House of Commons Hansard #223 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.


Canada Endangered Species Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, perhaps we might start this debate by asking ourselves the following questions: Why are we in this predicament? Why does Canada have some 300 species which have been identified as being at risk?

Part of the answer may be found in a study by Donald Ludwig, Ray Hilborn and Carl Walters recently produced at the University of British Columbia and entitled “Uncertainty, resource exploitation and conservation: Lessons from history”.

They conclude first that scientific certainty can rarely be achieved especially in answer to the question of how long our resources will last. If we delay and wait for a definite answer, the only certainty will be to find that we are likely to run out or will run out of fish, forest, certain animals and plants.

Their second conclusion is that humans are often motivated by greed in exploiting natural resources.

There is a need therefore to act in a way that compensates for the two realities they have identified. That is why we need endangered species legislation with certain characteristics.

Who should decide? It seems to me that the role of scientists ought to be defined as to who would determine which species is threatened, vulnerable or endangered. Scientists, therefore, would, through a special committee, have the power to determine which species need protection, and then find ways of ensuring the recovery of the species. The scientists would work at arm's length from government. Once they determine a species is in trouble, the procedure leading to protection would also be set into motion.

The next question is: How do we protect the living spaces of endangered species? It seems quite clear by now that they must be protected. It means that to protect a species at risk without protecting the land and water that the species depends on is not possible. To protect an owl without also protecting the area that provides it with food and nesting material will not do. It does little to protect a large carnivore like the polar bear, which has been listed as vulnerable since 1991, without ensuring its territory and ensuring that it is not devastated by human activities, including mining operations. The same arguments apply for the many animals lower on the food chain, as well as plants, that are at risk in Canada.

How to proceed in the federal system is a difficult question to answer. It is often said that strong legislation is not possible because we are a federation. The possible answer to that is mirror legislation, which would work in the following way: When a province decides to protect endangered species within its territories, it would ask the Government of Canada to sign an agreement that once that province has equivalent protections in place for the species, then the federal law would not be enforced in that particular province. It would be a coming together between two jurisdictions with the same kind of approach for the purpose of protecting the endangered species.

This approach is necessary because species do not know the meaning of borders. If their extinction is to be prevented, there cannot be a patchwork of protections from province to province with no protection at all in some, weak protection in others and so on.

The other reason we have to move with this particular type of legislation is our international commitments. In 1992 in Rio, Canada was the first nation to sign the convention on biological diversity. The Government of Canada made a commitment to conserve our biological heritage for future generations. Other countries are beginning to take note of our lack of progress on this front. It has been seven years since we signed the convention and we still have no law protecting species at risk.

Protecting species also means protecting a part of the global commons; the resources that belong to everybody, to the global community. Therefore, when damage is done to one species, every other species somehow suffers and is affected by that.

Some people fear that an endangered species legislation would threaten private property. There is no need to panic, because a solution can be found for this particular concern.

The emphasis should not be on what individuals can do to protect the global commons. The emphasis should be on finding solutions and establishing roles for the individual and for the communities in order to arrive at a solution, rather than identifying the obstacles whereby we should not be acting. When it comes to the issue of private property, the tendency has been to magnify that particular issue rather than in developing approaches that would, in the end, result in a solution to that particular problem.

This kind of legislation is now becoming very urgent. The Canadian public is certainly very keen. It has responded very favourably to every initiative made by parliamentarians in alerting the government to the need for moving in this direction.

I hope this bill will serve the purpose that it was originally intended to serve, namely to provide a benchmark for the Government of Canada to possibly adopt in its fullness so that we can have an effective piece of legislation that will be functioning properly in a federal system and that will be adequately removed from political pressures.

I would be glad now to defer to my colleague from Lac-Saint-Louis.

Canada Endangered Species Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


Clifford Lincoln Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was born on Mauritius, a small island in the Indian Ocean. Before colonization, it had 29 species of fauna that were unique in the world. Today, only three remain. The other 26 have disappeared, including the legendary dodo.

The three species left are the Mauritius kestrel, the echo parakeet and the pink pigeon.

A few years ago, all that remained were nine of one species, three or four of the other, the kestrels, and 20 pink pigeons. The Durrell Foundation in New Jersey captured these three threatened species and raised them in captivity in New Jersey.

Now, thanks to a conservation and recovery program, these three species are living in nature on Mauritius.

Three years ago I visited Mauritius where I was born. For the first time in my life, a long life so far, I was able to see a pair of kestrels myself. This was something I had heard of and read about in books and there it was in front of me. I found it a very moving time because it was part of my natural heritage, something that as a kid I could not enjoy. Today, thanks to the Durrell Foundation, we have managed to save the three species but twenty-six others have disappeared.

Learned people, like Professor Wilson of Harvard University, have counted the number of extinct species in this century alone at possibly one million. Jacques Cousteau, the great explorer, told how, on visiting the Amazon, he thought of a beautiful cathedral going back into centuries or a magnificent library of the most precious books. He wrote that losing the species in the Amazon was tantamount to a cathedral or a wonderful library of precious books burning to the ground because we can never replace them.

This is why I am extremely grateful to my colleague from Davenport for having brought this bill forward to protect what really makes species live: the habitat and the ecosystem. Without habitat and the ecosystem there are no species and species disappear. If we clear cut there can be no birds and no wildlife because there is no place for them to live.

This is what has been happening. We have been destroying the habitats and the ecosystems. There are 300 species at risk in this wonderful country of Canada.

This is why this bill is so precious to us. It gives us the ability to protect the habitat. Let us protect the habitat and the species at risk right across Canada. If we must, let us give equivalence to the provinces which have a prime right in many ways if they can show that they have equivalent legislation for them to act. The bill also provides for automatic listing at arm's length of species at risk, another essential element of any such legislation.

It hope these three elements will be found in any legislation that the government brings forward later on. The bill is clear. It is strong. It is logical. It is going to prevent extinction by addressing the root causes of extinction; that is, habitat conservation and preservation.

I will finish my speech with the same analogy I started with. On my own native island of Mauritius there is a little 375 acre island way out in the blue called Round Island. Of all the places in the world, it was the one that contained the most species of plants and wildlife unique to any one place anywhere in the world. They were innumerable on Round Island. Today we can count them on the fingers of one hand. The famous hurricane palm has only one specimen left in the world and it is on Round Island. Thanks again to the Durrell Foundation, they are trying to preserve that unique tree, hoping that in the future they might reproduce it in larger numbers.

I have seen so many species in my own lifetime disappear from my eyes on this tropical island where there is so much wonderful wildlife. I see it happening in Canada as we cut our forests and we toxify our streams and rivers. We must stop it. This is why Bill C-441 is so important. It sends a message, and sets a model for us.

I congratulate my colleague. I think he has done us a great turn by bringing this bill before parliament so that it can serve as an example for possible legislation to follow. This is my fondest wish.

Canada Endangered Species Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Rick Casson Reform Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to debate the merits of Bill C-441, an act respecting endangered species protection.

The sponsor of the bill, the member for Davenport and the chairman of the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development, is a learned man and a man committed to a cause. He puts his heart and his soul into environmental protection and is not reluctant to speak out, even against his government many times.

However there are times when I disagree with my colleague on the means that should be used to accomplish the end. I come from a background that promotes smaller, less invasive government, a government that does not overwhelm its citizens with mind numbing layers of bureaucracy. I am a firm believer in motivating people to take action through positive incentives, not through the threat of heavy handed government action.

It is because of these distinctions that the member for Davenport and I sit on opposite sides of the House. However, I am grateful that when we have differences of opinion we can engage in a public debate and let our positions be judged on the merits of our arguments.

Wildlife is an intrinsic part of the Canadian identity. From the days when native peoples roamed the lands to the days when the first European settlers arrived and today when Canadians spend over $11 billion in their nature pursuits, Canada's rugged beauty has captivated our souls.

We value nature and its wildlife for many reasons. We depend on a healthy environment for food and raw materials. We value the medicinal and health benefits we receive. A vibrant ecosystem cleans our air, purifies our water and nourishes our farm lands.

The economic spin-offs that come from recreational nature pursuits or from sustainable harvesting of our natural resources are a significant part of our national economy. Most important, we believe that we are given the duty of stewardship by our creator. We have a duty and an obligation to ensure that our environment is preserved for future generations.

This deep respect for nature and wildlife has created an international reputation of goodwill for Canada. This respect led Canada to make international commitments to protect its biological diversity. Canada was one of the first countries to ratify the UN Convention on Biological Diversity which committed Canada to a path of sustainable development. This convention also committed Canada to pursue an agenda of sustainable development and bound Canada to develop or maintain necessary legislation and/or other regulatory provisions for the protection of threatened species and populations.

In spite of being home to almost 20% of the world's wildlife, Canada is failing to live up to these international obligations. Canada's wildlife is only protected through a piecemeal approach of federal and provincial legislation. This legislation while protecting some species does not adequately protect Canada's wildlife at risk.

In my role as the chief environment critic for the Reform Party I have repeatedly asked the government when it would be fulfilling its obligations by introducing responsible endangered species legislation. Despite my efforts I still have no answers.

In response to a letter that I wrote in March 1998 the environment minister promised that she would be introducing endangered species legislation before the end of that year. That target has passed and now the latest target date promised by the minister is quickly approaching. The minister recently promised to introduce legislation before the summer recess, but it is doubtful that she will even meet that target.

The Reform Party supports developing responsible endangered species legislation. It is even given specific mention in our blue book. Members of our party realize the important role that the federal government can play in protecting our wildlife at risk. We realize that the typical method of government intervention is outdated and ineffective. The command and the control authority that the government so dearly clings to do more harm than good.

One need only look to our southern neighbours to see the results of top down command and control, heavy handed government regulation. The United States endangered species act has been a complete failure. Billions of dollars have been spent on bureaucratic paper shuffling while not one endangered species has been delisted because of a successful recovery.

The hostile climate that this bill has created between private property owners and the federal government has done more harm to the cause of endangered species protection than having no legislation at all. The complete disregard for private property rights and absence of any positive stewardship incentives have virtually destroyed any spirit of co-operation between the government and landowners.

The government practice of seizing private lands without providing fair compensation has led to the so-called shoot, shovel and shut up syndrome where landowners would rather eliminate a resident endangered species on their land than run the risk of government seizure. This is perhaps the most telling statistic of this law's complete failure to recover one single species despite spending over $13 billion since its inception in 1973.

I fear for the well-being of the country when I hear calls for Canada to develop legislation based on this draconian example. This is not the protection that Canada's wildlife at risk needs. Canadian endangered species legislation should be driven by those people who are intimately connected with Canada's wildlife. Instead of being driven by invasive government actions regulated by a far removed bureaucracy, a bureaucracy that has no idea of the subtle nuances of the local endangered species, protection should start on the ground with those who will be directly affected.

On crown lands means fish and wildlife officers, wildlife experts, conservation groups and land users. “On private lands” means the farmers, ranchers and resource sector employees. These individuals should be our first line of defence. Stewardship of the land has a long tradition in Canada among those who depend on it for their livelihood. These responsible land users realize that if they treat the land with respect it will continue to sustain them with its bounty and goodness.

However it has not been the tradition of the government to give the proper respect to private property landowners. The last attempt by the Liberals to introduce endangered species legislation trampled the rights of landowners, granting the government the authority to arbitrarily seize lands without adequate compensation. It ignored stewardship initiatives in favour of government programs. It expected landowners to bear a disproportionate financial burden simply because they own the land.

Unfortunately I see this tradition continued in the bill we are debating today. The bill broadsides the rights of private property owners. Although the act applies to all lands there is no mention made of compensation for affected landowners. It pits neighbour against neighbour, allowing endangered species protection actions to be launched without even waiting for an investigation. If the government investigation clears an anonymously accused individual, the report does not require that the name of the accuser be made public, creating an environment of suspicion and hostility between neighbours.

In true Liberal fashion over half of the bill pertains to enforcement and punishment measures, while giving only cursory mention to recognizing private stewardship initiatives. The bill is about control. It is about giving unfettered power to the central government.

Landowners should be our first line of defence in the fight to protect endangered species. This means working with landowners instead of working against them. It means including them in decisions affecting their lands. It means educating them and assisting them in working with recovery plans. It means offering them compensation if their land is affected.

Responsible landowners who display proper land management practices, who have actively sought to protect and nurture endangered species, deserve to be recognized. Incentives can be used by the government to encourage and reward responsible stewardship practices. Responsible legislation will recognize this need and will provide for a process where governments and landowners can reach a mutually compatible, voluntary contractual agreement that protects wildlife at risk and respects private property rights.

My time is short but I would like to close with a few comments that I hope the member and his minister take under advisement. Science should be kept above politics by all means. Recommendations for species at risk should be made by an independent body based on scientifically sound evidence. However, the final decision must rest with parliament, for it alone has a democratic mandate which entitles it to balance the competing interests of economic and environmental needs. Although the bill rejects the concept of balancing economic and environmental needs, we cannot have a healthy environment without a healthy economy.

Finally, and I think I can say above all, I ask the minister to bear this in mind as she develops her own legislation. Environmental policies which emanate from liberty are the most successful. Our chosen environment is liberty and is the central organizing principle of Canada. There is a direct and positive relationship between free market societies and the healthiness, cleanliness and safety of the environment. Free people work to improve the environment and liberty is the energy behind environmental progress.

Canada Endangered Species Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-441, an act respecting the protection of wildlife species in Canada from extirpation or extinction.

This bill is almost identical to Bill C-65, which died on the Order Paper. Some changes were made regarding the role of provinces, but the bill still does not respect provincial jurisdictions.

The purpose of this bill is to protect wildlife species at risk. It provides for the establishment of a list of designated species as well as a recovery process. The designation of species, the scientific criteria used to include a species on the list and the recovery plans will be among the responsibilities of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, or COSEWIC. There will be a complete restructuring of this organization from its current form. It will be made up of nine members appointed by the Minister of the Environment, and they will be paid.

Bill C-441 will apply to the so-called federal species such as migratory birds and aquatic species. It also deals with transboundary species as well as all species found on federal lands, and their habitats.

This bill prohibits anyone from killing, harming, disturbing, harassing, capturing or taking an individual of a species at risk as defined in the bill. Also, no person shall destroy its residence, its den or its nest. Those who contravene the act will face heavy fines and penalties.

Bill C-441 directly threatens the provinces' jurisdiction in environmental matters. In fact, on the pretext of meeting the requirements of the international convention on biodiversity, the bill introduced by the hon. member for Davenport interferes in areas under provincial jurisdiction.

Bill C-441 does not respect the constitutional division of powers with regard to the environment because it is based on a much too broad interpretation of the definition of territory and because it does not respect the joint responsibility of the federal government and the provinces with regard to certain species.

The bill gives the Minister of the Environment broad discretionary powers, in particular regarding appointment of the COSEWIC members, listing by COSEWIC of threatened or endangered species and the authority to implement or not recovery plans, etc.

It should be noted that even if there is an amendment to section 5(3) regarding admission criteria, our concerns remain basically unanswered. The Minister of the Environment still has discretionary power.

One fundamental fact we must remember is that, since 1989, Quebec has had legislation on this and that the legislation works well and has had good results. We should avoid creating more bureaucracy and useless duplication—I am sure the member for Davenport will agree on that—and we should also use our energy for what we believe is important, that is the fate of threatened species.

This bill, rather than allowing provinces to participate in the designation and recovery process of threatened or endangered species, excludes them.

In its preamble, the bill tries to demonstrate that the protection of biological diversity is a fundamental issue, so important that it is a national concern. Hence, the bill introduced by the member for Davenport tries to grant the federal government powers that would allow it to intefere in what is clearly provincial jurisdiction, by putting forward the necessity to abide by the biodiversity convention. The bill validates interference by federal government.

In our view, the federal government cannot justify such interference by putting forward the necessity to abide by a convention, because it is the provinces that have to implement the convention on their own territory.

I would also like to raise another point and that has to do with the definition of federal land. I have a problem with that, because the definition in the bill is much too general. It defines federal land as land, including any water, that belongs to Her Majesty, and the air above that land, the internal waters of Canada as determined by the Territorial Sea and Fishing Zones Act, including the seabed and subsoil below and the airspace above those waters, and any other lands that are set apart under the Indian Act.

You will understand why I cannot subscribe to such a broad definition which implies that the seabed, the subsoil, and the airspace above internal fresh waters, which normally come under provincial jurisdiction, will be managed by Bill C-441. The definition of federal land refers to other legislative texts giving jurisdiction to the federal government over the fisheries and shipping on internal waters.

As a result, this bill gives the federal government much greater and broader authority over everything connected with these lands, including the protection of endangered species.

I want to clarify by describing in greater detail the division of powers regarding the protection of the environment, especially wildlife, under the Constitution. As could be expected, the protection of wildlife and its habitat is not provided for in the Constitutional Act of 1867.

However, under this act, the provinces have jurisdiction over the management of public lands, they belong to the provinces—subsection 92(5), property and civil rights—subsection 92(13), and generally all matters of a merely local or private nature—subsection 92(16). These powers are specific enough and broad enough to allow the provinces to legislate with regard to wildlife on provincial public lands as well as on private properties.

The use of the term “federal species” is confusing because this notion does not take into account the territory where those species are found. Under Bill C-441, migratory birds are considered federal species, even though they have always been recognized as a joint responsibility of the federal government and the provinces.

The bill states that, under the Constitution Act, 1867, the federal government has jurisdiction over sea coast and inland fisheries—section 91, paragraph 12—and may therefore appropriate any power with regard to the protection of fish, marine mammals and marine flora found in Canada's territorial sea and internal waters, including the subsoil below and the air above. Nothing less. Similarly, this bill gives the federal government jurisdiction over the habitat of migratory birds, whether the said habitat is on provincial land or not.

Combined with the definition of “federal land” and with section 35, which deals with transboundary species, this is certainly one of the most questionable provisions of this bill.

So the bill gives the federal government the power to intervene with wildlife species and their habitat, aquatic species and their habitat and migratory birds.

I would have added a lot more things, but I can only congratulate the member for Davenport for having introduced this bill to the House. I know how interested he is in everything that concerns the protection of species at risk and the environment.

The Bloc Quebecois criticizes this bill primarily because it totally changes the rules of the game by not establishing a species' territory and confirms direct meddling in areas of provincial jurisdiction.

Canada Endangered Species Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Rick Laliberte NDP Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise this evening to speak to Bill C-441, an act respecting the protection of wildlife species in Canada from extirpation or extinction.

I would like to thank the member for Davenport for an excellent bill. His wisdom, vision and leadership are appreciated. His efforts to improve the protection of the environment for this and future generations are evident in his position as chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development.

The bill before us reflects the hon. member's vision. Canadians can only hope that the environment minister's proposed species at risk legislation will be as well written to ensure the protection and recovery of species at risk in this country.

Canadians have told the government to act. The Prime Minister received a letter signed by 638 Canadian scientists, calling for specific action to be taken on the scientific listings of endangered species and the explicit need for national habitat protection for transboundary species.

Two letters from the scientific community, dated February 1997 and October 1995, stated explicitly that one cannot protect species at risk without protecting their habitats, the places where species feed, breed, rear their young, and so on, which are critical to their survival and recovery. The letters stated that habitats can be geographically dispersed and are not confined within political boundaries, but must each be effectively protected to ensure a species' well-being.

Regarding the scientific listing of endangered species, the letter to the Prime Minister is quite pointed. It reads:

Identifying and listing species at risk is the foundation of endangered species protection. Your government recognized this in its 1995 legislative proposal, and agreed that species at risk should be identified and listed by COSEWIC—an independent committee of scientists drawn mainly from government and academia—and that mandatory listing should follow COSEWIC's determinations.

Since then, your government has abandoned this principle in two ways. First, the federal environment minister recently decided to strip most of COSEWIC's non-governmental scientists of their voting rights. This change (which was made without public notice) weakens COSEWIC's independence by opening the door to political interference in species listings.

The Prime Minister's letter also refers to this government's effort to give cabinet the power to override the scientifically based list of species at risk. As I mentioned at the outset, we Canadians can only hope that the environment minister's proposed legislation will be on par with Bill C-441.

I encourage all members to read the summary of this very sound legislation. It states:

The purpose of this enactment is to prevent Canadian wildlife species from becoming extirpated or extinct and to provide for the recovery of those that are extirpated, endangered or threatened as a result of human activity.

This is a vision which has protection and recovery as its purpose. We need a sincere, non-partisan approach to address the crisis that faces Canada's biodiversity today.

The bill's preamble presents an outline for a working framework between all jurisdictions. There is a specific reference to the conservation efforts of individual Canadians and communities that should be encouraged and supported and their interests should be considered in developing and implementing recovery measures. This is a specific reference to the role of citizens and communities.

There is also a specific reference to the role of aboriginal people and of the wildlife management boards established under aboriginal land claims. I thank the hon. member for his continued diligence in traditional aboriginal ecological knowledge and the important role that this presents for Canada and future generations.

Throughout the interpretation section the definitions are good. The definition for residence is especially important, as it notes the basic facts that wildlife is mobile and is affected by seasons. A bird does not spend its entire life in a nest and the caribou feed and calve in different areas.

Prevention of species loss and species recovery provides the basis for this bill. I do not believe the minister will be able to match this principle due to politics.

I have not seen the Prime Minister's leadership and vision for proactive environmental initiatives, so I fear there is a strong probability that these basic principles will be missing from the current government's legislation.

Bill C-441 sets a standard for the responsibilities of ministers and the delegation of responsibilities between departments and jurisdictions to ensure this legislation works. Consultations with stakeholders are ensured. Funding requirements are outlined in section 9. These references include specific management and fiscal responsibilities. It is refreshing to see legislation where accountability for a minister's action is defined.

The hon. member for Davenport includes an excellent proposal for a specific Canadian endangered species conservation council. With specific reference to the Prime Minister, I hope the wildlife species listing process described in Bill C-441 will be included in whatever legislation the government assembles for this crucial issue.

The basis for the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, COSEWIC, would address the scientific, academic, non-governmental organizations and overall concerns for effective legislation. This means effective protection, prevention and recovery. Otherwise, why waste the trees to print a meaningless and toothless biased law?

It is unfortunate that the government is setting a dangerous precedent in the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, CEPA, which is about to enter the House. We can expect the government to throw out the democratic committee process once again with CEPA next week. We fully expect industry bias and that the industry and natural resources ministers will overrule the environment and health ministers. Canadians can only hope that this government will attempt to reverse the current trend toward environmental devolution and degradation with a well written endangered species act.

The proposed recovery and management plans are based on realistic terms. They represent a conscientious approach that includes the necessity for public buy-in. There is a requirement for landowners' needs and concerns to be addressed and considered.

On the international stage Canada is falling behind. It is well reported that our North American neighbours have effective endangered species legislation. The United States has had this legislation for 25 years. As signatories to the Rio biodiversity accord, Canadians can only expect that this government will finally act.

I will read some comments from a publication I received while I was at the United Nations in New York recently:

Currently, a grizzly bear can lumber across the border from the American state of Montana, where it is protected by law, and die quite legally in a hail of hunters' bullets in the Canadian province of Alberta. Similarly, wetlands and forests critical to creatures like the whooping crane and the spotted owl enjoy virtually no protection in Canada, though they are rigorously policed by the U.S....which is why the American conservation groups...have gotten in on the issue...they are attempting to use a 30-year-old American fishing law to pressure Canada to conform to a 55-year-old convention on wildlife by passing a species law.

The mechanism they plan to use is the Pelly amendment to the Fisherman's Protective Act of 1967. Their filing of a petition under this amendment would require the U.S. Secretary of the Interior to evaluate Canada's efforts to comply with international programs to protect endangered species.

Not only are Canadians knocking on this government's door, international neighbours and the world community is also looking at Canada to take leadership and to make a move on protecting our species.

The publication sums up our current status, which is why Bill C-441 is necessary for the protection and recovery of species at risk.

I thank the hon. member for bringing a worthwhile bill into this House and I ask all members to vote in favour of it.

Canada Endangered Species Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

John Herron Progressive Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise to speak to Bill C-441, an act to protect wildlife species in Canada from extinction. Ninety-four per cent of Canadians, an overwhelming majority, support protection for endangered species. Estimates of extinction range from two to three species a day to three to four species an hour.

In 1992 Canada signed the International Convention on Biodiversity. Under the terms of the convention Canada made a commitment to protect threatened species and habitats. Under article 8(k) it had to develop the necessary legislation to provide that protection. Sadly, six years later we were without any legislation. It is soon to be seven years.

In October 1996 Canada's 10 provinces and two territories and the federal government all signed a national accord for the protection of species at risk. It committed each jurisdiction to establish an effective endangered species program. To date, four Canadian provinces have laws in place that specifically protect species at risk. They are Ontario, New Brunswick, Quebec and Manitoba.

While only a few provinces currently have plans in place, most notably a federal plan remains outstanding. We wonder why it is taking so long. The solution is simple. The federal government has to introduce a bill that identifies species needing help, that does not allow for them to be killed, that gives them a home and helps them recover. Bill C-441 proves it can be done. Any bill introduced by the minister should follow its lead and achieve at least the following goals.

Ideally a Canadian law should apply to all federal lands with complementary legislation from the provinces. It should have a specific listing of the species at risk and the habitat required for survival. It should automatically prohibit the destruction of the species and its critical habitat. It should require a recovery plan within one year for endangered species, two years for threatened species and three years for vulnerable species from the time of listing. This will prevent what I call the 911 approach to species protection.

If we invest in the earlier years when species are vulnerable, we can actually protect them from entering the more costly stage when they become endangered and we may not have the resources or the time to address the issue.

We also must require protection for critical habitat and require the advance review of projects that may adversely affect the protection or recovery of an endangered or threatened species or its critical habitat.

The federal government already had a chance to put forward a bill that could have accomplished these basic goals. To date it has failed to do so.

The government introduced Bill C-65 during its past mandate but it was widely criticized for several key weaknesses. It protected species on federal lands only. It protected them from direct harm, or harm to the nest or den only, which was known as a residence. The bill required recovery and management plans but never required them to be implemented. Cabinet, not scientists, was given the authority to list a species as endangered. That was a tragedy. It required action only after the species had hit a crisis situation, again the famous 911 approach.

Nonetheless the bill was sent to committee for a lengthy review process. I know firsthand about lengthy review processes of a bill. We just endured six months of reviewing the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

The bill that returned from the committee was significantly stronger but it still had key weaknesses. The bill still only covered federal lands and waters and cabinet still only did the listing of endangered species.

Due to many problems identified by both industry and environmental NGOs, Bill C-65 was allowed to die on the Order Paper at the dissolution of parliament in 1997. Since then the Liberal government has been promising a new bill that will hopefully address these concerns.

Bill C-441 certainly does. It addresses the crucial weaknesses identified in Bill C-65 and meets all the ideal criteria for a new federal law. Although it has not been deemed votable, I can assure members that Bill C-441 is the standard against which any future federal legislation should be measured.

The goal of any endangered species legislation should be to create an atmosphere where the landowner will act in a way that positively contributes to habitat protection. Allow me to say it again. The goal of any endangered species legislation should be to create an atmosphere where the landowner will act in a way that positively contributes to habitat protection so that existing endangered species are protected and future endangered species are prevented.

This does not necessarily mean taking over land management of private property. If an endangered species is found on private land, then the landowner must be doing something right and should be encouraged to continue.

Encouraging stewardship programs will create an atmosphere where the benefits of biodiversity are valued and recognized. This is the approach the Canadian Nature Federation has taken. It ensures that landowners, industry and environmental NGOs are actually advancing in a common cause the best, well balanced piece of legislation possible. The work that Sarah Dover has been doing on behalf of the Canadian Nature Federation and the coalition should indeed be acknowledged.

Legislation that recognizes the rights and responsibilities of landowners and resource users is the most effective way to achieve co-operation. Without the co-operation of the provinces, landowners and resource users, the most stringent criteria of an effective endangered species act will be impossible.

Legislation should implement stewardship, including recognition and compensation programs across the country to ensure that landowners and resource users would consider land management practices that protect species.

Critical to the success of the upcoming bill the government plans on introducing is it should not be restricted to the residence of a species. It should include its core habitat. Survival of a species depends on its having a place to sleep, eat and breed.

The vast majority of Canadians want the federal government to implement strong endangered species legislation. It will set a standard for the provinces to achieve.

Information sharing is also critical. It is essential to species recovery. Effective species recovery is not only dictated by limited resources but also by limited knowledge. Endangered species protection legislation must focus on encouraging the use of information to protect species. Imperfect information can result in underestimating or overestimating the value of a habitat and will result in negative net benefits.

Information from the scientific community, traditional knowledge and landowner concerns must be considered when deciding how an endangered species will be protected.

Information sharing should also be used to alleviate the fears of landowners who will lose their property rights should they become involved in the recovery of a species. The wildlife department must show that all of society will bear the cost of endangered species protection.

We also need to ensure that we are rewarding stewardship activities. It is far more effective than outright control of private property. Simply purchasing land in most cases is not the most effective method of protecting species. The economic benefit brought from the land is lost and other unforeseen problems can arise. But there is a moral hazard in purchasing land because the landowner benefits while the rest of society pays.

In the time remaining, I would like to outline some of the other initiatives which have been done around the world.

American legislation is known as command and control approach legislation. It is largely ineffective and does not have the support of the resource users or landowners. It does actually promote the shoot, shovel and smile approach which we do not necessarily want to advocate. We want all of society to show leadership in protecting species at risk.

The British legislation actually has some innovative approaches in terms of having land preservation or specific areas where a species is provided a core habitat. It is something that should be included.

In conclusion, regardless of which plan the government decides to introduce, it is imperative that the legislation work. The American law is strong but ineffective. We do not want the same thing to happen in Canada.

Canada Endangered Species Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I regret to interrupt the hon. member, but his time has expired.

If the hon. member for Davenport wishes to exercise his five minute right of reply, he may do so now. I should advise the House that when he speaks, he will close the debate.

Canada Endangered Species Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, allow me to express my words of thanks to the hon. members who participated in this debate and provided their comments, views, suggestions and criticisms.

It is unfortunate to hear the Reform Party expressing its lack of belief in the role of government and its belief in the fact that somehow society should find a way to solve its own problems by way of some mysterious activity which is not the result of the decision of society to govern itself by way of established rules that come about when we decide to have a government.

The Reform approach is one that would lead to very few decisions being made in the name of society at large. I suspect that we would not have social security or programs that bind society and distribute wealth if we were to fully bring to its ultimate consequence the philosophy of the Reform Party.

With respect to this bill it is very doubtful that we would ever be able to protect endangered species and come to some tangible results if it were left to the enterprise of individuals, as well intentioned as they may be, to come to some initiatives that would ensure protection of the species.

I was struck by the comments made by the hon. member from the Bloc Quebecois who spent much time describing the issue in terms of federal and provincial species. This is an interesting political point of view and an interesting way of dividing the fauna surrounding us. However the fact remains that birds and animals do not understand political jurisdictions.

We would not want to have a system whereby a bird landing on a provincial stone would be out of luck because the particular province did not have specific legislation to protect birds. However, if the same bird were to land on a federal stone it might have some degree of protection.

Surely this is not what the hon. member intended to imply as the ultimate consequence of her logic. It seems to me that she is on a very dangerous slippery slope if she tries to judge legislation on the basis of jurisdiction that is of a political and human made nature and does not take into account the reality of the fact that animals move. There are not only migratory birds that she generously attributes to federal jurisdiction. There are also animals that do not respect provincial boundaries.

There is a consensus among all participants on the recognition of the absolute necessity of protecting habitat. Habitat is the key to the legislation which ought to have some impact and ensure the protection of endangered species.

It seems we have a consensus that is rather encouraging. I hope it will give the Government of Canada sufficient material on which to build interesting legislation. It is quite obvious that without habitat there cannot be adequate protection of endangered species.

In this sense I hope the hour we have spent on this bill has been a productive one and one that can be used for the design of good and lasting legislation.

Canada Endangered Species Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired, and the order is dropped from the order paper.

It being 6.30 p.m. this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at ten o'clock a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6.30 p.m.)