Last year, the Supreme Court of Canada threw out a bestiality charge against a man, agreeing with his lawyers that Canada’s bestiality laws were rooted in the antiquated notion of buggery — the same law formerly used to criminalize homosexuality — and did not include oral sex.
Given all this, the Supreme Court very clearly suggested that Parliament fix this issue.
“It is for Parliament, not the courts, to expand the scope of criminal liability for this offence,” wrote the majority from the bench.
“You haven’t missed anything.”
Except Ottawa hasn’t done that. While there have been repeated updates to the Criminal Code over the last 14 months, including one dealing specifically with sexual assault, the government has not touched the bestiality provisions.
“You haven’t missed anything,” said the director of communications for Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould. “Our Government intends to review issues pertaining to animal cruelty provisions, including expanding the definition of bestiality and the definition of animal fighting in the Code.”
Asked for a timeline on that plan, and whether anything had been drafted, Wilson-Raybould’s office wouldn’t say.
“It is something we’d like to get done, but I can’t give you a precise timeframe.”
Camille Labchuk, the executive director of Animal Justice — who intervened in the Supreme Court case — has requested a meeting with the justice minister on this file, but says she was punted down to the minister’s policy advisors. That meeting still hasn’t taken place.
“The government has done literally nothing to close this disturbing loophole in the 14 months since the decision came out,” Labchuk told VICE News.
Labchuk points out that the fix is really quite simple. By simple adding a definition of bestiaility, one that defines it as any sexual activity between a person and animal, Ottawa could remedy the loophole.
“We’re stuck in the last century and falling behind the rest of the world.”
“We’re stuck in the last century and falling behind the rest of the world,” says Labchuk.
The House of Commons has already voted down one attempt to fix the criminal law, which was included in a wider piece of animal rights legislation introduced by a backbench Liberal MP.
The Supreme Court weighed in on the issue last June, when it struck a conviction for a man who molested his underage daughter, including forcing his dog to perform oral sex on her, and recorded it. While he was ultimately acquitted of the bestiality charges, he was convicted of numerous other sexual offences.
The court, obviously, didn’t approve of the actions, but found that their hands were tied.
The original version of the law made it clear, the majority of the judges concluded, that bestiality essentially meant “buggery with an animal,” and therefore applied only to penetrative sex. When Parliament updated Canada’s bestiality laws in 1955 and again in 1988, it changed and updated the language but failed to actually expand the scope of the law itself.
The failure to expand the definition of bestiality, the court ruled, must have been intentional.