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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

North Okanagan delegates off to BC Winter Games

Athletes, coaches and officials making the long trek north

Top senior curlers converge on Vernon

Vernon Curling Club hosts B.C. Senior Men’s and Women’s finals, starting Tuesday.

Vernon Mustangs dominate D Final

Hosts crush Merritt 18-4 at Coca Cola Classic Peewee tourney

Vernon Vipers hold off Warriors

BCHL: Vipers in dogfight with Wenatchee, Salmon Arm for third place in Interior Division

North Okanagan Knights draw Chiefs in first round

KIJHL: Knights closing out regular season; will play division-winning Kelowna in opening round

VIDEO: Minister reports ‘modest progress’ after blockade talks with First Nation

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say Coastal GasLink does not have authority to go through their lands

Henrique scores 2 as Ducks soar past Canucks 5-1

Vancouver tumbles out of top spot in Pacific Division

Trudeau cancels Caribbean trip amid pipeline protests across Canada

Protests against Coastal GasLink have disrupted rail service

B.C. VIEWS: Inaction on pipeline protests not a viable response

Columnist Frank Bucholtz on how the Coastal GasLink pipeline dispute got so bad

PHOTOS: Top 10 memories of the 2010 Olympics

Black Press Media’s Jenna Hauck, shares some of her most memorable images of 2010 Winter Games

#FoxForFiver: Support grows in B.C. to put Terry Fox on new $5 bill

Terry Fox’ Marathon of Hope raised money for cancer research

Registration opens soon for BC 55+ Games in Richmond

2020 55+ Games have been officially scheduled for Sept. 15 to 19

Trudeau confers with cabinet ministers as rail blockades continue

The Trudeau government has been criticized for not doing more to end the blockades

Canadian nurses’ unions warn national standards for coronavirus protection too low

President says safety protocols nationwide are inadequate compared to those in Ontario and other countries

Most Read