One year ago today, the Supreme Court of Canada delivered a long-awaited judgment in the disturbing case of Her Majesty the Queen v. D.L.W. The decision sent shockwaves around the world, as the country's top court ruled that nearly all forms of bestiality are perfectly legal in Canada -- so long as the sexual abuse stops short of penetration of the animal.
The Supreme Court's decision was upsetting, to say the least. The case focused on an abusive stepfather charged with bestiality after forcing his teenage stepdaughter to have sexual contact with the family dog. But the abuse stopped short of penetration, and the Supreme Court ultimately accepted the stepfather's argument that the criminal offence of bestiality simply doesn't cover the sexual abuse of animals unless penetration is involved. According to the majority of the judges, Canada's animal cruelty laws are so outdated that they had no option but to rule this way.
Canada is widely considered to have the worst animal protection laws in the western world, and the D.L.W. case should have been a wake-up call to Parliament that it's time to fix our broken laws. Normally, Parliament is quick to step in with legislation when the courts identify such a serious gap. The Court practically invited the government to do so, stating that expanding the scope of criminal liability is in the "exclusive domain" of Parliament. But disturbingly, the Liberal government has so far blocked all attempts to close the bestiality loophole and otherwise update Canada's outdated animal cruelty laws.
Adding a 16-word amendment to address bestiality would have been effortless.
Legal issues can be complex, but criminalizing all bestiality is a very easy problem to solve. Adding a 16-word definition to the Criminal Code would ensure animals are protected from horrific sexual abuse. Private Member's Bill C-246 from Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith proposed doing so, yet Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and the rest of the Liberal cabinet voted Bill C-246 down last year, ensuring that it remains legal to sexually abuse animals in Canada.
The Liberals missed another opportunity this week when they introduced Bill C-51, a new government bill designed to clean up outdated sections in Criminal Code and repeal provisions that are unconstitutional. Adding a 16-word amendment to address bestiality would have been effortless: "For the purposes of this section, bestiality means sexual activity between a person and an animal."
It's 2017, and attitudes about animals have changed. The more we learn about animals and their inner lives, the more society comes to understand that they're just like us in all the ways that matter. They feel pain, fear, joy and love, and have meaningful relationships with friends and family members. Animal Justice intervened in the R. v. D.L.W. case to make the point that protecting animals is a fundamental societal value, and despite the outcome in the case, the Court agreed with us.
Support for improving our animal protection laws is at an all-time high and Canadians no longer expect animals to be treated as an afterthought by politicians. Yet for an entire year, Canadian law has given animal abusers in Canada license to exploit animals for their own perverse sexual gratification. This is completely unacceptable, contrary to societal values and expectations and it cannot be allowed to continue. Please take action today to ask the prime minister to do the right thing and protect animals from sexual abuse.
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