Madam Speaker, before oral question period, I read the preamble of the UN agreement on fisheries. I repeated that it was important to talk about that agreement, since Bill C-27 seeks to implement it.
I would like to go back to a number of points mentioned in the preamble. For example, the preamble refers to “calling for more effective enforcement by flag States, port States and coastal States of the conservation and management measures adopted for such stocks”. The members who are listening to me, and people who are watching us on television realize that this paragraph ties together three major links, namely the flag state, the port state where the landing of fish will occur, and the coastal state in whose waters the fish is caught.
There are other important points to mention. The countries that will ratify this agreement are conscious of the need to avoid adverse impacts on the marine environment and minimize the risk of irreversible effects of fishing operations. At this point, the countries agree that rules of law must be established to achieve these goals. A little later on, we will see what it means to establish rules of law to make sure there are no irreversible effects.
The preamble also recognizes “the need for specific assistance, including financial, scientific and technological assistance to developing States”.
It is very important that member states, or those that will sign the agreement, agree to help coastal countries or states that have large bodies of water, but not necessarily the means to manage them. Unfortunately, we do not know how the costs will be shared. Of course, it is clear from the agreement that the signatories are giving themselves two years in which to come up with solutions not necessarily apparent at this stage.
The final, and I think the most important, point in the preamble is “convinced that an agreement for the implementation of the relevant provisions of the Convention would best serve these purposes and contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security”.
Canada can come up with wonderful ideas, but they must be shared by other countries and put down in writing so that everyone agrees to observe them. This is where it gets interesting.
Now I will relate this to Bill C-27, which tries to make UNFA subject to Canadian law.
I will take article 21, sub-regional and regional cooperation in enforcement, paragraphs (5) and (6).
Paragraph 21(5) of UNFA provides that:
- (5) Where, following a boarding and inspection, there are clear grounds for believing that a vessel has engaged in any activity contrary to the conservation and management measures referred to in paragraph 1, the inspecting State shall, where appropriate, secure evidence and shall promptly notify the flag State of the alleged violation.
What about the time frame? Paragraph (6) of article 21 provides that:
The flag State shall respond to the notification referred to in paragraph (5) within three working days—
So, if a long weekend is involved, it could be longer. It could even be as long as six days.
—of its receipt, or such other period as may be prescribed in procedures established in accordance with paragraph (2).
This is the spirit of the letter in the UN Fisheries Agreement.
Now, what does Bill C-27 do?
It provides the following change to subsection 16.2(3).
16.2 (3) In addition to the powers referred to in subsection (1), a protection officer may, with the consent of the participating state, exercise any powers referred to in section 16.1. The officer is deemed to have received the consent of the state if the state a ) has not responded within the period prescribed by regulation; or b ) has responded but is not fully investigating the alleged contravention.
I see no time frame in the bill. It is set by regulation. Therefore, I conclude that the governor in council, cabinet, will establish the regulatory measures. Will cabinet follow the spirit and the letter, as described in the UN Agreement on Fisheries? That is the question.
I would now like to turn to the most serious question I have about Bill C-27.
I will say it right off. The Bloc Quebecois supports the UN Fisheries Agreement. It is establishing international law. Naturally, it will not be perfect. However, when we ratify an agreement like that we must honour its spirit and its letter, and so we will have to respect the time frame.
I must refer to Canadian legislation, and this is what the bill does not say, because this will be done through regulations, that the governor in council will decide. However, Bill C-27, the bill to implement the agreement does not amend another bill we passed earlier—Bill C-29. It allows protection officers, with the approval of the Solicitor General and the Minister of Fisheries, to seize and bring the offending vessel to the nearest port, if this occurs in Canadian waters.
Such seizure is effective and immediate. The Canadian legislation makes no reference to five working days. That is where my concerns lie. The Minister of Fisheries has just repeated the same thing he told FAO countries at their March 11 meeting, recommending that the United Nations Fisheries Agreement be ratified and included in its entirety in national legislation world-wide.
I would not want to put any words in the minister's mouth that are not true, but I would like to point out that this seems to be contradictory and could mislead the House. They are claiming that the intention of Bill C-27 is to take the UNFA word for word into Canadian law. This would require us to do away with Bill C-29 and to specify, through regulation, that the time limits will be in keeping with those in UNFA.
I am not fully informed about Bill C-27 at this time, which is a serious shortcoming as we are at the stage of recruiting other countries to sign this agreement so that it will have the force of international law. I believe that 30 signatories are required. We do not have that number at present. Canada wants to give it a good start by being one of the first signatories.
But what signal is Canada is sending to the rest of the world when it claims to want to recommend signature of the agreement in its entirety, while in its own legislation it is not respecting the spirit and the letter of the UNFA?
This, in my opinion, is sufficient grounds for voting against Bill C-27, but I would again point out—and this is unfortunate—the Bloc Quebecois is in agreement with the spirit and the letter of the UNFA.
I will go still further to state that, at report stage—perhaps I did not emphasize this enough—we tabled about a dozen motions on top of what came from the other members, and if I remember correctly, there were some 18 in all. We worked on the motions in four groups.
The Bloc Quebecois motions in fact attempted to have Bill C-27 incorporate, to the greatest extent possible, the spirit and the letter of the UN Fisheries Agreement. Through Motion No. 1, I tried to include in the bill article 5 of UNFA, since Canada was in agreement with it.
Why did the government refuse to Canadianize the general management philosophy? These are very important principles. It is on the strength of these principles that management plans will be developed and our fishers told how Canada wants to manage in the future. If they are not given a vision or general definition, they are still flying blind.
The second motion we presented was designed to ensure that Bill C-27 was worded in such a way that Canadian courts could interpret it according to the letter and the spirit of UNFA. I repeat, if Canada wishes to sign the agreement, the fishery should be structured accordingly.
Worse yet, when 30 countries have signed it, it will have the force of international law. This is one more reason to Canadianize it, to bring it into line with the spirit and the letter of UNFA. Once again, the government has refused to agree to our motion on interpretation.
The second group of motions that I moved, seconded my colleague, the member for Beauharnois—Salaberry, was designed to offset the extraterritorial nature of Bill C-27, according to the spirit and the letter of UNFA.
What do I mean by that? Some will say that it is a question of terminology. International law use the expression zones désignées while Canadian law uses the expression zones délimitées. Why would Canada want to have its terminology differ from that used in the agreement. For some countries that want to sign the agreement, it is as though Canada were leaving a door open to depart from the spirit of the agreement.
The reason for using the expression designated areas is that they have been designated somewhere. It has already been agreed upon and appears in another treaty. In the world sub-regional organization, NAFO, everything is already designated, defined.
As set out in Bill C-27, the fact that Canada can delineate leaves things open to interpretation. I do not want to put words into the mouth of the Minister of Fisheries, but I do wish to indicate my concerns at this stage of the debate. The purpose of implementing this agreement with Bill C-27 is to maximize the number of signatory states. If one is trying to attract people, one must inspire confidence, not create scepticism.
The third group of motions we brought in at report stage concerned parliament's verification rights, and once again this was refused. We were asking that, if there were to be any new treaties, schedules to treaties, the House might be consulted within four months. That is not much, four months.
It is, of course, always the government majority that will get regulations passed. This was a way to get MPs involved in management of the country's assets.
Since this bill and the fisheries agreement and international treaties are so important that the government deemed that this House has a duty to vote on a bill to allow the UN Fisheries Agreement to be Canadianized, to make it part of our own Canadian legislation, I feel that, if there are other changes, Canadian members of parliament ought to have the right to discuss them. But no, they will have none of it.
In this connection, I would remind members that, in international law, in Canadian law, the Canadian government, the governor in council—or cabinet, in other words—may go to the UN on its own, sign and ratify the UNFA without consulting this House. This is according to Canadian law. I can go along with that.
However, I find it unfortunate that they are asking for my agreement to Canadianize certain parts of the UNFA while denying me the right to discuss amendments in the House, while the Canadian government can already do this. I do not understand.
Is this a delaying tactic? Are they trying to convince us that the Canadian government is looking after fisheries, because the UNFA is something that is easily passed in the House? As I say and say again, the hitch is that the agreement is not being respected. The spirit of the UNFA is not being respected, as is the case with Bill C-27. How are we going to get out of it? What is going to happen in all that?
In the light of what I have just said, on the one hand, Canada is saying “Yes, we will pass Bill C-27” in order to please countries that may become allies but, on the one hand, it is retaining its C-29 pistol, which enables it to intervene, board a ship and bring it back to port when it is found to be in the wrong. That is contradictory.
What is Canada really trying to do with all that?
I represent fishers in my riding and I have talked with fishers in other provinces, including Newfoundland. The people agreed with the spirit of Bill C-29, that is, when someone is found to be in error, the ship is boarded and brought to port with reasonable force, naturally, because no one wants loss of life. But now it seems to me, as the Reform member for Delta—South Richmond mentioned as well, that something happened at the UN so that Canada ended up losing the power to legislate and sanction a vessel found taken in error.
The only agreement Canada got, was along these lines “You can investigate, ask questions, take the evidence. However, you must, within five working days, ask the participating government that owns the boat to take police action, establish sanctions, and in this time period, the participating country can itself carry out the sentence or, in the worst case scenario, not”.
If Canada came away with only that, it is perhaps unfortunate, but, I repeat, the Bloc supports the UN fisheries agreement, because we have to start somewhere. In order to protect our resource and enforce all the fine principles set out in the preamble, I think we must join with other participating countries and provide a level playing field. A bit like what we are taught in the Bible, we are to turn the other cheek. This is sort of what the fisheries agreement is asking us to do.
Why do I say “turn the other cheek”? Because we must trust the other signatory country will also enforce the law on its vessel in contravention, and impress on its captain that he is in violation, deserves to be sanctioned and has to live with all the problems that causes.
At this point, we must trust the international community, the diplomatic channels. We must play the game. If Canada agrees to align Canadian law with the spirit and the letter of the fisheries agreement, it will be easier to get other countries to join. Again, once the agreement has come into force internationally—30 states must sign it—even those countries that will not have signed it will be forced to comply with it.
Once that is achieved, Canada can work with the signatory countries to begin to give some teeth to the agreement. Once the UNFA has force of law at the international level, consideration could even be given—and I call for this today—to establishing a special enforcement authority. We have peacekeepers; perhaps we could have a fleet, under the authority of a UN admiral, in charge of co-ordinating the forces of the various coastal states to protect the resource.
In order to achieve what we want in our waters today, what is provided under Bill C-29, we must be prepared to take a small step backward. I agree that this is a step backward, but that is par for the course, as we say.
A final comment on this, if I may. This is where our Canadian fishers end up getting hurt, and this is why I am taking a long time to explain today.
The last time I spoke on this bill, I acted what boarding of a fishing vessel might be like. Take the Estai for example. In that case, the Canadian fisheries officer boarded the ship it and brought it into port.
When we see a ship that, in our opinion, is in violation, what happens then? First, the captain of the Canadian patrol frigate boards the ship. He conducts an investigation and questions those on board. His patrol vessel is clearly identified. The foreign ship's crew has nothing to fear from him, since all he can do is talk to them.
So the captain goes on board, and he asks “What is your country of origin? What was your catch today? May I see your log?” Then he asks to see the fishing gear and the hold, to measure the fish and see whether fish that are too small are being taken, for example. If they caught turbot the size of my hand, for instance, they are in violation.
Under Bill C-29, what would he do? He would read the captain of the offending foreign vessel his rights, then open up his jacket, take out his revolver and hold it at the ready if the captain does not want to co-operate.
Perhaps things will be done a bit more peaceably with the UNFA. The Canadian protection officer will have a new weapon, instead of his revolver. He would have a new tool in his arsenal He would open up his jacket, but instead of taking out his revolver, he would take out his cell phone and call the department of Fisheries of the other country, and say “I am giving you five days notice. We have just picked up one of your people who is in violation”. Canadian fishers are going to find that hard to take, and hard to understand.
I invite them to accept it nonetheless. I am making this prediction: if Canada boards a foreign ship twice in a row, I believe that all the other signatory countries are going to bring pressure to bear, saying “We have no choice. We wanted to do this the honourable way, but some people are not following the rules. We are going to give the fisheries agreement more teeth by giving officers more powers and letting coastal countries catching people red handed apply their laws according to the their own legal code”. That I think is what needs to be done.
The objective is to get people to understand the spirit of the agreement, which they do not currently. As members can see, it is a bit contradictory. It is as if Canada in the scenario I have just painted were trying to give its fishery officers two tools at the same time. But no provision is made in C-27, which serves to implement the agreement.
At the moment, the only weapon a fishery officer can carry is a revolver. Under the new legislation, he will have to use his phone first. There are no other interpretations. In this regard, I think that the members of the House will have to be very sensitive to the issue and vote no. When they come to vote on Bill C-27, they will have to make the effort to reread the UN Agreement on Fisheries, especially paragraphs 5 and 6 of article 21. There is a clear reference to three working days. Now, when we look at Canadian law, we see it is immediate.
However, if we want, by voting in favour of Bill C-27, to implement the UN Agreement on Fisheries, we are shooting ourselves in the foot, because our law provides exactly the opposite in Bill C-29.
Before I conclude, I mentioned earlier that we had concerns, my colleague for Beauharnois—Salaberry and I, about the words used, for example délimité and désigné. We prefer the English choice of designated. We should perhaps use the same words in applying international law.
Under the UN Fisheries Agreement, a Canadian protection officer is allowed to board and inspect where “there are clear grounds for believing”. Bill C-27, which is supposed to implement this agreement, uses the expression “reasonable grounds”. Why has the terminology been changed?
Some will say that I am making a mountain out of a molehill today. I would point out that the purpose of the bill is to implement an international treaty. All other nations will have to live with the same vocabulary. If we are trying to get them to ratify the agreement, why are we changing the vocabulary?
I have already pointed out in my speech that, on three occasions, we have stepped back from this agreement, a bit like Saint Peter when Jesus was arrested: “Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice”.
The bill has not yet been passed, the international treaty has not yet been ratified and already, in at least three places in the bill to implement it, Canada is going against the spirit and the letter of the agreement. Worse still, it is going back on its own word. On the one hand, it is telling all nations of the world to incorporate the UN Fisheries Agreement in their legislation. On the other, Canada has stepped back from the bill at least three times.
This is why I will be voting against the bill. It is too bad. I hope that members will understand from what I have said that I am in agreement with the UN Fisheries Agreement, but I cannot allow the House, and in particular the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the government members, to pass this bill because it is contrary to UNFA.
In conclusion, I would like to raise a few points. Time is being devoted to a debate of this bill, but I remind the House that the government could have gone to the UN and signed and ratified this agreement without our approval. In any event, if there are other annexes or treaties to sign, it is henceforth denying us the right to amend them.
I would have liked it if, this spring, the government had not put us through the problems we experienced in the Gulf of St. Lawrence last summer. The government likes to find out what is going on elsewhere. It is fond of international treaties.
Canada belongs to an international subregional organization called NAFO. The Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization has a management regime. Every participating country already knows what its allocation will be in the Atlantic.
The rules used to determine the total allowable catches and the mathematical formula that will apply to a particular cod, halibut or shrimp stock are known in advance. Each participating country provides the biological information it has. That information is fed into the computer, the total biomass figure comes out and, the mathematical formula having been determined in advance, there nothing anybody can say about it. Every country at the table knows the percentage allocated to it. I think it is paradise at sea.
Canada is part of that management regime, but it does not apply within its own waters the methods used by NAFO.
Why do I mention that? I do not want take away from Canada its constitutional right to manage fisheries. However, once Quebec has achieved sovereignty—or maybe that will never happen even though that is not what I wish—I think it should come to an agreement with its neighbours, namely New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, since all five of them share the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Why could we not do what NAFO does, which is to allocate a specific share to each jurisdiction and ensure that the method used to determine the total allowable catches is transparent so as to take the politics out of the issuance of fishing licences? This is what every fisher, everyone whose livelihood depends on fishing, wishes for.
Under Canadian legislation, the minister has the discretionary power to decide who gets what. Of course, I do not mean to say that the minister is an ogre. He is doing what he can with what he has, but I would like to give him a hand by suggesting that, in the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act, we model our management system on NAFO's.
I would add one last criterion, which could make things easier. When we talk about fixing quotas, some people might get scared and say “No, we do not want fixed quotas for Quebec. We do not want fixed quotas for Newfoundland”. Quota is a scary word. Some people will say “That is it for us”. But that is not the point here.
I would like to borrow an approach from French law. In 1992, French law allowed the European Parliament to set relative stabilization criteria between participating Mediterranean states. What does that mean? It means that the fishers or the participating states know how much fish they can catch. If these stabilization criteria are not quotas, what are they?
One job at sea creates five jobs on land. The main problem is that a live fish is federal and a dead fish is provincial. Could the federal and the provincial governments not find a way for the provinces to set stabilization criteria that would ensure that the five jobs on land do not come and go all the time? That would be a step towards harmonization.
I would remind the House that we must downsize. There is not one province willing to downsize and lay-off everybody working in the fisheries without knowing what its relative basis is.
With the consent of the House, I could speak all afternoon, even all weekend long, on this topic.