The Criminal Code definition of bestiality is about to change.
In a press conference Thursday, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould announced a new bill tabled just moments before in the House of Commons that will broaden the definition of bestiality in order to “prohibit any contact for a sexual purpose between a person and an animal.”
As it stands now, the definition limits only penetrative acts between a person and an animal.
That limit was set by the Supreme Court in a controversial June 2016 ruling in which it upheld the acquittal of a man previously convicted at a lower court of facilitating sexual acts between his stepdaughters and the family dog. In its ruling, the court said applying the definition of the crime beyond penetrative acts would require a change in legislation.
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“In direct response to that decision, C-84 will add a definition of bestiality that prohibits any contact for a sexual purpose between a person and an animal,” said Wilson-Raybould, thanking her Liberal colleague Nathaniel Erskine-Smith for his efforts to push for a changes in animal cruelty laws.
The legislation would also prohibit profiting from or keeping facilities for the purposes of animal fighting.
Neither of those changes, the minister said, would impact legitimate activities such as husbandry and agricultural activities or using service animals.
However, it is not clear whether the bill will be able to pass before the House of Commons rises for the last time in June 2019 ahead of the election.
“It’s just frustrating because it’s being tabled so late in this Parliament,” said Conservative MP Michelle Rempel.
Any bill not passed by the time the House of Commons rises for the last time will die on the order paper.
That means whichever government wins in October 2019 would have to re-introduce it all over again once a new Parliament resumes.
Rempel introduced a similar bill in December 2017 that sought to broaden the definition of bestiality to include “any contact by a person, for a sexual purpose, with an animal.”
Hers never made it past first reading.
Rempel was also one of the only MPs to support a bill put forward in fall 2016 by Erskine-Smith that also sought to broaden the definition of bestiality in response to the Supreme Court ruling..
That bill sought to make it easier to convict people who cause suffering to animals through “gross negligence” rather than through the current legal standard of “willful negligence,” which can be difficult to prove.
As well, it would have broadened the definition of bestiality.
It also wanted to ban shark fins as well as selling cat and dog fur in Canada, and to move animals out of the property section of the Criminal Code.
But most Conservative MPs and Liberal MPs, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, voted against it and the bill was defeated in October 2016.
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Rempel said one of the questions left unaddressed in the Liberal bill is whether people convicted of bestiality and animal cruelty should be allowed to own animals in the future.
It is possible for amendments to be made to the bill during the legislative process, so long as they do not alter the core substance of the bill.
Rempel said the bill, while late in the game, is “better late than never.”
“The key thing was getting the loophole closed,” she said of the I hope this triggers a conversation going forward.”