OTTAWA -- Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould has tabled a new piece of legislation that amends the Criminal Code to crack down on bestiality and animal fighting offences.

Bill C-84 proposes a new definition of bestiality in the Criminal Code as "any contact, for a sexual purpose with an animal," and prohibits all forms of this illegal behaviour.

The new legislation also expands the offences around animal fighting to include a wide range of activities associated with the fighting or baiting of animals or birds. This would include promoting, arranging, profiting off of, breeding, training, or transporting animals for the purpose of fighting.

As well, it broadens the offence of "building, making, maintaining or keeping a cockpit," to include any kind of arena for animal fighting.

"For many Canadians, animals are an important extension of our families and of our communities. Our laws need to reflect these values and protect animals, and provide protection to them that they require from such senseless acts of violence. These crimes have no place in our society," Wilson-Rayould said during a media availability in the House of Commons foyer.

The changes come after a 2016 Supreme Court of Canada decision that found there was a gap in the law because bestiality in the Criminal Code only prohibited sex acts with animals in cases where there was penetration. Now, all forms, penetrative or otherwise, will be considered crimes.

Wilson-Raybould also credited other parliamentarians for pushing forward similar initiatives and raising awareness about the issue and deficiency in the existing law.

The minister is billing these changes to the law as important steps to protect children and vulnerable people, who they say the 2016 case identified as potentially more susceptible to commit or witness sexual acts with animals.

The department issued a statement that noted that there are often links between offenders who commit animal cruelty offences and other crimes like sexual assault; as well as between animal fighting and organized crime.

Legal advocacy group Animal Justice criticized government for not going further in updating Canada’s animal cruelty laws. Executive Director Camille Labchuk said that while the organization supports the amendments Bill C-84 proposes, they don’t go far enough to ensure animals in Canada are fully protected from cruelty.

"Closing bestiality and animal fighting loopholes is literally the least this government could have done, and still leaves millions of animals in Canada out in the cold. The new law is remarkable for its narrow scope, and for the unacceptable length of time it took to be introduced," she said in a statement.