Ontario Federation of Agriculture Voices Concerns Over Bill C-246

April 8, 2021


The Ontario Federation of Agriculture has distributed a communication outlining their strong concerns about Bill C-246 and the effect on Canadian agriculture should this become law. Our farmers feed us and the rest of the world and their concerns must be taken very seriously. Agriculture and the entire animal use community are all raising issues with the very serious negative repercussions of Bill C-246 on all types of animal use in Canada and are actively communicating their concerns to MPs and Ministers right across the country. The OFA writes:

Sent: April 6, 2021 9:34 AM
Subject: Bill C-246

To: County Presidents and Secretaries
PAC members
OFA Staff

C: OFA Board of Directors

Bill C-246 is a federal Private Member’s Bill (MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, Liberal, Beaches East York), introduced in Parliament on February 26. It is our understanding that it’s scheduled for Second Reading May 9.

Bill C-246 proposes a number of significant changes to the “animal cruelty” provisions in the Criminal Code, which threaten not only animal agriculture but also other animal use activities. Similar amendments have been attempted before in other Private Member Bills. Bill C-246 also contains provisions on shark finning and labelling textiles containing cat and dog fur, which we do not oppose.

The current “animal cruelty” provisions in the Criminal Code are found in Part XI, “Wilful and Forbidden Acts in Respect of Certain Property”. Since 1999, there have been 18 government and private member’s bills that attempted to change the Code’s animal cruelty provisions. Only 2 have passed; the others were either defeated or died when the House was prorogued. The two that did pass had broad support from agriculture, First Nations, hunting and fishing, medical research, fairs, exhibitions, rodeos and colleges and universities.

The Criminal Code has extensive provisions against cruelty to animals. The courts have interpreted these provisions as permitting a range of lawful activities, including animal agriculture, livestock slaughter, hunting, fishing, etc. Canada has collaboratively developed codes of practice for the care and handling of farm animals. These codes are routinely reviewed and updated, and serve to guide farm animal care practices.

In 2008, penalties were significantly increased (from 6 months imprisonment and/or a $2000 fine to 5 years imprisonment and/or a $10,000 fine). The 2015 amendments raised the penalties for animal cruelty against law enforcement animals and service animals. Neither amendment contained language that would impede or prevent traditional and accepted animal uses and practices.

Among our concerns with C-246:
i. The animal cruelty provisions would be moved from Part XI, “Wilful and Forbidden Acts in Respect of Certain Property” to Part V.1. Part V deals with “Sexual Offences, Public Morals and Disorderly Conduct”; the message being that animals are not property and crime against animals are associated with sexual offences.
ii. One result of the transfer is that established case law and precedence are lost.
iii. Section 182.1 adds “recklessly” to the existing “wilfully” for causing unnecessary pain, suffering or injury. This could expand the conduct that could be criminalized.
iv. The current Criminal Code doesn’t focus on killing an animal, but rather on causing unnecessary pain, suffering or injury. C-246 adds killing an animal or permitting an animal to be killed “brutally or viciously” as well as killing an animal without lawful excuse. Brutally or viciously are new terms, meaning there is no case law and no precedence.
v. The proposed new provisions, sections 182.1 to 182.6 contain no definition of an “animal”. Most, if not all of the failed amendments at least defined an animal.
vi. The penalty provisions are unchanged from the current penalties in Part XI.
vii. Although proponents of C-246 speak about it addressing “puppy mills”, the Bill contains no provisions pertaining to puppy or kitten mills.

OFA has been in contact with the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, with whom we share concerns over this Bill. CFA has been in touch with the MP as well as Minister MacAulay to address our concern with the Bill. It has been stated that the intent was not to affect animal agriculture. If so, changes should be readily made.

OFA will outline concerns to Ontario MPs in a letter going out to them later this week.

Please feel free to contact your MP to express concern with this proposed Private Member’s Bill.