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House of Commons Hansard #46 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was aboriginal.

Topics

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I listened closely to my hon. colleague's speech. To be honest, it kind of reminded me of the Prime Minister's trip to see President Bush. He promised that everything would be fixed, that softwood lumber would move, that cattle would move. However, when we read the fine print, nothing has changed and it is business as usual. The cattle are not moving. There is no progress and no future to see cattle moving. Softwood lumber had nothing to do with the Prime Minister. We would still be waiting for the wood to be sawn, if it did.

Now we have legislation here that has not been clearly thought out. The main difficulty I have with the bill is very simple. This legislation does precisely the opposite of what it is supposed to do. It allows certain aboriginal organizations to prevail over certain regulations.

It is important that all Canadians, especially Atlantic Canadians and Canadians who live in maritime regions, whether it is B.C. or Atlantic Canada, to know exactly what those regulations are.

The minister was having difficulty explaining the regulations. It is important to know if is it just a matter of licensing or if it is simply a matter of who will fish first. We live with that already. That is not a difficulty. Is there something else that we do not know about?

Under Marshall, we understand there is the right to fish. That is a given. Under Sparrow there is a right to fish. Those rights can be accommodated and they are being accommodated. What we need to know is exactly what they mean when certain aboriginal organizations have a right to prevail over certain regulations.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, first, I will address a comment made by my hon. colleague at the outset, that not much progress had been made. Particularly in the wake of Marshall, much progress has been made. What we have now is an almost fully engaged native fishery. As was mentioned in the House before, over 1,250 jobs have been created as a result of the initiatives undertaken by the department to deal with the Supreme Court ruling of Marshall.

As I made note of in my remarks, it is the growth within the different fishing communities and the harbours that has been most rewarding. We cannot expect the aboriginal community to come in and take part and engage in a commercial fishery.

I grew up in the fishing community of Glace Bay and in Port Morien. I have married into the fishing community. Fishing is a livelihood that has been handed down from father to son, from generation to generation. The skills acquired are ones that have evolved over the years and traditions have come down over the years.

It is a bit much for us to accept and expect that the aboriginal community will come in and experience tremendous success from the outset without any type of mentoring and without any type of patience or understanding from the outset.

That is why I support in the legislation the ability to deal with the regulations. There is enough latitude within those regulations so we can deal with the aboriginal community on a basis where it can go forward as it continues to gain capacity and experience. As its fishing community continues to grow, hopefully the legislation or the regulations as they evolve from this bill will allow the DFO officials to factor in those types of provisions.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the hon. member's comments, but he is still not answering the question. The question is very simple. This is not about opportunities for first nations. This is quite simply not about even implementing Sparrow and Marshall. My question is on licensing and regulations and how they will be governed. What is the difference? How does one look at and pass down a communal licence?

I understand the mentoring, the training and the years it takes to be a professional fisherman. However, what happens if the chief of any of the bands decides that a licence will go to someone else and that someone else has no experience in the fishery? The success of the fishery is that family owned licence and the training that goes on from father to son or father to daughter. That success is the years of work and mentoring it takes to be a successful fisherman. What happens if there are no rules and no regulations in place to ensure that the first nations that get involved in the fishery can stay in the fishery?

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, my friend has alluded to the fact that the cultures, the training and skills have been passed down from generation to generation within a family enterprise. Obviously, from the aboriginal communities that I know, they have a communal nature and that enterprise lies within that aboriginal community.

First, we should know that Bill C-33 does not compromise any of the practices that are on the ground as we speak. What it does is allow for the flexibility and the respect within the aboriginal community that would allow the regulations from the fishery to be applied in its specific case.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

Yukon Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, my interest is with the aboriginal people and I want to ensure that I am on record. The NDP spoke about the consultations and suggested that two groups were being pitted against each other. I want everyone to know that all aboriginal groups across the country were consulted. They understand the situation will be better after this bill because certain regulations that would help them would have been disavowed. Now the exemptions will be in the act. It is a chance for the minister and cabinet to put into licences those things resulting from court cases.

Does the member want to add anything on the aboriginal front? I just wanted to ensure that was clarified.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the intervention of my colleague from Yukon. A number of consultations took place among department officials and representatives from the minister's office with the various stakeholders and committee members. From all indications, the consultations have been ongoing. They started back probably a couple years ago. That is why we are this juncture, where Bill C-33 has come forward.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, on the final comment of the member for Bras d'Or—Cape Breton's, it is my understanding, from what the Minister of Fisheries stated in the House, that he had not met with the fisheries committee on this legislation and that any consultation had occurred under a former minister some time ago.

Again, when bringing legislation into the House of this magnitude and importance, it is absolutely essential that the minister of the day meet with the committee of the day. Things change, issues change, dynamics change and it would have been important to at least have met with committee.

The basis of Bill C-33, an act to amend the Fisheries Act, we have had a long and prolonged debate over that. I think we all understand where the bill came from and why, and I will review that.

Before I do, let us go back and look at the original aboriginal fishery strategy of 1992 and the Sparrow decision of 1990. There has been nearly 14 years to bring the aboriginal community into the fishery. In Atlantic Canada, to a great degree, the aboriginal fishing strategy has worked well. Certainly, a majority of the bands have fishing licences, if not all, which range everywhere from mackerel, to crab, to offshore shrimp, to offshore clams, to the lucrative lobster industry and to the groundfishery. It is not as if suddenly today the aboriginal community will start to partake in this fishery.

Let us look at 12 years of an aboriginal fishing strategy. I just pulled a clip off the wire and the best comparison to that is the same amount of time, actually 13 years, or 12 years of this government dealing with the offshore, specifically the nose and tail of the Grand Banks and foreign overfishing.

I am not about to try and blame all the ills of the fishery upon the foreign fleet. It is not only the fault of the foreign fleet, it is our fault as well. However, it is important to be consistent with regulations and it is extremely important to be consistent with enforcement. I do not see any of that in this legislation, Bill C-33. I certainly have not seen any of it on the nose and tail of the Grand Banks for the last 12 years.

Newly released data shows that more than 90% of foreign ships caught illegally fishing on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland over the past decade got off scot free. Between 1992 and 2003, Canadian fisheries officers caught foreign ships illegally fishing 319 times on the nose and tail of the Grand Banks, but the foreign ships faced fines in only 21 cases. Basically it was carte blanche. They could do what they wanted and fish where they wanted. I am not certain we will see anything different here.

The success of the fishery is to base it on conservation, to have trained fishery officers and to have trained fishermen who understand the resource. There is a willingness to incorporate the aboriginal fishery, certainly there is in the South Shore. There is no question that the aboriginals have a stake in the fishery and they will be participants in that fishery.

The question is how does one bring legislation like this into being without talking to the fishery committee, without having committee hearings that include first nations and other stakeholders? How can that happen.

I agree with the member from Bras d'Or that absolutely, there is a very important economic component to this piece of legislation. It provides opportunity for first nations. It provides much needed opportunity for first nations entry into the fishery. What are the parameters of that opportunity? What are the rules and regulations that will govern it?

There is not even agreement among the individual Mi'kmaq, Maliseet, and Passamaquoddy bands. They have not all signed onto this. There are still a few of them that are holding out. There is far from unanimity on this subject. There is still division even among the first nations.

As was mentioned here a few times, the September 17, 1999 Marshall decision affirmed the treaty rights of the Mi'kmaq, Maliseet and the Passamaquoddy people to hunt, fish and gather in the pursuit of a moderate livelihood. That court agreement has come down. No one is arguing about that decision.

There needs to be open and intelligent discussion on how we can best incorporate first nations into the fishery. It was not DFO that said we are not going to have extra effort in the fishery. It was the first nations who put that idea forward because they and the non-native fishery saw the importance of not over-exploiting the resource.

There are a number of amendments. The bill amends the Fisheries Act to expressly provide that a breach of a term or condition of a permission granted under section 4 of the act or of a licence or lease issued under the act is an offence. That is a change to the Fisheries Act.

Changes to the Fisheries Act should not be brought in without having a debate, without trying to look 20 years into the future to see how it could affect the individuals involved. How will it affect the aboriginal fishery? That is the first component we are talking about. How will it affect the non-aboriginal fishery?

My great concern is the whole basis of a communal fishery. I am not proposing at all that a communal fishery cannot work. It probably could work and could work well. However, how do we enable the mentoring and training of fishermen to be passed on intergenerationally within the fishing family? I do not think that question has been answered at all, and it is an extremely important one.

In summary, I do believe the bill is being rushed through. I do believe it has been brought in late. It has not really been thought through. Unfortunately, we need this piece of legislation, but we cannot use it in its present form.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for South Shore will have approximately 12 minutes remaining if he so chooses when the bill comes back before the House.

The House resumed from April 30 consideration of the motion that Bill C-30, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 23, 2004, be concurred in as amended.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

6:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It being 6:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division at report stage of Bill C-30.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

6:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

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

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Adjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, this exchange tonight has to do with genetically modified wheat.

On February 4 I asked the Minister of International Trade what he would do to prevent the loss of access for grain producers to premium foreign markets in view of the importance of non-genetically modified wheat given by prospective buyers abroad.

Unfortunately, the minister's response dealt only with the scientific aspect of the question, deferring the decision to Health Canada and its approval process. However, the decision to allow genetically modified wheat to be produced in Canada is made by the government as a whole and has widespread economic, ecological and political implications.

The question is, why should Canada take precautions with genetically modified grain? I submit that, increasingly, farmers in western Canada are urged by potential customers abroad to produce genetically modified free wheat. I am told that some 87% of all customers request a non-genetically modified guarantee. We are talking of an industry that is worth some $45 million which exports grain to 70 countries, including Japan, China, Mexico, the U.K., Italy, Indonesia and even the United States.

The Canadian Wheat Board is the largest wheat and barley marketer in the world and has repeatedly called on the federal government, first, to include a cost benefit analysis throughout the wheat value chain, placing particular emphasis on farmer income. Second, prior to unconfined release of genetically modified wheat and barley in Canada, the Canadian Wheat Board urges the government to examine market acceptance and tolerance levels of genetically modified products so as to ensure benefit to Canadian farmers.

Finally, because there are no genetically modified varieties of wheat and barley approved or registered for commercial production in Canada, the Canadian Wheat Board, in order to ensure the interests of farmers and customers, also calls for an effective segregation process that labels traditional varieties from genetically modified varieties should genetically modified products be released into the marketplace. Thus, accordingly to both the international market and the Canadian wheat producers alike, the introduction of genetically modified wheat poses substantial concern, ecologically and economically.

Could the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade please tell us why the government seems to be proceeding with letting genetically modified wheat into Canada and why it is indifferent to the requests made so far by farmers and the Canadian Wheat Board?

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Adjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia Manitoba

Liberal

John Harvard LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Davenport for his interest on this important file, for his questions and suggestions.

At this time there are no transgenic varieties of wheat registered for commercial production in Canada. Monsanto Canada has applied to Government of Canada regulators for approval of Roundup Ready wheat. However, the three safety reviews: food, feed and the environment have not been completed.

In addition to the above food, feed and the environment safety reviews, Canada requires that wheat varieties be subjected to a rigorous analysis of end use quality, agronomic performance, and disease resistance for variety registration purposes prior to commercialization. Expert committees must judge these varieties to be equal to or better than the reference varieties before they can be registered by the federal government and sold as seed to commercial farmers.

The Government of Canada is aware of the concerns of many of Canada's international customers regarding GM crops and that the introduction of new plant varieties should be done in a manner that addresses those concerns.

Thus, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada has launched an interdepartmental process to determine how best to ensure that the commercialization of products of agricultural innovation does not cause undue international market disruption, while balancing Canada's commitment to innovation and to science based regulation.

With respect to the labelling of genetically modified foods, Canada requires labelling where the foods have undergone significant nutritional or compositional changes, or where there may be health and safety concerns, such as allergenicity.

Canada supports a voluntary, industry based approach to labelling based on how a product was produced if it is not related to the product's characteristics, such as non-product related process and production methods.

In our view, mandatory labelling for non-product related process and production methods may constitute a technical barrier to trade and, therefore, contrary to our international trade obligations.

In this regard, Canadian industry has responded to consumer demand for labelling of GM foods and has developed a voluntary standard for GM products through the Canadian General Standards Board, CGSB.

The Canadian government has supported this broad based initiative and believes that a voluntary labelling standard would be the best way to provide important information about how a product is made while upholding our trade rights and obligations.

Both a comprehensive study by the Royal Society of Canada on “Biotechnology Regulation in Canada” and the Canadian Biotechnology Advisory Committee support a voluntary labelling scheme. The CGSB standard was recently referred to the Standards Council of Canada for final review and adoption as a national standard of Canada.

I would like to thank the hon. member for his comments and suggestions. As I have said, the government is well aware of the potential trade impact of the issue. This is why it is so important that the introduction of new plant varieties be done in a manner that addresses these concerns.

As I have said, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada has launched an interdepartmental process to determine how best to ensure that the introduction of GM products does not cause undue international market disruption. As part of this process, we will ensure that the hon. member's comments and suggestion are taken fully into account.

Finally, I would emphasize again the importance of balancing Canada's commitment to innovation and to science based regulation. Ultimately, our ability to defend our access to foreign markets is based on our commitment to science based regulation.

As members will be aware, we are currently involved in a WTO panel against the European Union's moratorium on GM products on grounds that the moratorium is not based on science.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Adjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.

Liberal

Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. parliamentary secretary for the sensitivity that he brings to this issue and his understanding as a champion in his career of consumers' rights.

I am sure that he is personally, at least, favourably inclined to the consumer's right to know as to whether or not a product contains genetically modified material. Therefore, his tendency will be in favour of a mandatory system, rather than a voluntary one.

The reasons given for not adopting the mandatory approach are far from being convincing, in view of the fact that there are a number of countries, including France, that do have mandatory labelling and let the consumer decide on this particular matter.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Adjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.

Liberal

John Harvard Liberal Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Davenport for his work on this particular file. He has established, over many long years, a reputation for concern about the environment and these kinds of issues. The House and the government, in fact the country, is better off because of his sensitivities, work and commitment.

I want to say that these are difficult issues, but the government is trying to strike a balance. The final chapter has not been written, but we will do whatever we can to achieve a balanced approach to this.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Adjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Progressive Conservative Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, on February 9, after several years of raising this issue, I rose to alert the House again about how the government discriminates by postal code when it advertises for jobs in Ottawa. I find this process and practice so offensive that I am going to stay at it until it fixes it.

I often think that if someone described a country and said a person could go to this country, but this country will not allow its citizens to work in its own capital city for its own government, one would find it offensive and think that person must be referring to a banana republic or something, but that is Canada.

The Canadian government has dozens and dozens of jobs in Ottawa all the time; however, they are only available to people in the immediate Ottawa area. Citizens in Stormont—Dundas—Charlottenburgh, Cumberland—Colchester and everywhere across the country cannot apply unless they have certain postal codes in the Ottawa area.

Just a couple of minutes ago I took a bunch of jobs off the Internet. There is a variety of about 15 to 20 jobs. It is not only an offensive policy but a poor policy to not bring people from across the country to the capital city of Canada to help create legislation, draft letters, and just be a part of the practice of governing this country.

When the government advertises jobs, it says that only people in certain postal codes around Ottawa and Hull can apply for these jobs in the capital city of their own country. Citizens of Canada are told they are not welcome in Ottawa and cannot work here because they do not live in the right postal code.

I want to go through a few that I picked off the Internet a minute ago. A correspondence officer for the Solicitor General pays $44,000. The education required is the completion of secondary school. There are a lot of people who would like to have a crack at this particular job. It is not a high education job and pays $44,000 a year, but people in most of our ridings cannot apply because they do not have the right postal code.

The next one is a job in foreign affairs. It is a research instruction and library web master. It requires graduation from a recognized university with a masters degree. We have one with a high school degree and one with a masters degree, and it is the same story. Who can apply? Only those people who live in this little circle around Ottawa in certain postal codes. This job pays $56,861 a year. Can people in Calgary apply for it? No. Can people in Charlottetown apply for it? No. Can people in Toronto apply for it? No, because these jobs with the Government of Canada are restricted to people in the postal codes I referred to.

Another one is reference librarian. It does not even say how many jobs there are. It says that currently there are several vacant positions. I do not know whether that is 5, 10, or 20. There are several vacant positions in the Departments of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. Who can apply? Only those people who live in these postal codes. Can people in Moncton, Halifax or Truro apply? No, they are not allowed to come to work in their own capital city. They cannot come here because of the discrimination policy of the federal government and it will not change it.

I met with the Public Service Commission and it wants to change it, but it is not given the resources to put in the equipment and technology to do it. Businesses do it, the private sector does it, and there is no reason why the Government of Canada cannot stop this offensive practice of discrimination by postal code.

Another says there are three permanent positions. This is the Royal Canadian Mounted Police civilian staff. Can people in Regina or Victoria apply for this job? They cannot even apply for it even if they are well prepared for it and qualified. This one requires a diploma from a recognized Canadian institute in interior design. There are three jobs and no one in my riding or anyone else's can apply.

It is an offensive policy. It is a poor policy and I want to know, why will the government not change the policy?

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Adjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.

Leeds—Grenville Ontario

Liberal

Joe Jordan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, I rise to respond to the question about geographic eligibility criteria in public service recruitment.

I commend the member for his interest in this area and his desire to ensure that the public service recruiting policies are fair. I also want to assure him that the government shares his goal. Hence, the government initiated the public service human resource modernization which resulted in legislation that confirms the mandate of the Public Service Commission, the PSC, as the protector of merit in appointments.

Equitable access is central to any fair and transparent recruitment system based on merit. The PSC is committed to maintaining the best possible public service for Canadians, one that is competent, non-partisan, representative and able to provide service in both official languages. Therefore I can assure the House that the PSC is committed to expanding the use of a national area of selection as a means of enhancing Canadians' access to federal public service jobs.

I might add that since the PSC is responsible for recruitment, questions about specific cases are best addressed by its officials.

I am pleased to note, and the member referred to this, that a meeting did take place between himself and the president of the PSC, which no doubt has answered some of his questions. For example, I understand from the PSC that the area of selection used for the list of postings cited by the member was properly handled, with the exception of four postings for jobs in Afghanistan which were discussed in the House and revised on February 9.

There was a larger question of why the PSC continues to use geographic criteria at all. A quick look at the statistics tells the story. In 2002-03 the PSC processed over 3,020 competitions open to the public. There were 523,000 applications received. An average of 173 applications were received per competition. In January 2004 over 1.3 million visits were made to the jobs.gc.ca website. This means that it is currently impossible to offer every job nationally, given the PSC's limited systems.

Nevertheless, the PSC is working to open up more jobs nationally, which it reported to Parliament in the June 2003 report “Enhancing Canadians' Access to Federal Public Service Jobs”. For example, since 2001 the PSC has opened up all senior level positions to national competition. In 2002 the PSC launched two pilot projects aimed at expanding the area of selection. In 2003 it launched the public service resourcing system to open up recruitment in the national capital and eastern Ontario region.

In short, the PSC is pursuing a responsible and measured approach to expanding the area of selection.

I thank the member for his interest in the PSC. I urge him and other members to support the Public Service Commission on improving the fairness and effectiveness of public service recruitment, for it is only by working together that we can ensure the continued excellent work of the public service and the quality of the PSC.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Adjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Progressive Conservative Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the parliamentary secretary's answer but I do not agree with him. He said that the hiring practices are based on merit. He said that the merit appointments and jobs are based on merit. That just is not true.

People from my riding, from the riding of Blackstrap, if they are qualified still cannot apply for these jobs, yet unqualified people from certain postal code areas can apply for them. That does not make any sense and it certainly flies in the face of what the parliamentary secretary said, that these jobs were based on merit, because they not. They are based on postal codes.

The other silly thing is that someone from another country who lives within those certain postal codes, for example, a citizen of Slovenia who has a work permit and who meets the criteria can apply for any one of those jobs, but a citizen of Canada in another riding cannot apply for the jobs. It makes no sense.

Again, I ask the parliamentary secretary when will the government give the Public Service Commission the resources and money to put in the technology and equipment to fix this anomaly and aberration, this offensive policy?

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Adjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Jordan Liberal Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think I did indicate that the process was underway.

The member constantly cited examples of jobs that are posted in Ottawa which are not available to people who live in other areas of the country. The geographical selection criteria applies to other areas of the country as well. There are jobs in the member's area that people from this region are not allowed to apply for.

At the end of the day, it comes down to the resources and the number of applications. The public service is aware of that. Certainly we are hopeful that the incorporation of new technologies will allow us to process them. I absolutely agree that the solution to the problem, when it is feasible, is to open every job to every Canadian. That is what we are working toward.

The bottleneck in the system now is one of sheer volume. The public service is committed to coming up with a process so that someday we achieve the goal which I think we share.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Adjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

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 7:17 p.m.)