Skip to main content

SPRI Committee Meeting

Notices of Meeting include information about the subject matter to be examined by the committee and date, time and place of the meeting, as well as a list of any witnesses scheduled to appear. The Evidence is the edited and revised transcript of what is said before a committee. The Minutes of Proceedings are the official record of the business conducted by the committee at a sitting.

For an advanced search, use Publication Search tool.

SUB-COMMITTEE ON PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS OF THE STANDING COMMITTEE ON PROCEDURE AND HOUSE AFFAIRS

SOUS-COMITÉ DES AFFAIRES ÉMANANT DES DÉPUTÉS DU COMITÉ PERMANENT DE LA PROCÉDURE ET DES AFFAIRES DE LA CHAMBRE

EVIDENCE

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

Wednesday, March 24, 1999

• 1535

[English]

The Chair (Mr. Lynn Myers (Waterloo—Wellington, Lib.)): Ladies and gentlemen, we'll call this meeting of the Subcommittee on Private Members' Business to order.

I have just a couple of announcements. The first is that we have members from the Forum pour jeunes canadiens here, and we want to welcome you.

I understand, Mr. Bélair, some of the folks are from your area. Bienvenue.

Mr. Réginald Bélair, (Timmins—James Bay, Lib.): I don't know if they're here or not. I'll meet them tonight.

The Chair: Thank you very much.

I also wanted to indicate that Mr. Harvey has indicated he will not be attending. He has another commitment. He may be sending a substitute, so we'll see about that.

I also wanted to update the committee with respect to Procedure and House Affairs. At your request I did table the third report of the Subcommittee on Private Members' Business on the exchange of positions. You will recall that was something that came before us. I did table that, and we'll have a decision on that soon. Also, on behalf of the subcommittee, I reconfirmed the support of the report from last spring that would clarify and simplify the criteria for the selection of votable items, as you recall, from 11 down to 5.

Further to the round table, I also updated the committee with respect to that meeting of November 18, 1998. Further to that, Mr. Robertson has prepared some statistics. I think, Madame Dalphond-Guiral, you had requested that.

[Translation]

Mrs. Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral (Laval Centre, BQ): I request plenty of things, Mr. Chairman. How dreadful!

[English]

The Chair: In any event, we have that prepared and it will be sent out to everyone. Regarding the round table, we will send a letter under my signature, as we agreed, to all members who attended that round table as well as to all members of Parliament. Again, that was discussed. I just wanted the committee to know that was happening.

Now, further to the schedule, we have a bit of a change. That is that with respect to motion 73, Madame Venne is unable to come today, but still wants her motion considered. So we'll keep that in mind when, after we hear all the presenters, we deliberate with respect to the four slots in any combination of motions and bills that we need to fill. Those are the four openings we have. Under the new rules, as the committee well knows, it's any combination of motions and bills.

Having said that, we want to keep to the schedule. Everyone wants to appear and discuss their particular items. This is an important process. We want to begin with five minutes.

Mr. Bélair, if you would, please.

Mr. Réginald Bélair: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and colleagues, and a special word of welcome to our young Canadians.

First I would like to say at the outset that the bill is apolitical, because as we speak of veterans, there are some veterans in every riding of this huge and great country. What motivated me most was the fact that in my 20 years of federal involvement, on numerous occasions I have encountered veterans who, for one reason or another, did not have any document to show that indeed they participated in any major world conflict. It is for this reason that I finally decided to come to their rescue to a certain extent.

If you have read the bill, you have noticed there is no heavy substance in this bill. It's much more a bill that will influence individuals' emotions, because as you know, when veterans speak of their involvement and the dangers they have faced while they were at the front, they do become very emotional. Some of them, many of them, can show a TAPS card—a TAPS card is one that entitles them to some specific health benefits—and they cherish this card more than any other card they may carry in their wallet. Those “who have not had the fortune of being wounded” cannot carry such a card and therefore do not have anything to show.

• 1540

So it comes down to peer pressure, I would say: “He's carrying a card and I'm not carrying a card. I would like to have one too.” This is a story I have heard time and time again.

So those eligible for the certificate would be, of course, those veterans who participated actively on the front in any conflict where Canada was involved. I'm trying to extend it to civilian groups also, because as support groups, they indeed made a big contribution to our war efforts. These include the Red Cross, the merchant seamen, who were recognized last year, the United Nations peacekeeping participants, and other civilians who were directly involved in a war or armed conflict.

According to the last statistics, there were 434,000—dead or alive. That includes veterans who participated in a conflict over the three wars as well as the Korean War, 5,000 non-military vets, and 120,000 to 150,000 veterans who participated in Canadian peacekeeping duties since they were instituted by former Prime Minister Pearson in 1963. The war in Vietnam is not included because Canada, as a country, did not participate in the war. There were some Canadians who participated in the war as mercenaries, but not Canada as a country.

Of course, the certificates would be issued by the Minister of Veterans Affairs at the request of the veteran himself or herself, or posthumously, by the veterans descendants or estate. How would they be distributed? They would have to apply, and the record would be checked to ensure there is no fraud. Then the certificate would be issued.

So why should the bill be votable? Firstly, I deeply think that veterans, because of their unique contribution to this country over the years, deserve some mark of recognition for the services rendered to this country. I have to say also, if it can influence some votes in the committee, there is no monetary compensation involved. There are no dollars involved in this.

So basically, these are the reasons I drafted this bill, and I'm open to questions.

[Translation]

The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Bélair.

Mrs. Dalphond-Guiral, please.

Mrs. Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral: I have only one question. I find it interesting that you should want to extend de facto recognition. Would you include the Resistance fighters, for example, people who are known to have been part of the Resistance or who can prove it, who contributed to the war effort and who became Canadian citizens? We are aware of the role the Resistance played in the Second World War.

Mr. Réginald Bélair: Yes, absolutely. I'm sorry but I had not thought of them. I would be extremely happy to make an amendment to my bill if...

Mrs. Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral: If ever we had requests from those people.

Mr. Réginald Bélair: Yes, it is a very good suggestion. Thank you.

[English]

The Chair: Merci. Are there any other questions of Mr. Bélair?

Miss Deborah Grey (Edmonton North, Ref.): Reg, when you talked about TAPS cards and health services, how is it that someone could just apply for one of these if they didn't have a specific health problem related to their veteran service? I missed that.

• 1545

Mr. Réginald Bélair: If a veteran carries a TAPS card, it means there is a proven record that they were injured during a conflict, and therefore the services offered to them result from their specific wounds. Does that explain it?

Miss Deborah Grey: Sort of. If you were to get a TAPS card and you didn't have proof of any injuries—

Mr. Réginald Bélair: You wouldn't get one. It absolutely must be related to a war wound. On the TAPS card itself there are twelve categories, and you may qualify under anywhere from one to twelve of them. An example is hearing.

Miss Deborah Grey: But when you said, quoting somebody else, “I didn't get a TAPS card, but my friend did”, what does that mean?

Mr. Réginald Bélair: It means one veteran was wounded and the other was not wounded.

Miss Deborah Grey: How will he get a TAPS card then if he doesn't meet the criteria?

Mr. Réginald Bélair: He won't. That is why I'm submitting this bill. It will ensure that each and every veteran gets a card, regardless.

The Chair: Thank you very much.

Mr. Jordan.

Mr. Joe Jordan (Leeds—Grenville, Lib.): I just have a couple of things. Is this something you would see the Legion being involved in?

Mr. Réginald Bélair: Absolutely. As I said in my preamble, it touches the individual much more than the organization. But of course, they go to Remembrance Day every year.

Mr. Joe Jordan: But even in terms of checking service records, I think the Legion already does some of that, and that might—

Mr. Réginald Bélair: Oh yes. This would be much more official, and the archives would be involved.

The Chair: Very good.

Are there any other questions? Thank you very much, Mr. Bélair. We'll be in touch with you regarding the status of your bill.

Mr. Réginald Bélair: Thank you.

The Chair: We'll now move on to Mr. Martin, with respect to M-338.

Mr. Keith Martin, (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, Ref.): The question on my mind is whether sleep deprivation aids in anybody's ability to get their motion votable.

The Chair: I'll guess we'll see.

Mr. Keith Martin: We'll find out. Thank you very much. On M-338, as we speak, there are over 40 armed conflicts taking place in the world today, costing the lives of thousands upon thousands of people every day, every week, and hundreds of thousands every year.

They result in death, injury, rape, orphans, and the decimation of entire societies. If there is one thing the post-cold war era can be marked by, it is our inability to prevent these bloody, deadly conflicts from recurring.

At the moment, our foreign policy and the foreign policy of the international community is centred upon conflict management, and oftentimes we confuse conflict prevention with conflict management. Peacekeeping and peacemaking are not conflict prevention because by the time you need peacekeeping forces, the seeds of ethnic discontent have been sown, as blood has already been shed.

As a result, we're engaging in complex, extensive, and expensive post-conflict reconstruction. In fact, this is breaking the bank. If we look, for example, at the United Nations, between 1945 and 1989, about 23% of the budget of the United Nations was swallowed up by peacekeeping initiatives. From 1989 until now, that number has ballooned to occupy and consume 77% of the budget of the United Nations. It simply can't go on.

While regional conflicts are bankrupting the United Nations, we need to find ways to prevent these conflicts. My motion will enable us to do that.

• 1550

The purpose of it is to identify the precursors to a conflict and develop pragmatic, non-military methods to address these precursors, in particular through the international organizations and specifically through the international financial organizations, such as the IMF, the World Bank, and the United Nations.

Canada has a very important role to play because we are members of many of these organizations, if not all of them, and also because of our representation on the Security Council at this time.

This motion clearly meets the 1987 standing committee's recommendations on votability. It has national significance. It will keep our troops out of harm's way; it will prevent our troops from being killed, which is particularly important with what we're seeing now in Kosovo. It will decrease our domestic costs on social policy, because every time you have a conflict you have the migration of immigrants to other parts of the world as refugees.

It is also on the cutting edge of foreign policy and will glide seamlessly with initiatives that have started up in Canada and are starting up in other parts of the world. In fact, this motion will enable us to take a pre-eminent and leadership role in changing not only our foreign policy, but the foreign policies of other countries around the world, to truly deal with conflict in a preventative manner.

The bill is clearly non-partisan and will enable us to build a more effective foreign policy. In fact, it is a paradigm shift in our thinking of conflict prevention. It will save money and lives and prevent the destruction of societies. In particular, given the youth who are watching today, maybe it will save some of their lives in the future.

Canada is in a unique position to lead the world on this issue, as part of our middle-power status. On the initiatives that began some years ago on the land mines issue, this is part two of that plan. If we look at the mechanisms we used in the land mines issue where we brought Canadians, the civil society, NGOs, the Canadian government and other governments and middle powers together, this is the next step in that foreign policy plan. The purpose of this is to engage in the much larger issue of conflict prevention.

I almost beg you to make this votable. Wherever you go in the world, whether you go to the IMF or the World Bank, no one is looking at this issue. By God, we need to have some way to prevent these conflicts from occurring, rather than sitting on our hands and watching a quarter of a million people die in Rwanda; watching the people who are going to die in Kosovo; watching the slaughters in Bosnia; watching the people getting their arms and hands cut off in Sierra Leone, which is taking place as we speak; watching children getting their eyes gouged out and people being tortured to death in Angola, amongst other countries.

We have to prevent this from happening and we can prevent it from happening. This motion will enable us to do that by developing those pragmatic solutions. I humbly request that you make this votable, so Canada can take its role in putting these solutions out in the international community to work with like-minded nations to make this a reality.

Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Martin.

Mr. Jordan.

Mr. Joe Jordan: Keith, I want to congratulate you for this. I spent two years in Africa and Eritrea. Looking at the organizations that I think desperately need to have their roles examined, are you considering NGOs?

I'm just asking that because in some cases I found, through my experiences, that those organizations may not have had the resources, but they certainly had the strategies. Certainly the wording of the motion isn't carved in stone. Not only do we want to get countries, but I think there might be some value in getting some of those NGOs that are actually on the ground dealing with the issues. Sometimes the further you get away from that the less relevance your strategies may have and the less the likelihood of success.

The only other thing I would say—and I say this a little bit tongue in cheek because I suspect people might have said the same thing about the land mine initiative—is there's always a danger of raising an expectation that can't be met, but I don't think that should be an argument for not trying. Again, I just want to say I really think that's a worthwhile endeavour.

The Chair: Thank you.

Mr. Martin.

Mr. Keith Martin: Thank you very much.

They said that, as you know, about the land mines, but I don't think at this time, internationally, we have a choice. As we go into the new millennium in this post-cold war era, with the collapse of the bipolar world, we have to develop some kind of a system to deal with these conflicts and ethnic hatreds that have somehow become unleashed. This is the mechanism for doing that, and I think the motion provides the flexibility to deal with NGOs.

• 1555

One of my dreams, actually, and in larger academic articles I've written on this, is that NGOs can be used, I believe, as a very important tool in an intelligence-gathering system that can actually be funnelled into the larger systems, because they know what's going on in Eritrea, with the conflict taking place with Ethiopia right now, and they know what's going on in northern Uganda, and we don't. They can also provide those constructive solutions. So I think they are absolutely a key player in this.

Lastly, one of the reasons for doing this is to develop some sort of accountability and transparency in the international monetary fund. Right now, with the three arms of the IMF, the World Bank, and the UN, as shocking as it seems, they're not communicating with each other, and they need to, because sometimes they're working against each other and that's causing more problems internationally than we care to admit.

The Chair: Thank you.

Madame Dalphond-Guiral.

[Translation]

Mrs. Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral: Keith, I find your motion very philosophical. I will ask you more down to earth questions.

You are talking about an international meeting between like-minded nations. Can you tell me how many nations might be included? Everybody wishes to do good, but there are costs involved. I think that it would be extraordinary to be able to prevent conflicts, but we all know that the interests driving states often go against such wishes. This is why I wonder if this motion is realistic.

Mr. Keith Martin: Thank you very much for your question, Ms. Dalphond-Guiral.

[English]

The countries I'm talking about are the Scandinavian countries, such as Norway and Finland. There is Australia, South Africa, and any others, but it can be expanded to involve all those who are interested in this issue.

Madame Dalphond-Guiral, I feel that this is in fact a very concrete motion for a couple of reasons. The international monetary fund tools that I want to employ can be used both as an incentive and also as a disincentive for conflict.

The fuel of war is money. What we're not doing is choking off the funds to these conflicts, and as a result, some of the moneys that we as Canadian taxpayers pay, under certain circumstances, go into fueling a conflict that is costing a lot of lives, and inadvertently, and certainly not by desire, we're actually causing the death of people.

So if this country is verging towards war and a despotic ruler is engaging in behaviours that are going to flagrantly abuse the international norms of human rights, one of the tools we can use is to choke off the money supply. We can choke off the money supply directly to the leadership and directly to government, to government moneys. We can also recall loans that the country has done, because many of these countries rely on international aid for their existence.

On the other hand, providing moneys to moderates, to NGOs, to those people who want to engage in peacekeeping initiatives within countries can be a way to support and dampen the precursors to conflicts that take place.

So there are many reasons and methods and mechanisms for using the international financial institutions to actually engage in pragmatic and concrete non-military initiatives to prevent conflict.

The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Martin.

Mr. Bonwick, on C-403.

Mr. Paul Bonwick, (Simcoe—Grey, Lib.): Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I was walking out of the office a few minutes ago thinking, I wonder if I speak very, very quietly and don't disturb anybody and at the very end I say “Well, thanks very much for your support”, if everybody would kind of jump up....

Today I'm asking for your support on what might be recognized across Canada as a relatively unknown but I believe to be a critical situation. In turn I look forward to the opportunity to present my private member's bill to this committee.

• 1600

I'd just like to briefly outline the reasons or rationale for why I think this should be selected as a votable item. Specifically, the legislation is an act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. This legislation will ensure that lead sinkers and jigs are banned for use and will further ban importation of the product.

The protection of our environment is the primary concern, I believe, of the House of Commons and certainly of our government. The House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, in its June 1995 report entitled It's About Our Health! Towards Pollution Prevention, noted that lead is a toxic substance in schedule 1 of the CEPA and that the act could accordingly be employed to regulate lead sinkers and jigs. The committee recommended that the Minister of the Environment initiate a regulatory action under the CEPA to prohibit, by May 31, 1997, the import, sale, manufacture, and use of lead sinkers and jigs that are less than or equal to 2.5 centimetres in size in all directions. Unfortunately, the federal government chose not to act on the above recommendations of the committee.

The CEPA has been constitutionally upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada as an exercise of the federal Parliament's power over criminal law, pursuant to section 27 of the Constitution Act of 1867. Part 2 in schedule 1 of the act contains a list of toxic substances. In section 34 it gives the governor in council very broad powers to make regulations with respect to a substance specified on the list of toxic substances in schedule 1, including, for example, lead, and regulations therefore respecting a prohibition on the manufacture, use, sale, import, and export of that substance. However, the governor in council may only act on the recommendation of ministers after the federal-provincial advisory committee is given an opportunity to provide advice under this section, which is section 6.

The term “Ministers” is defined in paragraph 3(2) for the purposes of the act to mean the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Health. Since lead is included in the list of toxic substances in schedule 1 to the act, lead sinkers and jigs could be regulated under the authority of section 34.

The relevant provisions of the CEPA are included as attachment A.

It is thus clear that the enabling power currently exists in section 34 of the CEPA for the governor in council, acting on the recommendations of two ministers, to make regulations generally restricting or banning the importation, sale, manufacture, and use of all or specified lead sinkers and jigs. However, in light of the fact that the governor in council has not to date chosen to act in this regard, I have decided to submit a private member's bill on this, a Canada-wide general ban on the importation, sale, manufacture, or use of specified lead sinkers and jigs.

There's an estimated 500 tonnes of lead fishing sinkers and jigs that are deposited in Canadian waters every year. It's estimated somewhere in the neighbourhood of 750 million lead sinkers deposited every single year in Canadian waters. Fishermen are depositing these lead weights in our Great Lakes and our rivers yearly without being aware of the dangers of their actions and the dangers that are being caused to the environment, and to young people and the wildlife as well.

There's also the fact that many of these lead sinkers are being handled by children who are uneducated as to the possible effects of putting lead sinkers in their mouths or eating directly after handling lead sinkers. I think everybody in this room who has ever fished with a child and has had a split shot—even myself—has been guilty of putting the lead shot in their mouth and biting down on the line. Yet we recognize that lead is an extremely toxic substance.

We also see people out in boats and on the banks of rivers handling lead sinkers, tying up lines, and then reaching into the same basket and grabbing a sandwich right afterwards and eating it. To a large extent, I think we can blame that on not being educated as to the impacts of lead being ingested.

Wherever recreational angling activity occurs, loons are at risk of being poisoned. Various studies have indicated that lead fishing tackle is responsible for somewhere between—and this is a fairly broad range—17% to 56% of the total number of deaths in adult loons examined in eastern Canada and the United States. The Canadian Wildlife Service has reported that lead sinkers or jigs ingested by loons account for roughly 30% of adult loon mortality in locations where loon habitat and sport angling overlap. For 40 out of 130 birds found, the cause of death was found to be ingestion of lead sinkers. Extrapolated out, this means as many as 30,000 loons are being poisoned every year across North America by lead fishing jigs or sinkers.

• 1605

A single lead jig or sinker can poison a loon. Inside the loon's digestive system, acids dissolve the lead, which is then quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. Lead-poisoned birds exhibit loss of balance, gasping, tremors, and impaired ability to fly. Birds become vulnerable to predators and have trouble feeding, mating, nesting, and caring for their young.

The Chair: Mr. Bonwick, we're well over five minutes at this point, and that's usually our time limit. If you could wrap up, that would be much appreciated.

Mr. Paul Bonwick: I can, Mr. Chair. I'll go right to the end and suggest that I think, as we examine the Canadian parks, they're presently being banned there. They're presently banned in the United Kingdom and in many parks in the United States. Based on the number of deposits that are being made every year and the fact that we recognize it as a very highly toxic substance, I would ask for your support to bring this to a votable item. Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you very much.

The first question is from Mr. Jordan.

Mr. Joe Jordan: I have a couple of quick points here.

I share your environmental concern absolutely, but as a fisherman myself and as somebody who has deposited my share of lead in the waterways, my concern is, are there suitable alternatives that are cost-effective, and are there also alternatives in terms of people who make their own jig heads and have their own moulds and all that money tied up in that kind of operation? Are there composites or other types of material that are safe that could use that low technology that they've invested money in?

Mr. Paul Bonwick: Certainly. With respect to your first question, as to whether there are alternatives, there most certainly are. The difficulty and one of the reasons they're not marketed aggressively is because they're not deemed to be as cost-effective as lead itself. Some of the alternatives that are environmentally friendly are high-density plastics, clays, tins—things that are not deemed to be as toxic as lead. So when you look at the mass distribution of lead jigs and sinkers and you compare it to a scale of economy, in fact they could become quite cost-effective and could be supported by micro-industries all across the country.

The Chair: Thank you very much.

Are there any other questions?

Madame Dalphond-Guiral.

[Translation]

Mrs. Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral: I learned a new word. Jigs are called «turluttes» in French. This is very amusing.

I just want to make a comment. Forty years ago, we were not aware of the effects of lead on the human body. We had lead paint at home. Now, people are more and more sensitive to the issue. I think that it certainly is a bill that would be interesting to keep to make people aware, especially fishermen, the real ones and the others.

[English]

The Chair: Thank you very much, Madame Dalphond-Guiral.

Miss Grey.

Miss Deborah Grey: You said twice in your presentation that once, in 1995, the government didn't act and then had another chance to do it. What makes you think they would this time?

Mr. Paul Bonwick: There appeared to be some concern over provincial-federal jurisdictions. As I mentioned, the federal government did move insofar as banning it in Canadian parks, but they didn't take the broader perspective that was recommended insofar as banning it right across the country. I think there were some political concerns, some jurisdictional concerns, and it simply wasn't brought up at that time.

As Madame Dalphond-Guiral brought up, if this raises the profile and provides people the education, they'll understand the implications in this. It's silly to think that we tear down schools or we gut classrooms because they have lead pipes in the walls 10 or 15 feet away from the students, yet at the same time we'll take our daughters and sons fishing and let them bite down on a lead jig or sinker.

Miss Deborah Grey: Do you think millions of these high-density plastic things are going to be any better in the water? Wouldn't fish and loons eat them as well?

• 1610

Mr. Paul Bonwick: It comes back down to the fact that there are various items that are identified through CEPA as highly toxic. Lead is one of them, but plastic is not. Clay is not. Clay is obviously much more environmentally friendly. Insofar as the reality of fishing is that you're going to be losing your jigs or your sinkers, the choice is that there are environmentally green or friendly ones.

Miss Deborah Grey: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

The Chair: Thank you very much.

Thank you, Mr. Bonwick.

We'll move on to Mr. Borotsik and C-387.

Mr. Rick Borotsik, (Brandon—Souris, PC): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'm glad Mr. Bonwick didn't leave. I know that if he was here, mine wouldn't.... He's not a terribly difficult act to follow, so I'm sure he'll enjoy this presentation.

See you, Paul.

The Chair: We can ask him to stay.

Mr. Rick Borotsik: I think not.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. I appreciate this opportunity to spend hopefully not more than five minutes on the private member's bill, Bill C-387.

Whether it be the ice storms of January 1998, the floods in Manitoba or in the Saguenay, or the droughts in Nova Scotia, it is most often the farmers who are hit the hardest financially. When natural disasters occur through weather and pests, or agricultural losses occur through falling commodity prices, the federal government must take a more proactive rather than reactive approach. It must start developing policies in advance that benefit our producers in good times and in bad. The purpose of my private member's bill is to help the government in doing just that.

This bill would create a committee that would assist the Minister of Agriculture in developing policies and procedures to ensure the coordination between different governmental authorities with respect to the delivery of information, assistance, relief, and compensation. This committee would monitor situations on an ongoing basis and would discuss what income protection measures are available to farmers in the event of disasters or unusual conditions caused by weather or pests, taking into account such areas as crop insurance, flood and drought protection programs, and NISA. The committee's mandate could be expanded to include monitoring the effects of the low commodity prices on the agricultural industry and the primary producers farm income.

Much like our own standing committees, the committee would have the power to create subcommittees to pursue such issues. The committee would also investigate and advise the minister in the compliance of any income assistance program with the WTO requirements.

The act would be cited as the National Agricultural Relief Coordination Act.

The committee would consist of a membership of up to 21 members: three nominated by the Minister of Agriculture; one nominated by each provincial agricultural minister; five representatives of farmers, nominated by such organizations representing farmers; and three representatives of industry related to agricultural products and nominated by such organizations representing that industry.

As you're aware, there already exists a National Safety Net Review Committee. My bill is an extension of that committee. It expands the role, power, and membership of the committee, and legislates the committee. This bill would give an advisory committee more teeth. It would create a more permanent committee, rather than simply an ad hoc committee that is created at the whim of the minister. It also legislates the tabling of reports before Parliament.

If I can, we have an existing committee, which is now referred to as the National Safety Net Review Committee. It has been evolving over the last number of years and has in fact had a number of names. A number of committees have also been developed out of it. However, it's an ad hoc committee, Mr. Chairman, and certainly nothing that is legislated in a bill.

Our industry has told politicians time and time again that we need to re-evaluate our income protection systems for farmers. The recent discussions surrounding the Minister of Agriculture's agriculture income disaster assistance program, or AIDA, is just one example of the need for a strong advisory committee with actual power to help in developing its policies and coordinating assistance programs.

In a letter addressed to me, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture stated:

    The farm community has lost confidence in the process by which provincial and federal governments negotiate.

    If the farm community is to regain its confidence in the safety nets debate in the future, a more honest and open relationship between industry and government has to be developed.

Therefore, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture is supporting my proposal to establish a national committee to develop policies and coordinate the delivery of federal programs.

Furthermore, in a letter to the Minister of Agriculture dated March 17, 1999, the CFA stated:

    ...a transparent process should be developed including consultation with all parties and full disclosure of all information. Therefore, we encourage you to create a committee composed of federal and provincial representatives and farm organizations that will examine the safety nets package and identify different options.

One of the problems the minister fell into when dealing with the AIDA program just recently was that the program was developed, the policies were put into place, and then the negotiations went forward with the provincial ministers and the provincial agriculture departments. That was a backwards process, where in fact the ministers should have been involved, or at least representatives of the provincial ministers of agriculture should have been involved, in planning the program prior to negotiating it after the fact.

• 1615

Another issue, and I know I'm probably running out of time, is consistency. Mr. Chairman, I come from Manitoba, and you have probably heard of the Red River flood. We had the Saguenay flood prior to that, and we had the ice storm. The problem with developing these programs on an ad hoc basis is there's no consistency in the program. That in itself, Mr. Chairman, adds serious problems to the programs themselves in the specific regions. If this committee could be struck, if it could be legislated, if it could have policies set out that are the same for all regions, we would get away from that inconsistency of programs that have been developed in the past.

In closing, it would be a legislative committee with more powers, certainly with more than just simply advisory powers. In the make-up of the committee I think it's very important that provincial representatives be there from the ministers of agriculture in all provinces. I believe, Mr. Chairman, we know that most of the programs now have been developed on the basis of a third, a third, a third—a tripartite basis. It's important to have all those people involved in that.

The last thing I would say—I take it I'm out of time—is if I were agriculture minister, and I know some around this table say heaven forbid that it should ever happen, I would see that this type of legislation be put into place so that agriculture particularly could be better served by programs and policies that are thought out and logically placed within the system.

Thank you very much.

The Chair: We wait in hopeful anticipation.

Mr. Rick Borotsik: Heaven forbid.

The Chair: Thank you very much.

Questions? Madame Dalphond-Guiral.

[Translation]

Mr. Rick Borotsik: Just give me time to put my earphones on.

Mrs. Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral: Yes, certainly.

Mr. Rick Borotsik: I am learning French, but I am not that familiar with it yet.

Mrs. Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral: Then I will speak slowly.

Mr. Rick Borotsik: Thank you.

Mrs. Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral: Would the committee you are talking about be responsible for procedure only, or would it have its say on benefits?

[English]

Mr. Rick Borotsik: It would be responsible for more than just procedure. The committee I envisioned here in Bill C-387 obviously would be putting forward not only the procedure but the policy itself. Long-term agricultural programs have to be put into place. That is the problem we have right now. There are no long-term programs as such. They're ad hoc programs. When you have an issue, either a disaster or a commodity crisis like we've identified now...when you have an ad hoc program there's nothing there for the long term. What I suggest is that this committee be structured in a such a fashion that they can put forward the policies for that long-term program. This obviously has to work with Finance as well because there are dollars involved with this.

We have nothing in this government right now for a disaster program in agriculture. There's no policy, but there's also no budget available for long-term disaster relief. I think we all recognize, and I don't have to tell you, that with the change in weather patterns this is not something that's a one-time affair. It's going to happen constantly throughout the next numbers of years, and we have to be prepared for it better than we are at the present time.

The Chair: Thank you very much.

Any other questions? Thank you very much, Mr. Borotsik.

Mr. Rick Borotsik: I take it everybody would like to go to bed. No? Everybody's fresh.

The Chair: We're trying to look—

Mr. Rick Borotsik: Would you like me to go over my presentation again?

The Chair: No, that's quite all right. Thanks very much.

[Translation]

Mr. Brien, bill C-374.

Mr. Pierre Brien, (Témiscamingue, BQ): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

In the first part my of statement, I will tell you where this bill is coming from and what it includes more specifically.

About three years ago, a woman from my riding, a mother of five, bought toys that resembled dolls. They are called trolls. They were very popular then.

After she got home, she realized that the instructions with the dolls said this: “To keep your warrior happy, all you have to do is this: never treat him gently, never feed him and keep him in a dark and smelly place. Such neglect should help keep your warrior in a bad mood, mean and ready to fight despite all opposition for many years.”

• 1620

That lady thought that it was in bad taste and tried to find out how it was possible to market such products. After taking steps, she realized that there was no federal or provincial law forbidding people to market, sell or distribute those kinds of products.

With the help of the community, the university and a group of researchers, she started gathering information on the issue of violence, toys or things which encourage violence in children, in order to support her claims. She also looked for support.

Mrs. Ayotte—this is her name—started a petition in the form of a puzzle which was distributed all over Quebec and Canada. She got 260,000 signatures in favor of her initiative.

This is how she assembled the largest giant puzzle ever, which in fact made the Book of Records. She assembled it here, on Parliament Hill. It went slightly unnoticed because it took place during the 1997 election. She came here on Parliament Hill to assemble her puzzle in front of the Peace Tower. It was assembled a second time, a bit later, in Rouyn-Noranda, in my riding.

What is the intent of this bill? It is very specific. It does not cover the whole issue of violence nor all things which encourage violence in children. This bill would specifically forbid the import of those dolls and their sale in places to which minors have access. I use the word “doll” because it has a very important meaning legally. A doll is defined as an object with a human shape. Therefore, we are talking here about something very specific.

This bill would allow us to forbid dolls with a label clearly encouraging violence or mistreatment of the doll or toys where the packaging carries such a label.

Having looked at what is prescribed for other types of offences, punishment that seems reasonable for such an offence—not the most serious in the Criminal Code, but nevertheless an important offence—, I came to the conclusion that we had to impose a $25,000 fine or a six-months jail term. Of course, we are talking here of maximum sentences.

This is what this bill is all about. I think that it is a modest contribution to an important debate around the propaganda aimed at our children. This propaganda incites them to more violent behaviour.

My bill is supported by many people. It comes from one of our citizens. I think that this is important because people often feel that they have no influence on the political process. We have here the example of a citizen who managed to bring about the creation of a bill which I sponsored and tabled, something that I don't do very often; in fact, it was a first for me, but it seemed important.

I would like Parliament to be called upon not only to debate it but to vote on it so that the issue be subject to a more comprehensive review and eventually studied in committee.

This bill can be improved. It can be extended to some other aspects. It concerns something very specific, dolls, but it could apply to other types of toys. We wanted the debate to be very specific at first, although it could be extended if people have specific recommendations to make.

This is the essence of this bill. I call upon you all and I hope that all the Members of this House will be asked to vote on it.

[English]

The Chair: Merci beaucoup, Mr. Brien.

Questions? Thank you.

We'll move on to Mr. Pankiw and C-484.

Mr. Jim Pankiw, (Saskatoon—Humboldt, Ref.): I should first apologize for my attire. I haven't been to bed yet and it's a long story.

Do you have copies of the bill?

The Chair: Yes, we do.

Mr. Jim Pankiw: Okay. The bill places greater emphasis on punishing offenders who use a firearm in the commission of a criminal offence. The bill is not regional, meaning it would of course have equal weight in all regions of Canada. The summary of this bill highlights, in detail, the areas of the Criminal Code for which consecutive sentencing would be used in sending an offender to jail.

• 1625

This legislation is not redundant, as there is presently nothing in the Criminal Code that addresses the capacity in which a firearm is used in the commission of a criminal offence. To my knowledge, this is the first time a bill of this nature is being brought forward for debate. There have been bills on consecutive sentencing, but none that seek to target the criminal use of firearms.

It is non-partisan. Either last week or the week before, the Canadian Police Association was here and I discussed the bill with them. They were very supportive of it. In drafting the legislation, legal counsel did not envision any possible charter challenge, or not a successful one. And the bill addresses society's concern over the criminal use of firearms and sends out a strong deterrent message to those who would contemplate using a firearm to break the law.

A review of the items on the order of precedence in disposed business show there are no bills or motions of a similar nature, and to my knowledge the House of Commons has never dealt with a question of this nature. It is for those reasons that I request that this committee deem the bill votable.

The Chair: Thank you very much for the presentation.

Any questions of Mr. Pankiw? Miss Grey.

Miss Deborah Grey: What kind of offence would this be? It says “in commission of an offence”.

Mr. Jim Pankiw: They're listed in the summary, right on the inside cover.

Miss Deborah Grey: That's good. Thanks. That helps a lot.

Mr. Jim Pankiw: They're serious, violent types of crimes.

The Chair: Thank you very much.

Ms. Davies, with respect to motion 454—and certainly we're sorry to see you in a wheelchair.

Ms. Libby Davies, (Vancouver East, NDP): I slipped on the ice yesterday.

The Chair: My goodness.

Ms. Libby Davies: Thank you very much for the opportunity to appear before the committee.

I would like to very briefly go over the motion and tell you my reasons for wanting to bring it forward for debate in the House. Briefly, the motion is to ask the government to set up, in cooperation with the provinces, clinical, multi-centre heroin prescription trials for injection drug users that would include very rigorous scientific assessment and evaluation.

I'm bringing forward this motion really because of a situation in my own riding of Vancouver East, an area called the downtown eastside, which has had a fair amount of attention, where we're really dealing with a major health epidemic and crisis in B.C. now. For men and women between 30 and 44, drug overdoses are the number one cause of death, which is quite staggering.

But in doing a lot of research on this issue of injection drug users and deaths on the streets, what I found out in talking to experts across the country, and other people across the country, is that this is not just an issue in my riding of Vancouver East—it has certainly been highlighted there—but this is an issue that's affecting particularly urban centres right across the country.

By way of background, I think there are lots of studies and research that show that if we can take a medicalized approach and medical intervention to drug addiction, not only does it pay off economically.... In fact, there's an 80% return in terms of an investment. Economically, for every dollar spent, we save about $7, rather than going through a criminal justice, law-enforcement approach. But it also pays off socially, in terms of the deaths we see on the street and the crime that happens in local neighbourhoods.

In bringing forward this motion, I really feel it's important that we have a debate in the House with all members about the need to set up some sort of heroin prescription trial.

This has been done very successfully in Europe, but I think often we tend to look at what's happening south of the border. In actual fact the European experience—and some of you may have seen news articles or stories about the success they've had in Switzerland of heroin prescription trials, where they've been able to reduce the crime rate, for example, by 60%. It's staggering just to see how they've been able to actually turn people around and begin a rehabilitation process.

• 1630

I think it's something that's really gaining support in Canada. It is a controversial issue, but I see it as part of a comprehensive, harm-reduction approach, where we look at improving safety in the community, saving lives, and actually rehabilitating people.

It's very interesting to note that B.C.'s former medical health officer who just retired recommended a heroin maintenance trial in his report on this issue. The former chief coroner did the same thing in 1994. In fact, we even have a very good federal report that was done in May 1997, which included representation from the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, in which they also recommend that there be trials for heroin maintenance and that doctors be involved in protocols to set this up.

The Canadian Journal of Public Health, the Addiction Research Foundation, and certainly the experience we have from what's happening in Europe all tell me this is something that is very current and that we need to have a very thoughtful debate about.

One of the things I've been doing here in the House is talking to other members of Parliament. I invited MPs to join a working group on this issue of drug use and harm reduction. I was really quite amazed at the response I got. I heard from a couple of senators and about 18 MPs from all parties who are very supportive of the idea of a harm-reduction approach. I've also met with the health minister a couple of times. I felt that Mr. Rock was actually very sympathetic toward this issue, but I think as a cabinet minister he needs to know what kind of reaction there is out in the public and also amongst the different parties and individual members of the House. So I think this is a very good motion to have as a votable motion.

It would be a good debate, because there's lots of research. There's certainly a pressing need in terms of a national agenda around this issue and to have some sort of national plan go into effect to set up the protocols. A group of scientists and doctors, who have a working group themselves, have been preparing the scientific protocols that would be required.

I think this would be a very useful debate to have. As I say, I think there's a fair amount of support individually. I think it would be very useful for us to go through this and to determine the feasibility of it, because that's what the motion is really doing. It's saying let's look at the feasibility of setting up a heroin maintenance program as part of a comprehensive approach to dealing with drugs and addiction that will improve safety in the community, cut crime, and literally stop people from dying on the street. That's why I've brought it forward, and I hope it will be a votable motion.

The Chair: Thank you very much, Ms. Davies.

Are there any questions? Mr. Jordan.

Mr. Joe Jordan: Libby, there are two things. One, you talked about a 60% reduction in crime. Is that number valid domestically? I suspect it's high. But is that a good figure to use in terms of the criminal activity associated when the real root cause is—

Ms. Libby Davies: The information comes from the Swiss program, where they had about 1,000 participants. Quoting from their report, they say “Criminal offences and the number of criminal offenders dropped 60%”, and then “The percentage of income from illegal and semi-legal activities fell from 69% to 10%”. So this is one of the real highlights that a lot of people have expressed interest in.

I've talked to other residents who are feeling the effects of soaring crime rates, B and Es, etc. These addicts are just driven toward a very marginalized, desperate lifestyle, and to get that off the street is a very important aspect of this program.

Mr. Joe Jordan: I don't know anything about the issue, but can we get people off heroin, or are we just talking about a maintenance program that—

Ms. Libby Davies: No. Usually, when patients are involved in a methadone program, it's for a very long period. In fact, methadone is a highly addictive substance.

In the European models the heroin maintenance program has been reserved for really hard core addicts who have pretty well failed everything else and who have been unsuccessful with methadone. The whole goal is to stabilize them and then eventually to move people through a treatment program of rehabilitation.

• 1635

One of the other interesting statistics from Switzerland is how through social support they were able to get people into better housing and to start employing people. People literally went back to work. When we think of people using heroin on the street, we often wonder how they could ever become productive members of society, yet we have some very good case work that shows us it can happen if we take that first step in the stabilization of these very hard core addicts.

The Chair: Thank you very much.

Are there any other questions? Miss Grey.

Miss Deborah Grey: I don't know if this gets outside of the bill too much, Libby, but how much do you foresee this costing? Heroin is not cheap, for sure, plus there are administration costs. How would that work? Who would fund it?

Ms. Libby Davies: I don't know all the details about setting up a medical trial. As far as I'm aware, the actual cost would be fairly minimal, especially if one compares it with the cost of what we're doing now. I know that in British Columbia the cost for enforcement alone is $209 million. We spend vast sums on just sort of spinning people through the judicial system or the emergency health care system, such as the ambulance service. I don't have the figures in front of me. But from the Swiss model, the economic benefits of doing this were huge, when you compare it with what's happening now, where we basically let this health crisis continue and just pick up the pieces afterwards. So I think there are very strong economic arguments there.

It's very interesting to me that one of the groups that has been a very strong proponent of this whole model is the Fraser Institute. I never thought I would be agreeing with the Fraser Institute, but they have actually supported it very strongly, partly because of the economic costs that would be saved as a result of doing this kind of intervention.

The Chair: Thank you very much. Thank you for the presentation.

We will move on to Mr. Caccia's item, C-441.

[Translation]

The hon. Charles Caccia, (Davenport, Lib.): Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and dear colleagues,

[English]

Miss Grey, Madame Dalphond-Guiral, and Mr. Jordan.

The bill's number is C-441. It aims at protecting endangered species. It is an emanation or a response, if you like, to Canada's commitment in 1992 in Rio when we were the first to subscribe to the convention on endangered species. Since then we have seen one attempt on the part of the Government of Canada to come forward with a piece of legislation, which was wiped out by the last election.

The proposed Bill C-441 is also intended to be a stop-gap, if you like, to fill a vacuum right now. As you know, there have been reports in the Globe and Mail—I don't know what was said in other newspapers—and according to Anne McIlroy's article, there are certain groups in the United States who are asking the U.S. government

    to enact trade sanctions against Canada because of Ottawa's failure to pass endangered-species legislation.

    At the very least, the legal petition

—which apparently is being prepared or has been filed in Washington—

    will embarrass Canada.... [It] will trigger an investigation by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior into whether Canada's failure to pass legislation is hurting endangered species that travel between the two countries.

This is from an article that appeared on the front page of the Globe and Mail of March 17.

• 1640

You may also have seen a letter that 600 scientists wrote to the Prime Minister, urging him to do something about the endangered species legislation. Therefore, this bill reflects the values of our times, because there is certainly a well-developed interest among Canadians in protecting endangered species. It intends to fill in a gap until the Government of Canada is ready with its legislation. It raises an issue that has application nation wide and internationally, if you like, because of the movements of species across borders. Finally, it intends somehow to answer our international obligation with the global community in Rio.

So for these very simple reasons, I submit to you that there are good grounds to grant this bill votable status, if you see fit to do so. That is the end of my little story.

The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Caccia.

Are there any questions? Mr. Jordan.

Mr. Joe Jordan: Charles, do you have any sense of when the government might actually have a bill like this? I mean, what's the timeline?

Mr. Charles Caccia: Well, it was promised in the last election, if I remember correctly. Almost two years have gone by. When it will see the light of day, I really don't know, because it is the objective of intensive consultations, I'm told. To the best of my knowledge, the writing of the bill hasn't yet started. That is a process that can take a long time.

The Chair: Thank you. Are there any other questions?

Miss Grey.

Miss Deborah Grey: Did you say they had legislation in the last Parliament, but because of prorogation...?

Mr. Charles Caccia: That's correct. It actually went quite a distance. It went through committee, then back to the House for report stage in March-April, then the election was called in May.

Miss Deborah Grey: Why would it take so long to resurrect it if it was so good and we supported it?

Mr. Charles Caccia: Only the minister could answer that question. I ask myself that question too. But evidently the government learned a lot in that process—the importance of consultations, first of all, because that was not done as thoroughly as it is being done now, and the importance of not having to distinguish between a federal and a provincial stone, if you as a bird happened to land on a stone that is not protected, which may be just one above or one below the 60 degrees latitude. Unfortunately, migratory birds and other species don't respect political lines. That caused a number of interesting questions. So evidently the system is redigesting the lessons learned during that period in committee.

The Chair: Good. Thank you very much.

We'll move on to Mr. Mackay with respect to M-455.

Mr. Peter MacKay, (Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, PC): Mr. Chair, and members of the committee, thank you. Motion M-455 reads that in the opinion of the House:

    The Criminal Code or other appropriate federal statutes should be amended in accordance with Recommendation 73 of the Province of Nova Scotia's Public Inquiry into the Westray disaster, specifically with the goal of ensuring that corporate executives and directors are held properly accountable for workplace safety.

I want to give you a very brief background of Westray. On May 9, 1992, at approximately 5.20 a.m. a violent explosion ripped underground in a small community called Plymouth, in Pictou County, Nova Scotia. It occurred in the depths of the Westray coal mine. It instantly killed 26 miners who were working there at that time. On May 15, 1992, the premier of the province, Donald Cameron at that time, appointed retired learned Justice Peter Richard to head up a public inquiry into the disaster. You should know as well that at this time there were safety standard code violations that had been laid. There was also a failed prosecution against the mine managers for criminal negligence causing death.

• 1645

The public inquiry had been shut down and then recommenced for a period of time. The inquiry itself set out the following areas of investigation: whether or not the occurrence on May 9, 1992, that resulted in the loss of life in the Westray coal mine in Pictou County was preventable—whether there was negligence that contributed to the occurrence; whether there was any defect in or about the mine and the modes of the workings of the mine; and whether the mine and its operations were in keeping with known geological structures.

It went on to make recommendations based on the criteria that were set out. The report made one very important recommendation, which I've referred to in the bill, and that is that the Government of Canada, through the Department of Justice, should institute a study of the accountability of corporate executives and directors for the wrongful or negligent acts of the corporations, and should introduce in the Parliament of Canada amendments to legislation such as are necessary to ensure that corporate executives and directors are held properly accountable for workplace safety.

Over the past number of years, workers in this country have obviously pushed very strongly for laws that protect their health and safety on the job, and in many ways they've achieved many of these goals. However, through this bill and through my submissions, I suggest that there's more we can do to enhance and protect employees against hazardous work conditions in their place of work, whether it be in a mine or in any workplace.

As a member of Parliament, I suggest this bill would be an opportunity to accomplish some very laudable goals. This bill, I suggest, has broad application and is extremely important for the health and welfare of Canadians in the workplace.

The Westray mine is the impetus to this bill, but I suggest that it does have broad ramifications when looking specifically at the corporate and board of directors' accountability for companies that create or, through their negligence, potentially create a hazardous situation such as what we saw at Westray.

I come from that community, and I'm not going to give the emotional pitch, but it's obvious when 26 men from a small community are killed in a disaster, a tragedy such as this, it has extremely far-reaching ramifications for not only those workers and their families, but for the whole community. And it has become, I would suggest, a very important goal for people in the province of Nova Scotia and right across the country that there is some federal response to what has happened.

In the province of Nova Scotia there have been amendments to the labour standards code, and, as is suggested by Justice Richards in recommendation 73, there is a need not only for amendments to the Criminal Code, but potential amendments to other federal statutes. So that is why the motion is worded in the way it is.

The question of accountability is not one that is always easy to identify, but with the standards that are expected now in the workplace, I would suggest this is something that would enhance that accountability. If it were made a votable item it would ensure that we would be able to achieve this through passing it through the House and encouraging the Department of Justice and other appropriate departments to respond with either legislative initiatives or legislative change, whatever the House had determined was necessary.

Those are my submissions.

The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. MacKay.

Are there questions? Mr. Jordan.

Mr. Joe Jordan: Peter, is it a case of having different rules in different provinces? I know we had a death on a work site in my riding, and the foreman and the plant manager actually were charged and fined. But is it sort of piecemeal? Is that one of the problems, that it varies by province and that jurisdictional problems exist there too?

Mr. Peter MacKay: There are obviously different provincial statutes when it comes to labour standards.

With respect to criminal accountability, obviously the Criminal Code has application across the country. Sometimes you have charges laid on a simultaneous track and they will usually defer the provincial statute in the wake of a finding in a criminal court, which is what they did in Westray. Unfortunately, in Westray there was really not satisfaction at the end of the day. There were a lot of procedural interventions, and the trial eventually was so far off the tracks that it was never really seen through to the end, and it went to the Supreme Court of Canada.

• 1650

So to answer your question specifically, there is a problem with the difference in provincial statutes, but there is nothing in the Criminal Code now that specifically addresses corporate accountability. Mine managers were charged at Westray—work site managers. I think that's the situation you're talking about, but in terms of corporate and executive director responsibility, there's nothing in the Criminal Code that addresses it.

The Chair: Thank you.

Are there any other questions? No?

Thank you very much.

Mr. Peter MacKay: Thank you.

The Chair: Moving on then, we go to Mr. Thompson and motion M-273.

Mr. Greg Thompson, (New Brunswick Southwest, PC): Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee.

My motion is that, in the opinion of this House, the government should take all necessary steps to provide a humane and fair resolution for those infected with hepatitis C through the blood supply system, and provide for research, education, and support into identification of other inherited bleeding disorders, in particular von Willebrand's disease.

For clarification for the committee, I could have easily used the word “hemophilia” instead of “von Willebrand's disease”, because there is a close connection between the two of them. In fact, for the lack of a better word, sometimes instead of identifying it as von Willebrand's disease, we'll use the term “hemophilia”. It's not a disease; it's an inherited genetic disorder, if you wish. I guess those of you who are familiar with hemophilia and have contacts with hemophiliacs would understand a little more about it.

The motion is intended to discuss the whole issue of blood disorders. As you know, a very high percentage of hepatitis C victims are hemophiliacs, and a good portion of those would have this very disease that I'm speaking of here in my motion, of course.

I think it's pretty straightforward in the motion, and I'll just simply go from that to questions from the committee, if you do have any.

The Chair: Thank you very much.

Mr. Jordan.

Mr. Joe Jordan: Do you have a number? How many hemophiliacs are there in Canada?

Mr. Greg Thompson: The percentage varies. Again, if we're going through the classic definition of what it would be, with this particular disease, von Willebrand's disease, it actually could be as high as 1% to 3%, depending on the severity of the disease. There are graduations of the disease from 1 to 3 or 4, and that type of thing.

Mr. Joe Jordan: Do they all need transfusions?

Mr. Greg Thompson: Not necessarily. Again, however, you may have a member of your family who bruises very easily, for example. You'll sometimes see children affected, or adults for that matter, and it could be a variation of that disease. Unfortunately, we haven't done a lot of research in Canada—nor have they worldwide—into why that happens. Again, it's very much genetic. In fact, if you remember this from your high school days, I guess, there was actually a very strong connection with the royal families in Europe when they talked about hemophilia. It's something that touches a lot of families to varying degrees. A fairly large percentage of the population is affected in varying degrees, if you wish.

The Chair: Thank you very much.

[Translation]

Mrs. Dalphond-Guiral.

Mrs. Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral: I would like to ask you a question. When I read your motion, I have the impression that there are two in one. I would like to know why. On the one hand, there are many haemophiliacs amongst those affected with hepatitis C because of the very nature of their medical needs, but there are other people as well.

The second part concerns research, education and support for people with other bleeding disorders. Why did you table two motions in one?

• 1655

[English]

Mr. Greg Thompson: That's a good question, and I guess it's a compliment to you because you've taken the time to read it very carefully.

In fact, you're right—

Mrs. Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral: I'm a nurse, you know.

Mr. Greg Thompson: That's good.

Mrs. Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral: It's quite easy for me to read.

Mr. Greg Thompson: I'm impressed with your ability to look at it.

Actually, to be very honest with you, I understand that, and I guess the question would be, what is the debate going to centre around? The fair and humane treatment of those infected with hepatitis C or research? But what I was getting at—and I do think there is a problem in the wording of the motion—is that the debate has to centre around the whole issue of infected blood and compensation to and care of and concern for those people who are infected, because aside from Question Period and the debate that evolved around the Krever report, the issue really hasn't been dealt with on the floor of the House of Commons, in depth, if you wish.

So you're perfectly right when you ask what I am identifying here, but it's basically tainted blood, compensation, and research. I'm not sure if that answers your question, but that's really what the intent of the motion is.

The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Thompson.

Are there any other questions?

We'll move on. I think Mr. Calder and Mr. Mills have switched, so we'll take Mr. Mills next, on motion 2.

Mr. Bob Mills, (Red Deer, Ref.): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

Basically, this motion is to provide that all crown corporations would fall under access to information. My reason for putting this forward is largely one of frustration, in that in 1994 we were told very clearly by the then Minister of Justice that within the year he would be changing the access to information, modernizing it, as had been called for about five or six years prior to that by the commissioner for access to information. So this came out of it, and largely, seeing so many private members' bills from all parties asking for changes to the access to information rules, it leads me to believe there's really a need for changes to access to information.

I believe it's something that will allow us to focus. By putting a motion forward, it can then go before committees and be worked on, but it really does further emphasize the need for this modernization.

All of us believe in open government. It's an objective of all our parties. We believe as we downsize government and privatize more and more government agencies, there is an even greater need to have this access to these rules.

The kinds of things I'm thinking about are something like NAV CANADA, a very important air transport...becoming more and more important. As it has been privatized, it is now not subject to access to information. As a traveller, as all of us are forced to travel, we should have the right to access a lot of information about our safety, about inquiries that are done. Obviously there would be exemptions, which are present under access to information, but we would have access to this information.

I don't believe it is a partisan issue at all. I believe this covers all parties, and I think that's what private members' bills should aim at.

In my area, I think the Canadian Wheat Board is probably one of the major ones, where a farmer says “I am a shareholder in the Canadian Wheat Board, yet I have no access to any of their information. I can't evaluate their performance. I can't evaluate their salaries. I can't evaluate some of the competitive things we get into.”

There's Canada Post. All Canadians use Canada Post, yet access to information does not apply to Canada Post.

So those are the kinds of areas that I would see being utilized. I think the big argument is, well, these crown corporations are going to be subject to unfair rules. My only answer to that is that there would be exemptions, as there are now—key secret formulas, trade secrets of various kinds, technical information, testing that goes on, business information that might help a competitor. All of those could be exemptions, but you would open up the general operation. You would not only appear to have open government and an open operation, but you would be demonstrating that you really believe in that.

• 1700

So I think it's something that all parliamentarians would agree with, and I would look forward to the opportunity of having it votable, having three hours to debate the issue, and having all members of all parties have the chance to demonstrate why they believe in open government and access to information.

The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Mills.

Mr. Bob Mills: Thank you very much.

The Chair: Mr. Calder, on C-454.

Mr. Murray Calder, (Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey, Lib.): First I would like to thank the members of this committee for the opportunity to explain why this bill, Bill C-434, should be votable.

The purpose of the bill is to declare the Canadian breed of horse as the official horse of Canada. The Canadian horse is also known as the French Canadian horse, and it originally came from the stables of King Louis XIV. Approximately 30 horses were sent over between 1665 and 1670 from Normandy and Brittany. There was no standard Norman or Breton breed in the 17th century, and as a result the Canadian horse can trace its ancestry back to several breeds, including the Andalusean, the Arabian, and the Percheron horses, as well as native Norman horses.

The Canadian horse was used by settlers in New France to clear, plough, and cultivate Canadian soil. The cold climate and shortages of food meant that only the strongest horse survived in New France. As a result of these rigorous conditions, the Canadian horse became smaller than its French ancestors, but it also became stronger. It is known now as the little iron horse for its strength and endurance, and it is the horse best suited to Canadian conditions. The Canadian horse has those qualities that we as Canadians value. It is peaceful and kind. It is hardworking, persistent, and courageous, and it is strong for its size.

One quick story, Mr. Chairman, will illustrate the qualities of this breed. A lumberman in Pennsylvania purchased a Canadian horse in the early part of this century and put it to work beside a much larger horse. The Canadian horse kept up its end at all times and never seemed to get tired. After two years the larger horse died. When asked what happened, the driver said “Well, the Canadian horse worked him to death”.

I have brought forward this bill because I believe it is important for a country to have unifying symbols, symbols that express its identity. I know that most members of the House would agree on this. The fact that we have hockey and lacrosse, which were recently recognized as national sports, and years ago another bill declared the beaver as the national animal.... Symbols are very important. If you remember back to 1964 in the House of Commons, the debate of the national flag carried on for six months. At the time, some commentators considered the debate frivolous and insignificant, but I really doubt today that few Canadians would consider our flag as frivolous and insignificant.

In conclusion, the reason why I believe this bill should be a votable item would be to recognize another thing that is uniquely Canadian, which is the Canadian breed of horse, the little iron horse.

If you have any questions, I'd be more than happy to answer them.

The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Calder.

Mr. Jordan.

Mr. Joe Jordan: Murray, I must confess when I first saw this I thought it was a little bit funny. I want to congratulate you. You've spoken very eloquently on it. I had no idea we had a Canadian horse. I don't know if anybody else did. This is news to me. You learn something new every day.

Do the breeders of these horses market this breed?

Mr. Murray Calder: Because it is uniquely Canadian...you have to understand that the breed nearly disappeared. There were 6,000 to 7,000 of them back in the late 1700s and the early 1800s. Because this was such a strong and virulent breed of horse, the Americans basically took them from Canada and down into the United States, and they were crossbreeding them down there because they stood up against the elements.

• 1705

The equestrian hobby is coming back in a very big way right now. Because this breed still exists and is unofficially recognized, a lot of the breeders are beginning to bring this breed back. The numbers are becoming larger and larger all the time, and, quite frankly, I feel it's something we should recognize officially.

The Chair: Are there any other questions? No?

Thank you very much, Mr. Calder.

Mr. Murray Calder: Thank you very much.

The Chair: Mr. Power and M-194.

Mr. Charlie Power, (St. John's West, PC): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

We passed to the clerk a little handout that outlines some of the reasons. I won't get into all of those for you here, but I will try to outline why I think this motion related to the Voisey's Bay nickel project should be a votable motion and why it has significant impacts not just for Newfoundland, but for all of Canada.

What we're really asking for is not a very contentious motion. We're not asking to criticize or condemn any part of government, or the governments of Newfoundland or Canada. With this motion, we're simply asking that the Government of Canada put some priority on making sure those things happen as quickly as possible, especially in the area of native land claims and environmental studies.

The reason I ask this, Mr. Chairman, is that it seems the Voisey's Bay project is stalled. That is a real shame both for Newfoundland and for Canada. It's the largest nickel deposit in the world. It will make Canada a significant supplier of nickel to all of the world market. It will actually put one of our Canadian companies in a position of increased leadership in supplying that product around the world.

The project seems to be stopped primarily because of environmental and land claims issues, which are really government domain. There are other factors that affect the project not being started. There may be fiscal and other corporate reasons related to Voisey's Bay and Inco, but obviously they're not in our purview to control. The environmental and land claims certainly are.

When you look at this project and why I think it should be votable and discussed in the House in a very significant and meaningful way—and I think it would have support of all members of the House—on one hand, it's because of the state of the Newfoundland economy, which we all hear an awful lot about and we all preach on in the House every given day. We have an unemployment rate that runs around 20%—twice the national average—all the time. If you look at our youth unemployment, you're probably talking about 35%. If you're looking at out-migration in the last three years, we've lost 30,000 people, which on a per capita basis is really significant. It's a national disaster. If we could find some way to stop that.... If Newfoundland's population continues to fall, it makes all of our other industries a little less economically viable as well, so we do have a real serious crisis in the economy of Newfoundland.

We think this project, which is the largest nickel find in Canada, can have a major significant impact. It would stimulate the economy of Newfoundland and stimulate the economy of Canada. The project would certainly have significant economic benefits for Ontario and Quebec in its initial stages in terms of supplying labour, materials, and equipment. Again, in the international sense, we think it will cement Canada's position as being the largest supplier of nickel in the world.

We do have some reports from the company today. A lot of the environmental and assessment work has been done. The company is very concerned because it's hearing reports from the bureaucratic side of government, not the ministerial side, that these reports may now be delayed until the fall. There's no particular reason why they wouldn't be done in April, which was the schedule. If nothing else, voting on this motion in the House of Commons would encourage the government bureaucrats because of the reasons I just mentioned. It would speed up this bill and really help Newfoundland to do this very major project for Newfoundland, and indeed for all of Canada.

I would be happy to answer any of your questions, but it's really in government's domain. With some leadership when it comes to native land claims settlement and the environmental studies, which are basically almost done, we need to give it a little push, a little impetus to get them completed on time, or ahead of time if we could.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Power.

Mr. Jordan.

Mr. Joe Jordan: Charlie, what's holding up Environment Canada? Is it that they don't have the resources to finish this stuff, or do you think there's something else?

Mr. Charlie Power: I just think this happens in a bureaucracy that is so large. There are probably other projects that they're looking at, and they see Voisey's Bay as just one more thing that Environment Canada has to look at.

The company told us today that it has already spent in excess of $25 million of private money over the last three years in order to do environmental impact assessments and statements, and now everything is in government hands.

• 1710

Joe, really, I just think it's the nature of government to say, well, it probably doesn't make a lot of difference to someone in Environment Canada whether this project gets approval in April or October, but it means another year of the construction phase; it means another year in the marketplace when things are changing, and it may reduce the pressure or urgency to get the Voisey's Bay project started. Inco and the other companies will tell you they have lots of finds in Indonesia, in Australia, and in other places. As they make a commitment to develop a mine site somewhere else, that commitment may be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Once they make that commitment to go to Indonesia, there's not the same rush to go to Voisey's Bay and Labrador. We stood to lose that opportunity as a province or a country.

Mr. Joe Jordan: Are there plans to refine and process, or is it just extraction? Nickel is not inherently toxic. What's the environmental concern here?

Mr. Charlie Power: I think mainly it's in the native area of northern Labrador. Obviously you have the native land claims, the hunting rights, and all those kinds of problems.

There have actually been two environmental impact statements. One environmental group went to the Supreme Court of Newfoundland to get them to do one environmental assessment for the smelting refining site in Argentia, which is part of St. John's west, and at the site that is in Labrador, the mining site. That was not agreed to by the Supreme Court, and actually they have asked for two environmental impact statements. In Labrador it's just the whole nature of going to Labrador and doing a large-scale mining project, and the concerns that go with it.

The Chair: Thank you very much. Are there any other questions?

Very good. Thank you very much.

Mr. Charlie Power: Thank you.

The Chair: The final presentation is by Mr. McTeague with respect to C-440.

Mr. Dan McTeague, (Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge, Lib.): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I hope by being last I'm certainly not least.

Mr. Chairman, I come here with rather sad news. I have asked the clerk to provide a copy of both a letter and a copy of today's Globe and Mail, which deals with the subject of my bill, the issue of criminalization involving police chases. It has become rather evident to most Canadians from coast to coast. Two weeks ago two individuals died in Quebec. One was my constituent, just a day before yesterday. Mr. Chairman, you had a constituent die in 1996 as a result of criminal evasion.

Mr. Chairman, this bill really provides in its simplest form a provision in the Criminal Code that does not currently exist, and that's to make the evasion of police, known as “flight”, a criminal offence, an indictable offence under the act. Currently we are seeing two problems. One, there's a hodgepodge of rules and regulations. Some are driving dangerous, which is federal; some are highway traffic...or the equivalent in Quebec. I believe we're also seeing the breakdown of the public's outrage in terms of who it should be placed against.

[Translation]

Mr. Chairman, it is quite important to recognize here that we are placing our policemen against the public without recognizing the fact that someone who wants to evade arrest and make a run for it causes harm to the society as a whole. We are not willing to tolerate this situation any longer.

[English]

Mr. Chairman, the bill really has three provisions. Simply put, evading a police officer on reasonable grounds would take with it a sentence of up to two years. If you are in the process of evading a police officer and end up injuring somebody, it could be up to 10 years, and if you kill somebody it's life in prison.

I point out that the CPA has endorsed this. The Association des policiers provinciaux du Québec and the CAA have endorsed this bill. I know its application is general, and I'm open for any comments. I can only tell you this. The timing is not a good one for me. I don't need any real rhetoric to convince me of the need for this kind of bill and that Parliament should be seized with this. It's a national problem.

In the riding of Edmonton North there was a constable killed just this summer. He was laying down a spike belt and of course the car missed and hit the police officer himself. We're putting police and public at risk, and we're pitting good people against the people who are defending our laws.

I think in terms of the question of deterrence, that may be one question, but I think this bill does something that not many people have considered. If someone is evading a police officer because they happen to be driving with a licence under suspension, the police, under the guideline you see in the Globe and Mail, for instance, in the province of Ontario, will simply try to identify the car and break off the chase. They are not, in a non-violent situation, going to engage. They will wait until the person comes to the other end, runs out of gas, or whatever the case may be, and this penalty would apply. The criminal, or the one who intends to flee, would then be in a position where they would have to determine if they want to face three days or a $3,000 fine or do two years in jail.

I think we have to send a message out. This bill is only a beginning.

Mr. Chairman, I'm simply trying to bring this to the attention of Parliament, and I hope it is made votable; otherwise it does not go anywhere.

Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you very much.

Miss Grey.

• 1715

Miss Deborah Grey: This is powerful and tragic stuff. I've seen too many people dead at the side of the highways as a result of drunk driving too, and I'm so discouraged that the whole impaired driving thing is going sweet nowhere. I'm just frustrated thinking this is so important, I have to tell you. I think about what's going to become of it, too—diddly.

Mr. Dan McTeague: I am convinced most people don't know there is no specific provision for evading police. The police have come to us, of all political stripes and all backgrounds, and said “Look, if there's one issue we agree on, it's the fact we don't have the tools to do our job, and what you are giving us here is really shackling us. You're saying get the provinces to implement a number of their guidelines and whatever on codes of conduct, which might often end up criminalizing and penalizing us. What about the person who wilfully places the public at risk, as they do in the case of being a drunk driver? They put their own interest ahead of that of society.”

I'm not a big fan of saying we should hit a fly with a mallet, but I think this says society in general treats this issue as being so serious that if you're going to do it, there are going to be some consequences other than simply a slap on the wrist.

Miss Deborah Grey: I agree with you 100%. But I thought Parliament spoke on that regarding impaired driving last year, two years ago, or however long ago it was.

Mr. Dan McTeague: Do you mean Mr. Harris' bill?

Miss Deborah Grey: Yes, and it's just wallowing in committee somewhere. I think this is tremendously important. But what happens to these things that are so terribly important? Government even says “Oh yes”, and then they just disappear.

Mr. Dan McTeague: I think it requires more people. You'll see it coming out of Toronto and Quebec. You will see it in Edmonton where there is a unifying recognition that there is a gap in the law, and perhaps it is time to say this act is so serious. If Parliament can't do it, I don't expect the courts to be able to do it for us, or the media or the public—those who've lost their husbands or loved ones, as we had in the Barnaby case in Toronto. Who are you going to blame? You've just lost someone you saw a few minutes ago.

The letter I have here is from Sid Bowman. He lost his daughter Sarah right across the street from where my wife works in Brampton. If you read the letter, I think you'll see a person who is frustrated. He's not directing his frustration at anyone in particular. He's just saying “For God's sake, you have the tools at your hand to provide these people an opportunity to send out a simple message.” It's not a vindictive retributive message; I think it's actually a very constructive message. But let Parliament be a part of this. I can only begin the process. It's up to you to put some flesh on this skeleton.

The Chair: Thank you.

Are there any other questions? Madame Dalphond-Guiral.

[Translation]

Mrs. Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral: I'd like to ask you to explain one thing. I imagine that someone trying to evade the police must be driving dangerously. I think that the notion of “dangerous driving” is explained in the Criminal Code. If I flee and the police don't catch me I may consider myself lucky. But if I get caught, I will at least be found guilty of dangerous driving. And if my reckless driving has caused death or injury, I will also...

Mr. Dan McTeague: Right now, Ms. Dalphond-Guiral, as punishment is not aimed strictly at this issue, it is very likely that the suspect would not be found guilty of an offence. There would be a summary conviction charge.

In my riding, a person causing death was once found guilty of criminal negligence, but the hit-and-run was not taken into account. That man got only three months. He was punished because he had contravened a prohibition order.

I find it very unfortunate that the risk posed to society by 2,000 pound missile is considered secondary to the evasion itself. It is not safe for society.

• 1720

[English]

I'm concerned about this. I'm obviously concerned that the laws as they currently exist right now are such a hodgepodge that they do not allow, in this kind of circumstance, anything more than a summary offence.

I'm going out on a limb here, but if you look at sections 249 and 622 of the provisions—I gave this interview yesterday—it really says, in section 622, the person may only have to face a summary conviction for an act where they have taken another life. I wish I had brought it here with me; I will provide it to you in the House a little later today or tomorrow.

The Chair: Good. Thanks very much.

Mr. Jordan.

Mr. Joe Jordan: Just one quick thing. I told Deborah this ahead of time, so I'll tell the other members of the committee. I seconded this bill, so I won't be able to speak to it when we go through the evaluation.

Dan, yesterday we both supported Myron Thompson's bill on stolen vehicles. Could you just quickly go over the differences? One of the things we're not supposed to do is have replication here.

Mr. Dan McTeague: This bill is nothing like Mr. Thompson's. I supported it because I thought it was a step in the right direction in terms of saying in some instances where the people are actually fleeing, it's because they have a stolen vehicle in their possession. Break and enter and theft, under whatever the value of the vehicle is, does not always carry with it necessarily a criminal, in-jail sanction.

So the person, as Madame Dalphond-Guiral has suggested, has probably already weighed the fact that they could get off scott-free. The fact is they may not even get caught, but more importantly, when they do it won't be that serious.

I believe Mr. Thompson's bill tries to specify the question of stealing a vehicle. This is completely different. His bill is an amendment to the Criminal Code. This actually enters a section of the Criminal Code, 249(1), which deals with a specific provision recognizing the act of fleeing a peace officer and placing the public at risk.

The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr McTeague.

We'll now go in camera.

[Editor's Note: Proceedings continue in camera]