OTTAWA — The Liberal government is proposing changes to strengthen laws against bestiality and animal fighting, but advocates against animal cruelty, including a Liberal MP, say these measures are the bare minimum of what is needed.
Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould introduced legislation Thursday that would expand the definition of bestiality to make it clear the offence prohibits any contact for a sexual purpose between a person and an animal.
Current bestiality laws are too narrowly defined and must be broadened to ensure both animals and the general public are better protected, Wilson-Raybould said.
“For many Canadians, animals are an important extension of our families and of our communities. Our laws need to reflect these values and protect animals and provide protection to them that they require from such senseless acts of violence,” she said.
The changes stem from a court ruling two years ago that saw a B.C. man — who was found guilty of sexually molesting his two step-daughters and one count of bestiality —successfully challenged the bestiality conviction in the B.C. Court of Appeal based on the fact the activity did not involve penetration.
The Supreme Court of Canada affirmed that ruling.
Wilson-Raybould says this new bill would address the loophole in the current laws, acknowledging that had these measures been in place already, the B.C. case might have turned out differently.
Another change in the law will also ban a broad range of activities involving animal fighting, including promoting, arranging and profiting from animal fights as well as breeding, training and transporting animals to a fight — activities that have been linked to organized crime.
Two years ago, Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith put forward a private member’s bill to address the bestiality loophole and animal fighting, but his bill also included a ban on importing shark fins and cat and dog fur. It also would have made the “brutal and vicious” killing of an animal a new offence and would have changed the standard for animal cruelty from wilful neglect to “gross negligence.”
His bill was defeated after members of his own Liberal caucus voted against it.
Erskine-Smith characterized the changes in his justice minister’s bill as “modest,” and hopes they will mark the first steps in a larger conversation about addressing animal cruelty in Canada.
He was also critical of the “meat and hunting” lobby, which he contends influenced the defeat of his bill by spreading misinformation about the impact on their industries.
“Everything gets politicized in this place (so) even modest measures, and measures that should be non-controversial to end animal cruelty, become a great controversy because of the great disinformation spread by the meat and hunting lobbyists in particular,” he said.
“Getting to a place where we have consensus amongst Conservatives, Liberals, NDP, Greens and the stakeholders here, not just the animal activists, but the meat and hunting lobbyists — it takes time to get that place.”
He pointed to a letter published in December 2017 jointly signed by a number animal welfare, veterinary and meat production advocacy groups, including the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, saying they had reached consensus to support the two changes now included in Wilson-Raybould’s bill.
This letter was likely the licence Wilson-Raybould needed to “act in a way that previously the controversy prevented her from acting,” Erskine-Smith said.
The government’s news release announcing the bill highlights that a “common ground approach” was taken to the proposed Criminal Code changes to ensure the law does not interfere with legitimate farming, hunting and trapping practices.
Camille Labchuk, executive director of the group Animal Justice, which intervened in the B.C. bestiality case, says Ottawa’s attempts to make this “palatable” to animal production and hunting industries is “very disturbing.”
“In my view, government should not be making animal cruelty legislation designed to protect animal-use industries, they should be designed to protect animals,” she said.
Labchuk says she remains deeply concerned the bill does not address broader promises from the Trudeau Liberals to reform Canada’s animal cruelty laws.
“What we’ve seen today on bestiality and animal fighting is literally the very least thing that they could have done,” she said.
“These provisions are welcome, but they really should have been introduced as part of a larger package of desperately needed Criminal Code reforms.”
— Follow @ReporterTeresa on Twitter.
Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press
Saskatchewan premier defends plan to use notwithstanding clause for pronoun policy
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe holds a news conference during a tour at Lakewood Civic Centre in Saskatoon, Sask., on Friday, Sept. 29, 2023. Moe is defending his decision to recall the legislative assembly early and use the notwithstanding clause to ensure the province’s pronoun policy stays in place. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Heywood Yu
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe is defending his decision to recall the legislative assembly early and use the notwithstanding clause to ensure the province’s pronoun policy in schools stays in place.
Speaking to reporters in Saskatoon, he said he wants to make it clear the policy will go ahead.
“The policy is paused here today,” Moe said Friday.
“What we feel is of paramount importance is to provide clarity to parents, to families and ultimately to school divisions and educators that are in our classrooms across the province. This will provide that clarity.
“We’ve said for a number of weeks now that there are tools available for the government to ensure this policy is in place moving forward for the next number of months and years.”
Moe made the announcement Thursday that he plans to use the notwithstanding clause, shortly after a judge granted an injunction to pause the policy that requires parental consent when children under 16 want to go by different names and pronouns at school.
He had said in a statement that he was extremely dismayed by the injunction, calling it judicial overreach, and suggested the policy has strong support from the majority of Saskatchewan residents and parents.
On Friday, Moe added that he wants to provide clarity as soon as possible to families and school divisions.
“The school divisions, up until yesterday, have informed us they’ve been working on their implementation plans of this policy,” he said.
“What pausing the policy means is for a period of time it will not be mandatory to include the parents in some of these discussions.”
The legislative assembly is to be recalled on Oct. 10 to use the notwithstanding clause, a provision that allows governments to override certain Charter rights for up to five years.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 29, 2023.
Cyberattacks hit military, Parliament websites as India hacker group targets Canada
The federal government is coping with apparent cyber attacks this week, as a hacker group in India claims it has sowed chaos in Ottawa. Hands type on a keyboard in Vancouver on Wednesday, December, 19, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
By Dylan Robertson in Ottawa
The federal government is coping with apparent cyberattacks this week, as a hacker group in India claims it has sowed chaos in Ottawa.
The Canadian Armed Forces said that its website became unavailable to mobile users midday Wednesday, but was fixed within a few hours.
The military said the site is separate from other government sites, such as the one used by the Department of Defence and internal military networks. The incident remains under investigation.
“We have no indication of broader impacts to our systems,” said a statement from spokeswoman Andrée-Anne Poulin.
Meanwhile, various pages on the House of Commons website continued to load slowly or incompletely on Thursday due to an ongoing attack that officials say started Monday morning.
The Commons administration said it was facing a distributed denial-of-service attack, which is when bots swarm a website with multiple visits and cause it to stop loading properly.
“House of Commons systems responded as planned to protect our network and IT infrastructure. However, some websites may be unresponsive for a short period,” spokeswoman Amélie Crosson said in a written statement Thursday morning.
“The House of Commons IT support team, in collaboration with our partners, have implemented mitigating measures and restored services to appropriate service levels. The IT team is still continuously monitoring for such activities.”
She added that the Commons administration is helping their Senate colleagues “to provide guidance and support them to restore services.”
Elections Canada also experienced roughly an hour-long denial-of-service attack starting around midnight early Wednesday, Ottawa time.
“This website does not host any sensitive data or information. It is separate from our main website, elections.ca, and is hosted by an external service provider. It is in no way connected to the network that supports elections.ca,” the agency wrote in a statement.
“Our systems are monitored in real time both internally, and by the Canadian Cyber Security Centre, enabling us to quickly detect any anomalies on our platforms and systems. They are aware of the incident.”
That centre is under the umbrella of the Communications Security Establishment, Canada’s signals-intelligence agency.
A hacking group named Indian Cyber Force claimed responsibility for the incidents involving the military and Elections Canada, and it appeared to have managed to infiltrate a handful of websites owned by small businesses in Canada.
The group made reference to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau telling Parliament on Sept. 18 that there were “credible allegations” of Indian involvement in the killing of Sikh independence activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who had been wanted by India for years and was gunned down in June outside the temple he led.
The hacking group has posted multiple versions of a message riddled with spelling and grammatical errors onto websites of restaurants and medical clinics.
The affected sites show a message on a black background with green digits, similar to the film “The Matrix,” as warlike music plays.
The message described Canada as a haven for terrorists — a “heaven hub,” it said in butchered English — and similarly insulted Sikh separatists.
It also criticized Trudeau for “throwing something without any prove,” or proof.
The group claimed to have attacked Elections Canada and the Ottawa Hospital, though these sites appeared to be operating normally Thursday morning. The Canadian Press has asked those responsible for these web pages to confirm whether they have been affected.
The hacking group also claimed to have taken down the Global Affairs Canada website for travel advisories, but the department insists this hasn’t happened, and the group deleted that claim from its account on the social-media application Telegram.
News of the attacks came as questions abounded over Indian officials’ level of co-operation with Canadian officials over Trudeau’s allegations — and to what extent allies such as the United States were advocating on Canada’s behalf.
On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with India’s foreign-affairs minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.
Neither of them made mention of the controversy in Canada when they emerged briefly to pose for photos before their meeting began.
During a State Department briefing prior to that meeting, spokesman Matthew Miller refused to speculate on what the secretary would tell Jaishankar directly.
“What I will say, however, is we have consistently engaged with the Indian government on this question and have urged them to co-operate, and that engagement and urging them to co-operate will continue,” Miller said.
“We urge them to co-operate with the Canadian investigation.”
Miller flatly refused comment when asked about a television interview last week with U.S. ambassador to Canada David Cohen, who confirmed that Canada received intelligence from one of its Five Eyes security partners.
“I am not going to speak to intelligence matters from the podium.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 28, 2023.
— With files from James McCarten in Washington, D.C.
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