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.

Topics

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, the short answer is yes. I have colleagues here. My colleague from Red Deer—Lacombe has raised these types of concerns. However, the key thing my colleague has raised today is the issue of intent. With respect to the courts looking at this debate today, if they ever have to, the intent of this legislation is to prevent animal abuse by the sexual gratification of a human on an animal through a non-penetrative act, not animal husbandry.

Again, my colleague mentioned the case law. I did a lot of research on the case law over the weekend. The case law is very clear with respect to precedence. This would not affect those particular activities because of the intent. The intent is not for sexual gratification and that has been clearly defined in case law.

Perhaps that is how we should proceed. Any focus on animal welfare law in Canada is very clearly defined in terms of intent. Animal welfare groups have to communicate to agricultural and hunting and angling stakeholders and explain that the intent is not to open a door an inch and take a mile, that it is to be very focused. This would be a very positive activity for this Parliament to undertake.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to be partaking in today's debate on Bill C-84. It touches some subject matter which is difficult to talk about, but that is often the case with the Criminal Code. The Criminal Code is a gigantic statute that has to cover everything that could possibly go wrong in society and figure out how we amend and correct that behaviour, but also how we dole out punishment.

Bill C-84 is specifically aimed at addressing gaps in the Criminal Code that exist with respect to animal bestiality and animal fighting. Supreme Court decision R. v. D.L.W., from 2016, was referenced by both the Minister of Justice and the hon. member for Calgary Nose Hill.

Specifically, Bill C-84 would update section 160 of the Criminal Code to include a broader and more comprehensive definition of “bestiality” and would amend paragraph 445.(1)(b) and subsection 447(1) to address animal fighting, specifically building facilities to harbour animal fighting and also promoting or making money from the event.

Canada's animal welfare laws have not been substantively changed since the 1890s, which has to say something to anyone listening to this debate.

I want to acknowledge the member for Calgary Nose Hill, who brought forward a private member's bill on this issue, Bill C-388. In her drafting of Bill C-84, the Minister of Justice lifted Bill C-388 and included it. Therefore, that is an acknowledgement of the work the member for Calgary Nose Hill has done.

I know the member for Calgary Nose Hill was recently in a bit of a tussle with an iPolitics columnist on an article he recently wrote. He was looking at some of the statistics that existed with this crime. There is the Supreme Court of Canada case I mentioned and there has been one case in federal court. Even in the province of Alberta, which is home to 4.3 million people, six people were charged with that offence between 2013 and 2017. Therefore, it is not a very wide ranging crime. It is certainly an abhorrent one and one we should we should rightfully close in the Criminal Code.

What I am concerned about is not really what is in Bill C-84, which I hope will receive unanimous consent in the House to have it sent to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. I am mostly concerned about what is not in it. I also agree with the member for Calgary Nose Hill's assessment of the glacial pace of justice reform by the Liberal government.

The minister came to power with a mandate letter from the Prime Minister, signalling bold criminal justice reform. We had a series of four government bills, which I will not number. Every time a new justice bill was added, like an amoeba, it would swallow the components of the first one and progressively get bigger and bigger. However, they were all languishing at first reading. Finally, we arrived at Bill C-75 and there was action on that bill, which I believe is currently at the justice committee. However, it has been a pretty glacial pace.

I like and respect the Minister of Justice. I was our party's justice critic for the entire 2017 year. It is a complex subject matter and requires a lot of responsibility and maturity to approach it. However, I have to judge the minister on her performance and I would not really give her a passing mark on the legislative front with respect to the promises made within her mandate letter.

I want to now move to a story from my riding, a story of Teddy the dog. This really goes to the heart of what is not included in Bill C-84. I will give my support to the bill, but I know constituents in my riding will be sorely disappointed. Teddy the dog was one of the most brutal cases of animal abuse the BC SPCA has ever witnessed.

In February of this year, officers came onto a property and found an adult dog tethered by a few inches. It was standing out in the wet and the cold in a pile of its own feces. The officers found a collar imbedded in that dog's neck that had caused the dog's head to swell to three times its original size, because it had been left on the dog from the time it was a puppy. The collar had never been loosened. When the officers removed the poor animal named Teddy and brought it to the veterinarian, the vet had to surgically remove that collar, which exposed the dog's trachea and a mound of infected flesh. Unfortunately, that dog passed away from its injuries.

It is far too often in this country that we hear of cases like that. Changing our laws would not be the magic bullet to solve this problem, but it would be one key, critical component, especially when we have such obvious gaps in our system.

There was a rally in my riding in March, where, as I said earlier, we had people from across the political spectrum. We had supporters of the Conservative Party, the Liberal Party, my party and the Green Party. They were all united, because they cared about animal welfare, and they cared that the state of our animal cruelty laws is not up to what it should be right now.

During that rally, I made a commitment that despite the defeat of Bill C-246, put forward by the member for Beaches—East York, I would continue pressuring the Minister of Justice to close these gaps and address the shortcomings of our current criminal law.

The unfortunate fallout from the case of Teddy the dog was that some people in the community felt that they could take the law into their own hands. A great deal of racism came out of it, because it involved a property on a first nation reserve. Therefore, I want to take this opportunity to remind constituents in my riding that racism and vigilantism have no place in our community. While we must always stand on guard for animal welfare, and certainly prosecute to the fullest extent of the law those who are found guilty, we have to let the law do its job. We have to believe in the rule of law. We cannot support or condone in any way people taking up a case for themselves. I want to make that very clear.

As I mentioned in my question to the Minister of Justice, not only this Parliament but previous Parliaments have wrestled with the idea of the inadequacy of the Criminal Code provisions with respect to animal cruelty. There have been a number of Liberal bills and New Democrat bills over previous Parliaments that have dealt with this issue.

I will get to the bill put forward by the member for Beaches—East York, but first I want to mention the bill put forward in a previous Parliament by the great Irwin Cotler, probably one of the most revered Liberals ever and a former minister of justice himself. He introduced Bill C-610. It only made it to first reading, but that particular bill tried to make some important updates, specifically with respect to failing to provide adequate care. Bill C-610 was introduced on June 6, 2014. I want to read into the record the speech Mr. Cotler gave at that time:

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and introduce this legislation, which amends the Criminal Code's provisions on animal cruelty. In particular, it creates a new offence of inadequate and negligent care of animals. The bill establishes an offence for anyone who negligently causes unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal or a bird, or, being the owner, wilfully or recklessly abandons it or fails to provide suitable and adequate food, water, air, shelter and care for it. It also punishes those who negligently injure an animal or bird while it is being conveyed.

He went on to say that “Canada's animal cruelty laws are woefully out of date.” He left it at that.

The former member for Parkdale—High Park, Peggy Nash, introduced Bill C-232 in the last Parliament. The hon. member for Vancouver Centre, in the previous Parliament, introduced Bill C-277. There has been multi-party support for these initiatives, but every time, they seem to have run into roadblocks.

Coming up to the most recent attempt in this Parliament, Bill C-246, which was introduced by the member for Beaches—East York, unfortunately I was not present for that second reading vote. I was travelling with the Special Committee on Electoral Reform at that time. I was substituting on it. We were hearing from the great people of Atlantic Canada about how great it would be to have some electoral reform. Unfortunately, the Liberals did not see it the same way. We will see how that conversation goes on in the future.

In any case, I think the member for Beaches—East York acknowledged that his particular private member's bill probably bit off more than it could chew, as it was trying to cover so many different angles. The more a private member's bill covers, the more areas people can find problems with and reasons to shut the whole thing down. I know that there were concerns raised by my Conservative colleagues, especially with respect to legal activities such as ranching, hunting, fishing, trapping, medical research and so on. I think there are ways to proceed with legislation that would address those concerns.

My wife and I have a small farming property. I come from a rural area of Vancouver Island. My constituents like to hunt and fish, and many of them are farmers. I would not support a piece of legislation unless there were specific provisions to protect those activities. I have some of the best salmon fishing in the world right off the west coast of Vancouver Island, which I enjoy. That is something that is a part of our heritage.

I raise animals. Most farmers will say that looking after the welfare of their animals is good for business. We do not want to have animals that are sickly or in poor health. I can attest to that. I have chickens, turkeys and lambs. When they are happy and well looked after, they do very well. It is in my interest not only from a moral point of view but from a commercial standpoint. There are always going to be those few bad apples who give everyone a bad name. However, that is specifically what this law has to be designed for, to weed out the bad apples and go after those who are the poor farmers who give everyone a bad name, and so on.

In 2016, when the member for Victoria, who was our party's justice critic and is now back to being the justice critic, rose to give our party's response to Bill C-246, he addressed those concerns. He said that we can insert clauses into the Criminal Code that start off with the phrase “For greater certainty” to make the necessary changes.

I heard concerns during that debate from Conservatives who wondered about jurisdictional and constitutional issues, because we know that the provinces have their own animal cruelty laws, as does the federal government. However, the supremacy of the criminal law power could easily override provincial legislation to ensure that we were not ending up with a patchwork quilt and that the law applied equally in each province, no matter where one lived. The Supreme Court of Canada has held that valid criminal law requires a prohibition, a penalty and a criminal law purpose, such as peace, order, security, morality and health. A change with respect to animal cruelty could easily satisfy all of those.

Here we are three years into the government's mandate, which I alluded to in my opening remarks. With respect to Bill C-84, there is so much more that could have been included in this bill. I said to the Minister of Justice during questions and comments that, with respect, the provisions in Bill C-84, which is not a very big bill, are very much the low-hanging fruit. I do not see how anyone in this place could raise any legitimate concerns about the bill, except for tinkering around the edges, such as whether some words could be modified. The general purpose of the bill is to broaden the definition of “bestiality” and to make sure that we have an all-encompassing law that goes against animal fighting. We are not going to find any significant objection to that.

However, the minister saying, after the defeat of Bill C-246, that the conversation would continue, that the Department of Justice would be having ongoing consultations with stakeholders, I think led many Canadians to believe that reform was actually coming. Therefore, when I announced to my constituents that we had Bill C-84 and what was missing, I had to convey a sense of disappointment.

Honestly, I think I and many constituents and many Canadians across this country were expecting a lot more, not only because it is three years into the government's mandate but because it is also two years after the defeat of Bill C-246. I know that the member for Beaches—East York has conveyed publicly that Bill C-84 is an obvious choice and is the low-hanging fruit. However, there is a sense of wondering what else is coming.

The Liberals are masters of the long promise. They say that they are continuing to engage with people, but I would not be surprised if we have to wait until the 43rd Parliament before we get some action. Who knows who will be in power at that point to deliver it?

My party has long supported animal cruelty measures. I have mentioned all the private members' bills. We could have included in this legislation, and I hope this is something the committee on justice and human rights will look at, some provisions for basic standards of care.

If I look at the case of Teddy the dog, in my riding, he was tethered with a chain just a few inches long and was having to stand in his own pile of feces. The B.C. SPCA has some specific recommendations the government could take note of. Basically, they want to see, for any dogs or animals that are tethered, five freedoms respected: freedom from hunger and thirst; freedom from pain, injury and disease; freedom from distress; freedom from discomfort and freedom to express behaviours that promote well-being. That is a starting point. There are lots of suggestions out there. There are many different stakeholders involved in this issue, and this is something the government could have taken note of.

As I referenced in my earlier questions and comments, I have written to the minister on this issue on behalf of constituents. Prior to Bill C-84 being introduced, I conveyed in my correspondence to the justice minister the concerns of my community about how many cases of animal cruelty exist across this country and that this particular case acted as a catalyst. People are demanding more action.

The minister did respond in June of this year. Again, it was not really anything concrete. She assured me that the government was intending to review all the options to improve any gaps in protection resulting from the existing Criminal Code provision, which is something that has not been done yet. The minister agreed publicly that animal cruelty is a significant social issue that needs to be addressed, and so on. There are many public comments that come from the government that signal an intent to do something, but when we actually get something concrete, like Bill C-84, we see that it has not amounted to much.

Just to highlight how important this particular issue is and why these gaps are so important, I want to speak about some of the statistics. It was reported, I think a couple of years ago, that there are approximately 45,000 animal cruelty complaints in Canada every year, but only one in 1,000 result in charges and far fewer in convictions. That is a significant difference between complaints and actual action in the court system. It says to me that there is definitely a need for this legislation.

I will conclude by saying that we support these gaps being addressed in the Criminal Code. Bill C-84 is an important first step. The Minister of Justice can be assured that we, as a caucus, will be supporting this bill going forward to committee, but we will remind Canadians that there was so much more that could have been done. It is a sad day that, after three years, we are still going to have to wait for those meaningful parts to be addressed.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Ken McDonald Liberal Avalon, NL

Mr. Speaker, I would just mention that as a former municipal leader, we ran into trouble with animal cruelty, especially toward dogs in our community. Trying to solve that issue was paramount. One concern was finding out that under law, a dog was considered property and not anything other than that. To try to tell someone that he or she could not do this to a piece of property they owned was difficult.

Would the member comment on this? In getting this done and getting it done right, we need all three levels of government: municipal, provincial and federal. All of them have a role to play when it comes to dogs in the community. It is usually a municipal responsibility first, and then one must go to the province to get some authority to do something.

Would the member not agree that we have to get all the levels of government at the table and get this done right, because it is time to have it done? We have to respect animals, and we have to make sure that people are treating them with proper care and concern.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I very much agree with my colleague. I said in my speech that amending the Criminal Code with respect to animal cruelty is but one tool in the tool box. By itself, it is not going to solve this problem.

When I had that community meeting in my riding, following the case of Teddy the dog, we had representatives there from the local first nations, from municipal government, a provincial MLA and myself as the federal MP. We all committed to doing what we could in our individual jurisdictions. There was that real willingness to come together to do what each of us could in our respective jurisdictions. My job as the federal member of Parliament was to take the case to this place, to our House of Commons, and to argue for the changes to the Criminal Code. I was really heartened to see the willingness of all my counterparts, not only in local organizations but in local government, to come together to address this issue.

One of the big things is education. The fact of the matter is in a lot of cases of animal cruelty, we are dealing with people who simply do not know how to properly look after an animal. Addressing that, first and foremost, could solve a lot of these cases.

As in everything, it is not a black-and-white issue. It requires a lot of moving parts. I firmly believe that updating the Criminal Code provisions, which have been languishing in some cases since the 1890s, is going to be one of those key components. I certainly hope we see some action from that member's government, if not in the short term, at least as a promise for the 2019 election.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, if we look on Google, all too often we will find horrible stories of animal cruelty, such as the story the member just shared with us about Teddy the dog in his community.

There has to be more that we can do. When we think about pets, when we think about animals, they are more than property. For a lot of folks, certainly in my own family and others, when there is a pet in the house, the animal is considered part of the family.

There need to be laws to ensure the proper treatment of animals, the care that people need to give to them, but there is the enforcement side of it as well. Perhaps the member could speak about associations and organizations, such as the SPCA, and what kind of support they could receive from all levels of government so that together we could work on this larger project to support and protect animals which cannot speak for themselves and to ensure they get the care they require.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, in the earlier part of her comments my colleague was making the juxtaposition between statistics and those individual cases which really act as a catalyst.

We can see the same in the whole affair with Saudi Arabia. The war in Yemen is causing millions of people to starve, and it is an absolutely horrendous war that the Saudi government is intimately involved in. In that case, it took one journalist to really focus the world's attention on the atrocities of that regime.

It is the same with animal cruelty. I read out statistics. Statistics by themselves do not galvanize people. It is an unfortunate fact that animal cruelty happens far too often. Sometimes there is that one case, like Teddy the dog, which is so horrific it just flips a switch and suddenly everyone across the political spectrum is talking about it and they want to see action. I very much agree.

With respect to the local organizations I have to commend the officers of the B.C. SPCA who not only had to go on the property to rescue that poor animal, but who also do that kind of work every day on our behalf. Absolutely, they need support. They need to have an adequate funding model. They also need to have the tools necessary, such as provisions in the Criminal Code, so that they can bring about charges that are necessary, so that people who are engaged in these despicable acts have the full force of the law come down on them. People who are guilty of these acts need to be held accountable in an appropriate way.

As I said earlier, this is one important piece of the puzzle, one tool that we could give organizations, like the SPCA, so that they can do that important work on behalf of our communities every single day.

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1:25 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciate the many comments regarding the issue of animal cruelty. We know that Canadians love their pets: their dogs, cats, birds, and many different types of pets. The overriding concern is that the national government, municipal governments in particular, and provincial governments understand that there is a role in terms of protecting animals.

My colleague made reference to this whole patchwork idea. Yes, Ottawa does play the national leadership role. We have before us legislation that would move the ball forward, and maybe not as far forward as some members would like to see it, but we are moving in the right direction. Could the member emphasize the importance of the different stakeholders working together in order to advance this very important issue?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I agree. This problem is a complex one. Many cases are very different from each other both in the crime that was perpetrated and also in the background of the people and animal involved. It always will require people working together at various levels. That being said, there are significant gaps that exist in the criminal law. I believe that in order for us to be effective, those are one of the key spokes in the wheel of this issue that we need to absolutely fix.

I welcome Bill C-84. As the member said, it is moving the ball forward. However, I will not withhold my criticism for his government and say that it has been moving at a pretty glacial pace on judicial reform both in appointing judges and in amending the Criminal Code, especially for a government that came to power with such bold promises of action.

Bill C-84 is welcomed, but I look at it as yet another missed opportunity where the justice minister, who is supposedly committed to this issue and has even made many statements in the media committing to it, lost the opportunity to put in provisions that not only New Democrats support but many Liberal members, including former justice minister Irwin Cotler have supported in the past.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Toronto—Danforth.

I am very pleased to have this opportunity to speak to Bill C-84, a bill that proposes several amendments that would strengthen the Criminal Code's response to bestiality and animal fighting.

I have been passionate about animal protection all my life. During my five years on Oakville's town council I had the opportunity and privilege to work with the Oakville & Milton Humane Society and its former executive director, Kim Millan. I have spoken at length with Kim, as well as former OSPCA officer, Laura Mackasey , and current OSPCA officer, Caitlin Jones who are the front line when dealing with animal cruelty cases. I can remember so clearly Laura and Kim saying to me, “We want to do more, but our hands are tied by legislation.” I was actually shocked at how our laws had failed to keep up with the realties of our world.

I was an early and vocal supporter of the member for Beaches—East York's private member's Bill C-246, and met with my local humane society about the proposed legislation. It also publicly supported the bill because it deals with animal cruelty on a daily basis and knows how critical it is to update our laws. Quite frankly, those on the front line of animal cruelty need governments to step up and give them the tools they need to protect animals.

The bill before us today reflects the Minister of Justice's commitment to review animal welfare laws in the wake of the defeat of Bill C-246. She held extensive consultations all across Canada. Bill C-84 is an excellent first step, but quite frankly, there is more to be done by all levels of government to end animal cruelty.

I will highlight one issue which was brought to my attention by someone who has worked in the field for many years. We need to ensure that any person convicted of an offence of animal cruelty should be prohibited from ever owning an animal again, and if the person is prohibited from owning an animal in one province, that restriction should apply in all provinces. It is my hope that this is something that could be considered at committee.

We know there is a direct link between animal cruelty and child abuse and also between animal cruelty and domestic violence. That is why we must take the abuse of animals seriously. Research from the University of Windsor found a strong correlation between the abuse of human family members and the treatment of companion animals. Childhood sexual assault is also linked with animal sexual assault. Barbara Cartwright, CEO of the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies has stated that not all people who commit animal cruelty are serial predators, but as far as we know, all serial predators have committed acts of animal cruelty. We also know there is a correlation between animal fighting and guns and gangs. Bill C-84 also tightens the law around animal fighting.

I am sure most Canadians are shaking their heads asking why these changes have not been made sooner. I agree, but I applaud the government for bringing Bill C-84 forward.

On the specifics of Bill C-84, I will now focus my comments on the bill's amendment, which arises in the wake of the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in 2016 in the case of D.L.W. In this recent decision, the court limited the meaning of the term “bestiality”. I cannot stress enough how important Bill C-84's bestiality amendment is. Specifically, it would serve to protect vulnerable people, especially children, as well as animals. To be clear from the outset, criminal liability must result whenever any kind of sexual act with animals occur. While difficult to talk about, it is a subject that we must address because of the very real consequences of a lack of legislation on this issue.

The term “bestiality” has never been defined in statute in Canada, but it forms the basis for criminal liability in three distinct Criminal Code offences. Canada's bestiality provisions find their origin in ancient British law, and the offence was included in Canada's first Criminal Code in 1892. The recent Supreme Court case was the first time the Supreme Court of Canada had the occasion to consider the meaning of the term “bestiality”. Because there was no statutory definition of the term, the court examined its history and its interpretation at common law to determine its meaning.

The court found that sexual penetration has always been one of its essential elements. Nothing in the legislative history of Canada's bestiality provisions was found to have changed its original meaning at common law. Importantly, the court also noted that any changes to the scope of existing criminal offences must be made by Parliament.

The circumstances of the D.L.W. case are disturbing, to say the very least. Without elaborating on the extensive and sustained sexual abuse that the accused perpetrated against the victims over a period of approximately 10 years, the court was asked to consider whether the activity constituted a form of bestiality. The majority of the court answered the question in the negative because of the historical interpretation given to the offence.

The decision stated that the courts must not create new crimes that Parliament never explicitly intended and expanding the scope of bestiality to include all sexual acts between humans and animals would do just that, largely because, in the words of the Supreme Court, “there is not, and has never been in Canada, any statutory definition, exhaustive or otherwise, of the elements of bestiality.” The court also pointed to the ongoing significant policy debates about what the focus of this sort of offence ought to be and once again clarified that it is for Parliament, not the courts, to expand the scope of criminal liability for this ancient offence.

Bill C-84 proposes an amendment that would achieve exactly what the courts have suggested. Specifically, it would define “bestiality” as “any contact for a sexual purpose with an animal”. It would mean that accused persons, like the one in the D.L.W. case, would no longer be acquitted simply because the sexual abuse in question did not involve penetration. This is an appropriate and necessary response to the Supreme Court's decision. As parliamentarians, it is our duty to ensure the criminal law protects the most vulnerable, especially children. Involving animals in harmful contact is often indicative of a propensity for even more serious offending.

As I stated earlier, there is an established link between animal cruelty and child abuse. The D.L.W. case is a case in point. We must extend the criminal law's protections in this regard. Undoubtedly, the Criminal Code contains other offences that could apply to the conduct at issue in the D.L.W. case. At the same time, the proposed changes would send a clear message that forcing others to engage in sexual acts with animals and involving children or animals in this kind of activity is harmful and will not be tolerated.

The bill's second focus on animal fighting is also an overdue change to our legislative framework in Canada. Our society does not tolerate these abuses of animals and I am pleased the government has introduced Bill C-84 to protect the vulnerable, animals and Canadian society in general. It is my hope that this legislation will go a long way in also helping people like those who work with the Oakville & Milton Humane Society, as well as the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, to do their jobs more easily and give them the legislative framework they have been calling for.

I call on all members of this House to support this bill.

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1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Celina Caesar-Chavannes Liberal Whitby, ON

As usual, Mr. Speaker, the member is very passionate about the issue, particularly when it comes the vulnerable in our society, and having government step in to ensure that gaps are adequately filled to prevent further harm and protect victims. As this bill goes to committee, I am wondering if my hon. colleague has any further suggestions and sees other areas by which the bill could be reinforced and/or amended or if this particular legislation fits the criteria of what her stakeholders and communities have been asking for.

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1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned in my speech, this is a good first step. There are concerns in my community about people who have been prohibited from owning animals because of a conviction, but are able to possess animals in the future. That is something the committee should take a hard look at. I am sure other things could come up and obviously the committee is limited by the scope of the bill itself, but that is one thing I hope the committee will look at.

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1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Celina Caesar-Chavannes Liberal Whitby, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am glad I got another opportunity to rise and ask a secondary question for my colleague, especially when she mentioned, at the end, animal fighting and its correlation—I do not know if I should be using a statistically significant word like correlation—or its integration with guns and gangs and that kind of behaviour. I wonder if she could further expand on how this particular piece of legislation would help to mitigate what we are seeing as some possibly correlated activities that involve violence to the most vulnerable in our communities.

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1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, there absolutely is a correlation between animal fighting and organized crime and guns and gangs. One of the things this legislation would do is tighten the laws around it, but I am hopeful that it would also highlight this issue for local law enforcement services so that when they are enforcing these new laws that we would put in place, they will be able to look for paraphernalia, for example, that is used for animal fighting and recognize what is happening in that situation and be able to translate into more broad concerns around guns and gangs and organized crime. There is definitely a connection between them and it would give law enforcement officers the tools they need to go in, and I am hoping it would educate them as well.

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1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Ken McDonald Liberal Avalon, NL

Mr. Speaker, my colleague on this side of the House mentioned the various aspects of cruelty to animals and how it relates to other things. Could she speak to the fact that there has never been much meat on the bones, so to speak, when it comes to animal cruelty and laying charges and getting anything more than a slap on the wrist to the offender for anything such as a collar growing into the neck of a dog, or dogs tied and left in a house for weeks on end living in their own feces? One time we confiscated nine pit bulls that were left to starve to death, basically, and we did foster them and get them adopted. I wonder if the member could comment on those situations.

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1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, certainly that was an issue with the Oakville & Milton Humane Society that we had conversations about, where, as the town councillor, I would get calls about issues of animal cruelty in the community. The OSPCA officers had their hands tied in terms of being able to do something. It is going to take a coordinated effort between municipal, provincial and federal levels of government to ensure we have the laws in place to allow these folks who are on the front line to do their work.

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1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dabrusin Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak in support of Bill C-84. It is a step forward on animal welfare issues. We have so much more to do, but I am happy to mark the start of the move toward better and stronger animal welfare legislation.

There are other related bills I expect to see shortly in this place coming from the other place on the captivity of whales and dolphins, on shark finning and on the testing of cosmetics on animals. Those are all important steps forward on animal welfare issues. I am really looking forward to participating in those debates and voting in support of those efforts.

Animal welfare issues are very important to me. I am a member of the Liberal animal welfare caucus. I would really like to thank the members for Brossard—Saint-Lambert and Steveston—Richmond East for their leadership role on that caucus. It is an important way for us to get more information and to learn more about what we can do to move things forward. It has definitely been a source of learning and advocacy for us.

As I said, this bill is a step forward. It ends the sexual abuse of animals and also gets rid of the cruel practice of animal fighting. Those are important first steps forward for us. It is hard for me to believe that we even need this legislation, and yet we do.

I was reading a little bit more about animal fighting. Once one reads about it and sees pictures, it is really hard to get images out of one's mind. It really centres us on why we need to take action.

I was looking at the Ontario SPCA web page about dog fighting. It described it this way: “Dog fighting is a sadistic ‘contest’ in which two dogs—specifically bred, conditioned, and trained to fight—are placed in a pit (generally a small arena enclosed by plywood walls) to fight each other for the spectators' entertainment and gambling.”

This bill goes beyond dog fighting, but let us focus on dogs for a moment and what I was reading about. Dogs die as part of this fighting, and this is not just about the dogs in the fights themselves. In the training process, there are also what are called “bait dogs”.

U.S. awareness about bait dogs, which are part of the training process, really came to the fore when a female pit bull named Turtle was found on the side of the road with many scars and wounds. The reason she had all those scars and wounds is that she had actually been used, attacked over and over again by dogs training for these fights as part of this cruel contest.

This dog, Turtle, was rescued, which makes her a lucky one despite the tremendous pain she went through. However, other animals are not able to be rescued. That is why we need this type of legislation and why I can speak so strongly in support of that need. We should never see that happen to animals at all.

I was also taken by another article I read in The Globe and Mail, which mentioned that U.S. dog owners come to Canada for dog fighting because we are seen as having lax legislation. I cannot even imagine that Canada would be seen as a place where someone would come because of lax legislation on animal cruelty. That is something we cannot let happen, and this bill takes a step forward in preventing it.

Canadians care, and that is also why this is so important. Two weeks ago, I went to one of my local churches, the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto, and it had a blessing of the animals service. People brought their animal friends to church for a blessing, and they got to talk about the important roles that our animal friends have in our lives. It was also a time to talk about the kind of advocacy we can do in support of animals in our community. I would really like to thank Kimberly Carroll of Animal Justice because she made a call to action that day and talked to us about the need to give a voice to animals, as they cannot speak for themselves.

That is what we are doing today in the process of this debate. Today is one more step in trying to give a voice to animals. I know this is important to people who live in Toronto—Danforth, and it is certainly important for me. It is important to how we want to see our community and country.

I want to cite the words of Albert Einstein. He said that “Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.” That touches me in terms of how I want to see an expanding circle of compassion, which I believe this legislation and the other bills we will be seeing coming from the other place move us closer to doing.

Gandhi said that “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Those are good points of balancing out. How do we want to see ourselves as a community?

Another aspect of the bill, aside from the animal fighting part, is about bestiality. It is another important part of what the bill covers. In 2016, there was a Supreme Court of Canada decision, and in it bestiality, as it is currently defined in our Criminal Code, was said not to include non-penetrative acts. There was an important dissent that was written by Supreme Court of Canada Justice Rosalie Abella, but the majority did not agree with that, and I would like to quote the decision because it is important. This legislation directly responds to it. The court decision stated:

Penetration has always been understood to be an essential element of bestiality. Parliament adopted that term without adding a definition of it and the legislative history and evolution of the relevant provisions show no intent to depart from the well-understood legal meaning of the term. Moreover, the courts should not, by development of the common law, broaden the scope of liability for the offence of bestiality. Any expansion of criminal liability for this offence is within Parliament’s exclusive domain.

The decision also said:

Courts will only conclude that a new crime has been created if the words used to do so are certain and definitive.

I would submit that that is what this decision does. It provides clear, certain, definitive wording. It is quite simple in fact. Our government response to that decision is that we amend section 160 of the Criminal Code by adding a subsection 4, which states, “In this section, bestiality means any contact, for a sexual purpose, with an animal.” It is simple, certain and definitive. That is why it responds quite well to the concerns that have been raised in that case.

By dealing with this, we are increasing our circle of compassion. I say that because I also want to talk about, and I know we heard this earlier today, that a link has been seen between animal cruelty and violence toward people. The Humane Canada conference in 2017 brought together experts to talk about these links and how they would be better addressed. In fact, similar conferences have been held in the United States. There will be a conference by Humane Canada on this issue in November this year in Toronto, discussing the link between violence against animals and violence against people. When the purpose of the conference was set out, it stated:

Violence against animals and violence against people are not distinct and separate problems. Rather, they are part of a larger pattern of violent crimes that often co-exist. Research shows a significant correlation between animal cruelty and crimes of domestic violence, the physical and sexual abuse of children, sexual assault and other violent crimes.

When I was reading and learning more about this, in domestic assault situations and domestic violence, sometimes the threat of violence to an animal friend in that household is one of the ways that control is exerted over the domestic partner as part of the violence. It is a more complex issue and the circle of compassion encapsulates our entire community. We need to end animal cruelty. It is as simple as that.

It is something that I personally feel passionately about. I am happy to see that we are here to debate and discuss it. I look forward to seeing the bill move forward. I want to thank the member for Beaches—East York who raised many of these issues in his bill earlier in the discussion. I am seeing this as one more step. We need to move it forward. Let us do it. Let us take the steps that we need to move forward on animal cruelty.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, as it is my first opportunity to rise today in the debate on Bill C-84, I want to thank my hon. colleague for Toronto—Danforth for her speech.

I did attempt to ask question earlier today of the Minister of Justice, because the bill is certainly good, but it leaves a lot of holes. We still need to move forward to eliminate elements of animal cruelty, and we need to do more around these particular issues.

I hope that we can get the bill to committee and that the government would be open to substantive amendments so that we can make more progress than Bill C-84 would make. I would be interested in my colleague's thoughts on what might be possible at committee.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dabrusin Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for the question, because I believe that much more should be done and needs to be done. I think I expressed that when I was speaking.

I am very much looking forward to the bills that we will see coming from the other place on whales and dolphins in captivity. One issue that I particularly take to heart is the ending of testing on animals for the purpose of cosmetics. That is something I care about. I look for the symbols on products when I purchase them and I ask questions about it at the stores I shop at. Another bill we will be looking at is on shark finning. These are all other steps.

However, I am not on the committee that will consider the bill before us. Certainly, if there are things that could be done to strengthen the bill and that are within the scope of what a committee can do with proposed legislation, I would be happy to see them.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 29th, 2018 / 1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Celina Caesar-Chavannes Liberal Whitby, ON

Mr. Speaker, the speech by my hon. colleague was delivered with passion, particularly when we are talking about vulnerable populations in our community.

I wonder if the member could expand on the community safety element. This particular piece of proposed legislation broadens the range of activities around animal fighting, such as promoting, arranging, and profiting from animal fighting, breeding, training, transportation and keeping an area for the purposes of fighting. It seems there is a large ecosystem of activity around animal fighting, and one that I really did not know anything about. Could my hon. colleague expand on how this broader proposed legislation would keep our communities, like Danforth, much safer?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dabrusin Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Whitby addressing the community safety aspect of it.

When I was talking about the circle of compassion in how we deal with this, there are, in fact, many parts to the animal fighting piece. We can look at the money that exchanges hands, and that it supports organized crime and those who are involved in these types of things. For the people who are watching this cruelty to animals, who are able to watch it, enjoy it, and take part in it, as I mentioned, the Humane Canada conference has drawn links between that violence and violence against human. The FBI has also had conferences on this and is now marking or tracking animal cruelty. It is a way for the FBI to see how that might tie in with future violence in communities. There is a link between a lack of compassion for animals, between the ability to be cruel to animals, and potential violence against people. That link has been drawn in the United States and it is something we can move forward on.

Shooting at Tree of Life SynagogueStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Beaulieu Bloc La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, 11 people in Pittsburgh lost their lives to hate and cruelty on Saturday. On behalf of the Bloc Québécois, I want to offer my condolences to the victims' families and friends. I also want to pledge our solidarity with the Jewish community, which is going through a very difficult time in the United States, as in Canada.

We strongly condemn the cowardly murders committed at the Tree of Life synagogue. We also condemn anti-Semitism as a whole, as well as all hateful words and deeds towards individuals practising a religion. Every one of us should be able to practise the religion of our choice in peace and respect, should we choose to do so. This is one of the pillars of Quebec society and American society.

Let us confront hate in its ugliest form and challenge disrespect for fundamental rights by coming together to offer our support to Jewish Canadians.

Sri LankaStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Gary Anandasangaree Liberal Scarborough—Rouge Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, over the weekend, the Sri Lankan President appointed his predecessor, Mahinda Rajapaksa, as prime minister. The Rajapaksa family is accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. This recent development underscores the need for structural change on the island. The government continues to play politics with the lives of Tamils and other minorities. Successive governments have failed to secure a political solution based on the Tamils' right to self-determination, to end impunity and abide by the rule of law.

Journalists and human rights activists in Sri Lanka continue to be in danger. Reporters Without Borders recently outlined the harassment by the Sri Lankan intelligence unit against Tamil Guardian correspondent Uthayarasa Shalin.

In the nearly 10 years since the end of the armed conflict, peace has not been achieved. The current constitutional crisis among Sri Lanka's political class is again at the expense of the Tamils seeking justice, accountability and a just political solution. The international community must be seized of the issue, and ensure that Sri Lanka abides by international norms and is in line—

Sri LankaStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

The hon. member for Souris—Moose Mountain.

2018 Vimy Beaverbrook PrizeStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Gordon Kitchen Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to recognize one of my young constituents, Anna Hoimyr, from Gladmar, Saskatchewan, who was a recipient of the 2018 Beaverbrook Vimy Prize.

Put on by the Vimy Foundation, the Beaverbrook Vimy Prize is a two-week long learning experience for youth aged 15 to 17. After writing her prize-winning essay on PTSD, Anna travelled to England, Belgium and France this summer, touring World War I battlefields, museums and cemeteries, including the Canadian National Vimy Memorial. Over 180 students have been awarded the prize since 2006. The program provides a unique first-hand learning experience, allowing students to immerse themselves into what life would have been like for our Canadian soldiers.

On November 11, Anna will present her essay in Radville, Saskatchewan. As it is the hundredth anniversary of the armistice, I think it is imperative that all Canadians, and especially our youth, learn about and pay tribute to the brave men and women who have fought for our country.

I congratulate Anna and all prize recipients for winning the 2018 Vimy Beaverbrook Prize.

VIA RailStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, on October 29, 1978, VIA Rail launched its first transcontinental service from Montreal to Vancouver. Forty years on, I am privileged to rise in the House to celebrate this Canadian institution, and not just because I am a devoted train buff.

The last time a VIA train went through my riding, Laurentides—Labelle, was in 1981, the year of my birth. Service cuts are a problem in many regions across the country, but I cherish the dream of bringing train travel back for all Canadians.

Thanks to investments in upgrading VIA's fleet, more and more Canadians are choosing to travel by train. Rail passengers are living proof that the environment and economic development can go hand in hand.

I would like to thank VIA's 3,000 employees for working so hard for so long to keep this environmentally friendly mode of transportation alive. Train travel is essential to our Canadian identity.

Happy anniversary, VIA, and keep up the good work.