Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-14, an act respecting shipping and navigation and to amend the Shipping Conferences Exemption Act, 1987 and other acts.
With such a long title, members will surely understand that the bill will be better known as the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, its short title.
Once passed, this bill will replace the Canada Shipping Act, other than the portions that concern liability. So, basically it will modernize the current legislation and will promote the safety and economic performance of the commercial marine industry as well as ensure the safety of those who use pleasure craft.
Referring to Clause 6, it states that the objectives of the bill are: first, to protect the health and well-being of the crews and passengers; second, to impose standards as to the proficiency of the crew; third, to protect the marine environment from damage due to navigation and shipping activities; fourth, to protect the vessels and the environment; fifth, to develop a regulatory scheme and consequently to design administrative sanctions for violators; sixth, to ensure that Canada can meet its international obligations under bilateral and multilateral agreements with respect to navigation and shipping.
Before getting any further in the review and analysis of this bill, I would like to draw you attention to a clause that raises many issues and intrigues me a lot. I am talking about the definition of the word “passenger”, in fact, about what comes after that definition.
Clause 2 of the bill defines the various terms used in the act and gives an interpretation for each one. The word “passenger” is defined as follows, and I quote:
—means a person carried on a vessel by the owner or operator
So far, so good. Traditionally, with this government, the definition of “passenger” has always been very clear. The term refers to a person who boards a ship that belongs to the owner or the operator.
However, when I keep on reading, I start wondering. Right after, it says, and I quote again from Clause 2:
—other than a ) a person carried on a Safety Convention vessel who is
(i) the master, a member of the crew or a person employed or engaged in any capacity on board the vessel on the business of that vessel,
It is quite clear that the master and crew are excluded from the passenger category. What is strange is the exclusion coming next: a person who is under one year of age. Why?
Why is a child under one year of age not a full-fledged person under Canadian law? What would be the impact of that definition, or rather that exclusion, in the event of an accident or a shipwreck, for example? Since they are not considered as passengers, would children under one year of age be excluded from any insurance settlement?
Puzzled, I sought to know and I asked questions. I got answers, but disturbing and rather strange ones. The Canadian government would have been forced to include this exclusion clause for children under one year of age in the bill because Canada would be bound by international treaties, protocols or resolutions it had signed.
Has Canada forgotten that former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney himself presided over the community of nations that agreed to sign the Convention on the Rights of the Child? Is it really necessary to add that the United States were not part of that community of nations?
After having been such a leader on the issue of children's rights, how can Canada accept that children under one year of age be considered as non-beings? This is unacceptable according to me.
If there are countries which do not respect children, we must refuse to sign conventions or protocols with those countries. If we do sign such documents for valid reasons, we must require that this exclusion be removed.
Canada should be ashamed of including such a clause in one of its laws. Canada should be ashamed of hiding behind a document signed with another country. Since when has Canada relinquished its sovereignty?
There is hope however. Three clauses in this bill refer directly to international conventions, protocols or resolutions. Under clause 31, Governor in Council may even amend international agreements. Therefore, the government cannot use the signed documents as an excuse to justify refusing to amend clause 2 in order to delete that exclusion of children under one year of age.
As the answer was not satisfactory to me, I continued to investigate and ask questions. Someone pointed me in another direction. What I was told is so far out that I want to share it with you. To have a good understanding of the explanation given to me, I will go back to the bill and quote clause 115:
- (1) Every passenger on board a vessel shall comply with any direction that is given to them by the master or a crew member to carry out the provisions of this Act or the regulations.
(2) Every passenger on board a vessel shall comply with a direction to leave the vessel that is given to them by the master before the vessel embarks on a voyage.
Perhaps this clause excluding children under one year of age was included in the bill because these children who are 364 days old and under would not be able to obey the captain's order, whereas those who are 365 days old and over would.
I am a pre-school education expert and I can assure you that several captains and several crew members will soon be encountering multiple problems when asking children barely over a year old, at least up to five years old, to leave a vessel. They will need help to make these children obey that order from the captain.
That explanation given to me to justify the exclusion of children under one year of age is totally ridiculous. A 364-day-old child could not obey the captain's order, but a 365-day-old child could.
I have another question regarding this clause excluding children under one year of age. Nowhere in this bill does it say that these children cannot board a ship. It just says that they are excluded from the definition of “passenger”. Then how should we interpret clause 110? I quote:
- (1) The master of a vessel shall ensure that the number of persons carried on board is not more than the number of persons authorized to be on board under any certificate issued under this Part or under an international convention or protocol listed in Schedule 1.
As I said at the beginning of my speech, this legislation provides that children under the age of one are not passengers, but it does not define what a person is.
Consequently, the definition of person has to be a reasonable one, and, in this case, a child under one year of age is a person without being a passenger. The child is included in the total number of people who must not be aboard the ship to ensure that the number of people on board does not exceed the number of people authorized under the certificate. Even if they are not passengers, these children should be treated the same way as the master and crew of the vessel and counted among the persons on board.
While I am making my comments on the bill, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the legislation clarifies the respective responsibilities of the transport and the fisheries and oceans departments. Clause 35 even provides that either one of the ministers can make recommendations to the governor in council for the making of regulations implementing the bill after it has been passed by both Houses and it has received royal sanction.
The enactment organizes the contents, updates the terminology and streamlines substantive requirements to make the law much clearer and easier to understand.
The enactment amends the Shipping Conferences Exemption Act, 1987 to inject greater competition within shipping conferences, to streamline the administration of the act and to ensure that Canadian legislation covering international liner shipping conferences remains in harmony with that of Canada's major trading partners.
This bill has 14 parts, some under the responsibility of the Department of Transport and others under the responsibility of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, although three of them are standard in legislation providing for transitional measures or consequential amendments to various bills.
Under the responsibility of the Department of Transport are: part 1, defining the terms and the application of the legislation; part 2, providing for the registration, listing and recording of vessels; part 3, which includes provisions regarding the skills and the hiring conditions of crew members; part 4, providing for the safety of passengers and crew members; part 6, dealing with incidents, accidents and casualties. This part defines the right to salvage, the obligations in case of collisions, and the powers of inquiry into causes of death. Part 9 defines the responsibilities of the department as regards pollution prevention. Finally, part 11 deals with enforcement and various powers of the Minister of Transport.
Under the authority of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans are part 5, which contains provisions relating to navigation services, the creation of vessel traffic zones and the obligations of vessels during search and rescue operations; part 7, which deals with wreck, particularly their ownership and disposal; part 8, which determines the responsibilities of the minister in the area of pollution and provides for the making of regulations on pollution prevention and response; and part 10, which contains provisions relating to pleasure crafts.
As we can see, this bill contains two parts dealing with pollution: part 8, which is under the authority of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and part 9, which is under the authority of the Department of Transport.
Part 8 is entitled “Pollution prevention and response”, while part 9 deals only with prevention. Each part begins by giving the definitions which apply in it. Three expressions or words are found in both part 8 and part 9: oil pollution incident, polluted, and discharge.
Surprisingly enough, even if part 8 and part 9 use the same word, namely discharge, each part does not give the same definition of the word. I really wonder why the word discharge is not given the same meaning by both parts of the bill dealing with the same matter. This seems to be, at the very least, an anomaly.
On the face of it, the Bloc Quebecois supports the purpose of the bill. This is a bill we want to modernize. It is high time that we did what is necessary to be up to date in the area of shipping. Furthermore, the Bloc Quebecois has also given its support to Bill S-2 respecting marine liability.
However, one thing is interesting. When the Minister of Transport introduced his bill on March 1, he was quoted in the press release as saying that the purpose of the bill was to promote economic growth in the shipping industry.
The Bloc Quebecois has already often indicated, and uses every opportunity to repeat, that the only way, as far as it is concerned, to increase, promote, enhance and develop economic growth in the shipping industry is to adopt a real federal shipbuilding policy and to take concrete measures to assist the shipbuilding industry.
It is high time that the government decided to put aside the Minister of Finance's personal interests and take to heart the interests of the people of Quebec and Canada and give us a shipbuilding policy.
The questions I have raised require meaningful answers. I hope the Canadian government will never pass a bill where children under one year of age are excluded.