Hon. Peter MacKay (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, CPC)
moved that Bill C-35, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (law enforcement animals, military animals and service animals), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be here once again in the House of Commons to speak to a very important initiative that pertains directly to our four-legged friends, animals that can be described as in service of our country and in service of our community.
Bill C-35, the justice for animals in service act, is also known as Quanto's law. It is named after Quanto, who was a five-year-old German shepherd Edmonton police dog who was fatally stabbed October 7, 2013, sadly, while assisting the police in apprehending a suspect. Quanto and his handler, Constable Matt Williamson, were in pursuit of a suspect in a stolen vehicle. When the vehicle became disabled at a gas station, the driver jumped out and fled. Constable Williamson ordered the suspect to stop. When the suspect refused to do so, the officer deployed Quanto, his partner, his dog. Constable Williamson, then in pursuit, eventually witnessed what took place. Quanto did catch the suspect who was fleeing, but in the midst of holding him while waiting for Constable Williamson to arrive, Quanto was stabbed with a knife repeatedly. Medical treatment was applied, but despite efforts to save Quanto, he succumbed to his injuries.
Sadly, this particular incident is not an isolated incident. This has happened in other cases across this country. It speaks to the need to do more when it comes to protecting service animals. It speaks to the recognition of the vulnerability of these animals in supporting law enforcement, our border services, and other law enforcement services.
At the outset, I want to pay tribute to the member for Richmond Hill, who is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, who brought this initiative forward. However, because of a procedural requirement that when he became a parliamentary secretary he could no longer pursue this initiative, the government has picked it up and taken it forward. It was also referenced in the Speech from the Throne.
The proposed amendment to the Criminal Code is to recognize the daily risks taken by police officers and their service animals. They work very much in unison.
I note that this bill defines each of the terms. The proposed amendments would create a new specific offence prohibiting the killing or injuring of a law enforcement animal, service animal, or military animal. I will come back to those definitions.
A law enforcement animal is defined as a dog or a horse that is trained to aid a law enforcement officer in carrying out the officer's duties.
A military animal is defined as an animal that is trained to aid members of the Canadian Forces in carrying out members' duties. This would include the very critical task that we saw in recent years in Afghanistan with bomb disposal units. Dogs, as we all know, are gifted with very sensitive olfactory systems. That is, they are able to smell things that other animals and humans cannot. Despite great advances in technology around bomb disposal, the dog is still the very best indicator in many cases of where these IEDs, the landmines, are located. However, we can imagine the great risk they are under. We can also imagine how incensed the Taliban is when its random attempts to kill and maim people are foiled by the dogs. This makes these dogs a target just as, in a criminal sense, dogs who apprehend those who may flee justice or those who may be involved in the drug trade are specifically made targets.
Therefore, I come back to the purpose of the bill, which is to recognize both the harm and the danger to which they are exposed but also to elevate criminal sanctions to protect them and send a signal to recognize their specific vulnerability.
A service animal is defined as an animal that is required by a person with a disability for assistance and, importantly, is certified in writing as having been trained by a professional service animal institution to assist a person with a disability. Again, I would suggest that the intent of the bill is to elevate the importance of what these animals do, the service they provide, and the potential vulnerability that is present in their life because of their service.
While the bill bears the name of Quanto, that name really represents a much larger body of animals. Quanto, incidentally, was recently elected into the Purina Animal Hall of Fame, I am told, as special recognition of his service to country.
The Criminal Code has contained offences relating to treatment of animals since 1892, and the current set of offences has existed since 1953. The penalties in the existing law were in fact increased by this government in 2008. The offence of killing, maiming, wounding, poisoning, or injuring an animal that is kept for a lawful purpose is found in section 445 of the Criminal Code, and this particular section was used, in fact, to prosecute Quanto's killer.
The maximum sentence that may be imposed where there is a hybrid offence and it is prosecuted as an indictable offence is up to five years, and the law provides that the court may, in addition to any other sentence, on application of the Attorney General or on its own motion, order that the accused pay the reasonable costs incurred in respect of an animal as a result of the commission of the offence. This gets at the fact that the training and purchase of these animals, because they provide such special service, is significant.
I have a very good friend, Duane Rutledge, who is a dog handler with the New Glasgow Regional Police Service back in my home constituency. He has, over the years, trained and worked with three separate dogs. Most of these dogs are German shepherds, brought in either from the Czech Republic or from Germany. These animals can cost thousands of dollars, and when one factors in the training that goes into preparing these animals for service, the cost goes even higher. Estimates, in some cases, put a single service animal, by the time it reaches maturity, at $60,000; so there is cost to be incurred as well. Not to diminish the loss and the human side in injury to an animal, the financial costs associated with an animal being taken out of service, or worse yet, killed, are significant.
Further, paragraph 738(1)(a) of the Criminal Code authorizes the court to order the offender to pay the costs associated with training a new animal as restitution for the loss of an animal where the amount is readily ascertainable.
The person who killed Quanto, for example, was sentenced to a total of 26 months imprisonment on various charges arising out of the events of October 7, which I spoke of earlier. Eighteen months was specifically designated for the killing of Quanto. He was also banned from owning a pet for 25 years.
Quanto's killing was only the most recent instance in which a police service animal was killed in the course of a police operation. Another high-profile incident involved the death of an eight-year-old horse.
The horse, Brigadier, was a Toronto Police Service horse killed in the line of duty in 2006. In that case, a driver in a fit of rage, while waiting in line at a drive-through ATM, made a U-turn and barrelled into the horse and his mounted officer. Both of Brigadier's front legs were broken, the left one so badly that he could never have recovered. The horse had to be put down.
We have another example in which a service animal, in this case a horse, was injured severely. The person drove a car into the animal, into the police horse, and was subsequently convicted. There were charges for dangerous driving causing bodily harm to Brigadier's mounted officer.
Members of this House would also be aware of the many ways that law enforcement dogs and horses can assist handlers in protecting the public.
A police dog is trained specifically to assist police and other law enforcement personnel in their work, such as searching for drugs, explosives, people who are lost in the woods, and evidence such as weapons, and protecting their handlers. Law enforcement canine units, like Quanto's unit in Edmonton, are common components of municipal police, as well as provincial police forces and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
We are all very aware of the Musical Ride and the service it represents, as well as the entertainment factor. It is a source of pride for both the RCMP and all Canadians.
In 1995 in Montreal, after 23 years, a new version of the Montreal police canine unit was established.
Today, this canine unit is composed of 11 police officers and 10 operational dogs. The canine unit supports Montreal police officers in their investigations and daily activities. It is also called upon to work in certain operations where its specialties are required. For example, the unit will co-operate with other police forces that do not have canine units.
The canine unit also works during major events. It is also called upon to participate in media, community and cultural events at schools and community meetings or on television shows to promote the canine unit, the police service and the City of Montreal. The dogs of the Montreal police canine unit each specialize in specific types of work.
We know that some dogs are trained for a very specific purpose with respect to the detection of narcotics. Other dogs have specialized skills in searching buildings and in explosives detection. Some dogs have specialized training that takes years to perfect.
On the international front, looking outside our borders, a number of American states, such as Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, and others, have enacted special laws making the intentional injuring or killing of a police dog a felony offence, subjecting the perpetrator to harsher penalties than those that exist in statutes embodied in local animal cruelty laws. Just as the assault on a police officer may currently result in harsher penalties, we believe there should be an elevated sentence to be meted out when a police animal is injured or killed.
In terms of law enforcement horses, as I mentioned, after special training, law enforcement horses may be employed for specialized duties, ranging from patrolling a park or wilderness area, where police cars would be impractical or noisy, to riot duty. Nothing garners attention in a large crowd where a riot might be erupting like a 1500-pound police horse coming into that area. It tends to garner attention. It tends to have a calming effect on the nerves for many, upon seeing that police horse arrive.
Police horses serve to send a very strong message when attempting to disperse crowds, through their larger size. Police horses provide the officers who ride them with added visibility and an added capacity to see what is happening in what is sometimes a very scattered and chaotic situation. They give riders the ability to observe a much wider area and allow police officers in that area to garner the attention they need and deserve. The service horses help, therefore, to deter crime. They help people find officers when they need them.
The bill would go further and proposes to extend specific protection, not only for law enforcement animals but also for trained service animals and military animals. Service animals perform tasks to help their disabled human masters live independent lives.
Most service animals are dogs, such as seeing eye dogs. However, other kinds of animals may also be trained to serve their masters, to serve individuals they are tasked to work with. The costs associated with training these new service animals is also significant.
I mentioned the Canadian Armed Forces and the variety of animals that are often contracted and used for those purposes. These animals assist Canadian Forces members by locating bombs. Again, I say for emphasis, what courageous work.
Like the men and women of the Canadian Forces who are tasked with this highly dangerous task, service animals have an enormous role to play in helping to detect IEDs, which are hidden and have a horrible impact, as we know, on human life. We have certainly seen the horrific aftermath and chaos that results when individuals step on IEDs. We have many service members in Canada now living with those ailments and ambulatory disabilities as a result.
Each of these service animals is required to have received specialized training to enable it to accomplish very specific tasks in support of its human handler.
It should also be noted that this offence would only apply where the animal was killed or injured in the line of duty. Animals that did not fall within the scope of this new offence would nevertheless be protected by existing animal cruelty provisions of the code.
As with existing sections under 445 of the code, the proposed offence would require the offender to have intended to kill or injure one of these animals. That mens rea, that intentional element, exists. In that way, accidental or negligent conduct would not be criminalized.
As with other provisions under section 445 of the code, the new offence would carry a maximum penalty of five years' imprisonment on indictment, and 18 months or a fine of up to $10,000 on summary conviction.
It is important to note that the proposed amendments would also require courts to give primary consideration to denunciation and deterrence as sentencing objectives as they relate to this new offence. We must underline here that there would be a mandatory minimum penalty of six months' imprisonment where a law enforcement animal was killed in the line of duty and the offence was prosecuted by indictment.
The bill also includes a provision that would require the sentence imposed on a person convicted of an assault committed against a law enforcement officer to be served consecutively to any other sentence that might be imposed on the offender for the offence committed at the same time. We know that these police officers and military members work with the animals essentially as a unit, so an offence committed against the officer would be served consecutively to that which would pertain to the harming or the killing of the animal.
The murder of a police officer is classified as first degree murder automatically and is punishable by life in prison with a mandatory minimum period of parole eligibility of 25 years, as a reflection of that seriousness.
The Criminal Code specifically prohibits assaults committed against peace officers in the performance of their duties through a number of offences, including section 271, assault on a police officer; and section 270.01, assault with a weapon or assault causing bodily harm to a police officer. That recognition exists.
Regrettably, data from the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics adult criminal court survey reveals that there are still too many assaults being committed on police officers across the country. There were, in fact, a total of 31,461 charges in the years 2011-12.
Again, we believe that there is consistency in bringing this matter forward. The Criminal Code was amended to require courts, when sentencing persons convicted of assaults on police officers, to give primary consideration to the objectives of denunciation and deterrence. This new amendment to the Criminal Code would be in that same vein.
I am sure that all would recognize that attacks not only put the lives and safety of individual officers at risk but also demonstrably put animals' lives at risk when violence and weapons are used. The attack undermines the justice system more broadly. Thus, recognizing the wilful killing or injuring of a law enforcement animal undermines the justice system more broadly.
The bill would require the sentence imposed on a person convicted of wilfully killing or injuring a law enforcement animal to be served consecutively to any other sentence imposed on the offender for the offence committed at the same time.
In closing, I want to indicate that I am looking forward to the justice committee's deliberations on this important bill and the study that will take place there. I urge that the bill be referred to committee without undue delay.
I believe that in this highly charged partisan atmosphere in which we sometimes work, this is a bill that should really receive broad support.
It is intended to improve safety and the ability of police and service animals to do their important work in service of Canadians, in service of law and order in this country, and I would encourage all members to support this bill.
Ms. Ève Péclet (La Pointe-de-l'Île, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today in the debate on Bill C-35, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (law enforcement animals, military animals and service animals).
We will support the bill at second reading so that we can study it more thoroughly in committee. I would like to mention that I will try to direct my comments in the rest of my speech to the minister so that he can take our concerns about Bill C-35 into consideration.
The minister clearly defined the guidelines for developing this bill, more commonly known as Quanto's law, which refers to an incident in Edmonton. A police dog was killed during a police operation. Sadly, he was stabbed while trying to intercept a fleeing suspect. I think the police made representations and denounced the lack of legal standards regarding cruelty to animals.
In the 2013 speech from the throne, the Conservative government said that it intended to crack down on cruelty to service animals, which is why we are debating Bill C-35 today.
The general purpose of the bill is to amend the Criminal Code to create a new offence. In a nutshell, this is the definition of the offence created by Bill C-35, which will add the following after section 445: “Every one commits an offence who, wilfully and without lawful excuse, kills, maims, wounds, poisons or injures a…service animal”.
In the other provisions of the Criminal Code, animal cruelty offences almost all carry a maximum sentence of up to five years in prison. This new section is in line with the other sentences in the Criminal Code. However, the first problem is that the minimum sentence is set at six months. Under Bill C-35, if a law enforcement animal is killed during the commission of an offence, while aiding a police officer in enforcing the law, a minimum sentence of six months applies.
I already asked the minister why the Conservative government is choosing once again to attack judicial discretion and go against what almost every criminal law and criminal justice expert is saying, namely that mandatory minimum sentences do nothing but hinder the justice system. It is recognized. Even experts in the U.S., which as we know chose to adopt a much harsher and punitive approach to criminals, are backtracking. They are telling the Conservative government that they already tried this approach, but it did not work. The United States currently has the highest incarceration rate in the world and that comes with a hefty price tag.
We realize that the idea behind minimum sentencing was to deter people from committing offences. Even the Department of Justice has recognized that the deterrent effect of minimum sentences has produced very little return on investment. The justice system is even more packed than before and the incarceration rate is going through the roof. Minimum sentences cause all sorts of problems.
I do not understand why the government wants to bring in a six-month minimum sentence for this type of offence. Let us be clear: animal cruelty is absolutely unimaginable. However, I know how the Conservatives operate.They will immediately point the finger to the NDP and say that we are siding with criminals and so on, but that is not true.
We simply want to have the best possible legislation that respects the fundamental principles of Canada and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, by imposing appropriate sentences on people charged with animal cruelty. The second problem has to do with consecutive sentences when an offence is committed against a police dog.
These two problems call for this bill to be studied in committee so that we can hear from experts on the matter. We know for certain that mandatory minimum sentences do not work. They eliminate judicial discretion and dramatically increase the incarceration rate. We already have a major problem when it comes to access to justice and there are already delays in proceedings.
I think I have made myself clear. I therefore ask the Minister of Justice to work with us to find a solution that honours not only the great work that law enforcement and military animals do every day, but also the fundamental principles of our justice system.
Furthermore, I think it is important to add something here about aggravating circumstances. The last clause of Bill C-35, which provides direction to courts on sentencing the accused, is worded in such a way that judges and courts must take into account the deterrent effect of the sentence. Courts are being given some discretion in imposing a sentence, but at the same time, they are being forced to impose a minimum sentence of six months.
I would like to tell the Minister of Justice that the aggravating circumstances in the last clause of the bill could be a better legislative measure than imposing a minimum sentence. The last clause of the bill could be worded in such a way that courts should take into consideration the deterrent effect intended by the legislation, but also the aggravating circumstances of an offence, so that judges can impose the appropriate sentence for an offence.
I would like the minister to work with us and realize that the minimum sentence might not be the best legislative measure.
As another aside, I would like to talk about animal cruelty. Since the Conservative government came to power in 2006, it has done nothing. It has never taken into account our position on animal cruelty. We have all had animals before, and many of us might have pets.
Everyone can agree that they are family members. We love them like our children, brothers or sisters. When I go door to door in my riding, I see that people love their animals, and I am sure that all my colleagues have seen this too. Animal cruelty is repugnant to all of us, to all Quebeckers and all Canadians.
Preventing animal cruelty is one of the Conservative government's priorities. If the government is looking to introduce this bill now and pass it before Parliament breaks for the summer, it must be because the government believes that animal cruelty is an extremely important subject and must be regulated. I would therefore like to talk about two bills that the NDP introduced in this Parliament, and I would like the minister to tell me whether or not the Conservatives will support them.
The first is Bill C-232, which was introduced by my colleague from Parkdale—High Park. This bill would remove animals from the section of the Criminal Code on property and create a new section for animal cruelty offences. In short, animals would be considered people and not property. Under the existing legislation and the Criminal Code, a person must own the animal or have some connection to it in order to be found guilty of animal cruelty. The definition of “animal” is inadequate. It must be reviewed and so must the provisions of the Criminal Code.
Bill C-232 would allow the justice system to deal more effectively with animal cruelty offences and increase the possibility of conviction for animal cruelty offences. This is a good bill. My colleague from Parkdale—High Park met with thousands of people who support this bill. I would therefore like to ask the minister if he will work with the NDP to regulate animal cruelty offences and strengthen the provisions in that regard.
The second bill I would like to talk about is Bill C-592, which was introduced by the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine. This bill seeks to better define what an animal is under the Criminal Code and define what is meant by intent and acts of cruelty. I would once again like the minister to tell me whether the Conservative government will support these two bills, Bill C-592 and Bill C-232, which seek to modernize the Criminal Code and better regulate the treatment of animals.
What message does the government want to send to all Canadians?
After what happened in Edmonton, it is completely understandable for people to be outraged. This incident was the last straw and it showed the importance of this issue and the gaps in the Criminal Code when it comes to animal cruelty.
It is all well and good to regulate in response to a situation, but what about the thousands of other situations that we hear about in the media regarding shelters and slaughterhouses? What are we doing right now to regulate animal cruelty?
I would like to thank the minister for introducing this bill. I think we should work on it, and I hope that the minister will be open to some amendments.
Today I would like to ask the government what it is doing to regulate animal cruelty. There have been scandals in the past several years about mistreatment in shelters and slaughterhouses. Why have the Conservatives not done anything? Why did they just decide now to introduce this bill, a bill that only addresses a small fraction of animals? This bill addresses trained law enforcement animals, military animals and service animals. The word "trained" is part of the definition. What are they doing for animals destined for consumption? What about animals, in shelters or animals that are abandoned?
It is important to understand that all animals are worthy of being protected. I do not want anyone to interpret what I am saying as meaning that we do not agree with protecting law enforcement or military animals. I think this is a good initiative, but what about all the other animals?
The fact that the definition being added to the Criminal Code covers trained animals means that some animals may be excluded. What is the difference between a law enforcement animal and a domestic animal, for example, in a case in which a dog is killed while trying to defend his owner from a thief? The dog is not necessarily trained for that. There are a number of situations that the Conservative government does not seem to consider important. The government may think that the legislation is enough, but it is not. Canadians have spoken out, and they have called on the government to modernize the Criminal Code.
I would simply like to reach out to the minister and ask him what we can do today to pass laws regarding animal cruelty.
The NDP is here today. I hope to have the minister's support for our Bill C-592 and Bill C-232, so that we can work together to ensure that individuals found guilty of mistreating animals receive the penalties they deserve.
Hon. Wayne Easter (Malpeque, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I am certainly pleased to speak to this bill, Bill C-35, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (law enforcement animals, military animals and service animals), that was introduced for first reading on May 12.
The origin of this bill came about following the most recent death of a police service dog with the Edmonton Police Service, by the name of “Quanto”. The Conservative member for Richmond Hill presented a similar bill in the fall of 2013, and I congratulate him for that.
This practice is becoming increasingly common, for there to be criminal sanctions imposed on those who harm service animals in other jurisdictions, and the reasoning is the same. These animals provide a service for which they are injected often into dangerous situations, as in the case of police and military animals. I believe the member for Richmond Hill and I were on the same educational trip to Israel where we saw military dogs in action, doing extremely good work; whether with explosives, taking down individuals, or tracking terrorists who might come through some of the security fences to do harm. Those dogs are unbelievably well trained. They provide a public service to law enforcement or military, or against terrorist attacks.
At the same time, all service animals will fill a role that is a critical extension to those using them and thus are animals that must be present in high-risk situations. They go into a crime scene; they protect law enforcement officers from attack by criminals; they are involved in looking for explosives, so these animals are often put into high-risk situations.
The issue is not entirely about protecting these animals, but rather about ensuring that the legislative mechanisms would achieve these objectives. That is what we are talking about today. We had to distinguish between the two. If there is some criticism of this legislation, as we just had a discussion about a moment ago, that does not necessarily mean that there is a problem with the intent of this legislation, which is to protect the animals. There may be a problem with the design of the legislation and how it would be carried out, rather than with the original objective of protecting those animals. It is important to place this legislation in context.
In the course of the past 48 years, 10 police dogs have been killed in the line of duty. The RCMP, Canada Border Services Agency, and Correctional Service have 310 dogs in service currently. The scale of the offence is not as significant as the Conservatives themselves have been implying. I look to the minister's remarks to the member who just spoke. Because there was criticism raised to this bill on mandatory minimums, the member was basically accused of coddling criminals. We have to keep in focus the legislation itself. We need to ensure that the legislation would do what it would be intended to do and would not get thrown out by courts down the road. The point is that the scale of the offence is not as significant as the government has been implying, but that does not minimize the fact that the protection of service animals should be acted upon.
The legislation, while supportable, must be referred to the appropriate committee for consideration and careful examination. I made that point earlier.
The statement introducing Bill C-35 contains the following background information related to the animals to be covered. The legislation proposes Criminal Code amendments that would create a new offence specifically prohibiting the injuring or killing of animals trained and being used to help law enforcement officers, persons with disabilities, or the Canadian Armed Forces.
Persons convicted of such an offence could face up to five years' imprisonment with a mandatory minimum sentence of six months in prison in cases where a law enforcement animal is killed while assisting a law enforcement officer in enforcing the law and the offence is prosecuted by indictment.
If a law enforcement officer is assaulted or a law enforcement animal is injured or killed while on duty, the sentence for that offence would be served consecutively under this legislation to any other sentences imposed on the offender arising out of the same event. I will explain later why we are concerned about that consecutive sentencing as it does take away judges' discretion and maybe at the risk of losing the legislation.
The RCMP currently has 157 police service dogs in service across Canada; 135 are general duty profile dogs and 22 are detection profile dogs. They are used to help find lost persons, track criminals, and search for items such as narcotics, explosives, and crime scene evidence.
In addition to the RCMP, provincial and municipal police services across Canada have integrated police service dogs as part of their everyday service delivery in our communities.
Canada Border Services Agency has 53 dog and handler teams that help to detect contraband drugs and firearms, undeclared currency, and food, plant, and animal products. Mr. Speaker, I do not know if you have seen them work, but these dogs are absolutely amazing in terms of how they can find firearms and narcotics. You may have had an opportunity in an airport to see a dog being led by a Canada Border Services Agency officer checking to see if there are any drugs in baggage. It is absolutely amazing to see the dogs work. They run across the baggage and sniff out narcotics if they are there. They do provide a marvellous public service for Canadians.
As I mentioned a moment ago, when we were in Israel over a year ago we saw how the dogs there could find weapons hidden in vehicles. I cannot emphasize enough the service that these extremely well trained animals do for the public.
Correctional Service of Canada uses dogs to help stop the flow of illicit drugs and contraband into federal correctional institutions. It has over 100 dog and handler teams across the country.
The justice for animals in service act applies to law enforcement service animals and Canadian Armed Forces animals. In practical terms, dogs would be the primary animals protected by this new legislation, given that they are the animals most often trained and used to assist law enforcement officers and persons with disabilities.
However, horses are also used by some police forces and the minister in his remarks earlier mentioned that as well. Also, other kinds of animals can be trained as service animals to assist persons with disabilities. They all, as I understand it, would be protected under the justice for animals in service act.
According to the Canadian Police Canine Association, 10 police dogs were killed in the line of duty between May 25, 1965 and October 7, 2013. That is a period of 48 years. Of those dogs, three were killed in the past decade. As indicated, the RCMP, Canada Border Services Agency, and Correctional Service of Canada have 310 dogs currently in service.
The Toronto Police Service reported the death of a police horse in 2006.
There is considerable investment in terms of resources in the training of service dogs. The RCMP has indicated that it has 112 police dog teams in Canada at a cost of $60,000 per team. What should also be considered is that service animals, while highly trained, are companions for the officers and individuals that they serve. I will come back to my experience with the police officers, correctional officials, and military personnel who handle these dogs. In many cases, the dogs become a lifelong companion. They are extremely close. The team relationship between the handler and the dog is quite extraordinary.
What requires clarification in this legislation is the issue of service animals. The definition set out in clause 3 refers to “an animal that is required by a person with a disability for assistance”. The issue is how many incidents the government has found with respect to service animals being killed or injured.
The Prime Minister said in a statement on May 12, 2014, that this legislation would send the message that “violence against service animals is unacceptable”. The question is the extent of the problem being addressed with these changes to the Criminal Code.
The legislation, Bill C-35, is not dissimilar to legal sanctions being imposed in other jurisdictions with respect to the protection of police, military, and service animals. In the United States, the Federal Law Enforcement Animal Protection Act contains specific provisions related to penalties for the harming or killing of federal law enforcement animals. The legislation states:
|| Whoever wilfully and maliciously harms any police animal, or attempts or conspires to do so, shall be fined under this title and imprisoned not more than 1 year. If the offense permanently disables or disfigures the animal, or causes serious bodily injury or the death of the animal, the maximum term of imprisonment shall be 10 years.
However, under the United States' provision, there are neither consecutive sentencing provisions, nor mandatory minimums. The offences against law enforcement service animals are treated as stand-alone violations.
Support for the legislation being considered by the committee would have to ensure that the sanctions to be imposed under the legislation would withstand judicial scrutiny. In response to my earlier question, the minister did indicate that the legislation was checked for charter compliance. That is something that we really need to know.
I hope that the minister will be willing to provide that evidence to committee members to show where the legal advice came from. Is it from the Department of Justice? It is outside advice? Is there charter compliance, especially as it relates to consecutive and mandatory minimums jointly in this particular bill?
This would not be the first occasion to have arisen, as members are aware, where the Conservative government has presented a legislative mechanism containing penalty provisions that have been directly challenged by the courts. In response to what the minister said earlier, there is no problem with the government pushing the envelope and challenging the courts. That is not a problem.
The concern we may have is whether the government is taking into serious consideration some of the advice that is given to it, probably by the minister's own department. We know of certain cases of judicial appointments where the government went outside of government to get an opinion that it felt would be more in line with its thinking, and we know what happened as a result of going down that avenue.
We have seen it even in private members' bills from Conservative members with respect to implementing the Conservative tough-on-crime agenda. It has taken the direct intervention of justice legal advisers to impose amendments limiting the excessive nature of the legislation.
I have seen that in committee several times, where a private member's bill comes in. It is going to do all these wonderful things in protecting victims. The witnesses come in based on the original legislation. After the witnesses go home and leave town, the Department of Justice comes in, implements amendments, usually more than there is clauses in the bill. It completely waters the bill down so it really does not do what the original bill claimed it would do. The backbench members who brought in the bill continue to promote it as if it would and the witnesses who were before committee are usually none the wiser in how it has been watered down.
As has been pointed out by the member for Mount Royal, with respect to the concern on the Conservative government's use of both mandatory and consecutive sanctions, it is important not to remove discretion from judges by making consecutive sentences mandatory in all instances of a particular offence. At times it may be necessary, but to make it mandatory in all instances is probably not the right way to go. Doing so may result in charter infringement in a case where the totality of the punishment is no longer proportionate to the gravity of the offence or otherwise consistent with the purpose of sentencing as provided for in the Criminal Code.
It is certainly possible to make consecutive sentences the norm, while still allowing judges to order concurrent sentences in exceptional cases, providing they give reasons for departing from the usual practice. Such a check would allow Parliament to express its concern about the conduct and denounce it, while at the same time allowing judges to exercise their necessary discretion when doing so could prevent a sentence from infringing on the charter.
As with all matters of sentencing, we must remember that they are after the fact and do not serve as preventive measure, particularly as studies do not show a link between imposition of mandatory sentences and a subsequent reduction in the incidents of those said offences. The previous member spoke extensively about that issue.
These concerns were echoed recently in a Globe and Mail article, March 1, which made the following observation with respect to the use by the Conservatives of both consecutive and mandatory minimum sentencing:
|| The Conservative government has been overhauling the justice system in the name of crime victims, focusing on longer prison terms and limits to judges’ discretion.
|| But the proposed rules could run into trouble. They might clash with the Criminal Code’s “totality principle”, which says an individual’s overall sentence should not be overly harsh, or crushing; or they might fall afoul of the Constitution’s ban on “cruel and unusual punishment”.
|| “The minimums, especially consecutive minimums, don’t leave room for considering the individual offender and the nature of the offence”, Toronto defence lawyer Clayton Ruby, author of Sentencing, a textbook in its eighth edition, said in an interview. “Government doesn’t trust the judges. They appoint them, but they don’t trust them. It’s all about control”.
That is worrisome. The provisions in The Globe and Mail article relate to the attempt to use the mandatory minimum and consecutive sentencing in relation specifically to crimes against children. Bill C-35 would impose those provisions in relation to service animals.
As I have indicated, the need for the legislation may be justifiable, so it is important to have it on the floor. The concern is that once again we see the government create a sense of crisis where there is not one.
I want to emphasize in conclusion, as I have said throughout my remarks, that these service animals provide a tremendous service to Canadians and globally around the world in the protection of public safety. There needs to be measures taken, but let us be careful not to jeopardize the charter rights as well.
Mr. Costas Menegakis (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to stand today and to have this opportunity, on behalf of my constituents in Richmond Hill, to speak in favour of Bill C-35, the justice for animals in service act, or Quanto's law.
This legislation would ensure that those who harm law enforcement, service, or Canadian Armed Forces animals face serious consequences.
Before I go on to the content of my speech, I want to take the opportunity to thank the Right Hon. Prime Minister for including this piece of legislation in the throne speech back in October of 2013. I also want to thank our Minister of Justice for the focus and attention he gave to this particular piece of legislation in his agenda of a multitude of requests and justice-related matters that he focuses on and has to focus on.
I want to also thank them for giving me credit for having introduced it as a private member's bill.
However, I do want to say this: the legislation the government has introduced would go beyond my initial private member's bill, Bill C-515, which was focused solely on law enforcement animals. The new offence proposed by Quanto's law addresses the intentional killing or injuring of a law enforcement animal, but it also includes service animals such as guide dogs for the sight-impaired and animals that are helping Canadian Armed Forces personnel carry out their duties. These animals also benefit Canadian society. I think the inclusion of them in this bill make it a much better bill, so I want to thank the Minister of Justice for expanding the bill and for tabling it in the House today.
Our government recognizes that these animals play a very important role in protecting our communities and improving the quality of life for Canadians. The proposed legislation is aimed at denouncing and deterring the wilful harming of specially trained animals used to help law enforcement officers, persons with disabilities, or the Canadian Armed Forces.
In regard to just that statement by itself, if there is anything we could do as a Parliament to denounce and deter those who would have that inclination, that intent, to hurt a service animal that is there to protect us, to protect human beings, to protect our society, to protect our communities, that in and of itself is, I believe, strong enough justification for all members of this chamber, irrespective of party affiliation, to give serious consideration to supporting Bill C-35, Quanto's law.
I know that from time to time in this House we see, on an ongoing basis, some pretty heated debate. We get partisan comments on all sides of the House, and I understand that. It is the government's role to govern and to bring in legislation; it is the opposition's role to hold the government to account.
However, I believe this is one piece of legislation that transcends the lines of partisanship. It would impose penalties upon those who would harm those service animals we train to protect us.
We heard a bit about the cost of training such animals. I have read that it costs upwards of $60,000 to train a police dog, for example, and in excess of $40,000 to train a guide dog. A lot of focus has gone into training these animals and developing them as part of a team to protect their partners in the execution of their duties.
I realize that cost should not drive justice legislation, but I want to point out that in addition to the obvious benefits that we get when these animals are protecting us, it does cost a lot of money to train them in the first place.
The introduction of this legislation fulfills our government's promise in the 2013 throne speech to recognize the daily risks taken by police officers and their service animals in their efforts and to enforce the law and protect Canadians in their communities.
The legislation honours Quanto, a police dog stabbed to death in the line of duty while trying to apprehend a fleeing suspect in Edmonton, Alberta. Quanto had four years of decorated service and had participated in more than 100 arrests prior to his death in October 2013.
It is not lost on me, and I am sure it is not lost on a lot of Canadians, that the stabbing of Quanto while the suspect was being apprehended could have easily been done to his partner, Constable Matt Williamson, but the animal was there to protect his partner and took the hit for him. It was a selfless act on the part of the animal. The least we can do as parliamentarians is ensure that we have legislation that imposes penalties on those who would act in such a heinous manner toward an animal that is there to protect us.
I also want to pay tribute to the many animals, police service animals in particular, that have lost their lives in the line of duty. When I introduced my private member's bill back in 2013, I referred to Brigadier, a police horse in the Toronto Police Service that was deliberately hit by a vehicle driven by a criminal. That hit cost the animal its life, but it protected Constable Kevin Bradfield, who sustained some injury but did not take the impact. The animal took the impact of that hit. This is yet another example of a selfless act by a police animal hurt in the line of duty while protecting its partner, protecting a human being.
I would like to quote the Prime Minister when he was in Edmonton a few weeks ago to announce this legislation. His words are worthy of mention once again for the benefit of all members in the House today and for those throughout the country who are watching us in our deliberations. This is what the Prime Minister said:
|| Quanto’s violent death is a powerful and sad reminder of the dangers that law enforcement animals often face in assisting officers to protect Canadians and communities. This legislation honours those faithful animals and emphasizes the special role that they play. Our Government is committed to ensuring that people who wilfully harm these animals face the full force of the law.
We know that they are animals and that they are not human beings, but just because they are animals does not mean that we of necessity have to be heartless and not recognize their selfless contribution to keeping our communities safe.
The Prime Minister went on to say:
|| This legislation also recognizes the vital role that service animals, such as guide dogs, play in helping persons with disabilities benefit from a better quality of life and lead more independent lives. This sends the message that violence against service animals is unacceptable and those who commit such callous acts will pay the consequences.
One of the things that has not received much focus is the impact on the partner when a service animal is hurt. An animal assigned to a police officer or assigned to someone who is sight-impaired is a partner.
In the case of someone who is blind, the service animal is the eyes of the blind person. It is a partner. It is an animal the person relies on for protection and companionship and to ensure that they are at all times kept out of harm's way. They are very important. When one of these animals is injured, it has a tremendous impact not only on Canadian society but on the partner of the animal.
Having met Constable Matthew Williamson, who was Quanto's handler, and Constable Kevin Bradfield, who was Brigadier's handler, I know the impact it had on them and their families because of the close attachment they had to those animals. They know very well that these animals were there to protect them and to apprehend criminals in the line of duty.
In our society, service animals have become an integral part of law enforcement. They assist with search and rescue efforts; tracking criminals; and searching for narcotics, explosives, crime scene evidence, and lost property. They serve as VIP protection, in some instances, and in crowd control, hostage situations, and police and community relations.
All of us as parliamentarians travel. We travel across the country and back to our ridings. Invariably, as we walk through an airport, we will see a service animal with the Canada Border Services Agency sniffing luggage as it is going around on the conveyor belt. They are trying to identify anything illicit in the luggage. Occasionally they find narcotics, which could end up in our communities, schools, around our families, and in our malls. They could end up doing no good and an awful lot of harm to Canadians. We have to thank the animals who have had tens of thousands of dollars worth of training to sniff out those narcotics before they get to our communities.
Do we not have a responsibility to do something a little extra to protect these animals? I would submit that we absolutely do. It is our obligation, and that is what this bill aims to do.
The RCMP currently has 157 police service dogs in service across Canada. Of those, 135 are general duty police profile dogs and 22 are detection profile dogs. They have specific training to execute their responsibilities.
In addition to the RCMP, provincial and municipal police departments across Canada have integrated police service dogs as part of their everyday service delivery in our communities. I spoke to the York Regional Police Chief, Eric Jolliffe, and he congratulated me when I initially proposed this bill to the House. He spoke to me as recently as a few weeks ago about how pleased he is that we are moving forward with this piece of legislation, as York Regional Police have a very large canine unit.
By the way, I would like all members of the House to know that law enforcement officers are thrilled that finally we are focusing on protecting their partners that are used as tools in the execution of their duty of protecting Canadians.
Service animals' involvement in law enforcement goes well beyond the police. As I mentioned earlier, the Canada Border Services Agency uses them. In fact, the CBSA has 53 dog and handler teams that help to detect contraband drugs and firearms, undeclared currency, and food, plant, and animal products. That just opens up a whole slew of things we could be discussing here today.
Additionally, Correctional Service of Canada uses dogs to help stop the flow of illicit drugs and contraband into federal correctional institutions. They have over 100 dog and handler teams across Canada.
Service animals are active and indispensable members of our society who, with their handlers, work with dedication to ensure that Canadians remain safe in their communities.
I could expand on the importance of having service animals at correctional institutions, because keeping drugs and contraband out of our correctional institutions certainly will assist in the rehabilitation of those individuals who are incarcerated.
Not only have they been given important responsibilities, but these animals also have an unbreakable bond with the officers who have the honour to be their handlers. That makes losing a service animal in the line of duty very difficult.
Constable Matthew Williamson of the Edmonton Police Service Canine Unit, who was Quanto's handler, along with the entire Edmonton Police Service, was shocked by the loss of their friend Quanto.
Scott Pattison, spokesperson with the Edmonton Police Service, noted the strong connection between the handlers and the dogs, saying that, “The dogs go home with the members and they’re part of their own families really. These animals perform their jobs every single night on behalf of the citizens of this city with extreme courage”. That applies to every police dog across this country.
That is why our government was extremely proud to introduce this legislation to ensure that harm committed against these dedicated animals would become a criminal offence.
Bill C-35 proposes Criminal Code amendments that would create a new offence specifically prohibiting the injuring or killing of animals trained to help law enforcement officers, persons with disabilities, and the Canadian Armed Forces.
The member for Malpeque earlier mentioned our visit to the canine unit in Israel. We saw first-hand an example of how these animals perform in trying to protect military officers. It is very impressive, and it is selfless service on the part of the animal.
Persons convicted of such an offence could face up to five years of imprisonment, with a mandatory minimum sentence of six months in prison in cases where a law enforcement animal was killed while assisting an officer in executing the law and the offence was prosecuted by indictment.
The minimum sentence would be six months. I have heard members in this House this morning speak about the mandatory minimum sentence of six months. I want to highlight once again that it is six months. It is a minimum of six months for someone who pulls out a knife in Edmonton and repeatedly stabs an animal. It is unbelievable.
To ensure that persons convicted of harming police service animals would be sentenced properly according to the crimes committed, Bill C-35 contains measures whereby if a law enforcement officer was assaulted or a law enforcement animal was injured or killed while on duty, the sentence for that offence would be served consecutive to any other sentence imposed on the offender arising from the same event. This would ensure that the punishment matched the nature of the crime.
The justice for animals in service act applies to law enforcement animals, service animals, and Canadian Armed Forces animals. In practical terms, we need to protect these animals.
I am running out of time, so I will conclude by saying that our government's tough-on-crime legislation is being met with continued dedication as we work to ensure that our justice system is fair and efficient. Enacting this particular piece of legislation would finally codify an official offence for the act of injuring or killing service animals.
We must stand up and protect these animals who are giving their lives to protect us. I urge every member of this House to reflect on these comments, look in their own hearts, and join us in unanimously passing this very important piece of legislation.
Ms. Peggy Nash (Parkdale—High Park, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today on behalf of the constituents in my riding of Parkdale—High Park. I note that there are many pressing issues about which people in my community have communicated with me.
They have contacted me about the global crisis of climate change and the need for urgent action. They have contacted me about the need for an inquiry into the missing and murdered aboriginal women. I hear frequently about the lack of affordable housing. I hear about the tremendous stress that families are under because of the lack of child care. Certainly, I hear about the lack of good quality jobs; and I often hear about the hollowing out of the manufacturing sector in Ontario.
There are many urgent matters that should be coming before the House, but given that the government is proposing Bill C-35, I am happy to speak to it. It is an act to amend the Criminal Code concerning law enforcement animals, military animals, and service animals.
Anybody from my city, Toronto, will certainly remember the terrible incident of the death of a police service horse called Brigadier. That was back in 2006, when a hit and run driver apparently intentionally ran into Brigadier, a magnificent Belgian cross police horse. He was quite a striking animal who was unfortunately rammed by a speeding car, which resulted in his death. It was a pretty horrific event.
There is a more recent event that has provoked Bill C-35, known as Quanto's law. A police service dog was stabbed to death by a suspect trying to flee, back in 2013. The perpetrator of that offence pleaded guilty to animal cruelty and other offences. He was eventually sentenced to 26 months in prison and banned from owning a pet for 25 years.
These incidents of malicious acts against service animals do occur. They occur rarely, thank goodness, but they do occur. It is a flaw in the current provisions around animal cruelty in the Criminal Code that there is no specific provision for dealing with acts against these service and law enforcement animals.
What this bill would do is strengthen penalties against those who attack law enforcement animals, service animals, or Canadian Armed Forces animals. It would do this by creating a new offence that specifically prohibits anyone from killing, wounding, poisoning, or injuring trained animals that work for police, persons with disabilities, or the Canadian Armed Forces. It would sentence them to up to five years. It would be a maximum of five years and a minimum of six months in prison.
If the offence were committed during the line of duty of the service animal, the offence would be served consecutively with any other punishment imposed on the perpetrator.
Whether they are enforcement animals or service animals, we all see and admire them. They are highly trained, wonderful species. They provide a great service to our society. There should be a provision in the Criminal Code that deals specifically with these animals.
I will say, though, that our animal cruelty legislation in general, which is more than 120 years old, needs a serious update. There was a little bit of tinkering a few years ago through a Senate bill, but the fundamental problem with our animal cruelty laws is that they treat animals as property. They are under the property provisions of the Criminal Code, rather than recognizing that animals are sentient beings.
I have a private member's bill, Bill C-232, that would update the animal cruelty legislation, very specifically excluding farm operations, hunting, and fishing. It is more about companion animals. What it would do is recognize that animals are not property like a car or a barn. They are in fact sentient beings. The bar that is set today in order to achieve a conviction is one of wilful neglect. It is that term, “wilful neglect”, or wilfully acting to harm an animal that creates a bar that is very difficult for the criminal justice system to achieve.
It is not that there are not convictions under this legislation. There are. However, just strengthening the penalties, as was done a few years ago, does not fundamentally change this more than 120-year-old legislation. It needs to be changed to recognize animals, as we are talking about them today as service animals, are thinking, feeling creatures that certainly feel pain and provide a great service to humans, whether they are working with people with disabilities, with law enforcement agencies, or as beloved companions in people's homes. They are not the same as inanimate objects and ought to be treated differently under the Criminal Code. That is what my private member's bill is arguing for.
The bill before us today, Bill C-35, would serve to make a positive change to the Criminal Code in that it would include law enforcement animals and service animals as a distinct category, because they are performing a function defined in law, helping to enforce our laws, or supporting people who are especially vulnerable. It is appropriate that there would be special recognition for these animals and that there would be special penalties, especially for animals who are injured or killed in their line of work. That is absolutely what should happen.
What I am concerned about, and several members in the House today have expressed this concern, is that a bill that is essentially laudable is in fact tainted by the introduction of minimum sentencing. Our concern is that it is a frequent tactic by the federal government to impose minimum sentences and thereby remove discretion from the courts when it comes to sentencing. What we find sometimes is that judges will not convict because they do not believe the minimum sentence is warranted. Certainly it has been found that minimum sentences are not a deterrent for people committing crimes. They have not served that purpose; so we really question the value of repeatedly imposing minimum sentences in legislation, as the Conservatives are wont to do.
Also, we are concerned about consecutive sentencing, which again limits the ability of the courts. That is why, while we support the bill in principle, we want to see it studied at committee. Hopefully, there will be some justification for the proposed minimum sentencing.
We are here in the House, and I do not have a lot of company here. A lot of members have missed their shifts in the House. We have had Conservatives and Liberals missing 26 shifts in the last little while. There are a lot of procedural games going on. As New Democrats, we are going to push back against that. We want to do the work of the House and focus on that.
|| That the House do now adjourn.