Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today on behalf of the Minister of Industry to speak to Bill C-327, an act to establish a national standard for the representation of dates in all-numeric form.
As the hon. member for Peterborough mentioned, all of us here in the House will be familiar with the experience of seeing a date such as 03-04-2001 and wondering whether it means March 4 or April 3. The member was most eloquent.
This confusion can affect more than on-time bill payments. It can affect the use of prescriptions, for example, or “best before” dates on a wide range of products.
I am pleased to be able to respond to this issue as it allows me to speak very briefly on the importance of voluntary standards and Canada's national standards system. A standard is a document that describes the performance, dimensions or impact of a product, survey or system.
Standards are used in a very wide range of applications, from the Internet to iron ore composition to quality management.
In Canada, voluntary standards activity is co-ordinated by the Standards Council of Canada, a federal crown corporation that fosters and promotes voluntary standardization. The council oversees the work of the National Standards System, a network of about 250 organizations. Four of these organizations develop standards. These are CSA International, Underwriters Laboratory Canada, the Canadian General Standards Board and the Bureau de normalisation du Québec.
The remaining organizations provide conformity assessment services such as testing, certification, or registration to quality management systems such as ISO 9000 or environmental management systems such as ISO 14000.
The Standards Council is also responsible for Canada's participation in the development of international standards. The council is Canada's member on the International Organization for Standardization, or ISO, and the International Electrotechnical Commission, or IEC.
ISO and IEC bring together volunteers from over a hundred countries to develop standards for almost every product imaginable, from ski bindings to medical devices. These standards support the trade of safe and reliable products across borders. In Canada alone, there are 3,000 volunteers that participate in international standards development.
Canada is not just a participant in this effort, but also a leader. Over 100 ISO and IEC technical committees, subcommittees and working groups are headed by Canadians, including the committees that developed the influential ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 series.
As the world moves towards a single, global market, international standards are becoming increasingly important. Efforts are underway to harmonize Canadian standards with those of our trading partners. A growing majority of national standards of Canada approved by the Standards Council are based on international standards.
This brings me to the bill in question. The hon. member has modeled his proposal on ISO standard 8601, titled “Data elements and interchange formats-Representation of dates and times”, developed in 1988 by the International Organization for Standardization.
This standard gives guidelines for indicating dates and times in a numeric format, represented by eight digits, as year-year-year-year, hyphen, month-month, hyphen, day-day.
I would note that Canada has already adopted a national standard in this area which is virtually identical to the ISO standard. The Canadian standard, CAN/CSA Z234.4, entitled “All-Numeric Dates and Times”, does indeed specify a numerical approach as recommended by the hon. member.
I would like to make one comment on the exception in clause 6 of the bill, which reads as follows:
The last two digits may be used to represent the year (a) in the case of years nineteen hundred and ninety to nineteen hundred and ninety-nine, inclusively; or (b) in the case of the year two thousand and thirty-two and subsequent years.
This exception is not part of the existing Canadian standard and could introduce confusion.
I can relate that Industry Canada is advancing a wide range of measures to promote the use of the existing national standards. These measures include the use of the date, standard and departmental correspondence and documentation, and encouraging the similar use by industry portfolio agencies and support for the Standards Council of Canada's efforts to promote adoption of the standard.
I wish to thank my hon. colleague from Peterborough for raising this important issue. Although the bill to create a national standard is not necessary at this time given the existence of such a standard, we will continue to make every effort to support its use in Canada.