An Act to amend the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2002.


David Anderson  Liberal


Not active, as of June 4, 2001
(This bill did not become law.)


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Species At Risk ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2002 / 11:15 a.m.
See context


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I take part in today's debate on Bill C-5, the Species at Risk Act.

We are coming to the end of a long and difficult process during which, as the Canadian Alliance member pointed out, we reached a high level of consensus in committee. Unfortunately, the government across the way is acting in an arrogant and provocative manner and, in some ways, is not respecting the existing situation in Canada with respect to protection of species.

I am particularly pleased at the final remarks made by my Canadian Alliance colleague, because I am going to use them as the lead-in to my presentation. In my speech today opposing Bill C-5, I will be relying on two basic premises.

First, I will be basing my analysis on the 1996 accord on the protection of endangered species in Canada. This accord was based on co-operation and collaboration between governments in order to protect endangered species in Canada, as well as on complementarity.

I will cite two guiding principles for the protection of endangered species, by which the accord set out a new framework for co-operation—note that word co-operation—between the federal, provincial and territorial governments.

The first consists in creating a council of ministers, which will decide on the directions to follow, report on progress made and resolve disputes. The second principle—and this one is important—is part of the 1996 accord. Under this principle, governments agree to introduce regulations and complementary programs in order to guarantee that endangered species are protected throughout Canada.

I would emphasize the use of the word co-operation in the accord signed by the federal government, wherein it committed to introducing protective legislation in parliament. I would also emphasize the use of the word complementarity. Complementarity means that our governments will work together in their respective jurisdictions with respect for what others are doing.

However, this is not what we find in the bill, even as amended in committee, and even on the basis of the amendments we passed yesterday in the House of Commons.

The first thing I notice about this bill is that it ignores this accord and its provisions with respect to co-operation, collaboration and complementary policies.

The second is that we on this side of the House believe that habitat protection is a provincial responsibility. This has been the case throughout the study, both in committee and in the House, at all stages of the analysis of this bill, and this has guided us in our desire to improve the bill we are still dealing with here today. The reason we believe this is that it is part of the legitimate demands that have been made over the years by the various governments of Quebec.

I will remind hon. members that, on October 2, 1996, when the 1996 accord for the protection of species at risk was signed, the Quebec Minister of the Environment said the following:

We cannot remain indifferent to the fact that this agreement opens the door to overlap between the future federal legislation—

At that time, he was not referring to Bill C-5, since the bill we are addressing now did not exist at that time. Continuing:

—and the act that has been in force since 1989, an act that works well and has already proven useful.

In 1996, the Quebec environment minister said:

We risk creating more red tape instead of dedicating ourselves to what really matters to us: the fate of endangered species.

This was his assessment of the 1996 accord. Judging by the debate we are now having in this House, his forecast was right. As my colleague from the Canadian Alliance has said, the federal government has not respected its intentions and commitments as set out in the 1996 accord, which emphasizes co-operation, collaboration and complementarity between federal, provincial and territorial legislation and regulations.

Here we are faced with a bill that does not foster co-operation, but will instead provide the tools to a heavy handed government that believes that coercion is more effective than co-operation to ensure protection. We reject this premise, this approach and the federal government's model.

In connection with my statement that the second principle for analysis of this bill ought to be based on our belief that habitat protection is a provincial responsibility, I will quote another Quebec environment minister. On February 23, 1997, when Bill C-65 was introduced, the bill that has now become C-5, he said:

The new version of the bill ignores the situation in Quebec and the recommendations already made by other provinces to preserve species. This bill proposes nothing less than dual federal jurisdiction over the management of species found in Quebec and in the other provinces.

He added the following:

The government would grab jurisdiction over the habitats of the species that are already under its jurisdiction, such as aquatic species and migratory birds, although responsibility for habitats is already under provincial jurisdiction.

Over the past three, four or five years, the Quebec government has been saying that habitat protection is under provincial jurisdiction. However, under Bill C-5, the government opposite is assuming the power to take action on Quebec's territory. The government opposite does have a jurisdiction. It has full power and authority over crown land. It has full legitimacy to act on these lands, under the migratory birds convention.

However, it refuses to act and, instead of taking measures on federal land, it prefers to be more proactive on provincial land than on its own land. For example, there are no conservation officers in some national wildlife reserves. This fact was condemned by the environmental commissioner. This a glaring example. Some national reserves are recognized as heritage areas under the Ramsar convention and are being left unprotected by the federal government, which, with this bill, will be able, through a double safety net, to interfere in provincial jurisdictions.

This is mind-boggling. The government wants to establish an arrogant, pretentious and enforcement-based system that goes against the principles to which the provinces made a commitment in 1996.

If Quebec had not been proactive regarding the protection of habitats and species at risk, I could understand why the federal government would want to pass such a bill.

However, when we look at the situation in Quebec, this is not the case. I remind the House that Quebec, at every opportunity it has been given to respect international commitments made by Canada, has said it would do so. Allow me to mention three of four of these conventions: the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals and last, but not least, the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity. This convention required governments to develop and maintain the legislative and regulatory provisions required for the protection of threatened species and populations.

The Government of Quebec, a few months after June 1992, had an order passed in the national assembly establishing that it would comply with the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Quebec's desire to protect biodiversity is not only demonstrated by its compliance with conventions negotiated or ratified by the Government of Canada, but it is by the legislation it has passed. Not only is this desire demonstrated by its compliance with the Convention on Biological Diversity, but also by the fact that it took measures one year before the international consensus on this issue led to an international commitment.

Well before the Rio convention of 1992, Quebec passed its own legislation on endangered species. Back in 1989, the Government of Quebec had developed the tools and means to protect endangered species, with its act respecting threatened species, its act respecting the conservation of wildlife, and fishing regulations. Yet more than 12 years later, the federal government has still not even passed legislation to protect endangered species on crown lands under its jurisdiction, and just a few months remain before the earth summit in Johannesburg, ten years after Rio.

It is incomprehensible that a government, ten years after Rio, still has no federal convention and legislation to protect species at risk, and that a province like Quebec already had measures in place back in 1989. Today, the federal government would like to tell Quebec how to protect species at risk on Quebec's land. This bad faith runs counter to the principles of co-operation and collaboration. We are starting to think that the government would rather adopt a enforcement-based policy and model in Canada, which we do not need in Quebec.

Quebec has passed regulations and legislation to protect endangered species. This is the Quebec model for the protection of species, which is based on legislation passed 12 years ago. Of course, I would agree that the legislation is not perfect. But it existed 12 years before the legislation we are now considering. Legislation is made to be changed and improved. Regulatory changes can be made quickly. We know the process here in the House. The regulations are regularly amended in Quebec to improve the measures for the protection of species.

What does this legislation do in Quebec? It identifies species through an advisory committee composed of scientists. This committee has identified over 90 mammals, over 19 plants, over 330 birds, over 16 reptiles and over 198 fish in Quebec.

By means of this legislation passed 12 years ago, the Quebec model has made it possible to identify plants and animals. It also allows us to designate these species through legislation.

Twelve years ago, Quebec introduced a model for the introduction of recovery plans for endangered or threatened species.

Twelve years ago, Quebec was talking about recovery plans, which this House is just debating today. Why is that? How can a government tell a province what to do when we incorporated the principles of recovery plans in legislation passed 12 years ago. And yet the House of Commons is just now debating them? These are recovery plans provided for in the legislation.

There is also a system for enforcing the legislation. It is not enough just to pass laws. For years, Quebec has had within its jurisdiction wildlife protection officers, who are authorized to enforce its wildlife protection legislation.

Today the federal government wants to adopt a system involving enforcement by federal agents. We need to have this explained to us. What protocols for application and agreements are going to be adopted? There will be two police forces. If the federal government decides that, within Quebec, game reserves that fall under provincial jurisdiction, that is Quebec parks, species are not being properly protected, it can send its federal agents out on lands administered by the Government of Quebec.

This is an intrusion. This is not merely overlap, but direct intrusion into Quebec jurisdiction. There will be federal police with the ability to intervene on Quebec land, be it the Portneuf game sanctuary or a provincial park. I can assure hon. members that we will never accept this. Never. That is not what we committed to in 1996.

We committed to working in complementarity, in co-operation and in collaboration. There is no way an agent of the federal authority is coming onto our land. Coming onto private land is one thing, but when it comes to Quebec's game reserves under Quebec government administration, by SEPAC, the Société des établissements de plein air du Québec, there are limits.

As well, we equipped ourselves with a system of penalties for violators of Quebec's endangered species legislation. Not only do we have a statute and a regulatory process, we also have a strategy on biological diversity.

As far back as 1996, the Government of Quebec adopted a strategy on biological diversity. This strategy already set out the major objectives for the development of protected areas.

Its first objective was to increase the ecological knowledge necessary for the creation of a network to maintain quality and for the protection of vulnerable or threatened components of natural biodiversity.

Second, to establish and maintain a comprehensive and representative network of the protected areas necessary for the preservation of biological diversity.

Third, to strengthen the network of managed conservation areas so as to ensure the protection of biological diversity over a greater area.

So, we have not only laws and regulations, but also a strategy on biological diversity. We do not even stop there. We do not just have a strategy adopted in 1996. Just recently, Quebec has earmarked funds for its implementation.

I would simply like to remind members of the House that on January 24, 2002—only a few months ago—the Government of Quebec reached an agreement with a private organization in order to support a national network of protected areas on private lands. Conservation de la nature Québec and the Government of Quebec will spend $5 million over two years to acquire private lands with endangered species in the regions of the St. Lawrence River valley, the Outaouais, the Appalaches and the Gaspé Peninsula.

The agreement will provide for the acquisition of approximately 100 square kilometres, protecting some 150 different habitat.

So, Quebec is fulfilling its responsibilities when it comes to habitat protection. The investment made in January will allow for the protection of more than 150 different habitats, as I said. So we have legislation, we have regulations and we have a strategy. The Quebec model is very different.

Why are we opposed to today's bill? Are we opposed to federal legislation to protect endangered species? Absolutely not. Canada has no choice. Canada is even dragging its feet with respect to its international commitments. It is only because of its international commitments that it has no choice but to pass the Species at Risk Act.

But we think that it should be protecting species on crown lands and federal lands, in accordance with instruments such as the migratory birds convention. It should be protecting endangered species in Canada's national parks, and in national wildlife reserves. According to the recent report by the environmental commissioner, there is not enough funding to protect ecosystems in Canada's eight national wildlife reserves in Quebec and the ten in Ontario, and many habitats and species are threatened. One could even ask oneself just how proactive the federal government is when it comes to species on federal lands.

What we need is legislation that will apply to federal lands but respect Quebec's legislation to protect species on its own lands. That is why we are opposed to the double safety net in the bill. This is a ruse by the federal government to exceed its jurisdiction and to once again increase its presence in the provinces, but without sponsorships. Perhaps there will be sponsorships as well, but that is another debate.

In this debate, the government and the minister talk about co-operation, collaboration and complementarity, while we talk about duplication, overlap and interference.

The Bloc Quebecois' opposition is rooted in Quebec's traditional demands regarding the environment. We are defending the legislation passed by the National Assembly of Quebec. We are defending the Quebec model for the protection of endangered species and habitats. We are defending a law passed by the government of Robert Bourassa. We are defending a law passed by the members of a Liberal government in Quebec. It was not a separatist, sovereignist government but a nationalist government in Quebec City, whose members included the following members now sitting in this House: the member for Lac-Saint-Louis, the member for Westmount, who is the President of the Treasury Board, the member for Bonaventure--Gaspé--Îles-de-la-Madeleine--Pabok, the member for Beauharnois--Salaberry, the member for Anjou--Rivière-des-Prairies, and the member for Verdun--Saint-Henri--Saint-Paul—Pointe Saint-Charles.

Today, we are defending Quebec's traditional demands. Our opposition to Bill C-5 is as strong as the one expressed by the then Quebec minister of the environment, Pierre Paradis, when the federal government wanted to force down Quebec's throat its Canadian model for environmental assessment.

I see the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Louis. He will remember that the then Quebec minister of the environment got really upset when the federal government wanted to pass the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Quebec dissociated itself from this process.

Today, the members of this House who supported the Quebec act would agree to adopt a bill that will set aside the Quebec legislation. I just do not understand.

In politics, consistency is one of the most fundamental criteria used by the public to judge politicians. Our opposition reflects the desire expressed in 1989 by the national assembly. Regardless of which the government passed the act at the time, we will defend our point of view, as did Pierre Paradis when he opposed the Canadian environmental assessment process. We will do so for species at risk and for Bill C-19, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, because we believe that we must protect species in Canada.

This is firm but considered support, based on the 1996 principles of co-operation, collaboration and complementarity.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

June 6th, 2002 / 3:05 p.m.
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Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario


Don Boudria LiberalMinister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I do not usually comment on the content of question period. We all have our own views of how good or bad they were. I will instead refer to the government's legislative program.

This afternoon and this evening we will consider the business of supply with the opposed motions and so on. That takes place as it does normally, with the later completion of the appropriations bill.

Tomorrow we will do the following business. I would like to first call Bill C-53, the pest control bill, at report stage. Once that is completed we will then call Bill C-55, the public safety legislation. I believe those two bills should complete the day tomorrow.

Next Monday it is my intention to call the report stage of Bill C-5 and third reading of Bill C-5 on Tuesday.

On Wednesday of next week and/or after the completion of Bill C-5, I would then call Bill S-41 respecting legislative language. We will consider at that point an address to Her Majesty concerning the jubilee.

Once that is completed, and in the event the House wants to continue with other business, the bills I would call next Tuesday, subject of course to consultation between House leaders, would probably be the following: Bill C-19, the environmental protection legislation; Bill C-48, the copyright bill; and possibly Bill C-54, the sports bill which I understand should be out of committee sometime within the next short while.

That is the business I propose to call after we complete the address to Her Majesty that I described.

I also intend to consult with opposition House leaders to see if it is still their wish to hold the take note debate next Wednesday on the future of Canada's health care system.

Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders

June 4th, 2002 / 1 p.m.
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Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-57, which was introduced at first reading on May 31, 2002.

It is fair to say that in this House we have seen more comprehensive bills amending a number of acts. However, the bill before us today amends a single section of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act. According to the sponsor of the bill, the Minister of Natural Resources, the bill is designed to amend the Nuclear Safety and Control Act. He calls it an administrative amendment or bill, meaning that it is not a complete overhaul of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act.

However, this amendment, even though this is not obvious yet, will have a serious impact on the way the nuclear industry operates here in Canada. It is significant that the minister has decided to introduce the bill we are debating today. The bill amends the Nuclear Safety and Control Act.

Of course, I will speak about Bill C-57 and the amendments at issue, but I would also like to talk about the long term management of nuclear waste.

Members will recall that there has already been a debate in the House on the disposal of nuclear waste. This debate took place in the context of Bill C-27. This was an interesting bill, as it was introduced and considered in committee. It was also interesting because Canada studied the issue of nuclear waste management for a ten year period with the Seaborn commission, which I will speak about later.

Of course, I will speak to Bill C-57, and I will also refer to Bill C-27 and the whole issue of nuclear waste disposal. I will also speak to the issue of the importance of public consultations in cases where the disposal of such waste is being considered in locations and regions in Quebec and Canada.

As an example, there is a case we asked questions about to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission just this morning in the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development. There was even a ruling on this case by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. It is the case of the Bruce complex in Ontario. This is a site where radioactive waste will be stored on the shores of Lake Huron, and the residents would have liked a commission to have been set up, through the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, to consult with residents and to study the projects.

The Bruce complex is located on the shores of Lake Huron and has been designated, first, as a high level complex. Second, it is one of the biggest disposal sites in the world. The residents would therefore have liked to have been consulted.

Finally, I would like to close by outlining to Canadians and Quebecers the impact that nuclear waste and nuclear energy can have on human health. A number of reports have been published on this. These reports conclude that nuclear waste and nuclear energy are significant in the development of certain diseases when workers, residents and more specifically children are near this waste.

So, Bill C-57 amends the Nuclear Safety and Control Act. Clause 1 would replace a paragraph in the current legislation, which reads as follows: “--any other person with a right to or interest in, the affected land or place take the prescribed measures to reduce the level of contamination”.

Bill C-57 would amend paragraph 46(3) of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act to read as follows: “--any other person who has the management and control of, the affected land or place take the prescribed measures to reduce the level of contamination”.

In fact, only a few words will be changed if this bill is passed. But the impact will be considerable.

In his press release, the minister tells us that these amendments are purely administrative. That may be so from a cosmetic point of view, but the impact will be considerable.

What are the government's true intentions in introducing this amendment? It is good to ask ourselves this question. If the amendment is purely administrative, there should not be any impact. But this bill amends the act significantly and will have a considerable impact on the development of the nuclear industry here in Canada.

Basically, the government wants this amendment to exempt one group from decontamination obligations. Third parties should no longer be responsible for decontamination.

In this connection, we know what the government's intentions are. Its true intentions are to ensure, for example, that a bank making a loan to a nuclear plant could—under the existing legislation, if we succeed in defeating this bill—be taken to court and would inevitably incur very high costs.

It is primarily to exempt these third parties, the banks, those able to finance the nuclear industry, that this bill was introduced.

The government wants to arrange it so that those parties—be they banks or other interests—who have helped developed the nuclear industry in Canada are exempt from their decontamination obligation.

This runs counter to a fundamental principle recognized in Quebec which is that the polluter pays. Anyone who contributed to the contamination of a site must share the costs of decontamination.

We on this side of the House are of the opinion that to the extent that a citizen, a third party, but more importantly a citizen, whether a corporate entity or not, has contributed to contamination by nuclear wastes, he must assume the costs thereof. This is what the government is trying to take away with this bill and this is basically what we are opposed to.

There have been some significant debates on this in the past. As my colleague from Sherbrooke has indicated, a commission was set up here in Canada because the storage of nuclear waste needed to be given some thought. There are 20,000 metric tonnes of waste—or 18,000 to be more precise—in Canada at the present time.

This represents 1.3 million bundles, as we know, and we also know that there are three types of waste: nuclear fuel waste, low level radioactive waste and uranium mine and mill tailings.

It is worthwhile taking the time to look at the nuclear waste situation in Canada. It must be pointed out that, of these 20,000 tonnes of waste, the bulk of it comes from spent nuclear fuel bundles. We are talking here of the 22 Candu reactors, most of which date back to the 1970s. Ontario Power Generation Inc. is currently operating 20 reactors. At the present time, 90% of the nuclear waste is in Ontario.

Hydro Québec produces some at its Gentilly plant, of course, but the nuclear waste produced in Quebec accounts for only 3% of the total of 20,000 tonnes currently available, if I may use such a term.

An energy company in New Brunswick accounts for another 5%. Atomic Energy of Canada' experimental reactors produce 2%, of the total of 1.3 million bundles.

We have trouble understanding how certain obligations can be taken away, how steps can be taken so that third parties will no longer be responsible for decontamination, when we can see what the problem is like in Canada at this time as far as the management of nuclear waste storage is concerned. How can bills get passed in this House that will facilitate the development of the Canadian nuclear industry while we are having such trouble managing the present 18,000 tonnes? This makes no sense whatsoever.

Why, as a matter of public policy, are we not focusing on the development of clean renewable energies, as my colleague from Jonquière suggested about ten minutes ago? How can we adopt measures like the one in front of us, which benefits this industry, while we are still waiting for financial incentives to develop renewable energies?

I am glad to see that the Minister of Environment is present to hear what I have to say. How can he feel comfortable in a debate on this issue? How can we reject that proposal and apply the polluter pay principle? This bill raises some questions.

I will summarize the Seaborn commission findings. For one thing, what we are expecting from the government in terms of a nuclear fuel waste management plan is that the technical aspects of the storage program be taken into consideration at the planning stage.

Public consultation has to be at the basis of the Canadian policy on waste management. Canadians livre right beside the waste storage complexes. The best solution cannot be only technical. It has to include a sociological approach to management. We would have liked to see the government focus on green energy instead of making social choices that favour the Canadian nuclear industry.

The government is again being called to account for its refusal to hold public consultations, which were called for by the Seaborn commission.

On May 30, 2002, Normand de la Chevrotière appeared as a witness before the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development, on the issue of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, Bill C-19. He told us that his group, which includes 300 families, had asked the government to establish an environmental assessment board to examine the Bruce complex, which is designed to store radioactive nuclear waste near his community.

This complex on the shore of Huron Lake and the waste storage site are considered among the biggest in the world and are termed high level facilities, and experts will understand what I mean. People from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission told us this morning that they are certainly the biggest in North America.

I was reading some papers this morning, particularly an article from the September 1996 issue of Québec Science . Six years ago, the possibility of storing weapons grade plutonium from Russia and the U.S. at the Bruce complex was being examined . Six years ago, papers in the scientific community were considering this possibility.

The Department of Environment deemed that it was not appropriate to consult the public. It does not matter that 300 families will be living close to this site.

I want to go back to what I was saying two minutes ago when I was referring to the conclusions of the Seaborn panel. Sure, it is necessary to evaluate storage techniques but, more importantly, the public must be consulted.

I am under the impression that this bill is providing oxygen to the Canadian nuclear industry. The government is promoting the establishment in Canada of places to store nuclear waste, while ensuring that third parties, who may not necessarily have the responsibility to manage these sites, cannot be required to decontaminate them.

If a bank decides to fund the Bruce complex storage project, will it be responsible for decontaminating the site if this bill is passed? The answer is no. Those who will have provided the necessary funding to establish this complex on the shores of Lake Huron will have no environmental responsibility.

We want this government to send to the nuclear industry a clear message that its members must behave like good corporate citizens. The legislation already provides for the funding of storage projects by banks. However, it is totally unacceptable on the part of the government to remove the banks' responsibilities by condoning this.

So, this bill must be examined from a different perspective, not from the perspective of the government, which is trying to fool us with mere administrative and cosmetic arguments, because it wants to ram this legislation through the House. This shows how, sometimes, bills that amend only one section may have a major impact.

This is why we are opposed to the bill's only clause. It will have a major impact on the development of Canada's nuclear industry.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

May 23rd, 2002 / 3:05 p.m.
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Wascana Saskatchewan


Ralph Goodale LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, we shall continue this afternoon with the debate on the opposition motion. Tomorrow, we will return to Bill C-56, respecting reproductive technologies, followed by Bill C-55, the public safety bill, and Bill C-15B, the criminal code amendments. On Monday, we will continue consideration of these bills.

Tuesday will be an allotted day. In the evening on Tuesday, as the House already knows, we will sit in committee of the whole pursuant to Standing Order 81(4)(a) to consider the estimates of the Minister of Public Works and Government Services.

On Wednesday, if necessary, we will return to any of the bills I have previously mentioned that may not already been completed, subject to arrangements we may make to deal with the Senate amendments to Bill C-23, the competition legislation, Bill S-34, dealing with royal assent, and perhaps Bill C-5 concerning species at risk. We are also hopeful that Bill C-54, the sports bill, and Bill C-53, the pest control bill, will be reported from committee in the very near future, so that we may take up report stage and third reading of those particular items.

Finally, we are also looking forward to reports from committees of the House on two other bills that have been in committee for what would appear to be an inordinate length of time, namely, Bill C-48 dealing with copyright, which has been before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage for more than three months now, and Bill C-19, the amendments to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, which is fast approaching its first anniversary before the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. I am sure the House is anxiously awaiting the reports of those committees so that legislation can be proceeded with through its final stages.

International Criminal CourtRoutine Proceedings

April 11th, 2002 / 10:10 a.m.
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Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Madam Speaker, in opening the United Nations Diplomatic Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court, held in Rome, Italy, from June 15 to July 17, 1998, at which the Rome statute was adopted, Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations and Nobel Peace Prize winner, said the following:

In the prospect of an international criminal court lies the promise of universal justice...We ask you to do your part in our struggle to ensure that no ruler, no state, no junta and no army anywhere can abuse human rights with impunity. Only then will the innocents of distant wars and conflicts know that they, too, may sleep under the cover of justice; that they, too, have rights, and that those who violate those rights will be punished.

This morning, some four years later, the Rome statute criminal court received its 60th ratification, despite the opposition of a number of countries, which have concerns about their military officials.

On July 1 of this year, the international criminal court will see the light of day. It will sit at the Hague and will have jurisdiction over the worst crimes, that is war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes of genocide committed after its creation. Some see this as a weakness in the court, but we must agree that its creation is a great victory.

The independent nature of this court will put an end to the criticisms by some that the existing international courts responsible for judging those responsible for these atrocities apply the justice of the winning side. The fact that the statute calls for the national courts, with their newly acquired universal jurisdiction, to have primary responsibility for judging the authors of these crimes and for the court in the Hague to intervene only in the event of a refusal to apply the law should allay concerns that the creation of the ICC will constitute interference in our justice system.

The Bloc Quebecois enthusiastically supported Bill C-19, which implemented the Rome statute. I recall the work that was done in committee, when the bill was examined, by my colleague representing Beauharnois--Salaberry, who is no longer in the House, Daniel Turp.

We are equally enthusiastic today in greeting the news of its 60th ratification, which sets off the process for its implementation.

The United Nations was created “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”. With the creation of the international criminal court, we can perhaps hope to save them from the most terrible scourges that war brings.

Canada National Marine Conservation Areas ActGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2001 / 12:30 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Bob Mills Canadian Alliance Red Deer, AB

Madam Speaker, as the chief environment critic for the Canadian Alliance, it is my pleasure to speak to Bill C-10. I will broaden the base and talk not only about marine conservation areas, but also about the environment as it applies to a bill like this one and as it could apply to other bills.

I start off by commending our critic, the member for Skeena. As a new member he has done a wonderful job of presenting the views of his constituents and of a much broader constituency of Canadians who are concerned about the environment, the marine aspects of that environment and particularly concerned about parks and the creation of parks.

I did not serve on the committee and hear all the witnesses, but I did go through the legislation. Much of the legislation is like a lot of environmental legislation. It is much like the species at risk legislation that we are talking about in the environment committee. We basically say that this is good and we like to have parks. We think we should preserve species. We think we should have marine areas set aside. The problem is in the details. When we actually get into the details of what the government is planning to do, we find where the flaws and problems are. Today I will try to broaden that base and talk about those problems from a broader environmental aspect.

First of all, there is the area of co-ordination, the co-ordination of bureaucrats and acts that are already enacted by the Government of Canada. We have heard others mention that. For the most part overall we could conclude that heritage, environment, natural resources, fisheries and a number of other departments do not really know what each other is doing. There does not seem to be a co-ordinating mechanism. Some members might argue that it is up to the Prime Minister and his cabinet to co-ordinate these activities, but that does not seem to be happening.

We have an Oceans Act that allows for marine protection areas, but obviously that comes under a different minister. The Canadian Environmental Protection Act would allow for the protection of species, for environmental impact studies and for all sorts of things. I believe that is being amended by Bill C-19 which will come before the House soon. It generally is a good piece of legislation which allows the environment minister to do a great deal when it comes to setting up areas like these.

The species at risk bill will be coming before the House for report stage and third reading very soon. The bill very specifically allows for the protection of endangered species. After months and months we have spent in committee listening to witnesses and working on the legislation it certainly is far reaching and allows for the protection of habitat and the protection of any species that might be endangered.

We have old acts such as the Migratory Birds Convention Act and the Fisheries Act. Both are very powerful acts which are used within Canada and which can be used right across the country and certainly would apply here.

There seems to be a turf war between various ministers who have to get pieces of legislation put on the table so they can lay claim to some aspect or other. I do not know whether it is a power trip or like a university professor who has to turn out so many papers every year. That is almost what the bill appears to be. It seems to be that heritage has not done much for a while so it had better come up with a piece of legislation that can be put before the House and the minister can then take credit for it.

Most Liberal members and most people who consider themselves Liberals think they have halos around their heads when they talk about the environment. The problem is that we see very little action. We hear lots of talk about the environment, that they are going to do great things about the environment, that yes, they care about the environment and yes, they are environmentalists but then they do not do anything.

There is all this confusion. There is a lack of consultation with coastal communities, provincial governments, scientists, the aboriginal society and so on. There is all this vague posturing with halos on but we see very little action.

When it comes to the environment it always comes down to trade-offs. We talk about natural areas versus a quality of life situation. I often use the comparison that there are two extremes in environmental concerns. There are those who would say let us keep everything natural and let us not impact on anything. Of course if we really wanted to carry that to the extreme, I guess all of those people would prefer to live in a cave and not have all of the modern conveniences that we enjoy. On the other side there are those who would probably pave the entire world and really would have no care for our air, water, soil and so on. Those are the extremes. I think most members of the House would agree that somewhere in the middle is the right ground and the ground Canadians would like to have.

It is like when we talk about oil exploration. We all could say that environmentally we are opposed to that. Yet when we have strict regulations that are enforceable, when we have the new technology and are conscious of the timing and the safety precautions, probably we could allow some of that exploration which then adds to our quality of life and does very minimal damage to natural areas.

As well we have to put forward in the House that we as small c conservatives care about the environment. All too often it is said that one has to be a fanatic, or sometimes a socialist, to care about the environment. That could not be further from the truth. It is a totally wrong concept.

Looking around the world we can find major coalitions where environmentalists together with corporations and with conservatives have done a great deal and have actually formed governments. We might look to Vincente Fox in Mexico. It was a coalition between him and the conservatives that resulted in the Government of Mexico that does care about the environment and has in fact put forward a great many environmental conditions.

I got back from Germany rather late last night. It is a perfect example. The green party is in coalition. The minister of the environment, whom we met with for three days, is actually from the green party. There are various coalitions around the world which put the environment into an important role. To try to label people as being pro or anti environment obviously is very wrong.

Again the Liberals talk a lot, but the Liberals do not do very much. I have a good example. Last month I was in a city in B.C. talking to a group of citizens about the Sumas plant which is being built in Washington state. There were no Liberals present at those hearings. The project affects a great many people in the Fraser Valley and in the Vancouver area. No Liberals were there, yet that was the perfect issue where they could have been involved.

What we have then is Liberal legislation coming forward with little consultation. The Liberals basically leave the details to the regulations and very little details in the bill itself. It is a concept of trust them, trust their bureaucrats and there is nothing there.

What we really need to talk about is consultation, co-operation and compensation. I move:

That the amendment be amended by adding:

“and that the committee report back to the House no later than the first sitting day in 2003”.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

November 6th, 2001 / 1:25 p.m.
See context


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I too am pleased to take part in the debate on Bill C-340 on behalf of the NDP caucus. As the labour critic for our party I sat with the member for Laurentides for months as we reviewed part II of the Canada Labour Code. I can personally attest to the hard work that was done by the hon. member for Laurentides in trying to get this issue to the forefront of the national agenda or even onto the table of the national agenda. She demonstrated a great deal of compassion and was a very good advocate on behalf of working women everywhere in this country in the degree of passion she demonstrated for the issue.

The hon. member pointed out in her speech that this issue has been before the House of Commons for a decade or more. This is not new to today's debate nor was it new when we debated Bill C-12 or Bill C-19, the amendments to the Canada Labour Code that we have dealt with recently. She points out that as long ago as 1990 there was a motion before the House of Commons where like-minded people argued aggressively that the workplace was changing and that we had a duty to accommodate those changes and certainly to accommodate the growing number of women in the workforce.

We have finally reached equality, virtually, in terms of the labour market share. We have not reached equality in the labour market conditions for women. Women might make up 50% of the workforce, but they have not achieved equality in terms of compensation or the terms and conditions of their employment or the accommodation of the special circumstances facing women in the workforce, such as perhaps one of the most obvious, the issue of pregnant and nursing mothers.

When the bill was brought before the House I expected a higher degree of sensitivity for this issue from the other members of the House of Commons. I am appalled, frankly, at the lack of sensitivity demonstrated, especially by the spokesperson for the government side.

We believe, and the point was well made by the member for Laurentides, that we have a duty and an obligation to strive to achieve the highest common denominator in this country. If the federal legislation is to be considered a national standard, we then have an obligation to seek out the best conditions in the country, not to sink to the lowest conditions in any aspect of labour legislation. In the case of the province of Quebec, it has had the foresight, the political capital, I suppose, to achieve an element of fairness that goes beyond what we enjoy in the federal jurisdiction.

Therefore, it is only fair, and in the interests and the well-being of the people living in a jurisdiction where the terms of employment provincially exceed the terms of employment enjoyed in the federal jurisdiction, that a person should have the right to avail himself or herself of the terms that are more favourable for the worker, especially in the instance of a pregnant or nursing mother.

This should be one thing that we can all feel generous enough in our hearts to allow. Perhaps it could then serve as an example of how we might harmonize the jurisdictional differences in the workforce on other issues as well. However, we could start here. I argue it was a missed opportunity when we reviewed part II of the Canada Labour Code. We dropped the football in this case because we had a chance to introduce an element of fairness into the Canada Labour Code and we chose not to. It was not for lack of trying because the amendments were made at both stages where amendments are possible in the development of the bill. The hon. member worked very hard.

The only argument that was put forward by the Liberal side as to why it cannot support the bill was the weak and tired old warhorse that it is somehow a unity issue. Not only is that untrue in this case, but I believe it is 180° opposite from the truth.

Let us think of the example of a worker, a pregnant or nursing mother living in the province of Quebec who availed herself of the possibility of opting out of a certain workplace because she thought it was unsafe. If that happens we will have created two classes of worker in the province of Quebec. We might have two sisters who live in houses next door to each other, one who works for the province of Quebec under Quebec jurisdiction and the other who works for the federal government under federal jurisdiction. They live in the same city, in the same community. One will now be given full compensation for the period of time she has off and the other will be penalized by getting 55% of her income just because she works for the federal government instead of the province of Quebec. That would breed hostility. That would breed disunity. That would cause animosity among the working women in the province of Quebec.

If the only argument that can be raised here is the fact that it is somehow a unity issue or a constitutional or jurisdictional issue, let me say that in fact it is unnecessarily creating an environment of hostility and resentment among the working women of Quebec. We do a lot of things differently in our dealings with the province of Quebec. Even if for the time being the only advantage to this small amendment would be for the working women of Quebec, why is that a reason not to do it, if it introduces an element of fairness for those people?

It would also have the effect of pulling up the conditions in the other provinces, those provinces that are not fortunate enough to have such good terms and conditions. Were this in place, the best terms would have primacy, or in other words we would always gravitate to the highest common denominator and it would pull the other provinces along. We would then really be using federal legislation to its highest purpose, I believe, which is to elevate the standards right across the country from coast to coast.

Anyone who speaks against the motion is speaking for the status quo, which I believe is patently unfair. The status quo penalizes pregnant and nursing women when they opt for the right to refuse dangerous work, work that is dangerous either to themselves or to the fetus. We believe this is the only example in which when workers use their right to refuse unsafe work they suffer any kind of monetary setback. Why is it we have selected pregnant and nursing women to be the only group of workers who, when they exercise the right to refuse unsafe work, suffer a monetary penalty? That is unfair. I presume that is why the province of Quebec decided many years ago to change that situation: because it is patently unfair when these women are doing something that is best for their babies.

It borders on negligence to first open up the workforce so that more women are taking part and then not accommodate or take every step to accommodate women in the workplace. Out of ten provinces and three territories one province chose to rectify that and to remedy that unfairness. We believe that should stand as the highest common denominator and it should have primacy over any lesser piece of legislation as it affects working women.

Therefore I speak strongly in favour of Bill C-340 and I thank the member for Laurentides for giving us the opportunity to have the debate. I regret that it is only a debate. It should be a vote. It could have been an important first step to introduce an element of fairness into the working conditions in the Canadian workforce which we forgot to do, we neglected to do. No, we did not forget to do it: we chose not to be fair in this case and it is to our great shame.

We are given the opportunity to fix that today. Some members of the House are speaking against remedying that. I suppose they will have to defend their stance and be judged in some higher place than this.

In closing I would say that in other areas of legislation, in other contracts and in other legal documents, there are things called non-derogation clauses. In other words, nothing in the work we are doing today should erode what the person currently enjoys. Not having an amendment like that in Bill C-340 has the same effect as derogating the terms and conditions of employment that Quebec women currently enjoy. By going into the federal civil service or any federally regulated jurisdiction, they will diminish the rights that have already been created in their home province. We have an obligation to respect, acknowledge and allow people in Quebec to have those rights that they have earned.

The EnvironmentStatements By Members

June 13th, 2001 / 2:05 p.m.
See context


Tony Valeri Liberal Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, the delay of the Red Hill Creek expressway project is an ongoing concern for me as the federal representative for Stoney Creek.

The project has been subjected to rigorous scrutiny and numerous assessments over the last 35 years, yet remains at an impasse currently due to the federal government's decision to appeal a lower court ruling. This recent ruling confirmed that the Red Hill Creek project was a unique situation.

It was started and irrevocable decisions had been taken prior to the CEAA taking effect. I was disappointed by the government's decision to appeal, as it was my belief that the ruling was focused on the Red Hill project.

Therefore, given that Bill C-19 will be back before the House in the fall, and taking into consideration the desire of both the federal government and the city of Hamilton to expedite the process, I will be proposing an amendment limiting the application of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and specifically exempting the Red Hill Creek expressway project.

I ask all colleagues, and specifically my local colleagues, to support this amendment when it comes before the House and to ensure that this necessary project be completed without further delay.

ArmeniaPrivate Members' Business

June 1st, 2001 / 1:35 p.m.
See context


Sarkis Assadourian Liberal Brampton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, on April 23, 1996, the House of Commons unanimously passed a motion that stated:

—that the House recognize, on the occasion of the 81st anniversary of the Armenian tragedy which claimed some 1.5 million lives on April 24, 1915, and in recognition of other crimes against humanity, the week of April 20 to 27 of each year as the week of remembrance of the inhumanity of people toward one another.

This motion was passed unanimously in the House as a consequence of debate on the motion brought forward by the then Bloc Quebecois member of parliament for Ahuntsic.

Following the passage of that motion in February 1999, our colleague from Scarborough—Agincourt brought forward a private member's motion asking for similar recognition. I regret that the Department of Foreign Affairs came up with a totally unacceptable reply during that debate. As a consequence, the then minister of foreign affairs, Lloyd Axworthy, asked fellow Liberal members of parliament to form a committee to study this issue. It was more than a study. It was to confirm the fact that the genocide took place. For some reason the minister at the time did not see fit to call it genocide.

However, in reply to my question in the House on June 10, 1999, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs said:

On behalf of the Minister of Foreign Affairs I wish to inform the House that together with all Canadians we remember the calamity afflicted on the Armenian people in 1915. This tragedy was committed with the intent to destroy a national group in which hundreds of thousands of Armenians were subject to atrocities which included massive deportations and massacres.

Our government introduced Bill C-19, an act respecting genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, which was passed by the House on June 13, 2000. Subsection 6(3) defines crimes against humanity as intent to kill, in whole or in part, a national minority group.

It is the same answer I was given by the Minister of Foreign Affairs. It was defined in Bill C-19. It also happens to be the same definition of genocide as the UN's. I asked this question of the foreign affairs representative when I was on the foreign affairs committee. How come there is that same definition of genocide in room 705 across the street, but in the Chamber the same act of destroying national minorities, in whole or in part, is defined as a tragedy?

The answer that was given, which members can see in the minutes, of course, was that it had nothing to do with the Minister of Foreign Affairs. That gentleman could not answer my question about why it is that in this Chamber, destroying people in part or in whole is a tragedy, but across the street it is genocide. I am waiting for someone to give me the answer. Maybe we could all rest in peace, then, if we could know why there are two standards in the different rooms.

As I mentioned earlier, the Turkish ambassador was with us on May 28. He mentioned jokingly that he felt like a celebrity. There was a real celebrity in Toronto in the Scarborough area on May 25 when the Armenian General Benevolent Union, together with the Zorian Institute, organized a seminar. The speaker at the seminar was a Turkish scholar who accepts the fact that there was a genocide. He wonders when Turkey will do the same.

The scholar mentioned four reasons why Turkey cannot join the European Community: first, the treatment of national minorities, especially Kurds; second, the occupation of Cyprus; third, the Armenian genocide; and fourth, Muslim fundamentalists in Turkey who are getting stronger every day. His point was that Turkey will have to address these four issues before it joins the European Union.

He also said that in his mind many people such as scholars and intellectuals in Turkish universities and research centres have the same feeling, but they cannot speak up because of a fear of retaliation from the government, like we have seen in the past when even members of parliament were imprisoned. Scholars would be denied their chairs and funding and what have you in Turkish universities so that they would not be able to speak up on this issue. However, with Canada being a free country the gentleman felt free to express his point of view. I have to add that the hall was packed with 500 people who showed an interest in the gentleman speaking up. That was not the first time. There have been a few others in the past.

As I mentioned earlier, France recognized the genocide of the Armenians. The Turkish government was of course very angry and upset, which could have been expected. It was very disappointed and tried to cancel a contract with the French government. I have asked about a dozen people to tell me the monetary value of the cancellation, but so far no one can. Maybe there was an impact from it in the first few weeks, but I do not know of any dollar figure on how the French economy was damaged due to the fact that this recognition took place. The Turkish ambassador was called back from Paris to Ankara at the beginning of February this year, but I understand that he is now on his way back to France or is about to go to France. I think the issue is dead now. There are no more problems between France and Turkey because of France's recognition of this genocide.

If we recognize it in the House, I do not think there will be anything big. The House will not cave in. World War III will not be declared. It would simply be stating the historical fact that, yes, genocide took place.

I would like thank the leaders of all five parties who me gave unanimous consent to present this issue again. In that spirit I would like to ask for unanimous consent that the House accept Motion No. 285.

Canadian Environmental Assessment ActGovernment Orders

May 28th, 2001 / 6:20 p.m.
See context


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, as other members have said, these amendments have arisen as a result of a review of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act which was conducted over the last couple of years before Bill C-19 was tabled in the House.

It reflects an attempt on the part of that review committee to deal with some of the problems we have had under the act. The New Democratic Party has certain reservations as the bill does not adequately address some of the severe problems which have shown up under the act. In quick summary, we are very concerned about its ability to deal with those problems and that in fact it may be compounding them.

I hear in some of the questions and answers and comments that have been made that the interaction of the bill and the act that preceded it and the overlapping of jurisdiction with the provincial levels of government including municipalities and the first nations have become major problems.

It is a common ground of the proponents of development and those who might have problems with it or are outright opposed to it that it is extremely important for the process to be transparent, meaningful and efficient. The amendments to Bill C-19 would only address the issue of efficiency. Without total prejudgment it is our opinion they would probably not be effective or transparent.

It may speed up the process. The minister and a number of speakers on the government side stated that it would be a more efficient process, that the process would be harmonized to the extent that it would be more efficient. There is serious doubt on this side as to whether it would be more effective.

Another point that we raised in opposition to the bill as it stands now is the way that it looks at traditional land use and more specifically the involvement of the aboriginal population in the process. Paragraph 2(b.3) talks about promoting communication and co-operation with the first nations. It is obvious that there are very few provisions in the bill which make that a reality.

The issue of the establishment of co-operation between provincial and federal jurisdictions leaves very much to be desired. My friends from the Bloc have addressed this issue extensively, but it is clear, despite some of their other concerns, that it would not do anything to improve the relationship if there are to be assessments at the provincial and federal levels. The development of meaningful interaction is not contained in the bill.

We constantly hear the term harmonization, but we are concerned that it is an attempt to streamline the process, to make it less costly and to speed it up, which would be done at the expense of valid, accurate and meaningful environmental assessments. The end result raises serious doubts about its ability to act as a mechanism to protect the environment from inappropriate, unwanted and environmentally damaging proposals or developments.

We see no thrust in the bill to amend the current legislation to increase protection for the environment by building in more structures that would protect it rather than providing limitations.

Canadian Environmental Assessment ActGovernment Orders

May 28th, 2001 / 5:55 p.m.
See context


Suzanne Tremblay Bloc Rimouski-Neigette-Et-La Mitis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate on Bill C-19, an act to amend the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

It is rather interesting that the federal government should introduce such a bill when we are clearly under the impression that the Minister of the Environment adopted the wait and see approach to know exactly what Mr. Bush would say, what he would do, how he would proceed, how he would retract and where he would stand on the environmental issue.

This basic legislation passed in 1995 provided for a review after five years. When we debated this legislation in 1995, we probably told the government all the improvements that ought to have been made to it but being a majority government, it completely ignored these recommendations.

I wish the government could understand that a majority of seats and a minority of votes do not mean it can rule the roost. It is high time it started listening to the opposition parties to know what the interesting points are. The more people have a say, the more ideas will be brought up, and debate is the key to enlightenment.

In my view it is important that the government consider the views expressed by the opposition and try to amend the bill in a way that would allow us to improve it even more.

My colleague from Calgary Southeast—I hope I am not giving the wrong riding—reminded us that the government had added two amendements to clause 2 of Bill C-19 dealing with the purposes.

It is amending clause 2 of Bill C-19, section 4 of the old act, by adding the following: b .2) to promote cooperation and coordinated action between federal and provincial governments with respect to environmental assessment processes for projects;

If it wants to promote co-operation, the federal government should show good faith and stop saying “I am the biggest; I am the strongest; I am the country; I am right and you are necessarily wrong”.

Co-operation with others requires mechanisms of consensus, consultation and co-operation to be created if there is to be successful co-operation between the federal and provincial governments.

There is something else: b .3) to promote communication and cooperation between responsible authorities and Aboriginal peoples with respect to environmental assessment;

There is one other salient point in this bill. The Canadian International Development Agency is to be subject to this legislation, to the environmental assessment process.

This is good news that CIDA can also be subjected to this process. We in the biggest and most beautiful country in the world can stop being ashamed by our involvement in certain countries that have been soundly criticized because environmental measures have not been taken into consideration and we are polluting elsewhere when we would not do it here.

There is another important point: the bill creates the position of federal environmental assessment co-ordinator for projects that involve several federal or provincial authorities.

I trust that they will take the trouble to select a bilingual co-ordinator who will be able to understand what goes on in Quebec and be capable of truly ensuring co-ordination and not the interventionism of which this government is so fond.

It also authorizes the use, as an assessment criterion, of local knowledge, aboriginal knowledge and traditions.

In this respect, we have an extremely important point to make. Sometimes I think the federal government does a reasonably good job at drafting documents but when we watch it in action afterward we find that there is a dichotomy between what it says and what it does.

If it is true that the government intends to take into account local knowledge and aboriginal traditional knowledge, we could end up with better results those that we are getting now.

Those who have the best knowledge of things are those who live close to them. The government will also have to show that it truly intends to do that. However since the past is an indication of what the future holds, I am very skeptical as to what the outcome might be.

The bill broadens the minister's discretionary power to get involved in projects on the Quebec territory. I find it extremely dangerous whenever the discretionary powers of a minister are broadened. It is always very dangerous because it depends on how that minister will want to use his discretion, to be discretionary or not.

Earlier this afternoon it was mentioned, in another debate and also during oral question period, that when ministers want to do something they put it in writing in the act. The Minister of the Environment wants to have the right to use his discretionary power so he puts it in the act to make sure he will be able to use that power. Therefore this should not come as a surprise.

This suggests that, with respect to the other bill, we were right to contend that the minister, who does not want to include certain provisions in the legislation, is very likely to want to implement the Young Offenders Act in the same fashion all across Canada.

What is at stake for us in this bill? You will be surprised, Mr. Speaker, but you will not fall off your chair because you are well settled. Bill C-19, as it stands, is not a bad bill. It is a considerable improvement on the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, particularly by extending its application to CIDA and certain crown agencies.

Participant funding and the consultation of aboriginals are other very interesting features of this bill but, and there is always a but, I paid the government a compliment and I hope it will be well received—the problem lies with the very principle of the bill.

The act represents interference in Quebec's fundamental jurisdictions. This is the problem. The government could have stuck to improving its bill without interfering in our fundamental jurisdictions.

When it was introduced in 1992, the legislation was interpreted as an attempt by the federal government to reintroduce some discretionary leeway in its environmental assessment process. An interesting discussion of this can be found in the M.A. thesis of Luc Juillet, who studied this issue in 1992 at the University of Ottawa. This was a student at the University of Ottawa, not at UQAM or a Quebec university. He studied this discretionary leeway the government wanted to introduce in its bill.

In this regard, clause 22 of the bill clearly broadens the federal government's authority to interfere in one of Quebec's areas of jurisdiction. The minister reserves discretionary power for himself by adding “the Minister is of the opinion”. The minister's opinion will not be up for discussion. There will always be a possibility for him to say “This is my opinion and it must be taken into account since I am authorized by law to change things according to my opinion”. This type of discretionary power on issues as important as the environment is cause for concern.

46.(1) Where no power, duty or function referred to in section 5 is to be exercised or performed by a federal authority in relation to a project that is to be carried out in a province and the Minister is of the opinion that the project may cause significant adverse environmental effects in another province, the Minister may refer the project to a mediator or a review panel in accordance with section 29 for an assessment of the environmental effects of the project in that other province.

Members will realize that this is the infamous section 46. The government only slightly modified the French version by adding the words “et peut, à son avis, entraîner des effets”. Therefore, the minister will really take that as a basis. He will look at that and of course, he will call on his advisers, but he may not feel like taking their advice.

We see how, in other departments, the ministers do not consider the collective well-being of our great country but rather their electoral map and the adversaries they have in their own riding. We can see clearly how the presence of the Canadian Alliance in western Canada has affected the Liberal Party, so much so that it is now beyond all recognition and the Liberal Party of Quebec is trying to shift to the left to see what it feels like to be Liberal these days.

Because of the federal Liberals, we no longer have a model of what it means to be a Liberal in Canada. With the NDP, those members were the ones with the so-called progressive ideas. Today, they are so afraid of the Canadian Alliance that the Liberals cannot even recognize one another. We do not know what a Liberal is supposed to look like either.

It is rather worrisome to see that the government does not manage this country for the public good, that it does not have a great vision for the development of this country called Canada, so that it can still be an interesting country to live in during the 21st century. What counts for the government is watching what the Canadian Alliance says and does, finding out what will bring in votes so that Liberals can stay in power as long as possible and go on using public funds to do whatever they like.

Let met tell my good friend, the Minister for International Trade, that I would like the bill to apply to his Export Development Corporation, but that is not the case. Things have been taken care of. The minister did not stand in cabinet to ask that the bill apply to the corporation as it does to CIDA.

Canadian Environmental Assessment ActGovernment Orders

May 28th, 2001 / 5:20 p.m.
See context


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I speak today to Bill C-19 to amend the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

This act was passed several years ago, in January 1995, but not without debate.

I will remind the House in the few minutes that I have left of the history of the Canadian environmental process as opposed to the history and claims of Quebec in terms of environmental assessment.

It is quite ironic to see former members of the Quebec national assembly, members of the Robert Bourassa government that defended Quebec's interests and who are now federal Liberal members, getting ready to pass this bill which goes against everything that Quebec wanted under Robert Bourassa, René Lévesque, Jacques Parizeau, Pierre-Marc Johnson and every Quebec government since 1975, since the beginning of the environmental process in Quebec.

The federal environmental assessment initiative is not new. On June 18, 1990, the federal government decided to introduce a bill, Bill C-78, dealing with the federal environmental assessment process. In many respects, this bill represented duplication and invaded provincial jurisdictions. It was a bill of which, at the time, Quebec's national assembly was very critical.

Quebecers were so firmly opposed to the bill that in 1990 Quebec's minister of the environment, Pierre Paradis, well known by members of the House—he always defended Quebec's environmental powers and prerogatives—wrote a letter to the federal minister of the environment, Robert René de Cotret, to ask him for two things.

On the one hand, what we wanted in 1990 was for Bill C-78 to introduce some flexibility with respect to Quebec's environmental assessment process.

On the other hand, Quebec's then minister of the environment, Liberal Pierre Paradis, asked that the legislation not duplicate the process because we had an environmental assessment process responsive to Quebec's initiatives, and we still do.

Following the letter, unfortunately,—and as usual it was a Liberal government in Quebec that realized this—the federal minister of the environment refused to amend the bill dealing with the environmental assessment process. Given the federal government's systematic refusal, Quebec's then minister of the environment even wrote a second letter.

On December 17, 1990, the Quebec environment minister wrote a second letter to the same Canadian environment minister clearly demonstrating that the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act encroached on provincial jurisdictions. In this letter, of which I have a copy, the Quebec minister demonstrated this invasion into provincial jurisdiction and the negative impact of the Canadian legislation.

In spite of repeated requests, the Canadian government of the day did not seem to get the message. In May 1991, the government came back with essentially the same legislation, Bill C-13, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

Because of the federal government's lack of understanding and recognizing that the Canadian environmental assessment bill was essentially an exact copy of the old one, Quebec's environment minister wrote a letter dated November 22, 1991. To whom was this letter addressed? To the Canadian environment minister, Mr. Jean Charest.

Pierre Paradis wrote to the federal environment minister, Jean Charest, to reiterate Quebec's position. What was Quebec's position at the time that prompted Quebec's environment minister to reiterate it to the federal minister? First, it recognized that the environment was a shared jurisdiction. We recognize that, we even recognize the federal government's power to do environmental evaluations of projects for which a federal decision is needed.

For that matter, the Quebec government has drawn the federal government's attention to a supreme court judgment, the Oldman decision. In his decision, Justice La Forest said, and I quote:

Thus, an initiating department or panel cannot use the Guidelines Order as a colourable device to invade areas of provincial jurisdiction which are unconnected to the relevant heads of federal power.

Following this decision, Quebec's environment minister wrote to the federal environment minister. In his letter dated February 28, 1992, the minister of the environment, Pierre Paradis, reiterated his concerns. However it is clear that his concerns fell on deaf ears in Ottawa. Consequently, the legislation was not changed.

Because of the constant arrogance of the federal government, and it's repeated efforts to impose by legislative means its environmental evaluation process, Quebec responded through it's national assembly on March 18, 1992. Certain Liberal members who are in the House today were part of the Quebec consensus expressed on March 18, 1992 when the national assembly unanimously passed a motion to denounce the federal government's determination to impose its environmental assessment process.

In today's political context, when men and women elected by the people to represent them want to maintain a minimum of credibility, the one fundamental value that they have to adhere to is consistency in their ideas. One cannot, in 10 years, do a complete about face and say “I supported the national assembly's consensus, I was part of that unanimous decision, but today I am voting in favour of a bill that totally ignores all the work that has been done in Quebec”.

Had the Quebec experience proved inconclusive, I might have understood why some members would be reluctant to vote against the bill. However, let us not forget that the environmental assessment process has been around for a long time in Quebec. It dates back to 1975, when the need for an environmental assessment process was recognized in the James Bay agreement.

When we created the Bureau québécois d'audiences publiques en environnement, the BAPE, it was in response to the following basic expectation: a transparent process that would be open to the public and that would not be a self-assessment of government projects. The BAPE is an arm length's agency, contrary to what the environmental assessment bill is proposing, that is the possibility for the federal government to conduct environmental self-assessments. The BAPE does not do that.

In this regard, transparency in terms of public participation, the fact that the Quebec process is at arm length's as compared to the federal self-assessment approach, the fact that not as many projects are excluded thus providing a better environmental protection, all that proves that it is effective. The Quebec environment minister has regulations and amendments to the act passed on a regular basis in order to be able to adequately protect our environment. It is part of the normal process.

A case in point is what happened last week. The Quebec environment minister announced that from now on any hydro projects of more than five megawatts had to undergo an environmental assessment, whereas only a few weeks ago and for years before that only projects of more than ten megawatts had to undergo one.

The environmental assessment process in Quebec is not static. It changes as projects and their impact on the environment evolve. I think we must be consistent in our approach. It is rather peculiar; I was reading a moment ago notes from a speech by the then Quebec environment minister. This Liberal Quebec environment minister was saying, concerning Bill C-13 on the environmental assessment process, that “Bill C-13 is a steamroller condemning everybody to a forced uniformization, which might in turn jeopardize the environmental assessment process in Quebec and needlessly bring into question all our efforts in this area”.

This is not Quebec's current environment minister, whom opponents would dismiss as a sovereignist and a separatist. This is Quebec's former Liberal environment minister, who is still a member of the national assembly and who was part of the unanimous consensus in that assembly, which has just told the federal government “We have a process that works; leave it as it is”.

For some weeks and months now, there has been a shameless desire on the part of members opposite to introduce legislative amendments or bills in order to destroy the Quebec model, anything produced by Quebec that is working well—from the environmental assessment process to the Young Offenders Act—and move their centralizing agenda ahead.

If there is really a desire to protect youth, if there is really a desire to protect our environment, why not let the Quebec model do what it is designed to do? It is a model which is working well and which has stood the test of time.

I see the reactions of some members opposite; I would not want to name these members, who were part of the consensus in Quebec, who voted in favour of the unanimous motion in the national assembly, but a number of them could be found in this House and are listening to me now. It is a bit surprising to see them reacting in the places.

I repeat, in politics, credibility is based on consistency. If one cannot be consistent about how one votes in this House, one would do better to defend other interests.

The bill before us, it must be remembered, goes against the Quebec model. In 1978 Quebec set up its own assessment system, which it incorporated into the environment quality act. As I said, the environmental assessment process in Quebec had its origins in the James Bay and northern Quebec agreement.

A few years later, three years later to be exact, an environmental assessment system was put into place within the framework of the Clean Water Act. In 1980 the Bureau des audiences publiques sur l'environnement was created. Of course, it called for a renewal of the Quebec environmental assessment act, and the government of Quebec acted accordingly.

I was reading over notes published in 1992 by the government of Quebec at a time where a Liberal government was in power in the province and while the MNA and minister of the environment in Quebec was still a member of the national assembly. The 1992 reports from the government of Quebec said:

There is indeed a risk that the latter—

This refers to the federal Environmental Assessment Act.

—will constantly be duplicated, disputed or subordinated to the application of the federal process. Yet, the Quebec procedure has been well established for ten years already; it is well known by the general public and the promoters from Quebec; and it has proven itself.

The areas where the federal authority can get involved are somewhat limitless, given all the levers one can find in the bill itself to force the mandatory examination of projects by the federal authority.

For months the federal government has been shamelessly tempted to destroy the Quebec model. We hope that all the members from Quebec, at least those who voted unanimously at the national assembly, will be able to vote against this bill.

Business Of The HouseOral Question Period

May 17th, 2001 / 3 p.m.
See context

Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel Québec


Alfonso Gagliano LiberalMinister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, we will continue this afternoon with the debate on the opposition motion.

Tomorrow, we will begin second reading of Bill S-24, the Kanesatake agreement legislation, and resume debate on Bill C-27, the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act.

When we return on May 28 we will complete consideration of Bill C-7, the youth justice bill. I will be seeking advice from members opposite about wrapping up that debate. As backup we would have Bill C-27, if necessary, and Bill C-19, the environmental legislation.

Around mid-week we hope to commence report stage of Bill C-11, the immigration legislation.

Thursday, May 31, shall be an allotted day.

Canadian Environmental Assessment ActGovernment Orders

May 15th, 2001 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

The Speaker

Is it agreed that the debate on Bill C-19 be adjourned?

Canadian Environmental Assessment ActGovernment Orders

May 15th, 2001 / 1:45 p.m.
See context

Progressive Conservative

John Herron Progressive Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, as opposed to the proverbial comment we hear in the House that it is a pleasure to participate in such a debate on Bill C-19, I might actually say that every time I have had an opportunity to speak on issues pertaining to the environment I usually preface my comments by saying that it is with great sadness that I have a chance to participate in the debate.

What I am referring to is Bill C-19, which is the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. It was first brought forth as a very progressive piece of legislation by the Conservatives in June 1992 when the Progressive Conservative Party was in government. Those governments have been described by individuals such as Elizabeth May of the Sierra Club, who is outside fighting the environmental degradation at the Sydney tar ponds, in this way: the Conservative governments were the most environmentally progressive governments in the industrialized world.

The Conservatives actually developed the omnibus bill on the control and use of toxins in the environment, known as the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. It was a Progressive Conservative government that led the international community in 1987 with respect to developing a protocol known as the Montreal protocol. That challenged the industrialized world to eliminate or drastically reduce ozone depleting gases.

During that same era, Mr. Speaker, I am sure you will recall that the prime minister and the minister of environment of the day, Jean J. Charest, led a delegation in which Canada was a world leader by bringing the world together with respect to climate change and biodiversity. In contrast we now have a government that has been in office for nearly eight years and has yet to pass a single piece of environmental legislation of note. That is the record.

These are not just my comments. I can even refer to Stewart Elgie, who is the executive director of the Sierra Legal Defence Fund. These are his words, not just mine.

What we are looking at is a mandatory review, which was put in place by the Progressive Conservative government in 1992 in the first piece of legislation and which shows the understanding that what we do today with respect to environmental management will be drastically different in the very near future. That is why it is incumbent upon the government to review legislation of this sort.

In addition to this initiative, we should be doing what the minister of the day, Lucien Bouchard, said in 1990. He found three legislative gaps with respect to the environment. First, Canada essentially has a pesticide act that is over 30 years old. Second, we really do not have a framework to establish legislation to ensure safe drinking water in Canada. Last, at the time he was advocating that we have legislation in place to protect species at risk.

Here we are a decade later, after eight years of Liberal government, still waiting for those three initiatives to be brought forth to the Canadian public. However we do have some housekeeping, in that the minister has tabled in a timely manner the mandatory review of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. According to the minister's press release, the purpose of the act is essentially tenfold. I will list the ten points very briefly.

One purpose is to focus the act on projects with a greater likelihood of adverse environmental effects as opposed to having only broad screenings of issues that have less or a minor impact and could be managed more effectively and exclusively by the provinces. The Progressive Conservative Party has a proud tradition of being respectful of jurisdictional issues with respect to the provincial governments and the federal government. That is why we support the idea of harmonization, not to the lowest common denominator but to ensure that this is done in the most cost effective, time effective and environmentally effective manner possible.

On this list with respect to this new review the minister advocates: improving co-ordination among federal departments and agencies when several are involved in the same assessment, which I think is a good initiative; reaffirming and enhancing co-operation with other governments in conducting environmental assessments where jurisdictional overlaps and duplications occur, which the Progressive Conservative Party indeed embraces; and increasing certainty in the process in order to reduce the potential for project delays and cost increases. Industry will play by the rules. We can develop faster and that will help our economy grow, but industry and the provincial governments that want to take initiatives of this sort have to know what the rules are. The certainty in reducing overlap and duplication is a key component.

In the bill the minister advocates strengthening the role of follow-ups to ensure that sound environmental protection measures are in place for the project as well as improving consideration of what the cumulative effects of the project might be. One project on its own may not have an impact that would significantly degrade the environment in any way, shape or form, but the cumulative effect may come into play.

The eighth point the minister advocates is that of providing convenient and timely access to reports and other information about assessments. As well, he advocates strengthening the incorporation of aboriginal perspectives in the federal process, an initiative I strongly applaud, along with expanding public participation.

The House may be aware that within the last year a task force led by the federal government was struck to study issues with respect to environmental assessment. A myriad of items was tabled in that report. The sad thing is that in going through the legislation at first blush it seems that only a few were acted on in this revision of the act. When this gets to committee the Progressive Conservative Party wants to ensure that we have a full vetting of the committee's report. It is a report that I have not gone through in any detail, but through our research we have discovered that only a couple of the items were touched upon.

Here we are dealing with a mandatory review of a piece of legislation which the government is compelled to actually perform. We will do our process, but what Canadians want is environmental leadership across the board. As the former minister of the environment, Lucien Bouchard, said in 1990, we need new pesticide legislation. It is 30 years old. The Minister of Health said he would table it quite soon. I remember Claire Franklin, the executive director of the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, saying that framework legislation or draft legislation has essentially been in place for three years. Yet the government has not acted and does not table the legislation.

We are still waiting for a species at risk bill that will work. The Progressive Conservative Party will not support that piece of legislation for four reasons, primarily because it does not include migratory birds and it still contains the belief that politicians rather than scientists are a better fit to determine whether or not a species is at risk. It is also extremely intrusive in one regard, and very hypocritical, I might add. The species at risk legislation says that it has the capacity to force a private landowner to engage in recovery plans and the capacity to force a province to participate, but it is permissive with respect to habitat protection within its own backyard, on federal land. We will have a chance to address that bill later on.

We are a long way from being able to give a definitive answer about whether we will support this legislation in its compulsory review. We will let the committee do its job, but ultimately the Government of Canada should take up the myriad of recommendations made by the task force that studied this issue. We will do our work in committee.