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.

Sponsor

Stockwell Day  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

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.

Elsewhere

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

Emergency Management ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2006 / 1:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, as we are aware, this particular bill, Bill C-12, is ostensibly identical to the bill in the last Parliament of the Liberal government, Bill C-78. Therefore, of course, the Liberal caucus will be supporting Bill C-12. It is extremely important to Canada.

The member raised some very interesting points about jurisdictional issues where there are responsibilities that have been taken over by some jurisdictions. In fact, municipalities in other parts of the country may not have had the resources or whatever was needed to do certain things. It appears to me that there does not seem to be a clear indication of how we would get an integrated, coordinated effort right across the country in terms of the responsibilities of the various jurisdictions, whether they be provincial, municipal or regional or, indeed, whether they are the jurisdiction of the federal government as a whole.

I would think that this is an area in which it is going to take some significant work by the committee to establish what is out there already and whether there are standards that have been adopted for which all of the various municipalities or regions or, for that mattter, provinces have brought their preparedness plans up to that standard. Possibly the member would indicate whether he has any similar concerns.

Emergency Management ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2006 / 1:25 p.m.
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Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

We would appreciate it if members of the government were more careful with their tributes, Mr. Speaker, but it might come back to haunt them later.

The member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin shouldered his responsibilities and suggested a plan. I repeat that we understand perfectly well that this is the federal government's responsibility, as regards its own institutions and jurisdictions. That is what federalism is. If Gérald Beaudoin and Henri Brun, two eminent constitutionalists, were here, they would tell us that federalism has three defining characteristics: first, two levels of government, each one sovereign in its areas of jurisdiction; second, a constitution; and third, a forum for arbitration. What is the forum for arbitration in a constitutional state? It is the Supreme Court, whose appointment process we hope will undergo a sweeping reform. The former member for Charlesbourg, a brilliant mind who served this House well, made a motion two years ago, if I am not mistaken, to ensure that, for example, the National Assembly could submit a list in order to respect the true spirit of federalism. The Supreme Court Act provides for civil law judges on the court. Moreover, although it is not my intention to talk about this—I would hate to be called to order—I would say that more and more, we are approaching a unitary state. This is not the spirit of federalism. There were 33 Fathers of Confederation. Thing were different then, as hon. members will recall. But we had the conviction that there were two governments, each with its own jurisdiction.

Why is there an imbalance in the Canadian federation?

For example, do you think that the residual powers—all the powers that are not specifically conferred on a government—are the responsibility of the provinces? No. The federal government has responsibility for them. The day is fast approaching when Quebeckers will decide to leave that federation, but it not my intention to talk about that.

Bill C-12 asks the federal government to adopt an emergency management plan. This plan is expected to give powers to the different ministers concerned, because it will be at their level of responsibility. Sometimes, the focus will be more on public safety, sometimes on health, sometimes on the environment. This will depend on the situation.

The bill obliges the departments to establish principles and programs to develop emergency management plans for government institutions. We can live with that. They must also provide advice to government institutions respecting emergency management plans. That is a ministerial responsibility we can live with that. Under this bill, the departments must analyze and evaluate the prepared plans. We would hope to learn more about just what that means. They must coordinate the actions of the various federal institutions in an emergency, provide financial or other assistance to provinces that need it, and establish the necessary arrangements for the continuity of constitutional government in the event of an emergency. Now, that is worrisome. I do not know if my colleague, the hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, can see the look of concern on my face, but there is something very troublesome about the mention of the constitutional government and an emergency. We all know that the most significant intrusions have occurred in times of emergency.

Take, for example, tax points. Taxation, particularly personal income tax, was not intended to be permanent. If I am not mistaken, I believe it was Adélard Godbout who was Premier of Quebec at the time, a progressive Liberal typical of his time. We are all familiar with the terror that reigned at the time of the second world war. At the time, the wartime tax rental agreement was the expression used for transferring the personal income tax. In the end, what was meant to be temporary became permanent. Thus, it is very easy to speak of emergencies in a bill, but we have a certain responsibility in this regard.

We will therefore remain vigilant about the use of the word "emergency" and we do not agree that, under the pretence of an emergency, provincial jurisdictions should be encroached upon. I believe that the hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin will have something serious to say when the bill is referred to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.

In conclusion, I cannot help but urge caution. We live in troubled times. Is the Arar affair not a good example of the prudence that should guide us as Parliamentarians?

We know quite well that, in the wake of September 2001, security certificates can give rise to excesses. Obviously, I will make the necessary distinctions. I do not wish people to think that I am not a nuanced person. I know that the emergencies we are talking about do not specifically include terrorist attacks, although such attacks could lead the federal government to take all manner of emergency measures. That is a possibility.

I believe that our responsibility is to maintain the appropriate balance between the rights of individuals and the security of the nation. Who wants to wind up with big brother in a totalitarian state where people are arrested without a warrant, searches are carried out, individuals are thrown in jail, and the principles of natural justice are violated? The Bloc Québécois has always been extremely vigilant in its protection of these principles.

Correct me if I am wrong but I believe we were the only party to vote against Bill C-36. However, I do not wish to offend the NDP. I do not remember how they voted. My colleagues could indicate if they think I am mistaken.

I would like to conclude by saying that we agree with the principle, that we understand that emergency situations can arise, but that we hope Quebec's jurisdiction will be respected when appropriate.

Emergency Management ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2006 / 1:15 p.m.
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Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise to speak to Bill C-12. This is a moment I have been eagerly awaiting, for I am well aware that in the world in which we now live, the issue of emergencies certainly demands the attention of legislators.

Just earlier, I was pondering the fact that, even in the 1800s, people were trying to regulate emergencies with the Quarantine Act. Why did they attempt to use this act in part to regulate emergencies? Because disease was surely the greatest threat to human communities, to the human condition about which Malraux spoke to us with such talent. I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that you are an enthusiast of Malraux. I know your erudition, and even your epicurean side. Of course, if we are talking about the 16th, 17th or 18th centuries, the spread of disease could not possibly be compared with the SARS crisis that we experienced, for example. And for once, the federal government was in a field of jurisdiction that belonged to it alone, under a class of subject enumerated in the Constitution.

When we speak of emergencies, the word “emergency” is in itself open to many meanings. What does it mean when we speak of emergencies? Are we talking about disease, the unleashed forces of nature, public transit, natural catastrophes, the overflowing of the Red River, the pollution in the big cities, terrorist attacks? Terrorism is a real fact of our collective life.

If I may digress, for a parliament and a parliamentarian, the end can never justify the means. One can never say, on account of some context one considers extraordinary, that one is going to take certain actions prejudicial to personal freedoms. In any case, you know how the Bloc Québécois is. If there is one party in this House that could hold a set of scales in its hands, with a centre of gravity that can balance human rights with necessary protection of the community, that party is surely the Bloc Québécois. How could we not be disturbed by Bill C-24, and its successor Bill C-36 on anti-terrorist measures. The government was trying to plagiarize the previous government, and it plagiarized certain provisions of the Patriot Act, tabled by the Bush administration. Incidentally, it will be with great interest that we shall read the judgment to be rendered shortly on the security certificates.

I know that some of my caucus colleagues, and in particular our immigration and public safety critics, have a lot of reasons to be worried. I would ask you the question, Mr. Speaker. Is it acceptable, in a country that adheres to the rule of law, for a person to be subject to arrest without warrant, arbitrarily detained, and not have access to the complete evidence in his or her court file? Do we not learn in our law schools that it is important to have a just and fair trial? Are we not in the post-Stinchcombe era? The Supreme Court has given judgment on this point. My colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin is aware of that. Stinchcombe requires that all evidence be disclosed. That is surprising, because Stinchcombe involved a tax fraud matter, if I recall correctly.

In any case emergencies cover a range of situations: SARS, overflowing rivers, terrorism, or mass transit.

We know that in some democracies, the evil hand of certain groups has used mass transit to spread toxic substances. Plainly it is a concern of governments, I would even say their duty, to have evacuation and emergency plans.

Let us ask the question: is this primarily the responsibility of the federal government? That question arises in the case before us. This is not a case involving quarantine, an epidemic or virology.

The bill says:

This enactment provides for a national emergency management system that strengthens Canada’s capacity to protect Canadians.

Obviously, when we read the bill, we can say that it is reasonable for the federal government, in the departments for which that government is responsible, to have an emergency plan. We therefore understand that it is reasonable for there to be a plan for public safety, health, national defence, or any other example that my colleagues may bring to my attention.

Closer to home, I know that on Parliament Hill, the Board of Internal Economy, of which the various party whips are members, thinks about how to ensure that the Hill is safer. There have been very few unfortunate incidents, but still, there have been a few.

In fact, there is a new Sergeant-at-Arms in the House. I would like to wish him success in the responsibilities of his position. He is the person who is responsible for the safety of parliamentarians.

In the British parliamentary tradition, the distance between the opposition and the government is two and a half sword lengths. Why? Because when Parliament was first created, when the institution of Parliament was created in the United Kingdom, the monarch stood in fear of members of Parliament. That is the source of the tradition, when the Speaker is elected, of dragging him or her by the arm while being met with resistance. That is because some of the speakers, in some of the Parliaments of Great Britain, who were called burgesses, were beheaded when the king did not agree with them.

So as not to wander too far afield, let us come back to the Sergeant-at-Arms. He is responsible for parliamentarians’ safety, and in emergencies he must arrange for the Hill to be evacuated.

I would like to give you an example of a traumatic event that I experienced personally. Every member of this House is familiar with my sturdiness, physical strength and self-discipline. Then there is the President of the United States, who thinks he is the master of any house he happens to be in. When President Bush visited the Hill, some parliamentarians, including me, were not allowed access to the Hill. My colleague from Saint-Lambert was also denied access to the Hill. Why? Not because the constables prevented us from entering. After all, their kindness is known to us all. They were not the ones who denied us entry. It was security personnel outside Parliament who stopped us; they went about it quite rudely, I might add. Such events prompt us to think about how we might react in an emergency that forced us to evacuate the building rapidly.

I know that Board of Internal Economy members, including the whips, have discussed this issue.

So, yes, we have to have emergency measures in place in our large communities, especially in big cities. Emergencies can be caused by natural disasters, terrorist attacks on public transportation or, of course, disease. Obviously, we do not deal with disease as we did in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, but imagine the impact of a virus spreading through our communities. Even in our modern society, we have come to realize that hospitals are not always a safe haven. We do not think that going to the hospital can make us sick. I feel comfortable talking about this before the member for Québec because I know she is as healthy as a horse, but people sure do not expect to get sick when they go to the hospital.

We recently learned that some hospitals in Canada were vectors of contamination. This is one of the emergencies for which we must plan.

Although the Bloc Québécois agrees with this bill in principle, we have some concerns. First is the issue of respecting provincial responsibilities. A national emergency should never mean there is just one government. We are long past the time of the Rowell-Sirois commission. We are not in an apprehended war situation. As elected members of the Bloc Québécois, as representatives of the people of Quebec, we must never act as though there were just one government.

The National Assembly, whose first speaker was Mr. Panet—if I recall correctly—is one of the oldest Parliaments in North America. A number of years ago, it passed its own public safety plan. And who was the author of this important plan that respects decentralization, a plan whose goal was to have the regional county municipalities, the municipalities and the health care system work together? When we think of emergencies, these are the players we want to see promote a common vision.

The National Assembly was the first francophone Parliament in North America. It was led by Speaker Panet and founded under the Constitutional Act, 1791, with ministerial responsibility introduced in 1848. It used to be referred to as the Salon de la race, but that expression is no longer used. It passed its public safety plan. We are most privileged to have among us the author of the plan, none other than the hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, who was the public safety minister at the time and who served the Government of Quebec well.

The House resumed 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 second time and referred to a committee.

Emergency Management ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2006 / 12:30 p.m.
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Oxford Ontario

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to be here today to support the bill. I have some firsthand knowledge of emergency situations, having been a young police officer when a horrific tornado struck my community some 25 years ago and without a plan it certainly left us in dire straits.

Bill C-12 will bring much needed improvements to our existing emergency management legislation. The bill, which would create the Emergency Management Act, would strengthen the federal government's capacity to coordinate response to major emergencies.

For one thing, it would clarify the roles and responsibilities setting out the role of the Minister of Public Safety to exercise leadership for emergency management activities for the Government of Canada.

It would recognize emergency management in an evolving risk environment, and would require the collective efforts of all governments, industries and non-governmental organizations. It would also recognize that modern emergency management includes a full spectrum of action: prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery.

It would introduce the reality of critical infrastructure, which relates to the facilities and services that require protection against natural or intentional threats.

These reforms would help keep Canada's emergency preparedness and response capabilities remain in step with our fast changing threat environment.

As my hon. colleagues know, Canada's emergency management activities are currently governed under the Emergency Preparedness Act legislation that was passed in 1988.

It would be no exaggeration to say that, in the intervening 17 years, very much has changed, the kinds of threats we face, the things that are threatened, and the way we deal with those threats.

I do not want to suggest that Canadians are unprotected now. On the contrary, this new government will continue to build relationships with its partners in the provinces and territories, the private sector, NGOs, and the entire emergency management community to help protect Canadians from any and all threats.

Even so, in the modern context, there are shortcomings in the statutory foundation for emergency management activities. Addressing these issues would further strengthen the federal government's capacity to carry out its national leadership role.

In the next few minutes I will outline the important changes that the emergency management act would bring.

Canadians face a range of risks, and always have. There have always been natural disasters: storms, earthquakes, floods, fires, drought, and tornadoes, as I mentioned. However, terrorist and criminal attacks were not invented on September 11, 2001. We have always been vulnerable to people bent on doing us harm.

While risks have always been with us, the scope and magnitude has changed. Globalization, heightened world tensions, even climate change, have introduced new perils. Think only of today's anxiety about a global viral pandemic, in order to understand how quickly a local scare has the potential to evolve into a wide scale emergency.

That is why the proposed emergency management act prescribes an all hazards approach. In planning for disaster, we must consider any and all threats to our safety and security.

Just as we broaden our understanding of risk, so must we accept that a contemporary society like Canada has an unprecedented range of targets vulnerable to threats.

Emergency management has always been about protecting and rescuing people, helping to evacuate endangered communities, strengthening defences for homes and other property, as well as providing financial assistance in recovery efforts.

In that respect, nothing would change. The legislation would, however, provide the Government of Canada with a robust statutory foundation flexible enough to respond to the evolving threat environment. In particular, it would help to ensure that government address the full range of facilities and services that are critical to the smooth functioning of a modern and interconnected society.

I am referring here to critical infrastructure, everything from financial institutions and transportation systems to hospitals, manufacturing industries, waste water treatment installations and power plants. I am also including the information and communication technologies that are essential to the smooth operation of all of these other sectors.

In working toward a more comprehensive and integrated framework for emergency management activity, ministers will be required to develop emergency plans based on common guidelines.

Bill C-12 would make federal ministers explicitly accountable for identifying risks to critical infrastructure. Moreover, to encourage infrastructure owners and operators to cooperate with federal planners, the bill would for the first time protect the confidentiality of specific information concerning their vulnerabilities that was shared in confidence with the government.

In addition to the responsibilities assigned to each minister within his or her own jurisdiction, the proposed emergency management act sets out the public safety minister's responsibilities in respect of emergency management.

The bill before us would further clarify and elaborate on the minister's responsibilities in coordinating roles during times of major emergencies. As was learned from hurricane Katrina, leadership, coordination and seamless emergency management are essential to saving lives. The government operations centre that would provide around the clock monitoring and coordination in the event of an emergency would serve as a focal point for federal coordination in the event of major emergencies.

The emergency management act would set out the minister's responsibility to coordinate emergency management activities across the federal government, with provincial governments, non-governmental organizations and the private sector. In the same spirit of cooperation, the minister would also be charged with promoting a common approach to emergency preparedness. That includes encouraging all parties to work toward a common approach to critical infrastructure in terms of reliability and security.

In conclusion, when it comes to Canada's approach to emergency management, the legislation's title underscores one other vital innovation. Given the new environment in which we live under an expanded range of vulnerabilities, it is no longer enough for Canada to simply react to emergencies. Instead, we need a comprehensive systematic and proactive approach. That is why Bill C-12 is about emergency management in the broadest sense. Indeed, the bill defines the term as the prevention and mitigation of, preparedness for, response to and recovery from emergencies.

It is the duty of government to balance the need to prepare its citizens with reasonable depictions of risk so as to not unnecessarily alarm people. It is our job to describe the risk in realistic terms and more importantly to put in place the means and mechanisms to address it. That is what the bill would do and that is why I would urge my hon. colleagues to pass it without delay.

Emergency Management ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2006 / 12:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Monte Solberg Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

moved that Bill C-12, An Act to provide for emergency management and to amend and repeal certain Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Emergency Management ActRoutine Proceedings

May 8th, 2006 / 3 p.m.
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Okanagan—Coquihalla B.C.

Conservative

Stockwell Day ConservativeMinister of Public Safety

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-12, an Act to provide for emergency management and to amend and repeal certain Acts.

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