House of Commons Hansard #46 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was aboriginal.

Topics

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Hillsborough
P.E.I.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in the House today to the motion to refer Bill C-32, an act to amend the Criminal Code, drugs and impaired driving, and to make related and consequential amendments to other acts, to the committee for hearings.

I believe I speak for everyone in the House and for the Canadian public generally when I say that everyone wants to propose the best legislation in dealing with this particular issue. The core of the legislation which is before the House is to change the Criminal Code so that police officers would have the authority to demand that a person who is suspected of having drugs in his or her body participate in standardized field sobriety tests, known as the acronym SFST. I see this as one more step in a continuum of tools that our police officers have at their disposal to deal with drivers who are under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

I practised law for quite a few years in Atlantic Canada. When I first started, the breathalyzer had only been in for four or five years. Anyone who is a little older than me can recall the tools that the police officers had at that time to deal with alcohol. They were the very tests that we have talked about here: touching the nose, walking a straight line, stooping over and the different tests that the police officers did at the time. Those tests did not give a very consistent or standardized approach. The trials were complex and complicated. The test results usually were fought by the accused because the success rate was certainly significant.

However, as time progressed, technology came to be and we developed the breathalyzer. There were certain problems with that, and then we had the offence of refusing a breathalyzer. This is all in the continuum as we deal with this very serious offence but we have been dealing with it for 40 years.

Although I will be speaking to this legislation, which is good legislation and I would ask my colleagues in the House of Commons to support it, I will point out that the Canadian public has dealt with the whole issue, not successfully, but there have been some successful steps made on the issue of driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. We also have had the penal sanctions and the publicity surrounding it.

However, when I look back, the best tool that the Canadian public has used on these offences, which we see so much with younger people in society, is that we have made the offence socially unacceptable. The statistics prove that this has lowered the incidents of the offence over the last 20 years, and especially over the last 5 or 6 years. We see with the younger people in society and I believe in every province that it is not socially acceptable to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Getting back to the legislation, it is a serious issue and it would give the police more tools in their arsenal to deal with a situation where a person is not so much under the influence of alcohol but is under the influence of drugs. In this case, the core of the government's proposal is to change the Criminal Code so that police have the authority to demand that a person who is suspected of having drugs on his or her body participate in the standardized field sobriety tests which I have talked about before.

If the person failed these tests, the police officer would then, on a consistent basis, have reasonable grounds to believe that the person was impaired by a drug, or in some instances by a combination of a drug and alcohol. The police officer would be in a position to demand that the person accompany the police officer to a police station where the person would have to submit to further tests administered by a drug recognition expert.

The bottom line is that once that happened, a bodily fluid sample could be taken. Then and only then, if the final bodily fluid test indicated clearly what the drug was in the person's system, the concentration of the drug could be indicated. The expert could then form an opinion as to whether or not that concentration of the illegal drug was such that the person would be impaired pursuant to the Criminal Code of Canada. That would all go forward to the courts and if everything were done in proper order and the safeguards were there, the person would be convicted of that offence.

This is not a new technology. It is not a revolution of the law. It is just a further step. It continues the whole process that we are working on in society. I understand that this was developed in California in the early 1980s. It found its way into Canada quite some time ago, at least nine or ten years ago. It is my understanding that there is now in excess of 100 officers trained as drug recognition experts.

The program began in British Columbia in 1995 and some drug recognition experts are now present, I believe, in most of the 10 Canadian provinces. The RCMP, in cooperation with other police agencies, is conducting a training program. We can expect these training officers to be present throughout the land within the next year or so.

That follows on a trend that was started 30 or 35 years ago with the breathalyzer. That was a very complicated instrument when it first came into play. More police officers were trained in the use of that instrument and it is quite commonplace right now.

Dealing with the whole issue of drugs and alcohol, I want to point out to the House the incidence of drug users in fatal accidents. A Quebec study determined that in excess of 30% of fatal accidents in that province involved either drugs or the combination of drugs and alcohol.

As I already pointed out, we do have the offence within the Criminal Code right now. It has been there for as long as I can remember. Driving while impaired by alcohol or a drug is currently a criminal offence and can result in severe penalties. The maximum penalty, I believe, is life imprisonment if the offence causes the death of another individual.

We talked about the tests which are the first step in the three-pronged process leading to the conviction of a person who has in his or her body a concentration of illegal drugs that is causing impairment. Police officers across Canada need this tool in their arsenal because we are ploughing new ground, so to speak. The whole scientific literature, the decided cases and the jurisprudence involving alcohol is very well established but is a little behind with respect to drugs.

In a lot of cases there is no scientific consensus of the threshold of the drug concentration in the body which causes impairment and makes driving hazardous. It becomes difficult when there are drugs mixed with alcohol, drugs mixed with other drugs, and illegal drugs mixed with prescription drugs. There are all kinds of cocktails. That is why we need this legislation. It would be so beneficial.

I urge all members of the House to support the legislation. Let us refer this important piece of legislation to committee, so that the committee, the House and subsequently Senate can move quickly on it.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is the House ready for the question?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

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

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

(Motion agreed to and bill referred to a committee)

Fisheries Act
Government Orders

May 3rd, 2004 / 4:20 p.m.

Halifax West
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

moved that Bill C-33, an act to amend the Fisheries Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker,I appreciate the opportunity to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-33, an act to amend the Fisheries Act.

I would like to begin by recognizing the hard work of the members of the Standing Joint Committee on the Scrutiny of Regulations and thank them for their interest in bringing their concerns forward. I used to be a member of that esteemed committee in my first term between 1993 and 1997. The role of that committee is to examine regulations that have been put into force by order in council and to ensure that those regulations are authorized by an act of Parliament.

There have been times when disagreements have arisen between that committee and departments, or ministers and their offices about whether a particular regulation is duly authorized or not. There was one such disagreement in this case. I and my department have decided to bring forward Bill C-33 in response to the concerns brought forward nevertheless.

I greatly appreciate the advice and opinions of the committee members, who play a very important role in examining the existing regulations. Very often, their suggestions have proven extremely useful.

The committee set out its concerns in its reports on the Ontario fishery regulations and the aboriginal communal fishing licences regulations. More important, these reports brought forward a number of recommendations to provide greater clarity and certainty on matters of legislative authority with respect to these regulations. Because the government values the committee's role in providing parliamentary oversight, we have given serious consideration to the committee's views about these regulations.

Bill C-33 fulfills commitments that were made to the Standing Joint Committee on the Scrutiny of Regulations by the government. Our government strongly believes in increasing the participation of Canadians in politics. That is why in February the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister responsible for Democratic Reform, my colleague from Montreal, tabled an action plan for democratic reform.

The action plan was based on three pillars of democratic reform: improving ethics and integrity in government; restoring the role of members of Parliament in generating thought and ideas in debate; and increasing the accountability of our elected officials. Those are three key, very important pillars. I heard positive reaction to those from people in my part of the country.

Our government recognizes that members of Parliament are an essential link between citizens and the federal government and, as such, must play a key role in our parliamentary system.

We must therefore expand the role of our parliamentary committees to enable members to define more clearly their approach and influence on policy. We feel that all of this will enhance the role of members of Parliament, the efficiency of government, and Canadians' participation.

In other words, by giving members of Parliament a more effective role, making committees more effective, giving them more influence on the development of policies, on the development of legislation, we give more power to Canadians. That is what is important. That is what Canadians are asking for.

After close consultation with the members of the committee, I am confident that the amendments to the Fisheries Act that are being proposed will address their concerns.

However I would like to reiterate my belief that the regulations currently in place are sound and that they properly authorize the fishing under the Fisheries Act. They offer a flexible, balanced approach in accommodating fishing by aboriginal communities with the responsibility to effectively conserve and manage our fisheries on behalf of all Canadians. The regulations support the ability to manage the fishery consistently with the Sparrow decision of the Supreme Court of Canada, the Marshall decision and other important court decisions that have had quite an influence and have had lots of commentary in our country in recent years.

Having a single regime in place that is flexible enough to take all of the numerous factors that I have mentioned into account is certainly a challenge. I believe that the current regulations give the balanced and flexible approach that is needed.

The committee has requested further clarity on these matters and that is exactly what the bill is intended to do. That is why the amendments being proposed represent a range of changes that will provide greater clarity and certainty on matters of legislative authority, as the committee has requested.

In particular, Bill C-33 amends the Fisheries Act in a number of ways, but I will mention two. One, the bill expressly provides that the governor in council can make regulations respecting the method of designation where a licence is issued to an aboriginal organization. Two, the bill expressly provides that breach of a term or condition of licence issued under the Fisheries Act is an offence.

My department has been working with aboriginal groups and stakeholders. We feel it is imperative and very important that the proposed amendments to the Fisheries Act are well understood by our key stakeholders.

I am sure my colleagues can see how important this is. I am confident of their support of the idea that we need to take into consideration the point of view of those involved in the fisheries.

We have also been working with the provinces and territories on this matter. Provincial and territorial support has been fostered through a renewed working relationship in a spirit of cooperation between the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and provincial and territorial agencies that have responsibilities related to fisheries.

I want to point out that the passage of these amendments into law will not change the existing practices on the ground. It is important, if one is involved in the fisheries, to know that there is going to be consistency, stability and certainty as we go forward.

The aboriginal communal fishing licence regulations remain founded in law and continue to be enforced. They continue to provide valuable mechanisms for implementation of the aboriginal fisheries strategy and the Marshall response initiative in keeping with case law.

In my capacity as minister, I will continue to issue community licences to aboriginal communities under these regulations.

Bill C-33 would also support the continued involvement of aboriginal groups in the management of fisheries. We would continue to work cooperatively with aboriginal groups in this regard.

Over the last decade, aboriginal participation in the fisheries has grown. On the east coast, for example, the Marshall response initiative has led to the creation of a significant number of jobs. Using an average of three jobs per fishing enterprise, it can be estimated that about 1,250 direct full time and part time jobs have been created as a result of the Marshall response initiative. That is a big impact.

Jobs have also been created in managing and management administration, boat repair, science and habitat, monitoring and mentoring. These are all important areas. Most of my colleagues here will recognize that that is very valuable.

We think of the history of aboriginal communities and of the difficulties with which they have suffered for so long and the fact that they are now seeing and seizing these opportunities to fish and take part in this industry is a sign of great hope. It is one of the many things the government is doing to work with first nations to try and build a strong economic life in those communities.

We can speak of the progress that goes beyond the fishery, like the emergence of new leaders and the profits that are being invested in housing, infrastructure and other social priorities. These and other benefits are resulting in an improved quality of life for first nations.

An acceptance of the presence of first nations in the commercial fishery is also growing. Aboriginal and non-aboriginal fishers are fishing side by side. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans mentoring pilot project went a long way in strengthening this relationship as first nations and non-aboriginal fishers worked together to transfer skills and knowledge.

Agreements on fisheries and the development of a different kind of relationship on the water have made greater understanding and better communication between first nations people and DFO staff possible.

Consequently, the first nations have a say in the departmental decision-making process.

The Government of Canada has also announced a recent initiative to broaden our progress and to further develop collaborative relationships with aboriginal groups. It was a very important announcement that was made in October 2003 when the department and the minister at the time announced the aboriginal aquatic resource and oceans management program, and the aboriginal inland habitat program.

Earlier this year, in February 2004, I had the pleasure of announcing the at sea mentoring and the fisheries operating management initiatives, both of which are to be carried out over the next four years.

In my opinion this cooperative approach with not only the Department of Fisheries and Oceans but with aboriginal groups and people in the commercial fishery is a key component of a soundly managed fishery. The government recognizes the challenges faced by aboriginal Canadians and is committed to bringing about concrete improvements in the economic opportunities and living standards of aboriginal people in Canada.

There is no doubt in my mind that this is what the vast majority of Canadians want and want it very seriously. They see and hear of the difficult circumstances of people living on reserves in many cases. They are concerned and anxious to see steps taken to improve that situation. It is a real concern for many Canadians.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has been a key contributor to helping aboriginal people attain greater economic self-reliance and will continue to do so.

This bill will provide the legislative authority with greater transparency and assurance, both of which are vital to proper and orderly management of the fisheries sector.

It will make it possible for us to continue to work with aboriginal groups to enhance quality of life and promote the overall objectives of the Government of Canada.

Therefore, in view of all these points I have made, my colleagues will see that this is a valuable piece of legislation. While we already have regulations in place, those will remain in force, it is important to listen to committees of the House and in this case a joint committee of the Senate and the House of Commons.

The House may be aware that this committee is co-chaired by a Conservative member of the House and by a Liberal Senator. It is worthwhile for the public who might be watching, some of them at least, to be aware of the fact that we do have committees where members work in cooperation from all sides of the House. This is one such committee where members have concerns about regulations and have put them forward.

I therefore ask all members of the House to join me in supporting this important bill.

Fisheries Act
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Before we proceed to questions or comments, it is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Davenport, International Trade; the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester, Public Service of Canada.

Fisheries Act
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, the minister, when he introduced the bill, spoke about the committee on scrutiny of regulations. He spoke about the great job it had done and about all the consultation on the bill.

I wonder if the minister could tell us, how much consultation did he have on this specific bill with the committee, how often did he meet with them, and who specifically did he talk to in relation to this particular bill that we are now debating?

Fisheries Act
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question.

I would have to go back and review that. I can tell the hon. member that the hon. member for Surrey Central is the co-chair of that committee, along with Senator Hervieux-Payette. As I understand it, my office has been dealing with them and the department has been consulting with them. However, I would have to get back to the hon. member on the details of that consultation.

It is accurate to say that I misspoke myself and should have pointed out that in fact my officials and my assistants had been in contact with that committee. The hon. member has made a good point and I appreciate that.

Fisheries Act
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I have another question for the minister.

In the regulations that would be changed under this bill, it states that it provides that the terms and conditions of some licences to aboriginal organizations would prevail over certain regulations to the extent of any inconsistency. Could the minister explain that?

It provides that the terms and conditions of some licences to aboriginal organizations would prevail over certain regulations. I would like to know what those regulations are? Are they regulations on fish stocks? Are they regulations that concern conservation? Are they regulations over vessel size? There are hundreds of regulations that govern the fishery, so which regulations are we talking about?

Fisheries Act
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, there are a variety of different kinds of agreements that are reached with aboriginal groups and they contain a variety of provisions.

In fact, it is important to have the flexibility to mould our agreements to each individual case, because as my hon. colleagues know, there are a wide variety of fisheries across our country and a wide variety of fisheries in which aboriginal groups are involved.

Therefore, it is important to have the flexibility to have licences that have a variety of provisions and respond to situations. That is why this provision is in place.

Fisheries Act
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, we have it clear and on the record that the minister himself did not talk to the people involved at the committee. If hon. members listened to him in the beginning when he introduced the bill, it sounded as if he had all these serious discussions and that he completely understood what went on here, and that the committee was in full support.

The scrutiny of regulations committee recommended the changes for the legality of the move that we see occurring here in the bill, which is an old bill, by the way. This is not something that was just introduced. This is an old bill that has been dusted off and brought back. I would like to ask the minister, did the scrutiny of regulations committee endorse the recommendations and the changes that the minister intends to make?

Fisheries Act
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, the important thing to know about the whole nature of the bill is that it is brought forward in response to the concerns of the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations. It responds very well to those concerns.

My understanding is that the committee in fact endorses the vast majority of these provisions. It has some concerns about a couple of them and might have done them a little differently, but I am confident, having gone through the bill, that it responds to those concerns and does so in a way that meets the requirements of the law.

As I said earlier, it is our view that the regulations that are in place are already authorized under the Fisheries Act. While the bill responds to the concerns of the committee and does so in a way that is complete in my opinion and settles the issue, I hope, once and for all, the fact of the matter is that we have legislation and a regime in place that is already effective.

Fisheries Act
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, the issue here about regulations and the absolute necessity to have consistency in the regulatory package is a major fault of this bill. The minister certainly understands that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is responsible for conservation. Quite often, when dealing with first nations, that is the overriding responsibility of DFO under the Sparrow decision.

However, my concern on the regulations is that they could further encourage inconsistency in the regulatory regime. For instance, in lobster fishing area 34 in southwest Nova Scotia, one could have a ministerial permit that would allow first nations to fish fewer traps than any other fisherman in that area, or they could perhaps fish more traps. They may be allowed to set those traps earlier. One could look at different seasons. There are a whole number of issues that are of great concern to myself and certainly a concern to fishermen.

More importantly, it takes a long time to train someone to be a capable fisherman. This is not something that just happens in a heartbeat. Quite often it takes generations. If these licences that the aboriginals will now have are not going to be passed on intergenerationally, we could be setting ourselves up to lose all of that knowledge that needs to be passed down from licence to licence in the fishery.

It is not only just a matter of being able to fish, it is a matter of being able to find one's way back to shore. It can be, quite frankly, a matter of life and death.