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House of Commons Hansard #154 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was property.

Topics

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Gord Brown Conservative Leeds—Grenville, ON

Madam Speaker, the hon. member's question does not have anything to do with what we are talking about.

Right now, fishing and hunting organizations are concerned about the potential for prosecution under this bill. Animal rights groups have said that they will look to this bill, once passed, to cause prosecutions against fishermen and hunters. We need a reasonable debate to discuss this.

As I said before, there is clear unanimity among parliamentarians to put an end to cruelty to animals, but we have to address this before we allow this to tie up our courts for years and cause all kinds of damage to the economy.

I would be happy to take serious questions from members.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to provide some input as a city person. The last speaker somehow assumes that I do not know very much about animals.

However, I am proud to say that a couple years ago I started an outdoor caucus for the Liberal caucus in conjunction with Ontario anglers and hunters. It was an excellent group. I believe there were over 52 members, all who are sport enthusiasts, fishers or hunters of various sorts.

Sporting is an important element of Canadian culture, such as sport shooting and fishing. It is not restricted to the non-urban centres of Canada.

I understand the member is in an area where this is of particular concern. I appreciate he is here representing the issues of his riding. It is interesting that his party has supported the bill twice already, but the member still has a responsibility to make a reasoned argument, and I believe he has done the best that he can.

Of the people who have written to me, I have received input on both sides, but more on the side of why a bill, which is trying to deal with the problem of cruelty to animals, cannot get passed in this place within a reasonable period of time, if we think in the macro context.

The previous speaker has raised one of the questions that perhaps some definitions are unclear and that people who are very much interested in the rules of the game with regard to their activities in terms of sport hunting and fishing are a little concerned that there may be too much latitude and too much breadth in the proposed legislation.

The member will know that there are provisions under the Criminal Code, some of which go back into the 1800s. I think amendments have been made as recently as in the 1950s. However, the important point is there are provisions relating to cruelty to animals such that all of the common law defence is available to those who would be charged of an alleged offence. Therefore, all the tools of any offence under the Criminal Code are available. That is important for the member to know.

The other aspect has to do with the whole question of do we have to define brutality and viciousness. Some members have said that hunters and fishers would never do anything to be cruel to an animal. That would certainly be our wish, but we are talking about human beings. From time to time, there are some fairly horrific circumstances. I am not sure if I had to sit down with the member, whether I could come up with what would constitute viciousness or brutality.

Conceptually it puts us in the ballpark and every circumstance must rest on its own merit. Every one will be different. I am not sure whether we as legislators can somehow put a black and white definition within legislation which would then possibly exclude some aspects.

Members have a right to suggest that if we allow too much latitude to the courts, that latitude may be so broad that it may have unintended consequences. People who never had any thought whatsoever of being cruel to an animal may find themselves in front of the courts. That is problematic. We know the courts are not perfect. We know lawyers are not perfect.

However, we have to rely on the fact that our country is based on the rule of law and the protection of the rights and the freedoms of individuals. If we are not going to respect the courts, if we do not feel that we have the tools, then that raises a whole other problem. It has to do with the confidence in the courts. That is an important question that maybe has not been fully debated yet. I know we have often run nose to nose with not only Supreme Court decisions, but also appeal court decisions and a few others, which create a domino effect and get us into some of these difficulties.

If legislators are starting to believe that, imagine what the public feels. It sees anecdotally some stories about this or that and what happened to that poor person. Not all parliamentarians can serve on the justice committee, hear all the witnesses and deal with all these issues at committee. We therefore second it to our colleagues on that committee to do the work and to ask the right questions. I know all the members on the committee and I am very confident that those members will explore these concerns.

When we go through first and second reading, that is where the concerns should come out. That is when members who are not on the committee or are unsure whether report stage motions will be a place where they have an opportunity to make amendments if they feel there are some, should put those issues on the table, issues that are vitally important to their constituents or to themselves based on their reading, but without having had the benefit the briefings and hearing the witnesses and examination by the members.

It is very easy in this place to talk for or against almost any bill. We can if we make a premise. In this case there are certainly many opportunities to have a premise. Fundamentally, when we talk about cruelty to animals, I think Canadians, regardless of whether they are urban or rural or anything in between, understand that if there is unnecessary pain, if there is something other than what was intended, we need to have a law that covers that. If we look at the United States for instance, its animal cruelty legislation is enacted in each of the individual states.

For example, New York State's agriculture and markets law, chapter 69 of the consolidated law, section 332 to 379 states that an animal includes “every living being except the human being”. That is even broader than we have in the bill. In Bill C-50 an animal is defined as “a vertebrate, other than a human being”. As a member said to me, this takes worms off the hook.

Canada needs to have a law on cruelty to animals. We have had many iterations. We have gone through this for a number of years. There is a great sensitivity to the arguments that have been raised by the anglers and hunters. I want to be absolutely sure that when we ultimately get legislation, and I hope we will, that all parties and stakeholders across the country, including the public at large who are not involved in these kinds of activities, will understand that it is in the best interests of all. It is part of our culture and value system. There has been a significant need to finally bring this into being.

We have to rely on those who are familiar with the law to judge each and every circumstance on its own merit. It would be extremely difficult to define what constitutes brutality and viciousness other than in general terms. However, we know, if we are to respect the law and make laws that will be respected, we have to make every effort to deal with those divergences in terms of the concerns. No matter how we produce these laws, there needs to be some flexibility within the legislation because every case has something a bit different. The laws of Canada are made that way. They have served us well, and the time has come for Bill C-50.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Madam Speaker, we are not necessarily opposed to this bill. We are not opposed to a policy aimed at providing animals with more protection against cruelty. We do, however, find that the legitimate activities set out in the bill, such as hunting and fishing, and other activities involving the killing of animals, are not clearly delineated.

Here is my question for my colleague. Given that the bill has been introduced in the House on numerous occasions—we have had C-10 and C-22—would there be some way of reworking it to provide a more detailed definition of what constitutes cruelty toward animals and what constitutes a legitimate activity? This bill is not sufficiently clear on that. A major effort would have to be made on this, to ensure that the bill includes protection for farmers, hunters and others at risk of being charged with an act that would not necessarily constitute animal cruelty. That is my question for my colleague.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, the member's question is quite important. It gives me an opportunity again to simply say that not all members are on the justice committee. When this bill is dealt with at second reading, we have our vote. I think it has the support of all parties that it would go to committee. The intervention of the member will be on the public record. It is available to committee members. The concerns he has raised either in his speech or in his questions are available for our colleagues on the justice committee to ensure that we have the proper witnesses so we can deal with those sensitivities. A previous speaker was concerned about the lack of clarity and definitions or no definitions at all. If those are possible, we should know that. It is extremely important.

This is second reading. This is where I expect to hear, as a parliamentarian, whether there is some consensus in this place. At second reading, if on first blush people look at it and say that they have heard from enough people, that it causes them concern and that they want the justice committee, as part of its review of the legislation at committee stage, to address those specific questions, then we have to ensure the witnesses are there to deal with those questions. Then when it comes back to this place, the questions of all hon. members will have been addressed in some fashion to bring them to some conclusion, or at least a reason why they have not been addressed. That will give us a better basis on which we can determine whether we care, as individual members not on the committee, to propose report stage motions. That is available to us have if we have not otherwise had an opportunity to influence committee stage amendments. In these matters members have the opportunity to use their best judgment in exercising their votes. This is an important part of the process.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Madam Speaker, I would like the opinion of my hon. colleague. I think there is a reason why we have never seen this bill pass over the course of the last number of years. It seems to me there would have to be so many exclusions and exceptions to the bill that we may never get it passed. As the member knows, we live in a very litigious society. I think a lot of people would be somewhat fearful or very fearful of the fact that if the bill is not narrow cast sufficiently, one might be open for legal action. There are many examples. From the agricultural perspective, what would happen if we brand cattle, as an example? What would happen if we kill gophers?

I do not know whether the bill will ever see the light of day. As other members have stated, and I believe we have unanimity, we do not want to see cruelty to animals in the common sense, family pets, for example. No one wants to see a dog, or a cat, or a budgie or anything else cruelly tortured and abused.

I do not know if we can ever get to a point where we narrow cast the legislation sufficiently to allow passage in this place. Would my hon. colleague care to comment on that?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, I have to be honest with the member. He is incorrect in his assertions. This bill passed in Parliament twice. The only difference in the bill presently before us and the bills that passed in this place twice before were the non-derogation provisions for aboriginal fishing and hunting rights. That is the only difference. The member is incorrect. The House did pass them, but there was a combination of timing and circumstances.

Let me suggest to the member that this is the kind of bill for which we should say, “Do not tell me why we cannot. We have to work together so that we know how we can”.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

John Williams Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Madam Speaker, I always wonder why, when we seem to be thinking about an election, this bill comes before us for debate. It dies on the order paper and then in the next Parliament it comes back but is not a priority of the government anymore. Then, when an election is in the offing, suddenly it is an important thing, we debate it and it dies again.

I think this is about the third or fourth Parliament in which we have been debating this particular bill. Here we are, perhaps in an end game, debating it once more. Everybody is saying we should do this. Why do we not just do this and get it over with? Because everybody agrees that being cruel and inhumane to animals cannot be tolerated in this society, so let us do it.

Let us do it. But then, when we take a look at what the government proposes, we say, “Wait a minute, this is not what we had in mind”. Of course, the government is pandering to the special interest groups that want anything and everything and would live in a vegetarian society. The government wants all their votes so it writes the bill in such a way that anybody killing any animal would seem to be committing an offence. Then government goes off to fight the election saying it understands what those groups are saying and is supporting them all the way, but the bill did not quite get passed.

I predict that we will be debating this in the next Parliament. Hopefully we will be over there and the Liberals will be over here, but if, in the most unfortunate result ever, they are over there again, we will go through this again. They will bring it back. It will not be a priority for years and years and then who knows?

First, I would like to read for members a quote to substantiate my argument that the government wants to pander to these groups that believe that nothing should be killed. I will quote the director of the Animal Alliance of Canada, one of Canada's major animal rights organizations, who stated:

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 the conviction to lay charges. That’s what this is all about. Make no mistake about it.

My hon. friend was just talking a few minutes ago about respecting the courts and letting the courts make the judgment, but how can we expect the courts to do what we want when we send these ambiguous messages to them? Then they try to figure it out, they do something we do not like, and we say, “But shucks, this is not the way the democracy is supposed to work”.

The bill hinges around one clause, which I would like to quote in part:

Every one commits an offence who, wilfully...

(b) kills an animal...brutally or viciously, regardless of whether the animal dies immediately;....

I contend that it is very hard to kill an animal so that it dies immediately without being kind of brutal or vicious about the whole affair. We do not tickle them to death. We shoot them, electrocute them and other things. We want them to die instantly. That is a pretty brutal process. Pardon me, and I am sorry for the people listening who have weak stomachs, but we cut chickens' throats and they bleed to death. That is deemed to be humane, but according to this bill that could be construed to be vicious and brutal and therefore we would be committing an offence.

This is what I mean about the ambiguity of this bill, which allows everybody to say “yes, I think it is protected”, but the poor farmers and everybody else would be at the mercy of people who take a different point of view. That is a very serious issue. Farmers are concerned.

The livestock slaughterhouses ought to be concerned because thousands of times a day they are “brutally“ and “wilfully” killing animals. We have always said that is humane, but according to this act it would be open to interpretation and we would end up sending it off to the courts to see what they say. Why do we not do the job right here and do it properly right here? That is what we are supposed to do.

We write the legislation. We are supposed to give clear direction to the courts, such as the following: “This is what we consider to be inhumane. This is what we consider to be vicious and brutal. Therefore, apply the law”. That is we are supposed to do rather than have these kinds of catch-all phrases so that everybody can feel good, with the poor farmer left at their mercy. The farmer is just feeding Canadians.

We also talked about hunters. Hunting is a sport not only in western Canada; thousands of people go out into the wilderness and hunt deer, moose and elk and so on. What happens if a hunter tries to shoot one dead instantly and does not quite make it? The animal goes off, bleeding profusely, is not found for an hour or so and dies in the meantime. Is that hunter guilty of an offence? It would appear so, according to this bill. There is no exemption for that.

What about those people who are out there with a fishing rod, catch a fish with a hook around the mouth and drag it in using a gaff? We have the same thing. There is no protection, no protection at all.

But there is protection for our first nations. There always seems to be a protection for them, unfortunately, because they are allowed to do whatever they want to do if it is given to them according to the treaties and so on that they have under what is now part of our Constitution. If that treaty allows them to be inhumane, then this act allows them to continue to be inhumane. They get the special exemption. We have to ask ourselves why. Why them and not us?

Today's Globe and Mail tells us that thousands of chickens in British Columbia were slaughtered because one had avian flu. We say that was the right thing to do. The rest of those chickens were not sick, but they were all viciously slaughtered in the name of protecting our health. According to this bill, that could be construed as being a vicious and wilful slaughter of animals.

We have all watched the debate about fox hunting in the United Kingdom, where the poor fox is chased through the countryside by people on horses until it is run into the ground and viciously pulled apart by the dogs. That is inhumane. That should not be allowed. I am glad that the United Kingdom has finally got its act together. I am glad we do not do that here in Canada. That should never be allowed.

This bill must be amended to clearly state what is legitimate, what is lawful, what is a part of our society, and what this society abhors. There is no distinction in this bill. Therefore, the bill needs to be amended. I do not see why the bill should go forward.

Of course, the Liberals will go out during the election and say, “We tried once more. Guess what? Other people were holding it up”. I do not see people holding it up. We are only asking for reason for farmers, fishermen and sporting people, who are lawfully doing what many Canadians do every day. We go to the store and we buy the meat. We buy the chicken and we buy the fish and that is part of the way we live. We say it is done humanely, but I say that killing animals is a brutal process. Anyone who has ever been to a slaughterhouse will know that it is not a pretty sight, but that is the way our society lives.

Let us respect these people who make their living that way, the people who feed society, who feed us, who feed Canadians and who feed the rest of the world.

I would hope that this government is serious about protecting animals. I hope the government is serious about outlawing inhumane behaviour, rather than every time just before an election deciding to have a little debate to say it is trying to do something and then blaming Parliament because the government really does not want to do anything. Unfortunately, that is becoming patently clear.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Madam Speaker, I listened with interest to the speech by the hon. member. Basically he was saying that this bill is designed to pander to what he referred to as special interest groups.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

An hon. member

Oh, oh!

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Given that, then, which the member seems to be confirming, the member will know that this bill is a 2003 bill, plus two amendments asked for by the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, following which the Canadian Federation of Agriculture issued a press release. It states, about the two amendments that were added, or in other words, the bill that is there now, “...Canadian farmers are 100 per cent behind these two amendments they have made”.

Does the member consider the Canadian Federation of Agriculture one of those special interest groups that he was talking about a minute ago?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

John Williams Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Madam Speaker, that is not a special interest group. It is the interest group that we are trying to protect by ensuring that it does not end up in court as its members continue their legitimate business.

The issue I was trying to point out in my speech was that the Liberals pander to the special interest groups that would have us eat tofu and vegetarian food for the rest of our lives. I do not think Canadians are into that, but the Liberals want to be able to go off and fight the election saying that they stood up and protected everything that those groups believe in, while at the same time telling the farmers and the fishermen not to worry, that they will look after them. They will be telling the softwood lumber producers not to worry, that they will look after them--perhaps--and so on and so forth. They want to be all things to all people

Let us be clear. The food industry in Canada contains a very substantial portion of animal foods: livestock, chicken, fish, and so on. People who go to a slaughterhouse will find that the animals are all killed brutally although instantaneously. This bill gives them no protection whatsoever. I cannot understand why the government cannot segregate the two.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

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

As we have heard, a number of members on the other side of the House oppose the bill currently before it. We have just heard a member say that only specific interest groups, such as vegetarians and others he mentioned supported the bill—I have nothing against vegetarians, although I am not one myself—however, it is quite wrong to say that such is the case.

In 2003, the House passed the bill in question, which was sent to the Senate. It then proposed amendments, which the House considered and adopted. The bill could not be passed for lack of time.

I repeat what I said earlier. Some of these amendments were supported by the Canadian Federation of Agriculture. It is not an interest group that deserves to be described as marginal or the like.

I heard the member for Leeds—Grenville claim that we in Canada passed laws that were not found anywhere else. People from outside Canada visiting his riding come from the state of New York, a few kilometres from where he is from, and the laws are that much stricter there.

I am not a believer in there being no laws at all. Of course, there should be a law, in criminal law, to prevent cruelty to animals while protecting the people of Canada, those who hunt and fish and pursue other similar activities. There is no need to say agriculture and the slaughter practices need to be protected—it goes without saying. These areas are clearly not covered by this bill. The proof of this is that national groups representing farmers have already confirmed it.

I will give another quote, “This amended legislation”, that is the bill as it is with the two amendments from before, “is technically sound and is as strong as ever”. With that, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture encouraged Parliament to pass the legislation.

As I said a while ago, the legislation then died on the order paper in the other place where there continued to be attention paid to two other amendments which were not requested or supported by industry groups or by the House. That is where we were in 2003.

Let us fast forward a little. In November 2004, several months after the opening of this Parliament, the Minister of Justice received a letter from a large coalition of industry groups that explicitly requested a retabling, which is not really the right word, but the reintroduction of a new bill on the issue of cruelty to animals with the amendments that I described, and those amendments are in the bill.

I will get back to the comments by the member for Prince Albert and the member for Leeds--Grenville. I will read into the record the names of these groups: the British Columbia Cattlemen's Association, the Canadian Cattlemen's Association, the Dairy Farmers of Canada, the Manitoba Cattle Producers Association, the Ontario Farm Animal Council and the Dairy Farmers of Canada. They must know a little about animals. How about the Ontario Egg Producers? Some people were mentioning chicken a while ago. Those are the groups of people who are supporting this. Those are the people who asked us to go ahead with this bill.

I can go on. Some people will want to ask about hunting and about the raising of animals for fur. I am glad they asked. We have the Canada Mink Breeders Association, the Fur Institute of Canada and the Fur Council of Canada. People may then ask whether those using animals for research are against the bill. No. The Canadian Animal Health Institute, the Canadian Association of Laboratory Animal Sciences, the Canadians for Health Research and Canada's Research Base Pharmaceutical Companies are all in favour of the bill.

I say to the Conservatives across the way that it is high time they start to get with it. This is not an urban issue versus rural. It is nothing like that.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

It's sloppy legislation, Don.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

It is not sloppy legislation. If the hon. member across says that it is sloppy legislation, then he had better go to all these groups, including the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, and tell them that all of them are wrong, if that is what he thinks. The hon. member across is entitled to say that all of the agricultural groups are wrong and maybe he can go tell them that they are wrong.

I understand tomorrow will be a big lobby day on the Hill for some of the agricultural industries, particularly in supply management. The reason I know this is that I am sponsoring the event, which will be a large social event. Perhaps the member could tell them how they are all wrong in supporting this bill. They will be pleased to know how the hon. member thinks he is so much smarter than all of them. They might have a different opinion of the hon. member after he has told them that but he is perfectly entitled to do so.

I will be at the lobby event tomorrow shaking hands with the hon. member when he enters the room to explain all this to my constituents, agricultural constituents and all the others across Canada who support the bill.

Just in case the hon. member and others did not get it, I will repeat what I said. The industry organizations wrote, as in paper, to the Minister of Justice before this legislation was introduced and requested it. All these agricultural organizations and everyone else who asked for the bill, who the hon. member says are wrong, wrote and requested this. With no disrespect, these people know a little bit more about agriculture than some of us and they are in favour of the bill.

These same groups wrote again to the minister in February 2005, three months before Bill C-50 was introduced, and again requested its introduction. I just happen to have the text of that letter here and it says, “We once again ask you to move forward with the reintroduction of Bill C-22”. Bill C-22 was the original bill as I indicated a while ago. People in the agricultural sector asked, not only once for the bill but they wrote a second letter asking for it again.

The moral of this story is that no matter whether one lives in urban Canada or rural Canada the issues are not that different. There will be people on the margins here and there, on the extreme side one way or the other, but no one can tell me that my constituents who work in agriculture are less conscious of proper animal husbandry and less conscious of issues involving cruelty to animals than people living in the urban parts of my constituency who may never have been inside a slaughter house or anything close to it. One might know more about how it is done than the other, and as someone who was raised on a farm I believe that, but that does not mean that one group is less concerned about animal welfare than the other.

When it is time for a cow to give birth, how many of us know that a farmer will be up all night attending to it? They take a lot of care in feeding their animals. Sometimes they are more careful with feeding their animals than they are with their own diet, but that is another matter.

All of that is to say that this is good legislation for either rural or urban Canada and it is supported by rural Canada.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Madam Speaker, I come from an area that is a mixture of both urban and rural communities. I have had animals most of my life. I have a small hobby farm in a rural community on Vancouver Island with hobby farms on all sides of me. People are concerned about animal cruelty. We have had some nasty incidents of people neglecting animals or doing horrendous things to them. People want our existing laws enforced or at least toughened up.

I do not believe it is true when the member says that all the groups requesting this legislation understand the objection our party is putting forward and which he is overlooking. It was very clearly brought forward by the member from St. Albert who said that it was the very sloppy and loose clauses that say that one is guilty of an offence if one kills an animal brutally or viciously regardless of whether it dies quickly. Clauses like that without exemptions for slaughter houses, for hunters and for fishermen will be tested in the courts. I am sure there are members opposite who would like their friends in the courts, the judges and the lawyers to have lots of work testing these cases and prosecuting duck hunters and fishermen. I am sure it hurts a fish to have a hook in its lip. It is not nice but people do fish and we eat those fish.

Our objection with this legislation is the hidden language. It is the clauses that most people have not read. Members opposite know full well that those clauses were put in the bill to make lots of work for lawyers and the courts and to give room to people with another agenda to persecute these people and try to condemn practices that have been around for a long time. We do eat fish and animals whether the member opposite likes it or not.

From our point of view, it is not fair to obstruct good legislation with clauses that will be misused and thereby create all kinds of legal tangles, when it could be simplified very easily by making it very clear that there are exemptions for those who have legitimate animal practices for human food consumption.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Madam Speaker, it is a little hard to follow what is going on across the way this afternoon. The first speaker on the opposition side said that he was in favour of the bill and wanted it to go to committee to see if the bill could be improved.

The second speaker said that he was against everything in the bill because, in his view, with his riding being close to the United States and so on, it would harm what he called the hunting and so on. Clearly, the bill does not do anything like that.

Then the member from St. Albert said that the only people supporting it were the special interest groups. We read, of course, that the special interest groups he referred to were all the agricultural organizations across Canada. Then of course he had to backtrack a little bit and redefine what he had said.

Now the hon. member is saying that we are adopting the bill because it pleases our friends who are judges and lawyers, or words to that effect.

Maybe they should have read the bill first and gave the speeches later, instead of the other way round.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

Gord Brown Conservative Leeds—Grenville, ON

Madam Speaker, I have to say that I am thoroughly disappointed with the hon. member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell. I have always had a lot of respect for him but for him to distort this in such a fashion as to say that potentially the people from New York state cannot go fishing and hunting is absolute nonsense. For him to say that because the people from the Federation of Agriculture support the bill means that we are against the Federation of Agriculture is a bunch of nonsense. Canadians expect better from their parliamentarians in terms of what they hear in this place.

First, does the member think that fishing and hunting is illegal in New York state? Second, is it too much to ask that we hear from the fishing and hunting organizations and to satisfy them before this goes through and we turn law-abiding citizens into criminals? Is it too much to ask?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 21st, 2005 / 6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Madam Speaker, on the second point, I do think the two groups the hon. member mentioned would make excellent witnesses to contribute toward debate. That is certainly a good idea.

As the hon. member will know, over the last many years Parliament has increased the number of witnesses that it has before parliamentary committees all the time. It is almost unheard of now, legislating without the benefit of witnesses appearing before committee, and certainly witnesses of the kind that he enumerated are perfect witnesses to bring before the committee. There is nothing wrong with that idea. As a matter of fact I do think we would be remiss if we did not have people representing, for instance, organizations like Ducks Unlimited. He could use the name of a different organization if he thinks another one is better. It does not matter. Groups such as that, of course, would be perfect to testify before the committee.

As to whether or not fishing is permitted in New York state, obviously it is. The point I was making was not that it was illegal in New York state. I referred to the fact that the animal cruelty laws in New York state are stricter than the ones we are implementing in the bill.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

Barry Devolin Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Madam Speaker, I recognize that the name of my riding is long and in fact I have a big piece of Peterborough County in my riding, so it probably should be called Haliburton--Kawartha Lakes--Brock--Peterborough, but we will leave that for another time.

I enjoyed the presentation of my colleague from Glengarry--Prescott--Russell. I do not always agree with everything he says but it is fun for me as a rookie member to watch a veteran strut his stuff. I do not know whether I just witnessed a swan song or not. I watched a NASCAR race yesterday. Rusty Wallace was retiring after many years and it was fun to sit there and watch him take his last lap. I do not know whether we have seen that today as well.

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6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

I hope I do not crash.

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6:10 p.m.

Conservative

Barry Devolin Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

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.

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6:20 p.m.

West Nova Nova Scotia

Liberal

Robert Thibault LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Madam Speaker, the member suggested that he would like to have as long and illustrious career as the member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell. I wish that for him and all his colleagues in whatever professions they choose after the next election.

In all seriousness, the member raised some good points. I do not know if it is possible to write any piece of legislation to satisfy all fears and answer all desires or aspirations. In the House we go through the process of debate, of consultations before drafting the bill, committee hearing of witnesses, possible amendments at committee and amendments in the House. If we like the spirit of a bill and we understand the achievements it can make, I hear the member's concern as I hear from others some of the reasons they feel perhaps they should not support the bill are the reasons I see that we should support the bill.

There are many people in society, whether they be fishermen, farmers, anglers, hunters, who have to terminate the lives of animals. They do it in a responsible and reasonable way and should be differentiated from people who would act cruelly and viciously, with mal-intent. We see examples of that all too often where police find a bunch of animals that have been mistreated, starved, not properly housed or handled. There needs to be a level of differentiation that protects the people who act properly.

Ranchers, farmers, mink ranchers and fishermen in my riding take their work very seriously. The sealing industry in Atlantic Canada takes its work very seriously and very responsibly. It has adopted codes of practice to make sure it is done in a humane and non-vicious manner.

Would the member not see that it is in the interest of Canadians generally that we have this type of legislation and that we use the House and committee as we have the consultation process, as the member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell pointed out to hear all the groups, professional organizations that are supportive of the bill? Should we not use that type of process to do a full review of the bill and amend it if necessary? Could he not support it on those terms?

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6:25 p.m.

Conservative

Barry Devolin Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Madam Speaker, yes, I think I have already said that. In my mind the appropriate course of action would be to support an imperfect bill at this point hoping that the appropriate changes could bee made at committee.

In terms of the implication that while we can never know for sure what a bill will do or while nothing is perfect, sometimes we need to take a leap of faith. I accept that suggestion as well, but it is my understanding, and again I must plead that I am not an expert, that there is already legislation in this area. It is not as though there is no legislation and we are filling a vacuum.

If the bill passes will it actually improve the situation, meaning is it the lack of legislation or regulation that is the problem, or are there other problems that prosecutors or police face in terms of trying to get convictions? I do not know the answer to that question.

I am a cautious conservative person by nature. That means that I approach issues like this with what could be called a do no harm approach which is that I need to be convinced that the bill will actually do something good before I will support it. Merely the absence of proof that it will do something bad is not enough. I go back to one of the main points in my speech which is that when a piece of legislation comes forward and groups who I feel are extreme in a way that I do not agree with are excited about something and are very boldly stating that it is going to give them a tool to do what they wanted to do for a long time, that is what causes me concern. It is what causes me to think that the bill as it now stands probably does not deserve to go out the door at the end of the day.

As I said, I hope that the appropriate amendments can be made at the committee stage.

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6:25 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Madam Speaker, I was pleased to hear the comments of my colleague and in particular, his comments that the bill is not perfect, but it should be supported. I think a lot of Canadians can identify with that.

One of the things that is particularly appropriate, in my opinion, is that it raises the maximum penalty for intentional cruelty to animals to a maximum of a five year imprisonment up from the current six month penalty. That is a step forward in the right direction. I am sure the hon. member agrees with me.

We have to remember that the Criminal Code in this country, for the most part, was composed and put together at a time when something like cruelty to animals was not an overriding concern. The consolidated Criminal Code was introduced into this country before 1900 and so, as a result, many of the sections that we have and many of the penalties are a reflection of the thinking of that particular time. So it is important that we have a look at sections like this in the Criminal Code.

I am pleased that we are moving forward on this. This is the third attempt by the government, apparently, to bring in a bill with respect to cruelty to animals. This is the first one I have been involved with and I certainly hope it passes. People in my riding of Niagara Falls are calling me, emailing me, and writing me, and asking me to support this legislation. I wonder if he is feeling that groundswell of support for this bill as well.

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6:30 p.m.

Conservative

Barry Devolin Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Madam Speaker, it may not be a surprise to anyone that I agree entirely with what the whip of my party had to say. He is a wise man and also a lawyer. What am I hearing from my constituents? I am hearing from several people that, yes, they support the bill. I am hearing from other people in the agricultural and sportsmen communities a very cautious willingness to consider it or to live with it, as opposed to really liking it, but always with the condition that a couple of the problem areas be cleaned up through amendment in committee.