Skip to main content Start of content

JUST Committee Meeting

Notices of Meeting include information about the subject matter to be examined by the committee and date, time and place of the meeting, as well as a list of any witnesses scheduled to appear. The Evidence is the edited and revised transcript of what is said before a committee. The Minutes of Proceedings are the official record of the business conducted by the committee at a sitting.

For an advanced search, use Publication Search tool.

If you have any questions or comments regarding the accessibility of this publication, please contact us at

Previous day publication Next day publication




[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

Wednesday, October 17, 2001

• 1534


The Chair (Mr. Andy Scott (Fredericton, Lib.)): Good afternoon. My apologies for the wait.

I call to order the 27th meeting of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. Today we are considering Bill C-15B, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act.

As I mentioned to the witnesses earlier, many members of our committee are participating in the debate in the House right now on the anti-terrorism legislation. I suspect you'll see them coming and going. Please understand, it's not meant as any disrespect on anybody's part, or any lack of interest. Were you here yesterday, you would have seen lots of interest.

• 1535

We have before us today the Canada Mink Breeders Association, Zoocheck Canada Inc., and the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture is not here yet. Yesterday I introduced a non-existent person, so I'm trying to make sure my list and your cards look relatively the same.

I will first of all call on the Canada Mink Breeders Association. We have Gary Hazlewood and Karlene Hart.

As you probably know, we'd like you to keep your opening statements inside of 10 minutes. At some point I'll remind you of that, if I have to. That goes for everybody. As people are finished we'll come back for a conversation, or a question and answer period, with members.

Mr. Wappel.

Mr. Tom Wappel (Scarborough Southwest, Lib.): I'm sorry to interrupt, Mr. Chairman, but on a point of order, yesterday we had a witness by the name of Bisgould. She identified herself as representing both the World Society for the Protection of Animals and Zoocheck Canada. Her documentation, which I have here, indicates the World Society for the Protection of Animals and Zoocheck Canada. I just heard you introduce somebody from Zoocheck Canada, and I'm wondering why we have two presentations on two separate days from the same group.

The Chair: Perhaps Zoocheck Canada can enlighten us on that question.

Mr. Brian McHattie (Marine Mammal Coordinator, Zoocheck Canada Inc.): Ms. Bisgould was representing the World Society for the Protection of Animals yesterday in terms of her verbal presentation to the committee. The handout, the material that was provided, covers the comments and thoughts from both organizations. The actual verbal presentation was on behalf of WSPA, the World Society for the Protection of Animals.

That's why Zoocheck is here today, to make a verbal presentation to the committee.

The Chair: Thank you very much.

Back to our witnesses now, Mr. Hazlewood and Ms. Hart.

Mr. Gary Hazlewood (Chair, Government Liaison Committee, Canada Mink Breeders Association): Thank you.

Mr. Chairman—and today very select committee members, I can see—CMBA is pleased to have the opportunity to comment on Bill C-15B. Canada Mink Breeders Association is a producer-based association, and as such our members are not lawyers. I'm not a lawyer either, so the presentation we make today will be based on the logical and practical application of the proposed law as it affects the daily operations of our members.

Canada Mink Breeders Association fully supports the government's stated intent to modernize and strengthen the animal cruelty sections of the Criminal Code while making no substantive changes in animal cruelty laws. CMBA is concerned with specific proposed changes to the animal cruelty provisions of the Criminal Code that potentially will put all animal producers at risk for currently lawful practices.

Under our section entitled “Removal of Animal Cruelty Provisions from Part XI of the Criminal Code, `Wilful and Forbidden Acts in Respect to Certain Property”', the proposal to remove animals from the property section of the Criminal Code suggests there is a widespread belief that animals are not property. This begs the question, if animals are not property, what are they?

In practice, most animals have commercial values clearly indicated when they are bought, sold, or traded by their owners. This value varies, depending on age, sex, size, or market availability of the particular animal. It's also quite clear that animals are not just any property, but property with certain moral and legal obligations. Owners of animals have a moral and legal obligation to provide for and protect their animals. Conversely, owners, if negligent in these requirements, are punishable under law.

It must be noted that unless ownership of animals is criminalized, it's only logical that animals remain property, albeit special property, and as such should be kept in part XI of the Criminal Code, identified as “certain property”.

• 1540

The key here is “certain property”, where property is defined as “real or person corporeal property” and “corporeal” property means “bodily or mortal”. The law already recognizes animals as more than mere property. Unless a case can be made that animals are not property, there does not appear to be any logical or rational reason for moving the animal cruelty provisions out of the property section of the Criminal Code.

Under the section “`Up-Front' or `Front-End' Protection”, if the animal cruelty provision is moved from part XI of the Criminal Code, “Wilful and Forbidden Acts in Respect to Certain Property”, the “legal justification or excuse and with colour of right” will be removed. This segment provides animal producers protection from nuisance or frivolous prosecution for established animal husbandry practices.

From a practical point of view, livestock producers may be at risk of being wrongfully charged for legitimate activities. While these prosecutions may proceed and not be supported, there is definitely a cost to the producers having to deal with them. It's not clear why these historical protections are still not valid.

Changes to the animal cruelty provisions of the Criminal Code should not be an experiment to see just how the courts may interpret the changes.

Under the section “Definition of Animals”, the attempt to define “animal” under part XI of the Criminal Code is admirable. The definition of animal to include “any animal that can experience pain” raises questions and concerns. For example, is it the intention of this proposed legislation to provide equal protection for those animals that in many cases are considered pests—specifically rats, mice, starlings, and English sparrows—and what are the health ramifications for other animals and humans? There are real and practical considerations that must be addressed before adopting a blanket definition.

In summary, it's the belief of Canada Mink Breeders that the proposed changes, including the removal of the animal cruelty provisions from part XI, “Wilful and Forbidden Acts in Respect to Certain Property”, and thus the removal of “legal justification or excuse and with colour of right” protection are indeed significant and substantive. Canada Mink Breeders Association respectfully requests that those two sections remain in their original position and with the original intent.

Unless a better definition of “animal” can be presented, we would suggest the elimination of the section “any animal that has the capacity to feel pain” until the long-term ramifications can be determined. Any changes in criminal law must be fair, logical, and sustainable in the courts. The proposed amendments do not fill these criteria.

I had an opportunity to be an observer yesterday, and to watch the proceedings. I was a little concerned, so I have added a section to my original presentation.

As a result of observing these proceedings yesterday, I'd like to ask the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to pass on the following concerns to those ministry officials charged with drafting Bill C-15B. It's clear those observers from the justice department are extremely sensitive to any negative comments about this legislation. The grimaces and outright indignation shown on their faces yesterday was obvious.

The Chair: Excuse me, Mr. Hazlewood. We have a tradition that we'd rather not cast aspersions on people who aren't here to defend themselves.

Mr. Gary Hazlewood: I wasn't trying to do that. I was asking to pass along a recommendation in order to avoid this situation from happening.

What I was asking the committee to direct to those people who have worked on this is that what you do is critical. The proposal shouldn't be an academic work of art but a work of science. No group or individual is infallible, and the best decisions are made with the balance of all the information available. The consequences, however, will rest with those of us who deal with livestock. It's unfortunate, in my view, that this process isn't the beginning of the drafting of the legislation, where direction could come from this group in terms of presenting the intent of the legislation.

• 1545

That's the only point I was trying to make, Mr. Chairman. I understand that they have a difficult job, and I think they've done a remarkable job; there are only two or three points being contested.

So it was not my intent to....

The Chair: Mr. Toews.

Mr. Vic Toews (Provencher, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Chair, I have a point of order. I think the witness appropriately cited his observations of the people intimately involved in drafting the bill, and I don't think that's an inappropriate comment. He was just observing what he saw.

I think the staff of the minister or the Government of Canada are professional staff and should view any criticisms of legislation in a professional way. I think that was the intent of the comments by the witness, if I got it right, and I think they were appropriate. I don't think they transgress any rules of the House.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Toews.

Mr. Wappel.

Mr. Tom Wappel: I don't have any problem with what the witness said, except unless he has personal knowledge of who these people are, how can he possibly know who they work for? There may very well have been numerous grimaces—including my own—around the table, but they may have been from staffers, interest groups, or lobby groups. They may or may not have been from people who work for the justice department.

So to the extent that he saw people grimacing, that's an observation. As to who they work for, I don't think he's qualified to say unless he knows them personally.

The Chair: I think we can move on. I think the point's been made.

Mr. Vic Toews: No grimacing here, Tom.

The Chair: I think the point the witness was trying to make is that he has great respect for the work that is done. Any suggestions made by witnesses in the course of an exercise like this should only be seen as an exercise in trying to improve legislation by committed Canadians.

Do we all agree? Okay.

The next group of committed Canadians is Zoocheck Canada, represented by Brian McHattie and Troy Seidle, for 10 minutes.

Mr. Brian McHattie: My name is Brian McHattie, and I'm the marine mammal program director at Zoocheck Canada. I've worked at Zoocheck as a volunteer to begin with and then as a staff person for the last seven years. I have a master's degree in rural planning and development from the University of Guelph and a degree in environmental science from the University of Waterloo.

What I'd like to do this afternoon is spend some time to introduce you to Zoocheck Canada—who we are, why we're here. I'm going to spend a couple of minutes doing that. Then Mr. Seidle will provide additional comments to wrap up our 10 minutes.

Zoocheck is a national wildlife protection charity that's been in place since 1984, going on 20 years, working on the issue of wildlife, protecting wildlife in the wild and in captivity. We do so through three basic functions. The first is research and investigation, looking at some of the zoos and aquariums that are out there across Canada. We work on public education and awareness through a variety of events and lectures that we offer throughout the country. As well, we undertake some advocacy, of course, to share our views and to provide education to a variety of other organizations as well.

In terms of scope, we have approximately 10,000 supporters across the country. Those supporters are made up of wildlife biologists, veterinarians, zoologists, academics, lawyers, and many Canadians from all sorts of different areas, including industry and professional associations, teachers, students, and just concerned individuals across Canada.

• 1550

Our work across the country over the past close to 20 years tells us that attitudes towards animals have changed. They certainly have changed in the last 100 years since the original Criminal Code components having to do with animals were in place, and certainly in the last 50 years. I guess our concern is that the criminal laws have not changed. We're happy to be here today to talk about the amendments to the Criminal Code, Bill C-15B.

I'd like to draw an example from the work I do at Zoocheck to give you a sense of how these attitudes have changed over the years. The example I've chosen is the way killer whales, or orcas, are seen as animals that we as humans relate to.

I reflect back to the 1950s, when killer whales were seen as problem animals, really, taking fish away from some of the fishermen on the west coast in particular. It actually reached a point where a machine gun was set up by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in Burrard Inlet to shoot killer whales due to concerns over their taking salmon. The machine gun was actually never used, but it was in place, and there was an intent there at one point.

We moved into the 1970s, where a strong movement against whaling occurred in Canada, and actually around the world, culminating in the International Whaling Commission banning commercial whaling. A big part of that came from Canada, and in particular the west coast or the Vancouver area, where the killer whales were and where that same reaction by DFO had occurred not too many years earlier than that.

Moving forward to the 1990s, 20 years after that period, the movie Free Willy came out, and there was an outpouring of emotion by Canadians towards whales and dolphins.

This showed up about 10 days ago when a whale by the name of Bjossa, who had been at Vancouver Aquarium for a number of years and had recently been moved to SeaWorld in San Diego, died after an illness that had occurred originally at Vancouver Aquarium. As far as I can tell, that's really the only animal story that's run in the last month or so with the other concerns going on around the world, and the events in Afghanistan. So there's a very strong feeling and outpouring of emotions by Canadians for animals.

What I want to do now is focus my comments and refer to some of the comments you heard yesterday from the animal industry, I guess, or components of the animal industry, on the understandable concerns they have regarding the bill's impact.

I guess our perspective is that because the impact of the amendments have been so overblown, one can't blame industry for being concerned. But as an organization, Zoocheck Canada has worked for 20 years across Canada, and we know other organizations in the animal protection area across Canada who do the same sort of work we do. I'd like to explain to you what Zoocheck does on a daily basis, a monthly basis, and explain how we spend most of our time not on legal pursuits, necessarily, through the Criminal Code or other things, but on working very closely with government and organizations in the zoo and aquarium industry.

I'd like to provide four quick examples to give you a flavour of the types of things Zoocheck does. The first issue, and the issue I'm involved with, is whales and dolphins in captivity. Our work on that, over the last 10 years or so certainly, has been almost entirely with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Environment Canada. The focus there is not so much working with the Criminal Code as working with the Fisheries Act. We're taking steps to work with DFO on a collaborative basis to improve conditions for the whales and dolphins and issues that arise out of that.

The second example is in Ontario, where at present we don't have any legislation pertaining to zoos. We've been working with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources to put a zoo licensing component under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act. That's something that has been very productive.

• 1555

We're working very closely as well with the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums, in particular zoos in Ontario, and also with the SPCA and the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies.

The third example is the issue of polar bears in Manitoba. The natural resources ministry in Manitoba was charged with that issue. A situation occurred, as you perhaps know, where bears would wander into town up in Churchill and areas like that. They would be captured and exported to a variety of troublesome situations—travelling circuses in other countries, substandard zoos, and that kind of thing. These animals were often orphaned bear cubs in circumstances such as that.

We worked with Manitoba on a new policy, which is in place now, where orphaned bear cubs are adopted by surrogate mother polar bears. The first successful adoption occurred several weeks ago. That's another example of working with government and not necessarily pursuing the Criminal Code route at Zoocheck Canada.

The last example is one I've touched on already. Zoocheck works with the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the industry association, to improve a variety of conditions in zoos across the country.

So this is what Zoocheck is, and this is what we do on a daily basis. We work closely with government and industry to protect animals, both in the wild and in captivity.

The Chair: I think when you started, you said that Mr. Seidle was going to speak to the bill itself.

Mr. Brian McHattie: I'm on my last paragraph here.

The Chair: Well, you have just less than two minutes left.

Mr. Brian McHattie: Okay.

Zoocheck supports these amendments, because they are long overdue. We look forward to comments and questions.


Mr. Troy Seidle (Member, Board of Directors, Zoocheck Canada Inc.): Thank you.

My name is Troy Seidle. I'm a volunteer director of Zoocheck Canada. Outside of my activities with Zoocheck, I've also served on the Canadian Council on Animal Care, which testified yesterday, I know. I've also participated in a number of assessments at Canadian research facilities, so I'm intimately familiar with this issue in particular, in addition to Zoocheck's work. I also live in Kitchener, Ontario, which is a fairly rural community, so I've talked to numerous farmers. I've talked to researchers and many other stakeholders who've had concerns about this bill in particular.

Now, I think we've all heard some pretty wild scenarios. If this bill passes, it'll be a criminal activity, say, to put a worm on a hook, or flush a spider down the drain. I think when people hear these sorts of scenarios, it's not surprising they worry. I don't blame farmers for worrying, “Oh my God, what's going to happen if I brand a cow, or de-horn?” I can understand how a bill like this has mushroomed and the concern has really blown out of proportion.

The real situation is that the Criminal Code is not designed to regulate or to modify industry practices. These sorts of scenarios we're hearing all the time could simply never fly under criminal law the way it's designed.

So my purpose in being here today, in addition to representing Zoocheck, is simply to express our deep concern that this is really the first move to update a very old piece of legislation in almost 50 years. It would be a real loss, I think, for the country and for animals who are the victims of very serious forms of cruelty if this bill were to be scuttled or watered down on the basis of misunderstanding, or in fact blatant misinformation around, the intent and scope of criminal law. And I'm here to help set the record straight.

Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you.

Now from the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, Mr. Gardiner and Mr. Daniell.

Mr. Bob Gardiner (Co-Chair, Status of Animals Committee, Canadian Federation of Humane Societies): My name's Bob Gardiner. I'm a lawyer and co-chair of the Status of Animals Committee for the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies. I've been a director of CFHS on the executive committee and chair of the trapping committee, the wildlife committee, and the policy committee. I've been on animal care committees for six years, where I would sign protocols to kill, say, 30,000 animals a year in all sorts of research situations.

I'm the editor of Investigating Animal Abuse, which is for our SPCA officers, and of Crimes Against Animals, which is a book for crown prosecutors. It helps crown prosecutors with the detailed legislation.

Craig Daniell is with me. He's a lawyer and a director of investigations for the Ontario Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals, and would be glad to answer questions about SPCA issues, the actual enforcement as it happens every day with many animals.

Also with us are Bob Van Tongerloo, executive director of the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, and Shelagh MacDonald, the CFHS program coordinator.

• 1600

CFHS, its 100 SPCAs, and its 400,000 members across Canada strongly support Bill C-15 provisions. CFHS initiated all of these Criminal Code provisions. We did that in 1981. I was in the room when this all happened.

We've had many meetings about this with criminal lawyers, prosecutors, and judges. Two commissions have been looking into it. There have been many published papers. We have written 35 briefs on the topic to many different groups of people.

These are animal welfare improvements, not animal rights improvements. This is all on-the-ground, hardcore legislation that's very serious. It's in the Criminal Code, and we take it very seriously, because one does not lightly tamper with the Criminal Code and how it's used. Our SPCA officers, who actually get to enforce it, are people who are trained by the RCMP, ministries of agriculture, and the police. They work with the police, and have a statutory mandate to carry out this job in most provinces. They are given police powers and the right, as peace officers, to use search warrants to enter premises and to seize animals.

SPCA inspectors act responsibly to prosecute only serious abuses. Less than one-third of 1% of all animal abuse complaints lead to criminal charges, and they may receive thousands of complaints. For instance, 16,000 complaints in major parts of Ontario, a year with very few prosecutions, actually led....

We go into this in a lot of detail in our brief, which is here at the table. Anybody who would like can pick up a copy of our brief, with all its attachments that analyse the criminal law, the Supreme Court of Canada cases, unlawful excuse, wilfulness, recklessness, and all the topics that most concern us.

The conviction rate, unfortunately, despite the few serious cases that are brought, tends to be in the range of 46%, as it was in 1997-98, or 30% the year before, across Canada. That's a dismal conviction rate. Part of our problem is some of the property concepts in the Criminal Code that deflect from a proper prosecution, and also just the attitude toward enforcement of the Criminal Code that we run into in some particular areas—not in other areas, but we do in some areas of some provinces.

I think it's well known that the link to domestic violence, which I think you've all heard about, is overwhelming. When you see cruelty to animals there's a very overwhelming link to domestic cruelty toward women and children in particular, as well as to other kinds of violence. We've detailed this in our brief.

The prevention of cruelty provisions in the Criminal Code must function effectively, and we're here to deal with nuts and bolts. They're the moral bedrock principle for the work of our SPCAs. The educational and deterrent aspects of the Criminal Code are overwhelming, because it's the educational part that's the true value.

Neither photographs nor words can adequately depict the horror the public expresses at atrocities committed against animals. Mr. Van Tongerloo is holding up a bulletin board that shows a number of cruelty pictures, just in case you wish to look at those. Appendix A to our brief lists a number of typical cruelty vignettes, just to give you some idea of the things we deal with every day. They indicate unnecessary suffering inflicted on a wide range of animals.

Public attitudes have evolved from the horse and buggy days of 1892, when this law came into effect. Over 50% of Canadian households contain an animal. Many hundreds of media reports and many thousands of petitions show the public outrage at cruelty cases and the need for Criminal Code improvements. Twenty-seven U.S. states have elevated cruelty from a misdemeanour to a felony offence. Seven states did that during 1999.

We've brought some boxes of petitions today just so that you would see some of the many we have. Today we've brought only 16,786 petitions, but we've sent many more to the Minister of Justice and to other members. We've sent many others to other provincial legislatures.

Cruelty, not property; that's what we're talking about. The cruelty provisions in the Criminal Code are to deal with cruelty. That's the whole reason they're in there. They're not there to deal with property issues. As a matter of fact, we have to make sure that everybody's property rights are fully protected. CFHS insists on that. Cruelty to animals is what the Criminal Code is all about.

• 1605

We strongly urge that the crimes against animals provisions be removed from the property offences contained in part XI and be reconstituted in a separate part V.1.

In the past, crown attorneys and judges have minimized cruelty, where owners argued they were entitled to harm their own property, often resulting in the withdrawal of charges and slap-on-the-wrist offences. Humans will continue to have property law rights over their animals, whether by means of numerous common law cases and provincial statutes as well as many provisions in the Criminal Code itself.

For instance, section 322 prohibits theft of an animal. Cattle rustling and alteration of brands is in section 338. Threatening to injure an animal is in section 264. The cruelty provisions themselves will remain to give owners all of those rights against cruelty to their animals.

Property law rights, you guys can't govern. You don't have the right to do that, because you're the federal government. Property law is governed in the provinces. I think you all know that. There are so many statutes and things that govern property rights that nobody can take my dog away from me. Nobody can stop me from selling my dog. I can give my chickens to whoever I want. I can do all the things with the property of my animals that I do, and I insist on that as a Canadian. There's no trampling on our property rights involved in these Criminal Code changes.

What we do want is to make sure that the Criminal Code provisions distinguish animals from chattel property by focusing on the fact that animals can suffer pain, and humans have a moral duty to avoid causing unnecessary suffering, even if the animal is their own property. That's the way it is right now. That's the way it's written in the code right now. We just want that to continue, but we want that to be highlighted in a separate part of the code.

It's such a fundamental concept that it shouldn't be corrupted by being stuck with all of those other misleading property concepts that seem to have gotten a bunch of people confused and that have nothing to do with what's actually happening in these Criminal Code amendments. We want a separate part of the code that highlights the true basis for the cruelty offence and to provide a signal to the justice system and the public that animals are proper objects of moral concern and that humans must avoid causing unnecessary suffering where mens rea is applicable.

With regard to animals, previously there was an open-ended reference. Anything was an animal before. We asked them to restrict it to the types of animals who suffer pain. We recommended vertebrates and those that can be shown to suffer pain.

So for the last 109 years, if somebody was harming a worm or doing something to an insect, theoretically somebody could have made the criminal charges that industry seems to be concerned about. That's never been done. We've not heard about it in a single case. We're not aware of a single adverse prosecution. There's a simple reason: it couldn't happen. Crown attorneys have their obligations, and they can't allow such a case to go through with a de minimis rule and all of the other obligations that bind crown attorneys. Now prosecutors will have a difficult job, much harder than they ever had before, if they wanted to try to prove that a non-vertebrate felt pain.

The precise definition of an “animal” focuses the rationale for cruelty offence upon an inappropriate causation of unnecessary pain. It will still be necessary for the Crown to prove all the elements of the crime. Farmers and ranchers won't lose a single right to protect their cattle. Stray and wild animals will be protected from cruelty, although people will still be able to kill animals with a lawful excuse, such as hunting, trapping, or fishing. We fully recognize that a hunter can kill a wild animal, etc.

In terms of the cruelty and negligence offences, which are well listed, we analyse in our brief a lot of those criminal law issues. I think you need to pay attention to those criminal law things. All of these concepts I've heard industry bring forward are all first-year law school concepts. I think many of you are familiar with them.

The wilfulness is obviously inherent, in any event, because of the Bouzzanga case. We support the idea of “wilfully” being in the Criminal Code. How can you have a criminal offence without that level of mens rea, with wilfulness and recklessness tied together, and the idea of criminal negligence? They simply exist, and whether they're written in the code or not, they exist. With the word “recklessly”, it's important that it be in there. It was always in before, and it has to tie up with the word “wilfully”.

• 1610

We had some specific points. Poisoning an animal is the sort of thing that is in the “wilful” section and we think should be under “criminal negligence”. As to shooting “liberated” animals, we think the wording should be changed from “the moment it leaves its cage” to something that is more like “shot at it when it has been liberated with no reasonable opportunity to escape”. In other words, it shouldn't just be a blind, obvious kill for the joy of killing.

In terms of promoting fighting, we'd like to see the words “attends at” added to the terminology, because that would help get the actual organizers of the events through the people who do attend there.

Criminal negligence is another well-known Supreme Court of Canada concept that is entirely embedded in criminal law. Some of the most important parts, to us, are the sentencing concepts and the hybrid offence, treating things more seriously, the sentencing and the fines. We'd rather see the summary conviction fines increased to $10,000, with a special provision in the section. The prohibition orders are important and the restitution orders are important.

During the question period, I would certainly like to deal with a lot of the industry concerns, particularly things like lawful excuse. We would be tremendously opposed to any idea of specific exemptions.

The Chair: Thank you very much. We will, I'm sure, have the opportunity to do so.

I apologize to you, Mr. Wilkinson. I should have mentioned when you arrived. I was distracted by the grimacing campaign, or the grimacing debate.

Mr. Wilkinson, representing the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, you have 10 minutes.

Mr. Jack Wilkinson (Board Member, Canadian Federation of Agriculture): Thank you very much. We apologize for being late. The security was.... We were unaware that it had been installed in this building and we did not take the appropriate time to make it through. So for the interruption, we apologize.

I'll just quickly read over the brief. And I must apologize, because due to the time, our organization does not yet have it translated. It will be available in French but wasn't available for the meeting today. I have some English copies here. If anyone would like a copy when it's available in French, we'll make sure to give it to the clerk.

On behalf of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, I'd like to thank you for the opportunity to appear before the committee today to share our views on the cruelty to animals section in the proposed Bill C-15.

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture is a national farm organization that represents approximately 200,000 family farms as well as many national commodity marketing boards. We are here to emphasize that these farmers denounce cruelty and abusive actions. They set and follow high standards of animal care and treatment. To this end, the Canadian Federation's members strongly support the Minister of Justice as she increases penalties for cruelty to animal offences. We believe those individuals who brutally or viciously kill an animal should be punished with the full force of the law. Our concern is that the legislation will be interpreted in a broader sense, resulting in normal and standard animal practice being brought before the courts. I'll outline some of these specific concerns and our proposed amendments.

The first amendment we're suggesting, in order to address the alarm caused in the agricultural industry, is the movement of the cruelty to animals section from part XI of the Criminal Code, the “Wilful and Forbidden Acts in Respect to Certain Property” section.

For the past 50 years, we think the law has protected animals, in particular farm animals, quite successfully under that section of the Criminal Code. CFA does agree there is a difference between animal and inanimate objects, obviously, and we feel this difference was already adequately conveyed when the cruelty to animals section fell under the title “certain property”, or “special property”, as it is more commonly known.

By moving the cruelty to animals section to part XI of the Criminal Code, the government appears to be raising the status of animals in society. As farmers, we are concerned about this. We are able to use animals for food production because animals are property, but the humane treatment of our animals is not compromised by this fact.

Furthermore, moving the cruelty to animals provision to the new section of the Criminal Code is not required to achieve the government's goal of imposing harsher penalties for animal abuse and neglect. The government could send its message that animal abuse and neglect will not be tolerated by increasing the penalties under the existing section.

In order to clarify the status of animals in this piece of legislation, the CFA asks that the cruelty to animals section be returned to part XI of the Criminal Code, or a new title for section V.1 be written that adequately reflects animal status in society as special property.

The second concern I'd like to address is tied really to the first. When the cruelty to animals section was removed from part XI, the phrase “legal justification or excuse and with colour of right” was also removed.

• 1615

If it is not the justice department's intent to change the application of the law and make illegal today what was legal yesterday, we don't understand why the defence of “legal justification or excuse and with colour of right” has to be removed. The removal of this defence may make farmers more vulnerable to nuisance charges.

The third change would be the definition of “animal”. In this proposed legislation, any animal that has the capacity to feel pain is protected. The CFA's concern is that this new definition could in fact open to prosecution what had never been previously contemplated—for example, those involving invertebrates and cold-blooded species.

Since defining pain is a scientific yet very contentious issue, the CFA recommends the government return to the status quo and not include a definition of animal in this legislation.

Our last concern is in regard to proposed subsection 182.3(1), “Failing to provide adequate care”. In this section, two of the three offences include a component of negligence. Currently in proposed paragraph 182.3(1)(b), a producer could be convicted of failure to provide suitable food and water to their animals. The notion of negligence must be included in this section, as it is in (a) and (c), to prevent unjustified prosecutions.

For example, because of severe drought this year, it has been very difficult for some producers to provide adequate water and feed to their livestock. These producers were doing everything they could to provide for their animals, but extenuating circumstances may have prevented some of them from doing so. The inclusion of negligence would ensure that wilful neglect is a qualification for a conviction.

We also suggest that the definition of “negligence” be modified to read, “departing markedly from the standard of care that a reasonable person would use in the circumstances”.

In conclusion, I would like to emphasize that Canadian farmers are not asking for special treatment under the law. We are asking for a law that will respect standard animal husbandry, management, and slaughter practices. We are asking for a law that will protect animal-based businesses from the aggressive agendas of some animal rights activists.

We know the intent of the legislation is not to make legitimate agriculture practices illegal. However, we feel the legislation should reflect this from day one, and protect legitimate practices rather than open the door to a host of possible prosecutions and endless appearances in court for judges to come to the same conclusion.

The government promotes moving the agriculture industry beyond crisis management, so it would be counterproductive if the legislation allows extreme animal rights activists to tie up farmers' time and money through frivolous court cases. We feel changes need to be made to the proposed legislation to ensure generally accepted farm practices will not be adversely affected and to ensure farmers can continue without legal burdens and intrusions to provide top-quality, safe, affordable food for Canadian citizens.

The changes we are requesting are not onerous. They will protect animals from cruel treatment and keep farmers from unjust prosecutions.

Thank you very much.

The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Wilkinson.

We turn to Mr. Toews for seven minutes. I'm sure he needs no reminding, but the seven minutes includes both the question and the answer.

Mr. Vic Toews: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. I'll bear that in mind.

I'd like to start out by indicating exactly where my sentiments are in respect to this bill. Very frankly, I worry about this bill. I represent a rural farming constituency, and I believe this bill strikes at the heart of the farming community, food production, and indeed the fashion industry in Canada.

Even if it isn't the intent, I believe the ultimate result of these amendments is to destroy the livelihood of my constituents, of rural Canadians. One point that was made was that there are no control mechanisms over irresponsible prosecutions by individuals or organizations. That worries me. Farmers and rural Canadians in my constituency can be harassed. They don't need to be convicted; just the mere fact of going to court over and over can drive them out of business.

The minister has said that we are not bringing in any substantive changes in that nothing in this bill will criminalize legitimate activities. Now, if there are to be no substantive changes, why are we going through this exercise? If the penalties are insufficient in the existing law, increase them. No one approves of lenient treatment for those who treat animals cruelly.

• 1620

So aside from the issue of penalties, if the intent of the amendment is not to substantively change the law, I would like to ask the witnesses generally, why should there be changes in the wording or the positioning of these provisions in the Criminal Code? It might be nice, from a theoretical or academic point of view, to have a little code of rights in a separate area for animals, but the potential impact upon the livelihood of my constituents simply doesn't call for this kind of amendment.

You know, I keep on seeing specific references to cases where people have been prosecuted and the penalties were slight. Again, it has nothing to do with the substantive law. That's an issue dealing with the penalties.

We saw pictures held up today. Perhaps specifically to Mr. Gardiner, after the other witnesses have talked about my general question, what, in those pictures, is not illegal today under the present code? Everything in there is illegal.

So all they're doing is bringing pictures here to upset committee members. We all love animals. I have a dog. I love my dog, but that's not the point.

The point is, if we want stiff penalties, let's get them, but let's not monkey around with my constituents' livelihood because of some theoretical exercise we're going through. Because that's essentially what the minister says we're doing.

Perhaps we can hear from the mink producers first.

The Chair: Mr. Hazlewood.

Mr. Gary Hazlewood: I guess our position is pretty clear. We understand the present Criminal Code. We've seen it operate over a substantial amount of time. There are convictions registered under it. I don't really believe the bulk of the convictions and the charges have actually been laid against livestock operators in general. When that has happened, there usually have been other mitigating circumstances. For instance, the bank may have pulled the plug on them, they've had some marriage breakdown, or something like that.

So I'm at a loss to explain why the law is being changed in regard to livestock animals. It appears to me that we may be more at risk with the changes that are being contemplated, or at least that's what I'm hearing today. We really don't think that's a fair position to put our members in.

The Chair: Representatives from Zoocheck?

Mr. Troy Seidle: Thank you, yes.

Our position is that, having participated in the consultation, going back to a discussion paper entitled Crimes Against Animals, the vast majority of this bill is basic housekeeping. There are changes to the penalties, but there are also simplifications and consolidations of different sections that were either redundant or inconsistent. So there is some tinkering that goes on, but it's not substantial.

With regard to the perception that amendments could possibly put producers at increased risk, the two-part test remains the same. You still have to demonstrate criminal intent and that suffering was unnecessary. So that isn't changing substantially.

Even if, hypothetically speaking, a frivolous charge were to be brought forward, the Crown has the ability to stay that charge if they deem it to be frivolous or vexatious. Going through the case law over the century that this has been on the books, I have yet to find a single example of a frivolous charge being brought forward. There's no history of this ever occurring, and I think the concerns that it could occur in the future are vastly overstated.

The Chair: If he wishes to respond, I'll go to Mr. Wilkinson first so we can come back for the last two.

Mr. Jack Wilkinson: Just very briefly, I think we find much of the same argument that's just been put forward. Our view is that we want to maintain a sense of confidence that the new legislation's proposed amendments will not in any way negatively impact on agriculture production.

• 1625

We've talked to justice lawyers and other people, and the sense is, if there are no changes, then why do we not leave that section as is? I guess our point is the same thing, to increase the fines and deal with those areas of concern. Animal agriculture in general has not been a problem. We think the suggestions we're making are reasonable. We don't think it negatively impacts other sectors, and it gives us the type of assurance that we think is appropriate.

Part of our problem is that it's been a discussion on the legality of this. Fair enough, but let's put the assurances we need in it, and then leave it.

The Chair: Thank you very much.

Mr. Gardiner, there was the general question and the specific one.

Mr. Bob Gardiner: There's no way the criminal changes could possibly destroy anybody's livelihood in industry. There's been a lot of comment about things like lawful excuse, and the fact that lawful excuse has disappeared. That's a ridiculous thing for people to suggest, because it's fundamental, basic criminal law that lawful excuse and justification apply in every single crime. It's written right into subsection 8(3) of the Criminal Code, so it's not possible for anyone to not be able to argue that. They have to be able to argue that in every single crime. It's not written into the Criminal Code anywhere other than 20 specific crimes. As a matter of fact, it's written into two of the cruelty crimes, just because it helps to explain the section better.

So it's a basic, inherent concept, just like “wilfully” or “recklessly”. The Supreme Court of Canada, which is a stronger authority than the Criminal Code in many ways because it interprets the Criminal Code, which becomes the binding thing that judges must abide by rather than the wording of the code.... They have to look at the code, they have to look at the Supreme Court cases, and they're bound by these precedents.

All these concepts—“lawful excuse”, “unnecessary suffering”, “wilful”, “reckless”, “criminal negligence”—are covered in well-known criminal precedents.

Mr. Vic Toews: So you're saying, then, a judge looking at this will look at the section and say that even though they made substantive wording changes, location changes, we have to interpret it exactly the same way we did before? That's what you're saying a judge is going to say?

Mr. Bob Gardiner: That's right, because of the Supreme Court case of Creighton, I think—I have it in my brief—that says it's inherently there, as well as in subsection 8(3) of the code itself. They have to abide by that.

And it's not only that; there are so many parts to lawful excuse itself. I'll just cover, if I may, a couple of them. In our brief I think I've listed 16 types of lawful excuse that inherently apply everywhere. Besides that, as animal welfare associations and humane societies, we have to kill animals all the time. We have to rely on lawful excuse. That's something we have to rely on. But do you know what? Lawful excuse is only a defence if you're convicted under the statute itself. The way that lawful excuse works is that you only need to pull that card out of your pocket if the Crown is already proving the elements of the offence itself.

The protection that farmers have, and me, with all the animals I've killed, and all of us have, in industry, is that such words as “unnecessary”, which were well discussed in the Ménard case, have such a huge hurdle for the Crown to overcome, because it's up to the Crown to prove that whatever the legitimate activity was—research or hunting and trapping or farming or whatever—they have to show that the cruelty was wilfully or recklessly caused in an unnecessary way.

The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Gardiner, and thank you very much, Mr. Toews.


Ms. Bourgeois, please. You have seven minutes.

Ms. Diane Bourgeois (Terrebonne—Blainville, BQ): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Good afternoon, gentlemen.

The committee is here gathered and I have been a member of it since yesterday. I am very aware of the fact that we absolutely must protect animals because among other things we have been hearing about cruelty for years and it is said that the law is toothless, not forceful enough to protect animals.

The public is also aware of it. Sir, you were saying that we have here two or three organizations representing if my numbers are right close to 600,000 people. This figure does not take into account the organizations we met yesterday. From a political point of view, we cannot scratch a bill aiming at a better protection for animals.

• 1630

That being said, I think that we must also protect people with vested rights. I fully understand the view of farmers having myself lived on a farm and slaughtered animals. One must understand that any whippersnapper could propose a last minute bill maybe to have his neighbor thrown in jail or charged a fine. Those things might happen. Therefore, I think that the committee will have to work with the greatest diligence towards the respect of everybody's rights.

On the other hand, I tell myself that regarding cruelty to animals nobody should be exempt from legal obligations, not even a farmer. In fact, some farmers are cruel to animals. Let us think of animals that are malnourished. Several times yesterday I gave the example of companies mass growing chicken and putting 10 or 12 of them in a cage that was designed to hold four.

It is the same thing with fur. We must not make any secret of it; some people might take very good care of their animals but in order to have quality fur instead of looking after the welfare of the animal.

I have a question for all of you. As a committee we will have to make decisions and I wonder how we will be able to pass a law that will protect everybody's rights.

You each gave us your point of view; you came here to look after your own interests. What is the law you would suggest we pass to protect everybody's rights? The way I understand the situation right now, Mr. Chairman, everyone is looking after one's interests but should also think of others. I have been hearing the same thing since yesterday: everybody is criticizing the same words, the same expressions, which pose a problem in the legislation.

However, there is a difference. The bill provides for a $5,000 fine in the case of cruelty to animals, if one is convicted of course. One of you said that the fine should be up to $10,000. It is the only argument that is different in all I have been hearing for a long time and God knows that I read everything on the subject. In fact, you met with representatives from the other provinces—I think there are nine provinces out of ten in Canada which have laws protecting animals—and they all say the same things.

Well, do you have something to suggest, gentlemen, which we might agree on? I think that it will become a constitutional problem with some provinces. We might also find ourselves with a problem, here in this committee, because, even among us, I see people starting to take very draconian positions. Do you have something to suggest? There you are.


The Chair: Any response, anyone?

Mr. Wilkinson.

Mr. Jack Wilkinson: I do feel compelled to respond to the challenge that farmers abuse animals.

With regard to the two examples you quoted, of farmers who put 12 chickens in a cage that was designed to hold four, I would be very surprised if any farmer in Canada does that. I would certainly like to have their name, off the record. We'll deal with them. We'll report them to the Humane Society. But I just don't think that happens, quite frankly, and I'm disappointed that you used that.

A farmer who derives their livelihood from the production of animals and/or grain, or whatever it may be, is in a situation where, even if they're not morally in the frame of mind to go out of their way to protect the animal, the simple fact is that if you do not treat your animals with a great deal of respect as a producer, you're not going to survive long as a farmer. So as to putting 12 hens in a cage....

• 1635

We go through a lot of work with veterinarians and university people designing filtration systems, aeration systems, watering systems and everything, so we maximize the comfort of the animals and they maximize their grain and feed conversions. It's just a simple mathematical equation. So I am a bit concerned about that.

The issue here in front of the committee is to find the appropriate balance. Everyone has made it very clear that they want effective, meaningful legislation to deal with cruelty, where it exists, with the appropriate fines and challenges, to set a standard and update the legislation.

What's up for debate are a few areas of concern, particularly from my organization, where we think, with some modest language changes, it will give us a sense of security that this new legislation will not set us up as a target in a world where, increasingly, activists and well-funded organizations are challenging the definition of animal and what the rights of animals should be. We've seen it in Europe and in some other countries.

We think it's inappropriate to deal with it in the court system and put farmers constantly in court to prove that definition, when you have the opportunity to put clarity in here now, on behalf of our producers.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Wilkinson.

Mr. Hazlewood.

Mr. Gary Hazlewood: I have a point of clarification as well.

Speaking on behalf of mink ranchers across the country, I don't think it would be possible to put a dozen mink in one cage. They are not social animals and they really don't get along to that extent. It wouldn't be in anybody's best interest for that to happen. Because it was on the record, I wanted to clarify that.

We have a code of practice that has no particular legal standing. It was developed in cooperation with the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies. It is the third one that was developed in this country. So we take animal welfare very seriously.

Trying to come to the ultimate Canadian compromise may be difficult. We have an agreement or compromise on the sentencing provision. I think there is general agreement, without putting an exact dollar amount on it, that there is a definite need to increase the penalties.

We are pretty nervous about the changes that are primarily legal and technical in nature, from a producer's point of view. As you probably realize, the greatest number of livestock producers are not in a position to do cost-plus. In other words, we are not in a position to be able to take our cost of production and add on a profit margin, because we sell in an international market, and in fact we're price takers.

So if you're going to set up a situation that potentially has the effect of costing our producers money to stay in business legitimately, it's not fair.

The Chair: Mr. Daniell, please.

Mr. Craig Daniell (Director of Investigations, Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals; Canadian Federation of Humane Societies): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I thank Mr. Wilkinson for his comments. I certainly would agree with him that, speaking for Ontario, the overwhelming majority of farmers absolutely care very well for their animals. We work very cooperatively with the Ontario Farm Animal Council, for instance.

I think the point should be made that occasionally a farmer runs afoul of the Criminal Code, and that individual is prosecuted, for instance. There certainly have been cases in Ontario where we've worked with the producer organization, and the producer organization itself has been seeking to prosecute the particular individual. We've done so very clearly and carefully. Those are important concepts.

The other point I'd like to state is certainly there's a need to update the Criminal Code. The public is frustrated by the fact that when we deal with issues like dog-fighting, which is unfortunately an increasing phenomenon in Canada, the Criminal Code currently makes it very difficult for the crown to prosecute. It's important to include provisions like training an animal to fight another animal, which is proposed in Bill C-15B.

The other issue I'd like to very briefly comment on is the question of abandonment. The Criminal Code currently talks about abandonment in distress. That makes it again very difficult for the crown to prove abandonment. Again, unfortunately, there are thousands of animals that are simply abandoned and left to humane societies right across the country to have to remove, and then there's no one to prosecute or it's very difficult to prosecute. So certainly there's a need for this amendment.

• 1640

The Chair: Thank you very much.

We have another time. I want to make sure everybody gets in.

Mr. MacKay, please.

Mr. Peter MacKay (Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, PC/DR): Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to all the witnesses for being here and giving us your insights.

I think there's an important message that came out just moments ago from Mr. Wilkinson and Mr. Hazlewood as well, and it is that farmers and furriers, and those who gain their livelihood from dealing with animals, have an obvious vested interest in treating their animals humanely. In many instances I think they go to great lengths. Of course, we can all find examples and point to examples where that hasn't happened.

Just by way of background, I'll mention that I worked as a crown prosecutor. I've prosecuted these offences. Mr. Gardiner, I haven't heard a response yet as to whether those individuals who were responsible for those photographs, or responsible for what's depicted in those photographs, were in fact prosecuted. I suspect that they were or you wouldn't have them here in evidence, which again reiterates the point that my friend Mr. Toews has made. This is that the current code sections, if effectively exercised, can accomplish virtually everything we're all here to try to do.

Mr. Daniell has pointed out a couple of instances where wording could improve the ability to prosecute. Training the prosecutors, the police, and judges I think goes a long way to accomplish that. Mr. Seidle referred to the fact that much of this is tinkering and housekeeping, and I agree with that. It's more about the vigorous use of the current laws and perhaps engaging the provinces and some regulatory bodies to be more diligent under the existing rules and regulations.

I have yet to hear any witness, yourselves or the witnesses we've heard on other days, cite any other jurisdiction, state or federal, where the sections referring to animals were put into anything other than a property section in a criminal code. There's no other example of that. The fact is animals, in my mind, are more protected under the property section to a large degree. It's a more rigorous and vigorous pursuit under the existing sections of the code. Bumping up the sentences, upping the ante for those who abuse, or neglect, or wilfully inflict harm upon animals, that's where the impact would be most readily felt.

Casting a blanket over everyone—and I won't get into a rant about the gun registry—very much brings people who are currently abiding by the law, currently those exhibiting the most safe and proper practices, into jeopardy. It brings them into jeopardy. Many of the witnesses have already admitted that by doing this.... And, Mr. Gardiner, with your legal training you've referred a number of times to the fact that this lawful excuse, colour of right justification that is there is redundant. But the fact remains it's there. It's there, you say, in 20 sections, and that sounds right to me, and it's there in subsection 8(3). It's there in precedent.

By taking that away from these particular sections, the comfort and the protection, real or perceived, that the animal industry and stakeholders draw from those wordings is gone. By taking it out of the property section it removes that. Precedents change, as you know. They're changing today in courtrooms around the country. So why would we want to do that?

Perhaps you can just cite any examples you have with respect to these atrocities that weren't prosecuted, and if not, why not.

The Chair: Mr. Gardiner.

Mr. Bob Gardiner: Thank you.

First of all, the pictures—and I know we're not going to have time to go through them all—are all cases where the people were taken to court and they were convicted, but they didn't have fines of more than $250. If you look through this, if you have a chance afterwards, you'll see some of the cases of emaciated cattle that died and many other things like that, dogs and cats, puppy mills. There are just a few representative pictures here. We only brought this to show that our whole concern in coming here is that we need to make the criminal offences to be stronger things. We need to get the attention of crown attorneys and judges so that they treat this as strongly as the public does. There are cases where crowns could not lay the charges because the dockets were too busy, or other issues like that where our member societies knew they had very good proof.

• 1645

As an overall point of view, we're trying to make the Criminal Code issues much more seriously treated by the whole justice system. We'd like to have the provisions contained in part V.1, because as a separate section it's going to focus on the idea of cruelty and that's what we want to make sure people realize is the issue. That's not going to have any other negative impact on researchers, farmers, trappers, hunters. Trappers, hunters, and farmers all get a permit from the government to do all of that. It's a legitimate activity.

It's well known, if you read the Ménard case, which is the leading precedent in this area, that the only way a person could be convicted of the cruelty offence is if they caused unnecessary damage or injury. But it's a hard level to achieve that in the first place for a crown, and in the second place, people have a good range of excuses they can use even if they did cause unnecessary harm.

Farmers don't cause unnecessary harm as there are 400 million animals killed annually in Canada. I eat steak every Saturday night. I wear a leather belt and leather shoes. We all use animals in many ways, and the legitimate uses of animals are very wide and varied and they're well recognized in the criminal justice system.

The Chair: Last question, Peter.

Mr. Peter MacKay: Mr. Gardiner, give me one example where a case couldn't be prosecuted under the current section where an animal is deemed property, where it could be if it was moved out of this section and into a new section. Can you point to an example where that would happen?

Mr. Bob Gardiner: No. That wouldn't be our point. We're not trying to say that we're trying to get new, substantive changes like the one you're mentioning. We're trying to say that we're keeping the Criminal Code system the same. We're trying—

Mr. Peter MacKay: So it's to draw the attention of crown prosecutors, judges and lawyers, and the public generally to the fact that we need to be harder on those who cause the harm.

The Chair: That's really your last question.

Mr. Bob Gardiner: We need to treat this whole issue more seriously in the public because education and deterrence is the biggest weapon humane societies have. We get, for instance, 16,000 accusations of criminal conduct a year in Ontario. That means our officers have to go out and talk to that many people and deal with it. We would like to see that it was treated more seriously.

The Chair: That's your last question. Thank you, Mr. Gardiner.

Mr. Wappel, seven minutes.

Mr. Tom Wappel: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Would you warn me at five minutes, please.

The Chair: Most certainly.

Mr. Tom Wappel: Thank you.

First of all, I'd like to thank the witnesses for their evidence. I want to say to Zoocheck Canada Inc. that I've never heard of you before, but I think you're performing a valuable service, and I'm really surprised to hear there's no legislation dealing with zoos. I think that is a wrong thing and I encourage you in your efforts to get provincial laws and regulations in place.

Having said that, I don't think it's a good idea, Mr. Gardiner, to tinker with the Criminal Code in order to sensitize crown attorneys. I don't think that's a good argument to put forward to change the Criminal Code. Having said that, there seem to be only two areas of dispute between everybody around this table. One is definition and the second is the apparent or perceived challenge to the notion of property. Nobody is talking about taking out the section about fighting dogs. Nobody is talking about making the penalties less. Those are the two areas of dispute, it seems to me.

• 1650

You brought up a very interesting point, Mr. Gardiner, and that is that there is no definition of animal in the current Criminal Code. That means that currently anybody, theoretically, could arguably be prosecuted for taking five legs off a spider and letting it go. That being the case, why do we need to change it?

Mr. Bob Gardiner: We would like to show that the reason these criminal provisions should exist is to show that people shouldn't act cruelly to animals.

Mr. Tom Wappel: How is changing the definition going to show that?

Mr. Bob Gardiner: It actually shows that the reason for these cruelty provisions is so that animals won't feel pain. That's the actual definition of an animal, the appropriate one. All the other reasons one might argue—that they're intelligent or feel emotions, or any of those other things somebody might want to say—are not the reason. The reason is that society doesn't want people to go around beating up animals or other people, because they feel pain. It's a moral duty not to do that.

Mr. Tom Wappel: All right, but we don't make that point about human beings. It's a given that they feel pain, and we protect them. It's a given that animals feel pain, and we protect them in the Criminal Code for that reason. So why do we need to tinker with the definition, which is already completely expansive?

Actually we don't. Given that, if we do tinker with the definition, what animals would we be leaving out if we simply said “animal” means a vertebrate other than a human being?

Mr. Bob Gardiner: The vertebrates are the ones that are well defined, but there are other animals that might feel pain.

Mr. Tom Wappel: Give me some example.

Mr. Bob Gardiner: It could be a lobster. They're not a vertebrate.

Mr. Craig Daniell: Mr. Wappel, I'm certainly no scientist, and I make no apologies for that. I believe the University of British Columbia has done a bit of research on that. Please don't quote me about this, but I believe invertebrates such as jellyfish have the capacity to feel pain. I think part of the definition is to make it possible through scientific research to establish what invertebrates have the capacity to feel pain. It's a scientific question and something that will be decided in the courtroom at the end of the day.

Mr. Tom Wappel: Currently jellyfish could be covered if a crown attorney wanted to prove through scientific evidence that jellyfish can feel pain and wanted to prosecute someone who was torturing a jellyfish. Under the current criminal definition of animal, which is no definition, that's covered.

Mr. Craig Daniell: Yes. I think the other point I would make is that the Criminal Code currently distinguishes or makes a distinction between cattle and other animals, and we've grown to a point in our—

Mr. Tom Wappel: But that's taken out in this. I'm not suggesting we scratch this bill by any means. There's no longer a definition of cattle. We simply use the word “animal”, with no definition. Then we've already got an expansive Criminal Code, which includes all animals.

Mr. Craig Daniell: What I think you're saying, if I understand you correctly, is that it be limited, then, simply to vertebrates.

Mr. Tom Wappel: I'm only asking the question at this point.

Mr. Craig Daniell: It was answered.

Mr. Tom Wappel: If it were limited to vertebrates, that's one argument. If there were no definition, it would include all animals—jellyfish as well.

My next question is, assuming we leave in the definition, if we were to add at the end of it—and this deals with the property issue—“Animals...whether owned or unowned”.

The Chair: That would be five minutes, Mr. Wappel.

Mr. Tom Wappel: Thank you.

Would anybody have a problem with adding that phrase “whether owned or unowned”, which would then reiterate that animals are property and can be owned? We're talking about trying to find a compromise here to save the bill but deal with the problems people have with definition and property. So if you put into the definition—whatever definition you want of “animal”—the words “whether owned or unowned”, do any of the witnesses have a problem with it?

The Chair: While you're thinking about that I'll go to Mr. McHattie to answer the first question. That will give time to think about their answer to your second one.

Mr. McHattie.

Mr. Brian McHattie: I guess I wanted to pick up the property issue. Actually I was going to jump in on that topic, not necessarily to answer your question, because I'd like to think about it. It's an interesting idea.

The animals we deal with are wildlife for the most part. Our members have dogs and cats and that sort of thing and care about those animals, as we do as well. But a lot of the issues we deal with involve wildlife—raccoons, whatever might be out there in the forests and the wetlands—and I think the issue of property is a little different with them.

I guess we understand that the crown holds in trust all animals for us, so the crown perhaps could be perceived as owning wildlife. It's perhaps a more nebulous concept than being an owner of a dog or a domestic animal.

• 1655

We feel the property issue needs to take that into account as well. That's why we're supportive of the animals being taken out of the property area and put on their own—deer, killer whales, that sort of thing.

Mr. Tom Wappel: Given that, if we reiterated that they were property somehow in this new part V.1, would anyone have a problem with it?

Mr. Brian McHattie: Well, it's something we would have to think about before we respond to it, but—

Mr. Tom Wappel: Because these people who are opposed are accusing you of trying to make animals not property. So if we can demonstrate that they are property, there goes the argument.

The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Wappel.

Mr. Tom Wappel: Thank you.

The Chair: I'll also advise you of seven minutes.

Now, who wants to take a crack at this?

Mr. Gardiner.

Mr. Bob Gardiner: I appreciate the generous approach to the definition of animals the way it is at the moment. But you must understand that what has brought the SPCAs forward is that we want to be able to protect animals who feel pain the best way we can. The one that is now in Bill C-15 is a good, precise definition.

There's a dichotomy between what we can do with our cars and what we should do with animals. The problem we keep encountering as we go through prosecutions is that often in court animals are treated as if they were a chair, a table, or a car—inanimate property. In fact, in a number of prosecutions we get situations where the accused is simply let off because they're not considered to be a proper moral object.

We want to make the point that animals are a proper moral object of the Criminal Code because they suffer pain. So we like that definition. And we like the idea of being in a separate property section that actually points at an animal as being something different from the car we have.

We all have property in our cars. We have property in our animals. But there's something different about animals, and that is that they can feel pain. It's such a crucial concept. That's what's brought us these 20 years to get here. It's been our lead concept.

The Chair: Mr. Wilkinson, I think you wanted to respond.

Mr. Jack Wilkinson: Not being a lawyer I wouldn't understand all the details in this, and sometimes that's a good thing. It seems to me that we move from the situation where we're not going, I think one of your earlier statements said, to deal with the moral question of this matter to where we now have a moral imperative that has worked its way back into the discussion. I think everybody has said we need a definition of property that makes it clear that animals should not be treated like a car. I think everybody agrees with that.

The question here is, does that justify the movement and what is being proposed here? We the farm industry are saying no. We accept the notion of special property, but not as proposed here. If all we're trying to do is differentiate an animal from a car, I think we can find a compromise position that everyone agrees on.

The Chair: Thank you.

If others who have been thinking about it want a crack at this later, I'm sure there will be an opportunity to fit it in.

Mr. Hilstrom, for three minutes.

Mr. Howard Hilstrom (Selkirk—Interlake, Canadian Alliance): Three minutes?

The Chair: Three minutes.

Mr. Howard Hilstrom: Boy, that's pretty fast.

The Chair: It's two minutes and fifty-eight seconds now.

Mr. Howard Hilstrom: I might as well just deal with Mr. Gardiner, then, because the humane societies are our biggest problems there.

These changes to the Criminal Code are going to make a better opportunity for harassment of anything to do with farming. Speaking to this point, do you deny that the humane societies have targeted hunters and agriculture with a view to changing their practices and now want the laying of charges to make it easier for the crown to get over those hurdles? Do you deny that?

Mr. Bob Gardiner: I deny that. As a matter of fact, I would say that, quite to the contrary, what we've done in many of the humane societies and the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies is work with many farming organizations.

I'm not aware of any criminal prosecutions against farmers that would be outside of the bounds of the cruelty laws.

Mr. Howard Hilstrom: It's not only prosecution. It's harassment. Do you deny that Vicki Burns in Winnipeg has a campaign on the go to have foods labelled in the stores as produced according to Humane Society standards, arguing they're the ones people should buy, while others shouldn't be bought because—the inference is—they're from animals raised inhumanely? Do you deny that?

• 1700

Mr. Bob Gardiner: I'm not aware of that, but let me say that many times humane societies do things that perhaps other organizations might not like, because we have feelings about things.

Let me make the point like this. I'm not aware of a single case where there has been a prosecution under the Criminal Code that was of that nature. We've been following this hard for 20 years, that Criminal Code prosecutions have to be done under the criminal law reasons only. We're very serious about that.

Mr. Howard Hilstrom: Well, this is exactly what's happening there, and as I said, harassment of the industry is as bad as any prosecution.

Were you in favour getting rid of the spring bear hunt in Ontario?

Mr. Bob Gardiner: I was, but that was an issue that had nothing to do with the Criminal Code. There are very good reasons on both sides whether to have the spring bear hunt or not, and different people are polarized on that. But that issue had nothing to do with the Criminal Code.

There are many issues where animals are used, because with all the animals that are used in Canada, there are so many issues that affect them. But let's talk about nuisance lawsuits and things like that, because I think that's what you're getting at. For instance, will animal rights organizations be able to come forward and take that kind of animal rights approach against whatever industry you want to pick?

Mr. Howard Hilstrom: What I'm getting at is that you guys have a hidden agenda, as well as everyone else who is sitting up there talking about animal rights, and it's that hidden agenda that scares people like me and many people who are in the livestock and fur industries. You've scared the heck out of us, because we know from past experience in dealing with you that your agendas are designed to end up with a bill of rights for animals that will ultimately stop any use of animals for food, medicines, and that kind of thing. Do you deny that?

The Chair: That's three minutes, so with the response—

Mr. Bob Gardiner: I really have to respond to that.

First of all, there is no hidden agenda. We've been very outspoken about this topic for many years. For instance, animal welfare organizations are not animal rights organizations. There's quite a difference. I'd like to be able to make that distinction, if I could.

I've signed protocols. I've killed 180,000 animals in my life by documents that I've signed after reading the protocols to kill them. I trap animals; I trap rats and mice. I have been involved in experiments where the army needed to find a solution for burn victims in the army, so we've gone through protocols where we've burned the skin of pigs with a blowtorch. I signed off on that because I knew that the way it was done, under animal care provisions of the Canadian Council on Animal Care and others, it was being done the very best way they could.

We have to kill probably 100,000 animals a year for people who don't want to deal with animals. So there's quite a distinction between animal rights and animal welfare.

We also have a number of well-published programs—we love speaking about them—whether it be whales, seals, or all the other things. But that's when we go forward and try to get governments and industries to work with us. We did the mink code with the mink breeders, and a lot of other agricultural codes.

The last thing I'd say is that when we see cruelty in a particular industry, often the people in the industry themselves are the ones who bless our actions to do our jobs.

The Chair: Mr. Seidle wants to make a brief point.

Mr. Troy Seidle: Thank you.

We have been accused today—and I understand it happened yesterday as well—of having a hidden agenda and wanting to use lawsuits, use the Criminal Code, as a means of harassment. I would like to ask anyone who makes that allegation to provide one tangible example of the Criminal Code being used frivolously in the past.

The Chair: We'll be back, Mr. Hilstrom.

Witnesses, in the context of going back and forth here, it becomes difficult to let everybody have a crack at this, if I lose control of the agenda. So I'm going to Mr. DeVillers, because his name is on the list. He has three minutes.

Mr. Paul DeVillers (Simcoe North, Lib.): Thank you, Mr. Chair. You'll never lose control with me.

One of the witnesses who appeared yesterday was counsel for one of the witness organizations, and his concern was that in the definition being provided for “animal”, the reference to feeling pain was the opening of a door that would lead to animals acquiring rights.

When I look at the code and at the existing provisions, where we talk of cruelty to animals, inflicting pain or having animals suffer, and so on, the wordings throughout the code, it certainly appears to me to be implicit that the existing charges are based on the fact that animals feel pain, because you cannot be charged under the Criminal Code with cruelty to your chair or any other chattel. So there's obviously an implicit obligation that an animal can feel pain; otherwise you can't be cruel towards it.

• 1705

This witness's opinion was that this was opening the door and making some quantum leap, which to me, frankly, doesn't appear to be that significant, given the implicit requirement that an animal feel pain in order for there to be a prosecution now.

I wonder if we could get the reaction of the current witnesses to that concern.

The Chair: Who would like to go first?

No one. You were right, Mr. DeVillers, I'll never lose control with you. I think what's happening is that your profound question has left them speechless.

Mr. Wilkinson.

Mr. Jack Wilkinson: I'm never speechless. I was giving other people a chance.

Our point is, why are we having the debate? I would go back to your point of reflecting probably more where we are as an organization. What is the reason for the change in the definition? If it was all-inclusive beforehand, if by definition, in your mind, there's an implicit being to that without defining it, why would we change the definition of animal in the new legislation, other than the concern we have that it does in some way start us down the road of implying? So why don't we just leave it the way it is?

If the other one was the broadest definition possible, and by definition you had to show pain before you could be convicted anyway, then we have to ask the question, what is the reason for changing the definition?

Mr. Paul DeVillers: Here Mr. Wilkinson is exhibiting that fine trait of politicians: avoiding answering the question.

I'm turning the question around. If there's the implicit requirement now that there be pain, how can it be, as you say, opening the door and raising this concern?

Mr. Jack Wilkinson: Part of our concern, which I think you probably heard from many rural members and many farm organizations, is if in fact, by law, there are very few changes from where we were before to here, then we think—and the legal advice we get is telling us—in fact, by the movement, by the attention given, or by whatever, we're going to put more attention on animal rights groups that are going to try to go after legitimate farm practices under the code. So on just about every bar we look at, if there's no reason for doing this, then why would you do it?

I'm sorry I'm not answering the question, but it still comes back to that point. If no one can show real reason other than to raise the bar, other than to draw attention, which we're saying is our problem, then we're saying leave it alone. Increase the fines, deal with those things for good, honest conviction and whatever, and clean it up, and you have absolutely, in our view, consent from the vast majority of the people who have made representation to you.

The Chair: Thank you very much.

We're going to have one other response, from Mr. Gardiner, and then we're going to Madame Bourgeois.

Mr. Bob Gardiner: I agree that the concept of an animal that feels pain is a much narrower concept than the broad concept of an animal, and it's the right concept for the Criminal Code because that's what the cruelty provision is all about. It's focusing on the pain. That was the reason for doing that.

It could be other animals, but frankly, we thought we were helping narrow down the number of animals by showing people that we were trying to deal responsibly with animals that felt pain. That was the whole purpose of doing that.

Our problem is that on the very small number of serious prosecutions that we do lay in court, we're not getting a good return. We're only getting a 30% or 46% conviction rate.

What this is all about is trying to get the attention of judges and crown attorneys, that you guys care, as so many of the public do, that treating cruelty to animals seriously is important. It would help focus it. That's why we want the separate part.

We're very sympathetic to the feeling about lawful excuse, because we also need lawful excuse, and we certainly recognize that, because we kill a lot of animals, we need to have that kind of protection. We're well satisfied that we're protected under the idea of unnecessary pain, as are farmers and all the other groups we've talked about.

• 1710

The lawful excuse can be solved one way or another. It's inherently there anyway. The fear that's been raised has not been realistic. The criminal lawyers will tell you that.

The Chair: Thank you very much.


Ms. Bourgeois.

Ms. Diane Bourgeois: I have two questions and one is for Mr. Wilkinson.

Mr. Wilkinson, did you not tell me earlier that the majority of farmers very often work with the SPCA or animal welfare organizations, that they obey certain codes and that they are obliged to? Is that what you told me earlier?


Mr. Jack Wilkinson: I said that all of the livestock and poultry industry in Canada have put together codes of practices. In many places, these are deemed as voluntary, but there's a very aggressive peer pressure to meet these codes, from transportation codes to housing, to density of livestock in poultry. So it is not in all places in the country a legal requirement; in many places, it's voluntary. But we do have codes for all types of animals, livestock and poultry, as well as for mink and other areas, that have been developed by the industry in consultation with various experts.

The Chair: Mr. Hazlewood, we'd like you to answer this also.

Mr. Gary Hazlewood: Yes. I would like to also point out that the use of the codes varies across the country. In the case of the recommended code of practice for the care and handling of mink, in certain provinces there is a provincial body that inspects and licenses fur farms. I'm from Ontario. At one time we had that. We no longer have it as a result of cost cutting. The codes were developed in conjunction with the Humane Society of Canada. While they do not have a legal standing, they have pretty much universal support within the sectors.


Ms. Diane Bourgeois: If as you say there is already some pressure toward better housing, controlling the density of livestock in each building, etc., I daresay it is because there are some problems. If there was no problem, I don't see why there would be such an angry outcry from you against that bill. I would like some explanation.


The Chair: Thank you, Madam Bourgeois.

Mr. Jack Wilkinson: First of all, there are many things the farm community does to reassure the population, an increasingly uneducated population on proper farm practices, that we are meeting all of the standards. Our putting standards in, our taking all sorts of courses, our requiring certain activities of farmers—these are not an admission of guilt. It is to hold ourselves in front of the public eye to show that we are quite open for inspection because this is the way we have put plans in place and this is how we treat animals.

First of all, I do not accept your notion that the fact that we have a code is some sort of admission of previous bad behaviour by a large percentage of farmers. I don't accept that notion.

As for your other point in relationship to an uproar from the farm community towards this bill, I don't quite agree with that either. I think we have a very measured response to this bill. We have three recommendations that we think are not going to in any way impact on the intent of the legislation, which is to modernize it, to raise the fines, and to show society's concern for cruelty to animals. We think they can all be done to meet those standards that we think are the intent without leaving the impression that the farm livestock sector is increasingly at risk with these new amendments.

So I think to call it an uproar would not be an appropriate description of the way we've responded to this legislation.

The Chair: Thank you very much.

I want to go to Mr. Grose. I know there are some things you want to get in, but remember that we have three members left who haven't had a chance yet.

Mr. Grose.

Mr. Ivan Grose (Oshawa, Lib.): I seldom use the whole three minutes. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Hazlewood, would you more fully describe to me just exactly what your industry does? I suspect you do more than breed mink, as your name implies. I'd like you to tell me just exactly where you feel this bill will affect you. You might be careful with your answer; I've been known to grimace.

• 1715

Mr. Gary Hazlewood: I think I'm going to take a long time to live that particular term down.

Canadian mink producers—I'm not quite sure where to start on what we do.

Mr. Ivan Grose: The short version.

Mr. Gary Hazlewood: Yes, the short version.

By and large, we have a relatively small breeding herd of males and females, the ratio being four to five females per male. The mink will only breed once a year. There are light considerations; there are a number of considerations. The animals are born in April, beginning of May. They're mature by the end of November. There's a selection process for establishing which animals to maintain as breeders for the next year, and those that aren't become the harvested animals. The pelts are used, as you would appreciate, for garments, or trim, or a variety of things. Is this what I'm supposed to be doing?

Mr. Ivan Grose: That's fine, but you used the word “harvest”. I assume the animals are killed.

Mr. Gary Hazlewood: They absolutely are.

Mr. Ivan Grose: Where do you expect this bill will cause you a problem?

Mr. Gary Hazlewood: The concern is whether or not the normal husbandry practices we have.... When you catch an animal, there will be those who will say that's stressful. I suppose there will always be comments on what particular pen size is appropriate, whether something is stressful or not stressful. The concern is that we not face having these common things we do—the way we feed our animals, the way we water our animals, the way we provide housing for them—at some point in time, under this legislation, come into question.

Mr. Ivan Grose: I would assume that pelts would not be first class if you were not handling the animals humanely.

Mr. Gary Hazlewood: We're not really concerned about legitimate prosecution. We're more concerned about those people who may take issue with the moral right to use animals for this particular purpose.

Mr. Ivan Grose: Fine. You've answered my question. Thank you very much.

The Chair: Craig Daniell wants to answer this.

Mr. Craig Daniell: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Very briefly on this issue, my society works on a complaint basis. We get complaints from the public and that's how we respond to it. If, for instance, we get a complaint about the mink industry and a mink producer, our first task is to determine what is the code of practice for the mink industry. That's the first criterion that any inspector or agent in Ontario would use when dealing with a complaint of the mink industry: does this particular producer abide by the recommended code of practice for the mink industry? If he does, that's the end of the matter. The matter dies. If he doesn't, then it maybe requires further investigation. I wanted to make that point for clarification.

The Chair: Thank you very much.

I'm going to go to Mr. Fitzpatrick for three minutes.

Mr. Brian Fitzpatrick (Prince Albert, Canadian Alliance): I had a few comments or observations. I was a lawyer in my past life and I was involved in civil litigation, and at one time I did do criminal practice as well. I think there are some problems in the definition section. There are omissions of certain words in certain clauses and they're included in others. Mr. Gardiner says the Supreme Court of Canada says notwithstanding that these are not going to be treated as strict liability. Then we're into a civil area, negligent conduct. But there's one clause in there, the defence of standard of care, that's omitted. To me there's a lot of draughtsmanship problems here.

Another problem I see with this whole capacity for pain area is how do you handle that in court? If you're a prosecutor or you're the plaintiff, you bring in expert witnesses. I think any lawyer knows that whoever pays the witness will get the kinds of opinions they want from that witness. How do you counter that? You bring in your own expert witnesses. That's very expensive. Fishermen, farmers, and people like that cannot afford this sort of thing. That would be a huge burden on them. It's not uncommon to spend $15,000, $20,000, on expert opinions to get into this thing. Somebody's dealing with jellyfish in the scientific community. I don't think worms on a hook are that far removed from the point.

• 1720

Mr. Gardiner said there was a 46% conviction rate, but Troy said show me where there may be harassment. It seems to me there are all these cases going before judges. I have a high regard for most of the judges. They listen to the evidence and hear the case, and so on. They're only convicting 46% of the time. They're throwing out 54% of those cases. That to me might be indicative of some harassment going on.

I haven't heard anybody say there are real deficiencies in the existing law and they just want to take it out of the property section, and so on. There are a lot of things in this bill that cause me a lot of problems.

I don't want to see farmers having to hire university professors and spending $15,000 or $20,000 to defend some harassment case. The private prosecution area is another area. To take it out of the regular prosecution thing invites a whole lot of harassment.

I'm also wondering about the law enforcement people.

So there's a lot of stuff in here that I'm more than a little suspicious about. I'm very apprehensive about it.

The Chair: Mr. Gardiner.

Mr. Bob Gardiner: I think one of the first comments was a concern about proposed paragraph 182.3(1)(b), and the fact that the word “negligence” didn't appear. But the word “fails” is in there, and that's a negligence concept.

As we know, we can't have a criminal offence unless there is the definition of criminal negligence. The wording that was built into proposed subsection 182.3(2) says:

    For the purposes of paragraphs (1)(a) and (c), “negligently” means departing markedly from the standard of care that a reasonable person would use.

In the brief, we've listed about 12 Supreme Court of Canada cases dealing with criminal negligence. It inherently has to be there or you can't have a criminal offence.

The Chair: Thank you.

Mr. Paradis.


Mr. Denis Paradis (Brome—Missisquoi, Lib.): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

In brief, the concerns on both sides are as follows. On the one hand, we move the section to another part. By removing the provisions from the part dealing with property and by talking about pain we might raise the status of the animal. Is that not a bit normal? I think that an animal is different from a two by four or from the hammer I use to drive a nail in the two by four. It might be a reason to treat it differently.

On the other hand, for sure the animal, particularly the farm animal, will remain property in all the other acts. I don't think that we are going to change the Bank Act to say that we are not allowed anymore to have liens on animals. We are not going to change Quebec's Civil Code by saying that the animal is no longer property. Banks will continue to take horses, pigs, chicken and other farm animals as collateral.

In my riding of Brome—Missisquoi, there are farmers as well as a lot of hunters. It is a paradise for deer. I understand that there might be some nervousness because when there are changes one always fears the unknown.

My question is for Mr. Wilkinson. Tell me in concrete terms using examples where the danger is for our farmers in the new text. What does the new text jeopardize for the farmer of Brome—Missisquoi producing chicken, pork, etc.? Can you give me a concrete example of what it might jeopardize for the farmer and also for the hunter if you want to comment that aspect?

• 1725


Mr. Jack Wilkinson: It's difficult to give a concrete example of what might happen, other than to say, similar to the mink industry, we are concerned that these changes increase the possibility of risk of normal farm practices being interpreted by the judge under harassment.

As farmers, we have no problem with change. The question, though, we often ask as very practical people is, what is the purpose of change? If the purpose of change is to increase the fines, is to treat more seriously this legislation, is to clean up any areas that are standing in the way of legal and rightful convictions and charges and fines, then we're quite interested in seeing that change occur. But if the intent is not to go after normal, proper farm practices, then in those areas you can say we're concerned about, we would like the legislation to deal with our concerns. We are quite happy to put forward any positive suggestions in those other areas.

I'll give you an example of how people can interpret. For example, the member talked about housing. I live in northern Ontario, just across from Témiscamingue in Quebec. In raising our beef cattle up there, because of the climate, which is very similar to the west, we run our cows in the bush all winter long. We feed them, we bed them, and actually, with the temperature, every veterinarian will tell you that they're probably healthier there because of the dry air than in the humidity in the barn under those same cold temperatures. That's considered by everybody to be an appropriate, proper housing for those beef cattle if they're fed and watered properly. Yet there may be somebody who drives down the road who's incredibly concerned about my neglect in providing appropriate care to my animals. I don't want to be dragged in front of the court system and have a judge be just as concerned as they are because my risk has increased. If everyone says there's no problem—


Mr. Denis Paradis: Allow me to interrupt. We are talking about general standards. What you are doing is generally accepted in your region. In that case you are complying with general standards in animal breeding. Mr. Gardiner just read for us the definition of “general standards”. Therefore there is no problem where you come from in that regard.


The Chair: Thank you very much.

Mr. Jack Wilkinson: There may be if a judge determined he disagreed with the general standard in my area.

The Chair: Thank you very much.


Ms. Bourgeois.

Ms. Diane Bourgeois: No, it's okay.


The Chair: Mr. Hilstrom has a question.

Mr. Howard Hilstrom: On this harassment thing, does everybody remember that at one time the province of Quebec had a pregnant mare urine industry and that industry was driven right out of the province of Quebec? You can answer that?

The second point is, the same groups tried to do that to us in Manitoba. We've held them to a standstill now. It's my concern that these changes here are going to enhance the ability of people to harass the industry like that.

Do you know about the Quebec industry?

Mr. Troy Seidle: I am generally familiar with the PMU industry. My response would be there's a difference between frivolous harassing charges under the Criminal Code versus other approaches. I won't speak to support or condemn other types of campaigning that groups might engage in. Zoocheck doesn't touch that issue, so I'm going to leave that one alone.

My point, which we've been talking about for two hours now, is that I've yet to hear of a single, concrete case where the Criminal Code has been abused by anyone, either an individual or an animal rights organization, anyone in 100 years, to go after an industry illegitimately where they filed a charge and the crown has said get lost.

Mr. Howard Hilstrom: So let's leave it alone then.

The Chair: I think Mr. Gardiner wants to respond too.

Mr. Bob Gardiner: I have one comment. I believe the PMU industry is functioning. It has different standards, perhaps, than it did in the past. I don't know the particulars of that case, I don't believe it was a criminal prosecution. I really think it's very important that people realize we're talking only about criminal prosecutions, and also be aware of the layers of protection that one has under the Criminal Code. There are so many layers of protection. An animal rights person, for instance, is not going to be able to walk in the door to a justice of the peace and lay a charge without a blessing from the crown. The crown attorney, as a gatekeeper, has a duty.

• 1730

In our brief we have the obligations of a crown, and they can prosecute only upon determining it's appropriate to do so and required in the public interest. There must be a strong, solid case of substance to present to the court, based on material evidence and the likelihood that a defence would not be viable. Allegations must be serious in nature, rather than trivial or technical, and the conviction must be likely to resolve in a significant sentence.

On top of that there's a whole pile of investigatory controls on prosecutions. It's the SPCAs who do that. They're trained by the RCMP and other groups. Then in court, there's a whole pile of evidentiary issues. Then you have to prove that it was unnecessary suffering, and that's the hard one for a crown to win.

The Chair: I see Mr. Wappel wants one of his notoriously short questions.

Mr. Tom Wappel: Mr. Seidle, yesterday Mr. Herscovici gave what I thought was a rather bizarre example. It was not in Canada, but have you heard of it—the case in Britain where someone was prosecuted for allegedly abusing goldfish?

Mr. Troy Seidle: No.

Mr. Tom Wappel: Were you here yesterday?

Mr. Troy Seidle: No, I wasn't.

Mr. Tom Wappel: He actually said that. Does anybody know if that actually occurred? I presume that's what people are afraid of, that ridiculous things like that would be prosecuted under the Canadian Criminal Code.

Mr. Craig Daniell: How could that happen in a justice system? If the crown attorney were here, how could that happen? It couldn't happen.

Mr. Tom Wappel: I can't think of a Canadian case, but there was a British case involving a goldfish. You answered the question; you've never heard of it.

The Chair: We'll bring that question to Mr. MacKay the next time he's here. He's our resident crown attorney.

I thank all the witnesses and colleagues for assisting us in this important legislation.

The meeting is adjourned.

Top of document