House of Commons Hansard #91 of the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was vaccines.


Rail TransportationAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.

Hochelaga Québec


Soraya Martinez Ferrada LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, Transport Canada will not hesitate to take whatever action is necessary to protect Canadians who live and work near railroads. I want to assure all Canadians that we are committed to continually improving our rail safety oversight regime, including implementing all of the Auditor General's recommendations.

I would like to share the historical context of the 2013 audit conducted by the current Auditor General's predecessor. On July 6, 2013, a train carrying crude oil derailed in the town of Lac-Mégantic. The resulting explosions devastated the community and claimed the lives of 47 people.

The tragedy brought to light significant deficiencies in Transport Canada's rail safety oversight regime. Following the tragedy, the Auditor General tabled an audit report highlighting areas that required particular attention. In response, Transport Canada took immediate and long-term action to address those deficiencies.

In 2014, we defined the requirements for establishing emergency response assistance plans when trains are transporting dangerous goods. In 2015, Transport Canada introduced new requirements for using thicker steel for tank cars transporting flammable liquids. In 2016, we established stricter regulations for accountability and compensation, requiring railway companies to hold a minimum level of insurance based on the risk posed by the type of dangerous goods they move.

We hired more inspectors. Since 2013, the number of railway safety inspectors has risen from 101 to 155. In 2013, we increased the number of manual inspections from 20,000 to an average of 35,000. Last year, we peaked at 40,581 inspections, the highest number of railway safety inspections ever conducted in Canada. In 2015, we passed the Railway Safety Management System Regulations, 2015, which laid the groundwork for a better safety culture for railway operations.

Building on that progress, in 2015 we created administrative monetary penalties to encourage higher safety performance. We also enhanced our community education, awareness and outreach activities by providing technical briefings to municipal councils.

With more inspections and better risk analysis, we began identifying the main factors contributing to accidents. We addressed these problems through a combination of targeted inspections and regulatory measures.

For example, in October 2020, we approved the Locomotive Voice and Video Recorder Regulations, which helped us gain greater insight into safety concerns and risks. In November 2020, we approved new work/rest rules for railway operating employees, which are in keeping with the most recent scientific evidence on fatigue.

These important changes have improved the safety of rail operations. Over the past five years, the number of deaths attributable to rail explosions has decreased by 27% and the number of accidents has decreased by 12%.

As the Auditor General pointed out in her follow-up audit, Transport Canada still has much work to do. The Minister of Transport has accepted all of the follow-up audit recommendations and we are already implementing measures in that regard.

For example, we are looking for ways to strengthen our Railway Safety Management System Regulations, 2015, and we are preparing to undertake a series of audits of the effectiveness of this management system in the fall of 2021.

The steps we have taken to implement the recommendations of successive auditors general will help ensure that Canada's rail system remains among the safest in the world.

Rail TransportationAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.


Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the parliamentary secretary for her remarks.

I would remind her, however, that departments are always complying with every auditor general report and always accept the reports' recommendations. In her findings in this case, she made it clear that much more needs to be done to fully improve rail safety.

I personally invite the parliamentary secretary to join me and the Lac-Mégantic community in working together to improve rail safety. Certain things are taking far too long, including what Transport Canada has presented to us.

I think it is our responsibility as politicians to shorten these delays, to move faster and to make sure that the victims of the Lac-Mégantic tragedy did not lose their lives in vain. We need to use this example to speed things up and prevent a tragedy like the Lac-Mégantic derailment from ever happening again.

Rail TransportationAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.


Soraya Martinez Ferrada Liberal Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to assure Canadians, Quebeckers and the people of Lac-Mégantic that rail safety remains our priority and will remain mine.

We are actively strengthening our rail oversight regime. In recent months, we have established new rules, such as speed restrictions for trains transporting dangerous goods. We have also required more frequent inspections and plans to reduce erosion and mitigate the risks associated with cold weather. These changes directly improve safety.

On March 5, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada tweeted, “959 railway accidents were reported to the TSB in 2020, a 12% decrease from the five-year average of 1091 & 59 rail-related fatalities reported in 2020, 13 fewer than the previous year.”

I agree with my colleague that there is more work to be done. Transport Canada will follow up on all of the Auditor General's important recommendations, and this includes looking for ways to show that our inspection and oversight activities are making things better for Canadians, for the people of Lac-Mégantic and for rail workers.

Fisheries and OceansAdjournment Proceedings

April 29th, 2021 / 6:35 p.m.


Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, it has never been more clear to me that there must be a culture shift within the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, especially when it comes to its relationship with indigenous fishers. In fact, for months now, we have seen the government fail Mi’kmaq fishers in Nova Scotia, failing to protect Sipekne'katik fishers, despite knowing they were at immediate risk to their safety and failing to recognize their treaty and constitutional right to fish for a moderate livelihood.

In deciding to impose this year's fishing seasons on the Sipekne'katik, this minister has just failed to provide any justification that Mi’kmaq fishers cannot fish based on conservation reasons. She has not justified it. The minister has said, “Seasons ensure that stocks are harvested sustainably and they are necessary for an orderly, predictable, and well-managed fishery.”

There has been no justification for this decision; no science, no data, nothing that says the small-scale fishery operated by the Sipekne'katik fishers would have a demonstrable harm on the lobster stocks. This is a court-ordered decision; the minister must provide this justification under the Badger test. The burden of proof to deny a treaty right or aboriginal right falls on the Crown, and the government cannot just say it is for conservation; it actually has to prove it.

Not only does this decision go against the Constitution, but it also goes against the minister's mandate letter to remain committed to evidence-based decision-making; and, of course, the Liberals cite their most important relationship is with Canada's indigenous people. We do not see that here.

We know that conservation is of course the most important priority. Chief Mike Sack has said that his band actually intends to undertake a conservation study with Dalhousie University's marine affairs program, to monitor impacts as they carry out their season. We understand that the minister is concerned about conservation, as am I, as are the NDP; but let us not give the impression that first nations fishers are not. In fact, if anything, first nations have been guardians of conservation for generations before ours.

To impose this decision while discussions are ongoing with Mi’kmaq fishers across Atlantic Canada and indicating that there will be an increased presence of federal government officials on the water to enforce is an inherently violent act. The minister's words and actions run in direct opposition to the government's commitment to uphold the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Instead of instilling confidence that Mi’kmaq fishers will be able to fish safely, the government has chosen to raise tensions and threaten fishers. In fact, Chief Sack has indicated that he is willing to reach out the United Nations for help, to bring in peacekeepers to ensure his peoples are safe.

If the current government is incapable of keeping people safe on the water, that is indeed a national shame on all of us. When indigenous fishers are able to have their boats on the water fishing, they are helping their communities, they are providing economic opportunities to their families, they are sharing tradition and culture, and they are meaningfully connecting to their territories and the land in which they live.

However, the Government of Canada would rather have indigenous fishers in the courts instead of in their boats, and indigenous people keep winning in court. In the last two weeks, the Nuu-chah-nulth won a B.C. Court of Appeal case, the third time in the upper courts, asserting their right to fish, including wild salmon, despite the government spending over $19 million on government lawyers to suppress that right.

Once again, we call on the minister to back down from this decision, work with Mi’kmaq fishers to keep them safe, and uphold and affirm their right to a moderate livelihood instead of fighting them at every opportunity.

Fisheries and OceansAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario


Anita Vandenbeld LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, last fall was an extremely challenging time, but particularly so for some indigenous communities, such as the Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia. It was very disturbing for all of us to hear about and see on the news the events whereby indigenous people were physically attacked, had their property damaged and vandalized or destroyed, and had insults directed toward them for trying to exercise their affirmed treaty right. Let me clear. We condemn these acts.

As we move forward, we know that work is still ongoing to implement the right of first nations to fish in pursuit of a moderate livelihood.

That is why the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard recently announced a new path forward, a path that will further enable first nations to pursue their affirmed treaty right in a safe and predictable way in the short term.

This new approach focuses on the transparent and stable management of the fishery, which will ensure its sustainability and productivity for all fishers. It is also based on what we have heard from first nations and on the need for an interim solution while more long-term negotiations are under way.

To emphasize, this path is an option for interested first nations to fish this season, in season, based on the needs of their community or aggregate.

The minister continues to have negotiations with first nations on other long-term agreements, including rights reconciliation agreements. The department is working to move to a relationship with indigenous peoples that recognizes and respects indigenous rights and interests.

We know that awareness of indigenous realities and an understanding of their history will take time, as will education. However, that is no excuse for not taking action now. Fisheries and Oceans Canada and our government are working to do better.

One example of this is the amendments to the Fisheries Act that enable the consideration of indigenous knowledge, collaborative management, and recognition of equivalency of indigenous laws. In addition, the department has developed a reconciliation strategy, an internal culture change tool that includes concrete actions across the whole department and guidance for staff as they build relationships with indigenous partners.

Our government knows that we can and must do much more to help Canada's first nations communities.

This is why our government has made reconciliation and rebuilding relations with Canada's first nations people a top priority. We remain firmly committed to advancing reconciliation and working collaboratively with first nations to implement their constitutionally protected treaty right to fish in pursuit of a moderate livelihood.

Fisheries and OceansAdjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.


Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, it alarms me that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence is here to answer this question. It should be concerning to the indigenous fishers, given the fact that they have not had the protection they need. Otherwise, it is the government not taking this seriously. It has not talked about how it is going to meet the Badger test. It has not delivered a mandate. The government knows that it must uphold the rights of indigenous people but chooses to fight them at every turn.

What we are seeing in Nova Scotia is no different from what Canada has been doing to indigenous fishers for over 150 years. We have heard from the minister a repeated but empty commitment to reconciliation. The government said it never stopped working to implement a solution, but the solution it has chosen is not one that follows the government's treaty and constitutional obligations.

Despite its pretty words and promises, the government is once again denying the rights of indigenous people and doing it in front of all of our eyes to see. People across Canada are demanding and want better.

Fisheries and OceansAdjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.


Anita Vandenbeld Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am here this evening in the capacity of stepping in for the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.

It goes without saying that last fall's events were very disturbing for all of us to hear about and see on the news, whereby indigenous peoples were attacked exercising their affirmed treaty right.

Like the rest of the government, Labour Canada went from a relationship with indigenous peoples founded on colonialism and, by definition, systemic racism, to a relationship that recognizes and respects the rights and interests of indigenous peoples.

As noted in the minister's statement of March 3, we are proposing a short-term solution that continues the implementation of the treaty right for interested first nations to fish this season in advance of longer term agreements, but we are ever mindful of the safety of all fish harvesters and the public.

That remains an essential priority in preventing the dispute we saw last fall from repeating itself, as we move forward on this new path.

Fisheries and OceansAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:46 p.m.)