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ENVI Committee Meeting

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[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

Tuesday, June 13, 2000

• 0906


The Chair (Mr. Charles Caccia (Davenport, Lib.)): Good morning everyone.


Good morning.

Before welcoming and starting our work with our guests, I have a very pleasant task to perform, which is based on the fact that when one of our colleagues is recognized in the outside world, so to say, then we all rejoice and are very proud and, of course, applaud.

I'm referring to the fact that one of our committee members all of a sudden appeared in Le Devoir last Saturday—even in Toronto, where it is circulated. In the environment section, Clifford Lincoln is portrayed, with his inimitable smile. It is announced, we learn from this article, that he is a new member of the Cercle des Phénix, which is a prestigious award given every year to people who are outstanding in the environmental field.

This is how it looked when you opened up Le Devoir on Saturday. Then inside, of course, there is this picture and interview. It's a real pleasure to read it.

I would like to invite you to join me and give brief but warm applause to our distinguished colleague.

Some hon. members: Hear, hear!

The Chair: The clerk has copies of the interview in sufficient numbers for circulation.

You will see that in his inimitable diplomatic style, Clifford Lincoln doesn't refrain from saying things as they are. It's a great recognition and we are all very proud of that fact.

The second announcement is about the fact that the environment minister from New Brunswick is in town. The clerk was informed that in the course of this meeting she will drop in to observe and that she will be pleased to meet afterwards with members who may want to ask her questions or deal with her. She is the Honourable Kim Jardine.

• 0910

Now we come to our assignment today. The subject matter is, as we all know, POPs.

We are glad to have you here with us. We don't know where to start, but anyway, you will introduce them one by one, I'm sure, Mr. Matheson or Mr. Buccini or Mr. Macartney.

All we will say is that this committee is very interested in your work and would be interested in knowing what was achieved at the last meeting in March, I believe.

The committee would also be interested in being brought up to date on important issues such as the issue of elimination, the issue of the precautionary principle, and the issue of the trade clause.

Then, we have heard rumours about Canada's position on dioxins, which ought to be clarified, at least, and understood by us.

Finally, could you, in your presentation, deal with the issue of exemptions in manufacturing? Apparently dioxin-contaminated pesticides will be allowed to be manufactured. If that is incorrect, it would be a great relief for all of us.

Also, the use of POPs in manufacturing, as in the case of using chlorine in asbestos tailings, is a matter that we would like to have clarified by you.

We will give you the floor for a good presentation, and then I'm sure members of the committee will have questions.

I understand we have to leave this room at 11 o'clock, as usual, so we hope to have two rounds of questions if the questions are not too long and if the replies are not too long.

Mr. Macartney, do you want to introduce your delegation, then?

Mr. Ken Macartney (Director, Environmental Relations Division, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade): Thank you very much.

With me is Nigel Bankes, from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. I am also from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. Robert—or Sandy—Matheson is from Environment Canada, as is Anne Daniel, from legal services at Environment Canada. John Buccini, meanwhile, is the chair of the negotiations for the global convention on POPs, from Environment Canada, and we also have with us David Stone from Indian and Northern Development.

The Chair: The usual suspects, plus a few new ones.

Mr. Ken Macartney: As well, we have some other officials who are attending and who could help us out from time to time, including Caroline Caza, here from CIDA, who is involved in the technical and financial assistance articles.


The Chair: You have the floor.


You have the floor.

Mr. Ken Macartney: Thanks very much.

The departments of Environment, Foreign Affairs and International Trade, and Indian and Northern Development—and here I should that add CIDA, Health Canada, and Industry Canada are other partners in these negotiations—are committed to negotiating and concluding an international convention that will significantly reduce the risks posed by POPs.

The Chair: Yes, we are familiar with all that. Please try to come to the substance soon—

Mr. Ken Macartney: I will come to the substance right away, then, thank you.

Through these global negotiations, we're seeking the following: strong and effective control obligations that focus on production and use; a transparent and science-based approach to adding new substances; participation by the largest number of countries, in particular, the major sources of POPs of concern to Canada; the best means to facilitate through capacity building the implementation of commitments by developing countries and countries with economies in transition; and an effective compliance regime and the means to evaluate, including a practical global monitoring system—whether the new agreement is meeting the objective of reducing global levels of these POPs.

As you are aware, the INC was held in Bonn on March 20 to March 25. We were honoured, as well, to have the vice-chair of this committee with us in Bonn, as well as another MP, Rick Laliberte, who I understand used to be a member of this committee.

• 0915

I'll start right in on the technical and financial assistance issues, which were really some of the most difficult areas of discussion. Canada was the only country to announce a specific contribution to POPs capacity-building, and that was $20 million Canadian over five years. These are funds that would go to both developing countries and countries with economies in transition.

The difficulty in that discussion—and we're referring to article K here—was that developing countries were proposing a new independent and mandatory financial mechanism. While many of the donor countries were committed to providing new resources to POPs, they favoured better utilizing and strengthening existing mechanisms, including the Global Environment Facility in particular, although it was also noted by many developed countries that the GEF essentially would have to become more POPs-friendly. We were looking for the GEF to indicate an interest in creating a new operational program specifically for POPs, for example.

At the end of the session, the chair, Dr. Buccini, decided there should be some intersessional work to try to bridge some of the differences. He asked a core group of 19 countries, including Canada, to develop a common understanding of the issues, with the intent of identifying potential means to reach agreement. That meeting will take place shortly. I think it's from June 19 to 21. CIDA will represent Canada at that meeting.

With respect to the control actions, all ten of the intentionally produced POPs remain on the elimination track, with DDT and PCB also proposed for severe restriction. Parties agree that PCB should have an exemption for existing use, especially in electrical equipment, while DDT production and use would continue to be allowed for vector control in combating malaria.

In terms of the exemptions, parties have agreed to general exemptions for intentionally produced substances for research and also for trace quantities in products. There was discussion, but no agreement, on proposals for exemptions related to use as reaction intermediates or articles manufactured prior to the effective of date of the agreement.

In terms of the issue of elimination, considerable progress was made by a contact group in moving toward consensus on this issue, as it relates to the control of by-products such as dioxins and furans. An emerging compromise seemed to be that ultimate elimination, where technically and socio-economically feasible, could serve as a legitimate goal of the obligation.

On the issue of trade, there were good contact group discussions based on a Canadian paper that proposed export-import bans for all substances whose production and use had been banned by all parties, and import bans for each party that had banned the production and use of a particular substance. These proposals were generally accepted by delegations and were augmented by proposals from the European Union to restrict trade with non-parties. The language there was along the lines of a restriction to non-parties in the Montreal Protocol.

On the issue of precaution, this was discussed in plenary in the context of the article dealing with the addition of future POPs, but there were no final decisions taken. Canada proposed, in the preamble, precautionary approach language based upon Rio principle 15. This text has been included in the chair's text for the preamble.

Canada also made a proposal for a global monitoring system linked into a requirement for the Conference of the Parties to periodically review the effectiveness of the convention. This wasn't debated at length, but there really does seem to be general support for this.

• 0920

The next and final POPs negotiation session is scheduled to be Johannesburg in South Africa at the beginning of December.

I'll perhaps close my presentation there and await any questions. My colleagues can help answer.

The Chair: Are there any further interventions on the part of witnesses today? Mr. Macartney?

Mr. Ken Macartney: We decided we'd just have one presentation in the interests of time.

The Chair: Fine. Thank you very much.

I have on the list Mr. Hilstrom, Madame Kraft Sloan, Mr. Gruending, Mr. Lincoln, Mr. Reed, and Madame Girard-Bujold. Mr. Hilstrom, would you like to start, please?

Mr. Howard Hilstrom (Selkirk—Interlake, Canadian Alliance): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Sitting on the agriculture committee, I'm probably a real layman when it comes to these negotiations you're involved in. I'd like to ask just a little bit on the POPs themselves.

Not all chemicals have these persistent organic pollutants in them. Is that true? Are there substitutes for many of these that we're trying to get rid of? I know in the case of air conditioning, they changed over to a new substance that isn't depleting the ozone layer. Is that the same situation as what we're looking at here?

Mr. Robert Matheson (Chief, Hazardous Air Pollutants, Environmental Protection Services, Department of the Environment): With respect to the intentionally produced substances that are under discussion, with one exception, there are substitute chemicals that could be used. The exception would be DDT and its use as a vector control where malaria and encephalitis are concerned. There are some particular uses for which there does not seem to be as widely available and as effective a substitute compound at this point in time.

Mr. Howard Hilstrom: Yes. Certainly there is risk associated with it, but everything has some risk, so we would accept that because of the greater good it does. Millions would die from malaria.

In the first part of the report, we're talking about dioxins and furans and so on that are the by-products of industrial processes, such as waste and sludge incineration. Does that also include household garbage waste incineration? Does that produce these by-products?

Mr. Robert Matheson: Within the waste provisions there has not been a reference to differentiation between waste and waste that would be judged appropriate to controls for these substances.

Mr. Howard Hilstrom: The last area there is certain industrial processes. I think it's mentioned here in regard to paper production. Is there potential for this agreement to change and/or eliminate certain industrial processes that we currently use in Canada, so that the object would be to cease doing that kind of industrial production? Is that a potential outcome of this, or is it to reduce industrial production in a certain area, to reduce these pollutants or these POPs? Is it the objective to reduce those processes in other countries?

Mr. Robert Matheson: With respect to the first question relating to sources, there are in fact major source categories that have been proposed for identification. They haven't been accepted yet, but they were proposed at the last meeting.

With respect to your question on outcome, the obligations on the parties right now, under this convention, are to promote approaches that would reduce and possibly eliminate production of these substances, to look at control techniques, to look at potential alternative processes or alternative materials. But there is flexibility given to the parties to determine which particular approaches they may find most appropriate.

• 0925

I hope that answers your question.

Mr. Howard Hilstrom: Yes.

It is not just industrialized countries that are engaged in these discussions, right? It's third world countries and other countries. Do the third world countries in particular have sufficient scientific information available to them from their own sources, not from outside sources, that they're committed to this process and believe it's necessary?

Mr. Robert Matheson: That's a good question. Certainly the commitment is there, but there's also a realization that they are limited with respect to their knowledge base and their resources. That's why one of the key elements of what countries are being asked at least to consider as an obligation under the convention is to first identify sources within their countries, then to develop an action plan to address those sources and to implement that action plan or have a plan to do so.

Of course, with developing countries, their priority sources and action plans would be expected to be different from what they would be for developed countries like Canada. That's an attempt to accommodate the realization that developing countries have different priorities overall and different quantities of resources available to them.

Mr. Howard Hilstrom: My last question is simple. I'm sure you're receiving briefs and presentations from all kinds of groups. Who are you receiving from in terms of manufacturers, industry, processors? What umbrella groups are having input into this? I note that World Wildlife Fund Canada and different NGOs have input. Who's representing the industry groups in these negotiations by way of lobbying you?

Mr. Robert Matheson: The Canadian Chemical Producers' Association has been very involved in the process right from the start, from the time that this was a thought being investigated, right up to now, when we're actually doing the negotiations. The electricity producers association has also been involved. Certainly through paper correspondence, most of the major industrial associations are kept advised. From time to time, if they feel the need, they participate in our face-to-face stakeholder discussions and consultations.

Mr. Howard Hilstrom: Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Hilstrom.

Madame Kraft Sloan, please.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan (York North, Lib.): Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I have to congratulate you for the work you did in Bonn, certainly with very little sleep, as these situations often unfold themselves. I'm very interested in the intersessional meeting that you had said was going to be held June 19 to 21. Part of the meeting is to solve one of the more challenging issues presented with this particular protocol, which is the financial mechanisms.

When I was in Bonn, I was able to hear both sides of the argument and understand how important it is, both for donor countries and for the countries that will be receiving some of the financial support. This is clearly a very important article to be negotiated in terms of success of the protocol.

First of all, I'm wondering if you could clarify something for committee members. Of the 19 countries that are going to be represented, how many are going to be donor countries and how many are going to be receiving countries?

Mr. Ken Macartney: The chair was instrumental in choosing those countries. There would be seven donor countries, two from central and eastern Europe, and there would ten developing countries.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: In the proceedings in Bonn, the aboriginal groups played a very important role. Quite clearly, they have an important stake in a successful outcome, because they are often the recipients of the results of these chemicals being used. Even though they do not benefit directly from the use of these chemicals, the manufacture, the sale, the creation, etc., they have to deal with some of the health effects and negative effects on their ecosystems.

• 0930

They have a pretty good understanding of what some of the recipient countries will need as far as financial mechanisms are concerned. I think they have a good bargaining position in terms of being a liaison for Canada as a donor country. There are lots of sensitivities and connections there as well. I'm just wondering if any of the aboriginal representatives will have an opportunity to provide input at the intersessional meeting that is going to be held later this month

Mr. Ken Macartney: Certainly the aboriginal groups, particularly the Canadian groups, have played an important role at all of the negotiating sessions. They have made very helpful statements and have been very much involved.

My understanding of the meeting that will take place later this month is that it is restricted to essentially 19 individuals. The idea is to have a very small group of country representatives go through some of the issues. It's my understanding that even the very large organizations, such as the GEF and others, are not invited to this meeting. I think the rules as laid out at the last negotiating session were that these would be 19 individuals who had come together to discuss this. So I think the meeting is closed—

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: How did the Canadian delegation—

Mr. Ken Macartney: Sorry, if I could just follow on—

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Sure.

Mr. Ken Macartney: Certainly we've been very open to discussing with Canadian stakeholders their views on these issues, so through the Canadian representative we certainly will take those views into account.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: So will the Canadian representative be able to meet with these aboriginal representatives as well or...

Mr. Ken Macartney: We had a stakeholder conversation just, I think, a few days ago, and we discussed briefly some of these issues. But if the groups are interested in talking to us again before the 19th, we'd certainly be open.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Those opportunities are still available.

Mr. Ken Macartney: Absolutely.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: I wanted to ask you about a paper that Barry Commoner completed for the CEC. Barry Commoner has done a lot of work on dioxin modelling in the United States and has undertaken research in Canada's north looking at the same aspects of how dioxin travels. I'm just wondering when his paper will be released.

Mr. Ken Macartney: I'm not sure I can answer that question. I think it's a CEC issue rather than a POPs issue. I don't know very much about it. Perhaps somebody else—

The Chair: Perhaps Mr. Buccini can answer.

Mr. John Buccini (Director, Commercial Chemicals Evaluation, Department of the Environment): My understanding is that the paper was being considered possibly for release at the NACEC council meeting. The ministers are in Dallas-Fort Worth yesterday and today, and that was, I thought, the earliest opportunity for its release. But I have no information as to the exact date it will be released. That's the earliest date.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: When we had the minister come before the committee, I asked the Minister of the Environment about the paper. At that meeting—and I'm not sure who told me this—the person who responded to the question indicated that the paper was being peer-reviewed and that's why it was being held up. It's my understanding that the paper is not being peer-reviewed.

Mr. John Buccini: I can't comment on that. I'm not aware of that.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: All right. Thank you very much.

The Chair: Thank you.

Next is Mr. Gruending, followed by Mr. Lincoln, Mr. Reed, Madame Girard-Bujold, Madame Barnes, and the chair. Mr. Gruending, please.

Mr. Dennis Gruending (Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, NDP): You mentioned the precautionary principle, and it went past me a little quickly. We had a lot of talk about precautionary principle in our study on herbicides and pesticides, so we've been around this recently. I'm curious to know if it's in there and in what way it's in there. Is it in the preamble but not in the body? Is it in both places? I'd just like a little more information about the use of precautionary principle.

• 0935

Mr. Ken Macartney: Thank you. I could perhaps ask my colleague to elaborate on that. But as it stands now, the precautionary approach as outlined in Rio principle 15 is listed in the preamble, and that was a Canadian suggestion. In the article dealing with the addition of new substances, it's our belief that it's actually operationalized in there. But I'll ask my colleague to elaborate.

Mr. Nigel Bankes (Environmental Law Section, Oceans, Environment and Economic Law Division, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade): Thank you.

As Ken Macartney has mentioned, there is a reference in the preamble. There is currently a reference in article F.3 to the precautionary principle. It's square-bracketed text. That was introduced by the European Union at INC-3.

At INC-4 in Bonn the European Union indicated that it wanted to withdraw that reference and propose instead a new 7 bis for article F, which doesn't refer to the precautionary principle in those specific words but talks about how the lack of scientific certainty should not in any way preclude article F from continuing. That reference is square-bracketed as well. So I think the bottom line is that there's still a lot of debate about how and where precaution should be reflected in the text of the agreement.

Mr. Dennis Gruending: So what I would gather from that is that in these negotiations there is not agreement that the precautionary principle should prevail.

Mr. Nigel Bankes: I think there is agreement that the text of the convention should reflect precaution appropriately and a precautionary approach appropriately. There is a lot of disagreement about how precisely to do that. To give you one example, as Ken Macartney mentioned in the context of article F, which is the article dealing with the addition of new chemicals, there is one provision there, F.3, that says that in proposing a new chemical for consideration by the POPs review committee, the POPs review committee shall take what is described in the text as a flexible approach. The understanding, for example, we would have of that phrase is that it allows the POPs review committee to indeed take a precautionary approach and to look at a chemical even though there may be dated deficiencies in relation to some of the characteristics of POPs.

Mr. Dennis Gruending: Is there any significance, in your opinion, in the fact that there's mention of the precautionary principle in the preamble but not in the text? Of course, in our discussions about our Constitution here in Canada, we've had a lot of debate about whether or not something that is in the preamble really applies throughout. What is your analysis here?

Mr. Nigel Bankes: The preamble is not, of course, operative text in the same way as the substantive articles that follow. It is, however, part of the convention and can be considered as an aid to the interpretation of the substantive obligations. But it cannot itself create an obligation. It's more a recitation of the elements upon which the convention is based. There is a recitation, as Ken Macartney has indicated, to precaution and Rio principle 15 in the text that the chair proposed, which text, we should say, has yet to be debated by plenary.

Mr. Dennis Gruending: What position did the Canadian delegation take about the placement of precautionary principle? Did you fight to have it in the text?

• 0940

Mr. Nigel Bankes: The position we took at INC-4 was that we actually proposed the preambular reference for consideration by the chair. We did not propose language for the objective, and the objective has not been discussed or was not discussed in plenary at INC-4. We'll be coming back to it in INC-5. In relation to article F, the new substances article, we took the view that article F itself already embodied a precautionary approach and that it would not be useful to add a recitation or reference to the precautionary principle as the EU had proposed it at INC-3.

I guess that was really for two reasons. One, we considered the text already reflected a precautionary approach, but two, by adding a reference to the precautionary principle we were inviting ambiguity. In a sense, the drafters of the agreement and the criteria experts group, which gave us the process for article F, have already addressed their mind to the question of how much science should be enough to allow the consideration of a chemical for addition to the convention.

So I think that gives you some of both our position and our reasoning for that position.

Mr. Dennis Gruending: Thank you.

Mr. Chair, there is something I forgot to mention. There was mention made of Mr. Laliberte from our caucus, who was at the meeting. He is an associate member of this committee and had hoped to be here this morning, and I think still will be, so by the second round of questioning he may be here to ask further follow-ups. Is my time up?

The Chair: Yes. You might also want to add, Mr. Gruending, that this exchange with Mr. Bankes could have won a gold medal in reaching the peaks of sophistry.

Mr. Lincoln.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln (Lac-Saint-Louis, Lib.): I'd like to follow up on this exchange with Mr Bankes about the precautionary principle. What I'm interested in is a clear Canadian position at INC-5. Are you going to recommend the precautionary principle? You stated you are not recommending it for article F, which is a real pity because I don't see how that would be superfluous. It certainly wouldn't do any harm to have it there.

Are you going to recommend it for article B, and what is the exact position of Canada in regard to the precautionary principle? Do we want to go beyond the preamble or do we want to stick to the preamble? What is our position regarding article B, and could you repeat again about article F, whether it's a dead issue for us?

Mr. Nigel Bankes: Thank you. And I'll try to reach beyond sophistry this time.

The Chair: Thank you.

Mr. Nigel Bankes: In relation to article F, it's not a dead matter at all, sir. Intersessional discussions will continue on article F, and one of the things I didn't say is that we thought the EU's proposal for article F this time, that is in INC-4, was a step ahead of its proposal at INC-3. Remember, at INC-3 they had simply said let's put a reference to the precautionary principle simply using those words in article F.3. This time what they've said is let's take that away, let's put in this 7 bis, which talks about, if you like, what we mean by the precautionary principle, what it might actually mean in concrete terms for the consideration of a new substance.

We will I think engage with the EU in a debate about how to reflect precaution in article F, whether it is already adequately reflected in article F.3, as we contend, or whether there is a need to add further precautionary language. What I think we will continue to resist is simple references to the precautionary principle, because it would be our contention that that is not useful and it creates ambiguity when you try to construct F.3 in conjunction with the relevant annexes that talk about the scientific evidence that must be put forward.

• 0945

So the 7 bis, from the Canadian delegation perspective, was a constructive proposal. I think there was little opportunity to debate that at INC-4. I think the chair of the convention indicated that precaution is a big issue; it's going to be relevant to the preamble, to the objective, and to article F, and we'll have further discussions at INC-5.

On your specific question about article B, the objective, as I indicated earlier, there was no discussion of the objective clause at Bonn. We did table language for the preamble. We've not declared our final position on the objective. Our approach, though, is to say that again the objective should deal with the overall goals of the convention, not with the means, and from our perspective, I suppose, the precautionary principle is simply one of the means by which one fulfils the objective of the convention.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: What really surprises me is that we don't have a clear position. At least you have a clear position on 7 bis and a position about the precautionary principle. We seem to be waiting for others to decide, and then we debate it and wonder what our position is.

What I asked is purely from the Canadian point of view. Do I take it, then, in your terms, we don't want the precautionary principle in Band are we going to support the EU on 7 bis? Is that what you said?

Mr. Nigel Bankes: I think what we will be doing is looking at the 7 bis language. Let me give you one example of the difficulty we have with the 7 bis text, and I don't know whether—

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: I think you've answered it. In other words, it's not clear.

I want to ask another question.

In regard to the WTO's saving clause, or N bis supremacy clause, can you tell me whether Canada supports or does not support a WTO supremacy clause? Are we against its inclusion in a treaty or not?

Mr. Ken Macartney: Perhaps I can answer that. Our view is that the discussions on the trade measures are going very well, and our assumption is that this won't be required at the end of the convention.

It was put there by one country that was concerned that some of the proposals on the trade measures may be inconsistent with obligations the parties have in other conventions in the WTO. But the sense is, as I say, that the discussions of the trade measures are going well, and it's our sense that at the end of the day, if those trade measures are consistent with other obligations, this article wouldn't be required. But it wasn't an article that we put in the text; it's another country that—

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: I want to find out our position, because I have information that our international trade department... that discussions are taking place at the WTO.

I've seen some documentation to the effect that the WTO is saying that the precautionary principle and pollution prevention plans are hindrances to international trade and should be declared, from the perspective of the WTO, ultra vires. I understand that our international trade ministry strongly takes the position that the precautionary principle is a hindrance to international trade.

That's the perspective from which I asked for that. Do you know about that and what the position of the international trade ministry is in regard to the precautionary principle in the WTO?

Mr. Ken Macartney: In regard to that, I think the concern would be that misapplication of the precautionary principle could be a problem in terms of international trade, not the appropriate application but the misapplication for other purposes.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: My understanding is that the international trade ministry is even fighting against inclusion of the precautionary principle in some of our domestic legislation. That's my information, and I think my information is pretty sound.

• 0950

Mr. Ken Macartney: Do you want to take that question?

Mr. Nigel Bankes: On that specific question, has the department been arguing against simple references to the precautionary principle, I think you are correct. I'm aware of at least one instance of that.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Am I correct, then, in saying that our international trade department is fighting against the inclusion of the precautionary principle in our domestic legislation... as being a hindrance to trade, in the WTO's view? This is a very serious thing. I guess you've confirmed that my information is correct.

Mr. Nigel Bankes: Let me try to address that.

As Mr. Macartney has said, our concern is not with the appropriate application of the precautionary principle or the precautionary approach. Our concern is with its misapplication—that is, actions taken by other countries not based upon any science at all.

I think one would also say that we do not take the view at the moment that the precautionary principle represents customary international law. We think domestically we reflect the precautionary approach in a variety of statutes and policy instruments.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Are we saying, then, we signed it at Rio for nothing?

Mr. Nigel Bankes: What we adhered to in Rio was the Rio Declaration, which is not a convention in international law. It's a declaration of principles and approaches.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Let me just say, then, it's a very sad day today for all of us to hear this.

The Chair: Mr. Reed, please, followed by Madame Girard-Bujold and Madame Barnes.

Mr. Julian Reed (Halton, Lib.): Could you give us a little overview of where this thrust is going?

In other words, presumably we're trading with countries that are choosing to ignore the problems that we recognize in terms of persistent pesticides, and presumably some of those countries are continuing to use those pesticides. We are continuing to import food from those countries. Would that be a fair statement?

Mr. Ken Macartney: I think I would ask one of our scientists to talk about the extent to which any of these POPs would be present in any of the food that comes into Canada.

Mr. David Stone (Director, Northern Science and Contaminants Research Directorate, Natural Resources and Environment Branch, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development): I must say, I'm not very familiar with the guidelines that Health Canada or other regulatory agencies would use, but I'll try to address the question a little. Because, as you well know, POPs circulate very freely in the atmosphere, it's very difficult, once they're out, to know whether the inventory in a particular apple, which might have come from Mexico or somewhere, is derived from use in Mexico or if it's simply derived from the circulating mass of POPs that are in the general environment. So it is very difficult to know whether a residue is derived from use in that country or otherwise. But I do know that Health Canada does check imported residues, and have refused to take imports from countries when residues reach particular levels.

Mr. Julian Reed: That's my concern. I realize that a lot of these persistent pesticides become airborne, and so on, and they're settling in places in which we don't want them to settle. But I'm also concerned that countries are trading with us and we're importing foodstuffs from those countries that may still be using persistent pesticides. We may be ingesting them directly.

• 0955

Mr. David Stone: Yes. I think, though, to give some comfort to some of the population, although it's not some comfort to much of the population, because we're talking about substances that are of concern to us very largely because of their biomagnification potential, those substances tend to reach high levels only in carnivores at the very top of the food chain. Consequently, the populations in Canada now who are exposed and at some level of risk, according to health authorities, tend to be people who are living on marine carnivores and, to a lesser extent, freshwater fish—seals, whales, etc., and fatty parts and organ meats from those animals. You would not expect the residue levels for these types of substances in the types of agriculturally produced material to reach very high levels unless there has been very extensive use of these substances, which may not be too prevalent.

Mr. Julian Reed: They have their origins there. They have their origins in the original manufacture and use, then later we've learned they get transported and deposited. What I'm trying to get at is whether or not this stuff is still being used on food we import from some other countries. If it is, it means that while the level may not be extremely high on that particular foodstuff, the stuff is still getting into the atmosphere and settling in our food chain, as you rightly explain.

Mr. David Stone: Yes, you're correct, sir. What I can't answer for you is what foods we may be importing from countries where these substances are used. I simply don't have that information.

Mr. Julian Reed: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Reed.

Madame Girard-Bujold, followed by Madam Barnes and then by the chair to complete the first round—unless people indicate their wish to ask questions on the first round.


Ms. Girard-Bujold, please proceed.

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold (Jonquière, BQ): Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. You say in your document that at the next meeting, which will be held in South Africa, the final draft of the convention will be prepared. In light of the comments made this morning, I note that several points remain unresolved: ultimate elimination, the precautionary principle, technical and financial assistance, trade restrictions and the substance registration process.

What's more, the World Wide Fund for Nature says that Canada has not cleaned up its persistent toxic chemicals. It says that there are still at least six that are synthesized. Since Canada has not completely cleaned up its own house, when will it do so? Since it has not completed its work, will that have a detrimental impact at the international level? Is Canada's position less proactive when it asks others to do things that it has not done itself?

You also talk about ultimate elimination. I would like to hear you expand on that. With respect to the substance registration process, you also say:

    Few outstanding issues remain to be negotiated, although a criteria value for half-life in water and low KOW remain unresolved.

I would like to hear your comments in those areas. Thank you.


Mr. Ken Macartney: Perhaps I could begin by saying yes, there are a lot of issues that still need to be resolved before we get to South Africa. We will be making every effort to reach out to other countries intersessionally to try to resolve some of these issues, to have a good dialogue. There are events planned between now and December, opportunities for countries to get together and talk to each other, including the discussions on technical and financial assistance. We will be doing a lot of work between now and December to try to clarify some of the positions.

Perhaps you had some specific questions that I could turn over to Sandy.

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Mr. Robert Matheson: You asked one question I believe on ultimate elimination. I think what did happen at INC-4 was that there was substantial progress made on how to move forward on that issue. I think on all sides there's a recognition to try to move the issue forward. I think the choices we have on the table to look at in INC-5 are much fewer and much more clear-cut than they were going into INC-4.

So as I said, there was goodwill. I think we're on the way to successfully resolving that question.

I believe you asked a question on whether or not we had positions that were contrary to those of many other countries. I don't think that is the case. In fact, we're looking to try to build consensus amongst countries where there is a difference. Some of those differences quite often are amongst developed countries, between the so-called JUSCAN countries and the European Union.

We are trying to see if we can't get some of those issues off the table, at least within the developed world, and we will be continuing to do this at the meetings that Ken Macartney was referring to... suitably, a meeting of the minds, so we cannot overly stress them and chew up valuable negotiation time in South Africa.

I may have forgotten one or two of your questions.


Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: Earlier on, there were several exchanges with the others, and you mentioned the precautionary principle. Mr. Lincoln talked about it. I think it is extremely important. You responded in a rather general fashion that did not reassure me very much, because I think that it is important. I do not think that the precautionary principle should be contained only in the preamble. If we want to end up meeting everyone's expectations, emphasis will have to be placed on the precautionary principle in all sections of the future convention. Your answer did not reassure me very much.

I think that these meetings are designed to co-ordinate the opinions and future perspectives of each country participating in the negotiations and in the convention, which, I hope, will be complete when you get to South Africa.

I see that there is still a lot to do, and I also see that there are some things that have been only partially expressed and that some of the objectives have only been partially achieved. There isn't really an overview that reflects our vision. I do not feel that there is one. Having listened to the comments you made this morning, I don't see it, and I'd like to know what this vision is. Could you clarify it for us? You represent several departments and I would really like to know what Canada's vision is.

When you get to South Africa to sign the convention, you should be in the final round of negotiations. Between now and then, there will be some intercessional meetings, as you call them, but I would like to know what specific approaches Canada will be putting forth and I would like to know what Canada's vision is. We are almost at the end of the line and I still don't see it. What are the guidelines and the foundations on which Canada will support its position to encourage other countries to follow suit? I do not see the will to move in that direction, but I would like to.


The Chair: Please be short.

Mr. Ken Macartney: What is our objective? Our objective is to seek the elimination of the 10 intentionally produced POPs that are on the list, recognizing that in the case of DDT and PCBs there are challenges there. Certainly it is to reduce, to the extent possible, the emissions of the two by-products on the list. It is to come up with a very good process for adding new substances to the list, for either elimination or reduction.

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In order to do this, we're the only country that's put money on the table, $20 million, to assist the developing countries and the countries with economies in transition in being able to undertake these obligations to eliminate or reduce these POPs. In short, our objective is to protect the health and environment of Canadians through this global convention.


The Chair: Thank you, Ms. Girard-Bujold.

Ms. Barnes, Mr. Laliberte, Mr. Herron and the chair. Ms. Barnes.


Mrs. Sue Barnes (London West, Lib.): Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'm not a normal member of this committee. I chair the aboriginal affairs and northern development committee, and I thought it was important to attend today to impress upon all of you how much and how serious this issue is to the highly affected people in northern Canada. I am concerned, especially when I hear that at your June meetings there is not going to be any native, indigenous people of Canada at the table talking with you. I recognize that we're six months away.

First of all, I would like your opinion right now on whether or not you feel Canada's negotiation position is in harmony with that of the indigenous people of the north of Canada. Are you at one in your philosophy, are you at one in your detail?

Mr. Ken Macartney: That's a difficult question to answer, because you'd have to ask the indigenous organizations as well. We simply—

Mrs. Sue Barnes: That's why I am asking for your opinion. I already know the indigenous position, so I'd like to know your opinion.

Mr. Ken Macartney: We've worked very closely with them over the course of these negotiations. They're represented on our delegation; we talk to them off the delegation as well. Obviously we share the goal of eliminating those POPs that are most dangerous to them that come into the Arctic. Those are the POPs on the elimination track, so we're absolutely in tune with that. They've been pushing for a long time the need for technical and financial assistance for developing countries, to help them get off some of these POPs. And as I say, Canada has been able to develop a fund of $20 million. We're certainly on track with the indigenous groups on that.

Mrs. Sue Barnes: Mr. Stone, would you like to add anything?

Mr. David Stone: Of course Mr. Macartney's first response that it really is a question for them is correct. The letters we have received from CAIPAP, the committee of Canadian aboriginal peoples that was formed to oversee their response and participation in consultations with us, have been complimentary. The more recent letters from Sheila Cloutier, have been generally complimentary of our approach, although they do have difficulties with some of the positions. They have some difficulties with the elimination parts of the emerging agreement.

We have regular discussions with them. I have a discussion meeting with them on Friday, which will be further engaging them on various aspects of our position.

Perhaps there isn't any more to say.

Mrs. Sue Barnes: The northern dimension of Canada's foreign policy recently announced certainly encouraged the talks amongst the indigenous peoples territorially and through the Arctic nations.

I hope we take this seriously, because I heard Mr. Stone just say that he had recent communications saying it's more positive. I want to tell you that I'm not getting as positive a feedback, and I want you all to know that. Whether or not we have questions here about other food chains, we know this is the food of the north and we know that's not going change.

I would like to ask a factual question before I go along, because I heard you, Mr. Macartney, talk about challenges in the process. Is it factually correct that Russia has asked for a 25-year exemption on PCBs? Is that correct or incorrect? I honestly don't know, so I'm asking you.

Mr. Ken Macartney: I think I'd ask Sandy Matheson to answer that, because he was in the contact group discussions on it.

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Mr. Robert Matheson: If you're asking for this convention, no, I have not heard them formally put forward that proposal.

Mrs. Sue Barnes: This is all news to you, then.

Mr. Robert Matheson: It's news to hear it in the context of 25 years. Certainly they have until recently been using and producing PCBs, so it would not be surprising that they would want a different phase-out time than we use in Canada, for instance. But I've not heard them put on the table 25 years.

Mrs. Sue Barnes: Have you heard of them asking for an exemption on PCBs from Russia?

Mr. Robert Matheson: Countries have had a chance to identify where their exemptions would be for substances, and they have not asked for a blanket exemption for continued use of PCBs.

Mrs. Sue Barnes: I don't like to ask hypothetical questions, so I won't ask what Canada's position would be on that, because I don't think it's fair at this stage, but hopefully we would have a very strong position.

Because we know that our Arctic is so vulnerable, when you're working on the final text, will there be anything that recognizes the special vulnerability of the Arctic in the text? Is that part of what you're doing right now? We've not seen the draft text.

Mr. Ken Macartney: Yes. In fact, Canada had proposed language in the preamble that does exactly this, and that is in the draft preamble. We have consulted with our—

Mrs. Sue Barnes: I'm a lawyer, and preambles mean not as much to me as text. Is there anything in the text itself?

Mr. Ken Macartney: The preamble is part of the text. I'm not sure where else in the text—

Mrs. Sue Barnes: In the clauses of the convention. It's not planned right now for other than preamble, is that what you're telling me?

Mr. Ken Macartney: It's not clear where else in the text you would place a reference to the importance to the Arctic peoples, because the rest of the text relates to specific obligations on parties.

Mrs. Sue Barnes: Thank you for that answer. It's very enlightening to me.

The Chair: Last question, please.

Mrs. Sue Barnes: All right.

Let's talk about your intended consultations with affected peoples in the north between now and June. You have one meeting. Are there any other meetings planned that larger groups will have, together with the indigenous people of our country, between now and then?

Mr. Ken Macartney: Yes. We have regular stakeholder meetings on these negotiations, and the next major stakeholder meeting will be in September.

Mrs. Sue Barnes: Okay.

Mr. Stone.

Mr. Ken Macartney: If I could follow up on your previous question about putting something in the text on indigenous peoples, I'm not aware of any of the indigenous groups asking for any specific language elsewhere in the text. We worked with them very closely on the language in the preamble, and we also got it in the regional agreement on POPs in the LRTAP agreement, again working with the indigenous groups. So this was a proposal by Canada to put it in the preamble.

The indigenous groups also recognized that this would have to be balanced by other text that appealed to the south essentially, so that there weren't concerns that this was only a northern problem. So we worked very closely with them to get a balanced text for the preamble, but I'm not aware of the indigenous groups suggesting any other language anywhere else in the text that would specifically refer to them.

Mrs. Sue Barnes: Mr. Stone.

The Chair: Thank you. Make it short please.

Mr. David Stone: Yes. I wanted to actually make the point that I think Mr. Macartney has just made, and the aboriginal organizations are very sensitive to this. Ms. Sheila Cloutier has handled it in a very sensitive manner indeed at the negotiations. We need to, at the one time, raise the awareness of the exposure of northern people, but we also need to make it very clear that it's a world responsibility for controlling these substances and not to make it appear as if it's an exclusively Canadian and northern problem. It's somewhat of a balancing act.

The language that was in the LRTAP protocol preamble was originally proposed by the aboriginal organizations. The language then of course was changed a bit. But the original language, which we took to the negotiations for LRTAP, did come from our aboriginal organizations.

The other bit I wanted to mention was that in the northern contaminants programs, which is the national program that is looking at this issue, all of the major northern aboriginal political organizations are represented in the management committee for that, and that management committee basically gives me the message that they wish me to take to these discussions. At the same time they formed this CAIPAP committee, which interacts directly with the negotiating team and which has a representative on the negotiating team.

• 1015

When we have our meeting on Friday, it is one of the agenda items where we will be looking at the progress of the northern contaminants program in this year from the perspective of the aboriginal partners in that program.

Mrs. Sue Barnes: Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you, Mrs. Barnes.

We have Mr. Laliberte, followed by Mr. Herron, Madame Catterall, and the chair.

Mr. Laliberte, welcome back to the committee.

Mr. Rick Laliberte (Churchill River, NDP): Greetings, Anne, gentlemen.

Following up on the issue of northern contaminants, it was a major documentation on studies on the north that indirectly led to this whole journey, I would assume.

There was a document that existed in Bonn that drew my concern. It was a case study published on POPs, and I think the United Nations released it there. But all the publications seem to be by southern nations. So it was all about the impact elimination could have on the southern nations; there was no case study or anything on northern impacts if elimination did not come into play.

Are we in a waiting line to be published in terms of our contaminants, or did we publish ours before, or was this the only one-time publication? It seemed like there were a lot of scientific data and opinions in this document and it may sway people to look only at the southern impact as opposed to the northern impact.

It should have been a balanced document is what I'm saying. I don't know who would have control of that.

Mr. John Buccini: In terms of who would have control of that, I don't think it's anyone at this table. If it were a UNEP document, and I don't recall the specific document you're alluding to—

Mr. Rick Laliberte: It was released right at the end, just before we adjourned.

Mr. John Buccini: If you could give me the title, it might help clarify my thinking. But I think I'd like to reflect back on the last questioner, plus this question, because the whole question of the natives in the north and how this plays into the overall POPs negotiations is a bit of a balancing act.

I echo Ken Macartney's comment that we have had to inform the world of the impact on those who live north of 60 degrees, while at the same time not representing this as strictly a northern issue. The official opinion, I believe, is that there are both local and long-range impacts of POPs. And the local is very important as well in order to keep what is usually referred to as “the south” engaged in the debate, so they recognize that the actions they take are as protective of their populations as they are of an assist in terms of protection of those who are much further north, in the colder climates where these materials ultimately come to rest.

If there was a document, and I can't recall the name of it actually, I know there has been considerable effort by UNEP to demonstrate to the developing world that there are issues there, that those issues are worth addressing, that they're worth addressing for those countries' sake alone, and that those will in fact contribute to the reduction in global impact. So it's very much a balancing act.

I think at this point there's no doubt in anyone's mind of the reality and the nature of the impacts in the north. I think the documentation you have seen may have been one of those. It was perhaps the German-Thai program, which is the only one that I recall being distributed. This was to show how a developed country can assist a developing country in dealing with the very tricky issue of dioxins. But if it was another report, then I would have to defer until I hear the title of that.

I hope that helps a bit.

Mr. Rick Laliberte: Yes. It was a major concern of mine, and it is a balancing act among all those nations to try to look at which way, or what benefit, or which impact, or which nation you want to secure. Everything is so square-bracketed now. You take that to South Africa, and if you don't take the square brackets off, it goes to Stockholm. Is that the next... or you have to do your job there?

Mr. John Buccini: Yes.

Mr. Rick Laliberte: You have to. Okay.

• 1020

The other one I'd like to raise is enabling mechanisms, which is a major topic that took place, and technology transfer is a part of it. As a developed country, what are our accepted technologies for disposal? We have incineration options. What are the other goodies on the list that you have to peddle all over the world, so to speak? What are we trying over here and proving in the scientific and research aspect to handle some of our toxic hot spots? How are we challenging ourselves to clean up our backyards of the messes we've left? So if we do a good job domestically, then we can go on the international stage, especially with the money we've put down to prove ourselves serious. Where are we going in the disposal technology? What's our position?

Mr. Robert Matheson: With respect to the particular technologies, there's really been not substantive discussion about the technologies per se that should be used in dealing with waste. I guess the reference would be there to the technologies and approaches that have been developed under the Basel Convention, which in fact deals specifically with the handling of hazardous waste. Our thinking has been to not duplicate disposal regimes and generate new information in addition to or perhaps different from what has been captured under the Basel Convention with respect to dealing with the particular waste streams and the appropriate technology.

So we would look to Basel to be the guiding reference for appropriate ways to handle the particular POPs waste, and in fact under that convention I think there is an initiative now underway to specifically look at POPs waste and deal with that and identify the appropriate approaches and technologies and techniques that are relevant to dealing with those substances.

Mr. Rick Laliberte: I touched on incineration because there is concern about by-products of incineration, and I guess that's the crux of our concern. What is the Canadian position on incineration? What are we doing with our own products, and what are we taking to the international stage to show there is concern about by-products in these areas? What's the reality? What's our position?

Mr. Robert Matheson: I guess I would re-emphasize this. I'm not going to pass myself off as a waste disposal expert, but would refer to Basel, because we are supportive of Basel. We're a signatory. We abide by the provisions there. The technologies we would feel appropriate to deal with POPs-type waste, that are dealt with under this convention, would be the ones that are alluded to and referred to in Basel.

We're very supportive of the work that's ongoing right now under that convention to look at POPs as a particular subset of waste and to develop information relevant to their disposal. Anne Daniel is the legal adviser to our representation on Basel.

I don't know, Anne, if you could clarify.

Ms. Anne Daniel (Senior Counsel, Legal Services, Department of the Environment): I could just add a little bit to what Sandy has mentioned.

In terms of the debate we had on the waste article in Bonn, there was an issue about whether there should be a separate text for requiring destruction of POPs under the POPs convention or a reference merely to the Basel Convention and appropriate disposal techniques under the Basel Convention. And this is an issue that still remains to be resolved.

Currently under the Basel Convention, the secretary of that convention advised the negotiations that incineration and physical chemical treatment were appropriate techniques at this time. The Basel Convention, in its technical working group work program, have established, as a priority item, looking at POPs waste and how to appropriately dispose of them. When they look at what are appropriate disposal techniques, they consider all aspects, including flexibility for developing countries to be able to manage their waste at home.

So one of the concerns we have is that we have this very developed regime under the Basel Convention and we would like parties to continue to use that. Now, whether as a result of that work there will be technology opportunities for Canadian companies is another matter. But under the Basel Convention the primary aim is to help countries manage their waste at home to the extent possible. We figure that convention is best placed to decide which techniques are environmentally sound and flexible enough for countries all over the world.

• 1025

The Chair: Thank you.

Mr. Herron, please.

Mr. John Herron (Fundy—Royal, PC): I would like to expand on something that's been touched on on a couple of occasions. Clearly this is a global problem, but northern nations seem to bear a higher degree of the pain of the issue from an international perspective. Engaging the southern countries is paramount.

Quite often some individuals have stated at international conferences, whether they be on climate change or here at POPs, that the juice-can countries may not be pushing the environmental envelope as far as perhaps they should. I'd like to touch on one positive aspect, which is that Canada has put $20 million on the table to help engage southern nations. That's nice, but from a leadership perspective, the other countries that are part of the juice cans, New Zealand or Japan or whatever... How hard are we knocking on their doors and saying “Step up to the plate here as well? We have a chance to be real leaders in this regard.

Can you tell me what the Americans are saying in terms of actually putting cash on the table on this issue?

Mr. Ken Macartney: In terms of the juice cans, while we work with that group, it's not a coordinating group at all. It doesn't provide for coordinated positions, unlike the EU, which certainly does. We exchange information with them, but we don't operate as a block.

Mr. John Herron: Maybe you could here. Maybe there's an opportunity here.

Mr. Ken Macartney: We like to call ourselves the free and independent states of juice cans. There's a cost to always working in lockstep, and we find that out when we negotiate with the EU sometimes, because they don't have the same flexibility or room to manoeuvre.

Mr. John Herron: What I'm really interested in is this. What if Canada went to other countries to engage them to actually put cash on the table, particularly the northern nations, whether that be Norway or Sweden or Finland or those kinds of countries? We could say that this affects us and our northern peoples perhaps more than most, so let's show some leadership here.

Mr. Ken Macartney: We've certainly pushed very hard. In fact, before the negotiations in March, we did a tour of the Nordic countries, pressing on them the need to show leadership. Certainly our putting money on the table demonstrated our leadership. We pushed other countries as well.

There is a question about what the appropriate mechanism is. Certainly the European countries are wanting to do this through the Global Environment Facility. The GEF met recently and they're going to look at a new operational program for POPs. They have in their document a statement that if the GEF is used for this convention, there will be a need for additional money to the GEF. I think the view of the EU countries is that they would put their additional money in through the GEF.

Mr. John Herron: To get back to the specifics, what I'm trying to do is to cut loose some countries here. Are the Americans saying they're in if something happens?

Mr. Ken Macartney: I think some countries are waiting for the end of the negotiations.

Mr. John Herron: Like the States?

Mr. Ken Macartney: We don't know the exact amount they're going to put on the table. We've certainly been encouraging them to do that. In the case of some of the Europeans, they have a different fiscal year. We were able to make this announcement right at the end of March, but in their case the fiscal year starts in January and they didn't have their finances in order. We're hopeful that by December they will have some decisions on funding, because there will be a need for funding in the interim period before whatever financing mechanism comes into—

Mr. John Herron: I was a little late for committee today, so maybe I'm a little slow, but I'm still not quite getting something here. Maybe I'll put it another way. Are there developed countries, EU countries, that are saying they're not writing a cheque to anybody?

• 1030

Mr. Ken Macartney: We've had discussions with some of the Nordic countries who have said they're very happy to put money on the table. They didn't announce specific amounts in Bonn. They tend to like to work within the EU in terms of what is going to be the financial mechanism through which the funds flow. Certainly we have very positive indications from the Nordics.

Mr. John Herron: Do we have a focus person who is going to say “Let's adopt a fund-raising regime”? The tactical and financial capacity transfer is something very critical. This is a focus to actually get more people at the plate. Do we have someone in charge?

Mr. Ken Macartney: We do that every time we talk to other donor countries. We certainly make that message loud and clear.

Mr. John Herron: Other donor countries are going to think you're the only one in so far.

Mr. Ken Macartney: As I was trying to explain, part of it is that in the case of the EU, they're looking at a financial mechanism through which they'll put their money. If the convention says the GEF will be the financial mechanism, they will be assessed a contribution based on the total amount for the POPs and they will pay that assessed share.

Certainly for December, as I said, there's a need for interim financing. Even if the GEF were considered to be the mechanism and countries then paid their assessed share into the GEF for the POPs work, that wouldn't come on stream officially until the convention was in force. So we're certainly looking for both interim financing from countries and also any sort of demonstration of commitment, putting money on the table. We've been pushing.

The Chair: Thank you.

Madame Catterall.

Ms. Marlene Catterall (Ottawa West—Nepean, Lib.): My questions arise largely out of Mr. Bankes' testimony, Mr. Chair. First, who's in charge here? Who's calling the shots? Who's heading up this working group or whatever we might call it?

Mr. Ken Macartney: Well, the delegation is co-chaired by the Department of Foreign Affairs and by Environment Canada.

Ms. Marlene Catterall: Oh, that's the problem. It's a co-chair arrangement. Okay, who are the two co-chairs?

Mr. Ken Macartney: I am one of them.

Ms. Marlene Catterall: I'm just trying to figure out who's responsible here.

Mr. Ken Macartney: Well, ministers are ultimately responsible.

Ms. Marlene Catterall: Yes.

Mr. Ken Macartney: But in terms of the work of the delegation, I am one co-chair and Steve Hart from Environment Canada, who couldn't be here today, is the other co-chair.

Ms. Marlene Catterall: Okay.

When we talk about Foreign Affairs, I am interested in where people fit in the structure. Are you Foreign Affairs side or Trade side?

Mr. Ken Macartney: Well, I'm with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. I'm not in the trade policy section of the department. I'm the director of the environmental relations division in the department.

Ms. Marlene Catterall: Okay.

Mr. Ken Macartney: But as I said, our positions come from ministers.

Ms. Marlene Catterall: Where do the environmental law section and the trade law division sit? We have two different ministers here. Do you fall primarily under Mr. Axworthy's work or primarily under Mr. Pettigrew's work?

Mr. Ken Macartney: My view is that I would provide advice to either minister.

Ms. Marlene Catterall: Okay.

Mr. Ken Macartney: I think the same would be the case for our legal section.

Ms. Marlene Catterall: Now, the hard question here is simply this. What does the precautionary principle mean when you advise ministers both for domestic law and for international negotiations like this? What does it mean? Is it just words?

Mr. Nigel Bankes: I think that question is directed to me. There is an articulation of the precautionary approach in Rio principle 15.

Ms. Marlene Catterall: I'm well aware of that. I want to know what we've done.

The Chair: It's not the precautionary approach; it is the precautionary principle in the Rio Declaration. Let's be very careful with words here.

Ms. Marlene Catterall: I want to know what we've done with it since then. How are we applying it?

Mr. Nigel Bankes: We have tried to operationalize that principle 15 in a variety of international instruments. A classic example, I think, would be the straddling stocks agreement, where we have, in operative text—I think it's article 6—and in one of the annexes, asked and answered the question about what a precautionary approach might mean in how we manage straddling stocks. It doesn't use the words “precautionary principle”, but it seeks to operationalize it in the context of that particular agreement.

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In the context of the biosafety protocol, we have a clause dealing with the operationalization of precaution in relation to the imports of living modified organisms. The particular clause to which I'm referring doesn't talk about the precautionary approach or the precautionary principle but addresses the question of decision-making in the context of scientific uncertainty.

What we're trying to do in these negotiations is to carry that approach forward, and if you like, in article X, say, how might we operationalize precaution without necessarily using the word?

The EU has put text on the table, the 7 bis proposal, and I indicated earlier that we consider that to be a constructive proposal.

Ms. Marlene Catterall: Sorry, I didn't hear the last few sections. The chair was interfering in my left ear.

Mr. Nigel Bankes: I indicated that the EU put its 7 bis proposal on the table at Bonn. That proposal doesn't use the words “precautionary principle” or “precautionary approach”, but it is designed to grapple with the question of scientific uncertainty, decision-making, in adding new chemicals. I indicated that we consider that to be a constructive proposal.

We still have some difficulty with it, and the reason—if you give me a moment to address this—is that their proposal, on one interpretation, seems to permit the possibility that in terms of adding new substances we can bypass the scientific review process that has been put in place painstakingly in the previous paragraphs of article F, and we do not think that is a sound proposal.

Ms. Marlene Catterall: Okay, let me ask you, suppose 1,000 people in a village of 2,000 people died overnight and the only possible explanation was a certain chemical that had been released into their environment. Would you say we had to do the scientific studies before we banned that chemical or took some serious action on it?

Mr. Nigel Bankes: No, because I think—

Ms. Marlene Catterall: Then isn't the EU right?

Sorry, I interrupted. My apologies.

Mr. Nigel Bankes: In framing your hypothetical, you said the only possible explanation for this was one chemical. It seems to me you have some scientific evidence there of a causal relationship. It's quite clear that you take action in that case.

Ms. Marlene Catterall: Okay, and suppose one only suspected that; it seemed the most likely explanation, but we couldn't be quite certain about that. Then would we wait?

Mr. Nigel Bankes: I'm a lawyer. It seems to me there that you have some scientific evidence for acting.

If we can focus specifically on the POPs convention, what the POPs convention is concerned with is an agreed process by which all the parties to the POPs convention agree to add new chemicals to one of the annexes, either for elimination or for serious restriction. It's entirely possible that domestically we will have acted long before that to ban one or all of these chemicals, and that is indeed the case for the chemicals on the list here.

Ms. Marlene Catterall: Then, if that's the standard we set domestically, why aren't we prepared to support that standard internationally? What's the real reason?

Mr. Nigel Bankes: If the question is still directed at me, I think—

Ms. Marlene Catterall: Well, if somebody else should be answering it, please let me know that. I'm not sure.

Mr. Nigel Bankes: I think we are carrying forward our domestic positions internationally. That said, we do have to be sensitive to not demand of other countries what they are incapable of delivering, and I think that has been alluded to on a number of occasions.

• 1040

Ms. Marlene Catterall: Okay, but are we very clearly saying that what's in our domestic law is what Canada supports in international agreements, and then finding some way to accommodate different capacities of countries?

Mr. Nigel Bankes: I think this question is coming up most specifically in the context of the treatment of elimination in the operative of articles, and I think others are better able to speak to that question than I am.

Ms. Marlene Catterall: Okay, who others?

Mr. Robert Matheson: I'll try to respond as best I can to the question you're asking.

We seem to have been discussing primarily the process for adding substances. The development of that process was intended to in fact accommodate the types of concerns I think you're raising.

If you go through the text, there are references to the process having flexibility and discretion being given to how things are used and applied. That was always very consciously intended to be caught up as part of the overall process. The sort of “weight of evidence” approach, so to speak, at the end of the day would guide the decision coming out on a chemical.

If you assume or accept that this sort of discretion and flexibility is there, then it is difficult to determine what you're asking of the individuals involved in the process if there's another layer, another consideration they are to factor in to exercise precaution, since the process was designed to include that already. What are you then asking to do, above and beyond the process, if there's this second tier, so to speak, that they are being asked to take into consideration?

From an assessment standpoint, from just a process of evaluating chemicals, we had tried, and I think most of the folks who were involved in the process had intended this, to have the process for evaluating the chemicals not fixed and rigid, that it would be scientists being allowed to exercise just the sorts of discretion and precautionary approaches that you are alluding to here.

Ms. Marlene Catterall: May I make one final comment, Mr. Chair?

The Chair: A very short one, please.

Ms. Marlene Catterall: If there's discretion and if there's flexibility in implementation, then I don't see a problem with having a fairly strong principle of what the objective is. And maybe the EU wording is the right one and maybe it's not, but that's where I'd like Canada to be.

The Chair: Thank you.

Ms. Carroll, please, followed by the chair, and then we can have a second round.

Ms. Aileen Carroll (Barrie—Simcoe—Bradford, Lib.): I don't have a question.

The Chair: Mr. Macartney, I'm comforted by your statement earlier that N bis, namely the WTO supremacy clause, is not a clause we should worry about, that it is only a temporary aberration that is disappearing from the screen. But should it be confirmed in the document in the final convention, it would be a very undesirable clause to have, and I hope that the Canadian delegation will take a very strong stand against it. Could I have that assurance from you?

Mr. Ken Macartney: If I could just state this again, what we're trying to ensure in this convention is that in fact—and I think all parties are trying to do this; we had very good discussions in the contact group—we don't get into any situation of conflict with other obligations. So people are trying to craft the trade measures in a way that's effective but doesn't conflict with the obligations that these very same parties have in the WTO.

• 1045

So as I was saying with the N bis, our view is that the discussions on the trade measures are going very well. As they're moving in that direction, at the end of the day the trade measures hopefully will be consistent with other obligations, and there's no need to make a reference.

The Chair: So you cannot answer my question in the affirmative?

Mr. Ken Macartney: The trade discussions are going very well. We do not believe it will be necessary, if these continue to go well, to have this sort of article. I can't predict now whether somebody is going to suggest a measure that's entirely inconsistent with WTO that would cause parties problems, but I don't expect that's the case.

The Chair: As I understand, the WTO's supremacy clause is not a question of consistency, you see; it's a question of which body has supremacy, and there is a big difference between the two. If this agreement gives the WTO supremacy, then we are in deep trouble.

Mr. Ken Macartney: It's our view that this convention should not be inconsistent with WTO. The trade measure should not be—

The Chair: It will not.

Mr. Ken Macartney: —discriminatory in any way. In fact, they should be appropriately applied, and that's the direction we're going here. So again, at the end of the day, I don't think this will be—

The Chair: All right, fine. The direction you are going in here means that the N bis clause, the WTO supremacy clause, will not be in the final document, and that's fine. It's important you realize—and it seems to me you don't—that there is a difference between consistency and supremacy.

Mr. Ken Macartney: We're looking for consistency.

The Chair: Moving on to the exchanges that have taken place so far on the precautionary principle, it seems as if the shift is from the principle to the approach and perhaps even to dropping the term “precautionary approach”. Mr. Bankes, is that a correct assumption?

Mr. Nigel Bankes: Our position, Mr. Chair, has been that we seek to operationalize the principle or the approach of precaution in actual text in this agreement in a way that will help the interpreter, rather than create confusion between appropriate thresholds, as between the operative text and some general reference to precaution.

The Chair: Why are we afraid to use the terminology? It's not just you people in this negotiation, but in the Department of Health there is also a fear of pronouncing the words “precautionary principle”. What is the reason for this fear? Why have the words “precautionary principle” been abandoned by Canada in its international negotiations?

Mr. Nigel Bankes: First, we have not abandoned it. We have tabled text, which has been included in the chair's preambular provisions, that refers to the precautionary principle as articulated in Rio. I think the second point is why are we concerned about general references to the precautionary principle in, for example, article F.3?

Let me give you an example. At the moment article F.3 says that “The Committee shall examine the proposal and apply the screening criteria applied in Annex D in a [flexible]... and integrative manner”.

The term “flexible” was proposed by the criteria experts group. The criteria experts group said that this means a proposal could be considered as satisfying the criteria if one of the criteria—persistence, bioaccumulation, or toxicity—was marginally not met, but two or more were amply met. I guess we interpret that as saying that in cases of scientific uncertainty the POPs review committee is being directed to take what is in effect a precautionary approach.

If we then add to that agreed approach—

The Chair: No, Mr. Bankes, this is a little too much. The flexibility concept, as Ms. Catterall already said, wouldn't be that bad at all so long as there is an affirmation of the principle. So I don't know where you're leading.

• 1050

If you're trying to determine a concordance between various sections of the document, fine, but that is something for lawyers to work out. The basic concept is whether the principle will be in or not. That is the basic preoccupation. If there are contradictions in the document, then it is for you to work them out, not by making things even more complicated at the committee level.

I would like to move on, though, with my questions because time is running out.

Mr. Macartney, in your presentation this morning you indicated in the fifth paragraph on page 2 that the emerging compromise is that ultimate elimination, where technically and socio-economically feasible, could serve as a legitimate goal of the obligation. Do you realize you could drive a truck through those words, “where technically and socio-economically feasible”? In other words, that subcondition would make this whole question of ultimate elimination virtually insignificant. Did you realize that?

Mr. Ken Macartney: I think the document was reflecting where the discussions were going in that contact group.

There was a proposal. Of course the Europeans had the proposal for ultimate elimination. I think they indicated at that meeting that in their sense it didn't really mean elimination to zero. It's difficult for English speakers to understand ultimate elimination as being anything but—

The Chair: I'm sorry. No. Please focus on this phrase. Don't shift the guard.

You people have this very bad habit of shifting the discussion to other elements. Please concentrate on whether or not “where technically and socio-economically feasible” is a subclause or an indication that would make the whole thrust towards ultimate elimination virtually insignificant.

Mr. Ken Macartney: Thank you.

I was trying to explain what happened in the contact group and why then the proposal—

The Chair: No. I'm not interested in what happened in the contact group.

Mr. Ken Macartney: Okay.

The Chair: I'm asking whether or not you realize the consequence of this particular clause. You are here not to give us a history of what happened or what didn't happen. You're giving us a text that I find very troublesome, so I'm asking you whether you realize the consequences of this subclause, of this nuance, so to speak, which seems to be very harmless, but in reality it isn't.

Mr. Ken Macartney: Perhaps Mr. Matheson can answer. The concern was that “ultimate elimination” was not supportable by a number of countries. And therefore, in seeking common ground the suggestion was “ultimate elimination where feasible”. And another country suggested, because the understanding of “feasible” even by the Europeans included technically and socio-economically feasible... That's where we have this text now.

I'll let Mr. Matheson answer.

The Chair: No, don't let Mr. Matheson add anything. I can see there is a problem here conceptually, because the government, or your department, does not seem to realize that if an aluminum plant has to be closed down in the south as a result of ultimate elimination—which would benefit the population in the north, though, because it would reduce POPs—then these considerations would prevail and therefore that measure could not be taken. Do you see?

This is the consequence of this measure. It would neutralize, if not make virtually ineffective, the entire exercise. The socio-economic considerations in the south would prevail over the environmental and health conditions of the north. That's what it boils down to, in effect. Do you see what I mean? Do you see what I'm driving at?

Mr. Ken Macartney: I guess I see what you're driving at. The question would be whether the developing countries would accept the obligation of eliminating all emissions of by-products to zero, or whether in trying to reduce that to the very extent possible they would factor in socio-economic and technical considerations.

• 1055

The Chair: My time is up. I must recognize that reality also.

I would like to ask a last question about exemptions, though. Are any exemptions contemplated? Since you did not deal with exemptions in your presentation this morning, could you give this committee an outline in writing of the exemptions you're contemplating in the next round, the final round?

Mr. Ken Macartney: In the presentation, we discussed the two exemptions that have been generally accepted. Perhaps I'll ask Mr. Matheson to elaborate on some of the other exemptions that haven't been agreed to.

The Chair: I would rather see them in writing by way of a memo to the members of this committee, because time is running out and we want to have a second round. I understand that there are many exemptions. Would you give us a complete picture of the exemptions that are been contemplated?

Mr. Ken Macartney: Yes, we can certainly do that.

The Chair: Thank you.

We'll move to the second round, in the same order: Mr. Hilstrom, followed by Madame Kraft Sloan and Mr. Lincoln.

Mr. Hilstrom, please.

Mr. Howard Hilstrom: Thank you, Mr...

Just pardon me one minute. We've had a real problem with the committee here in how it's been run, so I'd like to use my time.


Mr. Daniel Turp (Beauharnois—Salaberry, BQ): Mr. Chairman, you are aware that I have introduced a motion. I would like to know if it can be considered. This is an important issue in my riding and this is the second time that I have come to the committee. I would like to know when you will consider it.


The Chair: At the end of the second round.

Ms. Paddy Torsney (Burlington, Lib.): Mr. Chair, I have a point of order. It's my understanding that this meeting is scheduled until 11 o'clock.

The Chair: No, it is not scheduled until 11 o'clock. We're going beyond that.

Ms. Paddy Torsney: According to this document it is.

The Chair: I have a long list for the second round and I think members would like to ask questions, so we will continue peacefully, as we started.

Mr. Hilstrom, we will finish the second round with those who are still here, and then we'll deal with Madame Girard-Bujold's motion at the end of the second round.

Mr. Howard Hilstrom: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to see the Bloc motion come forward, and you've said it will.

I just have a few questions. Mr. Stone from the Department of Indian Affairs has identified a problem with the Inuit in general and the aboriginal people of northern Manitoba and James Bay in particular with regard to PCB levels. What is Indian Affairs doing? We're talking about long-term agreements that will not have any effect for tens and twenties of years. What's Indian Affairs doing right now about this problem, by way of help for the Inuit people from a health perspective? What else is happening?

Mr. David Stone: This really goes to the northern contaminants program, which has been ongoing since 1991. In it we have been identifying what the food sources are, the most significant exposure items. We've been using that to determine how much risk people have from eating particular types of food. We've been doing this in collaboration with northern organizations, right down to the community level.

The results from this information are carried back to the community level, normally by the native organizations themselves, with our support. At the community level they're provided with advice in their language as to what we believe the levels mean and what they could do to reduce their exposure if they need to. They are given information to help them make personal choices on what they should do.

The difficulty we have is that we know the native diet is very healthy and that the benefits from eating that diet are very substantial. The disease profiles that people take on in the north when they move to a southern diet are quite different from the disease profiles they have otherwise. We don't want them to take inappropriate action, but we also want it to be their choice as to what to do.

Mr. Howard Hilstrom: I understand all that. So there's not too much you can do other than to provide the information. There's nothing that you are doing.

I'd like to talk about the European Union in particular for just a couple of minutes. Have you quantified the output of POPs from Canada, the European Union, and the United States? Do you have a chart or a graph or something that would show us the quantity of the output?

• 1100

Mr. Robert Matheson: No, I don't have a graph I could provide you with. We do have information of two types. One, some of the developed countries have inventories. We've developed inventories on some of these substances, as have countries such as the United States. Our other type of information is the scientific monitoring that's done, looking at what's moving from air pathways and entering the north in particular, or even the Great Lakes, in ambient air concentrations.

Mr. Howard Hilstrom: It's impossible then to get a handle on the EU's amount of output or Canada's amount of output? You don't have a handle on that, and yet you're negotiating an agreement?

Mr. Robert Matheson: If you're talking specifically about the EU, since they would fall under developed countries, they would have emission inventories. But certainly our science would indicate that the POPs entering Canada from foreign sources are coming from places such as Southeast Asia, the eastern part of Europe, and the former Soviet Union. And if we're looking at the Great Lakes and whatnot, they're coming from the U.S, and also from China through the Pacific pathway.

Mr. Howard Hilstrom: Okay. The point is, to negotiate something, you have to have accurate figures. I'd like to think you could provide those to this committee. Maybe you can do that later.

Just what exactly are you negotiating here? It's fine and dandy to have the general idea that we want to reduce these things, but the developed countries you're talking about have the capacity to reduce those without this bloody agreement, and they should be doing it. But if you don't know what their levels are, you're just talking. It's just a theoretical, nice idea that we should reduce stuff.

Action can be taken by developed countries right now. I'm relying on the accuracy of your statement that Canada has prohibited or severely restricted all of these POPs, and that's a great thing. But I really question if you guys, as a negotiating team, really understand or really know what you're negotiating on this agreement.

You're going to bind Canada into something, because in Parliament we don't get another say on this. What you guys negotiate is going to be signed by the government and brought back. So of the developed countries, can you give me an example, other than Canada? Let's use Europe, whether their pollution comes right to us or not. Chernobyl certainly blew all over us. Can you give me an example of the EU actually reducing or a program where they are reducing emissions on some of these POPs?

Mr. Robert Matheson: Yes, the EU in fact has taken action on all the substances, much in the same way Canada has. They have aggressive emission controls, if you're talking about the by-products. They certainly do not use the pesticides that are being spoken to in this agreement. And they're dealing with PCBs on a phase-out path.

Mr. Howard Hilstrom: Okay.

My last question is in regard to trade, the WTO, and that whole issue. First off, Third World countries need trade, particularly in foodstuffs. I was in Washington, D.C., and they say the best way for poor countries to get ahead is for them to export food products, because once they get their agriculture going, they're able to up their incomes and get into other things.

So when I hear talk around the table about restricting food imports from other countries, based on not scientific judgment of the level of contamination, I guess is the word you'd use, or the fact that they're still producing POPs from whatever, but their food is actually okay, but we're going to punish them by not importing their food... I would like a comment on that.

The other things is, you can't restrict trade not based on a scientific certainty. The Europeans are doing that right now in regard to beef products from Canada and the United States. If you build into this agreement the idea that they can now legitimately, just on some belief that maybe there's something wrong—and I know we're talking about precautionary principle stuff here again—just because there may be something wrong with this... If you build that in there, then I say we should quit bringing in Airbuses, because the way they manufacture them over there puts dioxins and that into the air. As a result, we shouldn't be importing any of their Airbuses. What do you have to say about those comments?

• 1105

Mr. Ken Macartney: On the first comment, I don't represent Health Canada or Agriculture Canada, but no, we wouldn't be stopping imports of foodstuffs without any scientific rationale for doing so. We have regulations that deal with this.

On the second point, again we're getting into the whole area of precaution. I don't know if we want to go through that discussion again, but you've touched on some of the points that have been raised—

Mr. Howard Hilstrom: Well, it's your intention to build—

The Chair: This is your last question.

Mr. Howard Hilstrom: —a precautionary principle into this agreement, whether you use those exact words or not, as Mr. Bankes said. That's a scary thing, because it can be used to prohibit trade between countries.

Mr. Ken Macartney: If I could just follow up on that, the intention here is that we would collectively, as parties, agree to a process that would add new chemicals, so that this shouldn't be a case of one country acting unilaterally.

We have these criteria that are quite flexible. We believe they build in precaution. If you look at annex B on information requirements and screening criteria, you can see that precaution is built in here. Then, we have again the obligation to apply that flexibly. Certainly we think that precaution should be incorporated into the treaty in an appropriate manner.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Hilstrom.

What I propose to do now is give another member on the government side a chance to ask questions for five minutes, and then to conclude the rounds of questions, because there is here a desire to deal with a motion that has been before the committee for some time. Then we will adjourn.

Madame Kraft Sloan, if you would like to ask your round of questions, for five minutes, then we will deal with Madame Girard-Bujold's motion, and then we will necessarily adjourn.

Madame Kraft Sloan.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I'm just wondering if Canada supports trace contaminants in products. I guess it's referred to as de minimis contaminants in products.

Mr. Robert Matheson: That particular exemption, and I believe that's what you're referring to in that phrase you mentioned—trace or de minimis—was accepted by the contact group, at least, as a general exemption, and Canada did support it.

I would ask that we keep in mind it refers only to the substances that are included under paragraphs 1 and 2, the intentionally produced substances, that is, in Canada we do set limits for things like PCBs, so we do acknowledge that there is a trace contamination problem. We supported it for the POPs protocol under the UN ECE, and we supported it this time as well.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: I'm sorry. Did you say the “intentional”... I thought it was unintentional.

Mr. Robert Matheson: The exemption we're talking about refers only to the substances that are intentionally produced substances—paragraphs 1 and 2.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Okay. Would that include dioxins as well?

Mr. Robert Matheson: No.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Does that include DDT?

Mr. Robert Matheson: Yes.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: There's a pesticide that contains DDT. I believe it's manufactured in Italy, so something like this would be acceptable.

Mr. Robert Matheson: That would be an example of a potential trace contaminant. Canada still has the right to take its own domestic action.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Okay, because the concern I had in our examination of pesticides, when the committee undertook a review of pesticides, was that it was brought to our attention that the PMRA is currently in conflict with the government's toxic substances management policy. The toxic substances management policy talks about virtual elimination as “below the level of quantification”, whereas the document that the PMRA uses for the interpretation of the TSMP is to say that it “may be below the level of quantification”. If Canada, through the POPs process, is supporting exemptions that would allow trace contaminants of some of these POPs...

• 1110

It seems to me that the PMRA is the one that approves and registers these substances. However, our stated position of virtual elimination... and I'm referring to a letter produced by the minister. This has to do with elimination of POPs that are by-products, but I assume this is the same definition as for virtual elimination.

The minister is quoted in here as saying “virtual elimination approach, which requires reduction of releases to the point where they can no longer be measured”, which is certainly the toxic substances management policy of the government. However, if you look at the agency that controls and regulates pesticides, they are not saying “below the level of quantification”. They're saying “may be below the level of quantification”.

So it seems to me that we might be setting up some kind of contradiction here and that the POPs process may be reinforcing that as well. That's why I had a level of concern around that.

Mr. Robert Matheson: I take your point. Keep in mind that the exemptions are as well... If you're looking at a convention that stands the test of time, looking at situations or whatever substances could be dealt with there, there's nothing that stops individual countries from taking the appropriate domestic action. As I said, there are cases, for instance, with PCBs—and in his day job, the chair can always correct me if I'm wrong—where we have in fact set a de minimis level, if you want, for PCBs in certain substances and situations.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: I had to leave the room for a bit, so if this question has already been asked, I apologize for this. Why does Canada support allowing trace contaminants within products?

Mr. Robert Matheson: As I said, it is in fact something we do under our regulations. I was just mentioning, for instance, that I am not with the agency, so it's easier for me to speak to industrial chemicals. But PCBs are one of the intentionally produced substances being dealt with. We do have domestic legislation that sets a de minimis number.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: So that's the only reason we accept that, then?

Mr. Robert Matheson: For that consistency, yes.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: To make it that consistent.

I'm wondering if it is possible for the committee to have a copy of the draft treaty as it stands right now. You can get that to us in both official languages, I assume.

Mr. Robert Matheson: Yes, it's on the website. But we can certainly leave a copy of the English. I don't know if the clerk has access to the website, but it would be in the six UN languages on that website.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: All right, then.

The Chair: Thank you.

This concludes the second round of questions. Unfortunately it was a bit limited and short, but somehow made necessary by other considerations.

Madame Girard-Bujold put forward this motion two weeks ago, the text of which has been distributed. I must say, as chair of this committee, that it would be more effective, Madame Girard-Bujold, if you were to write a letter to the Minister of the Environment and make this inquiry, because it would be a straightforward initiative. It would not be politicized by the committee and it would not open the gates for a number of further inquires once this was accepted.

There may be many other incinerators that need to be examined. Therefore it is an initiative that the committee will have to decide on shortly—


Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: Mr. Chairman, I am very disappointed.


The Chair: —by way of a discussion.

The floor is yours, Madame Girard-Bujold.


Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: Mr. Chairman, I am very disappointed. I have tabled these motions three times. Earlier on, we had a quorum, but most of the Liberals have left the room. That disappoints me, Mr. Chairman. The way this committee works is horrible. Since early on this morning, I have asked you three times to consider my motions.

• 1115


The Chair: Just a moment, Madame Girard-Bujold.


Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: I won't table them then, Mr. Chairman. I will wait for another opportunity to arise.


The Chair: What you're saying is not accurate. First of all, it isn't three times. Secondly, I would have put forward this motion at the beginning of this meeting had you been here before we started the hearing. The same would have applied also at the last meeting. But unfortunately, Madame Girard-Bujold, your arrival is not when the meeting starts—


Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: Those comments are inappropriate, I cannot accept that.


The Chair: —and that would be the ideal moment to put the motion forward. It's not accurate when you say that on three occasions this motion was approached, because this is the first time we are doing it.


Mr. Daniel Turp: Mr. Chairman...


The Chair: Yes. We'll hear from the parliamentary secretary and then—


Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: Mr. Chairman, I still have the right to speak.


The Chair: Madame Torsney, followed by Mr. Turp.

Ms. Paddy Torsney: Mr. Chair, two things. One, we do not have quorum; and two, this meeting was scheduled from 9 until 11 and it is now quarter past 11. I appreciate that we had very interesting witnesses before us today and that there are lots of very interesting things this committee would like to do vis-à-vis the environment and various studies, but lots of members have other things scheduled, given that the committee was scheduled from 9 until 11, so I think there's no option but to end the meeting.


The Chair: Mr. Turp.

Mr. Daniel Turp: Mr. Chairman...

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: We won't table them.

Mr. Daniel Turp: I do not think that it is worth debating the motion, since we cannot vote. At the same time, I urge you to ensure that during the next meeting—I think another one is scheduled for Thursday—when we convene, at the beginning, we have an opportunity, as you so desire, to debate this motion. This is the second time I have come to the committee, and I would like to be able to present you and other members of the committee with a request from some citizens and groups in my riding. I will make myself available first thing Thursday morning to outline the reasons that would justify the adoption of this motion to allow for an environmental assessment of the Cornwall incinerator. As a member of Parliament, I must speak on behalf of the people and groups in my riding that have asked me to approach this committee and its chair.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Turp.

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: Mr. Chairman, we are not introducing our motion. We will wait until Thursday morning.

The Chair: If we arrive on time, we will be able to deal with it.

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: Oh, that is easy to say, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Daniel Turp: Mr. Chairman, can we count on you to ensure that Thursday morning, if we have a quorum, I will be able to speak to the motion?

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: There won't be a quorum.

The Chair: At 9:30.

Mr. Daniel Turp: At 9:30?

The Chair: Naturally, we will have to ensure that there is a quorum. We will be able to proceed if there are enough members present.

Mr. Daniel Turp: Mr. Chairman...

The Chair: It is provided that we have a quorum, isn't it?

Mr. Daniel Turp: Mr. Chairman, I would appreciate it if you could encourage people to be here to debate these motions. This is the third time that my colleague has asked me to come and that I have made myself available to come early or at the end of the meeting. Mr. Chairman, please exercise your leadership so that we can have a quorum on Thursday morning and so that I can debate this motion with committee members.

The Chair: There will be an in camera session at 8:45. If we have a quorum then, we will be able to discuss the motion.

Mr. Daniel Turp: Good. I will be there.

The Chair: Mr. Laliberte.


Mr. Rick Laliberte: For the record, I brought the document I was referring to that dealt with the case studies for the southern nations. Also, for the record, I think Indian and Northern Affairs may confirm this, but the definition of “northern” is north of 60. The circumpolar documents that just came out with the northern dimension would refer to north of 60. I have a concern because there is a population there. The impacts of the POPs that are south of 60 should be studied, but the northern contaminants are limited and restricted to north of 60 jurisdiction.

• 1120

Mr. David Stone: I can answer that last part. The northern contaminants program has been looking at POP exposure and risk problems in northern Quebec as well.

Mr. Rick Laliberte: The 60th parallel exists in northern Quebec.

Mr. David Stone: Yes.

Mr. Rick Laliberte: So it doesn't look at Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, or B.C.

Mr. David Stone: That's correct. The northern contaminants program has not been working in those areas.

Mr. Rick Laliberte: Just for the record, Mr. Chair, I would recommend that members of Parliament or members of this committee be invited to attend South Africa. I think it was a crucial... Through my attendance in Bonn, I really saw the dynamics of how the negotiation takes place. It's fine to have a position, but all these things take change. You have your updates every morning. You know where the countries are. And there's the elimination aspect and precautionary principle, and how tabs are taken for which countries are taking which positions. I think it's crucial for us to be a part, as parliamentarians.

The Chair: That, Mr. Laliberte, is a matter you may want to raise with the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Foreign Affairs in regard to the composition of the Canadian parliamentary delegation.

Mr. Rick Laliberte: Well, I just wanted to see the nods of their heads before I went forward. So now that I have it reconfirmed...

The Chair: I'm sure they would be delighted to have parliamentarians there, but it's a decision that you have to tackle at the ministerial level.

On behalf of those who are left in this room, I want to thank you very much, Mr. Macartney, and your delegation. It was very informative.

I'm not so sure we are heading in the right direction with the negotiations, judging from what has been said and exchanged this morning. We look forward to the additional information you will provide. We thank you for your efforts to explain the issues to us. We may see you again before the December event in South Africa.

Thank you, again.

This meeting stands adjourned.