Mr. Bill Gilmour (Nanaimo—Alberni, Canadian Alliance)
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-17, an act to amend the criminal code regarding cruelty to animals, disarming a peace officer and other amendments, and technical amendments to the Firearms Act.
We have heard a number of people in various parties talk about this omnibus bill. We have had this before. The government will introduce a bill with some good points, some points that require discussion, and some points that we do not agree with. Then people have difficulty understanding what is the issue since there is such a grab bag of different subjects.
In this bill disarming a police officer is lumped in with cruelty to animals. It would be far easier if we could get a very straightforward bill dealing with one issue. We could then discuss it, deal with it and get it through the House. When it is such an omnibus bill containing a grab bag of different issues it is extremely difficult because there are some good and bad points and it is either yea or nay.
We agree with the Firearms Act refinements. We agree with the disarming of police officers issue. They are good points. The government should be commended for putting them in the bill. These are issues that people have been crying for for years to be dealt with. Police officers particularly have been wanting the legislation in place. I agree with it. However, by lumping cruelty to animals into the bill the waters get muddy because there are no clear definitions.
We hope we can get the bill into committee where we can discuss it. Most of us agree that cruelty to animals is simply not on. We have read the stories of the puppy mills. We have heard of 50 or 100 cats being in one house. Obviously we disagree with that. I have seen horses and cows in some barns where they are slowly growing up to the roof because the manure gets two and three feet high and people do not clean the barns. We clearly do not want to put up with that.
The difficulty occurs when it gets into ordinary agriculture practices like branding, dehorning and hunting. The definitions in the bill have to be laid out specifically for hunters and fishermen. What about aquaculture? The legislation is so loose that we need to step forward in committee to bring forth some clear and solid definitions. We need some tight legislation that lays it all out. Let me take trapping, for example. Leghold traps were banned. We have humane trapping. Perhaps that is in the bill; perhaps it is not. We need to have that cleared up.
When people abuse animals is it the start of a chain of events? Do they start by kicking a dog? Five years later are they kicking a person? Fifteen years later are they kicking their wives? Psychologists say this progression exists. We need to look at it. If cruelty to animals is the beginning of a long chain of events, it has to be stopped.
We have talked many times about wording in legislation. Often the government will leave it very loose. This is extremely dangerous because we are leaving our laws open to interpretation by the courts. We have an option as parliamentarians. We can leave it loose to be interpreted by the courts, or we can tighten it up and say what we mean. In that way we as the elected people in the House would say the way it should be. We are the elected officials. We should deal with the legislation, make it concise and make it tight so there is not a lot of room for the judicial system and it knows exactly what parliament means.
That is what we need. The bill is fuzzy in terms of agriculture. What is abuse? What is cruelty? What is a regular practice? Unless it is clearly defined we will leave it up to the courts again.
This is not where we want to be. This is not where the Canadian public wants to be. They want parliament to run the country, not push it off to the judiciary.
In closing, we agree with a number of parts of the bill such as the firearms aspects, but there are a number of concerns in the cruelty to animals area we wish to discuss. We would like to get the bill into committee, call witnesses, hear from the experts, see how tight is the legislation, and deal with it at that time.
Topic: Government Orders
Subtopic: Criminal Code