Mr. Speaker, Bill C-5, which is before the House today, is a very significant bill, a bill that I think we would all do well to look at very seriously, because it attacks and has within it a consideration of some of the basic principles that govern and underlie democracy.
I wish to address two parts of the bill. The first has to do with the concept of how the selection of the endangered species at risk is done. The second has to do with the right of private property and how the bill deals with that particular aspect.
I would like to have the members of the public who are out there watching this debate understand exactly what it is we are talking about here this morning: Bill C-5, which is here to protect endangered wildlife species.
I will focus on the purpose of the bill as it is stated in this particular legislation. It reads:
The purposes of this enactment are to prevent Canadian indigenous species, subspecies and distinct populations of wildlife from becoming extirpated or extinct, to provide for the recovery of endangered or threatened species, to encourage the management of other species to prevent them from becoming at risk.
I wish to completely endorse the purpose of the bill. Clearly one of the things we want to be very concerned about in our society and in Canada is that we do protect our wildlife. We do want to create an environment in which wildlife can prosper, live and provide enjoyment for each of us.
It is important to recognize our support of the intent of this particular bill. I want to be sure that everyone out there recognizes that the Canadian Alliance, myself in particular, and its constituents support the protection of wildlife.
What we need to recognize here, though, is how the bill will be handled. I wish to refer to certain provisions in the bill. The first provision of the bill is the selection of the list of species and endangered wildlife that will be registered and protected by the bill.
Clause 14 deals with this particular part of the activities, so I will refer, then, to clause 14, which suggests that a committee be established. It is called the COSEWIC committee and many of the listeners will wonder what in the world we are talking about. That is an acronym for a long title, Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. As shorthand we say COSEWIC. This is really what we are talking about. The committee is established by this particular bill.
I am so happy that there are at least some members opposite in the House listening to the debate, because it is really important. Some of the points we will make are points that the Minister of the Environment in particular should recognize and change in this legislation, and we want the minister and all members opposite to know that the idea of protecting endangered species is indeed an area and an action that we support.
With the establishment of the committee, we need to recognize who its members are. This committee shall carry out its functions “on the basis of the best available information, including scientific knowledge, community knowledge and aboriginal traditional knowledge”. That is what the committee is supposed to do. This is a major issue.
Who are these people? The committee is to be composed of members appointed by the minister after consultation with the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council and with any experts that the minister considers to be appropriate. I would like to underline the word experts. The second part of the clause, subclause 16(2), is extremely significant:
Each member must have expertise drawn from a discipline such as conservation biology, population dynamics, taxonomy, systematics or genetics or from community knowledge or aboriginal traditional knowledge of the conservation of wildlife species.
That is a blue ribbon membership for the committee. These are very significant and very powerful people. They are people who understand the reality of science and understand what it is to use knowledge and to make observations that others can verify. They are not subject to political interpretation or the vagaries of somebody's imagination. They are based on facts and on observations which can be replicated by other people.
The people who are supposed to comprise this committee are independent and objective. This is very desirable and highly commendable. I support the minister in identifying this as the way the committee should be comprised.
One might say that the blue ribbon committee will go about doing its business, but what is the principle involved in creating the list of Canadian endangered wildlife? What are the decision making principles underlying this committee of scientists? The principles involved are truth and integrity.
What are we talking about when we talk about truth and integrity? Truth concerns a clear knowledge of the facts. I am speaking of things that are commonly accepted as being true in fact. They can be believed and acted upon with confidence and courage, recognizing that what has happened before will happen again because the basis on which the decision is made is verifiable by an independent person in an objective and independent manner and the findings can be replicated.
Integrity means that the people on the committee will actually say what was discovered, what has been put there, and that the basis on which those decisions are made is indeed one that is verified by the various observations that have been taken. On the committee we will have scientists who are objective and reach conclusions on the basis of verifiable interpretation, experiments and observations that could carried out by other people.
There is no problem with the committee or with the intent of the bill. Why then is there a problem with the bill? There is a problem with a provision in another clause of the bill. Subclause 27(1) makes a very interesting observation:
The Governor in Council may, on the recommendation of the Minister, by regulation, establish the List of Wildlife Species at Risk and amend the List by adding a wildlife species to the List, by reclassifying a listed wildlife species or by removing a listed wildlife species from the List.
All the work of the committee, all the science involved, suddenly becomes subject to whatever the governor in council decides. This puts into question the whole integrity of establishing a committee in the first place. In this clause we have a group of scientists who are ignored and whose integrity is at least insulted if not denied. The governor in council can do this.
However, subclause 29(2) is an even more difficult area. It follows subclause (1), and I think for clarity I should probably read subclause 29(1) as well:
If the Minister is of the opinion—
The section refers to the minister now, not the governor in council.
The section goes on:
—that there is an imminent threat to the survival of a wildlife species, the Minister must—
It is interesting to note here that it is not that the minister may, but that he must.
It goes on:
—on an emergency basis, after consultation with every other competent minister—
Notice they are all ministers.
—make a recommendation to the Governor in Council that the List be amended to list the species as an endangered species.
There is no reference here to the committee at all. Subclause 29(2) reads:
The Minister may arrive at that opinion on the basis of his or her own information or on the basis of COSEWIC's assessment.
This really creates a dilemma for the scientists and for Canadians who are to place confidence in the Minister of the Environment and cabinet itself.
There is no attempt in this criticism to suggest that we should not have legislation of this kind. That is not the purpose of my criticism. The purpose of my criticism is to recognize that the principle of truth and scientific integrity needs to be observed throughout the legislation. It should be there in a consistent fashion all the way through. I submit to the House that clause 29 does not allow this to happen.
We need to move from there to the next step in the debate, which has to do with why it is so important that we have this truth.
The hon. members opposite are all Liberals and they had a leader at one time by the name of Trudeau who initiated and passed in the House a constitutional amendment called the charter of rights and freedoms. At the end of the charter of rights and freedoms this is what he wrote:
We must now establish the basic principles, the basic values and beliefs which hold us together as Canadians so that beyond our regional loyalties there is a way of life and a system of values which make us proud of the country that has given us such freedom and such immeasurable joy.
Those are wonderful and great words. We are now establishing one of those principles. Surely the right Hon. Trudeau, at the time he was Prime Minister and wrote that paragraph, recognized that one of the foundational principles of a democracy to function properly and adequately is that of truth and integrity.
I will now move into the next step of the legislation. That has to do with the recognition of private property. The bill recognizes clearly that there is such a thing.
Our charter of rights and freedoms does not grant that right in the constitution to individual Canadians, but the basis of liberty is the ownership of private property. It is not just the amassing of property that is the issue. The ownership of material things recognizes the dignity of human beings. It recognizes the basic integrity and beauty of human creativity and the ingenuity and innovativeness of human beings.
That is what private property does. Think about real property, intellectual property, all the novels that have been written, the poems that have been written and the songs that have been written. These are all matters of private property.
That does not mean, however, that the right to private property means we can do whatever we please with that property. Neither do we have the right to amass private property based on cruelty or intimidation or on things of that nature.
It means we must use private property to the interests of the people around us. It does not mean we can use private property to destroy endangered species. The bill makes that clear. If that is the case then the implications of the bill must be looked at.
Does the enforcement of the provisions in the bill have implications for private property? The bill clearly identifies that yes, it is probably true, there probably are implications.
Let me look at subclause 64(1). Subclause 64(1) of the bill clearly indicates:
The Minister may, in accordance with the regulations, provide compensation to any person for losses—
Again I draw to the attention of those listening and of our colleagues in the House, both on the other side and on the opposition side, that the operative word here is may. It is not that he shall compensate; it is that he may compensate.