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.