Madam Speaker, I listened carefully to the speeches of my colleagues from the Liberal Party and the Canadian Alliance on Bill C-5.
I will begin by quoting a successor of the former Quebec minister of the environment, Mr. Bégin, who said this about Bill C-5 introduced by the Liberal Party: “Another example of useless duplication for Quebec”. These words are from the Quebec minister of the environment, who is also the minister of revenue and the minister responsible for the national capital region, namely, as members know, Paul Bégin.
This is what he said when he looked at the federal government's proposal to pass this legislation on wildlife species at risk in Canada and to create a safety net for the protection of threatened species and their habitat, not only on federal sites, which would be acceptable to Quebec since it would only be normal, but also on the whole Quebec territory, which is much less acceptable. In fact, Mr. Bégin added:
Quebec has always behaved in a responsible and appropriate manner regarding the protection of the most threatened fauna and flora species and intends to keep on exercising its authority in this matter. We will never accept an umbrella piece of legislation covering all the initiatives in this area.
It is out of the question for Quebec to accept federal intrusion on its jurisdiction. This bill must exclude all species, sites or habitats under Quebec's jurisdiction and must only be implemented at the request of the provinces or territories. Quebec has always taken good care of its species at risk and it will not need to use this legislation.
Quebec passed an act respecting threatened or vulnerable species in 1989. It has its own act respecting the conservation and development of wildlife as well as fishery regulations to protect species at risk in their habitat. If I am not mistaken, these two bills were passed under a Liberal government in Quebec. It is the hon. member for Lachine—Lac-Saint-Louis who deserves credit for these two initiatives.
As I will explain later, we can see that these two pieces of legislation have allowed Quebec to address the situation of threatened species very well.
Quebec's minister of the environment reassured us in these terms:
These measures have given Quebec the full range of tools needed to identify species at risk, legally designate them as threatened or vulnerable, protect their habitats, and develop and implement recovery plans.
I would like to talk about how Quebec has been looking after its endangered flora and fauna for the past almost 12 years since the introduction of the bill.
First, I will give an overview of this, to say the least, worrisome problem of the disappearance of species, this symptom of a worldwide problem. It is not just a problem in Quebec or in the national capital region or in Canada; it is a problem the world over.
The acceleration in demographic grow, the unrestrained consumption of the planet's resources, coupled with the occupation of land by human beings, has resulted in pollution, the destruction of natural habitats, and the disappearance of many living species throughout the world.
Quebec has not been spared. The great auk, the Labrador duck, and the passenger pigeon are some of the recent victims of this worldwide problem. These birds have not just disappeared from our region; they have been exterminated from the face of the earth in a few short years.
Certain more fortunate species, such as the elk and the trumpeter swan have disappeared from our region, but still exist in small numbers elsewhere on the planet.
Nowadays, several hundreds of plants and dozens of animals are on the list of threatened species in Quebec.
In order to stem this alarming phenomenon, many measures have been taken since 1978. The Association des biologistes du Québec created a committee for the preservation of endangered species and, in 1984 or 1985, published the initial reports on the status of endangered plant and animal species.
In 1983 the Montreal botanical garden and institute were already publishing a list of 408 rare plants in Quebec. I will not give their names, but I think that the member for Berthier—Montcalm is now consulting the list of these 408 plants at the table.
As hon. members can see, the concern for endangered species is nothing new. Back in 1974 Quebec passed its ecological reserves act, one of its objectives being to protect endangered species.
The Réserve écologique du pin rigide was created in 1978 to protect the pitch pine. It was the first ecological reserve to protect a rare tree. In 1981 came the Parc de conservation de la Gaspésie, created to save a distinct caribou population and its habitat. Thus, parks and reserves are created in order to protect certain exceptional elements of our natural heritage, the heritage of Quebec.
Finally, and this one a major event, the government of Quebec passed, as I have already said, its act respecting threatened or vulnerable species in 1989, as a reaction to the increasing threat to the integrity of the biodiversity of Quebec and in response to the urgent and legitimate demands of the environmentalists.
On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the enactment of this legislation, the government of Quebec proposed a brief overview of its major environmental accomplishments and those of its partners in connection with endangered species.
There are some high points in the implementation of the Quebec legislation on endangered or vulnerable species that merit attention. I will list them if I may.
In November 1988, the Centre des données sur le patrimoine naturel au Québec was established. In July 1992, the government adopted the first component of the endangered or vulnerable species policy. This policy sets out the process to be followed for designation of a species of flora or fauna that is at risk of becoming endangered or vulnerable. In June 1993, the Gazette officielle du Québec , by ministerial order, published the list of species of endangered or vulnerable vascular flora and vertebrate fauna liable to be so designated.
This list, which dates back to 1993, comprises 374 species of vascular flora and 76 species of vertebrate fauna of Quebec. It is the outcome of an analysis of the available knowledge and of consultations with a large number of specialists and environmentalists.
In Quebec we have made protection a real issue. Species designated or likely to become designated have been the object of many actions aimed at ensuring their protection and re-establishment.
Over the years, thanks to numerous studies and inventories carried out throughout Quebec, we have acquired more knowledge of our endangered heritage and its status.
This information permitted the production of reports describing the status of species, that is, their geographic distribution, their habitat, their characteristics, the state and trends of their populations and threats to them.
In Quebec the management of most biological resources is a matter of provincial or territorial jurisdiction, with the exception of migratory birds—we acknowledge and accept that—and marine organisms, which are federal responsibilities.
Even before the passage of Quebec legislation on threatened or vulnerable species, all threatened vertebrates were protected by certain measures under the Quebec laws on the environment and respecting the conservation and development of wildlife and regulations on fishing.
In Quebec, 76 species or animal populations are considered to be in difficulty, over 10% of vertebrate fauna. Most of them are birds or mammals. However, amphibians and reptiles form the category most affected with more than half of their species recorded on the list of species likely to be designated threatened or vulnerable.
Of the 76 species and populations in difficulty, 34 have been studied or specifically inventoried; 19 have been the subject of a status report; 14 have been the subject of a specific plan of action, in co-operation in certain instances with the co-operation of the federal government, bordering provinces and non-governmental partners; 13 are covered by specific measures to protect their habitat; and 10 are in the designation process.
Quebec's flora has not been left out either. All plant species, except for marine plants set out in the Fisheries Act, come under provincial jurisdiction, need I mention. At the moment, there are, as in the case of the animals, no plants either threatened or at risk under federal jurisdiction. The Quebec ecological reserves act and the act respecting threatened or vulnerable species are unique in the area of plant protection in Quebec.
Out of the 374 plant species that are threatened or vulnerable, 178 have been the subject of inventories or specific studies, 41 have been the subject of a status report and an assessment by the advisory committee, 19 were designated as threatened or vulnerable species, and 14 others are in the process of getting designated.
Special measures to protect habitat or stocks were implemented for 55 of these species, including the arisema dracontium, the American water willow and the giant holly fern. Wild leek has also been designated as a vulnerable species, while American ginseng may soon be designated as a threatened species. In the case of these last two plants, it is now prohibited to sell specimens that were taken from their natural habitat.
As for flora, efforts have been made in co-operation with various organizations to inform the public and develop greater awareness. Botanists from the Quebec ministry of the environment and their associates took part in numerous seminars and various botanical inventories and activities to promote awareness. Information and educational documents were published, and many articles and specialized inserts were included in Quebec's major natural science magazines and in some dailies. In the past few months, the Internet site of the Quebec ministry of the environment has been providing information sheets on certain species that are at risk.
Quebec can also count on numerous allies. The study and the protection of threatened or vulnerable species is first and foremost based on co-operation between many government and non-government partners.
Regional county municipalities play an essential role in the protection of threatened species. In recent years, RCMs, as they are called in Quebec, have been asked to take into account the presence of threatened or vulnerable species when they draw up their land use plans, so as to protect critical sites for these species.
In 1997 the Pabok RCM even adopted the Aster anticostensis as its floral emblem. The world's largest population of that species is found on the territory of the Pabok RCM.
The Commission de la protection du territoire agricole and the regional agencies promoting the development of private forests have recently been made aware of the importance of protecting threatened or vulnerable species.
Ad hoc joint initiatives have also been taken by Quebec and Canada, in a positive atmosphere. For example, the Canadian Wildlife Service and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans are the main players in the efforts to protect wildlife species that come under federal jurisdiction, that is migratory birds, mammals and marine fish, while Quebec's Société de la faune et des parcs and the Quebec Department of the Environment are responsible for all other wildlife and plant species.
Over the years, these departments have joined forces with a variety of institutions: the Jardin botanique, the Institut botanique, the Biodôme de Montréal, the Musée Redpath, the Jardin de Métis, the Jardin zoologique de Québec, the Jardin zoologique de Granby and the Jardin zoologique de Saint-Félicien, and the Aquarium de Québec.
Organizations such as the Association québécoise des groupes d'ornithologues, the Groupe Fleurbec, Flora Quebec, the Fondation pour la sauvegarde des espèces menacées, the Groupe de recherche et d'éducation en milieu marin, the Société d'histoire naturelle de la vallée du Saint-Laurent, the Société d'entomologie du Québec, the Société Provancher, the Société linnéenne du Quebec, and the Union québécoise pour la conservation de la nature have all contributed actively to these efforts, along with countless scientists, students, university researchers and amateurs from a wide range of backgrounds.
Much of the funding for studies and activities to protect endangered or vulnerable species is provided by the departments responsible and by their partners. The Endangered Species Recovery Fund of the World Wildlife Fund Canada and the partners for biodiversity program of the Fondation de la faune du Québec have made many initiatives possible.
Federal-provincial co-operation, with respect for respective jurisdictions, is possible. As proof, many projects have been carried out under the St. Lawrence Vision 2000 agreement, a federal-provincial program involving several partners.
More recently, an administrative agreement between the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of the Environment and the Société de la faune et des parcs du Québec resulted in join initiatives for the protection of forest species at risk. The contribution of the private and parapublic sectors is also important. Some examples are: Ducks Unlimited, Hydro-Québec, Alcan, and the Montreal microbrewery, Le Cheval Blanc.
Quebec's accomplishments in the area of endangered or vulnerable species are so numerous as to be hard to count. One of the finest of many fine examples is the Centre de données sur les espèces menacées ou vulnérables.
The conservation of endangered or vulnerable species is based on the available scientific data. The Centre de données sur le patrimoine naturel du Québec, created by the Quebec ministry of the environment in 1988, the Nature Conservancy of Canada, and the Natural Conservancy in the United States all make active contributions to the gathering and distribution of information on these species.
Today, the centre is administered by the Quebec ministry of the environment and the Société de la faune et des parcs du Québec. It is far more than merely a focal point for collecting and analyzing data. The information it contains is necessary for setting priorities for the conservation of various species that are in precarious situations. It makes it possible to determine the phenological distribution and the population of these species in a given area. It carries out species censuses of protected areas, natural sites of interest for conservation.
The centre's creation has made it possible to take vulnerable species into consideration within the process of preparing development projects, environmental impact studies and various research projects. Each year, close to 400 inquiries are handled by the centre's specialists and the regional offices of the ministry of the environment and the Société de la faune et des parcs du Québec.
So much for the past. Now for the future. There have been a lot of changes in the past 12 years for certain threatened or vulnerable species. The objective of reintroducing the peregrine falcon has been attained: new nesting sites are being established, which holds promise for the future of this species. Once gone from the St. Lawrence valley, hawks have now reached their previous population levels.
The copper redhorse and its habitat are now protected. Specific protection programs and the application of current standards will make it possible to limit the negative impact of human activities on the populations, migration and spawning grounds of this fish unique to Quebec. The intervention plan for the survival of the copper redhorse is aimed at promoting the reproduction of this fish. Fishways and a wildlife refuge are needed for the Richelieu River.
After a brush with extinction, the St. Lawrence belugas are increasing in number. However, their disturbance, water pollution and sediment continue to cause concern among scientists. Draconian protection measures and the recent creation of the Saguenay—Saint-Laurent marine park permit a more hopeful outlook for the future of this species.
Wild garlic has been designated a vulnerable species. This designation brings with it the prohibition against picking for commercial purposes. Picking it for personal use is highly regulated. Measures of this sort have slowed the decline of populations of this plant.
Ginseng is about to come under the protection of the act respecting threatened or vulnerable species. The fact of its being grown agriculturally may soon mean the demand for this plant with its desirable medicinal properties will be met, while the natural forest populations remain protected.
However, the wild species and their habitats remain under pressure. Much remains to be done to conserve biodiversity. The growing demand for the use of domestic plants for horticultural purposes puts pressure on wild plants in natural settings.
Similarly, the marketing of wild mushrooms is increasing and the loss and alteration of habitats associated with human activities is still the main factor explaining the drop in numbers for certain species.
Forestry and farm operations affect habitats, and so does the constant expansion of highways and cities. Acid rain, contamination caused by the emissions produced by industries and motor vehicles still play a major role in the acidification of soils and waterways, thus threatening plants and wildlife.
Even climatic change force plants and animals to make adjustments that must be carefully examined. In this context, it is appropriate to speed up the review of the situation of endangered species, their legal designation and the implementation of protective measures.
We must also continue the work undertaken and widen the scope of our studies. There are too few studies on invertebrates, molluscs, insects and spiders or non ligneous plants, including mushrooms.
From a legislative point of view, greater complementarity between federal and Quebec laws would be beneficial. I insist on the notion of complementarity, which is more conducive to success than intrusion and duplication. The recent agreement on endangered species helps promote greater federal-provincial co-operation in this area.
In conclusion, as I tried to show, Quebec is doing very well with threatened species. The member for Lachine—Lac-Saint-Louis, when he was the minister, gave us an act that is effective in this respect, and we must think in terms of complementarity instead of duplication and intrusion when it comes to these threatened species.