Madam Speaker, in rising to speak on Bill C-275 I congratulate the hon. member for Davenport for his tireless work to bring the bill before the House of Commons. More important, I congratulate the hon. member for his tireless efforts to protect Canada's endangered and threatened species.
The caribou, the sea otter, the wolverine, the burrowing owl, the blue ash and the red mulberry are just a few of the more than 240 endangered, threatened or vulnerable species in Canada.
Human activity is putting those species at risk. It is up to us as human beings to understand our failings and to work to reverse those failings. When we kill or injure an endangered species we are putting at risk a unique life form. When we buy or sell, import or export an endangered species we are trafficking in the extinction of a species.
All Canadians have a responsibility to prevent native wild species from disappearing from the face of the globe as a result of human activity. All Canadians have a responsibility to protect endangered species to the full extent of our powers. All of us must do what we can to help those species recover.
In Canada wetlands have been reduced by over 70 per cent. We have lost 99 per cent of tall grass prairie. No single Canadian is to blame. We are all to blame and it is up to all of us to act at every level of government, in every occupation, in every community and neighbourhood across the country.
Four provinces have acted to introduce endangered species legislation; Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick deserve credit for their actions. It is now clearly time for the federal government to do its part in areas of federal jurisdiction. It is also time for the federal government to push hard for co-operative national and international action.
My colleague, the hon. member for Davenport, understands that and the Minister of the Environment understands that. That is why the minister last fall outlined the federal government's intention to introduce endangered species legislation. It is why she held the first ever public consultations on the basics of such a law. It is why she has committed herself to bring such a law before cabinet in the next few weeks and to allow Canadians to
comment on the law before it receives detailed scrutiny by Parliament.
I am very pleased the hon. member for Davenport and the Minister of the Environment are working so closely together to advance the cause of endangered species. Obviously as Liberals we support their efforts and we are pleased to see real federal leadership.
However, this is not a partisan cause and I regret some of the comments I have heard in the House which clearly appeared to be of a partisan nature. I know members of Parliament from every party and every part of the country, including Quebec, want to see Canada a true world leader in protecting endangered species.
Canada was the first industrialized country to sign the United Nations convention on biological diversity. We need to transfer our goodwill and our signature on a piece of paper into real action to preserve our country's biological diversity. We owe that to future generations of human beings and we certainly owe that to future generations of endangered species.
Canadians like to keep their word. In article 8K of the convention on biological diversity, Canada promised to develop or maintain necessary legislation and/or other regulatory provisions for the protection of threatened species and populations. That is one good reason the hon. member and the minister are pushing for action.
There is another good reason to take action. Canadian children expect us to act. They have petitioned and written the Minister of the Environment in unprecedented numbers to call for the protection of endangered fish, marine mammals and migratory birds.
I recently received many responses from my spring-summer householder, something all members send out. Concern for the environment was at the top of the list.
I have heard it described as a sexy issue that has now been pushed to the background. That is nonsense. If we let this issue be pushed to the background we will all pay a very heavy price.
Canadian children and all Canadians believe or should believe that living organisms have the right to live. They do not understand how someone could make a living by selling off the parts of an endangered species. Canada's children are right.
Important scientific and financial issues must be addressed. There are certainly important issues raised by provinces, aboriginal peoples and farmers that must be addressed. Legislation must be realistic and fair. Not all the issues are easy but all of the issues must be resolved.
The biological foundation for our world depends on its diversity of genes, species and ecosystems. We need each sphere of our society to demonstrate both leadership and partnership in protecting endangered species. We do not need overlap or duplication or wasteful actions. We need swift action.
Conservation of endangered species is not the sole responsibility of the federal government, nor of any government. All elements of society have an interest in protecting species and all elements of our society should be intimately involved in planning, developing and implementing conservation programs.
It is important for the federal government to pass legislation that can be a model to the world, legislation that seeks to put an end to the extinction of species as a result of human activity. The federal government must do its part to make things right for Canada's wild plants and animals.
That is the policy underlying the legislation introduced by my friend and colleague from Davenport. That is the policy underlying the actions taken by my friend and colleague the Minister of the Environment. I believe it is the policy that must guide Parliament in our work to protect endangered species, and I am very pleased to have added some thoughts to today's debate.