House of Commons Hansard #40 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was credit.

Topics

Ways and Means
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present in both official languages the 19th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding the preliminary report of the Electoral Boundaries Commission for Miramichi and Acadie—Bathurst.

The committee was informed that the members of these ridings had no objections to the recommendations in the preliminary report. The representatives of the officially recognized parties in the House of Commons indicated that they had no objections either.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-25, an act governing the operation of remote sensing space systems, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

December 7th, 2004 / 3:45 p.m.

The Speaker

Prior to oral question period, the hon. member for Saint-Jean had the floor and he has 14 minutes remaining to complete his remarks.

Order. Would members please take their conversations outside.

The hon. member for Saint-Jean.

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will not go so far as to say it is unpleasant but it does break one's stride a bit to have to stop a speech and then resume it later. In order to get back into it, I will go over what I have said so far.

I said that this was a very different world than the one we lived in thirty years ago. First of all I would never have thought I would end up as an MP, and second that we would be discussing a bill relating to legislating satellites.

The world may have changed, but I think that we need to fulfill our responsibilities by legislating on this. I also said that there is legislation already in place for everything on earth, land and sea, so it is important for parliamentarians and the various governments on this planet to ensure that there is some degree of stability and order in the development of international trade.

We are now into the development of space commerce. Indeed, any group of shareholders can reach an agreement with NASA or the French to put satellites into orbit. We know there are currently about 800 satellites orbiting around the earth. Consequently, I think that the time has come for Canada, among other countries, to say that we need a legal foundation for these remote sensing satellites. That is the intent of the bill before us today.

However, before question period, I also pointed out that there is an element of caution. Indeed, it is strange that at the time when this bill is being introduced, there is extensive discussion on the missile defence system. We will have to see whether there are possible links with this. We are concerned about that. Consequently, we will have to ensure in committee that these satellites are only for commercial purposes.

There is somewhat a paradox in Bill C-25. Indeed, the ministers of national defence and foreign affairs can intervene concerning signals and the disposal of data. They may suspend signals or have priority access, that is, have precedence on the commercial aspect for reasons of state.

Let me get back to the heart of the matter. The government has decided to solve the issue by establishing a licensing regime. I think it is the best way to go. As you know, satellites are used these days for several purposes. In my riding, at the old military college, I had the opportunity to look at very detailed photos taken by military satellites. We could see a lot of things in the Parc des Laurentides. In a photo taken hundreds of kilometres away, we could see campers lighting a fire.

So, we absolutely need to regulate this area. To do so, the government has chosen to issue licences. I think that is appropriate. It gives us some control on how the process will work and on who will deliver the licences. The bill also specifies who will have to comply with the new legislation.

On that issue, some of my hon. colleagues and I have reservations about potential privacy breaches. Once the bill is referred to the committee, it would only be fair to have the privacy commissioner come before the committee and ask him if the bill could invade the privacy of Canadians. We need to find out if the government's intentions are clear on this issue.

We have seen a certain carelessness at that level, a certain laxness concerning the protection of privacy. I am referring among other things to the notorious antiterrorism bill, where it seemed to us, in the Bloc, that matters of national significance were prevailing over the privacy of people. There has been a lot of criticism on that score.

With the evolution of the bills before us, we might leave too much to one side the question of people's privacy. I feel that the Privacy Commissioner would be a good witness for the consideration of the bill at second reading.

There is the whole question of introducing mechanisms for licences. I was saying a while ago as well that we should provide for the possibility of temporarily interrupting the remote sensing system. I understand that and it is altogether legitimate on the part of the government. Indeed, a commercial company could hold rights over a sensing satellite passing over troops in an operational theatre. In taking photographs for other reasons, it might inadvertently pick up the movement of troops and other things.

I think that there is indeed a problem. It is important to mention it in the bill and to state that we can temporarily interrupt remote sensing if, for instance, it jeopardizes military operations in which Canada or its allies are involved. I think this is important.

There is also priority access in case of need.

Similarly, if a commercial remote sensing satellite were to fly over a theatre of operations and that was needed for the purpose of national defence, I believe the satellite should be used to see what is going on. It would be justified.

There are provisions prohibiting the transfer of operations outside Canada. I believe it is important that the whole question of following up and processing data as well as marketing, both regarding international affairs and national defence, should not be managed by people outside Canada. They should not start operating here and then move elsewhere for commercial reasons.

It would create problems since it is harder to control what is going on outside Canada and there could be the danger of some slippage.

The minister will be able to delegate some of his powers. In the absence of the minister, there will be provision for the deputy minister to make decisions. However, that raises concerns and we have some reservations about the bill.

I have already mentioned the issue of privacy. I would like to digress a while to speak about national defence. I am concerned that the Minister of National Defence could decide on his own what is in the national interest and would have the power to interrupt communications or override a satellite. We should consider the possibility of having the governor in council, the cabinet, make this kind of decision.

I do not see these decisions as urgent. If there is a need for a decision, there is nothing to prevent the government from calling a meeting of the cabinet—ministers meet every week anyway—and to ask for its authorization before going ahead.

We also have reservations regarding the fact that a single minister using his discretionary powers, taking into account his reading of the various elements around him and future events, could make such an important decision.

Second, there is a huge difference between commercial satellites and military satellites. However, this is not mentioned in the bill. It only talks about commercial satellites. There is a difference in terms of detection since a military satellite can detect objects as small as a tiny land mine from several hundred kilometres above the earth. The resolution is extremely high.

The remote sensing system for commercial satellites is less precise, but it is starting to improve. We are talking about one to three metres here. Vehicles, planes or troop movements could be detected by these satellites. So, I think it is important that a distinction is made between the two.

We also find it a bit odd that, with all the talk these days about the missile defence shield, this type of bill has been introduced in the House. Perhaps there is more to this bill than meets the eye. Debate on this bill is at the second reading stage and, while we support the general principle of the bill, it will have to be studied and its implications carefully considered.

Could these satellites have military uses? For example, could Canada be asked to participate in some way with NORAD or the agency that will oversee the missile defence shield?

I heard the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence say no earlier, but you can never be too careful. Some things in our world that were not created for military purposes are now being used to this end.

With its long tradition of pacifism, Canada should not involve itself in the missile defence plan. I do not want to spend too long on this topic, since the Bloc's position on this is clear.

We want to ensure that this bill does not give the government or the Minister of National Defence too much control over these satellites, so they could use them for purposes other than that intended in the bill.

A while ago, I asked the parliamentary secretary a question. I do not understand how the Minister of National Defence can intervene to forbid anything or assert priority over a commercial aspect, when a network of treaties binds Canada and the United States. That is something we will have to look into.

During the committee's deliberations, I will ask about access to the satellites. Certainly there is access to the NORAD satellite, because Canada is a co-chair at Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado. I know they are very advanced down there. In 30 seconds they can see a missile being launched anywhere on the planet. In five minutes they can calculate its trajectory and its route going into space.

Are there any agreements between Canada and the United States concerning access to these satellites? Does our military have access to the American satellites, of which more than 100 are used for military purposes?

Can our American friends make marketing contracts affecting Canadian satellites planned for space that will probably have some legal basis in this bill? Will the shareholders of these satellites be able to send data to our American friends and vice versa? If they are allowed access to Canadian data from these satellites, will Canadians also be allowed access to data from American satellites?

Commercialization is another important aspect. The present discussion is about commercial satellites, held by private interests, but the primary clients of these companies are governments.

I want to serve notice that during second-reading debate we will often raise jurisdictional issues. Is it right that things are being detected above the territory of Quebec or other provinces? Will the provinces automatically have access to the data if this happens to them? These are things we will be watching for.

In general, we are in favour of this bill at second reading. However, we will be examining the points I have mentioned very carefully. I think we will have very interesting discussions during the work in committee.

We intend to call witnesses who will be very helpful to us. This is a new field and the members of Parliament sitting on this committee will need some assistance from people who know much more than we do about this subject.

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Pickering—Scarborough East
Ontario

Liberal

Dan McTeague Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I just wanted to make sure that the member knows that, even if I appreciate his comments to move this bill forward, I hope to have the opportunity to hear him and his colleagues from the Bloc at the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs.

I would also like to emphasize to the member that there are other advantages to this satellite. We see the ice melting, particularly in the Arctic. That has environmental consequences. In addition, this measure will help us monitor ecological aspects. Of course, this will also touch on some commercialization aspects.

However, we must stop thinking that this bill will have an impact on privacy or that it will be used for harmful purposes. I would not want to leave the House under the impression that this bill has defence or anti-ballistic purposes; instead, it has more valuable purposes, humanitarian purposes, namely understanding the drought we have in some areas of our country, as well as ecological repercussions elsewhere.

I am therefore asking the member to take into consideration the fact that the bill that we are proposing sets the tone for a better technological reality. However, the technological aims and objectives will also improve knowledge of our country and of the world we live in.

Given our intention of supporting the Kyoto Protocol, it is very important to be up-to-date so that we can not only solve problems that might exist, but also know exactly where we stand now. This would help us ensure that we have a better overview of our country as is is now, particularly in terms of peace

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, there are two points I want to make.

First, earlier, I heard the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Defence say, during his speech, that this type of satellite could be very important for the surveillance of our remote regions.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs now argues that the satellites would be used for very peaceful purposes, such as monitoring the environment, climate change, and so on. However, it seems to me that I heard the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence just say that they would also be used to provide surveillance of remote areas and Canada's Arctic coasts.

Therefore, they would not be used solely for meteorological and agricultural purposes, but also for military purposes. We want to restrain their use for military purposes and find out just how far we will go in that area.

What will we do with these data afterwards? Will they be released to someone else? Will the Americans be able to get their hands on them? These are all questions we want to address in committee.

The second thing that I wanted to say as well to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs concerns the entire question of jurisdiction. This lets me raise this question of jurisdiction.

The government says it wants to study natural resources management. I presume that it wants to examine the state of the forests, for example, to see whether there are pests that are destroying our forests and what we can do to stop this. I agree with that.

As for the management of agricultural products, I have seen remote sensing at the agricultural research centre in Saint-Jean. This was on pest species. Satellite images could perhaps provide a means to fight them, and it would have been impossible to know that without the images coming from a satellite. It is the same for environmental disasters. We are able to predict them, and once the disaster has happened, we can develop an action plan with these satellites.

I want to remind the parliamentary secretary that these are provincial jurisdictions. Consequently, I am not talking about an agreement. However, I agree that the federal government has jurisdiction in space. When matters under provincial jurisdiction are going to be examined from space, there needs to be some intergovernmental relationship there somewhere.

For example, if this satellite looks at Quebec forests to try to assess the damage caused by a pest, will Quebec be able to have this data? Since this is a provincial jurisdiction, it will often be Quebec that remedies the situation or provides the means to fight this pest.

The data should not remain with the Government of Canada, especially if provincial jurisdictions are affected from space. This issue should be discussed further.

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Dan McTeague Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Madam Speaker, I am certain that the purpose of this bill is to clarify the use of the best technologies solely in the interest of our country, whether at the provincial or municipal levels or for commercial reasons.

Obviously exchanges of information will be possible, but this bill proposes a regulatory system to ensure that the people who gain access have valid reasons for doing so. I do not want to forget the purpose of the bill. I understand the hon. member's concern, but we must also take into consideration that when a satellite takes a picture of our country or any other place there is no division or separation, especially in terms of the disastrous problems that he mentioned earlier.

Furthermore, if a ship from another country is in the Hans Island region, which is Canadian territory, we still do not have the resources for immediate surveillance. It is very important on a national and international level to ensure that we know who is there and why they are there.

I think it would be not only cost-effective, but worthwhile to use this knowledge not necessarily for military purposes but for defence reasons, in order to ensure that the entire territory of our country is protected.

Another consideration is to learn whether our troops—who might be in Haiti or Afghanistan—are safe or facing some threat. We want to know that the people with access to this information have the proper authority and that they are not using it for harmful purposes.

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs confirms what the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of National Defence has said. The satellites are not only being used for ecological or climate surveillance purposes. They are also used for military purposes.

The Bloc Quebecois has always been very prudent in matters of national defence. I remind the parliamentary secretary that the bill before us states, time and again, that the Minister of National Defence has a role to play, whether to control the satellites or to stop the signals where necessary.

We will want to encompass and especially limit the role of the Department of National Defence. We will have to hear from the experts in the field. It is important for us. It is unequivocally an area of federal jurisdiction. Of course, the federal government is under no obligation to consult with any province on military matters.

However, in our capacity as legislators in Ottawa coming from that part of the country known as Quebec, we are very glad that these benchmarks do not intrude too much on areas under Quebec jurisdiction. Whenever we talk about Quebec defence and jurisdictions, we do have the right to call in experts during committee study to ask them if they think that this is acceptable.

We have the same situation with the Privacy Commissioner. After the events of September 11, we are always concerned that the rights of citizens could be ignored in bills for the sake of collective interests or interests other than privacy. We have always been very prudent in that regard. We will continue to be prudent.

It will be an excellent thing to do when the bill is referred to committee.

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-25, the remote sensing space systems bill. I will begin by picking up where the hon. member left off, and that is to remind the House that there are national security implications with respect to the use of satellites. I would like to speak a little more directly to the natural security implications and address some of the important economic and ecological implications around the regulation that is provided through the remote sensing bill.

In tabling the legislation, we are recognizing that Canada has become a force in the highly competitive global niche market of earth observation. It is a major component of Canada's high tech sector and there are, in my region alone in the national capital region, over 1,500 high tech companies, many of which have provided contributions to this very area of remote sensing.

The Government of Canada is committed to using state of the art earth observation satellites, sensors and technology to monitor and manage our crops, forests, oceans and other natural resources. Many of which, we do not even know exist because they have not necessarily been catalogued or form part of any inventory.

These satellites and technology are intended to, for example, monitor climate change as the impacts of climate change are felt on the fragile ecosystem in Canada's far north. These technologies are helping our scientists learn more about our planet. They are providing the government with important information, policy and decision making information.

Through the legislation, we are also acknowledging that space based remote sensing is a critical resource that is helping the Government of Canada ensure the safety and security of Canadians while asserting the sovereignty of our nation from coast to coast to coast. Government departments and agencies are using remote sensing to aggressively monitor and catch polluters, for example, in our coastal waters.

Orbiting some 800 kilometres above the earth, operating day and night, in all weather conditions, Canada's satellite, called RADARSAT, is peering through the darkness and the fog to identify offenders, and alert authorities in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, on the Great Lakes, and on both the east and west coasts of Canada.

Across the government, departments are working together with the Canadian space program, using space technologies and remote sensing to deliver better services to Canadians faster and more efficiently. A host of government and academic partners are studying wetlands, coastlines, the arctic ice sheet and Canada's forests.

Extreme dry conditions in British Columbia in the summer of 2003 led to the worst forest fire season on record. More than 2,400 fires consumed over 255,000 hectares of prime Canadian forest. The final cost was a staggering $545 million just to fight the fires and the loss of more than $5 billion worth of lumber to the Canadian forest industry.

Pilot programs are directing telecommunications and remote sensing resources to mobilize firefighters in real time, dispatching critical resources to save lives, homes, forests and wildlife. In Canada alone, natural disasters in the last 10 years have led to the loss of many lives and caused over $5.5 billion in damages. When the Red River flooded its banks in 1997 and 2000, it forced the evacuation of 28,000 Manitobans.

Images from space helped monitor the flood conditions. They helped plan and speed rescue operations, and determined damage to local infrastructure like the highways. The data produced by remote sensing satellites is also being used to improve the management of agricultural sustainability. This information could one day help our farmers increase their crop yields and implement better agricultural practices such as zero tillage.

Advanced remote sensing in the future could help a sector that annually generates exports worth $24 billion, representing about 8.3% of our national GNP. Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Space Agency have launched a study that looks at sea surface, temperatures, currents and other characteristics of our oceans. Space based remote sensing satellites are providing key information to all levels of government, to the fishing sector and aboriginal groups to better manage our marine resources while protecting our ocean and coastal environments. It is not a small and unimportant feat as we strive to implement our oceans management strategy.

Other departments are working with the Canadian Space Agency to monitor ice flows, sea ice, glaciers, ice caps and frozen ground in Canada's north. The Canadian Ice Service is one of the largest single users of this data. RADARSAT images are helping the Canadian Coast Guard analyze ice flows, directing ships as they navigate through Canada's ice filled waters.

We know that earth observation images will provide important information on the sustainable development of our northern resources and the possible impact of such activities on our aboriginal peoples, their communities and their lands.

Observing our country from space also helps Canada's commitments to the Kyoto agreement by providing the government with critical information. No where is this more obvious than in the environment and sustainable development indicators initiative of the Government of Canada and launched by the Prime Minister when he was the minister of finance in the 2000 budget. He instructed the national round table on the environment and the economy to devise Canada's first suite of environmental and sustainable development indicators, so we could report more accurately to Canadians on the overall health and wealth of our country using measurements other than simply economic measurements.

We know that the data provided by RADARSAT will be of great assistance as we seek, for example, to report on the extent of Canadian wetlands. It is said that Canada possesses 25% of the planet's wetlands. Wetlands are a perfect water and air filtration system. This kind of data will help us diagnose the extent to which we still possess those wetlands, and to what extent if any we are draining them. This is important as we seek to meet our Kyoto agreement targets.

Just last week my colleague, the Minister of the Environment, hosted 51 nations that came to Ottawa as part of an international undertaking called GEO, Group on Earth Observation. Canada and these nations are absolutely committed to pooling their space, scientific, and technological expertise and resources to develop a global system of systems that will literally take and monitor the pulse of our planet.

Canada continues to gain and has gained valuable experience using remote sensing satellites and technologies to provide help way beyond our borders. Canada works with other countries and the United Nations, for example, to provide images from space that could help speed rescue missions and aid mitigating natural disasters like oil spills, earthquakes and landslides around the world. In the last four years the world has called upon space satellites over 60 times to provide critical lifesaving information.

Canada's remote sensing is assisting developing nations by helping locate sources of drinking water in Africa, for example, and by identifying regions at risk from diseases, such as malaria in Kenya. That is not an insignificant matter as malaria sweeps through sub-Saharan Africa. It is also predicting rice crop yields in the Mekong River Delta in Southeast Asia.

Designed by the leading Canadian space companies and launched in 1995 with an estimated lifetime of 5 years, RADARSAT-1 has now entered its 10th year of operation. Through a public-private partnership, RADARSAT International and the Canadian Space Agency have built a solid global reputation for Canada in remote sensing.

RADARSAT International has certified a global network of 24 ground stations and built a market for precision RADARSAT data, serving more than 600 government and commercial clients in more than 60 countries.

Today Canada claims fully 15% of the global market for remote sensing products and services. Canada's next generation of remote sensing satellite, RADARSAT-2, is being readied for launch in late 2005. RADARSAT-2 is being assembled and tested not far from here, at Canada's space qualification facility, the David Florida Laboratory at Shirley's Bay. I take this opportunity to invite my esteemed colleagues from all sides of the House to visit the space agency's lab to see RADARSAT-2, a leading edge satellite that will address the needs of government and the growing global commercial market.

In short, space is a strategic asset for our country. Space and remote sensing are helping our government meet its priorities, especially in areas related to environmental protection, sustainable development, climate change, cities as they grow, and connecting Canadians' security and sovereignty. Space can provide solutions to government policy and service delivery challenges by putting space capability in the hands of our policy advisors and service providers.

Canada's commitment to leveraging the power and potential of space is positioning Canada as a technology leader among nations. Satellite remote sensing is an important and mature industry that provides Canadians and the world with unmatched tools for monitoring the environment and managing natural resources.

This legislation provides a very clear regulatory framework in which private remote sensing activities can evolve, a framework which also recognizes the importance of meeting our security concerns and obligations. This remote sensing legislation will also help ensure Canadian companies remain global leaders in remote sensing technology and services, and help them to continue to deliver social and economic benefits to Canada and Canadians.

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

Is the House ready for the question?

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

(Bill C-27. On the Order: Government Orders)

November 26, 2004--the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food--Second reading and reference to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food of Bill C-27, an act to regulate and prohibit certain activities related to food and other products to which the acts under the administration of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency apply and to provide for the administration and enforcement of those acts and to amend other acts in consequence.