On December 4, 2015, the Quebec government adopted the Act to improve the legal situation of animals (Bill 54), which received assent the same day. RCC presented its comments and recommendations on September 15, 2015.
RCC has had some wins, but other items still need to be clarified.
1. Municipalities do not have the power to adopt more severe laws (section 4)
Bill 54 contained a provision that would have allowed a municipality the power to adopt a regulation if it would provide greater protection for an animal. RCC opposed this provision. Because there are 1,111 municipalities in Quebec, this could have resulted in 1,111 different regulations being adopted from one municipality to another.
WIN: This power has been removed in the Act, which harmonizes requirements in Quebec.
2. Codes of practice for animal care are mandatory (section 64, par. 3)
Bill 54 proposed making the National Farm Animal Care Council codes of practice mandatory. RCC supported this provision.
WIN: Despite a great deal of opposition, the Act now allows the government to make compliance with codes of practice by regulation, which among other things will lead to harmonization of its standards.
3. Role and powers of inspectors and investigators (sections 1, 35 and 55)
In Bill 54, it would have been possible to appoint veterinarians, analysts and any other persons as official inspectors. There were no specific requirements. RCC recommended that the role of inspector be restricted to those with appropriate training. RCC also recommended that inspectors and investigators should know and understand the requirements, in particular those of the codes of best practices, and should be neutral in regard to any activist organizations.
WIN: In the Act, the wording “any other person(s)” has been kept, but it has been put in writing that inspectors must exercise their functions in the interest of the public and to the best of their ability, with honesty and impartiality. They must also undergo any training required by the Minister.
4. A scientific approach to defining what are termed ”imperative biological needs” (Part 1, section 1; Chapter 1, section 1, par. 5)
RCC’s aim was to prevent the notion of biological imperatives from being based on perceptions and ideologies.
WIN: The definition is now more fully developed and more precise.
5. Better definition of the rights and obligations of persons and recognizes the keeping of animals in captivity as livestock (section 6)
Section 6 of Bill 54 stipulated that no one may, by an act or by omission, cause an animal to be in distress. In its report, RCC asked for specifics to protect retailers from prosecution if one of their suppliers was making headlines in a case of animal cruelty. Section 6 has been retained without modifications, but it no longer applies in cases of agricultural activity conducted according to generally recognized rules.
6. Automatic exemptions (section 3)
The Act maintains the possibility that a person, an animal species or breed, a type of activity or establishment of a geographical region may be exempted from the Act, without additional specification.
7. Indicate clearly that animals are not persons
The Act continues to specify that an animal is not personal property. No clarification has been added to the Civil Code, although the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAPAQ) had stated in the legislative hearings that it was based on jurisprudence which exists in Europe and in Canada, and should not cause any problem.
- RCC will be doing follow-up with MAPAQ. We will keep our members informed on the following topics:
- Definition, role and responsibilities of investigators;
- Interpretation of section 6 in order to confirm that a retailer cannot be held responsible if a supplier does not obey the law;
- Exemptions from and scope of section 3;
- Interpretation of legislation in Europe and Canada with regard to the provisions of the Civil Code.
- RCC will continue its work with the Quebec Strategy for Animal Health and Welfare, in order to improve communications.
If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to call Carole Fortin, Director of Government Relations and Public Affairs, at 514-982-0267, extension 333, or at 514-758-2934, or email [email protected].