Debates of March 21st, 2002
House of Commons Hansard #161 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was species.
- House of Commons
- Canadian Human Rights Commission
- Estimates, Part III
- Indian Claims Commission
- Government Response to Petitions
- Pest Control Products Act
- Interparliamentary Delegations
- Committees of the House
- Questions on the Order Paper
- Request for Emergency Debate
- Species at Risk Act
- Foreign Affairs
- Canadian Alliance
- Marine Conservation Areas
- World Poetry Day
- Association féminine d'éducation et d'action sociale
- Daffodil Day
- International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
- Highway System
- Private Member's Motion
- Johnny Lombardi
- Racial Discrimination
- Grants and Contributions
- Lumber Industry
- Grants and Contributions
- Grants and Contributions
- Grants and Contributions
- Leadership Campaigns
- Regulatory Reform
- Employment Insurance
- Airport Security
- Government Contracts
- Employment Insurance
- Arts and Culture
- Foreign Affairs
- Softwood Lumber
- Foreign Affairs
- Battle against Homelessness
- Presence in Gallery
- Business of the House
- Species At Risk Act
- Species at Risk Act
- Corrections and Conditional Release Act
Andy Burton Skeena, BC
Mr. Speaker, I apologize for the confusion on my part and I appreciate the House giving me a few moments here.
Today I would like to table a petition sent to me by clients of Hawkair, a small air carrier which operates out of my riding of Skeena in northern British Columbia. This petition, signed by over 500 air travellers, is a perfect opportunity for the Minister of Transport to rethink his outrageous $24 round trip tax grab.
I hope that he will pay close attention to the information that comes out of the committee hearings taking place over the next little while and reconsider the implications and effect of this tax on small airlines and travellers across Canada.
The House resumed consideration of Bill C-5, an act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada, as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 4.
Species at Risk Act
March 21st, 2002 / 3:40 p.m.
Rick Laliberte Churchill River, SK
It is an honour and a privilege to speak on the proposed Group No. 4 report stage motions. I bring to the House the serious concern that has been raised by the United aboriginal leadership of Canada in relation to government Motions Nos. 6, 16 and 17.
The government motions diminish the standing committee's work to recognize the crucial role and important contribution that aboriginal peoples would make toward protecting species at risk. The standing committee acknowledged, by a unanimous all party vote, that a national aboriginal council on species at risk was a necessary component for bringing all jurisdictions of all peoples of Canada together to protect the life and species that were under threat.
The aboriginal peoples of Canada, the Inuit, the first nations and the Metis, all have stood united for inclusion in the decision making process that would reverse the losses of our species.
Since 1998 the leaderships have asked to be included at the decision making table to meet face to face with the federal and provincial ministers, the Canadian Endangered Conservation Council, a decision making body established under the federal-provincial species at risk accord, as action plans and recovery strategies for protecting species at risk are discussed, formulated and implemented.
This desire to be a partner in a co-operative manner between governments and peoples is nothing new. In matters related to the constitution and the charter of rights, and the repeated supreme court decisions, a requirement of our federal government in matters related to aboriginal rights should create models of inclusion. In fact the six representatives of the aboriginals peoples were involved in the ministers meeting in Iqaluit. They were invited by the environment minister himself to the surprise and gratitude of the aboriginal leadership. This was a huge step forward as a meeting of the minds and a clear signal that Canada would move forward in aboriginal relations, and it was a new step forward in the new millennium.
The government Motions Nos. 6, 16 and 17 were a huge disappointment to the aboriginal leadership. For the information of the House, the wording accepted by committee to create a necessary link to protect species between aboriginal peoples in Canada, to seek and consider advice and recommendations from aboriginal peoples, which the committee clarified to be the counsel in language specifically found in the federal-provincial accord, was based on the successful Iqaluit model.
The aboriginal working group successfully consulted with the government and its leadership to create the support required for this representation and inclusion. Representation from the east, south, west and north was very critical to having the inclusion of a unique biodiversity and eco-regions of Canada.
I call attention to Motion No. 25 as well. It changes the mechanisms and methods necessary to ensure intellectual property rights inherent for the successful implementation of SARA are respected and protected and are shared and used in an honourable manner.
In these new wording changes, I would propose that following two amendments to the report stage amendments, Motions Nos. 20 and 25, be accepted:
That Report Stage Motion No. 20 to amend Bill C-5 be amended by replacing all the words after “The Minister” with “shall establish a Council, to be known as the National Aboriginal Council on Species at Risk, consisting of six representatives of the aboriginal peoples of Canada selected by the Minister based upon recommendations from aboriginal organizations that the Minister considers appropriate. The role of the Council is to:
(1) advise the Minister on the administration of this Act;
(2) provide advice and recommendations to the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council.”
That Report Stage Motion No. 25 to amend Bill C-5 be amended by replacing paragraph 10.2(c) with the following:
“(c) methods for sharing information about species at risk, including community and aboriginal traditional knowledge, that respect, preserve and maintain knowledge and promote their wider application with the approval of the holders of such knowledge, with other governments and persons.”
I also bring to the attention of the House that aboriginal leaderships have explicitly stated that the removal of the council in the act, if not corrected and an honourable compromise is not reached on Motion No. 25, there may not be aboriginal support for SARA. Canada needs the support of the aboriginal peoples and their nations to ensure the successful implementation of this act and of preservation of the threatened and endangered species of this country.
I offer this honourable compromise.
Species at Risk Act
The Deputy Speaker
The Chair is ready to rule immediately on this matter. The amendments are in order.
Species at Risk Act
Roy H. Bailey Souris—Moose Mountain, SK
Mr. Speaker, a few days ago we received a lot of data from census Canada showing that a shrinking number of Canadians live in what is truly called rural Canada.
The vast majority of people in Canada live in a centre of 10,000 plus. As a result of that, one can take a look at many bills that come before the House, certainly Bill C-5 at the present time. Bill C-5 only involves a very small group of people who live in the rural area.
Yesterday we discussed Bill C-15B. Were the people in the ranching business consulted? Was the dairy industry or the hog industry consulted? No. These people were not consulted and yet they are the ones who will be the most affected.
This morning in the veterans affairs committee we had what I considered very good consultation. We had a gentleman who was very knowledgeable about the subject and we asked questions and so on.
The vast majority of people who this bill would affect were never consulted. Today we have a new president of the Saskatchewan Stock Growers' Association. He lives in a little area north of the No. 1 highway in Gouldtown, Saskatchewan. Was the Saskatchewan Stock Growers' Association consulted about the effects of Bill C-5? No. Yet its members own millions of acres of grazing land and they were not consulted.
If we were going to pass legislation applicable to a mass urban area like Ottawa or Toronto, there would be public consultation all over the place but when we deal with basic, rural agricultural problems, it does not matter any more because if we took all the people engaged in agriculture and spread them across Canada there would not be a voting block anyway. It really would not change the composition of members in the House. It is not a big issue except for those who happen to live there.
I was in Guelph, Ontario two weeks ago. The people there asked me to give a talk on how the agri-industry could continue to operate with such bills as C-5, C-15B and Kyoto, especially since it was not consulted on any of them?
I have seen a lot of the government's perception of consultation. Some crown corporations that are going to raise their rates put advertisements in the paper and invite the public to come. Three people may show up. The most common thing heard is that the government will simply go ahead and act anyway.
I am familiar with a provincial government issuing an environmental regulation to a group of people who for years used particular patches of land for grazing their animals.
Instead of telling them they could only use the land for grazing during a certain period of the year, the ruling came down stating that the piece of land had to be divided into three sections and that only one of those sections could be grazed every third year to preserve the nesting of certain birds. In order to make that land worthwhile, they had to put in miles of ineffective fencing.
This is very strange legislation. If a landowner or a land renter accidentally hurts or kills a particular animal, he or she must prove due diligence; that is, that he or she did everything possible beforehand to find out if that endangered species was on the land.
When the Rafferty dam was created in Saskatchewan we found that rare species of animals, animals which had never lived in the area before, moved in because of the water. Some people who graze their cattle near that dam still do not know that those animals are there. Under this legislation they would have to prove that they were guilty without due knowledge of what was happening. That is contrary to every other law we have in Canada which states that someone is innocent until proven guilty.
I know what people will say. They will say that the government would never do that. I know people will say that we would have a logical excuse. However, under this bill, the landowner has to prove that he is innocent.
I really believe that we in rural Canada from coast to coast are being totally ignored. Yesterday we talked about the cruelty to animals bill. The government never once consulted, learned about or asked about established practices that have been going on in this country since before Confederation and yet, under the proposed legislation, it will have the right to give its interpretation of such things as suffering and the right to say that a particular practice will no longer continue even though it never consulted with the people involved prior to the bill coming to the House.
The committee which studied Bill C-5 never heard from the people actually involved in land ownership. We did have good representation from industry and from some cattlemen but we never really heard from the national cattlemen's organization.
The government has never had the courage to say that the practices, such as branding, which have been going on forever in this country, will no longer be required. Instead, it waits. Let it say that a person who has an endangered species without knowing it is guilty of not protecting it. How can we protect something if we do not know it is there?
I found some endangered species on a piece of property and I reported them. The owners of thee property and the environment people were very happy about that. However if an individual visits someone who owns land and a particular endangered species is destroyed unknowingly on that piece of land, such as being ridden over by a horse, or an endangered piece of vegetation was trampled on, then they are guilty. We have to go back and change that part of the bill.
Species at Risk Act
Julian Reed Halton, ON
Mr. Speaker, I listened intently through at least part of the speech of my friend, the hon. member for Souris--Moose Mountain. For a while I wondered which bill he was speaking to, species at risk or cruelty to animals.
I want to point out to him and to the House that there has been a great deal of consultation on the bill. As a matter of fact there has probably been more consultation than there has been with any bill of its kind in past history, and particularly for the section we are speaking to, aboriginal peoples, who are the people who stand to benefit their country the most through the implementation of the bill. They are the people on the land, the people who are very directly affected. I can tell my hon. friend that I certainly will not forget the farmers, but I have to pay great respect to the aboriginal peoples of this land.
I should point out that in the bill it is the first time ever that aboriginal traditional knowledge is part of the decision making process. This has never happened before in the history of Canada. This is the first time. To me, that is very significant. As imperfect as some of my colleagues feel the bill is, we have made breakthroughs.
I also want to point out that a review is built into the legislation so that after the bill is passed, four years from now we are obliged to take a look at it again. There is a review process built right in so that the committee can review it. We can then determine what we have done right and what we have done wrong, because the actual nature of the bill is a breakthrough in itself. It is an attempt to bring about a departure from traditional kinds of legislation that are what we might describe as command and control. The Americans tried that. They passed legislation on species at risk or endangered species and it has not worked well. It is so deeply flawed that much of the budget for the preservation of species is going to litigation.
My minister wants this legislation to actually assist with the rehabilitation of species at risk, the identification of species at risk, and it will depend to a very large extent on the information obtained from aboriginal peoples in this country who will be able to deliver their traditional knowledge, which for the first time in the history of Canada can be brought to bear on the determination of species at risk.
The process has had intense involvement by representatives of Canada's aboriginal people in the development of the bill and has become a formal process through the working group on species at risk. This group has provided advice to the Canadian Wildlife Service, the Parks Canada Agency and Fisheries and Oceans Canada for a number of years already, and the advice, I must say, is invaluable. We are ensuring that it will continue in a formal way. It must. Ensuring that this formality exists is an enormous step forward. We are recognizing and putting into law the importance of the relationship of aboriginal people to land and wildlife. It is formal recognition and acknowledgement, a formal partnership. It is workable and valuable to all parties.
With this process and this legislation, with the incorporation of traditional aboriginal knowledge into the assessment and recovery of species, we are indeed moving forward. We have been saying for nearly nine years that we all share the responsibility for protecting wildlife. Perhaps no one group typifies a commitment to that responsibility more than Canada's aboriginal people. Our partnerships with aboriginal peoples have set the example for partnerships we have worked hard to foster with others: with landowners, with farmers, with fishermen, with conservation groups and with those in the resource sector.
We have established that nature and wildlife are an integral part of Canadian identity. This means that everyone in Canada has to take part in the success of this act. It deserves the support of everyone. I listened to my friend from Souris--Moose Mountain talk about farmers and people in the country, but he also quite rightly mentioned that the great majority of our citizens are urban. People in urban Canada have an equal responsibility for the protection of species, perhaps in the main because most of the species at risk are aquatic in nature. They are in the water. They are not on land at all. Therefore, when water such as the Great Lakes is degraded it means that those species at risk are continually put in danger.
With the bill, then, urban people will be able to join hands with rural Canada, with the very important input of aboriginal people, and hopefully, while it is perhaps not perfect, we can make this a bill that will raise the consciousness of all Canadians so that we can all move forward together and actually accomplish something that other parts of the world to date have not been able accomplish.
I enthusiastically endorse the bill. I also recognize that we can go back and look at it in years to come and ask what we did right and what we can correct, change and make better. In that spirit, I endorse Bill C-5 and would like to see it passed as soon as possible.
Species at Risk Act
Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-5, an act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada.
First, I would be remiss if I did not congratulate my colleague, the member for Rosemont--Petite-Patrie, who, as environment critic, has done excellent work standing up for Quebec's position on this complex issue. Obviously, it has been made even more complex by the Canadian federation. I commend my colleague for advocating for the interests of Quebec, both in committee and with his learned and brilliant speeches in the House.
Speaking of which, I would obviously be remiss if I did not mention the poor participation of the Liberal delegation from Quebec in this House, when it comes to defending the rights of Quebecers. Take, for example, the member for Lac-Saint-Louis, who was even Quebec's minister of the environment at one point, to name but one. So I am critical of federal Liberal members for not standing up for the interests of Quebec on this issue that should not be that complex, based on the wording, but that has received a great deal of attention in Quebec.
Before speaking about the protection of species at risk in Quebec, let us look at the history surrounding this. In 1990, the Government of Quebec passed the act respecting threatened or vulnerable species, the act respecting the conservation and development of wildlife, and fishing regulations.
The Government of Quebec had already, back in 1990, adopted a safety net for species at risk. All of this was recognized in the federal-provincial accord signed in 1996, the accord for the protection of species at risk. So there have already been major discussions in Quebec and in Canada. The proof is that an accord was signed in 1996, known as the accord for the protection of species at risk.
At the time, Quebec's minister of the environment warned the Quebecers in a press release, by saying, “Yes, it is well and good, we signed an accord for the protection of species at risk with the federal government, but I am warning you to watch out for overlap”.
Now, six years later, the overlap we had been talking about in this parliament since 1996 is upon us. This is where the problem lies with the Canadian federation. As soon as the federal government manages to get along with the provinces, negotiations begin in the House of Commons to have our own protection system, and government members dare tell us “This is a double safety net”.
I am sorry, but when such important amounts are allocated, this is not a double safety net; it is overlapping in jurisdictions. This is the reality with the act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada.
In 1996, a federal-provincial agreement was signed, the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk in Canada. Sure, the terms “wildlife” and “Canada” were not included, but the federal government could easily have reached an agreement with Quebec and the other provinces to make changes to this accord in another federal-provincial agreement. This is not what the Liberal government is proposing.
Again, I am upset at Quebec Liberal members for not protecting the interests of Quebec. In Quebec, we have laws that have been in effect since 1990. We have a whole network of wildlife conservation officers. This network is working very well, but it is probably underfinanced because of the constant efforts that the Quebec government must make in health and education. It goes without saying that these wildlife conservation officers are doing a tremendous job in all sorts of situations to try to protect species, including those at risk.
Instead of having an agreement with Quebec and the other provinces to try to increase budgets and pay part of the costs relating to wildlife conservation officers, this bill will create, believe it or not, federal enforcement officers.
A whole new monitoring system will be created, when the province of Quebec already has a monitoring system that works very well and that employs men and women who work very hard. They often work overtime during peak periods. The federal government, with its massive surplus, could very well have tried to reach an agreement with the provinces to improve wildlife officers' working conditions and increase their numbers so that they could conduct more monitoring, if they felt it necessary, to protect species at risk.
But this is not what will happen. A new system is being created, and we are being told that this is a double safety net. But this is not a double safety net; it is another instance of duplication in order, once again, to increase the government's visibility in the provinces, and in Quebec.
I listened to my Liberal colleague who spoke before me. The Liberals are celebrating an agreement reached with aboriginal people so that, in the end, there will be success. When it comes to aboriginal peoples, I trust the government of Quebec. At the beginning of this year, it signed the peace of the braves with a significant portion of Quebec's aboriginal population, the Cree nation. The peace of the braves is a historic agreement signed by the government of Quebec.
I trust Quebec when it comes to protecting wildlife species at risk in Canada or in Quebec. If the federal government had asked for it, it could very well have gotten a new federal-provincial agreement and reached an agreement with aboriginal peoples. Once again, this is the hard reality of the Canadian federal system.
I am still annoyed with the federal Liberal members from Quebec, who are not defending the interests of Quebecers. Once again, these members are going to try to persuade Quebecers that this is a double safety net and that twice the protection is better. The people of Quebec and of Canada are already paying enough in taxes without this sort of overlap. The federal government could very easily have got all the provincial environment ministers together around one table and asked them to sign a new federal-provincial accord for the protection of species at risk.
I repeat, in 1996, we signed an accord for the protection of species at risk. The government of Quebec signed this agreement. The then minister was far-sighted when he said in a press release that care would have to be taken to avoid overlap. Since it signed this accord with the provinces in 1996, the federal government has been trying, year after year, to introduce bills in the House with the purpose, once again, of enhancing its visibility in each of the provinces and creating its own oversight authority. This is hard to take in these heavily taxed times.
To say that we get along is nice. Government members, including Quebec Liberal members, are trying to convince us that it is a good agreement. Opposition parties tabled 138 amendments. Do not come and tell me that this is an acceptable agreement and that it is accepted by opposition parties, when they had to table 138 amendments. These amendments even had to be divided into five groups for debate.
Today, we are discussing one group, but there are five. Why? Because 138 amendments were tabled in the House. They were not all accepted by the Chair, but many of them were, and this is why we have to deal with five groups.
So, it is not clear sailing for this bill. There is a problem. The problem for Bloc Quebecois members is that, with the help of Quebec Liberal members, the federal Liberal government is once again creating a double protection for something that may seem minor, namely the protection of wildlife species at risk, when a federal-provincial agreement could easily have been negotiated among federal and provincial environment ministers. It would have been so simple. We could have renegotiated the agreement that was so successfully negotiated in 1996.
Again, it is too complicated. There is not enough visibility for the federal government. All they want is to display little flags, and have their own staff to overlap what wildlife conservation officers are doing in Quebec.
Species at Risk Act
Karen Kraft Sloan York North, ON
Mr. Speaker, the government's Motion No. 76 guts the committee's amendments to clause 50 which pertains to action plans. It deletes timelines for their completion which is rather astounding. This is another in a long line of so-called flexible measures in the bill. With this change there is no longer an obligation to finish this crucial step in recovery planning so that getting on with protecting and recovering species can commence.
It is worth noting that the government's Motion No. 78, which unfortunately was lumped into Group No. 2, removes timelines on the actual implementation of action plans. It also refers the implementation of action plans protecting habitat on federal lands to clause 59, which in turn renders a “must” develop regulations to a “may”.
All of this is to say that under these motions, the government absolves itself of any obligation to complete an action plan in a set period of time or to ever implement it once it has been completed. This too is called flexibility. I call it an abdication of government responsibility.
What we are talking about here is losing a species forever. The committee continually asked for something very reasonable, that is, just do not kill the last ones. We cannot do this unless we protect the places they need to survive. To do that we need some assurance that action plans will be done in a timely fashion and more to the point, will be put into place and not disappear into the void.
For these reasons I call on all members of the House to defeat these motions.
I turn now to government Motions Nos. 6, 16, 17 and 20. It is with a particularly heavy heart that I address these motions. They make a number of pronounced and surprising changes to the language setting out the national aboriginal council on species at risk. I say surprising because the council language was introduced by my colleague from Churchill River with the blessing of the government.
I know that my colleague worked long and hard to secure the support of the aboriginal and first nations communities for the language that was ultimately passed by the standing committee. He must have been as surprised as I was to see these motions on the notice paper.
The government motions essentially do four things to the original language around the aboriginal council in the bill.
First, they change the concept from one of a council to one of a committee. This is not some minor semantic variation of a concept. Rather it reflects, I would argue, a downgrading of the original council's role. Why this has appeared at the 11th hour is unclear to me.
Second, the motions now make the very creation of the aboriginal committee discretionary. This is bizarre. With the government's support, the committee passed language that made the council's existence a fact. Now the government has changed its mind and is seeking instead to make the existence of the aboriginal committee a possibility, another maybe. I suppose this is another instance of flexibility. This bill is so flexible we should rename it the Gumby act.
Third, the government motions change whom the national aboriginal committee advises. Formerly it was the Canadian endangered species conservation council, which is comprised of the competent ministers and provincial and territorial ministers. Now the national aboriginal committee advises only the minister.
Finally, where the council's advice and recommendations were formerly sought and considered, the committee's role now is to simply advise.
These are profound changes to the original aboriginal council language which, I stress again, enjoyed almost unanimous support at committee. I was dumbfounded to see these motions on the notice paper.
I must emphasize at this point that the committee did its work despite the message imparted to it at the outset of its comprehensive study, mostly via the media, that the government would not entertain anything other than superficial alterations to the legislation. This is appalling. Our committee rejected that message and for that it should be applauded.
Nonetheless, it is indeed a painful process to watch hundreds and hundreds of hours of work be so flippantly rejected by the government. Many of the substantive improvements to the bill that a majority of committee members agreed to make have been torn up and thrown in our faces.
Even more bizarre is this set of four motions and what they represent. For the record, the government is gutting amendments that it supported at committee.
The government with a great deal of fanfare asked the committee to support these changes at the clause by clause phase. The committee was happy to comply as members recognized the importance of this initiative. I must add that it was one of the best days we had at committee. There was a sense in the room that for all the right reasons and in a spirit of great harmony, respect and trust, the aboriginal council initiative represented parliament and committee work at its best.
The council is crucial to the success of the bill and to the often proclaimed spirit of co-operation upon which it is built. How then can the government hold up its head and say that these four motions merely tinker with the aboriginal council? They do nothing of the sort.
These motions swing a scythe through all of the negotiations, all of the promises, all of the time and the energy that went into the development of what became section 7.1 of the committee report. Perhaps more important, the motions destroy whatever trust had been so carefully developed over the many months of consultations with the parties in question. That trust is not something to be taken lightly, yet it appears that it has been.
It is a sad day therefore when a government member who was at the centre of those consultations has to rise in the House and move to amend government motions that themselves seek to gut carefully developed government supported language.
My colleague from Churchill River deserves special commendation for his hard work, his patience and his desire to improve a badly flawed bill. My colleague's amendments seek to restore some of the language that the ship of state is trying to torpedo. I commend him for that.
I call on all members of the House to support the motions of the member for Churchill River and to defeat government Motions Nos. 6 and 16.
Species at Risk Act
Rick Casson Lethbridge, AB
Mr. Speaker, I commend the hon. member opposite for her presentation. It takes courage to stand in the House against one's own government. I am pleased to see her do that. She puts a lot of time and effort into the environment committee and takes it seriously.
I commend the hon. member for Churchill River for his comments about aboriginal involvement. The aboriginals have a theory that anything we do must be considered seven generations down the road. Perhaps if we did that we would all be in better shape today.
There are a lot of things going on in legislation before the House that are of concern to people in rural areas of the country who make a living from the land, the sea and Canada's resources. The bounty we have in Canada is unbelievable.
Let us look at the logging sector. A softwood lumber dispute has the whole sector in crisis. It does not look like it will be resolved. Today is the day it should be resolved but it does not look like it will happen. A pine beetle infestation due to the mild winter is devastating the forests of British Columbia and putting the province's forestry industry in trouble.
Let us look at farming. Last year was a disastrous year from coast to coast in the agriculture community due to low commodity prices and drought. In my area of southern Alberta the drought is severe and has not yet given any indication it will let go. The foreign subsidies that drive down commodity prices and distort production are killing our farm communities.
Let us look at the fishermen who make their living from the sea. Let us look at the mismanagement that has taken place there. Fish stocks are running out. Fishermen in Canada can no longer make a living. An emergency debate on the whole fishing industry in Canada has been applied for and agreed to for this evening.
Yesterday we debated Bill C-15B on cruelty to animals, a bill which has a lot of people concerned in the rural parts of the country.
The list goes on. The resource sector in Canada is concerned about the Kyoto protocol and some of the things it could do. We have the species at risk legislation. Today a bill was introduced to modernize the Pest Control Products Act. The bill would have ramifications throughout the resource and agriculture sectors.
If we add all of these things together, and they keep piling up, it is no wonder people in the agriculture, resource and fishing industries are terrified about the things that could happen to them. If passed as it is some of the legislation could be far reaching and devastating to many sectors.
What does the government do when developing a bill? The opposition is involved in the process. The bill is sent to committee. Expert witnesses from across the country are brought in to give their opinions. People from different sectors are brought in to talk about the bill and the problems associated with it. Hundreds of hours are involved in the process. The government brings hundreds of witnesses to Ottawa at great expense. It is not only at great expense to the government. It is at great expense to the witnesses who take time to come and bear witness under the guise that what they say will be listened to.
The committee listened. It made amendment after amendment. It went through Bill C-5 clause by clause. As the previous speaker indicated, committee members from all parties worked together to come up with a bill everyone could agree with.
The bill left committee. Before it came back to the House the government introduced amendments to take it back to where it was before the committee had a chance at it. The hundreds of witnesses, all the hours and all the expense of bringing in expert witnesses to present their cases was thrown out. That is an absolute shame. It derides the value of committees. It derides the value of the House when a government can do that.
As we have heard, many members on the government side of the House are concerned about what has happened. They work in good faith at the committee level as we all do. What we put forward should be considered. It was completely thrown out. The consultation process we asked for at committee stage was completely ignored. We asked for consultation with all sectors. It happened but the advice was ignored.
I would not be surprised if in years to come we invited industry representatives to present at committees and they refused. They use their own time to come and testify and the government does not listen to them anyway, so why should they?
The consultation we asked for at this stage did not happen. We have asked for consultation after Bill C-5 is implemented. That has been eroded as well. We have put forward an amendment to take care of the issue.
The government is proposing that if the minister became aware of an endangered species he or she would not have to make it public. We agreed to this to a certain extent because if people wanted to come and look it could harm the endangered species. However the person or company who owns the land should be notified if a species is there. Whether an area is on water or land the people in control of it should know the species is there so they can help make arrangements to protect it.
Under Bill C-5 affected landowners would not be notified if endangered species were on their land. Let us think about that. There are people trying to make a living as ranchers, farmers or fishermen who may not realize there is an endangered species in the area. Let us suppose it somehow gets reported to the Minister of the Environment. If these people did something to harm the species all the power, weight and heavy handed approach of Bill C-5 would come to bear on them. The government has taken out the aspect of mens rea which says the harm must be done willingly. That is gone. It absolutely terrifies people to think this could happen.
Let us look at the resource sector. People working in the bush surveying or doing whatever they do may not know an endangered species is nearby. They would be inadvertently affected because the whole weight of Bill C-5 could be thrown at them including jail time and huge fines. That is absolutely wrong.
Consultation did take place but it was not heeded. That is a huge problem. The issue of consultation and proper notification of affected landowners needs to be addressed before Bill C-5 goes forward.
We talked about the compensation issue at other stages of the bill. The whole idea of consultation would affect the ultimate compensation. If landowners do not realize there are endangered species on their property and the Minister of the Environment moves to affect their livelihoods they should be fully compensated for the income they lose.
We have talked a lot about the urban rural split. There is not really a split. This is an issue for which all of society is responsible. A few people in urban centres cannot dictate to the entire rural population how to operate their farms, ranches or resource industries. If people in urban centres want to do that then all people need to be responsible for compensation under Bill C-5.
This is something we want as citizens and as a nation. Everyone wants legislation that will adequately protect species at risk. However if we do not do it in the proper way the bill will not protect endangered species. It will do more to harm them.
Consultation, compensation and the whole idea of jurisdiction need to be addressed before Bill C-5 can be an effective piece of legislation. We have the support of all opposition parties regarding the amendments that need to be turned down and the ones that need to be approved. I urge all government members to listen to the people from the environment committee, the hon. member for Davenport and others on that side of the House when they say the amendments need to be made for the legislation to truly work.
Species at Risk Act
Rodger Cuzner Bras D'Or—Cape Breton, NS
Mr. Speaker, stewardship is a word we have heard quite a bit throughout the debate. I will address my remarks to the series of motions regarding the stewardship approach in general. Stewardship is a word we struggle with a bit because it does not seem to portray the importance of what we mean by it.
Stewardship is more than a landowner doing the right thing. It is more than a company showing good corporate citizenship by sponsoring a wildlife centre or rehabilitating a wetland. Stewardship is how we get things done in Canada not just for species at risk but for much of what we do for wildlife. Stewardship is a local community group pulling together a conservation effort to protect an important shoreline for birds. It is a farmer who decides to let trees and brush remain along the edges of a field to encourage nesting. It is a big company that not only makes a financial contribution but sets aside thousands of hectares as a conservation easement.
This is stewardship. It is co-operation. In Canada it is how we get things done. In many ways we could say it is what species at risk protection and the bill before us are all about.
Bill C-5 is an essential piece of legislation. It would fulfil the commitment the federal government made with the provinces and territories under the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk. It sets out in the full letter of law the key components of assessment and listing, recovery planning, habitat protection and prohibition.
I will speak to the government motions that support the key component of stewardship in our strategy, the motions that would ensure co-operation was the first approach for protecting critical habitat.
Our neighbours to the south are envious of our stewardship traditions and the way we are enshrining them in our legislation. Many people point south of the border to the endangered species legislation the U.S. has had in place for 25 years. It has done much for lawyers and the legal industry. It has done less for species. The Americans wish they had our approach. Courts are choked with cases under the U.S. law.
Our commitment to stewardship has already been reinforced with the Habitat Stewardship Program. Under the program $45 million over five years has been targeted for stewardship activities. The program is entering its third year. It has fostered many new partnerships and allowed old ones to accomplish more. It has brought new partners into the stewardship fold.
For the $5 million in first year funding the program attracted non-federal funding of over $8 million. In other words, for every dollar spent by the federal government under the HSP $1.70 of non-federal resources was contributed by project partners. In the second year of the HSP $10 million for more than 150 projects has been allocated. Volunteer Canadians from all walks of life are involved in the Atlantic Beach Guardian Program to protect the habitat of the piping plover, the Gulf of St. Lawrence aster and the maritime ringlet butterfly.
We have provided for more favourable tax treatment for the contribution of ecologically sensitive lands. Over 20,000 hectares has already been donated as ecological gifts.
There is more to stewardship than the Habitat Stewardship Program and ecological gifts. There is the stewardship action plan set out in Bill C-5. We accept in principle the proposal to develop the stewardship action plan introduced in Bill C-5 by the standing committee. Work is already underway on the development of a federal, provincial and territorial Canada wide stewardship action plan. There have been meetings, discussions and much progress in the area.
However we want to avoid legislating mandatory federal government programs which have the added complication of making future resource commitments in law. We want to ensure sufficient time to develop a plan in co-operation with others including landowners, resource users, aboriginal peoples, provinces and territories. That is why the government motions would remove the one year deadline and provide the minister the authority to develop a stewardship action plan in consultation with the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council.
I will speak in favour of the government motion to remove the requirements the standing committee imposed on the minister to publish draft contribution agreements when they are complete to provide the public an opportunity to comment on them. This type of requirement serves as a disincentive to stewardship. We are all stewards in one way or another.
The federal government is a steward in its protection of species at risk and their critical habitats in Canada. Land owners, farmers and fishers are stewards, as are aboriginal peoples, conservation groups and workers in the resource sector and others. We all deserve credit for the stewardship work we do. Bill C-5 would encourage us to do more and deserves our support.
Species at Risk Act
Scott Reid Lanark—Carleton, ON
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to the Group No. 4 amendments to Bill C-5.
As a way of developing a theme in which to frame my remarks I make the observation that there are concerned members of parliament on both sides of the House. There are those opposed for a variety of reasons who express, as many do on this side of the House, the concerns of rural Canadians, in particular, farmers, fishermen and people who make their living in and from nature. There are those on the other side who express the point of view that the bill does not go far enough or it is in some degree a sham and avoids dealing with and genuinely protecting the environment. I actually find there is quite a common theme between what both sides say.
The legislation as it is worded, and particularly as it would be amended by some of the government amendments put forward in this group, and in some of the other groups, manages to achieve both of the violations to which those who feel it goes too far and those who feel it does not go far enough are pointing.
It does this because it continues a dangerous trend that is prevalent in Canadian legislation and in some legislation of other countries as well. We are not the only ones guilty of this.
I refer to a tendency to enshrine in law unspecific provisions that would bind the executive but rather general instructions to the executive, instructions that talk about what ministers may do, that set timelines that might be met, that put in requirements that if not met do not bear any consequences for the government and which therefore may not in practice be met.
On the other hand if all these measures were taken to the full power that is considered or is potentially available under them, they could have the effect of putting draconian powers in the hands of the minister and government agencies. Both sides are justifiably concerned by the same piece of legislation.
Curiously enough, if the legislation were amended it could actually at the same time satisfy the concerns both of those who are worried that it is overpowering and those who are worried that it is underpowered. This can be demonstrated by turning to some of the specific amendments that have come up in earlier discussions.
For example, in Group No. 4, the member for York North mentioned government Motion No. 76 which says that action plans are advisory as opposed to being binding upon the government. Her point, a point well taken, is that if they are not binding then very little will be achieved by having these action plans mentioned at all in the bill. One is justified in asking, why are this things here at all? Why are action plans written down when they are not really action plans, they are really advice that the executive might or might not draw upon in the future?
By the same token on the other side of the equation there are members, including myself, who are concerned that when we talk about compensation it is compensation that may be given according to a standard that would be set up after the bill was passed.
Rural Canadians, farmers and developers, and others, want to have some kind of assurance that compensation would not be merely contemplated, considered a potential, or happen in an inadequate way. They want to have some kind of assurance and we can fight over what the amount should be. I believe in full compensation. Others would say it should be less than full and while I disagree with them they have a case to be made.
None of us have any clue as to what it would be. We are all expected to simply take it on trust. This is a dangerous sort of principle to have in law.
The legislation contemplates reviews at five year intervals. There was a contemplation that this law would be taken out if government Motion No. 130 is passed. This assumes that we do not have perfect knowledge now. There is a requirement to adjust the legislation five years from now and the assumption is that five years from now we would have perfect knowledge, we would have it all down pat and there would be no further reviews because the legislation would be perfect. Of course, that is a preposterous assumption.
Worse than that is the fact that this comes back to one of the points I was dwelling upon a bit earlier. We have provisions in our laws that are not actually enforceable. Legislative reviews under the government unfortunately have become something of a joke.
For example, there was the legislative review of the Referendum Act that was passed in 1992. It was the legislation under which the 1992 referendum on the Charlottetown accord took place. Members may recall that the Referendum Act, which was proclaimed on June 15, 1992, had a provision stating it would be legislatively reviewed three years after the date of its proclamation. Three years after the date of proclamation was June 15, 1995.
I remember at that time working as a researcher on Parliament Hill and I gathered all the information together so that my party, the Reform Party at the time, could present a series of intelligent, thoughtful critiques of the bill and ways it could be improved. June 15 came and went and no review took place as far as we could tell.
It turned out there had been a review. As a member of parliament I had a chance to ask the chief electoral officer about this many years afterward when he was a witness before our committee and he informed me there had been a review. A motion was brought up without notice in committee. The motion essentially said that the act was being reviewed and that there was no particular reason to actually have witnesses appear before the committee. The committee did not think there was any need to have discussion of it and it was killed just like that. It was passed so quickly that members of the very same committee were unaware it had happened. People were present at the meeting when it occurred and happened not to be paying attention at that particular nanosecond in time that this review came and went.
If this is the kind of review we can expect then it is not a review at all. This is provided for by the legislation so it is clearly a flaw in the legislation. There must be a provision. When the government is required to do something and when the executive is bound there must be a requirement that this has some kind of consequence. If the executive fails to act, some form of independent action must take place.
If these kinds of changes are made to the legislation I suggest members will discover that there will be much more support for Bill C-5 than currently exists.
Species at Risk Act
Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on Bill C-5, an act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada.
I would like to add my voice to that of my colleague from the Canadian Alliance, the member for Lethbridge, about how little this government respects what goes on in committees.
I was on the Standing Committee on the Environment along with my colleague from Lethbridge when Bill C-33, the precursor of Bill C-5, was examined. We heard dozens of witnesses in connection with Bill C-33, the one that preceded Bill C-5.
As my colleague from Lethbridge has said, the position taken by most of these was diametrically opposite to that taken by the government in this bill. I believe that the government just sloughs off any presentations by witnesses who come before a committee to offer their opinion on a bill.
This government operates with a kind of magical thinking. It applies a semblance of democracy by inviting people before the committee. “We will listen to you”, it tells them. “We will ensure you are given a careful hearing. We will let you provide us with some improvements to the bills”.
However, the witnesses and opposition parties are just being taken in, every time, by this government. Never, since I was first elected in 1997, have I seen any open-mindedness on the part of the government with respect to bills. They deserve to be approached with an open mind. Let us not lose sight of the extreme importance of protecting species at risk.
Neither us nor the government alone possess the whole truth. People in the field are well aware of situations we are not. This is perfectly normal. Everyone is an expert in their own area of knowledge.
The government hears the witnesses but does not listen to them. It continues along the path it has already chosen, and heads straight for third reading. It keeps on introducing repetitive bills which mean that there is never any progress made with an issue. This species at risk bill is once again a duplication of effort with the provinces.
In 1996, the federal government proposed a Canada-wide agreement to the provincial and territorial environment ministers, the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk. My colleague for Argenteuil--Papineau--Mirabel referred to it earlier. So there has been an agreement since 1996.
Why did they not bring together all the environment ministers and tell them “Together, we have made some progress. Why should we not sit down together again and make more progress with this issue?” What do they do instead? They deny their own agreement with the provinces and draft a bill that is contrary to many areas of provincial jurisdiction. What will the result be? It will cost dearly, very dearly. Once again, there will be duplication. It will end up in squabbles and this does solve the problems.
What is more, they have the gall not to want to use the COSEWIC list. I would like to explain to our viewers just what COSEWIC is. It is a body that was created in 1978 and is composed of representatives of each governmental agency in the provinces and territories, along with four national conservation bodies. It is the main player as far as species protection is concerned, and its mandate is to list the endangered species on Canadian territory.
These are the experts. I am not an expert, but I can recognize those who are. They have drawn up a list of 340 species that are endangered at the present time. These are credible people. They have been around since 1978 and are doing a good job.
What is the government saying? It says “We are setting aside the work that you have done since 1978. The governor in council, cabinet will draw up the priority list to protect species at risk”.
This is ridiculous. It is nonsense. A minister or cabinet does not know which species are the most at risk and require immediate protection on the territory. This is not true. I hope members do not believe that. I am sure that our viewers do not believe it either.
Let us be serious. If we want to move ahead on this issue, because it is urgent to do so, we must sit down with the experts. I do not trust people who claim to be perfect. I am afraid they might engage in petty politics. This is no time to engage in petty politics. But maybe they want visibility. Perhaps this government is bent on getting visibility at all costs. No, the government must not seek visibility here: it must act.
It is time for the federal government to co-operate with the provinces, to sit down with their officials, to say that it will continue to settle the issues that have surfaced since the 1996 accord. But this is not what the government is doing, and it is unfortunate. There is still time to propose amendments to that effect, but the government is so dense, so uninterested in settling issues that it creates new ones to get more visibility.
This is an extremely important area. It is said that biodiversity is the result of the earth's evolution over a period of more than 4.5 billion years. This evolutionary process has generated a large selection of living organisms and natural environments on our planet. This is the reality.
I think that the provinces would have wanted to continue, with the federal government, to try to improve the 1996 accord. However, the federal government has decided once again to stand out, to get more visibility and to reinvent the wheel. This government is always reinventing the wheel and, in the end, it only causes trouble. This is no time to cause trouble. It is time to act and to make progress. I deplore this attitude.
There have been three bills: Bill C-65, Bill C-33, during a previous parliament, which died on the order paper, and this one. Therefore, I ask the government to withdraw its bill and to sit down again with the provinces to update the 1996 accord.
Species at Risk Act
Paul Forseth New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, BC
Mr. Speaker, in this report stage debate, I will talk about only three areas that must be focused on at this time within Group No. 4.
Bill C-5, entitled an act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada, states in its summary that:
The purposes of this enactment are to prevent Canadian indigenous species, subspecies and distinct populations of wildlife from becoming extirpated or extinct, to provide for the recovery of endangered or threatened species, to encourage the management of other species to prevent them from becoming at risk.
A series of motions in Group No. 4, Motions Nos. 6, 16, 17 and 20, deal with the national aboriginal committee. I will also talk about the creation of stewardship action plans and public consultation.
Our standing committee wished to create a national aboriginal council but the government instead wants to call it a committee. It is changing the words in these various classes which of course affects its power. The idea of an aboriginal committee itself is acceptable. Clearly in many places, especially in the north, natives have a close knowledge of the land and live off country food for their sustenance, so consultation with them is very appropriate, as it is with other stakeholders such as property owners and resource users.
The existence of this committee should not preclude wider consultation with others. Care must be taken to ensure that it does not become a special conduit for perhaps a race based political concern. The administration of the act must concern itself with the protection of endangered species in a sustainable socioeconomic manner. Special privileges and exemptions from the act's application should not be based just on being an aboriginal with status.
The name change from council to committee reverses the standing committee's work without justification. The government is showing its contempt for the work of the parliamentary committee and its own Liberal MPs when it makes retro changes to the normal legal process of a bill.
Motion No. 25 deals with the creation of stewardship action plans. Here the government is introducing such a far-reaching and noxious amendment to the standing committee's work that I think special note must be made of it. The standing committee required that stewardship action plans must include “a commitment to regularly examine tax treatments and subsidies and to eliminate disincentives”. The government wants to delete this language, but I think it is vital. It demonstrates that compensation is not just a cash payment but could involve other things like tax treatments, which are so vital to farmers and other property owners.
Further, while the government always wants to create incentives and programs and spend money, it must be forced to confront the realities of disincentives in the same situation, the reasons why people do not respond in the way that perhaps the ivory tower theorists and bureaucrats think they might.
The government also wants to delete the standing committee's requirement that stewardship action plans provide “technical and scientific support to persons engaged in stewardship activities”. Instead, it will “provide information relating to the technical and scientific support available to persons engaged in stewardship activities”. This is a small but significant difference. Instead of giving property owners real assistance by sharing data on the presence of endangered species or assistance in configuring their properties to protect sensitive habitat, the government can just maybe mail them a pamphlet. Thanks a lot, bureaucrat.
I will just talk a little bit about public consultation. Most of the remaining Group No. 4 amendments concern issues of notice and public consultation. There is a fundamental importance to making consultations as wide as possible, ensuring that consultations have a real impact on the administration of the act and are not just simply done for show, for knowledge creates the capacity to protect.
Initially the bill provided for a parliamentary review of the species at risk at five year intervals. The standing committee added the additional requirement that it be subsequently reviewed at five year intervals. Motion No. 130 from the government will remove the standing committee amendment. It does not think automatic five year reviews are really needed and instead would put the onus on parliament to put a review on the agenda should it deem it necessary at some point in the future. This is just plain wrong.
It is really contemptuous of the standing committee and removes an opportunity for greater accountability and public involvement. Mandatory reviews of legislation are important for ensuring that the act is working as intended and that creating an opportunity to make a change will not simply be left to the whim of the government House leader of the day to fit another political agenda. This is basic democratic accountability and ensures that legislation is kept evergreen.
I will conclude my comments by saying that the bill as it is before the House is really in a complete tangle. Things have just worked out this way and there is an underlying reason, which is that the Liberals cannot manage. They have no guiding vision or values to carry us into the 21st century. As this is the third bill, it is obvious to all that it is a failure. Maybe it is a case of three strikes and the government is out.
It is the sad legacy of this country that the Liberals cannot manage and they are hurting the country. The evidence of those statements that are rather far-reaching is certainly in the process of this bill.
Species at Risk Act
Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS
Mr. Speaker, I rise to debate Bill C-5 and the amendments in Group No. 4.
First I want to speak to hon. members on the Liberal side, especially my colleague from Bras d'Or--Cape Breton who just spoke about stewardship. He made a good speech if indeed that is what the government is providing, but unfortunately the government is not. It takes the members for York North and Churchill River to provide that stewardship. It is simply ironic and incredulous that two Liberal backbenchers have to stand in the House and literally yell and scream in order to tell the government that what it is doing is wrong.
It is unbelievable in this day and age that we are talking about the change of one simple word, the change of the word “may” to the word “shall”. When it came to the aboriginal consultative group, the original bill said that the government “may” do this, which means it will not do it. The committee got together and put in the words “the government shall establish”. The government has turned around and changed that again.
The member for Churchill River, my former colleague, says that the wording should be that the minister “shall” establish a council. That is exactly what this is about.
The fact is that aboriginal people, first nations, Metis, Inuit and Innu and many others, have a very strong knowledge of what goes on in terms of traditional knowledge of our natural environment. If we want to consult with anyone, it should be with those people. They are the ones who live on the land. In many cases their nutrition is supplemented by food off the land. They know what is best for the species. They know what is best for themselves.
It is absolutely incredible that I listened to two very good members of the Liberal Party turn around and basically aim their entire speech right at the front bench. It is one thing for us in the opposition to do that. That is what we are here to do. However it is wonderful, and it is quite sad at the same time, to hear the government's own backbenchers do the same thing.
I encourage my colleagues on the Liberal side, especially from Nova Scotia, and those across the country to review what the government has done and support the member for Churchill River's amendment because he is absolutely right.
Why do the aboriginal communities have a large distrust of the government? The government plays around with wording of that nature in order to avoid responsibility and leadership, not only in aboriginal affairs but in terms of our natural environment.
I go back to the work that the committee did, especially the work by the hon. member for Windsor--St. Clair and his other colleagues. They worked extremely hard. They also spent a lot of taxpayers' dollars to bring people from around the country to the hearings and come up with recommendations that at best were watered down. They were the minimum. Individual members wanted tougher language, stronger conditions to protect our various species and habitats, but through compromise the 16 members from five political parties got together and said “This is the minimum we can do, the very best. This is something we can all support”.
What did the government do? It ripped them up in a heartbeat, in record speed, which meant that all along the environment committee's work was a facade. That is what is really sad. People poured their guts into this report and worked extremely long hours only to have the government turn around with record speed and bring forward amendments which it has absolutely every intention of passing. It ignored the work of the committee.
If members of parliament on both sides of the House are frustrated at the government's action, imagine what the aboriginal communities, Metis and Inuit people must think, along with many others.
While I am on the subject of consultation with our first nations, what about consultations with coastal communities throughout Canada? Fishermen and fisherwomen in Canada's many hundreds of fishing communities know the waters they are adjacent to extremely well. They could tell us what is happening to our fish stocks, water temperatures, or the natural environment. The government does not want to listen to them. It only wants to listen to its own bureaucracy and delay the inevitable of accepting leadership and responsibility. It is a sad day.
I fear the five year review process will not have any merit at all. If there is a problem, the government will tell us not to worry, that a bit of jigging around will be done and it will do it in five years. Five years from now someone could stand in this place and say that five years previously a particular species existed but it has since gone. What would the government say then? It would say “We simply did not know. We did not have the right information at the time. Maybe we should have a royal commission and spend millions of dollars”.
The government could save a lot of time by accepting the committee's recommendations as is, which at the very best is the minimum. It should move forward to strengthen the bill in order to protect all species for future generations.
Species at Risk Act
Clifford Lincoln Lac-Saint-Louis, QC
Mr. Speaker, there is an old saying that discretion is the better part of valour. The government must have been seeking valour because the bill is full of discretion. In every section that I read there is discretion. It is may instead of shall. It leaves a lot of latitude to the minister to decide whether he will or he will not.
When I read the text of the bill regarding consultation with aboriginal people I have to sadly say, as my colleague before me has pointed out, that the people whose livelihood depends on the earth and living species, the people closest to Mother Earth whose spiritual belonging is tied up with nature and living species, are the ones who were perhaps slapped hardest in the face.
At one point the bill provided for an aboriginal council to be established. Then what did the government do? It wiped it from the definitions. There was also advice to be sought from the aboriginal council under clause 7. That has been completely changed. The council has become a committee and the committee is discretionary.
The committee was to advise the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council. Under the previous provision three relevant ministers including the Minister of the Environment were to sit on that council. Now there will be only one minister and there are no ministers on the committee at all.
The council's advice and recommendations were to be sought and considered by the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council. Now the committee's role is simply to advise the minister.
If any people should have been listened to because of their tremendous regard and love for the land, nature and living species, it should have been the first nations and all the aboriginal peoples of this land.
I know colleagues before me have read them, but the views of the Inuit Tapirisat should be read into the record again and again. They equate to those of all aboriginal people and say that these fundamental changes are unacceptable.
Report stage belittles aboriginal nations and their leaders by removing their rightful place in an advisory body with ministers of the crown within the act. The Inuit Tapirisat has repeatedly asked for a formal response from the Minister of the Environment regarding Motion No. 20 and has received none.
Due to these recent events the Inuit Tapirisat and other aboriginal groups have no choice but to withdraw their support from the species at risk bill. This is all very sad.
Originally clause 129 provided for a review of the act after five years and after the five years there would be no review. The committee amended it to provide for a review every five years. I ask the powers that be whether it makes sense to have a review of important legislation every five years. This provision was enshrined at the request of the Liberal Party when in opposition and CEPA was passed.
It was the Liberal Party in opposition that obtained the tremendous new provision that an important environmental act should be reviewed every five years because of its complexity, the changes that technology inevitably brings and the huge changes that happen to nature as a result of pollution. That was enshrined In CEPA and in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Yet the government refuses the amendment by the committee to make the act reviewable every five years.
Can anyone tell me one good logical reason why that should be? I hope, Mr. Speaker, you will agree with the validity of following amendment:
That Motion No. 130 be amended by replacing all of the words after the word “force” with the following: “and every six years thereafter, a committee of the House of”
The effect of this amendment would be to make sure that the act is reviewed every six years. If the government feels that every five years is too soon, let us make it six years. Every six years the act could be reviewed by a relevant committee of the House just the same as CEPA is reviewed and just the same as the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act is reviewed.
I table this amendment with you, Mr. Speaker. Knowing your breadth of knowledge I am sure you will accept it as completely valid and I hope it will become law.