Message from Commons on Bill S-5

By: The Hon. Pierre Dalphond

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Grizzly bear, Yukon Territory

Hon. Pierre J. Dalphond: Honourable senators, I rise to speak to the message on Bill S-5, Minister Guilbeault’s update to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, known as CEPA. Bill S-5 will make changes to CEPA that are exciting and timely, with Canada following Quebec in recognizing citizens’ rights to a healthy environment. This message also accepts and even improves the Senate’s many amendments to minimize and, hopefully, eliminate the cruel practice of toxicity testing on animals. Thank you, Minister Guilbeault and Senator Gold, for this fantastic result that Canadians, the government, the Senate and the other place can jointly celebrate.

Colleagues, for context, CEPA is an important statute that has been used to ban plastic microbeads in toiletries, to prohibit asbestos and to prevent the use of dangerous chemicals in baby bottles. Last year, the government used CEPA to ban single-use plastics to address the plastic pollution that is filling our waterways and oceans and killing marine life like whales and sea turtles. This change is being fought in court by Dow, Imperial Oil, and other representatives of Big Plastic, along with the governments of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

However, let us focus on the positive with this Bill S-5 message, particularly the acceptance and enhancement of Senate amendments aiming to reduce and, hopefully, phase out animal toxicity testing.

As senators may recall, in Question Period on March 3 of last year, I asked Minister Guilbeault if the government was open to Senate amendments to strengthen Bill S-5 to support the government in fulfilling their election commitment to phase out chemical testing on animals by 2035. The minister’s answer was an enthusiastic yes, and shows that even ministerial Question Period can be helpful and useful.

Today, I also want to thank Senator Galvez, who has agreed to put forward some amendments that were drafted by my team with the support of associations involving animal rights. Thanks to the minister’s openness and Senator Galvez’s willingness to participate in the adventure, we have a bill which is now close to Rideau Hall that contains provisions about animal testing thanks to all of us and the efforts that were made.

This change is a big deal. As I said at second reading of Bill S-5, toxicity testing is the most harmful and painful use of animals in scientific research. Toxicity tests impacted approximately 90,000 animals in 2019 alone. Moreover, such tests fall into the Canadian Council on Animal Care’s Category E tests. What is a Category E test? This is the most severe category of harm that can be imposed on an animal. Category E tests cause death, severe pain and extreme distress and may include procedures such as inflicting burns or trauma on unsedated animals and forcing ingestion or topical application of deadly substances.

I was shocked to learn of the scale of this testing in Canada. I was also surprised to learn of the range of species involved in Category E testing. That includes guinea pigs, rabbits, mice and other small mammals, pigs, sheep, beavers, chickens, turkeys, hummingbirds and many species of marine and freshwater fish. With this message, we take a major step to a more compassionate and humane Canada, recognizing that these animals are our fellow creatures and sentient beings who deserve our respect.

With the openness of Minister Guilbeault and the assistance of Senator Galvez, we now have a promise fulfilled.

I would also like to thank and congratulate the organizations responsible for this milestone.

They are Animal Justice Canada, Humane Canada, the Canadian Centre for Alternatives to Animal Methods, Humane Society International/Canada and the Canadian Society for Humane Science.

Camille Labchuk, a lawyer and the Executive Director of Animal Justice — a national animal law advocacy organization — has the following message for us, senators:

The amendments to Bill S-5 championed by senators improved upon the aspirational preamble originally included in the bill. Instead, we now have a bold and concrete path forward, aimed at getting animals out of painful toxicity tests for good. This will bring us more in line with other jurisdictions that are leading change for animals used in science, like the US and the EU.

Animal lovers across the country are grateful for the work of senators on this bill and many others. The Senate has been a true leader in driving change to Canada’s outdated animal protection laws, whether it be animals used in testing or cosmetics, whales and dolphins trapped in aquariums, sharks killed for their fins, or other wild animals in captivity.

In this tremendous achievement, I would like to single out for special recognition Kaitlyn Mitchell, a staff lawyer for Animal Justice. Her expertise was critical in developing our Senate amendments regarding animal toxicity testing. Wherever Ms. Mitchell is today, I say, “Thank you,” and please stand and take a bow. You have saved countless animals from meeting a horrific and painful end through your personal determination and legal skill.

I trust senators will join me in congratulating Ms. Mitchell and all of the organizations and individuals who played a role in this landmark accomplishment.

On a related and positive note, the government is taking action to end animal testing for cosmetics through measures in Bill C-47, the budget implementation act. This fulfills the goal of former senator Carolyn Stewart Olsen’s bill on this subject in the Forty-second Parliament.

We are seeing progress for animal welfare on many fronts in Canada, with several major government election commitments on this subject also awaiting further fulfillment. This progress is something to celebrate in this time of crisis for the environment and our fellow creatures, whom the Honourable Murray Sinclair has taught us to consider as “all our relations” as we pursue reconciliation with nature.

Therefore, I trust colleagues will join me in concurring with this excellent and well-received message from the other place.

Thank you. Meegwetch.

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