Debates of April 25th, 2007
House of Commons Hansard #140 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was animal.
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Private Members' Business
The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau
It being 6:31 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.
The House resumed from February 26 consideration of the motion that Bill S-213, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau
The member for Wild Rose has five minutes remaining.
The hon. member for Wild Rose.
Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB
Mr. Speaker, I encourage the House to support getting Bill S-213 to the committee.
I need to get a couple of items down that I was getting to before my time ran out the last time I was speaking to this.
First, I want to remind the House of the 110,000-plus signatures I tabled in the form of a petition. They are calling for harsher penalties for individuals who abuse, just for the heck of it, animals for whatever motive they may have. The petitioners want animals to be protected.
On these petitions, a great majority of people were opposed to Bill S-213. Because of that and because of the fact that numerous other individuals have contacted me by way of email and other sources and are highly supportive of Bill S-213, it is necessary to move the bill forward to committee to have a close look at it to see if there are things that can be done to make it better and that will satisfy all parties that are concerned.
In regard to the number of signatures on the petition, two young ladies from my riding worked hard to get these signatures. I appreciate their efforts. They did that in memory of a dog in Didsbury, Alberta, called Daisy Duke. The dog died a horrific death for whatever reason. At this point we are not too certain because it is still before the courts.
Because a great chunk of the petition was formulated in my riding, I was able to talk to a great number of people who signed the petition. They really are not aware of the intent of Bill S-213. This is why it is so important, if this is going to go before the public, if we are going to have a debate, that we have witnesses, like the two young ladies who started this bill and the idea, before the committee to give them an opportunity to express their opposition to the bill and where they feel it can be altered, or amended and fixed.
I also believe we need the opportunity to hear from others who are quite concerned about our treatment of animals. They want a good bill. They want to make certain that ranchers, farmers, hunters, trappers and those people who have legitimate animal businesses are protected from arrest for normal practices that deal with animals.
I think of rodeos, which are be big events in my part of the country. Thousands of people participate. It would be a great opportunity at committee to take a close look at the bill and decide what we can do with it in terms of amending it or making it better, if that is possible.
I want to once again commend the people who signed the petition, who got the petition together. It is not often that we table petitions with that many signatures, and I was pleased to do so. However, we need to be very cautious about where we move on this. Whatever we decide could have an impact on a great number of people who deal with animals in one way or another.
Thousands of people in my riding have horses, dogs, pets and anything we can name. Unfortunately, the very few decide that they want to do something really stupid when it comes to the abuse of animals, and I will not tolerate that. I do not think any of us should, but at the same time I do not want to see what I saw with one farmer in my riding. He took a cow that had cancer eye to auction and he was charged by the SPCA. The only reason he took the cow in was to cull it out. Nothing can be done for cancer eye. It is due to normal causes, yet he was fined for abuse to an animal.
That kind of thing happened to my friend, Dave, and the cost to him was very unfortunate. We have to make certain that we look after people who I know love what they do and will do their utmost to look after the care and welfare of their animals.
Carole Freeman Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate at second reading of Bill S-213, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals).
I think that we are touching here on a problem that worries not only parliamentarians, but also my fellow citizens, given the number of letters we have received. People love animals. These creatures are part of their lives, give affection and, for some, are sources of income. People clearly want us to create legislation that provides adequate protection for our animals and that fairly punishes people who have little respect for them.
As I was saying, this problem has undoubtedly been of concern to my current and former colleagues. Six bills have been brought before the House in recent years. Bill S-213 is the seventh. Not to mention Bill C-373, which is an eighth bill that has been introduced and is in progress. Our concern about animal welfare is clear.
Bill S-213 attempts to update the provisions of the Criminal Code dealing with cruelty to animals, which have essentially remained unchanged since 1892. Just imagine: that is 115 years with no review of penalties.
That means that no one found guilty of mistreatment, negligence, abuse, mutilation or killing of an animal can be sentenced to more than six months' imprisonment or a maximum $2,000 fine, with the exception of wilfully killing livestock. These are sanctions from another era.
The Senate bill updates the legislation in three areas. First, it makes it possible for the courts to impose harsher penalties on those who commit offences involving animals, including such reprehensible conduct as mutilation, killing, negligence, abandonment, and failure to provide food to animals.
Bill S-213 creates two categories of offences: Bill S-213 would then separate offences into two categories: first, for injuring animals intentionally and, second, for injuring animals by criminal neglect.
Under traditional criminal law principles, knowingly or intentionally doing something is more blameworthy than doing the same thing by gross negligence. Accordingly, the maximum available penalties are normally much higher for crimes that involve deliberate action than for crimes committed by negligence. Bill S-213 would address this by distinguishing between the two types of cruelty. Bill S-213 would assign different maximum penalties to each, according to the different degree of seriousness.
Consequently, the maximum term of imprisonment would be increased to 5 years on indictment and 18 months on summary conviction. The new five-year penalty would also cover the offence of causing pain, suffering or injury by a failure to exercise reasonable care or supervision. In addition, the penalty is accompanied by a fine of up to $10,000 or up to $5,000 in the case of negligence.
For the other offences, such as abandoning an animal in distress or failing to provide suitable water, food or shelter, the maximum penalty on indictment would be raised from six months in prison to two years.
Second, Bill S-213 frees the court from the maximum period of two years when making an order prohibiting an animal owner from having an animal in his possession. The bill gives the court the possibility of making a prohibition order for life regarding the offending owner.
Third, the bill provides for restitution mechanisms whereby the court may order an individual to pay for medical expenses if an animal has been cared for by an animal welfare agency. As a result, individuals found guilty of negligence or intentional cruelty may be required to compensate agencies that have cared for mistreated animals. This measure would also help animal welfare societies recover their costs.
I firmly believe that these proposals represent a definite improvement over the current animal protection legislation. But protecting animals against cruelty raises concerns with respect to the measures that would penalize some people, especially aboriginal people with ancestral rights under section 35 of the Constitution and people who engage in legitimate sport hunting and fishing or legitimate research activities that may involve animal testing.
That reminds me of the letters I receive nearly every day. Some contend that Bill S-213 does not afford animals enough rights, but what those critics may not so readily admit is that the reason many of the previous bills did not pass is that they potentially violated the rights of those who depend on animals for their livelihood. Farmers, university and scientific researchers, aboriginal peoples, and fishers and hunters have all expressed serious concerns.
For example, in my riding, Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, there are sport fishers and farmers. In talking with these people, I have discovered that most of them have a well-developed environmental conscience that often extends to animal welfare.
There are also aboriginal people in my riding. I have the privilege of representing the Mohawks of Kahnawake in this House. They have a long tradition of using animals for perfectly legitimate purposes that do not constitute cruelty to animals.
In response to this problem, my colleagues and I are looking to strike a difficult balance between our desire to protect animals against cruelty and the rights of hunters, fishers and first nations to continue engaging in legally sanctioned activities.
For these reasons, we will support Bill S-213 so that the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights can study it more closely. By not proposing amendments beyond the penalty provisions, Bill S-213 ensures that everything that is now legal will remain so. More importantly, Bill S-213 protects animal rights and offers better tools of prosecution, yet it does not offer new grounds on which to challenge legal animal use practices. It will be interesting to see how we can work constructively in committee to maintain this balance.
In conclusion, my party considers animal cruelty to be unacceptable and despicable. That is why we are seeking to denounce animal abuse by amending the legislation, and Bill S-213 is a step in the right direction. That being said, this bill is incomplete. It will not solve all of the problems.
My colleague from Ajax—Pickering also introduced a bill concerning animal cruelty. Bill C-373 is interesting and has attracted the attention of many groups and individuals concerned about animal welfare and protection. Unless something unexpected comes up, I hope that the House's legislative process will make it possible for us to debate and perhaps support Bill C-373, which was introduced by the member for Ajax-Pickering.
I wanted to mention this particular bill because it improves on Bill S-213: not only does Bill C-373 increase the penalties, as recommended in Bill S-213, its clause 3 also ensures that the difficult balance I mentioned earlier is maintained by guaranteeing that legitimate hunters and fishers, including those exercising their aboriginal rights to practice such activities, will not be charged.
That being said, by sending Bill S-213 to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, I believe the House will also be sending a clear message to prosecutors, judges and police officers that this Parliament believes in protecting animals and that it is against all forms of animal cruelty.
Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak on the issue of animal cruelty.
Canada's animal cruelty laws desperately need to be updated. The current law has remained essentially unchanged since 1892. That is 115 years. The world, of course, has changed in that period. Women are now considered people, racism is outlawed, and the world is no longer flat. Yet, we live with a law that, in practice, still treats animals as property and does not recognize them as feeling creatures.
Anyone who has any contact with animals knows that they are breathing, thinking, feeling, sentient beings. I keep thinking about a line from the film Pulp Fiction by Quentin Tarantino, when a two-bit criminal in a discussion around vegetarians says, “But a dog's got personality”, and lots of animals have personality. Anyone who spends time with animals knows they have personality. They are not objects and should not be treated as though they are objects by our laws.
I think we could all agree in this House that the 115 year old law dealing with animal cruelty needs to be updated. However, Bill S-213 does not do it and I will not be supporting this bill.
One thing the bill does is provide greater flexibility around sentencing and somewhat tougher penalties. This is a positive step. However, that is about the only positive thing that I could say about this bill.
As I mentioned earlier, the current law basically says that crimes against animals are considered property offences and does not treat animals as feeling, sentient beings. However, Bill S-213 has the same concept entrenched in it. There is essentially no change. Animals are worthy of protection only as they are property belonging to someone. Clearly, what we need in this country is legislation that removes animal cruelty from the property section of the Criminal Code and more properly reflects modern Canadian values.
Essentially, the problem relates back to the definition of animal. In the current legislation there is no definition of animal and that does not change under Bill S-213. What is clearly needed is a definition of animal as a vertebrate other than a human being. Under that definition then animals are protected. It does not separate out certain kinds of animals with differing offences.
That is the case under the current law. Offences to cattle are different than treatment of other animals and there is no justification for that. All animals should be protected and would be under this broader definition of a vertebrate other than a human being.
The current legislation does not address brutal or vicious treatment of an animal. We all know of examples. We have heard of examples in our communities where a person has terribly mistreated an animal, in essence tortured an animal. This kind of wilful, brutal viciousness toward an animal needs to be dealt with.
The current legislation does not even consider this kind of treatment as a form of violence. The proposed bill, Bill S-213, would not change the current situation. For those terrible high profile cases of which we have all heard that appear periodically in the media, these terrible tortures and brutalities would not be addressed.
What we need is legislation that makes it an offence to kill an animal with brutal or vicious intent and whether the animal dies immediately or whether it dies a horrible lingering death, that violence needs to be addressed.
It is also an issue and a concern how an animal is killed. Currently, it is an offence to kill an owned animal without a lawful excuse. However, wild or stray animals can be killed for any reason. Under Bill S-213 there is no change to that.
While clearly there needs to be protection for lawful killing of animals, whether it is through hunting, fishing, farming, et cetera, there needs to be effective legislation to make it an offence to kill any animal without a lawful excuse. That is missing under the current legislation and under the proposed legislation.
We also need to deal with neglect. Again, periodically we hear about terrible situations where a person, through some kind of wilful neglect, tortures and in many cases kills animals through that neglect. Whether it is on a farm or whether it is a person who is keeping animals in their home, we have all heard about situations of terrible conditions in which animals are kept. They are not properly fed. They end up emaciated and they die. These kinds of situations need to be addressed.
The current legislation has the notion of wilful neglect as an offence, but the bar is set too high. The test to actually prove that someone is culpable in such a situation is extremely difficult and people are rarely convicted in such situations.
Under Bill S-213 there is no change and that will mean that in these terrible cases where animals are starved or otherwise neglected, people will walk away scot-free and they will not be punished.
We need legislation that defines this negligence in a way that would allow for easier conviction and it would be a better definition. Rather than wilful neglect, we should define the neglect as something that is departing markedly from the reasonable care of animals, whether they be domestic animals or livestock. These are some of the deficiencies in the bill that need to be addressed in effective legislation.
This debate has gone on for many years between those who want to protect animals from cruel treatment and those who make their livelihoods by, in essence, killing animals. I believe there is a balance that can be struck to protect these activities while preventing cruel treatment.
Many of my constituents have contacted me about the issue of animal cruelty. They have urged me to work to modernize archaic animal cruelty laws. We need to urgently do this, but the bill is not a step forward. It is a failed attempt which does not merit our support and I will be opposing it.
Mark Holland Ajax—Pickering, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am glad to rise to speak on this bill. When I first came to Parliament nearly three years ago, animal cruelty was an issue that was indeed top of mind for me, something I was very concerned about. That concern was driven by what I had seen as a municipal councillor with both the city of Pickering and the Region of Durham, where again and again animal abuses were not prosecuted, where we saw that the laws that existed in Canada were completely ineffective and did nothing to deter animal abuse.
Of course when I came here to Ottawa and learned that it had been 1892 since last our legislation with respect to animal cruelty was changed, I wanted to embark on trying to modernize it, on trying to work with Parliament to get to a point where we could get those who are involved in the animal use industry and those supporting animal welfare to meet in the middle, to find a compromise and to find effective legislation.
Before we even got to that point, Parliament had already dealt with Bill C-17, Bill C-15, Bill C-15B and Bill C-10, then getting to Bill C-50 in the last term of Parliament. So for nearly 10 years Parliament had been wrestling with this issue.
The problem with the existing law rests in a number of different places.
One is that it treats animals as property, essentially affording as much protection to an animal as would be given to a chair in our house. For most Canadians that is not acceptable. It is a Victorian notion we have grown out of. It also did nothing to protect stray or wild animals that could be viciously killed for any reason. It gave no protection against brutally or viciously killing even domesticated animals. It did nothing to stop training animals to fight one another or receiving money from those fights.
It was clear that we needed to take action. Bill C-50 at that point came forward. It was an opportunity to bring the different groups together to look at why legislation had failed in the past. In fact, by the fall of 2004, shortly after that June election, as many as 30 animal industry groups came together representing a broad range from agriculture to fur and to animal research. They sent a letter to the then justice minister urging a quick passage of the reintroduced government bill.
That was Bill C-50. It represented compromise. It represented an acknowledgement that in the animal use industry there were legitimate uses that should be permitted, whether or not for agriculture or whether or not in hunting, but on the other side it recognized that we have a lot of work to do to better protect animals and to provide animal welfare.
Unfortunately, we did not get the opportunity, because of the brevity of the last Parliament, to pass Bill C-50. It had broad support, not only from industry groups and animal welfare groups but from this Parliament. I expect it would have passed, but we ran out of time.
In this Parliament I have put forward a private member's bill, Bill C-373, and we also have a bill that moved more quickly through the Senate, Bill S-213, which is before us right now and which we are talking about this evening.
Let us talk for a moment about Bill S-213 and the deep concerns I have with this legislation. First of all, the main thing the bill does, and in fact really the only thing it does, is deal with sentencing. This is a huge problem, because sentencing represents only a very small fraction of the real problem.
In fact, when we look at it, we see that less than one-quarter of one per cent of animal abuse complaints lead to a successful conviction. That is what this bill deals with: one-quarter of one per cent. If we hold Bill S-213 out as some kind of solution for animal cruelty, we are being dishonest. The only thing it deals with is that enormously small percentage of successful convictions. If we are serious about animal cruelty, certainly we must do more.
We also know that Bill S-213 will not make it easier to convict perpetrators of crimes toward animals. It will not make it easier to punish the people who commit crimes against animals or neglect animals. It will not offer protection against torture for stray or wild animals. It will not make it a crime to train animals to fight one another. In short, Bill S-213 just does not get it done.
If it were just a placebo, if we could just pass it and move on and hopefully get to my bill or some other version of what Bill C-50 was in order to pass effective animal cruelty legislation, then that would be one thing. My fear is that it will do more than that. My fear is that if we pass this placebo bill that does nothing, that addresses only one-quarter of one per cent of the problem we are dealing with in regard to animal cruelty, it will be held out as if we have done something.
I have listened to many speakers talk about animal cruelty. They talk about what happened in Didsbury. They talk about the terrible abuses that occur in our country today and go unpunished and they hold this out as some kind of solution. It is not.
If we do that, if we turn to Canadians and say that we have a solution for animal cruelty and it is Bill S-213, we are misleading them. Worse yet, it may destroy the ability to actually bring forward effective legislation. So if this does not do anything, why move forward?
I would like to talk for a second about some of the things my Bill C-373 should be able to do, or I would encourage the government to bring in a bill in the same vein.
An effective bill on animal cruelty should allow for the prosecution of negligent animal owners. It should protect the rights of those who work and must kill animals for their livelihood, such as anglers, hunters, trappers, farmers and biomedical scientists, et cetera, but it must prosecute individuals who harm animals without lawful excuse or who do so in a malicious way.
An effective bill must offer protection to pets and farm animals as well as stray and wild animals. It must make it illegal to train animals to fight one another. It must make it a crime to kill an animal with brutal or vicious intent, whether or not the animal dies immediately. This is one of the problems with our current law.
This would ensure that the perpetrators of grievous crimes, those who make the headlines, are actually brought to justice. We need to take that one-quarter of 1% into a figure we can be proud of and demonstrate that we are actually doing something.
Why do something about animal cruelty? The first thing that would come to mind, obviously, is hopefully because we would care, because we would have some compassion toward animals, because we would feel they deserve dignity and our protection. One would hope that this argument would be enough reason to protect animals.
However, there are other reasons. Certainly as Parliamentarians we have to consider the will of the Canadian electorate. We have to consider the will of those we represent. Anecdotally, we would all say, Canadians by a large measure want to see effective animal cruelty legislation, but SES also conducted a poll on behalf of the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies in which 85% of respondents said they supported legislation that would make it easier for law enforcement agencies to prosecute perpetrators who commit crimes against animals, including wild and stray animals.
This means that 85% of Canadians said that existing legislation does not cut it. And Bill S-213 does not cut it. In fact, a petition was before the House with nearly 120,000 signatures, an enormous number, and it said that Bill S-213 did not do it, that it was placebo policy and it was essentially entrenching all of the same problems that we have today. The petition said that we needed to modernize our laws and, whether or not that is Bill C-373 or some other bill that accomplishes those aims, we should move forward with it.
The third reason we should care about animal cruelty, if those first two are not compelling enough, is that it is a precursor to violent behaviour against human beings.
In fact, Dr. Randall Lockwood, a Washington, D.C. psychologist who is also the vice-president of the Humane Society of the United States and one of the world's leading experts in the field of animal cruelty, states, “While not everyone who abuses animals will become a serial killer, virtually every serial killer first abused animals”. Of course this has been brought to the attention of the justice minister. He has been talked to about it and is made sick by this, it is said. It will continue to be brought to his attention until something is done.
We have every reason in the world to take action and yet we have not. In fact, we are still arguing about dealing with a non-measure that we are going to try to hold out as action. That is why groups like the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association and so many others oppose Bill S-213 and urge the passage of Bill C-373 or other such effective legislation.
It is time that we listen to those voices, that we listen to voices of reason. It is time that we pass something that, frankly, should be motherhood. It is time to take effective action on animal cruelty and stop playing games or trying to pretend we are taking action. We need to stand up and either vote for Bill C-373 or have the government bring forward effective animal cruelty legislation.
April 25th, 2007 / 7:05 p.m.
Rick Dykstra St. Catharines, ON
Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to the presentation of the member for Ajax—Pickering. He certainly made some excellent points.
I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise to speak to Bill S-213 today. It is a private member's bill that emanated from the Senate. Actually the Liberals have another bill, one on Senate reform, that is sitting over at the Senate. It has been there for over 330 days, I think, and counting, but perhaps I will save that for another speech.
There are a number of offences in the Criminal Code, some of which, as previous speakers have indicated, are over 100 years old, and others that were enacted in the 1950s, and which together prohibit a range of different kinds of conduct that injure animals.
I understand that the most frequently charged offence is the offence of causing unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal. This offence has been in the code for over 50 years now. Described in general terms, it is the essence of what we think about when we consider animal cruelty.
There is a body of case law that interprets what causing unnecessary pain actually means and how it is assessed in relation to a given case. The first thing to note is that the determination is made taking into account all of the circumstances. The court essentially engages in a two-part test. First, it looks at the purpose of the act. Second, it looks at the means used.
Let me expand. First, the courts look to whether there was a lawful purpose for whatever action caused the pain. If there was not a lawful purpose, then right off the bat we know that the pain caused was certainly unnecessary. So if we kick a dog out of anger or to punish the dog's behaviour or if an owner or someone who loves the dog is being cruel to it, it is cruelty, plain and simple.
However, there may be a lawful purpose behind other actions, such as the rearing of animals for food or the handling of animals for the purpose of administering veterinary medicine. If there is such a lawful purpose, the court would then have to look at whether the means used by the person to achieve a legitimate purpose were reasonable.
This again requires looking at all of the circumstances. These circumstances would normally include whether there were any means capable of achieving the same result with the infliction of less or no pain. Whether such means were known to and reasonably available to the accused is what needs to be looked at.
So if we consider this analysis in its totality, the result is a law of animal cruelty that holds a person responsible for causing pain or suffering for no reason or for an invalid one.
On the other side, where people are actually engaged in restraining and handling animals for valid and lawful purposes, they are also obliged to ensure that they do not use techniques that cause pain when they are aware of other techniques that cause less pain or, quite frankly, no pain at all.
This makes sense. Even in the course of lawful activity, we want our fellow citizens to minimize the pain they cause to animals, wherever this is feasible.
So what is the problem that Bill S-213 seeks to address? The problem is the maximum range of penalties upon conviction.
With the exception of certain offences which are only in relation to cattle, all of the animal cruelty offences are pure summary conviction offences. In plain English, this means that they carry a maximum sentence of six months or a $2,000 fine or perhaps both, no matter how outrageous or horrible the action or the consequence is.
The rationale behind Bill S-213 is very straightforward. It aims to enhance the sentencing provisions for these crimes. One way in which our society traditionally recognizes the seriousness of particular conduct is by assessing a penalty for that conduct. The more serious the conduct, the higher the penalty, and vice versa.
Canadians have made it very clear that the current animal cruelty sentencing provisions do not adequately reflect society's abhorrence of these crimes. The member for Ajax—Pickering quoted the recent poll by SES that was completed to prove and show that is the case.
A maximum of six months and a $2,000 fine is simply inadequate to declare our distaste and our disapproval of animal cruelty. If our members of this House do as the Senate did and pass Bill S-213, then the maximum penalties for animal cruelty would be raised to at least a more appropriate level.
I believe that we as parliamentarians would be reflecting the will of the public in declaring that animal cruelty is and always will be a serious crime. My constituents in St. Catharines have told me over and over again that we must recognize the seriousness of this crime of cruelty to animals. In fact, we should also take into account what many see as a relationship between animal cruelty and many other forms of violence.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that the justice system does not treat animal cruelty cases as seriously as they might or certainly as seriously as they should and inadequate penalty provisions provide little incentive. In fact, many argue that they actually trivialize the conduct.
The maximum penalties we set for an offence have traditionally been an expression of how seriously we as a society view the behaviour. Thus far, we have obviously given little value to animal cruelty and this belies the true nature of this crime. Bill S-213 would remedy this deficiency in the law and would signal to potential abusers that they had better think twice before deciding to inflict pain and suffering on animals.
The government also hopes that by supporting Bill S-213, a message will be sent to the courts, to the crown and to the police that animal cruelty offences should be treated as serious criminal offences.
I would like to give an example. Recently in the Niagara region, an older female German shepherd was found shivering near Chippewa Creek. Many may say that does not sound that bad but this beautiful animal had dumbbells and weights tied to its neck. The owner was attempting to drown the dog and, fortunately, she managed to save herself. The police and the Humane Society are still looking for the owner. That beautiful German shepherd and many other animals are the reason that I support the bill.
Some may ask whether we they can do more, whether the Senate can do more or whether this House can do more? The answer to that question may be yes but for over 100 years the previous bill that was in place has been the only one that has served this country. It is obvious that this is a step that has already been passed, a step that is before us here in the House, and a step that will, at the very least, begin the important process of ensuring that we as politicians, as people who represent our communities, actually attest to the fact that we need to do more.
This would do more. It would set in place a process that would deem that animals in this country are to be treated fairly, are not to be abused and, if people do, there is a price to pay. After 100 years, it is about time that those who want to inflict this type of pain do pay the price.
Robert Thibault West Nova, NS
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak this evening in support of Bill S-213, which has come from the Senate.
It is a bill that has been sponsored by Senator Bryden. I have had occasion to discuss this matter with Senator Bryden many times over the years, something that he is very passionate about.
Senator Bryden comes from rural Canada. That whole world after the last subway stop, which is rural Canada, which has many people concerned on both sides of the issue, people are not in favour of cruelty to animals, no farmer, no rancher and no researcher.
However, a lot of people earn their living from the managing and husbandry of animals and that includes many aspects including the final slaughter in most instances.
I think seven attempts have been made in the House to put animal cruelty legislation through and each time the member has brought forward serious concerns. At the end of the day, however, what do we have, by very well-meaning members of Parliament bringing these bills forward? None of the bills have been passed. Therefore, we have ended up with a 100 year old piece of legislation that does not meet the needs of anyone.
I am sure Senator Bryden, like any member of the House, will tell us that this is not the perfect bill. However, I do not think we should let perfect be the enemy of the good. What the bill would provide is an improvement in the conditions for law enforcement officers dealing with cruelty cases in the interim, while Parliament continues to discuss this matter and, hopefully, bring a bill forward that better responds to some of the elements that perhaps are lacking in this bill but that will be understandable and acceptable to the wider community.
By the wider community, I am talking about many people in the country, such as aboriginal groups who participate in hunting, trapping and fishing as part of their cultural heritage. I know of no group of people out there who take more care to administer their craft more carefully, causing less harm than trappers.
It is a difficult craft. It means bringing an end to the life of a fur-bearing animal and not being able to get to that animal for some time. A lot of research is done within Canada and we are foremost in the world. The most able participants, the ones who are the fastest to put in place that research and those new technologies, are the trappers themselves.
I have many craftsmen trappers in my riding. They do not do that as their primary source of revenue but it is part of their annual income and it is part of the traditions. They would no more want to cause unnecessary harm to an animal than anyone else.
However, in our rural areas like in urban areas, we know the horror stories of people who, for differing reasons, have more animals than they can care for that cause them harm by not being able to give them proper lodging, proper nutrition, proper veterinary care and end up putting those animals in undue stress and undue pain.
Those are the cases we want to take care of. We also want our judiciary to be able to look at persons, students, young people, who sometimes we hear for pure amusement put an animal through unbearable pain.
With this legislation, the judge would be able to look at those two cases and say that in both cases it is unacceptable behaviour and that we do not want that behaviour to continue in our society, but each case might not require the same penalty. One case of cruelty could have been brought about by poverty, by mental illness or other reasons, and the other case could have been brought about by pure malicious amusement. We have seen examples of cats being dowsed with gasoline and lit on fire. I will not go through too many because they are gory and not appealing to people. However, the judges need to have the ability to deal with those cases.
The bill would take care of that by increasing the fines and increasing the potential of imprisonment. Under the old statute, no matter what crime a person is found guilty of in cruelty to animals, the most a judge can do is keep the person from having animals for two years. This bill would take care of that in this instance. It would ensure that the judge at the time can decide what is appropriate. In many cases, these people should never have animals again.
However, at the same time, we must also recognize why it is that we are where we are and have not been able to move forward.
Universities conduct medical research with animals. I met with a lot of people from the sector when we were considering this bill the last time and I understand their point. They are good practitioners. They do not want to cause unnecessary pain to animals. However, if we move this law to fall under the Criminal Code and give them new standards, they will have a lot more expenses to do exactly the same thing they are doing now because they will need to protect themselves legally and document things differently due to the tests, standards and the risks being different when at the end of the day the practice will be the same.
We all agreed in this country a long time ago when the market decided that we did not want animals used for research on cosmetics. I do not want to see cats, dogs or any kind of animal suffer so that I can know the face cream used by the Prime Minister before question period is safe and appropriate. I think his image consultant can use her own judgment without having to harm animals.
I have a lot of fur farmers in my riding. It must be some 30 years ago when the anti-sealing and anti-fur movements started in Europe and those industries were at huge risk. I can say that their practices now are different than they were then, not by legislation but by research, by wanting to improve and by having different capabilities.
It has always been a tradition in my community that if tourists wanted to visit one of those farms they were given a tour. Nobody hid what they were doing. They would guide the families and show them how they operated. I remember that when Brigitte Bardot started her craze, people got nervous about showing their farms to people because they were afraid that people would report that things were not right or whatever.
After one of the farms gave a tour to a family, a young child asked the rancher, “How often do you take the fur from these animals?” The farmer did not know how to answer the child but he said, “Once a year. It makes them nervous”. He figured that was maybe the best way of answering the child.
I can say that if that child went back to the same farm now in my riding, he would see hundreds of people working in that industry and that practices have changed 100%. The farmers did their best with the technology and information they had at that time. Now they operate differently.
These animals now have better conditions, which is quite appropriate, but farmers get nervous when they think that Parliament will start regulating how they will manage their farms without ever knowing it or that we will put rules and regulations forward in animal cruelty that some judge, 10 years down the road, will interpret without understanding the sector or having participated in it.
For that reason, there is nervousness out there. It is not malicious. It is not that people are pro cruelty. However, there was a lot of resistance and reluctance to approve animal cruelty legislation that was presented in the House.
What we are doing is very good. It is a good interim measure. It would send the signal that unnecessary cruelty to animals is not tolerated by society. It would provide penalty possibilities to the judiciary that can send a serious message.
When people are looking at five years in prison for cruelty, it is a great deterrent. When people are looking at fines of $10,000, it is a great deterrent. However, we must realize that in some instances this unnecessary cruelty is not done purposely but due to feeblemindedness, which the judge can take into consideration. It can also happen in cases of poverty, as I mentioned earlier.
The senator had another thing to look at when he was looking at this legislation. If we want to have a comprehensive piece of legislation that most would prefer we have, it should be brought forward by government. However, the government has already stated or made it clear that such legislation would not be forthcoming during this session of Parliament.
It would be very difficult in a private member's bill to make all the changes one would like to do without having the financial resources and legal resources, all the tools that government has to do the consultations with the public, industry, professionals and all the people concerned, aboriginal organizations primarily, and bring about a proper and good piece of legislation.
While we wait for a change of government and the opportunity again to bring forward a proper piece of cruelty to animal legislation, I am pleased to support this effort, Bill S-213, sponsored in the Senate by Senator Bryden.
The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau
Is the House ready for the question?
Some hon. members
TheActing Speaker Mr. Royal Galipeau
The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Some hon. members
The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau
I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.
(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)
A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.