[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]
Tuesday, October 16, 2001
The Chair (Mr. Andy Scott (Fredericton, Lib.)): I'd like to do one piece of committee business. I believe I have the consent of the committee to proceed quite quickly to deal with Mr. Lee's motion so that our witnesses are not held up too long. He gave notice over a week ago. I think there has been agreement among parties to move with dispatch.
Mr. Lee, do you want to very briefly set this up?
Mr. Derek Lee (Scarborough—Rouge River, Lib.): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The motion was distributed the previous week we were sitting. It is the motion with two changes. I would move an amendment to accomplish the changes.
Colleagues, you have in front of you a draft of the motion. It has been changed in two places. First, the size of the committee will not be nine members; it will be eleven members. It will be composed of six members from the Liberal Party, two members from the Canadian Alliance, one from the BQ, one from the New Democratic Party, and one from the PC/DR Coalition.
The second change is in relation to the mandate. There has been an addition of one item of mandate. It is the annual report of the Commissioner of the Communications Security Establishment. It is added to the list, second from the end.
I move we adopt the motion with the two changes, as per the notice given earlier and as amended.
The Chair: We have heard the motion. I believe we all understand the urgency to this. I will call the question. All those in favour? Anyone opposed?
(Motion as amended agreed to—[See Minutes of Proceedings])
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Lee. Good luck. We will be awaiting your first report to the mother committee.
Mr. Derek Lee: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The Chair: I thank members of all parties for the very cooperative way in which this matter has been dealt with. It bodes well for the future of our work on both Mr. Lee's subcommittee and our work on the legislation around the anti-terrorism bill.
To the witnesses who have gathered to discuss something else, I very much appreciate your patience.
Today we have a panel of three organizations to speak to the committee with regard to Bill C-15B. The Fur Council of Canada is represented by Alan Herscovici. The Canadian Council on Animal Care is represented by Dr. Clément Gauthier and Marie Bédard. The World Society for the Protection of Animals is represented by Lesli Bisgould, executive director.
In the order in which we have them on our agenda, we begin with the Fur Council of Canada for up to ten minutes.
Mr. Alan Herscovici (Executive Vice-President, Fur Council of Canada): Mr. Chairman, members, I would like to thank the committee very much for this opportunity to address you on this important issue.
Thank you very much for inviting me here to explain to you why so many people and so many industries and associations are concerned about Bill C-15B as tabled.
My name is Alan Herscovici. I am executive vice-president of the Fur Council of Canada. It is a national, non-profit association representing all sectors of the Canadian fur trade and it involves over 70,000 Canadians across the country, including aboriginal communities.
I am also chair of the Montreal Fashion Network, which is an inter-sectoral group representing the Montreal fashion industry. I sit on the international trade minister's fur, leather, and textile SAGIT committee.
Perhaps more important to the purpose of the bill the committee is looking at today, I am also an author who has studied the animal rights movement, the emergence of animal rights, and a new form of animal rights movement over the last 20 years. I am the author of a book called Second Nature: The Animal Rights Controversy. It was perhaps the first book that tried to show the long-range impact this switch from animal welfare to the new animal rights philosophy would have. Unfortunately, all too much of what I predicted in the book has been happening, including some of what we are going to look at today.
I was also a consultant to the royal commission on sealing, where I worked on animal rights issues for the Royal Commission on Seals and the Sealing Industry in Canada in 1985-86. I have worked for many different groups in research agriculture on these types of issues.
My challenge today with the committee is to sound an alarm about the dangers of adopting certain clauses of Bill C-15B, as they have been presented. I know the committee soon will be considering some very serious legislation on the security and safety of Canadians. It might be difficult to focus on these issues. I want to suggest that what we have to look at today could be just as important, if not more important, for the security of Canadians in the long term.
I hope over the next couple of days you will ask yourselves why such a wide range of industries, associations, groups, and professionals is coming forward and raising some serious concerns about a bill that might seem to be about motherhood and caring for animals—which I am sure we all do.
The reason so many groups are coming forward is because these people personally work directly with animals and have been confronted with some of the real impacts of this new animal rights agenda. I don't know to what extent you are aware of it. It can seem a little far-fetched, but I assure you it is not. In fact, the new animal rights agenda is different from animal welfare. Animal welfare is something I assume we all espouse. It is the responsible use of animals.
The animal rights agenda is philosophically opposed to any use of animals whatsoever, even for food, even for vital medical research. But because these groups know that the vast majority of society will not accept this radical vision—certainly at this time—animal activists often have a tendency to use the language of animal welfare to advance their agenda.
The goal is always to restrict, to impede, and ultimately to abolish most use of animals as we know it. A favourite strategy is to use their considerable resources.... You'll notice that a number of the groups that come to you have titles like “World Society” or “International Fund”. They are international groups that are often not very active in this country but internationally have large sums of money at their disposal—and we're being used as a testing ground, I assure you. It's to create a false situation, as if there were a crisis, as if we had some animal abuse crisis going on in Canada and that we must have new legislation.
It is a lobby for legislation, the purpose of which is to bind up medical researchers, farmers, and other people involved in responsible use of animals in a tangle of regulations and increased costs, because all the people we are talking about—farmers, people in the fur trade, and others—are trying to earn a living. Everybody knows it's difficult today with the economy, and an increase in costs can be just as effective as a ban.
The groups that are lobbying have no other agenda. All they do to earn a living is lobby and push for this sort of thing. They have nothing to lose.
I'll never forget that one of the Canadian animal rights activists, Stephen Best, once told me, when we were talking about the seal hunt, that the problem we have in industry is that we have to raise money to defend ourselves against their attacks. These campaigns are how they make their money, and the longer campaigns go on, the better they do.
Industry has to find the resources, the time.... I should be in Montreal working with our association to help promote Canadian fur products internationally and generate more exports, but we're here today discussing this.
That's the point to keep in mind. These groups have nothing to lose. When we compromise, we're moving that agenda along, and they always win. That's why so many groups are so concerned.
Even worse, these legislative campaigns—the favourite weapon today—are often accompanied by, as many of the groups that will address you will be faced with, on a day-to-day basis, harassment, intimidation, and, in some cases, outright terrorism. I'm not joking about that, as any of you who follow some of this will know.
Just within the last few days a medical research facility in the United States was firebombed.
On September 11, the Animal Liberation Front announced that a few days earlier they had burned down a McDonald's in the United States.
We are seeing a wave of ALF, or Animal Liberation Front, break-ins and arson on farms and research facilities across western Europe and the U.S.A. If I can remind you, the RCMP, like the FBI and Scotland Yard, has identified Animal Liberation Front animal rights extremism as one of the top domestic security threats. That's not what this legislation is about, but be careful, because these sorts of things are all part of a larger strategy and all send important signals.
I was personally shocked to discover, as recently as last week—because I believe there are some new people working on this file in the Department of Justice—that the justice department people who worked on this legislation seem to be completely unaware of the implications of the radicalized animal rights movement in terms of why certain language has been inserted into Bill C-15B.
It seems, in fact, that certain animal rights groups have been intimately involved in the drafting of this legislation. In fact, almost every one of the elements that animal rights groups were lobbying for is included in Bill C-15B. Key animal rights concepts have been included that have nothing to do with the government's stated objective, and what most people think the proposed legislation is for, which is to help ensure that people who openly abuse dogs, cats, or whatever, in the few high-profile incidents that we keep hearing about, are dealt with properly and that there are serious penalties for it.
The government and the justice department have repeatedly stated that the intent is simply to consolidate and simplify existing law on animal cruelty by organizing offences in a more rational way and to enhance penalty provisions. I think you will find that none of the groups coming before you with concerns oppose those measures.
We are, however, completely opposed to two key animal rights objectives that have been slipped into Bill C-15B: first is the moving of animal cruelty provisions from part XI to part V, or V.1—in other words, out of the section on special types of property and into a section that is right beside the one on public morality issues, basically; and the second is the radical and irresponsible expansion of the definition of “animals”. I will argue that these two provisions are a result of very sloppy research, or worse, and must be amended.
The opposition to moving these provisions out of part XI and into part V.1 is, first, because of the loss of important and explicit lawful excuse and colour of right defences that are provided by subsection 429(2). Many of you are lawyers—I am not—so you know better than I that there were explicit extra protections provided. There's a reason for them, and they've been important defences. We will lose those by moving the section. The Department of Justice is saying it doesn't matter, but we have several legal opinions that have been produced that suggest that it does matter. Just the fact that there's a difference shows you right off the bat that we could well have a problem.
But we are also opposed because there has been no adequate explanation as to why this section change was required to achieve the government's stated objectives. They claim that the move is needed so judges will take animal cruelty offences more seriously. There is absolutely no support for that suggestion. In fact, I think it's an insult to the integrity and intelligence of judges to say that. Even the animal rights groups are saying the penalties are never fully imposed, so you might wonder why we have to bring in stronger ones or stronger measures. They're saying the judges are not able to evaluate the situations that are brought before them.
The change has nothing to do with the government's stated objective, but it has everything to do and corresponds exactly with what radical animal rights groups internationally are lobbying for. They want it as a key step toward establishing personhood and quasi-human legal standing for animals. It's identified; I've been studying their literature for years, and it's not hard to find it. It's pretty public when you go looking for it. It's a key step. They've tried this in other countries; they've tried it in New Zealand. It has been resisted by every country.
In Canada, I hope we won't, but it has come this far. We're on the verge of breaking radical new ground. It's going to be very interesting.
The justice department claims that this change is just to acknowledge that animals are not like other property, but animals are already identified as a special type of property in the code. Animals almost always are property in our society. The fact that they can be bought and sold is proof of that. The fact that animals are property is often key to their protection, because owners can be held accountable for their welfare. In fact, it is our very right to own and use animals for human welfare that animal activists are seeking to overturn.
As I've said, animal rights efforts to introduce similar legislation have been defeated elsewhere. I am amazed that Canada would step forward and be the only country that we are aware of to move it out of the property section.
We are also extremely concerned about the proposed definition of “animals” to include any animal capable of feeling pain. Again, the justice department is telling us they've narrowed the definition because there was none before. That's just not true. I think it's pretty obvious that there would never have been prosecutions about fishing, for example. Now animal rights groups will try to move forward—I assure you—and say Parliament has explicitly expressed its will for fish to be included, otherwise why did you pass this law? So this new definition of “animals” is very dangerous.
It's not hypothetical. I can show you here a billboard by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which has launched a new campaign against fishing, showing a dog on a hook, and saying, you wouldn't do it to a dog; why would you do it to a fish?
The Chair: I recall our little conversation before—
Mr. Alan Herscovici: How much time have I used, sir?
The Chair: You've had over ten minutes.
Mr. Alan Herscovici: Okay, I will then try to round it up very quickly, and if I can't cover it all, if people ask further questions, I'll try to answer it then.
I have quotes here from a number of Canadian animal rights groups, which, if you're interested, will show you exactly what they are lining up. I have quotes here that show that animal rights groups are telling their members, and doing writing campaigns to the government, not to talk about institutionalized cruelty, which is their code word for farming, medical research, and so on. Don't talk about it, because you'll spook the government. I can read the quotes to you, if you'd like.
I have quotes from animal rights spokespeople—lawyers and so on—talking about pushing this to the limit. Getting it passed is just step one; the thing will be to push and see what they can do with it. I will read those later, if you are interested.
The biggest question I'd ask is why these things were being proposed at all. The justice department's own polling shows that this is not a great concern to Canadians whatsoever. I'll go into more detail, if you would like.
I will end by saying we're astounded that such poorly researched legislation got this far, and we are certainly counting on this committee to look at it very carefully and not rush through this, because we're sure the implications are very far-reaching.
The Chair: Thank you very much. I now turn to the Canadian Council on Animal Care, Dr. Gauthier and Madame Bédard.
Dr. Clément Gauthier (Executive Director, Canadian Council on Animal Care): My name is Clément Gauthier, and I am the executive director of the Canadian Council on Animal Care.
Good afternoon, and thank you for inviting the CCAC to contribute to the work of the committee on this important legislation.
The CCAC is the national organization setting and implementing standards for the care and use of animals for research, teaching, and testing in Canada since 1968. It was established following an initiative by the National Research Council, the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, the Medical Research Council of Canada, and the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies. The council now includes 22 national organizations listed under appendix I of our brief.
The CCAC does not represent either the researchers or the animal welfare community and cannot promote or oppose the use of animals in science. It is a quasi-regulatory body functioning as a peer review agency involving over 2,000 veterinarians, scientists, community representatives, and animal welfare organizations at all levels across Canada, through over 220 institutional animal care committees—the keystone of the system.
It is at the animal care committee level that ethical reviews of proposed uses of animals are discussed and approved or rejected, through a multidisciplinary approach involving local community representatives. Participating institutions are assessed regularly by panels of external reviewers, with the issuance of recommendations to the institution and renewal, or not, of the certificate of good animal practice by the CCAC.
Further details on the functioning of the CCAC will be found under sections A(1) to A(4) of our brief. Section A(5) provides evidence for the national and international recognition of CCAC standards.
The CCAC participated in the consultation process that led to Bill C-15 and provided assistance to the Department of Justice in defining the term “animal”, at their request.
On December 15, 1998, the CCAC forwarded five key principles, detailed under B(2) of our brief on pages 8 and 9, to Justice Canada with respect to the sections relevant to the mandate of the CCAC of the Justice Canada document entitled Crimes Against Animals: A Consultation Paper.
These principles still represent the position of the CCAC today. These principles were used as thoughtful and objective guidance by the CCAC in subsequent discussions. The CCAC invites the standing committee to use them in a similar way, within their study of Bill C-15.
The CCAC commissioned the legal opinion on Bill C-17, the predecessor of Bill C-15, which was made public on June 13, 2000, in order to provide some objective guidance on the matter. A legal opinion was also commissioned on Bill C-15. The key elements of these two legal opinions are detailed under sections C, D, and E of our brief on pages 10 to 16.
The following three issues, detailed under section C on pages 10 to 13 of our brief, were brought to the attention of the Minister of Justice on February 16, 2001, by the CCAC. None of them were challenged in the minister's response dated March 26, which leads the CCAC to conclude that they need to be addressed by this committee.
The first issue appears on pages 10 and 11. The removal of the cruelty to animal offences from part XI and its transfer to part V.1 of the Criminal Code have the effect of eliminating the explicit defences available to part XI in subsection 429(2) for actions taken with legal justification or colour of right from most of the new offences.
The CCAC does not ask or even suggest that cruelty to animal offences not be transferred to part V.1, as we understand that this shift in location is intended to protect unowned animals along the second principle supported by the CCAC, stating that owned and unowned animals must be subject to protective legislation.
However, it is our responsibility to bring to your attention the findings of our legal advisers that subsection 429(2) defences provide a means whereby the underlying purpose for an action, if lawful, could prevent a charge or provide a defence. By extension, subsection 429(2) of the Criminal Code provides legal justification to perform legitimate research on animals, notwithstanding that the experimentation may involve killing, inflicting pain, or to be deprived of some elements of care.
The second issue appears on pages 11 and 12 of our brief. While there is inclusion of a lawful excuse defence in proposed paragraphs 182.2(1)(c) and 182.2(1)(d), in cases of animal experimentation that do not involve actions where the animals are killed, or where injurious substances are administered to them in the course of experimentation, but involve other conditions intrinsic to the experimentation that cause suffering, pain, injury, or depravation, the removal of the legal justification and colour of right defences becomes more significant, unless the common law defences or the general criminal law defences contained in the Criminal Code are available.
Criminal law defences typically comprise such concepts as necessity, insanity, entrapment, compulsion and duress, intoxification, alibi, mistake of fact, and due diligence, in respect of strict liability defences. The CCAC would like to point out to legislators that criminal law does not encompass recognition of the lawfulness of using animals for research, teaching, and testing per se.
In that respect, research is unique compared to other sectors of industry. The use of animals for scientific research deserves your special attention, for the following reason as well. The argument has been made that common law defences could encompass activities involving the use of animals that are authorized by statute, such as laws that authorize hunting, fishing, or the slaughtering of animals for food. Laws authorizing or regulating the care of animals used in research apply only in six provinces, namely, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and P.E.I. You can look at appendix II for details on provincial laws. As a result, animal researchers or facilities in other jurisdictions would not have the defence of statutory authorization available to them, resulting in an inconsistent implementation of the law from one province to the other.
The third and last issue is detailed on page 13 of our brief. Standards for animal care set by proposed paragraphs 182.2(1)(a), 182.2(1)(b), and 182.3(1)(b) lack a definition or qualification of the terms “unnecessary pain”, “kills an animal brutally”, and “suitable and adequate food and water”.
Where the offences in the new proposed subsections do not import a recognition of the legitimacy of the underlying purposes for actions taken in relation to animals, the removal of the lawful excuse defences means that the purposes of the experimentation must be justified in relation to the criteria in the offence provision only, and the legitimacy of the experimental activity, or its purpose beyond the context of the criminal provisions, may not provide defence.
Without the defences of the legal justification in place, the courts themselves will be required to develop an interpretation of the criteria or standards set out in the provisions—the definitions of “unnecessary”, “reasonable care”, “suitable and adequate”—and proper interpretation of these terms will become critical to the outcome of future cases.
In conclusion—and our conclusion is detailed on page 14 of the brief—the CCAC believes that embodying nationally and internationally recognized standards by way of regulation, as originally contemplated by Justice Canada in its 1998 document, Crimes Against Animals: A Consultation Paper, or through other legislative vehicles, would strike the needed balance between the protection of animals and the benefit gained by the use of animals in science, reflect the standard recognized within both the scientific and animal welfare community, and finally and most importantly, provide needed certainty and consistency for all enforcement.
Our recommendation appears on pages 15 and 16 of our brief. The CCAC recommends that a new subsection be added to section 182 indicating that the Governor in Council may enact regulations to assist in the interpretation of sections 182.2 and 182.3. The body of proposed regulation will be found on page 16 of our brief.
In closing, I would like to reiterate CCAC's appreciation for having been given the opportunity to present our views to the committee on this important matter.
I will also be happy to answer your questions in French.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Ms. Lesli Bisgould (Lawyer, World Society for the Protection of Animals): I'm Lesli Bisgould, and I'd also like to start by thanking everybody.
On any given day this particular committee has plenty to keep its hands full, but in these particularly dark days, I'm most grateful to you for putting this subject matter on your agenda. I'm grateful to all of you for being here and for your attention. Thank you.
I have one thing to say by way of introduction, which is that
I'm truly sorry not to have notes for you in French.
Because of the very short notice with which this committee was struck, we were expecting to come some time in November and we did not translate our notes into French. I am quite embarrassed about that and apologize. It's also had the result that I can't actually distribute the information to you that I brought. However, if I may suggest, on the table directly behind me is some information, including briefing notes and some criminal law material that I'm going to refer to in my remarks, and I would ask you to kindly, if you would, if you have the interest, pick one up on your way out, which I understand is an acceptable thing to do.
I am a lawyer and I have been practising just a few months short of ten years. For most of that time, going on about seven years, I have been working exclusively in the area of animal protection. To my knowledge, I'm the only lawyer in Canada who does that work particularly on a full-time basis, but even I'm finding increasingly on a part-time basis. I say that to you specifically because the fact that I'm the only one doing this work puts me in a bit of a privileged position in terms of understanding what's going on in animal protection in Canada. I am regularly, and I mean daily, contacted by organizations and individuals literally from Vancouver to P.E.I., so I know who the people are who are working on this, I know what their concerns are, and I know, because I discuss it with them, their ways of trying to talk to society about the kinds of things we do to animals. If some of those insights, and granted they're my perspective, quite obviously, might be of assistance as we talk about some of these difficult issues, I thought I would just put it in the forefront so that people are aware.
I'm here today on behalf of a group called the World Society for the Protection of Animals. That is a national charity in Canada, sometimes referred to by its acronym, WSPA. It's also part of an international organization; WSPA is also an international collection of groups. WSPA in particular is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, animal protection groups in the world, with some 400 member societies operating in 90 countries. One of the things that I brought for you in the pile I'm not allowed to give you is the annual report from the last year, which would tell you a little bit about the World Society for the Protection of Animals.
To give you an example of the things the organization works on, in Canada most recently one of the things WSPA has been involved in is retaining zoo experts, consultants who know the zoo business, to go to some of the zoos around Canada, report on the conditions they observe, and make recommendations as to how to improve the conditions for the animals that are living there.
Around the world they do other things, such as disaster relief. For example, when there are earthquakes or tornadoes and the human disaster relief people move in, sometimes there are animals around that people don't always think about, because obviously humans come to mind, and so WSPA moves in and looks after things like that.
That's just one example. I don't want to take all my precious ten minutes giving you the background. I commend you to the materials, and I welcome you to take a look at the website to see exactly what kinds of things the organization is doing in Canada and elsewhere.
I should also mention, as I tell you I am here today talking for that particular group, that I have also spoken to quite a number of grassroots organizations across Canada about this particular bill. Some of them in fact had an interest in being at this committee and making a presentation to you personally. But my understanding is that there had been so many requests for people who wanted to come here that it had to be limited, so that only national groups are having the opportunity to make a direct presentation. But I simply don't want to leave this subject without the committee understanding that there is quite a broad support from the numerous groups, at least the ones I've spoken to, humane societies across the country, small grassroots organizations, and individuals who just can't come here and tell you that themselves.
The support, as far as I can tell, for the bill is unanimous in terms of animal protection communities. I can't guarantee that. I can't say I've spoken to every single group that exists, but I've not yet found much opposition. The interest is that finally, from 1892, we move into the 21st century with some penalties that police can actually use to make the crimes seem serious enough that people will actually pay attention to them and know they're there.
However, if the bill were to be further watered down, because it has been watered down from what it was in Bill C-17, and particularly if exemptions or exceptions are made, as some groups I suspect are going to be asking you over the next few weeks for their particular industry or their particular practice, then the support that the organizations I have spoken to, including WSPA, who I speak for today, would be withdrawn. Their support is for the bill as it exists. Their perspective is that it's already a bare bones bill, it's already quite watered down from what had been requested, and contrary to the suggestion made by Mr. Herscovici, quite a lot of the recommendations that some of the animal groups, including WSPA, made for the bill were not in fact adopted into this legislation. It's not accurate that the animal groups really had much say in this at all.
All of that was by way of introduction. I now have about 18 seconds left to tell you why I'm actually here. Let me see if I can give a very brief example. If anybody comes from Toronto, or the area around Toronto, or even reads the Toronto Star, you will have heard over the summer about a case that has brought a lot of attention to animal cruelty in particular, which is the case of Jessie Powers and his two friends, young men from the Kensington Market area of Toronto, who were caught recently with 70 hours of video tapes in which they were skinning and manipulating various forms of animals and animal bodies. It's unclear how many of those were actually alive; some of them may have been dead. But what is confirmed for sure is that one of the cats on that video was being slowly tortured and skinned alive.
One of the investigating officers, with whom I have spoken, said that in all of his years on the Toronto police force, a force that you can imagine sees quite gruesome things on a day-to-day basis, this is one of the worst things he's had to endure, and that his assistants twice had to walk out of the room because they couldn't take the images. Yet if charged under the cruelty to animals provisions, as they exist now, from 1892, amended in 1953 slightly, the maximum penalty that can be given in this case is six months, which to my knowledge has never been given for a single crime against animals to date, or a $2,000 fine, or an order that they can't own an animal for another two years. But two years from now, anything goes.
The irony in this situation is that if the police could find an owner of that cat, if there was a particular person to whom that cat belonged, then that cat suddenly becomes the property of a particular person, and perhaps a mischief charge can be successful against these young men. So in order for a real penalty to be levied, the animal has to belong to somebody; somebody has to care about it. As you can imagine, from the cat's perspective—if you can excuse me for putting it this gruesomely, I don't know what other words to use other than the truth—who is having the skin literally pulled off his back, it doesn't make a difference in terms of the act to that cat whether there is a little boy or girl at home crying about it.
Should that be what the emphasis is in our law, because that's the crux of the matter when we're talking about these amendments? Is the focus on the hurt that's being done to the person, which granted is true in a number of cases, not only the emotional interest of a child in his or her pet but the financial interest of all of the industries you're going to hear from and the animals they use properly, legally, every single day in this country? From the cat's perspective, whose pain are we focusing on when we penalize? That's the question.
I am not bragging, but I got my first speeding ticket a week ago, and I haven't even told my mother yet and I'm telling all of you. I got a penalty for going 120 kilometres an hour in a 100 zone that is higher than the penalty to be paid by a woman in Alberta who recently removed her dog's testicles with a razor blade. That's what's wrong with these provisions. Again, forgive me, I'm not trying to be gruesome here in these details.
What you have heard a little bit about earlier today, and what you will continue to hear about, is the fundamental changes in support of the militant, extremist animal rights agenda that these amendments are bringing about and that animals are no longer going to be considered property.
Now, I can't, in the literally 20 seconds remaining to me here, respond to those allegations, although I hope I'll have the opportunity in the question and answer period. I will simply close by saying—and I hope I'm not insulting anybody by putting it this way—we live in particularly dark days, and this, of all times, is an important time for us to ensure that we are making decisions for the right reasons.
I am a strong believer that all concerns should come to the table. If people in the fur industry or the research industry have concerns, we should all be here. I'm thrilled we're all getting a chance to air our perspectives. But at the end of the day, we have to make a decision based on facts, because the examples I gave you are not random ones that I pulled out to sensationalize the issue. I could sit here until the end of our meeting together and rhyme off to you, one after the other, cases I personally know about that occur every single day. We've identified some of them in the briefing notes I submitted to you.
So this is quite a serious matter, one on which I hope we will not fall victim to rhetoric about animal rights extremists—or terrorists. I'm afraid, frankly, that I might fall under that definition of “terrorist” if we go by the one that's been suggested this afternoon.
What I would urge, in fact beseech, you to do is to ensure any decision we make ultimately is based on the facts, the facts about how the amendments change what we've already had on the books for many, many years in this country.
To that end, I will conclude by telling you what I brought in the materials that I hope you'll pick up on the way out. One is just a copy of the existing cruelty to animals sections as they exist in the Criminal Code, so you can look for yourselves and see what is already on the books, as compared to what's being brought in.
The other is a case that I believe was already referred to, the Ménard case, which is the leading case interpreting cruelty to animals in Canada. That was a decision from the Quebec Court of Appeal in 1978. Leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada was sought and denied. That means this is as high as the decision goes. This is it.
It was decided by Justice Lamer, who was chief justice of the Quebec Court of Appeal at the time, and went on, as most of you know, to become the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. He articulated in 1978 what the law already is.
I hope again that in the question and answer period I'll be able to explain to you a little bit more the relevance of that case and how the law we already have on the books is really...that the concerns being raised by industry are relevant to the law we already have, and the fact that the incidents they're concerned about haven't happened perhaps proves the fear is a little bit beyond reason.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
I'm going to now turn to colleagues for questions.
I can see the chair is going to be challenged to keep what are obviously very strong feelings about these issues inside the timeframe available to us. But I'm going to be somewhat strict about this, only so we can make sure everybody gets in, because the seven minutes that are going to be given to someone right now include both the questions and the answers.
Mr. Vic Toews (Provencher, Canadian Alliance): Thank you.
I appreciate the presentations that were made. I'll make no secret about the concerns I have about this bill, the concerns that were expressed by Mr. Herscovici—I have the same problem when people pronounce my name. Sorry if I don't do it justice.
I think the concerns you've pointed out—the loss of colour of right provisions by moving this section into another area and the aim to give these quasi-human attributes to animals—are a huge concern. I think it also in effect amounts to a confiscation of property without appropriate compensation, and I'm concerned about that issue.
I represent what is essentially a rural riding. The farmers in my area have a tough enough time trying to make a living, and they're met constantly with ill-conceived laws. Bill C-68, the gun registry, for example, is a terrible law that puts them into great difficulty. So I asked the minister about this particular section, and she said she was not proposing any substantive change; there would be no criminalization of what are presently legitimate activities. Well, if that's the case, why are we making these changes?
The comments made by Ms. Bisgould simply indicate to me that these are already illegal activities, the examples she brought to our attention—which I'm familiar with. But if she's concerned about those activities, the only problem there is an issue of the penalty. Let's raise the penalty.
Even though you indicated that you weren't a lawyer, I think your legal analysis is absolutely correct. A judge will undoubtedly be asked: If Parliament did not intend a substantive change in the interpretation, why was a substantive change made in the wording and the location of this?
So the minister's assurances notwithstanding, we know that litigants will make this argument. Judges are independent, and despite anything we might say in this committee, judges will make the determination.
Frankly, I can't support this bill, because my constituents' livelihoods are at risk here, and I can't afford that on their behalf.
Mr. Herscovici, I'm wondering if you could add some comments to that.
Mr. Alan Herscovici: I think this committee should be aware, for example, that the case Lesli cited about the cat isn't just something she may know personally. This has been the subject of a major fund-raising letter, this whole story by the Animal Alliance of Canada, to raise funds and to get mail-ins. And I'd be happy if somebody would like to read a quote about what they're about.
But look at what the Animal Alliance is also telling its members when they tell them to write in: Please refrain from focusing on these issues—non-dog and cat issues. We're always going to hear the dog and cat stories, but that's all we're talking about. They say:
This is the message that's going out—to not let the government, the justice department, or you people know what they intend to do with this.
Lesli has written in Lawyers Weekly:
She's very up front. I understand where she's coming from. She wants to fundamentally change the role of animals.
Clayton Ruby, who has defended many animal rights groups, including people who have broken into farms in this country, has said the changes that will come in animal rights will be subtle, masquerading as animal protection and continuing to develop as the moralistic adjunct of human rights, until some of them at least get entrenched in law.
I could quote you a long time. I've done research a long time. This is not fiction. This is in their own words. What are they going to do about it?
You have, from another animal rights group in Edmonton, Toba Reese saying:
She's referring to agricultural practices.
Mr. Vic Toews: Thank you. I think you're just confirming my opinion anyway, and I just wanted to make sure you and my constituents understand exactly where I'm at. I don't want to take up any more time of the committee.
Mr. Alan Herscovici: Let me give you one more quote that I think is worthwhile.
Liz White, director of legislative revision, Animal Alliance of Canada—which has been a lead group in promoting this bill—said the real test of this bill will be its application after it's passed. She said “My worry...is that people will think of this as the means to the end, but really it's...the beginning. It doesn't matter what the legislation says, if nobody uses it, nobody takes it to court, nobody tests it.... The onus is on humane societies and other groups on the front lines to push the legislation to the limit, test the parameters of the law and have the courage of their convictions to lay charges.” That's what this is all about. Make no mistake about it.
The Chair: Ms. Bisgould.
Ms. Lesli Bisgould: Thank you.
I'm not quite sure how to respond to all of those, sort of shot out at once, but let me see if I can start by addressing the question of why we even have to move animals out of the property section.
The first point to bear in mind is that animals are property in this country. We kill 650 million for food. We use two million in experiments. You kill an unknown number in hunting and trapping, ranching, rodeos, circuses, and zoos. One in two households owns a pet. Not one of those things would be possible if animals were not property. We could not make decisions about what will happen to them in their lives if they were not our property. That's the case now and that is going to be the case if, or when, these amendments are passed in whatever form. Animals will continue to be property.
I'm not quite sure where the quote came from that Mr. Herscovici cited on my behalf, but I certainly do not deny that I, in my personal capacity, have expressed concerns about the property status of animals—absolutely—because we can get away with doing whatever we want to them, because we have the right to treat them as means to our ends. When you see some of the pictures that I see on a day-to-day basis, I assure you, you would wonder the same thing—why do we continue to do this? So I have concerns about that. I don't deny it.
As much as I would like this to be “Lesli Bisgould Day at Parliament”, this is not about me. This is about society. These are changes that the Department of Justice has brought about, and let me tell you why. Here's what they say in their consultation paper that led to Bill C-17—the predecessor to Bill C-15—when they're asking for public input, which they sought and received—voluminously as far as I understand it—about whether we should move animals out of the property section. It's one paragraph, so I won't bore you. It says:
—the Law Reform Commission dealt with this in 1987 and itself suggested we have to get these provisions out of the property section—
“Unnecessary” is the key word here.
They also argue that the approach fails to convey the seriousness of the crimes. The final sentence, I suggest to you, is the key as to why animal protection groups actually are supporting these amendments even though they're minor. But because they change the penalty section, because of the emphasis on property, the courts are inclined to look for a direct harm to human interests, rather than looking at the harm to the animal. The result is quite lenient sentences in most cases. The fine was $100 for castrating that dog.
The Chair: We're going to go to Madam Bourgeois. I would also remind everybody, seven minutes, and that includes both questions and answers.
Ms. Diane Bourgeois (Terrebonne—Blainville, BQ): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
First of all, I'm here in place of my colleague Michel Bellehumeur because this part of the Bill C-15 is of particular interest to me. I also want you to know that the Bloc Québécois will endeavour to ensure that this bill is fair and weighs all sides of the issue.
An agreement is clearly needed to protect the rights of animals as well as the rights of people who have a financial stake in this matter. These include industry workers, hunters, fishers and those who use hunting dogs, just to name a few. This bill contains a number of shortcomings and our job is to clarify the legislation's provisions so that all parties are treated fairly.
I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate Ms. Bisgould. It's not that I don't wish to praise the other witnesses, but I think it takes extraordinary courage and spunk to come before a committee and talk about cruelty to animals. While this may be a concern of various organizations, in Canada, this issue is not a top priority. We have spies just about everywhere and they frequently report back on the atrocities that certain animals suffer.
I want to draw the committee's attention to one thing and I would like Ms. Bisgould to provide an explanation to us. I read an article describing the brutality inflicted on animals and human beings. I don't know whether the facts were accurate or not. I admit that I find it all rather peculiar, but I would appreciate some explanations.
I'd also like Dr. Gauthier to answer the following question. In your estimation, can something be done about the way the transportation industry ships chickens destined for human consumption? Let me start with the bill. Are there laws on the books to protect animals that are being shipped to the slaughterhouse and that are packed 15 or 20 to a cage, instead of 3 or 4, as they should be? Is anything being done in this area? Does the bill address this problem? Thank you.
The Chair: Is the question directed to a particular individual?
Ms. Lesli Bisgould: The first—
I'm sorry, but my French isn't very good.
There are in fact—and I stood there with my briefcase wondering how much I could carry—studies that people have done to show a link between cruelty to animals and cruelty to humans. In fact, I'll send them to you when I get home. I have them sitting right there.
All of the serial killers whom we've all heard of—Jeffrey Dahmer, son of Sam, Paul Bernardo, our own—have all been found to have started with animals. This makes sense. If violence is about power, and you go after someone who has much less power than you, who has less power than a cat or a dog or a chicken or a monkey in a laboratory? So that is true. The links are there.
On your second question with respect to whether there are laws in place to protect animals within these industries, I thank you for that question because I think you've hit the nail on the head.
How is it that we are talking about cruelty to animals laws and I can sit here and tell you I have concerns about what happens to animals in industry? Quite truly I do. Quite honestly. But I can also quite honestly tell you that this law is not going to make a difference. The reason is that criminal law is not a tool of industrial reform. The industries that use animals—food industry, research, wildlife, hunting, trapping, for example—all have their own legislation, which is complicated and long, with books of provincial and federal regulations, and people—producers—must comply with those laws. As long as they do, as long as what they're doing is in compliance with what everything in the industry calls for—what everybody does—the criminal law can not come after them. Criminal law is not about industrial reform. We have our own bodies of legislation to govern that.
That's why I'm concerned about misinformation being the basis of defeating a law that is so important for so many animals. It does, incidentally, turn out to be mostly dogs and cats that are hurt in ways that are criminally liable. No one is trying to be misleading by giving you those dog and cat cases. There are horse cases and rabbit cases, but most people have dogs and cats, and so that's why most of the stories are about them. Nobody is trying to pull one over on you here.
Industry has its own laws. In the Ménard case, Justice Lamer said quite distinctly, in interpreting the law that still stays on the books under the amendments, that there are some things the law simply allows. We allow animals to suffer for our own ends. That's what he particularly said. He acknowledged it. That's the law of this country. He said it interpreting a clause that stays on the books.
If you pick up a copy of the case, which I left in my materials on the table, I've actually highlighted those passages. I hope to not have to make you go through too much reading. But the whole case is there if you want to see it.
The Chair: There was a second question.
To Monsieur Gauthier.
Dr. Clément Gauthier: I will provide a two-part answer to your question.
Regarding the practices within the poultry industry, and specifically existing legislation, Ms. Bisgould mentioned existing provincial legislation which regulates animal use by different sectors of industry. The mandate of the Canadian Council on Animal Care deals specifically with animal use for research and testing purposes. Chickens are also used for these purposes. Our approach over the past 30 years has been to cooperate with Agriculture Canada, the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency on codes of practices, which are considerably more flexible than the law.
Animal science may change. For example, a better way may be found to handle animals, or a more scientific way may be found to determine how large cages should be in order to prevent chickens from killing each other. All year long, we work on these codes of practice with the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies so that we can incorporate into our guidelines the results of research conducted on farm animals, for example, the research done at Macdonald College in Montreal.
The farming and production sectors observe codes of conduct. Farmers are strong advocates of such codes, albeit within the framework of the CCAPS. All institutions conducting research into poultry are required to observe these codes. We have a lever that we can use to force compliance on them. Most stakeholders in the production sector observe the codes because it is their best interest to do so. The CCAPS cooperates with the industry to ensure that research findings and advances in the field of animal welfare are applied as quickly as possible to the production sector.
The Chair: Thank you.
Mr. Mark, seven minutes.
Mr. Inky Mark (Dauphin—Swan River, PC/DR): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. First let me thank our presenters. They were very educational.
Let me just frame where I come from. I come from a rural riding of Dauphin—Swan River, where the economy is primarily based on farming and trapping. I have 13 Indian reservations in my riding. Concern is raised because, as federal legislation, this bill will probably tend to override most provincial regulations on the domestic side.
I don't believe Canadians tolerate cruelty to animals. At least that's my sense from travelling across this country. The penalty, I believe, should be severe enough to deter abusers.
The unfortunate thing about this bill is that it's very divisive. It divides Canadians along urban and rural lines. As you know, urban residents tend to relate to animals as pets, whereas rural Canadians tend to relate to animals as livelihood. That's a very divisive issue throughout this country. I think in times of crisis, such as this country is going through now, we probably don't need this.
This bill really changes the perception about our optics on the cultural use of animals. As you know, the eyes or optics are very different for a pet owner compared to those of a hunter or a trapper or someone raising cattle or sheep. I believe there has to be a certain balance. As I indicated, Canadians do not tolerate cruelty to anyone, never mind animals.
The concern that has been raised is the impact of Bill C-15 on our current cultural practices. Is Bill C-15 really a human rights bill for animals? Can you label it that way? Or is this just a step toward further legislation that will provide human rights for animals?
The Chair: Mr. Mark, are you directing the question to anyone in particular?
I think we're going to have a number of options.
Mr. Alan Herscovici: There is definitely a concern. This is why I spent much of my presentation talking about what's going, because a number of groups want to use the legislation that way. If we were living in some kind of neutral world, this could all look very simple and logical. But we have to understand the real world and what's happening and what groups are looking to do.
With all due respect, Lesli is here to represent WSPA, the World Society for the Protection of Animals. I won't go into detail, but here's a book that they're circulating to designers and so on who are all starting to use fur. This book poses as if it were for animal welfare with lots of research and footnotes—a good example of how you do selective use of research. It makes the point really clearly in one of the opening sentences. “In any case there's no way you could possibly make fur humanely.” It's to stop using fur.
There are groups using the language of animal welfare that are trying to put people out of business. As you know in your riding and in many other parts of this country, there are people for whom trapping is still very important. It provides food and the fur is one of the few things that people have in many communities for livelihood. These people are working to try to destroy that. That is not just trying to help abuse of animals. This is attacking human rights. This committee is justice and human rights. Definitely, as somebody said before, we have to find a balance between animal and human rights.
In cases such as Lesli cited of people who torture cats, etc., I don't think anybody in this room would say that such people shouldn't receive appropriate response, although I have a feeling that a response might be a psychological evaluation rather than jail. I'm not sure that jail is necessarily the right approach. There's obviously something else going on. I think most normal human beings do not abuse animals. Either something's gone wrong, or somebody gets overwhelmed if it's a farming operation and they can't handle it any more, or there is something very wrong going on psychologically, but that has nothing to do with prison terms.
But it also has nothing to do with pushing to shift this out of the property section, something that has served us well, opening.... Maybe the things I've raised and others are raising will not prove true. But they're a possibility, and many people are concerned they are true. If it's not necessary for the stated objective of appropriate penalties when abuse takes place, why are we taking that risk?
The point is that Justice told us first that animal rights groups in this country wouldn't do that kind of prosecution. Well, I think I'd suggest that they absolutely will.
But secondly, they say, “If we find that's what's happening in the courts, then we'll change it later.” Well, excuse me, we are rolling the dice here with the livelihoods and the lives of individual medical researchers, farmers, hunters, trappers, and so on. The fact is that once that happens to people, they're on their own. They have to defend it and experience the financial burden, the emotional burden. When you get charged with something, your neighbours even tend to look and wonder whether maybe you did something wrong.
Why on earth would we take untested concepts that no one else in the world has ever adopted of making a radical...? And excuse me, this is radical. I don't know of any other common law country that has suggested taking animals out of the property section. In fact, we're even mentioning that the animals that are the worst off are those that don't have an owner.
The property section has served well. Why would we make such a radical move if it's not necessary for the stated objectives? I don't think anybody's arguing about the cases that Lesli cited. We all think they're horrific. Every normal person would agree to that.
The Chair: Ms. Bisgould has her shot at this.
Ms. Lesli Bisgould: Lesli.
The Chair: I can't wait until the three-minute round. Go ahead.
Ms. Lesli Bisgould: Thank you for the question.
The reason, I think, that animals have not been moved out of the property section of other criminal codes is that we simply have no other criminal codes to compare to ours. In the United States, every state has its own state law. They're set up differently. It just so happens that our criminal code has these parts. It's not really fair to say, “Well, this is the only country that is doing it.” It's the only country that actually has its law set up this way in the first place.
“Why should we move these crimes out of the property section?” is the key question here as far as I can tell. The reason we should is simply to accord with what is already the law in this country. In other words, when you commit a crime against an animal, you commit a crime against the person who has an interest in the animal—that's not going to change—whether a financial interest, an emotional interest, or whatever interest you are talking about. But, by the way, remember Darwin in the 1850s, and evolution. When you cause pain to an animal, you also cause pain to the animal.
Honestly, that's all that the law says: “You're hurting the person, but you're also hurting the animal.” That is exactly what Parliament did in 1953 when it brought in what we now call section 446 of the Criminal Code. Justice Lamer interpreted that in 1978, and he said, on the page I've highlighted for you in your materials, “While certain sections of the Criminal Code have been enacted to condemn interference with the rights of the owners of certain animals, section 402”—which is now section 446—“was enacted for the protection of the animals themselves”.
That's it. He said that in 1978. We already have what the Department of Justice is today suggesting we simply formalize in the code. It's been the law since that section came in in 1953. It's been publicly known to be the law since Justice Lamer said this in 1978. There's nothing new happening here.
That's why I'm concerned about all of this alarm. Are we talking about human rights for animals?
I don't know how to answer that. We're not talking about the sort of rights we traditionally associate with human rights: the right to a good education, a full year of maternity benefits, or whatever. There are some who consider themselves advocates of animal rights. What they are trying to achieve is a recognition that animals have their own interests. While we may like to use it for a certain purpose, an animal has its own interest, which may or may not conflict with what we want to do to it.
But let's not confuse that with what's happening right here with these provisions of the Criminal Code. This, I think, is where we're getting confused. It's quite true that WSPA has put out a very long and detailed analysis of the study it did of the fur trade around the world. It found some pretty disturbing conclusions. WSPA is concerned about those, absolutely, and it's working on making changes, but this is not one of those tools.
Those changes occur within the industry. The Criminal Code is something entirely different. If we are to condemn positions simply because we are concerned about the other things that people who advocate them are working on, I would suggest we're not going to get much done in this committee at all.
The Chair: Madame Allard, seven minutes. I remind everyone, you have seven minutes.
Ms. Carole-Marie Allard (Laval Est, Lib.): Good afternoon.
Dr. Gauthier, I was a little late in arriving. This morning, we heard from a witness opposed to removing Part XI of the Criminal Code and replacing it with a new provision. Ms. Bisgould appears to be in favour of this move. You seem to be saying that... I'd like you to clarify for me your position on this particular aspect of the bill.
Dr. Clément Gauthier: Let's just say that whether or not a decision is made to move this part of the bill, the research community will feel the effects of this decision because the Colour of Right would be eliminated. This was a given in the Criminal Code prior to the amendments. It provides a means of defence for persons who have been charged with an offence. Clearly, this will have an impact on researchers.
We're not asking that these provisions not be transferred if the government and Canadians have valid reasons for wanting them transferred to Part V.I. As we understand it, the objective is to protect un-owned animals, whether they be wild animals or homeless animals. If the government has valid reasons for taking this action, then it will go forward with the bill.
We maintain, however, that if the provision is moved to another part of the act, researchers will then lose section 429(2) which allowed for a defence of persons who use animals, should they ever be charged and brought before a court. This provision has even more significant ramifications for members of the research community. That's why we are proposing measures to counter the negative impact that the legislative amendments could have, instead of taking a stand one way or the other. This is clearly stated in our broad principles listed on pages 9 and 10. The Canadian Council on Animal Care wants all animals to benefit from the protection of the law in cases of extreme cruelty.
That's a given. Not included in this are cases where animals are used for research purposes, because such instances are supervised and regulated. We oversee this area with members of the research community and with members of the Canadian Council on Animal Protection. Admittedly, some case of extreme cruelty may occur. These are the animals that we need to protect. That's why we maintain that if the government believes there's a valid reason from moving the provision respecting un-owned animals, then equally, the government has a responsibility to ensure that the negative impact of this transfer from one part of the legislation to another will be offset by a reference to nationally and internationally recognized standards in the attendant regulations, so that these can serve as guidelines for the courts. We focus on research and testing, areas which we know best.
Otherwise, we'll be faced with a horrible mess. It will no longer be possible to apply the legislation in a coherent manner from province to province. Only six out of the ten provinces and three territories have enacted provincial laws governing the use of animals for scientific purposes. How will the law be applied then in the remaining provinces and territories?
As you know, under the common law regime, there is no specific provision governing the use of animals for research purposes. Researchers are once again being unfairly taken advantage of and penalized because no means of defence will be available to them under the common law. Were does this leave researchers? Without any kind of protection, in provinces that have not enacted measures regulating animals. That's where it leaves them.
Therefore, even though we may not oppose the transfer from one part of the legislation to another, while the government may have reasons for proceeding thusly, it also has an obligation and the responsibility to ensure that it will offset any negative effects of this transfer.
As far as research is concerned, I've suggested one approach that can be taken, without specifically requesting an exemption. Ms. Bisgould noted that we should not be requesting an exemption. We're asking that the regulations contain a reference to existing standards so that the courts have some guidelines, with recognized objective standards to follow. We're not asking that researchers be exempted.
Ms. Carole-Marie Allard: As far as research is concerned, do you agree with the statement that animals will be treated as creatures capable of feeling pain? How do you reconcile this statement with the need to continue using animals for research purposes? As I see it, this creates a serious problem if on the one hand, animals must be treated as creatures capable of feeling pain, while on the other hand, they must be used as guinea pigs for research purposes. How do you reconcile these two positions? Would you care to comment?
Dr. Clément Gauthier: This is not a new debate. Researchers have been very concerned about the pain factor for years now. Analgesics are administered to animals and anesthesia is used when research projects are conducted. The Council requires compliance with these measures. When institutional animal protection committees review protocols or requests to kill animals, they bluntly ask the researchers which analgesics will be used and what steps will be taken to ensure the animal does not suffer.
In 1987, the Council was one of the first organizations in the world to draw up a list of possible categories of pain thresholds associated with experiments to make it mandatory to administer special care to animals, from monitoring an animal's condition virtually around the clock to administering analgesics.
I'm not hearing anything that I haven't already heard before. The research community is concerned about this issue and has safeguards in place. Council researchers must respect the guidelines and protocols and institutional veterinarians verify procedures.
Ms. Carole-Marie Allard: Aside from the research aspect, how does your organization respond to the fact that animals would, under the Criminal Code, be treated as creatures capable of feeling pain?
Dr. Clément Gauthier: It already views them that way. It would not mean much of a difference to us, because we already treat them as creatures capable of feeling pain, pursuant to our guidelines and program procedures.
For the committee's information, I was involved with the Justice Department in December 1998 and January 1999 in drafting a definition of “animal”. We came up with the same definition as the one used for the purposes of our program. Upon consulting with the scientific community, it was agreed that the definition of “animal” extended to all vertebrates, and among invertebrates, cephalopods, which would include octopi, given that their nervous system is more accessible. These animals are indeed used for research purposes.
Of other animal species, invertebrates are not covered. However, as I explained to the Department of Justice, their nervous system is exposed and they are therefore covered under our program because they are used in research institutions. This explanation was interpreted internally by Justice Canada as meaning that animals could feel pain. If you were to contact the Canadian Society of Zoologists and initiate a debate as to which invertebrates feel pain and which ones do not, you're likely to be engaged in a very lengthy discussion. Indeed this is a scientific debate the nature of which changes as time passes and new facts are uncovered.
That is our position where this matter is concerned.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Mr. Sorenson for three minutes.
Mr. Kevin Sorenson (Crowfoot, Canadian Alliance): Yes, thank you.
I want to thank all of you for coming and making your presentations today. I think you all did very well in your own area.
My dog is my dog. I bought my dog, I raised my dog, I castrated my dog. When I go to the other farm and leave my dog there, my dog comes home because he knows he's my dog. He's my property.
When I go home to the ranch, we have some practices there that would be deemed cruelty to animals, I'm sure, by you, Ms. Bisgould. Some of the practices that farming—ranching, all types of farming—carry out would be deemed cruelty to animals. Yet in my riding, they're essential.
Bill C-68, I guess, would be one legislation that absolutely pitted rural against urban. How do you tell someone who depends on a rifle that we're going to start registering them because criminals use rifles? How do you do it? It pits one against the other. And this legislation that we're bringing in here is pitting rural against urban.
Now, I'm a first-time member of Parliament. I've only written one letter to a member of Parliament in my life. It was about Bill C-68. Many ranchers and farmers don't write. But hundreds of letters are pouring into my office, and even at home I'm contacted personally by people saying this can shut down the cattle industry.
As far as broadening the cruelty to animals provisions is concerned, I'm not sure about Bill C-15B, but everyone who writes in says: “This is a stepping stone. We're on a slippery slope. Basically what we see again is government trying to shut down rural, western Canada.” We can see it. It's already brought out by the treatment of trapping, the aboriginals, the practices that are just normal practices out there.
Ms. Bisgould, you said these are dark days. When we see the crimes that are committed, I absolutely agree. I agree with what Mr. Herscovici said. When someone commits an atrocity like a cruelty to an animal, there isn't a rancher or a farmer out there who would stand by and say, “You know, it's just an animal.” It just does not happen. These ranchers will go out of their way to protect animals. That's the fact of what happens on the farm.
But the other fact is, when I go home, we run calves up a chute. We grab them or rope them and take them to the holding pen. We toss them. We take out the razor blade that you suggested and perform an operation. It's not cruelty to animals. Legislation is interpretive.
The Chair: The three minutes are up. I would suggest if you intend to get an answer, you'd better put a question.
Mr. Kevin Sorenson: My question is this. Why would any of you suggest that legislation that is this divisive, that's this open to interpretation, would be brought in if it weren't for the fact that it's a slippery slope and we're going somewhere else?
Ms. Lesli Bisgould: Very briefly, I know Mr. Herscovici will respond, and I honestly will do so in one minute.
There are people who disagree. We disagree on all sorts of things. Your colleagues at the health committee are now having to sort out the moral debate about stem cell research. Sometimes we're disputing whether or not to have charter schools in our public school system. In a democracy, we disagree about things. I may personally speak to you and say, “Do you really have to use that razor? Isn't there another way of doing it?” But that's something we do outside of this forum.
When it comes to criminal law—because this is criminal law, not the law about what we do to animals everywhere in Canada all the time; this is criminal law, specific laws—I suggest to you that the changes are very slight from what we've already got. Justice Lamer found himself answering your very question: “How do we rationalize the fact that we love animals and don't want to hurt them, but we accept that there are things that we do to them?” He said—I'll tell you one paragraph and then I'm going to stop talking:
—at that time by the rule of what was then section 446, which is still on the books—
This means if you were serving a legitimate purpose—raising animals for food, using animals in experiments, as this society says we do—then it is necessary.
This is the law already since 1978. This is already what exists on the books. We've managed, with this understanding, to say “There are uses for animals that are legitimate.”
The Chair: Kevin's finished.
Mr. Alan Herscovici: I think he made a very good point. There's definitely a cultural divide. One of the reasons, in all my study of animal rights, why we're seeing this shift happening is that there's an increasingly urban environment where many people no longer have direct contact with the realities of where our food comes from and how things operate. That is true.
A point I would make is that he's quite right his producers should be worried, because there are people with different interpretations who don't have to actually go there and don't have to know the realities. They will be shocked by certain things you do, and it's a dangerous situation. That is why I think we should be careful.
As long as the government's repeatedly stated intent to ensure that blatant cruelty is punished—and even, from the things Ms. Bisgould has said, her intent—can be achieved, and if it's necessary to increase penalties for extraordinary cases as she mentioned—although again I think it's psychological evaluation that's needed—why go into territories that are totally a Pandora's box? We don't know what they will do. She's saying it's already allowed without changing the section. Why do we have to change the section?
Maybe I'm wrong, other people are wrong, and a lot of legal opinion is wrong that this is dangerous. Maybe we're right. If it's already the law the way it stands, then why do it?
By the way, in terms of referring to property, wildlife is property of the crown. We're talking about very few animals without owners, like strays such as the ones in the back of Parliament where the gentleman is taking care of them.
Again, in the definition, I think we should be very cautious about what we're opening up. There is, as we said, research. It's really doubtful as to what does or does not feel pain.
Given the changing society, the uncertain values, and the divisiveness, as was said by the gentleman from Manitoba, I believe, let's be careful. We don't want to open something when we don't know what we're opening. That's all we're saying. Let's watch out for those two issues.
The Chair: Mr. Owen, three minutes. If you want a rebuttal, I suggest you ask your question inside of three minutes.
Mr. Stephen Owen (Vancouver Quadra, Lib.): Thank you for being here and for the evidence you've given. Excuse me for having to briefly step out for another matter. I missed some of it.
I have two issues.
First, I'd be very interested to know from those concerned with these amendments what the actual action is, or might be, that you are concerned might be charged as an offence.
Secondly, to get this in quickly, this goes to the Pandora's box issue, sir. It was my understanding that most jurisdictions, or at least very many jurisdictions, have their animal welfare rights legislation outside of property sections. They are either in separate legislation, as in many American states where criminal law is a state matter, or as a separate part in a criminal code or other act from property sections.
I think one of the points of this bill is to deal with the property versus non-property anomaly. It is not so much in terms of the relationship between the animal and the owner, or person, but rather some of the attributes that attach to property are more broadly understood. It includes things like the defence and colour of right that are usually defences in relation to property. It distinguishes things that can and should be properly distinguished.
Could anyone address those two points? Thank you.
Mr. Alan Herscovici: I have one point, if I may. It's going to sound silly, but it's true.
Not long ago in England a man was charged with neglecting his goldfish. It took two days in court and $3,000 in lawyer's fees to clear himself. It sounds absurd, but it actually happened.
Groups are trying to challenge. It's a legitimate thing in society to challenge certain activities. Things change. Animal rights groups have every right to challenge and try to change society's vision of things, as we all do.
Law can be used for that purpose, too. We're opening up things here that are going to give rise to challenges on certain farm practices, sports fishing, certain research activities, and so on. As you know, when you go to court, you never know what's going to happen. It's all up for grabs. The onus will be put on certain people. I think those are concerns that people have.
Given the context, we know we have very aggressive, well-funded, international groups pushing to try to use law to change society. What are we opening up here? We cannot be sure.
They are a few examples of what we could be talking about.
Mr. Stephen Owen: Thank you.
Perhaps I could get an answer from others, in particular, on the issue of unnecessary pain, brutally or viciously, without lawful excuse. These are fairly confining and well-known terms in law, I would suspect.
Mr. Alan Herscovici: Brutal cruelty is a new introduction. It is another one with which many people are concerned.
For example, certain groups like WSPA no doubt consider the raising of animals on fur farms and killing them is brutal, vicious, and unnecessary. It's a frivolous luxury and therefore unnecessary. In their terms, it's brutal and vicious.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Owen.
I apologize, but I have a lot of people and a long list here.
Does anyone want to respond to Mr. Owen's original and lengthy question?
Dr. Clément Gauthier: Actually the standards for animal care are set by subsections 182.2(1) and 182.3. They use terms such as “unnecessary pain”, “brutally”, “suitable”, and “adequate water”. Basically, these words do not impart a recognition of the legitimacy of the underlying purpose for action taken in relation to animals.
In our case, it would be research. Even if this research has gone through scientific peer review by the federal granting agencies for its funding, even if it went through a review by peers for its merit by the institutions, involving representatives of the community, scientists, and veterinarians, these people could still be at risk. Basically, the law does not impart a relationship with the reason why.
For example, let's say there was some amount of pain involved. Let's use the example of food and water restrictions for behavioural studies. The analyst may actually be someone who hasn't been involved on an animal care committee. They can compare with, and become informed by, veterinarians and scientists on the real implications as to what happens in nature with the animals. They see the animals are fasted for one or two days.
Mr. Stephen Owen: We'll stop there. Comments may have addressed it. A judgment may have addressed that concern.
Dr. Clément Gauthier: There is a risk in the way the law will be formulated, unless there is clear reference in the regulations for an interpretation purpose to existing standards. That's what we are saying now.
Mr. Stephen Owen: I saw the amendment. Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Madame Bourgeois, three minutes.
Ms. Diane Bourgeois: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I really believe we need to proceed cautiously with this bill, and on that note, I concur with Mr. Herscovici. As a sports enthusiast myself, I wouldn't like to have someone come and tell me that I am guilty of cruelty towards animals when I go fishing or that I must stun my pike in order to remove the hook. Therefore, I can image being concerned about this bill.
I may be getting ahead of myself, but you can correct me if I'm wrong. Cruelty towards animals is most prevalent in rural areas. Often, farm animals are involved. I'd like us to keep things in perspective.
I've owned farm property, and I know for a fact that a chicken that has just been killed may still run around. I'm sorry, but I have to kill the chicken to eat. We need to look at the proposed legislation to ensure that people who operate small farming operations are protected.
Getting back to what Dr. Clément Gauthier said, if I've understood correctly, you used the expression “animal capable of feeling pain” when you took part in the drafting of the bill. Is that correct? You stated that you worked with various groups from Agriculture Canada and with various researchers to come up with this expression. Drugs are administered to animals to put them to sleep or to ease their pain. It's your expression that was included in the bill. Correct?
Dr. Clément Gauthier: You've combined the answers to two different questions.
The Department of Justice contacted us either in late December of 1998 or in early 1999, when we were working on a definition of “animal”, to ask us what definition the CCAC used. We provided the department with the definition we used for the purposes of our program. This is not a solely theoretical definition. Our teams of assessors protect a certain group of animals, all of which are vertebrates. Among the invertebrates, we have the cephalopods, that is the octopi, who are included for a very simple reason. We do research and testing. Octopi are used by researchers and zoologists for research on the nervous system, because this animal's nervous system is highly accessible. However, other animals are not covered in our programs. That's what I said.
I believe Ms. Carole-Marie Allard asked me a question about whether or not we had concerns about pain. I indicated that this has been a concern of ours for a number of years. In 1987, we developed what we refer to as categories of invasive techniques. We ask researchers planning to conduct an experiment and request permission from the members of the scientific community on the committee to determine the category into which this experiment falls. Is it merely a question of observing the animal, in which case no pain is inflicted, but where nevertheless the animal could be stressed because it is being confined? Is it a matter of capturing some birds, of observing them, of counting the number of white feathers on their wings and then of releasing them? That activity would fall into the lowest category.
However, when researchers perform a toxicology test, knowing full well that the animal is going to die, given that they're trying to find the correct dosage to bring about death, we insist that the correct dosage be determined earlier, to ensure that the animal suffers as little as possible and receives all possible medical attention. That's what I said. You've therefore combined the two answers.
In conclusion, I would have to say that the Department of Justice has not used the definition that I proposed, which applied to vertebrates and, among invertebrates, to one class of animals. It drew its own conclusions. Since I had told them that the nervous system of these animals was exposed, they extended the definition to include all animals capable of feeling pain.
I subsequently told them that if they were to attend a meeting of the Canadian Society of Zoologists and to ask if all invertebrates felt pain, they would find themselves embroiled in an interminable debate. Each person would explain his view of the nervous system of each species in which he specializes. Therefore, I think the reasonable approach to take is to speak of vertebrates and, among invertebrates, of cephalopods.
This particular approach has been adopted in the United Kingdom as well. The Home Office, the counterpart of our organization, regulates the use of animals and employs the same definition of “animal” as we do.
I'm saying to you that the Department of Justice made some assumptions and arrived at a conclusion that wasn't mine.
Ms. Diane Bourgeois: It did the same thing I did.
Dr. Clément Gauthier: That's right.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Mr. Wappel, you have three minutes, please.
Mr. Tom Wappel (Scarborough Southwest, Lib.): Hopefully a minute each. Could each of the witnesses please give me one specific example of a multi-celled animal that does not feel pain?
Ms. Lesli Bisgould: A multi-celled animal that does not feel pain.
Mr. Tom Wappel: Do you have an animal in mind? Can any witness give me an example of an animal that does not feel pain and is multi-celled?
Ms. Marie Bédard (Director of Communications, Canadian Council on Animal Care): Most invertebrates.
Mr. Tom Wappel: Sea urchins?
Ms. Marie Bédard: Sea urchins, yes.
Mr. Tom Wappel: You don't believe a sea urchin feels pain.
Ms. Marie Bédard: There's no evidence of it.
Mr. Tom Wappel: Subsection 446(2) of the current Criminal Code provides for the penalty. Of course, I think we're all agreed that the penalty section is not perhaps what it should be.
Is there some reason why the wording in proposed subsection 182.3(3)—and I'll ask this of Ms. Bisgould—could not be put into what is currently subsection 446(2)?
Ms. Lesli Bisgould: I think the question is, do we really have to amend what we have? Can't we just insert a new clause? If that's what you're getting at, my understanding is that the new provisions actually just rejig—and add, certainly—what's there so it's in a more logical fashion, which is certainly how it seems to me when I read it.
Mr. Tom Wappel: What I'm getting at is it's a penalty clause. Is there some reason why we cannot substitute the penalty clause in the new bill for subsection 446(2)?
Ms. Lesli Bisgould: We could probably insert those clauses, but in terms of interpreting appropriate penalties, there's more to the law. So the penalty is not just the subsection that sets it out, but also the law in its entirely—what it prohibits and the language with which it speaks on the topic.
The Chair: Thank you very much. We go now to Mr. MacKay.
Mr. Peter MacKay (Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, PC/DR): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you to the witnesses as well.
Mr. Wappel has touched upon the most telling aspect of all this, and that is we are attempting to reinvent the law here when we could do so in a more straightforward fashion. If the real focus here is on going after the offenders, going after those who are causing the harm, why do we want to throw this big fuzzy legislative blanket over the whole thing, under the guise of somehow protecting animals? We're going to cause a lot of harm.
I want to put on the record too that this is a rural-urban split, but it's not a regional split. There are farmers, fishermen, fur traders in Nova Scotia, rural Atlantic Canada, who are going to be just as affected as western Canada.
I can't help but think back to what happened over the seal harvesting that was going on. If baby seals looked like alligators or lizards, I don't think they would have been appearing on the big billboards in Times Square. Let's keep this in perspective.
We do want to go after people who skin animals alive, who harvest puppies, who do all of these horrible things we've heard about on the news, but let's put our efforts and our resources into going after those individuals.
Why would we not want to increase the penalty sections, which we can do? Why would we not want to increase resources to the supervisory elements of protecting animals? Give more money to the SPCA; give more money to police; educate judges, prosecutors, and lawyers about upping the benchmarks for these types of offences. To me, that would be a far more effective way to deal with the issue of animal cruelty.
I would like to ask a specific question. I'd ask all of you and any of you to comment on those remarks. But to Ms. Bisgould, specifically, are you aware of any jurisdiction where this has been done; where they have taken the reference to animals being property and placed it anywhere else in any criminal code, whether it be state, federal, or otherwise?
Ms. Lesli Bisgould: I'm not aware of any legislation where crimes against animals were, in the first place, under a heading dealing with property, so I can't answer that question because I'm not aware that our situation exists elsewhere.
But I can respond to your concern about baby seals. I've heard that a lot. Why do we care about baby seals? From my perspective—
Mr. Peter MacKay: You don't care about baby seals at all. You've got me all wrong.
Ms. Lesli Bisgould: My wording is wrong because I'm trying to hurry. I know we're in a rush. The concern—and maybe it's not you—I've heard with respect to seals is we only seem to care about them because they're cute, but we wouldn't care about them if they were reptiles. My response is, if we can do the things we do to something we all agree is so cute, we should be looking at what our behaviour is, really. In any event, that's not your point.
Instead of talking about why we should change this law when it's opening up all of these windows, I would just suggest and ask the committee to consider why we should not. On the kinds of concerns I'm hearing here, while I don't blame people involved in industry for worrying, if there is a legitimate threat to their industry, this is not the time for it. They have their own regulations and legislation, as we've talked about.
I've been thinking for a long time about why there is so much opposition from all these groups you're going to hear from. I think the answer is that most of the laws we're amending have been on the books for a very long time, but nobody in industry has ever been asked or called upon to look at them. They didn't even know they existed, because nobody has ever been the subject of a criminal charge. So the slight amendments we're bringing in are getting all of us to come around this table and say, “Holy smoke, look at these words”—
A voice: That's not true.
Ms. Lesli Bisgould: —“brutally, unnecessary”.... Excuse me, I know of a case in the 1950s. There have been situations where farmers have let herds of cattle starve to death. I'm not saying there has never been a single charge laid, sorry—
The Chair: Let's do this one person at a time. If you could finish, please, then we have others who wish to respond. I think Mr. MacKay realizes his time is up.
Ms. Lesli Bisgould: Just to clarify, so I don't come away looking like I'm confused here, in most circumstances most people who are involved in industry have never been aware of the law, have never been charged, and are unaware of it.
Of course, there are always charges, because crimes occur in every context—at home, in the workplace—this is life. Excuse me if I was unclear there. But most people haven't heard about it because it's just never come after them, and these slight changes are not going to affect that.
The Chair: Mr. Herscovici.
Mr. Alan Herscovici: Obviously, farmers and others are subject to animal cruelty provisions of the law like anybody else—if they do something that can be charged under it.
People are worried because this is opening an unknown territory. They're especially worried because of some of the quotes I rattled off to you before, where some of the very groups lobbying for these changes are saying among themselves that they have every intention of using them to try to attack what they're calling institutional cruelty—farming, medical research, and so on. Because they've shown the kinds of international resources they can apply to these campaigns, people are very worried about it.
So that's why it comes back to it. I don't think we have the right to roll the dice and see what happens to people if it's not necessary. I think I agree with what I'm hearing many of the members say. If it's necessary to increase penalties for cases of blatant abuse, like all the ones she's cited, I don't hear anybody talking against that—although I insist I think it's more a question of psychological counselling.
But the areas of radical change.... In all common law jurisdictions, to my knowledge—and I'm not the lawyer—animals are property. Animals are property in our society. It is actually a protection to animals in many cases, because people are responsible. In fact, it's the strays that are not officially owned. Those are the ones that tend to suffer the most.
Why would we make such a radical change if we don't have to, to achieve what we're all agreeing are the objectives? Just the fact that such a large number of Canadians are so concerned, because they are subject to orchestrated campaigns of people who happen to have different values, should be sufficient reason to be very cautious if we don't have to do it.
There's also concern about the tail end of the new definition of animals, the one saying “and any other animal that has the capacity to feel pain”, since, as Dr. Gauthier said, even the scientific community's really unsure of what that is.
I have one last point. As I said, the objectives were two: to make sure people are punished for obvious abuse; and to organize and make more efficient the housekeeping of the law. I suggest what you're hearing right here is that we may do quite the contrary. If you pass it the way it is here, we could see a real mess in the courts as people try to prove what this really means. It would be quite the opposite of efficiency; it would really clog up the courts of law.
The Chair: Dr. Gauthier, please.
Dr. Clément Gauthier: To answer Ms. Bisgould's question, she's wrong; in most provinces and territories in Canada, research is a sector of industry....
For example, Mr. MacKay, in Nova Scotia, your researchers are protected, you have a good provincial law governing the use of animals in science.
Mr. Sorenson, in Alberta, the universities are covered through the Universities Act, but no one else is. So the farmers aren't.
Carole-Marie Allard, in Quebec you're not protected. There is legislation, but it has never been enforced in Quebec.
That's it. Saskatchewan has nothing. New Brunswick has nothing.
So the way the law would be implemented would vary from one province to the other, which would be a total mess, unless, as we say again, there is in the regulations reference to known standards, such as the Canadian Council on Animal Care. This is basically the only way; otherwise there is no protection for these individuals. So basically they would have to migrate to other provinces to do their research work and be protected.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Madame Allard, three minutes.
Ms. Carole-Marie Allard: Mr. Gauthier, you seem to be telling us that animals used for research are well protected. Do you believe that we truly need these amendments to the Criminal Code? Does the medical community need these changes? You seem to disagree. Am I right?
Dr. Clément Gauthier: Given the wording of the proposed legislation, I believe a cautious approach is in order. You mustn't forget that ours is a quasi-regulatory agency. Again, we represent neither the scientific community nor animal rights groups. We try to get people to work together for the welfare of animals and for the sake of the continued prosperity of science in Canada. At the same time, however, we want assurances that everything possible is being done to guard animals against undue pain and stress.
Having said this, the bill is a fact of life, as far as the CCAC is concerned. All participants in CCAC programs are required to comply with existing federal and provincial laws as well as with CCAC guidelines. Therefore, it is our duty and responsibility to carry out legislative analyses of the government's recommendations. Do we support the bill or are we opposed to it? We cannot take a stand one way or another. If the government continues along this path for reasons it deems justifiable, then the government has a responsibility to ensure that this bill will not adversely affect the research community in the long term, since we conduct research and regulatory testing.
It should also be remembered that the six federal agencies that conduct regulatory testing for environmental protection and public health considerations also use animals. Therefore, we're not talking solely about conventional research as perceived by universities. The future legislation will also impact the entire private sector, notably the pharmaceutical industry, as well as the government sector responsible for performing regulatory tests.
At this stage of the process, our job is to advise the government, and that's what we have done. We have proposed to the committee five broad principles to guide it in its quest to achieve the ideal basis for consensus.
On the other hand - and this underscores the rural-urban split that Mr. Sorenson spoke of earlier and that has been raised in committee - the members of the assessment committee are not asking that someone from Ottawa sit on the assessment committee at an Alberta university involved in doing research on farm animals. Within the framework of a given protocol, their perception of animal use will be totally different. They are rural residents. We're asking that representatives of local communities be involved in the decision-making process for this very reason. This needs to happen if research is to continue and if the conditions in which farms animals used for animal research live are to improve.
If the government brings in people, and this could happen if the issue is not addressed in the act's regulations, the courts in the various provinces will set their own standards for judging such cases, rather than base themselves on existing standards.
Thus, standards will vary from province to province and from one culture to another, thereby creating a impossible situation.
If the government still wants to adopt the rest of the bill, to counter this problem, we suggest that it bring in an alternative provision for the research community. At present, research in Canada is seriously threatened if this situation is not addressed. The regulations must contain a reference to CCAC standards. We're not asking for an exemption. We're asking the government to draft guidelines for the courts so that they know what to do and are able to comply with current recognized national and international standards.
The Chair: Thank you.
Madam Bisgould wants to speak to this.
Ms. Lesli Bisgould: I would suggest that may not be the most appropriate way to deal with criminal law. Criminal law is a very special kind of law. We write it federally, it's quite true, and the laws apply across the country, but we made a decision when we were putting our Constitution together that each province would administer the justice system itself.
I don't mean to tell anyone something they don't know, as much as to explain why I would suggest we leave it to the justice system, as it has been designed in our Constitution, to determine, so that in each province decisions can be made on a local level. I would think that's actually more important in the context of questions like this.
Animal rights extremists have not taken over the justice system of any province. We're not about to see a flurry of unfair charges being laid against people. That's not been the history with the laws that have been on the books all these years. If you're going to believe that, you're being asked to believe it just based on something somebody's told you, based on no evidence that it's ever happened before.
I simply suggest that standards written into the criminal law, apart from breaching the way criminal law is written, apart from being unnecessary because the wording of the laws themselves set those standards, would actually complicate it more than necessary. We have to leave it to judges to do their jobs in each province, as the Constitution—
The Chair: I can't control the answers.
Mr. Fitzpatrick is the only one who hasn't had a question. We have about five minutes before we hear bells.
Mr. Fitzpatrick, and then to the panel.
Mr. Brian Fitzpatrick (Prince Albert, Canadian Alliance): There's a lot I can say on this thing. I'm not a criminal lawyer, but equality before the law with criminal law is pretty basic. I think murder is murder, no matter where it happens, and you can't localize criminal law. That's pretty well trite nonsense to be referring to that sort of thing. But that isn't the gist of my question.
In the province I come from, quite seriously, animal offences have been dealt with harshly. I can think of a number of situations. I only wish young offenders would receive equal treatment for some of the things I've seen happen in that province. So I don't agree with your point of view on that.
I am very disturbed with proposed paragraph 182.3(1)(b). That looks to me almost like strict liability, and I think we have to look at consequences when we're drafting legislation. I'm going to throw out a couple of hypotheticals, and they're not far-fetched.
Take for example a turkey rancher. If a CF-18 flies over that ranch and breaks the sound barrier, it will probably kill every turkey in his ranch. That will happen. And it doesn't say “negligently fails to provide suitable and adequate food, water”, and so on. It says he must. It's mandatory.
In another case, a farmer is 35 miles away from a hospital. Something happens in his home and he rushes his wife or his child to a hospital. What happens when he gets there is a prairie blizzard hits that community, and he's unable to get back to his farm. He could be snowbound for three or four days before he can get back to that farm. To me, the way that section is drafted, I'm not exactly sure he has a defence. He can't use the argument: “I wasn't negligent”. I don't know what legal justification he can use to get out of these sections.
Quite frankly, Lesli, I find these things disturbing, scary, and frightening. These kinds of laws are going to alienate people in my area from this government in a serious way. If you want to meet the grassroots, you come to my riding. We'll have some town hall meetings and you can expand your ideas in that community, but you're going to find a different message from that of the people you're listening to.
Ms. Lesli Bisgould: You may have been facetious, but I would actually be pleased to have the opportunity, because what I find is that we tend to assume this is a rural-urban split and it's not. From everything I've seen...which is not to say that some representatives of rural industries aren't opposing it, but when you talk to individuals—and you, ladies and gentlemen, are the ones to tell me; I don't have to tell you—farmers, ranchers, people who work with these animals on a day-to-day basis know them better than I do. I've never worked on a farm. I'm not going to sit here and say these people don't care about animals. In fact, as far as I understand it, throughout rural communities, when you talk to individual people—not the associations representing them, but the individuals themselves—people support stronger legislation on cruelty to animals.
Mr. Brian Fitzpatrick: What about my example?
Ms. Lesli Bisgould: For a criminal act to have been committed there are two elements. One is the act done, which would have been the case in the example you gave, but the other is the intent. You have to have had the intention. That's not written in any law. That's just—
Mr. Brian Fitzpatrick: There is no intent.
The Chair: Mr. Fitzpatrick, you've had your questions. She doesn't have to answer it.
Ms. Lesli Bisgould: My answer is that if you don't have criminal intent, you can't be convicted of a crime. That's just criminal law. It doesn't have to say it in the law. That's what the law is.
The Chair: Mr. Herscovici.
Mr. Alan Herscovici: I have a tiny point. Reference was made to the criminal justice system not making ridiculous or exaggerated prosecutions, but in this case—
Ms. Lesli Bisgould: No, I didn't say that. I wouldn't say that.
Mr. Alan Herscovici: Well, you said that the legal system has not been infiltrated by animal rights extremists.
Let me point out that SPCAs can press charges in many parts of this country. Groups like the International Fund for Animal Welfare, which will be testifying here, have often lodged complaints and have boasted that every charge laid for cruelty or so on under the Fisheries Act and other acts have been as a result of their complaints, things that were eventually thrown out of courts in some cases, even some complaints where the judge called the fabrication of video evidence a sophisticated con, but nonetheless people had to go through those prosecutions.
So it's simply not true that once you open these doors, absolutely, whether it's through complaints, or SPCA charges, or whatever...people will be able to find themselves having to figure this out, if we allowed it to go through in this way.
The Chair: I want to thank all members. We've had an opportunity for everyone on the list to get their question in. I appreciate very much the passion that all of our witnesses feel on the issues and I appreciate the patience of colleagues in getting through a very emotional issue.
Thank you very much. The meeting is adjourned.