Do we really need to change the definition of bestiality in Canada? I can’t believe I am writing a column about bestiality but the fact I am writing a column about Parliament’s need to change the definition of bestiality in the Criminal Code is exactly what’s wrong with criminal law today.
In case you live a bestiality-free life and missed it, in 2016 the Supreme Court of Canada acquitted a man of, well, bestiality for having Rover lick peanut butter off a part of his body that peanut butter was not meant for (R v. D.L.W. 2016 SCC 22). For once an eminently reasonable court said that the traditional definition of bestiality is exactly what you are thinking and so no offence had been committed.
That wasn’t good enough for one member of Parliament who created a YouTube video complaining about the psychological harm done to the dog. I am a simple criminal lawyer. I am certainly not a veterinarian nor am I an animal psychologist — I doubt that the MP is any of the above either — but I don’t think my dog cares much from what surface he eats his peanut butter; and it‘s pretty hard to be against a law that is supposed to be about protecting Rover. So, that’s how we ended up with a section in the federal Liberals’ criminal law reforms redefining bestiality as touching for a sexual purpose, just in case there are other Canadian dogs getting abused eating peanut butter.
Why am I so worked up about this? Because don’t you see? Politicians just love telling us how they’re making society safer by criminalizing yet one more human activity that doesn’t accord with their bourgeois values and tinkering with the justice system, adding a boot here and a steaming kettle there, as if it were a Rube Goldberg machine, to solve one problem only to find out that they’ve caused another problem with the quacking duck and falling dominoes.
A Saskatchewan man is acquitted of murder for shooting an Indigenous man and our Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould declares that the criminal justice system doesn’t work, so the solution is to get rid of peremptory challenges. Jian Ghomeshi is acquitted because his accusers colluded and so the solution is to create a law that requires defendants to turn over what evidence they have that the complainant might be lying because — well, because we can’t trust the complainant to tell the truth to the police that they haven’t been in touch with other witnesses or the defendant since the incident?
There’s gun crime in Toronto, so we have to ban handguns because the fact that we already ban handguns means politicians can’t look like they are doing something to make us safer, so they tell us we must ban handguns.
A person got in an accident while using a cellphone so we penalize that specific activity even though the person displays no actual impertinent driving — which we already penalize. If we must penalize activity while driving in the event that activity might affect a person’s driving, then we ought to penalize driving while eating cereal out of bowl in your lap which I’ve seen several people do on the 401.
I can’t open a newspaper without a columnist or politician telling me how there ought to be a new law against (you fill in the blank with your pet peeve) while, in the same breath, telling me they want to reduce the number of business regulations. Apparently, we’d be all the safer if drug companies could get their products to market faster by reducing the number of test trials, but we’re not going to be able to sleep at night if Rover is getting an illicit peanut butter high.
I’ve always believed that only a fool prefers safety over liberty and to never trust a politician who says he’s there to help you. But what do I know? I’m just a simple criminal lawyer.
The original article from The Lawyers Daily