Bill C-84

This important new law strengthens the prohibition of cruelty to animals.

Bill C-84


Senator Boyer was honoured to sponsor Bill C-84, which amends the Criminal Code to define and outlaw animal sexual abuse and animal fighting. In the past, the Criminal Code prohibited but did not adequately define bestiality. A 2016 Supreme Court decision held that non-penetrative sexual contact with animals is not considered a criminal offense. In addition, judges did not then have the right to ban a person convicted of bestiality from owning or living with pets in the future, which is standard for other animal cruelty offences. The 2016 decision upheld the original 1954 definition of bestiality. The recent changes to the legislation, drafted with the input of animal and child protection groups, broadened the definition to close the gaps in the law. In testifying before the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, Barbara Cartwright pointed out that an animal is incapable of consenting to sexual acts, and that society’s understanding of animal psychology has evolved since Canada’s bestiality laws were written. “With these developments, Canadian society is no longer served by using the historic common-law definition of bestiality as buggery with an animal,” she explained. “The definition of bestiality must be broadened to include any act for a sexual purpose.”

Bill C-84 also expanded existing animal cruelty laws to cover a broader range of activities and animals. Bull-baiting and bear-baiting were once common sport, and were eventually made illegal through the Criminal Code. As these activities were replaced by cockfighting and dogfighting, Canada’s laws were not updated to reflect this change. According to Barbara Cartwright, dogfighting is now the predominant form of animal fighting in Canada. Before the passage of C-84 the law did not allow authorities to prosecute those found at the scene of a fight, and, in addition, it neglected to consider the inhumane and cruel practices involved in training, transporting and breeding animals for the purpose of blood sport.

Why it matters

Science increasingly demonstrates the rich emotional life of animals, scientists call it sentience, and the human heart easily feels the connection when it takes the time to listen. Canada’s animal welfare laws remain archaic and in need of significant reform. Bill C-84 represents a modest step of improvement in protecting these sentient beings, but in the future Parliamentarians will be required to undertake further reform.

Research has also confirmed a link between child sexual abuse and bestiality. In 2018, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection issued a report on the direct links between animal sexual assault and child sexual assault. The report found that in the 38 cases studied, penetration of an animal was less common than other acts of sexual abuse. Bill C-84 has prohibited any sexual contact between a person and an animal. Moreover, an amendment put forward in committee forbids those convicted of bestiality to own or reside with pets, while another now requires that upon conviction the offender be listed on the National Sex Offender Registry.


Bill C-84, an Act to amend the Criminal Code (bestiality and animal fighting), received Royal Assent June 21, 2019.

Photo credit: iStock

Bill C-84