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[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

Tuesday, September 26, 2000

• 0949


The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan (York North, Lib.)): I'd like to call this meeting to order, and I would like to welcome our witnesses here today from Parks Canada. Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), we are examining a consideration of issues pertaining to the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada with respect to Bill C-33, an act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada.

Today I would like to welcome Bruce Amos, who is the director general of national parks directorate; Nikita Lopoukhine, who is the executive director of ecological integrity branch with national parks directorate; and Dr. Gilles Seutin, who is the senior biologist, ecological integrity branch, national parks directorate. I welcome you very much to our committee.

• 0950

You'll proceed with your presentation, then. Thank you.


Mr. Bruce Amos (Director General, National Parks Directorate, Parks Canada Agency): Thank you very much, Madam Chair. Members of the committee, good morning.


Good morning, Madam Chairman and members of the standing committee. We're pleased to be here today to offer Parks Canada's perspective on the proposed Species at Risk Act, Bill C-33, or SARA.

You have introduced my colleagues, Nik Lopoukhine and Gilles Seutin.

Parks Canada recognizes the need for legislation to protect and recover species at risk in Canada. Canada's national parks provide habitat for many species that are at risk in Canada, and Bill C-33 would enhance our capacity to protect and recover species at risk found on all lands under the administration of Parks Canada. It would also foster cooperative planning and action among all parties who share jurisdiction and interest in species at risk. We are pleased therefore to endorse the current bill.

There is an urgency to protect and recover species at risk in Canada. Every year COSEWIC identifies more species in precarious conditions that deserve special attention. This list now includes 173 endangered and threatened species and 153 species of special concern.

Parks Canada is one of the organizations within the federal government that has a legislated conservation mandate. We have been active for many years in working to protect and restore species in our national parks. Effective protection and conservation of species at risk, however, require an overarching legislative framework within which all jurisdictions and stakeholders can work together. We worked closely with the Department of the Environment, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and other federal departments on the development of this proposed legislation to ensure that it respects Parks Canada's responsibilities in the management of wildlife in national parks and historic sites and increases our capacity to protect and recover species at risk in cooperation with others.


I would like to say a few words about the Parks Canada Agency. In 1885, Canada's first national park was established at Banff and in 1911, we were the first country in the world to create a National Parks Service. The Parks Canada Agency was created by an Act of Parliament in 1998, which took effect in April 1999. In general, the Agency's mandate is to protect and present nationally significant examples of Canada's natural and cultural heritage and foster public understanding, appreciation and enjoyment in ways that ensure their ecological and commemorative integrity for present and future generations.

The Minister of Canadian Heritage is responsible and has the overall direction of the Agency. The Agency currently manages 39 national parks and national park reserves, three marine conservation areas, 132 national historic sites and nine historic canals. This network covers almost 250,000 square kilometres, more than 2% of Canada's land base.


I might say that the area I mentioned, to put it in proportion, the land area that Parks Canada manages, is equivalent to the island of Newfoundland, the province of Nova Scotia, the province of New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island combined.


Parks Canada is working to expand its terrestrial and marine networks, and thereby bring more lands—and species—under legislative protection.

• 0955

Under the current National Parks Act, we have responsibility to manage ecological integrity. Through this statute and its regulations, all plants, animals and natural objects and national parks are protected, whether or not they are at risk. Bill C-27, the proposed new Canada National Parks Act, which is now before the Senate, reinforces our ecological integrity mandate. It states: "Maintenance or restoration of ecological integrity, through the protection of natural resources and natural processes, shall be the first priority of the Minister when considering all aspects of the management of parks". A clear implication of this clause is that national parks are to be managed in ways that protect species at risk.


National parks provide habitat for a large number of species at risk. Of the 173 endangered and threatened species found on the latest COSEWIC list, 70 are found in one or more national parks. In a few cases a species at risk is found exclusively, or almost exclusively, in a national park. Experts have identified seven such species, including the Banff Springs snail and the eastern population of Blanding's turtle. Parks Canada will take the lead in defining the protection and recovery measures needed for these species.

Not surprisingly, the large majority of species at risk have a much broader range than just the national parks. The peregrine falcon, the whooping crane, the burrowing owl, and Pitcher's thistle are just four examples. The proposed Bill C-33 provides a clear mechanism by which we can participate in the protection and recovery of these species across their range by working with federal, provincial, or territorial departments, aboriginal organizations, and all stakeholders.

Given Parks Canada's legislated conservation mandate, the large area under our direct stewardship, and the importance of these protected areas for species at risk, it is entirely appropriate that the Minister of Canadian Heritage is named as a competent minister on SARA and will participate on the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council with other federal, provincial, and territorial ministers responsible for wildlife.

As I've noted, the National Parks Act and regulations provide protection for all plant and animal species and natural objects in the national parks. We're of the opinion that the proposed Bill C-33 specifically addressing species at risk would enhance our ability and our effectiveness in protecting and recovering species at risk on the lands we administer. The proposed legislation would accomplish this in a number of ways: by strengthening protection for listed species within national parks and other sites we manage, by setting out new requirements for permitting activities that could be detrimental to listed species, and by requiring the preparation of recovery strategies and action plans in cooperation with others. I would like to briefly explain each of these.

Bill C-33 would complement the conservation provisions of the National Parks Act and regulations by strengthening protection directed at species at risk. The general prohibitions with respect to listed species in Bill C-33 would augment the specific prohibitions in the National Parks Act. Further, the penalties proposed in Bill C-33 with respect to listed species offences are much stiffer than the general penalties under our act. As a result, there would be an additional deterrent to illegal actions affecting species at risk in our national parks.

Secondly, Bill C-33 sets out new requirements for authorizing activities on lands administered by Parks Canada where the activities affect a listed wildlife species, any part of its critical habitat, or the residences of its individuals. The bill would limit the purpose of such activities, would set a number of preconditions as well as terms and conditions to be considered in an agreement or permit. This proposed legislative requirement with respect to listed species is consistent with and strengthens our current policies and practices.

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Thirdly and perhaps most importantly, the bill would require the preparation of recovery strategies and action plans for listed species according to fixed timelines and in cooperation with provincial and territorial governments, other government departments, aboriginal organizations, and all stakeholders. It is expected that Parks Canada would take the lead in preparing some of these strategies and would be an active participant in others, depending on the extent to which the species is found in lands administered by our agency. These plans will identify critical habitat of the species and the measures to be taken to protect it. These measures will in turn be reflected in park management plans and in operational decisions.

The new requirement for recovery strategies and action plans will ensure that our efforts to protect species and their habitat are not limited to the national parks but are part of a broader cooperative knowledge-based approach addressing the overall habitat needs of the species that are at risk. This is the best way not only to protect and recover these species, but also to contribute to maintaining or restoring the ecological integrity of the national parks, consistent with the recent recommendations of the ecological integrity panel.

I'd like to conclude by making a comment, Madam Chairman, on the subject of public education and communications. In doing so, I'm stepping to one side of the bill, but I will be brief.

I want to make the point that if we are to slow the rate of species lost in Canada, public understanding of the importance of biodiversity conservation and public support for concerted action will be essential. With over 20 million visits to our national parks and sites each year and even more hits on our website, Parks Canada has an opportunity to play a major role in public education about species at risk through our interpretation and outreach programs. We look forward to collaborating with others in this work.

Madam Chairman and members of the committee, this concludes my remarks. Thank you for the opportunity to address you this morning. We will be pleased to answer your questions.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you very much.

I have Madame Girard-Bujold and Mr. Herron, five minutes each on the first round.


Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold (Jonquière, BQ): Thank you, Madam Chair. I listened to you carefully, Mr. Amos. Throughout your presentation, I asked myself the following question: Why do you think that the proposed new legislation, Bill C-33...

You told us that you already have an act that is called the National Parks Act. You also know that environmental groups gave you a D-Minus rating with respect to federal lands over which you have full jurisdiction. You said that this new legislation will enable you to better and more efficiently protect species at risk and that you will be able to establish the species-at-risk list.

You say that you already have legislation and that you want the new legislation to come under the jurisdiction of your minister. And yet, you already have legislation and you do not enforce it in the areas under your jurisdiction. I think that you already have the tools to do this under your legislation. I don't know what more you would be getting. Indeed, you do such a poor job of implementing the legislation that pertains to your territory that the environmental groups have given you a D-minus rating.

I think that you have the means to do better and I do not understand how an additional piece of legislation will enable you to take better action when you don't use the tools that are already available to you. That is my first question, Madam Chair.

Mr. Bruce Amos: Thank you, Ms. Girard-Bujold. It is true that the National Parks Act does provide us with the tools we need to protect animals, plants and natural resources in national parks.

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As I explained in my brief, in our opinion, this legislation will improve and strengthen the tools that are currently available to us, particularly with respect to the need to prepare plans and strategies for the protection of species at risk, not only in the national parks but in their entire habitat.

This could be done in cooperation with other departments and other governments, which is a step ahead. In our opinion, and according to the recommendations of the Ecological Integrity Panel, this is one of the most important tools.

As for the position of non-government organizations, they strongly support Bill C-27, which is before the Senate. As I explained, this legislation strengthens our mandate as it pertains to ecological integrity. I explained the three aspects that are important and which will enhance our ability to work with others, especially when it comes to protecting species at risk.

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: Let's go back to Bill C-27, which is currently before the Senate. You said that, under this bill, you will have all the tools you need to take action in the territories you administer. If I understood correctly, this is what you have said. Consequently, why do you want to have another piece of legislation such as Bill C-33? Don't you think that Bill C-33 will enable the Canadian government to exercise its control in areas that don't come under its jurisdiction?

Last week, witnesses talk to us about COSEWIC, which already exists. COSEWIC brings together the territories, the provinces, everyone, around the same table. Everyone truly has an opportunity to give his or her opinion within COSEWIC. We already have the required structure and you said that Bill C-27 will give you even more tools. So, why do we need Bill C-33, if not to allow meddling in provincial jurisdiction beyond what is allowed by the Constitution, Sir?


The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you, Madame Girard-Bujold.

Response, please.


Mr. Bruce Amos: As for our responsibilities in the national parks, these are federal lands that are under federal jurisdiction and the Minister of Heritage Canada. As for our responsibilities and our management authority, we will not be assuming any direct responsibility for lands outside of the national parks. However, the mandate will give us both the opportunity and the obligation to work with partners in the national parks region in order to prepare strategies. Working in this manner will be much more effective for us as compared to working alone within the boundaries of a national park.

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: That means that Bill C-33 will give you the opportunity to work outside of the national parks.

I apologize, Ms. Chair, but it would be good if he could tell me whether or not this is so.


The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Madame, next round.

Mr. Herron.

Mr. John Herron (Fundy—Royal, PC): You've probably heard of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act at one point or another. You know that we have different rules and regulations on federal land compared to non-federal land. You're aware of that, are you?

Mr. Bruce Amos: Under that act or in general?

Mr. John Herron: Under that act.

Mr. Bruce Amos: I'm not familiar in detail with that act. Perhaps we—

Mr. John Herron: But there are some things you can do on federal lands and some things you can't do. It's sort of like a different tiered approach under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. Are you familiar with that?

Mr. Nikita Lopoukhine (Executive Director, Ecological Integrity Branch, National Parks Directorate, Parks Canada Agency): Not specifically, no.

• 1010

Mr. John Herron: How about even a little bit unspecifically? Not at all? Okay.

You're aware that the provincial laws on protection of species at risk have rules and regulations about what you can do on provincially owned lands versus lands that are not provincially owned. You must be at least aware of that, since that's the bill we're referring to. So a two-tiered regime is quite commonplace in protecting species at risk in the provincial context. That's not subject to any kind of constitutional challenge. Agreed?

So my next question: When the Minister of the Environment came here the other day and went on a tirade on having separate rules and regulations for mandatory protection on federal lands versus other types of lands, he would probably be incorrect in terms of there being other legal precedents where that has taken place. Would you agree?

Mr. Bruce Amos: I'm sorry, Mr. Herron, I'm not in a position to comment on what Mr. Anderson said or the correctness of it. I'm not familiar with the testimony you're referring to.

Mr. John Herron: Maybe I can help you. He said it would be subject to a constitutional challenge, the legality of the law itself, if you had mandatory protection of species at risk on federal lands versus non-federal lands—i.e., parks. We had that in place for Bill C-65. Why would we not want to at least protect species at risk on federal lands, including parks, and make it mandatory protection? Would you guys have a problem with that?

Mr. Bruce Amos: As I explained, we have protection in place for—

Mr. John Herron: Mandatory protection.

Mr. Bruce Amos: All the flora and fauna and natural objects in national parks, whether or not they're listed species at risk, are protected under the National Parks Act and regulations.

Mr. John Herron: So in that case, you would not believe that would destabilize the bill in any shape, way, or form if we had mandatory protection of species at risk on federal lands, particularly that of parks. You guys wouldn't have a problem with that, because you're telling me that you have it already.

Mr. Bruce Amos: I'm not commenting, Mr. Herron, on—

Mr. John Herron: I started off asking very short, specific questions for a reason, because I'm not looking to get dodged around. I'm asking a very direct question. Please, with all due respect, answer the question I'm asking directly. In your eyes, in your view, does it destabilize the bill if we have mandatory protection of species at risk on federal lands, at least pertaining to parks? Yes or no.

Mrs. Karen Redman (Kitchener Centre, Lib.): On a point of order, Madam Chairperson, I think that's an unfair position to put the departmental staff in. He's asking for an opinion on whether or not it destabilizes the bill.

Mr. John Herron: I said “in their opinion”. That's exactly right. That's precisely right. That's why they're here.

Mrs. Karen Redman: I think that's an unfair question.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Just a minute, please. The question has been asked of other witnesses.

You can continue. You have about a minute left.

Mr. John Herron: Thank you.

On that exact question, in your view, at least pertaining to parks, it wouldn't change anything, because you're telling me you do that already. So Parks Canada would not, for your business, when it comes to federal lands... I'm not saying federal jurisdiction, but on federal lands, because with jurisdiction you start getting into water and fisheries and those kinds of things. It's a very specific question. Oui ou non?

Mr. Bruce Amos: I can't comment on the question of destabilizing the bill. That's beyond my competence.

Mr. John Herron: Would you have a problem with it in terms of Parks Canada's perspective?

Mr. Bruce Amos: Parks Canada's position is that the protection we have under the National Parks Act, which has, as I said, recently been reviewed and passed by the House of Commons, is adequate for the protection of all species and is adequate protection for the species at risk.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): John, your time is up. You'll have to get it on the next round.

I have Mr. Reed, Mr. Lincoln, Madame Catterall, Madame Redman. I think we have feistiness in our water this morning.

• 1015

Mr. Julian Reed (Halton, Lib.): Thank you, Madam Chair.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): I know that Mr. Reed is going to ask a very diplomatic question.

Mr. Julian Reed: I'm not sure.

This may be answered, I suppose, by Dr. Seutin. The list of 123 endangered species and 153 that are of special concern includes those species that are impacted by human activity as well as those that are not. The question I've been trying to wrestle with is, how do we tell the difference? How do you identify those species where human activity is placing them at risk and those that are part of the natural evolution? Species have come and gone for thousands of years. One new species rises up and maybe eats the other one into extinction or whatever. That's a bit of a conundrum for me.

Dr. Gilles Seutin (Senior Biologist, Ecological Integrity Branch, National Parks Directorate, Parks Canada Agency): I've been teaching conservation biology, and that's a full semester kind of lecture.

There are two things.

An hon. member: We'd like the shortened version, please.

Dr. Gilles Seutin: Yes. Indeed, any species typically is under a number of threats that drive it potentially toward extinction. It's only in a very few cases where you can identify a single threat. In some cases it is. It can be hunting or other processes, but it can also be parasites that are natural. So it can be either natural or human driven, but in most cases it's a combination of many factors. So I don't think you can dichotomize the list and create just two clearly distinct sets and only look at one set. So that's a general point there.

COSEWIC, in its work, identified the different threats there are to the species, and the recovery teams, either the current ones that exist or the ones that are proposed in the bill we have in front of us, will have to research further these various threats. So there are mechanisms to identify these. That's the biological part and the process part of the answer.

Mr. Julian Reed: Thank you.

The minister, in his statement to this committee, made it clear that his concern was with those species that were being threatened because of human activity, essentially. That's why I ask the question, how do you tell the difference? It's obvious that there's no clear answer, that it can be a combination of factors.

Dr. Gilles Seutin: There actually is... I don't have sound anymore. I hope it's not a general problem and that others can hear me.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Yes, it's okay.

Dr. Gilles Seutin: COSEWIC is not limited to studying and reviewing the status of species that have been or could be impacted by human activities. It's not limited in that sense. Either currently or under the proposed bill, it looks at any species that is wild in Canada and that has been here or seems to have been here for more than 50 years. So there's no limit to the scope of what COSEWIC considers.

From a biologist point of view, I think it's a good thing. From a Parks Canada point of view, it is very important to us that we consider everything, because our mandate is actually broader than just species at risk. It's ecological integrity, and every species is a component of ecological integrity, irrespective of where the threat comes from.


Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: There is no translation.


The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): You are not getting any translation. We will have to suspend for a minute. My apologies to the witnesses and committee members. We're having a technical problem with the audio.

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• 1031

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): I call the meeting back to order, please. We may have fixed our technical problem.

Mr. Reed, did you still have questions you were completing?

Mr. Julian Reed: No.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Mr. Lincoln is next on the question list.

Mr. Lincoln has a reputation on this committee. It is for the witnesses and our observers to determine just what kind of reputation he has. The chair is a loyal follower of the Lincoln way.

Mr. Lincoln, please, you have five minutes.


Mr. Clifford Lincoln (Lac-Saint-Louis, Lib.): I would like to ask Dr. Seutin a question. Dr. Seutin, you were a member of COSEWIC? Are you still a member?

Mr. Gilles Seutin: Yes, I have a been a member for four years. I'm still a member, but not as a representative of Parks Canada. I have been given some independence as a researcher specializing in birds.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: At any rate, you have a great deal of experience within COSEWIC. You have worked there. COSEWIC is in the process of reviewing the list of threatened species, and I believe that the review of 123 or 125 of the 353 species on the initial list has been completed. The work continues. According to what the Minister has said, the work will in all likelihood be completed by the spring.

Do you not feel that it would have been preferable to include the initial list in the bill, whether this be the reviewed list of 123, 150 or 200 species, instead of waiting for us to make regulations, which will no doubt postpone publication of the list for six months or a year after the legislation is proclaimed? Don't you think that it would have been preferable to have included, right from the start, the list in the legislation?

Mr. Gilles Seutin: First of all, it is true that we are reviewing the list. We have reviewed approximately one-third of this list focusing first of all on priority species, those that have been classified as being the most at risk.

The work is progressing and, indeed, it could be almost finished by the spring. This is something of which I am obviously proud. It represents a great deal of work, but I think that the work has been done well despite the pressure and the scarce resources that we have had to date to do the job.

You asked wether or not this list should have been adopted automatically as the initial protection list. I must confess that I may have an opinion as a conservation biologist, but I think that this is really a technical and legal issue, and I must say that my legal expertise is quite limited. Accordingly, I cannot answer this question.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: As a conservation biologist, what is your opinion?

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Mr. Gilles Seutin: As a conservation biologist, it is my hope that, if this bill is adopted, the process for obtaining a list that will stand up legally will be conducted as quickly as possible. What legal mechanisms do we need in order to do that? I confess that this is an issue for the experts in the field. Nevertheless, since the threats are imminent in several cases, we need a mechanism that can be triggered as quickly as possible while at the same time ensuring that the required consultations take place and that the list will stand up legally.

I would like to add that there are certainly different mechanisms in different provinces and in other countries that have been tested. It would be interesting to conduct a study on what exists and what has been done. Very often, our observation has been that the process is long.


Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Mr. Amos, could you tell me how many parks we have north of 60?

Mr. Bruce Amos: We have ten national parks and national parks reserves that are north of 60, or include some lands north of 60, like Wood Buffalo.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Do you realize that our bill doesn't cover north of 60, or has a very qualified discretionary potential power to cover north of 60? In effect, there's no cover right now automatic north of 60 for federal lands.

Mr. Bruce Amos: My understanding is it certainly covers the federal lands that are national park lands, as it covers all national parks.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Within the National Parks Act.

Mr. Bruce Amos: Yes.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: But I'm talking about the endangered species legislation, SARA.

Mr. Bruce Amos: Yes.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: In other words, if our argument is that SARA reinforces Bill C-27, which is a point you've made, do you appreciate that SARA doesn't apply right now north of 60?

Mr. Bruce Amos: My understanding is that it applies to national parks and reserves north of 60.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Well, I think that would be a point that is well worth checking into, because the language is sort of obtuse. There's some clear opinion that everything north of 60 is not covered because you would be subject to territorial government jurisdiction or management board jurisdiction. In other words, there would have to be consultation by the minister with the territorial minister if it's within that territory. So I wonder if we could get some clarification.

Mr. Bruce Amos: I would be pleased, Mr. Lincoln, to clarify that with our legal advisers.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you very much. When you do that, can you make sure the clerk receives a copy of that opinion, please?

Mr. Bruce Amos: Yes.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you.

Madame Catterall, Madame Redman, and Madame Carroll.

Ms. Marlene Catterall (Ottawa West—Nepean, Lib.): I have a follow-up to what Mr. Lincoln was asking. I too am curious about specifically how you feel this strengthens your ability. The premise of what you said to us was that you have full authority under your act to protect species at risk, to prepare action plans, put conditions on permits for activities, to do whatever you wish to do. Is that the case?

Mr. Bruce Amos: Yes.

Ms. Marlene Catterall: Then why do you need anything extra that Bill C-33 provides?

Mr. Bruce Amos: I highlighted three specific areas to my comments. Perhaps I could just reinforce those comments.

Ms. Marlene Catterall: If I could be clear, that's why I'm seeking clarification, because I also understood you to say that you had full authority under your current act to protect species at risk. So these may reinforce it, but as far as I can see they don't really add to it if you have full blanket authority now.

Mr. Bruce Amos: Well, I think “reinforce” and “complement” are the active words in the case of national parks. From the point of view of penalties, the penalties proposed here are considerably stronger than the baseline penalties in the National Parks Act, which are for offences related to natural objects whether or not they're listed. So there's a strengthening there.

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The bill also sets out a series of requirements for authorizing activities through permits or agreements.

Ms. Marlene Catterall: You could set these requirements on your own now, could you not?

Mr. Bruce Amos: Yes, we could, and that is our current policy and practice in general. But the kinds of requirements that are set out here are not specifically in our legislation insofar as it affects permits and agreements.

The other added benefit is the requirement for the preparation of recovery strategies and action plans. Clearly this is something we would like to do and would like to be in a position to have the resources, the partners, and the time to do. But having a requirement in the bill for the preparation of recovery strategies on a timeline and for cooperation with provincial and territorial governments and others is useful to us in the management of the national parks because it provides a much better forum in which to plan for the recovery of species at risk.

So in those three ways we feel it will strengthen our ability to do our job.

Ms. Marlene Catterall: Could it also lead to problems in that you might decide on a recovery plan for a species that's exclusive to a national park, but if you get into one that straddles the border of a national park and other jurisdictions, when it comes to the requirement to negotiate a recovery plan there would be the potential for that in fact to weaken what you might otherwise do on your own land?

Mr. Bruce Amos: I don't think so.

Nik, do you want to comment on that?

Mr. Nikita Lopoukhine: It seems to me that there would be an opportunity to continue doing what we're responsible for within our national park, but with SARA I think there's an enabling opportunity for us to go beyond our national park and to work with our partners around the park to address the species at risk and to try to develop a strategy that is irrespective of the border, if you will, and to try to work cooperatively toward the recovery of the species, which is the overall objective that all jurisdictions have.

Ms. Marlene Catterall: I have one final question, and it has to do with the fact that I'm always leery if there's the potential for who's really responsible here. What I see is that Fisheries and Oceans is responsible for, let's say, fish habitat. How do any disputes over jurisdiction get resolved when fish habitat is in a national park? You might mention any other department that has responsibility under this bill.

Mr. Nikita Lopoukhine: The relationship would probably be very similar to what we currently have with Fisheries and Oceans, the Canadian Wildlife Service, and Environment Canada for migratory birds. The whooping crane is a good example, with the critical nests in Wood Buffalo National Park. When the bird is in the park we have jurisdiction, and the overall management interrelationships with the United States is the Canadian Wildlife Service's responsibility. So we work very cooperatively. It hasn't impeded the recovery of that species; in fact it has enhanced its recovery. Similarly, on the fish side we have examples where we turn to Fisheries and Oceans for setting regulations. For instance, in some of our national parks local people have rights for harvesting, and it's Fisheries and Oceans that sets the regulations for the harvest.

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Ms. Marlene Catterall: Thank you.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Madame Redman.

Mrs. Karen Redman: Thank you, Madam Chairperson.

Dr. Seutin, you talked earlier about COSEWIC and its good work. Why are they being reassessed right now? Have the criteria changed over time, or is it just that we go back and visit the species to see if it still has the same label?

Dr. Gilles Seutin: There is a general rule that these things change. Life is dynamic; things change. You have to reassess on a periodic basis. The normal rule, unless we really feel that things are changing very rapidly, is to reassess species at around the ten-year mark, or as required if it's sooner than that. That's the general rule.

In the context of potential legislation, the government wanted to have a very clean list. Some of these assessments are done over many years, and you don't have necessarily the same people around the table. It's always a call. It's never black and white—well, sometimes it's really black, but there are always little grey zones. You could be convinced it's a little better or a little worse for that species. So going through a general reassessment of everything, we thought we would have a more consistent list, a very clean list eventually, to start with.

Mrs. Karen Redman: It was my understanding, though, that over time the criteria had changed. Is that correct?

Dr. Gilles Seutin: Interestingly, the criteria have somehow changed. They have been more formalized. It's a somewhat more structured way of doing things. We really go through more of a grid. To formalize that, we have adopted IUCN, which is the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. They are basically criteria from the work of hundreds of biologists, and they have been reviewed by hundreds of conservation biologists. This is how we've processed. We've somewhat modified that to account for specificity in Canada. It's more of a formalization of the criteria than new criteria; it's nothing really new. Actually, of the 123, there are only 18 that changed status. None of the “not at risk” became “at risk”, and none of the “at risk” became “not at risk”. It was shifting from degree of risk.

So I think we were doing a pretty good job, and even better now.

Mrs. Karen Redman: Actually that was another point I was going to make. With the formalization of COSEWIC under this bill, is that a good thing?

Dr. Gilles Seutin: As a member of COSEWIC in the sort of pre-bill...I've always been somewhat frustrated, and I'm talking just for myself here. You can ask the same question of other COSEWIC members as they come. We are basically producing a piece of paper called the list. Over the years, this list has become more and more important. It's clear that under any environmental assessment you are asked to consider if you have species that are on the COSEWIC list. So it has become important, but basically it was one list.

As a member, I'm happy to see that this list will become more and more important.

Mrs. Karen Redman: Thank you. I look forward to Mr. Amos bringing forward that clarification. It's my understanding that parks north of 60 are covered by this legislation, and I look forward to you sharing that with the committee.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you.

Madame Carroll, you've just joined the committee, and we welcome your participation. I'm just wondering if you're prepared to ask a question at this point.

Ms. Aileen Carroll (Barrie—Simcoe—Bradford, Lib.): I would just do a follow-up on that. I want to be very careful that I don't ask a question that has already been answered, due to my missing the 8 o'clock flight.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): I'm sure there will be further clarification for anyone...

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Ms. Aileen Carroll: You speak, Dr. Seutin, of the usefulness of the COSEWIC list, and Madam Redman talks about the formalization of the list. But in fact the act will not allow us to begin with that list. It will not bring that list, as it exists, as a point of departure encompassed within the legislation in the same way that the recent endangered species legislation passed in the province of Nova Scotia has done. I wonder if you'd like to comment on why the provincial government has chosen to go that route in Nova Scotia but it would appear that this bill does not choose to go that route. Am I to conclude perhaps that Nova Scotia has a flaw or that we have a problem?

Dr. Gilles Seutin: Again, I'm not a constitutional expert and I have no background in law.

Ms. Aileen Carroll: I speak to you more as a member of COSEWIC.

Dr. Gilles Seutin: As a member of COSEWIC I can say that the list is currently good, and the reassessed list is even better. As a biologist, that's as far as I can go. To make that list more useful, we're talking about making it into law. How to do that... I guess it's going to be your wisdom that's going to tell us what is the best way to do that and to have, as quickly as possible, the good list that the scientists have produced in useful ways.

Ms. Aileen Carroll: You should be leery, because I'm a native Nova Scotian and I spent some time there recently, having had the opportunity to discuss their legislation while on a home visit. Of course, as you know, they have enshrined the list. Those species that are listed are now endangered species in the province of Nova Scotia. At the federal level we are not doing that. I fail to see the rationale. I'm more than pleased and more than open to have someone explain why Nova Scotia is going to have a dilemma because they did it and we are not—or the reverse, why we are going to have a dilemma and they are not. It appears to me that considerable research and time and energy have gone into the preparation of both pieces of legislation, and yet we've come to conclusions that are quite radical.

Dr. Gilles Seutin: Again, I'm in a difficult position to answer that. I think you are indeed saying that considerable attention has been paid to produce a good piece of legislation. Don't give me the mandate to write a piece of legislation. It will certainly never hold in court. I can produce a good list. It's up to other experts to make it law.

Ms. Aileen Carroll: I appreciate that, so I won't come back to you with any more than my conclusion, which is to say that I would think people from the Department of Parks have an expertise that perhaps would help this committee in commenting on a piece of legislation that, in effect, by not encompassing the work of scientists—a body with enormous credibility, domestically and internationally—is embarking on reinventing the wheel.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you very much, Madame Carroll.

If the chair could just ask a quick question, we'll then go to Madame Girard-Bujold, Mr. Reed, and Mr. Lincoln for a second round.

It's my understanding that under the National Parks Act, the Governor in Council has the power to make regulations concerning the preservation, control, and management of parks and that this also includes the protection of fauna and the destruction and removal of dangerous or super-abundant species, etc. I'm just wondering how often this authority is exercised.

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Mr. Bruce Amos: Regulations are in place in those areas, both under the national parks general regulations and under the national parks wildlife regulations. So the authorities have been systematically acted upon and the regulations are on the books. The general regulations, for example, prohibit removing, defacing, damaging, or destroying any flora or natural objects in a park. Under the wildlife regulations, there are similar prohibitions on hunting, disturbing, holding in captivity, or destroying any wildlife within or removing wildlife from a park.

Those are two of the main regulations. There are other tools available to us that are relevant to the subject matter here: domestic animal regulations, fishing regulations, and camping regulations. But the ones I have cited most specifically address flora and fauna that might be at risk.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Could you make a copy of these regulations...the day they were brought forward and passed through GIC? If there is any possibility of draft regulations that are in process that you are able to inform us about, I would like to see a copy of that sent to the clerk, please.

I would also like to understand... The GIC is the one who has the power to make the regulations. I am particularly interested in the protection of species. How is this authority informed by scientific expertise? What is the process here, especially as it relates to or respects scientific expertise? How are these regulations made?

Mr. Bruce Amos: I think the first general point I would make is that they are by way of general prohibitions, which reflect the dedication clause in the National Parks Act, which says that national parks are to be maintained unimpaired for future generations. As well, I cited the clause relating to ecological integrity being the primary consideration.

So the regulations in place are of a general prohibitive nature, which is in effect more policy-based than science-based because they apply in general. There are exceptions to that, for example, in the fishing regulations—and Mr. Lopoukhine might want to speak to the science that goes into fishing regulations—because sport fishing is allowed in national parks. So the catch limits and the locations where fishing is allowed and which species and which seasons—that is the type of regulation that is based on scientific information, and information about the exercise of the activity and the catch in recent years.

So those are two types of examples. Some of the regulations I would say are clearly policy-based in their general prohibitions. Others, like the fishing regulation—and it's the one exception that comes readily to mind—are specifically science-based.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Great. Thank you.

Mr. Lopoukhine.

Mr. Nikita Lopoukhine: There are specific assessments of carrying capacity, essentially determining conservation objectives, in the sense of how much one can take from a lake, for instance, in the case of fishing, or from a stream, but also in the case of hyper-abundant animals in some of our parks. Because of the situation the park is faced with, being an isolated property, it has an overabundance of animals. We will do an assessment of the impact of that overabundance on other components of the ecosystem to see whether there is a problem developing and take action accordingly.

So we do undertake assessments regularly.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Throughout your document you have talked about working with stakeholders. Is there a stakeholder role in this process for developing the regulations?

Mr. Bruce Amos: Yes. The Government of Canada has a general policy applying to all the regulation-making, which we follow, as do other departments. It sets our processes for the preparation of regulatory impact assessment statements and the consultation of the public in the preparation of all regulations. That's Government of Canada practice, and it's our normal practice. So, for example, in fishing regulations, the adjustment of those regulations is the subject of consultation, particularly with those in the region who fish in the parks.

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The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): And business impact statements would be done according to Treasury Board guidelines and that sort of thing. Thank you.

Madame Girard-Bujold, please.


Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: Gentlemen, I believe that Ms. Catterall spoke the truth earlier. I think that we are at the point where we are asking you to re-invent the wheel. We already have everything we need in Canada to take action in this area, however, we don't. And yet, the Department of Environment, you and we have the means to take action. We also have Canada-wide agreements. In 1996, all the ministers from Canada and the provinces met and decided to come up with a common agreement to protect species at risk.

COSEWIC worked hard, as well as all of the provinces and territories. Environmental organizations are participating. We already have what we need on the table, but this government does not have the will to ensure that the legislation is enforced. There are even six acts in six different provinces in Canada that deal with species at risk.

Earlier I heard Dr. Gilles Seutin say that right now COSEWIC is in the process of re-assessing its list. Perhaps the list will be better. But you have said that do you do not want to get involved in any constitutional and legal issues. This may create a problem, because this piece of legislation will provide for the authority to approve a list, which will result in additional delays.

It is the Governor in Council that will be accepting the legislation. Meanwhile, you cannot use all of the mechanisms that you currently have on the table because we are going to have to wait. Given what all three of you have said about your ability to take action, I'm wondering why you don't take action with everything that is on the table. Do you want another means of not respecting the other acts? We already have agreements and we don't abide by them.

Why don't you use the means available to you to take action in your territories, in your national parks. As Mr. Amos said, Bill C-27 is coming. He already has everything he needs to protect the parks and the other sites under his jurisdiction. So, give me another answer because, in my opinion, we are all wasting our time here. Life does not allow us to re-invent the wheel. We have to get on board the train when it comes by. Thank you.

Mr. Bruce Amos: First, it would be unacceptable for us not to act. We have the means already described in the act and in our regulations. We spend roughly $3 million each year directly for species at risk. We meet our responsibilities in the national parks for all species, especially those at risk. Our position is that this bill provides us with more opportunities and strengthens our capacity to act in cooperation with others.

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: So how come environmental groups give you a D-minus rating in your own jurisdictions? If I had had a D-minus in school, I would have failed and I would not be here today. You are not getting a passing mark. I trust these environmental groups because they are able people who have some knowledge of your field.

How come they are giving you a D-minus while you pretend to take action? In my view, if you had you would have gotten an A- plus. You are talk about $3 million, but that is not much for you to do anything. So why couldn't you lay your hands on the money that will be collected with this new bill so that you could do more. That's what seems to be so appalling to me now.

We are talking while we should be doing something. All we do now is talk and do nothing.

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I am not giving you a black mark and I am not accusing you of not doing your job. I am aware of the fact that your financial resources are limited and that, if they were increased, you could take a big leap forward. You were saying that these $3 million that they intend to earmark for the implementation of Bill C-33 represents a modest sum.

Why wouldn't they give that money since you seem to say that you would then be able to act in all national parks? I am concerned that this bill might limit our capacity to do our job, which will prevent us from acting immediately. This proposed bill will only take us backwards.

We should be able to act now to protect species at risk instead of waiting for the implementation of a bill of this magnitude. As Mr. Seutin was saying, you need time to implement the provisions of any act. A bill must go through the stages of first reading, second reading—and we are not there yet—, and so on. We should not be allowed to debate this bill right now, but that's what we are doing. We should instead be debating only the principle of the bill because it has not gone through second reading yet. Then you have to go through consideration in committee with talking of the report containing the amendments proposed by the committee, followed by third reading. The bill will also have to be passed by the Senate. All this process takes us almost "two years later in the Laurentians". In my view, you should be able to have that money available right now. This bill will only delay you, since it is now, and not in two years, that species at risk need protection. Thank you.


The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you, Madame Girard-Bujold. Madame Girard-Bujold, you're doing an excellent job holding all the opposition down by yourself today.

I'm usually a very strict timekeeper, but I felt Madame had the right to a little bit of extra time on her second round. If you would like to respond, we would love to hear from you.

Ms. Aileen Carroll: Does he have time, Madam Chair?

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Yes, we'll give you time to respond, absolutely.


Mr. Bruce Amos: You raised several questions. I believe you said that you want to know if in my opinion this bill is diminishing in some way our capacity to do our job. My answer to that is no, far from it.

You also want to know if we had made any progress following the recommendations made by the Ecological Integrity Panel of Canada's National Parks, to which I will answer that yes, certainly and directly. We already took action in response to that report to which our Minister gave a very positive answer. In November we will issue a detailed response to all recommendations made by that Panel. We are doing our outmost to improve our operations in the national parks. We also want to work in partnership with others for the implementation of the provisions of this bill aimed at protecting species at risk.


The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you. I have Mr. Reed and Mr. Lincoln.

Mr. Julian Reed: Thank you, Madam Chair.

I should put on the record that such grading systems are subjective at best and I wouldn't be too overly moved by them.

There seems to be somehow a feeling that this is a permanent list, and I'm sure you would agree that the COSEWIC list should be a dynamic thing, subject to change upon investigation and so on, where new species can be freely added and others removed.

I was interested in Madam Carroll's comment about the Nova Scotia bill that incorporated a list, and I wonder if we can find out how dynamic that list is under that act.

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Dr. Gilles Seutin: A technical item. I know I cannot refer to this, but in their wisdom the drafters of this piece of work have adopted the COSEWIC wisdom, which is to review the assessment at least every ten years. So there is the current procedure of COSEWIC, which is to review at the ten-year anniversary or earlier. It is made mandatory in this. Yes, as indicated, there is an emergency provision. There is a short-listing kind of thing for things that are really in trouble and that we just discover...

Mr. Julian Reed: Without requiring amendment or anything of that nature. Okay.

Thank you, Madam Chair.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you very much.

Mr. Lincoln, please.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: First, I have to admit that you and Mrs. Redman were quite right about the parks being...what is under the jurisdiction of the minister is definitely covered. What I was worried about when I asked this question was if we excluded everything north of 60 in the act—in other words, the protection is not automatic by any means, and even if we do admit that parks are covered, what is worrying is that all the areas outside of the parks, for instance, the mine that has been set up outside one of the newest parks, Aulavik... But I must admit there's no difference as far as that goes between the north and the south. We have exactly the same problem under the act: there's no mandatory protection for federal habitats. So I'm very glad that parks are not included and that Bill C-67 applies.

That could clarify the question for you as far as producing a paper goes, because I agree with the coverage there.

In regard to the enforcement issue, the problem of poaching and so forth came to the fore when we had hearings on Bill C-27. Under Bill C-65 we had a whole section giving rights to citizens to complain and take action under the act, under the previous SARA, which has now been excluded. Would that not be of great benefit, if citizen suits were included in SARA, such as they were in the previous endangered species bill, from your perspective?

Mr. Bruce Amos: That's a very difficult question for an official of Parks Canada to answer, because we've never had such a provision in the National Parks Act, nor have we or the parliamentary committee, to my knowledge, Mr. Lincoln, ever considered that kind of provision essential in the National Parks Act. That's my understanding of it from our own responsibilities with respect to national parks.

I don't really have a view. Parks Canada does not have a view on the issue of that provision insofar as it might apply or be useful elsewhere. I think quite honestly it may be beyond our area certainly of jurisdiction and perhaps of expertise as well.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: When the present legislation was being discussed amongst the ministries, and your ministry was obviously a big part of it because the minister asked for her involvement as a competent minister under this act, as did the Minister of Fisheries, surely the questions of differentiation between Bill C-65, in which you took part as well in the consultation and the drafting, and this present legislation came up—the very striking differences between mandatory protection of habitat, and suddenly habitat becomes discretionary. Then the question of automatic listing: suddenly listing is now by regulation, and subject to the Governor in Council. Citizen suits were included in Bill C-65 and suddenly disappear in the present bill.

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What sorts of recommendations did your officials make when these things were discussed? Surely these items are so big that they must have been discussed. There must have been a rationale for the sea change between one act and the other. Some of us felt Bill C-65 didn't go far enough in many respects, and now we see that a lot of clauses have been either omitted or drastically changed. We wonder what input the various ministries had. Obviously your ministry must have been one of the key ones consulted.

Mr. Bruce Amos: Yes, we were consulted and involved in those discussions. Our contributions focused primarily on the implications of the bill for our responsibilities to manage the national parks and the other lands under our jurisdiction.

I've spoken to the question of citizen suits, and another member asked me about mandatory protection and I answered that question. We feel we have the appropriate mandatory protection under the National Parks Act.

I'm not familiar in detail with all the aspects of Bill C-65 because I was not personally involved in those deliberations at the time. And of course the final drafting instructions are a collaborative effort, which are the responsibility of cabinet.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you, Mr. Lincoln.

Was there anyone else on the second round? Madame Carroll.

Ms. Aileen Carroll: I should probably leave well enough alone, but just to follow that through, when you're putting together an act of this import, and this long in the waiting, and you say that you participated, as obviously you should have, I'm wondering, are the other witnesses in the other departments who also participated going to say “Well, yes, we did, but we stayed very snugly and tightly within the ambit of what is our purview”?

Where on earth can Canadians look for innovative thinking? Where can they look for people who are driving forward out of our public service to produce the best public policy they can? Where does the risk-taking come from—just here, around this table? Are we to be presented with just minimalism, safe minimalism, and then see what we can do at the political level?

I know what my job is at the political level. I am disappointed to hear such caution coming from such experts as I know you to be.

Mr. Bruce Amos: Well, safe minimalism—I obviously won't comment on that.

Ms. Aileen Carroll: You can, you can.

Mr. Bruce Amos: Our expertise is primarily in the management of protected areas in national parks under the National Parks Act. I think you'll recognize that I don't think it's that surprising that officials of Parks Canada haven't played a leadership role in issues such as citizen suits on the broad questions of endangered species legislation in Canada. In defence of us, yes, we may be cautious in limiting ourselves to our mandate and our expertise, but I would expect that's what our minister and the public would expect of us: that we bring the expertise we have and the mandate of our organization to these discussions.

I'm not implying that the Government of Canada hasn't taken into careful consideration Bill C-65 or the events surrounding that, or consultations with the public and the views of many stakeholders on these issues, or that they've been necessarily minimalist or extra cautious. I'm just saying that on those particular issues, which go beyond the competence and jurisdiction of the Parks Canada Agency, we did not play a lead role. And I don't feel I'm in a position before your committee to offer opinions on those aspects of the bill that don't specifically touch national parks. Or if I were to give you an opinion, it would be solely a Parks Canada one.

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As I said, on citizen suits, we have never felt the need for it. The House of Commons has never legislated such a thing, and we have had legislation in place for our national parks dating back over a hundred years. So that's how it looks from national parks, but I'm sure it looks quite different in the broader landscape, where different jurisdictions and different legislation are in place, different interplay of social and economic factors.

That's what I'm trying to reflect. I hope you don't take our participation within our area of expertise and jurisdiction as a lack of risk-taking. I think it probably more reflects our respect for our expertise and that of others whose mandate is to look more broadly.

Ms. Aileen Carroll: I acknowledge and respect your expertise, which is why I looked for perhaps another flow.

I would accept that citizen suits is probably not a specialty of parks. There's no question. But I would expect that the COSEWIC list and the process and the results would in some way instruct your department, and that there might have been more trust coming from you. However, mine is not to argue, and I don't mean to do that. And I will, at your very good advice, look forward to the department who did have the lead on this bill, and who obviously will be the ones who come forward with the creative thrust, which will probably make my morning.

Thank you.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you, Ms. Carroll.

I'm sitting here listening to some of the witnesses talk. I'm also listening to reflections of members on this particular proposed legislation that is yet to come before our committee. Three of us who are currently members of this committee were members when we had Bill C-65 before the committee. A number of us were members of this committee through the CEPA process. And indeed a number of us were members when we had the 1994-95 review and subsequent report, It's About Our Health.

It's with a great deal of sadness that I hear this. That's the kind of reaction I'm getting. It's with a great deal of sadness that I hear the same sort of story playing out again. I refer to CEPA as the bill of a thousand cuts.

It's really sad, you know, when I hear Mr. Lincoln raising issues and Madame Carroll raising issues about elements that were in the previous bill that have suddenly gone missing. We had the same story with CEPA—CEPA 96 and then CEPA 98. Things just went missing. It's very sad indeed. Even though there were questions about CEPA 96, and certainly there were questions about the last endangered species legislation, to see some of the more progressive elements of those bills go missing, it's indeed a very sad state. And this is no comment on your expertise or your contribution. I think it's a comment on the system itself.

Another comment I would like to make on the system itself is I have been hearing this word “stakeholder”. I hear this word “stakeholder” all the time. I hear that the bill is the production of a finely balanced stakeholder negotiation. I hear that we love this bill so much because it involves the provinces, the territories, aboriginals, and other stakeholder groups. I am just wondering if you could tell us who those stakeholders are and how they are involved in the process—very generally, please.

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Mr. Nikita Lopoukhine: The process was certainly a wide consultation that was led primarily by Environment Canada. We in turn have had input from a variety of interests who have an interest in what happens in national parks. The predominant consultation around the process was through meetings and an organized process, which was led by Environment Canada and in which we took part.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Who are the stakeholders? Can you give us some categories—maybe not names so much, but what is a stakeholder, and how do you get to be a stakeholder? How do you define a stakeholder? Who is a stakeholder?

Mr. Nikita Lopoukhine: It's a general term, I suppose, that captures a variety of interests. If I were asked to go down the list of categories, there would be the usual environmental non-government organizations as well as interests from various industry associations. We also had...well, primarily Environment Canada had a very intensive process of consultation with aboriginal peoples. Provincial jurisdictions were part of the dialogue through the wildlife directors committee.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): How is the public interest represented with the stakeholders? Is there a public interest?

Mr. Nikita Lopoukhine: Hearings were held across the country in various cities, where the proposals were put forward for discussion.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Do you believe the public interest is represented in this bill? I won't get into my reasons right now, but I very clearly see stakeholders as different from the public. Does this bill reflect the public interest?

Mr. Nikita Lopoukhine: I'm not sure I'm the definite person to be able to answer that question. It's a value judgment.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Would any of the witnesses care to... The reason I ask this question is that 85% of the public say we should have mandatory habitat protection. You know, this isn't a poll that says 85% or 30% of the forestry association or what have you, or the World Wildlife Fund. People didn't identify who they were. These were individual Canadians who were speaking as individual Canadians, as members of the public. They weren't speaking as members of a particular organization or a particular interest. This is the concern I have: how do we get the public interest reflected in our legislation in general, but more specifically, how do we get that in this legislation?

I'm concerned about the process that happens afterward, because you've identified in your brief...and God knows you're not the first group to have identified this, because I've heard the same thing from the other government departments. They like this bill because there's good stakeholder involvement. Well, what about public involvement in this legislation?

Mr. Bruce Amos: I don't have anything to add to Nik's description of the consultations that have been led by Environment Canada. Clearly—and I'm stating the obvious; this is not a surprise, and is not meant to be—one important mechanism for assessing the public interest in the legislation is the parliamentary process, the review that is happening in the House and in this committee and subsequently in the Senate. The government has undertaken extensive consultations and recommended a bill, and I know your committee will be hearing witnesses who have a broad range of interests in the bill. I say I know because Mr. Lincoln chairs the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, and both our pieces of legislation have been through that process and that discussion, and my sense is that it was quite an effective process. I speak of the committee and the entire parliamentary process, which is where we are now.

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So I find it awkward speaking of what is the public interest when I'm an official of the Government of Canada and you're about to invite the public to come and tell you.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): I agree with you, and I think that as parliamentarians, it's the public interest that we represent and it's the public interest and the public's voice that we bring to the discussion and the decisions as well. I would also like to add that if indeed all of us in partnership—you, as civil servants... And I have a great deal of respect for civil servants. You're working under trying conditions and a lack of resources, so I have a lot of respect for what you have to do and the work you do. So you have certain roles, and we as parliamentarians have certain roles.

But I think in terms of ensuring accountability on an ongoing basis for this legislation, there's something missing, and one thing that was raised was this issue of citizen suits. Here we have an opportunity to ensure ongoing accountability and public engagement, and if I'm sure of one thing, I'm sure that's a very necessary thing that we must have, particularly in legislation like environmental legislation, because that has to speak for the public interests.

I'm wondering if you'd like to comment.

Mr. Bruce Amos: If I may, I don't have any further comments on the subject of citizen suits. I understand what you're saying.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Okay. Thank you.

Would anyone else like to add a few comments? Madame.


Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: You said earlier that the Department of Environment had extensive consultations and that stakeholders like you as well as environmental groups and the industry had had some input. Don't you find it strange that after such large scale consultations, environmental groups and the industry are opposed to this legislation? Don't you think that during those consultation, the Department of Environment had not decided yet on the bench marks they wanted to set and that they did not listen to any amendments that were proposed to this bill, even by the provinces?

Mr. Gilles Seutin: That will not answer your question if it was indeed a question. I know that Environment Canada has a list of all hearings that took place, where you can find the names of people who were consulted, as well as the dates and places where that consultation took place. I do not know whether you were provided with that list, but I know that as a public body, the department has to maintain such a list. Therefore, that information could be useful to you and you should ask Environment Canada's officials for it.


The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): While we've had the minister before the committee, we haven't really sat down with officials at a meeting. So thank you.

Were there any other questions on this side? Mr. Reed.

Mr. Julian Reed: It's just a comment, Madam Chair.

The question of the public interest, if you like, being separated somehow from other stakeholders, to me, with great respect, creates an illusion that somehow the public interest doesn't have any public responsibility for endangered species. It seems to me that urban Canada, for instance, should remember that every time they flush a toilet they put species at risk. There are probably more marine species in contaminated water in Lake Ontario than there are animals and birds out on dry land, and this is a consciousness that we're in danger of missing here if we don't recognize that there is equal responsibility and a recognition that endangered species are not just the burrowing owl and the grizzly bear, but there are all sorts of things that the public at large has to become conscious of and be aware that they are...we are all, if you like—I shouldn't say they are; we are—impacting just because we are living in a particular place and exploiting a particular area.

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Mr. Bruce Amos: I'd just briefly like to comment. Clearly Mr. Reed is making a very important point, and it underscores the importance of public education and communications. I would just repeat that, as I said in my remarks, we believe the national parks provide an important opportunity for public education about the state of our endangered species, including the point you are making: why certain species are in trouble and what human activities are contributing to get us there.

So one of the contributions we can make—and this is not related directly to the bill because the bill doesn't address that issue specifically, but seeing as how Mr. Reed has raised it... We want to be important partners with other agencies in communicating the importance of endangered species to a public in the national parks or through our outreach programs. People who come to national parks are in a mood to learn about the natural environment. That's essentially why they're there. We have a receptive audience, and it's an ideal place for people to start to think about exactly the kinds of issues Mr. Reed has mentioned, which are fundamental to recovering and protecting endangered species.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): I have to tell you that I remember visiting one of the national mountain parks a number of years ago, and I was told I had to stay on the trails. Why do I have to stay on the trails? Well, you have to stay on the trails because it's a fragile environment and you don't want to crush things and destroy things by walking off the trail. I said, of course. Here was a very good learning opportunity. I think we have to commend the work you do in our national parks because you're reinforcing learning in very effective ways, which is through the experiential.

I think we've had a good session this morning, barring technical problems, and I want to thank you for your patience while we were dealing with quorum issues this morning so that we could get on with our work plan. Again, thank you for your patience, and we enjoyed hearing from you this morning.

That's the end of committee until tonight.