House of Commons Hansard #63 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was afghan.


The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill S-203, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals), as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

Speaker's RulingCriminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

There are three motions in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill S-203.

Motion No. 3 will not be selected by the Chair as it was defeated in committee.

All remaining motions have been examined and the Chair is satisfied that they meet the guidelines expressed in the note to Standing Order 76.1(5) regarding the selection of motions in amendment at the report stage.

Motions Nos. 1 and 2 will be grouped for debate and voted upon according to the voting pattern available at the table.

I will now put Motions Nos. 1 and 2 to the House.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON


Motion No. 1

That Bill S-203 be amended by deleting the long title.

Motion No. 2

That Bill S-203 be amended by deleting Clause 1.

She said: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my party and the constituents I represent in Parkdale—High Park in Toronto, I am pleased to speak to the motions to amend Bill S-203.

I believe that the current configuration of Bill S-203 does not adequately deal with the issue of cruelty to animals. As we all know, the current Criminal Code sections dealing with cruelty to animals date back to 1892. There were minor revisions made in the 1950s, but the basis for the protection of animals comes from their status as property, not sentient beings.

It is an archaic notion that animals are not sentient beings and only exist as property and certainly is not in keeping with understanding, with science and with public sentiment at this time. Several attempts have been made to move animals out of the property section of the Criminal Code, beginning with Bill C-17 in 1999, Bill C-15B in 2001, Bill C-10 in 2002, Bill C-22 in 2004 and Bill C-50 in 2005. All of these bills were either stalled at the Senate or died on the order paper in the House of Commons before they could be passed.

Objections were raised by a coalition of groups opposing the changes, including the Fur Institute and the Federation of Hunters and Anglers. As a result of this pressure, Senator Bryden introduced a bill, originally Bill S-24, now Bill S-203, which increased fines and sentencing and allowed a court order to prohibit offenders from keeping an animal. This was introduced in 2005, was reintroduced as Bill S-213 in 2006, and now has been reintroduced as Bill S-203 as of October 2007.

The reason for my motion to amend the bill and to delete these sections is that the bill leaves animal cruelty in the property section of the Criminal Code and keeps the existing 1892 terminology, which makes it extremely difficult to secure convictions.

We need look no further than the situation as detailed in the media this past weekend concerning an Arabian horse farm in Alberta. Officials were unable to lay charges that would secure a conviction with the owner of the farm. Over the weekend a number of horses died from starvation and neglect. The condition of the remaining horses is nothing short of abysmal. They were not fed. They were not given water. Their living quarters were not clean. They existed in absolutely sub-living conditions. Those animals were in fact slowly being tortured to death through starvation and neglect.

The way this bill is currently configured would not lead to any greater likelihood of conviction for animal owners, breeders or those charged with caring for animals and who neglect those animals. The bill also fails to define animals and does not recognize animals as beings and as such does not address the issue of training animals for animal fights.

As a result, we have been the only party to consistently oppose this bill. We have been working closely with the IFAW, the World Society for the Protection of Animals and the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies in efforts to amend the bill and in our opposition to the bill. I want to thank my NDP colleague from Windsor who has been a constant voice in looking for positive change that would ultimately deal with the issue of animal cruelty.

The issue of animal cruelty is one that touches the hearts of many Canadians. Many of my constituents have contacted me about this issue and they cannot believe that in the 21st century, after so many years of debate and discussion on this issue, that we are still left with a law that treats animals, as it did in the 19th century, as baggage, as non-thinking, non-feeling creatures.

We all know that is not true and that we need to update our laws to reflect this obvious reality. Therefore, the point of my motion is to delete the section of this bill that negates the reality of animals and how they should be treated.

The reason I am urging support for this bill is that it is a change in legislation whose time has come. There is widespread support for this change. If there is any doubt about the necessity for this change, one only needs to read about the terrible tragedy of the Arabian horses lost this past weekend.

I urge my colleagues to vote in support of this motion.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.


Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, we have all heard about a number of high profile cases of animal abuse. One case was Daisy Duke, the pet dog that was dragged behind a car in Didsbury, Alberta; Princess, a house cat in Alberta that was microwaved; Queen Waldorf in Niagara Falls who was found abandoned on a beach with dumbbells attached to her neck; and the list goes on.

The reality of animal abuse is that every day, in every part of our country, animal abuse is occurring. The people who are watching their pets or wild animals being victimized are asking why we have no laws to go after these individuals and why the laws that we have are so weak. People on the front lines are dealing with animal abuse day in and day out and seeing tragedy after tragedy but they are not able to do anything about it.

I talk with SPCA officers who, on a daily basis, receive these calls but they cannot do anything because their hands are tied. I understand their frustration, as people who love animals, when they witness this abuse, but they are more than people who love animals. I have witnessed how angry they get when they visit those same homes where individuals who torture dogs is the precursor to violence against human beings, such as domestic abuse against a spouse or against the children. They and Canadians are left to wonder why this type of crime is something Parliament simply has not done anything about.

In fact, as was mentioned by the previous speaker, the laws that we have in place today have essentially been unamended since 1892. That is not to say that in the last number of years Parliament has not tried because it has. If we look at the bills that have been put before this House over the last number of years, there is Bill C-17, Bill C-15, Bill C-15B, Bill C-10, Bill C-10B and, as recently as the last Parliament, Bill C-50. In this Parliament, we have my private member's bill, Bill C-373 and Bill S-203, which we are debating today.

I had a great deal of opportunity to work on Bill C-50 in the previous Parliament and to bring all stakeholders together to find common ground, to ask that all sides make compromise and work on something that would work, not only for those who were proponents of protecting animals, but for those who legitimately use animals for their businesses or for their livelihood.

In doing so we found mere unanimity. We found that almost all groups reached a point of compromise on Bill C-50. In fact, this bill or a similar bill was able to pass through the House of Commons twice. It was the will of this House that strong, effective animal cruelty legislation be adopted and moved forward. It was the will of this elected body that we have animal cruelty legislation that reflected the desire of Canadians. However, both times it was the Senate that stood in our way, the Senate that disagreed and wanted amendments.

We almost got there in the last Parliament but, unfortunately, an election got in our way. One would have thought that after all the work and compromise, upon our return to Parliament we would have immediately embraced that compromise and introduced legislation that addressed animal cruelty.

The reality is that did not happen. It was left to private members' bills to address this gaping hole in our Criminal Code, one introduced by myself and one introduced by Senator Bryden in the form of the bill that is before us today that is seeking to be amended, Bill S-203.

One could ask why we simply do not adopt Bill S-203 as a first step and then we will get to the rest. We could do all those things that Parliament had already agreed on at some later date.

I will give a few reasons why Bill S-203 should not be adopted. I will start with the fact that only one-quarter of 1% of animal abuse complaints result in a conviction. Essentially what this bill would do is go after sentencing. One can imagine that if we are only addressing sentencing, when there are convictions on only one-quarter of 1% of the problem, we are only dealing with one-quarter of 1% of the problem, which effectively would do almost nothing to address the issue.

I just want to list a number of things that Bill S-203 does not do that I think people will be surprised to learn. It does not make it easier to convict the perpetrators of crimes toward animals. It does not make it easier to punish people for crimes of neglect toward animals that they are responsible for. It does not offer greater protection to wild or stray animals which often have no protection at all. It does not clarify the confusing language in existing legislation that deals with types of animals differently. It also fails to make it a crime to train animals to fight each other.

These terrible crimes we see where they are pitting animals against animals and ripping each other apart, it would do nothing to deal with that.

The second point is this. When does the House, as an elected body, accept from the Senate a lower standard? For this House to pass legislation twice and then to be told by the Senate that it is too much, too effective, too far and too fast and then to turn it down, one wonders why.

When the Conservatives introduced a bill to get tough on crime, in their words, and then sent it to the Senate, they said that they would not accept any amendments by the Senate. They gave the Senate a limited amount of time to address the bill and said that if the Senate did not pass the bill that they would have an election. Why? It was because crime was important and they needed to address it.

They told the Senate that it needed to listen to the elected will of the House and yet when it comes to animal cruelty there is a double standard. They were willing to say that the House had spoken and that it worked for years to compromise and create effective legislation but, on this bill, crime is not important, it is not a priority, even though, as I mentioned before, it does not just impact animals, it is often a precursor to violence against human beings.

Senator Bryden addressed the issue when he talked about those who wanted effective animal cruelty legislation losing the lever they would have if this bill gets passed. Unfortunately, he is quite right. It is one of the things that those of us who are concerned about our ineffective animal cruelty laws worry most about.

The bill is essentially a placebo. It does nothing to address the real issue of animal cruelty in our country. It will be held out as action when none has been taken. It will be held out as a faint offer of having done something so we can tell our constituents that we acted on animal cruelty when we did nothing more than pass an empty, vacuous bill. We will lose that lever to finally change and amend our laws.

We have already waited 116 years. We embraced years of compromise. As a House, we adopted effective legislation. We will now let the Senate tell us to throw all of that away and to entrench essentially Victorian laws with antiquated notions about what animals are about.

I have a last point on why Bill S-203 should be opposed. Can anyone imagine trying to pass a bill that purports to do something about animal cruelty when every animal welfare group in the country is opposed to it? I am not talking about animal activists. I am talking about those who are on the front lines of dealing with abuse and torture of animals. I am talking about SPCA officers, the humane society and veterinarians who see tortured animals come into their offices and see nothing being done about it. These are the people crying for action and they are not alone.

In fact, Canadians overwhelmingly support effective animal cruelty law. A recent Nanos Research poll found that 85% of respondents supported legislation that would make it easier for law enforcement agencies to prosecute perpetrators who commit crimes against animals, including wild and stray animals. I have a petition of over 130,000 Canadians, which has been presented before the House, in opposition to the Senate bill and calling on support for my bill, Bill C-373.

I do not care if the bill gets passed as my bill or as a government bill. I will gladly give up my bill to anyone in the House who can get it passed and get it passed immediately. I will make the offer to the government today that I will withdraw my bill and offer it to the government as its own so that we can move forward with effective legislation.

I want to talk about what effective legislation can do, which is Bill C-373. It would allow for the prosecution of negligent animal owners. It would protect the rights of those who work and must kill animals for their livelihood. We would protect those in agriculture and animal use industries. It would offer equal protection to pets and farm animals, as well as wild and stray animals. It would make it illegal to train animals to fight one another. It would make it a crime to kill an animal with brutal or vicious intent.

We need effective animal cruelty legislation. The option exists for us to take action today. Let us reject this watered down, vacuous placebo bill and finally do something about animal cruelty.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Kevin Sorenson Conservative Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciated a couple of different viewpoints on this bill. It is a pleasure for me to rise in the House again, on behalf of the people of Crowfoot, to speak to Bill S-203, a bill, as was previously mentioned, that was introduced in the House from the Senate chamber. Bill S-203 would amend the animal cruelty provisions in the Criminal Code.

Many of my constituents have written or contacted my office in regard to this legislation and other pieces of legislation that have come and gone over the years. The member from across the way just made mention of a few of the bills that have been introduced into the House. It has always been an issue that has provoked a certain degree of interest because people do not want to see individuals treating animals cruelly and inhumanely.

Where I come from, many people earn their living on ranches and farms. We are basically a rural constituency. Members can bet their bottom dollar that most ranchers and farmers understand the fact that these animals must be looked after and cared for with a great deal of concern. In most cases, animals are my constituents' livelihood.

I should also make mention that right now, the first part of March, were in the middle of calving season. In the wintertime, although it is very mild back home, I know ranchers, their wives and their children who get up during the night to check on the cattle to ensure everything is all right in the calving process. Therefore, we become very concerned when we hear stories of animal cruelty or abuse and that people are mistreating animals. There is not a lot of toleration for that where I live.

Bill S-203 has been passed by the Senate and sent to the House. It has already passed second reading in the House, was sent to the justice committee, has been reported back to the House by the justice committee without amendment and is now before the House for third reading.

Bill S-203 would amend the Criminal Code in relation to the sentencing of offenders convicted of animal cruelty. It does not create new offences and does not modify existing ones.

What problem does Bill S-203 seek to address? The problem is that the existing legislation and penalties do not reflect the seriousness of cruelty offences. With the exception of certain offences, which are only in relation to cattle, all of the animal cruelty offences are summary conviction offences. This means that they carry a maximum sentence of six months or a $2,000 fine or both. No matter how outrageous or how horrible the action or the consequence to the animal or pet, that is the sentence standard.

To address this serious limitation in the current law, Bill S-203 would enhance the sentencing provision for cruelty offences. It would do so in three significant ways. First, it would make all of the animal cruelty offences hybrid offences. This means that the Crown could elect to proceed by summary conviction or indictment. This would enable the Crown to elect a mode of trial that is appropriate, having regard to the seriousness of the offence and to the culpability of the offender. Again, this is a very important provision, especially in the ranching and farming communities.

A second way in which the sentencing provisions would be enhanced by Bill S-203 is that maximum penalties would be significantly increased. One way that our society traditionally recognizes the seriousness of a particular conduct is by assigning a higher penalty for more serious conduct and infractions. Canadians have made it very clear that the current animal cruelty sentencing provisions do not adequately reflect society's views about the seriousness of the crime. A maximum of six months and a $2,000 fine is simply inadequate to declare our distaste and disapproval of wilful animal cruelty.

Canadian society has paid little attention to animal cruelty over the years. This ignores the true nature of the crime.

Bill S-203 would remedy this deficiency in the law and would signal to potential abusers that they had better think twice before inflicting undue pain and suffering on animals.

The government also hopes that by supporting Bill S-203 a message will be sent to the courts, the Crown, and police that animal cruelty offences should be looked at more seriously. The member in this speech previously talked about the low rate of conviction on some of these and it sometimes very difficult to prove, mens rea, to prove wilful intent.

I think the bill draws out very clearly that the Canadian public want to see tougher sentencing, but they also want to see our law enforcement officers and the Crown taking this type of crime much more seriously.

By supporting Bill S-203, I believe, we as parliamentarians would be reflecting the will of the public in declaring that animal cruelty is a serious crime.

A third manner in which the penalty provisions would be enhanced is that Bill S-203 would remove the current two year maximum duration of an order prohibiting an offender from possessing or living with an animal. The duration of the order would be at the discretion of the court. The courts and the public clearly agree that some offenders should be denied the privilege of having animals in their homes or in their possession for longer periods than just the two year period that is currently there.

This change would respond to those concerns. It would enable courts to more effectively prevent future offences by proscribing whatever duration was appropriate.

As other hon. members have indicated, the enhanced penalty provisions in Bill S-203 constitute a significant step in better recognizing the true nature of animal cruelty offences as crimes of violence.

The bill is important because it changes the penalty scheme to more accurately reflect the serious nature of animal cruelty offences. The higher penalties in Bill S-203 will go a long way in confirming that Parliament is taking this type of crime more seriously.

In stating my support for Bill S-203, I recognize that some hon. members have expressed the view that they cannot support the bill because it does not address important limitations in the current law.

It is true that Bill S-203 does not amend current offences; it does not create new ones. However, as members well know, none of the bills that have been introduced by previous governments over the course of years have ever passed through both chambers. In addition, it is well known that there is some disagreement, some concern and controversy over many of those bills that were brought forward.

Some animal industry groups feared that certain changes would open the door to prosecutions for their traditional activities. We need not get into the details of that long and drawn out history, but I had the privilege of serving on the justice committee when a number of these bills came forward.

On the one hand we would have animal rights groups appearing and saying that this new bill would not go far enough and on the other hand we would have industry, like ranchers, farmers, beef producers, who would say this moves into traditional ways that we go about our business at the ranch.

Therefore, the bill recognizes that changes have to be made, but that they have to be realistic and they have to take into account all those concerns.

Unlike those previous bills, Bill S-203 is straightforward. We have before us a private senate public bill that has one simple objective: improving the law's ability to deter, to denounce and punish animal cruelty, and make offenders take greater responsibility for their crimes.

While there may be some disagreement in the House about whether Bill S-203 accomplishes everything that some people may want to see, today we have just one question before us: should Bill S-203 be supported?

I believe that this question calls for a clear and a simple yes. If this legislation were to pass, the law would be better than it is today. Would it be perfect? I guess that depends on where people's views line up, but this does take a very positive step in addressing a very important issue.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate today at report stage on Senate Bill C-203. This bill would amend the Criminal Code to impose harsher penalties for animal cruelty offences.

This bill is causing quite a stir among people and organizations calling for improved animal cruelty legislation. The current legislation has not been amended since 1892, 116 years ago, when animals were seen as having a utilitarian function rather than a role as companions, which many animals have taken on over time.

In addition, it so happens that Bill S-203 is being debated before Bill C-373, introduced by the member for Ajax—Pickering. Essentially, Bill C-373 is a repeat of Bill C-50, introduced by the previous government, which is more in line with the needs expressed by animal activists. Moreover, the Bloc supported Bill C-50 in principle. But we will analyze Bill C-373 later in the parliamentary process.

Bill S-203 is not perfect. The witnesses who appeared before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, which I sat on at one point last week, often mentioned the obvious flaws in this bill that we have noticed.

First, Bill S-203 does not clearly define negligence, which means that it will still be difficult to prove that someone is acting negligently towards animals. Second, Bill S-203 provides little protection for wild or stray animals. Third, it keeps the categories of animals currently protected by the 1892 legislation: cattle, dogs and birds.

Under Bill S-203, animals would remain primarily property. The bill does not even deal with individuals who train animals for fighting. Moreover, Bill S-203 contains no provisions to address violent, brutal, extreme acts against animals.

I could go on, but it is important to remember that the major flaw in this bill is its failure to define what an animal is.

By refusing to clearly define what they are, Bill S-203 leaves far too much room for interpretations that would avoid heavy penalities and does not depart from the concept that animals are property. We know that the current maximum sentences under the Criminal Code are too lenient for the seriousness of the acts committed against these living beings.

In addition to the fact that Bill S-203 does not jeopardize legitimate activities involving animal death, such as agriculture, hunting and fishing, it addresses the problem I have mentioned: it increases the maximum sentences and the fines. That is a little better than what we had before.

Judges will have a little more latitude in cases involving animal cruelty. For example, a judge could require an offender to cover the costs incurred by his barbarian actions. We have made progress in the fight against animal cruelty.

However, I think this improvement is minimal, even inadequate when we consider the overall problem. In my eyes, Bill S-203 is just a transition, a step toward something more substantial.

If there is one thing people can count on, it is that the Bloc Québécois does not settle for doing the minimum. We are progressive people with foresight and we will never hesitate to do better for those we represent or for anyone else.

When Bill S-203 was tabled in the Standing Committee on Justice, we listened with interest to the various witnesses.

That is why we are well aware of the bill's limitations. We are aware of the importance of properly protecting animals from cruelty, so we proposed a series of amendments to improve Bill S-203.

Among our proposals was the idea of introducing a clear definition of what an animal is. We also sought to protect stray as well as domestic animals. We also wanted to clarify the criterion for negligence, thereby making it easier to prove. Finally, we also proposed an amendment to formally ban training cocks to fight.

All the Bloc Québécois proposed amendments were rejected. Unfortunately, the committee agreed on Thursday, February 14, to report the bill without amendments. It seems that only the Bloc Québécois truly wants to move quickly in the fight against animal cruelty.

If the other parties had been acting in good faith, if they had put partisanship aside for a minute to make animal welfare a priority, they would have been willing to accept these highly necessary amendments that are adapted to the way things are now.

Instead, we have before us a report saying that Bill S-203 is fine as it is. Only stiffer maximum penalties can remedy the situation. Why act proactively now when Bill C-373 is scheduled to be dealt with shortly? Cruelty against animals will not subside or stop, just to make us feel better, until the study of Bill C-373 can be completed.

From a strictly historical perspective, I remind the House that Bill C-373 stems directly from six previous bills which either died on the order paper or were defeated. There was therefore no progress on the issue. As for Bill S-203, it is the third in a series of identical bills that had the same fate at a time when governments were somewhat more stable than the one we have now.

I can only sympathize with the animal rights advocates who, like us, were seeing a great opportunity to completely overhaul this old legislation. Again, the opportunity is slipping away.

Those who interfered will undoubtedly be judged by the people for this blatant lack of initiative, especially on an issue so close to the heart of the public.

I take comfort in the thought that, at least, the Bloc Québécois has done its part, working beyond mere partisanship and putting forward good ideas that would satisfy animal rights advocates. Protecting animals against certain despicable actions will always remain a concern of my party.

At any rate, we are back where we started with an unamended Bill S-203 with all its flaws. That is all that is on the table at this time. The members of the Bloc Québécois are practical people.

Nonetheless, increasing penalties sends a clear signal to criminals—their actions are reprehensible—as well as to the judges who will have to take these factors into account in making a determination.

I will conclude by saying that passing this timid bill will not in any way hinder the future consideration or passage of a more comprehensive piece of legislation like Bill C-373.

I think that the bill introduced by the Liberal member provides better guarantees than Bill S-203, as clearly pointed out by witnesses before the Standing Committee on Justice.

I hope that the House will also pass Bill C-373 when it comes before us. We believe that these two bills are a winning combination to significantly reduce cruelty to animals.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, we have a Senate bill in front of us today, a private member's bill, which, quite frankly, is a joke. In spite of the speeches from the other three parties, the Conservatives and the Liberals in particular, in support of Bill S-203, it remains a joke.

One of the first things I learned when I went to law school was that if we were going to have effective deterrents to anti-social or criminal behaviour, there had to be laws that could be enforced so that people who were inclined to anti-social or criminal behaviour knew that they would be caught. Everything that I have ever learned since then with regard to how we prevent or deter deviant behaviour to society has confirmed that basic rule.

At the present time the legislation in the Criminal Code with regard to animal cruelty is around 112 years old. There were very minor amendments in the 1950s, but it has not changed since that time.

Today, the reality is that of all the animal cruelty cases in this country, less than 1% of the perpetrators of those offences are ever charged. The reason is that our prosecutors right across the country and in the territories know that the law is so inadequate as it stands that they cannot get convictions. If I have time I will go through some of the examples, but that is the reality today.

In addition, in this bill there is a gross dereliction of responsibility by the political parties in this country and in this House. They are prepared to allow an unelected irresponsible Senate to dictate how we deal with the issue of animal cruelty.

We have heard the history from some of the other members. The bill with regard to animal cruelty in its most recent reincarnation was Bill C-50 which passed back in the 38th Parliament. The legislation has been passed twice by the House of Commons, the elected body in this country, and has been refused to be passed by the Senate twice.

When Bill C-50 was introduced the last time, it was clear that it had all party support because its prior incarnation had in fact received votes in this House from all parties. It was not even the Conservative Party at that time; it was the Alliance. All parties supported it. There were few exceptions; it was not unanimous, but all political parties supported it. It went through this House with overwhelming support and then got stymied by that unelected irresponsible other house. That is where things were until this bill came forward from the Senate.

We hear the argument why not just support the bill. I will say why we should not support it. It does not do anything. It is as simple as that. It does not do one thing to increase the rate of conviction. All it does is increase the penalties. It does not allow our prosecutors to get any more convictions. It does not allow our judges to convict any more people. That less than 1% conviction rate is going to continue.

We will get the odd case where somebody is convicted and perhaps gets a stiffer penalty, and I repeat perhaps. The reality is that it is not going to change the conviction rate.

We have an alternative. Again I think in particular of the Liberals on the justice committee. I introduced the amendments that would have brought the old bill, Bill C-50, into this bill. It would have dealt with the issues that are important with regard to actually protecting animals. It would have brought it into the 21st century. I do not have time to go through all of the points. I introduced those amendments and they were accepted by the chair of the justice committee as proper and admissible. The member of the Conservative Party who is chairing that committee accepted them as proper amendments.

The amendments mimic exactly the private member's bill from the Liberal member for Ajax—Pickering; it is exactly the same. The Liberals on the committee voted those amendments down. The meaningful reform that has passed this House twice was voted down by a combination of the Liberals and the Conservatives on that committee. The Bloc stood with me. The Bloc then moved some other amendments, which did not go as far as C-50 but would have made some significant progress. What happened? The same coalition of Liberals and Conservatives on that committee voted them down.

I want to be very clear about why I believe we absolutely should be voting this bill down. It was made very clear by Senator Bryden, the author of this bill, that the Senate would not accept a bill from this House. Again, a totally irresponsible unelected body is telling members of the elected House that it does not care what we think or do, but it is not letting this bill through. That reinforced my strong belief that we have to get rid of the Senate. That was the attitude.

Neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives have the political will to challenge the other place on this bill. They basically have thrown up their hands and said, “Okay, senators, whatever you want, we are not going to buck you”. That is what we are faced with and our animals will continue to be treated as we saw this past weekend with those horses in Alberta. In that case, 29 horses died. Local officials knew for two years about the abuse that was going on. The amendments that I proposed, C-50, the private member's bill from the member for Ajax—Pickering, would have allowed them to move much earlier to protect those animals and perhaps none of them would have been lost.

That is the reality of what we are faced with today. There are two political parties that are unwilling to challenge the unelected Senate, and then trying to convince the Canadian public that Bill S-203 is anything meaningful and is going to somehow deal with the issue. That is where the farce is. That is why I say this bill is a joke, because it does nothing like that.

I want to make one additional point. We did not hear from the member from the Conservative Party who spoke to this bill this morning, that the current governing party was prepared to do anything about bringing C-50 forward as a government bill, to put in place a law that in fact would protect our animals. It is not saying it is going to do that. The reality is that because of the attitude in the Senate and the lack of political will by both the Conservatives and the Liberals to challenge them, they are not in fact going to bring forward anything further. We are just never going to see these amendments as long as that attitude remains in place.

At this time, 110 to 115 years later, we need to update the legislation to have in place meaningful protection for our animals. In my riding an individual clipped the ears of a dog so that the dog would look fiercer. The dog was used for fighting. We saved that dog and got him adopted, but the reality is that person could already own another dog. We cannot prevent that from happening.

There are all sorts of other provisions. We can think of any number of other abuse cases. There is the one out in Alberta where a dog was dragged behind a vehicle, repeatedly injured, grossly and brutally attacked. There were minimal consequences as a result. That is what we need to bring to an end and that is what Bill S-203 does not do.

It is time for this Parliament to do what it is supposed to do in terms of protecting our animals.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


Bryon Wilfert Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to make some comments with regard to this bill. There is no question that the animal cruelty legislation needs to be updated. We certainly tried in the past to do this with different pieces of legislation, but unfortunately, the Conservatives opposed those updates. There is no question that Canadians want more effective animal cruelty legislation. The legislation has not been updated since 1892.

The question becomes the value of this particular private member's legislation. This legislation does not go far enough in addressing some of the concerns that members of Parliament hear from Canadians. It will not make it easier to convict perpetrators of such crimes. One of the things we continually hear about is the need to be tougher on the perpetrators. We have heard some horrific stories. Some have been mentioned in this debate and in previous debates. Tougher penalties are needed.

We need to remember when punishing people that they are not being punished for mistreating a piece of furniture, but for mistreating a live animal. The penalty has to reflect that mistreatment. We have to make it easier to deal with people who neglect animals.

On the weekend, we heard of a very tragic case in Alberta with regard to the neglect of horses. Unfortunately, many of them had died and others were very badly malnourished. When people see those things they ask why are we not bringing in tougher animal cruelty legislation.

We need greater protection for wild animals and domestic animals as well. We need to be clearer. Unfortunately, this bill does not go far enough. My colleague from Ajax—Pickering has a private member's bill. It replicates much of the legislation that had been in this House in past Parliaments, such as Bill C-15. My colleague's bill reflects much more of the mainstream concerns of Canadians.

I would also point out that this legislation does not address the situation where animals are trained to fight one another. It does not make that a crime. We have seen in the media some specific examples of that situation, such as cockfighting in Vancouver and the case of Mr. Vick in the United States regarding fighting of animals. Those are the kinds of things that need to be addressed.

If we are going to update legislation which has not been updated in over 100 years, we need to be effective in terms of these issues. We need to address those issues effectively for Canadians. When members get calls on this people are asking why we have taken so long. A lot of it has to do with the fact that we have confused protection of animals with hunting and other issues which some members on the other side have argued we have to be a little more vague on.

In fact, Canadians want to be very specific in terms of addressing the issues. Not only is greater protection needed, but greater clarity in the language is needed as well. Currently the language is very vague, which means that unfortunately, there have not been the kind of convictions that are needed. The courts have said that they can only work with the laws they have before them. They want to see tougher legislation. Canadians want to see tougher legislation.

As parliamentarians, we clearly have an obligation to deal with this type of legislation, and I hope that we do not use a piecemeal approach. The legislation of my colleague from Ajax—Pickering deals with some of the specifics I and others have mentioned in this debate.

We need to look at a couple of other factors. We need to deal effectively with individuals who neglect animals, not just those who do those horrific things we have heard about in terms of microwaves and so on, which acts are intolerable. We need to deal with those who neglect animals, those who have an animal and are not able to care for it. We must ensure that when people are convicted of a crime, they are not allowed to own animals in the future because of their wanton recklessness in terms of their treatment of animals.

The bill only deals with the status quo. It does not move it along to the degree to which we need. After 100 and some years, one would think, given all the examples and issues that exist, that it would have been much more effective. It is too bad the government had not proposed legislation on this. It is too bad we have to have it through a private member's legislation, as good as that may be, particularly by my colleague on this side of the House. However, the reality is attempts to move this forward by previous governments were stalled, either here or elsewhere. That is reprehensible. We need to have legislation that protects the public good.

We have waited a long time for this. The power to introduce this type of legislation has to be comprehensive. It has to deal with all aspects of the debate. I am hopeful the legislation will move forward.

The question I would have is this. Why has the government failed to take a proactive stance on this? In the past, government legislation was moved forward at different reading stages. It is too bad we did not see a proactive approach from the current government on this. It speaks to the very nature of the government in not caring about animal welfare in particular. It is unfortunate. Had it been proactive, we would not have had to go through other vehicles, including private members' legislation.

I am hopeful the legislation will move forward. Again, however, the bill before us today does not address some of the fundamental issues, unlike what my friend from Ajax—Pickering has suggested. I look forward to that legislation when it is brought before the House.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodePrivate Members' Business

March 10th, 2008 / noon


Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak in the debate on the animal cruelty legislation before us today, a private member's bill that comes from the Senate.

In am pleased to speak on it because I am so frustrated and share the frustration of so many of my constituents with the lack of progress in Parliament on new legislation to protect animals. Many attempts have been made to do this, but they have been stalled or turned down by the Senate over the years. Time and time again, the legislation has failed to go forward.

Now we are presented with this very flawed legislation, legislation that does not address the important problems that we face in society when it comes to dealing with cruelty to animals. As we already have heard this morning, the legislation in front of us is not comprehensive. We need a comprehensive reworking of the animal cruelty laws in Canada.

The legislation currently on the books dates from 1892, and much has changed in our understanding of how we should deal with animals since then. We need to have comprehensive legislation.

The bill today only deals with the question of penalties associated with acts of animal cruelty. It does not deal with fundamental issues like changing the idea that animals are seen as property and not as sentient beings. This needs to be changed. We need to understand that an animal is a sentient being, not just a piece of property. The legislation before us does not deal with this.

For many years, one of the problems with the current legislation is it is almost impossible to get a conviction. That is one of the key frustrations. We have legislation now, but there is less than a 1% conviction rate when it comes to dealing with and punishing people who have been found to have committed cruelty to animals. That is not acceptable.

The bill before us would increase the penalties, but it would do nothing to enable officials to obtain convictions against those who would perpetrate cruelty to animals. That is absolutely unacceptable.

We need comprehensive legislation that updates our understanding of animals in our society and our understanding of our responsibility for them. We also need to make it possible to convict those who would commit acts of cruelty to an animal.

When the justice committee looked at the bill, my colleague from Windsor—Tecumseh had a stroke of genius. He proposed an amendment that would replace the provisions of this Senate private member's bill with the old provisions of Bill C-50, a bill that the House supported in its day and sent to the Senate, a bill that was comprehensive legislation, a bill that would not only increase the penalties for those convicted, but would also make it possible to obtain those convictions.

I cannot understand why Liberals and Conservatives on the justice committee would have voted down that amendment when it was found to be in order by the chair. It just does not make sense.

Canadians want action on animal cruelty, and we have stalled too long. The Senate has overturned the efforts of the House of Commons too often in this regard. We have to ensure that we have good, comprehensive, enforceable legislation on this issue. Canadians demand it.

Motions in AmendmentCriminal CodePrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

When we return to the study of Bill S-203, there will be six minutes left for the hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Bryon Wilfert Liberal Richmond Hill, ON


That the House take note of the on-going national discussion about Canada's role in Afghanistan.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to lead off in the debate today with regard to our role in Afghanistan. This side of the House has been and continues to support the efforts that our troops have made in Afghanistan since 2002. As is known, we have rotated in and rotated out in the past with regard to Afghanistan.

There is no question that we are bringing to Afghanistan a multiple of approaches in terms of development of democracy, education of women and the rule of law, et cetera. However, under the UN auspices and under NATO, we on this side of the House we believe this is not simply a Canadian mission. Therefore, everyone has to step up to the plate and do the heavy lifting.

In 2002, when we first went to Kandahar for six months, we rotated out. The principle of rotation is that the 35 members of NATO have to participate in the NATO-led mission, not simply a few. Unfortunately, today the British, the United States and the Dutch clearly are heavily engaged along with Canada. Then other covenants with countries such as Germany and others limit their activity, at night as an example. After Kandahar, we rotated out and went to Kabul. Again, on the principle of rotation, we rotated out and Turkey came in when we left.

No one said that this was a mission in which we would be there forever. We believe heavy lifting must be done by all members of NATO. Therefore, in April 2006, I had the pleasure to go to Afghanistan with the then foreign affairs minister, and we saw what our troops were doing on the ground. At that time, they said that we were the best equipped force on the ground in April 2006, except we needed medium lift. Both the foreign affairs minister and I were ferried around on American Chinook helicopters. We did not have that capability. That is something which I will come back to later, and it is addressed in the motion before the House.

From the beginning, we do not want to politicize this mission. For us, it is a Canadian mission.

In April 2006 the government put forward a motion to extend the mission in the form of military involvement until February 2009. It was after very limited debate, I believe about six hours. From that moment on, we said that the government needed to notify NATO about rotation. It needed to let NATO know that we would change and leave in February 2009. Unfortunately, the government dragged its feet when it came to notification. In fact, there was no notification.

Last month the government put forth a motion with regard to Afghanistan. This party looked at it very carefully and proposed our own approach. After consultation with the government, the government came back and embraced basically 95% of what we had put forward. I congratulate the members on that side for finally listening to Canadians. However, I point out that we said three key things: the mission must change; the mission must end; and it must be more than military.

In terms of the change, we have advocated training of Afghan security forces, whether they be the military, that is the national Afghan army, or the national Afghan police. I think all members of the House would concur, that what we want to see is the Afghans eventually have the ability to provide their own defence, that they are able to protect themselves. Therefore, the aspect of training is absolutely critical. At the moment, about 60,000 to 70,000 Afghan soldiers have been equipped and trained sufficiently.

The area of policing is absolutely critical. Where the national Afghan army is relatively well paid and trained, the Afghan police are not. We are trying to control an area with the local police that are not properly equipped and not properly trained. Many of these people are susceptible therefore to bribes and corruption because they do not have a sufficient salary and they do not have sufficient training. This is an area where we, on this side of the House, believe we can play a positive and useful role. That is in terms of changing the mission.

In terms of the mission ending, this is not an engagement in which we are there forever. This is a NATO-led mission in which all countries need to play an active and supportive role with regard to our Afghan allies. We have proposed that in terms of the training aspect, that this will all end in February 2011. The government has proposed July 2011 with an eventual withdrawal, I am assuming, by the end of the year. The government finally agreed to an end date, or at least an end year, which is 2011.

The mission must be more than military. We know, and history is a good guide, that military superiority is not possible. We see what happened with the Russians. The Department of National Defence produced a document, 3D, an evaluation of the Soviet experience in Afghanistan, which came out in October 2007 which said that superior numbers in the field will not and cannot work. Eventually, it is an issue of national reconciliation, which I will talk about a little later.

The fact is that we also have to deal with the diplomacy side. Diplomacy is absolutely critical in dealing with some of Afghanistan's neighbours, including Pakistan. I have had the pleasure of being to Pakistan several times. I have a number of colleagues in the Pakistan senate, including the former speaker and acting prime minister of the day, Mr. Soomro, who have talked very much and were engaged on the issue of what more Pakistan can do.

Yes, they have 80,000 troops along the border with Afghanistan, but the question is, how effective are they? Obviously, from the diplomatic side, working with our allies, whether it be Pakistan or China to some degree, is important because diplomatic pressure is critical.

We have been very pleased to see a rapprochement between Afghanistan and Pakistan, where President Karzai and President Musharraf have talked about some of the key issues with which they are dealing.

As we know, many of the tribes do not really recognize the border. They are very much interrelated across that boundary. Therefore diplomacy, putting pressure and working with our allies diplomatically, is critical, but the area of development is also absolutely essential.

The person in the local village wants to understand the value of what is going on. We have these national elections, which are all very nice, except where it happens is in a local village, a local hamlet.

As a former municipal councillor and former president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, I can tell the House that the FCM has done a lot around in the world in terms of empowerment at the village legal, which is absolutely essential.

People need to see new wells for clean water, a hydro-electric dam which will then actually bring electricity to a village, a clinic or a school where individuals who work in the clinic can be trained, whether they are cleaning the floors, doing the laundry or administering vaccinations. The whole program is all about substantive development at the village level.

We were pleased to see that the government, in support of the resolution, is prepared to put more emphasis on development because development is absolutely critical.

If we do not change the lives of people on the ground, it really does not matter about national elections if in fact the national government does not seem to be delivering on the ground at the local level. This is why of course things like training the national Afghan police are critical in terms of being able to hold that area as well. So, it has to be more than military. There has to be an emphasis on development. It needs to be more accountable.

In terms of CIDA, as we know, Afghanistan has become the number one recipient of Canadian aid. Yet, we have had difficulty in the past getting both the previous minister and this minister to account in terms of where the actual money is going, what is the status of many of these projects, and what is actually happening on the ground.

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to co-host with my colleague from British Columbia the international Red Cross committee based in Afghanistan which talked about the kinds of projects that are successfully being delivered, why they are important, how we are evaluating these projects and what kind of benchmarks we are setting to ensure that in fact these things are happening.

That is something which people want to see, both at home and abroad. They want to see that we are being successful. And so, part of that again is changing the end date, and being more than military. That is something that this side has emphasized very strongly in this House over the last year and a half.

I want to speak about the issue of training of the national Afghan army. We know that when we train people, sometimes we are going to obviously train them outside the wire. There has been some debate about how these troops would respond if they were fired upon. We do not intend, and it has never been our intent, to hamstring our soldiers on the ground in terms of being able to execute their responsibilities. There will be training. If fired upon, of course they would respond. This is not the situation where the UN handicapped former General Dallaire in Rwanda in 1993. We are not looking at that. We are looking at: if fired upon, obviously they would respond.

However, the major focus is obviously training, not just training in terms of the national Afghan police being able to do their job or for the army being able to do their job but also to have the confidence of people on the ground who are there to be protected. So, that is important.

Again, it is the reorientation of this mission which we have argued for. Reorientation also means rotation. I am pleased to see that the government is finally using that word and understanding that rotating means that others will have to come in.

In the resolutuion we talked about sufficient forces coming in. The government has talked about 1,000 troops. I am still not clear as to this magical number of 1,000, but I can tell members, again going back to that 3D report of Department of National Defence, that military superiority on the ground is not going to win. Eventually, it is going to be national reconciliation. But in terms of having more troops on the ground to assist us in terms of protecting our flanks, this is absolutely critical.

Again, our continuation is based on ensuring that there is protection for our forces who are there and also to continue with the provincial reconstruction team and development on the ground.

With regard to medium lift clarity, the government has indicated that it will not go forward without medium lift. We certainly agree with that. Again, because of the conditions on the ground at times, it is unsafe to move. We unfortunately had Canadian casualties and deaths because of a $10.00 device that blows up a million-dollar vehicle. Therefore, the ability to move troops by air is absolutely essential and, therefore, medium lift. However, this should have been requested over a year ago by the government.

We have a situation, at the 11th hour, where with the NATO meetings in Bucharest coming up the first week of April, we still do not have answers with regard to that. That is a very sad commentary about NATO in general, that no one has stepped up to say they are going to offer the appropriate airlift that we need.

A balance is obviously required and, again, we go back to the issue of defence, diplomacy and development. We have argued all along that this is more than military. It has to be about concrete development with clear benchmarks for Canadians, so that they will know where the money is going, and they will be able to say these are the success stories and we can now move this along.

There is no question that we have, both in the House and certainly in the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, been seized with the Afghan issue. An array of speakers have come before the standing committee. They have had various viewpoints but all of them agree that this mission cannot be simply a military force on the ground and that this is certainly not Canada's mission alone.

We need to ensure that we deal with issues such as the narcotics economy, the issue of poppies, and how we deal with the situation where farmers get money for poppy crops. They are eventually developed into products such as opium and of course land on the streets in Canada and other countries around the world. We need an effective strategy to assist our Afghan partners in ensuring that other types of crops can be developed that will be lucrative for those farmers.

We need to have accountability to Parliament. Liberals have argued, and the resolution stresses it very strongly, that the government, particularly the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of National Defence and the Minister of International Cooperation, reports back on a regular basis to parliamentarians. Ultimately, it is Parliament and Parliament's will that is essential in understanding what is going on. We need those updates on a regular basis and Liberals have called for it.

In the resolution we have also called on the government to support the fact that departments have to talk to each other. Instead of silos, which unfortunately we are often famous for in Ottawa, National Defence, Foreign Affairs and CIDA need to talk to each other and be on the same page in understanding where we are in Afghanistan. That is absolutely essential.

There is the issue of cooperation. We, on this side of the House as well as the government because of the resolution, are going to have to work much more effectively and closely with our allies on the ground in terms of diplomatic issues and development. These are essential in order to improve the life of the average person in Afghanistan.

The Liberals chose today to debate this topic for another day in the House because it is important for all colleagues to be able to have their say so people will understand the various issues prior to whenever the vote is taken on the issue of 2011. We have some clarity now from the government on 2011. There is still the issue of why the July date and we need to have that dealt with.

As for accountability, reporting to parliamentarians is critical. This is something Canadians have stressed. People need to be reminded that this debate should not even be occurring now. Had the government taken the actions that the Liberals had called for over a year and a half ago about rotation after the April 2006 vote, we would not be in the situation now, with less than a year to go until the end of February 2009, and having this debate.

Of course, the other question is: What happens in Bucharest? The government has made it very clear, and Liberals certainly concur, that unless certain conditions I have outlined are met, the mission will have to end totally in February 2009 simply because the conditions need to be met.

There is certainly agreement in the chamber on the fact that, without the conditions, we are not prepared to move ahead. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of National Defence and the Minister of International Cooperation all realize that we have to have those conditions not only for our soldiers and CIDA workers on the ground but in general.

If NATO is serious about making sure that this mission is successful, and there is much debate and discussion as to not providing the same resources it did in Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina at the time, without that kind of support, the mission is not going to be successful.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege and an honour to speak in this debate today.

I do have a question for my hon. colleague across the way. This kind of reminds me of a lot of the rhetoric that we heard on the budget. I am happy to hear the member say he is going to support the extension of the mission to 2011. It has taken a while, but the opposition has finally come to its senses and has recognized that this is the logical and right thing to do. I am glad to hear those members are supporting this. Although my colleague is trying to invent a few reasons as to why he is opposed to it, at the end of the day he is still going to support it.

Could the member tell me, in his opinion, why the members of the NDP and the members of the Bloc are basically opposed to anything and everything? Maybe that is why they will never form a government. They talk about pulling our troops out of Afghanistan and sending them to Darfur, where not even the people we would be trying to help really and truly want them. That government does not want our troops there and it has said that even peacekeepers will be slaughtered. Why do those members continue down that road?

I would like to hear the member speak a bit more about the safety, et cetera, of the compound in Afghanistan. I have talked to numerous soldiers who have come back from there. If that member has not done so, I suggest that he do. With all due respect, I take their comments above even those of my Prime Minister and my defence minister, because those soldiers have been there. They have “seen that, done that”, as the old saying goes. We have to talk to these people.

Let me get back to my question about the compound. If we do not protect and secure the area around it, our young men and women are going to be like sitting ducks. Why does the member not seem to realize that security is not necessarily combat? I would like him to comment on the fact that we have not lost a soldier in Afghanistan to actual hand to hand combat in over a year, although I am not sure of the exact date. I think that says something. It is a different kind of warfare in Afghanistan. I would like to hear the member's comments.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Bryon Wilfert Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

First, Mr. Speaker, I would point out to my hon. colleague that we are not agreeing to extend the mission in its present form. What we did agree to is that the mission must change, it must end and it must be more than military. Again, I want to point out to the member that this could have been done a long time ago, but unfortunately there was not the political will on the other side to do so.

However, there is no question that when it comes to this mission, the mission will not be the same as it presently is. I emphasize that very strongly.

As for the troops on the ground, having been to Afghanistan, I can say about speaking to troops on the ground and to troops who have come home that it makes a certain impact on a person. I am the son of a former World War II combat soldier who was a foot soldier. We all know that foot soldiers obviously are the ones who do the real heaving lifting, or at least that is what my father always told me. When they got into tough situations, the infantry came in.

These people put their lives on the line every day. Whether they are in actual hand to hand combat, securing a compound, or training, they are in a war zone. We certainly understand that when we get off the plane there and have our helmets and our flak jackets on and people are there to ensure that we get back home.

At the time the Minister of Foreign Affairs, a member of the New Democratic Party and I were there, people wanted to make sure that we all got home. When we are there, we are seized by that fact. In the middle of the night when rockets come in, we know that we are clearly in a war zone. Thus, while we want to emphasize these other aspects of diplomacy and development, which are absolutely critical, we believe that for this mission to succeed all aspects have to be dealt with.

On the issue of the New Democratic Party or the Bloc, it is really not up to me to comment. I think all members of the House support our troops regardless of whether they agree with the change in this mission or whatever. They obviously have to answer for themselves, but I think all members of the House certainly support our troops on the ground. I know that for a fact. What I do know, though, is that the approaches that some of the parties are taking are different. They obviously will have to account for those approaches, just as we have to account for the approach we have taken.

However, I certainly agree with the member: we want to make sure that when our forces are there, they are all well protected. We do realize that even in training they may be exposed to attack from time to time. At the end of the day, we do not intend to handicap them. As I say, we have seen that happen before and it certainly has had tragic results, particularly in Rwanda.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Beauce Québec


Maxime Bernier ConservativeMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address the House, and I would like to inform you that I will share my time with the hon. Minister of International Cooperation.

I am very grateful to have the opportunity to speak to the House today about Canada's role in Afghanistan. Last week, as you know, I attended a meeting of NATO's foreign affairs ministers in Brussels. My NATO counterparts and I had very productive and constructive talks. We discussed several issues, including NATO deployed operations and partnerships. We discussed the situation in Afghanistan and the NATO-led mission there. One of the main objectives of this meeting was to present the measures our government is taking in response to the recommendations made by the panel led by Canada's former foreign affairs minister, Mr. Manley.

I informed my colleagues of Canada's conditions for continuing the mission in Afghanistan after February 2009. First, we need to secure a partner that will provide a battle group of approximately 1,000 to support our efforts in Kandahar. Second, I told my counterparts that we need better equipment for our troops, such as medium-lift helicopters and high performance unmanned aerial vehicles. We would need this equipment and the troops before February 2009. I hope—and I am optimistic—that we will be able to find a partner in the coming weeks.

The equipment and troop requirements have been made clear to our allies, and I can say that they were very receptive to our objectives. They understand how important this mission is to NATO, and they understand how important this mission is to our country. I would like to assure my colleagues, the members of this House, that the mission in Afghanistan is our government's top priority.

The mission of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan demonstrates that NATO can play a significant role in establishing peace and security outside of the Euro-Atlantic region. Forty countries, including Canada, are participating in the international force's UN-mandated , NATO-led mission in Afghanistan. In addition to 26 NATO member countries, 14 other European and Asian countries are participating.

Why are we taking part in this mission? This is a legitimate question, and I would like to answer it today: we think that countries like Canada have a role to play on the international stage. Together with over 60 countries and international organizations, Canada is in Afghanistan as part of a UN-mandated mission to build a stable, democratic and self-sufficient society.

Two years ago, the United Nations, the Afghan government and members of the international community, including Canada, adopted the Afghanistan Compact. The purpose of the compact is to improve coordination between the Afghan government and governments in the international community. It provides direction for our involvement and details results, benchmarks, deadlines and mutual obligations in three specific areas: security; governance, rule of law and human rights, of course; and economic and social development. What this really means— and we have heard this many times—is that there can be no development without security.

Conversely, security will not last if development does not progress, bringing better roads, improved access to health care and education, and significant economic opportunities for Afghans. Access to more opportunities will encourage the Afghan people to take control of their country's stability and prosperity.

Let us not fool ourselves: this is a major challenge for Canada and the international community. Despite the difficulties, we must not lose sight of the progress we have made over the past few years.

For example, nearly six million children are now attending school, while under the Taliban regime, only 700,000 children went to school, and sadly, none of them were girls.

As a result of the wide-ranging international efforts there, Afghanistan has been able to begin to rebuild itself. The security we are helping to create is vital for this process of reconstruction. Every day the Canadian Forces and others work to create security in Afghanistan.

Last week, all hon. members of the House saw another measure of progress in Afghanistan. I refer to the recent visit of female Afghan parliamentarians to Ottawa. As the Prime Minister has observed, these brave women are fighting to change the history of their country. Their lives are on the line every day. These women know what a return to the rule by the extremist brutal Taliban would mean. Canadians should be proud that our country is backing up these brave women, our men and women in uniform, our diplomats and our aid workers, all helping Afghanistan rebuild itself.

Yes, our presence is needed in Afghanistan. That is why our government believes Parliament should approve the extension of our military mission in Kandahar. We are making a real positive difference in Afghanistan. We are demonstrating to Afghans and to our allies that Canada is a reliable partner in the quest for global security.

Parliamentarians also demonstrated that resolve in 2006. I refer to when the House voted for a two year extension of the mission. The end of the mandate is approaching and so the House will have to reach a decision on what comes next.

Our government has already been clear. We believe Canada should live up to its international obligations and commitments. We are optimistic that the majority of the members of the House will support our position. It is based on principle. It is based on a clear assessment of our international obligations.

We introduced a revised motion on February 21. It acknowledges what is required for Canada's mission to succeed in Afghanistan. It reiterates our commitment to the UN mandate on Afghanistan, but it also affirms that our commitment is not open-ended. It commits our government to notify NATO that Canada will end its presence in Kandahar as of July 2011. We would complete redeployment from the south by December of that year.

We believe this is a reasonable compromise. We believe it addresses the important questions Canadians have about the future of the mission. It is a clear and principled position. Our NATO allies must know where Canada stands. The government and people of Afghanistan must also know. We must also ensure our troops on the ground know where Canada stands. They deserve no less than this.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.


Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to what the minister had to say and I would like to ask him a question.

He went to a NATO meeting. There will be other NATO meetings. I, too, often go to those meetings. One thing we have often heard in this House concerning the mission and the policy of the three Ds is that far too much emphasis is being placed on defence, and not enough on development and diplomacy. However, the minister and his government were quick to embrace the Manley report. That report mentions not only extending the mission, but also sending an additional 1,000 soldiers and pilotless aircraft. It says nothing—or almost nothing—about construction and diplomacy.

Why does the minister continue to pursue a military approach? Why did he not use his presence at the NATO meetings as an opportunity to ask other NATO countries to replace Canada in southern Afghanistan, since that is where we are paying the heaviest price?

The minister failed in his duty. He should have told the NATO countries that we have done our part, that we have lost 79 soldiers, that it has been incredibly costly for us to remain in the south and that it is now time for another country to do its part. But he did not do so and continues to pursue a military approach instead of moving towards a better rotation of everyone who should be working together in Afghanistan.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.


Maxime Bernier Conservative Beauce, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to reaffirm that the Afghanistan mission is multi-faceted. To ensure economic development and to help the Afghan people we must establish security and stability in that country. Our Canadian Forces and NATO allies are there for that purpose.

I would like to repeat for my colleague that the Government of Canada will invest more than $1 billion through 2011 to ensure, and rightly so, basic economic development for the Afghans. This development cannot take place without first providing security.

As I mentioned in my speech, after economic development we must ensure that Afghans are able to take their future in hand. That is why, until 2011, we will train the Afghan army and police so that they can be responsible for their own sovereignty and security.

I also would like to remind my colleague that, at the end of this year, we will have more than 65 civilians in Afghanistan assisting the army. We will have high-level active civilians with experience in international aid. My colleague, the Minister of International Cooperation will be speaking more about development next.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.


Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for presenting the government's case to Parliament. There is the question of what is actual, reliable, honest-to-goodness foreign policy and what the government seems to have put forward. On the ground, security is down, civilian deaths are up, poppy production is up and corruption is up. It seems the government believes the prescription for that is more troops, drones and helicopters.

The government is probably going to get its 1,000 troops. I think it knew that before it came to the House, with the Liberals, to extend the war to 2011. If those troops come from the United States, whose command and control will those soldiers be under? Will they be under Canadian command and control or will they be under American command and control and will it be Operation Enduring Freedom or will it be part of ISAF?

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.


Maxime Bernier Conservative Beauce, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is very clear it is a UN mission, but under NATO command. We are working with our allies to ensure that we provide security in Afghanistan. I know the hon. member is going to have the privilege this afternoon, after question period, to hear from the Minister of National Defence about the things we are doing there.

Everyone knows it is a challenging situation in Kandahar, but we have to do the job. We are there. We have a commitment and we will finish the job. To finish the job and to succeed, we need 1,000 troops. I am optimistic that in the near future we will have those troops and we will be able to succeed in Afghanistan.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Durham Ontario


Bev Oda ConservativeMinister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, my colleague, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, just provided an overview of Canada's commitment to NATO in Afghanistan. He explained how the Afghanistan Compact guides international efforts in three areas: security, development and governance.

As members know, six female Afghan parliamentarians joined us in Ottawa during International Women's Week. They, above all, know how important security, development and governance is to their country.

Over the week, they expressed their gratitude for Canada's presence in Afghanistan and strongly stressed how important it was for Canada to stay the course. Each day they live in the reality that is Afghanistan and recognize that without security there can be no development.

Each is a woman of courage and determination and the roots of their commitment are founded in their personal stories. They serve as politicians with their lives under threat and under onerous conditions. One told of how her husband and children were killed by the insurgents, and yet they are willing to serve in public life, to see a better future for the Afghan people. They told me of their fears of what would happen if the 60 nations, which are working to bring stability to their people, were to abandon Afghanistan prematurely.

Like all mothers around the world, they want peace and stability. One spoke of her 11-month-old baby. She said what she wanted most was a good education for her children. They know already that in only six years, millions of children are now going to school. However, they also know thousands of other children are seeking the same opportunity. That is why Canada is the largest donor to the biggest education initiative of the Afghan government. They said that it was important for Canada to continue supporting the training of female teachers to teach young girls, who under the Taliban were denied formal education.

The Afghan women were grateful that maternal deaths had been reduced and that infants were now surviving beyond their fifth birthdays. They know Canada is helping to ensure that women and their children are being vaccinated to fight diseases like polio, tetanus and malaria.

They told me how women were now starting their own small businesses with the help of the microfinancing program supported by Canada and how this was bringing more financial independence to these enterprising women.

They know Canadian-supported literacy training for women means improved nutrition and health care for their children and families.

As parliamentarians, these women had a special appreciation of the work Canada was doing to ensure that Afghan women had access to their rights and protection from abuse and violence under the law. During the Taliban regime, the women of Afghanistan were more often the victims of violence and oppression. They said that there were now stronger protection laws for Afghan women and asked for increased access to legal aid.

Canada is supporting the new Afghanistan independent human rights commission, which promotes human rights and monitors and investigates violations. This is why we will continue to support projects that strengthen the institutions of good governance and a strong justice system. Through an experienced organization, Canada has supported the training of prosecutors and judges.

For all these reasons, the Afghan parliamentarians are grateful to Canada for its work and support that has brought about a real difference in their lives.

On behalf of the Afghan people, they outlined what more they knew had yet to be accomplished. We must listen to these women and continue in our work in Afghanistan, and we will. We will do it effectively so the Afghan people see positive changes in their lives.

CIDA now has over 20 persons on the ground in Afghanistan. We have plans to increase that number to 35 this year. I will be delegating more authority to those in the field. CIDA also has a quick response program to support initiatives that meet local needs as they arise. These steps will mean that we are able to act more quickly and be more responsive to situations on the ground.

CIDA officials in Afghanistan, working with our security personnel, will make decisions on their movements in the field without having to receive clearance from headquarters here in Canada. This will mean that those who can assess the security situation on the ground are actually making the decision on the movement of our CIDA personnel.

We are currently doing our due diligence to identify projects that will bring more awareness of Canada's presence in Afghanistan. Such a project will have to meet the needs of the Afghan people, be able to be executed efficiently and accountably, and be sustainable, as well as being in accord with the aims of the Afghan government.

We will ensure regular reports are available to Canadians of the development progress being made. We will continue to work to increasing donor coordination among our partner countries, aid agencies and NGOs to achieve greater effectiveness.

Much has been accomplished, but there is still much to be done. Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world. There is still a great humanitarian need through much of the country. Afghans face the obstacles of poverty, receive limited basic health care services and need to rebuild their infrastructure for clean water, roads and industry.

That is why Canada has provided support to the world food program, delivering food to those facing a severe winter and rising food prices.

With the World Health Organization, Canada has enabled access to basic health care and immunization programs for hundreds of thousands of children and women.

With Canada's support, communities are being rebuilt. Through over 12,000 village councils, local projects have reconstructed bridges, roads and irrigation canals. These are real results that are making a difference today and will mean a stronger future tomorrow.

Canada is a part of the United Nations effort. On the invitation of a democratically elected government, Canada is working to bring a brighter future to Afghan women and to that ravaged country.

Sustainable Afghan institutions, its government and its public sector must develop the capacity to deliver good governance, the rule of law and basic human rights to their own people. Afghan parliamentarians recognize this and are grateful for the sacrifice of Canadians in rebuilding their country.

The women of Afghanistan know that the international effort is making a difference for them, their families, their children and their communities. Last week, women in Afghanistan celebrated International Women's Day because they can see how their lives are changing. As mothers, wives, caregivers, employers and employees, as teachers and politicians, Afghan women do not want to return to life under oppression and violence.

The Afghan people are a strong, proud and determined people who know that with the return of a safe and secure country they can succeed. With Canada's continued support, they will achieve their vision of a strong, free and prosperous nation. By supporting the motion before the House, Canada can do its part.

I encourage all members of this House to support the government motion.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


Robert Vincent Bloc Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, we have been in Kandahar, Afghanistan, for several years now, and for a month and a half we have been searching for 1,000 new troops to support the mission in Afghanistan. In that month and a half, it has proven to be so difficult to find people to assist us that I am wondering if anyone else will want to replace us if we stay in Afghanistan until 2011. We are not even able to get the UN to send new troops to help us, so imagine what will be the case when we leave in 2011. I do not know what will happen.

What does the minister think will happen if we do not find the 1,000 troops we need by February 2009? Indeed, we are having a hard time finding them.

Can the minister also talk about the schools that have been built with the money of Canadians and Quebeckers since Canada has been in Afghanistan? Furthermore, of the schools we have built, how many are still in use?

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


Bev Oda Conservative Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, in reply to the question from the member of the opposition, I must tell members that progress is being made. As we heard today, and as I spoke about, the people of Afghanistan are seeing an actual difference.

I will quote from what was reported just this weekend. Women in Afghanistan were celebrating International Women's Day and, as they said, every year “is better than last year and the year before last year”. As was said, “Every day the women's life becomes a little better”.

We are making progress. We are seeing more children going to school and more infants surviving their birth and living to beyond five years of age.

We know that progress is being made and we also know that this month there will be 2,000 additional American troops to support our Canadian efforts in Afghanistan, and we have been talking about offers of assistance from various countries, not only with the Minister of National Defence but our Minister of Foreign Affairs and myself as well. We have countries coming forward and helping with Canada's efforts in Afghanistan.

As far as the schools are concerned, let me tell members that we have hundreds of schools being built and millions of children going to school. We have children who want to come to school but are not able to because we need to ensure that they are safe and secure.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

We have two minutes left. I would like to give a chance to two MPs to ask questions. That means 30 seconds each.

The hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1 p.m.


Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the minister. Mr. Manley said in his report that Canada should be doing “signature” projects that would be easily promoted in Canada.

We also know that as an aid project the military has been building roads that seem to support the military operations, but Oxfam says that what has not been done are local projects that build community capabilities to solve problems, reduce violence, enhance resistance to militants and strengthen community coherence, and that this is a major project toward peace.

Could the minister tell us what kinds of projects at the very local level Canada is supporting?

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The minister has 30 seconds.