IN THE HOUSE ~ Speech in the House on Bill S-203

39th Parliament, 2nd Session
Speech in the House of Commons ~ April 4, 2008

Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I would like to pay tribute to the role that the member for Windsor—Tecumseh played in parliamentary committee.

Bill S-203 is opposed by every single humane society across the country, whether it is Ontario humane societies, local human societies, the Prince George Humane Society, or the Toronto Humane Society. They are all opposed to it. It is opposed by the International Fund for Animal Welfare. It is opposed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals.

The people who are listening to this debate today need to know that this legislation is being exposed for extremely credible reasons. It does not do anything to address the egregious cases of cruelty and negligence that we are seeing across the country. It is a smoke screen for politicians to vote for who will pretend they are doing something to address this problem.

I would like to address the people who are concerned about this issue and are listening in today.

The NDP is going to force the vote today. That means there will be no vote in the House of Commons today. The vote will take place next week. We can inform the wide viewers who are listening in today that they have the weekend to email their members of Parliament, the Bloc, the Conservative, the Liberal members of Parliament who support the bill. They can pick up the phone now and phone those MPs' offices.

The vote is not going to take place until next week so there is still time for those who are concerned about the complete absence of real protection. There is nothing to stop what is happening now with respect to the cases of cruelty against animals across the country. For people who want to see the bill gutted so that we can force the government to bring in real meaningful legislation, the time is now.

The NDP has provided a fully array of amendments so some real change would take place.

We have heard of case after case of animal cruelty. We heard about the 27 horses in Alberta, the cat that was microwaved to death, and the puppies that were thrown down the outhouse pit. All of these egregious cases of cruelty that we have heard about in the past few weeks can only be resolved by meaningful parliamentary action. That action comes from Canadians picking up the phone or emailing their members of Parliament now.

I know a lot of people who are listening to the debate this afternoon care profoundly about making these changes. They can make a real difference by picking up the phone, by sending in those emails, by talking to their neighbours and friends and family members who are concerned about this issue and getting them to phone their local MP.

Conservative MPs are going to vote against the NDP amendments and try to force Bill S-203 through the House. Even though the Quebec Humane Society is opposed to the bill, Bloc members are going to try to force this through. Liberal members are going to try to force this legislation through. It takes Canadians speaking up to make a difference.

I would like to mention some Canadians who are speaking up in my riding of Burnaby--New Westminster.

I would like to pay tribute to Ms. Rose Nadon, who is president of the New Westminster Chamber of Commerce, and who last Sunday organized a huge rally in Vancouver to oppose Bill S-203. She has taken an active role on this issue.

Barbara Yaffe, a nationally renowned columnist, has written about this issue and spoken out on it as well.

I would like to quote from letters I have received from three constituents.

Ms. Simpson from Burnaby, British Columbia writes:

The biggest problem with the current legislation is that it is difficult to enforce. In fact, less than 1% of animal cruelty complaints lead to successful convictions. Bill S-203 maintains these inadequacies and loopholes, which means that animal abusers will continue to get away with their crimes. As if this weren't bad enough, Bill S-203 also continues to leave wild and stray animals virtually unprotected, makes it nearly impossible to punish crimes of neglect and continues to legalize breeding animals to fight each other.

Another constituent, Ms. Definio from Burnaby, British Columbia writes:

It is suggested that Bill S-203 was introduced to improve protection for animals, yet not a single animal protection group in this country supports it. Not a single one. I oppose this bill too because it is not an effective improvement to the current animal cruelty provisions of the Criminal Code which haven't been significantly revised since first enacted in 1892. We should be ashamed that our country lags behind the Philippines and other developing countries when it comes to protecting animals from reckless acts of cruelty. Bill S-203 would hardly improve our ranking.

Mr. Shoenfeld from New Westminster writes:

Bill S-203 does not fix the problems in the current legislation which allows so many animal abusers to slip through the cracks unpunished. Less than 1% of animal abuse complaints in Canada lead to a conviction. While Bill S-203 increases the penalties for crimes against animals, I do not believe this to be very useful if law enforcement officers are unable to prosecute animal abusers in the vast majority of cases.

Canadians from coast to coast to coast, from communities like Burnaby and New Westminster and other communities across this country, the Calgary Humane Society, the Edmonton Humane Society, the Alberta Humane Society, the Canadian Humane Society that is the expert in this area, they all say adopting Bill S-203 is going to make an already bad situation even worse.

All it does is increase penalties for offences that police cannot prosecute now. It is a meaningless smokescreen and a meaningless attempt by members of Parliament who are trying to address what is a legitimate concern in the minds of Canadians given the many abuse cases we have seen in the past few weeks. It is a way of simply trying to stop cold any meaningful changes.

The only way for Canadians to see some meaningful legislation put into place is for folks to make those phone calls. Canadians have to send in those emails over the course of the weekend so that we can force members of Parliament to stop the Bill S-203 debacle not to send it back to the Senate for ratification.

The second step is to force the government to take meaningful action. Most Canadians do not believe in this bill. Over 90% of Canadians who were most recently polled when they see the appalling cases of cruelty and negligence that we have seen, they do not want simply some sort of smokescreen around this issue.

Canadians do not want increased penalties for cases that police officers can never prosecute. The people who support this include our law enforcement officers. When they see cruel neglect and appalling violence toward animals they know that many of these individuals then move on to provide that same kind of egregious abuse to human beings.

Law enforcement officials are supporting the NDP's stand to stop Bill S-203 and to put in place meaningful legislation. There is absolutely no way to justify Parliament adopting this bad bill. It is not being voted on today.

Canadians who are listening in now, along with their friends, neighbours and families, are hopefully making those phone calls. The Conservatives do not like this. They do not like public pressure. Of course they are reacting negatively. They are saying to Canadians, “don't phone, don't make your point of view known”. That is essentially what they are saying, that they do not want Canadians phoning MPs' offices. They do not want emails or letters to come in. It is obviously that every single member in this House has received emails and phone calls. Every single member of this House already knows what is the right thing to do.

What I am saying is that Canadians need to increase that pressure over the course of the weekend because the vote does not take place until next week. I can say that a Member of Parliament, whether it is a Bloc member, a Conservative member or a Liberal member who has heard from 100 constituents over the course of the next three days is not going to vote for this bad legislation. It will stop those members cold.

I am going to allow a couple of minutes for my colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan who also feels strongly about this issue. I am saying that the jig is not up. If Canadians respond over the course of this weekend they can stop this bad bill from being enacted.