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.


Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.


Vic Toews Conservative Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today address Bill C-72, an act to amend certain acts in relation to DNA identification.

While I support this legislation, I want to place on the record some of my concerns generally with respect to DNA legislation. It has been a great source of frustration for many Canadians and particularly for law enforcement that the Liberal government has been dragging its feet on much needed DNA data bank legislation that would help safeguard our communities.

The use of forensic DNA analysis in solving crime is proving to be revolutionary. Biological samples collected from a crime scene can either help link to or eliminate a suspect from the crime scene. DNA donor suspects can help prove their innocence. Evidence from multiple crime scenes can be compared to link the same perpetrator to different offences in different locations. It can also identify a victim through DNA from close relatives.

Therefore, it is essential to have effective legislation in place so that our men and women in uniform can best serve to protect Canadian citizens.

Canadian police have for some time called for the creation of an effective DNA data bank to assist police investigations. The government was slow to respond, but finally assented to the DNA Identification Act on December 10 1998. The legislation allowed a DNA data bank to be created and amended the Criminal Code to provide for justices to order persons convicted of DNA offences to provide DNA samples. However, the legislation only came into effect in June 2000 and unfortunately included many loopholes.

Bill C-13 ultimately received unanimous support by all parties because it expanded and altered the offences and the offenders on the secondary and primary designation list who could be compelled to provide samples both retroactively and concurrently and after sentencing. It also permitted the destruction of samples taken, and judicial discretion was curtailed.

As I stated at the time of the royal assent to Bill C-13:

The success of this bill is a shining example of how a minority Parliament can work positively in the best interests of Canada. While everyone made compromises, I think we have a solid piece of legislation that will go a long way to address concerns about loopholes in our DNA law.

Bill C-13 still falls far short of the Conservative Party's expectations for appropriate legislation. Although DNA samples in Great Britain, and as is the case for fingerprinting in Canada, are taken at the time of charge, at a minimum all indictable offences should be deemed designated offences for DNA data banking and there should be no discretion for judges to decline to order a sample upon conviction.

The British experience shows that criminals who commit property offences are also involved in more serious indictable offences such as sexual assault and murder. There is no justification for excluding indictable offences such as break and enter from the mandatory taking of DNA samples, especially if there has been a conviction.

Moreover, the legislation has not yet been proclaimed into effect. The government has continued to delay this much needed piece of legislation because of allegedly necessary amendments to technical errors and omissions.

This excuse is weakened by the fact that Bill C-72 comes sandwiched between Bill C-13 and a review of the DNA act, mandated in the legislation and reiterated in a justice department press release, which was to have been undertaken in 2005. Technical errors and omissions should be dealt with in that review. What is needed now is not further delay but rather leadership from the government to help facilitate the apprehension of criminals by using DNA evidence.

On November 2, 2005, the government introduced Bill C-72 to deal with these technical omissions and errors in Bill C-13. Numbers of amendments were made, which I will not detail.

There was, however, one provision that caused me some concern. That was to provide discretionary powers to the attorney general or the director of military prosecutions; if in their opinion the bodily substance collected was for a non-designated offence then the Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police must destroy the substance collected. I have in fact reviewed that amendment. I have received assurances that the discretion afforded to the attorney general and the director of military prosecutions is appropriate and that it is also supported by police and provincial attorneys general. Therefore, I am consenting to that amendment as well.

Although these amendments in the bill are in fact an improvement on the status quo, they do not address many of the concerns raised by police and by provincial attorneys general.

Police have asked for the ability to collect a DNA sample at the time of charge, as is done with fingerprints, instead of upon conviction. There is no evidence or jurisprudence suggesting that such provisions would be in violation of the Constitution. Indeed, my position is that, at a minimum, all indictable offences upon conviction should be subject to the mandatory taking of DNA. There clearly is no constitutional basis for suggesting that such a provision after a conviction could in any way be unconstitutional.

Indeed, in other western democracies such as Great Britain, DNA samples are taken at the time of charge, as opposed to conviction. That has proven to be highly successful, not only in deterring crime and capturing criminals but in ensuring that innocent people are not convicted.

I also want to point out that our DNA testing system is so backlogged that until sufficient resources are provided, any legislated changes made will not be significantly meaningful. They will not improve the operation of the system.

This legislation still does not address the issue of timely production of DNA results to bring dangerous offenders to justice and to ensure the safety of our communities.

The government has insisted that DNA legislation is of the utmost importance and that we must expedite the passing of Bill C-72. However, if this is the case, why has the government waited five months to table new legislation in order to enforce Bill C-13? These rectifications are, as the parliamentary secretary has said, technical amendments and omissions and in fact simply delay the actual implementation of Bill C-13.

If the Minister of Justice wanted to add amendments, these could have been dealt with in the requisite review of the DNA Identification Act set to occur this year. However, that DNA review never took place.

Let me say in conclusion that the national DNA data bank is an important example of the increasing significance of science and technology in modern law enforcement. To stay ahead of the criminals, we must make better use of cutting edge science such as forensic DNA.

Data as of November 14, 2005, shows that over 4,000 cases have successfully linked crime scene DNA to offenders. It is imperative that the government create the legislative framework and provide the resources necessary to use this great crime-fighting tool.

To date the government has put forward legislation that takes steps in the right direction, but clearly, in view of the success enjoyed in other jurisdictions, these steps do not go far enough. The government's slow approach in implementing this needed legislation is disheartening.

I can assure members that a Conservative government will stand up for more effective DNA data bank legislation. A Conservative government will increase the number of cases where a mandatory sample upon conviction will be included for DNA sampling. Also, a Conservative government will stand up for the tools needed by our law enforcement officers to fight crime by providing them with the resources in order to make legislative tools effective.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:25 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 Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, National Defence; the hon. member for Charleswood St. James—Assiniboia, Health; the hon. member for Churchill, Aboriginal Affairs.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.


Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak, on behalf of the Bloc Québécois, on Bill C-72. I will not read the entire bill, but, for the benefit of those listening, I want to read the bill summary:

This enactment amends the Criminal Code, the DNA Identification Act and the National Defence Act to facilitate the implementation of An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the DNA Identification Act and the National Defence Act—

This act corresponds to Bill C-13, which is currently being considered by the Senate. So, Bill C-72 seeks to amend Bill C-13, or to apply that bill, which is currently before the Senate.

It makes technical changes to those acts and addresses five points:

(a) allows a court to require a person who is given notice of an application under subsection 487.055(1) of the Criminal Code and who wishes to participate in the hearing to appear by closed-circuit television or a similar means of communication;

(b) allows samples of bodily substances to be taken as soon as feasible after the time set by an order or a summons for the taking of the samples or, if no such time is set, as soon as feasible after the day on which an order is made or after an authorization is granted;

(c) requires the Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to destroy the bodily substances collected under an order or authorization and the information transmitted with it if, in the opinion of the Attorney General or the Director of Military Prosecutions, as the case may be, the offence to which the order or authorization relates is not a designated offence;

(d) enables the Commissioner to communicate internationally the information that may be communicated within Canada under subsection 6(1) of the DNA Identification Act; and

(e) allows the Commissioner to communicate information for the purpose of the investigation of criminal offences, and allows the subsequent communication of that information for the purpose of the investigation and prosecution of criminal offences.

Bill C-72, which seeks to clarify Bill C-13, mainly focuses on the taking of samples of bodily substances. Bill C-13 was passed as a result of negotiations among all the parties in this House, including the Bloc Québécois. It was a compromise that was passed unanimously in order to give ensure the taking of samples of bodily substances after certain crimes.

Bill C-13, which received the unanimous consent of the House, is currently being considered by the Senate at first reading stage.

What does Bill C-13 have to add? That is an important question. I will explain how DNA samples could be taken before we had this bill. Previously, an order authorizing the taking of DNA could be issued when the offender was convicted of a designated offence. These designated offences were divided in two categories: primary offences and secondary offences. As long as Bill C-13 is not in effect—I mentioned earlier that is under consideration by the Senate—the list of primary offences will be limited and will include serious personal injury offences such as murder, aggravated assault or sexual assault, while the list of secondary offences will include crimes against persons as well as crimes against property causing danger to human life such as robbery, break and enter, assault or arson.

In the case of primary offences, that is the most serious cases, the collection order is virtually automatic. The judge is required to make an order for the collection of a DNA sample from the offender, unless the offender can convince the court that this would have an effect on his privacy and safety markedly out of proportion with the protection of society. On the other hand, for secondary offences, the sample will be ordered on request from the Crown provided it can convince the judge that this is necessary in the interest of justice. That is the way things are at present.

Put more succinctly, in serious crimes such as murders, aggravated assaults and sex crimes, the order has been virtually automatic until now, unless the accused has been able to prove that his privacy and safety were affected. For secondary offences, the order was made in response to a request from the Crown.

When Bill C-13 comes into effect, these rules will be substantially changed.

Bill C-72 applies Bill C-13. For better understanding, we need to know that Bill C-13 divides offences into two categories: primary and secondary, and provides lists for each. These are, therefore, list A and list B, and DNA samples are handled differently for each. The A list contains the most violent offences. Under Bill C-13, the judge is obliged to order that a sample be taken as soon as the individual is found guilty of one of the offences in list A. There will be no discretion. I will read that list of offences. It is important for those listening to us to hear them.

These offences are: living on the avails of prostitution of a person under 18; murder, manslaughter; attempted murder; assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm with intent; discharge of compressed air gun with intent to endanger life; administering a noxious thing with intent to endanger life or to cause bodily harm; overcoming resistance to the commission of an offence; aggravated assault; unlawfully causing bodily harm; sexual assault with a weapon, threats to a third party or causing bodily harm; aggravated sexual assault; kidnapping; robbery and extortion.

Therefore, in the context of C-13, these 16 offences will become primary designated offences for which a judge will be required to order a sample be taken following an individual's conviction.

Bill C-72 adds something. Under C-13, the judge must order a sample on conviction, while under C-72, bodily substances may be taken as soon as feasible after the time set by an order or a summons for the taking of the samples or, if no such time is set, as soon as feasible after the day on which an order is made or after an authorization is granted. That clarifies matters. Once an individual is convicted, a number of steps follow in a process. So this clarifies things and tells us that the sample will be taken as soon as it is feasible after the moment set by an order. Accordingly, once a charge has been laid, the sample may be taken. It will be mandatory in the case of the 16 offences I listed, the primary designated offences contained in list A.

In list B of the primary designated offences, the sampling order is almost automatic, unlike in the case of list A, where it is automatic. The judge is obliged to order DNA sampling, unless the offender can show that the sample would have an impact on his personal life or safety that would far outweigh any protection it would afford society.

List B includes some 20 offences for which the judge must authorize the sample unless the accused convinces him otherwise. The list includes sexual assault—except for aggravated sexual assault; hostage taking; breaking and entering a dwelling-house; intimidation of a justice system participant or journalist; attack on premises, residence or transport of an internationally protected person; attack on premises, accommodation or transport of United Nations or associated personnel; explosive or other lethal device; participation in activities of a criminal organization; commission of offence for a criminal organization; instructing commission of offence for a criminal organization; luring a child; child pornography; sexual exploitation of a person with disability; procuring; and offences historically of a sexual nature, in other words offences that have been replaced by modern crimes, including indecent assault.

For the primary offences mentioned in list A there will be an automatic requirement to take a sample. For the offences in list B, unless the accused manages to prove that this infringes upon his privacy, a sample will be taken. Furthermore, some secondary offences that are non designated offences in the primary categories are punishable by a maximum of imprisonment for five years.

Under the secondary offence system, the judge can authorize the taking of a DNA sample if the Crown proves it is in the interest of justice.

That means in 200 offences where a DNA sample is taken a series of 16 will be mandatory, as will a series of 20, unless the accused manages to prove that this infringes on his privacy and safety. As for the secondary offences, if ever the Crown proves it is in the interest of justice to proceed, DNA tests will be mandatory.

Clearly, the Bloc Québécois is in favour of Bill C-72. It clarifies Bill C-13 and allows, once and for all, for criminals not only to be able but to be required to give DNA samples, samples of bodily substances, so that we can confront them with their crimes.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is important that the House understand the history of our DNA legislation and how it applies as an investigative tool for our police forces across the country.

Approximately five years ago, after quite a long investigation by various parliamentary committees, we finally had legislation with regard to taking DNA samples. The justice committee spent a good deal of time during the spring and fall of 2004 analyzing a new bill, which passed in the spring of 2005. This issue is back before the House because a number of points were missed in that legislation. This may be the Irish in me coming out, but I want to say “I told you so” because we rammed the initial bill through too quickly.

When we went to implement that law, it became apparent that a number of points needed to be corrected. That has now been done in Bill C-72. A good deal of these points concern forms that have to be updated to comply with the new legislation. Most came to the attention of the government as a result of a federal-provincial conference of attorneys general and solicitors general that was held in the late spring. There really is nothing in this bill that would not have been in it in the spring. We are going to support these changes because they are badly needed.

It is hard to say how effective this technology has been without pointing to specific cases. Another case was broken this week concerning a murder that happened about 21 years ago in one of the western provinces. Officials were able to make a positive match as a result of a DNA sample that was made available as a result of the legislation we passed in the spring. The person, who is in custody in Ontario for other crimes, has been charged with that murder because of the DNA evidence. That is being repeated many times.

It is really important that this legislation be in an effective format so that it can be used efficiently by our police forces across the country. For all these reasons, we will be supporting Bill C-72.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, we have been seized with this bill for some time with regard to the former Bill C-13 and the upcoming review. An element in this particular bill which interests me has to do with the charter rights of individuals and privacy provisions, specifically with regard to bodily samples being taken as soon as possible.

The member is a learned individual in this area. I wonder if there are any risk areas with regard to charter provisions or with regard to privacy laws in Canada.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, these came out indirectly in the review of the prior piece of legislation in 2004-05. That piece of legislation was pressed forward because of Karla Homolka. She was one of the individuals, although not the only one, who was incarcerated at the time and was about to be released. As we know, she has since been released. Legislation was passed in 2005 and we did not have the right under the previous legislation to take a sample of her DNA. We had a number of other, what I would call hard core criminals, people with a history of crimes of some significant violence, who were about to be released as well and we needed to get those samples.

In the course of that review the requirement of meeting our charter responsibilities came up repeatedly from various groups who came forward. I have to say they were not addressed. Therefore, in response to the basic question, I do not believe they have been addressed at all in this piece of legislation. It is not what it is designed for.

We put those over for consideration. The 2000 legislation required a five year review. That obviously is now timely. In the course of that, it was understood we would be looking at some of the charter issues, including privacy issues. Those have not yet been addressed.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, for a bill to be tabled in this place at first reading, it has to have already received clearance in terms of the charter provisions. It strikes me that we may have to assume that. Since we are dealing with this bill in the first instance, I certainly hope that this matter will be flagged for the committee because we are going to be into a major review of this whole DNA data bank again.

It is important that there be a full understanding. If the public does not perceive this to be appropriate under whatever circumstances, it tends to cause some skepticism as to whether or not we are being careful with regard to the matters that relate to the charter. Time and time again in this place it comes up for debate in terms of charter issues. I would have thought that because those arguments are so fundamentally important in any piece of legislation, there would have been a position statement in the rationale with regard to matters which are of concern, rather than simply the bill and perhaps a press release generally outlining its provisions.

Parliamentarians speaking at second reading are really meant to provide some indication of the areas of concern that the committee may be able to address in its consideration of a bill. This is the way members who are not members of the committee have an opportunity to express their concerns. Quite frankly, even from reading the bill, I am not sure that I was satisfied that it provided the insights that I might need to otherwise do a full job. There is not even a legislative summary which we normally would receive, which is unfortunate.

I wanted to raise this because the government operations and estimates committee has in the past dealt with certain privacy issues. These are the kinds of matters that have come up. The issue obviously would be, are there are any risk areas or unintended consequences that may arise in the event that certain provisions are made and would they put us potentially on a slippery slope for other difficulties?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am comfortable in assuring the member for Mississauga South that Bill C-72, in my opinion, does not raise any charter issues. My reference to the charter issues still outstanding are as a result of the 2000 legislation and some argument with regard to the 2005 legislation that we passed in the spring. I certainly had a couple of concerns about the 2005 legislation and there were several other issues raised. I will give an example of one of the issues that was raised.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

An hon. member

Members are not to leave their BlackBerries on their desks.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have turned it off for the member.

We have built up a number of samples in our database that should not have been taken or were mistakenly taken by our police forces across the country, which I suppose is inevitable when introducing new technology. Some of the crimes with which the accused persons were charged did not fall within the scope of the legislation and some crimes were of a more minor nature and the samples should not have been taken. However we have the samples and there is no provision within the legislation, either in 2000 or 2005, to dispose of them.

I have to add that there is a serious problem with our technology as to whether we are actually capable of disposing of those samples without damaging other samples that we are entitled to have within the data bank. It becomes a little complex but it is a problem and I will use it as one of the examples. It is one that we should be addressing when we eventually get around to reviewing the 2000 legislation.

However, to confirm for my friend from Mississauga South, this is very much a technical bill to correct a few errors that were made in the last legislation in the spring. I do not see any charter issues in any of the amendments that are being proposed in Bill C-72.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be brief so as not to delay the adoption at second reading of this bill, which will undergo consideration in committee very shortly.

We know that this is the second attempt—if that is the right term—to legislate in this area . As other parliamentarians have noted, there was Bill C-13. The use of DNA to identify genetic ties and so forth is completely new to all of us, the criminal justice system and even other sectors.

This completely new technology has been used for such purposes for several years now. It has proved effective, to the point that it can now be integrated into our criminal law procedures, particularly with regard to taking DNA samples. Previously, for example, fingerprints were taken or other methods used. Now, of course, our methods are much more sophisticated and the applications very different from those in the past.

According to the bill summary, the bill seeks to amend the Criminal Code, the DNA Identification Act—meaning Bill C-13—and the National Defence Act to facilitate the implementation of the acts in question.

The first element is somewhat different from the others. It:

(a) allows a court to require a person who is given notice of an application under subsection 487.055(1) of the Criminal Code and who wishes to participate in the hearing to appear by closed-circuit television or a similar means of communication;

Once again, this is very different, in technological terms, from the rest of the bill. However, this technology enables and allows Canadian criminal law to better function.

The second element also mentions the following:

(b) allows samples of bodily substances to be taken as soon as feasible after the time set by an order or a summons for the taking of the samples....

This is very important in order for a proper inquiry to take place to have a summons and then be able to utilize that instrument to obtain bodily samples in order to make the later determinations that are required.

The next element of the bill reads:

(c) requires the Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Policy to destroy the bodily substances collected under an order or authorization and the information transmitted with it if, in the opinion of the Attorney General or the Director of Military Prosecutions, as the case may be, the offence to which the order or authorization relates is not a designated offence;

In other words, if the material was accumulated and it was not one of the designated offences, this is an order to have what was acquired destroyed. I believe a colleague from the New Democratic Party referred to these data banks based on people not having been convicted of anything or at least not having been convicted of offences where this would normally be permitted. In other words, we do not utilize the process for an offence that is not covered, obtain the information and then keep it in case someone does commit an offence in which it would qualify. Obviously that would not be appropriate.

The next element reads:

(d) enables the Commissioner to communicate internationally the information that may be communicated within Canada....

Consequently, if data has been collected in Canada in connection with what I have just listed, we are allowed, but only in keeping with Canadian legislation, to share that data with similar authorities in other countries. Once again, this is very logical, provided we keep within the guidelines we have set for ourselves in Canada, so as not to provide to a foreign authority information that it would not be acceptable to disclose within this country.

Lastly, the commissioner is authorized to communicate information for the purpose of the investigation of criminal offences, and to subsequently communicate that information for the purpose of the investigation and prosecution of criminal offences.

That is the main thrust of this bill, a bill I recommend to the House and will be pleased to support myself. I will not take up any more of the House's time, but will close by saying that I hope to see this bill passed in the very near future.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

Is the House ready for the question?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Some hon. members


Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Some hon. members


Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Some hon. members

On division.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

(Motion agreed to and bill referred to a committee)

The House resumed from November 14 consideration of the motion.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca B.C.


Keith Martin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure today to speak to Bill C-50, an act to amend the Criminal Code in respect to the cruelty of animals.

I know most of us in the House have been approached by many of our constituents profoundly and deeply concerned about the protection of animals, in particular cruelty to animals. I venture to say that all of us in the House are firmly opposed to the cruelty to animals. It is a motherhood and apple pie type of issue.

The challenge we had though was trying to ensure that we had a confined piece of legislation that worked and was able to prevent cruelty to animals. That it would prevent those heinous actions that are committed by people who must be psychologically deranged to harm animals in that way. However, we also wanted to have legislation that would enable us to protect and ensure that the normal use of animals, be it by farmers or in research, would be carried on without the fear of prosecution. That, indeed, was the challenge that we had.

I think we have come up with a bill that strikes a balance. Over the last while we have shared and worked with groups, be they in agriculture and farming, or in the scientific and research sector, or the pharmaceutical areas, to craft a bill that was able to balance those needs. Normal activities would not be prosecuted, but only those actions that are taken by certain individuals. I might add that we know that those individuals, particularly when they are younger and commit acts of violence against animals, torture or even killing animals in a heinous fashion, are actually harbingers of future psychological problems and in fact future violence.

In other words, the actions by the young who commit these atrocious acts of violence against animals is a red flag, a harbinger of things that could come in the future, and particularly more egregious violent acts that take place against humans.

Some interesting studies have been done in fact to map this out. Good scientific research has been done to demonstrate this, so we now watch for those children and young people who are engaging in acts of violence against animals. We now know that we have to be very careful and engage these young people in a way that should offset and prevent future violent actions that we see sometimes in adults.

They study looked at populations of sadistic murderers, sadists, those who have committed violent acts against adults. Research has found that a majority of those adults who were incarcerated in jails for committing those violent acts, if we look back in their history, started off committing violent acts against animals when they were younger. They would torture the family pet, kill the family pet or kill other pets in the areas. I think the public at long last will be very happy with this bill.

In 2003 the other place made two amendments that the House adopted on this particular initiative. These two amendments were specifically requested by industry organizations. The reason, as I said before, was that these two amendments were there to satisfy their comfort level and their fear of prosecution.

For example, with regard to these two amendments, Canadian farmers said that they were 100% behind these two amendments and that this amended legislation was technically sound and was as strong as ever. With that, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture encouraged Parliament to pass this legislation. Unfortunately, the legislation then died in the other place which is where it continued to be paid attention to and the amendments were not requested or supported.

Let me fast forward a year. In November 2004, several months after the opening of Parliament, the Minister of Justice received a letter from a large coalition of industry groups that explicitly requested retabling of the animal cruelty amendments that had died. This group included a variety of organizations including the B.C. Cattlemen's Association, the Ontario Farm Animal Council, the Manitoba Cattle Producers Association, and it also included organizations involved in trapping such as the Canada Mink Breeders Association and the Fur Council of Canada.

It was also supported by other groups such as the Canadian Animal Health Institute, the Canadian Association for Laboratory Animal Science, and Canadian research based pharmaceutical groups as well as the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association.

We have heard from a wide variety of groups. We have passed these amendments through those groups. They have gained support among these groups. That is why they are in the House today.

These industry organizations wrote to the Minister of Justice before the legislation was tabled and specifically requested that these amendments be tabled and passed. That is why I hope, at the end of the day, members of the House will see that these particular amendments are apolitical, but are intended to protect animals within our country and that they are reasonable and balanced.

When the bill is studied in committee, I am sure committee members will be interested to hear what those groups have to say. I am also certain that the groups involved will reiterate their positions and the points I made here.

It is true that the coalition does not include hunting and fishing organizations, and that the anglers and hunters continue to express concerns. As a matter of logic, we could ask how it could be that animal researchers, agriculturalists, trappers and veterinarians all feel adequately comfortable that these amendments manage to strike a balance that enables the normal use of animals for food and other needs while on the other hand ensuring that we have legislative capabilities to arrest, prosecute and have the full force of the law applied to those individuals who commit heinous acts against innocent animals?

The simple matter is that hunters, animal researchers, veterinarians, farmers and trappers alike do not need to invoke any defence to justify their activities, but let us be clear about what the law actually prohibits. It only prohibits the wilful, reckless or criminally negligent affliction of pain that is known to be avoidable and unnecessary. In the case of the new offence, the law prohibits the intentional killing of an animal with brutal or vicious intent.

Let us think about that for a moment. If a person were to knowingly cause more pain to an animal than is necessary, if a person were to fall significantly below the reasonable standard of care, and if a person were to brutally or viciously intend to kill an animal, how could we not say that this person is engaged in wrongdoing?

I want to emphasize that we are excluding from this the normal activities of hunting, trapping, fishing, research, and the production of food products that are a normal aspect of civilized society.

These acts, though, must be punished. The reason why we are bringing the bill forward is that we cannot have a loophole in the legislation. We need to enable the courts to prosecute adequately those individuals who do commit acts of wanton violence and torture against animals. There are no excuses for that kind of behaviour.

The reality is that the vast majority of all industry participants take great care and cause no more pain than is required to meet their objectives. When the killing of an animal is required, the intention of such a person is one of respect toward that animal and the humanity expressed by that person. They kill the animal with a method known to be effective, quick and relatively painless.

If this is the case, there is no cruelty and therefore there is no crime. The humane use and killing of animals is not a crime, but simply a fact of life since the beginning of time. The Menard case, the leading case on cruelty to animals, makes perfectly clear that in an industry setting, causing only necessary pain is not a crime.

Let me say a few words, if I may, about concerns that have been expressed about the offence of brutality or viciousness in the killing of an animal. It has been said that the phrase “regardless of whether the animal died instantly” must be removed because it precludes the person who caused immediate death as some kind of offence and could be charged.

Let me conclude by saying that I think in principle, most members, if they read the legislation, can see that we have tried to strike a balance. The objectivity of it can be found in the fact that groups that are involved in the use of animals and animal products, and in the killing of animals, support the bill. They recognize that on one hand we have to have the legislative capabilities to address and prosecute those who torture and kill animals needlessly and on the other hand protect those who kill animals under law abiding activities in this country, including hunting, fishing, trapping and research.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.


Barry Devolin Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Madam Speaker, I listened carefully to the hon. member's presentation. Members in my party are supportive of this bill. However, we think there are a couple of important amendments that need to be added to the bill.

I heard a reference to hunting and fishing organizations that may not be supportive of the bill. Why are they not supporting the bill when so many other organizations are? I had the opportunity to meet with members of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters last week. They have some concerns with the bill. I would not say that the federation embraces the bill. I think it would be fair to say that the federation is prepared to live with the bill if there were a couple of important amendments.

There is a concern as to what happens when Parliament passes a law. Members of Parliament state that this is what we are trying to do and this is the balance we are trying to strike. The reality is that at the end of the day it is the courts that will decide in terms of what is or is not prohibited by that act.

It is widely known that animal rights activists have stated quite categorically that it is their intention to push for amendments as far as they are possibly able to do so. That is actually the root of the discomfort for many people with this bill.

What comfort would the parliamentary secretary offer to an organization such as the OFAH in terms of the courts not interpreting this in a way that he does not intend and that does actually infringe on activities that are considered very mainstream?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.


Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, the hon. member asks a very good question that comes to the root of the challenge that we had in the construction of this particular bill.

I believe I can give the hon. member the assurance he seeks. I completely agree with the concern that the member has. Groups such as various antivivisectionist groups would like to basically prohibit all types of animal research. They will try to push this issue as far as they can and the member is correct.

We have made sure that this is not the case in this bill. We constructed this bill very clearly to prevent exactly the concern he mentioned, which is also our concern.

If I may give the member some level of comfort, which I think is what all of us have to have, the approval of research based groups which are at the sharp edge of the antivivisectionist movement in the world approve of this bill. They feel comfortable with this bill, that it will not be utilized and applied by the courts in such a manner that it will affect their ability to engage in the research that they do for the betterment of not only humans but in the veterinary sciences as well.

We have these other groups that are at the sharp edge of antivivisectionist groups that would like to do exactly what the member mentioned. However, they approve of it. I think that if any groups were to feel uncomfortable at all about any part of this bill, it would be those groups that are involved in the research and those types of activities that are most of concern to the hon. member.

We brought those groups on board. We have given them the opportunity to look very carefully at the amendments. Those amendments have passed mustard with them. As a result, we feel very confident that this particular bill will not be used in the courts by antivivisectionists, as the hon. member mentioned.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Gord Brown Conservative Leeds—Grenville, ON

Madam Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak to Bill C-50, the animal cruelty bill.

Like others before it that attempted to legislate against animal cruelty, this bill as presented is flawed. It is flawed in such a way that it could attempt to make criminals out of law-abiding citizens in my riding of Leeds--Grenville. It will do this in a similar fashion as the long gun registry, and in fact it will target many of the same people as the long gun registry, the hunters, the fishers, the farmers, as they conduct their normal day to day affairs.

We need to ensure that the people who live in the city and who only go to the country to view the scenery stop writing bills that affect the hard-working rural residents of Canada.

Bills such as Bill C-50 are spawning local political action groups such as the landowners associations and the Rural Revolution. Bills such as this are frustrating rural residents and pitting them against politicians and those who enforce such poorly written legislation. Bills such as this are further damaging the fragile rural economy in Canada, and in particular my riding of Leeds--Grenville.

Not only are the residents in danger of being charged under this particular bill, but visitors to my riding could also be targeted. The economy in my riding relies heavily on visitors. They come from the cities. They come from the United States. They come from Europe and from the Pacific Rim. They come to enjoy the outdoors.

Leeds--Grenville prides itself on being an outdoor recreational playground boasting some of the finest fishing and hunting in the world. The giant muskie found in the waters of the St. Lawrence is celebrated both on and off the river with several communities boasting local tally boards for those anglers skilled enough to catch one.

Recently in Leeds--Grenville, many residents and visitors were on the water in their small boats and homemade blinds stocking up on their yearly supply of ducks and geese. This probably sounds cruel to city folk with idealistic dreams about the food chain, but it is a necessary part of many people's lives in Leeds and Grenville. We do not need to spend too long carefully walking the shores of the St. Lawrence to recognize that there are a lot of geese in the area and a little hunting is not going to hurt the population.

Currently, folks are involved in another annual event, the deer hunt. Here is another creature that is in plentiful supply. Without some of its natural predators readily available, the deer population explodes and hunting has become part of that cull process. In fact, we have seen many accidents throughout eastern Ontario because of the exploding deer population. The deer hunt is also the traditional way in which many people supplement their food supplies for the winter. The deer hunt is so revered in the riding that many folks do not actually plan events during the time of the deer hunt.

All this is to say that hunting and fishing are as much a part of the rural lifestyle in Leeds and Grenville and throughout Canada as riding a bus is natural to the lifestyle of city dwellers. Residents in my riding object to portions of Bill C-50, which for the first time in Canadian history make it an offence to kill an animal brutally or viciously without defining the terms “brutally” and “viciously”.

The bill also does not exempt from this offence the killing of animals in the normal and lawful conduct of commercial fishing and hunting. Residents in Leeds and Grenville request that this specific section of the bill be revised to provide an explicit exemption for the killing of animals in the course of hunting and fishing.

Traditional animal use industries and recreational fishing and hunting should be exempted from prosecution under this legislation. I would look to the time when we did have the support of our hunting and fishing organizations in order to get this bill through the House. My research shows that many jurisdictions that have animal cruelty legislation provide such exemptions. Without such an exemption, I and residents of Leeds and Grenville are convinced that certain animal rights groups will bring forward criminal complaints under the legislation against fishing and hunting enterprises and the thousands of sports people in my riding.

These organizations have already declared their intent to use the revised legislation to challenge traditional animal use industries and recreational fishing and hunting. Justice officials from the government advise that if such changes are brought forward, there are sufficient offences to get the charges dismissed. I would advise the justice minister that this is not sufficient.

The point is not whether residents of Leeds--Grenville can pay for a lawyer and beat the charges at great expense to themselves and the court system. The point is hunting and fishing enterprises are already licensed by various levels of government to conduct their work. Hunters and fishers are also licensed and must abide by laws. They should not have to get out of bed in the morning wondering if some other citizen with a larger cash reserve is going to take them to court that day and they will have to defend themselves against frivolous charges.

I understand the intent of the legislation is to increase the penalties for animal cruelty offences and to simplify, modernize and fill the gaps in the offence structure of the animal cruelty regime. I am as much opposed as anyone else to animal cruelty. In fact, I am sure anyone in the House and most Canadians would be opposed to any cruelty to animals. It is absolutely shameful and appalling how some people mistreat animals and they must be held accountable. That is what we should be striving for in the bill, not turning our hunters and fishers into criminals.

Without the requested exemptions in Bill C-50, there is considerable legal opinion that the proposed legislation amounts to significant changes to the law which are detrimental to animal use industries, fishers and hunters. On behalf of the residents of Leeds--Grenville, I request that these changes be made before the bill is permitted to proceed any further. With these exemptions included in the bill, I would be happy to stand in my place and support a bill that fights against animal cruelty.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the member's frankness on his position on this bill. I think members in the House would agree there is no appetite and no tolerance whatsoever for what we all understand generically as cruelty to animals. An animal is defined as a vertebrate except a human being for the purposes of the bill.

The member raised an interesting question about the definitions of “vicious” and “brutal”. Could the member contemplate a scenario where a hunter who has hunted for many years and has a licence could possibly hunt an animal in a way which he would consider to be brutal or vicious? Sometimes if people are drinking or angry or whatever, they might just happen to do something that might be brutal or vicious. It would be difficult to define it, but the facts of each case would have to be on their own merit. I could imagine there could be a case where maybe the animal was wounded or otherwise mutilated, but it was not killed. It could happen.

Is there a way in which we could deal with his concern about viciousness and brutality in a way that he would still want to protect animals?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Gord Brown Conservative Leeds—Grenville, ON

Madam Speaker, the member's question is the very thing that hunting and fishing organizations fear, because it is not clearly defined. I would like the bill sent to committee where we could hear from witnesses and get the answers so we could change the bill so it would no longer be flawed.

The member has raised some good points. The bill plays very much to the fear of being cruel to animals. That needs to be clearly defined. That is the problem with the bill. The sooner we resolve that, I think we would find unanimity among parliamentarians to protect against cruelty to animals.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 21st, 2005 / 5:25 p.m.

Northumberland—Quinte West Ontario


Paul MacKlin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Madam Speaker, I understand the member's concern for the hunting and fishing communities and those who enjoy our wildlife and the sport that wildlife provide. I use the term “sport” because obviously those who are truly sporting are people who treat animals in a humane way.

There may be exceptions to the rule, but clearly this bill is trying to approach those who would in fact take advantage of a situation, as was suggested by my colleague, and would maim animals. That is simply inappropriate.

A question has been raised in the House concerning this bill on which I would like the hon. member's opinion. If someone does something that is considered to be brutal or vicious in the way in which the person kills an animal but the animal dies instantly, does the member think there should be a variation in the way in which that person is treated in relation to that particular situation? An example would be if someone tied a dog to a railroad track and a train came along and killed it instantly. Would he look at it differently if the dog was only maimed by the train and ultimately died later?