Skip to main content Start of content

ENVI Committee Meeting

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

For an advanced search, use Publication Search tool.

If you have any questions or comments regarding the accessibility of this publication, please contact us at accessible@parl.gc.ca.

Previous day publication Next day publication

STANDING COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENT AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

COMITÉ PERMANENT DE L'ENVIRONNEMENT ET DU DÉVELOPPEMENT DURABLE

EVIDENCE

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

Tuesday, October 23, 2001

• 0911

[Translation]

The Chair (Mr. Charles Caccia (Davenport, Lib.)): Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. We are pursuing our work on Bill C-5. Welcome to all.

[English]

(On clause 2—Definitions)

The Chair: We might start this morning with some housecleaning, if you like, by going back to motions that have been stood for different reasons. I therefore invite you to open your hymn book to amendment L-2, because that is the first motion that was stood in the name of Mr. Knutson a week ago, roughly. It's an amendment to clause 2, and I would like to ask Mr. Knutson whether he is ready to proceed with it.

Mr. Gar Knutson (Elgin—Middlesex—London, Lib.): I am.

Mrs. Karen Redman (Kitchener Centre, Lib.): Mr. Chair, just as a point of clarification if I could, there were some clauses stood down in anticipation of an expert witness being called in the future. I'm wondering if we know the timing of that, and when we will be revisiting those clauses that were stood down for that reason.

The Chair: Today, we will call those that were stood, provided that the members are ready to proceed with them. Those that cannot be proceeded with for some reason that you may have, we will still stand.

Mrs. Karen Redman: I think it was Dr. Rounthwaite. When is he being called to the committee? When will we be dealing with things—

The Chair: It will be when there is enough work that has accumulated to warrant his arrival. It may be very soon. It's a question of having him here maybe as soon as next week. It depends, but it will be as soon as we have a sufficient number of amendments that are stood because of him. If you want him sooner than that, maybe we could start next week. I was just holding it off to provide a sufficient reason for him to travel, but maybe next Tuesday we could have him here, unless I receive different signals from the committee.

• 0915

Would you like to introduce the amendment, Mr. Knutson?

Mr. Gar Knutson: Sure, if it pleases the court.

If I could, Mr. Chairman, I'll talk about amendments L-2 and L-3 at the same time, but I'll move amendment L-2. In this particular clause in the bill, we have a definition of “habitat”. The top paragraph is for aquatic species and the bottom paragraph, paragraph (b), regards other wildlife species. These two amendments make the two definitions consistent. For example, in paragraph (b) there is a reference to the “potential to be reintroduced.” That doesn't exist in paragraph (a), so my first amendment is to include the line “the potential to be reintroduced” in paragraph (a), which would make it consistent with paragraph (b).

The Chair: Thank you.

Madame Redman.

Mrs. Karen Redman: Mr. Chairman, because this deals with aquatic species, I'm wondering if we could have a representative from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Howard Powles, come forward to give his point of view on how this would amend the bill.

The Chair: Would you like to introduce yourself, sir?

Mr. Howard Powles (Director, Biodiversity Science Branch, Department of Fisheries and Oceans): Yes, thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'm Howard Powles, from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

We don't have a problem with this amendment in terms of the definition of “habitat” for aquatic species. It makes it consistent with the other one, and there's no particular difference with aquatic species that makes this a problem.

(Amendment agreed to—See Minutes of Proceedings)

The Chair: What about L-3?

Mr. Gar Knutson: If I have the floor again, L-3 is similar in terms of reasoning. If you look at paragraph (a), you'll see the phrase partially defines “habitat” as an area where the species “depend directly or indirectly”. That doesn't exist in paragraph (b), so I'm putting in an amendment to put that phrasing in paragraph (b) so that the two paragraphs will be consistent.

The Chair: So one would be the mirror of the other?

Mr. Gar Knutson: Yes.

The Chair: Thank you.

Madame Redman, please.

Mrs. Karen Redman: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Again, the government has no problem with this amendment.

(Amendment agreed to—See Minutes of Proceedings)

The Chair: We discussed amendment G-3. If I remember correctly, there was an intent to present a package or some kind of consolidation. Is now a good time for you, Madame Redman?

Mrs. Karen Redman: It is, Mr. Chairman. Did you want to group these amendments? These all have to do with the new schedule 1. From my notes, that grouping would be G-3, G-7, G-9, G-15, G-20, and G-22.

• 0920

The Chair: Would you please indicate why you're listing these various G items?

Mrs. Karen Redman: They all pertain to the new schedule 1, Mr. Chair. If the intent is to deal with everything that is seen as a consequential amendment to that, this would be the grouping.

The Chair: All right. Well, we're going to look at that.

Madame Kraft Sloan, please.

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

This deals with clause 27. If we pass this amendment, what implication does it have for clause 27? Should we be dealing with this when we do clause 27?

Mr. Gar Knutson: Clause 27 deals with listing.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Yes, clause 27 deals with listing.

This changes the definition of...it says that list means schedule 1. I am concerned that if we start dealing with this amendment now, we're going to affect our ability to deal with amendments in clause 27, of which there are many.

The Chair: Yes, I understand your preoccupation. In my innocent way, I would not see a danger here, but let us consult.

Ms. Susan Baldwin (Legislative Clerk): Mrs. Kraft Sloan is entirely right. Amendment G-7 is consequential to G-3. When we pass the consequential amendments, we will adopt them all at the same time. If we adopt G-7, then we could not put a number of the other amendments because of line conflicts.

The Chair: So we had better attend to that.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Mr. Chair, we could discuss this amendment when we do the clause 27 amendments.

The Chair: We had better come back to it.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Thank you.

The Chair: Well, the next one that is waiting for us, so to say, would be PCDR-1. Mr. Herron, are you ready to deal with that today?

Mr. John Herron (Fundy—Royal, PC/DR): Yes.

The Chair: Yes, that's the one we are waiting on. I have a big R noted here, and that was the decision at the time.

Madame Kraft Sloan.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: My amendment LL-1, on page 16, is rather similar to Mr. Herron's, and I would certainly be willing to discuss this amendment today if Mr. Herron is willing to discuss his amendment today.

Mr. John Herron: I'm definitely willing to discuss my amendment today, sure.

The Chair: Then why did we stand it for Mr. Rounthwaite?

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: At the time, Mr. Chair, I had some questions that I felt Mr. Rounthwaite could answer, but I think those questions have been cleared up in my head.

The Chair: Oh, I see. It was a matter of mental exercise.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: It was a mental argument with myself, if you can understand that.

The Chair: Maybe we can resolve all the other arguments so Mr. Rounthwaite won't have to—

Some hon. members: Oh, oh!

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: There is always that possibility and hope.

The Chair: Mr. Herron.

Mr. John Herron: Mr. Chair, I'd like to move this amendment at this time. It essentially alters a definition to make it more biologically applicable to more species, particularly fish. It makes the definition similar to the one the committee was able to adopt when we did Bill C-65 during a previous Parliament. This amendment has support from a wide-ranging group, from the Canadian Pulp and Paper Association to the Sierra Legal Defence Fund, and others in between.

The addition of “feeding” contemplates the needs of many species that are threatened by a loss of food. Further, “feeding” encompasses marine species more comprehensively than other listed activities, some of which are specific to terrestrial species. The enumerated activities are meant to actually be more broad and more encompassing than the definition currently in the bill itself, so I move the amendment.

• 0925

The Chair: Thank you.

Well, it would be hard to think of a better definition of “residence”.

Madame Redman would like to speak.

Mrs. Karen Redman: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I was under the impression that we actually were discussing the substance of PCDR-1 and LL-1, so I would like to make my remarks on both of them if that's appropriate.

Expanding the definition of “residence” to include wintering, staging, rearing, and feeding, makes it much broader than it is in the original bill. In some respects, these places are part of a species' habitat, in the view of the government, not its residence.

However, if we look at amendment LL-1, which does include wintering, staging, rearing, and feeding, it would be important to retain the word “similar” as it is in the bill. If that were to be seen as a friendly amendment, I would move that at this time.

The Chair: But we are not there yet.

Mr. John Herron: What was that again?

Mrs. Karen Redman: We would retain the word “similar” in either of the wordings.

The Chair: In either of them?

Mrs. Karen Redman: Yes, in both of them.

The Chair: That would be before the word “area”.

Mrs. Karen Redman: The term is important because it does distinguish residence from habitat. If it were to be removed, which is how both amendments now read, the definition of “residence” would be far too broad and potentially could apply to everywhere and everything. In our view, that would be an encumbrance to making this a workable bill.

I don't know if Ms. Wherry or Monsieur Nadeau have anything to add.

Mr. Simon Nadeau (Head, Endangered Species Recovery, Canadian Wildlife Service, Department of the Environment): Actually, the proposed amendment really expands the definition to mean habitat, because it refers essentially to any area where all components of the life cycle of an individual can be realized. If the word “similar” is not kept, it refers to any area to do anything, and can form any life cycle component of a species.

I think we have to remember that the concept of “residence” was really trying to expand a bit on the protection of the individual or facilitate the protection of the individual, and it is also a hybrid between individual protection and habit protection. The idea is to protect individuals that have reduced mobility. Whether they're in a den, in a nest, or in a burrow, their capacity to move around is limited, so that's the idea. At the same time, if we expand it to include any area where an individual can be performing any part of a life cycle, that's habitat, not a residence.

The Chair: We have Mr. Herron and Madame Kraft Sloan.

Mr. John Herron: The issue the committee has to understand is that this bill is for all species, not merely a certain class of species. There may be situations in which a fox, a falcon, or a ferret may have a burrow, nest, or some kind of identifiable dwelling. But if we're looking at species that are larger—of the nature of a caribou or an elk, for example—and may become threatened, endangered, or at risk in some form, this definition... That's why the issue with respect to a similar dwelling place is more applicable, because they don't have burrows, nests, or the like. The bill's intent is to save species at risk, not merely a narrow class of species that fit a definition that's just not biologically feasible.

Those are my comments to the committee members.

The Chair: What is the opposition to the word “similar”?

Mr. John Herron: If we kept that in there... We're not capable of determining what a specific dwelling is for the species I just outlined in terms of caribou, elk, and other larger species. That's biologically not feasible in that regard. However, it's not intended to have a sweeping aspect with respect to habitat.

• 0930

“Habitat” is defined in other parts of the bill itself. The word “similar” would provide some form of flexibility that would reflect on the different species that the committee has to consider. By not including the word “similar”, we're excluding a broad class of species that could potentially become at risk.

For my amendment, I would prefer to keep “similar” in place.

The Chair: Well, that was the essence of the friendly amendment: to insert it between “other” and “area” on the second line.

Mr. John Herron: Sorry. I thought Ms. Redman wanted to take “similar” out.

Mrs. Karen Redman: No.

An hon. member: No, your amendment doesn't have the word “similar” in it.

The Chair: You don't have that word in your text, so Madame Redman was suggesting, by way of a friendly amendment, to insert the word “similar” between the words “other” and “area” on the second line of your amendment.

Mr. John Herron: So the argument's fine—

Some hon. members: Oh, oh!

Mr. John Herron: —but the amendment is not.

The issue in that regard is whether it is specific or similar. Certain species do not have anything that is similar. You can't ask what the equivalent to a den or a nest is for an elk, or what the equivalent to a burrow is for a certain caribou that may become endangered? We can't answer that question, because there isn't anything similar or specific. That's why the word is not incorporated.

So although the amendment was meant in a very friendly manner, I would like to proceed with this as it is, because I want to include all species, not just a more narrow stripe of species.

The Chair: All right, thank you.

We have Madame Kraft Sloan, Mr. Mills, and Mr. Knutson.

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

I'm going to pass on my comments. I think the argument Mr. Herron has put forward clearly illustrates the concern to make this a biological reality.

The Chair: Mr. Mills.

Mr. Bob Mills (Red Deer, Canadian Alliance): Again, I just repeat that I think this broadens it too much. It involves interprovincial and it involves international. I just think something like this is going to mean the government will not act because it's so broad.

By focusing it, I think you're going to have a much greater chance of actually doing something than you would if you broaden it so much that it involves all of those other provincial and international situations. You probably are just going to get inaction on legislation like this.

The Chair: Mr. Knutson.

Mr. Gar Knutson: I would suggest to my colleague across the way that if the government is willing to support it with the word “similar”, then he should accept that as a reasonable compromise. I would therefore like to formally move that “similar” be added, and that can be treated as an unfriendly amendment or a friendly amendment.

The Chair: We have a subamendment by moved Mr. Knutson, to insert the word “similar” between “other” and “area” on the second line of amendment PCDR-1.

(Subamendment agreed to—See Minutes of Proceedings)

(Amendment agreed to—See Minutes of Proceedings)

• 0935

Mr. Andy Savoy (Tobique—Mactaquac, Lib.): So we carried the amendment with the unfriendly subamendment. We sabotaged PCDR-1 and carried it.

The Chair: Madame Kraft Sloan, would you like to withdraw amendment LL-1 at this point?

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Yes, I would.

The Chair: Thank you.

We now turn to L-4, on page 18.

Please go ahead, Mr. Knutson.

Mr. Gar Knutson: The whole issue of “transboundary” depends on a debate we're going to have later about trying to more explicitly define federal jurisdiction. As such, I would ask that this be put off.

The Chair: Stonewalled. It remains there, so that would take us to page 20, and amendment NDP-1, in the name of Mr. Comartin.

Mr. Joe Comartin (Windsor—St. Clair, NDP): I thought we had dealt with pages 20 through 25 at the last meeting.

The Chair: Sorry, it was withdrawn.

Mr. Joe Comartin: Pages 20 to 25 are all the same, and we voted on those.

The Chair: The one on page 22, amendment PCDR-2, was carried, and CA-6 on page 23 was withdrawn, is that correct?

Ms. Susan Baldwin: That's right, because they were all for the same spot. Basically, they were the same motions.

The Chair: Fine. Thank you.

(On clause 8—Responsibility of Minister)

The Chair: We come to page 30.

Ms. Susan Baldwin: Page 30 would be CA-9, which was stood, yes. It has no consequential amendments that I can see, and it also has no line conflicts.

The Chair: Mr. Mills, this was stood in your absence, and the question is whether or not you are in agreement.

Madame Kraft Sloan?

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Mr. Chair, I have an amendment for this clause as well. This is a clause that is of a great deal of concern, because it's an overall delegation of authority “to any person”, including an individual or a corporation, to empower under the act. I'm wondering if we should stand this down until Mr. Rounthwaite comes.

An hon. member: I would agree with that, Mr. Chair.

The Chair: All right, you agree with that.

We will leave CA-9 and LL-5 for Mr. Rounthwaite. Those are on pages 30 and 31.

Mr. Herron.

• 0940

Mr. John Herron: On that point, Madam Kraft Sloan might want to discuss the concern the committee had when Mr. Mills wasn't here, even though that was moved during the last committee.

The Chair: We will do it when Mr. Rounthwaite is here, all right?

Mr. John Herron: Okay.

The Chair: We'll also stand LL-5a, on page 32, I suppose, and CA-10, on page 33. They're all in the same broad category.

(On clause 10—Administrative agreements)

The Chair: Mr. Herron, would you like to turn to page 37, your amendment PCDR-5, and tell us whether you are ready to move it?

Mr. John Herron: I think we're still in some negotiations. Could we do this tomorrow, Mr. Chair?

The Chair: Yes, we could.

Mr. John Herron: Thank you.

(On clause 11—Conservation agreements—species at risk)

The Chair: The next one that has been stood is on page 41, and it is L-5, in the name of Mr. Knutson.

Would you like to proceed, Mr. Knutson?

Mr. Gar Knutson: I'm ready.

If I could draw the committee's attention to clause 74, that clause on page 34 of the bill regards agreements and permits. You'll notice a fair number of subclauses that provide criteria for agreements and permits that make the conditions in which those agreements and permits can be made reasonably tight. In clause 11, the subject matter is somewhat similar in that it is in regard to conservation agreements with stewardship. All I'm suggesting is that we might want to make the conditions for a stewardship agreement follow on the same principles as those outlined in clause 74.

The Chair: So what you're introducing here is an element of consistency?

Mr. Gar Knutson: That's my view of it. Others may have a different view. I guess reasonable people may differ on this.

The Chair: Could you sound a little bit more convinced?

Mr. Gar Knutson: I'd like to hear what the government has to say.

The Chair: Fair enough.

Madame Redman.

Mrs. Karen Redman: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'm pleased to hear Mr. Knutson supply some of the rationale, because the question around this really was the intent of this amendment, given that the substantive issues seem to be covered off under paragraph 74(2)(b), which says:

      the activity benefits the species or is required to enhance its chance of survival in the wild

It is our opinion that this is already covered off by that paragraph.

Also, 74(3)(b) states that

      all feasible measures will be taken to minimize the impact of the activity on the species or its critical habitat...;

One would assume that this would be a positive impact, because these are conservation measures. It's our feeling that this is already covered off both by the purpose and by the preconditioned paragraph that I've already referred to.

Mr. Alan Tonks (York South—Weston, Lib.): I wonder if I could ask a question. Is there perhaps alternative language that the government might be willing to accept on the amendment that adds subclause 11(3)?

• 0945

Mrs. Karen Redman: Mr. Chair, could I please ask Mr. Near or Ms. Wherry to address this?

Ms. Ruth Wherry (Director, Species at Risk Office, Department of the Environment): If you look at subclause 74(3) for example, those criteria are basically designed for activities that are harmful to a species, its residence, or its critical habitat. The purpose of conservation agreements is to benefit, so it doesn't quite make sense to talk about the criteria of 74(3) with respect to conservation agreements.

As Madame Redman pointed out, 74(2)(b) makes sense if you wish to use that particular wording to say you want clause 11 to meet the wording of 74(2)(b), but it doesn't quite make sense for 74(3).

Mrs. Karen Redman: If I could continue, Mr. Chair, when Mr. Knutson is seeking a friendly amendment, then referencing paragraph 74(2)(b) would be consistent, in our opinion, whereas just referencing clause 74 is too broad and somewhat confusing.

The Chair: Mr. Knutson, do you have any comments?

Mr. Gar Knutson: Briefly, I have a comment in that I think hooking in the intent of paragraph 74(2)(b) and putting it in as part of clause 11 would be an important step. If the government is proposing a subamendment, I'd accept that.

The Chair: So your last line would read...

Mr. Gar Knutson: My new subclause 11(3) would read:

    Any agreement under subsection (1), if it involves any activity that will affect a listed wildlife species, any part of its critical habitat or the residences of its individuals, must benefit the species or enhance its chance of survival in the wild.

The Chair: That's not the amendment before us. That's not the last line, which says “must be made in accordance with section 74.”

Mr. Gar Knutson: I guess simpler language would be “must be made in accordance with paragraph 74(2)(b).”

The Chair: Exactly. I suppose that would be the extent of the change. Instead of clause 74, it would be paragraph 74(2)(b).

Mr. Comartin.

Mr. Joe Comartin: I have the next amendment on the same clause Mr. Chair. Let me just speak to it in this perspective, because I want to take some issue with the comments we've heard from Ms. Redman and the staff.

If you look at subclause 11(2) and paragraph 11(2)(e), both of those could result in damage to the environment. What we're really trying to do here in this clause, so that it is consistent with 74, is say that the agreement cannot make provisions for damaging the environment, the species, or the habitat, etc., without this clause—and that's why you need the addition—being brought in line with 74. But it's not just 74(2)(b), it's 74(3). We need both those amendments, which would then make things consistent with 74.

So it is an issue of consistency, but it's also a fairly fundamental issue of protecting the species.

The Chair: Well, we'll ask you in a moment whether or not you are in agreement with this possible change.

Let's hear from Madame Kraft Sloan now.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: In probably most of the cases, it may not be necessary to invoke 74(3), which means that it is consistent with 74(3) in most of the cases. So it's not inconsistent. It's not unnecessary because it is consistent with subclause 74(3).

• 0950

I think Mr. Comartin has brought up a very good point. In the odd situation in which there may be some problems in terms of damaging the environment or a species, we have to ensure that the fullness of clause 74 is there to be applied. Just because conservation agreements are going to work to the benefit of the species most of the time, that doesn't mean there won't be the odd situation in which they will not work for some species.

As I recall, the discussions around Bill C-65 centred on this very point. Sometimes, some things have to be done that may in effect cause some harm, so I don't see why it's unnecessary to pull in all of clause 74, because you're going to be in accordance with subclause 74(3) probably 99.9% of the time.

The Chair: Thank you.

Madame Redman, are you able to indicate whether you are in agreement by adding subclause 74(3) to Mr. Knutson's amendment, in addition to paragraph 74(2)(b)?

Mrs. Karen Redman: Mr. Chair, I am, but I wonder if we could hear from Mr. Near.

Mr. David Near (Senior Counsel, Department of Justice): When we drafted clause 11, the sole intent was that a clause 11 agreement would only be beneficial to the species. When we drafted clause 74, it was contemplated that there might be instances in which there would be a negative impact, and subclause (3), in effect, is to permit that such activity take place in certain circumstances. By incorporating paragraph 74(2)(b), you are actually explicitly saying those agreements are only for the benefit of the species.

The Chair: Madame Kraft Sloan.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: I just want to take a look at this before I comment again.

The Chair: Mr. Comartin.

Mr. Joe Comartin: From a drafting point of view, rather than saying “in accordance with paragraph 74(2)(b)”, which means the person actually has to go back to look at that, Mr. Knutson's suggestion actually incorporates the language of paragraph 74(2)(b) into clause 11. I would support that, rather than making a person flip to the back of the act to find out what it's about.

The Chair: All right, then can you repeat the language, Mr. Knutson, that you will have after the word “must” on the fourth line.

Mr. Gar Knutson: Sure:

    must benefit the species or is required to enhance its chance of survival in the wild.

The Chair: How about “or be required”?

Mr. Gar Knutson: Okay.

The Chair: All right, thank you.

Mr. Gar Knutson: While I have the floor, I'd like to ask a question of Mr. Near.

Specifically, what's the harm of incorporating subclause 74(3) into clause 11, as Mr. Comartin has suggested? What does it do?

Mr. David Near: If we're speaking in terms of consistency, they are two different types of agreement. One is for the benefit of the species—in effect, a stewardship-type agreement. The other contemplates a permitting or licensing situation in which someone may be doing something that may have a negative impact on the species, but the government has decided that, following certain procedural steps, such an activity will be allowed.

Mr. Gar Knutson: Well, if we just repeat the language of subclause 74(3) and incorporate it into clause 11, have we done any harm?

Mr. David Near: I'm not sure what you mean by the word “harm”. If you're talking about—

• 0955

Mr. Gar Knutson: I'm referring to the ground, to real life, in practical terms, not just in terms of wordsmithing. We don't make reference to clause 74 anymore, we just duplicate the language as a point of emphasis.

I know the officials in Environment Canada and some parliamentarians are rather suspicious about agreements with provincial governments. We're suspicious about the harmonization accord and we're suspicious about making deals with the Mike Harris regime, for example. Clause 11 is about agreements with provincial governments, so I just want to make sure... It's no disrespect to the drafters, but I'm legislating for future ministers, so I'm tightening the criteria on which they can make an agreement with a provincial government.

My cynicism may be totally unfounded and unwarranted, but I'm just asking about this in terms of the on-the-ground effect. Would it do any harm to incorporate language similar to that of 74 into clause 11?

Mr. David Near: The harm is this: If you incorporate the language of 74(3), then I could anticipate that an argument could be made that a clause 11 agreement could contemplate harm to a species. If you leave it out, it's clearer that clause 11 agreements are only to benefit the species.

An hon. member: But what if they don't?

Mr. Bob Mills: If you're talking about stewardship, I don't know—

Ms. Ruth Wherry: I would agree entirely with what David just said on the whole notion of clause 74 agreements, particularly when you have prohibitions in place when you're authorizing an activity for specific, special reasons, and that activity could harm a species or its residence. With the stewardship agreements, though, the whole notion is not to authorize stewardship agreements to harm a listed species. The whole purpose of them is to do things that would benefit. This is mixing those up.

The Chair: We are reaching a watershed here.

Mr. Herron and Mr. Comartin.

Mr. John Herron: Through you to my good friend Mr. Knutson, Mr. Chair, I would say that I think the officials are right on this occasion. With respect to the amendments that we have here, our intent is to make it very clear that clause 11 is about the preservation and the augmentation of the species. We don't want to even muddy the water at all and starting talking about when we don't try to enhance a species in clause 11, because that's about conservation, preservation, and all those good, positive things. I think making reference to 74(3) muddies the water, so to speak.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Gar Knutson: If that's the feeling of the committee, if I have the floor...do I have the floor?

The Chair: You certainly have a light on. I don't know whether you have the floor. Mr. Comartin was indicating his wish to speak, but I'm completely in your hands now.

Mr. Gar Knutson: I would withdraw my amendment then, and move to a debate on Mr. Comartin's amendment.

The Chair: No, no. The debate is on subclause 74(3). I think there is consensus on 74(2)(b), if I understand the dynamic of the discussion so far.

Mr. Comartin, are you accepting the reasoning put forward by Mr. Herron?

Mr. Joe Comartin: No, I want to keep 74(3) in there if it's at all possible.

The Chair: All right, then we'll have to vote on it.

Mr. Joe Comartin: Let me make an additional point. Let me recall for this committee the factual situation that we got from one of the first nations—and this would be very akin to the type of stewardship agreement that is being contemplated by clause 11.

You'll recall that they had entered into an agreement with Ducks Unlimited. The effect of that agreement was some damming that vastly increased the wetlands. That was a standard type of agreement that we could enter into under clause 11. At the time—because this was some years ago—I suppose they weren't sophisticated enough to recognize the ramifications of that. The ramifications of that were deteriorations in a number of other species. They got the ducks and the geese, but they lost a number of other ones because of the damming. That's exactly the type of agreement that could be made under 11(2).

• 1000

If we don't add 11(3)—either Mr. Knutson's amendment or mine—to take into account subclauses 74(2) and 74(3), we can have exactly the same kind of result that occurred in that situation. To say clause 11, as it is now, is simply always positive to the environment or to the species and the protection of it is unfortunately out of touch with the reality of what happens in the field.

The Chair: Madam Kraft Sloan.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: I share Mr. Comartin's concern, because a conservation agreement is not necessarily benign or protective of species. It depends on your point of view and on your partner's point of view. If the intent of such a conservation agreement is to be positive in terms of protecting species, I'm wondering why this wasn't made a little clearer in clause 11. I'm therefore wondering if it might be better to place Mr. Knutson's amendment in subclause (1) or something like that, because that starts to define a little more clearly the intent of a conservation agreement linked to 74(2)(b).

The Chair: Madame Redman, and then Mr. Near.

Mrs. Karen Redman: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'm looking for a few road signs along the way here. My assumption was that we were dealing with the amendment on page 41, that being L-5, and that the wording now put forward by Mr. Knutson includes the wording in paragraph 74(2)(b). I'd like clarification on whether we are going to vote on that at some time. If we are, I would contend that it clarifies the issue. Despite Mr. Comartin's rationale, it also makes his amendment—which would be subsequent to this one—somewhat redundant, because 74(2)(b) would make the kind of clarification that he sought.

I would ask Mr. Near if he would like to address this.

Mr. David Near: In terms of the question that Madame Kraft Sloan raised, when we were drafting this part of the legislation years ago, we thought just using the term “conservation agreement” was a clear indication that this was for conservation purposes. Then, as the government re-emphasized the stewardship aspect—you'll see that it's in the part of the bill that is headed “Stewardship”—that just reinforced that these types of agreements are different from the situations covered in clause 74 under which you conceivably could have a negative effect on a species. The government has nonetheless decided to permit or license such situations following certain procedural steps.

In terms of why we didn't make it clearer, we actually didn't think it needed to be made any clearer, because it is a conservation agreement. I would suggest that the language Mr. Knutson has put forward makes it even clearer that this is the case.

Arguably, if the government tried to enter into an agreement that negatively affected a species, one could argue under clause 11—with this amendment—that they did not have the authority to do so.

The Chair: All right, we'll bring this to an end now.

Madam Kraft Sloan, you have the last intervention.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: I was just pointing out that a conservation agreement in the case Mr. Comartin brought before the committee was not a positive agreement. Just because it's labelled as a conservation agreement, that doesn't mean it's going to have a net positive result for some species. That's the point I was making. I know there are differences between conservation agreements and other agreements that may have a detrimental effect on species.

The Chair: Well, the way we could proceed is to vote first on...step one would be the amendment by Mr. Knutson, which he read to us and for which he is accepting the friendly amendment to substitute, in the last line, the word “section”, with the words “paragraph 74(2)(b)”. Having decided on that—and if it carries, of course—we would then deal with Mr. Comartin's amendment, which would build on the amendment by Mr. Knutson, if approved, by adding “and subclause 74(3)” to that amendment.

• 1005

Mr. Knutson has been encouraged to put in the wording on the fourth line so that, after the word “must”, it would read:

    benefit the species or be required to enhance its chance of survival in the wild in accordance with paragraph 74(2)(b).

Is that correct? Yes? All right.

Well, it may be redundant, but that is the spirit of this particular amendment.

Are you ready for the question?

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Just as second.

Mr. Chairman, I'm sorry, but we're voting on Mr. Knutson's, which is 74(2)(b), and then Mr. Comartin's, which is a separate, additional vote, is that it?

The Chair: Yes, we will then put forward a vote on 74(3).

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Okay.

The Chair: Are you ready for the question on Mr. Knutson's amendment, which accepts 74(2)(b) as the essence of his amendment?

An hon. member: We are.

(Amendment agreed to—See Minutes of Proceedings)

The Chair: Now we vote on Mr. Comartin's addition to Mr. Knutson's amendment, namely by adding also the spirit or the intent of subclause 74(3).

(Subamendment negatived—See Minutes of Proceedings)

The Chair: We come to page 43, and Mr. Herron's amendment PCDR-6.

Mr. John Herron: That's done. I think it's obsolete now, isn't it? And so is the one on page 44, PCDR-6a.

The Chair: You find them obsolete? Fine.

An hon. member: Page 44 is redundant?

Mr. John Herron: Gar's amendment takes care of it.

The Chair: Everything up to and including page 47 is withdrawn, so we now come to page 48, with an amendment by Madam Kraft Sloan that is numbered LL-6.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: That was carried.

The Chair: Yes, that was carried. Thank you.

An hon. member: Aren't we on page 51 now?

The Chair: The amendment on page 51 was defeated 7 to 6. The one on 52 was carried.

(On clause 15—Functions)

The Chair: Let us now deal with page 53, amendment CA-18.

Mr. Mills, would you like to introduce your amendment?

Mr. Bob Mills: Yes.

This is actually a suggestion from COSEWIC. Nomenclature changes through time. Our feeling is that the addition of a paragraph (f) to subclause 15(1) would simply help to keep up with the changes as more classifications and changes of classifications occur. This becomes a way of doing that.

• 1010

The Chair: How would you like it to read? Can you tell us?

Mr. Bob Mills: We would simply add a paragraph (f) to that clause. In other words, after paragraph (e), we would add an (f), and it would read—

The Chair: As in the text.

Mr. Bob Mills: As in the text, yes:

      amend the scientific and common names and, if applicable, the status of the species in the List of Wildlife Species at Risk in accordance with currently accepted zoological or botanical nomenclature.

The Chair: Thank you.

Madame Redman.

Mrs. Karen Redman: In our opinion, despite Mr. Mills' good intent, we would submit the addition of his paragraph (f) actually is adding confusion rather than clarification.

When David Green proposed the clause, he was referring in his submission to COSEWIC's list, not the legal list. COSEWIC should be able to change its working knowledge, but not the legal list within this document. Of course, from time to time, it does change its own status assessments and its own lists. It is the author of those and it should remain so, in our opinion, but it doesn't make any sense to legally require the act to be changed every time zoological or a botanical nomenclature changes. These changes happen very frequently, and this would result in an incredible procedural burden under this legislation were it to be changed in this manner.

Internationally, even when you look at CITES, very often huge debates are launched as to the scientific opinion on these kinds of issues. To entrench this in this legislation would therefore encumber COSEWIC, rather than clarifying things.

Mr. Bob Mills: But my concern really is whether or not the government will keep up with science in terms of the changing of the nomenclature as it goes along. If it doesn't and you do have a legal case, I believe the courts would side on the side of science as opposed to that of the government.

Mrs. Karen Redman: Mr. Chair, with your permission, I would ask Monsieur Nadeau to comment.

Mr. Simon Nadeau: As Karen said, the first issue is whether this is referring to the legal list or the COSEWIC list. If it refers to the COSEWIC list, it doesn't make sense for COSEWIC to be able to change their common and scientific names as they see fit. The expression currently accepted, “zoological or botanical nomenclature”, is problematic, because there is no such thing as accepted nomenclature. It varies from one expert to the next. COSEWIC should therefore be able to use the names as they see fit.

In terms of adapting the legal list to the names currently used by COSEWIC, that makes sense. But if we had to change the legal list or schedules every time COSEWIC made a change to the COSEWIC list, it would be pretty burdensome—and I can actually give you a good example of that.

If you look at the list that was attached to Bill C-33 and the one now attached to Bill C-5, a lot of the names, whether they're common names or scientific names, have changed. The idea is that we will change those, but in batches—let's say every year. Annually, we could change them, but not every time there's a change required.

The Chair: Mr. Mills, can you make a brief comment, please?

Mr. Bob Mills: Again, I just reiterate my point that if you end up in a court of law, I believe you should be using the scientific name as accepted at that point in time, when that situation arises. As cumbersome as it might be, it seems to me that you just have to change with science in terms of changes on the legal list.

(Amendment negatived—See Minutes of Proceedings)

The Chair: The next amendment, CA-19, is on page 54. First, however, the clerk reminds me that I failed to call clause 11.

• 1015

(Clause 11 as amended agreed to)

The Chair: Shall we now call clause 15?

Ms. Susan Baldwin: No, we have a couple of further amendments.

The Chair: We have another amendment by Madame Kraft Sloan on page 55.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Mr. Chair, this amendment—

[Translation]

Mr. Bernard Bigras (Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, BQ): Mr. Chairman, on a point of order. Has the amendment on page 54 been stood?

[English]

The Chair: It's a consequential amendment affected by the decision on page 53, therefore it's negatived. Thank you.

Madame Kraft Sloan.

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

Amendment LL-7 has to do with the functions of COSEWIC that are outlined in clause 15. I believe this was an amendment that Mr. Herron was looking at. It's similar to the amendment to clause 14, which deals with the establishment of COSEWIC, and I had thought this perhaps might be a better place for it.

Subclause 15(2) would now read:

    COSEWIC must carry out its functions on the basis of the best available information on the biological status of a species,

including all of the other things.

The reason I think this is very important is that the work COSEWIC does is scientific work. We want to ensure that biological factors predominate, as opposed to socio-economic ones. When you take a look at community knowledge, for example, there are other issues rather than just scientific knowledge.

The work of COSEWIC, as we have said over and over again, is primarily scientific. What we're talking about is the development of status reports and things like that, which look at the biological reality of species. That should be emphasized, which is why I've included it here.

The Chair: Thank you.

Do we have any comments or questions? Madame Redman.

Mrs. Karen Redman: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Both this amendment and the following one, as Mrs. Kraft Sloan has pointed out quite rightly, deal substantively with similar things. The problem that we have is the fact that the role of COSEWIC is to determine the biological status of a species. How can COSEWIC use the best available information on the biological status of a species when that's exactly what they're trying to determine?

We also have a problem with a fact that has already been referred to by my colleague, and that is the fact that we are leaving out traditional aboriginal knowledge, as well as community knowledge and local knowledge.

I would ask Mr. Nadeau if he'd like to comment on this as well.

Mr. Simon Nadeau: On the second point, it's common practice in wildlife management to use indicators such as hunting success and fishing success, for example, to know how populations behave—if there's a decline, if there's an increase, or if things are stable. Hunting and fishing success is not biological information, it's really the success of human activities. It is a good indicator of what's happening to populations, and COSEWIC uses that kind of indicator.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: There's a comma after “species”. The whole thing would say:

    on the basis of the best available information on the biological status of a species, including scientific knowledge, community knowledge and aboriginal traditional knowledge.

It's just to emphasize that COSEWIC is looking at the biological status.

• 1020

While I understand things other than strictly... You have to understand how many animals have been taken, so one could argue that information is more economic in nature in a community. You have to understand how many animals have been taken over a period of fifty or a hundred years to get an idea of the population size over time, and things like that. One could argue, certainly, that those are economic indicators, but they also speak about the biological reality of the species as well.

I'm not ruling those things out, because I've been a long-standing and strong advocate of traditional ecological knowledge and community knowledge for years on this committee, quite frankly. I'm just reiterating the point or strengthening the point that what COSEWIC does is look at the biological reality, certainly taking these other factors and very useful pieces of information into consideration.

The Chair: In other words, in a short form, long live the inventor of the comma.

Mr. Comartin, followed by Mr. Herron.

Mr. Joe Comartin: Ms. Kraft Sloan's answer is satisfactory.

The Chair: Mr. Herron, shortly and briefly.

Mr. John Herron: If this doesn't go, I will want to move my amendment, because there's something in my amendment that is not quite there on this one—but since Karen didn't hear that, I'll escape and we'll go forward.

The Chair: I'm told I made an error in not calling amendment CA-19 on page 54, because if that motion were to carry, these motions on page 55 and 56 would be redundant, would be in a vacuum, so to say. I apologize for that oversight.

(Amendment allowed to stand)

The Chair: For the sake of orderly progress, I'm therefore calling on Mr. Mills to explain his amendment on page 54, so that we can vote on it.

Mr. Bob Mills: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I guess I'm most concerned about dealing in science. That's something I think this whole piece of legislation is trying to emphasize.

I would like to ask Mr. Nadeau for a little more of an explanation about the community and aboriginal traditional information that might be used in making a decision, because that seems to be outside of the realm of science. I just wonder how you correlate that. Does someone reading this know that? What does that mean?

The Chair: Can you give us a brief, concise reply, Mr. Nadeau?

Mr. Simon Nadeau: Yes.

I have just one example of community knowledge or traditional ecological knowledge that can be useful for the assessment processes. People in communities that have been living off the land for a long time can give information about the distribution species in terms of where they were before and where they are now. That's very useful or can be very useful in the assessment process.

Mr. Bob Mills: How does that relate to science, though?

Mr. Simon Nadeau: It's equivalent to what we do when we do surveys, if you will. We try to detect the presence of species in different areas, their abundance, etc. It is comparable to that kind of information.

Mr. Bob Mills: I see that opening up a huge area for lobbying, abuse, and so on, by not dealing with what is, with what science can go back to in the fossil record or whatever, and can actually put forward. Once you start introducing all of those variables, it could depend on the biologist. It could depend on the researchers who are working on that project, or it could depend on the politician who's looking at it.

Mr. Simon Nadeau: Right, but we have to remember that COSEWIC will be looking at all information and will be able to judge the validity of these different pieces of information. COSEWIC will make a judgment based on its quality.

The Chair: Mr. Laliberte.

Mr. Rick Laliberte (Churchill River, Lib.): I'm speaking in opposition to the motion.

It's basing information on knowledge. Not only are you dealing with aboriginal traditional knowledge, you're dealing with languages as well, and languages are very crucial. You have a whole, huge listing. If you look at the schedules, they adopt the Latin-language name of every species. I would challenge this country to look at the aboriginal names of these species as well, and those of plants. You may find a whole new lesson from people who have lived here for centuries. They have this knowledge and know this place and its cycles. If that knowledge is not embedded in this decision-making and in the recovery of these species, you will have missed a great gift that you have before you.

• 1025

The Chair: Mr. Herron, do you have any further comments? No?

Madame Redman.

Mrs. Karen Redman: Again, Mr. Chair, I'm just looking for clarification. Are we reaching back to deal with the amendment on page 54 before we deal with the ones on pages 55 and 56?

The Chair: Yes.

Are you ready for the question?

Mrs. Karen Redman: What are we voting on, Mr. Chair?

An hon. member: This is on page 54.

An hon. member: Amendment CA-19.

(Amendment negatived—See Minutes of Proceedings)

The Chair: We now move back to page 55. We heard Madame Kraft Sloan on that item. Are there any further comments?

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Mr. Chair, I wanted clarification in terms of the officials' understanding of my amendment.

Mr. Simon Nadeau: I think the amendment is fine. Again, there's a bit of a question about circularity and using the conclusion of the COSEWIC process, i.e., the biological status of species. Well, COSEWIC has to assess the status of a species, so it's actually using the conclusion in its process leading to the conclusion.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Mr. Chair, the original Bill C-65 said COSEWIC would

    carry out its functions under this Act solely on the basis of the best available information on the biological status of species at risk.

That's what was drafted by the government in Bill C-65.

The Chair: Are there any further comments? Mr. Herron.

Mr. John Herron: If there's enough will on the committee to go toward Mrs. Kraft Sloan's amendment, I would subscribe to it. The amendment that I have, which comes up after that and which Karen touched on, is quite similar in intent. What we're trying to do in that amendment is ratchet up the scientific knowledge. The added aspect of PCDR-9 versus LL-7 is the issue with respect to conflicting information.

The Chair: We haven't called PCDR-9 yet.

Mr. John Herron: But we have a choice here.

The Chair: Not yet. Right now we are at page 55.

(Amendment agreed to—See Minutes of Proceedings)

The Chair: Mr. Herron, would you like to introduce—

Mr. John Herron: Is it still in order?

The Chair: Yes, because it's on a different line.

Mr. John Herron: Okay.

This amendment is intended to be complementary to the intent of the amendment that was just passed. A certain aspect of this amendment is one for which I'm reticent to actually to go forward in some respects, but I think it's a legitimate public policy debate that is healthy for the committee to have. It goes to a specific issue, and would replace line 22 on page 12 of the bill with:

    edge. Where these various forms of knowledge conflict, COSEWIC's decision must be based on scientific knowledge.

This amendment was proposed by a number of individuals, both from industry and conservationist groups, from Ducks Unlimited to the Canadian Pulp and Paper Association. The issue is that, on occasion, situations exist in which aboriginal knowledge may directly conflict with the scientific issue. Those are very difficult issues, but this is a legitimate issue to raise from a public policy perspective. The amendment tries to provide some guidance to lawmakers on those occasions when there is a very obvious conflict. Again, it's a road I'm reticent to go down, but no one is served by avoiding the issue, so that's the intent of this particular motion.

• 1030

The Chair: Thank you.

Mr. Reed, Madame Kraft Sloan, and Mr. Comartin.

Mr. Julian Reed (Halton, Lib.): Could I ask Mr. Herron what “scientific” is?

The Chair: We are not here to explore each other's knowledge.

Mr. Julien Reed: But Mr. Chairman, with respect, could we have—

The Chair: Perhaps your interpretation of “scientific” may be—

Mr. Julien Reed: The clause says “scientific”. Is aboriginal knowledge scientific or not scientific, for instance?

Mr. John Herron: As I said, this is an issue that might be difficult. I'm not going to be able to give you a precise definition of what “scientific” is, in the same way that I can't give you the definition of the meaning of life. However, a clear example that some folks might use was the debate with respect to the bowhead whale issue that we had in the Pacific northwest not so long ago. There was a clear difference between the traditional biological sciences and the aboriginal debate at that time.

Again, this is a debate we all should be rightfully reticent to actually have. Very rarely are they in conflict, but there are going to be situations in which we're going to have real conflict. No one is served by avoiding the issue—and I'd very much like to hear Rick's comments on this as well, Mr. Chair.

The Chair: It's becoming a symposium on the meaning of science.

Madame Kraft Sloan, Mr. Mills, and Mr. Laliberte.

An hon. member: Mrs. Aristotle, on the meaning of life...

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

While I often agree with Mr. Herron, I am a little concerned about this amendment for two reasons. Number one, I think Mr. Laliberte has clearly articulated the science in tech, and I think we have to understand that it has to do with a point of view—and an ethnocentric point of view—as to what is science.

I'm also concerned about the possibility of again getting into patterns in which we're setting up conflicts between the colonial society or non-aboriginal society and the aboriginal society. As an environmentalist, I think one integrates these issues, understands them, and takes from them the wisdom that's there. I am therefore opposed to this motion.

The Chair: Mr. Comartin, please.

Mr. Joe Comartin: I'm opposed to this motion as well, as I was to the last amendment. I think the last amendment actually had a bit of an implicit part to it that is very explicit in this amendment.

I think we should try to remember the evidence that we heard from COSEWIC when they were here. They were obviously quite open to accepting aboriginal traditional knowledge. From time to time, they are probably going to have to do that. But for us to judge that in the legislation is definitely going down the wrong road. We should leave it to them, and hope they will not allow their cultural biases to enter into those decisions but will accept the knowledge that is best for the decisions they have to make.

The Chair: Thank you.

Mr. Laliberte, please.

Mr. Rick Laliberte: I think the amendment tries to define “best” and categorize science above the other, and I take great exception to that. If you don't give proper respect to aboriginal knowledge and the language it's based on, why have aboriginals here? You might as well delete all of it then, because we'll be second to none. That's not the basis of equal partnership and equal knowledge on a continent that was inhabited by these peoples. That knowledge is still here, so let's use it.

The Chair: Thank you.

Mr. Herron.

Mr. John Herron: I will not be moving the motion.

The Chair: Fine.

Madam Kraft Sloan, do you wish to deal with amendment LL-8, on page 57?

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

• 1035

My amendment refers to page 12, subclause 15(2). It adds a subclause (2.1) after line 22 by adding:

    If the wildlife species migrates across an international boundary of Canada or has a range extending across such a boundary, the assessment must so indicate.

This is a fairly simple amendment. It is requesting that COSEWIC, in its assessment reports and in its assessment process, indicate that a species crosses an international boundary.

The Chair: Madame Redman.

Mrs. Karen Redman: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

As I'm sure anyone will attest if they've visited COSEWIC's website, this is something they already do. It isn't onerous in the fact that they already look at where species exist and whether or not they cross boundaries. The concern we would have is in the fact that this whole bill is predicted on cooperation between federal, provincial, and territorial representatives. This could well lead to jurisdictional wrangling, and it would therefore be counterproductive to the very issue at hand, which is protecting species at risk. So while it is something COSEWIC already does, there is a fear that in highlighting it, you're just going to redefine the jurisdictional boundaries.

I don't know if any of the officials want to address it.

The Chair: Mr. Herron, Mr. Bailey, and Madame Kraft-Sloan.

Mr. John Herron: After the officials?

The Chair: I'll have to see if there's some willingness. No?

Go ahead, Mr. Herron.

Mr. John Herron: I just think Ms. Redman actually...I interpreted that almost as an endorsement of Mrs. Kraft Sloan's amendment, in some respects. If it is what they do, and if it is a point of contention amongst a lot of conservationists who want to have clear signals that the Government of Canada is interested in transboundary species, then put it in the bill.

The Chair: Mr. Comartin, Mr. Bailey, and Madame Kraft Sloan.

Mr. Joe Comartin: This is very technical, Mr. Chair, but from a drafting standpoint, I think this shouldn't actually be in 15(2), it should be in 15(1). It should probably be about midway through paragraph 15(1)(a). It's more consistent with that paragraph than it is with subclause 15(2).

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Would you be open to a friendly amendment, Mr. Comartin?

Mr. Joe Comartin: If we could back up, I would move that as paragraph 15(1)(d), while paragraph (d) would become (e), and (e) would become (f).

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Can I ask counsel, Mr. Chair, if there is any problem with it? We haven't inspected those lines.

The Chair: Counsel is examining. In the meantime, we'll go to Mr. Bailey.

Mr. Roy Bailey (Souris—Moose Mountain, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Chairman, I'd like to point out that this would be an unbelievable task. There are hundreds and hundreds of species, Mr. Chair. Further, I would identify that their path can change from time to time—and let me give you a current example.

Much of the wildlife that would normally move out of the northern Northwest Territories and across the arid region that today is an arid region of Alberta is not flying that way. Those species are moving over to where there's feed in the water, so you would be constantly changing this with the season. Now, that may only happen once in forty years, but this year it is going to happen.

I really don't think this is a necessary thing, because I think it goes without saying that most of our migratory birds are crossing the international line. To have to list them, where they're crossing, and everything else, is redundant, really.

• 1040

The Chair: Madame Redman.

Mrs. Karen Redman: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I just want to clarify Mr. Herron's interpretation of my comments. This is indeed something COSEWIC already does; however, if this is the thin edge of the wedge and it's related to the larger proposal to designate transboundary species as federal species, that would not receive the government's support. It's not our intent to separate them out. Merely, my comments were to be taken on the fact that this is already information COSEWIC deals with and identifies.

The real question would be how this adds value to the bill. It is not our intent to support that discussion, which I understand will happen at a subsequent meeting.

The Chair: So in essence, the government is not in favour of recognizing its international responsibility?

Mrs. Karen Redman: The government feels all species at risk should be treated equally. At this point, it is not interested in the hierarchy of treating different animals in a different way.

I would hope my comments around this amendment would be interpreted in the sense that this is something COSEWIC does already.

The Chair: Madame Kraft Sloan.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Mr. Chair, first of all, I would like to underscore that this is something COSEWIC already does. It's part of the assessment process.

The second point is that the government already treats species differently. There are aquatic species and migratory birds. Maybe they're frequent flyers on the Aeroplan Elite plan, as opposed to some other species that aren't, but they are treated differently.

When Mr. Rounthwaite comes, I think we'll probably have an incredibly interesting discussion on what is federal jurisdiction in regard to transboundary species, but I would just like to emphasize that this is about assessment.

As for whether or not this adds value to the bill because it's something COSEWIC already does, my concern is that this bill establishes COSEWIC. I have identified before that we have to be concerned with COSEWIC prior to this bill and COSEWIC after this bill. We want to ensure that a lot of the good work COSEWIC does prior to this bill continues to be carried out afterward. So that does add some value.

Looking at some of the points under paragraphs 15(1)(a), (b), (c), and (d), COSEWIC conducts a new assessment of a status of a species at risk. They reclassify or declassify them. They give priority to species they are concerned about. These are things COSEWIC already does. Following that logic, then, maybe we should delete subclause 15(1), because it spells out the functions of COSEWIC and it spells out the things COSEWIC already does. So as I said, this is only with regard to the assessment.

With regard to your concern, Mr. Bailey, I can understand that you would be concerned that COSEWIC would be inventorying all of these species that might be crossing the border. But the reality, Mr. Bailey, is that they would be just noting a species that they are currently studying and currently doing an assessment on in terms of whether it crosses the border or not. That migration patterns change over time is an important scientific consideration in light of climate change, etc.

Suffice it to say that I hope people will support this, because it falls in line with what is already there.

Thank you.

The Chair: Mr. Herron.

Mr. John Herron: I'd like to underscore very quickly what Ms. Kraft Sloan has pointed out in regard to where the value of this lies. If we're going to even have a section to define the role, the mandate, and the functions of COSEWIC, then we should do so to ensure that if it's a good thing for them to do today, it's a good thing for them to continue to do tomorrow. I think that's the intent of what Ms. Kraft Sloan wants—

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Mr. Chair, I would like to call this to a vote.

An hon. member: You just cut him off!

The Chair: You should leave it to the chair—

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: I wanted to ask you to do it, Mr. Chair.

The Chair: —without interrupting Mr. Herron.

Have you finished, Mr. Herron?

• 1045

Mr. John Herron: I do want to add one aspect about the debate on this, because we're going to see this in the future as well.

When we talk about treating different species regardless of where they live, the point is that we do have different rules and regulations with respect to whether they're on private land, provincial land, or federal land. The bill already does treat species differently, depending on where their habitat is and where they live. The bill has already made that determination. We're not able to say we don't want to treat species differently because they're transboundary, because the bill already has that in different purviews. We're going to come into that debate quite often throughout the context of the debate. But given that we're going to vote on this, let's go forward.

The Chair: Mr. Savoy.

Mr. Andy Savoy: I'd just like to say that I support this also. Although it is present practice, I think it's important that we ingrain it within this bill and ensure that it becomes practice in the future.

The Chair: Thank you.

Mr. Joe Comartin: Sorry, Mr. Chair, did we get a decision on the subamendment?

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Yes, I'm agreeing to that. That's fine.

The Chair: That is a mechanical numbering thing.

(Subamendment agreed to—See Minutes of Proceedings)

(Amendment agreed to—See Minutes of Proceedings)

The Chair: Mr. Mills, on page 58.

Mr. Bob Mills: Mr. Chair, first of all, I want to say to Mr. Laliberte in particular that I do believe aboriginal and local knowledge are important and significant; however, I think the species at risk legislation that we're talking about should be geared to protecting the species and to dealing with the science of a species.

I see that the science is the science about the species, and that treaties are politics. I think mixing politics and science in a bill is putting an unfair burden on the science aspect of things. I believe this should be removed simply because it is mixing politics and science. I believe the courts deal with the treaties. To try to mix the two creates a potential two-tier situation. It's very delicate to talk about it, but I hope you will take it in that sense.

I respect that as well, but, again, I think we have to say what we feel. I am very concerned about the potential of the species at risk where it is on aboriginal land and where it is on other, privately owned land. The courts may read this legislation and see that, because of the treaties, it may be dealt with differently than it is on my piece of land.

If there is a problem, it should be dealt with through the court system, through Indian Affairs, through whatever mechanism, but I don't believe it should be in a species at risk piece of legislation, because obviously the species could be anywhere. They don't differentiate between treaties and no treaties, and you can't convince them to go here rather than there. They may well get better protection on the aboriginal land than they would on the private land, so it could go either way. I just don't think you want to mix the two in species at risk legislation.

[Translation]

The Chair: Mr. Bigras.

Mr. Bernard Bigras: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I am going to speak against my colleague Mr. Mills' motion. Why? I believe that certain agreements signed with certain communities in Quebec, namely with provincial governments, have largely recognized the fact that certain lands or pieces of land and territories come under provincial jurisdiction. The elimination of this section could bring about a situation in which certain treaties and certain agreements signed among others with the government of Quebec would not be recognized.

• 1050

[English]

The Chair: Mr. Laliberte.

Mr. Rick Laliberte: Mr. Chair, what I would add to this amendment rests on the issue of certainty of this bill. The legal certainty and jurisdiction of this bill are very crucial to making it a workable document and to make it a workable, successful protection of species at risk. If you eliminate the treaties and recognition of land claims, they could come back and slap you on the back of the head later.

I think it's time that, when COSEWIC is looking at the listings and information, it takes into consideration these issues at the forefront in its an assessment process. That way the jurisdictional standing that this bill is on includes the respect of the treaties, because that's the basis of what our country is made of. Without the Crown signing treaties with the aboriginal nations, you'd have the Crown on a ship, with no country. The land is very crucial, and that's what these treaties have brought in. We have created a country with the treaty process.

The Chair: Are there any further comments? Mr. Herron, then Mr. Mills.

Mr. John Herron: The committee may recall my trepidation on the amendment that I had before with respect to ensuring that aboriginal knowledge is properly and equitably considered. This is about listing. It's not about land or the treaty claim itself.

Through you, Mr. Chair, I would say to my friend Rick—and in difference to what Mr. Mills advocated—that if there's a dispute, it's not for the courts to decide. Beyond social and economic considerations, treaty and land claims considerations must be taken into consideration during the recovery plan. The list is a different issue, a different beast altogether.

Our view—and it was recommended by the SARWG as well—is that whether a species is at risk or not should be a question of science, not of political choice. Clearly, there's first nation knowledge in the COSEWIC listing process itself, so I think it's inappropriate for us to start talking about treaty, land claims, and social and economic considerations on the listing aspect of this. It's establishing the list, but it's the recovery plan, whether we protect a species or not, that comes into play for the purposes of treaty and land claims issues. That's where that's entrenched, and that's where it has to take place.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

The Chair: Mr. Mills.

Mr. Bob Mills: Again, Rick, I agree with what John is saying. Is this for COSEWIC to do?

Maybe I could refer it to Mr. Nadeau in regard to whether or not he thinks it's the function of COSEWIC. When they're listing a species, should they be looking at all these other factors? Obviously, that would be the case in the recovery, as John said, but should they be looking at that in listing?

Mr. Simon Nadeau: I think COSEWIC has to be mindful that the assessment and the preparation of status reports are actually a starting point for potential infringements on aboriginal title and rights. Adding the word “provisions” makes it clear COSEWIC must take into account a specific part of these agreements when it carries out its functions.

Mr. John Herron: But isn't the province a specific partner as well?

Mr. Simon Nadeau: Of the assessment process?

Mr. John Herron: Yes.

Mr. Simon Nadeau: They have representatives sitting on COSEWIC.

Mr. John Herron: So why wouldn't you carve out provinces as well?

An hon. member: Good point.

The Chair: Mr. Near, Mr. Savoy, and Mr. Comartin.

Mr. David Near: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I think it's important to recognize that this particular clause is directed to COSEWIC to put their minds...when they're doing their work, they should be mindful of land claims agreements and treaties that may exist. Mr. Laliberte is perfectly correct that we have constitutional obligations that may arise out of these existing land claims and treaties, and they may come back to haunt us. It's a direction to COSEWIC to be aware and to take into account that these exist and need to be considered.

• 1055

In terms of the constitutional obligations, the government has them anyway. If there's an existing aboriginal or treaty right that is infringed somewhere down the road, we would have to follow the Sparrow case, for example, if we were to proceed with that.

The Chair: Mr. Savoy, Mr. Comartin, and Mr. Mills.

Mr. Andy Savoy: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I certainly understand the necessity to consult the aboriginal community in listing. To some extent, though, haven't we taken care of that in subclause (2) when we say, “on the basis of the best available information, including”—which we defeated in an amendment previously—“aboriginal traditional knowledge”? In this regard, have we not consulted the aboriginal community, and is subclause (3) necessary?

I haven't decided which way I'm going on this, but I ask that question of the committee. Is subclause (3) necessary when we're already consulting the aboriginal community in subclause (2)?

The Chair: Mr. Savoy, we are now dealing with stewardship, so it's part of the stewardship process.

Mr. Comartin, Mr. Mills, and Mr. Herron.

Mr. Joe Comartin: Let me point out that we have already signed some of these agreements, but others are coming. We have no way of knowing what might be in some of those. Some of those may have clauses that specifically deal with the preservation of species, or they may have an allotment—if I can put it that way—that certain species may be harmed. If we enter into those agreements, obviously COSEWIC should know so, and they should take those into account when they're doing their assessments.

The Chair: Mr. Mills.

Mr. Bob Mills: It seems to me that if you're listing a species and species A is at risk, and you're saying you're going to be aware of land treaties, then you must go further and say you're going to consult with the provinces, which also have endangered species legislation. You must consider that, and maybe you'll decide species A just won't be listed even though you know scientifically that it is endangered.

It just doesn't seem like that's consistent or that it's science. If it's endangered, it's endangered and you list it. Then, later on, in the recovery, you may just decide it has to become extinct because of a land claim, because of provincial regulations, or whatever. But when you're listing, it seems to me that it's either endangered or it isn't, period, and you then go into the other things later on.

The Chair: Mr. Herron.

Mr. John Herron: The issue that Mr. Mills has touched on is that, through the process, we obviously need to ensure that the levels of government in the country—the first nations, the provinces, and the federal government—are engaged. It therefore doesn't make any sense to carve out one aspect and not carve out provinces.

I would like to give notice on one aspect, and that's the argument Mr. Near used here on this particular issue. It's not that they don't do it anyway. He said it's helpful for us to ensure that we're mindful of that, so we're repeating something that's already implicit in the bill. We've had arguments in the past in which we have said we don't need to put something in because it's already in the bill—and we can go back through Hansard and sort that out. Once in a while, though, it's good practice to reiterate something for the sake of the security of the intended legislation. We might want to be mindful of that mindful argument.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

The Chair: We'll take a vote, but we'll hear Mr. Bigras and Madame Redman first.

[Translation]

Mr. Bernard Bigras: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Near, I would like advice as to the constitutionality of the removal of lines 25 to 28. I would like to know if you have a legal opinion on that and if you might tell me what impact such an amendment might have. It seems to me that a treaty is like a hinge. In principle, we must take into account signed treaties. Subsequent laws must, whenever possible, respect those treaties that have been signed. Otherwise, in my opinion, there is a constitutional danger. I would like to know Mr. Near's opinion in this regard.

[English]

Mr. David Near: When we're talking about the possibility of infringing on an existing aboriginal or treaty rights, strictly speaking, I think the important thing is that the constitutional problem would arise when you're considering actually infringing upon those rights.

• 1100

As I said in my comments before, this clause is helpful in anticipating what might be coming down the pipe. It's a directive to COSEWIC to understand that there's an existing aboriginal treaty in place. When the government decides to undertake a certain activity that may infringe upon an existing aboriginal or treaty right, they will therefore have a solid basis upon why they're doing that. They will need a very solid basis to convince a court to infringe upon an existing aboriginal treaty right.

The Chair: Madam Redman, and then we'll vote.

Mrs. Karen Redman: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Just to add some information, COSEWIC already initiates many cooperative relationships with wildlife management boards, in acknowledgement of the role they rightfully play in the responsibility related to species at risk. That's another good reason why this is in the bill currently.

(Amendment negatived)

The Chair: Mr. Herron, do you agree that your next amendment is virtually redundant?

Mr. John Herron: Yes.

The Chair: Then it is not put.

(Clause 15 as amended agreed to)

(On clause 16—Composition)

The Chair: All right.

Mr. Comartin, you have the floor.

Mr. Joe Comartin: I'm going to classify NDP-3 as a minor amendment, Mr. Chair. It directs the minister in that when he is considering who will be part of COSEWIC, the Royal Society of Canada should be one of the bodies consulted—and I believe there are some other amendments of a similar nature. It's simply that this is the situation now, and they're an obvious body that should be taken into account when members are being appointed to COSEWIC.

The Chair: Are there any comments?

Madame Redman.

Mrs. Karen Redman: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

As Mr. Comartin has rightly pointed out, the amendments on pages 60 and 61—those would be NDP-3 and LL-9—are quite similar in nature. Again, I would hope this is a friendly amendment that I propose, and that's to delete the word “bodies” and simply have it read “and other experts”. That will allow COSEWIC to consult with individuals as well as groups, so it will be less restrictive.

Recognizing that we're dealing with Mr. Comartin's amendment first, we would actually prefer the wording on page 61, because it gives the Royal Society of Canada as an example, as opposed to directing it. There may be some reason for which it is not be appropriate, or... There's nothing wrong them being indicated as possible experts, but we would prefer the wording on page 61.

I don't know if Mr. Comartin would see that as friendly or not.

Mr. Joe Comartin: If we get the government's support, I'd be happy to follow that route.

The Chair: Could you then read to us what it is that you are happy to accept?

Mr. Joe Comartin: I'd have to defer to Ms. Kraft Sloan, because it's her amendment.

The Chair: Are you willing to withdraw?

Mr. Joe Comartin: I'll withdraw mine and let her proceed with hers.

(Amendment withdrawn—See Minutes of Proceedings)

The Chair: We go to Madame Kraft Sloan, on page 61.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Mr. Chair, I was going to speak in support of Mr. Comartin's amendment.

The Chair: The amendment is withdrawn.

Some hon. members: Oh, oh!

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: That's terribly unfortunate.

The Chair: There was a discussion.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: I had my hand up, Mr. Chair.

• 1105

The Chair: Mr. Comartin has accepted the proposal put forth by Madame Redman, so we are now on page 61, and your amendment.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: You know, the NDP definitely have a better idea in this case, but that's all right. I will defer to the consensus of the committee, if there is indeed a consensus on this.

The parliamentary secretary has suggested that we delete “bodies”. That would be fine with me if we could say “other experts and expert bodies”. What we'd actually do is add “experts and”, so it will now say:

    experts and expert bodies, including the Royal Society of Canada, that the Minister considers to have relevant expertise.

I'd like to keep the concept of expert bodies in there.

Mrs. Karen Redman: Would it say “such as” or “including”?

An hon. member: Are you putting the word “including” in there?

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: I was reading Mr. Comartin's amendment, because I thought it was a better amendment. I'm sorry for the confusion. I will read my amendment again, with the subamendment:

    experts and expert bodies, including the Royal Society of Canada, that the Minister considers to have relevant expertise.

The Chair: In essence, it is the insertion of “expert bodies,”—

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Yes, thank you, as long as it's not—

The Chair: —“such as the Royal Society of Canada”.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: The impact of my amendment would have been to delete “experts”, right?

The Chair: Madame Redman.

Mrs. Karen Redman: Just to be clear, what we see on page 61 would merely have the addition of “experts and”, so it would read

    experts and expert bodies, such as the Royal Society of Canada, that the Minister considers to have relevant expertise.

The government is fine with that.

The Chair: What Madame Kraft Sloan has recommended is that in LL-9, we would modify line 31 so as to include, after the word “experts”, the words “and expert bodies, such as the Royal Society of Canada”.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Mr. Chair, as I understand it, the effect of my amendment would be to delete “experts” and have “expert bodies”. I agree with the amendment from the parliamentary secretary, from Madame Redman. It would just read “expert bodies”.

The Chair: All right, so the amendment before us is to the effect that line 31 would read “expert bodies, such as the Royal Society of Canada”.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: No, I'm accepting Madam Redman's suggested amendment. Line 31 would then read:

    experts and expert bodies, such as the Royal Society of Canada, that the Minister considers to have relevant expertise.

The Chair: That's how I read it a few minutes ago, but I was told it wasn't correct.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: I understood that you thought “experts” would still remain in there.

The Chair: Let's now get it for the last time, correctly. Line 31 would read “experts and expert bodies, such as the Royal Society of Canada”. Is that correct?

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Yes.

(Subamendment agreed to—See Minutes of Proceedings)

(Amendment agreed to—See Minutes of Proceedings)

The Chair: Mr. Herron.

Mr. John Herron: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

This amendment, PCDR-11, is an amendment that some members of the committee may be very familiar with. The intent of it is to safeguard the COSEWIC membership against political interference.

• 1110

This wording is essentially of the exact same spirit that was in place with the makeup of COSEWIC in the previous bill, Bill C-65. The task force that was supportive of this amendment when we did Bill C-65 had a very broad spectrum of individuals: agriculture, energy professionals, pulp and paper, industry, environmentalists, various NGOs, and the like. It had a very broad scope of support.

Essentially, I ask the committee to pay attention particularly to the first phase:

    The Minister must ensure that no more than one half of members of COSEWIC appointed are employees of the federal or a provincial government.

The purpose of this is to ensure that membership on COSEWIC is based on an individual's expertise in the area of conservation of a species at risk, and that it should operate independent of political interference. The committee knows in all practicality that bureaucrats, despite their own intent, are the subject of political interference at provincial levels and at the federal level—except for the ones we have as witnesses today, of course.

Some hon. members: Oh, oh!

Mr. John Herron: What this does is ensure that half of the makeup is of a university background or a college background and that COSEWIC is not composed purely federal or provincial bureaucrats.

Again, to reiterate, this is not just a number out of the air. It's something the government saw fit to support when it was Bill C-65. I would therefore hope it sees it as appropriate to do so in Bill C-5.

The Chair: Thank you.

Mr. Reed, Madam Kraft Sloan, and Madam Redman.

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

Just as a matter of clarification—

Mr. John Herron: And it was science that checked it, Bill.

Some hon. members: Oh, oh!

Mr. Julian Reed: Well, this is even more difficult.

I take it that in the last full line, you mean an employee of a university or college is not a government employee?

Mr. John Herron: That's why it says, “For greater certainty”, yes.

Mr. Julian Reed: Yes, but all it says here is, “not an employee”.

An hon. member: Of what?

Mr. John Herron: For the purposes of this subclause.

Mr. Julian Reed: I take it we are assuming the word “government” is there, that's all.

Mr. John Herron: That's right.

The Chair: Mr. Mills, Madame Scherrer, and Madame Redman.

Mr. Bob Mills: I wonder if I could ask our bureaucrats if, outside of provincial and federal, we could in fact find enough experts out there to easily fill that.

Ms. Ruth Wherry: Perhaps I could give a little bit of background in the sense that COSEWIC has been around for over twenty years. As you know, you all think a lot of its assessments, etc. During that time, it has been primarily government officials who have been members of COSEWIC who have been coming out with their list every year.

Perhaps I could also remind you that when COSEWIC appeared before the committee, it said that during its pre-study, this whole issue came up. The chairman of COSEWIC went to great trouble to say that if it ain't broke, you don't fix it. They really need their government members.

Mr. Roy Bailey: How are you going to make 50%?

[Translation]

The Chair: Madam Scherrer.

Ms. Hélène Scherrer (Louis-Hébert, Lib.): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I have a problem with the addition of the word “provincial”. I would like this to be limited to employees of the federal government, since this is a federal bill. In my view, if we have the word “provincial”, we should also include the word “territorial” or the words “any other government”.

I am having a little bit of difficulty here. Why should we include the word “provincial” without including the other governments? Either we limit this to the federal government or we include all of the other governments. My impression is that we are entering a field that is not at all ours.

I also have a problem with the words “employee of a university”, because these employees are also funded under a government program. I am wondering if there could not be interference there as well. This is a concern for me.

• 1115

[English]

The Chair: Thank you.

Madame Redman, Mr. Bigras, and Mr. Comartin.

Mrs. Karen Redman: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Just to add to what Ms. Wherry said, I recognize that the stated intent of this amendment and the one on page 64—which is a subsequent amendment that is actually somewhat similar in intent—is to put in a firewall, if you would, against any kind of political suasion that may accompany these individuals. But it's important to point out that you're also limiting the kind of expertise that COSEWIC can avail itself of. If we want to continue to be proud of what COSEWIC does, I would contend that putting this in would hamper that process, because you would limit the amount of expertise that is then available to it.

[Translation]

The Chair: Mr. Bigras.

Mr. Bernard Bigras: Thank you. Mr. Chairman.

I would first of all like to have some information on the actual representation of the provinces within COSEWIC. This would perhaps allow us to take a position regarding Mr. Herron's proposition and to see if it is founded. My first question therefore is: what is the present situation?

Mr. Simon Nadeau: If we are talking about voting members, at the present time, COSEWIC has 13 members who come from the provinces and territories, three from federal departments and two who chair COSEWIC's taxonomic committees. There are therefore 18 people who come from different levels of government. There are three members who come from governmental organizations. Two of these three members come from universities and a third person comes from an organization involved with the environment. There are six other subcommittee presidents who are voting members of COSEWIC, who are scholars.

Therefore, in total, we have 27 voting members, 18 of whom come from different levels of government. Therefore, approximately 70 % of them come from governments. As Mr. Green mentioned the last time he appeared before the committee, in the fall of 2000, the committee works very well with its present make-up.

Mr. Bernard Bigras: What I am hearing from the officials in my province is, first of all, that COSEWIC is working well. Secondly, given that I have always considered that the bill was very centralizing, I believe that there should be a harmonization mechanism. If the will of the government is truly to make room for harmonization, then there must be a table for discussion so that people are able to speak out. I believe that COSEWIC is also a place where provincial policies and laws might be harmonized, but taking into account federal legislation.

In the end, I am going to speak against the motion.

[English]

The Chair: Mr. Bailey.

Mr. Roy Bailey: I think the response there is that you have a tremendous mix of people coming from all over. As a member of this committee, I would be reluctant to tie the hands of this organization down to a 50-50 split. We may be doing the very thing that would dampen and slow down the process totally if we always have to reach for that. This thing seems to be working, so why would we want to put some fetters on it?

The Chair: Mr. Comartin.

Mr. Joe Comartin: Fixed or broken, one can't ignore the reality of the next amendment that's coming from Mrs. Kraft Sloan with regards to remuneration.

Let me suggest that a good reason for why COSEWIC is formed the way it is at this point is the issue of the ability of scientists around the country to participate from a financial standpoint. If we pass this motion and the subsequent one, we will be able to redress an imbalance that's obvious from the numbers we heard from Mr. Nadeau. It seems to me that this is the thrust we should be moving toward in terms of trying to make sure both the appearance and reality of impartiality are maintained.

The Chair: We have Mr. Mills to conclude, after Madam Kraft Sloan.

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

While I appreciate the work that COSEWIC has done—and certainly in the fall of 2000, COSEWIC was working very well, considering the current mix of membership—my concern is, again, what happens after this bill passes and becomes law.

• 1120

There are things that are required to be done, or we may hope they will be required to be done, maybe through some amendments. The work of COSEWIC will therefore become even more important, because COSEWIC is not a body established through legislation right now, and the political pressures are certainly going to increase. While the current membership is working in a very independent fashion, that membership may change. The individuals may change. Pressures may be placed on individuals.

We've had many situations in which scientists have come before this committee—scientists who are working for the government—and have asked us if we were asking for their opinions or their positions as bureaucrats. I think that's a very clear indication of what happens, so if we want to maintain the high quality and calibre of work that COSEWIC has done in the past, we have to think about how the future of COSEWIC is going to be after this legislation is passed.

The Chair: Monsieur Bigras, Mr. Mills, and then we'll take a vote.

[Translation]

Mr. Bernard Bigras: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan's statement ignores the fact that it is not just politicians who are victims of lobbying. This also happens to scientists. And when I say that they are victims, I choose my words carefully. We must therefore take this into consideration.

In my opinion, it is clear that if this motion passes, it will inevitably lead to a reduction of the space occupied by the provinces within COSEWIC, because from what we have been told there are 13 members from the provinces and 18 members from the government on COSEWIC.

Such will in my view be the consequence of this new distribution around the COSEWIC table, because they are major players around the table. This flies against the entire government discourse that we have been hearing since the tabling of this bill, and which was that it wanted to move towards harmonization. Passage of such a measure would be contrary to this process that the government has always bragged about.

[English]

The Chair: Mr. Mills, briefly please.

Mr. Bob Mills: I think broadening the base is a good idea in order to get away from bureaucrats and the pressures put on them. I guess the question again ties in to the next one. Do we have so many bureaucrats simply because of the fact that there's no pay? Is that the reason?

The Chair: The last word goes to Mr. Herron.

Mr. John Herron: I have just two brief issues. First, I think there has to be the friendly amendment that Madam Scherrer flagged, in that territorial governments should be included, as well as provincial. I'd like to move a friendly amendment on that aspect of it.

I neglected to put that in, Madam Scherrer. That's a mistake, so I thank you for that suggestion.

And as Mr. Comartin pointed out, you'll attract talent. These individuals can do things if we pay them some kind of remuneration. That's why it has always been governmental.

Mr. Bob Mills: Can Mr. Nadeau just answer that question?

The Chair: No, Mr. Nadeau cannot answer this question.

(Amendment negatived—See Minutes of Proceedings)

The Chair: I don't know whether Madame Redman can handle this question, which is a very technical one probably mainly related to Treasury Board regulations. Namely, if we start with Madam Kraft Sloan's amendment on page 63, the issue is whether or not that remuneration would apply to those who are already in the civil service, which would lead to double-dipping.

• 1125

Mr. John Herron: No doubt.

The Chair: Therefore, are you in a position to answer the question?

Mrs. Karen Redman: Mr. Chair, If I could, I'd like to frame it on past practices. Personally, I think “shall” creates a problem, and I understand that is probably the entire intent of this clause.

I would also ask Monsieur Nadeau to address it.

Ms. Ruth Wherry: I'll address it.

Actually, you wouldn't want to have a situation in which government employees were double-dipping, exactly. Also, it's not always necessary to pay somebody for doing this. Sometimes, university scientists who participate in COSEWIC voluntarily contribute to status reports because of other benefits that they get through the requirements of having tenure, etc. By leaving in “may” as opposed to “shall”, all it does is cover those situations. In actual fact, though, providing honorariums, etc., is regular practice for the non-government members.

The Chair: In light of what was said, Madame Kraft Sloan, would you like to stand this? You would have time to reconsider it. Or would you like to deal with it now?

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Mr. Chair, I am aware that some of the non-government members are paid honorariums. I had also thought about the possibility that there would be a number of members from the public service as members of COSEWIC, but it also says they would be “paid remuneration and expenses for their services in amounts that the Minister may set.” When it comes to the public service, there is therefore some discretion about what might not be paid, if you will, so that handles the public servants. But what I think this does, Mr. Chair, is to put an important statement in this legislation to say the work of the members of COSEWIC is valuable work.

I'm afraid, Mr. Chair, that we depend on the voluntary actions of far too many people across this country in many respects. Academics and members of NGOs give a lot of their time. If we are to have good environmental legislation in the country, it's often because of those academics who have tenure or who do not have an overloaded workload. You may have a very young, bright scientist who is trying to achieve tenure or who is taking on a lot of other responsibilities, but who is not being paid all that well by their academic institution—and after having been in a university for a number of years, sometimes I think there's an inverse proportion to the amount of work you get and the amount of money you receive—and they would not be able to make some very fine contributions to COSEWIC.

As well, if you're working for an industry NGO, the kind of salary you're receiving is far higher than what you would be receiving if you were working for an environmental or health NGO. There is too much pressure put on individuals in this country to put them into a position in which they essentially have to volunteer their expertise. In many respects, this amendment just says people are valued for the work they provide. They should be paid remuneration, and it is up to the government or the minister to decide on the amount.

The Chair: So I take it Madame Kraft Sloan is moving the motion.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Yes, I'd like to move the motion.

(Amendment negatived—See Minutes of Proceedings)

The Chair: It's 11:30 a.m. I suggest that we adjourn our meeting at this point, and that we resume tomorrow afternoon.

Mr. Joe Comartin: I would just suggest page 64 is on the same issue that we've been dealing with. We probably can deal with it quickly.

The Chair: We still have two amendments on clause 16, eh?

• 1130

Mr. Joe Comartin: It will only take a few more minutes.

The Chair: Fine, would you like to move it?

Mr. Joe Comartin: Driving at the same point as Mr. Herron—however, it specifically is directed just at the federal public service, rather than the provincial and territorial—I would just repeat the comments I made earlier in terms of why we should be doing it with regard to the appearance of impartiality and with regard to this issue of whether or not there are enough scientists in the country to deal with this. Excuse me, Mr. Herron, but it's a red herring. We clearly have enough scientists in the country to deal with this.

And in regard to the points Mrs. Kraft Sloan has made with regard to the changes that are coming, it just seems to me to be obvious that we have to deal with that issue, and to deal with it at this time, not somewhere down the road.

The Chair: Mr. Bailey.

Mr. Roy Bailey: Mr. Chairman, you could obviously be dealing with somebody who has been very good at the job and who takes a retirement. I think it would be an absolute crime to limit them from going out into their chosen field.

We talk about bureaucracy, but a lot of these people in public service are there because of what's between their ears. To now deny them the ability to continue their hobby or their work would be totally wrong.

The Chair: Thank you.

Madame Kraft Sloan, briefly please.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Mr. Chair, maybe Mr. Comartin would accept a friendly amendment in regard to to the public service of Canada.

Mr. Comartin, maybe you would want to specify a year or six months or something.

My concern with this, number one, is the issue of access of scientists who are independent. Secondly, this addresses the issue of secondment. You can have a person who is not on the government payroll because they have been seconded, so it's a bit of a pea-and-shell game.

I'm sorry I have to express my level of cynicism at this, but that's why I was very supportive of Mr. Comartin's amendment. But to address Mr. Bailey's concern—which I feel very strongly about—there are indeed a lot of fine people who, in their retirement years, have much to contribute.

So perhaps you would like to make a friendly amendment.

Mr. Joe Comartin: I would accept that as a friendly amendment and go with six months, in order to reflect the importance of attracting those types of people.

The Chair: Could you then read it, please?

Mr. Joe Comartin: With the subamendment, it would say:

    The Minister shall ensure that a majority of members were not part of the public service of Canada six months before their appointment.

That would take the word “immediately” out.

The Chair: Mr. Knutson.

Mr. Gar Knutson: On Mr. Bailey's point, when it read “immediately”, all it meant was that a retiring scientist had to wait a day. “Immediate” is a very precise term.

I would just remind the committee that it wasn't so long ago that we had a huge debate over rBST, which was a hormone to be approved for the production of milk in dairy cows. There was a big controversy over whether or not government scientists' reports were coming out in an honest and truthful manner, or whether they were being biased by management. This is no reflection on the character of the people in the civil service, it's just that for the upper management of the civil service, part of their job is to help to make sure their ministers don't get embarrassed, to make sure the government doesn't get embarrassed.

Having an independent COSEWIC is entirely reasonable. If there aren't enough scientists, then we should raise the level of funding for our universities—

An hon. member: Hear, hear.

Mr. Gar Knutson: —whether they're in Alberta, British Columbia, or wherever, so that we do get some independent scientists and so we have the bodies. I think we should support this.

The Chair: Madame Redman.

Mrs. Karen Redman: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

It may be instructive if I could ask Monsieur Nadeau to point out the makeup and that it is indeed an impossibility for us to have more than 50% of the membership of COSEWIC from a public service point of view, anyway.

The Chair: Do you agree, Mr. Nadeau?

Mr. Simon Nadeau: Yes. Out of the 27 voting members, 13 are from a provincial or territorial entity, and another 3 are from NGOs. That means 16 of 27 would not be federal employees if the current composition continues, so we would never have a majority.

Mr. John Herron: Mr. Chairman, on a point of clarification, because it involves the same lines, that would mean amendment PCDR-12 on page 65 would have to add a subclause (7) instead of a subclause (6), if NDP-4 were to pass.

• 1135

The Chair: Let's worry about that if it passes. It would just be an editorial change, I'm told.

(Amendment negatived—See Minutes of Proceedings)

The Chair: Finally, Mr. Herron, do you really want to move your motion on page 65? Do you think you can legislate on independent manners, free thinking, and freedom from influential interference? Are you really certain you want to move that motion?

Some hon. members: Oh, oh!

Mr. John Herron: Mr. Chair, I am certain that I want to move the motion. However, I understand there may be the intent of having it operated in an independent manner. If I were to strike out the phrase “free from the influence or interference of any employer,” we'd end the sentence at “manner.” I'd like to move that particular motion.

The Chair: Well, we will leave that for tomorrow's debate.

Colleagues, thank you for your cooperation. Tomorrow, we will start with this.

The meeting is adjourned.

Top of document