Members of Parliament spar over animal welfare Bill C-246

A Conservative MP says a private member's bill looking to modernize animal welfare laws has the potential to impact traditional animal uses such as hunting and farming.

Private member's bill looks to end shark fin imports, cat and dog fur trade

A new animal welfare bill looks to stop shark finning and the cat and dog fur trade in Canada. (CBC)

A private member's bill seeking to modernize Canada's animal welfare laws is coming under fire for the bill's potential to dramatically change how hunters, anglers and farmers operate.

Currently making its way through parliament is private member's Bill C-246, drafted by Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith from Toronto.

Key points in the bill would stop shark fin imports as well as end the sale and trade of cat and dog fur.

According to Erskine-Smith, Canada imported over 135,000 kilograms of shark fins last year alone, and Canada represents about two per cent of the shark fin consumption in the world.

But digging deeper into the bill, critics like Conservative MP Robert Sopuck from Dauphin, Man., said beyond ending shark finning and the cat and dog fur trade, the bill is unnecessary.

"I think it's a Trojan horse that masks an agenda to eliminate all animal-use," said Sopuck, adding this bill could affect hunters, anglers, farmers and even stretch as far as the medical health research sector, who use animals for research.
Conservative MP Robert Sopuck challenges a new private member's bill seeking to modernize laws around animal welfare. (Courtesy of Robert Sopuck)

Sopuck said 60 per cent of Canada's heart and stroke research is done on animals and he feels this bill would directly affect a researcher's capability to use animals because someone may file a complaint citing animal cruelty violations.

But Erskine-Smith said animals used for medical research would not be affected whatsoever by this bill.

Being a hunter himself, Sopuck said some view hunting and the practices of hunters as cruelty to animals, and he asks what's going to stop hunters from facing charges after putting down an animal.

"Our animal welfare legislation is as good as it is," Sopuck said.

The Toronto MP said the intention is not to change how hunters hunt or how farmers farm, nor to change how people use animals. He said it's simply a bill that protects animals from negligible abuse and cruelty.
Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, the MP for Beaches-East York, introduced a private member's bill that seeks to strengthen Canada's animal protection laws. (

"This bill is by no means intended to affect hunting, fishing and farming, generally accepted animal-use practices," he said.

The new bill would simply treat animals the same under one part of the criminal code offences.

"It also modernizes the negligence offence, treating animal cruelty the same way we treat any other negligible offence," Erskine-Smith said.

Erskine-Smith's said Bill C-246 will go for second reading this fall, and if the bill goes to committee, he's agreed to consult stakeholders on the language of the bill.

"If we have concerns about unintended consequences in the language, my intention is not to affect accepted animal-use practices, so let's fix the language so it doesn't."

With files from CBC Radio's Blue Sky