We cannot give up! The Prime Minister has promised free votes on private members’ business and we need to keep speaking up until all MPs understand what’s in this bill. We only have until September 28th!
Written by Mary Giuffre: Since starting Ruby’s Legacy – a citizen’s movement to STOP PUPPY MILLS IN CANADA – I’ve been attentive to the inside workings of government. I have sent a lot of correspondence to elected officials (mostly without responses) and I have collected and read many response letters from those MPs that have been sent to other advocates.
The content of this back and forthing has me shaking my head in complete and utter dismay.
I have been following back bencher, MP for Beaches East York ON, Nathaniel Erskine-Smith’s Bill C-246 the ‘Modernizing Animal Protections Act’ since before it was introduced in the House February 26. 2016. My associates and I sat down with him in his modest Toronto constituency office for close to two hours to discuss the plight of puppy mill dogs in this country, and perhaps it’s lofty for me to say, but I like to think that in some small way we have influenced the content of the cruelty amendments he put forward for the Criminal Code.
Despite the fact that I own a business I work at full time, I’ve made a point of becoming acquainted with the details of Bill C-246. I’ve read it and the subsequent legal critiques. I travelled to Ottawa at my own expense to be in the House of Commons for the second reading, where I witnessed and actually listened to the first hour of debate. (I can’t say as much for the few MPs that were in the House that day.) I’ve done an in depth video interview with MP Erskine-Smith and arranged for higher profile media to interview him as well. I KNOW WHAT’S IN THE BILL. So if I know what it says, why is it that so many Members of Parliament who were elected to do this job – and get paid for it – don’t appear to have a clue what it says?
Bill C-246 sets out to bring our animal welfare laws into the 21st Century through four specific areas:
- Close loopholes and strengthen the Criminal Code’s animal protection provisions. These changes are targeted at animal abuse, from animal fighting to deplorable puppy mill conditions.
- Ban the sale of cat and dog fur within Canada and require labeling of source fur.
- Ban the importation of shark fins
- Update the definition of bestiality
The politicians seem to be ignoring the bestiality issue. Little wonder, considering the recent Supreme Court ruling. Most don’t seem to have a problem with banning dog and cat fur or stopping the importation of shark fins (more on this subject to come). I’m pleased about that. But the arguments against closing loop holes in our Criminal Code to curtail animal cruelty are ludicrous!
Can ANYBODY tell me how a country so dedicated to equality, with a government so compassionate about its people, can possibly have it SO WRONG about updating animal cruelty provisions that are almost 125 YEARS OLD?
As I pored over letters from Members of Parliament regarding Bill C-246, I found that every one of them says something like, “…I believe in the importance of the humane treatment of animals…” or “…I support the intention of this bill, but…” BUT WHAT? If you TRULY believe this, why are you being stubborn about voting in favour of sending the bill to Committee to address any disagreements so it can then be adjusted accordingly? MP Erskine-Smith has stated time and again that he is open to amendments. Cooperation is a skill learned on the playground, so why is COLLABORATING to fix this bill for the sake of the animals so difficult?
The citizens of our country – approximately 45,400 people (92% of Canadians) who signed a Canadian petition initiated by Animal Cruelty Legislation Advocates Canada, in favour of this bill being passed – have been aligned by some MPs with the most extreme animal rights activists on the planet. We are not fanatics. We’re just regular people who won’t accept animals being beaten, battered and bruised while we use them to enhance our lives. IT’S NOT OK FOR THEM TO SUFFER NEEDLESSLY. As Nate stated in his address to the House on May 9th, “…offences against animals are wrong because it is wrong to harm animals…”
HUNTERS AND FISHERS: STOP WORRYING!
Conservative MP Robert Sopuck from Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette, MB, a self-appointed superhero (I really don’t want to see this man in tights and a cape) jumped on his Trojan Horse in May, ranting about protecting farmers, hunters and anglers, and the country has since gone quite mad. He presented a wild and crazy story and parties on both sides of the aisle have bought in. Sopuck has people all riled up over supposition. This foolishness is being portrayed on a popular fishing show website.
Here’s the truth of it directly from the author of the bill, “…The purpose of this bill is not to affect accepted animal use in our society…There have been comments that I am aiming to stop hunting and fishing and that this bill would do that. It simply would not do that. There is not a single criminal lawyer in the country who suggests that would happen, and previous testimony at Committee, in the House, and the Senate, has stated absolutely the opposite…”
Gratefully, Peter Julian, MP for New Westminster-Burnaby BC and NDP House Leader, fully supports MP Erskine-Smith’s position. “…we have heard and studied the concerns raised by those who fear that provisions in this bill could inadvertently affect normal, lawful activities such as hunting and fishing. After thorough review, we are satisfied that these concerns do not stand on a solid legal foundation, as the Department of Justice has stated repeatedly and in no uncertain terms when identical provisions came before previous parliaments. However, it is important that law-abiding Canadians who fish or hunt continue to enjoy these lawful pursuits without fear or stigma.”
So, hunters and fishers, you’ll still be able to cock your shot guns and bait your hooks without fear.
FARMERS: YOUR FIELDS AND BARNS ARE SAFE!
Then there’s Cathy MacLeod, MP Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo BC who had this to say in her newsletter “…BCCA [BC Cattlemen’s Association] believes this bill will further increase the likelihood that Canadian Farmers and ranchers will increasingly have to defend their “right to farm” practices in court…”
Not according to Nate. “My in-laws would disown me if my changes stopped farming, fishing, or hunting, as they have owned a farm outside of Sarnia since 1834. As a lawyer, I do not believe that the Criminal Code should be used to regulate accepted practices. It is in place to punish egregious and immoral conduct in our society. Had I intended to affect farming, I would have done so through the Meat Inspection Act or the Health of Animals Act, not the Criminal Code…”
SOME MPs ARE MAKING A MOCKERY OF OUR ANIMAL WELFARE AGENCIES!
If the following argument against Bill C-246 wasn’t so pathetic it would be humorous. These self-proclaimed animal welfare experts, as well as other MPs, are saying that they know better than those people on the frontline of animal protection. HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?
In MP Sopuck’s letter he states: “…in my view Canada’s existing laws already provide adequate protection for animals…” and he made similar remarks during the first hour of debate.
MP Erskine-Smith’s address to the House was clear, “… humane societies and SPCAs across the country support Bill C-246… The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies has written to every Member of Parliament in support of the bill. Each year, SPCAs and humane societies investigate more than 45,000 complaints of animal cruelty and neglect. As organizations entrusted by governments and by Canadians to enforce the law, the member societies of the CFHS regularly witness the impact of inadequate and antiquated animal cruelty sections of the Criminal Code of Canada…” I heard Nate say this… We were both in the House Mr. Sopuck.
Dr. Colin Carrie, Conservative MP for Oshawa ON, had the same argument, but his letter went on to say “…Bill C-246 also infringes on provincial jurisdiction since most animal welfare laws are developed and enforced by the provinces…” THERE IS NO INFRINGEMENT HERE! Animal cruelty is already a crime in the Criminal Code. However, charges against abusers are currently typically pursued under provincial law because the loopholes in the Criminal Code are so huge that prosecutors downgrade charges so they have a chance at conviction. Additionally, convictions made at the Provincial level for offences like puppy mills only govern the province a person is convicted in. These people simply pick up and move their operations to another province and start again, and again, and again. Google the cases of April Dawn Irving and the mother/daughter team of Karin and Catherine Adams if you don’t believe me. Upgrades to the Criminal Code would stop this!
When I interviewed Nate he explained further. “…Our criminal code provisions at the federal level haven’t been updated in a serious substantive way – the offence provisions – in over 100 years, so we have archaic language in those provisions and we have provisions that Humane Societies and SPCAs have told us get in the way of enforcing the law. And we as legislators who want to treat animal welfare and animal protection seriously, these are organizations that are on the frontline and are telling us the laws need to be changed. We need to respect that and we need to change them…”
THE DECEIT CONTINUES…
A constituent received this information in a letter from Conservative MP Todd Doherty, Cariboo-Prince George, BC, “…it would appear that Bill C-246 is going to be shelved and left to die on the Order Paper. This means that the government will not be bringing the bill forward for second reading, and therefore there will be no vote on Bill C-246…” The Bill has already had its second reading and its first hour of debate Mr. Doherty. THERE WILL BE A VOTE at the end of the second two hours of debate at the end of September. Was there any orientation training or at least a handbook when you started this job? STOP LYING TO PEOPLE!
After several attempts to reach Liberal MP Kim Rudd, Peterborough-Northumberland ON, she finally responded to correspondence with this gem. “…As to your concerns about Bill C-246, there are certain aspects of the bill that I do unequivocally support (e.g. the banning of puppy mills) however the legislation in the current form will have to be changed because of its impact on agriculture, which is a major source of employment and income in my riding…” Pssssssst! “The banning of puppy mills” ISN’T INCLUDED IN THIS BILL Ms. Rudd. Well at least she’s promised to vote in favour of sending the bill to Committee before she makes up her mind.
SO MANY REMAIN ILL-INFORMED
The shark-finning issue also seems to confuse a lot of Liberal MPs. Kent Hehr, Calgary Centre AB wrote “…Shark-finning, one of the issues addressed in the Bill, is already prohibited under the Criminal Code…” and Ginette Petitpas Taylor Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe, NB and Marc Garneau, Westmount-Ville-Marie, QC said the same thing, “…shark-finning is already prohibited, and other amendments to the bill fall outside of the purpose of the underlying legislation…” Esteemed elected Members, please stop embarrassing yourselves! BILL C-246 will ban the IMPORTATION of shark fins so Canadians will no longer be supporting the savage destruction of life for a bowl of soup. Apparently they’re all quoting from the same ill-informed script. (Insert sigh and MORE head shaking here.)
Disheartened? I am, but despite all of this, we cannot give up! The Prime Minister has promised free votes on private members’ business and we need to keep speaking up until all MPs understand what’s in Bill C-246. We only have until the end of September!
I’ve heard NDP MP Murray Rankin, Victoria BC, described as “the smartest person currently in the House of Commons.” In my eyes, he’s a star – a voice of reason in a vast sea of confusion. Mr. Rankin has whole-heartedly supported the bill with these statements. “…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…” and “…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 Mr. Speaker?”
Indeed. What else DO we need?