Hon. Charles Hubbard (Miramichi, Lib.)
Mr. Speaker, today we again bring before the House further discussion and debate on a bill dealing with animal cruelty. It has been a long journey. In fact, between the House of Commons and the Senate, this legislation has been debated over and over through different bills for more than a decade.
We are really dealing this afternoon with Bill S-203, a bill that was presented in the Senate by Senator Bryden and which I introduced in the House some weeks ago. Basically we are dealing with amendments to the Criminal Code in sections 444 to 447.
The debate of this has been long. It has affected many people. In fact, many members of Parliament are receiving emails from different groups who stand on different sides of Bill S-203.
Today, I would like to present my argument in terms of the bill that has come from the Senate, a bill that reflects the need for changes in the Criminal Code which would place greater emphasis upon animal cruelty and to those who might be accused or involved with cruelty to animals.
Many people are affected. In fact, when we looked at other bills in terms of Bill C-10 and so forth, we began to realize how broad our constituency was in dealing with those involved and affected by animals. We found in fact that one of the largest jurisdictions is with people who have family pets, but of course the livelihood of many people involved in farming is also affected by what we might do in the House in terms of legislation.
We found that universities and university researchers, and those involved in research for humans dealing with animals, have great concerns of what legislation might produce. We have minor groups such as those who maintain zoos and those who are involved with circuses. In the previous legislation, we were also involved with fishermen because fish became part of the debate on previous legislation.
Above all, we have hunters and trappers, many people in our first nations communities who historically depended upon wildlife for their livelihood.
When we look at all these different groups, we look at what proposals come forward, what animal rights groups say to us, what pet owners say to us, and above all, those in our farming communities. It is interesting to note that in terms of pets, many Canadians have tremendous affection for the cats, dogs, horses, birds and those pets which they maintain in the vicinity of their homes.
When we look at American statistics, this industry, the industry of providing health resources to pet owners, approaches $40 billion U.S. a year. So it is a growing industry. We have to respect and certainly pay great thanks to those who love their animals, those who care for them, those who maintain them, and those who are so interested in any legislation which the House and Parliament would provide.
I am not sure that the Criminal Code is the right place. Probably in future parliaments, we will see special legislation outside the Criminal Code. In terms of animals and cruelty, and respect for animals, the care for animals, we also have our provinces who have a vested interest in some of this because in terms of our wildlife, most wildlife species are protected under provincial legislation.
However, I would like to answer a few of our critics who have called upon some members of Parliament not to support Bill S-203. I personally have some difficulty with that logic because Bill 203 does not preclude the necessity or the fact that further legislation could be brought to the House which would improve upon this legislation. It would tend to see that the various groups that I mentioned are not seriously and adversely affected. It would indeed demonstrate that all of us as Canadians can enjoy the fact that we as a Parliament and as a nation can see that our animals are properly protected and that we can find joy, warmth and comfort in the relations that we have with them.
Bill S-203 basically deals with any person who kills, maims, wounds, poisons or injures cattle, or kills, maims, wounds, poisons or injures dogs, birds or animals that are not cattle and are kept for a lawful purpose.
If people were to commit offences under the Criminal Code with that description of it, they could be charged with an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than five years. That is a very serious penalty for those who would be convicted. Furthermore, if the court should decide it is not an indictable offence, there could be fines of up to $10,000.
This cruelty, in section 445.1, says that anyone who wilfully causes or, being the owner, wilfully permits to be caused unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal or a bird or anyone who assists at the fighting or baiting of animals or birds, or promotes, arranges, conducts, assists in, receives money in such circumstances, can be convicted of an indictable offence and receive up to five years in prison.
Section 446 goes on to state that anyone who, by wilful neglect, causes damage or injury to animals or who is involved with a domestic animal or a bird or an animal, whether it be wild in nature or in captivity, who abandons it in distress or wilfully neglects or fails to provide suitable and adequate food, water, shelter and care, would be committing an offence.
Furthermore, Bill S-203 also attempts to preclude from ownership of animals people who are guilty of these offences. The court, under section 447.1, may make an order prohibiting the accused from owning, having the custody or control of, residing in the same premise as an animal or bird during any period that the court considers appropriate, but in the case of a second or subsequent offence, a minimum of five years.
What I am advocating today is that the House could approve at report stage and third reading this legislation. I know it is not perfect, but it is a tremendous improvement upon the present legislation which was put in place almost a century ago.
There is another bill, in fact, that is before the House. It is further down than my own. However, there will be an opportunity in the future for another government or another member to bring a private member's bill before this assembly that can be debated.
I hope that as time progresses we as Canadians can develop legislation which is valuable to all, protects our animals, birds and fish and, above all, does not cause harm or unjustness to our farmers, fishermen, and those who rely upon these species for their livelihood.
Topic: Private Members' Business
Subtopic: Criminal Code