Transboundary Waters Protection Act

An Act to amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act and the International River Improvements Act

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.

Sponsor

Lawrence Cannon  Conservative

Status

Second reading (House), as of May 13, 2010
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act to prohibit the bulk removal of transboundary waters. Some definitions and exceptions that are currently found in regulations are transferred to the Act. The enactment also provides for measures to administer and enforce the Act. Lastly, it also makes a consequential amendment to the International River Improvements Act.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Transboundary Waters Protection Act
Private Members' Business

February 8th, 2013 / 1:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Gary Schellenberger Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to join the debate on Bill C-383, the transboundary waters protection act.

First, I would like to thank my colleague from Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound for bringing this important legislation forward. The support that the bill has received so far is a testament to his efforts and reflects the position of Canadians from all regions of this country on the need to protect Canada's waters.

Bulk removals of water would pose a significant threat to Canada's environment. The protection of this resource is of vital importance to all Canadians. That is why, in 2008, our government made a commitment in the Speech from the Throne to put in place stronger protections to prevent the bulk removal of water. It is also why we introduced Bill C-26, which unfortunately died on the order paper with the 2011 election call.

Thanks to the work of the member from Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, we have this bill before us. The time has now come for the House to pass the legislation, which would ensure Canadian waters are protected from bulk removals. I am glad to see that Bill C-383 is supported by the government and by members of all parties.

As my colleague mentioned, the transboundary waters protection act would amend two acts: the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act and the International River Improvements Act. Amendments to the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act would prevent the bulk removal of water from transboundary waters, waters that flow across borders. Boundary waters that straddle the border, such as the Great Lakes, are already protected under the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act and its regulations. With the changes found in Bill C-383, all of these waters under federal jurisdiction would be protected from the bulk removal of water to outside the country.

There are other elements found in Bill C-383 that would strengthen protections against bulk removals. For example, proposed amendments to the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act would bring the enforcement authority fine schemes and sentencing provisions of the act in line with those found in the Environmental Enforcement Act, which delivers on the government's commitment to bolster protection of water, air, land and wildlife through more effective enforcement.

Provisions found in Bill C-383, which would amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act, closely follow the regime from the Environmental Enforcement Act, in terms of the fine schemes. I must remind everyone again of these penalties. Sentencing provisions and enforcement tools would be available. These provisions would include mandatory minimum fines for designated offences and increased maximum fines of all offences under prosecution and conviction.

In addition to higher fines, the act would set out fine ranges that vary according to the nature of the offences and the type of offender, such as individuals, small revenue corporations and corporations. Each of these categories of offender would face stiff fines for violations. For example, individuals could face up to $1 million in fines and a corporation up to $6 million for the first offence. For a second or subsequent offence, the applicable fine range would double. Fines for contravening the law would be cumulative, meaning that a violation that continues for more than one day would be seen as a separate offence for each day that it continues.

Further, the court must order an offender to pay additional fines if the court determines that the offender obtained any property, benefit or advantage from the commission of the offence. Courts also must consider increasing fines if the offence caused damage or risk of damage to the environment. As with the other federal environmental statutes that were amended through the Environmental Enforcement Act, the bill includes other provisions that would enhance the goals of deterrence, denunciation and restoration, which are the fundamental purposes of sentencing.

This legislation contains provisions aligned with the publication of information about an offence committed and the punishment imposed as well as provisions requiring that corporate shareholders be notified in the event of a conviction. The objective is to encourage compliance, given the importance of public opinion to corporate success.

As we can see, this legislation provides strict consequences for violation of the act. The goal is quite simple: to deter anyone from attempting to violate the bulk removal of water prohibitions found in the act.

Bill C-383 would also move certain definitions and exceptions from the regulations for the International Boundaries Water Treaty Act into the act itself. This would make it more difficult to change these definitions or exceptions at a later date and would provide Parliament with a stronger oversight role, should changes ever be considered.

I would also like to take a few minutes to speak about the provision in the bill that would amend the International River Improvements Act. The purpose of the International River Improvements Act is to ensure that international rivers are developed and used in the national interest. International rivers are waters that flow from any place in Canada to any place outside Canada. The International River Improvements Act requires proponents that would like to construct improvements, such as dams, canals, obstructions, reservoirs or other works that would significantly alter the flow or level of any international river at the international boundary, to apply for a licence. This act allows the federal government to ensure that all such works are constructed and operated in a manner that complies with the Canada-U.S. boundary treaty.

Bill C-383 would amend the act to prevent the use of international rivers to transfer large quantities of water across the border. As mentioned in previous speeches and during committee consideration of this bill, some water experts see the use of international rivers as a potentially efficient pathway for transferring water in bulk. To prevent this from happening, Bill C-383 would amend the International River Improvements Act to prohibit licences for linking waters wholly in Canada with international rivers and then using those rivers to move water in bulk across the border. This amendment to the International River Improvements Act would add another layer of protection against the bulk removal of water from Canada. It was endorsed by experts from the Munk School of Global Affairs during the recent standing committee consideration of Bill C-383.

I would once again like to offer my thanks to the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound for introducing this legislation. As we have seen, the bill is roundly supported by members of the House. I urge all members to support this legislation when it comes up for a vote.

October 25th, 2012 / 9:50 a.m.
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J. Owen Saunders Senior Fellow and Adjunct Professor, Canadian Institute of Ressources Law, University of Calgary

Good morning. I would like to begin by echoing Adèle's thanks to the committee for the opportunity to be with you this morning.

My remarks today reflect the long-standing interest that CWIC has had in the issue of interbasin removals of water generally, and water exports more specifically. Over four years ago, CWIC developed a model act for preserving Canada’s waters with a view to stimulating debate on this very subject. While the model act suggested one approach to foreclosing the possibility of water exports, we recognized there were other possible legislative avenues for addressing the issue. Regardless of the particular approach, however, there is no doubt about how Canadians feel about the ultimate goal. Canadians have been consistent and firm in their insistence that they do not want to see their endowment of water put at risk through interbasin transfers in the name of chasing, at best, doubtful economic gains.

In this respect, while Bill C-383, the transboundary waters protection act, takes a somewhat different approach than that suggested in CWIC's model act, it nevertheless achieves the same goals that CWIC has been pursuing for several years.

As members of this committee are no doubt aware, the issue of water exports has arisen on a number of occasions over the past five decades, beginning with a series of proposed megaprojects in the 1960s, and then emerging again, first in the context of trade negotiations in the 1980s and 1990s, and subsequently as the result of an abortive private sector proposal to export water by tanker from the Great Lakes. This proposal led to an amendment to the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act in 2002 and the issuance of a joint reference, the water uses reference, by Canada and the United States to the International Joint Commission.

In the 2002 amendments, the government addressed only one potential threat to Canada’s waters by prohibiting, with certain limited exceptions, the interbasin removal of boundary waters, that is, those waters through which the international boundary runs, for example, the Great Lakes. It did not address the potential threat of water export by means of transboundary waters, that is, principally rivers that cross the boundary. While this approach had the constitutional advantage of fitting squarely within the empire treaties clause of the Constitution, it also had the obvious disadvantage of leaving unprotected important potential pathways for water export. It was in light of this legislative deficiency that CWIC took on the task of encouraging debate on a more ambitious approach toward limiting the possibility of water exports.

Subsequent to its throne speech undertakings of 2008 and 2009, the federal government did indeed bring forward its own legislative initiative on water exports in the spring of 2010 with the introduction by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bill C-26, which eventually died on the order paper with the calling of a federal election. CWIC had the opportunity to comment on that bill in a letter to the minister. While we in general supported the intent of the bill, our view was that it did not go far enough in precluding bulk removals and, in particular, those proposals for bulk removal that were the most likely to be brought forward.

We therefore welcome the current bill, Bill C-383, which, in our view, while building on Bill C-26, goes beyond it in a crucial respect through its amendment to the International River Improvements Act and, in particular, through the addition of proposed subsection 13(1), which would prohibit the issuance of a licence under the act for any international river improvement linking non-boundary or boundary waters to an international river, the purpose of which would be to increase its annual flow. Especially in light of the broad definitions of “international river” and “international river improvement” in the legislation, this seems to us to accomplish the task of truly precluding the use of transboundary rivers as a vehicle for carrying out the export of water.

CWIC recognizes that Bill C-383 will not address all the concerns that have been raised by some Canadians with respect to the export of water. For example, potential marine tankers from coastal lakes and rivers would not be covered. Similarly, there would continue to be statutory exceptions that permit the export of manufactured products containing water, including bottled water or other beverages. However, while we do not preclude other legislative initiatives, apart from existing provincial legislation, to address this possibility, we also recognize that neither the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act nor the International River Improvements Act is likely to be the appropriate vehicle for such measures.

In sum, based on our research, the Canadian Water Issues Council acknowledges that the goal of protecting Canada's water resources from bulk export is significantly accomplished by way of this proposed legislation. We are particularly pleased to see the level of cross-partisan support it seems to have achieved to date.

October 25th, 2012 / 9:05 a.m.
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Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, CPC

Larry Miller

First of all, going back to your earlier comments, the Munk School fully supports this bill.

You referred to it being similar to another bill. I made that quite clear. Yes, this is basically Bill C-26, but with some clauses that actually strengthen it. I believe that the amendment that has been added in here was something the Munk School addressed.

Regarding your comment about the intent of this bill, are you implying this bill is not good? I'm not sure.

October 25th, 2012 / 9:05 a.m.
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Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Thank you.

I'd like to preface my questions with a comment.

The government, in two throne speeches, essentially committed to blocking the export of water by blocking interbasin transfers. In those throne speeches, the government was reacting to the bill that I introduced, which is the one, Mr. Miller, that you mentioned you couldn't support because you thought it invaded provincial jurisdiction. That bill was based on the work of the Munk School.

Here's what I find curious. This is just a comment. I'm not really asking you this question because you're not the minister, but what I find curious is that in two throne speeches we talked about essentially adopting the model in my bill prohibiting interbasin transfers, and then, when Bill C-26 came out, which is your bill, really—your bill is Bill C-26—it had a big loophole. It wasn't going to even address interbasin transfers into boundary waters. It just leads me to question the government's real intentions all along in its two throne speech commitments. That's just a comment.

Is this not a trade bill, really? As you said, the goal is to ban bulk water exports through transboundary rivers. Would that not make it a trade bill?

October 25th, 2012 / 8:45 a.m.
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Larry Miller Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, CPC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

It's great to be here with regard to my private member's bill. I'd like to thank the committee for dealing with it so quickly after it passed second reading in the House on October 3. I appreciate that. As you all know, it did pass with unanimous consent that day. While I won't characterize it as a grandma and apple pie bill, I think it's seen somewhat that way. It seems to be a non-partisan bill, and that was my intent in drafting it.

This bill, as you all know, amends the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act. It strengthens prohibitions against bulk removals of water that currently are in place. The change ensures that all waters under federal jurisdiction are protected from bulk water removals. These amendments are meant to complement provincial protections that are already in place to protect waters under their jurisdiction. The bill also strengthens the penalty and enforcement provisions and moves some definitions and exemptions found in the regulations into the body of the act. It makes the provisions that much stronger, I think, and parliamentary oversight of the act will be a little easier to conduct. There are some minor exceptions, such as for firefighting, and humanitarian purposes.

Bill C-383 is very similar to legislation which the government introduced in the previous Parliament as Bill C-26. There was one criticism of that bill at the time by the Munk School of Global Affairs, and this bill has that amendment in it. The primary difference between Bill C-26 and Bill C-383 is an amendment to the International River Improvements Act that will prohibit a licence being issued for a project that links non-boundary waters to an international river where the purpose or effect is to increase the annual flow of the international water borders. This is intended to prevent the use of an international river as a conveyance to transfer water across the border.

Having spelled out those two issues, Mr. Chair, I understand some amendments are coming forward which, for technical reasons, aren't ready to be presented to the committee today, but I am aware of the ones being proposed. In my view they're housekeeping matters, and I have absolutely no problem with them.

With that, I'm certainly willing to take questions.

Transboundary Waters Protection Act
Private Members’ Business

October 1st, 2012 / 11:55 a.m.
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Conservative

Larry Miller Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to finally get to second reading on my private member's bill. My riding of Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, like yours, borders on beautiful Georgian Bay as well as Lake Huron on the west. Therefore, this is very important to me and a lot of other members in the House, including you. I want to thank my colleagues today who have all stood to speak to this, including the opposition.

This is an issue that carries on, as has been pointed out many times, Bill C-26 tabled by the government in 2010. In the throne speech of 2008, the government made a commitment to address this issue, but we ended up going to an election. I thank the opposition for that because I probably would not have had a chance to bring this bill forward.

One thing that needs to be pointed out, and has been pointed out by a couple of members today, is that this bill is be stronger than Bill C-26. Some issues were raised by some different groups and organizations at the time. Showing that we want to get along and address all the issues, that amendment has been addressed. I know the comments from those groups have been very positive and they thankful for that.

The Prime Minister has said many times that our water is not for sale. I do not know how many times he has to say that before people get it, but this bill really fortifies that. Yes, water is a commodity, but it is not a commodity like oil or minerals, or trees or lumber. It is something that has to be treated differently. It cannot be sold on the market in the same way. It has to be protected, as pointed out by my colleague across the way.

That same colleague wanted to know if the government would treat this bill differently from Bill C-26. I think it is very clear to anybody who has a clear mind on this that Bill C-26 would have gone through had the opposition not been intent on an election. Therefore, we had to shove that one aside.

I was glad the member for Burnaby—New Westminster rose to speak in favour of the bill. I have not had any recent reason to doubt him in any way. However, his leader is on record as being in favour of the sale of bulk water. I will take his word for it that on Wednesday, when we vote on the bill, his leader will be here and will vote in favour of it. I guess until that night comes, I will not know for sure.

Bill C-383 stays out of provincial jurisdiction. Some people wanted to know why it did not go further. Provinces like Alberta, Quebec and others do not like it when we step into their jurisdiction, and with good reason. The bill is deliberately designed to stay out of their jurisdiction We are looking after our jurisdiction. We know they will look after theirs. This needs to be pointed out.

I want to personally thank my colleagues from Elgin—Middlesex—London and Niagara West—Glanbrook for their support. They both have ridings that border the Great Lakes. I certainly appreciate their support.

With no further ado, it appears as though I will have widespread support for this bill, as I should. It is a bill that is not partisan in any way. I think it looks after water, which is vital to all of us for life. I certainly thank members for their support on Wednesday night and as this bill carries on to third and final reading.

Transboundary Waters Protection Act
Private Members’ Business

October 1st, 2012 / 11:50 a.m.
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NDP

François Pilon Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my views regarding the bill before us, Bill C-383, introduced by the hon. member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound.

This bill has to do with our water resources, and as a member of the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development, I have a special interest in this issue. I am therefore pleased to be able to add my two cents to the debate.

With just one exception, Bill C-383 is identical to Bill C-26, which was introduced by the government in 2010 following its promise to bring in legislation to ban all bulk water transfers or exports from Canadian water basins.

On the positive side, the bill before us today addresses a large gap that existed in the previous bill and was pointed out by the Canadian Water Issues Council, specifically, that Bill C-26 did not address the most plausible threat to Canadian waters: the threat of transfers from a water basin that is neither a boundary nor transboundary water body from Canada into the United States.

This bill would amend the International River Improvements Act to prohibit the issuing of permits for projects that link non-boundary waters to an international river when the purpose of said projects is to increase the annual flow towards the United States. This important change would prohibit the issuing of a permit to build, operate or maintain a canal or pipeline transporting Canadian water to an international river.

Although Bill C-383 does have some strengths and represents a step in the right direction, it is obvious that it does not prohibit all bulk water exports. Consequently, because water is considered a commodity, NAFTA has long been a threat to Canada's sovereignty over water resources.

To counter this threat, in June 2007 the New Democratic Party introduced a motion sponsored by the hard-working and extraordinary member for Burnaby—New Westminster asking the government to initiate talks with its U.S. and Mexican counterparts to exclude water from the scope of NAFTA. This motion was adopted by the House, but the government has not followed up with these countries.

In 2010, the government introduced Bill C-26, which was mentioned earlier. The bill did not progress past first reading.

In 2011, our brilliant colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster raised the issue again with a new motion for a national water strategy.

I hope that Bill C-383 comes to fruition, unlike Bill C-26 and the motions of the member for Burnaby—New Westminster. I hope that this time the government will take Bill C-383 seriously and implement it.

Transboundary Waters Protection Act
Private Members’ Business

October 1st, 2012 / 11:40 a.m.
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Conservative

Joe Preston Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to lend my support to Bill C-383, the transboundary waters protection act. This bill, introduced by my colleague from Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, would prohibit the bulk removal of water from transboundary waters, waters that flow across borders. This would strengthen the protections against bulk water removals from boundary waters, waters shared with the United States such as the Great Lakes.

As members know, in May 2010, our government introduced Bill C-26. That bill, like the one we are debating today, would have amended the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act. At the time, we introduced that important legislation after reviewing options for improving and strengthening protections for the purpose of preventing bulk water removals. Unfortunately Bill C-26 died on the order paper when Parliament was dissolved.

This issue did not go away with the election call and, as we all know, protection of our waters is an issue of critical importance to all Canadians. I am confident it is something all members in this House will agree with, no matter on which side of the aisle they sit.

Why is this the case? It is clear from an environmental standpoint that the bulk removal of water is both environmentally and ecologically damaging. It removes water from the basins that depend on it. It deprives those living in the basin and the ecosystem itself of a critical resource. It also increases the risk of invasive species transfer if previously separated water basins are connected. It is this environmental component that is critical. The potential harm this could cause to the environment led our government to introduce Bill C-26, and I am happy to see the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound has taken up the cause and introduced this legislation, which I would like to call Bill C-26-plus.

In a few minutes I will explain what I mean by Bill C-26-plus, but now I will discuss why the approach found in Bill C-383 is the appropriate way and the best path forward. In previous parliaments we have seen multiple bills aimed at preventing bulk water removals. These bills may take different approaches to addressing the issue, but the goal is the same: prohibiting the bulk removal of Canada's water and protecting Canada's fresh water for the communities and ecosystems that depend on it.

We have recently debated another bulk water bill, Bill C-267, introduced by my Liberal colleague from Lac-Saint-Louis. That bill takes the approach of banning all inter-basin transfers. Bill C-383 takes a similar approach but focuses on water within federal jurisdiction. This difference recognizes that the provinces have a key role to play in the protection of Canada's water. Water is a natural resource, and so we must recognize that the provinces have their constitutional jurisdiction. They take this role seriously. They have protections in place to prevent bulk removal of water in their territories and from their territories. They have the same commitment to the protection as the federal government and as Canadians in general. Our government intends to keep working with the provinces to ensure that these protections remain robust and that all jurisdictions take care of waters under their purview.

As we all know, there are already strong protections in place at the federal level to prevent bulk removals from boundary waters, those that straddle the international boundary as I mentioned earlier. This obviously includes the Great Lakes, but transboundary waters, which are those that flow across the border, are not protected federally. Bill C-383 aims at bringing these same prohibitions to transboundary waters, which are also under a federal jurisdiction. This would bring much-needed consistency and would ensure all of these types of waters are protected.

Looking at the approach taken in Bill C-383 to prohibit bulk removals, I emphasize that this legislation focuses on water in its natural state in lakes and rivers. We view this as being the best way to protect water. Other approaches that are mentioned from time to time, such as export bans, would not provide the same level of protection as dealing with water in its natural state. We believe that taking an approach that focuses on the sustainable management of water in its basin as a natural resource is the best way to ensure it remains there.

While on the subject, I will take this opportunity to clarify the issue of NAFTA, the North American free trade agreement, and water. Water in its natural state, such as a river or a lake, is not a commodity and has never been subject to any trade agreement.

Although this has been stated from time to time, given the confusion over the issue, it is worth repeating. Nothing in NAFTA, or for that matter in any of our trade agreements, prevents us from protecting our water. These agreements do not create obligations to use water. Nor do they limit our ability to adopt laws for managing our water resources.

The status of fresh water under NAFTA was reaffirmed in 1993 when Canada, the United States and Mexico declared that the agreement created no rights to the NAFTA resources of any party to the agreement and that unless water had entered into commerce and became a good or a product, it would not covered by the provisions of any trade agreement. Further, it was agreed that nothing in NAFTA would oblige any party to exploit its water for commercial use or to begin exporting water in any form.

Finally, it was declared that water in its natural state was not a good or product, it was not traded and therefore it was not, and never had been, subject to the terms of any trade agreement.

As we have said, Bill C-383 is similar to Bill C-26 in terms of the added protections provided to water under federal jurisdiction. However, as I said early, it is Bill C-26-plus, and here is why.

As mentioned by previous speakers, this bill contains an amendment to the International River Improvements Act, which would ensure that the waterways flowing from Canada across international boundaries could not be used to deliver water coming from other sources out of the country.

For example, there would be a prohibition to linking non-transboundary waters to an international river for the purpose of increasing the annual flow of that river. An international river is one that flows from any place in Canada to any place outside of Canada. This increase in annual flow would be bulk water transport and would be forbidden.

When our government introduced Bill C-26 last Parliament, some groups stated that we did not do as much as we could in protecting our waters. What my colleague from Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound has done in his bill is add an additional protection by including this amendment to the International River Improvements Act. By prohibiting the use of an international river to transport water originating from outside its watershed, the legislation would prevent what could be a potentially efficient way to transport water long distances from being used for bulk removals.

This small change from Bill C-26 is a significant protection and I hope that groups in our country, which have been long-time proponents on behalf of protecting Canada's water, will recognize that Bill C-383 is worthy of their support.

Finally, I would like to briefly touch on the penalty and enforcement provisions included in Bill C-383. These provisions are in line with those found in the other environmental statutes, which are amended through the Environment Enforcement Act of 2009. This includes an enforcement regime that would allow the Minister of Foreign Affairs to designate enforcement officials for the purpose of verifying compliance with the act.

The penalties for violations are steep, such as up to $1 million for an individual and $6 million for a corporation. These penalties are cumulative, meaning that each day the violation occurs will be considered a separate violation. In addition, courts will be able to impose additional fines on offenders where there are aggravating factors, including environmental damage.

I would like to once again thank my colleague from Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound for introducing the bill. He comes from an area surrounded by the Great Lakes, the rugged shores of the Bruce Peninsula, sandy beaches like Sauble Beach in Oliphant. He recognizes not only recreationally but economically what water can be for Canada. Coming from a riding on the Great Lakes myself, I commend him for what he has done.

I believe the approach taken in Bill C-383 will ensure that Canada's waters are protected and that bulk removals of water from Canada will never take place. The legislation covers waters under federal jurisdiction and recognizes the good work that the provinces have undertaken over the years to prohibit bulk removals of water from their territories.

Both federal and provincial governments understand the potential harm that bulk removal can have on the environment and our government is committed to doing its part to protect our waters. I encourage all members of the House to support the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound on Bill C-383.

Transboundary Waters Protection Act
Private Members’ Business

October 1st, 2012 / 11:30 a.m.
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NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, water is without a doubt our most precious resource. Without water, humankind cannot survive. Some 75% of the earth's surface is made up of water, which is a unique situation in our solar system. The small blue sphere that astronauts see from space and describe so passionately must be protected. Water is essential to the equilibrium of this planet. Meanwhile, there is increasing pressure on our water resources. For instance, global warming is increasing the frequency of droughts and floods. Rising temperatures are causing increased evaporation of water resources and causing water levels to fall in our lakes and rivers, as was the case this summer in the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes.

An increasing global population is also adding to the demand for drinking water. The demand for water is increasing not only in terms of individual consumption, but also for the production of many consumer products. Four litres of water are needed to extract one litre of oil from the oil sands; 10 litres are needed to produce one sheet of paper; 30 litres for a cup of tea; 40 litres for a slice of bread; 70 litres for an apple and 75 litres for one glass of beer.

We are therefore facing a problem. Fresh water is more and more in demand, yet it is also more threatened by pressures related to population growth, climate change and industry. Some people believe that we are heading toward water wars. I hope that is not the case. However, one thing is for certain: water has become the blue gold of the 21st century.

Canada will thus have a key role to play in the coming years since our country holds 7% of the world's fresh water. The United States has been coveting our water supply for a number of years, particularly in times of drought. Many of the southern states are facing serious water shortages and have had to import water. Other emerging countries, such as China and India, will need larger quantities of water in the coming decades. States that have insufficient water will turn to those that have an abundance. We regularly hear about proposals to export fresh water by tanker. Concerns heightened with the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA in 1994. NAFTA considers water to be a consumer product, and some provisions of the agreement could open the door to the export of water.

The purpose of Bill C-383, which was introduced by the hon. member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, is to strengthen the prohibitions against bulk water removal. In fact, it corrects some of the shortcomings of Bill C-26, which was introduced by the government in 2010 and died on the order paper. The purpose of Bill C-26 was to prohibit the removal of water from transboundary and boundary waters; however, the bill did not take into account the most plausible threat to Canadian waters: the removal of water via interbasin transfers.

Bill C-383 will prohibit the issuance of licences for projects that link non-boundary waters to an international river where the purpose of the project is to increase annual flow to the United States. If the bill is passed, constructing a canal or pipeline channeling Canadian water into an international river, such as the Red River, will be prohibited.

This bill is a step in the right direction to protect our waters, but the official opposition is of the opinion that this bill will not completely resolve the issue of water management in Canada. Clearly, this private member's bill does not prohibit all types of bulk water export. It is also necessary to ensure the protection of surface water, regulate future exports of water by tanker, respond to threats presented by NAFTA and, above all, prohibit the export of bottled drinking water.

Last year, my colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster moved a motion in favour of a national water strategy, and we are very thankful for that. We believe that access to water is a fundamental right, that we must prohibit all commercial exports and that we must not privatize water services. Why? Because water is not a product; it is a common property resource. It is essential to the survival of our species and all other species. The UN General Assembly declared access to water a fundamental right in 2010. Unfortunately, Canada, led by the Conservatives, abstained and said that the right to water was not codified under international law.

It is time for Canada to play a key role with respect to access to water. Some entrepreneurs will say that we must export our water to the countries that need it. However, this commodification of water will not solve the problem, especially since the poorest people will not have the means to purchase this imported bottled water.

In addition, it is not simply a matter of export and supply; it is a matter of distribution.

Large quantities of water are wasted by the richest members of society—a minority—at the expense of the poorest.

It is estimated that, in developing countries, daily water needs vary between 20 and 30 litres a day, and some very poor individuals consume only three or four litres. In Canada, the average person consumes 300 litres of water a day, which is the equivalent of three full bathtubs. That is double the amount consumed by a European. Canada is the second-biggest waster of drinking water after the United States.

Before talking about exports, we should talk about conservation. Our overconsumption of manufactured products, the exploitation of natural resources under conditions that are not mindful of the environment, and waste all have disastrous consequences on our water management.

We must also remember that old water systems that are not maintained or repaired can cause huge leaks and a lot of waste. We must repair the pipes and filtration systems, which are now a municipal responsibility.

Lacking resources, municipalities are turning to private investors to finance the work. However, water is a matter of public health and safety and it should be managed by the government, which is accountable to the community. When for-profit businesses control the water, the quality decreases and costs increase.

The federal government should help the municipalities upgrade their water supply infrastructure.

It is all well and fine for the Conservatives to announce new wastewater treatment regulations, but the fact remains that the municipalities need to have a decent budget. What is more, the municipalities are still waiting for the budget that is yet to be announced by the federal government.

We must also recognize the importance of preserving the quality of our water. The cuts to the environmental monitoring programs and the changes to the Fisheries Act will have a catastrophic impact on our waters. Fish habitat will no longer be protected, there will be fewer environmental assessments of industrial projects—the number of assessments already went down by 3,000 this summer—and the public will not be consulted as it used to be.

All of this is a result of the omnibus Bill C-38, which passed in June. In addition to weakening our environmental laws, this Conservative government is cutting water monitoring and research programs. It is axing programs such as the Municipal Water and Wastewater Survey, which collected data on water sources, water use and wastewater treatment levels.

The government is also abolishing environmental effects monitoring studies, a scientific tool to detect changes in aquatic ecosystems affected by effluent.

All these cuts will have an impact on water quality. Need I remind hon. members that in 2000, seven people died in Walkerton, Ontario, when drinking water was contaminated by E. coli?

Do we want to see poor water quality management cause other similar tragedies? Who will want to import Canadian water if there is any doubt about its quality and safety?

In closing, I would like to say that it is wrong to believe that Canada is protected from a water shortage. A quarter of Canadian municipalities have already dealt with water shortages, and a third of them rely on groundwater to meet their current needs.

We must have a national water strategy, as my colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster proposed in 2010.

The bill introduced by the hon. member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound is a step in the right direction, but it is does not go far enough.

The environmental crisis we are experiencing requires fundamental changes to our lifestyle and our resource development policy.

There is no room for ideology or partisanship. We need pragmatism, initiative and leadership on the national and international levels.

We must not leave our children and grandchildren with a social and environmental debt. The time to act is now.

Transboundary Waters Protection Act
Private Members’ Business

October 1st, 2012 / 11:20 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Dean Allison Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity today to speak in support of Bill C-383, sponsored by my colleague from Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound. The protection of Canadian waters is important to him, as it is for all members of the House, and, to that extent, all Canadians.

During a previous debate on the bill, I was pleased to hear that colleagues on the other side of the aisle expressed their support for this important and timely legislation.

Environment Canada points out a number of important courses of action. Managing Canada's water resources, which represents about 7% of the world's renewable freshwater or about 20% of the world's freshwater is found in Canada, and everyone is responsible. We want to ensure that our water resources are used wisely, both economically and ecologically.

Also, we want to manage the resource because various users are competing for the available supply of freshwater to satisfy basic needs, to enable economic development, to sustain the natural environment and to support recreational activities.

Environment Canada is also correct in its indication that it is necessary to reconcile these needs and promote the use of freshwater in a way that recognizes its social, economic and environmental benefits.

I am sure all members of this House will attest to the notion that the waters that surround and are encompassed within Canada are of the utmost importance to Canadians. They play a deep role in our country's birth and its continued success economically, culturally and nationally.

During my tenure on the Standing Committee on International Trade, as well as presently serving as chair of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, I have come to understand and appreciate the protections we have in place for our water supplies.

The transboundary waters protection act would amend two acts, the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act and the International River Improvements Act. Through the amendments to the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act, Bill C-383 would strengthen prohibitions against bulk removals of water and improve upon protections currently in place.

At the federal level, a prohibition currently exists against the bulk removal of boundary waters; waters shared with the United States, such as the Great Lakes. The new amendments in Bill C-383 would add transboundary waters, those that flow across the border, to these protections.

The changes found in Bill C-383 would ensure that all waters that are under a federal jurisdiction are protected from bulk water removals. They complement provincial protections that are in place to protect waters under their jurisdictions.

It is important to note that there are other elements in Bill C-383 that would strengthen protections against bulk water removals. Penalties and enforcement mechanisms would be strengthened under the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act. Violations would bring penalties ranging from up to $1 million for an individual to $6 million for a corporation. These penalties would be cumulative, meaning that every day the violation occurs is considered a separate violation. Therefore, penalties can increase rapidly. While these fines provide a strong deterrence for violations of the act, there is also the potential for further penalties that would allow the courts to add penalties for aggravating factors, such as damage to the environment or profiting from any actions. These provisions would bring this act in line with amendments made by our government to nine other environmental protection statutes in 2009 through the Environmental Enforcement Act.

Bill C-383 would improve on current protections by moving certain definitions and exceptions from the regulations into the act itself. Bringing these definitions into legislation would ensure that parliamentary approval would be required to make any future changes to the exceptions or definitions.

Bill C-383 would also make changes to the International River Improvements Act to prevent the linking of boundary or non-boundary waters with a waterway flowing across the border for the purpose of increasing the annual flow of this waterway. This would prevent an international river, that is a river flowing from any place in Canada to any place outside of Canada, from being used as a conveyance to move water out of this country.

I would like to point out that the following introduction of government Bill C-26 during the last Parliament, the Canadian Water Issues Council wrote to the Minister of Foreign Affairs in June 2010 and, among other things, highlighted the concept and potential threat of the transfer of water from a non-transboundary basin into a transboundary river. I am happy to say that an amendment to the IRIA found in Bill C-383 would prevent this from happening. This is a valuable addition to the bill. These changes, along with the protections that the provinces have in place, would provide strong protections against bulk water removals.

During the previous debate, some members raised questions about the trade and export of water. I assure my colleagues that their concerns have been addressed. Bill C-383 and the International Boundaries Water Treaty Act would regulate and protect water in its natural state as found within its basins. Water, in its natural state, is not considered a good or a product. Therefore, water in its natural state is not subject to the provisions or obligations of the trade agreement, including the North America Free Trade Agreement.

Water in its natural state is like other natural resources, such as trees in the forest, fish in the sea or minerals in the ground. They can all be transformed into saleable commodities through harvesting or extraction but, until that step is taken, they remain natural resources and outside the scope of international trade agreements. Because they are natural resources, governments are free to decide whether they should be extracted and, if so, under what circumstances.

This point is clearly demonstrated in the fisheries industry where governments have the discretionary power to decide whether to allow fishing, when and where fishing is allowed and the total quantity of fish that can be caught, even though the harvesting of fish and treating the caught fish as a commodity is a long-standing practice in Canada and around the world. Therefore, in this case, we would be regulating water as a natural resource. Due to the potentially negative impacts of bulk water removals, we would prohibit its removal in bulk. I want to assure all members that none of our trade obligations prevent us from doing this.

It has been suggested that by allowing some water to be exported as a commodity, it automatically means that all water is a commodity and subject to international trade rules. The fisheries analogy provides a good illustration. Those familiar with the fishing industry would not suggest that because some fish are caught and sold as commodities, it would mean that Canada has lost the ability to regulate this industry from a resource management perspective and, by doing so, runs afoul of trade rules. So it is with water. While it is in its natural state, it is considered a natural resource and, therefore, remains outside the trade rules.

Our government is committed to protecting Canada's freshwater for the communities and ecosystems that depend upon it. We believe that Canada's sovereignty extends to our natural resources, including our freshwater. That is why I am pleased to support my colleague's bill which would achieve these objectives.

I thank members of the House for their support of the bill and their desire to see it pass second reading and be referred to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development. As I have described, this bill would: improve our existing bulk water protections; add transboundary waters to the protections already in place for boundary waters; strengthen penalties to ensure that violations are met with the appropriate punishment; and moves exemptions and definitions from the regulations into the body of the act, ensuring that any future changes would be undertaken with the scrutiny of Parliament.

This bill would provide the protections we need to prevent the harm that could result from the permanent loss of water from Canadian ecosystems. I am grateful that the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound took a leadership role to advance this issue. I look forward to continuing a discussion of this bill during the committee stage.

Transboundary Waters Protection Act
Private Members' Business

June 8th, 2012 / 1:55 p.m.
See context

Mississauga—Erindale
Ontario

Conservative

Bob Dechert Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to lend our government's support to my hon. colleague, the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, and to take a few minutes to discuss what I believe is an important subject for all Canadians. The member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound has a long history of working to protect Canadian waters and has been an advocate on behalf of the Great Lakes, for instance, going back many years.

Bill C-383, transboundary waters protection act, aims to prohibit the bulk removal of water from Canadian transboundary waters, which are waters that flow across the border, and to further strengthen protections against bulk removal from boundary waters, which are waters like the Great Lakes that straddle the border. The bill would be an important improvement for protecting Canada's water resources. A similar version of this legislation was tabled in the previous Parliament by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and in the 2008 Speech from the Throne. Our government committed to introduce legislation to ban all bulk water transfers or exports from Canadian freshwater basins. Bill C-383 would achieve just that.

My hon. colleague mentioned earlier today that previous legislation unfortunately died on the order paper as a result of that unnecessary election in May 2011. I have to say, the result was a good one: a strong, stable, national majority Conservative government. It has brought a number of good members to this House, such as the member for Mississauga South, who spoke earlier today, the member for Simcoe—Grey, the member for Yukon and many others. For that, I guess I am grateful for that unnecessary election.

As my hon. colleague pointed out, there are already protections in place at the federal level under the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act to protect boundary waters such as the Great Lakes, but there are also possibilities for improvement. This bill strengthens these protections in several ways.

First, as I have already said, transboundary waters would now be protected in the same manner as boundary waters. Bill C-383, by expanding the protections to transboundary waters, also expands the area covered by a bulk water removal prohibition. Now the protections would extend to transboundary waters throughout the country. The legislation would amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act to have these basins named in the act itself and not just in the regulations.

The second area of improvement in Bill C-383 is that the penalty provisions and enforcement mechanisms would be tougher. The bill would provide the Minister of Foreign Affairs the power to designate inspectors to verify complaints with the act. As my colleague previously stated, there are provisions in this bill, including minimum and maximum penalties, for violations of the law.

The bill would improve on current protections by moving certain definitions and exceptions from the regulations into the act itself. This would codify them into the act, ensuring that parliamentary approval would be required to make any future changes to the exceptions.

I carefully watched the House debate on Bill C-267. I know that several members in the NDP expressed their concern about a government being able to rewrite exceptions or definitions almost at will. Well, by moving exceptions and definitions into the statute, Bill C-383 would make it much more difficult to make any such changes. As a matter of fact, it would require parliamentary scrutiny.

Long-time water advocates, such as former Senator Pat Carney and other senators, pressed for this while they were in the other place. These senators, like many others who follow water issues closely, recognize that the exceptions in this act are reasonable. For example, an exception for short-term, non-commercial bulk removal in order to supply water to put out a massive forest fire is not unreasonable, but rather a humanitarian need.

We need these exceptions in the act. We would not want to stand in the way of a humanitarian action by telling our neighbours that we would not allow the removal of water to put out a fire because it is against the law in our country. Instead, we want to ensure that there is a place for reasonable exceptions and that those exceptions are stated clearly in the act and cannot be changed in the same manner that a regulation can be changed.

As I stated earlier, Bill C-383 is similar to Bill C-26, introduced by our government in the last Parliament. However, in this bill, the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound added an important new provision that was not previously found in Bill C-26, which is an amendment to the International River Improvements Act.

The purpose of the International River Improvements Act is to ensure that international rivers, water flowing from any place in Canada to any place outside Canada, are developed and used in the national interest and assures that Canada meets its obligations under the Boundary Waters Treaty.

The specific amendments to the International River Improvements Act proposed in Bill C-383 define international river improvements to include pipelines and prohibit the issuance of a licence for an international river improvement that links non-transboundary waters to an international river, the purpose or effect of which is to increase the annual flow of the river. This is a significant improvement and protection.

We can look at risk areas for potential bulk water removals or transfers and determine areas where we find the greatest risk. One could be the Great Lakes, which some would consider the El Dorado of freshwater in North America, but, as I mentioned earlier, the Great Lakes are already protected from bulk removal by the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act.

Incidentally, I should add that the Great Lakes are also protected on the U.S. side of the basin due to the Great Lakes compact. Ontario and Quebec are partners with the Great Lakes states as part of a side agreement to that compact. Both of these provinces have legislation to prevent bulk water removals from their territories. Thus, all eight Great Lakes states are in agreement with us in Canada. No one wants to see Great Lakes water transferred out of the region. The Great Lakes are protected by the provinces on the U.S. side and federally in Canada under the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act.

Besides bulk water removals from the Great Lakes, another worry could be the potential use of a river flowing across the international boundary as a means of conveyance to transfer water in bulk outside Canada. Although this type of transfer is not occurring, we have been told that this is a potentially efficient way to move water across the border. The fear is a possible scheme that would seek to link, for instance, a body of water to an international river and this increased flow of water would then be the bulk transfer. To prevent this, Bill C-383 would amend the International River Improvements Act to prohibit the issuance of a licence for this type of activity.

I once again would like to thank the hon. member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound for introducing this legislation. This is in keeping with the direction that the government pursued during the last Parliament and remains the best way to proceed to protect Canada's water from bulk removal.

Bill C-383 would respect the role of the provinces in protecting water within their jurisdiction. By supporting it, members of the House can ensure that water under a federal jurisdiction, boundary and transboundary waters would also be protected from bulk removals and that this protection would be consistent throughout the country.

I am thankful for this opportunity to discuss Bill C-383. We understand the need to protect this vital resource and this legislation would do just that. I urge all members of the House to support this bill.

Transboundary Waters Protection Act
Private Members' Business

June 8th, 2012 / 1:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Larry Miller Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

moved that Bill C-383, An Act to amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act and the International River Improvements Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to begin second reading debate on Bill C-383, An Act to amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act and the International River Improvements Act. It sounds like a mouthful, but the subject matter of this legislation is straightforward and simple. It is simply to strengthen protections at the federal level to ensure that our waters are protected from bulk water removals.

I would like to thank my hon. colleague from Mississauga South, a relative rookie MP but a great colleague and a member who has a riding that borders on one of the Great Lakes and who realizes the importance of our water. I would like to thank her for her work on that.

Preserving and protecting Canada's freshwater has been a concern of mine for many years. Representing my constituents of Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, a riding that is defined by Lake Huron and Georgian Bay, which surround it on three sides, I understand very well the significance of freshwater to Canadians.

I am often asked what prompted me to put this bill forward. There are many who have said that I could have waited for the government to put this forth rather than introduce it as a private member's bill. However, I saw a need for the protection of our water and decided to act. I personally live on Georgian Bay and our lakes and waters are extremely important to me. I want to ensure that our freshwater will remain where it belongs: in Canada. I am hopeful that my granddaughters will be able to grow up and know the water in Canada will not be leaving.

For Canadians, water is more than a natural resource. It is one of the symbols that defines our country. Whether it is water found on our glaciers, on the Great Lakes, our large and small rivers and the almost countless lakes, ponds or fishing holes across this country, our freshwater is an important part of who we are and the protection of Canada's water is of paramount importance to Canadians in all parts of the country.

Our government has been committed to protecting our water and has introduced many measures to ensure that our water remains safe. We recently announced measures to protect our Great Lakes from Asian carp. Over the next five years, $17.5 million will be allocated to systems of prevention, early warning, rapid response and management and control against the invasion of Asian carp. We have also created tougher laws on the dumping of ballast water and introduced many other measures to protect our lakes.

Canadians want us to ensure that our waters are well protected. They want to know that Canada's freshwater will remain in Canada, supporting healthy ecosystems and communities. They want to know that both the federal and provincial governments have strong protections in place to protect waters under their jurisdictions from schemes or projects to remove them in bulk. After all, bulk removal would be a permanent loss of water from their ecosystems and communities and would risk upsetting delicate ecological balances, as well as depriving communities of an essential resource.

Before getting into the details of the proposed changes to the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act and the International River Improvements Act that are found in this legislation, let me provide some background on the protections that are currently in place to ensure that our water remains within Canada and protected from the harmful impacts that bulk removal would cause.

I am pleased that the waters in my back yard, Lake Huron, Georgian Bay and all the Great Lakes, are already protected from bulk removals. However, under the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act, bulk water removals are prohibited from boundary waters. Boundary waters are those waters through which the international boundary passes. The statute is explicit in this regard. Section 13 of the act states, “no person shall use or divert boundary waters by removing water from the boundary waters and taking it outside the water basin in which the boundary waters are located”.

Looking at the Great Lakes, I should also add that the provinces of Ontario and Quebec and our neighbours in the United States share the view that bulk diversions of water from the Great Lakes Basin are not desirable and that these waters should be protected. The Great Lakes compact, signed into U.S. federal law in 2008, contains strong protections against bulk diversions of water outside of the U.S. portion of the Great Lakes Basin. The eight Great Lakes states signed a related side instrument with the governments of Quebec and Ontario as part of that compact and they now work closely together on this and other Great Lakes issues.

Our provinces are focused on protecting water resources within their territories and for some time now provinces have had laws, regulations or policies in place to prevent the bulk removal of water. Going forward, therefore, they have a vital role in continuing to protect and maintain this important natural resource. The provinces recognize this. They have different ways of protecting waters under their jurisdictions, but are all committed to ensuring that water resources are protected and maintained for Canadians. I recognize that any way forward involves the federal government working closely with the provinces.

I have provided some background on the protections already in place to prevent the bulk removal of water. However, as I have said, we have good protections but there is an opportunity to go further. Public policy advocates have identified the lack of federal protections for waters, other than boundary waters, and have brought these concerns to our attention. For instance, there are no federal protections to prevent the bulk removal of water from transboundary waters. Transboundary waters are those waterways, such as rivers, that flow across the international boundary with the United States. This area was a focus of our government's previous legislation, Bill C-26, and is now found in Bill C-383. Everyone will know that Bill C-26 died on the order paper when we were forced into an unnecessary election a year ago.

A major focus of the legislation is to bring a coherent federal approach to covering boundary and transboundary waters. The foundation of our existing legislation is the view that water is essential to the functioning of healthy ecosystems and, by extension, to supporting healthy communities. Therefore, any removal of this water in bulk is deemed to be a permanent loss from the basin. Given the dependency of ecosystems and communities within a basin on its supply of water, we consider bulk removable to be unsustainable and having the potential to cause great harm to the environment.

First, Bill C-383 would amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act to provide transboundary waters with the same bulk water removal prohibitions as those currently in place for boundary waters. By bringing transboundary waters under the same protections as those for boundary waters, all waters that are covered by federal jurisdiction are brought under the same prohibitions against bulk water removals. In so doing, I must stress that the role of the provinces is respected. As a natural resource, the provinces maintain that jurisdiction over water within their territories. Some criticism of the bill was why it did not go into provincial jurisdictions. I deliberately stayed out of there. Provinces, like Alberta and Quebec, have always been sensitive to intervention by the federal government. When it is unnecessary, as in this case, we should stay out of there. We will leave that up to them. Our waters are protected.

For water on the international boundary, or for those crossing the border, the federal government maintains a jurisdiction as well. Taking this step, the federal government is ensuring that its current jurisdiction is exercised and that all waters under federal jurisdiction are treated equally.

Second, the bill makes further changes to strengthen the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act. Amendments to this act bring some of the definitions and regulations currently found in the international boundary waters regulations into the act itself. This is an additional strengthening of the act because it would now entrench key definitions, such as what constitutes the removal of water in bulk. Moreover, any exceptions of bulk removal would have to be approved by Parliament. By being in the act, the exceptions are clear. They cannot be changed or weakened unless it is the will of Parliament to change them.

I should be clear that the exceptions considered have to do with water used for such things as ballast or water used in a vehicle that transports animals or people outside the basin. The exceptions also allow for the removal of water temporarily for emergency or humanitarian purposes, such as firefighting, but not for commercial purposes. These exceptions are understandable and do not violate the purpose of the bulk water prohibition. I want to ensure that nothing in the act prevents those important exceptions from taking place.

Moving some of the definitions and exceptions from the current regulations into the act incorporates some of the changes promoted by two former senators, Pat Carney and Lowell Murray, who were long-time strong advocates for protecting Canada's waters.

In bills that those two senators introduced in the other place, they expressed the position that these exceptions were reasonable, but they worried that they could be too easily changed if they existed in regulation only.

In former Bill C-26, the government's bill during the last Parliament, these provisions were included, and I believe they should be included in the bill we are debating today. These provisions make the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act a stronger statute. I thank the two senators for their hard work on this issue over the years.

To further strengthen protection, Bill C-383 includes a provision not found in former Bill C-26. We have included an amendment to the International River Improvements Act that would prevent linking non-transboundary waters with a waterway flowing across the border for the purpose of increasing the annual flow of this waterway. This is significant as it would prevent an international river, that is a river flowing from any place in Canada to any place outside of Canada, from being used as a conveyance to move water out of this country.

Finally, I will take a moment to discuss the enforcement and penalty provisions in this bill. Bill C-383 would amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act to authorize the minister to designate inspectors for the purpose of verifying compliance with the act. Furthermore, it introduces a sentencing and penalty regime to the act, puts in place minimum penalties for certain offences and substantial maximum penalties, and directs courts to impose additional fines on offenders when the offence involves aggravating factors, such as damage to the environment and when the offender has profited from the offence.

I am pleased to present this bill for debate to the hon. members of this House. While protections currently exist at the federal and provincial levels, there is an opportunity to make these protections stronger.

It is my firm belief that Canada's water should remain in Canada for the use of Canadians. I am committed to ensuring that Canada's water cannot be removed in bulk from our transboundary and boundary waters, and believe that the amendments introduced in the legislation serve to achieve that purpose.

It is fair to note that a lot of members from all parties across the House have indicated their support for this bill, even some individuals who represent small parties, and I appreciate that. I think everyone realizes the importance of this bill and I hope everyone takes due consideration of it. It is a bill in which politics has no part.

Some critics of the bill have expressed concern about there being nothing in the bill that would stop the bottling of water, which would include not just water itself but breweries, soft drink companies, fruit drink companies, et cetera. I deliberately left that out because, in my opinion, that kind of thing is not what one would call bulk water removal. We know the flow of drinks of all kinds, alcoholic and non-alcoholic, make their way across the country and, indeed, around the world and it would be foolish to include that in here.

I thank all my colleagues who have indicated their support for this bill. I again thank the members from the other side of the House who have indicated their upcoming support for this bill. I encourage everyone to get behind this bill.

Canada Water Preservation Act
Private Members' Business

March 8th, 2012 / 5:55 p.m.
See context

NDP

Laurin Liu Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-267, a bill to promote the sustainable and mindful use of water in Canada, and more particularly to prevent the removal of water in bulk from Canada’s major drainage basins. To begin, I would note that we support the bill in principle and we believe it will be possible to remedy certain flaws in the bill in committee.

Canada has the most abundant freshwater resources in the world. It is estimated that 8% of the world’s freshwater reserves are concentrated in Canada. That abundance prompts some people to advocate exporting it to the southwestern United States. In 2008, for example, members of the Montreal Economic Institute proposed that Quebec export 10% of its renewable freshwater in return for $6.5 billion per year. That is simply irresponsible.

In order to measure how lucky we are, we have to consider that the planet’s water stocks are 97% saltwater. The remaining 3% are virtually inaccessible, because they are locked in the polar icecaps, in glaciers or in deep water. In total, it is estimated that less than 1% of water stocks exist in the form of accessible freshwater. We must therefore manage this resource wisely. It is our duty to humanity, somewhat as Brazilians must manage the Amazon rainforest, which is described as the lungs of our planet.

This bill has been made necessary by the fact that NAFTA apparently does not adequately protect Canada’s sovereignty over its water resources. Even though the governments of Canada, the United States and Mexico jointly declared in 1994 that NAFTA did not apply to water in its natural state, some people believe that surface water and underground water in their natural state are subject to NAFTA obligations and water could therefore be commercialized.

So the critics’ concerns have not been assuaged by the statements made by the three trading partners. It must be said that, were it not for the vigilance of civil society, certain bulk water export projects might well have materialized. I am thinking in particular of the Nova Group project, which in 1998 obtained authorization from the Ontario government to export 600 million litres of water per year from Lake Superior. People on both sides of the border had to mobilize to get the Ontario government to back down.

I remind you that, in an attempt to correct the problem, in February 1999 the House of Commons adopted an NDP motion to impose a moratorium on the export of bulk freshwater shipments and inter-basin transfers.

The motion also called for the government, and I quote, to “introduce legislation to prohibit bulk freshwater exports and inter-basin transfers and”... “not be a party to any international agreement that would compel us to export water against our will...”.

The Liberal government subsequently announced that it would consult the provinces and territories in order to develop a strategy that would prohibit the bulk removal of water from Canadian drainage basins for domestic purposes or for export. However the strategy did not address the trade issues raised by NAFTA and focused mainly on water management.

In June 2007, again on the initiative of the NDP, the House adopted a motion calling for the government to initiate talks with our southern neighbours to have water excluded from the scope of NAFTA. The Conservatives, like the previous Liberal government, did nothing. This was a great surprise.

In 2010, the Conservative government did in fact table Bill C-26 to ban the bulk removal of water, but the bill died on the order paper because of its many deficiencies. The Conservatives’ bill addressed only a small portion of fresh water, for it left 80% of Canadian surface water unprotected, as the prohibition applied to transboundary waters only.

Nothing in that bill would have banned the construction of pipelines and other forms of exploitation of bulk water by truck or ship, for example. We have long been calling for the prohibition of bulk water exports, and view this as a key element of a national water policy which would establish standards for safe, potable water and solid environmental protection measures for Canada’s water resources.

We support the principle of the bill before us, but are critical of some of these flaws which, with a little goodwill, could be corrected in committee.

For example, we note that there is no guidance to the governor in council as to the definition of what constitutes a major drainage basin, in the regulations. In our opinion, the effectiveness or strength of this bill depends on that definition. If the definition adopted by the government includes none of the major drainage basins, the bill might then be considered inapplicable.

We note as well that Bill C-267 grants the government very wide regulatory powers, including the capacity to redefine the scope of the exceptions and to establish new exceptions by regulation. These powers seem disproportionate, and could lead the government to exercise them as a way to rewrite the act. As we know, faced with a government that is environmentally delinquent, it is best to be prudent and to set clear limits on its regulatory power.

We understand that the prohibitions are limited to the bulk removal of water from major basins through diversion. We shall attempt in committee to ensure that bulk exports by truck or ship are also prohibited.

My last observation is on the issue of bottled water. The bill creates an exception for manufactured products such as bottled water and beverages. This is a major loophole. We believe this issue needs very close review in committee.

I would like to take advantage of the time I have been given to speak to the bigger issue. Instead of thinking about exporting water, I believe we need to be thinking about our habits in order to reduce the pressure to commercialize water. For example, we know that 70% of the fresh water consumed is used in agriculture. That number may not decrease, considering that the governments of Canada and the United States are encouraging corn crops for the production of fuel. It is the same thing for extracting oil from the oil sands. It is estimated that two to five barrels of fresh water are needed to extract just one barrel of oil. That does not even include the water contaminated by the so-called holding ponds.

More than ever, we need to become aware of our dependence on non-renewable energies and their effects on our environment and the depletion of fresh water. Although this government is determined to drive out those it calls environmental radicals, one day it will have to take into account the effects of climate change on the environment and Canada's water resources. Instead of cutting science budgets, the government should be investing in research in order to study types of drought and meteorological changes and to ensure that our water resources policy takes these things into account.

In closing, I would like to commend the associations, unions, NGOs, citizens and local authorities around the world who are gathering next week in Marseilles for the Alternative World Water Forum in order to discuss the various challenges of water management. Like them, I hope governments the world over, starting with the Canadian government, will work on better protecting our water resources. We have to ensure that water is recognized as a fundamental human right and as a public good, to be protected from corporations that far too often pollute it or exploit it for profit.

Canada Water Preservation Act
Private Members' Business

March 8th, 2012 / 5:40 p.m.
See context

NDP

François Choquette Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise in the House of Commons today to talk about the bill introduced by my colleague and neighbour, the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Louis, Bill C-267, An Act respecting the preservation of Canada’s water resources.

Canadians have been interested in protecting our country's water resources for decades, particularly with regard to bulk water exports. The NDP is in favour of sending this bill to a committee that could address the wording problems in the bill.

The purpose of this bill “is to foster the sustainable use of Canada’s water resources and, in particular, to prevent the removal of water in bulk from major drainage basins in Canada”. This bill has three components: first, the prohibition of the removal of water in bulk; second, the exceptions to this prohibition, for example, water that is removed for bottling and for producing beverages for commercial purposes, and water that is removed and used on a short-term basis, for example, for emergency situations or humanitarian purposes; and third, the enforcement provisions.

Canada has a large quantity of the planet's fresh water. It is true that this is a great resource and we must protect it and ensure that it is distributed fairly and equitably. It is a natural treasure that must never be taken for granted.

Water is vital to human health and life. In Canada, we do not have a national strategy to respond to urgent problems and, unfortunately, the Conservatives are not providing any federal leadership in terms of conserving and protecting our water. I hope that the Conservatives will do something about this situation soon and that, like us, they will vote in favour of this bill, which the hon. member has courageously introduced a number of times in order to protect Canada's water. It is a resource that we must not neglect.

The federal water policy is over 20 years old. It is very outdated, and this situation must quickly be remedied. We are facing more and more challenges with regard to our water supply, including contamination, shortage and pressure to export our water to the United States by pipeline or water diversion, for example. Other hon. members spoke about this at length earlier. I am wondering what the Conservatives are waiting for to take action. This is really urgent. Imagine if there were a pipeline allowing our water to be exported directly to the United States. It would be absolutely terrible.

The NDP is in favour of introducing a national water policy. It is an important and noteworthy undertaking.

Let us look at a bit of history. NAFTA has long been regarded as a threat to Canada's sovereignty over water. In 1999, following a debate, the House of Commons adopted an NDP motion to place an immediate moratorium on bulk water exports and interbasin transfers. The motion also asked the government to “introduce legislation to prohibit bulk freshwater exports and interbasin transfers and not be a party to any international agreement that compels us to export freshwater against our will...”. Unfortunately, nothing has been done since that motion was adopted in the House of Commons.

In June 2007, the House passed another motion from the NDP—which is very proactive when it comes to protecting water—asking the government to begin talks with its American counterparts to exclude water from the scope of NAFTA. And what did the Conservatives do? Nothing.

En 2010, the Conservative government tried something, but it was not enough and it was inadequate. It introduced Bill C-26, which sought to ban bulk water removals. However, this bill had a number of flaws, including a major one. Indeed, under that legislation, 80%—that is right—of surface waters in Canada were not protected, because the protection only applied to transboundary waters. It makes no sense at all to think that this tiny bill, this tiny measure could have a real impact on the export of Canada's fresh water in bulk.

This legislation paved the way for the construction of water pipelines, such as the one proposed in the 1990s, which did not make any sense. That is utterly shameful. That is Conservative inaction. That is a lack of action in this area.

Currently, there are growing water shortages all over the world. As I said, the NDP has always asked that bulk water exports be banned. This is a critical component of a national water policy, which does not exist in Canada, but which could set standards for clean drinking water, which could also provide strict environmental protection measures for water resources, and which could recognize water as a common right. It is really important to recognize water as a common right. So, this is a good plan and it is a plan proposed by the NDP.

As we said, water is essential to life, but it is not an infinite resource, far from it. Even in Canada, which is rich in water—and hon. members may not know that, but I am going to tell them—one quarter of Canadian municipalities have faced water shortages. That is a real concern. One third of them depend on groundwater, on which we currently have very little information, to meet daily needs. A national water policy must create a comprehensive conservation strategy and invest in research and in the monitoring of that resource.

I am going to talk a little about my riding of Drummond, where people are really concerned and have expressed grave misgivings about water. Three municipalities in my riding face water problems, whether in terms of quality or quantity. The municipalities of Saint-Germain-de-Grantham, Saint-Majorique-de-Grantham, and Saint-Cyrille-de-Wendover are well aware of the importance of access to quality water in sufficient quantities. Every time that I visit these municipalities, the residents regularly ask me when the water problems are going to be addressed. I am currently lobbying for a national water policy to be a key priority in Canada, so that such problems do not recur in my riding’s municipalities, or elsewhere in Canada. Two of these municipalities are currently entering into an agreement with the city of Drummondville. I am really happy about that. It is good news, but it is not enough. There are still problems in the municipality of Saint-Cyrille-de-Wendover, and the federal government must have a policy to help these municipalities.

There are other concerns regarding water in my municipality and the millions of litres of water necessary for the hydraulic fracturing of shale gas. This is currently the subject of a major debate in my riding, and I initiated a Canada wide petition to protect our water from the shale gas industry.

Six hundred shale gas wells in Quebec would consume the annual equivalent in water of 360,000 Olympic swimming pools. An Olympic swimming pool contains 20,000 litres of beautiful clean water. This water would be mixed with the equivalent of 900 Olympic swimming pools of chemicals. You can imagine the slop, the chemical laden mud, the dreadful, soupy mix that we would end up with, when we really need beautiful clean water.

The Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks of Quebec stated in a report that there would be a shortage of underground water in a section where wells would be required to mine shale gas, and that there would not be enough water to meet all the needs. At some point, the choice has to be made between the public and the shale gas industry.

I am going to conclude by saying that water must be a human right. Moreover, on July 28, 2010, the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in favour of the human right to water and to sanitary facilities, and for this to be an essential right to the survival of human beings.

In closing, it is truly important for my riding of Drummond that we vote in favour of my colleague's bill, and that we go still further and develop a national water policy that protects our municipalities, so that we can be sure that they have quality water in sufficient quantities.

February 28th, 2012 / 11:05 a.m.
See context

Nicole Dufour Lawyer and Coordinator, Criminal Law Committee, Barreau du Québec

Thank you very much.

I am here with Giuseppe Battista, who is chair of the Barreau du Québec's criminal law committee. That committee consists in equal parts of defence lawyers and crown attorneys, as well as a few university professors.

On reading Bill C-26, we note that, to a large extent, it reiterates the content of Bill C-60, which had the same title, and bills C-547 and C-565, which dealt with the same subjects and on which the Barreau has previously commented.

We note that certain expressions in the French version of Bill C-26 are inconsistent with the English version and should be corrected. The words "unlawfully" and "lawfully" in the English version are translated by expressions using the word "légitime", which, in our view, does not necessarily convey the purpose intended by the English version. For example, section 34(3) as proposed by the bill contains the expression "agir de façon légitime". We submit that the phrase "autorisée par la loi" would be more accurate than the word "légitime".

The Barreau du Québec would like to offer its congratulations on the effort to simplify the legislation relating to self-defence, which has been criticized by the courts and by law enforcement bodies. In our opinion, these amendments do not alter the current case law, since the proposed provisions address the conduct and actions of a person who uses force, and not the outcome, for deciding whether the use of force in the circumstances is reasonable and lawful.

However, we believe that the choice to legislate in the negative is not advisable in the circumstances. We submit that it would be preferable to use an affirmative formula that refers to the right to repel force, or the threat of force, by force.

Bill C-26 reiterates the elements of Bill C-60, which provided that an arrest may be made within a reasonable time after the commission of an offence if a person believes on reasonable grounds that it is not feasible in the circumstances for a peace officer to make the arrest. The Barreau du Québec believes that the proposed amendments are potentially dangerous in terms of the safety of the individuals involved in exercising a power of this nature and for the persons who would be subject to it.

In addition, the fact that a citizen's arrest must be made "within a reasonable time" after the commission of the alleged offence leaves the way open for a possible abuse of power. Any arrest includes elements of unforeseeability arising from the use of the force that is needed in order to make an arrest, peaceful though it may be. By definition, an arrest implies the use of force: a person who makes an arrest must physically control the person and restrict their movements and, if necessary, may use reasonable force to compel the person to submit to their authority. When police make an arrest, they are identified by their uniform or otherwise, and persons arrested by police know that the police are entitled to make arrests, even if they believe the police are in error in their case, and police are required to inform the person arrested of the grounds for the arrest and of their rights. The police are trained to make arrests, and even with their training and skills, arrests sometimes go wrong, even where the persons involved are not criminals. A member of the public does not have the training and resources available to police forces. The power of arrest is an important power that must be exercised in accordance with the law, and the rights of a person who is arrested must be respected.

The power to arrest granted to individuals must be an exceptional one and must be subject to strict guidance. We believe that the use of the expression "reasonable time", as proposed in section 492(2), is problematic, in view of the risks associated with a citizen's arrest.