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            • MPnews news Parliament Hill staying closed to public - The Sudbury Star
              All MPs who spoke to QMI Agency acknowledged that while security protocols on the Hill need to be reviewed, Canada's parliamentary precinct should remain as open as possible for tourists and citizens to visit. House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer ...and more » read more
              Thu 2:45 pm> |
              • MPndpblog Niki Ashton 1408 post Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)

                Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to follow my esteemed colleague from Sudbury. In his speech, he relayed our party's position on Bill C-35, which, as we know, is an act to amend the Criminal Code referring to law enforcement animals, military animals and service animals.

                New Democrats have made it clear that we support the bill at second reading and believe that it should be studied at committee. We want to study the bill more closely in committee so we can hear from experts on two problematic clauses, the introduction of minimum sentences and the introduction of consecutive sentences. We know that, concretely, the bill would amend section 445 of the Criminal Code and create a new offence for killing or injuring a service animal, law enforcement animal or military animal while the animal is on duty. It would also set a minimum sentence of six months if a law enforcement animal is killed while the offence is being perpetrated. Finally, it would provide for the sentences imposed on a person to be served consecutively to any other punishment imposed on the person for an offence arising out of the same event or series of events.

                As we have pointed out, there is no disagreement about the need to support the work of our security personnel and to ensure the safety and humane treatment of the dogs that they depend on. In fact, the tragic events of yesterday reminded us how important it is to have every tool at one's disposal to ensure safety. This morning I noticed one of the service dogs with an officer, making sure that we in Parliament are safe.

                I, like my colleagues, share the sentiment that we are very appreciative of the brave women and men of the police forces, the Canadian Forces, and the House of Commons security who did everything they could to keep us safe yesterday and are doing so today, and often, as we saw yesterday, at great risk to themselves.

                Getting back to the bill, New Democrats are concerned that, once again, the devil is in the details. This is a laudable bill that has been tainted by the introduction of minimum sentencing, which clearly reflects the continued repressive agenda that the government has been bringing forward. The government is also showing its desire to deprive the courts of their discretion in sentencing. We believe that the Conservatives should be more aware of the consequences of minimum and consecutive sentencing for the criminal justice system and that it is important the bill go to committee because we need to hear from experts about the consequences of minimum and consecutive sentencing.

                We know that Bill C-35, also referred to as Quanto's law, is in memory of an Edmonton police service dog that was stabbed to death trying to stop a fleeing suspect in October 2013. While we believe it is important that penalties exist for those who attack law enforcement animals, we are concerned that this is a back door attempt by the government to once again bring in minimum sentencing, which we have seen over and over again in various pieces of legislation.

                Sadly, we see today in this bill and have seen in other bills, such as the Internet privacy bill, which hinge on a particular traumatic event, whether it is the suicide of young women who were bullied or in this case an enforcement animal that was killed on the job, that it is a way to get to that issue, but to do so in the most regressive way by emphasizing the importance of mandatory minimum sentencing and once again depriving the courts of their ability to apply discretion.

                I am particularly concerned that with such traumatic events, the government tries to portray that it is the only one that cares about it and anyone who expresses concern, has questions or critiques the bill is automatically on the wrong side of the debate. I share that concern when it comes to the way we are going to deal with yesterday's tragedy.

                I am very proud that today in the House we all rose to show solidarity with each other and with Canadians, but I am concerned about the potential for division based on legitimate disagreements around principles—legitimate disagreements that are integral to our democracy—and the possible vilification of those who do not agree with the government's agenda.

                In this case I, along with my colleagues, firmly believe it is important to bring Bill C-35 to committee to have a vibrant debate on it, to hear from experts, and to look at how we can eliminate the most regressive elements of this bill, elements that have little to do with preventing the senseless deaths of law enforcement animals and more to do with padding the Conservative crime and punishment agenda.

                I would be remiss if I did not express an additional concern.

                There is much interest in seeing this bill go forward, and we have also indicated our support for it, but it is interesting to me that so many members on the government side are so passionate about this issue. Granted, it is a serious issue, and I hear the references to animal cruelty, a very serious and tragic practice that still exists in our country and something that we must eradicate, but it strikes me that sometimes we do not hear that same kind of gusto or drive from the government side to deal with other aspects of disrespectful and even, I would say, neglectful treatment of humans in our own country.

                I am reminded of that this week as the human rights tribunal hears from indigenous community members and indigenous leaders about the cruel conditions in which first nations youth live. These conditions unfortunately point to neglect by the federal government and point to the way in which the federal government has let go of its fiduciary obligation to the well-being, health, education, and overall wellness of first nations youth. Instead it continues with an agenda and rhetoric that amount to status quo. The government says it is doing everything it can, that it has done more than other governments have, but that is not a good enough excuse.

                As an MP who represents a part of this country where we have high rates of poverty, particularly child poverty and poverty among first nations youth, I am used to visiting communities where I see kids who are not dressed for cold weather, who go to school hungry, who live in mould-infested homes with 12 or 15 other relatives. I am always struck by the fact that it is unacceptable in Canada, in the year 2014, that children of any background have to live like that. It is not of their own volition or of their own choice that these children live in some cruel conditions, but as a result of a very dark history of systemic policies.

                While we sit here and talk about the importance of respect and protection for law enforcement animals, I would also like to see that same kind of commitment and interest, both in messaging and in action, for humans, particularly for children in our society, our most vulnerable citizens.

                I believe that is why we are here. We are here to make the right decisions. Whether in terms of our security forces or our communities, Canadians expect that kind of leadership from all of us.

                • MPndpblog Glenn Thibeault 1248 post Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)

                  Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today to speak to the bill. I should inform you and this House that I will be splitting my time with the fantastic member for Churchill.

                  Before I begin, it is incumbent upon all of us to start off by thanking the men and women in uniform who were so valiant yesterday. The terms “duty” and “valour” together were resonant for us, especially where we and many MPs were situated. To see one security guard in our caucus room standing between us and the horror that was outside is an image that is burned in my mind. I know I can speak for all MPs, but specifically for those of us who were in that room at that time, in saying that we will be forever grateful to that security guard. With that, I pay my respects and offer him a huge thanks from all of us on this side.

                  In many of the scenes in news clippings and news footage from yesterday's horrific incident, we saw police dogs, service dogs. It is fitting today that we are able to talk about Bill C-35, an act to amend the Criminal Code (law enforcement animals, military animals and service animals). It is a fitting opportunity for us to think about the officers who work with these fine animals.

                  We heard a great speech from my hon. colleague from Kootenay—Columbia. I think it is important for us to talk about this today.

                  When I talked about the title of the bill, I mentioned that it is also called “Quanto's law”, in memory of an Edmonton police service dog that was stabbed to death trying to stop a suspect who was fleeing. It was last year at about this time. The perpetrator pleaded guilty to animal cruelty and other offences, including evading the police, and he was sentenced to 26 months in prison and banned from owning a pet for 25 years.

                  It is incumbent upon us to ensure that we find ways to protect these service animals. It is important for us to support the bill and get it to committee. Part of the bill talks about mandatory minimum sentences and minimum sentences in general. It is incumbent upon us as parliamentarians to ensure that every bill we look at has the opportunity to go to committee and that we bring forward stakeholders and experts to talk about the importance of making sure that the laws being presented by the government are meeting societal values and are protecting animals and people.

                  When we talk about animal cruelty, especially when we think about what happened to Quanto in Edmonton, it brings together the picture of protecting all animals. I can think of an incident in Sudbury when the community rallied around a dog we called Buddy when he was shot in the face by his owner and left to die on the side of the road. He was found by some great people and taken to a vet's emergency clinic, where he had surgery. The community rallied around Buddy the dog and raised enough money to pay the vet bills, but unfortunately, Buddy died a couple of days later.

                  While we are here talking about service dogs, we also need to consider the importance of animal cruelty. The things that happened to Buddy the dog should not go unpunished.

                  In looking at some of the other police service dogs over the last little bit, I talked about Quanto. The RCMP unveiled a monument to Quanto, which is something that I think is quite important. Recently, in the Northwest Territories, we have seen a dog help RCMP officers when they responded to an armed and barricaded adult male in a house. The individual was arrested five hours later without incident. The RCMP used its emergency response team, crisis negotiation team and a police dog in the arrest. Again, a police dog is playing an important role in the police force.

                  However, we also have to talk about service dogs in general, because the bill includes them. In my previous employment before being elected here, I had the opportunity of doing a couple of jobs in which I was able to work with animals. In the first job, I was a supervisor for residential homes for individuals with developmental handicaps, and there were many dogs being utilized by these individuals to help them with their day-to-day lives.

                  I would like to focus specifically on the service dogs that are now being trained to work with individuals with autism.

                  We have been seeing the prevalence of autism increase across the country. There are more individuals living their day-to-day lives with autism. However, there is now evidence showing that these service dogs for individuals with autism are helping, children specifically, with social interaction, relationships and the expansion of verbal and non-verbal communication skills. They are teaching them life skills, increasing their interest in activities and decreasing their stress.

                  If any of us in this House have ever worked with an individual with autism, know or have someone in their family with autism, they would know that many of the skills I mentioned previously come difficult for some. To ensure they can live active participatory lives within the community, it is fantastic to hear that we can provide them with a service dog so that they can become more independent, which is something that I think we all want in this House.

                  From coast to coast to coast across our great land, from British Columbia to St. John's, Newfoundland, we would like to make sure that these animals are protected, because they are aiding some of our most vulnerable citizens, taking them out of the category of being vulnerable and making them more independent.

                  I was also the executive director of the United Way right before I was elected. I was able to work closely with the CNIB, who obviously have service dogs for individuals who are visually impaired. The St. John Ambulance program in Sudbury has service animals who are certified therapy dogs, and we are talking about certified animals being protected in this bill. These dogs provide therapy to seniors and individuals going through difficult times, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

                  I am very happy to stand today to speak to the bill and talk about the importance of it. I am glad I have been able to speak about sending the bill to committee where we can really look at some of the provisions that the government has put in and make sure that it is the right thing to do, and that, I think, is important.

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The electoral district of Sudbury (Ontario) has a population of 92,161 with 74,228 registered voters and 212 polling divisions.

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Carol Hartman
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