[Note: Last night's vote of confidence against the Liberal Government of Canada's amendments to their budget was lost by a single vote, meaning the House will continue to sit and therefore Bill C-50 will still be viable. Similar initiatives in the past were always blocked by the non-elected Senate, and this may be, too. As well, the Liberal government is committed to a winter election, perhaps February, and so the parties will be campaigning now -- the longest federal campaign in Canadian history -- making it a good time to lobby for support for this bill. BKM]

This is the Department of Justice’s media release.

JUSTICE MINISTER INTRODUCES STRONGER ANIMAL CRUELTY LAWS

Minister Cotler says Bill to Protect Animals reflects views of Canadians OTTAWA , May 16, 2005 – Irwin Cotler, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, today introduced legislation in the House of Commons which modernizes and strengthens Canada’s animal cruelty laws.

"Canadians want legislation to protect against cruelty and contempt for animal well-being and they expect the criminal justice system to treat such behaviour seriously," said Minister Cotler. "This legislation will effectively modernize our legal protection against intentional cruelty to animals and increase maximum penalties available for such cruelty and for criminal neglect of animals."

Animal cruelty provisions in the Criminal Code target those who knowingly or recklessly cause unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal or cause pain or injury through criminally negligent conduct.

Specific changes to the Criminal Code will:

• no longer classify animal cruelty offences as property crimes;
• make it illegal to brutally or viciously kill animals;
• raise the penalty for intentional cruelty to a maximum of five years’ imprisonment, up from the current six-month penalty;
• give judges the authority to raise the fine for summary convictions to $10,000 from the current maximum fine of $2,000, and for indictable offences, remove the cap on fines entirely;
• remove the two years maximum for an order prohibiting someone who is convicted from owning an animal, and;
• give judges the authority to order anyone found guilty of animal cruelty to pay restitution to the animal welfare organization that subsequently cared for the animal. "By increasing penalties and no longer classifying animal cruelty as property crimes, these amendments send a strong message that animal cruelty is about violence, and that is completely unacceptable," said Minister Cotler.

Extensive consultation with animal industry groups has taken place over the past several years, leading to various changes to the amendments initially proposed. These amendments strike the appropriate balance between strongly denouncing cruelty as a crime of violence while, at the same time, making it clear that lawful and humane practices in a range of contexts, such as scientific research and agriculture, will not be affected. The proposed legislation also affirms traditional Aboriginal hunting and fishing rights.

An online version of the proposed legislation is available at www.parl.gc.ca

Ref.:
Denise Rudnicki
Director of Communications
Office of the Minister of Justice
(613) 992-4621
Media Relations Office
Department of Justice Canada
(613) 957-4207

______________________________________________________-

Barry Kent MacKay
Canadian Representative
Animal Protection Institute
www.api4animals.org