A view of the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa in 2008 (Geoff Robins)

No, Canada did not legalize bestiality

Copyright AFP 2017-2020. All rights reserved

Since a Supreme Court decision in 2016, online articles have claimed that Canada legalized sex with animals. Two of these articles have recently been shared hundreds of times on Facebook. Sexual acts with animals excluding penetration are not considered bestiality under Canadian law. Bestiality, defined as interspecies sexual penetration, has been illegal since 1955.

Articles in French and English both state in their headlines that Canada has legalized sex with animals. The articles refer to a Supreme Court court case from 2016. The case was the result of an appeal by a man who was found guilty in 2013 of 13 counts of sexual offences against his two stepdaughters, including one count of bestiality.

The man, a resident of Prince George, British Columbia, had used peanut butter to make his dog lick his stepdaughter’s genital areas. The count of bestiality was overturned in a 2016 verdict by the Supreme Court of Canada because no penetration was involved.

The ruling said, “Penetration has always been understood to be an essential element of bestiality.”

The Supreme Court judges approved the decision by a vote of six to one.

In the dissent, Justice Rosalie Abella argued that the definition of bestiality should no longer require penetration and should encompass any sexual activity with an animal.

The majority opinion argued, “This submission asks us, in effect, to create a new crime. But that is not our role.”  

The Supreme Court’s ruling did not create a new crime. It based its ruling on the definition of bestiality established by the 1955 Canadian Criminal Code. Only a bill passing both houses of parliament and receiving royal assent could amend the Criminal Code to expand the definition of bestiality.

WHAT CONCLUSIONS CAN BE DRAWN?

• The Canadian Supreme Court acquitted a man of bestiality because sexual acts involving his dog and stepdaughter did not include penetration.

• The Supreme Court does not have the power to create laws.

• The Supreme Court did not legalize bestiality.