Mr. Speaker, just to recap what I was saying earlier, we have now entered a period of one of the greatest and largest extinctions of species in history. In fact, the sixth greatest extinction is ongoing right now at a rate that is 1,000 times faster than the normal rate of extinction, so much so that we have about 350 species in Canada, as we speak, that are in danger of becoming extinct. This number is increasing with time.
The primary thrust of extinction is habitat destruction through various sources, primarily agriculture and also industry, the use of pesticides, clear-cutting, forestry practices, human habitation and human activities.
How we actually protect sensitive habitat is the crux of the problem. We have proposed that the government, rather than put forth a weak bill in the form Bill C-33, which I might add is the third attempt to bring in such a bill, needs to start addressing the problem in a pragmatic way. Indeed the private sector would very much like to work with the government, as we would, in trying to develop a plan that would be fair not only to the species at risk but to landowners and other stakeholders.
We can do it by buying in. We need stewardship. Groups can work with the government in order to steward or shepherd sensitive habitats willingly.
If land is to be taken away or use is to be compromised, private interests simply have to be renumerated at free market value for the costs incurred. Those costs need to be given to those who are suffering a loss as a result of their private land use being compromised. We also need to look at existing forestry and agricultural practices and stop them while using other tools to accomplish the same objectives.
Habitat protection is important. Listing is also important. Listing must take place for endangered species on the basis of good science. The government does not do that in this bill. COSEWIC, a group of scientists, are very effective at doing this. It will give the government a list of species in danger of going extinct on the basis of good science. In this bill the government should be obligated to listen to what this group has listed and follow its lead in protecting those species.
We must also enforce the law. Many Canadians would be shocked to learn that we are one of the major conduits in the trafficking of endangered species' products in the entire world. The reason for this is that while we have long borders, we have done an appalling job of protecting those borders, not only for endangered species' products but many others.
The fact that the government has not supported our hardworking men and women on the front lines at our ports means that our country is known as a safe haven for people who are willing to break the law in an effort to traffic in these endangered species' products.
The result internationally has been that many species, from tigers and big cats to birds and indeed plant species, are being felled and are becoming extinct. It is a sad thing when a country like ours, with its wild spaces and which prides itself on being in favour of endangered species' legislation, has been unable to get workable federal legislation and do our part internationally.
I introduced Bill C-475 on April 11, 2000 which dealt with how we can have an effective endangered species bill in a very pragmatic way. My bill would essentially do the following: First, it would obligate the government to protect species that are on COSEWIC's list, i.e. the lists that are there, the species that are endangered are based on science, not politics.
Second, it would obligate the government to work with private stakeholders and the provinces to protect habitat. This is not an option. This has to be an obligation on the part of the government to protect habitat. Failure to do so will ensure that these species will become extinct.
Third, it would obligate the government to work with the provinces to remunerate private landowners at fair market value where a negotiated settlement simply cannot take place, rather than putting all the power in the hands of the minister who will remunerate private landowners on the basis of what he or she wants.
The last thing I want to talk about is a personal experience I had. The best model in the world for protecting species is the province of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. It has saved species such as the white rhino, which went from 24 animals up to several thousand in a matter of 50 to 60 years. The reason it did this is that it used the private sector to husband these species. It convinced them that they would get more money from their land by ecotourism, by hunting excess animals and by other land uses, including harvesting plants in a responsible way that had medicinal uses.
The outcome is that the money drawn from these lands is poured back not only into conservation, but also poured back into the surrounding areas to benefit the people. We need to have the assistance of local people if we are going to protect habitat. The best way to do that is to demonstrate to those people that it will have a direct benefit on their own lives.
If we merely argue on the basis that it is nice to have habitat protected, it will fail, for habitat and animal species, unfortunately, have to pay for themselves if they are going to survive. Where this was done in KwaZulu-Natal, they were able to save many animal and plant species from extinction. They have also managed to benefit the surrounding populous. The outcome has been that animals have been saved from the brink of extinction, an expanded habitat that has been protected, expanded wild spaces and a sustainable use of those areas for other purposes.
The outcome of that is that KwaZulu-Natal is now the international leader in conservation. I can only say to the minister and to the government that our party will be very happy to work with them to this end, but they have to have effective legislation that will protect habitat in the ways that I have mentioned. This is not only a legacy that we have been given, the endangered species in our country, it is also our responsibility to give that to our children and to our grandchildren.