House of Commons Hansard #49 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was hunting.


Heritage Hunting, Trapping and Fishing Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member for bringing this bill forward. It is very important. In my riding, hunting is not only a pastime, but many indigenous people and other Yukoners depend on hunting for a large part of their diets. Fishing is a very great pastime. Hunting is a big impetus to our economy. Outfitters bring in people from around the world who pay for the opportunity to hunt and fish. Of course trapping, as the member said, is part of our heritage. It was an activity of the indigenous people long before Europeans settled our area.

These activities are all very important to us. As co-chair of the outdoor caucus, I can say that this type of heritage is very important to Canadians.

These activities at the moment are legal in Canada. What would the actual effect of this bill be?

Heritage Hunting, Trapping and Fishing Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Inky Mark Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately at the federal level there is no protection for the legal activity of hunting, fishing and trapping, irrespective that some provinces already have legislation to ensure that it is a conditional right of their provincial citizens.

By making this statement, by passing a one clause bill, as I said in my comments, what we really need to do is acknowledge that in the past it has been part of our history, culture and heritage and to ensure that in the future these activities are protected. We never know what could come down the road in terms of how society changes. Somewhere along the line someone could say that we have to put an end to all these activities. In a democratic society it is always possible that may occur.

We must make a cultural statement to ensure that these activities remain legitimate and that we support these legitimate activities to ensure that in the future these activities will continue.

Heritage Hunting, Trapping and Fishing Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague from Manitoba for bringing this bill forward. It is certainly a bill that I was very proud and happy to second. It is something that is long overdue.

As my colleague from the Yukon mentioned, with respect to hunting, fishing and trapping, there are very few ridings, of course taking away the large urban centres, that this bill does not affect in some way. As has already been mentioned, aboriginal people, the first nations, the Inuit, rely on hunting, fishing and trapping for their sustenance. Other people right across the country from coast to coast rely on those activities, particularly fishing, to make a living. This is a great way to recognize it.

How important would this be to our first nations, our aboriginal, our Inuit people? I would like the member to dwell on that aspect.

Heritage Hunting, Trapping and Fishing Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Inky Mark Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Mr. Speaker, this bill would actually increase the protection of the charter rights of the aboriginal community. The bill recognizes the constitutional rights accorded to the aboriginal community for hunting and fishing. As we know, it is a charter right. To give the rest of Canadians a conditional right to be legitimately involved in these activities would be an enhancement of the aboriginal rights. It means that all of us in this country take part in these legitimate activities. It would make it more difficult for a federal or provincial government down the road to try to legislate away these cultural activities.

Heritage Hunting, Trapping and Fishing Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Brent St. Denis Liberal Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to participate in the debate on Bill C-222. As the proponent has clearly indicated, it is a bill to recognize that recreational hunting and fishing have played an important role in Canada's social, cultural and economic heritage and indeed are very much intertwined in the history of our country. Those activities are a mainstay of tourism in ridings like my own in northern Ontario, whether it is recreational hunting, trapping, fishing or angling, as some know it. I commend the member for bringing the bill forward. It gives us a chance to consider what it is to have a right to hunt and fish.

I certainly do not disagree that everyone who is willing to obey the laws of the province or jurisdiction relevant to where they are hunting or fishing, has a right to legally participate in fishing and hunting and other outdoor recreational pursuits.

When I first saw the bill I wondered whether it was actually necessary, because it is within the right of citizens now, and of course tourists and visitors from other countries if they get the right permit, to hunt and fish. I was not really sure what additional guarantees a bill like this might actually provide. However, I will, at the end of my presentation and future vote on the bill, agree to send it to committee, because I think it is worthy of further investigation and further study. It certainly has my support in that vein, but I will ask the question later on as well to my colleagues when it goes to committee, what new authorities does a citizen have as a result of a bill such as this?

My colleague from Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, the proponent of the bill, has said that he thought it might--and maybe I misunderstood him, but he will get the chance to clarify. He is aware that it does not change the Constitution. It does not provide a constitutional right to hunt and fish. It would be in law. He thought that maybe this would somehow guarantee something for hunters and sports fishers in the future. He is correct, but he also said that a future government could change this or any other law, so it is no permanent guarantee. That relates to my concern about what new authority does an individual citizen have with the bill.

All that being said, I certainly support the intent. I am a member--I hope a paid-up member; I am not sure yet--of the all-party outdoor caucus. I certainly appreciate the chairman's efforts to bring us all together, those of us who wish to express our non-partisan support for the outdoor pursuits that relate to hunting, fishing and trapping. Trapping, by the way, is still very, very important to my area of northern Ontario. A week does not go by that I do not bump into constituents who, in the off season if they are seasonal workers, in the winter season, are not involved in trapping.

I would like to raise a few points that will no doubt come up in committee if the House agrees that the bill should go to committee. Where does the federal jurisdiction in all of this overlap, if it indeed does, with the provincial jurisdiction? For example, in Ontario, the province for my riding of Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, it is governed by the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act of 1997 and no doubt other related acts.

Our party does support the right of citizens to hunt and fish. All of this, of course, and nobody would disagree. I suspect we must always do this out of respect for the environment and private property. For example, on Manitoulin Island, which is a large tourist draw during deer hunting season, private property is where people do their hunting. Hunters there are accustomed to getting permission from property owners. Property owners' rights are important as well. Also, where we are dealing with first nations and their territories, of course, we must respect that as well.

I want to be careful that we do not intrude on provincial jurisdiction. We may sometimes, at the federal level, covet responsibilities that long ago were handed over to the provinces. An example is education. We would all love to have something to say about national standards in education.

I do not know if we will ever have authority over that concern without some kind of an agreement with the provinces. This might lead us to have to come to terms with some kind of intraprovincial and interprovincial concern vis-à-vis the federal government.

The bill suggests that the federal government has jurisdiction over inland fisheries. In my riding, which borders Lake Superior and Lake Huron, there are large fisheries. There are countries in the world that do not have fishing waters as big as the inland waters of Lake Huron, Lake Superior and the other Great Lakes. Clearly, it is the province of Ontario that has jurisdiction, shared of course with the U.S. states that border on the U.S. side.

All that said, this is worthy of further study. I am only guessing, but I would be very surprised if the House did not agree that it should go to committee.

When I travel through my large riding, which is 110,000 square kilometres by the way, and the meetings that I have had with the local angler and hunters clubs, with local tourist operators, those who run the local ATV clubs or the snowmobile clubs, these are folks who in the main in one season or another are also involved in hunting and fishing.

The degree of respect that these people bring to the environment through their clubs and organizations and as individual hunters and fishers, whether they are aboriginal hunters and fishers or whether they are non-aboriginal hunters and fishers, would be a revelation to our urban cousins to realize that they hunt and fish responsibly. Yes, there is the occasional abuser, but that is unfortunately a fact of life. It does not matter what sphere is examined.

The vast majority of those who participate in sport angling, hunting and trapping are extremely responsible. I think it is important by making a declaration either through this bill or some other mechanism, whatever the conclusion of the committee of parliament is, the fact that we express that we value not only the tourism industry in the communities that depend on these sports, but that we value the attitude that these clubs and organizations and individuals bring to the outdoors, bring to all the volunteers that work to restock fish in the lakes. This is voluntary work. There may be a little bit of provincial money in a hatchery investment or in planting fish stocks, but there is a lot of volunteer work that goes on in replanting fish in our lakes.

When it comes to hunting, how many cases have we seen where species that have disappeared from a region are brought back in, whether it is turkeys or elk, and I know there is a debate in some areas about elk, but I use it as an example. I think that through some mechanism, either this one or another, it would be appropriate to recognize the importance of hunting and fishing to our past, to our present and to our future.

Heritage Hunting, Trapping and Fishing Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


Claude DeBellefeuille Bloc Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-222 introduced by the hon. member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette in Manitoba, under private members' business. I am pleased, first, because I am the new Bloc Québécois natural resources critic and, second, as you surely know, I plunged into this bill quite enthusiastically.

I would like to remind the House of the essence of Bill C-222, An Act to recognize and protect Canada’s hunting, trapping and fishing heritage. What I essentially got from this bill is that the act of hunting, trapping or fishing is a heritage act for the people of Canada and Quebec. This right should not be subject to any legislative restriction that could prevent its being exercised.

From the outset, I want to remind hon. members that the Bloc Québécois recognizes that the activities of hunting, trapping and fishing have a significant economic impact in Quebec and Canada and that these activities are part of the lifestyle in a number of communities. I want to point out that over 800,000 Quebeckers are fishing enthusiasts and over 400,000 are also hunting enthusiasts, just to show that these activities are deeply rooted in Quebec.

I want to inform the hon. member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette that this is probably why, in Quebec, the right to hunt, trap and fish is already regulated by the government.

Over 20 years ago, Quebec's National Assembly passed a resolution with a view to concluding agreements with those first nations who so desired, in order to allow them to exercise their right to hunt, fish and take part in wildlife management. More than 20 agreements of this kind have been signed between the aboriginal communities and the Government of Quebec over the past 7 years.

I would also like to point out to the hon. member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette that hunting and trapping are clearly under provincial jurisdiction, and that fishing, which is under federal jurisdiction, falls under the powers delegated to the Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune du Québec by the federal government. I would also remind him that successive governments in Quebec, dating back to Maurice Duplessis, have been granted the power to manage fishing.

If we take a closer look at what is set out in Bill C-222, we have reason to be concerned. I would like to quote clause 2:

2. (1) It is declared that there exists and shall continue to exist in Canada the right to fish...

(2) No law of Canada shall be construed or applied so as to deprive a person of the right declared in subsection (1).

Constitutionally speaking, it makes sense to question the validity of Bill C-222. Certainly, we, the Bloc Québécois, are convinced that this bill in its current form aims to limit Quebec's powers to regulate its hunting, fishing and trapping activities.

We also wonder about the implications of such a bill on other legislation. I even wonder if this bill will allow the hon. member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette to do indirectly what he has not yet been able to do directly. We are referring to firearms regulations, among others. If we limit governments' power to regulate hunting, fishing and trapping activities, does it not create a loophole that will lead to limits concerning firearms regulations?

Something else that comes to mind is the Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals). Did the hon. member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette not oppose that bill, suggesting that it restricted rights regarding trapping activities? Will Bill C-222 not also limit the scope of that act?

We must ask the question. This bill also presents other problems. Its objective, according to the website of the hon. member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, is to allow all Canadians to engage in hunting and fishing activities, while protected from any legislation that may prohibit them in the future.

This bill poses many problems for us because we believe that Quebec hunting, fishing and trapping regulations have done a good job of protecting Quebec's fish and wildlife heritage in many ways.

Take yellow perch, for example, a freshwater sport and commercial fish.

A significant drop in the yellow perch population in domestic Quebec waters, such as lac Saint-Pierre and lac Saint-François, led to Quebec regulations that provided better management of this fishery resource by buying back commercial fishing licences, for example.

In terms of hunting, there has been a significant decline in moose herds. Quebec government consultations with hunting associations and clubs resulted in solutions that would protect the herds while permitting moose hunting to continue. In certain areas, hunting associations have decided to hold a lottery to decide which hunters would be allowed to hunt female moose. Other areas of Quebec have decided to place a two-year moratorium on this hunt, thus giving the moose population a chance to grow. Yet other areas have chosen to hunt female moose in alternate years.

These two examples demonstrate the importance of regulating hunting and fishing in order to preserve and protect Quebec's wildlife heritage.

Given that hunting, fishing and trapping are already regulated by the Government of Quebec; that agreements have already been entered into with many native communities with respect to their hunting, fishing and trapping rights; that the constitutionality of this bill is at the very least doubtful; and given that, in our opinion, this bill has significant and troublesome implications for other legislation, the Bloc Québécois will oppose this bill.

Heritage Hunting, Trapping and Fishing Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.


Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour to speak tonight to the bill of the hon. member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette because it does speak to something that is very important in my riding of Timmins—James Bay, a riding that I am told is larger than the United Kingdom. Much of that is land based and the people are actively involved in the long time heritage activities of hunting and fishing.

I guess I will not be telling tales out of school, but after the 2004 election our leader took me aside and asked me what the biggest issues in my riding were during the federal election. I said that they were slot sizes for fish, the spring bear hunt and moose tags. Perhaps we ran a different campaign back home than the national campaign.

The reason these issues resonate back home is because they speak to people who feel that they are being increasingly separated from their ability to use their land. When policies are brought in that separate people from long time land activities, there is a sense of deep-seated alienation.

When people I met door to door started talking to me about wildlife policy at the provincial level, what they were saying was that they felt they had less ability to speak to the very issues that they and their grandparents have dealt with during their whole lives. The idea of recognizing the important heritage value of what our people on the land do is a fundamental priority that we have to make as politicians.

I have some questions about the efficacy of this particular bill. I know it is a short bill but I am concerned about the word “right” because of how it will be interpreted. Regardless of what we do or whatever our intent is in the bill, people will definitely be looking at the legal implications of proclaiming a right. I want to pose a few questions around that because in order to go forward with protecting our heritage values we must look at these issues closely.

I am not speaking today in my capacity as the heritage critic but as the member of Parliament for Timmins—James Bay because I have not been able to clarify for my own party how the issue of a right proclaimed at the federal level will work itself out in any kind of legislation.

As I said, there is a deep-seated sense of frustration by people who use the land and I again see the need to show some clarity. A perfect example in my riding is the cancellation of the spring bear hunt in 1999 where the Conservative government at that time made an arbitrary decision, without consultation, to pull the plug on the hunt because it was unpopular in urban centres. That decision was made after the spring bear hunt plans had already been made by the outfitters from across the north. People had already received deposits and had already spent the deposits buying supplies. In what was a case of cold political calculation, those people were left out to dry and it caused economic devastation across the isolated communities of the north that depended on the bear hunt.

The bear hunt was not something in which many local people partook. This was a hunt in which the American tourists participated but it was a crucial element in our economy. Was there a right that people should have been able to exercise to defend themselves? Perhaps. But is a right proclaimed by the federal government enough to protect provincial citizens because we are talking about policies that belong within the provincial jurisdiction?

Are we trying to proclaim a right that we can offer people at the federal level to supersede provincial legislation? Are we offering them a way of dealing with provincial legislation or are we simply reaffirming the right that already exists, which is the right of any citizen, for example, in Ontario, to get a fishing or hunting licence and go in for either the moose tag lottery or fishing.

Boy oh boy, I have been standing for almost three minutes and I have not spoken about the moose tag lottery. In terms of Orwellian drama, we cannot find anything more absurd in Ontario than the moose tag lottery. It seems that year after year northern hunters put in their money, buy their licences and go on the expectation that some day, maybe not in their lifetime but maybe in their grandchildren's lifetime, one of them will actually get a moose tag. Nobody ever wins so it is very much like the characters in Orwell. One wonders where all these moose tags go.

This brings us back to land use issues. What we are seeing in a province of nine million people is that everyone has the right to go into the moose tag lottery. It seems to be a very bizarre and Kafkaesque decision process of who gets to draw.

The question is, do the families who live in the north have a right to go to their provincial member and say they should be able to hunt at least once a decade? Do they have the right to say that a tag should come up for a hunting party? The problem then is whose rights take priority, because tags are set aside right across the province so any urban resident has the same right as a rural resident.

The bill talks about our heritage, the history of people who live off the land, who live off hunting for sustenance. Does the right to hunt for sustenance take priority over the right of an urban person to hunt for sport? For that matter, does the right to sell tags to outfitters to bring a commercial interest in hunting into the economy take priority above people who still can legitimately claim they hunt for food?

We have various questions about how these rights should be determined. I know it seems fairly complex on what seems to me to be a very straightforward and simple bill, but the question of rights and hunting will come up many times and we have to define this.

As a federal member, even though hunting is not within my jurisdiction, I still am very active on these issues. During the next constituency break another moose tag meeting will be held with members of our hunting population. They are very frustrated by the fact that the provincial government does not listen with respect to wildlife management policies. The provincial member and I have been regularly holding meetings with our hunters to come up with proactive alternatives. For example, the Quebec model is far superior to the Ontario model in terms of allowing for hunting tags.

After a group has managed to get a hunting tag, should that group not fall to the bottom of the next set of lotteries so that people can at least be guaranteed access? We are talking about access when we are talking about a heritage right. It is the right of the citizens of a region to access their own resources. They believe they have the right to access those resources. It is a conditional right at the provincial level because of the increasing pressure we are seeing on the land base. We have to be very clear about this.

We are seeing more desire for people to get out under various circumstances, some to restrict access for certain groups. In Ontario with nine million people plus who potentially want to hunt or fish, there is major pressure on the land base and on our animal herds and fish stocks. It is a very difficult situation. I know that some of the most unpopular people in northern Ontario tend to be the conservation officers and the natural resources people who have to balance competing interests. We are dealing with pressures on the land base, and we all want to maintain viable herds and viable fish stocks well into the 21st century.

How do these rights start to work themselves out? We still need to discuss this to find a way that we as a federal house can establish the heritage value, but also ensure that we are not leading ourselves or provincial jurisdictions into competing claims in court.

The issue of courts is where major areas in terms of hunting rights have already been thought out. We know about the section 35 rights in the Constitution, but those rights have never been clarified. What has happened is that they have had to be fought in the courts, decision after decision. I had a wonderful 20 minute dissertation here on the Powley and Blair decisions that I was about to wow the House with, but I see my time has run out.

As someone who lives on the land and usually has bears in my yard about once or twice a week thanks to our failed bear policies, I am very interested in where we are going with this. It needs to be said again and again that people on the land have a great respect for the land. Hunters and fishers have a deep abiding love for our natural terrain and will do what they can to defend it.

I would like to end with the great northern proverb that little boys who learn to hunt, trap and fish do not grow up to mug old ladies.

Heritage Hunting, Trapping and Fishing Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

Fundy Royal New Brunswick


Rob Moore ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, it has been extremely interesting to listen to debate this evening on this private member's bill, an act respecting fishing, trapping and hunting heritage in Canada. I have listened with great interest to comments from members from all sides of the House. I want to state from the outset that we on this side fully support the legitimate rights of outdoors people who hunt, fish and trap, individuals who, as part of their Canadian heritage, partake in these very legitimate activities.

I want to clarify a few things and explain in a little more detail the role of the federal Parliament in our country. We have, as we know, two jurisdictions in Canada. There are actually three if we include municipal, but there are the provincial and federal levels. The Conservative Party of Canada has been very keen on respecting those different areas of jurisdiction between the federal and provincial levels.

I need to point out that the Parliament of Canada, as an institution, does not have the power to enact legislation in relation to hunting and trapping directly. These are matters that fall under the jurisdiction of the provinces and territories, and federal legislation may deal with them only incidentally.

It was very interesting to hear the comments from all sides of the House. There are a lot of issues out there. Even in my own riding of Fundy Royal in New Brunswick, I hear from hunters, fishers and people who are interested in pursuing their sport, interested in passing on a heritage and legacy to their children. Many of the individuals I talk to, for example, enjoy hunting and will talk about how they used to hunt with their fathers and grandfathers, and would like to pass that on to their sons and daughters.

In today's society and the world that we live in that is becoming increasingly difficult. We heard some examples of that tonight. Bill C-222 touches on this issue, but I need to remind us as legislators that we also must respect the federal and provincial levels in our country.

I want to take as an example the Species at Risk Act. The objective of that act is in no way to manage the hunting and fishing of the species in which it relates. On the contrary, the purpose of that act is to provide the greatest possible protection for species that are threatened with extinction and it, therefore, prohibits killing, harassing, capturing or harming members of certain species of animals for example. That act, however, deals with hunting and trapping activities only incidentally and endeavours to respect the fact that, as we all know, people have to go to their provincial departments in order to obtain hunting licences. That is because it is only within the provincial jurisdiction.

Obviously, the federal government has the full authority that it needs to manage activities that take place on federal land. For example, the management of activities that take place in a national park, including hunting and trapping activities, is a matter of federal jurisdiction, but this bill before us would not apply solely to land under federal jurisdiction.

I am aware of course that hunting and trapping are activities that are an inherent part of many Canadians' lives. They are a part of our Canadian culture and Canada's national heritage. This is a point that I commend the member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette for making. His bill has brought forward debate on this issue and it has actually been encouraging to hear members state their support for the legitimate rights of Canadians that take part in these activities.

However, we know that of course the member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette is also acting with the best of intentions. Again I commend him on that, because this is a well-intentioned bill and it is one whose objective we certainly support.

However, the House is not always the ideal forum for discussion of issues relating to provincial jurisdiction. As I stated, hunting and trapping do fall under the jurisdiction of the individual provinces and territories.

On questions relating to fishing, the situation is much more complex than it is on hunting and trapping. To begin, I would like to point out that in the bill the first whereas in the preamble states, “Whereas legislation governing inland fisheries is within the jurisdiction of the federal government...”. While that statement is not entirely incorrect, it is also not entirely accurate. I will explain what I mean.

The federal Parliament has exclusive jurisdiction over matters that relate to fishing in tidal waters. Freshwater fishing is a matter in relation to which jurisdiction is shared by the federal government and the provinces. In non-tidal waters, the federal jurisdiction over conservation and protection of fish authorizes the federal government to impose measures such as setting of fishing seasons, opening and closing of fishing seasons, setting total allowable quotas, size limits of fish that may be caught, gear requirements, et cetera. Most of these measures are most efficiently implemented when imposed by licence conditions.

The provincial jurisdiction authorizes the provinces, as owners of the land where the fisheries take place, to decide who might fish, what fishing privileges are conferred and what fees must be paid. Put simply, the federal government has jurisdiction to set the fishing rules in inland waters, by analogy setting the size of the pie, while provinces have the right to decide who gets to fish and for how much fish, by analogy who gets a piece of the pie and how large that pie will be.

That is the legal theory on the respective jurisdiction of the federal government and of the provinces with respect to inland fisheries, but aside from the theory, I am afraid that from a practical point of view the bill would have implications that may not have been envisaged.

As I said earlier, certain fish conservation and protection measures have been imposed and implemented by way of licence conditions. This is entirely appropriate given that fish conservation and protection measures must be adapted to the specific fishery for which the licence is issued. In other words, the trout fishery in region A, for example, will call for conservation and protection measures that are different from those imposed on the walleye fishery in region B.

Another example is that the species of fish that may be caught, limits on the size of the fish that may be taken and kept, and the fishing gear that may be used may all be included as licence conditions. Those matters may fall under the federal jurisdiction, so in addition to obtaining a licence from the province, a freshwater fisher should therefore, in theory, obtain a second federal fishing licence which will include conditions that must be placed on the licence to provide for fish conservation and protection.

To avoid this situation, there are administrative agreements between the federal government and the provinces under which the federal aspect of freshwater fisheries management has been delegated to the provinces. What that means in practice is that freshwater fishing is essentially managed by the provinces.

The bill would plainly have an impact on the management of freshwater fisheries and on the existing administrative agreements that govern that subject. Obviously we know that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has been involved in fisheries management for a very long time. We have a new minister responsible for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans who I feel is doing a great job and Parliament has granted the minister broad discretionary authority to manage the fisheries.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette for the effort he put into preparing this bill. I want to thank him for the interest he has shown in fishing, hunting and trapping, which are all important to Canada and to Canadians. No one on this side of the House would argue that this is an important part of our heritage. In light of what I have said here tonight, though, it is impossible for the government to support the bill as introduced by the member.

As a member of Parliament for a rural riding, I support the rights of people to fish, hunt and trap as they have done for many years. However, we also have to respect that these rights fall under provincial jurisdiction.

Heritage Hunting, Trapping and Fishing Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.


Gary Merasty Liberal Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, I also rise today to speak to C-222. I want to thank the members for their comments earlier on this evening.

I believe I understand the intent of the bill. Like many others who have spoken, I also have some concerns. I want to thank the member for Fundy Royal for the clarification on many points and for his speech.

I would like to take some time to honour those who live off the land by way of hunting, fishing and trapping. These are an integral part of the lives of people in northern Saskatchewan and definitely a part of our identity back home.

I have many cherished memories of growing up in Pelican Narrows. Hunting, fishing and trapping were always an important part of my family's life as well as our community's life. I was taught many skills that allowed myself and many others to learn how to live off the land.

I had an opportunity to take part in student exchange trips to northern Quebec and Ungava Bay and to the Queen Charlotte Islands and Massett in particular. I was able to participate in the traditional pursuits of the Inuit and the Haida people. I have got to know, quite well, how important these pursuits are and how strong the aboriginal peoples' connection is to the land.

I agree that the economic benefits of hunting, fishing and trapping are very real. Many people are employed in hunting, fishing and trapping directly or indirectly, whether they are supplying goods and services that are important to these pursuits. These traditional activities are part of the economic subsistence for many northern people and communities.

Tourism also brings wealth and opportunity. As members have said, many people travel into the beautiful and pristine country in the north to participate in hunting, fishing and other activities, which greatly contribute to the fabric of our country.

However, I have concerns with the text of the bill and how the bill could potentially impinge upon hard won aboriginal rights and treaties in unintended ways. It perhaps does not address many concerns and challenges to hunters, fishers and trappers as well.

Trapping, fishing, and hunting is central to the aboriginal people and their way of life. It is part of their culture and their identity. It is an inherent right and their traditional way of life. Treaties have enshrined this, holding land use as a foundational part of those sacred agreements.

This is why, as other members have mentioned, section 35 is enshrined in the Constitution, to acknowledge our rights and affirm them. However, protecting these rights and having governments acknowledge these rights have been a hard ongoing battle. Many Supreme Court decisions, such as Sparrow and Powley, which celebrated its third anniversary coincidentally yesterday, need to be more fully appreciated and understood by the members of the House. Those court decisions define these rights and suggest a framework for the government to utilize in implementing these rights.

Negotiations have been ongoing as well with new treaties and land use agreements being concluded recently and many still ongoing.

Declaring hunting, fishing and trapping as a right, without due consideration to aboriginal rights, could have an adverse effect on these sensitive negotiations and sorting out land use issues.

I also would like to remind my colleagues of the trilogy of cases that affirmed the duty to consult with aboriginal people when developing policies or legislation that affect their inherent rights: Haida Nation, Taku River and Mikisew Cree specifically.

Aboriginal people must be consulted in order to understand their concerns and to avoid impinging on their rights. There is a legal obligation of the government to consult and accommodate, within reasonable parameters, the concerns raised by aboriginal people when issues are raised for discussion, such as what we are talking about today. In fact, I ask the government to review these decisions and employ its very useful recommendations in all the decisions it undertakes when it discusses aboriginal issues.

Discussing these concerns reminds me of when I attended the Churchill River gathering in the reserve community of Stanley Mission this summer. Stanley Mission is a great community, steeped in history, with a proud tradition of protecting its first nation's identity, culture and language.

The gathering honoured and celebrated a traditional way of life that has remained strong and proud for countless centuries. The main message of this gathering was for all levels of government to understand that first nation Métis people wanted to become an integral part of the socio-economic fabric of our country and that the inherent rights of aboriginal people must be respected and more clearly understood.

However, many concerns about the proud livelihood still exist and must be addressed. For instance, many trappers, hunters and fishers have concerns about setting up programs to help them create new markets, concerns with policies such as, in a Saskatchewan context, what they call the let it burn policy. Most of all, there are concerns about a lack of consultation with people affected by industry and resource development.

I want to summarize the concerns I have with respect to Bill C-222.

First, we must understand that there is a legal obligation to consult with aboriginal people prior to introducing legislation that may affect their rights as they are recognized today through various court decisions, through the charter and through the Constitution.

Second, we must also look at preventing a future conflict of laws scenario. Some of them were mentioned by the member for Fundy Royal. It is unclear to me how the provinces in the natural resources transfer agreement may be impacted, which one would supercede the other. Thanks to the member previous, we begin to get an understanding of that.

As well, we need to look at self-government agreements that have been negotiated and the co-management that occurs over resources and land areas throughout the country. For example, the member previous talked about the Freshwater Fish Marketing Act and the right to fish and how that will impact.

The third concern I have is with regard to conservation efforts. What do we say to people if they say they have a right to hunt, when we are talking about issues of conservation of a certain species, whether it is fishing or fur-bearing animals?

I applaud the spirit of the bill and the way it commemorates a great profession and a great activity throughout this great country. However, I ask the member to consider these concerns and to work to ensure that the real pressing issues, which we have talked about this evening, are met. I look forward to the discussion that the bill may have in committee in the future.

Heritage Hunting, Trapping and Fishing Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.


Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to discuss this bill this evening. I would like to thank the member who introduced it for giving us a chance to raise some questions about outdoor activities.

As you know, the member for Yorkton—Melville set up the Outdoors caucus, and I think his initiative deserves to be mentioned. It is just a first step, but the caucus is a good place to discuss issues related to hunting, fishing, trapping and other outdoor activities. I think this is a good forum for discussing federal government initiatives, for recommending action and for hearing what stakeholders have to say.

Speaking of stakeholders, I attended the Quebec trappers' conference held last winter in Rivière-du-Loup in my riding. The chair of the meeting, Mr. Dumond, put a lot of time into making it a big success. I had the opportunity to go to the grassroots, meet the people and talk about various issues. One thing stood out: trappers, hunters and fishers do not want more regulations or complications.

Despite the noble intentions behind it, the bill before us ultimately complicates our interpretation of jurisdiction, legislation and rights as they apply to the activities covered by the bill. Its adoption would truly be frowned upon if it made life more difficult for the hunters, fishers and other people who make a living from this industry.

In Quebec alone, for example, there are reportedly 408,000 hunters and 813,000 recreational fishers. In addition, every fisher apparently spends an average of $1,287 a year, and every hunter, $756 a year. These activities create 3,222 jobs, representing $87 million. They therefore need to be promoted.

We need to target government actions to allow better access and to stimulate economic activity. This is one of my goals, but it is not reflected in the content of the bill that is before us. The intent of the bill—to recognize Canada's heritage—is good, but its potential repercussions complicate matters.

As a Bloc Québécois member of Parliament for a rural riding, I will oppose this proposal. This adds to the arguments of the hon. member for Beauharnois—Salaberry, the new Bloc Québécois natural resources critic. She explained our position quite well and provided the reasons why the Bloc Québécois will vote against this motion. I simply want to add a bit of my personal experience and what I think to be sure that everyone here understands the importance of not passing such a bill.

This bill would limit the power of the federal and provincial governments to regulate hunting and fishing. It could even be used to challenge the firearms regulation, the Cruelty to Animals Act. It would have a ripple effect on other bills. I support the parliamentary secretary's position: this is an intrusion on a provincial responsibility. On March 20, 1985, Quebec's National Assembly—

Heritage Hunting, Trapping and Fishing Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member, but I must inform him that the time for debate has expired.

It being 7:12 p.m., the House stands adjourned until 10 a.m. tomorrow, pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:12 p.m.)