House of Commons Hansard #146 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was regard.


Durham and VictoriaVacancies

11 a.m.


The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It is my duty to inform the House that vacancies have occurred in the representation: namely, Ms. Bev Oda, member for the electoral district of Durham, by resignation, effective July 31, 2012; and Madame Denise Savoie, for the electoral district of Victoria, by resignation, effective August 31, 2012.

Pursuant to subsection 25(1)(b) of the Parliament of Canada Act, I address warrants to the Chief Electoral Officer for the issue of writs for the election of members to fill these vacancies.

It being 11:02, the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from May 7 consideration of the motion that Bill C-370, An Act to amend the Canada National Parks Act (St. Lawrence Islands National Park of Canada), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

11 a.m.


Laurin Liu NDP Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-370, which would change the name of the St. Lawrence Islands National Park to Thousand Islands National Park.

St. Lawrence Islands National Park includes several ecologically important areas and over twenty islands between Kingston and Brockville. It was created in 1904. It was Canada's first national park east of the Rockies. Now, 108 years later, the Conservative member for Leeds—Grenville would like to change the well-established name of this national park to Thousand Islands National Park. He thinks that this name change would help brand the park and could increase tourism, since people are more familiar with the “Thousand Islands” name.

I am sure that his intentions are good, but I think that this is a bit too hasty. He claims that this is what the public wants. But I read over the debates and documentation related to this bill, and nowhere did I see any references to formal public consultations or public consultations that were open to everyone. There was no poll. There is nothing, other than guesstimates from the member. I think that the member should go back to the drawing board and provide more evidence of public support.

The Secretariat of the Geographical Names Board of Canada is provided by Natural Resources Canada. This secretariat strongly recommends that the respective geographic authorities be consulted when naming a park or any other land division established by legislation. Did the sponsor of Bill C-370 at least consult the Geographical Names Board of Canada before introducing the bill? Many problems can be avoided by taking such precautions.

I will give a very concrete example. The lovely riding that I represent, Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, borders on the magnificent Mille-Îles River, and contains a majestic park known for its diversity of fauna and flora—the Rivière-des-Mille-Îles Park.

This park is made up of municipal and private land that was combined through awareness work by the organization Éco-Nature and with the involvement of the property owners along the river who wish to protect the environment. The park's rich and unique biodiversity is consistent with its status as a wildlife refuge. It received the protected area designation in 1998 and consists of 10 islands covering 26.2 hectares of private land belonging to the cities of Laval and Rosemère, and Éco-Nature.

In short, the member for Leeds—Grenville is proposing to rename a national park with the name of an existing park in my riding. He wanted to make things clearer for foreign tourists, but has failed. He will run into problems with his chambers of commerce when they find out that funds allocated to promote his park will target tourists from northern Montreal.

I take the member to task for not getting his priorities right, in addition to not conducting the necessary consultations and acting too quickly in this matter. If he were truly concerned with the brand of the St. Lawrence Islands National Park and maximizing tourist revenues, then he should start by holding a meeting with the Minister of Finance and the minister responsible for national parks—namely the Minister of the Environment—because they are the ones who are responsible for the budget cuts to Parks Canada.

Need we point out that the 2012 budget will result in cuts of $30 million to the Parks Canada budget by 2015? More than 600 employees were declared surplus and 1,500 employees will be affected in some way by 2015.

As we all already know, St. Lawrence Islands National Park will be severely affected. Don Marrin, superintendent of Parks Canada's East Ontario Field Unit, told the Gananoque Reporter that people should expect a significant reduction in services and hours of operation. So when the hon. member says he wants to improve the branding of the park, maybe he could start by keeping the park open and ensuring that there is enough staff to protect the region's biodiversity and heritage.

It is important to note that the park receives about 81,000 visitors per year, two-thirds of whom arrive by boat. Without checks and balances, these visitors could have adverse impacts on the park's ecosystem. In fact, according to the ecological integrity statement for St. Lawrence Islands National Park written in February 1999, visitor pressures present the primary threat to the park's ecological integrity.

Since this is a conservation issue, I would like to say a few words about the national conservation plan that is currently being developed. I take a particular interest in this issue because I was a member of the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development, which conducted the study. At committee, we received dozens of witnesses, including many from Quebec. Those witnesses felt that, with this government, there is a lot of talk but very little action when it comes to conservation. Even worse, some of its actions work against conservation.

How can the Conservatives claim to care about conservation and then turn around and cut the budget for the staff needed to conserve our parks?

How can the Conservatives claim to care about conservation and then turn around and eliminate the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, which produced an excellent report on conservation in 2003?

How can the Conservatives claim to care about conservation and then turn around and eliminate funding to the Canadian Environmental Network, which could have helped develop a national conservation plan and implement regional initiatives?

How can the Conservatives claim to care about conservation and then turn around and repeal the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, destroy the legislation that protects fish habitats and shut down an open-air laboratory that allowed experts to do research on our lakes?

Lastly, how can the Conservatives claim to care about conservation when they are trying to shove Enbridge's northern gateway pipeline down the throats of British Columbians?

In June, the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development submitted its report on conservation. I invite all parliamentarians to read the report tabled during the last sitting and the NDP's recommendations in the dissenting opinion.

Basically, the NDP caucus is asking the government to develop strict conservation regulations so that clear rules and priorities can be established. Regulations should be based on rigorous scientific work and supported by a public service with adequate resources to carry out its mandate. Without these resources, the Conservatives' conservation plan will never be more than a charade.

I would like to invite the sponsor of the bill, who claims to care about conservation and developing our parks, to join us in urging the Conservative government to maintain Parks Canada's budget, to provide adequate funding for science and research, to maintain the Experimental Lakes Area program, and, most importantly, to implement a workable policy for fighting and adapting to climate change.

The member will no doubt agree that visitor impact, lack of Parks Canada resources, climate change, invasive species and shoreline erosion pose a much greater threat to the future of St. Lawrence Islands National Park than its name does.

Given the Conservative government's draconian cuts to Parks Canada's budget, the agency cannot be asked to expend resources on renaming a park that has been around for 108 years, at least not at a time when visiting hours are being cut along with staff responsible for protecting the park's plants and animals.

This government would be better off focusing on things that Canadians really care about, such as heritage protection, job creation and access to public services.

When will the government start listening?

Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.


Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-370, an act to amend the Canada National Parks Act, namely to change the name of St. Lawrence Islands National Park to Thousand Islands National Park. There has been considerable community consultation and there is broad consensus that this will be good for the region and the economy, as the name is recognized by tourists all over the world. I would therefore like to commend the member for Leeds—Grenville for this initiative and recognize that both he and the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands are both good friends of St. Lawrence Islands National Park and of the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve, an official United Nations biosphere reserve.

Very briefly, a biosphere reserve is where local communities or representatives from key sectors such as agriculture, business, conservation, education and tourism work together to develop projects that link conservation with economic development in the region. The committees are voluntary and community based.

St. Lawrence Islands National Park is the smallest national park in Canada and the oldest national park east of the Rockies, having been created in 1904. The area is an important part of our history. The first inhabitants of the park were aboriginal people who began fishing and hunting about 10,000 years ago at the beginning of the Holocene epoch, the epoch that we are now exiting. Later, following the American revolution, European settlers began moving into the area, and during the War of 1812 the area of the St. Lawrence Islands National Park was visited by both American and British warships. In the early 20th century the area became a gateway for the rich and famous in North America, and today elegant homes and summer cottages are among the beautiful sights seen on the various boat cruises of tourist attractions.

The Thousand Islands region consists of 1,864 islands at the western edge of the St. Lawrence Seaway, right in the region of the park.

Why is the park important and why should it be renamed? The first reason is to accurately brand the area. The name that people use to quickly and easily identify the area is the Thousand Islands. If one were to conduct an Internet search for the St. Lawrence Islands, he or she would find very little information. However, if the search were for the Thousand Islands there would be many hits. This is absolutely an indication that the Thousand Islands name is the one that is popularly used to describe the region and the place where the park is located.

The second reason is to accurately describe the region. The St. Lawrence River passes from Kingston to Quebec and beyond. The St. Lawrence Islands National Park stretches from Kingston to Mallorytown, so it really is centred on the Thousand Islands region. It is important not to confuse the area with the whole of the St. Lawrence River and all of the other islands within the St. Lawrence River.

It is also important to distinguish this particular national park from the phrase “parks of the St. Lawrence”, which is used by the Province of Ontario to describe a number of other attractions in the area, including Fort Henry, which, by the way, everyone should visit the first chance they have. It is important to ensure that tourist buses passing on the 401 stop and visit the region and enjoy what it has to offer. The park is a very important part of the region's economy and provides a considerable number of jobs. The latest statistics show there are 438 enterprises, employing almost 6,000 people in Leeds-Grenville alone, that consider themselves visitor based.

While this is an important initiative for the Thousand Islands region, it is important to point out that the recent cuts to Parks Canada mean that the St. Lawrence National Park could be struggling. The Parks Canada agency is responsible for 42 national parks, 167 national historic sites and 4 national marine conservation areas in Canada, and it falls under the responsibility of Environment Canada. Sadly, the government is gutting Parks Canada through implementing $29 million in budget cuts. In so doing, it is undermining the health and integrity of Canada's world renowned parks, risking some of our world heritage sites, significantly reducing the number of scientists and technical staff, hurting relationships with aboriginal peoples and attacking rural economies. Indeed, a former deputy minister of Environment Canada said that the federal budget cuts would undermine a decade of progress on protecting the health of Canada's national parks, while another critic called the cuts a “lobotomy” of the parks' system.

PSAC reported that 1,689 of its members received affected notices and 638 positions will be eliminated, representing close to 30% of all scientists. According to the union, the affected workers include scientists, engineers, carpenters, mechanics, technicians and program managers. If the scientific monitors are reduced, who will know what is happening to Canadian ecosystems and what will restore endangered species like Canada's woodland caribou?

On July 12, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, CPAWS, issued a sobering report about the state of Canada's parks. It highlighted the dangers to our national parks due to funding cuts, the loss of science and monitoring capacity, the growth of inappropriate development within and adjacent to many current and proposed parks, the shortening of seasons, and inappropriate recreation and tourism activities.

Under the Aichi biodiversity targets, the commitment is to protect at least 10% of our marine and 17% of our land areas by 2020. Currently, just 1% of Canada's marine environment is protected and 627 species are at risk of extinction. The rate of extinction is expected to peak in the next 50 years because of climate change, economic expansion, habitat destruction and pollution, yet the government, through Bill C-38, has limited the environmental assessment process and stripped endangered aquatic species of habitat protection.

According Parks Canada's report on plans and priorities, it is likely that user fees at national parks and historic sites will increase at the beginning of the next fiscal year. These include entry fees, camping fees, lockage and mooring fees. A national user fee proposal is expected to be tabled in Parliament in early 2013, which will outline the business increases.

Our party has criticized the Minister of the Environment's claim that businesses near national parks and historic sites are getting a “free ride”. We have stated that it was insulting to the owners and operators of thousands of small businesses across Canada who are a key pillar of the Canadian economy and employ over 500,000 Canadians.

In conclusion, the name change has been thought through by the community. This is not rebranding but rather about attaching the name of a park to a brand that is very old and well-known throughout the world, and something that people naturally talk about when they talk about the region.

One of my earliest memories is visiting the Thousand Islands and sitting on the dock with my brother and dad, waiting for one of the cruises. In fact, it is that faded picture that my father always hung in his office and that now lies quietly in his drawer. I hope to revisit the renamed Thousand Islands National Park with my family very soon. It is time to take them back there. I encourage all members to do so as well.

Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Michael Chong Conservative Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, after the summer in my constituency it gives me great pleasure to come back to the House to support my colleague, the member for Leeds—Grenville, and his bill, which would do a tremendous service for Canada's national parks system, particularly for national parks located in Ontario. The bill would rename the St. Lawrence Islands National Park to the Thousand Islands National Park.

As this is the second hour of debate, I want to summarize what was talked about and presented in the House during the first hour of debate on the history of the current park, the St. Lawrence Islands National Park as it is called.

Our national parks are governed by framework legislation mandating that Parks Canada protects and presents outstanding representative examples of natural landscapes and natural phenomena that occur in Canada. St. Lawrence Islands National Park is an amazing example of a slice of Canada's biodiversity, not only in terms of its natural history and ecology but also in terms of its cultural history. This year being the 200th year anniversary of the War of 1812, this is an historical area that saw many of the conflicts that gave birth to the defence of Canada and to the early risings and stirrings of the Canadian identity.

It is also ecologically important. The park consists of several important ecologically important properties between Kingston and Brockville, Ontario. It is part of the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve and it lies at the eastern end of the Great Lakes system. It acts as a land bridge and this is something many people may not realize. This park straddles two other major parks. There is Algonquin Park, which is a provincial park. In fact, I spent some time there this summer canoeing through North Tea Lake and Manitou and Three Mile Lake and Erables Lake through the northwestern part of the park. It used to be called Algonquin National Park. Even though it has always been a provincial park, at some point the provincial government decided to call it a national park, but it was renamed back to Algonquin Park as we currently know it.

The St. Lawrence Islands National Park sits between Algonquin Park, a major protected area in the near north in Ontario, and the Adirondacks in New York State. The Thousand Islands Park, as we hope it will be called, acts as a land bridge between these two very ecologically important protected areas. These areas are significant because they contain transition forests and transition biospheres between what is known as the eastern deciduous forests in the northern United States and the boreal forest zone that covers much of Canada's vast north. This acts as a bridge between the transition zone and is full of unique fauna and flora, many of which are at the very northern end of their habitat as southern species and many of which are at the very southern end of their habitat as northern species. That is why this park is significant and why we need to highlight it and draw Canadians' attention to it.

Part of this government's approach to national parks is to encourage more visits and tourists to our parks, both foreign and Canadians. All government departments, in conjunction with the private sector, are being encouraged to take whatever steps are necessary to encourage visitors to come to our national parks system.

It is unclear why the park was named St. Lawrence Islands National Park instead of Thousand Islands National Park, but it is an historic error that must be corrected. My colleague from Brant began discussing the history of the park. It had a long history before European contact. Aboriginal peoples had been in the area for many generations and centuries before European contact.

The French first called the area Les Milles Isles, the Thousand Islands, some 400 years ago when they first set foot in the region. They were the ones who first used the term “Thousand Islands”. Then the British Royal Navy arrived and charted and named the various islands. We saw the advent of the American Civil War in mid-1860s. After that war ended, the area opened up significantly to development. Many wealthy Americans from New York State came to the Thousand Islands to build their summer homes and cottages.

It was at this time that the area started to really get developed. It was also when local residents started to become concerned about the area they had once hunted, fished, farmed and picnicked on for generations. They were concerned that this land was rapidly being lost to private property and no trespassing signs.

In 1874, their concerns led to two petitions being presented to the then Governor General of Canada asking that this area be protected for public use. At the time, the government was not very interested in doing so. Nevertheless, local pressure continued to be brought to bear over the subsequent decades, and in 1877, a new champion in Thaddeus Leavitt, the editor of the Brockville Recorder and an historian in his day, started to push for this area to be protected as a park. He was not successful, but by the 1890s citizens on both sides of the river were becoming interested in a park and pressure mounted for an international park spanning both sides of the boundary waters.

In 1895, a number of islands were considered for formal park status and the federal government of the day took a first step toward establishing a park. It did so by saying that if the Americans established a protected area on their side of the border, the Canadian government would then follow, but because the Americans never did anything, the park was never established.

It was not until 1904 that St. Lawrence Islands National Park was created with a base at Mallorytown Landing, which was donated by the Mallory family. The natives in the region also agreed with the formation of this national park and the preservation of some islands. The government then began work immediately on establishing pavilions and docks. By the 1960s, the park had its own superintendent and over the years it expanded significantly. Only a few years ago it acquired some more inland property to expand the protection of some of the sensitive biosphere areas.

The reason for this lengthy history lesson has been to highlight that over the last 400 years, since European contact, the area has been known as the Thousand Islands. For almost four centuries, local businesses, companies and communities have known and talked about the area as the Thousand Islands. It is a brand that locals and people from outside the area know well. No one knows exactly why the original name was created of St. Lawrence Islands National Park, but there is no doubt that it confuses people and is one of the reasons why the park may not be visited as much as it could be if it had the same name as the local area.

Many of the local councils and communities, ranging from Elizabethtown to Gananoque and from Brockville to the Front of Yonge township and the Leeds and the Thousand Islands township, have petitioned the member to rename the park to Thousand Islands park. This is an opportunity for us to do it, and I will point out to members in the House who are considering supporting this bill why it is so very important.

Ontario does not have a great number of national parks. People who live in Calgary are within an hour's drive to Banff National Park. People who live in Edmonton have access to Jasper National Park. The people on Vancouver Island can access the Pacific Rim National Park. For people who live in Montreal there is La Mauricie National Park.

Within striking distance of many of our metropolitan regions across the country, there are major national parks that are well visited and well known. In Ontario there are much smaller national parks, such as Point Pelee and the one in eastern Ontario known as the St. Lawrence Islands National Park. They are not well visited and we need to encourage Canadians, especially new Canadians who flock in great numbers to Ontario, to access the great outdoors and to understand that part of what it means to be Canadian is to understand our north and our great outdoors. By renaming the Thousand Islands National Park, we would ensure better branding and visibility for the park and ensure that it gets the attention it needs as a protected area in one of Canada's most sensitive biosphere zones.

I encourage all members to support this bill. It is a great idea. It is a little thing that would not cost us any money but would raise the visibility of our national park system in Ontario, a province that I and the member for Leeds—Grenville are proud to call home.

Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to talk about Bill C-370, which would change the name of St. Lawrence Islands National Park to Thousand Islands National Park. I also want to welcome viewers at home and members of the House back from what I hope was a good summer in the ridings for what I know will be a productive and, hopefully, somewhat congenial session of Parliament. I think this private member's bill is a good way to start.

The bill the hon. member for Leeds—Grenville has brought forward for debate today would celebrate and recognize the national heritage that Canada and the famous Thousand Islands region have to offer.

What is in the name of a park?

A name with meaning builds the location in the consciousness of the public. It sets a site within the context of its surroundings. It is open and inviting to those who seek to engage with our nation's protected natural heritage. It is vast and it is something of which we are all proud. The St. Lawrence is a great and majestic river that originates from the outflow from Lake Ontario, near Kingston, and moves eastward 3,058 kilometres, one of the longest rivers in the world, where it flows into the Atlantic Ocean. There are several prominent islands in the St. Lawrence: Wolfe Island, Montreal, Île d'Orléans and Anticosti Island are just a few.

What does St. Lawrence Islands National Park, as a name, say to the average Canadian?

Those who do not know the park would not imagine a region where majestic castles and historic summer homes stand in contrast to rugged islands of granite and pine that are home to lumbering turtles, soaring eagles and countless other species. The current name says nothing about how the park is located in the heart of the Thousand Islands area, an 80-kilometre-wide extension of granite hilltops joining the Canadian Shield of northern Ontario with the Adirondack Mountains in New York State.

This is a park that showcases the unique landscape created by glaciers retreating 10,000 years ago, scraping sediments and exposing the rounded knobs of an ancient mountain chain. When the St. Lawrence River flooded the area on its path to the Atlantic Ocean, 1,000 hilltops became the Thousand Islands. It is a land where soil was slow to form over the acidic granite; where even today the area retains a rugged beauty.

Plants and animals migrated to the region, encouraged by the moderating effects of the Great Lakes and the variety of microhabitats that were created by the rugged topography. The islands form a land bridge, as was mentioned by the previous speaker, from northwest to southeast, across the St. Lawrence River, aiding movement of species across the landscape.

Notable examples of species that are common in the area, but rare in the rest of Canada, include: the deerberry, a plant that exists in only two locations in this country; the black rat snake, Canada's largest snake; the pitch pine, a southern tree species with a range that extends along the Frontenac Arch to just north of the Thousand Islands; and the least bittern, a wading bird whose wetland habitats are decreasing elsewhere within its northern range.

This national park in the Thousand Islands forms part of the UNESCO-recognized Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve. It is an area that has important natural and ecological values and is a place where people live, work and enjoy a variety of economic and recreational activities based upon respect for the environment. The people of the region recognize the importance of protecting this land. Local residents were lobbying as far back as the 1880s for the creation of a national park in the Thousand Islands. As was stated earlier, although it took until 1904, the park was still the first national park east of the Rockies.

So, why did the park end up being called St. Lawrence Islands National Park? That is a good question, which my colleague beside me failed to answer, as well. I do not know the answer, either.

Historic government records do not clearly explain why that name was selected but refer to the park land as islands in the St. Lawrence which comprise the Thousand Islands group. They should have had a clue right there.

Despite what may be on the entry sign, many locals and visitors have always used the name Thousand Islands National Park. Each year, the park receives many letters from visitors who address their comments to Thousand Islands National Park. Quite simply, the name St. Lawrence Islands does not fit. It does not fit what this park is, it does not mean anything, and it is not recognized by even those who return to the park on an annual basis.

The idea of changing the park name is not new. It has been debated at the local level for decades. There was a recommendation to change the name of the park to Thousands Islands National Park in 1978, by the St. Lawrence Islands National Park advisory committee. This committee was formed by the Hon. Judd Buchanan, the then Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs. The committee was made up of representatives of local municipalities, chambers of commerce, local citizens, and provincial and national organizations.

For this current action to change the park's name, the City of Kingston, the Front of Yonge township, the Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands, the Town of Gananoque, the Thousand Islands Area Residents' Association and the directors of the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve all approved motions in support of the name change. The 1000 Islands Gananoque Chamber of Commerce also supports the proposal.

St. Lawrence Islands National Park is a tiny jewel comprised of over 20 islands with a rich and complex history of natural and human interactions. However, the current name does not fit the billboard. The current name does not build public identity and does not increase awareness and support for the park in the Thousand Islands region. It does not capture the imagination of the public. It does not fit the historical regional references to the park.

Our national parks are national treasures. They are also personal treasures. We have all grown up visiting national parks. Growing up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, we spent a lot of time at Riding Mountain National Park. As an Albertan now, I and my family spend a lot of time in Banff and Jasper national parks, which are just magnificent. Those who have not been there need to go. Vacationing on the west coast, we spent time in Pacific Rim National Park.

These are all fabulous areas that are the envy of the world. We should take great pride in them, and we should make sure that they are treated accordingly, whether it is respect for the environment or whether it is making the name mean something.

Let me conclude by saying that I respect the dedication of the hon. member in bringing this bill to our attention for a second time. Changing the name of a national park is not an easy thing to do and it should not be an easy thing to do. I support the member's obvious commitment to the protection of our national environment, and I support his commitment to inspiring the meaningful recognition of a national treasure that does not hold a proper place in the consciousness of Canadians at the present time.

Thousand Islands National Park is a name that has meaning. Thousand Islands National Park inspires imagination. Thousand Islands National Park says something specific about an incredible and unique region of our country. Thousand Islands National Park provides a direct link to the public with Parks Canada's mandate to protect and present nationally significant examples of Canada's natural and cultural heritage, and to foster public understanding, appreciation and enjoyment in ways that ensure the ecological and commemorative integrity of these places for present and future generations.

It is time for the Thousand Islands National Park to be recognized for what it is, what it has always been and what it will be for future generations. I would urge all members of the House to support this worthwhile bill.

Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.


Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to stand today on our first day back to the House from our summer recess to talk to Bill C-370, which would change the name of St. Lawrence Islands National Park to the Thousand Islands national park. I am happy to be talking to this today, but as someone who was born in Brockville, I thought the mover of the motion might rename the national park after me. That did not work out, but I do appreciate what the mover of the motion is trying to accomplish.

I would like to add my voice to those already in support of Bill C-370 and the renaming of the St. Lawrence Islands National Park to Thousand Islands national park.

Our national parks represent the very best that Canada has to offer. These special places are protected so they can be enjoyed by visitors today and tomorrow. In fact, through Parks Canada, the federal government is Canada's largest provider of natural and cultural tourism products and its iconic destinations: national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas. These form the cornerstones of the Canadian tourism industry. Tourism represents a significant economic opportunity for Canada. In 2010, the tourism sector contributed $29.7 billion to the Canadian economy and employed 617,000 Canadians.

As in the whole of Canada, our national parks offer important economic possibilities for the province of Ontario. The Thousand Islands is known throughout the world as a tourism destination. Every year millions of tourists flock to the iconic Thousand Islands region, but very few people know that there is a national park located in the heart of those islands. In fact, it is the closest national park to the city of Ottawa and, even without the creation of Rouge National Urban Park, Thousand Islands national park will remain one of the closest national parks to the city of Toronto.

It is time for us to adapt and renew the possibilities of this majestic national park. Something as simple as changing its name will dramatically alter how Parks Canada engages and attracts members of the public who seek to create great personal memories through meaningful experiences in an incredible national space.

For over 100 years tourism has played a prominent role in the Thousand Islands community, supporting family-owned businesses from generation to generation. St. Lawrence Islands National Park has an annual budget in excess of $1.5 million. While some of that revenue is self generated, a majority comes from Canadian taxpayers. When Parks Canada has publicly stated that it is trying to encourage new Canadians, young Canadians and urban Canadians to visit national parks, it does not make sense for Parks Canada to work outside the regional brand of the Thousand Islands.

Parks Canada has an exemplary record of working within communities through partnering initiatives and stakeholder relations, yet in a region where other private tourism providers take advantage of the strong, recognized and powerful “World Famous Thousand Islands” brand name, in using the term St. Lawrence Islands, Parks Canada is not talking the same language as other Thousand Islands tourism operators.

If members were travelling from Vancouver, Newfoundland or England, would they not find it difficult to distinguish among the offerings of the St. Lawrence Parks Commission, Parks of the St. Lawrence and St. Lawrence Islands National Park? Two of these three organizations have many sites outside the immediate Thousand Islands area and are not interchangeable with the national park and have different mandates.

As the government, it is our role to help remove barriers that limit opportunities for Canadians to become more engaged with treasured natural places. We should be doing all we can to help provide opportunities to showcase what Parks Canada has to offer. Placing Thousand Islands national park on the map is a small but significant step that would help enhance public awareness of this incredible park. A name change would present an opportunity to renew Canadians' passion and support for our country's important natural spaces. A name change could help ensure that this national park would find a place in the consciousness of Canadians and would help ensure that future generations would be inspired by and would support this long-established protected treasure.

Economically, a name change to the Thousand Islands national park would align our public offering with those of other regional tourism providers. This would help initiate sustainable expandable growth generating activities and relationships. We would be creating a legacy that would say that lasting improvements could be made by this government. Parks Canada would be able to expand its reach and impact by taking advantage of the existing regional brand.

I realize there may be some in the House who oppose this name change initiative simply because the St. Lawrence Islands National Park has been the official name of the Thousand Islands national park for over 100 years. In fact, national parks have been renamed twice before. In both of these instances the new name better reflected the region in which they were situated. The Northern Yukon National Park was been renamed to Ivvavik National Park and Ellesmere Island National Park became Quttinirpaaq National Park.

Bill C-370 is an easy bill to support because changing the name of St. Lawrence Islands National Park to a name that better reflects the local region to a name that is already used by regional residents and existing park visitors, to a name that will help Parks Canada position the wonderful landscapes and features of the park in the psyche of Canadians, to a name that will immediately improve local, national and international recognition of the park, to a name that will facilitate better interactions with other regional tour operators and tour initiatives, improving the local economic opportunity, simply makes sense.

Thousand Islands national park fits the region, it fits the tradition and it fits the future. Thousand Islands national park is the right name for the right park at the right time.

Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


Gord Brown Conservative Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleagues on both sides of the House for their input and discussion during the second reading of the bill that proposes to change the name of the St. Lawrence Islands National Park to Thousand Islands national park. I appreciate their interest and involvement.

When I opened this debate, I indicated there were a number of facets to my argument that the name of this park should be changed. I would like to review those again as I close the debate.

The St. Lawrence Islands National Park is located in what is popularly known and identified worldwide as the Thousand Islands. The Thousand Islands region is of significant importance in the geological history and cultural history of our nation. In fact, on a Monday 200 years ago this week, one of the first skirmishes of the War of 1812 happened with a raid on Gananoque by Americans, and we had a wonderful re-enactment of that battle just a few weeks ago.

Formed as a result of the last ice age, the Thousand Islands region provides a land bridge across the St. Lawrence River for plants and animals. We have heard from other speakers that it joins the Canadian shield in the north at Algonquin Park through to the Adirondack Mountains in the south.

The Great Lakes, particularly Lake Ontario, which lie to the west, provide a heat sink, which helps moderate both winter and summer temperatures in the region, which in turn attracts flora and fauna that might not otherwise be found in the area. As a result of all this, the area has been recognized by UNESCO as a biosphere reserve.

When Europeans first discovered this place, the French named it Les Milles Isles and the English named the islands in 1816 after the British Navy, but it has continued to be identified as the Thousand Islands. Today, many people in the area already refer to the park as the Thousand Islands national park because this is how the region is known.

Visitor services are a growing and important part of the economic development of the region that encompasses this park. This has always been the case as people flock from around the globe to visit the world famous Thousand Islands, but it is increasingly important as the economic mix of the area has changed from manufacturing to services. According to Statistics Canada, close to 6,000 jobs in my riding alone rely upon the visitor services industry.

Our government has been supportive of this economic change by helping to fund what was known as the Maritime Discovery Centre, which is now called Aquatarium, in Brockville at the eastern end of this part. This centre's exhibits will concentrate on the Thousand Islands.

When Parks Canada celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2011 and the parks were advertised across the country to promote this anniversary, there were questions raised about the name of the park. In fact, one of the television ads featured the park and said, “St. Lawrence Islands National Park”. However, many people did not know where it was on the St. Lawrence.

The St. Lawrence Islands National Park, as I mentioned in my opening remarks on the bill, could be anywhere on the length of the St. Lawrence River, all the way from Kingston to the Gaspé.

In my earlier speech on the bill I spoke about branding. Thousand Islands is the drawing card for the region. It is the brand upon which the region hangs its future and reviews its past.

My home town of Gananoque bills itself as the Canadian gateway to the Thousand Islands. Brockville calls itself the city of the Thousand Islands. Thousand Islands is the moniker that is used by everyone in the region to differentiate themselves from any other region.

Simple marketing theory demands that the park be easily identified in its location on the lengthy St. Lawrence River, and that location is the Thousand Islands.

I call upon my colleagues from all sides of the House to support the bill moving on to committee and then we hope it will be moved forward to see the name of the St. Lawrence Islands National Park for 2013 changed to the Thousand Islands national park.

Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The time provided for debate has expired. Therefore, the question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

Some hon. members



Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

Some hon. members


Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

All those opposed will please say nay.

Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

Some hon. members


Canada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, September 19, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

Suspension of SittingCanada National Parks ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The House stands suspended until 12 o'clock.

(The sitting of the House was suspended at 11:51 a.m.)

(The House resumed at 11:59 a.m.)

Message from the SenatePrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed the following bills, to which the concurrence of the House is desired: Bill S-9, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, and Bill S-209, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (prize fights).

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability ActGovernment Orders


Provencher Manitoba


Vic Toews ConservativeMinister of Public Safety

moved that Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, with its roots stretching back to the 1870s, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police has evolved into one of the world's most respected police forces. It is clear that the RCMP is a vital national institution but even the deepest roots need tending to remain strong.

RCMP members are hard-working and dedicated Canadians who put their lives on the line to protect us each and every day.

As an organization, the RCMP is respected around the world as a symbol of who we are as Canadians and what we value: professionalism, honesty, integrity and compassion. However, these ideals and Canadians' confidence in the RCMP has been tested over the past few years. As parliamentarians, we are all aware of the high profile events, public inquiries and, most recently, allegations of sexual harassment within the force. I know there is a consensus in this chamber that changes are needed.

There is also no doubt that the leadership of the RCMP deserves modern, updated tools to do its job.

Earlier this year, we signed 20-year contracts with our provincial and territorial partners, further demonstrating our government's commitment to the RCMP. We remain committed to ensuring that Mounties can effectively serve and protect our communities for generations to come. I therefore was very proud to enable the enhancing RCMP accountability act on June 20.

Before outlining the major provisions of the bill, I will paint a larger picture of why these changes are so necessary.

Over the past four years, the RCMP has been busy addressing deficiencies to strengthen the trust and the confidence of Canadians. Most important, in November 2011, our government appointed Mr. Bob Paulson as the new Commissioner of the RCMP. A senior police leader with extensive experience across the RCMP's complex mandate, including in British Columbia, Commissioner Paulson is well-positioned to deal with the challenges associated with maintaining the RCMP as a key Canadian institution.

While we have seen progress in several areas, for example, the provinces and territories recently signed a 20-year RCMP services agreement that addressed key issues such as governance, accountability, program sustainability and cost containment, more needs to be done and that means amending the legislation governing the RCMP.

It is surprising to think that the RCMP Act has not been significantly amended in nearly 25 years. The RCMP Act, last amended in 1988, has served us well but the time has come for a change.

The proposed legislation would further enhance the RCMP's accountability by reforming the legislation in a number of key areas: First, it would strengthen the RCMP's review and complaints body; second, it would create a statutory framework to handle investigations of serious incidents involving RCMP members in order to promote greater transparency; and third, it would modernize discipline, grievance and human resource management processes for members of the RCMP. This would help prevent, address and correct performance issues in a way that is both fair and timely.

If some of those ideas sound familiar it is not surprising. The proposed legislation contains all of the elements of the former Bill C-38 and several components of former Bill C-43 related to human resource management.

I will delve into each of these areas more deeply.

In 1988, the RCMP Act established the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, or CPC for short. As its name suggests, the CPC is an independent, arm's-length, civilian body that ensures that public complaints made about the conduct of RCMP officers are examined fairly and impartially.

In recent years, many different stakeholders have expressed concerns about the limitations of that review body. Whether the criticisms stem from contract jurisdictions, parliamentary committees, reports from public inquiries or critiques from individual Canadians, they all share a similar thrust: a belief that the CPC requires enhanced legislative powers for an effective and fulsome review of RCMP activities.

The government has listened to the concerns of Canadians and I have spent the summer travelling the country listening to the concerns of front line RCMP members, community leaders and Canadians. I have heard clearly these concerns. The government recognizes that a growing chorus is demanding change to the review and complaints framework of the RCMP.

I am proud that Bill C-42 fully addresses these issues. The bill would create a new commission that would enhance, streamline and update many elements of the CPC that are currently working effectively. Additionally, new powers would be conferred on the new commission, including the authority to summon and compel witnesses to give oral or written evidence, grant greater access to RCMP information deemed relevant by the new commission for the performance of its duties and, finally, to conduct policy reviews. This would bring the new commission in line with other modern provincial, federal and international review bodies. The legislation would also permit the new commission to have broad access to RCMP information but subject to appropriate safeguards.

As we know, many jurisdictions contract the RCMP for policing services. They have made it very clear that they want enhanced accountability for RCMP member conduct in their communities. They have also asked that the legislative framework for the new commission be designed to dovetail with their own police review bodies. Oftentimes contract jurisdictions want a detailed analysis of RCMP activity tailored to their individual needs. Here, too, Bill C-42 will deliver the goods.

The proposed commission would issue customized annual reports to contract jurisdictions identifying the number and nature of complaints as well as evidence of trends, if there are any.

By its very nature, the RCMP's work is often difficult and dangerous. Members can be called upon to use weapons and occasionally deadly force in the performance of their duties. When serious incidents occur, such as life-threatening injuries or death, the RCMP would be required to refer the case to the provincial civilian investigative body, where one exists. For example, in Alberta, the Alberta serious incident response team would be in charge of carrying out the criminal investigation into an RCMP member's conduct if serious injury or death resulted from an RCMP interaction with the public. In the absence of such a body, the RCMP would have to refer the investigation to another police force whenever practical. In those rare incidents where neither of those two options are available, the RCMP would conduct its own investigation, but this last option would be the exception rather than the norm. This process is both workable and practical for a force spread across one of the largest countries in the world and has the broadest support from the jurisdictions the RCMP serves.

We have built in safeguards that if the RCMP has to investigate one of its own members or if it refers the case to another police force, an independent observer could be appointed by the jurisdiction or the new commission to monitor the impartiality of the investigation. This policy is a result of concerns about a conflict of interest with Mounties investigating their own members.

The government has taken these criticisms to heart and, while we acknowledge the work that the RCMP has done in this regard with its 2010 external investigation or review policies, it is time to solidify this policy in law. The proposed legislation reduces the potential for bias, promotes transparency and promotes public accountability in serious incident investigations.

Recent allegations relating to misconduct and harassment in the RCMP are well-known and I am deeply troubled by these allegations. No doubt, hon. members are also familiar with criticism of the RCMP for how it deals with these kinds of allegations. That is why we believe it is vital to reform the discipline, grievance and human resource management processes within the RCMP and to do so through legislation.

Thus, Bill C-42 would reorient and streamline current processes and provide the commissioner with the authorities needed to manage the organization more effectively.

Let me touch on each of the three components, beginning with discipline.

Simply put, the current process is not working as well as it could, given the existing limitations in the current legislation. Sanctions and remedial options are limited, and the process is weighted down by red tape. Proceedings can literally drag on for years. This is why we are reforming the adjudication boards currently in place.

For most disciplinary actions of any severity, for example, the RCMP is required to use a three-person adjudication board. These boards effectively undermine the role of front-line managers who lack the ability to resolve issues promptly, as well as the flexibility to make decisions on sanctions. As a result, the use of boards creates an adversarial work climate, not to mention long delays in the process.

Under the proposed changes, front-line managers would finally gain the authority and responsibility to impose appropriate, punitive measures. These measures would range from remedial training to corrective action such as holding back pay. Managers would not have to resort to a formal board process, except in the case of dismissal.

Like cases of discipline, the airing of grievances in the RCMP is terribly inefficient. There are, for example, separate processes to deal with terms and conditions of employment, appeals of discharge for unsatisfactory performance, and appeals of formal and informal disciplinary sanctions. On top of that, each process has different decision-makers and administrative structures.

The proposed legislation would create a single grievance and appeal process, allowing for consistency, fairness and efficiency. The legislation would also empower managers, allowing them to deal with issues before they mushroom into big problems. For example, in August 2004, a grievance was filed over a dinner allowance claim of $15, and under the current system it took seven years to obtain a final decision on the matter. Under our proposed legislation, that would be streamlined and dealt with in a matter of weeks, not years. In other words, the proposed legislation would inject some much-needed flexibility into the current rigid system.

We must also pay attention to how decisions get made at the top. In contrast to other police chiefs, for example, the Commissioner of the RCMP lacks the authority to make fundamental human resource decisions. Specifically, he cannot establish and maintain processes for the demotion or discharge of members for administrative reasons. Nor can the commissioner make decisions stemming from these processes or establish a system to prevent, investigate and resolve harassment cases.

Under the proposed legislation, the commissioner would gain increased authorities to fully manage the RCMP workforce. Given the complex and dynamic operating environment of the organization, these changes are nothing short of essential. Specifically, the legislation would address the shortcomings I mentioned.

The commissioner would be able to demote and discharge members and appoint commissioned officers, everyone but the deputy commissioners and commanding officers of the RCMP divisions. Other powers include the authority to establish processes to investigate and resolve disputes involving harassment in the workplace.

As a final consideration to enhance human resource management, Bill C-42 would reduce the number of employee categories. Currently there are three categories: regular members, civilian members and public service members. Bill C-42 proposes to eliminate one of the three categories by converting civilian members into public service employees. This would allow the RCMP to focus on the RCMP's core mandate, protecting Canadians while saving valuable taxpayer dollars by streamlining its administration.

The time is now for the enhancing RCMP accountability act, as it would enable the RCMP to advance its transformative agenda and improve public confidence in the organization. It would further enhance the RCMP's accountability by reforming legislation in several key areas that I have outlined.

The RCMP has a proud and illustrious past, but this government believes the best is yet to come. As Minister of Public Safety I have had the privilege of meeting RCMP members and staff across the country. This summer particularly I have also witnessed the pride and appreciation Canadians have for the men and women of the RCMP. The legislation would be important in ensuring the RCMP is an accountable, trusted and adaptive organization for generations to come.

We have identified a small number of grammatical and translation errors in the bill that the government will aim to correct at committee stage.

I trust that all members will support these amendments to ensure we have the best bill possible. I urge all members to join with me in supporting the bill and a speedy passage through to committee.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will have a chance in just a few minutes to state our own position on the legislation.

There have been many reports suggesting reforms to accountability in the RCMP over the past six or seven years. This proposed bill does not appear to align specifically with any of those or include the full recommendations of some of those reports.

How did the minister arrive at this particular package as being the solution to accountability for the RCMP?

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Vic Toews Conservative Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, we have spent a great deal of time with respect to examining all of those reports and discussing this matter with the RCMP and with experts in the field of policing to ensure that the problems the RCMP is currently facing are addressed by the legislation.

I would have liked to have had the bill come forward to the House sooner, but given the lack of clarity in respect of the constitutionality of provisions dealing with the collective bargaining situation, we had to wait for the court to render its decision. Finally in June of this year, I tabled the bill because we simply could not wait any longer for the court to clarify those important areas, and subsequently the court has clarified that. We believe this is an appropriate package to go forward.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Rob Clarke Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, having served in the RCMP for more than 18 years, getting to the rank of sergeant, I faced a lot of the challenges that the bill deals with on RCMP accountability.

When individuals first join the RCMP they learn the esprit de corps, maintain the right. It is entrenched in each member to serve their communities. When serving across Canada members always uphold different accountability.

I have met with many detachment leaders. I had a conversation yesterday with one member who is in charge of her own detachment.

What we see taking place is a lack of accountability. Members going through the process are not being held accountable for their actions while on or off duty. I am curious if the minister could perhaps elaborate further. While going across Canada, what type of consultation process did the minister do over the summer?

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Vic Toews Conservative Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for his question and, of course, for his 18 years of service in the RCMP. He had a remarkable career. He is a fine example of the product of the RCMP. We know there are many others in the RCMP who have similar exemplary service records.

We, in fact, consulted extensively over the last number of years, even prior to my becoming the public safety minister. We certainly looked at some of these issues, especially the disciplinary issues.

The legislation we brought forward has the full support of the commissioner and his senior officers. It reflects some of the concerns they have had as commanding officers at lower levels in the organization. We believe that the disciplinary measures are absolutely essential, that line commanders have a degree of responsibility in ensuring that disciplinary matters are dealt with very quickly and effectively so the organization can focus on the protection of Canadians.

Not only did I do this in the summer, to ensure we are on the right track, which I believe we are, but this has been the product of extensive consultation over the last number of years.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Anne-Marie Day NDP Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to welcome all my colleagues and the members opposite.

In such matters there should be zero tolerance. Consequently, in cases of harassment, there must be action and investigations. Zero tolerance means that the people causing the problem must be fired, whether they are men or women, although mostly men have been involved in the harassment.

Will the Minister of Public Safety be able to proceed and actually put in place standards to eliminate harassment in the RCMP?

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Vic Toews Conservative Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, that is essentially what the commissioner has been doing since he was appointed by our government. We believe that is an important matter that needs to be attended to: that there is a clear process and expectation in terms of the standards that RCMP officers have to meet. However, processes alone will not solve the problem. Attitudes need to change, but where problems arise, they will be dealt with appropriately.