Mr. Speaker, it has been extremely interesting to listen to debate this evening on this private member's bill, an act respecting fishing, trapping and hunting heritage in Canada. I have listened with great interest to comments from members from all sides of the House. I want to state from the outset that we on this side fully support the legitimate rights of outdoors people who hunt, fish and trap, individuals who, as part of their Canadian heritage, partake in these very legitimate activities.
I want to clarify a few things and explain in a little more detail the role of the federal Parliament in our country. We have, as we know, two jurisdictions in Canada. There are actually three if we include municipal, but there are the provincial and federal levels. The Conservative Party of Canada has been very keen on respecting those different areas of jurisdiction between the federal and provincial levels.
I need to point out that the Parliament of Canada, as an institution, does not have the power to enact legislation in relation to hunting and trapping directly. These are matters that fall under the jurisdiction of the provinces and territories, and federal legislation may deal with them only incidentally.
It was very interesting to hear the comments from all sides of the House. There are a lot of issues out there. Even in my own riding of Fundy Royal in New Brunswick, I hear from hunters, fishers and people who are interested in pursuing their sport, interested in passing on a heritage and legacy to their children. Many of the individuals I talk to, for example, enjoy hunting and will talk about how they used to hunt with their fathers and grandfathers, and would like to pass that on to their sons and daughters.
In today's society and the world that we live in that is becoming increasingly difficult. We heard some examples of that tonight. Bill C-222 touches on this issue, but I need to remind us as legislators that we also must respect the federal and provincial levels in our country.
I want to take as an example the Species at Risk Act. The objective of that act is in no way to manage the hunting and fishing of the species in which it relates. On the contrary, the purpose of that act is to provide the greatest possible protection for species that are threatened with extinction and it, therefore, prohibits killing, harassing, capturing or harming members of certain species of animals for example. That act, however, deals with hunting and trapping activities only incidentally and endeavours to respect the fact that, as we all know, people have to go to their provincial departments in order to obtain hunting licences. That is because it is only within the provincial jurisdiction.
Obviously, the federal government has the full authority that it needs to manage activities that take place on federal land. For example, the management of activities that take place in a national park, including hunting and trapping activities, is a matter of federal jurisdiction, but this bill before us would not apply solely to land under federal jurisdiction.
I am aware of course that hunting and trapping are activities that are an inherent part of many Canadians' lives. They are a part of our Canadian culture and Canada's national heritage. This is a point that I commend the member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette for making. His bill has brought forward debate on this issue and it has actually been encouraging to hear members state their support for the legitimate rights of Canadians that take part in these activities.
However, we know that of course the member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette is also acting with the best of intentions. Again I commend him on that, because this is a well-intentioned bill and it is one whose objective we certainly support.
However, the House is not always the ideal forum for discussion of issues relating to provincial jurisdiction. As I stated, hunting and trapping do fall under the jurisdiction of the individual provinces and territories.
On questions relating to fishing, the situation is much more complex than it is on hunting and trapping. To begin, I would like to point out that in the bill the first whereas in the preamble states, “Whereas legislation governing inland fisheries is within the jurisdiction of the federal government...”. While that statement is not entirely incorrect, it is also not entirely accurate. I will explain what I mean.
The federal Parliament has exclusive jurisdiction over matters that relate to fishing in tidal waters. Freshwater fishing is a matter in relation to which jurisdiction is shared by the federal government and the provinces. In non-tidal waters, the federal jurisdiction over conservation and protection of fish authorizes the federal government to impose measures such as setting of fishing seasons, opening and closing of fishing seasons, setting total allowable quotas, size limits of fish that may be caught, gear requirements, et cetera. Most of these measures are most efficiently implemented when imposed by licence conditions.
The provincial jurisdiction authorizes the provinces, as owners of the land where the fisheries take place, to decide who might fish, what fishing privileges are conferred and what fees must be paid. Put simply, the federal government has jurisdiction to set the fishing rules in inland waters, by analogy setting the size of the pie, while provinces have the right to decide who gets to fish and for how much fish, by analogy who gets a piece of the pie and how large that pie will be.
That is the legal theory on the respective jurisdiction of the federal government and of the provinces with respect to inland fisheries, but aside from the theory, I am afraid that from a practical point of view the bill would have implications that may not have been envisaged.
As I said earlier, certain fish conservation and protection measures have been imposed and implemented by way of licence conditions. This is entirely appropriate given that fish conservation and protection measures must be adapted to the specific fishery for which the licence is issued. In other words, the trout fishery in region A, for example, will call for conservation and protection measures that are different from those imposed on the walleye fishery in region B.
Another example is that the species of fish that may be caught, limits on the size of the fish that may be taken and kept, and the fishing gear that may be used may all be included as licence conditions. Those matters may fall under the federal jurisdiction, so in addition to obtaining a licence from the province, a freshwater fisher should therefore, in theory, obtain a second federal fishing licence which will include conditions that must be placed on the licence to provide for fish conservation and protection.
To avoid this situation, there are administrative agreements between the federal government and the provinces under which the federal aspect of freshwater fisheries management has been delegated to the provinces. What that means in practice is that freshwater fishing is essentially managed by the provinces.
The bill would plainly have an impact on the management of freshwater fisheries and on the existing administrative agreements that govern that subject. Obviously we know that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has been involved in fisheries management for a very long time. We have a new minister responsible for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans who I feel is doing a great job and Parliament has granted the minister broad discretionary authority to manage the fisheries.
I would like to thank the hon. member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette for the effort he put into preparing this bill. I want to thank him for the interest he has shown in fishing, hunting and trapping, which are all important to Canada and to Canadians. No one on this side of the House would argue that this is an important part of our heritage. In light of what I have said here tonight, though, it is impossible for the government to support the bill as introduced by the member.
As a member of Parliament for a rural riding, I support the rights of people to fish, hunt and trap as they have done for many years. However, we also have to respect that these rights fall under provincial jurisdiction.