House of Commons Hansard #216 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was page.


FirefightersPrivate Members' Business

11 a.m.


Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB


That, in the opinion of this House, the government should consider the advisability of introducing right to know legislation for the protection of firefighters and other public servants who, in the course of duty, are confronted by fires or disasters involving potentially harmful substances such as toxic chemicals.

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today to urge the House to support the motion. It has not been deemed votable but nevertheless it could be voted on and passed if there were a will to do so. The House can do this by unanimous consent. The procedure by which resolutions or private members' bills are deemed votable was designed so only a minimum number of motions and bills would be votable. It was not designed in any way to prevent more than the required amount from becoming votable, if the House chose to do so. I urge the House to do that today if there is a will on the government side to allow the motion to go forward. I will explain why I think that should be done.

I thank my seconder in this instance, the member for Kamloops, for helping me today and also the International Association of Firefighters with which I have worked closely over the last little while in developing this motion, along with a couple of others, a notification protocol for infectious diseases and the public safety benefit.

The motion urges the government to improve the safety regime for firefighters and other emergency response personnel. Firefighters as well as other emergency response personnel are often called on to risk their lives to deal with accidents and emergencies involving highly volatile and toxic chemical substances at great personal risk not just in the immediate sense but also in the long term sense. Studies have shown firefighters have higher vulnerability and a higher incidents of certain diseases associated with exposure to these kinds of toxic chemicals.

They need to have rapid, accurate and complete information about these hazardous materials where lack of information can cost lives. It is the responsibility of the federal government to ensure all reasonable measures are taken to provide that information. That is what this motion is about.

I take the opportunity of this debate to make a specific proposal. If the government is looking for something it could get behind in a concrete and practical way the passage of this motion would create a context in which it might do so.

I will make a specific proposal for this kind of problematic situation involving toxic substances, accidents that occur during the transportation of hazardous materials. In other words, it is not only with respect to transportation that these things happen but in the transport sector we could, as I will go on to suggest, have a pilot project.

Firefighters have been calling on the government to take the first steps in the development of a state of the art system to provide emergency response personnel with the information they need by taking advantage of the latest computer technologies and software.

This is an issue on which there is clearly little occasion for partisan politics. I hope members from all sides of the House will support this motion and that the government will let it come to a vote if someone on the government side near the end of the debate could seek unanimous consent to have this go forward. I am not aware of any members of the House who are opposed to this. It is after all only a motion which asks the government to consider the advisability of it. For the House to pass this motion would afford Transport Canada an excellent occasion to move this important file forward.

Accidents involving hazardous materials pose a number of special challenges to emergency response personnel. On the one hand the consequences of not reacting quickly and in the appropriate manner can result in the death or injury of not only emergency personnel but of large numbers bystanders if accidents occur in densely populated locals.

On the other hand because such accidents occur relatively rarely, giving personnel very little experience in dealing with such emergencies and involve highly complex chemical compounds, it is often difficult for personnel to react quickly in the appropriate manner. Immediate access to information about the

contents of containers and the necessary procedures to be followed is the key to improving this safety regime in Canada.

The current system which uses placards on containers to identify the contents is not one that fulfils all the needs of emergency response personnel. Firefighters told us when we met with them recently at their national lobby in Ottawa that the placards do not always provide sufficient information to aid emergency workers and that these placards are often missing or destroyed by virtue of the very accident that has called them to the scene in the first place. We are in urgent need of an upgrade in the reporting system for these emergency response situations.

Fortunately there is an emerging technology which would prove to be very useful in filling the gaps in the current system. Computer software along with communications links between firefighters and police dispatch stations and the transport companies is now being developed which would allow emergency response personnel almost instantaneous access to detailed information to be taken directly from transport companies' data bases.

Not only could such a computer linkup provide firefighters with precise information about the contents of a container, it could also provide detailed guidance about the necessary safety precautions to be taken when dealing with the material in question.

It has also been shown that such a computer linkup could help emergency response personnel in the event of train derailments involving passengers trapped in damaged rail cars. The linkup could provide rescue workers with detailed plans of how these rail cars are constructed with blueprints which could aid them in their search for trapped passengers.

While this network is now a technological possibility it is up to the federal government to take a leadership role in developing the specific computer software and communications networks and putting a system in place.

The International Association of Firefighters has been urging the government to begin the development process by establishing a pilot project in concert with industry, labour and local government stakeholders. It is proposed that such a pilot project take place in a major transportation centre that would permit the stakeholders to experiment with the new software and communications links and to demonstrate the system's effectiveness for later use across Canada.

Winnipeg with its thriving rail and truck traffic has been suggested as an ideal choice for such a project not by me but by those interested in this project; although Winnipeg is not always as thriving as I would like it to be on the rail side.

I hope my fellow colleagues from the Winnipeg area would help make the case to the government for passing this motion and also that if there were a pilot project to follow the government consider very seriously using Winnipeg as a place where this project might proceed.

The primary aim of going forward with such a project in a timely manner is to save lives, the lives of the firefighters who at present work in dangerous situations without all the information they need and the lives of residents in communities where accidents occur.

There is also an important international dimension to this question. The American department of transport has already begun work on developing such communications networks and it is helping fund a pilot project in the Houston, Texas area called operation respond. All indications are that the experiment is proceeding well and that the department of transport will be moving to set up a national system of regulations for the transportation of hazardous materials.

In the context of NAFTA, Canadian export and transport industries will be directly affected by such regulations and there will no doubt be pressure for harmonization. It is therefore imperative that Canada develop its own system which meets particularly Canadian needs so that in the future we will not be obliged to adopt uncritically or simply out of necessity the American regulations by default because we did not have the foresight to apply the available technology to a pressing safety issue in Canada on our own.

I believe all members of the House will want to do whatever is in their power to improve the safety of firefighters and their fellow emergency response workers. Here is a case where the hype about the possibilities of the new information revolution might actually live up to expectations and do something concrete in terms of human health and human safety.

Who would deny firefighters access to state of the art technology in situations in which they are laying their lives on the line? Who would deny them the right and the means to know exactly what they are handling in these very dangerous situations?

Support for this motion would be an excellent means for members of the House to convey to firefighters on behalf of all Canadians we are grateful of the often heroic service they provide, and to convey our support for their efforts to improve safety in their work environment.

I hope the government will allow members of the House to do this by passing this motion; allow members to convey the grateful support of Canadians to firefighters by using its discretion collectively speaking to allow this motion to come to a vote

or to be passed by unanimous consent. I cannot imagine that we would divide on the matter. Either we will pass it by unanimous consent or it will be talked out.

I understand the government believes the wording of this motion is too vague and without specific reference to the transport of hazardous materials to be allowed to come to a vote. I have talked to the Ministry of Transport about this.

I suggest to the contrary this motion simply conveys to the government the House's desire that it take action on improving a firefighter's safety and would give the government a welcome boost in the ongoing discussions between labour, industry and government stakeholders on the appropriate way forward.

By letting this motion go forward the government would supply itself with an excellent spur to move a file forward which members on all sides of the House think should be moved forward. I hope the government has rethought its position over the course of the weekend. This is after all only a motion. If it passes, all the government is obliged to do is consider the advisability of bringing in this system. It would create the context, it would create a little parliamentary momentum.

Last year I had a similar motion on a completely different topic and at the end of my speech I asked for unanimous consent that the motion be put to a vote at the end of the hour. Some may recall it was a motion having to do with the creation of a medal for Dieppe veterans.

The procedure we followed at that time is the one I am suggesting could be done now, that we could decide now that the motion would come to a vote. People could speak to the motion and at the end of the hour we could allow it to pass.

With that precedent in mind, knowing this is procedurally possible and that firefighters were here not so long ago reporting that no one disagreed with this suggestion, I seek unanimous consent.

FirefightersPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

If I interpret the member correctly, is he asking for unanimous consent at this point in time?

FirefightersPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I believe we could agree now that at the end of the appointed hour the motion be put, if there were unanimous consent to agree to do that. If there is not, then we could seek it at the end of the hour, but we have to seek it at some point if there is a will in the House to allow the motion to pass.

FirefightersPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

I trust I get not only the intent but the spirit. The unanimous consent being proposed at this time by the member for Winnipeg Transcona would be that this motion become votable at the end of this hour of debate on this motion.

Is there unanimous consent?

FirefightersPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Some hon. members


FirefightersPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

There is not unanimous consent. Resuming debate, the hon. member for St. Boniface.

FirefightersPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

St. Boniface Manitoba


Ronald J. Duhamel LiberalParliamentary Secretary to President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to speak to this motion. I applaud my colleague's initiative, because he raises an extremely important issue, which must be discussed and eventually resolved.

I myself have a particular interest in this motion because, for a number of years, I participated in conferences on this very issue. My greatest wish is for us to find an equitable solution for all concerned.

As you know, the motion reads as follows:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should consider the advisability of introducing "Right to Know" legislation for the protection of firefighters and other public servants who, in the course of duty, are confronted by fires or disasters involving potentially harmful substances such as toxic chemicals.

As was pointed out, this is an all encompassing motion. I assume it includes not only firefighters but also ambulance attendants and police officers. As I proceed to raise questions I do so in the spirit of trying to strengthen the motion, focus it, and come to some sort of resolution.

No doubt it encompasses police officers and ambulance attendants, quite apart from firefighters and perhaps others. It might be useful to try to define those. No doubt it is also intended to cover goods transported by rail and truck, but it is important not to exclude air and marine modes as well.

As to potentially harmful substances, this is very broad and may require further definition. For example, I believe it includes infectious diseases and infectious material. However, that remains to be discovered; perhaps it does not.

When I have discussed this initiative on different occasions a number of questions have arisen. People want to know specifically what is to be accomplished. They want specifics. They want to make sure no one is excluded, that all who might benefit from this or a similar initiative are identified.

The authorities also suggest there are some systems in place, which my colleague has mentioned, that respond at least in part to some of the concerns that have been voiced here. For example, there has been reference to the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act. There has also been a reference to the CANUTEC system, an initial emergency response guide, which is really quite common, popular, and useful. It is available in

English and French throughout Canada and the world. I am told it is a useful reference and useful tool as well.

The federal authorities also point out that it need not be the federal government by itself but that there are other partners involved, for example, the provincial and territorial governments, local governments, and perhaps even the private sector. Those are questions that need to be resolved before we can in fact proceed with a definitive proposal.

With respect to an initiative on the part of the federal government, I want to tell my colleagues that the government is monitoring the pilot projects. The government is concerned with the scope of the project, what it is attempting to do and what it has in fact accomplished. They are also obviously concerned about cost. In today's world one has to be particularly prudent about taking on additional initiatives and cost is obviously a high priority.

The federal government also wants to make sure there are partners, all of those people involved who could potentially benefit from the initiative. I have mentioned the various levels of government, but I should also mention that the private sector indeed is involved in certain sectors and needs to be involved.

I want to study what is happening in the U.S. and elsewhere. I give my assurance I shall continue to be extremely supportive of such an initiative.

In summary, the transport department officials I spoke to felt that the proposal was perhaps a little too broad and not specific enough. I think, however, that my colleague is on the right track. We can provide extra protection to firefighters and others likely to be involved in disasters or difficult situations.

The other extremely important consideration is the need for additional, clear information on pilot projects under way elsewhere. I felt that before moving in that direction, the government wanted to know all the facts, including how much it would cost and who the partners would be. It wanted to ensure that this would lead to something that would help not only firefighters but all those involved.

For my part, I participated in a number of forums over several years. This is something I care about and a most important issue. We must realize that we will eventually have such a system. The basic question for me is not only the issues I raised, but how we could proceed, when, with whom and at what cost. I hope that the questions I just raised will be answered soon.

I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, but one of my colleagues across the way felt the need to shout to someone, and I lost my train of thought. Unfortunately, some people are not as polite as others. I now get back to the motion.

As I said, I am interested in pursuing this proposal and I will do everything in my power to try to find some sort of solution. Clearly not today but hopefully in the near future we can come up with specifics with regard to a pilot project where the partners will be identified, where the costs will in fact have been found as well, and perhaps we can go forward and do something meaningful for our firefighters, our ambulance attendants, our police officers and others involved.

FirefightersPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


René Laurin Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, as Bloc members, we are pleased to support this motion made by our colleague, the hon. member for Winnipeg Transcona.

This is what we could call a forward-looking motion mainly concerned with the interest not only of a trade, namely firefighters, but also of the public in general.

For one thing, the government has a role to play in the area of occupational safety. In fact, it can play several key roles by the influence it has, the example it sets and the legislation it passes.

Through its influence, the government can encourage employers to adopt more adequate safety measures. For instance, under existing legislation, since legislation does already exist-we may not find it adequate but it nevertheless exists-the government can check and make sure that safety standards are complied with in many areas, such as construction. The most common areas where risks are still high are the agri-food industry, the environment, transport and, of course, sites where explosives may be handled.

Through the way it deals with its own employees, the government plays a crucial role. Naturally, as I said, the government must set the example, for the entire population is governed by the occupational safety legislation it enacts.

Safety standards for government employees must also be monitored closely and, above all, the government must afford its employees the opportunity to put standards in place so that they are well protected. In addition, by introducing new legislation, the government can strengthen those standards which may seem inadequate or at the very least deficient at this time.

In our view, this is a fundamental role of government, especially since new technologies, such as nuclear energy and all the related areas, have developed rapidly.

This fundamental role has become even more essential with the proliferation of chemicals and toxic substances used in various industries to develop new products. Many environmental disasters in recent years have shown how important government action is when it comes to protecting those government employees responsible for managing such disasters.

We need only think back to the explosion-in other countries, but we cannot be spared forever-of the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl or the oil spill off the coast of Alaska. These two examples clearly show the kind of hazards to which government employees are exposed.

Closer to home, the fairly recent devastating fire in Saint-Basile-le-Grand and the lead contamination incident in Saint-Jean are other examples which show that legislation is crucial in this field, whenever chemical and toxic products are used.

The Bloc will therefore support the motion. We were hoping that there would be a vote on it but, unfortunately, the required unanimous consent was not reached. Again, the government must be a leader in the protection against dangerous products. It can, through its attitude toward its public servants and the public, and also by tabling a new bill, make the job of many workers much safer.

Firefighters associations, including the International Association of Firefighters, have been urging the government for years to set up a national computerized information system on dangerous products.

With such a system, as soon as the alarm went off, firefighters would have information on the location of the fire and would be able to react accordingly so as to prevent greater damage or make sure that they did not pointlessly endanger their lives and their health or those of the public.

The presence of dangerous products on the site of a fire can be extremely costly, even fatal, for those involved. Recently, in a small village in Quebec, firefighters answered a call to put out what looked like an ordinary barn fire. However, because they did not have adequate information concerning the premises, the firefighters used normal techniques to put out the fire, without being aware of the danger to which they were exposed themselves.

There was a propane tank inside the barn, that no one had any reason to suspect was there. After they set up their equipment and started fighting the fire, the tank exploded. Seven firefighters were killed instantaneously in the blast and several others were injured. This catastrophe could easily have been avoided if the firefighters had known that the barn concealed a deadly bomb.

Seven lives were lost, and the only thing the speaker who preceded me, an hon. member from across the way, was concerned about was the cost. Do other lives have to be lost before they take action?

Another bill is currently before the House, Bill C-68 on firearms. Why is the government in such a hurry to take action? It is in such a hurry because 14 students were murdered at a university in Quebec by a lunatic who was in legal possession of a firearm. Because 14 human lives were lost, the House is debating a bill on firearms, and the cost of implementing and administering it are of no concern to the government. What it is trying to do is protect the lives of Canadians, protect everybody's life.

There are other causes of loss of human life each week in Canada: toxic spills during transport by rail, oil spills on the ocean, the use of chemical fertilizers which pollute or certain toxic substances, such as pesticides or insecticides. Many toxic substances which are widely used, sometimes carelessly, are decidedly very dangerous in the long run.

We are proposing preventative measures, which sometimes, actually not just sometimes but almost always, are less costly than deterrents.

In the opinion of the International Association of Fire Fighters, the computerized system currently in place, CANUTEC, is not well adapted. Towns with firefighting brigades have already put in place their own systems. I know that, before the new year, cities are going to convert to this system which will inform them before they respond to a fire alarm whether dangerous goods could be at the site. Towns are already absorbing the cost of these systems, so, there is no reason for the government to claim that additional costs will be involved. Local organizations will already be assuming the bulk of them.

Therefore, through such legislation, the government not only would increase the safety of workers but also would give peace of mind to all citizens who have to live near or deal on a daily basis with such life threatening products or environments, which would improve their standard of living and protect them.

For these reasons, we support this motion and hope that it will become votable as soon as possible.

FirefightersPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


Margaret Bridgman Reform Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Motion 136, proposed by the hon. member for Winnipeg Transcona. The motion states:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should consider the advisability of "Right to Know" legislation for the protection of firefighters and other public servants who, in the course of duty, are confronted by fires or disasters involving potentially harmful substances such as toxic chemicals.

That is a very broad statement. I am surprised we are talking to such a statement because to my mind it would be a given that

kind of information would be available or that there would be processes in place to provide such information.

The motion was developed out of a genuine concern for the safety of firefighters. These people seem to be lacking the necessary information so they can do their jobs effectively or as effectively as they would like to do it. I equate it to an emergency department in a hospital. Emergency staff really do not know what they are dealing with until the patient gets there.

I commend the member for Winnipeg Transcona for bringing this problem to our attention. Because of the nature of the firefighters' job it is not often they are actually in the news unless some very unfortunate situation occurs. Several recent incidents highlight the danger of the nature of the firefighters' job.

Recently in Ottawa firefighters had to respond to a fire that turned out to be in a house that was used mainly for drug purposes. When the firefighters arrived at the fire they rushed into the building to put the blaze out. They moved as quickly as possible according to procedures for firefighting. They were not expecting or necessarily looking for exposed needles and other dangerous drug paraphernalia. The irony is that the local police were aware it was a drug house but because of concern at overstepping the bounds of privacy, the information was not shared with another emergency response group. I find it phenomenal that they cannot work in partnership and share information that relates to an incident.

That is a concern we must definitely address, if not through legislation proposed in this motion, then the government should be looking at other ways to get around the letter of the law and use some common sense. Information should be shared among the principal players that are addressing the same concerns, especially when safety is involved. We must be practical and use some common sense on the issue.

Another issue which relates to the whole attitude of how emergency response personnel deal with injured persons would be to keep in mind today's environment in relation to infectious diseases. HIV-AIDS and tuberculosis are two diseases that come to mind that can cause a great deal of concern not only to firefighters but any other emergency response personnel.

In response to these valid concerns, groups such as the International Association of Firefighters have done a lot of work in researching the problem. That research is available to us to pursue. The association has called on the government to take steps to protect firefighters while they are performing their duties. One of the arguments put forward is that firefighters deserve to know what hazardous materials may be present at any incident. That follows logic. If firefighters are called to a potentially hazardous situation, it sounds very logical to be able to pass on information about what they are facing and what they are dealing with.

That is a principle we can address by looking at a better communication and perhaps addressing the Privacy Act or situations involving that act.

A second principle would be access to reliable information that will save lives by ensuring that firefighters use the most effective response techniques at any incident. The previous speaker talked about a propane tank in a barn. If somebody was aware the tank was there, that information should have been available to the firefighters responding to the fire.

Both arguments put forward by the IAFF are certainly valid. The principles involved in them are certainly worth looking at. They are very timely. There must be numerous options for addressing the proposals by the association that we can look at and it is time we did. This motion presents a couple of suggestions in relation to ways of addressing that.

The IAFF supports the establishment of a computerized national emergency response. This is one suggestion on how to address these issues. It would provide accurate information to firefighters at the scene of a hazardous material incident. The system would provide not only information for stationary incidents such as the propane tank in the barn, but also for hazardous materials that are on the move.

A system which deals with materials in stationary structures should certainly be looked at for a couple of identifiable reasons. We are already doing one through the women's program in many institutions such as hospitals, et cetera. The other one would be to prevent firefighters from going into the barn without knowing about the propane tank.

I would like to move on to the computerized system for materials in transit. A system is already in place which requires little placards to be put on vehicles. One of the problems occurring with that is that the placards may not be up to date. Therefore, firefighters can arrive at a derailed train and find the placard is not up to date or they may not even see the placard because of fire. There are situations in the system which really do not address all the problems.

A computerized system seems to be one very good answer. However it will only be as good as the information being put into it. The government is suggesting that this system is not up to par in relation to providing the kind of information that would facilitate the problem that firefighters have.

In the world of technology today, I am suggesting that system, if it is not here now, is not far away. We should be looking at it very seriously as a possible solution. We should be doing some research and investigation of it and figuring out what the cost of it is going to be. If it is plausible it should be implemented on a

test basis some place to see whether or not it will address the problem.

The motion deals not only with small aspects of the problem but is all encompassing. It deals with stationary situations, movable situations, health and all other aspects. Therefore, because of the nature and broadness of this motion and the fact that it is a problem that should be solved, we should be looking at it. It is not an isolated type of thing. It is a general thing.

FirefightersPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

York North Ontario


Maurizio Bevilacqua LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to make a few comments on private member's motion M-136 presented by the member for Winnipeg Transcona.

The motion urges the government to consider the advisability of introducing right to know legislation for the protection of firefighters and other public servants who in the course of their duties are confronted by fires or disasters involving harmful substances.

Let me first commend the member for bringing the issue up for discussion through his private member's motion. I personally know the member to be a politician of vision and passion and a vigorous and eloquent defender of worker interests.

Those of us on this side of the House share the concern he brings to occupational safety and health. We too are appalled by the number of accidents and fatalities that annually occur in our workplaces. We also believe that work in Canada ought to be a rewarding and satisfying activity that does not pose undue risk to those who must perform it.

The good news is that because many innovative measures have been taken over the years, considerable progress has been made in the area of occupational safety and health.

The intent of the member's motion is something upon which I think we can all agree. However, its fatal flaw is that it does not fall under federal jurisdiction. If I may say so, the member is knocking on the wrong door. Labour related matters including occupational safety and health issues are mainly a provincial and territorial responsibility. Requiring employers to provide information on hazardous substances to emergency response personnel is a matter which provincial and territorial authorities need to address.

As the member may know, occupational safety and health legislation in Canada is based on the internal responsibility system. This arrangement recognizes the employer's right to manage an enterprise in an efficient manner as well as the employer's responsibility to protect the safety and health of the employees. It also recognizes three fundamental rights of workers: the right to participate, the right to refuse dangerous work, and the right to know.

Since 1988 Canada has had in place a nationwide system to provide information on hazardous material being used in the workplace. Known as WHMIS for workplace hazardous materials information system, it established a uniform identification system for dangerous ingredients in the workplace. It came about because in the early 1980s business, labour and government realized that Canadian workplaces were woefully lacking the kind of information necessary to handle safely the kind of materials and equipment which were being introduced in the workplaces of Canada.

The system was comprised of four features: labelling requirements, the provision of material safety data sheets, worker education, and protection for confidential business information. WHMIS ensures that the hazardous materials produced, imported into or used in Canadian workplaces are adequately identified by suppliers using standard criteria. It requires the data sheets on hazardous materials to be transmitted by suppliers to employers and subsequently to employees. It obliges employers to provide their employees with adequate professional training on how to use the materials.

By effective dissemination and information through WHMIS, employers and workers get the data and knowledge required to communicate with one another, making possible the kind of co-operative efforts necessary to enhance safety and health in the workplace. Because employees have firsthand knowledge of the workplace, their involvement is essential. For employees to be able to assume responsibility for workplace safety and health they must be able to recognize what is going on and understand the changes occurring in the workplace. WHMIS ensures that workers have the information they need to make the decisions which they must make. In short, WHMIS is a response to the right of employees to know the hazards of the materials with which they work and the way to safely handle such substances.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that WHMIS is the most advanced information system in the field of occupational safety and health in the world. It is a system which works and, if I may say so, it is a system we can proudly speak of internationally. It should also be mentioned that WHMIS was the result of an extraordinary collaborative effort which brought together not only the governments in Canada but also organized labour and the business community. No one sector, no one government acting alone could deal with this issue in an effective and efficient manner.

WHMIS legislation in each of the jurisdictions throughout Canada is harmonized legislation based on a model regulation which was developed during the consultative process. Regulatory agencies in each jurisdiction ensure compliance within its

boundaries. WHMIS has been successfully implemented in all jurisdictions.

I think most officials and informed observers believe that its successful implementation was due to the fact that potential problems were identified by the stakeholders during the design stage when steps could be taken to minimize any possible adverse impacts in the workplace. Although the process was time consuming, its participatory nature made possible a relatively smooth implementation.

As I indicated, most emergency response personnel, that is, the employees alluded to in the member's motion, come under provincial jurisdiction. Those who fall under federal jurisdiction, including firefighters, receive their WHMIS information and training as required by part II of the Canada Labour Code, the part that deals with occupational safety and health issues and by the provisions of part X of the Canada occupational safety and health regulations.

The member might be interested to know that presently a committee of labour and business representatives and government officials is reviewing part II of the Canada Labour Code. Among other things it is considering a recommendation that part X of the Canada occupational safety and health regulations be changed to indicate the local health and safety committees which would participate in the development of an inventory of hazardous substances. This inventory would then be made available to health and safety committees, health and safety representatives to the fire department and to the employees' physicians on request.

At the present time only the province of Ontario has a provision in its occupational safety and health act requiring employers to provide a material's safety data sheet to fire departments and local medical officers of health upon request.

Ontario is to be commended for taking the lead in this area. The member might consider approaching the other provinces, perhaps beginning with British Columbia and Saskatchewan to urge them to consider implementing the kind of legislation he has asked this House to implement.

FirefightersPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


Stan Dromisky Liberal Thunder Bay—Atikokan, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak on the hon. member's motion.

I want to express my very deep concern for the welfare of this country's emergency response workers who risk their lives to protect ours. Most Canadians cannot begin to conceive the nightmare these individuals must be living through wondering in doing their jobs to the best of their abilities whether they have put their own health in jeopardy. We cannot imagine the fear and trepidation all emergency workers must feel when they respond to a call never knowing what danger awaits them.

Canada owes a great deal to the dedicated men and women who put their lives on the line each day for our health and safety. I can reassure the House this government does not take their risks lightly. These risks are taken so seriously that this government along with our provincial counterparts, industry and labour have for some time now been developing programs to protect not only emergency response workers but also those in the transportation sector and those handling hazardous chemicals in the workplace.

Under the transportation of dangerous goods regulations, for example, a United Nations number or product identification number and the shipping name of a commodity must be on the label and the shipping document. Even in the absence of a shipping name or a product identification number or a placard or label the product may be identified by contacting the Canadian Transport Emergency Centre or CANUTEC using any of the following information: the flight number; the call sign if the goods are being transported by ship; reporting marks and car number if it is being transported by rail; carrier and truck or trailer number and carrier and licence plate number if it is being transported by road.

In the event of an emergency, the firefighter can call CANUTEC which has an inventory exceeding 320,000 material safety data sheets. CANUTEC is a national bilingual advisory service provided by Transport Canada to assist emergency response personnel in handling dangerous goods emergencies. CANUTEC has established a scientific data bank on chemicals manufactured, stored and transported in Canada. It is staffed by professional chemists experienced in interpreting technical information and providing advice which can be obtained by calling collect on a 24-hour basis.

CANUTEC is able to immediately provide the relevant information by accessing its database through the use of key words such as the UN number, the product identification number or shipping name required on the transportation of dangerous goods shipping label and shipping documents.

Also, part VII of the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act requires that shippers and importers of certain dangerous goods have an emergency response assistance plan, ERAP, approved by Transport Canada. Currently there are approximately 14,000 such plans covering over 4,000 organizations entered into the transportation of dangerous goods directorate's national registry. All of these plans are audited.

Due to the seriousness of safety and health problems of hazardous chemicals used every day in the workplace, the federal, provincial and territorial governments agreed following a consensus proposal developed through extensive consultation with industry and labour representatives to implement a workplace hazardous materials information system. This system is a national program to reduce workers' deaths and injuries by

providing workers and employees with health and safety information about hazardous workplace chemicals. This system is implemented through interlocking federal and provincial legislation under the hazardous products act and in response to the workers' right to know the hazards of the materials with which they work.

Under the hazardous products act, suppliers of hazardous materials must provide precautionary labelling and material safety data sheets to employers. Complementary provincial legislation requires employers to develop appropriate workplace labelling and other forms of warning about hazardous materials produced in their workplace processes and make data sheets available to their employees and provide for worker education on the safe use of hazardous materials.

Furthermore in the province of Ontario, the Ontario Occupational Safety and Health Act requires that employers provide fire departments with data sheets upon request. There is no question we must continue to address the needs and concerns of emergency response personnel, such as firefighters as well as all other workers using hazardous chemicals.

Our goal is where possible to continue improving the systems of hazard communication for the benefit of all workers. We want emergency responders to have access to the most up to date information on prevention methods available. We are encouraging close co-operation between employers and employees to ensure that they have appropriate training and equipment to deal with out of control situations.

It is clear that the protection of Canadians, particularly those whose job it is to protect the general population is tremendously important to this government. In co-operation with the provinces, industry and labour we are doing everything within our jurisdictional power to provide emergency response workers with the necessary vital information to assist them in carrying out the dangerous work in as safe a manner as possible.

The intent of the motion is an honourable one. The government will support any strategy or technique that will provide protection for our citizens involved in such an honourable and extremely dangerous endeavour. The intent of this motion can become a reality with the co-operative efforts of the federal and provincial levels of government plus the others concerned and involved in the private sector.

FirefightersPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


Nelson Riis NDP Kamloops, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to participate in what probably is one of the most important private members' debates we have seen in this session of Parliament. We are making an effort to listen to the lobbyists for the firefighters particularly but also the police forces and ambulance services across Canada which have been asking for this initiative for many years.

I want to speak enthusiastically in favour of the initiatives taken by the member for Winnipeg Transcona. If this motion passes by all of the parties in the House of Commons, it will go a long way in saving lives and making the work that the emergency response personnel carry out much safer.

Previous speakers have acknowledged that emergency response personnel, particularly firefighters, are often called upon to deal with volatile and toxic chemical substances. If there has ever been a time for rapid, accurate and complete information about these hazardous materials, the time is now more than ever before.

Accidents involving hazardous materials pose a number of special challenges to emergency response personnel. By not acting quickly the result can be death and injury, to say nothing about bystanders, particularly if the accident takes place in a densely populated locale.

It is sufficient to say that we have had the debate. We have heard from all parties in the House of Commons. We have heard enthusiastic support for an initiative that simply calls upon the government to consider appropriate legislation and to take appropriate action.

I seek unanimous consent for the motion to be accepted to allow the initiative to continue forward.

FirefightersPrivate Members' Business


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

The House has heard the suggestion of the hon. member for Kamloops. Is there unanimous consent?

FirefightersPrivate Members' Business


Some hon. members


FirefightersPrivate Members' Business


Some hon. members


FirefightersPrivate Members' Business


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

There is no unanimous consent.

FirefightersPrivate Members' Business



Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would like the record to show that government members said no to this private member's motion.

FirefightersPrivate Members' Business


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

With the greatest respect to the member for Winnipeg Transcona and the important motion he raised before the House today, that is not a point of order.

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired. Pursuant to Standing Order 96, the order is dropped from the Order Paper.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-68, an act respecting firearms and other weapons, as reported (with amendment) from the committee.

Firearms ActGovernment Orders


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

There are 267 motions in amendment standing on the Notice Paper for the report stage of Bill C-68, an act respecting firearms and other weapons.

Group No. 1: Motions Nos. 1, 10, 158, 167, 266 and 267.

Group No. 2: Motions Nos. 2, 3, 5, 19, 20, 39, 40, 55, 58, 59, 107 and 145.

Group No. 3: Motions Nos. 4, 6, 23, 24, 28, 29, 41, 42, 43, 45, 49, 50, 51, 52, 54, 56, 60, 69, 70, 71, 73, 76, 77, 78, 79, 81, 82, 85, 87, 88, 91, 92, 95, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 103, 104, 105, 106, 108 to 113, 154, 170, 207, 215, 216, 218, 224 and 225.

Group No. 4: Motions Nos. 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 35, 133, 134, 136 to 144, 146, 147, 163, 164, 165, 166, 173 to 206, 208, 210, 212, 213, 214, 220, 221, 222, 223, 228, 230 to 256, 259, 264, and 265.

Group No. 5: Motions Nos. 13, 14, 38, 209, 211, 217, 219, 258, 260 and 262.

Group No. 6: Motions Nos. 15, 16, 17, 18, 93 and 102.

Group No. 7: Motions Nos. 21, 22, 33, 34, 36, 47, 57, 72, 74, 80, 89, 90, 171, 172, 227 and 261.

Group No. 8: Motions Nos. 25, 27, 159, 160, 168, 169 and 226.

Group No. 9: Motions Nos. 26, 37, 44, 46, 86, 94 and 96.

Group No. 10: Motions Nos. 30, 31, 32, 114 to 132, 148, 149, 150, 151, 152, 153, 155, 156, 157, 161, 162 and 263.

Group No. 11: Motions Nos. 48, 53, 61 to 68, 75, 83, 84, 135, 229, and 257.

The voting patterns for the motions within each group are available at the table. The Chair will remind the House of each pattern at the time of voting.

Firearms ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Brent St. Denis Liberal Algoma, ON


Motion No. 1

That Bill C-68 be amended by replacing the words "other weapons" in the long title, on page 1, with the words "related matters".

Motion No. 10

That Bill C-68, in Clause 4, be amended by adding after line 38, on page 4, the following: a .1) generally to promote firearm safety and reduce firearm-related crime without jeopardising the reasonable uses for firearms in Canadian society or imposing an undue administrative and financial burden on Canadian taxpayers, including legitimate firearm owners;''

Motion No. 158

That Bill C-68 be amended by adding after lines 40, on page 58, with the following new Clause:

"112.1 (1) The Minister shall periodically conduct a review of this Act and the regulations and shall table a report on the review in the House of Commons within twelve months of commencing the review.

(2) The first review must be conducted no later than December 31, 2003, and no more than five years may elapse between the tabling of the report on a review in the House of Commons and the commencement of a subsequent review."

Firearms ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK


Motion No. 167

That Bill C-68 be amended by adding after line 33 on page 65, the following new Clause:

"129.1(1) Sections 3 to 129 expire on December 31, 1999 unless prior to that date, with respect to each section a ) the Auditor General has prepared and caused to be laid before Parliament a report on whether the section has been or will be a successful and cost-effective use of public funds to achieve an increase in public safety and a reduction in the incidence of violent crime involving the use of firearms, b ) the report of the Auditor General has been referred by the House to such committee as the house may designate for the purpose, c ) the committee has considered the report of the Auditor General and made a report to the House on the success and cost-effectiveness of the section and on the extent to which

(i) public safety has been or will be increased or decreased,

(ii) the incidence of crime related to the use of firearms has been or will be reduced or increased.

(iii) a cost-effective use of public funds has been or will be made to achieve an increase in public safety or a reduction in the incidence of violent crime involving the use of firearms, d ) the committee has recommended to the House that the section should not expire, and e ) the House has concurred in the report of the committee.

(2) Where a section is to expire as result of subsection (1), the Governor in Council may, by order, defer its expiry for a period not exceeding one year, if the section contains matters that do not relate to firearms control and the deferral is necessary in order for legislation to be proposed to Parliament to continue the other matters in force after the expiry of the section.

Firearms ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Nelson Riis NDP Kamloops, BC


Motion No. 266

That Bill C-68, be amended by adding after line 28, on page 134, the following new Clause:

"185.1 (1) In 2000, no later than June 1, and every three years thereafter, a comprehensive review of the provisions of this Act shall be undertaken by such Committee of the House of Commons as the House may designate for that purpose.

(2) The Committee shall review the effectiveness of the provisions of this Act and the use of firearms in the community in general and shall report to the House as to whether any provision of this Act or the regulations or any other legislation respecting firearms should be amended, augmented or repealed."

Firearms ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Andy Mitchell Liberal Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON


Motion No. 267

That Bill C-68, be amended by adding after line 28, on page 134, the following new Clause:

"185.1 No later than January 1, 2001, the federal Minister shall prepare a report on the effectiveness of this Act in reducing the incidence of indictable offenses involving the use of a firearm and lay the report before the House of Commons."

Firearms ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Peter Milliken Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

I rise on a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the extraordinary number of amendments and in view of the fact there is a limit on the debate today, I think you would find unanimous consent to deem the motions in each group put to the House when they have been put as you have just said.

If you indicate to the House that we will be debating Motions x , y and z , the motions would then be before the House for debate without your having to read the motions to the House. They are deemed moved and seconded.

Similarly this evening, when it comes to the votes, the same would apply. The Speaker could say the question before the House is on Motion No. 26, for example, and the vote would follow on that motion without having to put the motion. It would save us a lot of time today in view of the very large number of motions.