Nate at Justice Committee speaking on Bill C-84 (Animal Welfare)

Nate at Justice Committee speaking on Bill C-84 (Animal Welfare)

Thank you very much we will now go to
Mr. Erskine Smith. Thanks very much minister for being here, I also appreciate your support before you were Minister, for [Bill] C-246. I want to ask;
your home province of Quebec has recognized that animals are sentient. I want to get
at some of the general principles for why we want to protect animals in the
Criminal Code, and you’ve noted in your comments that animals are oftentimes an
important part of our family and would you agree that animals are sentient?
The evidence that I have seen I think is increasingly going in that direction.
I’m not an expert I can only base it on what I read so to the extent that
that I have seen the same kinds of studies that you have, it seems to me
that that’s where the scientific evidence is going.
And in terms of the moral wrong that we’re aiming to address in the Criminal Code, is it a crime to cause unnecessary pain and suffering to animals because they’re sentient; they
think and feel, and can suffer pain, or is it because they’re the property of someone else?
It’s a larger question and I think that that question needs to be
addressed as part of our ongoing look at these provisions
generally, we’ve committed to that. My predecessor committed to that. I’m happy
to commit to the same thing moving forward. I certainly am quite open to
reforming all of the provisions generally but that will take time and
and it will take time precisely because of the questions that you’re raising,
important scientific questions and important ethical questions about our relationship.
I think it gets to the bottom of what do we want the Criminal
Code to look like in terms of protecting animals, and that will depend upon
the first principles of what do we want to protect in the first place and I
think it’s important, when we know, and the evidence is that animals can think,
feel, love, and suffer, our laws should reflect that reality. So there have been
previous attempts by former Liberal Justice Ministers to introduce
significant reform to the Criminal Code with respect to animal cruelty provisions. Justice Minister Anne McClellan, Justice Minister Martin Cauchon, Justice Minister Irwin Cotler. These three previous attempts were more substantive than C-84. Do you think C-84 is sufficient? No I think it’s been made clear by my predecessor and I think it was made clear in my opening
remarks that we have we have in C 84 picked two areas where there’s
widespread agreement and we could get it done now we were filling a gap in one
case and we are addressing a practice in another case, animal fighting, that we
don’t want to see. I agree that there are larger deeper ethical questions,
legal questions, that go, really do go to the heart of the way in
which we envisage society and our relationship to ourselves, amongst
ourselves, as well as to animals, and that those are larger questions that
need to be addressed. And it’s fair to say then that this is a first step, I
would say, a fairly modest first step if if I’m being generous, but
this is a first step and that as Justice Minister you’re committing to additional
consultations and to doing more where those consultations find some consensus
and find a way forward. Yea, as my predecessor also stated we’re going to
keep moving forward with this dialogue and and literally try to make our
Criminal Code and our society better. So in keeping with that theme of
additional consultations, I want to read a letter from November 22nd 2004, and it
says “Canada’s animal based sectors, as represented by the undersigned, wish to
express our support for the swift passage of certain amendments to the
Criminal Code, cruelty to animals provisions. Specifically we are calling
for the reintroduction and adoption of the measures contained in C-22.”
Now that was signed by over 25 animal use groups including the Canadian Cattlemen’s
Association and the Dairy Farmers of Canada. It was not signed by the Canadian Federation of Agriculture but CFA did note their dismay when similar measures
didn’t pass into law. So, it seems to me there was significant consensus in
2004 amongst animal use groups to be more bold and to do more for animals in
the Criminal Code, and do you think with sufficient work on your part that you
can get back to that consensus? Look, I’m not going to speak about a consensus that happened in 2004. I wasn’t privy to those discussions.
I was quite frankly doing other things at the time. And so,
I’m not fully versed on all of those various discussions that happened in 2004.
What I will commit to doing is keeping dialogue open
with various groups, including a number of the groups that you’ve mentioned. I
know that they have they have weighed in on this particular piece of legislation,
and they’re supportive, and we’ll continue to be open to all people
who have an opinion on the matter. My last question, just to pick up on that
point of dialogue, so this committee is going to be engaged in a few meetings of
study and legislative review of a bill that is effectively one-page and
addresses two very narrow issues in the Criminal Code. And, it’s an important bill
in the sense that addresses a Supreme Court ruling of some note as my
colleague from the Conservative Party addressed, but it doesn’t allow for a
broad conversation at a committee like this. It doesn’t allow for a multitude of
stakeholders to come in, and not just talk about these two provisions in the
Criminal Code, or to say “how do we as a society better protect animals across
this country?” And so, do you think it would be more productive in terms of
dialogue to have a committee like this, whether it’s the Justice Committee or a
special all-parliamentary committee devoted animal protections, to say “let’s
bring in witnesses from across the country, we as parliamentarians, it doesn’t matter
what party we’re from, we care about ending animal cruelty” and to see what
consensus we can forge, to then introduce a new bill that would potentially do
more for animals based upon significant consensus, based upon, a larger
dialogue that could take place at a parliamentary committee. Do you think
that would be a productive way forward? My immediate priority is the passage of
this legislation it is important that the two practices that are identified in this
piece of legislation are important; to prohibit and and define in each respective case.
I’m open to discussing other ways forward. Thanks very much

One thought on “Nate at Justice Committee speaking on Bill C-84 (Animal Welfare)

  1. Thank you for pushing this. I came here because of the shorter video you posted on a local Facebook page to see if there was a further explanation to why passing legislation for the protection of animals will “take time”. It breaks my heart and astounds me that as a society we have to debate this. Thank you so much for being an advocate and please keep fighting hard.

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