House of Commons Hansard #83 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was information.


InfrastructurePrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the amendment to Motion No. 45.

The question is as follows. Shall I dispense?

InfrastructurePrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Some hon. members



InfrastructurePrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

[Chair read text of amendment to House]

(The House divided on the amendment, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #112

InfrastructurePrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I declare the amendment carried.

The next question is on the main motion, as amended. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion, as amended?

InfrastructurePrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members



InfrastructurePrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

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

InfrastructurePrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members


InfrastructurePrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

All those opposed will please say nay.

InfrastructurePrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members


InfrastructurePrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

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

Vote #113

InfrastructurePrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I declare the motion, as amended, carried.

Order, please.

Immediately before the first vote, I saw a stranger on the floor of the House. I am advised that there was another stranger who was also behind the curtains. They quickly left. However, there are new members here since a year ago, I suppose, and there are new staff perhaps. I want members to make it very clear to their staff that they are not to set foot on the floor of this chamber when the House is sitting. I have arranged to speak to both of them momentarily.

It being 6:42 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business, as listed on today's order paper.

Modernizing Animal Protections ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in support of Bill C-246, proposed to ensure laws that prevent animal cruelty, shark finning, and the sale of products made from pet fur.

Because Canada's laws on offences against animals have not been substantively changed since 1892, constituents such as Robin Fru and Judy Daviduk, of Nanaimo, are urging me to move mountains against animal cruelty.

Large sections of this bill advance measures that New Democrats have proposed over time, and we would like to see these become law, and we would like to see the hard work of many community organizations, and parliamentarians of all stripes, recognized.

Most important to say up front is that this is about animal abuse, not animal use. The bill would not apply to lawful activities such as hunting and fishing.

The Department of Justice has been clear: this bill applies to criminal abuse, not lawful activities involving animals. However, because letter writers have conveyed to me that they fear the lawful activities of ordinary Canadians could be interpreted as being affected by this bill, we will introduce amendments to clarify that. The NDP wishes to protect the right to hunt, fish, farm, and trap legally, and we will propose amendments to clarify that. Hunters and anglers are vital conservation partners on Vancouver Island, and we need them to be part of the conversation about criminal animal cruelty.

The first part is about shark finning. Despite action by local governments to ban shark finning, Canada still imports several hundred thousand pounds of shark fins every year. This section of the bill would stop the importation of shark fins.

Thanks to the New Democrat member for Port Moody—Coquitlam, this measure came within five votes of passing in 2013. The only party that stood against it was the Conservative Party, even though 81% of Canadians polled supported a shark fin ban at that time.

One of the most comprehensive studies on shark fisheries was compiled recently at Dalhousie University, in Halifax. In it, scientists estimated that at least 100 million sharks are killed every year around the world. It may be 273 million each year. The study found that shark populations are being depleted faster than they can reproduce. This threatens the stability of marine ecosystems around the world.

The largest culprit is the illegal shark fin harvest, which feeds a growing demand for shark fin soup. Sharks are hooked out of the ocean onto boats and their fins are sliced off while they are still alive. The rest of the shark is discarded into the ocean, where, unable to swim without its fins, it sinks helplessly to the bottom to die. This powerful image was conveyed in the documentary Sharkwater. It was horrific carnage that I will not forget.

While sharks have survived earth's mass extinctions for over 400 million years, many shark species could be extinct within decades. A major environmental issue associated with shark finning is that the harvest is not specific to gender, size, or species. Therefore, we cannot target harvests to avoid endangered species, as we do with conservation-oriented fisheries.

A further biological complication is that sharks are naturally slow to breed and mature. This makes sharks particularly vulnerable to overfishing, and it makes extinction for many shark species increasingly likely.

This is why extinction would be absolutely terrible. Shark extinctions would significantly alter ocean ecosystems, and they likely already have, because sharks are vitally important apex predators. Like wolves and lions, their terrestrial counterparts, top predators control the population of grazers below them in the food chain. If left unchecked, this can destabilize entire ecosystems.

Specifically, sharks reduce the over-consumption and depletion of plankton by herbivorous fish. This is relevant to the pressing issue of climate change, because plankton are a carbon sink. Plankton absorb carbon, and when plankton die, they sink the carbon to the bottom of the ocean, where it sits. Without sharks, plankton populations will become depleted, meaning more acidic oceans and more carbon in the atmosphere.

Shark extinctions will exacerbate climate change. The health of the oceans, the climate of the planet, and ultimately the survival of our species might depend on sharks.

If by any chance people still believe the myth that sharks are bloodthirsty human eaters and ruthless killers that might harm our species, I will share this compelling stat with them. More people are killed each year by falling vending machines than by shark attacks. I ask members to please come together and support the ban on shark-fin imports for all our sake.

The second part of this bill includes provisions to strengthen and modernize existing animal cruelty offences. These provisions have been advanced by many members of Parliament, including former New Democrat, Peggy Nash. They passed third reading in the House several times, and they were once even approved in the Senate. These changes are needed. For example, a man was acquitted of beating his dog to death by a baseball bat, but he was acquitted because the dog died quickly. As well, willful neglect of domestic animals has been hard to prove. This bill today, instead, proposes a gross negligence offence for failing to provide adequate care, where an individual is found to have departed markedly from a standard of care that a reasonable person would use.

Finally, in this bill, the courts would be allowed to impose a lifetime ownership ban on repeat offenders of animal cruelty. Ninety-two per cent of Canadians polled support updating the Criminal Code to make it easier to secure convictions for animal cruelty offences. I hope parliamentarians will stand with these people.

The final part of the bill proposes to ban the sale of cat and dog fur, and also to require source labelling of fur. This would match the laws in the U.S. and the European Union. A 2012 Toronto Star investigation revealed that cat and dog fur is used in children's toys, boots, and in trim on coats. Three NDP MPs have previously attempted the measures contained in this bill to ban the sale of that fur and to require source labelling for cat and dog fur.

In conclusion, I want to say again that this bill is not about hunting and fishing. If it were, I would not support it. This is about animal abuse, not animal use. The bill applies to criminal abuse, not to lawful activities involving animals. My riding is built on commercial fisheries. It is full of hunters and anglers doing vital preservation work, and our riding is very dependent on recreational and sport fisheries. Because I do not want anyone to fear that lawful activities like those would ever be affected by this bill, there is an amendment we would propose in committee to clarify that this would not affect lawful hunting and fishing.

Finally, Robert Brodgesell of Ladysmith reminded me of Gandhi's words: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”. I urge Parliament to vote together and show leadership to end animal cruelty in Canada.

Modernizing Animal Protections ActPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

Parkdale—High Park Ontario


Arif Virani LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise today as the member of Parliament for Parkdale—High Park and speak on behalf of my constituents in support of Bill C-246, legislation that would strengthen animal protection in Canada.

I want to start with a now familiar quote, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”. That was Mahatma Gandhi. His words, uttered over half a century ago, remain as relevant today as ever. I say that because the last time animal cruelty laws were substantially changed in Canada was 1892. That was the first year Lord Stanley's cup was competed for by hockey teams in the Dominion. That was 124 years ago. Legislative change in this area is long overdue.

I applaud the member for Beaches—East York for introducing legislation that would help bring Canada's animal protection laws into the 20th century.

Before I even read Bill C-246, I heard about it from the engaged residents of my riding of Parkdale—High Park by mail, by phone, through email. I am moved by the passion and dedication of my constituents, people like Ms. Barbi Lazarus and Mr. Kirti Shah, from the Toronto Vegetarian Association. They have been advocating for fair animal treatment practices in our community and around the country for years. Mr. Shah shares the same faith as my wife, Jainism, a religion that teaches about non-violence and respect for all living things. They understand that the kinds of practices Bill C-246 would prohibit have no place in Canadian society.

However, I did not simply hear from adult advocates. In my riding, I also heard from youth. On a visit to the class of Mr. Davis Mirza, at Keele Street Junior Public School, I heard from Grades 5 and 6 students about their concerns. They were shocked to learn how long it had been since changes were made to Canada's laws respecting animals. They demanded that we, as parliamentarians, do better to ensure our laws reflect the values of all Canadians, including our young people who care deeply about animal welfare.

I have listened to the concerns of my constituents, and I am committed to doing better by supporting this important bill, which I seconded on May 9 of this year.

However, it is not just the people in Parkdale—High Park who are concerned about animal welfare. Canadians across the country and across the political spectrum care deeply about this issue. A key indicator of this are a few facts: 5,630 people have signed e-petition 509 in support of Bill C-246; 13,000 Canadians signed e-petition 123 relating to the use of cat and dog fur; and on, 48,000 signatures were collected in support of the bill.

Let us turn to the bill. Bill C-246 addresses issues that I consider, to be frank, largely uncontroversial.

First, it would ban the sale of cat and dog fur in Canada. It would require labelling that shows the source of all fur. Amazingly, in our country we do not have labelling requirements for animal fur garments. As I have learned through the advocacy of residents in my community, like Josie Candito, a tireless champion of animal rights in Parkdale—High Park, cat and dog fur is used for trim on coats, the lining in children's boots, and the exterior of toys. This is all permitted to occur because we do not have the necessary prohibitions in place. Bill C-246 would change this.

Second, Bill C-246 would ban the importation of shark fins. I venture to guess that most Canadians are unaware of what shark finning actually involves. Let me explain it briefly. Shark finning is the practice of catching a shark, cutting off its fin, and simply discarding the remainder of the shark's body back into the ocean. The still live, finless shark is completely unable to swim, sinks to the bottom of the ocean, and drowns. This heinous practice has been illegal in Canada since 1994, but the importation of shark fins continues unabated.

In 2015 alone, 318,000 pounds of shark fins were imported into Canada. Municipalities such as Calgary and Toronto banned the importation of shark fins, but their bans were overturned in court because they were not under municipal jurisdiction. The Court ruled that only the federal government has the power to impose such a ban. Clearly, this is Parliament's cue to take action.

This brings me to my third point in relation to the bill. Bill C-246 also answers the Supreme Court's call for clarity on the issue of bestiality. Allow me to explain.

In the case of D.L.W., our Supreme Court acquitted a man accused of bestiality where the sexual conduct involved a dog and the man's teenager stepdaughter. Because the act in question involved a disturbing act of oral sex and not physical penetration, the Supreme Court of Canada overturned the man's conviction.

In his majority ruling, Justice Cromwell said:

The term bestiality has a well-established legal meaning and refers to sexual intercourse between a human and an animal.... It is manifestly not the role of the courts to expand that definition. Any expansion of criminal liability for this offence is within Parliament's exclusive domain.

As can be imagined, the public response to this decision was incredulous, not because of the judge's interpretation—Justice Cromwell was simply applying the law—but because the actual definition of bestiality was so narrow. We do not need to be lawyers, we just need to apply some common sense to recognize that the bestiality prohibition ought to prevent all sexual acts with animals as exploitative. Whether penetration occurs or not is not the issue and should not be determinative.

That is exactly what this bill will address, a legal void. It will expand the definition of bestiality, as the Supreme Court invited this Parliament to do to cover all “sexual activity between a person and an animal”. This will improve on an important goal, preventing the sexual exploitation of animals in all of its forms, a goal that I am confident all members of the House believe in pursuing.

Fourth, I would like to address some misunderstandings about this bill. Bill C-246 is geared towards preventing animal abuse. It does not affect or prohibit legitimate animal use. Therefore, in the latter category, the rights of anglers and hunters are not compromised by this bill, nor are the rights of livestock farmers.

Concerns about the impact of this bill on legal, accepted practices is unfounded. Allow me to explain. To contemplate a situation where police, conservation officers, and prosecutors across this country would somehow investigate and begin charging and prosecuting hunters, anglers, or farmers engaged in well-accepted animal practices is simply not credible. As a former crown counsel who practised law for 14 years, I know firsthand that police and prosecutors are far too preoccupied with serious criminals to use their precious, limited resources to chase after our important farmers or law-abiding anglers and hunters. Legitimate, well-accepted animal use practices are not the target of this legislation. The target is animal abuse.

Let me provide some examples. Dog fighting, for instance, is not simply a foreign problem. It has reared its ugly head recently in Tilbury East Township in Ontario, where they seized 31 pit bull-type dogs in a case involving 5 different individuals.

Another example of animal abuse is puppy mills. One such mill was discovered in Windsor this past June. A total of 14 dogs were found in the possession of a single woman, and the dogs' physical condition had seriously deteriorated. One of the dogs, a Shih Tzu, was found with six pounds of dried feces attached to its long, matted fur. Those are the types of abuse targeted by this bill.

The proposed amendments in this legislation to the animal cruelty provisions of the Criminal Code would facilitate prosecutions of animal abusers, moving the criminal standard from “willful neglect” to “gross” or severe “negligence”. In addition, this bill will close some of the loopholes that currently exist regarding animal fighting, and those who benefit economically from it. This includes criminalizing receiving money for fighting animals, and breeding, training or transporting an animal in order to fight another animal.

The fifth point that I want to make is that Bill C-246 is based on sound evidence. There are numerous studies and journal articles demonstrating that animal abuse is often a precursor to later, more serious criminal activity, including domestic violence. So there is an important public interest in enacting legislation that targets animal abuse, and works to deter such behaviour. This observation was made in previous submissions and speeches on this legislation.

By enacting Bill C-246, Parliament can deter animal abuse, which will have the derivative effect of helping to address some of the root causes of violent crime in this country, including violence against women.

I would urge members to get behind Bill C-246 not simply because it is based on sound evidence, but also because it is ethically sound. To circle back to the quote from Gandhi I mentioned at the outset:

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.

This observation rings true, because more so than any other un-empowered group, animals are truly voiceless. They cannot advocate for themselves. By definition they require others to take up their cause. In 2016, some 124 years since the last significant change to the animal cruelty provisions in the Criminal Code, I believe its high time we took up that call as parliamentarians. That is why I am supporting this bill.

Modernizing Animal Protections ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.


Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-246, modernizing animal protections act.

I want to start by saying that before my life in this place, I was a full-time beef farmer. All the livestock farmers I know have pets, dogs, and I was no different. Nobody has more respect for animals than those people.

I am speaking not just for myself as a parliamentarian and not just for the farmers in my riding of Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, but for farmers everywhere, and also people who hunt, fish, and trap. This is a bill that has them very concerned.

Bill C-246 is a reiteration of several other pieces of similar legislation that have come before the House over the years. Having been a member of Parliament since 2004, I can say that I have seen some variation of the bill in almost every Parliament I have been a part of. It has been voted down every single time due to concerns that it goes too far and endangers legitimate animal use. I will express these same concerns here today.

The riding I represent is a rural riding. It is home to a lot of farmers, hunters, anglers, and trappers. For the constituents of Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, animal use has always been a vital part of their everyday life. For this reason I will be speaking against the passage of Bill C-246 at second reading, as I feel that it would endanger the livelihoods of the many residents of Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound and across Canada, and possibly put an end to the number of farming, hunting, angling, and trapping traditions across Canada.

I will start by stating that I am fully supportive of legislation and initiatives that seek to promote better welfare for animals and I am in full support of harsher penalties for those who are wilfully and intentionally cruel to animals. Those who are knowingly cruel to animals should face the full force of the law. Nobody is disputing that, and anybody who opposes the bill does not dispute that aspect of it. In fact, in the last Parliament I was pleased to vote in favour of Quanto's law, which was a piece of legislation that enhanced legal protection for service animals of police agencies and the Canadian Armed Forces.

Furthermore, I note that the bill contains provisions surrounding shark finning, which again, I am opposed to, but shark finning has been illegal in Canada since 1994. We should not even be talking about it. There is no need. It is illegal already.

Overall Canada has very good animal welfare legislation at both the provincial and federal levels, but I am always open to discussing potential problem areas to ensure that animal welfare is upheld. These are not the measures with which I have great concerns.

When it comes to Bill C-246, I am concerned with four specific sections of the bill. The first is a section of the bill that moves the provision in the Criminal Code surrounding animal cruelty out of the section dealing with offences against certain property and into the section dealing with offences against persons. This could be the start of a very dangerous trend. Essentially, moving animal cruelty provisions from that section of the Criminal Code to this section of the Criminal Code begins to suggest that animals are entitled to the full rights of human beings and have the right to be represented in court. I find this deeply troubling, as it could be the beginning of the end of hunting, farming, angling, and trapping.

To put this in perspective, it does not mean we do not respect animals, but if I had to choose between one of my family, like one of my grandkids and my dog, in terms of rights, I think there is only one obvious way I would choose. I hope I never have to do so, but the bill could do that.

Furthermore, Bill C-246 contains a number of new provisions that redefine what constitutes criminal activities against animals, the first of which is the inclusion of a recklessness test that would be included alongside the wilful test. What this means is that wilfully causing harm or suffering to an animal has always been illegal, but the bill would add a new host of actions that would fall under the test of recklessly causing harm or suffering.

The problem here is that what constitutes recklessness is not clearly defined. Would hitting an animal with a car constitute reckless harm or suffering? We have all hit animals, or most of us have, if we drive in rural Canada. Would hitting an animal cause reckless harm or suffering? I do not think so. It is not intentional, but accidents happen.

These are the loopholes that make the bill so dangerous. I would not want to see anyone slapped with a criminal record for hitting a racoon, deer, or whatever with a car.

My greatest concern is the following provision, which I will read. Under proposed subsection 182.1(1) it says:

Everyone commits an offence who, wilfully or recklessly,...(b) kills an animal or, being the owner, permits an animal to be killed, brutally or viciously, regardless of whether the animal dies immediately;

This opens up a very serious can of worms that would result in the criminalization of farming, hunting, angling, and trapping in Canada. The words “brutally” and “viciously” are used here to describe what could constitute an offence against animals under the Criminal Code. A major problem here is that there is no definition of what is meant by brutally or viciously. Furthermore, these terms are completely brand new to any sort of legislation related to animal cruelty in Canada, the U.K., Australia, and the U.S.

Further still, no Canadian court has every interpreted this language, so we do not know how this will play out once this legislation comes into force. I have heard from a great number of constituents and stakeholder groups that this has the potential to criminalize any sort of animal use in Canada. The language is simply too vague. It is unacceptable.

For example, the group PETA states that animals are not ours to kill, eat, wear, experiment on, or exploit for entertainment. It would seem as though PETA would certainly claim that slaughtering cattle for beef production would constitute a brutal or vicious act against animals. There goes our agriculture industry.

PETA would most certainly state that shooting a deer, moose, or turkey would be a brutal or vicious act against animals. There goes recreational hunting in Canada. A fish with a lure in its mouth: gone is the recreational fishery. A muskrat or beaver in a trap: there goes our trapping and fur trade.

I think members see the point I am trying to make. Because the provisions in the bill are so open to interpretation, and because the interpretations are so wide-sweeping, we could see the end of many different traditions and practices related to animal use in Canada.

While I do not think it was the intent of the sponsor of the bill to criminalize these activities, it is most certainly a major problem with the legislation. Furthermore, a simple solution would have been to clearly state a list of activities that are exempt from the provisions in the legislation. This list should include ranching, farming, hunting, fishing, trapping, and medical research. This would ensure that these legal activities would not result in the handing out of criminal records for otherwise lawful activities.

Finally, I want to discuss a host of proposed changes that have been sent to me by the sponsor and that many stakeholders have been talking about. I appreciate the efforts made by the sponsor to enhance the bill and respond to concerns from the farming, hunting, angling, and trapping communities. However, there is no guarantee that these amendments will be proposed and adopted by the committee.

Therefore, at second reading, I cannot support the bill as currently drafted. I took some interest in what my colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice, said when he spoke to the bill in the first hour of second reading. He stated that,

Animal cruelty is an important social issue that deserves a comprehensive legislative response. It needs broad public consultation to allow us to get this right. The best way forward is in the review of the Criminal Code that will take place in the future. This way we can hear and attempt to address the concerns of Canadians engaged in legitimate activities of hunting, fishing, ranching, medical research, etc.

While I do not always agree with my hon. colleague on all issues, on this issue he has hit the nail right on the head. We need to consult with those who have expressed concerns about the bill so that we can ensure that we protect animal welfare in Canada in a way that does not criminalize traditions that rely on animal use.

In closing, I would like to say to the member that I truly appreciate that he tried to fix this after the fact, but he could have drafted the bill with the right kind of consultation in advance. I would be happy to work with him on something like that, and there are probably other members in my caucus who would work with him, but we just cannot support it the way it is.

Modernizing Animal Protections ActPrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.


Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to Bill C-246 today and I thank the member for Beaches—East York for bringing it forward. It deals with three rather loosely related issues: animal cruelty, the importation of dog and cat fur, and shark finning.

I have received a lot of feedback on this bill from constituents, most of it in favour of the bill because it seeks to strengthen animal cruelty law, but I have also heard serious concern from outdoor enthusiasts who felt that the bill might have inadvertently caught up hunting, fishing, and trapping in the web of animal cruelty provisions.

I have had meetings with three hunters' groups in my riding who expressed this concern clearly. I assured them then and I assure them again that this is certainly not the case and if it were, I could not support it. That said, I would be happy if the committee would explore amendments that would make that crystal clear, and perhaps list the legal activities that would be excluded, as the previous member stated. This is really about criminal cruelty, not legal hunting, fishing, trapping, or agriculture.

I would like to spend the rest of my time talking about the third issue dealt with in this bill, and that is shark finning. Finning is the practice of removing fins from live sharks on board fishing boats, and tossing the big animals overboard, where they die a cruel death. In that sense, finning might belong in this bill about animal cruelty, but it is really the impact on shark populations, and how that changes our ocean ecosystems that I think is a deeper concern.

Many Canadians might not know how widespread, important, and diverse sharks are in Canadian waters. There are 28 species of sharks off of our shores, most of them large predators. Some are at the top of the food chain, and play a key role in shaping our marine ecosystems. Like many large predators, they are slow growing, slow to mature, and slow to reproduce. These are all features that make their populations very sensitive to overharvest, especially the overharvest of adults.

Sharks have been suffering serious population declines in recent decades for a variety of reasons. Of the 245 species of sharks in the world, 65, more than a quarter, are on the red list compiled by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. They are at some real risk of extinction.

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, COSEWIC, has assessed six species of Canadian sharks and listed three as endangered, and three as species of special concern. The two main causes of population declines are fisheries bycatch and shark finning. These two issues are related since many sharks caught in other fisheries, such as the longline fisheries for tuna and swordfish, are routinely finned and tossed back.

Estimates of the numbers of sharks finned each year are difficult to calculate, but all estimates are mind-bogglingly high. A 100 million is the standard answer, but some estimates are over twice that. This practice is changing our oceans forever. Can anyone imagine 100 million bears disappearing from our forests each year, and what that would do to our ecosystems, or what about the loss of 100 million lions from the plains of Africa?

Some species are particularly hard hit by finning. The scalloped hammerhead has declined by over 90%, one study suggesting the loss of 98%, over a period of 30 years off the east coast of North America. Data from the same coast indicates that the population of oceanic whitetip sharks, once one of the most abundant large animal species in the world's oceans, declined by over 70% between 1992 and 2000. That is 70% in only eight years. This species is rapidly becoming functionally extinct, so I heartily support this bill, and its effort to curb the trade in shark fins. It is a good first step, an essential first step, but Canada could and should be doing more on both the national and international stages to make an impact here.

The government has made a lot of effort to get the message out that Canada is back on the world environmental scene, but we are sorely lagging in many aspects of global environmental action. For example, we could be co-operating with other nations in the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, which have been calling for meaningful bycatch limits for sharks during the tuna fishery, but both Canada and Japan have been dragging their feet on this issue.

We could take the bold step to promote the listing of all shark species in appendix II of CITES, so that the international trade in shark fins can be better regulated.

In our own backyard, Canada needs to reinvest in fishery science and monitoring. Setting regulations about bycatch, and creating laws about shark finning will accomplish little if there is not a significant government presence on our coasts to actually witness what is happening to our oceans.

We could put more emphasis on science, when government receives listing recommendations from COSEWIC. COSEWIC makes annual recommendations on species to add to the species at risk schedules, and government then decides whether to act or not. Bird species are almost always added as a matter of course, but fish species have only a 50-50 chance of being listed because economics often trumps the science of endangerment. We must rebalance this policy to ensure that our ocean ecosystems remain healthy into the future.

I reiterate that I will support the bill. It is about criminal acts of cruelty, not legal hunting, fishing and trapping, agriculture. I support it both for its strengthening of the animal cruelty law, and for its steps to support the conservation of sharks.

Modernizing Animal Protections ActPrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.


David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I take no pleasure in rising today on Bill C-246.

I am, first and foremost, a rural MP. I was born in Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts. I grew up in Sainte-Lucie-des-Laurentides. At home, we grow and produce most of our own food, including vegetables and meats. Our farm participates in WWOOF, a worldwide program that matches volunteers with organic farms.

I have a fishing licence in my pocket. My father has a hunting licence. We raise chickens, ducks, and geese. We also eat a lot of game. In October, much of my riding empties out because people go deer and moose hunting. People think of the year as a succession of open seasons.

All year, farmers prepare their animals for slaughter so they can sell the meat and feed cities. That is normal, everyday life for people in the regions.

All over the world, there are legitimate reasons to raise and slaughter domestic animals or to hunt, trap, and fish wild animals. The world population of chickens, as an example, exceeds the world population of humans by a factor of about 7:1.

While there are legitimate reasons to work with animals, there are people who have abused them. For example, worldwide problems, such as puppy mills, the wonton waste of shark finning without using the rest of the animal, poaching of elephants and rhinoceroses for their ivory, allowing animals to fight, killing animals purely for sport, or slaughtering them in torturous and unethical ways are all places where the great majority of us would agree improvements must be made.

However, that is not, despite the appearance of social media pressure, the goal of Bill C-246.

The bill, as written, and as is before us here at second reading, is not a moderate bill looking to tangibly and positively improve animal welfare. It is an overreaching bill by a passionate advocate whose incredible work on this file I deeply respect, even if I do not agree. There are few Members of this place ever to have put their heart and soul into a cause they believe in as completely and selflessly as the member for Beaches-East York, and I think we all respect and appreciate that .

However, that is not what is before us. What is before is a bill, not a person, and the effect of the bill is to risk criminalizing currently legal animal activity.

I do not believe my family belongs in prison for sustainably feeding ourselves. I do not believe tens of thousands of my constituents should risk prison for feeding their families, either.

We are reassured in supporting statements that the bill has no effect on currently legal activity. However, the only reassurance we have is the statements of those supporting the bill. The language of the bill itself is not so ambiguous.

Section 182.1(1)(b) reads, for example:

Everyone commits an offence who, wilfully or recklessly,...

...kills an animal or, being the owner, permits an animal to be killed, brutally or viciously, regardless of whether the animal dies immediately;

It is easy to argue that because killing an animal necessarily results in its death, the act is inherently brutal or vicious. Bringing a legal case against anyone who kills any animal in any circumstance is therefore enabled by this act. There is no exception for aquaculture, agriculture, hunting, fishing, or even accidents, and the instantaneous death of the animal is explicitly removed as a factor for consideration.

To add insult to injury, the Criminal Code, section 429(2) currently reads:

No person shall be convicted of an offence under sections 430 to 446 where he proves that he acted with legal justification or excuse and with colour of right.

While Bill C-246 would fix the gender-specific references to be gender neutral, it would also remove the justification defence from sections 444 to 446 of the Criminal Code, which are the sections that currently deal with animal welfare.

The penalty is set at up to $10,000 or five years in a federal penitentiary, and regardless of the probability of conviction, the case needed to bring some of these situations to trial would be established by this open-ended bill.

A federal penitentiary is no laughing matter. There is one in my riding at the former cold war missile base at La Macaza. I toured that facility this summer, and I do not wish to return there as a result of our fall harvest.

We are assured by proponents of the bill that the legal system would not tie itself up in these legals cases. This letter I received in my office, for example, reads, in part:

The Canadian Sportfishing Industry Association's claims about how Bill C-246 would impact fishing are ludicrous. They state that “Even the act of baiting a hook with a worm would be considered an act of cruelty according to the Bill.” [The MP for Beaches--East York] and law professor Peter Sankoff contend that such claims about the effects Bill C-246 would have are preposterous. Can anyone imagine Canada's criminal justice system wasting time and resources to attempt to prosecute someone over such a ridiculous allegation?

Yes, I can imagine that. Because, were C-246 to receive royal assent as it is written, a law telling police and prosecutors to do exactly that would be on the books, having been placed there, after thorough examination, by a majority of parliamentarians, and remaining there until one or several judges, being faced with such a ridiculous allegation in their court room, struck down that law.

Moreover, the bill contradicts its proponents on this very point. It creates section 182.5 which states:

For greater certainty, nothing in this Part shall be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from the protection provided for existing aboriginal or treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada by the recognition and affirmation of those rights in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

If the bill does not risk a creative new application, why would it need an exemption? It begs the question, what purpose is a law whose authors do not wish it to be enforced? Why go through the trouble of authoring and presenting a bill if the hope is that the justice system would ultimately ignore or reinterpret it? If the desire of the drafters of this legislation is to ensure that existing, accepted, or common practice not be affected by this bill, why does it not state that?

The proponents tell us that it would have no such effect. However, in the case of a disagreement between speeches in Parliament and the text of the resulting act, it is the text of the act that would form the basis of the criminal case.

No one here is against stopping the genuine abuse or mistreatment of animals under any circumstances. However, my job here is also to protect the people who work with animals, live with them, take care of them, live by them, and feed the rest of us.

I want to highlight the good work of the National Farm Animal Care Council, which consists of farmers, processors, the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, national animal welfare associations, provincial farm animal care councils, and so on. They work on a collaborative basis to enhance codes or practices on our farms. They also adhere to core values, such as accepting the use of farm animals in agriculture, believing that animals should be treated humanely, and supporting projects that are scientifically informed. That is the way we work to improve animal welfare in Canada. Unfortunately, Bill C-246 could undo the good work of those organizations by unfairly targeting them through the legal system.

We have been told that this bill will be modified at committee to address the many concerns that have been raised, which I have only barely scratched the surface of here today. This presupposes the outcome of the committee hearing. As members know, committees are their own masters. To modify the substance of the bill, the unanimous consent of the chamber is required. We have seen that this is not achievable.

Procedurally, a bill at committee cannot simply be redrawn. Amendments may be proposed by members, but it is up to the committee to adopt or reject them. Significant changes are not in order, and the chair of the committee and the Speaker of the House have a responsibility, a duty deeply established in parliamentary convention, to rule as out of order any changes that are beyond the scope of a bill.

To get a bill to committee, the House must agree with it in principle. To change it, the committee must keep it within that principle.

For me to vote for this bill at second reading, I must agree with the text as it is written in principle. I do not believe that hunters, fishermen, trappers, farmers, homesteaders, and others working with animals belong in prison. I do not agree with the bill in principle. I hope that my colleagues will have the wisdom and the foresight to reject the bill, to kill it without further pain or suffering.

Modernizing Animal Protections ActPrivate Members' Business

7:25 p.m.


Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague across the way and I have a lot in common. As co-chair of the parliamentary outdoor caucus, I share that role with a Liberal from Newfoundland and Labrador. Sometimes these issues cross party lines and we are supportive of one another across the aisle as well.

I have three concerns with this bill. First, it would potentially criminalize traditional practices of hunting, trapping, angling and fishing, and farming. Second, it would change the definition of animals from property to people. Third, we already have extensive animal rights protection laws in Canada.

I will start with the first.

I think most of us have gone fishing with parents or family, and likewise hunting. A lot of us in this place have backgrounds in farming and agriculture, and have raised cattle to be harvested for hamburgers, steak, or whatever. Certainly, as was mentioned by my colleague on this side of the House, the last people who would want to be cruel to an animal are members of the groups that know those animals and see them every day, like farmers, hunters, fishermen, and anglers. To potentially put these groups of individuals into a place where they could be accused of being criminal is too far-reaching for us.

A key change in what the bill proposes is the new kill an animal offence. Proposed subsection 182.1(1) states:

Everyone commits an offence who, wilfully or recklessly...

kills an animal or, being the owner, permits an animal to be killed, brutally or viciously, regardless of whether the animal dies immediately;

kills an animal without lawful excuse...

The concern are the words “brutally or viciously”. For this chamber of 330-plus individuals, brutally and viciously have different definitions and different meanings. For one, brutally and viciously is understood as something that is inhumane, that affects an animal in a negative way without concern for the animal's sensibilities.

However, another meaning could be considered for the common practices of even catching a fish for instance, where once people catch a fish, they have to end its life so it can be consumed and eaten as a filet for supper. That could be deemed to be brutally or viciously killing. That is my concern. We have groups of people that have traditionally fished, hunted, and trapped, etc.. They would now be potentially accused of treating animals brutally or viciously. I know the member who put this bill forward said that would not be the case, but the potential for that definition to be taken far and wide is what concerns a lot of us in this place.

I will speak to the second point as well, about the changing in definition from property to people. The change is significant because it would take animal cruelty offences out of the section dealing with offences against certain property and would move it to the section of the Criminal Code dealing with offences against persons. That distinction is very important because instead of involving property, we would have potential offences against human-type individuals, which certainly would put it into a different level in the Criminal Code than I think most of us would consider acceptable.

Again, I want to get to the premise of Bill C-246. On this side we, and I know many on that side too, do not want to see cruelty to animals. I have a family pet. We have had family pets in the past and we cherish them as members of our family. However, to hold them as members of the family equitable to the human beings in our family is going too far, and I agree with my colleague who said that earlier.

Last, we already have extensive legislation that deals with animal cruelty in Canada. To say that we need more legislation to make sure that this does not happen is just not necessary.

I thought it was interesting that one of the members who said they were going to support this particular bill talked about a certain case of animal cruelty. I think it was dogs that the member said were abused. They were emaciated and down to a fraction of what their healthy weight should be. They were acknowledged as being abused and it was dealt with in the system. The owner was charged and the case went before the courts.

That is an example of the current laws in this place working. It already functions well in dealing with animal abuse and cruelty. We do not need more laws on the books to go even further.

I will go a bit more into what our current laws are, because I think people out there who are watching us tonight may not know and may think that we need laws. Therefore, I will state the laws that we actually do have, or part of them.

The offence is in part 11 of the Criminal Code entitled “Wilful and Forbidden Acts in Respect of Certain Property”. These are current laws on the books.

Section 445.1 states:

Every one commits an offence who

(a) wilfully causes or, being the owner, wilfully permits to be caused unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal or a bird;

That is fairly comprehensive in dealing with animal abuse in my mind. Other subsections are more specific. Section 445 prohibits “wilfully and without lawful excuse...kills, maims, wounds, poisons or injures dogs, birds or animals”.

Section 446, “Causing damage or injury”, states that one commits a crime who:

(a) by wilful neglect causes damage or injury to animals or birds while they are being driven or conveyed; or

(b) being the owner or the person having the custody or control of a domestic animal or a bird or an animal or a bird wild by nature that is in captivity, abandons it in distress or wilfully neglects or fails to provide suitable and adequate food, water, shelter and care for it.

Those are just a few parts of the laws that are already on the books to deal with animal cruelty, although I applaud the member.

Shark finning is another one of those practices that is already on the books that cannot be done in Canada legally. If one is caught doing it, one will be charged. Those are laws that are already on the books currently today.

As co-chair of the parliamentary outdoor caucus, I have really learned to appreciate this part of our Canadian heritage. Our forefathers started this place. Hunting and sustenance fishing were part of what we did, and farming as well. It was all part of our tradition, and not just that, it was necessary for our survival. Therefore, to now come in with legislation that would potentially criminalize that historical activity unnecessarily, to us, is an overreach.

Again, I have gotten to know a lot of these folks who would be captured up in this type of legislation, me included, because I fish and hunt. We cannot ask for a bigger group who wants to help the conservation efforts in Canada proceed. Ducks Unlimited and many other groups are supportive of conservation. They do tireless work to see that animals are healthy and that they have places to grow and prosper. To affect this group of really good, well-meaning folks with possible charges of criminal activity, again, goes further than we want to go.

Again, I applaud the member for his intention. As I said, my family appreciates our pets. We had an English Bulldog, but lost our dog a year ago. When it died, it impacted our family. We care about animals, too, but we just think that Bill C-246 goes too far.

Likewise, I will be standing with my colleague on the Liberal side, from Newfoundland and Labrador, my co-chair in the parliamentary outdoor caucus, and we will both be opposing the bill.

Modernizing Animal Protections ActPrivate Members' Business

September 28th, 2016 / 7:35 p.m.


Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank Canadians across the country for caring about, for speaking up for those without a voice, and for standing up for improved animal protections.

My colleagues have been inundated with correspondence in support of Bill C-246. I want in particular to thank Ruby's Love Letter Legacy, an organization that came together to stop puppy mills, and Animal Cruelty Legislation Advocates Canada, both grassroots organizations working to improve our animal protection laws.

When I introduced this legislation, I said that members from all parties support ending animal cruelty. I do not think this is a partisan issue and I do not think it should be. I would stand alongside farmers, like my in-laws, who would disown me, by the way, if I did anything to animals. I stand alongside farmers, fishermen, and anglers against animal cruelty. As any number of colleagues here today have said, this is about ending animal abuse, not ending animal use.

When I introduced the bill I said the bill would bring our laws into the 21st century. I overstated the case. This is a basket of modest measures, all things considered, to improve our animal protection laws.

There has been a ton of confusion about the bill giving animals' rights, the right not to be tortured and abused, if we want to call those rights.

What would the bill do? The bill would do three things, and we have touched on some of them.

Let me speak first about shark finning. Some folks in the House have said that shark finning is already illegal so we do not have to worry about shark finning. The Globe and Mail reported that last year over 300,000 pounds of shark fins were imported into the country. When they are tested they are commonly found to be from endangered species.

Other countries have bans on the importation of shark fins. Ten states in the U.S. have bans on the trade of shark fins. When we look at Australia, there is actually an international norm, a landed shark requirement. The terrible practice is when the shark's fin is cut off and the body is wasted at sea. So, what do countries do? They require that the shark be landed intact and then be finned.

If amendments are required, I am perfectly open to that idea. We in the House should stand against the practice of shark finning and against importing shark fins into Canada.

Let me speak about fur labelling and banning the sale and importation of cat and dog fur. I do not know who could stand in favour of importing and selling cat and dog fur. There have been numerous petitions in the House against the practice. It has been banned in the EU and the U.S. for years. Why Canada would lag in this area is beyond me. The EU and the U.S. require fur labelling. Big companies in Canada already do this. A Canada Goose jacket comes from coyote. Why all companies should not be subject to this practice as a matter of consumer choice is beyond me.

Now, with regard to animal cruelty in the Criminal Code, I have been accused of drafting this legislation in a wrong-headed way. This legislation was drafted in 1999 by the justice department, so ignore my opinion. Instead, take the opinion of the justice department that drafted it, take the opinion of the hon. Anne McLellan, take the opinion of the hon. Martin Cauchon, take the opinion of the hon. Irwin Cotler, all of whom had proposed identical legislation. If you do not trust them, take the opinion of the Cattlemen's Association and the Dairy Farmers of Canada, who in 2004, among many other animal use organizations, wrote a letter to the hon. Irwin Cotler to ask for this legislation to be passed. What legislation? The identical legislation that is before the House with respect to these Criminal Code amendments.

Now, I recognize that we are over a decade later. People do not have the institutional memory. People are worried about this legislation. I listened, I consulted, I met with more agricultural sector groups in my tiny office. I am not the ministry of anything. We consulted broadly over the spring and summer. We heard concerns. Some people said they are political concerns and not policy concerns. I did not particularly care. I am pragmatic enough to know I want something to pass. I want to improve our animal protection laws.

So, I proposed amendments. I proposed amendments to limit the Criminal Code to three specific things: amending the bestiality provisions to address the Supreme Court case; expanding the definition of animal fighting, because no one is going to complain about criminalizing profiting off of animal fighting, breeding, or training animals for the purpose of fighting; and limiting the Criminal Code amendments, the third piece, to gross negligence. Why? Because every standard across the Criminal Code with respect to negligence is a gross negligence offence, a marked departure from the norm. Why would animal cruelty be any different, but right now it is. It is the only standard in the Criminal Code that is willful neglect.

That is it. It is just these three changes.

As far as the process goes, our job in the House is to support legislation if the object of the legislation is something that we can support at second reading. Guess what? If the changes are not made a committee, and I will be the first to propose changes when I address the committee, the bill will come back to us at third reading and we can vote it down. If these changes are not made, I encourage all members to vote it down. If members do not vote in favour of it at second reading, I encourage them to tell their constituents that they do not care about the object of the bill, which is to end animal cruelty.

Modernizing Animal Protections ActPrivate Members' Business

7:40 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

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

Modernizing Animal Protections ActPrivate Members' Business

7:40 p.m.

Some hon. members



Modernizing Animal Protections ActPrivate Members' Business

7:40 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

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

Modernizing Animal Protections ActPrivate Members' Business

7:40 p.m.

Some hon. members