House of Commons Hansard #28 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was environment.

Topics

Department of Canadian Heritage Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Cleary Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, to a certain extent, I will speak to Bill C-7 as my party's official aboriginal affairs critic.

As some hon. members will know, I have had a number of opportunities to be involved in the negotiations. The Parks Canada aspect has always been extremely important for the associations I have worked with. The explanation is simple: the territories on which parks have been established in Quebec and elsewhere have often been considered to be included in aboriginal land claims. We thus had a past life and a future life to settle with Parks Canada.

I confess I was deeply disappointed as I read Bill C-7. I would have expected the Liberal government to use it to try to provide a number of remedial measures and ensure that aboriginals who have been pressing claims for the past 20 years would find a number of elements promoting their inclusion in these parks.

Hence, I believe that the Liberal government has missed an opportunity to implement the ideas of the famous panel on ecological integrity of Canada's national parks. It gave the government a number of guidelines to ensure that the aboriginals' place in our national parks would henceforth be a lot more prominent.

As we know, tradition in parks is to expel aboriginals rather than to include them within parks as participants. It so happens that this panel on integrity has a totally different view when it talks about aboriginals. Obviously, it has put forward a number of conclusions, that I will share with you by quoting passages from a book I wrote on the aboriginal issue. This is from page 185:

The panel on the ecological integrity of parks recommends:

that reconciliation between Parks Canada and aboriginal peoples be brought about as soon as possible;

that there be recognition in the history of national parks and its interpretation of the occupation of the territory, as well as the past and present use by aboriginal peoples;

that Parks Canada invite aboriginal peoples to take part in its activities;

that Parks Canada sponsor a series of meetings in order to launch the reconciliation process to move from confrontation to collaboration;

that Parks Canada adopt a clear policy encouraging the creation and maintenance of sincere partnerships with aboriginal peoples;

that Parks Canada design, with the collaboration of aboriginal communities, education projects which will lead to a better mutual understanding and to a joint measure with a view to protecting the ecological integrity in national parks;

finally, that Parks Canada ensure the protection of cultural sites, sacred places and artifacts.

Those are recommendations from a panel that studied this file and which we would have liked to see in the bill. It was a unique opportunity, considering the time for reflection on these recommendations available throughout Canada.

One could have found a number of elements favourable to aboriginal groups who could have helped in establishing the national parks desired by the groups who want to work.

I was telling you that I had worked and negotiated for the Mingan park, which everyone knows, as well as for Forillon and Saguenay parks. All the aboriginals who live in these regions asked the Government of Canada include them in the development of the parks and to make them natural elements of these parks.

You know, we are not butterflies. The aboriginals live in these parks. The aboriginal way of life is part of Canada's history, of these parks' history. We keep asking that this be taken into consideration. Of course, it has never been in the culture of parks to keep a place for the aboriginals.

The integrity panel did a job. Will we see the results one day? Will we feel one day that the Government of Canada is responding to the will of the aboriginal people to be a part of these parks?

When we travel in the United States, we always see that, in the parks, no matter which ones—quite often, they are much less pleasant and interesting than our national parks— the aboriginals have an important place. Of course, we criticize the folklore surrounding this, but the fact remains that, in Canada, it would be beneficial if we were present in all the parks. We could pursue our way of life and show the public that aboriginal groups in Canada are alive and part of our development. We should use this resource, which will make our parks that much more enjoyable and interesting.

I did not want to make a long speech on this, but I did want to take this opportunity to point out that it is urgent we work in the direction that many people across Canada are asking. Perhaps it will not be with this bill, because it is at second reading stage, but we should act urgently.

Department of Canadian Heritage Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Bloc

Odina Desrochers Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I too am pleased to speak to Bill C-7, an act to amend the Department of Canadian Heritage Act and the Parks Canada Agency Act and to make related amendments to other Acts.

In other words, it means that from now on Canadian parks will come under the Department of the Environment. Our parks have been neglected and abandoned for too long. Human and financial resources are insufficient. The Government of Canada has now decided to bring national parks back into the Department of the Environment.

I will say right away that we support the bill in principle, but that we have some concerns. Usually when a piece of legislation like this one brings about such an important change, one would expect improvements. One would expect the Canadian government to take advantage of this opportunity and give more resources, directly and indirectly, to national parks. However, it did not.

I have visited many national parks across Canada and have noticed that they were always short of resources, be it at the reception desk or the information booth. Often when one is looking for more information than what is available in the parks, one is given literature which is three or four years old and has not been updated for a while. This is the way visitors to our national parks are welcomed. I would have hoped that these flaws would have been corrected, but they have not.

As I said two weeks ago, it looks like only names are being changed under the present government. Two weeks ago I made a speech saying that the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec would now come under a different department and I did not see that as an improvement. Again today we see that moving Parks Canada to the Department of the Environment adds nothing more.

We must still keep one thing in mind. I hope that the minister who will eventually deal with the management of the national parks will not be tempted, as was the former heritage minister, Ms. Sheila Copps, to make petty politics. We were at the point, with the former prime minister, Mr. Jean Chrétien, where parks were named not for people who had made history, but instead for people who had dealings with the Liberal Party of Canada. Liberals even wanted to change the name of an important mountain, which raised considerable uproar in English Canada. This shows once again how much the federal Liberal government respects traditions in the history of our national parks.

I am still concerned that the minister responsible for the Department of the Environment is also tempted to use the national parks in Canada as an instrument of propaganda. I hope that the Minister of the Environment will want to show that he is responsible, and not do what he did earlier in oral question period, when he raised both arms in the air to try to get some applause. I can tell you that he could have gestured all he wanted in the House of Commons, there would not be many members of the Bloc Québécois who would applaud him.

I hope that the Minister of the Environment will take the time to see what is involved in the national parks, namely wildlife, trees, in fact, all ecological issues.

A major survey published recently in La Presse showed clearly that the environment had become the public's main choice. When we see today that the responsibility for national parks in Canada is being transferred to the Department of the Environment, we want a change in the way management is perceived and, mostly, respect for wildlife, birds and everything that we find in the parks.

Nowadays, the future is of great concern to the young people of Quebec and Canada, who are also concerned about the environment. Often, we hear people go on at great length about globalization in terms of millions and billions of dollars. But when we listen to our young people, we learn that they are concerned about having safe drinking water for years to come, about being able to breathe fresh air and particularly to eat good fruit and vegetables grown in the ground. These are important issues, and our young people are showing great interest in them. Just think of the number of young people registering at events relating to the environment. They are there to support these events promoting a stable and sustainable environment.

I hope that, when the current Minister of the Environment has been handed over the responsibility for the management and maintenance of Canada's national parks, he will pay attention and be very sensitive to these important issues for the 21st century. The idea is to stop playing petty politics and, instead, develop a policy for the environment and sustainable development.

Five years ago, there was not much talk about sustainable development, but now everyone talks about it, and not necessarily only on Sunday night. Everyone talks about it anytime, anywhere, on a regular basis, when we meet with young people.

This is why I caution the Minister of the Environment that he must be sensitive to the expectations of our young people, because they will remember when there is an election.

I said at the beginning that I wished significant changes had been made to Bill C-7 concerning the management of Canada's national parks. All we are hearing about today is changing responsibility, department and minister.

I hope that the federal Liberals in this House will finally grasp the important issues relating to the environment, namely the Kyoto protocol, and having a policy that is fair to Quebec, and not profitable for the great petrochemical polluters in western Canada.

As we know, there are many national parks in western Canada, and these parks are often affected by this dust and pollution from the big oil companies. I hope that the Minister of the Environment will be sensitive to the maintenance of these national parks.

We support the bill in principle, but have great reservations about who will be entrusted with the responsibility of administering Canada's national parks and ensuring they are the big winners, in the coming years, in terms of both conservation and sustainable development.

Department of Canadian Heritage Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Is the House ready for the question?

Department of Canadian Heritage Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Department of Canadian Heritage Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The question is on Motion No. 1. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Department of Canadian Heritage Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Department of Canadian Heritage Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Department of Canadian Heritage Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Department of Canadian Heritage Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Department of Canadian Heritage Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Department of Canadian Heritage Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Department of Canadian Heritage Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Department of Canadian Heritage Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Pursuant to Standing Order 45 the division on Motion No. 1 stands deferred until Monday, November 22, at the ordinary hour of daily adjournment. The recorded division will also apply to Motions Nos. 2 and 3.

Department of Canadian Heritage Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Paul MacKlin Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think if you seek it you would find unanimous consent that this matter be deferred until November 23 after government orders, which would be a further deferral.

Department of Canadian Heritage Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Is that agreed?