Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand before members today and share with them my support for the justice for animals in service act. I applaud the proposition and creation of Quanto's law made by my colleagues to prevent people from bringing harm to police, military, and service dogs and punish people who do so.
I would like to begin by thanking the member for Richmond Hill, who proposed this amendment to the Criminal Code in 2013. The member has succeeded in bringing this issue to the forefront of our citizens' attention. I would also like to thank the hon. Minister of Justice for tabling the bill, bringing this proposed legislation closer to becoming law, and providing his optimistic public support.
I look forward to the passing of this bill, which would fulfill the commitment made by our government in the 2013 Speech from the Throne. I am proud to be part of a government that recognizes the special role played by these animals in protecting our communities and improving the quality of life for Canadians. The Conservative government knows the daily risks taken by police officers and their service animals. Quanto's law is being brought forth in honour and support of them. It is a tragedy that these incredibly trained and intelligent animals are intentionally harmed by people in our communities.
This legislation would recognize Quanto, a police dog serving in Edmonton, Alberta, who gave the greatest sacrifice, which was his life. The story, as I am sure many members know, is that Quanto was stabbed to death in October 2013 during the process of apprehending a suspect on foot. Quanto had served in an impressive number of arrests during his time in service with the Edmonton police. The accused, in addition to his other charges, only received the insignificant charge of animal cruelty for the brutal killing of this canine officer of the law.
This legislation would also honour the police horse Brigadier, who served with the Toronto police until 2006. He had to be put down after the suspect involved is reported to have deliberately struck Brigadier with his car. The suspect was never apprehended following the hit and run. It was the story of Brigadier that inspired the member for Richmond Hill to put forth this bill.
This proposed legislation is aimed at denouncing and deterring the intentional harming of specially trained animals who serve law enforcement officials, disabled persons with special needs, and the Canadian Forces. Currently, there are well over 100 service dogs working in the RCMP right across this great country of ours. These service dogs help police find lost persons; track criminals; and search for illicit substances, such as narcotics, explosives, and crime-scene evidence. Additionally, service animals participate in integral programs that are part of everyday service delivery in our communities. Canada Border Services Agency employs these animals, Correctional Service Canada utilizes these service dogs across Canada, and they are responsible for vital services to our communities.
One of the purposes of this bill would be to single out anyone who knowingly or carelessly harms a service animal. This includes those people who would injure, poison, or kill a law enforcement animal. To my knowledge, dogs are the primary animal this law would serve to protect, given that they are the animal that is most often trained for service. However, as previously mentioned, there are other animals trained and used to assist in law enforcement and to aid those people with disabilities. Horses and other animals can be trained, and they would all be protected under this legislation.
The law would amend the sentencing of people found guilty of animal cruelty to service animals. A minimum sentence of five months and a maximum sentence of six years is proposed for people guilty of crimes against service animals. The offender must serve the sentence consecutively if found guilty of additional charges arising from the same event. A maximum fine of $10,000 is an applicable charge, should the accused be found guilty of injuring or killing a service animal under Quanto's law.
Many people would like to see bigger penalties, but our government admits that it is possible to get carried away by emotion sometimes and that there is a difference between human life and animal life. The punishment must fit the crime and still be fair.
The development of the justice for animals in service act, Quanto's law, is part of the government's plan for safe streets and communities, another example of how we are dedicated to getting tough on crime.
There are several organizations across Canada showing their support for this bill, like the Alberta Citizens on Patrol Association of Linden, Alberta, which strongly supports this legislation and has started a support campaign within the organization.
I ask all members to join with these fine people who understand what service dogs and organizations that work with them would gain from Quanto's law. As the Prime Minister said: Quanto’s violent death is a powerful and sad reminder of the dangers that law enforcement animals often face in assisting officers to protect Canadians and communities.
We can all agree with the Prime Minister and other supporters of this legislation that this would honour the faithful animals and acknowledge the special role they play in law enforcement. We know the significant benefit service dogs offer people with disabilities to lead a more independent and better quality of life.
This law would serve the important purpose of recognizing and deterring violence toward service animals, to show that violence against these animals will not be tolerated and that those who commit acts deemed to be vicious and careless in nature must pay the consequences.
I thank those who stand with the government in supporting the justice for animals in service act, and I hope the opposition can understand the positive effects this legislation would offer service animals. Please work with us, and please pass this important law.