- On the Parliament site
Last in Parliament May 2004, as Liberal MP for Lac-Saint-Louis (Québec)
Won his last election, in 2000, with 74.17% of the vote.
Statements in the House
First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act May 10th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, it seems to me that it is a reverse argument to say that because there have been no votes since previous resolutions, then the resolutions do not have force any more. It seems to me, if there had been a change, surely the first nations would have passed a resolution to say that they accepted the bill today. Everyone I have spoken to, my information is they are totally opposed.
The member mentioned Chief Roberta Jamieson. We can ask her and she will say that she is as vehemently opposed today as she was then. The many chiefs who I have spoken to tell me exactly the same thing. Their minds have not been changed by the amendments. In fact they suggest that the amendments are purely, in their own words, window dressing.
As I see it, the resolutions still stand. There have been resolutions duly passed. The special chiefs assembly on November 19, 2002, and it concerns the draft legislation on fiscal and statistical institutions, not anything else, said:
- the proposed Bill is flawed and cannot be corrected by mere amendments; and--
Those were their own words.
the proposed Bill is inconsistent with the previous mandates of the Assembly of First Nations, Resolutions 5/96 and 49/98; and does not recognize First Nation Inherent Right to self-government, and the nation-to-nation relationship; and
the provisions contained in the Bill violate and infringe upon Aboriginal and Treaty Rights and will worsen the status quo; and
the proposed Bill violates the historic Nation-to-Nation; Crown-First Nation Treaty relationship; furthermore, it violates the core essence of this relationship...
This resolution was carried 81 for, 10 opposed and 2 abstentions.
There was a further resolution of the Special Confederacy of Nations, Resolution No. 1/2003 on February 20 and 21, 2003. This one carried 37 for, only 2 opposed and zero abstentions. It said:
FINALLY BE IT RESOLVED that the AFN Special Confederacy of Nations hereby direct the National Chief to make a clear, unequivocal public statement to the media opposing the Fiscal and Statistical Management Act (Bill C-19).
It is very obvious that these resolutions still stand, unless they have been counteracted or withdrawn. They have not been withdrawn.
As I said, I spoke to some of the chiefs who took part in these deliberations, as I am sure my colleagues from Winnipeg Centre, Churchill River and others have done. They say that their minds are still exactly at the same stage as they were when these resolutions were passed.
One of the resolutions clearly said that mere amendments would not fix the problem, that the bill was flawed in its very core and substance. This is how they feel. They are totally and adamantly opposed in their great majority, and we should take this into account. We should renew our negotiations with them. We should speak to them again. We should listen to them more intently. By going ahead regardless, we might have a bill but it will be a bill that will not be accepted by the very people it is designed to impact.
That is totally wrong for us to do as parliamentarians. We do not have the final answers on the rights of people who are not there to speak for themselves. This is why they speak through resolutions and the media. We have to listen to them. I beg my colleagues on all sides of the House to listen and adopt the subamendment presented by my colleague from Davenport.
First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act May 10th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, I support the subamendment by my colleague from Davenport and I want to stress that the government should enter into meaningful consultations with the first nations regarding Bill C-23.
Our first hope, which was the original motion by my colleague from Churchill River, was that the bill would be sent back to committee for further consultation and re-examination on the basis that it is a conviction that consultations have been inadequate and that the bill remains as an imposed solution to a problem that would have far better been addressed by other means, such as going back to the drawing board, going back into a true sense of negotiation, of conciliation and based on sharing of resources, that the first nations own and which have been recognized by treaties that have been enshrined in the Constitution under section 35.
Our feeling is that if we were to pass the bill by using our majority and then send it to the Senate as it stands, in the context in which we find ourselves today, with a great majority of first nations totally opposed to it, we would, yes, obtain legislation, but it would be legislation enacted without consent.
In effect, the bill, if passed, will remain an imposition on first nations. History has shown that first nations are persistent and they will not cede ground regarding their inherent rights under the Constitution. They will continue to oppose the legislation, regardless of whether it is in the short term or the long term, if they truly believe there has been no meaningful consultation on the institutions under Bill C-23. They are in a position to continue in the short term, the medium term and certainly in the long term to oppose the legislation.
Have we progressed that way? Is that what we want or do we seek an avenue of consensus, of conciliation, of listening to the legitimate grievances and opposition by saying that we have heard them? That is our task as parliamentarians. We need to get together with them to frame legislation that will take into account what they seek in respect of their integrity as first peoples and with respect to their right to self-government and self-management of their own affairs. That is really what many of us on both sides of the House want.
I want to quote some of the resolutions passed by the chiefs of the Assembly of First Nations at different points. I think it states very clearly why they are opposed to Bill C-23 in its present form.
One of the resolutions states:
Whereas the Chiefs-in-Assembly have acknowledged that the First Nations-Federal bilateral relationship and formation of institutions must be based upon:
- a pro-active implementation strategy towards a bilateral fiscal relationship; a Nation-to-Nation relationship which shall maintain and protect the collective (Treaty and Aboriginal) rights of First Nations; and the AFN resolution 5/96 and 49/98 and related recommendations of the Penner Report and Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples relating to fiscal relationships including lands and natural resource revenue sharing recommendations; and...
In another resolution passed at Kahnawake, Quebec in July 2002, the preamble starts:
Whereas First Nations have received from the Creator the Inherent Right to Self-determination, which right is recognized by International law and s. 35 of the Canadian Constitution Act, 1982; and
Whereas First Nations have condemned the consultation process leading to the First Nations Governance Act as unlawful based on the constitutional standard set by the Supreme Court of Canada in cases such as Delgumuukw and Sparrow; and
Whereas in spite of the opposition by an overwhelming majority of First Nations in Canada, the Government of Canada has proceeded with the FNGA by tabling Bill C-61 (FNGA) in Parliament on June 14, 2002, and has referred it to Committee after first reading; and
Further be it resolved that we call upon the Government of Canada to engage First Nations in a respectful bilateral process focusing on the implementation of our Rights, based on the principles of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) report and the Penner Report; and
Another resolution states:
Whereas the legal instruments such as the Royal Proclamation 1763, the historic First Nations and Crown Treaties, International Law including recent Supreme Court decisions protect and acknowledge the Inherent Rights of First Nations, and furthermore, section 35 of the Constitution Act 1982 recognizes and affirms Aboriginal and Treaty Rights; and
When I intervened this morning I pointed out that in effect it was a matter of trust and mutual understanding. This is what is at the core of it. The fact is that I have spoken with many Indian people, and I know many of them, Mohawks, Ojibwas, Algonquins and others, and they have all told me, whether they were chiefs or non-chiefs, that Bill C-23, in their eyes, is an encroachment on their inherent rights, that they have not been consulted appropriately and adequately and that they have been imposed upon by this legislation.
My colleague from Glengarry—Prescott—Russell made the point this morning that maybe, if is not 60%, we would accept 50% plus one as a majority. That is not the point. The point is that in a negotiation as between what they consider as sovereign nations and our federal government, which have signed treaties to recognize each other's right to govern themselves, just as we do here, to manage our own affairs on each side, surely then our duty is to respect that right by listening to the genuine concerns of the great majority of these people, regardless of whether it is 60% or 70%. What I hear is that the majority opinion is overwhelming against Bill C-23.
We should ask ourselves if we want a bill, which, in the eyes of the people who would be impacted by the bill, is totally flawed. Do we push it through regardless or do we want to listen, open our eyes and ears and tell the first nations that we have listened to them, that we realize they see a problem in the bill and that we will delay the bill for whatever time it takes in order to enter into meaningful consultation, as was suggested in the subamendment moved by my colleague from Davenport, to produce a bill that respects first nation opinions, rights and concerns and, as a measure of conciliation and fairness, go forward in a new spirit, as our Prime Minister has spoken about?
This is really why I support the subamendment of my colleague from Davenport. I hope the House will give it full support as well and that we will enshrine a new spirit of conciliation, fairness and mutual understanding with our first nations.
First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act May 10th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Churchill River expressed the feeling that I am deeply convinced about, that the first nations have a special place in our history, in our nation, and in our way of life. They are protected by section 35 for good reason. Section 35 protects all these treaties and all these inherent rights to self-government that are entrenched, not only in the Constitution of our nation but in the historical relationships with the first nations. We cannot just toss them aside willy-nilly by a few pages of legislation and say these are the institutions that we have decided are best for them.
This is really where the opposition comes from in one segment, including the majority of first nations that say we cannot toss aside all these inherent rights sanctioned by treaties. I give the example of a tri-lateral agreement which was signed by the Algonquins of Barriere Lake Indian Band as a sovereign people with the Quebec and federal governments. And 13 years after, the Quebec government opted out unilaterally at one point and then came back in when it realized it was ultra vires.
Today the federal government is virtually absent from it because it has decided that the Algonquins are people that are too annoying and too embarrassing. They keep on harping about sharing of resources and 13 years after we have not resolved the whole question of their right to their own resources on their own lands so that they can live in dignity, in self respect, and in full pride of their own achievements using their own resources the way they want to.
This is why the question brought up by my colleague from Churchill River is quite right and should be entrenched in the bill.
First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act May 10th, 2004
I would like to thank my colleague for his remarks. His consistent fight on behalf of aboriginal peoples has been constant and very sincere. I think it adds greatly to the debate that he should express them so forcefully and so frankly.
I sense a feeling in the House that it is not all black and white. I sense this in our own party. The very fact that I am able to stand here and take a position to a measure by my own government, that my colleague from Churchill River has done likewise, that the parliamentary secretary from Yukon has chatted with me outside and in a very open fashion, I view this as something very constructive for us all.
I agree with my colleague from the NDP that the time when we can impose measures on others is long past, especially with regard to first nations. They should be telling us that they are the people who owned this land and still do. They should be telling us what they want, not we telling them what is good for them.
In my case, it is my conviction on why the bill is flawed. We are opposing measures that obviously, the great majority, whether it is 550, 450, or 490, are opposed to.
I take the point of my colleague that once we have these institutions legislated and entrenched into law, are we going to say, 5 years or 10 years hence, that the opting in clause for those who do not join is a reality, is something that will be substantial? Of course not. When we will have these institutions staffed with a lot of administrative powers and staff, surely the pressure for those nations that stay out will be unbearable. They will either join the system or they will not join.
This is why I made the point in my speech that to say that they will be allowed in certain cases to use the provisions of the Indian Act to run a parallel system, I do not believe is realistic. Once these boards are in place, staffed and funded, the pressures on the nations that do not join in will be so unbearable that they will stand outside the system. Decisions will be made despite them and against them, and against the opposition, and they will have to cave in or the law will have to be changed.
It seems to me that this consistent opposition to the law which has started ever since the first bill was introduced is indicative that it is not perfect and it is flawed.
It seems to me, in the spirit expressed by the Prime Minister recently, that we should look at it. Let us take a few more months. Let us take another year but do it right rather than force it through at the last minute, despite opposition. This is what I seek and this is what is sought by my colleague from the NDP.
This is why we should join in a consensus in the House to support the substance of what is requested by my colleague from Churchill River.
First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act May 10th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, the least we can say about the bill is that from its very inception it has been subject to constant controversy as well as a consistent and profound opposition by the majority of first nations. This is why I strongly endorse the substance of the motion proposed by my colleague from Churchill River to refer Bill C-23 back to committee for re-examination and new hearings. I realize that you have ruled, Mr. Speaker, that the motion as it is framed is not receivable. You have also opened the way for some other procedure to be adopted that would come to the same result, in other words, to refer the bill to committee for new hearings and consultation.
It is clear to me that the systematic opposition that the bill has faced on the part of a large majority of first nations has been compounded by what first nations rightfully contend as inadequate consultation.
I listened to the debate on the bill. I am happy to recognize the broadmindedness of my colleague from the Yukon who backed the bill, naturally as he is the parliamentary secretary. At the same time he expressed a degree of fairness and openness and is ready to listen to arguments on both sides. This is why my colleague from Churchill River and I are speaking from a different viewpoint.
Perhaps we could find it in ourselves to express this feeling of openness and conciliation, that we should listen and hear the voices in opposition that have been expressed on the bill and send it back to the committee for review and re-examination. Nothing would be lost in doing what is proper, right and fair.
The Supreme Court of Canada in such leading cases as Sparrow and Delgamuukw has been clear that the first nations are entitled to full and reasonable consultation when there is a proposed measure likely to affect their rights. Certainly this measure is there to affect their rights. In special cases first nations' consent may be required and if the consultation record is insufficient, the legislative measure may be deemed invalid. This is what the Assembly of First Nations in several resolutions and many first nations acting on their own have contended right from the start.
I am convinced that if the bill is passed into law, it will surely be challenged in the courts. There is a strong likelihood that the statute would be held unconstitutional because of the failure to follow the consultation standard laid down by the Supreme Court of Canada in numerous landmark decisions.
Recent initiatives by the Prime Minister and our government have given fresh hope that a new climate of mutual trust and understanding may be pointing itself on the horizon as between government and our first nations.
Sadly, Bill C-23 conflicts with this new spirit of hope and of a true dialogue and understanding with our first nations. It stands out as an important irritant in a context of what was just yesterday and the day before renewed hope by our first nations spirited by the recent, and I would say courageous, statements and initiatives by our Prime Minister.
When the bill was briefly before the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources in 2003, the committee heard from Mr. Fred Lazar, an economist with the Schulich School of Business at York University in Toronto. Dr. Lazar said that he was “adamantly opposed to Bill C-19”, which is now Bill C-23. He said:
So we have taxation, devolution, and control, which is the essence of this proposed bill, all wrapped up in the federal government's limited and historically and legally incorrect view of aboriginal self-government.
Dr. Lazar pointed out that if first nations received their fair share of revenues from resources, the situation would greatly improve.
For several years I have been acting as a volunteer, as a friend, and for two years as a special representative of an Algonquin band not far from here. In 1991, 13 years ago, the band signed a trilateral agreement with the federal government and the Quebec government about the integrated management of the resources on the band's land.
The trilateral agreement happened because suddenly, one day, forestry companies, acting on a management mandate from the Quebec government, started to cut trees on a vast scale on the band's land, which its people have occupied for thousands of years. They rebelled. They blocked the roads and forced the advent of the trilateral agreement, expressing the view that under the Brundtland report, sustainable development was endorsed by all our governments.
The trilateral agreement is viewed by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, by the United Nations itself, as a landmark agreement of its kind. It has been 13 years since its inception and we are still arguing whether or not resources should be shared. We are still arguing about where this first nation will find the resources through grants and subsidies to repair its schools, to build adequate housing, which it badly needs, to find revenues with respect, without having to beg from any governments to have what we take for granted in our lives: that every person has a right to a decent living, to quality of life, to education and to proper health care.
Where do they find these resources? If they are on their own territories, they are not allowed a share of these resources, which they own and which treaties recognize as their own. This is really what the bill is about.
Dr. Lazar rightly said:
The first nations view of the verbal commitments made by both sides was that the lands were to be shared so that both groups could live and prosper together.
This implies at a minimum that the first nations should have received at least half of the revenues and wealth generated by the land and the resources on or below the land. They have not even asked for 50%; they have asked for a share. In the case of the people I know well, the Algonquins of Barriere Lake, they would be satisfied with any share of the revenues on their land. They would be satisfied with control of some of their resources so that people would not abuse them, both ecologically and in regard to their long term sustainability.
Dr. Lazar asked whether the bill would provide first nations with the access to capital markets that is available to other governments.
The federal government sees securitization of tax and other long term revenues as a means for the first nations to build up their infrastructure on reserves. Undoubtedly, there is a need for significant investments to upgrade the infrastructure on reserves, but the onus remains on the federal government to fully underwrite these costs. What we ask is not for the federal government to give grants forever, but to give to the people a share of their own resources which belong to them by treaty.
The proposed bill highlights the potential for control over almost all financial affairs on reserves. It appears to be the Trojan horse, enabling the eventual takeover of all spending decisions on reserves by the independent institutions to be created by the bill.
I would like to quote one of the chiefs. Chief Stewart Phillip is president of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs. He told the committee that 60 first nations who belong to that organization are opposed to the bill. He is the chief of the Penticton Indian Band which is a member community of the Okanagan nation.
The Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs is the oldest political organization in B.C. Chief Phillip told the committee that Bill C-23 fails to meet the conditions set out in various AFN resolutions--and which have been successively carried out--saying the bill is flawed. I have a set of these resolutions passed over a whole year, time after time in Ottawa, in B.C., and in various parts of the country, repeating again and again that the bill is flawed, that it has not been subjected to adequate consultation and that it should be re-examined or it should fail.
Indeed, a special AFN assembly was convened in Ottawa in November of 2002, two years ago now, for the chiefs in the assembly to make a decision on the first nations financial and statistical management act. It rejected Bill C-23 in its entirety. I will again quote Chief Phillip, who said:
As for the contents of Bill C-19, it is our submission that legislation, especially national legislation, is not necessary for these four institutions to function.
The Indian Taxation Advisory Board and the other boards are already in existence and operating, as far as we know.
I strongly believe that Chief Phillip and his organization express the views of a substantial majority of first nations and that his recommendation is reflected in the very justified motion of my colleague from Churchill River. I hope that somehow I will find a way to implement the substance of his motion.
Let me now review certain of the modifications of the bills which proponents tout as justifying support for it. The new schedule of the bill conveys the impression that three of the institutions in the bill, all but the statistical institute in part 5, are optional and therefore do not prejudice the first nations that choose not to join.
In addition to the deceptive information that the bill has the support of first nations, the so-called opting in feature is touted as another important measure favouring the bill. The implicit message is that even if most first nations do not like it, they should not interfere with the opportunities of those who choose to opt in.
This is clearly misleading.
First, the so-called opting in provision introduced by the schedule amendment does not apply in the case of the statistical institute under part 5. This part is imposed on all first nations or bands in Canada whether or not they are added to the schedule. This is clearly unfair to the overwhelming majority of first nations who oppose the bill. It should be noted that under clause 105 of the bill the federally appointed institute can indefinitely collect and use the most sensitive data about all bands in Canada without their consent.
What about the other three institutions: the tax commission, the management board, and the financial authority? Again the alleged opting in regarding these three institutions is very misleading. In fact, these statutory national bodies will affect the rights and interests of all first nations in Canada whether or not they are added to the schedule. Indeed, these important national institutions will be controlled for the long term, and in fact forever, by a small number of first nations strongly in support of Bill C-23 and aligned with the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.
The tax commission, which is a federally appointed body, will become the overseer of all future on reserve property taxation bylaws or laws. If the bill is passed, all first nations in Canada that want to develop on reserve property taxation laws and systems will have to seek the approval of this federally appointed commission. All such first nations will have to submit their annual property tax budgets to the commission for approval under clause 9. Surely this affects the rights and interests of all first nations, which belies the argument about the opting in feature.
Clause 13.1, an amendment to Bill C-23 tabled by the minister, may seem to suggest that current property tax provisions in the Indian Act--namely, sections 83 and 84--will continue to be available to communities that do not enlist in the tax commission. However, I question whether, if Bill C-23 is passed into law, two parallel systems will be maintained into the long term.
It is very improbable to think that communities will be permitted to operate for any length of time under the Indian Act regime whilst a new tax commission operates the new, chosen instrument adopted by the federal government.
Perhaps the provision which most significantly disturbs those first nations that oppose Bill C-23 is that of the management board. According to clause 8 of the bill, communities that do not join Bill C-23 are not permitted to pass bylaws or laws dealing with the critical area of financial administration.
Thus, non-opting in communities are restricted to the narrow list of bylaw topics under section 81(1) of the Indian Act, which list does not include financial administration, the very core of local government. In other words, first nations that do not opt in effectively forfeit a key area of local jurisdiction: financial administration.
I referred earlier to the constitutional aspects of the bill which are likely to lead to legal challenges. No doubt the most fundamental problem in this connection is its conflict with the inherent right of first nations to self-government as protected by section 35 of the Constitution Act of 1982. Surely the powers granted to the tax commission and to the management board under Bill C-23 are a direct interference with an inherent right of self-government protected by the Constitution and cherished by all first nations as a centrepiece of their fundamental rights as our first citizens.
Supporters of the bill will argue that the recent introduction of a non-derogation clause relating to section 35 of the Constitution Act of 1982 will fully protect all constitutional rights of first nations. However, there still remains the serious risk that the bill might still infringe the fiduciary duty of Canada to appropriately consult under section 35, which the majority of first nations contends has not taken place, as well as the protection against discrimination under section 15 of the charter, and, most important, the inherent right of self-government of all first nations protected under the Constitution.
I consider that the motion by my colleague from Churchill River--or a substitute for it that he is now negotiating with the Table--is fair and makes eminent sense in the circumstances. It seeks to replace controversy and consistent opposition with consultation, fairness and conciliation. I would like to support its substance most convincingly.
In the time that I am allowed I would like to appeal to all sides of the House for fairness and for conciliation. Surely all these first nations that oppose Bill C-23--and there are hundreds of them reflected in those resolutions that I have read, a great majority of them--represent a voice that cannot be ignored. Surely they have a right to express their position, and surely also they must feel in their heart that something is wrong with the bill.
Who are we here to decide for them as to measures that they themselves do not accept or agree with? Who are we here to say that we know best what is good for them when they tell us that it is not good enough for them? Who are we here to dictate and legislate when such a position is there?
I strongly recommend that we support very actively the substance of the motion of my colleague from Churchill River and send this bill back to committee. We must take time to produce a better bill, one that is acceptable to the people most concerned, the first nations of Canada.
Personal Watercraft Act May 10th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. In fact, as I explained, navigable waters in Canada are under federal jurisdiction. That is clear.
We are talking about navigable waters. It is true that many municipalities across the country, including some in Quebec and British Columbia, have already passed municipal bylaws to restrict the use of certain kinds of boats, including personal watercraft. At the same time, many municipalities and provinces do not want to venture into this field. They believe that the federal government is responsible for navigable waters and that, under the Constitution, it is up to the federal government to make such regulations.
In fact, regulations had been discussed and proposed by the Coast Guard a number of years ago, Nevertheless, the proposal was set aside by the government. The government must now assume its responsibilities. Because of its own obligations and its own jurisdiction over navigable waters, it must make regulations that apply everywhere in Canada, thus giving complete authority to provinces and municipalities to legislate. When that is done, such laws and regulations will stand up in the Supreme Court if ever they are challenged.
Thus, the federal government must, at all costs, assume its responsibilities and not hide behind the municipalities to do its work.
Personal Watercraft Act May 10th, 2004
moved that Bill S-8, an act concerning personal watercraft in navigable waters, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, Bill S-8, the personal watercraft act, is essentially the same bill I introduced in the last session of Parliament as Bill S-10.
I feel very privileged to debate this bill in the House of Commons to support the many years of work done by Senator Spivak to resolve a very real ecological and social problem. In the absence of regulatory changes, Senator Spivak has developed this legislation and, through great persistence, twice brought it through the Senate.
The bill would improve the safety of Canadians, protect the fragile environment of our lakes and rivers and, most important, give local communities a choice and a measure of local control over a significant problem on their lakes and rivers. The bill would also reverse one area in which the federal authority is being eroded.
The problem this bill addresses arose some 10 years ago with the use of personal watercraft or PWCs, also known as Jet Skis or Sea-Doos, in areas where they pose an undue threat to safety, to the environment and to everyone's peaceful enjoyment of the waterways. For those not familiar with them, they are small, high-powered, jet-driven machines that people ride like a snowmobile on the water.
In brief, the bill would allow municipalities, cottagers' associations and other bodies to place restrictions on PWCs on designated lakes, rivers or portions of coastal waterways. It would also allow local authorities to ban them entirely where they pose an inordinate hazard to safety, to the environment or to the peaceful enjoyment of any navigable water.
At the heart of the bill are two principles: first, the principle of choice, and second, the principle of local control. The bill would allow owners or renters of personal watercraft to continue to use them in areas where they can be used safely and without undue harm to the environment. It would give local authorities, the people who best know the area, a measure of control to decide where restrictions are needed.
The bill has received a significant amount of support. Some 78 organizations are now behind it: municipal associations, cottagers' associations, canoeists, wildlife groups and others who are calling for a resolution to the problem. Because of lack of time, I will skip the list of the many, many organizations that support this bill. However, I will say that petitions from thousands of people urging Parliament to pass this legislation have been presented in the Senate. The news media also has taken a great interest in this issue, and well over a hundred items have appeared in magazines, in newspapers, on radio and on television.
Not everyone is in favour of this approach. As expected, personal watercraft manufacturers and some boating organizations are not in support. They believe that it is untrained drivers, not their machines, that cause the problems, and they believe that education can solve everything.
This was indeed the approach adopted by a cabinet committee in 1994. In fact, the Canadian Coast Guard had drafted regulations that would have made this particular bill, Bill S-8, redundant. Communities wanted the right to restrict PWCs. The Coast Guard responded with new proposed regulations. With provincial agreement, a lake in Quebec and the waters of Pacific Rim National Park were chosen to set the example other communities could follow.
However, the cabinet committee rejected the option on the erroneous assumption that boating education would solve all the problems. Cabinet told the Coast Guard to go back to the drawing board to devise new safety regulations for all types of pleasure craft in respect of equipment, boating safety, training, and the age of boat and PWC operators. Now, no one under 16 years of age can drive these powerful machines.
This approach was advanced by the personal watercraft manufacturers who, to their credit--and credit must be given where it is due--contributed financially to boating programs. It was also an approach which held that personal watercraft were not unique and that it was somehow discriminatory to allow local communities to restrict them while allowing larger power boats on lakes and rivers.
The response to these claims is threefold.
First, the educational program has not worked. The problems have not gone away. Among them is a stunning rise in PWC related fatalities. Last summer the Royal Life Saving Society documented a 53% increase in PWC related deaths since 1996. At the same time, the deaths linked to all small boats declined by 29%. The fatality rate from PWC use is now almost double the rate for other power boats.
Second, personal watercraft are unique, both in their design and the way in which they are used as a thrill craft.
Third, it is no more discriminatory to regulate the activities of PWCs than it is to regulate the activity of waterskiing or boardsurfing, which are currently allowable through the boating restriction regulations.
What the bill would do is change policy. The government could effect the necessary changes by simple regulatory changes to the boating restriction regulations under the Canada Shipping Act. Bill S-8 mimics what the Coast Guard officials proposed to do in 1994 and what appeared in the Canada Gazette as a proposed regulation. The internal documents supporting that proposal describe it as a “balanced regulatory regime”. The bill attempts to restore that balance.
I have referred to the problems of PWCs repeatedly. I want to briefly outline them. First and foremost are the deaths, injuries and rescue operations that result when these high-powered machines collide with others on the water or with rocks, or they become stranded offshore.
An extensive review of PWCs in the United States found that several years ago they made up 9% of all registered boats but were involved in 26% of all boating accidents and 46% of all boating injuries. Emergency room information collected and analyzed by Health Canada under the Canadian hospitals injury reporting and prevention program also tells us that PWC use results in a disproportional number of injuries. All things being equal, PWCs should account for anywhere from 3% to 5% of the emergency room injuries from watercraft. In fact, they account for more than 20% of them.
Boating safety training will go some way to reducing this toll but it is important to remember that PWCs are primarily thrill craft. People ride them for the fun and the thrill of speed. There will always be thrill seekers whose courage is greater than their skill or judgment.
The pollution from PWCs is of great concern. While many new models are now powered by four stroke engines, the majority of older models are powered by two stroke engines. The U.S. EPA estimates that up to 30% of the fuel in these engines is discharged unburned directly into the water. With fuel consumption rates of up to 10 U.S. gallons per hour, one PWC can discharge 50 to 60 gallons per year based on less than one hour of use per week.
The exhaust emissions also cause air pollution. The emissions from one 100 horsepower PWC driven for just seven hours is equivalent to the emissions from a passenger car driven 160,000 kilometres. Just one hour of PWC use generates as much smog forming pollution as a passenger car generates over one year.
These facts have been recognized by governments in Canada and the U.S. and by the manufacturers of marine engines for PWCs. All have agreed to reduce emissions over time but that is small consolation for people living on shallow lakes or in other areas where pollution is an increasing problem. They have to live with the PWCs that people now own.
The threats to birds that nest on the shore or lake, to marine mammals and to loons has also been well documented. James Martin has a written a report for the year 2001 entitled “Loon and Grebe Study”. I will not have the time to quote from it but it is available on the web and the report documents it very clearly.
Similarly, noise is a well recognized problem. Wildlife or people just 100 feet away from a PWC will be exposed to approximately 75 decibels, which, because of rapid changes in acceleration and direction, may be more disturbing than a constant sound of 90 decibels.
The American Hospital Association recommends hearing protection for occasional sounds above 85 decibels. When they travel in packs, as they often do, the noise from PWCs is multiplied. Here too, PWC manufacturers know that they have a problem and they have begun to put less noisy models on the market. Again, people will have to live with the noise that older models produce.
The status quo is simply not acceptable. Provinces are no longer prepared to sit by and watch PWCs and power boats harm their drinking water, the environment and the safety of others on or near their lakes and rivers.
André Bourgon, Diane Rivard and Nicholas Bourgon of Montreal, Quebec wrote the following:
It has now become necessary for Canada, with the support of the provinces, to start doing something about water. This depletable resource needs to be protected. Not only the quality of our water, but also the peace and quiet of our river banks and lake shores.
In British Columbia, a municipality many years ago banned PWCs from a lake on Vancouver Island. Earlier this year, the resort municipality of Whistler, site of the 2010 Olympics used a noise bylaw to ban PWCs from four lakes. In New Brunswick, in the interests of protecting their watersheds, provincial authorities have banned all motorized watercraft from 30 lakes. Last summer, in the interests of safety, the Quebec government gave municipalities the authority to set near-shore speed limits and it is widely expected to soon ban gas power boats on small lakes.
None of these provincial or municipal actions are in keeping with the constitutional division of powers in which the federal government has sole jurisdiction over navigation; the sole right to set limits on when and where boats can and cannot go. In the absence of federal actions, however, these actions are morally, if not legally, justified.
A better course would be to do what Bill S-8 proposes to do: to respect the federal government's constitutional authority, while acknowledging the need for local choice and control. Bill S-8 would do this by requiring a resolution from a local authority, together with proof of consultation, to come to the federal minister for publication in the Canada Gazette. It would require a public comment period and it would give the minister the right to deny the requested restriction if it would unduly impede navigation.
Local authorities that strongly favour this approach want it because they know that boating safety courses and age restrictions have not been sufficient. They want the choice to restrict personal watercraft where residents agree that they are clearly hazards to safety, to the environment or to the peaceful enjoyment of their lakes.
It is not expected that Bill S-8 will be needed everywhere. In fact, I hope it will not be needed on the majority of our lakes and rivers. Voluntary codes, negotiated settlements and good common sense by PWC users should solve many of the problems. However where “a certain boating activity poses a danger to the public or is harmful to the environment” local authorities should be able to apply for a boating restriction. Bill S-8 would give them the means.
I do hope that members of the House will agree with the importance of the bill and send it to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development for closer examination. I hope the practical solutions put forward in the legislation will one day become law. We lose nothing by sending it to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development for debate on the issue. To close our eyes and our ears and pretend there is no problem with PWCs is avoiding the issue altogether.
Bill S-8 offers a very important option. It enables us to debate this very important issue, protect the environment, protect the rights of citizens to quiet enjoyment of their waterways and protect wildlife. I ask all my colleagues to support the bill very strongly.
Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 May 7th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, our colleagues the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Natural Resources and several colleagues on both sides of the House have spoken about the compelling reason to take swift action to protect our marine wildlife from oil pollution.
The intent is to integrate special enforcement and prosecution powers into two central pieces of environmental legislation so that we do not become a safe haven for illegal dumping of oily waste by the few in the shipping industry who have no environmental conscience.
What is so disturbing about this yearly winter tragedy is that the loss of 300,000 seabirds may only be the tip of the problem. Large as that number is, these are only the numbers we can verify off the coast of southeastern Newfoundland. We do know that there are birds oiled at sea in other parts of the Atlantic and indeed the Pacific coastlines. This means it is probable that the actual toll is tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands more than the recorded number.
These are not mere accidents. They are deliberate acts by a few individuals. We have to take note that this is not a new problem. It has gone on for many years. Some ship officials may just figure it is cheaper to break the law than to obey it. They figure that it is a cost of doing business for them.
There is a different cost, which I should address. While some of the species of seabirds affected by this problem are not those whose numbers are in danger, we also must take into account that deaths of this magnitude will begin to take a toll on the viability of these species. We certainly do not want to be adding murres and puffins to the list of species at risk.
Even more important, if the oil that enters our ocean waters has this kind of impact on seabirds, what is it doing to the fish, the shellfish and the marine mammals as well as the plankton and plant life which sustain all forms of ocean creatures in the ecosystem?
To take this one step further, we must acknowledge that there is an even greater impact than the death of 300,000 seabirds, sad as that is: namely, the serious impact on our continuing efforts to conserve biodiversity.
We are committed to conserving biodiversity not only because of international conventions that we have ratified, but because of our own agreements within Canada.
By making these commitments, we are confirming our obligation to sustain every type of living species. Ultimately, we have no choice because sustaining every form of life means we are also sustaining our own lives as human beings.
That is why—and also to take quick and definitive measures—we must adequately increase the penalties to deter the marine transportation industry from violating the law and inappropriately dumping their oil sludge.
I urge support of this legislation that amends, clarifies and reinforces the Migratory Birds Convention Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. As we have heard, these are not new policy instruments. I would like to mention a few benefits of these changes.
By amending existing legislation--and this is proven and effective legislation--we are able to move early and decisively. We could see benefits as early as next winter. We are taking measures that will ensure enforcement and judicial powers that get results.
For instance, we need to make sure that captains and ships' officers are responsible for acts of pollution from their ships. We know that often ships' operators have mandated ships' officers to pollute our waters either intentionally or through failing to provide proper equipment or training. We know also that we must mandate specific enforcement measures such as the redirection of ships in certain cases.
As well, we will be able to prohibit falsification of records and harmonize our approach with that of the United States. This is especially important. Not only do we need to support the approach taken by our neighbour to the south with whom we share these ocean waters, but we also need to make sure that those who contemplate breaking the law do not think it is better to do so in Canada, where penalties are less stringent or where they are less likely to be caught. We will remove any notion that Canada is any form of safe haven.
Further, we will be able to make an investment in the science and technology we need to move even further ahead. We do not need any new invention. We do not need to reinvent the wheel. The technology already exists. We can see oil slicks behind ships that are breaking the law by using satellite and aircraft-borne technologies.
With some further refinements, we can use that existing technology to even better advantage. We can look harder for violators of the law by increasing surveillance. We will partner with the Canadian Space Agency and use Radarsat technology as our eye in the sky.
Anyone who has watched puffins floating on the waves off the coast of Newfoundland, seen graceful seagulls soaring over whitecaps, or heard the cry of murres knows that the disappearance of these birds would not only reduce biodiversity in Canada, but would diminish us all.
It is human beings who cause this annual disaster of 300,000 birds fighting desperately for their lives, because of the tiny hydrocarbon particles that penetrate their natural defences. And it is human beings who must do what is necessary to put an end to this disaster.
To paraphrase a famous saying, every death diminishes us all.
Our increasing knowledge of biodiversity makes us increasingly conscious of the serious impacts of human activity on living species. This bill is a significant step forward for the protection of our biodiversity. I urge all colleagues, regardless of party, to support it strongly and adopt it.
Interparliamentary Delegations May 7th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1) I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian delegation to the Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association, OSCE.
This meeting was held during the third winter session of the parliamentary assembly of the OSCE, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which took place in Vienna, Austria, on February 19 and 20, 2004.
George Balcan May 7th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, it is with great sadness that I learned of the passing of George Balcan, whose endearing personality, lively sense of humour and friendly voice made him a prominent figure on Montreal's English airwaves.
George Balcan was for years the voice of CJAD, expressing every morning of every year the joy of life and that special ambience which characterize Montreal.
He was loved not only by his very numerous listeners but by all who were fortunate enough to have known him, always the true gentleman and ever the epitome of intelligence, fairness, wit and class. George leaves a wonderful example and memory.
May I extend to his family and all at CJAD my deepest sympathy on the passing of that special friend of all of us.