Erskine-Smith’s animal cruelty bill defeated

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith's private members' bill was defeated October 5. PHOTO: YouTube

An attempt at updating Canada’s animal cruelty laws was curbed last night, with the government joining the Conservatives to vote down Beaches-East York MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith’s private members’ bill.

The Liberal MP’s bill would have modernized the criminal code’s animal section, banned the practice of shark finning, banned the sale of cat and dog fur and required cat and dog fur to be labelled.

A yes vote last night, October 5, would have sent Bill C-246 to committee for further study, but with a vote of 198-84 the bill was shut down at second reading. His party did not officially endorse the bill, which faced backlash from hunters, anglers and the farming industry when it was first introduced in February. Opponents feared that it would affect hunting and angling and open the door to legal challenges against farmers.

In response to the backlash, Erskine-Smith significantly watered down his bill between first and second reading, taking out portions he learned caused concern.

Private members’ bills rarely pass in the House of Commons, but Erskine-Smith hoped that a cause he believes Canadians of all parties care about would receive bi-partisan support, particularly because a form of this bill had been bandied about the house for almost two decades and some of Canada’s animal laws have not been updated since 1892.

The Bloc and the NDP were widely in favour of the bill, and he received support from several politicians across the aisle including NDP leader Tom Mulcair and Conservative Michelle Rempel. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau voted against the bill.

Hockey icon Don Cherry — who founded a pet rescue operation — came out swinging in favour of the bill late last month, devoting a video to the subject.

But it wasn’t enough to get the bill to committee.

“The lobby from hunters and anglers, chicken farmers … there was a large group of organizations that view this as the thin edge of the wedge if we do anything for animals, even if its ending obvious animal cruelty measures,” said Erskine-Smith.

But he is confident his bill has brought Canada one step closer to modernizing its animal protection laws — and he expects to see the government introduce its own reforms in the near future.

“A number of my colleagues voted [with the government] because they were assured by the justice minister that action will be taken by government,” he said. “The justice minister has said that she will consult, she will review the criminal code, and that action will be taken by this government to end animal cruelty and to improve animal protection laws. And I’m happy to say that would not have occurred but for our bringing the bill forward, and more importantly Canadians across the country being so vocal and supportive.”

Private members’ bills are “often an opportunity to put an issue on the government’s agenda that wasn’t already on the agenda, and I think that’s exactly what we’ve accomplished,” he said.

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said in a statement that the bill “raised the important issue of animal protections and has created the opportunity for Canadians and advocacy groups to share a wide range of opinions and concerns on the topic.”

While the government believed animal cruelty is “an important social issue that deserves a national conversation,” she said, comprehensive reforms to animal cruelty laws “must involve large scale consultation with all stakeholders, including rural Canadians and those who have concerns about the effect of this proposed legislation on legitimate animal uses, such as farming, hunting and fishing.”

She said she “will be having discussions on expanding the definition of bestiality and the definition of animal fighting in the [criminal code].”

This story has been updated.


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13 comments

This bill would have banned the import of shark fins and the sale of cat and dog fur. It also touched on extreme cruelty and abuse to animals. It wouldn’t have affected hunting, fishing, agriculture or animal testing. If the government refuses to protect animals from even blatant animal abuse, it’s up to consumers to take charge: Shop cruelty-free.

I applaud MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith’s efforts to safeguard Canada’s precious wildlife. Hopefully the rest of the government will get on board. Apparently Canada’s animal protection laws haven’t been updated since the 1800’s.

Why would anyone, anyone, oppose this law to stem some of the most egregious animal cruelty? What a shame. What a damn crying shame.

Study after study has shown that people who abuse animals often go on to commit violent crimes against humans, as well. It’s time to treat cruelty to animals with the seriousness it deserves–both for animals’ sake and for the safety of communities as a whole.

While it’s a shame that it didn’t pass–hunting, fishing, and other forms of cruelty should be illegal everywhere–I am glad that the issue is being put before politicians, and am grateful to everyone (politician or not) who behaves compassionately. What does it say about us when we have a choice between cruelty and kindness, and we choose cruelty?

Killing animals to use them to mans benefit, for food and clothing, is as far from cruelty as one can imagine. This was a poorly though out publicity exercise on Smith’s part in promoting his hidden, militant vegan agenda. Thank goodness sanity prevailed in the HoC!

That was insightful. Thanks for adding to the discussion, Ira. Any more gems that you wan to throw in there?

Ira, he is right. Many of these bills disguised as initiatives protecting innocent animals are really looking to impose an extreme vegan agenda on all of us who enjoy eating beef, chicken and other meats and who enjoy fishing and hunting or who rely on fishing and hunting to stay alive. Opposition to this and protecting these rights is not an extreme position, but rather a mainstream one.

Well I fish and eat meat but I don’t eat shark fins and through the rest of the live body back in the ocean neither do I eat or wear cat or dog meat and fur.” Maybe we have “dominion” over the animas but we also have the obligation and responsibility to treat that which is given to us with some dignity and respect. The sol called “vegan agenda” has its own titanic problems with genetically modified foods.

This bill was supposed to be about ‘cruelty” and somehow it gets trumpizied into a ‘vegan agenda? Next thing you’ll hear from Joe is -what about the cruelty of ripping vegetables from the ground by their roots.

As far as I am concerned it is our responsibility to treat our resources with respect and to mitigate suffering.

I have many native friends in the far north. They rely on the resources of their land. They harvest the entire animal with respect. In their case they don’t need federal regulation to do the right thing. As far as shark finning is concerned it is one of the most wasteful and savage uses of a part of the fish.

Honestly I don’t see the disconnect here. I don’t see a vegan agenda. If there is one, I would like to reiterate the issue of GM Foods.

Do a little research on Smith and his wife and then tell me that they don’t have a vegan agenda hidden behind the guise of banning shark finning and other motherhood and apple pie statements. He tried to walk this attempt back when is rightly ran into significant opposition, but he still failed. Smith should move on to some issues that might benefit his constituents in a tangible way and that they might be interested in,. such as the state of our economy.

I can’t see how slaughtering cattle would not be considered cruelty under this logic. My bet is that this would be introduced by our smooth talking MP to save the sharks and cats, but as soon as it passes the animal rights crowd would be all over the farmers and getting in the way of beef production and the way they make their living. These rights are critical to our society and can’t be messed with by our vegan MP trying to impose his values on Canadians.

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