Mr. Speaker, right now, this is something to which we can all agree. Animal cruelty laws in Canada need to be vastly improved. We have laws that were adopted in the 1890s, slightly amended in the 1950s and they have unfortunately not been radically revamped in the world we live in today where most of us recognize that animals should not be treated as pure property. Animals are sentient beings. Animals can suffer. Most animals have the ability to know whether they are feeling pain. Today, our animal cruelty laws are, unfortunately, many years behind the times.
I want to salute the many groups that advocate for animal welfare, which helped in moving this legislation forward. I also want to congratulate those many other groups that work with animals, ranging from agriculture to people who deal with animals in other ways, including fishers and anglers. They have worked to ensure we have legislation that is satisfactory to virtually everyone. That is possible to do, with further animal cruelty legislation.
It is not true to believe that we can never find more compelling reasons to improve animal welfare because nobody will agree. People can agree, if we all come together. I strongly back the request of my colleague from Beaches—East York at our committee to look for an all-party parliamentary committee, probably not in this mandate but in a future mandate, to ensure we can all work with the many interest groups out there to advance animal cruelty legislation in Canada.
This is a specific bill that deals with several small issues. We made changes at the justice committee to broaden the scope of the bill slightly. As initially drafted, Bill C-84 defined bestiality. It is probably something that most of us never thought we would be talking about in this place, but I will do that.
A Supreme Court judgment in R. v. D.L.W. required legislative action. In R. v. D.L.W., the Supreme Court ruled that penetration was a necessary part of the definition of bestiality in the Criminal Code. It does not mean that there were not other offences in the Criminal Code that could deal with elements of bestiality short of penetration. However, the Court placed the onus on us in the House of Commons and on the people in the other place to revise the definition of bestiality in the Criminal Code, and we are proceeding to do that.
A number of people have said that the Supreme Court erred in its judgment. I do not agree that the Supreme Court erred. We disagree with the conclusions of the Supreme Court judgment, but that does not mean it erred in law. We take our law from the British system and in the British system and throughout the Commonwealth, there have been numerous cases where there were rulings that penetration was a necessary element of bestiality. That does not mean that now that the Court has clarified this, we in Parliament cannot change the definition to clarify that bestiality does not require penetration. We are doing that in Bill C-84. When the bill came before the committee, not only did each and every member of the committee agree with the proposed definition in the bill, but so did every group that came before the committee.
We also have expanded the scope of the offence of encouraging, aiding or assisting at the fighting or baiting of animals so that the offence:
(i) includes promoting, arranging, receiving money for or taking part in the fighting or baiting of animals or birds, and
(ii) ) also applies with respect to the training, transporting or breeding of animals or birds for fighting or baiting...
We are all aware that causing animals to fight for our own pleasure as human beings, the ability to push animals to hurt one another so some people can sit there and laugh or bet, is entirely cruel, inhumane and should not only abandoned, but people who violate that type of a provision should be punished, and punished severely. Therefore, I am pleased we are expanding the scope of that offence.
The bill would also expand the scope of the offence of “building, making, maintaining or keeping a cockpit so that the offence applies with respect to any arena for animal fighting.” We should be extending this not only to people who cause cocks to fight. Anyone who causes any type of animal to fight in an arena should be subject to the penalties of the Criminal Code. I am pleased that the bill would expand those provisions.
The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights also decided that certain provisions of the act should be amended.
With respect to section 160 of the Criminal Code, which prevents people from possessing or residing with an animal for a period of time, up to a lifetime ban, we wanted to ensure that people convicted under these new sections could be prohibited from owning an animal for up to the rest of their lifetime. Those who have been cruel to an animal once, particularly if they have been cruel in a very flagrant way or cruel a repeated number of times, should not be allowed to own animals.
The committee assigned in the bill the same prohibition and punishment of not being able to own an animal that the existing provisions on animal cruelty in the Criminal Code did. We also added a new subsection, which notes that people who have been convicted under these sections can also be required to pay the person or organization that has to take care of an animal to rehabilitate it. This would pay for the care and damage that they caused.
We also amended subsection 490.011(1) of the code, which defines the designated offences for which a convicted individual would be required to register in the sex offender registry, so that people who commit the offence of bestiality simpliciter will be required to register as a sex offender.
There was a significant amount of debate regarding this issue. Previously, individuals had commented that there was not enough proof linking the offence of bestiality simpliciter to other sex offences. However, our committee decided, based on the scientific evidence we had seen, there was sufficient evidence to require a person to register as a sex offender if he or she committed bestiality simpliciter and was convicted. I am very pleased my colleague's amendment on that score was accepted.
Finally, we repealed subsection 447(3) of the Criminal Code, which provided that “A peace officer who finds cocks in a cockpit or on premises where a cockpit is located shall seize them and take them before a justice who shall order them to be destroyed.” This required each and every cock that was seized to be destroyed no matter its health.
We determined that there was no reason to believe that each and every cock that was found in a fighting area necessarily needed to be destroyed. We were also convinced that provincial legislation on this matter was sufficient enough to deal with any orders that had to be made regarding the destruction of an animal that was so debilitated by fighting and needed to be destroyed.
To come back to my first point, the bill was indeed an example of our being able to find support from all sides. That should be congratulated. It means members were able to rise above partisanship to decide this was good for Canada, good for the animals in Canada, good for the children in Canada and good for all of us. At committee, we were able to work together with respect to unanimously approving amendments.
I am hoping that based on this agreement, we will be able to put partisanship aside and ensure the bill is adopted as swiftly as possible so it can move to the other place and become Canadian law prior to the next election.
A number of people in the House have advanced the cause of promoting the welfare of animals and they all deserve to be applauded, no matter from which side of the House they come. They are doing something truly noble in trying to help protect the very vulnerable animals, which really deserve much more protection than our criminal law and other laws afford them today.