Mr. Speaker, this is my first time rising since the events on Friday. I want to state for the record my solidarity, and the solidarity of all parliamentarians, with the people of New Zealand and the Muslims who were killed and injured at the two mosques in Christchurch.
I rise today to speak to Bill . The bill proposes to amend the Criminal Code to strengthen the laws around bestiality and animal fighting. As members will recall, proposed amendments to Bill will, among other things, address a gap in the law identified by the Supreme Court of Canada in the case of the Crown v. D.L.W. That decision and its interpretation of the bestiality provisions led to calls for law reform to address a gap identified by the court; that is the common law meaning of bestiality was limited previously to simply penetrative acts.
The bill's proposal to identify bestiality as “any contact, for a sexual purpose, with an animal” would address that very gap. Although some may view this provision as a modest step, it is an important one that needs to be taken, and our government is very appreciative of the non-partisan approach that members from all sides have taken to advancing this needed reform in an expeditious manner through Parliament. We would like to note, in particular, the unanimous support the bill received at second reading and in committee.
I would also like to express my sincere appreciation to the witnesses who appeared before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and to the members of that committee for their comprehensive review of this bill.
After listening to the testimony presented during the study of Bill , the committee adopted three key amendments based on the expertise of witnesses who expressed their support for this bill. These amendments will provide for improved animal protections by authorizing the courts to issue a prohibition or restitution order when a person is found guilty of a bestiality offence. The amendments will also eliminate the requirement to destroy birds used in cockfighting.
Finally, these amendments will ensure that the names of those found guilty of engaging in a sexual act with an animal, or, in other words, those found guilty of the bestiality simpliciter offence, are added to the national sex offender registry. This amendment was proposed by the hon. member for of the official opposition.
The issue of animal rights and welfare is an important one right around the country and in particular to the constituents in my riding of Parkdale—High Park. I have listened closely to the concerns of those residents. We are committed, as a government, to doing better on this issue by supporting this important bill.
I have heard in my riding, for example, from constituents such as Josie Candito, who has spoken to me repeatedly and testified while we studied the bill at committee, about the link between animal abuse and the abuse of children and women. What we know on that very point is that it is not clear that every animal abuser ends up abusing children and women. However, what is absolutely clear, and what the facts demonstrated at committee, is that people who abuse women and children have in their history an antecedence of having abused animals. This is a critical point because the bill targets that.
What we also heard from people like Anne Griffin and Tracey Capes, both of whom came before the federal/provincial animal welfare working group on Parliament Hill, are their thoughts regarding the bill and our government's continued efforts and progress to protect animals.
However, the one thing that my constituents have consistently reiterated is that there is still more work to be done to protect animals. They have told me that our next steps must be informed by a national consultation regarding the most important issues to Canadians or a high-level analysis by the federal government, taking into account the broad perspectives on an issue as vast as animal welfare. I have told them, the current has told them and the former minister of justice has told them that Bill is an important first step toward our government's goal of more comprehensive protection for animals, and we indeed intend to continue this important work.
In my time today, I will review some of this important testimony and discuss how these amendments bolster the objectives sought by this crucial legislation.
As mentioned, the first amendment adopted by the committee would authorize a court to issue an animal prohibition or restitution order for each of the three bestiality offences found in section 160 of the code.
The object of this prohibition order is to prohibit offenders convicted of bestiality from possessing, having the care of or control over, or residing with an animal for any period that the court deems appropriate up to a lifetime prohibition. A lifetime ban may indeed be necessary in certain circumstances, having regard to the seriousness of the offence and the degree of responsibility of certain offenders. This was a helpful suggestion originally made by one of the important stakeholders who testified before the justice committee, Ms. Camille Labchuk of Animal Justice.
The restitution order specifically would require the offender to repay an individual or an organization the costs of caring for the injured animal as a result of a criminal offence. This would also make the offender more accountable for the consequences of his or her actions.
The proposed amendment builds on section 447.1 of the Criminal Code, which authorizes the court to issue such orders for persons convicted of animal cruelty offences. Right now, when someone is charged with a bestiality offence under section 160 of the Criminal Code, such orders can be issued only at the time of sentencing as a condition of a probation order or conditional sentence. These orders are limited in duration to the term of the imposed conditions and expire after that.
This was pointed out by Sergeant Teena Stoddart, from the Ottawa Police Service, when she testified before the committee. That means there is a gap in animal welfare measures, since the courts can issue such orders for animal cruelty offences but not for bestiality offences.
The committee also heard from several other witnesses on this issue, including, as I mentioned, Ms. Labchuk, executive director for Animal Justice; Ms. Barbara Cartwright, CEO of Humane Canada; Dr. Alice Crook from the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association; and Professor Peter Sankoff from the University of Alberta, Faculty of Law. They all agreed on the need for this amendment to this important bill. Indeed, this amendment is entirely consistent with the objectives in the bill, and we on this side of the House are pleased to support it.
I would now like to turn my attention to the second amendment adopted by the committee, which provides for the repeal of subsection 447(3) of the Criminal Code.
The current subsection requires a peace officer who finds birds at cockfighting premises to bring the birds to a justice of the peace so the JP can order they be destroyed. That provision requires the automatic destruction of birds, but does not apply to other animals, such as dogs. It is very much a vestige of the distant past when animal fighting primarily involved only cockfighting and resulted in the roosters being so severely injured that they needed to be destroyed.
Nowadays, however, there are better ways to solve this problem in order to eliminate any legal loopholes in animal protection. Ensuring the welfare of these animals is a key objective for the provincial and territorial legislation and for the general powers set out in the Criminal Code.
First, the provinces and territories have jurisdiction over matters concerning animal welfare. That includes passing legislation dealing specifically with the seizure of animals in distress and the care they must receive, where possible, as well as the administration of humane euthanasia if necessary.
Second, some witnesses and parliamentarians believe that the criminal law does not address the seizure and automatic destruction of mistreated animals in an appropriate manner.
In fact, Madam Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice, testified before the committee that the automatic destruction of birds found in a cockfighting ring in the previous version of the section was “completely needless, and it ties the hands of authorities when there may be a better option for the birds.”
Ms. Labchuk further testified before the committee. She said:
We think the fate of any bird seized should be decided on a case-by-case basis. This is already done for dogs and other animals rescued from fighting rings. There is no principled reason that roosters or birds forced to fight should be automatically killed. It may be appropriate to rehabilitate them. It may be appropriate to send them to a sanctuary, where they can receive lifelong care and still enjoy a high quality of life.
It should be noted that Ms. Labchuk's position was broadly supported by other witnesses, including Ms. Cartwright, the CEO of Humane Canada.
All 10 provinces and the Yukon Territory empower peace officers and animal welfare inspectors to seize animals in distress. Furthermore, where appropriate, the legislation provides for the animals to be humanely destroyed.
Nunavut and the Northwest Territories allow peace officers and animal protection officers to seize dogs, and these territories have legislation requiring general rehabilitation for the dogs, as well as humane euthanasia where appropriate.
In addition to these protection measures, the Criminal Code also confers general powers on peace officers and public officers to seize offence-related property while executing a search warrant. Section 487 of the Criminal Code therefore authorizes peace officers to seize an animal, where circumstances warrant.
Once more, pursuant to section 489 of the Criminal Code, things not specified in a warrant can also be seized where a thing has been obtained by the commission of an offence, used in the commission of an offence or something that will afford evidence in respect of an offence under any act of Parliament. Accordingly, repealing subsection 447(3) would leave no gap in the law, which is an important point. Instead, repealing it would leave the matter of seizure and the question of whether care or euthanasia would be appropriate to be dealt with under applicable provincial laws and by persons trained specifically in such matters.
I would now like to draw the attention of the House to the third amendment adopted by the committee. This amendment would add the bestiality simpliciter offence, in subsection 160(1), to the list of designated offences for which an offender must be automatically ordered to register and comply with the requirements of the National Sex Offender Registry, pursuant to the Sex Offender Information Registration Act, or SOIRA, as it is commonly called.
This legislation, enacted in 2004, created the National Sex Offender Registry to help Canadian law enforcement agencies investigate sex crimes by registering specific information on sex offenders. When an offender is found guilty of a designated sexual offence, the court must order the offender to register with the National Sex Offender Registry and comply with the SOIRA for a period of 10 years, 20 years, or even indefinitely. Offenders found guilty of other designated infractions may be ordered to register with the registry and to comply with the SOIRA if prosecutors established the intent to commit a sexual offence during the commission of an offence like breaking and entering in relation to a dwelling-house, in paragraph 348(1)(d).
Currently, the designated sexual offences include subsection 160(2), compelling the commission of bestiality, which was added in 2011, and subsection 160(3), bestiality in the presence of or by a child, which was included in 2004 in an enactment of the Sex Offender Information Registration Act, known in English as SOIRA.
The justice committee received testimony and studies on the link between animal abuse and bestiality and acts of violence against persons, particularly women and children. I alluded to this at the outset, and it bears repeating. We do not know definitively that all animal abusers end up abusing women and children, but we know that for people who abuse women and children, their antecedents include abuse of animals in all instances. That was the evidence before the committee.
For example, the justice committee heard about the innovative work conducted by the Canadian Violence Link Coalition. It was launched to “study and bring forward all of the different academic research that's going on and that supports the links between animal violence and human violence.” The work of the Canadian Violence Link Coalition follows a multidisciplinary, multi-sector and collaborative information-sharing approach in strengthening the response to animal abuse and neglect and establishing its link to the abuse of humans.
During her testimony, Ms. Cartwright commented, “While not all abusers are serial killers, all serial killers are animal abusers.” The evidence I have been referencing is that of Ms. Cartwright, before the committee. The evidence demonstrates that abuse of humans is a common step up from animal abuse for individuals who have a propensity for serial violence.
Ms. Cartwright's remarks were reiterated by other experts, including Sergeant Teena Stoddart, who spoke about research reported in the International Journal of Law and Psychiatry showing that, out of a group of 943 inmates selected at random, half of sex offenders and one third of child molesters had abused animals as adolescents. The same study also confirmed that child molesters use animals to attract and win over their victims. By making inappropriate sexual contact with the animals, the molesters desensitize the children and normalize sexual contacts between adults and children.
There is growing international research in this area, but we were pleased to learn of new Canadian data collected by Amy Fitzgerald of the University of Windsor, primarily on the link between animal abuse and interpersonal and spousal abuse. I have to admit I was surprised to hear that Canadian research shows that these violence links are worse in Canada than abroad, according to similar international studies.
More specifically, women who are victims of violence also report that their animal is in the same situation.
This violence link is further supported by the testimony of Ms. Lianna McDonald, executive director, and Ms. Monique St. Germain, general counsel, of the Canadian Centre for Child Protection. They spoke about the growing online proliferation of child sexual abuse images, of which the most explicit and extreme images depicting sexual assault against children involve bestiality.
Having regard for the evidence demonstrating the very strong relationship between violence toward animals and violence towards humans, we believe that adding a bestiality simpliciter as a designated offence is consistent with the underlying objective of the SOIRA and with the existing designation of the two other bestiality offences.
I would like to close by addressing one last point, which was raised during the study of Bill . Some committee members and witnesses feel that this bill does not go far enough and that a comprehensive reform of the animal cruelty regime is overdue in Canada.
As the minister mentioned in his testimony before the committee, our government remains open to dialogue and discussion as to the best way to address these vast and complex issues.
That said, we are equally mindful of testimony received at the committee on the importance of moving these reforms forward as soon as possible, particularly because they are designed to close a gap in the law and enhance protections for the most vulnerable members of society. Moreover, it is very important to keep in mind that Bill is a targeted response to two specific issues that enjoy widespread support from all the key stakeholders in this area of the law. Those stakeholders submitted a letter to the . Ten of the most important stakeholders, from agriculture to hunting to veterinary care, all support the aspects of this bill.
Bill is a meaningful and much-needed step forward. We are confident that we can move this critical piece of legislation ahead today and in so doing come one step closer to enhancing protections for the most vulnerable members in our society. On that basis, I would urge all members to support the swift passage of this important piece of legislation, Bill C-84.
Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill , an act to amend the Criminal Code, as amended, with respect to bestiality and animal fighting. Let me say that I, along with all my colleagues on this side of the House, fully support this critical piece of legislation.
There are two main components to Bill . The first is with respect to bestiality; more specifically, it is a direct response to the Supreme Court's D.L.W. decision. In D.L.W., the Supreme Court interpreted section 160 of the Criminal Code, which is the section that prohibits bestiality. In the decision written by Justice Cromwell, the court decided that in the absence of a statutory definition, bestiality should be interpreted only in those circumstances where the act involving the animal involved penetration. What this legislation does is clarify the law by providing for a statutory definition whereby any activity with an animal for a sexual purpose would be captured by section 160 of the Criminal Code, closing a very critical gap.
The second aspect of this legislation is to strengthen laws around animal fighting. I know the parliamentary secretary did discuss the amendments at committee in some detail, but I have in the last number of weeks been quite critical of my Liberal colleagues on the justice committee with respect to their handling of the SNC-Lavalin scandal and I stand by those criticisms. That said, in the normal course we are a committee that has often worked collaboratively. We have been able to put aside partisan differences to find common ground. That is precisely what happened.
We heard from witnesses who put forward ideas around how Bill could be strengthened, and three substantive amendments were passed at committee unanimously. I want to acknowledge the good work of our chair, the hon. member for , who from day one has set the tone that has enabled our committee to more often than not be one of the more productive parliamentary committees.
With respect to the first part of the bill, namely around section 160 and in terms of providing a statutory definition for bestiality, this is something that I fully support. I think there is widespread consensus to support this statutory amendment, but I will go back to the point that I raised when I asked the a question, namely that I cannot understand what took the government so long to act.
The D.L.W. decision was rendered in June 2016. It is now March 2019. What that means is that if this legislation moves forward as quickly as possible, it will be essentially three years in which this gap in the law existed. Why did it take three years? The fact is that the Supreme Court expressly invited Parliament to introduce legislation to provide for a statutory definition. There is as close to universal consensus as we are ever going to find around the need to provide for a statutory definition.
The type of amendment that would be required to incorporate a statutory definition into section 160 of the Criminal Code is, quite frankly, a relatively straightforward one. Because the government dragged its feet and dragged its feet some more, my colleague, the hon. member for , saw fit to introduce a private member's bill to close the gap established from the D.L.W. decision, Bill . That bill would provide for a statutory definition. The statutory definition provided in her bill states, “In this section, 'bestiality' means any contact by a person, for a sexual purpose, with an animal.”
That is pretty straightforward. We then turn to Bill , which the government introduced one year after the member for introduced Bill . The definition provided for in the government's bill states, “In this section, 'bestiality' means any contact, for a sexual purpose, with an animal.”
There we have it. Word for word, it was copied and pasted from the private member's bill of the hon. member for , except that the government waited one year to do it and almost three years after the D.L.W. decision was rendered.
When I asked the parliamentary secretary the reason for the delay, the parliamentary secretary noted that the government had undertaken various consultations with a wide range of stakeholder groups. That is true and that is right, but that was with respect to the animal fighting and animal cruelty provisions of Bill .
It was important that those consultations took place. The aspects of Bill that deal with animal cruelty and animal fighting are sensible. They do not interfere with traditional hunting, angling or trapping, and there was widespread stakeholder support. However, those consultations had absolutely nothing to do with closing the gap in section 160 of the Criminal Code with respect to bestiality. The notion that somehow there was the need for consultation is simply not the case. It is simply not true in terms of closing this gap. Quite frankly, that argument does not hold water. The bottom line is there is simply no excuse for the delay.
I would speak to the seriousness of the delay from the standpoint of the evidence that came before our committee with respect to bestiality. In that regard, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection carried out a study of 192 cases over a five-year period from Cybertip, which the centre operates and which is the leading national tipline for online sexual activity in Canada. Of the 192 cases that the centre studied with respect to bestiality, a full 80% of those cases did not involve penetration.
That underscores the degree to which there is a gap in the legislation. As of today, since June of 2016, individuals who commit vile and despicable acts involving animals that fall short of penetration cannot be charged under section 160 of the Criminal Code. Again, when 80% of the cases, at least based on a review of 192 cases, did not involve penetration, I say that is a pretty serious issue that needs to be addressed and needs to be addressed as quickly as possible, which is something that the government has simply not done.
With respect to some of the amendments at committee, there were two that related to bestiality.
The first would provide a judge with the discretion to impose a prohibition order upon conviction that would prevent someone convicted of bestiality from being in the same premises or having access to an animal for a period of time that the judge deems appropriate, and with respect to repeat offenders, namely those who are convicted of a second or subsequent bestiality offence, for a minimum of five years.
The second amendment that was passed was an amendment that I brought forward. It would ensure that anyone convicted of a bestiality offence would be required to register with the national sex offender registry. Right now, anyone convicted of compelling the commission of bestiality under subsection 160(2), as well as anyone convicted under subsection 160(3), namely bestiality in the presence of a child, would be required to register with the national sex offender registry but all other offenders would not. As a result of my amendment, this legislation would close that gap.
It is an important step to keep children, women and animals safe because, as the laid out in some detail, there is a very clear connection between bestiality and violence against women and children. It is often part of a pattern involving some of the worst sexual crimes imaginable. Indeed, bestiality has been equated to sadism in terms of the impact that it can have on its victims.
In terms of looking at the severity of what we are talking about and how serious and how dangerous individuals who commit bestiality offences are, one need only look at D.L.W. himself. This is an individual who over a 10-year period sexually abused his two stepdaughters on a daily basis. The pattern of sexual abuse in that case escalated as time went on to the point that he committed bestiality against one of the stepdaughters involving the family dog. It is important to read into the record what the trial judge said of D.L.W. in terms of capturing the level of depravity that we are talking about here.
The trial judge in his reasons for sentence said:
I have been a judge for almost 40 years. This offender is one of the most evil men that I have encountered during my long tenure on the Bench. The man is evil incarnate. He is a monster. It is said that the devil can cite scripture for his own use. That is certainly the case here. With a warped vivid imagination and using passages from the Bible to justify his actions, D.L.W., in a most vile manner, sexually abused two of his stepchildren on a daily basis for over a decade.
Those are the types of offenders that we are talking about, and on that basis it is important that all individuals convicted of bestiality have to register with the national sex offender registry. I am glad that the government has lent its support in that regard.
Moving on to the second aspect of Bill , there are important measures to strengthen laws around animal cruelty and animal fighting. We know that animal fighting is widespread and often under-reported. There are clear links between gangs and organized crime. There is an enormous amount of money that can be involved. We heard evidence before the justice committee that one dogfight can involve as much as $200,000. When there are four or five fights, a million dollars could change hands and get into the hands of organized crime groups.
The legislation would make some practical amendments to the Criminal Code to give law enforcement better tools to be able to crack down on animal fighting and eliminate an important funding source for organized criminal elements. In that regard, Bill would make a few amendments to the animal fighting sections of the Criminal Code. First, again in respect to subsection 445.1(1), at present that subsection prohibits anyone from encouraging, aiding or assisting in fighting or baiting animals. What that section does not capture at present is activities involved in training, transporting or breeding animals for animal fighting purposes.
I see my time is up, so I will just carry on after question period.