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House of Commons Hansard #54 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was provinces.

Topics

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Yes, Mr. Speaker, we are vehemently and firmly opposed to Bill C-6.

Yet, we support the objective of preventing bulk removals or diversions, which would not be advisable. However, we say the bill will not achieve this objective. This is all the more serious because the federal government is taking advantage of an amendment to an international treaty implementation act to give itself more powers than those provided for in the treaty.

I will try to develop these last elements. The first one concerns water and its importance. The BAPE just reminded us in a great way by proposing an admirable policy for Quebec. The international joint commission, which was created under the boundary waters treaty, has produced a report containing recommendations, which both the environment minister and the foreign affairs minister said they drew on to propose the bill.

I will read an excerpt from Minister Anderson's speech concerning the bill—

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please.

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

I meant to say the Minister of the Environment.

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

That is fine. I appreciate the member's co-operation.

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I make honourable amends, even though I am not honourable. I was a minister but at other level of government. What the Minister of the Environment said was:

The International Joint Commission concluded that the Great Lakes require protection, given all of the present and future stresses and uncertainties.

He forgot to say that the main stress and uncertainty are related to the trade agreements. Who is negotiating the trade agreements, if it is not the same government?

He adds:

Recommendations for action were made to all levels of government in Canada and the U.S.

All the international joint commission's recommendations dealing with the measures to be taken regarding removal, consumptive use and conservation concern the provinces and northern states of the U.S., which, since 1985, are signatories to a non-binding charter that promotes co-ordination, under which provinces and states are obliged to carry out general consultations on issues stipulated in the charter, especially the issues addressed here.

The International Joint Commission set up under the treaty whose implementation act the government wants to amend makes recommendations to the provinces and the states. Let me quote some of these recommendations. First, on the issue of removals.

Without prejudice to the authority of the federal governments of the United States and Canada, the governments of the Great Lakes states and Ontario and Quebec should not permit any proposal for removal of water from the Great Lakes Basin to proceed unless the proponent can demonstrate that the removal would not endanger the integrity of the ecosystem of the Great Lakes Basin and—

This is followed by a series of conditions. It goes on:

States and provinces shall ensure that the quality of all water returned meets the objectives of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

Recommendation II reads as follows:

Recommendation II. Major New or Increased Consumptive Uses

To avoid endangering the integrity of the ecosystem of the Great Lakes Basin, and without prejudice to the authority of the federal governments of the United States and Canada, the governments of the Great Lakes states and Ontario and Quebec should not permit any proposal for major new or increased consumptive use of water from the Great Lakes Basin to proceed unless—

This is also followed by a series of conditions. Recommendation III, under the heading “Conservation” reads “In order to avoid endangering the integrity” and so on.

Recommendation IV states:

Provinces and states should set standards—

Then follows a series of recommendations involving the federal governments:

—federal, state, and provincial governments should move quickly to remedy water use data deficiencies.

The Canadian and American federal governments are involved in research. The same thing applies to underground water. The federal government is involved.

Let me go back to existing institutions and mechanisms. What does the International Joint Commission, established by the boundary waters treaty between the United States and Canada, have to say? This is what it says:

To help ensure the effective, cooperative, and timely implementation programs for the sustainable use of the water resources of the Great Lakes Basin, governments should use and build on existing institutions to implement the recommendations of this report. In this regard, the governments of the states and the provinces should take action, with respect to the implementation of the Great Lakes Charter—

Let me go back to the statement by the Minister of the Environment. I will not make the mistake of naming him. His statement shed a different light on the recommendations. Nowhere does the International Joint Commission recommend that the federal governments change the dynamics of existing relations and enact legislation.

We cannot help but ask ourselves why the federal government is so keen on trying to pass legislation that is, and I repeat it because it is important, an amendment, not to the treaty—because this would be done between the two countries—that was signed by Great Britain and the United States in 1909 and implemented by an act but to the act.

Is it normal that an amendment to a treaty implementation act should change the conditions under which the treaty is implemented, but above all that it should increase the federal government's powers by trickery? One can understand that the government would go this way if what it wanted was to increase its powers.

Constitutionally, the powers—as read, for example, by the NAFTA commission for environmental co-operation with regard to the Canadian legal framework on the environment—are as follows:

In Canada, the implementation of an international treaty is usually effected by the initial ratification of that treaty by the federal government and the adoption, where necessary, of appropriate statutes as part of the internal law of the country—

In Canada, the Canadian Constitution is silent as to the power of any level of government to make treaties.

Section 132 of the Canadian Constitution refers only to the treaty-implementing power of Canada as a part of the British Empire.

Canada has since become an independent member of the international community and, as such, has the authority to enter into international agreements.

However, the federal government does not appear to have the authority to bind any of the provinces. Unless the courts were to hold otherwise in the future, nothing can force a province to perform, through legislation, the obligations set by a treaty signed by the federal government.

Therefore, the obligations given to the provinces by the treaty were implemented through the Great Lakes charter. I stress the fact that the federal government is using an excuse to extend its powers.

This approach is all the more intriguing, troublesome, because the Minister of Environment, in recalling that the international joint commission said, following its study, that the Great Lakes basin must be protected because there is only 1% of this enormous expanse of freshwater that is renewable—the rest is not renewable, being what was left behind after the glaciers melted—says that it is the greatest freshwater basin in the world.

He also said:

If the international joint commission considers caution is the watchword for the management of water in the Great Lakes basin, is it not equally so for the smaller bodies of water or ecosystems across Canada, wherever they are located?

He will deal with Newfoundland. He adds:

I would also like to take this opportunity to address the trade implications of Canada's policy approach. A number of persons and groups have called on the federal government to use an export ban.

He says the main problem is this:

—Canadian governments have full sovereignty over the management of water in its natural state, and in exercising this sovereignty are not constrained by trade agreements.

He says Canadian governments when he should have said the provinces. He goes on:

Canada's views on this matter has been supported by a wide range of expert opinion. The international joint commission came to similar conclusions in its final report.

He also forgot to mention that the international joint commission believes it is likely that freshwater before removal will not be part of trade deals but that, given the rulings made by the WTO—and to put it more simply, given the fact that its regulations ensure that the Tower of Pisa keeps leaning the same way—there is no absolute guarantee that freshwater before removal will be excluded from future trade agreements.

We have before the House a bill that is supposed to protect our water resources from the threat of trade deals. Who negotiates trade agreements for Canada if it is not the same government that is refusing to let the provinces take part in the negotiating process? Is that government not a bit schizophrenic? It is using the potential consequences of any future trade deal to warn us that we need an act prohibiting bulk water exports, removals and diversions.

With the bill, the government is grabbing some new powers. Pursuant to the bill, the government will now have the authority to make regulations defining what a water basin is. It will be able to determine through regulation what river or affluent is part of the basin when it is clear, as my colleague pointed out earlier, that the treaty does not deal with this issue. With the bill, the government is going further than the treaty and is ensuring that it can act through regulations.

In reality, this seemingly technical bill boils down to the fact that the Canadian government, instead of relying on the process that has been in place since 1985 and that can respond quickly to the International Joint Commission's recommendations, wants to have its own infrastructure.

From now on, a federal licence will be required to build a dam on a river which is not necessarily part of the water basin but which would be defined as being part of it under the regulations. For example, if Quebec decides to build a dam, the federal government will have the authority to prevent it from doing so.

Members know that Quebec is the largest consumer of hydroelectricity. In environmental terms, this means that Canada's output of pollutants is lesser than if Canada did not include Quebec. Quebec has definitely chosen hydroelectricity over nuclear energy. Of course, it had mighty rivers to harness and it did it even though it had to correct a few things here and there.

In closing, I would like to read the BAPE conclusion, which is not about Bill C-6. This conclusion explains why we will strongly oppose Bill C-6 and why we will speak out against the illegitimacy of the bill.

It concludes:

As was mentioned over and over at the hearing—

This is the BAPE speaking.

—water is an element essential to life, an element for which there is no substitute. The policy's first priority should be the health of aquatic systems, a prerequisite for human health. Because it is associated with the rights to life, access to water in Quebec must be considered a right. Access to waterways and bodies of water in a manner yet to be undefined. Access to quality drinking water, and free and universal access for the needs inherent in human life. How rates are set must not interfere with this essential right to water of anyone living in Quebec.

The constant and driving search for quality is the common vision, the overriding focus and the ethical foundation for the management of water and aquatic environments.

This is what the joint commission is saying. The BAPE goes on:

This is why the principle of precaution must guide decisions which ultimately affect biodiversity and life on earth. The field of action is broad, and is founded on respect for common values. The management of river basins is a force of peace, security, development and harmony in its natural sphere of influence.

With 3% of the planet's freshwater reserves, Quebec holds in its hands a part of humanity's common heritage. It must manage this heritage responsibly. We hope that our report will make a useful contribution towards this goal.

As ecologist Pierre Dansereau said at the age of 89, “If we do not have optimistic plans, there is no hope. Dreamers and utopia are needed to pave the way for the future”.

For that, Quebec must be able to have a comprehensive water policy. We will not sit quietly by while the federal government attempts to erode our jurisdiction and impose a logic completely at odds with Quebec's objectives.

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Duncan Canadian Alliance Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, it seems to me that the essential ingredient that we should all be talking about is sovereignty over water.

I understand the previous speaker's concerns in this regard because sovereignty can relate to Quebec, the provinces and to the federal government. There are a lot of concerns when we get into federal and provincial areas, such as in this bill. We have other examples.

In my province of British Columbia we have some major concerns about a bill dealing with marine conservation being put forward by the Minister of Canadian Heritage. We are very concerned that any initiatives we may want to take dealing with west coast oil and gas, which is a provincial initiative albeit usually with a provincial-federal syndicate, could easily be pre-empted by the actions of the Minister of Canadian Heritage with a totally different agenda.

I would like the member to elaborate a little more on the subject. It is my view that federal short term initiatives or thinking can be a real detriment to regional or provincial initiatives and can circumvent what is for the greater good in the long term. That is a real concern with some of the legislation that has emanated from this place recently.

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank my colleague for his question and for his understanding of the underlying intent of the bill, which he too describes as another short term initiative.

Since he has provided me with the opportunity, I will remind hon. senators of the serious problems that arose when the federal government decided it was the best one to manage the fisheries.

The main thrust of my speech centres on the fact that the bill does not allow the institutions in place, which are essentially composed of the American states in co-operation, and the Canadian provinces in co-operation, to function as they have since 1985, in keeping with the recommendations of the international joint commission. The federal government wants to inaugurate a whole new infrastructure instead.

My colleague will certainly understand that deciding whether or not a permit for water diversion should be issued requires more than three public servants and four computers. The bill has a distinct air of improvization about it, as well as an air of lack of confidence in the provincial governments.

The reason I have stressed the joint commission recommendations so much is that it strikes me as extraordinarily important that the IJC, as a body created under the international treaty, be able to recommend the use of existing institutions in order to get important recommendations into prompt, concrete and co-ordinated application. Neither of the ministers has given any explanation in this connection.

They say that their bill is not a contradiction. Their position is more defensive than confidence inspiring. I would even say that it does not show respect for the competency, intelligence and democratic sense of responsible populations.

This is no surprise but I must say that my astonishment is constantly renewed by the federal government's imagination in taking over others' areas of jurisdiction when it has trouble looking after its own.

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The division is deferred until Monday, May 7, at the expiry of the time provided for government orders.

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Discussions have taken place between all parties and I think you would find unanimous consent, pursuant to Standing Order 45(7), that the recorded division on second reading of Bill C-6 be further deferred until the end of government orders on Tuesday, May 8.

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2001Government Orders

May 3rd, 2001 / 4:20 p.m.

Edmonton West Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved that Bill C-15, an act to amend the Criminal Code and to amend other acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to begin second reading debate on Bill C-15, an act to amend the Criminal Code and to amend other acts.

As omnibus bills before it, Bill C-15 has a number of diverse elements. Most recently we have seen examples of omnibus bills: Bill C-51 in 1999, Bill C-17 in 1996 and Bill C-42 in 1994. These examples demonstrate that the practice of introducing criminal amendments through an omnibus bill is a longstanding practice and one that has served the criminal justice system well.

The amendments proposed in the criminal law amendment act, 2001 respond to serious crimes against children and other vulnerable members of society, provide additional safeguards for the law enforcement community, strengthen our laws concerning cruelty to animals, make administrative and procedural improvements to the justice system, and make administrative amendments to the Firearms Act.

First I will deal with the proposed amendments to better protect our children. The provisions that deal with protecting children respond to the government's commitment in the Speech from the Throne to safeguard children from criminals on the Internet and to ensure that children are protected from those who would prey upon their vulnerability. They also respond to a consensus of ministers responsible for justice at the last FPT meeting to create an offence of Internet luring.

The Internet is a new technology that can be used to stimulate the communication of ideas and facilitate research, but, as with any instrument, when placed in the wrong hands it can be used for ill and to cause harm. Canadians will not tolerate a situation where individuals, from the safety and secrecy of their house, use the anonymity of the Internet to lure children into situations where they can be exploited sexually.

The new offence seeks to address what has been reported as a growing phenomenon not only in our country but globally. It criminalizes communicating through a computer system for the purpose of facilitating the commission of a sexual offence against a child or the abduction of a child.

We also want to ensure that those who view, or transmit child pornography to others, will not escape criminal liability by using new technologies.

We will extend the scope of current child pornography offences to make it clearer that actions that constitute an offence when committed with traditional means remain an offence when committed with electronic means.

Bill C-15 seeks to create four new offences: an offence of transmitting child pornography to cover one to one distribution, such as e-mail sent to one person only; an offence of making child pornography available to cover those who post child pornography on a publicly accessible website but take no other steps to distribute it; an offence of exporting child pornography to meet our international obligation; and an offence of accessing child pornography to capture those who intentionally view child pornography on the net but where the legal notion of possession may be problematic. The offence is defined to ensure that inadvertent viewing would not be caught under this offence.

I will now turn to three other proposed measures to better protect vulnerable Canadians. The first measure I wish to mention is the offence of criminal harassment, or stalking as it is sometimes referred to. This is a serious offence that can have a devastating effect upon the emotional and physical well-being of the victim.

In Bill C-15, this government is taking strong measures to ensure that the criminal justice system treats criminal harassment as the serious offence that we know it to be.

The government's response to this issue is twofold: first, to strengthen the existing legislation; and, second, to strengthen enforcement of the law through comprehensive guidelines for criminal justice personnel on criminal harassment.

Bill C-15 responds to our first commitment by proposing to increase the maximum penalty for criminal harassment when prosecuted on indictment from five to ten years. This sends a strong signal to would-be stalkers. Criminal harassment is a serious offence and its sentence would now better reflect this serious nature.

With respect to our second commitment relating to enhancing the enforcement of the criminal harassment provisions, I am pleased to note that together with our federal, provincial and territorial counterparts a handbook for police and crown prosecutors on criminal harassment was developed and released in December 1999. The handbook provides a practical set of guidelines for criminal justice personnel on all aspects of a criminal harassment case, including victim safety.

I now wish to address the difficult issue of home invasions, one that has been raised by a number of my colleagues on all sides of the House. The term home invasion is generally used to describe a robbery or break and enter of a private residence when the perpetrator forces entry while the occupants are at home, and this is key, and the perpetrator threatens to use or does use violence against the occupants.

The proposed amendment to the criminal code would indicate that where the offender's conduct was in the nature of a home invasion the court must consider this to be an aggravating factor when determining the sentence to be imposed. Such an amendment would provide clear direction to the courts and would express parliament's view that home invasion is a grave form of criminal conduct which must be dealt with appropriately during the sentencing process.

Another important measure proposed in Bill C-15 is the new offence of disarming or attempting to disarm a peace officer. This new offence would apply to anyone who tries to take away an officer's weapon when the officer is acting in the course of his or her duties. It is proposed that this new offence carry a maximum penalty of five years to reflect the seriousness of the offence and to send a clear message that taking or attempting to take a police officer's weapon would not be tolerated. The safety of police officers is a priority for the government.

The criminal law amendment act, 2001, would revive amendments introduced in the last parliament dealing with cruelty to animals. The proposed reforms have two primary objectives: to simplify and better organize the existing laws and to enhance the penalties for animal cruelty.

In particular we are increasing the penalties for animal cruelty offences with the highest penalty being five years in prison, up from the current maximum of six months. We would eliminate the current limit of two years maximum duration for an order prohibiting the offender from possessing animals and would include a new power for the court to order as part of a sentence that the offender repay to a humane society the reasonable costs associated with the care of the animal.

I would like to make clear this afternoon that these changes do not in any way negatively affect the many legitimate activities that involve animals, such as hunting, farming, or medical and scientific research. These are regulated activities subject to specific technical rules and regulations and codes of practice. The criminal law is not being used to establish or modify industry standards but rather to prohibit conduct that is grossly unacceptable. Simply put, what is lawful today in the course of legitimate activities would be lawful when the bill receives royal assent.

The law already requires that we treat animals humanely and with respect. These amendments would ensure that the law can adequately deal with those who would wilfully abuse animals. I believe that all members of the House can support this principle. There is no subject on which I receive more mail from Canadians on a weekly basis than on the question of modernizing our laws in relation to cruelty to animals.

I would like to speak now in relation to the proposed amendments concerning firearms. The Canadian firearms program is an example of the preventive approach our government takes to public safety. Moreover, the program is already achieving higher levels of public safety for all Canadians and the facts demonstrate it.

Since December 1, 1998, more than 3,000 licences have been refused or revoked by public safety authorities. The number of revocations is 26 times higher than the total of the five previous years. Overall the licensing compliance rate in Canada is now over 90%.

However, we have learned from the licensing experience. We have also listened to the concerns of gun owners and other Canadians about program efficiency and client service. We are proposing administrative changes to facilitate the registration process and to continue to ensure a high level of service to clients. These administrative changes do not affect the deadline of January 1, 2003, for registration of all firearms nor the government's commitment to public safety.

We are responding to the needs and wishes of Canadians and firearms owners by proposing changes that will make the program more user friendly, more cost efficient and client oriented. We will design a more streamlined system by simplifying the licence renewal process, by redesigning the registration process and by making better use of new and emerging Internet technology, for example, by allowing for registration of firearms online. We also intend to improve efficiency and reduce costs, for example, by staggering firearms licence renewals to avoid a surge of applications in five year cycles.

With these amendments, we will reach a balance between the interests of responsible firearms owners and our shared objective of public safety.

The efficiency of any criminal justice system depends upon its ability to protect the innocent while bringing those who are guilty of crime to justice. Despite all the precautions that our justice system takes to avoid the conviction of an innocent person, no system is infallible. Wrongful convictions can occur and regrettably have occurred in the past. The names Donald Marshall, David Milgaard and Guy Paul Morin make my point.

In such cases our entire justice system finds itself in disrepute. That is why Bill C-15 includes important improvements to section 690 of the criminal code, the conviction review process. It is a final safety net for those who are the victims of wrongful conviction.

In October 1998 we released a public consultation paper seeking submissions on how our conviction review process could be improved. The consultations informed the measures now found in Bill C-15.

The ultimate decision making authority in criminal conviction reviews will remain with the federal Minister of Justice, who is accountable to parliament and to the people of Canada. The Minister of Justice can recognize and maintain the traditional jurisdiction of the courts while providing a fair and just remedy in those exceptional cases that have somehow fallen through the cracks of the conventional justice system.

However, maintaining the status quo is not an acceptable option. Therefore the amendments to section 690 will provide investigative powers to those investigating cases on behalf of the Minister of Justice. This will allow investigators to compel witnesses to testify and documents to be produced.

In order to make the conviction review process more open and accountable, ministers of justice will now be required to provide an annual report to parliament and a website will be created to give applicants information on the process.

I believe that these amendments are the most efficient and effective way to improve the post-appellant extrajudicial conviction review process in Canada.

Let me turn briefly to the area of criminal procedure reform. The Department of Justice has been working closely with the provinces and territories on criminal procedure reform for some years. This work is now in its third phase.

The objectives of phase three are to simplify trial procedure, modernize the criminal justice system and enhance its efficiency through the increased use of technology, better protect victims and witnesses in criminal trials, and provide speedy trials in accordance with charter requirements.

We are trying to bring criminal procedure into the 21st century. This phase reflects our efforts to modernize our procedure without in any way reducing the measure of justice provided by the system.

As I said at the outset, the provinces and territories support these reforms. As they are responsible for the administration of justice, I believe that we should do our best to give them the tools they need to ensure the efficient and effective operation of the criminal justice system.

In conclusion, I am sure the standing committee will give Bill C-15 its usual thorough review and examination. I believe it contains a number of important improvements to the criminal justice system and measures that will contribute to the protection and safety of all Canadians. I call on all members of the House to support the bill.

With consent, I would move that the debate on Bill C-15 do now adjourn.

Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2001Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Let me deal with a matter that I must proceed with before 5 p.m.

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas, Human Rights; the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester, Natural Resources.

The Chair had been given notice by the member for Surrey North of a point of order as a brief intervention. I will hear very briefly what it is and I will immediately return to the Minister of Justice.