Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out to the Liberal members that the Liberal government is clearly aware of the fact that, unlike the representations that have been made by my friends in the Liberal party, there are problems with the bill that require amendment.
In spite of that we are being asked in this House of Commons, and they are being asked by the justice minister, to proceed at third reading for this to proceed to the Senate.
I remind everyone in the House that we have gone to the people of Canada and, through a democratic process, have come here through that democratic process, through our constituents voting for and against, as representatives of the people of Canada. It is therefore our responsibility to be making law.
I underscore that because I have a news release under the name of the member for Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey. It states:
Liberal Rural Caucus Chair is asking members to support the government's cruelty to animals legislation on the understanding that the bill can be amended in the Senate.
In other words the Liberals know full well that the bill is deficient and has problems. Otherwise why would the chair of the Liberal rural caucus be putting out a press release saying to members in the backbenches that they should vote for and support the government's cruelty to animals legislation on the understanding that the bill could be amended in Senate.
What that means is that there is an abdication of responsibility by the Liberal backbenchers who know full well that the bill is flawed and would create all sorts of hardship for farmers and other people who are involved in the husbandry of animals. They know that would be the case, but they receive this bleak assurance that all will be made right when it gets to the Senate. What kind of an abdication of responsibility is that on the part of members who went to the people of Canada to be elected to come here?
Indeed, what are some of the problems? The most egregious problem is that the government has entered into a brand new piece of legislation instead of making minor amendments to the current cruelty to animals act and the attendant criminal responsibility. Instead of simply making sure that there is proper enforcement of the penalties of the existing legislation it has gone to a whole new act and we do not what the unintended consequences would be.
I will again read into the record comments from animal rights activists. These are the people who farmers and ranchers, the people who have legitimate right to own animals, are concerned about.
Lynn Manheim, a columnist for Letters for Animals said:
Ultimately there can be no real progress until society undergoes a paradigm shift, a new way of looking at the world which opens the door to new systems and interacting with it. We have seen most strikingly with the women's movement, language plays an essential part in such a shift. Establishing legal rights for animals will be virtually impossible while they continue to be called and thought of as “its” and “things”.
Alan Berger, executive director of the Animal Protection Institution, said:
Society's perception of animals as property must be changed before legal rights for animals can be established. The time is right to make such a change.
We note that this amendment would remove animals from the property section to an undefined section within the criminal code. That is precisely what Alan Berger would want. Here is another one:
Just as we have moved beyond “owning” people after the Civil War, we now need to move beyond “owning” animals, who deserve a far greater understanding in our society than simply being treated as property or things.
The final quote is from Jane Goodall of the Jane Goodall Institute:
In the legal sense, animals are regarded as “things”, mere objects that can be bought, sold, discarded or destroyed at an owner's whim. Only when animals can be regarded as “persons” in the eyes of the law will it be possible to give teeth to the often fuzzy laws protecting animals from abuse.
We do not have any idea where this brand new legislation is going to take us. It is for precisely this reason that I implore the Liberal backbenchers to wake up and smell the coffee. If they have not figured out that the bill has the potential to be very serious within their own constituencies and within rural Canada, then there is probably no reason to talk to them. I know that 50 or 60 of them have figured it out, but now they have this rather weak response of “Oh, well, we will correct it when it goes to the Senate”. That is not good enough.
I implore the Liberal backbenchers to do their job, to stand up for the rural people of Canada and to vote against this legislation.