Originally Published by Vice Canada, April 14, 2016
By Remi L. Roy
In late February, rookie Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith stood in the House of Commons to deliver a chapped and disjointed announcement. Clothed in a maroon tie draped over an oversized Tory blue shirt, Erskine-Smith—a pet-less, 31-year-old vegan from Toronto—introduced the Modernizing Animals Protection Act. Bill C-246, he said, would bring Canada’s animal welfare laws into the 21st Century. It sounded about right.
Only, opponents argue the bill’s three “specific and achievable” goals range from the sensible to the ridiculous, with little logical middle ground. C-246 looks to ban the sale of cat and dog fur in Canada and aims to end the cruel and unusual practice of shark finning. It also hopes to strengthen criminal laws related to animal sexual abuse and introduce a gross negligence penalty for animal cruelty.
The Modernizing Animals Protection Act could mean fines as high as $10,000 or 18 months in prison for storing a catch in a livewell or baiting a hook with a minnow, nightcrawler, or leech. Short of fanning the age-old flames of Canada’s ugly rural-urban divide, Erskine-Smith, MP for the bougie Toronto inner-suburb riding of Beaches-East York, has placed himself in the crosshairs of every outdoorsman from Prince Rupert to St. John’s.
One of them, Robert Sopuck, Conservative critic for wildlife conservation and Parks Canada, says the passing of this act would move animals out of the property section of the law and into the area dealing with morals and offenses. A 40-year fisheries biologist who called me from a log home set on 480-acres south of Manitoba’s Riding Mountain National Park, Sopuck believes Erskine-Smith is hiding his true agenda—the elimination of all animal use in the country.
“He wants to move animals to the section of the Criminal Code dealing with offenses against persons, which gives rise to the idea that animals are no longer a special type of property, but are beings entitled to rights similar to persons,” Sopuck told VICE.
Last month, a press release by the Canadian Sportfishing Industry Association crashed the (fairly wimpy) servers at keepcanadafishing.com, an industry organization that bills itself as the national voice of the country’s anglers. The post’s intentionally hyperbolic heading—”Go Fishing, Go To Jail“—ran alongside the photo of a young girl reeling in her line under the dutiful eye of a loving mother. The release drew over 100,000 unique views in a week.
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Photo via the Liberal Party of Canada.