House of Commons Hansard #229 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was dogs.

Topics

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, in no way do I want the member to take my question the wrong way.

I believe service animals, as an issue, are very important. The question I have for the member is in terms of overall priority. We will likely spend more time on debate on Bill C-35 than we will on Bill C-59, the budget implementation bill. That is with less than nine days of sitting left, at best, and an election around the corner.

Does the member personally have any issues in regard to spending more time on this bill than on the budget bill?

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, it sounds like the member from the Liberal Party is advocating for time allocation so that we can move speedily along.

If he wants to move said motion, I would be happy to entertain it.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

David Wilks Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to speak today on Bill C-35, commonly known as Quanto's law. I will begin my remarks today by acknowledging the broad support that Bill C-35, the justice for animals in service act has received not only in this House, but from many Canadians across our country.

Commonly referred to as Quanto's law, this bill is further evidence of the government's continued commitment to bringing forward criminal justice legislation that contributes to making Canadian communities safer. It should be noted that it was under this government in 2008 that existing penalties under the Criminal Code relating to offences for the mistreatment of animals were increased. An offence is committed under section 445 of the Criminal Code when someone wilfully or without lawful excuse kills, maims, wounds, poisons or injures an animal other than cattle. The maximum sentence that may be imposed where this offence is prosecuted as an indictable offence is five years imprisonment. As well, paragraph 738(1)(a) of the Criminal Code authorizes the court to order the offender to pay the costs associated with training a new animal as restitution for the loss of the animal where the amount is ascertainable.

As many members will know, Quanto was an Edmonton police service dog that was fatally stabbed on October 7, 2013, while assisting police in apprehending a suspect. The person who killed Quanto was subsequently convicted under the existing section 445 of the Criminal Code for the wilful killing of a dog, along with other offences arising out of the same set of events on October 7, 2013. He was sentenced to a total of 26 months, 18 of which were specifically for the killing of Quanto.

The judge stated:

...[the] attack on this dog wasn't just an attack on a dog. It was an attack on your society and what is meaningful in our society.

The tragic death of this law enforcement animal struck a chord with many Canadians. Law enforcement, legal and community groups have repeatedly called for greater recognition and protection of service animals. I am proud to say that Quanto's law fulfills a 2013 commitment in the Speech from the Throne to enact a law to recognize the daily tasks undertaken by animals used by police to assist them in enforcing the law and protecting society. Dogs like Quanto have been employed by Canadian law enforcement agencies for many years. Sadly, from time to time, some of these law enforcement animals have been intentionally injured or killed by criminals in the course of police operations.

The loss of such highly trained and motivated members of a law enforcement team not only has a direct operational impact on its ability to protect the community, it has significant financial implications for the affected police service. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police has estimated that the cost to train a police dog and its handler as a team is in excess of $60,000. Our government believes that the creation of a specific Criminal Code offence that includes a tailored sentencing regime, would contribute to the denunciation as well as deterrence, both general and specific, of such crimes in the future. Quanto's law proposes the creation of a new specific offence for the killing or injuring of a law enforcement animal, a service animal or a military animal. The objective of the amendment is to denounce and deter this conduct.

A law enforcement animal would be a dog or horse that has been trained to aid a law enforcement officer in carrying out the officer's law enforcement duties. A service animal would include an animal that has been trained to perform tasks that assist people with disabilities. This would include, for example, guide dogs for persons who are blind or have reduced vision, and dogs trained to assist persons suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. A military animal would include an animal trained to aid a member of the Canadian Armed Forces in carrying out his or her duties.

I would like to say something more in respect of the second and third enhancements, the mandatory minimum term of imprisonment and the consecutive sentence. During second reading debate of Quanto's law, questions were raised about the constitutionality of the mandatory minimum penalty of six months imprisonment for the new offence of killing a law enforcement animal that was assisting an officer in carrying out his or her duties.

The government's position remains firm that the mandatory minimum penalty proposed in this legislation would not result in a grossly disproportionate sentence and would withstand charter scrutiny. If this provision is challenged, the government will vigorously defend its constitutionality. It is our position that the requirement that the sentence imposed on an offender convicted of the new offence of killing or injuring a law enforcement animal, a service animal or a military animal be served consecutively to any other sentence that might be imposed on the offender arising out of the same event or series of events, is also justifiable.

Our law recognizes that in certain circumstances the nature of an offence committed is so serious and distinct that it requires a consecutive sentence in order to properly denounce and deter such conduct even though the offences might be committed as part of the same event or series of events. That is what Quanto's law does.

It also enhances the protection of law enforcement officers by adding section 270.03 to the Criminal Code. Going forward, the law will require that the sentence imposed on a person convicted of committing an assault, an assault causing bodily harm, an assault causing bodily harm with a weapon or an aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer be served consecutively to any other sentence that might be imposed arising out of the same event or series of events.

I just want to speak briefly about my own experiences as a member of the RCMP. A good friend of mine, whose name is on one of the markers just to the west of Centre Block, Michael Buday, was killed on March 19, 1985 as he went to apprehend Michael Eugene Oros near Atlin, British Columbia.

He was with his police service dog, Trooper. They had been taken along with the ERT team to apprehend Mr. Oros. Unfortunately Mike did not come home that day. Sadly, we could tell that Trooper missed his handler, missed his best friend, and they had to deal with Trooper in a different way than we would deal with any other type of animal. Trooper only knew one person and that was Mike, and he would go the nth end for Mike.

I remember with some humour putting on their arm guard myself as Trooper would run me down outside of a field. I made sure that I would put the arm guard out first, because if I did not, I was sure that the dog would grab on to some other part of my body that might hurt a little more.

We heard at committee several times from police service dog handlers that the dog is their best friend, and the dog will do what it is told to do with no hesitation, no question. It just does what it has to do. If that means running into a burning building, it will run in. It is just amazing what these dogs will do.

We heard from the member opposite just a few minutes ago with regard to police service animals. The horse, Brigadier, in Toronto, was run over by a vehicle in 2006. It shows that these police service animals will go to the nth end.

With that, I call on all members to stand up for the men, women and animals who risk their lives every day to keep Canadians safe, and support this landmark legislation.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)Government Orders

June 11th, 2015 / 4:40 p.m.

NDP

Alexandrine Latendresse NDP Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from British Columbia for his speech.

He shared an interesting point of view since he was once an RCMP officer. I really liked the stories he told about the service animals he worked with. I am glad that he was able to protect all of his body parts at the right times.

However, my question has to do with a more specific aspect of the bill. I imagine that many of my colleagues here know that minimum sentences are somewhat problematic. I heard my colleague ask the member for Toronto a question earlier. He made an interesting point about situations in which an animal was killed and the person who did it could not be sentenced.

However, in cases where the judge has the discretionary power to decide whether a prison sentence should be imposed, why does the member think that it is necessary for this bill to set out minimum sentences? I would like him to explain that further.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

David Wilks Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, the best explanation I can provide for mandatory minimum sentences with regard to Quanto's law is that the police service animal has the dedication toward its handler to do what it is told to do, when it is told to do it and how it is told to do it. It questions nobody. It works toward the ultimate goal, which is to apprehend. It has no voice in the judicial system, and it never will have a voice in the judicial system.

Probably the best example I can provide for that member is with regard to Brigadier the horse that was killed in 2006. The person charged and convicted of the offences in December 2007 was convicted of causing bodily harm to a human, but there was absolutely no charge with regard to the death of the horse. In actuality, the horse was the main target in that incident, not the human being.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Craig Scott NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his speech, as at the second reading stage, I learned a lot.

I want to ask the member if he could follow up a bit on the way he talks about animals not having a voice, saying that he did not expect that the justice system would ever allow a direct voice from animals, for obvious reasons.

Our colleague from Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette seemed to be extremely exercised by the idea that animals would have rights of any sort. Yet, the way my colleague speaks of animals suggests that we are in the universe of intrinsic interests, the kinds of interests that are worthy of generating rights that create duties for us to respect. The idea that we only protect animals for instrumental reasons, because the service animal is somehow instrumentally useful to public security, as the reason for a law like Quanto's law seems to me to be completely missing the mark of why this bill has been introduced.

Would my colleague comment on whether he believes that the intrinsic value of animals is part of why this bill needs to be supported?

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

David Wilks Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, Quanto's law is best described, for me personally, as an extension of the police officer's arm. The service animal, the dog, is instructed by the police officer or the handler to do what that specific animal is charged to do. It questions not who, why, what or when, it just does it. In that reality with regard to the criminal investigations and investigations that pertain to police service dogs and their handlers, the dog is an extension of the handler and the dog will just do what it is told to do.

I believe those are the extenuating circumstances with regard to Quanto's law and why we need to have this law in place to ensure the protection of those specific law enforcement animals.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Alexandrine Latendresse NDP Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, over the past four years, I have had an opportunity to debate a wide range of topics.

Although the matter before us today might seem like a strange blip on the list of government priorities, I do not wish to denigrate it, because it is indeed important. However, it does seem like a strange fixation, to go to the wall defending dogs. Nevertheless, Bill C-35 was even mentioned in the throne speech, which, in my view, is going a little too far.

I would remind everyone that last night, Canadians were treated to the 100th gag order to expedite the debate, because we are supposedly in such a hurry and so many bills need to be rammed through as soon as possible. At the end of the day, we are using our time in the House for time allocation motions and to debate Bill C-35. There is not enough time for the budget or for Bill C-51, but let us talk about animals.

Today we are discussing one aspect of animal rights, more specifically, one very precise category: animals that have been trained to work with law enforcement or military personnel, or those that assist people with a disability.

Under Bill C-35, anyone who physically harms such an animal with the clear intent to act in bad faith will be sentenced to a minimum of six months in prison. If a law enforcement animal is injured or killed in service, the sentence for that offence would be served consecutively to any other sentence imposed on the offender.

I am very pleased to say that I intend to vote in favour of this bill, despite the reservations I have about its scope. Bill C-35 is a very kind initiative that no one can oppose, except maybe to say that this issue does not necessarily need to be debated by the entire federal legislative apparatus.

Out of respect for voters, I would therefore suggest that my colleagues quickly express their kindness and their love for animals, which is somewhat boring, so that Bill C-35 can be sent to the Senate as quickly as possible and we do not have to talk about it any more.

In case there is any doubt, I really love animals. I have never felt inclined to crush baby chicks or skin cats. I completely understand that police horses and guide dogs benefit society and that these animals represent a significant financial and emotional investment.

It should also be said that many of these animals often carry out heroic acts under some extraordinary circumstances. After all, there is a tradition of recognizing the courageous war-time efforts of these animals. A commemorative bas-relief adorns the Memorial Chamber located in the Peace Tower in the Centre Block. Dogs often show admirable courage and save lives.

In committee, all the witnesses supported this initiative, but they must have been a little surprised to be testifying in such a formal setting about a topic outside of the usual parliamentary discussions. Animal cruelty is quite frankly deplorable and shameful, and we must combat it.

Bill C-35 amends the Criminal Code and will not so much combat as punish, or avenge, these crimes, which is in keeping with the Conservatives' obsession with the illusory absolute justice that they seek everywhere but do not find. It is not easy to reinvent oneself.

Conservatives believe that judges are always too accommodating and too often forget their discretionary powers. They want to decide for the judges; justice is an election issue. Punishment must always be meted out in an absolute and grandiose manner.

Although I support this bill, I always have a hard time with minimum sentencing. I agree with creating an offence to ensure that offenders who abuse or murder a service animal are punished. However, I think that our judges are capable of determining the most appropriate sentence for those who commit these crimes.

If the judge feels that the criminal should be sent to prison, he can do so. However, once again, setting minimum sentences takes away the courts' discretion.

Bill C-35 also opens the door to a grim topic no one really wants to touch, which is legislating animal rights. Since the dawn of humanity, we have had a hard time accepting that the death of an animal—of any kind—can have an impact on our lives and our future as human beings.

Bill C-35 promotes a specific category of animal to a superior status protected by law. To be legally valid, this new category can only make sense if these animals are considered property with monetary value.

After all, they had to be trained by humans who were paid for their work and their expertise. Otherwise, we will fall into an endless debate on whether animals have souls, which would be extremely difficult, if not completely absurd.

We are legislators and esoteric considerations have no place in our debates.

Bill C-35 presents an interesting solution to the lack of a special category for abusing or murdering animals. Supporting this bill is a good thing, and that is why I will encourage all of my colleagues to support it so that it can move to the next stage.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Craig Scott NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, as usual, our colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent has given an incredibly reflective and indeed philosophical speech.

If we ever get to the point of finally considering comprehensive reform in animal protection, mostly in the Criminal Code because of federal jurisdiction, does she feel that one of the problems with legislation that has come to the House, and been resisted over the last decade or so, is lumping animals into one category? Working animals for example, animals that are fished and hunted and also companion animals, all of them tend to get lumped into the same general language. Does she think that one of the ways forward might be to make some distinctions that would help unblock some of the ships passing in the night on this issue?

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Alexandrine Latendresse NDP Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very grateful to my colleague from Toronto—Danforth for his question. I have a lot of respect for his intelligence and for what he brings to the House of Commons. He is very well versed in law and has a lot to teach us.

I am sure this will end up heading in that direction. It is not always easy to legislate on this kind of issue and figure out exactly when to draw the line, but there is a way to keep going in that direction and see what can be done with changes to criminal law in that regard.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague from Toronto—Danforth with great interest as he asked by other colleague the question.

Again, the reason animal rights legislation over the last decade has been so strongly resisted by millions of Canadians from the animal use community, from the medical research world, the hunters, the anglers, the trappers, and I represent a natural resource constituency, is the extreme damage that the animal rights agenda has done to communities. Lives, families and communities have been destroyed because of that kind of advocacy. One only needs to look at the Inuit sealing community.

It is extremely difficult to deal with legislation like this. The legislation that I looked at in a previous life, specifically Bill C-15B, opened the door to prosecution of legitimate animal use. I would also note, as I said in my earlier remark, we already have Bill S-203, which greatly increases the penalties for cruelty to animals. Why does my colleague opposite support the animal rights agenda?

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Alexandrine Latendresse NDP Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is a pretty strange question. I have a lot of respect for my colleague from Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette. I know that he is a hunter, and that is something very important to him. However, he has a hard time understanding that people can love animals and that, as MPs or activists, they might want to defend the rights of animals.

Everyone gets that we want to fight animal cruelty. Nobody wants inhumane cruelty. Nobody wants to hurt animals and kill them for no reason. However, it can be done with respect, and people can continue to hunt respectfully. Canadian farmers have tremendous respect for the animals that enable them to make a living. They know how to treat their animals with respect and love. In fact, that is the best way for them to make their farms as prosperous as possible.

I have tremendous respect for all of the people who understand that there is a way to respect and love animals and fight cruelty towards those same animals.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Philip Toone NDP Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague's speech very carefully. I think she raised some very interesting points, unlike the members across the aisle who spoke.

I would like to change the subject and ask a question about mandatory minimum penalties. The bill imposes mandatory six-month minimums in some situations. These sentences would have to be served in provincial facilities. Once again, the Conservatives are asking us to pass legislation that would generate costs for the provinces. Once again, they are passing the bill on to the provinces, without having negotiated an agreement with them.

I would like to hear my colleague's comments on how this government has so often stuck the provinces with the bill and how it expects the provinces to magically come up with the money.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Alexandrine Latendresse NDP Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine for his question. That is one of the most important points, something that everyone needs to remember every time we introduce this kind of bill dealing with the criminal justice system. Basically, I have a problem with mandatory minimums because they take away the discretionary power of our courtrooms and courts of justice. It is really a problem. In a case like this one, it is even more problematic because we really get the impression that the Conservatives just want to prove that they are tough on crime, without really looking at the real consequences of this kind of measure for our communities and the provinces.

My colleague raised an excellent point: these people will be sent to provincial jails, and the provinces are not necessarily willing or able to receive a lot more people. This is not the first time we have seen the Conservatives introduce bills like this one, bills that amend the Criminal Code and that have serious repercussions on the provinces. They passed an omnibus bill at the beginning of their term, Bill C-10, which did exactly that, and which involved huge costs for all the provinces of this country, although the Conservatives dismissed that without a second thought.

I truly think that introducing mandatory minimum sentences in this bill is problematic, even though at the end of the day we all agree on the essence of the bill.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)Government Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Ève Péclet NDP La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a more personal question for my colleague. This bill is on a subject that touches people because it is about protecting our animals. I would like to know what her constituents are saying and what their thoughts are on animal cruelty. I would like her comments on that.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)Government Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Alexandrine Latendresse NDP Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île. It is true, I have not really talked about where my constituents stand on this, the people of Louis-Saint-Laurent that I represent here. However, every time we asked them questions, either through mailings or in discussions, my constituents were always deeply affected by the subject. People are always horrified to see acts of cruelty committed against pets.

In the more specific case of the bill we are talking about today, many people were not necessarily aware of the fact that there was a legislative gap. In the case of the police horse that was killed, there is uncertainty, a grey area that does not allow us to impose a specific sentence on the perpetrator of this crime to reflect the reality that it is not right to kill a police horse or dog. People understand that, but they do not necessarily realize that it is not covered by the law.

All that to say there was generally strong support for this. There is really an appetite for doing more to protect these innocent creatures. It is our responsibility to protect them.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)Government Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Is the House ready for the question?

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)Government Orders

5 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)Government Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

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

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)Government Orders

5 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)Government Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)Government Orders

5 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)Government Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

All those opposed will please say nay.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)Government Orders

5 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)Government Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen: