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House of Commons Hansard #50 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was senate.

Topics

Human Pathogens and Toxins ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am rather perplexed by the suggestion that the House would refuse to accept a motion to table two documents, which can be made public and which were solicited by the chair of the Standing Committee on Health, forwarded to the chair of the committee, and in the context of the way that Parliament and committees work should have been distributed to all members of the committee prior to the consideration of those clauses of the bill in question.

A member of Parliament stands before the House and says he would like to make them available to every member of Parliament so that he or she can take the consideration of this bill in its fullest context, keeping in mind that the health issues are not the ones being addressed but really the privacy concerns associated with the gathering of data pertinent to health issues. And members of the House have said, no, they do not want that information.

It might be well worth our while to ask the member to propose that again, given that members have now had a few brief moments, because that is all they would require to make an intelligent decision. If he were to present that motion again, we might find that members of the House may be disposed more favourably to receiving information that is for the public benefit and for a mature decision on this bill.

Human Pathogens and Toxins ActGovernment Orders

May 4th, 2009 / 12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pretty sure that I cannot make a motion during questions and comments. I thank the member for the chance, or at least the gesture.

I can say that I am not here to put blame on anybody. I am here, as a member of this place, to suggest that there may be a problem with this bill. There are a few ways to handle it, as I indicated. Let me review them.

Number one is to make a motion to send the bill back to committee with specific reference to clauses 38, 67, and any other clauses that flow from those, for the health committee to hear the appropriate witnesses, to remediate the bill as necessary and to return it to the House.

The second thing would be simply to defeat this bill and make the government come back with another bill that has the changes in it.

The third thing is to pass the bill with the potential or alleged flaws in it and let it go to the Senate. Then the Senate will have an opportunity to review these matters in some detail, and it will send the bill back to us and we will probably have to send it back for consideration at the health committee anyway.

The most expeditious way to find out whether we have a serious problem is to send it back to committee. If anybody would like the letters, I would be happy to provide them. I am asking hon. members to rise in their place to debate Bill C-11 and make the motion to revert it to committee. I know my Liberal colleagues would be prepared to support that.

At this point we need members to review the information, look at the options we have and try to find the best manner in which the House of Commons can dispose of an important health bill.

Human Pathogens and Toxins ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to reflect on the intervention by my colleague, the member for Mississauga South, that the hands of the House are tied and that we would be essentially dependent upon the decisions made in the other place for how to address this bill, keeping in mind that one is talking about protecting the rights of citizens to information that is personal and private, while we take a look at all of the issues that are important from a health perspective with respect to transporting and dealing with human pathogens and toxins.

The House would owe, from my perspective, very humbly, a debt of gratitude to members of the House, like the member for Mississauga South, who underscores sometimes occasional problems associated with issues that are related to the importance of citizens' interests on privacy.

I wonder whether we can have his comment on that as well.

Human Pathogens and Toxins ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would think this is potentially a bit of an embarrassment to some people, but the bottom line is that the members of the health committee did not receive the second communication from the Privacy Commissioner, which laid out at least four different areas of concern. One of them is this has no limits on how long that personal information can be kept.

That is fundamental to any legislation. If a person leaves the employ and is no longer involved, there is no sunset date as to when it has to dispose of this information. That has to be changed because it is consistent with every other treatment we have with regard to matters as it touches on the Privacy Act. I know some members are a little concerned about whether we will open up a problem area here.

I am not convinced the privacy commission is satisfied with the bill in its current form, but I do know they will participate in the continuing activity of this review. If the House is not prepared to deal with it, I am pretty sure hon. members of the red chamber, the other place, will look at this carefully to make absolutely sure that the legislation we pass in the Parliament of Canada is the best possible.

Human Pathogens and Toxins ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, as a member of the health committee, I would like to reassure the hon. member opposite that we have had great, lengthy conversations regarding the privacy assessment and privacy issues. At the end of the day, we also know that the regulations will address some of the issues about which we need talk. There was consent, both by his party and ours, to move the bill forward.

This is very important legislation. Yes, the privacy issues need to be dealt with and I feel very sure that we will move forward in a proper and proactive way.

Human Pathogens and Toxins ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am 100% in agreement except for one thing. Regulations cannot fix this. Regulations are drafted after the legislation receives royal assent. Regulations cannot change the bill in any manner that is not enabled by the bill itself.

The bill has to say that the minister has the authority to make regulations to specify the details and conditions, et cetera under which regulations can be made. Respectfully that is not in the bill now. It still needs a change.

Human Pathogens and Toxins ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is the House ready for the question?

Human Pathogens and Toxins ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

An hon. member

Question.

Human Pathogens and Toxins ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Human Pathogens and Toxins ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Human Pathogens and Toxins ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

All those in favour will please say yea.

Human Pathogens and Toxins ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Human Pathogens and Toxins ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

All those opposed will please say nay.

Human Pathogens and Toxins ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Human Pathogens and Toxins ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

The recorded division on the motion stands deferred until the end of government orders tomorrow.

The House proceeded to the consideration of C-3, An Act to amend the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

Arctic Waters Pollution PreventionGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

There being no motions at report stage, the House will now proceed, without debate, to the putting of the question on the motion to concur in the bill at report stage.

Arctic Waters Pollution PreventionGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Conservative Pontiac, QC

moved that the bill be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to)

Arctic Waters Pollution PreventionGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Conservative Pontiac, QC

moved that Bill C-3, An Act to amend the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act, be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, Canada is an Arctic nation, an Arctic power. The Arctic and Canada's north make up more than 40% of our land mass. We occupy a large part of the Arctic. The Arctic and the north are integral to our national identity.

Over 100,000 Canadians live in our three northern territories: Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut, our newest territory.

The north also includes portions of Canadian provinces characterized by northern conditions. Many of those living in the north are Inuit and first nations whose ancestors have inhabited the region for thousands of years.

The history of Canada's presence in Arctic lands and waters establishes and supports our sovereignty over the region.

Bill C-3 is a powerful demonstration of Canada's commitment to and leadership in the Arctic. This government's commitment to demonstrating Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic is unprecedented, particularly the government's northern strategies fourth pillar, which is to protect our environmental heritage. Because Canada is sovereign over its lands and waters up to the Arctic point, we should apply the environmental safeguards needed to protect this unique piece of our identity.

Our government is doing that by ensuring the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act applies to the full extent of Canadian Arctic waters. It will do so by extending the application of the legislation from the current 100 nautical miles from shore to the full 200 nautical miles permitted by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

As many international law experts have stated, the bill is an action that should have taken place a long time ago. Once again, this government is showing leadership and a comprehensive strategy with respect to the Canadian Arctic. I commend my colleague, the Minister of Transport, on this important amendment.

It is important that members of the House understand the origins of the legislation as a significant demonstration of sovereignty over Canadian Arctic waters.

Members of the House should note that the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act was originally enacted in 1970, in response to the voyage of the U.S. oil tanker SS Manhattan through the Northwest Passage in 1969. The Manhattan was the first commercial attempt to navigate the Northwest Passage and signalled the arrival of technological advances that permitted the construction of ice-reinforced oil supertankers.

Even though the voyage of the Manhattan took place with the consent of Canada and with the assistance of Canadian icebreakers, it was nevertheless viewed as a trial run by commercial interests to test the feasibility of year-round transport of oil by sea from fields in Alaska to facilitate on the northeastern U.S. coast through the Northwest Passage. However, the difficult ice conditions experienced at the time confirmed that even at their annual minimum extent in September, there remained significant challenges to vessels navigating these Canadian waters.

Nevertheless, the Manhattan demonstrated the potential for growth of commercial transportation through the Northwest Passage, due to technological developments, and focused attention on the growing risk of potential consequences of a major oil spill occurring in ice covered waters.

It was in this context that the Parliament of Canada passed the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act to underscore Canada's commitment to protect the Arctic environment and its resolve to exercise sovereignty over Canadian Arctic waters.

Canada's ratification of the UNCLOS in 2003 provides an additional international legal basis for the proposed amendments in Bill C-3. Prior to the conclusion of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, or UNCLOS, in 1982, international law did not recognize the concept of a 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone as it does now.

Today there is no question that the exclusive economic zone provides coastal states, such as Canada, the legal authority to exercise sovereign rights and jurisdiction over living and non-living resources up to 200 nautical miles from the shore, including important rights with respect to the prevention of marine pollution.

Canada also benefited from UNCLOS through the inclusion of an additional provision, further recognizing the legality of the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act under international law. Canadian negotiators were successful in including article 234 within UNCLOS, permitting additional rights for Arctic coastal states, such as Canada, within ice covered water. Article 234 is commonly referred to as the Arctic exception and is the product of negotiations between Canada, the United States and the then Soviet Union.

It is beneficial to consider some additional international legal considerations of the proposed amendment. Some states have differing interpretations with respect to the international legal status of the various waterways known as the Northwest Passage.

For example, in 1988 Canada and the United States concluded a bilateral international co-operation treaty concerning the transit of U.S. government icebreakers through the Northwest Passage. This agreement, resulting from an initiative of former President Reagan and former Prime Minister Mulroney, allows Canada and the United States to continue to maintain differences in the interpretation over the international legal status of the Northwest Passage by literally agreeing to disagree, while on a practical basis allowing movement of icebreakers through the Northwest Passage on a basis within the best interests of both states.

The legislation under consideration would not affect provisions of this agreement. As a matter of policy, Canada is nevertheless willing to permit international navigation in and through the Northwest Passage, so long as the conditions established by Canada to protect security, environmental and Inuit interests are met. These measures include, for example, pollution monitoring and control under the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act, which we are now considering.

As marine traffic to the north increases, our government will adapt the regulations and systems already in place to protect Canadian interests. Our government has also pledged an enhanced surveillance and military presence in the Canadian Arctic waters. We are also implementing an ecosystem-based approach to ocean management in the Beaufort Sea and elsewhere.

As the Minister of Foreign Affairs, I am committed to strengthening our bilateral cooperation with other Arctic nations. That is why I will be touring circumpolar capitals to promote the Arctic and Canada's interests in the region.

We have some interests in common with our Arctic neighbours—Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Iceland—and we have a lot to learn from their experiences.

We are looking at how trade, innovation and investment can contribute to sustainable development in the north.

Partnership with Arctic countries must rest on a solid legal foundation, and Bill C-3 is an integral part of that foundation.

I would like to emphasize that Bill C-3 is yet another means of exercising Canadian sovereignty over its Arctic waters. By extending the application of the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act from 100 nautical miles to 200 nautical miles from shore, Canada will give full effect to the sovereign rights permitted by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. These rights were secured in large part by Canadian negotiators. Their inclusion in UNCLOS constitutes international recognition of Canadian domestic legislative action over its Arctic waters through this act.

By passing Bill C-3, the Parliament of Canada, the government and Canada will take an important step to ensure that the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act applies to all Canadian Arctic waters and to ensure proper stewardship of this important Canadian region for future generations.

I look forward to the support from all parties on this important amendment.

Arctic Waters Pollution PreventionGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the intervention of the Minister of Foreign Affairs in the debate, inasmuch as this has been presented as a bill on transport.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs has preceded the presentation of the bill by his colleague in the House with some expressions of concern about our sovereignty that elicited responses by the Russian Federation and others with respect to his claims.

I make special mention and I would like the minister to comment for us, because we are talking about Canadian interests, and those of us in this party and on this side of the House are always promoting Canadian interests.

I am glad he referred to the 1970 legislation, the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act, which was presented and passed by a former government, not his and not associated with his party, and a subsequent piece of legislation that confirmed the law of the sea for Canada, which allowed us to get into this particular legislation, again by another Canadian government, not his

I refer specifically to two aspects of it: first, his suggestion that this is an unprecedented bill, given the context I have just given; and secondly, that it is a powerful demonstration of our commitment to the north, to the peoples of the north and to our sovereignty in the north.

We can talk about “unprecedented” for a moment. I would like him to comment on how that is unprecedented, given that it involves legislative powers we already held. More important, I would like him to address the issue of “powerful demonstration”, because I think most members of the House and the public who would be following the debate would suggest that the word “power” comes with means and mechanisms to ensure that the interests we have put on the table for the world to examine come with them measures that reinforce our claim and that they are not just simply laughed at by others who take a look at this exaggeration as a cover for lack of competence.

Mr. Speaker, you may recall that the Minister of National Defence, following on the initiatives presented by my hon. colleague opposite, made some claims about other people making incursions in our territory, which prompted comments by foreign affairs ministers and defence ministers from the Russian Federation and the rest of the world, scratching their heads as to what they were talking about.

I wonder if he would take a moment or two of his time to enumerate for the House those specific demonstrations of power that will accompany--

Arctic Waters Pollution PreventionGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Arctic Waters Pollution PreventionGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Conservative Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would be more than pleased to do so, to enlighten my colleague who clearly is not familiar with Canada's northern strategy and its four pillars. I refer to environmental protection; I can refer to sovereignty; I can refer to the issue that deals with governance; I can as well refer to the issue that deals with economic development and sustainable development.

Those are the four pillars that this government has put in place as a matter of policy. I invite my hon. colleague to look at the budget, not only last year's budget but this year's budget as well, to realize what has been invested in terms of infrastructure, in terms of commitment to make sure that we do have deep-water ports that will be able to accommodate the vessels that will be there, and also to reflect on the fact that Canada is putting an additional 500 rangers in that region to be able to go forward and assume our sovereignty.

We will be going through a lot of exercises. We do so on a regular basis. We are working in close tandem, in lockstep, with other Arctic Council partners in terms of research and development, and elaborating new policies.

I have just come back from Tromsø, Norway, where last week we had a meeting of the Arctic Council, the first meeting in two years. A lot of decisions have been made. Canada is playing a fulsome leadership not only in the Arctic Council, but as well, on 57 projects that deal with the circumpolar year.

These are factual things that are being done. These are tangible example of things that this country and this government is doing. When the hon. member wants a demonstration of powerful things, all he has to do is come to the Arctic Council and have somebody from his party come to the Arctic Council, who refused to come with me, and they would have witnessed to what point and to what extent this government is standing up for the Arctic.

Arctic Waters Pollution PreventionGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to my colleague's speech. It is urgent that we adopt an Arctic policy that reflects the importance of climate change and the new reality in this part of the world. Therefore, the Bloc Québécois will support this government bill.

However, I would like the minister to indicate if he intends to use a particular angle, that of history, to ensure Canada's sovereignty in this part of the world. This year, we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the completion of Captain Bernier's expedition. This is an important historical event and I would like to draw the minister's attention to this chapter of history. There was also John Franklin's expedition.

Does the government plan on promoting this history through the production of movies or books or by some other means? One of our local organizations made a presentation on this subject in order to obtain funds from a program to commemorate such events. Is the minister prepared to invest energy and resources into promoting history in order to support Canada's position in this regard?

Arctic Waters Pollution PreventionGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Conservative Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, I cannot make a specific commitment to my colleague about allocating monies to the promotion of the Arctic in particular.

However, I do know that we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of Captain Bernier's expedition that made Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic a reality. That is what I have been told. It is not just the 100th anniversary of the Department of Foreign Affairs or of the Montreal Canadiens, but of the fact that we took possession of that place.

I was in Norway last week for a meeting of the Arctic Council and I can also speak about the centre we opened in Oslo, within our embassy, not only to promote the Arctic on behalf of those living there but also to call for projects that could benefit all parties.

Therefore, we are already promoting the Arctic.

Arctic Waters Pollution PreventionGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, of course the larger diplomatic issues that surround Arctic sovereignty include Russia, where we see that the government has taken a very hard line about overflights.

Last summer when I attended an Arctic conference in Fairbanks I had an opportunity to talk to the admiral in charge of the United States Coast Guard. He told me at that time that the Russians were filing flight plans for all their overflights with him.

My question for the minister is this: We have created quite a situation with our declarations about these overflights. Why did Canada not get the information from the United States on these flights?