Debates of June 13th, 1994
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.
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- Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994
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Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994
Some hon. members
Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994
The Deputy Speaker
Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994
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.
Canada Wildlife Act
June 13th, 1994 / 5:35 p.m.
John Manley for the Minister of the Environment
moved that the bill be concurred in.
(Motion agreed to.)
Canada Wildlife Act
John Manley Ottawa South, ON
moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.
Canada Wildlife Act
Clifford Lincoln Parliamentary 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.
Canada Wildlife Act
Benoît Sauvageau 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.
Canada Wildlife Act
Jim Abbott 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.
Canada Wildlife Act
Stan Dromisky 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.
Canada Wildlife Act
The Deputy Speaker
Is the House ready for the question?
Canada Wildlife Act
Some hon. members
Canada Wildlife Act
Jean-Guy Chrétien 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.
Canada Wildlife Act
The Deputy Speaker
Is the House ready for the question?
Canada Wildlife Act
Some hon. members