House of Commons Hansard #117 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was endangered.

Topics

Youth Criminal Justice Act
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3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
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3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
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3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
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3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
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3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
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3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Youth Criminal Justice Act
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3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Division No. 1386
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4:05 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-33, an act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.

Species At Risk Act
Government Orders

September 19th, 2000 / 4:10 p.m.

Reform

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, just to recap what I was saying earlier, we have now entered a period of one of the greatest and largest extinctions of species in history. In fact, the sixth greatest extinction is ongoing right now at a rate that is 1,000 times faster than the normal rate of extinction, so much so that we have about 350 species in Canada, as we speak, that are in danger of becoming extinct. This number is increasing with time.

The primary thrust of extinction is habitat destruction through various sources, primarily agriculture and also industry, the use of pesticides, clear-cutting, forestry practices, human habitation and human activities.

How we actually protect sensitive habitat is the crux of the problem. We have proposed that the government, rather than put forth a weak bill in the form Bill C-33, which I might add is the third attempt to bring in such a bill, needs to start addressing the problem in a pragmatic way. Indeed the private sector would very much like to work with the government, as we would, in trying to develop a plan that would be fair not only to the species at risk but to landowners and other stakeholders.

We can do it by buying in. We need stewardship. Groups can work with the government in order to steward or shepherd sensitive habitats willingly.

If land is to be taken away or use is to be compromised, private interests simply have to be renumerated at free market value for the costs incurred. Those costs need to be given to those who are suffering a loss as a result of their private land use being compromised. We also need to look at existing forestry and agricultural practices and stop them while using other tools to accomplish the same objectives.

Habitat protection is important. Listing is also important. Listing must take place for endangered species on the basis of good science. The government does not do that in this bill. COSEWIC, a group of scientists, are very effective at doing this. It will give the government a list of species in danger of going extinct on the basis of good science. In this bill the government should be obligated to listen to what this group has listed and follow its lead in protecting those species.

We must also enforce the law. Many Canadians would be shocked to learn that we are one of the major conduits in the trafficking of endangered species' products in the entire world. The reason for this is that while we have long borders, we have done an appalling job of protecting those borders, not only for endangered species' products but many others.

The fact that the government has not supported our hardworking men and women on the front lines at our ports means that our country is known as a safe haven for people who are willing to break the law in an effort to traffic in these endangered species' products.

The result internationally has been that many species, from tigers and big cats to birds and indeed plant species, are being felled and are becoming extinct. It is a sad thing when a country like ours, with its wild spaces and which prides itself on being in favour of endangered species' legislation, has been unable to get workable federal legislation and do our part internationally.

I introduced Bill C-475 on April 11, 2000 which dealt with how we can have an effective endangered species bill in a very pragmatic way. My bill would essentially do the following: First, it would obligate the government to protect species that are on COSEWIC's list, i.e. the lists that are there, the species that are endangered are based on science, not politics.

Second, it would obligate the government to work with private stakeholders and the provinces to protect habitat. This is not an option. This has to be an obligation on the part of the government to protect habitat. Failure to do so will ensure that these species will become extinct.

Third, it would obligate the government to work with the provinces to remunerate private landowners at fair market value where a negotiated settlement simply cannot take place, rather than putting all the power in the hands of the minister who will remunerate private landowners on the basis of what he or she wants.

The last thing I want to talk about is a personal experience I had. The best model in the world for protecting species is the province of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. It has saved species such as the white rhino, which went from 24 animals up to several thousand in a matter of 50 to 60 years. The reason it did this is that it used the private sector to husband these species. It convinced them that they would get more money from their land by ecotourism, by hunting excess animals and by other land uses, including harvesting plants in a responsible way that had medicinal uses.

The outcome is that the money drawn from these lands is poured back not only into conservation, but also poured back into the surrounding areas to benefit the people. We need to have the assistance of local people if we are going to protect habitat. The best way to do that is to demonstrate to those people that it will have a direct benefit on their own lives.

If we merely argue on the basis that it is nice to have habitat protected, it will fail, for habitat and animal species, unfortunately, have to pay for themselves if they are going to survive. Where this was done in KwaZulu-Natal, they were able to save many animal and plant species from extinction. They have also managed to benefit the surrounding populous. The outcome has been that animals have been saved from the brink of extinction, an expanded habitat that has been protected, expanded wild spaces and a sustainable use of those areas for other purposes.

The outcome of that is that KwaZulu-Natal is now the international leader in conservation. I can only say to the minister and to the government that our party will be very happy to work with them to this end, but they have to have effective legislation that will protect habitat in the ways that I have mentioned. This is not only a legacy that we have been given, the endangered species in our country, it is also our responsibility to give that to our children and to our grandchildren.

Species At Risk Act
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4:20 p.m.

Bloc

Ghislain Lebel Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to speak to Bill C-33 on endangered species.

I see that the federal government is very concerned about endangered animal species. Unfortunately, it is not as concerned about French Canadians, a species which has been assimilated for the past 150 years, with the result that it has now dropped from 50% of the Canadian population to approximately 25%.

I know that for certain members across the way who are recent arrivals to Canada, this means very little. But I can tell the lady who is gazing charmingly and wide-eyed in my direction that, in case she was unaware, at the time of Confederation there were as many francophones as anglophones in Canada.

Unfortunately, we see the federal government wishing to intervene so that endangered species will have the opportunity to grow, multiply and survive, something, I repeat, that it has always refused Quebecers, whether my colleague likes it or not.

I think that the intention behind the bill is good, except that what we have here is duplication and overlap. What was needed—even the preamble to the bill points this out—is for the bill to pave the way for consultation with the provinces precisely so that this duplication can be avoided.

Six Canadian provinces, namely Quebec, Ontario, Alberta, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan have legislation on this, and a list compiled by scientists and their governments establishing which species are endangered or at risk in the province.

The federal government is going to encroach in a heavy-handed way on an area of exclusive provincial jurisdiction. I know that, for the member who earlier was yelling like someone caught in a barbed wire fence, this kind of debate on respecting legislative jurisdiction we have on a regular basis is plain gibberish and makes no sense at all.

To say in the House of Commons, in this very parliament, that constitutional law and the constitution are nothing, when in the mind of members of the Bloc Quebecois the constitution is the basic law which governs the relationship among provinces and among private citizens, is to show contempt to a degree that would not have been thought possible on the part of today's politicians.

The constitution is the law of the land. The Fathers of Confederation decided to balance powers. The federal government was to have authority over international relations, the post office, national defence and the telegraph, which transmitted communications from one province to the next.

However, precedent after precedent, change after change, including legal rulings and mainly the abolition of referrals to the Privy Council in London, have turned it into the quintessential joke.

The Supreme Court of Canada, which has always leaned to the same side, has started to set out principles of constitutional law and the related rules of interpretation, and as a result our constitution has more or less lost all meaning.

I will give you a few examples. We had sections 91 and 92, which gave effect to the powers of the federal government and to those of the provincial governments respectively. The Supreme Court of Canada came up with all kinds of wild theories, such as that of unoccupied fields in estate law.

For a long time, the federal government said “The province is not exercising its right to collect taxes on inheritances in estate law”. It is the unoccupied field theory, which means that the federal government can interfere as long as the provincial government is not exercising its jurisdiction in that field. But it so happens that it is a province's prerogative not to exercise its jurisdiction in a particular area.

Look at what is happening. Recently, a decision was handed down regarding federal interference in areas under provincial jurisdiction, such as property and civil law, including estate law, with the reference on the gun control legislation. The Supreme Court of Canada invented yet another theory by saying “Yes, the federal government can still interfere in areas under provincial jurisdictions in matters of public safety for instance”.

The construction of high-rise buildings also has an impact on public safety. Transportation, be it by tractor trailers, trucks, ships or just plain surface transportation, can have an impact on public safety. One thing leading to the other, the provinces are losing all the jurisdictions they kept for themselves when the Confederation agreement was negotiated in Charlottetown starting in 1864.

Today, we have this bill on endangered species. The habitat of species that are endangered and on the way to becoming extinct, be it a seabed or wetlands, often comes under provincial jurisdiction.

Bill C-33 says that harmonization between provincial and federal scientists is desirable. Unfortunately, clauses in the bill indicate that the federal government is grabbing almost manu militari , proprio motu , the right to oversee the whole thing and is asserting its primacy in the field of endangered species protection.

This is unfortunate, because more confrontation is looming. The hon. member opposite, who is a champion of confrontation, will certainly be involved. Quebec is being told that it cannot look after its own resources and the habitat of endangered species.

I think that moderation and conciliation are preferable. The federal government should have provided in its bill that, following consultations with the provinces, a list of endangered species could be drawn up in co-operation with the provinces.

Species At Risk Act
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4:25 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

They went about it ultra petita .

Species At Risk Act
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4:25 p.m.

Bloc

Ghislain Lebel Chambly, QC

My hon. friend from Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, who has been studying law at night, really seems to know his stuff. He is using Latin words now. He said they went about it ultra petita .

We asked the federal government to get involved and, as usual and as was pointed out by the brilliant member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, who will get a score in his law courses that will put the Minister of Justice to shame, the federal government went overboard and used its prerogative to interfere in the protection of endangered species.

It is unfortunate. There will be overlap and duplication, with double the costs, double the number of departments involved and all the bureaucracies around them. The Bloc Quebecois cannot support such a process, which is why we will be voting against this bill.

Species At Risk Act
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas, Foreign Affairs; the hon. member for New Brunswick Southwest, Employment Insurance.

Species At Risk Act
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

Reform

Bill Gilmour Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to speak to Bill C-33. This is the third time the government has brought forward endangered species legislation. I was the environment critic when some of the other bills came through. The last bill was so weak that even government backbenchers could not support it. This legislation is not much better. It would appear that the government is still going to ram it through and that is wrong.

This seems to be the whole impetus of the government. Rather than talk about voluntary measures, rather than trying to get people to work together to get endangered species legislation that is going to work, it chooses another way. The government has chosen the big hand.

There are penalties in the act that are criminal code penalties. This means, for example, that a logger is in trouble if while doing his normal work of felling a tree and an endangered bird or a bug is in the area. If a farmer drives his tractor over some habitat or a rancher allows his cows into an area where there are endangered plants they too would be in trouble. The penalties are severe.

I talked to a number of people who said that if they found an endangered species on their land it would be gone. They would not allow the government to see it because it would take away their property without compensation. They cannot afford that. That is wrong.

For the greater good, we all recognize that. There may be an area of land for example that has endangered species on it. We all agree we should keep it. However the person who owns the land has to be fairly compensated. They cannot be expected to walk away. This legislation says that the government may compensate, not will compensate. That is absolutely wrong. That is why it has people running scared and understandably so.

This legislation also steps on provincial jurisdiction. It was interesting to note what the justice minister said during question period about how much the government consults with the provinces. The government has not consulted with the provinces. The provinces need to be right in with this. They need to have either parallel legislation or they have to be onside. Right now they are not.

One point that is weak is how a species gets on the list. What about polar bears for example? What is the criteria to get them either on an endangered or on an at risk list? We need to have a scientific body to establish this. COSEWIC is that body and it can do a fairly incredible job if it has the criteria. The situation is worse when politicians get involved.

One species that will never make it on the endangered species list as long as politicians are involved is Atlantic cod. Members know that cod stocks are down the toilet. The stocks are well down and fishing should not be allowed. What happens? An election is called. There was a cod fishery on the east coast which was just about on its knees. That is what happens when politicians get involved.

There has to be endangered species legislation that is arm's length from the politicians. It has to be on a scientific basis and not able to be manipulated by the politicians.

I was in the forest industry and spent 25 years as professional forester before going into politics. There was an issue south of the border in Washington and Oregon that dealt with the spotted owl. Hon. members may remember that. However, the issue was not the spotted owl. It was simply a vehicle for people to use to stop logging. That was the issue.

I am not sure how we get it into legislation, but we need to have legislation to protect the species, not for manipulation which is what happened for years years in Washington and Oregon. It did not have a lot to do with the spotted owl. It had a lot to do with stopping logging.

We also need habitat protection. That is not in the bill. How can we possibly say that we are going to protect a species yet we are not going to protect where it lives? That is nuts.

In summary, there are a number of holes in this bill, so many that it has to go back to the drawing board. During question period the minister said that he preferred that it go to committee. I suspect that this bill is so flawed that it needs to go back to the drawing board. The environment committee will clearly have its work cut out for it.

The bill is so flawed from the beginning that the actual direction needs to be rethought. I said earlier that impetus of the bill is whether it is through voluntary measures by getting the provincial and federal governments together with the farmers and ranchers and saying this is how we are going to do it or having the big heavy hand of criminal justice. The latter is not going to work. People are just going to plough them under.

This bill is bad. It is so bad that it needs to be redrafted and our party and my constituents do not support this legislation.