moved that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee.
She said: Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure I speak to Bill , an act to amend the Criminal Code, bestiality and animal fighting, which brings forward important updates to the Criminal Code. Our government remains steadfast in our commitment to ensure our laws protect our most vulnerable and reflect our commonly held values. The bill is exactly about that.
As a government, we have brought forward important amendments to the Criminal Code, including by increasing efficiencies in the criminal justice system, cleaning up outdated and unconstitutional provisions, clarifying sexual assault laws and strengthening the impaired driving regime. These changes, along with those proposed in Bill , reflect my ongoing commitment to ensuring our criminal laws remain clear, comprehensible and contemporary.
I am proud of our efforts in this regard and will continue to pursue law reform that is evidence-based and ensures our criminal justice system extends the strongest protections to Canadians, especially the most vulnerable.
Before I begin to outline the details of the bill, I would like to acknowledge the advocacy of many honourable members in the House, including in particular the member for for his leadership and for initiating a very important discussion on this issue in his private member's bill. I would also like to thank the several organizations and numerous Canadians who have written in and advocated for many years. The bill is a result of their hard work.
Bill focuses on filling gaps in the Criminal Code and preventing violence and cruelty toward animals. It reflects significant consultation with child and animal protection groups, as well as agricultural and animal use stakeholders, and brings forward changes that reflect a common ground approach to addressing these important issues.
Clause 1 would add a definition of “bestiality” in section 160 of the Criminal Code to include “any contact, for a sexual purpose, between a person and an animal.” This responds to the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. D.L.W. in 2016, where the court held that the bestiality offences in section 160 of the Criminal Code were limited to sexual acts with animals that involved penetration. In arriving at that determination, the court examined the common law definition of bestiality, which originated in British law and was subsequently incorporated into our Criminal Code.
The broadened definition would increase protections for children, as well as other vulnerable individuals who may be compelled to engage in or witness bestiality, and animals, by ensuring the criminal law captures all sexual acts with animals, not just those involving penetration. By virtue of the definition's “sexual purpose” focus, legitimate animal husbandry and veterinary practices would continue to be excluded from the scope of the offence.
In its decision, the Supreme Court noted that courts must interpret the law, not change the elements of crimes in ways that seemed to them to better suit the circumstances of a particular case. Rather, it is Parliament's responsibility to expand the scope of criminal liability, should it elect to do so.
In the wake of this decision, child protection advocates as well as animal welfare groups expressed serious concern with the effect of the decision and called for law reform. I agree the gap identified by the Supreme Court requires a parliamentary response, and we are doing just that.
As mentioned, this bill responds to the Supreme Court's decision in D.L.W., by defining bestiality as “any contact, for a sexual purpose, with an animal.” This would ensure all contact between a human and an animal for sexual purpose would be prohibited. This would send a clear and unequivocal message to those who would wish to harm animals. This amendment would also provide increased protection to children who would be exposed to or coerced to participate in abusive conduct, as well as other vulnerable persons who may be compelled to engage in such conduct.
The proposed definition focuses on the broad term of contact for sexual purpose. The phrase “for a sexual purpose” has a well-established meaning in Canadian criminal law. It is used in a number of different instances in the Criminal Code, and I am confident the use of this consistent terminology will cover the offences in question.
In its entirety, the proposed definition is clearer and reflects Canadians' understanding of what this offence entails. It is also consistent with calls from animal welfare groups and agricultural stakeholders, including the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture.
At the same time, this definition will ensure that those involved in legitimate animal husbandry activities, including breeding livestock and veterinary medicine, will not be captured by these offences.
Currently, the Criminal Code has three main offences related to bestiality. Bill does not change the nature of the penalties related to these offences which, on indictment, carry maximum sentences ranging from 10 to 14 years in jail.
I would also like to note that the changes proposed in my criminal justice reform legislation, Bill , will increase the maximum penalty on summary conviction for both offences to two years less a day. Such changes will contribute to a more efficient criminal justice system by encouraging proceeding by way of summary conviction where it is appropriate to do so.
There is a strong public safety rationale for Parliament to expand the scope of these offences, particularly as it relates to enhancing protections for children and other vulnerable persons. Research continues to demonstrate a well-established link between animal sexual abuse and sexual abuse of children, as well as other forms of violence.
I would note that the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies organized a conference in 2017, the purpose of which was to look more closely at these issues. The final report provides an overview of these issues. I commend the federation for its important work to promote a greater understanding of the severity of these issues.
We also see these links in criminal cases. Canadian criminal law shows that when sexual abuse of a child involves an animal, the extent of this horrible behaviour is most often severe and frequently includes a pattern of vicious treatment of both the child and the animal. With this bill we are ensuring that those in law enforcement, including prosecutors, have the tools they need to achieve justice for the victims of these despicable acts.
I would also like to discuss a second set of reforms contained in Bill , which marks an important step in providing comprehensive protections for all animals. These additional measures will strengthen protections for animals by broadening the scope of the animal fighting offences in the Criminal Code.
There are currently two offences in the Criminal Code that specifically address animal fighting. The first is paragraph 445.1(1)(b), which prohibits encouraging, aiding or assisting at the fighting or baiting of animals. This is a hybrid offence with a maximum penalty of five years on indictment or a maximum of 18 months' imprisonment and/or a fine, not exceeding $10,000. Bill will also increase the maximum penalty on summary conviction to two years less a day.
Presently, this offence fails to capture a number of other associated activities with participating in the deplorable activity of animal fighting. Accordingly, Bill proposes to broaden the scope of this offence to include a wider range of activities, including encouraging, promoting, arranging and assisting at, receiving money for, or taking part in the fighting or baiting of animals, including prohibiting any of these activities with respect to the training, transporting or breeding of animals for fighting or baiting.
These are important changes and will ensure that all aspects of animal fighting are prohibited, ensuring that all persons in the chain of this criminal behaviour can be held accountable. I note, in particular, that the proposed changes also target the financial incentives associated with this crime and, in so doing, will act to discourage those involved with this unacceptable behaviour.
The second existing offence prohibits keeping a cockpit, which is section 447, and carries the same penalties as animal fighting. It too will see its maximum penalty on summary conviction increase through Bill . This offence, as it exists in the Criminal Code, is extremely narrow in scope, a reflection of its historical origins when cockfighting was the primary form of animal fighting.
However, we know that, unfortunately, dog fighting has grown in prominence today. Bill amends this offence to ensure it extends to building, keeping or maintaining any arena for the purposes of fighting any animal. The fact of the matter is that all forms of animal fighting are cruel and abhorrent, and so our laws should appropriately extend to all animals. Simply stated, there is no legitimate or reasonable societal purpose to engage in animal fighting. This behaviour is cruel and must be stopped.
This is another important step our government is taking to ensure our criminal laws are contemporary and address conduct that is deserving of criminal sanction. It is important to note that animal fighting has often been linked to organized crime, including illegal gambling and the illicit trafficking of drugs and weapons. The changes we are bringing forward in Bill will improve the ability of law enforcement to prosecute criminals, track cases of animal fighting and protect public safety. By broadening the offence to include additional activities, we are ensuring that law enforcement is equipped to detect and intercept the crime at whatever stage it is discovered.
I would like to take a few minutes to speak specifically about dog fighting. Given its clandestine nature, it is difficult to collect statistics on the prevalence of dog fighting in Canada. In fact, dog-fighting operations often go undetected until law enforcement officers discover them while investigating other crimes. That said, we know that in May and October 2015 and in March 2016, the Ontario SPCA major case management team, the Ontario Provincial Police and the Chatham-Kent Police Service partnered together to end suspected dog-fighting operations. These three joint investigations led to the execution of 11 search warrants on three properties in Lanark County, Tilbury and Kent Bridge, Ontario. This resulted in the seizure of 64 pit bull dogs, documents, pictures, veterinary supplies, electronic equipment and hundreds of items related to the training and fighting of dogs.
The Ontario SPCA reports that dog fighting is undeniably taking place in Ontario. The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals reports that dog fights can last one to two hours and end only when one of the dogs is too injured to continue or has died. The dogs involved often suffer from deep puncture wounds, broken bones, and in many cases die from blood loss or infection.
As I mentioned, dog fighting, a terrible form of animal cruelty, is also linked to a wide range of other crimes, including illegal gambling and drugs and weapons offences. The primary motivation for dog fighting is gambling and participants often wager thousands of dollars, showing how lucrative it is for those involved.
I would also note that, according to the Ontario SPCA, when police raid dog-fighting events, they often find children present. Exposure to this type of abuse desensitizes children to violence and may itself be a form of child abuse. I am proud that we are taking important steps to limit and prevent this horrible abuse to animals and children. The proposed reforms to the offence, targeting arenas coupled with the changes to the animal-fighting offence, will target those who take part in training or receive money to train dogs to fight and who employ terrible techniques to increase the viciousness and ferocity of these animals. This so-called training can include abusively suspending a dog from a tree or a pole by its jaw and encouraging the dog to grab bait and hold on as long as possible in order to increase the lethality of its bite.
No animal should have to die as a form of human entertainment. It is unspeakably cruel and offends Canadians' values at the deepest level.
I am proud of these necessary changes we are bringing forward to protect animals from horrible situations of abuse. It is important for me to reiterate that this bill in no way interferes with any legitimate animal use. This bill seeks to protect public safety and ensures that we are doing more to prevent violence and cruelty toward animals.
We are focusing on aspects of protection that enjoy broad support and reflect our shared values. Again, the broadening of these offences will not interfere with legitimate animal uses, such as the training and work of service dogs, medical research, hunting, fishing or indigenous animal harvesting rights. Animal fighting and bestiality are in no way legitimate activities.
Before I conclude, I would like to reiterate that this bill is the result of significant consultation and there has been broad support expressed for these reforms. As mentioned earlier, the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture have called for these changes. The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association and many agricultural stakeholder groups have also advocated for these amendments to address animal fighting and bestiality.
As parliamentarians, many of us hear from concerned citizens who are urging action to modernize our animal cruelty offences. Similarly, in our consultations, a number of provinces have called upon Parliament to take action to address the gap identified by the Supreme Court in D.L.W. I am confident that this bill addresses these concerns.
I recognize that some would want the bill to go further by proposing additional reforms to animal cruelty laws. I believe it is critically important that we take steps now to address these particular issues, for which I believe there is broad support. Our government is committed to all of the appropriate protections that are extended to the most vulnerable, and we will continue to review this as part of our broad review of the criminal justice system.
There have already been some suggestions made, including by animal rights organizations, on the ways that we can strengthen this bill. As I have said with respect to other legislation, I welcome constructive suggestions that reflect the objectives of our proposed reforms and look forward to a fulsome and productive debate. I therefore urge all members to support this bill and help ensure its swift passage.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister for answering some of those questions, and my colleagues who asked them. It feels like legitimate, real debate has broken out in this place this morning. It is a rare day. It is wonderful.
Before I start speaking in favour of Bill , there are some people I would to thank. These people have worked very hard on this bill, which, to me, is the minimum this place could do in terms of updating Canada's very outdated and archaic animal cruelty laws. First is Pierre Sadik, Canadian Federation of Humane Societies; Camille Labchuk, Animal Justice; the member for , who tabled a private member's bill earlier in this Parliament; and my legislative manager, Bari Miller.
These people have all helped me over the last year and a half in putting together a non-partisan consensus that we need to see some advancement in terms of the legal framework that Canada uses to protect the rights of hunters, anglers and farmers but also to acknowledge that animal cruelty has indicators and broader societal implications than on just animal welfare itself.
Today, we are speaking specifically to the provisions in Bill . It has been nearly a year since I tabled Bill , my private member's bill, which does include provisions that are in this bill, which responds to the 2016 Supreme Court decision, R. v. D.L.W., which the minister spoke to at length this morning.
For those who are listening this morning, who might not be familiar with the content of that particular decision, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld an acquittal of a British Columbia man who was charged with bestiality after compelling their family dog to sexually abuse their 16-year-old stepdaughter. In the decision, the Supreme Court found that existing provisions around bestiality do not adequately define what sexual acts with animals are prohibited under Canadian law.
The Supreme Court applied a very narrow understanding of sexual abuse that requires a penetrative act. This narrow definition created a loophole that allowed sexual abusers to avoid conviction and highlights how the definition of bestiality in the Criminal Code is severely outdated. The bill before us today responds to this situation by tightening up that definition of bestiality to prohibit sexual abuse of animals, including that beyond a non-penetrative act.
I have been disheartened, because there have been some discussions, both within the Canadian media and people abroad, saying that this is not a problem, it is a manufactured problem, and asking why we are even talking about this. First of all, I would argue that the definition needs to be tightened up, including taking into consideration some of the questions that my colleagues have asked about ensuring that animal husbandry activities are allowed.
This is important because, first of all, in the situation of the Supreme Court ruling, we have a 16-year-old woman, a girl who did not have justice dealt to her because the Supreme Court charged us as legislators with ensuring that this definition was closed. It has been over two years since this happened.
To me, this is justice in one case, and that is enough. However, broader than that, we also have to understand that since the Supreme Court ruling, there have been other cases that have had a similar lens applied to them and then had unfortunate consequences.
I will read from a story in the Winnipeg Free Press, published in April 2017. The title of the article is “Child-porn collector pursued 'dark fantasies', court told”. This man, Andrew Harrison pleaded guilty last week and was given a one-year jail sentence and three years of supervised probation as part of a joint recommendation from the Crown and defence lawyers. Investigators eventually tracked the IP address. He was convicted of child pornography, I believe.
However, the interesting part that is relevant to the bill is the following. Members of the Internet child exploitation unit also charged Harrison with bestiality after finding two videos of him involved in a sexual act with his dog, the court was told. However, that charge was stayed last week because it did not meet the new definition of bestiality, requiring penetration, as set out by a recent Supreme Court decision, according to the Crown.
This is one other case, but I do know anecdotally, from talking to stakeholders in the animal welfare community as well as others across the country, that there has been speculation that law enforcement officials have not been laying or attempting to lay charges related to bestiality that do not involve penetrative acts since the Supreme Court ruling, because they knew these charges would not pass the test set by the Supreme Court. This is why it is so important for us to pass this legislation. I frankly wish it had been done sooner, or in the context of some of the government's other justice legislation, but here we are today.
The other thing I want to lay out here is that the government had the opportunity to put this legislation in its previous bill and, therefore, to also study the terms laid out in this bill. What I do not want to see happen is the government not responding to legitimate questions from colleagues in this place around the definition and how it might apply to activities like animal husbandry or whatnot, because it failed to put this legislation forward earlier in this Parliament.
Again, I point to my Liberal colleague, the member for . It is a rare day I can be found complimenting a Liberal in this place, but my colleague had a large piece of comprehensive legislation on a bunch of different animal welfare issues. He reduced that bill significantly through amendments to a few very tight issues. One of them is the bestiality provision, which we have in my private member's bill. Now the government, late in this Parliament, is trying to rush this through. It is therefore incumbent upon the government and the minister to answer these questions to ensure that the intent of the legislation, as she has described it is, is applied in fact.
Going back to why this is important and not an issue that should be ignored, there is a strong connection between abuse of animals and abuse of people. A provincial government of Australia website says:
Research has established a strong connection between abuse towards animals, and abuse towards people. When a person abuses an animal there is a risk that they may also be abusive towards other people in their lives. Children who experience abuse towards animals, or abuse within the home, are also more likely to abuse animals or perform acts of violence towards people later in life. They repeat lessons learnt in the home: to react to anger with violence, and to perform this violence on more vulnerable individuals. Animal abuse can take the form of physical violence, torment, neglect, or threats to safety – be it to household pets, wildlife, or farm animals. It is often used by the abuser to demonstrate power over other family members, and promote an environment of fear, vulnerability, and isolation. It commonly occurs alongside other types of abuse within the home.
There are other bodies of research that clearly show the link between the abuse of animals and abuse of people. Through the debate here today, in both aspects of the bill, the bestiality change, as well as the change to animal fighting, which I fully support, we have to acknowledge that we cannot turn a blind eye to the severity of this problem, because it escalates.
I personally think we have a responsibility to ensure that the rights and welfare of animals are protected, but we also have to understand that case law shows that it is a problem, despite the fact I have seen some articles recently saying that it is not. Moreover, research shows that by we in Parliament, by not taking action on this, might precipitate broader abuses leaning toward violence against people in our country, which is why it should not have taken two years for us to get to this point. However, here we are.
I want to thank people in the stakeholder community for their efforts on this because that community has been asking for this change for a long time. I also want to thank the over 8,000 Canadians who signed the petition seeking legislative change in this regard. There has been considerable pressure on the government from a variety of organizations across the stakeholder gamut. The Canadian Federation for Agriculture has spoken in favour of the bestiality change. The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association and the Canadian Cattlemen's Association also issued a letter to the to implore her to remedy this legislative gap.
To my colleagues who have raised concern about the animal husbandry component, I have been assured by officials as well as members of these communities that they do not see any potential implications given the definition in case law. However, to the stakeholders who have written in support of it, we need to be very clear about the intent of this debate to say that this legislation was not put forward, and certainly not in my private member's bill, to prevent legitimate animal husbandry activities. Instead, it is designed to prevent the abuse of animals by humans undertaking sexual acts for their gratification by abusing animals.
As the Supreme Court case of R. v. D.L.W. demonstrated, violence against animals and violence against people are not distinct and separate problems. Violence against animals can be a strong predicator of violence against humans and the relationship between these acts of violence is known as the violence link. Very simply put, if a person wants to hurt animals, they are also more likely to hurt another person as well. I have gone into that in some detail today. I just want to reiterate this.
While the bill addresses the definition of bestiality, I have concerns that there are elements missing in Bill , as it does not currently give judges the ability to ban bestiality offenders from owning animals in the future, something that is a standard for other animal cruelty offences under the Criminal Code. That means that someone who is convicted of committing a bestiality offence is legally allowed to own animals. However, someone who is convicted of animal cruelty is not allowed to own animals. A reasonable person can see why this is a problem endangering animals as well as humans, and I would like to see an amendment to the bill, possibly at third reading that could make this small change.
I also want to address critics of the bill who view it as a slippery slope. Again, some of my colleagues have raised the issue of animal husbandry. The concern is that perhaps farmers and other husbandry workers could somehow be criminally implicated by this small change in law. This law as well as my private member's bill ensures that contact with animals for sexual purposes is prohibited, and the key word here is “sexual”. Sexual offences appear in the Criminal Code in a number of different places, including the context of sexual interference, section 151; invitation to sexual touching, section 152; sexual exploitation, section 153; and most importantly, the section 271 offence of sexual assault.
To my colleague who was asking questions of the minister, this is my analysis. The word “sexual” has been clearly defined in case law. The leading Supreme Court case is R. v. Chase, 1987, 2 S.C.R. 293. Chase it makes it clear that contact will only be sexual in nature if it is objectively clear to a reasonable observer that there is a carnal or sexual context to it. To my colleague who raised this question earlier and asked the minister for evidence from case law, I would direct him to this case. The person's motive is also relevant and if they are motivated by sexual gratification, that would be considered in determining whether or not the contact is sexual. In other words, the key question that would be grappled with is whether or not the sexual nature of the activity were apparent to a reasonable observer.
To apply this to the issue at hand, it is abundantly clear that artificial insemination of cows or other animals in farming or science would in no universe be interpreted by the courts to be done for sexual reasons, one would assume anyway. Rather it is done for animal husbandry reasons or scientific reasons. There is no element of sexual gratification in either situation. Artificial insemination of animals is an accepted activity that occurs across a variety of sectors, and no reasonable person would view it as anything other than economically or scientifically motivated. I would also point out that the current law that requires penetration would apply to practices like artificial insemination already if we are interpreting it without the case law looking at intent.
Again, to my colleague's question of the , she could have expanded on that. I would expect her, if she is going to appear at our committee, to look at that particular definition and perhaps get more information to colleagues who might have concerns about that. In fact, there has never been a case that has used the existing law in this matter, using the current bestiality provisions to prosecute a farmer for the artificial insemination of an animal, given that the current definition deals with penetration.
It might also be helpful to make an analogy to the care given by a doctor or even a veterinarian. Doctors frequently have contact with a patient's sexual organs, and touching is not done for sexual purposes but for medicinal purposes. Similarly, a veterinarian who examines an animal's sexual organs would never be deemed to be engaged in sexual contact with the animal but contact for the purpose of veterinary medicine.
This is a very uncomfortable discussion to have, but sometimes hard discussions are needed, and we cannot shy away from having them. However, I am glad to see the bill finally in front of Parliament so that we can give police more tools to deal with dangerous sexual criminals.
The other component of the bill that I support is the ban on animal fighting. Some of my colleagues have had questions about the definition of animal fighting and the situations it would pertain to. At first glance, the proposed legislation is pretty clear in its intent to prevent animal fighting in a very specific context, and not with a broader set of non-specific definitions.
The reason this is also important to my NDP colleague's comment of a bare minimum in updating animal cruelty and animal welfare legislation in Canada is that this is another instance where animal abuse or cruelty can have broader societal implications for humans. For example, we know that dog fighting, in fact, most animal fighting, has been linked to gang activity or organized crime and illegal gambling. Therefore, if somebody does not want to look at the animal cruelty components of the proposed legislation, they should at least, at a bare minimum, look at the fact that this particular activity is known to have broader implications for crime in Canadian society. It is one of these rare situations where we have consensus among a broad variety of stakeholders that this is something Parliament should be passing and undertaking.
Some colleagues raised concerns with me that it might affect rodeos in Canada. I do not take it to read that way, but perhaps the , the parliamentary secretary or officials could speak to the intent of it as well, which might get rid of some of the concerns that my colleagues have in that regard. As a member of Parliament from Calgary, I do not see rodeos as places where animals are fighting each other, or fighting to the death. That is not the case, and so I would not see that as the intent of this proposed legislation. However, perhaps the minister could clarify that to ensure that there are no unintended consequences from the bill.
Also, because I believe this may have come up, perhaps my colleague from might want to speak to the fact that some of those concerns were raised during the committee study of his bill. Even though his bill was defeated in this place, the intent of that proposed legislation was to be specific and to deal with a specific problem. However, one of the approaches my colleague from Beaches—East York took in that somewhat frustrating journey with his private member's bill was, to my understanding, to try to update the animal welfare legislation by drilling down towards specific problems and then come up with specific legislation so there would be no broader impact on Canadian agriculture.
The feedback I often get from colleagues or stakeholder communities is whether this would affect medical research or someone's ability to run a ranch. I certainly do not think that is the case.
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to be partaking in today's debate on Bill . It touches some subject matter which is difficult to talk about, but that is often the case with the Criminal Code. The Criminal Code is a gigantic statute that has to cover everything that could possibly go wrong in society and figure out how we amend and correct that behaviour, but also how we dole out punishment.
Bill is specifically aimed at addressing gaps in the Criminal Code that exist with respect to animal bestiality and animal fighting. Supreme Court decision R. v. D.L.W., from 2016, was referenced by both the and the hon. member for .
Specifically, Bill would update section 160 of the Criminal Code to include a broader and more comprehensive definition of “bestiality” and would amend paragraph 445.(1)(b) and subsection 447(1) to address animal fighting, specifically building facilities to harbour animal fighting and also promoting or making money from the event.
Canada's animal welfare laws have not been substantively changed since the 1890s, which has to say something to anyone listening to this debate.
I want to acknowledge the member for , who brought forward a private member's bill on this issue, Bill . In her drafting of Bill , the lifted Bill C-388 and included it. Therefore, that is an acknowledgement of the work the member for Calgary Nose Hill has done.
I know the member for was recently in a bit of a tussle with an iPolitics columnist on an article he recently wrote. He was looking at some of the statistics that existed with this crime. There is the Supreme Court of Canada case I mentioned and there has been one case in federal court. Even in the province of Alberta, which is home to 4.3 million people, six people were charged with that offence between 2013 and 2017. Therefore, it is not a very wide ranging crime. It is certainly an abhorrent one and one we should we should rightfully close in the Criminal Code.
What I am concerned about is not really what is in Bill , which I hope will receive unanimous consent in the House to have it sent to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. I am mostly concerned about what is not in it. I also agree with the member for 's assessment of the glacial pace of justice reform by the Liberal government.
The minister came to power with a mandate letter from the , signalling bold criminal justice reform. We had a series of four government bills, which I will not number. Every time a new justice bill was added, like an amoeba, it would swallow the components of the first one and progressively get bigger and bigger. However, they were all languishing at first reading. Finally, we arrived at Bill and there was action on that bill, which I believe is currently at the justice committee. However, it has been a pretty glacial pace.
I like and respect the . I was our party's justice critic for the entire 2017 year. It is a complex subject matter and requires a lot of responsibility and maturity to approach it. However, I have to judge the minister on her performance and I would not really give her a passing mark on the legislative front with respect to the promises made within her mandate letter.
I want to now move to a story from my riding, a story of Teddy the dog. This really goes to the heart of what is not included in Bill . I will give my support to the bill, but I know constituents in my riding will be sorely disappointed. Teddy the dog was one of the most brutal cases of animal abuse the BC SPCA has ever witnessed.
In February of this year, officers came onto a property and found an adult dog tethered by a few inches. It was standing out in the wet and the cold in a pile of its own feces. The officers found a collar imbedded in that dog's neck that had caused the dog's head to swell to three times its original size, because it had been left on the dog from the time it was a puppy. The collar had never been loosened. When the officers removed the poor animal named Teddy and brought it to the veterinarian, the vet had to surgically remove that collar, which exposed the dog's trachea and a mound of infected flesh. Unfortunately, that dog passed away from its injuries.
It is far too often in this country that we hear of cases like that. Changing our laws would not be the magic bullet to solve this problem, but it would be one key, critical component, especially when we have such obvious gaps in our system.
There was a rally in my riding in March, where, as I said earlier, we had people from across the political spectrum. We had supporters of the Conservative Party, the Liberal Party, my party and the Green Party. They were all united, because they cared about animal welfare, and they cared that the state of our animal cruelty laws is not up to what it should be right now.
During that rally, I made a commitment that despite the defeat of Bill , put forward by the member for , I would continue pressuring the to close these gaps and address the shortcomings of our current criminal law.
The unfortunate fallout from the case of Teddy the dog was that some people in the community felt that they could take the law into their own hands. A great deal of racism came out of it, because it involved a property on a first nation reserve. Therefore, I want to take this opportunity to remind constituents in my riding that racism and vigilantism have no place in our community. While we must always stand on guard for animal welfare, and certainly prosecute to the fullest extent of the law those who are found guilty, we have to let the law do its job. We have to believe in the rule of law. We cannot support or condone in any way people taking up a case for themselves. I want to make that very clear.
As I mentioned in my question to the , not only this Parliament but previous Parliaments have wrestled with the idea of the inadequacy of the Criminal Code provisions with respect to animal cruelty. There have been a number of Liberal bills and New Democrat bills over previous Parliaments that have dealt with this issue.
I will get to the bill put forward by the member for , but first I want to mention the bill put forward in a previous Parliament by the great Irwin Cotler, probably one of the most revered Liberals ever and a former minister of justice himself. He introduced Bill . It only made it to first reading, but that particular bill tried to make some important updates, specifically with respect to failing to provide adequate care. Bill C-610 was introduced on June 6, 2014. I want to read into the record the speech Mr. Cotler gave at that time:
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and introduce this legislation, which amends the Criminal Code's provisions on animal cruelty. In particular, it creates a new offence of inadequate and negligent care of animals. The bill establishes an offence for anyone who negligently causes unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal or a bird, or, being the owner, wilfully or recklessly abandons it or fails to provide suitable and adequate food, water, air, shelter and care for it. It also punishes those who negligently injure an animal or bird while it is being conveyed.
He went on to say that “Canada's animal cruelty laws are woefully out of date.” He left it at that.
The former member for , Peggy Nash, introduced Bill in the last Parliament. The hon. member for , in the previous Parliament, introduced Bill . There has been multi-party support for these initiatives, but every time, they seem to have run into roadblocks.
Coming up to the most recent attempt in this Parliament, Bill , which was introduced by the member for , unfortunately I was not present for that second reading vote. I was travelling with the Special Committee on Electoral Reform at that time. I was substituting on it. We were hearing from the great people of Atlantic Canada about how great it would be to have some electoral reform. Unfortunately, the Liberals did not see it the same way. We will see how that conversation goes on in the future.
In any case, I think the member for acknowledged that his particular private member's bill probably bit off more than it could chew, as it was trying to cover so many different angles. The more a private member's bill covers, the more areas people can find problems with and reasons to shut the whole thing down. I know that there were concerns raised by my Conservative colleagues, especially with respect to legal activities such as ranching, hunting, fishing, trapping, medical research and so on. I think there are ways to proceed with legislation that would address those concerns.
My wife and I have a small farming property. I come from a rural area of Vancouver Island. My constituents like to hunt and fish, and many of them are farmers. I would not support a piece of legislation unless there were specific provisions to protect those activities. I have some of the best salmon fishing in the world right off the west coast of Vancouver Island, which I enjoy. That is something that is a part of our heritage.
I raise animals. Most farmers will say that looking after the welfare of their animals is good for business. We do not want to have animals that are sickly or in poor health. I can attest to that. I have chickens, turkeys and lambs. When they are happy and well looked after, they do very well. It is in my interest not only from a moral point of view but from a commercial standpoint. There are always going to be those few bad apples who give everyone a bad name. However, that is specifically what this law has to be designed for, to weed out the bad apples and go after those who are the poor farmers who give everyone a bad name, and so on.
In 2016, when the member for , who was our party's justice critic and is now back to being the justice critic, rose to give our party's response to Bill , he addressed those concerns. He said that we can insert clauses into the Criminal Code that start off with the phrase “For greater certainty” to make the necessary changes.
I heard concerns during that debate from Conservatives who wondered about jurisdictional and constitutional issues, because we know that the provinces have their own animal cruelty laws, as does the federal government. However, the supremacy of the criminal law power could easily override provincial legislation to ensure that we were not ending up with a patchwork quilt and that the law applied equally in each province, no matter where one lived. The Supreme Court of Canada has held that valid criminal law requires a prohibition, a penalty and a criminal law purpose, such as peace, order, security, morality and health. A change with respect to animal cruelty could easily satisfy all of those.
Here we are three years into the government's mandate, which I alluded to in my opening remarks. With respect to Bill , there is so much more that could have been included in this bill. I said to the during questions and comments that, with respect, the provisions in Bill , which is not a very big bill, are very much the low-hanging fruit. I do not see how anyone in this place could raise any legitimate concerns about the bill, except for tinkering around the edges, such as whether some words could be modified. The general purpose of the bill is to broaden the definition of “bestiality” and to make sure that we have an all-encompassing law that goes against animal fighting. We are not going to find any significant objection to that.
However, the minister saying, after the defeat of Bill , that the conversation would continue, that the Department of Justice would be having ongoing consultations with stakeholders, I think led many Canadians to believe that reform was actually coming. Therefore, when I announced to my constituents that we had Bill and what was missing, I had to convey a sense of disappointment.
Honestly, I think I and many constituents and many Canadians across this country were expecting a lot more, not only because it is three years into the government's mandate but because it is also two years after the defeat of Bill . I know that the member for has conveyed publicly that Bill is an obvious choice and is the low-hanging fruit. However, there is a sense of wondering what else is coming.
The Liberals are masters of the long promise. They say that they are continuing to engage with people, but I would not be surprised if we have to wait until the 43rd Parliament before we get some action. Who knows who will be in power at that point to deliver it?
My party has long supported animal cruelty measures. I have mentioned all the private members' bills. We could have included in this legislation, and I hope this is something the committee on justice and human rights will look at, some provisions for basic standards of care.
If I look at the case of Teddy the dog, in my riding, he was tethered with a chain just a few inches long and was having to stand in his own pile of feces. The B.C. SPCA has some specific recommendations the government could take note of. Basically, they want to see, for any dogs or animals that are tethered, five freedoms respected: freedom from hunger and thirst; freedom from pain, injury and disease; freedom from distress; freedom from discomfort and freedom to express behaviours that promote well-being. That is a starting point. There are lots of suggestions out there. There are many different stakeholders involved in this issue, and this is something the government could have taken note of.
As I referenced in my earlier questions and comments, I have written to the minister on this issue on behalf of constituents. Prior to Bill being introduced, I conveyed in my correspondence to the the concerns of my community about how many cases of animal cruelty exist across this country and that this particular case acted as a catalyst. People are demanding more action.
The minister did respond in June of this year. Again, it was not really anything concrete. She assured me that the government was intending to review all the options to improve any gaps in protection resulting from the existing Criminal Code provision, which is something that has not been done yet. The minister agreed publicly that animal cruelty is a significant social issue that needs to be addressed, and so on. There are many public comments that come from the government that signal an intent to do something, but when we actually get something concrete, like Bill , we see that it has not amounted to much.
Just to highlight how important this particular issue is and why these gaps are so important, I want to speak about some of the statistics. It was reported, I think a couple of years ago, that there are approximately 45,000 animal cruelty complaints in Canada every year, but only one in 1,000 result in charges and far fewer in convictions. That is a significant difference between complaints and actual action in the court system. It says to me that there is definitely a need for this legislation.
I will conclude by saying that we support these gaps being addressed in the Criminal Code. Bill is an important first step. The can be assured that we, as a caucus, will be supporting this bill going forward to committee, but we will remind Canadians that there was so much more that could have been done. It is a sad day that, after three years, we are still going to have to wait for those meaningful parts to be addressed.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
I am very pleased to have this opportunity to speak to Bill , a bill that proposes several amendments that would strengthen the Criminal Code's response to bestiality and animal fighting.
I have been passionate about animal protection all my life. During my five years on Oakville's town council I had the opportunity and privilege to work with the Oakville & Milton Humane Society and its former executive director, Kim Millan. I have spoken at length with Kim, as well as former OSPCA officer, Laura Mackasey , and current OSPCA officer, Caitlin Jones who are the front line when dealing with animal cruelty cases. I can remember so clearly Laura and Kim saying to me, “We want to do more, but our hands are tied by legislation.” I was actually shocked at how our laws had failed to keep up with the realties of our world.
I was an early and vocal supporter of the member for 's private member's Bill , and met with my local humane society about the proposed legislation. It also publicly supported the bill because it deals with animal cruelty on a daily basis and knows how critical it is to update our laws. Quite frankly, those on the front line of animal cruelty need governments to step up and give them the tools they need to protect animals.
The bill before us today reflects the 's commitment to review animal welfare laws in the wake of the defeat of Bill . She held extensive consultations all across Canada. Bill is an excellent first step, but quite frankly, there is more to be done by all levels of government to end animal cruelty.
I will highlight one issue which was brought to my attention by someone who has worked in the field for many years. We need to ensure that any person convicted of an offence of animal cruelty should be prohibited from ever owning an animal again, and if the person is prohibited from owning an animal in one province, that restriction should apply in all provinces. It is my hope that this is something that could be considered at committee.
We know there is a direct link between animal cruelty and child abuse and also between animal cruelty and domestic violence. That is why we must take the abuse of animals seriously. Research from the University of Windsor found a strong correlation between the abuse of human family members and the treatment of companion animals. Childhood sexual assault is also linked with animal sexual assault. Barbara Cartwright, CEO of the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies has stated that not all people who commit animal cruelty are serial predators, but as far as we know, all serial predators have committed acts of animal cruelty. We also know there is a correlation between animal fighting and guns and gangs. Bill also tightens the law around animal fighting.
I am sure most Canadians are shaking their heads asking why these changes have not been made sooner. I agree, but I applaud the government for bringing Bill C-84 forward.
On the specifics of Bill , I will now focus my comments on the bill's amendment, which arises in the wake of the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in 2016 in the case of D.L.W. In this recent decision, the court limited the meaning of the term “bestiality”. I cannot stress enough how important Bill C-84's bestiality amendment is. Specifically, it would serve to protect vulnerable people, especially children, as well as animals. To be clear from the outset, criminal liability must result whenever any kind of sexual act with animals occur. While difficult to talk about, it is a subject that we must address because of the very real consequences of a lack of legislation on this issue.
The term “bestiality” has never been defined in statute in Canada, but it forms the basis for criminal liability in three distinct Criminal Code offences. Canada's bestiality provisions find their origin in ancient British law, and the offence was included in Canada's first Criminal Code in 1892. The recent Supreme Court case was the first time the Supreme Court of Canada had the occasion to consider the meaning of the term “bestiality”. Because there was no statutory definition of the term, the court examined its history and its interpretation at common law to determine its meaning.
The court found that sexual penetration has always been one of its essential elements. Nothing in the legislative history of Canada's bestiality provisions was found to have changed its original meaning at common law. Importantly, the court also noted that any changes to the scope of existing criminal offences must be made by Parliament.
The circumstances of the D.L.W. case are disturbing, to say the very least. Without elaborating on the extensive and sustained sexual abuse that the accused perpetrated against the victims over a period of approximately 10 years, the court was asked to consider whether the activity constituted a form of bestiality. The majority of the court answered the question in the negative because of the historical interpretation given to the offence.
The decision stated that the courts must not create new crimes that Parliament never explicitly intended and expanding the scope of bestiality to include all sexual acts between humans and animals would do just that, largely because, in the words of the Supreme Court, “there is not, and has never been in Canada, any statutory definition, exhaustive or otherwise, of the elements of bestiality.” The court also pointed to the ongoing significant policy debates about what the focus of this sort of offence ought to be and once again clarified that it is for Parliament, not the courts, to expand the scope of criminal liability for this ancient offence.
Bill proposes an amendment that would achieve exactly what the courts have suggested. Specifically, it would define “bestiality” as “any contact for a sexual purpose with an animal”. It would mean that accused persons, like the one in the D.L.W. case, would no longer be acquitted simply because the sexual abuse in question did not involve penetration. This is an appropriate and necessary response to the Supreme Court's decision. As parliamentarians, it is our duty to ensure the criminal law protects the most vulnerable, especially children. Involving animals in harmful contact is often indicative of a propensity for even more serious offending.
As I stated earlier, there is an established link between animal cruelty and child abuse. The D.L.W. case is a case in point. We must extend the criminal law's protections in this regard. Undoubtedly, the Criminal Code contains other offences that could apply to the conduct at issue in the D.L.W. case. At the same time, the proposed changes would send a clear message that forcing others to engage in sexual acts with animals and involving children or animals in this kind of activity is harmful and will not be tolerated.
The bill's second focus on animal fighting is also an overdue change to our legislative framework in Canada. Our society does not tolerate these abuses of animals and I am pleased the government has introduced Bill to protect the vulnerable, animals and Canadian society in general. It is my hope that this legislation will go a long way in also helping people like those who work with the Oakville & Milton Humane Society, as well as the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, to do their jobs more easily and give them the legislative framework they have been calling for.
I call on all members of this House to support this bill.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak in support of Bill . It is a step forward on animal welfare issues. We have so much more to do, but I am happy to mark the start of the move toward better and stronger animal welfare legislation.
There are other related bills I expect to see shortly in this place coming from the other place on the captivity of whales and dolphins, on shark finning and on the testing of cosmetics on animals. Those are all important steps forward on animal welfare issues. I am really looking forward to participating in those debates and voting in support of those efforts.
Animal welfare issues are very important to me. I am a member of the Liberal animal welfare caucus. I would really like to thank the members for and for their leadership role on that caucus. It is an important way for us to get more information and to learn more about what we can do to move things forward. It has definitely been a source of learning and advocacy for us.
As I said, this bill is a step forward. It ends the sexual abuse of animals and also gets rid of the cruel practice of animal fighting. Those are important first steps forward for us. It is hard for me to believe that we even need this legislation, and yet we do.
I was reading a little bit more about animal fighting. Once one reads about it and sees pictures, it is really hard to get images out of one's mind. It really centres us on why we need to take action.
I was looking at the Ontario SPCA web page about dog fighting. It described it this way: “Dog fighting is a sadistic ‘contest’ in which two dogs—specifically bred, conditioned, and trained to fight—are placed in a pit (generally a small arena enclosed by plywood walls) to fight each other for the spectators' entertainment and gambling.”
This bill goes beyond dog fighting, but let us focus on dogs for a moment and what I was reading about. Dogs die as part of this fighting, and this is not just about the dogs in the fights themselves. In the training process, there are also what are called “bait dogs”.
U.S. awareness about bait dogs, which are part of the training process, really came to the fore when a female pit bull named Turtle was found on the side of the road with many scars and wounds. The reason she had all those scars and wounds is that she had actually been used, attacked over and over again by dogs training for these fights as part of this cruel contest.
This dog, Turtle, was rescued, which makes her a lucky one despite the tremendous pain she went through. However, other animals are not able to be rescued. That is why we need this type of legislation and why I can speak so strongly in support of that need. We should never see that happen to animals at all.
I was also taken by another article I read in The Globe and Mail, which mentioned that U.S. dog owners come to Canada for dog fighting because we are seen as having lax legislation. I cannot even imagine that Canada would be seen as a place where someone would come because of lax legislation on animal cruelty. That is something we cannot let happen, and this bill takes a step forward in preventing it.
Canadians care, and that is also why this is so important. Two weeks ago, I went to one of my local churches, the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto, and it had a blessing of the animals service. People brought their animal friends to church for a blessing, and they got to talk about the important roles that our animal friends have in our lives. It was also a time to talk about the kind of advocacy we can do in support of animals in our community. I would really like to thank Kimberly Carroll of Animal Justice because she made a call to action that day and talked to us about the need to give a voice to animals, as they cannot speak for themselves.
That is what we are doing today in the process of this debate. Today is one more step in trying to give a voice to animals. I know this is important to people who live in Toronto—Danforth, and it is certainly important for me. It is important to how we want to see our community and country.
I want to cite the words of Albert Einstein. He said that “Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.” That touches me in terms of how I want to see an expanding circle of compassion, which I believe this legislation and the other bills we will be seeing coming from the other place move us closer to doing.
Gandhi said that “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Those are good points of balancing out. How do we want to see ourselves as a community?
Another aspect of the bill, aside from the animal fighting part, is about bestiality. It is another important part of what the bill covers. In 2016, there was a Supreme Court of Canada decision, and in it bestiality, as it is currently defined in our Criminal Code, was said not to include non-penetrative acts. There was an important dissent that was written by Supreme Court of Canada Justice Rosalie Abella, but the majority did not agree with that, and I would like to quote the decision because it is important. This legislation directly responds to it. The court decision stated:
Penetration has always been understood to be an essential element of bestiality. Parliament adopted that term without adding a definition of it and the legislative history and evolution of the relevant provisions show no intent to depart from the well-understood legal meaning of the term. Moreover, the courts should not, by development of the common law, broaden the scope of liability for the offence of bestiality. Any expansion of criminal liability for this offence is within Parliament’s exclusive domain.
The decision also said:
Courts will only conclude that a new crime has been created if the words used to do so are certain and definitive.
I would submit that that is what this decision does. It provides clear, certain, definitive wording. It is quite simple in fact. Our government response to that decision is that we amend section 160 of the Criminal Code by adding a subsection 4, which states, “In this section, bestiality means any contact, for a sexual purpose, with an animal.” It is simple, certain and definitive. That is why it responds quite well to the concerns that have been raised in that case.
By dealing with this, we are increasing our circle of compassion. I say that because I also want to talk about, and I know we heard this earlier today, that a link has been seen between animal cruelty and violence toward people. The Humane Canada conference in 2017 brought together experts to talk about these links and how they would be better addressed. In fact, similar conferences have been held in the United States. There will be a conference by Humane Canada on this issue in November this year in Toronto, discussing the link between violence against animals and violence against people. When the purpose of the conference was set out, it stated:
Violence against animals and violence against people are not distinct and separate problems. Rather, they are part of a larger pattern of violent crimes that often co-exist. Research shows a significant correlation between animal cruelty and crimes of domestic violence, the physical and sexual abuse of children, sexual assault and other violent crimes.
When I was reading and learning more about this, in domestic assault situations and domestic violence, sometimes the threat of violence to an animal friend in that household is one of the ways that control is exerted over the domestic partner as part of the violence. It is a more complex issue and the circle of compassion encapsulates our entire community. We need to end animal cruelty. It is as simple as that.
It is something that I personally feel passionately about. I am happy to see that we are here to debate and discuss it. I look forward to seeing the bill move forward. I want to thank the member for who raised many of these issues in his bill earlier in the discussion. I am seeing this as one more step. We need to move it forward. Let us do it. Let us take the steps that we need to move forward on animal cruelty.