Madam Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate on the bill introduced by the hon. member for Davenport.
First, I want to praise the hon. member for his unflagging commitment to environmental issues. Second, I want to point out how dedication to a cause can result in progress. Third, I wish to talk about the importance of protecting and rehabilitating endangered and threatened species.
My colleague from Davenport is well known for his commitment to environmental issues through his work as chair of the standing committee on the environment and sustainable development.
The hon. member has devoted his political career to keeping the environmental cause in the foreground in society and at the centre of debates in the House of Commons. He knows that sustainable development is the only way to secure our generation's prosperity without endangering the prosperity of generations to come.
He knows that preservation of the world's biodiversity is central to the preservation of the world's environment and the world's future success. He knows that taking an ecosystem approach to environmental issues is critical. We have to look at the big picture and understand that every action in any sphere of the environment can have and does have implications for other parts of the environment.
That brings me to my second point, that the dedication of the hon. member has helped to ensure that the protection of endangered species has become a national priority. Thanks to forceful advocacy by the hon. member and others, our party made protection of endangered species a core part of the Liberal red book. We promised to introduce Canada's first comprehensive federal law to protect endangered species, and we are going to keep that promise to Canadians.
Bill C-275 received first reading in the House of Commons last September. Since that time the Minister of the Environment has called for wide-ranging public consultation on a law to protect endangered species. A few weeks ago the minister completed those hearings and outlined the fundamentals of the new law to the last national consultation meeting.
As the minister herself said, she received over 5,000 very articulate letters from grade school and high school students in support of such a law. That is why she drafted the bill hand in hand with representatives of the industry, the farming sector, aboriginal organizations and the provinces and territories.
In addition, the Minister of the Environment and the hon. member for Davenport joined forces to ensure that their wishes for a law to protect threatened species became a reality. Their determination reflects the determination of the Liberal Party and our government. Their determination reflects the wishes of the vast majority of the members of this House and, more importantly, the desire of the vast majority of the Canadian public to bring in such a law.
The law is coming very, very quickly thanks in large part to many years of hard work and dedication by the chair of the standing committee on environment and sustainable development.
This brings me to the third point. The preservation of endangered and threatened species is of vital importance to this country. As the school children who mounted the campaign for endangered species legislation said, "There otter be a law". Mammals, birds, amphibians, fish, invertebrates, plants, and other wild organisms all play a critical role in the environment of our country. Endangered fish, endangered marine animals, endangered waterfowl, and endangered migratory birds are all an important federal matter.
The species of the world contribute to the ecological wonders of the world. Of course these species have the right to exist for their own sake, but it is important to remember how much these species matter to us. They provide us with learning opportunities. They are part of our history. They offer artistic and spiritual inspiration. They are part of our identity as a country and as human beings. They help to sustain us environmentally, culturally, and economically.
Consider the list of endangered or threatened species in Canada and imagine how much poorer a country we would be without them. The Vancouver Island marmot, the beluga whale, the peregrine falcon, the leatherback turtle, the Acadian whitefish, the prairie orchid, the wood poppy, the wood bison, the harbour porpoise, the white-headed woodpecker, and the trumpeter swan are some of the endangered, threatened, or vulnerable species in Canada. These are some of the species that need protection and restoration. They are species whose habitat is disappearing or who have been victims of pollution or have been
slaughtered so that a few human beings may trade in their precious products. That is clearly wrong. That is clearly foolish.
It is important to note the efforts undertaken by conservancy organizations throughout the country to preserve and protect some of our endangered species. I can think of no better example than the Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre in Midland, Ontario, which is located in my riding of Simcoe North. A few weeks ago I had the extreme honour of celebrating the 25th anniversary of the official opening of the Wye Marsh centre with many of its supporters. The centre is today a national example of leadership and ecological awareness and understanding of the importance of wetlands and wildlife in our world. In the past few years this centre has been very active in its program to increase the trumpeter swan population, which we know is very vulnerable.
It is now the time to assist Wye Marsh and similar organizations with meaningful and effective legislation. In addition to this private member's bill, the member for Davenport went to great lengths to organize a forum on wildlife, which was hosted last April by the standing committee on environment and sustainable development. This was a great opportunity for the members of the committee to discuss this serious matter with a variety of experts and organizations devoted to the protection of endangered species. I know that for me personally it gave me a newfound understanding of the consequences at hand and an appreciation of the urgency of this type of legislation.
The hon. member for Davenport and the Minister of the Environment are determined to put an end to these unfortunate practices in the federal jurisdiction. They are determined to have Parliament pass a law with teeth. They are also determined to see Canada adopt a credible and co-ordinated action plan to protect threatened and endangered species.
In our red book we committed the Liberal government to a vision of society that protects the longterm health and diversity of all species on the planet. The initiative we are debating today is one important contribution by the hon. member for Davenport to advance that vision and to advance that cause. We all ought to join him in this worthwhile cause. His bill is proof that he remains as committed as ever to providing good government for this country and responsible policies for the world's environment.