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Evidence of meeting #33 for Environment and Sustainable Development in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was inuit.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo  National Chief, Assembly of First Nations
Julia Ricottone  Regional Certification Coordinator, Canadian Nursery Landscape Association
Mary Simon  President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami
Greg Farrant  Manager, Government Affairs and Policy, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters
William David  Senior Policy Analyst, Environmental Stewardship, Assembly of First Nations

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Thank you.

Mr. Farrant, I have in front of me an article from 2005, when you had presented the then Liberal Minister of Fisheries a letter from OFAH talking about the shock of your membership to government budget cuts that would compromise habitat research and protection and enforcement. When it comes to marine conservation, don't you think that it should be habitat that's protected, and not simply a species like fish—that protecting fish habitat would be a really important part of any conservation plan?

4:25 p.m.

Manager, Government Affairs and Policy, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters

Greg Farrant

Thank you for the question, Ms. Leslie.

Yes, we do. We've had a number of consultations recently and several face-to-face meetings with the current Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Mr. Ashfield, over proposed changes to the Fisheries Act in the budget implementation bill, and we are extremely concerned about any cuts that would impact on the ability to protect habitat. Thus far I have to say to you that we are generally pleased with the response of the minister and the government in terms of the fact that they will continue to protect those habitats.

I know some quarters of Saskatchewan and Alberta have some concerns that Ontario does not because some of the reservoirs in those provinces contain a recreational sport fishery. Some of the so-called ditches or drainage canals that feed into those contain spawning habitat, and I know they are very concerned about that. They have had an opportunity and continue to have an opportunity through consultation with the minister's office and the minister himself on habitat protection. I think we're starting to get some answers that are giving us a reasonable level of confidence that it's going to continue.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Mark Warawa

Time has expired; I'm sorry.

Ms. Rempell, you have seven minutes.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Centre-North, AB

Thank you.

I actually wanted to echo all of my colleagues' comments on the depth and richness of the presentations that were made today by all the groups. We really thank you for coming out today.

I wanted to start with Chief Atleo, being respectful of your time. You mentioned two pillars: the application of traditional knowledge, and recognition of first nation rights that need to be embedded within the NCP. I wanted to tease out that first principle a little bit for some of us who perhaps aren't entirely familiar with that concept, just so we make sure we've got some of those key principles in the document.

I'll ask you a question you could probably speak to for a week. If you could perhaps talk about the key principles of traditional knowledge as they would apply to a national conservation plan, what would those be?

4:25 p.m.

National Chief, Assembly of First Nations

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Centre-North, AB

Of your traditional knowledge practices. Are there some key practices? If you were going to drill down one more level on that principle, what would those next bullet points look like?

4:25 p.m.

National Chief, Assembly of First Nations

National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo

Let's think back to the fur trade in Champlain's day, because I think there's a real economic underpinning to this conversation. The rights application is the Innu telling Champlain, “You can trap downriver; upriver is exclusively ours. Do we have an understanding?” There was both a sense of conservation, as well as respect for rights, if I can speak about it in that manner, to drill down as simplistically as possible. You have balance: you have economic activity, you have conservation, and you have rights recognition, the principles that have been forged in Treaties 1 to 11, pre-Confederation treaties.

I'll throw in one more anniversary. The 250th anniversary of the Royal Proclamation of 1763 is coming up in 2013, where the relationship was always based on mutual rights recognition and respect in the treaty-making process. That's the reason why those are two important pillars: rights recognition, so that first nations do as was signed onto in Agenda 21 in Rio--jointly design or define with Canada what “sustainability” means. That doesn't mean just the animals or the fish; it's about habitat. And it's not just habitat; it's the idea of energy, energy strategy, the use of natural resources, and how we view our relationship with those resources.

That's the most succinct way I can respond.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Centre-North, AB

Thank you so much.

President Simon, I think your perspective today brings something unique that we haven't had at committee yet, in that you talked a lot about Arctic conservation and the connection your people have to the Arctic and that you have a wealth of knowledge in conservation principles there. You talked a bit about the sustainable hunt, about sustainable natural resource development in the Arctic.

Are there other key principles, as far as your region and your traditional lands, that you feel need to be reflected in the national conservation plan?

4:30 p.m.

President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami

Mary Simon

I think those are the key elements. If you, like Mr. Atleo, drill down into that question, you can start to see areas where you would have to go into more detail in terms of conservation.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Centre-North, AB

What would those areas be?

4:30 p.m.

President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami

Mary Simon

For instance, when we work with species at risk, the Inuit knowledge that was not being considered was how the polar bear was being impacted by climate change. There was a movement in the United States to uplist the polar bear to a category three, endangered species. When you listened to the elders in our communities, and the knowledge they possess, it was completely the opposite. It has now been proven that Inuit were right in their assessment of the situation. So that's an example of how you have to go into a much deeper analysis of each of the key principles I talked about.

When the Mackenzie Valley pipeline review was taking place in the early seventies—and it still applies today—when they were holding public hearings, the Inuvialuit elders said they had to develop in a certain place and not in another place, in terms of the pipeline. The scientists thought they were on the right track until an elder spoke up and said that the beluga whales calved in a certain area of the ocean. They checked into that, and he was absolutely right.

So that's what I mean. We need to consider all the knowledge that people possess when you start to develop a conservation plan, because these are the real-life situations we're experiencing.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Centre-North, AB

Thank you so much.

I'll close with one question for Ms. Ricottone.

You brought the perspective of conserving urban landscapes and bringing urban conservation principles into a national conservation plan. Groups in my riding are looking at using urban green spaces, even on private lands, even urban farming, mixed use. Does your organization have any views on that, and how perhaps some of those activities could be embedded into the principles of a national conservation plan, also understanding that municipal bylaws, etc., are subject to these principles as well?

4:35 p.m.

Regional Certification Coordinator, Canadian Nursery Landscape Association

Julia Ricottone

We see the national conservation plan helping to create the top-down approach to working with the municipalities and giving them some guidelines for developing their bylaws and creating those policies. I think the best way to do it is to provide the examples and the reasons why urban conservation is good, and go from there.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Mark Warawa

Your time has expired. Thank you.

Mr. Choquette, you have five minutes.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

My thanks to all the witnesses. My first question goes to Ms. Simon.

You mentioned the climate change that is affecting Canada's north. Climate change is absolutely real and obvious. It is affecting the permafrost and the biodiversity. You mentioned the polar bear, as well. You are presently working with a network called ArcticNet that studies the impacts of climate change. What are its priorities and, in your opinion, how could they be included in the national conservation plan?

4:35 p.m.

President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami

Mary Simon

Thank you very much for your question.

Yes, climate change is real. It has been happening for many years. In fact, Inuit predicted the changes long before nation-states were actually talking about it. We started to see those changes years ago. You really need to take that into consideration if you're developing an NCP in relation to Arctic waters, for instance, even though the ice is melting right before our very eyes and the Northwest Passage is opening up.

There are all these predictions going on about how the resource-rich Arctic is going to be exploited. Before that exploitation takes place, I think as a country we need to have a very clear idea of what kinds of rules and regulations we're going to have in place, not only to protect the oceans but also to protect the land and its people. People in the Arctic are going to be impacted very heavily, not only in terms of their lives and their livelihoods but also in terms of the social impacts likely to happen if and when the Northwest Passage becomes a place where not only development takes place, but also shipping will increase, as predicted by scientists, to a very large degree compared to what's going on right now.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Thank you, Ms. Simon. I have another question for you.

At the moment, Canada has protects only 1% of its oceans and marine spaces. According to the Convention on Biological Diversity, the target is 10% for marine areas and 17% for land areas. Do you feel that those targets should be part of the national conservation plan and are they sufficient?

4:35 p.m.

President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami

Mary Simon

Thank you for that.

I'm not an expert on the percentages, but I can respond to the question. I think that, yes, we need to look very carefully at how the oceans are going to be addressed in terms of all the potential development. The oceans are already being affected now with a lot of the dumping and debris that goes on with shipping, which is under more control now than it was in the past.

One thing I'd like to add, if I may, is not necessarily directly related to your question, but it is interrelated. Canada is going to be chairing the Arctic Council starting next year, and I think Canada can show a lot of leadership on Arctic conservation in its upcoming chairmanship. I really believe that. But we have to be careful, because we need to prepare for the council chairmanship. I think we need to begin that work now. It would take into consideration the very questions you're raising with us today as witnesses.

4:40 p.m.

NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Thank you very much, Ms. Simon.

My next question is for Mr. Farrant.

You mentioned that the Invasive Alien Species Partnership Program has been abolished. Do you think that it is important to put it back into the national conservation plan?

4:40 p.m.

Manager, Government Affairs and Policy, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters

Greg Farrant

Yes. I can't be any briefer than that.

4:40 p.m.

NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Thank you.

Do I have any time left?

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Mark Warawa

It's finished. Merci.

The next five minutes are for Mr. Sopuck.

May 3rd, 2012 / 4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Thank you.

Ms. Simon, I really appreciated your very forceful comments about the international animal rights movement and their effect on communities right across the country, in the north and beyond. Again, the issue of foreign-funded groups trying to affect public policy in our country is at the forefront. As somebody in a previous life who's fought the animal rights fanatics, as I said, I very much appreciated those comments of yours.

I'd like to talk about the situation on Baker Lake. What I've heard is that there was a mine developed very close to Baker Lake that has been of great benefit to that community in terms of reducing unemployment to almost nothing. From your standpoint, from a conservation and environmental standpoint, did that mining development work for the community and also work for the local environment?

4:40 p.m.

President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami

Mary Simon

Is that the old development or the new one?

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

It's the new one.