House of Commons Hansard #87 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was cbc.


Marine Mammal RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

5:15 p.m.


Jonathan Genest-Jourdain NDP Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to pick up where I left off a few months ago. If memory serves me correctly, my speech was about the Marine Mammal Regulations.

I was talking about genealogy and etymology when I concluded my previous speech on this topic. I am often told that my speeches are not altogether relevant. However, I would say that I transpose reality and provide some insight into comparative law, which means transposing one reality onto another riding or, often, another country.

In this case, we are talking about the ethics of hunting and fishing marine mammals. I felt it was important to put this into context, from the point of view of aboriginal nations and taking into account the realities in the communities, on reserve and in remote communities. I was talking about etymology because I mentioned my cousin Atshuk, who is actually a distant cousin. Atshuk means “seal”.

The fact that a person could have a name that also refers to a marine mammal demonstrates just how relevant that etymology is. It also highlights the close relationship that exists between aboriginal peoples and, in this case, marine mammals.

As I said last time, according to the oral tradition and the information that was brought to my attention, the Innu of Uashat were not necessarily hunters or sealers, but this has been part of a healthy and balanced diet for several centuries.

I mentioned all this to reinforce the fact that the most ethical methods of killing the animal for human consumption are those used by the first nations. It only stands to reason considering it took 10,000 or 20,000 years of trial and error to get to this point. We can all agree that after occupying a land for 10,000 years we have better knowledge of how to slaughter an animal ethically. The simple fact of naming one's children after a marine animal is a testament to the respect for and importance of that marine animal in the oral tradition, and also in the community's own social structure.

I know that the bill before us deals with seal fishery observation licences. Incidentally, the head of the Canadian Sealers Association said that groups and protesters come too close and interfere with sealers' activities. He added that sealers have powerful boats and weapons, and that groups and protesters try to interfere by resorting to dangerous manoeuvres.

Therefore, I understand that this bill seeks, by virtue of a written document, to put some distance between observers and the marine mammals. However, as I said during my last speech on this issue, a certain proximity exists, particularly on the ice. I am thinking about my father. In his house, which directly faces the St. Lawrence River, he can see seals in the morning. If he wants to, he can go on the ice and meet them, which is not really recommended. This is why he does not do so but, from a strictly practical point of view, it would be possible, given the proximity, the prevalence and the overabundance of this resource.

It is somewhat deplorable to consider seals as a resource, but there are too many of them right now and this is a real issue. It is quite something to see seals on a daily basis during the winter. We can see the atshuk at a certain distance. We can even see white coats. That is why it is necessary to support this special relationship and the methods that were developed over tens of thousands years by aboriginal people to kill the animal quickly. This expeditious method may sometime seem to belong to another era, especially to foreigners, to people from across the Atlantic Ocean, or to Europeans. However, I rely on knowledge and oral traditions to judge the ethical and expeditious nature of the techniques used.

In this regard, I wish to point out that the NDP unequivocally supports humane and sustainable seal fishery and, consequently, an eventual return to traditional practices or, at the very least, an in-depth study and real attention to ancestral practices that are expeditious, but that also spare the animal unnecessary suffering.

This reasoning can be applied to many other issues.

Marine Mammal RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

5:20 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The member's time is up.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Malpeque.

Marine Mammal RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

5:20 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am certainly pleased to speak to this motion, and I am in support of it. To be clear, the enactment of this act would require the Governor in Council to amend the marine mammal regulations to increase the distance that a person must maintain from another person who is fishing for seals from a half nautical mile to a full nautical mile, except under the authority of a seal fishery observation licence.

As I have said, the Liberal Party of Canada fully supports the Canadian seal hunt and the sealing industry, and we do place a high priority on the safety and well-being of all those who are involved in the seal hunt. What this motion really gets at is that this is a safety issue. Anti-sealing protestors have become more aggressive in recent years, and these activities that they are involved in not only endanger the lives of sealers trying to earn a living in a very tough and difficult fishery and in a way that is traditional to a lot of areas in this country but they also endanger their own lives.

My experience on this issue and the seal hunt and the fishery goes back some time. In fact, I was involved in a fisheries committee that did a study on a sustainable seal herd and the fishery in 1999. I can remember then fighting or arguing and debating with some of the anti-seal hunt people.

At that time in 1999, the anti-seal hunt folks would use that little white seal pup that is awfully endearing, a beautiful little animal. I remember vividly that they were using the white seal pup in the advertising for the anti-seal hunt, and it had been killed brutally, or they claimed it was being killed brutally. It was illegal at that time to kill white seal pups and it still is. Those are not the animals that are being slaughtered, if they want to say, or harvested, which would be a better word. However, what some of those anti-sealing folks were doing at the time, and still are, is using the advertisement of the white seal pup in their anti-sealing profession and spreading falsehoods in Europe and a lot of other places around the world. They are using it as a way to finance their organization, of which about 70% of the money goes to administration. It is quite a job creation program, and the result of that job creation program, by which they have convinced some Europeans to not buy seal products and to be anti-seal hunt, is that it is taking away jobs and opportunities for Canadians whose traditional fishery was the seal hunt.

When that report was written, the sustainable seal population of the harp seal herd was two million. Information provided by Fisheries and Oceans recently indicates that the northwest Atlantic harp seal population now is nearly ten million, up from that two million in the 1970s.

Imagine how much cod 10 million harp seals eat. That was a fact in the 1999 report.

I want to read a couple of sections of that report. Under the heading “Predation by Seals and the Impact on Cod”, it states:

One of the most controversial aspects of the debate on seals is whether predation by harp seals is impeding the recovery of cod stocks. None of the witnesses who appeared before the Committee claimed that seals were the cause of the collapse of cod stocks, which they clearly attributed to both foreign and domestic overfishing. However, it was noted by the Fisheries Resource Conservation Council in their April 1999 report “that the single cod stock in the Northwest Atlantic considered recovered, namely, the southern Newfoundland/St-Pierre Bank stock (3Ps cod), is the only stock that does not have a large number of seals occurring within its stock range.”

What it is saying is that seals do have an impact on cod stock.

The report goes on to specifically indicate how serious that impact on cod stock is:

According to DFO information, an average adult harp seal consumes between 1.0 and 1.4 tonnes of food a year. DFO estimates that the proportion of commercial species, particularly cod, is about 1 to 2%.

This figure is low because of the lack of data.

When we are talking about the seal hunt and cod and the anti-sealers, which the motion is trying to move further away from the seal herd itself, part of the problem is that little white seal pup, which is a lot more cuddly than a codfish. We do not see those anti-sealing folks out there saying, “My golly, these seals should not be eating all these beautiful little codfish”. I would accuse them directly. They used that little white seal pup. They still use that little white seal pup. It is not legal to slaughter that pup, but they are using it for fundraising purposes and are creating consequences in the lives of people involved in the seal industry.

To put it bluntly, the Canadian seal hunt is a humane and sustainable practice that provides jobs and food. It is also a traditional way of life for many people in Atlantic Canada, coastal communities in Quebec, and the northern regions of the Inuit.

While I support the motion, I believe that the government could have done more to protect the Canadian sealing industry, especially by trying to insert something into CETA, the Canada-European trade agreement, to prevent the Europeans from taking the measures they have taken against the Canadian seal hunt.

I do not want to spend a lot of time on that, but the bottom line in terms of the motion is whether it is really a safety measure.

I have outlined a number of areas where anti-sealers are using misinformation to promote their cause. They are using it to create jobs and income for themselves. They will go to any length to promote their cause and use misinformation to do so. All this motion would do is move those demonstrators a little further back from the seal herd.

I congratulate the member for West Nova for introducing the motion. It would put in place regulations that would ensure the safety of both those involved in the seal hunt and the protesters themselves.

Marine Mammal RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley Nova Scotia


Scott Armstrong ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, part of being a team is that when one part of the team drops the ball, the other part of the team picks it up and runs into the end zone.

I really want to thank the member for West Nova for picking the ball up on this piece of legislation. I had originally introduced this legislation prior to the last election, before becoming a parliamentary secretary. As members know, parliamentary secretaries cannot introduce private members' legislation.

The member for West Nova, very ably, was able to pick up this legislation and bring it to the House of Commons. Hopefully it will gain the support of all members of the House and go through. It is a very needed piece of legislation.

I do welcome the opportunity to speak in favour of Bill C-555, an act respecting the marine mammal regulations, seal fishery observation licence. The proposed amendments will make the annual seal harvest safer for all concerned. Before highlighting the specifics, however, let me put the safety issues into a larger context.

It is no secret that Canada's seal harvest has drawn the ire of many celebrities over the years. Many B-list and failed actors and actresses have used the seal hunt to try to promote their own careers because they glean some public interest in the issue. I think that is false. I think it is shameful.

They are often the ones who say they support the downtrodden and poor people across the planet. They go on television and say how much they do to support charities. In fact, what they are doing is promoting their own careers at the expense of those who are truly in need, the average sealers and their families who need the seal hunt to provide sustenance and a small amount of money to help make ends meet at the end of the month. Those are the people who are being hurt by these B-list, washed-up actors and actresses who protest the seal hunt.

Members may recall in 2006 when Paul McCartney and his then-wife, Heather Mills, who is a very rich lady now, because she divorced him and took half his money, apparently, appeared on a ice floe in the Gulf of St. Lawrence for a photo op. The seal clearly did not want to play ball with Sir Paul and snapped at the couple. A photograph later appeared in the Sun newspaper in Britain under a headline, “A Hard Day's Bite”.

I wish that seal had had longer teeth, quite frankly. Sir Paul McCartney has not been seen on an ice floe since that unfortunate incident. That photo op gone wrong actually performed a valuable public service. It showed the world that seals are not the cuddly creatures they are often made out to be by the media and by these protestors, but rather wild animals in the same league as beavers and bears.

I am proud that Canada's seal harvest is biologically sustainable, well managed, and carried out humanely. It is an effective marriage of traditional knowledge and modern science, one that we are always ready to improve upon through new techniques and modern methods. Unfortunately, there are those who continue to malign Canada's good name on this issue. I am not only speaking of celebrity activists but also of our trading partners. As we approach the annual seal harvest, it is a good opportunity to remind these partners and our stakeholders that the Government of Canada supports this industry as it engages in this time-honoured tradition.

As members may recall, the European Union has banned the import and sale of seal products since 2010. This was an affront to Canadian sealers and injurious to Canada's coastal, Inuit, and other aboriginal communities, and the Government of Canada quickly challenged the ban through the WTO.

Last November, the dispute panel found that the European Union's import ban did, in fact, violate its international trade obligations. However, at the same time, that panel said the ban on seal products can be justified due to some of the public's concerns regarding the seal harvest, referring to propaganda released by the anti-sealing efforts. These findings show the anti-sealing lobby is having a drastic effect. Through emotionally exploitive images and misinformation about Canada's sealing practices, special interest groups are turning public opinion against the seal harvest, particularly in Europe. That is why the European Union argued that the seal ban was necessary to address so-called public morals.

The acceptance of public morality as a basis for discriminatory bans on seal products is not only of concern to Canada. The panel report undermines a rules-based global trading system that gives consumers the power to make their own purchasing decisions. Indeed, upholding a ban on seal products creates a dangerous precedent for global trade, but they did it anyway.

Of course, this government is appealing the panel's findings through the appellate body of the WTO. We will continue to defend our seal harvest as a humane, sustainable, and well-regulated industry, and confront any contrary views with cold, hard facts. In the short term, however, we recognize that the panel's findings will fuel all those who oppose the seal harvest so zealously.

This brings me back to the current legislation. Many special interest groups, critics, and celebrities are concerned with the management of the seal harvest. Their desire to monitor the harvest up close may involve unnecessary risk, however, and we must not wait for tragedy to occur before we act.

The bill before the House today seeks to reduce that risk. Under proposed attachments and amendments, no person, except under the authority of the seal fishery observation licence issued by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, could approach within one nautical mile of a person fishing for seals.

There would be those who would solve the problem of risk simply by making the seal harvest go away. That is not a practical solution, neither for Canadian sealers nor Canada's coastal, Inuit, or other aboriginal communities that depend on the seal harvest in so many ways. It is a question of respect for culture and a way of life that has continued for generations.

It is also a question of the revenue generated by coastal communities from the seal harvest. For example, each year the sales of meat and skin for garments and arts and crafts generate $1 million for the Nunavut economy.

All that said, we are not debating the continued existence of the seal harvest. Instead, we are looking into how to address the increased risks that are posed by some individuals who observe without a licence. By requiring a few succinct changes to the Marine Mammal Regulations, Bill C-555 proposes an elegant and thoughtful solution to this challenge.

The Canadian sealing industry has evolved over the past several hundred years, or since the early 1700s, when the first organized occurrence of the annual hunt was actually documented. The seal hunt has been going on for well over 500 years and, according to the documented history of our first nations people, well before that.

Over the years, the nature and conditions of the hunt and of the vessels, tools, and methods used by sealers have evolved, and technology has improved. That said, this is not the first change to the Marine Mammal Regulations in recent years. Members may recall, for example, that the regulations were amended in 2009 to ensure more humane harvesting methods. Nor will it likely be the last change to these regulations. New challenges and risks arise that we cannot foresee, and hopefully future governments will act just as responsibly. To be clear, the intention is to preserve the authority and discretion of the Governor in Council to modify the regulations in the future through normal regulatory processes, as opposed to having to do it by legislation.

Currently, the Marine Mammal Regulations permit anyone to observe the seal hunt from outside a half nautical mile of a seal harvester at work. That is about 900 metres or only 3,000 feet. It is not far enough. Should unauthorized observers violate the half nautical mile distance, our enforcement officials are left with relatively little time, usually in difficult environmental conditions in the sea, to react and intervene if necessary. Requiring unlicensed observers to stay farther away from the sealers who are doing their work would allow our enforcement officials additional time to intercept a vessel that breaches the distance and keep it from disrupting the harvest and possibly endangering the safety of the sealers, who are just trying to make an honest living.

That is why Bill C-555 proposes to double the safety barrier to one full nautical mile, which is about 1,800 metres or 6,000 feet. As I mentioned, this change would allow for more effective enforcement of the regulations in situations in which non-licensed observers deliberately set out to disrupt the hunt. The added distance would afford fishery officers the additional time they need to react to breaches of the one nautical mile limit and intervene safely and effectively, to prevent disruption of the hunt and to protect the sealers who may be put at risk, while maintaining the current regime in place for licensed observers who have followed the rules.

This may lead to fewer disruptions like the one that took place in 2008 involving the Farley Mowat, in which a vessel approached sealers engaged in the harvest and caused them to fear for their safety. The increased distance proposed in Bill C-555 would help to prevent these types of incidents and ultimately lead to a more orderly harvest.

In conclusion, the seal harvest remains a fixture of life in the coastal communities of Atlantic Canada, Quebec and the north. It is embedded in our culture and provides much needed income to strengthen the livelihoods in remote communities. This government stands behind all those sealers who are trying to make an honest living and maintain their quality of life.

I invite all hon. members in the House to please join me in supporting this legislation.

Marine Mammal RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the bill introduced by my colleague for West Nova.

I will use my time to focus on the safety aspect of the seal hunt and the key role it plays in the socio-economic development of many Canadian communities where it is of vital economic and cultural importance.

Sealers are usually self-employed and work seasonally. They play an important role in managing the wildlife population in hunting areas to ensure the sustainability of the resource. Canada's seal hunt remains sustainable. The harp seal population is healthy and thriving. Having tripled in size since 1970, it is now estimated to be 6.9 million individuals.

In some aboriginal communities, the right to hunt and fish for seals is protected by the constitutional right to hunt marine mammals. I want to emphasize that fact because any planned or spontaneous act intended to disrupt the seal hunt would violate the constitutional right of these aboriginal communities, thereby disparaging their cultural heritage and identity, which are associated with the seal hunt.

As I said, Inuit communities truly consider the seal hunt as part of their cultural heritage and their daily life is shaped by this traditional activity, especially because it represents their main source of food.

Furthermore, although the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union have banned imports of seal products, there are exemptions to this ban for products derived from a traditional seal hunt by aboriginal peoples. Thus, despite this ban, if clothing were made by Inuit communities as part of their traditional activities, they could be sold and exported to Europe. Despite the ban, there is a certain openness and recognition of the traditional cultural value of this hunt for our communities. For that reason, the legislator is obliged to guarantee the continuity of this inalienable right of aboriginal peoples.

This regulatory bill will do more than preserve cultural heritage. It will ensure the safety of hunters, employees of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and observers in their workplace. By establishing a safe working environment, this bill will contribute to the creation of regulations that will prevent serious accidents resulting from protests that disrupt the orderly conduct of these activities.

The goal of this bill is not to prevent protests by people who are opposed to the seal hunt, but to ensure that if these people want to express their opinion they can do so without jeopardizing the safety of the hunters and workers for whom this is the main source of income.

I believe that it is essential that people be able to hunt when it is their livelihood. For that reason I urge members to pass this bill.

I would also like to add that the seal hunt makes a key contribution to the budget of many Canadian families. Preventing them from carrying out these activities deprives them of essential financial resources. It will lessen the economic prosperity of the communities that are dependent on the seal hunt.

Overall, the sealing industry provides up to 6,000 part-time jobs. Of course, I mean that they are full-time jobs, but they are seasonal, not really part-time. According to conservative estimates based on available data, the value of the seal hunt is $35 million to $40 million annually.

The seal hunt can represent 25% to 35% of a hunter's total annual income. This is a very significant boost to the economy of those communities where economic opportunities are unfortunately often limited.

It is estimated that, in Newfoundland and Labrador, more than 5,000 people derive a substantial part of their income from the seal hunt. In a lot of cases, it accounts for more than 30% of their annual income. For hunters in the Magdalen Islands, 25% of their annual income comes from seal hunting.

My support for this bill takes into account the local realities of the communities that are economically dependent on the seal hunt. Ensuring that this activity goes on also contributes to the creation of a lot of indirect employment because of the many by-products of the seal hunt. I must point out that seals are not exclusively hunted for their fur. Seal oil is richer in omega-3 fatty acids than fish oils; it has been sold in capsule form, mainly in Europe, Asia and Canada, for 10 years. One particularly interesting fact is that researchers are looking at the possibility of using valves taken from harp seals in heart valve transplants in humans.

There is a company in my riding, Fourrures Grenier, that makes products like boots, mittens and other winter clothing using seal skin. Perhaps I am a bit biased, but they really are the warmest boots I have ever owned. They get me through our cold winters in Abitibi—Témiscamingue. Even though seal hunting is not an economic activity in our region, there are still local businesses that benefit from the industry. As well, because of the Internet, they can now sell their products almost anywhere in the world. They are no longer located just in our region and have expanded their business. Things are going well for them.

I would like to point out that the New Democrats unequivocally support a seal hunt that is sustainable and humane. Those really are the two essential words to remember in the NDP's position on this issue. When the hunt is sustainable and humane, we can only support it, given all the economic benefits it has for our communities.

We support any legislative measures that would strengthen the Criminal Code provisions on animal cruelty. For example, the NDP wants animals to have legal status and wants to make the Criminal Code provisions on animal cruelty and animal neglect more enforceable. I want to point out that seal hunters have a great deal of respect for seals. I have full confidence in the way the hunt is carried out in Canada. I am proud of how seal hunting and fishing are carried out in our communities.

The seal hunt creates economic opportunities for a number of communities, and it is our duty to ensure that we find a balance between maintaining the economic benefits associated with this activity and ensuring that it takes place in a sustainable manner.

I will admit that I am a bit confused about whether we are supposed to refer to it as hunting or fishing. I think we can use both terms without any problem. If we want to encourage seal hunters or fishers and help them pursue their economic endeavours, we must ensure that they have a safe work environment. If we increase the distance that another person must maintain, we can allow hunters and fishers to do their job safely without violating the rights of people who want to protest. They will be able to continue to protest, but this will allow people to work and earn a good living.

Marine Mammal RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Resuming debate. Accordingly I invite the hon. member for West Nova for his right of reply. The hon. member has five minutes.

Marine Mammal RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Greg Kerr Conservative West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by thanking my colleagues from around the House for understanding the importance of this bill and showing their support for it. We know there are many industries in the world that are perhaps not universally supported, yet we recognize that different areas have different priorities in the different job-creating industries.

The seal hunt in Canada is an extremely important industry for certain parts of the country. That is why it is important we recognize it as a legitimate, long-standing, and now today a very humane and protected industry. It is one that supports a lot of communities and provides a lot of income to very important family circumstances, and it is one on which many people depend. The fact that it is done humanely and that it has got to be done safely is a concern of our government, of course.

Bill C-555 is a modest bill. I am sure there will be more adjustments down the road, but the real purpose in providing this larger, kilometre-wide area of protection is simply to ensure the safety of the seal hunters and those who observe the seal industry.

Those who do it legitimately and those who have concerns or questions, as long as they are registered, are fine. They have the right to express their opinion. However, there are those who would disrupt the industry, and it has happened before. What the bill says is not only to protect the sealers but the Coast Guard and the rescue and policing efforts as well. It has to be very clear that anybody who gets closer than that kilometre distance is in fact creating a serious danger to all concerned, and they will be dealt with accordingly.

I will not repeat the many very good points made by several members here. However, we have the obligation to ensure that legitimate industries and businesses and people engaged in legitimate activities deserve our full support and recognition. That is why this bill, in a modest way, moves to add to that protection and ensure the industry stays viable, stays sustainable, and stays an important part of our Canadian landscape and economic activity going forward.

I would like to thank everybody for their participation. I look forward to the bill passing.

Marine Mammal RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

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

Marine Mammal RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Some hon. members



Marine Mammal RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

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

Marine Mammal RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Some hon. members


Marine Mammal RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

All those opposed will please say nay.

Marine Mammal RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Some hon. members


Marine Mammal RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

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, May 28, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

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

Public SafetyAdjournment Proceedings

May 15th, 2014 / 5:55 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, the question I asked the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness on April 8 came about as a result of the Canadian Police Association meetings held in Ottawa in April. The question was straightforward. Given the concern raised by the CPA with respect to the costs of policing, one of the major drivers of those costs is that front-line police officers are asked increasingly to serve as substance abuse counsellors, mental health advisers, marriage counsellors, and youth intervention officers, while maintaining their primary responsibility for community safety.

One of the major elements of this ever-growing list of responsibilities is that more and more often, front-line police officers are having to deal with individuals suffering from serious mental health issues.

In response, the minister stated that better services can be provided and claimed the government was doing just that by “improving the efficiency of our police services”.

One has to wonder if the minister understood the question.

If that is the case, the minister was paying no attention whatsoever to those who testified before the public safety committee on one of the most significant cost drivers for police services and one of the most inefficient uses of police resources—namely, police responding to calls whose origin is a mental health problem.

After listening to those concerns, in the most recent report of the public safety committee on the economics of police I proposed the following recommendation:

That the federal government through Public Safety and Emergency Planning and Health Canada develop a National Mental Health Strategy that would address the critical issue of downloading of certain responsibilities onto policing services.

The recommendation goes on to explain how these mental health issues could be better addressed and calls for this national initiative to be undertaken in co-operation with provincial, territorial, and municipal representatives.

The recommendation calls for the release of a white paper on mental health issues. Such a white paper should contain a comprehensive analysis of the issues and the response of governments to this health care crisis.

Moreover, it should focus on the relationship between policing and the increasing incidence of law enforcement officials serving as the first—and, in some cases, the only—contact between society and those suffering from mental health issues, addiction problems, and homelessness.

Finally, the resolution would establish a process to follow a set of timelines. The white paper should be released by December 31 of this year; cross-country consultations should be held and concluded by June 30, 2015; and the national strategy should be ready for completion and implementation by December 31, 2015.

My question remains: is the current government prepared to work with the provinces, territories, and police services across the country to develop a comprehensive national strategy on how to respond to a growing mental health crisis that is causing a lot of difficulty in terms of police forces and their ability to respond?

Public SafetyAdjournment Proceedings

6 p.m.

Scarborough Centre Ontario


Roxanne James ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, first and foremost, it is important to recognize that policing is primarily a matter of provincial jurisdiction. However, at the federal level, we can play a leadership role in terms of ensuring that provinces are using the best practices to keep streets and communities safe.

Our government recognizes that policing in this country is changing. Crime, and thereby police work, has become diverse and complex in nature. Police are increasingly called upon to deal with non-criminal public order incidents related to mental health and addiction issues. Let us not forget that police are also dealing with significant and time-consuming new crimes and challenges, such as cyber, organized, and financial crimes, child sexual exploitation, terrorism, and large-scale gatherings and protests.

At a time when many jurisdictions are facing significant fiscal challenges, we are at a crossroads where we have the opportunity to take a hard look at how we are doing things and how our policing services can continue to improve. That is why our government is working with municipalities, provinces, territories, the RCMP, and other stakeholders to help address the many challenges facing our police services.

As part of the economics of policing initiative, our government brought the shared forward agenda to federal, provincial, and territorial ministers responsible for justice and public safety as a collective first step in shaping the future of policing in Canada. Collectively, we have taken actions to increase operational and structural efficiency and effectiveness within police services. We are investing in proactive, integrated community safety approaches to get at the roots of crime.

Since the first summit on the economics of policing in January 2013, we have made concrete progress in several areas.

We launched the index of policing initiatives to encourage information sharing and communication among police services and governments across Canada.

Last fall in P.E.I., Public Safety Canada co-hosted a summit to discuss and identify how best to deliver high-quality policy training in the most effective and efficient manner.

We have also invested in a number of projects that focus on developing a national policing research agenda and establishing a police research network. This will focus police research in this country and provide police services and policing partners with the evidence-based research they require to make informed decisions on operational and administrative policing issues and reforms.

Our government is actively seeking out innovative approaches and new partnerships to better deliver policing in this country. We are already seeing some great examples of innovation in practice.

The Community Mobilization Prince Albert Project, also referred to as the HUB, is a multi-agency team focused on crime prevention. This model is now being tested elsewhere, including in Toronto neighbourhoods.

The Association for Safer Cape Breton Communities is a community-driven organization that is working to establish community offices and other crime-reduction initiatives and to encourage involvement among residents.

Meeting our goals under the economics of policing initiative will not be easy, nor will it be quick. This multi-jurisdictional approach is critical, and we are fortunate to have a strong relationship in place with other governments and police stakeholders.

Canadians can be assured that we will continue to provide police with the tools they need to do their jobs and keep all Canadians safe. That is why we have passed over 30 justice and public safety initiatives to keep criminals behind bars where they belong. Unfortunately, the opposition parties, the Liberals and NDP, including the member for Malpeque, have consistently opposed these measures.

Public SafetyAdjournment Proceedings

6:05 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, it is typical the way the parliamentary secretary started off, and finished, of course, blaming the opposition. First, she said it was primarily a provincial responsibility, and that is typical of the Conservative government. Either blame somebody else or transfer the responsibility rather than provide leadership.

What my question and comments really did here tonight is confirm what is needed, which is a national mental health strategy for Canada with set timeframes on how to get there, a white paper, consultations held on the white paper, and then implement a plan by 2015. Imagine the results of that. Imagine better use of police resources in terms of being first responders, and better use of their time so they can spend it where it should be spent. Imagine the economic, social, and productivity potential for those who are afflicted with mental health issues.

It is possible. All that is required is federal leadership, and that is what we are missing at the moment.

Public SafetyAdjournment Proceedings

6:05 p.m.


Roxanne James Conservative Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is quite the contrary. Our government has taken a leadership role on the economics of policing. However, we all can and must play a part in keeping Canada's police services efficient and effective.

Bringing together the key policing stakeholders to work on the economics of policing has demonstrated that we all share a strong interest and commitment to sustaining high quality policing services across Canada. We are focused on innovation and partnerships, and working collaboratively to enhance policing and public safety overall.

Federal, provincial and territorial ministers have committed to developing and implementing initiatives under the Shared Forward Agenda, with a focus on efficiency and effectiveness in police services, new models of community safety and efficiencies within our criminal justice system.

Canadians know that we will succeed in continuing to build a sustainable and modern police model capable of addressing current and future challenges, one that responds to the high expectations of all Canadians.

Intergovernmental RelationsAdjournment Proceedings

6:10 p.m.


Denis Blanchette NDP Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I want to talk about the Quebec Bridge and why it must be maintained.

A bridge that links two public roads is an infrastructure used by the public. It is used every day. More than 35,000 vehicles cross this bridge each day. Some people walk across the bridge, others take the train.

In the beginning, this bridge was built to allow trains to cross from the south shore to the north shore and vice versa. It was the last transcontinental link to be built. The federal government retained ownership of the Quebec Bridge for 75 years, from 1918 to 1993.

As for CN, which was a crown corporation at the time, it has been responsible for maintaining the bridge since 1923. The relationship between CN and the Quebec Bridge has lasted for more than 90 years. It is extraordinary and rare to see that in our country.

The Quebec Bridge is more than just a bridge. It is a postcard image for the Quebec City region. I do not know whether members are aware of this, but the bridge will soon celebrate its 100th anniversary in the very same year that Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary. This infrastructure has a long history.

Moreover, it was built using a technique that is no longer in use. It is a cantilever bridge. It is and it will forever remain the world's longest cantilever bridge. That is certain. On May 23, 1987, the bridge was declared an international historic civil engineering monument by Canadian and American engineers. That is quite something.

However, since the 1980s, we have only seen cuts to the bridge's budget and maintenance. The structure had been carefully maintained from the 1920s to the 1980s, but that is no longer the case. Rust is beginning to appear. If we stop maintaining the bridge, or if we begin to slack off, we lose control, and that is exactly what is happening. On November 22, 2005, the former auditor general was already saying that something should be done.

Who would buy a car with no paint on it, even if we were told that it is nice, well built and safe? Would anyone buy that car?

Here is my question to the government: is paint strictly a cosmetic and heritage issue?

Intergovernmental RelationsAdjournment Proceedings

6:10 p.m.

Kitchener—Waterloo Ontario


Peter Braid ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Infrastructure and Communities

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's interest in infrastructure in the Quebec City area. I can assure him that this Conservative government is very strongly committed to renewing infrastructure not only in Quebec but across the country.

In budget 2013, we announced the new building Canada plan, a renewed commitment for infrastructure in this country: $53 billion in infrastructure funding over the next decade. This is the longest and largest infrastructure plan in Canada's history, with record investments in infrastructure.

One of the very powerful aspects of the way the program works is that municipalities and provinces are in a position to identify and determine the infrastructure priorities in their specific communities. Municipalities across Quebec and across our great country know that they can rely on this federal government for strong, stable infrastructure funding over the next decade.

The new building Canada plan is open for business. At the end of March, the Minister of Infrastructure, Communities and Intergovernmental Affairs announced the eligibility criteria for the new program. All the information about the new building Canada fund is on the Infrastructure Canada website at

In many cases, municipalities are already identifying their infrastructure project priorities. Once they do that, they have a discussion with the respective province. The province then needs to deem a specific project a priority before it is considered under the provincial and territorial infrastructure component of the new building Canada fund. Just this one component is $10 billion of infrastructure commitment over the next decade, of which 10% is for small communities. There is a small-communities fund of dedicated funding for communities across the country of 100,000 residents or less.

We look forward to working with our partners, the municipalities and provinces across this great country, to renew our infrastructure, to enhance the quality of life for Canadians, and to ensure that as a result of this renewed infrastructure, jobs will be created as well.

Intergovernmental RelationsAdjournment Proceedings

6:15 p.m.


Denis Blanchette NDP Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Parliamentary Secretary for Infrastructure and Communities did not answer the question as to whether he would buy a car with no paint on it.

I want to mention something that happened in 2005. The then future and now current Prime Minister came to Quebec City and mocked the Liberals by saying that the then Minister of Transport could not even paint a bridge.

Five Conservative transport ministers later—indeed, there have been five since his government was elected—not one has applied a coat of paint to the bridge.

The parliamentary secretary talked about infrastructure programs. In conclusion, the thing to do for taxpayers is to resume maintenance work at the earliest opportunity, because the longer we wait, the higher the costs will be for everyone. It will be good for the economy, because the Quebec City region will be able to rely on that infrastructure. It will be good for Quebec City's image and for everyone.

We have an opportunity to avoid a second Champlain Bridge. I am asking the government to consider that.

Intergovernmental RelationsAdjournment Proceedings

6:15 p.m.


Peter Braid Conservative Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned earlier, our Conservative government has a 10-year commitment for infrastructure across the country. That is stable, predictable funding. There are three major components of the funding. There is the community infrastructure component, which includes the gas tax fund. Under the gas tax fund, for example, recreational infrastructure is eligible. This is what our government has done with the gas tax fund. We have doubled it. We have made the gas tax fund permanent. Moving forward, the gas tax fund will be indexed at 2% a year. In addition, there is the provincial territorial infrastructure component with $10 billion, of which 10% is dedicated specifically to smaller communities. Beyond that, there is $4 billion set aside for projects of national significance.

The Conservative government is getting the job done with respect to renewing our infrastructure, enhancing the quality of life for Canadians, and creating jobs.

Natural ResourcesAdjournment Proceedings

6:15 p.m.


Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I asked a question in the House that pertained to the Enbridge gateway pipeline. I pointed out that indigenous peoples, the Kitimat community, and most British Columbians do not support this project, because of environmental concerns.

The Supreme Court of Canada requires the federal government itself, and not the proponent, to consult and accommodate first nations' interests, and that has not happened in a manner that is sufficient, according to the first nations who are to be consulted. This week the UN top advocate for the rights of indigenous people agreed that the consultation had not happened and said he thought this project should probably not go forward. Mr. Anaya is highly respected and the global voice on indigenous people's rights.

Last weekend I attended a rally of literally thousands of people in Vancouver who came out because of their concern that the government might approve this project. Why would they be concerned when the overwhelming volume of voices are against this in British Columbia? It is because of the actions of the government itself. The former natural resources minister came out demonizing the very people who were engaged in trying to make sure there is a balance that protects our environment, calling them radicals. It is also because the government erased much of the environmental regulatory framework that protects our environment in order to grease the skids for this project. Therefore, it is not surprising that people are very concerned that the government is not listening to the communities.

As the Liberal Party leader recently said at a Board of Trade meeting, governments can grant permits but only communities can grant permission, and certainly the first nations communities are not granting permission to the northern gateway pipeline.

Kitimat is the town that stands to gain some full-time jobs from this project. The initial estimate by Enbridge was that 40 full-time jobs would come out of this project. It has upped that number to 250. However, this town where those jobs would actually take place had a referendum on the subject, and it was turned down. Why? It was because the risks outweigh the benefits for British Columbians.

In 2010, I tabled a bill that would prevent oil tanker traffic in the waters around Haida Gwaii, which is a sensitive ecological area. Those are the very waters that are vulnerable to an oil spill risk if this project were to go ahead.

I am asking if the government will finally listen to these collective voices and reject this pipeline.

Natural ResourcesAdjournment Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar Saskatchewan


Kelly Block ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, thank you for this opportunity to set the record straight for the hon. member for Vancouver Quadra regarding the proposed infrastructure projects and our government's efforts to ensure that aboriginal peoples are full partners in the development of Canada's natural resources.

This is a critical time for our natural resources sector. Across Canada, hundreds of major projects are planned within the next decade, or are under way, to the tune of approximately $650 billion in new investment. They mean hundreds of thousands of jobs for Canadians, jobs in every sector of our economy and every corner of our country, but to achieve this potential, two things are essential.

First, our resources must be transported safely to market. Second, these projects must benefit aboriginal peoples in Canada and respect their treaty rights.

As hon. members know, energy infrastructure projects proposed by private business are rigorously reviewed by the independent National Energy Board. Our government's role and responsibility is clear: regulation and enforcement of pipelines to ensure that they are safe for Canadians and safe for the environment.

Questions pertaining to moving forward with specific proposals to construct energy infrastructure should be directed to private sector proponents.

For many aboriginal peoples, this is a particularly important opportunity. Many are located close to future energy projects offering the prospect of immense benefits for their communities.

First nations have, and will continue to make, important contributions as full partners in the development of our natural resources. In fact, the natural resources sector is the largest private employer of first nations people in Canada. We understand that the success of our energy sector depends on the full participation of aboriginal peoples, from environmental stewardship to the economic benefits of responsible resource development.

Last year our government appointed Douglas Eyford as the Special Federal Representative on West Coast Energy Infrastructure. He made a series of recommendations on the importance of engaging aboriginal peoples in the safety of our pipeline system and on protecting our environment. We are moving forward based on the Eyford report.

Our government recognizes the importance of incorporating aboriginal expertise, which is why we are moving forward with ways to enable aboriginal peoples to fully participate in the development and operation of our world-class tanker and pipeline safety systems.

With the participation of aboriginal communities and our commitment to world-class safety systems, we are confident that Canada can capture the tremendous economic promise before it. We can diversify our energy markets and ensure prosperity for all Canadians for generations to come.