HUMANE SOCIETY OF CANADA
To fill you in a little bit on our work, we have concern for companion animals, farm animals and horses, laboratory animals, wildlife and environmental issues. We carry out our programs by providing financial and logistical support to a network of humane organizations as well as wildlife centres and shelters. We also appear before committees like this for stronger laws, we carry out undercover investigations, and we also promote respect for animals by speaking to children and helping them with school projects.
A little bit of my own background: I became involved in working with humane societies as a volunteer when I was 11 years old; I turned 54 yesterday. Obviously, I started out with a lot more hair on my head and a less grey beard. In any event, I headed up the Toronto Humane Society, I headed up the Windsor/Essex County Humane Society, I founded the Canadian office of the World Society for the Protection of Animals and was its regional director for 10 years, and for the last 16 years I've headed up the Humane Society of Canada. I've been an inspector, worked with police at all levels, including the RCMP and Interpol, looking at issues and helping them in court, preparing cases and giving evidence, and have been classified as an expert witness in court.
The mechanisms: I've watched and worked with the OSPCA over the last 40 years. Individually, I think there are some wonderful people working there and they do tremendous work under very difficult circumstances. I think that over the years the government has let them down badly in terms of the resources that they've made available for them to do the job, and the result is that I believe the OSPCA should still continue to enforce the law, but not under the structure that currently exists.
With respect to the powers that they're asking for, in many cases they already have those powers. In the case of veterinarians, under the Veterinarians Act, professional misconduct is specifically set aside if a veterinarian reports a case of animal abuse. So that authority already exists. In fact, over the years, veterinarians have traditionally resisted being controlled by humane societies. So even if you were to amend the act to let them do it, they're already required to do it now and they'll have to amend their own act in any event.
I'm a bit concerned that under the act veterinarians' offices and facilities for the very first time will be exempted from inspections by OSPCA inspectors, and I don't understand the rationale. Right now, under the current act, the only facility OSPCA inspectors cannot go into is a registered research facility where there are laboratory experiments being conducted. We don't agree with that either. Neither humane societies, researchers or farmers should be allowed to have voluntary self-supervision. In a perfect world, everything would be voluntary. That's not the world we live in.
My father was a farmer, I've worked on farms, I hold a bachelor of science in agriculture from the University of Guelph and I understand farmers very well. You're going to hear from them that OSPCA inspectors are not qualified to look at farm animals. Let me tell you something. Talk to any farmer and he thinks the farmer down the road is not qualified to tell him how to care for his farm animals. And that's okay, but it's like telling a police officer, "You can't investigate allegations of a certain offence because we don't think you have the proper training to do it." It just doesn't make any sense. There needs to be a greater supervisory role.
Under the current act, it says that the OSPCA approves inspectors, but the appointment is left up to the Attorney General, as it should be with police powers. Under the new act, it will be the society that appoints inspectors. It's my respectful submission that you can't have a charity with police powers that appoints itself and supervises itself. Right now, if there is concern about whether or not an investigation goes forward, starts at all or cruelty charges result, the buck stops with the chief inspector as to whether or not it goes forward. That'� s not the way civilian concerns are expressed to other police forces. There's a police commission, you make a report to the police commission, and there's an investigation about whether or not the charges should have gone forward.
You need greater co-operation with crown attorneys. I've sat in court and listened to people-say, Regina v. Whoever-charged with cruelty to animals. You could hear a pin drop in the courtroom. The judges look at the clerks, the clerks look at the police. Nobody knows what to do. You need specially trained crown attorneys, you need judges who understand that cruelty to animals leads to violence towards people. No less than the FBI regards cruelty to animals as one of the three primary indicators of future criminal potential. This is very serious. So animals deserve protection in their own right, as well as for the sake of society.
The current provisions as they exist now actually undermine the Criminal Code because they provide exemptions for animals used in research, they provide exemptions for performing animals, animals in zoos and circuses, the racing industry, farm animals. You can't have those exemptions when the Criminal Code is silent on those types of animals. In fact, farm animals under the Criminal Code since 1892 always carried a heavier penalty if you were convicted of cruelty to animals. Traditionally, it was an indictable offence with five years. As you know, many of you supported the amendments to the Criminal Code at the federal level where they've increased the penalties. You've acknowledged that if there are stronger laws to protect animals, they should take precedence by section 21, which says that if you have municipal bylaws that provide stronger protection, then those bylaws have to take precedence. In a similar fashion, you have to do the same at the federal level. The Criminal Code overshadows anything you want to do here and you can't provide less protection under the law than already exists under the federal Criminal Code.
With respect to the use of the name SPCA or humane society, it's my respectful submission you don't have the authority to do it. The federal trademark through Industry Canada, the charitable status that you get from the federal government, all trump what you want to do here at a provincial level. You can't say to the directors of a humane society, who have moral, legal and fiduciary obligations that they applied for and were granted permission to use, that all of a sudden they're now subordinate to an outside agency which has all of the authority and absolutely none of the responsibility or the obligations or the liability of running a charity. You simply can't do it. The current structure of the Ontario Humane Society is based on its affiliate members. Four of the seven directors can't even sit on their own board of directors, and yet they sit on the board of the OSPCA. We believe the reason this section was included is because they regard organizations like ours and others as competition for fundraising. That's the reason this section is in there. You'll hear from them that the reason they did it was because these organizations can't carry out investigations unless they're OSPCA inspectors-absolutely untrue. The previous speaker from the World Society for the Protection of Animals carried out investigations which created a bill to protect zoo animals; they're not a law enforcement agency. We carry out investigations; we're not a law enforcement agency. It's like saying to a reporter, "You can't investigate an allegation of a crime because you're not a police officer."
With all due respect, I think the intention of the bill is a good one. I think the mechanism leaves a lot to be desired. We're prepared to help you with that, but I would seriously urge the committee that there be more widespread public consultation before this gets third reading. I would hope that you would recommend that before the Legislature reconvenes on September 22.I'd be pleased to answer any questions you might have.
Thank you so much for that. I thought that was succinct and to the point and addressed exactly what some of our major concerns are with this very poorly written piece of legislation. We hope that it's tightened up. We hope that sections are removed that shouldn't be there. We hope that some of the original intent of Mr. Zimmer's bill is brought back to life.
Thank you very much for all the work that you do. I also really appreciated the insight about federal laws and regulations and the fact that at a very rudimentary legal level, whoever drafted this bill didn't take that into consideration. It shows, again, the lack of foresight, the lack of thought, the lack of, I would say, any sort of legal rigour in drafting this bill and, at the end of the day, unfortunately, despite its protestations to the contrary, the lack of concern for the safety of animals, which is what we're all here about.
Mr. Mike Colle: I've been involved in trying to stop and close down puppy mills for 10 years. Right now, most OSPCA officers cannot enter the properties of these puppy mill breeders because they would be charged with trespassing. If the puppy mill barn is at the back of the farm, how does an officer, or how would a member of your association-your association would have no power whatsoever. You have no legal power whatsoever. Can you trespass?
Mr. Michael O'Sullivan: I appreciate what you've said, and I need to be very candid and very open about this. Because of the lack of training of OSPCA inspectors, we believe they ought to have the six weeks at Aylmer, the same as the rest of the police. They ought to be properly funded.
Most OSPCA inspectors, quite frankly, will spend the first five minutes of a conversation with you telling you why they can't do anything to help animals. I'm not kidding-that's 40 years of experience.
To answer your question specifically, that's where the undercover aspect comes in. I would go in and say, "I'd like to buy a puppy from you." I look around, I see what's what, I go back out, I swear out the information, and you get a search warrant.
Mr. Mike Colle: But very ad hoc, and certainly not under any statute do you have the power to investigate as a citizen or as an officer, right? As an OSPCA officer or a police officer, you can't enter unless you have-even a police officer would have difficulty justifying the entry.
Mr. Michael O'Sullivan: Sorry, if I could interrupt for one second: Right now, there is a writ of mandamus which has been filed against the Quebec government because they're responsible for the enforcement of the provincial welfare act, and it's specifically after a puppy mill operator where a former staff member and other concerned citizens brought the evidence to the attention of ANIMA Quebec, which is the government agency, and they simply ignored it. There's an example.
Mr. Mike Colle: First of all, we do not have that authority right now. That's why we're strengthening this legislation. That's why, right now in Ontario, if I notice that there's breeding of animals to fight-and they're being trained to fight all over Ontario and kill each other-whether they be poultry or dogs, there is no authority in any provincial statute right now to stop that. So this bill has the authority, through provincial legislation, to finally put a sanction on that, because right now, it's not on any federal-you talk about federal law. Show me in the federal Criminal Code where it's illegal to do that.
Mr. Garfield Dunlop: I just want to say that we take your words under advisement and I really appreciate some of the things that you brought out here this morning. No one could agree more with the one comment that you made: that before this ever goes to third reading, this bill needs a lot more consultation. I agree with that and I appreciate those comments.