Bill C-33 (Historical)
Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act
An Act respecting the water resources of Nunavut and the Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal and to make consequential amendments to other Acts
This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2002.
Bob Nault Liberal
This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.
Species At Risk Act
June 11th, 2002 / 1:40 p.m.
Andy Savoy Tobique—Mactaquac, NB
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Lac-Saint-Louis.
The species at risk legislation has been a very long process dating back to 1996 with Bill C-33, and then Bill C-65 and now Bill C-5. Since 1996, 93 days and 246 hours of parliamentary time have been put into the legislation. Committee members have put thousands of hours into the legislation since 1996.
I want to congratulate all members of the committee. They did a wonderful job in working together to bring the legislation forward. Canadians have been calling for this legislation for nine years and finally it is coming to fruition. I am very proud to have played a part in the making of it. I commend specifically the committee chairman on the job he did. He has been an advocate for this legislation.
I had many concerns on the environment committee in dealing with species at risk when I was elected on November 27, 2000. I grew up in a farming community in a very rural area. I worked on farms when I was growing up. After receiving an engineering degree I began my professional life and went into the environmental business for 10 years. As such, I felt I could see both sides of the equation with regard to this issue.
First and foremost, I have always viewed farmers as the ultimate environmentalists. They are the people who live off the land. They show us how to use the land. They provide nourishment from the land.
One major concern which resonated when I started to discuss species at risk with my colleagues had to do with command and control. I heard testimony from various individuals and witnesses but one really resonated and stuck with me.
Someone presented me with a copy of a magazine for ranchers from the southern U.S. In it was a for sale ad for a cattle ranch with some 300 or 400 hectares of land. There was a wonderful picture of it. At the bottom of the ad it said that the land was guaranteed not to contain species at risk. It was guaranteed not to contain species at risk because of command and control legislation in place in the U.S. That caused me great concern.
We have done a lot of work on Bill C-5 and it is time to move the legislation forward.
The proposed species at risk act before us today is one component of the Government of Canada's overall strategy to protect species at risk. During the nine long years that this legislation has been in the making, we have not been sitting still and it is a good thing too, because this long process could have brought us to a standstill in our efforts to protect species and habitat and in taking action.
Through stewardship, recovery planning and partnerships with provinces and territories, there has been an overall strategy at work for some time now for the protection of species at risk. For instance, we have worked for years with the provinces and territories under the accord for the protection of species at risk. A number of provinces have brought in new or amended legislation to protect species at risk as a result of this accord. Ministers meet regularly and have directed numerous actions.
A third pillar of the strategy is stewardship. Through stewardship and recovery efforts we are taking action on species at risk where it matters most, on the land, in our streams, oceans and forests. Stewardship is the first line of defence to protect critical habitat. It is through these actions that we are protecting habitat by encouraging landowners in voluntary conservation measures. They are both formal and informal. They often involve governments, but just as often volunteer organizations, businesses and industry.
There are incentives for stewardship. We know this approach works on the ground to effectively protect species' critical habitat. Stewardship is nest boxes for birds. Stewardship is setting aside a spot where the Vancouver Island marmot has its den. Stewardship is patrolling the beaches of Lake Diefenbaker to protect the eggs of the piping plover. Stewardship is a farmer who does not plant right up to the edge of the stream, but protects the riparian zone between the field and the water.
Stewardship is informal activity. It is also part of a formal approach added to over two years ago by the Government of Canada. The habitat stewardship program was established to help start partnership projects with local and regional organizations and communities.
Funding was announced in budget 2000. Much has already been done. Projects are underway all over the Missouri Coteau landscape in southern Saskatchewan. This is the prairie pothole region of the province. It is some 23,000 square kilometres and is home to species at risk such as the piping plover, the burrowing owl, the loggerhead shrike, the ferruginous hawk, the northern leopard frog and the monarch butterfly.
Stewardship is a key element of the entire species at risk strategy which includes the bill before us today. It also includes the accord for the protection of species at risk, an agreement between the federal government, provinces and territories. The agreement has produced a number of results while we have worked on the bill. Stewardship and the accord have a fundamental premise that co-operation produces the best results. That is why we have worked so hard and why we have insisted that the proposed species at risk act contain that same approach.
Canada's approach to stewardship and conservation is the envy of our neighbours to the south. Some critics have suggested that we need legislation like the endangered species law in the United States. Let me tell members the real facts. The Americans wish they had our co-operative approach. They wish they had stewardship and co-operation because what they know now, after 25 years, is a backlog of court cases and a lot of ill will.
I would like to tell members a few things about the habitat stewardship program which has been moving forward while we have worked on the species at risk act. There are already over 70 partnerships with aboriginals, landowners, resource users, nature trusts, provinces, the natural resources sector, community based wildlife societies, educational institutions and conservation organizations. So far more than 200 species identified at risk in Canada, as well as over 80 provincially listed species at risk, are benefiting from the projects under this program. Many species and habitats that are not yet at risk will benefit at the same time but others have joined in the effort.
In its first year, the habitat stewardship program attracted non-federal funding of over $8 million, compared to the $5 million contributed to habitat stewardship program funds. For every one dollar spent by the federal government under the habitat stewardship project, $1.70 of non-federal resources were contributed by project partners. The second year saw more than $10 million for more than 150 projects. We are monitoring the population of the right whale. We are assessing the leatherback turtle and the rare ginseng plant.
The habitat stewardship program is not all, however. We have also made it easier for Canadians to donate ecologically sensitive lands and easements by reducing the capital gains from donations through an eco-gifts program. Over 20,000 hectares have been donated already as ecological gifts. There is authority in Bill C-5 to establish stewardship action plans.
We all share responsibility for protecting wildlife. If the bill is passed, the federal government, in active partnerships with provinces, territories, landowners, farmers, fishermen, aboriginal peoples, conservation groups, the resource sector and others, will be a leader in protecting species at risk and their critical habitats in Canada. We are using what works and providing more tools to make it work better.
Individual Canadians, conservation organizations, industries and governments are working together every day to conserve and protect species at risk. These are the actions that make a difference.
Our preferred approach to protecting species' critical habitats is through voluntary activities by Canadians. We respect the authority of other governments but we also expect them to bring in critical habitat protection measures if needed. If they do not we will be ready to provide the needed protection.
The bill will compliment existing or improved provincial and territorial legislation, not compete with it. We have all acknowledged that protecting species at risk is a shared responsibility. It is time for us to ensure that the federal responsibility is met completely, and that includes legislation. We have designed an approach that works.
Through nine years of consultation, examination, writing and rewriting, we have come to the time when we must act. The time has arrived for the species at risk act to take its official place alongside the accord, and stewardship is one of the three pillars of the strategy for the protection of species at risk.
Species At Risk Act
June 11th, 2002 / 12:15 p.m.
John Herron Fundy Royal, NB
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to put on the record at third reading of Bill C-5 the Progressive Conservative position on the species at risk act.
There have been references in the Chamber throughout the day that this is the third attempt by the Government of Canada to deliver the species at risk act itself. There have been comments saying that the other bills had not worked and that this is a cumulative effort of past efforts in providing Canadians with better legislation.
There is an element of truth to that, but let us be very clear. We know as a point of fact that the reason Bill C-65 and Bill C-33 died on the order paper previously was that the Government of Canada chose for political reasons exclusively to call a national general election well within the traditional four year mandate, just over three and a half years. In the last case it was just under three and a half years. Those two bills were permitted to die on the order paper purely for political reasons.
I raise that issue because I believe it is even more salient given the perspective that Bill C-5 will likely pass third reading today. Once that is done it will be sent to the Senate. If it does not clear the Senate this summer, there is more than just the odd rumour that the Government of Canada may consider proroguing the House. That means all pieces of legislation on the order paper will die instantaneously.
The Government of Canada may choose once again to unilaterally let the species at risk legislation die or fail, not because the legislation necessarily was flawed, which it was in each one of those three cases, but purely for a politically driven rationale. I wanted to make that point very clear.
This legislation will be the first piece of environmental legislation by the Government of Canada in the nearly nine years since it formed the government after winning the election on October 25, 1993. In fact a number of individuals refer to the Liberal government's experience on environmental legislation to be “the lost decade”. In April the Sierra Legal Defence Fund issued its report “The Lost Decade” which criticized the Liberal government for failing to conserve biodiversity and protect its endangered species.
In contrast, the Progressive Conservative Party was in government between 1984 and 1993. We received numerous accolades with respect to how progressive our environmental laws were and how they enhanced our country.
We cite the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, which is our principal omnibus bill on the controlled use of toxins in our environment. We cite the fact that in 1987 Canada pulled the international world together on ozone depleting gases. We cite a $3 billion green plan on pollution prevention so that we can help move industry into a best practices regime.
We cite the fact that in 1992 at a biodiversity forum held in Rio de Janeiro it was Canada that led the international world to be one of the first signatories to commit to preserving our biodiversity. That was done in the summer of 1992 but unfortunately the following year there was a mild downsizing which prevented us from being able to follow through with legislation. The new Government of Canada had an opportunity to do that in 1993, 1994 and throughout the entire last decade to gain that what we have lost.
We knew that the government was at least challenged at providing the country with legislation which needed to be effective and could work on the ground.
We tabled a position paper that was drawn from the coalition experience that was formed by the species at risk working group which included the Canadian Pulp and Paper Association, the Mining Association of Canada, the Sierra Club of Canada, and the Canadian Nature federation. They built a broad based coalition. There were some elements that we enhanced in our position paper tabled in March 2000 called “Carrots before sticks”.
We wanted to show stewardship and provide those incentives so that we could make it a common cause to protect our biodiversity. The first element of that document demonstrated that a species at risk should be determined by science and not political choice. The committee on the status of wildlife in Canada, known as COSEWIC, that entity of professional biologists are best to determine whether a species is endangered, extirpated, threatened, or whatever status it might have. That list should be the one that is considered.
The second element maintained that before we even consider having a law that could potentially engage on private landowners and on the provinces we should look after our own backyard. Otherwise we have no moral suasion to do so. We said there must be mandatory protection of critical habitat on federal lands including aquatic species.
The third point stated that we needed to protect transboundary species, particularly migratory birds. That is in an exclusive constitutional purview of the federal government.
The fourth point indicated the necessity to ensure that we had clarity with respect to the compensatory regime. All Canadians benefit from the preservation of biodiversity. The few should not have to pay the price. There must be clarity from the Government of Canada with respect to compensation.
Those are the four planks that we had fought for throughout the course of the deliberations on this act. The first initiative that took place in 1996 was when the national protocol and the preservation of biodiversity took place with the provinces and the federal government.. There is a commitment to have complementary legislation.
I want to make it clear that the approach the Government of Canada has taken with this law is better than the approach taken by the United States. Fostering stewardship, having a co-operative approach, working with our subnational governments whether they be territories or the provinces, is a more prudent approach. It fits with what we want to do as well. The problem with it is that the framework and the concept are fine but as always we can understand that the devil is sometimes often in the detail. There were some major gains in this legislation as a framework. It was enhanced at the committee level in each of those four planks that I touched upon.
I would like to go back to the minister's comments with respect to four points that he was most proud of. He used these four points in his conclusion. He mentioned there would be a scientific listing. Let us be clear. It was the committee that pulled the Minister of the Environment, dragging, kicking and screaming, to adopt the existing COSEWIC list. It was the committee on environment that ensured that once this law was enshrined that we would not have to have this lull of time before we even had a species on a list. We could use the existing COSEWIC list. The recommendation came from the committee, not from the Minister of the Environment, not from Privy Council, and not from the Prime Minister's Office. It was the learned members of the committee of all party stripes who did that.
I wish to applaud the member for York North who was steadfast in wanting to improve a lot of the environmental aspects of this legislation. She was critical of the Government of Canada for having a compromise amendment at the eleventh hour. One of the issues that the minister and the government are most proud of is something that they were not on board with in the first place.
The second thing they wanted was for aboriginal and traditional knowledge contributions to have a higher role in the act to determine whether a species was at risk or not. Just yesterday we had an amendment from the member for Churchill River in Saskatchewan that if the amendment had not passed that provision would have been gutted out.
The minister was proud that there would be a five year review. With all humility, it was again the committee that forced the Government of Canada to have a review aspect in the legislation in the first place. The committee put its shoulder to the wheel. We were pleased to do the homework for the Government of Canada.
Where is the bill still void? It is void on the scientific listing aspect and reverse onus concept that has been tabled before the House. It is an eleventh hour compromise. We would not have seen these eleventh hour amendments if it had not been for the fact that the government knew that it would lose the bill.
Moreover, the minister knew that if he lost the bill he would likely have lost his seat in cabinet. He would have been next Sunday's Shawinigan sacrifice. He would have been the individual who would have been next in line after the former defence minister and the former minister of public works. Although that political pressure spurred some positive reaction, let us give ourselves some credit that we can move the yardsticks if we apply the proper amount of pressure and have the courage or conviction to move in that direction.
Where the act is still void as well is that there was a compromise amendment made with respect to the mandatory protection of critical habitat on federal lands, including aquatic species. It is not what the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada had advocated. It is not what the committee had advocated for the most part as well. However, it is better than what we had. We reluctantly supported it yesterday. It is a mediocre initiative. It is a convoluted approach that is not as clear as it should have been in the first place.
On the issue of migratory birds, transboundary species are in the exclusive domain of the federal government. It has the constitutional jurisdiction and the purview to protect those particular species. I find it ironic that on the Canadian Wildlife Service website we see photos of sandpipers and the whooping crane is the icon species of species at risk. Yet, this act does not protect migratory birds as a transboundary species. I encourage those folks who are riveted to their televisions at this moment to run to the Internet to look up that particular section on that national website.
Whooping cranes for the most part do nest in national parks so there is a strong element of their habitat that is protected. The Canadian Wildlife Service has chosen the whooping crane as its icon yet this is where the act is most void. I made reference yesterday to the blue heron. It is not a matter of self-preservation that I made that particular remark. However, that is something that should not be lost on the committee itself.
Pertaining to ensuring co-operation with the provinces I cited letters from the provinces of Ontario, Alberta, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island on amendments the committee had made with respect to sections 32, 33 and 61 where we would establish criteria with the Government of Canada on the safety net provisions and would engage perhaps provincial jurisdiction if it were deemed appropriate in order to preserve a species. However it would not be done arbitrarily. Clear criteria would be set out to ensure that provincial legislation would be at least equivalent to federal legislation.
We received letters from the provinces of Ontario, Alberta, Nova Scotia and P.E.I. that the amendments that the committee made on those sections were acceptable to them. In some situations the provinces stated they did not even like the sections in the first place and that is why they did not support the legislation.
The Government of Canada did not do its homework and build a broad based coalition with its provincial cousins as it needed to do. When the committee tabled the amendments that enhanced a co-operative approach with provincial governments, the Government of Canada unilaterally gutted them out.
It is incumbent on the Government of Canada to share with us at some point whether it consulted the provinces prior to removing the provisions by the provinces. The provinces put in writing, in letters dated December 2001, that they supported these provisions. We had a chance to have a pioneering bill and we have lost that opportunity with Bill C-5.
I would like to state for the record that the approach that the Government of Canada has taken is far more progressive than the approach taken in the United States. The problem is that the accountability mechanisms in the bill are far too weak.
I have had some spirited debates with the Minister of the Environment on the fact that we wanted everything done on a mandatory basis, but we needed to have some timelines. The committee had some acceptable timelines. If an action was deemed appropriate to be taken then it should have been done by a certain period of time as opposed to being left to drift. Those timelines were established by the committee.
The Government of Canada has taken that accountability mechanism out. It could have even left it in place as a guideline. The minister could have applied to parliament or have established a permit where an extension could be requested. However the government was reticent about making provisions that would make the Government of Canada more accountable.
I am pleased with a particular Progressive Conservative amendment that was accepted by all parties of the House. Our national stewardship action plan would enshrine into law the intent of what the Government of Canada wanted to do. It is clearly there. It is a comprehensive list with respect to what the government should include as part of its stewardship menu of initiatives that it can take and execute.
There was a debate among members of the House about what the best approach would be in terms of empowering criminal law on landowners. I am not a strong advocate of having any approach where we would spend more money and time in the courts than on the ground protecting species. I believe the government's approach on due diligence is more appropriate than the mens rea perspective, only if it is complemented with landowner notification. There is one provision in the bill which was tabled by the Progressive Conservatives that was accepted on landowners notification. The other ones have been removed from the bill.
The rural caucus of the Liberal Party of Canada has categorically let down rural Canadians. They sold them out when this side of the House asked for clear provisions on compensation. The least the Liberal caucus should have been insisting on was to have draft regulations in place so that we could follow what the Government of Canada would have done on compensation.
Species At Risk Act
June 11th, 2002 / 12:05 p.m.
Karen Redman Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment
Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my colleague who, as he pointed out quite rightly, was a very hardworking member of our environment committee which dealt with this bill.
This is the third incarnation of the legislation. I had the privilege of working on Bill C-33 which predates my hon. colleague across the way.
It is interesting that the member would reference that some of the legal opinion was a bit curious, because I happen to know that he himself is a lawyer. It has been my experience both inside and outside government that when two lawyers are in a room there are often three or four opinions. He seems to be subscribing to some kind of lockstep assuredness in the species at risk legislation.
Clearly what the government has done and the stand we have taken is that co-operation should always be the first approach to protect species at risk. That is how the bill is structured. The government acknowledges that species at risk are protected on the land, not in the classrooms nor in the courtrooms of Canada.
The member made a couple of comments that I also found very curious. He seemed to infer that it does not include all of Canada. That is tacitly wrong. The bill certainly will work in partnership with aboriginal leaders as well as territorial and provincial governments but it will cover 100% of Canada.
It is interesting that while on the one hand he acknowledges the strength and the co-operative efforts that were made in the committee, on the other hand he criticizes the government when it reacts in a progressive way, in a manner that is attentive not only to the witnesses but to the committee work. Of the 125 amendments that came to the House, 70 were accepted because they clearly strengthened the bill with respect to transparency and accountability.
Would my hon. colleague like to comment on the stewardship program? This again goes back to the basis of co-operation, the basis of invitation to Canadians that they would continue to do the activities they are doing right now. I point out that the $45 million that was earmarked is indeed being spent. There are programs right across Canada and $10 million was spent this year on 160 local projects in partnership with local conservation associations which are protecting 208 species as we speak.
Species At Risk Act
June 11th, 2002 / 10:40 a.m.
Bob Mills Red Deer, AB
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to third reading of Bill C-5, the government's endangered species legislation or, I should say, the latest version of it since we all know it has been underway since 1993.
This should be a positive day for people concerned with environmental issues because action to protect species at risk and their habitats is long overdue. However I cannot celebrate this bill. I would like to but I cannot. It contains so many glaring faults and fundamental mistakes that it would be unworkable. It would do precious little to help protect Canada's invaluable biological diversity.
Because the government did not give serious consideration to our amendments, I regret to say that we in the Canadian Alliance will be strongly opposing the bill. We tried to produce species at risk legislation that would work but the government has reversed the hard work of the committee. We must therefore oppose the bill. The Canadian Alliance wants species at risk legislation but it wants legislation that will work. The Alliance Party's 2002 policy declaration states:
We are committed to protecting and preserving Canada’s natural environment and endangered species, and to sustainable development of our abundant natural resources for the use of current and future generations.
The need is great. It is estimated that worldwide two to three species go extinct per hour almost entirely due to human causes. Some scientists believe we could lose 25% of the earth's species in the next 30 years at the present rate.
Canada has a serious endangered species problem. Some 27 species have gone extinct in Canada in the last 150 years and more than 300 are at risk. Some of our best known and loved neighbours who share the land such as the grizzly bear, beluga whale or woodland caribou could be lost to future generations unless we take action now.
Biological diversity is to be cherished. The wide range of species the world over provides a living laboratory for the development of new drugs and medicines. Endangered species are an important early warning system of ecological trouble. Protecting wild species protects billions of dollars in wildlife related activities across Canada and the livelihoods of countless Canadians. We know all this. The Canadian Alliance has done its part in trying to make strong, responsible endangered species legislation a reality.
I will take a moment to commend my hon. colleagues on the environment committee. Over the last year or so the committee has been a model of how the House works at its best. It has been a forum for reflection, discussion and an honest search for the best way forward. Some very constructive proposals have come out of it. There has been, in my experience at least, unprecedented co-operation at the committee between members of all parties. There has been a lot of negotiation and compromise. I have not seen such a level of co-operation since I was elected in 1993. Even the whips could not whip their members into changing their positions. However the government has reversed all that.
Bill C-5 has witnessed remarkable partnerships among groups outside parliament. People have managed to put aside their usual perspectives and work co-operatively in the cause of protecting endangered species. One of the best examples has been the Species at Risk Working Group or SARWG. How often have the Sierra Club, Canadian Wildlife Federation and Canadian Nature Federation had common cause with the pulp and paper industry, mining industry and so on? The fact that SARWG's members could agree on so much made their common position all the more compelling.
Had the government accepted more of SARWG's advice the bill would be far stronger today and might make a real difference. Instead the government has said “Trust us, we will fix it later”. I am sad to say this is how the Liberal government deals with things.
Despite all the goodwill and the extraordinary degree of consensus among industry and environmental commentators, Bill C-5 as amended would not go far enough. It would not pass the test of workability. When I read the amendments at report stage I was sad to see the government had undone many of the constructive changes that had been made. That is sad because we all want a workable law that will make a difference.
What is the problem? I will quote some fine words from the minister's appearance before the committee on October 3 of last year. He stated:
The front-line soldier of the campaign for endangered species will be the fisherman, the farmer, the person who works in the woods, or the trapper, to name only a few. These are the people who are out there where the habitat is and the endangered species are. If we want to succeed in the protection of habitat for species at risk, we need to maintain the support and cooperation of Canadians who work and live on the land and on our waters of Canada. And that is where the action is needed.
Truer words were never spoken, but perhaps the minister should introduce his speech writer to his legislative drafter. Bill C-5 would fail because it ignores the concerns, I would even say the fears, of those frontline soldiers. The minister is ignoring their concerns. He is refusing to commit that if and when they suffered economic losses because of the need to protect endangered species they would not have to carry the cross alone but would receive compensation. The minister is ignoring them by holding over their heads the threat of harsh criminal sanctions for unintentional or inadvertent actions.
As a strict matter of public policy the bill is wrong on these counts, but in terms of communications it could hardly be worse. It would send the signal that the real life concerns of these frontline soldiers were not significant. It would make them feel like targets of the government rather than partners in helping endangered species.
Finally, the bill would demean and insult 10 other frontline soldiers in the battle to save endangered species: the provinces of Canada. The minister can talk all he wants about co-operation, but at the end of the day he says he would decide whether the provinces were doing a good job of protecting endangered species and whether the federal law would apply in each province. There would be no negotiations or criteria, only uncertainty and resentment.
In the end Bill C-5 is a bad bill. It would not come to grips with the real lives of Canadians who want to do their part to protect wildlife and endangered species, Canadians who want to be responsible stewards of the natural environment but do not like being threatened or demeaned.
Sadly, in this respect Bill C-5 is part of a trend in the Liberal government's relationship with rural and northern Canada: the long gun registry which has ignored the realities of life outside our nation's cities; the cruelty to animals act which would criminalize run of the mill animal husbandry practices; and the Kyoto accord which threatens to impose significant costs on rural energy users. It is sad to say, but the message must get through to the Liberal government.
The minister's frontline soldiers throughout rural Canada too often feel their way of life is what is endangered. They care about wildlife. They are not selfish. They are responsible people who want to protect the environment and had been doing so for generations before the government decided to intervene. An approach based on partnership rather than confrontation would be met with a lot more success.
The biggest flaw in the species at risk act, the thing that guarantees it would never be effective, is its failure to provide compensation to landowners who would suffer economic losses as a result of measures to protect species and their habitats. The word compensation sounds so grasping, selfish and un-Canadian. Why would people expect to be paid for obeying the law? Why should property owners not be willing to absorb the costs in the service of a greater social good?
When people's livelihoods are at stake they have a different view of things. Farmers might have to leave certain sections of land untouched for a number of years or adopt different practices to accommodate nesting birds. Maybe areas of a forest would be off limits during migration. There are lots of ways property owners and resource users could be affected, some temporary and some permanent. However in many cases they would face costs either in the form of lost income from not being able to use their land or actual costs for protecting habitat or providing for endangered species.
It is completely incorrect to think farmers are sitting there waiting for the government to put compensation in the bill so they can sell their land to the government and make a big profit. Listening to the minister talk about how compensation would prevent voluntary programs, one would think this was what he believed.
For the farmers and ranchers I know their land is their life. Often it has been in their families for generations and they are not looking for an easy way out or to sell it to the government. They respect the wildlife on their property and would be happy to work co-operatively in voluntary stewardship programs, but when costs arise they do not want to be left holding the bag alone. Ten per cent could easily put them out of business.
No doubt the minister will say that the bill recognizes the principle of compensation. Let us look at the bill. Yes, it does say that the minister may, and I emphasize may, provide compensation. That is good. The government even seems willing to retain the words of the committee, “fair and reasonable” compensation, but that is not fair market value. However, in Bill C-5 any compensation would be left entirely to the minister's discretion. For the farmers in my riding, fine words are hollow promises. Until property owners and resource users know that when they suffer losses they will be guaranteed compensation, not by the minister's good grace but by right, they will look at the species at risk act with one hand guarding their wallets.
It would have been a token of good faith had the minister tabled draft regulations for us to look at prior to the bill being passed. He has promised to have a draft ready soon after royal assent, but again that does not do anything to convince people that the act will be fair to them.
What can they expect? What in practice does the bill mean when it says there will be compensation only in the case of the “extraordinary” impact of regulatory restrictions? Can they trust that the process would be fair? The minister owes Canadians answers to questions like this.
In fact, the only public picture of what regulations might look like is the Pearse report. Dr. Pearse may be a noted natural resources economist, but when he says that landowners should be happy to lose up to 10% of their annual income without compensation in order to protect endangered species, property owners get worried. When he says they should get a maximum of 50% compensation for losses over 10%, they stay worried.
It is not because the minister's “frontline soldiers” are selfish but because, like many Canadians, they work hard for a living and want to be treated fairly. Fairness demands that when they are injuriously affected by government they receive something to help them out. This is the very principle embodied in the UN convention on biological diversity, which Canada has signed.
The convention recognizes that because the objective of maintaining bio- and ecosystem diversity is so important, costs must be equitably borne by everyone, not just primarily by developing countries. Applied at home, this principle would mean that landowners should not bear all the costs of species protection, and that since they are helping to achieve a greater social good, compensation should be extended to offset any losses that they might incur.
The species at risk working group also recognized this in their brief to the standing committee. The group wrote:
SARWG strongly urges Parliament to implement key amendments that firmly recognize that the protection of species at risk is a public value and that measures to protect species at risk should be equitably shared and not unfairly borne by any individual, group of landowners, workers, communities or organizations...Provision for compensation helps to balance the effect of efforts to protect species at risk and instills necessary trust among all stakeholders...The Act should specifically allow for compensation for unavoidable losses caused by the inability to carry on an activity that is authorized by a legal contract or licence.
If a committee of industry and environmental groups can recognize this, then why can the government not? The principle of compensation is recognized internationally too. Let me quote from threatened species legislation in Tasmania:
A landholder...is entitled to compensation for financial loss suffered as a natural direct and reasonable consequence of the making of an interim conservation order.
That is, there is compensation for an interim protection order or a land management agreement.
The legislation also states: “A person who is required to comply with a notice under section 36 is entitled to compensation for financial loss” as a result of “being required to comply with that notice”.
Within the European Community, landowners receive compensation if they agree via a management agreement to maintain features of the landscape. Switzerland runs the integrated production program, a voluntary scheme whereby farmers are given standard amounts based on profit forgone in return for agreeing to certain restrictions. The U.K.'s conservation program of 1994 states:
Where a special nature conservation order is made, the appropriate nature conservation body shall pay compensation to any person having at the time of the making of the order an interest in land comprised in an agricultural unit comprising land to which the order relates who...shows that the value of his interest is less than it would have been if the order had not been made.
Not only is it fair, but the prospect of paying compensation introduces important fiscal discipline for the government. Instead, the government has taken the U.S. example of no compensation. I take the minister at his word and so I know that at the moment the government really has no idea of what the implications of the bill are or what it will cost Canadians to comply. Here is what he told the committee on October 3 when asked about compensation:
I have to express my regret that I'm not able to give the precision you have asked for. I think, though, your request for precision is perfectly legitimate. I really would like to be able to give it. Unfortunately, it simply has proved to be one of those things that has escaped us.
In reality, there is a letter from a cabinet minister to another cabinet minister saying that there can be no compensation in the bill, and nothing has been allocated. A departmental information supplement distributed in October was not of much more help when it stated:
Environment Canada is aware that compensation for restrictions on the use of land is a complex issue that requires careful consideration and innovative thinking. We will need several years of practical experience in implementing the stewardship and recovery provisions...before we can be precise in prescribing eligibility and thresholds for compensation.
In other words, it is “trust us”. I guess it is easy to be this flippant when spending someone else's money. The government does not know what the economic implications will be of the legislation it is passing. The act would put a potential burden on countless property owners and users across the country. The minister is advised to have a better answer for them when they start asking why all the costs of this noble effort seem to be on their shoulders.
In the end, the best argument in favour of compensation is that it is best for endangered species themselves. Without some recognition of their costs and corporate willingness to assist, property owners and users end up in an adversarial relationship with endangered species when naturally they are their best defenders.
The wolves in Yellowstone National Park are a great example of how this works in practice. When ecologists reintroduced wolves in the park they naturally received a hostile reaction from local ranchers who rightly were afraid that wolves would prey upon their livestock. Why, they asked, should they have to pay the cost of wolf introduction? According to Hank Fischer, northern Rockies representative of the Defenders of Wildlife, the controversy was resolved by starting a non-governmental compensation fund for ranchers, which paid a flat fee for each head of livestock killed by wolves. Now, five years later, the wolf population is growing and farmers have for the most part learned to live with it since they know that their families' prosperity is not being sacrificed. As Mr. Fischer writes, “This program is about a lot more than money. It's about respecting what ranchers do”.
Maybe that is the key point. Landowners are more than willing to do their part, but they need to know that the government understands their situation and cares about what happens to them. If the government cannot even provide some measure of compensation for their losses then they will be far less willing to co-operate on a voluntary basis. Coercion will be the government's only option, which will only increase resentment and suspicion. If property owners are upset about being asked to carry all the costs of protecting endangered species with no guarantee of assistance in doing so, they should be equally concerned about the harsh criminal sanctions that the government is using to make sure they co-operate.
Bill C-5 makes it a criminal act to kill, harm or harass any one of hundreds of endangered species or to interfere with their critical habitat. Fines are steep, up to $1 million for a corporation and $250,000 for an individual. The bill provides for imprisonment for up to five years for an indictable offence. As far as I am concerned that punishment is too good for people who wilfully threaten endangered species, people such as poachers, those who traffic in endangered animals or hunters looking for a thrill, but let us look at the bill.
The bill states:
No person shall kill, harm, harass, capture or take an individual of a wildlife species that is listed as an extirpated species, an endangered species or a threatened species--
Similarly, it states:
No person shall damage or destroy the residence--
of that species, or:
No person shall destroy any part of the critical habitat of a listed endangered species--
Protecting species and their residences and habitat is what the bill is all about and we support that. My concern is that the act would have the great potential to catch honest people in its net, people who have no intention to harm endangered species, let alone commit a criminal offence. Under this act someone could commit a criminal offence, not a misdemeanor or administrative violation but a criminal offence, without knowing it. The bill does not require intent or even reckless behaviour. Rather, all offences under the act would be strict liability offences which means that the burden of proof rests on the individual to prove that he or she was exercising due diligence should harm come to an endangered species.
Is it fair to convict someone of a serious criminal offence when they might have had no idea that they were endangering a species or its habitat? In order to protect oneself from breaking the law, one would have to become an expert on recognizing the sage grouse, the barn owl, the Aurora trout, the Atlantic salmon, the prairie lupine and the American water willow, et cetera. One would have to be able to recognize not only them but their critical habitat in case one disturbs a place where some of these animals spend part of their life cycle, or even where they used to live or might be reintroduced, or some pollen or seeds blew in. I dare say the minister knows that this is a true problem.
In October he spoke to the committee about making people criminals even when they do not know they are breaking the law. He had a lot of concerns. He said:
It's a legitimate matter for concern. The accident, the unwitting destruction—it is a concern, and we want to give the maximum protection we can to the legitimate and honest person who makes a mistake, who unwittingly does that.
That is a nice thought, but that is all it is.
What is this maximum protection that he talked about? There is no protection that I can see. Protecting endangered species is important and we take it seriously, but it cannot be done in a heavy-handed way. People want to co-operate, but this “gotcha” approach from the government is adversarial and does nothing to encourage co-operation. A person might not know he or she was harming an endangered species, but “gotcha”. All they can hope is that the minister is reasonable in exercising his discretion. “Trust me” he says. That is not good enough.
How are companies, for example those involved with mineral, oil or forestry, supposed to demonstrate due diligence over operations covering hundreds of thousands or even millions of hectares when they do not even control all the external factors involved? There are 70 million hectares of agricultural land and 25 million hectares of privately owned forest land in Canada. How do these farmers and operators exercise due diligence over these areas, especially when many are small operators with very limited resources and no familiarity with endangered species?
What maximum protection would the minister provide to them? At the very least, the government must work with the provinces to provide training for landowners and users who will be required to meet the due diligence standards but do not have the knowledge or information to identify listed species or their critical habitat and residences.
As the species at risk working group said:
Failure to make such programs readily available will deprive Canadians of the means to defend themselves against criminal charges.
The best solution would be for the government to amend the bill to require what Roman law used to refer to as the guilty mind, mens rea. This required that in order to commit a criminal act persons had to know that they were doing something wrong. It has been the standard division between criminal and civil offences in English common law since the late Middle Ages and is absolutely essential in this case. The bill should require that criminal sanctions apply only when someone knowingly, intentionally, wilfully or even recklessly harms an endangered species, its residence or its habitat.
Why make this change? Do the strong penalties not send a signal that endangered species are important and that no one should mess with them? Yes, it does that but that is the wrong signal for farmers, cattlemen, fishermen, forestry workers, property owners and users across the country.
The minister does not seem to understand the implication of his own words when he calls these people his frontline soldiers in the campaign for endangered species. Property owners are the good guys here yet the bill treats them as if they have to be beaten into submission and threatened to keep them from harming wildlife. Let me quote the minister once more:
Now we have all seen, as politicians, what happens when people get fearful or angry with their government. We have all seen the damage that is done to public trust when perfectly reasonable people suddenly decide that the government has some hidden and nefarious agenda, and there is no reason to stir up those kinds of concerns with this legislation.
The minister's speech writer is absolutely correct. There is no reason for this to happen but it is because Bill C-5 treats property owners in a spirit of confrontation and antagonism. If the government is willing to brand people as criminals for an entirely inadvertent act, then people will question the government's commitment to its rhetoric about co-operation.
As I said earlier, the bill also insults and demeans another group of frontline soldiers in the battle to protect endangered species. Those soldiers are the provincial governments. I know it is not fashionable to defend the provinces in this place. The government obviously believes, and it may even be true, that Canadians generally do not care who delivers a service or takes responsibility for an issue, they just want it done. We want to see endangered species protected, but even if people do not widely care about constitutional niceties, it is vital that governments respect them. Perhaps the government can get away with encroaching on provincial jurisdiction in the court of public opinion. In the only survey I have seen, 94% of Canadians say that they want to protect endangered species. I cannot believe it is not 100%. However, if it tries to go it alone, the government will produce bad policy, bad legislation and will end up hurting rather than helping the cause of species protection, which it seeks to advance.
I do not want to pretend that the federal government has no jurisdiction at all in getting involved in environmental issues and protecting endangered species. Environment, after all, does not fall exclusively into either federal or provincial jurisdiction.
Fathers of Confederation thought far more about regulating trade, commerce, education and even how to divide up the colony's debts than they did about protecting endangered species, but the federal government clearly has a role to play.
Section 91 of the constitution gives the federal government power in the areas of international treaties, Indians and land reserved for Indians, sea coast and inland fisheries. One could even, I suppose, make a case that the power to guarantee peace, order and good governance allows the federal government an entry here, though that is sufficiently ill-defined as a justification. I am sure it will be fought out in the courts.
Perhaps the best justification for the federal role is responsibility for the criminal law. This power to prohibit and punish any conduct clearly would extend to protecting endangered species, though I cannot help but wonder whether the harsh criminal provisions in the bill and the refusal to require that someone have criminal intent exists more because they strengthen the federal government's self-jurisdiction for involvement than because of how effective they will be.
The provinces have a role to play because the constitution gives them power over: the management and sale of public lands belonging to the province; property and civil rights; and matters of merely local or private nature in the province. Together these amount to vast responsibilities. The provinces are the ones with the troops on the ground, with the power to really enforce the provisions of the act. They have a presence to enforce natural resources and wildlife rules that extend widely across the nation.
Apart from the jurisdictional question, without the provinces the bill simply cannot be enforced. It is essential for the minister to make sure he has the provinces on side or his best laid plans will not have their desired effect.
Does the bill reflect the co-operation and consensus building that one would expect, given that environmental questions are a shared responsibility? Sadly, the answer is a strong no. The bill talks about co-operation, voluntary programs and consultation but when it comes right down to it, Bill C-5 gives the federal government the power to impose its will on provincial lands with disregard for provincial rules or practices.
This is the concept of the safety net. Largely through use of federal criminal law power, Bill C-5 gives the minister, in his absolute discretion, the right to decide whether a province provides effective protection for endangered species. If not, then he must order that the federal law will apply in every province. In this way he is given the power to sit as lord and judge over the provinces.
The standing committee insisted that the minister be required to make his reasons public. Most important, the committee required that the minister consult with the provinces in order to develop criteria for determining what constitutes effective protection of species at risk throughout Canada. However the government introduced motions to reverse these provisions.
We are left with a situation where provinces, landowners and resource users will try to arrange their affairs to comply with the law in good faith but with utter uncertainty about what the law will be. That is where the money will be used, in litigation. How are companies expected to invest or individuals develop their land if they do not know what the rules will be? This uncertainty leads to confusion and distrust. This federal intrusion will almost certainly lead to legal challenges from the provinces instead of focus on protection of species at risk.
Undoubtedly, provinces will challenge these provisions in court. Not only will this take time and resources, it will undermine collective efforts to protect species and show the world that Canada is not serious in its commitment to co-operate in meeting this important goal.
Of course all this talk of the federal safety net assumes that there are big gaps in the provincial legislation. It implies that the provinces have done nothing about endangered species protection and cannot be trusted with the job.
As I have said, I believe there is a role for the federal government here but this white knight attitude, which puts down everyone else so it can pretend to be the champion, only creates bitterness and sets back the cause of species protection.
I have been told that there are 33 provincial statutes that cover endangered species, wildlife, special places protection, environmental management and so on. They exist in every province and territory. I do not claim to be an expert on all of these but a background presentation by the Sierra Legal Defence Fund on Bill C-5 included a report card comparing the provinces to Bill C-33, the endangered species bill that died in the last parliament and provided the framework for this bill.
Interestingly, five provinces were ranked higher than the proposed federal law and three more provinces were given the same mark. This is a subjective assessment but at least it establishes that the provinces are doing something to help endangered species.
Instead of the government's confrontational approach, would it not be much better to work co-operatively to pursue the goals that we all endorse? The foundation for this co-operation already exists in the 1996 national accord for the protection of species at risk. The federal and provincial ministers committed themselves to complementary legislation and programs to ensure that endangered species would be protected throughout Canada and established a council of ministers to provide direction, report on progress and resolve disputes. This is the way to proceed. Perhaps it was not perfect. Certainly more work was left to do and federal legislation has a role here. Goodness knows, the federal government has enough land and responsibilities in its jurisdiction with which to concern itself without deciding to take responsibility for provincial lands too.
Again we urge the government to adopt a more co-operative approach instead of one rooted in the minister's discretion to intervene whenever he wants with no criteria and no explanation. That is not the way to build teamwork with provincial enforcement agents on the ground. It is not the way to work with landowners and resource users who need certainty and predictability in the law and, in the long run, it is not the way to help protect endangered species.
In conclusion, we want species at risk legislation but we want legislation that will work on the ground. This bill will not work. Farmers, ranchers and people in industry say it will not work. It is just like the U.S. legislation. It will end up in the courts. It does not include compensation. It does not include mens rea. It does not provide clear federal--provincial co-operation. It does not provide adequate habitat protection.
Money, as I say, will not be used for the conservation or protection of species. Instead it will go into the courtroom.
Government has used deceit and deception to convince various groups that they will be taken care of. It has used an attitude of “Trust us, we will take care of you. We will give you compensation. We will make sure that we work with you”.
I do not believe those bureaucrats who will be out there enforcing the legislation will do anything but follow the exact wording that is printed in Bill C-5. As a result, the legislation will in fact endanger endangered species.
Species at Risk Act
June 10th, 2002 / 12:15 p.m.
David Anderson Victoria, BC
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member came in perhaps a trifle late. As you explained, the debate is on the issue of time allocation.
Certainly, if I am permitted to depart from that strict issue, I would give the greatest credit to the committee members, including the hon. member who just spoke. They did an immense amount of work, not just on the current bill, Bill C-5, but also on the preceding bills, Bill C-33 and Bill C-65 in previous parliaments.
However, and I hope he understands this, the fact that I point out that the critical people who will be protecting endangered species are those who are out on the land, namely farmers, ranchers, trappers, fishermen and people who work in the woods, I hope does not suggest to him that somehow we are denigrating the work of the committee. No, these are the people who are particularly important.
With due respect to the hon. member, he comes from an urban riding. He spends a lot of time in the House. He is not always out there on the land. Perhaps he should give a little credit too, to those people on whom the bill will depend for its success and whose co-operation is so important in getting this bill.
I hope that does not denigrate the committee.
Species at Risk Act
June 10th, 2002 / 12:10 p.m.
David Anderson Victoria, BC
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member should realize that it has taken us a long time to get this legislation out because the previous Conservative government did nothing about this issue. It was in our red book when we first came forward. We beat the Conservatives to the point where they were reduced to two seats because they were doing nothing on this issue.
Since then it has taken a lot of time. He is quite right. However when he says that we have not attempted anything for nine years, has he forgotten Bill C-33, or indeed the previous bill, Bill C-65? Has he forgotten how long it has taken with this particular bill?
We have been working on this continuously. When he is so critical of parts of days being used I hope he will remember, as he cozies up to the Alliance as he is so keen on doing, that the staff of the hon. Leader of the Opposition actually bragged about the way it was filibustering this particular piece of legislation.
Excise Act, 2001
The Royal Assent
April 30th, 2002 / 3:10 p.m.
I have the honour to inform the House that when the House went up to the Senate chamber the Deputy of the Governor General was pleased to give, in Her Majesty's name, the royal assent to the following bills:
Bill C-33, an act respecting the water resources of Nunavut and the Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal and to make consequential amendments to other acts--Chapter No. 10.
Bill S-22, an act to provide for the recognition of the Canadien horse as the national horse of Canada--Chapter No. 11.
Bill C-35, an act to amend the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act--Chapter No. 12.
Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act
April 16th, 2002 / 3 p.m.
As it is now 3 p.m., the House will proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion to concur in the Senate amendment to Bill C-33.
Call in the members.
(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)
Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act
April 12th, 2002 / 10:50 a.m.
Gerald Keddy South Shore, NS
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to the amendment to Bill C-33. I first looked at this bill when it was C-62, Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act and again now when it is C-33, the same title, Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act.
This bill is long overdue. It has been on the books since 1992-93. It is high time that we actually pass it through parliament. Ten years is long enough for any piece of legislation to be passed in this place.
There are some important questions to be raised regarding the deletion of the non-derogation clause. In conversation with the Inuit Tapirisat and the people in Nunavut they raised a number of questions about the bill. None the least of which was the long standing concern that the people of Nunavut had over the requirement for ministerial approval of applications. Certainly the intent, and a noble intent, is to have more control or more power vested in the jurisdiction and the people of Nunavut.
There was a problem with the authority of the governor in council to make regulations in areas that the Inuit felt should be the authority of the water board or the surface rights board, especially the water board. The legislation did not expressly recognize Inuit water rights. The bill states that is subject to Nunavut rights in the Nunavut Act and the rights invested in the crown. Possibly there should have been another amendment looking at water rights specific to the Nunavut area.
Another concern raised was that the $20 million liability factor. It should have probably been higher. However, all those issues and the non-derogation clause aside, this legislation is long overdue. It should have been passed long ago.
It has the support from the member for Nunavut and the premier of Nunavut. It is not up to us as parliamentarians to hold this particular piece of legislation up whether or not we agree with the amendment. The amendment has been passed in the House. It will be my intent to support the amendment in the House. It is incumbent upon all members in the House to look at this piece of legislation carefully to make sure that it is pushed forward and to absolutely make sure that it is passed because it does give more rights to the people who live in Nunavut. That is extremely important.
Maybe at some point in the future we should come back and look at this again but let us get the legislation through. Let us pass it. It is a good piece of legislation. It is timely and it is long overdue.
Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act
April 12th, 2002 / 10:45 a.m.
Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North Centre, MB
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased on behalf of my caucus to participate in this debate on Bill C-33 and, in particular, the amendment being proposed by the Government of Canada.
At the outset I will reiterate the position of our party on the bill and echo the words of my colleague, the aboriginal affairs critic, the member for Winnipeg Centre, who has worked long and hard with other members in the House on advancing the bill and pushing for an expeditious resolution of this matter.
As my colleague has noted on numerous occasions, the bill is long overdue. It is well noted in the House that in fact there were several predecessors to this bill, specifically Bill C-51 in the 35th parliament in 1996, and then again in the 36th parliament, Bill C-62. Both those bills died on the order paper despite the fact that there has been a long recognized need for legislation in this area and despite the fact that the people of Nunavut have called persistently for action from the government.
It is clear, and I am sure the member for Nunavut acknowledges, realizes and lives with this on a day to day basis, that the people of Nunavut have waited patiently for a very long time to see a bill finally come through all stages in the House of Commons. Obviously we are committed to and interested in seeing this process come to an end and seeing the action taken that is so desperately needed.
Clearly the whole issue of Nunavut land claims settlement in the areas of land use, water and environmental assessment boards is paramount and critical. It is in fact scandalous that nothing has happened since June 1993. Of course we want to see the bill move through the House and action taken. However, we are concerned today with the announcement from the government that in fact a very important clause in Bill C-33 is recommended for deletion to the House of Commons.
I have listened carefully to the debate and have tried to understand the rationale for the deletion of this clause and have yet to appreciate any significant rationale for this initiative. I listened to the member for the Alliance suggesting that in fact this is in the best interests of the people of Nunavut and that this deletion of the non-derogation clause is according to their wishes and intent.
My understanding of the situation is that in fact the people of Nunavut would like to see some form of a non-derogation clause in the bill. Perhaps the wording of this one before us today poses some difficulties, but I think it would still be concluded that it is better than nothing. My colleague from Winnipeg Centre indicated that this issue was discussed thoroughly at committee stage and he was pleased to see that there was at least something in the bill around non-derogation.
I think it is particularly important that we understand the historical basis for such a clause and appreciate the reasons for the need to include a provision like this in a bill of this nature, especially today when we are on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the charter of rights and freedoms entrenched in our constitution in section 35, part of the Constitution Act. It is a very important development in the history of Canada which actually recognized that aboriginal rights are part of our history and must be entrenched in the constitution and that those inherent rights cannot be signed away by any document. It was felt that a bill of this nature should surely include a non-derogation clause. It has become standard practice in legislation dealing with aboriginal and treaty rights.
To quote from the speech of my colleague from Winnipeg Centre, he noted for the House that:
In anything dealing with aboriginal rights, a non-derogation clause has become standard practice, in that nothing in this newly signed agreement will derogate or in any way diminish rights that are inherent within the charter of rights and freedoms or the constitution. The inherent rights that aboriginal people enjoy cannot be signed away by any document.
That is the spirit behind this amendment.
It was noted at committee that the wording of the particular clause dealing with non-derogation was problematic. I think the leadership of Nunavut did indicate problems with that non-derogation clause. There was an attempt to change it to be more acceptable and responsive to the wishes of the people of Nunavut and in fact it was recommended that the clause should actually be rephrased to state:
Nothing in the bill should derogate from any existing aboriginal or treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada under the Constitution Act, 1982.
That proposed amendment was in keeping with the wishes of the delegations from Nunavut. It was simple and straightforward but unfortunately did not succeed at committee stage. We are left with the non-derogation clause as outlined in Bill C-33 which is now being proposed for deletion. That represents a concern for us and does temper our support for Bill C-33.
I want to register those concerns and to indicate that we will be listening closely throughout the remainder of the debate for a better understanding of why such an amendment is being proposed. It would seem to us that anything we can do as a House of Commons to recognize the long struggle of aboriginal peoples to pursue the fundamental notion of their inalienable rights being entrenched in the constitution and to encapsulate the spirit of that constitutional provision is absolutely vital and must be pursued.