An Act to amend the Criminal Code (selling wildlife)

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

Sponsor

Val Meredith  Canadian Alliance

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Not active, as of March 2, 2001
(This bill did not become law.)

Elsewhere

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.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

June 21st, 2002 / 1:20 p.m.
See context

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

I thank the hon. member.

Pursuant to order made earlier today, all questions necessary to dispose of the second reading stage of Bill C-292 are deemed put, and a recorded division is deemed demanded and deferred to the end of the time provided for government orders on Wednesday, September 18, 2002.

It being 1.21 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Wednesday, September 18, 2002 at 2 p.m. pursuant to Standing Orders 28(2) and 24(1), and the order made on Tuesday, June 18.

Dear colleagues, I wish everyone a very happy and joyous summer. To the pages and the clerks, thank you very much for a job well done.

(The House adjourned at 1.21 p.m.)

The first session of the 37th Parliament was prorogued by royal proclamation on September 16, 2002.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

June 21st, 2002 / 1:10 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise in debate on Bill C-292 put forward by my colleague.

Before I begin addressing the subject, I thought of something just as we began this private members' business hour today and that is that I wish our standing orders would be changed. Somehow it seems to me to be somewhat contradictory that while we agree that no one here ever says anything that is not true and while we are talking about increasing the ethics in this place, quite regularly we agree to an outright lie, and that is to see the clock as something that it is not. I wish the standing orders would be changed so that instead of saying that we see the clock as something that it is not, we would say we agree to proceed to private members' hour, notwithstanding that it is not at the usual time at which we go to private members' hour. That is just something that occurred to me while I was sitting here. I guess it is that we have been so totally consumed with the issue of ethics, honesty, truth and so on that this thought should go through my brain at this time.

We are here to talk about a votable private member's bill. I would like to congratulate my colleague from South Surrey--White Rock--Langley, not only for having her bill drawn but also for having it made votable, both of which, in our environment here, are akin to winning the Lotto 649. I guess I am somewhat envious of her since I have said many times in the House how sad I feel about myself and this whole time as an MP never once having had a bill drawn. It could well be that in the next five or six years I will cease being an MP and I will have had 15 years in this place without ever having had a private member's bill drawn. Would that not be sad? Of course, that is now being changed. That is also a little digression.

Bill C-292 is a bill that my colleague brought forward as a result of some occurrences in her province of British Columbia, where individuals were caught just outright plain trading for profit by killing wild animals, that is, animals that are not domesticated animals, and profiteering from them.

When we look at this issue across the world we see that it is an issue of considerable importance. I think, for example, of the many species, some in Africa. I think of the fact that it has become illegal now to shoot an elephant just to gather its tusks. There are other animals around the world that are at risk because of the fact that human beings, for whatever reason, think it is acceptable to take the life of that animal even though but a small portion of it is used. I have heard of people who kill an animal just to take its tongue or its gall bladder or various other parts. I will not get into the gruesome details. The rest of the animal is not utilized. It seems like a violation of a sense of nature that this should be done so flippantly and so carelessly.

Therefore, I commend my colleague for bringing forward the bill as a result of an incident or two that occurred in her province where she saw a need for legislation to be strengthened.

One of the issues in the bill is that the penalties would be increased. Also, they would be increased in proportion to the number of occurrences. In other words, when people are caught the first time they will receive a very stern warning that what they have done is not acceptable, it is wrong, it is illegal and they will be told what the punishment is. However, if people, after paying their fines or serving their time in prison, are caught a second time, the penalties substantially increase.

I think that is a very good principle on which to operate, namely, that we recognize that the purpose of legislation and the purpose of criminal law is to deter the behaviour, a phrase which I use altogether too often. I know that next fall we will have a new set of pages and hopefully soon we will have a new set of people in the government, so we will have different people who will hear this.

Too often in my speeches I say there is not a law that we can pass that can make people good. The purpose of the law is to deter those who would do evil. Here we have a law with penalties that should deter an action which we consider to be wrong, immoral or evil. We do that with other things citizens in this country are prone to do which we want to discourage. We have it for all sorts of different offences.

The fact of the matter is that if a person is apprehended for committing an illegal act, pays the penalty and then does it again, it makes us think that perhaps the penalty was not high enough. Maybe it was not a large enough fine. Maybe the time in prison was not long enough. It makes eminent sense to increase the penalty for the second offence.

Just as a little sidebar, I thought we should apply this in our laws to prohibit speeding. I was amazed to find the huge disregard for speed laws in the province of Ontario. I did not hang around this province a great deal until I was elected. I have rented a car on a number of occasions and I find that on the highways in this province the speed is out of control.

This is a real sidebar. While I was driving along one of the highways just a couple of weekends ago, I clocked people who were passing me. In the 100 kilometre per hour zone, most of them were going 130 kilometres per hour. I clocked one woman in a van going 155 kilometres per hour. When I say I clocked her at 155 kilometres, I did not drive alongside her to see how fast she was going, in which case I would have been guilty of the same. No, Madam Speaker, you will remember that I am a mathematician and I have a way of computing that speed very accurately while still holding my own speed. If anyone needs to know about that, if anybody is interested in a math lesson, I can teach them how to do that with a very simple stopwatch that I have with me all the time.

I have often thought that to control speeding we should have a sliding scale of penalties. The penalty I proposed was the square of the amount by which we exceed the speed limit. If we exceed it by five kilometres per hour, five squared is 25, so our fine is $25. If we exceed it by 10 kilometres per hour, 10 squared is 100, so our fine is $100. If we exceed it by 15 kilometres per hour, 15 squared, as everybody knows, is 225 so that is the fine. It just keeps going up until we exceed it by 50 kilometres per hour, which many of these people were doing the other day on the highway, and the fine would be $2,500 for those going 150 in a 100 zone.

The principle of a scaled penalty, that is, the greater we break the law the greater the penalty, is a good one. If we broke the law and the penalty did not deter us and we got caught again, we did not learn our lesson so the penalty should be increased. I propose that for the second offence all of these penalties would be multiplied by two, and for the third offence, multiplied by three, and so on. We would come up with a very simple scale and eventually everybody would drive at the speed limit because they could no longer afford the penalties.

The same thing is true here. The hon. member has proposed in the bill that for second offences those penalties should be greatly increased. That is a very fine principle, one which I would certainly support.

In conclusion, I simply would like to say that incorporated in the bill are a number of really good ideas. The intent is to prevent people who, due to the lack of a penalty, the lack of legislation, the lack of serious penalties for this behaviour, will do it because they can make money with it. The proposal here is to put fines up to $150,000, I think. These are serious penalties so that those who are in the business of taking animals from the wild, trading them and making huge amounts of profit would be deterred from actually doing it, that being the ultimate purpose of such a law.

Thank you very much, Madam Speaker, for the opportunity of participating in the debate on this final Friday afternoon of the spring session. I, too, give to you, to the others in the Chair and to all my colleagues, my wishes for a very good and restful summer. To all of the pages, I wish to say have a great time the rest of your life and thank you.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

June 21st, 2002 / 1 p.m.
See context

Liberal

John Harvard Liberal Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, MB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-292, an act to amend the criminal code, selling wildlife.

I would like to take this opportunity to address some of the remarks made in the House of Commons on May 9 when this bill was debated. It is not helpful to the debate to suggest, as one hon. member did on that occasion, that anyone who does not support the bill is voting against saving wildlife.

The fact that illegal poaching is undesirable is not the issue. The issue is whether this bill in its present form is the most appropriate mechanism for addressing illegal poaching.

To answer this question it is necessary to identify the particular harm that is being addressed and then examine what it is about the current response to that harm which is lacking. For example, is the problem one of inadequate penalties in provincial wildlife regulatory schemes? If that is the problem, then the solution can be addressed in that context by provinces adjusting their penalty regimes so that the fines imposed do not become the cost of doing business for poachers.

If, on the other hand, the problem is that there is a gap in the law, it is necessary to identify the particular social harm that needs to be addressed. This in turn requires an assessment of whether the response required is one that in its essence is regulatory in nature or involves the creation of a true crime.

The Supreme Court of Canada has expressly recognized that common law has long acknowledged a distinction between truly criminal conduct and conduct otherwise lawful which is prohibited in the public interest. Mr. Justice Cory expounded upon this distinction further and stated:

Regulatory legislation involves a shift of emphasis from the protection of individual interests and the deterrence and punishment of acts involving moral fault to the protection of public and societal interests. While criminal offences are usually designed to condemn and punish past, inherently wrongful conduct, regulatory measures are generally directed to the prevention of future harm through the enforcement of minimum standards of conduct and care.

In her remarks on May 9, the sponsor of Bill C-292 suggested that the approach in her bill to selling wildlife is very similar to the way serious motor vehicle offences are handled. The hon. member went on to explain that the bill would give provincial authorities an opportunity to determine when something is serious enough and they want to have steeper and stiffer penalties to try to stop it from occurring.

With all due respect, it is not accurate to suggest that a rationale for creating a criminal code scheme in respect of selling wildlife is similar to the interplay between driving offences in provincial legislation and those outlined in the criminal code. For example, the offence in section 259 of the criminal code regarding the imposition of driving prohibition orders is not simply a provision that gives police access to higher penalties than those available in provincial legislation for driving while prohibited or disqualified.

The prohibition order provision in the criminal code has an independent rationale for its existence. It is logically related to sentencing objectives for a range of driving offences in the criminal code. These offences are not simply replicas of offences that exist in provincial legislation. The rationale for their existence is entirely consistent with parliament's exercise of its criminal law power. The offence of impaired driving causing death, for example, condemns morally blameworthy behaviour and addresses a well recognized social harm.

Bill C-292 does not have the appearance and elements of a true criminal law scheme. The scheme in Bill C-292 more closely resembles a regulatory scheme that is being proposed for inclusion in the criminal code. As noted by constitutional law expert, Professor Peter Hogg:

A criminal law ordinarily consists of a prohibition which is to be self-applied by the persons to whom it is addressed. There is not normally any intervention by an administrative agency or official prior to the application of the law.

In the context of the criminal code, the application of an offence provision, however, usually does not rely upon whether a licence to conduct the prohibited activity has been issued by a federal or provincial authority. In this regard, I note that Bill C-292 expressly provides that the offence provisions in respect of wildlife that is not a threatened or endangered species do not apply to persons who act in accordance with a licence issued pursuant to a federal or provincial statute or regulation.

Another feature of criminal code offences is that they almost always apply to everyone. It is extremely rare for the criminal code to specify exemptions for criminal liability in respect of particular offences. The exemptions set out in sections 204 to 207 inclusive of the criminal code relating to the gaming offences in part VII of the code, are a notable exception to the usual rule against exemptions. Nonetheless, it is extremely rare to specify exemptions that depend upon the exercise of discretion by a member of the executive branch of government.

Clause 447.8 of Bill C-292 states that the test for exercising this discretion is met “if, in the opinion of the Minister, the exemption is necessary or in the public interest”. This provision may be at risk of being challenged on a constitutional basis on the reasoning that the criteria are so subjective and general that they do not provide any real limits on the behaviour to be exempted. This feature is not at all typical of offence provisions in the criminal code.

It is also rare in the criminal code context to have a member of the executive confer with an advisory body in order to determine whether the subject matter of the offence, in this case wildlife, falls within a particular category. In this regard I note that subclauses 447.7(1) and 447.1(2) respectively give the Minister of the Environment the discretion to determine whether a species of wildlife is an endangered or threatened species.

Before making a designation of this nature, however, the Minister of the Environment must consult with the committee on the status of endangered wildlife in Canada. Again, this kind of provision is entirely in keeping with a regulatory scheme that has a broad, public welfare goal, such as preserving wildlife.

This brings me to another aspect of Bill C-292 which is not in keeping with the general approach to penalties in the criminal code. Bill C-292 sets out different maximum penalties for the offences in clause 447.2 depending upon whether the animal involved is wildlife as opposed to either a threatened or endangered species.

As I have just indicated, the determination of whether an animal is a threatened or endangered species would not be set out in the criminal code but would be set out in regulations and would be determined by the Minister of the Environment in consultation with a committee. Usually in the criminal code all the criteria for determining an applicable maximum penalty are set out in the criminal code itself.

Again, the more an offence provision moves away from determining penalties on the basis of the criminal culpability of the accused, the less likely it is to resemble a true criminal code offence.

In closing, I would like to reiterate that there is a distinction between the objectives of legislation and the mechanics of the legislation itself to achieve an objective. In respect of Bill C-292, I respectfully suggest that the objective of the bill is not entirely clear. It is not sufficient to simply suggest that illegal poaching is undesirable. I think the challenge is to determine what it is about the current response to illegal poaching that is problematic and then decide whether a response to this problem is most appropriately dealt with pursuant to parliament's exercise of its criminal law power. If so, I think more work needs to be done to ensure that the offences in Bill C-292 are more consistent with other provisions in the criminal code and do not conflict with other federal schemes which regulate wildlife.

I would like to thank hon. members for their attention on this important issue.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

June 21st, 2002 / 10:25 a.m.
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Liberal

Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, discussions have taken place between all parties as well as with the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Langley concerning the taking of the division on Bill C-292, scheduled at the conclusion of private members' business later this day and I believe you would find consent for the following motion. I move:

That at the conclusion of today's debate on Bill C-292, all questions necessary to dispose of the motion be deemed put, a recorded division deemed requested and deferred to Wednesday, September 18 at the expiry of government orders.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 31st, 2002 / 1:40 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Canadian Alliance Fraser Valley, BC

Madam Speaker, back in 1996 I brought forward a bill that was more specific than this in that it dealt only with the illegal sale and transportation of illegally poached bears and bear parts, about which many Canadians are concerned. It is my pleasure to support the bill today.

It is my hope and the hope of all of us that as time goes on poaching will become less of a problem in Canada. Perhaps by the time my grandchildren, Morgan and Brennan, grow up they will not have to worry about it at all. It is our hope that they will live in a world where this becomes a decreasing problem.

It is a problem right now. In 1995 it was estimated that approximately 1,200 black bears and 90 grizzly bears, an endangered species, were illegally poached in Canada. Every time that happens we know that a black marketeer is involved and that money is exchanged illegally. A bear gall bladder for example will fetch $1,000 in Vancouver. Bear paws are close to a $1,000 apiece. It can be a pretty lucrative business. In case after case, when one of these rings has been busted, an incredible number of animals have been sacrificed because of somebody's idiosyncrasies, old traditions or frankly just improper management and use of our wildlife.

I am not proud of this but in my province of Vancouver a number of businesses have been raided in recent years. Police and conservation officers have turned up, in some cases, evidence of hundreds of animals that have been killed. Often a very small part of them is used for some sort of herbal medicine, often to do with an old tale that it might improve some part of a person's life. That is a terrible misuse and abuse of animals.

Penalties already exist in Canada, both provincial and federal, for illegally using animals and animal parts that are part of the wildlife management system. Unfortunately this legislation generally only covers offences where there is illegal international or interprovincial transportation of animals and animal parts and it is often difficult to prove exactly from where these animals came. By making it a criminal code offence, the bill would make it easier to prosecute people involved in this illicit activity and would allow both provincial and federal authorities to bring these people to account and make them pay the penalty.

Two years ago two residents from the riding of South Surrey--White Rock--Langley were fined $7,000 and served 17 days in jail for selling 18 bear gall bladders from animals that were illegally killed. Generally fines average about $3,000. The maximum fine is $5,000. That is not enough to deter people who are making that much money sometimes on a single animal. Like many first time offences, they are plea bargained. People are fined a minimum amount and get a slap on the wrist. It does little to deter people, ironically, making a killing at this.

Bill C-292 eliminates the need to prove international or interprovincial transportation. As a section to the criminal code, it does not create any new offences. The provinces will still have sole jurisdiction and therefore we respect provincial jurisdiction to manage wildlife. However I think the provincial authorities will enjoy the bill, if it becomes law, because it will give them the tools necessary to crack down on these international-interprovincial rings.

The bill would give provincial wildlife authorities the option of proceeding with charges under the relevant provincial legislation or, if they thought it is a very egregious case, they could proceed under the criminal code. It is important that it does not contradict our current species at risk proposals. Although it may involve endangered species, it does not contradict that legislation but complements it. It gives again parliament's stern warning about how much we value species at risk and will allow officers and provincial authorities to do what they need to control the situation.

The bill is designed to target the organized poaching of big game animals. It is consistent with current legislation that is before the House. I do believe it will enhance rather than harm provincial authorities. I urge all members of the House to support the bill when the vote comes.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 31st, 2002 / 1:30 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Julian Reed Liberal Halton, ON

Madam Speaker, I must issue a disclaimer at the beginning of this debate, that is, I am not a lawyer like my learned hon. friend from Windsor--St. Clair, the hon. member for Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough, or my colleague, the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce--Lachine.

However, the arguments I will be putting forward were prepared for me and will demonstrate that there are arguments to be made on both sides of this issue. I hope that the words I have to say will complement the argument put forward by the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce--Lachine. We all may find we have differences of opinion here but that is to be found in any area of law.

The fact that illegal poaching is undesirable is not the issue. The issue is whether the bill in its present form is the most appropriate mechanism for addressing illegal poaching. To answer this question, it is necessary to identify the particular harm being addressed and then examine what it is about the current response to this harm that is lacking.

For example, is the problem one of inadequate penalties in provincial wildlife regulatory schemes? If that is the problem, then the solution can be addressed in that context by provinces adjusting their penalty regimes so that the fines imposed do not become the cost of doing business for poachers.

On the other hand, if the problem is that there is a gap in the law, it is necessary to identify the particular social harm that needs to be addressed. This in turn requires an assessment of whether the response required is one that in its essence is regulatory in nature or involves the creation of a true crime.

The Supreme Court of Canada, in the case of R v Wholesale Travel Group Inc., expressly recognized that:

...the common law has long acknowledged a distinction between truly criminal conduct and conduct, otherwise lawful, which is prohibited in the public interest--

Mr. Justice Cory expounded upon this distinction further and stated:

Regulatory legislation involves a shift of emphasis from the protection of individual interests and deterrence and punishment of acts involving moral fault, to the protection of public and societal interests. While criminal offences are usually designed to condemn and punish past, inherently wrongful conduct, regulatory measures are generally directed to the prevention of future harm through the enforcement of minimum standards of conduct and care.

Madam Speaker, you can tell by the way these words are constructed that they are not words of my creation. I am only an actor on this venerable stage.

In her remarks on May 9, the hon. member for South Surrey--White Rock--Langley suggested that in Bill C-292 the approach to selling wildlife is “very similar to the way serious motor vehicle offences are handled”. The hon. member went on to explain and stated:

The bill would give the provincial authorities an opportunity to determine when something is serious enough and they want to have steeper and stiffer penalties to try to stop it from occurring.

With all due respect to the hon. member, it is not accurate to suggest that a rationale for creating a criminal code scheme in respect of selling wildlife is similar to the interplay between driving offences in provincial legislation and those outlined in the criminal code.

For example, the offence in section 259 of the criminal code regarding the imposition of driving prohibition orders is not simply a provision that gives police access to penalties higher than those available in provincial legislation for driving while prohibited or disqualified.

The prohibition order provision in the criminal code has an independent rationale for its existence. It is logically related to sentencing objectives for a range of driving offences in the criminal code. These offences are not simply replicas of offences that exist in provincial legislation. The rationale for their existence is entirely consistent with parliament's exercise of its criminal law power. The offence of impaired driving causing death, for example, condemns morally blameworthy behaviour and addresses a well recognized social harm.

Although the issue has not yet been addressed by the Supreme Court of Canada, there is case law at the provincial appellant level which states that where an offence carries the possibility of imprisonment, the constitutionality of a provision outlining a criminal offence can be challenged on the basis that there is insufficient evidence of a reasoned apprehension of harm to other individuals or society to justify the use of criminal law as opposed to other less intrusive measures.

In this context it is not sufficient to suggest that the rationale for creating an offence at the federal level is to provide police with access to greater penalties for more serious cases of an activity that is regulated by a provincial scheme.

Bill C-292 does not have the appearance or elements of a true criminal law scheme. The scheme in Bill C-292 more closely resembles a regulatory scheme that is being proposed for inclusion in the criminal code. As noted by constitutional law expert Peter Hogg, a criminal law ordinarily consists of a prohibition which is to be self-applied by the persons to whom it is addressed.

There is not normally any intervention by an administrative agency or official prior to the application of the law. Typically, offences in the criminal code prohibit a particular morally blameworthy behaviour. The breadth of the offence may be circumscribed by reference to a defence such as without lawful excuse.

In the context of the criminal code, the application of an offence provision however usually does not rely upon whether a licence to conduct the prohibited activity has been issued by a federal or provincial authority. In this regard, Bill C-292 expressly provides that the offence provisions in respect of wildlife that is not a threatened or endangered species do not apply to persons who act in accordance with a licence issued pursuant to a federal or provincial statute or regulation.

Another feature of the criminal code offences is that they almost always apply to everyone. It is extremely rare for a criminal code to specify exemptions for criminal liability in respect of particular offences. Nonetheless it is extremely rare to specify exemptions that depend upon the exercise of discretion by a member of the executive branch of government.

In this regard I note that section 447.8 of Bill C-292 grants discretion to the Minister of the Environment to issue an order exempting “any person or class of persons” from “application of all or any” of the provisions in respect of a threatened or endangered species.

Section 447.8 of Bill C-292 states that the test for exercising this discretion is met if “in the opinion of the minister, the extension is necessary or in the public interest”. This provision may be at risk of being challenged on a constitutional basis on the reason that the criteria are so subjective and in general that they do not provide any real limits on the behaviour to be exempted. This feature is not at all typical of offence provisions in the criminal code.

While I commend the hon. member for her intent and her concern with regard to the bill, it really does not fit and scope in the area in which she intended.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 31st, 2002 / 1:20 p.m.
See context

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate on Bill C-292. I am also pleased to follow the hon. member for Windsor—St. Clair. He has given an insightful and informed commentary on this legislation as he so often does. I respect his opinion immensely.

Bill C-292 is meant to bring about changes to the criminal code. It is aimed specifically at the issue of selling wildlife. The hon. member for South Surrey—White Rock—Langley has put a great deal of time, effort and passion into bringing this issue before the House of Commons. I applaud and salute her for that.

The bill would make it an offence to sell wildlife, wildlife parts, as well as threatened or endangered species. The bill's most noble purpose is to protect wildlife and, in particular, endangered species that are on the verge of disappearing from the planet.

The Speaker of the House is a great lover of animals. I suspect all members of the House of Commons and a majority of Canadians would embrace anything that would move towards protecting and ensuring the continued survival of these species, these important residents of the global village.

The intent of the legislation is to act in accordance with, not contrary to or not to supplement or in any way undermine provincial legislation. It is meant to work cheek and jowl with existing provincial legislation.

According to the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, the bill is meant to cover acts not carried out with a licensed permit. It is not meant to apply to acts carried out with a licensed permit or exemption order. There is a specific attempt by the drafter to address the jurisdictional issue and the issue as it pertains to aboriginal peoples.

Bill C-292 would give provincial wildlife authorities and crown counsel the option to proceed by way of provincial wildlife legislation or with the new sections of the criminal code. The jurisdictional issue is there and is optional. It is within the discretion of the provincial crown to work in conjunction with police or wildlife enforcement officers.

Anyone convicted under the offence of the criminal code would be guilty of an indictable offence and subject to the maximum two year sentence on the first offence and three years of incarceration for a subsequent offence.

It was mentioned by the member for Windsor—St. Clair that there is some question as to whether we should amend the hon. member's legislation to make it a hybrid offence. Should we allow the expansion of the sentencing range that could be meted out? Surely there are greater and lesser offences as they pertain to wildlife. There is greater gravity in terms of the volume, the number of individuals and the number of animals affected by the offence itself.

If the animal in question were a threatened or endangered species, the maximum would increase to four years and eight years for subsequent offences. By giving a greater range of sentence it might have a greater degree of deterrent effect.

It is important to promote animal welfare which this does. The bill encompasses and embraces that sentiment. There are groups around the world doing good work, such as the World Wildlife Federation, Ducks Unlimited, many others. I am sure she will find great support within their ranks.

The point was well made that the world is expanding. We look at endangered species in all parts of the world, not just within the Canadian jurisdiction, but in the jungles of Africa, the oceans of the world, the fields, the forests, and in all regions. There is a larger responsibility that should be taken up by governments in every nation.

The legislation includes such activity as the enterprise of crime that sadly is happening at a disproportionate rate in some countries, wherein individuals are purposely targeting the sale of wildlife, whether it be hides, tusks, trophy heads or body parts. This is insidious greed and the motive behind much of the activity surrounding the sale of animal parts.

It is very timely that this legislation is coming forward. It is something that I certainly believe deserves greater examination at the committee level because it keys in on and enunciates in the criminal code a deterrent effect. It puts into legislation this type of specific crime.

As was noted earlier, the punishment scale is one that is important to examine and the author of the bill might consider this latitude and perhaps an examination of greater latitude. Making offences indictable might tie the hands of the prosecution when considering plea bargains as well as those of the sentencing judge when determining the appropriate measures that should follow. A balanced approach, I suggest, would be to make this a hybrid offence, giving the prosecution and the enforcement officers greater ability to bring about the deterrent and the desired effect with a greater latitude in sentencing.

The bill attempts to define the threatened or endangered species, which I think is an important substance to the bill. The author of the legislation seems to have taken, and I hope she takes no offence to this, a bit of a Liberal approach when giving the Minister of the Environment the ability to designate an animal or endangered species that is threatened. That is consistent with the species at risk bill. It may be an unintended effect that the hon. member has included in her bill, because the clause in essence states:

Where, after consulting with the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, the Minister...is satisfied that a species of wildlife is threatened with imminent extinction, the Minister may...designate the species to be...endangered--

The language contained in the clause needs to be tightened up. It needs to perhaps take away the sole power of the minister to make these decisions. It is one that is inconsistent with science and with the work that has been done at the committee level to date. The phrase “consulting with” seems ambiguous.

A change could be along the lines of replacing those words with the following: based upon the recommendation of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, the minister may, by regulation, designate the species to be an endangered species for the purpose of this part. That, I suggest, would be more in keeping with what experts, scientists and those working in the field have recommended in relation to the current endangered species act.

Having said that, let me say that no private member's bill is perfect. Clearly no government bill is perfect. I think the hon. member is fully aware of the process and the opportunity that exists at committee level to address some of these issues. This is not to take away in any sense the merit and the value of the bill she has placed before the House. We do support a science based approach to the listing of species. Scientists, not politicians, are far better placed to decide which species are truly at risk.

I do want to refer in my remarks to the comments made by the member for Dauphin--Swan River, in particular when he spoke of the issue as it pertains to aboriginal people. I think he addressed the issue in a very straightforward way and the bill does encompass that approach. Its intent is to clearly indicate that it will not abrogate or derogate from any existing aboriginal treaty rights of aboriginal peoples in Canada who would be covered under the current situation.

The bill speaks to that issue. There has to be a clear approach for aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians when we are going to these extraordinary lengths of identifying the problem when it pertains to endangered species. In many cases the necessity to protect endangered species overrides having a specialized approach as it pertains to the treatment of animals in particular. There should be no exemptions and again that is perhaps something that should be examined. We should be hearing from the aboriginal community on that issue.

In conclusion, I support the hon. member's bill, as do members of the Progressive Conservative Party. We look forward to seeing the bill brought forward. We suggest and hope that all members of the House of Commons will similarly voice their support. She has brought forward a good bill with a straightforward objective. This is exactly the type of legislation that we should be dealing with in private members' business.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 31st, 2002 / 1:10 p.m.
See context

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today, like a number of other speakers, to acknowledge the work that the member of the Alliance for South Surrey—White Rock—Langley has put into the bill. It is one that I am happy to support.

When I first saw the bill it brought back to mind a trip that I had taken to the United Nations program in Nairobi, Kenya where there was a United Nations conference on biodiversity and a number of other issues. While we were there the delegation was taken to a national wildlife park which was adjacent to and almost a part of Nairobi. We were taken to this one site to see some of the wildlife.

There was a plaque there commemorating the burning of elephant tusks. This was the response of the Kenyan government to the international trade in ivory. It undermined in a significant way that trade by destroying a great deal of ivory. This was ivory which had been confiscated after the poachers had been apprehended. I am told, although I must say it is secondhand information, that it was just a huge pile. There were literally tonnes of tusks of ivory that were burned at that time.

When I saw the member's bill it brought back that image because at the time I thought how desperate that government must have been for it take that action. I then look at some of the arguments that we are hearing, particularly from the government, about the bill going too far and how it cannot support it.

It makes me wonder if we as a government ever want to find ourselves in that type of a situation. Obviously the answer is that we do not. Therefore, the House must take all necessary steps within our legislative, constitutional and criminal law framework to protect the wildlife in this country.

It is important that people understand the role that Canada must play in the protection of wildlife on the planet as a whole. We make the mistake, because of the familiarity of our own situation, of looking to Africa and saying that it has a lot of work to do to protect its wildlife because it is under such pressure. That of course is true. We may do the same thing if we look at Australia. The reality is that Canada is in a similar boat. The biodiversity that we have is among the greatest in the world. We have a stewardship responsibility to protect and enhance wildlife. Bill C-292 is a way of doing that.

Just within the last week or 10 days there was a rather in depth report which came out of the same United Nations office in Nairobi. Scientists were sending back information and having it compiled about the threat to wildlife around the world. Their estimate was that no matter what we do and how hard we push right now, today and into the future, we will lose 25% of all species across the globe.

There were something like 1,000 scientists around the globe who contributed to that study. These were the top environmentalists in the world on the issue of biodiversity and the whole issue of protecting the environment for our wildlife. No matter what we do we will lose 25%.

I come back to the bill and say it is a very small part. When I hear the government say it cannot even do that little bit, I ask where is our responsibility? Are we upholding our responsibility? Where is the stewardship role? Is Canada and the Canadian government responding properly to it?

We are not responding properly to it because all we have to do is look at what happened with Bill C-5, the species at risk legislation. It was promised by the government in one of its red books in 1993. There have been three incarnations of it and it is stalled in the House because the Liberals cannot get their act together.

The bill came back to the House significantly amended and reflected a great deal of hard work by members from all sides of the House. There was a serious attempt on the part of the minister and his department to gut it, to minimize it, and not to provide any protection at all for our wildlife.

We have been working for over nine years on that bill in one form or another and we still do not have it. We promised this at Rio in 1992. We have signed a number of protocols since then as a country, committing ourselves to protect the biodiversity of the planet, in Canada's case, and we have done an abysmal job of living up to those responsibilities.

It is a simple bill which says if a person were to trade, sell or kill wildlife for the purposes of profit, that person would face criminal charges. I probably would have said to the parliamentary secretary in law school that he is nitpicking on this issue of whether the bill should be a dual procedure offence. If he felt strongly about that, he should support it and send it to committee and move an amendment to include it both as a summary conviction offence and an indictable offence. It is a simple solution and not a basis to oppose the bill.

I take umbrage on the whole argument that it is a regulatory function and not a criminal matter. I totally reject that. The member may want to take a look at the supreme court decisions on Hydro-Québec and the more recent Hudson case in its analysis as to what it is prepared to allow. To suggest that it would be constitutionally unsupportable flies in the face of the logic, reasoning and basis for both those court decisions.

The Supreme Court of Canada is saying it would bend over backward on any legislation if it were to protect the environment and our wildlife. That is what the bill is about. It would go some distance to send a clear message, assuming the government would then take the second step to enforce it, to tell people who are prepared to traffic in animal and animal parts that we will not put up with it any more.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 31st, 2002 / 1 p.m.
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Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Madam Speaker, I wish to thank the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Langley for introducing such a bill. Much as the member for Châteauguay did, I will say right out that we have a few reservations about this bill.

We fully understand the spirit of the bill. Under the proposed legislation, there would be stiffer penalties than at present for killing or capturing wild animals in order to sell their organs or parts.

I listened carefully to the speech given by our colleague in the first hour of debate. She provided statistics. For example, she said that, in 1995, 25% of bears killed were killed illegally, for a total of almost 1,300 bears, including 90 grizzlies. Parts can fetch thousands of dollars and the fines handed out are weak deterrents. I can understand that in some provinces in Canada this is a situation demanding action.

I was also very sensitive to the example that she gave. She talked about black bears that venture into people's backyards in her community. People kill them not because they are hungry, not because these animals are a direct threat, not because they want to use the meat, but because they want to sell certain body parts. We are talking here about gall bladders or other body parts that are extremely popular on the market.

Even though our colleague said that the purpose of this bill is not to replace provincial legislation, I think there is a certain degree of inconsistency in her bill. I would like to be sure that I understand correctly.

Let me quote what the member said in her speech:

WAPPRIITA does not cover any offence that takes place in one province. Only the provincial legislation is in place for these offences. What I am hoping to do with Bill C-292 is to fill this loophole, ensuring that all offences of this type can be prosecuted under federal legislation.

It is difficult to say that the purpose of the bill is not to replace provincial legislation while saying at the same time that this particular bill is being introduced to fill a loophole since the federal act does not cover offences that take place in one single province.

We looked into what this bill would mean for Quebec. As my colleague, the hon. member for Châteauguay, said, in Quebec there is the act respecting the conservation and development of wildlife. This act was passed by the national assembly and its elected representatives. It applies, accordingly, to all of Quebec.

I believe that the goal sought by the member is no doubt quite commendable and appropriate; no one wants a wild animal organ market to develop. It is up to legislators to take measures designed to deter people from doing this kind of thing. I agree that the fines in place are not sufficient to deter people, but I wonder if it would not be right, from a constitutional perspective, to let the provinces increase these fines. We know perfectly well that even though criminal law comes under federal jurisdiction, the provinces can impose fines.

In the Quebec legislation, the act respecting the conservation and development of wildlife, section 69 covers this. Hon. members will agree with me that these provisions respond quite well to the concerns raised by our colleague.

Section 69 reads as follows:

No person may sell or purchase an animal the sale of which is prohibited by regulation. Authorized sale. However, the Government may, by regulation, authorize the sale of an animal referred to in the first paragraph according to such norms and conditions as the Government may determine.

I would also like our colleague from South Surrey—White Rock—Langley to know that the Quebec statute also contains provisions, in sections 165, 167 and 172, for penalties of up to $16,000.

The hon. member mentioned a case where a fine of $7,000 was imposed on a person for killing bears. In Quebec, fines are much stiffer. They can go up to $16,000. Jail sentences can go of up to a year and there are administrative penalties that can result in the cancellation of a licence.

For all these reasons, we believe that if the hon. member's bill were passed, it could result in an intrusion into a provincial jurisdiction. We are used to seeing the government doing this, whether it is with the millennium scholarships or in the health sector. Now, the government is about to propose an early childhood policy and a palliative care policy. So, we are used to this from the government.

There is even a very big rumour—and you will not believe your ears, Madam Speaker—that the federal government will create a Department of Urban Affairs to deal directly with municipalities.

So, we are used to seeing the federal government getting involved in provincial jurisdictions. However, when we, the opposition parties, propose private member's bills, we must be extremely vigilant and ensure that there is no intrusion into provincial jurisdictions.

Members know that I have taken courses in constitutional law. I even took a course given by Professor Benoît Pelletier, who is an excellent professor of constitutional law at the University of Ottawa, although I obviously do not share his views on the national issue.

In constitutional law, one certainly learns that there is the double aspect doctrine. It is in fact possible for one government or the other to intervene if necessary in a field of provincial jurisdiction, whether it be the federal government or a provincial government.

However, in the case we are debating this afternoon, if the federal government could impose fines and intervene when the species in question were within provincial boundaries, when there are already wildlife conservation laws, we do not think that this would be secondary interference. We think that this would constitute a precedent which could involve the federal government in matters relating to ecology, environmental law. It could set unfortunate precedents, which could be detrimental to the provinces.

In conclusion, I thank our colleague for her bill. I understand her motivations very well. Unfortunately, we will not be able to support her.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 31st, 2002 / 12:55 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Chuck Cadman Canadian Alliance Surrey North, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to my colleague's private member's bill, Bill C-292, an act to amend the criminal code in relation to the selling of wildlife.

First, I would like to acknowledge my colleague from South Surrey--White Rock--Langley for her staying power in seeing the bill through to this point. Having a private member's bill deemed votable is no easy task and hanging in there since 1996 is to be commended.

As an aside, I need to state for the record that there has to be a better way of conducting private members' business. It is ridiculous that the work of a member of parliament took six years and two elections to come before the House of Commons for debate.

Our procedure for private members' business is long overdue for a complete overhaul and this is a perfect example why. We have only to look at the frustration expressed by our colleague from Esquimalt--Juan de Fuca at government actions surrounding his private member's business. In the 36th parliament the Liberals attempted a similar tactic with one of my initiatives.

I am sure that there is concern on all sides of this place with the seemingly never-ending problems associated with the way in which we conduct private members' business. The time for meaningful reform is long overdue. That aside, I would like to speak to the merits of my colleague's legislation.

This is a well thought out piece of legislative work that addresses the very serious issues of poaching Canadian wildlife to sell on the black market. If we were to look at other places, for example in Africa where poaching went on for a long period of time without serious consequences, many species either became extinct or exist at the brink of extinction. I do not believe we are quite at that point in Canada but we are dangerously close with some species. The bill would go a long way toward ensuring that we never face the same problems experienced in other parts of the world.

Take the bear for example. In 1995 the street value of a bear paw, which is apparently used for making soup, was upward of $800. A bear gall bladder went for $1,000.

Fines for the illegal sale of animal parts are simply looked upon as merely a cost of doing business. Just two years ago there was a case involving two Surrey residents who were convicted for the selling of 18 bear gall bladders. Their penalty was a mere $7,000 and 17 days in jail. Assuming that they made the going rate of $1,000 per gall bladder, they still come out ahead over $10,000.

Certainly there may have been other costs, such as legal fees incurred, but that is not the point. Is anyone naive enough to believe that the 18 gall bladders they were prosecuted for were all they actually poached? What of the parts other than the gall bladders? Put in that context and the potential profit to be made, $7,000 and 17 days in jail seems like a reasonable cost of doing business.

The bill would make the offence of poaching for the purpose of selling animal parts much more serious. In my opinion it would act as a significant deterrent to the crime. The legislation would provide the tools that are necessary to combat poaching and the illegal animal parts trade.

It is appropriate to give the courts the ability to impose fines of up to $150,000 and a jail sentence of up to five years. Of course we would hope that the courts would see fit to utilize these maximums but that is another discussion. By taking the profitability out of the crime, we would go a long way toward eradicating the problem.

The next hurdle would be to ensure that adequate resources exist to do the enforcement work to apprehend those who would threaten our wildlife. Providing a criminal code deterrent is one thing. Having the resources to enforce the law is altogether another. Let us deal with one thing at a time.

My reading of the legislation is that it would simply close loopholes that currently exist in provincial laws. It is my understanding that currently, for the most part, the provinces are obligated to prove that the animal or its parts were destined for international trade or interprovincial transport before serious sanctions could be imposed. Unless wildlife officers or police catch the culprits actually transporting their products, this is an extremely difficult thing to prove. That is not to mention that the penalty structure I alluded to earlier is somewhat of a joke and in light of the current legislation is not adequate.

By making this amendment to the criminal code, provincial authorities would have the discretion to pursue the most serious cases of poaching either through the criminal code or via their respective provincial legislation as they see fit. It is important to note that the bill would not infringe on provincial jurisdiction. The provinces would still have the sole discretion to determine how these activities would be prosecuted.

Contrary to what some have suggested, this law would not trample on provincial rights. This legislation should be considered similar to serious driving offences. Even though the provinces have sole jurisdiction to determine what the rules of the road are, parliament feels that there are certain driving offences that deserve criminal code offences. Impaired driving is a good example of this.

Lastly, it is extremely important to emphasize that this bill would in no way affect people who were legally harvesting wildlife as sanctioned by the provinces. Persons with valid licences, permits or exemption orders would not be affected. Canada has a long proud tradition of hunting and trapping for the purpose of survival and livelihood and there is absolutely nothing wrong with this legal pursuit. It is those people who practise outside the law who must be stopped.

I would like to conclude by saying that this legislation deserves to be studied further in a committee setting. It is very clear to me that the principle and purpose of this bill are sound. Few pieces of legislation are ever drafted perfectly the first time and I would like to see what the experts, both pro and con, have to say in a more detailed study. That is why I encourage all members of the House to vote in favour of Bill C-292 at second reading and allow it to go before the justice committee for further study and possible amendment, if required.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 31st, 2002 / 12:45 p.m.
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Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine Québec

Liberal

Marlene Jennings LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Cooperation

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-292.

Bill C-292 is the proposed legislation to deal with the selling of wildlife and wildlife parts. I would like to say to the member for South Surrey--White Rock--Langley that her motivation behind the bill is admirable.

However, as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Cooperation and on behalf of the government, I want to express the government's views as well as my own views because I have read the bill quite carefully and have researched the criminal code to see what actually exists in it.

As the government we fully support, as I do personally, ensuring that wildlife is preserved and protected in the best possible way, and that preservation and protection certainly has to extend to species at risk.

In fact there are many years of conservation actions behind us in Canada, and there are a number of statutes that are already on the books that accomplish the goal that the member for South Surrey--White Rock--Langley seeks to address with Bill C-292.

Let me speak about the tools that this particular private member's bill would create. The proposed legislation would create three indictable offences under the criminal code for selling wildlife or wildlife parts or for killing, capturing or possessing wildlife or wildlife parts for the purpose of selling them.

Under the proposal there would be exemptions from prosecutions for people who sell wildlife in accordance with a licence permit or an exemption order. The bill also says that the sale of threatened or endangered species would mean high penalties and that all offences would be subject to the money laundering provisions of the criminal code.

As the House may have noted at the outset of my remarks, these are admirable objectives and I commend the member for her bill. I cannot deny it. I do not think anyone else would deny that these objectives are in fact admirable.

I applaud, and I am sure that my colleagues would probably be unanimous in applauding, the notion behind these objectives. However we want to make sure that there is a good fit with other legislation in place or pending. This is very important.

I am a lawyer by training and I have had the privilege of practising in the area of administrative law. I know firsthand the difficulties that can happen at times when drafters of one piece of legislation have not done complete and adequate research of all the legislation that could impact on or have some bearing to a particular area or jurisdiction and we end up with anomalies.

That is one of the reasons even the government, either through the Senate or by its own bill, brings in bills to clean up, clarify or correct errors in past legislation that has already been adopted.

Looking at Bill C-292 and looking at the provisions that already exist under the criminal code for example, as well as other legislation, clearly Bill C-292 is not a good fit with the legislation that is already in place. I am not even talking about legislation that may be pending before the House at this time.

Therefore I would like to point out that in the Migratory Birds Convention Act of 1994 and the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act, known as WAPPRIITA, there are dual procedure offences. These are also found in the Canada Wildlife Act.

Dual procedure offences mean that they can begin with a summary conviction or with an indictment. The maximum prison term set out for proceeding by indictment in both statutes do not exceed five years.

Let us also consider a piece of legislation that is currently pending, the government sponsored Bill C-5, the species at risk act. That bill as I mentioned, currently pending, is at report stage in the House of Commons.

One of the offences created in Bill C-5 is the prohibition on the killing, harming, harassing, capturing or taking of a wildlife species that is listed as extirpated, endangered or threatened. Bill C-5 also includes a prohibition on the possession, collecting, buying, selling or trading of a wildlife species listed as extirpated, endangered or threatened.

There is some overlap between this offence and the ones outlined in existing legislation, as well as the offences set out in the bill we are discussing today, Bill C-292.

Bill C-292 provides only indictable offences. The maximum prison terms vary from two years to eight years, depending on whether the offence is a first or subsequent one and whether the wildlife involved is an endangered species.

The question here is not that we need to do this. The question here is whether it is already being done and, if it is already being done, is it being done in a better way.

Is Bill C-292 the best way to accomplish the goal? Are the provisions about prohibiting behaviour that is traditionally associated with parliament's exercise of its criminal law power. Or perhaps we should say that Bill C-292 is describing a public welfare offence traditionally associated with regulatory matters in a civil context.

That is why I believe this approach is inconsistent with the classification of offences elsewhere in the criminal code.

The sale of wildlife, as I have previously mentioned and hope I have demonstrated, is well covered in existing legislation. Therefore Bill C-292 is a duplication and in my view is not necessary. I also submit that in many cases we would be using the heavy hand of the criminal code for some sales that would be considered quite minor, such as the sale of a few muskrat pelts or of one skin. I truly believe we do not need such a heavy approach.

Let me explain further. The offence of sexual assault is classified as a dual procedure offence, which means that the crown may elect to proceed by summary conviction or by indictment. From a policy point of view, it would appear inconsistent to classify the selling of wildlife as an indictable offence when other offences considered much more serious by Canadian society are classified as dual procedure offences.

I will not get into the cost implications to the provinces and territories if they were straight indictable offences, but I do call on the members of the House to remember that under the Canadian system provincial governments are those with the constitutional powers to regulate the use and protection of wildlife on provincial land.

I will not be supporting the bill but I do commend the member for White Rock--South Surrey--Langley for her good intentions with this.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 9th, 2002 / 6:15 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Grant McNally Canadian Alliance Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to enter into the debate on this important topic and a pleasure to have been able to second my colleague's bill. My colleague from South Surrey--White Rock--Langley has worked long and hard on this issue. As she indicated in her speech, she began back in 1996 with this topic. Her issue predates the government's bringing in of Bill C-5, the species at risk legislation, which obviously gives us some reasons to rebut some of the things that the member for Northumberland mentioned as to how parts of the bill may not be congruent with Bill C-5. That is because this bill came forward first. My colleague saw an important issue, one worthy of consideration.

What the representative of the government has told us tonight is basically that if members of the Liberal governing party are to stay with what he said, then the government is going to vote to allow poachers to continue to take threatened and endangered species and to buy, possess and trade in those body parts, and it is going to vote against saving wildlife.

Time and time again we have seen the government members in this place stand up and vote as they are told on private members' bills. In fact the member said that his is the government position on a private member's bill. The member from the New Democratic Party mentioned that he supports the bill but individuals from his party will determine whether they are going to support the bill or not. They will have a free vote. What a novel idea. We are obviously in agreement on that issue of having a free vote. Obviously there is support from our colleagues in the Conservative Party as well. The Bloc will also have to defend its position of voting to allow poaching to continue and against saving animals.

I do not see how that is a justifiable position on this topic. The government has told us tonight about all the reasons why it cannot do something, why it cannot support the bill, instead of actually moving forward and doing something positive, instead of voting to protect wildlife, endangered species and threatened species, and to stop poachers in their place.

It is by their actions that government members will be held accountable. They will have to defend that position when they stand in their places and they vote against saving wildlife at the same time that they are bringing in a bill called the species at risk bill. They are arguing on one side to protect endangered species, and we support that notion, but then they are going to vote against saving wildlife by voting against this bill.

The Minister of Canadian Heritage will not allow wardens in our national parks to be armed with sidearms. How does that relate to the bill? It relates to the bill in this way: that in our national parks and other parts of the country this is a well organized trade, a criminal activity, in which poachers are taking animals out of our national parks illegally. If those who are there to enforce the law are unable to have the appropriate tools to defend themselves and to seek out those who would break the law in this illegal trade of body parts of animals, how can it be stopped?

It is just unbelievable. RCMP officers patrol the national parks and are limited in their ability to go into the back country. Of course they have the ability to stay close to the paved roads, but not a lot of poachers are hanging around in the parking lots in the national parks, or at the rest stops, or at the signboards at the entrances to the parks. They are in the back country. The wardens know where these things are happening and many times they are helpless to be able to stop those kinds of illegal activities because they are not properly equipped.

I want to rebut another claim made by the government in debate. My colleague from Calgary East touched on it and I want to highlight it again because the member for South Surrey--White Rock--Langley clearly indicated it in her speech. It is contained in the substance of the bill that the provinces still have the ability to seek some re-conviction or make this an indictable offence. That is completely inaccurate. My colleague from Dauphin--Swan River mentioned it as well.

Let us be clear about what is in the legislation. It is a piece of legislation that would help to protect threatened and endangered species. It does move forward in a positive way to protect wildlife. It is incumbent upon the government, as the ruling party in the country, to come up with solutions to problems and to demonstrate through its actions that it is able to address issues in the country.

I mentioned yesterday in debate on Bill C-5, the endangered species bill, that the government promised in 1993 that it would move on this topic. Here it is 2002, almost 10 years later, and there is not a piece of legislation in place to protect species at risk or endangered species. That is unbelievable.

My colleague started six years ago on this topic, even longer ago than that, and has brought this to the House. We know how hard it is for a member to bring a private member's bill through the system, to get it to the point of not only getting her name drawn and getting it debated in the House, but also getting it votable. It is quite a task and I congratulate my colleague for her forbearance in going through that long and winding road to get this piece of legislation here.

It may be swept away by the backhand of the government in one fell swoop because it did not quite live up to its standards, or it was not quite good enough, or it was not the idea of a Liberal, or it was not drafted by Liberal people. I heard a colleague say that the government is so negative. I would agree in many ways. The Liberals are simply listing over and over again why they cannot support a good piece of legislation that has an effective means to stop poaching. That is basically what the member said. He gave us all the reasons they cannot support the bill.

Let me clearly state that Alliance members are supportive of Bill C-292. We know that we have support from some of the NDP and Conservative members, and no support at all from the government in any way on this issue. That is sad because what the government is saying to Canadians, and all the lobby groups that have been trying to get the government to move on this topic for 10 years, is that it has an opportunity to protect threatened and endangered species here but it will not do it. The government will vote to allow poachers to continue and it will vote against protecting endangered species and threatened wildlife.

Why? I do not know. The government has not articulated that clearly. It has given out a list of negative excuses as to why it cannot do it and it is a shame that we must end on that note today with the negativity of the government not moving forward to support a positive idea and bill that would protect wildlife.

It is a good bill that should be passed. We implore our colleagues on the government side to change their minds and the private members to stand in their place and support this excellent piece of legislation.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 9th, 2002 / 6:10 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Canadian Alliance Calgary East, AB

Madam Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure for me to rise to speak to Bill C-292, an act to amend the Criminal Code (selling wildlife). At this time I would like to commend my colleague from South Surrey--White Rock--Langley, who brought forward the bill.

The bill is very important to me because my past is tied to a wildlife sanctuary and to the issue of poaching. I was born in an area that has one of the best national parks in the world. At the time when I used to visit the national park, it had a variety of animals, including rhino, and thousands of people came to see them. It became a tourist attraction. When I recently visited that area, I saw the devastation done by the illegal poaching that has taken place there over a period of time. It was very sad to see that there was only one rhino left. The others had all been murdered just because of the illegal trade in rhino horns.

We all know the stories about the elephants of Africa that have been poached because of the ivory. If it were not for a concentrated legal effort, we do not know what would have happened to the elephant herds. It is good to see that they are coming back and that conservation is taking hold in that country and on that continent. Most important, the issue is that this is a conservation success story only because there was tough legislation, with enforcement.

My colleague gave the example of the illegal sale of gall bladders. This indicates a serious concern she had so she brought forward the bill. Why is this trade still going on? If we were to listen to the government, we would think that it has legislation which would address this issue. Obviously it has not. If it has, then there would be no need for my colleague to bring the bill to the forefront, to the forum of the House of Commons, where I am very happy to see that it has the support of the NDP and the support of the Conservative Party. That is because the issue is that the current act, the new species at risk bill and other acts do not really address this issue of illegal trading in and killing of wildlife.

I can say from experience that if we do not have good laws then we face a serious problem. We are the custodians of wildlife for future generations. We owe it to future generations to create laws and deter this illegal trade and killing so that future generations can see and enjoy their heritage. Unfortunately if we want to have a lax attitude to this, then we will pay a serious price.

The reasoning of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada speaks to the same attitude, the same solution, that the government has had of trying to address an issue but at the same time trying to not address an issue. That is the government's approach. The parliamentary secretary stated that the enforcement and penalties in the bill are not consistent with the penalties that society sees.

I have a little difficulty with the government's rationale. The government says that society feels certain acts should be punished but the act of selling wildlife should not. It is trying to bring that in line with other offences. I am having difficulty understanding that rationale because these are two separate issues going in different directions. Not only that, but in the bill the discretion is left to the provinces as to how they want to tackle this issue and how serious it is in their provinces.

At this time I would also like to address the issue that the Bloc brought up, which of course is always about provincial business. Their vision on this is blinded, so they do not see that the bill does not infringe on provincial rights. It actually helps provincial rights because it gives the provinces the ability to address this issue. There is nothing in the bill that goes against the provinces and, from what I understand, at the time the bill was drafted there was no protection in Quebec against the sale of wildlife. This bill will enhance that. The argument that my colleague from the Bloc presented does not hold much water.

I need to address what the government is trying to do with regard to this really very serious issue. There are enough examples around the world, in country after country, of where wildlife has been lost because the government failed to address this issue through punishment and enforcement. I seem to see the same attitude coming from this government.

The bottom line is this. The government's attitude is simple. It does not consider this a serious issue. The government believes the penalty is very serious so it is not going to address the issue and it is not going to pass the bill. Excuse me, but this is a serious issue. There are enough examples. We only have to ask conservation officers and people who deal with wildlife. They need tools to address this issue, but what do we have here? When I was growing up in Africa, I saw the same attitude from the government there. The African government did not think this was a serious issue. Society did not view it as important. It was just wildlife. Suddenly this government has awakened to the fact that it is a serious issue and that it needs to be addressed. We as custodians have lost our heritage over there and the trade has become quite dangerous.

I simply do not understand the government's attitude. My colleague has explained the purpose of her bill and its intentions. It does not infringe on provincial rights. It provides us with more enforcement to ensure that we leave a legacy behind. I hope that since this is a votable bill there will be enough members on that side of the House and on the Bloc side who will vote for it because it is a bill that looks to the future.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 9th, 2002 / 6 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Inky Mark Canadian Alliance Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to take part in the debate on Bill C-292, an act to amend the criminal codes (selling wildlife), as presented by the member for South Surrey--White Rock--Langley.

Let me begin by congratulating her on this private member's bill. I can assure her that I will support the bill.

I should say to the Liberal member that this bill is at second reading and I am sure there will be a lot more debate in committee, if it goes to committee for debate. There is no such thing as a perfect bill when it comes to the House in the first couple of stages, so I remind members that I am sure there will be changes made to the bill before we get to vote on it at third reading.

Being the fifth speaker, let me reiterate what the bill is about.

The purpose of this enactment is to make the selling of wildlife and wildlife parts an offence under the criminal code unless carried out under and in accordance with a licence, permit or an exemption order. In other words, this is exactly what we need, for are all citizens of this country, both aboriginal and non-aboriginal. We know the problems with regard to poaching which perhaps endangers not only endangered species but also those regular species in our wildlife habitat, including fish.

I also understand that there is cause for concern in terms of an attack on the jurisdiction of provincial governments. I will just quote from the communication of the member for South Surrey--White Rock--Langley to her colleagues in reference to the bill. The letter states:

My legislation eliminates the need to prove international or interprovincial transportation by adding a section to the Criminal Code. My bill does not create any new offence--the provinces will still have sole jurisdiction to determine what activities are deemed illegal. However, wildlife peace officers will have the discretion to pursue the most serious case of poaching through the Criminal Code, or through their respective provincial legislation.

That shows me that the provinces will still have the final say regarding their provincial legislation and the regulation of the taking of wildlife, game or fish.

The other thing is exclusive jurisdiction over the management of wildlife fish or game still rests with the federal government from coast to coast to coast.

To ensure that the bill is about the selling of wildlife, what I to read section 447.2, which states:

Notwithstanding any Act of Parliament, but subject to this Part, no person shall

(a) sell wildlife or any part thereof;

(b) kill or capture wildlife for the purpose of selling that wildlife or any part thereof; or

(c) possess wildlife or any part thereof for the purpose of selling that wildlife or part thereof.

In other words, the emphasis is on selling game which is taken for domestic or personal use. Essentially this is the problem we encounter. There are aboriginal and non-aboriginal people out there who take wildlife and sell it or trade it for monetary gain. That is a threat to the wildlife itself. On that principle, I must applaud Bill C-292 as necessary legislation.

One of the exemptions deals with aboriginal and treaty rights. In fact, part (3) of section 447.2 states:

For greater certainty, nothing in this section shall be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from any existing aboriginal or treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

I will comment on the taking of game and fish by the aboriginal community. Under current treaty laws the taking of wildlife and fish by aboriginals is permitted for the purpose of sustenance. I approached the ministry a year ago to ask for a definition of sustenance but was not given one. However most people understand sustenance as putting food on the table. That is a pretty clear and simple definition.

For purposes other than putting food on the table the same rules for the taking of wildlife and fish should apply all of us, aboriginal and non-aboriginal alike. I bring this up because my province of Manitoba has no hunting or fishing regulations which apply to sustenance or the taking of fish or wildlife by aboriginal people.

This has created a huge problem. At the start of the winter aboriginal people took fish from two stocked lakes in my riding. To the tune of 100,000 pounds of walleye was taken from Lake of the Prairies, most of which was mature stock. Approximately 150,000 pounds of mature breeding stock was taken from Lake Dauphin. Under the guise of sustenance the fish was taken and sold on the market. A lot of it was sold through the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation which is a federal agency.

Citizens of my riding are asking what the government will do about this. It would be no different if non-aboriginals poached 100 black bear, took their galls and put them on the international market. There is a void. We need regulation. We need laws.

As I said earlier, the federal government has exclusive jurisdiction over the management of resources across the country. If the province will not put in regulations the federal government needs to show leadership, take responsibility and act in the best interest of Canadians. For that reason alone Bill C-292 has a lot of merit. We need to support it.

We have reached a point in my riding where a resource management group has emerged whose members include municipal leaders, resource and fish enhancement groups and conservation groups. It is an umbrella organization concerned about abuse of the rules by both aboriginal and non-aboriginal citizens who take wildlife.

The federal government should wake up to the realities of what is happening across the country and become involved. It is long overdue.

On a personal note I applaud the hon. member for South Surrey--White Rock--Langley for her bill. Debate needs to take place across the country. I am sure her bill will create a lot more of it. I will support Bill C-292.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 9th, 2002 / 5:45 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Robert Lanctôt Bloc Châteauguay, QC

Madam Speaker, first of all, even if the member introducing this bill seems to be saying that it will not replace provincial legislation, but will only add certain provisions, we see a tendency on the part of the government to interfere excessively in provincial jurisdictions, particularly Quebec's jurisdictions. The Bloc Quebecois thinks that this bill is unacceptable.

We cannot believe it came from the Canadian Alliance, the party that keeps saying we must respect the Constitution Act, 1867, and that the jurisdictions are quite clear. Once again, someone is proposing interference. I am rather disappointed. At the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, we were told that we must respect the jurisdictions, so I am surprised to see that, with Bill C-292, we have another attempt to interfere with provincial jurisdiction.

Quebec has legislated in this area. Chapter C-61.1 of the act respecting the conservation and development of wildlife provides the rules concerning the purchase of wildlife. I agree with my colleague from the government side on this. Quebec already has legislation on the protection of wildlife forbidding the direct sale of wildlife.

The Bloc Quebecois is against the bill. While the Quebec act does not provide for the same penalties, its provisions are quite similar. We find this in the act respecting the conservation and development of wildlife. There are sections on the actions, such as sections 165, 167 and 172. We have fines of $500 up to $16,400. We also have jail terms of up to one year. In the Quebec act, we even have administrative penalties causing the suspension of licences for up to six years.

I repeat that Bill C-292 is totally unacceptable. We will never accept such a bill, which did not come from the government but from the official opposition. It reproduces what Quebec has done already.

Other provinces that have not done their homework should get down to work. Everthing concerning lands is stipulated in the Constitution Act, 1867. We have made it clear that we are against Bill C-5 introduced by the government. This is almost the same thing. The government member said so in his speech, and he was right. I do not want to go over the iinterference issue relating to both these bills. There is a good reason why the Bloc Quebecois is not supporting Bill C-5. It is for the same reason we are not supporting Bill C-292.

The deterrent effect has been mentioned. Provincial authorities and attorneys would be given a choice between filing charges under a provincial or a federal law. That hardly constitutes a deterrent. Both laws are almost the same. We are getting four quarters for a dollar. Yes, we do need to prevent these offences, but there is already a provincial act in force in Quebec. It is now up to the provinces that do not have one to legislate.

What I find unfortunate it that something as comprehensive as the criminal code is being used to do indirectly what cannot be done directly.

The criminal code is being used increasingly to amend other legislation. I find that this is a major concern. This act is one of the most important in Canada and, indirectly, in Quebec.

What is found in the criminal code is not supposed to be considered as an important tool, to use a very positive expression, for the protection of wildlife.

It is obvious that it is something important for all Quebecers. It is so important to note that our government in Quebec City has done its homework. It has set out important penalties, such as fines of up to $16,400, prison terms and even licence suspensions.

I do not know what happened with the Alliance, but I certainly hope that it is only a mistake. The Alliance members keep talking about the need to work for the regions, about the need to respect the Constitution, the federation and the powers granted by the Constitution in 1991 and 1992, and generally about the need to respect the Constitution.

I only hope that this is a mistake, and that it will not happen again, because it goes against everything that you have been saying in your speeches. I prefer what you have been saying about the protection of the real provincial and federal jurisdictions.

Animals need protection. Quebec is protecting them, under the the act respecting the conservation and development of wildlife.