This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #117 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was endangered.

Topics

Government Response To PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River Ontario

Liberal

Derek Lee LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 10 petitions.

JusticeRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Erie—Lincoln Ontario

Liberal

John Maloney LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, a white paper entitled “Law Enforcement and Criminal Liability”.

Access To Information ActRoutine Proceedings

September 19th, 2000 / 10:05 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Progressive Conservative Cumberland—Colchester, NS

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-494, an act to amend the Access to Information Act.

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today to introduce this bill.

It effectively includes Nav Canada under the Access to Information Act because information is no longer available to critics, ministers and airport managers regarding safety with respect to the air navigation system in Canada.

Prior to divestiture, when the air traffic control system was under Transport Canada, all this information was available to critics and airport managers to help design and ensure that safety regulations were in place. Now we no longer are able to access internal memorandums regarding safety and operational condition reports written by air traffic controllers themselves, and engineering reports of Nav Canada.

I feel we are operating at a very distinct disadvantage by not having access to this information like we had in the past. Hopefully this bill will pass and get the support of all members.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Business Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River Ontario

Liberal

Derek Lee LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, following consultations among House leaders, I think you would find unanimous consent for the following motion which deals with the agenda of the House today. I move:

That, notwithstanding the provisions of Standing Order 30(5), on Tuesday, September 19, 2000, members' statements pursuant to Standing Order 31 shall be made from 1.45 p.m. to 2.00 p.m., followed by the introduction of new members and related proceedings, followed by the 45 minute Oral Question Period.

Business Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Does the hon. parliamentary secretary to the government House leader have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?

Business Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River Ontario

Liberal

Derek Lee LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is it agreed?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from June 13 consideration of the motion that Bill C-33, an act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.

Species At Risk ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Reform

Gurmant Grewal Reform Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the people of Surrey Central to speak to Bill C-33, the endangered species act.

First and foremost we have to think about what Canadians want when it comes to protecting species at risk. All Canadians want to help the environment. All Canadians want to protect biodiversity. We in the Canadian Alliance care about protecting species that are at risk and protecting or recovering critical habitat. The Canadian Alliance plan creates the potential for this to happen.

Canadians recognize that we need a proactive approach to protect species at risk that is based on respect, respect for the species that inhabit our lands and waters, and respect for those who own those lands. Our plan to protect species at risk is a common sense policy that considers the needs of all stakeholders. Our plan is balanced, accommodating, practical and workable.

The Canadian Alliance is committed to protecting and preserving Canada's natural environment and endangered species, and to the sustainable development of our abundant natural resources for use by current and future generations.

The Canadian Alliance maintains that for any endangered species legislation to be effective it must respect the fundamental rights of private property owners.

The four key areas or issues regarding the bill which I think are important are: compensation for landowners; recovery planning for specific species; the role of the Council on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada; and compliance, enforcement and dispute resolution. I will go into detail.

The first area is compensation. Compensation for expropriated lands that is not at fair market value is not fair. The species at risk act we are debating today hardly touches on the pivotal issue of compensation. There is no clear formula for compensation outlined in the bill. Compensation will be dealt with through regulations following the passage of the bill, and we know how the regulations work. The minister has this backward. Co-operation among stakeholders is unlikely unless the landowners are assured that any land expropriated for the purpose of species or habitat protection or recovery will be expropriated at fair market value.

The second area is recovery planning for specific species. Recovery strategies should list the activities required. A recovery plan should include estimated costs associated with the recovery of a given species or habitat. Integrated listing or recovery planning must be part of the act. Without such planning we will find ourselves listing species we have no capacity to protect. There should be no listing of a species as being endangered unless it can be scientifically proven that that species is in fact endangered. Furthermore, there should be no expropriation of land unless it can be scientifically proven that the species can be recovered.

The third point is the role of the Council on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. In the endangered species listing process, the Canadian Alliance supports an independent, scientific listing body such as the Council on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada while recognizing the role and authority of parliament in recovery planning.

The last point of compliance, enforcement and dispute resolution, is a very important point. The Liberals should not introduce legislation that threatens to use criminal sanctions in addition to its power of expropriation.

Any attempt by government to expropriate private property should be subject to the following process. This process should include a review process that offers some form of arbitration and/or dispute resolution to landowners. Where warranted, and only after a fair review or dispute resolution process has been completed, the expropriation of private land at fair market value should be reasonable. The process should also include that any use of criminal law power by government against private landowners is unreasonable. A functional dispute resolution mechanism would render the use of criminal law power largely unnecessary.

The majority of producers and landowners believe that the government could achieve more through co-operation with farmers and ranchers than through threats of punishment.

So far I have been discussing the problems that the official opposition has with this bill.

The people of Surrey Central, whom I represent, are from largely metropolitan or suburban areas. While we are not running the risk of having our land confiscated without compensation, without reimbursement of fair market value, we do not want any Canadian subject to such an unjust treatment. Many of us in Surrey Central own our homes. We make mortgage payments like everyone else. We would not want the Liberals to swoop down and section off any of the area of land that surrounds our homes without paying us for that portion of land the Liberals say that they have to take from us for obvious reasons.

My constituents do not want me to sit on my hands in the House while the Liberals threaten to take huge chunks of land, thousands of acres in some cases, from Canadian citizens and pay them virtually nothing.

In fact, far from working in a democratic way to help Canada's ranchers contribute to our nation's efforts to save our endangered species, the Liberals are promising punishment for those ranchers. My heart goes out to the farmers and ranchers who are already overtaxed by the government and who are already suffering. They have huge input costs that are the fault of the government and its lack of vision. They have to compete at a disadvantage on the world markets thanks to the government's poor record on international trade. The Liberals are now planning to take, from what I have been told, sometimes thousands of acres of land from individual Canadians without a process of compensation and under the threat of criminal charges.

I received a note from one of my constituents, David Pope, and I would like to read from it. He said that the offensive penalties for actions against plants, animals or organisms that are deemed species at risk and the land which makes up their habitat are unlike any found in Canadian criminal law. They range from $50,000 and/or one year in jail to $1 million and/or five years in jail for each offence and are doubled if repeated. These are not offences of murder, arson, theft or rape but are for harming or harassing a plant, animal or organism or destroying a portion of its habitat, which is on one's land, and that is outrageous.

Mr. Pope went on to say that the above offences are strict liability offences and that an accuser need only say “you committed the offence and you must prove that you did not”. That is a reverse onus, as the lawyers say, and rarely used in criminal law.

In the usual serious criminal offence a person is assumed innocent until proven guilty and beyond a reasonable doubt. That is not the case under Bill C-33. Mr. Pope further writes that the farmer is prohibited from charging them with trespassing. They can take anything they like and not pay for it. Homes can be searched under a search warrant which bears no resemblance to the usual murder, arson, rape or other serious criminal offence. A search warrant will be much easier to obtain. This is an outrage.

When the eco-police start asking ranchers or farmers questions about the alleged offence the rancher or farmer must give them reasonable assistance. They must answer the questions or be charged with obstruction of justice. They will be forced to give evidence against themselves. Once again, under Canadian law an accused does not have to incriminate himself but he does under Bill C-33. Yet another civil liberty breached.

Another provision of Bill C-33 provides statute standing for anyone 18 years or older and a resident of Canada to start an investigation against a rancher or a farmer for any of the offences I have just listed. Any special interest group or anyone with a grudge against a farmer or a rancher can start an investigation which may well cost the farmer thousands of dollars in litigation fees and fines if not time behind bars. This is neighbour turning against neighbour. Do we really want this kind of society in Canada for these kinds of offences?

Bill C-33 provides that the accused rancher or farmer can never know who started the investigation against him. He will never be able to face his accuser in open court. Canadians and free people everywhere are afforded the right to face their accusers in open court but not under Bill C-33.

Fair market compensation is not mentioned in Bill C-33. There is a clause covering compensation but it appears from the wording that any compensation received for a regulatory restriction on agriculture land use to protect the habitat of species at risk will be difficult to obtain and below fair market value. These are the issues of concern.

The people I represent believe that there should be a fair and democratic manner in which to handle the protection of endangered species. We do not believe that conflict and heavy-handed government penalties should be the basis for working out this matter. The government is making a mess of the process.

I have some recommendations to make with respect to Bill C-33. This bill should be based on voluntary co-operation and partnerships between the stakeholders and our government. That is possible. It can be done.

All Canadians, including ranchers and farmers in our remotest lands, want to protect our environment, our vegetation and our animals. They want to protect flora and fauna. The people of Surrey Central want our government to work hand in hand with the stakeholders and have them co-operate and benefit from measures to protect our endangered species. It can be done. A Canadian Alliance government will do it. This Liberal government is trying to do it through the back door, through regulations. That is wrong. I know it is wrong because I am on the scrutiny of regulations committee. There are a number of regulations in the pipeline which should not be there. They have been in the pipeline for years, some of them for 25 years, because when the committee writes to ministers of the crown they will not respond or will not respond in a manner that will resolve the issues. The regulations go in circles and keep on existing when they should not be there in the first place.

The government uses bill after bill. There is very limited scope in the bill but a huge number of regulations that control the implementation of that act. This is not the way to go. This is the back door process and that is wrong.

The Liberals should be up front and prepare the legislation. They should give details on how the protection of these species will be achieved but they are not doing that. The people of Surrey Central will not support what the Liberals are doing with this bill. We are ashamed of what the Liberals are doing. Therefore, we cannot support Bill C-33.

Species At Risk ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn Progressive Conservative St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, I have a few comments on this extremely important piece of legislation. I will be speaking in favour of the hoist motion.

We feel that this is a bill that has been rammed through under threat by the minister to pull the legislation if there is any movement in relation to amendments or adjustments. That certainly is not the way to handle not only a piece of legislation that is important and as sensitive as this, but any piece of legislation.

We might say that this legislation will become as quickly extinct as some of the species if we do not soon get our act together and do something about it. The government cannot ram through legislation just because it is an arrogant government in power when it affects so many people and so many species.

There are a number of agencies that have grave concerns about what is happening in relation to our existing wildlife. These are not people who are just concerned from an environmental point of view. Many of them are very ordinary citizens who are not necessarily caught up in the protective groups. They are people who love what this country has to offer. They are members of industry who realize that even though their livelihood sometimes depends upon hurting the environment or destroying habitats, they are beginning to be aware only too well that in order to preserve our great country and continue to make a living they also have to be very conscious of the environment and the habitats that surround them.

We are seeing, as we never saw before, a coming together of the different fragmented groups for the purpose of preserving what we have and what we are rapidly losing. These agencies have a tremendous amount to offer if we give them a chance, if we listen to them and if the committee goes out and hears their presentations. If we pick the best of what each group has to offer, if we look at putting together the solid recommendations that are coming to us and if we listen to the concerns that have been expressed, surely we can come up collectively with legislation that will not only do the job but will do it well.

When many of us were growing up in this great country, particularly those of us who grew up in the rural parts of the country, we remember living in a society where we worked and operated hand in hand with nature.

If we take time to listen to our elders we hear them talk about how they practically lived off the land. They did that not by raping what the land had to offer but by taking carefully as they needed while always making sure that there was something left for tomorrow because they knew the food they put on the table and their livelihood and the livelihood of their children depended on it.

If we go back to the opening up of the country and the days of the fur trade, perhaps in those days people thought we had so many animals that we could take more than was necessary or more than we should to preserve the species. However they quickly learned. As the animals they were hunting at the time became scarce in the areas in which they operated, they moved farther afield.

Perhaps we could even thank them for their concern about not depleting different groups of animals. They were forced westward and the country was opened up, not just because of curiosity of seeing what was beyond the next mountain but because these people pushed forward, in the fur trade in particular, in order to make a living for themselves and in order not to destroy what existed closer to the places where they had originally settled.

We should learn from the past. For years and years the country continued to produce the different species that were here originally, but it seems that somewhere along the line we forgot about it. With our concentration on opening up great towns, cities and building freeways we sometimes forgot the damage we were doing to the habitats for a lot of these species.

In my own province of Newfoundland everybody remembers the great auk, which is as extinct as the Liberals will be in Newfoundland after the next election. The only people who will survive are those who will not run.

My great friend from Bonavista—Trinity—Conception must be delighted this morning that the effort by the provincial Liberals to rid themselves of his colleagues did not work. The member for Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte will be back for a while in the House. The member for Labrador will also be back, I understand. Both of them won their nominations handily, as they should. It shows that the other agenda that is working certainly has not paid off for those who were perpetrating it.

Species At Risk ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Fred Mifflin Liberal Bonavista—Trinity—Conception, NL

Are you still speaking about wildlife?

Species At Risk ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn Progressive Conservative St. John's West, NL

I will leave to the member's own interpretation as to whether or not I am speaking about wildlife because he knows his colleagues much better than I do, but I assure him we are not too far from the topic.

Concentrating on the bill itself, when I was growing up in Newfoundland, some years after my distinguished colleague for Bonavista—Trinity—Conception, it was still at a time when there seemed to be an abundance of everything. As a youth we would spend our evenings on the wharves. We could stand there looking at the eels and small cod fish that swam right into the harbours and by the wharves. We used our trolling poles to try to catch them.

It is now almost impossible to find codfish in Newfoundland. During the recent recreational fishery that we had in the areas where for years there was an abundance we did not see any at all. Luckily some bay stocks still exist. Perhaps, if we are very careful, they will regenerate the growth that is necessary for the fishery to rebuild. However with the lack of scientific information that is a major concern.

One morning when I was teaching school I was driving toward the community where I taught. I stopped by the roadside to look at a small fishing area just off the coast. I counted 127 boats fishing a very lucrative area within a mile of the coast. In this one small place the codfish were so plentiful that there were 127 boats. When I talk about boats I am talking about boats from 20 feet to 40 feet, not big draggers but small inshore fishing boats. This fall during late August and September, which should be prime fishing time, no one could find one codfish on that same ground. It just shows what happens when we are not careful about protecting species that can easily be destroyed.

The country behind most of our rural communities always abounded in ducks, beaver, muskrat, moose, caribou and dedicated wildlife officials. Perhaps no thanks at all to the governments as such but to the wildlife officials, they took it upon themselves to make sure that the herds were protected. We still have in many cases an abundance of wildlife in Newfoundland.

I suggest to my colleague from Bonavista—Trinity—Conception that perhaps in this great country of ours Newfoundland can be looked upon as the last frontier. It is rapidly becoming a tourist destination for many people from within and outside the country. In particular we are drawing a lot of tourists from Europe, simply because of the habitats that still exist exuding different types of wildlife whether it be animal or plant varieties. It is providing a tremendous attraction for people who appreciate these things and who come from far away countries just to see them.

Where else in the country can we fly into the capital city as we can into St. John's, Newfoundland, and drive in a circular direction for four hours and see herds of caribou grazing on the side of the roads and see whales—

Species At Risk ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Whitehorse.

Species At Risk ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn Progressive Conservative St. John's West, NL

I asked the question and I got the answer, Whitehorse. I believe that, but I also suggest there are not many places where we can do it. When we look to Yukon or the Northwest Territories we sort of expect that. We expect to see it. We do not expect to see it in the rest of the country but we can in Newfoundland. We can drive and see caribou on the sides of roads. We can get out of our car on the other side of the road and watch whales in the ocean. We can watch seals. We can watch ducks fly about.

We can walk through the various paths in the woods. There is a tremendous trail being developed from St. John's right around the Avalon called the East Coast Trail. A lot of dedicated workers are involved and a lot of government money, to the credit of the government for investing in such projects. It is tying together not only the historic sites and the culture of the area but also giving people a chance to move right into the heart of wildlife habitats. The variety is such that anyone who has not experienced it would not believe if we tried to explain. We can stop by salmon rivers and fish when the season is open. We can pick almost any kind of berry imaginable as we walk through this area.

After one day we could see caribou, whales, seals, moose, rabbits galore running around, and all kinds of species of birds. A greater variety of birds than perhaps any other part of the country congregate in that small area of the Avalon.

We have three or four major wildlife reserves. The Cape Saint Mary's Bird Sanctuary is known all around the world. There are also a couple of great islands off a community called Witless Bay where a number of species of birds attract attention from all over the world.

Without getting into the numerous other things in the region I could mention, we still have regions in the country where wildlife abounds, due to the dedication of the wildlife officers and perhaps the education of the people.

People have become educated about how important it is to preserve. Many people have seen our wildlife being endangered. They have seen some species even become extinct. They are now concerned to the point where they realize that we perhaps have one more shot at doing it right.

The government is attempting to follow up on legislation originally brought in by the Tory government. In those days the bill was given an A rating by everybody. Now after several years the government is bringing in a bill to ensure proper preservation of wildlife. However it is doing so simply based upon perhaps what the minister thinks should be done. That may not be and certainly is not what most agencies in the country feel should be done.

The legislation should be brought out for public input. We should take our time. We should listen to the groups and agencies that have much to offer. We have seen a variety of groups. Many of them have not been working hand in hand over the years. In fact they have been operating in opposite directions. When we see them willing to come together to effect a piece of legislation that will be good for all of them, we will hopefully see a piece of legislation of which everyone can be very proud.

I support the hoist so that we have time to assess this major piece of legislation. Then when it is finally brought into the House for a vote it can be passed unanimously because we will know it has the teeth to do what a good piece of legislation should do.

Species At Risk ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from St. John's for his presentation. He talked about Newfoundland being one of the last frontiers with much wildlife. He is absolutely correct. It is indeed one of the more beautiful places on the planet.

Recently it was announced that some logging would be done around some very sensitive salmon river areas. Voisey's Bay has been talked about as well as the expansion of power near the Churchill area along with Quebec. What does he think those so-called megaprojects would do to the wildlife and the habitat of Newfoundland and Labrador?

Species At Risk ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn Progressive Conservative St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. The points he raises are extremely important ones. Two major developments are under discussion in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. One is the development off Voisey's Bay and the other is the development of the Lower Churchill.

Pointing to this piece of legislation, I say again that it is a time when we see the major players coming together wanting to offer solutions.

We cannot go out as environmentalists and put a hold on everything that is happening in the country. Neither can we go out as developers as in the old days when we jumped on a D-8 full steam ahead and cleared out everything ahead of us.

In order for people to survive, two things are necessary. We must make a living and we must assure that life goes on around us. There is no reason at all that major projects cannot be developed and still be very conscious of the general habitat and the wildlife around them. We do not have to destroy major areas of a country or a province just because it is a megaproject. In this day with the scientific knowledge we have, certainly with proper planning and with the involvement of all the groups, we can work hand in hand.

I say to the member, as these projects press forward and are developed, they must be done in a very sensitive way. I am not convinced that cannot be done; in fact, I am sure it can be done.

Species At Risk ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Bloc

Daniel Turp Bloc Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, at the start of this new political season, I have the pleasure to speak on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois. I would like to take this opportunity to send greetings to the people of my riding of Beauharnois—Salaberry and my colleagues here in the House and to wish the latter a hot autumn.

Today, we have new leaders here with us in the House. We will also have several interesting questions on the Order Paper. I trust that the business carried out in the House will meet the expectations of the people of Canada, and of Quebec in particular.

Bill C-33 on the preservation of Canada's wildlife is one deserving of debate in this Parliament for a number of reasons, primarily the fact that it seeks to implement a number of Canada's international obligations under conventions it has signed, such as the Convention on Biodiversity and others like the Ramsar Convention, which is aimed at protecting species and preserving the flora and fauna of this planet.

This debate is of particular interest to me because there is a wildlife sanctuary in my riding of Beauharnois Salaberry, the Haut-Saint-Laurent, which is home to a number of species, some of them at risk. This is an issue that interests me particularly because certain individuals have made representations to me, including those who keep various species and want to have the public get to know them at the Hemmingford safari park. They think the present legislation is inadequate and should be expanded and improved with standards to ensure better species protection.

The Bloc Quebecois would like improved protection, legislation ensuring such protection for endangered wildlife, but in a debate such as this, it is concerned about the government's desire to pass legislation without any possibility of amendment.

We recently heard the Minister of the Environment say that this bill was fine as it stood, as he had introduced it, as it had been tabled in the House. What is the point then of today's debate, which will continue before the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development, if we already know that the government does not want any amendments, does not want it improved?

And yet, this bill is far from perfect. We could cite criticism by members of the government even, who hope the bill will be amended once we have passed it or when we are called to pass it.

I quote, for example, the member for North York, who said on June 12:

We will do nothing to protect species at risk unless this bill leaves committee as a good...piece of legislation. The House must support legislation that is strong, fair, effective and makes biological sense.

The member for Lac-Saint-Louis, an expert on environmental issues, who served as minister of the environment in Quebec under Robert Bourassa, said on the same day with respect to Bill C-33, and I quote:

Instead of being recognized as being the final list produced by scientists of the highest repute who have worked tirelessly over the last two decades, the list will now be subject to the discretion of cabinet—

The member for Lac-Saint-Louis added:

I find that terribly ironic...

We are not even starting with the roll of the list of the 339 species identified by COSEWIC. That is a glaring fault in the law. Without a listing there cannot be protection.

As members can see, this bill needs to be amended, it needs to be improved upon, as suggested by two Liberal members. They are not the only ones who think that the bill is flawed.

A number of environmentalists and environmental groups have also said that the bill would not eliminate the loopholes left by certain provinces. Some of these groups, including the Sierra Club, also said that this legislation, which the minister claimed to be the strongest in the world, is an embarrassment for Canada at the international level.

According to Elizabeth May, of the Sierra Club, species at risk are not adequately protected under this bill. On behalf of her organization and of several environmental groups, she said that politicians, not scientists—and this is definitely an area where the voice of scientists should prevail over that of politicians—have the last word regarding the selection of species deemed to be at risk, when we should in fact call upon an independent group of experts to make an annual list.

This criticism from environmental groups should be listened to. It should trigger a debate and a thorough examination by the members of this House. I hope that the criticisms made by some Liberal members, including the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Louis, and by environmental groups will be taken into consideration by the committee.

In something rarely seen when it comes to environmental issues, industry is also opposed to the bill in its present form. For instance, two organizations, the Canadian Pulp and Paper Association, which wished to comment on Bill C-33 as it now stands, and the Mining Association of Canada, have indicated that the government could have taken a much tougher approach with respect to federal lands, public lands and natural areas, where the federal government's constitutional jurisdiction is not challenged by any of the provinces, particularly by our party, the Bloc Quebecois.

This brings me to the intergovernmental and constitutional aspects of Bill C-33. As my party's intergovernmental affairs critic, I feel it is necessary and indeed essential that the constitutional issues raised by this bill be tackled at this stage of the proceedings.

In matters of the environment, the division of powers in Canada is such that the federal parliament and the parliaments of various provinces have overlapping jurisdiction. This is affirmed in the preamble to the bill. But many provisions of the bill proper seem to run counter to this division of powers with respect to the environment and, by extension, the protection of wildlife.

Here, as in other areas, what we are seeing is a desire by parliament and the government introducing this legislation to drag in the issue of national interest.

Moreover, this bill is intended to implement an international treaty, namely the Convention on the Preservation of Biological Diversity referred to in the third paragraph of the preamble. It might serve, as has already happened in the past before the courts, the Supreme Court of Canada in particular, to imply that there is a national dimension to this bill, since it is intended to implement an international treaty and international obligations. Then, because of this national dimension, the appropriate legislation for the purpose of implementing these obligations becomes the federal legislation.

We in the Bloc Quebecois and all the governments of Quebec, one after the other, have always challenged this national dimension theory. The courts have hesitated to apply it, although they have sometimes been tempted to broaden the range of federal jurisdiction through reference to this theory, particularly when the environment is concerned.

It seems this is the case again here, because certain provisions in this bill clearly suggest the desire for this legislation to apply to the provinces, and apply to them without their consent. Moreover, a number of its provisions are along those lines.

For instance, paragraph 34(2) is the most explicit, and is very clearly aimed at having federal legislation apply within a province and without the province necessarily wanting this to be so. I will quote this, because it is worth reading in its entirety:

(2) The Governor in Council may, on the recommendation of the Minister, by order, provide that sections 32 and 33 apply in lands in a province—

This relates to the listing of a species of wildlife as extirpated species.

—with respect to individuals of a listed wildlife species that is not an aquatic species or a species of birds that are migratory birds protected by the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994.

Federal legislation can thus end up being applied in a province without the province's consent.

This would indicate that the government has little concern about potential overlap between this upcoming federal law and certain provincial laws passed in previous years, which have enabled the provinces to meet some of their obligations, including international ones arising from Canada's ratification of certain treaties on biological diversity and the protection and preservation of flora and fauna.

This is the case with Quebec, for example, since it passed two important bills: the act respecting threatened or vulnerable species and the act respecting the conservation and development of wildlife. The National Assembly considered it practical and essential to pass these laws to preserve endangered wildlife in Quebec.

Accordingly, the Government of Quebec, through its minister of the environment, Paul Bégin, has said that Bill C-33 constituted only more unnecessary duplication for Quebec and that its aim was to put in place a safety net for endangered species and their habitats in areas under federal jurisdiction. This is in keeping with the provisions of the constitution and the jurisdiction it afforded parliament over the environment, but the federal government wanted to do the same thing on Quebec soil, which the government of Quebec was not prepared to accept. Neither are the duly elected Bloc Quebecois representatives in this House prepared to accept it, and their voices must be heard.

I would add that some provisions of the bill are also likely to be declared unconstitutional as they are incompatible with the division of powers. I am thinking in particular of clauses 36, 39 and 57 to 64, which also seek to allow the federal parliament and this legislation to interfere with the powers granted to the Quebec National Assembly and to the other provincial legislatures.

I take this opportunity to praise the work of our critic on environmental issues, the hon. member for Jonquière, who, in this area as in several others, shows not only an interest for the environment, but also for the protection of the right to the environment, this third generation right whereby we have a duty to protect species, to protect nature, plants and animal life against the dangers and the harm that man and institutions can cause.

In particular, I wish to emphasize the work done by my colleague regarding the importation of MOX, a fuel that entered Canada against the will of several environmental groups. In fact, MOX could still enter Canada through Quebec and Ontario even though no real debate, no consultation and no adequate impact studies have been conducted to our satisfaction and that of a number of other parliamentarians and groups representing the civil society.

The Bloc Quebecois will not accept and will not support a legislation which, we are already being told, cannot be amended, even though we know it is inadequate, even in the eyes of Liberal members such as the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Louis, who is here with us. This bill is deemed unacceptable by several environmental groups, by a number of people in the industry, who want the federal government to take action in this sector, but only in those areas and territories over which it has accepted and recognized jurisdiction.

Therefore, the Bloc Quebecois will not accept a federal act that creates overlap and duplication in this area, as is the case in so many other areas.

Yesterday afternoon, we learned that the government wanted to impose another gag—and this sets off bad memories for us; members have only to recall the series of gags imposed this past spring by the government, which was trying to ram through its clarity bill, gag by gag—to prematurely cut off debate in order to get its young offenders legislation passed.

This is another debate in which the Bloc Quebecois has been trying to defend Quebec's interests and its jurisdiction in a field where it has shown that flexible, intelligent legislation encouraging the rehabilitation of young people was much better than federal laws designed to put 12 and 13 year olds in jail when what they deserved was a chance at rehabilitation.

The government does not seem to be interested in making the effort or urging others to do so, but is instead casting doubts on the chances of rehabilitating young people, and thus perhaps responding to the people represented by many Canadian Alliance MPs today, who are calling for tough measures against young offenders.

The young offenders bill, like Bill C-33, other bills, programs such as the millennium scholarships and others that come under provincial jurisdiction, shows just how far the federal government is prepared to go, this government which claims to be a national government, which wants to be such a government and in fact reiterates this in the bill when its speaks of its desire to defend Canada's national identity and history, of which its natural heritage is an integral part, and shows just how unfederal its federalism truly is. It is for this reason that so many of the Quebecers represented by the 44 members of the Bloc Quebecois are challenging this federalism and calling for their own country.

Species At Risk ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Louise Hardy NDP Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I would like the hon. Bloc member to elaborate a little bit more fully on the scientific input that will not be there when making lists for species that are endangered. If we think of species that are endangered, we have to realize that their habitat is endangered.

The people who are on the land and share that habitat with the animals are scientists, biologists, elders, hunters, fishers and trappers. Those are the people who know the patterns of the wildlife.

It is completely unacceptable and really shocking that there would be no input from the scientists who have evaluated the patterns and the history of the wildlife and the flora and fauna on that land.

Species At Risk ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Daniel Turp Bloc Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, to answer the hon. member's question, we share the same concerns. I hope the NDP will be consistent with its view that this piece of legislation is incomplete. It is certainly weak when it comes to defending the interests and allowing for better protection of the fauna and flora.

One of the very obvious weaknesses is not to want the scientific community to have the last word on the wildlife species that need to be protected. In that sense, together we should make sure that the government amends the provisions of the legislation so that it does give a say, and I would say a final say, to the experts on these issues.

In the draft legislation the cabinet, obviously, will have the last word. I think this kind of decision should be removed from the cabinet. It should not be ministers who make that decision. We should rely on experts. That is something that is not unusual and something that could be done in this case.

Hopefully the government will understand that this law is imperfect and it should be amended, which is contrary to what the Minister of the Environment has said. The environment minister said that this bill was good as it was.

Species At Risk ActGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to thank my colleague the member for Beauharnois—Salaberry.

He has given a very important new dimension to the work we are doing on Bill C-33. The new dimension he had to propose this morning relates to the division of powers between the federal and provincial governments.

Despite what the government says, it keeps on violating the Constitution Act of Canada. I think that, since the Bloc Quebecois was first elected, ours is the only party in the House of Commons that stands up for the constitutional right of the provinces laid down in the Canadian constitution.

I would like my colleague to give us specifics to prove beyond all doubt that, with this bill, the government is once again violating the constitution and looking for yet another fight with the provinces.

Species At Risk ActGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

Bloc

Daniel Turp Bloc Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, the whole constitutional issue is taboo. We must not talk about the constitution or wonder if it is being upheld or not, and we cannot amend it when we all know that it should be amended in order to meet the aspirations of many Canadians, including Quebecers, natives and all of those who want some of the provisions of the constitution to be amended.

Canadian constitutionalism has failed, and that is why some of us do not want to address these issues. They say that these issues should not be considered, even in our parliamentary debates. And when we go ahead and address these issues, they call it “constitutional obsession”.

The Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville likes to talk about constitutional obsession when we raise constitutional issues and try to stand for the interests of Quebec and to protect the current version of the constitution, which recognizes the jurisdiction of Quebec and the other provinces in some areas, especially in the area of environment which is being undermined by Bill C-33.

But of course we do not hear about constitutional obsession when the minister and some of his colleagues base this bill and other pieces of legislation on spending power, for instance, or legislative power, because it deals with cross-border issues and cross-border pollution. No, they forget all about constitutional obsession when they need to exercise their federal jurisdictions under the terms of the constitution. But there is an obsession with the constitution when it comes to protecting and defending the integrity of Quebec's jurisdictions, in the House and before parliament.

It is not an obsession. As long as Bloc members are sitting in the House, defending Quebec's interests will mean defending the respect of the current constitution before the day comes, and it will come soon, when we will decide, because of the numerous violations of this constitution, to give ourselves a country, to give ourselves the jurisdictions which will allow us to develop Quebec without having to suffer continuously, through parliament, violations of the constitution.

In fact, to respond to the question of my colleague, I would also like to point out that the Supreme Court of Canada is a strategic ally of the government and of the Parliament of Canada on this issue.

The theory on the national dimension which I mentioned earlier is a theory that the Supreme Court of Canada has tried to apply in many areas. On the environmental issue, on the transborder pollution issue, in the Crown Zellerbach affair, which was a very important case in Canadian constitutional history, the supreme court went very far in recognizing a federal legislative jurisdiction over the environment and the protection of the environment.

That the supreme court can use this to enrich and to interpret the Canadian constitution, largely in favour of increasing federal jurisdiction over the environment, is very disturbing. It concerns the Quebec government, which in other matters, especially when it comes to passing environmental legislation allowing for federal impact studies, has tended to want new powers and to expand its jurisdiction in an area where federal legislation could be interpreted by the courts in such a way as to annihilate the jurisdiction of the provinces and of Quebec by enshrining it in the constitution.

This is unacceptable. If this legislation is not amended so as to respect the jurisdiction of Quebec and other provinces, the government will not have the support of the Bloc Quebecois. Environmental groups and industries which oppose this legislation will know that our objection is based not only on the criticisms they share with us but on an even more fundamental basis, that is, that we do not want this legislation to pass. Parliament must not pass legislation it does not have the jurisdiction to pass.