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, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

October 21st, 2022 / 2:45 p.m.
See context

Kimberly Elmslie Campaign Director, Oceana Canada

Thank you.

Thank you for the invitation to appear before you today. My name is Kim Elmslie. I'm the campaign director for Oceana Canada.

Oceana Canada was established as an independent charity in 2015 and is part of the largest international advocacy group dedicated solely to ocean conservation.

Our vision is to return Canada's formerly vibrant oceans to health and abundance, then reap the social, cultural and economic opportunities that follow. Simply put, we want to see more fish in the water and more fishing.

I'm here to address concerns about critically endangered North Atlantic right whales, which are facing an imminent extinction, with only about 330 animals left in the population, of which only about 80 —I think we heard 72 earlier—are breeding females. Researchers have found that right whales are no longer dying from natural causes, but from human-created ones, the top two threats being entanglements in fishing gear and ship strikes. Approximately 85% of right whales have scars on their bodies from encounters with fishing gear.

There are many reasons to protect right whales. It's an endangered species, so it's the right thing to do. Polling from 2021 has found that 90% of Canadians want them protected. It's required under the Species at Risk Act, and protecting right whales also protects access for Canadian fisheries to lucrative U.S. markets.

I'm here to present you with three different recommendations that Oceana is making.

One, we'd like to see a transition to a management approach that is permanent, predictable, transparent and adaptable, until such a time that right whales are no longer endangered.

Two, we want the government to continue to work with stakeholders to identify ways to strengthen and improve protection measures.

Three, we want permanent funding for all aspects of the right whale program: science and research, monitoring and surveillance, ropeless gear, disentanglement efforts, necropsies and more.

As everyone has heard, after decades of being found in the Bay of Fundy, right whales are now occurring in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in large numbers. This is an area with some of Canada's most lucrative, important and productive fisheries, as well as important shipping lanes.

As you're all aware, this created a crisis in 2017 in which 12 North Atlantic right whales were killed, and then a further nine were killed in 2019. Finding urgent solutions was important not only for the future of the whales but also for Canadian fisheries. Under the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act, Canada must demonstrate that it has put measures in place to mitigate entanglements or risk losing access to U.S. markets.

Here's a little more detail on the recommendations that we're asking for.

In a transition to a more permanent approach, we would like the government, with input from all stakeholders who've responded to the right whale crisis, to put a series of permanent measures in place. The measures so far that have been put in place have created a solid foundation of protection; however, they were created under interim orders and ministerial discretion, which is temporary in nature.

Purpose-built regulations are needed to establish the long-term legal footing to protect right whales for the long run. The regulations need to maintain the strengths of the current dynamic system; be permanent, so that they are maintained; be inclusive of all stakeholders; be transparent, so that everyone has access to the same information; provide certainty to fishers and vessel operators; and be adaptable so that they can apply if there are regional shifts.

The government must seek ways to continually strengthen and improve the measures. Protecting right whales by preventing unnatural, unnecessary deaths will take a sustained effort from all stakeholders and others over a course of years. The government must continue to implement, monitor and enforce clear protection measures, with the goal of zero preventable right whale deaths.

The right whale population is continuing to decline, so the government must continue to refine and improve the existing measures. Another year with multiple deaths, like 2017 or 2019, would be devastating for right whales and could put Canada afoul of the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Finally, the entire right whale program needs to be fully funded. Since 2017, the government has created a world-class science team. DFO is developing cutting-edge technology on ropeless gear for snow crab. DFO scientists are utilizing hydrophone arrays, gliders, infrared cameras, satellite imaging and more. There needs to be continued financial support for all of these programs. I said “DFO scientists”, but really it's the whole scientific community.

Finally, at Oceana Canada we believe that these recommendations will help protect North Atlantic right whales and secure access to U.S. markets for Canadian fisheries, which in the long term will support the viability of fisheries in Atlantic Canada.

Thank you.

Bill C-13—Protecting Canadians From Online Crime ActPoints of OrderPrivate Members' Business

September 22nd, 2014 / noon
See context


Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am rising on a point of order to ask you to select the amendment I submitted for debate and vote at report stage on Bill C-13, an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Canada Evidence Act, the Competition Act and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act. I understand that you will be giving a ruling on this after question period today, and I wanted to make sure that I made this submission before then, as this is a motion that was proposed and defeated in committee.

As stated in the note to Standing Order 76(5), the Speaker can select a motion that was defeated in committee to be debated at the report stage, “...if the Speaker judges it to be of such exceptional significance as to warrant a further consideration at the report stage”.

I would like to explain why this motion warrants consideration and why it is of such exceptional significance to members that it should be considered again. The motion is to amend clause 12 of Bill C-13 to add “gender identity” to the definition of “identifiable group” in subsection 318(4) of the Criminal Code concerning hate crimes.

Mr. Speaker, as you know, the House previously decided on this issue during its consideration of Bill C-279, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (gender identity). Clause 3 of Bill C-279 replaces subsection 318(4) of the Criminal Code and in doing so adds to the definition of “identifiable group” those members of the public distinguished by gender identity.

Clause 12 of Bill C-13 would replace that same subsection 318(4) of the Criminal Code and would add to the current definition of “identifiable group”:

...any section of the public distinguished by national...origin, age, sex...or mental or physical disability.

However, clause 12 of Bill C-13 does not use the current definition in the Criminal Code, as amended by the House by Bill C-279, and therefore deletes a provision by omission. If the House adopts Bill C-13, we will not protect transgender Canadians from hate crimes, despite having already affirmed this principle in this same Parliament.

This one amendment to the Criminal Code makes up half the substantive content of Bill C-279, my private member's bill, which passed third reading in this House on March 20, 2013. The members of this House will recall that it was passed by a majority of members in a vote of 149 to 137 with support from all parties. Again, a change to the Criminal Code proposed in Bill C-279 is a short and specific proposal to offer protection from hate crimes to transgender Canadians. In all likelihood, the 149 MPs who supported Bill C-279 at third reading would also support the motion I proposed in committee had they had the opportunity, since this motion is identical in content to that proposed in Bill C-279.

With Bill C-13, as it will be reported back to the House later today, the government would be, in effect, attempting to override this part of Bill C-279, which was passed by a majority of MPs in the House of Commons.

I believe that the note to Standing Order 76(5) was written specifically for situations like this one. This is an exceptional case in which a motion defeated in committee because of five government MPs would most certainly be supported by at least 149 MPs if it were moved in the House, and it would therefore pass. If the vote were held in the House of Commons rather than in committee, the outcome would be completely different. You can therefore be assured, Mr. Speaker, that this motion is not of a repetitive, frivolous, or vexatious nature or of a nature that would merely prolong unnecessary proceedings at the report stage. This would not be a repeat of the committee stage, since the outcome of the vote would likely be very different from what it was in committee. Some MPs would certainly oppose the motion, but it seems obvious to me that a majority of MPs would once again vote to provide protection from hate crimes to transgender Canadians.

There are several precedents where the Speaker referred to the note to Standing Order 76(5) to identify a motion as being of exceptional significance to the House as justification for selecting it for debate at the report stage, even though it had been proposed and defeated in committee. Mr. Speaker, let me remind you of those precedents.

One involves Motions Nos. 3 and 4 at the report stage of Bill C-23, an act to modernize the statutes of Canada in relation to benefits and obligations. On April 3, 2000, the chair occupant said to the House:

Motion No. 3 in the name of the member for Burnaby—Douglas is identical to the text of a subamendment moved in the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights during a meeting on March 23, 2000 and defeated in a recorded division. Motion No. 4 in the name of the member for Elk Island is similar to another motion moved in that committee. Under normal circumstances such motions would not be selected for consideration at report stage. I have looked carefully at the two motions and after appropriate consideration, I am convinced that they do fulfill the requirements to be selected in that they have such exceptional significance as to warrant a further consideration at report stage.

Another example took place on February 18, 2002, at the report stage for Bill C-5, an act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada. Speaker Milliken stated as follows:

...there are motions similar to those that were rejected by the committee. Usually, such motions are not selected, because they would generate discussions that have already taken place in committee. However, the note in the Standing Orders allows the Speaker to select these motions if he deems that they are of such importance that they deserve to be examined again at report stage. I believe that these motions respect that criterion and therefore they will be selected for the debate.

Lastly, I would like to refer to the precedent established on June 10, 2005, at the report stage for Bill C-43, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 23, 2005. Again, Speaker Milliken had originally rejected Motions Nos. 5 and 6 at the bill's report stage. After hearing a point of order raised by the chief opposition whip, he reversed his ruling and selected the motions for debate at the report stage. In response to a question from a government MP who disagreed with him, the Speaker said:

Motion No. 1 to amend clause 9 to put back in words that were deleted in the committee was allowed. I understand they are the same words. I allowed those to be debated because, as I say, the minister made submissions that indicated he thought this was a matter of public importance. I am prepared to make the same arrangement with respect to Motions Nos. 5 and 6 and I have so ruled.

Mr. Speaker, my request is even more significant, if we consider the precedent that would be set if this motion is not selected for debate. The House previously decided on the issue of gender identity when a majority of MPs chose to include provisions in the Criminal Code that would protect transgender Canadians. Without the amendment I have proposed, Bill C-13 would do exactly the opposite. It would reverse a decision reached democratically in the House following several hours of debate and a recorded division.

It is also worth noting that the 149 MPs who supported Bill C-279 included many government MPs. The five Conservative MPs who opposed this amendment to Bill C-13 in committee were not representative of all their colleagues. By allowing the government to rewrite subsection 318(4) of the Criminal Code to eliminate the changes made by Bill C-279, we are going against the wishes of the majority of MPs in the House who supported that bill. What this means is that if a majority government does not support a piece of private member's business, which is the case for Bill C-279, it can introduce a government bill reversing the provisions of the private member's bill. All the government has to do is ensure that the members who sit on the committee during the clause-by-clause study of the government bill are among those who opposed the private member's bill in question. I believe this creates a dangerous precedent for private members' business.

This amendment is of significant importance for MPs and for public safety, as demonstrated when Bill C-279 was debated in the Commons and was considered by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. The amendment should be selected for debate at the report stage so that all MPs may decide on this issue. This is not a matter that can be resolved by a mere handful of government MPs on a committee of the House. It deserves to be considered again in the full House of Commons.

Given that this motion is of exceptional significance to the debate at report stage, and in view of the precedents available to the House, I respectfully request that you select it for consideration at the report stage of Bill C-13 and that you allow the members of this House to vote on it separately as a stand-alone motion and one not tied to any of the other votes at report stage proceedings.

April 13th, 2010 / 3:55 p.m.
See context

Joshua McNeely Ikanawtiket Regional Facilitator, Maritime Aboriginal Peoples Council

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to the committee for allowing us to come and present on a very important matter to us.

The Maritime Aboriginal Peoples Council, MAPC, is the Maritimes region intergovernmental leaders forum of the New Brunswick Aboriginal Peoples Council, the Native Council of Nova Scotia, and the Native Council of Prince Edward Island, which represent aboriginal peoples who continue on traditional ancestral homelands--i.e., not displaced to Indian Act reserves. These are throughout New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island, respectfully. MAPC and our partner native councils are affiliated nationally through the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples. I believe the committee is going to be hearing from the congress at a later date.

We've been around with the species at risk file since the early days in the nineties with Bill C-65, Bill C-33, and finally to Bill C-5, which was assented to in 2002. MAPC was a part of the first ministers round table on the Species at Risk Act in 2006. Through our Ikanawtiket aboriginal environmental respect organization, MAPC has also participated throughout the six main steps of the SARA process, commenting on numerous species assessments, proposed SARA listings, draft socio-economic impact statements, regulatory impact analysis statements, proposed recovery strategies, and proposed action plans.

We have also been directly involved in several recovery teams, as well as advanced the species at risk file in many various other activities of MAPC and our partner native councils, such as through our Maritime Aboriginal Aquatics Resources Secretariat and our aboriginal communal commercial fishing entities; as a regular topic of conversation when in consultations with federal or provincial governments on numerous natural resource issues, such as access, permits, proposed regulations, proposed management plans, and eco-certifications, to name a few; aboriginal community involvement in species at risk stewardship and education projects; and with our youth, who will be the leaders of the future, and preparing them through a species at risk workshop about how the process we currently have works.

MAPC also follows developments under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity with the intent to be more informed partners under the various aspects of the Canadian biodiversity strategy, such as our Species at Risk Act. MAPC follows, as best we can on our own, international and national developments on conservation, sustainable development, access and benefit sharing, and aboriginal people's involvement in these. MAPC promotes the convention and is a 2010 International Year of Biodiversity partner and an International Union for the Conservation of Nature Countdown 2010 partner.

In preparing this brief--I gave you the long version of the brief, it's only eight pages--I kept it very simple. It's from that we drew on this long history with the Species at Risk Act and our wide breadth of knowledge and involvement to highlight the importance of SARA to our Maritimes region aboriginal communities.

I make only a few recommendations on SARA itself, the majority of the recommendations being for a better implementation of SARA. These are centred on broader biodiversity discussions and actions on conservation, sustainable development, access and benefit sharing, and reconciliation with our aboriginal peoples.

As a whole, SARA is actually very well written, we find. But when viewed strictly from a legal point of view, SARA can seem quite daunting. SARA is unique among Canadian legislation, in that it requires rapid Governor in Council action on every species assessed by the independent scientific body, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, and if no decision is made within the short prescribed time, then the act requires the minister to amend the SARA list in accordance with the species assessment.

This puts SARA outside of political timelines, and at the same time prioritizes SARA listing recommendations within the bureaucracy. Both have proven problematic, especially under the uncertainties typically generated in our minority government situation. Canada continues to face court challenges for missing SARA deadlines or leaving out important information in order to meet a SARA deadline.

However, MAPC views the Species at Risk Act as a prime opportunity to learn about our biodiversity and our cumulative human impacts, and foster a new ethic of respect for our natural world. That is what Elder Marcel was talking about: an ethic, a respect. Through several other actions, including reconciliation with aboriginal peoples, Canada can dramatically improve the implementation of the Species at Risk Act.

However, SARA will fail if it is considered to be a stand-alone act or not considered to be in the forefront in all government departments, industry business plans, educational strategies, consumer purchases, and international negotiations. SARA is as much about a beginning for Canadians to understand and respect biodiversity as it is an act to save a portion of that most critically endangered biodiversity.

SARA must be considered and implemented in the context of the Convention on Biological Diversity and Canada’s response, the Canadian biodiversity strategy. SARA can be both a learning tool and a point of entry for Canadians to address broader biodiversity issues, and doing so will lessen our need for a Species at Risk Act.

A meaningful SARA is an act that, through its prohibitions and its tight timelines, forces all levels and all sectors to be:

Conscious of the intrinsic value of biological diversity and of the ecological, genetic, social, economic, scientific, educational, cultural, recreational and aesthetic values of biological diversity and its components....Affirming that the conservation of biological diversity is a common concern of humankind,

That's taken right from our convention.

Through its inclusion of aboriginal peoples, industry, academics, all levels of government, and the public, and its flexibility to use new ideas and partnerships to address biodiversity issues, SARA can foster:

a society that lives and develops as part of nature, values the diversity of life, takes no more than can be replenished and leaves to future generations a nurturing and dynamic world, rich in biodiversity

That's taken from our Canadian biodiversity strategy.

With one eye, we see that SARA is only a small part to meet Canada’s commitments under the convention. But with the other eye, we see that SARA, as a strong piece of national legislation integrated into all other manifestations of law, policy, and decision-making, can be a banner under which Canada implements the convention. With both eyes open, we see that SARA is a powerful tool for average Canadians to begin to understand biodiversity and our cumulative impacts, and to work together toward a new and better future.

The question being asked by the standing committee is how do we improve SARA? MAPC maintains that the answer is not in rewriting sections. MAPC respectfully recommends to the standing committee that the best way to improve SARA is to improve the conditions under which SARA is implemented.

For example--I have seven recommendations--first would be the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I was very happy to hear that in the throne speech. I'm happy that Canada is moving in that direction.

Next is to adopt a national policy on sustainable development, not just a handful of departmental strategies on sustainable development but a national policy--a way to rethink how we conduct our business in Canada.

Canada should begin more detailed discussions, and in some cases begin discussions, with aboriginal peoples on access and benefit sharing. This idea of access and benefit sharing of genetic resources and traditional knowledge is one of the main pillars of the Convention on Biological Diversity. Those discussions are very limited so far in Canada, and we border on bio-piracy if we do not sit down and address the issues.

Develop, with other levels of government, national, regional, and local forums to broadly discuss biodiversity with all sectors. One such opportunity in our region would be the eastern Scotian Shelf integrated management plan.

Support an aboriginal review of the Convention on Biological Diversity and directly input into its implementation. This was something that was talked about in our biodiversity strategy. We've yet to see, since 1996, any movement whatsoever on this.

Actively encourage broader participation in the Species at Risk Act at all levels, including in assessments, consultations, socio-economic impact analyses, regulatory impact analysis statements, recovery strategies, and action plans. Aside from needing more aboriginal peoples participation, SARA desperately needs sociologists, marketing professionals, economists, and others who can better relate the public and industry to the Species At Risk Act.

Address the conclusions and recommendations of the 2006 Stratos formative evaluation of federal species at risk programs and the 2005 report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development regarding the Canadian biodiversity strategy.

With regard to the wording of SARA, MAPC maintains and is adamant that SARA must retain section 8.1, regarding the National Aboriginal Council on Species at Risk, and subsection 18(1), regarding the aboriginal traditional knowledge subcommittee of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, as well as sections relevant to the need to consult with aboriginal peoples affected during the various stages of the SARA process.

The breadth and intent of the SARA preamble should be maintained as integral to the implementation of the act.

Thank you very much.

SupplyGovernment Orders

October 23rd, 2003 / 4:05 p.m.
See context

Bras D'Or—Cape Breton Nova Scotia


Rodger Cuzner LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure to join in the debate today on this opposition motion. May I note off the top that I will be splitting my time with my very capable colleague from York West.

Certainly I will never pretend to have a vast or deep technical appreciation for the complexities of the procedures of the House. However, I assure members that any light that I would shed would be pale in comparison to the comments in the intervention that was made earlier in the debate from the government leader of the House.

I will not be quoting from Marleau and Montpetit or citing passages from Beauchesne's. I believe as far as the technical aspects of the motion, they were very much addressed during the presentation by the government House leader.

I would like to make comments about the current Prime Minister, but I will not reach back too far and try to celebrate the 40 year career of our current Prime Minister and his commitment to public life. I will leave that to the pundits and the biographers and let him take his rightful place in history, which I am sure will be smiled upon by all.

I would like to talk about events that have occurred recently and more, the recent initiatives shown by this Prime Minister, including some of the brave, decisive decisions that have been made while he has been on his watch. He has presented legislation, rendered opinions on everything in our day to day activities in the House that have really made Canada a better place to be and one of which all Canadians can be proud.

I must make note first of some of the comments that have been made on the other side of the House during the course of this debate. They would like to think of late that things have slowed down in the House and that the work of the government is not being done. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Since 2002, over 55 pieces of legislation have come forward. Of those, 22 have been passed by the House, the Senate and have received royal assent. We really should celebrate some of this significant legislation.

I look at Bill C-2, the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Act, Bill C-5, the act respecting the protection of wildlife species and species at risk in Canada and Bill C-12, an act to promote physical activity in sport. That is the first piece of sport legislation that has cleared this House since the late 1960s. Bill C-44, an act to compensate military members injured during service is legislation that addresses some obvious inequities in how we deal with members of the military who have sustained serious injury and debilitating injury.

Of late we have had a tough time as a country. We have to look at some of the things we have experienced over the last 12 months such as SARS, mad cow and the forest fires and floods in western Canada. My home province of Nova Scotia just suffered the effects of hurricane Juan. We have had our own array of difficulties and none through any cause of our own. We have been very fortunate. Because of our financial situation, we have been able to offer assistance. We have been able to move in and make decisive, benevolent moves to help in each of those areas.

The pain is far-reaching on several of those issues, but certainly the federal government has been there. Had we not been in good financial stead, then perhaps we would not have been able to assist as well as we did.

Obviously, on our financial house, everything comes back to the economy and what has gone on with it. Sometimes as Canadians we suffer from a short memory. It is convenient not to remember back to 1995 or not look back and remember when this country operated with a $48 billion deficit. The state of the books as of the mid-1990s was deplorable. We were close to being recognized as a third world nation. We just could not continue as a country.

Under the leadership of our Prime Minister, a vision was set. If we could get our financial house in order, then we could to reinvest in the social programs, those programs that Canadians hold so dear. That is what in fact took place. Cuts were made, and, yes, every Canadian shared in the pain of those cuts. However they were imperative. We had to lasso the deficit and gain control of our financial well-being. That was done in the mid-1990s.

Since then we have been able to reinvest. Our economy continues to grow and continues to strengthen.

Since 2002, 612,000 jobs have been created under the Prime Minister, two-thirds of them full time. While other members of the G-7 continue to experience huge difficulties with their national budgets, we are firm on the controls of the budgets here with the Government of Canada.

From 1997 to 1998, Canada became a deficit free country for the first time in 30 years. In the year 2000 the recorded surplus was $12.3 billion. In 2003 the government under, the Prime Minister's leadership, recorded its sixth consecutive surplus budget. In doing so we have applied $52 billion to the national debt. That alone this year will save the people of Canada $3 billion in interest payments on that national debt, which is significant and that has to be noted.

It is great to talk about the big numbers and about the national picture in terms of our financial position. Let us bring it down and let us talk about what has been accomplished at the grassroots for the average Canadian. How have they benefited from the leadership and the stewardship of the Prime Minister?

I remember that it was not that long ago, two or three years, when we all talked about the brain drain and the loss of our best and our brightest as they moved across the border to seek employment in the States. The government saw this as a problem and the Prime Minister saw this as a problem and part of his vision was to invest in innovation and research.

By doing so we were able to keep those students and professors in Canada, to have them study here and perform their research here. What we have seen is really a shift, where now the drain is coming from the States. These people are coming back to Canada or they are staying in Canada and we are attracting some of the best and brightest minds from other countries.

I can take that down to a personal level. I see the investments that have been made in the universities in my area, St. Francis Xavier and the University College of Cape Breton. They are benefiting from programs such as the national research chairs, the Atlantic innovation fund, those types of investments. We are keeping those kids here.

I see the reinvestment in health care of $34.8 billion following the Romanow commission. We have an MRI machine in Sydney. We have digital x-ray machines in Inverness and in Richmond County. People can get x-rays which can be digitized, then sent and read by specialists anywhere in the world. That was not available two years ago.

I see improvements in infrastructure in my home communities, in Birch Grove and in St. Peter's through the Canada-Nova Scotia infrastructure program. Tomorrow I will attend tomorrow the opening of a water treatment plant in Glace Bay, where a $10 million investment by all three levels of government will provide clean water to the residents of Glace Bay. I am very happy to be part of that announcement.

I could talk about species at risk legislation that is important to the people and Kyoto that will secure a healthy environment as we go forward to the future.

What I would like to finish on is the Prime Minister's guidance and leadership through the Iraqi crisis. He took a brave, strong and principled position throughout the Iraqi crisis, identifying that Canada stood as a sovereign nation, much to the criticism of the official opposition. When we look at the polls now, well over 70% of Canadians know that he did the right thing.

Our Prime Minister has provided great leadership in this country, and well beyond this motion today, he will continue to provide that leadership to the people of Canada.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

February 21st, 2003 / 1 p.m.
See context


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

That is correct. It was under Robert Bourassa's Liberal government that Quebec passed that bill.

What did the federal government do 13 years later? It passed Bill C-5. Some of my colleagues here in the House voted for it. I will not name their ridings, but some of them were once ministers in the Quebec government. They agreed to a federal statute overlapping and duplicating legislation passed in Quebec in 1990.

Today we do not need a bill which, through the Criminal Code, will give more power to the federal government to regulate the sale of wildlife. Why? Not because we do not want the sale of wildlife to be regulated, but because Quebec, in some respects, has been proactive and already has distinctive legislation in this regard.

I can understand that some provinces have not been as proactive in this matter. But when a province has been proactive, it must be understood that the Criminal Code is a powerful tool, a powerful instrument for imposing measures on some provinces, among other things, for the sale of wildlife.

Depending on the infraction, under sections 165, 167 and 172 of An Act respecting the conservation and development of wildlife, there can be fines ranging from $500 to $16,400, prison terms of up to one year, and administrative penalties that could result in permits being suspended for up to six years.

Clearly, with the Act respecting the conservation and development of wildlife, Quebec is not simply banning the sale of wildlife, and that is made clear in section 69 that I just quoted. The act also provides for penalties, fines, prison terms and administrative penalities, to ensure that for the sale of wildlife, this is not just some obscure principle, but a principle that is strictly enforced when certain individuals decide to break the law.

In Quebec, there is a law with this objective. We fear that the federal government is interfering—as if it were not interfering enough—in an area of provincial jurisdiction. This is not necessary. This should be left up to the provinces.

Essentially, the bill's purpose is inconsistent with what the federal government has always said; the government opposite has always preached full partnership with the provinces in terms of enforcing environmental legislation, be it the Environmental Protection Act, the Species at Risk Act, or the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

When it comes to practising what you preach, however, the opposite happens. Take the example of the sub-agreement on environmental assessment or even the Canada-wide Accord on Environmental Harmonization. There are partnership principles, but why did Quebec not sign this accord?

When we consider legislation from the House, we realize that Bill C-280 contains essentially the same things as Bill C-5. This is unacceptable. The principles in the agreements must be reflected within bills from the House of Commons.

When we see that Bill C-280 on the sale of wildlife seeks to duplicate, to make it a crime, under the Criminal Code, to sell wildlife, when provisions already exist at the provincial level, we are led to question the wishes, not only of the federal government, but of this Parliament, since this motion and this bill were introduced by the opposition.

As we can see, it is not just the federal government proposing provisions which would duplicate existing legislation. On this side of the House, there are also members and political parties that share this vision of Canadian nation building.

If Quebec had not done its homework in this regard, I could almost understand the desire of the federal government to step in. Quebec was the first to adopt legislation on endangered species, and that was in 1990. It has taken the federal government an additional 13 years to adopt similar legislation. The difference is also noticeable when we look at our legislation on environmental assessment.

I will conclude by saying that we cannot accept a bill which, through the Criminal Code, would give more power to the federal government, when the work is already being done in Quebec and things work fine. We are not interested in setting aside the existing system.

Endangered Species Sanctuaries ActPrivate Members' Business

February 13th, 2003 / 5:50 p.m.
See context


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise today to take part in this debate in Bill C-232, put forward by my hon. colleague from the Canadian Alliance, whom I commend on this initiative.

It is difficult for me, however, to support it formally. I am not rejecting out of hand the concept of sanctuaries as set out in this bill, but it seems important to me to remind this House that, back in 1989, Quebec passed legislation respecting threatened or vulnerable species. Quebec also passed legislation respecting the conservation of wildlife. In addition, it made fishing regulations, specifically to achieve greater protection for species.

Moreover, in 1996, acting on its willingness to comply with the convention on biological diversity, Quebec put in place an implementation strategy with respect to the convention. Quebec also introduced its own protected area strategy. Under this strategy, 17 types of sites can be legally designated in order to ensure the protection of protected areas, including sanctuaries.

Quebec's position has always been the following: we ask that Quebec legislation be respected; we believe that federal legislation that would duplicate existing Quebec legislation in certain areas is unacceptable. This has been our historical position since 1989.

In Quebec, protected areas are the building blocks of the conservation of biological diversity. In its strategy, Quebec developed the following definition:

What is a protected area? A protected area is defined as “an area of land and/or sea especially dedicated to the protection and maintenance of biological diversity, and of natural and associated cultural resources, and managed through legal or other effective means”.

That is the definition found in the Quebec strategy for protected areas. This definition is designed to ensure the conservation of species, and their genetic variability in particular.

Under this strategy, there are more than 1,100 sites in Quebec that have been designated in accordance with the legislation respecting protected areas. There are 17 different judicial designations to protect species and their habitat.

Understandably, with respect to conservation, the protection of vulnerable or threatened species cannot and can never be ensured if their habitat is not appropriately protected. This is the very purpose of the Quebec legislation respecting protected areas.

Included in these 17 designations are wildlife habitats, protected marine areas, protected natural areas, national parks and historic sites, urban regional parks and migratory bird sanctuaries. Not under federal legislation, but under Quebec legislation. There are also ecological reserves and sites protected under the charter of private organizations.

I forgot, but I must stress that Quebec's legislation on protected areas includes wildlife sanctuaries, as presented in the federal act.

So, what will this federal legislation do? It will only duplicate what Quebec is already doing. As the parliamentary secretary indicated, it would put an end to seamless and desirable collaboration between the provinces and the federal government.

Unfortunately, with this bill, the federal government will pass legislation on wildlife sanctuaries, as it did with Bill C-5 on species at risk.

Our difficulty in supporting, not the notion of wildlife sanctuaries but the goal of this legislation, is therefore understandable.

Furthermore, I would remind the House that, in June 2000, Quebec adopted strategic principles and guidelines to create a protected area network across Quebec. Our objective was for 8% of the total area to be designated a protected area by 2005.

Of course, such an area does not have to be a wildlife sanctuary. I believe that these areas must be given appropriate designations. However, the objective is clear. By 2005, 8% of Quebec must be designated a protected area.

I can only disagree, especially with subsection 6(1) of my colleague's bill, which reads as follows:

Where COSEWIC has made a report to the Minister that a sanctuary is necessary for the protection and recovery of an endangered species and that land specified by COSEWIC would be suitable habitat for the endangered species and the lands is provincial Crown land, the Minister may make an agreement with the province holding title to the land, to establish a sanctuary on the land for the purpose of affording the species sufficient habitat in Canada to recover.

He adds, at subsection 6(2), and that is where I take issue:

In a case where the Minister is not able to reach an agreement for the purposes of subsection (1), the Governor in Council may, on the recommendation of the Minister, declare the establishment of a sanctuary on the land in question to be essential for the endangered species to recover and to be a work for the general benefit of Canada and order that the land or an interest in the land be expropriated or a restrictive covenant placed on the land for the purpose of establishing a sanctuary.

Therefore, with this bill, the federal government could designate land in Quebec a federal wildlife sanctuary, while Quebec already has its own system and its own protected area strategy.

We can only disagree with a bill that goes against a Quebec government decision made a few years ago not to sign the environmental harmonization agreement. Why did Quebec refuse to sign this agreement? Because it was felt that federal legislation would completely encroach on and overlap Quebec legislation.

Although the preferred approach here and the desire to create wildlife sanctuaries in Canada is commendable—I do not reject the principle or the notion of wildlife sanctuaries—I believe there should be more flexibility and greater cooperation with the federal government because that is what we need to truly protect the different species. But to achieve true protection, we must first protect the habitat.

Prebudget ConsultationsThe Royal Assent

December 12th, 2002 / 5:20 p.m.
See context

The Speaker

I have the honour to inform the House that when the House went up to the Senate chamber, Her Excellency the Governor General was pleased to give, in Her Majesty's name, the royal assent to the following bills:

Bill S-2, An Act to implement an agreement, conventions and protocols concluded between Canada and Kuwait, Mongolia, the United Arab Emirates, Moldova, Norway, Belgium and Italy for the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion and to amend the enacted text of three tax treaties—Chapter 24

Bill C-14, An Act providing for controls on the export, import or transit across Canada of rough diamonds and for a certification scheme for the export of rough diamonds in order to meet Canada's obligations under the Kimberley Process—Chapter 25.

Bill C-11, An Act to amend the Copyright Act—Chapter 26.

Bill C-21, An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the public service of Canada for the financial year ending March 31, 2003—Chapter 27.

Bill C-8, An Act to protect human health and safety and the environment by regulating products used for the control of pests—Chapter 28.

Bill C-5, An Act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada—Chapter 29.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

December 4th, 2002 / 6:35 p.m.
See context


Paddy Torsney Liberal Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a couple of things to say with regard to the hon. member's bill. I also want to clarify a couple of things that were said by one of her colleagues, the member for Saanich--Gulf Islands.

It is important for all Canadians to realize that it is not the government that chooses what is votable. It is actually a committee of this Parliament that chooses what is and is not votable.

While he exalted the conservation activities in other countries, which are very deserving of great credit, I think he forgot about some of the important conservation activities taking place here in Canada through organizations like Ducks Unlimited where there is some public and private partnership.

However I was encouraged by some of the things that he mentioned on the endangered species and cruelty to animal legislation that is working its way through the House and through the Senate. I encourage him, given his support, to encourage the senators to pass that bill because there are important issues to be addressed there.

With regard to Bill C-280, I think most members of the House would agree that the goal of discouraging the selling of wildlife and wildlife parts, particularly wildlife that is threatened or endangered, is a laudable one, but the question is, how do we best do that.

The member opposite has raised some very important issues. This should be something discussed through one of the joint ministers' meetings at the federal and provincial level because some of the issues are provincial and some of the issues are federal. Let us figure out what the best tools are. She has raised an issue of great importance to Canadians and to the future of our wildlife.

The member for Northumberland has already identified a number of difficulties with making this a Criminal Code provision, and that perhaps regulatory legislation is more appropriate. There are a number of federal statutes that try to address some of the conduct that is being sought in Bill C-280, such as the Canada Wildlife Act, the Migratory Birds Convention, the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act, which the member herself recognized, and the species at risk act, Bill C-5, which is currently before the Senate. Some of the things that are being covered will be addressed through that.

The member for Northumberland talked about the difference between criminal law and regulatory provisions. The Supreme Court of Canada has expressly recognized that:

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

There could be some challenges here.

According to Justice Cory:

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

I think this is where the member is trying to punish acts and also to prevent future acts, and we need to get the right measures in place.

The member for Northumberland has already identified that there is a problem because of the exceptions that would be covered in this act and that the criminal law does not really have exemptions. It is extremely rare for the Criminal Code to specify exemptions for criminal liability in respect of particular offences.

The other challenge, which I am not sure he had a chance to discuss, was the issue of relative proportionality in terms of sentencing. Clearly, there is a need to make sure that sentences are proportionate with the seriousness of other offences that may carry the same or lesser penalties. It is not an exact science but I would argue that it has evolved over time as Canadians have placed greater emphasis or expressed their desire to stop certain offences or their abhorrence of certain offences. We have increased penalties in certain areas. We have sent a strong message to those who would choose to conduct them. However it would be disproportionate that a second offence under Bill C-280, in relation to a threatened or endangered species, would carry a maximum penalty of eight years when the maximum penalty right now for assault on indictment is five years.

Currently the maximum penalty for cruelty to animals is six months and that is why Bill C-10B, which is currently before the Senate, would raise that maximum to five years. Cruelty to animals would have a five year maximum sentence and that is for someone who is torturing an animal, which I think all of us in the House and in Canadian society would agree is absolutely abhorrent. We need to see how that would relate to what is being proposed in the member's bill, which is a maximum of eight years.

I mentioned that there are a variety of statutes that regulate the kind of behaviour that is dealt with in Bill C-280. I think the member has raised a very important issue. It is something we need to discuss at the federal-provincial level to see if the provinces should be doing more in terms of their regulatory authority. We should work through and develop the issue a little more before necessarily making a change to the Criminal Code.

I definitely support the protection of animals. The member's colleague mentioned organized crime rings. We need to make sure that those laws are in place to stop that kind of activity and to punish it very severely should it occur. I think there are a number of ways we could beef up things through the current bills and acts that are in place. We do not want to inadvertently create even more confusion out there so that people do not do their utmost to protect our species and wildlife in Canada.

At this point I will not be supporting the bill but I commend the member opposite on her excellent work.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

December 4th, 2002 / 6:25 p.m.
See context

Northumberland Ontario


Paul MacKlin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity today to speak to the provisions of Bill C-280, an act to amend the Criminal Code regarding the selling of wildlife.

If passed, the bill would create a new part XI.1 in the Criminal Code and would create three new offences relating to the selling of wildlife. These offences would apply despite the provisions of other federal acts of Parliament. However, the bill expressly states that the section setting out offences would not alter the application of any existing aboriginal or treaty rights.

The offences proposed in Bill C-280 would address three activities: the selling of wildlife or wildlife parts, the killing or capturing of wildlife for the purpose of selling wildlife or wildlife parts and, finally, possessing wildlife for the purpose of selling wildlife or wildlife parts.

The government does not support the bill for a number of reasons. The overarching reason is that the Criminal Code is not the appropriate statute to deal with the subject matter addressed by the bill. The measures in the bill are best addressed as regulatory law and not as criminal law.

Provincial governments generally have constitutional authority to regulate the conservation and sale of wildlife and wildlife parts. Provincial governments do in fact regulate such activities. There are important division of powers questions in relation to the measures in the bill which the member did allude to.

In view of the constitutional competence of the provincial governments to regulate the use of wildlife on provincial lands, I would urge those jurisdictions which are experiencing problems with the sale of wildlife or wildlife parts to work with their respective governments to address the problem in a regulatory context.

To the extent that the federal government does have the power to legislate to protect wildlife, it does so by the use of its regulatory power, not the Criminal Code. In fact, there are several federal statutes that cover the kind of conduct this bill seeks to address, including the Canada Wildlife Act, the Migratory Birds Convention Act, the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act, and the species at risk bill, Bill C-5, currently before the Senate.

The federal government has a series of regulatory regimes in place designed to protect and conserve wildlife, and to punish related misconduct. These measures are not in the Criminal Code. The reason for this is because the government understands and appreciates that these matters are most appropriately dealt with in a dedicated regulatory regime.

The measures in the bill are best dealt with as regulatory law. They do not belong in the Criminal Code. I do not wish by these comments to suggest that the objectives of the bill lack merit. I think most members of the House would agree that the goal of discouraging the selling of wildlife and wildlife parts, particularly wildlife which is threatened or an endangered species, is a laudable one. However, the question is whether or not this particular bill is the best way to achieve this goal. In the government's view, it is not.

Let me outline some features of the bill that are traditionally associated with the creation of offences in the regulatory context, rather than within Criminal Code offences.

One important feature of the bill is that it does not apply equally to all Canadians. It would expressly exempt from application any person who is authorized pursuant to a federal or provincial permit or licence to commit the acts which otherwise would qualify as an offence as long as the wildlife involved is not a threatened or endangered species. Exemptions of this nature are extremely rare in the context of the Criminal Code. Indeed, the criminal law is a law of general application that normally applies to all Canadians in the same way.

Bill C-280 would permit the Minister of the Environment to exempt from application of the act “any person or class of persons” in respect of a threatened or endangered species where in the opinion of the minister the exemption is “necessary or in the public interest”. Giving a power to the Minister of the Environment to exempt people from the law again signals a regulatory law and not a criminal law.

There is another problem with this provision. The criterion for an exemption is so subjective and general that it would not provide any real limits on the behaviour to be exempted. This provision would face serious constitutional attack on that basis.

Another feature of the bill, which is not normally found in the Criminal Code, is that the Minister of the Environment would given the power to designate by regulation an animal as “wildlife” for the purposes of the provisions.

Another provision would permit the Minister of the Environment to designate a species of wildlife as either an endangered species or as a threatened species provided that the minister had consulted with the committee on the status of endangered wildlife in Canada.

Again, these provisions are more consistent with legislation aimed at the protection and regulation of wildlife than they are with provisions found in the Criminal Code. As noted by constitutional law expert Professor Peter Hogg:

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

I think the interests of justice are served by a consistent and coordinated approach to subject areas within the legislative competence of the federal government. I have already referred to the numerous federal statutes that pertain to wildlife and wildlife protection. Some of the provisions of Bill C-280 overlap with those in the current wildlife legislation and also with the provisions of Bill C-5, the species at risk bill, currently before the Senate.

Bill C-280 would ignore this already existing body of laws or contemplated laws. Bill C-280 would create offences that in large part overlap the offences provided in these other federal statutes. Instead of seeking to amend these other statutes which deal directly with the matters at hand and are administered by the Minister of the Environment, who figures so prominently in Bill C-280, the bill before us seeks to create a whole new and independent regime that would have to be reconciled with the regulation that already exists.

This would add confusion to the regime that already exists. The offences proposed in Bill C-280 are inconsistent with similar offences in other federal statutes in that they are indictable offences only. This is inconsistent with provisions found in the Canada Wildlife Act, the Migratory Birds Convention Act, the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act, and Bill C-5. Offences in these other statutes are dual procedure offences. There is no logical reason for this inconsistency.

The government cannot support the bill because, quite simply, it seeks to amend the wrong piece of legislation. The Criminal Code is not the right vehicle for prohibiting the sale of wildlife.

Even if one were to accept that such measures fit appropriately in the Criminal Code, which they clearly do not, the provisions of the bill are inconsistent in a variety of ways with the Criminal Code and normal criminal law procedures and penalties.

There is no precedent in the Criminal Code for this kind of penalty regime. The sentencing provisions in the Criminal Code follow a pattern for maximum consistency and rationality. Offences in the code generally have maximum penalties of 2, 5, 10, 14 years and life imprisonment. There is no precedent for the way in which this particular bill has been structured with respect to its sentencing.

In conclusion, the provisions of Bill C-280 cannot be supported for several reasons. They are not matters for the Criminal Code, they are inconsistent with other provisions of the Criminal Code, and they overlap and potentially conflict with other federal legislation that already governs this area.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

December 4th, 2002 / 5:55 p.m.
See context

Oxford Ontario


John Finlay LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on Bill C-280, an act to amend the Criminal Code (selling wildlife). There are some admirable motivations behind this proposal and the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Langley has put them very well.

As a government, we fully support ensuring that wildlife is preserved and protected in the best possible way, and certainly that extends to species at risk. In fact, there are many years of conservation actions behind this in Canada and there are a number of statutes already on the books that accomplish this goal.

The proposed legislation would create three indictable offences under the Criminal Code for selling wildlife or wildlife parts, or for killing, capturing or possessing wildlife or wildlife parts for the purpose of selling them. Under this proposal there would be exemptions from prosecution for people who sell wildlife in accordance with a licence, permit or an exemption order. It also states that the sale of threatened or endangered species would mean high penalties and that all offences would be subject to the money laundering provisions of the Criminal Code.

As noted at the outset of my remarks, these are admirable objectives. However, we need to make sure that there is a good fit with other legislation already in place or pending. In this case, this is not so.

I would like to point out that in the Migratory Birds Convention Act of 1994 and the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act, known as WAPPRIITA, there are dual procedure offences. These are also found in the Canada Wildlife Act. Dual procedure offences mean that they can begin with a summary conviction or an indictment. The maximum prison terms set out for proceedings by indictment in most statutes do not exceed five years.

Let us also consider the government sponsored Bill C-5, the species at risk act. This bill is currently under review by the Senate Committee on Energy, Environment and Natural Resources. One of the offences created in Bill C-5 is the prohibition on the killing, harming, harassing, capturing or taking of a wildlife species that is listed as extirpated, endangered or threatened. Bill C-5 also includes a prohibition on the possessing, collecting, buying, selling or trading of a wildlife species listed as extirpated, endangered or threatened.

There is some overlap between this offence and the ones outlined in existing legislation, as well as the offences set out in Bill C-280.

Bill C-280 provides only indictable offences. The maximum prison terms vary from two to eight years, depending on whether it is a first or subsequent offence and whether the wildlife involved is an endangered species.

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

Is Bill C-280 the best way to accomplish the goal? Are the provisions about prohibiting behaviour that is traditionally associated with Parliament's exercise of its criminal law power? Or perhaps we should say that Bill C-280 is describing a public welfare offence, traditionally associated with regulatory matters in a civil context. That is why we believe this approach is inconsistent with the classification of offences elsewhere in the Criminal Code.

The sale of wildlife, as I have demonstrated, is well covered in existing legislation. The bill is a duplication that is not necessary. I can also submit that in many cases we would be using the heavy hand of the Criminal Code for some sales that are quite minor, such as the sale of a few muskrat pelts. We do not need such a heavy approach.

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

There also would be a cost implication to the provinces and territories if straight indictable offences were created for the offences in Bill C-280. All persons charged with any of the offences under the act would have a choice of trial, including the possibility of a jury trial.

We need to remember that under the Canadian system provincial governments are those with the constitutional powers to regulate the use and protection of wildlife on provincial lands. We must also take note that these offences are well covered in Canadian statutes and will be reinforced with the passage of the proposed species at risk act.

SupplyGovernment Orders

October 29th, 2002 / 4:05 p.m.
See context

Mississauga South Ontario


Paul Szabo LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, I think the motion that the House is dealing with has been used very generously as a proxy to talk about the broader subject of parliamentary reform in a number of aspects.

With regard, however, to the specifics of the motion and particularly with regard to appointments, clearly a substantial number of appointments are made by a government. I do not know the precise number. I think it is something in the neighbourhood of some 4,300 appointments. This motion is specifically referring to matters such as ambassadors, consuls general and heads of regulatory bodies and crown corporations.

I do not think that there would be any disagreement with regard to the spirit of the main motion. Indeed, many if not most of these appointments actually do get referred to committee under the existing Standing Orders. I have been at committee where we have reviewed the appointment of an ambassador. I have been to a meeting where we reviewed the appointment of the current privacy commissioner and had an opportunity to pose questions and to get an understanding of the work going on there. So this happens, and I think that I probably will be supporting the main motion, unamended.

If I could use a little latitude to talk more broadly about what may be the underpinning intent of the motion, it is, I believe, that parliamentary reform in a number of aspects is something that members in this place would like to see. This aspect has to do with more independence and more empowerment of committees. It means that committees will have this opportunity.

Having been a parliamentarian for some nine years, I can reflect on my work on committee, whether it be the finance committee, the health committee, the transport committee, estimates of government operations, or industry. I have had a broad experience. I also have had the opportunity to sit in for other members to do their committee work for them and I have watched how committees operate

I think it is terribly noble to say that committees should be empowered, should be more independent and should have this authority, but when we get these rights to do things that also carries with it the fact that we have responsibilities. We have to do the job properly. Are committees doing the job properly now in all respects? I think most members here would agree: no.

For example, let us simply look at the review of estimates. We have in our Standing Orders that the estimates are referred to committee automatically. If a committee does not review the estimates, they are deemed to have been reported back to the House. Therefore committees really do not have to do anything. What is the experience of the House? It is that 80% of committees do not review the estimates or report them back to the House. They are deemed to be reported back.

How can we suggest that we need more responsibility when in fact we are actually not taking care of probably one of the most important aspects of committee work, that being the review of the estimates and the performance reports? This is extremely important. Therefore to suggest that as a right we want to be able to do this has to also incorporate the concept that there is a responsibility to do the committee work that is being asked for and that is being required under the Standing Orders.

There have been other suggestions that committees should have greater autonomy to do certain things. There have been concerns expressed that a majority government, for instance, has the majority of members on a committee and therefore by virtue of mathematics tends to be able to control the agenda and in fact the results of virtually every vote. That is the peculiarity of a majority government. We could talk about the merits of having majorities or somehow releasing members of Parliament so that everyone can go their own ways. However, I can only assume that members will continue to want to represent the views of a party, of their platform, et cetera.

It would be very difficult to say “Let us just release members and we will trust them to be partisan in their activities”. The reality of this place is that it is a partisan House. The reality of this place is that members, as they discharge their responsibilities, also have other responsibilities, needs and wants. At the same time, if an opportunity should present itself in committee “I'll give you this if you give that” is something I have seen a lot.

We cannot suggest that this one item should be seen as simply a major improvement in the process. I think the spirit of the linear idea of reviewing appointments is important, but there have been some questions about whether or not those appointments should be reviewed. Or is it that we would like not only to review them but to have the decision making as to who in fact gets the job? On that purview of who gets the final appointment and where the approval process is, I do not think that at this point it has been suggested that it be changed to the committees. The motion before us does not suggest that the committees would make the appointment. They would not vote on the appointments. They would prepare reports and report on the referral to committee of an appointment.

There is precedent in parliamentary history that appointments not be politicized, not put into that purview, such as they might be in the United States where there are public hearings. There have been some quite public and quite damning episodes where people of integrity have been trashed in public. It is not the Canadian way. It is not the parliamentary way. I do not think I could support that, but I certainly do support the committees having this kind of latitude.

In this broader discussion about committees reviewing appointments and the other responsibilities they have if they want more rights, what happens with, for instance, referral of bills before second reading? They can go to the committee and the committee can do some work, but the fact of the matter is that once a bill is printed it has been developed by the departmental officials with whatever consultation they have done and it has cabinet sign-off. Once it is printed at first reading, as far as I am concerned that is a fixed position against which parliamentarians have to work. Even if it goes to committee before second reading, there will have to be some pretty serious work done to make changes. We have seen that on bills like Bill C-5, the species at risk bill, and some other bills. We have that authority to refer. We already do. It is not used very often but we do that already. It has not made the difference that I think people had hoped it would.

Maybe for public consumption it is nice to say as a generality that we have to empower committees, but the reality is that committees are in a partisan environment. They are subject to the ebb and flow of other things that happen in the House, to party discipline, to party platforms and to all the things that we experience throughout our parliamentary careers. It is idealistic to suggest that somehow we will simplistically change this unless one could demonstrate that in the Parliament of Canada it could operate in virtually all facets in a non-partisan fashion.

I believe that as long as we have parties running in an election with their own leaders, their own platforms and their own philosophies, partisanship always will be part of this place, and we have to work within the reality of this place. That is why I am happy that the motion before us does not go that one step farther and state that it will be the committee. I have seen committees stacked by members. If the appointed members do not seem able to wrap their support around a particular item, I see those people replaced all the time. If we want something to happen at committee, parties can make it happen. It is part of the partisan process. We have seen it. We have seen it with the drug patent legislation and other stories I have heard here.

I think that what we really want and the proxy that the motion brings to this place is that members of Parliament want to earn the respect of the Canadian public. I think that there is a serious concern about the attitude that Canadians have expressed toward parliamentarians from time to time. It has become almost a national pastime to bash politicians, yet I know most of the members in the House reasonably well and I know that 85% of them come from backgrounds where they have significant community service records, where they have done an enormous amount of work on behalf of their communities and therefore on behalf of Canada on a totally voluntary basis. They do come with credentials and that is the reason why they were elected. They were elected not because they promised to do things. They were elected because they had shown what they could do.

In this place there are changes that we can make to earn back that respect. I think that things like standing up in this place and reading a speech is actually contrary to parliamentary policy or parliamentary tradition. I do not think that members should stand up here and read a speech. Members should stand up here and look another member in the face and tell them how they really feel. If members do not know what they are talking about then they might as well sit down, because it is really important that we speak to each other about what we know. If members do not know, then they should sit down and not say anything because I do not want to hear somebody read a speech to me. I would rather that they send it to me and then sit down.

We need to have people talk about things that they know about . If they do not know about the subject, we do not need to have them stand up and give a speech. That is an example of something we can do in this place. It is a matter of credibility. It is a matter of integrity. It is a matter of talking about the culture of Parliament. We should talk about how we do things here. We have been playing with private members' business for a long time. I have often wondered about this as we play with issues of parliamentary reform, whether it be committees or whatever. It has been suggested as well, for instance, that private members' bills could go to committees after first reading, that we could let them all go, that the lottery process is ridiculous.

There are 301 members of Parliament. If we assume that half of them, about 150, would be interested in participating in the private members' process, they could not all get their bills dealt with by a committee within a session, so we would still have to rely on a lottery process of some sort. Somebody has to go first. It is maybe disingenuous to suggest somehow referring it to committee. Actually I could see that it might very well grind Parliament to a halt simply by virtue of the fact that committees would be burdened with private members' bills to which they would have to give due consideration. Every member is going to want to appear before committee. They are going to want to call witnesses. Most of them will go to the justice and finance committees. I wonder how the justice and finance committees are going to do their work if suddenly they are seized by private members' business and they have to do it.

We have to get our priorities straight. Reform of Parliament is an important aspect of this, but I think that reforming the culture of Parliament and reforming our attitudinal postures in this place are very important. We have to live with the reality, however, that this is a partisan environment. Our elections were partisan. We become members of a partisan party, a partisan group and a partisan government and we come here. But when we do not do our jobs properly, we do so at our own peril. Unfortunately we know that members of Parliament are often elected not for themselves but because of the party that they are with, their party platform or the region they come from, et cetera. These are the realities of this place.

Let us look at history. We know that this mix does change. It changed significantly enough that a government went from a majority down to two seats. It can change in one region from a majority of seats to a handful of seats or no seats. It has happened. As I have said, governments do not do their jobs properly at their own peril.

It is very important as we look at these aspects of how we empower committees or members of Parliament themselves that we are realistic about the environment in which we live. We have to be respectful of each other. We have to do our jobs. We have to know our subject matter. I think that the best starting point for us in this place is to make sure that people who participate in debates on issues in this place are those people who have done the work and know the issues and have something to contribute. I believe that the whole quality of the debate and the challenge to other members of Parliament would be to raise the game up to that level, to make it relevant and to make sure that we do not have the partisan bickering on matters of importance that transcend partisan activities.

We have just had a debate on the future of the health care system. We are awaiting the Romanow report. We want to ensure that Canadians have a health care system which provides for the medically necessary needs of Canadians. We want to ensure that it is properly funded, universal, accessible, publicly funded and portable so that Canadians have that security.

However it continues to be undermined. Today when I looked at the news I saw an advertisement on behalf of the premiers of the provinces saying that the provinces pay 86% of health care; it used to be 50% but now the federal government is only paying 14%. We all know the reason is that the dollars are not only in cash. They are in tax points. The federal government is the sole funder of aboriginal health care and all of the health protection issues. The direct spending that the federal government puts into health spending changes those numbers.

Those are the partisan games that are played. Those are the partisan issues that tend to influence Canadians because the optics make it appear that something is wrong. People will be influenced when we rely upon newspapers and television ads to make the case rather than sit down and look at what contributions are being made. If the provinces are not going to give credit for the tax points, there is a simple solution for that. Responsible parliamentarians say we should just undo it, let the federal government take those tax points back and make it all cash. The government could do that.

We have this motion and we agree with the premise but the motion was made with a broader point in mind. It was a demand to start talking about parliamentary reform in a way which would make this place function in a manner in which parliamentarians could feel proud about what they are doing and represent properly the interests of their constituents.

However if we do not accept the reality of being in a partisan environment, I do not believe we will fool anyone about any kind of reform. There will always be trade-offs.

For example, we have adopted the rule of applying votes. With the unanimous consent of the House we can have a vote on one issue, then apply the vote so we can get out of here quicker. The whip stands and says “with Liberal members voting yea”. If people look at parliamentarians as a bunch of sheep because we all vote the same way, this could not be a more dramatic example of that. Someone stands up and says we are all voting one way, and every other party does the same thing.

Why is that? We did that in reaction to people who wanted to demonstrate against a bill. They would put in a large number of amendments which would take the House days to vote. Therefore to get over that we decided to apply votes. However it does require unanimous consent.

There will come a day when a member will get sufficiently cynical about this place and will start denying unanimous consent on everything. This place will grind to a halt because we have accommodated that cynicism.

We must be realistic about this place and we must work together. It does not mean that we have to abandon the partisanship that is part of the environment we are a part of through the election process and which we bring to government. It does mean that we must work together in the best interests of all Canadians and at the same time have the freedom to represent the interests of our constituents, and debate openly and freely on motions, whether they be brought by the opposition, or on other matters that come before this place.

I hope that as we move forward on this overall theme of parliamentary reform and renewal that members will build on some of the points that I have raised.

Species at Risk ActRoutine Proceedings

October 9th, 2002 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

The Speaker

The Chair is satisfied that this bill is in the same form as Bill C-5 was at the time of prorogation of the first session of the 37th Parliament.

Accordingly, pursuant to special order of the House of October 7, 2002, the bill is deemed approved at all stages and passed by the House.

(Bill read the second time, considered in committee, reported concurred in read the third time and passed)

Species at Risk ActRoutine Proceedings

October 9th, 2002 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario


Don Boudria Liberalfor the Minister of the Environment

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-5, an act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada.

Mr. Speaker, this bill is in the same form as Bill C-5 of the first session of this Parliament. In accordance with the special order of the House of October 7, I request that it be reinstated at the same stage that it had reached at the time of prorogation.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

October 8th, 2002 / 5:05 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Canadian Alliance Yorkton—Melville, SK

Madam Speaker, I listened to the throne speech a while back and I have to begin by asking the government, why did we even have a throne speech? By their very nature throne speeches should signal that the government is initiating something new, that it is articulating some vision for the future. The lack of anything substantive really makes a joke of Parliament and what should transpire here.

The throne speech was in total contrast to the speech given by the leader of the Canadian Alliance. He articulated a vision for the future that made the throne speech appear like mindless babble. The power struggle within the Liberal Party has resulted in a complete paralysis in the introduction of new legislation or ideas to take Canada forward. The Canadian Alliance and its leader have offered the citizens of this vast country something that will benefit them all and leave their descendants in a better position than they are in now.

How would we as the Canadian Alliance do that? By getting the fundamentals right. We would redirect the focus of federal legislation to correct the problems that exist in our country. The Liberals simply tinker with a few symptoms that are the result of the problems we have.

We have problems with the Canadian economy. The Liberal approach to poverty, the lack of investment, a job deficit, an impoverished aboriginal population and the loss of our young people, our brain trust for the next generation, is to put more of the same policies in place that have already created these problems. Instead of higher taxation and more big government programs, why not put in place plans and policies that have proven to work in other jurisdictions? Lower taxes result in more investment and more jobs.

Let me emphasize this throughout my speech: strengthening property rights across Canada for everyone is one fundamental that we do not have right in our country. Property rights are absolutely essential in ensuring that the incentive to produce wealth and improve one's lot in life are not discouraged.

The obstacles facing our aboriginal population will not be overcome until they enjoy fundamental property rights. Property rights also help poor people improve their lot in life. They allow farmers and ranchers to pursue their livelihood without being hassled by wealthy multinational lobby groups. Property rights would allow agricultural producers to process their grain into value added products that would greatly improve their financial return.

Instead what do the Liberals do? At the beginning of a new session they recycle legislation that will have the opposite effect to what is intended because property rights are not respected. Examples of this type of legislation are Bill C-5 and Bill C-15B that have just been reintroduced without putting in amendments to ensure that property rights are respected. Liberal legislation to protect endangered species and prevent cruelty to animals will not be effective because the fundamentals are not right, that is, property rights are not in place.

Let me also note that one of the biggest flaws in Bill C-68, the Firearms Act, passed by the Liberals back in 1995, is that it does not protect the property rights of firearms owners and because this fundamental right is not properly protected, it will never work. It has resulted in a high level of civil disobedience. Non-compliance with gun registration is so high that to date, approximately only one-quarter of firearms are registered, despite the fact that it should be fully implemented by January 1, 2003.

Another serious fundamental flaw in the Canadian justice system is that criminals have more rights than their victims. Many examples abound and I do not have time to go into them, but Bill C-68 is one of them. Canadians want violence control, not a gun registry.

Another basic fundamental characteristic that Liberals do not have right is effective administration of government programs. The Auditor General's revelation today that there are five million more social insurance number cards issued to people over 20 than there are people in that age group in Canada is unbelievable.

This is four years after the government was warned that this was a huge problem that would lead to great abuses of the system and millions of dollars flowing to people who are not qualified to receive it. By the way, this occurred under a finance minister who is now touted to be the next prime minister of Canada. I do not believe Canadians should reward this kind of mismanagement.

Another example of gross government mismanagement is the firearms act. This boondoggle has now gone 11 times over budget. It will never be of any use to the police. It will never control crime or improve public safety in any way. The error rate is so high that even if the Liberals did lay a piece of paper beside every gun in the country, the information collected would not be useful in any way.

Another fundamental aspect of Canadian life that the government has totally backward is respect for privacy. Again legislation passed without proper respect for privacy will endanger Canadians, put them at more risk as a target for criminal activity and diminish their quality of life.

I must also mention another basic aspect of Canadian life and culture that the government is undermining. That is respect for the family.

Taxation policy undermines a couple's choice to have one parent stay at home and provide care for their children. Overtaxation is also forcing many couples to have both parents work. The basic exemption should be raised.

Marriage as the union of a man and a woman needs to be properly protected and encouraged as the foundation for a family. Under the Liberal government that protection is eroding the right of parents to raise their children in the way they feel will result in well-adjusted, happy and productive citizens of Canada. Liberals do not understand that children live in poverty because their parents are poor. What children need most is their family, not institutions or programs. Liberal values may sound good, but they do not work.

We see many examples in our society where if people are robbed of their incentive to better their lot in life, they will not. That is a basic fundamental aspect of life that Liberals just do not grasp or protect. It is leading to a serious decline in the quality of life in our nation.

The government is failing to protect farmers from foreign government policies that have a negative effect upon them. The Liberals failed to grasp the fundamental fact of international trade that the freer trade is, the more wealth that will be produced. Also not only will it help our country, but it will be better for any foreign country that is involved in this as well. It would be better than any foreign aid program that ever could be put in place for these countries.

We are losing our young people to other countries because the Liberals do not have the basic fundamentals right. In trying to protect certain corporations, they tax other businesses until they die. Those that need the jobs are devastated and move out.

The problems I am discussing basically are there because of a lack of understanding of the importance of property rights and respect for them. Liberals do not understand the fundamental laws of economics and because they do not, they can never put in place policies that will reinvigorate our economy and standard of living. In fact the throne speech signals that they will put in place more big government programs that will have the opposite effect. We saw that mistake in the Speech from the Throne.

One of the best examples is the Kyoto accord. Not only is it based on unproven scientific theories, but the economic repercussions will in fact impoverish companies that will then be less able to practise environmentally friendly policies. This will be especially true in agriculture. Farmers who are squeezed even further financially, as the Kyoto accord would do, will resort to practices that will be more harmful to the land, air and water.

Let me conclude by saying that my experience here in Parliament has made it very obvious that there is another basic fundamental aspect of Canadian life that Liberals do not understand, and that is the essence of democracy. The corruption that exists within Liberal ranks strikes at the very heart of a free and open society that respects everyone equally. By giving handouts to their friends, Liberals at election time receive kickbacks that allow them to buy advertising and influence people to support them. This violates democracy.

Also, secrecy in government and dictatorial prime ministerial control do not allow the people of Canada to have their proper voice in how this country is run. This creates apathy and cynicism and within that atmosphere Liberals can continue to run roughshod over the citizens of this country.

I wish I had time to talk more about an elected Senate, free votes and private members' business.

This throne speech could have gone a long way in correcting some of these fundamental problems. It did not, so it should be soundly rejected.

Committee Business and Reinstatement of Government BillsGovernment Orders

October 7th, 2002 / 7:25 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Leon Benoit Canadian Alliance Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by commending my colleague for the tremendous job he did talking about Motion No. 2 and why Bill C-5 and Bill C-15B should not be reinstated at the stage they were at but should be debated all over again.

We all remember those debates. We remember that closure or time allocation was invoked on both of them. There was a lot of debate that had not yet taken place, not only in this place but across the country, because there seems to be a period where things can be debated in the House and the general public has not caught on that it is happening. Even though each MP goes out to his or her riding and talks about it in the riding, it still takes time before the general public gets involved in the debate. Bill C-5 and Bill C-15B had only just started at the stage where the general public was starting to understand what was included.

An interesting thing that we found, probably MPs from all political parties but the Alliance MPs certainly because I have talked to my colleagues about this, is that the more we talked about this in the constituencies and elsewhere across the country, the more people came to understand that these two pieces of legislation were bad legislation, not that the concept and the intent of the legislation were bad.

Canadians agree, for example, with Bill C-5, species at risk, that they should be committed to preserving endangered species. Canadians support that. However when they got into the legislation and came to understand what was in the legislation, they came to see that it was bad legislation which did not deserve to be supported by Parliament.

For that reason, we should start from scratch again, go through the process again. By the time we are done, maybe we will have the Canadian public across the country more engaged. There is a good chance that the legislation as it is now would not pass, due to public pressure, or that there would be changes made so that we could pass it. That is certainly another option.

Bill C-15B, the cruelty to animals legislation, was much the same. Canadians support the concept of tough penalties for people who abuse animals. Who does not? That is a motherhood concept. However the legislation itself had some extremely dangerous clauses which infringed on civil liberties and would not do the job intended. I argued in debate on these bills and at meetings across my constituency and elsewhere that some of the clauses would do anything but perform the function that the government said they would perform.

These two pieces of legislation need to be debated more. The government sent the signal when it decided to prorogue parliament and end the session. Why does it do that? It does that because it wants to clear the slate and start over again, get rid of the bad legislation it should never have introduced and start over again.

These are two pieces of bad legislation that should never have been introduced, not as they are at least. They need a major change before they should be passed. The government and the Prime Minister chose to prorogue the House. Let us start from scratch and do exactly what Parliament is supposed to do when we clear the slate and start over fresh again.

I would be happy if the government never brought these forth again in the new Parliament because they do not do the job intended. I would prefer it takes these back to the people drafting legislation and get the changes made that would make it good legislation so that we could support it.

There is something else that has led me to not want these two pieces of legislation to come back at the stage they were at. I found that in this place there is precious little debate on agriculture. For example, tonight we have an emergency debate on one of the worst agriculture crisis in the history of the country, the worst in the last 35 years without doubt.

We have an emergency debate on this coming up after we vote on these motions. How much time do we have allocated to this emergency debate? Eight-thirty to midnight. That is three and a half hours, if we get that. There is simply not enough time devoted to debating issues that are critical to what I would argue is the most important sector in our country: farmers, the people who produce our food and many other products that we simply cannot do without. I would argue that for that reason we should start from scratch on these bills, if the government still wants to go ahead with them. I think the argument on that is fairly obvious.

I want to talk a bit about farmers and agriculture not getting the attention they deserve in this place. This is something I have seen over the past nine years. Rather than the debate which is in the House to deal with issues which will make things better for farmers, too often the debate is about things like Bill C-5 and Bill C-15B, which will put an incredible hardship on farmers if passed. Some of my colleagues have talked about this in the past.

Now we have an agriculture crisis which is hurting cattlemen, grain farmers and hog producers. It is hurting agriculture producers across the country. It is certainly not appropriate to burden them with the consequences of legislation like this. I would argue there are other things government should do for farmers.

The drought certainly is the immediate cause of this crisis, which again I argue is the worst in 35 years, since the late 1960s or early 1970s. The drought is not really what has led to the mess that agriculture is in today. It is the immediate cause for some of the problems, but the long term cause is the government's neglect when it comes to dealing with some trade negotiations.

In the GATT, in the WTO and even in the free trade agreements, which are excellent trade agreements, agriculture was mostly left out. For that reason, we have all other industries in the country dealing under a trade agreement which gives pretty much fair trade. We have exceptions. We have problems the odd time. Softwood lumber is a huge problem. However most of the problems we have seen have been in agriculture because the agreement does not cover these things.

Instead of the government trying to bring forth Bill C-5 and Bill C-15B, which have had this incredible negative impact on farmers, why does it not deal with the real problems that farmers face? Again, it is the cumulative effect of prices being driven down year after year for the last 10 to 15 years due to unfair trade practices in other countries. I am talking about the common agriculture in Europe, especially the part of the common agriculture policy which deals with export subsidies which pays farmers from Europe to dump their products in our traditional markets. By doing so, it not only causes us to lose those important markets, but also causes prices around the world to be driven down.

Then we have the Americans getting involved to combat and counteract Europe. They want to counteract the harm of the European subsidies. Therefore, they get involved with their export enhancement program and that type of thing, which further depresses world prices. Then the Canadian farmers, who have only a very small portion of the subsidies the United States and the European Union have, are left holding the bag.

Canadian farmers are truly the most efficient in the world, I would argue. If we level the playing field or even make it closer to level so that year after year they do not have to combat the impact of these prices being depressed, the agriculture sector would do extremely well. Under those circumstances, when these drought years come from time to time, although never as bad as this, then farmers could deal with it and we would not be here talking about the crisis in agriculture.

The problem is that for the last 15 years farmers have had their equity chipped away. They have not been allowed to build up reserves in their business, like most corporations and businesses do, because prices have been driven down due to unfair trade practices.

Why does the government not deal with the root of this problem, which is primarily unfair trade practices and higher prices that Canadian farmers have to face due to the other things the government imposes on them, such as high taxes on inputs?