THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON SOCIAL AFFAIRS, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
OTTAWA, Wednesday, June 12, 2019
The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, to which was referred Bill C-84, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (bestiality and animal fighting), met this day at 4:15 p.m. to give consideration to the bill.
Senator Chantal Petitclerc (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Welcome to the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology.
I am Chantal Petitclerc, Senator from Quebec. It’s a privilege for me to chair today’s meeting.
Before giving you the floor, I will ask my colleagues to introduce themselves, starting on my right with the Deputy Chair of the committee.
Senator Seidman: Judith Seidman from Montreal, Quebec. Good afternoon, minister. Thank you for being with us.
Senator Poirier: Good afternoon and welcome, Mr. Minister. I am Rose-May Poirier from New Brunswick.
Senator Eaton: Nicky Eaton, Ontario. Welcome, minister
Senator Ravalia: Mohamed-Iqbal Ravalia, Newfoundland and Labrador. Good afternoon, minister. Welcome.
Senator M. Deacon: Marty Deacon, Ontario. Welcome.
Senator Moncion: Welcome. Lucie Moncion from Ontario.
Senator Kutcher: Good afternoon. Stan Kutcher, Nova Scotia.
Senator Boyer: Yvonne Boyer, Ontario.
The Chair: Today we begin the committee’s study on Bill C-84, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (bestiality and animal fighting).
Without further ado, I will introduce our guests. We have with us the Honourable David Lametti, P.C., M.P., Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. Thank you for being with us today.
We also have with us from the Department of Justice, François Daigle, Associate Deputy Minister, and Carole Morency, Director General and Senior General Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section. Thank you for being here.
We will begin with your opening remarks, minister.
Hon. David Lametti, P.C., M.P., Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada: Thank you, Madam Chair and honourable senators. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to appear before you and to take part in your study on Bill C-84, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (bestiality and animal fighting). This bill is very important, and I will be pleased to answer your questions.
The bill proposes reforms to two important areas of the law in the Criminal Code: bestiality and animal fighting offences.
The Criminal Code currently sets out three bestiality offences: the simpliciter offence, which is in subsection 160(1), the use of force, in subsection 160(2), and bestiality in the presence of a child or incitement of a child, in subsection 160(3). At the moment, the Criminal Code does not contain a definition of “bestiality”. The bill proposes amending the provisions of the Criminal Code that address bestiality offences to add a definition that provides that bestiality is any contact for a sexual purpose with an animal.
In D.L.W., the Supreme Court found that, according to the meaning of “bestiality” in common law, penetration has always been an element of the offence, and that this element was maintained when Parliament enacted this offence in the Criminal Code.
The bill’s proposed definition of bestiality responds to this gap in law by including the phrase “for a sexual purpose,” which has a well-established meaning, has been consistent in law and has been consistently applied in respect of other Criminal Code offences, such as child pornography, section 163.1; voyeurism, section 162; and making sexually explicit material available to a child, section 171.1.
Agricultural stakeholders have stated both in written correspondence to the previous Minister of Justice and in testimony to the Justice Committee that they have no concerns that this definition could inadvertently capture any legitimate agricultural practices. The Justice Committee bolstered the bestiality provisions of the bill with two amendments. The first empowers a court to issue an animal prohibition order or restitution order upon conviction of any bestiality offence. This would prevent a person convicted of a bestiality offence from owning, possessing or residing with an animal for any period, at the discretion of the court, including up to a lifetime ban.
A minimum prohibition order of five years would be imposed on repeat offenders. The court would also have the ability to order the offender to pay a person or an organization reasonable costs for providing care to an animal following the commission of the offence. This authority was added to address the fact that while such prohibition orders are available for an offender convicted of an animal cruelty offence, they are not available where a conviction is entered for a bestiality offence. Providing courts with the authority to issue such an order for the bestiality offence is consistent with the objectives of Bill C-84 to address gaps in the law and offer equal and greater protection for animals.
A second amendment would require persons convicted of the simpliciter bestiality offence to comply with the requirements of the National Sex Offender Registry. This registry assists Canadian law enforcement authorities in investigating crimes of a sexual nature by requiring the recording of certain information on persons convicted of a sexual offence.
This amendment is based on research that establishes a strong link between sexual abuse of animals and sexual abuse of children and other vulnerable persons. The research presented to the committee, which comes from domestic and foreign sources, clearly demonstrates that violence against animals and children is often part of a broader context of criminal violence.
This research not only confirms a link between serial homicide and animal abuse, but it also reveals that serial killers who torture animals often report using the same methods to torture their human victims, including decapitation and strangulation. Such findings demonstrate that serial predators often test out their crimes on animals before escalating to humans.
The second area that Bill C-84 proposes to reform are the offences around animal fighting. Here I want to mention an animal named Dex, a recovered pit bull. He belongs to the sister-in-law of one of my team. Dex was a bait dog for dog fighting. He was recovered and is now rehabilitated and leading a good life. It’s animals like Dex we are trying to save with this piece of legislation. I thank her for bringing the story forward to me.
The bill broadens existing Criminal Code prohibitions to extend to all animals — not just cocks or birds — to capture all activities associated with animal fighting, namely promoting, arranging, receiving money, taking part in fighting or baiting of animals, as well as training, breeding or transporting animals for these purposes and banning the building or maintenance of any arena for animal fighting, not just an arena for cock fighting.
This expansion of the scope of the offence reflects the reality of these crimes and makes them easier to prosecute. In addition, expanding the prohibition against prohibiting the keeping of an arena for the fighting of any animal is necessary considering dog fighting is currently the main form of animal fighting in Canada.
The Justice Committee heard compelling evidence from the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association about the nature of the injuries that dogs suffer as a result of fighting, including deep lacerations, broken bones and infections. I think all honourable senators on this committee would agree that animal fighting has no place in Canadian society.
Moreover, our tools for effectively prosecuting those who participate in animal fighting needs to evolve as law enforcement has reported that dog fighting, as with many illicit underground operations, is connected to other forms of criminal conduct, including organized crime. I am pleased to note that these targeted amendments received unanimous support in the other place and enjoy broad support by key stakeholders in this field. They represent a shared approach to safeguarding the protection of children and animals from cruelty and abuse while ensuring that the law does not impede legitimate and traditional farming, hunting and trapping practices, including Indigenous harvesting rights.
Finally, I would like to briefly discuss a third amendment adopted by the justice committee to repeal subsection 447(3) of the Criminal Code. This provision provides that birds in a cockfighting arena must be destroyed. This provision is outdated and no longer consistent with a modern response to animal abuse. It is preferable that such decisions be made on a case-by-case basis, after the animal has been examined by experts in the field, rather than through the automatic application of a legislative provision. In addition, provincial animal welfare legislation already provides for the destruction of seriously injured or aggressive animals that do not have a reasonable prospect of rehabilitation.
Honourable senators, thank you for the opportunity to discuss Bill C-84 today. I think we can all agree on the need to address the gap identified by the Supreme Court of Canada in the D.L.W. decision. I also acknowledge that many would like to see our animal cruelty laws go further, though there is a general recognition that more engagement and work is needed to build support for broader reforms. I have committed publicly to keeping this dialogue open and engaging on these important issues as we move forward.
In the meantime, we have the opportunity to address clearly identified gaps in the law and increase protections for children, for vulnerable persons and animals like Dex. For these reasons, I urge the members of this committee to join in the other place with the support from all parties that we had in the other place and support this bill’s swift passage.
I look forward to your questions. Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Minister.
We are ready to proceed with questions from my colleagues. I remind you that we are aiming for five minutes for questions and answers in order to make sure everybody gets a chance to ask their questions.
Senator Seidman: Thank you very much for your presentation, minister.
It is clear that this legislation is a response to the Supreme Court ruling and the difficulties in prosecuting crimes of animal cruelty and bestiality. Do you think that this bill will help address these difficulties?
Mr. Lametti: I think it will. There were bestiality offences in the Criminal Code previously, but with a definition, that was the old common law definition that required penetration. There’s inconsistency across common law jurisdictions with regard to this criterion. The Supreme Court held that this was part of the original definition, as is the case in the U.K. and New Zealand. They threw the ball at us, they put the ball in our court to say it would be up to the legislator to do it and we’re doing it.
Senator Seidman: Does this legislation respond to the criticisms and concerns voiced by the child protection and animal rights advocates?
Mr. Lametti: Yes, there’s a clear link in the academic studies that I have mentioned and an increasingly clear link, I might add, that there is a link between abuse of animals, sexual abuse of animals and abuse of children and other vulnerable people, and sexual abuse as well.
I think we are helping to address two problems at once. By enlarging the definition, we catch a kind of behaviour that will often include children and animals together. This is in conformity with our deeply held values of both our love of children and animals.
Senator Seidman: Do I have any more time?
The Chair: Yes, you do.
Senator Seidman: Great. Thanks. Following from that, it makes it even more important to catch as early as possible if, as you said in your presentation, in many cases the perpetrators are testing out their crimes on animals.
Do we collect data and do we have a registry?
Mr. Lametti: As a result of modifications made by the Justice Committee in the other place, we will include these offenders on a registry, which is a good idea.
Senator Seidman: Okay, excellent. Thank you.
The Chair: The sponsor of the bill in the Senate, Senator Boyer.
Senator Boyer: Thank you all for appearing here and for your presentation. It’s been said this bill doesn’t go far enough, that it doesn’t completely address animal abuse. While I know it’s a very good first step, I’m wondering what you envision as a next step, assuming the bill passes. How does Canada compare with other countries as far as animal welfare laws go?
Mr. Lametti: I think it is my opinion — and I’ve stated this publicly before — the bill doesn’t go far enough. It addresses two very specific problems, challenges, which need to be addressed. This was something we could feasibly do in this Parliament with all-party support. We’ve chosen this as a first step.
I fully agree and am committed as long as I am in this chair to pushing forward next steps, which include not just all-party consultations in both houses, but also extensive consultations with stakeholders.
The agricultural community, for example, has shown a great deal of goodwill with respect to this bill. If we can build upon that moving forward, we can also, I think, do much more.
We’ve also done a few other small things along the way that are important: the shark fin ban, which has now been attached to another piece of legislation; and a ban of keeping cetaceans. We are moving, admittedly, in piecemeal fashion. I think there is much more to do.
With regards the definition of “bestiality” and where Canada stands — I mentioned New Zealand and the United Kingdom, which still have the old common law requirement of penetration. There are other jurisdictions in the United States that don’t have it. By taking this state by state — by taking these measures, we are moving toward better practices.
Senator Boyer: I have one more question.
The Chair: Absolutely.
Senator Boyer: I am wondering about the online aspect of this. It’s my understanding that if there’s animal fighting online and it’s on a Canadian server, then this would prohibit it from happening in Canada. Is that correct? Can you comment about the online aspect?
Mr. Lametti: If it’s happening in Canada, yes. If it’s on a server in Canada — the legal standard — let me go back — is a real and substantial link. That’s the Supreme Court standard in a case called Libman. If that link exists, then we might be able to move on it no matter where the activity is happening. It really depends. The server certainly is a link, and we might be able to do things with the projection of those images in Canada. Whether we can go further will depend on whether a real and substantial link can be shown.
Senator Boyer: Okay. Thank you.
Senator Eaton: Minister, could you talk about whether there is a prevalence of organized crime in dogfighting?
Mr. Lametti: It’s an illicit activity. It’s not data that we readily have. That being said —
Senator Eaton: But isn’t there sort of a gaming aspect to it?
Mr. Lametti: That being said, there appears to be a strong link with organized crime. We need to gather more data, but certainly it appears that way. By fighting gaming — animal gaming — I think we’re fighting organized crime.
Senator Eaton: Yes. I was reading something saying that policing agencies very often don’t have the tools, because they haven’t really been taught to look for the gaming or betting that surrounds it.
Mr. Lametti: Correct.
Senator Eaton: What is not in this legislation, I was reading too, is that where you train dogs — you have it for cocks, I think, but not for other animals.
What do you think the gaps are? When you’re in government next November, would you try to fill the gaps, and what would they be?
Mr. Lametti: First of all, thank you for your confidence. I’m appreciative of that.
We have expanded the legislation to include arenas —
Senator Eaton: For all animals?
Mr. Lametti: For all animals. We now have that in the bill. It includes the pits for birds and arenas for dogs.
Senator Eaton: And pits for dogs?
Mr. Lametti: That’s right. That’s helpful. That also helps with the crime fighting, if you will, or the detection and the shutting down of these kinds of activities.
As we move forward, if there are different areas that are being used for training the animals — having identified the arenas and having at least that point of entry into the system, I think we can continue to work with law enforcement agencies to better our detection and then amend legislation, if necessary.
Senator Eaton: In hospitals, if a child comes into a hospital and doctors suspect abuse, I think they have to report it.
Mr. Lametti: Correct.
Senator Eaton: If a dog is brought to a vet, and they enumerate the kinds of injuries it would have in a dog fight or as a bait dog, if a vet suspected that, does he have to report that?
Mr. Lametti: I’m not sure about the answer. Do we have an answer?
François Daigle, Associate Deputy Minister, Department of Justice Canada: Provincial and territorial animal protection legislation has a number of obligations on those who work in the area. We could get back to you with something more specific on provincial obligations, but it wouldn’t be in the Criminal Code; it would be in provincial legislation.
Senator Eaton: If you could, because I’d like to speak to this bill at third reading, and that’s something I’d like to talk about. If there is a gap in the provinces, it would be nice to give them a little —
Mr. Lametti: We can undertake to get you that information quickly.
Senator Eaton: Thank you.
The Chair: Absolutely. If I may, I would like to say that right after that we will hear from the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association. Perhaps they can help you with that.
Senator Poirier: Thank you all for being here. You spoke a little bit about my question in your opening remarks, Mr. Lametti, and gave us more discussion with my colleague Senator Eaton.
In clause 3 of the bill where it talks about replacing the term “cockpit” in subsection 447(1) of the Criminal Code with “arena for animal fighting,” I understand the expansion of these term is to capture all animals and the activities related to animal fighting. Under the law, what would be the definition of an “arena for animal fighting”?
Mr. Lametti: I’m going to turn to Carole for the precise definition. My sense is that it would be any building or structure that’s used for fighting. I’ll leave that to Carole.
Senator Poirier: While she’s looking, I’ll maybe save time. In the case of animal fighting, if it doesn’t happen within an arena, how is that dealt with? What will happen at that point?
Carole Morency, Director General and Senior General Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Sector, Department of Justice Canada: If I can start with clause 3, section 447(1) states that “an arena for animal fighting” is an area on property or premises that a person owns or occupies and allows this to be built or maintained for that purpose. It’s a broad definition.
Senator Poirier: It’s someplace he or she owns, occupies or allows such an area. If the person doesn’t own and is renting, what would happen there?
Ms. Morency: “Owns or occupies.” If you’re renting the land, you’re occupying it.
Senator Poirier: Okay.
In the case that animal fighting doesn’t happen within an arena, how would you deal with that if it’s done someplace else?
Ms. Morency: It’s a broad provision that provides a lot of scope for it. If it’s on the premises, a built-up area or on an area the person allows it to be built or maintained — a place, whether open or closed — it would be caught by that definition.
Senator Poirier: I’m just going to throw this out: If you have a local community that does not have a regular place where they have dog fighting or something like that going on, but during a local festival or something in the summer they decide to have an activity out in an open field as part of a gambling thing and a way to raise money, how would this law deal with something like that?
Mr. Lametti: That would catch it, in my view.
Senator Poirier: It would?
Mr. Lametti: Yes.
Senator Poirier: The RCMP could come in and stop it?
Mr. Lametti: Correct.
Senator Poirier: Thank you.
Senator Ravalia: Thank you, minister. My question is an extension of what Senator Eaton alluded to earlier. It’s with reference to federal-provincial-territorial laws. Will this legislation impact the collaboration or enhance the relationship between the feds and the provinces/territories with respect to animal cruelty?
Mr. Lametti: Our view is that it will enhance the relationship. As is the case, it establishes using the Criminal Code as a certain baseline for conduct. It works with provincial and territorial animal protection and welfare laws that will generally be more focused on the care of animals, generally, and animal cruelty laws. This is the criminal standard for certain kinds of behaviour.
Senator Ravalia: Are these laws uniform across the provinces and territories?
Mr. Lametti: To my understanding, they are, relatively. I think virtually all the provinces and territories have legislation in place. François can help.
In general, yes, I think the laws are reasonably similar.
Mr. Daigle: Every province and territory has legislation and they’re all fairly similar and provide for the same kinds of powers for dealing with animal cruelty.
Senator Ravalia: Do provinces and territories maintain a register of acts that have been committed, and would we be able to get any statistics on exactly what might be happening in terms of the Canadian landscape?
Mr. Daigle: I think there was a question earlier about statistics we have. We have some statistics about how many charges there are under criminal animal cruelty provisions or the bestiality provisions under the Criminal Code. The provinces are responsible for a lot of law enforcement activities and we don’t have ready access to them. I believe they all collect them a little bit differently. We don’t have ready access to their data.
Senator Ravalia: As an extension, would there be any intent on a go-forward basis to beef up and enhance such a registry that’s provincial and federal?
Mr. Lametti: Within the realm of jurisdiction between federal and provincial, there might be some challenges. I’ll be honest with you. We are using the sexual offenders registry in this particular case. We will keep that information for the bestiality offence at the very least. There’s always one’s criminal record.
Moving forward with a more extensive consultation on how to better protect animals, we will have to work with the provinces and territories. We will gladly do that.
Senator Ravalia: Thank you very much.
Senator Munson: Thank you, minister, for being here. I lost my voice today. I can’t believe that; I never do. I was curious about your statement that you feel the bill doesn’t go far enough.
Mr. Lametti: Yes.
Senator Munson: You’re the minister. If you really feel the bill doesn’t go far enough, why didn’t you push harder? You have the numbers to correct something which is off.
Mr. Lametti: Politics is the art of the possible. This bill was in the legislative pipeline before I was named minister. We have made a number of modifications at committee, which I am quite happy about. I think there is much more work to be done. In the runway that I had for getting this piece of legislation through, for a variety of different reasons, I’ll admit this is what was feasible.
Senator Munson: We have a runway here. Would you be open to amendments that might make the bill a little tougher?
Mr. Lametti: At this stage, I will be honest with you, this is my fifth appearance before a Senate committee since I was named. I have made and agreed to modifications of previous pieces of legislation. With my appearance last week and with my appearance this week, I will state publicly that it will be very difficult for me to get the cover that I need in order to accept any modifications. It is just the nature of the timing now. It’s nobody’s fault. It’s the way it is.
My preference would be that we not lose this bill. My preference would be that we all undertake, in good faith moving forward, to consult extensively with humane societies, animal protection groups and people in the agricultural sector in order to get the best piece of legislation possible down the road.
Senator Munson: We’ll keep that in mind.
Mr. Lametti: Okay.
Senator Munson: Section 160 of the Criminal Code contains minimum penalties for bestiality offences of six months’ imprisonment on summary conviction and a one year on indictment.
Why did the government decide to keep these mandatory minimum penalties?
Mr. Lametti: It’s a similar answer to the previous: There’s a larger analysis that needs to be done of minimum mandatory penalties in light of Supreme Court decisions and best practices.
We have a major piece of reform legislation that’s almost done going through the system, Bill C-75, which does not address minimum mandatory penalties either, the idea being more extensive work needs to be done on minimum mandatory penalties. For the time being, the MMPs that are in here are consistent with other kinds of serious offences that exist in the Criminal Code and they would all be subject to revision.
Again, I’ve undertaken to do that publicly in a next mandate. I will stick to that. I firmly believe that they need revision. Again, the priority here is getting this piece of legislation through in order to have these protections and fill a gap identified by the Supreme Court. I think we’ll rightly worry about MMPs down the road.
Senator Munson: Are you worried about Charter issues when it comes to this?
Mr. Lametti: We’re not worried about Charter issues. Again, the MMPs here are consistent. We feel it would pass Charter scrutiny.
Senator Munson: Thank you.
Senator Kutcher: Thank you, minister. It’s good to see you again.
Mr. Lametti: Thank you.
Senator Kutcher: My question is very specific. In 1(4)(b), there is a qualifying clause at the end of subsection (b) that reads,“. . . if the costs are readily ascertainable.” I’m wondering why the clause is there and how one would interpret costs being readily ascertainable. It’s a qualifying clause. Is it necessary to be there?
Mr. Lametti: I’ll give a high-level answer and turn it over to Carole.
The whole point of this provision is to make people responsible for their behaviour. If they have caused harm to an animal, they will be responsible for the rehabilitation of that animal. I think this is a safety clause. I’ll turn it over to Carole for further detail.
Ms. Morency: The wording is replicated from an existing provision on the animal cruelty provisions. We are also using similar wording in restitution provisions of the Criminal Code. “Readily ascertainable” is intended to convey out-of-pocket expenses like the cost of taking the dog in for care or for maintaining an animal, as opposed to damages for suffering and things of that nature. It’s a term that’s used in the Criminal Code in a number of places. It’s replicated from the animal cruelty provisions.
Senator Kutcher: So, it’s a legal term with a specific legal meaning, which means I don’t understand it.
Ms. Morency: It means out-of-pocket expenses for the care of the animal. It’s a care and rehabilitation order for the care of the animal.
Senator Kutcher: Thank you so much.
The Chair: Did you have another question?
Senator Kutcher: No, I’m embarrassed enough as it is.
Senator Moncion: I would like to come back to the next steps. You talked about holding very broad consultations. You answered Senator Munson’s question, and you are talking about your expectations. What more do you think you can look for from these consultations?
Mr. Lametti: I would like to see if it is possible to review the standards in different areas with respect to animal husbandry and transport, as well as the treatment of animals at home. I would like to get a broader perspective to determine what could be done. At the moment, and rightly so, special attention is being paid to animals, and I believe we should revise our laws accordingly.
Senator Moncion: We know that many animals are abused when they are transported to slaughterhouses. So you want to go much further than bestiality, which is a form of cruelty to animals.
My second question concerns statistical data. You mentioned that you don’t have a lot of information, or that the information you have is limited. Could you tell us about the plan you intend to implement to collect this data?
Mr. Lametti: For any Criminal Code offence, we will have statistics. We are adding offences in some cases, and creating new ones in others. This will provide us with statistics, particularly on infringements. We already have statistics on existing infringements. This would now allow us to examine the links with other forms of crime, such as offences against children. By coordinating efforts, we can improve data collection.
I don’t know if Mr. Daigle would like to add anything.
Mr. Daigle: As I said earlier, the provinces have a lot of information. We have a federal-provincial-territorial network at the Department of Justice where we meet with our provincial and territorial counterparts. This will allow us to discuss with them how they plan to collect this information and how it could be shared.
Senator Moncion: You mentioned the Internet. How do you plan to establish the supervision associated with surveillance? Do you think you are setting up a surveillance framework, for example, cockfighting or dog fighting, or a cruelty framework that leads to something else?
Mr. Lametti: Rather, this question is directed to the Department of Public Safety and police services across the country. Once the legislation is passed, I believe they will respond by taking steps to address such activities, to correct the situation and put an end to such practices. These measures will no doubt also aim to provide a better framework for investigations in this regard. This is not really a matter for our department. We are more concerned with legislation.
Senator Mégie: During a study of Bill S-214 in fall 2017, cruelty to animals was discussed, but in the context of cosmetics manufacturing. The witnesses had described some scenes of cruelty and the use of these animals, and how painful it was for them. Would this form of cruelty be associated with the different types of cruelty addressed in the bill? Are there other forms of cruelty that are not addressed in this legislation in any way?
Mr. Lametti: Of course, the scope of this bill is quite limited. There is a definition and types of activities that will be prohibited. Bill S-214 addresses another, somewhat broader form of activity, which also represents cruelty to animals. This bill is ongoing as part of the legislative process.
Of course, there are other forms of cruelty. I just explained to Senator Moncion that I would like to plan a broader study, precisely to identify other forms of activities that we would like to ban.
Senator Mégie: Okay, thank you.
Senator M. Deacon: My questions have been addressed. Thank you very much.
The Chair: Unless we have more senators who wish to ask a second question on the second round — have we covered everything?
Thank you, Mr. Minister, for your participation in our study of Bill C-84.
Colleagues, we welcome the next panel of witnesses to our study of Bill C-84, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (bestiality and animal fighting). From the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, I would like to introduce Dr. Alice Crook, Veterinarian and Adjunct Professor, Atlantic Veterinary College, University of Prince Edward Island. She joins us by video conference. Welcome, Dr. Crook. From Humane Canada, we have Barbara Cartwright, Chief Executive Officer. Lastly, from the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, we have Shawn Eccles, Senior Manager, Cruelty Investigations.
Thank you for being here and assisting us in the study of Bill C-84. We will begin with opening remarks, starting with Dr. Crook via video conference.
Dr. Alice Crook, Veterinarian and Adjunct Professor, Atlantic Veterinary College, University of Prince Edward Island, Canadian Veterinary Medical Association: Good afternoon, Madam Chair and committee members. Thank you for the opportunity to appear before your committee.
I’m a veterinarian and a member of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, the CVMA, which represents over 7,200 veterinarians across Canada. I am an adjunct professor and coordinator of the animal welfare centre here at the Atlantic Veterinary College in Charlottetown, P.E.I. I’m also past chair of the CVMA’s animal welfare committee.
Animal welfare is a top priority for the CVMA, which provides numerous resources through its website, social media, meetings and conferences aimed at educating its members and the public on the matter of animal abuse, including sexual abuse and animal fighting, extending to recognizing the signs of abuse and emphasizing the importance of reporting suspected cases of abuse to the appropriate authorities.
With respect to animal cruelty and neglect, veterinarians are commonly the first practitioners to examine a vulnerable and abused animal, including in cases of sexual abuse and animal fighting. We have extensive knowledge and understanding of the care and management of animals and practical experience in the recognition of the signs of suffering.
The CVMA has actively lobbied for a number of years for amendments to the Criminal Code aimed at strengthening the law with respect to animal cruelty.
We’re pleased to support Bill C-84, which proposes an unambiguous definition of bestiality and a more comprehensive treatment of animal fighting. I will focus my remarks on the types of injuries and suffering experienced by animals abused through bestiality and animal fighting.
With respect to bestiality, CVMA believes that Bill C-84 closes a gap that currently exists that effectively legalizes sexual abuse of animals that falls short of penetration. As proposed in Bill C-84, bestiality means any contact for a sexual purpose with an animal. Bestiality, also called animal sexual abuse, can involve a distressingly wide range of animals and result in a wide spectrum of suffering and injury, including death. It may or may not include other physical violence and it may or may not result in visible physical injury to the animal. Signs that may be seen in an animal that could be sexually assaulted include traumatic injuries to the anus, rectum, vulva or vaginal area, recurring vaginal or urinary tract infections, foreign objects in the genital urinary tract and internal injuries.
As a participant in the Canadian Violence Link Coalition, the CVMA is keenly aware of the well-documented link between the abuse of animals and other family violence, including child, spousal and elder abuse. In CVMA’s view, Bill C-84 will help support what is referred to as One Welfare. That is, benefiting animals as well as addressing the sexual exploitation of other vulnerable members of society, including children.
With regard to animal fighting, CVMA recognizes that the current legislation does not include as an offence maintaining a facilitate for animals other than cocks, nor does it recognize as an offence the training of animals to fight. CVMA is pleased that Bill C-84 updates the Criminal Code provisions to include all species of animals and to add the offence of training animals for fighting and profiting from such activities.
I’ll focus now on the suffering involved in cock and dog fighting, as these are the species most commonly affected in Canada. In such fights, aggressive animals are pitted against each other or against bait animals in a confined space. The fight ends when one animal dies, is cowed or seriously injured. In dogs, the behaviour of the aggressor includes chasing, biting, wrestling or lunging until one dog is unable to continue or is withdrawn. Behaviours of the animal victim, such as the losing dog or a bait animal, include distress calls, attempts to retreat or escape, defensive behaviour, appeasement gestures, cowering or trembling. Typical injuries include multiple bites on the face and legs, bite injuries to the belly and groin of a dog showing submission, and ringing or degloving injuries on the legs when a dog firmly seizes the lower leg of an opponent who is trying to pull away.
Also typical in fighting dogs are multiple injuries in various stages of healing. These types of injuries are not typical of fighting that may occur between normal dogs. I’d be happy to provide more information if the committee desires.
Now I’ll speak about the emotional experience of the animals involved, both aggressor and victim. They will likely experience anger, fear, panic, helplessness, extreme pain from serious bite injuries and lasting pain and discomfort from disabilities, such as nerve, muscle, tendon and/or bone damage.
You may wonder, what is a bait dog? These are smaller dogs that are used in training dogs for fighting. Cats and rabbits are also used as bait animals. Clearly, such animals suffer extreme injury, anxiety and fear from which they cannot escape. Survivors may experience anxiety and fear in circumstances similar to those in which the cruel act took place, such as the presence of other dogs.
In conclusion, CVMA is pleased to see notable progress in improving the welfare of animals in the form of amendments to the Criminal Code through Bill C-84. CVMA’s actively involved in organizations such as the National Farm Animal Care Council and the National Companion Animal Coalition, as well as with partners such as Humane Canada, allowing us to collaborate with other stakeholders, including industry, to work to ensure that Canada has high standards with respect to the humane treatment of animals.
We are ready to assist the Government of Canada in any way to further enhance legislation to protect animals from cruelty and abuse, and in this way helps build a more humane and compassionate Canada. Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you very much. Senators, that you may see the light going on in the meeting room. We have a vote coming up on an amendment on Bill C-83. The vote is at 5:42. I suggest that we proceed with opening remarks. We ask to keep to five minutes for your opening remarks. We can then go vote and be back as soon as we can for questions.
Barbara Cartwright, Chief Executive Officer, Humane Canada: Thank you so much to all of the committee members for your attention on this important matter.
I am appearing before you today to express support for Bill C-84 on behalf of Humane Societies and SPCAs across the country and their millions of public supporters.
Although our name is now Humane Canada, you may know us as the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies. We were founded in 1957 and, in part, we were born from this very institution. One of our three founders was Senator Frederic A. McGrand from New Brunswick. He had a keen interest in the links between animal abuse and child abuse.
In April 2018, we changed our name to Humane Canada. We represent 56 Humane Societies and SPCAs across the country, which have served the Canadian public for the last 150 years, making them one of the oldest and certainly most trusted social institutions in the country.
More than 40 per cent have a role in community safety as they are empowered to enforce the law. They investigate more than 100,000 complaints every year while caring for the victims of these crimes, the animals, to rehabilitate and find them new homes.
Strengthening the bestiality and animal fighting sections of the Criminal Code deals with two egregious crimes. These crimes are already well recognized by Parliament as part of the Criminal Code for more than 100 years. Unfortunately these offences have fallen out of step with society’s current understanding of the scope of the crimes.
You have heard from the justice minister on the legislative gap that opened in our bestiality laws in 2016 and the impacts of the historic and archaic definitions which had not been modernized in the Criminal Code. I will focus on the major social impacts of that gap.
Social norms regarding the acceptability and morality of animal abuse and sexual exploitation have changed over time to the point where any touching of an animal for sexual purpose is clearly recognized as deviant behaviour.
For example, the Combating Paedophile Information Networks in Europe, also known as COPINE, based at the University College Cork, categorized bestiality along with sadism as the most severe offence in their rating system of the severity of images of child sexual abuse and the victim impact.
Bestiality on this scale is defined as pictures where an animal is involved in some form of sexual behaviour with a child. It does not limit the act to penetration, nor does it limit the impact of the act based on the lack of penetration. Sexual acts with animals shares this highest category of severity with sadism, which is defined as pictures showing a child being tied, bound, beaten, whipped or otherwise subject to something that implies pain.
It is also clear now that animals are victims of domestic and interpersonal violence, and are often used as tools to coerce and control children and intimate partners in abusive relationships. A recent study from the University of Windsor specifically correlates the severity of abuse. In other words, the severity of abuse of an animal is directly related to the severity of abuse experienced by the human victim. In this study the victims were women.
The Canadian Centre for Child Protection, from whom you will hear tomorrow, recently released a report on the direct links between animal and child sexual assault. It highlights that the courts did not adhere to the strict legal definition of bestiality as the term was sometimes applied to both penetrative and non-penetrative sexual acts. In fact, oral sexual acts and manual stimulation of the animal were more common forms of abuse than penetrative acts.
At the same time, society’s understanding of animal behaviour, emotion and psychology have also evolved. We know there are physical and psychological aspects of neglect and abuse, as Dr. Crook mentioned, and that there are particular issues with sexual abuse of animals. We understand the scope and implications of consent with regards to sexual acts. Simply put, there can be no consent given on behalf of an animal, and the victim cannot report the crime or testify on its own behalf.
Sadly, while it may not be evident to everyone, cases of sexual assault of animals are far too frequent and humane societies and SPCAs across the country struggle with the limited scope of the current definition in the wake of the D.L.W. decision.
The definition of bestiality must be broadened to include any act for a sexual purpose, and those convicted must be tracked through the sex offender registry.
The status quo risks normalizing deviant sexual behaviour, decreasing animal welfare in Canada and ultimately increasing the sexual exploitation of vulnerable members of our society, not only animals but in particular children.
Bill C-84 also addresses the historic flaws in the animal-fighting provisions of the Criminal Code, which are woefully out of step with the current society and inconsistent with the crime of animal fighting as it happens today.
Bill C-84 sensibly broadens that offence to include all animals. It recognizes that the training of animals to fight is an act of animal cruelty and that providing space or profiting from the act is also a crime, which allows the Criminal Code to recognize that animal fighting is moving online.
For example, it is no longer necessary to be at an animal fight, as it is currently phrased in the current Criminal Code, in order to be part of the wagering that now happens. The entire fight may be broadcast online. Or worse still, a new form of fighting is called “trunking,” in which animals are placed into the trunk of a car to fight to the death while they are driven around the streets. The driver stops intermittently to check on the fight and reports back to all those who are following it.
Bill C-84 expands the scope by stating that “in any manner encourages, aids, arranges, assists at, receives money for or takes part in an animal fight.”
Dogfighting is also linked to a range of other crimes. The links to guns and gangs stand out in this regard. Given this, it would be a logical public policy objective to eliminate all animal fighting and the breeding and training that support it.
In conclusion, on behalf of the community organizations that enforce these laws and care for the victims of these crimes, I urge you to support the swift passage of Bill C-84. Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you, madam. Mr. Eccles, I will ask for your patience. I know I said we would do opening remarks before we go to vote. I’m looking at the clock and the tension from my colleagues wanting to vote. I want to make sure that we pay attention to what you have to tell us. With your patience and indulgence, I will suspend this meeting. We will go do our duty and vote, and we will be back to hear you and ask questions. For now we will suspend.
(The committee suspended.)
(The committee resumed.)
The Chair: Welcome back, colleagues.
We welcome your remarks. Thank you for your patience while we voted. We will continue. You may proceed with your remarks and then we will have some questions.
Shawn Eccles, Senior Manager, British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Good evening, chair, and honoured members of the committee. Thank you for the opportunity to speak to the amendments today. My name is Shawn Eccles. I am the senior manager of cruelty investigations with the BC SPCA, currently in my 40th year. BC SPCA is a proud and active member of Humane Canada.
I oversee a team of 41 full and part-time animal cruelty investigators or animal protection officers. All animal protection officers with the BC SPCA are sworn in as Special Provincial Constables under the Police Act, and as such, are empowered to enforce the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, the cruelty to animals provisions of the Criminal Code of Canada and any other laws relating to the prevention of cruelty to animals.
In light of a recent Ontario Supreme Court decision, it should be noted that BC SPCA Special Provincial Constables are accountable to the solicitor general through police services and complaints are dealt with under the special provincial constable complaint regulation, and that appeals of actions taken by the BC SPCA constables may be made to the B.C. Farm Industry Review Board.
In addition to my work at the BC SPCA, I have also represented Humane Canada, formerly the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, as a council member and now a board member of the Canadian Council on Animal Care.
I have been asked to speak and provide my perspective as a member of a small group of law enforcement professionals that garner little recognition or respect, but are held to the same standard and are required to comply with the same rules of evidence as our colleagues in other areas of law enforcement.
As animal protection, welfare and control officers, we bear witness to atrocious incidents of cruelty and neglect on a daily basis, yet nothing prepares you for the disturbing evidence awaiting in investigating offences against animals solely for the purposes of exploitation and enjoyment, or sexual gratification of a select few individuals.
I support the amendments as proposed for the following reasons.
The current interpretation of bestiality, R v. D.L.W, June 9, 2016, does little to support officers investigating and reviewing hours of videos depicting sexual acts on all manners of animals by humans that, if perpetrated on non-consenting human partners, would be considered sexual assault. Added to this is that often the acts that are performed are by the vulnerable sector, primarily women and children, at the coercion of their abusive spouses or so-called caregivers.
These are offences that require specialized skills. Animal vaginal and anal swabs are taken and sent for forensic testing at labs both in Canada and the United States. The BC SPCA has developed a relationship with a U.S.-based forensic veterinarian in order that veterinarians contracted by the BC SPCA to assist in these investigations may regularly communicate with their international counterparts in order to learn about forensic veterinary medicine and the collection of evidence.
Our officers collaborate with Board-certified animal behaviourists when animals are believed to have been abused sexually by their caregivers.
The emotional and psychological toll — not only on the victims, both human and animal, but the investigators — is significant. One of our officers who viewed hours of videos in order to identify a perpetrator by his genitalia so that a conviction could be obtained is haunted by those images to this day.
As the lead investigator on two large cockfighting files, I can speak personally to the inadequacies of the legislation and the lack of knowledge by traditional policing agencies with respect to these types of investigations.
In January 1998, 72 fighting cocks and substantial fighting paraphernalia were seized. Thirty-nine individuals were charged; one individual was convicted and received a fine of $750.
In February 2008, following a year-long joint investigation with the Integrated Illegal Gaming Enforcement Team, the BC SPCA executed search warrants on three properties in Surrey, British Columbia. Twelve hundred and seventy cocks were seized and euthanized, in accordance with the Criminal Code. Charges were presented to the Crown against three individuals, one of whom was convicted; his sentence, a simple prohibition.
BC SPCA Special Provincial Constables have executed multiple warrants on a number of properties where cocks continue to be kept, bred and are believed to be used for cockfighting purposes. However, their hands are tied because the bad guys know that as long as cockfighting pits are not on their properties, there is little we can do.
Warrants have been executed on properties, both rural and urban, where large numbers of dogs historically used in fighting have been housed. Paraphernalia regularly used in both lawful and unlawful events have been found, resulting in a lack of substantial evidence to proceed to legal proceedings.
Current language in 445.1(1)(b) severely limits the ability of law enforcement to pursue charges, as access to animal fights are difficult, at best. Broadening the language to include training, transporting or breeding of animals or birds gives those animals at risk greater protection.
In summary, I ask you to seriously give consideration to the amendments as proposed in order that myself, my colleagues and all law enforcement professionals are given the ability to effectively investigate and enforce animal offence provisions and help to make lives a little better for those animals that we have chosen to protect.
The Chair: Thank you for your comments. We will proceed to questions from senators.
Senator Seidman: Thank you for your patience, because you had to sit here for quite a while, while we went to vote. We appreciate that.
I might start with you, Ms. Cartwright, because you referred to a registry and tracking offenders. In fact, I asked the minister, when he was here, about data collection, specifically, and about a registry. He said that, indeed, this legislation allowed for that and would, in fact, create a registry.
Are you convinced that this legislation will do that?
Ms. Cartwright: Yes, I’m convinced that it will track those convicted of bestiality. It will not track those convicted of animal cruelty. Certainly that could be another step.
I’m very pleased with, and support wholeheartedly, the idea of tracking those who have committed acts of sexual assault against animals on the Sex Offender Registry. It’s a right step in the right direction. Perhaps when we have broad consultation with the minister, we can talk about actually tracking all animal cruelty. Currently the tracking is piecemeal in terms of whether or not it goes through the Uniform Crime Reporting system that StatsCan uses.
In almost every case, animal cruelty, in and of itself, is not well tracked. It’s not well tracked in the Major Case Management System or the ViCLAS system. Those are areas we would want to see changed to ensure there is very good, clear tracking.
Senator Seidman: I appreciate that. Thank you.
For you, Dr. Crook, something that I think we haven’t talked much about is subsection 447.3 of the Criminal Code, which is being repealed in this legislation. This deals with the confiscation of birds from a cockpit.
The subsection states that a peace officer who finds cocks in a cockpit or on premises where a cockpit is located shall seize them and take them before a justice, who shall order them to be destroyed.
This legislation repeals that. I’d like to know what you think the consequences are of repealing this section and what will happen now to those confiscated birds. Who will be responsible for assessing and rehabilitating them?
Dr. Crook: There was quite a bit discussion about repealing this section because before it was required that they be automatically destroyed. There is the potential for rehabilitation of the birds. It seemed unfair that it should be automatic euthanasia. It would be behaviourists who would assess the animals, and those could be behaviourists with humane societies or veterinary behaviourists. That is often what is done with dogs who have been seized in dogfighting. It would be similar with the cocks.
Senator Seidman: You said there was quite a bit of discussion around the repeal of this section. Basically, could you give me a sense of what that discussion entailed?
Dr. Crook: I guess it wasn’t felt that it was just to the birds to require automatic euthanasia. Maybe I shouldn’t have said that. There was certainly discussion of it, because it was originally in the bill. It was left there that there would be automatic euthanasia. It was felt that there should be the opportunity for rehabilitation, such as with the dogs.
It’s possible that, when they were assessed behaviourally, it would be felt that euthanasia was the only humane solution, but there would be this other option.
Senator Seidman: Basically you’re saying it’s fairer to assess them first, as opposed to just applying a generic solution, so to speak?
Dr. Crook: Yes.
Senator Seidman: Thank you. I appreciate that.
I wonder if either Mr. Eccles or Ms. Cartwright might have something to add to that.
Mr. Eccles: I can speak to that, because I was involved in a removal of 1,270 birds. Under the Criminal Code, there was a requirement for us to seize the birds and take them before a justice, who was required to order us to destroy the birds, which was done by manual dislocation — which, quite frankly, from the perspective of somebody who’s there to save animals’ lives, is something that I’m not interested in doing again. I know of several sites right now where these birds are being housed. One of the things that is stopping us from going in is that we’re not interested in removing the birds and destroying them.
Senator Seidman: The question, though, is what happens to them when they’re found and now they’re housed?
Mr. Eccles: Currently in British Columbia, when we’re dealing with large numbers of animals — when a humane society or any law enforcement agency takes on a large number of animals, significant costs are incurred that affect their bottom line. The human resources and facilities that you must have available are not always there.
One of the things we have started to do is when we go into a property and investigate and gather our evidence, we will submit charges to the Crown and hope for a speedy resolution that those charges are accepted and sworn, and that the individuals would be arrested and provided with conditions prior to their release. Some of those conditions may be that the owner is required to perform the euthanasia, sell the birds or give them away.
Senator Seidman: I’m trying to understand if there’s a budget for this, if there’s provincial or federal funding. Now, in fact, if there’s an assessment and rehabilitation process, that incurs additional costs. Do you know whether there’s money attached to this new aspect of the legislation?
Ms. Cartwright: No, there is no funding. Currently the funding model for enforcement of the federal and provincial legislation around animal welfare enforcement is piecemeal across the country as to which province you’re dealing with. Unfortunately, the vast majority of them receive little to no funding provincially or federally in order to enforce the law. The money comes from within the humane society or the SPCA.
That’s why it’s important that there’s a restitution clause, that the courts can order restitution, because of the burden of expense. These organizations are deeply committed to the welfare of the animals, so they will bear that expense and find donors to help bear the expense of rehabilitation, not for the actual enforcement of the law. The rehabilitating and the rehoming of any victim of crime in a humane society or SPCA should be fully funded.
We would support the government doing that, again, in that comprehensive review of how to best enforce animal welfare legislation in the Criminal Code.
Senator Seidman: Thank you.
The Chair: The sponsor of the bill in the Senate, Senator Boyer.
Senator Boyer: I want to thank all three of you for waiting for us while we were off voting.
The first question is for you, Barbara. I’m wondering about public education and what role you can see that would have in addressing some of these problems we’ve been talking about?
Ms. Cartwright: There is absolutely always a role for public education on animal welfare and what constitutes good animal welfare and bad animal welfare. When we’re talking about issues of bestiality or animal fighting, it would likely be more around how to recognize the signs of such acts so that you can report the crimes. In most cases, it’s a report-based system. The animal welfare officers, or enforcement officers, are not going out and actively seeking crimes. They must to have them reported in order to respond.
It’s important for people to better understand when what they’re seeing is actually an act of bestiality, or they’re seeing a victim of that crime, or they might notice there’s some form of animal fighting happening in their communities. That’s where I see the best public education.
Senator Boyer: What about in the schools? Do you think that would be a good place to start?
Ms. Cartwright: From a root cause issue, absolutely. Humane education in every school is critical. We need to start very young. We need to help students better appreciate the important role that animals play in our world and how to interact with them, how to care for them and what constitutes good animal welfare standards. We would advocate strongly for that, namely, for a national humane education strategy.
Senator Boyer: That’s not something that your organization does now?
Ms. Cartwright: Humane societies and SPCAs each have different humane education programs that are both targeted in schools and to adults and outside of schools in popular education settings. We are working on a national humane education strategy, even though education is provincial. We would set the strategy nationally and then work with each province to make sure that we had a humane education system in place.
Senator Boyer: Thank you. I just have one more question for Dr. Crook. Can you briefly talk about how biases and our legal framework prevent us from appreciating the sentience of animals? Can you comment on that?
Dr. Crook: I’m sorry, I didn’t hear the first part of your question.
Senator Boyer: Regarding our legal framework that we’re working with right now — and we’re talking about animal abuse — how does that correspond with the sentience of animals?
Dr. Crook: There’s more and more information available about recognizing the sentience of animals, including scientific documentation of animals having the neuroprocesses to be sentient. We’re starting to use that information in court cases so that not only are physical injuries of animals recognized but also the emotions they experience. There have been cases where there have been convictions where there aren’t demonstrable physical injuries. Based on the sentience of the animals and the emotions they experienced, there have been a couple of convictions. There have been convictions in B.C. — I don’t have the exact information but I can get it for you.
In the written comments that I submitted, there was a reference that’s available. It was about the forensic model for assessing suffering in cases of animal cruelty. It talks about the emotions. There is increasing recognition of that as a very important component.
Historically, we have looked at the injuries that could be demonstrated, but sometimes there are no physical injuries or they are long gone by the time a case gets to court.
Senator Boyer: Thank you very much.
Senator Mégie: We have here an amendment from the House of Commons justice committee that states that a court order may prohibit a person convicted of bestiality from owning an animal for five years, or from being in a place where there are animals. Do you think the five-year time limit makes sense, or do you think there is a risk of re-offending later? Why do you think you should take this risk?
Ms. Cartwright: My understanding of the legislation is that it mirrors what we already have in the Criminal Code under the animal cruelty section, which is up to a lifetime ban. It’s up to the judge to decide the length of the ban. In serious acts, we would advocate for a lifetime ban.
The minimum that was put in, a minimum of five years, was from a different era when there was a drive to put in minimum penalties, recognizing that, perhaps, on the first offence, they were given a smaller prohibition. This was a way of encouraging the courts to ensure at a minimum five years but should be looking for a harsher penalty. We, of course, would support very much what you’re saying around up to a lifetime ban.
Senator Mégie: Do you have anything to add to that, Mr. Eccles?
Mr. Eccles: No, I don’t think so.
The Chair: Do you want to comment on that, Dr. Crook?
Dr. Crook: I wanted to comment on another question I heard earlier about a veterinarian’s obligation to report animal abuse. Would it be appropriate to comment on that?
The Chair: Yes; absolutely. This was a question from Senator Eaton. I’m sure she would love to have that answer.
Dr. Crook: It depends on the jurisdiction in Canada, but more and more provinces do have legislation that requires veterinarians to report suspicions of abuse. There are different components of that legislation. It may be in veterinary bylaws or in provincial animal welfare acts. In some places it’s in both. For example, in P.E.I., where I live, it’s in our veterinary bylaws as well as in our animal welfare act.
One component is confidentiality. Most provinces have lifted the requirement that reporting is not considered a breach of confidentiality. The two components of mandated reporting are that a veterinarian is required to report animal abuse based on suspicions of cruelty or neglect and such that reporting is done in good faith, meaning based on the veterinarian’s professional judgment. The other component is immunity from liability for reporting in good faith.
That’s now in place, or similar legislation, in P.E.I., B.C., Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Most recently, Alberta has put mandatory reporting into their act. There may be more. It’s definitely something that’s been occurring in the last five or six years, I would say.
The Chair: Thank you, doctor, for answering that question.
Senator Moncion: I have a series of questions. I’ll go from one to all over.
I have a supplementary on the answer you provided to Senator Mégie. How do you monitor someone who has been a recognized offender? How do you monitor it so that person won’t have access to animals?
Mr. Eccles: That’s extremely difficult. It is in British Columbia. We only have 31.5 full-time employees who are conducting cruelty investigations. It is difficult. We would rely heavily on the probation officer. Generally speaking, there would be a probation officer who this individual would have to check in with a regular basis. They would have the opportunity to report and file a charge on a breach of condition or a breach of an order. We would also rely heavily, as we currently do, on public reporting.
Ms. Cartwright: If I may follow up, I think with the bestiality offence, the idea they will have to be registered on the sex offender registry will afford another tool in order to track whether they are following that prohibition.
Senator Moncion: To stay on that train of thought, if they are registered on the list of sex offenders, is that used when someone wants to acquire an animal? How do you monitor that? How do you work around that problem?
Ms. Cartwright: Is the question when an animal is up for adoption or being purchased from a breeder or a pet store, is there a way for the organization to check in on whether that person has a conviction?
Senator Moncion: Yes, you put it beautifully.
Ms. Cartwright: My understanding of the Sex Offender Registry — I’m not deeply steeped on this information — is it’s for the police. It’s to track through the police system. With regard to adoption or purchase, there could be a self-disclosure, such as do you have any convictions? We don’t yet have a full-animal cruelty registry.
There has been a petition before Parliament to have a registry of those convicted of any animal cruelty and for SPCAs and humane societies to have access. However, we aren’t that far along in our system.
The Chair: Dr. Crook, you wanted to add something?
Dr. Crook: Yes. A registry would be such a help. It’s something we see in the Maritimes often with animal cruelty, particularly with animal hoarding. Someone who has been convicted in Ontario of animal hoarding and cruelty and then they move to the Maritimes and open up another operation; at this point the different provinces are in silos so there’s no easy way to track that. We would also be very supportive of a national registry.
Senator Moncion: Do I still have some time?
The Chair: You have one minute.
Senator Moncion: I want to talk about the definition. Is there a problem with the definition?
Mr. Eccles: The definition of what?
Ms. Cartwright: Bestiality?
Senator Moncion: Yes.
Mr. Eccles: Absolutely there’s a problem with the definition of bestiality. As it stands now, under the ruling that came out, penetration is required to be present in order for us to move forward with a charge of bestiality under the Criminal Code. The intent with this provision would be that it would be for any sexual act performed on an animal would be considered to be bestiality.
Senator Moncion: Thank you. Anyone else?
Ms. Cartwright: The way that clause was drafted, it uses the term “for a sexual purpose” which is consistent with the rest of the sexual offences in the Criminal Code. It very clearly outlines that it’s any act for a sexual purpose.
Senator Moncion: I understand that the definition that we have now is okay?
Ms. Cartwright: In the bill.
Senator Moncion: In the bill?
Ms. Cartwright: Yes.
Senator Moncion: I have one other question, can I go on second round, please.
The Chair: Absolutely.
Senator Munson: Thanks very much for being here. I have one question. I guess it will go to Mr. Eccles.
The minister said he doesn’t believe the bill goes far enough but because of the political climate we’re in and the timetable we’re under, let’s just get this part done, move on and trust us in the fall to add some more things to this bill. It’s extremely important.
You hinted at amendments. He was urging us to just get this done. I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but he doesn’t want us to have any amendments.
If there are no amendments, sometimes observations are extremely important in a bill. If you had observations for us, it would be very helpful. If you would share them right now, it would be helpful to have this put into our committee report to be recommended to the Senate and then subsequently to the House again.
Mr. Eccles: I would like to see this bill proceed because, as I stated in my introduction, I’ve been with the BC SPCA for 40 years. I’ve seen very little, if any, changes to the Criminal Code in that 40 years’ time. Any effective changes that will give me the tools to go home to Vancouver and take those changes and apply them to situations that we are currently investigating would be extremely helpful.
We can always sit and discuss issues that are of concern at a later date, things that come up. For me, quite frankly, these two issues strike home. I have investigated issues of bestiality, cockfighting and dog fighting. There are serious concerns that I fear if this bill doesn’t pass, we will be back to square one.
Senator Munson: Would you recommend an observation, for example, along the lines of we urge the government to pay attention to the idea that this bill can be stronger or whatever the case may be?
Mr. Eccles: I would encourage active consultation with Humane Canada.
Senator Munson: Just one other quick question. You said 40 years. What we’re hearing today is very difficult to listen to, and it’s hard to fathom that this is actually taking place in this country. Perhaps I should know better. Why did it take so long to get this far on the road to being right about this? It seems like a long time. I can’t understand for the life of me why we haven’t seen this before now. It wasn’t on any radar? I’m sure people were talking about it, public commentators, politicians, people who can persuade others. Sometimes it seems to be way under the radar.
Mr. Eccles: Quite frankly, I don’t think there’s been the political will until today. I don’t like to say that, but that’s my impression. I am truly impressed by the amount of work that’s gone on just in the last six to nine months to bring this bill forward, I am truly impressed. I’m not planning on retiring soon, but I certainly hope that when I do retire, I can actually say I had input into something that made a permanent, lasting, effective change for animals in Canada.
Senator Munson: I appreciate that very much.
The Chair: Thank you.
Senator M. Deacon: It was interesting that the minister earlier talked about a personal situation that came to him. That’s sometimes really powerful.
I’m a bit perplexed about scope and the scale of this. We have folks here with great insight this evening and representation from the country. I’m wondering if you can share with us any kind of baseline of numbers that gives us a sense of either dominance or pockets across the country where this is really a significant issue. Are there certain classifications of your work that are most dominant? Perhaps if we have comparisons with other countries, it would help. I heard New Zealand mentioned briefly, but if there’s any international comparison you can provide? I’m trying to understand the story.
The Chair: Who would like to answer?
Mr. Eccles: In British Columbia in the last years we have had 37 complaints of bestiality reported to us, 24 of dog fighting and four of cockfighting. Those are new files that have come to our attention. I can only report what is being reported to the BC SPCA. I can’t report what is being reported to the police agencies, both the RCMP and/or city police forces across the province of British Columbia. I have no idea of those numbers. I can only report on what we have that’s being presented to me in British Columbia. I don’t know what they are in the other provinces and territories.
Senator M. Deacon: The 1,250 you referred to that had to be killed, that one wasn’t perhaps bestiality but for a different purpose?
Mr. Eccles: The 1,270 birds I was referring to earlier, those were seized as a result of a cockfighting warrant that we had executed on a property.
Senator M. Deacon: Thank you.
The Chair: Anybody want to jump in on this?
Ms. Cartwright: There are over 100,000 investigations every year by humane societies and SPCAs across the country into animal cruelty complaints. I don’t have the breakdown such that Shawn has. The problem is that often with animal cruelty complaints or animal cruelty charges, they get pled out and then they never get tracked. This is a big issue and one of the reasons we would certainly like to see better tracking systems in place and are working towards that so we can better understand it.
If you go onto the National Centre for the Prosecution of Animal Cruelty website, there is a database of cases that have been resolved so that you can look at the case law of animal cruelty cases across the country. If you wanted to look in there, you can search it by category. It’s still being updated all the time.
The Canadian Centre for Child Protection looked at the last 38 cases of bestiality. It’s happening. I was just speaking to somebody during the break. There are two cases in Ottawa currently proceeding on bestiality.
The Chair: Thank you. Dr. Crook, did you want to comment?
Dr. Crook: I don’t have a breakdown of numbers, but I know at the Atlantic Veterinary College, we certainly see cases where bestiality has occurred and also cases related to dog fighting.
The Chair: Thank you for this. I have a question from Senator Oh. We are slowly running out of time in this room. Then I have Senator Moncion on a brief second round.
Senator Oh: I just want to follow up on the question Senator Munson just asked. It seems like this is not going far enough. You guys have your hands tied on many cases.
How come we can’t go further to demolish the arenas or apply heavy penalties on the culprits who activate this? If we can stop underground gambling, why can’t we stop this?
Ms. Cartwright: We believe this bill does that by ensuring that it’s illegal to have, host, allow, enable, profit from — it puts in a full new scope of offences in order to do just as you’re thinking.
As far as should this bill go further, with regard to bestiality and animal fighting, it is a good, solid bill that goes as far as we should be going. What we’re hearing from the people is we also know there are many other offences in the Criminal Code with regards to animal cruelty that are outdated and have not been modernized.
Unfortunately, it’s been about 25 years of trying to get a better bill. A better bill passed through the House of Commons three times in the early 2000s, and unfortunately, it died each time because of prorogation. We would hate to see that happen again now because this is a solid bill that’s actually going to protect animals.
That, I think, Senator Munson, is why we come back to say we will come back to the table and we want the government to come back to the table to take the next step. But to lose this bill because we think there’s more to do would be a real crime, a real shame. This bill is clear, concise and it will give the tools to law enforcement in order to tackle these two issues.
Senator Oh: Any other comments?
Mr. Eccles: As it stands now, I have two farms that are in close location to my office where birds are being kept for cockfighting and are being raised, bred and trained, but there are no cockpits on the property because I’ve been on the property on multiple search warrants and there are no cockpits and no arenas. We know they’re being raised for fighting because they are being raised, bred and exported to the Philippines where the animals can still be fought legally.
If this bill were to pass, I would be able to go out tomorrow and, at the very least, submit a charge to the Crown demanding that these people be charged with an offence. They are breeding and training these birds specifically for that one purpose.
Senator Munson: It’s interesting you say that. I was about to say in my questioning before, when I lived in Asia and my family, with two small children, went to the Philippines, we checked into a hotel. They said, “Tonight we’re going to have a special show. We have chickens and things.” I couldn’t believe it. We walked over and I think the boys were traumatized for about 30 seconds because they had these cocks with razors on, and it was like 10 seconds and we walked away. We couldn’t believe it. This was modern hotel entertainment for foreigners. I’m very happy to give you the tools to stop this.
The Chair: Thank you, Senator Munson. Thank you for that answer. We have a little bit of time for second round. I will ask that you be brief, Senator Moncion and Senator Boyer.
Senator Moncion: Senator Boyer is the sponsor, so please go ahead.
Senator Boyer: Thank you. I have a question for Dr. Crook. I am wondering, can the animals that you’ve seen be rehabilitated? The ones that have been subjected to sexual abuse and animal fighting, can they be rehabilitated?
The animal behaviourist you spoke about, I was glad to hear about that. Would that person be able to assess the situation in more than one sitting? Does it take more than one sitting? Please comment.
Dr. Crook: There are veterinarians who are also behaviourists, and there are also animal welfare specialists who specialize in behaviour. Often it may take more than one sitting to assess the behaviour. Sometimes you have to look at the behaviour under certain circumstances because the animals may react differently depending on their experience. There’s certainly the capability of doing thorough assessments.
There are some animals, depending on what the background is, sometimes with animals that have been bred for fighting and they’ve done a lot of fighting, they may possibly be okay in a family where there are no other animals, something like that. Individual situations can be assessed. I think that’s basically what I have to say.
Senator Boyer: This bill would effectively stop the instantaneous euthanasia of cocks in the cockpit?
Dr. Crook: Yes. For example, on the farms, like Shawn Eccles was talking about, those birds may not have been used for fighting yet; they may have been trained, whatever is happening, but many of them may be at a stage where they could be rehabilitated quite easily. The same can be true of different dogs under different circumstances.
It is a problem for humane societies and rescue organizations that sometimes get these animals that have been used for fighting. It is really important that they be assessed for behavioural concerns before they are placed with families or individuals who, with the best of intentions, may not have the capability of dealing with those animals.
Senator Boyer: Do you know of sanctuaries that are available for animals that need this type of rehabilitation? Do any of those exist in the country?
Dr. Crook: I don’t know of any in P.E.I. Either Barbara or Shawn Eccles may be able to speak about other places.
When I’m talking about assessment here, it’s often through our humane society the assessment is done before the animal is adopted. We don’t actually have any sanctuaries here.
The Chair: Did either of you want to comment?
Ms. Cartwright: Right now there wouldn’t be any place for the cocks because when they’re confiscated now, they have to be euthanized. I imagine that will change once this law passes, and there will be people who are willing to do the rehabilitation and give these cocks a new home.
With dogs, we just had a big case in Ontario where some dogs were euthanized and some were sent to the States for rehabilitation. I think we will also see that continuing to shift.
Senator Moncion: Do I still have some time?
The Chair: A little bit.
Senator Moncion: I want to look at next steps. The minister said this was a good first step and then he was talking about next steps. What do you see as next steps?
Ms. Cartwright: The next steps, I believe, would be an all-party caucus put together to look at not only the Criminal Code, which is what we’re focused on at the moment, but the entire animal welfare framework that we govern our animals under in Canada in order to determine how to have a better comprehensive system so that we’re not doing this piecemeal all the time.
I hazard to say it should not be too broad because sometimes broad consultation can end up spiralling into nothing happening. But we have some very solid national organizations, like the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, the humane societies, SPCAs and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, who can all come to the table, work together and provide support to the all-party caucus and study it and then make recommendations on how to update the framework.
My intention, by structuring it that way, is we would then have all-party support and that political will that Shawn is speaking about to move it forward and move it forward swiftly.
The Chair: Are there any further comments?
Dr. Crook, do you want to comment?
Dr. Crook: The CVMA would fully support that and be very willing to take part in that kind of consultation. We have done so in the past and we would be very willing to continue to do so.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Thank you all for being here and thank you for your patience.
We will continue to study this bill tomorrow, with the help of witnesses from the Canadian Centre for Child Protection and Animal Justice. We will also proceed with the clause-by-clause study of the bill. Unless there are any further questions or comments, the meeting is adjourned.
(The committee adjourned.)