moved that Bill C-246, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Fisheries Act, the Textile Labelling Act, the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act and the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act (animal protection), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I put forward Bill C-246, the modernizing animal protections act, to improve our country's animal welfare laws.
I have often been asked why I chose to introduce the bill.
First, animal welfare matters to me personally. Yesterday was Mother's Day, and I thank my own mother for instilling in me the value of respect, including respect for animals. Second, animal welfare matters to many of my constituents. I can joke about the percentage of dog ownership in my riding, but during the time we put out a call for ideas for a bill, we received more correspondence on the issue of animal welfare than any other. Third, I am interested in ideas that cross traditional party lines, and I believe animal welfare is an issue of concern for all Canadians, from farmers to hunters to anglers to pet owners, including supporters of every political party.
I have a great deal of respect for the members for Ajax and Vancouver Centre and previous Liberal justice ministers McLellan, Cauchon, and Cotler. Each of them introduced nearly identical provisions to modernize and strengthen our Criminal Code.
These changes are targeted at animal abuse, from animal fighting to deplorable puppy mill conditions, not animal use.
The bill seeks to accomplish three goals: first, a ban on the importation of shark fins; second, a ban on the importation and sale of cat and dog fur, and a requirement to label the source of fur; and third, the modernization and strengthening of existing animal cruelty offences in our Criminal Code.
With respect to shark finning, it is estimated that more than 70 million sharks are killed every year for their fins. The practice is cruel. Their fins are cut off and the shark's bodies are thrown back into the ocean while they are still alive. They are left to sink to the bottom of the ocean and drown. It is as cruel as it is wasteful.
Canada has banned shark finning within our borders since 1994, but we remain complicit in this cruel practice. The Globe and Mail recently reported that Canadians imported over 300,000 pounds of shark fins last year alone. We represent 1.5% to 2% of the global market. The bill would ban a person from importing or attempting to import shark fins into Canada.
These amendments were drafted based upon advice from the Library of Parliament and legislative counsel. If there is a better way of addressing these concerns, I ask that such matters be resolved at committee.
I want to specifically thank the member for Port Moody—Coquitlam for bringing this matter to the attention of the House in 2013. His legislation was narrowly defeated at second reading. I believe it is time to correct that mistake.
Canadians across the country agree. We want to protect the world's oceans. When polled in 2013, 81% of Canadians surveyed supported an importation ban against shark fins. Similar bans have been led by those in the Chinese community, including Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, who helped to ban shark fins in Toronto in 2011. Chinese American senators have introduced shark fin bans in Hawaii and California. Both businesses and the government in China are moving away from serving the product.
If necessary, I am open to a change that would limit the ban to countries that do not have the same regulations as we have here in Canada; that is, requiring that a shark be landed before its fin is removed.
With respect to cat and dog fur, the bill seeks to ban its importation and sale. It also seeks to require that all fur products be labelled as to the source of fur. Large companies, such as Canada Goose, already follow this best practice. Again, if there are any concerns with particularities in the drafting of the provision, they should be dealt with at committee.
There is an e-petition before the House with more than 13,000 signatures, calling on the government to ban the importation and sale of cat and dog fur. Such measures have already been adopted by the EU and U.S., and it is time for Canada to catch up.
Finally, with respect to the Criminal Code amendments, I have received questions about the meaning of proposed new subparagraph 182.1 (1 )(a). That is the provision that states that it is a crime to wilfully or recklessly cause unnecessary pain or suffering to animals. This provision would not affect any animal use practices. I know that, because the same provision has been in the code for decades, and it has never stopped animal use. Some have incorrectly suggested that the word “recklessly” is being added. This is blatantly false. The current section 429 of the code already applies the word “recklessly” to existing animal cruelty offences.
Here is how my bill would change the code. First, it would close loopholes related to animal fighting. It is not currently a crime to profit from animal fighting, nor to train or breed animals for the purpose of fighting. The bill would make these activities criminal.
Second, it would close a loophole in the definition of bestiality.
In Australia, it is a crime to engage in any sexual activity with an animal, yet due to a recent decision of the B.C. Court of Appeal, bestiality in our Criminal Code requires penetration. The court stated that it is up to Parliament to expressly amend the code if it deems a change necessary. That is exactly what this bill aims to do, make all sexual conduct with an animal a crime.
Third, it would create a new offence of brutal and vicious killing to close a loophole where an owner had killed his dog with a baseball bat but the judge acquitted on the basis that the dog died immediately and there was no evidence of pain and suffering. This language was drafted by the justice department in 1999, and previous justice minister Cauchon stated categorically that such a change would not affect animal use practices. When I consulted with the current justice department, it had no concerns whatsoever with this part of the legislation.
Reasonably, any concerns of unintended consequences should be addressed at committee. We can hear from criminal law experts, and if the amendments could plausibly affect accepted animal use practices, their language should be changed or an exemption list be added to ensure that they do not have that effect. I accept that.
I am open to reasonable amendments and have repeatedly said so. My in-laws would disown me if my changes stopped farming, fishing, or hunting, as they have owned a farm outside of Sarnia since 1834. As a lawyer, I do not believe that the Criminal Code should be used to regulate accepted practices. It is in place to punish egregious and immoral conduct in our society. Had I intended to affect farming, I would have done so through the Meat Inspection Act or the Health of Animals Act, not the Criminal Code.
Fourth, it would allow judges to ban animal ownership if one is convicted of animal cruelty for a second time, getting tougher on animal abusers.
Fifth, the bill would change the current animal cruelty offence of willful neglect to one of gross negligence, a standard applied to every other criminal negligence offence under the Criminal Code, modernizing our legislation. The current willful neglect standard can make prosecution difficult. Under a gross negligence standard, there is no mental element to the offence, and the crown need only prove that animal cruelty was caused by conduct that is a marked departure from the norm. That remains a very high standard. Clumsiness, incompetence, and ordinary mistakes will not be criminalized.
An example of a recent case of criminal negligence is the conviction of the Albertan parents who failed to take their sick baby to a doctor for over two and a half weeks and resorted only to natural remedies until the baby died. Criminal negligence requires a significant departure from what is generally accepted in our society in order for the moral censure of a criminal punishment to be appropriate.
Finally, my bill would move animals from the property section to a new part entitled “Offences against animals”. This is a symbolic change. Animals will remain property at law, but it recognizes that animals are different from tables and other kinds of property. It recognizes that an offence against animals is wrong because it is wrong to harm animals, not because it is wrong to damage another person's property, which just happens to be an animal.
Previously, the Criminal Lawyers' Association testified at committee that the removal of the animal cruelty provisions from the property section would not cause the loss of any available defences under the code. This part is important. When it was studied at committee in the Senate, the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters and the Poultry Welfare Association both hired counsel to testify. Each noted that its only legal concern with the removal from the property section would be the potential loss of the colour of right defence. They proposed one specific amendment to fix that. To address those concerns, I added that proposed amendment at proposed section 182.4 of my bill. If any concerns remain, again I am open to amendment. The purpose of this bill is not to affect accepted animal use in our society.
A broad range of groups support my bill.
First, I am proud to say that the Canadian Centre for Abuse Awareness supports the bill. The CCAA is a national charitable organization with a mandate to reduce the incidents and impact of child abuse through education and public awareness. As John Muise, director of public safety at the CCAA, retired veteran police detective, and former board member at the Parole Board of Canada, notes that research confirms the link between abuse of animals and other forms of violence including child abuse.
The CCAA appreciates the targeted approach taken in this bill in a number of specific areas. Of note, this legislation, when passed, would close a “sex with animals” loophole successfully used by a child sexual abuser in court. The CCAA believes this evidence-based PMB is deserving all-party support, and looks forward to testifying in support of the bill at committee.
Second, the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association supports the bill. The CVMA is the national and international voice of Canada's veterinarians. The CVMA writes, “Veterinarians are often the first professionals to examine an abused animal. The CVMA continues to support efforts to strengthen the Criminal Code's existing animal cruelty provisions...strongly supports passage of C-246 at second reading and looks forward to providing more detailed and in-depth input at the committee hearings.”
Third, humane societies and SPCAs across the country support the bill. The Montreal SPCA states, “Cases of severe neglect...are unfortunately not uncommon, and changes need to be made to facilitate the prosecution of these offences.”
The BCSPCA states that, “The bill closes loopholes related to animal fighting and creates a gross negligence offence for animal cruelty to make it easier to prosecute cases such as deplorable puppy mill conditions.”
The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies has written to every member of Parliament in support of the bill. Each year, SPCAs and humane societies investigate more than 45,000 complaints of animal cruelty and neglect. As organizations entrusted by governments and by Canadians to enforce the law, the member societies of the CFHS regularly witness the impact of inadequate and antiquated animal cruelty sections of the Criminal Code of Canada.
This is not new legislation. The Criminal Code amendments were originally drafted by the Department of Justice in consultation with animal use organizations. There was near identical legislation that passed this House at third reading on three different occasions, and passed third reading at the Senate on one occasion, subject to minor proposed changes.
Many current members of Parliament have voted in favour of that legislation, including the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, and the members for Cape Breton-Canso, Malpeque, Yukon, Kenora, Vancouver Centre, Scarborough—Guildwood, Brome—Missisquoi, and Steveston—Richmond East.
That legislation included the brutal and vicious language, “lawful excuse” language, and the addition of the gross negligence standard.
It was not only supported then by current colleagues, it was also supported by animal use groups. For example, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture supported that legislation in 2004, and a broad coalition of animal sector groups wrote a letter, dated November 22, 2004, to the then minister of justice, Irwin Cotler, to support the legislation. The letter was signed by, among others, the BC Cattlemen's Association, The Canadian Cattlemen's Association, the Canadian Association for Laboratory Animal Science, the Canadian Sheep Federation, the Dairy Farmers of Canada, the Manitoba Cattle Producers Association, and the Ontario Farm Animal Council. The letter stated:
Canada's animal-based sectors, as represented by the undersigned, wish to express our support for the swift passage of certain amendments to the Criminal Code: Cruelty to Animals provisions. This national coalition, on behalf of over one million Canadians we represent, join with others who are expressing support for improved animal cruelty legislation. Specifically, we are calling for the reintroduction and adoption of the measures contained within Bill C-22[...]
It is our hope that the consensus that has already been achieved in Bill C-22 will result in the re-introduction and passage of this important legislation as rapidly as possible.
Bill C-246, my legislation, reintroduces that important legislation. The previous member for Peterborough, a riding with a cross-section of rural and urban communities, the hon. Peter Adams, said this in 2004:
This is legislation that is important to all those who care about animals. It is equally important to those who own pets as it is to farmers who care for their livestock. [...]
It simply brings old provisions designed to protect animals into the 21st century. Enough is enough.
That was 12 years ago, yet the words still ring true today.
The purpose of a vote at second reading is to vote on the objects of the bill. I have laid out these objects and reiterated that the intention of this bill is not to affect animal use practices. I ask for members' support at second reading, such that any concerns, questions, and potential drafting errors, can be addressed properly at committee.
I ask for members' support to improve our animal welfare laws.