House of Commons Hansard #56 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was safety.


Copyright ActGovernment Orders

7:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Is there agreement?

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7:50 p.m.

Some hon. members


Yukon Quartz Mining ActGovernment Orders

June 4th, 1996 / 7:50 p.m.

Sault Ste. Marie Ontario


Ron Irwin LiberalMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

moved that Bill C-6, an Act to amend the Yukon Quartz Mining Act and the Yukon Placer Mining Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Yukon Quartz Mining ActGovernment Orders

7:50 p.m.

Pierrefonds—Dollard Québec


Bernard Patry LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I rise to address the House on Bill C-6, an act to amend the Yukon Quartz Mining Act and the Yukon Placer Mining Act.

I am extremely pleased to be introducing this legislation in the House. Bill C-6 is a made-in-the-Yukon solution to a circumstance that is unique to the Yukon, but that is of concern to all Canadians. It is a model of compromise and reason, and a major step forward in this government's efforts to foster sustainable development in the north.

By way of background, the Yukon Placer Mining Act and the Yukon Quartz Mining Act were enacted in 1906 and 1924 respectively. These acts provide for the administration of crown mineral rights and the collection of royalties in the Yukon. While they have effectively supported mining as the Yukon's number one industry for most of this century, the two acts contain no provisions to protect the environment. This situation is unacceptable to this government, to the vast majority of Yukon residents and to Canadians in general.

The integration of economic and environmental considerations in decision making is a guiding principle for this government. We are committed to protecting the environment while supporting the development of our resources in a way that will create jobs and economic prosperity for Yukoners and all Canadians.

Bill C-6 rectifies a long recognized gap in federal legislation for the Yukon. It authorizes the government of Canada to establish mining land use regulations for projects in the Yukon.

This legislation must be viewed as a major accomplishment for a number of reasons. Not the least of these is that it represents a compromise between divergent points of view held by different groups, views that have been reconciled to the point where we can proceed. This compromise did not come about overnight. It is the result of extensive consultations involving the industry, First Nations, environmental groups, the federal and territorial governments, and the general public.

As a result of these consultations, Bill C-6 is acknowledged by stakeholders to be the best legislation that could be developed. The Yukon Mining Advisory Committee, or YMAC, deserves special mention for its central role in the process of developing this legislation, consulting Yukoners and arriving at a consensus that allows us to proceed at this time.

YMAC was formed in 1990 to report to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development on how best to amend the legislation affecting mining activities in Yukon. It is comprised of representatives of the Klondike Placer Mining Association, the Yukon Chamber of Mines, the Yukon Conservation Society and the Council for Yukon First Nations, the Government of Yukon and the Government of Canada.

The involvement of all these groups reflects the importance of mining to the Yukon economy as well as the respect Yukoners have for the land and the life it supports. Despite the wide range of views brought to the table, YMAC was able to reach consensus on all but two provisions of this lengthy and technical bill. I will have more to say on those issues in a few minutes.

Bill C-6 must also be viewed as a major accomplishment because it will reinforce the government's commitment to sustainable development by providing for environmentally sound mining practices. By applying land use regulations for the first time to the early activities on mineral claims, the rules in the Yukon will become consistent with all other jurisdictions in Canada.

Within the context of sustainable development, this legislation is an important part of the ongoing process to create a more conducive environment for mining and to support economic development in the Yukon. This process complements the process of legislative reform required for implementing land claims settlements for Yukon First Nations.

As hon. members are aware, land claims final agreements have been signed with four Yukon First Nations. Hon. members will recall our consideration and passing of three bills to give effect to these agreements. Land claim negotiations are well-advanced with a number of others. In addition, some of these First Nations have already signed benefits agreements with mining companies.

Concerns that First Nations have about environmental protection on crown lands are addressed through Bill C-6. Yukon First Nations were involved in the work of the Yukon Mining Advisory

Committee and continue to be consulted on the regulations that will accompany this legislation.

The need to extend environmental regulations to all mining activities in the Yukon has long been recognized. The coming into force of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act in 1994 has underlined this need.

As well, on December 29, 1995, the deficiencies in the current regime were made abundantly clear when the Federal Court of Canada ruled that the Yukon Quartz Mining Act and the Yukon Placer Mining Act were not subject to federal requirements for environmental assessment.

As I stated earlier, Bill C-6 strikes the compromises that are needed to rectify this situation and to avoid further court challenges. In addition to ensuring protection of the environment, it gives the industry an important measure of certainty on which to base their decisions and seek investment dollars.

I want to assure all hon. members that this legislation does not in any way affect the underlying rights of individuals or companies to acquire and hold mineral rights.

In fact, the existing two mining acts remain unchanged except for a few minor amendments related to environmental issues. Upon proclamation of Bill C-6, the original acts will become part I of the acts, and the environmental protection requirements we are considering today will become part II.

Hon. members can appreciate that this is a very complex and technical bill. I do not intend to discuss all of the provisions in detail today. However, I would like to review the key elements of the land use regime that will be put in place in Yukon.

Bill C-6 provides the necessary authorities for this regime, including the authority for the governor in council to make regulations. The details of the new regime will be contained in these regulations which are now being developed by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development in consultation with all affected stakeholders in Yukon. In particular, special efforts are being made to involve Yukon First Nations in the consultation process.

Currently two sets of regulations are being developed: one for hard rock exploration and one for placer exploration and production. At a later date a third set of regulations under the Yukon Quartz Mining Act will be devised for hard rock development, production and mine site reclamation.

In addition to establishing the authority to regulate, Bill C-6 sets out the powers of the chief of mining land use who will be responsible for implementing the new regime in Yukon. It provides for the appointment of inspectors and gives them enforcement powers. It also includes a mechanism for appealing decisions, a process for the crown to recover any costs incurred in undertaking remedial work, provisions for requiring security deposits and for imposing penalties for non-compliance with the regulations.

One of the most important elements of this proposed legislation is the system of approvals it will establish for various levels of mining activities. Hardrock exploration and placer exploration and production activities will each be divided into four classes, ranging from those that will cause minor environmental disturbances to those that will have significant impacts. Separate licensing provisions are set out for producing quartz mines.

For both the Yukon Placer Mining Act and the Yukon Quartz Mining Act, the first class of activity will be for projects that create a minimum of environmental disturbance. An operator who decides that his activity falls into class 1 will not require approval before the project begins. However, the activity must conform to operating conditions that will be set out in the appendices to the land use regulations for both quartz and placer activities.

Such mining projects will be regularly inspected to ensure they fall within Class I and that they comply with the prescribed operating conditions. An example of a Class I activity set out in the draft regulations is the use of a mining camp by not more than five persons at any one time of for not more than a total of 150 person days in one year.

Class II mining projects willl involve a more intense level of activity that may require mitigative measures that go beyond the basic conditions set out for Class I projects. In this case, the operator is required to notify the Chief of Mining Land Use of the measures that will be taken to minimize any adverse environmental impacts. In recognition of the short exploration and placer season in Yukon, my department will have 25 days to respond to this notification. If no response is made, the operation may proceed without further administrative requirements.

Class III activities are those that will have significant potential to cause environmental impacts. A complete plan of the entire operation must be submitted to my department before work begins, including details on how the operator intends to mitigate the environmental impact. In this case, my department will have 25 days to respond to the applicant, but may during that time secure an extension of no more than 42 days to conduct its assessment.

The fourth and final class of activities will require the same approval process as Class III projects. However, public notifica-

tion of the proposed activity must also be given, and public consultation may be required. My department will have 42 days to respond to the application, with a potential extension period of an additional 42 days. A Class IV approval will also be needed when a placer project requires a water licence under the Yukon Waters Act .

Projects ranked as Class II, III or IV activities will fall under the provisions of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act . The processing times I have just described can be extended where additional time is required to comply with the federal environmental assessment legislation. This will ensure that the impact of the mining activity on other land users will be considered during the assessment process.

As I mentioned earlier, YMAC was unable to reach agreement on only two issues of this bill: those dealing with penalties and levels of security. On these two issues the government has taken a middle of the road approach that has been endorsed by the majority of YMAC members. The security provisions, for example, strike a balance between the opposing views held by environmental groups, which were seeking large security deposits, and the mining industry, which felt that the deposits were unnecessary.

Bill C-6 gives the federal government the authority to require a security deposit up to the estimated cost of site reclamation when there is the potential for a significant environmental impact or there is a risk that another operator may not comply with the requirements of the approval. This fund will be returned to the operator when reclamation is completed to the government's satisfaction.

In addition, the government may require that remedial work be done and if the security is not sufficient to cover necessary costs the balance may be collected by civil action.

On the issues of penalties, these amendments will allow for fines of up to $100,000 for failing to comply with the terms of a project approval each day an infraction continues being a separate offence. This is consistent with the fines that can be laid in relation to similar land use activities in the north and I am convinced it will deter non-compliance.

Bill C-6 also provides a time frame for bringing the new land use regulations into effect. For quartz operations, there will be a six month phase-in period during which operators will be able to prepare and submit applications for their projects.

The land use regulations under the Yukon Placer Mining Act will come into effect after a full placer season has passed. The season is usually seven months.

During these phase-in periods, environmental standards will apply and inspectors will have the authority to issue orders to correct serious environmental, health or safety problems at mining operations. At the end of the phase-in, operators will be prohibited from undertaking Class II, III or IV activities without approval from the Chief of Mining Land Use.

The regulations now being developed will set out what lands will be subject to the new regime. Although Bill C-6 allows for the application of these amendments to all lands in Yukon, we will not unilaterally apply the regulations to lands on which the Crown does not own both the surface and subsurface. In other words, these regulations will NOT apply to lands on which the Yukon Territorial Government or First Nations administer the surface IF they have a management regime in place which meets or exceeds the regulations proposed under this bill. Hon. members should also be aware that this legislation is not retroactive.

The importance of this legislation cannot be overstated from either an environmental or an economic viewpoint. By establishing environmental protection requirements for mining projects in Yukon, Bill C-6 will fill the regulatory gap that does not exist in any other jurisdiction in Canada.

The environmental requirements in this bill are not excessive and will not impede the industry. They are generally considered to be consistent with good mining practices by ensuring that every planned mineral operation, except the low impact class one activities, will be environmentally scanned before they are allowed to commence.

From an economic perspective, Bill C-6 will help ensure the long term viability of mining in Yukon by establishing clear rules of operation and putting Yukon on a level playing field with other jurisdictions in Canada.

This bill will give First Nations the assurance of environmental protection that may encourage them to open their lands to mining exploration and development where beneficial. This in turn will generate revenues for First Nations as well as jobs for aboriginal and non-aboriginal northerners alike.

Bill C-6 would also ensure that taxpayers are not burdened with the cost of clean-ups and mine site reclamation. In future all mining industries will be more vigilant about preventing unnecessary damage to the environment and will be clearly responsible for corrective measures.

These are critical amendments that deserve the support of this House. We must take advantage of this important window of opportunity to establish environmental requirements for mining projects in Yukon. With that in mind, I urge hon. members to join me in supporting this legislation.

Yukon Quartz Mining ActGovernment Orders

8:10 p.m.


Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, it can be seen from the number of people present that aboriginal and northern questions are extremely exciting. I hope that our viewers exceed the number of members in the House.

At any rate, since aboriginal issues are always characterized by their technicalities, I think that the Bill we have before us today is also characterized by its technicalities, the first one probably being that one may well wonder why the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and the official opposition critic for Indian affairs are discussing a bill on natural resources like gold and quartz in the Yukon.

The two would appear to be irreconcilable at first glance, unless one takes a minute to think about the department name, which I would remind you, Mr. Speaker, includes the words Northern Development. So, automatically, everything north of the 49th parallel falls under that department's jurisdiction. That is why today the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, and myself as critic find ourselves the key figures in the debate.

But the bill is also characterized by other technical details such as the environment and natural resources. A consensus and compromise were, moreover reached on this by my colleagues in the Bloc Quebecois who sit on the environment and natural resources committees. Finally, I am admitting to you that we will support the bill, but I shall return to that in my conclusion.

I am particularly interested in what is going on in the Yukon. As you know, there are several ways to manage a portfolio like Indian Affairs and Northern Development. Personally, I subscribe to hands on experience; like many others, I love to go there and share people's experiences.

When any bill is introduced on a given part of the country, you will have a better sense of things if you have travelled and seen the people and the countryside. I think the bill before us imposes a few more environmental constraints on open pit or underground mining. I think I am in a position today to describe what I saw there.

Since 1994, since we arrived in this House, we have passed bills on the Yukon dealing with, among other things, government autonomy and territorial claims. I made friends at the time and I was pleased to see them again in the Yukon a few weeks after these bills were passed. I must say the trip to the Yukon was absolutely extraordinary.

An effort should be made to manage the environmental issue there a little better. Not only are there flora and fauna I have never seen, but nature is still wild there. I went out on the Yukon River and caught a 20-pound salmon there. And no this is no fisherman's tale. The native people really took me fishing. We even ate our catch that evening. It was an absolutely sensational traditional native meal with moose and caribou in addition to the salmon we caught.

I have a lot of friends in the Yukon. The countryside is astounding. You have to see the river. There is almost no pollution, because places are so far away that there is no ever present pollution like on the St. Lawrence, for example. The river water is from glaciers and is both crystalline and deep green.

We must strive to protect those parts of the country that make it rich, not only because of the landscape and the wildlife, but above all because of the people who live there. I was pleased to meet them and I am better able to speak about Bill C-6 and to express what I feel because I have been there and made friends there.

I took some notes since it is always important to have reference points. The Yukon covers an area greater than that of France. Onle 28,000 people live there, so you can imagine the open spaces. I admire immensely the people who took part in the gold rush in the Yukon in the Klondike days. Once, I took off from Whitehorse and flew two hours due north. That was the Klondike, that was Dawson City.

One must recognize the merit of people who went there in order to become rich, to find millions of dollars in gold. It was physically very demanding and it deserves to be recognized.

When we remember that the Yukon is as big as France, and compare France's population to the Yukon's, we soon realize how big it is and how few inhabitants there are per square kilometre.

In 1898, the Yukon became a separate territory. The commissioner as well as six members of the Commission were appointed by the government. It is only in 1908 that all these people became elected representatives. The end of World War II also meant the end of the gold rush. The rush to the Klondike really happened around the turn of the century and fizzled out toward the end of the war.

At that time, thousands of immigrants went to the Yukon. Native people were a majority then, but with the influx of immigrants in the mid 1940s, at the end of the war, they became a minority.

Today, as we speak, native people account for only 23 per cent of the population. It is still a lot. I do not want to overlook that, especially as I noticed that native people and white people get along well there. Mind you, on a territory that big, you do not meet

your neighbour every day, and you do not step on each other's toes every time you go out the door. On such a vast territory, chances are the neighbour will be far away.

However, from what I saw in Whitehorse, relations between the white people and the natives are very good; after all, there are 28,000 people in the Yukon Territory, which is not many given the size of the area.

So there is a territorial administration. Naturally, the federal government kept some fiduciary responsibilities toward the native people but there is a Yukon government which manages social services, the development of small and medium size businesses, education, tourism and renewable resources.

The federal government is responsible for the native people themselves and for nonrenewable resources. Therefore, mines, oil and gas remain under federal jurisdiction. Furthermore, almost 60 per cent of the transfers and grants forming the territory's budget come from Ottawa. Thus, the participation of Ottawa is extremely important.

What is Bill C-6, which is before the House today, meant to do? It seeks to amend both the Yukon Quartz Mining Act, dating from 1924 and concerning rock mining, of course, and the Yukon Placer Mining Act, which has been in force since 1906.

When I started reading the summary of the bill, I looked for the Translation of placer and realized that we have the same word in French. I was very happy to add the word to my vocabulary. The French word "placer" means a gold deposit. Expanding one's vocabulary is always interesting.

One must understand that, in those days, environmental issues came far behind economic concerns. At the time, prospecting for gold was closer to an art than a science. People would head for the streams with their sifter. They would keep the little gold nuggets and throw away the rocks. The scenery is extraordinary up there. The midnight sun is something incredible. I had never seen it. I went to Dawson City, the Klondike town, and was taken to the mountain called Midnight Dome. From there the midnight sun is truly an incredible sight.

However, when you look down you also see a lunar landscape around the Midnight Dome. It was caused by reckless development. Piles of earth were left there and completely spoil the scenery.

It is easy to see that, at the time, the environment was not at all a concern, unlike today. The bill before us seeks to promote a behaviour that is more respectful of nature than in those days. At the time, people were just not concerned about the environment. They were concerned about finding gold. The land was so vast and so sparsely populated that people did not care. Today, we have to care.

These two acts do not include environmental protection measures. However, the requirements regarding development are such that they are tantamount to environmental protection measures.

One of the main features of the act is the establishment of a link between the previous acts and the Yukon Waters Act. In the past, several acts were implemented in an attempt to control development in the Yukon, including the Yukon Waters Act.

All the changes that will be introduced through Bill C-6 will now come under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Thus we see that the intent is good on the part of the legislator. That is why that after the consultations we had, we might receive some slight recriminations or grievances that we will try to review with my colleague in the standing committee. But we would certainly say that on the whole, this piece of legislation is a worthwhile effort. There is a system to approve various classes.

I mentioned that there was no environmental protection, but there are indeed now various classes, and my colleague listed them earlier, which will require some approval and which will help discipline the operation as such for a better protection of the environment.

Thus, class I activities require no preliminary approval but must comply with existing regulation. So there is a first small problem. The regulation was explained to us yesterday through a briefing held by the Indian affairs department, and of course we did not have time to get into it in depth today. We worked at it for part of the day, but the regulation is rather complex and moreover somewhat random and arbitrary. Let me explain.

Among other things, about class I activities, the bill says that a class I program may include activities going beyond the parameters set out above. A camp can be used throughout the calendar year, but never by more than five people at a time, for a total of 150 days per person. If this condition is met, no approval will have to be requested, and the regulations will have been complied with.

But why five people? Why not six or ten? Eventually, we will have to do our homework a little bit more seriously, and scrutinize the regulations, because the bill before us simply says that a class I program will have to comply with the regulation. But the regulation has not been made yet. It is being prepared. As we could see yesterday, 13 drafts have been prepared. We have been given the most recent one, which was completed last week. So there is still a bit of work to be done on the regulations, and we will examine this further later on.

I would like to give you one more example. It is about the construction and permanent use of storage facilities for no more than 5,000 litres of petroleum fuels. For a single container of petroleum fuels, the volume is 2,000 litres. Here again, we have specifications, but I would like to know why 5,000 and not 10,000 or 3,000. This seems to be rather arbitrary, and we did not have time to look at the rationale. I think we will have time to dig a little deeper during the coming weeks, both in committee and at third reading.

Class I activities also include the deforestation of a strip of land not exceeding 1.5 metres in width, the development of a corridor not exceeding 5 metres in width, the excavation of a volume not exceeding 400 metres per placer per year. I just wanted to give you an idea of what is included in each category, because the principle is the following: when you go from class I to class II, the regulations get a little stricter. Also, class II activities require prior notification being given to a federal authority. Class III activities require the advance submission and approval of an operating plan. So, as you can see, the bigger the operations are, the stricter the regulations become.

The regulations in relation to class IV activities are certainly the most demanding because they require the advance submission and approval of an operating plan and also public consultation. For those who are more interested in the economic issues than in the environmental issues, public consultations have become a pet peeve, because it only takes three or four people who object for the project to be questioned. So, class IV activities certainly involve large scale projects requiring public consultation, which means a lot more preparation work for the people who develop the resources to be able to provide the required information to the environmental groups and all those who would want to take a critical look at the class IV activities.

The bill before us did not appear overnight like magic. In fact, we checked and found that consultations were made. In 1990, an advisory committee on the Yukon mining industry was created.

As you know, the issue was a concern to developers as well as to natives and environmentalists in the Yukon. For them, the issue was theirs. There was no way Ottawa or the Yukon government could tell them what to do.

Since they wanted a purely Yukon solution, they gathered together a certain number of interesting people, including the president of the advisory committee, a businessman. The Chamber of Mines was part of the advisory committee. There was also the Klondike Placer Mining Operators Association, the First Nations Council which represents, as you know, 14 communities. A nation and a community are not the same thing, because a nation is often composed of many communities.

This time, it was 14 communities of Yukon native peoples represented by one tribal council, and there are 14 communities in the Yukon. Another member of the advisory committee was the Conserver Society. The Yukon government was there, naturally, as well as the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

Consultations were held. It always difficult for us to determine if the consultations were adequate. Even with all the people I just mentioned, were there enough consultations? Did we take all the necessary steps to let them all have their say?

Maybe not. Indeed, representatives of the Yukon first nations made representations and came to meet me about two weeks ago. They told me that they had some difficulty in following the process. They did not participate in all of the meetings, not because they did not want to, but because, as they told me, they were not given all the necessary support to do so. The meetings did not always take place in the delegated chief's community. I will enumerate the 14 Yukon nations in a few moments.

Some come from Northern Yukon, others from Southern Yukon. When the meetings were scheduled in Whitehorse, as was often the case because most of the people I mentioned have their headquarters in that city, the Yukon's capital, it was not easy for people from the North to be there. The natives told us that, unfortunately, they received little support from the governments to facilitate their presence in the consultative committee meetings.

We were also assured by Indian Affairs officials that the bill is consistent with the land claims in the Yukon and with the self-government clauses that have been signed or will be signed.

Government officials reassured us by saying that, in terms of the environment, in terms of the categories and in terms of development, there was no contradiction with what was given to the Yukon First Nations as far as self-government or land claims were concerned.

We still have some checking to do because, as my colleague mentioned, this exercise has not been completed yet. Four native communities in the Yukon have signed land claims and self-government agreements.

They are the Gwitchin Vuntut, the Champagne and Aishihik, the Nacho Nyak Dun and the Tlingits from the Teslin area, who signed in 1994. They were all here in the gallery and I was happy to salute them at the time. They had been negotiating for 21 years.

They told us that their fathers and their grandfathers had started these negotiations, and I recall that applause was prohibited in the gallery. I think that the guards at the time were understanding and

allowed these people to express their happiness at a settlement after 21 years of negotiations.

We must now see not only whether Bill C-6 before us today is in their interests, but also whether it will have an impact on them. And I would also remind you that negotiations are still outstanding in ten cases. I do not know the size or date of a final settlement for these nations, but they are still awaiting a final settlement on their land claims and their right to self-government.

Among others, I see that Dawson First Nation is in Dawson City, which used to be the capital of the Klondike. I mentioned it earlier, and I also told you about the Midnight Dome, but I could also tell you about the casino that used to feature the Folies Bergères back then. I do not know whether my colleague had the chance to visit, but it is truly a glimpse into the past. The streets are unpaved and the casino is a very popular place. The hotels are also authentic. I myself had a drink with my native friends in the local saloon. It is just as it was at the beginning of the century, really something.

Half of the city belongs to Heritage Canada, which is anxious to preserve this considerable heritage. There is even a wonderful theatre, which is rather like today's versions. There are even boxes for those who had been more successful in their prospecting than others and could afford to rent a box for the whole year, close to the stage, while the poor devil who had had bad luck finding gold had to settle for being way at the back. The same values applied in Dawson City at the turn of the century. There was also a First Nation there, one which would certainly have to be consulted first of all, in order to determine the impact of Bill C-6, for it is on their land that nature has been the most ravaged by gold and quartz mining.

As well there were other First Nations: Kwanlin Dun and Silkirk, Carmacks-Little Salmon, Ta'an Kwach'an, Ross River, Carcross, White River, Liard, the Kluane Council, all of whom are on the path to self government and are involved in as yet incompletely settled land claims.

So, even though we are aware of the legislator's intent, which is to put a little more discipline in place on the mining industry in order to protect the environment, I think that the Bloc Quebecois will make it its duty to keep a watchful eye and to check with all those people on the true impact of Bill C-6. If necessary, we will look at the regulations and ensure that everything is done properly.

We also have environmental concerns. We are in contact with the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Board, which is in the Yukon and is primarily concerned that the bill will provide for costs in the event of bad land management. If, in category II or III, for example, a plan was not followed and damage has been done to nature, the people will eventually have to pay.

The bill provides that people deposit a certain sum of money in advance, so it is available in the event of damage. In the past, companies left the environment in a terrible state when they left. The Yukon Fish and Wildlife Board does not think the money operators are required to put down before they start is enough.

The board recommends that operators in activity category (e) put down a security deposit equal to the cost of returning the site to its original state. This is what I wanted to say not just for category I but for all the other categories. They are not asking for a sum equivalent to the danger involved, but they are asking for a little more than the bill provides, or at least a chunk of it, so that, if disaster happens, the money provided by private enterprise, rather than society, is used for the clean up or for the damage caused.

I am briefly summarizing the bill. We consider it a significant improvement over existing laws, particularly as concerns environmental regulations. I believe I dealt with it extensively.

At the time, shameful exploitation was going on. The environment was not a concern then, it did not matter. Nowadays, it does. The intent of the legislator is to improve the situation, we do agree.

As I said, this bill did not come out of the blue. The result before us today is the result of a consultation process conducted by a committee whose membership I mentioned. Some members complained, probably for not having being able to attend as often as they would have liked.

However, one must admit that on the face of it, the result seems to be the result of a compromise. I say it again, the intent of the legislator was to have a consultation process, which can be criticized, but for the time being we see the result as a compromise.

Environmental and native groups seem to think that we did not consult sufficiently. This cannot be checked easily. We still have more consultations to do. There could have been some deficiencies regarding the consultation process, but would that justify questioning the whole bill? Today, we answer no. We feel that, as the intent is to protect the environment a little more, it is important to let the bill progress.

In committee and during third reading, we could propose amendments to satisfy all the interested parties from the Yukon.

The Standing committee must hear the representative groups to ensure an adequate legislation. Up to now, about ten groups have requested to appear before the committee, I think. I am not one of those who say right away that everyone will be heard. We may have to pay more attention to those who already have grievances. As for placers and mining companies, we have already received letters of

support saying: "As far as we are concerned, the bill is perfectly adequate".

Where there are problems, we will listen to what people have to say and, if necessary, we will make changes. This is what the legislative process is about. This is the purpose of the three readings. This is why standing committees review legislation. The purpose of the process is precisely to improve the bills before us. We have to take the time and use the resources to make these people welcome and listen to what they have to say.

As far as consultations are concerned, if there is a need for further consultations in committee or otherwise, the limited financial resources of First Nations should be taken into account. It is always a problem.

It is not easy to tell people from the Yukon: "Come before the Indian affairs committee in two or three weeks". It costs money and, usually, these expenses are not entirely paid for by the committee. The native people have some difficulty and, after listening to them, we realized that maybe that is what caused a problem with consultations in the Yukon. It required so much time and such financial resources that these people had difficulty following the tempo of the consultation committee.

In the next stages, namely the committee and third reading stages, we will have an opportunity to hear from them and we will see what they have to say.

In conclusion, the Bloc Quebecois will vote in favour of Bill C-6 at second reading stage, but we still want to hear representations from all the groups that wish to appear before the standing committee.

I think that once we have heard these people, fulfilled our duty as legislators, taken into account all of the representations, complaints and recommendations and we made all appropriate efforts to improve the bill as necessary, it must be remembered that Bill C-6 shows the government's good intentions. The Bloc Quebecois supports Bill C-6 for now, except for the small reservations we mentioned. At second reading stage, the Bloc Quebecois will endorse Bill C-6.

Yukon Quartz Mining ActGovernment Orders

8:45 p.m.


Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise at this hour and speak to Bill C-6. I do not have as many lively stories about dancing girls and entertainment in the far north, but from the member's comments it sounds like a good place to visit and I had best get there as soon as possible.

On behalf of the Reform Party, I am pleased to support second reading and referral to committee of Bill C-6, an act to amend the Yukon Quartz Mining Act and the Yukon Placer Mining Act which are old acts, 1924 and 1906 respectively. We will be recommending acceptance of the bill with no amendments.

To reiterate one problem with the bill, both our mining critic and our aboriginal affairs critic had hoped that the bill would be referred to the natural resources committee. The bill deals exclusively with mining activity but I understand it is within the prerogative of DIAND because of the location of the activity north of 60.

The natural resources committee has dealt extensively with mining regulations. It has just gone through a major review of Canada's mining regulations with a report to Parliament on the mining activity within our country. It seems a shame not to take advantage of referring this bill to that committee since the bill is about mining and not about aboriginal people. It seems to us that we are not taking the best advantage of the expertise in committees. We had hoped that since there is no other bill before the natural resources committee it could have dealt with this one.

I realize the bill does deal solely with mining. Of course, mining is extremely important to Yukon. About 30 per cent of the entire economy of Yukon is mining related. By far it is the biggest industrial activity in that territory. The importance of this bill to that industry cannot be overstated.

A bigger part of Yukon territory's economy is the federal government. At a time when the federal government is being forced to cut back in all areas by billions of dollars, transfers to provinces specifically by some $7 billion, health care, education and other former untouchables seem to be on the chopping block, we must ensure that we support whatever industries we have in any part of the country.

It is important that the mining industry not be damaged by this bill. One of our first considerations when we looked at the bill was to see if any of the proposed changes would harm the mining industry in Yukon and if the legislative framework was similar to that in which the mining industry was accustomed to functioning. I am glad to say the bill will do the job for the industry in that area.

Although the mining industry is important, the people of Yukon and elsewhere in Canada would say that the protection of the environment is of primary importance. The mining industry has taken a lot of bad raps, some them deserved, for its activities in times past, but the industry is making a very conscientious effort to clean up its act and its mining sites.

In that sense it is important that the people in Yukon and in all of Canada be reassured that this bill will not result in a lowering of environmental standards. In this day and age it is just not going to be accepted, nor should it be accepted, nor, to give the mining companies credit, do they want a lowering of the environmental standards. The environmental protection aspect of the bill is also important.

There is a misconception about what has been going on in Yukon prior to the passing of Bill C-6. Many people wrongly believe that few or no environmental controls are in place regarding placer and hard rock mining in Yukon territory. That simply is not true. This act will supplement many pieces of existing territorial and federal legislation enforcing the environmental concerns on Yukon miners, including the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. Any activity that involves federal moneys, federal land or federal permission can and does trigger a Canadian environmental protection assessment on that activity. Anything that happens up there already comes under that purview.

In addition to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, Yukon mining is also subject to the following acts: the Fisheries Act, with fines ranging up to $1 million; the Yukon Waters Act, with fines of up to $100,000 if they foul up; the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act; the Territorial Lands Act; the Dangerous Goods Transportation Act, with fines of $100,000 if they botch it; the existing provisions of the original Yukon Quartz Mining Act and Yukon Placer Mining Act; and several Yukon statutes, including fire and forest prevention, gasoline handling, the Miners Lien Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act, and on and on.

Yukon mining is well regulated already. We needed to modernize it and bring it under one umbrella, under one piece of legislation. We needed to fill the gaps and to make both the regulations and the enforcement regime easier to understand and more consistent throughout all of those different acts I have just referred to.

I mentioned that the mining industry across Canada is on record through the Mining Association of Canada and certainly in my speaking with them, as being in favour of strict environmental controls. As long as this legislation is clear, timely and orderly and it is based on science rather than politics, the mining association will have no trouble with it.

One of the main things which has been a very productive part of Bill C-6 is the way in which the bill has arrived at this stage. The legislation was developed through five years of consultation with all stakeholders in Yukon. All of us like to see things happen in a hurry but in this case the go slow process was very productive. Many pages of accompanying regulations are still to be drafted and there are concerns that will have to be addressed as we try to enforce this legislation.

The Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has been engaged for some time in consulting with the Yukon First Nations regarding proposed regulations. There have been quite a number of drafts, 13 drafts as has been mentioned, just to reflect the various viewpoints of all the groups involved to date. The facts appear to indicate that DIAND representatives in Yukon are making a sincere effort to ensure that once again all stakeholders are involved in finalizing the new regulations.

The new regulations will be extensive. They are not included in the bill itself. Except for the generic headings under which the government will now have to make up those regulations, we are going to have to look at the regulations separately from the bill to make sure that they are workable and so on.

I have heard people nitpicking about certain regulations or concerns about the bill. I am nervous that people who sit on other House committees and have not watched this process go through for several years are going to propose nitpicking amendments and changes to the bill as we go through second reading.

We in the Reform Party are convinced that there have been extensive consultations on this bill with all of the stakeholders, with aboriginal people and non-aboriginal people in the area, with the mining association, with the Yukon self-government people and so on. They have all had input and are satisfied that Bill C-6 is as good a piece of legislation as we can get to bring together all of the disparate groups. All of them have been involved throughout the five years.

We will not be proposing amendments at this stage because of the extensive consultations. As long as the grassroots have been consulted properly, when they come to a consensus with that many viewpoints then we had best go along with it. We are not going to suggest to people who have put that much time and effort into it to get a consensus that now is the time for someone sitting in Ottawa to pull a word out from here and there to try to improve it.

Certainly some concerns remain with both environmentalists and some of the prospectors. There are concerns which have been brought to our attention from some prospectors who fear that new regulations may have a negative impact on some very small, hard rock operations. They feel that those small operations may have to jump through so many hoops and go through so much costly and time consuming bureaucracy that the small operations may no longer be viable. Again, we will be watching those regulations. We hope there will be ways to ensure they will be able to do their work.

Although we will be supporting the bill, it is worthwhile to note again that on the greater issue of mining regulation in Canada we have been promised things and deadlines have come and gone. Deadlines have been set by the Liberal government which have come and gone on the streamlining of the regulatory process. The industry minister promised regulatory reform by last December and it has not happened. The natural resources minister promised regulatory harmony between the provinces and the federal government and that has not happened. The government must ensure that

it goes beyond the good promises and the good talk. We have to start walking the walk.

This bill will work in Yukon, but south of 60 we need some regulatory streamlining. It has to happen. The mining association is no longer thanking the minister for her good comments, it is demanding action.

In this bill a delicate balance has been struck which the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development states will not have a negative impact on mining. Mining is the most important private sector contributor to the Yukon economy. We want to register our strong belief that the House should act to fulfil the local expectations of the people of Yukon who have helped to put this together by passing this bill as soon as possible.

Yukon Quartz Mining ActGovernment Orders

8:55 p.m.


Audrey McLaughlin NDP Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak this evening on Bill C-6, which represents amendments to the Yukon Quartz Mining Act of 1924 and the Yukon Placer Mining Act of 1906. Both pieces of legislation have not been substantively amended since the time of regional enactment.

I would like to preface my remarks by saying that Yukon, which has a geographic land mass the same size as Sweden and a population of 32,000, is undergoing a number of processes which have been referred to by other speakers this evening. One of them is the land claims and self-government process approved by the House last year. At the same time the resource activities are undergoing a lot of scrutiny in Yukon.

I am pleased to say that in this case mining does represent a very large proportion, about 30 per cent, of Yukon's economy. It has been a very significant part of the economy since the days of the gold rush and it continues to be today. In fact, mining activities in Yukon today are on the increase.

One of the challenges in a territory the size of Yukon, which has in many ways the characteristics of the last frontier, is how we preserve the environment, ensure the wilderness is preserved and enhanced, as wilderness tourism is a large part of our economy, and ensure mining activity can responsibly take place.

I have never believed the issue is mining versus environment. I believe we are able to come to a conclusion, an agreement, a balance between those two. We can have responsible mining activity and legitimate, realistic environmental regulations that do not undermine the industry and the environment. I think the process that took place to come to these amendments in Bill C-6 goes some way to achieving that.

As mentioned by the previous speaker, the whole issue of streamlining regulations in support of the mining industry is a very complex regulatory regime in Canada. In Yukon I address specifically a very complex regulatory machine for the mining industry. I had hoped these amendments would help substantively not to reduce regulation but to streamline it. This legislation does not meet that test. It does not significantly streamline the process, as we could do while not undermining the sector and not undermining environmental regulation.

The bill is intended to bring in Yukon mining legislation and particularly exploration. It is not that there is not any environmental regulation at the moment, but particularly in the exploration sector there has not been an environmental regime of any strength. This bill will bring much of the environmental regulation in conformity with other jurisdictions and federal legislation.

As other speakers have mentioned, the amendments are the result of a process which I would like to refer to because I think it is very important. It began in 1990. It was a process that involved stakeholders of the industry, the territorial government, the federal government, the department of fisheries, the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, Yukon First Nations. A committee was established with an independent chair. That was particularly important in terms of the process because it meant that no one stakeholder, no one government department was in control of this. It truly was a body made up of all interested parties chaired by a person independent of any one group. Much of the success of this process must be given to the establishment of that form of independence and grassroots development.

It is not a process without problems. During the time this committee was established in 1990 the federal government changed, the territorial government changed and there were certain changes to federal legislation. For example, the waters act used to be the federal inland waters act. It became the Yukon Waters Act. All of these changes obviously brought about changes in the working of the committee.

Unfortunately the committee did not have staff resources dedicated specifically to that committee. There was a certain lack of ability to follow up and implement both consultation processes and other processes related to the technical aspects that had to be done by the various departments and stakeholders.

In general it was a good process, one that could really be looked at in other resource sectors. At the moment I am looking at this in terms of the forest resource sector in Yukon because it was an attempt to involve everyone and to come to some kind of made in Yukon solution which would address industry, environmental and public policy concerns in this sector.

It was also hoped that would streamline the process and it probably has not done a lot of that, but there is some integration of various processes, not probably going nearly as far as we should go in this area, but there is some of that.

The challenge was to find a consensus and a balance between industry and governmental and public views. It proved very difficult because of the many changes taking place at the time. There were governmental changes in jurisdiction of legislation and the land claims and self-government processes.

There is no legislation currently that requires the mitigation of environmental effects of mining activities on claims until the operator has applied for a licence from the Yukon Water Board. Up to that point there is no environmental requirement. This addresses the exploration stage and not necessarily the development and working stage.

At the point of applying for a licence to operate from the Yukon Water Board, the assessment processes under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act take place, but it was clear provisions needed to be instituted for exploration in order to conform to general environmental principles.

This act attempts to address this. Mining activities are further regulated by other federal acts such as the Fisheries Act, the Yukon Waters Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

Bill C-6 sets out four categories or classes as identified in the legislation related to exploration, class one, class two, class three and class four.

There is at the moment no legislation in place to regulate land use activities on mining claims during exploration. Each mining activity now, pursuant to this legislation, will come under one of the classes.

It is proposed that there will be a six month phase-in for the provisions on the Yukon Quartz Mining Act and a 12 month phase-in for amendments to the Placer Mining Act. That is why it is quite important. We have already missed this year's mining season, which is in full swing now. It is important that we try to deal thoughtfully but expeditiously with this legislation so that it can begin to be put in place for the coming months and mining season.

One of the things that is extremely important about this legislation, a very positive point, is there is provision for a two year review after implementation of this act. This is important because often when laws and regulations are made in Ottawa and even by the territory in operation they may not prove to attain the objectives intended. It is a very positive part of this act that the two year review period is incorporated to ensure the act is meeting the objectives for which it was intended.

In its present form Bill C-6 has the support from both the hard rock and placer mining industry, noting that this was intended to be a consensus. Last summer, as recently as two weeks ago and certainly for the nine years I have been member of Parliament I have attended many meetings. I visited many mines, both underground and placer. There is a real anxiety in the mining industry that regulations will become so onerous that especially the small operators will not be able to function.

The committee was extremely sensitive to this because in Yukon placer mining in particular is often a family run business. I often compare it to Saskatchewan family farms because that is really what it is like. One does have to be sensitive that in small operations regulations can be conformed with in a way that it is commensurate with ensuring that business can continue.

There was a lot of suspicion and concern. In the end, the consensus making process certainly produced no winners. People in the mining industry were not necessarily happy with some of the provisions and, as I will mention later, other participants had some real concerns as well.

Letters I have received indicate that members of the industry, including the Yukon Chamber of Mines and the Klondike Placer Miners Association, are totally in support of this legislation in its present form and would like to see it passed in its present form.

Other groups have some concerns. As legislators, as federal parliamentarians, it is important to listen to those concerns in the committee process. The Yukon Conservation Society, which was a member of the Yukon Mining Advisory Committee, has withdrawn its support for this legislation.

The Council for Yukon First Nations has some concerns on specific issues but also regarding the fact that there was some difficulty with a lack of resources in being able to fully do a consultation with all the 14 First Nations. In support of the department, DIAND has made a special effort to do that consultation with the First Nations, although there was a representative on the Yukon Mining Advisory Committee. These are real concerns about this process.

The Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board, established under the land claims agreement, also has some reservations. While I am generally supportive of the legislation and I would like to see it supported by the House and go to committee I believe those expressing these concerns have some valid points which we must seriously consider in committee. Some of the recommended amendments must be addressed by committee members.

I will briefly outline some of the concerns which will come before the committee. Perhaps one of the most consistent concerns is that related to class one activities. Class one activities do not require notification to the public, to the government in either case of quartz or placer mining. This is opposed to the other three classes, which do.

Mining activity can impact on sensitive wildlife habitats. I have a case now which is interesting. In the city of Whitehorse staking is taking place on a greenbelt which is basically a park in a residential area. This is occurring three feet from people's backyards.

These greenbelts were established in a densely populated area to represent a buffer area. This is of considerable concern to homeowners, although it is perfectly legal under these acts and that would not necessarily be changed by Bill C-6. Members of the House might think about how they would react if they looked out in their backyards and someone was slashing trees and putting up stakes for a mining claim.

This can be resolved because under the act it is possible for the city of Whitehorse to make requests to the federal government to withdraw these lands from staking. The city has been doing this, and I am in support of this. It is one of those things that obviously strikes people as the kind of challenge that occurs with regard to mining. It is related to the second issue and concern raised by several groups, which is in many ways the same issue, free entry.

In other words, it is quite legitimate under the law to go into any area and stake, as in the above example. Exploration can take place on any public land. Some groups make the point, which I think is a serious one, that the principle of free entry is incompatible with long term conservation of fish and wildlife habitat. If they do not have to do any kind of study, if anyone can go without first establishing whether it is a sensitive area, clearly there may be a real conflict about the free entry principle.

The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society states that by having the free entry principle the ability of the government is limited to place terms and conditions on mining exploration in sensitive areas, an issue that does have to be considered by the committee. I am sure that the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society will want to put its point of view before the committee.

A third issue mentioned by several groups is the requirement for security which must be posted by operators. Bill C-6 states that security can be requested where the risk of significant impacts are likely or where the operator has a poor track record. The amount of security, according to the bill, is limited by reasonable cost to perform the required mitigation of any damage that is caused by the mining activity.

The concern is really rooted in the experience of the past. I agree with my colleagues who have said that the mining industry's reaction and the Mining Association of Canada are very strong in their support for environmental regulation. In some ways we are dealing with concerns about what has happened in the past, although I have to say that in my very recent experience I have seen situations where mining companies have left or gone bankrupt and the taxpayer has been left with the bill for clean-up. The point that various groups are trying to make is that this should not be the responsibility of the taxpayer but should be the responsibility of the industry.

An example of that right now is in an area near Carcross, Yukon where there was a mine. It was discovered a couple of years ago that arsenic was leaking into the water, into the land, into the berries and into all of the flora around that area and affecting the animals. The owners, Venus Mines, have long since disappeared. It is estimated that the cost to the taxpayer of the clean-up will be minimally $800,000. This is a relatively small mine site so one can appreciate the concern that is expressed here about the discretion of the security and whether there might not be a better requirement for security to be placed.

Such impacts of mining should be, as the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society states, a cost of doing business and not an infinite liability to the taxpayer.

Therefore, the issue of posted security must be reviewed under Bill C-6. I agree that we do not want to make extensive amendments to this bill. It is a result of a consensus process. At the same time there are substantive issues that must be thoroughly reviewed, heard and considered by the committee.

In summary, the general principles of this bill are supportable. The process had some flaws but in general it was a positive attempt to reach a consensus on a very contentious issue. I would say that all participants and, in particular, the chair, must be commended for their efforts and various governments, both the previous and the current one, for their support of this process.

It is recognized by all participants that there were no clear winners in this, that everyone had to give up something. I suppose that is a model we might look at in Canada and as usual it seems to me the Yukon is setting a good model for the rest of Canada.

I would interject in summary one cautionary note. This legislation will only be effective if the Government of Canada is prepared to put in place the resources to enforce the legislation. I am very concerned that with federal cutbacks we will not have those resources. I hope the government will make a clear commitment that there will be sufficient resources for enforcement of the legislation. I must say that if there are not, it will simply increase in the public the suspicion of government making laws which it either cannot enforce or does not intend to enforce.

On that cautionary note I would urge the government to consider this. The House has a responsibility to carefully consider the views of all interested parties. I urge a careful review by the committee of

the points I have raised and I urge passage at second reading so we can get to the discussion of these issues.

Yukon Quartz Mining ActGovernment Orders

9:20 p.m.


Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member for Yukon for making such an interesting presentation and for giving us a firsthand account of mining in her riding. It comes from someone who knows of what she speaks, whereas in my case I go into that magnificent area only every three or four years and gather impressions without being able to get into greater depths on some of the mining issues.

The member for Yukon indicated in her speech, if I understood her correctly, that the bill does not streamline the regulatory regime enough. I would be interested if she could briefly elaborate on what kind of regulatory regime she would like to see.

I would also like to ask her what, in her view, considering all the interested parties she described in her speech, would be a sustainable mining policy for her region. Does she think that the Whitehorse declaration is adequate as a document? If I remember correctly, it was announced a couple of years ago. Is it being implemented or has it remained a declaration on paper? Does she see evidence that the document has become part of the mining activities in that area?

I was glad to hear the member refer to the fact that there are some reservations on the part of certain organizations. She referred to the Yukon Conservation Society which apparently has withdrawn its support.

To conclude, I recall some of the mines in northern British Columbia on the border of Yukon where the mining tails are left in a very undesirable condition. The landscape, the condition of the soil and the surface are left in a degraded state. It makes one wonder if the mining community takes no responsibility for taking care of the surface and the water conditions after a mine closes.

I am sure the member for Yukon has experience in matters related to mining closures. I would be very grateful if she would give us her views on these aspects which relate to her region.

Yukon Quartz Mining ActGovernment Orders

9:20 p.m.


Audrey McLaughlin NDP Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, those are a number of issues but I will try to address them all.

First is the streamlined regulatory regime. Please note that by streamlined, I do not mean fewer regulations or undermining environmental regulation. At one time there were approximately 10 pieces of legislation to which a small mining outfit would have to adhere. Unless there are adequate resources from both the Government of Yukon and the federal government to implement this, it causes the small operator a tremendous problem. I am quite empathetic for streamlining.

There is some streamlining in the bill. Through the Yukon waters act there has been an attempt to ensure that when operators go through that process, they will also be dealing with approvals in other pieces of legislation.

I certainly am empathetic to the small mining operations when they talk about how difficult this can be. Sometimes it is just a lack of personnel and staff resources to deal expeditiously with a mining outfit because they have to go into the field which is sometimes geographically difficult to reach.

I would like to reinforce the point I made in my remarks that the federal government must be committed to facilitate and process the enforcement of any such amendment that is passed, such as Bill C-6.

Sustainability is a huge issue. I know the member for Davenport has a very extensive knowledge and interest in this. In the 17 years that I have lived in the Yukon there have been constant discussions about how to balance the resource activities and the preservation of the wilderness.

Some people think that wilderness is just a bunch of trees sitting around waiting for something to happen. However, others actually believe that it has a tangible value. For example, fur trapping, which is always a very contentious issue, is something which is environmentally sustainable. It is one of the environmentally sustainable, non-intrusive forms of economic development in wilderness areas.

We need a mix and a balance. The process that took place with the Yukon Mining Advisory Committee, because it did include environmental groups, was an attempt at that kind of balance. It is never easy and that is why no winners came out of this, but there was an expression of goodwill by all of the stakeholders.

While I have mentioned some of the changes that the environmental community, including the Yukon Conservation Society and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, would like to see, they are definitely not saying they do not want to see mining or improvement, they just want to see a greater degree of improvement in this legislation.

As to the Whitehorse initiative on mining, the general view seems to be that it is proceeding. I do not think that it has lapsed into a complete vacuum, as sometimes happens with these things. In general, there is support for what is happening, certainly in the industry. Again, it is trying to come to grips with the various values that are represented. In the Yukon it is the First Nations who have an interest in economic development and in some cases now have shares in mining companies and see this as part of their economic development.

Finally, on the responsibility of mining companies in reclamation and abandonment of sites, there have been extremely negative examples of that, particularly in hard rock mining but also in placer mining. As I mentioned in my remarks, the taxpayers had to pick up the bill. These are questions that I have challenged when I have

met with the mining industry. We have to look at this as a cost of doing business.

As the member knows, there have been changes in the legislation that mining companies have to put up front environmental deposits for reclamation. Here we are talking about exploration and saying we should be doing the same thing.

Yukon Quartz Mining ActGovernment Orders

9:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Is the House ready for the question?

Yukon Quartz Mining ActGovernment Orders

9:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


Yukon Quartz Mining ActGovernment Orders

9:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Yukon Quartz Mining ActGovernment Orders

9:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee.)

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Yukon Quartz Mining ActAdjournment Proceedings

9:25 p.m.


Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, the question for discussion tonight is when will Canada ratify the law of the sea convention. The convention is designed to protect the world's fisheries, stop the pollution of oceans and advance the idea that ocean resources belong to humanity and all of humanity is entitled to share in their benefit and use.

In the late seventies and early eighties, Canada was a leader in preparing this convention and among the first to sign it. To come into effect, the law of the sea convention needs to be signed and ratified by 60 countries. This was accomplished on November 16, 1994. In total 92 states have ratified the convention. China has recently stated its intention to ratify and Spain is expected to do the same by the end of June.

In Canada the speech from the throne restated the government's intent to ratify the law of the sea, but this has yet to occur despite a commitment in the red book, despite a recommendation in the 1994 report of the special joint committee of the House of Commons and the Senate reviewing Canadian foreign policy, and despite two commitments in the House by the former minister of foreign affairs. Twice the former minister said ratification by Canada was imminent.

On April 29 of this year the present minister linked the ratification of the law of the sea convention to the importance of ratifying another convention, the convention on straddling stocks, which also deals with the protection of fisheries and oceans. However, there seems to be a reluctance within government to understand that ratifying the law of the sea is a necessary first step in protecting Canada's fisheries and oceans. Once the law of the sea is ratified Canada will gain the necessary credibility to help ensure the straddling stocks convention is ratified by a sufficient number of states so as to be brought into force.

The lack of understanding does not seem to rest with the Department of Foreign Affairs. It seems to rest with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for some strange reason. In other words, there seems to be an impasse between these two departments which is damaging and embarrassing to Canada abroad.

Tonight I ask the parliamentary secretary to the minister when this impasse will be broken. Surely now that 92 nations have ratified the law of the sea, including Australia and France, Canada should act. Ratification is long overdue. Our absence from the international community is damaging. A red book and a throne speech promise has been made. What are we waiting for?

Yukon Quartz Mining ActAdjournment Proceedings

9:30 p.m.

Bruce—Grey Ontario


Ovid Jackson LiberalParliamentary Secretary to President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure tonight to respond on behalf of the Minister of Foreign Affairs to my colleague from Davenport, a great environmentalist and a person who is concerned by and large about the quality of life for all human beings on the planet.

Canada was one of the most active participants in the negotiations of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which it signed in 1982. Canada's participation in the convention stemmed from its general support for the rule of law and multilateral process and its extensive coastlines and substantial continental shelf.

For many years Canada did not ratify the convention due to problems with the provisions on the exploitation of the deep sea bed. These problems were resolved by an agreement signed by Canada on July 29, 1994.

While the convention recognizes the exclusive authority of the coastal state to manage and conserve living resources in the exclusive economic zone, its provisions on the conservation and management of high seas fish stocks were vague and incomplete. From 1993 to 1995 Canada played a key role in the development of the UN agreement on straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks. This agreement, signed by Canada on December 4, 1995, strengthens and supplements the high sea fisheries provisions of the convention.

The government is committed to the ratification of the convention, which will enable Canada to continue to defend its interests in future developments in the law of the sea, in particular through participation in the institutions created by the convention.

It is a longstanding Canadian practice before proceeding with ratification to first to put in place legislation needed to implement the terms of an international agreement. This is to avoid a situation in which Canada would be in breach of its obligations under the agreement upon ratification.

On February 27, 1996 the government announced in the speech from the throne that the legislation to ratify both the convention and the agreement will be presented to Parliament.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, in consultation with the Department of Justice and other affected departments, is actively engaged in the preparation of draft legislation which will enable Canada to ratify the convention. Officials are currently working to resolve the outstanding issues. We anticipate the tabling of the bill to implement the convention in the coming months.

Yukon Quartz Mining ActAdjournment Proceedings

9:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. The House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2.00 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24.

(The House adjourned at 9.35 p.m.)