Posts falsely claim bestiality is legal in Canada

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Social media posts feature an image of a newspaper headline about a 2016 ruling by Canada’s top court to claim that bestiality is legal in the country. But the ruling — which found the term was not clearly defined in Canadian law — did not legalize the offense, and parliament passed a bill in 2019 that filled this legal gap.

“Time to move to Canada,” says a November 1, 2021 Instagram post that includes a video showing a newspaper headline that reads: “Most bestiality is legal, declares Canada’s Supreme Court.”

Posts falsely claim bestiality is legal in CanadaScreenshot of an Instagram post taken on November 5, 2021

But a spokesman for the Department of Justice Canada told AFP that bestiality is not permitted in the country.

“The practice of ‘bestiality’ — defined to include any contact with an animal for a sexual purpose — is illegal in Canada,” he said.  “Bestiality is prohibited under section 160 of the Criminal Code.”

The claim can be traced to an article that was published in 2016 by British newspaper The Independent about a 2016 Supreme Court ruling on bestiality.

Screenshot taken on November 5, 2021 shows an article by The Independent

The case was the result of an appeal by a resident of Prince George, British Columbia, who was found guilty in 2013 of 13 counts of sexual offences against his two stepdaughters, including one count of bestiality.

“At that time, the term ‘bestiality’ was not defined in the Criminal Code. As a result, the Supreme Court of Canada was required to conduct a legislative and statutory review of the history of the offence, including its essential elements,” the Department of Justice spokesman explained.

The count of bestiality was overturned by the 2016 verdict because no penetration was involved. The ruling said: “Penetration has always been understood to be an essential element of bestiality.”

“The courts should not, by development of the common law, broaden the scope of liability for the offence of bestiality. Any expansion of criminal liability for this offence is within parliament’s exclusive domain,” it added.

Following the case, parliament sought to amend the Criminal Code to expand the definition of bestiality. Bill C-84 was introduced in October 2018 “in order to address gaps in the criminal law regarding bestiality and strengthen laws around animal fighting,” according to the Department of Justice Canada website.

The bill received royal assent in June 2019. It amended the Criminal Code to define bestiality “as any contact, for a sexual purpose, between a person and an animal.”