Species at Risk Act

An Act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in November 2003.

This bill was previously introduced in the 37th Parliament, 1st Session.


David Anderson  Liberal


This bill has received Royal Assent and is now 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 ActOral Questions

June 20th, 2002 / 3 p.m.
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Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, as members know, earlier this month the House approved Bill C-5, an act to protect species at risk. It would appear that the bill cannot receive royal assent this summer.

I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment if she would please outline for the House what the government intends to do in the interim to protect species at risk.

Independent Public InquiryPrivate Members' Business

June 14th, 2002 / 1:55 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Canadian Alliance Crowfoot, AB

Madam Speaker, I am honoured to support this timely motion put forward by my colleague from Saskatoon--Wanuskewin in view of his concern about a problem in Canada. I commend my colleague for bringing it forward. The motion reads:

That this House appoint a committee to conduct an independent public inquiry into Canada's sentencing, corrections and parole systems for the purpose of identifying measures to provide meaningful consequences for offenders, reinforce public safety, and instill public confidence.

That sounds like a worthy goal but the parliamentary secretary completely dismissed the idea of bringing forward an independent inquiry to look at sentencing.

The last time the government attempted to amend the criminal code with regard to sentencing was almost seven years ago. In June 1995 Bill C-41 was rammed through the House of Commons much like Bill C-15B and Bill C-5 were rammed through this spring. The government attempted to pass legislation and then recessed for the summer. That is the way Bill C-41 went through the House.

Before I proceed, for the record I would like to state my opposition to the blatant disregard for democracy that the government has shown. To cut off debate on Bill C-5 and Bill C-15B as mentioned by the member from Yorkton an hour ago was nothing more than a cowardly act clearly demonstrating the government's desperation to have these contentious bills dispensed with given the growing opposition and the swelling dissent from within the Liberal ranks as well as the strong opposition from the Canadian Alliance.

Bill C-41 as stated earlier amended the criminal code providing an express statement regarding the purpose and principles of sentencing. Contained within that legislation were provisions for alternative measures, alternatives to prison for adult offenders. Bill C-41 contained conditional sentences where offenders sentenced to two years less a day could serve their sentences in the community under supervision rather than in prison.

The Canadian Police Association, an authority that even justice ministers often cite as law enforcement experts, commented on Bill C-41 but the commentary was anything but complimentary. In a brief submitted to the standing committee on justice the Canadian Police Association said:

Bill C-41 with few exemptions, is unwieldy, complicated, internally self-contradictory, duplicitous and what is worse in almost all of it, completely unnecessary for anyone with any knowledge of or use for the common law heritage of Canada.

The police association went on to say:

While it would attempt to codify basic sentencing principles, eliminating this most basic judicial discretion, at the same time it would bestow huge new discretionary powers to a whole range of persons within the justice system.The common thread in those new powers is that all are to the benefit of the offender in the sense of non-custodial consequences for criminal actions.

Where sentencing reform calls for protection, this bill offers platitudes. Where it calls for clarity it offers confusion and outright hypocrisy. It will almost certainly cause the already skyrocketing criminal justice budget to expand further still.

I could not have summed up what Bill C-41 accomplished better than what the Canadian Police Association did.

The government has a pathetic record when it comes to tightening the screws of justice. Conditional sentences are a prime example.

Since the introduction of Bill C-41 members of our party have requested amendments and subsequently asked that the criminal code be amended to restrict the use of conditional sentences. We have had ample reason to be concerned about the release of violent offenders, including rapists, back into our society and on to our streets. Pretty good reasons would be our daughters, wives and mothers and unfortunately, now we can even say our sons.

Sex offenders have the highest rate of reoffending. They have the highest recidivism rates and pose a serious risk to our safety and to the lives of our families. However, despite our repeated requests, successive justice ministers have refused to limit conditional sentences. As a direct result we see rapists walking free. We have numerous examples to prove this fact.

This afternoon I would like to mention a number of the appalling examples. On January 26, 1998, a Quebec court judge granted 24 year old Patrick Lucien and 23 year old Evans Sannon 18 month conditional sentences for sexual assault. The judge granted these lenient sentences although the crown recommended prison terms of five and four years for their heinous crimes. A community sentence was totally inappropriate and unacceptable for those two individuals who took turns raping an 18 year old victim while the other one held her down.

When questioned in the House about this case, the former justice minister said that she was satisfied to leave it in the courts. She was satisfied to leave that case and similar controversies to the courthouse rather than deal with the law here in the House. She was not prepared to amend the criminal code limiting the use of conditional sentences. We had then and still are requesting that happen.

The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights is planning to review conditional sentences, hopefully to an end of finally making them off limits for violent and repeat offenders, as we have been recommending for seven years.

Two weeks ago Chatham speech pathologist Larry Hyde was convicted of possessing some 5,000 images of child pornography on the hard drive of his computer. In the ruling the presiding judge described the images as very vile and yet Hyde was given an 18 month conditional sentence and ordered not to associate or communicate with anyone under the age of 18 unless he was accompanied by another adult.

Following the Hyde case, one newspaper said that conditional sentences for possessing child pornography seemed to be the norm across Canada. It is normal now. That is what we have come to in the country. It is normal to put these perverts back out on the street as quick as we can.

Last September, Daniel Isaac Sichel of New Brunswick was handed a six month conditional sentence for possession and trading of child pornography on the Internet. In December, Richard Blumhagel was sentenced to a nine month conditional sentence in a Windsor court for distributing videotapes of child pornography.

The only comforting news in the Hyde case is that the Chatham police have placed his photograph on the provincial sex offender registry.

Daily in the House we see members presenting petitions asking the government to make it a criminal offence for the sadomasochism of children and child pornography and yet we watch our courts put them back out on the streets with conditional sentences. It is a shame. Shame on the court and parole systems that allow such individuals to be walking our streets.

Limiting conditional sentences is only one of many changes that must be made to ensure offenders receive meaningful consequences. The other way, and perhaps one of the most important in my mind, is limiting parole and eliminating statutory release. Although the Canadian Police Association does recognize that there is a place for the conditional release of offenders, it believes that parole must be earned and not be an automatic right as is currently the case.

We completely agree with the Canadian Police Association. Criminals must earn their right to parole by the way they conduct themselves in prison and whether or not they better their lives by gaining a skill while in prison. Their right to parole should not be an inherent right.

National Parole Board statistics for 1999-2000 show the number of incidences committed by offenders on conditional release has increased. A corrections performance report states that the number of escapes from minimum security prisons are increasing.

Recent and all too frequent high profile people, such as police officers, as the member for Saskatoon--Wanuskewin mentioned, have been murdered by those who have been out on parole. Police officers who uphold the law and peace in the country have been shot and killed by individuals who have been out on parole. This is wrong.

We need a government with the will to make changes. The parliamentary secretary talked about reviewing the CCRA. The government accepted 48 of the recommendations two years ago but has failed to implement them.

Studies that are not accepted and nothing is done with them may as well be thrown in the fireplace. They do no good.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

June 14th, 2002 / 12:05 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

David Anderson Canadian Alliance Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I move that the fifth report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food presented on Tuesday, June 11, be concurred in.

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to talk about the report which has been submitted by the agricultural committee. We did a lot of work on this. It was tabled on June 11. First, I would like to thank the staff members who travelled with us and who spent so much time working with us, particularly our researchers J.D. and Suzanne for their work on this report and with our committee.

Last fall we talked in committee about travelling across Canada to hear what Canadian producers had to say about agriculture. We decided that we would hear from as many people as we possibly could. There was some pressure on us to hear only farm organizations but some of us insisted, and the committee agreed, that we hear from as many producers as possible so we could get as wide a spectrum of information on what was going on in the agricultural part of Canada.

I thank the chairman for supporting that suggestion. We heard a lot of witnesses. In western Canada we heard over 100 witnesses in a two day span and what we heard was very interesting. We travelled across the country from Springside to Kamloops, from Brandon to Grand Bend, from Miramichi to Vulcan, Alberta. Presentations were made on virtually every agricultural issue. We heard from people involved in 4-H. We also heard from fruit growers, organic farmers, cattlemen, processors and young people who were trying to get into farming.

When we decided to put this project together and pursue it, I questioned whether we would listen to what people had to say. I have been very skeptical over the years of a lot of the work that has been done in government. A lot of the committees have travelled around and supposedly conferred and consulted with people but then it seems like nothing gets done, or worse, the committee has not listened to the people.

I was happy that early on committee members decided that they would report what they heard from the farmers and producers across Canada. We decided that we would make an effort to keep this report from becoming biased so it would have no relevance to agricultural producers. Overall I think the report has very good balance to it. I guess none of us agree totally with all the recommendations of the report but there are some very good ones. Because there were no minority reports submitted, I would suggest that we have a good report here and one which the government should look at seriously and implement as much as possible. It is important that we express the interests of farmers whether we agree with them or not.

I have laid out some excellent recommendations. As I have said, we did not agree with all of them but farmers made it very clear to us that there were a number of things they wanted. I will spend a few minutes talking about those. First, I want to take a few minutes to talk about the recommendation we think is the most important and which would have the biggest and most positive impact in western Canada, the area from where I come.

Recommendation 14 of the report reads:

Whereas additional on-farm activities and local value-added processing are an excellent way to give farmers more influence in pricing, the Committee recommends that the board of directors of the Canadian Wheat Board authorize, on a trial basis, a free market for the sale of wheat and barley, and that it report to this Committee on the subject.

The majority of farmers in western Canada have wanted this for a long time. From our perspective and from the perspective of others, including the Canadian Wheat Board, none of the other recommendations are as far reaching in consequences as is recommendation 14, and that is absolutely true, because it has the potential to do a lot of positive things for western Canada, things that have not happened for decades.

Recommendation 14 is a tremendous breakthrough in a number of ways. The Alliance has had the position for years that we need a voluntary market to give our farmers some extra opportunities. I was excited to see that the members from the other party, with the exception of one member to be fair, were on side as well. Everyone agreed with this and we think the recommendation is a good one.

We support this recommendation because so many producers have asked us for the opportunity to market their own grains in western Canada. They told us that there were a couple of reasons why they wanted to do this. One was they wanted to be treated equally across Canada. I will talk a little later about some of the differences between Ontario, Quebec and western Canada. However we clearly heard in western Canada and in Ontario that producers wanted to be treated fairly and that they were not afraid of what would happen if they were treated fairly.

A second opportunity that the implementation of recommendation 14 would bring is that it would give people the opportunity to sell into niche markets. A number of farmers have been in contact with me. I have lived beside them and talked to them. They really want to pursue some identity preserve sales.

They would like to make contracts with companies and even other countries where they would grow small lots of grains and then sell container loads or a few carloads. A group of farmers could perhaps go together and make the deal to sell these identity preserves, these special grains, and receive an advantage from the market by doing that.

Right now the entire system prevents that from happening or discourages it from happening. Farmers are becoming impatient with that because they want to do that. They have already developed a lot of the contacts but are not allowed to carry through with the process.

People would like a fair and uninterrupted opportunity to begin to process their own products. We still grow more wheat on the prairies even though the percentage of it is going down because of our marketing system. We grow more wheat than any other product. Farmers have constantly told us that they would like an opportunity to value add to that and to do something with that.

I found it interesting when we met with a Chinese agriculture delegation about a month ago. The head of the delegation was the chair of the agriculture committee from China. One of the things he indicated was that they were going to take their land out of low value production and put it into crops that they can begin to value add to. He suggested that they were going to buy cheap raw bulk product from somewhere else. They were willing to do that.

It was fascinating to me that the Chinese have now moved ahead of western Canadians in terms of what they are going to do with their land. They insist that they value add to it. I am told that in 1995, for example, the Chinese had absolutely no processing capabilities for soybeans in their country. By last year they processed 14 million tonnes of soybeans in China. They have made an extensive commitment to benefit their economy by doing that.

In western Canada there has often been an illusion that China would be a threat to us if we were able to market our own grain. One of the highlights for me on this whole trip was being able to talk to the Ontario wheat board directors about how they have set up the operation in Ontario. They are excited about it. They have six marketing choices within that board.

One of them is direct marketing where they are allowed to sell a certain percentage of the total production of wheat into the market. It is 20% of the total production in Ontario. The farmers themselves voted to raise that to 30% and they told me they expect it will be 100% within the next few years. The 20% is on a first-come, first-served basis. They can book a certain number of tonnes if they want and then sell it into the market. Farmers are required to use up the exemption they have. If they do not, they have to return it to the board.

They seem to be happy with that. They are excited about the opportunities and also excited about the processing opportunities that are developing in their areas and rural constituencies. The producers themselves in Ontario have voted, and are actually allowed to vote, to move toward more freedom in their marketing. That is something that has prevented the western Canadian producers so far.

It was also interesting to hear Quebec producers talk about their opportunity to sell and export their wheat without interference. The wheat board tells us there is a requirement for Quebec farmers to get licences from the wheat board. In talking to people there is no evidence that is taking place or being enforced.

The questions that farmers are asking are: Do we want our communities to grow? Do we want to have a chance to succeed? Many people tell me they are tired of the agriculture community continually going back to the government asking for funding again and again. We must be able to give farmers an opportunity to move away from having to do that.

I was looking in one of the local newspapers which had a special article called “Forty years ago”. There was a picture of an MP who was going to Ottawa to ask for money for agriculture funding. This has gone on long enough. There is another way. We do not have to keep going down the road we have been on for so long.

There are a number of other exemptions that are given out. The wheat board gives exemptions for things like kamut for some of the organic products. There are exemptions in the Creston area of B.C. There are exemptions from the wheat board's application in Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec.

To the credit of government members they listened and saw this was an important opportunity for western Canada. They were probably under a lot of pressure because the minister responsible for the wheat board seems to be absolutely uninterested in changing. He is not willing to change the wheat board. That is the position he has taken.

Members of the committee heard farmers consistently say they wanted some choice and they saw this as an important opportunity. I must thank the members of the committee for having the courage to talk to producers of all stripes and then support this recommendation. Others in the government have not been this visionary or willing to accept the word of the people when they have heard them say that.

There is an easy way to implement recommendation 14. The Canadian Wheat Board gives no cost buy backs regularly. It gives them to Ontario and Quebec farmers. It can do it with a stroke of a pen. It would be simple for them to give Western Canadian farmers no cost buy back licences that other producers in the country receive. We could set that up and have the trial basis that is called for in the recommendation.

Farmers must have some options and more opportunities. The government's farm program will not be a solution. We hear different sets of numbers being used but it becomes evident that the additional money will not be enough to make a major difference in western Canada. It is starting to look like this new APF is more of a public relations program than it is an agriculture policy.

There is a lot of PR involved. The consultation process was highly advertised but was a total disaster. The government talked about consulting with people but it has not chosen to do that. The different parts of the agriculture plan seem to be bringing in a lot more bureaucracy, regulation and cost to farmers rather than helping them out.

There were other good recommendations in the report as well. I would like to speak to some of them. One called for all programs to be available to all farmers. The committee had some discussion about that but we felt it was only fair.

Another recommendation suggested that there could be some improvements to the NISA program. We need to have some improvements there. It is seen by most witnesses as a good program and one that should be expanded. We called for stronger government involvement in it in terms of funding and more flexibility for farmers who want to be able to access the program.

I have always thought that the crop insurance program is one that we could make a cornerstone of our agricultural policy. The committee called upon it to be more flexible and effective with increased funding to give it more realistic coverage.

Recommendation number two called for the establishment of a new disaster fund that could grow, but would be capped at $1 billion. It would accommodate the natural disasters that we see coming up every so often, such as drought and flooding. Flooding in Manitoba occurs regularly and would be the type of emergency that would be applicable to this disaster fund.

The committee had a number of recommendations calling for tax incentives to help rural development through value added processing and tax incentives to aid biofuels and renewable fuels. Tax incentives were recommended for agri-tourism, which is a popular, growing industry that needs to be developed.

Tax incentives were recommended for inter-generational transfers. We heard a number of times how important it is that we set things up so that the next generation can move into farming and do it successfully. We heard about the need for some tax incentives for co-operatives, allowing them to capitalize more efficiently and also for co-operative and other corporate structures that farmers would use on their farms.

We called for adequate infrastructure spending, especially for roads. That is an issue in my home province. A number of people in my area have said that if the government would just give them the road structure they need they could develop the economy. They could be successful if they had the infrastructure the government could provide.

The committee called for a number of areas for regulatory protection. These include protecting access to producer cars, which are important in western Canada. They include setting organic standards with industry. The government needs to set one standard for organic products. We need clearer transparency in our international trade agreements so that we can have a little more efficiency in them and the government can be more effective in dealing with these trade agreements and trade disputes.

There was a call, and we heard this regularly, that we need more control over the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. It established a serious presence on the prairies setting up a number of science centres. We have biologists all over the place and they are taking their work too seriously in that they began to interfere with RMs. They have been extending their influence to even things like irrigation ditches. There needs to be some more regulatory control over the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

We called for regulations to deal with the ongoing concerns regarding the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, things like the appointment of an ombudsman, a performance audit, funding for a research and analysis program similar to the United States to approve minor use products and to co-ordinate our activities with the United States.

There was a call for compensation for farmers. We had a lot of debate the other day over Bill C-5 about the compensation in the species at risk bill. The Alliance has taken a strong position that the call for compensation needed to be directly in the legislation. The government chose to say that it would give us the regulations that at some point may give us compensation of some sort. That is not good enough.

The agriculture committee called for compensation to farmers for any kind of environmental measures that are affecting agriculture. The Alliance continues to take the position that the compensation needs to be at fair market value. That is only fair to the people who are being affected by these measures.

We called for some funding to agriculture education and training, particularly to universities, veterinary colleges and faculties of veterinary medicine. We heard that they have been underfunded and are having trouble keeping their accreditation so that they will be able to work with the United States, and work on a continental basis in terms of animal safety. That is important to them so we have called for an increase in funding to allow them to keep their accreditation.

We called for funding on public education on foods, farm safety programs and education for farmers about environmental farm programs which in parts of the country have now become a reality. In other parts of the country people want nothing to do with them. We called for compensation of fair and reasonable amounts. The Canadian Alliance would call that market value.

One of our recommendations called for funding for trade injury damage, for trade subsidization penalties. We would like $1.3 billion committed to that. That is a figure that the farm organizations have used fairly often. The unfortunate thing is that the government is messing this up. It has not consulted properly and does not seem to be getting much co-operation.

We have provincial governments that are furious at some of the agriculture organizations. The agriculture organizations perhaps have been making agreements or decisions apart from consulting some of the people with whom they should be working. It is another example of the federal government's policy regarding agriculture where it tries to divide and conquer, to split up the organizations and provinces so they are never on the same page and it allows the government to get out of fulfilling its responsibilities.

The government is now heading toward putting all of the farm programs into one package so the disaster relief, safety net programs and trade dispute money seems to be all going into one package. We suggested that is not appropriate because the U.S. farm bill has been passed and targets farmers specifically. There needs to be a trade injury package that deals with that situation. The government will not get away with throwing all that money into one package and then trying to pretend that it is new money.

The estimates for this year are actually $670 million less in safety net funding than was spent last year. The bureaucrats told us that it was because we spend some in estimates and some in supplementaries. The reality is that when the numbers are added the totals that are projected right now are $670 million less than the government spent last year on the safety net funding. We are pointing out to people that the first $700 million of new money that would be going into agriculture brings the funding up to last year's levels.

I am not so sure that the agriculture policy framework is not on its way to a wreck. I mentioned before that there will be a lot more regulations on farmers. There is more bureaucracy and the government is trying to get out of supporting farmers with that program.

I want to return to recommendation 14. I want to talk about some of the consequences of opening up the wheat board and the positive things that could happen.

My office over the last few months, and the young lady who is working for me as an intern for the summer, has done a lot of work in the last couple of months on this project. We went to Saskatchewan with a survey. We set three primary goals in our survey. The first was to provide a precise analysis of the value added crop processors in our part of the world. We interviewed a number of the specialty crop processors to find out what kind of economic benefits they bring to their communities.

We went through the current wheat board and flour milling capacity situation in western Canada. We tried to estimate how well the specialty crop producers were doing in Saskatchewan and extrapolated that to determine if we could do the same things with wheat, what the results would be in western Canada. We surveyed specialty crop processors and looked at the current processing and wheat milling that exists in western Canada. Then we tried to look at the potential, what could really happen in western Canada.

We found that we could have an impact of up to $1 billion in Saskatchewan if the wheat processing was opened up to allow local communities to do their work. If the same number of communities put up processing plants as there are now in specialty crops, the benefit to western Canada would be in the neighbourhood of $1 billion plus.

I was very disturbed at the wheat board's reaction in the press release it put out. It could have looked at this positively. Canadian farmers have told us consistently that 60% to 80% of western Canadian farmers want to open up the Canadian Wheat Board. They want to have some options.

Earlier on the wheat board was looking at this. It seems to have retrenched which is unfortunate.

I look forward to the government taking the initiative on this issue. It has been nine years now that it has shown no movement on it. I would love to see the government take the initiative on this recommendation, move forward, give western Canadian farmers the opportunity to do some niche market selling, to do some value added, and bring prosperity to our dying communities. It would give western Canadian farmers the same opportunity that eastern Canadian farmers have had. It would give them the same opportunity to have that type of success.

Pest Control Products ActGovernment Orders

June 13th, 2002 / 1 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

David Anderson Canadian Alliance Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to rise and speak to third reading of Bill C-53, the pest control act. I know it is too late to make amendments to the bill but I hope to make some suggestions to which I hope the government will listen. Perhaps at some future date it will implement some of these suggestions and the positive changes we hope to see take place.

Unlike the debate earlier today in which the government found itself on the wrong side of an issue, the disability tax credit and having to defend its treatment of disabled persons, we find that this bill is politically correct in every way.

I think this bill is part of a trend. When I came to Ottawa, I was under the impression that bills would be written with a positive objective. It is surprising to me to see that a number of bills have been introduced with a negative objective.

The first one I came across was Bill C-15B, which was the animal rights legislation. It has a very strange definition in it where it defines animals as “any being that has the capacity to feel pain”. That is a very strange and negative way to define an animal. We could just as well have been defined animal as one that can feel excitement. It could have been defined either way. It was interesting that the government took a negative tact to define one of the major definitions in that bill.

When we read the primary objective of Bill C-53, once again we see that it has a negative tact of what it wants to do. It says that it is “in the national interest that the primary objective of the federal regulatory system be to prevent unacceptable risk to people and the environment from the use of pest control products”. It begins with the assumption that the bill needs to do something negative.

It is too late now to change the bill but the objective of the bill could have easily been to promote good health and environmental stewardship through the regulation of products which are used for controlling pests. That throws an entirely different flavour on the objective of the bill and its direction.

The perspective of the department is revealed in a large way by how it put the bill together. The objective sets the direction for how the bill will be enforced and how it will be applied. I have a lot of concerns about that. The words “prevent” rather than “promote” have been used . The words “stop“ rather than “provide” have been used. I think already we can see what the intention of the department will be in applying this legislation.

The bill also seems to be very politically correct in that it is discriminatory. Once again, by picking out special interest groups, the government misses out on protecting the people it should be protecting. In the preamble of the bill it mentions that we need to take into account the effects of chemicals on major identifiable subgroups, including pregnant women, infants, children, women and seniors. However it completely misses mentioning the effects on the people who use chemicals the most and who are most closely exposed to them, and that is men.

It is fine to identify the other identifiable subgroups. It is true that some of them are more susceptible to chemicals than others. In my constituency the men are exposed most closely to the majority of the chemicals. Men are working with them consistently. I would expect that to be fair government legislation should deal with everyone, not just the politically correct groups. It is an insult that seems to always accompany special interest politics by people who either do not really understand how things work right on the ground or bureaucrats who have an agenda.

I would like to talk a bit about the people at home. I come from an agricultural area where chemicals are used. The people who use them are primarily the men in our area. The farmers use them in spring to treat seed crops, fungicides and in a number of other ways. Later in the spring they use them for weed control and insect control. In the fall there are chemicals that are often applied as well. I suggest men do have special characteristics. There are a number of illnesses that are often ignored because it seems they are male in origin, while other more politically popular and perhaps more politically correct diseases get a lot of funding and attention from different places.

The bill discriminates. I am not too sure the people who wrote it realize that. My question would be this. How used to that way of thinking have we become that we begin to discriminate but do not realize it?

As so many other bills, this bill also has a coercive element to it. We have seen other coercive government thinking. We have seen the big stick approach in a number of other bills as well. Just lately, in Bill C-5, the government insisted on passing a bill without providing for compensation for landowners who would be affected by it. The government said that we should be comforted by the fact that at some point in the future it would put compensation in regulations.

We have seen it in Bill C-15B where there are very strong penalties for animal rights abuses, yet at the same time the government has chosen not to protect farmers and ranchers from frivolous claims and attacks on their normal way of life. We have seen it also in Bill C-68 which over the years has been a source of a lot of contention and problems.

We see it here again in terms of the transportation, disposal and handling of these products. Clause 6 reads:

No person shall handle, store, transport, use or dispose of a pest control product in a way that is inconsistent with...

Then it states the regulations and a couple of other options.

Later we see that the fines are very substantial. Penalties are severe: $200,000 or six months in jail for a summary conviction and $500,000 and three years upon conviction from an indictment.

I would suggest that farmers will be caught in this. It may be news to the government but containers are not always disposed of in the manner that the bureaucrats have decided is good. That happens for a number of reasons. Often the regulations are made with no accommodation for compliance. The regulations are set up but it is not practical to comply with them or there is no funding in place to make it possible to comply with them. Often there are physical barriers to compliance which includes things like no local facility to dispose of the product or the extra containers.

The best solution I saw on this was in my home province of Saskatchewan. It came out with a program where the containers were triple rinsed and then returned to the local landfill site. It was very successful, it was voluntary and it had educational component to it. Farmers were very happy to comply with the program. They just needed a bit of encouragement and some education on the fact that the program was there for them. Fines of $200,000 will not encourage compliance as much as encouragement and a good program with a bit of education.

I have some concerns as well about the re-evaluation process. Clause 16 talks about that. It mentions that all chemicals shall be re-evaluated at some point. It talks about the fact that if the pest control product was approved in the past years, then the review process would have to be implemented fairly quickly. There is a time limit on when new chemicals will have to be re-evaluated.

This could be a very good process or it could be a disaster. We need to know more about the provisions to re-evaluate all chemicals on the market. If the government tells everyone to begin from the start with these chemicals in order to get them re-evaluated, we will find ourselves with a very expensive, cumbersome process.

The PMRA has not exactly been successful at its registration of new products. I do not know that we can throw every chemical that we have approved in the last 30 years on it without causing a huge backlog. If the government expects companies to start over with the registration, it will be just about impossible. However, if at some point it is willing to set up with an ongoing evaluation system and give approval to chemicals that demonstrate that they are not a problem that are not causing problems in the environment, then this re-evaluation process could be an excellent thing. All of it depends upon the application of the process.

I have great concern over subclause 17(2) which talks about a special review every time any OECD country takes a product off the market. We know that trade concerns can often be hidden behind health and environmental issues. We have already run into that a number of times in other areas. I suggest this ties us too closely to other countries and their activities. The Liberal government seems to be very wary of getting too close to the United States, yet in this legislation says that if any OECD country decides to pull a chemical off the market, we need to do an automatic review of its registration.

If it is good to do it that way, why do we not do it the other way as well. If any one of the OECD countries approves a product, then we approve it as well and put it on the market. That would be a fair exchange. That is not part of this bill and it is not likely that would ever happen.

There are other concerns as well. One is harmonization. We were pleased to get one of the Alliance amendments through on harmonization. Under our amendment when an applicant applies for a registered pest control product or to amend the pest control product registration, they would now be able to submit information from reviews and evaluations conducted in other OECD countries.

We heard this a PMRA hearings. People want the opportunity to bring information here that has already been developed in other places and use as part of our registration. If we use a chemical under similar conditions, it makes good sense that we use that information. It avoids costly duplication for pesticide makers. It cuts down on the cost of the registration process. It actually hastens the process of getting those chemicals onto the market where they can replace some of the older and maybe more hazardous chemicals.

Minor use is one of my other concerns. A major shortfall in Bill C-53 is that it gives no consideration to minor use products. The agriculture committee has heard this a number of times. It is very important for horticulture and vegetable specialty crops. It is important that there be a discussion about minor use and the way it will work in Canada. Minor use applications are increasing as we go to more niche marketing.

There are a lot of times that the economy of scale absolutely does not support full registration. There was a situation last spring on the prairies regarding chick peas. Because the Bravo chemical was not working in stopping the ascochyta, I approached the government to try to get another chemical approved. It took some time but the other chemical, Quadras, was approved and it worked very well. However the approval process for that chemical took quite a bit of time. That approval time has to be shortened up. If a chemical is available, if it has been used in other places and if we seem to have similar conditions here, then it should be available quickly. This is important for Canadian competitiveness.

Fruit and vegetable growers have told us that they need these chemicals. If they are available in the United States, if they have been approved and are on the market and if we have similar conditions, we need to be able to use them. The government has recognized the importance of minor use but has done nothing about it.

Concern about access to minor use products was brought up prominently in the recent report of the agriculture committee on registration of pesticides and the competitiveness of Canadian farmers. According to the report:

Canadian farmers...do not have access to the same safe and effective pest management tools as their competitors, particularly American producers.

I was glad to be part of the committee that put that report together. It called for several improvements and I would like to read two of them to the House.

First, the committee has called for at least $1 million a year in funding for research and an analysis program similar to the U.S. IR-4 that will be developed in co-operation with agricultural stakeholders to generate the necessary data for approval of new minor use pesticide products or to expand the use of previously approved products.

A second recommendation is that an adviser on matters pertaining to minor use pest control products be appointed to intervene in decisions and policies to facilitate activities relating to minor use products. This adviser's mandate would include a special focus on harmonization issues with the United States such as the equivalency of similar zone maps and the consideration of data already existing in an OECD country. The adviser would report to the Minister of Health and the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.

Another concern the committee is that the bill does not address the issue of reduced risk products. It makes no provision for getting these new, safer reduced risk products directly into the marketplace. We need to expedite the reviews of such products.

The United States has reduced risk category and timelines in approving them. Last year the timelines to get these products onto the market was approximately 35% less than conventional pesticides. There are some big savings in terms of efficiency and cost.

Bill C-53 also does not mention any timelines for registration. That is an important change but perhaps it will be made later. There needs to be some timelines put on registration because presently this is taking far too long.

The health committee also heard from a number of witnesses that registrations were taking too long compared to the United States. That was consistent with what the agriculture committee heard as well. Our party has pressed for timelines to be drawn up but the government has chosen not to put them into this legislation.

I would like to take a few minutes to talk about the PMRA, which seems to be an ongoing problem in the agriculture sector. This legislation will be completely wasted unless changes are made to the PMRA.

Unfortunately, the bill does not bring accountability to the PMRA. Timelines are a concern within the PMRA, but also the audits that this legislation calls for do not go far enough. There is no requirement in the bill to report the financial information of the agency. We already saw the failure of that in the Canadian Wheat Board audit where wheat board directors were allowed to set the conditions for the audit.

The auditor general did a good job on the area she was allowed to study but she was not allowed to study the overall operations. She ended up doing a study of office management but could not study the overall efficiency of the board. Because of that she was prevented from reaching any conclusions about the kind of job the CWB was doing for farmers. I would not like to see the same thing happening with the PMRA. We need to know if the agency's objectives are being achieved in an expeditious manner.

Both the health and agriculture committees heard a number of times from witnesses their concerns about the PMRA. Many of their administrative and management practices were called into question repeatedly. The agriculture committee highlighted problems with the PMRA. We were told that seven years after the PMRA was started up it had advanced the pesticide registration system but the impatience and frustration of farmers persisted and was systematic of a glitch in the agency's overall operation.

We heard from many witnesses who were frustrated with having to deal with the PMRA bureaucracy and feeling that they could not get through the registration process. They could not talk with the people who could make decisions and often regulations were changed while they were trying to work on registrations.

The agriculture committee recommended that an independent ombudsman be appointed to facilitate discussions on the needs of farmers regarding pest control within the PMRA. We made a recommendation that the Auditor General of Canada conduct a value for money or performance audit to examine the management practices, controls and reporting systems of the PMRA.

We feel it is important that for the legislation to work that the problems within the PMRA be resolved if any of the worthy goals of the legislation are to be realized. The bill is only as good as the PMRA's ability to administer it.

I will go over the agriculture committee recommendations made regarding the PMRA. It is important that we get them on the record because we heard a lot of concern about these needs. The report that the agriculture committee submitted dealing with pesticide registration had four recommendations.

First, it recommended there be an ombudsman independent of the PMRA that would report to the health minister. Poor communication between farmers and the PMRA has been a concern. Having a third party reporting directly to the Minister of Health would certainly alleviate disputes. We thought it was a good idea and that the time had come for this to take place.

Second, it called for the auditor general to do a full audit of the PMRA. The PMRA has been slow in registering products. It has been far too slow. Bureaucrats from the PMRA told the committee that it was due to inadequate funding. There are people who would dispute that but the auditor general's recommendation would allow general performance and management practices to be audited for efficiency and we could then see whether this bureau is funded adequately or not. It would be important to do a value for money check to examine the management practices and the efficiency, or the lack of efficiency, that we may find within the PMRA.

Third, we called for a recommendation dealing with funding to enhance broader product access. More funding is needed for the approval of minor use pesticides. In the United States, for example, the EPA has approved 901 new pesticides and new uses for existing pesticides. The PMRA has only approved 24 products since March 2000. Are we getting good value for our money?

The committee recommended at least $1 million a year in funding from Agriculture Canada for research and analysis development in co-operation with stakeholders for the approval of new minor use products.

Fourth, we made a recommendation for a scientific data adviser. The PMRA often seems to reinvent the wheel every time an application comes in for a minor use product. The committee recommended an adviser on minor use pest controls to intervene in decisions and policies. The minor use registration is a growing and significant part of what the PMRA will do. It is important for it to have a scientific adviser in place to make good and quick decisions on minor use. The person could work specifically on the harmonization with the U.S. There should be some equivalency with the United States and encouragement to use existing data so that we do not have to repeat the research that was done several other times.

The bill is needed and it is time that it was passed. It is long overdue. We have some reservations about it and I have tried to make some suggestions of areas that the government might consider improving. I know that they will not be in the bill but hopefully in the future the government would take a look at putting some of these improvements into place. The government could have done a better job but the bill serves the purpose of beginning the process.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2002 / 5:05 p.m.
See context


Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join in the debate today on Bill C-5, the endangered species legislation, which I support.

I will begin by clarifying something said in previous discussions with members opposite. The point I was trying to make was that in the province of Ontario probably millions of farmers in very diverse farming situations have lived for 10 years with provincial endangered species legislation. None of the extreme problems the members opposite described have occurred.

Members opposite speak as though people in rural areas have no interest in maintaining the number of species that already exist, or that they do not suffer as the rest of us do when the number of species decreases.

The fact is that every time one species is lost almost inevitably other species are gone. This goes right down to bacteria which are critical parts of the web of life upon which we all depend.

A very good current example of this in rural areas is the problem we are having with bees. This does not come under the legislation, although in some ways I wish it did.

Being a rural member yourself, Mr. Speaker, I think you know that the predatory bee species that have been introduced are destroying our native bees. That is a simple example of a species being taken out in various regions. The ramifications of this for all of us, but for farmers in particular, are quite extraordinary. Let us think of this simply in terms of crops. If there are no bees many of our crops will not be pollinated and we will not be able to farm as we do at present. If there are no bees it will have other natural implications in the web of life because, as I have said before, other species are interrelated to bees as well as ourselves.

The loss of bees is critical for farmers and, I would argue, so is the loss of other species, in particular the general fact of the reduction in the number of species, which is going on because of the enormous number of human beings on the planet and the way we live on the planet. We should all be very conscious of that.

It has been demonstrated many times that one of the key reasons, if not the key reason, for the reduction in species is habitat. It often has nothing to do with species themselves but rather with where they live. Habitat is where species live, where they find food and where they raise their young. If there is no habitat there is no wildlife.

The main reason for habitat destruction is human behaviour. The place the species call home is either changed or lost in such a way that the species can no longer live there. This includes wetlands, forests, waters, open fields and agricultural terrain.

However at the same time we cannot always stop what we are doing. We human beings live on the planet as well. Will we tell a farmer not to plough or plant? Will we tell a resort or recreation operator to sit by during a nesting season? Will we tell mining companies that they cannot explore or forest companies that they must close down? That does not make sense either because that is a part of the way we live in the environment.

We need a balance, a balance between this natural environment upon which we depend and our way of life upon which we also depend.

After many years of study that balance is found in the proposed species at risk act and even further in the entire strategy for the protection of species at risk. The balance is found in the co-operative approach.

Stewardship and voluntary action are the first and best steps in protecting species' critical habitat. It is the partnerships we have formed and are continuing with large forestry and mining companies, with fishers, farmers and others, partnerships that are building conservation and stewardships in the way we all do business.

As we know from firsthand experience, most people want to do the right thing, and they do. Whether they live in rural or urban Canada, they want to do the right thing. We all want to do the right thing because we know that when a species is at risk or is lost, there are consequences to the whole ecosystem and we are part of that ecosystem. When a species is lost there can be further effects that are sometimes unpredictable and incalculable.

The loss of bees in the environment was an example of that. We know the immediate effects of the loss of bees on pollination and on crops but we do not know the full ramification of the loss of bees in a particular chain.

The biological diversity of the environment forms the support network for all human existence. The tiny organisms that contribute to clean water, the water that supports plant life and the plants that feed wildlife all form part of a system that supports us, our children and our families.

As members can see, we have no choice. We must act. We must ensure that no species becomes extinct because of human behaviour.

We also recognize and the proposed legislation is designed to ensure that there must be strong prohibitions in case the co-operative approach does not work. We recognized some time ago that this could in some cases involve a significant loss of income earned from the land.

That brings us to the issue of compensation. As we heard this afternoon, compensation is a very complex matter that requires careful consideration and creative thinking.

When it is necessary under the proposed law to prohibit the destruction of critical habitat or to make an emergency order to protect habitat, then the proposed legislation would allow for compensation to be paid for losses suffered as a result of any extraordinary impact. The proposed act is clear that any compensation provided to anyone who suffers loss from such prohibitions will be fair and reasonable.

There has been much concern about compensation and much debate on it for eight or nine years. The intensity of the policy work around this matter has been great. As members can imagine, views, as we heard this afternoon, vary widely on this issue. In particular, rural Canadians have taken great interest in how the government will manage the issue of compensation under the proposed species at risk act. How much is enough? Who should get it? When? How would we decide how much to give and to whom?

Those are just a few of the many questions that have been asked and are still being asked. They have been researched over nine years. We have debated them over nine years. We have sought expert advice over nine years. We have read cases and we have consulted, some of which have been mentioned again here this afternoon, and we have reached several conclusions. The most important of these is that several years of practical experience is needed to implement the stewardship and recovery provisions of the proposed species at risk act and to deal with questions of compensation. Establishing a prescriptive approach to the legislation without the needed experience may well have the unintentional effect of excluding some very legitimate claims.

Concepts, such as fair market value, which have been shouted from the other side, are relevant considerations in quantifying the impact on a case by case basis, but determination of the level of compensation should not be limited to this concept.

As appropriate, the expertise of qualified valuation experts would be used to determine the adverse impact to the interest in property or in the quantification of loss of benefits that may result from not being able to carry out certain activities.

There will be general compensation regulations ready soon after the proposed act is proclaimed that specify the procedures to be followed for claiming compensation. These regulations will enable the use of the compensation provisions should an extraordinary situation arise. I mentioned the case in Ontario where we have had endangered species legislation for many years and such cases have not arisen.

Work on developing these regulations has begun. We must do it the right way. We want to get it right. We are working with the territories and provinces to do it. We are doing all of this in ways--

Species At Risk ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2002 / 4:45 p.m.
See context

Parkdale—High Park Ontario


Sarmite Bulte LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I too am very pleased to rise today to speak on Bill C-5 because it is a testament to perseverance and commitment to endangered species legislation.

I did not sit on the committee, but I was made aware of this issue back in the summer of 1999. A number of environmentalists live in my constituency and are very concerned about the environment. In fact in 1997, when I was campaigning in my first election, I went door to door and people asked me what happened to the species at risk legislation. They said they were very concerned about it and felt that the Liberal government was not concerned enough about the environment. They then asked me what I would do about it. We made our commitment to pass endangered species legislation quite clear in the 1997 red book.

I would like to recount how I became involved in this issue. In 1999 a constituent of mine, Professor Stewart Elgie, who has become a good friend and who also happens to be an environmental lawyer, came to talk to me about the importance of the endangered species legislation. He also wanted to talk about it from a trade perspective, particularly with respect to what had been happening in the United States. At that time I was chair of the Subcommittee on International Trade, Trade Disputes and Investment.

In 1992, when we signed the biodiversity convention, we undertook to implement species at risk legislation. In fact between 1980 and 1999 American lobbyists were already proposing the Pelly amendment to what I believe was the fishers act to again petition congress about the fact that Canada had not passed species at risk legislation. In fact the Americans, as they are known to do in their tactics, threatened trade retaliation if we did not do this.

It did not actually get to that point but it was written up in the New York Times . There was motion afoot to make congress move on the Pelly amendment. I remember raising this issue at our caucus meeting in the summer of 1999 when the Minister of the Environment had just taken over that portfolio. I spoke to him about how important it was that we continued to proceed with and pass legislation not because we were forced to do it but because it was the right thing to do.

I remember learning more and more about the legislation and just how important it was not only to strike a balance but at the same time how important it was to show that the Liberals had an environmental agenda and that we meant to follow up on it.

I also remember when the legislation was first tabled. The minister came to Toronto at that time to consult with GTA members on the first reading. I also remember that there were a number of concerns raised even by members of the GTA caucus. We realized how important it was to pass this legislation but we did not want legislation for the sake of legislation. We wanted it to be good legislation.

As I said at the outset, to me this is a testament that we have persevered. It is a testament of the caucus working together. It is a testament of the standing committee working together. It is a testament to listening to stakeholders. It is a testament that finally, after all these years, we have brought species at risk legislation into being which addresses the most important issues.

In the time that I have, I would like to look at the foundation pieces that make up this legislation. They tell the story and show that the proposed species at risk act will do exactly what it is intended to do: protect wildlife in Canada while taking the needs of Canadians into consideration. It is not an anti-rural issue at all. Our own rural caucus worked very hard to ensure that compensation was present and that it was not just discretionary with respect to legislation. The words were not just preparatory, they were mandatory.

First and perhaps foremost in my mind is the important role science is to play in the proposed act. Science is at the very heart of the bill, science that is the best we can get, science that is independent, science that informs decision making.

Wildlife species will be assessed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, also known as COSEWIC. This arm's length independent body has 25 years of respected, verified and hugely important work already behind it.

Remember that in this proposed law there will be no secrecy whatsoever about the result of COSEWIC's deliberations. Following these come the recommendation to add species to schedules attached to the law. That leads us to another key foundation of the proposed act, the issue of accountability.

Once the scientists have done their work independently, the governor in council will establish the legal list. This is an area where there has been no small amount of controversy. It has been way too easy to say that scientists are not making the decision on the list and leave it at that. It reads well, but it is not entirely true and leaves out the important part of the story.

When the legal list is established, there is a lot more to it than publishing a list. Processes begin. Plans get made. Habitats are designated and prohibitions come into play. There are serious implications with each one. Decisions made here affect the use of land. Decisions here affect the future of some landowners, resource companies, fishers and recreation operators.

It is the job of the government to decide what actions to take. It is not a power grab from the scientists. It is an accountability framework and we have to answer to the people because they elected us.

Further basic tenets of the act are found in the protection of all species in their critical habitat wherever they may exist in Canada. The proposed species at risk act would provide this protection in a manner that is consistent with our international obligations, including those under the convention on biological diversity. Also at its very foundation is the first response of stewardship and co-operation.

In talking about stewardship and co-operation, I would like to quote what my constituent, Professor Stewart Elgie, stated today in response to the legislation that we hopefully will pass today:

[The environment minister] did it by emphasizing that protecting endangered wildlife requires not just the stick but also the carrot. His department worked tirelessly to ensure the bill reflected this principle including securing over $50 million per year in funding to implement the bill and support on the ground conservation work.

In addition, I do not know if other members have seen this, but in the Hill Times there is a thank you to the minister, the standing committee and the Liberal caucus for making improvements to the legislation. An ad has been put in the paper by the Species at Risk Working Group, which includes the Canadian Nature Federation, the Canadian Wildlife Federation, the Forest Products Association of Canada, the Mining Association of Canada and the Sierra Club of Canada.

It is possible that environmentalists and industrialists can work together because we know how important it is to preserve our environment. We do so by slowly beginning to ensure that our endangered species are protected. If we do not protect our endangered species, we will also be destroying ourselves.

It is also important for everyone to know that the legislation is reviewable in five years. It is an opportunity to test the legislation and to fine-tune it. It is not unusual. We have the same thing in the Department of Canadian Heritage with respect to the Copyright Act where there is a five year review.

I look forward to watching these foundation pieces in action as a single entity that will be the species at risk act. I look forward to learning new lessons while ensuring solid actions are taken on the ground. Most of all, I look forward to moving on with the legislation to protect our species because now is the time.

Species At Risk ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2002 / 4:30 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

David Anderson Canadian Alliance Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, as the hardworking member for Red Deer said earlier today, we wish that we were here celebrating the success of the bill and celebrating the passage of a good bill. Unfortunately we are not able to do that today.

I would just like to take a minute to respond to the comments of the member for Davenport. I was very concerned because I think it shows a lack of being in touch with Canadians to come in here and suggest that the bill does not create uncertainty, resentment and distrust among Canadian people, because it most certainly does among the people in my riding. They do not know what to expect from the bill. It concerns them and it causes uncertainty, resentment and distrust. It did not have to be that way, but unfortunately it has turned out that way.

I would like to take a little time to talk about the main issues we have with the bill. First I would like to say that the Canadian Alliance has consistently supported good species at risk legislation. We would like to see a bill that is effective, we would like to see a bill that is useful and we would like to see a bill that is realistic, that Canadians can deal with knowing they will be dealt with fairly in the legislation.

As I said, the main problem, which we have heard about all day today, continues to be the issue of compensation. The main objection to the bill is the government's refusal to protect its citizens by providing full market value compensation. I will spend some time talking about it, but the amount of discussion this has generated is interesting. I would suggest that it has been generated because the Canadian Alliance, and the Reform Party before it, has been very firm on this issue and has insisted that we need to have fair market value compensation for people affected by species at risk legislation.

The lack of compensation is the main problem with the bill. The bill does not provide for it. We can talk about it all day here, but there is an absolute refusal on the part of the government to put fair market value compensation into the bill. It continues to talk about regulations. I would suggest that it is talking about regulation and regulating things at the same time as it is taking away Canadians' rights. I will also assert that I think this is tied to a consistent position the Liberal Party has taken over the years, that being that it does not want to recognize personal property rights. This bill is in line with that position.

I am sick and tired of hearing government members justify the lack of compensation in the bill. It would be very simple to fix. If the government really thought it was an issue it could have been fixed very easily. It has chosen not to do that and I wish it would have.

The minister's speech here this morning sent up a lot of warning flags. I heard him say a number of things I would like to touch on. One of the things he said is that the government will work with landowners in willing partnerships. Without that fair market value compensation, though, it made me think of the movie The Godfather , when they made people an offer they could not refuse. I know that none of us want to wake up with a burrowing owl in our bed.

The government says it “shall” provide regulations. That does not guarantee anything other than more regulations. It does not guarantee producers a thing. Again the issue is that compensation must be at fair market value. It needs to be written into the legislation. There is now no mention of it in the legislation.

The minister also made a couple of other comments that really concern me. He said they would get started on general compensation regulations, and then there was a funny phrase in there: if needed. It may not show up in Hansard later on, but I found it interesting. It was almost a side comment that he made, that they would start on them if needed. If the government is not going to put them into the legislation then we certainly need them, immediately if not sooner.

He also made the suggestion that the government would be dealing with the claims on a case by case basis. I do not know of anyone other than other Liberals who would think that this is a good idea. I have an example from the past, which is the expropriation of land for the Suffield military base near Medicine Hat. The family of a friend of mine grew up in that area. The time came when the government wanted that land for a military base. The government talked to the ranchers and invited them to come to Medicine Hat individually to discuss with the government the deal that they could make on their ranches and their land.

The ranchers went in and made their deals, but the one thing the government had not counted on was that on the way home the ranchers all stopped at one place to have coffee. At that house they of course talked about the agreements and deals they had made. They started to realize that they were being treated quite a bit differently one from the other. They got together and went back to Medicine Hat together. I was told that they went in the front door of the building and the bureaucrats went out the back door and after that they ended up negotiating long distance. They all got the same deal in the end, but the danger was that they were being divided and conquered individually. When they finally got together and stood up for themselves, they were able to make a deal they could live with.

I get very concerned when I hear the minister say that regulations will be put in place over the next few years but until then the government will deal with things on a case by case basis. Given the government's record and recent history, I do not think Canadians should be at all comfortable with the fact that the Liberals want to deal with them on a one to one basis. There may be some good things in that for a small group of people but the majority of Canadians will not be treated properly.

I want to come back again to the fact that the minister and the members are still implying that compensation is included in the bill. I know we are running short on time and not many more members will be speaking on the bill. However, I would ask the government members to show some integrity in this.

Yesterday one member on the opposition side said that corrupt attitudes spread like scum on a pond. I understand how that happens but a little courage and clarity would go a long way. If government members would get up and say that the bill does not have compensation written into it but that they are supporting it anyway, the Canadian people could understand this and may even show them respect for having the courage to take a position.

Here is the reality. There is no compensation and I encourage the government members to admit it, stand up and take that position. Otherwise we will find a situation like we had last week when Bill C-15B passed without providing legal protection to farmers and ranchers. Afterward we saw government backbenchers are trying to justify it in their ridings. When they are called to account, they have no explanation for the position they have taken. The idea that we can pass it on to the other place and it will fix up legislation that we have the responsibility to fix here will not work.

Rural members of all parties could have worked really well on this legislation. The committee did that but the minister chose not to accept it.

Rural members need to work together. The opposition members have done their job on the bill. They have forced the discussion. They have brought in a large number of amendments, not frivolous ones, but ones where that dealt seriously with changing the bill. The Liberal backbenchers need to show some support and backbone in supporting these initiatives. It is not good enough for the rural backbenchers to come out of the woodwork, which happened with this bill to a great extent, only because they support one of the Prime Minister's challengers. We need to see rural backbenchers coming out of the woodwork because they are representing their constituents, not because they are trying to cause damage to someone else and gain political advantage.

The Liberal rural backbenchers have an obligation to their constituents and Canadians deserve better than what they are getting right now from the backbench on the other side of the House.

The second major issue is the legal rights of producers and farmers. Again, we saw the sad situation last week when Bill C-15B was passed without providing legal protection to farmers and ranchers. It was then justified later. Again, in Bill C-5 we see a situation where farmers and ranchers will not have the proper legal protection.

I have a huge concern about the attitudes behind the bill. There were two ways that it could have been put together. One was through a coercive way and the government chose that way. We saw it before with Bill C-68. Now there is massive non-compliance with the act. We will see ourselves in the same situation as the U.S. with the triple S. The government will come in and tell people what to do. The producers will react with a shoot, shovel and shut up policy which definitely does not preserve species at risk.

I also object to the fact that the government brought in closure to cut off debate on an important issue. This action does not give people the opportunity to finish the debate.

In conclusion, it may be too late to ask the government this, but it needs to take another look at the bill and include amendments that provide protection for landowners, both for full market value compensation and for legal protection. It should use the suggestions that we have made about providing compensation and set up the bill so that it uses positive incentives to encourage people to be conservation minded, that is tax incentives to provide technical assistance to stakeholders, farmers and producers. The government needs to eliminate some of the disincentives and provide payment programs if necessary to encourage people to co-operate.

The government needs to understand that farmers are the best environmentalists we have. We need to give them the tools to protect their environment.

We have heard about aboriginal working groups. It surprises me that there is no local working group and that is something the government should look at.

If the government is not going to make these changes, the government will pay the consequences both in terms of the loss of endangered species and at the polls.

Species At Risk ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2002 / 4:25 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, I highly respect the hon. member who just spoke. He has been a member of this House for a very long time and is the chair of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.

I had an opportunity to work with this member on the committee when we were studying the regulations on pest control. When this committee studied the endangered species legislation my responsibilities were changed. I never claimed that I was a member of that committee when it studied the endangered species act, but I had an opportunity to work with the member and many other members on the committee when they studied the pest control regulations and prepared their report. I appreciate the hard work that was done by members of the committee.

The member asserted that the official opposition is fearmongering. I have to tell the member that the truth always hurts. Our senior critic for the official opposition and various other members have spoken up, and members of the House will note that reasonable and fair compensation is the key issue in this bill. The government never had the guts to say “Here is fair compensation and we will follow the same compensation principles that are followed in other jurisdictions”. Canada is a signatory to the United Nations convention and we are not incorporating the principles in Bill C-5. Also there is a lot of uncertainty left because reasonably fair compensation is not included in the bill at all.

There are other things that are going to create resentment and distrust. We are saying this because it is true. Resentment and distrust will be created because law-abiding people, those who do not have any criminal intent and who unknowingly, inadvertently, or innocently destroy the habitat of any species, will be criminally charged. What about mens rea? Why is the government ignoring the mens rea principle and not incorporating it in the bill? I would say that resentment is natural when there is no compensation and when the government is turning ordinary, law-abiding citizens into criminals. Finally, on distrust, the government did not negotiate with the provinces.

Also, my last point, very quickly--

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2002 / 4:10 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the constituents of Surrey Central I am pleased to rise in the House to participate in the debate regarding Bill C-5, an act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada. I would also like to mention I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Cypress Hills--Grasslands. I am sure in hills and grasslands there will be lots of wildlife.

I would like to compliment my colleagues, the hon. members for Red Deer and Skeena, and staff members Julie-Anne Miller and Paul Wilson for their hard work. They have a done a great deal of work and research on this bill and the members have done a lot of work along with other members in the House and in committee.

The Canadian Alliance supports the endangered species legislation based on co-operation, science, respect for private property, transparency and accountability. The government invoked closure on this legislation. This is serious legislation that does not have to be rushed. It will impact many people and species in Canada.

The legislation fails to create a balance of the interests of all stakeholders. The act would not work without guaranteeing fair market value compensation for property owners, farmers, ranchers and resource users who suffer losses. The act would make criminals out of law-abiding people who may unknowingly and inadvertently harm endangered species or their habitat. Criminal liability must require intent.

The government did not consult the provinces. We need co-operation, not confrontation with the provinces. Bill C-5 would give the federal government power to impose its law on provincial lands. The government ignored the environment committee's recommendations. This is another example of top down control from the Prime Minister.

Currently the government may provide compensation on a discretionary basis, case by case. We believe compensation must be mandatory. This would ensure that landowners and resource users are friends rather than foes of species.

Adequate compensation is the incentive to co-operate otherwise landowners would have no reason to co-operate because they are being asked to bear a disproportionate share of the cost of protecting endangered species. This is critical for saving the species.

The bill says the compensation should be only for losses suffered as a result of any extraordinary impact arising from the application of the act. What does extraordinary impact mean? The minister should have the courage to clarify this. Instead of coming clean the minister pleads that compensation is a complex issue and more time is needed to study it properly. No cost estimates are worked out for different compensation scenarios. This contributes to great uncertainty and reinforces the perception that the government environmental programs are brought forward with no planning or preparation.

A due process and a clear commitment for fair and reasonable compensation must be developed and debated before the bill is passed. This has not been done yet. The government is infamous for its big ideas and bad planning, for big talk and no action. This legislation has been in the government's red book since 1993 and every red book afterwards. This is another broken promise.

The Liberals have a poor track record in protecting endangered species over which they have direct control, such as Atlantic cod, Pacific salmon and many others. Approximately 100 species have been added to the endangered species list since the Liberals first introduced endangered species legislation in the 35th parliament. I was hoping that the government would address a good portion of the 87 amendments proposed by the Canadian Alliance to improve the bill.

The Canadian Alliance succeeded in moving the government on a great number of issues, such as listing, transparency, accountability, notification of landowners, species and critical habit protection. We were entirely ignored on major issues, such as compensation, criminal liability and socioeconomic considerations. Pressure from the Canadian Alliance succeeded in getting a reverse onus system set in place.

Another victory won by the Canadian Alliance in committee dealt with improvements to the transparency and accountability measures in the bill. We succeeded in putting measures and timelines in place requiring the government to give its reasons for listing decisions and to put these in the public registry. Another small victory won by the Canadian Alliance in committee dealt with provisions that would require the government to notify landowners and lessees about the presence of species at risk on their property. In this way farmers and ranchers would know they had to be careful.

We are asking that the costs of protecting our species at risk be spread out over the entire population of Canada. We make this point because we feel it is unfair to ask farmers and landowners to pay the costs of conservation. Their livelihood depends on the conservation of Canada's natural resources, including our species at risk.

After all, if it is socially desirable, then let society pay for it rather than the farmers alone. As it stands now, society would not pay for it, only the farmers and ranchers. This is just not fair.

We fought hard for full or fair and reasonable compensation but narrowly lost the vote 8 to 6 in committee. The amendment that passed made reference to fair and reasonable, but compensation still remained discretionary. Though we had a small win, the development of regulations for compensation has been changed from discretionary to mandatory. Clear provisions for fair market value compensation must be in the bill, not simply in the regulations. We can debate bills in the House but we cannot debate regulations.

The minister told the standing committee last year that he was proposing to develop general compensation regulations to be ready soon after the legislation was proclaimed. In other words, the minister probably had the regulations drafted and sitting on his desk. Why would he not table them now so that we can all judge whether his idea of compensation will be fair and reasonable to all Canadians? It is a simple, common sense question.

The United Nations convention, which Canada is a signatory to, recognizes that costs must be equitably borne by everyone. We expect the same principle to apply in Bill C-5 and that protection of endangered species be recognized as a common good.

There are a lot of examples of compensation working in other jurisdictions. For example, Tasmania, the European Community, the United Kingdom, Scotland, Switzerland and many other nations are working on the very principle that we are asking the government to invoke in the legislation.

The Canadian Alliance is committed to protecting and preserving Canada's natural environment and endangered species. Farmers, ranchers and other property owners want to protect endangered species too but should not be forced to do so at the expense of their livelihood. We must create a balance.

Criminal liability must require intent. Bill C-5 would make endangered species a threat to property owners. In 1996 the national accord for the protection of species at risk was a step in the right direction. Instead, Bill C-5 would give the federal government power to impose its laws on provincial lands. Instead of working together with the provinces and property owners the federal government is introducing uncertainty, resentment and distrust.

The government has amended Bill C-5 to reverse many of the positions taken by its own Liberal MPs on the environment committee. This is another example of top down control from the Prime Minister's Office and again shows contempt for members of parliament.

Finally, unless the bill provides for mandatory compensation and stops criminalizing unintentional behaviour, it will not provide protection for endangered species. We will not support the bill until these amendments are made to it.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2002 / 3:55 p.m.
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Western Arctic Northwest Territories


Ethel Blondin-Andrew LiberalSecretary of State (Children and Youth)

Mr. Speaker, I will focus my remarks on the opportunities of the proposed species at risk act, Bill C-5.

As members probably know, Bill C-5 is effective legislation that would help prevent wildlife in Canada from becoming extinct. It would also provide for the recovery of species at risk. The proposed legislation reflects more than eight years of consultation with provinces, territories, aboriginal peoples, industry, non-governmental organizations and other interested Canadians.

It is balance that provides effective legislation. It is stated within the bill that science would be the first consideration in the listing and recovery of species. The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, COSEWIC, would list species at risk independently of government.

However the role of traditional knowledge is no less important than that of natural science. It has guided the aboriginal people for decades and indeed centuries in their conservation and stewardship of the land and their relationship with the species that exist on it.

As members may know, in many of the territories where aboriginal people are the main inhabitants there has been a natural balance. There has never been a pillage or complete obliteration and extinction of a species because the existence of the people depends on them.

I will focus my remarks on the opportunities in the bill. The way opportunities have been seized in developing the legislation is quite a story. It is a story we have ignored in a long debate that seems to have only two sides and no middle. I will therefore highlight some of the opportunities the bill presents and some of the roads that have been taken. An important opportunity has been seized and new ground has been broken in the involvement of aboriginal peoples and the treatment of aboriginal traditional knowledge. So it should be.

My hon. colleague from Churchill River in Saskatchewan, a member of parliament who is a Cree from that area, brought forward amendments that speak to two issues. First, he proposed to amend the motion dealing with the proposed national aboriginal council on species at risk. His amendment proposed that the minister:

“shall establish a Council, to be known as the National Aboriginal Council on Species at Risk, consisting of six representatives of the aboriginal peoples of Canada selected by the Minister based upon recommendations from aboriginal organizations that the Minister considers appropriate. The role of the Council is to

(1) advise the Minister on the administration of this Act;

(2) provide advice and recommendations to the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council.”

The second amendment the hon. member put forward was important because it emphasized the need to incorporate science and traditional knowledge. The amendment focused on:

“(c) methods for sharing information about species at risk, including community and aboriginal traditional knowledge, that respect, preserve and maintain knowledge and promote their wider application with the approval of the holders of such knowledge, with other governments and persons;”

All that is to say we need to balance the information. It should be incorporated and integrated to reflect the relationship aboriginal peoples have had with the species that would be listed and the lands on which they live. The lands and waters on which a large of number of species at risk depend are inhabited and managed by aboriginal peoples. Many species at risk such as wood bison are valued by Canada's first peoples for their ecological role. They are of importance both culturally and for their use as a traditional food source.

It may come as a surprise to many people that migratory birds and large mammals such as moose, caribou, bison, muskox and deer are still harvested and used by aboriginal people as a regular part of their diet. When aboriginal people met with diabetes and many of the illnesses that befall them these days it was because of a change in diet. They had moved from rural regions where they used these animal species as their main diet to areas where people uses other foods that had different supplements and preservatives. This has been evident in the health of aboriginal people.

There was an opportunity and we all took it. We took it in partnership with Canada's aboriginal peoples to ensure their participation in the development of this law was unprecedented.

I will explain. In the four years prior to the tabling of the proposed species at risk act discussions were held with all the national aboriginal organizations and most of the regional aboriginal organizations and first nations across the country. Emerging from the discussions was the Aboriginal Working Group on Species at Risk. The group, representing aboriginal organizations, was established in 1998 and continues to meet on a regular basis.

Once again it was a matter of opportunity. The aboriginal working group has provided advice on the development and implementation of the proposed species at risk act. It has provided a significant advisory capacity by helping us fully understand the issues, needs and capacities of aboriginal peoples to help in the protection of species at risk. One result of this hard work is that the proposed act would explicitly recognize the role of aboriginal peoples in the conservation of wildlife. This was more than a matter of opportunity. We came to understand that it was a matter of necessity.

I will further explain how the work of the aboriginal working group has helped the government understand the opportunities of the proposed legislation. Under the bill before us aboriginal traditional knowledge would have to be considered in decision making. There would be strong requirements to co-operate with aboriginal people in recovery efforts. The government is supporting the establishment of a national aboriginal council on species at risk. I will discuss each of these accomplishments and seized opportunities in turn.

The fundamental basis on which decisions are made would be altered by the inclusion of traditional and community knowledge as decision making criteria. In the past assessing the status of wildlife species and making wildlife management decisions such as setting quotas and determining access to wildlife was often based solely on scientific information. Aboriginal traditional knowledge is the knowledge base of the indigenous peoples of Canada who depend on the land for their long term survival. Through observation and experimentation, holders of this knowledge continue to develop a dynamic and innovative knowledge base of the land, the environment and the species within.

Like aboriginal peoples, we derive results through observation and experimentation. What is different is way the interpretation and recording is done. Scientists are trained to interpret results according to set standards in a written form, which facilitates communication and understanding in the academic community. Aboriginal traditional knowledge holders use different methods to interpret results for presentation to their communities in an oral form. We would be losing the chance to paint the fullest picture possible if we did not do it both ways. This is why the proposal includes this kind of knowledge.

I spoke about the amendments my hon. colleague from Churchill River in northern Saskatchewan put to the bill. The proposed species at risk act would explicitly require COSEWIC to consider aboriginal traditional knowledge in its deliberations. It would be foolhardy not to. These people have survived thousands of years on the land without any formal education in most parts. The Crees of James Bay, the Dene and Inuit in the Northwest Territories, Yukon, Nunavut and over into Alaska, and the Inuvialuit in my area have lived with the muskox, seal, walrus and beluga, species which are all still in abundance, for thousands of years. They have created that balance. They did not use university educations, degrees or pure science to determine how to conserve and provide proper stewardship. It was their lifestyle. The way they interpreted traditional knowledge guided their activities.

The proposed species at risk act would explicitly require COSEWIC to consider this traditional knowledge. It would provide for the establishment of a subcommittee on aboriginal traditional knowledge to facilitate the consideration of such knowledge in decision making.

Efforts to set up this committee are already under way led by the aboriginal working group and supported by COSEWIC. These are opportunities that we cannot turn away. We cannot lose these important additions to the body of work already under way on species at risk.

There is another opportunity in the stronger requirements for aboriginal involvement in recovery efforts. The bill contains a requirement for co-operation with aboriginal organizations in the preparation of all the key recovery documents, strategies, action plans and management plans.

When I think about wood bison I think of Frank Laviolette, an elder from Fort Smith, Northwest Territories who does not have university training, but has pre-eminent knowledge on wood bison and can tell us everything about that species and how for over 50 years he has lived with the species and worked with it. We have said for nearly nine years that we share in the responsibility for protecting wildlife. Perhaps no one demonstrates or represents a commitment to that responsibility more than Canada's aboriginal people.

The establishment of a national aboriginal council on species at risk under the legislation would set into law a partnership which has already produced many positive results.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2002 / 3:55 p.m.
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Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, the bill to which my hon. colleague referred was introduced as Bill C-65 several years ago. I was not here then but I have heard members debating the issues referred to by my hon. colleague.

First, with respect to scientific knowledge, there is absolutely no question that under the bill the entrenchment of COSEWIC, which consists of scientists who would gain their legitimacy not only through the legislation but through the council they sit on, would add a balanced, even-handed, measured, prudent and arm's length role to provide balance and accountability within government.

As I have made clear, the balancing act would be important. The concept of delegation which has been used on occasion could not be exercised in an ad hoc manner. The House could not delegate away its responsibility under the act. Nor should it. It would be accountable for checks and balances in the system and for doing what is right for the sustainability of our natural environment.

Second, the input of first nations has been built into the act. Bill C-5 would establish a legitimate advisory board to take into consideration aboriginal people's historic knowledge and understanding of the environment.

Third, compensation is probably the most difficult issue the committee grappled with. I congratulate its members for doing so. It was my first experience of seeing the cut and thrust of genuine debate in an attempt to find consensus on issues.

The compensation regime would be experience based. In this sense it would break new ground. It would attempt to emphasize the concept of stewardship in a manner that did not require the expropriation of lands or rights. It would develop partnerships with those who would be affected because they too have a natural legacy we all wish to preserve.

We will go through the bill carefully rather than in an arbitrary manner. We will learn from our experience and build a regime that is fair, balanced, measured and guarantees a sustainable future for our natural environment.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2002 / 3:50 p.m.
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Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to what my colleague had to say. He mentioned the nine years. One of my first duties in the House was to serve on the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. One of the pieces of legislation we were considering, which was not called Bill C-5 in those days, was the first round in the attempts to get an endangered species act passed. I remember well that in those two years we were particularly interested in the role of aboriginal local knowledge as well as the role of science. I am very pleased to see that incorporated in the bill.

Now, as the member said, nine years later, four ministers later, four parliamentary secretaries later and innumerable MPs like me later, we are close to a result here. I would like the member to address the point that there were at least two contentious issues, it seemed to me. One was this question of science and scientists. My understanding is that the scientists' role is now written into the legislation, with the political control the member described. At the other end, there was the question of compensation, particularly for farmers. There is great concern about that. My understanding now, as he was explaining to us, is that there is an element of compensation that can give some security to our farmers. Compensation might take various forms.

I would be grateful if the member could explain to us those two things and tell us something more about the role of the scientists and something more about the compensation component, which we are glad to see now built into the legislation.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2002 / 3:40 p.m.
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Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to split my time allocation with another member from the government side.

I am speaking today in support of the species at risk legislation, a piece of legislation that has been, believe it or not, nine years in the making. Throughout that nine years much has happened. The provinces and territories have joined the federal government in making a strong commitment under the accord for the protection of species at risk.

We have moved forward on the habitat stewardship program to assist with co-operative and partnership efforts on the ground in species recovery and habitat protection. We have also established the ecogifts program, which encourages land donations. We also have recovery programs underway. The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, COSEWIC, has assessed more than 233 species against new criteria, a daunting task that was attacked with vigour and with good results. We have not stood by waiting for this piece of legislation.

However, now the time has come to put in place the law that will reinforce these many different actions of the past nine years. There are a number of precedents in the proposed species at risk act, but in my mind the most compelling is the rigorous and independent scientific process to assess species, operating at arm's length from the federal government.

The proposed species at risk act provides for a listing system based on sound science. It is the job of scientists to provide the determination of what species are at risk. Governments, though, must decide what actions to take on the scientific list because there could be major social and economic impacts. That is why the Government of Canada will make the decisions regarding the application of the prohibitions proposed under the bill. Let me explain how this will work.

By asking specific questions COSEWIC determines if a species should be assessed. These include determining if the species is native to Canada. Then a subcommittee of specialists develops a list of species to be considered for the assessment. When a decision has been made to assess a species, a status report is commissioned. These are very detailed reports that can take up to two years to prepare. COSEWIC then uses the status report to assign the species to one of seven categories: extinct; extirpated, which means the species is no longer present in the wild in Canada; endangered; threatened; of special concern; and species that are not at risk because there are data deficiencies.

The COSEWIC assessments are at the very core of Bill C-5. The completed assessments are presented to the Minister of the Environment and the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council. The COSEWIC list is also placed in the public registry established under the legislation.

Let us look at this process. Clearly scientists and scientists alone will make decisions about the assessments of species and where they should be placed on the list of those at risk.

The weight of the COSEWIC assessments is further enhanced by the fact that the organization is recognized legally in the legislation as part of the assessment and listing process. This is a huge step forward. Clearly the assessment will be done at arm's length from the government. It will not be subjected to any economic or social pressures. The COSEWIC decisions and findings will be published in a public registry for everyone to see at any time. This will be totally transparent.

When the government decides to add species to the legal list, then a number of provisions in the proposed species at risk legislation kick in. For instance, the bill contains automatic prohibitions against the killing or harming of individual species and the harming of their residences. It also stipulates that there would be mandatory recovery strategies put together, within specific timeframes, on recovery of the species from its dangerously low numbers.

Finally, and just as important, the process under the proposed law allows for authority to take emergency action to protect habitat.

We can see that the decisions involved are extremely serious. They involve both the economy and some of our social structures in a carefully balanced manner. For that reason the elected representatives of the government will make the decision on what constitutes the legal list. We have been unequivocal on this for some time and we know this is the prudent approach. Many scientists know this is the right approach and, having understood this process, agree with the government.

However, the work of COSEWIC will not end there. There are timelines for the development of the ministerial response to a COSEWIC assessment. That will happen within 90 days and the minister is fully accountable to respond. Every single year the minister will report to parliament on each COSEWIC assessment and the response the minister has made. This will happen one by one on every species put forward for protection. If this is not transparency, if this is not accountability and if this is not a fair, science based system, then I really do not know what is.

The public registry is but another example. Anyone will be able to track government action on species that have been found to be at risk following COSEWIC's scientific assessment.

The protection of endangered or threatened species is a responsibility that the government takes very seriously. We agree that COSEWIC species assessments must be addressed in a timely manner and the government is taking steps to do just that. There are 233 species in schedule 1 of the bill. This means that statutory obligations apply on proclamation of the act to 233 species that have been assessed by COSEWIC using the new and updated criteria. Each and every one of them, without exception, will be reported on. This is a very significant indication of the federal commitment on species at risk.

The assessment and listing of species is a perfect partnership: the scientists with the expertise to determine the threats and status and the elected members of parliament who will move forward on actions that address those threats and their status. It is a partnership that will work well, but it is not the only partnership.

Throughout the entire strategy for the protection of species at risk, which includes the bill, the accord and the habitat stewardship program, there are other partnerships that can be found. For example, they can be found in the work between a farmer and a conservation group on the loggerhead shrike. They are found between fishers and sightseers with respect to the protection of whales. They are found between scientists and government in listing and assessment. They are found between mining companies and forestry companies and municipal governments with provinces and territories. Partnerships are important to this strategy because they are what will work.

The proposed legislation backs up this process with strong prohibitions, but it depends first and foremost on co-operation. As I have said before, this is the approach that is required and that will work. We know that because we have seen what happens when the heavy hand of the law comes down first. From the beginning over nine years ago, this fundamentally Canadian approach has finally achieved a consensus for action. This is the strategy we have formed.

The missing piece is the species at risk act. It is time now to fill in the final building block and get on with the job of creating a sustainable and natural legacy for future generations.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2002 / 3:20 p.m.
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Jean-Yves Roy Bloc Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise today to speak to Bill C-5, the Species at Risk Act.

I also spoke at first reading stage. Let me begin by saying that this legislation is but a drop of water in the ocean. And I am not playing on words, because I am a member of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.

Bill C-5 involves more specifically three departments: Heritage Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Environment Canada.

That bill is only a drop in the ocean because we must realize what the situation is right now. For example, we must recognize that greenhouse gas could bring about some serious disasters in various regions of our planet. Even if we want to create areas where we could protect species at risk, a much wider and serious problem will remain.

We should consider, among other things, the adoption of the Kyoto protocol, which the Department of the Environment and the Canadian government are still reluctant to ratify. We could also consider acid rain, which have a very major impact on our environment and could, in several areas, put our wildlife and some wildlife species at risk.

At present, with Bill C-5, the government is acting much like someone who, because his roof is leaking, is running around trying to find pots and pans to catch the leaks. The first thing we have to do is to ratify the Kyoto protocol and reduce greenhouse gases. An increase of only one or two degrees in the global temperature is enough to put thousands of species at risk and ultimately thousands of animal and plant species at risk. Whole habitats could be destroyed by a global warming of only one or two degrees. This is a very important aspect.

This is why it is vital to ratify the Kyoto protocol and even to improve it. At present, we face a very serious situation. We know that global warming produces disturbances and can cause major disasters.

Besides, the Canadian government seems really weak when it comes to negotiating with our neighbours to the south, who are the main source of greenhouse gases. These airborne gases cause acid rain. As we know, all regions in our country, especially the east, are in the path of the winds blowing from the United States. The Americans are sending us their pollution. Recently, the U.S. government announced that it intended to continue to use fossil fuels, including coal, which is one of the main sources of pollution and the biggest cause of acid rain.

Acid rain has a major impact on the environment, on trees, plants and endangered species. Ultimately, acid rain gets into the rivers and the oceans and destroys the environment. Greenhouse gases may even cause some species to disappear and threaten ecosystems on a global scale.

As my colleague from Lac-Saint-Louis said earlier, we must have a look at what is going on on a global scale to realize that very little has been done to protect the environment. The Department of the Environment has a major responsibility to help find a way to deal with endangered species.

Being a member of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans and knowing that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has and will have a huge responsibility with regard to species at risk under the bill before us, I must say that I am quite concerned about the possible results when we are talking about the protection of species at risk by that department.

This morning, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans tabled in the House a unanimous report about protecting the resource so that future generations can benefit from that particular resource.

Managing the fish resource in Quebec has been the responsibility of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans since 1982. This has led to a major ecological disaster. In fact, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has not done its job.

The same goes for Newfoundland, as we discussed at length this morning at the news conference regarding the tabling of that report.

For centuries, Newfoundlanders and people from member countries of the European Economic Community enjoyed the resource that was found off our shores. For the past 10 years, that resource has been diminishing to the point where certain species could go extinct. It became necessary to impose moratoria to allow the resource to recover.

Despite these moratoria, the resource continues to dwindle, and there is reason to fear the worse for certain species. They are important species not only because they are indigenous species, but because communities that used to depend on them for their livelihood can no longer depend on them today.

That is a good example of an ecological disaster and the mismanagement by the entire federal government since it has taken over the management of that resource. That is why I am extremely concerned when the federal government brings us a bill like Bill C-5.

It is often said that the past is an indication of what the future holds in store. If I look to the past performance of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, I am in no way reassured as to the future. I cannot trust the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to protect the resource. On the contrary, I think that it has mismanaged the resource so that it has been destroyed and is no longer available.

Entire communities, whether in Newfoundland, the Gaspé, the Magdalen Islands, the North Shore or the maritimes, who lived off an important resource are now the victims of a real catastrophe from a human and ecological point of view because, in all these regions, the moratoria imposed on groundfish, for example, means that thousands of people were left without jobs and hundreds of plants shut down.

We were speaking about the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Department of the Environment, and the Department of Canadian Heritage, which would be responsible for protecting species at risk.

Let us suppose that what the Canadian government and the department try to do is create small areas where so-called species at risk could be protected.

We cannot oppose the desire to protect such species, to help them survive.

I was the mayor of a municipality and, with the help of Canadian heritage, Environment Canada and Ducks Unlimited Canada, we created a park in order to protect certain species and help them survive and thrive. I repeat, however, that these were extremely limited areas.

When I look at the past performance of the Canadian government, I cannot trust it when it comes to protecting our environment and species at risk, and when it comes to protecting human health itself. There is no way that we can trust this government.

For the past 100 or so years, there has been a constant increase in the number of species disappearing from the face of the planet. For the past 100 or so years, this process has speeded up for a very simple reason. Since the industrial revolution, since the appearance of the new technologies, including cars, trains, planes and so on, the environment has taken a back seat. People went for the easy solution first: technology.

Some countries had to react quickly. I am thinking of England, for one, which has succeeded in cleaning up the pollution in the Thames. As a result, it has been able to regain some of the life it lost during the industrial revolution.

This was a major ecological catastrophe, and some species disappeared. Today efforts are being made to reintroduce them to the Thames, but this is not necessarily a possibility.

The industrial revolution left us with the heritage of science based solely on technology, with its objective of facilitating human existence, while partially destroying the environment at the same time.

Only recently have people begun to be aware of the great importance of the environment, and only recently has heavy pressure been brought to bear on governments to make them realize that, if we destroy the environment in which we live, there will be a price to pay. This is very important.

This week, we debated the pesticide legislation. I am thinking of what happened during the 1950s, with DDT in particular. This was a major problem, because we could have harmed our environment to a very considerable extent.

I remember how forests were sprayed with DDT and we were told there was no danger whatsoever to human beings. Afterward, we found out that this was totally wrong and that there was considerable danger, not just for humans, but also for our environment. I am sure there was a very serious impact on certain species.

Among the examples one might think of is the beluga in the St. Lawrence. This is a species we are trying to protect today, and would like to see multiply, but it has nearly disappeared.

Unfortunately, we have come to realize that pesticides have affected the Far North as well, although we used to think it was a very limited phenomenon. Scientists have discovered that northern species were affected by DDT although it had been spread in the south.

These products are the results of what I would call modern technology, because I make a distinction between technology and science. Modern technology has led us to commit some very significant abuses, and they continue to this day.

Concerning greenhouse gas, it is critical—and I go back to this once again—that the Canadian government ratify Kyoto and even improve on it in the near future. As I was saying earlier, global warming has already caused major changes and will cause more in the future.

Of course, we could consider, as we heard earlier, that the environment is not a priority in certain circles. Priority is given to the industry and to production, as opposed to our environment. In the short term, this is possible. However, in the long term, we will all pay the price.

There is another reason why we cannot agree with the bill before us. Like other bills put forward by the Canadian government, this bill does not in any way take jurisdictions into consideration.

The government essentially tells people “What you have done in the past—I am talking about three provinces and Quebec—we do not care about. We will not take it into account. We will have a blanket policy because only four of your governments have done work in this area. So we must extend this work to the entire country”.

Once again, it is the government's approach that seems totally wrong and unwarranted to me. It should take into consideration what has already been done; it should work with its partners; it should work not only with provincial partners, but also with local partners, because when it comes to the environment, public awareness is very important.

It is crucial to involve the public when it comes to the issue of the environment. If citizens are not involved, there cannot be real changes in the environment and the protection of species at risk, especially when areas that are created must be respected and considered in a particular way.

Again, the government is forgetting its partners. It is ignoring them and the good work they did on Bill C-5.

The minister will say that he consulted and heard various groups. It is not enough to consult them. The government must follow up on these consultations with agreements, it must take into consideration what was said. Unfortunately, there are very few things in Bill C-5 to show that the government took into account the representations that were made. It only took into consideration the suggestions that suited it, particularly as regards the supposedly Canada-wide organizations on the protection of species at risk and of the environment.

For these reasons, it will of course be difficult to support this bill.

Another thing that is difficult to accept is the limitation put by Bill C-5 on the true protection of species. As I said earlier, it is one thing to create restricted areas, but it takes major investments to ensure that an ecosystem can survive and thrive. Right now, the government's investments to protect our environment seem minor, in my opinion.

In conclusion, unfortunately, we cannot support this legislation for all these reasons.

Species At Risk ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2002 / 1:50 p.m.
See context


Clifford Lincoln Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, the bill we are debating today stems from the 1992 UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

In 1994, I was parliamentary secretary, when the minister at that time presented framework legislation to protect endangered species and respect our commitments under the convention on biodiversity.

This eventually led, under subsequent ministers, to Bills C-65 and C-33 to protect endangered species. Unfortunately, both bills died on the order paper when elections were called. This is what led to Bill C-5 today.

Bill C-5, like its predecessors, has had its ups and downs. I would like to take this opportunity to offer my sincere congratulations to all of the members of the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development, particularly the members for Davenport and York North, who did remarkable work in order to build consensus among all members of the committee.

At the outset, the legislation was far too discretionary. However, thanks to the enormous efforts made by the committee, many improvements were made and the results of the committee's work were contained in the report tabled in the House in December 2001.

Unfortunately, most of these recommendations and amendments were overturned by the government as a result of amendments made in the House during consideration at report stage.

However difficult it was at the time, following the rejection of the committee's work, a number of us decided to vote against some key provisions of the legislation proposed by the government.

I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the hon. member for York North, who managed to achieve a consensus on many elements within the Liberal caucus. My colleague felt that the act had to be improved, in light of the amendments presented by the government at report stage.

Negotiations with some government people took place and I congratulate them. I also congratulate the Prime Minister for getting involved in these negotiations, which proved successful.

By removing the discretionary provisions regarding listing, the listing provisions have been much improved. We now have a mandatory habitat provision on federal lands, including aquatic species and migratory birds. This is a huge improvement to what there was at report stage.

As some members know, I was born on the very small island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. At one time Mauritius was a habitat for 29 unique species of wildlife never known anywhere else in the world. Most of them have disappeared. Of course everyone knows about the dodo which was peculiar to Mauritius. However, other species, such as the Mauritius kestrel, the Mauritius parakeet and the pink pigeon, had almost disappeared in the wild. I believe there are nine pairs of kestrel, four pairs of parakeets and a few pink pigeons left.

Thanks to the Durrell Institute in the Jersey Islands, these were recaptured from the wild and bred in captivity. Now they have been reintroduced into the wild in Mauritius, the only place they can live. I was really moved a few years ago when I went there and saw a pair of kestrels nesting in a tree high in the mountains. It was something I had never been able to see as a child.

Many of the species that were taken for granted a few years ago have now disappeared. I remember visiting India and talking to the minister of the environment. He was telling me how they were trying to save the Indian tiger. Who would have known that the Indian tiger today would be almost a relic of the wilds?

I am glad this law has improved consultations with aboriginal people because they understand the juxtaposition between the ecosystem, habitat and living species. They know there is no difference. They know there is an interdependence, an integration between ecosystems, habitats and living species.

A recent study by professor Margaret Palmer of the University of Maryland established that when ecosystems go down or are affected, so are living species. When living species are affected, so are ecosystems because they are totally interdependent. Ecosystems and living species need each other to survive and be enhanced.

A few years ago, I had the honour of presenting the bill on endangered species in the Quebec national assembly. Earlier, I heard the hon. member for Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, for whom I have a great deal of respect, refer to the whole constitutional issue, overlap, duplication and so on. This saddened me, because it seems to me that, whether we are on the federal or provincial side, we should find a way to work together, so that the objective of these acts, which is the protection of endangered species, can be achieved on both federal and provincial lands, through legislative measures that complement each other. In this regard, I think we share the same view and we should remember—