House of Commons Hansard #148 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was competition.

Topics

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 102—
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Pankiw Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Since 1994 and for each of the subsequent calendar years, what has the government through Statistics Canada determined to be: ( a ) the total number of homicides; ( b ) the total number of homicides involving a firearm; ( c ) the total number of attempted murders; ( d ) the total number of attempted murders involving a firearm; ( e ) the total number of all other offences against the person, excluding murder and attempted murder; ( f ) the total number of criminal offences against the person involving the use of a firearm, excluding murder and attempted murder; ( g ) the total number of suicides; and ( h ) the total number of suicides involving the use of a firearm?

(Return tabled)

Mr. Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Question No. 102—
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Question No. 102—
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-5, an act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada, as reported (with amendments) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 2.

Species at Risk Act
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

I wish to inform the House that because of the ministerial statement, government orders will be extended by 13 minutes.

Species at Risk Act
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Peter Goldring Edmonton Centre-East, AB

Mr. Speaker, I was speaking about the difficulty most people would have in recognizing an endangered species or its habitat in a wildlife area. Many people in Canada would have great difficulty recognizing or enumerating any of our endangered species, particularly with a bill that is punitive for those who do not recognize them. This is one of the difficulties with this legislation. What happens to tourists and campers who explore Canada? The burden of proof is too high for innocent Canadians.

We must protect endangered species. It is a critical goal and a responsibility this side of the House takes very seriously. People want to co-operate but this entrapment approach by the government is adversarial and does nothing to encourage co-operation. Without co-operation we simply cannot move ahead.

The minister must be more reasonable and realistic in exercising his discretion. It would be almost impossible for companies that deal with mineral or oil and gas exploration to demonstrate due diligence over operations covering hundreds of thousands or even millions of hectares when they do not even control all of the external factors involved. What would happen if the practices approved today were deemed fatal to species later? Who would take the fall?

There are 70 million hectares of agricultural land and 25 million hectares of privately owned forest lands in Canada. How would farmers and operators exercise due diligence over these areas, especially when many are small operations with very limited resources and no familiarity with endangered species regulations? Who will provide education for the yet to be determined caretakers of these species?

The government knows this is a problem. In response to a question from the official opposition, the minister said that it is a legitimate matter for concern. He said that the accidental and unwitting destruction is a concern and that the government wants to give the maximum protection possible to the legitimate and honest person who unwittingly makes a mistake. If it is such a concern, why is the government not doing anything about it? The bill would make such an honest person a criminal. Some protection.

This bill reminds me of the gun registration legislation, Bill C-68. In fact, this endangered species legislation is part of a disgraceful pattern in the government's handling of rural issues. Its cruelty to animals legislation makes farmers worry about the continuing standard animal husbandry practices. Its heavy-handed approach to registering long guns utterly fails to consider everyday living and farming practices in rural and northern Canada.

The Kyoto accord will potentially add heavy costs to agricultural producers across Canada. The premiers are united against this type of government shortsightedness. Now the endangered species legislation threatens to criminalize farmers and property owners, the very people who are in the best position to help our endangered species.

The official opposition's amendments would restore the balance by requiring that the crown prove some measure of intent before someone could be convicted. Did the farmer willingly harm an endangered species? Did the farmer wilfully harm the species and do so with intent?

All of these amendments would go some way to ensure that innocent people would not inadvertently commit a criminal offence. It would be a better start than the one the government is offering in the bill before us.

At a minimum the federal government must work with the provinces to provide training for landowners and users who would be required to meet the due diligence standard but do not have the knowledge or information to identify listed species or their critical habitat and residences. If the government does not provide the proper and realistic education on endangered species, we can only hope that the courts will act as a check and balance for our protection.

Is it realistic for everyone in an area to know everything about an endangered species? If it is not, the courts will likely rule most convictions out of order. Then we are back to square one.

Canadians want to protect endangered species. Everyone wants to do that but it will not come willingly under the heavy-handed approach outlined in the bill.

Canadian Alliance Motion No. 80 also covers the critical need to have criminal intent outlined in the legislation. Canadians deserve to be innocent until proven guilty.

Canadian Alliance Motion No. 94 deals with important provincial jurisdictional issues. The preservation of endangered species is a shared responsibility between the federal and provincial governments. Just over five years ago, in 1996, the federal and provincial ministers agreed to a national accord for the protection of species at risk in Canada.

Sadly though in this legislation the minister unilaterally assumes discretion to apply the new species at risk accord to provincial lands, a giant step backward in federal and provincial relations. To confuse matters more does not happen automatically. Instead, it is completely up to the minister to determine whether the laws of a province are adequate. If he decides they are not, he can invoke using his heavy-handedness to apply the federal law in the province. Is it only me who sees a political showdown coming?

This completely undermines the principles of co-operation which were developed in the 1996 accord. Co-operation under my rules only, trust me politics in this House have shown that co-operation must be a shared responsibility where both sides are happy with the results. Dictated co-operation does not work.

Because it is completely at the minister's discretion, it leads to an uncertainty and confusion for provinces and, more important, for land resource owners. How does the minister feel about the provincial laws of today? What side of the bed did he wake up on? The provinces will try in good faith to arrange their affairs to comply with the law but they have no idea what the law will be if the federal government can step in at any time.

Lawsuits and appeals in the supreme court will undoubtedly choke the courts for generations to come and the species that we are trying to protect will disappear in the meantime. It will undermine collective efforts to protect species and show to the world that Canada is not serious in its commitments to co-operate in meeting this important goal.

This is like the approach of the former minister of health to health care co-operation. We must do better on this issue.

Species at Risk Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak once again to Bill C-5. As all members in the House are aware, this bill is supposed to protect endangered species. The motions in Group No. 2 deal specifically with jurisdiction and criminal intent.

The last time I had the opportunity to speak on the bill, it was with regard to the motions in Group No. 1 and the idea of compensation. As many of my colleagues have, I talked about the importance of obviously putting together legislation that brings together all the stakeholders involved in protecting endangered species. Why should we even deal with the bill if it does not create the atmosphere in the country of all the stakeholders coming together to protect endangered species.

Those stakeholders are various groups. They are landowners, ranchers, others have agricultural backgrounds and some of them are basically enthusiasts of nature, environmentalists or people who are interested in various forms of wildlife. All of them have an interest.

It is clear that even when Canadians are polled on this issue and even if endangered species does not rank at their top priority, over 90% of Canadians have expressed the interest in putting together some form of legislation that would protect endangered species.

In going through the bill and trying to deal with the legislation that hopefully will be effective in protecting endangered species, the question is can we get all Canadian from all those sides that I have mentioned working together. This is where the government has failed.

We have identified where it has failed over and over again in trying to bring stakeholders together. Instead, its mentality has been a divide and conquer mentality which refuses to bring all stakeholders together and jeopardizes the future of the protection of endangered species no matter what we do in this place.

We identified the idea of compensation. I will take a moment to repeat those concerns. Landowners who currently are stewards of the land, who make efforts usually on a voluntary basis, because they care so deeply about their land and about the endangered species that may be present on their land, make an effort to try to protect those habitats specifically on their lands without any involvement or legislation by the government.

How can we continue to do that in light of the government saying that if there are particular types of endangered species found on their land that this land could be confiscated without any form of compensation? The compensation question is still not clear. To get landowners on side and people involved in the agriculture industry, we have to give them the confidence that the government will respect private property rights. In fact, the government has no commitment to private property rights. This is the fear behalf of a lot of the landowners. If they are actually making the effort to be stewards of the land now and in future if the bill is passed and the compensation question is not clear, they are at risk of losing often generations of livelihood and generations of tradition on some of these lands because the government has not clearly put into the bill a mechanism or equation for compensation. This is outrageous.

I went on to talk about various communities in Europe that have actually outlined ways to deal with that compensation question. I wish the government would take that seriously. That is one other area that will pull apart the stakeholders when it comes to dealing with endangered species.

Group No. 2 motions talk about the area of jurisdiction and criminal intent. The Bloc is very concerned. I know Bloc members have many interests in the environment. They are pushing on many fronts to ensure the federal government respects the environment. We saw that with Kyoto and with a number of environmental bills. I am sure their commitment to endangered species is no less.

However the idea of jurisdiction in this case brings forth a lot of questions of how this relationship that is managed by the federal government will bring in the partners, the provincial governments.

When I talk about the stakeholders in the area of compensation, here is another example of trying to bring the stakeholders together, outside of the people who are directly related to the land, which are obviously the different levels of government. We can all be shooting on the same cylinders: co-operating together in this place and in the provinces to ensure that the paramount importance is put on endangered species. The government is refusing to even look at the way it will be trampling on provincial rights.

We have seen it time and time again from this government in health care, education and in a host of other areas where we know the government has no real commitment to working with the provinces. If anything, it would run roughshod over the provinces and invoke its own types of laws, when in fact those responsibilities may be of a provincial nature.

My colleague from Edmonton East, who spoke before me, talked about the idea of a national accord when it comes to environment, especially in the area of endangered species. This is an area where the government has lacked leadership in trying to bring those stakeholders together. I mentioned health care and education.

There has been talk of trying to bring the stakeholders from the provinces together in other areas. Let us face it, being federal representatives, we have to respect the provincial jurisdictions, but there are ways we can work better together if leadership is shown at the federal level to engage those provinces in the areas of health care, education and obviously the environment.

In creating a national accord, there would not be the duplication that we see in so many areas because the government has grown so large and tries to get involved in so many different things. We would try to eliminate the areas of duplication and obviously work in better co-operation with the provinces. The government has failed to do so and refuses to deal with the areas of jurisdiction that may be unacceptable to the provinces, where they may feel there is duplication. It obviously would not be in the best interests of taxpayers unless we address the jurisdictional issue.

That is why the idea of a national accord, such as in areas of education and health care, is something on which we should try to work together to allow provinces the flexibility to take care of its citizens and allow better co-operation and co-ordination with the federal government.

My colleague also spoke, as other colleagues have, about one of the big concerns we have in the bill outside the jurisdiction area. That is how the bill could affect criminal intent when it comes to people who are stewards of the land. The bill puts the burden of proof on the accused and not on the prosecution, meaning that farmers, ranchers, or anyone inadvertently destroying a species at risk or its critical habitat are guilty until proven innocent. This is unacceptable.

On the principle of obviously wanting to prosecute people who intentionally commit crimes against endangered species, I do not think we would find anyone opposed. When I was the environment critic for the official opposition, I had some discussions with some land management and agricultural groups. They said they had a real problem with the particular part of the bill that would invoke criminal intent. Even though we all know, and I think the parliamentary secretary to the environment minister would agree, there are people out there who are stewards of the land and who are currently working to protect endangered species, there are times in the daily operations of farmers, ranchers or others who deal in the natural resource industries when habitats might be affected negatively.

In many cases that could be done unintentionally. It is not the intention of many of these groups to damage habitats but unfortunately it could happen. What is being suggested in the bill is that even an innocent farmer or someone who is going about the business of dealing with their own business could be prosecuted in the event of an accident. This is unacceptable.

If there is obviously clear intention, which can be proven without making this sort of change to the bill, on the part of people who are going to actively destroy habitat, then we should prosecute them to the highest levels. We should ensure that fines are levelled and everything else. However we have jeopardized totally the whole notion of justice with this change of saying that a person is guilty until proven innocent. That goes against our belief in the justice system.

As I have said, the government has an opportunity to bring the stakeholders together. We have been repeating this message over and over again in the official opposition. The stakeholders involved have been repeating this message over and over again. This is the third time the government has tried to put this type of legislation through the House. Why has it failed? Because each time it consistently has refused to listen to the opposition and various stakeholders to bring people together on an issue that is very important. It refuses to listen to Canadians. That is unacceptable and that is why we have a really big problem with this bill.

Species at Risk Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Lanctôt Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise again to take part in the debate on Bill C-5, an act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada.

What strikes me with this bill as with many others is that its real purpose is to allow the minister responsible to grab powers that do not belong to him. The primary purpose of this bill is to allow the minister responsible to get hold of certain powers, to centralize the decision making process.

This could be done in a fairer manner, but that does not seem to be the government's intention. It prefers to use so-called noble objectives to give itself the means to take what it should not take. In this case, the minister responsible is using the species at risk to give himself powers that he did not have before.

Sure, we must protect species at risk, but why is the minister responsible giving himself powers that do not belong to him? The Bloc Quebecois believes that it is possible to create standards to improve and help species and ecosystems that are at risk, while also respecting Quebec's jurisdictions and avoiding useless interference.

This interference is not hidden in any way, but is an indirect way of running things. And this is not acceptable in a parliamentary system. As we all know, ours is a political system with a constitution, and it is critical that we respect the division of powers.

This is supposed to be a federal system, but the government is increasingly behaving like a centralizing agent, which goes against the principles that should apply. Jurisdictions and powers are being usurped, and this is totally contrary to the division of constitutional powers.

It would have been more appropriate to strengthen what is already in place by working on existing structures.

It would be more appropriate to adequately use available resources with programs that already meet existing needs. It is totally useless to waste time and money duplicating what already exists by appropriating these powers. Let us not forget that these powers are currently held by another level of government under the constitution.

What gives the federal government the authority to ignore the constitution and take powers that do not belong to it? Of course the government will provide a vague and evasive answer, in an attempt to lull the public, which is wondering about the appropriateness of acting in this fashion. But what is of even greater concern to me is where this appropriation of powers will stop.

The environment is an area of shared responsibility between the federal government and the Government of Quebec, and we are working to ensure that this is how it will apply. So why is the federal government using this so-called authorization to usurp powers that belong to others? This way of acting is both inconceivable and unacceptable.

Interference will no doubt result in administrative duplication. This approach will result in a cumbersome administration that will rapidly become antiquated and outdated. None of this adds anything to the effective protection of species at risk.

I deeply regret the fact that the federal government is using something as fragile as the protection of endangered species for its own political purposes. Indeed, it is the political agenda that is driving the real objectives of this bill. It seems clear that the government wants to fulfill political objectives first and foremost.

The government talks about shared responsibilities, but there is no real sharing. It is more like a one way street, or rather highway, where the government decides first, then discusses. The consultation process is backwards. Under this bill, the minister is appropriating incredible discretionary powers, with no consideration for the constitutional division of powers.

I already said it, sharing necessarily implies dialogue and discussion between parties. Yet, based on the actions of the federal government, this is not the case. It would seem to be that the minister is attempting to grab power for himself at the expense of the provinces and Quebec. That is the definition of interference.

To make progress on such an issue, we have to start at the beginning, and not by interfering in Quebec's areas of responsibility. We have no choice but to be offended when we see that Quebec's legislation in the field of wildlife protection is completely ignored. It would have made sense to incorporate the related legislative provisions from Quebec in order to come to the required protection outcomes, but they are not included in the objectives of this bill.

Negotiations would have been desirable and beneficial for all, but once again, the federal government prefers to disregard results in this area to do as it pleases and ride roughshod over the division of powers, while yet again centralizing its powers.

The Bloc Quebecois believes that we must act to establish measures that will provide sufficient protection for species at risk. However, it is impossible for us to support this bill, because it disregards the management responsibilities of the provinces and Quebec.

The Bloc Quebecois believes that prompt action on this is necessary. The undue appropriation of powers by the federal government must not, however, be allowed. As a result, an effective consultation process must be put in place between the federal government and Quebec, in order to successfully arrive at an appropriate solution to this emergency situation. We will then be able to put in place a suitable approach for meeting the requirements of the situation.

Those requirements have nothing whatsoever to do with national identity. This appears to be the case, however, when one reads the first “whereas” statements in the bill. It appears obvious that this is in fact an attempt by the minister responsible to appropriate the powers incumbent upon Quebec and the provinces. This is tantamount to contravening the jurisdictional division as set out in the constitution.

All of us hope for, and want, concrete measures to protect endangered species. Before my consent is given, however, not only would the objectives have to be clearly identified but it would also have to be made clear that the protection of endangered species is the one and only priority. This is not what we see in Bill C-5.

I shall therefore wait for a bill that is respectful of the division of jurisdictions and includes an objective of conservation before my support is forthcoming. I cannot give it to Bill C-5 because of the lack of respect with which it was drafted and the pernicious intent of the federal government.

The primary purpose of this bill is political advantage. This is obvious from the way it was drafted. The government appeals to Canadian national identity as our heritage, which deserves protection, but totally ignores the primary clientele of this bill, that is species at risk. Concrete measures must therefore be taken before it is too late to really protect species at risk while at the same time respecting the constitutional division of powers.

Species at Risk Act
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is certainly a pleasure to put forward my position and that of the PC/DR coalition with respect to Bill C-5, the species at risk legislation more commonly referred to as SARA.

First I would like to congratulate the PC/DR coalition member for Fundy--Royal, who has put a lot of effort into this legislation. He has walked it through the committee stages and the House. I can assure the House that he is very disappointed with the way the Liberal government has seen fit to bring forward this piece of legislation, and now we are speaking to amendments which I am told had the support of committee members, inclusive of government members as well as opposition members. They were good amendments to the first piece of legislation that the government has brought forward not in three years but in three terms, and now unfortunately it is a piece of legislation that is supported by no one.

It is supported by none of the stakeholders and none of the producers, ranchers and farmers whom it will impact. It is supported by none of the provinces and now comes forward as basically an empty shell of itself, as legislation that will cause nothing but irreparable damage in areas that have been depending on this legislation. The people I represent, the producers, farmers and ranchers out there, are very supportive of endangered species or species at risk legislation. They are and have been the stewards of the land, the stewards of the habitat of the animals and birds and flowers that it is necessary to protect, the endangered species.

All these people want is to be treated fairly. They are the ones who on behalf of society have made sure that the habitat is available for the animals so that society can take advantage of that. However, there are a few areas of the legislation that will impact these people and the obvious one is the area of compensation. I do not think that anybody should expect a farmer, producer, rancher or owner of land to be forced to do something on behalf of society without ever having the opportunity of compensation.

There was an amendment that went forward. That amendment talked about fair and reasonable compensation on a case by case basis, fair and reasonable compensation when something impacts a particular piece of property or piece of land. We must not forget that this is about people's livelihoods. These farmers, producers and ranchers depend on the land to feed their families and certainly to pay the necessary bills in their communities.

There should well be a fair and reasonable compensatory package. In fact, our member for Fundy--Royal put together a white paper, a discussion paper with respect to that, and he called it “Carrots Instead of Sticks”, the carrot being the compensatory package as opposed to the stick of government that will whack everybody over the nose.

The fact that the “fair and reasonable” has been yanked by the minister is absolutely and totally objectionable. There is no way that the minister should have changed that instead of having the committee bring forward that amendment. We know that everyone benefits from the protection of our habitat, yet we cannot demand that farmers and agriculturalists pay the costs.

There is also an issue with respect to the amendment on scientific listings. Scientific listings should be based on the science of the endangered species, not on political requirements, as has been identified by the Minister of the Environment on the Liberal side. The Liberals have now allowed the politicians and the politics to be involved in those listings as opposed to having just simply scientific listings. That is objectionable. This is headed in absolutely the wrong direction.

I find it really interesting that we have a government that is prepared to tell others what to do and how to do it. It not only tells people what to do and how to do it but insists that they do it. However, in its own jurisdiction, the federal jurisdiction, the government has not made this mandatory in the legislation. Does that not say to hon. members that there is a big brother attitude in the federal government?

Every provincial government had letters of support for the hon. member for Fundy--Royal when they put forward the amendment with respect to provincial criteria regarding when the federal government would insist the provinces get involved in specific areas. When the amendment was put forward the government removed it even though Alberta, Ontario, P.E.I., Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick supported it. It was pulled. It was yanked by a government that is not prepared to put its own signature and apply its own criteria to its own lands. Yet it insists on having it done by provinces, municipalities, producers, farmers and ranchers.

It is totally abhorrent. It should not have happened. It is not what one would consider co-operative federalism. It is not working with provinces, stakeholders or the people affected. It smacks of the big brother attitude of the Liberal government.

The other issue is legality. It is about turning producers into criminals. This category of amendments deals with the criminality of not dealing with species at risk. Producers, farmers, ranchers or people who have habitats on their land may not know what all the endangered species are. A lot of these people live in my area. In my riding there are bluffs, woodlots, wetlands and wild lands which contain habitats for endangered species. Some producers may unknowingly and unwittingly have an impact on habitats because it is their job. It is their livelihood. It is their land.

Under Bill C-5 that would be criminal. These people do not know they are affecting habitats. They have not been told. They have not been made aware. However our good friends from the government can come forward and say it is a criminal act. A criminal act under Bill C-5 could mean jail or a huge fine. It could destroy lives.

Members might say pshaw, that would never happen. They might say our government does not do things like that to Canadians. However there is not a lot of trust out there among Canadian citizens for governments and bureaucrats.

In western Canada the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has taken its job extremely seriously to the point where if the book is black and white it will go to the black and white. It does not matter how it impacts municipalities, property rights or people's lives. DFO personnel are there now. There have been instances in my own riding where they have decided they must make their signatures come whatever or high water. It has had a great impact on a lot of my producers.

Let us not say it will never happen. It can and it will. The government and its bureaucrats are prepared to do anything to make those signatures.

There are a lot of areas in the amendments that should be supported. We in my party will not be supporting the legislation as brought forward. We find it objectionable that the amendments that were approved in committee and supported by members of the government were not allowed to come forward and make Bill C-5 the right piece of legislation.

Species at Risk Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Williams St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I too have serious concerns about Bill C-5. Our critic, the hon. member for Red Deer, has been working diligently to point out to the government the shortcomings of the bill. Unfortunately there does not appear to be much attention on the government side to what is being said. I hope the government realizes it is not only the opposition that is saying these things. We are speaking on behalf of a large number of Canadians. Canadians in rural Canada would be the ones most affected by the bill. It would in many cases trample and trash their individual rights.

One of the rights it would trash is provincial rights. We have a constitution in Canada that says there are two sovereign parts. The federal government is sovereign in its areas of jurisdiction and provincial governments are sovereign in their areas of responsibility. It is clearly spelled out in the constitution. As far as I can tell, Bill C-5 is another attempt by the federal government to steamroll over areas of responsibility that belong to the provinces as their sovereign right under the constitution. The federal government is saying “Step aside, we are taking over”.

Species at risk do not always respect political boundaries. They may cross into Saskatchewan, Alberta or somewhere else and we may not even notice. Since they do not vote I do not think the Liberal government would notice either.

However that is not the point. The point is that we cannot ignore and trash provincial responsibilities and sovereignty. It is a thing we have debated for many years in Canada. We have gone through painful wranglings, first ministers meetings, constitutional rounds, referenda and so on about provincial sovereignty, rights and responsibilities. The government thinks separatism in the province of Quebec is waning and that it can go back to the old trick of saying “Who cares what they think, we will do what we want to do”. I hope the government realizes this is not the way of co-operative federalism. It should sit and negotiate these things with the provinces to get them onside.

The provinces have a heart as well as the federal government. I am not sure about a Liberal heart, but the federal government has a heart. It cares not just for the people but for species at risk. I think all Canadians care about species at risk. The question is, how will we do it? Will we trash people's rights to preserve the rights of species at risk? These are the things that should be debated.

I will go back to Bill C-49. It does not have much to do much with species at risk but I always like to quote a paragraph because it demonstrates the attitude of the government. I will show how the attitude pervades Bill C-5 as well. Subclause 36(3) of Bill C-49 deals with the federal government taking ownership of items currently owned by the private sector. It states:

The Governor in Council may require air carriers to transfer to the Authority, on such terms as the Governor in Council considers appropriate, their rights, titles, interests or obligations under any contract respecting screening specified by the Minister--

This is the important part:

--despite any contractual restriction on the transfer of those rights, titles, interests or obligations.

The whole body of jurisprudence and legislation we have built into contract law, civil law and everything else that guarantees a contract is a contract is refuted in one simple clause of Bill C-49. Not one of them is worth the paper they were written on because the governor in council says “On our terms you will transfer it to us”. What an attitude that is.

Let us look at what the government would do to Canadians under Bill C-5. On page 51, subclause 87(2) deals with seizing things. If the government could not figure out what it was seizing it would call it a thing. Whatever the government seized it would call a thing.

Under Bill C-5 the government could take people's property. If the owners could not prove within 30 days that it was their property the government could destroy it and that would be the end of it. Thirty days is all people would have. They may not even be in the country to know the government has taken something off their land. They would have 30 days to prove it was theirs. If they could not, that is too bad. It would be gone.

Bill C-5 is a fairly simple, draconian and arrogant piece of legislation that should not be tolerated by Canadians. Subclause 87(3) of the bill talks about perishable things seized by the government:

If the seized thing is perishable, the enforcement officer may dispose of it or destroy it, and any proceeds of its disposition must be paid to the lawful owner--

The government could seize goods that were perishable, notice they were starting to smell and decide to destroy them. How much would it pay the rightful owner? It would pay absolutely nothing because it destroyed the goods and did not sell them. It would have no responsibility to compensate the person who owned the stuff. That is a draconian, arrogant and wilful trashing of people's rights.

Clause 89 deals with investigation. In the world of criminal prosecution we have the police. It costs us millions of dollars a year to pay for the police. They go in, investigate crimes and lay charges. The cases end up in court, people may be found guilty, judges levy fines which are sometimes just a slap on the wrist, and that is the end of it.

For some reason or other under the species at risk act we would not only get fines of up to $1 million, which is more than a slap on the wrist. One would have to pay the costs of inspection, seizure, abandonment, forfeiture or disposition of the stuff seized. Not only would one get a fine. One would have to pay for the investigation.

Murderers, bank robbers and people who take property, trash it, destroy it, steal it and sell it do not have to pay a dime for the investigation. However there is something special about species at risk. As well as paying a fine people would have to pay for the investigation, seizure, abandonment, forfeiture and disposition. Perhaps hon. members would agree it is lopsided. These are the types of things that are in the bill.

Clause 90 deals with people walking all over private property. It says enforcement officers could go onto anyone's property when they liked, as they liked and so on with no right of objection whatsoever by the owner.

Let us say that is okay. Not only would property owners have to let enforcement officers on their property. They would have to give enforcement officers all reasonable assistance to enable them to carry out their duties. Bill C-5 would deputize property owners as law enforcement officers.

When someone is committing a bank robbery or whatever crime the police tell us to phone them and they will look after it. They say not to worry. If someone is running around with a gun they tell us not to get involved. They tell us to stay out of trouble and they will look after it. Under Bill C-5 if people were running around the countryside with guns shooting endangered species, whatever those may be, one would have a legal obligation to help enforcement officers even one did not have a gun. On and on it goes.

I have only spoken about two or three clauses of the bill. There are many more. I would like to go through the rest but surely I have given an idea of why we in my party object to the bill.

Species at Risk Act
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, once again I am pleased to take part in the debate on Bill C-5, the Species at Risk Act.

We are speaking today to the amendments in Group No. 2. Some of these amendments were tabled by my colleague from the Bloc, the hon. member for Mercier.

I listened very carefully to the remarks by the Canadian Alliance member and I really appreciated the first part of his speech. The Canadian Alliance members are opening their minds and finally realizing that the environment is a shared under the Canadian constitution. This is the first time I hear that. Congratulations. You have moved forward, you have developed in the area of the Canadian constitution.

But beyond the remarks made by the Canadian Alliance member on the environment, I would say that it is more than a matter of shared jurisdiction, because habitat is also involved. Amendment No. 2, put forward by my colleague Mrs. Lalonde, states—

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4:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I remind the hon. member that members may not be referred to by name, but rather by the name of their riding.

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4:10 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am sorry. I was reading the motion and her name is on it.

I would like to quote Motion No. 2 of the hon. member for Mercier, which reads “the protection of habitats and species on provincial lands is entirely under provincial jurisdiction”.

The refusal by the government to support the motion moved by my colleague proves that it wants to usurp a shared jurisdiction. Whatever it says or does, it is clear that this government is constantly usurping rights.

In a speech made on June 2, 2000, the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Louis said he was very disappointed with this government. He spoke about listing, saying it would be decided by a committee. At present, we have a list of 339 species at risk established by the COSEWIC. In this bill, however, the government ignores this list. It will be up to the governor in council to decide what species are to be added to the list. This decision will be taken by the Minister of Natural Resources, the Minister of Environment, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Industry.

Some ministers may prefer a particular specie while others will make a different choice. It will be a tower of Babel where everyone speaks a different language. Instead of using the list of 339 species established over a 20-year period by scientists who deal specifically with species at risk, the government has decided to establish a different list.

Why not use the existing list? What we are being told is “We in cabinet are the specialists”. The Minister of Defence may inform cabinet that he prefers one specie over another. Ministers will fight among themselves, and everyone will be able to do whatever they want in the field; there will no longer be an established list to go by.

As we can see, there are major irritants in this bill. The provinces and the federal government have made progress in terms of species at risk, but they now appear to be rejecting out of hand years of effort made by scientists and environmentalists.

The government claims to be in sole possession of the truth and says that we need it to lead the battle to protect species at risk. Personally, I do not think that the government is serious with this bill. It does not want to make progress. It simply wants to interfere in an area under provincial jurisdiction. It wants to negotiate directly with landowners on the issue of habitats, which is rather strange, since habitats are under provincial jurisdiction.

We can see just how pernicious the government's interference is. It perniciously grabs powers beyond its jurisdiction. It says that it has respect for us, but it is always the same thing. I have been here since 1997; some of my colleagues have been here since 1993. We often talk about it; the government always does things the same way.

“We are the sole possessors of the truth, so follow us, otherwise you are not part of the gang”. I have not heard this in a long time. I believe that nobody is the sole possessor of the truth.

With this bill, the government should have shown its willingness to respect species at risk and to do something to protect them. Protecting species at risk is important. Some may think that history needs to be rewritten all the time, but no. It is possible to use documents that were produced by serious people who have already identified species at risk.

COSEWIC has already come up with a list. The government should say, “We are starting from there and moving forward”. Even the ecologists are saying this. I am not an ecologist, but I am someone for whom the environment is very important. We must leave a healthy environment for our children and for those who come after us. We hope that we will finally be able to leave them a planet that they can develop as they see fit. The way we have started out, the heritage we are leaving them is going to be a mediocre one. What we are telling them is, “We are going to pollute to the hilt, sow discord everywhere, and you can sort it all out”. I say no.

This bill could have given our people hope regarding species at risk. A species at risk did not start out that way. It is because we have polluted the atmosphere that it is becoming a species at risk. This would have been the time to take action and listen to everyone.

It is a funny thing but, when we make speeches, when we speak in committee, when we oppose a clause and say with considerable common sense that “that is not what we should do”, we think that they are listening to us. But when we see the final version of the bill at third reading in the House, we realize that they had their ears open but they were not listening. It is always the same.

It is annoying for all the members and for all those who want to go forward. We must learn to know the species at risk better so that the provinces and the federal government can work together to find the best ways to protect them.

However, this bill is not doing that at all. It is not what it aims to do, and I find that very sad. We have spent hours on this bill and we have not accomplished a lot. We have merely talked for the sake of talking.

There was once a television program entitled Parler pour parler , or “Let's talk for the sake of talking“. I have not come here to talk for the sake of talking. I have come here to move things forward. People from my riding think that it is important. They tell me “Go to Ottawa to defend us because you know the priorities in our area”. However, I note that the Liberals do not see or hear anything. The only thing they say is “no, no, no”.

This is why the Bloc will be unable to support this bill. It is sad, but if the government had done its homework we would have been glad to say that we are finally going in the right direction.

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4:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Leon Benoit Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-5. I must say it has been many years in the making and the end result is not a good product.

Similar legislation first came forth in 1996. The Canadian Alliance worked diligently on this issue starting back when the legislation first came to the House and to committee. We offered substantial recommendations for change. Interestingly, many of the proposals that we made for change were promoted by environmental groups across the country. They were practical and worthwhile changes. Had they been included they would have made the legislation something that could have been supported. Unfortunately, those changes were not included in the legislation and the end result has left us with some serious problems.

I will speak to the amendments put forth by the Canadian Alliance regarding the issue of intent when it comes to damaging an endangered species. It is important to tie this issue with some of the other key issues when we are looking at whether or not these amendments are supportable.

The Canadian Alliance, by offering practical suggestions, demonstrated clearly that it wanted endangered species legislation which would protect endangered species. Our current critic, the hon. member for Red Deer, made that clear in his presentations on this issue and with his hard work in committee.

The Canadian Alliance understands that for the legislation to work we must look at what the practical impact would be on the people who are most likely to be affected, that is, farmers, resource owners and resource users. It would also include recreational property owners and users. Beyond that, almost everyone in the country could be affected by the legislation in a very negative way from two points of view.

First, if the legislation will not allow landowners and land users to deal with the legislation in a practical way then it could be counterproductive. That must be examined carefully. The issue of fair compensation has to be tied in. Landowners or resource users may find an endangered species on their property. For the legislation to work at all they must know that they would be compensated for the cost of protecting the species, whether it is the cost of some of their land being taken out of production or the cost of doing something to help protect the species. Unfortunately, that was not included in the legislation ensuring that it would not work. It is the first thing that would ensure that.

The second issue relates directly to the amendments that I am speaking to today, which is that criminal liability must require intent. The act would make criminals out of people who may inadvertently or unknowingly harm endangered species or their habitat.

Many farmers now leave a long stubble in their fields. The eventual growth there in the spring is an ideal habitat for a lot of species. Farmers work with these species every year. There is a provision where farmers would be expected to hire someone to do an environmental assessment so they can determine with some certainty that there are no endangered species in their field so that they are free to work and feel safe in working their field. That is something that just cannot be done.

The legislation would fail with that provision. I guarantee it. If the legislation passes as it is, it would fail and endangered species would be harmed more than they would be helped by the legislation. Let there be no doubt in anyone's mind about that.

Members should put themselves in the position of farmers. It could be in another resource industry. It could be anyone. It could be people who own cottages out at a lake. If an endangered species were to be found on a farmer's property there would be no fair compensation for the costs of protecting that species or for taking the land out of production.

The legislation would put that in place and jeopardize the livelihood of farmers. If that is the case in some situations, what will they do? These people have been good stewards of the land. They have done everything to protect species. They provide a good environment for all kinds of wildlife and all kinds of species. These same people, because of the legislation, may be driven to making sure that no one ever finds out that there was an endangered species on their property. They will do that through whatever means is necessary. Is that what we want to do to our farmers and to others in resource industries across the country?

Is that what the government wants to do with the legislation? I do not believe that at all. It feels that it has to put forth some legislation that might help protect endangered species but it knows, because of what went on in committee, as do environmentalists across the country, that it will be in reality the impact of the legislation if it passes as it is now.

In the name of fairness I ask the government, if it thinks it is right to put farmers, people in the other resource industries and people who have cottages at the lake who have invested large amounts of money in their properties so they can enjoy them, is it proper for any government to put them in a position where to protect their property they have to break the law to ensure that nobody would find out that there was an endangered species on their property? I do not believe that is right. It is wrong.

The Canadian Alliance proposals would at least give farmers and others the comfort that if they did not know there was an endangered species on their property they would not have to prove they did not know and they would not be held legally responsible for what they did unknowingly.

Bill C-5 would make it a criminal act to kill, harm or harass one of any number of endangered species. The bill would ignore one of the fundamental tenets of western legal history, that criminal penalties are only given for offences committed with a criminal mind. Mens rea is the latin legal term for it. That would be ignored in the way the government has written the legislation. Normal protection would be ignored. A farmer or someone else who completely unknowingly destroys a habitat or an endangered species could receive penalties of up to $1 million and five years in jail.

I am sure that is not the intent of the legislation. Let us get it fixed, get it back to the drawing board and ensure that the product we put out would help protect endangered species.