Bill C-12 (Historical)
Emergency Management Act
An Act to provide for emergency management and to amend and repeal certain Acts
This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in October 2007.
Stockwell Day Conservative
This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.
This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.
This enactment provides for a national emergency management system that strengthens Canada’s capacity to protect Canadians.
December 2nd, 2009 / 3:55 p.m.
Daniel Lavoie Associate Assistant Deputy Minister, Emergency Management and National Security Branch, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
Thank you. I would like to come back to the issue of cooperation. As recommended by the Auditor General, the approval of the Federal Emergency Response Plan will significantly contribute to maximizing the support we can obtain. It is a very good recommendation, which we support and which will help us move forward.
We do not have major issues, but it is often better not to have any issues at all. You raised a number of examples earlier, including issues such as farming, erosion and flooding. A number of levers are pulled as part of the emergency management process. Municipalities are the first to react; followed by the provinces. There is much discussion with our provincial colleagues. In the last three years, we have re-established a committee that had lost its sense of direction, but is now up and running. I am referring to the FPT committee of senior officials responsible for emergency management.
We had a discussion no later than yesterday. We are cooperating on a long list of issues. A problem affecting one province will have an impact on its neighbour, because neighbouring provinces will help each other out in the event of major problems. Since this also affects the federal government, it is in our best interest to come up with solutions. A lot of work is being done in terms of prevention. We have done much prevention work with individuals. You might have seen the advertising campaign entitled “72 hours... Is your family prepared?”, which targets individual Canadians. First, we prepare individuals, then we deal with municipalities.
We can develop programs or a process to ensure that, in the event of an uncontrollable disaster, the citizens affected will have quick access to the appropriate services—whether provincial health care services, or services for small and medium enterprises provided by Industry Canada or assistance from HRSDC. We have come together to develop such a process.
I would like to come back to your example when you spoke about farming. We have an ongoing planning process with regard to evolving risks. A part of the 2007 Emergency Management Act clearly indicates that the Minister of Public Safety has specific responsibilities and that each government minister is responsible for analyzing and assessing the risks within their portfolio. Who better than the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food to inform us of the actual risks within that sector? He is also responsible for assessing the situation.
Therefore, the Auditor General recommended that we provide the department with more assistance so that it can effectively carry out its responsibilities.
October 22nd, 2009 / 11:50 a.m.
Rob Oliphant Don Valley West, ON
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Minister, you're the Minister of Public Safety and you said that some of the work our committee has undertaken, since this review that you felt should have been done, is trivial and of a partisan nature. I'm wondering which work our committee has dealt with in the last two and one-half years that you would consider trivial. Is it Bill C-3, to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act? Is it our work on contraband tobacco, the witness protection program, the study of security issues concerning the Minister of Foreign Affairs, our taser study, agri-chemicals and agri-retail, arming of the CBSA officers? Is it Bill C-12, regarding emergency management? Is it Bill C-279, DNA identification? I could go on.
It has been significant work that this parliamentary committee has dealt with, none of which has been trivial, all of which may be partisan to some degree. But I would argue that it is unfair for you to assess this committee's work as either trivial or partisan.
Because I know you can run out the clock with that statement I want to ask you: were you aware that our committee was in the final process of finishing our report, and actually we changed our agenda, when you introduced this legislation on June 1 so you would not take advantage of our interest and expertise in this area?
It was not one year away, as you just suggested in your testimony.
Message from the Senate
June 22nd, 2007 / 12:20 p.m.
The Speaker Peter Milliken
I have the honour to inform the House that when the House did attend Her Excellency the Governor General in the Senate chamber Her Excellency was pleased to give, in Her Majesty's name, the royal assent to the following bills:
Bill S-6, An Act to amend the First Nations Land Management Act--Chapter 17;
Bill C-277, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (luring a child)--Chapter 20;
Bill C-18, An Act to amend certain Acts in relation to DNA identification--Chapter 22;
Bill C-14, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (adoption)--Chapter 24;
Bill C-47, An Act respecting the protection of marks related to the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games and protection against certain misleading business associations and making a related amendment to the Trade-marks Act--Chapter 25;
Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Quarantine Act--Chapter 27;
It being 12:23 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Monday, September 17, 2007, at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Orders 28(2) and 24(1).
The first session of the 39th Parliament was prorogued by royal proclamation on September 14, 2007.
June 4th, 2007 / 5:05 p.m.
Susan Kadis Thornhill, ON
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I guess I'd first ask this question about this due diligence amendment. Did that specifically come about in response to expanding it or to putting it back to all conveyances, including land? Because it wasn't in the original Bill C-12. Due diligence wasn't in Bill C-12.
April 18th, 2007 / 5:20 p.m.
Bonnie Brown Oakville, ON
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I think from what I'm hearing on both sides of the table, I have to say I'm not ready to go to clause-by-clause.
Mr. Fletcher said that we have to lean on our officials, and I really believe that. But these are the same officials who brought us Bill C-12 and implied they could do it, and now we're hearing that they don't know how to do it or they don't have enough money to do what they brought to us themselves in Bill C-12.
So Mr. Fletcher was right: These are changes that meet the needs of the officials who don't seem to know how to do this or who maybe don't have enough money for more quarantine officers. If you're going to check people at a border and have a quarantine official, you can't have somebody driving from the Toronto airport to Windsor to look over people on a bus. Yet that's what they're telling us. There are only 30 locations. That means all the major international airports and the two main ports in the country. Is that good enough? I would question that.
We heard at the time from the CMA, the Canadian Medical Association, and now this thing has been in place for a while, at least at airports and ports, and I'd like to know what they have to say about the Quarantine Act and what they think about the safety.
The other thing, before I could possibly decide, Mr. Chair, is I need to know how many of those 266,000 people who enter our country come by land. What if it's more than half? I agree with Dr. Bennett: why would we give this up? This is not a technical amendment. It is a change in policy, and it therefore has to be dealt with much more seriously than would a technical amendment.
So, no, I'm not ready, and if you want, I'll make some suggestions for witnesses.
April 18th, 2007 / 4:20 p.m.
Susan Kadis Thornhill, ON
I spoke in Parliament to Bill C-12 originally--and felt very strongly about it, as most people did, I believe, in the House in general--in response to the changes that had taken place, such as those regarding SARS, etc., and potential threats globally. I'm not yet hearing any rationale as to why we would dilute the act, and I'm not being convinced that we should.
You're in one sense talking about strengthening or implying that you want to strengthen the act, which would be something that would be very highly supportable, but on the other hand, it seems to be completely contradictory to now delete some of these opportunities to catch potential illness and threats.
April 18th, 2007 / 3:50 p.m.
Bonnie Brown Oakville, ON
That wouldn't be my experience. If I were sick on a bus and I was coming towards Toronto, I'd want to get home. I wouldn't tell anybody how sick I felt, even if I had perspiration flowing down my face. I'd want to get home. I'd want to meet my family and get to my own doctor. But I could be bringing in a disease, and I think if there were a bus driver on that bus, he should be required to report, as well.
What is the real technical issue that makes this so difficult? Is it the whole problem of having quarantine officers available, say, at two o'clock in the morning at the Ontario-Michigan border? I'm sure there's something else underpinning this change, because it is reducing the requirements that were set out in Bill C-12.
April 18th, 2007 / 3:45 p.m.
Manager, Legislative and Regulatory Policy Group, Public Health Agency of Canada
It's reduced from what Bill C-12 originally said. However, it is not reduced from the point of view of the existing regulations. The existing regulations, which have been in effect for probably fifty years, only required air and marine conveyances to report. Furthermore, as Dr. Clarke pointed out, the International Health Regulations only require marine and air conveyances to advance-report.
March 28th, 2007 / 5:10 p.m.
Nicole Demers Laval, QC
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin my remarks by mentioning the beautiful light that shines on this side of the House. This is not a coincidence. The sky is blue and God is a sovereignist. We are going to take advantage of this light to enlighten our colleagues, the members opposite, who form the government. I hope they will be wise enough to listen.
I could not help but smile when I saw that this legislation was coming back here to be amended. Let us not forget that, at the beginning of this session, a bill was rammed through the House, namely Bill C-2. We felt that this issue had not been debated long enough to ensure that this legislation would provide measures that could be implemented, and that it would be responsible and meaningful for our fellow citizens, whom we represent here.
Today, I see that we have to go back to Bill C-12, which was passed in 2005, when I was still a new member in this House. In fact, this bill was my first experience with the legislation here. I had to learn how to debate it in the Standing Committee on Health, along with my colleague, the member for Hochelaga, who was then our party critic on health issues. Even at that time we had serious reservations about the provisions that the government wanted to include in the bill, because we often felt that they were too intrusive or not logical enough to allow for concrete, easy and effective implementation.
We have to be very cautious and serious when we talk about infectious and communicable diseases, about viruses and bacteria that proliferate. We have to take our role seriously. At the time, we deplored the fact that people would be accountable to an authority designated by the Minister of Health, because we felt that this was a somewhat complex process that would prevent the bill from being an effective piece of legislation.
When I saw the bill and saw that there was a move to amend this section, that is, section 34, I thought to myself, “Two years later, people are finally seeing that, once again, the Bloc Québécois was right.” Naturally, it was members of the Bloc Québécois who were the first to oppose that part of the legislation, which called for an authority designated by the minister. We did so because we believed that the bill encroached too much on provincial jurisdictions, especially in the area of health.
In Quebec, our department of public health is very effective and takes great care to protect us against all communicable and infectious diseases. I know that this is not necessarily the case everywhere. A hospital in Vegreville had to close its doors this week. Also, in Loyds, hundreds of patients had to be informed that they had probably contracted HIV or hepatitis, because the doctor had not reported, as one must, these diseases to public health authorities.
It is not enough to simply enact legislation. That legislation must be respected, obeyed and enforced, and we must be able to use that legislation effectively to protect ourselves against what we could call barbarian invasions. Any mention of tuberculosis, west Nile virus or SARS is sure to arouse fear. I would remind the House that the original Quarantine Act was drafted around 1872, if I understood my hon. colleague from Richmond—Arthabaska correctly.
We know that diseases crossed borders with the influx of pioneers who came here to start a life for themselves and become proud citizens of what was then Lower Canada and Upper Canada, in other words, the Quebec and Canada of today.
Infectious diseases did not stop crossing our borders just because we passed this legislation in 1872. In the early 1900s, around 1910 or 1918, right here in Hull, on the other side of the river, a very serious Spanish influenza outbreak killed many people. It decimated entire families. We still see traces of those families today in the names of the hon. members sitting in this House and the people nearby, who live in Hull, in Gatineau. These people probably have in their lineage, among their ancestors, people who died from the Spanish flu. At the time, even though the legislation existed, we did not have the means to enforce or apply it.
As far as such epidemics are concerned, we have to think about all these soldiers we send abroad. Often we pay more attention to what is going on over there in terms of equipment, tools and armament, and not pay much attention to what they might be bringing back with them when they come home. This can be very dangerous for them. These days, a number of women take part in these missions. Many of them come back and can also spread infectious diseases to their families and children because they did not receive the necessary care when they were abroad on a peacekeeping mission or, unfortunately, at war.
It is not enough to have laws, we also need the political will to apply them. We have to start resolving the problems in our own backyard. We currently have tuberculosis epidemics in a number of our first nations communities. It is unthinkable that in 2007 there are still people suffering from tuberculosis. That is the direct responsibility of the federal government. It is a responsibility that it neglects far too often and which it has not respected because the epidemic is spreading, not stopping.
In Kashechewan, people may be forced to leave their homes and to be relocated because their water is not potable. However, they cannot do it today because there is no money. If we have billions of dollars to invest in arms, we should at least have a few million to invest in providing safe, healthy housing where individuals can live with dignity and respect. At present, this is not the case. It is much easier to adopt a laissez-faire attitude. Hundreds, even thousands of individuals will suffer from these illnesses, including tuberculosis and other diseases. They will contract them because of unhealthy living conditions. Nothing is being done about that.
The previous government ratified the Kelowna accord. We all voted in this House to honour that accord. However, the government decided otherwise and is not making any further commitments. That is most unfortunate.
First nations communities, Inuit communities, all these communities find it difficult to carve out a place for themselves in our society. It is difficult for them to have access to adequate health care, appropriate education, and affordable, healthy, safe housing. It is difficult for them, but they have been abandoned even though it is our first responsibility to help them. We abandon them, we do not invest in these societies. Why? Why is there constant encroachment, to the tune of millions of dollars, on provincial responsibilities and jurisdictions when we do not even take care of our own responsibilities?
I do not understand. And yet, some small countries who have very little do much more for their citizens. I regularly visit Cuba, because I love the island and the people. Someone will say to me that they do not have a great deal of freedom, but I sometimes wonder which one of us has more freedom. I know that they have first class health care. All Cubans can study as much and as long as they wish. Education is free. Later, the government assigns the doctors it has trained to various countries to work for humanitarian causes. These doctors are very well trained.
Whenever I go to Cuba, I am never afraid of getting sick. I know I will be taken care of. When we went to Taiwan last fall, my travelling companion got a toothache on Taiwan's national holiday. The person I was with had a toothache. We had to go to a hospital because there are no dental clinics. At the hospital, two doctors took care of us. In under 10 minutes, my companion was in a chair and personnel had administered a sedative and something to take away the pain, and all of this happened on Taiwan's national holiday. Of course, thousands of people live there and their hospitals do not have all the equipment we have here. But their government chooses to invest in human resources to provide a standard of care and services that we rarely find here.
That service standard is rare here largely because of our provincial governments. Why do our respective governments not have enough money? Because previous federal governments cut transfer payments. Beginning in 1994, cuts to provincial transfer payments, including payments to Quebec, resulted in the sorry state of our health care systems today compared to those of some small countries that have much less than we do, but that care about their citizens' health.
We support the principle underlying this bill. We are not against it. Obviously, we cannot be against what is right, but today, as we study this bill, we must ask ourselves a question. Will this bill provide enough money to train quarantine officers? Will enough money be invested in training customs agents and all of the front-line staff who meet people at the border?
That was one of the concerns expressed by the Standing Committee on Health in 2004-05. We were not certain that all steps would be taken in order to enforce Bill C-12. After two years, we see that enforcing it is very difficult indeed, and that it was not really being enforced because there were flaws in the bill. In the years to come, we will likely find other flaws in the bill, given that the Standing Committee on Health had considerable reservations about approving the bill, which was adopted on division.
If we all minded our own business, there would likely be fewer bills of this kind to review. For example, despite what the government thinks, Bill C-2 was adopted very quickly, and a number of its sections are still not in force.
Why are we asked to debate bills that seem so important to the government, only to then have it dismiss everything we determined, everything we decided, everything we wanted to be able to give to our citizens as members of Parliament here in this House? We wonder why.
I do not know. I only hope that, in the future, we will be more careful. If it is true that Bill C-42 is crucial to the proper enforcement of Bill C-12, through the amendment of section 34, it is also true that there are several other sections of the bill that should be reviewed. In enforcing—
Emergency Management Act
December 11th, 2006 / 5:50 p.m.
Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak to Bill C-12 at third reading.
The Government of Canada has needed this bill for quite some time, in the sense that it allows us finally as a government and our agencies across the country to prepare for a state of emergency. I think mostly we are addressing natural disasters. These are ones that can cause great damage, not only of a monetary amount but also in terms of deaths and injury to our citizenry.
We know from looking across the globe, when other countries have faced those kinds of natural disasters, that it is abundantly clear that if we are ready, prepared, have a plan and coordination in place, have resources in place, both in terms of dollars and personnel that a substantial difference can be made in the outcome, both in terms of the number of lives and the number of injuries we save and, yes, the amount of dollars we save for our communities by reducing the impact of natural disasters.
I do not think we have seen that more clearly in a developed country than what we saw in the United States with hurricane Katrina about a year ago. We had the wealthiest country in the world in terms of economic well-being that was not prepared, did not have the coordination in place, the personnel in place and the resources in place.
As a result, one of the major cities in the U.S. was devastated for an extended period of time. The city had mass evacuations and many more deaths than would have been normal for that type of an incident had the city been prepared and had that coordination been in place.
What Bill C-12 does is to provide us with that infrastructure. Parts of the bill are already there. A good deal of it is already there, but it is not in a coordinated fashion.
The people who do this work, who came before us and have testified, both from the federal government and from other areas, both the non-profit area and some of the other institutions that are most keenly affected by this, the utility companies for instance, all made very clear their desire to work in a coordinated fashion, to get all of the structure in place.
We need a structure should we be faced again with a flood in your home province of Manitoba, Mr. Speaker, or with an ice storm that we had here in Ontario, or with the loss of power that we had along the whole eastern seaboard only a couple of years ago that also affected Ontario. We can go down the list and we know that we have not always responded to the very best way.
Hopefully, this structure that we are building by way of this legislation will in fact allow us to respond to our absolute maximum. The NDP is going to support this legislation. It is badly needed legislation, as I have already said. The one trepidation I have in supporting the bill is that we have not dealt fairly with the local level of government and with the NGOs, the non-profit sector and the volunteer sector.
There is passing mention of them in the legislation. The crucial part we know. We can say this because we heard some of this evidence in committee. In March I was at an international conference that was hosted here in Canada. We had people from Pakistan who recently dealt with an earthquake about this time last year. We had representatives from a number of the countries that had been devastated by the tsunami in Asia.
Every single country, without exception, whether they were an undeveloped and poor country or a first world developed country, said the same thing. They said that the key to minimizing the impact, other than the coordination and the planning in advance, was the ability of the local community to respond in the first few hours, the first 24 to 48 hours.
Generally speaking, regional governments, in our case, the provinces, or national governments, our government, are not able to get their people in fast enough, their equipment in fast enough, or their resources in fast enough to respond immediately. That happens at the local level. We talked in terms of first responders and that, with very few exceptions, is the local level of government, the municipal level of government.
Certainly, the Red Cross and agencies like that are also there, oftentimes again, within the first few hours. They provide the initial immediate relief. They are the ones who save lives. They are the ones who prevent further injury and minimize injuries. They provide food and clothing immediately and shelter, oftentimes immediately.
The legislation has a failing in this regard in that it does not adequately reflect that key essential role that the local level of government provides and I want to take this opportunity acknowledge that.
The official opposition and I made various attempts to amend the legislation in committee during clause by clause study to try and get that acknowledgement in, buttress the role that local governments play by way of officially acknowledging them in the legislation. However, between the Conservatives and the Bloc Québécois, they would not support those amendments and they did not pass.
The end result is that although we have had extensive consultation with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Red Cross and some of the other agencies, the legislation is not fair to them. I make these comments recognizing all of the very fine work that they have done and that I am sure they will continue to do.
There are some additional things that the federal government could do in terms of bringing them in early to the consultation process and having them on some of the planning and coordinating committees that will be established. Some are already under this legislation and they play a key role when we actually are faced with this kind of a disaster.
We will be supporting the legislation with those reservations. It is important that we get started on this. That planning and coordination, putting in place the resources, will further protect our citizenry. No government has any greater responsibility than to protect its citizenry from this type of public danger. The sooner the legislation gets through and we begin to deploy it, the better off the country will be as a whole.
Emergency Management Act
December 11th, 2006 / 5:45 p.m.
Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC
Mr. Speaker, the bill before us is Bill C-12, An Act to provide for emergency management and to amend and repeal certain Acts. Obviously, we have no problem with the basic principle that the federal government can take action to respond to emergencies.
That said, it is extremely important that the federal government understand that the provinces, particularly Quebec, have already prepared emergency response plans. The government should not try to use this bill, which is now at third reading, to encroach on areas of jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces. The summary of the bill reads as follows:
This enactment provides for a national emergency management system that strengthens Canada’s capacity to protect Canadians.
In future, we should perhaps take into account the motion adopted in this House to the effect that Quebeckers form a nation. When the bill refers to a national system, it is actually referring to a Canada-wide emergency management system.
A number of aspects of the bill could lead to encroachments on Quebec's jurisdictions. As I mentioned, Quebec already has a number of emergency response plans. These plans and the legislation that provides for them were developed in the wake of catastrophes such as the flooding in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean and the ice storm.
In 2001, Quebec adopted a new Civil Protection Act, which replaced the Act respecting the protection of persons and property in the event of disaster, dating from 1979. I want to point out that this reorganization took place under the direction of the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, who was then the Minister of Public Safety in the National Assembly of Quebec.
Under the law that was adopted in 2001, a national plan was drawn up, a civil protection plan for Quebec. It divides responsibility among government departments and agencies according to their respective jurisdictions and organizes government resources so that the government can respond to various types of disasters.
Obviously, we all understand that to be effective, this plan relies on some relatively simple principles: citizen and corporate accountability; better preparation of regional authorities, such as municipalities and, in Quebec's case, regional county municipalities; better coordination among partners in the sector; and optimal use of the Government of Quebec's resources. Obviously, there would be no problem with the federal government introducing a plan that complements the provinces' plans, as I said. When the ice storm hit, the Government of Quebec called in the Canadian army to help, especially to clean up the road system, which was in terrible shape because of weather conditions.
In that context, the Bloc Québécois recognizes the federal government's right, nay, its obligation, to ensure that its institutions and departments are prepared to deal with emergency situations. The Bloc Québécois also believes, as I said, that the federal government should not interfere with how Quebec and the provinces organize their public emergency services.
I must reiterate the fact that it is, first and foremost, every citizen's responsibility to prepare for potential disasters, even if that means just having a first aid kit at home. Companies are also responsible for having their own plans for dealing with emergency situations. According to Quebec's plan, the front line responders are the municipalities, regional county municipalities—which support their municipalities—and the Government of Quebec—which supports the regional county municipalities and the municipalities.
Once again, I repeat that not only does this make perfect sense, it is also desirable for the federal government to develop an emergency response plan and corresponding legislation. Let us hope that this does not mean more opportunities to encroach on Quebec's jurisdiction.
We will support this bill on those terms.
Emergency Management Act
December 11th, 2006 / 5:20 p.m.
Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate today in the debate on Bill C-12, An Act to provide for emergency management and to amend and repeal certain Acts.
The bill specifically asks for:
“...the appropriation of public revenue under the circumstances, in the manner and for the purposes set out in a measure entitled “An Act to provide for emergency management and to amend and repeal certain Acts”.
This enactment provides for a national emergency management system that strengthens Canada’s capacity to protect Canadians.
Canadians want assurances that the impact of emergencies will be minimized, that assistance will be available and disruptive effects will be limited and short-lived. To address these issues, the bill is pursuing the commitments under the national security policy, notably the review of the statutory framework for emergency management activities.
The purpose of this new act is to strengthen the readiness of the Government of Canada to prepare for, mitigate the impact of and respond to all hazards in Canada. It recognizes that emergency management is an evolving risk environment that requires a collective and a concerted approach between all jurisdictions, including the private sector and non-governmental authorities.
In summary, the bill would strengthen our readiness to mitigate the impact of and prevent or prepare for and respond to all hazards. It should be noted that the bill actually replaces the Emergency Preparedness Act of 1988 and is virtually identical to the bill introduced in 2005 by the previous Liberal government, namely Bill C-78. Accordingly, I would like to say at the outset that the Liberal Party will be supporting the bill, but there are some areas of question which we believe would be important for committee to address.
The Liberal Party certainly welcomes the reintroduction of the emergency management bill. The bill builds on our record on security since 9/11: first, an investment of over $9.5 billion to strengthen national security, to improve emergency preparedness and to contribute to international security; second, the creation of the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness; and third, the establishment of a national 24/7 government operation centre to coordinate federal emergency response.
I would like to give some background here. The bill would strengthen the capability of the government to prepare for, manage, mitigate and respond to all types of emergencies. This will become an interesting question because emergencies mean different things to different people. It would establish clear lines of authority and responsibility in collaboration with the provinces and municipalities. The bill would also facilitate information sharing between government and the private sector and with regard to the protection of critical infrastructure.
The bill replaces, as I stated, the Emergency Preparedness Act of 1988, while preserving its basic provisions in the civil emergency planning and preparedness as a key government responsibility; that delineates responsibilities between the public safety minister and cabinet colleagues; that makes provision for federal-provincial cooperation; and finally, that makes provision for post-disaster financial assistance to provinces. The issue with regard to the provinces is also an important one because of the jurisdictional responsibilities and the need for coordination of course.
The revised act grants new powers to the Minister of Public Safety to exercise national level leadership in emergency management by: first, coordinating federal response to emergencies in Canada and the United States. It is an important element that also includes matters that relate to and may have occurred within the United States but may have an impact on Canada.
Second, it establishes standardized elements for the Government of Canada emergency plans. Third, it monitors and evaluates emergency management plans for federal institutions. Fourth, it enhances cooperation with other jurisdictions through common standards and information sharing. In our experience, harmonizing those common standards will certainly be a tough situation, as it always is.
With regard to the bill more specifically, clause 2 defines emergency management as “the prevention and mitigation of, preparedness for, response to and recovery from emergencies”.
Clause 3 establishes a national leadership role for the Minister of Public Safety in relation to emergency management.
Subclause 4(1) outlines the minister's responsibilities in fulfilling that national leadership role and it includes a broad variety of responsibilities. Paragraphs 4(1)(a), (b) and (c) include coordinating functions in development, testing, implementation and evaluation of government emergency management plans. Paragraphs 4(1)(d) and (e) include monitoring potential and actual emergencies and coordinating of the government response. Paragraphs 4(1)(f), (g), (h) and (i) include coordinating emergency arrangements and responses with the provinces. Paragraph 4(1)(j) includes providing financial assistance to a province if requested. Paragraph 4(1)(l) includes providing the continuity of constitutional government in the event of an emergency.
Clause 6 outlines the general responsibility of each minister, and there are other ministries that are involved outside the Minister of Public Safety, to ensure his or her department prepares emergency management plans and sets out common standards of those plans.
Clause 7 grants the governor in council powers to make orders or regulations with respect to emergency management plans, to use federal resources in response to civil emergencies, to provide financial assistance to provinces and to declare a provincial emergency of concern to the federal government. Certainly that is an area of sensitivity that has to be properly addressed.
Clauses 8 to 10 amend the Access to Information Act to permit the government to refuse to disclose private sector information supplied in confidence to the government with respect to emergency management plans. A public interest override is included.
The bill covers a pretty broad range of responsibilities that I might look at a little later in my comments, but I wanted to touch on some of the areas that have come up already with regard to concern within the bill that we would want to look most carefully at.
The bill would allow the federal government to refocus or better coordinate the organization of its response to emergencies. This is not in contention, but we should note that there is a difference between what is called an emergency and what we might regard as a security related incident.
An emergency may be as a result of a natural disaster, whereas a security related incident might be something along the lines of a terrorist attack, for instance. They are not always the same. Most of what the bill would deal with are emergencies involving natural disasters with some component of man-made contribution in it. Being able to assess whether or not we have adequately covered those situations certainly was a matter of interest and concern.
I am a little concerned personally why it took so long for the government to get the bill to us. As I indicated, it was a bill that was substantively before the House in the last Parliament and here we are some time later, but moving on, in reality, emergencies and natural disasters have evolved and become more complex. We simply need a government minister, aside from the Minister of National Defence who historically would have been the lead minister to take charge in these matters, who would coordinate these things. That would be the federal Minister of Public Safety. That is one thing this bill does that is different from the previous bill.
The second thing we are promoting is the imposition of protection for private information of third parties in the hands of government. As I indicated, the bill provides for a related amendment to subsection 20(1) of the Access to Information Act by adding an additional paragraph to give effect to these provisions.
There also are five or six subsections of the act which would be affected. Those ostensibly relate to the circumstance where information is provided to the minister by persons who would otherwise be covered under the Access to Information Act and that their information which is given is going to be exempt. In other words, if it is given with regard to a situation where there is an emergency as defined, that information would be kept private.
The other area of the bill in which there is an amendment has to do with Bill C-2 which has just been passed by the House after receiving some important changes. It was the first full bill that was introduced by the government and I can recall that there was a lot of concern about the haste in which Bill C-2 had been drafted. It contains amendments to a wide range of legislative areas. As well, it puts a significant onus on the public service to establish a broad range of management procedures, all in the realm of ensuring that accountability is kept in place.
The other thing it does which is interesting and has come up a few times, is in Bill C-2, there are some amendments to Bill C-11, the whistleblower bill, which received royal assent in the last Parliament. It received the unanimous support of all parties. We now find ourselves with another important bill which ostensibly arose out of the case of George Radwanski, the former privacy commissioner, who for a variety of reasons was put in a situation where he resigned his position and indeed suffered some consequences as a result of his actions which I will not go into.
The bill repeals the Emergency Preparedness Act, chapter 6 of the fourth supplement to the Revised Statutes of Canada, 1985.
The last clause in the bill is the coming into force clause. It is something on which I have commented before as the co-chair of the Standing Joint Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations. We have embarked on a review. In fact at the last meeting we actually were looking at the Fisheries Act and some regulations that were necessary. This item has been outstanding for 23 years. All of the people at the table certainly were not here when it started and I suspect if we do not do something about it, there are going to be new people at the table when it ultimately gets resolved, if ever.
We also had a private member's bill dealing with the repeal of acts which had received royal assent, either entire acts or acts which included amendments to other acts which had received royal assent but had not been proclaimed within 10 years. It has some provisions whereby it could be saved during the last year. That report would be tabled in the House identifying the bills that are coming up to their 10th anniversary and would allow the government of the day to make some decisions as to whether or not it is going to act on triggering those changes.
This bill also includes coming into force. Clause 14 says, “This Act other than section 12 comes into force on a day to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council”. What that means is that cabinet is going to decide when the provisions of this particular bill come into play. This is the kind of provision which gives rise to the problem of things lingering for an extensive period of time. I am not entirely sure why there is not a specified date or some sort of horizon period. This is a very important bill. It is a bill that I would have liked to see introduced much earlier. This bill which deals with public protection and safety is very important to Canadians.
There is a proviso in the bill which caught my attention. Under “Minister's responsibilities”, subclause 4(2) states:
The Minister has any other responsibilities in relation to emergency management that the Governor in Council may specify.
This may cause some difficulty, although I am not sure and we will have to wait until we can get an opinion on it. The bill is purported to include all of the provisions and responsibilities, but that subclause includes anything else we think we should do. Those things would presumably happen through regulation or governor in council and not be available to the House to consider.
This would appear to give the government of the day a free hand in terms of adding to the bill things which probably should be included in the statutes themselves with regard to better defining this. When there is a blanket responsibility, anything else that the governor in council may specify is basically carte blanche.
We have talked often in the scrutiny of regulations committee about whether a particular regulation or change to a bill in fact has an enabling provision in the act. This has a blanket enabling provision, which means that theoretically almost anything could happen through a governor in council order. That is a matter which may very well come up if not here, then certainly in the other place.
There is another item I want to mention with regard to issues which have come up. Subclause 7(c) allows the government to make regulation to declare a provincial emergency to be of concern to the federal government. It appears that the intention of the bill is to put the federal responsibility on what would be a provincial emergency. When people look at this they are going to want to explore it a little further because of the coordinating requirements.
There is another clause in the bill which deals with making regulations, as I indicated, on the issue of whether we have any statutory jurisdiction in the United States of America. Of course, we do not have any statutory jurisdiction. That would involve an extraterritorial application of our laws. However, it does not prevent us from developing an emergency management plan. The point is that it may involve the spending of money and resources in the United States. That is a matter which gets us very much involved.
Clause 7 of the bill creates the authority to make regulation. It seems to indicate that it anticipates spending money in the United States of America. For example, subclause 7(b) talks about regulations respecting the use of federal civil resources in response to civil emergencies. The question becomes whether that includes assistance in response to United States emergencies. If we respond to an emergency management plan that we have developed with the U.S., are we talking just about the border or are we talking about Laredo or some other area, maybe even Hawaii? There are some interesting questions to which I still do not know whether we have the answers.
I am suggesting there are some technical issues and if it is intended that the minister or governor in council make regulations about joint emergency management plans, that should also be set out in the statute. I am not sure whether that is the case.
All in all, the fundamental elements of the bill appear to be consistent with the bill in the previous Parliament of the Liberal government. The Liberal caucus will be supporting the bill.
The House resumed from December 7 consideration of the motion that Bill C-12, An Act to provide for emergency management and to amend and repeal certain Acts, be read the third time and passed.
Emergency Management Act
December 7th, 2006 / 5:10 p.m.
Rob Moore Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
Mr. Speaker, I am grateful to speak today on behalf of the government to Bill C-12.
Local and provincial authorities handle some 90% of emergencies in Canada. Most of the time, these emergencies requires no direct involvement of the federal government but, in some cases, the Government of Canada must be ready to respond.
I will take this opportunity to commend those first responders at the local, municipal and provincial level who put their lives on the line to protect all of us in Canada and are so often the very first on the scene. When some people are running the other way to get away, they are running toward the trouble. We do want to acknowledge those first responders at this moment.
Keeping our community safe and our country secure is a priority for Canada's new government. In that regard, we have introduced a number of pieces of legislation, both in the area of justice and in public safety, to do exactly that. I should note that many members in the House, including opposition members, were elected with a mandate to take steps to provide greater public safety for all Canadians.
It is because of that mandate we received from Canadians and because of the need to keep Canadians safe, communities safe and our country secure, that this government is determined to strengthen its capacity to prepare, mitigate, respond to and recover from catastrophic events.
We have seen, unfortunately, all too often, numerous examples of those catastrophic events. They can strike at any time without warning. We need to be prepared for it.
I am speaking today to Bill C-12 because it is legislation that would create the emergency management act.
I would like to speak to how the bill addresses the need for governments from all jurisdictions to work closely together on emergency management. In particular, I want to address the relationship of the federal Government of Canada to local authorities, such as municipalities.
First, however, let me put the proposed legislation into some context. The proposed emergency management act would strengthen the foundation for the role of federal authorities emergency management to meet the evolving risks of the 21st century.
Given our country's rugged landscape and diverse climate, Canadians have always lived with the threat of natural disaster. In spring, we fight rising waters that flood our homes. In summer, we fight fires that ravage our forests. In winter, we fight storms that paralyze transportation and power systems in communities.
Today, Canadians face threats that go far beyond natural disasters. New and emerging diseases, such as avian and pandemic human influenza, may cause great harm to our families, communities and economy.
For example, by one estimate, the outbreak of SARS in 2003 cost Ontario and, in particular, the city of Toronto, and this figure is staggering, $1 billion. To say the least, we must stay vigilant to the threat of a new pandemic.
In this age of technology there are other so-called viruses that are transmitted by information technologies. Our critical infrastructure, our very ability to respond to emergencies depends on reliable computer networks. We must be better prepared to protect them from mischief or even terrorism.
I will also take this time to note that the tragic events of September 11, 2001, brought home the reality of an entirely new category of a human made threat. While terrorists did not directly target Canada on that terrible day, Canadians did die and the growing threat of global terrorism means that we must be ready for the unspeakable.
It is true that Canada does have legislation in place to respond to emergencies. The Emergency Preparedness Act outlines the roles for the Minister of Public Safety and other federal ministers. It provided for federal-provincial cooperation, which is so important, and it established the basis for post-disaster financial assistance to the provinces.
However, all of this, in light of the new reality that we face in Canada, is not enough to address the scope of risks existing for Canadians today. I outlined some of those risks already.
The proposed legislation would build a more comprehensive framework to protect our citizens, as well as that of private and public property and critical infrastructure.
I want to speak a little about the federal role. I already mentioned some of the role of local authorities, such as municipalities, but while those local authorities and municipalities are the first responder, the provinces and the Government of Canada often play an important role in coordinating a comprehensive response to emergencies.
I draw the attention of the House to the distinction between the title of the existing and the proposed legislation. In the past it was sufficient to prepare for emergencies. No longer. The proposed act recognizes that we must do much more in order to manage emergencies. The proposed emergency management act seeks to the strengthen the capacity of the Government of Canada to prevent, mitigate the impact of and respond to all hazards in our country.
It recognizes that we face an ever-changing risk environment. To manage emergencies in this context requires a collective and concerted approach involving all jurisdictions, including the private sector and non-governmental organizations or NGOs.
In an emergency, Canadians must look after there personal needs as best they can. If they need help they look toward government. In such a crisis, Canadians do not care what level of government responds, they simply want help and they want it fast.
Local governments are the first responders. Provincial and territorial governments are hard on their heels. If an emergency moves beyond their capacities, those governments turn to the Government of Canada for assistance, and we do respond.
I will give an example. Members may recall how the Government of Canada helped coordinate Canada's response during the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita and again in September of that year during the severe flooding in Stephenville, Newfoundland.
In the case of Stephenville, Canada's Government Operations Centre coordinated the response of no less than eight different federal departments. This ranged from the deployment of helicopters by the Canadian Forces and the Canadian Coast Guard to the provision of 200 beds for evacuees by the Public Health Agency.
Any federal response to emergency must be harmonized with the work of other jurisdictions and stakeholders. It must respond to the real needs and expectations of our citizens. It must make the situation better, not worse. I think that is a goal we can all agree with.
The goal of emergencies management in the proposed act recognizes and promotes greater collaboration with all levels of government, as well as with NGOs, as I already mentioned, the private sector and the public at large. All of these different groups have a role to play in managing an emergency.
It is vital then that our emergency management plans accomplish two goals: to clarify the role and responsibilities of ministers within the Government of Canada, and to promote greater collaboration with other levels of government and other stakeholders. The proposed legislation would help achieve these two goals.
Specifically, through this proposed act, the Government of Canada would establish policies in respect of emergency management at the federal level. It would promote a common approach to emergency management with other jurisdictions, including shared standards and good practices.
It is worth noting that in our consultations for this bill, the provinces and territories welcomed the proposed enhancements as a way to clarify roles and responsibilities, and that is so important.
I want to talk a bit about existing ties with municipalities. This bill would enhance the Government of Canada's relationship with local governments, such as municipalities, in emergency management.
The relationship between the Government of Canada and the provinces and territories too often overshadows our relationship with local government. Allow me to elaborate on how we work with local government and how the proposed legislation would enhance that work and enhance collaboration.
The Government of Canada recognizes that municipalities are an integral part of any emergency response. Local police, firefighters and paramedics are always first on the scene. I already commended them at the start of my speech on the role they play in keeping all Canadians safe.
To support the role of first responders, the Government of Canada established the joint emergency preparedness program, JEPP. Through this program the Government of Canada works with the provinces and territories to help municipalities improve their ability to respond to an emergency.
Funds are available for items such as generators, communications equipment and emergency vehicles. When appropriate, the Government of Canada has been pursuing co-location agreements where all three levels of government coordinate their approach to emergency management. To that end, we have already set up joint emergency operation centres in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and the Northwest Territories.
The Canadian Cyber Institute Response Centre has set up a framework for cooperation with provincial, territorial and municipal governments. A cyber triage unit has been established to assess the nature of incidents and to coordinate responses more effectively.
The goal of these initiatives is to enhance information sharing to keep everyone in the loop so that we can respond to an emergency in a coherent fashion.
The proposed emergency management act reinforces that this kind of seamless cooperation is vital. It would help to ensure the federal response to an emergency is harmonized and coordinated with other jurisdictions, and as I noted earlier, it would also lay the foundation for a comprehensive emergency management system that recognizes the key elements of mitigation, prevention, preparedness, response and recovery.
I want to talk a bit about building ties within communities and in a community. The Government of Canada wants to work with the provinces and municipalities and other entities to help develop consensus on emergency management. This bill recognizes that a common approach to emergency management can enhance effectiveness, not just within all levels of government, but also in the community at large.
Since the nature of emergencies is constantly in flux, the proposed legislation does not attempt to define what constitutes an emergency management activity. The bill in this way is broad and flexible in its approach, leaving room for innovation and the building of community consensus. Indeed, the Government of Canada relies on the expertise, experience and creativity of Canadian citizens to help strengthen its approach to emergency management.
Over the past few years, the Government of Canada has held town hall meetings to solicit ideas on various initiatives. The Government of Canada drew on the valuable input from the private sector and from other stakeholders at these meetings to enhance Bill C-12, and we will continue to engage Canadians on these issues.
It is important that the Government of Canada collaborate with the provinces and territories, private sector owners and operators and the NGO community to strengthen critical infrastructure. It is especially important as the private sector owns and operates over 85% of Canada's critical infrastructure.
When we look at that figure, it is especially clear that this is a multi-jurisdictional approach and it has to involve the private sector. No single jurisdiction has the expertise or the human and financial resources to manage the kinds of emergencies we may face in the 21st century. We know those emergencies can be varied. They can come at any time and the emphasis here is on being ready to manage those emergencies.
We need to work together. We need to develop coherent strategies that will enable us to harmonize our approaches. The proposed legislation provides the framework to achieve this goal.
As I already mentioned, the threats to Canadians continue to evolve and we must evolve with them. Canada's new government is committed to ensuring that it is able to manage these threats and respond to them to the best of its ability. Bill C-12 is a vital piece of legislation that would strengthen the federal role in emergency management and enhance our ability to cooperate with other jurisdictions, including municipalities.
By reinforcing an all hazards approach to emergency management, the proposed legislation will contribute to the safety and the security of all Canadians. In speaking with Canadians and hearing from Canadians from coast to coast, safety and security is a major priority for them. That is why I am pleased that our Minister of Public Safety has been working tirelessly in this regard to promote safety for Canadians. He has brought forward a number of initiatives, including this one, that will make our streets and our communities safer. I have to take this opportunity as well to commend the Minister of Justice for his work on making our communities safer.
Working together in the areas of justice and public safety, we can make communities safer in all regards, whether that be in the criminal sphere or in the sphere of preventing crime in the sphere of managing emergencies and being prepared for emergencies.
That is why I am very pleased on behalf of my constituents to speak to Bill C-12. I urge all members of the House to join with me in support of the proposed emergencies management act.
The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-12, An Act to provide for emergency management and to amend and repeal certain Acts, as reported, without amendment, from the committee.