Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today, like a number of other speakers, to acknowledge the work that the member of the Alliance for South Surrey—White Rock—Langley has put into the bill. It is one that I am happy to support.
When I first saw the bill it brought back to mind a trip that I had taken to the United Nations program in Nairobi, Kenya where there was a United Nations conference on biodiversity and a number of other issues. While we were there the delegation was taken to a national wildlife park which was adjacent to and almost a part of Nairobi. We were taken to this one site to see some of the wildlife.
There was a plaque there commemorating the burning of elephant tusks. This was the response of the Kenyan government to the international trade in ivory. It undermined in a significant way that trade by destroying a great deal of ivory. This was ivory which had been confiscated after the poachers had been apprehended. I am told, although I must say it is secondhand information, that it was just a huge pile. There were literally tonnes of tusks of ivory that were burned at that time.
When I saw the member's bill it brought back that image because at the time I thought how desperate that government must have been for it take that action. I then look at some of the arguments that we are hearing, particularly from the government, about the bill going too far and how it cannot support it.
It makes me wonder if we as a government ever want to find ourselves in that type of a situation. Obviously the answer is that we do not. Therefore, the House must take all necessary steps within our legislative, constitutional and criminal law framework to protect the wildlife in this country.
It is important that people understand the role that Canada must play in the protection of wildlife on the planet as a whole. We make the mistake, because of the familiarity of our own situation, of looking to Africa and saying that it has a lot of work to do to protect its wildlife because it is under such pressure. That of course is true. We may do the same thing if we look at Australia. The reality is that Canada is in a similar boat. The biodiversity that we have is among the greatest in the world. We have a stewardship responsibility to protect and enhance wildlife. Bill C-292 is a way of doing that.
Just within the last week or 10 days there was a rather in depth report which came out of the same United Nations office in Nairobi. Scientists were sending back information and having it compiled about the threat to wildlife around the world. Their estimate was that no matter what we do and how hard we push right now, today and into the future, we will lose 25% of all species across the globe.
There were something like 1,000 scientists around the globe who contributed to that study. These were the top environmentalists in the world on the issue of biodiversity and the whole issue of protecting the environment for our wildlife. No matter what we do we will lose 25%.
I come back to the bill and say it is a very small part. When I hear the government say it cannot even do that little bit, I ask where is our responsibility? Are we upholding our responsibility? Where is the stewardship role? Is Canada and the Canadian government responding properly to it?
We are not responding properly to it because all we have to do is look at what happened with Bill C-5, the species at risk legislation. It was promised by the government in one of its red books in 1993. There have been three incarnations of it and it is stalled in the House because the Liberals cannot get their act together.
The bill came back to the House significantly amended and reflected a great deal of hard work by members from all sides of the House. There was a serious attempt on the part of the minister and his department to gut it, to minimize it, and not to provide any protection at all for our wildlife.
We have been working for over nine years on that bill in one form or another and we still do not have it. We promised this at Rio in 1992. We have signed a number of protocols since then as a country, committing ourselves to protect the biodiversity of the planet, in Canada's case, and we have done an abysmal job of living up to those responsibilities.
It is a simple bill which says if a person were to trade, sell or kill wildlife for the purposes of profit, that person would face criminal charges. I probably would have said to the parliamentary secretary in law school that he is nitpicking on this issue of whether the bill should be a dual procedure offence. If he felt strongly about that, he should support it and send it to committee and move an amendment to include it both as a summary conviction offence and an indictable offence. It is a simple solution and not a basis to oppose the bill.
I take umbrage on the whole argument that it is a regulatory function and not a criminal matter. I totally reject that. The member may want to take a look at the supreme court decisions on Hydro-Québec and the more recent Hudson case in its analysis as to what it is prepared to allow. To suggest that it would be constitutionally unsupportable flies in the face of the logic, reasoning and basis for both those court decisions.
The Supreme Court of Canada is saying it would bend over backward on any legislation if it were to protect the environment and our wildlife. That is what the bill is about. It would go some distance to send a clear message, assuming the government would then take the second step to enforce it, to tell people who are prepared to traffic in animal and animal parts that we will not put up with it any more.