House of Commons Hansard #205 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was pesticides.

Topics

Pest Control Products Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed)

Pest Control Products Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Madam Speaker, if you were to ask the House, I think you would find consent to see the clock at 5.30 p.m.

Pest Control Products Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Does the House agree to see the clock at 5.30 p.m.?

Pest Control Products Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Pest Control Products Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

It being 5.30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from April 29, consideration of the motion.

Intoxication of Migratory Birds
Private Members' Business

June 13th, 2002 / 5:05 p.m.

Bloc

Marcel Gagnon Champlain, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the motion introduced by the hon. member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert.

The purpose of this motion is to amend or improve the regulations under the Migratory Birds Convention Act in order to protect the environment and migratory birds.

The hon. member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert spoke to this motion and said “It is a matter of protecting migratory birds from a highly toxic substance, namely lead, which is found in sinkers and lures used in sport fishing”.

She suggested we should use any other non-toxic substance.

I live near the St. Lawrence River, in Champlain, near Trois-Rivières. I used to be a hunter, but I do not have as much time for this activity now. Each year, in the fall, the opening of the duck hunting season was a great occasion, something memorable in our life. All hunters gathered on the shore in Champlain, and, after checking the gear of their boats, their rifles and hunting gear, they would go duck hunting.

I must confess that I was one of the worst polluters of the St. Lawrence River because of lead. At that time, we hunted with shot cartridges. Unfortunately, I was not a very good shot, and many of my cartridges ended up at the bottom of the river. Since I hit very few ducks, I can say that I have polluted a lot. I missed my target most of the time.

This is to say that in 1999, legislation was introduced, which rightly prohibited the use of lead for duck and migratory bird shooting.

We know that lead is one of the worst pollutant that one can find. Lead is harmful not only to children, but also to animals. It is a transmissible product. If a migratory bird eats lead or eats fish having lead in their body, and if the bird is afterwards eaten by humans, it can be harmful.

The intake of lead is also probably one of the greatest causes of mortality among certain migratory birds and diving birds, such as the loon. We know that the loon is a bird of which Canadians are proud.

On an evening in the forest, by a lake or at the cottage, who does not like to hear the song of the loon? One of the causes of the loon mortality is the lead shots that fishermen lose on the bottom of lakes. If you like fishing, you know that it is difficult to fish without losing any fishing gear.

Each time we go fishing, we leave several lead shots in the water. Those shots, swallowed by fish, also intoxicate the migratory birds that eat the fish.

Through that motion, my colleague wanted us to amend the hunting legislation in such a way as to not only prohibit the use of lead in cartridges for hunting but also to change fishing gear and use products less toxic to the environment and also less toxic to migratory birds.

It seems odd to address such an issue. When I was asked to speak about this, I said to myself that we cannot be leaving much lead that on the bottom of streams and rivers. But in fact, scientific studies show that 500 tonnes of lead are left on the bottom of waterways every year. According to the studies we have checked, it happens mainly in Quebec and Ontario.

A minimum of one hundred tonnes of lead is sold by big companies. It is estimated that every year, 500 tonnes of lead are left on the bottom of waterways by people who make their own fishing tackle, at home or at the cottage.

Lead is so toxic that it has been banned in gasoline. In big cities, they discovered that leaded gasoline caused numerous illnesses, including deafness in children due to lead poisoning.

This motion is extremely important. It says that we should amend the regulations so that hunting supplies, cartridges, fishing gear and troll lines that are too often left in lakes and rivers should be considered dangerous products and banned. They are a major cause of mortality. It has been estimated that 75% of deaths among loons are due to the fact that they eat lead objects left in lakes and rivers.

Both sides of the House will probably agree that we should ask for the inclusion of this provision in the regulations on hunting in order to ban toxic substances such as lead in this important sport.

It pays to protect the environment, because if there is an animal or a bird that attracts visitors, it is the common loon. The same thing goes for all other divers. We often go into the woods, on the shore of lakes, to watch, admire and hear these extraordinary birds.

I remember a fishing adventure in an area north of Manic-5, in Quebec, on the shore of Lake Paradis. I saw there something I will probably never see again. It was very early in the fall and the migratory birds were getting ready to leave.

I saw a flock of loons. First, they called back and forth from one lake to another. After a while, I saw a dozen of them flocking together, which is quite unusual because there is normally only one loon on any given lake. Twelve loons had gathered in the middle of Lake Paradis, offering an incredible concert.

I believe the privilege of attending such a show is worth the trip to this unparalleled area of our country. This was a rare opportunity in my lifetime.

I realized how important it is to put forward such a motion to change the regulations, in order to protect these birds, which not only are something we are proud of, but are also a major tourist attraction.

Intoxication of Migratory Birds
Private Members' Business

5:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Madam Speaker, again it is my pleasure to speak to this very important issue.

As with many environmental issues that come before us, this issue has a lot of emotion, but the science is really lacking. I am not saying that the science will not eventually prove that there is some need for regulation in this area, but at the moment the proposed ban on lead fishing sinkers or weights is premature.

In a nutshell, I am rising today to make the point that this motion may appear all right, but it lacks the necessary background research required. All of the arguments I have heard so far have been primarily emotional. I received a letter from a key group that was never consulted and that is why I am speaking out today.

I am proposing that we wait to hear from all the stakeholders and interest groups on this issue before we vote to use the full force of the law on unsuspecting parents out on the dock teaching their kids how to catch their first fish. In fact, this is exactly the approach recommended by the Minister of the Environment in his July 27, 2000 letter to the World Wildlife Fund which stated:

I am also concerned that acting too soon on the regulatory front could compromise the building of the broad alliance needed to make early and meaningful progress on this issue.

Let us listen carefully to that advice. The minister used his letter to outline the following action plan to address the issue.

First would be to ensure the report on the scientific assessment of the impact of lead sinkers and jigs ingested by wildlife has undergone a peer review.

Second would be to initiate a communications effort to build awareness of the issue to encourage voluntary use of environmentally friendly sinkers and jigs.

Third would be to develop a communications theme and some initial products to be used in building a broad coalition of agencies, organizations and companies that could implement a sweeping comprehensive communications and awareness program.

Fourth, at the end of a reasonable period, stakeholders would be well positioned to assess the effectiveness of the voluntary approach if we pulled together a coalition of federal, provincial and territorial governments, non-governmental organizations, manufacturers and retailers that would implement the national campaign.

Sixth would be to implement the necessary interdepartmental, intergovernmental and stakeholder consultations.

It is clear the minister's action plan which he outlined two years ago has still not been fully implemented. In fact, just yesterday the Canadian Wildlife Service said the new scientific study and peer review on lead sinkers and jigs will not be published until December of this year.

I was pleased to also read the comments of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment in Hansard on April 29, 2002. She once again expressed the government's commitment to this logical step by step plan before proceeding with any legislative measure.

She explained that the government's plan would include getting a clear understanding of the impact of lead fishing gear on wildlife and consulting to engender the support of stakeholders and other government agencies that would be partners in any attempts to reduce the input of lead fishing gear into the environment. Scientific understanding would be used as the basis of the government's actions. The science review currently under way would be completed.

It would include developing the support of anglers who use lead sinkers and jigs and consult with them on the effectiveness of non-lead sinkers and jigs. It would include developing the support of manufacturers, distributors and retailers who make lead sinkers and jigs available. It would ensure the federal government had the support of the provinces and territories which manage recreational fishing, to ensure that any actions, including the potential use of non-voluntary control on fishing gear would be enforceable.

Consultations would be completed to ensure that whatever action the government took was supported by the Canadian public. Lastly, it would expand the government's public awareness efforts including working with government and non-government agencies to effectively and efficiently get information to anglers.

Let us heed all of those points of advice.

I find myself in the very odd position of supporting the government, a rare occurrence in the eight years that I have been here. I only wish the government had taken such a logical approach when it proceeded with its ill fated gun registry.

Before I finish, I would like to point out that the Canadian Sportfishing Industry Association also supports the government's consultative and co-operative approach to develop effective solutions to this problem.

Recreational fishing in Canada is a $7 billion annual economy, employing over 40,000 people. Over eight million Canadians fish and recreational fishing is a major component of Canada's tourism economy for residents and visitors alike. No wonder the government is making such a deliberate effort to find the right solution.

One of the main reasons for my speaking today is to let people know how little science is behind this motion. I received a letter from Mr. Phil Morlock, the chairman of this association's legislative committee. He wrote:

It is the position of the Canadian sportfishing industry that any fish and wildlife policy or legislation should be based on credible scientific research that meets accepted North American research standards, including an independent peer review. Much of the research information being circulated and quoted in Canada regarding lead fishing tackle and its impact on loons and waterfowl does not meet these standards.

As such, fish and wildlife professionals do not agree that a waterfowl mortality problem with lead fishing tackle even exists. There are strong indications that waterfowl rarely encounter fishing sinkers or baits of any kind. The State of Illinois Department of Natural Resources conducted extensive research on the presence of toxic and non-toxic shotgun pellets in waterfowl in the Mississippi Flyway. The study involved thirteen states and 93 sample areas in 1996-97.

Of 16,651 ducks examined, only one had ingested a lead fishing sinker.

This Motion is before Parliament with the potential to negatively impact on thousands of Canadian jobs in the fishing and tourism industry--yet [the hon. member moving this motion] never bothered to speak to a representative of the recreational fishing industry--the people most affected. The economic impact of her motion in Quebec will be severe, especially in rural areas. So too across Canada.

In fact, the sport fishing industry has never been contacted by any agency of the federal government, including Environment Canada and the Canadian Wildlife Service, to discuss any aspects of the lead fishing tackle issue, or any proposed legislation--including this Motion.

The fishing industry is as always, willing and available to work with the federal government--and to lead on behalf of the conservation of fish and wildlife. First, there must be an inclusive discussion with the people whose livelihoods are affected, and who have relevant information to contribute. If legislation is appropriate, it should be the result of a consultation process that includes the facts from those with the most relevant information--clearly this has not happened in this case. An entire industry has been left out of the process.

It is the position of the Canadian Sportfishing Industry that this Motion is ill conceived, too broadly worded and essentially unnecessary. The fishing industry would recommend that Parliament vote against this Motion.

That is a very long quotation from the letter but I needed to read that into the record. Parliamentarians need to consider the facts. A large group of people could be greatly affected by this and they have not even been consulted. There is no need to rush this through at this point. We have to do the proper research. We can act with emotion, and I have heard it today, but we also have to act reasonably and with sound science.

Consequently, until the government's plan has been completely implemented and the results are made available to parliamentarians, I cannot support the motion.

Intoxication of Migratory Birds
Private Members' Business

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Charles Caccia Davenport, ON

Madam Speaker, it is a great pleasure to follow the member for Yorkton--Melville in the debate because it is a fantastic opportunity for a rebuttal on almost every point he made in his intervention.

One wonders in listening to the member for Yorkton--Melville whether he has thought about the reasons that lead has been banned from gasoline, from toys and from batteries. Evidently the member's historical recollection is not long, otherwise he would know that lead was even banned in Roman times because of the knowledge that lead is a poisonous substance.

For the member for Yorkton--Melville to say that the motion is ill-conceived is hilarious to say the least. It is a demonstration of backward thinking of the kind I have not heard in a long time.

The science is lacking according to the member for Yorkton--Melville. One only has to speak to accredited scientists at any university, to chemists, to people in the field of the science related to botany and related subjects in nature, to environmentalists. They say there is a substantial problem in nature caused by lead objects created by man, which when ingested by birds or other animals cause serious disease and poisoning that leads eventually to death.

For the member for Yorkton--Melville to say that we need a communications effort, as he did, and that we need a voluntary approach and further consultations with stakeholders really ignores the reality of the issue. He is proposing a recipe for inaction. If we were to do all the things that he proposed in his intervention today, we could be here for another 10 or 15 years.

Why does the member for Yorkton--Melville think that the use of lead sinkers by fishers are now banned in national parks? That happened in 1997. The environment committee wrote a report in 1995 on the Canadian Environmental Protection Act in which it examined the issue of lead sinkers and in which it recommended their phaseout. Two years later, to her credit, the then Minister of the Environment banned their use in national parks. Why was that done? Certainly it was not because of incomplete science and not because it would cause, as the member said, the loss of thousands of jobs in Quebec. It is utterly ridiculous to say that.

It brings back to my memory the very same arguments that were made in the early 1980s when the issue before us was the removal of lead from gasoline. The same argument was made that it could not be done because thousands of jobs would be lost, that the refineries would have insurmountable costs and that there was not enough scientific proof that lead was dangerous and harmful.

There are piles of studies related to the fact that lead causes an impairment to a child's ability to learn. This has been established in communities near factories producing lead batteries in Toronto and Montreal. It is in any major centre where there has been a lead battery factory.

Has the member for Yorkton--Melville ever visited a facility that produced lead batteries? Is he aware of the studies before he would call for further ones? He said there is too little of it and therefore we need better communications and better consultation with stakeholders. This is trying to turn the clock back a hundred years.

What we should be doing is applauding the member for Saint-Bruno--Saint-Hubert for this motion. This is very timely and long overdue for all the reasons that one can bring forward.

We had the benefit in recent months of a witness before the environment committee in the person of Dr. Vernon Thomas from Guelph University who studied the subject for years. He is an international expert who has devoted virtually his life to the link between the presence of lead in nature and its effect on species. He has come to the same conclusions that the member for Saint-Bruno--Saint-Hubert has, namely that these items should no longer be used because the swallowing of lead intoxicates migratory birds. It intoxicates any living being that eventually ingests this type of toxic substance.

Dr. Thomas has produced a number of extremely interesting and substantive studies indicating that it is desirable to phase out the presence of lead and to gradually reduce it because the technology is there, and replace it with other substances which are a little bit more costly. There is no doubt about that. However the cost of non-lead fishing sinkers, for instance, would add something like $4.00 or $5.00 per individual amateur fisherman, which is a small amount considering the totality of the cost of the equipment which a fisherman uses when sport fishing. It would be a modest increase per se and affordable.

As the trend would increase in shifting away from lead to metals like tungsten then the mass production would permit a lowering of the cost of the new product. In the same way, the only mild observation that one can make about the motion before us is that it stops with fishing weights and baits and it does not include shots and pellets. They should be included in this overall discussion because they should also be banned.

The use of lead shot for waterfowl hunting was banned or announced as a possible policy by Environment Canada in 1999, so we already have an initiative that has been announced. It only needs to be implemented. Unfortunately none of the provinces have undertaken a similar action within their jurisdiction unless it has been done in the province of Quebec. I defer here to my learned colleague from Quebec who is a member of the environment committee. That is probably only a matter of time. Here is a situation where the provinces could take the lead with the federal government.

The ideal step would be to ban lead fishing weights and lead shot Canada wide so that we would put to rest this notion that we need more studies, consultations and involvement of stakeholders on a matter that has been studied to death.

Intoxication of Migratory Birds
Private Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The member has set me up as kind of a straw man and misrepresented my points. I am wondering when I will be allowed to reply to him.

Intoxication of Migratory Birds
Private Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Unfortunately, the member has already spoken and the rules of the House do not allow a second round at this point in time. The member may want to see his colleague afterward.

Intoxication of Migratory Birds
Private Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Madam Speaker, I want to congratulate the member for Davenport who gave an informed and articulate synopsis of this issue as he often does. I commend him as the dean in the House of Commons for the leadership he has shown on many environmental issues. This is certainly no exception. It is a daunting task to follow the member for Davenport because of the passion and intelligence that he brings to issues such as this.

The motion is to be commended and aimed in the right direction. It is one that might be described or criticized for being broad in nature. It is calling upon the government to ban this substance. As the member for Davenport quite correctly pointed out lead is a substance that has long been listed as a toxic substance. It causes real harm to all living creatures great and small. There is no lack of evidence. We have a significant amount of evidence that we can point to that demonstrates the harm.

The migratory birds convention is a treaty with the United States and the Migratory Birds Convention Act makes it Canadian law. It gives the federal government the responsibility and the obligation to protect migratory birds. There are many elements in the motion which would impact on other creatures. If a bird ingests lead, whether it be by shot, sinker or jig, and is poisoned, that bird may be preyed upon by other animals. It may in its natural process of breeding, pass on this lead poisoning.

Let us refer for a moment to the effect of what happens when an animal ingests this type of toxin. Birds experience physical and behavioural changes as the lead is broken down in the stomach and moves into the bloodstream affecting major organs like the brain and the kidneys. Effects include a loss of balance, gasping, tremors and an impaired ability to fly. Birds become vulnerable to predators and have trouble feeding, mating, nesting and caring for their young. They lose weight as their digestive systems break down and usually die. What a horrible death, slow and torturous.

I wish to demonstrate, as the hon. member for Davenport did throughout his remarks, the science is clear. The evidence is there as to the effect ingesting this type of substance will have. In Canada it is estimated that 500 tonnes of lead sinkers are lost each and every year. Nearly three million pounds of lead are lost in the United States annually. Birds can die after ingesting just a single lead sinker.

It is important to point out that there are options. This is not something that would devastate an industry in any way. There are alternatives to lead sinkers and jigs made from substances that include tin, bismuth, steel and tungsten-nickel alloy. Many of these lead sinkers, as anglers and fishermen would know, are disguised inside a rubber sheathing to appear to be a worm or another microbe. This is often the problem. The birds feed upon these same said organisms. Once it is in a bird's system it is literally doomed to a slow and horrible death.

These sinkers can be ingested directly or indirectly when birds eat fish that might contain lead sinkers. Predatory birds like eagles often ingest sinkers from their prey. The other birds that can be affected include: dabbling ducks, loons, grebes, sea ducks, cranes, herons, geese, swans, eagles, hawks, ospreys and vultures. They also include endangered species like peregrine falcons and whooping cranes. It is horrible to think that these beautiful creatures, some of them at risk of extinction, would die in such a way.

In eastern North America up to half of all the common loons found dead have died from eating a lead sinker or jig. In 1980 and 1986 the University of Minnesota did a study that reported lead poisoning in 138 of 650 eagles that were treated at that centre.

Lead weights in water will release slow toxins into the environment. The rate at which the lead dissolves depends on the levels of nitrate, chlorine and oxygen in the water, but clearly the substance released into the environment has a noxious effect.

With respect to the amount of lead ingested, death may occur quickly from acute lead poisoning or the bird may become so weak it will die of starvation over a prolonged period of time. Polluted sediment from the accumulated toxins can affect the aquatic bottom and bottom dwellers like shrimp, crab, oysters and clams, making them unfit for consumption by humans or birds.

High mercury levels in some types of fish including swordfish, sharks and tuna already limit fish consumption to once a week. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Science Advisory Board have recommended that lead be considered a probable human carcinogen. It is clear that lead is a real danger to birds and humans alike.

Of those who have been consulted many have expressed support for this type of ban. Ducks Unlimited Canada supports the motion. The Canadian Wildlife Service has already initiated bans in national parks and national wildlife areas, as has been mentioned. Parks Canada initiated a ban in national parks and wildlife areas years ago. The Nova Scotia department of agriculture and fisheries issued lead advisories in pamphlets and literature distributed throughout the province. The Cape Breton Sport Fishing Advisory Committee issued similar advisories.

In the year 2000 the U.S. states of New Hampshire and Maine issued bans on lead sinkers with jigs and diameters of less than an inch. Great Britain has also banned the substance. It has had restrictions on the use of lead sinkers since 1987.

The issue has been around and the problem continues to exist. I am therefore supportive of the motion. There is an obligation to put substance to the effort. The hon. member for Davenport, an active and able member of the environment committee, will want to act on the initiative. I am sure he has made efforts in that direction already. The minimum action we can undertake is to bring legislation forward that encapsulates the concept of banning the use of lead.

Support for the motion should be wide ranging. It should be found in all corners of the House. It is not a partisan issue. As I stated before, we must underline that this would not impact the industry. Alternatives are available. It would not impact parents who wanted to teach their children to fish, spend time in certain locations or indulge in leisure activities.

This is a simple, straightforward, common sense initiative that the Progressive Conservative Party wholeheartedly supports. It is shameful that it has taken some time to get to this point. With the greatest respect to the hon. member opposite, it is shameful that the government has been somewhat lax in bringing forward environmental protection legislation. A bill was passed this week that took nine years to reach fruition.

I support efforts to bring about a ban on the use of lead sinkers, as do groups such as the Canadian Wildlife Service. The threat to and impact on loons in Canada is severe. Loons are dying from lead poisoning after eating fish that have lead sinkers in their bellies, possibly after picking up discarded sinkers from lake bottoms. The lead is sometimes partially dissolved in the liver and found in the blood and body tissues of these beautiful birds.

In Nova Scotia statistics indicate that a number of birds have been affected by poisoning from lead sinkers. It is difficult to bring forward statistics and science because many of the birds are never found. They die from toxicity and sink to the bottoms of lakes or are consumed by other animals. However over the past few years three or four loons have been found in my home province by the Department of Natural Resources whose testing has indicated this was the cause of death.

We in our party wholeheartedly support a ban on lead sinkers. I hope other members of parliament will do likewise.

Intoxication of Migratory Birds
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise to speak to the motion by my colleague from Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert. I will read the motion a little later, but it seems so obvious to me that I would have a hard time speaking about it for 10 or 20 minutes. It is quite basic.

How could the members of this House not support such a simple and practical measure, which would not cost as much as my colleague from the Alliance tried to make us believe a few minutes ago?

The motion brought forward by my colleague from Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert reads:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should, in compliance with the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994, amend its regulations to replace the use of lead fishing weights and baits by any other non toxic matter that would end the intoxication of migratory birds, including the loon, caused by the swallowing of lead.

As my colleague from Davenport said a few minutes ago, we have had the opportunity to study the matter for a short while. At least, we had the opportunity to make up our minds as far as the consequences that the ingesting lead can have for wildlife species like the loon.

As my colleague mentioned, the committee recently heard testimony from an expert on this, Dr. Vernon Thomas. He was obviously very concerned about this issue.

It is as a parliamentarian, of course, but also as an avid fisherman, that I rise to speak to this motion today. Even though the Alliance would want us to think otherwise, I do not believe it is true that fishers do not want to make a commitment to the development of alternatives in the area of sport fishing.

I am totally convinced that those who like to fish are essentially nature lovers. They believe that Quebec's and Canada's natural heritage, our wildlife, must be protected.

I was listening to my colleague from Champlain who told us about his expeditions on the shores of various lakes in Quebec where he would hear the calls of the loons at night from one lake to the next. It is quite interesting. In that regard, we, as parliamentarians, want to adopt measures to improve and preserve our natural heritage.

Studies show that the lead contained in rippers and fishing baits is responsible for the intoxication of the loon. It is estimated that between 5 to 50% of the deaths in loons is caused by lead poisoning. Obviously, the percentage varies from one region to the next. However, for Quebec, lead intoxication is the main cause of death in loons.

Knowing that the loon is, to a certain extent, an important symbol in Quebec, we must propose simple and obvious measures, like the one brought forward by my colleague, to protect that species.

Knowing also that, each year, over 500 tons of lead end up in Canadian waters, there is cause for concern, especially when one is convinced that there is a direct link between loon mortality and the ingestion of lead by the loon.

If it were only the loon, perhaps I could understand why certain colleagues would oppose this measure. But such is not the case.

Several wildlife and waterfowl species are hit hard by the ingestion of lead. It has an impact on their mortality rate. When the Canadian Wildlife Service tells us that it found lead in the body of several Canada geese, at least two of them in Quebec, lead they had ingested, when we know that it found lead weights in the throat of some seagulls and that fishing leads were also found in herons' nests, when we know the problem also affects cormorants, all we want to do is act in a simple, obvious and long-lasting way to protect these species.

One thing should be understood. We talked a lot about the loon. Of course the motion deals specifically with the loon. However, any diving bird is directly affected by this sport fishing practice while there are alternatives today.

We talked a lot about the impact of lead on children. We talked about the issue of toys and the use of lead in their manufacture as being an important aspect of a fight that was called a fight for environmental health. It naturally became not only a public health issue, but also an environmental health issue. There is no doubt that we would want to try and develop the same kind of approach to protect our natural heritage.

The motion was well received by several Canadian organizations such as Ducks Unlimited. I remind the House that Ducks Unlimited is a non-profit international conservation organization. Its mission is to preserve wetlands and wetland habitats for the benefit of waterfowl in North America, and to promote a safe environment for wildlife and human beings.

On March 25, 2002, my colleague from Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert got a letter of support from Ducks Unlimited regarding the debate we are having today on the use of lead by sport fishermen. They support it for two reasons. First, they too are convinced that swallowing lead is a major cause of death especially in loons. Moreover, in the letter they wrote to my colleague, they said it was all the more desirable as there are already several alternatives available on the market.

As any sport fisher well knows, it is possible to engage in one's favorite sport or activity and use non toxic lures. Both arguments mentioned in the March 25 letter from Ducks Unlimited are forceful and should convince this parliament to act. In my opinion, the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 allows us to amend Canadian legislation to protect the species. Under the convention, the Canadian government can certainly act within its jurisdiction while insuring the protection of diving birds.

As a parliament, we must make the change and clearly indicate that we do not accept practices that go against the protection of our natural heritage. If we are to continue enjoying it and engaging in sport, we must adjust our legislation accordingly.

Intoxication of Migratory Birds
Private Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Northumberland
Ontario

Liberal

Paul MacKlin Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to address the House today in connection with the motion by the member for Saint-Bruno--Saint-Hubert concerning the regulation of lead sinkers and jigs for fishing.

I support the intent of the hon. member's initiative and I commend her for bringing this important issue to the attention of parliament and to the Canadian public.

Every year in Canada, water birds die from the ingestion of lead sinkers and jigs. Lead sinkers and jigs are a concern because water birds can mistake them for food or stones that they swallow to aid in their digestion or ingest them while consuming lost bait fish. A single lead sinker or jig is sufficient to expose a loon or other water bird to a lethal dose of lead.

Recreational anglers often attach lead weights to their fishing line to sink the hook and bait or lure in the water. They may also use lead jigs, which are weighted fish hooks. Fishing sinkers come in all shapes and sizes and scientists estimate that about 500 tonnes of lead sinkers and jigs are lost in Canadian waters every year.

In Canada, the bird that is most commonly reported as poisoned by eating lead sinkers is the common loon. Ducks, geese, swans and herons are also known to swallow fishing sinkers. Sinkers weighing less than about 50 grams or smaller than 2 centimetres are the ones usually swallowed by these water birds.

The actual number of birds poisoned by lead is not known but poisoned birds hide themselves and die in out of the way places where they are never found. They are also eaten by predators which leave no trace of their prey. What we do know is that, depending on the location, poisoning from swallowed lead sinkers or jigs accounts for up to half of all common loons found dead in eastern Canada and the United States.

Many bird populations are shrinking because their habitats are being destroyed. Lead poisoning is one more problem that confronts these birds. That is why conserving these birds and protecting them from hazards that we can control is an important undertaking.

The government is currently moving ahead with the completion of the enactment of the species at risk legislation. To date there are no reports of any endangered birds having died from the ingestion of lead sinkers or jigs. We must be extra vigilant with these species since the death of even a few birds may affect the survival of an endangered species.

As implied in Motion No. 414, loons are one of the main species affected. We know there are between 250,000 and 500,000 common loons breeding in Canada and that overall the loon population is not in decline.

A variety of environmental contaminants, including acid rain, mercury and lead, have an impact on the common loon. However the relative influence of these and other stressors, such as disease, predation and severe weather, on the health of the loon populations is unclear. This is not to minimize the impact of lead on water birds and loons.

We now know that an estimated 500 tonnes of lead in the form of lead sinkers and jigs may be lost in Canadian waters annually by approximately 5.5 million anglers who participate in recreational fishing each year.This represents about 14% of all lead releases into the environment.

We also know that lead poisoning from these releases has an impact on wildlife, particularly water birds like the loons. We know that in locations where recreational angling occurs, lead sinker or jig ingestion causes adult loon mortality and is the leading cause of death for loons in these areas. Recent studies indicate in Canada lead poisoning accounts for 22% of adult bird mortality where mortality factors are known.

Because of these facts the government is committed to addressing the issue. Any action must be done in a way that is supported by all stakeholders. The issue of lead toxicity is not new and the government has addressed various aspects of lead toxicity in the past, including when lead was found to have effects on wildlife.

When the severity of the problem to waterfowl from lead shot was understood, the government undertook a phased in approach to the banning of lead shot.

Beginning in 1991, Canada banned the use of lead shot in hot spots across the country, places where of course lead shot poisoning of waterfowl was known to be a problem. These areas were mostly in eastern Canada and a province-wide ban was established in British Columbia.

In the intervening years the Minister of the Environment banned the use of lead shot for hunting in national wildlife areas and for hunting most migratory birds in and around wetlands. A full national ban came into effect in the fall of 1999.

As we found with the situation with lead shot, immediate regulatory action on lead sinkers and jigs would severely impact manufacturers and retailers. These companies now have inventories in place for the coming summer fishing season and indeed many have sinkers and jigs in sufficient quantity for the next year or two. Additionally, it will take a little time for the industry to ensure that there are sufficient non-lead sinkers and jigs for anglers.

Moving too quickly, for example, on a regulation could create availability problems for alternatives. However, it is important to note that the number and availability of non-toxic alternatives continues to increase and importantly the cost of these alternatives is similar to lead sinkers and jigs.

The member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert is proposing action and action we will take. Most important, we will consult with all stakeholders and ensure that a regulation or other instrument regarding prevention or control actions in relation to lead weights and baits can be supported by a comprehensive impact analysis.

From our experience with lead shot as outlined earlier, it is clear that an education and awareness program would help to ensure a smooth transition to non-toxic alternatives. It would be important to work with the industry to determine how best to provide samples of these alternatives to anglers. For example, perhaps the enhanced use of exchange programs where those who possess lead sinkers could trade them for non-toxic alternatives would foster a speedier transition to non-lead sinkers and jigs. The cost and benefits of these types of programs would have to be determined.

I am convinced that all these and other actions will in the end achieve the objective of Motion No. 414 by building support from the very people who will ultimately determine whether this effort is successful and by setting the stage for regulatory or other policy instrument or approach.

I would like to thank the hon. member for her interest in this issue and in the welfare of Canada's wildlife.

Intoxication of Migratory Birds
Private Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Hillsborough, PE

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to address the House today in connection with the motion of the hon. member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert concerning the regulation of lead sinkers and jigs for fishing.

The motion proposes that the government should, in compliance with the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994, amend its regulations to replace the use of lead fishing weights and baits by any other non-toxic matter that would end the intoxication of migratory birds, including the loon, caused by the swallowing of lead.

I would like to echo the comments of the other members who spoke here today and tell the House that I too support the intent of the member's initiative. In particular I want to associate myself with the comments from the hon. member for Davenport. Obviously he has spent a good part of his career studying this issue and I agree with him that this issue, whether or not the lead causes harm to human beings and animals, does not need at this point in our history further research. It does not need further study. It does not need further debate by the House.

Lead has been acknowledged as an environmental and health problem for humans and wildlife. As everyone in the House is aware, it is listed as a toxic substance under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. The federal government, along with other levels of government, has been extremely active in removing the hazard of lead from our environment by getting lead out of gasoline and household products like paint.

We have also required manufacturers such as base metal smelters and steel manufacturers, which release lead during their processes, to implement control measures to reduce releases of lead into the environment.

Lead is a naturally occurring metal found throughout our environment. While concentrations of lead in the environment increased significantly following the industrial revolution, the most dramatic increase of course has occurred since 1920--