House of Commons Hansard #84 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was wildlife.


Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994Government Orders

4:30 p.m.


Jean-Guy Chrétien Bloc Frontenac, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I take part in this debate on Bill C-23 this afternoon, immediately after the parliamentary secretary, the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Louis, in Quebec. These past few weeks, we have examined Bill C-23 to implement a convention for the protection of migratory birds in Canada and the United States.

A great many witnesses have appeared before the committee to help us better grasp the problem. These individuals and organizations spokespersons were all experts from whom we have learned a lot. It is now obvious to me that this legislation, which was passed in 1917, really needed to be updated.

Knowing how important it is to protect migratory birds from becoming an endangered species, we Bloc members have no major problem with this bill, including the amendments proposed by the committee. It is simply a matter of bringing an outdated act into line with the realities of the 21st century. As the saying goes where I come from, foresight is better than hindsight. So, as soon as the act comes into effect, all birds flying across Canada will be protected.

You can imagine what it would be like if only certain species were to be protected. You can picture as well as me hunters noticing from afar something flying, shooting and then pleading rightly or wrongly that they thought it was a bird from another species. More illogical yet would be to protect only endangered species, letting other species be fired on at will until they too become endangered.

Amendments to this act will also enable us to pull the rug from under potential dealers in sperm, embryo and tissue culture.

The Convention on Biodiversity ratified by Canada in December 1992 unveiled what trading in such things could represent. It would be possible to create hybrid species for experimentation, or even conduct experiments directly on tissue. The possession, purchase or sale of migratory birds are also strictly prohibited. Indeed, it is now stipulated in this bill that no person shall be in possession of a migratory bird or nest, or buy, sell, exchange or give a migratory bird or nest or make it the subject of a commercial transaction.

So, that will be it from now on in living rooms or summer cottages where hunting trophies are displayed. In my part of the country, it is not uncommon to see displayed in summer homes stuffed specimens of these birds which are now so rare. The time for this is now past.

As the hon. member for Lachine-Lac-Saint-Louis noted earlier, the fines-the maximum fines, of course-are very high, so much so, in fact, that during our committee deliberations, I often wondered out loud and said to myself that "migratory birds will be better protected than our children".

The new Act will also give the minister more power in the designation of game officers. And I quote:

  1. (1) The Minister may designate any person or class of persons to act as game officers for the purposes of this Act and the regulations-

I was somewhat intrigued by this provision, Mr. Speaker.

I questioned witnesses in committee to find out whether the minister could, for instance, designate all members of a hunting and fishing association to act as game officers.

I was told yes, but that such associations might have restricted powers. I find this provision a little scary. It would be difficult for an ordinary citizen to go to a farmer's land to tell him that he is breaking the law. He runs a great risk of simply being ejected from a private property.

My fear is that some members of these associations may have big arms and small heads. A member automatically designated to act as game officer with little training but big arms could decide to play policeman.

I will always remember a sentence I heard in my Grade 11 course on social, political and economic life: "In Canada, a free country, it is better to see 99 guilty persons go free than one innocent person unjustly punished". That made a big impres-

sion on me. It is a minor concern, but we will still vote for Bill C-23.

It is, however, a well-known fact that there are not enough game officers to enforce the act. In that case, we should recognize the need to designate civilian game officers immediately but with really restricted powers, to ensure that our laws are respected.

We in the Bloc Quebecois think it would be worthwhile to take certain measures to ensure that the people collectively designated as game officers have the skills required to maintain credibility. That is why we suggested two amendments in committee.

The purpose of the first amendment is to ensure that the people collectively designated by the minister have at least received the training appropriate to their functions. That of the second amendment is to make the designation of a class of persons conditional on the approval of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.

As regularly happens when we vote here in the House of Commons, our two amendments were defeated, but I am still convinced that it would be important to exercise a little more control over this kind of appointment; otherwise these provisions could do more harm than good.

If you allow me, I would now like to draw your attention to a presentation given to us by Daniel Jauvin, president of the Quebec ornithologists' association. This Quebec association of more than 30 bird-watching clubs or societies has produced many briefs on the protection of birds and their habitats.

In particular, it does scientific research on birds and especially on endangered species. This organization supports the bill but has nevertheless carried out a very worthwhile exercise. Its members checked the translation in the schedule to Bill C-23, namely the Convention.

According to these experts of the ornithological association, the French terminology used to name the birds is obsolete. They therefore suggested to the committee the terminology used by the international commission on bird names in French as published in Noms français des oiseaux du monde . This terminology is the one recognized throughout the world. The problems are of two kinds. First, an attempt was made to translate directly from English to French. As a result, names of genera were translated by names of species. Second, the association believes that the names of many species which should be there are still missing, unfortunately.

As an appendix to their brief, they presented to us a proper translation of articles I to IV of the above-mentioned Convention. This presentation showed that we should go further than simply reading the legal terminology. Such translation problems can seriously affect the enforcement of the law. Some species might be in the English version but not the French one. This would cause interpretation problems that would slow down and complicate law enforcement.

The hon. member for Terrebonne and myself were also very interested in the comments made by another speaker, Mr. Daniel Lacombe, who is the secretary general for the Fédération québécoise de la faune. That organization supports, of course, the proposed legislative changes but deplores the fact that all the regulations are left to the free will of officials from the Canadian Wildlife Service and Environment Canada. Mr. Lacombe also pointed out that it is unfortunate to see organizations such as the one he represents not being really consulted when regulations are drafted. It appears that the Canadian Wildlife Service merely informs these groups of the new rules in effect. Since these organizations use legislation such as Bill C-23, they should at least be consulted on a regular, effective, honest, and serious basis.

Mr. Lacombe gave us an example which illustrates the inconsistencies of the current process. He told us that the hunting season-this is something I still have a lot of trouble understanding, but that is the way it is-opens one week earlier in Ontario than in Quebec. The reason why it is later in Quebec is to protect the various species of birds. The same birds are found in Ontario and in Quebec, but the season opens earlier in Ontario because there are sedentary species. In other words, there are birds which remain in Ontario because they must have figured out that there is an imaginary line between the two provinces and they do not come to Quebec. However, Quebec birds do visit their friends in Ontario, where they can get bombarded one week earlier. This is the official reason which was given to our committee.

According to Mr. Lacombe, migratory birds mingle with other birds and the end result is the same for both groups. Consequently, Mr. Lacombe deplores that, when meetings take place with officials from the Canadian Wildlife Service, it is not possible to solve such issues, since those meetings are designed to provide information and not to consult organizations such as the one represented by Mr. Lacombe.

I want to make a comment regarding the Canadian Wildlife Service. I received documents from the president of the Association des sauvaginiers du Québec, Mr. Gaétan Fillion, who is upset at the lack of communication between his organization and the Canadian Wildlife Service. Mr. Speaker, the Fédération québécoise de la faune is not the only one suffering from this problem. It may be that this is a chronic problem only in Quebec, but it does seem persistent.

In our review of Bill C-23, we should look at the issue of regulations with those testimonies in mind. In that regard, officials from the Department of the Environment should look at two major issues. There are of course migratory birds which are

endangered, but there are many others which pollute our environment, including gulls.

At the Daishowa manufacturing plant, in Quebec City, it took almost two years to get permission, not to kill such birds, but to destroy their nests and their eggs. There were an estimated 170,000 pairs of adult gulls capable of reproducing on the site and this situation was causing serious problems. When stringent regulations exist and when we have problems, we resolve them. When I was mayor, if I had taken two years to make such a minor decision, I would not have remained in office very long. This is one example. The process needs to be smoothed out so that effective solutions can be adopted quickly.

Secondly, when we protect wildlife, we must protect their habitat. Imagine, Mr. Speaker, if a flock of geese decided to descend on your home for three weeks and you were not allowed to frighten them away. Believe me, I have tried. They merely circle about and land on your property, as if they had decided that it was their home. Imagine the condition of your lawn after three weeks. Do you know who would be responsible for the cleanup costs? You would. The legislation makes no provision for any compensation. I raised this question and an official told me that the farmer could rely on his crop insurance. I checked this out and while it is true, what if the poor farmer does not have crop insurance that covers this kind of damage? Then he would have to pay for the damages out of his own pocket.

I am telling you this because I have received letters to the effect that the snow geese were chased-I am not sure how-out of the Montmagny region. The geese ended up in the Rimouski-Témiscouata area. Snow geese are lovely creatures, but when 40,000 or 50,000 of them descend all at once for a three-week to one-month stay, well it is nice to see them arrive, but it is equally nice to see them leave.

Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994Government Orders

4:50 p.m.


Yves Rocheleau Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Just like houseguests.

Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994Government Orders

4:50 p.m.


Jean-Guy Chrétien Bloc Frontenac, QC

Just like houseguests, as the hon. member for Trois-Rivières pointed out. It can be quite a burden, and there is nothing in Bill C-23 to provide financial assistance for individuals who have to accommodate these animals for extended periods.

I hope that our senior officials, under the instructions of the Minister of the Environment, will look at regulatory measures and other ways to reach agreements that will make this legislation very effective.

The legislator should take advantage of the experience of users to make these laws far more effective. It seems we will go ahead with Bill C-23, which I think is a step in the right direction towards protecting our migratory birds. However, as was pointed out earlier, the agreements are with the United States and Mexico. We should extend such agreements much further south, because we have birds that migrate very far south, and we could protect them so they are not killed in the south. These agreements must be concluded with our neighbours on a nation-to-nation basis.

Mr. Speaker, as I said before, the Bloc Quebecois will fully support the Liberal government on Bill C-23.

Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994Government Orders

June 13th, 1994 / 4:55 p.m.


Jim Abbott Reform Kootenay East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the purpose of Bill C-23 is to replace the existing Migratory Birds Convention Act which was originally proclaimed in 1917. It has essentially remained the same ever since.

The original act regulated hunting in the use of migratory birds, prohibited traffic and commercialization, controlled the use of migratory birds through permits, and provided for the establishment of migratory bird sanctuaries in order to control and manage areas important for the protection of migratory birds.

The original act was designed to protect migratory birds from indiscriminate slaughter and to sustain their populations.

The proposed migratory bird act now before the House would modernize the language of the original Migratory Birds Convention Act and clarify the extent of its application, the prohibitions, the regulatory authorities, the administrative provisions and the offences and punishment sections.

The highlights of this bill are the broadening of the legislation to include all migratory birds, the broadening of the authority under the act given to wildlife enforcement officers, and the levels of fines to be increased.

The new act provides the legislative basis for managing the harvest and other uses of ducks, geese and other game birds, as well as for the protecting migratory birds, and provides for the creation of migratory bird sanctuaries.

In conjunction with the Canada Wildlife Act the new Migratory Birds Convention Act will provide a greater deterrent to illegal activities such as poaching by providing a maximum penalty of $25,000 or six months in jail or both for serious offences.

The mandate of the federal environment department in Canada is to manage and conserve migratory birds and in co-operation with the provinces and territories other wildlife of national and international concern. Canada as a member of the international community has obligations to help preserve and protect our wildlife and wildlife areas, including bird populations and bird sanctuaries.

Protecting and conserving Canada's bird diverse populations are an important part of our ecosystem. As the planet's human population swells and spreads over once wild areas, some 70 per cent of the world's 9,600 bird species are responding with declines, and 1,000 species are threatened with extinction in the near future according to a report by Birdlife International, a

conservation group based in England that charts the loss of habitats and species.

What is especially alarming beyond the direct losses that are taking place is that bird populations are a particularly good indicator of the health of the whole ecosystem. Canada must take a leadership role in the push for conservation and protection of bird species, and this leadership must begin with the changes made to the Migratory Birds Convention Act.

Conserving and protecting our environment has become a major political and economic issue in our country. Opinion polls consistently show that over 90 per cent of Canadians are concerned about the state of our environment. These same polls also show that the Canadian people are split with regard to their satisfaction with the federal government's handling of difficult environmental issues.

Last week all across Canada, Canada Environment Week activities were taking place and provided Canadians with a good opportunity to think about ways they can help improve our environment. Environmental citizenship, being informed and taking action was the focus of this year's Environment Week.

Canada's policymakers should sit up and take notice. Canadians are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of the environment to our society. We as politicians hold the responsibility to act as prudently and effectively as possible in order to protect our environment and our wildlife areas for future generations.

Government legislation is just one aspect of this environmentally conscious trend, albeit an important one.

The Reform Party is deeply concerned with Canada's environment. In this regard one of the principles of the party is that we believe Canada's identity and vision for the future should be rooted in and inspired by a fresh appreciation of our land and the supreme importance to our well-being of exploring, developing, renewing and conserving our natural resources and physical environment.

In general, the Reform Party supports the changes made in this act after having had the opportunity to examine possible amendments in committee. Many groups made representations to the committee and some changes to the bill could be made.

One aspect of the bill with which my party is very pleased is the stronger enforcement and punishment section. Although this bill finally puts some teeth into the existing Migratory Birds Convention Act that up to this point it has lacked, we believe that the enforcement provisions for maximum penalties could have been made even tougher by increasing the punishment provisions as proposed at the committee stage.

One part of the amendments that is of great concern to our party is the part that gives the minister more power to implement changes to the convention without Parliament's approval.

During the committee meetings it was felt that this concern was not adequately addressed. Under the existing act should Canada and the United States agree to amend the convention such amendments in order to come into force in Canada would require an amendment to the act. Specifically, the schedule to the act would have to be amended by legislation approved by Parliament.

However, under Bill C-23 a different implementation process would apply in which convention amendments would be implemented by ministerial order and the approval of Parliament would not be needed for such amendments to take effect.

Since Canada is seeking to renegotiate the convention to address aboriginal and treaty rights to harvest migratory birds during the closed season and to harvest eggs, if Bill C-23 is adopted any changes that were made under the convention in this regard would accordingly be implemented by ministerial order.

Parliament would have no role with respect to any changes that might be made from time to time under the convention. Although the implementation of convention amendments would be expedited under the process proposed by the bill, the fact is Parliament would not be involved in any way.

The Reform members believe that this is the wrong approach and that the bill should be amended so as to provide that amendments to the convention be laid before Parliament before being added to the order on the schedule.

We do believe in protecting and conserving Canada's environment and its wildlife. We believe that this legislation does begin to address some of the concerns that Canadians have in these areas.

There is one part of the amendments which I have some fairly close knowledge of and which I would like to draw to the attention of the House. I am hoping that there might be some Liberal members following my presentation who will address this question.

On May 6, I was approached, as the member responsible in my party for the shepherding of Bill C-23 through the House of Commons, by our House leader and was informed that there was a representative of the environment minister who wished to meet with me and wanted to push the bill through to third reading at that particular time.

I was only partially in favour of that. In other words, I felt as though I was under pressure because I had not had an opportunity to seriously consider it going through to third stage but there was a tremendous amount of arm twisting. Perhaps the parliamentary secretary to the environment minister may recall and the deputy chair of the Standing Committee on the Environment may recall.

We had meetings. There was this tremendous pressure to bring it through to third reading. I resisted as a result of the fact that there was advice that they wished to bring some small amendments to the act. Not being a lawyer, I was concerned about the fact that I would be letting something go over which I did not have any control or knowledge. As a consequence I said, no, I would not give unanimous consent to see the thing go through to third reading. That was on May 6.

On May 26 Grand Chief Matthew Coon-Come on behalf of the Grand Council of the Crees appeared before our standing committee. He drew to our attention information about the James Bay and northern Quebec agreement and in part the statement that he read into the record at that time said: "The agreement which we signed obligates the Government of Canada and the province of Quebec in perpetuity to respect Cree rights and carry out certain obligations.

Our treaty, then, forms the basis for the protection of our way of life. Several principles were embodied in these regimes: co-operative co-management of resources with government; family based Cree hunting territories; the beaver preserve system; the Crees as guardians of the land and animals; recognition and training of Cree game wardens and finally the paramount guiding principle of conservation".

I am absolutely prepared to accept the representation by the representative of the Cree totally at face value. I accept what he said there completely without question. He goes on to say: "In light of this brief background on our treaty rights, you might be able to understand our consternation at the provisions contained in the legislation which has been tabled before the standing committee".

He adds: "This bill purports to address through its substantive and enabling provisions the management and harvesting of migratory birds. Indeed, it is entitled an act to implement a convention for the protection of migratory birds in Canada and the United States".

He underlines: "For legislation emanating from the Parliament of Canada in 1994 and in view of the solemn commitments made in the James Bay and northern Quebec agreement and in addressing issues so critical to the identity, livelihood and culture of aboriginal people, how is it possible that this legislation does not make the least mention of aboriginal people, their dependence on the resource or their rights to the resource? We find this, to say the least, extraordinary".

He goes on to say: "We are not invoking simply a legal right or an apparently failed treaty provision. Neither are we arguing for the respect of our rights at any or all cost to the environment, but how did this legislation come this far without any consultation with us? How can the drafters of these acts be so oblivious of Canada's constitutional and statutory duties to protect aboriginal harvest rights? Bear in mind that the Crees have hunted in our territory since time immemorial".

He goes on to express a feeling of real distress about the fact that he had not been consulted. I asked the legal counsel for the Cree at that time to get back to me with the time at which it was informed or brought into the picture and I was informed by the legal council for the Cree that it was brought into the picture May 16, a full 10 days after a representative of the environment minister was trying to arm twist and get this through without any provision for aboriginal concerns.

I am very sensitive to the fact that last week in particular we had representations from a member of our party that raised a tremendous amount of consternation and concern in the way that he was speaking about aboriginal questions. I am very sensitive to that issue. I wish to raise the issue without emotion. I am hoping that there is someone in the House who will be prepared to answer this question.

Section 5 of the proposed legislation reads:

Except as authorized by the regulations, no person shall, without lawful excuse,

(a) be in possession of a migratory bird or nest; or

(b) buy, sell, exchange or give a migratory bird or nest or make it the subject of a commercial transaction.

Further on in the legislation, section 12 reads:

The Governor in Council may make any regulations that the Governor in Council considers necessary to carry out the purposes and provisions of this Act and the Convention, including regulations.

One of the regulations is for granting permits to kill, capture, take, buy, sell, exchange, give or possess migratory birds or to make migratory birds the subject of a commercial transaction.

The act calls for penalties, for example, in section 13:

"Every person who contravenes section 5, subsection 6(5) or any regulation is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction of up to $50,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or both; or is guilty of an indictable offence and is liable for $100,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, or both".

In my constituency last year we had someone who received the designation on a piece of plastic that said that he was now recognized as being-I apologize, I am not familiar with the terminology-an Indian or of Indian status. Upon receipt of that recognition he then drove 200 miles, went to a feeding station and blew away a world class ram and said that he had the right to do that.

Any members in this House who takes my comment to be a slam or a slur would be sadly mistaken. I am asking a very blunt, open, honest question here. I would like to know, with the inclusion in Bill C-23, if a person may be subject to up to $100,000 fine because they are in possession of a migratory bird or nest or they attempt to buy, sell, exchange or give a migratory bird or nest or make it the subject of a commercial transaction. Basing that on one's parentage because of clause 2(3): "For greater certainty, nothing in this act shall be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from any existing aboriginal or treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982".

I am having some difficulty and some confusion in my mind about that in terms of the long term picture. I believe that the statements made by Grand Chief Matthew Coon-Come in his presentations to the standing committee have some merit. What he was basically stating there, as I understood it, was that this issue should be looked at as to how we are going to work it out.

He undoubtedly will be coming at it from a different perspective than I am. I am coming at it from the perspective of saying that if a person shoots a bird the bird is dead. If we assume that there might be one or two people of the Cree nation who are not prepared to obey the law under what law will they be prosecuted, and would I or the secretary be prosecuted to the extent of $100,000?

I guess that is the one final question. Understand that the Reform Party supports the intent of Bill C-23. We wish to go ahead with the protection of the migratory birds. That is not the question. Also, we want to recognize that there are some long standing historic rights that the Cree and other aboriginal people have that have to be taken into account. What I am having difficulty with is the inclusion of that one amendment. I am having some difficulty understanding how we will be able to bring about regulations that are fair and equitable to all people in Canada.

With that, recognizing that the probability is that recognition of aboriginal rights would nonetheless supersede Bill C-23, the inclusion of it is simply a statement of what is a fact. I would like, if possible, if someone is going to be following me, particularly from the government side, if they could help me understand how we are going to address this issue.

Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

On the first round there is no right for questions or comments as members will know, but with unanimous consent since the member has posed obvious questions and comments to the parliamentary secretary, perhaps we could seek unanimous consent to allow the parliamentary secretary to respond to the questions.

Is there unanimous consent to have the parliamentary secretary reply to the comments made?

Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members


Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994Government Orders

5:15 p.m.


Clifford Lincoln Liberal Lachine—Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, there are two questions that I would like to answer.

The first one relates to the process. In fairness to the person the hon. member is referring to, the representative of the environment minister, who suggested that the law be passed on that day, I can, knowing this person well, confirm that there was no hidden agenda, no intention to steamroll the thing.

First of all, the person in charge of the legislative agenda for the minister had been advised that the timetable for legislation was getting much shorter and that it was very important to get these two bills through before the session recessed.

More than that, the fact is that under a review of the powers of regulation and the regulations of the Ministry of the Environment in 1993 which I referred to in my speech, an extensive consultation had been carried out on a very broad basis of all the stakeholders, including a review of the migratory birds convention, which included representatives from aboriginal peoples, from the various stakeholders involved and interested in this bill.

Further, amendments have been discussed for four years now with regard to the convention itself involving representatives of the aboriginal peoples. In complete objectivity it was felt by the people who advised the legislative assistant to the minister that we could proceed because consultation had been extensive all along.

Seeing we did not have a consent, we recognize because we found out there would be time that it was a better process to have gone to the committee. I can assure the House that the person concerned backs this up 100 per cent.

I can assure the member there was no hidden agenda there, no need to sort of steamroll the House or anything like this. It was a genuine attempt to complete the process, having taken into account that consultations had been extensive in the past.

With regard to the second question, the aboriginal treaties and rights under the Constitution, what we want to do in the act is really confirm the position that exists today, that the aboriginal people hunt and harvest during the closed season for other hunters. That does not mean to say that they are not subject to all the penalties of the law should they infringe any of the provi-

sions of the act, except that the season is open as far as they are concerned.

That has been the tradition for thousands of years. It is a fact of life that we want to enshrine in the law. Even if it were not in the law they would still have this right. What we wanted to do as a very important symbolic gesture as required by Chief Coon-Come to sort of enshrine it in the law here. Certain legal advice obtained differed according to whether we did or did not recognize the rights of aboriginal peoples. They must be recognized anyway in actual practice. This is the position, whether we do or do not recognize their rights. We felt it was very important that we do.

Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994Government Orders

5:20 p.m.


Karen Kraft Sloan Liberal York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, before I begin I would like to thank all the members of the environmental and sustainable development committee for their hard work and commitment to this important piece of legislation.

As a committee we listened to a number of witnesses representing conservation groups, hunters and anglers, and native groups who all have a stake in the outcome of what we have to do today regarding this legislation.

While the state of migratory birds in Canada may seem to some as less significant and less newsworthy than bills pertaining to economic matters or crime and justice issues, it is very significant.

As this legislation has remained relatively untouched since 1917 and if the future mirrors the past then it is possible that changes to this new legislation may not occur for another 50, 60, or 70 years.

More important, the health of our migratory birds, indeed the health of all of our wildlife reflects the quality of human health.

It is with these thoughts in mind that the committee members gave very serious consideration to Bill C-23 as drafted and the subsequent committee amendments. The Migratory Birds Convention Act implements the terms of the migratory birds convention signed in 1916 by Canada and the United States.

The migratory birds convention will be undergoing renegotiation in the fall of 1994 to better reflect realities of the 1990s. Bill C-23 will support these changes.

The original migratory birds convention signed in 1916 by Canada and the United States was intended to curb blatant overhunting practices which in some instances led to the extinction of species of birds and of near extinction with other species.

As one witness told us, we were able to create an incredible success story on the northern part of this continent through the migratory bird convention and other strategies to stem the slaughter and near annihilation of certain bird species.

Conditions have changed since the turn of this century and as we approach the next century we must design and implement legislation that acknowledges and better reflects current demands.

The Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development reviewed Bill C-23, heard witnesses, received briefs, and as a result decided Bill C-23 was supportable with a few additional changes.

While a separate process to address First Nations aboriginal or treaty rights is under way and will be included in negotiations to the Canada-U.S. migratory bird convention it was decided by the committee to include a non-derogation clause that clearly acknowledges aboriginal or treaty rights.

For greater certainty nothing in this act shall be construed as to abrogate or derogate from any existing aboriginal or treaty rights of the aboriginal people of Canada under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

For First Nations people migratory birds play a key role in sustaining a way of life. Migratory birds and wildlife are central to the preservation of not only First Nations culture but in some communities their nutritional survival as well.

This is not to say that conservation and sustainability are at risk. Matthew Coon-Come, Chief of the Grand Cree Council, simply and eloquently stated: "Geese first then Cree and third sports hunting".

Until negotiations to the migratory bird convention that reflect aboriginal treaty rights are complete, special enforcement measures exist that allow for traditional harvesting in closed season of migratory birds and eggs.

Another amendment to Bill C-23 allows for game officers who carry out duties or functions under the act to be exempt from any of its provisions or regulations. This will greatly facilitate the enforcement aspects of the act, as game officers will be able to undertake undercover operations with suspected offenders without fear of being charged. This should improve their ability to gather clear and decisive evidence against offenders.

Canadians value wildlife and the natural resources of this country. While a great many Canadians hunt or fish over 75 per cent enjoy wildlife through non-consumptive participation. They spent $2.4 billion on primary non-consumptive wildlife related trips and outings in 1991; $1.2 billion was spent on hunting.

Preservation of migratory birds is very important to Canadians and contributes in very positive ways to the economy.

Commercial poaching and smuggling of migratory birds pose grave risks. With this in mind, the committee spent a long time deliberating over the level of fines for offenders. After a great deal of thoughtful consideration, it was decided to increase the

fines for summary offences for individuals to a maximum of $50,000 and for a corporation to a maximum of $100,000.

Maximum fines for indictable offences have been increased for individuals to $100,000 and for corporations to $250,000. In the case of subsequent offences, the subsequent fine may be doubled from the previous offence, notwithstanding the maximums already outlined.

Some may scoff that the value of a bird being $100,000 or $250,000 is far too exorbitant. I would suggest that if they do, they do so in ignorance. No monetary value can be placed on the killing of a bird or other wildlife where that killing contributed in a real way to the endangerment of the species.

This government is committed to strengthening the participation of committees in the work of governing the country. I applaud this initiative and see as a result of this new attitude toward governing the substantial contributions made by members of the environment and sustainable development committee in proposing amendments to Bill C-23.

The final amendment I would like to address today arises from suggestions made by witnesses appearing before the committee. I believe the inclusion of this amendment strengthens the democratic process by increasing participation in that process. This amendment proposes that any amendment to the migratory birds convention be tabled in both Houses and debated in the House of Commons.

As we proceeded with the witnesses, it became quite evident that a number of other issues beyond the scope of this legislation must also be addressed if we are to truly protect and enhance the health of migratory birds.

The committee examined both Bill C-23 and Bill C-24, a bill to amend the Canada Wildlife Act. A number of concerns articulated by witnesses pertain to the wider category of wildlife, not only migratory birds.

Issues related to enforcement and habitat protection were most often identified by witnesses. From my experience with the two pieces of legislation, Bill C-23 and Bill C-24, I have come to respect the dedication and commitment shown by officials of the Canadian Wildlife Service.

However, in terms of enforcement they are in dire need of support to increase the number of game officers. Witness after witness spoke of real problems that existed because required coverage was far too vast for the number of available game officers.

As a result, it may be difficult to implement even the best legislation. Habitat protection, another key concern of witnesses, has many dimensions. Many strategies need to be deployed in order to ensure sustainability and viability.

The migratory birds convention was originally intended to deal with the severe overhunting problems that threatened many species at that time. While commercial poaching and smuggling are still significant threats, habitat protection is the number one concern for the preservation of not only migratory birds but all Canadian wildlife.

The amendment to the Canada Wildlife Act to expand the scope of coverage of wildlife to include all living organisms is a much needed change and provides not only a valuable starting point but also a valuable rethinking of what species preservation really means.

If we are really serious about preserving and protecting wildlife in this country, we must first and foremost be very serious about habitat protection. Wildlife have been called the barometer of the landscape. The capacity of the land or habitat to support fish, birds and mammals is a good indicator of its capacity to meet human needs; wildlife habitat is human habitat.

As long as we have endangered spaces in this country we will continue to have endangered species. There are a number of strategies and programs designed to rehabilitate, preserve and protect habitats.

We have entered into agreements with the United States and now recently with the Mexican government through the North American waterfowl management plan to ensure that migratory waterfowl have safe and healthy areas for nesting and feeding.

As I stated earlier in my speech, even though we have achieved a truly unique and wonderful success story in reversing the trend toward endangerment and annihilation for some species, I fear we are falling behind. Our precious wetlands, the most biologically diverse ecosystems, are under attack. They are being drained for agricultural uses and development purposes.

Toxic substances have entered our watersheds and contaminated the fish the birds eat resulting in deformities, soft eggshells that cannot withstand the pressure of parental incubation, crossed bills, jaw defects and malformed feet and joints. Forests that provided habitat protection for wildlife have been lost due to clear-cutting.

These are for the most part beyond the scope of the legislation before us. However, they are important considerations that we must not forget if we are to truly preserve the sustainability and health of migratory birds.

I urge the members of this House to support Bill C-23 and its proposed amendments fully without delay.

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5:30 p.m.


Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Terrebonne, QC

Mr. Speaker, just like my colleague from Frontenac, I too am pleased, as a member of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, to speak on Bill C-23 today.

This bill replaces the Migratory Birds Convention Act which dates back to 1917. Needless to say that many things have changed since 1917. That is why I consider essential that this act which has remained basically unchanged over all those years be reviewed.

To fully grasp the meaning of the federal legislation on the subject, some background information is required concerning the origins of this act. The act was passed in 1917 after an international convention was entered into by Canada and the United States in 1916. The purpose of the Migratory Bird Convention was to protect migratory birds from the slaughter they were facing at the time and save their population from often senseless human action.

The 1917 enactment regulated the hunting of migratory birds and prohibited trafficking and commercialization of them. The goals of the act remain relevant today, but over the years the means by which they were to be achieved have become outdated.

Lawmakers could certainly not be expected to foresee in 1917 the sharp scientific and technological expansion that lay ahead, over the course of the 20th century. As we know, phenomenal advances were made in science. Protection of embryos and tissue cultures as well as the protection of endangered species and prohibition of trafficking are the main considerations the new legislation must be based on.

This new legislation, that is to say Bill C-23, is indeed essential to protect migratory birds. Recent reports in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix and La Presse indicated that 1,000 out of 9,600 bird species, or 10 per cent of our bird population, threaten to become extinct in the short term. This is quite obviously a matter of urgency.

Also, one of the reasons stated by the American magazine World Watch for the decline in the number of birds world-wide and in Canada was as follows, and I quote: ``Most bird species are in decline because the natural balance is upset by the global expansion of mankind. We are entirely to blame for the problem and must find ways to resolve it.''

For example, the problems caused by deforestation due to urban spread or farmland expansion and exponential population growth contribute to the degradation of wildlife habitat. Industrial and domestic pollution are also among the new concerns that must guide us in drafting legislation respecting the protection of migratory birds and environmental protection in general.

Let us now take a closer look at the proposals contained in Bill C-23 to update the former act which dated back to 1917. Clause 2, the interpretation clause, was changed to broaden the scope of the act. For example, the definition of the word conveyance will now include any contrivance used to hunt birds.

Moreover, the definition of "migratory bird" is amended so as to include the sperm, eggs, embryo and tissue cultures. As I said earlier, this change is essential for the survival of species in this era of technological revolution.

Another important change, which consists in distinguishing between to "be in possession" and to "buy or sell", will allow the courts to treat the illegal marketing and trade of birds as a more serious offence than mere possession.

Several technical changes reaffirm the power of game officers to inspect and search. However, a provision is added to protect people against abusive searches, in compliance with the charter of rights and freedoms.

Moreover, regulations can be made under clause 12.(1) (f ) to ensure better control over the issuance of permits. Indeed, problems can often be solved at the root. It is more than desirable that the government makes such regulations soon, as authorized by this legislation.

A major change which, in our opinion, will be welcome if it is used properly, is the considerable increase regarding fines imposed to offenders. Since the applicable provisions of the 1917 legislation have never been amended, the current act only provides for fines of $10 to $300. This will no way deter a modern-day offender.

The proposed amendments provide for fines of $50,000 to $250,000, depending on the type of offence. In the case of a repeat offender, the amounts can be doubled. This is a big improvement. I do hope that the legislator will not wait another 77 years to update these amounts, and that in the future parliamentarians will closely and regularly review this legislation.

I want to conclude by reminding you of the importance of protecting and preserving migratory birds in Canada. Think of the loon on our dollar. Think of the snowy owl and other birds which are symbols in our country. This is a good example of the international scope of environmental problems. Indeed, migratory birds, like pollution, cross borders, making it all the more important to conclude international agreements, instead of just passing national laws.

If Canada wants to ensure sustainable development, not only will it have to pass effective legislation, but it will also have to sign good international conventions, so as to adequately protect itself from transborder environmental problems.

It might also be wise to reflect on the opportunity of having a chart promoting the environment and sustainable development. This would be a comprehensive and practical document, such as the charter of rights and freedoms, which would ensure individuals that, like them, the environment is well protected.

Our future and especially our children's future depends on what we do today to leave them with a country in which resources will still be available. We must play an active role and face current challenges.

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5:35 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

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5:35 p.m.

Some hon. members


Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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5:35 p.m.

Some hon. members


(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed.)

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-24, an act to amend the Canada Wildlife Act and to make a consequential amendment to another act, as reported (with amendment) from the committee.

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5:35 p.m.

Ottawa South Ontario


John Manley Liberalfor the Minister of the Environment

moved that the bill be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to.)

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5:40 p.m.


John Manley Liberal Ottawa South, ON

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

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5:40 p.m.

Lachine—Lac-Saint-Louis Québec


Clifford Lincoln LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, in introducing the debate on third reading of Bill C-24, I would like to quote from Life in the Balance by David Rains Wallace: ``Yet wildlife and wilderness are not the cause of poverty. Humans would hardly be better off were the last forest logged, grassland ploughed, mountain mined, desert irrigated, tundra drilled, river dammed, wetland drained, ocean depleted and islands stripped of native flora and fauna. Scientific evidence and simple logic suggest that civilization cannot deface the planet with impunity''.

I think this is at the basis of the wildlife act that we are trying to pass today.

I am pleased to present the bill to amend the Canada Wildlife Act at third reading. At a time when the health of the economy is the number-one concern of many Canadians, some may ask why we are looking at the issue of wildlife protection. My answer is this: "Protecting wildlife and the Canadian environment is essential to our country's long-term prosperity in the broadest sense of the word".

For Canadians and for people around the world, our wildlife is part of our country's identity and uniqueness. Wildlife remains at the centre of Native Canadians' traditional way of life. It can offer still undiscovered treasures; some species could be used in various ways in the interest of human beings. Wildlife is an essential evironmental, social and cultural resource.

Wildlife-related recreational activities are important in Canada. They inject billions of dollars into the economy and create tens of thousands of jobs. In fact, a vast majority of Canadians want our wildlife to be protected so that future generations can enjoy the same abundance. According to a recent Statistics Canada survey, over 90 per cent of Canadians say they have a sustained interest in wildlife conservation. They are not motivated only by feelings but by a realistic understanding.

They heard and they support the sustainable environment message: that the health of the environment and economic development are interdependent, that no economy is possible without the environment and that we cannot have quality of life if the economy is not built around the environment. Canadians are willing to do their part for sustainable development and they are asking the government to do its part.

In 1990 the Wildlife Ministers Council of Canada comprised of federal and provincial ministers responsible for wildlife wrote a wildlife policy for Canada. The Canada Wildlife Act was enacted in 1973 to enable the federal government to carry out wildlife research and in co-operation with the provinces to undertake a wide range of wildlife conservation and interpretation activities for wildlife and its habitat, including the protection of endangered species. The act allows the minister to acquire any lands for the purposes of research, conservation, and interpretation in respect of migratory birds and if international interests and with the support of the provinces other species including endangered species.

Areas of key significance to Canada's wildlife are protected through regulations under this act. There are currently 45 national wildlife areas in Canada comprising 287,000 hectares. Traditionally wildlife conservation has focused on particular species or species groups and has generally been limited to the higher orders of animals. It is now widely recognized that a broader approach to conservation is needed, an ecosystemic approach that considers all ecosystems, factions and values including all animal and plant species and the full range of their habitat requirements.

This is the approach recommended in the policy of the provincial and federal ministers in wildlife policy for Canada to which I just referred.

Conservation of wildlife often requires protection of habitat critical to the survival of a species. Traditional habitat protection has focused on terrestrial wildlife species and the habitats. The marine ecosystem and its biodiversity remain largely un-

protected from the habitat perspective. At present application of the act is limited to the territorial 12-mile limit.

Critical wildlife habitat, including areas with significant concentration of seabirds and breeding and feeding grounds for whales exist or extend beyond the territorial sea. Such areas include polynyas, openings in the ice cover, and sea mounts, upwellings of nutrients in the ocean and other areas associated with Canada's continental shelf.

We therefore have a provision to allow for the establishment of protected areas within the area bounded by the territorial sea and the 200-nautical mile limit so that this would contribute to sustaining the biodiversity and associated benefits of the marine ecosystems.

In introducing this bill the federal government is meeting the demand of Canadian citizens, reflected in the red book, that we follow the path of sustainable development.

We appreciate the implications of that commitment. It means adopting an ecosystemic approach, tackling problems in their broad context. It means working in partnership with other governments, with other sectors of activity, with individual Canadians toward our common goals.

This is how we will make sustainable development happen and this is how the federal government is now addressing the issue of wildlife. Amending the Canada Wildlife Act is not an isolated gesture, it is part of a co-ordinated strategy to give our country effective wildlife legislation, reflecting the latest science and meeting the needs of our times.

Other components of that strategy are the bill to amend the Migratory Birds Convention Act which we just passed, Bill C-23, the drafting of regulations for the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of Interprovincial and International Trade Act, and the forthcoming negotiations with the United States in amending the binational migratory birds convention.

The Canada Wildlife Act is a vital piece of legislation. It provides a framework for the federal government's effort to promote wildlife and habitat conservation programs. It enables productive partnerships and implementation of wildlife programs and policies with provincial governments and with the private sector.

Since the act was passed in 1973 however we have come to recognize certain limitations in its legislation. Bill C-24 has been brought before Parliament to address these limitations. Following second reading, the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development conducted a thorough review of Bill C-24, including public hearings and submission of briefs by a broad range of witnesses. This review has lead to additional changes that reflect the concerns and views expressed in the committee.

Bill C-24 will replace the definition of wildlife found in the old act, which seems much too narrow. Instead of non-domestic animals, the amendments will include all wild animals and plants in the definition of "wildlife". This broader definition will allow us to adopt an ecosystemic approach to wildlife protection; in an endangered habitat, we can therefore work to help all of the different species which, together, support life, and not just the well-known birds and mammals.

The new definition also brings the act into line with the federal-provincial policy on wildlife in Canada, adopted in 1990, and the Biodiversity Convention, which Canada signed at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

Another important change brought about by Bill C-24 is that Canada will now be able to protect wildlife habitats in marine areas. The bill presently before the House makes it possible to establish protected marine areas anywhere within the 200-nautical-mile zone, outside the previous 12 nautical miles. This zone includes vital breeding areas and feeding grounds used by whales, sea birds and other species. The extended coverage to these areas will make it possible to provide far more complete protection to many species.

Another change will make the act more effective by improving its administration and enforcement. The amendments will give more teeth to the act by raising the penalties faced by potential offenders, thus making the penalties real deterrents. The maximum fines for serious offences would be $100,000 for an individual and $250,000 for a corporation, with provisions making it possible to increase fines for a second offence or for continuing offences. At the same time, the amended act will give enforcement officers and the courts more flexibility in respect of offences and punishment. They will now be able to choose the most appropriate punishment in response to an offence, even community service or payment of the cost of damages caused to a national wildlife area.

The amendments concerning provisions related to punishment, powers and enforcement procedures and a clause safeguarding ancestral and treaty rights are similar to those described in the third reading of Bill C-23.

Therefore I will take this opportunity to discuss some of the broad aspects of wildlife conservation which this legislation supports.

Bill C-24 will enable Canada to meet its commitments and international agreements. One such key agreement is the 1975 Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance which Canada signed in 1981. This is one of the most widely adopted conservation treaties in the world and over 80 nations

have agreed to promote the conservation and wise use of wetland habitat, particularly for waterfowl.

Wetlands are of special importance to Canada. They provide a large proportion of our fresh water supply. They filter out pollutants from the ecosystems. They protect against flooding. They enhance water quality and they are essential wildlife habitats. They also make a significant contribution to our economy, estimated at over $10 billion a year. That figure covers a wide range of recreational activities, both commercial and non-commercial.

Canada's wetlands have a global importance as well. Within our borders lie roughly 24 per cent of the world's total wetland resource. This gives us a special responsibility for using our share of the resource properly. Unfortunately we have not always done so. Though we still have 127 million hectares of wetland we have allowed over one seventh of our original wetland area, most in southern Canada to be converted to other land uses.

Since signing the Ramsar convention we have been working to improve our record. Canada now has a total of 32 designated wetlands of international importance, a network spanning all our provinces and territories, and many of these are also national wildlife areas established under the Canada Wildlife Act.

Canada's Ramsar wetlands cover 13 million hectares which is over 30 per cent of all the wetland areas designated under the convention. In addition since 1992 we have had a federal policy on wetland conservation which fosters the conservation of Canada's wetlands to sustain the ecological and socioeconomic factions for both now and in the future. Many provinces have or are developing complementary wetland policies and the private sector and non-government organizations continue to play a significant role in wetland conservation.

Today wetland conservation in Canada is a co-operative undertaking of different levels of government, different sectors and individuals, with the federal government playing a key role. The North American waterfowl management plan, which I described during the third reading of Bill C-23, is an excellent example of this co-operation. This is a sustainable way of managing our wetlands.

Better wetland conservation will lead to many direct benefits for Canadians, the most obvious, of course, improved wildlife habitat and the higher population levels for waterfowl.

There are other benefits as well. Among them, reduced soil erosion, improved ground water quality, less degradation of farmland, less damage from flooding and storms, and extended protection against the effects of drought and climate change.

The Biodiversity Convention is by far the most important international wildlife agreement to come along in many years. It is one of the major achievements of the 1992 Earth Summit in Brazil. It was not an easy task to get such a large number of parties to find an acceptable common ground and Canadians should be proud of their efforts to obtain widespread approval for the Convention.

We have also demonstrated our commitment to the Convention by moving quickly to sign and ratify it. Furthermore, the federal government has begun working with the provinces and territories to formulate a Canadian biodiversity strategy which will enable us to meet our commitments under the convention.

Under the terms of the convention, countries are required to regulate or manage biological resources in such a way as to ensure their conservation and sustainable use and to establish a system of refuges to preserve biodiversity. Moreover, as part of the conservation process, all species of an ecosystem must be taken into consideration and countries must draft legislative provisions to protect species threatened with extinction.

Bill C-24 will help Canada fulfil the requirements of the convention. The Biodiversity Convention and the other international agreements I mentioned are important not for what Canada brings to them, but for what they bring to Canada. They establish a framework for our actions. They set global objectives. They recognize the importance of fragile habitats in Canada and in at least one case, that of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, they channel funds for habitat protection. But above all, these agreements advance concepts on which our actions aimed at protecting Canada's wildlife should be based.

It is in this context that the federal government is proposing amendments to the Canada Wildlife Act and to the Migratory Birds Convention Act.

Times have changed since this legislation was enacted and we must move with them. We must conform to higher environmental standards domestically and globally. We must integrate the latest scientific understanding into our programs. We must deal with changing environmental priorities. Most of all, we must respond to the demand and expectations of Canadians, young and old.

Across the country Canadians have recognized the need for sustainable wildlife policies and practices and they are calling

on government, especially the federal government, to take the lead on this issue. That is why we have brought forward the amendments to the Canada Wildlife Act.

Today there was an article in the Gazette about the St. Lawrence National Institute of Ecotoxicology. Dr. Pierre Béland, who started the institute 11 years ago is somebody I know well. For many years he has been recovering the belugas in the St. Lawrence that die on our shores. He has carried out autopsies on these belugas, 69 of them since 1983.

The Gazette article described the plight of the belugas. The St. Lawrence institute scientifically dissected 69 belugas which were found to have 100 parts per million of PCBs in them. The industrial norm is 50 parts per million of PCBs. The norm is two parts per million of PCBs for edible fish. Yet 69 of these belugas were found to have 100 parts per million of PCBs in their bodies. Dr. Pierre Béland joked, and I am sure it was a very bitter joke, that the belugas in the St. Lawrence should have permits to swim there because they are so toxified.

Among those 69 whales they have dissected since 1983 they found: 28 had tumours, including malignant tumours; 37 had very bad lesions in their digestive systems; and 31 of the females had lesions on their mammary glands. This is a terrible indictment on all of us for having neglected our heritage to the point that we have allowed toxins to fester our lakes, our rivers, our land and our air. It is to the point that today the animals, the innocent residents of the ecosystem, suffer the ills of our guilt and our fault.

We should reflect on what is happening to the belugas of the St. Lawrence. What would Canada be without the polar bear in the Arctic? What would Canada be without the black bear or the grizzly in the Rockies? What would Canada be without the belugas in the St. Lawrence or the northern seas? What would Canada be without the snow geese and other birds? Would it be a heritage of nature or would it be a dead heritage, a silent heritage?

That is why we are so intent on seeing that Bill C-24, the Canada Wildlife Act, as well as Bill C-23 which we just passed, become essential legislation. It fortifies our resolve to preserve habitats, the ecosystem and the environment which is at the base of the quality of life and living for all of us.

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6 p.m.


Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Terrebonne, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise again today on an environmental bill, C-24. This bill amends the 1973 Canada Wildlife Act. According to the minister, the purpose of this act is to permit the government to conduct wildlife research and, in co-operation with the provinces, to undertake various activities related to wildlife conservation and interpretation. The provinces are responsible for managing wildlife, except for most species of migratory birds, fish and mammals.

Like C-23, the bill updates an existing law. Basically, it modernizes the law and includes some new features. It is essential to watch out for environmental problems and to have the tools required to avoid them, especially those affecting biodiversity.

Chapter 6 of the Brundtland report says: "Conservation of living natural resources-plants, animals and micro-organisms, and the non-living elements of the environment on which they depend-is crucial for development. Today, the conservation of wild living resources is on the agenda of governments; nearly 4 per cent of the Earth's land area is managed explicitly to conserve species and ecosystems, and all but a small handful of countries have national parks. The challenge facing nations today is no longer deciding whether conservation is a good idea, but rather how it can be implemented in the national interest and within the means available in each country".

Like the leaders of other countries that signed the Brundtland report, we in this House are all convinced, I am sure, of the importance of protecting endangered species. The issue is finding ways to achieve our goals. The old law essentially protected wild animals, plants and other organisms. Replacing the French word "faune" by "espèces sauvages" considerably broadens the scope of the new law. We think that it is essential to extend the law in this way in order to protect the natural habitats of the wildlife that we want to protect. This amendment to the law fills a gaping legal hole in the 1973 act.

Furthermore, the amendments to be made to the Act will create protected marine areas within any fishing zone prescribed in the Territorial Sea and Fishing Zones Act. It will be possible to conduct research on marine wildlife and to undertake various activities related to wildlife conservation and interpretation. This very useful addition to the act will enhance the protection of a larger number of marine wildlife species.

From now on, wildlife officers will have the powers of peace officers. This means they will be able to apply the provisions of the Criminal Code. In an emergency, they will also be authorized to carry out inspections and searches without a warrant. These special powers will make it easier for wildlife officers to operate in an isolated forest areas, for instance.

Although, we in the Bloc Quebecois would have liked to see some guarantee of federal co-operation with the provinces, but it would have been difficult to obtain such guarantees in committee. In the act, it says that provincial government employees appointed by the minister require the agreement and consent of the province to perform their duties in the province. The act also says that the Minister of the Environment may, in exceptional circumstances, give these officers special powers. We said yes, the minister may give them special powers, but since they were appointed with the agreement of the province,

we felt that this was an amendment that would be hard to sell, although it would reinforce the legislation.

Officers will be able to inspect any premises or vehicle for the presence of wildlife. Everyone agrees that without this provision, effective application of the act would be in jeopardy. However, the bill observes the Charter of Rights and Freedoms with a provision to project the public against inspection without just cause. That is a very important point.

As in Bill C-23, the legislation includes a provision to recover any costs arising from the offence from the violators. It is very important that such costs not be borne by the taxpayers. Finally, a substantial increase in fines for violations of the act will surely enhance the deterrent effect of this legislation. I hope that the maximum fine of $250,000 will have that effect and that the government will not hesitate to revise this amount if it appears insufficient to achieve the aims of this legislation.

Furthermore, the bill allows the court to order offenders to remedy any harm they may have caused to the environment. The inclusion of this provision surely increases the legislation's desired deterrent effect.

In conclusion, the efforts made to achieve the goals of environmental protection and sustainable development must be followed up by the stringent enforcement of the act. Concrete, ongoing action must be taken in the environmental field to achieve sustainable development, the mark of a healthy economy and a healthy, flourishing society.

Quebecers and Canadians have given us a clear mandate to deal with environmental issues and we must do everything in our power to fulfil the terms of our mandate. We must atone for past mistakes and see that we do not repeat them. We can never say it enough: the environment knows no borders or party affiliation.

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6:10 p.m.


Jim Abbott Reform Kootenay East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the purpose of Bill C-24 is to amend and strengthen the existing Canada Wildlife Act which was originally proclaimed in 1973 and has essentially remained the same for the last 20 years.

Reform members in the House strongly believe that the current wildlife protection legislation is inadequate. We believe that it must be changed and updated to properly address the environmental concerns Canadians have in the 1990s.

The Reform Party is a party that is deeply concerned with Canada's environment. One of the principles of the party is that we believe Canada's identity and vision for the future should be rooted in and inspired by a fresh appreciation of our land and the supreme importance to our well-being of exploring, developing, renewing and conserving our natural resources and physical environment. This forms part of our party's commitment to a clean healthy environment for all Canadians.

The proposed changes to the Canada Wildlife Act will expand the definition of wildlife to include all wild organisms, including plants, fungi, insects. It will thereby make it consistent with the convention on biodiversity which was ratified by Canada in 1993.

Some of the other amendments to the act will allow for national wildlife areas to be established in marine ecosystems in Canada's coastal waters out to the 200-mile limit to protect the beluga whales in Isabella Bay, west coast salmon and seabirds. The legislation will also enable the federal government to carry out its responsibility for wildlife research and a wide range of conservation and interpretation activities for wildlife and its habitat.

The act will also provide a greater deterrent to illegal activities such as poaching, by providing a maximum penalty of $100,000 or five years in jail, or both for serious offences.

The mandate of the federal government environment department in Canada is to manage and conserve migratory birds and, in co-operation with the provinces and territories, other wildlife of national and international concern. Canada as a member of the international community has obligations to help preserve and protect our wildlife and wildlife areas. However, sustaining healthy, thriving populations of wild species contributes to the economic, social and cultural well-being of our nation as well.

The Canada Wildlife Act recognizes the benefits that wildlife has and is a recognition that legislation and regulation should be the essential tools in helping to preserve them for future generations. It must be remembered that other things must also be done to improve the current situation.

Canadians must educate themselves on the serious threat that illegal activity such as poaching poses for our wildlife. This information is currently available from a number of different sources, including government organizations, non-governmental organizations and hunting and angling clubs. If you want to meet a group of dedicated environmentalists, then turn up at your neighbourhood rod and gun club.

In economic terms the federal environment department has estimated that expenditures associated with all types of fish and wildlife related recreational activities have contributed approximately $11.5 billion to our gross domestic product, $4.4 billion in tax revenue, and more than one-quarter million jobs for Canadians. Clearly Canada's living natural resources are a valued part of our social and economic well-being. I state again that real environmentalists, those who value our wildlife most highly, are the responsible hunters who pour their time and money into the enhancement and maintenance of this resource.

It is very doubtful that anyone in the House needs to be convinced that conserving and protecting our environment has become a major political and economic issue in our country. Opinion polls show that over 90 per cent of Canadians are concerned about the state of our environment. The polls also show that the people of Canada are split with regard to their satisfaction with the ability of the federal government to handle difficult environmental issues.

Responsible hunters work with game wardens and law enforcement officers to protect wildlife from illegal harvesting or killing; in other words poaching. Every year poaching, which is the illegal taking of wildlife, results in millions of animals being killed for personal use or profit. They are sold on the black market in Canada and in other countries. It has often been estimated that the illegal kill in Canada is approximately double the legal kill. Poachers know that there is little risk involved in their activities including the risk of being caught. As little as 1 per cent of poaching crimes are investigated. Even if they are caught the fines are considered a cost of doing business.

The illegal trade in wildlife in Canada is a multi-million dollar business. The combination of high profits, low risk and the thrill of illegal activity makes poaching a very attractive business enterprise.

Responsible hunters, the ones we see in hunting vehicles carrying and wearing their hunting equipment in the fall, in unison say that Canada's wildlife protection and conservation legislation must be enforced to stop illegal activities such as poaching.

However we must ask ourselves if the provisions of the bill are tough enough. What about the enforcement of and punishment for these crimes? Any new or improved existing laws must also be strictly enforced if they are to protect Canada's wildlife. There must also be recognition on behalf of Canada's court system including prosecutors and judges that wildlife offences are serious and should be treated in a serious manner.

In general the Reform Party supports the changes made in the act after having had an opportunity to examine possible amendments in committee. Many groups made representations to the committee and some changes to the bill could be made.

One aspect of the bill which my party is very pleased to see receive almost total agreement is the stronger and improved enforcement and punishment section. Although the bill finally puts some teeth into the existing Canada Wildlife Act that up until this point it has lacked, we believe the enforcement provisions for maximum penalties could have been made even tougher.

Also the section on the recovery of administration costs in the act is to be improved. This is a development that the Reform Party, as a party built on the premise that government should be as fiscally prudent as possible and in light of Canada's current fiscal financial situation, can easily agree to.

We believe it is the proper approach to recover costs related to the management of public lands and protected marine areas. It will mean reduced expenditures on government's behalf, a more self-sufficient regulatory system, and will allow for greater financial sustainability over the long term.

However, as I raised in the debate on Bill C-23, again I raise the issue of aboriginal exclusion from the act and the problems that generates. I cite four examples. First, there is a domestic herd in northern Saskatchewan that from time to time is bothered or pestered by a wild herd. The answer on the part of the owner of the herd is to hire an aboriginal hunter who can shoot the elk out of season.

Second, in northern British Columbia a non-aboriginal group put together the start of a full buffalo herd. They were going to be setting it up as a venture wherein they could bring in hunters from around the world. However they were thwarted in that some people from the aboriginal population in northern B.C. went in and wiped out the herd.

Third, there are deer around Princeton, British Columbia, about a three-hour drive east of Vancouver. It is well known and documented that aboriginal hunters from the Cariboo, a five-hour drive away, drive there and harvest out of season.

Fourth, in my constituency a person, upon receipt of designation as a status Indian, drove two hours past a sheep herd, went to a feeding station and shot a world class ram because of the curl of his horns.

These are examples of what happens when a particular group of people are taken out and given exclusion from bills like Bill C-23. They are not by any means a constant example; they are not by any means suggesting that all people of aboriginal descent would involve themselves in this. As a matter of fact those people would be a very rare exception. Nonetheless by having them outside the act makes this a possibility. It creates a serious concern and a lot of hostility on the part of people who cannot take advantage of the exclusion.

Canadians have been telling us that they want governments at all levels to protect and conserve our nation's wildlife. I believe as part of that we must get together to somehow address the aboriginal issue. We as policy makers and regulators must take this responsibility very seriously and deliver on this commitment for a healthier environment. If we are successful it will be to the benefit of all Canadians.

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6:20 p.m.


Stan Dromisky Liberal Thunder Bay—Atikokan, ON

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity of supporting Bill C-24 during third reading in the House today. While the legal text of the legislation defines the scope of the act, the regulatory authorities, penalties, enforcement powers and administrative procedures, it is the overall intent of the act and its amendments that makes it truly significant.

Sustainable development is a phrase commonly used today to describe how we should approach decision making in matters of the environment and the economy. Although there are many interpretations of how this approach should be applied, it is generally accepted that it involves adopting a forward looking and broadly based approach which considers both the long term economic and environmental consequences of any decision or action.

Implicit in this is the understanding that sustaining or enhancing the health of our economy intimately depends on the health of our environment and the sustainability of its resources. We have many situations where tough decisions have been made to ensure sustainable use of our renewable resources. Atlantic cod in the Pacific salmon fisheries is a recent example in which drastic action is necessary.

Conservation has become a priority. To avoid these situations we must ensure that we understand and anticipate problems and that all sectors are able to work together and build on each other's strengths to find the best means of managing and integrating our economy and our environment.

Solutions must be based on good science, consultation, co-operation and agreement. That is why I consider Bill C-24 so significant. We cannot hope to achieve sustainable development unless we have the tools. The Canada Wildlife Act is a tool for sustainable development and the amendments will make it an even more effective tool.

The act does not position the Government of Canada to act alone. Some may criticize it for that very reason, but by now we must have learned it is not possible to impose solutions for the kinds of problems we are talking about here: problems of loss of species and habitat conversion, problems of lack of information or informed decision making and so on.

We must ensure that we come to an informed consensus of a need to take action and we must in fact act together. That is why the act is set up as enabling legislation. That is why it demands that the government establish partnerships with the relevant provincial and territorial agencies and with other non-governmental partners.

The programs that have been and will be established under the authority of the act are models for the way we need to co-operate in Canada to deal with issues that cross jurisdictional boundaries. We need to recognize the strengths that various partners bring to the table and use those strengths, not argue who should get credit for what, in support of our commonly held objectives of habitat conservation, conservation of threatened endangered species and making sure that citizens know and appreciate the importance of wildlife to their economic and social well-being; in short in support of sustainable development.

Many examples of conservation programs, co-operative research efforts and bilateral and multilateral conservation agreements have resulted from the act's implementation. For example, RENEW, an acronym for the recovery of nationally endangered wildlife, is a co-operative program of the federal and provincial governments and national conservation organizations to develop and implement recovery plans for Canada's endangered species.

The protection of habitat under the act also depends on co-operation and partnership. There are currently 45 protected areas, as we have already been told, covering 287,000 hectares of Canada. If we include the areas protected under the Migratory Birds Convention Act, the total area protected is more than twice the size of Nova Scotia. These protected areas are established in full consultation with local communities and the provinces or territory involved. Once the conservation objectives have been determined, agreement on the type of protective measures that would be appropriate are decided. A distinct management regime thus evolves reflecting the concerns of all stakeholders.

An example of this process is the current work with the Inuit of Clyde River to establish a marine national wildlife area at Isabella Bay, Baffin Island. The Inuit originated the proposal because of concerns for the endangered population of bowhead whales which use this area as summer feeding grounds. The national wildlife area will form the core of an international biosphere reserve. Co-management of the area will focus on protecting critical habitat, ensuring continued traditional sustenance practices and promoting ecotourism and research on whales.

Two provisions in Bill C-24 will significantly enhance the potential scope for establishing protected areas. The first is the expanded definition of wildlife which includes all wild species of animals, plants and other organisms. Traditionally wildlife conservation has focused on particular species or species groups and has been limited to the higher orders of animals.

It is now widely recognized that a broader approach to conservation is needed, an ecosystem approach that considers all ecosystem functions and values including all animal and plant species and a full range of their habitat requirements. Expanding the definition of wildlife is consistent with the recommendation of the wildlife policy for Canada which was endorsed by the Federal-Provincial Wildlife Ministers Council of Canada in 1990. It will allow for research and establishment of protected areas based on an ecosystem approach and will

respond to the recommendations of the convention on biological diversity dealing with habit and ecosystem conservation.

The second change introduced in Bill C-24 which affects a scope of protected areas is a provision allowing for the establishment of protected areas beyond the territorial sea to the 200 nautical mile limit. Critical wildlife habitat, including areas with significant concentrations of sea birds and breeding and feeding grounds for whales, exists or extends beyond the territorial sea. Such areas include seasonal or permanent openings in the sea ice where birds, whales, polar bears and other wildlife concentrate; underwater mountains, upwellings of nutrients in the ocean and other areas associated with Canada's continental shelf.

Protecting these key areas contributes to sustaining the biodiversity and associated economic benefits of marine ecosystems, benefits such as improved recreational opportunities.

As I have stated, the value of the Canada Wildlife Act is that it provides a basis for research, partnership and co-operation. The amendments included in Bill C-24 which I have just described present a new challenge to Canadians to be successful in understanding and protecting ecosystems and their biodiversity, including moving into the area of marine protected areas, which will require new and innovative partnerships involving a wider range of interest groups and stakeholders than has been the case in the past. Broad based strategies of a co-operative nature must be developed to ensure both environmental and economic objectives can be met.

I am convinced that Bill C-24 will help in achieving these ends. I strongly encourage my fellow members in the House to support it.

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6:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

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6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members


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6:30 p.m.


Jean-Guy Chrétien Bloc Frontenac, QC

Mr. Speaker, I must tell you that I am delighted to speak on Bill C-24 immediately after my colleague from Thunder Bay-Atikokan because both of us have been sitting on the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development for several weeks now and he is one of the members of the committee who have made a very significant contribution to the committee by his attendance and his comments.

In the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, we reviewed at the same time as Bill C-23, Bill C-24 to amend the Canada Wildlife Act. This act was passed in 1973. The purpose of this act was to enable the government to conduct wildlife research and in conjunction with the provinces, undertake various activities related to wildlife conservation and interpretation as well as the protection of wildlife habitat and endangered species.

Apparently, only minor changes have been made to this act since its coming into force. As in the case of Bill C-23, we are simply proposing amendments to ensure the act keeps up with the times. That is why we, from the Bloc Quebecois, are jumping on the government band wagon and supporting these measures to protect our wildlife more effectively.

One of the most important changes in my view is that, as soon as it comes into effect, the act will protect-and that is the important part-not only any animal other than a domestic animal, but also all living organisms, and that covers a lot.

Living organisms include not only animals, birds and fish, but also those tiny unicellular microorganisms, you know, the kind that you cannot see with the naked eye but play a major role in the food chain.

It covers plants like hay or clover, large trees like century-old oak trees as well as the tiny, delicate flower which lives but a short season. Bill C-24 will ensure that not only animals are protected but plants as well, so that all living organisms will be protected from now on.

Twenty years ago, people probably did not see the need to protect animals and their habitats. But it is now crystal clear that it would be illogical to protect the white-headed eagle, for example, while destroying its environment. This new provision will allow us to promote sustainable development, as my colleague explained earlier.

I would now like to explain the life cycle in very simple terms. Earth, the blue planet, is made up of two kinds of elements: living and non-living. Living elements include the sun, which is Earth's main source of energy. We find in the air non-living gases including CO2 or carbonic gas. The soil and the minerals it contains are other non-living elements. Finally, water is another non-living natural resource which is very abundant in Quebec and Canada.

The sun, water, carbonic gas and the mineral salts found in the soil are four non-living elements which cost absolutely nothing. These four elements sustain living organisms, which grow, reproduce and die. These plants are called producers because they produce their own food. These producers are eaten by herbivores, which are in turn eaten by carnivores or omnivores. These carnivores and omnivores are in turn eaten by more powerful carnivores or omnivores. My colleague from Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, you and I are at the top of the food chain. We, of course, are at the top of the pyramid.

From now on, Bill C-24 will protect all living organisms. Water, earth, light and air are set aside. Let us hope that these non-living elements will not be lacking in the future. It is all profit since plants, including the clover that grows, cost absolutely nothing.

I would like to take a few seconds to give you an example of a food chain. Carbonic gas, water, minerals salts in the soil and the sun make clover grow. The clover is eaten by grasshoppers; the grasshoppers are eaten by a frog; the frog is eaten by a grass snake; the grass snake is eaten by a racoon. Now what animal could be eating the racoon? Perhaps a coyote or a wolf, and so on and so forth.

You see, the higher you go up the food chain, the bigger and more powerful the animals are, but there are fewer of them, fortunately. Mr. Speaker, imagine if there were more coyotes or wolves than hares in a given territory or ecosystem. There would be a short-term imbalance, that is for sure.

So I continue. Bill C-24 will also allow us to create national wildlife reserves by regulation in the area going beyond the territorial sea. At present, it is limited to the territorial sea, which only extends 12 nautical miles from our shores. With this bill, the limit would be extended to 200 nautical miles.

This extends the area in which we can act, since the marine ecosystem and its biodiversity are now almost totally neglected, as far as protecting their habitat is concerned. According to Environment Canada experts, the potential of this area is huge. Just take the areas with high concentrations of marine birds and the places where whales reproduce and feed.

Just as in the bill that we adopted a few minutes ago, Bill C-23, the minister could designate classes of persons as wildlife officers with this bill that we will probably pass, since the Bloc Quebecois will give its consent, of course. So I quote part of the bill:

The Minister may designate any person or class of persons to act as wildlife officers for the purposes of this Act and the regulations.

I am pleased to note that in this bill, just as in Bill C-23, the designation of provincial officers is subject to the agreement of the provincial government concerned. Since this provision whereby the minister can designate wildlife officers is the counterpart of the one in Bill C-23, with respect to game officers, the answer obtained in committee as to whether the minister could appoint a hunting or fishing association, for example, as wildlife officers is still valid.

I was told then that it could be done, but that such associations could have limited powers. Still rather sceptical about the benefits of this provision, I contacted the Quebec wildlife conservation officers' union. The president of the union, Paul Legault, told us about the situation in Quebec, since similar powers have already been given by the Government of Quebec under the Wildlife Conservation Act.

In 1978, when private clubs in Quebec were abolished, a decision was made to appoint wildlife conservation assistants to perform the duties of the wardens of the now defunct private clubs. Originally, these assistants were supposed to be the eyes and ears of the wildlife officers and had no title or function as such. Over the years, expectations increased, but nothing was done about improving the training and supervision of these people.

The results are not encouraging. It seems these individuals were not very productive and often had a conflict of interest, since they had to enforce the regulations but were also earning a living as hunting and fishing guides.

Imagine, an outfitter who is your guide and at the same time acts as a wildlife officer. If you give him $200 or $300 a day and have nothing to show for it, I imagine you would fire him right away so he has to deliver or else he will lose his customers. This creates a very ambiguous situation.

Incidentally, less than one violation report is filed per assistant annually. At this rate, some assistants do not file any reports at all. Some file one or two, and if some assistants file ten reports, there must be quite a few who do not file any at all. So the Government of Quebec is reviewing this system.

There are also a number of shortcomings in the system itself, and I will name three: the selection process suffers as a result of criteria that are not strict enough; the training program is too short and is not adapted to the needs of the assistants; finally, there is no mechanism to follow up the work being done by the assistants.

However, as in the case of game wardens, there are not enough wildlife officers to enforce the legislation. That being said, we might as well admit we have to appoint more staff to ensure compliance.

According to the Bloc Quebecois, it would be useful to take certain steps to avoid a situation where wildlife officers do not have the required qualifications and thus lose their credibility. That is why we suggested the same amendments to the Standing Committee. As I explained earlier, and this happens regularly, our amendments were defeated. We will not vote against Bill C-24, but I think accepting our two amendments would have benefited the legislation.

I will repeat them quickly. The purpose of the first amendment was to ensure that individuals designated by the minister have received appropriate training. This amendment is particularly relevant since the Quebec experience has shown this is an important part of the problem. The purpose of our second amendment was to make the designation of this category condi-

tional on approval by the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.

Both amendments were defeated, but I remain firmly convinced of the importance of taking a closer look at this kind of appointments. According to Mr. Legault, the rather careless approach to appointing assistants has caused quite some friction with the public, because some individuals "play the enforcer". As I mentioned earlier, and I will repeat this for the benefit of hon. members opposite, when you appoint a whole hunting association as wildlife officers, there may be a couple of people in the group with more brawn than brains, who use their brawn in a way that may discredit all wildlife officers. That is what I meant by playing the enforcer.

The request to get new partners involved is more and more pressing, but there must not be a shifting of responsibility onto citizens' shoulders. Nevertheless, it is essential to do something about the inadequate protection of wildlife, and I believe that Bill C-24 does meet that objective. Good will and good laws are not sufficient to adequately protect our environment. Those two elements alone are like having good tools but no carpenter to use them.

In conclusion, education is the best solution and the best tool to protect wildlife, flora, habitats and ecosystems. The government must understand that, instead of 2,000 or 3,000 wildlife officers, we need 27 million such officers in Canada. Indeed, every one of us should be a wildlife officer, and when we witness things which are damaging to our environment, we should have the courage to confront those who are responsible for such action.

Of course, we run the risk of being insulted, but this is the price to pay if we want to do our share. In the long term, this would be a welcome investment in publicity, particularly when you think that every day the government and the Minister of Finance must make new cuts to lower our national deficit. Let us start in school by telling our young ones that they, and their children, will inherit what is there now. Let us educate them and, in two or three generations, the mentality will have completely changed. It will be centred on sustainable development and biodiversity.

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6:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

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6:50 p.m.

Some hon. members