House of Commons Hansard #11 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was diamonds.

Topics

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-14, an act providing for controls on the export, import or transit across Canada of rough diamonds and for a certification scheme for the export of rough diamonds in order to meet Canada's obligations under the Kimberley Process, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Andy Burton Skeena, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today and speak to Bill C-14, an act providing for controls on the export, import or transit across Canada of rough diamonds and for a certification scheme for the export of rough diamonds in order to meet Canada's obligations under the Kimberley Process.

As mentioned in the title of the bill, this enactment would fulfill Canada's undertaking to participate in the Kimberley process, which is an international certification scheme that aims to break the link between armed conflict and the trade in rough diamonds. Generally speaking, the bill states that:

The enactment permits export of rough diamonds to be made only to countries participating in the Kimberley Process. It also requires exported and imported diamonds to be in prescribed, tamper-resistant containers and to be accompanied by a certificate from a participating country attesting that they have been handled in accordance with the Kimberley Process.

I would like to talk a little about what I understand the process to have been so far in leading up to the creation of this act. I understand that Canada has been keenly involved in international efforts to help stop the global trade in conflict diamonds, which have had a devastating impact on peace and human security in several African nations, including Angola, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Unlike the legitimate trade in rough diamonds, which benefits numerous developing countries and developed economies including Canada's, conflict diamonds, or blood diamonds as they are frequently known, originate in areas controlled by rebels and are used to fund military actions that target government. The illicit trade in blood diamonds represents a very small percentage of the world's rough diamond trade.

The Kimberley process was initiated by South Africa in May 2000 to develop an international certification scheme for rough diamonds to prevent blood diamonds from entering legitimate markets. The Kimberley process brought together 48 countries, including Canada, the U.S. and members of the European Community. These participatory countries represent some 98% of the world's diamond trade market.

At the Kimberley process meetings here in Ottawa this past March, participants reached agreement on a proposal for an international certification scheme for rough diamonds. Under the scheme, participating countries will be required to export rough diamonds in tamper-resistant containers and provide a certificate validated by the government of the exporting country confirming that the diamond exports are conflict free. Participating countries will also be prohibited from importing rough diamonds from countries not engaged in the Kimberley process. Canada agreed to the implementation of this scheme by the end of 2002.

As members can see from my comments so far, I certainly can see the need for this legislation in Canada. I recognize that Bill C-14 will make legal the agreement that Canada has reached in the process, but later in my comments I will make suggestions on how the bill can be improved.

One area of concern right at the moment is a very tight timeline for the passage of the bill and, more important, for the implementation of the certification process in Canada by the end of this year. I am concerned that Canada's diamond extraction business may suffer because the government infrastructure needed to inspect and provide the certification needed for exporting our diamonds may not be ready on time. This is a concern and I suspect we will hear more about this from witnesses when the bill is sent to committee.

Canada is developing its diamond industry, and I believe everyone in the House will agree that we do not wish the bill to hamper its development in any way. The Ekati diamond mine in the Northwest Territories, located about 300 kilometres from Yellowknife, is Canada's only operating diamond mine at this time. It employs 650 people and produces three million to four million carats of gem quality rough diamonds each year. This is equivalent to nearly 4% of current world diamond production by weight and 6% by value.

The Diavik mine, located near the Ekati mine, will begin operation in 2003. Two more projects, one in the Northwest Territories and one in Nunavut, could open by 2007. These four mines would provide direct employment for about 1,600 people and could bring total annual production to approximately $1.6 billion.

Canada exports its entire production of diamonds for sorting. Some gem quality diamonds are returned to Canada in support of a small but growing cutting and polishing industry. That is why we in the House must ensure that Bill C-14 will not in any way hamper the development of Canada's growing diamond industry.

As I mentioned earlier, in general at this stage in the process before we have had the opportunity to hear from witnesses in committee, I believe the bill has merit and understand it is needed. I do have concerns that I would like to see addressed.

Time constraints are tight due to the target of this November for all 48 participating nations to commit to national implementation and December 31 for simultaneous implementation worldwide. The process led by South Africa began in the year 2000 and was included on the African agenda at Kananaskis with full Canadian government involvement from the start. If the government has known about this since 2000, I really do have to question why there is a last minute rush.

There appears to be no objection to Bill C-14 from BHP Billiton Diamonds Inc., which operates the Ekati diamond mine in the Northwest Territories. As I mentioned earlier, it employs 650 people and includes offices in Kelowna and Vancouver in British Columbia, in Yellowknife, in Antwerp, Belgium, and in London, England. Other companies expect their mines in the territories to be put into operation, one in 2003 and two more by 2007, which will mean 3,200 plus in indirect jobs. This will be a huge benefit to the Canadian economy if they are allowed to proceed without too much interference by government.

Additional diamond exploration in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador has not to date yielded any economically viable sites. Some cutting and polishing is centred at Yellowknife and in Quebec's Gaspé Peninsula. Training programs, especially for aboriginal workers, are in progress, with resulting jobs skills being among the benefits for northern residents.

All Canadian diamonds are first exported to London and Antwerp for sorting. We also import diamonds from 44 countries, including Israel, India, the U.S., Belgium and the U.K., the top five in terms of the value of our diamond imports. The multiple stages of handling, from initial mining through sorting, polishing and cutting et cetera, are a major reason for the Kimberley process agreement to ship this valuable product in tamper-proof containers with a certificate attached to prevent inclusion of blood diamonds.

I reiterate my previous concern with the bill. With such an expanding and developing diamond industry in Canada, I am concerned that there is not a balance between the obvious need for effective world legislation to stop the trade of blood diamonds and overzealous red tape and bureaucracy which may slow down the export of legitimate diamonds and thereby hurt our developing industry. These are concerns that I would like to see addressed at the committee stage of the examination of the bill.

The weakest link remains initial certification, especially when performed by officials in countries widely reputed to suffer from an epidemic of corruption, notably African countries. No independent international agency will verify or even spot check the certification, but Bill C-14 requires that Canadians ensure the certificate provides accurate information, with company officials and individual directors liable. Given the Bre-X scandal, it is difficult to justify such reliance on international honesty. I guess we have to hope it occurs but it is hard to rely on that.

Prosecutions under Bill C-14 can only be instituted within three years from the time of a complaint. Due to the significant degree of international cooperation which is likely to be involved and the fact that human lives are at risk with the trade in blood diamonds, we suggest that a time limit of up to seven years would not be unreasonable. A company's reputation will already be damaged by the laying of charges, so the best way to minimize such impacts would be to obtain convictions, not have guilty parties get away with their crimes due to delay over paperwork technicalities.

Finally, the bill provides that seized diamonds can only be held with the consent of the owner. An improvement would be to authorize holding such diamonds until the case is resolved as a guarantee that possible fines would get paid.

In conclusion, at this time I would suggest this enactment to control the import and export of rough diamonds, Bill C-14, is on the surface a good bill. I am looking forward to discussion and questions posed in committee by witnesses from the industry. I suspect they may raise concerns similar to my own, and I hope the government will take notice of them and amend the bill accordingly.

Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Roy Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address Bill C-14, an act providing for controls on the export, import or transit across Canada of rough diamonds and for a certification scheme for the export of rough diamonds.

First, I would like to say that I am pleased to have this opportunity, because in the riding of Matapédia—Matane, we have a business that specializes in the cutting of diamonds. I would like to explain how that company was created and the problems that it encountered in the process. It had absolutely no possibility of finding diamonds in Canada, despite the fact that Canada produces diamonds and has diamond mines.

It was the same problem when the time came to train the company's staff. It was absolutely impossible to find diamonds in Canada, even though we are a producer. This situation caused a great deal of problems, both in the training of employees and in the setting up of the company which, fortunately, managed to begin operations. I must say that there was very little cooperation on the part of the federal government regarding the establishment of the company and the training of its employees. On the contrary, the government made things harder for the company.

I am pleased to address this bill, because we agree with it and particularly with its objectives. This bill seeks to set up an international certification process to avoid situations where profits generated by the sale of diamonds are used in conflicts, particularly in African countries. My colleague mentioned a few of these countries, including Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The problem is that diamonds are sold under various covers and that the proceeds from their sale is used by certain organizations to buy arms for terrorist activities. This has the effect of destabilizing the economy and the political and social situation in some countries.

Why does the Bloc Quebecois support this bill? I will mention the main reasons.

First, because of the atrocities perpetrated with the money from conflict diamonds. All this has been very well documented over many years, except that, as in many cases, governments do not react until the situation blows up in their face, until there is an international scandal. This is what is happening with this government. While being aware of very serious situations, it waited a long time to react; it should have acted much sooner and started years ago taking steps to resolve this problem. I am referring to diamond trading. Most of us are consumers of these goods, which may be described as blood diamonds.

The other reason is that we felt it was imperative and absolutely necessary to react, and action should have been taken sooner, to resolve conflicts in the countries involved, particularly in South Africa.

Without such a process, diamond consuming countries, including Canada, are financing the atrocities taking place in these countries. Unless a control scheme is put in place for diamond imports and exports, we will, as citizens, be contributing to financing conflicts, revolutions, atrocities, belligerents using any means available to seize power in these countries.

The Bloc Quebecois believes we have a social and ethical responsibility to move forward on this issue. Years ago, and I emphasize this, we should have become aware of what we were doing and made sure this kind of trade stopped.

Obviously, the bill before us is a step forward, a very small one however. I am wary of the steps this government takes. With respect to Kyoto, for example, we were assured over the past year that it would be ratified and finally implemented. We eventually realized that ratification was being postponed from one year to the next, one month to the next, one week to the next.

Naturally, if the government takes the same approach to Bill C-14, passing it in the House but then dragging its feet, while working out details with diamond importing industries, we will once again find ourselves wasting our time, as usual, with this government.

What is it that has finally woken up the government? I have already referred to this. Why is it that it is reacting today? Why is it that the government, which was after all aware of what was going on in the countries in question, did not react earlier? I have said already, and say again, it is because the international media, the NGOs, which were aware of the situation, have succeeded in raising the government's awareness of the need to be part of the Kimberley process and because of them that it has finally decided to bring forward a bill to solve the situation.

I would like to quote from a Partnership Africa Canada document, which reads as follows:

In 2000, the international diamond industry produced more than 120 million carats of rough diamonds with a market value of US $7.5 billion.

It is hard to imagine what $7.5 billion represents. I do not think my colleague can manage to do so, having never had her hands on $7.5 billion. So it is very hard for a taxpayer to imagine, but it is a huge sum.

Continuing the quotation:

At the end of the diamond chain this bounty was converted into 70 million pieces of jewelry worth close to US $58 billion. Of total world production, rebel armies in Sierra Leone as well as in Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are estimated by De Beers to traffic in about 4%. Other estimates place the number higher.

De Beers is, as we know, the Dutch industry that controls the diamond industry.

This 4% figure they give for trafficking is a very conservative one. It means that these rebel forces currently control over 4% of the total world diamond production, and they have a very specific objective for doing so: to obtain weapons to use against the governments in power.

This, in my opinion, constitutes a pretty substantial share of the world diamond trade. When we say 4% of $7.5 billion, this means that hundreds of millions are being used to purchase weapons to kill people and, in the end, to try to overthrow governments. It is unfortunate, in my opinion, that the present government, despite being very much aware of the situation, took years to react.

Now, there is also the way one reacts. I referred to one industry in particular and what was happening in our region. When a business is set up and this business cannot even find suppliers within Canada in spite of the fact that Canada is a diamond producing country, this just does not make sense. At one time or another, this business from Matane, in my riding, could have had in hand diamonds from the countries in question, which I would describe as contraband diamonds or something of the sort.

I wish we would go a little further, and this government would take the initiative of going a little further than what is proposed in Bill C-14. I wish the government would take the lead internationally and raise public awareness about the realities of the diamond industry.

It should make it clear to the public in Canada and Quebec that, when people buy diamonds, it might be a good idea to ask where they are from, and the jeweller should be able to tell what country, what mine and even what company they come from. In other words, there should be traceability within the diamond industry. This is to some extent the intent of the bill, but there is a need to go a little further.

To conclude, the bill will not resolve the entire problem. It will not resolve the problem in Sierra Leone and other countries. Besides the problem with the rebel army and the government army fighting one another, there is a poverty problem, an underdevelopment problem, and this may be the most serious problem.

As we know, these past few years, the federal government has dramatically cut international assistance. We recently learned of plans to increase international assistance funding, but even this increase will not make up for all the cuts made. The federal government's commitment should therefore go a little further in terms of international development, and poverty reduction, particularly in African countries.

This concludes my remarks on Bill C-14.

Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Bloc

Ghislain Fournier Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I feel the need to intervene. I was impressed by the excellent speech given by my colleague, the member for Matapédia—Matane. He never hesitates when it comes to defending the interests of his constituents.

He spoke of a plant with a good reputation in Quebec, in Canada and even internationally. He also highlighted all of the aspects of the issue, particularly the economic and humanitarian aspects. He discussed both the positive and negative sides.

Matane is just opposite my riding, and there is a relatively short ferry-rail crossing that links the two—not a bridge. I have with me a newspaper article that refers to the announcement by the American company, Diamond Discoveries, of a discovery of a number of deposits of kimberlite north of Schefferville. This is in my riding, 450 kilometres north of Sept-Îles.

According to my information, this represents considerable potential. Prospecting, which is the first step, has already been completed and they are now at the exploratory stage. According to the information I have, this is very encouraging. This company has invested a great deal of money, close to $7 million or $8 million. That figure is rising, because it plans on investing more, which is good news.

Does the member for Matapédia—Matane think that this would be an interesting development and that Bill C-14, because of the measures included to make the exporting and trading of diamonds completely safe, would help the diamond industry in Quebec, particularly in our ridings?

Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Roy Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, obviously that is what I would hope. Canada being a diamond producer, the more diamonds we produce, the more control we will have, provided international rules change in the diamond industry.

We are debating Bill C-14, but this legislation will not solve all the problems. It must be understood that the diamond industry is controlled by huge international companies. As we know, some of them, and one in particular, are considered to be monopolies. The one that I am referring to is considered by the Americans to be a monopoly and is not allowed in the United States. This is because that company has too much control and is considered to be a monopoly.

If we get confirmation that there are enough diamonds to mine, this can only benefit the hon. member's region, just as it will benefit mine. The hon. member's riding is right across from mine, on the other side of the St. Lawrence River. So, this could only benefit regions such as ours.

But in my opinion, the rules of the game will have to change in order for the workers of these companies, and all Quebeckers and Canadians, to benefit, and to have better control over the diamond industry.

Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

An hon. member

On division.

Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act
Government Orders

October 21st, 2002 / 3:55 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Denis
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew for the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

moved that Bill C-2, an act to establish a process for assessing the environmental and socio-economic effects of certain activities in Yukon, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to address the House on the second reading of Bill C-2, Yukon environmental and socio-economic assessment act, also known YESAA and formerly known as DAP. I am confident in seeking the support of hon. members to make it into law. I will spend the next 25 minutes giving a broad outline of the bill and how it will work.

The bill has been eight years in the making and I ask that hon. members give it careful consideration. My confidence in the bill arises from a number of factors.

The proposed legislation will fulfill an outstanding land claim commitment which is a priority of the government. In doing so it will establish a single development assessment process for projects on all federal, territorial and first nations lands in Yukon, which in turn will create certainty and promote sustainable development across the territory. I have great confidence in the bill because it was developed in Yukon by and for Yukoners through an extremely inclusive process.

Hon. members are well aware of the merits of the development assessment process. It helps us to identify a project's adverse effects on the environment, wildlife and people before they occur. This allows projects to be designed and regulated in ways that are not only economically efficient and rewarding but also compatible with a healthy environment and society.

Assessments can do more than avoid unwarranted consequences. They can also result in positive impacts. For example, development assessment processes can lead to lasting social and economic benefits in local communities, such as new employment and business opportunities. They can also help us to identify measures to protect existing livelihoods.

The practice of development assessment is not new in Canada. It has been around in one form or another for many years. It is now part of public decision making at all levels of government.

Federally the environmental assessment and review process guidelines order apply the principles of development assessment to certain projects that involved the Government of Canada as far back as 1984. In 1995 these guidelines were replaced by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, or CEAA, which hon. members know is in the midst of a statutory review.

When Bill C-2 becomes law it will functionally replace the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act for most projects in Yukon, although under certain limited circumstances the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act can still apply.

Why is this happening? The short answer is that chapter 12 of the Yukon umbrella final agreement requires that a new development assessment process be put in place for Yukon. This agreement was signed by the Governments of Canada and Yukon and the Council of Yukon Indians in 1993 and given effect in 1995 by Yukon First Nations Land Claims Settlement Act. The umbrella final agreement, UFA, is a template for Yukon first nations final agreements and self-government agreements which to date have been signed with 8 of the 14 Yukon first nations.

The first nations in Yukon are the Carcross/Tagish First Nation, the Champagne and Aishihik First Nation, the Teslin Tlingit Council, the Ta'an Kwach'an First Nation, the Kluane First Nation, the Kwanlin Dun First Nation, the Liard First Nation, the Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation, the Nacho Nyak Dun First Nation, the Ross River Dena Council, the Selkirk First Nation, the Vuntut Gwitchin Tribal Council, the Tr'ondek Hwech'in First Nation and the White River First Nation.

As a sign that this is a cooperative project between various levels and orders of government, I am delighted that today in Ottawa are Chief Eric Morris of the Teslin Tlingit Council, Chief Joe Linklater of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, Chief Darren Taylor of the Tr'ondek Hwech'in First Nation, the president of Air North and Vuntut Development Corporation, Steve Mills, and Daryn Leas another member of the team.

At the time of the signing of the umbrella final agreement the Council for Yukon Indians, now known as the Council for Yukon First Nations, or CYFN, and the Yukon territorial government, YTG, agreed to work with the Government of Canada to establish the development and assessment process called for in chapter 12 of the UFA. Bill C-2 is a product of that collaborative effort.

Fulfilling Canada's outstanding commitments to aboriginal people is one of our most important obligations as legislators. It is in fact the cornerstone for renewing our relationship with aboriginal people.

Bill C-2 would see Canada fulfill its promise to 14 Yukon first nations.

Besides the fulfilment of Canada's obligations under the umbrella final agreement, the bill pursues other worthy goals.

By establishing a process that will ensure that the development activities contemplated for the Yukon will not harm the environment, residents or communities in the area, Bill C-2 will protect the quality of life in the Yukon. It will help preserve the livelihood of individuals as well as the heritage and culture of the first nations people of the Yukon. It will help protect the land, water, air, fish and wildlife of the Yukon. These are all worthwhile goals which deserve our support.

As hon. members can appreciate, this is a detailed and technically complex bill. I do not intend to review it in detail today. Instead I would like to focus on some key elements to the process that would be put in place by Bill C-2 and its supporting regulations.

Essentially Bill C-2 would establish a territory wide process to assess the impacts of development activities in Yukon for which a federal, territorial or first nations government is a proponent and a regulator, and is providing discretionary interest in land or, in the case of the federal government, is providing funding.

Hon. members will recall the recent passage of Bill C-39 in the House. That new Yukon Act ratifies the devolution of many powers and responsibilities to the government of Yukon. Those authorities given to the territory ensure that Yukon will now be able to enact its own environmental assessment legislation to mirror the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. In this way Yukon will be in a position to ensure that development proposals are evaluated in the interval between devolution and the coming into force of the bill before us today. That territorial legislation will bridge the gap until the bill is enacted and implemented.

One must consider what might happen in Yukon without Bill C-2. There eventually could be as many as 16 development assessment processes in the territory, 1 for each of the 14 first nations, 1 for the federal government and 1 for the territorial government. With such a scenario a development process could be subject to not one or even two, but possibly three or four assessment processes, each with its own requirement, its own guideline, its own decision points and its own timelines. This single development assessment process is in the best interests of all stakeholders.

A known and consistent regime will provide greater certainty for project components which in turn will help encourage investment in Yukon. It will also provide more certainty for government and regulators and more consistent protection of the environment and the livelihood and culture of Yukon first residents.

How do we plan to implement such a regime? Allow me to take a few moments to explain how this new development activity assessment process will work and how it will be implemented under Bill C-2.

As hon. members can see, the bill has three parts. Part 1 will come into force immediately upon enactment and deals largely with the administrative aspects of the development process. For example, part 1 will establish the Yukon environmental and socio-economic assessment board to administer the development assessment process and ensure that assessments are conducted in a neutral and efficient manner. The seven member board will be an institution of public government with an office in Whitehorse. The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development will appoint its members based upon nominations from the federal and territorial governments as well as the Council of Yukon First Nations which will nominate three board members. The minister will also select three board members to act as the executive committee, including an individual nominated by the Council of Yukon First Nations. Consistent with the principle of local people making decisions about local matters, at all times the majority of the board members must be Yukon residents.

Part 1 of Bill C-2 would also provide for the establishment of six assessment districts across Yukon, each of which would have a designated office to assess projects. This decentralized approach will make the process more accessible to those people who are most likely affected by a project. The Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, DIAND, currently is working with the Yukon government and first nations to establish the boundaries for these districts within input from Yukoners.

Part 2 of Bill C-2 describes the assessment process. To provide for the smooth implementation of this new assessment regime, part 2 would come into force as much as, but no longer than, 18 months after part 1. This would give the board time to hire and train staff, to establish bylaws for the board and designated offices, to develop budgets and to establish procedural rules and public registries of information about development assessments.

Part 2 broadly describes the types of projects that will require an assessment, which, as I noted earlier, essentially includes any project in Yukon that is proposed by the federal, territorial or a first nations government that requires a decision from one of these governments or that requires federal funding. Specific activities that would be assessed under the act are identified in the project proposed list regulations, which also identify activities that would be exempted from this assessment.

Hon. members who have reviewed Bill C-2 will know that it provides for three types of assessments. The most basic is called the designated office evaluation. This is where most projects will enter the assessment process. At this level, the development assessment professionals will evaluate a proposed project and will either decide that it needs further assessment, or will recommend that the project be allowed to proceed, or that it be allowed to proceed with terms and conditions to mitigate adverse effects, or that it should not be allowed to proceed. If a more detailed analysis is required, the project can be referred by this designated office to the board's executive committee.

Certain large projects will be subject to an executive committee screening belonging to the process at this second level. Activities to fall into this category will be clearly identified in the project list regulations.

The executive committee will also screen projects referred to it by a designated office. In most cases the executive committee will make a recommendation on whether or not the project should proceed either with or without terms and conditions. However where the executive committee determines that a project might have a significant adverse effect, raise significant public concerns or involves untested technology, the project will be referred for a panel review. This is the third and last type of review. The small projects locally go in the designated offices, the bigger projects to the executive level screening and the very large and complex projects to the panel review.

The panel review is the most detailed level of assessment under Bill C-2 and would probably be used for only a few projects each year. A panel would be established by the executive committee to conduct an indepth assessment of the proposed project. As is the case with other levels of assessment, at the end of the review the panel would recommend that the project proceed, that it proceed with terms and conditions or that it not proceed. Regardless of the assessment level, all assessments must consider the same basic criteria. These include the purpose of the project and all its stages.

As well assessments must consider any possible environmental or socioeconomic impacts in Yukon or elsewhere and any possible cumulative impacts from a combination of the project and any other existing or proposed activities in Yukon or elsewhere. Assessments will also consider whether there are other ways to carry out the activity that might avoid or reduce these impacts. Protecting the rights of all Yukon residents will be an assessment criteria.

An underlying principle of this new process is that everyone with an interest in the project, including the general public, must have the opportunity to participate in and be informed about these assessments. One way this will be achieved is by placing the information and notices about assessments on to the public registries that I mentioned earlier and inviting comments from all parties.

Input will also be sought from government agencies and first nations that have provided notice of interest in assessment and from relevant land use planning commissions in Yukon. This early input should help smooth the project through subsequent regulatory processes.

It should be clear now that designated offices, the executive committee and panels can only make recommendations. The final decisions on projects would be made by decision bodies as defined in this bill. Depending on the projects location, category or authorization required, a decision body could be a first nation, the territorial minister, a federal agency, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development or another minister designated by the governor in council. The appropriate decision body would consider the recommendations of the assessment body as well as any information and traditional knowledge accompanying the recommendations. At the end of the process, the decision body may accept, vary or reject the recommendations arising from an assessment.

The new process ensures a high level of transparency by requiring both the assessors and the decision bodies to report publicly in writing to explain their assessment recommendations and decisions.

The period of time within which a decision body must release this report, called a decision document, will be specified in the proposed time lines, decision body's coordination regulations. Public input into those, as with all regulations, could be made when they are gazetted. There are also provisions and regulations to provide time lines on the various assessment processes.

Hon. members should also know that a project approved by a decision body will not necessarily proceed. There may be regulatory or policy reasons why it would not be authorized. A decision body is under no legal obligation to authorize a project, regardless of an approval made under the Yukon environmental and socio-economic assessment act.

If though a decision body does authorize the project, it must do so consistent with the decision document issued. However a project that has been turned down in a decision body will not be allowed to proceed.

If a project goes forward, decision bodies must each conform with their own decision documents when issuing authorizations or carrying out the project. Any violation of a condition imposed by a decision body will be subject to penalties under the existing laws and regulations found, for example, in the Fisheries Act or Yukon's Environment Act.

As I said at the outset, the development assessment process described in Bill C-2 will be the only assessment process that will apply once enacted to most projects in Yukon.

Having said that, if a proposed project is referred to a panel review, the Minister of the Environment, who is responsible for the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, could become involved in selecting the type of panel and setting its terms of reference, or in establishing a joint panel with the Yukon environmental and socio-economic assessment board.

Bill C-2 also includes provisions to encourage cooperation and coordination of assessments with the Inuvialuit Final Agreement, Screening Committee and Review Board, in the North Slope of Yukon. The legislation would preclude duplication with that review board and provide several other mechanisms to avoid or minimize process duplication.

Under certain circumstances, Bill C-2 would allow for assessments of activities outside Yukon for which effects would likely to occur within Yukon. The bill also identifies circumstances in which the executive committee would have the authority to establish a request by the responsible government, a panel, to review an existing project, or to review plans, or programs, or policies or proposals that were not yet considered to be projects for the purposes of the bill.

Once part 2 of Bill C-2 comes into force, an activity prescribed under the bill and its regulations will not be allowed to proceed until an assessment of its environmental and socioeconomic effects has been completed and decision documents have been issued.

However, to facilitate the transition to the new process, part 3 of the bill stipulates that any assessment that was initiated prior to part 2 coming into force will be exempted from the new process unless a subsequent CEAA referral is made to a higher level of assessment.

Part 3 also contains consequential amendments to the Access to Information Act, the Privacy Act and the Yukon Surface Rights Board Act. There is also a consequential amendment to the Yukon First National Self-Government Act to ensure the first nations have adequate tools, primarily fine levels, to effectively implement and enforce their YESAA decisions.

As I note at the outset, the umbrella final agreement was signed in 1993 and implementation began in 1995. As hon. members can see, it has taken some time to address the agreement's requirement for a territory wide development assessment process and it was time well used. Much of that time has been spent in consultation with stakeholder groups and, as a result, we have a much better bill and a much better process than might otherwise be the case. First nations in particular will have a more meaningful role in assessments in Yukon.

It is safe to say that virtually everyone in Yukon had an opportunity to comment on the bill and many did. The department released drafts of the legislation in 1998 and in 2001 for public review. It has since undertaken two separate tours of Yukon to meet with Yukon first nations and other residents to review and discuss these drafts.

This took time but it was time well spent. Those in Yukon who participated believe the process was inclusive, transparent and worthwhile. I am confident in the merits of this proposed legislation. I believe that a single assessment process is by far the best approach for Yukon given the unique circumstances of land ownership and governance in the territory.

I believe this process will provide certainty for all parties and that this in turn will encourage investment in Yukon while protecting the environment and first nations traditional livelihoods and culture.

Settling claims eliminates an enormous barrier to economic development and in turn improves the quality of life of first nations communities and that of their non-aboriginal neighbours living in the Yukon.

Investors can then proceed with confidence and first nations can negotiate from positions of strength. Bill C-2 represents an important step forward in implementing a commitment to first nations under the Yukon umbrella final agreement which is a priority for the government and for Canadians.

The proposed legislation deserves our support on all counts. With that in mind, I ask all hon. members to join me in voting to send it to committee for review.