Canadian anti-cruelty and Species-at-Risk bills die twice
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August, 2002:
OTTAWA–A once promising session of Parliament for Canadian
animal protection bills adjourned on June 21 in Ottawa with both an
update of the 107-year-old federal anti-cruelty law and the proposed
Species-at-Risk Act effectively dead.
Both bills actually appeared to be dead by mid-April,
between the concerted opposition of the Canadian Alliance, the
minority party which dominates western Canada, and the opposition of
Liberal Rural Caucus chair Murray Calder.
Anne McMillan, previously Justice Minister for the Liberal
government, first introduced the revamp of the anti-cruelty law in
1998, and re-introduced it in 2000, but had still not advanced it
out of the House of Commons when in January 2002 she was made Health
Minister. Her successor as Justice Minister, first-time cabinet
member Martin Cauchon, was not expected to push it–but he did, and
on June 3 it easily cleared the Commons, after a motion to close the
debate passed, 120-71.
The closure motion was the real test of the bill. Despite
the overwhelming support in the Commons, however, the bill was not
taken up immediately by the Senate.
“With persistent rumors that this parliamentary session may
be ended by the government in September to allow a new session, the
bill could die as unfinished business,” reported Barry Wilson,
Ottawa correspondent for the Western Producer, of Saskatoon.
Calder was believed to be behind the delay. “When the
Liberal majority forced the bill through the Commons on June 4 by
cutting off debate,” Wilson wrote, “Calder successfully urged
reluctant rural Liberals to vote for it because Cauchon had promised
an amendment in the Senate guaranteeing that normal farm animal
practices would not be at risk. In the Senate, that promise
disappeared. Montreal Liberal senator Joan Fraser was designated to
shepherd the legislation through the Senate, and she said there was
Calder then said he would “speak to the prime minister” about it.
But the appointment of Fraser to push the bill–if indeed she
was appointed– may have doomed it right there. Longtime Montreal
animal advocate Anne Streeter recalled clashing with Fraser over the
Liberal defense of the Atlantic Canada seal hunt, which killed at
least 295,000 seals in 2002, 20,000 more than the original quota.
The quota was extended when the prices paid for seal pelts proved to
be unexpectedly high.
But Fraser’s name did not even appear on an Animal Alliance
of Canada list of 15 Senators named to the committee to review the
The even more hotly debated Species-at-Risk Act would have
instituted penalties for killing animals and plants on the Canadian
endangered species list.
The Canadian endangered species list currently recognizes
that species are endangered or threatened, but does not actually do
anything to protect them. Protective legislation for each species
may then be passed by Parliament, but of the 402 officially
endangered species now recognized in Canada, most have no federal
protection at all.
After extensive early-June amendments, the Species-at-Risk
Act cleared the House of Commons on June 11, 148-85.
Like the anti-cruelty bill, however, the Species-at-Risk
Act is bitterly opposed by the Canadian Alliance, and is also
opposed by the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, the largest farm
lobby in Canada, mostly because it does not compensate landowners at
full market value for any loss of use of property due to the presence
of an endangered species.
At the provincial level, Ontario wise-users on June 13 won
passage of the Heritage Hunting and Fishing Act, which redefines
hunting, trapping, and fishing as rights of Ontarians rather than
Quebec agriculture minister Maxime Arseneau on May 31
announced the formation of a nonprofit organization called
Anima-Quebec to establish and enforce institutional animal care
guidelines throughout the province. Named to the steering committee,
however, were mainly animal use industry representatives, and
Anima-Quebec was given a start-up budget of only $150,000 (Canadian),
with a mandate to seek donations to do more.
Elisabeth Kalbfuss of the Montreal Gazette reported that
handling similar duties costs the Ontario SPCA $10 million per year.
“It is a good day for animals and animal lovers,” Montreal
SPCA executive director Pierre Barnoti said, “but it is only a first
step. We are going to start naming inspectors. How many? Two,
three, five? In Ontario there are 347.”
Streeter told ANIMAL PEOPLE that she believes Arseneau formed
Anima-Quebec in the first place to keep Barnoti from extending the
inspection activities and authority of the Montreal SPCA. Chartered
as the Canadian SPCA, the Montreal SPCA historically had the right
to pursue anti-cruelty law enforcement anywhere in Quebec, but has
rarely had the budget to do so.