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House of Commons Hansard #149 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was liberal.

Topics

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Paul MacKlin Liberal Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member has asked a number of questions and I am not sure whether we will have enough time to properly address them.

However, first, with respect to the bill itself, the bill is not exactly the same as the previous bill. As I mentioned in my speech, it relates to the non-derogation clause for the recognition of aboriginal practices. That is an addition to the previously passed legislation.

However, in other respects the bill is a mirror image of the bill that has been passed here a number of times.

The question the hon. member raised is one that needs to be addressed as it relates to those who are in the industry. Clearly, we have had support through various letters brought to us about the industry's acceptance of what is going on. As he would well remember, some of the amendments that we brought forward previously made it clear that we are incorporating all of the common law defences that were there originally so that they are equally available today.

I believe the industry does have an understanding of this. The basic concern that industry was trying to express was whether it would have the protections that it has today. It is fair to say that it would have the same protections and that we have, shall we say, bolstered it, both from a section 8 perspective and the broader perspective, which I believe was section 429, although I could be in error on that, but around that section. However in both cases it does protect the issue as it relates to their practices.

We are all very conscious about wanting to, first, protect our animals, but we are equally conscious of ensuring that those who make their living from this are properly protected so that they will not suffer the risk of being prosecuted for simply carrying on in their normal trade practice the way in which is accepted for that trade or profession to carry out the killing of animals.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I have a comment and then I want to ask a question.

It is very appropriate, in my opinion, to introduce a bill to prevent cruelty to animals. This bill is essential. We have been talking about this since I arrived in the House of Commons. We had Bills C-10 and C-22. Now, we have Bill C-50. I hope that this bill contains many improvements. I will make what may be an unfortunate parallel. It would have been nice to see legislation banning cruelty against human beings, particularly psychological harassment, in the same way that we are now considering legislation on cruelty to animals.

My question is as follows. It is not so much how animals are killed, which is important to animal rights groups, but rather the care they receive, whether they are en route to the slaughterhouse, force-fed, given water and food, cared for, from the day they are born to the day they are slaughtered. For those who have concerns about this, is there a section in the bill that mentions protection for animals in this very specific regard?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The hon. parliamentary secretary only has seconds to reply. The Chair made a mistake in assuming there were 10 minutes for questions and comments, whereas there are only five minutes. Would the parliamentary secretary please make his answer brief.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 14th, 2005 / 3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Paul MacKlin Liberal Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, let me simply say that this will cover a broad range of activities that would be considered to be negative in relation to animals. It goes into the issue of taking care of animals. When we are talking about care, that care can be in the most broad context that one could suggest.

Each and every one of us really has sympathy for our animal friends. We want to make sure that they are cared for. There have been some examples in the last few days of what are referred to as puppy mills. That sort of activity obviously causes a great deal of concern to everyone who is interested in animal welfare. This bill goes a long way toward making sure that we provide far better protection in a very clear and distinct manner so that our pets and animals will be well looked after.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Conservative Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address Bill C-50, an act to amend the Criminal Code in respect of cruelty to animals.

It has been a great source of frustration for many Canadians that the government has been attempting to legislate changes to animal cruelty offences since 1999 without success. Several versions of this bill have wound their way through the House and Senate only to die on the order paper. The parliamentary secretary did go through those previous versions. There were concerns that the proposed amendments could have criminalized some common and lawful activities such as catch and release fishing, trapping, hunting, and even some farming practices.

We are not just talking about our friends the animals, which is how urban people might view animals, and we have lots of animal friends. I have a dog who is a friend. Animals are also used in the context of agriculture, and those animals are not necessarily our friends. We have to recognize that animals play a dual role in our society. I recall the 2% strychnine solution being argued here regarding our friends the gophers. Gophers destroy thousands of acres of land every year and kill or hurt other animals that fall into gopher holes. We have to remember that all animals are not our friends.

Throughout the debates on these bills, Conservative MPs and senators strongly expressed their desire to prevent abuse of animals, but sought legal protection for those who use animals for legitimate, lawful and justified practices. The Senate was ultimately successful in amending Bill C-10B to narrow the definition of animal and to ensure that current legal defences for legitimate practices would be maintained.

Bill C-10B was reprinted in the House of Commons as Bill C-22, and was supported by the Conservative Party in light of the Senate amendments. However, the bill died at committee in the Senate in May 2004 before the last general election.

As the parliamentary secretary has explained, this enactment would amend the Criminal Code by consolidating animal cruelty offences and increasing the maximum penalties.

One of the things we have to realize is that these changes to the Criminal Code will not make it easier to prosecute animal offences. It is very difficult to prosecute animal offences. We hear about all kinds of horrendous examples such as skinning a cat, or putting cats into microwaves, those kinds of things. The point is that these changes will not make it any easier to prosecute those types of offences. The injustice that is often done is a result of inadequate evidence to prosecute the offence.

I am not necessarily opposing these amendments. We have voted on them many times already. I am suggesting that when there is a conviction, meaningful sentences should be put in place. There have been philosophical debates about whether an animal is property or whether it is not quite a human being, as some animal rights activists would have us believe, but the point is that appropriate penalties need to be in place so that when these difficult cases are successfully prosecuted, meaningful sentences are imposed.

One of the concerns that many animal groups involved in agriculture, fishing and hunting have mentioned to me about the current bill is that it would make it illegal to brutally and viciously kill an animal regardless of whether or not the animal dies immediately. I have a lot of concerns about that particular provision because it really takes an urban person's point of view about the killing of an animal. Many urban people look at the practice of killing a particular animal as being brutal and vicious and therefore that practice should be stopped. The real point we need to consider is not simply whether it looks brutal or vicious, but whether the animal in fact dies immediately. We want to minimize the animal's pain. I think all of us are agreed on that.

I am concerned that what we are doing here is taking a key relevant factor in determining whether or not something is brutal or vicious and making it irrelevant. We need to take a look at that particular issue. That more than any other issue has raised concerns for the groups who depend on animals for their livelihood.

I have no concern about raising the penalties. If there is genuine cruelty to animals and a prosecution is successful, we need to prosecute those cases vigorously and impose appropriate penalties.

There is one thing I find remarkable about Liberals. I wish Liberals would speak as passionately about human victims as they sometimes do about animal victims. I am very concerned about human victims. This is perhaps an appropriate segue into that entire issue.

I raised in question period the issue that under Bill C-70 a judge will be able to impose house arrest on someone who rapes a woman. The minister said that there would be exceptional circumstances where that would happen. I asked him in question period today under what exceptional circumstances should people who rape women serve their time at home. I am concerned about that kind of thing.

I am concerned about brutality toward animals, but I am also very concerned about the brutality that we demonstrate to other human beings. When we catch those animals who commit crimes against their fellow human beings, we say we should leave the door open for exceptional circumstances so that the poor rapist can serve his time at home. I am concerned about that kind of thing and I dare say most Canadians are.

I am concerned about drug dealers who are peddling poisons that kill our children. I am concerned about that. Yet under the Liberals' Bill C-70, drug dealers who are repeat offenders can get house arrest. I wish Liberals would talk as passionately about keeping those kinds of animals behind bars, those who would do that kind of thing to our children and fellow citizens.

I have pointed out a very practical problem with this bill. I hope the parliamentary secretary looks at that particular issue. At the same time I would encourage the parliamentary secretary to ask the Minister of Justice what he is doing in Bill C-70 to allow vicious, brutal rapists and drug dealers who are destroying our youth and communities to get house arrest in exceptional circumstances. We were assured by past justice ministers, Allan Rock and others, that it would never happen that conditional sentences or house arrest would be used for violent offences.

I want to see some amendments to this bill. I think it is moving in the right direction. We have had this debate over and over. I remind the parliamentary secretary that he should show the same concern for human victims as he does for animal victims.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

John Cannis Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to pick up on what the hon. member said earlier in terms of human victims and he is so right. I do not think there are any members in the House, no matter which side of the political spectrum they sit, who do not put first and foremost the value of human life and of course everything else.

I remember not too long ago in the greater city of Toronto we had problems with gangs. Chief Fantino at that time made a comment and I want to thank him again publicly. He said that had it not been for the anti-gang legislation that the Liberals brought in, he would have not been in a position to address this horrendous issue which he did admirably. Most recently, Chief Blair, the new chief of police, made a similar comment, that the laws are there, but the judiciary is not enforcing them.

If the hon. member wishes, I can show him the statements from the chiefs of police. Perhaps the judiciary today should look at them because officers have said to me repeatedly, “The laws are there. We apprehend these criminals. We bring them into the system. Then all of a sudden something happens. They get a slap on the hand. They get something wishy-washy and here we go again”.

Perhaps the time has come for us to look at the system beyond just making laws. We can make all the laws in the world, but unless they are implemented, unless they are enforced, nothing will happen.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Conservative Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, that has been exactly my point for the last five years. That is why I have been calling for mandatory minimum prison sentences.

I stood up today and said that even under the Liberal bill dealing with serious sexual assaults, rapists can get house arrest. How can that be? We need to send the message to the judiciary that those types of sentences are not acceptable. The way Parliament properly does that is through the establishment of these mandatory minimum sentences.

The Minister of Justice has just recently flipped on his stand on mandatory minimum sentences. As late as August and September he was telling the House that there is no beneficial effect for mandatory minimum prison sentences. This weekend he came around, but he only goes half way. He will not do it for drug dealers. He will not say that those who are peddling this poison to our kids deserve to go to jail.

What needs to be understood about the rising gun violence in the streets of Toronto is that it is all drug related. This is a struggle for the drug trade and guns are used in order to increase a gang's market share.

If we are just going to deal with guns, that is a good start, but we need to deal with drugs. Those who are peddling the coke, the meth and the heroin deserve to go to jail. That is what Canadians are saying. Then we will see an end to this gun violence on the streets of Toronto and elsewhere.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, we have just seen across the aisle another demonstration of the party of division, the party of firewalls. The member for Provencher is now trying to create an urban-rural divide in our country. Unfortunately, I am not quite sure that his rural caucus members will appreciate the way he has referred to our rural communities. He said that the urban dwellers see animals as our friends.

I would like to inform the member that family members of mine are farmers. They have a tremendous respect for their animals and in fact, see their animals, including livestock, as their friends. He said that urban dwellers have a different perception of what would be cruel and vicious when we treat animals. I think our farmers and rural communities, and people dependent on livestock are probably among the more humane individuals when it comes to appreciating the value of our animal friends.

Could the member explain how he thinks, from what he previously said, that the rural community members or farmers do not have the same appreciation of our animals and of what cruel and vicious entails?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Conservative Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is taking my comments completely out of context. What I said is that even I, as a rural MP, have an animal as a friend, my dog.

I was born and raised in a city environment. We have to understand that practices in rural communities that were strange and new to me may well seem different. The point I was making is that it should not be the perception of what is cruel and vicious, but in fact the reality.

Why would we exclude the most relevant consideration, which is whether or not death ensues immediately? Most of the judges in Canada, as are the people, are urban. If we were to tell a judge to look at a particular practice and he cannot consider whether death ensues immediately or not, on what basis would the judge make the determination? He makes it on a subjective perception determination, and that is wrong. We have to include objective factors in that determination. That is what I am saying. Why would we exclude that objective consideration in the issue of whether or not something is vicious or cruel?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to Bill C-50, an act to amend the Criminal Code in respect of cruelty to animals, and convey the Bloc Québécois' position in this respect.

Allow me to read the summary. It states:

This enactment would amend the Criminal Code by consolidating animal cruelty offences and increasing the maximum penalties.

So, the intention is to create a separate section in the Criminal Code for cruelty to animals and to increase the penalties for criminal offences committed by those found guilty of cruelty to animals.

We have heard two kinds of arguments from the Liberals and the Conservatives. That is why we are in favour of the bill being referred to committee. Efforts have to be made to ensure that there is a proper balance between protecting animals and protecting legitimate activities. In fact, that is what the Bloc Québécois has always sought in this House: to ensure that, while protecting animals, we remain able to assure the animal, farm, medical, sports and other industries that they can pursue their activities without being under constant threat of prosecution. Naturally, this is not easy, and it is much more complicated.

There have been examples such as the recent one in Quebec, where about a hundred dogs were seized. They had been so badly looked after that over half of them had to be put down. It is necessary to make it a criminal offence to raise dogs for personal use and not to respect their needs.

There are good animal breeders of course, but those involved in this industry, as well as farmers and those using animals in the medical field, or for sport such as hunting and other activities, need to feel at ease.

Here is some background information. This is the sixth time this bill has come up. It has been numbered C-17, C-15B, C-10, C-10B, C-22 and C-50. I must point out that the Senate has blocked it every time. This raises a lot of questions.

I will simply read out part of the bill, so that we can raise the questions together. The first clause is an addition to section 182 of the Criminal Code. It will therefore become 182.2(1). It reads:

Every one commits an offence who, wilfully or recklessly... (c) kills an animal without lawful excuse.

This refers to the commission of a criminal offence. The other sub-clauses are far clearer:

(b) kills an animal brutally or viciously—

(d) without lawful excuse, poisons an animal, places poison—

It is never easy to use examples such as poisoning an animal. The dictionary definition of animal is a simple one, “animal means a vertebrate, other than a human being”. We then have the following definition of vertebrate: “animal sub-phylum consisting of all organisms possessing a vertebral column made up of bony or cartilaginous vertebrae. The vertebrates are made up of the following five categories: fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.” So both a rat and an ox fall within this definition.

Two weeks ago, we debated a bill on strychnine. It involved examining its use by farmers to rid themselves of rodents on a large scale. Rodents are obviously vertebrates.

Finally, in reading the definition providing that every one commits an offence who, without lawful excuse, kills an animal or poisons an animal, we might ask what the lawful excuse is. In this respect, we must refer to sections 444 and 445 of the Criminal Code, which set out a means of defence, that is, the lawful excuse. Subsection 429(2) provides that: “No person shall be convicted of an offence under sections 430 to 446 where he proves that he acted with legal justification or excuse and with colour of right”.

That assumes then that a lawful excuse is possible as a defence. It also means that a person has been charged. A person draws on the part of the Criminal Code that provides a lawful excuse because that person has been charged. The way the bill was written, it provides for lawful excuses. However, it is not very clear in the case of certain industries. We can understand then their concern about being accused voluntarily or involuntarily or frivolously and having to defend themselves.

The problem when a charge is laid is the wait until a trial is held for acquittal on the grounds of there being a lawful excuse. The trial has to be held. Problems of public perception can arise when a charge has been laid. This is sort of what the Bloc Québécois wants to do.

We support a bill preventing cruelty to animals. Never again must anything like what happened in Quebec on the weekend recur. Over 100 animals were in such terrible condition that over half of them had to be euthanized, because their master, or owner, who deserves no such recognition, was cruel to them. There must be the right to charge such a person and punish them, in the end. The problem is that it is hard to strike a balance.

That is why the Bloc Québécois is in favour of making a decision today and sending this bill back to committee. We will then have a chance to hear, we hope, as many witnesses as possible from sports associations, farming groups, the medical industry, the animal breeding industry and so on. These people could explain to us their experience of the situation.

I am sure these people do not want any cruelty toward animals either. Nonetheless, they want to be able to operate in accordance with the law and without a constant threat over their head every time an animal has to be slaughtered during their operations and for a possible suit to be filed against them. They would then be charged and their names would be in the media and in the papers. They would get only one chance to use the lawful excuse defence.

The Bloc Québécois wants to protect this balance between legitimate activities and criminal activities involving cruelty to animals. Rest assured, the Bloc Québécois will fully support this.

Not everything in this bill needs to be redefined. I will read subclause 182.2(1)( e ):

Every one commits an offence who, wilfully or recklessly—

in any manner encourages, promotes, arranges, assists at or receives money for the fighting or baiting of animals, including training an animal to fight another animal—

Of course we can all agree on this. Such discussions were held in committee. Some provisions of this bill are quite interesting. Subclause 182.2(1)( f ) reads as follows:

—makes, maintains, keeps or allows to be made, maintained or kept a cockpit or any other arena for the fighting of animals on premises that he or she owns or occupies—

Subclause 182.2(1)( g ):

—promotes, arranges, conducts, assists in, receives money for or takes part in any meeting, competition, exhibition, pastime, practice, display or event at or in the course of which captive animals are liberated by hand, trap, contrivance or any other means for the purpose of being shot at the moment they are liberated—

I see that I have only one minute left.

It is clear that this concerns the offences set out in ( h ), which states: “being the owner, occupier or person in charge of any premises, permits the premises or any part of the premises to be used in the course of an activity referred to in paragraph ( e ) or ( g )”, referring to animal fights and other things.

The Bloc Québécois does not question the entire bill, but rather it is a question of striking the right balance between legitimate breeding, hunting and scientific and medical research activities, meaning the animal, farming, medical and sports industries. All we want is for the workers in this industry not to feel constantly in danger of being accused of cruelty toward animals when they operate their business in accordance with legitimate and legal practices. That is the balance we are seeking. The men and women we represent can rely on the Bloc Québécois to defend the interests of animals and ensure that people guilty of cruelty to pets will get what they deserve, meaning jail time. We agree with the increased sentences proposed in the bill. All we want is a fair balance between legitimate activities and cruelty to animals.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Yukon Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for an excellent outline of the bill. As he mentioned, this is a very popular bill among Canadians. They have been waiting a long time for it. I am delighted that we have brought it to the House to get it through.

He also made the important point that there is no intention with this bill to restrict the traditional activities of hunting, fishing and agriculture, and research and sports, the normal lawful uses of animals. This is very important for my riding as well, of course.

These points were raised. My question, though, is about how they have been raised numerous times and we have been provided with all assurances by the justice department that this is not in the intent of the bill. I would not be voting for it and I would not be so enthusiastic, for instance, if it restricted the traditional hunting and fishing of aboriginal groups, et cetera, but all this has been asked about and the justice department lawyers have assured us that there is no problem here.

My concern is that the member is asking to recall all these witnesses. As he mentioned, I think this is the sixth iteration of the bill. Have we not heard all those witnesses? Do we not have that on record so we could refer to it? The member is very experienced and has been here for some time. He knows that we are going to run into an election, so once again this is going to be deferred and once again a bill that people are waiting for is going to be put off for another lengthy period of time.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, in response to the first part of the member's question, with respect to aboriginal people, I will read the bill's clause 182.6, which states:

For greater certainty, nothing in this Part shall be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from the protection provided for existing aboriginal or treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada by the recognition and affirmation of those rights in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

Clearly, this bill does not target aboriginal people. I want this to be clear, because we have an aboriginal territory in my riding. This covers the first question.

Now, with regard to calling new witnesses, I would say that the committee has to be vigilant. If other organizations representing industry want to be heard, I believe that the committee should hear them again. Each time the bill is reintroduced, it is a slightly different bill. Often, these organizations propose changes to make the legislation more acceptable. The message that has to be sent to industry is that there will be a bill. If people want to help us draft it, so that they are more comfortable with it, I encourage them to make suggestions and propose amendments. All the better if these are clear. Should some not be so clear, I am confident that the committee will invite representatives of those industries which may have positions to clarify. I am not saying that we should start everything over, but, if some positions are not so clear, we should make sure that the industries concerned are afforded an opportunity to come and propose interesting changes or adjustments to us.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Beauséjour New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I do not mean to interrupt our colleague's speech, but discussions have taken place among all parties concerning the debate scheduled for tomorrow in committee of the whole pursuant to Standing Order 53.1 and I believe you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That during the debate in committee of the whole on Tuesday, November 15, 2005, on Government Business No. 21, pursuant to Standing Order 53.1, no quorum calls, dilatory motions or requests for unanimous consent shall be entertained by the Speaker, and that the duration of this debate be a maximum of five hours, not four.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Does the hon. member have unanimous consent to move the motion?

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, the New Democratic Party supports Bill C-50. One has to wonder how many times a bill has to come before the House before it finally gets through, not only here but in the other chamber, which historically has been opposed to certain provisions of the bill. This is not its first incarnation in this chamber. I hope this is the last time we debate it here and that it passes.

The need for this bill is so obvious. I want to point out what for me was a traumatic experience this past weekend when I watched the clips of the puppy mill in the province of Quebec. It was almost indescribable. If people had not seen it on television, I do not think they would have believed how terribly these animals were being treated, housed and abused.

If it were an isolated incident, one could say that maybe it is not so obvious that we need this bill, but that is not the case. It has happened repeatedly. The worst part of this is the person operating that puppy mill under existing legislation, both provincial and federal, if convicted, at some stage very soon after a conviction could start up another operation, and one almost has to assume at some stage there would be a conviction for this conduct, whatever the charge. There is no way of prohibiting that under existing legislation.

The treatment of these dogs was horrendous. It had been going on for years. There was excrement on the floor that literally could be measured in feet rather than inches. A number of the animals had died and were rotting in the house. I can go on with these descriptions. It was horrendous and again not an isolated case.

The bill as is would have provided, as its previous predecessors, the authority for law enforcement officers across the country to both prohibit and enforce a law against such people which would be effective in preventing this kind of abuse.

We already have heard in the chamber today that it does not have unanimous support in the country. There are certain sectors that want further amendments, clarifications or protections. Those are the terminologies used. Generally the opposition to the bill is not about improving it. It is about killing it. There are certain elements and sectors within our society that want no regulation of their conduct whatsoever.

Interestingly, a number of the groups that work with protecting animals across the country have conducted surveys over the last number of years. It does not matter whether it is the urban dweller who is simply concerned about the way their pets are treated or farmers, fishers and hunters. In large majorities, every one of those sectors support the values, concepts and provisions of the bill.

Some leadership members are fighting it and trying to kill it. I have seen some of the amendments that already have been proposed. If we put them into play, we might as well tear up the bill and throw it in the garbage. The effect of those amendments is that it would exclude the ability of the bill to be used as an enforcement mechanism against wholesale parts of the community that raise and take care of animals. It would be written in such a way that it would not be applicable to certain sectors which would be excluded. Those are the kinds of amendments being proposed.

The bill has overwhelming support from individuals and community groups working with animals, spending their lifetimes, in many respects, taking care of them and protecting them. That includes most farmers, fishers, trappers and hunters. They do not want to see the animals they deal with treated cruelly. The legislation would go a great distance to deal with those individuals in our society who are not prepared to take necessary care of their animals and who are prepared, as in the case of that puppy mill, to abuse them horrendously.

I want to draw to the attention of the House an amendment that is in this new bill. It is one that I support. It should have been in from the beginning. It is as a result of representations by the first nations, Métis aboriginal community generally. It is a provision that recognizes their historical rights.

I say with some pride that there have been a number of environmental bills over the last Parliament where this provision was put in, sometimes at my instigation but sometimes at the instigation of other members of that Parliament. This is standard wording. We are trying to get it into as much legislation where there may be some encroachment on historical aboriginal rights. It is very appropriate that it is in this bill. It is one that all members of this House should support.

Beyond that, the bill has been before us on numerous occasions. We have had repeated elections that have interrupted its passage into its final form. As I said earlier, the other House has also, on occasion, tied it up and delayed it, the unelected House that really has no right to do this. This House has spoken clearly in the past that we want this type of legislation. We are acting as elected representatives for the greater number of members of our society who are saying we need this legislation.

We have not amended the Criminal Code with regard to cruelty to animals for almost 100 years. The existing legislation reflects a time that is long passed in our country. We are in a situation where there is very large support. It is support that crosses a number of sectors that deal with animals. It is very widespread and is one that we, as elected representatives, have every responsibility to get it out of bill stage and finally passed into law so it can be used to enforce protection for our animals.

Members will hear objections that the bill will somehow get hijacked by extreme radical animal rights groups. We have heard repeatedly that kind of accusation from some people who are trying to kill the bill. It is an excuse for doing away with it. There is no basis for that. If one understands how the criminal process works, the ability to use the bill by those very small number of extreme animal rights people cannot happen. There are any number of ways within the existing court system that our public prosecutors can intervene in that kind of process and shut it down if it is ever attempted.

The bill is to be used appropriately by our prosecutors to protect animals. It would not be abused. I believe that is very clear, except in the minds of those very few people who are paranoid about the potential for abuse by extreme and radical animal rights groups. This is not about that. This is mainstream legislation that the vast majority of Canadians want.

We will support the bill and we will do whatever we can to push it through the House as rapidly as possible.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, my NDP colleague seems very concerned by this bill and by cruelty to animals. I know he is very concerned in this regard. I think he worked on Bill C-10, which I worked on as well.

He mentioned cruelty to animals and what we saw on TV on the weekend. It is not an isolated case. Canada is the only country without legislation to protect its animals. Puppy mills, for example, come from the south. The U.S. has laws in this regard. The fact that people in the states face such a law brings home the fact in Canada that we do not have such a law in a given field. We can set up puppy mills and the result is what we saw on television on the weekend.

Care must be taken with this bill, because it is comprehensive. This is the most important consideration. It covers not only cruelty to animals, but cruelty by industries and businesses in the animal trade.

I have a chinchilla rancher in my riding, and he is not comfortable with this bill. It makes him a bit nervous. When it comes time to slaughter his chinchillas, what is to stop him being accused of animal cruelty?

Then there are the hunters, and the poultry producers. Everyone knows that poultry are killed at an abattoir. This is done very quickly and the animal does not suffer. There is no problem there. The problem comes in shipping them. They put 20 in a cage that normally takes 10. When we buy turkeys with broken wings at the supermarket, that is exactly what has happened. Many turkeys end up with broken wings because 20 of them were shipped in a cage that should have held 10.

Sometimes we buy pork that is as tough as old boots and not good to eat. This is not always because it is boar meat. We are also sold meat from pigs who have been exposed to the cold. A person needs to have been a farmer to really understand what cruelty to animals is.

So this is my question for my colleague from the NDP. Can he assure me that this bill, which will be reworked in committee, will be scrutinized in order to differentiate between cruelty toward animals belonging to an individual—for example cruel treatment of an individual pet—and cruelty towards animals by farmers and companies. This is one part of the bill.

Then there is the other part. What about bow hunters, for instance, who do not finish their prey off with the first shot? Will they be accused of animal cruelty? What about fishers? Can the NDP member give us assurance that the bill will address both aspects of cruelty to animals?

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4:30 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, as a member of Parliament, I am not the one who should have to give this assurance. The hon. member should look at proposed subsection 182.3(2), which provides some protection for hunters, farmers and fishers.

There is a standard of care that a reasonable person in that operation would apply. It is the standard within that operation. We are saying that as long as the standard is met with respect to, for example, the way chinchillas are raised, treated and eventually killed, there is no breach of this legislation. The bill is quite clear on that. This is not an assurance coming from me; it is in proposed subsection 182.3(2).

The other provision is in proposed section 182.5. I always remember this one from law school. It refers specifically to the hunter. When confronted by an animal a hunter has to protect himself or herself and take whatever measures are necessary. It is like a self-defence argument. That provision is retained in the legislation as well.

There is no issue here. There is a paranoia in the country. That may be part of the problem with respect to the person the member mentioned. That person may be over-concerned. The basic standard of care, the section that is going to protect operators who are dealing with animals in whatever form, is the standard for that industry. The full protection is clearly set out in the bill. I believe the concern that is being expressed is unwarranted.

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4:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

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 New Brunswick Southwest, the Environment; the hon. member for Québec, Child Care.

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4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Michael John Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-50, amendments to the Criminal Code in relation to cruelty to animals.

Members who have been in the House longer than I will remember from the last Parliament when the bill was Bill C-22. This legislation has been before this House consistently since 1999 when it was first introduced in an omnibus criminal law bill, Bill C-17.

Canadians from all walks of life have expressed and continue to express support for stronger animal cruelty laws. I know the minister continues to receive countless letters in support of these amendments. I have certainly received letters and heard concerns from my constituents. As MPs we hear from a lot of people. I heard from someone this morning in relation to the puppy mill in Quebec which my NDP colleague spoke about previously. This issue is very much on the minds of Canadians.

For various reasons the bill has never passed both this House and the other place in the same form. It is true that when it was first introduced, a degree of discomfort was felt by a number of industry stakeholders, farmers and animal researchers, about the potential negative impact of the legislation on their activities. These are legitimate concerns and they have been addressed.

Over the past five years, significant work has gone on in Parliament, in the chamber and in committee, as well as in meetings and discussions with concerned parties to bring a greater consensus in support of this legislation.

In the summer of 2003 when a final set of amendments were made to the legislation, a broad based coalition of industry groups came to feel more comfortable with the legislation and in fact supported these amendments, alongside animal welfare groups and veterinary associations. These groups even wrote to urge the minister to re-table this very legislation.

Since that set of changes, not just those people who advocate for the interests of animals, but also many of those whose livelihoods actually depend upon the use of animals are now eager to see these amendments become law. Those groups include organizations representing the agricultural sector, trappers, fur farming industries, and the animal research community. This indicates that we have addressed a wide range of concerns.

One of the objectives of the reforms is the enhancement of existing maximum penalties for animal cruelty. Today even the most heinous mutilation or torture of animals can result in only six months' imprisonment or a $2,000 fine. There is widespread consensus that these maximum penalties are too low to deter or denounce behaviour that we know happens across this country. Our views toward animals have changed a lot in this country and in this world over the past number of years.

Part of the penalty enhancement reform involves making these offences dual procedure and giving the Crown the ability to proceed by indictment in the more serious cases. In those cases, the maximum penalty goes up from six months in prison to five years, and the ceiling of $2,000 is removed, in keeping with the sentencing for all indictable offences in the code.

There are more specific sentencing measures in addition to these general standard ones. Currently there is a two year maximum on orders preventing the offender from owning or possessing animals. This two year maximum ceiling will also be removed so the courts will have the power to make an order for any length of time the court considers appropriate.

In addition, Bill C-50 will introduce a new power for the court to order, in addition to any other sentence, that a convicted offender repay the costs of taking care of the animal in question. If a person or organization took in the animal after the cruelty incident, the person who committed the offence would be responsible.

In every province there are statutorily created societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals. We all know those. These agencies are under a legal obligation to protect animals from cruelty by seizing and caring for them when they are in distress, for example a puppy mill, yet these statutory bodies receive very little in the way of public funding. When they take in an animal that has been abused, care for it and provide veterinary services, food, shelter and comfort, they generally do so with money obtained from public donations.

We all know people in our communities who do this kind of work. In my community of Dartmouth--Cole Harbour, I think of people like Judith Gass, a former Progressive Conservative candidate in the 1993 federal election, who does great work. I also think of the many vets in my riding who talk to me about the concerns they have when they see animals in distress.

Bill C-50 will make it clear that the offender may be found responsible for repaying the costs associated with his or her criminal act. That is good sentencing policy. By holding the offender accountable for the costs, we do a better job at educating the offender about the consequences of his or her crime and hopefully this contributes to his or her rehabilitation.

Law reform is about more than adjusting numbers. It is also about making sure the substance of the law prohibits all forms of misconduct and does so in the clearest possible language and provides the most coherent structure of offences. Bill C-50 also contains a number of elements that accomplish this important set of objectives.

The amendments will create a new offence that directly targets the wilful killing of an animal with brutal intention, such as by strapping an explosive on the animal--we have heard of that--or fastening the animal to a railway line. These types of acts, which most people consider impossible to imagine, are perhaps the most despicable form of cruelty we can imagine and may not be caught by our existing law if the person had or could prove a legitimate excuse for killing the animal. We are closing this loophole so that even when the law allows a person to kill an animal, he or she cannot do it with the intention of being brutal.

Euthanasia, slaughter, hunting practices could be humane. The hallmarks of humane euthanasia are that the methods are tried and true. They involve a minimization of pain and suffering. They are reproducible and reliable and do not pose any risk of failure or risk of harm to others.

Sometimes a person who kills an animal has another set of intentions reflected in acts that are not reliable methods of killing, which pose risks to that person or to others and which have uncertain and non-reproducible effects. Exploding an animal in a microwave, which we have heard of, or dropping it from a tall building are examples. If someone kills an animal with that state of mind, there is a good chance he or she is being deliberately brutal. The law must clearly prohibit and sternly punish this type of behaviour.

Another set of changes will clear up some of the language that is currently confusing. The code now has a set of offences in relation to cattle, a set of offences in relation to animals that are kept for a lawful purpose, and another set of offences for all animals. This produces duplication and some overlap. There are also omissions. For instance, there are special provisions on cockfighting and the keeping of cockpits. We know, sadly, that dog fighting also happens in our country. Why should our law not also prohibit that? There is no reason.

Bill C-50, a comprehensive law reform package in this area will rectify that deficiency. It will also remove current language, such as “dogs, birds and other animals”, which is a phrase that can do nothing except confuse. It will also remove the nonsensical notion of wilful neglect, which does not exist anywhere else in criminal law because it conflates two entirely different concepts. Wilful means deliberate and intentional, whereas neglect means inadvertence. Combining these two into one concept is bad criminal law. Bill C-50 will rectify that.

The bill will also provide a definition of animal when none currently exists. That definitely will be a “non-humane vertebrate”, for example. Today, there is no definition. This means that a worm or a snail or any possible living creature would probably be included. Since many industry groups have expressed concern over such an interpretation, Bill C-50 brings desirable clarity to the question. Without Bill C-50, the question of the scope of the law remains open and it leads to uncertainty.

Finally, Bill C-50 will create a new part of the Criminal Code with the title “Cruelty to Animals” as a chapter devoted just to these offences. This will permit the offences to be taken out of part XI, “Wilful and Forbidden Acts in Respect of Certain Property”.

I am aware that this change has been the subject of debate and discussion, but let us be clear about it in the bill. This change will not and cannot have the effect of altering the legal status of animals as property. The fact that animals are property is a result of property law, which is within the constitutional authority of provinces, not of this Parliament. The common law of this country and that of our Commonwealth cousins bears out centuries of jurisprudence that firmly establishes that animals are the property of the people or of the Crown. There are some people who would disagree with that. There are people who were referred to earlier as radical in this cause. This is a mainstream bill. This is not an extreme bill. It is legally impossible for the relocation of offences from one chapter of the Criminal Code to another to have any effect whatsoever on the legal status of animals as property.

The bill reflects the mainstream and widely held view of Canadians that the people with whom we share this planet are worthy of more respect than maybe we accorded them years ago. The bill is a meaningful and reasonable solution that addresses the needs of many stakeholders, people who work with animals, people who own animals, as well as people who just like to be with animals. The bill provides a sensible solution for all Canadians. I urge the adoption of Bill C-50.

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4:45 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to put on the record that I am not as enthused about this legislation as the member opposite appears to be. I am from a farming area, I am surrounded by farmers and I am a farmer myself. I know that there are concerns in the agricultural community about the implications of the bill. There are also concerns in the hunting community. A few minutes ago my colleague from the Bloc talked about the fact that this is just too undefined for us to be able to pass this comfortably.

In his intervention, my colleague from the NDP talked about the fact that he is comfortable with proposed subsection 182.3(2), which states:

--“negligently” means departing markedly from the standard of care that a reasonable person would use.

On the surface that does not look too bad, but I am concerned about the courts getting involved because we have had indications from the animal rights organizations that they want to use this legislation to impact traditional farming practices. We are aware of the fact that all it takes is one judge to rule. We have had social engineering in this country before, whereby one judge in a province has ruled and governments have not appealed that ruling. We find that social engineering has changed things considerably.

Does the member have a concern about this? Is he concerned about protecting the farmers in the rural communities? Does he have any suggestions for improvements or amendments we could make which would ensure farmers and hunters that we are going to protect them and let them have their traditional practices?

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4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Michael John Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, the intent of the bill and certainly my intent in supporting it is not to infringe upon the rights of hunters or trappers or anyone who practices either a traditional way of life or a recreational way of life that is not meant to be wilfully destructive to animals. Large numbers of recreational, hunter and trapper groups have looked at this legislation and have given it their okay.

It has come before the House on a number of occasions and was modified over the years largely to address the concerns indicated by the hon. member. I would like to indicate from the bill itself that the existing gap in the law is filled by proposed paragraph 182.2(1)(b), which prohibits “brutally or viciously” killing an animal. The proviso makes clear that this offence is primarily concerned with the nature of the act itself and what that act reveals about the person, vicious being defined as bad-tempered, spiteful and violent.

There is always a motive involved in this. People who hunt and who have done so for years, and who have taken hunter safety and hunting courses and know how to kill an animal in an appropriate way, will not be affected by the bill. Those who go out of their way to be vicious in the conduct of hunting or trapping or any other type of activity that involves animals will be affected by this and I think that is appropriate.

The purpose of the bill is not to take away from traditional ways of life, whether it is agriculture or hunting or fur trapping. Over the years the bill has modified itself to answer many of the questions people had about this. I think the bill does a good job. This can certainly be discussed at committee, but it is an improvement over what we have seen before and it is well worth supporting.