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.