OTTAWA – The federal government today introduced Bill C-84, legislation to close legal loopholes related to bestiality and animal fighting. Animal Justice supports the spirit of the amendments, but is deeply concerned that the legislation still fails to deliver on government promises to reform Canada’s outdated animal cruelty laws.
Most forms of bestiality in Canada have been considered legal since June 2016, when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in R. v. D.L.W. that only penetrative sexual acts with animals count as bestiality. The ruling left animals disturbingly vulnerable to sexual abuse. Animal Justice intervened in R. v. D.L.W., and after the decision called on the government to immediately introduce amendments to outlaw all bestiality.
Meanwhile, Canada’s criminal animal cruelty provisions are a century out of date, regularly resulting in animal abusers escaping criminal prosecution for sadistic cruelty. Two years ago, the government voted down legislation that would have modernized animal cruelty laws and brought them into line with modern values, including closing the bestiality loophole. (The legislation, Bill C-246, was introduced as a private member’s bill by Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, but was first drafted by the Liberal government in the late 1990s).
In December 2017, Conservative MP Michelle Rempel introduced a private member’s bill to close the bestiality loophole.
“The Liberal government set Canada back by decades when they voted down animal cruelty legislation. At the time, they promised to embark on broad consultations and comprehensive reform of our outdated animal cruelty laws,” said Camille Labchuk, a lawyer and executive director of Animal Justice. “Disappointingly, the new legislation only contains very minor measures related to bestiality and animal fighting. These provisions are welcome, but they should have been introduced as part of a larger package of desperately-needed animal cruelty reforms.
“Animal Justice will seek amendments to Bill C-84, as it does not currently give judges the ability to ban bestiality offenders from owning animals in the future—something that is standard for other animal cruelty offences under the Criminal Code.”
“Closing bestiality and animal fighting loopholes is literally the least this government could have done, and still leaves millions of animals in Canada out in the cold. The new law is remarkable for its narrow scope, and for the unacceptable length of time it took to be introduced. Canadians overwhelmingly support stronger animal cruelty laws, and it is shocking that the government has done so little to modernize our severely outdated laws. Why has it taken over two years and two private member’s bills to convince the government to act on bestiality? Where are the broader animal cruelty updates promised by the Liberal government?”
Canada’s animal cruelty laws have not been substantively updated since the 1950s and are considered among the worst in the western world. The new government legislation does nothing to change this.
Bill C-84 can be downloaded here.
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