Mr. Nathaniel Erskine-Smith (Beaches—East York, Lib.):
moved that Bill C-246, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Fisheries Act, the Textile Labelling Act, the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act and the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act (animal protection), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I put forward Bill C-246, the modernizing animal protections act, to improve our country's animal welfare laws.
I have often been asked why I chose to introduce the bill.
First, animal welfare matters to me personally. Yesterday was Mother's Day, and I thank my own mother for instilling in me the value of respect, including respect for animals. Second, animal welfare matters to many of my constituents. I can joke about the percentage of dog ownership in my riding, but during the time we put out a call for ideas for a bill, we received more correspondence on the issue of animal welfare than any other. Third, I am interested in ideas that cross traditional party lines, and I believe animal welfare is an issue of concern for all Canadians, from farmers to hunters to anglers to pet owners, including supporters of every political party.
I have a great deal of respect for the members for Ajax and Vancouver Centre and previous Liberal justice ministers McLellan, Cauchon, and Cotler. Each of them introduced nearly identical provisions to modernize and strengthen our Criminal Code.
These changes are targeted at animal abuse, from animal fighting to deplorable puppy mill conditions, not animal use.
The bill seeks to accomplish three goals: first, a ban on the importation of shark fins; second, a ban on the importation and sale of cat and dog fur, and a requirement to label the source of fur; and third, the modernization and strengthening of existing animal cruelty offences in our Criminal Code.
With respect to shark finning, it is estimated that more than 70 million sharks are killed every year for their fins. The practice is cruel. Their fins are cut off and the shark's bodies are thrown back into the ocean while they are still alive. They are left to sink to the bottom of the ocean and drown. It is as cruel as it is wasteful.
Canada has banned shark finning within our borders since 1994, but we remain complicit in this cruel practice. The Globe and Mail recently reported that Canadians imported over 300,000 pounds of shark fins last year alone. We represent 1.5% to 2% of the global market. The bill would ban a person from importing or attempting to import shark fins into Canada.
These amendments were drafted based upon advice from the Library of Parliament and legislative counsel. If there is a better way of addressing these concerns, I ask that such matters be resolved at committee.
I want to specifically thank the member for Port Moody—Coquitlam for bringing this matter to the attention of the House in 2013. His legislation was narrowly defeated at second reading. I believe it is time to correct that mistake.
Canadians across the country agree. We want to protect the world's oceans. When polled in 2013, 81% of Canadians surveyed supported an importation ban against shark fins. Similar bans have been led by those in the Chinese community, including Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, who helped to ban shark fins in Toronto in 2011. Chinese American senators have introduced shark fin bans in Hawaii and California. Both businesses and the government in China are moving away from serving the product.
If necessary, I am open to a change that would limit the ban to countries that do not have the same regulations as we have here in Canada; that is, requiring that a shark be landed before its fin is removed.
With respect to cat and dog fur, the bill seeks to ban its importation and sale. It also seeks to require that all fur products be labelled as to the source of fur. Large companies, such as Canada Goose, already follow this best practice. Again, if there are any concerns with particularities in the drafting of the provision, they should be dealt with at committee.
There is an e-petition before the House with more than 13,000 signatures, calling on the government to ban the importation and sale of cat and dog fur. Such measures have already been adopted by the EU and U.S., and it is time for Canada to catch up.
Finally, with respect to the Criminal Code amendments, I have received questions about the meaning of proposed new subparagraph 182.1 (1 )(a). That is the provision that states that it is a crime to wilfully or recklessly cause unnecessary pain or suffering to animals. This provision would not affect any animal use practices. I know that, because the same provision has been in the code for decades, and it has never stopped animal use. Some have incorrectly suggested that the word “recklessly” is being added. This is blatantly false. The current section 429 of the code already applies the word “recklessly” to existing animal cruelty offences.
Here is how my bill would change the code. First, it would close loopholes related to animal fighting. It is not currently a crime to profit from animal fighting, nor to train or breed animals for the purpose of fighting. The bill would make these activities criminal.
Second, it would close a loophole in the definition of bestiality.
In Australia, it is a crime to engage in any sexual activity with an animal, yet due to a recent decision of the B.C. Court of Appeal, bestiality in our Criminal Code requires penetration. The court stated that it is up to Parliament to expressly amend the code if it deems a change necessary. That is exactly what this bill aims to do, make all sexual conduct with an animal a crime.
Third, it would create a new offence of brutal and vicious killing to close a loophole where an owner had killed his dog with a baseball bat but the judge acquitted on the basis that the dog died immediately and there was no evidence of pain and suffering. This language was drafted by the justice department in 1999, and previous justice minister Cauchon stated categorically that such a change would not affect animal use practices. When I consulted with the current justice department, it had no concerns whatsoever with this part of the legislation.
Reasonably, any concerns of unintended consequences should be addressed at committee. We can hear from criminal law experts, and if the amendments could plausibly affect accepted animal use practices, their language should be changed or an exemption list be added to ensure that they do not have that effect. I accept that.
I am open to reasonable amendments and have repeatedly said so. My in-laws would disown me if my changes stopped farming, fishing, or hunting, as they have owned a farm outside of Sarnia since 1834. As a lawyer, I do not believe that the Criminal Code should be used to regulate accepted practices. It is in place to punish egregious and immoral conduct in our society. Had I intended to affect farming, I would have done so through the Meat Inspection Act or the Health of Animals Act, not the Criminal Code.
Fourth, it would allow judges to ban animal ownership if one is convicted of animal cruelty for a second time, getting tougher on animal abusers.
Fifth, the bill would change the current animal cruelty offence of willful neglect to one of gross negligence, a standard applied to every other criminal negligence offence under the Criminal Code, modernizing our legislation. The current willful neglect standard can make prosecution difficult. Under a gross negligence standard, there is no mental element to the offence, and the crown need only prove that animal cruelty was caused by conduct that is a marked departure from the norm. That remains a very high standard. Clumsiness, incompetence, and ordinary mistakes will not be criminalized.
An example of a recent case of criminal negligence is the conviction of the Albertan parents who failed to take their sick baby to a doctor for over two and a half weeks and resorted only to natural remedies until the baby died. Criminal negligence requires a significant departure from what is generally accepted in our society in order for the moral censure of a criminal punishment to be appropriate.
Finally, my bill would move animals from the property section to a new part entitled “Offences against animals”. This is a symbolic change. Animals will remain property at law, but it recognizes that animals are different from tables and other kinds of property. It recognizes that an offence against animals is wrong because it is wrong to harm animals, not because it is wrong to damage another person's property, which just happens to be an animal.
Previously, the Criminal Lawyers' Association testified at committee that the removal of the animal cruelty provisions from the property section would not cause the loss of any available defences under the code. This part is important. When it was studied at committee in the Senate, the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters and the Poultry Welfare Association both hired counsel to testify. Each noted that its only legal concern with the removal from the property section would be the potential loss of the colour of right defence. They proposed one specific amendment to fix that. To address those concerns, I added that proposed amendment at proposed section 182.4 of my bill. If any concerns remain, again I am open to amendment. The purpose of this bill is not to affect accepted animal use in our society.
A broad range of groups support my bill.
First, I am proud to say that the Canadian Centre for Abuse Awareness supports the bill. The CCAA is a national charitable organization with a mandate to reduce the incidents and impact of child abuse through education and public awareness. As John Muise, director of public safety at the CCAA, retired veteran police detective, and former board member at the Parole Board of Canada, notes that research confirms the link between abuse of animals and other forms of violence including child abuse.
The CCAA appreciates the targeted approach taken in this bill in a number of specific areas. Of note, this legislation, when passed, would close a “sex with animals” loophole successfully used by a child sexual abuser in court. The CCAA believes this evidence-based PMB is deserving all-party support, and looks forward to testifying in support of the bill at committee.
Second, the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association supports the bill. The CVMA is the national and international voice of Canada's veterinarians. The CVMA writes, “Veterinarians are often the first professionals to examine an abused animal. The CVMA continues to support efforts to strengthen the Criminal Code's existing animal cruelty provisions...strongly supports passage of C-246 at second reading and looks forward to providing more detailed and in-depth input at the committee hearings.”
Third, humane societies and SPCAs across the country support the bill. The Montreal SPCA states, “Cases of severe neglect...are unfortunately not uncommon, and changes need to be made to facilitate the prosecution of these offences.”
The BCSPCA states that, “The bill closes loopholes related to animal fighting and creates a gross negligence offence for animal cruelty to make it easier to prosecute cases such as deplorable puppy mill conditions.”
The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies has written to every member of Parliament in support of the bill. Each year, SPCAs and humane societies investigate more than 45,000 complaints of animal cruelty and neglect. As organizations entrusted by governments and by Canadians to enforce the law, the member societies of the CFHS regularly witness the impact of inadequate and antiquated animal cruelty sections of the Criminal Code of Canada.
This is not new legislation. The Criminal Code amendments were originally drafted by the Department of Justice in consultation with animal use organizations. There was near identical legislation that passed this House at third reading on three different occasions, and passed third reading at the Senate on one occasion, subject to minor proposed changes.
Many current members of Parliament have voted in favour of that legislation, including the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, and the members for Cape Breton-Canso, Malpeque, Yukon, Kenora, Vancouver Centre, Scarborough—Guildwood, Brome—Missisquoi, and Steveston—Richmond East.
That legislation included the brutal and vicious language, “lawful excuse” language, and the addition of the gross negligence standard.
It was not only supported then by current colleagues, it was also supported by animal use groups. For example, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture supported that legislation in 2004, and a broad coalition of animal sector groups wrote a letter, dated November 22, 2004, to the then minister of justice, Irwin Cotler, to support the legislation. The letter was signed by, among others, the BC Cattlemen's Association, The Canadian Cattlemen's Association, the Canadian Association for Laboratory Animal Science, the Canadian Sheep Federation, the Dairy Farmers of Canada, the Manitoba Cattle Producers Association, and the Ontario Farm Animal Council. The letter stated:
|| Canada's animal-based sectors, as represented by the undersigned, wish to express our support for the swift passage of certain amendments to the Criminal Code: Cruelty to Animals provisions. This national coalition, on behalf of over one million Canadians we represent, join with others who are expressing support for improved animal cruelty legislation. Specifically, we are calling for the reintroduction and adoption of the measures contained within Bill C-22[...]
|| It is our hope that the consensus that has already been achieved in Bill C-22 will result in the re-introduction and passage of this important legislation as rapidly as possible.
Bill C-246, my legislation, reintroduces that important legislation. The previous member for Peterborough, a riding with a cross-section of rural and urban communities, the hon. Peter Adams, said this in 2004:
|| This is legislation that is important to all those who care about animals. It is equally important to those who own pets as it is to farmers who care for their livestock. [...]
|| It simply brings old provisions designed to protect animals into the 21st century. Enough is enough.
That was 12 years ago, yet the words still ring true today.
The purpose of a vote at second reading is to vote on the objects of the bill. I have laid out these objects and reiterated that the intention of this bill is not to affect animal use practices. I ask for members' support at second reading, such that any concerns, questions, and potential drafting errors, can be addressed properly at committee.
I ask for members' support to improve our animal welfare laws.
Mr. Robert Sopuck:
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The member for Red Deer—Lacombe will also be speaking.
My riding is primarily agricultural. In addition to producing grains and oilseeds, the land supports thriving cattle and hog industries. My constituency is also blessed with vast tracks of natural habitats and numerous lakes that support hunting, angling, and trapping activities that are critical to our way of life and our thriving tourism industry.
The wise use of our fish and wildlife resources, and the efficient, humane, and environmental sound raising of livestock are critical to maintaining the economy and the way of life in my riding. It is my duty as the MP to vigorously defend our way of life against the ill-conceived Bill C-246.
Let me be clear. We all support animal welfare, but animal welfare is a far cry from animal rights. Canada has good animal welfare legislation at both the provincial and federal levels. However, Bill C-246 is a Trojan horse that would advance a pure animal rights agenda.
The animal rights movement is very clear that its primary goal is the elimination of all animal use. Animal Justice Canada strongly supports Bill C-246, and it is “working to enshrine meaningful animal rights into Canadian law, including the right of animals to have their interests represented in court, and the guarantee of rights and freedoms that make life worth living”.
The group PETA, on the masthead of its website, proudly states that “Animals are not ours to [kill], eat, wear, experiment on, or [exploit] for entertainment”. Then there is PETA's famous line, “When it comes to pain, love, joy, loneliness...a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy”.
There are many other animal rights groups that are advancing the same agenda and strongly supporting Bill C-246. We are known by the company we keep.
The Criminal Code of Canada, and all provinces, have comprehensive provisions that criminalize various kinds of animal cruelty and neglect. The courts have for decades consistently interpreted these provisions as not intending to forbid conduct that is socially acceptable or otherwise authorized by law, such as hunting, fishing, medical research, and slaughter for food.
What would Bill C-246 change? I am looking at the Criminal Code side. I am not looking at the cat and dog or shark finning matters.
First, offences against animals would no longer be offences against certain property. This significant change would take animal cruelty offences out of the section dealing with offences against certain property and move them to the section of the Criminal Code dealing with offences against persons, giving rise to the suggestion that animals are no longer a special type of property but are potentially entitled to rights that are similar to persons.
Second, there is an inclusion of the new “recklessly” test. The new section 182.1 includes the test of “recklessly” to the existing “wilfully” test for causing “unnecessary pain, suffering, or injury to an animal”. This would expand the kind of conduct that could be criminalized.
Third, with regard to the new “kills” and animal offences, the bill would add two new offences that are not currently in the Criminal Code. Section 182.1(1) says:
|| Everyone commits an offence who, wilfully or recklessly,
|| (b) kills an animal or, being the owner, permits an animal to be killed, brutally or viciously, regardless of whether the animal dies immediately;
||(c) kills an animal without lawful excuse;
This “brutally or viciously” test is completely novel and does not appear to have been previously used in any Canadian statute or interpreted in any Canadian court. This provision does not appear to exist in any legislation in the United Kingdom, Australia, or the United States. It would create a new and very broad offence. For example, would the current method of cooking lobster by placing them live in a pot of boiling water be criminalized?
Currently, killing an animal is not the focus of the Criminal Code. Cruelty, not killing, was a focus of the offences. This new test would force a court to evaluate the method of killing that is chosen, and if it falls within the test or there is no lawful excuse, it criminalizes the behaviour. Lawful excuse is not defined in Bill C-246.
These two sections, depending on how they would be interpreted by the courts, could have the effect of criminalizing many recreational, agricultural, commercial, and scientific activities, such as medical research, and religious practices such as kosher or halal butchering.
Four, there is the addition of a negligence standard. This widening of the test for criminalizing from “wilfully” under the current section, to the much lower “negligently” test in the new bill, could have the potential of criminalizing far more types of behaviour.
It must be noted that anyone convicted under the expanded provisions would now have a criminal record that would follow them for the rest of their lives, affecting international travel and employment prospects.
A person will no longer have to be willfully cruel to be criminalized, just clumsy, incompetent, or unlucky. For example, this section could create consequences for accidentally striking an animal with a vehicle. This is a vast expansion of criminal liability to areas of activity that should not be affected by the criminal law or are already regulated under other existing federal-provincial legislation.
Fifth, there are no specific exemptions for legal conduct to offences listed.
The bill provides in182.5 that common law defences in subsections 8(3) and 429(2) of the Criminal Code are not effective. However, these are defences to the commission of the offence, not the exclusion of otherwise legal activities from being criminalized under the Criminal Code.
These specific legal activities, ranching, hunting, fishing, trapping, medical research, etc., should be clearly listed in the bill so that otherwise legal activities should be taken out of the Criminal Code completely and not criminalized.
There are also possible constitutional issues. All provinces have animal cruelty laws. I have read every one of them. Where a federal bill criminalizes an activity that is deemed lawful and regulated under provincial law, constitutional issues relating to the validity of the statutes arise. This is another reason to clearly and specifically spell out which otherwise lawful activities are not criminalized.
The Criminal Code is meant to contain laws that criminalize certain actions or behaviours. It is meant to be broad enough to allow enforcement but specific enough to target particular actions. The problem with this legislation is that it is not targeting specific actions. We do not actually know what action may be considered criminal with this vague language. It does not even provide a list of activities that are permitted.
In terms of Bill C-246, many people mistakenly think this is a rural versus urban issue, or it is all about hunting, angling, trapping, and ranching. If enacted, Bill C-246 could affect all Canadians.
Let us look at medical research. Most, if not all, animal rights groups oppose animal-based medical research. Canadians must realize that most significant medical breakthroughs result from animal-based medical research. Approximately 60% of all cardiovascular research is conducted on animals. The Heart and Stroke Foundation, on its website, notes:
|| Remarkable progress has been made tackling cardiovascular disease in Canada over the past 60 years with death rates declining by more than 75 per cent. This has largely been due to research advances....
It must be noted that all surgical techniques are developed and tested on animals before they are applied to humans. Humanity owes a great deal of gratitude to those animals that are sacrificed so that we might light.
I, and hundreds of thousands of Canadians, are alive today because of cardiovascular advancements, which were developed using animal experimentation. If we were to stop performing medical research on animals, we are basically saying that we should stop making life-saving medical breakthroughs. This is not acceptable to me or anyone else.
Some of these groups want to stop using animals, while others would prefer to push even further and use vexatious litigation to punish those who use animals in any manner. The effect of their campaigns have been devastating for remote, rural communities, such as those represented by the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and others that depend on sealing and trapping. Those communities are represented by MPs from all parties in the House.
I do not approve of wilful cruelty to animals, however, words are very important, and I fear the language in Bill C-246 will not, in fact, crack down on those who wilfully harm animals, but instead will put legitimate and necessary animal use practices in legal jeopardy.
I cannot vote in good conscience for legislation that could potentially cast a chill over medical research on animals, potentially criminalize ranchers, trappers, and jeopardize traditional outdoor activities, such as hunting and angling, along with the many other legitimate animal use practices that are vital for our economy and well-being.
I would ask my colleagues to consider these serious concerns, and vote against Bill C-246.
Mr. Murray Rankin (Victoria, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise to speak in support of Bill C-246. I salute the member for Beaches—East York for his leadership in bringing this back to the House. I say “bringing it back” because we have seen the three initiatives here in different forms introduced by different parties over many years. Bringing it together and modernizing our animal cruelty bill just makes sense, and I commend the member for his efforts to do that.
I have proudly seconded this bill, and I wish to note very clearly that, this being a private member's bill, members will take different positions on it. However, as my friend from Port Moody—Coquitlam pointed out, initiatives such as the one dealing with shark finning came within five votes of becoming the law in this land. I certainly hope we do not lose this opportunity to do the right thing this time.
We can be proud that this bill builds on the work of so many others and of so many different parties in the House. Part of this bill would follow through on an initiative championed by my colleague, the member for Port Moody—Coquitlam, to implement a measure widely supported by Canadians; namely, a long-overdue ban on the importation of shark fins.
Members have heard that it is estimated that, shockingly, 100 million sharks are killed each year simply for their fins, the rest of the carcass discarded. Their fins are cut from their backs and the bleeding sharks, often still alive, are tossed back into the ocean where they sink to the bottom and drown. As a result, one-third of all shark species is threatened with extinction. In Canada, the fins of endangered and near-threatened shark species are regularly consumed. We can do better as Canadians.
Of course, our ocean ecosystem needs sharks. They are a vital apex predator, yet their populations are plummeting. This is an international conservation crisis. We should all be disturbed by this ongoing practice, and we should be acting quickly to implement measures that will eliminate the trade in illegally obtained shark fins.
A number of Canadians cities have joined this fight, attempting to ban the sale and consumption of shark fins. In 2012, however, a court ruled that these bans were beyond municipal jurisdiction. Since these municipal bans were struck down, the consumption of shark fins in Canada has increased by 85,000 pounds. Therefore, the bill calls out for appropriate federal legislation, so I commend my colleague for bringing this to the attention of parliamentarians so we can do the right thing. Canada must show global leadership in the fight to stop this cruel practice, by implementing an import ban. As a country, we can and should end our role in the trade of fins.
I want to say how proud I am of the work of a group called Fin Free, of school groups across the country, and particularly of the work of Margaret McCullough, an instructor at Glenlyon Norfolk School in Victoria. She has organized children to fight for shark fins at the provincial, municipal, and federal levels, to fight for a ban on shark finning which came so close in the last Parliament to being realized. I have met with the students on several occasions, and I can assure members that their passion for this issue is truly inspirational.
From meeting with elected officials and business owners to participating in a documentary film on shark finning, those students have worked hard to make this long-overdue measure a reality. Because of their work, and the work of thousands of others like them across Canada, we came so close, as I said, in 2013, five votes. I know we can deliver this change for those children and for people all over Canada demanding that we as Canadians play our fair part in this international conservation crisis in addressing it head-on.
This bill would also update Canada's existing animal cruelty offences. As the member for Beaches—East York noted, these have not been updated substantively since 1892. While I know it is the member's intention to bring anti-cruelty laws into the 21st century, I would settle for the 20th century. In fact, Camille Labchuk, the executive director of Animal Justice, said this bill would “... help Canada “move past our status as the country in the Western world with the worst animal protection laws and help us take a first step in the right direction”.”
These measures on animal cruelty have not only been proposed in the House before by members of more than one party, they have actually been passed by the House on no less than three occasions. However, I must acknowledge that some have raised concerns about whether the bill would affect the millions of Canadians who enjoy hunting, trapping, and fishing every year. I have been assured that this is neither the intention nor is it the effect of the bill, which would address only criminal conduct with regard to animal cruelty.
I am happy to say that my examination of the bill so far has given me no reason to doubt the words of the minister and officials of the Department of Justice, who told the House, both in 2002 and in 2005, that these amendments would not impact lawful activities involving animals, including hunting, trapping, and fishing.
One need only look at the existing sections of the Criminal Code to understand the way in which these offences are designed and applied. Section 444 of the Code makes it a crime to kill cattle without a lawful excuse. Section 445.1 makes it an offence to willfully cause unnecessary, pain, suffering, or injury to an animal. Of course, these provisions are neither designed for nor apply to farming, fishing, hunting, or research, as has been suggested earlier to the House.
We hope to get the bill to the committee where we can study it in greater detail. We can hear from criminal law expects at that time. We can see whether the Department of Justice is right, which I think it is. At that point, if amendments are required, the hon. member for Beaches—East York has made it abundantly clear that he would be open to amendments of clarification. One such amendment which I will be moving, if we get it to that stage, is one that is extraordinarily simple. It would go something like this: “For greater certainty, this bill has no impact on hunting, fishing, and trapping”.
What else do we need?
My province of British Columbia consistently puts in its legislation “for greater certainty” clauses to ensure that certain bills dealing with land use or resource development do not derogate from aboriginal or treaty rights. Those bills are almost rote now in British Columbia legislation. “For greater certainty” clauses are typical, and everybody understands that.
First, let us be clear that the animal cruelty sections have been over-pronounced by the Department of Justice, having none of the effects that the hon. member, my colleague from the Conservative Party, has addressed.
Second, the member has made it clear that he would be willing to entertain an amendment of that sort, which would take out any such concern that the House might have. Consequently, I see no reason why it cannot proceed. It is addressed, after all, at those who wish to combat intentional, reckless cruelty to animals in particular. There is no legal basis whatsoever on which to dispute the analysis of the justice department that these provisions already have no effect on lawful activities involving animals.
The last part of the bill, the third item, is relatively straightforward. It would ban the sale of cat and dog fur in Canada and require source labelling for fur products. This would match laws found in the United States and Europe. This measure, which has already won the support of tens of thousands of Canadians through one of the e-petitions that are now possible under our advance rules, is necessary to prevent the kind of horrifying stories revealed in the 2012 Toronto Star investigation that found dog and cat fur being used to make children's toys.
In conclusion, the bill is a collection of measures that are long overdue and well-considered, having been introduced, studied, and, in some cases, passed by the House in the past.
It deserves further study. It will get further study at the committee if we can agree to send it there so we can do our part, as Canadians, to modernize our animal cruelty laws to no longer be part of the problem with shark finning, and to deal with the issue of dog and cat fur that the bill would so carefully address.
Mr. Bill Blair (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-246, a bill introduced by my colleague and friend from Beaches—East York, which aims to strengthen the law concerning animal protection.
As I understand it, the bill has three main objectives. The first objective, already spoken about previously by my friend from Victoria, was to ban the importation of shark fins by amending the Fisheries Act and the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act.
The practice of cutting fins from live sharks and discarding the remaining animal into the sea, allowing them to sink to the bottom of the ocean to either die from suffocation or be killed by other predators, is cruel and wasteful. It allows fishing vessels to operate more profitably, but it goes without saying that shark finning is a cruel and wasteful harvesting of this animal.
The bill seeks to amend the Fisheries Act to create a prohibition on shark finning. I would point out, however, that the practice of shark finning is already banned in Canada through licensing conditions administered under the Fishery (General) Relations, and any violation of shark harvesting licensing conditions is a chargeable offence under the Fisheries Act. As such, the proposed amendment to the regulations may create some confusion or redundancy.
The second purpose of the bill is to ban the sale of cat and dog fur in Canada by amending the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act and to require fur source labelling by amending the Textile Labelling Act. I am a confessed dog person, and I support my colleague's recommendation for providing greater clarity to the use of these products and to ensure that appropriate protections are extended as required.
My primary concern with the proposed amendments to the Criminal Code made by my colleague concern those sections of the act intended to modernize the animal cruelty provisions in the Criminal Code.
I agree that the animal cruelty regime does merit significant reform and I would like to take the opportunity to applaud and commend my colleague from Beaches—East York for his strong efforts and advocacy in bringing this important matter forward. I do, however, believe that there is going to be a larger review of the Criminal Code taking place under the mandate of the justice minister and I believe that the changes to the animal protections in that code should be the subject of broad public consultations prior to moving forward.
Bill C-246 proposes to create two new offences. The first offence contained in proposed subsection 182.1(1), regarding the killing or harming of animals, states that:
|| Everyone commits an offence who, wilfully or recklessly,
|| (a) causes or, being the owner, permits to be caused unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal;
||(b) kills an animal or, being the owner, permits an animal to be killed, brutally or viciously, regardless of whether the animal dies immediately;
I believe that there is considerable merit in the proposed amendments brought forward by my colleague from Beaches—East York, but I also wanted to share with the House some of the concerns raised by my colleagues from various jurisdictions across this country.
The first concern that has come to my attention is in regard to conflicts and exemptions within the bill. Bill C-246 does not have a list of exemptions for specific lawful activities such as ranching, hunting, fishing, trapping, medical research, etc. The bill may inadvertently create a conflict of law, making existing legally regulated activities illegal by the very nature of their existence.
In addition, the bill raises concerns regarding constitutional issues in that it may effectively render hunting, fishing, trapping, ranching, and other heritage and indigenous activities illegal because they may be deemed to be brutal or vicious, or they may have an inherent reckless level of activity as part of their very nature.
This new test of “recklessly” that has been added to “wilfully” under proposed section 182.1 for causing unnecessary pain, suffering, or injuries to an animal expands upon the kind of conduct that could become criminal, as one who sees the risk and takes the chance that pain and suffering may occur. This has caused a great deal of concern among those who are hunters, trappers, and fishers across this country as this risk may be inherent to the very nature of those activities. Even if they are practising their sport or commercial or traditional activity lawfully and by prescribed socially accepted practices, they may come into jeopardy.
I listened very carefully to my friend's comments and his reassurances that these matters will not be connected to those traditional activities, but there is a very legitimate concern across this country with respect to their potential impact, and therefore, I must unfortunately advise that I cannot support the bill as it is currently proposed.
I know that many stakeholders across this country are concerned that these new offences of killing an animal in a brutal or vicious matter go too far and may capture traditional animal slaughter practices. I am aware that when these matters were previously discussed in the House there were a number of reassurances provided to those members, but a great deal of public concern still exists.
Canadians who enjoy hunting or fishing, or raise animals to be slaughtered for food are deeply concerned that these practices could be captured by these new offences, notwithstanding my friend's reassurance. Given the strong concerns that were expressed when a similar bill was debated, I think it would be most appropriate to broadly consult with Canadians across the country before pushing forward with any legislative amendments.
I believe that most Canadians would agree that animals deserve our protection apart from any property interests that may be attached to them. I am certainly not disagreeing with the need for strong legislative action to protect animals. Studies have confirmed that a person who abuses animals is much more likely to begin doing the same to people, and there is also research linking animal abusers to increased incidence of domestic violence.
However, it is my strongly held view that aspects of Bill C-246 are sensible and appropriate from a criminal law perspective. I believe that any reform to the animal cruelty offences in the Criminal Code deserves the benefit of broad public consultation and further study.
Animal cruelty is an important social issue that deserves a comprehensive legislative response. It needs broad public consultation to allow us to get this right. The best way forward is in the review of the Criminal Code that will take place in the future. This way we can hear and attempt to address the concerns of Canadians engaged in legitimate activities of hunting, fishing, ranching, medical research, etc.
We want to ensure that any legislative changes are appropriately balanced and do not impinge on the rights of Canadians to continue enjoying these important activities. These are activities that are not only traditional but an important part of our economy, and I know Canadians feel very strongly about them.
Canadians are concerned that they do not want to feel that the enhancements that we put in the Criminal Code may put them at increased risk of prosecution as a result of engaging in these traditional activities. It is too difficult, in my opinion, to do this within the context of the existing private member's bill and its associated processes. The best way forward is by a comprehensive review of the Criminal Code that will allow consultations to take place.
I look forward to a full debate on this matter in the House.
Mr. Blaine Calkins (Red Deer—Lacombe, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, as I sit here listening to the debate this morning, I can see that this is obviously a very passionate issue for a lot of the members in the House.
I want to thank my colleague across the way, who I have gotten to know through committee work and a bit of work outside of normal duties. I totally respect this individual. I respect his right to bring the bill forward and have it discussed. I personally wish that we were not having this discussion, because I believe that some of the proposed changes in the legislation would have a potential impact on the constituents who I serve. It is very courageous, and I mean this with the greatest of respect, particularly for a new member of Parliament to bring forward what I consider to be a very large and ambitious piece of private member's legislation. He can be commended for that. We do not know what the final decision is going to be, so we will see how it goes.
I want to thank the parliamentary secretary for bringing forward a very respectful position, I assume on behalf of the government, on how it is going to deal with this. I am going to go into some examples in the bill. I do not disagree with all parts of the bill. The question that I have, though, is not about the intended consequences, but always the unintended consequences. That is what I am going to get at.
The bill is quite large in its scope. It deals with shark finning. We have known from debate in previous Parliaments that Canada already, through its current practices and so on, does not allow this in its own waters and does not allow through its regulatory regime the importation of fins from sharks that have been finned. However, if it is the will of the House at some particular point in time to pass that legislation, I would not be personally affected.
In fact, as somebody who is a zoologist with a fisheries and aquatic sciences degree, I understand the importance of the ecosystem, the entire web of the food chain. I know that a top predator is always welcome in the system and understand that we do not want the extinction of any species through these harvesting practices. It is something that I would at least be open-minded to. It is something that I could deal with. Had the bill only dealt with that aspect of things, I could maybe find my way to supporting it at some point in time.
The bill also goes on to talk about dogs and cats. This is a heartstrings amendment. People think about their little dogs at home being used for their fur at some particular point in time. I say this as a pet owner. I was a dog owner as a youngster growing up on a beef farm in central Alberta, and our dogs were used quite differently, by the way, on the farm.
Our dogs on the farm were work dogs. We loved them, we respected them, and they respected us, but we had a completely different relationship with the blue heelers and other dogs that worked on the farm, helping us herd cattle, helping us protect our assets, and so on. That was a completely different relationship. When our dogs behaved and performed well, they were rewarded. When they were out of line and needed to be corrected, we used appropriate methods to correct the behaviour of our dogs. This is something people learn at any dog training school, or whatever the case might be.
However, that is a far cry from my little lap dog, because now I live in town. Regrettably, there was not enough room on the farm for all of us kids, so I live in town now and I have a little lap dog. I have a completely different relationship with that dog than the dogs I had growing up on the farm. Therefore, no, I would not want that to happen, but I am in control of that, because I am the dog's owner, I am the dog's master, and I can decide whether that animal ends up in some other type of situation. I have that ability and responsibility, and I take care of my family dog. I do not know of any families that do not love their pets. My dog is part of the family. If she is watching, she will not understand a thing I am saying, but she will at least see me on the screen.
I am very concerned about the bill trying to make everything homogenous. It assumes that every animal is part of the same experience. For example, for people who have only lived in town—and I am not saying this in a derogatory way, in any way, shape, or form—who have had pet dogs their whole lives that have been lap dogs, they have a very different world view of their pets than somebody who might be working on a farm. That is my only point in bringing this up.
I am also a hunter and an angler. I have spent years of my life training. I have a zoology degree in fisheries and aquatic sciences. I have a conservation law enforcement diploma. I spent years researching fish. I spent years working as a conservation officer, protecting the environment, protecting wildlife, conserving our resources, and I am very proud of the past that I have had.
I can say that the vast majority of people I work with in this community are the most ethical, responsible people one has ever met. When they see this piece of legislation and see the clauses in the bill that say anybody who kills either recklessly, violently, or brutally, they think, “If I catch a walleye to take home to feed my family and I bonk it on the head in the boat, does that mean I am going to go to jail?”
The sponsor of the bill would have us believe that is not the case, and I believe his intention. However, do we know for sure? Here is an example.
Animal rights activists use every opportunity they can to advance their agenda. That is fine. That is their right. They may do whatever they lawfully can. They are entitled to that. We are a free and open society, and they have that right. However, here is an example of how these things can go sideways. It actually pertains to the agricultural sector.
We know that cameras are put in livestock facilities from time to time in an effort to advance an agenda. Sometimes they do good; sometimes they do not. I can say, however, in no uncertain terms that a number of constituents have come to me having documented people who they know are stalking their farms. These people are driving their vehicles up, parking lawfully on the edge of the road, photographing, and documenting farming practices. I myself have heard phone calls and recordings of individuals who have left threatening messages on family farm answering machines, because they did not like the type of farming in which the farm was actively engaged. These are the same folks who belong to such organizations as PETA or any other animal rights coalition groups. I am not saying all of them would share that same agenda, but certainly folks use these kinds of methods and techniques to intimidate, brow-beat, and otherwise try to shut farms down. They become the self-proclaimed purveyors of social licence of this particular issue and use these methods to advance their own agendas.
My sincere fear is that, if the bill were to pass in its current form, it would create ample opportunities, motivation, and no end of people trying to use the legislation. All they would need is a willing judge and a simple case of negligence.
The test right now in the Criminal Code has a very high bar for how one could be charged, and so it should. A criminal offence is a very serious matter. In the legislation put forward, all it simply means is a little neglect. Who gets to decide that?
In the section in dealing with punishment, it states:
||...being the owner, or the person having the custody or control of an animal, wilfully or recklessly [—recklessly is not defined anywhere—] abandons it or negligently fails to provide suitable and adequate food, water, air, shelter and care for it;
That care could be something as simple as grooming the matted fur on one's dog. The penalty for that could potentially be a criminal record.
These are the things that are sending a complete chill into not only parts of the industry, but the hunting and angling community.
We all want good animal welfare standards. There are parts of the bill that would improve animal welfare. I agree wholeheartedly with my colleague when he talks about raising animals for the purpose of fighting, betting, and these types of things. I do not think many people in Canada would actually disagree with that. If the bill did only that, then I am sure my colleague would have the support of the vast majority of the members of the House. I do not mean this maliciously, but I am hoping the overambitious agenda of the bill will be the end of it before it even has an opportunity to get to second reading.
I am very pleased to hear the parliamentary secretary say a much more rigorous and consultative approach needs to be taken to ensure that everyone with a vested interest is involved. First nations people have been left out in the cold on this. Dealing with dog and cat fur, it is quite traditional to use husky fur in the use of garments. Would that be a problem with this legislation?
We know already about the ambitious campaign against the seal hunt. The use of the hakapik is a veterinarian-approved process. It stands the rigours of all the scientific evidence we have, but has been brutalized in the public media around the world. It has resulted in the exponential growth of the seal population off the Atlantic coast, while at the same time creating economic havoc, particularly for vulnerable coastal communities that rely on this traditional lifestyle.
There are countless communities that do this. There are farmers, ranchers, and people who live off the land. It is not just first nations people who live off the land. They want to be assured that all members of Parliament in the House understand the gravity of what could potentially be at risk here.
While I commend my colleague for bringing the bill forward, I cannot in good conscience support this bill.
I should mention that we had discussions. He honourably came, sat down, and talked with me, because he knew my feelings on this. I respectfully told him that I could not support the bill. Therefore, it will come as no surprise to him that I rose to speak on this piece of legislation today.
I will always stand up for the people in animal husbandry, farming, ranching, and the hunting and angling community. I will always make sure we preserve these traditional ways of life, and I will not open up any opportunities for the unintended consequences of these industries to be sacrificed, such as they could be with this bill.