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37th Parliament, 1st Session
EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 030
Friday, March 16, 2001
|SPECIES AT RISK ACT|
|Bill C-5. Second reading|
|Mr. Werner Schmidt|
|Mr. Leon Benoit|
|Mr. Chuck Cadman|
|Mr. Gerald Keddy|
|Mr. Rick Borotsik|
|Mr. Rick Borotsik|
|Mr. Gerald Keddy|
|STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS|
|Mr. John Maloney|
|Mr. Ken Epp|
|Mrs. Karen Redman|
|Mr. Irwin Cotler|
|COMPUTING DEVICES CANADA LTD.|
|Mr. David Pratt|
|Mr. James Moore|
|ST. PATRICK'S DAY|
|Mr. Marcel Gagnon|
|OXFORD AGRICULTURE AWARDS|
|Mr. John Finlay|
|Mr. Murray Calder|
|ST. PATRICK'S DAY|
|Mr. James Rajotte|
|ST. PATRICK'S DAY|
|Mr. Pat O'Brien|
|Ms. Wendy Lill|
|Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold|
|Mr. Jeannot Castonguay|
|JAMES GRANVILLE JOHNSON|
|Mr. Peter MacKay|
|Mr. Mac Harb|
|ORAL QUESTION PERIOD|
|Mr. Stockwell Day|
|Hon. Herb Gray|
|Mr. Stockwell Day|
|Hon. Herb Gray|
|Mr. Stockwell Day|
|Hon. Herb Gray|
|Miss Deborah Grey|
|Hon. Herb Gray|
|Miss Deborah Grey|
|Hon. Herb Gray|
|Ms. Caroline St-Hilaire|
|Hon. Art Eggleton|
|Ms. Caroline St-Hilaire|
|Hon. Art Eggleton|
|Hon. Art Eggleton|
|Hon. Art Eggleton|
|Hon. Lorne Nystrom|
|Hon. Herb Gray|
|Hon. Lorne Nystrom|
|Hon. Jim Peterson|
|Mr. Rick Borotsik|
|Hon. Lyle Vanclief|
|Mr. Rick Borotsik|
|Hon. Lyle Vanclief|
|Mr. Myron Thompson|
|Hon. Elinor Caplan|
|Mr. Myron Thompson|
|Hon. Elinor Caplan|
|Ms. Monique Guay|
|Hon. Art Eggleton|
|Ms. Monique Guay|
|Hon. Art Eggleton|
|Mr. Art Hanger|
|Hon. Art Eggleton|
|Mr. Art Hanger|
|Hon. Art Eggleton|
|Mr. Bernard Bigras|
|Hon. Lyle Vanclief|
|Mr. Bernard Bigras|
|Hon. Lyle Vanclief|
|Mr. Leon Benoit|
|Hon. Lyle Vanclief|
|Mr. Leon Benoit|
|Hon. Lyle Vanclief|
|Mr. Shawn Murphy|
|Ms. Sophia Leung|
|Ms. Wendy Lill|
|Hon. Herb Gray|
|Mrs. Bev Desjarlais|
|Mr. Alex Shepherd|
|Mr. Peter MacKay|
|Hon. Herb Dhaliwal|
|Mr. Gerald Keddy|
|Hon. Herb Dhaliwal|
|Mr. Darrel Stinson|
|Hon. Lawrence MacAulay|
|Mr. Darrel Stinson|
|Hon. Lawrence MacAulay|
|SUMMIT OF THE AMERICAS|
|Mr. Yvan Loubier|
|Hon. Pierre Pettigrew|
|Mr. Yvan Loubier|
|Hon. Pierre Pettigrew|
|Mr. Philip Mayfield|
|Hon. Herb Gray|
|Mr. Philip Mayfield|
|Hon. Herb Gray|
|Mr. Walt Lastewka|
|Hon. Pierre Pettigrew|
|Mr. Peter Goldring|
|Hon. Art Eggleton|
|Mr. Peter Goldring|
|Mr. Carmen Provenzano|
|MINISTER OF INTERGOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS|
|Mr. Richard Marceau|
|Hon. Stéphane Dion|
|CANADA LABOUR CODE|
|Mr. Dominic LeBlanc|
|Mrs. Judi Longfield|
|Mrs. Bev Desjarlais|
|Mr. Brent St. Denis|
|Mr. Charlie Penson|
|Mr. John Cannis|
|POINTS OF ORDER|
|Oral Question Period|
|Mr. Jason Kenney|
|Mr. Lynn Myers|
|WAYS AND MEANS|
|Notice of Motion|
|Hon. Jim Peterson|
|GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO PETITIONS|
|Mr. Derek Lee|
|COMMITTEES OF THE HOUSE|
|Mr. Mauril Bélanger|
|Bill C-301. Introduction and first reading|
|Mr. Deepak Obhrai|
|Miss Deborah Grey|
|Mr. Derek Lee|
|CANADA SHIPPING ACT, 2001|
|Bill C-14. Second reading|
|SPECIES AT RISK ACT|
|Bill C-5. Second reading|
|Mr. James Rajotte|
|Mr. Gurmant Grewal|
|Mr. Marcel Gagnon|
|Mr. Leon Benoit|
|Mr. Ken Epp|
|Mr. Myron Thompson|
|Mr. Monte Solberg|
|Division on motion deferred|
|PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS|
|Bill C-240. Second reading|
|Mr. Randy White|
|Mr. Lynn Myers|
|Mr. Réal Ménard|
|Mr. Peter MacKay|
|Mrs. Betty Hinton|
|Mr. Ken Epp|
EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 030
HOUSE OF COMMONS
Friday, March 16, 2001
The House met at 10 a.m.
SPECIES AT RISK ACT
The House resumed from February 28 consideration of the motion that Bill C-5, an act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Werner Schmidt (Kelowna, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, Bill C-5, which is before the House today, is a very significant bill, a bill that I think we would all do well to look at very seriously, because it attacks and has within it a consideration of some of the basic principles that govern and underlie democracy.
I wish to address two parts of the bill. The first has to do with the concept of how the selection of the endangered species at risk is done. The second has to do with the right of private property and how the bill deals with that particular aspect.
I would like to have the members of the public who are out there watching this debate understand exactly what it is we are talking about here this morning: Bill C-5, which is here to protect endangered wildlife species.
I will focus on the purpose of the bill as it is stated in this particular legislation. It reads:
The purposes of this enactment are to prevent Canadian indigenous species, subspecies and distinct populations of wildlife from becoming extirpated or extinct, to provide for the recovery of endangered or threatened species, to encourage the management of other species to prevent them from becoming at risk.
I wish to completely endorse the purpose of the bill. Clearly one of the things we want to be very concerned about in our society and in Canada is that we do protect our wildlife. We do want to create an environment in which wildlife can prosper, live and provide enjoyment for each of us.
It is important to recognize our support of the intent of this particular bill. I want to be sure that everyone out there recognizes that the Canadian Alliance, myself in particular, and its constituents support the protection of wildlife.
What we need to recognize here, though, is how the bill will be handled. I wish to refer to certain provisions in the bill. The first provision of the bill is the selection of the list of species and endangered wildlife that will be registered and protected by the bill.
Clause 14 deals with this particular part of the activities, so I will refer, then, to clause 14, which suggests that a committee be established. It is called the COSEWIC committee and many of the listeners will wonder what in the world we are talking about. That is an acronym for a long title, Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. As shorthand we say COSEWIC. This is really what we are talking about. The committee is established by this particular bill.
I am so happy that there are at least some members opposite in the House listening to the debate, because it is really important. Some of the points we will make are points that the Minister of the Environment in particular should recognize and change in this legislation, and we want the minister and all members opposite to know that the idea of protecting endangered species is indeed an area and an action that we support.
With the establishment of the committee, we need to recognize who its members are. This committee shall carry out its functions “on the basis of the best available information, including scientific knowledge, community knowledge and aboriginal traditional knowledge”. That is what the committee is supposed to do. This is a major issue.
Who are these people? The committee is to be composed of members appointed by the minister after consultation with the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council and with any experts that the minister considers to be appropriate. I would like to underline the word experts. The second part of the clause, subclause 16(2), is extremely significant:
Each member must have expertise drawn from a discipline such as conservation biology, population dynamics, taxonomy, systematics or genetics or from community knowledge or aboriginal traditional knowledge of the conservation of wildlife species.
That is a blue ribbon membership for the committee. These are very significant and very powerful people. They are people who understand the reality of science and understand what it is to use knowledge and to make observations that others can verify. They are not subject to political interpretation or the vagaries of somebody's imagination. They are based on facts and on observations which can be replicated by other people.
The people who are supposed to comprise this committee are independent and objective. This is very desirable and highly commendable. I support the minister in identifying this as the way the committee should be comprised.
One might say that the blue ribbon committee will go about doing its business, but what is the principle involved in creating the list of Canadian endangered wildlife? What are the decision making principles underlying this committee of scientists? The principles involved are truth and integrity.
What are we talking about when we talk about truth and integrity? Truth concerns a clear knowledge of the facts. I am speaking of things that are commonly accepted as being true in fact. They can be believed and acted upon with confidence and courage, recognizing that what has happened before will happen again because the basis on which the decision is made is verifiable by an independent person in an objective and independent manner and the findings can be replicated.
Integrity means that the people on the committee will actually say what was discovered, what has been put there, and that the basis on which those decisions are made is indeed one that is verified by the various observations that have been taken. On the committee we will have scientists who are objective and reach conclusions on the basis of verifiable interpretation, experiments and observations that could carried out by other people.
There is no problem with the committee or with the intent of the bill. Why then is there a problem with the bill? There is a problem with a provision in another clause of the bill. Subclause 27(1) makes a very interesting observation:
The Governor in Council may, on the recommendation of the Minister, by regulation, establish the List of Wildlife Species at Risk and amend the List by adding a wildlife species to the List, by reclassifying a listed wildlife species or by removing a listed wildlife species from the List.
All the work of the committee, all the science involved, suddenly becomes subject to whatever the governor in council decides. This puts into question the whole integrity of establishing a committee in the first place. In this clause we have a group of scientists who are ignored and whose integrity is at least insulted if not denied. The governor in council can do this.
However, subclause 29(2) is an even more difficult area. It follows subclause (1), and I think for clarity I should probably read subclause 29(1) as well:
If the Minister is of the opinion—
The section refers to the minister now, not the governor in council.
The section goes on:
—that there is an imminent threat to the survival of a wildlife species, the Minister must—
It is interesting to note here that it is not that the minister may, but that he must.
It goes on:
—on an emergency basis, after consultation with every other competent minister—
Notice they are all ministers.
—make a recommendation to the Governor in Council that the List be amended to list the species as an endangered species.
There is no reference here to the committee at all. Subclause 29(2) reads:
The Minister may arrive at that opinion on the basis of his or her own information or on the basis of COSEWIC's assessment.
This really creates a dilemma for the scientists and for Canadians who are to place confidence in the Minister of the Environment and cabinet itself.
There is no attempt in this criticism to suggest that we should not have legislation of this kind. That is not the purpose of my criticism. The purpose of my criticism is to recognize that the principle of truth and scientific integrity needs to be observed throughout the legislation. It should be there in a consistent fashion all the way through. I submit to the House that clause 29 does not allow this to happen.
We need to move from there to the next step in the debate, which has to do with why it is so important that we have this truth.
The hon. members opposite are all Liberals and they had a leader at one time by the name of Trudeau who initiated and passed in the House a constitutional amendment called the charter of rights and freedoms. At the end of the charter of rights and freedoms this is what he wrote:
We must now establish the basic principles, the basic values and beliefs which hold us together as Canadians so that beyond our regional loyalties there is a way of life and a system of values which make us proud of the country that has given us such freedom and such immeasurable joy.
Those are wonderful and great words. We are now establishing one of those principles. Surely the right Hon. Trudeau, at the time he was Prime Minister and wrote that paragraph, recognized that one of the foundational principles of a democracy to function properly and adequately is that of truth and integrity.
I will now move into the next step of the legislation. That has to do with the recognition of private property. The bill recognizes clearly that there is such a thing.
Our charter of rights and freedoms does not grant that right in the constitution to individual Canadians, but the basis of liberty is the ownership of private property. It is not just the amassing of property that is the issue. The ownership of material things recognizes the dignity of human beings. It recognizes the basic integrity and beauty of human creativity and the ingenuity and innovativeness of human beings.
That is what private property does. Think about real property, intellectual property, all the novels that have been written, the poems that have been written and the songs that have been written. These are all matters of private property.
That does not mean, however, that the right to private property means we can do whatever we please with that property. Neither do we have the right to amass private property based on cruelty or intimidation or on things of that nature.
It means we must use private property to the interests of the people around us. It does not mean we can use private property to destroy endangered species. The bill makes that clear. If that is the case then the implications of the bill must be looked at.
Does the enforcement of the provisions in the bill have implications for private property? The bill clearly identifies that yes, it is probably true, there probably are implications.
Let me look at subclause 64(1). Subclause 64(1) of the bill clearly indicates:
The Minister may, in accordance with the regulations, provide compensation to any person for losses—
Again I draw to the attention of those listening and of our colleagues in the House, both on the other side and on the opposition side, that the operative word here is may. It is not that he shall compensate; it is that he may compensate.
An hon. member: It does not say how much either.
Mr. Werner Schmidt: No, it does not, so it is very significant that we recognize this point. Not only that, but it says:
—suffered as a result of any extraordinary impact of the application of (a) section 58—
Then it goes into specific details as to where he may or may not. The government, in its wisdom, appointed Dr. Pearse who presented a report. That report suggests that if somebody experiences a loss of 10% the compensation should be 50%. That is a very interesting report. If an individual has a loss of more than 10% he can get compensation for 50%.
Let me put into perspective what that could mean in one economic sector. I refer to the forestry sector. It is critically important to Canada. It produces nearly $60 billion of products every year. More than one million Canadians depend on the industry for their jobs and it contributes more to Canada's balance of trade than any other sector.
Some will ask what that has to do with the bill. It has a lot to do with the bill. Forestry is critically important to B.C. It generates more than $15 billion annually and nearly 300,000 jobs. Thirty-one out of thirty-seven regions of the province are dependent on forestry. Across Canada there are 53 forest dependent species at risk. Out of the 53 forest dependent species at risk, 32 are of concern and 21 are endangered or threatened. Of the 53 species, 26 are located in B.C. Ten of these are considered endangered or threatened.
That is a clear indication of the potential loss that will be experienced by a major sector not only in British Columbia but in Canada as a whole. If people have a loss of 10% and are only compensated at 50% of that loss, how would they be able to continue their operation? How would they be able to employ the people who are supposed to be employed?
Those are very serious implications and that is only in one sector. We must deal with the agriculture sector. We must deal with cattlemen. We must deal with a whole host of other businesses directly affected by the implications of the bill.
The Canadian Alliance position is very clear. We take the view that private property ought to be recognized and honoured. Our policy statement is very clear. We believe the right to contract freely and to own, use and benefit from private property, including labour and real, intellectual and personal property, lies at the very heart of our legal and economic systems. I suggest that it lies at the heart of a democratic system in Canada and that it distinguishes a free society.
We will therefore seek the agreement of the provinces to amend the charter of rights and freedoms to include this right as well as a guarantee. Referring to the ownership of private property, here is the guarantee that applies directly to the bill:
—no person shall be deprived of it—
That is, the ownership of private property without the due process of law and full, just and timely compensation.
That is the key under which we operate. I reiterate that it is not the position of the Canadian Alliance to oppose the bill because it wants to protect endangered wildlife in Canada. We want legislation that will protect endangered wildlife. We want democracy protected. We want that protection to take place so that the integrity of scientists will be recognized and applied in this case, not political vagaries that are subject to political interference from special pressure groups or special interest groups.
We want to make sure everybody understands that we support the protection of endangered wildlife. However at the same time we recognize that the minister ought to include an amendment in the legislation that requires full compensation for those who experience loss and that the decisions based on science of COSEWIC are recognized and applied and not subject to the vagaries of cabinet or of the minister.
Mr. Leon Benoit (Lakeland, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my colleague's presentation and he made a couple of key points. I wonder if he could comment on the area of compensation, which I think he explained very well.
I will comment by saying that at committee, when asked directly whether he would compensate and whether the legislation would ensure that loss of property or loss of the use of property would be compensated at full market value, the environment minister would not say that would be the case.
I think what my colleague said is absolutely accurate. We can fully expect that the legislation will not compensate at fair market value people who lose their property or the use of their property. Surely in a society that believes in people's right to own property we would expect that compensation would be paid at fair market value.
On that issue I would ask my colleague if, under the study that was done, there is no compensation if the loss is less than 10%. I know of many cases in agriculture and probably in forestry where there is not a margin of 10%. I know of many cases where, if the damage and the loss is above 10%, only 50% of the loss is compensated.
Is my colleague really saying that under the study that was done, and the government has not said it would do anything different, it is likely that if people lose their property or the use of their property they would be compensated for only half the loss? I know as a farmer that half the loss on any significant amount of property could cause me or other farmers to go out of business. I would like the member to comment on that.
Mr. Werner Schmidt: Mr. Speaker, the answer is that I and my party believe there should be full compensation at the full market price at the time. That is what it ought to be. This whole business of proportions is simply not acceptable. The level of compensation ought to be full and complete at the going rate in the market.
However I think the more significant point is that the legislation does not say that there will be or must be compensation. It says that there may be compensation. Hence, the minister, regardless of what the conclusion is, may still deny compensation. That is one part. The other part is that it is subject to regulation. The rate of compensation, or even that there will be compensation, is not part of the legislation.
There is a fundamental amendment that ought to be made to the legislation to indicate that there will be full compensation and that the minister will not only be required to pay that compensation but to pay it in a timely fashion. That is very important and it should not be delayed unduly.
I hope that allays the fears of my hon. colleague and other people out there because every person could be affected either directly or indirectly by the legislation, not only the people in the lumber and farming industries.
Mr. Chuck Cadman (Surrey North, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, as you may know, my constituency is an urban core riding. This whole issue can become an urban-rural split on the way people approach the legislation. There are people in urban ridings who do own two or three acres of land. They may own cottages or properties near the lake.
Could the member comment on how the legislation could impact those of us who live in urban ridings? It is not necessarily just something to be looked at in terms of agriculture and farms.
Mr. Werner Schmidt: Mr. Speaker, that is absolutely correct. It does not have to be a two or three acre plot. It could even be a 30 by 100 foot lot in the city. It is technically possible but not likely.
We need to be very careful. That is all the more reason the legislation which declares and creates the COSEWIC committee is very good. It could deal with this issue in an objective and independent fashion, which is neither rural nor urban, and on a scientific basis.
It reminds me of a story I cannot resist telling. There was a kindergarten teacher who had a show and tell day. One of the pupils brought a rabbit to school. The child was really excited about the pet rabbit. The pupils were looking at the rabbit and describing its features. One of the kids in the back of the room asked whether it was a boy or a girl. The teacher looked at the rabbit and did not how to analyze whether it was a male or a female. Again one of the pupils asked whether it was a boy or a girl, and the teacher said “Let's vote on it”.
The sex of a rabbit cannot be determined on the basis of a majority vote. That is the nonsense of putting it into the hands of a political vagary to decide which way things go. It could be determined in an objective and verifiable way. It does not matter who looks at it, no one can determine the sex of a rabbit. The situation in this regard is similar, and that is the point that has to be made.
Mr. Gerald Keddy (South Shore, PC): Mr. Speaker, the same person would not want to be candling eggs either, I am sure, because he or she would be in real trouble.
It is a pleasure to speak to the species at risk act. My colleague from Fundy—Royal has spoken eloquently on the bill and clearly laid out the PC Party position respecting the legislation. I should like to address some of the specifics of the legislation and how they may be applied to those of us who live in the rural and urban areas of Canada.
I will be splitting my time with the member for Brandon—Souris. I am sure everyone in the House will be waiting patiently to hear his words of wisdom on this legislation.
I have spoken in the House on previous occasions to highlight the plight of wild Atlantic salmon. When we are discussing species at risk legislation, I realize that all species encompassed by the legislation are in need of more support. There are many more species in need of support than just the wild Atlantic salmon.
However there is a need for more support not just from Canadians but also from government organizations at all levels, or wild Atlantic salmon and other species at risk in Canada will become extinct. Wild Atlantic salmon are decreasing in alarming numbers and the problem is that we do not know the cause. The salmon go out to sea but fail to return. What we are seeing as the years go on is fewer and fewer wild Atlantic salmon returning to our rivers.
We knew for a long time that many of them were being caught by commercial fleets off Greenland. Today the numbers have diminished to the point where they are not actually able to go out to sea to breed and produce enough smolts to return. We have few grilse and very few multi-sea winter salmon coming back to our rivers in eastern Canada.
The Atlantic Salmon Federation has been vocal in its efforts to highlight the problems facing this important species and to initiate more research into what is happening to prevent the return of more salmon.
At the same time a number of factors are contributing to the decline in general numbers: climate change, the corresponding warming of ocean temperatures, acid rain, pollution, the escape of farm salmon and predators. This is why none of these species should be looked at in isolation. There are many overlapping factors that need to be examined if we are to ensure that these species exist for future generations.
Bill Taylor, president of the Atlantic Salmon Federation, sums up very clearly and concisely the issue at stake:
We need a comprehensive, five year research, restoration, protection and community watershed management program dedicated to the wild Atlantic salmon and its habitat.
The legislation before us would be a step in the right direction except for the major flaws the bill entails. My colleague from Fundy—Royal clearly explained these limitations, and I would like to repeat two points.
First, the legislation does not require the protection of habitat. Second, by allowing the decision on which species are endangered to be made by cabinet and not by scientific experts, the effectiveness of the legislation has been severely constrained.
The Speech from the Throne on January 31 mentioned the need to protect species and stated that the government would be reintroducing the bill. What is disappointing is that the government did not take the opportunity to learn from its previous discussions on the subject.
Suggestions and recommendations from interested and affected stakeholders were not incorporated into the legislation. If changes proposed by stakeholders had been incorporated into the legislation, we could have had a more meaningful discussion on the real merits of this legislation.
There is one more thing that I would like to mention with regard to wild Atlantic salmon. The species is seen as a barometer that indicates the health of our oceans. If the habitat has become unsuitable for wild Atlantic salmon, it is also negatively affecting other species. They too will soon be listed as endangered, threatened or otherwise at risk.
It tells us that we do not have much time to deal with the problems affecting the species and its habitat. Yet the government has delayed making any effective changes. It has talked the talk since 1993, but we have yet to see any real meaningful steps taken to help endangered species in Canada.
Being from Nova Scotia I will focus my attention on a couple of other species that are threatened in the province. The Nova Scotia Nature Trust recently identified more lakes in Nova Scotia that have some of Canada's rarest plants along their shores. Shingle Lake, Ponhook Lake in Queens County and Harpers Lake in Shelburne county are a few lakes that have been recognized as having rare plant species along their shores.
Now that these rare plants have been identified, appropriate measures should be taken to ensure that they are protected. The trust plans to expand its landowner outreach program and public education program to make more people aware of these rare plants. The first step is to disclose to the landowners that such rare plants exist on their property.
Originally these plants were found on many lakes in Nova Scotia between Digby Neck and Mahone Bay. However the use of all terrain vehicles, damming and development have been contributing factors in their decline to the point where they need to be protected today. I would hope the legislation would protect these types of plants in the section on endangered species and threatened species.
I seriously stress and support the idea of encouraging landowners to help in this endeavour and to be adequately compensated for their assistance in protecting such species for all Canadians.
In no way should the financial burden be placed on an individual when all Canada benefits from the protection of these species. That is the trouble with this piece of legislation. It is certainly not the landowner's responsibility and it cannot become the landowner's responsibility to protect endangered species. All Canadians benefit from the protection of species and must somehow contribute to the continued protection of the species.
There are a number of birds, plants and animals in Nova Scotia. A few years ago we had a small mammal called the sea mink. It was completely different and did not interbreed with the inland mink. It was larger and lived in coastal areas. That animal is extinct today.
We have a number of birds that live in very small and isolated groups. The ipswich sparrow on Sable Island is a prime example. There is the piping plover which I have been fortunate enough to have actually seen. There are 50 or 60 breeding pairs left in the world. They breed upon the shores and the beaches of the south shore of Nova Scotia. It is these types of animals and birds that we have to protect. We have to find a way to protect them.
The legislation is simply wrong-headed. What is even more disappointing is that the government had ample opportunity to listen to the dialogue of opposition parties, the Sierra Club, landowner groups and big industry, but it did not hear what those groups were saying.
It refused to change or alter the bill. It refused to take it out of the hands of government, members of cabinet and privy councillors. It refused to list rare and endangered species in a meaningful way so that we could do something about the protection of these plants and animals. We have ended up with legislation that is kind of warm and fuzzy and sounds good but in reality will not work.
I will give an example. I have a number of cousins who are loggers in Sonora in northern California. Their logging operations have been shut down because of the spotted owl. They log mostly on government land and they simply cannot get timber contracts. They cut wood that is diseased, and that is the only wood they are allowed to cut. If there is a diseased tree on government lands in northern California they are allowed to cut it. Their own timber tracts are severely restricted and it is just about impossible to cut on public land. I will just take a couple of more seconds because I know—
The Deputy Speaker: I am sure someone will ask the hon. member a question that would allow him to finish what he intended to share with all of us.
Mr. Rick Borotsik (Brandon—Souris, PC): Mr. Speaker, as I understand it, my hon. friend and colleague from South Shore has a number of relatives in the industry in California who unfortunately do not have the opportunity to expand their livelihood because of implications with respect to endangered species.
Could he tell us exactly why these individuals have been impacted? What in the legislation would cause the same problems in Canada?
Mr. Gerald Keddy: Mr. Speaker, the point I should like to get across is that our legislation very much mirrors the American legislation. The American legislation did not involve the landowners, loggers or farmers. It very much pitted landowners against land users.
What they have ended up with in the States is that when people find a rare or endangered species on their property they shoot it, bury it, and do not tell anybody. That is the type of legislation that we are looking at today.
If we want to protect endangered species, especially plants and animals, we must find a way to compensate landowners. If as a landowner I had to exclude 10, 20 or 100 hectares because of a rare or endangered plant or animal which needed protection, I would want to be compensated for that. I am more than happy to allow for the protection, but if agricultural or forestry land is being taken out of production, all the onus cannot be upon the shoulders of the landowner. There has to be some sharing of that responsibility.
The legislation does not do that. It did not do it in California. It put people out of work south of the border. It caused animosity between people who depend upon the land to make a livelihood and people who simply want to enjoy the benefits of walking and looking at a beautiful piece of real estate. We cannot afford to do that in Canada, and unfortunately that is what the bill would do.
Mr. Rick Borotsik (Brandon—Souris, PC): Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from South Shore for allowing me to share his time on Bill C-5. I will not be sharing it with my colleague from Richmond—Arthabaska. He does not want to speak, so we are okay on this one.
I pay special tribute to my colleague from Fundy—Royal who has taken the lead. He has basically acted as the official opposition with respect to the legislation. He has been extremely effective. He is very knowledgeable about the legislation and in face put forward a white paper that has been more accepted by the stakeholders than the legislation presented by the government. He has spent an enormous amount of time and energy on the legislation and has spoken with great eloquence and great knowledge of the subject.
His white paper was accepted by a rather large stakeholder group encompassing the Canadian Pulp & Paper Association, the Mining Association of Canada, the Sierra Club of Canada, the Canadian Nature Federation and the Canadian Wildlife Federation.
When we look at the people who came forward as part of that group we realize that it is a rather diverse group. It contains representatives from industry as well as environmental activists who sometimes do not get along very well with industry. They said they had to put together an effective piece of legislation that would work, not something that was warm and fuzzy and on the surface looked like the government was doing something. They presented some very good recommendations to the government and, lo and behold, none of them were incorporated into the legislation.
I will talk about some of the deficiencies of the legislation and about why the government has failed miserably in trying to protect something that Canadians want to protect. Since 1993 the government has said that there must be endangered species legislation. It was identified in the 1997 red book. Also the government mentioned it in the last three throne speeches in 1996, 1999 and 2001, but it is still not on the floor in the way it should be in order to protect all endangered species.
Let us talk about a couple of areas in which the legislation falls down quite dramatically. As my colleague mentioned, landowner rights would be impacted quite dramatically by the legislation.
I come from an area that encompasses an urban and a rural community. About 50% of my constituency is rural. The economic backbone of the area is agriculture. Farmers and producers of the area are stewards of the land. In most cases they accept responsibility for stewardship, not only of the land but of the habitat on the land and the endangered species.
Landowner rights are not reflected properly in the legislation. We in the PC Party agree that there have to be more carrots than sticks. That comment was made by my colleague from Fundy—Royal. If we think about it, there have to be more carrots out there than there are sticks.
There is no compensatory opportunity under the legislation to allow producers with endangered species and habitat on their land to continue their operations to the benefit society. People in Montreal, Calgary, Toronto, Vancouver and other urban centres are demanding that producers, ranchers and landowners make sure that the habitat and species are retained, but they are not prepared to pay anything for that to take place. That is absolutely wrong. If landowners are not able to farm, ranch or do what they wish with their property, the species will be endangered even further.
Right now the Americans refer to the three esses: shoot, shovel and shut up. That does not solve the problem. Nor will the legislation. We must make sure that fair compensation is provided to landowners, that the necessary dollars are provided.
The legislation would result in an inability to work with the provinces. It deals with federal lands but unfortunately only deals with about 40% of the problem. Some 60% of endangered species and their habitat will not be affected by the legislation. We should work with the provinces to make sure that the legislation is effective, not simply something that would be thrown out by producers or landowners.
Carrots and sticks, protection of critical habitat, partnerships with the provinces and scientific listings are some of the issues. It was mentioned earlier that responsibility for the identification of an endangered species would be given to the cabinet. Politicians, as much as we would like to think otherwise, are not terribly well respected in their abilities to put forward the truth and the necessary intelligence to ensure that the decision is a proper one.
We are suggesting the decision should be based on information from the scientists, the people who know the issue better than politicians. We are asking for decision making to be taken from the cabinet table and put into the hands of the people who know the issue. We should let them make the decisions on the listing of protected species. It is a very important issue.
There must be an accountability mechanism for citizens to ensure the government enforces its own act. If the act is to include an accountability mechanism, the PC Party believes there should be an independent process for the public to ensure the act is being effectively implemented. The process should allow citizens to challenge the federal government and not other citizens. We believe very seriously that it is the citizens who will enforce Bill C-5.
I believe and Canadians believe there is a need for endangered species legislation. The legislation that we are debating right now would not solve the current problems. It will go forward to committee where I ask the government to listen with an open mind. A number of stakeholders are prepared to come forward with some interesting amendments to the legislation. When it goes to committee, I ask the government not to handle it as it does other pieces of legislation.
It is too important for that majority government to ramrod it through. We must make sure that the legislation comes forward for final reading in the House in the proper fashion and is the proper piece of legislation. I look forward to the legislation coming back from committee in a different form.
Mr. Gerald Keddy (South Shore, PC): Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to the hon. member's discussion on Bill C-5. He added a lot to the debate by providing the PC Party's position on the legislation.
I would like to hear an additional comment from the member, especially on the one issue that I see as a major flaw in the legislation, which is the lack of compensation for landowners. As other opposition members have mentioned, that contributes to the rural-urban split.
I can give an example of that. We in Nova Scotians used to like to say that we had landowners and land users. For years I took that attitude as well. I learned over time, actually about 25 years, that those land users could be our friends. Whether they were birdwatching, hunting or skidooing on our property, if we had a good relationship with them they would be our friends. They would make sure that our cabins were not being broken into, fires were not being set, no one was stealing our Christmas trees and they were not causing a problem.
The legislation will force many of us who are landowners back to resenting the land users because we will be the people who will be paying the bills. I would like the member to comment on that.
Mr. Rick Borotsik: Mr. Speaker, I would correct one thing that the hon. member for South Shore said. It may have taken him 25 years to learn this lesson but he is not quite as slow a learner as he may have indicated to the House. He is actually a very astute individual and has a background in farming and in the stewardship of the land. He knows of what he speaks.
With respect to the compensation factor of the land itself, I could not agree more. They are stewards of the land and, as I said earlier, not everything is perfect in this very imperfect world but in most cases the owners of the land believe in the stewardship of the land. They make sure to protect the habitat and the species that enjoy that habitat. They certainly utilize the land in the best interest not only of themselves, because that is their livelihood, but also in the best interest of people outside the rural area.
The issue I would like to point out is that urbanites within our country wish to make sure that they have access to other lands. They also want to make sure those lands will be available to them. I sincerely believe that they should be required to pay some of the costs of that stewardship. It means the carrots instead of the sticks that we talked about.
There should be proper compensation built into the legislation to allow producers to access compensation for the impact on their properties. It is essential that compensation be in the legislation. If it is not there then some of those stewards of the land may not be quite as co-operative as we think they should be in order to make the legislation work.
STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS
Mr. John Maloney (Erie—Lincoln, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, despite much effort, there are still too many Canadian children living in poverty.
This past November, Campaign 2000 released its ninth annual report card on child poverty in Canada. The report is positive about the role social policy can play in addressing child poverty issues. This includes recent government initiatives, such as increases to Canada's child tax benefit, extension of employment insurance parental benefits, agreement on early childhood development and enhanced tax measures for children with disabilities.
The report also indicated improvements were evident over the previous two years. Societal improvements include the national child benefit, which has injected millions of dollars back into low income family budgets and has enhanced programs and services for these families.
The condition of children in poverty will improve because of strong government initiatives. We must sustain these efforts to give children the good start they deserve. Children are a priority of the government.
* * *
Mr. Ken Epp (Elk Island, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, farmers are struggling for their very survival. Many are facing the loss of their homes and their businesses to the banks and the federal Farm Credit Corporation. Some of these farms have been in the family for close to 100 years and these people desperately want to keep them but cannot because they are not being paid for their work.
What these farmers need is simply a fair return on the sale of their product. They need to cover all their costs and to make a reasonable living for their families. They are asking for the payment which they have already earned.
Would a lawyer work for only one-half to one-third of his fees? Would an accountant accept $500 when he bills for $1,000? Would a labourer whose collective agreement calls for $18 per hour accept $8? Would a doctor take a second job so he can keep on practising medicine?
Our policy is to end subsidies when other countries stop theirs. The Liberals stopped the subsidies first and let the farmers take the hit.
Why not give the farmers their pay? They have earned it, they deserve it and they need it now.
* * *
Mrs. Karen Redman (Kitchener Centre, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we will soon see the first telltale signs of spring and our thoughts will turn to greening lawns and blooming gardens. I rise today to recognize an exciting local initiative that is providing useful alternatives to urban pesticide use.
With the assistance of Environment Canada and the city of Kitchener, Get Rid of Urban Pesticides, known as GROUP, recently launched a two year campaign to help homeowners wean themselves off pesticides. In response to rising local concerns on the use of pesticides on urban lawns, 24 homeowners who currently use pesticides will become pesticide free.
The homeowner commits to kicking the pesticide habit and GROUP provides expert advice and assistance with lawn work. Over the next two years, these eco-lawn conversion kits will divert approximately 8,720 kilograms of pesticides from entering the environment of Kitchener—Waterloo.
I look forward to seeing traditional lawns transformed into healthy and beautiful gardens of wild flowers—
The Deputy Speaker: The hon. member for Mount Royal.
* * *
Mr. Irwin Cotler (Mount Royal, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, although Colombia is one of the oldest democracies in Latin America, and until two years ago had the strongest economic record on the continent, its history of chronic political violence, accompanied by massive human rights violations, has never been worse.
Witness the following: there were 5,000 deaths and 3,000 reported kidnappings in the year 2000 alone; Colombia has one of the highest homicide rates in the world; over 1,000 Colombians have been displaced in the last five years; and massacres of civilians by both paramilitary and guerrilla forces continue.
This week, representatives of the Invisible Popular Struggles Tour in Colombia brought their witness testimony to Canada and to parliament, putting a tragic human face on this horrific situation, including the following: the number of human rights defenders, trade unionists, journalists and other representatives of civil society targeted for assassinations and disappearance is increasing; most of the victims of the political violence are unarmed black, indigenous, Campesino, women, labour and other popular leaders and civilians; and worst of all, there is total impunity for political violence.
I trust that the forthcoming summit—
The Deputy Speaker: The hon. member for Nepean—Carleton.
* * *
COMPUTING DEVICES CANADA LTD.
Mr. David Pratt (Nepean—Carleton, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, earlier today I joined the Minister of National Defence and the hon. member for Ottawa West—Nepean at a press conference announcing the awarding of a $58.6 million contract to Computing Devices Canada Ltd.
The contract to replace the acoustic system for Canada's 20 year old CP-140 Aurora aircraft will mean the creation of approximately 40 to 80 highly skilled, well paying local jobs.
The awarding of this very important contract to Computing Devices is further evidence of the depth and breadth of our local high technology industry. This is a company which has over many years consistently shown itself capable of producing some of the most advanced defence technology anywhere in the world.
I am particularly pleased that Canada's long range maritime surveillance aircraft will once again be the envy of our allies. Whether it is performing search and rescue functions, watching for drug traffickers or illegal immigrants, monitoring foreign fishing fleets and environmental violations or engaging in humanitarian operations, this contract provides a—
The Deputy Speaker: The hon. member for Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam.
* * *
Mr. James Moore (Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, British Columbians have six seats in Canada's Senate and, of the six, there is one vacancy. Two of B.C.'s senators have announced that they will resign and run in elections if the Prime Minister will commit to appointing the winner of any future Senate election.
In 1998 Albertans elected two senators in waiting but the Prime Minister did not commit ahead of the election to appointing Alberta's two elected senators. He appointed his choice instead of that of Albertans.
The lesson learned from Alberta's experience is that until the Prime Minister makes the commitment to respect democracy in the Senate, real reform will remain out of the grasp of Canadians.
If the Prime Minister is serious about addressing western alienation, if he is serious about democracy, fairness and openness, he will commit today to allowing the democratization of 50% of B.C.'s Senate delegation today. British Columbians are ready to take a step in the right direction toward a new beginning.
Is the Prime Minister ready to demonstrate that step as well? Let us hope so.
* * *
ST. PATRICK'S DAY
Mr. Marcel Gagnon (Champlain, BQ): Mr. Speaker, tomorrow, March 17 we will be celebrating St. Patrick's Day, the national day of the Irish people, whose struggle to take their place among the nations of the world remains a source of inspiration to the Quebec people.
In the early 19th century, Louis-Joseph Papineau and the patriotes of the day were inspired by the nationalist convictions of Ireland's Daniel O'Connell.
We are told that 40% of Quebecers, many francophone, may have Irish ancestry, so there is a good explanation for the tenacious character of the Quebec people.
The beauty, richness and open-mindedness of the Quebec people and its culture is due to the contribution of all the immigrants who have settled here, each bringing with them something of their own history.
Today I and the Bloc Quebecois wish everyone a happy St. Patrick's Day.
* * *
OXFORD AGRICULTURE AWARDS
Mr. John Finlay (Oxford, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, on March 8 the agricultural community in my riding came together to honour innovation and achievement at the first Oxford county Agricultural Awards of Excellence.
Oxford county producers are known far and wide for their efficient, innovative and environmentally responsible farming practices. This year several were rewarded by their peers for these efforts.
I was honoured to be present at this gala event and would like to recognize the following winners: in large agribusiness, Cold Springs Farm; in small agribusiness, Vincent Farm Equipment Ltd.; in farm innovation, Blythe Brae Farms; for the family farm, Munro's Ornum Farms; for food processing, Otter Valley Foods Inc.; for conservation, Oxford Soil and Crop Improvement Association; and the president's technology award went to Canada's Outdoor Farm Show.
I congratulate all this year's finalists as well as the Oxford County Federation of Agriculture and President Nancy Walther for their foresight and hard work in organizing this premiere event.
* * *
Mr. Murray Calder (Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, two days ago I and some of my colleagues attended a farm rally at Lansdowne Park to try to get the extra $400 million in support that farmers need this year.
I want to congratulate the leaders of the NDP and the Conservatives for making agriculture their lead questions that day. At the farm rally the Leader of the Opposition told farmers that agriculture was his number one priority, but was agriculture his lead question in the House that day? No. Was it his second question that day? No.
If agriculture is a priority for the Canadian Alliance, why was it question number eight? The leader of the Canadian Alliance is crying crocodile tears for farmers. This is the party that said no subsidies. He should be ashamed.
Let all of us make agriculture our number one priority.
* * *
ST. PATRICK'S DAY
Mr. James Rajotte (Edmonton Southwest, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day and I rise today to pay tribute to St. Patrick, to honour all sons and daughters of Ireland and to extend greetings to all on this blessed day.
St. Paddy's Day conjures up images of shamrocks, leprechauns and green beverages. I encourage everyone to partake in these festivities, but I also want people to reflect on the character of the person for whom this day is named.
Patricius was born in Roman Britain sometime in the 5th century. When he was 16 he was carried off into captivity by marauders and sold as a slave to a local warlord in Ireland. For six years Patrick tended his master's sheep, during which time he developed a deep and abiding faith in God and a virulent hatred of slavery.
These passions inspired him to dedicate his life to serving God and ministering to the people of Ireland. He also became a strong voice against slavery and for the equal dignity of human beings.
He did not chase the snakes out of Ireland, and he may never have plucked a shamrock to teach the mystery of the Trinity, yet St. Patrick deserves to be remembered and honoured for the example of his life—
The Deputy Speaker: The hon. member for London—Fanshawe.
* * *
ST. PATRICK'S DAY
Mr. Pat O'Brien (London—Fanshawe, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as we have noted, tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day. As early as the 17th century, the Irish were in Canada, in Newfoundland and in New France.
By 1867 and Confederation, fully one-third of the population of the country was Irish, including the visionary father of Confederation, Thomas D'Arcy McGee, who, if he were alive today, would be speaking for the continuation of Canadian unity and the continuation of the federation as we know it today, including the province of Quebec as part of the Canadian family.
This Chamber has the symbols of the Irish everywhere. The very ceiling above us is fine Irish linen, for those who are not aware of that fact. Above your chair, Mr. Speaker, is the Canadian coat of arms, including the Royal Harp of Tara and the Irish shamrock.
To the four million Irish Canadians who have made a great contribution to this country and to all Canadians, I want to wish them a happy St. Patrick's Day tomorrow: Beannachtai na Feile Padraig oraibh go leir.
* * *
Ms. Wendy Lill (Dartmouth, NDP): Mr. Speaker, a Statistics Canada study released this week shows the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer in this country.
The richest families saw their net worth grow by 39%, while the poorest saw little change in their wealth. Half of all families hold 94% of all of the wealth, leaving the other half with only 6%.
We are a very divided and polarized society.
The government has made things worse by slashing our social infrastructure to pieces, thus undermining social housing, unemployment insurance, health and education.
Thanks to this government, families are falling further behind in their efforts to save and to access education, decent housing and security for their future.
It is time that the government woke up and recognized the role that it has played in making the wealth gap worse. It is time to reinvest in the programs that are essential to bringing about social justice and greater equality in the country.
* * *
Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold (Jonquière, BQ): Mr. Speaker, where regional development is concerned, it is clear that Ottawa is more concerned about its image than about developing the regions of Quebec.
In 1996, Quebecers paid close to $14.6 billion in personal income tax to Ottawa, which in turn, in 1999, made capital investments of a mere $652 million, a reinvestment in the order of 4.5%.
In addition, the federal government has had a negative impact on the regions of Quebec. As far as transportation is concerned, it has failed to provide the regions with affordable and accessible air service, and the employment insurance program contains inequities, particularly for seasonal workers, and this is in large part responsible for our young people moving elsewhere. For example, in my region of Saguenay—Lac-Saint Jean, they are leaving at the equivalent of one bus-load every week.
The crumbs distributed by the secretary of state to the 56 CFDCs of Quebec will do absolutely nothing to change the situation. Quite simply, the regions of Quebec do not derive sufficient benefit from Canadian federalism.
* * *
Mr. Jeannot Castonguay (Madawaska—Restigouche, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, now is the time for Canadian students to explore the avenues open to them in the labour market for the coming summer and for businesses to analyze their staffing needs.
In order to give both students and businesses support, Minister of Human Resources Development and the Secretary of State for Children and Youth have launched the student summer job action 2001 program.
Under this program, the federal government provides salary support to businesses hiring students during the summer. It grants loans to students establishing businesses and it gives a number of young people the opportunity to work in the federal public service.
The summer career placements program is also very popular with business and students. It gives students an opportunity to work in their field of study.
I invite students and businesses to take part in these programs. They will find them very useful.
* * *
JAMES GRANVILLE JOHNSON
Mr. Peter MacKay (Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, PC): Mr. Speaker, on February 28, 2001, at Loch Katrine United Church in Guysborough county, a community turned out to mourn a native son, James Granville Johnson. His wife Carole and children Dana, Diane and Debbie were joined by family and friends to mourn and pay tribute to this remarkable man and his life well lived.
The former warden of St. Mary's district had a heart as big as Guysborough and an intellect as deep as the waters off Sable. Jim found great joy in befriending and helping others. He loved his family, the land and its politics and of course the sea and its creatures such as wayward whales. His big callused hands were always busy, reaching out, fixing, holding, creating for the good of all. Unselfish random acts of kindness were his trademark.
He was a robust man of action who loved and lived life to the fullest. Nautical adventurer, crewman on the Bounty, photographer, storyteller, artisan and scuba diver are but some of the hats he wore on his imposing brow.
The words of Rudyard Kipling's If describe him well:
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings—nor lose the common touch;
It was my good fortune to know Jim. He will be missed by all who knew him and even by those who did not, because for Jim there were never strangers, just friends he had never met.
* * *
Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I encourage all members of the House to strongly condemn the private member's bill, Bill C-286, an act to amend the Official Languages Act, introduced by an hon. member of the House.
The bill would take away the right of every Canadian to receive service from the federal government in either official language and eliminate the use of French in the public service.
It is yet another thinly veiled attempt by some members of the Alliance to break up our country through institutional intolerance.
This bill will put discrimination in legislation and deliberately destroy Canada's linguistic heritage.
I therefore call on all members of the House to stand firm for Canada and vote down this misguided and divisive bill.
ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Mr. Stockwell Day (Leader of the Opposition, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the matter of the mystery shareholder of the Grand-Mère golf course could all be so simple. Yesterday I again asked the Prime Minister to say a few words about his potential ownership of the Grand-Mère golf course but he kept dodging the question. He has refused to answer the very simple question about who the mystery fourth shareholder of the golf course was between 1996 and 1999.
If he was not a shareholder, and I am not saying he was or he was not, he raises the curiosity by not answering it directly.
I am simply asking him today, if he was not a shareholder between 1996 and 1999, who was the fourth mystery shareholder?
Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister said yesterday that he had divested himself of those shares before he became Prime Minister in 1993. It follows that he was not the so-called mystery shareholder and therefore it also follows that he would not have the information sought by my hon. friend.
Mr. Stockwell Day (Leader of the Opposition, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the Deputy Prime Minister is avoiding something here. The Prime Minister phoned the ethics counsellor in 1996 because he got the shares back. I hope he remembers that when I ask my question. He got the shares back, by his own admission, after about a year and a half of us asking him that question.
I want to know something. We know the names of three of the shareholders. We know the fourth name could be that of the Prime Minister. Now there is only one blank left to fill in.
Since privacy is not the concern in this case, will the Prime Minister commit to releasing the identity of the fourth shareholder after the officials examine the records? They are looking at those records. Will—
The Speaker: The hon. Deputy Prime Minister.
Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is simply wrong. The Prime Minister did not take back the shares. As recently as yesterday the ethics counsellor said:
I am satisfied, and have been for an awfully long time, that the Prime Minister sold his shares in 1993. I am absolutely certain that (the Prime Minister) did not own those shares between 1993 and 1999...I've gone through this very, very carefully, seen the original sale documents from 1993, seen the documents from 1999.
If there is a blank anywhere, it is in the mind of the Leader of the Opposition.
Mr. Stockwell Day (Leader of the Opposition, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, I wish he would read all the correspondence. The ethics counsellor has said that, because there may be more information, he has now asked the director general of the corporations branch of Industry Canada to examine the books, a little fact that the Deputy Prime Minister left out.
When the minister's officials examine the books, they will know whether in fact the Prime Minister was in conflict of interest or not.
Will the Deputy Prime Minister or the Minister of Industry share the results of the examination of the books and will they show us the name of this fourth mystery person? The Prime Minister—
The Speaker: The hon. Deputy Prime Minister.
Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is repeating something that is not accurate. The Prime Minister did not own the shares in 1996. If he did not own the shares in 1996, he does not have jurisdiction over the documents. The jurisdiction over the documents depends on the requirements and wording of the Canada Corporations Act and that act I am certain will be lived up to in its entirety.
Miss Deborah Grey (Edmonton North, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the blank that the Deputy Prime Minister talks about is 1996 when the Prime Minister talked to the ethics counsellor and told him that he had a problem because he still owned the shares.
The Prime Minister talks about the shares as being in a blind trust. If those shares were in a blind trust, he would have no idea whether he got those shares back or not. That is the issue. There is an ethical obligation here to find out if the Prime Minister actually owned those shares in 1996 and was in a conflict of interest when he was lobbying for grants and loans.
The Minister of Industry, hopefully, although he is trying to protect his boss, will get to the bottom of that. The question is, who is that fourth secret shareholder and will he name that person?
Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I repeat what the ethics counsellor said yesterday, I think to Canadian Press:
I am absolutely certain that (the Prime Minister) did not own those shares between 1993 and 1999...I've gone through this very, very carefully, seen the original sale documents from 1993, seen the documents from 1999.
With respect to the documents filed with the industry department, the ethics counsellor when on to say that he was certain that the minister and his officials would comply with the relevant law and that certainly, to the extent the law permits, information would be made available.
However, I repeat, the Prime Minister insists he—
The Speaker: The hon. member for Edmonton North.
Miss Deborah Grey (Edmonton North, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, how do we even know that? As for the ethics counsellor, what do we expect him to say except that his boss is the best?
We are not getting straight answers here. The government obviously has something to hide. Again, we know that there were three shareholders. The Prime Minister claims that he was not a shareholder and the ethics counsellor says “yeah, you bet”, although why in the world would they have this conversation in 1996 then? That is a moot point. There would have been no need to even have that discussion if it was in fact in a blind trust.
The industry minister, through this investigation, will soon know who that is and the Canadian public demands to know—
The Deputy Speaker: The hon. Deputy Prime Minister.
Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I said that the relevant law would be complied with. I assure the House and the Canadian public that I and the government are providing straight answers even though we are obviously not getting straight questions.
* * *
Ms. Caroline St-Hilaire (Longueuil, BQ): Mr. Speaker, this morning, Le Devoir contained a damning report on the integration of women into the Canadian armed forces.
It reveals that, despite promises and all of the propaganda that has gone into recruiting women, they represent a meagre 11.1% of the force.
How does the Minister of National Defence explain this miserable failure of his policy on integration?
Hon. Art Eggleton (Minister of National Defence, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, 11.5% is actually one of the highest in NATO, but I think we can do a lot better. We put in place an employment equity program about a year ago that will help lead us toward doing that. It will help make women more welcome, not just in the administrative part of the Canadian forces but also in the combat area, if they are qualified. We are not reducing our qualifications one iota. It is not about that. It is about removing barriers, and we are determined to do that. We are determined to increase the number of women in the Canadian forces.
Ms. Caroline St-Hilaire (Longueuil, BQ): Mr. Speaker, now is the time to act. Apart from what the Minister of National Defence is saying, he has a damning report in his hands.
It refers as well to comments made by military personnel in a position of authority. It reports misogynous, contemptuous and racist comments about women.
How can the Minister of National Defence allow such comments, which is totally repugnant to modern society?
Hon. Art Eggleton (Minister of National Defence, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is absolutely right. Some of the comments quoted in the report were absolutely appalling. They did not correspond to the values of Canadian society nor of the Canadian forces. They did not represent what the vast number of men and women of the Canadian forces believe.
People will be expected to follow the values of the Canadian forces in terms of their behaviour and will be held accountable for doing that. There will be better and more effective education and more accountable leadership within the forces to help ensure that we do in fact make women, visible minorities and aboriginals more welcome in the Canadian forces.
Mr. Michel Guimond (Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the same report condemns some comments made by military personnel about women such as, and I quote:
All they do is get pregnant and leave after three years. They are unreliable.
There is obviously a major problem with DND's policy to integrate women.
Does the minister realize that there is a total lack of awareness among military personnel regarding the place of women and minorities in society?
Hon. Art Eggleton (Minister of National Defence, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as I said a few moments ago, I think those comments were absolutely appalling and unacceptable.
At the same time, I must say that they did not represent the values of the vast majority of the men and women in the Canadian forces. People will be expected to follow those values. They will be expected to exhibit behaviour that is acceptable, not what those kinds of comments represent.
Mr. Michel Guimond (Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans, BQ): Mr. Speaker, we also learned that the military personnel responsible for recruiting women, members of visible minorities and aboriginals in the Canadian forces does not know anything about the meaning of employment equity.
Will the minister pledge to set up a true action plan to change the very culture of the Canadian forces?
Hon. Art Eggleton (Minister of National Defence, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, there has been great change in the Canadian forces over the last few years. Over 300 recommendations that came out of such reports as the Somalia commission and various other studies are in effect changing the culture of the Canadian forces.
What the report the member cited also said was that a sound employment equity plan was put in place a year ago. They supported that, I supported that and we will implement it. We will make sure we remove those barriers and make the Canadian forces more reflective of society as it is today in Canada.
* * *
Hon. Lorne Nystrom (Regina—Qu'Appelle, NDP): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Deputy Prime Minister.
A recent Statistics Canada study suggested that the wealthiest half of Canadian families have 94% of the wealth and the poorest half of Canadian families have some 6% of the wealth. In other words, the gap between the rich and the poor is widening and moving further away from the Trudeau vision of a just society.
In light of that, could the Deputy Prime Minister tell the House why the government chose to cut capital gains tax a few months ago when it clearly favoured the rich over the poor, further widening the gap between the rich and the poor in this country?
Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, to give a fair and balanced picture, the hon. member should also have talked about the billions and billions of dollars we have added to the national child benefit, a most important new social program in a generation especially focused on low income Canadians. He should also have mentioned the $2.5 billion that we committed last fall to early childhood education.
Yes, poverty is a serious problem, but we are working on it. As far as the government and I are concerned, we are making progress.
Hon. Lorne Nystrom (Regina—Qu'Appelle, NDP): Mr. Speaker, Statistics Canada says exactly the opposite. It says that the gap is widening between the rich and the poor and that the government's tax package will widen that gap even further.
Some corporate executives in this country have saved millions of dollars because of the cut in taxes and capital gains. My neighbour in Saskatchewan, John Keen, told me this morning that he saved $25 on his $500 capital gains on a small mutual fund.
In light of this kind of evidence from Statistics Canada, will the minister now consider a wealth tax in this country at a similar level to the United States? The American government is, of course, admired by both this government and the official opposition.
Hon. Jim Peterson (Secretary of State (International Financial Institutions), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I think the hon. member should remember that since we took office, we have taken almost 800,000 low income Canadians off the tax rolls. We have introduced full indexation, which helps those at the bottom end the most. Thirty-five per cent of our personal tax cuts went to low income Canadians and Canadians with families.
In addition, our tax relief of $1.3 billion for energy costs went to low and middle income Canadians and the homeless received $753 million.
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Mr. Rick Borotsik (Brandon—Souris, PC): Mr. Speaker, today desperate farmers are occupying the legislature in Manitoba. Yesterday they were burning the minister of agriculture in effigy. What does the minister do? Does he go and find more money for these desperate farmers? No. His department decides to do a media blitz and advertises how wonderful his government is doing in agriculture.
Could the minister tell us how much that media blitz cost? Could he also tell us whether it would not have been better to spend that money on agricultural programs than in Mr. Asper's newspapers?
Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, a government has an obligation to inform Canadians on what it does. The hon. member often reminds us that we should tell Canadians what the government is doing.
What we did was explain to farmers and to Canadians the support and the increase that the government has provided. I do not need to take the time of the House to remind everyone that we have gone from $600 million to $1.6 billion. There will be $2.66 billion dollars made available to farmers in income support this spring.
Mr. Rick Borotsik (Brandon—Souris, PC): Mr. Speaker, I still do not know how much the media blitz cost but I am sure we can do that through access to information.
I think we should tell Canadians what this minister has not done. He said in the House that his government since 1995 has been putting more money into agriculture. Could he tell us why in 1993 there were $4.4 billion in federal funding and today there are only $2 billion in federal funding? What happened to the difference? Before he talks about the $42 billion deficit, we know there is money there. The finance minister has told us that there is surplus. Could the minister tell us why he cannot find another $400 million for agriculture?
Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member answered his own question. When we formed this government, the Government of Canada was taking in $120 billion a year and spending $162 billion. We cannot do that on a farm or in any other business. That is a $42 billion deficit. We had to put the fiscal mess that the Tories left us in order before we could help farmers. Now that we have it in order, we are helping farmers.
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Mr. Myron Thompson (Wild Rose, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, on June 28, 1999, Gaetano Amodeo and his wife submitted an application to Immigration Canada for permanent residency. As an applicant of Italian origin, Mr. Amodeo was required to include documents certifying he did not have a criminal record and was not under investigation by the police. Given that there was a warrant for Mr. Amodeo's arrest, he would have had a hard time producing these documents.
My question is for the minister of immigration.
Mr. Lynn Myers: Every immigrant, not just Italians. That's racist.
Mr. Myron Thompson: Did Mr. Amodeo include the required police check with his application?
Hon. Elinor Caplan (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as I have said before in the House, Mr. Amodeo's name was removed from the original application. I also want to say very clearly to the House that there was no meeting between Mr. Amodeo and any immigration official.
Mr. Myron Thompson (Wild Rose, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, there are two alternatives. Either the minister and the department of immigration waived the requirement for Mr. Amodeo to provide a certificate showing that he had no criminal past or the department of immigration knew that he was a wanted fugitive.
Did the department of immigration receive a certificate of good conduct from the Italian police with Mr. Amodeo's application in 1999? Yes or no.
Hon. Elinor Caplan (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, let me try again because the premise of his question is completely wrong. Mr. Amodeo was not a party to the first application because his name was removed by a legal document.
Let me say very clearly, he was not granted permanent resident status. As soon as we had sufficient evidence he was arrested. He is now in jail and awaiting a deportation hearing. He is not a permanent resident of Canada.
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Ms. Monique Guay (Laurentides, BQ): Mr. Speaker, in its report, the committee states that “there was a resistance to any data gathering”.
It is obvious that the absence of any measures to evaluate the results and the efforts of military personnel in positions of authority contributes to their lack of interest for any integration program.
Will the Minister of National Defence admit that not assessing, in the evaluating report of military personnel in positions of authority, the achievement of equity objectives for women removes any incentive to take the department's objectives seriously, with the result that all the fine rhetoric becomes meaningless?
Hon. Art Eggleton (Minister of National Defence, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, there have been failings in the past in terms of how these issues have been dealt with. There is a data gap. There is no doubt about it. Much of the information in the report that was published is based on anecdotal information.
We are determined that we are going to cover that gap in terms of data collection. We are going about doing it in a much better way now so that we can have the kind of measurements for progress year in and year out to show that we are in fact implementing our employment equity plan. We are determined to do that.
Ms. Monique Guay (Laurentides, BQ): Mr. Speaker, is the minister prepared to periodically report to the House on the results obtained by military personnel, so that we can evaluate their performance and, if necessary, decide on corrective measures or sanctions?
Hon. Art Eggleton (Minister of National Defence, Lib.): Yes, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Art Hanger (Calgary Northeast, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, last week the Minister of Public Works and Government Services announced in the House that the maritime helicopter contract would not be signed until next year; that is 2002.
That puts the delivery of the Sea King replacement to 2007, maybe even 2008. That is another delay in a 30 year project. There is something wrong here.
The minister has told the House and the military repeatedly that we would be getting new choppers in 2005. Does the minister still actually have a plan—
The Deputy Speaker: The hon. Minister of National Defence.
Hon. Art Eggleton (Minister of National Defence, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we are proceeding with the procurement for maritime helicopters to replace the Sea King. It is our priority purchase.
I am still hopeful that we could have them by the end of 2005. I talked with the assistant deputy minister in charge of procurement and insisted that we do everything possible to speed up the procurement process so that we can get those helicopters just as quickly as we can to meet our needs, and to get them at the best possible price for Canadian taxpayers.
Mr. Art Hanger (Calgary Northeast, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the minister should get together with the minister of public works. This is the only country in the NATO alliance that has divided up a major defence procurement into two projects: avionics and airframe. There is no prime contractor either. What happens when something goes wrong? Who is responsible?
My question is for the minister. Who dreamed up this scheme to divide the contracts? Which minister was it: the public works minister or the national defence minister? Is he prepared to stand in the House today and take the blame for this mess?
Hon. Art Eggleton (Minister of National Defence, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, there is no mess and there is no difference among the minister of public works, myself and the cabinet on this matter.
That shows that the member really does not know what he is talking about because there is a prime contractor. It will be the mission system integrator. There will be two competitions so we can get the best price and the best product to meet our needs.
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Mr. Bernard Bigras (Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, BQ): Mr. Speaker, yesterday in the House, the Minister of Agriculture stated that he was confident that the Starlink contaminated feed corn would be found, and that he was also confident that it had not gone into the feeding system.
A few minutes later, outside the House, he stated that the shipment had been located.
Can the minister solemnly affirm in this House that the shipment has been located, and will he commit to providing a list of the locations to which the contaminated grain was delivered before the Food Inspection Agency issued a recall notice?
Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I said outside the House yesterday that I was confident the product had not entered the food chain. I was informed that some of the product of the one shipment, which was totally detained, did get into the animal feeding system.
Health Canada says that there is an unlikely possibility of any damage or any effect as far as it going through an animal and then into the food chain. Some of it did get into the feeding system but not into the food chain.
Mr. Bernard Bigras (Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I do not know if the minister realizes this, but his words are cause for considerable concern. We are dealing with pure improvisation on the part of the government here, and this is a concern for the health of the Canadian public.
Yesterday, a scientist from the Food Inspection Agency said “It is very possible that it has got in before and that it continues to do so”.
Is the minister of agriculture going to continue telling us that everything is fine, or is he going to take concrete measures to ensure that such a situation never repeats itself in Canada?
Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the record of the Canadian food inspection system is one of which we can all be very proud.
Any food products that came in from the United States which contained the StarLink corn were taken off the market. Other tests have been conducted, and to date no positive tests have shown that the StarLink is there. If so, they will be dealt with accordingly and taken off the market.
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Mr. Leon Benoit (Lakeland, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the agriculture minister has responded in a cold and callous way to farmer rallies by placing ads in big city newspapers saying that he is right and farmers are wrong.
All farmers are asking for is compensation for their prices being driven down by unfair trade in other countries. This minister responds by putting propaganda ads in the city sections of big city newspapers.
Why is this minister more concerned with protecting his own image than with protecting the family farm?
Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I find the comment very interesting coming from a party that wants the government to tell Canadians where we spend money and how we spend money.
With that information we inform Canadians on how we spend money. Nobody said anything about who was right and who was wrong. We simply stated what the government was doing and continues to do and builds upon in order to assist agriculture producers.
Mr. Leon Benoit (Lakeland, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the answer quite frankly sounds quite a bit like a continuation of the propaganda ads. Farmers are not suffering from a lack of Liberal rhetoric; they are suffering from a lack of government action.
Could the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food explain why he thinks it is more important for him to spend money on his faltering image than it is to spend money on protecting farmers and saving the family farm?
Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it is interesting to hear members from that party talk about image. It is a party that not many months ago said it would remove subsidies to farmers. It is a party that has finally seen the light of the value of supply management in Canada. It is a party that said it would cut funding to agriculture and agri-food.
Contrary to that, the government has been there, will be there and will always be there for our farmers to give support and resources to grain farmers, supply management and other primary producers.
* * *
Mr. Shawn Murphy (Hillsborough, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue. Whether or not we like it, the time has now come for some 23 million Canadians to prepare and file their income tax returns for the 2000 taxation year.
What has the new Canada Customs and Revenue Agency done to make this annual obligation easier to fulfil?
Ms. Sophia Leung (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Revenue, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question. This year as a new option the agency invites Canadians to file their income tax return by the Internet using certified commercial software. Internet filing is easy, is secure and is available seven days a week. Clients will receive their receipt very quickly.
There are two other filing options available. One is using—
The Deputy Speaker: The hon. member for Dartmouth.
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Ms. Wendy Lill (Dartmouth, NDP): Mr. Speaker, two major studies released this week show the deplorable state of prescription drug coverage. There is a patchwork of coverage from province to province. People with chronic health problems who live in the maritimes are the most poorly served, as are those with certain illnesses, such as diabetes, MS and schizophrenia.
Four years ago the National Forum on Health called for a national plan to provide all citizens with access to medically necessary drugs. When will the government keep its 1997 election promise to bring in a national pharmacare program?
Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the representation of the hon. member. This is something we are looking into. Certainly as we develop the implementation of the national health accord, I am sure there will be further progress in this area.
* * *
Mrs. Bev Desjarlais (Churchill, NDP): Mr. Speaker, in the last budget 13 months ago, the Liberal government gave a tiny fraction of what the nation needs for roads and infrastructure, but this will not touch the surface of the problem. Bad roads are still responsible for hundreds of deaths.
Provinces and municipalities across the country cannot keep up since the Liberal government abandoned infrastructure funding. Many are saying that without federal assistance they will have no choice but to resort to toll roads.
Will the Liberal government table a budget this year with a significant investment in public infrastructure, or does it think more toll roads are the answer?
Mr. Alex Shepherd (Parliamentary Secretary to President of the Treasury Board, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her question. I guess she has not been paying attention to the fact that our infrastructure spending program encompasses $600 million for new roads.
This has been implemented through negotiation with our provincial partners. We look favourably toward the input of the people of Manitoba from her riding as well as those from other ridings across the country. The program has been very successfully received by municipalities and we look forward to implementing it.
* * *
Mr. Peter MacKay (Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, PC): Mr. Speaker, it has been reported that the Canadian coast guard maritime region has left up to $250,000 worth of seasonal buoys in the water this winter, potentially losing or ruining them for future use.
The coast guard cuts have resulted in a reduction of fixed and floating aids in the water, thus jeopardizing safety. The news of the negligence of seasonal buoys only exacerbates public frustration over the government's mismanagement of the fishery.
Will the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans confirm that this irresponsible act occurred, and will he investigate to ensure that it is remedied and discontinued?
Hon. Herb Dhaliwal (Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I assure the hon. member that the coast guard's priority is the safety of Canadians. It will do everything possible to make sure that those buoys are properly maintained and protected.
We have a program to improve our coast guard response teams. I announced last year a major investment in the coast guard so we could ensure that we provided the service to protect Canadians. Safety is our number one priority.
* * *
Mr. Gerald Keddy (South Shore, PC): Mr. Speaker, the government has granted hundreds of licences and bought boats and gear for natives in eastern Canada, yet only a handful of these licences are actually being fished by band members.
Will the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans commit to a moratorium on these royalty charters for the chiefs until the hundreds of licences already granted are being fished by aboriginals on the east coast?
Hon. Herb Dhaliwal (Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member should know that we have purchased under the volunteer retirement program as his party and other parties recommended.
However, the vast majority of the licences are fished by aboriginal people. There may be exceptions where they may not have the equipment and may not have the training to do that, but our objective is to make sure that aboriginal people have the equipment, have the training and the skill to fully benefit from the licences they purchased and the right to go out and fish commercially.
* * *
Mr. Darrel Stinson (Okanagan—Shuswap, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, a repeat sexual offender who showed no remorse and has a lengthy criminal record will serve no jail time, despite being found guilty last week of sexually assaulting a native woman in my riding of Okanagan—Shuswap.
The judge cited the government's change to the criminal code when he allowed the aboriginal offender to remain at large in their small aboriginal community. Is this what the government calls justice?
Hon. Lawrence MacAulay (Solicitor General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, when individuals are convicted of criminal offences they are sent to prison and evaluated by Correctional Service Canada as to where they should serve their sentences. That is how it is done.
Mr. Darrel Stinson (Okanagan—Shuswap, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, what we are talking about is a repeat offender.
The government has turned aboriginal women into second class victims by encouraging such race based handling of aboriginal male attackers. When will the government end this affront to aboriginal women?
Hon. Lawrence MacAulay (Solicitor General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the government and Correctional Service Canada treat all Canadians equally. The fact of the matter is that if individuals commit an offence and are convicted, they are sent to prison and evaluated. It is decided as to where they will serve their sentences. There are rehabilitation and punishment in the correctional services system.
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SUMMIT OF THE AMERICAS
Mr. Yvan Loubier (Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, BQ): Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Minister of Foreign Affairs took a position squarely on the side of those who oppose Cuba's participation in the Summit of the Americas, saying that Cuba showed little respect for democracy and did not allow dissent.
How can the minister explain, on the one hand, the inclusive and tolerant policy of his government towards countries such as China and Indonesia, where human rights and democracy are being violated and, on the other, the policy of excluding Cuba?
Hon. Pierre Pettigrew (Minister for International Trade, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Minister of Foreign Affairs made it clear that Cuba's participation in the Summit of the Americas had not been possible because a hemispheric consensus had not been reached, in light of that country's refusal to engage in certain democratic reforms.
Mr. Yvan Loubier (Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, BQ): Mr. Speaker, this is a double standard.
On March 18, 1994, in speaking about China and various other countries, the Prime Minister said, and I quote:
—the best way to improve human rights in countries such as this—that we do business with them to open the country up to the world. This is the way to achieve democracy.
Why is it that this same reasoning does not apply to Cuba?
Hon. Pierre Pettigrew (Minister for International Trade, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, in the case of China, we will not enter into a agreement that in any way resembles those we are contemplating with the Americas. We wish to consolidate democracy in the Americas, to negotiate a free trade agreement which will reinforce that democracy.
We believe that we must maintain relations with China in order to encourage it along the road to democracy. We support China's entry into the World Trade Organization, but this is not a close relationship of the sort that would exist with a free trade agreement.
The Bloc Quebecois must open its eyes to this basic reality of foreign policy.
* * *
Mr. Philip Mayfield (Cariboo—Chilcotin, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the Deputy Prime Minister is in charge of the residential school file. To date all we have heard on this topic has been unsubstantiated news reports about the government being liable for amounts ranging from $2 billion to $10 billion.
Could the Deputy Prime Minister tell the House how much the government will pay to settle these lawsuits?
Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the government has not taken a decision on a formal proposal or plan to discuss with the church organizations involved or the victims about a way to resolve this matter more quickly and more cheaply than if we relied principally on the litigation process.
However, as the government's special representative in this matter, I have undertaken a new dialogue which I think is going well. Once decisions are made by the government on the formal plan, they will be made known to all concerned.
Mr. Philip Mayfield (Cariboo—Chilcotin, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, I thank the Deputy Prime Minister for pushing this issue forward.
In addition to money, are there any other means that the government is considering to acknowledge the suffering of victims and to help them experience healing and reconciliation?
Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, some years ago the federal government set up the Aboriginal Healing Foundation run by native people at arm's length from the government. It has a budget of $350 million and it is carrying out projects dealing in reconciliation.
It could be that as a result of the discussions I am undertaking there could be further action in that regard, but we are already taking important steps with regard to facilitating healing and reconciliation.
* * *
Mr. Walt Lastewka (St. Catharines, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister for International Trade. It concerns the sale of ice wine to the member countries of the European Union.
Since 1989 Canada has been struggling to gain access to European Union markets for its flagship wine. Canada has been impeded by a ruling which prevented importation of wines exceeding 15% potential alcohol without special permission from the union.
Could the minister inform the House what changes have taken place that will allow ice wines to be sold in the European Union, and could we expect changes in the exporting of VQA wines to Europe?
Hon. Pierre Pettigrew (Minister for International Trade, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I thank and congratulate the member for St. Catharines on his great effort in terms of the wine industry. He has been doing very good work.
Years of co-operative effort among the government, the minister of agriculture, the governments of the provinces and our Canadian wine industry have finally paid off. We expect the European commission to adopt in the next few weeks necessary legislative changes to allow imports of Canadian ice wine.
This marks an important step in Canada's ongoing discussions with the European Union on resolving a number of issues related to wine and spirits, including—
The Deputy Speaker: The hon. member for Edmonton Centre—East.
* * *
Mr. Peter Goldring (Edmonton Centre-East, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, Canada went to war in Korea 50 years ago to fight the communist threat. Today that war is still not over. It is still a war on hold. Over 500 Canadians died in Korea in defence of freedom, never to return home. China was the main supporter of that terrible conflict.
Our Korean war veterans are shocked by the way the government is now cozying up to this communist superpower. Could the minister explain why we are now teaching winter warfare tactics to a country that is clearly not one of our allies?
Hon. Art Eggleton (Minister of National Defence, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we are not cozying up and we are not training them. We are entering into a dialogue with the Chinese. The Chinese military is an important part of the elements of security and defence in the Pacific. Engaging in constructive dialogue is a good thing to do.
The United States, which also has many Korean war veterans, and other countries all do the same things including constructive dialogue. It also gives us the opportunity to show them how we operate in Canada and how our values of democracy work well. We are given that opportunity when we have constructive dialogue.
Mr. Peter Goldring (Edmonton Centre-East, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, it has been 10 years since the end of the gulf war conflict. Canada's gulf war veterans want only pride and respect through official recognition as war veterans for serving in that war zone.
Our allies recognize their gulf war veterans as war veterans. Why do we not? Will the minister give Canada's peacekeeping veterans respect and official recognition as war veterans, and when?
Mr. Carmen Provenzano (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Veterans Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the redefinition of war veteran is actively under consideration. We certainly value the contribution of all members of the forces to our country.
* * *
MINISTER OF INTERGOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS
Mr. Richard Marceau (Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, BQ): Mr. Speaker, yesterday's edition of the Toronto Globe and Mail contained a letter by the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. In his missive, the minister said clearly that Quebec is a nation.
Should the minister not admit now clearly that, despite his fine words and hollow rhetoric, he is unable to get his arrogant and centralizing government to accept this fact, which he himself accepts, the fact that Quebec is a nation?
Hon. Stéphane Dion (President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, Quebec is a nation in the sociological sense of the word, but, in the opinion of the Quebec Premier, there are a number of nations in Quebec, since he refuses to consider the aboriginal nations part of the Quebec nation.
I am pleased to be a part of Quebec and Canada. I see no contradiction in belonging to the two, and if I could at the same time have native membership, I would be very happy.
* * *
CANADA LABOUR CODE
Mr. Dominic LeBlanc (Beauséjour—Petitcodiac, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, today's workforce is changing at a very fast rate. Employees and employers require labour laws that are modern and keep pace with these changes.
My question is for the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour. Could she tell the House what the government is doing to ensure that the Canada Labour Code would continue to protect workers in federal jurisdictions?
Mrs. Judi Longfield (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Labour, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague opposite. The government has been very responsive to the growing needs in the workforce.
In 1998 we amended part I of the labour code. In 2000 we amended part II. Currently there is a tripartite review of part III of the labour code to ensure that we indeed meet the changing realities of today's labour force.
* * *
Mrs. Bev Desjarlais (Churchill, NDP): Mr. Speaker, the government has neglected the ongoing maintenance and development of highways and infrastructure for the last number of years and we are now at a critical point. The longer the delay, the greater the costs.
I ask the parliamentary secretary why the government is forcing the provinces and municipalities to consider toll roads to ensure that we have safe highways and the proper infrastructure that the country needs?
Mr. Brent St. Denis (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Transport, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, the government has announced a $600 million federal contribution toward the national system.
Discussions have been ongoing. Formal negotiations will continue shortly. Those negotiations will include the potential for private-public partnerships. If toll roads are included appropriately under this program, they could be included as a part of the improvement to the national highway system.
* * *
Mr. Charlie Penson (Peace River, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, last week the industry minister announced a $10 million loan to Sierra Wireless. He seems to be doing his part in spending the surplus before the end of March. He is working hard, overtime, to get rid of that surplus. At the same time Sierra announced fourth quarter revenue profit increases of 221% or $22 million.
What does the Minister of Industry mean when he said “Anybody who is looking to me as a minister to advocate subsidies, I am not interested; I do not believe in it; I am not interested any more; I do not think its productive; I am not having relations with those subsidies?”
Mr. John Cannis (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the government is not spending money. The government is investing money. It is investing in the new economy and that is why Canada is leading the pack. That is why we are attracting the best and the brightest for the new economy of tomorrow.
* * *
POINTS OF ORDER
ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Mr. Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, during question period, while the member for Wild Rose was putting a question to a government minister, I heard the member for Waterloo—Wellington very distinctly use quite odious remarks that were profoundly unparliamentary. He referred to members of this party as being racists. This is a term that he frequently uses.
We have brought this to the attention of the Chair in the past. I would ask that the Speaker bring to order people who use scurrilous remarks which clearly are totally unparliamentary and uncalled for and which bring disrepute on himself and this place.
The Deputy Speaker: The member for Waterloo—Wellington is in the House and I certainly would want to give him the opportunity to respond.
Mr. Lynn Myers (Waterloo—Wellington, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, often I hear a number of things from the opposition, especially the reform alliance people, to which I yell, rubbish.
The Deputy Speaker: The matter raised by the member for Calgary Southeast of course is taken very seriously by the Chair. I have heard from both parties. It is my intention to review the blues and, if necessary, I will report back to the House.
WAYS AND MEANS
NOTICE OF MOTION
Hon. Jim Peterson (Secretary of State (International Financial Institutions), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 83(1) I wish to table a notice of a ways and means motion respecting amendments to the Income Tax Act, the income tax application rules, certain acts related to the Income Tax Act, to the Canada pension plan, to the Customs Act, to the Excise Tax Act, to the Modernization of Benefits and Obligations Act, and another act related to the Excise Tax Act.
This notice of ways and means represents the incredible amount of work we have done in terms of the budgetary process, working closely with members from all sides of the House. I ask that an order of the day be designated to debate the motion.
* * *
GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO PETITIONS
Mr. Derek Lee (Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to five petitions.
* * *
COMMITTEES OF THE HOUSE
Mr. Mauril Bélanger (Ottawa—Vanier, Lib.): Madam Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the first report of the Standing Committee on Official Languages.
* * *
Mr. Deepak Obhrai (Calgary East, Canadian Alliance) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-301, an act to amend the Statistics Act (ethnicity question).
He said: Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise on behalf of the constituents of Calgary East to introduce my private member's bill in the House today. The purpose of the bill is to ensure that no questions can be asked in the Statistics Canada population census to determine a person's ethnicity.
Ours is a great country that respects equal rights and equal opportunities for all Canadians. Laws, programs and services must be available for all. Our nation is blessed with people from all around the world. The one common thread that holds us all together is that we are all Canadians.
I hope my colleagues recognize the intent of the bill, which is to promote equality, because we are and will remain always Canadians.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)
* * *
Miss Deborah Grey (Edmonton North, Canadian Alliance): Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I am pleased to present a petition.
The undersigned residents of Canada, many of them from the Edmonton area, draw to the attention of the House of Commons that rural route mail couriers often earn less than the minimum wage in working conditions reminiscent of another era. They have not been allowed to bargain collectively to improve their wages and working conditions like others. The private sector workers who deliver mail in rural areas have collective bargaining rights, as do public sector workers who deliver mail for Canada Post in urban areas, and they have a problem with that.
Therefore, the petitioners call upon parliament to repeal section 13(5) of the Canada Post Corporation Act.
* * *
Mr. Derek Lee (Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Madam Speaker, would you be so kind as to call Starred Questions Nos. 6 and 7.
The government has answers to both of these questions and I ask that those answers be printed in Hansard as if read. .[Text]
*Question No. 6—Mr. Guy St-Julien:
What is the unemployment rate for students aged 15 to 24 in Abitibi-Témiscamingue for the month of January 2001, according to the labour force indicator?
Mr. Derek Lee: For the month of January 2001, the youth unemployment rate, students and non-students, was 21.1% in Abitibi-Témiscamingue. All the estimates are based on a three month moving average using non-seasonally adjusted data.
For data reliability reasons, Statistics Canada does not release the unemployment rate for students by region on a monthly basis.
*Question No. 7—Mr. Guy St-Julien:
Concerning the distribution of 2000-01 summer career placement service funding for the Quebec region, is the variable showing the full time student population between the ages of 15 and 24 years calculated over a 12 month period or the actual academic period, excluding the months of June, July and August?
Mr. Derek Lee: The distribution of 2000-01 summer career placements funding for the Quebec region was based on an allocation formula which used, among other variables, the full time student population aged 15 to 24. This variable uses Statistics Canada data and is calculated based upon a four month average for the period of May to August. The survey question from which this data is derived asks the location of permanent residency defined as residency for 30 days or more during the course of the year.
The allocation formula for summer career placements 2001-02 and the funding allocations are presently being finalized.
Madam Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): Is that agreed?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
CANADA SHIPPING ACT, 2001
The House resumed from March 14 consideration of the motion that Bill C-14, an act respecting shipping and navigation and to amend the Shipping Conferences Exemption Act, 1987 and other acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): Is the House ready for the question?
Some hon. members: Question.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Transport and Government Operations.
(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)
* * *
SPECIES AT RISK ACT
The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-5, an act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. James Rajotte (Edmonton Southwest, Canadian Alliance): Madam Speaker, I should note that I will be splitting my time with my hon. colleague in front from Surrey Central, one of the most loquacious members in the House.
I am pleased to rise today and speak on Bill C-5, the species at risk act. The government describes the purpose of the proposed act as follows. It aims to protect wildlife at risk from becoming extinct or loss in the wild, with the ultimate objective of helping their numbers to recover. The act will cover all wildlife species listed as being at risk nationally and their critical habitats.
The goal of the legislation is certainly a laudable goal. We in the official opposition recognize that there is a need for effective endangered species legislation. In fact, this recognition is reflected in our official policy statement. Our policy statement states:
The Canadian Alliance is committed to protecting and preserving Canada's natural environment and endangered species, and to sustainable development of our abundant natural resources for the use of current and future generations.
Furthermore, our farm policy states:
For any endangered species legislation to be effective, it must respect the fundamental rights of private property owners.
This entails including just compensation for landowners if habitat must be taken out of production. It also means that the government should strive to be as co-operative as possible with farmers and ranchers rather than using threats and criminal sanctions.
We in the official opposition support effective endangered species legislation. However, we have some concerns with regard to this particular legislation. We do not disagree with the government's goal but we do have some difficulties with the message it is employing to achieve that goal.
Following the lead of our member for Red Deer and the member for Edmonton—Strathcona in the last parliament, who have done yeomen work on the bill, we have attempted to be as constructive as possible in our criticisms.
The following are the criticisms that I would like to highlight.
First, the final listing of endangered species should rest not with the federal cabinet, but with the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.
Second, the voluntary co-operation and incentives already in Bill C-5 should be stronger.
Third, the bill must include a clearly outlined full compensation scheme.
Fourth, socio-economic analysis should be conducted prior to the development of species recovery plans to ensure that they do play a prominent role.
Fifth, the bill must respect provincial jurisdiction and apply equally to all Canadians.
This is a substantive list of criticism, many of which have been thoroughly covered by my colleagues here in the opposition.
I would like to focus in particular on the need to protect the private property rights of landowners and include fair compensation for landowners if habitat must be taken out of production. The effectiveness of the legislation directly depends on whether or not it respect those fundamental rights. The bill fails to clearly spell out what compensation will be provided for stakeholders who are forced to lose financially in the implementation of the bill.
The environment minister has indicated that he will spell out these compensation provisions in the regulation of the bill after its passage by parliament. That is simply unacceptable.
Furthermore, the Pearce Report, which the minister seems to be considering at this point, suggests that landowners would only receive compensation if economic losses exceeded 10% and that compensation would be limited to only 50% of losses. This is neither full nor fair compensation.
There are therefore two specific requirements that we would propose for compensation. First, the compensation provisions must be clearly indicated in the bill before members of the House so that we as parliamentarians and Canadians can determine whether these provisions are just.
Second, those who incur increased costs or reduced income as a result of the requirements of the bill must have full compensation. Saving endangered species is a benefit to all Canadians. The cost should not be excessively borne by a few landowners, farmers, ranchers, they should be shared by all.
Those are the specific compensation requirements.
I would now like to address the more general issue of the need for the government to respect private property rights. It seems to me that the government, through many of its bills, has encroached further and further into the realm of private property rights. This is a disturbing trend, one that we as parliamentarians ought to watch very carefully.
It is interesting that since the beginning of the session we have been very much occupied with the whole question of parliamentary reform, which is a smaller issue within the larger question of how we pass the laws that govern us.
However, as the famous philosopher Isaiah Berlin pointed out in his seminal essay, “Two Concepts of Liberty”, there is another question which is equally, if not more, important. That is the question of what activities government itself even ought to be making decisions about. It involves that very large question of to what extent we as individuals, citizens, families and communities require or even desire a government to involve itself in our lives.
It is a fundamental question for any political community and yet it strikes me how rarely we in the House even address it. We spend hours debating specific amendments to certain bills, but we spend precious little time debating the larger question of whether the government ought to be expanding its influence in the first place.
This is particularly alarming for me, because I generally believe that those communities which function best over the long term have governments that operate within clearly defined constitutional limits. In these communities, these limits are best set by a constitutional recognition of genuine, classical rights such as the right to own property and not be deprived thereof without just compensation.
Many great thinkers have expounded on the importance of private property and its relationship with liberty and justice. Even the great philosopher Aristotle mentioned it in his works in ancient Greece. The great orator of Roman times, Cicero, is actually responsible for the word property being transferred down to us today. One only has to think of John Locke and his “Two Treatises of Government” and his important discussion of private property rights there, or John Stuart Mill, or even the great American philosophers in the American revolution.
I would like to quote another thinker. Earlier today I was referring to a saint, so I would actually like to employ the words of another saint. These are very good quotes because they have a sort of sanctified presence about them. I would like to quote the patron saint of politicians, St. Thomas More. He linked the foundation and endurance of a civilized community with the proper respect for property, saying “Security of property is the first and all-essential duty of a civilized community”.
In relation to property and the proper limits of governance, St. Thomas More warned that the worst which can happen to the law itself is its overextension, its expansion into fields in which it cannot be competent. What happens then is that disrespect for law in all its capacities will increase.
He stated that:
You may to a certain extent control property and make it subservient to the ideal nature of man; but the moment you deny its rights, or undertake to legislate in defiance of them, you may for a time unsettle the very foundations of society, you will certainly in the end render property your despot instead of your servant, and so produce a materialized and debased civilization.
I should bring this debate back from this abstract discussion and finish in terms of the practical effects of the bill. However, I hope that all parliamentarians would consider the general nature and profound importance of property rights and the need for this legislation to properly respect the property rights of individual landowners. It can do so in specific ways, first, by working with private landowners on a voluntary basis, and second, by clearly indicating in the bill full and fair compensation provisions for those who incur increased costs or reduced income as a result of the requirements of the bill.
I also encourage my fellow parliamentarians to consider carefully the notion of property rights and the limits of government in general.
Mr. Gurmant Grewal (Surrey Central, Canadian Alliance): Madam Speaker, I appreciate the comments made by my hon. colleague and friend from Edmonton Southwest and thank him for his flattering remarks.
I rise on behalf of the people of Surrey Central to participate in the debate on Bill C-5, the Liberal government's proposed endangered species protection act.
I would like to point out at the outset that I am currently seeking the input of the people of Surrey Central concerning this controversial bill. I am certain that the people I represent are in full support of protecting our environment and endangered species at risk, but I am not certain that we will support this legislation as is.
The government's previous attempt at passing this kind of legislation was a discriminatory and punitive bill, Bill C-33. It was very unfair to Canadian landowners. In the previous parliament I wanted to support that weak and confused legislation because of its intent, but I had such serious reservations about the strong arm tactics the government was using against Canadian landowners and farmers in order to protect species that I did not support the bill. The government was playing politics with our endangered species. It was not paying attention to the science involved and it was not going to properly compensate Canadians who also wanted to protect our endangered species.
In the new bill it seems that most of the flaws of the old bill are still in place. In anticipation of that, I have sent a message to my constituents asking them to advise me whether we will hold our noses and support this smelly bill or oppose it because of its undemocratic nature.
I have decided to oppose it until after the committee hearings. In the meantime we will see if the Liberals adopt any of the suggestions from the witnesses appearing before the committee or from the official opposition and the other opposition parties. We will see if the government conducts hearings on this bill once it has passed second reading and if witnesses will be given enough chances to come forward and express their positions.
I will briefly outline the chief concerns I have about the bill so far. First, we want to see effective legislation. That means we want to see a full review of the bill by the House and the committee. We do not want the Liberals to resort to using closure or to stifling debate so they can have the legislation passed by June.
Second, we need to see an emphasis on voluntary initiatives and partnerships. While the current bill is a slight improvement over the punitive American endangered species act, it can be made better. We know the American legislation has failed miserably. We need our legislation to be not only better but much better than the American legislation, which the Liberals are using as a template for what they are offering Canadians with the bill.
Third, we need to see science, not politics, used as the basis of the legal list of endangered species. The legal list must be left not to the discretion of the cabinet but to scientists.
Fourth, we need to see compensation regulations that are fair. These compensation regulations must be clearly spelled out in the bill. There should be provisions for full compensation, not just the 50% or the formula promised by the Liberals so far.
Fifth, we need to make sure the bill recognizes that protecting spaces is critical for protecting species, and species recovery action plans must consider socio-economic studies before recovery plans are developed.
Sixth, we need to see that transparency and accountability are improved, through the suggested round table in the bill being truly representative of all stakeholders and through equal application of the law to all Canadians regardless of race or creed.
Finally, we need to see that there are mechanisms in the bill to resolve disputes with the provinces. The Liberal government has never paid attention to developing relationships with provincial governments.
All Canadians want to help the environment. They want to protect biodiversity. We in the Canadian Alliance care about protecting species at risk and protecting or recovering critical habitat. Canadians recognize that we need a proactive approach to protect species at risk, one that is based on respect, respect for the species that inhabit our lands and waters and respect for those who own those lands. We want a common sense policy that considers the needs of all stakeholders.
The Canadian Alliance is committed to protecting and preserving Canada's natural environment and endangered species and to the sustainable development of our abundant natural resources for use by current and future generations. The Canadian Alliance maintains that for any endangered species legislation to be effective, it must respect the fundamental rights of private property owners.
The people of Surrey Central, whom I represent, are from largely metropolitan or suburban areas. While we are not running the risk of having our land confiscated without compensation or without reimbursement of fair market value, we do not want any Canadian subjected to such unjust treatment.
In fact, far from working in a democratic way to help Canada's ranchers contribute to our nation's efforts to save our endangered species, the Liberals are promising punishment for those ranchers. My heart goes out to the farmers and ranchers, who are already overtaxed by the government and who are already suffering. They have huge input costs that are the fault of the government and its lack of vision. They have to compete at a disadvantage on world markets thanks to the government's poor record on international trade.
From what I have been told, the Liberals are now planning to take sometimes thousands of acres of land from individual Canadians without a fair process of compensation and under the threat of criminal charges.
In conclusion, the Canadian Alliance has two main concerns to be addressed in regard to the bill. The first is scientific integrity. Species listing must be determined by scientists, not by politicians. It should be determined by scientists and based on scientific fact. Our second concern deals with fair compensation. The Canadian Alliance believes there are a number of areas that can be strengthened in the bill in order to make it more accountable and transparent to the public.
At this time I feel strongly that the government has more work to do on the bill and I would like to see that work done before I support it, but again, I am not above voting the way my constituents want me to vote on this bill on their behalf.
Mr. Marcel Gagnon (Champlain, BQ): Madam Speaker, Bill C-5 concerns the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada. I would like to briefly put the bill in context.
Biodiversity as a whole is the result of the evolution of the earth over more than 4.5 billion years. This process created a wide selection of living organisms and natural environments on our planet. Together they form the ecosystems that we know today. Each one plays a specific role in the food chain and contributes to the biological balance of the planet.
However, in recent years scientists have been warning about the disappearance of certain species in increasing numbers, as well as the rise in the number of species facing extinction or extremely vulnerable species.
It is appropriate to have a debate on this legislation just after the list of species at risk of extinction in the country has grown to an all time high. In Canada the number of wild animals, plants, insects and marine organisms at risk of disappearing now stands at an all time high of 354. This is a stark reminder that our country's natural heritage is under threat. The rate at which species disappear from our planet speaks volumes to the overall health of our environment and ultimately our own human health. As we know, when species disappear from our planet it means that we could also disappear if we are not careful.
Worldwide we are experiencing the largest extinction epidemic since the time of the dinosaurs. Down through the ages an average of two or three species disappeared each year for natural reasons. Two or three species are now disappearing from the planet every hour. This is alarming and it is entirely due to the actions of human beings.
We in the Bloc Quebecois are aware that all Quebecers and Canadians are concerned about the protection of species at risk and about protecting and preserving the environment as a whole. We recognize that the fragile balance of the ecosystem must be protected and preserve.
In the past few years there has been a worldwide attempt to halt this phenomenon. Since the 1970s international agreements have been signed with a view to limiting trade in certain animal and plant species in order to protect them from extinction.
Cases in point include the 1971 convention on wetlands of international importance especially as a waterfowl habitat, better known as the RAMSAR convention, the 1973 convention on international trade in endangered species of wild fauna and flora, and the 1979 convention on the conservation of migratory species of wild animals.
In 1992, at the Rio summit, many nations of the world, including Canada, signed the convention on biological diversity and made the commitment to “develop or maintain necessary legislation and/or other regulatory provisions for the protection of threatened species and populations”.
Soon after that, the Liberals promised, in their red book, to ensure long term protection of species that live on our planet. In 1995 the Minister of the Environment introduced a bill in that spirit. The bill gave rise to an incredible amount of criticism and protest, mainly from environmental groups. One of the main objections to the bill had to do with the fact that the legislation would apply to federal territories only.
In 1996 the federal government proposed a Canada-wide agreement to the provincial and territorial ministers of the environment, the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk. In October 1996, the ministers responsible for wildlife gave agreement in principle.
At the time although the Quebec minister of the environment signed he issued an independent press release in which he made it clear he could not ignore the fact that the agreement would likely pave the way for overlap and that developments would have to be monitored very closely.
Members will tell me that it is a common event to have overlap between Quebec and the federal government. At that time, the provinces were very vocal in their criticism of the federal government for giving itself such broad powers on the protection of species.
Pollution and migration know no borders, so a concerted effort is required worldwide. Canada needs to better protect its species at risk.
To date, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, COSEWIC, has designated 340 species of wildlife in Canada as being at risk. Of that total, 12 are extinct, 15 others are extirpated in Canada, 87 are endangered, 75 threatened and 151 vulnerable.
With the increasing rate with which species are disappearing, the situation is serious. Effective action is therefore necessary. But has this bill really made a contribution to improving the protection of our ecosystem and of the endangered species in it?
Unfortunately the government and the minister are wrong about what their real role is in designing a realizable plan to provide such protection.
The government is but one of the many stakeholders, and it has not yet figured out that its true role is to build bridges between the various stakeholders, not walls. I must say that the federal government is far more interested in promising to build bridges when it is electioneering than in building bridges between stakeholders. It is extremely good at building walls, however. So that is what the true task of government is when it comes to endangered species, a task it has failed.
The bill on species at risk the Liberals have introduced will polarize and divide stakeholders much more than it will unite them.
Every action plan to protect species at risk must be based on respect, that is on respect for species living in our waters and our lands, and for those to whom they belong.
This bill is full of provisions providing discretionary power, to the point that, if it passes without amendment, it will be the weakest of its type in North America.
True to the Liberal style, Bill C-5 establishes officially the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada as the ultimate authority in determining endangered species.
At the same time the bill prevents this committee, which makes decisions based on scientific data, from determining which species are in fact protected by law. The committee determines which are the endangered species, but will not be allowed under the bill to take steps to protect these species and to draw up a list of them.
The day the bill becomes law, there will be no more endangered species in Canada, at least officially. Not one species at risk today will be protected under this legislation, until the minister has established his list.
The current list of species at risk, the product of 23 years of work by COSEWIC, will not be considered a given and will not be automatically included in the law. When is an endangered species an endangered species? When the minister so decides, it seems.
What threatens species most is the loss of their habitat, where they live, reproduce and feed. Habitat loss is responsible for 80% of species decline in Canada. Passing a law that does not protect habitat is really a waste of parliament's time. Again Bill C-5 fails in this regard.
I mention as an example an issue I raised this week about what the Canadian forces are doing right now in Lake Saint-Pierre, in Quebec. We know that the government is still thinking about cleaning up Lake Saint-Pierre, which would indeed come under federal jurisdiction.
Under the provisions of this bill a species will be protected at the discretion of the Minister of the Environment. Not only does the bill give broad discretionary powers to the Minister of the Environment, but it does not respect the division of powers as stated in the constitution and as interpreted over the years. This bill truly interferes in an area under provincial jurisdiction and excludes the provinces from any real and direct input into the process.
The main problem with this bill, which seems to be raised by all environmental groups, is the fact that the decisions on the designation of species will be taken by the minister and his cabinet, and not by scientists.
Considering the increasing rate of species extinction, the situation is serious. It is true that we must take effective measures, but does this bill really provide an additional protection that is enforceable? Will it really do something to improve the protection of our ecosystems and of the threatened species that are part of them? In our opinion the answer to these two questions is no.
In fact we are opposed to this bill because it constitutes yet another direct intrusion into many areas of Quebec's jurisdiction. It even overlaps the act passed by Quebec in 1989, which works just fine and has already had a significant impact in our province. The federal government is again engaging in overlapping.
The bill could very well increase paper burden, instead of allowing for an efficient use of already scarce resources. This is what the federal government is currently specializing in: creating paper burden, instead of respecting everyone's jurisdictions and working more efficiently with less money.
Moreover, what the federal government calls a double safety net, that is two levels of government operating in the same jurisdiction, waters down the accountability of both and seriously complicates the assignment of responsibilities.
In conclusion, we recognize the need to improve the protection of our ecosystems and the endangered plant and animal species that constitute them, but we do not believe Bill C-5 is the way to go.
The Bloc Quebecois is opposing the principle of this bill today. However, we will examine it more thoroughly in committee and we will then be able to better define our position on this issue.
Mr. Leon Benoit (Lakeland, Canadian Alliance): Madam Speaker, it is extremely important for me to speak today on this piece of legislation. It is certainly important to people in my constituency: farmers, ranchers, people in the oil and gas business, people who have cottages at lakes and even those living in towns who may run into serious problems in the ownership and use of their property through this legislation.
I owe it to those people, who supported me so well in the past election, to speak on their behalf.
I do not believe there is any party in the House that does not take seriously the issue of protecting species at risk, although I wonder why it has taken the government seven years to finally bring in the legislation. Of course, it has not passed yet and, I would suggest, should not pass without some serious amendments. However, we will work on that by offering some of our suggestions, which is what I am here to do today.
Speaking quite openly and honestly, I think every member in the House wants to protect species at risk and endangered species. That is not the issue. The issue is whether Bill C-5, the legislation presented by the government, will in fact do that.
I will approach the issue from two points of view and deal with two key parts of the legislation which would determine whether, as it is, it would protect even one species at risk or endangered species. I suggest that it will not. I will use evidence from other countries to back that up. However, I will not leave it at that. I will also offer a positive approach to fixing the bill so that it will work.
The first point I want to make concerns the issue of fair market value compensation. The second point concerns using a co-operative approach to saving species rather than a heavy-handed approach. As I go through those two points it will certainly show that the legislation can be changed to make it work.
I just want to read what the Canadian Alliance has to say about species at risk, endangered species and the environment generally. It is just a short statement. The Canadian Alliance says:
We are committed to protecting and preserving Canada's natural environment and endangered species, and to sustainable development of our abundant natural resources for the use of current and future generations.
Is that not what the endangered species legislation is supposed to be about?
The Canadian Alliance maintains that for any endangered species legislation to be effective it must respect the fundamental rights of private property owners.
That is the issue I will deal with first. I will approach it not only from the point of view that the legislation tramples on private property ownership rights but also that taking that approach will cause the legislation to fail. I believe it will cause it to fail to save even one species. I will use evidence to indicate that.
We are asking that if a piece of property, be it farmland, a cottage at the lake or a piece of commercial property being developed, is taken from someone in the name of protecting a species at risk, which in some cases makes sense and must be done, then compensation should be made at fair market value.
What principle could possibly lead the government to suggest that compensation be anything less than fair market value? It seems to me that most Canadians respect that as a value on which to base legislation.
If the use of property, be it a cottage at the lake or farmland, is curtailed in some way in the name of saving a habitat or a species at risk, then let it happen within reason. Let us ensure that compensation for the loss of the use of that property is at fair market value.
If the government would change the legislation and put in it clearly that compensation would be at fair market value, it would have gone a long way to making the legislation work.
I will look practically at a couple of things that are likely to happen and that have happened in other countries where legislation has not offered fair market value compensation. I would like everyone to think of a farmer, for example, who has a piece of property where a habitat for a species at risk is found. The farmer loses part of the property or the use of part of it without fair compensation.
If farmers or ranchers know that if a species at risk is found on their property they will lose the property or the use or benefit of it without fair market value compensation, what are they likely to do? I suggest they would do everything they could to ensure the species or habitat was never found. Does a piece of legislation that would lead to this type of action sound productive? I suggest it is not. That is why it must be changed.
The legislation must be amended to have a guarantee of fair market value compensation. A farmer, rancher or someone who owns a cottage at the lake will respect and protect species if they know the legislation ensures compensation at fair market value. That is a fundamental issue which is key to making the legislation work.
If the government continues to push the legislation through without making that amendment, then it will fail. We can point to examples in the United States. A lot of Americans and Canadians are shocked that this government has tailored its legislation to the American endangered species legislation.
I will use a couple of quotes. The first is about the American endangered species act. It is by Bruce Vincent, president of Alliance for America, and he cares about protecting endangered species. He said:
We've watched in horror as Canada tries to replicate the mistakes we've made down here.
That is from an American on his shock that Canada is using as a model American legislation which has failed miserably.
The next quote is from the U.S. National Wilderness Institute. It said:
Though unmeasured, the costs of implementing the Act as currently written are in the multi-billions, yet in over twenty years not a single endangered species has legitimately been recovered and delisted as a result of the Endangered Species Act.
That quote is from the U.S. National Wilderness Institute. It cares about protecting wilderness and species.
Clearly, they understand that the American legislation will not work. They also understand that the Canadian legislation, which is modelled after the American legislation, simply will not work.
What I am doing today is offering suggestions that would change the legislation to make it work. That is the bottom line and it is what all of us want here. We want legislation which will work to protect endangered species. These changes will help that.
Let us start by ensuring in legislation fair market value compensation for property loss or for property where the benefit is lost. That is the first fundamental principle that is not respected in the legislation and which must be respected.
Second, a far more effective type of species at risk legislation would be one that used a co-operative approach rather than the heavy-handed approach the government has used.
I will refer to a few examples from around the world where co-operative approaches have worked. In western Canada, we have Operation Burrowing Owl, a voluntary operation that does not take a heavy-handed approach. Ranchers and farmers across Saskatchewan and parts of Alberta have voluntarily and willingly participated in the operation because they care about the environment and about protecting endangered species.
About 500 farmers have agreed to have their land kept in a state that will protect the habitat of the burrowing owl. That is a co-operative way of ensuring we save species at risk. It works. This legislation will not work.
A second example is the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. Whether these species are at risk or not, the principle works the same. It is a co-operative way where people across North America have protected habitat or waterfowl using the voluntary approach. It is extremely effective.
Ducks Unlimited has proven that its program works and works well. I have not heard much complaining from farmers who have been asked to take part. They willingly take part. There is compensation involved. It works because it is co-operative and because they care about species at risk.
Putting in place a piece of legislation that encourages and allows a voluntary approach will cause species to be saved, which is the bottom line.
One more category of voluntary approach that works involves private ownership of property. Private groups and individuals have taken initiatives, that are allowed under their legislation, that have really worked. The first is in limited areas of Alabama and Florida where private groups and individuals can create their own reefs. Because it is a private thing, guess what? It really does protect and develop the reef habitat, and it has been extremely effective.
There are lists of examples of voluntary approaches from almost every continent. I do not know of any from Antarctica but I know of them from every other continent, and they work.
In 1980, land was purchased by a privately owned nature conservancy in California to form the Kern River Preserve. This preserve harbours one of the rarest ecosystems: a riparian habitat with a number of rare wildlife species dependent on riparian forests. The managers of the preserve have worked to develop the trust of neighbouring landowners. They do not enforce or use the heavy hand of the law. They do not say that they will take away property without fair market value compensation. They have worked to gain the trust of neighbouring landowners to make the project work and it has worked. Species have been saved.
In spite of this fact, in spite of this evidence and in spite of the government knowing this evidence, has it altered this legislation to include these two important issues?
The first issue deals with compensation of fair market value, not just some broad statement that there may be compensation at some level. That is no comfort to someone who may have their property taken away or the use of it denied.
The second issue is the use of a co-operative approach without the heavy hand of the law hanging over them. I would suggest that if the government were to focus this legislation more on these two areas it would work.
Evidence from other countries around the world shows that this type of legislation will not work. In the name of protecting species at risk, I ask the government to amend the legislation to include the two important points I brought up today.
I am proud and happy to speak on behalf of my constituents and other people right across Canada whom I have heard from over the past five years, since I have been dealing with government legislation to protect endangered species. I am proud to stand on their behalf to propose these changes which will lead to the protection of endangered species and species at risk right across Canada.
Mr. Ken Epp (Elk Island, Canadian Alliance): Madam Speaker, I am delighted to enter into this debate on behalf of my constituents in Elk Island. As the House knows I have a number of people in my area who are very interested in this legislation. Most of the concerns expressed to me deal with some of the things which my colleagues have already mentioned.
I remember growing up on a farm in Saskatchewan where we had the delight of having a dugout right in our yard. When I was a kid preserving water was one of the greatest things. With the dugout came all sorts of different animals such as birds, ducks and occasionally some geese. They would live right in our yard and we enjoyed them so much.
I should point out, in terms of a personal commitment, that my dad, my brother and I were always very careful not to interfere with the lives of these animals unless they declared war on us, which they did occasionally. For example, we had an ongoing war with rats which caused a lot of damage to our buildings, grain storage bins and so on. I know that when we buy a loaf of bread we do not want it to be infested with rat droppings and other things like that, so we had to take measures to fight them varmints.
There were other animals which gave us a lot of pleasure like the ducks that swam around on our pond. We watched mother duck raise her little ones.
On occasion we would accidentally disturb or sometimes even destroy, what is called under Bill C-5, the natural habitat of birds. We never did that deliberately. Whenever we saw a nest we would drive around it even though it meant perhaps not seeding that portion of the field. Sometimes we were not aware of it until we had driven over it and then it was too late. There was nothing we could do about it.
In Bill C-5 when that happens to a farmer maybe the penalty given to them will take into account the fact that there was nothing the farmer could have reasonably done to prevent such a loss. Yet the farmers in my area are very concerned that they may be subject to prosecution if they make an error like that.
My wife and I now live on an acreage east of Sherwood Park. I had a very interesting experience a couple of years ago. I was cutting my lawn with my little garden tractor. We have about an acre of lawn so it is a nice, fun project. I was driving along and I noticed this killdeer running around. I am aware that when a killdeer has a nest in the ground the mother does everything possible to try to distract a person away from it. If we are walking and that mother runs in that direction, we know that the nest is somewhere behind her.
I did everything possible to see whether I could find the nest before I proceeded to cut the grass. I could not find it. Eventually, I drove over it. Fortunately, I perfectly straddled it with the wheels of the tractor so that the nest was left undisturbed. Once I was able to determine where it was, it was protected until those little babies grew up and left home.
That is just the way we westerners are. We do not deliberately go out and kill animals whether they are endangered or not. For the Liberal government to bring down heavy-handed legislation which threatens all sorts of penalties and jail sentences to a farmer is really very offensive. We voluntarily do everything possible to prevent that, as I have indicated from my own personal experience.
However is there need for some legislation? I suppose there is. There are some who would deliberately destroy the lives of endangered species. Perhaps some restraints for them is a legitimate process of legislation, and I am not against that. However, the legislation should specifically say that if a specific move is made to destroy that life, then there should be penalties. We are very concerned about the application of the laws as they are going to be used.
Just as a little aside, where we live there is a lake with some exotic ducks. I have forgotten their name. Every year we have observers from all over North America who come and set up their little booths to watch this particular breed of duck. It is a very special thing. We enjoy the visitors, especially from the United States.
One day my wife and I were sitting at the kitchen table looking out on our backyard. There were probably 250 or 300 Canada geese that landed just right behind our house. It is one of their staging areas in their annual migrations. We saw a coyote coming out of the trees. It was very fascinating to watch. He put his tail way down and sort of slunk along because he was having goose for breakfast that day.
When he got close, he was not aware that every time there is a flock of geese, there are always two, three or more scouts out there while the others are busy looking for something to eat. There are always some geese with their heads up. They are looking and watching to see if anything is coming toward them. When he was probably about 15 to 20 metres away from the geese, somehow they must have given a signal and they all took off. It was so fascinating to see the coyote sitting there on his hind legs looking up and watching his breakfast disappear into the sky.
My wife was cheering for the geese. I, of course, was lamenting the coyote who was going hungry. We really enjoy wildlife in that way. It is definitely worth preserving. It is a policy with which we agree.
Coming back to the issue of rights and property, we want to let it go to committee so that the committee can deal with these things and bring in the amendments. We talked about amendments regarding the definition of endangered species and taking the politics out of that definition. Some of my colleagues have spoken about some of the other issues.
I want to talk specifically for a few minutes now about the right to own property. This is one of the high points of the Canadian Alliance policy. We believe that we should have assured in our charter of rights the right to own and enjoy personal property. That is not given to us in our present charter of rights and is something which the Liberal government seems dead set against because it means it would lose control over every citizen's life, if it could ever stop controlling every little thing that someone does.
I always thought it was an oxymoron or at least a contradiction in terms that the Liberals use the word liberal because it comes from the same root word that I think means liberation, freedom and liberty. Yet the Liberal government is more intent on controlling every aspect of our lives than any other government. It is a contradiction in terms.
I speak now on behalf of a number of residents in my riding who have expressed their concern with respect to compensation. They say that if portions of their land, where they make their livings, very meagrely these days I might add, have to be taken out of production, surely they should be entitled to full compensation for it. Bill C-5 does not permit that.
Bill C-5 says if their loss is more than 10%, it would be considered, but they would only get up to 50% of that. Which one of the Liberal members would accept it if someone came to his or her house and said the going value of the house was $200,000 but he or she would be given $100,000 for it. It was not a matter of take it or leave it, the member had to take it. There was no option. This is what is being offered to farmers for their property, their land and their source of livelihood. That is not good enough.
This has nothing to do about animals but it is about the government confiscating property. I remember when I was a kid on the farm. The government came along and said it was going to put a high tension power line through the property. The government actually said this to my brother who farms in Saskatchewan. There was this big dual pole property line and the soil was sterilized for about 30 metres in diameter from each pole, probably even more, diagonally across a field.
My brother had to work his machinery around those posts, and all that land was taken out of production. He did not get a fair value for the land nor for the production.
One of the big issues right now is that farmland is almost being given away because of the depression in the agricultural industry. If land which usually sells for $500 or $600 an acre is now selling for $200 because of this temporary, we hope, depression in the agricultural industry, what is fair market value? According to the bill, if we take half of it we are down to $100 an acre. That is not acceptable. That must be amended. I for one am going to vote against the bill, unless there is an amendment.
I could go on longer but I am going to terminate my speech out of deference for my colleagues who also wish to add some comments on the bill.
Mr. Myron Thompson (Wild Rose, Canadian Alliance): Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to have the time to speak on this issue. I will be sharing my time with the member for Medicine Hat.
I would like to take this opportunity, as it is my first chance to speak in the House of Commons since the election, to thank my constituents of Wild Rose for their overwhelming support by returning me to this place. I certainly appreciate their strong support. My appreciation for the Wild Rose people is certainly a good opening for the speech which I am about to make on endangered species.
As I looked through the constituency polls throughout most of Alberta, and particularly Wild Rose, the counts for the Liberal government were very low, so I can see why it would be anxious to get some kind of endangered species act in place. I can assure the hon. members across the way that if they are looking for more support in the west, they had better not even think about passing a bill of this nature. They must recognize those individuals who work hard and produce all kinds of good things for the nation. They work very hard to look after our environment, to look after our wildlife, and to look after the many things the bill is supposed to be addressing. For their own initiatives they should receive a lot of applause from that side of the House.
It is absolutely abhorrent the government introduces legislation that suddenly indicates to these same people that they are criminals if they do not shape up and follow the legislation. How in the world could it come up with legislation that points the finger at individuals who have worked hard all their lives protecting wildlife and endangered species and say that they are the people it will go after if they do not follow the Liberal law?
I do not know why the government left property rights out of the charter of rights. I have no idea. It is a disgrace that it did. It would be very beneficial if the House would consider some kind of legislation or amendment to get property rights back into a national constitution in some manner. Seeing it is not there, we have to do everything we can to protect these individuals from draconian legislation that simply says “obey us or become criminals”.
I immigrated to Canada some 30 years ago having spent a lot of time in the western part of the United States where I was born and raised. I saw legislation go through various governments there that was very similar to what I am holding in my hand today.
Each summer I have a chance to visit some of my relatives and friends in the United States I notice that various chunks of land are held in reserve under land management of the state of Idaho, the state of Wyoming or other states.
All this land used to be privately owned productive land. Some of the people who owned it and produced on it for years were friends of mine. They were removed from the property and were never compensated. After all the years of working their property, they are gone. They do not own it. It is now under land management of a particular state, the government, and they received no compensation. That is a devastating move to make.
What has happened as a result of that kind of legislation? Those who remained in ranching, farming and doing whatever they could to make a living, have adopted their own policy. It is called shoot, shovel and shut up. In other words, they do not worry any more about endangered species because the government will attack them if they announce that they need some assistance in helping to protect a certain species.
Out of fear alone they simply will not disclose any information to the authorities indicating that there might be a need for some good scientific work to preserve some species at risk. That is what that kind of legislation leads to.
Living in the little town of Sundre in the foothills of Alberta, I cannot say what a joy it is to go around that particular neck of the woods. I never know on any day what I might enjoy seeing in terms of wildlife or flocks of certain species. In our home one night my wife and I heard a rumbling in the furnace. We thought a mouse could have been caught in there. The next day we decided we should get brave enough to get at the furnace to see if we could get this mouse out.
An hon. member: I hope it was not a skunk.
Mr. Myron Thompson: Yes, we hoped it was not a skunk or something, but the noise kept going on during the night. The next morning when we got up we began to take the furnace apart, piece by piece, so we could locate the noise.
It so happened a bird got down our chimney, ended up in the furnace and fluttered around all night trying to get out. I did not realize it was a bird until I finally opened up the right area. It immediately flew out over my head and shoulders and enjoyed flying around our house for the next half hour as we attempted to get it outside. To this day we have no idea what kind of bird it was. I had not seen a bird like that for a long time. It was not covered with soot or anything and it was certainly an interesting beast.
I am wondering if I had called the government to help me in that situation whether I would have been charged for endangering the life of an endangered species. We thought it was a mouse and we were tempted to put poison in there to get rid of it.
My point is this. People in Canada, people in the land where I live, Alberta, really and truly enjoy wildlife and really and truly enjoy living in the foothills, where we never know from day to day what we might encounter. They certainly do not need legislation and direction from the mighty powers in the ivory towers of Ottawa on how to maintain their land and how to look after the kinds of things that we are talking about today.
Instead, the government will force through legislation that will make criminals out of good, honest people who love wildlife and who love this country. Once again the Liberals will go way down in the polls, and if I am fortunate enough to run again I am sure I will get an even bigger majority, so maybe I should thank the government for this kind of stupid legislation. In the meantime, welcome to Canada, the land of shoot, shovel and shut up.
Mr. Monte Solberg (Medicine Hat, Canadian Alliance): Madam Speaker, it is a real pleasure to rise today to address the legislation. I wish to begin by acknowledging the efforts of some people in my riding who have really done a lot to draw attention to the problems with this piece of legislation. They represent the Brooks and District Chamber of Commerce and brought forward a resolution dealing with concerns over the government's endangered species legislation to their Alberta chamber and ultimately to the Canadian chamber.
I would like to mention some of them by name: John Nesbitt, Mara Nesbitt, Don Bruce, John Petrie, Clint Hendrickson and Terry Magnussen. They have all served on the board of the Brooks and District Chamber of Commerce and have really worked hard to try to improve the bill. At one point I believe they even had a meeting with the minister and urged him to consider some of the things that were just mentioned by my friend from Wild Rose and by others who have spoken today.
One of the things that concerns me most is the government's know-it-all attitude. For 100 years, people in Alberta have settled the land and have gone out of their way to protect the environment. I just cannot emphasize that enough. My friends have referred to that, but I want to say it again.
When one drives through our part of southern Alberta, one see a lot of farms and ranches. Invariably on those farms and ranches one can see where farmers have put up shelter belts, where animals now have habitat, and one can see, especially in my part of the world, a lot of irrigation. That irrigation ends up creating all kinds of habitat on the corners of fields. We see sloughs which would not otherwise exist that are full of cattails and full of pheasant and the animals that feed on pheasant, such as coyotes and all kinds of foxes. There are a lot of foxes coming back into the area.
People want to preserve that. They like the wildlife just as much as the people do in the big cities and in those parts of the world that will not be as heavily affected by the legislation as the people in the rural areas will be. It is critical the people understand that.
We have a number of Ducks Unlimited projects in the area where I live. Every year at the Brooks Ducks Unlimited dinner, $70,000 is raised by auctioning prints and all kinds of different donated items. It has created an unbelievable string of sloughs, or marshes which is the term people here use, that go for miles through our part of the world. As a result, deer and antelope have access to water. There are all kinds of ducks, geese, muskrat and beaver that are able to enjoy that as habitat. That is something people voluntarily do.
We have a program called Operation Burrowing Owl. We preserve pieces of land voluntarily so that burrowing owls have a place to establish a habitat.
My point is that for many years people in Alberta, and certainly in my area, have gone out of their way to protect habitat. What bothers me is that, although there have been consultations this time, the minister was not listening. The fact that these groups went out of their way to protect this habitat is simply not reflected in the legislation.
The other element that is critical to people is the issue of compensation. According to one report that was requested by the minister, there was a suggestion that the government should pay a compensation of up to 50% of the losses for people who would have their land set aside for habitat. Fifty per cent is absolute theft.
What happens when it is the law makers who break the law? There is a natural law that should guide this country which says that if we take something from somebody then we pay them full compensation, not half. We are in a situation where the government is effectively saying that it is going to take people's livelihood.
I want to remind people that, while we are having a debate in this place, farmers are going through one of the roughest periods in their history. It is a terrible time, where they are struggling to make it.
The government is adding insult to injury by saying to the farmers, as they struggle with some of the lowest commodity prices in history, that it will be putting in place legislation that would limit the compensation they get to half of what they actually deserve, according to fair market value. That is ridiculous. It leads to the sort of consequences my friend mentioned a minute ago, where farmers will say that if it comes down to their survival or the survival of these animals, then these animals will have to go. We then get this perverse situation where we get completely the opposite results of what was intended.
I will wrap up by acknowledging the work of people in my riding who have done so much. There are many cattlemen in the riding who have gone to great lengths to point out some of the flaws. Tom Livingstone who is a cattleman has pointed out some of the problems. I would urge the government at this point to consider some of the things that have been raised and not push this forward over the objections of the people who actually have to live with it.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): Is the House ready for the question?
Some hon. members: Question.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Some hon. members: No.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.
Some hon. members: Yea.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): All those opposed will please say nay.
Some hon. members: Nay.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): In my opinion the nays have it.
And more than five members having risen:
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): Pursuant to Standing Order 45, the recorded division on the motion stands deferred until the usual time of adjournment on Monday, April 19.
Mr. Jacques Saada: Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Discussions have taken place between all parties and there is an agreement pursuant to Standing Order 45(7) to further defer the recorded division requested on second reading of Bill C-5 until the end of government orders on Tuesday, March 20.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): Is that agreed?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): It being 1.30 p.m., the House will now proceed to consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.
PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
Mr. Randy White (Langley—Abbotsford, Canadian Alliance) moved that Bill C-240, an act to amend the Criminal Code (prohibiting certain offenders from changing their name), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
He said: Madam Speaker, Bill C-240 would prohibit serious offenders from changing their names, provided of course that they get direction from the courts.
One would wonder why on earth this is a particular issue. It is unfortunate, by the way, that the bill is not votable because I do believe it would pass. I guess the issue of private members' business not being votable and yet being debated is a subject for another day. What the final outcome of that will be, I will never know.
The reason this issue has been raised for several years now, in fact for about eight years, is that I have been working with people throughout the country, starting with a lady by the name of Rosie in Windsor, Ontario, who was assaulted by an individual and left for dead. The individual was put in prison. He promptly changed his name and all his ID. He was released from prison, unbeknownst to her. She was not told anything. He came back to town with a new driver's licence, new ID, new everything, and began once again to stalk her.
I looked at that situation with her and found it to be accurate and true. When I made a bit of noise about it in the House of Commons, a number of letters started to trickle in about similar circumstances. Then lots of letters started to come in, so I did a fairly intensive bit of research and found that it was actually becoming common practice in the country. My findings show that the people who are doing it more often than not are sex offenders.
Next week I will be making a national presentation on all individuals who will be eligible next year for section 745 early release. They are first degree murderers looking for the old faint hope clause. We have done a fair bit of research on it, as we have every other year since the beginning. I find from looking at the first page of the list that two of the four people have applied for name changes in anticipation of moving into our society again.
One of them is Darren Andrew Kelly, a.k.a. Ryan Scott Brady. Anybody who knows about this fellow knows he is one dude who should not be out on our streets, much less have a name change and the opportunity to have his identity hidden while he is out in our subdivisions and communities. He is serving a life sentence for the rape and murder of a three year old girl in Sechelt. The girl was abducted from a motel room, molested and then murdered. Kelly is also considered to be the person responsible for the beating death of young Aaron Kaplan of Vancouver. Kelly is believed to have also molested the Kaplan boy before killing him by bludgeoning him about the head and chest with a 40 pound chunk of concrete. He sought the name change while in prison in Saskatchewan.
I sincerely hope that the individual who is no doubt going to speak against this from the Liberal side does not rag on isolated incidents and look for the extreme cases. I can assure the other side that is not the case. I have list upon list of all of these individuals, or many of them. In fact, I could not spend enough time tracking all these people down because there were so many of them. Suffice it to say that some of Canada's worst sex offenders, oftentimes not murderers but serious sex offenders who have done all sorts of things, are on this list.
I want to talk about Robert Gordon Stevens. The logic in this case is absolutely beyond me. Robert Gordon Stevens was a very serious sex offender who abused children. He went to prison. He met a fellow in another prison who was also a serious sex offender and who had changed his name from Willoughby to Oatway. Stevens and Willoughby-Oatway met in another prison and had themselves a little arranged matrimonial ceremony while in prison. Stevens then changed his name to Oatway, which meant that Robert Gordon Stevens became Bobby Gordon Oatway and Willoughby was also named Oatway. Bobby Oatway is the result of this. Bobby left prison and admitted to the public that not only was he a serious sex offender, a well known fact in British Columbia, but also that he was in his crime cycle.
A lot of things happened and he moved back in, but while we were dealing with this issue under the name of Bobby Oatway I had a call from a lady in Quesnel who said she did not think he was Bobby Oatway. She said that she had been one of his victims and his name was Gordon Stevens. We traced it and found out what had happened.
It is far too easy for serious sex offenders to hide in our society as it is, much less to allow serious offenders to change their names while in prison, while in the custody of Canada.
The bill makes provision for the courts to disallow individuals, where the circumstances involve serious crime, from changing their names or hiding their identities for a certain period. That way we can give some assurance to the public that if these offenders are out in public they are at least not disappearing as easily as the present kinds of technicalities allow.
I hope that some day the bill will come to the House of Commons and be voted on, because I find it passing strange in this country and in the House of Commons that the bill would not be passed and that we are having a change of heart on the national sex offender registry as well. The government says yes, it will develop a registry, but then says it already has one, which is not the case.
An hon. member: That's not what the police say.
Mr. Randy White: It is not what 30,000 police say. It is not what virtually everyone in the country says.
By now we have hundreds if not thousands of letters that say we need a national sex offender registry. We need to register the people. We need to have them mandated to report. We need to give them penalties if they do not report. They need to report in person. Deterrents need to be added. The public needs to know where these people are. What makes it doubly difficult is the system itself allowing them to change their names while in prison. The system has a difficult time tracking them.
Time and time again I have heard of cases. I will mention a couple to the House. In one case, a convicted murderer who was sentenced to 15 years in prison changed his name to Michael Francis Blais. In another case, that of Robert Noyes, who was a very violent sex offender in British Columbia, I got a call from a parole board person who said that this offender had changed his name. I was told that I could not get his name because someone else might find out. After getting off the phone I telephoned the prison and was told that it was private information. No one could tell me.
Come on, I said. This guy had sexually assaulted many children. He was a teacher. If he changed his name and went to another province—which he did—what was to prevent him from leaving prison in B.C., changing his name and address, getting a new driver's licence, changing his name on his teaching certificate and, using a bit of jargon used in the teaching discipline, getting on as a substitute teacher in a new community, getting seniority and getting back into the classroom?
If hon. members think this is some kind of fearmongering, it is not. This is what these individuals do. This fellow preyed on children in the classroom. It is not above and beyond the mindset of these individuals to do such a thing.
The situation now is not a punishment for these individuals. It is yet another situation whereby individuals go into a courtroom or a prison and basically nothing is done to prevent another occurrence of the situation. In fact, the system aids and abets it.
What I am asking for in this bill is a bit of common sense. Not only do we need a sex offender registry, but we also need the ability, at the discretion of the courts, to prevent serious offenders from changing their names while in prison. I am not saying it should apply to everybody. Everybody has different circumstances. However, surely in Willoughby's case and Gordon Stevens' case it applies. I know some of Stevens' victims rather well. They were chained to logs in his basement, and he charged a fee for people to sexually assault these children. This is the kind of individual who is changing his name.
I just do not think that allowing people to change their names is a very good idea and neither do the many people I have worked with. In fact, they are watching this today and hoping that there is some kind of reasoning from the other side, that the government will take a second look at this and maybe bring it back to the House for a vote.
Jamie Munro changed his name. He, along with his brother, is a convicted killer of police officer Michael Sweet. He served 12 years, was released on parole and legally changed his name. Peter Patrick Bender changed his name to Peter Asher. He has a long history of convictions dating back to 1979. He was also convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to life in prison, but applied for a section 745. The hearing is coming up now.
Changing names is as common as walking into a parole board hearing, which I have done many times, and hearing the same four things from prisoners. Virtually every time one attends a parole board hearing, one hears the same four things. A guy walks into the room and says, one, he has found Jesus, two, he has a woman, three, he is sorry for what he did, and four, he has taken some courses in prison and now wants to get out. They get this ability from inside the system. When questions start coming from parole board members, they go into meltdown because they really do not know what they are saying and they really do not know how to persuade or convince somebody of those statements.
However, the word gets out to sex offenders in prison that if they are getting out they are going to be watched, so for everything to be copacetic they should change their names, their IDs, their addresses and everything else. They can become obscure and live in a house beside someone and everything will be copacetic.
The problem is that when children or women are re-offended by an individual who has gone through all that, it is because we have permitted, aided and abetted it in our system.
Since the government will not allow this to be votable and since this will not become law here for at least four years, I ask government members to reconsider what I said. I also ask them not to stand and degrade the situation by saying that it is some kind of erratic response to an isolated incident. I assure members opposite that it is not isolated. It is in fact becoming commonplace.
With the number of sexual offences on the rise, we must do everything we can, not only in our courtrooms and with a sex offender registry, but we must also convince judges to do everything in their power to prevent the reccurrence of crime. All of us know that sex offenders are the most difficult, if not impossible, to rehabilitate and get ready for the street.
Mr. Lynn Myers (Parliamentary Secretary to Solicitor General of Canada, Lib.): Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak today to private member's bill, Bill C-240, respecting the rights of offenders to legally change their names.
The ability to propose measures that are not among the government's priorities is an important element of parliament, one that can from time to time lead to constructive changes that have been hoped for. The government is open to suggestions from those who sincerely believe they are proposing positive and significant changes.
In this case, the sponsor of the bill has brought an idea to the wrong legislative body. The process and the policies that govern legal name changes reside within the mandates of the provincial governments. Each province has an official registrar or equivalent that grants or denies name changes and registers these changes in official records. The federal government does not have jurisdiction in this area.
That said, I think the goals of the bill are of interest to all members of the House. We all would agree that the need to keep track of convicted offenders is an integral part of the public safety equation on which the government stands firm. It is especially a concern if an offender changes his or her name in an attempt to hide from authorities.
It is of course critically important that government and police agencies across the country have the ability to track offenders released from our penal institutions. That cannot be overemphasized, and the government stands firm in its resolve to ensure that is the case. That is precisely why the government has invested in important and useful tools to keep track of offenders.
We need only look at the Canadian Police Information Centre, CPIC, and the national DNA databank as examples. The Canadian government has a national database containing information on all individuals who have been convicted of an indictable offence in Canada. It includes birth names, names chosen later in life, aliases and any other pertinent information with respect to the individual.
That database is called CPIC and it is maintained by our national police force, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. It is available to all police agencies across Canada. I can assure this House that CPIC has been a national success story in law enforcement since it first began operation in 1972. We continue to provide the necessary resources and tools, and it has become the envy of police forces around the world.
Let me tell the House why. CPIC is the primary tool used to identify suspects, to access outstanding warrants and restraining orders, to screen out sex offenders from jobs involving contact with children and to flag files of dangerous offenders. It is a database that serves over 60,000 law enforcement officers in each province and territory and it handles over 100 million queries from 15,000 points of access.
CPIC is linked to over 400 criminal justice agencies in Canada as well as internationally, and the government has committed millions of dollars to upgrade and renew CPIC to ensure it remains a valuable resource, which it is.
The government has also put in place another mechanism to identify some of Canada's most serious and repeat offenders: the national DNA databank. This is a tool that has, in my view and in the view of the government, revolutionized the way police work is done in Canada today. It is already proving to be a very valuable tool with respect to public safety.
The DNA databank is maintained by the RCMP. It contains a crime scene index that includes DNA profiles from unsolved crime scenes as well as a convicted offenders index containing DNA profiles from serious and repeat offenders. It has been in place since last June as a result of the wisdom and foresight of our government. It has already had an unprecedented number of matches between crime scenes and convicted offenders and it is helping police conduct their investigations more effectively and efficiently.
As you can see, Madam Speaker, the national DNA bank is yet another example of how the government is keeping tabs on criminals.
My point, and the reason the government has invested in these tools, is simple. Because of leading edge technology at our disposal, like CPIC and the DNA databank, we effectively keep track of offenders in a number of ways and not only through their names. We also use fingerprints and even their DNA. We do not, I repeat, do not, simply rely on criminals to tell us their proper names. That would be pretty naive.
The reality for criminals in Canada is that they can run but they cannot hide. This is especially important for victims of crime. I can assure you, Madam Speaker, and all members in the House, indeed, all Canadians, that it is the victims who are our first concern.
I have an enormous amount of sympathy for victims. I worked with them when I was chair of the Waterloo Regional Police Service and I can tell members that because victims are involved in our criminal justice system through no fault of their own, we should be there for them. While it is true that many wish to hear nothing further from their perpetrators, there are also countless victims who wish to be kept informed of what happens to offenders once they enter a federal penitentiary. In those cases, then, victims are most certainly brought into the process by Correctional Service Canada as well as the National Parole Board. Each of these agencies has active victim outreach programs which, upon the victim's request, provide information about the location of the offender, upcoming hearings, transfers, conditional release dates and other details.
It is important to realize that the agencies within the criminal justice system also talk to each other. Correctional Service Canada, for example, and the National Parole Board work closely with the RCMP to provide information that is relevant, important and of interest to the CPIC people.
It is the practice of Correctional Service Canada to provide information in each instance where an offender succeeds in formally changing his or her name. What that means is that all authorities who have a key role to play in the administration of an offender's sentence have access to information about the offender which is continually updated with important information the police authorities need to know.
On the other side of the issue are those offenders who make an effort to rehabilitate themselves and who want to put their troubled pasts behind them. These are the offenders who participate in programs that are available to them in the criminal justice system. These are the offenders who participate in mental health programs, literacy programs and educational opportunities. These are the offenders who try to make, and hopefully do make, an honest effort to put their pasts behind them, move on to a new and law abiding life and reintegrate into society.
I speak of the majority of offenders when I mention those people. Upon their return to the community some of these individuals seek anonymity to break the ties with their past so that they can make a fresh start. Regardless, the appropriate authorities still have a record of those people.
It is important to realize that even if offenders succeed in changing their names through a provincial government registry, that information is added to our existing federal government databases. The information is maintained by our national police force and shared with local police services across Canada.
In conclusion, it is my belief and the belief of the government that with the DNA databank, CPIC and the co-operation of the RCMP and municipal and provincial police services across this great country, we already have the tools to ensure these efforts are maintained in a positive way.
I point out again, as I did at the beginning, that it is beyond the jurisdiction of parliament to deal with this issue. For those reasons, then, I do not support Bill C-240 and I ask all hon. members in the House to do the same.
Mr. Réal Ménard (Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, BQ): Madam Speaker, I thank the previous speaker for his foray into the language of Molière and assure him it is always appreciated on this side of the House.
I do not think we can support the bill introduced by my colleague although we acknowledge the worthiness of the concerns he has shared with us today.
We think all Canadian parliamentarians are concerned about public safety and want us to live in a society where those who represent a threat to public safety or may be sexual offenders or may commit other types of offences punishable under the criminal code may be known to the police. We think that the means proposed by this bill do not go far enough.
Let us begin by saying that the sponsor of the bill spoke as if the bill was to apply just to sex offenders, when the bill clearly provides that it applies equally to people who have committed first or second degree murder.
It seems to me there are fairly significant distinctions to be made between the ability of someone who has committed second degree murder to be rehabilitated and that of someone known nationally as a sexual predator.
I think that in the bill, as section 727.1 appears, this difference is not very clear.
Second, the identity of the criminals covered by the bill cannot be sanctioned or the subject of interventions by this House, since the various civil registers are not under federal jurisdiction. It would be difficult, through a change to the criminal code, to ask the courts of justice to be responsible for this application.
In Quebec, for example, the provisions on name changes would be found in the civil code. It is hard to imagine how we could reconcile having a common law court apply the criminal code and a judge issue orders relating to the civil code.
What I find disturbing in a bill like this one is that, in a way—and the sponsor of the bill mentioned this several times—it is as if the rehabilitation of people who have been found guilty of criminal offences is simply not possible.
Let me give an example to illustrate my point. In my riding office in Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, I met a 17 year old who comes from a dysfunctional family. His mother had remarried to a man who beat her up and who displayed extremely violent behaviour. This young man killed his stepfather.
I believe he had turned 18 when he committed that murder. This makes it first degree murder. He killed the man because he was living in a home where family violence prevailed. He claimed he did it to protect his mother.
Of course, there can be no excuse for such an action. But with a bill like this one, this young fellow citizen is in jail for 10 years. If he becomes eligible for parole after serving 10 years, he will then be 28. He will not even have lived one-third of his life and he may well want to reintegrate society.
The member who sponsored the bill would have us believe that people who are incarcerated are not required to undergo any sort of rehabilitation program. I believe that it is comments such as these that show that our Canadian Alliance colleagues lack the judgment we are entitled to expect from parliamentarians.
They must know—particularly with respect to Quebec, but I have been told that this is true in the case of other provinces—that those who are incarcerated are periodically evaluated. And programs exist to help them develop their social and behavioural skills.
The various federal penitentiaries offer a cognitive skills training program, a living skills program, and a sex offenders program. There are therefore a number of programs to help individuals try to improve.
Do these programs produce results in all cases? Of course not. Some people are offenders through and through. It is in their genes and they will never change. It is the role of the government and of legislators to ensure that these people do not come into contact with the public.
The bill, as drafted, is much too general. Interpreting it would pose quite a challenge for judges and it does not go into the detail we are entitled to expect.
If I follow the bill's logic, my constituent who, at the age of 18, killed his stepfather in the circumstances I recounted, would not be eligible to change his name. I do not think this would be desirable in his case. It is possible for someone to have made mistakes in one's life and to be rehabilitated. It is possible to have committed first or second degree murder and subsequently become a good citizen.
In this connection I am not sure that the right means are being taken to attain this most desirable objective. I do not, I repeat, want to see sexual predators or serial killers moving about freely in my riding of Hochelaga—Maisonneuve any more than the hon. member wants them in Ahuntsic. That is obvious.
It is a long jump from that to asking us as parliamentarians to pass a bill that would provide the courts with an interpretative framework that disregards the constitution. This creates difficulties. It is not possible for a court of justice, which has to reach a decision on an offence covered by the criminal code, to make interpretations relating to the identity of individuals since that involves provincial civil records.
Next month the Minister of Justice will be introducing a bill that will review the important provisions on organized crime and the criminal code. If I had one well-meaning criticism to make of my colleagues in the Canadian Alliance, it would be that they do not always differentiate between criminals in general and the worst type of criminals.
Take for example Mom Boucher, the leader of the Hell's Angels, whose stomping grounds were my riding of Hochelaga—Maisonneuve. I have no hopes that he will be rehabilitated now that he is behind bars. I hope that we, as parliamentarians, will bring more severe provisions into the criminal code so that it will be unlawful to even be an ordinary member of any of the 38 motorcycle gangs known to the RCMP and to the criminal intelligence service.
I am not prepared to support a bill providing that a person found guilty of first degree murder, under the circumstances I have mentioned, is to automatically be denied an identity change.
In a debate on criminal law, rehabilitation and protection in society, there are nuances to be made. Unfortunately, things are not always as black or white as members of the Alliance would have us believe sometimes.
Once again, I am sure than our colleague, the sponsor of this bill, is motivated by the very noble reason of public safety, but I am not sure that the means and the route he advocates are the right ones.
I would like to quote statistics which, I think will illustrate my remarks once more. We know how the parole system works. Eligibility for parole does not come automatically. When sentencing provides for the possibility of parole, it comes after 25 years if a life sentence is involved, and after one-sixth of the sentence has been served in other cases.
Madam Speaker, I know that these concepts are familiar to you because you have served as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice.
In conclusion, when we study our colleague's bill I hope we will find it contains harsher measures for criminals, but the possibility of rehabilitation for those who would seem to have the potential for it.
Mr. Peter MacKay (Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, PC): Madam Speaker, a happy St. Patrick's Day to you and other members.
I am pleased to speak to Bill C-240. This is a bill that brings forward the discretionary powers of a judge to expand upon conditions that can be put in place to protect the public generally. It is a bill that would prohibit certain offenders from changing their names.
The discretionary powers that currently exist in terms of the sentence a judge may mete out, include such things as putting in place prohibitions on the possession of firearms, weapons or explosives, or the use of drugs or alcohol, or prohibiting an offender from associating with known criminals or associating with children. These are obviously protective measures that a judge in his or her wisdom has deemed necessary to continue with the rehabilitative process and, more important, to protect the public.
The purpose with this bill quite clearly is the prevention of an individual who has been convicted of a serious violent offence, whether it be of a sexual nature or violence, from changing his or her name either during or after incarceration so that the public might be informed and there might be an ability to recognize this individual by name. Banning the ability to change name I would suggest does enhance the ability to protect the public, so there is a very rational purpose behind the bill brought forward by the hon. member.
The revelation, or the heightened public awareness, came about quite recently that Karla Homolka might be planning to change her name. This certainly alarmed a lot of people around the country. There was a sense of fear and frustration on the part of many that a person convicted of such a heinous crime could somehow be released and live under an alias. It is very similar to the reason in which persons will often cloak themselves or wear masks to hide their identities.
Although in this notorious case it did not occur, there was an excellent point behind the rationale of the bill. Violent offenders often attempt to change their names and successfully change them while in prison. Although media publicity would make it virtually impossible in the case that I referred to for that individual to go unnoticed, the reality is that there are many violent offenders who are successful in hiding their identities. Then, subsequent to their release, blend into communities.
I realize the importance of rehabilitation and the ability of offenders, having paid their debt to society, to come back and to try to contribute in a productive way. However, there is also this ongoing threat in the case of certain types of offences.
I believe the hon. member would not take any umbrage with possible amendments to the legislation he has proposed. The bill calls for discretion. It is not the be all and end all answer to the problem. It calls for discretion on the part of judges to exercise whether they would impose this ban. It is, as well, enunciated that it is for a scheduled list of offences. A judge would obviously take into consideration certain circumstances as to whether it would be appropriate. This is not to be used in every case.
I understand the argument that once people have served their time that they want to get on with their lives. The greater purpose of public protection sometimes warrants that the knowledge exists that these individuals involved themselves previously with violence or in the worst of cases involving sexual violence with children. I would suspect that those vulnerable persons in our society must take a priority when it comes to protection.
The priority of the Conservative Party has always been with the rights and safety of the public. We sadly acknowledge that there are individuals who continue to pose in some instances a life long threat to children in particular. I am referring to pedophilia where it has been diagnosed in many cases as an affliction that remains with an individual. Sex offenders in particular continue to pose that threat even after release, if there is no follow up or treatment.
The parliamentary secretary gave the House a particularly odious self-congratulatory speech. He droned on about the ongoing dubious accomplishments of the Liberal government. The reality is when it comes to the CPIC system, we were on the verge of collapse just a few short years ago. We heard the re-announcement time and time again of the $115 million that went into the CPIC system.
The Canadian Police Association told Canadians it needed double that amount to make the system really work. It was only a few short years ago that it was described by a member of the police association as being held together with bubble gum and barbed wire. That was a bit of a different slant on things than we heard from the parliamentary secretary. This was coming from an individual more in the know.
The parliamentary secretary also spoke about the communication and the exchange of information between departments. I want to speak very briefly on that. It appears that there is increasing evidence that there is a breakdown sometimes in the communication between departments, whether it be CSIS, the solicitor general's department, Corrections Canada, the RCMP and the parole board. Our RCMP on occasion do not share information with the department of immigration.
There is a very recent example of that. In the Amodeo case, this debacle where an individual wanted by Italian authorities was in Canada, there were communications from the Italian authorities to the RCMP and to the Department of Justice. There were applications under way for extradition. We know that on June 10 the immigration department received an application from the wife of this notorious individual that contained the name of Mr. Amodeo.
For some reason, and the minister has referred to legal documents and one can only assume this means the individuals were separated, it had the name in its possession. Surely someone in the department of immigration must have run a check either on the wife or Mr. Amodeo himself. It would have found the name red flagged on the CPIC system if it was operating properly. The system is also linked to Interpol. There is a question as to whether the CPIC system was working or whether this was a human error.
This communication break down can be very fatal when we are dealing with individuals like Mr. Amodeo who is suspected of involvement in three murders and Mafia connections in Italy.
That demonstrates the fact that this system is not foolproof. It is certainly subject to human frailties if the information is not entered. It also demonstrates that there is a need for protection. The use of that information is extremely important in law enforcement in this country. The bill would enhance the ability of law enforcement communities to use information successfully to protect the public.
There are other examples where the current system has failed us. The refusal of the government to eliminate the statutory release from corrections and conditional release. This allows even the most unco-operative offenders who continue to pose a threat and who have refused rehabilitative efforts, to be placed back in the community.
This often comes after serving less than two-thirds of their time. It is a sad reality that Canada has consistently seen violent criminals being released without proper rehabilitation. It is good proof that systems anywhere are not always perfect, but we have to do everything that we can to try to enhance the law. It is incumbent upon us to examine approaches such as the one put forward by the hon. member.
I have an example that would demonstrate how this would work. A not so notorious killer, or a rapist, or an unrepentant, unrehabilitated offender from Nova Scotia was released upon warrant expiry. He changed his name, moved to British Columbia, received a new driver's licence, new identification and set up a new life for himself, which he was entitled to do. What if that individual then applied to become a Boy Scout troop leader, a Big Brother or a coach?
That type of situation could put a child in serious jeopardy given that individual's past. It could be prevented possibly by the type of system that is envisaged in Bill C-240. There is no guarantee but it would be a step very much in the right direction.
The consequences of lack of knowledge can be tragic and at the very least it is entirely possible that this type of offender, if he committed a crime in British Columbia under a new name, would be given the benefit of extra judicial measures. It is a subterfuge to change the name or mask a person's identity. There needs to be responsibility. The purpose of the bill enunciates the type of crimes for which it would be appropriate.
The bill does not oblige judges to act. It simply allows the courts to make these types of prohibition orders. It may be a prohibition for life or for a short duration. The courts can consider the desirability and applicability of the circumstances. A court now makes prohibition orders on similar circumstances. As well, the penalties are tied into indictable offences. I cautiously support the bill, or a variation thereof, and I congratulate the hon. member for bringing it forward.
Mrs. Betty Hinton (Kamloops, Thompson and Highland Valleys, Canadian Alliance): Madam Speaker, my comments will be very brief. First, I commend my colleague from the Tory party for his comments. It is reassuring to know that there was someone in the House who was listening with full attention today.
I am very upset with some of the comments that were made. There is a very distinct reason for the legislation that we are putting in front of the House today. It is to protect children. It cannot be emphasized too much that this would be at the call of a judge. There would be a chance for a judge to determine whether the person was trying to change his or her name for the wrong reasons. In the case of sexual offenders against children, there can be no right reason to change his or her name. We need to be able to identify those people across the country to keep children, our most sacred natural resource, safe.
The national screening system, CPIC, is another thing that has been raised. It only serves to prevent sex offenders from working or volunteering within organizations involving children. CPIC only contains the criminal records of sexual offenders. It does not inform police that a dangerous sex offender is living within their jurisdiction. That is what the legislation would also do. It would inform a community that it had a dangerous offender in its area.
If we are going to do the things that we are expected to do in the House, and if any errors are made, we should always err on the side of the child. I will support the legislation fully.
Mr. Ken Epp (Elk Island, Canadian Alliance): Madam Speaker, I commend the member for putting forth the proposed legislation. I too regret, as he mentioned in his speech, that Bill C-240 is not votable.
It is great to be able to talk about issues in this place called the Parliament of Canada, the place of speaking, the place of words, but the ultimate purpose should be to put our words into action in a practical sense so that our goals as members of parliament representing our constituents are actually met.
Our primary goal with legislation like this is, as has been mentioned over and over again, the protection of children and women. We are talking about the ability of serious criminals to change their name.
The other day we spoke at length about the need for a national registry of sex offenders, those who prey on women and children. The purpose of things like that is very clear. We know we cannot make people good just by passing a law, but we also know that the function of law is to restrain those who are evil. That is why we are here and why motions and bills like this should be votable. We should be able to actually implement ideas that will make our society safe and restrain those who would do very bad things.
I am very concerned that there is almost a passive response to these initiatives on the governing side. I know our current rules of debate will be subject to revision and we need to really seriously ask the question whether we should be even able to have such a debate without bringing it to a vote. The second and the more important issue here is that, with the parliamentary secretary having given a speech that said basically the Liberals do not favour the legislation, it would mean that even if we were able to vote, it would go nowhere because they would tell their people to vote against it and that would be the end of the matter.
We are suffering from a lack of a democratic environment in the House. We are in a situation where we need to change some of these laws.
I would like to address another issue in the bill, the issue of jurisdiction. It has been pointed out that the keeping of vital statistics is a provincial matter, and I believe that is correct. When our children were born in the province of Alberta, we registered their births in Edmonton, not in Ottawa. I should not say they were all born in Edmonton because we also had a daughter born in southern Alberta, in the little town of Brooks. However, their births were registered in Alberta. I personally have a birth certificate from Saskatchewan, the province in which I grew up.
However, the fact of the matter is that we are dealing here with a criminal issue. We are dealing with people who can change their names, move to a different jurisdiction and, consequently, by changing their identity can become an unknown danger to people around them.
The member from the Bloc made a very good point when he said that we ought not to put a wall in front of people who are genuinely rehabilitated, who want to get on with life and who, from this point onward, want to be good, law-abiding citizens.
However, I think we err when we buy into the argument that a person convicted of a crime and having paid the penalty to society, as it is often said, is then off the hook. In our country we often find people only serving two-thirds of their sentence because the government does not enforce the full rule of law.
The fact of the matter is that all of us have obligations. I have never been convicted let alone even charged with a crime and yet I have an obligation. When I walk down the street at night and there are other people sharing the sidewalk, I have the same obligation not to attack them as the person who has served time in jail for having attacked someone.
I submit that our obligation to society does not end when we have fulfilled a sentence for having broken the law. All of us carry an ongoing obligation to society to maintain our surveillance and protection of others around us.
It boggles my mind that there is such resistance to many of the measures that we are trying to implement and promote, which would enhance the safety of Canadian citizens. We should have a number of really good laws like the one being proposed that would improve the safety of Canadians.
We can say that it is too harsh but I do not believe that it is. I do not believe that some of the penalties we are proposing, for example, serving consecutive sentences for crimes that are committed rather than concurrently, are too harsh. If people think that is too harsh, let them simply not break the law. The law will never apply to them, and they will have freedom for life.
Let us say they break the law, violate the safety and violate in some cases the property of other people. In the case of property, there should be restitution. In the case of personal violence against individuals, there should be time penalties and incarceration. There should be no discount for consecutive offences. There should be rules that tell us that if we do certain things there are consequences, and then we should stick to it. I do not see why that is difficult.
I have always said that I personally do not care whether there is capital punishment for murder or not because I am not going to commit murder. Therefore, I do not expect to face a charge which will lead to capital punishment. For people who are contemplating it, hopefully it would restrain them. That would be the overriding purpose.
I have drifted a little from the purpose of the bill, which would disallow offenders from actually changing their names in order to hide behind the cloak of anonymity when they re-entered society. We need to help these people all we can. Knowing that they have committed a crime, I do not think is a hindrance to their rehabilitation. I do not think it is not as useful for them to be able to hide and pretend that they did not commit a wrong, as it is for them to face up to the crime, admit they did it and ask their new neighbours to help them to be strong, to do what is right and to fix their life. It is an ongoing process.
It is like alcoholics. When they go to Alcoholics Anonymous, even though they may not have drunk liquor for a number of years, they still begin their speeches by saying their names and that they are alcoholics. They recognize that there is an ongoing temptation and that it takes great inner strength and the strength of those around them to support the positive changes and not reoffend in that sense.
Yes, it may be difficult for a person who has committed a crime to live with that identity. I am aware of several individuals who have committed crimes of a lesser level. I am their friend and I help them. They are doing fine. We do not shut our eyes and pretend it never happened. We have to realistically admit that it happened and work together toward the goal that will guarantee it will never happen again in that individual's life.
I believe in the whole basis of taking responsibility for what one does. That is the missing link in a lot of what leads to criminal behaviour in our society these days. There are youngsters in school. They could be youngsters who go home, the parents are absent, certain things happen and they are allowed to do whatever they want without being personally held accountable for it. That develops and eventually we have the commission of these crimes. I urge all members to support the bill.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired. As the motion has not been designated as a votable item, the order is dropped from the order paper.
It being 2.30 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Monday next at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).