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STANDING COMMITTEE ON JUSTICE AND HUMAN RIGHTS

COMITÉ PERMANENT DE LA JUSTICE ET DES DROITS DE LA PERSONNE

EVIDENCE

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

Wednesday, October 24, 2001

• 1745

[English]

The Chair (Mr. Andy Scott (Fredericton, Lib.)): I call to order the thirty-fourth meeting of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. This evening we are considering Bill C-15B, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act.

Before introducing our witnesses tonight, I would like to apologize for being a little bit late. The full committee had hearings until 5:30 p.m. upstairs, and as you will find, the debate sometimes takes on a life of its own. I'm sure we'll see evidence of that tonight as well.

The witnesses assembled include: the Canadian Cattlemen's Association; the Fur Institute of Canada; the International Fund for Animal Welfare; and the Poultry Welfare Coalition. If there's anybody here I didn't mention, please indicate.

In the interests of time, I'm simply going to go in the order they're presented on our agenda, and first call on the Canadian Cattlemen's Association, as represented by Jim Caldwell, director of government affairs, and Bob Dobson, past-chair, environment and animal care committee.

Mr. Caldwell or Mr. Dobson.

Mr. Bob Dobson (Past-Chair, Environment and Animal Care Committee, Canadian Cattlemen's Association): I will make the presentation. And just by way of further introduction, I'm a beef farmer from eastern Ontario.

On behalf of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association, I'd like to thank you for the opportunity to present cattle producers' concerns regarding Bill C-15B. As you are aware, CCA has been expressing these concerns to the minister, the department, and to you MPs for quite some time now.

The legal arguments that are the basis for cattle producers' concerns in this bill are covered in our past submissions to you—hopefully you all have a copy of them—with some of the legal concerns attached.

I'm not a lawyer, so I will focus my presentation on my own personal experiences and the impact these changes to the Criminal Code could have. I own cattle, as did my father and my grandfather. Actually, we have farmed livestock in Ontario since 1830. This is not an academic exercise for me. Some of the amendments you are considering could some day put me or one of my neighbours in front of a judge, not because I necessarily did anything wrong but rather because someone did not approve of me, or my livestock management practices, or simply did not apply the law properly.

This sometimes happens even now, under the current law. While no one can predict how these proposed changes could affect things in the future, the CCA, and I as a producer, are concerned that they will create problems needlessly.

In addition to owning and raising cattle, I also serve as an adviser to a farm animal care service started in Ontario a decade ago. The service deals with complaints of inadequate farm animal care. Like the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals investigators we sometimes work with on these complaints, we in agriculture have sometimes been frustrated by inadequate penalties, particularly for chronic repeat offenders. From that point of view, I can say that those in the farm community would support the penalties proposed.

However, there are also cases where charges have been laid wrongly, at both a financial and personal cost to the farmer. Agriculture operates on a very small margin of profit. The legal fees for just the preliminary stages to defend a legitimate action or management practice can sometimes be more than many farmers and ranchers can bear. Moving the provisions out of part XI, the certain property section, and explicitly broadening the definition of “animals”, increases the risk of this happening more often.

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I think of my cattle as property. So does my bank, actually; I can tell you that. I think this gives me certain rights. I can buy them and I can sell them. It also gives me certain responsibilities. As an owner I need to take care of them. I think most rational Canadians, whether they own cattle or cats, have the same belief.

Department officials and the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies have said that farmers are protected from the proposed wording changes because there are codes of practice, regulations, and licensing in the agriculture industry. This is misleading. The current recommended code of practice is one example.

Working knowledge tells us that these codes will not be an adequate safety net to protect producers against the nuisance complaints and charges that these proposals invite, whether by disgruntled neighbours, groups with agendas other than animal welfare, or the legal system itself. The codes are not intended to be production manuals. That is clearly stated in the codes. They do not go into any specific detail for many management practices. For example, the beef code does not tell me—or a crown attorney, for that matter—how my cattle should be castrated, only that it must be done in an acceptable and humane manner.

Codes do not exist for all farm animals, so in fact I have somewhat more protection from frivolous charges than, say, a bison farmer or a goat farmer. Similarly, standards of regulation do not evenly cover food animal production and processing. For example, home slaughter for personal use, whether cattle or lobsters, is not regulated in the province of Ontario.

The beef code is not created by regulations with mandatory compliance. It is voluntary, although that fact does not make it useless. Contrary to what you may hear from some, it is still possible for people to do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason, without strong and punitive legislation in place. Agriculture is one of those areas.

We continue to produce inexpensive food and to support the gross national product with our exports, because we are very good at what we do. With cattle, part of that means caring for them properly. It also means having the ability to apply new research and technology that allows us to decrease our input costs, improve food safety or environmental quality, or take advantage of a marketing opportunity.

Finding our hands tied because we don't know if that management change might inadvertently put us in the sights of our critics, or because it is ahead of standard farm practices, or is beyond the understanding of prosecutors is not in the best interests of maintaining an economical and secure food supply for Canada. It may not be in the best interests of the animals we raise, either. That is the risk of moving this section out of part XI and eliminating the explicit, up-front protections contained therein.

The proposed definition of “animal” is also of concern. Although I own cattle, which are currently defined, I also deal with wildlife and pests. Explicitly defining animals in the way they have been defined gives the legal system parliamentary licence to lay charges that have never been considered before.

In theory, the proposal narrows the definition. In practice, it expands it.

Would I be charged for an action that causes frogs or fish on my land to suffer? I don't know. Am I at a higher risk of being charged? I believe the answer is yes.

Some groups have suggested that the bar has been set too high under the current law, that they can't get convictions on enough cases. Unfortunately, we have not been provided any evidence to support this. It may be that there are other factors at play.

When you review the cases of charges involving cattle producers, you will note that there have also been convictions. The particularly sad thing to see—and the OSPCA would concur—is that often the underlying reason for the situation is emotional breakdown with economic problems.

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Cattle producers are not arguing against increasing the penalties for abuse or chronic neglect, but since these crimes often seem to indicate a mental imbalance, or simply a misplaced belief that such action is acceptable, we do wonder if increasing the penalties would actually be a deterrent. We can only assume that officials in the justice department have the data to support this.

On behalf of about 100,000 cattle producers all across Canada, I ask you to seriously consider the long-term, real-world implications of these changes to the Criminal Code. No one is disagreeing that animal abuse is abhorrent. What is in question is whether some of these sweeping and radical changes will improve the situation or just add problems and uncertainty for animal owners.

The Canadian Cattlemen's Association is asking for two major changes to this legislation. One, leave the animal cruelty provisions in part XI, the certain property section. And two, remove the definition of “animal”.

Thank you for your consideration.

The Chair: Thank you very much.

And now to the Fur Institute of Canada, with Douglas Pollock.

Mr. Douglas K. Pollock (Executive Vice-Chairman, Fur Institute of Canada): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for this opportunity to address the committee today and to outline the concerns of the Fur Institute of Canada with respect to Bill C-15B.

I want to stress that the Fur Institute does not seek to diminish the laudable goals of this bill. We have respect for animals, and we promote improved animal welfare in all our undertakings.

The institute was established in 1983 by the federal-provincial-territorial wildlife ministers of Canada. Our overall mission is to promote sustainable and wise use of Canada's fur resources. We are a national, non-profit organization, and our membership encompasses all sectors of the fur industry, such as trappers, fur farmers, auction houses, fur manufacturers, and retailers. In addition, we have many members in the aboriginal community and animal welfare organizations, and every province and territory is a member of our organization.

The fur industry employs about 60,000 individuals, most of whom are trappers living off the land. Trapping is an activity that is highly regulated by provincial and territorial governments. No species trapped are endangered or threatened. Agriculture Canada regulates fur farming, and fur farmers follow comprehensive codes of practice.

The FIC's trap research and testing program is the most extensive in the world, bringing together traditional knowledge, science, and new technologies to ensure that trapping devices meet national and international humane trapping standards. The program's objective is to ensure that capture devices used by trappers are efficient, humane, and safe.

Our research involving animals complies with CCAC guidelines, is approved by certified animal care committees wherever we carry out our research, and is ethical, responsible, and acceptable.

A concern is that Bill C-15B, if passed as currently worded, will open the door to charges against trappers, fur farmers, and others involved in animal use by those whose agenda is to eliminate the use of animals. We would like to see the proposed legislation clarified to ensure that this will not happen.

To us, at first glance, this looks like an advancement of the animals rights movement rather than simply an attempt to eliminate wanton cruelty to animals. Of all the industries appearing before this committee, the Fur Institute and the fur industry have been the major focus of wilful and vicious attacks by animal rights extremists, including my friend here, IFAW.

A milestone battle for the Canadian fur industry was the 1995 European regulation to prohibit the import of all fur products into the EU. The EU regulation came about as a result of relentless campaigns by animal rights organizations opposed to the fur trade, led by IFAW. It was a blatant attempt to impose restrictions on animal use, fur in this case. The protection of species and animal welfare had nothing to do with it.

After prolonged negotiations by the Canadian government, the European Union, Russia, and Canada signed the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards in 1997. A major negotiating factor was the trap research already documented by the Fur Institute. The agreement sets out stringent standards for animal welfare in trapping, and what devices to use.

The success by Canada in negotiating this agreement included the direct involvement of the Prime Minister. A few years ago, right in this building, all parties agreed to support the fur industry against the fur ban imposed by the EU. To date, the European Union has made little or no progress in implementing the agreement in EU countries.

So why was it important to them? It was important because their voting public had been convinced by the animal rights movement, specifically IFAW, that wearing fur was wrong and that the fur trade should be eliminated, just as they had done with seal products.

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This sanctimonious EU approach continues, even though they themselves kill 4 million or 5 million wild animals a year that end up in dumps or landfill sites.

In carrying out my job, I spend a lot of time in the north with aboriginal trappers and northern people. They continually remind me that these animal rights extremists destroyed the seal industry, and with it a part of their heritage and culture. Their community suffered severe economic and social upheaval when access to this important market was lost. For example, in the Northwest Territories, revenue from seals dropped from $1 million in 1980 to $55,000 in 1984. That's a direct result of anti-sealing campaigns. There are statistics that show that the suicide rate in these communities jumped drastically shortly thereafter. Evidence has shown that the devastation to aboriginal communities would be even greater if the fur industry collapsed.

Today aboriginals in northern and remote communities are concerned that the government will cave in to these extremists and further destroy their way of life. These same animal extremists, sitting here this evening, want to eliminate in some cases the only economic benefit available to northern people, and to destroy the fur industry as well.

As you know, there is an element of animal rights movement that CSIS and the FBI have classed as terrorism. We take the threat of their activities very seriously, and we have had some effect with it. But we are just as concerned with the pragmatic approach that is more often taken with the ultimate aim of ending all animal use. In this approach, the movement works through compromise and incremental steps towards its goal. Through this step-by-step approach, with multi-million dollar campaign funds, public opinion is gradually swayed to their beliefs, particularly in large urban areas, where most voters live and work with limited knowledge of rural life or wildlife management.

Through this approach, the sealing industry was closed down. Trapping has been banned in several states in the U.S. Fur farming has been outlawed in Great Britain—coincidentally, after the Labour government received a donation of £1 million.

The most prestigious conservation organization in the world, the IUCN, or World Conservation Union, has twice rejected IFAW's application for membership. I wonder why.

Through this approach, public policy is coming closer and closer to embracing their way of thinking. We see Bill C-15B as another step for the animal rights movement.

In the earlier reporting of the introduction of the former Bill C-17, it was stated:

    Fifty years after women were legally recognized as “persons”, animals are poised for their own emancipation under Canadian law.

Mr. Chairman, we have direct concerns about Bill C-15B. First, we feel that moving the animal cruelty provisions out of part XI into proposed part V.1 changes the whole proprietary aspect of animal use, as it's always been very important to animal cruelty law.

As well, it removes current up-front legal protection for no reason. By moving cruelty provisions out of part XI into proposed part V.1, the current up-front legal protection of lawful excuse in subsection 429(2) is no longer available.

We are told by justice department officials that by defining the word “animal”, there would be better clarity. We have not seen any evidence that better clarity is required. The proposed definition is flawed, as it opens the door to prosecutions that would never have occurred previously, such as fishing, hunting, trapping, etc.

Parts of Bill C-15B are not clear. Terms such as “unnecessary pain, suffering or injury” and “brutally and viciously” are subjective. What is “unnecessary” but suitable and adequate for some, like animal rightists, will be completely different for those who conduct research, trap, hunt, or work in agriculture—or, for that matter, the general public.

We have some questions with regard to proposed paragraph 182.2(1)(a). When does the trapper become the owner of a wild animal, or a fisherman become the owner of a fish? If there is any pain, suffering, or injury, did they commit an offence? It's not clear.

Proposed paragraph 182.2(1)(d) says “administers an injurious drug” to an animal. Researchers in the field tranquillize a bear to carry out field studies. Unfortunately, they can overestimate the weight of the bear, and the bear dies. Was this done recklessly? Did they commit an offence?

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Proposed paragraph 182.2(1)(e) contains the term “baiting of animals”. The meaning of the term is certainly different today from what it was 50 years ago. I think most people today would think it means a worm or a lure for catching fish, or for attracting other animals. Previously it meant to harass, as a dog attacks and worries bears, or to persecute by continued attacks, etc. If the attempt is to modernize this legislation, then perhaps the term “baiting” should be defined, and not left to be misinterpreted.

In proposed paragraph 182.3(1)(b), again, when does the trapper become the owner? Is it when an animal enters the trap? He may have indirect control of that animal, but he's not there; he can't provide the food, the water, the shelter that's listed and shown in the proposed legislation. Is he committing an offence?

With regard to proposed subsection 182.3(2), well, Canada has become a very multicultural state. Individuals coming from various countries will have a different standard of care than someone who was born in Canada, and all would be deemed to be reasonable persons. How do you deal with this?

As it is today, citizens of Canada have a right to protect their property from wildlife. The potential ramifications of these proposed amendments are more far-reaching than just the animal use community, and should be cause for concern by the general public. Many citizens use poison to get rid of mice and rats. I'm sure the odd time a dog or a cat may get infected there. Will this be construed as an offence?

The justice department tells us we do not have anything to worry about in these proposed amendments. If that is the case, Mr. Chairman, why are so many divergent animal users concerned? We have researchers, the Canadian Council on Animal Care, the Cattlemen's Association, hunters and anglers, chicken farmers, and grassroots people like trappers. Why are provincial governments concerned? We know for a fact that a number of provincial governments wrote the justice department because of the concerns they have with the proposed legislation.

Finally, Mr. Chairman, because of previous attacks on our industry, we are concerned that the lack of clarity in the proposed legislation will be used by animal rights organizations to oppose the legitimate use of animals. Let's have this new legislation improve animal welfare, but let's also ensure that ordinary, decent citizens whose lives involve animals can go about their business.

Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you very much.

Now I turn to the International Fund for Animal Welfare, with Mr. Richard Smith and Mr. David Loan.

Mr. Richard Smith (National Director, International Fund for Animal Welfare): Thank you very much for the opportunity to appear before you today.

[Translation]

Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today.

[English]

As a professional biologist, I'm very pleased to be able to speak to this important issue today.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare is fully in support of Bill C-15B. Quite simply, given that the basic architecture of the current animal provisions in the Criminal Code is 109 years old, dating back to when Queen Victoria was on the throne, the modernizing amendments contained in Bill C-15B are certainly long overdue.

The Minister of Justice, the justice department, and the government deserve congratulations for the leadership they have exhibited in bringing these reasonable amendments forward. They've recognized that crimes of cruelty are a serious problem across this country and that Canadians are placing an increasing priority on having these crimes firmly but fairly dealt with.

Like you, we listened to the testimony of witnesses last week. We would like to add to this important discussion today by making five simple points.

First, the provisions of Bill C-15B are neither trivial nor sweeping, but they are badly needed, because the current law is quite simply not working. Law enforcement officials across the country need the tools that these Criminal Code amendments contain in order to secure successful prosecutions of those who are unnecessarily cruel to animals.

You've heard over the past week the demonstrated link between animal abuse and domestic violence, or violence against people generally. It's clear that acting quickly in a case of animal cruelty may in fact serve as a prevention for other serious and violent crimes down the road.

You've also heard that, currently, less than one-third of 1% of all animal abuse complaints lead to criminal charges. Of this tiny percentage, less than half are successfully prosecuted.

One of the documents we brought for your consideration today is a survey of Canadian media stories since Bill C-15 was introduced seven months ago. After investigating the media, we found 80 separate cases of animal abuse reported, involving over 1,100 animals.

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In at least 33% of the cases, no charges were laid against the perpetrators. More than 87% of these cases—and we're talking the cases that have made the media, clearly of broad public interest—involved only cats and dogs.

Sadly, this report is already out of date. Just this morning the Halifax Chronicle-Herald is reporting that a bag of dead and dying kittens was found by a roadside. All four of the tiny animals had serious injuries to their heads, broken bones, and broken spines. There have been a number of similarly cruel incidents reported by the media just in the past week, when this committee started considering this bill. So there clearly is no shortage of animal cruelty offences being committed.

I'd like to turn it over to Dave to make our second and third points.

Mr. David Loan (Campaigns and Public Affairs Manager, International Fund for Animal Welfare): Thanks.

The second point we would like to raise is that in addition to increased penalties, the consolidation of animal cruelty provisions in their own section of the code and the removal of animal cruelty from the property crimes section of the code is critical to providing needed legal tools to law enforcement officials and to highlight the serious nature of animal cruelty offences.

The problem is not only that current penalties are inadequate. To our knowledge, there has never been a single instance where the maximum custodial sentence under the current law was ordered. As indicated earlier, this is certainly not for lack of terrible crimes. But because current laws are muddled and have no presence, in an increasingly busy justice system the crimes of animal cruelty are overlooked or disregarded as being relatively unimportant.

The facts speak for themselves. A perfect example of the fundamental flaw in the current law is provided by a case of animal cruelty that occurred earlier this year near Wakefield, Quebec, just over the river, near where I live. A landlord bludgeoned his tenants' puppy to death, and confessed as much to police. However, in the heat of the moment, shortly after the crime was committed, police suggested the tenants accept some money from the landlord as compensation. Only later did the tenants find out that because they had been compensated for the loss of their property, police would not lay cruelty charges.

This is not an isolated case, and demonstrates the problem of defining a crime against an animal simply as crime against a piece of property. Removing animals from the property offences section of the Criminal Code will also clarify the status of animals that are not owned, such as stray cats and wildlife species. In a well-publicized case, a Winnipeg cat had its skull crushed by a man's heel. Because the prosecution could not prove that the cat was owned, the perpetrator was found not guilty.

Third, by any objective analysis, animal industries have nothing to fear from these Criminal Code changes. Any suggestion that this legislation will lead to an inundation of nuisance charges is a ridiculous and unsupportable argument. Canada's Criminal Code has a variety of mechanisms to protect law-abiding citizens from unwarranted criminal proceedings. For instance, a charge under the Criminal Code would require the active support of a crown attorney. We have not found a single case in any jurisdiction in Canada where a nuisance charge has been brought against an animal's owner.

For any of you who may say we need to compromise, let me say that compromise has already happened. When Bill C-17, the predecessor of this bill, was introduced, industry came forward and demanded concessions. Many of those concessions have already been included in Bill C-15B—for instance, the qualification of the term “wilfully” in proposed section 182.2. In proposed section 182.3, the definition of “negligently” is also a concession to industry.

We support those changes. But now some industry lobbyists are back asking for more. It would appear they view Bill C-15B as a moving target, and will really only be satisfied with the de facto gutting of this legislation.

For the record, our support for this excellent legislation is not a secret plot to end farming in Canada. We have no wish to see this legislation used in a frivolous manner against accepted industry practices, and neither do we think this is even a remote possibility. There are some practices that we hope this legislation will be used to target. We hope this law is used to close down puppy mills and to end dog-fighting. These practices are unacceptable to Canadians. That's why we call on you to pass this bill.

Mr. Richard Smith: We have two final points.

The fourth point we wanted to make today is that Canada is certainly not the first jurisdiction in the world to consider consolidating animal cruelty provisions in a separate section of their criminal code or similar legislation; far from it. It's somewhat difficult to compare between jurisdictions because of different constructions of legislation. However, many U.S. states have animal cruelty provisions in separate animal sections of their penal codes or other laws. The U.K. has a separate animal protection act, New Zealand has the federal Animal Welfare Act, and the European Union has the Protocol on the Protection and Welfare of Animals. So this is not precedent-setting stuff.

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The fifth and final point we'd like to make is that Bill C-15B enjoys the broadest possible support from individuals and organizations right across Canada. A national survey of Canadian attitudes, done by Pollara for our organization, shows that the majority of decided Canadians, a full 62%, support tougher penalties for animal cruelty. Only 11% of Canadians disagree with the idea of imposing tougher penalties.

Contrary to what you've heard from other witnesses, there is no significant difference in attitude, tested by Pollara, between urban and rural Canadians. The Pollara survey found that 58% of rural and small-town Canadians and 61% of urban Canadians agree that tougher penalties are required.

The creation in the Criminal Code of a separate chapter for animals was supported by the former Law Reform Commission of Canada. It is supported by the more than 400,000 members of humane societies and SPCAs across this country. In our office in Ottawa, we get more telephone calls from our 60,000 members on issues of cruelty to cats and dogs than all other issues combined.

Just prior to the initiation of this current legislation, the $3-billion-a-year Canadian pet industry went on record as supporting changes to the Criminal Code that will reduce or eliminate cruelty to animals.

Bill C-15B is supported by provincial officials who have experienced problems of animal cruelty in their jurisdictions and who are frustrated with the inadequacy of the current law. I think it's important to point out that this support from provinces is a non-partisan undertaking. For example, this legislation is supported lock, stock, and barrel by the Harris government in Ontario. We have distributed copies of Mr. Harris' letter.

Bill C-15B is supported by people like Frank Faveri, a crown attorney who tried to prosecute a man accused of running a dog-fighting ring, using live kittens as bait, in Bradford, Ontario, in June of this year. Despite his efforts, the prosecution was unsuccessful. He blamed the code's badly drafted language for that lack of success.

This bill is supported by Canadians like Steve Bradley and Teresa Barroso, the Wakefield couple who owned the dog that was bludgeoned to death, which Dave spoke to previously.

Finally, this bill is supported by Metro Toronto Police Detective John Margetson, who is currently trying his best to investigate that terrible case you may have heard of, where two men actually tortured a cat to death, live on videotape. He's having a very difficult time with that investigation.

These are good people, who know from personal experience that the current law is inadequate. They are hoping the Parliament of Canada will fix it. Law enforcement officials across this country need the tools to catch the bad guys, and this bill will do no more and no less.

I look forward to the opportunity to respond and set the record straight on some of the more alarmist statements, perhaps, that have been made this evening. Perhaps I can do that in the question period.

I'd like to thank you very much for your attention.

The Chair: Thank you very much.

Now the Poultry Welfare Coalition, with John Slot and Bill Uruski.

Mr. John Slot (Vice-Chair, Chicken Farmers of Canada; Representative, Poultry Welfare Coalition): Good evening. It's a pleasure to be here on behalf of the Poultry Welfare Coalition, which has joined the Canadian Egg Marketing Agency, the Canadian Turkey Marketing Agency, the Chicken Farmers of Canada, and the Canadian Broiler Hatching Egg Marketing Agency on the issue of animal cruelty. This coalition represents 4,800 farmers across Canada in all four commodities.

We would like to thank you for giving us the opportunity to present our views on the proposed cruelty to animals amendments. At the outset, we want to emphasize that we think Canada should have strong laws opposing cruelty to animals. We believe the increase in penalties proposed for the cruelty offences are the major strengths of the current bill.

Our industry practices humane husbandry to provide safe and affordable food to Canadians. It is our understanding that the intent of the bill is not to capture normal animal agricultural practices. It is our understanding that the goal of the bill is to target those practices that are wholly outside the normal standards. And we agree with that goal.

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Truly heartbreaking examples of cruelty have undoubtedly been cited to you, as indeed it has been to us. It is the cruelty that this bill is supposed to address. Unfortunately, the bill has cast its net too widely by including normal use of animals and indeed changing the status of animals.

We accept completely that this was not the intent of the legislators. It will, however, be the word of law, not the intentions, that will carry the day in court.

If we may, we would like to identify the specific problems we see with this bill and also offer solutions for your consideration.

I would like to give the floor to my colleague.

Mr. Bill Uruski (Member, Board of Directors, Canadian Turkey Marketing Agency; Representative, Poultry Welfare Coalition): Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee.

Our first issue is the removal from part XI. Proposed part V.1 of Bill C-15B removes the cruelty to animals provision from part XI, where animals are identified as property. We're told it's not the intent of the amendments to change the status of animals as property, and we believe the bill should make this clear. We recommend either placing proposed part V.1 into part XI, or changing the title of proposed part V.1 to make it clear that this part is dealing with private and public property.

The removal of the cruelty to animals provision from part XI necessarily results in the removal of permissible actions due to “legal justification or excuse and with colour of right”, currently in section 429. This removal will make farmers vulnerable to nuisance charges, which is not the intent of this bill. Our proposal there deals with the offences listed under proposed paragraphs 182.2(1)(a) to (d). Those under proposed paragraphs 182.3(1)(a) to (c) require clarity regarding which actions are, and which are not, being targeted by the legislation.

While our preference is clearly to have proposed part V.1 returned to part XI, dealing with property, and where section 429 would then apply, we believe there are workable alternatives. An option is to identify the targeted actions, as those in the case of proposed paragraphs 182.2(1)(a) to (d), that are done wilfully or recklessly and without legal justification, excuse, or colour of right, and those, in the case of proposed paragraphs 182.3(1)(a) to (c), done negligently and without legal justification, excuse, or colour of right.

We do not believe the offences under proposed paragraphs 182.2(1)(e) to (h) require this clarity, subject to our comments in the next paragraph. Proposed paragraph 182.2(1)(e) could make it an offence to hire pest control personnel to bait rodents. Rodent control is essential for disease prevention. It is necessary for poultry welfare, human health, and safe food production. We recommend that you remove the baiting of animals from proposed paragraph 182.2(1)(e).

The definitions section, proposed section 182.1, defines animal as a “vertebrate, other than a human being, and any other animal that has the capacity to feel pain”. We believe this definition is too broad. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to measure pain. We believe, and we recommend, that you define animal as “any vertebrate, other than a human being”.

In the area of negligence, without reason, proposed paragraph 182.3(1)(b) has a lower threshold for the prosecution to meet than either (a) or (c) as drafted. We recommend that you include the word “negligently” in proposed paragraph 182.3(1)(b).

Finally, we point out that as a result of significant weaknesses in this bill, agriculture could be subject to numerous nuisance charges by those whose agenda is to end all uses of animals.

Mr. Chairman, we know that legislators aren't badgered by those kinds of concerns, but those of us who are farmers on the line feel that on an ongoing basis. Many such groups exist in Canada. It is important that Parliament send a clear message that it will not advance this agenda. We recommend that you add to this part an article that would specify that the crown attorney shall assume the carriage of prosecution.

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Mr. Chairman, we have provided for members of the committee these amendments. They're tied in with the current legislation so that members can see exactly what we have intended by the words we have used.

I thank you for this opportunity.

Mr. John Slot: In conclusion, we farmers are no different from other Canadians. We resent cruelty to animals, and we want it stopped. Our animal agricultural practices are designed to protect the health and welfare of the animals in our care. We believe the penalties must be designed to prevent cruelty and to punish those who are cruel, but let's make sure this bill does that without preventing normal and legitimate agricultural practices.

We support the potential longer sentences for those who abuse animals. We support the greater severity with which a great number of offences can be dealt with. We support the ability of judges to prohibit ownership of animals for greater periods of time.

We thank you for the time you have given us.

The Chair: Thanks you all very much for your interventions.

I'm going to start with Mr. Toews, who has seven minutes.

Mr. Vic Toews (Provencher, Canadian Alliance): Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. I certainly appreciate the comments and the presentations of all groups before the committee today.

As I've made it clear before, Mr. Chair, I have no doubt that this legislation, if not directly then certainly indirectly, will destroy the livelihood of many of my constituents.

I represent a rural constituency. I'm very concerned about this legislation. I come from a prosecutions background as well. I used to serve as a prosecutor, probably in the government Mr. Uruski was part of at the time. So I'm also familiar with this. I prosecuted in rural areas, in Brandon, Manitoba.

You know, if there's one thing I know about prosecutions it's that no matter whether the prosecution is successful or unsuccessful, the person being prosecuted certainly undergoes a very onerous, very expensive, and very mentally draining process. So we have to ensure that whenever we change the law, especially in controversial areas like this, we think about the people we are going to be prosecuting.

This amendment being proposed by the government is clearly not a consolidation. It's not a consolidation. What it does is move the offences out of one part of the code and leave the defences in that code. So this isn't a consolidation; this is a creation of a part that deprives an accused of legitimate defences that are well recognized in the criminal law. This makes my constituents very vulnerable to prosecution. So they moved the offences to one area, but not the defences. This is not a consolidation.

Now, I come from a rural area. My constituents abhor animal cruelty. They want to see tougher penalties. But what I heard today from the International Fund for Animal Welfare is that we don't really need tougher penalties, because the judges aren't imposing the maximum penalties that already exist. The only thing I've heard today that changes my mind in any way is that we might not need tougher penalties, but I think my constituents would see tougher penalties and better enforcement by the judges of the provisions that already exist.

I think the recommendations made by the Poultry Welfare Coalition, generally supported by the Canadian Cattlemen's Association and the Fur Institute, are very practical, reasonable ones, and in fact ease many of the concerns I have. Certainly they provide that defence. The justice minister has told us there is nothing substantive in the way of change in this legislation.

These amendments that are being proposed, in the manner they're being proposed, I think would in fact ease my concerns that there is nothing substantive being changed and that it is a consolidation. In fact, that is a true consolidation, what the Poultry Welfare Coalition has done.

• 1830

The last portion, with respect to a crown attorney's prosecution, is I think a very good idea. Generally speaking, in controversial areas—for example, child abductions in domestic situations—the consent of the attorney general in the province is required. I would like to see a similar kind of provision. I think the drafting here has certainly that intent. I wouldn't use exactly the same wording, but I think the intent is right.

That would save my constituents from needless fear that the prosecution's agenda wasn't being driven by fanatical groups, that rather they are being monitored and prosecuted by the attorney general in the jurisdiction.

Having heard from the Poultry Welfare Coalition in those respects, I commend them for what is, I think, a very masterful job. What do the Canadian Cattlemen's Association, the Fur Institute, and the IFAW say with respect to the proposals being made here by the Poultry Welfare Coalition?

The Chair: We have questions put to the Cattlemen's Association, the Fur Institute, and the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

Mr. Vic Toews: In that order.

Mr. Bob Dobson: I think there's quite a lot of further explanation in the background paper you received today that supports the poultry coalition in their position. Some of you probably received it in the mail before today. This was done with a lot of thought and consultation with our members from across the country, and with a legal slant to it, a legal analysis. A lot of it is in there.

So I would have to say we don't have a problem. We would certainly be supporting their position. Our position is basically the same as that of the poultry coalition.

The Chair: Mr. Pollock.

Mr. Douglas Pollock: Mr. Chairman, I just heard tonight, for the first time, the comments and opinions of the poultry coalition, but certainly we in the fur industry would support them.

The Chair: Mr. Smith or Mr. Loan.

Mr. Richard Smith: Certainly we support in part what's very welcome to hear from the Poultry Welfare Coalition.

I'd just comment on Mr. Toews' point as to the reason that no instances, as far as we know, can be found of the maximum custodial sentence being imposed, even under the current law. I don't think the reason for that is that judges aren't being tough enough. I mean, if you believe the crown attorneys who have been saying this in the press, certainly there is a problem with the muddled and outdated nature of that part of the code. But in giving you concrete, real-life examples tonight of clear-cut cases where the police had confessions and the evidence was overwhelming.... The fact is, the crime against the animal was looked upon no differently than a crime against a chair. That's really the crux of the issue.

I just direct your attention to something that Mr. Jack Wilkinson, from the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, said when he was here the other day. He was responding to a question from Monsieur Paradis of the Liberals. Monsieur Paradis was asking Mr. Wilkinson to give him a concrete example of how this new text would adversely impact on his industry.

Mr. Wilkinson said, and I quote:

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

My point is, on the one hand you have concrete examples of how the current text is not working. On the other hand, I've not heard any concrete examples of where the problem would be.

The Chair: Thank you.

To the panellists, we have a large panel today, with four people potentially answering each question, so I'd like you to try to direct your answers specifically to the questions put.

Monsieur Lanctôt, seven minutes.

[Translation]

Mr. Robert Lanctôt (Châteauguay, BQ): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

First, I want to let you know that I am now part of this committee as a representative of the Bloc Québécois as a whole for the study of Bill C-15B and the follow-up to that file. I have in fact been promoted to assistant spokesperson for Justice for other files as well.

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Of course, I was appointed on this very day and I have begun to examine matters with very close attention. I have done a great deal of reading. This point is important for the Bloc Québécois. I think that both groups, those who defend both positions, can agree and come up with an interesting solution. For that very reason, I think that we have the obligation of devising amendments to improve this bill.

I think we cannot be against this principle nor against the virtuous objective of protecting animals and especially of preventing cruelty toward animals. How can we do that? This is where we must consider possible solutions in a clear and precise manner without hampering the possibility of including farmers, hunters and fishers in some kind of mechanism. But must we absolutely take such totally conflicting viewpoints into account?

When we look at your documents we see that both sides are trying to stake out very clear positions. But to establish these clear positions, in a way, you always must use the opposite position as a starting point. I don't think that necessarily means that we cannot take steps to arrive at some satisfactory agreement.

As to the fundamental principles, one can discern in both sides' positions, some would like to see the property principle remain, under part XI. But the bill introduces a new part. It talks about repealing part XI of the Criminal Code and introducing a new part V.I.

Obviously, I am examining this for the first time today. I considered the two positions very carefully, especially since one seems to refer to "the organizations", and talks mostly about property, and feels there is a problem in granting greater rights, or that we are heading toward a stage where greater rights will be granted.

I would like to ask you the following question. If we created an additional step and accepted that there be a new part V.I. with a definition—I am well aware that we are being asked to remove a definition—that would be more precise, and could include, perhaps, exclusions or protections for people like farmers, fishers and others—I won't list them all—would there be a possibility, with a change of direction...? I understood quite well that we are no longer talking about property rights as concerns these animals, but about suffering. So we are moving forward, we are making a small step.

I want to ask you whether it would be possible with the step forward contained in the new part V.I., to arrive at a definition to which we would add exclusions, rather than removing it. I would like to know what you think about that.

[English]

The Chair: Is the question put to anyone in particular, Monsieur Lanctôt?

[Translation]

Mr. Robert Lanctôt: No, I would like to hear the entire panel.

[English]

The Chair: Mr. Smith.

Mr. Richard Smith: Thank you very much for that question.

Let me start off by saying, on your question about the advancement of rights, that the concept that some intent to bring about some advancement of more rights for animals is somehow embedded in this legislation is, objectively speaking, and just on the face of it, simply not the case.

Our organization, like other animal welfare organizations that have testified here, is interested quite simply in the same thing the majority of Canadians are interested in, which is seeing animals treated properly. Animal welfare organizations are not organizations that advocate vegetarianism. They're not organizations that are extremist, to address a comment that was made previously. Quite simply, we're interested in the humane treatment of animals. And that's what this wording is proposing to do—to codify, properly organize in the code, what exists in case law anyway, the idea that there is a difference between a crime against an animal and a crime against an inanimate object, and that difference is the capacity of that animal to feel pain.

• 1840

We would be absolutely opposed, as would every other animal welfare organization testifying here, to the concept of widespread exemptions. Cruelty is cruelty.

Certainly I welcome hearing from producer organizations that they too have no patience with bad apples who give their industry a bad name. So the idea that those few bad apples would be exempted because of some sort of widespread blanket exemption is totally unpalatable to us.

The Chair: Mr. Slot.

Mr. John Slot: We want to make it absolutely clear that we don't want exemptions from cruelty to animals. We've made that very clear in our statement.

This is a new bill, and a new bill will be challenged, will be tested, will be tried out. In the previous bill we had subsection 429(2). In that bill we felt comfortable that we were protected in normal farm practices. That's not the case any more.

We also have the issue of the status of animals being changed. We still believe very strongly that there needs to be a clear definition that separates animals from humans. By merging those two together more, down the road it will become an issue for us. I appreciate the comments that...but we live in the reality, and the reality is that there are people out there who will challenge us. There will be people out there who will try that. That's our concern.

To say that we've had no examples of people interfering with normal farm practices.... We've had people walking into our barns and releasing animals. We've seen them in Ontario and we've seen them in B.C. So you can't make the assumption that this is not happening.

Again, I agree with you, the criminal justice system should be tough on these people, but we are clearly concerned that this bill is open-ended for us as farmers.

The Chair: Thank you very much.

I'd like to go now to Mr. Blaikie for seven minutes.

Mr. Bill Blaikie (Winnipeg—Transcona, NDP): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I'd like to return to a question I think Mr. Toews asked.

To the IFAW, is there anything in the fallback position—not their first preference, but their fallback position—of Mr. Uruski and Mr. Slot in terms of their amendments that you feel is supportable? Would anything in those amendments detract from what you see as the major achievement of the bill?

You know, I'd agree with you there, and certainly support the notion that animals shouldn't be in the same category as chairs or inanimate objects. I think, for me, that is a conceptual victory in the legislation, and I wouldn't want to support anything that would take animals back into that former category. But I just wonder whether, in the interests of trying to meet the concerns...because all the examples you used were of cats and dogs. They were not from the livestock industry or from farming or fishing or hunting or trapping.

So taking you at your word, is there any way in which you people might be able to work together to further clarify the legislation so that it's absolutely clear that this conceptual victory is protected, the ability to prosecute and to punish in the way you've advocated is protected, and the concerns of the poultry producers here are also addressed? I'm just wondering if you see a way to do that, that's all.

The Chair: Mr. Smith.

Mr. Richard Smith: Certainly I very much welcome hearing from most groups that are testifying. There seems to be near-unanimous support for increased penalties. I mean, that's a real step forward, right there. But we share the point of view of SPCAs across this country and the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, who are the people on the ground. The SPCA inspectors across the country in most provinces are the ones on the ground, trained by the RCMP, working with the RCMP, whose statutory obligation it is to investigate these kinds of cruelty.

These are the folks who are saying the current law doesn't give them the tools they need to catch the bad guys. One of the most important issues is this concept of animals being muddled in with other stuff in the property section of the code. We've given you some concrete examples there.

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It certainly sounds like there's broad agreement on increasing penalties, but I think we would have to disagree very strenuously with the idea of abandoning the notion, as other jurisdictions have already done, of moving animal crimes into their own chapter.

Mr. Bill Blaikie: That was their first part.

I guess I misunderstood your amendment. Did you not have sort of a fallback position that didn't change the category but created more protections?

That's what I was asking about.

Mr. Richard Smith: Okay.

Mr. Bill Uruski: We want greater protection, of course, by first taking the issue of pain out of the definitions section. Pain should be in the prosecutions section rather than in the definition of animal. We want to continue to give those in the farming industry the kind of protection they've had in section 429 up to this day.

That hasn't been removed from the Criminal Code, by the way. It's still in the property section. We're just saying if it's not going to change the circumstances under the Criminal Code by having it in that portion, why wouldn't you allow the farming community at least that kind of recognition and continue it there in the section, but increase the penalties and deal with the bad apples?

The Chair: Mr. Dobson would like to respond.

Mr. Bob Dobson: We talk about the bad guys, and I'm not sure if we're talking about pets, cats and dogs, or what, or if it's agricultural. But I mentioned in my presentation that I've assisted in what's called the animal care help-line service in Ontario since its inception about 10 years ago. I've made a number of calls over those years. The vast majority of calls involved situations where, as I mentioned, there was mental imbalance or breakdown. Marriage breakdown, old age, sickness, or whatever was causing the problems. There were very few clear-cut situations where it was deliberate abuse or neglect of animals. There were other problems, other things going on. So you could have a $25,000 penalty and it wouldn't change the picture, in the vast majority of the calls I made.

A lot of those calls were made with the OSPCA. Some were made without the OSPCA. Some were referred on to the OSPCA after I'd made the call. There are quite a number of examples. I could mention one, if I'm quick. Would that be possible?

The Chair: Sure.

Mr. Bob Dobson: On nuisance complaints, there are quite a number in Ontario. There was a case last year in southern Ontario in the Niagara peninsula, in the St. Catharines area, where a farmer was charged by the local humane society with animal cruelty. The farmer faced three charges for keeping his emus outside. They just had a lean-to shelter and bedding. That was accepted practice, and they were quite healthy.

The charges continued on. The case was accepted by the Crown and proceeded to trial. Defence proceedings started, and on day two of the trial, when the farmer's attending vet was allowed to testify, the judge immediately stopped the proceedings and threw all the charges out. By that time, the farmer had spent $5,000 in legal fees.

I keep my livestock outside in the wintertime. We have at times up to 400 head of cattle. They're completely healthy, but other people may disagree with that when it's -30° in the middle of the winter.

So there are a lot of nuisance complaints and it costs us a lot of money.

The Chair: Mr. Pollock would like to respond, and then we'll go to the other side.

Mr. Douglas Pollock: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I have just a couple of quick comments.

First of all, nobody in the fur industry is against animal welfare in any way, shape, or form. On the bad apples that IFAW has referred to, and others, there's certainly no place for them to have possession, in any way, of any animals. However, I think it's important that we define animal welfare and animal rights.

Animal welfare, as I understand it, means to improve the treatment and well-being of animals, and animal rights means to give them more than that. There are many animal rights organizations that have espoused different terminology to animal rights, meaning that a rat is a rat...is a dog, is a kid, and so on. We certainly can't accept that. But we could certainly support the position in the sense the poultry and turkey people have put it forward.

• 1850

The Chair: Thank you very much.

Now to Mr. Myers for seven minutes.

Mr. Lynn Myers (Waterloo—Wellington, Lib.): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I first of all wanted to thank each of you for presenting tonight. I think you bring a number of very good points. I want to say at the outset that I was born and raised and still live on the family farm. I've castrated hogs. I can't tell you how many chickens I've debeaked—in the tens of thousands. And certainly I can recall a number of occasions butchering young beef to eat during the winter. So when Mr. Pollock and Mr. Dobson and Mr. Slot talk, it resonates with me.

I want to come to the International Fund for Animal Welfare in a minute, but I wanted to ask Mr. Slot a specific question first of all. That is, in terms of standards of care and the kinds of codes of practice you have when it comes to chicken farming, can you give us a sense of how the situation has developed over the years and where you are at this point in time? What I'm really trying to get on the record here is the interaction, for example, between government regulators and humane societies—that kind of thing. I wonder, Mr. Slot, if you could answer that, please.

Mr. John Slot: Thank you for the question. Yes, we as poultry farmers are working very closely with governments and the humane society on a continuous basis, looking at good production practices and codes. But it's an evolving issue as we work together trying to make sure we use good production practices. It's important because it's important for animal welfare, but also because there's a direct relation between animal welfare and safe food. I think that's a very important connection everybody has to understand.

We do this on a continuous basis. It includes the industry also, of course. We look at everything from day one to the day the chicken goes to the slaughterhouse. We're continuously working on it.

That's why, for example, if you look at proposed subsection 182.3(1), where it talks about negligence, it clearly talks about it in proposed paragraphs (a) and (c) but doesn't talk about it in (b). Obviously (b) has a lower threshold.

Of course, when something is happening and we've been challenged, the Crown must prove the case. This is a prime example of the good production practices we're designing, because in Canada we face challenges in our climate, and given the natural events that have taken place we are very nervous that this section is so weakened.

I'll give you a practical example. In the wintertime you order feed. The feed was supposed to arrive on Monday morning, but on Sunday we are challenged with a major snowstorm. We are not able to have feed come into our barns. Well, yes, that might cause a delay of one day. Are we now subject to challenges because this section is weakened so much? This kind of practice is all designed in our good production codes so that we can deal with such situations.

So that's why we have specific concerns, and I appreciate that we have a chance to highlight them.

Mr. Lynn Myers: I wanted to ask you, Mr. Loan, about your testimony initially, where you said there are some practices you want to see eliminated. You referenced two, puppy mills and dog fighting. I was interested in whether you had a list of others.

On the broader question—you can answer that in a minute, and Mr. Smith can answer it too—I wanted to get a sense of where you stand in terms of being tagged along with the extremists—because you are; whether you like it or not, you are. People have attributed things to you and/or people associated with you, things such as “We're going to use this legislation as a thin edge of the wedge. We're going to use this legislation to take people like farmers who legitimately practice, and fur people, to court.” What are you doing about that, or do you care about it? That's really the gist of my question.

Mr. David Loan: Certainly we care about it. I think I'll answer the first part first and maybe turn the second part over to Dr. Smith.

Practices we'd like to see outlawed or covered by this include, certainly, the use of kittens or puppies in the training of guard dogs, which is sometimes done. This is a practice we find abhorrent—to feed a kitten to a guard dog in order to give it a blood thirst when training it. I think that's an abhorrent practice.

I don't have a list of others, but puppy mills would certainly be high on the list. We've seen the case in Ontario recently, with the Vaughan puppy mill, where hundreds of dogs were rescued and are now being rehabilitated and given out.

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Those puppy mills are ubiquitous across Canada. There are literally hundreds of them in the province of Quebec, dozens of them in Ontario, and certainly they exist in every province. We do not have sufficient legislation at the moment to be able to charge all of them.

Mr. Lynn Myers: Mr. Chairman, I want to interject.

Can you categorically tell me tonight, in this committee, that you are not going to target legitimate farm practices, that you are not going to target the fur industry? Can you state that categorically?

Mr. David Loan: Mr. Myers, I categorically state that we will not be targeting legitimate farm practices or other industries—

Mr. Vic Toews: How about the fur industries?

Mr. David Loan: —or the fur industries, through this legislation. Absolutely not.

Mr. Lynn Myers: And what about the PR disaster that's on your hands, Mr. Smith?

Mr. David Loan: Yes, I'll pass that over to Dr. Smith.

Mr. Richard Smith: I guess I'm not entirely clear what PR disaster you're talking about. Our office is a block from Parliament Hill. We spend most of our time meeting with members of Parliament, investigating ways to both try to suggest constructive changes to legislative initiatives and also to cooperate with government when that's possible. Last year, for instance, we were one of the largest private-sector contributors with Parks Canada in some very important habitat protection projects.

Mr. Lynn Myers: No, let me interject. I'm not talking about that. What I'm talking about is, if I go to my constituency and ask ordinary folks who happen to be farmers what they think of your organization, the words I get will not be nice. What they'll say is that you're on the thin edge of the wedge of trying to shut them down. That's the PR disaster I'm talking about.

How do you respond, or do you care?

Mr. Richard Smith: Obviously I care very much. I think, unfortunately, one of the problems many non-governmental organizations have, whether they're animal-welfare, conservation organizations, or what have you, is that a lot of our acronyms are similar, and our names sound similar. Many of us have “animal” or “wildlife” or something in our name.

I would find it odd, actually, if farmers in your area had a grudge against us, because quite frankly we have never—our office has been open here for five years—undertaken any campaign or activity that had to do with farming in this country. So I'm not sure who they would be angry at, but it's not us.

Just coming back to a point you made earlier, I'm interested in the fact that most producers, as they've testified here, have made reference to the close relationship they have with the OSPCA, or their local SPCA, or what have you. I think that's a critical point here. SPCAs in most provinces have a statutory obligation to investigate instances of animal cruelty. They work hand in hand with the RCMP, and in most cases they work hand in hand with industry.

So I'm not clear where the mistrust comes from. Presumably the producer organizations are worried about the SPCAs with whom they work somehow using this law frivolously. I don't really understand that, to be honest.

The Chair: Thank you very much.

I'll go to Mr. Hilstrom for three minutes.

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

The Chair: Three minutes.

Mr. Howard Hilstrom: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I'm going to have to make just a one-minute statement, then.

We're here to assess the credibility of the presentations being brought here. Mr. Uruski, for instance, was an MLA—a minister in the NDP government of Manitoba—and so credibility is an important issue.

To deal with you, Mr. Richard Smith, you talk about a bag of dead and dying kittens. Well, that's prosecutable right now under the current act. You ask us to accept your word that the prosecution stats are what you say they are, yet in your book you give us nothing. You worked on this for probably ten or fifteen years. In your evidence about the courts and what happened in court, I see no transcripts from those courts as to what the actual facts are.

We can't accept that kind of presentation, or we can give only limited weight to it. I'm not attacking your personal credibility. I'm attacking the presentation's credibility.

Let's talk about the suggested amendments of the Poultry Welfare Coalition. You said you agreed with most of what was in their brief, and then you jumped over to my colleague, Mr. Toews, talking about his presentation. Let's just look through this and see what you do agree with.

Number one: “Removal from Part XI”—you don't agree with that.

Number two: “Legal recognition”—you don't agree with that. You've been in my office giving me the lobby and you don't agree with that.

Neither do you agree with number 2(b), or with the remedy of removing the baiting of animals from proposed section 182.2.

• 1900

You don't agree with the definition of “animal” as a vertebrate. You don't agree with what the poultry producers are saying there.

You don't agree with the insertion of the word “negligence”, and in regard to crown attorney prosecutions, you “may” agree with that.

What do you have to say about the credibility of your presentation when you say you agree with the poultry people, then slip away and not with deal with the precise amendments they're asking for? I'd like you to deal with the precise amendments and tell us why you agree or don't agree with each of the ones they brought forward.

The Chair: Well, that's a little better than two minutes, so....

Some hon. members: Oh, oh.

Mr. Richard Smith: Mr. Hilstrom, thank you for that. I actually thought we had quite a productive meeting the other day, a frank exchange of views.

You have me at a disadvantage, and you're kind of putting words in my mouth. I don't have the document in front of me. I haven't studied it. You know, I don't know.

Mr. Howard Hilstrom: Then why did you say—

Mr. Richard Smith: No, I think I was quite explicit in saying I was heartened by the fact that I've heard near-unanimous agreement with the concept of increasing penalties. We agree with that, and that's one of the things the poultry association said.

With respect to the other details you talked about, I don't know. I don't have it in front of me. I'd be happy to get back to you on that.

I guess the point I would make is—

Mr. Howard Hilstrom: You can put additional reports to the committee, if you wish.

Mr. Richard Smith: Certainly, and we look forward to that.

The point I'd make is I think there's a lot of excess baggage being brought into the debate around this very specific, reasonable set of legislative amendments.

I'm not going to make any bones about the fact that our organization, an animal welfare organization interested in the humane treatment of animals, is interested in improving the humane standards in the sealing industry, as indicated earlier. But when we wish to do that, as we are doing right now, we engage in a very lengthy, constructive discussion with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans about the Fisheries Act. When we have a disagreement over something else.... As you know, most wildlife trapping issues are handled at a provincial level, so if there's an issue regarding humane trapping standards or something, that is a different forum and not applicable in this case.

The Chair: Thank you very much.

There's a good crowd here tonight. I want to make sure everyone gets their questions in.

Mr. Wappel for three minutes.

Mr. Tom Wappel (Scarborough Southwest, Lib.): Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I want to thank everybody for coming tonight. I'm particularly impressed by the Poultry Welfare Coalition, and I want to thank them, in particular because in addition to making criticisms they've actually put forward some productive suggestions for us. I would encourage the International Fund for Animal Welfare to have a very close look at the suggestions they've made and get back to us as to what they agree with.

I just want to make one point and then ask both the IFAW and the Poultry Welfare Coalition a question.

To the Poultry Welfare Coalition, one of the key concepts the animal people are concerned about is to show that the reason for the protection of animals is that they feel pain. Would you have any problem in your amendments adding some acknowledgement of that? For example, your amendment shortens the definition of “animal” to only a vertebrate other than a human being. You stop there. Suppose we were to add “which are hereby deemed to need protection from cruelty because they are alive and feel pain”? Do you have any problem with that? That's clearly the reason we're opposed to cruelty to animals, isn't it? Because they feel pain. They're alive. They're not a chair, as has been said.

Just think about that, because that would go a long way to helping people who want to keep this concept of differentiating between inanimate objects and objects—or property, if we could put it this way—that deal with pain. For those who are opposed to the section, the poultry people have come with their own proposal to assuage your concerns by specifically stating in the title that it's private and public property, thereby reinforcing the concept of property.

I think it would behoove you gentlemen as well to carefully review these suggestions.

Mr. Chair, one of the interesting things that comes out of this for me is a definitional thing. We have in proposed paragraph 182.2(1)(e) of the bill the phrase “baiting of animals”. Somebody else talked about this. The way I read this, another way to say this would be “worrying” animals.

• 1905

However, to the poultry people, in your presentation you read it as setting bait for rats, which is not my reading of the word “baiting”. This illustrates to me that perhaps it would be a good idea to at least define the word, so that it means “worrying”, and not “setting bait for rats” or any other animal. I just want to point these things out, because I think there is room for compromise, there is an ability to come together on this.

I do want to ask the IFAW just one question. You made five specific points to us tonight, and one of them was, to me, a totally obvious statement. I can't understand why you used your time to make a statement of the obvious. You said Pollara tells you this bill enjoys great support because 60% support greater penalties for cruelty to animals. I'm surprised it's only 60%; I haven't heard anybody who's against greater penalties for cruelty to animals. So you've made a point that is unnecessary to make in the very short period of time you have to make a presentation. And I don't know why you made it, unless it's to try to fudge things.

Would you care to respond?

Mr. Richard Smith: Thank you.

You've heard a lot of opposition to this legislation tonight. In our presentation we wanted to make clear the broad range of support that exists for this legislation across party lines.

Mr. Tom Wappel: But this was for increasing penalties. The legislation is much more than that.

Mr. Richard Smith: With respect, I disagree with that. The Harris government in Ontario is faced with a real crisis. It's been one of the areas where some of the worst puppy mill operators have been charged and recharged, again and again, and they've gotten away with it because of the laxity and the muddle of the current law. So I think it is highly significant that provincial governments are supporting this legislation in its entirety—not just the penalties, but its entirety. And you find that level of support for this legislative initiative in other areas of the country as well. That was the point we were trying to make.

The Chair: Thank you very much.

[Translation]

Mr. Lanctôt, three minutes.

Mr. Robert Lanctôt: I appreciate the amendments that may have been made. For us, it is easier to visualize recommendations that may be made. The critical points I had seen were in connection with defences.

My question is addressed to the IFAP. Is the purpose of the bill to specify that animals are no longer to be considered property, or is it to increase sanctions and by the same token possible charges, in order to give the law more teeth? Is your objective to increase the number of sanctions and accusations, or is it to arrive at an agreement so that there will be less cruelty toward animals, while accepting the amendments that have been put forward and that we have before us at this time?

[English]

The Chair: Mr. Smith.

Mr. Richard Smith: Thank you.

Certainly, given the dismal rate of successful prosecution with the current law, our hope is that these changes would make the current law more effective and that the bad apples, the people who are consistently, unnecessarily cruel to animals, get the punishment I think we all agree they deserve. That is the intent of the law. It is to give, as far as I understand it, law enforcement officials the tools that they need, that they're asking for, to do their jobs properly.

And I should say that in the province of Quebec, in the absence of a provincial SPCA act, the only protection animals have in many cases is the Criminal Code provisions. And of course—you might have seen it—there was a very compelling documentary a few months ago on CBC television looking at the very high number of puppy mills currently operating with virtual impunity in Quebec.

• 1910

Mr. Bill Uruski: Mr. Chairman, there were sections dealing with the question of pain. We're sympathetic to the comments that have been made, but we also know that the scientific community has had a hard time defining the question of which vertebrates can in fact experience pain. So we have said, look, remove that, because there is a lot of disagreement in both the scientific community and the legal community.

I want to say, if Mr. Harris has a problem with puppy mills, he should ask Vic Toews, because it was his government that brought in the legislation dealing with puppy mills in Manitoba, and did away with it under provincial legislation within our province in order to be able to deal with puppy mills under the cruelty to animals provisions.

The Chair: We have a response from Mr. Slot.

Mr. John Slot: I'd also like to mention the issue of the baiting of animals. Again, these are the kinds of things that make us very nervous, because in the old bill we had comfort from 429(2), but we don't have that. So when you have statements like that, it's pretty wide open. Does that mean it's for rats and mice? We don't know. That is exactly the concern we have.

The Chair: Thank you very much.

Monsieur Paradis, you have three minutes.

[Translation]

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

First, I want to thank all of you for your presentations. I represent a rural riding in Quebec where there are farmers, dairy cows, hog farms, duck farms, etc. There has been a great deal of talk this evening about problems related to property and to suffering, suffering in connection with the notion of cruelty.

As I mentioned the other evening, I think that an animal is different from a two-by-four, which is an object, a piece of property that will not feel any pain, even if I drive a nail into it as hard as I can. You talked about

[English]

poultry welfare. I have never heard of two-by-four welfare.

[Translation]

So there are concepts that are more closely related to animals and I think it is important that we recognize them.

However, I believe that the concept of property will remain. As I also mentioned the other day, the Civil Code of Quebec contains the notion of property, the notion that an animal belongs to someone. There is the concept of pledging, as provided for in the Bank Act. The Bank Act won't be amended to say that the animal will no longer be someone's property. So this notion of property will persist.

I have some understanding of the general fear people feel in the face of change. Some people wonder what this will all lead to. People express general fears of that order. In my riding of Brome—Missisquoi there are farmers and hunters who have this general kind of anxiety and I try to reassure them by saying what I am saying to you tonight.

Some examples were given earlier. The other day I had asked for concrete examples of what people feared, instead of a general expression of anxiety.

Mr. Slot asked us whether he could be sued if he was late feeding his animals one evening because of a snowstorm, when he had run out of feed. I invite the Canadian Cattlemen's Association to provide us with some concrete examples, if any come to mind.

Secondly, I have a question for Mr. Smith. Some of my colleagues are worried about this bill for another reason, which is its potential effect on medical research. Mr. Smith, what is your position on medical research involving animals?

The Canadian Cattlemen's Association could perhaps first answer the question I put to it.

[English]

The Chair: Mr. Dobson.

Mr. Bob Dobson: I'm not really sure I understand the question, but I could mention that we had a situation occur last year also in Ontario where it was an emergency situation with cattle. The cattle broke through the fence. One of the animals got into the mudhole, and the animal had to be pulled out by the neck. It ended up being okay, but someone was observing, and that was against the law. This was an emergency situation, the animal was going down quickly, and there was no other way to get in there. The mud was very deep.

I suppose that's another example of an emergency situation. Something had to be done quickly in order to save the animal.

• 1915

The Chair: Mr. Smith.

Mr. Richard Smith: In response to this, I'd state that our organization has no policy that we're opposed to the use of animals in medical research. Certainly, in Europe, primarily we've been engaged in some activity to try to come up with different standards, not for medical research use of animals, but for animals in cosmetics testing and that sort of thing. But we've no policy in opposition to the use of animals in medical research.

Again, I think your point is a good one in that all medical research labs in Canada, public and private, as far as I know have animal care committees, which have involvement from SPCAs and statutory obligations, and are trained by the RCMP. So there is nothing to fear as far as we can see from the reasonable amendments that are being proposed, whether by medical researchers or other industry groups.

The Chair: Thank you very much.

Mr. Blaikie, for three minutes.

Mr. Bill Blaikie: No, I'm fine.

The Chair: Mr. Grose, for three minutes.

Mr. Ivan Grose (Oshawa, Lib.): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Being a rather simple fellow, I always come up with simple ideas. But I sat here and listened, and we're talking at each other. The cattlemen and the poultry men are saying, this section could apply to us. The animal welfare people are saying, no, that wouldn't apply to you. Why in the name of heaven don't we just write down that this does not apply in this particular instance? We've mentioned rats and mice here two or three times. We've gone nowhere on it. Why don't we just put in there, this section does not apply to rats and mice? It's simple; instead of talking at each other, make a list of what your objections are about what might happen to see if they're acceptable to the welfare people and acceptable to the government. And I'll get myself into all kinds of trouble here, but I'm used to that.

It seems to me we would be more productive that way than what we're doing here, which is an exercise in futility.

Thank you.

The Chair: Mr. Slot.

Mr. John Slot: We certainly appreciate those comments. I think you can solve that by simply adding section 429 into it. We'd have a much greater comfort level, and we don't need to go into all the details or exemptions. But we appreciate your comments.

The Chair: Mr. Smith.

Mr. Richard Smith: It's a very commonsensical statement, but the point I would make is that surely what we're talking about here is people's trust in the prosecutorial system. Ultimately, criminal charges are laid at the discretion of the crown prosecutor.

So if people don't have a trust in crown prosecutors, then there's a larger problem.

The Chair: Thank you very much.

Mr. Uruski.

Mr. Bill Uruski: It's not in the hands of the crown prosecutor. That's why we're proposing some amendments, because we are afraid we're in a totally new environment in terms of how what we consider legitimate practices, which have taken place and have evolved over the years, are now in a totally new environment by virtue of definitions, by virtue of the new sections in the code. We're saying let's, with this new environment, bring some of the old stability in there and also put it under the crown prosecutor. We're saying, look, put it back under the crown prosecutor to look at it, rather than have individuals be able to do certain things that could get us into an awful lot of trouble.

And in terms of incomes, agriculture is very marginal at the best of times in terms of return on investments. You've seen the statistics on what the returns on investment are. You add another $10,000 or $15,000 in legal fees to an average farmer and you don't need a crisis.

The Chair: Thank you very much.

Peter MacKay.

Mr. Peter MacKay (Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, PC/DR): I agree with that statement. I've prosecuted cases under the Criminal Code for animal cruelty. The difficulty lies in the fact that a lot of the evidence that is relied upon is empirical evidence.

The other difficulty is, animals can't talk. And you're very often faced with police officers coming to you with the aftermath, a dead or injured animal. How do you then build a case around this and prove that somebody is responsible, or that somebody did so intentionally? There has to be that mental component.

• 1920

There's just one thing I wanted to correct on the record, Mr. Smith. You referred to the complete support of the Premier of Ontario for this legislation. My reading of his letter to you is essentially that the Conservative government requests us to move forward towards tougher animal cruelty penalties. He doesn't come right out and say he supports Bill C-15 in its entirety.

The legislation does allow for that. It does allow for the penalties to be toughened up. It does allow for greater discretion. However, this problem with taking it out of the property section of the Criminal Code, and the problems that will flow from that for cattlemen, for poultry farmers, for those in the furrier industry, for those who work with animals, generally.... I mean, let's disavow ourselves of any notion that anyone who works with animals doesn't have an intrinsic interest in protecting animals.

Some practices—for instance, pulling an animal out of a mudhole by the neck, or finding an animal that's injured and for which you're not going to be able to get a veterinarian, and having to make a judgment call.... I think cattlemen in particular find themselves being prejudged. After the fact, in the sanitary sanctity of a courtroom, they are expected to measure to a nicety how much force they should use in a situation like the one Mr. Dobson described, or a judgment call as to whether they were able to help an animal, or destroy it for humanitarian reasons.

Can't we accomplish everything that you and everyone assembled here hopes to accomplish by prosecuting cases with more vigour, and having more or greater training of crown prosecutors and police as to the discretion in laying charges? Perhaps some provincial legislation has to be tightened up. But all this can still be accomplished, I would submit to you, in leaving animals in that property section. All of it can still happen by leaving it in there.

Would you agree with that?

Mr. Richard Smith: I would have to disagree, and it's not just us saying so. Again, we're talking about the people on the ground across the country, who are doing the work, saying they don't have the tools to get the bad guys.

Mr. Peter MacKay: That doesn't have anything to do with moving it out of this section.

Mr. Richard Smith: No, but this is part of the point they're making.

On the other point, the position of the Government of Ontario, sir, I would invite you to phone David Turnbull tomorrow if you wish clarification on this.

I think it's fair to say that within Conservative parties across this country there is a lot of support for this legislation, and that this legislation is not just supported by the Liberal Party, which is obviously the one that has put it forward. It has broad cross-party support. Indeed, animal welfare standards in Canada have traditionally cut across party lines.

That is one thing we're here to implore for tonight. If there's a demonstrated problem with the current law, Mr. Uruski's comments notwithstanding, where is the problem? In what possible way could the Criminal Code of Canada be used by some renegade animal rights organization to persecute industry? How would it happen?

Really, I think the facts speak for themselves.

Mr. Peter MacKay: I would respond by saying that all of what you hope to accomplish can be accomplished by passing this bill and leaving part V as it is. I don't agree with the premise that you want to vilify anybody who doesn't agree with this bill entirely as being somehow supportive of cruelty to animals. I totally disagree with that. I think you're—

Mr. Richard Smith: I didn't say that.

Mr. Peter MacKay: Well, you're implying that if this legislation doesn't pass as is, those in this group and those who might somehow want to improve this legislation, or protect those who will be affected by it most, are somehow complicit in encouraging cruelty to animals.

Mr. Richard Smith: No, I did not say that. Certainly I do think that the current legislation is reasonable and clear. It's something that other jurisdictions have done already.

Mr. Peter MacKay: Name one. Name one jurisdiction where they moved it out of property.

Mr. Richard Smith: I will have a look for it. I can e-mail it to you.

The Chair: Mr. MacKay, I've given great latitude here. We're way over time.

Mr. Myers.

Mr. Lynn Myers: I have one question I'll ask of each of you.

In 1987 the Law Reform Commission of Canada, in its report on recodifying criminal law, set out exemptions—as you're probably aware, or some of you anyway—to its proposed cruelty to animals offence. I want to take a minute to read it for the record, and then you can respond.

• 1925

They suggested, under subsection 20(2):

    20(2) Exceptions: Necessary Measures. For the purpose of clause 20(1), no injury or serious physical pain is caused unnecessarily if it is a reasonably necessary means of achieving any one of the following purposes:

      (a) identification, medical treatment, spaying or neutering;

      (b) provision of food or other animal products;

      (c) hunting, trapping, fishing, and other sporting activities conducted in accordance with the lawful rules relating to them;

      (d) pest, predator or disease control;

      (e) protection of persons or property;

      (f) scientific research unless the risk of injury or serious physical pain is disproportionate to the benefit expected from that research; and

      (g) disciplining or training of an animal.

Could we have a response? Is that a good suggestion?

The Chair: Let's start with Mr. Pollock. I want one per group, please.

Mr. Douglas Pollock: I would say that the fur industry could agree with that definition. I'm not familiar with the particular document you're talking about. From what you articulated, I don't see how we would have any problem with it.

The Chair: Mr. Slot, please.

Mr. Slot: We certainly won't have any problems with that.

Mr. Jim Caldwell (Director, Government Affairs, Canadian Cattlemen's Association): Well, Bob wants me to say something. The cattlemen have no problem with it either.

The Chair: Thank you very much.

Mr. Smith.

Mr. Richard Smith: There's an obvious problem with exemptions, which is why SPCAs and humane societies.... I actually heard some industry groups tonight speak in opposition to exemptions.

There's an obvious problem with exemptions. If you start laying out specific exemptions for entire industrial sectors or other kinds of activities, it means you're not being cruel to an animal as long as you fall within that exemption. I think that creates a two-tiered or many-tiered system that we wouldn't want to get into.

The Chair: Mr. Fitzpatrick.

Mr. Richard Smith: Mr. Chairman, pardon me.

I don't have the document in front of me. If I've misconstrued your question, I'd be pleased to talk about it afterwards.

The Chair: Mr. Fitzpatrick, three minutes.

Mr. Brian Fitzpatrick (Prince Albert, Canadian Alliance): Thank you.

I would like to use an example, because there are some provisions in here that are wrong. You say concrete examples, so I'll give you one.

There is a farmer who is 35 miles from a hospital in rural Saskatchewan and his wife has a serious health problem. He drives her into the hospital and when he gets to that community, a prairie blizzard leaves that farmer and his neighbours snowbound for two or three days. I'm going to ask you a question. I'm referring to proposed paragraph 182.3(1)(b), where it says “fails to provide suitable adequate food, water, air, shelter and care for it”. Let's say he has dogs, cats, pigs, cattle, and everything you want to put on your list on his farm.

First of all, Mr. Smith, would you agree he's not a bad guy?

Mr. Richard Smith: Absolutely.

Mr. Brian Fitzpatrick: You don't provide him with the protection of the defence of reasonable care under proposed subsection 182.3(2). I would say his conduct is perfectly reasonable. He isn't negligent. Could you please tell me, when that man gets harassed by some person who takes him to court, what legal defence does he have to defend himself in court? He can't use negligence.

Mr. Richard Smith: What was the section you're looking at, again?

Mr. Brian Fitzpatrick: Proposed subsection 183.3(1). If you look at proposed subsection 182.3(2), negligence means “for the purposes of proposed paragraphs 1(a) and (b)”, deviating from “the standard of care that a reasonable person would use”. It deliberately excluded (b) out of there. I don't think this man committed a criminal offence, but I'm really scratching my head to try to find out what his legal defence is here.

Mr. Richard Smith: Again, sir, I'm a biologist. I'm not a lawyer.

Mr. Brian Fitzpatrick: Yes, well, I am.

Mr. Richard Smith: My common sense answer to you would be—

Mr. Brian Fitzpatrick: I am, and I've given you a concrete example. I am concerned about the do-gooders causing a lot of harassment for people who are having a tough time making a living in this country.

Mr. Richard Smith: My answer to you would be I can't imagine one prosecutor or one court in this country—

Mr. Brian Fitzpatrick: A private prosecutor.

Mr. Richard Smith: If I'm looking at the right section, is the word “reasonable” not in there?

Mr. Brian Fitzpatrick: Well, he's excluded under proposed subsection 182.3(2). They're trying to address that problem, but you won't accept that. You told Mr. Hilstrom that's not acceptable. And that's the nature of their amendment.

• 1930

The Chair: Mr. Smith, Mr. Fitzpatrick, everybody—we're all friends here. And it's 7:30 p.m.

If Mr. Smith would like to answer the question....

Mr. Richard Smith: If I'm looking at the right section, sir, it specifically says “that a reasonable person would use”, and I can't—

Mr. Brian Fitzpatrick: Not for proposed paragraph (b). Proposed paragraphs 1(a) or (c). It excludes (b) right out of there.

Mr. Richard Smith: Again, I'm getting lost in the clauses.

Mr. Brian Fitzpatrick: You're a biologist. That should follow.

Mr. Richard Smith: I am a biologist, yes.

My point is, I can't imagine one prosecutor allowing something like that to go forward, for the same reason in other types of frivolous and vexatious court actions are not permitted by other sections of the Criminal Code.

The Chair: I'm sure Mr. Toews would want me to inform the group that he said some of his best friends are biologists. What can I say?

Voices: Oh, oh!

Mr. Bob Dobson: I have just a quick note. There may not be any prosecutors who are willing to let that go forward, but I did state an example earlier where the farmer had spent $5,000 by the time the prosecutor said it's not going forward. That was too late for the farmer.

Mr. Richard Smith: Could I just make a comment? Surely there's a difference between an SPCA, which is trained and cooperates with the RCMP, fulfilling its statutory obligations, taking a case to court, a prosecutor deciding a case can be made, and then the court deciding against the SPCA.... Surely there is a difference between that and the frivolous and vexatious situation that I understand there's some nervousness about.

The Chair: Last question is to Mr. MacKay.

Mr. Peter MacKay: Mr. Smith, what you're missing here is that you may be a biologist, but a lot of farmers and poultry farmers and others would have to hire a lawyer to go to make that point. I point back to this removal of the property section that currently affords individuals, if charged, the opportunity to rely on these reasonable provisions—these colour of right provisions that are there. Now, some would argue that those are in the Criminal Code, are common law, and therefore accepted. But omitting those sections—removing animals from the property sections—explicitly creates a void where a common law defence used to exist. By creating that omission, it leaves people vulnerable for no good reason, because everything can still be accomplished by leaving the section as is.

The Chair: First Mr. Slot, then Mr. Smith.

Mr. John Slot: There's another issue we seriously have to consider here. That's the well-being of the industry as a whole. When individuals are charged, it also tars the image of our industry. We have worked very hard to build an industry that has an excellent image. We are a billion-dollar industry with thousands of jobs in rural Canada—the backbone of the economy.

Mr. Peter MacKay: As a former Prime Minister said, once you've been charged, who gives you back your reputation?

Mr. John Slot: Thank you.

That is what's at stake here, and that's why we are nervous. I think we need to realize that.

Mr. Richard Smith: Again, I find it odd here tonight, and I found it very odd last week, that industry organizations continue to access the third-party validation that cooperation with SPCAs offers them, while at the same time saying they're nervous about the activity of those organizations under this new statutory regime. I find that—

The Chair: Look, I think we've exhausted this discussion. I want to thank everyone for being here.

Mr. Uruski, I apologize for mispronouncing your name. You'll be happy to know that Mr. Toews corrected me, and I've mispronounced his name many times.

To all of you, thank you very much, and to colleagues, we'll see you tomorrow.

Adjourned.

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