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Canadian government closes Criminal Code loophole that allowed non-penetration acts with animals

The clear gap was highlighted in a 2016 Supreme Court of Canada decision

Forcing an animal into any sexual act is now outlawed in Canada after the Senate finalized a bill Tuesday to close a loophole in the country's bestiality laws.

Prior to the bill's passing, there was no law against forcing an animal into sexual acts that excluded penetration.

The clear gap in law was highlighted in a 2016 Supreme Court of Canada decision.

A B.C. man was sentenced to 16 years in prison in 2013 for sexually assaulting his two stepdaughters. Identified only as D.L.W to protect the children's identity, the man's sentence included two years for bestiality, when he engaged in certain acts with dogs.

The man appealed the bestiality conviction to the BC Court of Appeal after the trial judge accepted the prosecutor's position that penetration is not required. But that conviction was overturned by the appeal court and the Supreme Court of Canada accepted that decision following an appeal by the Crown.

"Penetration between a human and an animal was the essence of the offence," noted the ruling.

Changes to the Criminal Code of Canada in 1988 dealing with bestiality continued to define the act as penetration.

"That Parliament must have assumed that the term 'bestiality' encompassed sexual activity of any kind," but it didn't, noted the high court.

Based on case law,"it was clear that to secure a conviction, the prosecution had to prove that penetration of an animal, or, in the case of women, penetration by an animal, had occurred."

The case set lawmakers in motion to broaden the definition. But, as reported by iPoliticslast January, the Liberal government was criticized for taking too long.

Private member's bills from Conservative Michelle Rempel, in 2017, and Liberal Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, in 2016, were both defeated.

"The failure to fix this law is not without consequence. Last year, there was at least one bestiality charge that was thrown out because it did not meet the limited definition that currently exists," statedSenator Vernon White before passing the bill Tuesday.

The new Bill C-84 redefines bestiality as "any contact, for a sexual purpose, with an animal."

Bill C-84 also strengthens language around prohibiting animal fighting.

"These changes make it clear that any sexual contact with an animal is a serious crime and ensures that abusers are banned from owning animals, which will prevent them from causing further harm," said Shawn Eccles, BC SPCA senior manager, cruelty investigations, in a news releaseWednesday.

The bill was amended at one point to ensure that those convicted of bestiality will be placed on the Sex Offender Registry.

"Many studies have proven a clear link between animal abuse and child abuse, so adding convicted animal abusers to the National Sex Offenders Registry protects children as well as animals," stated Barbara Cartwright, CEO of Humane Canada in a news release supportive of the bill.

Humane Canada, Canada's federation of SPCAs and humane societies, issued a statement that the passing of Bill C-84 "is due in part to the continuing support and efforts of Justice Minister David Lametti, MPs Michelle Rempel and Nathaniel Erskine Smithand Senator Yvonne Boyer."