Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to rise today to speak to Bill C-269, , an act to amend the Fisheries Act (prohibition—deposit of raw sewage), which was tabled by my colleague, the hon. member for Regina—Qu'Appelle.
As the Fisheries Act currently stands, there is no definition of raw sewage. Bill C-269 would amend the act by adding raw sewage to denote the following:
raw sewage means sewage that has not yet been processed or treated to separate and remove contaminants, and includes
(a) used water from sanitary appliances that contains human fecal matter or human urine,
(b) used water, other than the type of water described in paragraph (a), from sanitary appliances or from other appliances in a kitchen or laundry, and
(c) surface runoff and stormwater that is mixed with the type of water described in paragraph (a);
The bill inserts a statement in section 34 of the act that would not allow raw sewage to be eligible for an exemption permit from the minister.
Bill C-269 amends section 36 of the Fisheries Act by adding, “No person shall deposit or permit the deposit of raw sewage in water frequented by fish.”
The bill also states non-application for Canadian fisheries waters located in the Northwest Territories, in Nunavut or north of the 54th parallel in Quebec or Newfoundland and Labrador.
The bill also indicates that anyone dumping raw sewage in water frequented by fish is guilty of an offence and liable.
The act would come into force five years after the day on which it receives royal assent.
Bill C-269 is simple and straightforward. It calls for accountability and urgency of action. For me, personally, it triggers a vision for improved environmental protection and infrastructure.
In 2015, when the member for Ottawa Centre was the minister of environment, she allowed the City of Montreal to dump eight billion litres of raw sewage into the St. Lawrence River. Regardless of any justification, that is an unfathomable amount of toxic matter that was dumped into the water. I cannot even imagine what the repercussions of that were.
According to Environment Canada, from 2013 to 2017, more than one trillion litres of untreated waste water is known to have leaked or been purposely dumped across Canada. The City of Victoria and surrounding municipalities finally became one of the last major communities to stop dumping sewage into water in 2020. According to Mark Mattson, president of non-profit water protection organization Swim Drink Fish, Canada still has ongoing sewage pollution problems.
Bill C-269 is necessary to protect our waters from contamination and for wildlife species in water to be able to survive and thrive. It is time there was no more ambiguity on this. Being the member of Parliament for Port Moody—Coquitlam, Anmore and Belcarra, I have the privilege of being an advocate and steward for many environmentally sensitive places within my riding. This privilege brings responsibility. Today, I would like to highlight a very special and globally significant creek, which is Stoney Creek, which some of the rivers in my riding feed into.
Stoney Creek is the environmental lifeline for countless wildlife, as well as an urban oasis for both my riding and the neighbouring riding, Burnaby North—Seymour, and the greater region. Countless hours and decades of work by stream keepers from the Stoney Creek Environmental Committee, as well as local residents, has resulted in the return of salmon to Stoney Creek.
Today, Stoney Creek is the most successful Vancouver area urban creek for returning salmon. Stoney Creek is the spawning grounds for chum and coho salmon, as well as steelhead and trout. It is also significant on a global basis as it is home to the endangered Nooksack Dace. Approximately 10,000 Nooksack Dace remain.
It is very moving to watch the salmon on their spawning journey. I see their long, upstream and painful journey of perseverance ending in sacrifice for the next generation. It is very emotional to watch. I was shocked to learn that after torrential rainfalls, sometimes raw sewage overflows from Coquitlam sewers and makes its way to the celebrated Stoney Creek where the endangered Nooksack Dace have made their home and the coho and chum salmon come to spawn.
It is troubling for me that sewage overflow coming from my riding in Coquitlam is contaminating the aqua ecosystem in the riding of Burnaby North—Seymour in Stoney Creek. Upon discovery, I officially offered my assistance to the mayors of Coquitlam and Port Moody to seek federal infrastructure funding for their sewer systems when they seek upgrades.
However, I am perplexed as to why the member for Burnaby North—Seymour, who is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, who has been in office longer than I have, has not taken any action on this troublesome issue or championed funding for sewage infrastructure when the harm is being done to wildlife in his own riding and reports of sewage being dispensed into Stoney Creek have been happening under his watch for years.
According to obtained records, since 2014 at least nine documented discharges of sewage have occurred in the Stoney Creek watershed. Raw sewage has spewed from manholes in my riding and flowed into the creek, and some experts believe that raw sewage is also escaping through exfiltrating from the Metro Vancouver Stoney Creek trunk line and flowing into the groundwater and ultimately into Stoney Creek.
The Metro Vancouver Stoney Creek trunk line was constructed in 1959. Over time, concrete piping and gaskets will tend to deteriorate, increasing the likelihood of both infiltration of groundwater into the pipe and inflow from surface water entering collectively inflow and infiltration, or I and I, as well as exfiltration of sewage into the groundwater and creek.
Records obtained via freedom of information requests show the following levels of E. coli in Stoney Creek. On September 18, 2020, there were 8,664 colony-forming units per 100 millilitres of water. In August there were 7,701, and in October there were 4,611. Samples exceeded 1,000 colony-forming units per 100 millilitres on six days. Ultimately, to solve the problem, new sewage infrastructure needs to be built. From obtained records, it is apparent that Metro Vancouver trunk line is over capacity, a very common phenomenon.
Meanwhile, the catchment's population is projected to increase 15,000 to 50,000. Constituents and other nearby residents are concerned that not expanding the sewage infrastructure promptly will result in increased contamination of Stoney Creek as well as situations where new home purchasers will not be able to move into their new homes due to lack of sewage capacity. Something similar recently happened in Campbell River, another B.C. community.
The topic of sewage is not a glamourous one, but waste elimination is a basic health and safety issue that needs to be dealt with. As we have seen, a microscopic virus like coronavirus has done much damage in our lives and to our establishments. Development of residential homes is a natural part of urban sprawl. Building more affordable housing is necessary to allow young families and first-time homebuyers to break into the housing market and have a home, but development without proper infrastructure is dangerous for the community and surrounding ecosystems.
Bill C-269 is a good place to start to trigger more accountability and action to upgrade all the infrastructure needed. Development is inevitable, but without the proper infrastructure, we could see a host of problems, of which the impact could be the contamination of our waters and harm to endangered species and salmon. It requires a concerted effort among all tiers of government to solve this problem effectively of aging sewage infrastructure and innovating new systems to meet the demands created by growing development in urban and suburban centres like my riding, and extreme weather events from climate change. If done with efficacy, a simple bill, like Bill C-269, could instigate the unfolding of a larger vision to yield greater protection of vulnerable fish, species and water habitats and improve public health and safety and job creation to help reopen our economy.
This is a problem across our country, and municipalities are aware of it, but they are stuck. They have so many other pressing matters they have to get to that without the funding, it gets shuffled under the pile. With Bill C-269, accountability would be placed. We can keep talking about the environment with trumpet blasts, but without deadlines and rules and a plan to accomplish these goals, it is still talk and no action. We know, as humans, we all need a deadline and some rules to get anything done. I see this bill as one that has great potential to help us literally clean up our act.
One thing I did discuss with the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle was the five-year term clause. In discussing it with him, it is something that should be debated and discussed with fulsome conversation so that we are helping the municipalities set themselves up for success and not failure. It should not be punitive. It should be something to help them get things done efficiently.
In closing, I feel that this is an issue that has been around for a long time and everyone is aware of it, but it is one of those things that nobody wants to tackle because the money is not there. We know that with the Canada Infrastructure Bank, the minister promised $35 billion, but how much of that is used for things like this?
Moving forward, as we discuss Bill C-269, I hope that we can come to the table, bring our different ideas, and use this as a starting point to break that cycle of all this aging infrastructure not being dealt with, so that we can protect the environment, so that we can move forward with positive, prudent development that does not create other problems, and so that municipalities do not feel like they are alone but that they have the support of other tiers of government.