Will C-246 Make You a Criminal?
Disponible en français ici.
A great deal of discussion has begun about a private members bill, introduced in our federal parliament by Toronto area Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith on February 26, 2016. If you love the outdoor sports and haven't heard of this bill, prepare yourself for an awakening because this bill could have far-reaching consequences on fishing, hunting, and trapping (along with other lawful activities like animal husbandry, medical research, agriculture, aquaculture, etc).
Wilderness Obsession interviewed the creator of C-246, Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, and you can listen to that interview in its entirety here:
Wilderness Obsession interviewed a major opponent of C-246, Conservative MP Robert Sopuck, and you can listen to that interview in its entirety here:
The bill is called the “Modernizing Animal Protection Act” and was presented and is being promoted to ban the importation of shark fins, cat/dog fur, and to ban the practice of shark finning in Canadian waters, but unfortunately some of the wording is so vague that it could put many of the practices we love in jeopardy. This is the 19th attempt since 1999 from members of the Liberal and NDP caucuses to pass a bill of this nature, and they have nearly all been opposed by outdoor organizations.
The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH) has been vigourously opposing this bill, and they have gotten legal opinions on the potential effects on our outdoor sports. The Ontario Federation of Agriculture has also weighed in, as have most of Canada's agricultural groups, along with the medical industry. In addition, “Keep Canada Fishing”, the official website of the Canadian Sportfishing Industry Association (CSIA), has posted numerous articles to inform sportfishers of the dangers of this bill. It has also attracted attention from Outdoor Canada and various media outlets, and has been opposed by other conservation groups.
The bill is so vaguely worded that it makes one wonder whether the intention is more nefarious. They are claiming that the bill is reasonable and is only about closing loopholes, but could this potentially open a back door against the outdoor obsessed? Read for yourself and decide...
Quoting bill C-246, in Part V.1 it says:
Killing or harming animals
182.1 (1) Everyone commits an offence who, wilfully or recklessly,
(a) causes or, being the owner, permits to be caused unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal;
(b) kills an animal or, being the owner, permits an animal to be killed, brutally or viciously, regardless of whether the animal dies immediately;
(c) kills an animal without lawful excuse;
(2) Everyone who commits an offence under subsection (1) is guilty of
(a) an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than five years; or
(b) an offence punishable on summary conviction and liable to a fine not exceeding $10,000 or imprisonment for a term of not more than 18 months or to both.
Although there are specific protections concerning Aboriginal rights and title, the rest of us are not so lucky. One of the things we find troublesome is that the bill does not attempt to define such important questions as what is considered “brutal or vicious.” These are entirely new legal terms and have never been tested. Gord Pyzer writes that this means “In other words, there is nothing in the proposed legislation that exempts normal fishing and hunting activities from the offence.” (quote)
Hunting and fishing by its very nature typically involves killing of animals (with the notable exception of catch and release fishing). Is it brutal or vicious to hook a fish, play it, retrieve it, then kill it for a shore lunch? What about to bowhunt and harvest that whitetail buck? Trapping, farming, etc could all potentially be tested by this law, which could then lead to penalties of a criminal charge, up to five years in jail, and a fine up to $10,000.
If a bill like this were to become law, how quickly should we expect a challenge from an animal activist group against a lawfully hunted and harvested bear, deer or other? How long would it take them to push the issue against a sportfisher? Our guess is... not long...
The animal rights groups are well-financed and have lined up behind this bill in their support, and have written a number of media pieces about the importance if this legislation. They are attempting to line up Canadians behind them and encouraging them to contact their Members of Parliament in support. Not a single article that we read in support of this bill acknowledges or touches on the concerns of outdoor fanatics, despite the growing controversy and media coverage of the outdoor groups. Their support and lack of clarity could be taken as a warning sign.
For his part, the MP who put forward the bill says that his intention is not to interfere with lawful hunting and fishing. Nathaniel Erskine-Smith says: “The intention of the bill is not to affect hunting, fishing, farming or research,” said Erskine-Smith, who pointed to sections 444 and 445.1 of the Criminal Code, which currently prohibit the willful killing of cattle and other animals, respectively – yet harvesting cattle for beef lawfully persists in Canada, as does hunting. He continues, “If you were hunting yesterday and the bill is passed tomorrow, after the bill has passed, nothing will have changed.” (quote)
Wilderness Obsession spoke with Erskine-Smith this week, who said that his intention is to see it get to committee, and that changes can be made there. He seemed to be a genuine person, and we enjoyed our talk with him. His opinion is that no clause was put in protecting hunters, fishers, and farmers because it wasn't necessary. From his legal background he says the criminal code already has protection for those accepted practices because of something called generally accepted conduct. He told us, “There's going to be a vote probably in the fall, and it's not going to be a vote to adopt the legislation, it's going to be a vote just to send it to committee. My request would be, let's get it to committee so we can reasonably deal with these concerns with legal counsel and with expert testimony so we can see what it might do and what it might not do so we can actually fix any concerns.”
Robert Sopuck, the Conservative MP from Dauphin-Swan River-Neepawa has been a vocal critic of this bill. He has made it very clear that he sees a number of problems with this law and has been actively informing people of why they should be upset about this bill. He sounds like a man after our own hearts, being an avid hunter who says he eats mostly wild meat, and he is deeply concerned that this bill would threaten his lifestyle along with millions of other law abiding outdoor obsessed men and women across Canada. After consultation with several lawyers, he has presented a fairly comprehensive legal analysis of the bill which may be found here, pointing out the many problems with this legislation. It is certainly enough to get our attention!
When speaking with Sopuck this week, he expressed his dismay that the animal rights activist groups continually seek to “change the goal posts.” “We are already half way. I'm drawing a line in the sand right now. Our laws are adequate; we have good laws. What the animal rights movement wants to do is continue the game. They say 'Let's all meet at the middle ground.' Let's assume we do that, we meet at the middle ground; we agree on something. The first thing they want to do is pick up the goal posts and and move the goal posts and say 'Let's start again.'” He mentions their success in largely shutting down the seal hunt as a reason why we can't play their game.
“What they really want is a vaguely worded act that they can eventually take to court and have a sympathetic judge rule over and over again that certain traditional animal uses are now against the law.” He mentions he wants to see this bill defeated at second reading and wants it off the table. “What the committee will do is create a platform for the animal rights movement to get their views on the record. As citizens they are free to do that and I will vigorously challenge them for sure, but I don't even want this bill to get that far. This is an extremely bad piece of legislation and I fail to see how this can be fixed.”
Sopuck adds that “Too many people think that this is about hunting and fishing, but it's about more than that. There's a significant medical research component to this as well, because either we are personally or we know people who are alive because of animal-based medical research. For example, 60% of cardio-vascular research is done on animals. Years ago heart disease was the number one killer of people in this country, and now it is not, and it's largely because of animal-based medical research. People will die if their agenda is implemented!”
Phil Morlock, Government Affairs Chair of the Canadian Sportfishing Industry Association is clear about his worries, “Once again we see the timeworn tactic by these MP’s and groups of fronting a façade which appears to promote a seemingly reasonable solution to an animal cruelty issue, while concealing the true intention of the legislation. The implications of this Bill are chilling. It is a nuclear strike against our outdoor heritage activities and threatens anyone who just wants to take their kids fishing.”
Admittedly, this is a private member bill, meaning it is not an initiative of the government of Canada, and they typically have a very slim chance of passing. Reportedly it doesn't have much support from rural and in particular Atlantic area Liberal MPs. However that does not mean that we should quietly allow this to go on without speaking our mind. At Wilderness Obsession, we contacted every single Member of Parliament this past week to find out their views, and the majority who took the time to reply were in opposition to the current state of the proposal, although most didn't wish to be quoted for this article.
Gord Pyzer, writing for Outdoor Canada says, “Folks, if you cherish your outdoor heritage, you must immediately, contact your Member of Parliament and clearly express your opposition to Bill C-246.”
Even after speaking with Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, and a number of other MPs, with the current wording, Wilderness Obsession believes this is something that every outdoor fanatic should be against. We would encourage every Canadian to get involved in making sure this bill is either stopped or significantly altered at second reading. Join a local outdoor group and make sure the group understands the implications of this law and speaks out against it, and individually be sure to question your Member of Parliament on their views and make your own known.
We have done so... now it's your turn!
This private members bill is listed as 16th in order of precedence and therefore is likely to be heard at second reading in late April or early May according to current predictions. Please be sure to contact your local MP and express your feelings...
Contact us and let us know!