The long and often acrimonious debate over amendments to the Criminal Code of Canada with respect to animal cruelty overcame a major hurdle yesterday in the House of Commons, with a large majority of Members of Parliament voting in support of Bill S-203, introduced by Liberal Senator John Bryden of New Brunswick.
The bill, which represents the first advances on this issue in over one hundred years, will provide for substantially increased fines and penalties in cases of animal abuse and provide the courts with additional tools to deal with abuse cases, without impacting negatively on millions of Canadians in the outdoor, agricultural and medical research communities.â€œThe debate over changes to the law regarding animal abuse has dragged on for over ten years. Senator Brydenâ€™s bill, which was supported by a large number of Conservative, Liberal and Bloc M.P.â€™s, provides for increased fines and penalties, something a majority of Canadians supported.
It removes the current two-year cap on ownership allowing the courts to ban ownership for life and provides the courts with the power to make restitution orders, similar to previous proposed government bills,â€ said O.F.A.H. Manager of Government Relations and Communications, Greg Farrant. â€œThe bill enjoyed cross party support from the government and members of both the Liberals and the Bloc.
The Members of Parliament who voted in favor of the legislation should be commended, as should Senator Bryden who worked tirelessly over the past three years to bring this to fruition.
Itâ€™s unfortunate that animal rights activists and animal protection groups who were seeking more onerous legislation chose not to support a bill which offers an increased ability to go after animal abusers. The fact that they opposed the bill really calls into question their agenda, since the inclusion of increased fines and penalties addressed one of their original concerns.â€
Bill S-203 is a simple and straightforward response to the demand by Canadians that the penalties for anyone convicted of abusing an animal be increased, which the O.F.A.H. and wildlife federations across the country strongly support.
While the existing defences will continue to apply, as will the body of case law that has been developed over the years for interpreting the provisions of the law, enforcement officers and the courts will now be able to apply increased penalties that are more in line with the severity of the crime.â€œWe hope that the changes brought forward in Bill S-203 will act as a substantial deterrent to potential offenders who would otherwise engage in animal abuse with little fear of reprisal.
The fact that the bill provides for changes to the law without penalizing legal, lawful, heavily regulated animal use industries is a testament to the balanced approach taken by the Senator. The passage of legislation is often a balancing act between competing interests, and in this case, we think the Senator and Parliamentarians who supported the bill got it right,â€ said Farrant.
With 83,000 members and 655 member clubs across Ontario, the O.F.A.H. is the largest non-profit conservation organization in Ontario and the Voice of Anglers and Hunters on issues affecting the outdoor community.
Thanks to everyone who took the time and effort to contact their MPP.