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37th PARLIAMENT, 3rd SESSION

Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development


EVIDENCE

CONTENTS

Monday, May 10, 2004




¹ 1525
V         The Chair
V         Mr. George Finney (Director, Environmental Conservation Branch, Atlantic Region, Department of the Environment)
V         The Chair
V         Mr. George Finney
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Bob Mills (Red Deer, CPC)

¹ 1530
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Bernard Bigras (Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, BQ)

¹ 1535
V         The Chair

¹ 1540
V         Hon. Serge Marcil (Beauharnois—Salaberry, Lib.)

¹ 1545
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Charles Hubbard (Miramichi, Lib.)
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Bernard Bigras

¹ 1550
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Julian Reed (Halton, Lib.)
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Bob Mills
V         Mr. George Finney
V         The Chair
V         Mr. George Finney

¹ 1555
V         Mr. Bob Mills
V         Mr. George Finney

º 1600
V         Mr. Bob Mills
V         Mr. George Finney
V         Mr. Bob Mills
V         Mr. George Finney

º 1605
V         Mr. Bob Mills
V         The Chair
V         Mr. George Finney
V         Mr. Bob Mills
V         Mr. George Finney
V         The Chair
V         Hon. Serge Marcil
V         Mr. George Finney
V         Hon. Serge Marcil

º 1610
V         Mr. George Finney

º 1615
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Bernard Bigras
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Bernard Bigras
V         Hon. Serge Marcil
V         The Chair

º 1620
V         Mr. Bernard Bigras
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Bernard Bigras
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Bernard Bigras
V         Hon. Serge Marcil
V         The Chair
V         Hon. Serge Marcil
V         Mr. Bernard Bigras
V         Hon. Serge Marcil
V         Mr. Bernard Bigras
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Bernard Bigras
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Bernard Bigras
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Bernard Bigras
V         The Clerk of the Committee (Mr. Eugene Morawski)

º 1625
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Bernard Bigras
V         Mr. George Finney
V         Mr. Bernard Bigras
V         Mr. George Finney
V         Mr. Bernard Bigras
V         Mr. George Finney
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Michel Arès (Legal Counsel, Department of Justice)
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Bernard Bigras

º 1630
V         The Chair
V         Mr. George Finney
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Michel Arès
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Bernard Bigras
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Bernard Bigras
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Bernard Bigras
V         The Chair
V         Mr. George Finney
V         The Chair
V         Hon. Serge Marcil
V         Mr. George Finney

º 1635
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Bernard Bigras
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Bernard Bigras
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Bernard Bigras
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Bernard Bigras
V         Mr. George Finney

º 1640
V         The Chair
V         Mr. George Finney
V         The Chair
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Bob Mills
V         Mr. George Finney
V         Mr. Bob Mills
V         Mr. George Finney
V         Mr. Bob Mills
V         Mr. George Finney
V         Mr. Bob Mills
V         Mr. George Finney

º 1645
V         The Chair
V         Mr. George Finney
V         The Chair
V         Mr. David Chatters (Athabasca, CPC)
V         The Chair
V         Mr. David Chatters
V         The Chair
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Bob Mills
V         Mr. George Finney
V         Mr. Bob Mills
V         Mr. George Finney
V         Mr. Bob Mills
V         The Chair
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Bernard Bigras

º 1650
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Bernard Bigras
V         The Chair
V         Hon. Serge Marcil
V         The Chair
V         Hon. Serge Marcil
V         The Chair
V         Hon. Serge Marcil
V         The Chair
V         Mr. George Finney
V         The Chair
V         Mr. George Finney
V         Mr. Bernard Bigras
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Bernard Bigras
V         Mr. George Finney
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Bob Mills

º 1655
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Bob Mills
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Bob Mills
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Bob Mills
V         Mr. George Finney
V         Mr. Bob Mills
V         Mr. George Finney
V         The Chair
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Bernard Bigras
V         Mr. George Finney
V         The Chair

» 1700
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Bob Mills
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Bob Mills
V         The Chair
V         Ms. Susan Baldwin (Procedural Clerk)
V         The Chair
V         Ms. Susan Baldwin
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Paul Gavrel (Legal Counsel, Department of Justice)
V         The Chair
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Bernard Bigras
V         Mr. George Finney
V         The Chair
V         Mr. George Finney

» 1705
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Bernard Bigras
V         Mr. George Finney
V         Mr. Bernard Bigras
V         Mr. George Finney
V         The Chair
V         The Chair
V         Hon. Diane Marleau (Sudbury, Lib.)
V         Mr. Bernard Bigras
V         Hon. Diane Marleau
V         Mr. Bernard Bigras
V         Hon. Diane Marleau
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Bob Mills
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Bob Mills
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Bob Mills
V         The Chair

» 1710
V         Mr. Bob Mills
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Bob Mills
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Paul Gavrel
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Bob Mills
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Bernard Bigras

» 1715
V         The Chair
V         Mr. George Finney
V         The Chair
V         Hon. Serge Marcil
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Bob Mills
V         The Chair
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Bernard Bigras
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Charles Hubbard

» 1720
V         The Chair
V         Hon. Serge Marcil
V         The Chair
V         The Chair
V         The Chair










CANADA

Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development


NUMBER 017 
l
3rd SESSION 
l
37th PARLIAMENT 

EVIDENCE

Monday, May 10, 2004

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

¹  +(1525)  

[Translation]

+

    The Chair (The Hon. Charles Caccia (Davenport, Lib.)): Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. We are meeting today to discuss Bill C-34, an Act to amend the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.

[English]

    We were pleasantly informed about the existence of this piece of legislation a week ago by some of the witnesses today, particularly Mr. Finney. We were also shown a very interesting video that described the conditions on the Atlantic coast as it affects birds affected by oil pollution.

    Today we have a number of witnesses who are from Environment Canada, I understand, and also from the Department of Justice. We welcome you all very much to this committee.

    I would invite you, Mr. Finney, to make an opening statement in which hopefully you could also indicate why this piece of legislation is coming forward now and not earlier, because that would certainly allay certain fears and understandable criticism on the part of our colleagues. Anything you could say that would clarify the timing of this legislation, of course, would be very helpful.

    With that in mind, you have the floor.

+-

    Mr. George Finney (Director, Environmental Conservation Branch, Atlantic Region, Department of the Environment): Thank you very much, and thank you for your attention to this important bill.

    The bill, of course, is designed to amend the Migratory Birds Convention Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act in order to provide clarity to the prohibitions against oil being dumped in the ocean through these acts. These prohibitions were already established in the acts and are also established with respect to international codes, particularly that related to MARPOL.

    The reason we're bringing this forward is as a result of a couple of court cases and some legal opinions we have received over the past year and a half or so that indicated that in order for these acts to be maximally effective in what they are intended to do with respect to the prohibitions, we needed some amendments to these acts. I think many of you in the room will be familiar with the case of the Tecam Sea, which was a vessel we caught in September 2002 and laid some charges against. The charges were subsequently dropped by prosecutors, specifically because of some of these ambiguities. At that time, we obviously began an analysis of what we should do in order to fix the situation.

    During the course of the last year or so, we solicited and received a number of legal opinions. We were attempting, within the framework of the existing law, to essentially find ways of dealing with the legislation as it existed in order to achieve the objectives. But eventually Justice advised us that the clearest way to proceed was in fact to seek legal amendments from Parliament or from the legislature. As you can appreciate, it then takes some time in order to get together the package you have before you. It is for those reasons the bill has shown up when it has shown up.

    I might add that we are seized with coming to grips with this issue in a timely manner. We are frankly upset every year, as are the citizens particularly of Atlantic Canada who go through another winter with oiled birds coming up on their shore. We felt we should move as quickly as possible once the path forward had been identified to us.

    I hope that answers your question, sir.

+-

    The Chair: Can you perhaps elaborate as to how you interpret the fact that the Tecam Seawas an event that took place in September 2002 and why it would take a year and a half to arrive at this point in this kind of procedure?

+-

    Mr. George Finney: The case happened in September 2002. The charges were dropped about a year ago at this time. Then we went through an analysis of what were the actual issues. As I've said, we solicited a number of options and some legal advice trying to determine what would be the best path forward. Eventually, we came to the conclusion that it was just going to be awkward and there would always be ambiguities if we proceeded without getting clarification to the act as it exists.

+-

    The Chair: We are technically on clause 1 because of the agenda of today, but before we do anything about that, I will open the floor for a discussion. We will go to a round of discussions. In doing that, I would like to remind colleagues of this committee that every speaker for every party in the House of Commons on Friday, May 7, indicated--because I read the minutes very carefully--that they support fully this piece of legislation. There is, at least in principle, a very positive commitment, not only made last Wednesday here in committee, but also on Friday in the House of Commons on the occasion of second reading debate.

    We can now start a full round of interventions and statements. We begin, as usual, with Mr. Mills.

    You have the floor.

    (On clause 1)

+-

    Mr. Bob Mills (Red Deer, CPC): Thank you, Mr. Chair.

    First of all, we do support this kind of legislation. We started asking for it several years ago. The people of Newfoundland have been asking for it for many tens of years. People on the Pacific also have been asking for it. And to simply say we finally started to do the research, and here we are this last week and we're going to ram this through.... It's the process, sir, that is the problem.

    So the bill, yes, we agree with. But there are a number of questions for which it would have been nice to have a normal process, to go through a normal committee where we could have gone through it clause by clause, where our research staff would have had time to do work on it, and where we could have looked for amendments.

    We could have had witnesses to tell us what is lacking in this bill. We could have talked to the cruise ship industry, the recreation people, the whale watching people. We could have talked to the people of Victoria and asked them why they dump raw sewage into the ocean. Does that affect things? Will this bill cover that? We could have talked to other countries and found out what kind of legislation they have. We could have found out whether there's going to be funding for surveillance for RADARSAT. What's missing in this bill? I'm certain there are people out there in Newfoundland, in British Columbia, who would tell us the things that are missing.

    It would have been nice to find out with regard to shipowners and governors just exactly how that's going to work, how you're going to put people as high as prime ministers in jail under this bill. It would have been nice to know whether the nose and tail are going to be affected by this.

    It would have been nice to know whether there's a biological study on the inventory of sea birds. Do we know? Have we done ornithological studies to know what species are increasing and decreasing? Do we have some science here to know what's being killed and how it's being killed? It would be nice to base this on science.

    It would be nice in the legislation to know how we go after a crew member who is earning $2 an hour on a ship, who's afraid of losing his job because he's from a foreign country and can't get off in this country. It would be nice to know how you're going to handle those as described on page 5.

    It would be nice to know on page 9 what kind of force you're going to use. It would be nice to know whether there is a minimum fine. We know the maximum is $1 million. On page 17, it would be nice to know what kind of compensation.... How will you determine the compensation for the fisherman who loses his income because of contamination from oil?

    It would be nice to have had time to bring in some witnesses to ask about the jurisdictional problems that you obviously had in 2002, when Justice and Transport and Environment couldn't decide who was responsible, and therefore everybody bobbled the ball, lost the case, and the people went home.

    It would nice to know about the Olga, and why the people went away, the ship went bankrupt, and you never collected your fines. It would be nice to know if eight days is long enough for the Auditor General to actually make charges against foreign vessels.

    It would be nice to know about the tailings from oil development in the Arctic to see when those tailings go on the ice with those chemicals in them whether an oil company has to haul them away. How is that going to change the cost? Is that going to make it uneconomical? It would be nice to know from the oil industry about that.

    Mr. Chair, I could go on and on about these questions. We support this bill. We just want to make sure it's right. How can we do due diligence when here in the last week you expect to go through report stage, clause by clause, and wham it through? You have to be pretty doubtful about what your whole purpose is here. I think it's a complete example of total incompetence on your part that this hasn't been dealt with ten years ago or a lot longer than that.

    Thank you, Mr. Chair.

¹  +-(1530)  

+-

    The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Mills.

    Some of your questions were answered on Wednesday last week. Some questions were not posed and therefore not answered, so I hope Mr. Finney can gradually provide an answer. But let us now continue with interventions. We have Monsieur Bigras.

    À vous la parole.

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Bernard Bigras (Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, BQ): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    Unlike my colleague, Bob Mills, I do not intend, for the time being, to direct questions to our officials. In fact, Mr. Chairman, I would like to talk about the procedure followed in this Committee.

    It seems to me that last Friday, we made known our intention to support Bill C-34 in principle, as well as the fact that a number of clarifications would still be needed, particularly with respect to areas of overlapping jurisdiction with the provinces.

    Mr. Chairman, I have been a member of this Committee since 1997. And, as a general rule, when we consider a bill, out of a concern for democratic principles and sensitivity to the needs of members, we ask witnesses to appear before proceeding with clause by clause consideration. Mr. Chairman, you have distinguished yourself in this Parliament by your rigour, your transparency and your regard for democratic principles, but today, the people of Quebec and Canada are not being allowed to provide feedback on this bill, so that legislators can amend it or even improve it.

    Mr. Chairman, this bill has been referred to the Committee. I would remind you that under democratic reforms instituted by this government, the principle on which such a procedure is based is specifically aimed at allowing us to make amendments that go beyond the fundamental principle of the bill.

    Mr. Chairman, the Prime Minister has always said that he wants committees to play their role to the full extent of their abilities. If committees still have a role to play in Parliament when legislation is being considered by a committee, then that committee should follow the normal process, which includes allowing witnesses to appear to comment on the bill and make recommendations. As parliamentarians, we are then in a position to table amendments and debate those amendments.

    Mr. Chairman, the rule you have decided to adopt is not a normal one. If, back in November 2002, the CSL Atlas, a bulk carrier registered in the Bahamas and belonging to Canada Steamship Lines, had not been found guilty and imposed a fine of $125,000, I wonder whether we would have been able to proceed this quickly. Allow me to say that the process underway here today is a purely partisan one. Just weeks or even days away from an election call, it ensures that the commercial interests of a single ship owner—in this case, CSL—will be protected.

    Mr. Chairman, my request is simply that you apply the rules that have always been followed here, including when we considered Bill C-5, in a serene, just and equitable manner. In that case, we heard witnesses and tabled amendments with a view to improving the bill. Today, however, the process is totally different.

    Mr. Chairman, I would like the Committee to have an opportunity to hear from Ducks Unlimited, as well as the Shipping Federation of Canada, which did in fact make recommendations in this regard on May 30, 2002, as part of pre-budget consultations. Would it be possible to ask that organization whether what we have here on the table meets its expectations? We would also like to hear from representatives of Stratégies Saint-Laurent, and from the people of Newfoundland.

    Mr. Chairman, I therefore most humbly request, while still providing for officials to make their presentation, that you allow Canadians and any groups with concerns in this important area to make themselves heard, so that ultimately, this Committee can play its role to the fullest and improve this bill. Thank you very much.

    Merci, monsieur le président.

¹  +-(1535)  

[English]

+-

    The Chair: Merci, monsieur Bigras.

    I made a good note of your points. I must say that last Wednesday when the committee met here, nobody asked for witnesses. Not only that, but actually there was unanimous consent to ask the chamber to pass legislation in all its phases in the House so as not to have the bill any longer in committee. That is how the meeting last Wednesday went. Not one request was made for one witness.

    As to the issue of federal-provincial relations, questions were asked and they are on record, because our colleague Mr. Dion engaged the witnesses on that issue and Mr. Finney replied. I think those questions can again be asked, of course, for further clarification. So that aspect has also been taken care of.

    On Friday, when the debate took place, all the speakers indicated that they were keen on having this legislation passed rapidly.

    So the record of this committee is not in question. We have gone and acted on the basis of what was recommended by the committee last Wednesday. But I understand your concern and the point you come from, of course, and I would urge Mr. Finney, perhaps at a certain point, if not now, to endeavour to answer the questions raised by Mr. Bigras, and possibly some by Mr. Mills.

    But let me perhaps finish the round with everybody who wants to make a first intervention by giving the floor to Mr. Marcil and then to Mr. Hubbard.

¹  +-(1540)  

[Translation]

+-

    Hon. Serge Marcil (Beauharnois—Salaberry, Lib.): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

    I fully agree with you. If anybody is engaging in partisan debate here, it most certainly has to be the member for the Bloc Québécois, sitting across from me. I very much regret that things have taken this turn. I myself had no such intention, and I certainly do not see how, with legislation that deals with birds oiled at sea, how this could possibly become a partisan issue. Just imagine the votes that this is going to attract for the parties? Indeed, it's exactly with that in mind that you have opened up this debate.

    Mr. Chairman, last week, we requested that a briefing session be held because the intention was to table the bill. At your request, we organized such a meeting. Representatives of the Department of the Environment came to explain why the two existing laws—the 1994 and 1999 Acts—were problematical, in their view.

    The fact is that they have no impact whatsoever on domestic waters, because they actually only apply to coastal waters in Eastern Canada. Of course, it is possible that our American neighbours will be affected, but that is of no concern to us.

    So, Mr. Chairman, the idea was that everyone would make interventions in the House on Friday; I actually have a copy of the speeches made by all concerned. Everyone stated at that time that it was urgent to proceed quickly with this bill. It is possible there were some delays, although that is not the issue I am debating here. Everyone without exception—even the Bloc MPs—asked that this issue be dealt with expeditiously in committee. In the House, no one stood up to say the contrary, i.e. the bill requires analysis.

    This is a bill that aims to amend two existing laws, namely the 1994 and 1999 Acts. This bill is now before us. Members could have risen in the House to say that this process was too quick and that we absolutely had to hear from witnesses. It should also be pointed out, however, for those who may be listening today, that when a bill is referred to a standing committee, it happens frequently that no witnesses are heard. In other words, this is not an automatic rule.

    For my part, Mr. Chairman, I have often noted, at both the Industry and Transport Committees, that when some bills were tabled, it was urgent to solicit the views of witnesses, whereas in other cases, it was not necessary at all. Furthermore, if members rose in the House on Friday to request that this bill be dealt with expeditiously, without any need to hear witnesses, then one can assume that they understood what the underlying issues were.

    I don't understand why the member opposite wants to turn this into a partisan debate. All we are trying to do here is resolve a problem. Someone may want to suggest that we wait until the election campaign is over, but who actually knows when it is going to take place. Next week? Two weeks from now? Next year? This fall? Are we always going to wait until the election campaign is over to tackle problems such as this?

    I don't want to exert undue pressure, Mr. Chairman, but I think that in this case, because the bill is before us and people have asked that we consider it, we should in fact examine it. Anybody who wishes to make an amendment can do so, and we, parliamentarians, will consider those amendments.

    Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

¹  +-(1545)  

+-

    The Chair: Thank you.

    Mr. Hubbard.

[English]

+-

    Mr. Charles Hubbard (Miramichi, Lib.): Thank you, Mr. Chair,

    I don't see this as a great partisan debate, and I know that all of us, as parliamentarians, probably want to have the best possible type of legislation.

    Mr. Chair, we are looking at a very serious problem with our birds and our waterfowl. Yesterday I drove up from New Brunswick and just east of Quebec city I saw flocks of tens of thousands of snow geese that were moving through our waters and going north for the summer. If we as parliamentarians can improve the habitat that some of these birds face as they move around our coast, we would be doing a great service to the wildlife of Canada.

    I know Mr. Mills would like to have perfect legislation.

    I think, Bob, if we did all the things you would like to participate in, we probably could spend the next five years looking at it. I thought it might almost be like Noah on the ark where you would be able to pick certain ones and work from there. But in all fairness, for what the public wants and what we perceive as a problem and the difficulties that Environment Canada and Justice Canada have had with the issues we've seen in the past few years, it is important for us to proceed with this legislation.

    Mr. Chair, we talk about legislation that is hurried, and that may not be good. For example, clause 52 talks about when it comes into force. We also could have an amendment whereby this could be just for a certain period of time, subject to review whereby the legislation could come back to the committee and to the House in a period of a year or two. But when we see so many things happening and the difficulty we have in proceeding to get what I feel would be proper justice in terms of the maladies and the difficulties that people present to our waterfowl, it is incumbent upon us to do this today, this week, and not wait until next January or February, when we might see a similar type of legislation after we have a new throne speech and everything else that goes with the opening of Parliament.

    I would suggest that the parties should join together, look at possible little amendments that would enable our people to work at that this season, and not wait for another year for what we might call perfect legislation.

    Thank you, Mr. Chair.

+-

    The Chair: We have now Mr. Bigras, followed by Mr. Reed.

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Bernard Bigras: Mr. Chairman, coming back to what you and Mr. Marcil stated earlier regarding the process that was followed, I would like to remind you that a briefing session did in fact take place last Wednesday, and that it was in actual fact a briefing session. Why? I invite you to find out how many members of Parliament were actually present. I can tell you there were six. The Committee did not have a quorum to hold a sitting.

    Also, I would invite you to review the Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence for that Committee session. Nowhere does it state that the Committee gave unanimous consent to proceed with clause by clause consideration of the bill.

    Mr. Chairman, as Mr. Marcil has stated, we did express our support in principle for this bill on Friday, and we continue to support it in principle. However, the new formula, which provides for bills to be referred to committee, is intended to ensure that committees can play their role fully, and that is an approach that the government has always supported. In that sense, we have a duty to hear from citizens on this matter if the Committee is to play its role fully.

    Of course, there is probably little time for that before an election is called, but we could also see this the other way. Why didn't the government table this bill three weeks or a month ago? We were aware of the issues, Mr. Chairman. We knew who the guilty parties were. We knew what was being done elsewhere, at the international level. How is it that, one week away from a possible election call, the government is now trying to force this bill down our throats, without giving any opportunity to stakeholder organizations to express their views on it?

    So, Mr. Chairman, I want to reiterate my support for this bill. I also want to say, once again, that certain clarifications are needed. What I am trying to do here, Mr. Chairman, is defend those principles and values, like transparency, that have always guided the Committee and that have always meant, when we were not presented with bills that were contradictory…

    Mr. Chairman, I was the first to cooperate, two weeks ago, to get the bill passed. The Parliamentary Secretary is well aware of that. We passed it very quickly, clause by clause. All of that has been done. Where technical changes are involved, it is perfectly true that the Committee does not need to hear witnesses, but the fast track process relies on the good faith of all involved. Since we, on this side of the table, acted in good faith two weeks ago to get the legislation on parks passed, I would now invite the government to demonstrate good faith towards the Opposition by allowing witnesses to present their views on this bill.

    If not, we will end up watering down the role of committees, and that is certainly not the reputation you have acquired in recent years, Mr. Chairman. I am deeply convinced that does not reflect the principles announced by the government and the Prime Minister in recent months.

¹  +-(1550)  

[English]

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    The Chair: Mr. Bigras, there is no watering down of the rules of this committee, because this committee is acting upon the unanimous recommendations of the committee at the last meeting last Wednesday when there was a quorum for the purposes of that meeting, contrary to what you indicated. The unanimous consent was that this bill be given approval, or discussion and approval, at all stages in the House of Commons as a matter of great urgency. One of the most ardent proponents of that approach was a member of the official opposition, Mr. Barnes, who was very keen in having this matter dealt with in an expeditious manner. This is the situation we are at now. Somehow, I regret that you are referring to watering down of rules because there is none of that taking place right now.

    My task now is to recognize Mr. Reed, followed by Mr. Mills.

    Mr. Reed.

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

    Since last Wednesday, 4,000 birds have died. It's too bad not everybody was here to see the fact that 300,000 birds a year are killed by this foolishness at sea. It seems to me to be imperative that this legislation go through as expeditiously as possible. I urge you, Mr. Chairman, to get on with it.

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    The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Reed.

    Mr. Mills.

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    Mr. Bob Mills: Mr. Chair, it's not a matter of not supporting this bill; we do.

    I'd like to ask our experts--and you know, I have to wonder how many birds have died in the last 11 years, but questions have been asked in the House of Commons for two or three years on this issue. I participated in a show with CBC last year where they actually went there and talked to the people and listened to the various complaints, and so on. The issue was on national television. How come it has taken so long and at this last moment this legislation is being rammed through? Why wasn't it started on 11 years ago?

    Secondly, will you undertake to answer some of those questions? The government has a way of using this fast-track stuff to go after opposition members for not doing due diligence. It's a matter of, you weren't there, you didn't ask. That is what our chairman is partly doing. I did ask him in the committee on Monday if there was any way we could have the witnesses some day other than Wednesday. I was told there was no way, no chance, and to change my other commitments. I'm sorry for that, because obviously that has created some of the confusion. So I apologize to the chairman for that, but the point is that there are questions on which we should be doing due diligence.

    I like Mr. Hubbard's idea. Let's re-examine this next year, or maybe we should even be more blunt and say, let's examine it after the next election to make sure we have it right.

    But the point is, what have you guys been doing when this issue has been raised for all these years?

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    Mr. George Finney: Sir, as I indicated--

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    The Chair: Mr. Finney, would you mind giving a good round of replies, please?

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    Mr. George Finney: It's obviously not my place to talk on the timing of this or the appropriate procedure. I will try to address the factual matters as best I can.

    We have, together with Transport Canada, and particularly the coast guard, and more recently the space agency, been trying to come to grips with this issue. Personally, I have been involved with it for 12 years. With respect to the legislation, we felt the Environment Canada legislation was strong enough in order to be able to support charges. As I indicated to you, we discovered over the last couple of years, through legal opinion and court cases, again, from a legislation point of view, that we would be doing much better if we got renewed legislation that clarifies the enforcement powers, clarifies detention powers, increases the fines of the Migratory Birds Convention Act, etc. I won't go into the details of the bill.

    With respect to other matters, the fines have been going up. As recently as five years ago, perhaps an average fine would have been in the order of $15,000 to $20,000. More recently, fines are now in the order of $100,000. One of the things we have been doing in order to make that happen is improving our science. For the number of 300,000, we knew a lot of birds were being affected, but we couldn't go into court and explain to a judge, or give him a number that was scientifically based. We helped sponsor a university student through Memorial University, and he did four years of study and came up with an estimate of 300,000 birds, just off the southern coast of the Avalon Peninsula. That's not the Atlantic Ocean. It's certainly not the Atlantic-Pacific.

    We have started similar studies off the Scotian Shelf and off the Pacific coast, in order to get quantifiable numbers. We are doing this for two reasons: one, we need to understand which species are affected, which populations are most affected, what impact it has on the trends in those populations,and the sustainability of those populations; and we need to be able to explain that to a judge at sentencing. We need to be able to go in and say, in this case, 300,000 birds in this area were affected and that is where the spill was, sir. Eighty per cent of those are common murres. We have run our models; 250,000 thick-billed murres being killed each year is enough to raise concerns for us about the viability of that population. We have been having to do that.

    A second thing we have been doing is we've been trying to improve our surveillance and monitoring. As you may know, the most recent tool that has come to our assistance is RADARSAT technology. This is essentially a satellite that beams down radar on the water, and oil on water smooths the water and thereby increases the return signal back to the satellite, indicating a potential spill. It might also indicate hot water or other things, so we initially had a lot of false positives. This program is called the ISTOP program. I explained it a bit at our last meeting. The president asked for a copy of that, and we will be able to deliver it in French and English later this week, so you will be able to see what last year's results were on both the east and west coasts.

¹  +-(1555)  

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    Mr. Bob Mills: Do you have money to fund that?

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    Mr. George Finney: The Canadian Space Agency is co-funding that, and we have about $0.25 million in it as well, so yes. What we're trying to do through that mechanism and the reason it's so attractive to us is that many of the spills, or in fact most of the spills, that have occurred off the east coast have been characterized as mystery spills because we don't see them until birds start coming up on shore. We can't detect which particular boat might have been the culprit. We couldn't even tell often whether the event happened last night or four nights ago. With RADARSAT we can see through the fog. You can see in bad weather. We found that we can detect spills even in fairly heavy winds of, say, 30 knots, and it can see at night. We are trying to get in a position of being able to detect the offenders when the event occurs.

    I'll just mention one more thing we've been doing, and that is, we've had for a number of years a communication program for mariners coming to Canadian ports. We do that, and we've done that, in my recollection, in six languages, reflecting the international nature of the fleet. But basically what we've been doing is trying to bring it to the attention of mariners that their behaviour, for those who do dump oil illegally, is causing a problem to our natural resources and to our shorelines and to our people. We are also telling them that if they disobey the prohibitions, we are going to collectively—ourselves and Transport Canada—do our very best to detect that and to bring them in front of Canadian courts.

    We have not been quiet on this, sir. I think as officials we have been trying to do our best to deal with a very difficult issue. It is a big ocean. It's a hard problem to come to grips with.

º  +-(1600)  

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    Mr. Bob Mills: One of the problems in looking at some of the past cases has been the conflict between departments, the turf wars, so to speak, so that it has ended up with the culprit getting away. Does this bill fix that? I'm not a lawyer so I don't know if it does or does not.

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    Mr. George Finney: It's undeniable that we've had some difficulties with Transport Canada, although I don't think it's ever resulted in a culprit getting away. It's resulted in some problems.

    I think the bill fixes this in that it clarifies what the powers and accountabilities of Environment Canada are. We are determined, as a civil service, to operate in a manner that's complementary to Transport Canada's authorities and abilities. I think in fact this will help because it will help clarify things that were obviously doubts in people's minds, including some of the staff of Transport Canada.

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    Mr. Bob Mills: How did we lose the Olga? We lost not only the captain and the other people charged without paying their fine, but we also lost the ship because they went into bankruptcy. Why would we have ever let that ship even go? Why didn't we sell the ship?

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    Mr. George Finney: When charges were initially laid, they were laid under our acts and under the Canada Shipping Act. Crown prosecutors chose to proceed with the Canada Shipping Act and dropped the charges under our act because they didn't want to have several offences related to the same specific act and because they felt it would be easier to get a conviction, given the evidence they had. That's a crown prosecutor's normal discretion.

    Transport Canada released the ship on a surety, which is what they normally use, because there are obligations internationally to not detain a ship for an unreasonable amount of time. So once our investigations are complete—and we have to be expeditious, according to international rules, in our investigations—the normal procedure for Transport Canada is to get a surety and then to release the ship. The surety is designed so that when the case comes before the courts, the company or its agents would be compelled to appear, and then the case would proceed. If a fine were levied, then the surety would be a guarantee that the fine would be honoured.

    In this case, the surety was granted by, I believe, a local company in St. John's. I think the issue in this respect is more that the company declared bankruptcy, and when the charges were brought in court the ship just didn't offer any counsel and the case proceeded.

    A fine has been levied, but under these circumstances it will be very difficult to have that fine actually realized.

º  +-(1605)  

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    Mr. Bob Mills: That's the very point I'm getting at. With the little I know about U.S. law, it wouldn't have happened that way there; the ship is held until you pay your money.

    Isn't that the way you stop this kind of problem, and all of those costs of legal work, etc.?

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    The Chair: We need more legislation.

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    Mr. George Finney: I think the lesson learned in this case is that in a situation such as the Olga, paper surety is not good enough. What you need is a substantial legal bond; you need money on the table. That's not a matter of law, but a matter of administrative practice, and I think—

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    Mr. Bob Mills: We still don't do that.

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    Mr. George Finney: No, but it does establish for the placement of a bond. When we lay our charges, the bill does indicate that before we would release a ship back into its normal work, we would have a bond in our hands.

[Translation]

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    The Chair: I will now recognize Mr. Marcil, who will be followed by Mr. Bigras.

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    Hon. Serge Marcil: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    I am sure you consulted with stakeholder organizations before drafting this bill, which was intended to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and the 1994 Migratory Birds Convention Act, since a number of groups have said they support the bill, whether we're talking about the Canadian Nature Federation, which made that fact known by means of a press release, the Sierra Club, that we talked about last week, the World Wildlife Federation or the International Fund for Animal Welfare. Have you had any contact with groups such as these who supported the Government of Canada's intention to move forward with this kind of legislation? That is my first question.

    My second question relates to proposed clauses 5.1, 5.2 and 5.3, which deal with prohibitions. I will wait to ask that question.

    But I would first like to know whether these people were consulted.

    I would also like to know whether you have received any negative feedback from groups that may be opposed to the amendments the government is proposing to these two Acts.

[English]

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    Mr. George Finney: Sir, we did not consult directly with groups on the substance of the bill you see.

    I will say, though, that the World Wildlife Fund, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the Canadian Nature Federation, and a wide number of groups have been calling upon us to develop rules such as these to better deal with the issue. So I would say that to my knowledge, and certainly amongst the environmental community, there would certainly be widespread support for the principles and the general approach.

    Obviously, local groups in the areas most affected, such as in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia and other maritime areas, are also extremely supportive of doing whatever it takes to stop this problem. I think a good part of the motivation for this bill is in fact to respond to those people who have to live with this problem day by day.

[Translation]

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    Hon. Serge Marcil: Does that mean that if a bill is being introduced with a view to amending the two existing laws, it is because those two pieces of legislation do not provide the necessary tools to really crack down on people committing such offences?

    Is it with respect to enforcement of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and the 1994 Migratory Birds Convention Act that the government realized the necessary tools were not available? Did that become clear? I know there has been some discussion of the problems associated with migratory birds for quite some time now, but when you decide to prosecute offenders and realize that you cannot detain them or force them to pay fines, then you can only conclude that our legislation does not go far enough, or that we don't have the appropriate tools to arrest the ships, for example. The only thing these laws allowed the government to do was have the offenders sign some papers, so that they could then leave with their vessels. It was a case of: “See you later, alligator! Good luck trying to catch me!”, as the saying goes.

    That may be a slight exaggeration, but does that somewhat reflect what we're dealing with here? I know the minister has been in touch with these groups and that it was through their feedback that the government became aware of the very serious incidents occurring on a daily basis, and just how impossible it has become for the Government of Canada to crack down on offenders and force them to pay compensation. So, some action had to be taken. This bill is that action: we are directly intervening. Am I right about this? Or have I missed the boat?

º  +-(1610)  

[English]

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    Mr. George Finney: No, sir, you're substantially on base.

    Let me describe just a few of the problems we had so you can understand what we were trying to fix.

    The situation with CEPA--the Canadian Environmental Protection Act--and the Migratory Birds Convention Act is that they're not exactly the same. But we found ourselves with a judgment, for example, that notwithstanding the fact that there were clear prohibitions in the regulations in the migratory bird act against depositing substance harmful to migratory birds into habitats frequented by them--that's the way the prohibition read in the regulations, and we're proposing to bring it into the act, by the way, in section 5--notwithstanding the fact that this prohibition extended out to the limit of the economic zone, that is, 200 nautical miles, our enforcement powers were brought into question once we moved out beyond 12 nautical miles.

    So here we have a rather absurd situation where we have a prohibition that's clear, but because our enforcement powers were built on the Criminal Code, there was some question about whether we could enforce there--it's not that we couldn't. This act makes it very clear that enforcement powers and judicial authorities extend out to the limit of our economic zone.

    This is very important because the migratory bird concentrations in fact extend all over the Grand Banks, in the case of Newfoundland, or the Scotian Shelf, or Browns Bank, or off our west coast. The birds do not seem to understand that the limit is 12 nautical miles and they are impolite enough to go beyond this limit in significant numbers.

    So if we want to protect our natural resources, we have to extend our reach as far as we can--and 200 nautical miles is as far as we can go. We cannot go onto the nose and tail of the Grand Banks right now. That's my advice, to answer an earlier question. But we can go up to 200 nautical miles.

    Here's another case by way of example, this time in the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, on the provisions as they apply to operational discharges, such as the ones we see with boats. A captain can be charged for discharging oil into the marine environment, but it is a mens rea offence, which means intent has to be proven. Proving intent in those kinds of situations is almost impossible. We're looking at changing this provision.

    Those are two problems. There are other objectives we're dealing with here. We feel it is appropriate in our legislation to contemplate having individuals charged with actions, because in our view it's people who pollute, not ships. We do recognize that, first of all, we are dealing with a chronic problem because we have some substandard operators within the fleet. In fact, a large proportion of the shipping community will follow the law, but there is a group who won't.

    Where we have that situation, we feel it's probable that the operators and the directors of the company are mandating this kind of behaviour. It's not going to be mandated by the crew member earning $2 an hour down in the bowels of the boat, and he's not the person we're after. But if we can find evidence--and the United States has found evidence in some cases--that in fact the pollution has been mandated by operating companies and directors of companies, we feel it's appropriate to install sanctions in our act that would allow our laws to reach those decision-makers.

º  +-(1615)  

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    The Chair: Thank you, monsieur Marcil.

    Mr. Mills, I hope you had an opportunity to pick up one of the answers to one of your questions.

    Monsieur Bigras, s'il vous plaît.

[Translation]

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

    The first part of my intervention is in fact a point of order. So, I do not want this to be counted in my speaking time for the purposes of discussing the bill per se. My question has to do with clause by clause consideration and the agenda set for today's meeting.

    First of all, contrary to what you stated a few minutes ago, Mr. Chairman, there were not enough Committee members present on Wednesday to make certain decisions. There may have been an adequate quorum for the purposes of hearing witnesses, but not for making decisions. I would remind you that it was only a briefing session on draft legislation regarding birds oiled at sea.

    Second, I want to respond to Mr. Marcil's allegations. Contrary to what he claims, we did state in the House of Commons on Friday that we wanted to hear witnesses and that we would be tabling amendments. I want to quote the words of my colleague, the member for Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, who said the following:

I hope that we will have an opportunity in committee to meet with witnesses who can make suggestions as to what needs to be changed in this bill. I hope the government will show some openness in that respect, so that amendments can be made to the bill.

    So, Mr. Chairman, contrary to Mr. Marcil's assertions, it was our intention to hear witnesses and also, potentially, to propose amendments. In my opinion, using that briefing session on draft legislation, where there was not adequate quorum to make a decision regarding clause by clause consideration of this bill, is not what I would call a decision made in good faith.

    I would now like to ask a substantive question. You can begin.

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    The Chair: Do you want to put your question?

[English]

    I would like to answer your two points. Both points are incorrect, Mr. Bigras.

    We did have a quorum for the purpose of that meeting. The purpose was to have an information meeting, and we did have a quorum.

    Secondly, there was no decision made. It was a unanimous request that did not come to a vote because there was no necessity for that. There was unanimous consent that the message to be delivered to our colleagues in the House of Commons the next day would be that the matter be given a speedy reading in the House, at all stages.

    Now, please proceed with your question.

[Translation]

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    Mr. Bernard Bigras: That may be so, Mr. Chairman. But referring to a session where there was not adequate quorum for the purposes of making decisions is, in my opinion, acting in bad faith. There can in fact be briefing sessions where only three or four MPs are present.

    Having said that, Mr. Chairman, let us tackle the substance of this bill, because I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary would like us to talk about its substantive provisions.

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    Hon. Serge Marcil: No, Mr. Chairman. On a point of order.

[English]

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    The Chair: We had a quorum for the purpose of that meeting, and the purpose of the meeting was to hear witnesses. Let us keep that point very clear. Therefore, there was no motion, as I indicated before, because there was unanimity.

    Now, would you like to pose your question?

º  +-(1620)  

[Translation]

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    Mr. Bernard Bigras: Mr. Chairman, perhaps no motion was moved because the members present were unanimous, but you cannot claim that there was unanimity, since you did not have an adequate quorum for the purposes of making such decisions. That is the reality, Mr. Chairman. Had you had a sufficient quorum for the purposes of making decisions such as this, you could now claim there was unanimity, but that is not the case.

[English]

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    The Chair: There was no decision. There was a unanimous request. The request was so unanimous and so solid, there was no requirement for a vote. The meeting did not require anything other than to hear witnesses. For that purpose, a quorum was in existence.

[Translation]

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    Mr. Bernard Bigras: Mr. Chairman, can I be allowed to ask my question? These were points of order.

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    The Chair: Yes.

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    Mr. Bernard Bigras: Claiming there was unanimity is not acceptable, in the sense that you did not have an adequate quorum to claim there was actually unanimity. In order to make such a claim, the necessary number of Committee members must be present for such a conclusion to be drawn.

    Having said that, Mr. Chairman…

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    Hon. Serge Marcil: On a point of order, Mr. Chairman.

[English]

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    The Chair: Okay. In fact, those members who were present expressed unanimity of opinion. It's all that happened on that day.

    Monsieur Marcil.

[Translation]

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    Hon. Serge Marcil: Mr. Chairman, the Bloc Québécois' game in all of this is to engage in misinformation. They are experts in that area. Had there been no quorum last Wednesday, no meeting would have been held. The fact is it was an official meeting and all Committee members were invited to attend. Consequently, had there been no quorum, we would not have been able to call the meeting to order.

    Furthermore, a briefing session was also offered to all members of Parliament in the House of Commons last Thursday. All of Mr. Mills' staff was in attendance. There was no one there from the Bloc Québécois. Mr. Bigras, I really don't understand why you keep insisting…

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    Mr. Bernard Bigras: Because I want the voice of democracy to be heard.

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    Hon. Serge Marcil: Had there been an outcry from the public and groups were opposed to the bill, I could understand the need to hear from everyone. But groups were consulted on this, and they all agreed that it was urgent to pass this bill.

    Let's be honest here. Let's try to avoid destabilizing the Committee by claiming there was no quorum. We would not have been able to do a thing had there been no quorum for that session.

    It seems to me we should believe the Chairman if he says there was a quorum.

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    Mr. Bernard Bigras: Mr. Chairman, on a point of order.

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    The Chair: One moment, please.

    Thank you, Mr. Marcil.

    Mr. Bigras, had you been in attendance last Wednesday, you would have seen that there was a consensus, there was unanimity, and that there was no need for a vote on the idea that the Committee convey to our colleagues in the House of Commons that we wanted the bill to be debated and to move quickly through all the stages in the House of Commons.

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    Mr. Bernard Bigras: I have a final point of order, Mr. Chairman.

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    The Chair: You have the floor.

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    Mr. Bernard Bigras: Mr. Marcil is absolutely right: there was an adequate quorum for the purposes of hearing witnesses. However, I would like to ask the clerk if one can conclude that there was unanimity. The unanimity you refer to only relates to the members who were present. In my opinion, one cannot say there was unanimity if the number of members present was not… I would like to hear the clerk's view on this.

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    The Chair: As I already pointed out several times, Mr. Bigras, no decision was made, and there was unanimity among all the members in attendance. That's all. If you want to hear the clerk's views, I will give him the floor.

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    Mr. Bernard Bigras: Yes, please.

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    The Clerk of the Committee (Mr. Eugene Morawski): I agree with the Chairman. There was an adequate quorum for the purposes of hearing witnesses. No decision was made. Everyone heard the Chairman's instructions. Everyone was anxious to go back and see their leader and send a clear message that they wanted the bill to be passed at every stage, and the Chairman told them they should.

º  +-(1625)  

[English]

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    The Chair: At this stage I wish to remind colleagues that we have an agenda. We are examining Bill C-34. Questions, of course, are welcome. I would like to proceed with examination of clause 1. I will ask whether there are questions on clause 1 so we can proceed orderly.

    Keep in mind that we have before us a piece of legislation that will never be perfect, but, as Mr. Hubbard suggested earlier, it could be subject to a sunset provision or some kind of provision that would permit a re-examination within a certain number of years. That can be determined by the members of the committee, as already indicated by Mr. Hubbard and Mr. Mills.

    Are there any questions or any interventions?

    Monsieur Bigras.

[Translation]

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

    I would now like to address the bill we are considering today. We all know of the case brought by the Department of Transport against Canada Steamship Lines, and that the provincial court in Halifax, Nova Scotia, imposed a fine of $125,000 in that case.

    What defence did Canada Steamship Lines make when it appeared before the provincial court? What kind of arguments did it bring forward in the case brought against it by the federal government?

[English]

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    Mr. George Finney: That case was brought by Transport Canada and tried by Justice. I think it was settled out of court, to tell you the truth. I can check.

[Translation]

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    Mr. Bernard Bigras: Could we ask a representative of the Justice Department to come and sit at the table?

[English]

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    Mr. George Finney: Justice is here, but we don't have the prosecutors here, sir. I just invited my chief of enforcement, who is more familiar with the case than I am. In fact, it was a plea bargaining situation. They said they did wrong and conceded to the penalty.

[Translation]

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    Mr. Bernard Bigras: Mr. Chairman, we have been told there was no consultation on the substantive provisions of this bill. That is what we were told earlier. However, an action was brought by the federal government, which was successful, against the CSL Atlas bulk carrier, which belongs to Canada Steamship Lines. I would like to know what defence was made by Canada Steamship Lines in that case brought against it by the federal government. Is there someone here from the Department of Justice?

    If there is no one, Mr. Chairman, perhaps we could hold another meeting in order to be provided with that explanation. I basically would like to know what case was made or defence presented by Canada Steamship Lines as part of those proceedings in 2002.

[English]

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    Mr. George Finney: As I indicated, it was not our case. We were not directly involved with it. I believe the court record will speak for itself, should you wish to get access to it.

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    The Chair: Mr. Arès, do you have something to add?

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    Mr. Michel Arès (Legal Counsel, Department of Justice): Not really, sir. I will just say that a different act was involved. The prohibitions are somewhat different. There is no link to what's going to be done here.

    If there was a plea bargain, there's no way we can know what was bargained.

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    The Chair: Thank you.

[Translation]

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    Mr. Bernard Bigras: Mr. Chairman, Mr. Arès says that there is no link to what we are trying to do here, but it seems to me there is a link in terms of what this bill covers. It is clear that the federal government took legal action against Canada Steamship Lines with respect to the illegal dumping of oil in Canadian waters. It seems to me that is the kind of thing we want to legislate, unless I'm mistaken, Mr. Chairman. It's not about the introduction of species into Canadian waters, as stated in the government's own press release. So, it seems to me we are not attempting to regulate the deposit, through ships' ballast, of invasive species, Mr. Chairman. We are in fact talking about oil here.

    So, I would like to get an answer. If we cannot be given that answer today, which would seem to be the case, I would like to Committee to hear from Justice Department officials, so that we have additional information about the reasons. Indeed, in order to improve this bill, we need all available information. So, that is the request I am making, Mr. Chairman. I have gone along with the process so far, by accepting to proceed with clause by clause consideration, but if possible, I would like to have the Committee bring in Justice Department officials.

º  +-(1630)  

[English]

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    The Chair: It seems to me that Mr. Finney has already given a reply, to the best of his knowledge.

    Mr. Finney, is there anything else you would like to add?

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    Mr. George Finney: No, sir.

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    The Chair: Mr. Arès has referred to the fact that the case referred to by Mr. Bigras was dealt with under legislation that is still in place, and that you are not able to give information about plea bargaining.

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    Mr. Michel Arès: I have nothing to add except for the fact that a part of this bill will deal with that kind of question.

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    The Chair: Regarding clause 1, which deals with the meaning of conveyance, are there any further questions? I will call for a vote very soon.

    Mr. Bigras.

[Translation]

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    Mr. Bernard Bigras: I have another question.

[English]

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    The Chair: Fine.

[Translation]

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    Mr. Bernard Bigras: Mr. Chairman, in clause 1, we have a list of definitions. Such terms as “vessel” are defined, as well as others. I would like to know why no one bothered defining the term “federal waters”. I would like to know whether you have a definition of “federal waters” and why you did not include it in this bill. Perhaps I could move an amendment, if that were possible.

[English]

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    The Chair: [Inaudible—Editor] ...in the Constitution, Mr. Bigras. It's not necessary to have it here. It's quite a well-known fact.

[Translation]

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    Mr. Bernard Bigras: I'll let the witnesses answer, Mr. Chairman.

[English]

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    The Chair: I can give you this information from past experience.

    Mr. Finney, would you like to answer it?

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    Mr. George Finney: I understand it's a well-known definition under the Interpretation Act. We don't try to define everything that's already been interpreted.

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    The Chair: Thank you.

    Mr. Marcil.

[Translation]

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    Hon. Serge Marcil: My comment is along the same lines as what Mr. Bigras has just said.

    Is there another act that applies to domestic waters—the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River, say? Will the bill we are currently considering apply only to waters along the east and west coasts of Canada? Is there a difference?

    Perhaps I could phrase my question in another way. Will the legislation we are currently considering also affect the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River? If you tell me there is another act for that purpose, then I will know that it really is different.

[English]

+-

    Mr. George Finney: The amendments to this act apply to--for example, the migratory bird act--depositing oil into habitats, waters frequented by migratory birds. So it would apply to the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence, and other internal waters. That is not different in terms of the substantive prohibition that existed before. This act does not change the fundamental prohibition on polluting with oily wastes. It amends the fines, the enforcement approach, etc. It doesn't fundamentally change the prohibition itself. We're just moving it from a regulation into the act for clarity and speed.

º  +-(1635)  

+-

    The Chair: Thank you.

    Are there any further questions on clause 1?

    Yes.

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Bernard Bigras: May I move an amendment?

[English]

+-

    The Chair: You can read it.

[Translation]

    You can read it, if you like.

+-

    Mr. Bernard Bigras: I move that clause 1 of Bill C-34 be amended by adding the following, after line 22, page 2:

“federal waters” means, other than in Yukon, waters under the exclusive legislative jurisdiction of Parliament and, in Yukon, waters in a federal conservation area within the meaning of section 2 of the Yukon Act.

[English]

+-

    The Chair: You have heard the amendment by Mr. Bigras. Are there any questions?

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Bernard Bigras: May I give you my rationale?

+-

    The Chair: Yes.

+-

    Mr. Bernard Bigras: Mr. Chairman, why do we need to specify here what the term “federal waters” refers to? Well, in proposed clause 5.1, in clause 4 of the bill, reference is made to what would be considered to constitute those waters. Proposed sub-clause 5.1(1) reads as follows:

    5.1 (1) No person or vessel shall deposit a substance that is harmful to migratory birds, or permit such a substance to be deposited, in water or an area frequented by migratory birds…

    Here I'm making the connection with the matter raised by Mr. Marcil a little earlier. And to continue:

[…] or in a place from which the substance may enter such waters or such an area.

    So, the purpose of my amendment is to specify that this refers to federal waters, in order to avoid any direct intervention or interference in areas of provincial jurisdiction, and so that it is perfectly clear which lakes, rivers and other waterways are subject to this legislation.

    In Quebec, we have had a National Water Policy in place since 2002 and there is a need to eliminate any overlap with the federal government that could create an additional burden. Also, the Liberal Party of Canada, which is currently in office in Quebec, stated in a document released in February of 2003 that the Quebec Government would be negotiating with the Government of Canada, with a view to acquiring jurisdiction over fresh water bodies in Quebec—lakes, rivers, marshes, wetlands—to provide for better monitoring of aquatic activities.

    So, because of the 2002 National Water Policy and the wishes expressed by the party which currently forms the government in Quebec, it is important to specify that this refers to federal waters.

    I have a question for Mr. Finney. What negotiations have you had with the Government of Quebec? Earlier, in response to a question from Mr. Marcil, you said there had been no consultations on the substantive provisions of this bill. I don't have the transcript in front of me, but it seems to me that is what you said, Mr. Finney. If you have not held consultations on the substance of this bill, I would like to know whether you had any consultations with the Government of Quebec before drafting this legislation? What consultations did take place with the Quebec government?

[English]

+-

    Mr. George Finney: The answer to that, sir, is we didn't have any direct negotiations on this bill because there was no substantial change to the jurisdictional arrangements between the federal and provincial governments. The prohibition, as I indicated before, was in effect with respect to deposition of substances harmful to migratory birds.

    The responsibility of the federal government for the conservation of migratory birds is quite clear, and there have been discussions between Quebec and the Government of Canada for some time over that. It was reflected in the ability of the Government of Canada to amend the Migratory Birds Convention Act of 1994. So there were no direct negotiations because we did not see anything that needed to be negotiated.

º  +-(1640)  

+-

    The Chair: Perhaps I can ask you, Mr. Finney, whether you have ever come across migratory birds that know the distinction between a provincial and a federal river.

+-

    Mr. George Finney: No, sir.

+-

    The Chair: Thank you.

    The motion is in order. I'm told it will also have the effect of reducing Canada's economic zone. I will put it to a vote.

    (Motion negatived)

    (Clause 1 agreed to)

    (On clause 2)

+-

    The Chair: Mr. Mills.

+-

    Mr. Bob Mills: Why can we not include the nose and tail as part of the economic zone? I know it's very important to people in that area.

+-

    Mr. George Finney: It's because as defined now we are operating within the definitions established under international law, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. To our understanding, it is difficult to get our reach out to the nose and the tail.

+-

    Mr. Bob Mills: So if we identify a ship dumping its oil 201 miles out, what do we do? Obviously, that's what I would do if I were a shipowner who wanted to do this. They will know that. Where does the Law of the Sea fit into that then? Can we turn it over to them, and will they prosecute?

+-

    Mr. George Finney: The way it works is if a ship is spotted outside the 200 nautical mile limit, all we can do is submit the evidence to the flag state of the vessel in question. According to international codes and rules, it's up to the flag state to take appropriate action.

    Regrettably, in the case of several flag states, the appropriate action, in our view, is not strong enough. Canada is taking that position to various international fora in order to try to fix this up, but it's not anything we can do directly through this domestic law. At least, that's the advice we've received.

+-

    Mr. Bob Mills: I've heard various ministers talk about extending beyond the nose and tail for fish stocks. It sounds as though they're contemplating attempting to stretch our jurisdiction over that area. Would this not be a good opportunity to throw a little curve at them to see what happens? If so, I would put that amendment.

+-

    Mr. George Finney: I think I've described the situation as I've been briefed on it, sir. It sounds as though your colleague might be able to help me out, and if he is prepared to do so, I would appreciate it.

+-

    Mr. Bob Mills: Can I direct a question to Mr. Chatters, Mr. Chair?

+-

    Mr. George Finney: I would add simply that from a policy point of view, as I indicated in my earlier statement, the birds concentrate in numbers on the Grand Banks, including the nose and the tail. So from a conservation point of view, if we were able to get out there, that would be great.

    I will add, though, that there has been some confusion with respect to what happens when ships dump, say, 400 miles off. However one might feel about it from an environmental ethics point of view, the fact of the matter is that if it happens, the impact on birds will be significantly less—it will almost be zero—because there's very little bird activity out there.

º  +-(1645)  

+-

    The Chair: Then this is an issue that could be pursued under the Law of the Sea at the United Nations to generate a consensus amongst all the coastal nations, in order to expand the limit and include those areas that are outside the 200-mile limit.

+-

    Mr. George Finney: We are looking through international fora at establishing a sensitive area that would include all of the Grand Banks and the nose and the tail, which would mean according to MARPOL rules the allowable discharges would go down even further. Through that mechanism, we might be able to make some progress on it.

+-

    The Chair: That's very helpful.

    Mr. Chatters.

+-

    Mr. David Chatters (Athabasca, CPC): Let me maybe bring some clarity to Bob's question.

    Russia filed a claim under the Law of the Sea outside the 200-mile limit and it was denied because of lack of data collected to support the claim. Canada currently, through Fisheries and Oceans, is gathering data to make the claim on the nose and tail, but we probably wouldn't be successful for the same reasons Russia wasn't if we were to claim under the Law of the Sea jurisdiction over that area, until we have that data.

    I think we're headed in that direction. We're not there, by any means.

+-

    The Chair: We need the critical mass.

+-

    Mr. David Chatters: Yes.

+-

    The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Chatters.

    (Clauses 2 and 3 agreed to)

    (On clause 4)

+-

    The Chair: Mr. Mills.

+-

    Mr. Bob Mills: I have a question. Again, I believe you've referred to the fact that there is data on species, numbers, populations in decline, sustainability, and so on. I wonder if you could provide the committee with that material, the research that's there.

+-

    Mr. George Finney: I can provide you with the names of the species affected, sir, and from the study where we have good information, the numbers of birds affected and what we are thinking.

    I told you the main outline for the principal species. There are some species, though...murres are quite common, so the dynamic there is one of the dynamics we're looking at.

    Another situation entirely, though, would be, for example, the impact on the harlequin duck, which is a species of special concern that winters off the Avalon Peninsula. The total population in eastern Canada, I think, is estimated to be in the order of 3,000 to 5,000 birds, so if you ended up with an oil slick affecting even a hundred of them, that would be enough to be a concern. The dynamic depends quite a lot on the species you're looking at.

+-

    Mr. Bob Mills: But you do have that data.

+-

    Mr. George Finney: I can provide you with some information.

+-

    Mr. Bob Mills: Thank you.

+-

    The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Mills.

    (Clause 4 agreed to)

    (On clause 5)

[Translation]

+-

    The Chair: Mr. Bigras.

+-

    Mr. Bernard Bigras: Mr. Chairman, new clause 5.3 states that no Canadian employer shall take reprisals against an employee who reports his employer for a violation of the 1994 Act.

    I would like to know how you reconcile that with the fact that under the Constitution, legislative jurisdiction over labour relations falls to the provincial legislatures. So, Parliament essentially has special jurisdiction with respect to corporations, since the Constitution has empowered it to pass general legislation in that area. But how can you address that reality when labour relations are clearly an area of provincial jurisdiction, and yet proposed clause 5.3 includes a provision that deals with labour relations?

º  +-(1650)  

[English]

+-

    The Chair: I suppose there was some confusion, Mr. Bigras, because we carried clause 4 a moment ago, but we will allow your question because the numbering is not very easy to understand at first sight.

    So Mr. Bigras is reopening clause 4, which I'm a bit uneasy about doing because it's not a good practice, but....

    (On clause 4)

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Bernard Bigras: In any case, I don't have an amendment to move.

[English]

+-

    The Chair: He wants a clarification on the prohibition; then we'll get a reply from Mr. Finney, and then I will recognize Mr. Marcil on the next clause.

[Translation]

    Oh, it's on the same one?

+-

    Hon. Serge Marcil: Yes. The numbering is very difficult to follow. It's proposed clause 5.3 in clause 4 of the bill.

[English]

+-

    The Chair: When there's an act to amend an act, there is always this kind of back and forth of numbers, but as we progress we will gradually adjust.

    Monsieur Bigras has a question.

[Translation]

    Mr. Marcil, do you have a question?

+-

    Hon. Serge Marcil: Did Mr. Bigras get an answer?

+-

    The Chair: No, not yet.

+-

    Hon. Serge Marcil: Then I will wait.

    Mr. Bigras' question make sense, since this does relate to provincial jurisdiction where the waters are located within the province's territory. Boundary waters do not belong to the province, but rather, to the federal government. Is that correct?

[English]

+-

    The Chair: Mr. Finney, could you please answer the question?

+-

    Mr. George Finney: Sir, we certainly feel we're operating within federal authority in proposed section 5.3 at the top of page 5, which I understand your question was directed to. This has been borrowed from CEPA, that is, subsection 96(4) of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. It's the same provision that appears in existing acts.

+-

    The Chair: So it's an existing act that is being inserted here with proposed section 5.3.

+-

    Mr. George Finney: Yes, sir. In terms of creating this act, we did that fairly often.

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Bernard Bigras: I certainly understand Mr. Marcil's explanation, and it makes a lot of sense, but it is fairly clear that this legislation could apply anywhere. How can you deal with these differences in jurisdiction? Quite frankly, if this only affected areas of federal jurisdiction, I would not have too much of a problem with it, because the Constitution makes provision for that. But if this legislation can apply anywhere, then how will you address that specific question, when this is usually an area that falls within the jurisdiction of provincial governments?

[English]

+-

    The Chair: We would have to teach migratory birds to learn the distinction between federal and provincial levels, Mr. Bigras, and that is a hell of a difficult task. That's the only answer I can give to your question.

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Bernard Bigras: I am not asking you for an answer, Mr. Chairman. It is up to departmental officials to answer the question.

[English]

+-

    Mr. George Finney: We certainly feel we've presented a bill to Parliament that is constitutionally sound. As I indicated before, this same provision is applied in the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. We simply borrowed the wording here.

    The reason we are doing this, just by the way, is because some of the most successful cases in the United States have been brought forward by crew members themselves who have been witness to illegal acts, some of them fairly dramatic.

    One case that was reported to us by U.S. officials at our last meeting with them was a situation where the oil separator was jerry-rigged, essentially, so it was bypassed before the bilge was put out into the water. A crew member took a digital picture of that and sent it to U.S. authorities. When the U.S. authorities boarded the boat, they found that the plumbing had been withdrawn and it had been put back in its normal state. But with the assistance of the digital photograph, they were able to bring a successful case against the company.

    (Clause 4 agreed to on division)

    (On clause 5)

+-

    The Chair: Mr. Mills.

+-

    Mr. Bob Mills: Where it says, “No person or vessel shall deposit a substance that is harmful to migratory birds,” sewage obviously would be harmful to migratory birds. There would be chemicals in there, hormones in there....

º  +-(1655)  

+-

    The Chair: Are you sure you are on clause 5?

+-

    Mr. Bob Mills: I think so. This is proposed section 5.1.

+-

    The Chair: Yes, proposed section 5.1.

+-

    Mr. Bob Mills: I'm quoting from proposed section 5.1, on page 3.

+-

    The Chair: Thank you. Go ahead.

+-

    Mr. Bob Mills: So does that mean sewage?

+-

    Mr. George Finney: It would be a question of evidence. It would be any harmful substance. It could be pesticides; it could be industrial chemicals. It would be a matter for the evidence. You would have to be able to demonstrate that the subject was deleterious to migratory birds. If you could bring that case, that evidence, then presumably a charge could be contemplated by our enforcement officers and it would obviously be up to the courts to decide.

+-

    Mr. Bob Mills: When I visited the Governor of Washington State, he took me down to the Seattle Harbor, and he said, “There is your pollution. If you want to talk about the air in the Fraser Valley, I want to talk about your sewage coming from Victoria into the Seattle Harbor.” He showed me things there that were identifiable, that obviously a bird could eat. They aren't necessarily that selective, and I'm sure you could prove it would be harmful for a bird to eat some of those things.

    So I would assume this legislation, then, would allow you to go after the City of Victoria, the City of Halifax, or the City of Saint John for putting that sewage that contains...and you could prove what the sewage contains, which could obviously be lethal to a bird. Am I assuming that correctly?

+-

    Mr. George Finney: Well, we haven't contemplated using that because there are probably other acts that are better set up to do it.

    I certainly understand your point. I would make the observation, though, that some of the best habitat for ducks are secondary sewage lagoons. They tend to be quite productive.

+-

    The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Mills, for raising a very good question, and we will also express the hope that it will apply here. You're on page 3 and not on page 5, and you're back again on clause 4. You made your point and your intervention.

    Now we are on clause 5 on page 6. Are there any questions on clause 5? If not, shall you carry on division?

    (Clause 5 agreed to on division)

+-

    The Chair: Clause 6 on page 6.

[Translation]

    Am I going too fast? All right. Would you like to ask a question?

    (Clause 5)

+-

    Mr. Bernard Bigras: Yes, I have a question about game officers.

    This is in clause 5. Proposed sub-clause 6(3) in sub-clause 5(1) of the bill reads as follows: “Every game officer must be provided with a certificate of designation…”. Then after that, proposed sub-clause 6(6) in clause 5(2) of the bill reads as follows: “A game officer may arrest a person…”.

    Is that right? If I understand them correctly, these proposed legislative changes will have the effect of broadening the powers of game officers. First of all, could you confirm that? Second, will game officers have powers of detention, seizure and search? I would like to know whether these powers they are being given are consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Have you verified that? Did the Department of Justice verify whether these increased powers would be consistent? The bill basically gives increased powers of detention, seizure, and so on. I want to know whether the Justice Department has looked at this.

[English]

+-

    Mr. George Finney: The short answer is yes. In addition to the charter rights, we've been very careful to have the experts on privacy in the Department of Justice review the bill, and they are comfortable with this. We've also designed the bill so that it operates within the framework of international conventions.

+-

    The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Finney.

    (Clause 5 agreed to on division)

    (On clause 6)

»  +-(1700)  

+-

    The Chair: Mr. Mills.

+-

    Mr. Bob Mills: Where we have the word “may”--I know we've gone through this before with the species at risk legislation--and where it says, “A game officer may at any reasonable time”, why wouldn't we say “shall”? Can you explain that to me again, please?

+-

    The Chair: You're on clause 5.

+-

    Mr. Bob Mills: No, I'm on clause 6.

+-

    The Chair: It has been adopted, Mr. Mills.

+-

    Ms. Susan Baldwin (Procedural Clerk): He's talking about subsection 7(2) of the act in clause 6. That would be on page 7, starting at line 30.

+-

    The Chair: Well, we are not there yet--or are we?

+-

    Ms. Susan Baldwin: It's in clause 6, which we're currently discussing.

+-

    The Chair: Would someone answer the question, please?

+-

    Mr. Paul Gavrel (Legal Counsel, Department of Justice): Thank you, Mr. Chair.

    To answer the honourable gentleman's question with respect to “may”, you will find this in numerous statutes where the enforcement officer has discretion to exercise his or her discretion in enforcing the law. When you have inspection powers, certain enforcement powers, you don't say “shall”; you give them that discretion.

    I would also point out that the words “reasonable grounds” are incorporated throughout the bill, which means that there has to be a reasonable probability--and that's consistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. So what Environment Canada and the government has endeavoured to do is to ensure that all provisions are consistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

+-

    The Chair: Thank you.

    (Clauses 6 to 8 inclusive agreed to on division)

+-

    The Chair: Mr. Bigras.

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Bernard Bigras: Could officials explain what is covered by clause 8?

[English]

+-

    Mr. George Finney: Where are we?

+-

    The Chair: Page 12, clause 8.

    Could we have a brief answer, Mr. Gavrel or Mr. Finney?

    (On clause 8)

+-

    Mr. George Finney: Basically, clause 8 deals with enforcement powers, such as detention of ships, redirection of vessels, and such matters. It attempts to define very carefully what an enforcement officer may do in undertaking his inspections or investigations.

»  +-(1705)  

+-

    The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Finney.

    Mr. Bigras.

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Bernard Bigras: Mr. Chairman, we all know that it can be very difficult at times to locate shipowners. Often they have numbered companies, and it can be quite an adventure trying to actually identify the owner. Given that fact, how do you intend to actually identify an owner who has committed an offence—in other words, the person this is really aimed at? What do you intend to do, in light of the fact it is often difficult to identify the owner?

[English]

+-

    Mr. George Finney: I don't think it's habitually difficult to identify an owner; it has to be a registered ship. In the cases where we can't, I suppose we will adopt a different strategy.

    As I indicated earlier, what this does is essentially to set the framework so that if the investigation and evidence lead us to the fact that anybody in the chain of command, whether it's the owner or a director or an operator, has not exercised the expected due diligence, or their expected duties of care, then we can bring charges against them. It doesn't mean we will always bring charges, because we won't always have the evidence to allow us to do that.

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Bernard Bigras: Is it because it can be difficult to identify the owner that you are shifting responsibility to employees operating the ship? Was that reality a factor in your decision to shift more of the responsibility to the people operating the ship, since it can frequently be very difficult to locate the owner, as he may have a subsidiary or be operating under a company name? Are you trying to ensure that this will be successful by pinning the responsibility on the employee?

[English]

+-

    Mr. George Finney: As I indicated earlier, the way this is framed, everybody has their own responsibility with respect to not polluting. In any individual case the evidence will allow us to lay charges where they belong. We'll not always, by any means, be able to charge an owner, or would it be appropriate, and the same would apply to the master of the vessel or the chief engineer. How this law is administered is obviously going to be important, but it is not our intention to be cavalier and out there, as I indicated earlier, charging individual workmen down in the bottom of the boat, because that wouldn't be reasonable. On the other hand, if we find in a good company--and there are companies that have good policy and good training--the reason the pollution event happened was that the chief engineer was drunk, we may in fact go in that direction, because that would not be exercising due care. Also, unfortunately, there are a fair number of cases where, as I said, the plumbing is altered. In those cases the culpability probably lies at several levels, and we would be looking at that seriously.

+-

    The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Finney.

    (Clause 8 agreed to on division)

+-

    The Chair: Madame Marleau.

[Translation]

+-

    Hon. Diane Marleau (Sudbury, Lib.): Since there are 52 clauses, I would like to move that we pass, as a package, all those parts of the bill where members have no questions. Then we would only have left those clauses for which there are questions. Otherwise, this is going to take us all night.

+-

    Mr. Bernard Bigras: [Inaudible—Editor]

+-

    Hon. Diane Marleau: If you don't have questions on every single clause, why not proceed in that way?

+-

    Mr. Bernard Bigras: I want to remind you… In any case, it's not up to you to make that decision.

+-

    Hon. Diane Marleau: No, it's up to you.

[English]

+-

    The Chair: Mr. Mills.

    (On clause 9)

+-

    Mr. Bob Mills: We have a maximum penalty of $1 million. I propose that we say “no more than $1,000,000 and no less than $300,000”. That's line 4 on page 13.

+-

    The Chair: What is the amendment you are proposing?

+-

    Mr. Bob Mills: It should be “and not less than $300,000”.

+-

    The Chair: So you are establishing a floor.

+-

    Mr. Bob Mills: A minimum.

+-

    The Chair: Mr. Mills has an amendment whereby a floor would be established on page 13, line 4. Could you read it again, please?

»  +-(1710)  

+-

    Mr. Bob Mills: It is “on conviction on indictment, to a fine of not more than $1,000,000 or less than $300,000 or to imprisonment”, and so on.

+-

    The Chair: Fine. Would you like to speak on this amendment?

+-

    Mr. Bob Mills: I just think this makes it clearer. It gives the court guidance as to the fact that we're serious about this. In the U.S. there are much higher minimums than $1 million. I think that would show we are really serious about this bill.

+-

    The Chair: I am informed by the legislative clerk that this amendment is in order. Therefore, it is before us and it makes sense.

    Could we have a comment by Mr. Finney?

    Mr. Gavrel.

+-

    Mr. Paul Gavrel: It's not my role, obviously, to debate the policy reasons for which the honourable member is bringing the particular amendment, but I'd point out to the honourable members that, first of all, the reason the bill is drafted that way is it gives maximum discretion to the courts. You may have a situation where the courts want to send a message to a corporation or to corporate directors. If a crew member is charged, the crew member may not be able to afford to pay the $300,000, and the courts have the opportunity to make other orders.

    There are discretionary orders further on, on page 17, for example, directing the offender to perform community service or directing the offender to do an environmental audit. If it's a corporation--or it could be an individual too--it can direct the offender to pay in the manner specified by the court an amount to an educational institution for scholarships for students enrolled in environmental studies.

    Now, I'd also point out that the bill does give direction to the court for sentencing considerations. If you look at page 14, it says, “A court that imposes a sentence shall take the following factors into account, in addition to any other principles that it is required to consider”, and it lists them from (a) to (f). What is in the bill is in SARA and CEPA.

    I'd just like to bring to the attention of the honourable members that in whatever decision you make, you have to keep in mind giving maximum discretion to the court to impose the sentence it imposes. Again, I'm not engaged in the policy debate in this issue. This is a matter I just want to bring to your attention.

    Thank you.

+-

    The Chair: Thank you.

    Mr. Mills, do you still wish to proceed?

+-

    Mr. Bob Mills: Yes, I do. I'd like to just speak to that.

    I guess what I'm concerned about...and you bring up a very good point if it's an individual. I think Mr. Bigras has an amendment to make it apply to the company, to the vessel. Obviously, that is my intention, to make that apply to the company.

    I don't think it hurts to have a minimum. I'm very concerned that the fines up until now have been very minor. For a lot of companies, being fined $20,000 is really not any reason to change their way of life.

    Lately they've been going up. But it's only one case that I'm aware of that was $120,000, and they got away. We never collected anything from them. So I just think if it's this amount, you hold the ship. If they don't put down a big enough bond, you now have something you can really go after. I know it doesn't bring the birds back, but it sure should discourage companies from doing this in the future.

    So I would argue very strongly that we need that. Obviously, I'm prepared to take friendly amendments if someone has a better idea on it.

[Translation]

+-

    The Chair: Mr. Bigras, you have the floor.

+-

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

    I am very pleased to support the amendment put forward by my colleague, Bob Mills. Experience has shown us that very often, shipowners are not bothered by the fine and simply pay it. What we need are minimal conditions, standards and thresholds. Otherwise, if we leave this up to the courts' discretion, we won't improve the situation adequately. The November 2002 court ruling clearly illustrates that: the Provincial Court of Nova Scotia imposed a fine of only $125,000.

    I believe there needs to be a minimum fine set out in the bill. I believe that what our colleague has proposed is fair and will be an improvement. Otherwise, we may end up in a situation where shipowners won't care one way or the other about fines, because they are so small. So, I think we have to set a clear threshold in this legislation. That way, we will be able to change things.

»  +-(1715)  

[English]

+-

    The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Bigras.

    Mr. Finney would like to comment, and then Mr. Marcil.

+-

    Mr. George Finney: We may have inadvertently misled the committee in terms of what these fines mean. This amended fine structure applies to all of the provisions in the Migratory Birds Convention Act, including a hunter being over limit. The fine structure here is not restricted to the issue in front of the committee. They are the fines that appear in the Migratory Birds Convention Act for all offences. Clearly, a fine of $300,000 to a duck hunter in Alberta for being three mallards over the limit would be a little severe.

+-

    The Chair: Thank you for the clarification.

    Mr. Marcil.

[Translation]

+-

    Hon. Serge Marcil: My comments are along the same lines. I don't want to repeat what Mr. Finney just said. Setting a minimum fine entirely removes a judge's discretion, which means that people who violate the law will all be on the same footing. Whether or not the offence is a lesser one or its impact is minimal, we will automatically be imposing a fine of $300,000. This may end up punishing individuals who only have a small boat.

[English]

+-

    The Chair: Mr. Marcil has made a point, and we've heard Mr. Mills and Mr. Bigras on their approach. Can we now come to a vote? Or do we want to conclude?

+-

    Mr. Bob Mills: Because of the duck hunter issue, obviously, I would like to ask our officials if we could stay this clause and they could come back with something that deals with ships and oceans and companies, not duck hunters. We haven't had time to work on this bill, obviously, because we just got it, but they could certainly come up with something that would apply to ships, I would think.

+-

    The Chair: I think this creates a number of delays that are not very conducive to today's purposes.

    We have an amendment by Mr. Mills. The amendment is before us.

    (Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

    (Clause 9 agreed to on division)

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    The Chair: Mr. Bigras.

[Translation]

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    Mr. Bernard Bigras: On a point of order. Mr. Chairman, I am realizing that I am more patient than my colleague, Mr. Mills. I think there is a way of doing things that respects democratic principles and also considers the desire of parliamentarians to improve legislation. I am very disappointed to see the way things are proceeding here. I want you to know that I will be leaving the meeting.

    I told you that I was disappointed about the way this meeting had been going. I regret to have to say that I will be leaving the Committee meeting. Naturally, you will not have the necessary quorum to make any decisions.

[English]

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    The Chair: Monsieur Bigras, Mr. Hubbard would like to say something in reply to your statement.

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    Mr. Charles Hubbard: Mr. Chair, just before Mr. Bigras leaves, I think it has become very evident that the two parties opposite don't want to see legislation to improve the problem this summer. Certainly, if we had gone along with my suggestion that we have legislation with a sunset clause, at least we'd have something on the books to look at this very difficult situation that our marine people are facing.

    Mr. Chair, although you may have lost quorum, I think the committee must acknowledge that the people on this side of the table want to see this legislation, even though it may not be perfect, and those opposite certainly will answer to the public in this country why they didn't favour making some changes that would improve our act.

»  -(1720)  

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    The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Hubbard.

    Monsieur Marcil.

[Translation]

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    Hon. Serge Marcil: Mr. Chairman, I find Mr. Bigras' attitude deplorable, since he is assuming that Mr. Mills left the meeting because he was upset. He was probably called to speak in the House. I think that kind of behaviour is deplorable.

    Mr. Chairman, I would like to ask that we wait a few minutes. There may be other parliamentarians coming to join us, because there are some members of other parties who are supposed to come back. So, we can just wait a few minutes. That kind of attitude is really deplorable. When an amendment is moved and defeated, the feeling seems to be that it's just because we don't want to amend the bill. But the fact is that it has to be a good amendment before we can pass it.

    If an amendment is tabled that is appropriate, I will vote in favour of that amendment. If it is aimed at improving the bill, I will support it, and I believe my colleagues will do the same. But people should not be moving amendments simply to delay the parliamentary process. Some people have got it into their heads that this bill should not be passed. So, they are simply trying to delay things. I deplore the fact that they would not want to resolve a major problem we are grappling with these days, when it has taken us several years to find a solution and actually give our legislation some teeth. Unfortunately, some people just don't understand how urgent it is to take action with respect to migratory birds. We all know that every year, in Newfoundland alone, more than 300,000 birds die because of shipowners who deliberately discharge their oily bilge waste. Today we are trying to correct this situation as quickly as possible, but unfortunately there are some who are just too partisan to allow that to happen.

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    The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Marcil.

    I also deplore the events of these last few minutes.

[English]

    There's always much to be gained by the collective effort to improve the quality of any legislation, as has always been the case in particularly this committee. However, we see the urgency of this matter, and we understand the fact that we have an opportunity to act on behalf of the migratory system and improve the current situation.

    We do have quorum, and I would ask whether we could pass clauses 10 to 52 with one vote, on division, so as to conclude this meeting and leave it then to the House and Senate to do their share in moving the legislation ahead.

    Is there agreement, on division, on this particular motion?

    (Clauses 10 to 52 inclusive agreed to)

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    The Chair: So the balance of the bill has been adopted.

    Shall the title carry?

    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    The Chair: On division, I suppose.

    Shall the bill carry?

    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    The Chair: Shall the bill be reported to the House?

    Some hon. members: Agreed.

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    The Chair: That is the last question I have.

    I would like to thank the members for their input.

    This meeting can now be adjourned.