House of Commons Hansard #15 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was parks.

Topics

Environment and Sustainable Development

October 26th, 2004 / 10 a.m.

The Speaker

I have the honour to lay upon the table, pursuant to subsection 23(3) of the Auditor General Act, the report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development to the House of Commons for the year 2004.

This document is referred permanently to the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development.

Genome Canada
Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Chatham-Kent—Essex
Ontario

Liberal

Jerry Pickard Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, in accordance with Standing Order 32(2) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, on behalf of the Minister of Industry, the annual report of Genome Canada for 2003-04.

Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Willowdale
Ontario

Liberal

Jim Peterson for the Minister of the Environment

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-15, an act to amend the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Bernard Patry Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the first report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade on Canada's relations with the countries of the Muslim world.

Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee is asking the government to table a comprehensive response to the report.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, with the House's indulgence, I have two petitions to present this morning.

The first petition is yet another in a series of petitions I have been trying to present every day that the House sits and has routine proceedings. The petition is from concerned citizens in Mallorytown, Gananoque, Brockville, Ontario, and Golden, British Columbia.

The petitioners wish to draw the House's attention to the fact that the Canadian Forces Housing Agency provides on base housing for our military families. It serves a valuable purpose for those families. Housing accommodations provided by the CFHA are in many instances substandard and families of Canadian Forces soldiers living in accommodations have seen very dramatic rent increases and are due for another one November 1.

Therefore the petitioners call upon Parliament to immediately suspend any future rent increases until such time as the Government of Canada makes substantive improvements to the living conditions of housing provided for our military families.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is also one in a series that I have been presenting on behalf of constituents in my riding from the small town of Mackenzie, British Columbia. This is signed by some 53 members and is added to a lot of other signatures I have presented previously.

It draws to the attention of the House that because it is a northern isolated town, Mackenzie faces many challenges and has far less amenities than nearby cities. Without the tax deduction available to residents of nearby communities, the district of Mackenzie and its businesses continue to experience difficulty attracting and retaining invaluable employees, including skilled tradespeople and health care professionals. The current geographic criteria used to determine qualification for the deduction unfairly discriminates against the residents of Mackenzie.

The petitioners therefore call upon Parliament to immediately reinstate Mackenzie's eligibility for the northern residents' tax deduction.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Devillers Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I would like to present a petition signed by approximately 50 constituents in my riding of Simcoe North.

They are petitioning Parliament to pass legislation to recognize the institution of marriage in federal law as being a lifelong union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present a petition signed by 269 people from the riding of Québec and other ridings around Quebec City.

These people are calling on the government to maintain Canada's multilateral approach to security and to reaffirm its support for non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament and to reject any plans for the militarization of space or star wars, including the plans for a missile defence shield.

This petition has been signed by 269 people. There is no solicitation or visible message other than: No to the missile defence shield. Quebec and the rest of Canada are mobilizing to show the government which direction to take on the matter of the missile defence shield.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Beauséjour
New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

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

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from October 22 consideration of the motion.

Quarantine Act
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Carol Skelton Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed my pleasure to rise today to speak on Bill C-12, otherwise known as the Quarantine Act.

Canada has had a Quarantine Act for decades, but it has not been updated since 1872 to properly reflect the changing needs of today's world.

No longer do we rely on slow-moving ships to move people. No longer do we trade mainly with cities just down the road. Today's world has millions of people moving across continents every day of the year. Containers by the thousands arrive on our shores with goods destined for every corner of Canada.

But it is not just goods, animals and people coming into Canada that we need to be concerned with; we also need to be concerned with what goes out of Canada. Whether it is the famous rabbits of Australia or the zebra mussels of the Great Lakes, we are all aware of several major problems resulting from careless trade practices. In addition, we all remember SARS and the avian flu problems in British Columbia. Canadians and their economy were devastated by their effects.

Some Toronto businesses say the effects of SARS still linger, and we do not know the actual dollar figure for what SARS cost the city of Toronto and the province of Ontario. In fact, there is a belief that SARS is still affecting the Toronto area.

Bill C-12 is legislation which, for many reasons, could be called a response to SARS. In the wake of SARS, Dr. David Naylor, chair of the National Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health, made a number of important recommendations.

One of the major recommendations has already moved ahead, with the creation of the Public Health Agency of Canada. The agency has opened and Dr. David Butler-Jones has been appointed the first chief public health officer in Canada.

Another observation by the Naylor advisory committee was that there were insufficient quarantine officers sent to screen air travellers and provide information so that travellers were aware of the situation. Dr. Naylor also stressed that he felt the quarantine officers were sent into the situation with little information and inadequate support materials.

Unfortunately, the agency is not much good until we provide it with some authority, that is, legislation that lets the agency do its job. This is why the legislation before us is so important.

The Naylor advisory committee also said, “The Government of Canada should ensure that an adequate complement of quarantine officers is maintained at airports and other ports of entry, as required” and they should be “fully trained and informed”.

Bill C-12 would give the minister the power to designate a wide range of people as officers, which does not necessarily mean that they would be suitably trained for a quarantine emergency.

Canada needs an updated Quarantine Act and trained professionals to meet challenges in our new world. That also means we must have our present medical officers and health care professionals state their opinions on this new bill.

The new act goes a lot further in granting health officials the powers needed to properly contain and address threats to public health from new and re-emerging infectious diseases.

Unlike the old legislation, the bill focuses on airlines as the primary mode of transport, instead of marine vessels.

The proposed act contains powers not seen before in the hands of health officials. Under the bill, they could commandeer any location or facility of their choosing for use in enforcing the Quarantine Act. Most times, this likely would mean the commandeering of a hotel for use as a containment facility for large numbers of people, but it could be anywhere. This in fact is one part of the legislation that concerns me.

The new legislation says market-based compensation will be provided for anyone who is affected, such as a hotel owner. This is similar to what has been promised to other sectors of the economy before, specifically, cattle producers in the wake of the BSE problems. Unfortunately, it was the political arm of government that decided what they were to receive for compensation. As well, I have watched as the CFIA has taken farmland out of production, causing producers great financial difficulty. The government waited until the market fell out of the specific industry and then compensated them based on new, lower market prices.

A key issue in the bill, which needs to be addressed, is the issue of compensation for conveyance owners. While it is somewhat addressed, there does not seem to be anything definite for individuals and their related expenses during the quarantine period.

Following the SARS crisis in Toronto, the cost of hotel rooms dropped drastically. One would expect the hotelier to be compensated for the cost of a hotel room prior to the outbreak. Do we really think customers will race back to a hotel after the quarantine is lifted?

Compensation must be based on the market price before the problem, not after, and that rate must be decided by an independent group, away from government control.

This legislation as proposed does not adequately address the mechanisms that would be used to access such issues and I hope the government will use some of its time to better explain its position and intentions.

As well, I want to make sure that in the government's efforts to address one crisis, it does not create another. We need to have assurances in place ahead of time or else people may not be willing to cooperate.

The new legislation does for the first time provide some initiative to cooperate. There would be severe penalties and jail sentences applicable to those who make disease management much tougher. I believe this is another good step in giving tools to our health officials to do their job effectively.

While health officials would have more rights and powers, so would the people affected the most. The protection of human rights while carrying out quarantine measures has also been of some concern to me. For example, the bill does not specify what individual or agency would determine the symptoms of each of the diseases listed or what symptoms the individual must exhibit in order to be detained by health officials. It should be noted that clause 62 would give cabinet the broad power to make regulations respecting health assessments and physical examinations.

The new legislation would give those being examined and detained more of a say. When and where reasonable, interpreters will be provided. If possible, people will have the ability to request a medical examination by a physician of their preference.

These types of measures are in keeping with the charter, but I believe they do not handcuff our medical officials from doing their job effectively.

Part of doing their job effectively would be the ability to redirect passengers to other locations as necessary or to detain passengers as needed, and even to prevent travellers from leaving from Canada if necessary. They would be able to screen, vaccinate, disinfect, decontaminate and examine goods, animals and people as needed.

All these measures are designed to meet the new standards of the World Health Organization.

Last week I spoke on the need to be better prepared for emergencies in Canada. The proposed act would better address a problem when it arises, with better surveillance measures and better staffing.

We will be going through the bill thoroughly during committee and I will be bringing forward any necessary amendments at that time.

Quarantine Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address Bill C-12, the new Quarantine Act.

Members may recall—no one here was alive at the time, but I am making a historical reference—the first Quarantine Act dates back to the 18th century, more specifically to the year 1794. It is important that all countries have provisions allowing them to tale swift action when infectious diseases are discovered or anticipated.

As the hon. member for Laval—who was making her maiden speech in this House on Friday—aptly pointed out, the Bloc Québécois supports the principle of the bill. We will suggest a few amendments to the Standing Committee on Health. However, as regards the principle of this legislation, we agree of course that taking action in such circumstances is a federal responsibility.

I would like to mention the main focuses of this legislation. If Bill C-12 is passed, carriers would be required to disclose all cases of disease or death occurring prior to their arriving in Canada. This means that it will be mandatory for a ship, a railway company or an airline to report diseases discovered onboard.

This bill would also make it possible to require travellers who have a communicable disease or have been in close proximity to a person who has a communicable disease to present themselves to a screening officer or quarantine officer. My colleagues will agree that this is more than reasonable.

As well, the use of screening technology would be allowed at the entry point into Canada. This may seem equally reasonable but we have a small question on this.

I see that clause 14 of the bill allows “any person authorized by the minister”— this being the Minister of Health—“to use any screening technology that does not involve the entry into the traveller's body of any instrument or other foreign body” in order to determine whether a traveller has symptoms of a communicable disease.

That strikes me as a bit general, an opening to abuse in certain circumstances. I wonder whether it might be replaced by the wording “any medically appropriate technique”.

In passing legislation, we must not betray the intent of the legislator. As much as possible, therefore, where appropriate, the bill needs to be precise so as not to allow any openings for abusive interpretations or confer upon the Minister of Health any powers we do not wish to confer upon him.

This bill would also permit the inspection of any conveyance arriving in Canada, and the disinfection and decontamination of the conveyance, its contents and cargo, if necessary.

This bill, which appears highly technical, certainly forces us to reflect a bit about globalization. When the first quarantine laws were enacted, back in the 18th century, 1794 to be precise, hon. members will agree that people's mobility was relatively limited. Travel was not without discomfort; the means were not as highly developed as they are now.

I would like to make a quick aside here, to indicate that I strongly encourage the hon. member for Outremont to reintroduce former Bill C-26, which conferred powers of mediation on the Canadian Transportation Agency. I cannot understand that member's lack of backbone. We need him to show a little more gumption in defending the interests of Quebec. This is very important.

Yesterday I was speaking with a woman mayor who sits on one of the committees of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, a very important lobby group. I believe that the leader of the NDP has had connections with this in the past. Railway transportation is an extremely important problem.

I have been told that the railways run through some 1,400 communities in Canada. It is quite incredible to realize that CP and CN are acting like railway delinquents.

In my riding, Hochelaga, CP works 24 hours a day, because it serves the port of Montreal. Some of our constituents, who live in residential areas near the tracks, find their peace is disturbed at all hours of the day and night, morning and afternoon.

I think the hon. member for Saint-Lambert has a similar problem. As I said, it affects 1,400 communities in Canada. We do not yet know what number the new bill that deals with this issue will be given; the previous one was Bill C-26. Our constituents know that the number of a bill corresponds to the order in which it is introduced in the House, and we do not know when this bill will be introduced. Nevertheless, I am not explaining myself very well with respect to the dithering by the member for Outremont. I hope he is not one of those servile ministers who blindly follow orders from the lobbyists for CP and CN, whose power all of us on the Hill are familiar with.

Luckily for consumers, there is someone like the hon. member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, our transport critic, who is shrewd enough to understand the negotiations required in such circumstances. I hope that the Minister of Transport will soon introduce a new bill identical to Bill C-26 so that the Canadian Transportation Agency can intervene. As we know, it is a quasi-judicial body that issues official rulings.

We will recall that citizens of Oakville, Ontario, asked the Canadian Transportation Agency to make regulations allowing it to intervene in the operating conditions of the major national carriers such as CN and CP. Since the carriers have the funds needed to contest legislation, both the constitutional and more practical aspects, they contested the power and prerogatives of the Canadian Transportation Agency and they won in a Federal Court ruling, in 2001, if I remember correctly. Once again we are in a situation where, unfortunately, the railway companies have total control unless we, the legislators, can intervene.

That is the end of my digression, which was brief and really timely in this debate on quarantine and intended to remind hon. members that the mobility of persons is a consequence of globalization. One of our colleagues in this House looked into that matter. We are not talking about just an opinion. Our colleague gave it some thought and realized that the political boundaries of a state do not necessarily match its economic boundaries anymore.

Naturally, the mobility of capital, people and goods creates a flux, a constant movement of our fellow citizens. The border between the United States and Canada, for example, is one of the most open. The hon. member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles could perhaps remind me who said, “Geography has made us neighbours; history has made us friends”. This is how the relationship between Canada and the United States was described. I think it was by former Prime Minister Diefenbaker.

I will conclude, because I have only one minute left, by saying that we will support the bill in principle. While we understand that it is the role of the federal government to look at potential areas of infection, we are concerned because the federal government is trying to claim certain prerogatives.

For instance, I read in the bill that the federal government planned to deal directly with the authorities. These would be health officials. Clearly, that is not desirable. But, in principle, we will support the bill.

My hon. colleague from Laval and I will put amendments forward at the Standing Committee on Health. We will work with the sense of responsibility that has always been the trademark of the Bloc Québécois team.

Quarantine Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?