The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) has released a statement about Bill C-246:
Bill C-246 is a federal Private Member’s Bill (MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, Liberal, Beaches East York), introduced in Parliament on February 26. It is our understanding that it’s scheduled for Second Reading May 9.
Bill C-246 proposes a number of significant changes to the “animal cruelty” provisions in the Criminal Code, which threaten not only animal agriculture but also other animal use activities. Similar amendments have been attempted before in other Private Member Bills. Bill C-246 also contains provisions on shark finning and labelling textiles containing cat and dog fur, which we do not oppose.
The current “animal cruelty” provisions in the Criminal Code are found in Part XI, “Wilful and Forbidden Acts in Respect of Certain Property”. Since 1999, there have been 18 government and private member’s bills that attempted to change the Code’s animal cruelty provisions. Only 2 have passed; the others were either defeated or died when the House was prorogued. The two that did pass had broad support from agriculture, First Nations, hunting and fishing, medical research, fairs, exhibitions, rodeos and colleges and universities.
The Criminal Code has extensive provisions against cruelty to animals. The courts have interpreted these provisions as permitting a range of lawful activities, including animal agriculture, livestock slaughter, hunting, fishing, etc. Canada has collaboratively developed codes of practice for the care and handling of farm animals. These codes are routinely reviewed and updated, and serve to guide farm animal care practices.
In 2008, penalties were significantly increased (from 6 months imprisonment and/or a $2000 fine to 5 years imprisonment and/or a $10,000 fine). The 2015 amendments raised the penalties for animal cruelty against law enforcement animals and service animals. Neither amendment contained language that would impede or prevent traditional and accepted animal uses and practices.
Among our concerns with C-246:
- The animal cruelty provisions would be moved from Part XI, “Wilful and Forbidden Acts in Respect of Certain Property” to Part V.1. Part V deals with “Sexual Offences, Public Morals and Disorderly Conduct”; the message being that animals are not property and crime against animals are associated with sexual offences.
- One result of the transfer is that established case law and precedence are lost.
- Section 182.1 adds “recklessly” to the existing “wilfully” for causing unnecessary pain, suffering or injury. This could expand the conduct that could be criminalized.
- The current Criminal Code doesn’t focus on killing an animal, but rather on causing unnecessary pain, suffering or injury. C-246 adds killing an animal or permitting an animal to be killed “brutally or viciously” as well as killing an animal without lawful excuse. Brutally or viciously are new terms, meaning there is no case law and no precedence.
- The proposed new provisions, sections 182.1 to 182.6 contain no definition of an “animal”. Most, if not all of the failed amendments at least defined an animal.
- The penalty provisions are unchanged from the current penalties in Part XI.
- Although proponents of C-246 speak about it addressing “puppy mills”, the Bill contains no provisions pertaining to puppy or kitten mills.