Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada Jody Wilson-Raybould speaks during a news conference in Ottawa, Wednesday, October 17, 2018. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Canada’s proposed new laws against bestiality don’t go far enough, critics say

Issue stems from a Supreme Court of Canada ruling

The Liberal government is proposing changes to strengthen laws against bestiality and animal fighting, but advocates against animal cruelty, including a Liberal MP, say these measures are the bare minimum of what is needed.

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould introduced legislation Thursday that would expand the definition of bestiality to make it clear the offence prohibits any contact for a sexual purpose between a person and an animal.

Current bestiality laws are too narrowly defined and must be broadened to ensure both animals and the general public are better protected, Wilson-Raybould said.

“For many Canadians, animals are an important extension of our families and of our communities. Our laws need to reflect these values and protect animals and provide protection to them that they require from such senseless acts of violence,” she said.

The changes stem from a court ruling two years ago that saw a B.C. man — who was found guilty of sexually molesting his two step-daughters and one count of bestiality —successfully challenged the bestiality conviction in the B.C. Court of Appeal based on the fact the activity did not involve penetration.

The Supreme Court of Canada affirmed that ruling.

Wilson-Raybould says this new bill would address the loophole in the current laws, acknowledging that had these measures been in place already, the B.C. case might have turned out differently.

Another change in the law will also ban a broad range of activities involving animal fighting, including promoting, arranging and profiting from animal fights as well as breeding, training and transporting animals to a fight — activities that have been linked to organized crime.

READ MORE: Tougher laws introduced against bestiality, animal fighting

Two years ago, Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith put forward a private member’s bill to address the bestiality loophole and animal fighting, but his bill also included a ban on importing shark fins and cat and dog fur. It also would have made the “brutal and vicious” killing of an animal a new offence and would have changed the standard for animal cruelty from wilful neglect to “gross negligence.”

His bill was defeated after members of his own Liberal caucus voted against it.

Erskine-Smith characterized the changes in his justice minister’s bill as “modest,” and hopes they will mark the first steps in a larger conversation about addressing animal cruelty in Canada.

He was also critical of the “meat and hunting” lobby, which he contends influenced the defeat of his bill by spreading misinformation about the impact on their industries.

“Everything gets politicized in this place (so) even modest measures, and measures that should be non-controversial to end animal cruelty, become a great controversy because of the great disinformation spread by the meat and hunting lobbyists in particular,” he said.

“Getting to a place where we have consensus amongst Conservatives, Liberals, NDP, Greens and the stakeholders here, not just the animal activists, but the meat and hunting lobbyists — it takes time to get that place.”

He pointed to a letter published in December 2017 jointly signed by a number animal welfare, veterinary and meat production advocacy groups, including the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, saying they had reached consensus to support the two changes now included in Wilson-Raybould’s bill.

This letter was likely the licence Wilson-Raybould needed to “act in a way that previously the controversy prevented her from acting,” Erskine-Smith said.

The government’s news release announcing the bill highlights that a “common ground approach” was taken to the proposed Criminal Code changes to ensure the law does not interfere with legitimate farming, hunting and trapping practices.

Camille Labchuk, executive director of the group Animal Justice, which intervened in the B.C. bestiality case, says Ottawa’s attempts to make this “palatable” to animal production and hunting industries is “very disturbing.”

“In my view, government should not be making animal cruelty legislation designed to protect animal-use industries, they should be designed to protect animals,” she said.

Labchuk says she remains deeply concerned the bill does not address broader promises from the Trudeau Liberals to reform Canada’s animal cruelty laws.

“What we’ve seen today on bestiality and animal fighting is literally the very least thing that they could have done,” she said.

“These provisions are welcome, but they really should have been introduced as part of a larger package of desperately needed Criminal Code reforms.”

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Stolen truck involved in fatal collision on Highway 16

Wednesday’s two-vehicle crash killed one man, 23, and injured two others

Local company Northern Homecraft wins big at Northern B.C. awards

Vanderhoof company won in two categories for homes built in Fort St. James area

Column: the 4-H way of life

Local 4-H member Jacinta Meir on what being a member means to her

2018 marks 100 years since the end of World War I

Quesnel legion’s historian Doug Carey documents some of the atrocities of WWI

Conifex announces a temporary curtailment in operations at Fort St. James mill

Between 180 and 200 people will be affected by the curtailment for at least four weeks

People flocking to Vancouver Island city to see hundreds of sea lions

Each year the combination of Steller and California sea lions take over Cowichan Bay

Children’s strawberry-flavoured medicines recalled due to faulty safety cap

Three different acetaminophen syrups part of nationwide recall

Around the BCHL: Junior A cities to host World Junior tuneup games

Around the BCHL is a look at what’s happening in the league and around the junior A world.

International students hit hard by B.C. tuition fee hikes

Campaign seeks regulatory controls be imposed on post-secondary institutions

Trudeau pushes for more Saudi accountability in Khashoggi killing

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada is still seeking clear answers from Saudi Arabia about what happened to Jamal Khashoggi

School bullying video shows how people with disabilities are devalued: advocates

Brett Corbett, who has cerebral palsy, is seen in a video being stepped while lying in water

CFL will use extra on-field official to watch for illegal blows to quarterback

If the extra official sees an illegal blow that has not already been flagged, they will advise the head referee, who can then assess a penalty for roughing the passer

Older B.C. drivers subsidizing younger ones, study finds

ICBC protects higher-risk drivers, pays for testing costs

Feds respond to sexual assault investigation at B.C. naval base

Report of Oct. 5 sexual assault on Vancouver Island base taken over by Canadian Forces National Investigation Service

Most Read