Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-84, an act to amend the Criminal Code, as amended, with respect to bestiality and animal fighting. Let me say that I, along with all my colleagues on this side of the House, fully support this critical piece of legislation.
There are two main components to Bill C-84. The first is with respect to bestiality; more specifically, it is a direct response to the Supreme Court's D.L.W. decision. In D.L.W., the Supreme Court interpreted section 160 of the Criminal Code, which is the section that prohibits bestiality. In the decision written by Justice Cromwell, the court decided that in the absence of a statutory definition, bestiality should be interpreted only in those circumstances where the act involving the animal involved penetration. What this legislation does is clarify the law by providing for a statutory definition whereby any activity with an animal for a sexual purpose would be captured by section 160 of the Criminal Code, closing a very critical gap.
The second aspect of this legislation is to strengthen laws around animal fighting. I know the parliamentary secretary did discuss the amendments at committee in some detail, but I have in the last number of weeks been quite critical of my Liberal colleagues on the justice committee with respect to their handling of the SNC-Lavalin scandal and I stand by those criticisms. That said, in the normal course we are a committee that has often worked collaboratively. We have been able to put aside partisan differences to find common ground. That is precisely what happened.
We heard from witnesses who put forward ideas around how Bill C-84 could be strengthened, and three substantive amendments were passed at committee unanimously. I want to acknowledge the good work of our chair, the hon. member for Mount Royal, who from day one has set the tone that has enabled our committee to more often than not be one of the more productive parliamentary committees.
With respect to the first part of the bill, namely around section 160 and in terms of providing a statutory definition for bestiality, this is something that I fully support. I think there is widespread consensus to support this statutory amendment, but I will go back to the point that I raised when I asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice a question, namely that I cannot understand what took the government so long to act.
The D.L.W. decision was rendered in June 2016. It is now March 2019. What that means is that if this legislation moves forward as quickly as possible, it will be essentially three years in which this gap in the law existed. Why did it take three years? The fact is that the Supreme Court expressly invited Parliament to introduce legislation to provide for a statutory definition. There is as close to universal consensus as we are ever going to find around the need to provide for a statutory definition.
The type of amendment that would be required to incorporate a statutory definition into section 160 of the Criminal Code is, quite frankly, a relatively straightforward one. Because the government dragged its feet and dragged its feet some more, my colleague, the hon. member for Calgary Nose Hill, saw fit to introduce a private member's bill to close the gap established from the D.L.W. decision, Bill C-388. That bill would provide for a statutory definition. The statutory definition provided in her bill states, “In this section, 'bestiality' means any contact by a person, for a sexual purpose, with an animal.”
That is pretty straightforward. We then turn to Bill C-84, which the government introduced one year after the member for Calgary Nose Hill introduced Bill C-388. The definition provided for in the government's bill states, “In this section, 'bestiality' means any contact, for a sexual purpose, with an animal.”
There we have it. Word for word, it was copied and pasted from the private member's bill of the hon. member for Calgary Nose Hill, except that the government waited one year to do it and almost three years after the D.L.W. decision was rendered.
When I asked the parliamentary secretary the reason for the delay, the parliamentary secretary noted that the government had undertaken various consultations with a wide range of stakeholder groups. That is true and that is right, but that was with respect to the animal fighting and animal cruelty provisions of Bill C-84.
It was important that those consultations took place. The aspects of Bill C-84 that deal with animal cruelty and animal fighting are sensible. They do not interfere with traditional hunting, angling or trapping, and there was widespread stakeholder support. However, those consultations had absolutely nothing to do with closing the gap in section 160 of the Criminal Code with respect to bestiality. The notion that somehow there was the need for consultation is simply not the case. It is simply not true in terms of closing this gap. Quite frankly, that argument does not hold water. The bottom line is there is simply no excuse for the delay.
I would speak to the seriousness of the delay from the standpoint of the evidence that came before our committee with respect to bestiality. In that regard, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection carried out a study of 192 cases over a five-year period from Cybertip, which the centre operates and which is the leading national tipline for online sexual activity in Canada. Of the 192 cases that the centre studied with respect to bestiality, a full 80% of those cases did not involve penetration.
That underscores the degree to which there is a gap in the legislation. As of today, since June of 2016, individuals who commit vile and despicable acts involving animals that fall short of penetration cannot be charged under section 160 of the Criminal Code. Again, when 80% of the cases, at least based on a review of 192 cases, did not involve penetration, I say that is a pretty serious issue that needs to be addressed and needs to be addressed as quickly as possible, which is something that the government has simply not done.
With respect to some of the amendments at committee, there were two that related to bestiality.
The first would provide a judge with the discretion to impose a prohibition order upon conviction that would prevent someone convicted of bestiality from being in the same premises or having access to an animal for a period of time that the judge deems appropriate, and with respect to repeat offenders, namely those who are convicted of a second or subsequent bestiality offence, for a minimum of five years.
The second amendment that was passed was an amendment that I brought forward. It would ensure that anyone convicted of a bestiality offence would be required to register with the national sex offender registry. Right now, anyone convicted of compelling the commission of bestiality under subsection 160(2), as well as anyone convicted under subsection 160(3), namely bestiality in the presence of a child, would be required to register with the national sex offender registry but all other offenders would not. As a result of my amendment, this legislation would close that gap.
It is an important step to keep children, women and animals safe because, as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice laid out in some detail, there is a very clear connection between bestiality and violence against women and children. It is often part of a pattern involving some of the worst sexual crimes imaginable. Indeed, bestiality has been equated to sadism in terms of the impact that it can have on its victims.
In terms of looking at the severity of what we are talking about and how serious and how dangerous individuals who commit bestiality offences are, one need only look at D.L.W. himself. This is an individual who over a 10-year period sexually abused his two stepdaughters on a daily basis. The pattern of sexual abuse in that case escalated as time went on to the point that he committed bestiality against one of the stepdaughters involving the family dog. It is important to read into the record what the trial judge said of D.L.W. in terms of capturing the level of depravity that we are talking about here.
The trial judge in his reasons for sentence said:
I have been a judge for almost 40 years. This offender is one of the most evil men that I have encountered during my long tenure on the Bench. The man is evil incarnate. He is a monster. It is said that the devil can cite scripture for his own use. That is certainly the case here. With a warped vivid imagination and using passages from the Bible to justify his actions, D.L.W., in a most vile manner, sexually abused two of his stepchildren on a daily basis for over a decade.
Those are the types of offenders that we are talking about, and on that basis it is important that all individuals convicted of bestiality have to register with the national sex offender registry. I am glad that the government has lent its support in that regard.
Moving on to the second aspect of Bill C-84, there are important measures to strengthen laws around animal cruelty and animal fighting. We know that animal fighting is widespread and often under-reported. There are clear links between gangs and organized crime. There is an enormous amount of money that can be involved. We heard evidence before the justice committee that one dogfight can involve as much as $200,000. When there are four or five fights, a million dollars could change hands and get into the hands of organized crime groups.
The legislation would make some practical amendments to the Criminal Code to give law enforcement better tools to be able to crack down on animal fighting and eliminate an important funding source for organized criminal elements. In that regard, Bill C-84 would make a few amendments to the animal fighting sections of the Criminal Code. First, again in respect to subsection 445.1(1), at present that subsection prohibits anyone from encouraging, aiding or assisting in fighting or baiting animals. What that section does not capture at present is activities involved in training, transporting or breeding animals for animal fighting purposes.
I see my time is up, so I will just carry on after question period.