpful to anyone.

For those reasons and the lack of reasoned ability to apply these new changes to the laws of the land, I will be opposing, on behalf of my constituents, Bill C-15B.

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

4:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

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

Mr. Speaker, I know some may expect that I will be talking again about gophers but I will not do that. I only want to congratulate the two winners of the gopher derby across the west. The two young lads live in Assiniboia, about 50 miles over from where I am. They received a lot of praise and thanks for trying to eliminate these pests.

Being a little bit older, I have seen a lot of cruelty to animals, such as horses in the field and so on. I am all for heavy penalties for mistreating animals. Having said that, I want to assure the government that the people from lobby groups who have lobbied the government are not giving the straight facts.

One only has to listen carefully to some of the slogans being used by members of the PETA organization. These are people who have lobbied the government. Their definition for rodeo is “cruelty for a buck”. These people will not stop. They will tell us that their ultimate goal is to shut down the Calgary stampede. These are the same people who have influenced this legislation. Dog racing is “death in the fast lane”. All zoos, such as Vancouver and Toronto, are to be shut down. These are called “pitiful prisons”.

I just had a circus in my constituency and every year I give it $50 and sometimes more. That money pays for a whole bunch of kids to see animals which they normally would never see. PETA calls circuses “three rings of abuse”. Its ultimate goal is to shut them down. We are even getting into royalty. PETA has labelled horse racing as “a losing bet”. Travelling animal acts are “shameful shows”. Marine mammal parks, and we have some of those in Canada, are “chlorinated prisons”.

People in those lobby groups who do not own animals and who have never worked with animals are the ones who have pushed and pushed for this legislation. However it is even more serious than that. PETA has even gone so far as to bring God into this argument. PETA goes so far as to say that Jesus was a vegetarian and that if we want to be good Christians, we must be vegetarians too, therefore, we must not have Kentucky fried chicken or anything else. That is who the government has been listening to.

We have a lot of humane societies around the country but some of its volunteers, including those in Vancouver, are challenging the animal care practices. They are now lobbying Burger King, McDonalds and others because of inhumane farm and slaughter methods practised by the suppliers of meat to these institutions. They get away with this.

By the way, when a rodeo event was held in conjunction with the Salt Lake City Olympics, the lobby group again pointed out that to have a calf roping event was “an international outrage that animal abuse would be associated with the Olympics”. That was not enough. The same group has asked that we stop manipulating the appearance of dogs. It does not want anyone in our country to breed purebred dogs. The owners of sheep and cattle would really be excited to hear they could no longer buy purebred border collies.

Animal rights groups are lobbying governments to prohibit any animals in circuses. They consider a circus to be for profit. I hope people who run circuses make a profit. I do not know why the country gets all excited if someone makes a profit. It is so ridiculous.

Is it any wonder why we on this side of the House are concerned about the potential and sure abuses? As sure as I am standing here, as my hon. colleague has just said, the bill will be tested to the limit by the lobby groups. The number of people now engaged in farming and agricultural practices is in the single digits, and I am sure there are almost that many in the lobby groups, to which the government pays close attention.

I want to talk a little bit about rodeos. If someone were to go to my daughter's ranch, that individual would see little horns on the wall and a kid trying to lasso them. It has been part of our culture. What an evil practice. This all originated with the cowboys on the open range trying to tame a wild horse or, indeed, trying bull roping or calf roping for sport. All of this was necessary. Now we breed bucking horses and we have a purebred professional rodeo association.

If you want to see an association, Mr. Speaker, that works with horses and cattle and lends all kinds of support to their well-being, it is a professional rodeo. Anyone who attempts to inflict any cruelty whatsoever on one of these animals has to meet the severe reprimand and fines of the professional association. We are not going to shut down the Calgary stampede or stop doing those things that farmers and ranchers have been doing for the last 150 years.

Let me say this. If the person who is judging is the one who determines what is cruel to animals and if it is left to someone who does not know the north end of a cow going south, then that person would has to go to court would indeed have to spend his or her money to justify themselves in court to some loony-brained lobbyist group that wants to destroy all animals on all farms. I just cannot believe how the government would pass the buck and send the bill over to the Senate to provide the amendments that it thinks it wants.

The bill should never pass. Whether one runs a ranch or a rodeo, let me say that the cowboys and ranchers know how to look after their animals and they do so with tender, loving care. Coming from a rural area with huge ranches, I am not about to stand here and not tell the people on that side of the House that the bill is wrong. People do not trust the government.

On Saturday I was at the official opening of a new veterinary clinic. The young vet is worried. I told him that all he has to do when some of these lobbyists come in is to get the biggest needle going and ask them to leave. I told him that this is all he has to do.

People are afraid. The rodeos are afraid. The zoos are afraid. All the people who bring these things to our society are afraid of the bill. It is wrong.

I know that after this session of parliament ends and a new one begins these organizations that I have just mentioned will try this bill to the limit and the public will be on their side, because all we have to do is get the press or the media or someone opposite to lend a voice about the cruelty of a certain activity and people will be charged. What can they do about it? Nothing except fight it in the courts, but they probably do not have the money.

I am very proud to stand before the House to represent my constituency and say that the bill is dead wrong and should not be passed. I do not care what the majority was over there. Someone will pay for this bill down the line and I hope it is the government. I hope someone over there gets stung with the results of the bill. I do not trust the letter that I saw come around which stated that the bill will be sent to the Senate, the Senate will fix it all up and everything is going to be rosy.

They should tell that to the zoos, the rodeo people, the ranchers, the feedlot operators, the cattle rings and the stockyard houses. They do not believe one word of the bill. The people who should be most concerned would be 90% plus against the bill, yet we in the House have the audacity to support it.

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

4:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst, Employment Insurance.

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

4:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Bob Mills Canadian Alliance Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to the bill, as I do have a number of rural constituents although my riding is now close to 70% urban. Certainly I know that 30% well and in fact I am part of that constituency.

I want to start off by expressing my total displeasure with the use of closure in the House. Closure has been used 70 to 80 times since I have been here. It used to be that the government really thought about doing something like that. In fact a government could easily fall at the next election because of the use of closure. The government now uses closure in the House like we change our socks and thinks nothing of it. I hope the Canadian people are now seeing what they have because of not watching and keeping an eye on the government and providing pressure to keep it from doing this.

As far as the bill is concerned, obviously all of us would be opposed to any kind of cruelty to animals. We have to really differentiate between what we mean by cruelty and what we mean by strict agricultural practices.

The policy of the Canadian Alliance is pretty clear on that. The Canadian Alliance in no way condones intentional acts of cruelty toward animals and supports increasing the penalties for offences relating to such acts. However, while cruelty to animals cannot be tolerated, the criminal law should not be used as a tool by special interest groups to destroy the legitimate farming and related food production industry. We will strive to ensure that the legitimate use of animals by farmers, sportsmen and medical researchers is protected.

That pretty much sums up our position and where we stand. Anyone who portrays it any other way obviously has not listened to the words that I have just said and that our party and all our members stand for. Sometimes I even think that probably Air Canada is behind the bill because it certainly is opposed to serving any kind of meat products on its planes. I think most of us are getting tired of vegetarian pizza, vegetarian omelettes, vegetarian fajitas and all those things.

Let us talk about the bill itself. The critical point is that this is an assault on agriculture. The farmers see it as nothing else. They see an ongoing assault. We have to remember that farmers are 1.9 million Canadians creating about $26 billion in exports. In the province that I come from we have hundreds of trucks heading south with cattle every day to serve the huge market in the U.S., which adds directly to our GDP and is so important to our standard of living and what we all have in this country.

This attack on the agriculture industry has been going on for a long time. I suppose it has been going on from the beginning of the country's existence. There are all kinds of examples. We could talk about the Canadian Wheat Board. Certainly the people in my constituency feel that while it is an agency that was needed in the 1940s, it is now subject to real questions about marketing and about whether a bureaucracy, a monopoly, is the way to sell grain products. They feel that it is an assault on their rights and particularly when it only applies to the prairie provinces. It does not apply to farmers in Ontario, Quebec and so on. They definitely see that as an attack on the west.

As well, of course, and more recently, we had Bill C-68. I received 13,000 letters in my riding telling me to vote against that legislation. Obviously 13,000 letters on anything tells us what they thought about it and obviously they have been proven right. It does not work. Licensing and registering farmers, ranchers and duck hunters is not going to work and it is certainly not going to make any difference to the crime situation.

Then there is the bill that I have been involved with as the environment critic, Bill C-5. Again the people of my riding feel that is a direct assault on them as individuals and as farmers. They feel that the bill has to include compensation. If it is in fact going to affect their livelihood and their way of life, they obviously have to be compensated.

Bill C-15B is just another example of their concerns not being taken into consideration. They do not want anything special. They want to be treated as an industry that does the very best job. I must say that most of the farmers and ranchers I know care about those animals a lot. Those animals are their livelihood. They really care about those animals that do not have the calves in the spring or for some reason have been injured out in the field. They will go a long way to preserve those animals. Sure, there are practices that we may not necessarily like. Castration is certainly not a pleasant thing and neither are dehorning and those kinds of things, but they are necessary agricultural practices. The concern is that the bill will now impact on that industry. We have to remember that it is an industry providing a livelihood for a lot of Canadians and that it adds to our GDP.

As well, our farmers look at the subsidies out there, which Canada objects to. The recent OECD figures show that a U.S. wheat farmer gets 49% of his income from the government. An EU farmer gets 43% of his income from the government. In Canada the farmer gets 17% of his income from the government. Obviously they look at that and say that the government really does not care about a guaranteed food supply, that it really does not care about the agricultural industry. If the government did, it would be doing more to help farmers get over what are considerably tough times for them.

The member who spoke previously mentioned the rodeo. I do not know how many members of the House have been to a rodeo. I cannot say that I am a great fan of rodeo. I do not follow the rodeo around. I do not know how many points the people get. When I was in business I used to do a national finals rodeo tour down to Las Vegas and I saw the thousands of people who paid thousands of dollars to watch rodeo. I know that on every weekend in my constituency from now until October there will be a rodeo somewhere in my riding. Rodeo is a way of life. Those people live that very existence and it is part of the cultural base of western Canada.

I would love to take every member in the House to Daines Rodeo, just north of Innisfail, Alberta, so that they could get the feeling of being Canadian. There are Canadian flags everywhere. Girls carrying Canadian flags come in on their horses. It is quite a show. Calves get roped, but those calves almost look like they are smiling. They are used to it. They are bred for that. The horses are bred for that . There is a very specialized industry around the rodeo. It is entertainment. We can watch the NHL hockey games and maybe we think they are kind of brutal. Maybe they should be outlawed too, with no checking. The NHL could be a powder-puff league with no-hit hockey. Maybe that is what we should have. It is rough, but that is the sport. The first time I saw rugby being played in Australia, my God, I thought the players were going to kill each other.

What we really have here is an assault on the agricultural community. A rural caucus member said there is no problem, that the bill will be fixed in the Senate. That is a cop-out. That is giving in to pressure from the whip and saying what they think people want to hear. I hope that people in the riding of Dufferin--Peel--Wellington--Grey will not be conned by this sort of garbage with members saying they will vote for the bill because it will be fixed in the Senate. That is not the way to be a good legislator and it is sure not the way one should act in this House.

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

4:55 p.m.


John McKay Liberal Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to this matter. The member for Souris--Moose Mountain made reference to a pamphlet he received indicating that even Jesus Christ could not possibly support the bill. I think he made reference to Jesus Christ being a veterinarian. I think he meant a vegetarian.

I would like to comment upon three or four parts of the bill. This is certainly a controversial bill, to say the least. My office has received endless streams of letters, faxes and e-mails urging me to support the government's initiative in the area of animal cruelty. While constituents may or may not have a nuanced understanding of the bill, they certainly are adamant that the government move in this area and move effectively.

The first area that received a general consensus is the area of offences. We heard at committee that there was little doubt that the fine and incarceration structure in the criminal code was inadequate for the repugnance people felt on hearing about and seeing the crimes committed against animals. It did not much matter from which side of the debate one spoke, clearly on the issue of penalties there was a general consensus that penalties were inadequate and needed to be addressed. I would like to assure my constituents that this is an area which the government has addressed. I do not think there is much dispute about that point in the House or anywhere else.

My second point has to do with the creation of a new part in the criminal code. This arises by virtue of the fact that the current criminal code merely leaves animals in the property section. On occasion animals are in fact property, but animals are also not property. Animals are also not human beings, but they also are not inanimate objects. It is a bit of a drafting problem to carve out an adequate section. Again I think the government has done it right. It has decided to take animals out of the property sections of the criminal code and put them into their own special section. In doing so it makes a clear statement that regardless of the proprietary status of an animal, one cannot commit a cruel act against that animal.

There is no special exemption by virtue of ownership. People cannot be exempted from the criminal code sections just because they own a particular animal. It does not matter whether it is a domestic animal owned as a pet or an animal being husbanded for industrial or research purposes: A cruel act cannot be committed against that animal. I think that is the government's intention in setting up this special section in the criminal code.

Some may argue that this is simply the beginning of a slippery slope, that in fact animals will be humanized and we will end up with an animal bill of rights that will state somewhere or another that animals will be in the same category as infants and children, and that this section needs to be looked at again. I do not think that is the intention of the drafters of the legislation. I would be extremely surprised if by the wildest interpretations of our most creative and activist judges they could arrive at a human rights agenda on this section of the criminal code.

The third element upon which I want to comment is the issue of whether legitimate defences will be lost by virtue of the creation of a new part in the criminal code, by this redrafting and the reflection it gives of a modernizing tendency.

Witnesses at committee said that by virtue of the creation of this section and putting it in this section of the criminal code, the colour of right defence would be lost along with various other common law defences that have been built up over the course of years. Initially after hearing the evidence I was persuaded that possibly this was in fact right and was an unintentional drafting consequence of enthusiasm on the part of a government official. Therefore I asked the minister specifically when she appeared at committee whether these kinds of defences were going to be lost. She and other witnesses pointed me to subsection 8(3) of the criminal code, which I would like to read to the House:

Every rule and principle of the common law that renders any circumstance a justification or excuse for an act or a defence to a charge continues in force and applies in respect of proceedings for an offence under this Act or any other Act of Parliament except in so far as they are altered by or are inconsistent with this Act or any other Act of Parliament.

I think that is pretty clear. The defences that heretofore have been available will continue to be available.

The fourth point I want to make is with respect to the definition of animal. There has been some comment on whether the definition is in fact appropriate. At this stage in the common law there is no definition of animal, so arguably a judge is left within the parameters of common law traditions to make up a definition as he or she goes along. We are now arriving at a more precise position by actually putting it in a definition in the criminal code, which reads as follows:

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

To go back to the previous argument, it is “other than a human being, and any other animal that has the capacity to feel pain”. This means a vertebrate, not a human being, and any other animal that has a capacity to feel pain. I appreciate that there may be some imprecision about the capacity to feel pain, but with I think that with modern science being such as it is there will be opportunities to expand or contract, as the case may be, what constitutes the ability to feel human pain. The definition of vertebrate is pretty easy because it either has a spinal column or it does not.

We have the part, the definition, some clarification as to what will or will not constitute cruelty and we have those who now know whether they are or are not exempt from the bill. This will therefore bring some clarity to the point.

Finally, I would like to comment upon the words “wilfully or recklessly”. The use of the words wilfully or recklessly captures behaviour that is not currently captured in the current criminal code. The argument is that somehow or another we are expanding what this means, but a fair minded reading of the present criminal code shows that there is an offence of “wilful” infliction of unnecessary pain, suffering or injury. Further sections go on to offences of intentional cruelty and other offences of causing unnecessary pain or suffering through wilful neglect. Both of the words wilful and reckless are incorporated into the criminal code. Wilful means wilful behaviour, the deliberate pursuit of an action the consequences of which the act anticipates and intends to cause. Reckless behaviour involves the perception of a risk that certain consequences could flow from a particular action and a conscious decision to proceed with the behaviour and ignore the risk. This is at the beginning of subclause 182.2(1): “Every one commits an offence who, wilfully or recklessly” and it continues.

In conclusion, I think that this kind of section actually gives more precise clarification and that when we add up all of these points we arrive at a bill that is quite acceptable.

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

June 3rd, 2002 / 5 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of the constituents of Surrey Central to participate in the debate concerning Bill C-15B, an act to amend the criminal code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms Act.

The purpose of the bill is to reintroduce the proposed amendments to the cruelty of animals provision of the criminal code while consolidating animal cruelty offences that were introduced in Bill C-17 with a few changes, some of which we consider improvements and others which are of concern to Canadians.

Among the improvements are increased maximum penalties for persons found guilty of cruelty to animals, those who act willfully and recklessly in killing or harming animals. However, with a widened definition of the term animal, it creates a number of concerns for those who are dependent on the harvesting and husbandry of animals for their livelihood.

The new provisions would not prevent legitimate activities from being carried out. The law would only proscribe illegal activities. The problem is, and therefore the concern, these new provisions would narrow the scope of what constitutes legitimate activities. Why does the minister not simply raise the penalties for committing animal offences?

Problems arise with the definition of animal in the bill. The proposed definition of animal in Bill C-15 would include non-human vertebrates and all animals having the capacity to feel pain. This new definition would extend legal protection to a number of living organisms which have never before been provided that kind of protection. This definition is too wide and would open the door for the prosecution of those who earn their livelihood working with animals. Our key concern is that the criminal code would no longer provide the same level of legal protection presently afforded to those who use animals for legitimate, lawful and justified practices.

The phrase “legal justification or excuse and with colour of right” in subsection 429(2) of the criminal code provides protection to those who commit any kind of property offence. The parliamentary secretary to the minister attempted to assure the justice committee that it is the government's intention that the defences in subsection 429(2) of the criminal code would continue to apply to cruelty to animal offences and that those defences would be implicit in the new legislation. Both the Canadian Alliance and the Bloc members moved amendments that would have made these defences explicit and the government members opposed them.

However in the new bill animal cruelty provisions would be moved out of the general classification of property offences and into a section of their own which would remove these provisions outside the scope of that protection. By moving the animal cruelty section out of the range of property offences would emphasize animal rights as opposed to animal welfare. This is a significant alteration in the underlying principle of the legislation, and could elevate the status of animals in the eyes of the courts.

Our concern is that the legislation could open up the possibility that farmers, sporting groups and scientific researchers would be unjustly prosecuted. As a result, animal rights groups in Canada would use the new legislation as the basis for such prosecutions. They have already stated their intentions to do so. Liz White, a director with Animal Alliance of Canada, has said:

My worry is that people think that 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 conviction to lay charges. That's what this is all about. Make no mistake about it.

The people who are most concerned about the bill are the agricultural groups, farmers, industry workers and medical researchers. They do not condone intentional animal abuse or neglect in any way. It is fundamentally important to the success of their livelihoods that they treat their animals with the care and respect that the bill intends to afford animals.

Moving the animal cruelty section out of the ambit of property offences to a new section on its own is seen by many as emphasizing animal rights as opposed to animal welfare. This significant alteration and the underlying principle of the legislation is something that needs to be carefully considered.

The Canadian Alliance asked government members to retain the cruelty to animals provision in the property offences section of the criminal code but they refused. Many groups are concerned that elevating the status of animals from property could have significant and detrimental implications for many legitimate animal dependent businesses. Our party supports increasing penalties for cruelty to animal offences. However we do not support the widening scope of what currently constitutes a criminal offence against animals.

The amendments to the Firearms Act are of an administrative nature and would simplify the registration process and reduce costs by incorporating information technology. My Canadian Alliance colleagues and I are opposed to these provisions on the basis that we have long held that the act be repealed entirely. We believe there should be severe mandatory penalties for the criminal use of any weapon. We are committed to keeping guns out of the hands of violent criminals as a necessary part of making our communities safer. We would replace the current firearms law with a practical firearms control system that would be cost effective and would respect the rights of Canadians to own and use firearms responsibly.

I support increasing penalties for cruelty to animal offences but I cannot support widening the scope and definition of what currently constitutes a criminal offence. This legislation would influence and cause the courts to interpret such offences in a different way which may have a detrimental effect and implications on farmers, hunters and agricultural producers.

The minister amended the bill to provide a screening mechanism for indictable offences. That would allow a provincial court judge to prescreen such prosecutions and decide whether they should proceed. The Canadian Alliance in no way condones intentional acts of cruelty to animals and supports increasing the penalties relating to such acts. However, while cruelty to animals cannot be tolerated, the criminal law should not be used as a tool by special interest groups to destroy the legitimate farming and related food production industry.

We will strive to ensure that the legitimate use of animals by farmers, sportsmen and medical researchers is protected.

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

5:05 p.m.


John Bryden Liberal Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have a last opportunity to speak to Bill C-15B. Throughout its long journey through the House of Commons I have struggled in the background with the definition of animal in the legislation and tried to change it, unsuccessfully, I regret to say. I am hoping that when the bill goes on to the Senate that the senators will take some of my concerns to heart and perhaps question closely the officials and the minister on why they have gone for a definition of animal that reads something to the effect that:

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

It is that latter bit, “any other animal that has the capacity to feel pain” that troubles me. That extends the definition of animal to include just about every living creature. Just about any living creature from an amoeba to a whale has the capacity to feel pain.

I think the intention and the feeling of the public is that the animal cruelty legislation should be directed towards animals that at least have a high order nervous system of the type that can feel pain and suffering. Cruelty is all about alleviating suffering, not simply trying to prevent a natural physical reaction.

This issue of the definition of animal was tackled by the consultative committee in the justice department way back in 1998 when it sent around to various interest groups and other organizations a consultative paper that invited responses on a number of questions. Overwhelmingly, organizations responded by saying that the definition of animal should be limited to animals that are non-human vertebrates. The reason is that obviously a vertebrate has a brain and a higher order nervous and mental system, and it is capable of feeling pain.

Instead however, the officials who drafted the legislation elected to choose the broadest definition possible. The definition that is before us would allow litigation based on any type of animal that may be experiencing pain, be it a worm on a hook or a lobster in a cooking pot or anything imaginable, a jellyfish. I know this is hard to imagine, but jellyfish do have a reaction when they are poked. It does not mean that they are suffering when they are taken and thrown on the beach. This definition would encompass that.

I have corresponded with the minister on a number of occasions on this. The argument back, I am sorry to say, has not been, shall we say, as exhaustive as we would like. The reaction back has been to say that there are other jurisdictions in the United States, a few state legislatures or states, such as Arkansas, that have a similar definition for animal that is just as broad.

The legislation we have before us is criminal code legislation. It is an amendment to one of the most powerful and important legal instruments in the land. Because a few isolated states in the United States have a broad definition of the word animal, not federal legislation, but state legislation, should not be a cause for adopting the same definition.

Another argument was presented by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association who wrote to the justice minister that it was very supportive of the changes that define animal for the first time as a vertebrate other than a human being and any other animal that has a capacity to feel pain.

That is supposed to be a letter from this association. However this was correspondence in the year 2001. If we go back to the files, what we find is that the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, when it replied to the original consultative paper in 1998, was very concerned that the definition of animal be limited to non-human vertebrates. In that sense it was entirely in conformity with all the other organizations, the majority of competent organizations that did not support broadening the definition in the way that we have before us.

I thought the reply from the minister suggesting that the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association was supportive of the definition was a little bit ingenuous because originally it wanted the definition to be non-human vertebrates and only elected to have the broader definition if, I have the correspondence here, it had the assurance from the justice department that this definition would not lead to interference or litigation involving the use of animals in a lawful and proper fashion. As a matter of fact I have quote here. It said:

Our association's support is based on our interpretation and expectation that the amendments will in no way alter or criminalize accepted activities in the treatment or use of animals.

These include practices such as in agriculture, hunting, fishing, trapping, animal research and so forth.

It was conditional. The difficulty, and where the pith of the problem is, is that the government cannot guarantee that there will not be litigation based on this broad definition. The government can only say that the courts will decide. This is where the flaw in the argument comes. The difficulty is that so many of these radical animal rights groups obtain their fundraising by confrontation before the courts. By allowing the broadest possible definition of animal to go forward in the legislation, the government is inviting endless litigation which will be the source of fundraising for various animal rights organizations for years to come.

It represents a naivete to think that simply and purely regarding a definition in legislation only in legal terms and not allowing for the social consequences it will have is a failure to properly inform the justice minister. I feel that what is missing, and indeed why we have these debates in the House, is that often when officials look at the definition of legislation, as do the courts, they often look at it in isolation. It is this place that should sound the warning, as indeed the opposition has on several occasions, that we want animal rights legislation that genuinely protects animals that are capable of suffering from unnecessary cruelty.

The legislation will do that but unfortunately, with this very broad definition, it will do more. It will give the opportunity to various organizations to bring nuisance court cases and challenges before the courts. Yes, we can fight them and yes, we will win them, but it will cost the government money to fight these cases because they will go all the way up to the supreme court. The people who will win will not be the public. It will be those who stand to profit from raising the issue of animal welfare. Animal welfare is an important thing that we are all concerned about, but it is not something on which organizations should be allowed to make money.

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

5:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I do not know whether to say that I find pleasure to speak to this bill. I certainly support the concept of not being cruel to animals. Having suffered a little pain in my life and extrapolating that to the ability of animals to feel pain, absolutely 100% we should not impose on animals any pain that can be avoided. That should be true for human beings as well.

However I have great concerns about the bill because of the implications of it in the long term and the effect it will have on a number of different portions of our society. I am thinking particularly of the agriculture industry which is very large.

It just so happens that it is impossible to go through life without pain. I read an interesting book a long time ago and even now as I speak I am thinking that I should reread it. The title is, The Problem of Pain , by the writer C.S. Lewis.

He contended that pain is a valuable mechanism that is built into the body of all human beings. If it were not for pain, we would not go to the doctor when we have something wrong internally. If I had something wrong with my chest but could not feel the pain, I would carry on until I keeled over one day.

The fact is when there is something wrong and it generates some pain, it is a positive thing for survival. That is true for all creatures. Pain can be a mechanism prompting one to take corrective action for something that is ailing one.

Another aspect of pain is that it is used in the training of people and animals. Sometimes the pain is temporary. I contend that we ought not to have pain of the sort that causes permanent psychological damage for humans or for animals. It is a straight psychological fact that to train animals, occasionally one has to apply a bit of gentle pain as a disincentive while on the other hand giving a reward as a positive incentive.

Any person who has ever had a dog knows that if we want to avoid the pain of continually having to clean up after the little puppy, we have to go through a process of training. In that process a little pat on the side, enough to cause that puppy to think that it did something wrong, is not damaging. It is a small amount of pain and is used to train the animal.

I do not have a dog in my house at the present time but I have I observed some of my friends who have had them. The dogs they love the most and appreciate the most are the ones that are properly trained, the ones that are house trained and trained not to jump all over people. I do not know how others feel, but I do not appreciate it when I walk into a house and a big great dane greets me at the door, puts his feet on my shoulders and licks my face, especially when I am wearing my Sunday suit. A dog that wags its tail at a five foot distance, I like a lot. I do not like a dog that when I reach out to pet him he snarls and bites my hand. I like a dog if he is friendly because he will have been trained. That is one aspect of it.

We ought to be very careful about legislation like this because of the implications it can have. Some organization or do-gooder can come up and say “I saw my neighbour punishing his dog. Throw the book at him. He was cruel to his animal”. I do not think we want to get into that type of thing.

There is another thing and it has to do with the agriculture community. I have a great number of farmers in my riding, which is a combination rural and urban riding. Many of these farmers have animals. I have a number of poultry operators in my riding. It is really quite a sight to go into one of those huge 200 or 300 foot long barns where the whole floor is covered in little chicks and they are all singing in chorus. They get their food and their water.

There are several operations, but the one I am thinking of is a quite a big operation with several people working there. People go in there every day and check these little creatures to see if they have any physical ailments. I will not go into graphic details of one of those ailments but anyone who has ever raised little chicks knows that it has to do with the gastrointestinal system and they have to be watched so that they survive.

I am impressed by the fact that people produce chickens so I can go to the chicken place and have a chicken dinner once in a while. They are in the business of raising these chickens. They care for them probably as well as many people care for their children, if not more so. I am distressed by the fact under this bill someone could come along, launch an attack or a lawsuit, charge them in court and say that by keeping these chickens in these great big long sheds is cruel. They will be harassed, taken to court and incur legal expenses to defend themselves.

This is something that farmers right now, very frankly, do not need. They are facing huge economic pressures these days, then on top of all that face the potential of lawsuits. They would have to get lawyers to defend them and with costs like that they could face bankruptcy. To me that is unconscionable.

I was interested in reading an article from one of these animal rights groups that said it would like to work. It was asking for money in this letter. It said “Allow us to save the animals from the torment of the hunters, the researchers, the fashion industry”. It just is not true. Hunters are not out to torture animals. I have never gone hunting myself but I know those who have take every measure to prevent unnecessary suffering on the part of the animals.

How about this one? “We have to make sure that we work to rescue innocent dogs and cats from pounds that would sell them into the excruciating hell of the secret experiments of researchers”. If that is not over the top, I do not know what is. There is no benefit in making these animals suffer unnecessarily or even making them suffer necessarily.

Here is another one, which talked about a family whose dog was picked up by the pound and then apparently taken away to be put down. It says “A poison-filled hypodermic needle was plunged into poor [dog], a cold-blooded killing of a deeply loved family companion”.

I was asked one time to do a service for friends of mine. Their dog had gone amok and had become a danger to the children. They said that they loved the dog so much that they could not take him to the vet and asked me to do it. With great reluctance I said I would because I knew the children had to be protected. I went to the vet carrying the dog my arm. I walked into the vet's office and asked if he would mind if I observed because I wanted to ensure that the dog was put down humanely.

I observed that event and that dog was put away in a humane fashion with absolutely no suffering at all. The dog was put on a table. The veterinarian cut the dog's hair, put on an anaesthetic and used a needle that instantaneously stopped the heart.

I am distressed that we are succumbing to extremist groups that just do not accept that we are trying to do our best.

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

5:30 p.m.

Parkdale—High Park Ontario


Sarmite Bulte LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to speak today to the provisions of Bill C-15B, an act to amend the criminal code with respect to cruelty to animals and firearms and also to amend the Firearms Act.

I am delighted to have this opportunity to speak especially in light of the considerable misinformation that has been stated about the purpose and effect of the animal cruelty provisions in Bill C-15B. I would like to take this opportunity to clarify a couple of very important points about the legislation.

The first point is that the characterization of animal cruelty as a property offence belies its true nature as a crime of violence. Canada lags behind the rest of the western world in recognizing that society has an interest in protecting animals from abuse, quite apart from their status as property.

The assertion that creating a separate part of the criminal code to deal with animal cruelty somehow changes the status of animals as property represents a profound misunderstanding of the rules of statutory interpretation as well as of the division of powers between the federal and provincial governments. Bill C-15B is an exercise of the federal government's criminal law power. There is nothing in Bill C-15B that would in any way affect the status of animals as property.

Second, I would like to recognize the research that increasingly shows a link between animal cruelty and violence against humans. There appears to be a high correlation between cruelty to animals and child and spousal abuse. Also, there appears to be a link between animal cruelty in childhood and subsequent violence against humans in later years.

It is time for the law to recognize the true character of animal cruelty offences and to properly reflect upon the seriousness with which this crime ought to be treated. The increased penalty provisions of Bill C-15B are extremely important in conveying society's condemnation of brutality toward animals. I know the hon. members support increased penalties for animal cruelty and in this they are joined by a strong endorsement of a huge majority of Canadians and almost a unanimous support in my own constituency of Parkdale—High Park.

A third point is clarifying what the cruelty provisions are really about. These provisions are not, and I emphasize are not, a clever attempt by the federal government to regulate industry practices. The animal cruelty provisions have co-existed with various instruments regulating industry practices since the criminal code was first enacted in 1892. They will continue to do so after Bill C-15B is passed.

All Canadians must respect the minimum standard of behaviour required by the animal cruelty provisions in the criminal code. This is true whether they use animals for commercial purposes, recreational purposes or own them as pets. This is the law now and this is the law that will continue to apply after Bill C-15B is passed.

The test for liability for unnecessary pain, suffering and injury has also not been changed, nor has the test for criminal neglect. What will change if Bill C-15B is passed is a law that will be set out in a clear, concise manner and will clearly distinguish between offences involving intentional cruelty and those which address criminal neglect.

The complexity of the law will be reduced by the removal of complex deeming provisions. Outdated distinctions between different types of animals, for example, cattle versus other types of animals, will also be removed.

The House has the opportunity to modernize and update the animal cruelty provisions without increasing the liability of persons involved in the legitimate use of animals.

I urge hon. members to see past the scare tactics that have been used in an attempt to discredit this important legislation. It is time for parliament to answer the expectations of Canadians and to pass Bill C-15B now.

I would like to turn now to the proposed administrative improvements to the Canadian firearms program.

Canada's firearms program is a practical and common sense approach to gun safety that works to keep firearms from those who should not have them while encouraging safe and responsible gun use by legitimate firearm owners. This is achieved through the licensing of firearm owners and firearm registration.

Canadians remain steadfast in their support of this very important public safety initiative. I can tell the House that in my riding there is unanimous support for the legislation.

The government's approach to preventing firearm death, injury and crime is a clear reflection of Canadian values and principles. Over the past decade, poll after poll has shown that the overwhelming majority of Canadians support gun control and support the important public safety framework of the Firearms Act. In fact, an Environics poll taken last year shows that the majority of the supporters of all political parties in the House support the firearms program.

Our national investment in this program is already paying off in terms of public safety benefits and in compliance. While Canada's firearm program will not be completely implemented until January 1, 2003, it is already making a significant contribution to public safety.

These are measures aimed at keeping firearms out of the hands of people who represent a danger to themselves or others. Since December 1, 1998, more than 7,000 permits have been either denied or revoked by public security authorities. This figure is 50 times the total number that were revoked in the last five years of the previous firearm control system.

With the implementation of a number of initiatives to simplify administration and make the program more user friendly for firearms, Canadians are now complying with the law. There are now 2.1 million individuals in the firearms database, achieving a 90% compliance rate with licensing, and several months before the deadline, two-thirds of licensed firearm owners have already participated in registration.

The amendments proposed in Bill C-15B build on the success of the firearms program to date and lessons learned from the licensing experience. We are not changing the basic policy goals of the program, such as the firearm registration deadline, nor the government's commitment to public safety. Instead, we are putting forth administrative changes that will facilitate compliance with the program and continue to ensure a high level of service to clients. These are a direct response to extensive consultations with program partners and stakeholders, including the policing community, gun owners and other Canadians. This is good news for Canadians and the sooner these administrative changes can be implemented the better.

Frankly, with only months left before the legislated deadline of January 1, 2003 for full implementation of this program, any further delay would be a complete disservice to Canadians.

We have already heard and carefully considered the views of various individuals and organizations over the last several years and, most recently, the testimony that was heard by the committee last year. In its testimony, we heard the law enforcement community reaffirm its support for this program and its essential crime fighting tools. The Canadian Police Association and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police outlined the significant public safety benefits of this program, which combines the screening of applicants, tracking of firearms and minimum mandatory sentencing to help deter, prevent and prosecute firearm crimes in Canada.

We have also heard the minister's user group on firearms maintain that these amendments are in fact an important step toward ensuring a fair balance between the interests of responsible firearm owners and our shared objective of public safety.

The government is committed to enhancing the safety of Canadians inside and outside of their homes. The amendments to the Firearms Act included in Bill C-15B will help ensure that the key public safety goals of the Firearms Act are met while ensuring that the administration of the program is more efficient, effective and indeed client friendly.

Canadians expect us to get on with it.

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

5:35 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I think it is important for all members to take the last opportunity that we have today to speak to Bill C-15B. Both aspects of the bill, the firearms part of it and certainly the cruelty to animals part of it, are problematic.

The first thing that needs to be said about the legislation is that at noon today the government decided we would have no more democratic debate on the bill and it brought in time allocation. It brought in time allocation I believe for the 76th time in the history of this government. It has used time allocation more than any previous government.

The government may say that all Canadians are in favour of the bill but nothing could be further from the truth. I watched all the Liberal members stand like trained seals today and vote in favour of time allocation. I believe there was actually one who did vote against it. That is absolutely scandalous on their part.

I believe the Ontario Liberal caucus was going to defend the interests of farmers, of rural Canadians and of people who harvest animals or participate in animal husbandry. Somehow or other I am quite certain those interests were not defended today when the government voted for time allocation on this legislation.

At 7 o'clock tonight the debate will be over, the bill will be voted on and then it will be moved along in the process. That is not democracy at work. That is not changing the way this particular piece of legislation is written.

Let us be quite honest and blunt about this. This legislation on cruelty to animals has not been updated or renewed since 1892. It is time for the legislation to be modernized. It is time that it reflected the beliefs and ideals of citizens in the 21st century.

However, somehow we have a group of people sitting on their hands who are not trying to do that at all. Specific parts of the bill that are extremely problematic and parts of it are just fine. No one believes that individuals, whether they be owners of animals or not, should be able to, in any way, shape or form, harm or intentionally cause pain to animals.

At the same time, what we have here now is a definition of animal that even all the Liberals are not happy with. Section 182.1 states the definition of an animal.

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

That is a pretty broad brush stroke. I do not know exactly what is not covered here but I will assume that everything is covered: reptiles, invertebrates, fish, all vertebrates, all domestic animals, insects, spiders, mosquitos, multi-celled organisms.

The government should take a look at the legislation that it is about to force down the throats of Canadians. It says that any animal or any other animal that has the capacity to feel pain.

It is punishable under the Criminal Code of Canada. Everyone commits an offence who willfully or recklessly causes, or permits to be caused, unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal; kills or permits an animal to be killed brutally or viciously regardless of whether the animal dies immediately.

We do not have a proper definition of animal or what unnecessary pain and suffering is. We certainly do not have a definition of how animals can be killed. What is the definition of brutally or viciously? It can be a totally different definition between two people. People who are extremely sympathetic to animals would say that anything that causes the death of an animal is brutal and vicious.

Somehow or another there has to be a modicum of common sense applied to this piece of legislation. There is absolutely no room here for traditional harvesting and animal husbandry practices. I suspect that if we were to ask the majority of people, especially urbanites, if a gunshot to the heart of a big game animal was brutal and vicious, they would classify that as definitely yes. Does that mean that we would outlaw all deer, rabbit and partridge hunters? It could. If it is not clear, and it is not defined, and it is not obvious, it should not be there. That is the job of legislation.

No one, in any way, shape or form can do anything but condemn unnecessary cruelty to animals. I have heard it time and again. No one is listening over there. What about regular animal husbandry practices, the simple castration of lambs and docking tails? There is a reason why we cut the tails off lambs and young piglets. It is simple. It is so that they do not start biting at one another, getting a little blood going out, getting into a frenzy and killing one another. It is not because we are trying to be mean to them.

There are all kinds of regular, everyday animal husbandry practices that are done carefully so that they cause a minimum amount of pain, which would be condemned under this piece of legislation as unnecessary, brutal, vicious and causing unnecessary pain and suffering. It is absolutely incorrect. Do not tell me this does not threaten farmers because it does.

Take that fact on top of the fact that it is an omnibus piece of legislation. There are two totally separate pieces of legislation here, one on gun control and one on cruelty to animals. My first reaction was that we need to update the cruelty to animals legislation. We already know we cannot trust the Liberals on the gun control legislation, but we do need to update the cruelty to animals legislation. Unfortunately neither one will get done now.

We have an important piece of legislation like cruelty to animals that we need to take a look at. We need to sit down in a reasoned, rational debate and put in laws that protect animals when they need protection. These two pieces of legislation in one bill are not connected at all. They are thrown in almost as an afterthought, and neither one of them will do the job. One sets out to do and take away the credibility of the other. If people believe in gun control, then the animal section should not be in here; if people believe in doing something about cruelty to animals, the gun control section should not be in here. This is poorly crafted legislation.

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

5:45 p.m.


Rodger Cuzner Liberal Bras D'Or—Cape Breton, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the bill at third reading.

It is time for the House to act on the will of Canadians. Legislation that would update animal cruelty provisions and provide enhanced penalties for animal abusers has been before the House in one form or another since December 1, 1999. That is two and a half years during which there have been numerous opportunities for organizations from a broad spectrum of interests to come forward and make their views known. They have shared their views with the Department of Justice, members of parliament, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, the media and other members of the public. There has been a full and comprehensive debate on the issue of the changes that must be made to modernize the animal cruelty provisions.

During that two and a half years the former justice minister listened carefully to the concerns of all Canadians, including industry. In fact, to be absolutely clear that criminal liability for intentional cruelty and criminal neglect had not changed, the former justice minister made several accommodations to industry when the animal cruelty provisions were reintroduced in Bill C-15 after an election was called and Bill C-17 died on the order paper. The accommodations did not change the legal tests for liability but provided further clarification about the elements of the cruelty offences.

After Bill C-15 received second reading in the House of Commons on September 26, 2001, it was referred to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights with the direction that the committee split the bill into two parts.

Bill C-15B contains the provisions regarding cruelty to animals and firearms. The committee heard from a wide variety of groups with diverse views on the issue of animal cruelty. At the committee hearings the Criminal Lawyers' Association confirmed that removal of the animal cruelty provision out of the property section would not cause accused persons to lose any available defences. The association did indicate however that if there was a desire to make this absolutely clear one of two options was possible: either make an express reference to subsection 429(2) of the criminal code which outlines defences of legal justification, excuse or colour of right; or specifically confirm application of the common law defences under subsection 8(3). Again, in the interests of accommodation to reassure critics of the bill, the government introduced a motion adopted by the committee to confirm application of subsection 8(3).

Following the suggestion of the lawyers association one would have thought opposition critics of the bill would agree that all accommodations could be made. They have been made without changing the test of legal liability. Unhappily, with the notable exception of the New Democratic Party, this does not appear to be the case. Critics among the opposition parties want more.

I take this opportunity to look at their position more closely. These critics have been clear that they are not supporting an exemption for industry. They maintain that all persons should be subject to the animal cruelty provisions. Yet, what they are asking for appears to be an exemption in anything but name.

Some members of the opposition parties maintain that the defences in subsection 429(2) of the criminal code provide them with a justification for their industry practices, even if those industry practices cause unnecessary pain, suffering or injury. They maintain that these defences effectively give industry the protection that anything they do pursuant to lawful purpose is itself lawful. This is simply not the law.

Equally inaccurate is the position maintained by some hon. members that the cruelty provisions prohibit the infliction of any pain or suffering and that it is the defences that legitimize the infliction of pain. This position completely ignores the tests for liability for cruelty that have been in the criminal code since 1953. The issue of defences does not even arise until after the crown has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the infliction of pain or suffering was unnecessary.

The test for unnecessary pain or suffering is clear in case law. The courts have recognized that avoidable pain is unnecessary. Pain is avoidable if there are equally accessible, reasonable, and affordable practices available to achieve the same lawful purpose.

What is interesting is that opposition critics maintain their position even though they have cited not a single case of support for their position and have been unable to identify any relevant offences under subsection 429(2) which would not be available as a common law defence subsection 8(3) of the criminal code.

I do not believe for a moment that industry wants its activities exempted from the application of the criminal code. Those members of the opposition who suggest that industry has this protection currently or who argue that somehow lawful industry practices would become unlawful after the bill is passed are misrepresenting the state of current law.

No one has been exempted from the application of the animal cruelty law. This has never been the law in Canada and the government is not proposing to change this law now.

One of the most basic notions in Canadian criminal law is that the law applies to everyone. Canadians have made it clear that they support a law which imposes at least a minimum standard of behaviour on everyone. It is time for this House to answer the expectations of Canadians and move on this legislation.

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

5:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Monte Solberg Canadian Alliance Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to address Bill C-15B one more time.

When I was explaining the legislation back home I ran into an interesting question. When I explained that it would apply to vertebrates a constituent said that would leave the Liberals out because they do not have a spine. I said that was completely unfair because they do have a spine but it is not evident sometimes.

Today Liberal members had a chance to stand up for democracy by opposing the closure motion but they let the House of Commons and the country down again. My hon. friend from Nova Scotia who spoke a moment ago said this is the 73rd time the government has invoked closure, a very anti-democratic record among governments.

I am a long time dog owner. We have had pets in our family all our lives. As someone who comes from a rural area where animals are important to our economy I almost instinctively understand how important it is to be conscious of ways to protect animals from cruelty. There is nothing more reprehensible in the world than people who abuse animals and there should be tough penalties for anyone who does. We have a golden retriever at home. He is almost part of the family. He sits on the couch and is completely spoiled. I cannot imagine people being cruel to animals. There should be tough penalties.

If the government's intention is to ensure animals are not abused why does it not simply provide tougher penalties in law to protect them? Why does it not increase enforcement? If that was the government's real intent it is what it would have done. It would not have added all these controversial changes that are causing us to question its motives.

I will explain what I mean. When the former justice minister introduced the legislation she said all activities that are legitimate today would be legitimate after the new law came in. Again, why not simply raise penalties for cruelty to animals? The government has instead brought in a number of new provisions. One of these would remove animals from the property section of the criminal code and give them a new section. A lot of people are arguing, correctly, that this would bestow a new set of rights on animals and move away from the concept of animals as property.

That is a big step. It is in a sense a dangerous step. We have already heard radical animal rights groups saying they would challenge the new law once it received royal assent to get judges to interpret it in a way that would bestow rights on animals that previously were not there. This would ensure farmers and ranchers who have engaged in what the minister called legitimate activities in the past would not be able to do so any more.

I come from an area where there is a lot of cattle. We have not just a few thousand but tens of thousands of cattle in my area. Hon. members familiar with the business of raising cattle will know that after they are born they must be dehorned so they do not hurt one another. They might get ear tags. They might be branded. They might be castrated. It is not a pleasant business. The animal feels some pain, there is no question about it. However these are legitimate traditional activities farmers and ranchers in my area engage in to make a livelihood, as a result of which people have food in the grocery store.

Unless we want to change that we had better be conscious of how we would be inviting animal rights groups to challenge the new legislation under the provisions the minister has introduced. For that reason government members across the way are completely off base in caving in and supporting Bill C-15B. It would open up all kinds of opportunities for animal rights groups to be meddlesome and cause mischief. We need to be conscious of that.

I will switch from that provision to the provision that has to do with firearms. A few minutes ago the hon. member for Parkdale--High Park, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, got up in the House said the most outrageous thing I have heard in half an hour. I say half an hour because we have heard a lot of outrageous things today in the House. She said support for the bill is unanimous in her riding. She said everyone in her riding supports the gun legislation, not just the majority. There is a standard by which all members of parliament should be bound: their statements should at least be credible. The hon. member for Parkdale--High Park probably has 200,000 constituents. To say every person in her riding supports the legislation is completely ridiculous.

The hon. member trotted out other arguments. She said a poll was done which showed an overwhelming majority of Canadians support the legislation. We should do other polls that ask questions like “When a government program gets to be so big and bureaucratic that the government cannot possibly use it for its original purpose, would you still support the legislation?” If we asked that question it would describe what has happened with the firearms registry. The gun registry was to cost $85 million, $68 million or whatever. It has gone up to $640 million or probably $700 million. Several months ago we saw the statistics of Library of Parliament researchers who were dealing with the issue in the Senate. The figure is probably $700 million now.

In gathering gun registry information the government has made mistakes on probably 50% of the applications. In other words, it has invalidated a huge number of registrations. My hon. friend from Yorkton--Melville has done a great service to the country in pointing out the foibles of the firearms registry. He has pointed to situations where people have received 59 different permits. Someone from Surrey got 59 permits for registering 17 firearms. It is completely out of control.

There have been other instances. My hon. friend from Yorkton--Melville pointed out the case of a firearms owner who had registered his firearms. He heard a knock at the door one day, saw people in balaclavas lurking outside his house, went to the door and found that a SWAT team was there to pick up his firearms. The police were under the impression he had a bunch of firearms that were not registered or legal. He produced his permits and lo and behold, it was all completely legal.

The minister and government members have argued that the point of the registry was to ensure the police knew the situation in all these homes. As in the case I have cited, when the wrong information is fed in the potential for people to be killed or hurt is absolutely astronomical. People could have SWAT teams running around with all kinds of automatic weapons outside their doors because the government has fed in the wrong information about firearms in their homes. It is completely contrary to what the government is trying to achieve.

I have touched on some of the major reasons we should oppose Bill C-15B. It is unfortunate the government is moving closure on the legislation when it is so contentious and when Canadians, especially rural Canadians, have so many legitimate concerns about its provisions.

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

6:05 p.m.


John Finlay Liberal Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, the cruelty provisions in Bill C-15B respond directly to the concerns of Canadians.

Over the past three years Canadians have been consistent and clear in their demands for action by the federal government to update the cruelty provisions and create stiffer penalties for acts of cruelty against animals. Bill C-15B would meet these expectations without changing the liability for intentional cruelty and criminal neglect. Nothing in the bill would in any way put at risk lawful and humane activities involving animals for purposes such as agriculture, hunting, trapping and research.

To be absolutely clear, the former minister of justice introduced an amendment that was adopted by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. The amendment states that all justifications, excuses and defences available in common law would apply to proceedings under the animal cruelty provisions. The amendment is the latest in a series of modifications to the animal cruelty provisions to address the concerns of critics.

The animal cruelty provisions in Bill C-15B were contained in a previous bill, Bill C-17, which was introduced in parliament on December 1, 1999 and died on the order paper when the federal election was called in October, 2000. The amendments had two primary objectives. First, they would have consolidated and simplified the existing law on animal cruelty by organizing offences in a more rational way and removing outdated distinctions and expressions. Second, they would have enhanced the penalty provisions by increasing current maximum sentences such as terms of imprisonment, fines, and orders prohibiting the possession of animals, and by creating a new power to order offenders to repay costs incurred by humane societies in caring for animals they leave unattended.

Bill C-17 was enthusiastically supported by thousands of Canadians. However a number of associations representing agriculture, hunting, fishing and animal research made submissions to the Minister of Justice expressing specific legal concerns about the bill, largely to the effect that the amendments could increase the risk of prosecution for people engaged in such activities. The minister benefited from the input of these groups. Although Bill C-17 would not have increased the risk of prosecution for people engaged in lawful activities, the amendments contained in Bill C-17 and replicated in Bill C-15B contain several important improvements that would make the intent and effect of the law more clear.

Such changes include: spelling out the necessary criminal state of mind with words like wilfully or recklessly instead of leaving it to the courts to interpret the proper standard; offering a definition that clearly establishes a standard of criminal negligence and removes all doubt that simple or civil negligence is not enough; adding the word unnecessary to the offence of negligently causing pain to clarify that there may be situations where the pain caused is necessary; clarifying and limiting the scope of the offence that deals with trap shooting to shooting at animals the moment they are liberated and not some time after, which would leave no room for people to argue that the section prohibited pheasant hunts in enclosed spaces; and taking animal cruelty provisions out of the part of the criminal code that deals with sexual offences and public morals and placing them in a separate part, thus clearing up the concern that it is inappropriate to group animal cruelty offences with certain other types of offences. With that we fully agree.

These improvements more clearly establish that the law deals with criminal intent and criminal neglect rather than the causing of incidental or unavoidable pain to animals in the course of lawful activities.

I suggest to the hon. members of the House that the concerns of industry have been heard. The government has done everything that could reasonably be done to accommodate those concerns.

Bill C-15B does not need any additional tinkering. It is time to act. I urge all hon. members to do the right thing and pass the bill.

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

6:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Howard Hilstrom Canadian Alliance Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, we are drawing to a close on the debate in the House on Bill C-15B regarding firearms and cruelty to animal provisions in the criminal code. We are drawing the debate to a close for the simple reason that the Liberal government is incensed with the fact that people in Canada do not agree with it all the time. The opposition parties on this side of the House represent those people and, in the case of cruelty to animals, we represent the farmers. The government is so incensed that it has brought in closure to shut down legitimate debate on those provisions of the criminal code.

We are not in the House to debate, kill time or just talk because people voted us in and we are supposed to be here. We are here debating real issues that affect real people.

What I have to say here will be parliamentary but it may seem aggressive when I say that the farming community right across the country, from sea to sea, is still opposed to the legislation. The most recent example that I have is from May 31, just a couple of days ago, when members of the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan said to the members of this parliament that they were 100% opposed to most of the provisions of the proposed cruelty to animals changes in the criminal code. However they are for stiffer penalties and are against the city people we see in the newspapers who have been skinning cats, crushing their heads and killing animals. They have enough common sense to be definitely against that.

They have also considered what the proposed law will do to farming and farming practices. I have heard a lot of debate in here about how farm practices are legal today and will be legal tomorrow. I have spent a lot of time over the years working in law enforcement and dealing with lawyers, crown attorneys and judges. It is my understanding that the criminal code, which is a federal law, takes precedence over the standards set by provincial organizations, the humane societies or farming groups. Why are we concerned? We are concerned because when the time comes that a charge is laid and it goes to court, the judge will not interpret that industry standard. The court will judge whether or not that animal was treated cruelly according to the provisions of the criminal code.

Why would that judge go against what the industry standard says? It is because the definition of animal has been changed. It has been changed to include any animal that has the capacity to feel pain. Another change is that it is no longer in the property section. Somehow animals can be on their own without ownership either by the federal government, in the case of wild animals, or by farmers.

As we have seen happen before, I think there is a very high likelihood that those judges will interpret this law in the very way it is written. I will not blame them for that. As the bill is written, if someone intentionally inflicts pain on such an animal, as in branding a calf or dehorning it after it is a few months old instead of as a little baby, the judge will say that the criminal code is quite plain on this, as we can read for ourselves. The judge will consider it an offence and he or she will find the farmer guilty. That is the problem. Is there any likelihood of that kind of a charge being laid? Absolutely, and it will not necessarily come from one of the animal rights organizations.

Today I had an interview with a young lady who is an aspiring journalist. She was talking about farming and we had a nice conversation. After she had finished her interview, she said that she knew the cruelty to animals bill was being voted on today. She urged me to vote against the bill. My point with regard to this young person and as it relates to young crown attorneys and young judges coming up, is that she has an animal rights agenda. As a journalist, she is in a position of power to help form public opinion through the persuasion of the pen.

The common sense of society is 100% against cruelty to animals. However the survival of mankind from the oldest times until the present says that after life itself there has to be food to eat and good quality food to eat, and that involves the use of animals for human consumption.

The hidden agenda being promoted by the animal rights people, including Mr. Rick Smith who is with the International Fund for Animal Welfare, is very clearly to move along animals from being property, like they have the government agreeing to, which is one step away from being property now, and to slowly attribute rights to the point where we will not be able to use animals for anything.

The other day I had a skunk at my ranch. Under this bill, I wonder if I was wrong in shooting that animal. It never did anything to me. It was not diseased as far as I could tell but I intentionally shot that animal. What right did I have to do that? In many areas like mine there are no policemen or people to do that job for me. However skunks have a tendency to contract rabies and a bite from them could kill a young child or a person. They certainly kill a lot of livestock. Would the bill make that kind of action on my part illegal? I suspect that may well be. The bill says that if one intentionally shoots or kills an animal, and then it goes into justification as to lawfully doing it.

I said I would be a little aggressive. I have to talk about the stand that was taken by the member for Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey, a leader in his party, a leader in his riding and a leader in the agriculture industry, especially in the chicken and feather industry. He has properly and rightly fought the bill for months. He had most of the rural members, who have farmers in their area, understanding that the bill was bad for agriculture and it was even bad for society as a whole.

What did the member say today? He said that he had changed his attitude, that everything was fine now and that he would vote for the bill. Why would the member do that? He said that the Senate would take care of it, that the Senate would make an amendment. We know that will not be the case. The member is misleading, not only his co-caucus members but the people in his riding. The Senate will pass the bill and it will be done and gone before July 15, which will be a sad day for agriculture.

I hope the bill comes back to the House so we can debate it again and maybe get it through the government's head that this is a bad bill for not only people in the country but also for people in the city.

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

6:20 p.m.

Mississauga West Ontario


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

Mr. Speaker, whatever parliamentary secretary I am, I am not quite sure on this wonderful Monday in Ottawa. Whatever it is, I can assure members that I will continue to perform to the best of my ability.

Members opposite have come over and suggested that I do not know anything about animals. I find it interesting when people stand up in this place and talk about their family pets as if that is somehow the issue here. I e-mailed my wife to make sure that my 80 pound Lab Duke is watching, so he knows that I support obviously the proper care, nurturing and feeding of all animals, two legged, four legged or whatever kind.

What I find really interesting are the objections to putting in law the definition of animal and the concerns about that. Frankly, I do not have a problem with people expressing concerns on behalf of the farming community to ensure that we all understand the impact the bill would have.

The fact of the matter is most jurisdictions have defined animal. People at home watching might think that is kind of bizarre. Let me share some of the definitions. A broad definition of animal is consistent not only with definitions found in some provincial statutes, but also with some United States statutes.

Let me give some examples. The province of Alberta says that it does not include a human being, an exclusionary definition. The next definition from Manitoba and New Brunswick is “non-human living being with a developed nervous system”.

The definition from Arkansas includes every living creature. That is pretty broad, even more so than what we are talking about in the bill, which requires a vertebrae to be in existence.

Here is one that could apply to members of the opposition. It is a definition out of Colorado, Florida and Ohio. The definition reads “means any living dumb creature”. Those are not my words. That is the definition. If the shoe fits maybe they want to wear it.

It goes on and on like that. The point of the matter is what we are trying to do is put in place a definition so that when it does come to a decision in the courts, some rules will be there which can be followed.

One member opposite with the fifth party suggested that somehow this would impact mosquitos. Talk about going over the top, if we want a humane way to take care of a mosquito. It is so ludicrous that we have lowered the level of debate to the point where we are talking about somehow being charged for killing a mosquito that is in the bedroom trying to take some blood. This has become silly.

I think it is because members opposite feel the heat and the pressure that we have all felt. All of us have received, e-mails and phone calls. There have even been demonstrations on the front lawn of Parliament Hill . People have called on us to invoke closure, get the bill done and put in place some laws that will provide protection for animals. Have members ever in history seen a situation where people have demonstrated and called for the government to invoke closure? It is unheard of.

Let us put this issue of time allocation in perspective. The bill was originally introduced in this place as Bill C-17. That was December 1999. There were howls and complaints from members opposite that we needed to split the bill, that it was too much like an omnibus bill because it dealt with guns, animals and child pornography. I remember the hue and cry from members opposite that we needed to split it up so we could deal with the child pornography issue separately.

The government agreed and brought in Bill C-15A and Bill C-15B. It is almost like the opposition cannot take yes for an answer. We split the bill, and now we are dealing with the issue that concerns Canadians.

At third reading alone there were over 40 speakers in five days. Committee hearings took place and the bill was reintroduced in September 2001. Two years later there was a new bill. It was split at the request of the opposition and of caucus to allow us to deal with it separately.

There is fearmongering going on that somehow if someone killed a cow, maybe it should not have been killed because it never did anything and people say it is awful. Animal husbandry, the way of dealing with animals on the farm, is not being threatened. We are concerned about abuse.

I am sorry to say that just two weeks ago in my riding two dogs were left in a car for four hours outside a bar while their owner was inside and obviously had too many drinks. One of the dogs died and the second dog almost died. I have not heard whether or not it was able to pull through.

Should society not do anything about that? Should we not take it seriously, to make it a crime that is punishable? One can be punished for that kind of crime for up to five years. The fine can be up to $10,000. It is absolutely unconscionable that there is some perception that a farmer is going to be told he cannot take the tail off a pig or a lamb as we heard earlier, because it is cruel and unusual punishment. Clearly if it is part of common law and I would add if it is common sense and it is a tradition, then what we do not want is to rip the tail off. There is a proper procedure for doing it.

When I was in the Ontario legislature we dealt with the issue of research. Companies and people were using animals for research purposes. We recognize the importance of using animals for research but if it is done properly those animals do not suffer unduly. Care is taken with the animals. I invite members to take some time to visit a research lab to see the love, caring and tenderness of the people who deal with those animals, whether they are monkeys, hamsters or whatever they are. They are not people who are savagely trying to inflict pain and getting great pleasure out of it. They are people who are doing cancer, heart and blood research. They are doing research on the immune system and research in all kinds of areas that are good for human health. Those people are not in jeopardy with the bill.

What we dealt with in the province of Ontario was a private member's bill that would make it illegal to use a rabbit's eyes to test for cosmetics. Let us get real. Somebody drops mascara or something of that nature into the eye of a rabbit, or puts it in with a needle to try to find out if it will harm the eye or create an allergic reaction. Surely to goodness there are ways of determining that without inflicting that kind of pain on any given animal.

If it is for the good of humanity, for medical purposes and there are reasons to do this kind of thing, the bill would not prohibit it. There would be a defence based on common law. Clearly the bill would put the onus on the crown to prove that there was some kind of objectionable conduct. We have to realize that if we want to get to the bottom of this, if we want to attack the puppy mills, the people who put cats in microwaves or the people who leave their animals in hot cars in temperatures of 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, we need a bill with some teeth in it that will allow the government to stand up for the living beings that cannot defend themselves.

I want the Canadian public to know the kinds of objections that are being made here and how outrageous and ridiculous they are, such as the suggestion that the bill would actually create problems for someone who killed a mosquito. Imagine that someone actually said that.

Years ago when I was a member of Mississauga city council, a director of the humane society used a weapon to shoot dogs in our facility in Mississauga, having determined it was a safe and harmless way of killing seal pups. It was an Ontario humane society official who did it. There were pictures of dogs lying bleeding because the shot did not work or the gun missed. It was an appalling situation. At the time I took on the director.