House of Commons Hansard #83 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-23.


Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

It being 6.06 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business, as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from November 15, 1999, consideration of the motion.

International Circumpolar CommunityPrivate Members' Business

April 11th, 2000 / 6:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

When debate was suspended the hon. member for Churchill had five minutes remaining.

International Circumpolar CommunityPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, once again I thank my colleague from Churchill River, Saskatchewan for bringing forth Motion No. 237.

Since it has been a while since the motion was last before the House, I would like to read it again. It reads:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should recognize the 55th parallel as the identified Canadian boundary for participation in the international circumpolar community.

The 55th parallel is very important to me. I have lived in Thompson, Manitoba for about 27 years. We recognize ourselves as being north of the 55th. We identify with northerners throughout the other provinces in Canada and throughout the world.

We have had the opportunity to meet with people and we deal with a lot of the same issues, the same problems. In a lot of cases our peoples are the same in those northern areas.

We find it somewhat interesting that within Canada we do not recognize the 55th parallel as being the boundary which should enable us to belong to the circumpolar group represented throughout the world.

This motion would certainly give us that opportunity. It would give the peoples of those northern communities the opportunity to meet with the peoples of the circumpolar regions of the world on a regular basis, and to discuss more formally how they could address the problems they may be having and the issues they may be dealing with.

I would suggest that at this crucial time in our history, with global warming, now more than ever it is important that the peoples of these regions come together to identify the problems which are resulting from global warming.

In the region of Churchill, Manitoba there is documented evidence that polar bears are not able to sustain their lives the way they have in the past because of global warming. The ice is not staying in long enough, so they cannot get out to eat enough seals to keep their weight on to get them through those long cold winters in northern Manitoba.

Now more than ever it is a crucial time to recognize that Canada, and those regions of Canada which are north of the 55th, should be part of that global family which is recognized as the circumpolar region.

The different peoples involved in these regions are similar throughout the world. Indigenous peoples in the Arctic areas have concerns about the effects on wildlife and themselves of the long range transport to the north of contaminants. Again, this would provide an opportunity for them to come together to address those concerns.

Motion No. 237 asks that the House, by adopting this motion, recognize that northern impacts are not limited to the 60th parallel box. That is the area which Canada recognizes as belonging to the circumpolar group.

It is Canada itself which is recognizing this, so we as parliamentarians have the opportunity to change that. I would hope that my colleagues would consider that. It is important to the northern region of Manitoba, my region, but I am sure it would be important as well to the other provinces of Canada.

International Circumpolar CommunityPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate on this motion, as it is a motion in which I am most interested.

Like my colleague who spoke previously, I have spent a good deal of my life at 55 degrees north in two different situations. I lived in the north of England in the British Isles, and I lived for three years in Schefferville, which, like Churchill, is about 55 degrees north in northern Quebec. It is interesting that I have lived at both of those locations, at 55 degrees north, and both of them are very different.

I also spent well over a year of my life at 80 degrees north, which is pretty far north. I do not think there would be any debate about that.

It is interesting to note that three of the great cities of the world, St. Petersburg, Helsinki and Stockholm, are all very large communities and are located at 60 degrees north. Again, they are located at very different locations from Churchill, Yukon, northern Quebec and the British Isles. Those great cities are located in Scandinavia and Russia.

The member uses the argument of global warming. When we lived in Schefferville, in northern Quebec, we argued that Schefferville was in the north, not because it was warm or getting warmer, but because it was very cold. Because of the wind, the snow and the storms, it was even colder than average conditions would suggest.

If we start at Labrador and northern Quebec and move through northern Ontario, across Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, into B.C. and Yukon, using average conditions, they get better. I would argue that the town of Schefferville is as far north as one could possibly get in terms of the severity of weather conditions and the lack of comfort.

What I like about the member's motion is that it is a way of raising awareness in Canada of the north and of the importance of the north. It is true that we are a great northern nation, but we lack awareness of that fact.

The other countries I have mentioned, even the British Isles, have a strong sense of the north in some parts, and yet by our standards in Canada we do not think of them as being northern at all. Here in Canada, with our very high Arctic territory, more than any other country, there is a very low awareness of that fact.

The member's motion I think is excellent and draws attention to the people and the conditions of the middle north. He is doing us all a great service by bringing forward his motion.

The government has done a remarkable amount of work with respect to the circumpolar community. It was Canada which really brought together the Arctic Council, which represented the eight polar nations and three great, different, indigenous peoples' organizations.

The Arctic Council came into being after the Soviet Union disappeared. Canada persuaded the United States, through Alaska, that it should be part of a council which would have an overview of the circumpolar community.

The Arctic Council has been very active. It was the Liberal government which appointed, for the first time, an ambassador of circumpolar affairs, Mary Simon. It is interesting to note that Mary Simon was the elected president of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, the great international organization of Inuit from Greenland to Siberia. It was the Inuit Circumpolar Conference which brought forward the idea of the Arctic environmental protection strategy, which is a self-explanatory strategy instrument, which has been taken over by the Arctic Council. The council now represents all circumpolar nations and is being used as the basis for the protection of the environment in the entire circumpolar north.

The Arctic Council and the ambassador for circumpolar affairs are both examples of something which the government has done to bring attention to things northern, as the hon. member is doing here very effectively.

With respect to the people at 55° north or anywhere else on the globe, I point to the establishment of the University of the Arctic by the Arctic Council. The University of the Arctic now exists in form. It is not yet offering courses. I believe its secretariat is based in northern Finland at the moment, but it will be a moving secretariat. The University of the Arctic will offer courses through the Internet which will be available all over the world, but which in fact will be particularly valuable to residents of the middle north, the near north and the high Arctic. I see the University of the Arctic as a positive outcome of the Arctic Council which was established by Canada.

Since the Arctic Council was established, I note that the government has continued with activity which has stimulated interest in the north across Canada, as the hon. member is trying to do, and stimulated interest in circumpolar affairs, in which the hon. member has mentioned he is equally interested.

I point out a 1997 review of northern interests entitled “Canada and the Circumpolar World: Meeting the Challenges of Co-operation into the Twenty-First Century”. That was followed in 1998 by the Sustainable Development in the Arctic: Lessons Learned and the Way Ahead conference which was held in Whitehorse. It involved the federal government, the territorial governments of both the Yukon and, as it was in those days, the Northwest Territories government. Now of course it would include Nunavut. Those conferences were designed to gather information about the north from the people of the north and also to stimulate interest in the north across the whole country.

The minister commissioned a consultation paper to order northern foreign policy for Canada. Through it, the ambassador for circumpolar affairs, Mary Simon, whom I just mentioned, conducted hearings not only in various northern locations, but also in southern Canada, including in my own community of Peterborough. Like the hon. member's motion, that activity stimulated interest in Canada in both our north and the circumpolar north, and it stimulated interest in what Canada is doing and what Canadians are doing in their own north.

I am pleased the hon. member is putting this motion forward. I commend him for it. I am not personally sure of the practicalities of shifting to 55° north for the reasons I have mentioned. Of the other circumpolar nations, I suspect those that have capitals and major cities at 60° might well have some concerns about bringing in latitudes as far south as the British Isles, such as Ireland, for example. However, I strongly support his motivation in raising awareness of the people of Canada's north, including my daughter who was born at 55°, and the people who live farther north in Canada.

International Circumpolar CommunityPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I too wish to congratulate the hon. member for Churchill River, for giving the House this opportunity for discussion and no doubt to go further.

I have many reasons to wish to speak to this motion. I was not on the foreign affairs committee when it carried out its study proposing the addition of the entire circumpolar aspect to Canada's foreign policy, but I can say that I have already been the Parti Quebecois adviser on this program, and as such proposed the addition of a component for the north.

We cannot look at a map, know the history or be interested in international relations, or know society—I am speaking of Quebec—and not know that the north is inhabited by native peoples, nations, totally original societies, that developed mores and, in terms of the environment, for example, are inheriting problems generated in the south. They do not always have the means to resolve these problems.

I was also aware of the need for the various societies in the north to talk to each other. I am pleased as well to hear the member point to the major contribution by a geographer, an anthropologist, Louis Hamelin, a historian as well, who really contributed to giving the north, northern societies and northern Quebecers, their letters patent of nobility. I think he really pushed us to expand our interest in the north, but he also pushed for organization of the people in the north.

All these reasons heighten our interest, because we have to learn from others and must get organized. The member for Churchill will not, however, be surprised to hear me raise a question, which in Quebec and no doubt in the other provinces, if it applies, is of interest: it is the question of the translation. For the expression “frontière canadienne”, in English, instead of saying Canadian border, they say boundary. I have had some research done, and this is confirmed by international research. The word frontière is closer to the English term border, while boundary is a better equivalent of limite or “limite territoriale”.

The definition that I found reads as follows: “Border: noun, edge of a road, etc.”. The second meaning is that of a “dividing line between two countries”. This is not what the motion of the hon. member for Churchill River is about. On the other hand, the definition of boundary says “noun, border, anything marking a limit” and adds “between countries”, “frontier”. So, I urge this assembly to allow us to continue the debate on the member's objective by accepting the following amendment.

I move:

That the motion be amended by replacing, in the French version, the word “frontière” with the following: “limite territoriale”.

Members will realize, and I am sure the hon. member does, that we completely change the meaning of his motion if we change the border of the provinces.

I am sure this is not at all what he intended. His intention is to define a boundary within borders, but a boundary beyond which people recognize themselves and are defined as being from the north, as being nordic people and as being part of the circumpolar circle.

Other members wondered whether the 55th parallel should be debated. I think we could discuss it, but not if the word “frontière” is kept instead of “limite”. I have not spoken with Mr. Hamelin, but I think he would agree with the word “limite” instead of “frontière”.

I wanted to move this amendment because, otherwise, we are no longer talking about the same thing. We are talking about redefining borders and I do not think that the member for Churchill River intended, by his proposal, to create societies completely detached from the province to which they belong. I believe he wants people living in northern regions to be able to form groups, with the approval of the provinces and NGOs, in order to define goals, bring pressure to bear, run programs or take part with parliamentarians in the proceedings of the Arctic Council.

Once again, I congratulate the member on raising this issue in the House and I urge him to take into consideration the reasons for my amendment.

International Circumpolar CommunityPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The amendment is in order, but I wish to know whether it applies to the French text only.

International Circumpolar CommunityPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Yes, Mr. Speaker. In English, the word used is not border but boundary. The purpose of my amendment is so that the word used in French is what I consider the best translation of the word boundary.

International Circumpolar CommunityPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Fine. The amendment is therefore in order.

International Circumpolar CommunityPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I think by my rising and speaking in the English language the interpreters who are interpreting from French to English must be heaving a huge sigh of relief after your work.

International Circumpolar CommunityPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

I take that as a compliment.

International Circumpolar CommunityPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

I did not mean it to have any derogatory sense at all, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to take a few minutes to debate Motion No. M-237, which is interesting. What the amendment has done is put into French what we were understanding. Had the hon. member for Churchill proposed to change the boundaries of the provinces, there would have been quite a bit more discussion on this. He would have found himself in many interviews with the press and many other exciting events had he actually proposed that we move the boundaries of all of the provinces down in order to accommodate this motion.

I would like to speak to the motion as given:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should recognize the 55th parallel as the identified Canadian boundary for participation in the international circumpolar community.

As I understand it, he is not changing any borders. All he wants to do, when it comes to negotiations and participation with other countries involving the circumpolar region, is include all of those people who are north of the 55th parallel. I wish he would look at me and nod so that I understand the motion. He is nodding yes. Thank you.

I do not know how many people here are aware of an interesting fact about Canada. I happen to live just outside of Edmonton, Alberta. Edmonton is at 53 degrees. This suggestion means that we would be taking a line approximately 220 kilometres north of Edmonton, everything north of that would then be considered to be in the circumpolar region if this motion were to pass. Another way of putting it is that we are moving the boundary south approximately 560 kilometres from the present 60th parallel.

An interesting fact about Edmonton and about Canada is that Edmonton is farther from the equator than any land mass in the southern hemisphere is from the equator, other than the Antarctic. In other words, if you went to the very southernmost point of South America, Africa or Australia, you would still be nearer the equator than we are in Edmonton. We have a lot of people who live north of the 55th parallel. We are indeed a hardy population in Canada. We believe in sticking our faces into the wind and the snow and carrying on.

The motion has to do with the inclusion of people who are living between the 55th and the 60th parallel for the purposes of these international debates and discussions.

It goes without saying that living in the northern climate is a challenge. It is a harsh climate. It is one that demands a lot of respect for the people who for centuries have lived in that region, have survived there and have done very well. They are a hardy people. We ought to congratulate and admire them for that.

It also makes a great deal of sense that, when we deal with the question of how to survive in such a harsh climate, we work with other countries that have similar situations so that anything we discover or invent that will help us to live comfortably in that part of the world we would then share that with people of other countries who are also in this circumpolar region.

Second, this part of the country is very rich in resources. A lot of people are not aware of that. We tend to think that life begins in Toronto, stretches over to Montreal and ends in Ottawa. A lot of this country that is outside of that Bermuda Triangle that I have just mentioned.

North of the 55th and 60th parallels, there are many resources. We are talking about huge mineral and mining resources, such as oil, gas, and all the natural resources which exist up there. As well, it is a part of the world that is very rich in animal life and vegetation. There are many different forms of life.

This brings challenges to all of us who live in that kind of a climate. I cannot but encourage us to work together with other countries that are developing their resources in similar climates, to share our resources and, hence, improve the quality of life of more people than just our own.

I have some serious questions on this subject. I am always a great one for asking questions and then allowing other people to try to find the answers. I have some serious questions about our work with other countries in this particular regard.

It seems to me that Canada very quickly tends to help form or join any and every organization that comes up. We see our Prime Minister going overseas. Part of this country's foreign policy seems to be developed as information goes from the Prime Minister's brain to his mouth. It is not fully formulated when it leaves his brain but, by the time it gets to his mouth, we have some pronouncements. We have heard that in the last couple of days.

How effective is the Arctic Council? When we deal with other countries through it, are we getting a kick for our dollar? I wonder if there are better ways in which this can be accomplished. Can the finance minister tell us what studies have been done to show that this is a wise investment and that it is worthy for us to be participating in these organizations with other countries in this way?

What often happens is that these organizations tend to grow as soon as government resources are put into them. It is not only from Canada but other countries as well. It is not necessarily a corollary that a larger organization gives more benefits to the taxpayers in whatever country, including Canada. However, I think Canada is particularly vulnerable to joining and spending money without being really cognizant of tangible and measurable benefits.

I suppose we could maybe just put it under the auspices of HRDC and see what happens. It could not be much worse than what we already have. I am being facetious so I had better say that. I do not think Hansard records the sound of sarcasm. Now I have it on the record.

The other question I have concerns the relationship between the provinces and the federal government. We already have a lot of tension between the provinces and the federal government in the areas of health care and others. If this boundary were moved down then a portion of each province would once again have to work, I think, through the federal government in foreign policy in order to deal with foreign countries.

I do not think we will say to these organizations that are dealing north of the 55th that they have carte blanche, that they can do whatever they want. It invariably has to be in consonance with federal foreign policy, which is, of course, controlled by the federal government.

To have another organization in parallel to what we already have instead of working within that is questionable in my view and would need more answers.

At any rate, I congratulate the hon. member for Churchill River for again showing us genuine, legitimate concerns about the north and how the people of that part of the country are working together.

International Circumpolar CommunityPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.


Ted McWhinney Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Churchill River has introduced an interesting concept into the House debates. It is worth reminding ourselves that the concept of territorial frontiers is a relatively modern conception, and it is of course a European conception.

We were reminded by the brilliant Algerian jurist, Mohammed Bedjaoui, who later became president of the world court, in the western Sahara case, that it really did not have much meaning for non-European people until the Europeans arrived without invitation on non-European shores.

I looked very carefully at this and I sympathize with the motivation behind it. One point to bear in mind, however, is that a unilateral declaration by the Canadian parliament on recognition of membership status in any organization is not something that one can impose on others. It may be a King Canute type declaration that nobody else accepts.

Every recognized official international organization has its own credential committees, its own criteria for membership and the status of membership. This is a rather distinct group of organizations that we are dealing with here. I note the comments of the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

He highlighted the many and interesting new partnerships that are on the horizon, particularly with Russia and the Baltic States. He cited existing partnerships such as the Arctic Council, the Barents Euro-Arctic Council of the European Union and the Council of Baltic Sea States. The Euro-Arctic Council created committees to serve as forums for co-operation. I am talking of a collection of international organizations without legal status or decision making powers.

We are dealing with voluntary organizations like the Commonwealth and, to some extent, La Francophonie that are created but do not have decision making powers. Therefore, the strict rules that we apply to the United Nations, or it applies to itself and its subsidiary organizations do not apply.

The valuable aspect of this suggestion is to take note of the formula that Paul Martin, Sr., the minister of external affairs in 1965, and the then premier of Quebec developed for federal-provincial co-operation and for the federal government, without sacrificing its autonomy as a federal government, voluntarily to include representatives of the provinces in Canadian delegations to international conferences, including those within official United Nations organizations.

If the motion by the member for Churchill River could be interpreted as being an invitation to the Canadian government to recognize the artificiality of the distinction between the 60th and 55th parallels and the many elements of the Canadian community, then I would endorse it. The Metis are a perfect example, as are the Indian communities much further south in Canada. If it is an invitation to the Canadian government to consider naming these people as part of the Canadian delegations, then I think it is a recommendation that I would endorse and favourably recommend to the government. I think the government could accept it.

It is certainly within the spirit of these larger northern organizations that we recognize a common ethnic link between the peoples of Russian Siberia, northern Finland, northern Sweden, northern Norway, Iceland and our Indian peoples, aboriginal peoples and the Metis people. Why not take advantage of that? One of the powerful instruments of Canadian foreign policy is to profit from the plurality of our peoples and our cultures.

In that light, I would suggest that the government can and should take notice of this suggestion. The hon. member for Mercier is a very thoughtful member.

The member for Mercier has moved an amendment about the distinction between boundaries and borders. English legal language does not, in my opinion, afford any legal significance to this distinction, but, in French, I certainly accept her suggestion. It seems to me the best English translation would be to substitute a concept such as “the southern limit”, or something like it.

In that spirit, I can certainly accept the suggestion, which seems quite valuable. It also indicates the plurality of our thought on this issue, and it is in this spirit that I willingly accept the proposal by the member for Churchill River.

He has reminded us that this is a plural country. He has reminded us that Canada is more than just the European descended peoples and the concept of territorial limit based on the 55th parallel has an artificiality that is certainly Eurocentric in its origins. Therefore, in the future, Canadian delegations will take advantage of our peoples who are linked by ties of consanguinity to the northernmost people above the 60th boundaries and will be an extra richness for our delegations.

International Circumpolar CommunityPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Mark Muise Progressive Conservative West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, my colleague for Richmond—Arthabaska has already spoken to Motion M-237, introduced by the hon. member for Churchill River. However, I would like to add a few more points.

A lot of things can be said in reference to the bill, but indeed the cornerstone of the bill is where does the north start? Does it matter that the border is placed at the 55th parallel or the 60th parallel? And what are the consequences of this change? What is the purpose of it? What are we trying to accomplish here?

It is true that we do not think enough of the north and I think this is a shame as the north is full of natural resources. We are all aware that our Canadian economy is primarily based on the export of natural resources. Indeed, we should pay better attention to the northern people as well.

I believe that my colleague from Churchill River has attempted to catch our attention through this motion, and for that I congratulate him.

A question that I think we should ask is will modifying the circumpolar boundary have such significance or is there not another way to increase the strength of the people from the north? Of course, by setting the border at the 55th parallel we would increase the political weight of the north within Canada as we would be including more people.

In order to deal with such a motion, we have to study the impact of the changes within Canada. For instance, what will happen to the provinces? How will they react to this? What about certain governmental departments like natural resources, Indian affairs and others?

Certain provinces, then, might have to comply with new obligations because of this change. If part of the territory of certain provinces were to become part of the Canadian north, this would have an inevitable impact on the provinces. But are they in a position to respond to that impact?

It would be important for the provinces to be consulted on this matter, because their boundaries will be affected if the parallel change is made.

Even though the purpose of the motion presented by my colleague from Churchill River is good, the Progressive Conservative Party could not support the motion because of the way it is presented. We feel that a great number of elements are missing and that it could create more damage than good if the motion were passed as it is now.

The Canadian north is one of our best kept secrets. It is true that measures should be taken in order to develop its tremendous potential and that we should collaborate with the people who live there, but the PC Party just does not believe that changing the boundary will achieve that. Maybe it would give the people of the north more political weight inside Canada, but still, I do not think this is the real solution to developing the north.

High technology is often referred to in connection with the world economy. We have only to look at the investments here in this region, in Silicon Valley North, and in other regions of Canada in the areas of pharmaceuticals, telecommunications and high tech.

These are fields that are in rapid expansion, and they represent a real economic force. The north, however, is going to take on more and more importance as well.

Indeed, let us not forget that even though high tech is the future, Canada's economy still relies primarily on its natural resources and that most of them are located within the north. Instead of changing the boundary, should we not focus on developing northern Canada? The PC party believes that if efforts are being carefully directed, the Canadian economy could even grow stronger through proper development of our natural resources in the north and high tech in the south.

Our party supports betters development and a stronger economy for all regions of Canada, including the north.

International Circumpolar CommunityPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.


Dennis Gruending NDP Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure indeed to rise in support of the motion put forward by my friend and colleague from Churchill River.

I want in the beginning simply to indicate as he has speaking at a previous time that what we are talking about here is not changing the borders and boundaries of provinces and having some new definition here that would create a whole rearrangement in the way government is done, at least in terms of borders and territories. What my colleague has said is that the circumpolar world uses the 55th parallel as its definition.

If we look at it on a map from the top of the world, so to speak, from the Arctic looking down, we see that that parallel would take in entire countries such as Finland, Sweden and vast swaths of Russia, but in Canada the way it works now is that the border is set at the border of the Northwest Territories. When these people get together to talk about common issues and concerns, and certainly there are common issues and concerns no matter what country they happen to fall into, in Canadian terms there are vast and large reaches of what we consider to be the north which are not included.

What my colleague I think is saying is that we are not talking about changing political borders. We are talking about changing borders perhaps in the way that we think and perceive. I will give a few examples of this based on my own experience growing up in the southern area of the province of Saskatchewan, whereas my colleague grew up in the northern area. There are vast differences in history, in geography and many other aspects.

I will describe the river systems in Saskatchewan. The South and North Saskatchewan Rivers which arise in the Rockies and go on through Saskatchewan up into Manitoba and empty into Hudson Bay drain an area which is very different than the northern area. In fact the 55th parallel falls between the Saskatchewan River systems and the Churchill River to the north, not to mention the Peace-Athabasca system which runs out of Lake Athabasca one way and ends up on the coast and the Mackenzie River system ends up going straight north.

There have been in history, the fur trade for example, very keen and perceived differences between these areas, the area drained by the Saskatchewan River system and the areas drained further north.

To use one example, I have read significantly fur trade literature. A great writer and map maker named David Thompson spent many years first in the area of what is called the Saskatchewan River system and later on in further points north. In very descriptive writing he talks about the significant differences between the Cree and the Chipewyan people which he described extremely eloquently, not to mention the Dene and Inuit people.

There are differences among those people but they pale in comparison to the differences historically in many other ways between those people and the Europeans who came to settle the more southerly areas of our province.

I do know from the time I have spent in my own home province of Saskatchewan as a resident and a journalist that there have been attempts and recognitions by our provincial government, a belated one I might add, but in the early 1970s there was a recognition that the way in which southern Saskatchewan was governed was not working to the benefit of what we consider to be northern Saskatchewan and again the line would come pretty close to the 55th parallel as described by my colleague from Churchill River.

The government of the day, the government of Premier Allan Blakeney, observed that things were not working in the north and that there had to be some new efforts made. The department of northern Saskatchewan was created. There were attempts to have new ways of governing take place.

These attempts were not entirely successful but they were indeed a recognition between the vast differences between what we consider to be the south and the north.

I might add that one of the considerations given was that there should be some form of revenue sharing for resources extracted from the north because, as we know, unfortunately we have tended to extract resources in northern areas inhabited by aboriginal peoples and take the benefits and the riches south. That is common not only in the province in which I was raised, but also in the other provinces.

What my colleague, the member for Churchill River, is saying is that we must recognize that the situation I am describing in Saskatchewan historically is one which could be said to have existed in all of the provinces and that Canada's way of dealing with the people in northern territories has been similar. We exploit the resource but the people who live there are often disadvantaged by the ways in which we exploit the resource that has an environmental component and also by the loss of wealth to the region which they inhabit.

It is that kind of stepping out of the box that my colleague and friend from Churchill River is asking us to do. He is saying that the international community has identified the 55th parallel as its recognized boundary for circumpolar participation. He is not saying that we should change the boundaries of our country in any political way.

There are eight member states in the Arctic Council. They are Canada, Denmark, Greenland, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia and the United States, because of the state of Alaska. These people do get together and they have many important things in common to discuss. I believe that is why this motion is important. It is to extend membership or at least the possibility of representation to people living further south.

My friend and colleague, the member for Churchill River, has talked about the fact that people in these northern areas are environmentally disadvantaged, if I may put it that way, from pollution which they did not create but with which they have to live. I remember reading not long ago in a newspaper front page story about an aboriginal woman in Churchill whose son had developed what we would call sunburn. That has to do with the thinning of the ozone layer, particularly in northern Canada. We have heard recently, and this is a cause for great concern, that the ozone hole there is depleted by about 60%. The woman's young child had developed a rash on the back of his neck and she, in her language, did not have a word to describe sunburn. That is the kind of thing that is happening to people in the north.

My colleague from Churchill River is not saying that somehow we should split that part of the country off from the other in any politically identifiable boundary sense. He is saying that these people also have a concern. They also share in the fate which may befall them, much to their chagrin, if things keep going along the way they are environmentally. He is saying that people in a place like Churchill have much more in common with people further north than they might have with people in Winnipeg or Saskatoon or Thunder Bay and they have a common way of looking at the world and some common problems that we do not quite share.

He is asking, at the very least, when these international conferences occur which do look at the world from a certain point of view that is very valid and very grounded in the life they have lived for thousands and thousands of years, that the people in northern Canada, the part of Canada between the 55th and 60th parallel, be given the opportunity to participate and extend this world view and explain it to the rest of us so that we might begin to look at that part of the world a little differently.

He is certainly talking about governments. He has talked about how the Canadian government has taken a very colonial mentality toward those areas. He is saying that we have to change. This motion is only a motion, it is not a bill. The world will not change overnight if we pass it, which I certainly hope we do. I recommend to other members that they support it.

He is simply saying let these people participate in this organization and some other organizations which have a similar intent. He feels that there will be an advantage if this occurs. I certainly agree with him.

I would urge members not to be too picky in saying what dastardly things would result from this, because no dastardly things would result, other than perhaps a change of mindset, and that would not be so dastardly at all.

International Circumpolar CommunityPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

Brome—Missisquoi Québec


Denis Paradis LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak to this motion.

I would like to thank the member for Churchill River for giving the government an opportunity to speak to our ongoing recognition and support of the many challenges and opportunities facing Canadians in northern communities.

To respond adequately to my colleague from Churchill River I feel that I should first say something about the government's vision and agenda for the north.

In the widest sense our long term objectives for the north parallel the goals we have for other parts of Canada and reflect the broad themes of “Gathering Strength—Canada's Aboriginal Action Plan”. These are as follows. First, democratic, effective, and accountable governments give their citizens input into the decisions that most directly affect them.

Second, individuals and communities, whose fundamental rights are protected, under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms for example, receive services and programs comparable to those received by Canadians elsewhere, but their diversity as northerners is safeguarded and encouraged.

Third, prosperous local economies develop in a dynamic and sustainable way, strengthened by the knowledge and research needed for success over the long term.

Fourth, fiscal relationships provide governments with the resources and stability needed to act effectively in the present and to plan for the future.

This government's vision includes ensuring the protection of aboriginal rights and that market-based economies with conventional regulatory structures are adapted in the north. Real progress is being made. Aboriginal and non-aboriginal groups are communicating better and with the settlement of claims and agreements on self-government the groundwork is being laid for even more progress and co-operative institution-building in the future.

On the international front, our previous preoccupation with asserting sovereignty over the north has been replaced by a more productive and positive focus on encouraging circumpolar co-operation.

Concrete steps have been taken toward these goals with indigenous participation in international forums such as the Arctic Council and the work of the Canadian Polar Commission.

Since 1991, the Canadian Polar Commission has played a critical role with respect to monitoring, promoting and disseminating knowledge of the polar regions; contributing to public awareness of the importance of polar science to Canada; enhancing Canada's international profile as a circumpolar nation; and recommending polar science policy direction to the government.

The commission's commitment to promoting the development and dissemination of knowledge of polar regions has been evident through the commission's participation in the interdepartmental committee for the Northern Science and Technology Strategy, and through the efforts to foster the advancement of traditional knowledge.

Furthermore, the commission's work with respect to enhancing Canada's profile as a Circumpolar Nation through its involvement with the International Arctic Science Committee and the Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research has, indeed, been invaluable. The point of all this is to highlight the fact that we have an excellent vision and agenda for the north that is producing real benefits for northerners and for the country as a whole.

At the core of my hon. colleague's motion today is his assertion that the government rigidly defines the north as only that territory which lies north of the 60th parallel. Let me be perfectly clear from the start. We, in fact, do not have one singular, inclusive definition of the north. I believe that I can best illustrate the government's position on this question with a few examples.

One of this government's programs administered to the north, for example, is the food mail program. This program is designed to make nutritious, perishable food more affordable in isolated communities.

In conclusion, for 1999-2000, the program's budget is $15.6 million. The program provides funding to Canada Post for transporting nutritious, perishable foods to isolated communities by air. This funding helps keep the cost of food down.

International Circumpolar CommunityPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. parliamentary secretary. He will have another five minutes remaining when the bill next comes up for consideration before the House.

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

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

International Circumpolar CommunityAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.


Gordon Earle NDP Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am very concerned about how the government is dealing with our veterans suffering from the Gulf War syndrome and other post-traumatic stress disorders.

On many occasions I have raised the issue of the dangers posed by depleted uranium and its impact on our Canadian Forces, civilians and citizens of other countries. My warnings about the dangers of depleted uranium seem to have fallen on deaf ears for the most part.

Depleted uranium was found in the body of Nova Scotia veteran Terry Riordan. There are others seeking testing and treatment for depleted uranium.

I wrote to the Ministers of National Defence and Veterans Affairs in March and I quote from my letter:

I am concerned that more recently troops may have been exposed to DU in Kosovo. Mr. Eggleton, as you know I raised this with you in the House of Commons numerous times starting back in April of last year.

On behalf of the entire federal NDP caucus, I call on you to: expand DU testing to include tissues and other samples necessary to detect presence of DU and its effects; ensure this testing is undertaken by an independent and respected laboratory; provide testing for immediate family members on request; have Canada take the lead in working toward an international treaty banning the use of DU in weapons.

Further, to ensure the health of our veterans and their families, I call on your government to do the right thing and initiate a full Public Inquiry on the medical effects of DU on our Forces, their families, and any Canadian civilians who may have been exposed to this substance.

Unlike the United States, Canada does not have legislation allowing it to pay compensation to Gulf War veterans who have been disabled by undiagnosed chronic illnesses. Since early 1995 the United States Veterans Administration has been providing compensation payments to chronically disabled Gulf War veterans with undiagnosed illnesses under the Persian Gulf War Veterans' Act. This benefit was expanded under an April 1997 regulation that essentially eliminated the date of initial manifestation of latent symptoms as a consideration in the adjudication through to the end of 2001. Under these regulations a disability is considered chronic if it has existed for at least six months.

It is appalling that Canada has chosen to treat veterans and others suffering from these disorders so poorly compared with our neighbours to the south.

I will mention, however, that I was very glad the minister recently met in Halifax with veterans suffering from these conditions. I attended part of these sessions and I believe the minister would like to treat our troops suffering from illness relating to their service with respect. But as we all know, good intent is not enough. Concrete, positive action is desperately needed in this case.

Of the approximately 750,000 troops deployed to the Persian Gulf, 4,500 of which were Canadian, approximately one-tenth are reporting a series of symptoms, the majority of which include fatigue, headache, muscle and joint pain, diarrhoea, skin rashes, shortness of breath and chest pains.

The famous epidemiologist, Dr. Rosalie Bertel, has the following to say about depleted uranium:

DU is highly toxic to humans, both chemically as a heavy metal and radiologically as an alpha particle emitter which is very dangerous when taken internally.

Upon impact, the DU bursts into flames. It produces a toxic and radioactive ceramic aerosol that is much lighter than uranium dust. It can travel in the air tens of kilometres from the point of release, or settle suspended in the air waiting to be stirred up in dust by human or animal movement.

It is very small and can be breathed by anyone, from babies and pregnant women to the elderly and the sick. This radioactive and toxic ceramic can stay in the lungs for years, irradiating the surrounding tissue with powerful alpha particles. It can affect the lungs, gastrointestinal system, liver, kidneys, bone, other tissues and renal system.

In the response that we will now hear regarding my comments, I ask the Liberal government to give direct answers to the points I have raised. Will the government expand the new testing, as I have outlined, and ensure that testing is undertaken by independent and respected laboratories? Families of those people who are suffering from and have suffered from depleted uranium poisoning and other post-traumatic stress are waiting for a complete and positive response to these questions.

International Circumpolar CommunityAdjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.

Pontiac—Gatineau—Labelle Québec


Robert Bertrand LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I am sure that the hon. member will be quite pleased by my remarks this evening.

As the minister has said many times previously, he cares about the health and welfare of CF members. We must take care of anyone who was healthy when they were deployed but were sick when they came back. I urge anyone who thinks they may be ill to seek medical attention. Those who want depleted uranium testing should contact the Centre for Injured and Retired Members and Their Families at 1-800-883-6094 or their nearest CF medical facility.

After reviewing proposals from a number of laboratories, the department selected two different independent companies to do the testing. Results from the testing will be sent to a civilian consultant for independent interpretation. Arrangements are now in place to begin testing current and former Canadian forces members who have asked for the procedure.

We are offering depleted uranium testing as a way of answering any possible concerns of CF personnel. The vast majority of scientific evidence indicates that depleted uranium is not a hazard to Canadian forces personnel. Normally, the CF test personnel for depleted uranium if there is evidence they have been exposed to it. The Canadian forces has tested several personnel who had potentially been exposed to depleted uranium and the tests were negative. The total uranium radiation was below detectable limits.

I must point out to the House that Canada does not use depleted uranium at the moment and that there is no plan to acquire depleted uranium ammunition for the Canadian armed forces.

The arsenal of some countries currently includes depleted uranium ammunition. For a ban to be viable and make sense, the countries in question would have to be convinced to do without their depleted uranium ammunition, something that seems unlikely in the near future.

International Circumpolar CommunityAdjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.


Bill Graham Liberal Toronto Centre—Rosedale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to follow up on a question I recently asked the Minister of Foreign Affairs about the consequences of the elections in Iran.

About a year ago I had the great opportunity of visiting Iran and met a lot of the young people and the authorities. I was extremely impressed by the young dynamic population of that country. More than 50% of the population is under the age of 25. These young people want changes. That was obviously indicated in the consequences of the recent elections.

The president, Mr. Khatami, is a very positive individual. He wrote a book called “Dialogue of Civilizations”. He is very interested in having a dialogue with other countries and has a very positive view of what Iran can do and the role it can play in the world today. We see a real change in attitude.

In the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade this morning, we had a group of responsible Canadian businessmen who are presently very active in this area. They told us that they could see real signs of change in Iran. There is co-operation between the Iranian and western authorities about controlling the drug trade with Afghanistan. There is a lot of effort on behalf of the Iranian authorities to collaborate with other countries.

On the other hand, there are very disturbing indications in that country. The army is still in control and in the hands of the supreme leader, the Ayatollah. The security apparatus is not in the hands of democratically elected officials. The courts consist of clerics who are not responsive to change and the police carry on rather arbitrary activities which threaten the lives of ordinary citizens. We see arbitrary actions of authority. We see things like the way in which tax laws are applied. I was told by a group of businessmen when I was there that the arbitrariness of the tax laws is such that it is very hard to get foreign investors in the country because they do not really know the nature of the regime they are going into. They do not have the juridical security they would like to have.

We now come to today's situation and we are looking at some months since the last elections. There is a parliamentary majority in favour of reform. I would like to follow up my earlier question by asking the parliamentary secretary if he could tell us a bit about the changes that are taking place.

We still read in the newspapers about how they are seized. The morality police are still harassing young people. There is a question as to the courts and how responsive they are. There is a concern which I raised in the House today about the trial of a group of Jewish citizens of Iran which is taking place on Thursday and the nature of the protection they will receive and the nature of religious freedom that is taking place in the country.

It looks as if this is a case of two steps forward and one step back. I suppose that is true in all political situations. I would like to know what we are doing about it. What are we doing to encourage change? How are we helping Iranians who want change to get change? What visits are MPs, ministers and trade officials making? It seems to me that now is the time to move. Now is the time to encourage those in authority in Iran to open their country.

I would like to suggest that we might be a bit more active. I would like to encourage the government to help and encourage the forces of change in Iran, and restrict the movement of those who wish to stop change, for the benefit of all Iranians.

International Circumpolar CommunityAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

Brome—Missisquoi Québec


Denis Paradis LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the February 18 legislative elections in Iran profoundly changed the balance of political power in the country. The reformers of President Khatami won a majority of the seats. Canada congratulates the people of Iran for honouring the democratic spirit of the elections and voting in such large numbers.

We think the electoral process was open and fair and that it truly reflected the democratic will of the Iranian people. Results indicate that Iran is turning toward a more democratic system based on the rule of law and far removed from the ideological inflexibility of the past. With the presidential elections and the municipal elections in March 1999, this makes three times there has been a heavy pro-reform vote by the people of Iran.

Canada hopes that the path the Iranian people has chosen will make it possible to renew connections with Teheran and to ensure the ongoing reintegration of Iran into the international community. The government of President Khatami has done a great deal to improve its relations with its Arab neighbours and has turned to the West in hopes of expanding its relationships still further.

Canada has adopted a policy of limited engagement toward Iran, which restricts official visits between the two countries to the deputy ministerial level. The reason for the policy was Canada's concerns with Iran's human rights position, as well as its support of international terrorism, its opposition to the Middle East peace process and its support to groups that reject that process, and its search for weapons of massive destruction.

Although we are greatly encouraged by the outcome of these elections, we are now waiting to see improvements in these strategic areas of concern. We have seen some progress as far as human rights are concerned; the Baha'i are now allowed to register their marriages, thus improving the status of their children. The government has, moreover, declared that it will hold a public trial for the 13 Iranian Jews and others who were arrested a year ago and charged with spying for Israel and the United States.

Canada has made it clear to the Iranian government that the suffering of these individuals is still of considerable concern to it, and that it did not see its way clear to normalize relations between the two countries as long as Iran had not resolved the situation to Canada's satisfaction.

International Circumpolar CommunityAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7.18 p.m.)