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.