Mr. Speaker, I do not want to reiterate what was said, but, in the interests of the public, I hope they look at the facts on what occurred when we dealt with the big challenge of SARS and how we will deal with it and other similar diseases that may cross the species barrier in the future that can have profound pandemic effects causing a great loss of life and illness among our citizenry and those of the world.
I encourage people to look at the work that has already been done in the country, because a lot has been done, and, thankfully, we are a world leader in this. Does that mean that we need to rest on our laurels? Absolutely not. However, It does mean that we need to be vigilant.
Bill C-42 updates the Quarantine Act by providing new provisions to manage public health threats. I will go through some of those and perhaps go through some of the elements of SARS because there is a lot of misinformation out there.
Interestingly enough, if we go back in history we know that SARS is a result of a virus that actually starts to reside in birds. Those birds that are living with people in unclean environments at some point in time, that particular virus can jump the species barrier to humans. When it really becomes bad is when we are able to pass that bug on between ourselves.
If we go back in history, every 20 to 25 years a pandemic occurs with a great loss of life, which is why large amounts of public moneys have been invested in early warning systems, in prevention and in the manufacture of a vaccine. I neglected to say to the member that Canada is one of only two countries in the world that has the domestic capacity to produce the vaccine, such as the influenza vaccine.
The influenza vaccine is a difficult vaccine to produce because the type of virus we are dealing with is a very clever virus. It is a simple but lethal virus that can change itself very quickly. In doing so, we need to play catch-up to ensure that what we are doing and what we are producing will deal with the particular viruses that we are trying to protect against.
Our scientists are always playing catch-up and that is a challenge for them. However, we are one of only two countries in the world that have that domestic capacity. We are able to work quickly, effectively and provide that to Canadians.
We also stockpile Tamiflu which is a drug to prevent the symptoms from occurring and prevent infection. It is not something people would want to take regularly or something that should be widely dispensed in a preventative fashion because viruses can cause resistance. We do not want to cause resistance to a drug in case of a pandemic occurring.
As my colleague said, germs know no boundaries and that is a fact. This is an international problem. Where it is rooted as its epicentre is in Southeast Asia. It is very important for us to maintain relations with countries so we can work together to address the problem.
I hope the government works with Taiwan, China and other countries in Southeast Asia so we can be vigilant in preventing a situation where the virus skips a species boundary and people begin infecting each other which causes the virus to spread widely.
The only way we can do that is to have a competent early warning system. Unfortunately, the government has actually cancelled consulates around the world, which is a huge mistake on Canada's part. We have done this in St. Petersburg, in Japan and in other parts of the world.
We have contracted our foreign policy away from other parts of the world. It is good to focus but, while focusing on specific areas, it does not mean to say that it precludes us from having our fingers on the pulse of what is occurring in other parts of the world. A failure to do this means that we fail to address the problems that know no boundaries.
I say to the government that it has made a huge error in closing these consulates and, in doing so, contracted away our foreign policy so that it really deals with only two issues, Afghanistan and Canada-U.S. relations.
Interestingly enough, Afghanistan is not even one of our priorities. However, because of events that superceded, we have chosen Afghanistan which is now taking the lion's share of our CIDA investments and the bulk of our work in defence and in foreign affairs. It is consuming just about everything at the expense of our ability to deal with the challenges of other parts of the world that do affect Canada and Canadians. It is a huge error for the government to contract our foreign policy, CIDA and our defence involvement down to basically two issues. I agree with focus but there are ways to ensure we have a finger in other areas that are in the best interests of Canadians.
On the issues of SARS, HIV and other diseases, we know that HIV is a disease that started in primates in Africa and that probably 30 or more other deadly viruses are harboured in primates in that part of the world.
In the development that is occurring in the jungles of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in formerly difficult to reach areas in Central Africa, logging trucks have gone into the areas to exploit the logs and natural resources. A byproduct of that is that humans are now coming in very close contact to areas that were formerly not exposed to humans. Part of that involves humans killing animals for the bush meat trade, which is resulting in the destruction of many species in those parts of the world. They are being driven to the brink of extinction and will become extinct unless something is done about it.
It has also opened up the trafficking in exotic pets. Does the House know that the trafficking in endangered species is the third leading area of contraband trade in the world, behind drugs and weapons? We should think about that. It is a $25 billion trade in endangered species and it is resulting in endangered species being driven to the brink of extinction. Various forms of rhino: the Indian rhino, the Javan rhinoceros and black rhino. Various species of tiger: the Bengal tiger, the Sumatran tiger and the snow leopard. If we name it, there is a trade in it: the orangutan, low land gorillas, bonobos, chimpanzees, all of which are being driven to extinction, including, of course, elephants, which we thought were in good shape, but now we see there is a dramatic upsurge in the poaching of elephant.
We saw destruction in Chad, in the Central African Republic, in the Congo and in other areas. This, of course, is driven by primarily domestic wants, not needs, in the developing world.
We are guilty of importing these animals and animal products, which is driving these species to extinction. I do not think the Canadian public would be proud to know that our country is one of the top destinations in the trafficking of endangered species. That is absolutely appalling but have we heard anything from the government to address the problem? We have heard nothing.
What does it mean? If we look at what happens to these birds, amphibians and mammals, these creatures are packed into appalling circumstances and 80% of them die somewhere along the route under terrible situations: dehydration, starvation, disease, abuse, killed or die of shock. The 20% that survive come to our borders as pets.
People can buy, for example, a pink macaw in Brazil for $15 and sell it in Italy for $2,500. The mark-up is huge. Those so-called pets are actually taken by people who have no idea how to deal with them. Little pets that were formerly small become big and difficult to manage and sometimes they fall into terrible circumstances.
We can stop some of those things and I am advocating that the government should do the following: first, anyone wanting to import a wild animal should have an import and export permit and must have the import permit before they can acquire an export permit; second, only designated entry points should be used so that trained specialists would be available to examine the species; third, rescue centres must be identified so that species that are coming in that should not be here or that are ill can go to these rescue centres and receive the care they require; fourth, individual traders should be licensed and they should be the only ones able to bring these species into the country. This is important with respect to our obligation under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Lastly, our Canadian wildlife service officers should have the resources to do the job.
Unfortunately, the government is utterly neglecting this area. It sounds small but it is important with respect to the bill because, if we connect the dots back to where I started, these species can be traced back to the diseases that are brought into our country and affect humans.
As I said before, there are 20 to 30 HIV-like viruses residing in mammals but primarily primates in Africa that will some day cross the species barrier from primates into humans and, in doing so, we will have a virus that can then jump the species barrier as the human immunodeficiency virus has done with devastating results.
As a country it is important that we deal with our area of responsibility. As I mentioned, if we continue to allow people to bring in endangered species, we are allowing destruction at the other end of the chain in countries that can ill-afford to do this. The outfall of this is the destruction of environments, which results in the destruction of species and the destruction of biodiversity. We all lose.
How can we address this? I have proposed in the past that CIDA should be involved in developing sustainable environmental protection. What Canada should be doing in sub-Sahara, Africa and also in South America where this is a big problem, is ensuring that these countries protect their biodiversity and that it is done in such a way that the people who live in the surrounding areas will benefit. I will give some examples.
I used to do a fair bit of work in conservation in South Africa, particularly in the area of KwaZulu-Natal in Zululand. At the beginning of the 19th century that part of South Africa had the second largest land mammal in the world, the white rhino: 6,000 pounds, six feet at the shoulder for a male, and 1,500 pounds less for a female. Only 60 of those animals, the largest land mammal in the world behind the elephant, were left in the whole world and they resided in one place, Hluhluwe Umfolozi Park.
What did the South African government do? It realized that it had a priceless treasure and it wanted to do everything it could to protect the mammal. It also said that it would protect the area so the animals could thrive and produce but it also recognized that humans needed to benefit from it too. We cannot just protect an area of habitat without ensuring the people in the surrounding areas also benefit from that protected habitat.
The South African government was very clever. It developed a system so people in the surrounding areas could benefit from the protected game reserves. What did people do? If poachers went into the area, the people warned the authorities because they knew that if the poachers were allowed to go in they would kill species and that would affect their future.
The reserves are also used to generate funds through low impact environmental ecotourism, which can generate a lot of money. In doing so, these moneys can be used for primary health care, primary education and water and food security for the people who live around the reserves.
I do not understand at all why CIDA has not caught on to this and used this as a way by which we can all benefit and preserve critical habitat. We could also use those habitats as a way of generating resources that could benefit people living in the surrounding area. In doing so, the critical habitat could be expanded and the people would benefit in terms of primary health care, primary education and so on. Human needs and species' needs would both be met.
Unless we can benefit people, wild spaces cannot be protected. Alternatively, if we do not protect our wild spaces and species' biodiversity, we negatively affect our future as one of the species on this planet.
As part of its agency, CIDA would be very wise to work with other countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo and Botswana, which has done an excellent job, Zambia, Uganda, Tanzania and others to help them preserve their wild spaces, their incredible biodiversity. This would generate a grassroots economic advantage for the people who live in these areas. By doing that, we would preserve forevermore these species, areas and biodiversity, which are a part of the future of all of us and our collective history.
The alternative is not to do this. If we do that, we will see what has happened now. I will use the Democratic Republic of Congo as an example. We have seen widespread destruction of habitat, lowland gorillas, bonobos and other primates for the bushmeat trade and plant life, the benefits of which we do not know because we have lost them. The destruction of critical habitat, including trees, will result in a wasteland that will not benefit the people of the Congo who desperately need it.
In essence, in a country like that, of which there are many in the developing world, its vast natural resources are being destroyed for short term gain, benefiting countries primarily in the west, many in Europe. The people on the ground are losing their future, their heritage and their hope.
Some of the developing countries in Europe, which include Norway and to a lesser extent DFID and Great Britain, have adopted this in a small way. What if we as a country were to be the champion of this? If were, we could do something that no one else has done before. Canada would be the intersection between sustainable development and human development. It is something that we can do.
Canadians are disturbed by the destruction of the environment, by the loss of biodiversity and by the loss of species. They want to ensure that we can preserve them not only here at home but also abroad. This is a collective part of our common heritage.
I encourage the government to do this, not only for the benefit from a health care perspective but also from a development perspective. A friend of mine, Mike Fay, who is the National Geographic Society explorer in residence in New York, has written some excellent pieces on the destruction of endangered species. He and others are fighting hard to preserve these areas, not only abroad and in Africa but also North America.
We have great a opportunity in the west, in my province of British Columbia, to have a consistent area between Canada and the U.S. In Southern Africa it is called a peace parks process. This process could occur, connecting wildlife habitat from Canada all the way through the United States so species would have a contiguous area of protection and for ranging. In doing this, we would do things that would preserve their future.
We have great opportunities. Unfortunately, the government has not chosen to embrace those opportunities at a time of great surpluses. Because of that it makes itself less than what it could be and it makes Canada less than what it could be.
I encourage the government to seize the day, carpe diem, and adopt some solutions that could have a huge impact on the lives of our fellow citizens here at home as well as those who live far away. We live on one planet, which, in essence, is a borderless planet. What happens half a world away affects us. For these reasons, the government should have a much broader, holistic and wider view and exercise its responsibility to act as a leader.