House of Commons Hansard #173 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was air.

Topics

Fisheries and Oceans
Adjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

NDP

François Choquette Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to talk about a question that I asked on June 19 about the Rio+20 conference and the Conservatives' catastrophic record.

May 22 was the International Day for Biological Diversity, and the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, issued this appeal: “Rio+20 must galvanize action to improve the management and conservation of oceans.”

Rio+20 was held in June 2012, the 20th anniversary of the Earth Summit. Two very important environmental proposals were on the table, but unfortunately, the Conservatives fiercely opposed them, which angered Canadians and the people in my riding of Drummond.

The first environmental proposal on the table at Rio+20 was to eliminate over $1 billion in subsidies that the Conservatives give every year to fossil fuel companies—both oil and gas companies. The people in my riding are sick and tired of seeing their tax dollars subsidize billion-dollar oil and gas companies. Unfortunately, at Rio+20, the Conservatives opposed that proposal.

The second environmental proposal was to better protect marine biodiversity in extraterritorial waters, as called for by Ban Ki-moon. Instead of protecting our environment and our health, the Conservatives have another agenda. They are continuing the destruction that they began with Bill C-38. Let me remind the House what that bill included: the Conservatives withdrew Canada from the Kyoto protocol; they eliminated the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy; and they abolished the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

With Bill C-45, they can do more of the same by attacking the Navigable Waters Protection Act this time. For instance, only 97 lakes and 62 rivers in all of Canada will now be protected. That is unbelievable. This means that 99.7% of lakes and 99.9% of rivers in Canada will not have any protection whatsoever. On top of all that, of the only 97 protected lakes, 89% are located in Conservative ridings, which is even more shocking. Of the remaining rivers, the one that runs through Drummond, the Saint-François River, is not protected. People from Drummond are calling me and asking me what the repercussions of this will be. They are shocked to learn that the river will no longer be protected.

Furthermore, I would like to come back to Fisheries and Oceans Canada and more specifically the Maurice Lamontagne Institute, located in Mont-Joli in the Lower St. Lawrence, which has experienced some cuts. This is another example of the vague budget cuts imposed on Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Near Rimouski, more than 120 scientist jobs are affected, including about 30 that will be eliminated altogether. This important institute is one of the main francophone marine science research centres in the world. As I was saying, it plays a very important role, not only here in Canada, but also around the world.

My question is the following: how can the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans claim that the federal government oversees the sustainable development of the oceans, when it is shamelessly cutting anything to do with the environment, whether it is with Bill C-38 or Bill C-45? Can he show us that he truly cares about protecting the oceans?

Fisheries and Oceans
Adjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.

Portage—Lisgar
Manitoba

Conservative

Candice Bergen Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I stand today to inform the hon. member about our government's approach to protecting marine biodiversity in Canada's oceans, as well as in international waters.

Canada remains committed to the sustainable development of the oceans, both domestically and internationally. We continue to make progress in the responsible management and protection of our oceans. The government ensures that our national waters are protected and preserved through our strong regulatory regime that governs responsible resource use and development, and ensures high standards of environmental protection. We will continue to collect the scientific information necessary and provide advice to support informed decision-making regarding the issues of greatest concern to Canada's oceans.

Integrated ocean management plans have been completed for two ocean areas and three more are nearing completion. These plans provide a basis for decision-making, recognizing the importance of natural ecosystems while balancing the needs of resource users. There are currently eight Fisheries and Oceans marine protected areas and seven additional areas that are under active consideration as potential marine protected areas. In fact, among federal, provincial and territorial governments, 810 marine conservation and marine protected areas have been established to date.

Our government will continue to work together with the provinces, territories, aboriginal peoples, industry and all of our stakeholders in developing Canada's network of marine protected areas. We have made significant progress in implementing a strategic approach to oceans management in collaboration with other levels of government and stakeholders. We have worked together with our partners to deliver results, increase surveillance of marine pollution through acquisition of specialized equipment and the provision of emergency and safety services to local operators.

Internationally, we are taking our domestic experience and approaches and working collaboratively in global processes to protect the biodiversity of the world's oceans. Canada is an active member of the North American Marine Protected Areas Network, a Canada–U.S.–Mexico project to advance the development of an effective system of North American Marine Protected Areas Networks, to enhance and strengthen the protection of marine biodiversity.

Last year, with the support of the United Nations General Assembly, we endorsed an expert process to assess the best tools and mechanisms to ensure the long-term sustainability of the world's oceans. Canada participates in a United Nations working group established to deal with these issues and looks forward to contributing to analysis of the best options. Developing networks of marine protected areas, as we are doing with our North American partners, is one example of an effective tool.

We believe it is important that existing agreements and mechanisms be implemented and a thorough analysis of options be conducted before a new international treaty is negotiated. We prefer to take a pragmatic and practical approach that can lead to action sooner rather than later. Canada does not want to abandon the agreed upon United Nations process that will build global understanding of this complex issue.

Fisheries and Oceans
Adjournment Proceedings

October 31st, 2012 / 7 p.m.

NDP

François Choquette Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would simply like to remind the hon. member that the Conservatives collected fossil awards at the Rio+20 conference. The Minister of the Environment's shelf holds a collection of environmental fossil awards. It is thus difficult to say that the Conservatives have done what is necessary for the environment.

The most recent budget cuts found in the two mammoth budget bills, Bill C-38 and Bill C-45, show that they have not. These bills make radical cuts to the environment and there is nothing in these bills to protect our marine areas. On the contrary, the Navigable Waters Protection Act has been completely gutted. Canada has also take a major step backward in terms of environmental science. As I mentioned, the Conservatives are making serious cuts in this area. This will do nothing to help protect our oceans. Oceans cover a large portion of our planet. They are the very essence of life. Water is the essence of life, and that is why we must protect it.

According to the hon. member, if the government has done everything it can, why was it given so many fossil awards?

Fisheries and Oceans
Adjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, we continue to make progress on our responsible management and protection of our oceans, using high environmental standards and a strong regulatory regime. The integrated ocean management plan provides a basis for decision-making, recognizing the importance of natural ecosystems while attempting to balance the needs of resource users. In addition, we are pursuing the development of a network of marine protected areas.

We prefer a practical approach that could lead to action sooner rather than later. Canada supports current efforts within the United Nations to build global understanding of this complex issue which needs to be done before a new international treaty is negotiated.

Aboriginal Affairs
Adjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to have the opportunity to revisit my question from last June on the subject of mercury poisoning and the plight of the people from the Grassy Narrows and Whitedog First Nations.

At the time of my question, a Japanese study had just been translated into English that was an update to an earlier study. It showed how the health effects of mercury poisoning still ravage these communities a full 50 years after the contamination that initially poisoned the food supply began.

The studies were published by mercury poisoning expert, Dr. Masazumi Harada, who passed away this past summer. Dr. Harada's recent work in Grassy Narrows revealed that 59% of people tested had mercury poisoning and 34% of those tested would have been diagnosed with Minamata disease. Of those people tested between the ages of 21 to 41, 44% were affected by mercury poisoning even though none of them were alive 50 years ago when a pulp mill in Dryden dumped about 10 tonnes of mercury into the Wabigoon River.

Incredibly, Health Canada studies in the 1990s showed that 0% of patients examined were deemed at risk due to the levels of mercury in their system. Needless to say, Dr. Harada's update gave completely different results.

Worse, Health Canada issued a statement declaring that poisoning due to methyl mercury contamination in these communities was a “minimal risk”.

As recently as 2010, when I raised the issue in the House of Grassy Narrows mercury poisoning, the Minister of Health stated that the mercury levels were safe. We now know that was simply not true.

We do know that Canada has yet to acknowledge a single case of Minamata disease despite acknowledging the waterway that fed these first nations communities is polluted.

Despite all of Dr. Harada's research to the contrary and his significant reports that were released in English in 2005 and 2012, if people were only to listen to the Canadian government, they would hear that there has not been a single case of Minamata disease in Grassy Narrows.

What may be worse is the way that clear-cut logging is complicating the problem and adding to the risk of mercury poisoning. Science shows us that clear-cut logging causes boreal land to shed its mineral load into its waterways. This increases mercury levels in boreal fish and yet clear-cut logging persists in the Grassy territory despite clearly stated and consistent opposition from the community.

In fact, this December 2 is the 10th anniversary of the Grassy Narrows logging blockade, which has been led by mothers and young people trying to protect their treaty rights to hunt and fish in the face of industrial clear-cut logging.

Grassy Narrows recently won its court case at the Ontario Superior Court after a decade of legal wrangling. Now Canada is appealing. In doing so, it is arguing against the treaty rights of Grassy Narrows to fish and hunt. Having their own government appeal their victory can only be seen as piling on the people of Grassy Narrows.

Dr. Harada is on record saying that even if the pollution itself could come to an end, the impact on the health and socio-economic life of the people throughout the area is immense.

Despite pushing ahead with licences for clear-cut logging, Ontario is moving forward on the issue of mercury poisoning and has formed an inter-ministerial committee to deal with the phenomenon. Canada and Health Canada have been invited to join them at the table but they have refused. The government also refused to comment to the CBC when it was reporting on developments in the story in June of this year. Why is the government silent on this?

Why will the government not admit that there is an ongoing problem with mercury poisoning, admit the existence of Minamata disease in Grassy Narrows and Whitedog and then get to work on dealing with the problem?

Will Canada come to the table to resolve ongoing mercury issues?

Aboriginal Affairs
Adjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.

Portage—Lisgar
Manitoba

Conservative

Candice Bergen Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise to speak to the question from the hon. member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing. Let me assure the hon. member that the health of first nations communities is an absolute priority for the Government of Canada. Addressing the concerns of mercury contamination in Grassy Narrows First Nation is no exception. Our government takes the issue of mercury poisoning and its potential health effects seriously.

The Government of Canada continues to work with the Mercury Disability Board and the Government of Ontario to support the work of the board in addressing the issue of mercury contamination. The board was established in 1986 in response to mercury poisoning of the English-Wabigoon River system. The board supervises administration of the fund from which benefits are paid to claimants whose health may have been affected by mercury contamination. Since 1986, Canada has contributed more than $9 million in compensation to Grassy Narrows First Nation, which was affected by mercury contamination.

Health Canada has made progress on addressing contamination issues by working with willing partners to achieve tangible results. Through the First Nation and Inuit Health Branch, Health Canada monitors the exposure of first nations to environmental contaminants, including mercury. Our government knows that for communities like the Grassy Narrows First Nation, access to safe water, land and contamination-free traditional food sources is of utmost importance.

The health, safety and security of all Canadians and the environment are important for our government. That is why we, along with the Province of Ontario, first nations, scientists and industry, are working together to invest in initiatives to monitor the effects of mercury contamination on the environment in the English-Wabigoon River system in northwestern Ontario.

We are committed to the health of first nation communities. We are working with our partners to ensure that first nations and all Canadians across the country have access to a safe environment, which in turn results in long-term prosperity for us all.

Aboriginal Affairs
Adjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member talks about the fact that the government is very concerned and its priority is the health and well-being of first nations. I have to ask whether her practical approach is with respect to ensuring that waterways, such as the English-Wabigoon River system, which has not made the very short list of mostly cottage-country rivers and lakes, will receive the protection of the new navigation protection act. Whether that is a practical approach or not, is fighting a court decision that would stop pollution of these lakes and rivers what she would call a practical approach?

When I talked about Dr. Harada, his life's work was making sure that the well-being of people was being addressed. Obviously, the government is not addressing that. When will the member stand up for the people of Grassy Narrows? When will Conservatives admit that there is Minamata disease, and when will they stop appealing the decision?

Aboriginal Affairs
Adjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, as I said, our government takes the health of first nation communities seriously. That is why Health Canada's First Nations and Inuit Health Branch has funded a number of research projects at Grassy Narrows and nearby communities over the last decade. The research examines the current levels of mercury contamination in the environment and wildlife, as well as human exposure.

We also continue to work with the Mercury Disability Board established in 1986 and the Government of Ontario to address the issue of mercury contamination. Understanding and minimizing the effects of mercury contamination are essential to ensuring the health of all first nations communities affected by contamination. Along with our partners, we are committed to supporting the Grassy Narrows First Nation with the aim of improving the long-term prosperity and health of all community members.

Border Security
Adjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

Independent

Bruce Hyer Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will speak to a hugely worrisome and important issue that has unfortunately received little attention. In June, I asked a question about the government's leaked plans to “ease Canadians into the idea” of U.S. agents operating on Canadian soil as part of a sovereignty sharing perimeter security deal with the United States.

Tonight is Halloween. Imagine the fright ordinary Canadians would get if they are at home and all of a sudden their door bursts open and U.S. drug enforcement agents storm into their house, arrest them and abscond across the border with them, where they can be charged with things that are not even crimes in Canada.

That is exactly the horror show that the government is bringing to Canadians. It might not just be the DEA. It could be the FBI or U.S. customs and immigration agents or the bureau of alcohol, tobacco and firearms or even the CIA. We cannot be certain of who all would be involved because the government is keeping Canadians, and the House, largely in the scary dark.

Who needs due process and extradition treaties when they can just waltz into another country and arrest whoever they want? Marc Emery would see the problem with this scheme.

This is all part of the “beyond the border” initiative, which will hugely expand the nature and scope of joint law enforcement operations and information sharing.

One of the dozens of non-budget items in this year's omnibus budget was changes to permanently allow for U.S. agents to operate on Canadian soil. The shiprider program has crawled out of the water and onto the land.

Cross-border co-operation between law enforcement to stop crime is a laudable goal. However, it must be done in a way that respects Canadian sovereignty. After fiascos like the FIPA, the Canada-China foreign investment protection treaty, it is clear that Canadians are skeptical about closed door agreements being negotiated that impact Canada's sovereignty. These plans must respect the rights of Canadians.

A joint resolution from the federal and provincial privacy commissioners urged transparency and respect for Canadian privacy standards regarding this initiative. It was very apt, considering the severe consequences Maher Arar suffered because basic standards were not followed. The resolution said:

Any initiatives under the plan that collect personal information should also include appropriate redress and remedy mechanisms to review files for accuracy, correct inaccuracies and restrict disclosures to other countries; Parliament, provincial Privacy Commissioners and civil society should be engaged as initiatives under the plan take shape; [i]nformation about Canadians should be stored on Canadian soil whenever feasible or at least be subject to Canadian protection; and [a]ny use of new surveillance technologies within Canada such as unmanned aerial vehicles must be subject to appropriate controls set out in a proper regulatory framework.

They mention aerial drones because it has emerged that they could be part of this cross-border initiative. Do we really want to have U.S. predator drones flying deep into Canada, spying and carrying out missions at will?

None of this is being discussed in the House because the government is not following the privacy commissioners' directives. Parliament is not being engaged or informed about this cross-border law enforcement scheme.

Questions remain. Will the private information of Canadians only be stored in Canada? How will disclosures to other countries be restricted, or files corrected for inaccuracies? When violations occur, what redress or mediation measures are being put in place under the beyond the border plan?

I know the plans are currently on hold as legal—

Border Security
Adjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Order, please. The time has expired for the hon. member.

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety.

Border Security
Adjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

Portage—Lisgar
Manitoba

Conservative

Candice Bergen Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, contrary to the Halloween night fearmongering of the independent member, I would like to reiterate that Canada and the U.S. share a long history of law enforcement co-operation. That has been very helpful and productive at the shared border. The Canadian and U.S. law enforcement agencies often work together to combat the trafficking and smuggling of everything from illegal drugs and tobacco to firearms and people. We want that to continue. It is a good initiative.

However, border law enforcement operations have been traditionally hindered by the fact that law enforcement officers are bound by jurisdictional limitations. In other words, they cannot enforce the law beyond their own border. This becomes an impediment to effective border policing, especially since criminal organizations are well aware of these limitations. It seems the hon. member wants those limitations to continue. We do not.

Organized crime groups use those limitations to their advantage. They do so by committing crimes in one country, then fleeing into the other country, knowing that they can often evade arrest and prosecution once they cross the border. To combat this law enforcement gap at the border, this government has made significant investments in recent years to strengthen border security co-operation with the United States.

In fact, when the Prime Minister and the U.S. President announced the declaration on a shared vision for perimeter security and economic competitiveness in February 2011, the concept of integrated cross-border law enforcement was included as one of the four pillars of enhanced bilateral co-operation, specifically the regularization of integrated cross-border maritime law enforcement operations, also known as shiprider in 2012. Shiprider allows specially trained and designated RCMP and U.S. Coast Guard officers to work together to enhance the domestic law of both countries, which I would think the opposition and the member would support, to enforce the domestic laws of both countries under the direction and control of the host country's law enforcement officers.

I want to be crystal clear on this point. While operating in Canada, U.S. officers would assist Canadian officers in the enforcement of Canadian law and would be under the command of a Canadian officer at all times. The reverse would occur when integrated operations occurred in the U.S. The vessels are jointly crewed to share resources and intelligence to better identify, interdict, investigate and prosecute criminal activity in shared waters.

Parliament was also consulted on integrated cross-border maritime law enforcement operations for the required 30-day period in October 2009, following the signature of the shiprider framework agreement in May 2009. Regularized shiprider operations between Canada and the U.S. signal the beginning of a new era of co-operation for border law enforcement, an era in which resources are maximized, co-operation increased and border security vastly enhanced. I would think that all of us would want that. Canadians have asked us for that.

Shiprider strengthens border security, which facilitates the flow of legitimate people and goods, and protects the safety and security of Canadians and our economy.

Border Security
Adjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.

Independent

Bruce Hyer Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I support shiprider. My question is not about shiprider.

Far too many questions remain and Canadians are largely being left in the dark. This is a crucial and expanded agreement, one that will well impact our sovereignty and the rights of Canadians like few others in our history. It must not be written and signed in secrecy.

In the interests of transparency and accountability, will the government agree to lay out what is exactly being negotiated under this cross-border law enforcement initiative and the government's position on each issue being negotiated? Will it respect existing Canadian laws and treaties, such as the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act and the Canada-U.S. extradition treaty? Finally, will the government bring any agreement to Parliament for review and approval of this crucial document and agreement?

Border Security
Adjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, Canadians can rest assured that integrated cross-border law enforcement operations in no way compromise our constitutionally protected rights and freedoms. They do not cede or diminish sovereignty in any way. In fact, these integrated operations serve to augment our sovereignty by ensuring that threats are identified and interdicted prior to entering our jurisdiction or reaching our communities.

We have taken concrete measures to ensure proper oversight and accountability of these operations in Canada.

First, all operations taking place in Canada are conducted in accordance with all Canadian laws, including privacy laws. All designated officers are subject to our laws, including privacy laws.

Second, all operations taking place in Canada would be conducted under the control, direction and command of Canadian law enforcement officers.

Third, the current Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP or any subsequent review body for the RCMP will be mandated to review the conduct of participating officers in Canada.

The opposition member can rest assured that we are standing up for Canadians, keeping our borders open to legitimate trade and travel, but stopping criminals and those wanting to take advantage of us.

Border Security
Adjournment Proceedings

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:25 p.m.)