Madam Speaker, I hope the member does not crash either. I look forward to as long and illustrious career as he has had.
In terms of Bill C-50, I think all Canadians would agree that we would oppose cruelty to animals. That is not the issue here. I am not a lawyer, and I say that as often as I am given the opportunity, but I have been told by lawyers that one of the problems in prosecuting these cases is often the challenge of actually getting sufficient evidence to get a conviction. It is not so much that there are not laws on the books and quite frankly, it is not even so much that this bill would necessarily change the laws so much. The problem is gathering sufficient evidence. I suspect that is a problem that this bill, whether it passes or does not pass, is not really going to change.
In my riding there is a non-partisan farm council which I speak to regularly. Its members inform me about agricultural issues and advise me on different things. One of the members of the farm council runs a fox farm where foxes are raised and sold for their fur. They have concerns with this bill that something such as tattooing numbers on an animal's ear may be challenged at some point in the courts. Their concerns are valid in terms of their fear about what this bill will actually mean once it goes through the courts, as opposed to being concerned about what the intent is of parliamentarians.
They are concerned because animal rights activists in the country, who I believe represent a very extreme view, do not represent the mainstream and would like to see all practices that involve animals ended. They have said quite boldly and defiantly that if this bill passes, they will work hard to push this new legislation to its limits in the courts. They will test it. They will prod and probe to see exactly how far they can push it. I suspect they will keep their eyes on which area they are in and who the judges are. That is not to insult judges but just to recognize that they may know that some judges may be more or less sympathetic to their views and that that may establish case law.
Several years from now we may be standing in this House talking about how we all thought Bill C-50 was a good idea because of what we intended, but unfortunately the real world result of it was different. At the end of the day it will be the courts that will interpret the bill. What the courts decide will be what actually happens on the ground.
I mentioned earlier in a question to another member that only last week I met with representatives from the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters. I come from a rural riding in central Ontario. There are many people in my community who enjoy hunting and fishing as a recreational activity. Quite frankly many of them use the spoils from that activity as a way of augmenting their food supply over the course of a year.
I listened carefully to the representatives from the OFAH and they made a couple of points. Their first point was that if there were a couple of amendments made to this bill, they could live with it. They never said they would like it, but they did say that if a couple of important amendments were made, they could live with it.
They have a concern with the phrase “the owner, permits an animal to be killed, brutally or viciously, regardless of whether the animal dies immediately”. I do not know what that means. I suspect that if the bill stays the way it is, that will be the subject of interpretation in the court. I am sure that will be one of the areas that is probed. I do not think it is unreasonable to suggest that any time any animal is killed, on some level it is brutal or vicious. I do not know how one could kill something in such a way that no one could suggest that it was brutal or vicious.
Anyone who has ever visited a slaughterhouse knows it is not a pretty sight. There is the old joke that making legislation is like making sausage; the less one knows about how it is done, the better one will like it. That suggests that sometimes the process of producing the food we eat every day may be something with which people are not that familiar and they may not be that comfortable if they knew about it.
The point is, as a society I think it is acceptable for us to use animals, both agriculturally as well as recreationally and that many of those uses involve the killing of those animals. It is very reasonable for an organization like the OFAH to raise this concern and to say that it has a real problem with some of the wording. While the OFAH is not suggesting that the framers of the bill are deliberately going down this path, I think it is concerned that we may inadvertently go down this path, whether it is through sloppy language or whether it is through someone who was involved in the drafting process who may actually have an agenda that is a little different from the mainstream of people who support the legislation. That is important. The will of this place is not always done. The will of this place is as determined by the courts and we will have to see that.
It is a very responsible position that my party has put forward, which is that in principle, and I would say obviously, we agree with the suggestion that cruelty to animals is wrong. It is very reasonable that we have looked at the bill and said largely our party can support it but there are at least a couple of amendments that are absolutely necessary to make the bill acceptable. One of the things I have learned in a year and a half in this place is that often a bill comes forward and it is not exactly the way we like it. We have to decide if we are going to vote against the bill because it is not perfect, or whether we are going to vote for it and hope that at the committee level the amendments can be made to make it the way we think it ought to be, in which case we could support it at the end of the day, but I guess we could oppose it at the end of the day if the amendments were not made.
That is a reasonable position. That is the position the Conservative Party has put forward. I think that concerns of organizations like the OFAH are also very reasonable. Quite frankly, it is unreasonable for legislators, for members of Parliament to stand in this place and suggest, “Do not worry. We have looked after it. Trust us. The fine print is all okay. Nothing unintended will happen. We know exactly what the real world implications of the bill will be. We can anticipate with great accuracy how this will work its way through the courts and at the end of the day, what the real world impact of this will be”.
I think that the concerns brought forward by the OFAH and others, and in fact many of my colleagues, are legitimate. I also think that animal groups, which I would suggest do not represent the mainstream but in fact represent a very narrow slice on the extreme, do have an agenda. The fact that they are excited about the bill and that they think the bill moves things in the direction they would like to see, in itself causes alarm among many people in the mainstream whether they are farmers, fishermen, hunters or others who use animals.
Earlier today I heard it said that those who use animals in research are often at the forefront or at the edge of the wedge of this issue, and that they are comfortable with it. That may be true. I do not know, but I accept it as true. I come back to my point which is that they operate in a controlled environment and maybe they have been satisfied that their concerns have been addressed in the fine print and in the detail, but I think that there are probably other groups that do not feel that way.
The suggestion that the bill needs to be looked at more carefully is reasonable. There are at least a couple of amendments that need to be made to the bill, which is reasonable. For us to suggest to Canadians that they should not worry and to trust us is not reasonable. Canadians need to look at these things themselves. Shining the light on this bill, if in fact it is a good piece of legislation, I am sure it will survive that process. If it is not, then what it deserves is what it will get.