Private Members Bill C-246 – The Storm before the Calm

Private Members Bill C-246 is freaking out the fishing community like nothing I have ever seen.

Let me begin by saying: I am not a lawyer.

However, I have taken law courses in school, so I have a working knowledge of how these things typically go.

Let’s look at some interesting facts:

  • In 2010 there were approximately 3.2 Million Resident Adult anglers (2015 numbers not yet released)
  • In 2010 Anglers spent 2.5 Billion dollars on  recreational fishing
  • There is a massive ecosystem of business tied directly to recreational fishing from enforcement to goods and services
  • There is a huge amount of tax dollars to be lost by outright banning sport fishing

Based on these facts alone, there is absolutely no way the Canadian Government would enact a law that would destroy the sport fishing industry. Moreover, it is clear to me, that this is not in any way the point or goal of this law, or that of the member who introduced it.

This is the statement of intent from the representative Nathaniel Erskine-Smith about Private Members Bill C-246:

“The bill addresses three specific and achievable goals. First, it aims to end the cruel practice of shark finning by banning the importation of shark fins. Second, it aims to strengthen and modernize our Criminal Code, from closing loopholes related to animal fighting to introducing a gross negligence offence for animal cruelty, as proposed by former Liberal governments, through the hon. Anne McLellan and Irwin Cotler. Third, it aims to ban the sale of cat and dog fur in Canada and to require source fur labelling.”

This brings me to analysis of the law, and some basic facts:

  • Private Member Bills are rarely, if ever, enacted into law
  • Laws themselves are always up to interpretation; typically laws will need an initial ruling to set a precedent for enforcement
  • This bill does not pertain to the laws set forth for Hunting and Fishing; those are a separate set of laws altogether
  • The Bill also cites “kills an animal without lawful excuse”; it can easily be interpreted that Hunting and Fishing is already mandated as legal activities.

So, in short, while I recognize that ambiguous phrases and terms are a reason for concern; such as:

182.‍1 (1) Everyone commits an offence who, wilfully or recklessly,
(a) causes or, being the owner, permits to be caused unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal;

It is important to understand that law must be interpreted in it’s entirety and not just through one clause or statement. In many cases, laws cannot contradict other laws, and when they do, it is for a judge to interpret the meaning and intent of those laws as a whole.

My friend Steve had this excellent contrast for this very issue:

” I think that’s the part throwing people off, the “kills animal without lawful excuse” is now on it’s own line but it still protects you from being charged with any of the other provisions.

Like in the highway traffic act it states:

Highway Traffic Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8
170. (1) No person shall park, stand or stop a vehicle on a roadway

So everyone who stops at a redlight or stop sign is breaking the law? Well, if you look further down the act you get this:

136. (1) Every driver or street car operator approaching a stop sign at an intersection,

(a) shall stop his or her vehicle or street car at
a marked stop line or, if none, then immediately before entering the
nearest crosswalk or, if none, then immediately before entering the

While I certainly recognize why folks would be stirred by this, and I applaud the efforts of everyone in the fishing community to rally against such a potentially damaging bill, I think that we needn’t worry so much about this legislation being passed, much less manipulated to end lawful hunting and fishing. Private Members Bill C-246 has good intentions, and would still see many changes and re-writes before ever being enacted into law.

With that being said, if you are still concerned about this bill, be sure to contact your local MP to express your concern. It can’t do any harm.

Keep your rod bent!

Cliff Van Kempen

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