An Act to amend the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in May 2004.


David Anderson  Liberal


Not active, as of May 14, 2004
(This bill did not become law.)


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

April 30th, 2009 / 9:35 a.m.
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Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

This file has a very political component to it. We can indeed criticize the lack of consultation by the government, but once the bill is before committee, it is our responsibility as parliamentarians to study it. We may agree or disagree with the witnesses. That is why it is important, today, that we hear from both industry and workers affected by this issue.

I have read your briefs, and the prevailing point made in most of them is a request to the committee that amendments be tabled to restore the presumption of innocence. I think that this is quite important for both industry and the workers.

Have there been any Supreme Court rulings on the issue? There was this ruling made in 1978 involving Sault Ste. Marie, where the Supreme Court of Canada established a principle of strict liability in 1978. Since the adoption of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Supreme Court has ruled that strict liability penalties do not violate the Charter, even if they can lead to a prison term.

The Supreme Court has already made a pronouncement with respect to strict liability. Consequently, strict liability does not mean a presumption of guilt.

You were right to refer to Bill C-15, but you could have also referred to Bill C-34. The wording of certain provisions in Bill C-15 lead us to believe that a judge could decide to absolve a ship's master, shipowner, chief engineer or director of any criminal liability provided that it could be shown that these individuals acted with due diligence. The acts therefore contain this principle of diligence.

As a last resort, the principle of diligence provided in Bill C-15 may enable you to demonstrate to the court that you have implemented the requisite measures.

I would like to hear your opinion on previous rulings of the Supreme Court and how such rulings could establish jurisprudence in the case before us. Should we not give consideration, as parliamentarians, to Supreme Court decisions when we examine bills? In all honesty, I am no lawyer. However, this does appear to be a legal argument.

The EnvironmentOral Question Period

May 14th, 2004 / noon
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Victoria B.C.


David Anderson LiberalMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, the Teacam Sea event which occurred in November 2002 was dealt with last year. The problem of course was using new technology, that is radar satellite technology, and the general reluctance of the courts to accept new technology without corroboration.

What we are doing now, however, is using the increased surveillance that is coming with the new security measures to improve surveillance, not just for fishing, but also for oil spills at sea on the east and the west coasts. In addition, we have before the House Bill C-34 which will change some of the penalties.

Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994Government Orders

May 14th, 2004 / 10:50 a.m.
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Serge Marcil Liberal Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to make a comment. The member for Red Deer understands the situation perfectly well, but he is a bit of a demagogue in some respects because we are in a pre-election period.

What we have to realize—especially for the benefit of those who are watching to us—is that this is not new legislation. Two other acts already exist: the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994, and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.

Most of the concerns raised have been addressed and appear in these two acts. Bill C-34 proposes some amendments to these two acts. Public consultations were held for the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994, and for the Canadian Environmental Protection Act as well.

Today, with Bill C-34, we are amending these two acts. We are not creating new legislation.

The member wondered why we do not impose a minimal fine and what duck hunters had to do with it and so forth. I can understand his line of questioning. The answer is that these elements are already included in the existing legislation of 1994 and 1999. These matters are already covered in these acts.

With respect to imposing a minimal fine, I will give an example. Say the hon. member for Red Deer and I, the member for Beauharnois—Salaberry, go fishing together and our boat's motor accidentally hits a sandbar and loses oil. Are we going to be fined $1 million because we had an accident?

It is the same for the family man, a crab fisher, who has a small fishing business and goes fishing with his son or daughter. It should be up to the judge applying the legislation to weigh the repercussions of the accident.

If the boat belongs to a company, the company is in a position to pay and a $1 million fine is a more severe punishment.

That is why in the legislation we cannot introduce a minimum for fines. This is a bill to amend two acts that include environmental measures related to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994, which addresses hunters and an entire range of stakeholders in the field of nature.

I understand. Our colleague from Red Deer might be frustrated because consultations were not as open and extensive as in the case of a piece of legislation with broad impact. However, consultations were held in 1994 on the 1994 Migratory Birds Convention Act and also in 1999 on the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

What we are doing today with Bill C-34 is making amendments to give more teeth to the law. We thought we had the necessary tools under the existing laws. We thought we would be able to pursue people without restriction and punish them. However, when we were tried to make a case, we found that loopholes in the legislation prevented us from getting a conviction

Yes, we are rectifying this situation by amending the legislation. This is not a new act. The bill does not make substantive changes to the 1994 Migratory Birds Convention Act or the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. It amends the two acts I just mentioned.

As far as the Americans are concerned, I understand certain things. The United States is what it is, and Canada is what it is. We have our own sovereignty, our own Canadian values. We see things differently, and we always try to—

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

May 13th, 2004 / 3:05 p.m.
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Brossard—La Prairie Québec


Jacques Saada LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister responsible for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, the true miracle is the number of bills we have been able to pass, notwithstanding their opposition to them.

This afternoon, the House will continue with the opposition day motion. Tomorrow, we will return to Bill C-34, the migratory birds legislation. This will be followed by a motion to refer to committee before second reading Bill C-36, respecting communicable diseases. We will then return to Bill C-33, the Fisheries Act amendments, Bill C-10, respecting marijuana, and Bill C-23, respecting the first nations.

When the House returns on May 25, it will resume this list and take up bills that are introduced or reported from committee in the interim.

Thursday, May 27, shall be an allotted day, something that may not interest them.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management ActGovernment Orders

May 7th, 2004 / 1:25 p.m.
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Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I said earlier that I would see if there was consent, but I regret to inform the House that there is no unanimous consent to proceed with Bill C-34 today, so it will be referred to committee.

Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994Government Orders

May 7th, 2004 / 1:10 p.m.
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The Deputy Speaker

I wonder if I can make a suggestion. I can understand that there are some very real questions to be asked and to be answered, but in a relatively tight timeframe in over the next 15 minutes. The Chair would prefer if these discussions, questions or answers, which are legitimate, would occur outside behind the curtains in the usual fashion. Then, if necessary, the Chair will entertain whatever motions might be put either by the government or by members of the opposition.

Therefore, I would like to now go back to debate on Bill C-34. Are there any further speakers?

Is the House ready for the question?

Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994Government Orders

May 7th, 2004 / 1 p.m.
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Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to the bill. We see it as a very worthwhile piece of legislation.

It is very difficult to speak against a bill that is designed to amend the Migratory Birds Convention Act, but speaks to the much larger issue of environmental protection. I would point out that it is one of the few bills introduced by the government specifically designed to protect the environment.

There have been calls from across the country for the government to be proactive and bold in its approach to environmental protection. We saw the government and the committee on the environment wrestle with the species at risk legislation. I think most people would admit that what came out of that process was not very satisfactory.

As I said, it is very difficult to speak against a bill that, if ever sworn into law, would protect the environment in any aspect. My reason for saying this and my introductory point is that I do not believe the bill will see the light of day beyond the opportunity to give it a full debate during second reading. It is a bit of a cynical move. My colleague from Newfoundland pointed out that it would be very difficult to see the bill go though the very steps of the legislative process and actually get royal assent if we are literally four or five sitting days away from a federal election.

It would appear that the Liberal government wants it put on the record that it cares about environmental issues. Here it is introducing legislation in order to dissuade its critics or to answer its critics who can quite rightly say the government never introduces environmental legislation. There is nothing on the Liberals' permanent record to indicate that they give a hoot about green issues.

The only environmental legislation that has passed in the House that has been bold has been put forward as private members' business by a number of opposition parties. They are usually the ones to use private members' bills. I should point out that in the 37th Parliament there were minor initiatives passed regarding environmental issues.

A tax deduction for transit passes, for instance, was an initiative put forward by my colleague in the NDP in the interests of trying to get people out of their cars and into public transit. Employers who gave transit passes to their employees could deduct that as they can deduct salaries and wages. That was tangible environmental legislation.

The other one was an environmental initiative that I put forward on the energy retrofitting of publicly owned buildings. That initiative actually did pass in the House of Commons. However, we have not seen issues of substance coming from the government.

I am not surprised that the sensitive issue of marine waters and ship source pollution has not been a top of mind issue for the Liberal government. I should point out that the current Prime Minister's company, when he still owned Canada Steamship Lines, was given the largest fine in Canadian history for ship source pollution. One of his ships, in polluting the Halifax harbour, was given the largest penalty in Canadian history, not something to which a sitting politician, much less a Prime Minister, would want to draw attention.

As an aside, on the same subject I should point out that at that time Canadian tax law was such that the fine was tax deductible. It is a shameful thing to have to point out. That has finally been remedied after constant pressure, five years of pressure from the NDP benches that we should never reward bad behaviour by allowing companies or individuals to write off penalties and fines imposed by law as a tax deductible expense. We think that is just plain bad public policy.

Finally the Liberal government in the most recent budget has amended the Income Tax Act so that any penalty or fine imposed by law is no longer to be considered a tax deductible expense. I suppose that is something to celebrate.

We come at this issue of ship source pollution, the discharge of oily bilge waste from passing ships, by way of its effect on sea birds and other sea animals as well, but specifically, the bill concentrates on the effect on migratory birds. As such, it seeks to amend the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994, and in a subsequent way the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.

It is true that our current environmental legislation does not address this issue very specifically or to anyone's great satisfaction. Interpretation of the various pieces of legislation left officials with few choices to deal with the problem effectively, even though it is a very visible problem to anyone who lives along our largest coastline, which is the largest coastline of any country in the world. They are well aware of the impact of the noxious habit of discharging bilge waters, especially close to harbours and settled areas, but that is not the point. The fact is that it has had a huge effect on the migratory bird population and certainly warrants being addressed here.

There have been numerous appeals from parliamentarians representing coastal communities to the federal government to deal with this chronic oil pollution problem. We heard the very passionate representations from my colleague from Newfoundland earlier who knows more about this issue than I ever will, coming from the prairie provinces, but that does not mean that the interest is limited to those who live in coastal communities.

Environmental groups have tried to bring this issue to the federal government's attention without bearing fruit until these twilight hours of this Parliament. It is no secret that we are in the final days, the final dwindling hours, of debate in this Parliament. We will all be very surprised if there is one more week of sitting within the 37th Parliament, and this is only the first hours of debate at second reading on the bill. There are many other pieces of legislation that are going to compete for those few hours that are left. I do not have any confidence that Bill C-34, dealing with migratory birds, will ever see the light of day.

As much as I appreciate that the hon. Minister of the Environment has finally convinced cabinet to introduce this type of legislation, it is not jaded or cynical to assume that it was done purely for the optics of leading into the federal election campaign. It really is not fooling anybody.

Environmental issues as they stand are ranked top of mind with most Canadians. It is even more top of mind when they see the prices at the pump. People are thinking about the environment and pollution issues more than usual lately, as they are reminded of the cost of burning fossil fuels compared with the environmental degradation that fossil fuels bring.

In this particular case, with the discharge of noxious substances from bilge water, this is a manageable problem that we can in fact deal with and bring satisfaction to, especially within our own 200 mile exclusive economic zone. As a nation we are calling for better enforcement of Canadian rights within that 200 mile exclusive economic zone. This is one aspect that we could police with far more vigour, with legislation crafted specifically for that reason.

Birds and oil at sea is an issue that brings emotion to most Canadians who have witnessed this problem. We will support Bill C-34, but we regret that we will probably not get the opportunity to vote it into legislation, given the fact that we are running out of time. If the government were sincere about introducing legislation of this nature, it should have done so months ago when it had some prospect of actually being voted into legislation.

Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994Government Orders

May 7th, 2004 / 12:45 p.m.
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Sarmite Bulte Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I too am pleased to rise today and participate in this debate on the second reading and reference to the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development of Bill C-34, an act to amend the Migratory Birds Convention Act of 1994 and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act of 1999.

Our biologists have told us about the hopeless struggle by over 300,000 seabirds every winter who die because oil waste is illegally discharged from some ships off the coast of Newfoundland. They have seen this struggle first-hand as the natural defences of the birds are worn away by spots of oil and by the winter cold of the Atlantic as it seeps through their feathers.

What we also have to assume is that these murres, dovekies, gulls and puffins are not the only forms of marine life that are affected by the practices of these few individuals on board ships. The oily waste that goes into the ocean also washes up on our beaches. It pollutes the habitat of fish and marine mammals such as seals and also whales. The deaths of seabirds are dramatic, but there are other costs to biodiversity.

We also must assume that the same kinds of problems occur on the west coast, where shipping and marine life often collide.

Through international conventions and agreements and through domestic laws, we have stated repeatedly that Canada is committed as a nation to the conservation of nature.

We must address the yearly deaths of hundreds of thousands of seabirds within that context and we must meet our commitments.

We should be proud of the fine tradition we have forged, through long hours of hard work and much study, in the area of environmental legislation. We have good laws. I support the bill before us, which amends these already effective pieces of legislation so that we can take dramatic and swift action to help these birds and other forms of marine wildlife. In fact, I see little need for prolonged debate here.

These are important amendments. They will bring quick results, and we are not only addressing the deaths of seabirds but our obligations in conserving biodiversity. By taking action, we will know that we acted and a polluter did not go free. By taking action through these strong pieces of environmental legislation, we can say we are living up to our commitments.

We have said we would protect the environment. We have said we would protect species. But if so many seabirds die every year, their viability as a species could be threatened.

With this simple approach we will know we did something to prevent some of our most unique marine life from becoming at risk. Put this way, we already have no choice. We are obliged and we should be willing to meet that obligation.

I have concentrated my remarks on the situation on our east coast, but we also know that there must be similar problems off our Pacific and Arctic coasts.

Not only does oil in the water kill seabirds, it affects plant life, marine mammals and fish. In essence, it affects us all.

Yet here is our opportunity to make a difference. I ask all members to seize this opportunity and help us see results as soon as this coming winter with fewer deaths of birds oiled at sea.

Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994Government Orders

May 7th, 2004 / 12:15 p.m.
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Bonnie Brown Liberal Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today in support of Bill C-34, an act to amend the Migratory Birds Convention Act of 1994 and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act of 1999.

Most Canadians remember only too well the devastating pictures after the Exxon Valdez ran aground in one of the most environmentally sensitive habitats in North America. We all remember the oil drenching of birds, fish, seals and other marine life, and most of us were alarmed at the damage this caused.

Yet as devastating as that incident was, we have a tragedy of larger proportion that occurs every winter off the coast of the Avalon Peninsula in Newfoundland. We are quite certain it occurs in ocean waters elsewhere along the east and west coasts of Canada.

Some 300,000 seabirds die because of the illegal discharge of oily waste. The oil penetrates their natural defences against the cold Atlantic winter waters and they die a slow death. These birds have no hope of survival. Most of the time we find them alive, but they are totally exhausted from the struggle against the cold and they are beyond hope. This unhappy scenario happens every winter, and it does not have to happen.

In the shipping industry there are many fine environmental corporate citizens. They obey the law and they do the right thing by discharging waste where it belongs: that is on shore based facilities. Unfortunately, there are a few who dump their bilges at sea. They do this because our penalties are too low and they figure that a fine is better than doing the right thing. However, the cost to our marine wildlife and the environment in which they live is much too high. It is time for us to take additional steps to deal with this issue.

In the United States there have been some high profile prosecutions over illegal discharges at sea, prosecutions that have resulted in strong penalties. We now find ourselves in the position of having Canadian waters viewed as a safe dumping ground, or at least a cheap one. I am certain all of us here do not want Canada to be seen in this way.

Bill C-34 under consideration does not propose fundamentally new policy positions. Pollution of the oceans has been an offence in Canada under several acts. However, Bill C-34 proposes a strengthening of two important environmental laws and emphasizes our longstanding commitment in the area of biodiversity conservation through the biodiversity convention. These amendments also set the framework for close co-ordination among Environment Canada, Transport Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard, so that together they can be even more effective.

The act makes good sense for conservation. It makes better sense for habitat protection. It makes good sense for us all, because a clean marine environment also means cleaner beaches, cleaner estuaries and a better future for wildlife and for ourselves.

There are also opportunities with the bill. The key opportunity we should remember is that we can act to make stronger two major pieces of environmental legislation that will equip us to get tougher with those in the shipping industry who are breaking the law and who are polluting the ocean waters and killing seabirds. Another opportunity is that we can send a strong message that Canada is serious about this issue and is prepared to take serious measures.

I must acknowledge at this time and praise those in the shipping industry, and there are many, who take their environmental responsibilities seriously and do not pollute.

These proposed amendments will have no impact on those good corporate citizens, and we applaud them. Let us verify their good actions by ensuring that those who disobey the law are brought to justice, and let all in the House join me in supporting this bill.

Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994Government Orders

May 7th, 2004 / 10:30 a.m.
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Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-34, an act to amend the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. At the outset, the NDP very much supports the bill. It will go to committee for further discussion on it.

However, a question was raised earlier by the member from the Conservative Party as to whether the bill, which is so long overdue, was simply a matter of window dressing. There is a very serious question here. Why has the government taken so long to introduce what is fairly straightforward legislation to deal with a longstanding and chronic problem in Canadian waters: the dumping of oily bilge and ballast waters from some of these huge tankers. As we know, the estimates are that on the Atlantic coast alone about 300,000 birds are killed each year. I am from the west coast. We do not know what the estimates are on the west coast, but we know it is also a significant problem.

First, there should be a lot of serious questions. We in the NDP have some pretty tough questions for the government as to why the legislation is being brought in at the last moment. Clearly it appears that we are on the verge of an election and this will likely never be realized as legislation in this Parliament. What a shame. How many more birds will be victims of pollution dumping as a result of a failed environmental agenda by the government?

One of the principles that we have to advocate most strongly is the polluter pay principle, and the bill attempts to do that. Raising the fines up to $1 million is a step definitely in the right direction. However, we also need to have some serious concerns about whether the additional resources required for enforcement, for example, will actually be in existence.

We can have the legislation, we can have the fines laid out, but if we do not have the infrastructure or the resources on the ground to get out and see what is going on and to ensure that these violators are being caught, then the legislation is not worth the paper on which it is written. That will be a question that we pursue in the committee to ensure that the legislation is backed up by the kind of resources that are required to do the job.

The sad reality is that for many of these corporate polluters, it is easier for them to face a fine than it is to stop the pollution and to clean up the pollution. We know for example, from the International Fund for Animal Welfare, that the average fine has been about $16,000. This is far lower than what the violation and cost of cleanup is. Again, it is important to ensure that there are adequate fine levels to send a very strong message to polluters that continually violate our laws.

In the context of the government's environmental record, while the bill is a good individual specific step, it has quite an atrocious record on the environment. Again, being from the west coast, there is huge concern about the government being willing to look at lifting the moratorium on oil and gas exploration off the Pacific coast, something that we very much oppose.

We in the NDP believe the people of Canada are entitled to an environmental bill of rights that gives us the power to protect our environment. We have had some discussion here today in this debate about these tankers. Some people have mentioned the Canada Steamship Lines. Maybe we should focus a bit more on what these tankers are doing and what CSL is doing. Not only have they had an anti-environmental haven, they have also had a tax haven.

The issue of the environment is very much integrated and a part of a broader discussion about our tax laws, about how we treat these corporations and whether we have a green screen, for which the NDP has repeatedly called, through which decisions for the budget, for budgetary priorities or for tax measures or for other environmental measures are seen through.

I say loudly and clearly that I think Canadians, by and large, are very disappointed with this government's record on the environment. While this bill, in and of itself, is a good bill in principle, it really begs the question why the government has waited so long to act.

I was curious to know why the Conservative Party spokesperson on the bill would attack Maude Barlow, from the Council of Canadians. First, here is a Canadian, the voluntary chairperson of the Council of Canadians, who has done probably more than most anybody else in the country to bring public attention, consciousness and awareness to what Canada has actually sold out. It has sold out in terms of its natural resources. Under NAFTA and the FTAA, we basically have moved into an agenda of corporate power that allows resources to be traded without any sense of democratic practice or democracy that would come from elected parliaments.

To attack Maude Barlow is quite unconscionable. She is the person who has made it very clear that Canada should not be allowing the bulk export of our water, just as we have done in the NDP. That has been a major issue for us too, and we have raised this in the House.

Let us get the record straight here and make it clear who the real culprit is. It is that Liberal government. It has in a very lackadaisical way given lip service to protecting our environment. We have not yet fully met our commitments to Kyoto, which is a very basic global commitment to protect our environment and to reduce harmful emission. The government has failed on that record as well.

One way for us to ensure these environmental standards are set and that we do indeed have a green screen through which public policy decisions are made is to ensure there is a strong contingent of New Democrats in this House. It sure as heck will not be the Conservative Party that pushes the government in that direction. If anything, it has limply gone along with the government's anti-environmental agenda.

There are tough decisions to be made for the protection of our environment. It must be made very clear to the corporate sector that violations will not be tolerated, not only in the protection of birds, but in human health as well. We only have to look at things like the Sydney tar ponds or other toxic sites in Canada. Look at the dismal record we have on public transit and the fact that we are pumping more poison and harmful emissions into our air. That is sending more kids to hospital with asthma.

All these things can be traced back to decisions on public policy that emanate from this House and from a political agenda. The government has a choice to make the environment a priority and make it clear that we have strong environmental standards which must be abided by. It has the choice to have public policy decisions that will emphasize green jobs, protection of the environment and transition funds for workers. These are all things for which our party is calling. However, we have not seen any of that from this government.

In closing, we support the legislation in principle. It will now go off to committee. We will examine the bill closely in committee, given the opportunity to do so. We will work very hard to ensure that resources required to ensure the enforcement is met under the bill does take place so violators will be caught and prosecuted. We will ensure that a strong message is sent out that on this score we will not see any further killing of migratory birds.

I appreciate the opportunity to speak and outline the NDP position on this matter.

Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994Government Orders

May 7th, 2004 / 10:20 a.m.
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Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on Bill C-34, an act to amend the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.

Let me start by saying that the Bloc Quebecois will be supporting this bill in principle, especially since more than 300,000 seabirds are killed each year in the waters around the Atlantic provinces, in the St. Lawrence River and the St. Lawrence Seaway, because shipowners and sailors dump ballast waters there. Obviously, this creates very serious situations.

Earlier, the minister said we all remember the Exxon Valdez disaster. We in the Bloc Quebecois are also thinking about all those poison ships that run aground all over the world, and, too often, get off easy.

That is the situation. While the Bloc Quebecois supports the principle of the bill, it is clear that, in committee, we shall make sure that the owners, companies and officers in particular are held fully responsible for any damage caused.

It is all very well to say in the bill that fines will go as high as $1 million, and that the masters, chief engineers, owners and operators of vessels and directors and officers of corporations will be held responsible, but we want to make sure that it will be possible to follow up, especially with corporations.

We know that the Birchglen , a ship belonging to CSL, changed its flag overnight. It lowered the Canadian flag and raised that of Barbados, while in port at Quebec City. That is typical of this industry.

It is not enough to simply provide for fines in legislation; we must ensure that it is possible to follow up on these corporations and to take the necessary steps so that directors and owners are harshly sentenced and required to pay the fines imposed under this legislation.

A lot of work will be done in committee to ensure that the industry fully understands that we are determined to have the polluter pay. Never again will ships be allowed to dump bilge in the waters of Quebec—the St. Lawrence river, estuary or seaway—thereby causing pollution and leaving death in their wake. Again, some 300,000 seabirds are killed in our waters every year because of ship owners, crew and operators who do not respect the environment.

I repeat, the Bloc Quebecois will support the principle, but the true objective is to make the company owners, administrators and representatives pay directly.

I will indicate to hon. members the concepts with which the Bloc Quebecois agrees in this bill:

to protect migratory birds from the effects caused by deposits of harmful substances, such as oil, in the exclusive economic zone of Canada;

to state that that Act applies to vessels and their owners and operators;

What we are especially interested in is the following:

subject masters, chief engineers, owners and operators of vessels and directors and officers of corporations to a duty of care to ensure compliance with the Act and regulations;

We will insist on the fact that we want the corporation and all related entities—including of course CSL, Canada Steamship Lines, CSL International and all the subsidiaries of the Canada Steamship Lines consortium—to comply with the legislation. This is a model typical of that industry. Indeed, it is not just that they want to avoid paying taxes in the countries where they operate by registering their vessels in tax heavens to sail flags of convenience. They are also doing this to avoid having to comply with the environmental laws in the countries where they operate.

The Bloc Quebecois wants to ensure that all these companies, subsidiaries and consortiums will be accountable and that the managers who run these businesses will be convicted for any damage that they may cause.

Of course, it is said that the bill will:

—expand the enforcement powers to include orders to direct and detain vessels found to be in contravention of that Act or its regulations;

It goes without saying that we agree with the fact that, when this occurs, the vessel can be boarded and put in dry dock in a selected location.

It is also said that the bill will:

—expand the jurisdiction of Canadian courts to include the exclusive economic zone of Canada;

This is, of course, for reasons relating to international law.

We want to ensure that anyone causing damage within our territory will be prosecuted.

The bill increases the amount of certain fines. Members are certainly aware that we are in favour of fines that can be as high as $1 million, but we must ensure that the person who committed the violation can pay such fine.

I repeat, when we see that the Birchglen , this rusty ship sitting in dry dock in the Quebec City port, was able to switch its registration overnight from Canada to Barbados, it gives us a good indication of what the industry could do if environmental crimes were committed. It is amazing to see how quickly a change of flag, a change of allegiance or a change of owner can take place.

We want to make sure that these things are not tolerated and that the parent corporation can be prosecuted for any damage caused by its subsidiaries, even if they happen to be located in tax havens or in countries that do not have environmental regulations.

The bill proposes to permit courts to impose additional punishments in the form of orderscovering matters such as environmental audits, community service and thecreation of scholarships for students enrolled in environmental studies.

We are in total agreement with having corporations do community service in affected areas, on top of having to pay for damages. Of course, here again, if one wants to sentence corporations to community service, someone has to be made accountable.

It is always the same concern. We must make sure that the heads of corporations, their owners, and family-owned consortiums such as Canada Steamship Lines, are not able to escape the law just by changing the country of registration to Barbados, as the Birchglen , that rusty old ship moored in the port of Quebec City, did overnight. In that particular case, it was to avoid taxes. Nevertheless, it could be to avoid environmental responsibility.

We would never be a party to a bill that would allow corporations to avoid facing up to environmental crimes. We will make sure that, at committee stage, the bill is as specific as possible so that corporations, employees, management and all sister companies of a consortium are not above the law.

Of course, as members know, committee work has to follow the rules set by the Liberal government. Even though we agree with the substance of the bill, its introduction just before an election will not give the committee the time to do its job. Again, we are pleased to debate the bill today, but it will not be adopted before the end of the session because of the forthcoming election.

Since the Bloc Quebecois agrees with the principle of the bill, it will take part in the committee's work. We are ready to review the bill without delay so that it comes into force as soon as possible. We want to make sure that owners, board members and managers of corporations or consortiums pay for damages and are made to abide by the penalties imposed on them and that, if they do not, they are made personally accountable to the public for any damage they might have caused.

The Bloc Quebecois agrees with the principle of the bill, but it will defend the territory of Quebec. We will no longer accept the deaths of over 300,000 birds every year in our waters because of shipowners emptying their holds, dumping bilge water, and destroying bird life. All that these birds have done is to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. We do not wish to see this happen ever again in the St. Lawrence, the St. Lawrence Estuary or the St. Lawrence Seaway, or indeed in any of the other territorial waters of Canada.

We will be sure to bring the appropriate pressure to bear in committee. Regardless of which shipping company is involved, be it Canada Steamship Lines, Canada Steamship Lines International, or another, be it a consortium or conglomerate, we want to make sure that all shipowners, officers and shareholders will pay for the harm done to birds on the territory of Quebec.

Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994Government Orders

May 7th, 2004 / 10 a.m.
See context

Victoria B.C.


David Anderson LiberalMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I move:

That Bill C-34, an act to amend the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, be referred forthwith to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.

I rise today to discuss one of the ways in which human activity is affecting the future of nature, a problem that the bill before us is designed to address.

There are probably none among us here who do not remember the Exxon Valdez disaster in the northeast Pacific and the horrifying pictures of dead fish, birds, seals and other marine life that had no chance against this thick oil on top of the water.

What many here may not know is that more marine birds are killed every year by the oil discharged from ships on our east and west coasts than were killed by the entire Exxon Valdez disaster. These seabirds are killed by the chronic oil pollution in the ocean that comes from the discharge of oily waste from the bilges or ballast tanks of ships. And no, these ships are not supposed to dump this waste into the oceans. It is already against the law. But they do it and the impact is huge.

Some may think that in an ocean environment with millions of gallons of water perhaps a bit of oily waste would quickly disperse and be of little concern, but the opposite is true. It takes only a spot of oil or only a drop perhaps the size of a dime on the feathers of a seabird to kill that bird in the cold waters of the north Atlantic.

Like a pinhole leak in a diver's suit, the oil allows ocean waters to penetrate the natural protection of the seabirds. In the north Atlantic, where waters are frequently just above zero degrees, this means that the bird is soaked with cold water and, over a few hours or at the most a few days, all the reserves of its body fat and muscle are depleted and the bird simply dies.

The birds do not survive, and while we see a few struggling here and there on the beaches, we know for certain that the problem at sea is much, much larger.

It is not a matter of a few birds dying every year, nor even a few dozen or a few hundred. There are at least 300,000 bird deaths every year. Anyone who has seen birds washed up on the shore and struggling for survival can tell you what a sad sight this is. These birds are the ones for which Atlantic Canada is renowned. Some of them are specific to the waters of the North Atlantic: guillemots, puffins, dovekies, and gulls. Anyone who has seen just one of these birds gasping for life on a beach knows what a terrible sight this is, but what we have to realize is that we are not just talking of one specimen, but a bird population the equivalent of the human population of a suburb of a city the size of Toronto.

One reason we have this problem is that the level of penalties does not act as a sufficient deterrent for this kind of activity by shipowners and ship captains. Rather than pay the cost of legally disposing of wastes at port facilities, they simply dump at sea. If caught, some pay the penalty and just consider the cost as a cost of doing business. Fines have been quite inadequate in Canada in past years, even when the shipowner or ship captain is brought to justice.

I draw members' attention to the United States, where there have been some recent high profile prosecutions. Let me tell members about just one. In March, a Norwegian shipping company was fined $3.5 million after one of its ships discharged oil off the United States west coast. It is the largest fine ever levelled for this type of environmental violation. Not only will the company pay the fine, it will also launch a comprehensive anti-pollution program on board all its ships.

We need to be consistent with the United States. We share these coastlines and we share these oceans, and we certainly do not want to be viewed as an area where it is somehow easier to dump oil.

We have an opportunity now with this bill to make amendments to two key environmental laws that will address the tragedy that is birds oiled at sea, and I speak today in favour of these two amendments.

To complement provisions already found in the Canada Shipping Act, the government is proposing amendments to the Migratory Birds Convention Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. These amendments will strengthen their enforcement powers and our ability to deal with this serious offence. With these changes, we can make early and decisive government moves that will provide immediate results and ensure that enforcement and judicial powers have what they need for proper deterrence.

What we are proposing here is not a new strategy nor anything that will be hard to do. It is a fairly simple solution and one that will help us beef up certain existing laws and take prompt action.

During the winter of 2005, it would be good to be able to report lower seabird mortality rates from oil spills, and to know that we made the right choice by putting together the right legislative tools. It would be good to know that, with a simple approach, we have been able to make a difference for the preservation of biodiversity today and in the future.

These amendments place no burden on those who already take their environmental responsibilities seriously, and I will add that most shipowners and ship captains do. There will be no additional responsibilities or obligations for the good citizens in the shipping industry, but what these amendments will do is ensure that those who feel free to pollute Canadian waters now, without thought or care to those 300,000 birds or more that die annually on the east coast, will no longer be able to do so with impunity. These amendments will help establish their environmental conscience.

None of this comes without cost, and the Government of Canada will increase its investment by some $2 million to $3 million a year to meet the additional requirements of this bill. The money will give us the surveillance and enforcement tools and people that we need, it will allow us to communicate more with the shipping industry, and it will help us pay for the science we need.

This is not a controversial proposal for the provinces. Indeed, we have moved forward with this initiative with the support of provincial governments on the east coast. I would in particular like to congratulate my colleague, the minister of the environment in Newfoundland and Labrador, for his support. We also expect that those in the shipping industry who understand the importance of environmental protection support the approach outlined here today.

With the support of this bill, we will have more of the tools needed to do the right thing and to urge those shipping interests who feel free to dump their waste in our waters to do the right thing. I urge support for this bill, and I know that all members look forward with me to the day when we can count more birds bobbing in the waves and not those struggling for life because of a thoughtless act.

If I may, I would like to add my appreciation for the members of the opposition on the environment committee who indicated the importance of this bill to them and indicated that they would be favourable to speedy passage of this legislation through the House. I think this type of cooperation will be very helpful in making sure this legislation comes into effect just as soon as it possibly can.

Bill C-34. On the Order: Government Orders

May 6, 2004--the Minister of the Environment--Second reading and reference to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development of Bill C-34, an act to amend the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

May 6th, 2004 / 3 p.m.
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Brossard—La Prairie Québec


Jacques Saada LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister responsible for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon we shall continue with the opposition day motion.

Tomorrow we shall debate the motion to refer to committee before second reading Bill C-34, the bill introduced earlier today respecting dumping of toxic waste by ships. We shall then return to third reading of Bill C-23, the first nations fiscal legislation, Bill C-12, the child protection, and Bill C-10, the cannabis legislation.

Next week, we will continue this business where it has been left on Friday. We will add to the list a motion to refer to committee before second reading a bill to be introduced tomorrow concerning the DNA data bank.

Tuesday and Thursday shall be allotted days.

Hopefully, by the end of the week, we will begin to have some of the legislation now in committee reported back, so that we can get a good start on finishing the work we have to do before the summer adjournment.

Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994Routine Proceedings

May 6th, 2004 / 10:05 a.m.
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Victoria B.C.


David Anderson LiberalMinister of the Environment

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-34, an act to amend the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.

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