House of Commons Hansard #344 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was animals.


The EnvironmentPrivate Members’ Business

11 a.m.


Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC


Motion M-151

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should work with the provinces, municipalities, and indigenous communities to develop a national strategy to combat plastic pollution in and around aquatic environments, which would include the following measures: (a) regulations aimed at reducing (i) plastic debris discharge from stormwater outfalls, (ii) industrial use of micro-plastics including, but not limited to, microbeads, nurdles, fibrous microplastics and fragments, (iii) consumer and industrial use of single use plastics, including, but not limited to, plastic bags, bottles, straws, tableware, polystyrene (foam), cigarette filters, and beverage containers; and (b) permanent, dedicated, and annual funding for the (i) cleanup of derelict fishing gear, (ii) community-led projects to clean up plastics and debris on shores, banks, beaches and other aquatic peripheries, (iii) education and outreach campaigns on the root causes and negative environmental effects of plastic pollution in and around all bodies of water.

Mr. Speaker, it is truly an honour for me to begin the debate on my Motion No. 151 for a national strategy to combat marine plastic pollution in our waters and on our shores. Canada has the largest coastline in the world. We have 20% of the world's fresh water and 60% of the world's lakes. This means that we not only rely on clean water, but we also shoulder the responsibility of protecting it.

This motion is the product of many hours of discussion with and between environmental advocacy groups, academics, small businesses, municipalities, first nations and concerned Canadians. I am proud to bring their voices to this debate.

This issue is very important to Canadians. I have heard from impassioned elementary school students, seniors in residences, people on their doorsteps, in coffee shops, at hockey games, at the grocery store check-outs and in town hall meetings. This is in addition to the hundreds of Canadians who have contacted my office directly and indirectly through post cards, emails and social media comments. They all want to see us advance this.

I have personally spoken in the House or at committee more than 50 times on this issue. The time for talking about the state of our oceans has passed. We are here at the eleventh hour of a crisis of our own making and it is time for us as members of Parliament to reach across the floor and do what is right. This is not an issue unique to my riding but has emerged as a major issue within Canada and around the world. As a result, it is public engagement that has given birth to this motion as Canadians have become more aware of the urgency of the marine plastics crisis.

A recent poll conducted by Abacus Data found that one in three Canadians say that plastic in our oceans and waterways is one of the most important environmental issues today. Eighty-eight per cent believe it is an important issue. Over 90% want government to regulate less plastics packaging and a reduction in the amount of plastic used in consumer products. Ninety-six per cent 96% support community cleanups.

In the Great Lakes alone, over 500,000 pieces of microplastic per square kilometre are present. Addressing this is a herculean task and we cannot tackle it alone. The purpose of Motion No. 151 is to initiate a national strategy in conjunction with municipalities, provinces, indigenous communities and small business to reduce the industrial and consumer use of plastics and to remove plastic pollution from our waters.

The motion seeks the development of a strategy to rethink and redesign Canada's plastic economy. The work of former Halifax member of Parliament Megan Leslie and the current member for Windsor West resulted in a ban of microbeads in 2015. Their work demonstrates what we can achieve if we work together.

I am grateful to my friend and colleague the member for Victoria for seconding this motion and for his guidance and encouragement in its preparation. I must also recognize and thank the members for Kootenay—Columbia, Nanaimo—Ladysmith,Saanich—Gulf Islands, andBeaches—East York for seconding the motion and my colleagues from the NDP caucus who have been very supportive of this motion.

Our fisheries rely on a clean marine environment. We know from science that if plastics in our oceans are not removed, they will continue to degrade, eventually entering our ecosystems and food chain. We also know that animals that eat microplastics have lower reproductive success.

The motion draws on the work of Professor Calvin Sandborn and his students at the University of Victoria's Environmental Law Centre and consists of seven reforms which outline a blueprint for federal action on reducing and removing plastic pollution in our waters.

Ocean plastics is a global environmental challenge and yet Canada has no national policy to prevent plastics from entering our waters and no mechanisms to support the cleanup of existing pollution. Canada needs a strategy that leads us to legislation and regulations to address the crisis of marine plastic pollution. The federal oceans protection plan purports to protect our coasts, although it makes no mention of plastics or marine debris whatsoever. Further, it does not address land-based debris and plastics which account for almost 80% of ocean plastics.

Sadly, Canada lags behind our global neighbours. Forty countries around the world have already created strategies to curb plastic use. Most notably, last week, the European Union passed a landmark resolution to ban single-use plastics by 2021. This starts with cleaning up our oceans. Plastics must be recovered from our waters before they break down and enter the ecosystem and our food chain.

The issue of large-scale marine plastic pollution hit home for me in November 2016 when 35 empty shipping containers spilled from the Hanjin Seattle cargo ship in rough seas near the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The people of Tofino, Ahousaht, Hesquiaht, Clayoquot, Tla-o-qui-aht, Huu-ay-aht and Ucluelet on the west coast of Vancouver Island became quickly aware of large sheets of metal with foam pieces washing onto our shores and breaking up into smaller and smaller pieces. All of these communities rely heavily on a healthy marine environment, and threats like this are taken very seriously.

The immediate concern of local leaders, the business community and local environmental champions was recovery and cleanup as high tides and storm surf tossed logs at the top of our beaches grinding the styrofoam into tiny pieces. Cleaning up hundreds of kilometres of our precious shoreline was top of mind for everyone. The work began immediately. Volunteers with Clayoquot CleanUp, the Pacific Rim chapter of Surfrider, the Ocean Legacy Foundation and legions of local residents were activated. They were joined by many others who travelled to our coast from afar to undertake the monumental task of cleanup.

Regrettably, funds were not made available from the federal government to support their work. It was sweat equity of the highest order. Officials told us that there is a legislative and regulatory void, and our communities were essentially left on their own. Only $72,000 was recovered from the shipping company through the courts through the Canada Shipping Act, but even these funds were not immediately made available. However, the work went ahead with personal risk taken by many volunteers as they collected and bagged several tonnes of debris for eventual pickup.

Eventually, a portion of the expenses incurred in the cleanup were reimbursed, but only $15,000, a fraction of the total cost, was released to one of the environmental groups working on the cleanup. The rest of the money is still sitting here in Ottawa, almost two years later. Our nation owes an ongoing debt of gratitude to the many Canadians that respond in this way when our environment is threatened.

My investigation of this single incident led me to an informal network of environmental non-profits, education institutions, local governments, first nations and individual Canadians deeply concerned about marine plastic pollution. There is no question that the Hanjin Seattle spill and similar threats can be devastating to the local marine environment. They told me that this is the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Our marine environment is under threat on a global scale. Upwards of 20 million tonnes of debris enters the world's oceans every year. It is estimated that the equivalent of one garbage truck of plastic enters our oceans every minute of every day. On average, there are 18,000 pieces of plastic floating in every square kilometre of ocean globally. Eighty per cent of all plastic in the ocean comes from land-based sources. Ninety per cent of plastic in the ocean is microplastics. Ninety-five per cent of single use plastics are only used once and discarded. Global plastic production has doubled in the last 20 years and is expected to double again in the next 20 years.

By 2050, if this trend continues, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. One study found that returning adult B.C. salmon ingest up to 90 pieces of plastic each day. We are finding over two pieces of microplastic in every piece of shellfish from our communities. Each year, plastic litter kills more than one million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals, such as turtles, dolphins, whales and seals. Over 260 species of animals have been found to be entangled or killed by harmful marine debris.

Many of the volunteers who took to the beaches after the Hanjin Seattle spill were already well aware of these sad realities, of course. In fact, at the time of the Hanjin Seattle spill, the United Nations was only months away from announcing its clean seas initiative, and Canada was less than a year away from joining it as a voluntary signatory. Since then, barely a day has passed without multiple media reports of new findings about marine plastic pollution, each one more alarming than the last.

Today, the average Canadian high school student knows more about the threat of ocean plastics than most members of the House knew at the time of the Hanjin Seattle spill, only two years ago. Public awareness and consumer engagement is critical. The government is to be congratulated on its recent development of educational tools and curricula on plastic pollution. This is an absolutely critical element of a national strategy.

We need clear, binding targets for the reduction of marine plastics pollution, in collaboration with provincial, territorial, municipal and indigenous governments. We need national standards and best practices to help meet national reduction targets, and we need to incentivize other levels of government to adopt them. Federal leadership is essential, including the coordination and funding of interjurisdictional efforts to meet these targets.

Legislation needs to be identified in a national strategy to address those aspects of this marine plastic issue that are clearly within the federal jurisdiction.

Marine plastic pollution should be placed on the agenda of the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment, along with a commitment to facilitate technological transfers between governments across this country in order to meet national targets.

A federal commitment to build on Canada's zero plastics waste charter initiative is required to set a global example by fighting marine plastic pollution decisively here at home. A ban on plastic straws should not come at the expense of accessibility. Exceptions should be made in the form of biodegradable plastic straws. Let us all challenge ourselves to look at the world through other lenses to create a more inclusive, accessible and environmentally friendly world.

We need a commitment to measure our progress on marine plastics pollution by developing effective measurement criteria and regularly reporting to Parliament on its progress. The University of Victoria Environmental Law Centre has identified important specific regulatory policies that are also essential elements of a national strategy.

First, single-use plastics make up the most plastic debris on our beaches. We must adopt policies that reduce both consumer and industrial use of single-use plastics. We are seeing Europe take that step. Kenya has banned plastic bags. Cities across North America are taking action and leading.

Second, plastic debris we know ends up in the oceans via storm drains that carry urban runoff to the sea. Our national strategy must reduce plastic discharge from stormwater outfalls. Los Angeles is already implementing that.

Third, microbeads, nurdles, which are pre-production plastic pellets, microfibres shed by synthetic fabrics, degraded plastic particles and polystyrene fragments permeate the marine environment and could pose more risk than larger plastic debris. Our national strategy must reduce microplastic pollution. San Francisco has even banned polystyrene and styrofoam from its docks. Therefore, it is taking leadership.

Fourth, lost or abandoned plasticized fishing and aquaculture gear takes hundreds of years to decompose. Removing ghost gear from our oceans and preventing further gear loss is a crucial element of a national strategy. Washington, Oregon and California have all taken leadership, removing thousands of tonnes of ghost fishing-gear.

Fifth, we require plastic producers to finally take responsibility for the full life-cycle costs of their products and packaging. We need them to internalize cleanup costs that have been borne by individual Canadians or their governments. A marine pollution strategy must extend plastic producer responsibility.

Sixth, the University of Victoria Environmental Law Centre observes that tackling marine plastic pollution effectively will require replacing new plastic production with a non-wasteful circular or closed-loop system that reduces overall use and also maximizes reuse. Canada's plastic economy must be redesigned.

Seventh, the University of Victoria study recommends that education, outreach and beach cleanups are of critical importance. Beach cleanups serve as a form of downstream management of marine litter. They engage citizen involvement and contribute to behaviour change. Currently, the great Canadian shoreline cleanup occurs across the country on World Environment Day with support from Environment and Climate Change Canada. However, without question more support is required from all levels of government for beach cleanups throughout the year, not just one day.

Since this motion was introduced a year ago, Canadians across the country have demanded that we take an active role in creating a plastic economy that is sustainable and accountable for the waste that it generates. Support for a comprehensive national strategy that includes meaningful funding to promote the important work already under way that advances plastic reduction policies is coming from municipalities, first nations, environmental groups, churches, corporations and individual citizens.

Lastly, in October, the Union of British Columbia Municipalities passed a nearly unanimous resolution in support of this motion at its annual meeting. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities passed a similar motion with the support of over 90% earlier this year. In my riding alone, bylaws that regulate plastics have been initiated or passed by many municipalities.

In closing, we know that many people are supporting this motion. SumOfUs brought forth a petition with over 120,000 signatories in a matter of a couple of weeks, which we delivered to the minister. I want to take this opportunity to thank all the signatories of those petitions. Their voices matter today. I also need to thank others, like Margaret Atwood, and hundreds of other community champions, schoolchildren, church leaders and just plain folks who have spoken up in support of the motion.

Most importantly, I need to thank those who have been on the ground working on this issue. I thank the communities and organizations that have helped me prepare this motion, including Communities Protecting our Coast from Oceanside, Clayoquot CleanUp, Surfrider Pacific Rim, the Association for Denman Island Marine Stewards, Surfrider Foundation Vancouver Island, The Ocean Legacy Foundation, SumOfUs, T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation, University of Victoria Environmental Law Centre and the Ucluelet Aquarium.

The EnvironmentPrivate Members’ Business

October 29th, 2018 / 11:15 a.m.


Celina Caesar-Chavannes Liberal Whitby, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for his speech. His passion is clearly evident in the words that he spoke this morning. I applaud him for the work that he continues to do to raise a number of issues in this House.

I will preface my question with the fact that Canada was among the first countries to phase out microbeads in toiletries. We have been working with provinces, territories, industry and communities towards a zero plastic waste vision. On Earth Day, we launched a public consultation with all Canadians to share their views on how to get to a zero plastic environment. Through our G7 presidency, countries and organizations agreed to an ocean plastics charter. We have invested $100 million to support vulnerable regions. We have an oceans protection plan, and budget 2018 committed over $1 billion to biodiversity. Therefore, we are not looking at this within a silo. We are looking at it comprehensively.

The member mentioned our educational outreach. I wonder how this motion in particular would fill the gap in some of the work that we are doing thus far.

The EnvironmentPrivate Members’ Business

11:20 a.m.


Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, certainly, I have to give the government credit for finally starting to take action on this. When I first raised this in the House two years ago, around the Hanjin, I asked questions of the government about taking action in support of our communities, but I could not get an answer. In fact, the Prime Minister continued to cite the oceans protection plan, but there was no mention of plastics at all or marine debris in the oceans protection plan. I could not get an answer from any department, whether it be the Department of Environment, Transport or Fisheries and Oceans.

However, I will commend the Minister of Environment and Climate Change for finally starting to take action on this issue and pulling together the ocean plastics charter, which is a beginning, but we need an actual national strategy so that we can develop goals and hard targets. The government is talking about making sure that we have a circular economy and more recycling, but that is not good enough. We actually need to reduce the amount of plastic that we are using.

There is a lot of leakage when it comes to plastic into our ecosystem, and we need to protect our environment. Other countries have taken leadership. The government has done a lot of great talking. It is moving forward with a lot conversations, but we have not seen any action. It has not created any regulations, like the EU, which has set a target of 2021 to remove plastic cutlery and plates from its environment.

What I would like to see is the government actually do something. This strategy would create the framework so that it can set those hard targets and work with all levels of government to take real action. That is what Canadians are looking for.

The EnvironmentPrivate Members’ Business

11:20 a.m.


Blaine Calkins Conservative Red Deer—Lacombe, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my colleague's speech and I want to thank him for bringing this important issue before the House of Commons. I do not think anybody in the world disagrees that disposable plastic and the issues it causes in the environment are pervasive and real. We can travel to certain countries around the world and see the plastic lined up on the beaches, in the ditches and so on.

However, I am concerned with the tone my colleague had in his speech when he talked about going back and laying the blame squarely at the foot of the producers along the way. In my riding, there is Dow Chemical, NOVA Chemicals, Sarnia Insulation and all of these value-added union jobs in the petrochemical industry. They are creating plastics for medical use and a variety of other very important life-saving procedures. Therefore, plastic obviously does have a very important place in our economy and in our society. I am worried about the tone the member has had in demonizing all plastics, which is where I am afraid this is going. I hope he is not calling for a ban on all plastics, but I have a feeling that is where this conversation might end up.

Has the member heard of the Plastic Bank, which is the notion of monetizing waste plastic and using that as a means for cleanup? Especially in third world countries, using blockchain technology, the monetization of plastic actually leads to cleanup and puts a value on this plastic that could be redeemed for cash and value that is improving the economy in those places. Could the member comment on that?

The EnvironmentPrivate Members’ Business

11:20 a.m.


Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, this is an issue we know the Conservatives are not seeing as a real threat or they would support this motion.

We are talking about not creating a replacement economy, in which we only recycle. We need to use less plastic. Right now, plastic pollution accounts for about 8% of greenhouse gases and it is rising toward 15%. Around the world, there are countries like Kenya and Rwanda that have banned plastic bags outright. The EU is taking steps to ban single-use plastics. What the member did not say is that they are still going to use replaceable items. They are probably going to use paper plates and things that are compostable or biodegradable.

This is not going to go away. We are not going to stop using items, but we need to start thinking about using different alternatives. If we are going to use plastic, let us redesign it so that we get more uses than a single use. That needs to happen. We need to redesign the plastic economy.

The EnvironmentPrivate Members’ Business

11:25 a.m.

Sean Fraser Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the member for Courtenay—Alberni for his continued interest in combatting plastic pollution in our waterways and oceans. I know it is something he is passionate about, having had the chance to discuss it with him briefly in person.

Our government, and I personally, share the hon. member's concerns about the negative impact plastics can have on our marine environment, and I am pleased to share that we have already taken several important steps to address this particular problem. We are working with the provinces and territories, industry, first nations communities and other stakeholders to develop a strategy and action plan to keep plastics out of our landfills and our environment.

Plastics are part of the everyday lives of Canadians. Since the 1950s, global plastic production has increased more than any other manufacturing material because of its low cost, durability and utility. However, the amount of plastic used once and then thrown away leads to a significant waste of resources and energy and creates litter that pollutes our environment and piles up in our landfills.

The impact of plastic marine litter and microplastics has captured the public's attention in recent years and has galvanized action around the world. Marine plastics pollution, in particular, is a serious threat to the health of our waters and our economy. There are currently more than 150 million tonnes of plastic waste in the oceans, and about eight million tonnes more enter these bodies every single year. As the hon. member noted in his remarks, this is equivalent to a garbage truck full of plastics being dumped into the ocean every single minute. If we do not take action now, we could expect to see this amount double by 2025.

While Canada is a small contributor to global plastics pollution, plastic marine litter is found on all of Canada's coasts, in the Arctic and in freshwater areas, including in the Great Lakes. This is why the federal government, with a range of partners, is working to take action in Canada to protect our shorelines, waters and aquatic life, in addition to our efforts working with our partners globally.

In particular, we are addressing various sources of plastics pollution and improving our knowledge to better understand its impact. For example, as of Canada Day this year, the manufacture and import of all toiletries that contain plastic microbeads are prohibited. These regulations aim to reduce the quantity of microbeads entering freshwater and marine ecosystems.

As a government, we have committed to lead by example by diverting 75% of all plastic waste from our operations by 2030. We will achieve this target by increasing recycling activities, reducing plastic waste from government meetings and events and promoting the purchase of sustainable plastic products.

Science and research is also an important part of our agenda to deepen our understanding of how plastic pollution affects our environment. For example, we have contributed over $1.5 million to research microplastics found in the waters in Atlantic Canada, the region where I live, on the west coast, and in the Arctic, including for a partnership between the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Ocean Wise ocean pollution research program.

Federal government researchers are also contributing to our knowledge base. For instance, they recently published an article in Environmental Pollution about the transfer of microfibres in food webs.

Canada is committed to building on this foundation and wants to show the world that it is possible to enjoy all the social and economic benefits of plastics without necessarily suffering the negative environmental impacts.

In particular, on the question from the hon. member for Red Deer—Lacombe, we are open to suggestions, and from what I can tell, he is interested in putting a price on plastics pollution.

Our approach is not to deal with one type of plastic waste, such as just straws or plastic bags; we want to prevent waste from all kinds of plastics and from products containing plastics, from packaging to electronics to furniture to construction materials. There is quite a bit we could do on each of these products. We need to approach it holistically.

We have a lot of work to do, as our national recycling rate for all plastics sits at less that 11%, but we also have a lot to build upon. Some provinces are global leaders in implementing extended producer responsibility programs through which producers are responsible for the waste they produce. In B.C. for example, packaging producers pay for the full cost of collecting and recycling their products.

Canadian industry is also leading in low-carbon plastic production, product innovation and advanced recycling, and the federal government is stepping up to accelerate this innovation. We have launched a $12-million innovation challenge, inviting companies to submit their most innovative solutions for dealing with plastic waste. With this initiative, we are investing in made-in-Canada approaches and technologies to help stop the flow of plastics to the oceans while also supporting Canadian companies to be leaders in domestic and export markets for waste management.

Our work with the provinces and territories on plastic waste is looking at how we can make plastic design and production more sustainable; improve collection, management systems and infrastructure; promote more informed consumer choices and behaviour, especially to encourage the responsible use of disposable plastics; and improve our understanding through enhanced research and innovation.

As I have said, collaboration is key to solving the complex plastic waste issue. We have solicited the views of the public, indigenous peoples, industry, municipalities, non-profit organizations and research institutions to inform our multi-faceted approach.

We know that Canadians are ready to take on the issue of plastic waste. In 2017, some 58,000 Canadians participated in the annual Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup. Together they collected over 88,000 kilograms of litter along 3,000 kilometres of our shoreline. Much of this litter is made of plastics.

On Earth Day this year, our government launched an online dialogue on plastic waste to gather Canadians' views on plastics and to identify ways we can eliminate plastic waste and reduce marine litter. More than 12,000 emails and almost 2,000 online comments were received. This consultation is informing the work we are doing now with the provinces and territories to develop a comprehensive national strategy.

We are also working with other key players to address the plastics and microplastics in our environment. We support municipalities and local governments in investing in waste and waste water infrastructure. Through the green municipal fund, the first nation waste management initiative, and Sustainable Development Technology Canada, we are contributing to the infrastructure and technologies needed to deal with plastic waste.

We know that we need to lend the expertise and resources we are developing domestically beyond our borders, because this is truly a global problem. In its presidency of the G7 this year, Canada has seized the opportunity to take the lead on this issue and has played a key role in achieving the G7 oceans plastics charter. We made oceans health and addressing plastic pollution a priority for this organization, with the goal of driving international action along the entire life cycle of plastics to reduce plastic waste and marine litter.

In particular, as part of our G7 initiative, our government is investing $100 million over the next four years to help developing countries manage their plastics so that they do not reach our oceans. These funds will go to building infrastructure and developing waste management capacity and will contribute to achieving the UN sustainable development goals, specifically target 14.1, which calls on countries to prevent and significantly reduce marine litter by 2025.

In addition, Canada has joined the UN Global Partnership on Marine Litter and the Clean Seas campaign to ensure that international policy discussions and research lead to concrete action. Everyone has a role to play to prevent plastic pollution and protect our waterways and environment. We appreciate the leadership on this issue shown by the hon. member for Courtenay—Alberni and the opportunity it presents to share the current work and plans of the Government of Canada on this very important issue.

I am thankful for the opportunity to share my thoughts. I look forward to working with the hon. member as this file progresses.

The EnvironmentPrivate Members’ Business

11:30 a.m.


Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, this is a study of the situation of plastic pollution around aquatic environments. It comes from the NDP member for Courtenay—Alberni, and I commend him for bringing this motion forward, which would refer the matter to the environment committee of this Parliament to study.

The proposal says:

the government should work with the provinces, municipalities, and indigenous communities to develop a national strategy to combat plastic pollution in and around aquatic environments

The motion calls on the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development to undertake a study on the situation of plastic pollution around aquatic environments and to then report that study back to the House within four months of it being considered. I will note that it does not stipulate whether the focus of this study should be Canada's own plastics pollution or the much more insidious global oceans plastics problem. One of the concerns I have is that if we do a committee study, we know exactly what we are being asked to study so that we have a robust discussion around the committee table to make sure that we are focused on the area where Canada can make the biggest contribution.

More specifically, the motion calls on the committee to study the following:

(a) regulations aimed at reducing (i) plastic debris discharge from stormwater outfalls, (ii) industrial use of micro-plastics including...microbeads, nurdles, fibrous microplastics and fragments, (iii) consumer and industrial use of single use plastics, including...plastic bags, bottles, straws, tableware, polystyrene...cigarette filters, and beverage containers; and; (b) permanent, dedicated, and annual funding for the (i) cleanup of derelict fishing gear, (ii) community-led projects to clean up plastics...on shores, banks, beaches and other aquatic peripheries, (iii) education and outreach campaigns on the root causes and negative environmental effects of plastic pollution in and around all bodies of water.

We are still not clear what “in and around all bodies of water” means. Are we talking globally? This is a global problem, and the biggest concerns are not in Canada; they are elsewhere around the world.

I note that the study is actually focused on expanding what I believe could be a furthering of the intrusive role of government into the lives of Canadians. It also proposes to study new and permanent funding for government initiatives at a time when the Liberal government is running huge deficits and will not be balancing its budget for at least 25 years.

In June 2018, at the G7 summit, the Prime Minister asked the partner countries to sign a plastics charter to reduce the use of plastics in our environment. The charter was eventually signed by France, Germany, Italy, the European Union and Canada, but there was not full consensus, because the United States and Japan did not sign it. It is understandable why they did not. The focus of that charter was not clear. Their concerns echoed some of the concerns I will be articulating in the House in a moment.

To be clear, this is a global problem. Globally, it is estimated that around eight million tonnes of plastic waste end up in our oceans every year, and that is predicted to double over the next decade. All these problems around the world with plastics in our oceans are expected to double over the next 10 years. More plastic waste has been produced over the last 10 years than during the entirety of the 20th century.

This year it was estimated that around 10,000 tonnes of global waste enters the Great Lakes annually. In 2017, 16 tonnes of plastic were found during the Great Lakes beach cleanup alone. Plastic appears in the Great Lakes from external water flows, but I point out that plastic makes up a much smaller percentage of the pollution in many other aquatic environments in Canada. It should be noted that the Saint John and St. Lawrence rivers and the Great Lakes have elevated levels of pollution, the majority of which is not plastic.

By the way, the current Liberal government, despite its incessant virtue signalling on the environment, has been directly implicated in the dumping of millions of litres of raw sewage into the St. Lawrence River. Those decisions were made directly by the current Liberal government, so the virtue signalling comes across as pretty hypocritical.

How serious is Canada's own plastics pollution problem for our ocean environment, especially within the global context? Researchers have collected extensive data to determine the origin of plastics that pollute our oceans. Their data ranks countries based on the amount of plastic waste they contribute to the ocean, and whether it is mismanaged. In this study, Canada did not even show up in the rankings. That is how clean we are, which is not to dismiss concerns about plastics pollution within Canada. However, as part of the larger global oceans plastics problem, Canada is an insignificant contributor. In fact, I would go out on a limb here and say that we are not a contributor to it.

Compounding the challenge is the fact that bans and taxes eventually get added to the cost of plastic items. Invariably, those costs are passed on to consumers. As a result, businesses pay more, consumers pay more and our competitiveness declines. Therefore, we also have to be careful before we impose more regulations on Canada's businesses, because these will get translated onto Canadian consumers.

Compounding the challenge is the fact that the provinces, territories and municipalities all have some jurisdictional powers over plastics. This effect on companies has already manifested itself in municipalities such as Montreal and Victoria, which have banned plastic bags, for example. Companies say that a poorly thought-out policy on plastics would hurt them, due to the need to meet different regulatory burdens in different jurisdictions across Canada. If we are going to start moving down this road, we had better think carefully of the long-term impacts and do it in a smart way.

Members can be assured that our Conservative members of the committee will be the only ones at the table representing the interests of taxpayers. We know what this would mean for taxes in Canada, and we are going to make sure that whatever recommendations come out of the committee, they will be reflective of taxpayers' concerns that their governments spend money wisely and live within their means.

To summarize, Canada is not responsible for the extensive amount of plastics pollution in aquatic environments around the world. Canada's primary role should be to work with the global community to address the major sources of plastics pollution around the world, including places like China, Southeast Asia, and South Asia, which are the primary sources of plastics pollution. Focusing exclusively on our own contribution to this problem would have a negligible impact on the global problem.

Canada's Conservatives recognize the detrimental impact that plastics pollution is having on our oceans, and we believe that Canada must work collaboratively with other countries to help them address their major sources of plastics pollution. Therefore, surprisingly, we will be supporting this motion. I commend the member for Courtenay—Alberni for bringing this forward. We will work closely with the committee to make sure that its report back to the House is respectful of Canadian taxpayers' money and deals effectively with the issue of global plastics pollution. We will be supporting the motion, and I commend the member for bringing it forward.

The EnvironmentPrivate Members’ Business

11:40 a.m.


Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to stand with my colleague, the New Democrat member for Courtenay—Alberni, in presenting solutions to the calamitous tragedy of marine plastics on our beaches. We see it very strongly close to home on B.C.'s Pacific coast that we represent, but we know this is a Canada-wide problem.

With respect to my Conservative colleague who just spoke, he has to spend time on B.C.'s beaches to see that the source and impact are both here in Canada. This is costing communities right now. To say that as taxpayers we cannot afford to deal with this Canadian made problem is severely shortsighted.

When I was Islands Trust Council chair, I heard presentations every year from the Association for Denman Island Marine Stewards. These were women who, with great respect to my elders, were well into their eighties. Every year they were pulling between two and four tonnes of plastic debris, particularly from the aquaculture industry, off the beaches. That is a single clean-up, all on the backs of volunteers.

Returning adult B.C. salmon, the cultural and economic cornerstone of our province, are ingesting up to 90 pieces of marine plastic every day. Simon Fraser University, the University of Victoria and Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo all agree that Canada is responsible for marine plastic pollution and the costs are being felt right now by our economy and our ecology.

There is almost nothing I do as a member of Parliament that gets more responses from constituents than the issue of marine plastics. The campaigns against it are extremely strong around the world. There are images of sea turtles entangled in plastic bags and of autopsies on beaches of whales finding how much plastic is inside them. Albatrosses are starving because their stomachs are full of marine plastic.

The images are tragic and we know it is about us. This is the result of human impact. Every year plastic litter kills more than one million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals, such as turtles, dolphins, whales and seals. Eighty per cent of all plastic in the ocean comes from land-based sources. The Strait of Georgia has 3,000 pieces of marine plastic per cubic metre and those rates go up even higher close to our shellfish operations. Seven to eight per cent of world oil and gas production is used to create single use plastic and by 2050 it is estimated that plastic production will use 15% of the world's global carbon budget.

Again and again, if we act on marine plastics we save the environment, improve our coastal economy, we get the work off the backs of volunteers and we also deal with our fossil fuel habit problem. By 2050, if we do not act, there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish, so let us act.

I am regularly urged by school kids in Nanaimo and Ladysmith to act. Departure Bay Eco-School does surveys of the beaches. They point out that adults leaving their cigarettes butts on beaches is probably the number one immediate form of marine debris. Certainly, on the west coast, I have had the privilege of working for years as an ocean kayak guide along some of British Columbia's wildest beaches, and every year we have seen more and more plastic. It is not only from Asia, but also from right here.

We do have community action. Seaview Elementary School in Lantzville just won a prize in the plastic bag grab challenge. Students collected nearly 6,000 bags of garbage from the environment within one month and did a great job of doing daily announcements about the issue at their school to raise awareness about it. Their librarian, Jolaine Canty, who led the initiative, said that having the students win that big contest was an added bonus. She is really proud of the work they did.

Smokin' George's BBQ restaurant in Nanaimo is moving to compostable containers and straws, and it wants Parliament to know that it recycles its fryer oil. There are people who need to use straws for medical reasons or because they are disabled, which is fine, but it is great to see restaurants offering compostable, renewable alternatives. These businesses are doing what they can to be more sustainable.

Cold Front Gelato in Nanaimo is also moving to compostable spoons and containers. The Vault Café, which feeds me a lot of coffee and makes my work possible, is also moving to compostable plant-based products. Their customers are asking them to do that, which is a sign of how much people want to see action on this.

On Oceans Day, I had the pleasure of being with my colleague, the member of Parliament for Courtenay—Alberni, for a beach cleanup in Parksville. The groups that we were working with, the Surfrider Foundation, the Ocean Legacy Foundation, and Clayoquot CleanUp, are all on the ground and are really inspiring us to realize that if we can get the plastic out of the water, we can use it. They are already piloting gathering marine plastic off the beach, feeding it into 3D printers, and generating new products with this plastic that has been collected. Also, they are piloting the use of new forms of fuel by liquefying and gasifying the marine plastic pollution that has been gathered, again, finding new uses for it.

It is really inspiring to talk to five-generation sea captain, Josh Temple, I think his name is, about how much plastic net floats they see on the beaches everywhere. What if we used the glut of recycled glass that we have just sitting, and in some cases ending up in landfills, and we got back to a time of manufacturing glass floats? Beachcombers would love it. It would deal with another recycling glut and pollution problem that we have. Again, if a glass ball breaks, either a tourist finds it or else it breaks up and goes back to sand.

These groups are on the ground, and in the absence of government support and direction, they are doing the hard work. We commend them. They inspire us.

The Georgia Strait Alliance is an amazing group dedicated to ocean protection in the Salish Sea. It is based in Nanaimo. They have been working with global partners to tackle the problem of ghost gear. This is the problem of stray fishing nets, which are increasingly made of plastics and just do not break down in the same way as others, moving across our world's oceans, gathering fish and in turn attracting more predators. It is a terrible, compounding cycle of death. They are working on an initiative to block that.

The Regional District of Nanaimo took a motion to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities meeting. Chair Bill Veenhof was so proud to stand up in support of my colleague's motion, M-151, to adopt a national strategy to deal with marine plastics. It received virtually unanimous support at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. If the Conservative Party thinks that is a bad idea, then it is not talking to its local partners.

As the House knows well, I have been working for a long time on trying to deal with another type of marine plastics problem, abandoned vessels, ripped up and discarded fibreglass boats, which have reached the end of their lifetime. It is another huge issue. If we had a comprehensive government program, if we piloted a vessel turn-in program, as I have proposed but the Liberal government voted down, we could work with the recycling and salvage companies to recreate new markets for fibreglass, the same as we can for marine plastics, if we deal with this in a comprehensive way.

This is the beauty of my colleague's motion that we are encouraging the House to adopt. We do not have any commitment to regulation. We do not have any commitment, yet, to action. Banning the use of single-use plastics is something that really should be done across the country, but we need to regulate the responses, not just talk about them, and we need to fund action. This is an ongoing budget item, not just the flavour of the month.

There is unprecedented global support for action on marine plastics. The NDP has a history of doing this. It was our former colleague, Megan Leslie, who, in 2015, got the House to agree to go ahead and ban micro beads. It was our colleague, the member of Parliament for London—Fanshawe, who brought a motion to the House to ban plastic bags across the country.

When we see what is happening to our marine mammals that we are legally bound to protect, we must take this simple action. School kids are urging us to. Local businesses are urging us to. I strongly encourage the House to move beyond talk to the kind of action my colleague, the member for Courtenay—Alberni, has urged and to vote in favour of Motion No. 151.

The EnvironmentPrivate Members’ Business

11:50 a.m.

Joyce Murray Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board and Minister of Digital Government, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak to this motion.

The fact is that plastics play a major role in our economy in our daily lives. Plastics are a low cost, durable, light and versatile solution to many of society's needs. We need to remember that because it is also an important part of this. However, plastic waste is a growing problem worldwide and threatens the health of our oceans, lakes, rivers and the wildlife within them.

I am very pleased the member for Courtenay—Alberni put forward this motion and I congratulate him for his long-term commitment to this issue.

Like me, he lives on B.C.'s southern coast and probably has seen way too much plastic on beaches when beach cleanups are done locally or while enjoying the reaction that our coast has to offer. Big chunks of plastic and polystyrene are on remote beaches, where they wash up, gradually break down and enter the ocean's ecosystem, to the detriment of wildlife. Ghost gear entraps marine mammals, plastic particles are ingested by marine organisms, from the smallest right up the food chain, and plastic strangles birds, turtles and other wildlife, ending their lives.

This threat to our environment is also a threat to our livelihoods. Over 72,000 Canadians make their living from fishing and fishing-related activities. Microplastics are now found in the flesh of the food we eat from supermarkets, so they are potentially a threat to human health as well.

Having become aware of this challenge, I began working with our Liberal caucus by writing a resolution, calling on caucus members to support action on removing ocean plastic debris from our beaches. I followed that up last winter by hosting a round table with experts from academia, NSERC, fisheries and NGOs that were involved in plastic prevention and cleanup. That included representatives from the Vancouver Aquarium's the ocean wise program, the Suzuki Foundation, Ocean Legacy Foundation, Surfrider Foundation, Living Oceans Society, Highlander Marine Services, the Association of Professional Biology, Clayoquot Cleanup, NSERC and BC Marine Trails Network Association, among others. We spent several hours sharing our experiences, concerns and some of the technical information we had learned.

This is a complex problem. There are multiple sources of ocean plastics, multiple jurisdictions at play and, ultimately, a major element of this problem is international, as the member for Abbotsford mentioned. I was able to take what I had learned from the experts at the round table and present my findings to our Liberal caucus and relevant ministers. I am very proud to say that the government has taken bold action to address this problem.

With respect to the comments by the member for Abbotsford that we are ignoring the international component of this, nothing could be further from the truth. Hosting the G7 meetings this year, our government invited other G7 nations to be part of the solution internationally, as well as through their own national programs. In fact, building on the oceans plastics charter that was signed, Canada will invest $100 million to support vulnerable regions internationally to help them develop sound waste management, preventing plastic waste from entering the environment, rivers and coastlines and better managing existing plastic resources. We are taking action nationally as well as internationally.

Leading by example is always a key to solving any global problem. I want to talk a bit about what our government is doing to address the problem through our own operations.

The Government of Canada is our largest employer, our largest landlord and our largest purchaser. Therefore, action by the government's own operations stimulates innovation, supports the emerging industries dealing with this problem and has a much larger impact were we not at the centre of policy-making in Canada.

As I have mentioned, Canada is committed to global leadership in government operations that are low carbon, resilient, green and reduce plastic waste. We are doing this through our greening government strategy.

At the G7 this past September, the Minister of Environment, the Minister of Fisheries and the Minister of Natural Resources announced new commitments to better manage the use and disposal of plastics in our government operations.

First of all, we set an explicit target for diverting plastic waste. By 2030, at least 75% of the plastic waste from federal government operations will be diverted.

That is a significant objective. This plastic waste target is in line with and supports our greening government strategy commitment to divert at least 75% by weight of all non-hazardous operational waste by 2030.

Our target of reducing plastic waste will support the oceans plastics charter commitments to increase the efficient use of resources while strengthening waste diversion systems and infrastructure to collect and process plastic materials.

Another thing I learned at the round table I hosted last winter in Vancouver is this. There simply is not adequate infrastructure for collecting, reprocessing and up-cycling the plastic material. There are ample opportunities now for innovation in this area, for entrepreneurship and the utilization of science and research to help us solve this problem on a much larger scale than in the past.

Let me now turn to our government's second commitment with respect to government operations. We will eliminate the unnecessary use of single-use plastics in government operations, events and meetings. Single-use plastics, which go beyond simply disposable straws and utensils, includes disposable cups, plastic bags and many other items that are intended to be used only once before they are thrown away or recycled. They constitute a significant portion of the plastic litter in our environment. Many of them, such as straws and utensils, can be difficult to collect and recycle. While these plastics may sometimes be necessary for accessibility, health, safety or security reasons, in many situations there are already viable alternatives of reusable, compostable or recyclable objects.

The third commitment I would like to discuss today is our commitment to leverage procurement processes to focus on sustainable plastic products utilized by government operations right across the country.

When purchasing products that contain plastics, we will promote the procurement of sustainable plastic products and the reduction of associated plastic packaging waste. This is for government operations right across the country, with our hundreds of thousands of public servants and the tens of thousands of buildings we occupy.

Sustainable plastics can be ones that are reusable, have been repaired, remanufactured, refurbished or made with recycled content or can be readily recycled or composted at the end of their life.

Canadians are aware that plastic pollution must be addressed promptly in Canada and around the world. This problem has been growing at a terrible rate, and the time to take action is now. Our government is leading by example to ensure we better manage the use and disposal of plastics in our governmental operations across the country.

I once again acknowledge the member for Courtenay—Alberni for his initiative to bring this forward and to study it further in the House of Commons standing committee.

The EnvironmentPrivate Members’ Business



The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders


Vancouver Granville B.C.


Jody Wilson-Raybould LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved that Bill C-84, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (bestiality and animal fighting), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure I speak to Bill C-84, an act to amend the Criminal Code, bestiality and animal fighting, which brings forward important updates to the Criminal Code. Our government remains steadfast in our commitment to ensure our laws protect our most vulnerable and reflect our commonly held values. The bill is exactly about that.

As a government, we have brought forward important amendments to the Criminal Code, including by increasing efficiencies in the criminal justice system, cleaning up outdated and unconstitutional provisions, clarifying sexual assault laws and strengthening the impaired driving regime. These changes, along with those proposed in Bill C-84, reflect my ongoing commitment to ensuring our criminal laws remain clear, comprehensible and contemporary.

I am proud of our efforts in this regard and will continue to pursue law reform that is evidence-based and ensures our criminal justice system extends the strongest protections to Canadians, especially the most vulnerable.

Before I begin to outline the details of the bill, I would like to acknowledge the advocacy of many honourable members in the House, including in particular the member for Beaches—East York for his leadership and for initiating a very important discussion on this issue in his private member's bill. I would also like to thank the several organizations and numerous Canadians who have written in and advocated for many years. The bill is a result of their hard work.

Bill C-84 focuses on filling gaps in the Criminal Code and preventing violence and cruelty toward animals. It reflects significant consultation with child and animal protection groups, as well as agricultural and animal use stakeholders, and brings forward changes that reflect a common ground approach to addressing these important issues.

Clause 1 would add a definition of “bestiality” in section 160 of the Criminal Code to include “any contact, for a sexual purpose, between a person and an animal.” This responds to the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. D.L.W. in 2016, where the court held that the bestiality offences in section 160 of the Criminal Code were limited to sexual acts with animals that involved penetration. In arriving at that determination, the court examined the common law definition of bestiality, which originated in British law and was subsequently incorporated into our Criminal Code.

The broadened definition would increase protections for children, as well as other vulnerable individuals who may be compelled to engage in or witness bestiality, and animals, by ensuring the criminal law captures all sexual acts with animals, not just those involving penetration. By virtue of the definition's “sexual purpose” focus, legitimate animal husbandry and veterinary practices would continue to be excluded from the scope of the offence.

In its decision, the Supreme Court noted that courts must interpret the law, not change the elements of crimes in ways that seemed to them to better suit the circumstances of a particular case. Rather, it is Parliament's responsibility to expand the scope of criminal liability, should it elect to do so.

In the wake of this decision, child protection advocates as well as animal welfare groups expressed serious concern with the effect of the decision and called for law reform. I agree the gap identified by the Supreme Court requires a parliamentary response, and we are doing just that.

As mentioned, this bill responds to the Supreme Court's decision in D.L.W., by defining bestiality as “any contact, for a sexual purpose, with an animal.” This would ensure all contact between a human and an animal for sexual purpose would be prohibited. This would send a clear and unequivocal message to those who would wish to harm animals. This amendment would also provide increased protection to children who would be exposed to or coerced to participate in abusive conduct, as well as other vulnerable persons who may be compelled to engage in such conduct.

The proposed definition focuses on the broad term of contact for sexual purpose. The phrase “for a sexual purpose” has a well-established meaning in Canadian criminal law. It is used in a number of different instances in the Criminal Code, and I am confident the use of this consistent terminology will cover the offences in question.

In its entirety, the proposed definition is clearer and reflects Canadians' understanding of what this offence entails. It is also consistent with calls from animal welfare groups and agricultural stakeholders, including the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture.

At the same time, this definition will ensure that those involved in legitimate animal husbandry activities, including breeding livestock and veterinary medicine, will not be captured by these offences.

Currently, the Criminal Code has three main offences related to bestiality. Bill C-84 does not change the nature of the penalties related to these offences which, on indictment, carry maximum sentences ranging from 10 to 14 years in jail.

I would also like to note that the changes proposed in my criminal justice reform legislation, Bill C-75, will increase the maximum penalty on summary conviction for both offences to two years less a day. Such changes will contribute to a more efficient criminal justice system by encouraging proceeding by way of summary conviction where it is appropriate to do so.

There is a strong public safety rationale for Parliament to expand the scope of these offences, particularly as it relates to enhancing protections for children and other vulnerable persons. Research continues to demonstrate a well-established link between animal sexual abuse and sexual abuse of children, as well as other forms of violence.

I would note that the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies organized a conference in 2017, the purpose of which was to look more closely at these issues. The final report provides an overview of these issues. I commend the federation for its important work to promote a greater understanding of the severity of these issues.

We also see these links in criminal cases. Canadian criminal law shows that when sexual abuse of a child involves an animal, the extent of this horrible behaviour is most often severe and frequently includes a pattern of vicious treatment of both the child and the animal. With this bill we are ensuring that those in law enforcement, including prosecutors, have the tools they need to achieve justice for the victims of these despicable acts.

I would also like to discuss a second set of reforms contained in Bill C-84, which marks an important step in providing comprehensive protections for all animals. These additional measures will strengthen protections for animals by broadening the scope of the animal fighting offences in the Criminal Code.

There are currently two offences in the Criminal Code that specifically address animal fighting. The first is paragraph 445.1(1)(b), which prohibits encouraging, aiding or assisting at the fighting or baiting of animals. This is a hybrid offence with a maximum penalty of five years on indictment or a maximum of 18 months' imprisonment and/or a fine, not exceeding $10,000. Bill C-75 will also increase the maximum penalty on summary conviction to two years less a day.

Presently, this offence fails to capture a number of other associated activities with participating in the deplorable activity of animal fighting. Accordingly, Bill C-84 proposes to broaden the scope of this offence to include a wider range of activities, including encouraging, promoting, arranging and assisting at, receiving money for, or taking part in the fighting or baiting of animals, including prohibiting any of these activities with respect to the training, transporting or breeding of animals for fighting or baiting.

These are important changes and will ensure that all aspects of animal fighting are prohibited, ensuring that all persons in the chain of this criminal behaviour can be held accountable. I note, in particular, that the proposed changes also target the financial incentives associated with this crime and, in so doing, will act to discourage those involved with this unacceptable behaviour.

The second existing offence prohibits keeping a cockpit, which is section 447, and carries the same penalties as animal fighting. It too will see its maximum penalty on summary conviction increase through Bill C-75. This offence, as it exists in the Criminal Code, is extremely narrow in scope, a reflection of its historical origins when cockfighting was the primary form of animal fighting.

However, we know that, unfortunately, dog fighting has grown in prominence today. Bill C-84 amends this offence to ensure it extends to building, keeping or maintaining any arena for the purposes of fighting any animal. The fact of the matter is that all forms of animal fighting are cruel and abhorrent, and so our laws should appropriately extend to all animals. Simply stated, there is no legitimate or reasonable societal purpose to engage in animal fighting. This behaviour is cruel and must be stopped.

This is another important step our government is taking to ensure our criminal laws are contemporary and address conduct that is deserving of criminal sanction. It is important to note that animal fighting has often been linked to organized crime, including illegal gambling and the illicit trafficking of drugs and weapons. The changes we are bringing forward in Bill C-84 will improve the ability of law enforcement to prosecute criminals, track cases of animal fighting and protect public safety. By broadening the offence to include additional activities, we are ensuring that law enforcement is equipped to detect and intercept the crime at whatever stage it is discovered.

I would like to take a few minutes to speak specifically about dog fighting. Given its clandestine nature, it is difficult to collect statistics on the prevalence of dog fighting in Canada. In fact, dog-fighting operations often go undetected until law enforcement officers discover them while investigating other crimes. That said, we know that in May and October 2015 and in March 2016, the Ontario SPCA major case management team, the Ontario Provincial Police and the Chatham-Kent Police Service partnered together to end suspected dog-fighting operations. These three joint investigations led to the execution of 11 search warrants on three properties in Lanark County, Tilbury and Kent Bridge, Ontario. This resulted in the seizure of 64 pit bull dogs, documents, pictures, veterinary supplies, electronic equipment and hundreds of items related to the training and fighting of dogs.

The Ontario SPCA reports that dog fighting is undeniably taking place in Ontario. The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals reports that dog fights can last one to two hours and end only when one of the dogs is too injured to continue or has died. The dogs involved often suffer from deep puncture wounds, broken bones, and in many cases die from blood loss or infection.

As I mentioned, dog fighting, a terrible form of animal cruelty, is also linked to a wide range of other crimes, including illegal gambling and drugs and weapons offences. The primary motivation for dog fighting is gambling and participants often wager thousands of dollars, showing how lucrative it is for those involved.

I would also note that, according to the Ontario SPCA, when police raid dog-fighting events, they often find children present. Exposure to this type of abuse desensitizes children to violence and may itself be a form of child abuse. I am proud that we are taking important steps to limit and prevent this horrible abuse to animals and children. The proposed reforms to the offence, targeting arenas coupled with the changes to the animal-fighting offence, will target those who take part in training or receive money to train dogs to fight and who employ terrible techniques to increase the viciousness and ferocity of these animals. This so-called training can include abusively suspending a dog from a tree or a pole by its jaw and encouraging the dog to grab bait and hold on as long as possible in order to increase the lethality of its bite.

No animal should have to die as a form of human entertainment. It is unspeakably cruel and offends Canadians' values at the deepest level.

I am proud of these necessary changes we are bringing forward to protect animals from horrible situations of abuse. It is important for me to reiterate that this bill in no way interferes with any legitimate animal use. This bill seeks to protect public safety and ensures that we are doing more to prevent violence and cruelty toward animals.

We are focusing on aspects of protection that enjoy broad support and reflect our shared values. Again, the broadening of these offences will not interfere with legitimate animal uses, such as the training and work of service dogs, medical research, hunting, fishing or indigenous animal harvesting rights. Animal fighting and bestiality are in no way legitimate activities.

Before I conclude, I would like to reiterate that this bill is the result of significant consultation and there has been broad support expressed for these reforms. As mentioned earlier, the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture have called for these changes. The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association and many agricultural stakeholder groups have also advocated for these amendments to address animal fighting and bestiality.

As parliamentarians, many of us hear from concerned citizens who are urging action to modernize our animal cruelty offences. Similarly, in our consultations, a number of provinces have called upon Parliament to take action to address the gap identified by the Supreme Court in D.L.W. I am confident that this bill addresses these concerns.

I recognize that some would want the bill to go further by proposing additional reforms to animal cruelty laws. I believe it is critically important that we take steps now to address these particular issues, for which I believe there is broad support. Our government is committed to all of the appropriate protections that are extended to the most vulnerable, and we will continue to review this as part of our broad review of the criminal justice system.

There have already been some suggestions made, including by animal rights organizations, on the ways that we can strengthen this bill. As I have said with respect to other legislation, I welcome constructive suggestions that reflect the objectives of our proposed reforms and look forward to a fulsome and productive debate. I therefore urge all members to support this bill and help ensure its swift passage.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am encouraged that the government has adopted this legislation. It has been some time since the Supreme Court ruling precipitated the need for this legislation.

My question for the minister is twofold. Why was this simple change not included in one of the omnibus budget bills that the government has tabled to date? Why was there such a delay, given that there have been cases that have been impacted by the delay of the government in this regard? I am also curious as to why the government has not linked the issue of animal ownership after somebody has been charged and convicted with bestiality. Why is that provision not included in this particular legislation?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. colleague across the way for her private member's bill, which speaks to the issue raised in D.L.W.

This government bill, as I said, goes to address the gap that exists in the criminal law with respect to bestiality by providing a definition.

I hear the member regarding the delay. It has taken some time to bring this bill forward. I hope her concerns around the delay will assist in this piece of legislation going forward quickly.

As for prohibitions on animal ownership, there are provisions within provincial legislation that actually address the prohibition of maintaining or keeping an animal as a result of cases that have gone forward where individuals have been convicted.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, my question is not so much about what is in the bill but what is missing from the bill. We have been waiting for two years for this, since Bill C-246 was defeated. I know that many Liberal and New Democrat MPs in previous Parliaments have tried to tackle the issue of animal cruelty.

With respect, animal bestiality and animal fighting are the low-hanging fruit. They are easy, and I do not think there will be any objection in the House to supporting this bill. However, one of the Minister of Justice's predecessors, the Hon. Irwin Cotler, attempted in the last Parliament, through Bill C-610, to significantly update parts of the Criminal Code for failing to provide adequate care.

I had a horrific case of animal abuse in my riding involving Teddy the dog. He was tethered from puppyhood, with his leash left on until he grew into an adult. They had to surgically remove the collar.

There are huge gaps remaining in our Criminal Code, and we can put provisions in there that protect the rights of farmers, hunters and anglers. I come from a rural riding, and I would make that a fact before supporting any legislation. There are sections that have not been updated since the 1890s.

It has been two years since the defeat of the private member's bill, Bill C-246. The Minister of Justice came to office with an agenda to reform our Criminal Code. Where are the other provisions and when can we expect them? Why continue a study? When is the action actually going to come?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his recognition that there may not be many members of the House who would oppose the specific pieces of Bill C-84.

I have had the opportunity to talk with the hon. member about the horrific example of abuse that happened in his riding with respect to Teddy the dog. Bill C-84 reflects a consensus among individuals who want to make every effort to protect animals and protect vulnerable people, including children. In my office, I have received letters from many stakeholders across the country who support the quick movement of Bill C-84.

Does it go to the extent the member is talking about? This is a first step. We continue to have discussions with stakeholders who want this legislation, and the government, to go further. I am committed to continuing to have those conversations.

There is more we can do. Certainly there is a diversity of opinion around amendments and changes that can be made to the Criminal Code to modernize it. As the member said, there are many provisions that have been in place since 1892.

We continue to have these discussions to modernize the Criminal Code. Our government is committed to ensuring that animals are protected from cruelty and that we do everything we can to ensure that children are protected as well. Those discussions are ongoing.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Gagan Sikand Liberal Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have had conversations with some of my constituents. I represent a riding in Mississauga, Ontario, and we do have a ban on pit bulls.

The minister mentioned dog fighting for entertainment. In the conversations I have had, people seem to think that dog fighting does not exist or it has been lessened. Could the minister please reiterate the need to legislate?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question about the necessity to expand the reach of animal fighting to include dogs. As I mentioned in my speech, there has been significant study around dog fighting, which does exist in Ontario, by the Ontario SPCA major case management team, the Ontario Provincial Police and the Chatham-Kent Police Service. As I said, they have partnered to identify the reality that dog fighting does exist in Ontario.

I recognize the member's comments about individuals in his constituency raising this issue. In my own constituency, many constituents have come to me to ask the government to address it. There is probably not one member of the House who has not received letters from constituents about this.

The government's commitment in putting forward Bill C-84 is to ensure that we do everything we can to protect animals and protect vulnerable people, including children. The commitment I made here on the floor today is to continue this conversation as we proceed and to look toward modernizing the Criminal Code provisions.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have some serious questions about this legislation. It is going in the right direction but I do not believe it has been completely thought out.

Part of my concern is over the definition of bestiality, where it says that it means any contact for sexual purposes with an animal but it does not say if that sexual purpose is for human purposes or animal purposes.

The minister claims that the bill has been developed to protect animal husbandry and so on but inserting one word into that definition would make it clear that bestiality means any contact for human sexual purposes with an animal. This would eliminate any possible potential impact for artificial insemination within the agricultural community. That is one part of my concern.

The second part of my concern is that the minister claims that the term “for sexual purpose” is well used and well defined in the Criminal Code and in the courts. I have been searching since she said that and I have not been able to find that. I am wondering if the minister could perhaps point that out and also comment on my earlier question with respect to protecting animal husbandry.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Jody Wilson-Raybould Liberal Vancouver Granville, BC

Mr. Speaker, to answer both parts of my hon. colleague's question, this legislation is short and well thought through.

In terms of bestiality, it follows the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in R. v. D.L.W., which talks about contact for a sexual purpose. As I said in my speech and as the member indicted, this has a well-established meaning at law and viewed objectively for when an act is committed for a sexual purpose that it was committed for the sexual gratification of the accused. In terms of the intent of the legislation, it is very clear to not address or not infringe upon legitimate animal husbandry or artificial insemination activities.

Quickly to the member's question about what other Criminal Code provisions have looked at “for sexual purpose”, he can find this in terms of child pornography, voyeurism and making sexually explicit material available to a child.

I would be happy to continue a conversation with the member on these provisions.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.


Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister for answering some of those questions, and my colleagues who asked them. It feels like legitimate, real debate has broken out in this place this morning. It is a rare day. It is wonderful.

Before I start speaking in favour of Bill C-84, there are some people I would to thank. These people have worked very hard on this bill, which, to me, is the minimum this place could do in terms of updating Canada's very outdated and archaic animal cruelty laws. First is Pierre Sadik, Canadian Federation of Humane Societies; Camille Labchuk, Animal Justice; the member for Beaches—East York, who tabled a private member's bill earlier in this Parliament; and my legislative manager, Bari Miller.

These people have all helped me over the last year and a half in putting together a non-partisan consensus that we need to see some advancement in terms of the legal framework that Canada uses to protect the rights of hunters, anglers and farmers but also to acknowledge that animal cruelty has indicators and broader societal implications than on just animal welfare itself.

Today, we are speaking specifically to the provisions in Bill C-84. It has been nearly a year since I tabled Bill C-388, my private member's bill, which does include provisions that are in this bill, which responds to the 2016 Supreme Court decision, R. v. D.L.W., which the minister spoke to at length this morning.

For those who are listening this morning, who might not be familiar with the content of that particular decision, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld an acquittal of a British Columbia man who was charged with bestiality after compelling their family dog to sexually abuse their 16-year-old stepdaughter. In the decision, the Supreme Court found that existing provisions around bestiality do not adequately define what sexual acts with animals are prohibited under Canadian law.

The Supreme Court applied a very narrow understanding of sexual abuse that requires a penetrative act. This narrow definition created a loophole that allowed sexual abusers to avoid conviction and highlights how the definition of bestiality in the Criminal Code is severely outdated. The bill before us today responds to this situation by tightening up that definition of bestiality to prohibit sexual abuse of animals, including that beyond a non-penetrative act.

I have been disheartened, because there have been some discussions, both within the Canadian media and people abroad, saying that this is not a problem, it is a manufactured problem, and asking why we are even talking about this. First of all, I would argue that the definition needs to be tightened up, including taking into consideration some of the questions that my colleagues have asked about ensuring that animal husbandry activities are allowed.

This is important because, first of all, in the situation of the Supreme Court ruling, we have a 16-year-old woman, a girl who did not have justice dealt to her because the Supreme Court charged us as legislators with ensuring that this definition was closed. It has been over two years since this happened.

To me, this is justice in one case, and that is enough. However, broader than that, we also have to understand that since the Supreme Court ruling, there have been other cases that have had a similar lens applied to them and then had unfortunate consequences.

I will read from a story in the Winnipeg Free Press, published in April 2017. The title of the article is “Child-porn collector pursued 'dark fantasies', court told”. This man, Andrew Harrison pleaded guilty last week and was given a one-year jail sentence and three years of supervised probation as part of a joint recommendation from the Crown and defence lawyers. Investigators eventually tracked the IP address. He was convicted of child pornography, I believe.

However, the interesting part that is relevant to the bill is the following. Members of the Internet child exploitation unit also charged Harrison with bestiality after finding two videos of him involved in a sexual act with his dog, the court was told. However, that charge was stayed last week because it did not meet the new definition of bestiality, requiring penetration, as set out by a recent Supreme Court decision, according to the Crown.

This is one other case, but I do know anecdotally, from talking to stakeholders in the animal welfare community as well as others across the country, that there has been speculation that law enforcement officials have not been laying or attempting to lay charges related to bestiality that do not involve penetrative acts since the Supreme Court ruling, because they knew these charges would not pass the test set by the Supreme Court. This is why it is so important for us to pass this legislation. I frankly wish it had been done sooner, or in the context of some of the government's other justice legislation, but here we are today.

The other thing I want to lay out here is that the government had the opportunity to put this legislation in its previous bill and, therefore, to also study the terms laid out in this bill. What I do not want to see happen is the government not responding to legitimate questions from colleagues in this place around the definition and how it might apply to activities like animal husbandry or whatnot, because it failed to put this legislation forward earlier in this Parliament.

Again, I point to my Liberal colleague, the member for Beaches—East York. It is a rare day I can be found complimenting a Liberal in this place, but my colleague had a large piece of comprehensive legislation on a bunch of different animal welfare issues. He reduced that bill significantly through amendments to a few very tight issues. One of them is the bestiality provision, which we have in my private member's bill. Now the government, late in this Parliament, is trying to rush this through. It is therefore incumbent upon the government and the minister to answer these questions to ensure that the intent of the legislation, as she has described it is, is applied in fact.

Going back to why this is important and not an issue that should be ignored, there is a strong connection between abuse of animals and abuse of people. A provincial government of Australia website says:

Research has established a strong connection between abuse towards animals, and abuse towards people. When a person abuses an animal there is a risk that they may also be abusive towards other people in their lives. Children who experience abuse towards animals, or abuse within the home, are also more likely to abuse animals or perform acts of violence towards people later in life. They repeat lessons learnt in the home: to react to anger with violence, and to perform this violence on more vulnerable individuals. Animal abuse can take the form of physical violence, torment, neglect, or threats to safety – be it to household pets, wildlife, or farm animals. It is often used by the abuser to demonstrate power over other family members, and promote an environment of fear, vulnerability, and isolation. It commonly occurs alongside other types of abuse within the home.

There are other bodies of research that clearly show the link between the abuse of animals and abuse of people. Through the debate here today, in both aspects of the bill, the bestiality change, as well as the change to animal fighting, which I fully support, we have to acknowledge that we cannot turn a blind eye to the severity of this problem, because it escalates.

I personally think we have a responsibility to ensure that the rights and welfare of animals are protected, but we also have to understand that case law shows that it is a problem, despite the fact I have seen some articles recently saying that it is not. Moreover, research shows that by we in Parliament, by not taking action on this, might precipitate broader abuses leaning toward violence against people in our country, which is why it should not have taken two years for us to get to this point. However, here we are.

I want to thank people in the stakeholder community for their efforts on this because that community has been asking for this change for a long time. I also want to thank the over 8,000 Canadians who signed the petition seeking legislative change in this regard. There has been considerable pressure on the government from a variety of organizations across the stakeholder gamut. The Canadian Federation for Agriculture has spoken in favour of the bestiality change. The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association and the Canadian Cattlemen's Association also issued a letter to the Minister of Justice to implore her to remedy this legislative gap.

To my colleagues who have raised concern about the animal husbandry component, I have been assured by officials as well as members of these communities that they do not see any potential implications given the definition in case law. However, to the stakeholders who have written in support of it, we need to be very clear about the intent of this debate to say that this legislation was not put forward, and certainly not in my private member's bill, to prevent legitimate animal husbandry activities. Instead, it is designed to prevent the abuse of animals by humans undertaking sexual acts for their gratification by abusing animals.

As the Supreme Court case of R. v. D.L.W. demonstrated, violence against animals and violence against people are not distinct and separate problems. Violence against animals can be a strong predicator of violence against humans and the relationship between these acts of violence is known as the violence link. Very simply put, if a person wants to hurt animals, they are also more likely to hurt another person as well. I have gone into that in some detail today. I just want to reiterate this.

While the bill addresses the definition of bestiality, I have concerns that there are elements missing in Bill C-84, as it does not currently give judges the ability to ban bestiality offenders from owning animals in the future, something that is a standard for other animal cruelty offences under the Criminal Code. That means that someone who is convicted of committing a bestiality offence is legally allowed to own animals. However, someone who is convicted of animal cruelty is not allowed to own animals. A reasonable person can see why this is a problem endangering animals as well as humans, and I would like to see an amendment to the bill, possibly at third reading that could make this small change.

I also want to address critics of the bill who view it as a slippery slope. Again, some of my colleagues have raised the issue of animal husbandry. The concern is that perhaps farmers and other husbandry workers could somehow be criminally implicated by this small change in law. This law as well as my private member's bill ensures that contact with animals for sexual purposes is prohibited, and the key word here is “sexual”. Sexual offences appear in the Criminal Code in a number of different places, including the context of sexual interference, section 151; invitation to sexual touching, section 152; sexual exploitation, section 153; and most importantly, the section 271 offence of sexual assault.

To my colleague who was asking questions of the minister, this is my analysis. The word “sexual” has been clearly defined in case law. The leading Supreme Court case is R. v. Chase, 1987, 2 S.C.R. 293. Chase it makes it clear that contact will only be sexual in nature if it is objectively clear to a reasonable observer that there is a carnal or sexual context to it. To my colleague who raised this question earlier and asked the minister for evidence from case law, I would direct him to this case. The person's motive is also relevant and if they are motivated by sexual gratification, that would be considered in determining whether or not the contact is sexual. In other words, the key question that would be grappled with is whether or not the sexual nature of the activity were apparent to a reasonable observer.

To apply this to the issue at hand, it is abundantly clear that artificial insemination of cows or other animals in farming or science would in no universe be interpreted by the courts to be done for sexual reasons, one would assume anyway. Rather it is done for animal husbandry reasons or scientific reasons. There is no element of sexual gratification in either situation. Artificial insemination of animals is an accepted activity that occurs across a variety of sectors, and no reasonable person would view it as anything other than economically or scientifically motivated. I would also point out that the current law that requires penetration would apply to practices like artificial insemination already if we are interpreting it without the case law looking at intent.

Again, to my colleague's question of the justice minister, she could have expanded on that. I would expect her, if she is going to appear at our committee, to look at that particular definition and perhaps get more information to colleagues who might have concerns about that. In fact, there has never been a case that has used the existing law in this matter, using the current bestiality provisions to prosecute a farmer for the artificial insemination of an animal, given that the current definition deals with penetration.

It might also be helpful to make an analogy to the care given by a doctor or even a veterinarian. Doctors frequently have contact with a patient's sexual organs, and touching is not done for sexual purposes but for medicinal purposes. Similarly, a veterinarian who examines an animal's sexual organs would never be deemed to be engaged in sexual contact with the animal but contact for the purpose of veterinary medicine.

This is a very uncomfortable discussion to have, but sometimes hard discussions are needed, and we cannot shy away from having them. However, I am glad to see the bill finally in front of Parliament so that we can give police more tools to deal with dangerous sexual criminals.

The other component of the bill that I support is the ban on animal fighting. Some of my colleagues have had questions about the definition of animal fighting and the situations it would pertain to. At first glance, the proposed legislation is pretty clear in its intent to prevent animal fighting in a very specific context, and not with a broader set of non-specific definitions.

The reason this is also important to my NDP colleague's comment of a bare minimum in updating animal cruelty and animal welfare legislation in Canada is that this is another instance where animal abuse or cruelty can have broader societal implications for humans. For example, we know that dog fighting, in fact, most animal fighting, has been linked to gang activity or organized crime and illegal gambling. Therefore, if somebody does not want to look at the animal cruelty components of the proposed legislation, they should at least, at a bare minimum, look at the fact that this particular activity is known to have broader implications for crime in Canadian society. It is one of these rare situations where we have consensus among a broad variety of stakeholders that this is something Parliament should be passing and undertaking.

Some colleagues raised concerns with me that it might affect rodeos in Canada. I do not take it to read that way, but perhaps the Minister of Justice, the parliamentary secretary or officials could speak to the intent of it as well, which might get rid of some of the concerns that my colleagues have in that regard. As a member of Parliament from Calgary, I do not see rodeos as places where animals are fighting each other, or fighting to the death. That is not the case, and so I would not see that as the intent of this proposed legislation. However, perhaps the minister could clarify that to ensure that there are no unintended consequences from the bill.

Also, because I believe this may have come up, perhaps my colleague from Beaches—East York might want to speak to the fact that some of those concerns were raised during the committee study of his bill. Even though his bill was defeated in this place, the intent of that proposed legislation was to be specific and to deal with a specific problem. However, one of the approaches my colleague from Beaches—East York took in that somewhat frustrating journey with his private member's bill was, to my understanding, to try to update the animal welfare legislation by drilling down towards specific problems and then come up with specific legislation so there would be no broader impact on Canadian agriculture.

The feedback I often get from colleagues or stakeholder communities is whether this would affect medical research or someone's ability to run a ranch. I certainly do not think that is the case.

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12:50 p.m.


Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, having sat through a few speeches by the member for Calgary Nose Hill, I can attest to the fact that she does not say complimentary things about many Liberals, so I appreciate her comments today.

I am thankful that Bill C-84 has been introduced and that the justice minister has said that this is a first step. It is important that this is part of an ongoing move to improve, update and strengthen the animal cruelty provisions in the Criminal Code. However, what holds us back from that is this notion of unintended consequences, sometimes a scare tactic about a slippery slope.

We have a letter from animal sector groups, alongside the Canadian Federation of Municipalities, saying that we should pass Bill C-84 to tackle animal fighting and bestiality. That is what the justice minister has done.

In 2004, there was a letter from a long list of animal sector groups, asking then justice minister Irwin Cotler to pass Bill C-22. That was the long list of Criminal Code amendments in my private member's bill. My frustration is hearing some Conservatives say that they are worried about how it will affect animal husbandry. If those asking that question had read the case law and looked at the letter of support from the animal sector groups or even turned to common sense, what is lacking in this place sometimes, they would know this has nothing to do with animal husbandry and everything to do with the sexual abuse of animals.

If we want to continue to tackle animal cruelty, how do we get beyond the specious arguments about unintended consequences?

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12:50 p.m.


Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, sometimes this is not the case, but there are times when colleagues have legitimate concerns. With respect to looking at case law in this place, we have to be an inch deep and a mile wide in our knowledge on public policy. It is when bills come to the House that sometimes we have to take a deep dive. I did some research on the case law because I anticipated some of these questions from my colleagues.

To continue the thought at the end of my speech, what I appreciate about the approach my colleague from Beaches—East York took in his legislation was to drill down into specific instances of abuse, with specific, very tight potential legislative fixes. I would not classify them as specious, because there are legitimate concerns. My colleague who raised the concerns about animal husbandry might have heard this from some of his colleagues. I know a couple of colleagues in my caucus had farmers ask them if this would affect it.

How do we move forward on debate? It is up to us to study legislation in depth and ensure we communicate back to stakeholders what the experts have said, but also to make apparent the intent of the legislation in Parliament so when legal forces look at this, they understand what we are trying to say.

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12:50 p.m.


Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, what the member for Calgary Nose Hill has said in her remarks is very true. One thing I found out last year, as my party's justice critic and sitting on the justice committee, is this. When we look at bills amending the Criminal Code, we have to be so very careful even with the individual words used. While we are responsible in this place for writing the law, it is up to the court system to interpret it. Therefore, we always have to look at the ways it might be interpreted.

That being said, when I look at Bill C-84, a lot of my constituents, and these are constituents across the political spectrum, Conservatives, Liberals, New Democrats and Green Party members, are going to be disappointed with what is missing because of the very brutal case of animal cruelty in my riding. I acknowledge that changing the law alone will not solve this problem, but the fact remains there are thousands of animal cruelty complaints every year in the country and very few of them make it to an actual charge, let alone a conviction. There is room for specific language in the Criminal Code that would exempt the legitimate activities of animal husbandry, hunting and fishing.

Does my colleague have any thoughts about how to move forward? The justice minister is committed to having this conversation, but in my colleague's view, is there a way to amend the Criminal Code that would take action on these specific areas of neglect? We still have gaping holes in our criminal justice system aside from Bill C-84, and I know members of her caucus have raised these concerns. However, in her view, what is the way forward to tackle what the member for Beaches—East York is raising, what my constituents are raising and what Canadians across the country, from all political stripes, are taking about? Parliament has tried many times and failed every time. How do we go forward from here?

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12:55 p.m.


Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will bridge the questions between my colleague from the NDP and my colleague from Beaches—East York regarding how we move forward, but also bring in the concerns of some of my colleagues who have raised potential implications here.

The way forward is to first recognize that the only comprehensive committee we have had on this type of issue has been the hearings on Bill C-246 in this Parliament. This probably warrants a larger study so farmers, hunters, anglers, medical researchers and animal welfare groups can come in, sit down and talk about these things, so we not crafting legislation out of the blue but in response to a coordination and collation of concerns in a parliamentary session. I wish we had more time in justice committee, but to me we could absolutely do in a justice committee study. I am sure one of my colleagues would propose that.

Also, the key thing here is respect. I have colleagues for whom a large part of their riding is involved in either hunting, angling or agriculture and they have legitimate concerns. Let us ensure they are at the table with animal welfare groups and then come up with legislation that might not make anybody happy but does the right thing.

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12:55 p.m.


Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the member for Calgary Nose Hill mentioned, I went through an arduous journey for Bill C-246. My in-laws are in a small southwestern Ontario community, Camlachie. No one really knows where it is, but it is outside of Petrolia. If people do not know where Petrolia is, it is outside of Sarnia.

A cousin of my father-in-law is a chicken farmer. The Chicken Farmers of Canada was very much opposed to and worried about some of the language in Bill C-246. It was worried about language that had to do with a case where a dog was killed with a baseball bat and died immediately. The judge acquitted because there was no evidence of pain and suffering. I did not come up with the language; the justice department came up with it. It was debated for 100 hours in this place and in the Senate. The bill was passed in both places, but unfortunately died before it became law.

However, the cousin of my father-in-law came to me and asked me what was going on, that the Chicken Farmers of Canada was worried about this and should he be worried. I explained that the language said that it would be a crime to brutally or viciously kill an animal, regardless of whether the animal died immediately. They were worried about that language, the unintended consequences. He stopped me asked me why anyone would want to kill an animal brutally and viciously.

I tell this story because I want to thank the member for her advocacy and for her suggestion. It is important that we have everyone, members of all parties and stakeholders from across the spectrum, from animal rights groups to animal sector use groups, come to the table and discuss the language and what it would be designed to do. If we do that, there is a way forward and a way forward to get back to where we were in 2004. I would certainly commit today to being part of that conversation with the member for Calgary Nose Hill and members across the way. Would she commit today to working across the aisle to make that happen?