Government kills bill to stop animal cruelty

MP Murray Rankin supports the Modernizing Animal Protections Act in Parliament:

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise to speak in support of Bill C-246. I salute the member for Beaches—East York for his leadership in bringing this back to the House. I say “bringing it back” because we have seen the three initiatives here in different forms introduced by different parties over many years. Bringing it together and modernizing our animal cruelty bill just makes sense, and I commend the member for his efforts to do that.
 
I have proudly seconded this bill, and I wish to note very clearly that, this being a private member's bill, members will take different positions on it. However, as my friend from Port Moody—Coquitlam pointed out, initiatives such as the one dealing with shark finning came within five votes of becoming the law in this land. I certainly hope we do not lose this opportunity to do the right thing this time.
 
We can be proud that this bill builds on the work of so many others and of so many different parties in the House. Part of this bill would follow through on an initiative championed by my colleague, the member for Port Moody—Coquitlam, to implement a measure widely supported by Canadians; namely, a long-overdue ban on the importation of shark fins.
 
Members have heard that it is estimated that, shockingly, 100 million sharks are killed each year simply for their fins, the rest of the carcass discarded. Their fins are cut from their backs and the bleeding sharks, often still alive, are tossed back into the ocean where they sink to the bottom and drown. As a result, one-third of all shark species is threatened with extinction. In Canada, the fins of endangered and near-threatened shark species are regularly consumed. We can do better as Canadians.
Of course, our ocean ecosystem needs sharks. They are a vital apex predator, yet their populations are plummeting. This is an international conservation crisis. We should all be disturbed by this ongoing practice, and we should be acting quickly to implement measures that will eliminate the trade in illegally obtained shark fins.
 
A number of Canadians cities have joined this fight, attempting to ban the sale and consumption of shark fins. In 2012, however, a court ruled that these bans were beyond municipal jurisdiction. Since these municipal bans were struck down, the consumption of shark fins in Canada has increased by 85,000 pounds. Therefore, the bill calls out for appropriate federal legislation, so I commend my colleague for bringing this to the attention of parliamentarians so we can do the right thing. Canada must show global leadership in the fight to stop this cruel practice, by implementing an import ban. As a country, we can and should end our role in the trade of fins.
 
I want to say how proud I am of the work of a group called Fin Free, of school groups across the country, and particularly of the work of Margaret McCullough, an instructor at Glenlyon Norfolk School in Victoria. She has organized children to fight for shark fins at the provincial, municipal, and federal levels, to fight for a ban on shark finning which came so close in the last Parliament to being realized. I have met with the students on several occasions, and I can assure members that their passion for this issue is truly inspirational.
 
From meeting with elected officials and business owners to participating in a documentary film on shark finning, those students have worked hard to make this long-overdue measure a reality. Because of their work, and the work of thousands of others like them across Canada, we came so close, as I said, in 2013, five votes. I know we can deliver this change for those children and for people all over Canada demanding that we as Canadians play our fair part in this international conservation crisis in addressing it head-on.
 
This bill would also update Canada's existing animal cruelty offences. As the member for Beaches—East York noted, these have not been updated substantively since 1892. While I know it is the member's intention to bring anti-cruelty laws into the 21st century, I would settle for the 20th century. In fact, Camille Labchuk, the executive director of Animal Justice, said this bill would “... help Canada “move past our status as the country in the Western world with the worst animal protection laws and help us take a first step in the right direction”.”
 
These measures on animal cruelty have not only been proposed in the House before by members of more than one party, they have actually been passed by the House on no less than three occasions. However, I must acknowledge that some have raised concerns about whether the bill would affect the millions of Canadians who enjoy hunting, trapping, and fishing every year. I have been assured that this is neither the intention nor is it the effect of the bill, which would address only criminal conduct with regard to animal cruelty.
 
I am happy to say that my examination of the bill so far has given me no reason to doubt the words of the minister and officials of the Department of Justice, who told the House, both in 2002 and in 2005, that these amendments would not impact lawful activities involving animals, including hunting, trapping, and fishing.
 
One need only look at the existing sections of the Criminal Code to understand the way in which these offences are designed and applied. Section 444 of the Code makes it a crime to kill cattle without a lawful excuse. Section 445.1 makes it an offence to willfully cause unnecessary, pain, suffering, or injury to an animal. Of course, these provisions are neither designed for nor apply to farming, fishing, hunting, or research, as has been suggested earlier to the House.
 
We hope to get the bill to the committee where we can study it in greater detail. We can hear from criminal law expects at that time. We can see whether the Department of Justice is right, which I think it is. At that point, if amendments are required, the hon. member for Beaches—East York has made it abundantly clear that he would be open to amendments of clarification. One such amendment which I will be moving, if we get it to that stage, is one that is extraordinarily simple. It would go something like this: “For greater certainty, this bill has no impact on hunting, fishing, and trapping”.
What else do we need?
 
My province of British Columbia consistently puts in its legislation “for greater certainty” clauses to ensure that certain bills dealing with land use or resource development do not derogate from aboriginal or treaty rights. Those bills are almost rote now in British Columbia legislation. “For greater certainty” clauses are typical, and everybody understands that.
First, let us be clear that the animal cruelty sections have been over-pronounced by the Department of Justice, having none of the effects that the hon. member, my colleague from the Conservative Party, has addressed.
 
Second, the member has made it clear that he would be willing to entertain an amendment of that sort, which would take out any such concern that the House might have. Consequently, I see no reason why it cannot proceed. It is addressed, after all, at those who wish to combat intentional, reckless cruelty to animals in particular. There is no legal basis whatsoever on which to dispute the analysis of the justice department that these provisions already have no effect on lawful activities involving animals.
 
The last part of the bill, the third item, is relatively straightforward. It would ban the sale of cat and dog fur in Canada and require source labelling for fur products. This would match laws found in the United States and Europe. This measure, which has already won the support of tens of thousands of Canadians through one of the e-petitions that are now possible under our advance rules, is necessary to prevent the kind of horrifying stories revealed in the 2012 Toronto Star investigation that found dog and cat fur being used to make children's toys.
 
In conclusion, the bill is a collection of measures that are long overdue and well-considered, having been introduced, studied, and, in some cases, passed by the House in the past.
 
It deserves further study. It will get further study at the committee if we can agree to send it there so we can do our part, as Canadians, to modernize our animal cruelty laws to no longer be part of the problem with shark finning, and to deal with the issue of dog and cat fur that the bill would so carefully address.