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House of Commons Hansard #88 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was election.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Opposition Motion—Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

Vote #110

Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I declare the motion lost.

The New Democratic Party whip on a point of order.

Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. During the recorded division that just took place, no NDP member rose to vote on the Liberal opposition motion. I would like to inform all members that every member of the NDP caucus was present for this vote, and that our abstention reflects our desire to support unemployed workers rather than the Liberals' wish for an election.

Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I see where the member is coming from, but it is not a point of order.

It being 5:45 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Universal Declaration on Animal WelfarePrivate Members' Business

October 1st, 2009 / 5:40 p.m.

Liberal

Michelle Simson Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

moved:

Motion No. 354

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should support the development and adoption of a Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare at the United Nations as well as at all relevant international organizations and forums.

Madam Speaker, I am very honoured to rise today to present Motion No. 354.

Before I begin, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the member for Burnaby—Douglas who had a similar motion on the order paper. The member graciously agreed to withdraw his motion so I could proceed with the motion we are debating today.

I would also like to thank my caucus colleague, the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, for her continued support and counsel. She is extremely passionate about this issue and I am grateful for all of her support.

World Animal Week is set to begin next week, making the debate of this motion extremely timely for Canada to vote to support the development of a universal declaration on animal welfare, or UDAW.

What is the universal declaration on animal welfare? To put it simply, it is an agreement among people and nations to recognize that animals are sentient, suffer, have welfare needs and to ultimately end animal cruelty worldwide.

The UDAW refers to the welfare of sentient animals. Sentience is the capacity to have feelings and to experience suffering and pleasure. It implies a level of conscious awareness. Scientific research indicates that all vertebrates are animals. This is an active research area and knowledge of sentience among species continues to grow.

More than a billion people rely on animals for their livelihoods and even more for job and food security. For many others, animals are companions that enrich their lives. While it has been proven that animals can feel pain and do suffer, global recognition of the significance of animal welfare remains virtually non-existent.

The UDAW will be structured as a set of general principles that acknowledge and emphasize the importance of animal welfare. The purpose of these principles is to encourage all nations to put in place or enhance existing animal welfare laws and standards. The UDAW will not be binding legislation and does not, therefore, attribute legal rights to animals.

A draft text was developed at the Manila Conference on Animal Welfare in March 2003 and at the Costa Rica steering committee meeting in November 2005. This is the basis for work on the drafting of a universal declaration on animal welfare and is in part based on the following:

That animal welfare is an issue worth consideration by governments.

That the promotion of animal welfare requires collective action and all stakeholders and affected parties must be involved.

That work on animal welfare is a continuous process....

RECOGNIZING that animals are living, sentient beings and therefore deserve due consideration and respect;

RECOGNIZING that animal welfare includes animal health [and that veterinarians have an essential role in maintaining both the health and welfare of animals];

RECOGNIZING that humans [inhabit] this planet with other species and other forms of life and that all forms of life co-exist within an interdependent ecosystem;...

ACKNOWLEDGING that the humane use of animals can have major benefits for humans;

This draft text also outlines the principles of the declaration as being:

1. The welfare of animals shall be a common objective for all [states];

2. The standards of animal welfare attained by each [state] shall be promoted, recognized and observed by improved measures, nationally and internationally. [Whilst there are significant social, economic and cultural differences between societies, each should care for and treat animals in a humane and sustainable manner][in accordance with the principles of the Declaration];

3. All appropriate steps shall be taken by [states] to prevent cruelty to animals and to reduce their suffering; 4. Appropriate standards on the welfare of animals be further developed and elaborated such as, but not limited to, those governing the use and management of farm animals, companion animals, animals in scientific research, draught animals, wildlife animals and animals in recreation.

The next phase in securing international recognition of the welfare of animals is for this non-binding agreement to be endorsed at the United Nations. The achievement of this declaration would be a groundbreaking step toward improvements for animals around the world and would act as a catalyst for change for animals in the following areas:

In the area of environmental sustainability, responsible animal management provides a positive impact on land use, climate change, pollution, water supplies, habitat conservation and biodiversity.

In the area of human health, proper animal care reduces the risk of disease transmission to humans and food poisoning. The human-animal bond also has proven therapeutic effects.

In the area of disaster management, animals are critical elements of many people's livelihoods, food security and cultural awareness. It is essential that protection be considered in disaster reduction preparedness and response policies.

In the area of poverty and hunger reduction, caring for animals appropriately improves productivity and helps farmers to provide food for themselves, their families and their communities.

In the area of social development, people's attitudes and behaviour toward animals overlap with their attitudes and behaviour toward each other.

The UDAW is supported by a growing list of government and key ministries from countries around the world including all 27 members of the European Union, as well as New Zealand, Australia, Sweden, Fiji, Croatia, Cambodia, Bahrain, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Norway and Thailand.

There is also a great deal of support from the public. More than 50,000 Canadians have signed petitions in support of a UDAW. Many of these petitions have been presented in the House of Commons. The UDAW is actively supported by Canada's foremost animal protection organizations including the World Society for the Protection of Animals.

Some may ask why we need a declaration now. In recent years our understanding of animal sentience has progressed dramatically. As a result, animal welfare has developed into an issue that demands immediate attention. The scientific basis of sentience is directly linked to an ethical concern for animal welfare.

There is currently no acknowledgement by the international community of animal welfare being an issue of importance. Neither the scientific findings regarding sentience nor the links between animal welfare and human development have been recognized.

Positive change for animals will follow recognition of animal welfare. Improving animal welfare will have a positive impact on human welfare. Reducing the pain and suffering that humans can inflict on animals will guide our relationship with them. The UDAW represents a new national beginning for our relationship with animals.

The achievement of the declaration is an important step and will act as a catalyst for change in the following ways: by raising the status of animal welfare as an international issue; by encouraging all governments to establish or improve national animal welfare legislation and its implementation; by encouraging those industries which utilize animals to keep their welfare at the forefront of their policies and practices; and finally, by inspiring positive change in public attitudes and actions toward animals.

It is important to emphasize two points. First, the UDAW has yet to be finalized and is only in a draft form. The purpose of this motion is to urge the government to involve itself in the continued development of the text and to support it. Second, the UDAW is a non-binding resolution. Its purpose is to persuade other nations without animal protection legislation to put some in place.

The development of and support for a universal declaration on animal welfare does have an obvious relationship to the cruelty to animals legislation, but will not have a cause and effect relationship. As I mentioned before, the UDAW is a non-binding resolution. The passage of UDAW would not force any changes to our animal welfare laws that we do not as a nation choose to enact ourselves.

As for countries such as ours which have animal welfare legislation, it would provide an excellent opportunity to review current legislation to identify areas of improvement. We know that an update of our animal welfare laws is long overdue, although some work has already taken place.

A great deal of legislation has been introduced and debated in this House over the past number of years. Sadly, of all that legislation introduced, only Bill S-203 was successful in becoming law. While critics say that bill does not go far enough, which is something I concur with, I do think it is a small step in a positive direction.

It is my hope that this motion can be another step to influence not only Canada but the international community as well.

A universal declaration on animal welfare is not a conclusion; it is a beginning. It is a signal that, as a global community, we recognize the importance of animals in our lives and the positive impact they have on our way of life. It is a demonstration of our understanding that treating animals humanely is a benefit to our entire society. Supporting a UDAW is a simple, moral and principled action Canada could take with ease.

I strenuously urge all members to support Motion No. M-354.

Universal Declaration on Animal WelfarePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like my colleague from Scarborough Southwest to explain why she stated that should the Canadian government develop and adopt a universal declaration on animal welfare, UDAW, it would not be binding.

Universal Declaration on Animal WelfarePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Michelle Simson Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I stated in the speech, it is not binding. It is a resolution. It is an understanding and an acknowledgement how we as a nation feel about the welfare of animals.

Canada has led in so many areas in so many ways. I think it is time we got with the program on this. We are so far behind. There have been eight animal rights bills in as many years introduced in this House and only one bill has passed.

A declaration would be an excellent start. It would not be binding but, symbolically, it would say everything about us as a nation.

Universal Declaration on Animal WelfarePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I really appreciated my colleague's speech on the motion before us, but I had some trouble understanding the link between her speech and her party's position on Bill S-203.

If I am not mistaken, the Liberals and the NDP opposed that bill. Obviously, Bill S-203 did not go as far as we would have liked, but it at least made it possible to end the status quo.

Why did the Liberals introduce this motion today? When it was time to make the necessary legislative changes, the Liberal Party remained seated.

Universal Declaration on Animal WelfarePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Michelle Simson Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, with respect to that one bill, Bill S-203, it originated in the other place. It was extremely misleading in that it lulled Canadians into thinking that we were accomplishing something. For the most part, all parties were disappointed that it lacked any kind of depth or teeth.

This is a resolution. This is a commitment that we are looking for, which it is hoped will be heard around the world. This is about something we believe in as a nation, protecting animals, protecting those that have no ability to protect themselves.

Universal Declaration on Animal WelfarePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Scarborough Southwest for introducing this motion this afternoon. It is a topic that I have an interest in as well.

I wonder if she could say a little bit more about how this might influence the debate in Canada around animal welfare. We know the UDAW would not be a binding resolution, should it be adopted, but how might this raise the level of debate in Canada around animal welfare issues? What might it bring to that discussion that would be helpful for us when we finally get around to modernizing our animal cruelty laws here in Canada? We know that needs to be done. We have been disappointed by the efforts to do that in the past.

How could this international discussion influence our discussion here in Canada?

Universal Declaration on Animal WelfarePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Michelle Simson Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, it raises awareness of an issue that has not received enough time in the spotlight. It will also bring about discussion on the transport of animals and health safety. Given the fact that we are dealing with H1N1, which was called swine flu, all of these things come into play. This motion will put this whole issue into the spotlight, which it deserves.

Universal Declaration on Animal WelfarePrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

Calgary East Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada takes issues of animal welfare seriously, and it strongly pursues issues of animal protection. For this reason, our government is actively involved in issues of animal welfare, both on the domestic level and internationally.

Canada has long contributed to the development of international standards for animal health and welfare. Since taking up the request of member countries to become the lead international organization for animal welfare, the World Organisation for Animal Health has become the main international institution for advancing the development of science-based animal welfare standards and thus for improving the well-being and care of animals worldwide.

The World Organisation for Animal Health has formulated a number of international guidelines for the humane slaughter of animals, killing for disease control and for the transport of animals by air, land and sea.

As a member of the World Organisation for Animal Health, Canada supported that body's Resolution XIV of May 2007, in which it was decided to support in principle the development of a universal declaration on animal welfare calling on countries to acknowledge the importance of animal welfare. The same resolution recognized that the World Organisation for Animal Health is the established international animal welfare standard-setting body.

Our government wants to make sure that the subject of animal welfare continues to be given the attention it deserves and that positive progress continues to be made in order to improve the well-being of animals as an end in itself. For this reason, we support in principle the development of the universal declaration on animal welfare as a reflection of Canadians' commitment to the well-being of animals and this government's vigorous commitment to their protection.

However, while the development of a universal declaration on animal welfare is a laudable goal, we do not believe that the United Nations is the appropriate forum to address this issue. The United Nations Charter does not give the United Nations a mandate to address issues relating to animal welfare. Rather, the United Nations focuses its efforts on matters more immediately related to human welfare, such as peace and security, human rights and economic development. To suggest a new mandate for the United Nations would carry the risk of further stretching that organization's already expansive responsibilities and it would be inconsistent with Canada's strong efforts to improve the effectiveness and focus of the United Nations in its mandated areas of activity.

This government is committed to ensuring that the United Nations pursues a course of reform to become more effective, more accountable and more democratic. We have made this a priority in our engagement with the organization. These reform efforts are wide-ranging and comprehensive, to achieve an organization that is more responsive to the challenges of today.

We actively support institutional reform of key United Nations organizations, including the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council, and of course the Security Council. As the Minister of Foreign Affairs has stated, we must make the Security Council more effective, more accessible and more flexible, more adaptable to the challenges and opportunities of a broader international community.

This government is committed to ensuring that the structure of the United Nations meets the needs of the 21st century. We push for greater progress in the United Nations business practices and management practices to improve the accountability and efficiency of that institution, and we support the streamlining of working methods to make the United Nations more relevant in international discourse.

For Canada, the United Nations remains indispensable for addressing the many global challenges that confront us today. Canada's current priorities include progress on peace and security, economic development, human rights, climate change and terrorism.

From the very founding of the United Nations, Canada has contributed ideas, energy and resources to help the United Nations accomplish its mandate. Today, our government is contributing to peace and security and making significant sacrifices in United Nations-mandated operations, in areas ranging from Afghanistan to Sudan to Haiti. All told, more than 3,000 Canadian soldiers, police officers, diplomats, aid workers and experts in correctional services and justice are currently deployed in the United Nations-led or United Nations-mandated missions worldwide.

Mr. Speaker, could I ask my colleague to complete this speech due to the cough that I have?

Universal Declaration on Animal WelfarePrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is it agreeable to the House that the member for Yorkton—Melville be allowed to complete the remarks of the parliamentary secretary?

Universal Declaration on Animal WelfarePrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Universal Declaration on Animal WelfarePrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, Canadian activism on the issue of animal welfare could detract from the pursuit of these clear Canadian priorities, keeping in mind that the process of lobbying for support and negotiating texts at the United Nations can be a lengthy and energy consuming process.

For these reasons, the government prefers to see the important issue of animal welfare addressed by international institutions other than the United Nations and not be diminished in their importance, institutions which are already focused on this issue and have made valuable progress on this issue already.

The primary such institution is the World Organisation for Animal Health, of which Canada is an active and founding member. In this capacity, Canada already actively works to coordinate its activities with those of the international community, including through the development and implementation of international standards.

It is appropriate for Canada to continue its approach on animal welfare issues through this existing framework, rather than proposing a new mandated area of responsibility for the United Nations. This is not our role in the international community of member nations.

The government believes strongly that the World Organisation for Animal Health should continue to be the primary established international body for developing and improving science-based animal welfare standards.

The government supports the principle and general spirit of the motion and recognizes the laudable goals of a universal declaration on animal welfare. However, government support of this motion must be on condition that reference to the United Nations be removed as this issue is best dealt with by an existing organization responsible for animal welfare issues, the World Organisation for Animal Health.

Furthermore, I have to raise the important fact that any universal declaration on animal welfare could potentially carry long-term consequences, which we are not today in a position to predict. Because there is at present no accepted international text for such a declaration, such a text must first be negotiated by the appropriate international body. The final document could conceivably include provisions that the current proponents would never have intended, or they could include provisions that would be contrary to the national interests of Canada and the well-being of Canadians.

It would be unwise for Canada to commit itself to adopting a certain document under international negotiation before being fully able to assess that document's implications on domestic law. For that reason, the government could only support this motion if it were made clear that we support the underlying principle, but that we maintain the flexibility to be able to judge the final document based on its content rather than on its spirit.

This position is consistent with our government's approach to this issue in 2007, when we supported, in principle, the development of a universal declaration on animal welfare at the World Organisation for Animal Health. We continue to support this goal.

I therefore move that Motion No. 354 be amended as follows:

That, the words “at the United Nations as well as” be removed, that the words “and adoption” be removed, and that the words “in principle” be inserted in its place.

The motion would then read as follows:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should support, in principle, the development of a Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare at all relevant international organizations and forums.

Universal Declaration on Animal WelfarePrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It is my duty to inform hon. members that pursuant to Standing Order 93(3) no amendment may be proposed to a private member's motion or to the motion for second reading of a private member's bill unless the sponsor of the item indicates his or her consent.

Therefore, I ask the hon. member for Scarborough Southwest if she consents to the amendment being moved.

Universal Declaration on Animal WelfarePrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Michelle Simson Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Yes, I do consent, Mr. Speaker.

Universal Declaration on Animal WelfarePrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The amendment is in order.

Resuming debate with the amendment.

The hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie.

Universal Declaration on Animal WelfarePrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Motion M-354 to support the development and adoption of a Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare at the United Nations.

We are in favour of a Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare at the United Nations, provided an in-depth study is done. The Bloc Québécois is aware that animals are living beings and that it is important to respect them and treat them with dignity. That is why we are supporting a universal declaration on animal welfare in principle.

The purpose of this declaration is to develop a series of principles acceptable to all those who recognize that animal welfare is a major issue with respect to the social development of nations worldwide.

The Universal Declaration of Animal Rights was formally proclaimed in Paris on October 15, 1978, at UNESCO headquarters. This universal declaration is a philosophical position on the relationship that should henceforth exist between humans and animals. The text was revised by the International League of Animal Rights in 1989 and published in 1990.

The Bloc supports the international efforts made. It also believes that cruelty towards animals is unacceptable and that the federal government must take action to ensure that it is roundly condemned. In recent parliaments, our party has carefully examined the issue of bolstering the law in order to explicitly condemn animal abuse and to put to an end to cruel breeding operations.

Although some amendments were recently made to the Criminal Code, the Bloc Québécois believes we must do more and it is in favour of a real reform of the animal cruelty provisions.

The current maximum sentences under the Criminal Code are too lenient for the seriousness of the acts committed.

The Bloc also favours making the ban on owning animals indefinite in order to prevent certain foreseeable animal abuse from taking place. A breeder who has been found guilty of mistreatment should not have the right to re-open a kennel the day after being sentenced. We call those operations puppy mills.

Above all the Bloc Québécois feels that the definition of the term animal should be included in the Criminal Code. At present, the section on cruelty to animals is found under property offences. That does not seem to reflect today's reality.

That is why, during committee study of Bill S-203, the Bloc Québécois proposed the idea of introducing a definition of what an animal is, sought to protect stray as well as domestic animals, wanted to clarify the criterion for negligence, thereby making it easier to prove, and proposed an amendment to formally ban training cocks to fight.

Unfortunately, the Bloc's proposed amendments were rejected and the committee agreed on February 14, 2008, to report the bill without amendments.

That did not stop the Bloc Québécois from supporting Bill S-203 in that it was a small but real step in the right direction and it did not prevent the possible study and adoption of a more comprehensive bill in line with Bill C-50. The NDP tried to kill the bill.

But Bill S-203 would have helped protect animals from certain forms of cruelty—one of the concerns of the Bloc Québécois—and would have increased the maximum penalties set out in the Criminal Code to reflect the seriousness of the crime, sent a message to people who mistreat animals, and sent a message to judges who would have had to take this into account in their sentences. In fact, the seriousness of a crime is partly determined by the maximum penalty a criminal may be subject to.

Bill S-203 also enabled judges to prohibit an individual found guilty from owning or residing with animals for a period of five years, and to order the offender to reimburse the costs incurred by their actions. Lastly, Bill S-203 did not threaten legitimate activities involving the death of an animal, such as agriculture, hunting and fishing.

The NDP and the Liberals had some twisted logic. Instead of voting in favour of improving the bill—it is true that there is more to be done—they preferred to stick to the status quo that they so fiercely protest. They passed up a perfect opportunity to participate in the advancement of animal rights.

If the NDP and the Liberals truly had animal protection at heart, they would have acted differently. They would have followed the Bloc Québécois' example and acted responsibly. Although the Bloc Québécois is aware of the limitations of Bill S-203, it finds that this bill is a small but real step in the right direction, and does not hinder the possible study and adoption of another, more comprehensive bill.

The Bloc Québécois is making no secret of this. It is in favour of a real reform of the animal cruelty provisions and will seriously study any proposals brought forward on this matter again.

The Bloc was particularly in favour of the principle of Bill C-50, which would have created a new section in the Criminal Code to address cruelty to animals, removing this topic from the sections of the code that deal with property.

In closing, of course we support the principle of Motion M-354. We think it is important to adopt a universal declaration of animal welfare, but we also think we must go further. As legislators, we must go ahead with a real reform of the Criminal Code in order to really address the fundamental problem of cruelty to animals.

Universal Declaration on Animal WelfarePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont Alberta

Conservative

Mike Lake ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, given the circumstances of the parliamentary secretary who spoke earlier and who had to leave because he was coughing and had handed his speech to the member for Yorkton—Melville, if you sought it, I think you would find unanimous consent that, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville be allowed to speak a second time to Motion No. 354.

Universal Declaration on Animal WelfarePrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Does the hon. parliamentary secretary have unanimous consent?

Universal Declaration on Animal WelfarePrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Universal Declaration on Animal WelfarePrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak in the debate on Motion No. 354 moved by the member for Scarborough Southwest and now amended by the Conservative member for Yorkton—Melville. I am glad this happening. There is a lot of co-operation happening in the House this evening on this important motion.

This speaks well of the ability of members to co-operate and get important work done in this place. We do not hear about that very often these days about Parliament and I am pleased we have had the opportunity to co-operate together to get this issue on the agenda and to make progress toward a universal declaration on animal welfare and Canada's participation in that process.

When the member for Scarborough Southwest began her remarks, she noted that I had on the order paper a very similar motion to her original motion and had agreed to withdraw it so she could use her place in private members' business to see this issue debated. I very happily did that.

It is great that we are able to see this issue debated and I am glad she was able to bring it forward, with the co-operation of her colleagues.

Then this evening the government put forward a proposal that would make the motion something that it would be able to support. We have all heard the proposal, looked at it and agreed this should go forward.

I am glad we have a working motion, an amended motion, to consider here, which seems to have received co-operation from many corners of the House.

I first heard about the universal declaration on animal welfare when I met with representatives from the World Society for the Protection of Animals several years ago. I had not heard about this important initiative prior to that meeting. I was glad to meet with the folks from WSPA and hear about it.

WSPA is one of the world's largest alliances of animal welfare organizations and it continues to grow. Right now it is around 850 member societies in over 150 countries, which is a very significant group of animal welfare organizations.

WSPA and its key partners are acting as the secretariat for the group of steering committee governments championing the initiative in their respective regions of the world. Therefore, WSPA is very involved in the promotion of the universal declaration on animal welfare.

It has many key partners: the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Humane Society International, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Compassion in World Farming. It also has support from over 300 of WSPA's member societies.

Therefore, a significant group of organizations deal with animal welfare issues around the world that are supporting this initiative and support the activity of WSPA.

The UDAW, as we heard already this evening, is an agreement among nations to recognize that animals are sentient and can suffer, and to respect their welfare and to end animal cruelty. These are all important goals that merit being debated in this place and in other parliaments and assemblies around the world and in other organizations that deal with animal welfare around the world.

The UDAW is proposed to be a non-binding set of basic principles that would encourage all nations to put in place improved animal welfare laws and standards, a set of guidelines and recommendations that we can judge our own efforts in our country and in countries around the world.

It is suggested by the organizers that the final destination for the UDAW is the General Assembly of the United Nations. We have heard this evening that the government takes some issue with that. Our government has taken the position that the United Nations might not be the appropriate venue for this resolution.

That is something we can debate and it merits consideration. The government has made the point that it believes the United Nations should be about human relationships and human activities. I think the people who support the universal declaration on animal welfare will say that the interdependence between animals and humans is so intimate that this is something of direct concern to humanity and should be debated at the world body of this planet.

Therefore, I think this is an argument about which we will hear more. There is nothing in the amended resolution that does not preclude us winning that argument and seeing that the United Nations would be deemed even by our own government as relevant international organization or forum. I look forward to that continuing discussion.

Sentience is defined as the capacity to have feelings and to experience suffering and pleasure. It implies a level of conscious awareness. The recognition of sentience in animals is a crucial bottom line in dealing with animal welfare issues.

Animal welfare discussions are also guided by five freedoms that are stated in the draft of the universal declaration on animal welfare. Those five freedoms are described as freedom from hunger; freedom from thirst and malnutrition; freedom from fear and distress; freedom from physical and thermal discomfort; freedom from pain, injury and disease; and freedom to express normal patterns of behaviour.

I think we can all appreciate why those are all very crucial to the well-being of an animal. Their basic care, their basic needs, the freedom from pain, injury and disease, and the freedom to express their normal pattern of behaviour are all things that make sense. They are very basic freedoms that I think are easy to appreciate.

Going back to the whole issue of the interdependence of animals and human beings, the humane use of animals benefits people. We know this from our experience here in Canada and around the world. People rely on animals for their livelihoods, jobs and food security. We know that responsible animal management provides a positive impact on land use, climate change, pollution, water supplies, habitat conservation and biodiversity.

Our relationship with animals has a direct effect on our environment, and that opens up a whole other argument about the appropriate forum for the discussion of the universal declaration on animal welfare. I would contend that when we think about that appropriate forum, it puts the UN back in the picture.

Proper animal care reduces the risk of diseases transmittable to humans, improves productivity and helps farmers provide food for their communities. That direct link between animals and humans is further extended by those issues of disease transmission, the productivity of our farms, food production, and the need for food security in our communities.

Already a number of countries have supported the development of this initiative and the list of those countries is growing all the time. Back in March, the European Union formally announced its support for the UDAW through the council conclusion endorsed by all 27 EU agriculture members. In 2007, the World Organisation for Animal Health, which represents the chief veterinarians of 69 countries including Canada, voted unanimously in favour of developing a universal declaration on animal welfare.

There is support in many countries and organizations among professionals who deal with animals. I think that it makes sense for us to be discussing this here in the House of Commons in Canada and to be lending our support to the development of this important new international declaration.

We know that here in Canada we have had issues regarding the improvement of our legislation on cruelty to animals. We have debated it. We have tried a number of times to come up with new legislation and to update legislation that dates from two centuries ago. It is very old legislation. Some attempt was made and some of the penalties were updated, but the overall legislation still needs our attention.

We hope that we might find a way to do that here in Parliament and do it effectively. I believe that discussing and achieving a universal declaration on animal welfare will stimulate that further discussion here in Canada and give us cause to judge our attempts by this international declaration. I think that it will put our own efforts in a broader context and also challenge us to do more in the area of preventing animal cruelty and in speaking up for animal welfare in this country.

I am pleased to have had this discussion. I am glad that there seems to be a spirit of cooperation to see that this will move forward in the best possible way. I want to thank the member for Scarborough Southwest again for introducing this and making sure that it got on our agenda here in the House of Commons.