Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to this private member's bill put forward by my colleague from Davenport.
Bill C-275 provides for the identification and rehabilitation of flora and fauna in Canada threatened or endangered by human activity and provides for the protection of habitat and restoration of populations.
Endangered species is an important Canadian environmental issue that should be carefully considered within a comprehensive, biodiversity strategy. According to one estimate, species are going extinct globally at the rate of several species a day. Since the arrival of the Europeans, only nine species have been rendered extinct in Canada.
Last April reports indicated that Canada had 263 species listed at risk. Some of the endangered species include the whooping crane, beluga whale and the peregrine falcon. The list is growing steadily and only last April eight new species were added. Once a species is lost, it is forever and the actions cannot be reversed.
The Brundtland commission identified one of the prerequisites to sustainable development as the protection of species and ecosystems. The fundamental goal of endangered species legislation must be to ensure that no further native species go extinct and that already endangered species recover to healthy, self-sustaining population levels using the most efficient, effective, fair and balanced means possible.
In 1992 Canada signed the Convention on Biological Diversity. This agreement calls on nations to retain a healthy population of the many varied species in the wild and commits signatories to introducing legislation to protect endangered species. Japan, Australia and the United States all have federal endangered species laws in place at the moment. The development of comprehensive legal protection for endangered species is a first step in meeting Canada's international commitments.
The federal government has jurisdiction over the management and preservation of wildlife on federal lands such as national parks. Provinces have jurisdiction over the management of all wildlife not falling within the federal jurisdiction. Only four provinces, as my colleague has mentioned, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick have provincial endangered species acts. These laws enable, but do not compel, governments to develop a national list of endangered species and implement recovery plans. The remaining provinces have no endangered species legislation.
There are 12 pieces of federal legislation ranging from health regulations to trade rules that address species protection. These federal laws must be harmonized. Rather than developing a weak and ineffective set of standards, the federal government should work with the provinces to come up with a common set of standards that will be agreeable to all parties right across the country.
It is my hope that the federal environment minister will work co-operatively with provincial and territorial governments to develop such a strategy. I understand that harmonized endangered species legislation is currently in the works.
Last November the environment minister stated in the House that framework legislation would be introduced this spring. Members have seen a discussion paper and working document but there has been nothing concrete as yet. However, I suspect we will see endangered species legislation in the fall.
With federal legislation already in the works, this private member's bill may best serve as an example for discussion and consideration by the standing committee and the environment minister.
As part of the process, it is important that all interested parties have the opportunity to take part in the consultation process. The government should consult a broad cross section of stakeholders, including rural and urban centres, and consultation must be open to the public.
It is important that when we develop endangered species legislation we give serious consideration to the variety of options available. Laws must be balanced in meeting both the environmental and economic needs of the country.
Habitat protection will be a contentious and difficult issue when dealing with endangered species protection and laws must be fair and balanced. We need to encourage private land owners to protect endangered species and their habitats as opposed to heavy handed legislation that would penalize land owners. Clearly we have to have the land owners on side.
Bill C-275 does not set out how far the minister can go in taking action to protect endangered species and it is unlikely we will see this clearly spelled out until the minister tables the bill this fall.
Canadians do now want laws that will be economically destructive. We recently saw the U.S. Endangered Species Act shut down a large portion of the west coast logging to save the
spotted owl, thus devastating entire communities. Endangered species legislation must be fair and reasonable and not draconian in approach.
Section 9 of Bill C-275 proposes to give the minister the power to forbid or restrict use of, access to, activity on, or the use of any substance on lands that directly threaten the success of a recovery program. It is most important that we ensure private property rights are respected when any activity or use of lands is being restricted.
Section 11(1) of the bill empowers the minister to pay compensation when actions to protect endangered or threatened species affect a person's property or livelihood. This clause merits serious consideration. When personal property or restriction on the use of property are affected by government action, compensation must be addressed. I am sure my colleague will address this in detail when his turn comes up.
Another area of concern with the bill is section 5(2). This section gives the minister power to implement a recovery program if the minister is advised the cause or probable cause is of human origin. I am concerned this section may be too open ended as it allows the minister to take action before an investigation has taken place. The minister is not required to have proof that actions are warranted or justified. I feel this is dangerous.
Section 5(2) must be tightened up to ensure individual rights are protected. It is not good enough to take action because the minister has been advised of probable cause; rather, cause must be determined and action should, if necessary, be implemented.
In addition, endangered species legislation should apply equally to all Canadian citizens regardless of race or ethnicity. Two sections of the bill imply native Indians may be exempt from legislation or subject to a separate set of rules and regulations. This needs to be reviewed, as there can be only one set of laws applied equally to everyone in Canada.
Whatever rules and regulations are drawn up regarding the protection of endangered species they should be applied nationwide and with equality. The minister should not be negotiating private deals with one group and applying a set of regulations to another.
I am concerned about the potential implications of this section. Legislation should establish one comprehensive set of rules to be applied equally to all Canadians.
I take the opportunity to voice my concerns regarding the trade in endangered species and animal parts. The bill addressed endangered species but Canada is also faced with serious problems regarding the trafficking of wildlife and animal parts and continues to be used as a transit route for shipments of illegal wildlife destined for other countries. This is particularly so in my riding of Comox-Alberni on Vancouver Island. Penalties must be severe enough to act as a deterrent commensurate with the commercial value of endangered species and their parts.
I thank the hon. member for bringing this private members' bill forward in the House. Although I do not agree with all sections of the bill, some of the proposals warrant serious consideration and I hope the environment minister will look at some of the ideas contained in the bill as she drafts her legislation. I look forward to looking at the issue more closely when the minister tables the legislation.