House of Commons Hansard #118 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was antarctic.

Topics

Business of the House

10:05 a.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations among all parties in the House and I believe you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That, if at any time that the House stands adjourned during June, July, August and September, 2003, the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates has ready a report, when that report is deposited with the Clerk of the House, it shall be deemed to have been duly presented to the House.

Business of the House

10:05 a.m.

The Speaker

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the House

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

Antarctic Environmental Protection Act
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria for the Minister of the Environment

moved that Bill C-42, an act respecting the protection of the Antarctic Environment, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Antarctic Environmental Protection Act
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

York South—Weston
Ontario

Liberal

Alan Tonks Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to Bill C-42.

Bill C-42 is enabling legislation that will allow Canada to ratify the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, commonly known as the Madrid protocol.

Since signing the protocol in 1991, Canada has been committed to its ratification. By doing so, Canada will be joining the other 29 nations that have ratified the protocol. It will commit the country to the protection of this unique ecosystem, from which we can learn a great deal about the world's environment.

As a nation active in Antarctica, we must provide clarity on Canada's role in the region to Canadians present there and to the global community. We must establish mechanisms that will prevent or mitigate potential negative environmental impacts of human activity.

The Antarctic was once available to only the most adventurous of explorers and is now visited regularly by tourists and scientists, including Canadians. With continued scientific research, commercial fishing and increased tourism, we must be cognizant of the cumulative impacts of human action.

The challenge that nations operating in the Antarctic face is to manage activities in a way that balances the benefits of access with the need for environmental protection. The Madrid protocol, which came into force in 1998, achieves that balance through three key obligations.

First, it commits parties to the comprehensive protection of the Antarctic environment and designates Antarctica as a natural reserve devoted to peace and science.

Second, it sets out the principles for environmental protection, requiring an environmental impact assessment of all activities before they are allowed to proceed.

Third, the Madrid protocol bans activities harmful to the Antarctic environment, such as commercial mineral resource activity, damage to historic Antarctic sites and the harmful disturbance of wildlife.

The protocol's approach to environmental protection and conservation is similar to the approach taken by Canada in the areas of environmental assessments, marine pollution countermeasures, as well as our general approach toward national parks and species at risk.

What Bill C-42 does is it provides the legislative basis needed to implement the requirements of the Madrid protocol in Canada. Canadian tour companies and scientists are already voluntarily complying with the protocol using the approval mechanisms established by other nations. Those individuals and groups have consistently called upon Canada to ratify the protocol.

It is time for Canada to take responsibility for the activities of its nationals in the Antarctic.

Bill C-42 is consistent with established Canadian legal policy and practice and is in accordance with international law. It is consistent with the approach taken by other countries that have ratified the protocol.

The history of Antarctica is one of inspiration. It inspired people like Scott, Amundsen, Shackleton and the men that joined them, including other Canadians. It inspired ground breaking scientific research. Perhaps most important, it inspired the nations of the world to come together in a spirit of cooperation and multilateralism to declare that there would be a place on earth dedicated to peace and science.

It is now time for Canada to complete the process that began a decade ago and join the world in preserving and protecting the environment that has inspired so many in the past so that it will continue to inspire many more in the future.

We have seen only too well what damage can be caused to fragile frozen tundra if rules and procedures are not put in place and a common understanding is not established.

Antarctica is the last great wilderness on earth. It is not the territory of one nation, but the responsibility of all people in the world.

Canada has a well deserved reputation as a responsible polar nation that protects its environmental heritage. That reputation must be extended to Antarctica as well.

My hope is that passage of the bill through the House will enable Canada to do its fair share to protect this last common wilderness as a legacy for people in the future.

Antarctic Environmental Protection Act
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, as the former environment minister in the beautiful and bountiful British Columbia, I have long had a deep and abiding concern about the need to protect the pristine and unexploited regions on the planet.

I am here at the request of my hon. colleague, the member for Red Deer, to speak to Bill C-42, an act respecting the protection of the Antarctic environment. This legislation may actually be worthwhile in that it is legislation that may actually do what it says it will do. That is rare: good legislation coming from a Liberal government. I wonder if this was one of the last items on the previous government's agenda.

One would think that by now the Liberals would have passed all the legislation left over from the Mulroney regime and would have come up with some of their own. I know that with their leadership woes going back to 1990 and that leadership race that never stopped running, they have been preoccupied, but surely they could have found time in the last 10 years to come up with something original. If this is it, we should offer them mild congratulations.

Other environmental legislation they have introduced will do nothing but harm. This bill appears to be fairly benign, unlike the species at risk legislation and the Kyoto legislation that will one day prove ruinous to Canada. Having said that and to repeat my earlier statement, we in the Canadian Alliance share the goal of this legislation and wholeheartedly support its premise.

The act would allow Canada to formally ratify the so-called Madrid protocol to make sure the international community uses the Antarctic for peaceful and scientific purposes only. The Antarctic Treaty of 1961 prohibits military activity. It guarantees freedom for and cooperation in scientific research. It agrees to the exchange of information, suspends all territorial claims and prohibits nuclear activities and disposal of radioactive waste.

The act would become part of the Antarctic Treaty system and that is something the Canadian Alliance endorses and supports wholeheartedly. We in the Alliance recognize the importance of an ethical dimension in our foreign policy and will do what is necessary to achieve that after the next election.

I should pause here for the benefit of Liberals to define the word ethical. It means morally correct and honourable. If the Liberals want me to define morally correct and honourable, well I could go on and on but I do not want to get off the topic.

The Canadian Alliance believes that responsible exploration, development, conservation and renewal of our environment is critically important. The act would stop exploitation and ruination of a unique environment before it begins and that is worth supporting.

We have something in common with the bottom of the world sitting where we do at the top of the world. Outside of northern Canada and the Arctic, the Antarctic is one of the few frontiers left on the planet. Our northern lands, starkly beautiful, have been scarred by the carelessness of the Liberals over the years. We do not want the world to do to the Antarctic what the Liberals have allowed to be done to our Arctic.

On behalf of the hon. member for Red Deer and all Canadian Alliance colleagues, I declare our party's support for this legislation that protects the environment. It is unfortunate the Liberals have dragged their feet for so long that it is only now we come to vote on this very important bill.

Antarctic Environmental Protection Act
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on Bill C-42, a bill to ratify the Protocol on EnvironmentalProtection to the Antarctic Treaty.

This protocol was signed by Canada in 1991 and one of its purposes was to protect the ecosystems in an extremely fragile area.

Knowing the current state of Antarctica in particular, we know that it is fundamental that there be critical parameters for all activities that might take place in this very fragile area.

This protocol reinforces what the Treaty on Antarctica established in 1961. This protocol also makes it possible to endorse and implement the principles established in 1961, after the signing of the Treaty of Antarctica. These principles include making Antarctica a nature preserve to be protected. A further intent was to make Antarctica an area where no military activities could be carried out.

This is important. Given what we have all experienced in the past few months, it is important to reaffirm, in legislation, Canada's will to make the Antarctic a demilitarized zone.

The third important principle in the Antarctic Treaty of 1961 was to ensure greater cooperation with regard to research, particularly scientific research. The goal was to ensure the uniformity of exchanges and partnerships.

Furthermore, another aspect concerns the suspension of sovereignty and claims to territorial sovereignty in this area of the Antarctic; this applies to a number of territories in the Antarctic. Issues relating to sovereignty and claims to territorial sovereignty are currently on the table, but the 1961 treaty suspends such claims.

One final aspect prohibits nuclear explosions or the disposal of radioactive waste material; Bill C-42 contains provisions on this.

What, then, is the aim of this bill? It seeks to provide a solution to what the member states had agreed to in the Antarctic Treaty of 1961. Canada reiterated its commitment in 1991, by signing the Madrid protocol. We are proud to say today that this protocol has been ratified.

There are provisions in this legislation. What is their purpose? To protect ecosystems in this fragile zone and make it a demilitarized zone, if possible. This would ensure that this zone does not become a disposal site for radioactive and nuclear waste; and would also suspend claims to territorial sovereignty. All this, to ensure that this zone, which is unique in the world, will receive sufficient protection.

In closing, I want to add that my party is very pleased to support Bill C-42, which will provide a sustainable solution for a fragile zone that must be protected as a natural heritage site.

Antarctic Environmental Protection Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, I also appreciate the opportunity to speak to Bill C-42. It is one of those times that we stand up in the House and say that it is about time.

The Madrid protocol, which Canada agreed to in 1991, is basically the reason this bill is before the House. However, as in so many other cases, it has taken us a full decade to bring forward supporting legislation for commitments that we made at the international level. It is all too typical of the government in the way it has avoided its responsibility to the various countries on this planet in terms of meeting our responsibilities. Again I repeat, it is about time.

Having said that, I want to address a couple of points with regard to the Madrid protocol and this legislation. I would indicate that the NDP is prepared in principle to support the bill. It is one that in its overall context and direction we do support.

The bill has encompassed to some degree the protocol but I do have some reservations and I want to mention those. It does address the protocol in the sense that the protocol had various principles that underpinned that agreement at the international level. It was making sure that the Antarctic would never be militarized and that neither nuclear weapons nor reactors would ever be placed there. It has a number of provisions in it which encourage further scientific research in the area to identify the ecosystem in many respects and hopefully ways of being able to identify needs that we and the rest of the planet may be able to maintain.

It was interesting to listen to the Alliance's attack on the government with regard to how Kyoto will be a disaster, according to them. The Antarctic, as is our Arctic, is the first victim of the global warming that we are seeing. I remember about a year ago there was a huge chunk that separated off the ice patch there that was larger than Newfoundland. It has completely broken up and is no longer part of that continent. Therefore, we badly need Kyoto in place as quickly as possible to forestall further damage like that to the Antarctic.

Going back to this bill specifically, the final point I would mention in terms of one of the underlying principles of the Madrid protocol is that all countries that signed on to the protocol would, in effect, abandon sovereignty claims. Not all countries have and so there is still an issue in that regard, but it certainly behooves Canada to take part in this.

Once the bill goes to committee we will have a greater opportunity to explore this but I do want to raise a couple of cautions. There are concerns about whether the bill goes far enough to implement the Madrid protocol and protect the Antarctic. I just want to mention a couple of sections. One is clause 5.

I am not sure how one would ultimately interpret this, but clause 5 of the bill as printed and presented to the House leaves open the possibility of the military having access to the sites. In fact, it specifically says that the bill would not apply to the Canadian military. I do not understand that and we will have to explore that.

The other one is that the prohibition in clause 7 prevents a number of activities but specifically allows commercial fishing. That is a great concern to us in Canada given the devastation that we have seen to some of our fishing stock when it is uncontrolled, as it would be in the sense that there are no controls in this legislation in that regard.

Antarctic Environmental Protection Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak today in support of the bill. If any country in the world should be interested and concerned about the welfare and the conditions in the Antarctic it should be Canada, and we are pleased to support the bill.

It also raises all kinds of questions that go further, questions that could be tied to Kyoto or, as the previous speaker just mentioned, the North Atlantic Fisheries Organization which has so much to do with our fisheries reserves, our resources, the economy and the welfare of the two sides of our country, the Atlantic and the Pacific. In this case we are talking about the Atlantic because it is the North Atlantic Fisheries Organization, but there are parallels here to talk about.

We feel the government has not done nearly enough to protect the fishery and it has not played a leadership role. It has done nothing to think outside the box to address the fisheries concerns, which are really environmental and conservation concerns, such as what we are talking about today with the Antarctic environment.

Canada must and should take a leadership role in these issues. I think the world looks to Canada and they are really surprised that we do not take a leadership role in issues such as this. I urge the government, when it is considering issues in the Antarctic, to also consider issues in the Atlantic and try to think of ways that have not been addressed to deal with the fisheries in the Atlantic Ocean.

Two to three weeks ago, professors from Dalhousie University came out with a startling study that said that 90% of the large fish in the oceans have been scooped up. That is a scary statistic. One just has to look at what has happened over the years because no one has addressed this issue. No one has really stood up to the fishing industry around the world and said that the rules must change. Canada should be the one to do that. Canada should not just be a part of something. It should not go along with NAFO. We should play a leadership role.

The ministers over there should understand that Canada is the one that should play the leadership role but we are not. We are just going along with everybody else. The government should think outside the box and take startling and strong steps to protect our fishery and to change the rules around the world. This study, which said that 90% of the large fish are gone, predicts that the deterioration of the fish stocks will continue dramatically in the future until there are simply no fish.

It is issues like this that we have to be concerned about and that is why we support the proposal of Bill C-42 on the environment in the Antarctic. However there are other issues with which we must deal but the government has being lax on them. We know it and the whole world knows it. The whole world knows that Canada is just going along with everybody else on this when we should be taking strong steps and demonstrating our concerns about the situation in our oceans and protecting and conserving the fish resources.

We are pleased to support Bill C-42 on the environment of the Antarctic but we urge the government to go further on issues. Even on Kyoto, the government brought in Kyoto with no implementation plan. Bill C-42 is part of a plan to have a plan but at least it is a start. We hope the government will move further on this and also on Kyoto.

The member for St. John's West, who is with me here today, has raised the issue time and time again that Canada should play a leadership role in the conservation of the fishery on the Atlantic coast and yet nothing ever changes. Nothing happens. We just go along. It is time Canada stood up, took a stand and fought back.

Antarctic Environmental Protection Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

The Speaker

Pursuant to order made on Thursday, June 12, Bill C-42 is deemed read a second time, deemed referred to a committee of the whole, deemed reported without amendment, deemed concurred in at report stage and deemed read a third time and passed.

(Bill read a second time, referred to committee, reported without amendment, concurred in, read a third time and passed)

Injured Military Members Compensation Act
Government Orders

June 13th, 2003 / 10:25 a.m.

Edmonton Southeast
Alberta

Liberal

David Kilgour for the Minister of National Defence

moved that Bill C-44, an act to compensate military members injured during service, be read the second time and referred to the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs.

Injured Military Members Compensation Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

The Speaker

I understand there is a superseding unanimous consent motion in respect of this so that this bill will in fact not be going to the committee even if the motion is subsequently adopted.

Injured Military Members Compensation Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

David Pratt Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak in support of this measure, Bill C-44, an act to compensate military members injured during service. The bill would redress a disparity in the benefits provided to members of the Canadian Forces who have been seriously injured while on duty.

Under the Canadian Forces insurance plan currently, members of the Canadian Forces below the rank of colonel are not eligible for a lump sum payment when they suffer severe injury while on duty. Under this same plan, individuals at the rank of colonel and above receive payments of up to $250,000.

The Minister of National Defence first heard of this inequity last August through the efforts of Major Bruce Henwood. Major Henwood was a Canadian peacekeeper in the former Yugoslavia. In 1995 he suffered major injuries including the loss of both legs when his vehicle struck an anti-tank mine. Under the insurance plan, Major Henwood was not entitled to a lump sum payment for his injuries because, as I indicated, compensation was only provided to those of the rank of colonel and above.

Major Henwood has since made extraordinary efforts to have coverage extended to all ranks, and on behalf of the Minister of National Defence and, indeed, the members of the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs, I commend him for his dedication to this cause.

When the minister heard of Major Henwood's story, the minister undertook to end this inconsistency in the insurance plan. On February 11 of this year the minister announced that the plan would be expanded to cover all regular and reserve members of the Canadian Forces, regardless of rank, for accidental dismemberment while on active duty.

At the same time, the minister promised to exhaust every avenue in an effort to make sure that a lump sum payment was provided to those who were injured before this new coverage came into effect. With this bill, the Minister of National Defence has met that commitment.

All members of the Canadian Forces, regardless of rank, can expect to receive assignments that may put them in harm's way. We certainly wish the Canadian Forces and the members of the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment who are going to Afghanistan the very best, and we certainly wish that each and every one of them comes home safely.

Providing coverage only for senior ranks was, in the minister's view, and I think in the view of all Canadians, unacceptable. In a word, it was unfair. That is why the government changed the insurance plan and that is why the minister has introduced this bill, to help the 200 or so individuals who have found themselves in Major Henwood's position, to help those who have been severely injured in the course of military service but have been unable to claim the benefit because of their rank.

This bill would allow lump sum payments of up to $250,000 for current or former Canadian Forces members who suffered serious injury attributable to military service.

Before I conclude, I wish to thank the opposition parties for supporting this measure. It is heartening to see both sides of the House stand behind our men and women in uniform. They are the people who regularly put themselves in harm's way in the service of our country. With all that they give on our behalf, we must be prepared to give back. They certainly deserve nothing less.

Injured Military Members Compensation Act
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Leon Benoit Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak to Bill C-44 this morning. This legislation will right a wrong that has been in place for many years, for 30 years many would argue. They would say 30 years because for colonels and above this lump sum payment coverage has been in place since 1972. It is indeed an embarrassment that it has taken this government this long to act on changing that.

I think one has to wonder where the government's priorities are. We get legislation coming forward in the House all the time that quite frankly does nothing positive at all, and in some cases just the opposite, and yet a change like this, which was desperately needed, has taken 30 years, or 10 years for those who served in the Balkans, where many were injured, including the person who was persistent enough on this issue such that the government could finally no longer resist, and that was Major Bruce Henwood.

In fact, this bill should be called the Bruce Henwood bill, because he has pursued this issue absolutely fruitlessly for 10 years until just recently when, with help from the opposition but mostly through his own efforts over the years, he finally forced the government to make this move. Why the government would resist for so long is almost impossible to understand, but finally he has been successful. Again I have to say that I think the bill should be called the Bruce Henwood bill, because it was through his courageous and persistent actions that it has come forward.

There are some problems with the bill. One is in the case of people feeling they are not receiving proper treatment. Under the bill, it is of course the minister who makes the decisions. If someone feels mistreated, there is an appeal, but who is the appeal to? To the minister. So we will have the minister appealing his own decision in cases where people feel they are being improperly treated. That simply has to be changed, and I hope it will be changed by the minister.

What we are proposing, in fact, is that there be an appeal to the military ombudsman. The military ombudsman would then make a recommendation to the minister. Should the minister support that recommendation, fine, it will go through, but should the minister refuse to support the military ombudsman's recommendation on an individual case, we are suggesting that the military ombudsman be given authority to make public both the minister's reasons for rejecting it and the ombudsman's reasons for supporting it. At least we would then have the court of public opinion to put pressure on the minister.

I am calling upon the government to do that. I would assume that the government can see it is improper to have the minister handling appeals for the minister. I hope clause 11 of the bill will be amended to deal with that.

As well, this legislation simply will not deal with cases of injuries like post-traumatic stress disorder. There is nothing in Bill C-44 to help deal with those types of cases. Also, there is probably nothing in the bill to deal with cases like that of Matt Stopford, who has been stonewalled by the government, and quite frankly by the military, for many years. He was severely injured, admittedly poisoned by his own troops when serving in the Balkans. This legislation does nothing to help him as far as I can tell, so there are some huge gaps in the legislation.

It is certainly going to be worthwhile legislation for the roughly 200 military personnel who will likely receive lump sum payments of up to $250,000, although many of the payments will be much less than that.

I commend the government for finally righting this wrong after 30 years, it could be argued, but certainly 10 years. It has taken 10 years, but I guess better late than never applies in this case. Let us move ahead with this and fix the things that have to be fixed, which I have pointed to. I would like to congratulate Major Bruce Henwood for the Bruce Henwood bill.

Injured Military Members Compensation Act
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, as others before me have said, this is a bill that I think everyone supports and which they are very proud to support. The bill addresses an inequality that has been in the system for quite some time.

When we see provisions made to compensate leaders in the field, generals and colonels, et cetera, and yet the rank and file are not put in the same class in time of war there is something definitely wrong. As members know, to quote the words of an old song, “The ones who give the orders are not the first to die”. It is the rank and file who are usually the first out on the firing lines. We have had several people over the years who have lost limbs or who have had a loss of speech or hearing. It is about time we addressed that.

We are extremely proud of the people in our forces. I am sure that the member for Saint John, if she were here today, would be saying as I am that we are in full support of the bill. There are a few little glitches in it that will undoubtedly be corrected through amendments as we have a chance to put the bill into practice.

The main thing the bill does is compensate those who should have been compensated quite some time ago. We can argue and point fingers, but that does not serve any purpose. The thing is that the bill is here. Hopefully it will pass quickly today and then we can get on with helping those who have done so much to help us.

The Conservative Party is very proud to support the bill. We ask for quick passage of the bill so that those who have done so much for us, for the country, will be properly compensated.