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Animal-rights legislation faces delay in Senate (Globe and Mail)

Globe and Mail
November 22, 2002

Kim Lunman

Animal-rights legislation faces delay in Senate
Upper-house members use 'parliamentary
piracy' to stall reforms, advocates say


OTTAWA The Senate is using "parliamentary piracy" to stall proposed changes to the Criminal Code that would increase jail terms for those convicted of animal cruelty, animal-rights advocates charge. The Liberal-majority Senate took the rare step yesterday of dividing the contentious Bill C-10 into two separate pieces of legislation at the legal and constitutional affairs committee.

Bill C-10, which proposes reforms to Canada's animal-cruelty laws and addresses changes to the Firearms Act, was split into Bill C-10(a) and Bill C-10(b) after weeks of debate in the Senate.

That means Canada's tough new animal-cruelty bill, a piece of legislation the government is eager to pass, is unlikely to become law until next year.

"It's unbelievable this thing has not passed yet," said Rick Smith, national director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare. "This is parliamentary piracy."

"There's no piracy going on here," said Liberal Senator Anne Cools, a member of the Senate's legal and constitutional affairs committee. "It's an honest study. That bill should've been divided months ago."

The animal-cruelty provisions of Bill C-10 were first introduced in Parliament in 1999 as Bill C-17. They were reintroduced after the 2000 election as Bill C-15 and split off, along with changes to the Firearms Act, as the omnibus Bill C-15(b) last year.

Bill C-10, which also refers to proposed changes to firearms legislation to streamline Canada's controversial gun registry, was introduced after Parliament resumed sitting this fall.

Under the proposed law, those convicted of causing "unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal" could face jail sentences under the Criminal Code of up to five years. The maximum penalty for animal cruelty is currently six months in jail.

Several senators have expressed concern about how the changes to animal-cruelty laws could affect farmers and ranchers.

There is also resistance from some senators to the proposed changes to the Firearms Act. "The bill has been encountering some pretty stout and stiff opposition," said Ms. Cools, who calls the gun registry "a national disaster."

"These two items [animal cruelty and the firearms registry] are not even related."