Madam Speaker, I am happy to help introduce Bill C-5, an act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada because during the election I was asked if our government was going to reintroduce the bill.
Today I will make only introductory remarks because there will be much feedback and suggested improvements from constituents to input later when it will be reviewed in committee. For instance, I met with an official of the Sierra Legal Defence Fund. He assures me that he will present its detailed input to the committee.
I have also received a letter from Juri Peepre, executive director of CPAWS Yukon, which highlights three key areas: strong mandatory habitat protection, public accountability, and a very creative compromise ensuring science based lists and the ultimate role of cabinet. I forwarded the letter to the minister and to the committee chair.
Senator Ione Christensen, the other half of the Yukon caucus, and I often work together on initiatives and this is no exception. Senator Christensen has distributed Bill C-5 to such Yukon organizations as the Yukon Outfitters Association, the Yukon Chamber of Mines, Minister Dale Eftoda, Grand Chief Ed Schultz, the Yukon Conservation Society, the Yukon Chamber of Commerce and the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce.
Notwithstanding the fact that parliament has been receiving and incorporating input on the main elements of the bill for seven years, I will forward any feedback I receive from those other organizations to the minister and the committee chair just as I have with the CPAWS letter. It is very exciting to be part of an effort to help preserve some of the species we share the earth with.
Members who were here through the first two iterations know it is not easy to come up with common ground for such a huge variety of stakeholders, some of whom want weaker legislation than that presented today and some of whom want stronger legislation. Because there are species that inhabit virtually every metre of our nation, there are obviously a myriad of stakeholders and interests with whom to try to build common ground.
In my constituency in Yukon there are first nations governments, territorial governments, municipal governments, land use planning bodies, farmers, miners, loggers, trappers, sports and subsistence fishermen, big game outfitters, tourists, wilderness adventurers and campers, boaters, naturalists and snowmobilers, et cetera. Our challenge as a parliament is to come up with a bill that protects species and is as acceptable as possible to the many elements of our diverse society.
Bill C-5 incorporates a number of new suggestions from individuals and groups as refinements to previous drafts. The following are some highlights.
It prohibits the killing, harming, harassing, capturing or taking of species officially listed as threatened, endangered or extirpated, and the destruction of their residences. It includes a public registry and a scientific assessment of species at risk.
There will be mandatory action plans and recovery strategies, including the ability to enforce critical habitat protection. It provides the authority to prohibit the killing of endangered or threatened species and the destruction of their critical habitat on all lands in Canada.
It provides emergency authority to protect species in imminent danger. It uses three mechanisms: positive incentives, which we hope will be used in most cases; strong legal protections; and, if absolutely necessary, the Government of Canada can act alone.
It complements and works together with first nation, provincial and territorial governments. It involves landowners and land users. It uses traditional aboriginal knowledge.
It complements the stewardship program in which Canadians can take voluntary actions to protect habitat. It fulfils Canada's obligations to the court for protection of species at risk. It unifies the efforts of the provinces and territories.
There will be some compensation which will act as a positive incentive to assist in implementation. Budget 2000 provided $90 million over three years and another $45 million thereafter.
Some work has already been done. Under the new habitat stewardship program the Government of Canada has contributed $5 million toward 60 partnership projects with communities and regional organizations. In the government implemented ecological gift program Canadians can use capital gains for ecologically sensitive lands and easements for the protection of habitat, a measure I support because habitat is a concern in my riding. It recognizes the role of boards established under land claims agreements such as the UFA in Yukon.
I will also use the debate to highlight a relatively new process in the federal government, the rural lens. It is one of the initiatives of the Secretary of State for Rural Development. Any new initiative by the federal government should be examined through the rural lens to see how it affects rural Canadians in ridings such as mine in Yukon.
Bill C-5 has been carefully vetted through the lens in its development. I would encourage all members of the House to support the use of the rural lens for all programs, services and legislation. It is very helpful to Yukon residents and to rural Canadians in all ridings to have new initiatives viewed through their eyes.
We hope the bill will bring stakeholders together in support of the common goal of saving species. The bill shows respect for property owners by having many co-operative and voluntary recovery possibilities and compensation if need be.
I will, however, fight to ensure that the rights of rural Canadians and Yukoners are reflected in this and other legislation. Yukoners often live on the land with these species, sometimes at -50°C, and all have learned to survive together.
The proof is that at the present moment, according to the Sierra Legal Defence Fund, of the 364 COSEWIC listed species there are no species in the endangered category in Yukon.
We could not tolerate the dictums of an urban created myth that does not reflect our rural reality. We hope all parties will support the legislation and help Canada live up to its international obligations.
Nine provinces and territories, including Quebec, have laws to protect species at risk. Bill C-5 is structured in such a way as to complement these laws and not to create overlap.
A number of provinces and territories do not have comprehensive legislation and, in the long run, the bill is a safeguard to filling those gaps. Any time two governments work toward the same noble cause, in this case preserving species, they may on occasion run into overlap. However, if it came, for instance, to saving a species of whale, I would rather have overlap than a gap because failure is irreversible.
Failure is irreversible. We respect the agreement on harmonization, because the intent of this legislation is to complement the efforts made by the provinces and territories.
If a province has a combination of its species at risk and other complementary legislation in place so that everything is protected, then this or other complementary federal legislation will not have to kick in.
I think that Bill C-5 is effective and in keeping with the Constitution of Canada.
As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment said the last time around on May 11, 2000 “We have examined and benefited from the experience of other jurisdictions, other provinces, other nations”.
I have a short note on the compensation percentage under the legislation. The deal will be covered in regulations. It will be thought out and studied carefully over the next several months and will be ready in time for the bill to be passed.
The time to act is now. As the NDP member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar said on May 29, 2000, in the previous debate, “Worldwide we are experiencing the largest extinction since the time of the dinosaurs. Historically on average about two to three species a year went extinct due to natural causes but currently two to three species go extinct every hour”.
As the Bloc member for Jonquière stated on May 15, 2000 “I would like to state the position of the Bloc Quebecois since species are disappearing more rapidly, the problem is serious and we must take effective action”.
The Alliance member for Edmonton—Strathcona said, on the same day, “I am confident there is nothing partisan about endangered species and nothing partisan about protecting endangered species”.
That said, I hope we will be work together to pass this bill.
In 1623 a British parliamentarian said that if a clod of earth washed away from Europe then Europe would be less. It would be fitting, in that context, to say that if a species dies out then we are diminished because we are involved with them.
In this House of great bells, a parliament I respect, the bells will soon be calling us to vote. If we do not enact legislation to protect species at risk, then heed the words John Donne wrote in 1623:
If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.