House of Commons Hansard #161 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was endangered.


Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.


Julian Reed Liberal Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently through at least part of the speech of my friend, the hon. member for Souris--Moose Mountain. For a while I wondered which bill he was speaking to, species at risk or cruelty to animals.

I want to point out to him and to the House that there has been a great deal of consultation on the bill. As a matter of fact there has probably been more consultation than there has been with any bill of its kind in past history, and particularly for the section we are speaking to, aboriginal peoples, who are the people who stand to benefit their country the most through the implementation of the bill. They are the people on the land, the people who are very directly affected. I can tell my hon. friend that I certainly will not forget the farmers, but I have to pay great respect to the aboriginal peoples of this land.

I should point out that in the bill it is the first time ever that aboriginal traditional knowledge is part of the decision making process. This has never happened before in the history of Canada. This is the first time. To me, that is very significant. As imperfect as some of my colleagues feel the bill is, we have made breakthroughs.

I also want to point out that a review is built into the legislation so that after the bill is passed, four years from now we are obliged to take a look at it again. There is a review process built right in so that the committee can review it. We can then determine what we have done right and what we have done wrong, because the actual nature of the bill is a breakthrough in itself. It is an attempt to bring about a departure from traditional kinds of legislation that are what we might describe as command and control. The Americans tried that. They passed legislation on species at risk or endangered species and it has not worked well. It is so deeply flawed that much of the budget for the preservation of species is going to litigation.

My minister wants this legislation to actually assist with the rehabilitation of species at risk, the identification of species at risk, and it will depend to a very large extent on the information obtained from aboriginal peoples in this country who will be able to deliver their traditional knowledge, which for the first time in the history of Canada can be brought to bear on the determination of species at risk.

The process has had intense involvement by representatives of Canada's aboriginal people in the development of the bill and has become a formal process through the working group on species at risk. This group has provided advice to the Canadian Wildlife Service, the Parks Canada Agency and Fisheries and Oceans Canada for a number of years already, and the advice, I must say, is invaluable. We are ensuring that it will continue in a formal way. It must. Ensuring that this formality exists is an enormous step forward. We are recognizing and putting into law the importance of the relationship of aboriginal people to land and wildlife. It is formal recognition and acknowledgement, a formal partnership. It is workable and valuable to all parties.

With this process and this legislation, with the incorporation of traditional aboriginal knowledge into the assessment and recovery of species, we are indeed moving forward. We have been saying for nearly nine years that we all share the responsibility for protecting wildlife. Perhaps no one group typifies a commitment to that responsibility more than Canada's aboriginal people. Our partnerships with aboriginal peoples have set the example for partnerships we have worked hard to foster with others: with landowners, with farmers, with fishermen, with conservation groups and with those in the resource sector.

We have established that nature and wildlife are an integral part of Canadian identity. This means that everyone in Canada has to take part in the success of this act. It deserves the support of everyone. I listened to my friend from Souris--Moose Mountain talk about farmers and people in the country, but he also quite rightly mentioned that the great majority of our citizens are urban. People in urban Canada have an equal responsibility for the protection of species, perhaps in the main because most of the species at risk are aquatic in nature. They are in the water. They are not on land at all. Therefore, when water such as the Great Lakes is degraded it means that those species at risk are continually put in danger.

With the bill, then, urban people will be able to join hands with rural Canada, with the very important input of aboriginal people, and hopefully, while it is perhaps not perfect, we can make this a bill that will raise the consciousness of all Canadians so that we can all move forward together and actually accomplish something that other parts of the world to date have not been able accomplish.

I enthusiastically endorse the bill. I also recognize that we can go back and look at it in years to come and ask what we did right and what we can correct, change and make better. In that spirit, I endorse Bill C-5 and would like to see it passed as soon as possible.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.


Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-5, an act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada.

First, I would be remiss if I did not congratulate my colleague, the member for Rosemont--Petite-Patrie, who, as environment critic, has done excellent work standing up for Quebec's position on this complex issue. Obviously, it has been made even more complex by the Canadian federation. I commend my colleague for advocating for the interests of Quebec, both in committee and with his learned and brilliant speeches in the House.

Speaking of which, I would obviously be remiss if I did not mention the poor participation of the Liberal delegation from Quebec in this House, when it comes to defending the rights of Quebecers. Take, for example, the member for Lac-Saint-Louis, who was even Quebec's minister of the environment at one point, to name but one. So I am critical of federal Liberal members for not standing up for the interests of Quebec on this issue that should not be that complex, based on the wording, but that has received a great deal of attention in Quebec.

Before speaking about the protection of species at risk in Quebec, let us look at the history surrounding this. In 1990, the Government of Quebec passed the act respecting threatened or vulnerable species, the act respecting the conservation and development of wildlife, and fishing regulations.

The Government of Quebec had already, back in 1990, adopted a safety net for species at risk. All of this was recognized in the federal-provincial accord signed in 1996, the accord for the protection of species at risk. So there have already been major discussions in Quebec and in Canada. The proof is that an accord was signed in 1996, known as the accord for the protection of species at risk.

At the time, Quebec's minister of the environment warned the Quebecers in a press release, by saying, “Yes, it is well and good, we signed an accord for the protection of species at risk with the federal government, but I am warning you to watch out for overlap”.

Now, six years later, the overlap we had been talking about in this parliament since 1996 is upon us. This is where the problem lies with the Canadian federation. As soon as the federal government manages to get along with the provinces, negotiations begin in the House of Commons to have our own protection system, and government members dare tell us “This is a double safety net”.

I am sorry, but when such important amounts are allocated, this is not a double safety net; it is overlapping in jurisdictions. This is the reality with the act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada.

In 1996, a federal-provincial agreement was signed, the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk in Canada. Sure, the terms “wildlife” and “Canada” were not included, but the federal government could easily have reached an agreement with Quebec and the other provinces to make changes to this accord in another federal-provincial agreement. This is not what the Liberal government is proposing.

Again, I am upset at Quebec Liberal members for not protecting the interests of Quebec. In Quebec, we have laws that have been in effect since 1990. We have a whole network of wildlife conservation officers. This network is working very well, but it is probably underfinanced because of the constant efforts that the Quebec government must make in health and education. It goes without saying that these wildlife conservation officers are doing a tremendous job in all sorts of situations to try to protect species, including those at risk.

Instead of having an agreement with Quebec and the other provinces to try to increase budgets and pay part of the costs relating to wildlife conservation officers, this bill will create, believe it or not, federal enforcement officers.

A whole new monitoring system will be created, when the province of Quebec already has a monitoring system that works very well and that employs men and women who work very hard. They often work overtime during peak periods. The federal government, with its massive surplus, could very well have tried to reach an agreement with the provinces to improve wildlife officers' working conditions and increase their numbers so that they could conduct more monitoring, if they felt it necessary, to protect species at risk.

But this is not what will happen. A new system is being created, and we are being told that this is a double safety net. But this is not a double safety net; it is another instance of duplication in order, once again, to increase the government's visibility in the provinces, and in Quebec.

I listened to my Liberal colleague who spoke before me. The Liberals are celebrating an agreement reached with aboriginal people so that, in the end, there will be success. When it comes to aboriginal peoples, I trust the government of Quebec. At the beginning of this year, it signed the peace of the braves with a significant portion of Quebec's aboriginal population, the Cree nation. The peace of the braves is a historic agreement signed by the government of Quebec.

I trust Quebec when it comes to protecting wildlife species at risk in Canada or in Quebec. If the federal government had asked for it, it could very well have gotten a new federal-provincial agreement and reached an agreement with aboriginal peoples. Once again, this is the hard reality of the Canadian federal system.

I am still annoyed with the federal Liberal members from Quebec, who are not defending the interests of Quebecers. Once again, these members are going to try to persuade Quebecers that this is a double safety net and that twice the protection is better. The people of Quebec and of Canada are already paying enough in taxes without this sort of overlap. The federal government could very easily have got all the provincial environment ministers together around one table and asked them to sign a new federal-provincial accord for the protection of species at risk.

I repeat, in 1996, we signed an accord for the protection of species at risk. The government of Quebec signed this agreement. The then minister was far-sighted when he said in a press release that care would have to be taken to avoid overlap. Since it signed this accord with the provinces in 1996, the federal government has been trying, year after year, to introduce bills in the House with the purpose, once again, of enhancing its visibility in each of the provinces and creating its own oversight authority. This is hard to take in these heavily taxed times.

To say that we get along is nice. Government members, including Quebec Liberal members, are trying to convince us that it is a good agreement. Opposition parties tabled 138 amendments. Do not come and tell me that this is an acceptable agreement and that it is accepted by opposition parties, when they had to table 138 amendments. These amendments even had to be divided into five groups for debate.

Today, we are discussing one group, but there are five. Why? Because 138 amendments were tabled in the House. They were not all accepted by the Chair, but many of them were, and this is why we have to deal with five groups.

So, it is not clear sailing for this bill. There is a problem. The problem for Bloc Quebecois members is that, with the help of Quebec Liberal members, the federal Liberal government is once again creating a double protection for something that may seem minor, namely the protection of wildlife species at risk, when a federal-provincial agreement could easily have been negotiated among federal and provincial environment ministers. It would have been so simple. We could have renegotiated the agreement that was so successfully negotiated in 1996.

Again, it is too complicated. There is not enough visibility for the federal government. All they want is to display little flags, and have their own staff to overlap what wildlife conservation officers are doing in Quebec.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.


Karen Kraft Sloan Liberal York North, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government's Motion No. 76 guts the committee's amendments to clause 50 which pertains to action plans. It deletes timelines for their completion which is rather astounding. This is another in a long line of so-called flexible measures in the bill. With this change there is no longer an obligation to finish this crucial step in recovery planning so that getting on with protecting and recovering species can commence.

It is worth noting that the government's Motion No. 78, which unfortunately was lumped into Group No. 2, removes timelines on the actual implementation of action plans. It also refers the implementation of action plans protecting habitat on federal lands to clause 59, which in turn renders a “must” develop regulations to a “may”.

All of this is to say that under these motions, the government absolves itself of any obligation to complete an action plan in a set period of time or to ever implement it once it has been completed. This too is called flexibility. I call it an abdication of government responsibility.

What we are talking about here is losing a species forever. The committee continually asked for something very reasonable, that is, just do not kill the last ones. We cannot do this unless we protect the places they need to survive. To do that we need some assurance that action plans will be done in a timely fashion and more to the point, will be put into place and not disappear into the void.

For these reasons I call on all members of the House to defeat these motions.

I turn now to government Motions Nos. 6, 16, 17 and 20. It is with a particularly heavy heart that I address these motions. They make a number of pronounced and surprising changes to the language setting out the national aboriginal council on species at risk. I say surprising because the council language was introduced by my colleague from Churchill River with the blessing of the government.

I know that my colleague worked long and hard to secure the support of the aboriginal and first nations communities for the language that was ultimately passed by the standing committee. He must have been as surprised as I was to see these motions on the notice paper.

The government motions essentially do four things to the original language around the aboriginal council in the bill.

First, they change the concept from one of a council to one of a committee. This is not some minor semantic variation of a concept. Rather it reflects, I would argue, a downgrading of the original council's role. Why this has appeared at the 11th hour is unclear to me.

Second, the motions now make the very creation of the aboriginal committee discretionary. This is bizarre. With the government's support, the committee passed language that made the council's existence a fact. Now the government has changed its mind and is seeking instead to make the existence of the aboriginal committee a possibility, another maybe. I suppose this is another instance of flexibility. This bill is so flexible we should rename it the Gumby act.

Third, the government motions change whom the national aboriginal committee advises. Formerly it was the Canadian endangered species conservation council, which is comprised of the competent ministers and provincial and territorial ministers. Now the national aboriginal committee advises only the minister.

Finally, where the council's advice and recommendations were formerly sought and considered, the committee's role now is to simply advise.

These are profound changes to the original aboriginal council language which, I stress again, enjoyed almost unanimous support at committee. I was dumbfounded to see these motions on the notice paper.

I must emphasize at this point that the committee did its work despite the message imparted to it at the outset of its comprehensive study, mostly via the media, that the government would not entertain anything other than superficial alterations to the legislation. This is appalling. Our committee rejected that message and for that it should be applauded.

Nonetheless, it is indeed a painful process to watch hundreds and hundreds of hours of work be so flippantly rejected by the government. Many of the substantive improvements to the bill that a majority of committee members agreed to make have been torn up and thrown in our faces.

Even more bizarre is this set of four motions and what they represent. For the record, the government is gutting amendments that it supported at committee.

The government with a great deal of fanfare asked the committee to support these changes at the clause by clause phase. The committee was happy to comply as members recognized the importance of this initiative. I must add that it was one of the best days we had at committee. There was a sense in the room that for all the right reasons and in a spirit of great harmony, respect and trust, the aboriginal council initiative represented parliament and committee work at its best.

The council is crucial to the success of the bill and to the often proclaimed spirit of co-operation upon which it is built. How then can the government hold up its head and say that these four motions merely tinker with the aboriginal council? They do nothing of the sort.

These motions swing a scythe through all of the negotiations, all of the promises, all of the time and the energy that went into the development of what became section 7.1 of the committee report. Perhaps more important, the motions destroy whatever trust had been so carefully developed over the many months of consultations with the parties in question. That trust is not something to be taken lightly, yet it appears that it has been.

It is a sad day therefore when a government member who was at the centre of those consultations has to rise in the House and move to amend government motions that themselves seek to gut carefully developed government supported language.

My colleague from Churchill River deserves special commendation for his hard work, his patience and his desire to improve a badly flawed bill. My colleague's amendments seek to restore some of the language that the ship of state is trying to torpedo. I commend him for that.

I call on all members of the House to support the motions of the member for Churchill River and to defeat government Motions Nos. 6 and 16.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rick Casson Canadian Alliance Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, I commend the hon. member opposite for her presentation. It takes courage to stand in the House against one's own government. I am pleased to see her do that. She puts a lot of time and effort into the environment committee and takes it seriously.

I commend the hon. member for Churchill River for his comments about aboriginal involvement. The aboriginals have a theory that anything we do must be considered seven generations down the road. Perhaps if we did that we would all be in better shape today.

There are a lot of things going on in legislation before the House that are of concern to people in rural areas of the country who make a living from the land, the sea and Canada's resources. The bounty we have in Canada is unbelievable.

Let us look at the logging sector. A softwood lumber dispute has the whole sector in crisis. It does not look like it will be resolved. Today is the day it should be resolved but it does not look like it will happen. A pine beetle infestation due to the mild winter is devastating the forests of British Columbia and putting the province's forestry industry in trouble.

Let us look at farming. Last year was a disastrous year from coast to coast in the agriculture community due to low commodity prices and drought. In my area of southern Alberta the drought is severe and has not yet given any indication it will let go. The foreign subsidies that drive down commodity prices and distort production are killing our farm communities.

Let us look at the fishermen who make their living from the sea. Let us look at the mismanagement that has taken place there. Fish stocks are running out. Fishermen in Canada can no longer make a living. An emergency debate on the whole fishing industry in Canada has been applied for and agreed to for this evening.

Yesterday we debated Bill C-15B on cruelty to animals, a bill which has a lot of people concerned in the rural parts of the country.

The list goes on. The resource sector in Canada is concerned about the Kyoto protocol and some of the things it could do. We have the species at risk legislation. Today a bill was introduced to modernize the Pest Control Products Act. The bill would have ramifications throughout the resource and agriculture sectors.

If we add all of these things together, and they keep piling up, it is no wonder people in the agriculture, resource and fishing industries are terrified about the things that could happen to them. If passed as it is some of the legislation could be far reaching and devastating to many sectors.

What does the government do when developing a bill? The opposition is involved in the process. The bill is sent to committee. Expert witnesses from across the country are brought in to give their opinions. People from different sectors are brought in to talk about the bill and the problems associated with it. Hundreds of hours are involved in the process. The government brings hundreds of witnesses to Ottawa at great expense. It is not only at great expense to the government. It is at great expense to the witnesses who take time to come and bear witness under the guise that what they say will be listened to.

The committee listened. It made amendment after amendment. It went through Bill C-5 clause by clause. As the previous speaker indicated, committee members from all parties worked together to come up with a bill everyone could agree with.

The bill left committee. Before it came back to the House the government introduced amendments to take it back to where it was before the committee had a chance at it. The hundreds of witnesses, all the hours and all the expense of bringing in expert witnesses to present their cases was thrown out. That is an absolute shame. It derides the value of committees. It derides the value of the House when a government can do that.

As we have heard, many members on the government side of the House are concerned about what has happened. They work in good faith at the committee level as we all do. What we put forward should be considered. It was completely thrown out. The consultation process we asked for at committee stage was completely ignored. We asked for consultation with all sectors. It happened but the advice was ignored.

I would not be surprised if in years to come we invited industry representatives to present at committees and they refused. They use their own time to come and testify and the government does not listen to them anyway, so why should they?

The consultation we asked for at this stage did not happen. We have asked for consultation after Bill C-5 is implemented. That has been eroded as well. We have put forward an amendment to take care of the issue.

The government is proposing that if the minister became aware of an endangered species he or she would not have to make it public. We agreed to this to a certain extent because if people wanted to come and look it could harm the endangered species. However the person or company who owns the land should be notified if a species is there. Whether an area is on water or land the people in control of it should know the species is there so they can help make arrangements to protect it.

Under Bill C-5 affected landowners would not be notified if endangered species were on their land. Let us think about that. There are people trying to make a living as ranchers, farmers or fishermen who may not realize there is an endangered species in the area. Let us suppose it somehow gets reported to the Minister of the Environment. If these people did something to harm the species all the power, weight and heavy handed approach of Bill C-5 would come to bear on them. The government has taken out the aspect of mens rea which says the harm must be done willingly. That is gone. It absolutely terrifies people to think this could happen.

Let us look at the resource sector. People working in the bush surveying or doing whatever they do may not know an endangered species is nearby. They would be inadvertently affected because the whole weight of Bill C-5 could be thrown at them including jail time and huge fines. That is absolutely wrong.

Consultation did take place but it was not heeded. That is a huge problem. The issue of consultation and proper notification of affected landowners needs to be addressed before Bill C-5 goes forward.

We talked about the compensation issue at other stages of the bill. The whole idea of consultation would affect the ultimate compensation. If landowners do not realize there are endangered species on their property and the Minister of the Environment moves to affect their livelihoods they should be fully compensated for the income they lose.

We have talked a lot about the urban rural split. There is not really a split. This is an issue for which all of society is responsible. A few people in urban centres cannot dictate to the entire rural population how to operate their farms, ranches or resource industries. If people in urban centres want to do that then all people need to be responsible for compensation under Bill C-5.

This is something we want as citizens and as a nation. Everyone wants legislation that will adequately protect species at risk. However if we do not do it in the proper way the bill will not protect endangered species. It will do more to harm them.

Consultation, compensation and the whole idea of jurisdiction need to be addressed before Bill C-5 can be an effective piece of legislation. We have the support of all opposition parties regarding the amendments that need to be turned down and the ones that need to be approved. I urge all government members to listen to the people from the environment committee, the hon. member for Davenport and others on that side of the House when they say the amendments need to be made for the legislation to truly work.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.


Rodger Cuzner Liberal Bras D'Or—Cape Breton, NS

Mr. Speaker, stewardship is a word we have heard quite a bit throughout the debate. I will address my remarks to the series of motions regarding the stewardship approach in general. Stewardship is a word we struggle with a bit because it does not seem to portray the importance of what we mean by it.

Stewardship is more than a landowner doing the right thing. It is more than a company showing good corporate citizenship by sponsoring a wildlife centre or rehabilitating a wetland. Stewardship is how we get things done in Canada not just for species at risk but for much of what we do for wildlife. Stewardship is a local community group pulling together a conservation effort to protect an important shoreline for birds. It is a farmer who decides to let trees and brush remain along the edges of a field to encourage nesting. It is a big company that not only makes a financial contribution but sets aside thousands of hectares as a conservation easement.

This is stewardship. It is co-operation. In Canada it is how we get things done. In many ways we could say it is what species at risk protection and the bill before us are all about.

Bill C-5 is an essential piece of legislation. It would fulfil the commitment the federal government made with the provinces and territories under the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk. It sets out in the full letter of law the key components of assessment and listing, recovery planning, habitat protection and prohibition.

I will speak to the government motions that support the key component of stewardship in our strategy, the motions that would ensure co-operation was the first approach for protecting critical habitat.

Our neighbours to the south are envious of our stewardship traditions and the way we are enshrining them in our legislation. Many people point south of the border to the endangered species legislation the U.S. has had in place for 25 years. It has done much for lawyers and the legal industry. It has done less for species. The Americans wish they had our approach. Courts are choked with cases under the U.S. law.

Our commitment to stewardship has already been reinforced with the Habitat Stewardship Program. Under the program $45 million over five years has been targeted for stewardship activities. The program is entering its third year. It has fostered many new partnerships and allowed old ones to accomplish more. It has brought new partners into the stewardship fold.

For the $5 million in first year funding the program attracted non-federal funding of over $8 million. In other words, for every dollar spent by the federal government under the HSP $1.70 of non-federal resources was contributed by project partners. In the second year of the HSP $10 million for more than 150 projects has been allocated. Volunteer Canadians from all walks of life are involved in the Atlantic Beach Guardian Program to protect the habitat of the piping plover, the Gulf of St. Lawrence aster and the maritime ringlet butterfly.

We have provided for more favourable tax treatment for the contribution of ecologically sensitive lands. Over 20,000 hectares has already been donated as ecological gifts.

There is more to stewardship than the Habitat Stewardship Program and ecological gifts. There is the stewardship action plan set out in Bill C-5. We accept in principle the proposal to develop the stewardship action plan introduced in Bill C-5 by the standing committee. Work is already underway on the development of a federal, provincial and territorial Canada wide stewardship action plan. There have been meetings, discussions and much progress in the area.

However we want to avoid legislating mandatory federal government programs which have the added complication of making future resource commitments in law. We want to ensure sufficient time to develop a plan in co-operation with others including landowners, resource users, aboriginal peoples, provinces and territories. That is why the government motions would remove the one year deadline and provide the minister the authority to develop a stewardship action plan in consultation with the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council.

I will speak in favour of the government motion to remove the requirements the standing committee imposed on the minister to publish draft contribution agreements when they are complete to provide the public an opportunity to comment on them. This type of requirement serves as a disincentive to stewardship. We are all stewards in one way or another.

The federal government is a steward in its protection of species at risk and their critical habitats in Canada. Land owners, farmers and fishers are stewards, as are aboriginal peoples, conservation groups and workers in the resource sector and others. We all deserve credit for the stewardship work we do. Bill C-5 would encourage us to do more and deserves our support.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Scott Reid Canadian Alliance Lanark—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to the Group No. 4 amendments to Bill C-5.

As a way of developing a theme in which to frame my remarks I make the observation that there are concerned members of parliament on both sides of the House. There are those opposed for a variety of reasons who express, as many do on this side of the House, the concerns of rural Canadians, in particular, farmers, fishermen and people who make their living in and from nature. There are those on the other side who express the point of view that the bill does not go far enough or it is in some degree a sham and avoids dealing with and genuinely protecting the environment. I actually find there is quite a common theme between what both sides say.

The legislation as it is worded, and particularly as it would be amended by some of the government amendments put forward in this group, and in some of the other groups, manages to achieve both of the violations to which those who feel it goes too far and those who feel it does not go far enough are pointing.

It does this because it continues a dangerous trend that is prevalent in Canadian legislation and in some legislation of other countries as well. We are not the only ones guilty of this.

I refer to a tendency to enshrine in law unspecific provisions that would bind the executive but rather general instructions to the executive, instructions that talk about what ministers may do, that set timelines that might be met, that put in requirements that if not met do not bear any consequences for the government and which therefore may not in practice be met.

On the other hand if all these measures were taken to the full power that is considered or is potentially available under them, they could have the effect of putting draconian powers in the hands of the minister and government agencies. Both sides are justifiably concerned by the same piece of legislation.

Curiously enough, if the legislation were amended it could actually at the same time satisfy the concerns both of those who are worried that it is overpowering and those who are worried that it is underpowered. This can be demonstrated by turning to some of the specific amendments that have come up in earlier discussions.

For example, in Group No. 4, the member for York North mentioned government Motion No. 76 which says that action plans are advisory as opposed to being binding upon the government. Her point, a point well taken, is that if they are not binding then very little will be achieved by having these action plans mentioned at all in the bill. One is justified in asking, why are this things here at all? Why are action plans written down when they are not really action plans, they are really advice that the executive might or might not draw upon in the future?

By the same token on the other side of the equation there are members, including myself, who are concerned that when we talk about compensation it is compensation that may be given according to a standard that would be set up after the bill was passed.

Rural Canadians, farmers and developers, and others, want to have some kind of assurance that compensation would not be merely contemplated, considered a potential, or happen in an inadequate way. They want to have some kind of assurance and we can fight over what the amount should be. I believe in full compensation. Others would say it should be less than full and while I disagree with them they have a case to be made.

None of us have any clue as to what it would be. We are all expected to simply take it on trust. This is a dangerous sort of principle to have in law.

The legislation contemplates reviews at five year intervals. There was a contemplation that this law would be taken out if government Motion No. 130 is passed. This assumes that we do not have perfect knowledge now. There is a requirement to adjust the legislation five years from now and the assumption is that five years from now we would have perfect knowledge, we would have it all down pat and there would be no further reviews because the legislation would be perfect. Of course, that is a preposterous assumption.

Worse than that is the fact that this comes back to one of the points I was dwelling upon a bit earlier. We have provisions in our laws that are not actually enforceable. Legislative reviews under the government unfortunately have become something of a joke.

For example, there was the legislative review of the Referendum Act that was passed in 1992. It was the legislation under which the 1992 referendum on the Charlottetown accord took place. Members may recall that the Referendum Act, which was proclaimed on June 15, 1992, had a provision stating it would be legislatively reviewed three years after the date of its proclamation. Three years after the date of proclamation was June 15, 1995.

I remember at that time working as a researcher on Parliament Hill and I gathered all the information together so that my party, the Reform Party at the time, could present a series of intelligent, thoughtful critiques of the bill and ways it could be improved. June 15 came and went and no review took place as far as we could tell.

It turned out there had been a review. As a member of parliament I had a chance to ask the chief electoral officer about this many years afterward when he was a witness before our committee and he informed me there had been a review. A motion was brought up without notice in committee. The motion essentially said that the act was being reviewed and that there was no particular reason to actually have witnesses appear before the committee. The committee did not think there was any need to have discussion of it and it was killed just like that. It was passed so quickly that members of the very same committee were unaware it had happened. People were present at the meeting when it occurred and happened not to be paying attention at that particular nanosecond in time that this review came and went.

If this is the kind of review we can expect then it is not a review at all. This is provided for by the legislation so it is clearly a flaw in the legislation. There must be a provision. When the government is required to do something and when the executive is bound there must be a requirement that this has some kind of consequence. If the executive fails to act, some form of independent action must take place.

If these kinds of changes are made to the legislation I suggest members will discover that there will be much more support for Bill C-5 than currently exists.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.


Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on Bill C-5, an act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada.

I would like to add my voice to that of my colleague from the Canadian Alliance, the member for Lethbridge, about how little this government respects what goes on in committees.

I was on the Standing Committee on the Environment along with my colleague from Lethbridge when Bill C-33, the precursor of Bill C-5, was examined. We heard dozens of witnesses in connection with Bill C-33, the one that preceded Bill C-5.

As my colleague from Lethbridge has said, the position taken by most of these was diametrically opposite to that taken by the government in this bill. I believe that the government just sloughs off any presentations by witnesses who come before a committee to offer their opinion on a bill.

This government operates with a kind of magical thinking. It applies a semblance of democracy by inviting people before the committee. “We will listen to you”, it tells them. “We will ensure you are given a careful hearing. We will let you provide us with some improvements to the bills”.

However, the witnesses and opposition parties are just being taken in, every time, by this government. Never, since I was first elected in 1997, have I seen any open-mindedness on the part of the government with respect to bills. They deserve to be approached with an open mind. Let us not lose sight of the extreme importance of protecting species at risk.

Neither us nor the government alone possess the whole truth. People in the field are well aware of situations we are not. This is perfectly normal. Everyone is an expert in their own area of knowledge.

The government hears the witnesses but does not listen to them. It continues along the path it has already chosen, and heads straight for third reading. It keeps on introducing repetitive bills which mean that there is never any progress made with an issue. This species at risk bill is once again a duplication of effort with the provinces.

In 1996, the federal government proposed a Canada-wide agreement to the provincial and territorial environment ministers, the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk. My colleague for Argenteuil--Papineau--Mirabel referred to it earlier. So there has been an agreement since 1996.

Why did they not bring together all the environment ministers and tell them “Together, we have made some progress. Why should we not sit down together again and make more progress with this issue?” What do they do instead? They deny their own agreement with the provinces and draft a bill that is contrary to many areas of provincial jurisdiction. What will the result be? It will cost dearly, very dearly. Once again, there will be duplication. It will end up in squabbles and this does solve the problems.

What is more, they have the gall not to want to use the COSEWIC list. I would like to explain to our viewers just what COSEWIC is. It is a body that was created in 1978 and is composed of representatives of each governmental agency in the provinces and territories, along with four national conservation bodies. It is the main player as far as species protection is concerned, and its mandate is to list the endangered species on Canadian territory.

These are the experts. I am not an expert, but I can recognize those who are. They have drawn up a list of 340 species that are endangered at the present time. These are credible people. They have been around since 1978 and are doing a good job.

What is the government saying? It says “We are setting aside the work that you have done since 1978. The governor in council, cabinet will draw up the priority list to protect species at risk”.

This is ridiculous. It is nonsense. A minister or cabinet does not know which species are the most at risk and require immediate protection on the territory. This is not true. I hope members do not believe that. I am sure that our viewers do not believe it either.

Let us be serious. If we want to move ahead on this issue, because it is urgent to do so, we must sit down with the experts. I do not trust people who claim to be perfect. I am afraid they might engage in petty politics. This is no time to engage in petty politics. But maybe they want visibility. Perhaps this government is bent on getting visibility at all costs. No, the government must not seek visibility here: it must act.

It is time for the federal government to co-operate with the provinces, to sit down with their officials, to say that it will continue to settle the issues that have surfaced since the 1996 accord. But this is not what the government is doing, and it is unfortunate. There is still time to propose amendments to that effect, but the government is so dense, so uninterested in settling issues that it creates new ones to get more visibility.

This is an extremely important area. It is said that biodiversity is the result of the earth's evolution over a period of more than 4.5 billion years. This evolutionary process has generated a large selection of living organisms and natural environments on our planet. This is the reality.

I think that the provinces would have wanted to continue, with the federal government, to try to improve the 1996 accord. However, the federal government has decided once again to stand out, to get more visibility and to reinvent the wheel. This government is always reinventing the wheel and, in the end, it only causes trouble. This is no time to cause trouble. It is time to act and to make progress. I deplore this attitude.

There have been three bills: Bill C-65, Bill C-33, during a previous parliament, which died on the order paper, and this one. Therefore, I ask the government to withdraw its bill and to sit down again with the provinces to update the 1996 accord.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Paul Forseth Canadian Alliance New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, in this report stage debate, I will talk about only three areas that must be focused on at this time within Group No. 4.

Bill C-5, entitled an act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada, states in its summary that:

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.

A series of motions in Group No. 4, Motions Nos. 6, 16, 17 and 20, deal with the national aboriginal committee. I will also talk about the creation of stewardship action plans and public consultation.

Our standing committee wished to create a national aboriginal council but the government instead wants to call it a committee. It is changing the words in these various classes which of course affects its power. The idea of an aboriginal committee itself is acceptable. Clearly in many places, especially in the north, natives have a close knowledge of the land and live off country food for their sustenance, so consultation with them is very appropriate, as it is with other stakeholders such as property owners and resource users.

The existence of this committee should not preclude wider consultation with others. Care must be taken to ensure that it does not become a special conduit for perhaps a race based political concern. The administration of the act must concern itself with the protection of endangered species in a sustainable socioeconomic manner. Special privileges and exemptions from the act's application should not be based just on being an aboriginal with status.

The name change from council to committee reverses the standing committee's work without justification. The government is showing its contempt for the work of the parliamentary committee and its own Liberal MPs when it makes retro changes to the normal legal process of a bill.

Motion No. 25 deals with the creation of stewardship action plans. Here the government is introducing such a far-reaching and noxious amendment to the standing committee's work that I think special note must be made of it. The standing committee required that stewardship action plans must include “a commitment to regularly examine tax treatments and subsidies and to eliminate disincentives”. The government wants to delete this language, but I think it is vital. It demonstrates that compensation is not just a cash payment but could involve other things like tax treatments, which are so vital to farmers and other property owners.

Further, while the government always wants to create incentives and programs and spend money, it must be forced to confront the realities of disincentives in the same situation, the reasons why people do not respond in the way that perhaps the ivory tower theorists and bureaucrats think they might.

The government also wants to delete the standing committee's requirement that stewardship action plans provide “technical and scientific support to persons engaged in stewardship activities”. Instead, it will “provide information relating to the technical and scientific support available to persons engaged in stewardship activities”. This is a small but significant difference. Instead of giving property owners real assistance by sharing data on the presence of endangered species or assistance in configuring their properties to protect sensitive habitat, the government can just maybe mail them a pamphlet. Thanks a lot, bureaucrat.

I will just talk a little bit about public consultation. Most of the remaining Group No. 4 amendments concern issues of notice and public consultation. There is a fundamental importance to making consultations as wide as possible, ensuring that consultations have a real impact on the administration of the act and are not just simply done for show, for knowledge creates the capacity to protect.

Initially the bill provided for a parliamentary review of the species at risk at five year intervals. The standing committee added the additional requirement that it be subsequently reviewed at five year intervals. Motion No. 130 from the government will remove the standing committee amendment. It does not think automatic five year reviews are really needed and instead would put the onus on parliament to put a review on the agenda should it deem it necessary at some point in the future. This is just plain wrong.

It is really contemptuous of the standing committee and removes an opportunity for greater accountability and public involvement. Mandatory reviews of legislation are important for ensuring that the act is working as intended and that creating an opportunity to make a change will not simply be left to the whim of the government House leader of the day to fit another political agenda. This is basic democratic accountability and ensures that legislation is kept evergreen.

I will conclude my comments by saying that the bill as it is before the House is really in a complete tangle. Things have just worked out this way and there is an underlying reason, which is that the Liberals cannot manage. They have no guiding vision or values to carry us into the 21st century. As this is the third bill, it is obvious to all that it is a failure. Maybe it is a case of three strikes and the government is out.

It is the sad legacy of this country that the Liberals cannot manage and they are hurting the country. The evidence of those statements that are rather far-reaching is certainly in the process of this bill.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise to debate Bill C-5 and the amendments in Group No. 4.

First I want to speak to hon. members on the Liberal side, especially my colleague from Bras d'Or--Cape Breton who just spoke about stewardship. He made a good speech if indeed that is what the government is providing, but unfortunately the government is not. It takes the members for York North and Churchill River to provide that stewardship. It is simply ironic and incredulous that two Liberal backbenchers have to stand in the House and literally yell and scream in order to tell the government that what it is doing is wrong.

It is unbelievable in this day and age that we are talking about the change of one simple word, the change of the word “may” to the word “shall”. When it came to the aboriginal consultative group, the original bill said that the government “may” do this, which means it will not do it. The committee got together and put in the words “the government shall establish”. The government has turned around and changed that again.

The member for Churchill River, my former colleague, says that the wording should be that the minister “shall” establish a council. That is exactly what this is about.

The fact is that aboriginal people, first nations, Metis, Inuit and Innu and many others, have a very strong knowledge of what goes on in terms of traditional knowledge of our natural environment. If we want to consult with anyone, it should be with those people. They are the ones who live on the land. In many cases their nutrition is supplemented by food off the land. They know what is best for the species. They know what is best for themselves.

It is absolutely incredible that I listened to two very good members of the Liberal Party turn around and basically aim their entire speech right at the front bench. It is one thing for us in the opposition to do that. That is what we are here to do. However it is wonderful, and it is quite sad at the same time, to hear the government's own backbenchers do the same thing.

I encourage my colleagues on the Liberal side, especially from Nova Scotia, and those across the country to review what the government has done and support the member for Churchill River's amendment because he is absolutely right.

Why do the aboriginal communities have a large distrust of the government? The government plays around with wording of that nature in order to avoid responsibility and leadership, not only in aboriginal affairs but in terms of our natural environment.

I go back to the work that the committee did, especially the work by the hon. member for Windsor--St. Clair and his other colleagues. They worked extremely hard. They also spent a lot of taxpayers' dollars to bring people from around the country to the hearings and come up with recommendations that at best were watered down. They were the minimum. Individual members wanted tougher language, stronger conditions to protect our various species and habitats, but through compromise the 16 members from five political parties got together and said “This is the minimum we can do, the very best. This is something we can all support”.

What did the government do? It ripped them up in a heartbeat, in record speed, which meant that all along the environment committee's work was a facade. That is what is really sad. People poured their guts into this report and worked extremely long hours only to have the government turn around with record speed and bring forward amendments which it has absolutely every intention of passing. It ignored the work of the committee.

If members of parliament on both sides of the House are frustrated at the government's action, imagine what the aboriginal communities, Metis and Inuit people must think, along with many others.

While I am on the subject of consultation with our first nations, what about consultations with coastal communities throughout Canada? Fishermen and fisherwomen in Canada's many hundreds of fishing communities know the waters they are adjacent to extremely well. They could tell us what is happening to our fish stocks, water temperatures, or the natural environment. The government does not want to listen to them. It only wants to listen to its own bureaucracy and delay the inevitable of accepting leadership and responsibility. It is a sad day.

I fear the five year review process will not have any merit at all. If there is a problem, the government will tell us not to worry, that a bit of jigging around will be done and it will do it in five years. Five years from now someone could stand in this place and say that five years previously a particular species existed but it has since gone. What would the government say then? It would say “We simply did not know. We did not have the right information at the time. Maybe we should have a royal commission and spend millions of dollars”.

The government could save a lot of time by accepting the committee's recommendations as is, which at the very best is the minimum. It should move forward to strengthen the bill in order to protect all species for future generations.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.


Clifford Lincoln Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, there is an old saying that discretion is the better part of valour. The government must have been seeking valour because the bill is full of discretion. In every section that I read there is discretion. It is may instead of shall. It leaves a lot of latitude to the minister to decide whether he will or he will not.

When I read the text of the bill regarding consultation with aboriginal people I have to sadly say, as my colleague before me has pointed out, that the people whose livelihood depends on the earth and living species, the people closest to Mother Earth whose spiritual belonging is tied up with nature and living species, are the ones who were perhaps slapped hardest in the face.

At one point the bill provided for an aboriginal council to be established. Then what did the government do? It wiped it from the definitions. There was also advice to be sought from the aboriginal council under clause 7. That has been completely changed. The council has become a committee and the committee is discretionary.

The committee was to advise the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council. Under the previous provision three relevant ministers including the Minister of the Environment were to sit on that council. Now there will be only one minister and there are no ministers on the committee at all.

The council's advice and recommendations were to be sought and considered by the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council. Now the committee's role is simply to advise the minister.

If any people should have been listened to because of their tremendous regard and love for the land, nature and living species, it should have been the first nations and all the aboriginal peoples of this land.

I know colleagues before me have read them, but the views of the Inuit Tapirisat should be read into the record again and again. They equate to those of all aboriginal people and say that these fundamental changes are unacceptable.

Report stage belittles aboriginal nations and their leaders by removing their rightful place in an advisory body with ministers of the crown within the act. The Inuit Tapirisat has repeatedly asked for a formal response from the Minister of the Environment regarding Motion No. 20 and has received none.

Due to these recent events the Inuit Tapirisat and other aboriginal groups have no choice but to withdraw their support from the species at risk bill. This is all very sad.

Originally clause 129 provided for a review of the act after five years and after the five years there would be no review. The committee amended it to provide for a review every five years. I ask the powers that be whether it makes sense to have a review of important legislation every five years. This provision was enshrined at the request of the Liberal Party when in opposition and CEPA was passed.

It was the Liberal Party in opposition that obtained the tremendous new provision that an important environmental act should be reviewed every five years because of its complexity, the changes that technology inevitably brings and the huge changes that happen to nature as a result of pollution. That was enshrined In CEPA and in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Yet the government refuses the amendment by the committee to make the act reviewable every five years.

Can anyone tell me one good logical reason why that should be? I hope, Mr. Speaker, you will agree with the validity of following amendment:

That Motion No. 130 be amended by replacing all of the words after the word “force” with the following: “and every six years thereafter, a committee of the House of”

The effect of this amendment would be to make sure that the act is reviewed every six years. If the government feels that every five years is too soon, let us make it six years. Every six years the act could be reviewed by a relevant committee of the House just the same as CEPA is reviewed and just the same as the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act is reviewed.

I table this amendment with you, Mr. Speaker. Knowing your breadth of knowledge I am sure you will accept it as completely valid and I hope it will become law.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The Chair will take the matter under consideration and will get back to the House, particularly to the member for Lac-Saint-Louis, hopefully before 5.30 p.m.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Dale Johnston Canadian Alliance Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the motions in Group No. 4 respecting Bill C-5, the endangered species legislation. It is pretty safe to say that most Canadians agree we have a responsibility to protect endangered species.

I have some pamphlets that have been put out by the government of Saskatchewan which refer to the sage grouse. Most people recognize they are endangered. Certainly the piping plover was mentioned in the House earlier today. Most people also realize it is an endangered species. The greater prairie chicken is a different species from the sage grouse. That species and the whopping crane are very recognizable Canadian species of wildlife that are endangered.

In the work I have done researching the bill I have been given to understand that if any of these endangered species are discovered on land of which an individual or group of individuals has ownership, the government has no obligation to inform them. If I had some sage grouse, whopping cranes, piping plovers or other birds on my land I would very likely know about it. I recognize they are endangered species. I would probably take steps to ensure that their environment was not damaged because of something I did.

However there are a other species on the prairies. For instance, the slender mouse-ear-cress, a very small plant, is one of which I have no knowledge. There are also western spider warts and the hairy prairie-clover. These are prairie vegetation that are on the endangered species list. If I or someone who owns the land inadverently destroys the habitat of the sand verbena or the hairy prairie-clover, we would be subject to severe penalties even though we had no idea the endangered species was on our land and even though the government does not have any obligation to notify us so that we can take the required precautions.

In talking with our critic we were informed that some nine months of work of the committee, which is a gestation period, produced at least 300 amendments, 100 or more of which were approved by all parties. All that work was completely wiped out when the legislation came back to the House. Members of the House have a lot better things to do than attend nine months of committee work which counts for absolutely nothing when it comes back to the House.

This is a sham. It is a total waste of parliament's time, potential and resources. All of us have better things to do. Our constituents would be better served if we spent more time with them and less time in a committee that does not work. Committee work is wonderful. It is where the nuts and bolts of legislation are made. If the committee works it is a wonderful tool. When it is treated in this way it is an absolute, total sham.

I agree with him when he moves his motion that the bill should be reviewed on a regular basis. I would have thought that a five year review would have been good but if he is willing to go with six years I am sure we can live with that. I can speak for my colleagues that we would be willing to support such a motion. I am pleased to see that he has moved that. I know that he and other Liberal members who speak against the bill do so at their peril. I applaud them for taking that stand and having that courage.

When we talk about people who own land and try to make a living from that, I know a little about that. I made my living from the land for 35 years by raising cattle and other crops to feed a hungry nation.

I would like to read into the record something I came in contact with. It is written by a fellow who did a lot of work with the transplantation of timber wolves from Alberta to Yellowstone Park. It was a project with the state of Wyoming and the province of Alberta. This person came to the realization by talking to a man by the name of William Pen Mott.

William Pen Mott was national park service director to former president Ronald Reagan. He attended a meeting with sheep ranchers who did not have a whole lot of love for the wolves. He said:

The single most important action that conservation groups could take to advance Yellowstone wolf restoration would be to start a compensation fund. It is economics that makes ranchers hate wolves. Pay them for their losses and the controversy will subside.

If the legislation does not compensate landowners for land that is taken out of production because of endangered species that live on it then the legislation is not only doomed to fail but it also does not serve the purpose it was intended, that is, the protection of endangered species. I submit that it will not protect endangered species. The only way that there will be protection of endangered species is if the people whose land the endangered species reside on are equal and willing partners in the program. If they are not willingly compliant, it will not work.

If the Government of Canada were to start confiscating land from people because there were endangered species on that land then we never owned the land in the first place. The right to own property is a fundamental right in Canada. If that were taken away from us, it would be a sad day for Canada.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Let me report the ruling of the Chair regarding the amendment proposed by the member for Lac-Saint-Louis. The amendment is not in order. It is deemed to be beyond the scope of the motion.

It being 5.30 p.m. the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

March 21st, 2002 / 5:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Darrel Stinson Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

moved that Bill C-252, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (statutory release granted only when earned and subject to mandatory supervision), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-252, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (statutory release granted only when earned and subject to mandatory supervision).

My private member's bill takes aim at the root of many problems caused by a Liberal change to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act which makes it mandatory that inmates serving a fixed-length sentence longer than two years are released after serving two-thirds of their sentence unless correctional officers make a report against such a release, approximately 11 months ahead of the statutory release date. That report goes to the institutional unit board or the detention review board which in turn must decide whether to send it to the parole board for consideration at the granting hearing.

Existing possibilities at the parole board hearing are that the inmate in question may not get out on statutory release or may be sent to a halfway house or might be released on a one-shot basis meaning that failure to satisfy his parole officer can result in the inmate being sent back to serve the entire remainder of his sentence.

According to the National Parole Board performance monitoring report less than 59% of the offenders released on statutory release during the period of April 1, 2000 to March 31, 2001 completed their sentences successfully in the community. This means a 41% failure rate.

Any organization or company with a 41% failure rate has some serious problems. If people buy an automobile or were using machinery with a 41% failure rate, I am sure that the company would be hauled up on all kinds of financial questions.

Of the 4,900 let out of federal prisons on statutory release, 14.4% of new offenders while 26.7% of offenders on statutory release had those releases revoked for failing to abide by the conditions of their release. By contrast, prisoners who earned their release did much better.

Full and day parole could only be granted by the National Parole Board where statutory release is granted by law, a law changed by the government. Most offenders serving definite sentences, for example six years, are released after serving two-thirds of their sentence.

One of the most tragic failures in the present system involved innocent victims of offenders on statutory release. Although convictions for violent offences by offenders on conditional release have been dropping for the past seven years National Parole Board figures show that 188 convictions for violent offences were still obtained in the year 2000-2001.

We are talking about such crimes as murder, attempted murder, sexual assault, major assault, hostage taking, forcible confinement and armed robbery. These are the kinds of crimes people on statutory release have committed.

Any serious offence by prisoners out on statutory release are simply not acceptable. The parole board is investigating serious crimes committed by those released from jail to see if there are any loopholes in the system. That is an improvement. However the biggest loophole is the present definition of statutory release in the first place. Instead my bill would require offenders to earn their release by good behaviour.

According to the National Parole Board:

All federal offenders are entitled to statutory release after serving 2/3 of theirsentence unless it is determined that they are likely to commit an offence causing death or serious harmto another person, a sexual offence involving a child or a serious drug offence before the expiration ofthe sentence.

Only the National Parole Board determines that inmates are likely to commit such an offence that they now can be detained to serve their full sentence. What if the board thinks there is only a 30% or 35% chance that the prisoner would commit such a crime? In that case, the prisoner must go free. Once they are released I have had the police tell me that in the community where my constituency office is located we are getting some very violent offenders being placed in our power house because parole boards think it is not likely that they will recommit a serious crime.

There were 2,779 offenders out on statutory release across Canada from 2000-01. That is up from 2,016 from 1993-94 when the Liberal government took office. The largest increase took place in the pacific region, up 14.4% for the same year of 2000-01. We had a prison population of 12,791 with 4,698 out on statutory release. In other words 37% were out on statutory release. In anyone's estimation that represents a high percentage when we realize these are people who have not earned their release but simply people that the system was required by law to let out.

Existing laws put the burden of assessing an inmate's status mostly on correctional officers. Granted that they will consult with the inmate, Bill C-252 would put the burden mostly on the inmate to earn his or her release through such good behaviour as getting counselling for anger management, healing addictions to alcohol and/or drugs and so on.

Bill C-252 is based on several points. First and foremost is the desire to protect the public from possible slip-ups by administrators which have in the past resulted in harm to innocent victims by releasing the wrong people into our communities.

In recent months we have seen a startling increase in the number of law enforcement officials being killed or seriously injured when stopping someone who is out on statutory release. Those offenders knowing full well that they will go back to the slammer pull guns on officers.

The member for Provencher told us as recently as February 27 that in less than three months two RCMP officers in Manitoba have been shot, one of them fatally. Just last week the home of another Winnipeg police officer was firebombed. In both shootings we know that the suspects were wanted for parole violations.

While criminals in Canada are increasingly more willing to use violence our solicitor general continues to accelerate the process of early parole that would see more dangerous offenders released from club fed style prisons. This not only defies common sense but it puts the police at an unacceptable risk.

In order to restore public confidence in our justice system and to give police the support they need the Liberal government must act immediately to require that criminals earn their parole. Indeed this area of changing parole is not only the essence of my private member's bill it is one of the keystones of a recent petition launched by the police across Canada. It asks that we end unearned early release from prison.

Regarding danger to the general public the Canadian resource centre for victims of crime sent my party a long list of offenders who committed serious crimes while on statutory release. They include: Luc Gregoire who abducted a woman in Calgary and murdered her; Douglas Parenteau who murdered two people in Millet, Alberta; Fernand Auger who abducted and murdered a woman in B.C. and then took his own life; Irwin Bird who was charged in Alberta with murder, forcible confinement and aggravated assault; Huy Manh Pham who was charged with second degree murder in Vancouver; and John Borden who was charged with second degree murder in Edmonton.

The list goes on and on but it gives us some idea of why statutory release should be changed both to protect law enforcement officers and the general public.

Another principle behind my private member's bill is to recognize that prisoners often need to learn how to make good decisions. Instead, in prison they make very few decisions. This is one of the defining differences between being in prison and being at-large in society. It is that we, free men and women, can decide what we will do and when we will do it. The more an inmate can make successful decisions while incarcerated the better that person is prepared to function successfully when released from a highly structured prison environment.

That is one of the biggest goals of imprisoning any offender. It is not only to punish the offender, it is not only to protect society, it is also to try to turn around the lives of prisoners and make them once again a productive member of society.

That leads me to another principle behind my proposed bill, mainly that early release for good behaviour provides a clear incentive for wanting to improve. It can help inmates form good habits and break bad patterns of behaviour. This can help turn our prisons into locations which are more successful in improving the prisoner's behaviour patterns.

According to prison officials with whom I have discussed this, a soft prison system where inmates get rewards, regardless of whether or not they co-operate with the guards or the programs offered to them, is bad for the public, the guards and prisoners alike. Looking at this issue from the point of view that society wants inmates to succeed once they are released from prison, having prisoners take much more responsibility for their own rehabilitation can help increase the success ratio.

Specifically, if prisoner is not ready to perform well outside prison, my bill would mean that he or she would not be booted out of the door as the present CCRA requires. We have to realize that inmates who have served several years in prison are at high risk to reoffend, unless there is some structure outside the prison to help them adjust.

As one correctional officer told my office recently, “If an inmate is released on Friday with $100 and no structure to his life, he is likely to score with heroin or a hooker and be back in custody in no time. That failure helps nobody”. Such failures also contribute to the overload on our courts and on our police.

In conclusion, redefining statutory release so that it would have to be earned and would be subject to parole, would better protect both the general public and law enforcement officers as well as improve rehabilitation in the correction of inmates in our prisons.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Waterloo—Wellington Ontario


Lynn Myers LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to join in this discussion. Before us are proposals regarding the revision of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, or CCRA as it is often called. There are two components here and it would simplify things if I speak to the second proposal at this time.

The member Okanagan--Shuswap indicates by his bill that offenders who return to our communities under the statutory release provisions of the act should be supervised. As he puts it, there should be mandatory supervision. That is exactly what CCRA now provides. Each year more than 9,000 offenders are released from the custody of Correctional Service Canada. Almost all are released under supervision with the exception of a few hundred whose earlier release cannot be supported.

The justice system is continually under review. For example, in the early 1990s there were extensive consultations and nationwide discussions of the Criminal Code of Canada and the Penitentiary Act and Parole Act as they were then called. In 1992 these efforts culminated in the passage of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. It modernized the way in which court imposed sentences were administered and entered well thought out principles, policies and practices into the law itself. In doing so, the new act ensured that our practices complied with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

At that time the provisions for statutory release replaced a similar program that had been introduced in 1971 called mandatory supervision. Mandatory supervision had developed piecemeal and contained elements of both statutory and earned remission. It was unwieldy to administer but the practice allowed offenders who had not been paroled previously to re-enter society under supervision after approximately two-thirds of their sentence had been served.

Previously, earned remission advanced the end of the sentence but did not require supervision or set conditions for that early release period. Moreover although the mandatory supervision had been seen as an inducement to good behaviour, almost all inmates earned almost all of their remission. Under mandatory supervision, that last third of the sentence became a supervised period to provide both control and assistance to offenders being released as a result of earned remission.

After 1992 and through subsequent amendments to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the concept of earned remission was removed from sentence calculation but the mandatory supervision of offenders conditionally released remained part of the law. In addition to the support and control provided by parole officers, strict conditions are imposed on offenders on statutory release that may include that they reside in a halfway house. Any breach of conditions can lead to the revocation of release even if no additional crime has been committed.

All of this is to say that the member opposite is proposing an unnecessary redundancy.

I would now like to turn to the first clause of Bill C-252. The acceptance of this proposed change would significantly alter the face of sentence administration. The abolition of statutory release and the return of a form of earned remission would set the system back to its pre-1992 status that was so in need of modernization. At that time human resources were being expended on maintaining an onerous system of monitoring and record keeping, rather than promoting involvement in programs and personal improvement.

As I have had occasion to mention, the criminal justice system certainly has been before us often during the time I have had the honour to serve in this place. Most recently we have been seeing meaningful changes in the criminal code and related statutes in response to terrorist threats. The matter of youth justice, as an example, has been dealt with in accordance with the wishes of the majority of Canadians. The solicitor general, in addition to responding to the tragic events of last fall, has extended protection of young Canadians from sexual predators with amendments to the Criminal Records Act and continues to oversee the updating of information systems to better track those who pose a threat to the vulnerable.

In the areas of corrections and conditional release, these meaningful and positive changes have been made to protect Canadians and to maintain the level of security they expect and enjoy.

As I have mentioned, these initiatives began in earnest 10 years ago with the replacement of the Parole Act and the Penitentiary Act through the creation of the new Corrections and Conditional Release Act. There is ample evidence from abroad that we can pride ourselves on our worldwide reputation for maintaining a correctional system that acts fairly and respects the human dignity of offenders while pursuing its primary goal of public protection.

The proposal now before us would in no way contribute to our efforts to administer sentences in a way that best protects Canadians. In fact, the hon. member's proposals would go against the principles of correctional and conditional release passed by this parliament and enshrined in the law itself. Public safety is the first priority of correctional and conditional release.

I believe and think it is well known that the government has demonstrated its continual willingness to undertake change when necessary. I would be the last to say that any legislation is perfect. It is our duty to remain aware of changing circumstances that may require the reform of existing laws. We must be alert to faults that may be detected in our laws that may give rise to injustice. We must be equally alert in identifying and resisting proposals such as the one before us today that would not contribute to the continuing success of efforts to improve our corrections and conditional release system.

Bill C-252, suggesting as it does the revision of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, brings something new to the legislation passed by the House less than 10 years ago and thereafter reassessed and amended as was determined to be necessary.

The amendments proposed would change our laws in ways not intended by those who agreed to major legislative reform in this place when the CCRA was passed and subsequently revised. In addition, the proposals would not be in line with the recent recommendations of the parliamentary committee in its review of this act. It is clear then that the removal of the current statutory release scheme has been thoroughly considered on a number of occasions and rejected.

The opposition members have been quick to criticize our correctional system at every opportunity. They never however mention the tremendous successes that we have in our system. They focus on failure. They never mention that our system is the envy of most nations in the world and that their representatives come to Canada to see how they can use our best practices.

That is not to say that we cannot improve; we can. The government has shown that it will continue to take the action necessary to make our corrections system even more effective and to ensure that public safety is always the number one priority for all Canadians. Consequently, Bill C-252 cannot be given our support at this time.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased as always to have an opportunity to rise and speak to private members' business.

I listened carefully to the parliamentary secretary and the Department of Justice line he trotted out, the gobbledegook in support of the government's position to reject statutory release as an amendment to the current Corrections and Conditional Release Act. He gave many of the same criticisms that we have heard in debate in the past in regard to changing the way in which we automatically release prisoners into society by virtue of the statutory release provisions of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

In many ways the hon. parliamentary secretary answered his own criticisms. He spoke of public protection being so engrained in the act, yet it is public protection that is very much at risk as a result. He trotted that out as is often the case when he is questioned.

Mr. Speaker, representing the riding of Kingston and the Islands, where we have one of our largest and most secure facilities in the country, the Kingston maximum security prison, you are well aware that by virtue of this legislation, subject to very few restrictions prisoners are automatically given the keys to their prison cell by virtue of just doing their time. Therefore, I would suggest, prisoners have no incentive to rehabilitate and reform themselves. They have no incentive to partake of prison programs. There is no incentive even to behave, which is what I think is most crucial. There is no encouragement to dissuade and deter prisoners while they are doing time. In instances where prisoners find themselves in the Kingston pen doing time for the most serious and heinous offences, such as sexual assault, murder, invasion of a person's property and person, by virtue of statutory release they simply do their time.

The sentiment and the purpose behind having mandatory supervision apply by virtue of the adoption of such a change to the legislation, in essence doing away with statutory or mandatory release and putting in place a system of earned release, which used to exist, let me be quick to add, tells federal inmates and society generally that when persons have been convicted, have availed themselves of due process and appeals and all legal avenues have been exhausted, and they are then incarcerated, they will be encouraged, nay, they will be required to behave and earn early release rather than simply pervert the judge's sentence which in essence says they will serve a set period of time. The parole board, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, allows for that sentence to be undermined and, in many instances, watered down.

This very simple change to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act contemplated in the hon. member's bill, Bill C-252, this very subject matter, was the subject of a discussion that took place in a review at the justice committee. It was alluded to by the parliamentary secretary. I was part of that committee. Many Liberal members on committee at that time were prepared to support those changes. They were prepared to embrace the idea of earned release, earned remission, encouraging individuals to actively pursue programs which would demonstrate that they were rehabilitating themselves and ready to re-enter society instead of simply sitting in their prison cells and, I will be graphic, engaging in incredibly inappropriate activity involving guards, such as throwing feces at them, swearing at them, engaging in fighting and all sorts of other inappropriate activity with other prisoners, thereby posing a real threat to the brave men and women who serve in the correctional system and to other inmates. That is not the way we should be operating our prison system in Canada.

To suggest somehow that we have the most effective correction system, the envy of the world, as the hon. member opposite referred to it, that is not the case. We have a lot of problems to deal with, including the amounts of drugs and inappropriate activity that are still very prevalent in Canada's corrections system. Having a system of earned release would address that. It does not say that the person would not be released early. It does not contemplate that an individual would not be entitled to early release. It says that people have to play by the rules, that they have to behave appropriately and avail themselves of programming which demonstrates that not only are they mentally prepared to go back into society but they are actually taking part in their own rehabilitation.

Therefore this is not the type of legislation that would cause a major shift in the current numbers who would be released. What it would do is put clear restrictions in place for individuals who, while doing time, have demonstrated through their actions that they are not ready to be reintegrated, that they are not prepared to go back into society and behave in an appropriate way, a non-criminal way.

I would suggest that the hon. member, by bringing forward his private member's bill, is following the path of common sense and bringing forward a change to our current Corrections and Conditional Release Act that would do away with this perversion of the sentencing process. It would do away with making it automatic that we use some randomly determined, and in many cases inextricable, formula to decide who is and who is not released from our prisons.

Not only would the merit system proposed by this type of amendment benefit the offenders through engaging them in their own rehabilitation process, it would certainly benefit the guards, the frontline correctional services personnel. Most important, it would give society some indication that the parole board and Corrections and Conditional Release Act was being followed.

As it currently stands, the individual just simply has to show up, and he has to because he is in jail, but that individual has to do nothing. The judge says “ten years in jail” and a person is out in four. That is the way it works today. That is not the type of general and specific deterrence judges speak of every day in courts across the country, and yet that is a word that seems absolutely perverse. It seems that one never wants to hear that word uttered on the other side of the House. Liberal members do not like the philosophy of general deterrence. They do not want to hear about it. They think it should not be part of the system, even though it is there. It is omnipresent every day in courts across the country.

There would be a financial cost, some would suggest, if offenders did not or could not meet the new requirements of release, if they had to be held to a higher standard. Hon. members on the Liberal side would say it would cost too much. What is the cost when somebody is released early and goes out and shoots a police officer or strangles a child or sexually assaults someone? That is the human cost that is intangible, that we cannot even contemplate when prisoners are released prior to demonstrating that they are ready to be back on the street.

No, it is not a perfect system. No, there is no way to predict human behaviour in every instance, but one way to predict human behaviour is to study the previous behaviour that landed somebody in jail in the first place. Judges determine sentences based on the evidence, on the victim impact statements, often on psychiatric evidence, on what they hear in the courtroom, the circumstances and facts of the case. When a judge makes a decision and the correctional system and the parole board conspire to put that person back on the street, it is a very serious and damaging outcome for society.

This simple amendment would ensure that things are tightened up, that those currently in the system would ensure firsthand that individuals would not be back on the street before being ready. Surely this is the most prominent, relevant and important way to protect society. We hear about the protection of society all the time from the solicitor general, the commissioner of corrections and from the RCMP. Let us do something about it and actually make changes that would bring that sentiment to fruition.

Members of the Progressive Conservative Democratic Representative Coalition support this initiative. We thank the hon. member for the opportunity to bring this matter back to parliament. The recidivism criteria should always be taken into consideration for those eligible for accelerated parole. One of the most perverse things is that the current youth criminal justice system will bring statutory release, conditional sentences and some of the worst perversions of justice in the adult system to our youth system. That is what we will see happening instead of seeing things going in the opposite direction, the way this private member's bill would move our legislation.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Canadian Alliance Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in favour of Bill C-252, introduced by my colleague, the member for Okanagan--Shuswap.

This legislation aims to shift the priorities at Correctional Service Canada toward a greater concern for public safety and victims' rights. Unfortunately, during the past few years of the Liberal government's tenure we have seen a steady slide in the opposite direction, indeed, giving greater priorities to the rights of dangerous criminals with the federal government's club fed style prisons. They also include release quotas and laws such as statutory release that the bill seeks to remedy.

Recently I received a letter from a constituent who said he was concerned that dangerous criminals in Manitoba have been receiving overly lenient sentences. Clearly the issue of overly lenient sentences is a question that the courts need to address, but one thing parliament can address is the issue of parole. In this case, an individual was beaten to death and the accused received a sentence of two years less a day. Whether or not one agrees that the sentence was appropriate for the beating death of that man, in the end the man served only five months in prison before being let out on parole.

In response to the inquiry from my constituent, I said that early release from prison must be earned. It has long been the position of the Canadian Alliance and its predecessor, the Reform Party, that it should not be the right of dangerous offenders to expect and automatically receive reductions in their sentences. Unfortunately the government does not agree, preferring instead to allow criminals to automatically receive early release from prison. Where a criminal presents a continuing danger to law-abiding Canadians, an automatic reduction of prison sentence by parole officials brings the entire system of justice into disrepute.

Our parole system requires a number of changes to prevent convicts from being released prematurely into society. The bill brought forward by my colleague would amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and would be a solid step in the right direction.

Statutory release is a law that gives most federal inmates mandatory release after serving two-thirds of their sentence. We know that aside from mandatory release prisoners are given additional time off depending on the category of offence. For example, there are some offences that the parole officials, through government direction, have categorized such that a convicted person receives parole after serving one-sixth of the sentence.

In a recent visit to a federal penitentiary, I raised this issue with one of the guards. He said not only was that true, indeed, prisoners who go through an orientation to come into the prison so that the officials can categorize them and determine where they should be going are released after serving a minimum amount of time even before the orientation program in fact is completed. What they are doing by statutory release provisions or administrative quota systems is moving people through, even though they do not know what dangers these individuals could pose.

We all know that statutory release has resulted in numerous offenders being released back into society before the authorities have even had a chance to attempt to rehabilitate these individuals. In that process, ordinary Canadians, law-abiding, taxpaying Canadians, are being put at risk.

Although an inmate may be detained until the end of his or her term, under certain circumstances Correctional Service Canada and the parole board only review violent offences in this context. Even in such cases we know that sometimes the most dangerous offenders are paroled early and are given a second chance to commit a violent assault, to prey on children or as we have been learning very recently, to shoot police officers.

The bill would amend the law so that offenders who are given statutory release would be subject to a mandatory supervision order as well as a requirement for rehabilitation. Most important, statutory release would not be automatic. It would have to be earned.

The need to overhaul Canada's prison and parole system has long been championed by our top law enforcement officials. Just last week the Canadian Police Association and the Ontario Police Association launched a nationwide petition to parliament to strengthen Canada's system of sentencing, corrections, parole and release.

In its policy resolutions the Canadian Police Association has taken the position that statutory release must be repealed. This has also been the position of the Ontario minister of correctional services, Mr. Rob Sampson. In a December 2001 letter, he called on the minister to immediately repeal the statutory release law, or the discount law as criminals refer to it.

The recent shootings of four police officers underscore the urgent need to overhaul our system.

Just last week a 28 year old police officer was shot near Cornwall, Ontario. His bullet resistant vest saved him during a shootout that left one person dead after the car was stopped for a traffic violation.

Montreal Constable L'Ecuyer, age 29, was shot and killed during a chase with a speeding car on February 28, 2002.

In Manitoba RCMP officer Mike Templeton, age 30, survived after he was shot in the face while attempting to pull over a suspected stolen vehicle near Oakville, Manitoba.

RCMP Constable Dennis Strongquill, age 52, was fatally shot after pursuing a stolen car in Russell, Manitoba on December 20, 2001.

In many of these tragic cases, the suspects involved were either out on parole or were wanted for parole violations. In many cases our parole officials say that the breach of parole was not that bad. They knew the individual was already in breach of parole and they said that it was not that bad.

What message are we sending to criminals when not only do they get mandatory statutory release, which they now consider their due, but we say to them that these are the conditions but if they breach them and they are not that serious, we will let them stay out? We are sending the message that the law does not need to be respected. The message is that law enforcement officials are being put at risk because of a blind adherence to an ideology that puts the rights of criminals ahead of the rights of our law enforcement officers, ordinary citizens and those who work hard to make Canada a safe place.

The solicitor general's policies defy common sense and put Canadians at risk. Criminals simply should not be awarded a get out of jail free card.

I support my colleague's bill. It is important legislation. We need to see that it becomes law.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, this is another one of those occasions where I have not been scheduled to speak. I did not think I would speak but I was listening to the debate and it has put some thoughts into my mind. I did hesitate to see if someone else wanted to speak because I do not like to hog the scene here, but at any rate I appreciate this opportunity.

This issue is of great importance. Since I have been a member of parliament I have picked up on something in the justice area which is that there is no law we can pass that can make people good and that the purpose of the law is to restrain those who are not. I cannot claim that is an original idea. I heard it from someone else. I do not remember the name of the person but it rang a bell.

Certainly one of the reasons for my joining the then reform party, now the Canadian Alliance, and having stayed with the party all these years, is that its members believe that the protection of law-abiding citizens takes precedence over the rights of those who break the law. I have often thought that as well. Those people who choose to break the law, who step outside the circle of law and order are incorrect when they claim that the rules of law and order should apply to them. They were not willing to apply them toward their own victims. This is an issue of great importance.

Another thing occurred to me as the debate was going on here this evening. Unless a person has been sentenced to life, where life means that one will be imprisoned until one dies, it follows that the person will serve that sentence for a certain time, after which the person will be released back into society. If the purpose of the law and of our justice system is to protect the law-abiding citizen, then we must do something with criminals while they are incarcerated which will change their attitudes, which will change their degree of respect for other people and for other people's property, so that they will not repeat the offence. Otherwise our system has failed. As has been mentioned, the rate of recidivism is an indication that our justice system is a failure in this area.

I have spoken also to people who have worked in the prisons and with prisoners. They say that there is not a great deal that happens inside the prisons which will change that very internal conviction and knowledge of what is right and wrong and which will convert the person into a law-abiding citizen while they are in jail. Usually it is efforts that go beyond that which will produce that change.

I remember the old saying that a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still. If a person is held in prison against his will and is told that if he behaves in a certain way he will get some reward, he may be behaving in that certain way only motivated by the reward, be it early release or be it some other benefit that he gets while in prison, without actually having changed his inner attitude and convictions.

Bill C-252 is important because it addresses that principle. If we put a person in jail, the sentence having been for 10 years, and the person knows that in two and a half years he is going to get out, the person does not need to take any personal responsibility and can just do the two and a half years. In essence what has happened is that the sentence of the judge has been nullified to no advantage.

That is what is wrong with the present system. When the judge says 10 years, the criminal really hears two and one-half years. That has a double effect. It means that the prisoner needs to do nothing in prison in order to get out in two and one-half years. An even more devastating effect is that minimizing the sentence the judge handed down says that what the criminal did was not so bad. It reduces the degree to which the person takes responsibility which landed him in jail in the first place.

I believe very strongly in the concept called truth in sentencing. I believe that when a judge says a person will be serving 10 years, the person should serve 10 years. The person may still appeal the sentence before it is carried out. There are all sorts of appeals open to people who are convicted in the country and rightly so. However when that final judgment is made that what the person did was serious and objectionable in our society and an affront to law-abiding citizens and the person is going to serve 10 years, it should mean 3,650 days. It should not mean 3,640. It should mean exactly what it says.

Notwithstanding that is how long the criminal would be in prison, throw into the mix that an earlier release could be earned if during the time in prison the person eagerly and voluntarily attended courses, sessions and seminars which are offered inside prison to correct the person's attitude and thinking. The person would have to show an exemplary attitude in being part of the society within prison in terms of doing his share of the work required.

Our prisons are missing one very important aspect. Too few of them are attached to a farm. The best thing that could happen to people to give them a normal perspective on life would be to realize that even things as basic as shelter and food require human effort.

All of us do that. Some of us work in different areas and we trade our credit. For us it is the money we earn in our line of endeavour with others who have worked in agriculture and on the farms to produce food. It would be very worthwhile for prisoners to work in an environment where they actually have to get out and cultivate, hoe and do all of the work required to grow the food that would be used to feed them. Just doing that work is special. It connects people to the relationship between human effort and the standard of living we expect.

I visited the Edmonton max not too long ago. It has a very fine gymnasium. I thought what a waste of energy. All those guys have trouble restraining themselves anyway and they are given the opportunity to pump iron and really get strong so that when they get out they will have great ease in overpowering anyone who does not do what they want. It is not exactly the kind of training I would give them.

When I saw all the energy being expended in those weights going up and down, on the treadmill and all that other stuff, I asked why do we not get those guys to use that same energy to produce something? That would give them a sense of worth, a sense of connection to the human effort that is required in society, and a sense of respect. That is what is needed.

In conclusion, we need to do some lateral thinking about what we can do to correct these people's minds before they are released. The initiative taken by my colleague today says that early release is a reward which can be earned because we have observed proper, voluntary behaviour showing that the person is eligible and less likely or even unlikely to be a risk to the rest of society when released. It has to be the good way to go.

I am actually astounded that the Liberal members opposite and the Liberal government cannot see through such a very simple principle.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Darrel Stinson Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, first, I want to thank the hon. members on this side of the House who spoke to the bill. I have some concern with the government's response to the bill.

If members stopped to think about it, we are in a position here in the House to make changes to certain laws in Canada. Members should not forget that one of the foremost reasons we were elected was that the public at large voted for us with a basic understanding that members from every party would do things that would enhance the well-being, the livelihoods and the safety of Canadians.

We introduce bills, such as Bill C-252, when police officers, the public at large, the written word in newspapers and even the government's own tests prove that statutory release is a basic failure. It has an unthinkable 41% failure rate.

It makes no sense to me why Correctional Service Canada does nothing about it and why the government pats itself on the back for the 58% success rate. How can we possibly encourage people to go into Correctional Service Canada with this kind of an attitude? If we cannot even protect the people who are in there to try and keep us protected, what would be the point of joining that organization? Yet here we have the government saying that it does not have to do anything about this.

The guards, the wardens, the police officers and those who are out there protecting us are the ones pointing out the problem. The government's own audit showed a 41% failure rate. However we are supposed to be happy because we have succeeded in 58.7% of the cases.

I cannot speak for everyone in the House but on this side of the House it is of grave concern. The public must be pulling out their hair. I heard a member say that we should pick a few names out of a hat. I can tell members about a man in St. John's who while on statutory release was charged with second degree murder.

Let us talk about two other prisoners released from jail. One was on day parole and the other was on statutory release in Ottawa. Members should remember the day those two attempted to rob a bank and became involved in a shootout with the police, injuring two police officers.

While on statutory release in Ottawa after serving time for manslaughter Brett Morgan murdered his female partner.

While on statutory release in Ottawa John Richardson and a gang of thugs murdered a 17 year old boy, sexually assaulted a 16 year old girl and beat up two teenagers.

The list goes on and on. The government cannot say that it has not heard or that does not know about these cases. These cases are right in our own backyard and yet nothing is done.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired. As the motion has not been designated as a votable item the order is dropped from the order paper.

FisheriesEmergency Debate

6:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It being 6.30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of a motion to adjourn the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter requiring urgent consideration, namely fisheries.

FisheriesEmergency Debate

6:25 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn Progressive Conservative St. John's West, NL


That this House do now adjourn.

Mr. Speaker, I thank the Chair for recognizing the importance of this issue and agreeing that it is worthy of an emergency debate. I also want to give a sincere word of thanks to the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.

Back in September when I became the fisheries critic for our party I gave notice at my first meeting that I would be pursuing this issue. Later in the fall I formally moved that the committee address the issue which it unanimously agreed to do. I then asked that committee travel to the province of Newfoundland and Labrador so members could experience firsthand the devastation caused by overfishing on the nose and tail of the Flemish cap.

Under the direction, guidance and co-operation of the Chair, the committee went to Newfoundland and, as members will hear tonight from a number of committee members, they learned a tremendous amount about the effect of overfishing on our province.

I will be sharing my time tonight with the member for South Shore because we would like to get as many people involved in this debate as possible.

Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have discussed this issue for years. It gets raised, it flutters, it dies and it is forgotten until some issue causes us to revive it. This time let me assure people that it will not die.

Thanks to the work of the committee and the interest generated not only in our province but across the country, all aspects of the industry and perhaps even society have come together. We heard from governments, oppositions, unions, harvesters, processors, plant workers and people from the affected towns. They all came together with the same concerns and, with small variations, made the same recommendations. I am sure all members of the committee feel as I do and, as I have said, we will hear from them all tonight.

The interest in this issue has to carry beyond Newfoundland and Labrador. It has to carry across Canada because it is a major national issue for two reasons. Even though the direct effect might be felt more in Newfoundland than anywhere else, it is also felt in Atlantic Canada. However the economic effect is felt right across the country. Most of the rules and regulations pertaining to the fishery are governed by this very forum in which we are now participating.

I also want to say a word of thanks to the new minister of fisheries. Last fall, before the member became the minister of fisheries, I made the remark in the House that I hoped he would become the minister of fisheries. Since being appointed to that position he has been extremely co-operative with the issues we have brought before him

I raised an issue yesterday that may have caught him by surprise. It concerned mature codfish being found on a boat that was simply detained for polluting Canadian waters. I should not use the word simply in the sense that it was a minor offence, because it certainly was not. The boat was detained for pumping out its bilge water and polluting Canadian waters.

When the boat was brought into Newfoundland, mature codfish, a species under moratorium, were found in its hold. I am sure the minister will talk a bit more about this tonight. This was the straw that broke the camels back, as the old saying goes, because today the minister announced that he had closed Canadian ports to the Faroe Islands.

The problem we have of course is that the Faroe Islands are governed by Denmark. Our man in Denmark is the former minister of public works who left here under a cloud, and as somebody said, it is the greatest tragedy to hit Denmark since Hamlet .

I am not sure how that will play out but I do not care. All I care about is that the minister had the intestinal fortitude today to quickly make the first move. It is only a minor move. We have to make many more.

During the night we will get all kinds of examples of what has been happening. I will read a few into the record.

In recent months we have seen directed fishing and excessive by-catch of moratorium species. In fact this past year enough species of fish under moratorium were caught by foreign nations to keep several plants in Atlantic Canada going. The amount of fish that they were allowed to catch but overcaught, or an excessive by-catch, would keep Canso, Burgeo, Fermeuse and Trepassey, all those plants, going.

When I say plants people think of a few weeks work a year. Until we closed down the fishery some years ago these plants operated 52 weeks a year and in some cases around the clock. We provided full time employment for people in the centres I mentioned and in many more.

What has happened now? Many of these places are like ghost towns simply because the resource is not there.

We just heard about Fishery Products threatening to lay off half its workforce, again because of a lack of resource. Six hundred jobs in Newfoundland is the same as 15,000 being laid off in Ontario. The 30,000 people affected in Newfoundland by the downturn in the fishery equates to 600,000 people being affected in Ontario. That gives the House an idea of the impact overfishing has had on our province.

Another major issue that we will not be dealing with tonight directly but plays an important part in this is the rapid growth of the seal herd that is probably doing more damage to the growth of our stocks than even foreign overfishing.

Another thing that is happening is directed fishing after closure, increased frequency of mesh size violations. That means countries participating in the fishery are using a mesh size, smaller than the average, which means they are catching fish that should not be caught. There is an increase in the issuance of citations. This past year alone I believe we have had 27 infringements. How many more take place that we know nothing about? This is about five times the total of the last five or six years.

Countries are not getting better in relation to conservation. They are blatantly thumbing their nose at us and doing whatever they want. There is non-submission or late submission of observer reports. The observer program is becoming a joke because observers are being put on the boats by the countries involved and they go back and tell them whatever they want to tell them. One observer on a boat cannot work 24 hours a day. The whole thing is a charade.

What is not a charade is the fact that a major Canadian resource is being caught by foreigners who have absolutely no regard for environmental standards for the preservation of our resources. They are looking after their own bottom line and we are paying the price.

At recent NAFO meetings Canada proposed a number of good solid recommendations but they were rejected by NAFO.

What can we do? I say to the minister that he has to get foreign affairs and international trade on the ball. We have to get NAFO working the way it should. We have to take over the custodial management of the nose and tail of the Flemish cap or we need to extend our jurisdiction and run the show ourselves. It should be our resource for our people and we should not be defending foreigners who are there to rape our resources for their benefit and we are paying the price.

FisheriesEmergency Debate

6:35 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate the comments and expertise my colleague from St. John's brings to the fisheries portfolio. I thank him on behalf of all Canadians, especially Atlantic Canadians for recognizing the importance of asking for this debate, and having the debate granted through going to the Speaker's office. It is an extremely timely and important debate.

What the debate comes down to is very simple. It is about overfishing on the Grand Banks, outside the 200 mile limit and the question of what we are doing about it. Unfortunately, my belief is we are doing very little about it. I do not expect we would have been doing anything about it today, tomorrow or yesterday had my colleague not asked the question in the House.

Why is it that we picked up a foreign trawler on a polluting offence and suddenly found moratorium cod in hold? There is something wrong. We are not doing our job on the Grand Banks. We do not have enough fisheries officers, patrol vessels, aircraft or helicopters. We have ignored it and the government has been especially guilty of ignoring it.

Members of the government have tried to say that there has not been a serious problem of overfishing on the Grand Banks and outside the 200 mile limit since 1995. I am sorry but that is a joke and it is not a very funny joke. Obviously there have been violations of overfishing and a lot of them, and we just have not been checking.

We were not checking yesterday. We caught them by accident. We were looking for something else. Do not think that a month, six months or a year ago they did not have the same moratorium cod in their holds because they did. Now we are going to shut the Faroe Islands out of Canadian ports. Excuse me. Did nobody in this place hear tell of St. Pierre and Miquelon? It is not like they cannot go to port on the east coast of North America. They can.

St. Pierre may not have the same freezer capability that Newfoundland has but it certainly has the capability to supply the boats. We need an important directive to put the fisheries officers, the ships and the coast guard vessels on the high seas to board these ships and check on their holds to see if they have moratorium species onboard.

NAFO is comprised of 18 countries. It is not just the Faroe Islands. It is Bulgaria, Canada, Cuba, Denmark, Estonia, the European Union, France, Iceland, Japan, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia, Ukraine and the United States. There are a lot more ships to check than just the ships from the Faroe Islands.

Go back to Tobin who seemed to get a lot of publicity because he pulled one liner out of one Spanish trawler, the Estai , in 1995. The next day the Spaniards and Portuguese were overfishing and using liners and their nets on the Grand Banks. We ignored them and then we tried to buy them off with turbot. They would not go away and we got fined. That is not a plan. That is nothing. That is ridiculous.

At least he raised the issue and for that I give him credit. However, we cannot turn our backs on the issue for the next five years and say it is not going on. It is going on but we are not looking.

At the NAFO meeting in Denmark in January, we showed evidence of fishing infractions by Russia, Portugal and other European fleets. They included the use of small mesh nets, directed fishing of prohibited species like cod, excessive bycatch of species under moratorium, like cod, exceeding quota limits in groundfish and in the shrimp fisheries and the misreporting of catch information.

I would like to ask the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans what has been done about that. We know the infractions are occurring. What has been done? We are telling the Faroese that they cannot dock in Newfoundland or Nova Scotia. I am sure they will dock on St. Pierre and Miquelon or they will use freezer trawlers and they will freeze their species on the high seas. They can certainly take it back frozen.

We need a better plan than just simply reacting to circumstances. It is just not sufficient.

FisheriesEmergency Debate

6:40 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

That is what you are doing. You are reacting to a good proposal by the minister.

FisheriesEmergency Debate

6:40 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. I know members are anxious to get on the record, but please be just a little bit more patient. The hon. member for South Shore.