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House of Commons Hansard #173 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was mace.

Topics

An act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is it agreed?

An act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

An act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

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

Madam Speaker, again it is no surprise that the issue is the overfishing on the nose and tail of the Grand Banks and the Flemish cap. Unfortunately it will not matter what I say at this stage because the parliamentary secretary will stand and read a prepared text. Whatever avenue I take, I will get the same answer, which is unfortunate.

As times change and the more information we get on this issue, not only the hon. House but people across the country are starting to realize that there is a province called Newfoundland and Labrador. One of the major industries in that province is the fishery. Over the last 10 years, the province has been practically devastated because of abuses to that very resource that has kept the province alive since John Cabot rediscovered it in 1497.

Blatant abuses regularly occur on the nose and tail of the Grand Banks and on the Flemish cap. For those who do not know what I am talking about when I talk about the nose and tail and the Flemish cap, off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador we have a continental shelf. When the limit was increased to 200 miles, unfortunately some of the continental shelf extended beyond that 200 mile limit.

We have two projections referred to as the nose and the tail of the Grand Bank area, right in the heart of the most lucrative fishing grounds in the world. Slightly outside of that area there is a shelf known as the Flemish cap, also a prolific fishing area. It used to be a great cod fishing area and in recent years has become a tremendous fishing ground for shrimp. Shrimp did not exist there some years ago. However some people think that because of increased activity in the north, the shrimp has been driven by way of ocean currents to the Flemish cap.

Blatant abuses are taking place and we are doing very little about it. We are letting NAFO, the regulatory body, the North Atlantic Fisheries Organization, administer the area. It is not doing a good job. We pay 50% of the cost of NAFO. We are the main beneficiaries of the resource but apparently we have absolutely no say. NAFO has no teeth.

When we found some vessels to be erring in their ways, we could not do a thing with them. We had to send them home hoping the ownership countries would administer some form of punishment. Sometimes they do, sometimes they do not.

Our own surveillance, which was the issue I used, is very slight. We have one patrol vessel. We have great aerial surveillance with provincial airlines, which are state of the art, but they only cover certain areas at certain times. It is on the fishing grounds that we need actual on the ground surveillance where we can board vessels and issue citations. We do not know what is happening because the Department of Fisheries and Oceans will not release that kind of information. We do know that one boat is sometimes in the area and that that is the only protection we have.

An act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:10 p.m.

Halifax West Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I want to begin by thanking my hon. colleague from St. John's West for raising this important question. This issue of foreign overfishing is certainly of concern in particular to Atlantic Canadians, but to all Canadians generally. I know the hon. member is interested in what the government's position and response are, so let me provide him with the answer in terms of what that position is.

Canada is increasingly concerned by the current level of non-compliance in the fisheries being conducted by foreign vessels in the NAFO regulatory area. At the most recent NAFO meeting in Helsingor, Denmark, Canada presented detailed information showing an increasing trend of non-compliance by vessels of some NAFO member countries. This information was based on a detailed assessment, conducted by Department Fisheries and Oceans staff, of reports provided by observers deployed on board the foreign fishing vessels.

In addition to the observer reports, Canada has continued to maintain an extensive monitoring program in the NAFO regulatory area, including aerial surveillance, at-sea boardings and inspections conducted by the Canadian fisheries officers in their role as NAFO inspectors. This monitoring activity requires a significant financial commitment on the part of the Canadian government but I am sure my colleague would agree that the information gathered is invaluable in assessing the nature and extent of the non-compliance problem.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans aerial surveillance program is delivered through a contract between DFO and Provincial Airlines Limited, or PAL, of St. John's, Newfoundland. This is a worldclass fisheries aerial surveillance program using state of the art technologies for tracking, monitoring and recording the activities of foreign fishing vessels.

The members of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans recently had the opportunity to visit the Provincial Airlines facility in Halifax. I understand that the members were very impressed with the capabilities of the aircraft and the overall effectiveness of the aerial surveillance program. I am pleased to say that additional funding has recently been provided by the government to allow for increased utilization of PAL aircraft on both coasts.

Canadian aerial surveillance along with the mandatory NAFO requirement for satellite tracking of fishing vessels allows Canada to closely monitor the number of foreign fishing vessels operating in the NAFO regulatory area, as well as the movements and fishing activities of those vessels.

In addition to air surveillance and satellite tracking, there is a mandatory requirement for independent observer coverage on vessels from NAFO member countries while fishing in the regulatory area. The reports provided by these observers provide invaluable information regarding the level of compliance with the NAFO rules and conservation measures. Canadian officials have been and will continue to review and analyze these reports very carefully to identify trends and non-compliance issues that need to be addressed.

Patrol vessel coverage is another key element of our overall NAFO surveillance and enforcement program. One large offshore vessel, the Leonard J. Cowley , is currently dedicated to NAFO patrols. Canadian fishery officers, acting in their role as NAFO inspectors, conduct boardings and inspections of foreign fishing vessels to verify compliance. The information provided by observer reports and aerial surveillance allows us to conduct these inspections in a cost effective and strategic manner.

As members can see, the government is taking efforts in this regard. It remains a concern, and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans will continue to pursue these efforts.

An act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

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

Madam Speaker, I do not want to be argumentative because this issue is above and beyond partisan politics, but when the hon. member talked about Canada presenting information at NAFO, yes, we did and it thumbed its nose at us. It rejected the recommendations made by Canada.

He talked about observer reports. The observers are placed on the boat by the country of ownership. They report to their own countries. We get copies of the reports, late most of the time, when they are filed if at all. Two of the abuses are late filings and no reports being filed. Those are serious matters. They are not independent observers. They are dependent on the country for which they fish.

The surveillance part is right on in relation to aerial surveillance but it only covers part of the fishing ground. There is absolutely no surveillance in the northern sector of the waters. Yes, there are some good things happening but we are only scratching the surface. We have to build on it.

In relation to citations and boardings, we do not know if any occur because fisheries will not release the information to anybody. What is so secretive? If we are doing a good job, we should tell people but we have to build on--

An act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons.

An act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the points that the hon. member has made and I would like to conclude with a few more points on this issue.

Canadian officials have been reviewing and will continue to review this issue and to review and analyze the reports that have been done by observers on vessels. I mentioned the fact that there are concerns about this process. It is important the government engage with its NAFO counterparts in trying to strengthen measures. I do not know if the member is actually advocating that there should be unilateral action of some sort taken. If so, perhaps he could be clearer about that than he was this evening. I did not hear him say that, but I am not exactly clear on what it is he has in mind that the government should do. I think it is very important. If he is going to complain about what the government is not doing, he should make it clear what he thinks the government should do.

In addition to the Leonard J. Cowley, other Canadian Coast Guard vessels are sometimes utilized for NAFO patrols. DFO has an agreement with the Department of National Defence as well, whereby naval vessels conduct--

An act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The hon. member for Acadie--Bathurst.

An act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:15 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak on the issue of the Radio-Canada lockout, however, I am not pleased that it has occurred.

Unfortunately, on March 25 Radio-Canada chose to lock out its employees, thereby depriving the people of Quebec and the east, the region of Moncton and my region, of the voice of Radio-Canada, our English and French radio and television.

What is all the more unfortunate in all this is that after having asked the Minister of Canadian Heritage to appeal to the crown corporation to allow its employees to return to work, she answered with the following:

Mr. Speaker, the lockout has lasted two weeks, and I know that the francophone audience is really missing its programming.

I encourage both parties to resume productive negotiations immediately.

One of the two parties was at the negotiating table ready to negotiate. Yet Radio-Canada decided that, if its employees opened their mouths and spoke out, in other words if they took advantage of their right of free expression as Canadians, it would leave the table and terminate any negotiations.

A week or two ago, we saw this here in parliament. Quebec and New Brunswick employees of Radio-Canada came here to demonstrate, to tell their government they wanted to get back to work. Yet Radio-Canada chose to withdraw from the negotiating table. This shows disrespect for Canadian democracy.

According to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, people in this country have the right to freedom of expression. They must not be submitted to a dictatorship such as Radio-Canada is imposing upon them, as it blackmails them by saying “If you make use of democracy, we are going to withdraw from the negotiating table; we will end the negotiations”.

When the government is asked to intervene, its answer is “No, of course not. They are negotiating, let us leave them alone”.

Yet, when Canada Post workers were only talking about the possibility of going out on strike, parliament enacted legislation to ensure that, should these workers go on strike, they would be forced back to work. These were workers too.

In this case however, Radio-Canada being a crown corporation—a government agency—the government is unwilling to tell this employer, Radio-Canada, that it must get back to the table at least until the negotiations are over. It is punishing them because it is saving money at the moment by giving us listeners and viewers in Quebec and the Maritimes, recorded music or programming from elsewhere. That is what Radio-Canada is doing. Making money at the expense of its employees.

I would like to know from the parliamentary secretary, or the government spokesperson, how he could defend Radio-Canada this evening. If he could defend it, and thus gain respect here in the House and across Canada, how would he go about doing so, when Radio-Canada has refused to negotiate just because some people came here to Ottawa to speak with their elected representatives?

This is unacceptable. I would like to see how my colleague on the other side of the House can defend Radio-Canada, which belongs to the taxpayers of this country.

An act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Madam Speaker, I wish to thank the member for Acadie--Bathurst for his question. I am pleased to reply on behalf of the Minister of Canadian Heritage.

As members will fully realize, Société Radio-Canada is an autonomous organization that is responsible for its own administration, its own operations and its own daily activities. That means, then, that it and it alone is responsible for negotiating collective agreements with its employees. The Government of Canada cannot and will not interfere. Radio-Canada and le Syndicat des Communications de Radio-Canada are currently at the negotiating table, working in good faith. We are hopeful that the parties will be able to reach a new collective agreement very soon.

Until that agreement is reached, I realize that many Canadians are very sorely missing the service they have come to expect from Radio-Canada. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is something that is very near and dear to the hearts of millions of Canadians who rely on it for news and information, not to mention entertainment and sports. Because we are in the hockey playoffs, some Canadians are perhaps keenly feeling the effects of this labour dispute, without question.

The CBC is perhaps the strongest single force for culture in the country, the most powerful connector of Canadians from coast to coast. It is indeed the voice of our country and it thus plays a unique and valuable role.

We do hope that Radio-Canada and le Syndicat des Communications de Radio-Canada reach a mutually beneficial agreement very quickly so that Canadians all across the country can once again turn to this very crucial institution which is so much a part of their daily lives.

The CBC has been serving Canadians since 1936. It is a crown corporation governed by the 1991 Broadcasting Act and is subject to the regulations of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. CBC is also subject to all federal labour laws, including the Canada Labour Code, the Employment Equity Act, the Canadian Human Rights Act and so on. It meets all its obligations, and it must meet all its obligations as a federal employer.

Its services include: four national radio networks, CBC Radio One and CBC Radio Two in English and La Radio de Radio-Canada and La Chaîne culturelle FM in French, which broadcast information and general interest programs as well as classical music and cultural programs; two main television networks, CBC Television and Radio-Canada Télé; and two self-supporting specialty cable television services, CBC Newsworld in English and Le Réseau de l'information in French, which broadcast news and information programs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

As Canada's largest cultural institution, CBC touches the lives of Canadians on a daily basis. As Canada's national public broadcaster, CBC provides services in English, French and eight aboriginal languages and is accountable to all Canadians.

CBC has instituted a set of strategic directions to ensure that it is and is perceived to be a well managed company, operating in the best interests of its shareholders, the Canadian public. CBC makes these efforts in order to ensure distinctive programming of the highest quality across all its services in French and English across Canada. It also aims to generate cashflow to reinvest in its core business programming by leveraging its non-broadcasting assets and operating more efficiently.

It is indeed the voice of our country.

An act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Madam Speaker, I like the way the member defended Radio-Canada for the good service it has provided to Canadians.

My colleague across the way is perhaps unaware that only 51% of Radio-Canada's employees from Quebec to the Atlantic provinces are full time, as opposed to 71% from Ontario to British Columbia, and in the Northwest Territories. They all report to the same president. So why is there such a difference?

If the government cannot have a say in this matter, I would have preferred that the member not defend Radio-Canada. But that is what he did, rather than saying “No, go back to the bargaining table and negotiate a collective agreement in good faith for all Canadians”.

An act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.

Halifax West Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, as I said, I am anxious to see an agreement reached between Radio-Canada and its employees and I am glad to see that they are negotiating. I believe that they are now at the bargaining table and I hope that they will soon reach an agreement. I am confident that they will do so.

An act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted.

Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6.28 p.m.)