- MPndpFeb 26, 2015 2:45 pm | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl for that question, because he is absolutely correct.
In Washington State it was becoming a crisis, and I think the parliamentary secretary acknowledged that it is a significant problem in Canada. What was also done in Washington State was to improve the ability of other levels of government to actually deal with the front-line issues with regard to derelict vessels. I do not have the precise number, but authorities have taken hundreds of vessels out of the waters in Washington State. They have this fund. They have clearly identified authorities who can deal with it.
I am very well aware that the Minister of Transport has convened a working group, but the government promised some information back in 2013 and we still have not seen it. Every winter that goes by, with our big winter winds and big seas, we have more vessels that end up foundering. I would encourage the Conservatives to support this bill. If they are suggesting that there is a way to amend it, let us amend the bill so at least we have some action in which municipalities have some confidence.
- MPndpFeb 26, 2015 2:30 pm | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
moved that Bill C-638, An Act to amend the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 (wreck), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl for seconding this piece of legislation, and I also want to acknowledge the work that has been done by the member for Victoria and the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca.
What exactly is it that Bill C-638 does? It designates the Coast Guard as the receiver of wrecks for the purposes of the Canada Shipping Act, allowing them to take action without being directed to by a ministry. It would also compel the government to create regulations for the removal, disposition, or destruction of derelict vessels or wrecks.
I have had a number of emails asking me exactly what we mean by a wreck. I will go to part 7 of the Canada Shipping Act, section 153. It says that a wreck is defined as:
jetsam, flotsam, lagan and derelict and any other thing that was part of or was on a vessel wrecked, stranded or in distress
Part of the reason I brought this bill forward is that what we have out there is a jurisdictional quagmire. We have three separate federal government departments that end up dealing with wrecks, whether it is Transport Canada, whether it is Environment Canada, or whether it is the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Then we have provincial and municipal levels of government as well. I want to quote from a report called “Dealing with Problem Vessels and Structures in B.C. Waters”. This report says:
Dealing with problem vessels and structures can be highly complex due to the mix of provincial ownership of land, federal jurisdiction over navigation and shipping and sometimes conflicting federal and provincial laws.... Determining what laws apply can be complicated by the fact that Provincial laws or local government bylaws that would be applicable to a structure or vehicle on dry land may not apply to vessels because they either conflict with federal laws such as the Canada Shipping Act, or infringe on the core of the federal government's responsibility for navigation and shipping.
What ends up happening, actually, and I will give an example a little later on, is that departments end up pointing their fingers at each other, or levels of government end up pointing their fingers at each other, and nobody takes responsibility.
We might ask, what is the scope of this problem? Unfortunately, part of the problem is that we do not have a really good inventory of this. However, there was some attempt in British Columbia to deal with the problem of derelict vessels. There was a report called “Vessels of Concern Inventory” produced by Transport Canada in March 2014. In this report, and it only focused on British Columbia, it said that a total of 245 vessels of concern have been identified in this inventory.
In my riding, for example, the town of Ladysmith has 45 vessels. South of me, the city of Victoria has 22 vessels, and so on, but there is a caveat in this report. It said, “The reader is cautioned that this inventory consolidates only the municipalities responding”.
Most people feel that the problem is seriously understated in British Columbia, and we know that this is a problem from coast to coast to coast. We are hopeful that all members of this House will be seized of this issue and will support what is really a first step. This is just a very preliminary first step.
“Vessels of Concern Inventory” also indicated that “Many problem vessels of concern to local governments and the public are not obstructions to navigation and therefore [Transport Canada] is unable to take direct action”.
I want to point out that this report was done by Transport Canada, and it highlights part of the jurisdictional problem.
Before I get into some examples, I want to mention a couple of people who have worked on this issue for a number of years. The first person is Lori Iannidinardo, who is a regional director for the Cowichan Valley Regional District and is responsible for Cowichan Bay. Unfortunately, Cowichan Bay, which is a lovely part of my riding, has had a number of problems with derelict vessels.
I have to acknowledge the former fisheries minister from the east coast. One of the vessels broke loose and was floating around in high winds, and when I went to the fisheries minister, he immediately had the Coast Guard get the vessel secured and tied up. They did not deal with the fact that the vessel was still in Cowichan Bay, but at least it was secured so that it was not running amok in the bay, where there are many other vessels, including commercial vessels.
I also want to acknowledge Sheila Malcolmson, the former chair of Islands Trust. Both Sheila and Lori have been working on raising awareness and seeking solutions.
Recently, Sheila Malcolmson sought and gained support from the Town of Ladysmith and the Regional District of Nanaimo for my bill, Bill C-638. In a 2013 letter to the transport minister, Sheila, as the former Islands Trust chair, highlighted the challenges facing our communities. The Islands Trust has been concerned about derelict and abandoned vessels for decades and has been asking since 2010 for the Province of British Columbia and the federal government to develop a coordinated approach to the timely removal of all types of derelict and abandoned vessels, barges, and docks.
Although we are grateful for the leadership shown by Transport Canada staff with some specific derelict vessel removals last year, no permanent solutions have been adopted. Derelict and abandoned vessels, barges, and docks pose environmental contamination and safety risks. They also create visual pollution in communities, which negatively impacts tourism and commercial activities.
The age of vessels in Canadian waters is increasing and so the number of incidents of abandoned and derelict vessels is expected to increase and become unmanageable. I will give a very recent example of how difficult this is for our communities to deal with.
Just the other day, I wrote a letter to the Minister of Transport, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, and the Minister of the Environment, highlighting a current situation. In the letter I indicated that on August 31, 2012—we are talking two-and-a-half years later, and we have still not dealt with the problem—a survey was commissioned for the Canadian Coast Guard. It said that the Viki Lyne II, also known as the Aberdeen, posed a significant, imminent, and ever-increasing threat to the environment due to her deteriorated condition and the significant amount of oil aboard. The survey recommended that the only certain way of removing the threat was to disassemble and scrap the vessel. More than two years later the vessel remains a threat.
In the fall of 2014, 20,000 litres of oil was pumped from the Viki Lyne II by the Coast Guard. However, 13,000 litres of oil and solvent remain on board. Unfortunately, the resources to remove the remainder of the material are limited.
This is part of the problem. If it is a hazard to navigation, Transport Canada will step in and secure the vessel. If the vessel is actually leaking oil into the water, Environment Canada will step in and do something. However, the problem in this particular vessel's case is that they pumped out the oil and left all of this sludge in the bottom of the vessel, and the vessel is listing and threatening to sink. In the Coast Guard's own assessment, the vessel is said to be deteriorating, yet the vessel still sits there. The community is waiting for it to sink and then maybe someone will step in and deal with the cleanup, which would probably cost hundreds of thousands of dollars more than if the vessel were removed from the bay.
We have been working on this issue for months now. In an email on February 6, we wrote to the Minister of Transport and said that the vessel appeared to be listing and, given a forecast of lots of rain and possible high winds in the coming week, there was concern that the vessel could sink. The transport minister wrote back to us saying that it had been determined that the vessel was not now, nor would it likely ever become, an obstruction to navigation in its current position and, therefore, that the navigation protection program had no mandate to intervene in this matter.
I do not know if Transport Canada staff have actually been out to the west coast where we get big winds and big seas. We know it is not a question of if the vessel will sink, but when it will. The transport minister has known for years that this vessel is a problem, yet there is no action.
It is not just about the environmental pollution, or just about it being a hazard to navigation. I want to read a letter from the Stz'uminus First Nation. They have also written a letter to the Minister of Transport about the Viki Lyne II, or Aberdeen as it is known. They wrote that it would be an environmental disaster, affecting the traditional waters of the Stz'uminus First Nation, where there is a vibrant and established shellfish industry, a growing marine tourism industry, and B.C.'s most successful west purple martin colony, thereby threatening the very lifestyle of a region known for its connection to the sea
Therefore, not only is it an environmental hazard and a hazard to navigation, but it also affects the very livelihood of the people who live in the area. It is quite shocking to me that we cannot get any movement to deal with this longstanding problem.
There are many examples, and I wish I had time to go over all of them. However, as I said, there are 245 vessels that have been identified, and that does not even come close to representing the scope of the problem. I do not have time to go over every vessel and the state it is in, but we have concerns from the provincial government as well. The provincial government and municipalities are urging the federal government to come to the table and show leadership in tackling this problem.
I want to mention one other vessel, the Trojan, which was adrift in Maple Bay. This vessel was inadequately anchored. It did not have enough rode, and the mooring attachment was not sufficient for the size of the vessel. We contacted Transport Canada, and because the vessel was temporarily secured and not in the navigation channel at the time, Transport Canada said it could not touch it.
I understand Transport Canada's perspective. Transport Canada's mandate is that it cannot step in until it becomes a hazard to navigation. However, in this case, because there was no environmental concern, Environment Canada could not step in either.
We get some extreme tides on the west coast. For a while, at low tide, the Trojan was not drifting around the bay. However, as soon as some extremely high tides came in, the vessel was drifting around the bay.
One of the constituents who had been involved in this said that the last word they had from Transport Canada under the navigation protection program was that it is considering its options. The constituent followed up and inquired about who had responsibility for removal and cleanup when, not if, the Trojan ran aground, but received no reply.
The constituent goes on to say:
Of course, the problem with Transport Canada's response...is that when the vessel becomes an obstruction to navigation (again) or a danger to property (again), it may be too late for remedial action.
In this case, it had actually damaged some private property when it had broken loose at some point.
We had a tremendous amount of support for this bill, but I want to remind people that this bill is only a first step. We are constrained in private members' business about what we can ask for in a private member's bill.
I have to acknowledge that the Minister of Transport has been convening meetings discussing the Washington State model, which is probably a good model for for Canada to look at.
The Minister of Transport has also been responding and acknowledging the depth of the problem, but in the meantime, municipalities and first nations are rallying to support my bill because they recognize that it represents at least some movement. Again, it would designate the Coast Guard as a receiver of wrecks and require the government to set some regulations.
The Town of Ladysmith has written a letter to the minister indicating support for this bill. The letter says:
The problem continues to grow and poses an ever-grave threat to our communities. Derelict and abandoned vessels leach many different environmental toxins into our waters, pose serious navigational hazards, and adversely affect both aesthetics and local economies. Local governments like ours are virtually powerless to address this issue which has such serious consequences for our communities.
Just the other day, the Regional District of Nanaimo also supported Bill C-638. The regional district directors voted unanimously at their regular meeting to write a letter in support of private member's Bill C-638, which would see the Canadian Coast Guard take on full responsibility for derelict vessels littering the coastline.
Bowen Island Municipality has also indicated its support because of the issues around environmental, economic, and navigational hazards posed by derelict and abandoned vessels.
I am hopeful that there will be support from all members in this House for this legislation as a good first step. I think it is important not only in terms of environmental hazards and hazards to navigation but also in terms of the impact on economic opportunities when derelict vessels run aground or sink.
Again, I am looking forward to further debate on this bill. I am expecting to see it pass on to committee for further review.
- MPndpFeb 23, 2015 8:15 am | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Ottawa—Vanier for so ably outlining the history of the anthem in English in this country. He has pointed out, of course, that the original version was “in all of us command” and that over the years it was changed to “all thy sons command”.
As the member pointed out, this is a minor change in wording, and in some ways is largely symbolic in terms of recognizing gender equality in this country. I need only to point to the House of Commons, where women make up only roughly 21% of the members.
I wonder if the member for Ottawa—Vanier could highlight the importance once again of this symbolic change, where women still do not have equality in this country.
- MPndpFeb 20, 2015 8:35 am | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
Mr. Speaker, it is clear to everyone that one of the government's main priorities is advertising before the next election. This $11 million more on additional advertising is more than double what it would cost to keep the Veterans Affairs offices open. It is the average old age security benefit for almost 1,800 seniors.
How can Conservatives justify spending millions more in publicly-funded partisan advertising just before an election, while cutting help to seniors and veterans?
- MPndpJan 30, 2015 8:45 am | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are just poor managers. They are paying private consultants over $200 an hour to process access to information requests, when public servants could do the work at a fraction of the cost. It would be one thing if the consultants were getting the job done, but they are not. The system is slower and less functional than ever before.
Could the minister explain why so much money is being wasted, with such poor results?
- MPndpJan 30, 2015 8:10 am | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
Mr. Speaker, February 2 will be the 10th anniversary of the death of Jordan River Anderson. Jordan never got to live in a family home, spending his whole life in hospital because governments could not agree on who should pay for his care.
His story inspired Jordan's principle, the simple idea that when a first nations child needs services, the government will provide them as needed and figure out who should pay for them later. In the 10 years since his death, the House voted unanimously to support Jordan's principle. We all agree that the most vulnerable children should not be left waiting while someone argues over the bill.
However, implementation proves elusive. Policy decisions by the Conservative government have narrowed the principle until only a few circumstances qualify. In April 2013, the Federal Court decision found the federal government narrowing Jordan's principle to apply only to children with complex medical needs and multiple service providers to be unlawful.
Internal federal documents show that children on reserve continue to be routinely denied or delayed receipt of vital health, education, and social services available to all other children. When will the federal government ensure that Jordan's principle applies to all first nations children and all government services?
- MPndpDec 05, 2014 8:35 am | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
Mr. Speaker, prevention is one of the keys to ending violence against women, but a 2013 study from the Canadian Network of Women's Shelters & Transition Houses found that many prevention initiatives are short term and short lived, and a special committee report on violence against indigenous women found that first nations, Inuit, and Métis people lack access to prevention programs.
What actions are the Conservatives taking to improve prevention programs and increase access to them?
- MPndpDec 04, 2014 11:20 am | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
Mr. Speaker, our nation-to-nation relationship with first nations means respect and dialogue, but what we have seen so far from the Conservatives is only more of the same confrontational approach. Too many communities have had to resort to the courts to get their voices heard and their rights respected.
Recently, four first nations from Treaty 8 filed a judicial review with the Federal Court against the federal government with respect Site C. When will the government learn to respect and work in collaboration with first nations?
- MPndpDec 04, 2014 10:15 am | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
Mr. Speaker, I want to touch for one moment on the issue around accommodation. The member cited the Haida case from a number of years ago. However, we also had a recent court decision, the Tsilhqot'in decision, which talked about not only consultation but consent. Consent is missing in Bill S-6. There is no consent to the changes that would be made.
With regard to the environment, there are mining companies that have raised objections, environmental organizations, and tourism organizations. It sounds to me as if there are a number of Yukoners who are really concerned about protecting the wonderful, amazing environment up in the Yukon. People want economic development, but they want it done responsibly and sustainably.
What the bill would do is create more uncertainty. It would not protect the environment and it would create uncertainty for some of these projects.
First nations have already indicated that, if the government is not willing to sit down with them and talk about accommodation and consent, this will end up in court, and that would not provide certainty in terms of development of a variety of projects.
- MPndpDec 04, 2014 10:10 am | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
Mr. Speaker, for the last many years, from 2006 actually, we have continually seen legislation come forward that does not reflect, in many of our views, at least on the New Democrat side of the House, the duty to consult.
The government loves to trot out the fact that it has had eight meetings talking to people. What it fails to address is the fact that consultation actually should be a circular process. We provide information, we provide resources, we sit down with people, we hear what they have to say, and then we actually include them in working toward a solution where there were differences. It is the part where we include people toward working toward solutions where there are differences that the government consistently fails, whether it is on matrimonial real property, water, or education. Whatever legislation has come before the House to which first nations have objected, the government has failed to work to resolve those objections.
I would agree with the member for Hochelaga that it is a very paternalistic approach to working with first nations.
- MPndpDec 04, 2014 9:50 am | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
Mr. Speaker, I am rising to speak on Bill S-6, an act to amend the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act and the Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act.
I think the member from western Arctic has clearly outlined the NDP position on the bill, and of course, we are opposing it.
I will focus my speaking time on the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act aspect of the bill, because that is very controversial.
To give a bit of background, in May 2003, Canada enacted the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act, or YESAA, in accordance with the provisions of chapter 12 of the Yukon first nations' comprehensive land claim agreements. Yukon first nations agreed to accept less than 9% of their historic land. They accepted this small land settlement partly in exchange for the establishment of a permanent assessment process that would manage all projects in their traditional territories in accordance with the objectives stated in chapter 12. That process is defined in YESAA, which was developed collaboratively by Canada, Yukon, and first nations.
A number of concerns have been raised by the Yukon first nations with regard to this piece of legislation. Following are the the primary concerns.
The Council of Yukon First Nations and Yukon first nations are concerned that the changes proposed in Bill S-6 would be contrary to the intent of the land claims agreements, would undermine the neutrality of the YESAA process, and would reduce the effectiveness of environmental and socioeconomic assessments. First nations' main concerns relate to four amendments that were never raised by Canada during the five-year review.
Number one is policy direction to the board. Clause 34 of Bill S-6 would provide an amendment that would give Canada the power to give binding policy direction to the YESAA board. Canada could choose to delegate this power to the Yukon government. Providing Canada with the authority to issue policy direction would undermine the independence of the board and designated offices. Independence is a fundamental element of the YESAA. During the development of the YESAA, Yukon first nations, CYFN, Canada, and Yukon, discussed this at length.
The following analysis is from a pamphlet called Changes to YESAA Threaten Our Land, Our Economy, Our Yukon. How Bill S-6 affects Yukon. It is a background fact sheet.
Providing a single party with the authority to direct the Board is contrary to the spirit and intent of the YESAA and the provisions of the Final Agreements.
The second piece that is controversial in this bill is the delegation of federal powers to the Yukon government. Providing the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development with authority to delegate powers to the territorial minister without the consent of first nations would create a bilateral process that would exclude first nations from discussions about the balance of power. I will come back to this particular point.
The third sticking point is exemptions for renewals and amendments. This is a particular concern. It is addressed in clause 14 of Bill S-6. Again, I will quote from the background fact sheet:
This amendment allows governments to approve the renewal or amendment of permits and licences for projects without any YESAA assessment. Renewals or amendments could have serious impacts on the environment, regional economies and local communities.
This amendment will make project assessments challenging. Impacts would need to be identified for the entire project life because renewals would likely not have to go through an assessment. For some projects, effects cannot be foreseen at the time of the initial review. This may result in negative impacts to the environment, our economy and communities.
Under the amendment, governments can avoid assessment for renewals and amendments if they decide that the project has not changed significantly. The proposed amendments do not provide a definition for significant change, but rely on the opinion of the regulators. This will create uncertainty, and the perception of political interference, resulting in conflict and could possibly end up before the courts.
The fourth and final concern and objection is on the timelines for the YESAA assessments. The proposed beginning-to-end timelines would affect the thoroughness of environmental and socio-economic assessments and opportunities for first nations' input on major projects. Of course, we know that in many cases, first nations do not have the resources to drop everything and immediately respond to a project when an assessment is required.
It is very concerning and has the appearance of trying to ram through assessments without first nations having adequate time and resources to review them.
What we have heard consistently from the government is that there was consultation and that it was adequate.
I want to start with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and reference two articles, because it is important to set a context with regard to consultation. Article 18 says:
Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decision-making in matters which would affect their rights, through representatives chosen by themselves in accordance with their own procedures, as well as to maintain and develop their own indigenous decision-making institutions.
Article 19 states:
States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.
I want to remind the House that the government signed on to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and made a commitment to take some next steps to implement it, but so far it has failed to do anything meaningful or concrete to uphold its international obligations.
I want to address one of the myths with regard to consultation. A paper entitled “Changes to YESAA Threaten our Environment, our Economy, our Yukon” specifically addresses the issue of consultation. This is the myth:
There have been thousands of hours of consultation with First Nations on changes to YESAA over the past 7 years.
Here is the reality:
The Parties discussed the YESAA process for many hours between 2008 and 2011, as part of the YESAA Five-Year Review. It was a review required under the Umbrella Final Agreement (UFA). The Parties to the UFA, the Council of Yukon First Nations..., Canada and Yukon agreed to work together to improve the YESAA process through shared decision making and by consensus, when possible.
The amendments to YESAA under Bill S-6 that are of concern were never discussed and were never raised by Canada during the Five-Year Review. The amendments of concern include: giving binding policy direction to the Board; handing over powers to Yukon; imposing maximum timelines for assessments; and not requiring assessments when a project is renewing or being amended. These new amendments were introduced with little opportunity to ensure adequate consultation and accommodation.
I have outlined those amendments before.
The paper continues:
On February 26, 2014, Canada arrived at a meeting and provided paper copies of these amendments and refused to provide electronic versions to the First Nations that were on the phone for the meeting. This stopped them from being able to participate in a meaningful way.
Yukon First Nations had less than 2 months to review and respond to the changes proposed by Canada. That is not enough time to review important changes to the YESAA law. Consultation means providing the necessary information to the Parties. Canada didn’t do that step. Canada failed to meet the test of its Treaty and common law duty to consult and accommodate.
I have heard the government say that it consulted but that the Yukon first nations did not agree with it, so it was going to go ahead with the amendments, even though there was grave disagreement.
We have heard the Conservative government talk in the House a number of times about an agenda around reconciliation. If it has an agenda around reconciliation, does that not mean respect for its partners?
It signed an umbrella agreement with the Council of Yukon First Nations. I would argue that there is a spirit and intent around these agreements that is about a respectful relationship, a willingness to move toward reconciliation, and an unwillingness to unilaterally impose a federal government's will on first nations. It is fine for the government to say that it has consulted, but if it does not actually do anything about the disagreement to try to resolve it, that is hardly consultation.
Representatives of the Council of Yukon First Nations were in Ottawa because of their grave concerns. They we here at the invitation of the minister and had a meeting with him. CBC's headline was, “Ottawa trip on Bill S-6 ends in insult to Yukon First Nations”. In that meeting, Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation Chief Eric Fairclough said:
The minister shut us down by telling us we were “not real governments”, and therefore he does not need to make us active participants in changing legislation that arises from our treaties.
The article went on to state:
Fairclough says that's an insult that "flies in the face of recent court decisions that have affirmed the duty to consult First Nations."
At the aboriginal affairs committee yesterday, I asked the minister whether or not he had said that. He put it into context, and I will read his response into the record. He stated that “The point I made is under the umbrella agreement, government is defined as being the Government of Canada or the Government of Yukon, so my point was that this delegation is contemplated under the umbrella agreement and it does not define government as being first nations. Their argument is that, under the umbrella agreement, they should be considered governments, and unfortunately, that was not the deal concluded. The umbrella agreement is clear that “government” is defined either as Government of Canada or Government of Yukon. I said that for the purposes of the umbrella agreement, they were not considered and defined as government. That does not mean they are not governments. They are governments but not under the umbrella agreement...”.
We have a government that talks about how it supports all government agreements with first nations. I am not a lawyer, but I know there are many fine lawyers in the House who will tell us that we cannot outline every single possible detail in any agreement, and that what a lot of it comes down to is the spirit and intent. From many presentations and court cases, I can tell members that the rights of first nations have been reaffirmed.
I want to refer to a document from January 2007. It is not a legal document but rather an interpretation. It is entitled, “Recognition and Implementation of First Nation Governments”. This was put out by the Assembly of First Nations. Under “3.3 Core Functions of First Nation Governments”, it states:
The United Nations Development Programme views “capable government” as a precondition to development. Governments are the primary vehicles for promoting social, cultural , and economic development within a society. A capable government must be the one that makes decisions affecting its citizens. A government works best when it is close to those it governs.
It goes on to say:
Communities need to be able to govern themselves with real authorities and jurisdiction. We have governed ourselves effectively in the past and continue to do so despite external impositions like the Indian Act....All regions agreed that First Nation governments have the inherent responsibility and jurisdictions to legislate on those areas that affect their communities.
Surely the changes that are proposed in Bill S-6 would fundamentally affect economic development, the environment that Yukon first nations live in, and their way of life. If that does not meet the test of what should be considered a government-to-government relationship, I do not know what does.
It is not just first nations who are opposing this legislation. I have a number of letters here, which I unfortunately will run out of time reading into the record, but I will quote a few to give members a sense of their flavour.
The Tourism Industry Association of Yukon wrote to the member of Parliament for Yukon stating the following:
On behalf of the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon, I am writing to express our support for the Council of Yukon First Nations' opposition to particular amendments to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act...by the Government of Canada, through Bill S-6. We believe that these changes will have a negative impact on the tourism industry, and for Yukoners overall.
In conclusion, the TIA states:
TIA Yukon asserts that taking land use planning decisions away from the Territory will ultimately give tourism operators in the Yukon less of a say over land use issues where resource extraction interests conflict with the interests of tourism businesses.
The Casino Mining Corporation wrote to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development stating this:
On behalf of Casino Mining Corporation...I am putting forward our company's concerns regarding the fragility of intergovernmental relations in the Yukon surrounding Bill S-6 and the negative impact this is having on the territory's mineral industry.
It is imperative for Casino that the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act...has the broad support of all governments in order to ensure the confidence of both project proponents and Yukon residents in the YESAA process and to facilitate investment in the territory....
Casino believes that if the YESAA has the full support of all levels of government, it will provide greater certainty for the mineral industry. To this end, we encourage Canada, Yukon, and Yukon First Nation governments to engage, work collaboratively and find a solution to address the outstanding issues within Bill S-6.
In a letter to the member for Yukon, the Wildlife Conservation Society states:
I am writing on behalf of Wildlife Conservation Society Canada...to express opposition to Bill S-6, recently introduced through the Senate of Canada by the federal government.
I have witnessed the implementation of the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act...since its inception in 2005, and have been generally impressed by the record of its implementation body....
That is the YESA Board.
Bill S-6 proposes various amendments to the YESAA that will undermine the independence and integrity of the environmental impact assessment process currently administered by YESAB. Therefore the social licence for project approvals that YESAB has gained runs a strong risk of being compromised. Bill S-6 has substantial shortcomings, both in the process by which it has been drafted, and in its content.
The process for developing these amendments and compiling them in draft legislation has been flawed. The original YESAA derives from the Umbrella Final Agreement (UFA) under which Aboriginal claims for rights and title have been settled in Yukon. A review of YESAA was mandated to occur after 5 years of implementation, and that review began in 2008. The subsequent process has been long and ultimately produced Bill S-6. The major problems with the process have been: (i) a number of issues raised by First Nations up to June 2011 were ignored or overlooked without explanation in the Interim Draft Final Report of the review process released by the federal government (March 2012) and in the Final Review Report (October 2012); (ii) some of the stages of the review process were held in camera so there is a lack of transparency and accountability to all the negotiating parties and to the public; (iii) certain stakeholders, notably the non-renewable resource extraction industries, participated in the review process in camera; (iv) Bill S-6 has been introduced by your government without the endorsement of Yukon First Nations which makes it contrary to the spirit and intent of the UFA. In sum, the consultation process has lacked transparency, appears biased, and has not addressed First Nations' concerns which are of equal validity to those of Canada or Yukon in a government-to-government agreement such as the UFA.
There are also reasons for concern about the content of Bill S-6, and I highlight three. First, the Bill provides the option for the federal government (Canada), or by delegation the Yukon Territorial government, to impose policy direction on the Yukon Environmental and Socioeconomic Assessment Board (YESAB). This undermines a stated purpose of YESAA (5, 2(a)) which is to produce a "neutrally-conducted assessment process" at arm's length from government. The existing YESAA already allows the Yukon Territorial government, through the Executive Council Office, the power to accept or reject YESAB recommendations. There is no need, in practical or moral terms, to further remove power and influence from YESAB and place it unilaterally in the hands of one or other government. Doing so goes against the spirit and intent of the UFA and the First Nations' final agreements.
Second, Bill S-6 imposes specific timelines on YESAB for project review. As a result, complex projects will receive relatively cursory review because of a rushed process. It is unclear why this would be needed other than perhaps that the YESAB review process in operation before Bill S-6 has come under criticism from the mining industry when YESAB requests additional information during the process. Speaking from the perspective of a biologist who is aware of ecological impacts brought about by mining operations, this is not a reflection of a faulty review process, but a reflection of inadequate preparation by industry and its consultants. In other words, there is a strong argument to be made that YESAB's reviews have been working well by uncovering poor planning and preparation by project proponents.
Finally, as I mentioned, they also raise the following concern:
Bill S-6 removes the need for any YESAB review of project amendments or renewals, unless there are "significant changes”.
A number of bodies have pointed out the very serious concern that this piece of legislation does not define what significant changes are.
There are other organizations, including the the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, and the Yukon chapter of CPAWS, who have also raised very serious objections with regard to the independence and impartiality of the development assessment process. Generally, they are calling on the government to pull this bill and to work with Yukon first nations to make sure that the bill reflects both the spirit and intent of the Umbrella Final Agreement, and the spirit and intent of government-to-government relationships, which would include the Yukon first nations.
Given the number of objections that have been raised by Yukoners, including industry and non-governmental organizations, I would urge this government to take a step back and look at the four key areas where there are very serious objections.
- MPndpDec 03, 2014 2:05 pm | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member quoting my leader in the House. I am pleased to hear that the Liberals listen to the leader of the official opposition. That is good news.
I also want to acknowledge the comment that an NDP provincial government had not put forward a system of proportional representation. It is unfortunate that has happened because we would have had a good chance to have it succeed if an NDP government had moved forward with that initiative.
- MPndpDec 03, 2014 2:00 pm | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
Mr. Speaker, I actually addressed that in my speech by saying that part of the challenge for people with the single transferrable vote system was they wanted change. That was pretty clear in the first referendum. It was 57% and they needed 60% to make that referendum pass.
We have to wonder about the cynical approach in setting up that referendum. The Liberals made the threshold so high. First, they put together a citizens' assembly and they thought that the citizens' assembly could never come to consensus. They were wrong. The citizens' assembly came to a consensus. Then they set the referendum threshold very high. It was a complicated formula and it came so close that what they actually had to do was go back and have a second referendum.
That clearly demonstrates that there is an appetite for change. We have to work with people in order to ensure they understand the change and that they are involved in putting forward a proposal that will work for them.
- MPndpDec 03, 2014 1:50 pm | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
Mr. Speaker, it is very interesting, as I rise to speak to the motion put forward by the member for Toronto—Danforth, to hear people talk about how we cannot rush into this change.
I was elected in 2004. I would like to pretend that this is the very first time that I have risen in the House to speak to the notion of moving toward proportional representation, but sadly, it is not.
I spoke about it when our former leader and the former member for Ottawa Centre was in the House in 2004 and 2005. I spoke about it when Catherine Bell, the former member for Vancouver Island North, brought forward her motion. I spoke about it in 2008, when a member from the Bloc brought forward a motion.
I know that over the last 10 years, many other members in this place have raised it time and time again. I hardly think that this is a rapid change. In addition, a number of studies have been done and I am going to reference them.
Before that, Mr. Speaker, I wish to inform you that I will be splitting my time with the member for Ottawa Centre.
I would like to turn to the 2004 report from the Law Commission of Canada entitled “Voting Counts: Electoral Reform for Canada”. I wish I could read all of the couple of hundred pages, but I cannot.
In its executive summary, it said:
For the past decade or so, Canada has been in the grip of a democratic malaise evidenced by decreasing levels of political trust, declining voter turnout, increasing cynicism toward politicians and traditional forms of political participation, and growing disengagement of young people from politics. However, as the Commission heard throughout its consultation process, many citizens want to be involved, want to have a real voice in decision making, and would like to see more responsive, accountable, and effective political institutions.
That was in 2004. A substantial amount of consultation was taking place and some very strong recommendations were made.
It goes on to criticize our current first-past-the-post system. Those of us who have been around for a while can talk about the problems and challenges with our first-past-the-post system after seeing in 2011, that the Conservative government was elected with less than 40% of the vote.
There is something wrong with a system that allows less than 40% of the voters, which was only about 25% of the eligible voters because the voter turnout was so low, to actually put a government in a majority situation. It is now driving the agenda for a whole country, when it does not remotely have a majority of Canadians supporting it.
The Law Commission of Canada identified problems with the first-past-the-post system. It said:
For many Canadians, this system is inherently unfair—more likely to frustrate or distort the wishes of the voters than to translate them fairly into representation and influence in the legislature. It has been criticized as: being overly generous to the party that wins a plurality of the vote, rewarding it with a legislative majority disproportionate to its share of the vote; allowing the governing party, with its artificially swollen legislative majority, to dominate the political agenda; promoting parties formed along regional lines, thus exacerbating Canada’s regional divisions; leaving large areas of the country without adequate representatives in the governing party caucus; disregarding a large number of votes in that voters who do not vote for the winning candidate have no connection to the elected representative, nor to the eventual make-up of the House of Commons; contributing to the under-representation of women, minority groups, and Aboriginal peoples; preventing a diversity of ideas from entering the House of Commons; and favouring an adversarial style of politics.
Again, over the last three years, I can certainly speak to my own personal experience in the House. It is the most adversarial that I have seen it in the 10 years that I have been a member.
In its conclusion, the Law Commission of Canada said:
Canada inherited its first-past-the-post electoral system from Great Britain over 200 years ago, at a time when significant sections of the Canadian population, including women, Aboriginal people, and nonproperty owners, were disenfranchised.
I heard the Liberal member talk about the fact that there are three western democracies that still have this system. It seemed to me that he was touting this as a great thing, whereas other democracies have moved on. I would suggest that, perhaps, after 200 years of the same system, it might be time to take a fresh look at how Canadians should be represented.
The Law Commission of Canada also said:
Canada’s political, cultural, and economic reality has vastly changed; the current electoral system no longer responds to 21st century Canadian democratic values. Many Canadians desire an electoral system that better reflects the society in which they live—one that includes a broader diversity of ideas and is more representative of Canadian society. For these reasons, the Commission recommends adding an element of proportionality to our electoral system.
Furthermore, because of its many potential benefits, electoral reform should be a priority item on the political agenda.
Its final note was:
However, it has become apparent that the first-past-the-post electoral system no longer meets the democratic aspirations of many Canadians. Electoral reform is thus a necessary step to energize and strengthen Canadian democracy.
Ten years ago and we are still making no movement with regard to examining the first-past-the-post system.
In a speech on October 15, 2005, on ethics and democratic reform, the Hon. Ed Broadbent noted a couple of key points. I will not talk about the ethics and the accountability part of the speech, but I will focus on proportional representation.
In his opening statement, he said:
The debate and time spent in Parliament should be about the state of our health-care and the state of our economy, about foreign policy and human rights, about the security of our seniors and the poverty of our children. I have never seen such a reversal of priorities as in the past 12 months.
I want to remind people that this is 2005 I am talking about. He said:
Time spent on governmental policy has yielded more often than not to debates about the process of governance: about Canadians' concern over the integrity of elected politicians and public servants, about the rules and accountability governing those appointed, about access to information, about contract corruption, about high living at public expense, about unaccountable lobbyists, about wrong-doing partisan-appointed officials resigning with legal impunity—
Here we are almost 10 years later and we have got exactly the same situation here in this House. We can lay part of that at the foot of the fact that we still have a first-past-the-post system. We do not have a more representative House here.
Mr. Broadbent talked about the ethics and about some of the ways to address the accountability deficit in this House, but he also talked about democratic reform. He said:
A major source of needed democratic reform is our outmoded first-past-the-post electoral system.
Ninety percent of the world's democracies, including Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, Ireland and Wales have abandoned or significantly modified the pre-democratic British system that still prevails in Ottawa. As the Law Commission recommended and five provinces seem to agree, fairness means we need a mixed electoral system that combines individual constituency-based MPs with proportional representation. Only such a system would positively redress the existing imbalance in gender, ethnic, ideological and regional voting preferences.
Just a note on the gender issues, over a couple of decades we have only seen the representation of women marginally increase in this House. In many countries, proportional representation has assisted in that.
He went on to say:
In particular, as the Pepin-Robarts Commission pointed out 26 years ago, our present system does a great disservice to Canadian unity because regional representation in the House of Commons--in the caucuses and in the cabinet--does not reflect Canadian voters' intentions.
I know that members in other parts of the House talk about how the Senate can address regional representation, but I am talking about elected representation here. That way, people have a real voice in who it is that speaks for them here in the House.
British Columbia unfortunately had a failed referendum with regard to a single transferrable vote, but the process that was used in order to come up with the system, the first time it went to a referendum, it was so close that the government had to hold a second referendum.
Part of the reason the second referendum lost was not because people were not hungry for change, they wanted change, but what happened in British Columbia was that many people did not understand the system.
Many British Columbians that I spoke to, after the referendum failed, said that they really did want change, but they did not understand what it was, so they voted no.
What we need is a very clear proposal for Canadians, outlining how it would affect them in their riding, in their district, and how their access to a parliamentary procedure would improve under a system of proportional representation.
We should all be very concerned in this House about the lack of participation in the electoral process. We should all take a hard look at how we operate in this House. Our objective here should be to increase voter participation. Our objective should be to ensure that the values of Canadians are adequately represented in this House by having a broad cross-section.
I have heard people say that the NDP proposed this system because it would advantage it.
Actually, in a number of elections, proportional representation would have advantaged the other parties, whether it was the Liberals, the old Reformers or the Green Party. We are proposing a system that will more adequately reflect what Canadians want to see.
I would encourage all members of the House to support this good motion and help us ensure that the next election in 2019 reflects true Canadian wishes.
- MPndpDec 03, 2014 11:55 am | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
Mr. Speaker, the Conservative tough on crime agenda is disproportionately impacting aboriginal women, who now make up fully one-third of all incarcerated women in Canada.
The Correctional Investigator has warned the government that there is an urgent need for change in the way aboriginal offenders are treated. His warnings were dismissed by the minister, and now we have a crisis on our hands.
Instead of continuing this failed approach, why does the government not invest in community resources to prevent aboriginal women from being criminalized in the first place?
- MPndpDec 01, 2014 12:10 pm | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-638, An Act to amend the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 (wreck).
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Victoria for seconding this bill.
In many coastal communities, derelict and abandoned vessels have a negative impact on their harbours, and some pose a threat to the local environment.
While major environmental dangers from derelict and abandoned vessels are dealt with swiftly by the Canadian Coast Guard, many are simply left to rot away and leach chemicals into the surrounding environment.
If an abandoned and derelict vessel is not a major environmental concern and is not posing an obstacle to navigation, there is usually no action taken.
The Minister of Transport can become involved in the following situations.
Transport Canada can currently take the lead in instances where a vessel is the cause of an obstruction to navigation. However, vessels in the intertidal zone are rarely an obstruction to navigation.
Transport Canada has also been supportive of salvage claims made to the receiver of wrecks when questionable vessels appear ashore or in waters adjacent to communities. However, salvage claims are rarely made against derelict vessels.
Finally, Transport Canada can take the lead in making an assessment as to whether a vessel may pose a threat of pollution. However, an abandoned or derelict vessel that is deemed non-polluting is not dealt with.
Both I, in Nanaimo—Cowichan, and the member for Victoria, often hear complaints about derelict vessels that are not dealt with. Hence, I have introduced this bill, an act to amend the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 (wreck).
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)
- MPndpDec 01, 2014 11:30 am | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
Mr. Speaker, the community of Rankin Inlet deserves more than lawsuit threats from their own member of Parliament. They need to see action to fix the badly broken nutrition north program. The Auditor General showed that there is no assurance that the subsidy is not just ending up with retailers. The numbers the government is quoting cannot be verified.
Why not replace this ill-designed program with something that actually matches the needs of northerners?
- MPndpDec 01, 2014 10:50 am | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the speech by the member for Yukon. I want to indicate clearly in this House that the New Democrats have signalled, through our House leader, our interest in travelling to the Yukon. We will leave it to the House leaders to sort out whether that will happen.
The member talked about consultations with first nations. A myth has been put out there that first nations have been consulted over the past seven years. The Yukon first nations have said that is not true, that they were not consulted on the amendments to YESAA under Bill S-6, and that many of these issues were never raised with them. The amendments of concern include giving binding policy direction to the board, handing powers over to the Yukon, imposing maximum timelines for assessments, and not requiring assessments when a project is renewed or being amended.
When we talk about consultation, that means providing all of the necessary information in a timely fashion to all of the parties. Therefore, I wonder if this member would clarify for the House if he feels that the Yukon first nations were given sufficient information and sufficient time to adequately consider the amendments that are proposed.
- MPndpNov 28, 2014 8:35 am | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
Mr. Speaker, when we talk about a respectful relationship, we mean respect, dialogue, and reconciliation. Clearly, the Minister of the Environment does not share this definition.
We have asked a number of simple questions.
Once again, when was the minister aware that 40 to 100 of her constituents had to resort to a landfill to feed themselves? Why was there no immediate action? When was the decision made to attempt to strong-arm the officials in Rankin Inlet, rather than reaching out a helping hand to help them out?
- MPndpNov 27, 2014 12:00 pm | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
Mr. Speaker, twice in the last three years, Transport Canada said it was creating a federal inventory of derelict vessels, but the government does not define what a derelict vessel is or give any indication it will deal with the growing problem of abandoned boats, barges, and other water craft
The Union of B.C. Municipalities made a suggestion to set up a removal program and designate the Canadian Coast Guard as receiver of wrecks and derelicts.
When will the minister respond to the calls for concrete action on derelict vessels?
- MPndpNov 27, 2014 11:05 am | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
Mr. Speaker, Dr. Frances Oldham Kelsey, born in Cobble Hill, British Columbia, began her work with the American Food and Drug Administration in 1960.
In her first month at the FDA, she was pressured to approve the release of a sleeping pill for pregnant women called thalidomide. She had seen data that women who used the drug repeatedly experienced dangerous side effects.
In 1961, when British reports of severe birth defects in children started, that was the information Dr. Kelsey needed to block approval of the drug in the US, which eventually led to its ban around the world.
Dr. Kelsey should be recognized as a person of national historic significance. In fact, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada says it that wants to direct more attention to the history of women. However, its guidelines state that a person must be deceased for 25 years before being recognized.
Dr. Kelsey is still alive today, at 100 years of age. It seems wrong that 53 years after her scientific work saved so many, we may have to wait another 25 years for her to be acknowledged.
I urge the minister not to delay and to take the necessary steps to honour Dr. Frances Kelsey.
- MPndpNov 24, 2014 10:50 am | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
Mr. Speaker, just to set the record straight, although my riding has some urban areas, it also has many rural areas, and there are a large number of farmers in my area, so farmers are not just represented by Conservatives. They are also represented by New Democrats.
I had the good fortune to rise on a number of occasions in the House to present petitions with regard to the right to save seeds. They were signed by members from my riding and many people throughout British Columbia. They were signed by farmers and non-farmers, just to be clear.
In part, the reason the New Democrats do not support the bill is because we proposed some very good amendments that looked at the right to save seed. In particular, one of the amendments had to do with protecting access to public and heritage seeds, as well as the issue of transparency and consultation required when seeds were made inaccessible.
Could the member comment on the fact that there is widespread opposition regarding the changes for farmers around that right to save seeds?
- MPndpNov 20, 2014 1:45 pm | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
Mr. Speaker, I believe that in my summary I wrapped up our position on this.
What we have consistently called for as New Democrats is a comprehensive program that looks not just at the appropriate sentences for crimes committed. As I said earlier, we absolutely support legislation and programs that keep our communities safe and that protect our children. I am a mother and a grandmother and would not support something that would put my children and grandchildren at risk.
However, what we often end up dealing with in this place is a piece of legislation that has a very narrow perspective dealing with particular sets of offences, particular crimes. What we do not do a good job of is taking a step back and looking at a comprehensive approach.
The member for Winnipeg Centre rightly pointed out the fact that we could learn a great deal from states like California and Texas, where they have had to revisit their tough-on-crime agenda. It looks at crime in a very narrow way. What Texas in particular has done is that it has recognized that not only must it have appropriate sentences but also that when people are found guilty, there is a need for rehabilitation programs inside and methods to integrate them back into the community.
I would urge the Conservatives to take that more comprehensive approach.
- MPndpNov 20, 2014 1:30 pm | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
Mr. Speaker, I am rising to speak to Bill C-26, an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Canada Evidence Act, and the Sex Offender Information Registration Act, to enact the high risk child sex offender database act and to make consequential amendments to other acts.
According to the legislative summary prepared for this piece of legislation, the bill would amend the provisions of the Criminal Code that deal with sexual offences committed against children and young persons by increasing the mandatory minimum penalties and maximum penalties for such offences.
Bill C-26 would also make the following changes to the law: it would increase maximum penalties for violations of prohibition orders, probation orders, and peace bonds; it would set out rules for the imposition of consecutive and concurrent sentences; it would require courts to impose consecutive sentences on offenders who commit sexual offences against more than one child; it would amend the Canada Evidence Act to ensure that spouses of the accused persons could be called as witnesses for the prosecution in child pornography cases; it would amend the Sex Offender Information Registration Act to increase the reporting obligations of sex offenders who travel outside Canada; and it would enact the high risk child sex offender database act to establish a publicly accessible database containing information with respect to persons who are found guilty of sexual offences against children and who pose a high risk of committing crimes of a sexual nature.
It is quite a complicated piece of legislation. The NDP critic for justice, the member for Gatineau, and a number of my other colleagues have risen in the House to indicate that New Democrats will support getting the bill to committee at second reading. As always, we are very concerned that we need to have legislation that truly does protect our children and keep our communities safe.
As we have seen with other pieces of legislation that the Conservatives have presented, the devil is always in the details. Therefore, we think it is very important that there be a comprehensive study at committee, that we hear from witnesses with a variety of points of view, and I was very pleased to hear the member opposite indicate that the government would entertain amendments to this piece of legislation, which from our experience here in the House over the last three years, would be extremely unusual.
New Democrats are so adamant about getting the bill to committee and having a comprehensive study at committee because of these differing points of view. The legislative summary outlines the differences. We will hear that there are people who are strongly in favour and people who have some concerns. Some of these groups are not ones we would ordinarily think would raise concerns.
Under the commentary in the legislative summary it says:
The amendment proposed in Bill C-26 requiring that, in cases with multiple victims, mandatory minimum sentences must be served consecutively has prompted public debate about the “totality principle,” which states that an offender's overall sentence should not be unduly harsh. Lawyer Clayton Ruby, author of the textbook Sentencing, has said that consecutive minimum sentences do not leave room for considering the individual offender and the nature of the offence. However, Sharon Rosenfeldt, spokesperson for Victims of Violence, has stated that reliance on the totality principle allows those individuals who commit crimes against children to repeatedly reoffend.
We can see how important it is we get both perspectives on this before we go forward with a piece of legislation. They also say:
Another subject of debate concerning Bill C-26 has been the proposed creation of a publicly accessible databank containing information about those persons found guilty of sex offences against children who are deemed to be at risk of offending again. The Association des services de réhabilitation sociale du Québec had expressed concern that such a databank will create a false sense of security, as this type of information gives the impression that the danger of a sexual assault comes from strangers, whereas the evidence suggests that the vast majority of sex offences against children are committed by those close to them. The Marie Vincent Foundation has determined that in 85% of the cases of sexual offences committed against those under 12 years of age, the offender was a person known to the victim (father, next of kin, neighbour, friend of the family, etc.).
A number of comments concerning Bill C-26 have mentioned the possibility of vigilantism rising from a publicly accessible database of sex offenders. Detective Constable Stephen Canton, the police officer in charge of the Niagara Regional Police sex offender registry, is also concerned that “[w]hen you start to identify offenders, you start to get less compliance and it pushes them underground.”
Victims' rights groups have expressed support for the changes proposed in Bill C-26, however. Gatineau Police Chief Mario Harel, vice-president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, has also said that the information-sharing provision is important, as is the ability to compel spouses to testify in child pornography cases. He welcomed Bill C-26, suggesting stiffer penalties could have a deterrent effect.
There is a wide variety of opinions that have been expressed in some of the input gathered in advance of the bill. Therefore, it is important that there is an opportunity not only for the committee to reconcile those different points of view, but also to keep in mind that the ultimate goal is truly the protection of children and communities.
Some of my New Democratic colleagues have referenced the fact that one of the things that has to happen is that we need to put in place programs that assist in preventing re-offences. I want to reference the Circles of Support and Accountability program.
This is a quote from Steven Sullivan, a former federal ombudsman for victims of crime. He said:
...the federal government recently announced it was cutting the measly $650,000 in funding Corrections Canada offers. CoSA also receives funding from the National Crime Prevention Centre; that's also set to end this fall. In total the program costs $2.2 million a year....
Like most community-based victim services, CoSA is a fairly cheap program. It has 700 volunteers across the country; they meet with offenders after their release, help them find jobs and places to live, meet with them regularly for coffee. They support offenders as they start to live normal lives, ones that don't involve new victims. They hold them accountable.
I want to talk a little about the CoSA, Circles of Support and Accountability. This is a snapshot that was provided in the Ottawa Citizen. It says:
The program pairs newly released sex offenders - known as core members - with three to five volunteers. For at least one year, the volunteers pledge to have daily contact with the core member, helping with such basic needs as finding employment and housing, attending medical appointments and shopping. They also undertake to hold him accountable if he shows signs of slipping.
It goes on to say:
In return, the sex offender pledges to honour any conditions imposed by the court, steer clear of high-risk behaviour and communicate honestly with circle members.
How are the core members selected?
Most are high-risk sex offenders, the worst of the worst. They must want to participate, and are screened and evaluated by CoSA groups before they are accepted.
Some criticism has been raised, including the comment:
Doesn't this amount to coddling people who should be shunned? Not at all, says...a member of the Ottawa CoSA's board. "What we're doing is promoting community safety by engaging with them." It's when sex offenders are isolated or marginalized that they are most likely to reoffend, he says.
He went on to say: "Our motto is 'no more victims'”.
That is an important point. The point of programs like this is to prevent offenders from re-offending, to keep our communities and children safe.
I want to turn for a moment to a publication from back in March 2013, put out by the John Howard Society. It talks about the impact of public notification and says:
When making a decision as to whether a public notification should be issued, the justice system must balance the need for community safety against the offender's right to reintegrate into society. Public notifications are used in hopes of increasing public safety. The threat of a public notification may work to deter the offender from breaching any conditions and to encourage him to participate in treatment. Public awareness may also encourage community members to be aware and to report suspicious behaviour, which may potentially reduce criminal behaviour. Also, they may increase collaboration between all areas of the justice system, like probation, corrections, law enforcement, prosecutors and victims, which may lead to more support for the offender.
It is probably not surprising that there is a caveat here. It states:
However, Public Notifications may discourage offenders from making post-release plans for treatment or from finding housing because they fear that by doing so they will simply identify the potential destination. Once the offender is released, the publicity may lead to job loss, threats, harassment, and housing instability - all which may force the offender in to hiding, which detracts from community safety and may elevate risk.
Evidence shows that programs that assist and support individuals re-integrating in to the community are much more effective than shaming in preventing reoffending. When used in conjunction with effective re-integration strategies, notifications can build community involvement, promote rehabilitation, and prevent the offender from re-offending.
However, public notifications with no community involvement do little to support the community or the offender. The public must be educated not only in what risks these individuals pose, but what can be done to prevent them from re-offending.
I believe there is probably agreement across the House that what is important is that any legislation that comes forward truly does what it purportedly aims to do, that is to protect children and keep our communities safe. It is clear that if we just do it with harsher sentences and removing supports for reintegration into community, we are not going to achieve those aims.
Again, I will support this bill going to committee at second reading. I am optimistic that the Conservatives will actually consider amendments to Bill C-26.
- MPndpNov 18, 2014 8:55 am | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
Mr. Speaker, at the beginning of my colleague's speech, he referenced the fact that, once again, we are debating this particular bill under time allocation. An Inter-Parliamentary Union document put out celebrating the International Day of Democracy says:
The test of courage comes when we are in the minority. The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority.
It goes on to say that political tolerance implies freedom of expression, open dialogue and a diversity of views. It also indicates that the rights of the opposition include:
[The] Right to contribute to the legislative process, such as the right to submit bills and amendments, and to put questions to members of government.
I wonder if the member could comment on how important this bill is and that we as parliamentarians representing Canadians from coast to coast to coast have the right to speak in the House of Commons to this very important matter.
- MPndpNov 07, 2014 10:40 am | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
Mr. Speaker, I am rising to speak to Bill C-626, an act to amend the Statistics Act, regarding the chief statistician and mandatory long-form census. As I said in my question to the member, New Democrats will be supporting the bill and look forward to discussion at committee, if the Conservatives will agree to support the bill.
Over the years where this conversation has been happening in the House, the New Democrats have been consistent that we support the maintenance of the mandatory long-form census. We think it is an important document in terms of evaluating government programs and services and providing information for all levels of government when they are developing programs to address social policy issues. We believe that this form does need to be restored in its 1971 format.
I heard the member opposite talk about how effective this national household survey was. Let me read into the record some of the problems with it.
Mandatory surveys are typically used when taking a census due to high response rates. The mandatory census response rate was approximately 94%, whereas the voluntary national household survey response rate was 68%. Rural communities were especially under-represented, causing Statistics Canada to withhold data on 1,128 communities. In Saskatchewan, over 40% of communities have data of such low quality that it will not be published. This figure is over 25% in the Yukon, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Manitoba and Alberta. Voluntary surveys typically also have lower response rates for visible minorities, including aboriginal people and women.
Although many of us do get called at home for polls and surveys, and so on, I would argue that some people will respond to voluntary surveys and some will not. Therefore, the voluntary survey approach that the government has taken has failed to provide the kind of year-over-year comparable data that is very useful in terms of developing policy.
When this discussion was happening about cancelling the long-form census, there were outcries from across the country from all kinds of different organizations, academics and governments. I want to read something from 2010, prior to this decision taking effect. An op-ed by the C.D. Howe Institute was called “Cancelling the 2011 Census Long Form: Libertarians Take Out the Wrong Target”.
It is an interesting article because the focus is the fact that this kind of information gathered year over year allows citizens to hold their governments to account, and it gave a couple of very concrete examples of this. The C.D. Howe Institute said:
...the case for the long form is still strong. Not just because the voluntary survey will provide a less reliable picture of how Canadians live and work but because Statistics Canada's information—much of it based on the long-form census—is an essential tool for Canadians seeking to ensure that the state's use of its vast powers is effective and benign.
Take education. Most Canadian students receive instruction in public schools, and virtually all follow a curriculum, write tests and accept certification mandated by governments. Census information is invaluable for judging how well these systems work. C.D. Howe Institute research on aboriginal education, and on how students at particular schools do compared to what neighbourhood characteristics would predict—key tools for parents and taxpayers to demand better performance—would be impossible.
Or immigration. Canada's economic and social success is intimately linked to the economic and social success of new arrivals. Alarmingly, the average experience of immigrants in the Canadian labour market is deteriorating. Long-form data brought this problem to light; other long-form information on education, language and country of origin can help us address it.
The state plays a huge role in Canadian health care: Good information on personal and neighbourhood characteristics can help us know if we are healthier or sicker as a result. It redistributes income on a colossal scale: The long-form census can reveal much about the successes and failures of these programs. In all these areas, good information helps Canadians hold their governments to account.
Many critics of the decision to drop the census long form are talking past the people they need to persuade. Mandatory collection of such data is intrusive. The information it yields is imperfect. The question is whether we should put up with the costs and defects for the sake of the benefits—among the most vital of which is empowering Canadians with knowledge about how well, or poorly, they are governed.
For those who want government to do less but do it better, good information is indispensable. If the census long form is gone for good, libertarians will have won the wrong fight.
I thought that was a very interesting, telling article, because what we have seen from the current government is a continuing erosion of the ability of not only parliamentarians but other organizations to gain access to information. Even the Parliamentary Budget Officer has been forced into courts at times in order to get information to determine whether the government's figures are accurate.
It seems there are many who are saying that despite the potential for intrusion into Canadians' lives, that type of information is essential in determining how effectively government is operating. Therefore, a government that talks about openness, transparency, and accountability surely would want to make sure that the information is there to allow Canadians to determine that it is in fact open, transparent, and accountable.
With regard to the long form census and its impact on aboriginal communities, The Globe and Mail published an article in 2013. The article is headed “The lost long-form census means shakier insight into aboriginal issues”. This is what it says:
Canada’s public policy concerning aboriginal peoples continues to be perplexed, and the country needs more rather than less significant and reliable information about their lives and circumstances; many communities are afflicted by social problems. Consequently, the loss of the mandatory long-form census is acutely felt in Statistics Canada’s National Household Survey on First Nations, Métis and Inuit, which was released on Wednesday.
Several passages in the NHS allude to the difficulties of assembling solid statistics about aboriginals. The understandable ambivalence of some members of aboriginal communities about Canadian institutions can lead to a reluctance to answer census questions; a legal requirement was a real help. As Statistics Canada rightly says, “the characteristics of those who choose to participate” may – indeed probably do – differ from those who refuse, which undermines the information value of the survey as a whole.
I have an article from Dr. Janet Smylie, who talks about the importance of the long form census. I will not be able to read all of this document because I know I will be running out of time, but in it she indicates that the “social data systems in Canada are extremely deficient” with regard to aboriginal peoples:
We all know that First Nations, Indian, Metis, and Inuit health and social data systems in Canada are extremely deficient. We also all know that capacity (especially Aboriginal HR capacities) and infrastructure issues are a real challenge. We also all likely agree that historically and currently there have been/continue to be challenges in the way that Statistics Canada has interfaced with Aboriginal communities.
This said, the long form census is one of the key tools that we do have to understand the size of our populations and assess the conditions in which our peoples live, including the level of social disparity.... Without it our current data systems, weak as they are, will be severely disabled. While there are many problems with the national surveys run by Statistics Canada, including the APS and ACS, all of these surveys required the long form census to develop their population based sampling frame. For non-Status Indian, First Nations/Status Indians living off-reserve, Metis and Inuit communities the impacts of no long form census will be devastating, as this is the primary source of social and demographic information for our communities--and in most situations the only source, since we are otherwise hidden in the large majority of data sets. For example, the recent studies that demonstrated life expectancy disparities (including for the Inuit disparities of infant mortality in Inuit inhabited areas of up to four times those for non-Inuit inhabited areas) for First Nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples would not have been possible without the long form census.
I know that in the past much of that long form census data has been used to shape policies with regard to health care, with regard to housing, with regard to education. With the loss of that data comes a major concern that the absence of good information will allow decision-makers to make up policy based on ideology rather than information.
One of the things I am hoping the member who proposed the bill will be open to at committee, if it gets to committee, is to look at the fact that gathering information on a year-over-year basis that would allow for comparability is not specifically included in the bill.
Any of us in this House who have tried to deal with estimates and with the changing formats in which they are presented know how critical it is to be able to look at historical data. We can look to see if there have been trends or changes and we can see if programs and services are having any kind of impact through some of the legislation and programs that have been developed.
I am hopeful that perhaps the Conservatives will see the light of day and allow this bill to go before committee so that we can hear testimony from witnesses, possibly amend the bill, and reinstate the long form census in Canada.
- MPndpNov 07, 2014 10:30 am | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for bringing this very important private member's bill before the House. Certainly, on the New Democratic Party side, we will be supporting the member's bill and sending it to committee. When the government was in the process of cancelling the long-form census, we fought hard against that decision.
I wonder if the member could comment on what he sees as some of the implications for policy-making, at the federal level but also at the provincial and municipal levels, of not having adequate data.
- MPndpNov 07, 2014 7:45 am | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
Mr. Speaker, I am sure the public is well aware that we are debating Bill C-22, an act respecting Canada's offshore oil and gas operations, enacting the Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act, repealing the Nuclear Liability Act and making consequential amendments to other acts.
This legislation has a number of sections, but the part that I will focus on is the fact that it would modify Canada's civil liability regimes for the offshore oil and gas industry and it would notably increase the absolute liability threshold to $1 billion to operators of offshore oil and gas and nuclear facilities. The current threshold for offshore oil and gas operations are $40 million in the Arctic and $30 million for all other offshore areas.
Offshore drilling does not take place in all parts of Canada. The legislative summary points out that, in addition, offshore exploration activity is currently being conducted in Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia. Offshore petroleum wells may also be drilled in the Beaufort Sea. Drilling programs there are undergoing a regulatory screening process. In addition, offshore basins near Nunavut's high Arctic islands and in the eastern Arctic may be developed in the future.
Currently, there is a federal moratorium on oil and gas activities in place on the offshore of British Columbia. In Quebec, a provincial moratorium exists on the oil and gas offshore activities in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. A permanent prohibition on such activities applies in waters northwest of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and its estuary.
What we have heard from the other side is that the New Democrats should approve and support whatever bill the government brings forward. One member talked about the fact that this was all about jobs. Any responsible member of Parliament must, first, do their due diligence. However, second, when we talk about resource development and issues pertaining to resource development, we need to consider them in the economic, environmental and social contexts. We would be irresponsible if we did not take a very broad view of any resource development that happens in Canada and the consequent liability.
The NDP has been critical of this bill on a number of fronts, but there are three principles of sustainable development: equity, precautionary principle and broad inclusive participation. Bill C-22 would not uphold the polluter pays principle in the nuclear part of the bill and it would fail to create an inclusive consultation process for projects. It would allow the minister to be subject to lobbying, thus reducing the minister's accountability.
Bill C-22 would not mandate a solid inclusive consultation process for specific projects, which is essential, given the potential impact these projects could have on the quality of life and well-being of concerned communities and regions.
The government's proposed $1 billion cap for offshore drilling would apply to no fault liability, while operators would continue to face unlimited liability should they be found at fault or negligent. Companies would also be required to demonstrate to the regulators their financial capacity to cover $1 billion in cleanup costs should it become necessary. It would also increase coverage for exploratory drilling operations offshore, production operations, the loading of tankers for transport and undersea pipelines, such as natural gas from Sable Island to the Mainland in Atlantic Canada.
Here is the sticker. The bill would provide for ministerial discretion to reduce absolute liability levels to below the legislative level of $1 billion. This discretionary provision could undercut the advantages of the legislative increase in the absolute liability limit contained in Bill C-22.
The legislative summary refers to section 184.108.40.206 under “Public Hearings”. Bill C-22 would add new sections to the Canada oil and gas operations, allowing the National Energy Board to conduct a public hearing in relation to the exercise of any of its powers or the performance of any of its duties and functions under the act.
The New Democrats absolutely support a public process with regard to reviewing applications that come forward around resource development. However, I want to highlight the fact that the National Energy Board has been subject to some pretty severe criticism with regard to its operations. Simply because it is in this bill that the National Energy Board would be able to conduct a public hearing, it does not give us any confidence about how that public hearing would be conducted, who would be involved and whether the information would actually be considered.
I want to turn to a letter dated October 30, that was sent to the secretary of the National Energy Board. It is about an intervenor making a licence withdrawal from the hearing on the Trans Mountain expansion project. I will read an excerpt from this letter, because again, if the legislation mentions it but we do not have confidence in the process, why would we support it? In this letter, the intervenor says:
The unwillingness of Trans Mountain to address most of my questions and the Board’s almost complete endorsement of Trans Mountain’s decision has exposed this process as deceptive and misleading. Proper and professional public interest due diligence has been frustrated, leading me to the conclusion that this Board has a predetermined course of action to recommend approval of the Project and a strong bias in favour of the Proponent.
In effect, this so-called public hearing process has become a farce, and this Board a truly industry captured regulator.
If the government is to review applications in sensitive offshore areas like the north and if this is the kind of process to which these reviews would be subject, it does not leave us any confidence that we will end up with the best kinds of decisions.
The letter goes on to say:
In addition to gutting the oral-cross examination feature of a public hearing process that supports proper questioning and an adequate level of due diligence, there are other Board decisions that have been made over the course of this hearing that reflect a pre-determined outcome.
The evidence on the record shows that decisions made by the Board at this hearing are dismissive of intervenors. They reflect a lack of respect for hearing participants, a deep erosion of the standards and practices of natural justice that previous Boards have respected, and an undemocratic restriction of participation by citizens, communities, professionals and First Nations either by rejecting them outright or failing to provide adequate funding to facilitate meaningful participation.
Certainly in British Columbia that continues to be an ongoing source of irritation, which is probably too light of a word. However, many people who want to intervene in an NEB process simply do not have the capacity to review the thousands of pages of documents and to present a finding, so funding becomes critical, particularly with regard to first nations communities that will be directly impacted by projects.
It is a lengthy letter, so I cannot read it all, but further in the letter the intervenor indicates:
The Board had stated that the elimination of cross-examination of the Proponent’s evidence can be evaluated through the two scheduled Information Requests. But we have a Kafkaesque outcome. Trans Mountain refuses to answer questions and the Board does not compel them to do so.
We have a proponent that can say whatever it wants, yet intervenors have no ability to question it, because the board will not allow the questions.
The intervenor goes on to say:
The Province of British Columbia stated that “Trans Mountain’s failure to file the evidence requested by the Province in Information Request No. 1 denies the Board, the Province and other intervenors access to the information required to fully understand the risk posed by the Project, how Trans Mountain proposes to mitigate such risk and Trans Mountain’s ability to effectively respond to a spill related to the Project.”
The National Energy Board is not fulfilling its obligation to review the Trans Mountain Expansion Project objectively. Accordingly it is not only British Columbians, but all Canadians that cannot look to the Board’s conclusions as relevant as to whether or not this project deserves a social license. Continued involvement in the process endorses this sham and is not in the public interest.
One of the reasons the NDP has objected to the bill is the lack of clear process around public consultation. The government continues to say that Canadians should not worry, that the National Energy Board will look after their interests. When we have had a very credible intervenor raise questions about the NEB's independence, we need to do a far better job of telling Canadians how projects would be evaluated.
We need that openness, transparency and accountability so Canadians have confidence that when a project is approved, that it has been tested for the environmental, economic and social impacts. It is with very good reason that the New Democrats do not support the bill at this stage. We attempted to make a number of amendments at committee stage and of course to no surprise, those amendments were rejected by the government.
I point out, once again, that we are under time allocation and that limits the amount of time and the number of witnesses who can be called to review the bill. With very good reason, the New Democrats oppose the legislation.
- MPndpNov 05, 2014 11:50 am | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
Mr. Speaker, while the minister refuses to take responsibility for his failure, first nation schools continue to be woefully underfunded. Approximately 47% of first nations currently need a new school and 22% of those have been waiting for 10 to 15 years. That is simply unacceptable, yet the minister continues to ignore this situation.
Why is the minister still refusing to provide first nation children the funding they desperately and deserve for a quality education?
- MPndpNov 04, 2014 10:05 am | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for a very reasoned presentation of the NDP position. She did touch on it briefly, but one of the issues that the NDP has raised is with regard to civilian oversight of CSIS. I wonder if she could expand on that particular point because we have a current oversight body that is under-resourced. There are a couple of members who have not been reappointed. Could she speak to the importance of having that kind of civilian oversight?
- MPndpNov 04, 2014 7:05 am | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
moved that the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, presented on Friday, May 20, 2014, be concurred in.
- MPndpOct 28, 2014 10:35 am | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for talking about the importance of farming in his community. It is important in mine as well.
I want to refer to the investor state dispute resolution mechanism. Earlier I pointed out the fact that it was a very secretive process. It is also costly for governments to have to defend themselves on these dispute resolution mechanisms.
Could the member comment on the fact that this really needs to be a more open and transparent process and safeguards need to be put in place for countries so they do not get involved in these costly battles?
- MPndpOct 28, 2014 9:55 am | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
Mr. Speaker, I want to turn to the investor state resolutions youth settlement mechanism for a moment. There was a report issued by the International Investment Arbitration on Public Policy and it highlighted some of the concerns raised with regard to the lack of openness and transparency. In fact, it said:
Unfortunately, a recent review by the International Chamber of Commerce of its arbitration rules maintained a very high level of confidentiality in ICC arbitrations involving states, such that the existence of a claim against a state, the identity of the arbitrators, the text of orders or awards, and any amounts awarded against a state will continue to be kept confidential. While this level of confidentiality may be appropriate in commercial arbitrations, it precludes public scrutiny of ICC arbitrations involving states and makes it difficult to evaluate the policy implications of a state's decision to authorize investment arbitration under the ICC Rules.
In the House we often call on the government to engage in activities around openness and transparency. With the investor state resolution dispute settlement mechanisms, that openness and transparency is absent.
Could the member comment on the secretive dealings of those mechanisms?
- MPndpOct 28, 2014 9:50 am | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Surrey North for that very eloquent presentation of the NDP support for the Canada-Korea free trade agreement.
In the speech given by the member for Vancouver Kingsway, he noted that in recent years South Korea had emerged as a global leader in environmental economics, investing billions in an ambitious green growth strategy aimed at improving energy efficiency, while boosting renewables and green technology. Then, sadly, he turned to Canada's track record.
In the report, “The Maple Leaf in the OECD”, comparing progress toward sustainability, it indicated that according to recent tracking polls, 90% of Canadians believed it was very important for national identity that Canada be a leader on the environmental issues. However, Canada's environmental performance was one of the weakest of all countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The data shows Canada's overall environmental performance is far behind other OECD countries, with a rank of 28 out of 30, virtually at the bottom.
In Korea there is a green growth in action and it has become only the third country to issue a report using the proposed OECD green growth indicators. It is looking at CO2 emissions, environmental and resource productivity, energy productivity, domestic materials consumption and so on. On many measures, Korea is in the forefront of a new green economy.
Could the member comment about the fact that Korea could show leadership to Canada, which is such a laggard when it comes to environmental measures?
- MPndpOct 27, 2014 12:10 pm | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
Mr. Speaker, I have two sets of petitions signed by hundreds of people from Nanaimo—Cowichan who call upon Parliament to refrain from making any changes to the Seeds Act or the Plant Breeders' Rights Act through Bill C-18, an act to amend certain Acts relating to agriculture and agri-food, that would restrict farmers' rights or add to farmers' costs. Further, they call upon Parliament to enshrine in legislation the inalienable right of farmers and other Canadians to save, reuse, select, exchange, and sell seeds.
- MPndpOct 27, 2014 10:50 am | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for that informative speech.
One of the issues that has come up with regard to animal cruelty and this particular piece of legislation is that we had two private member's bills proposed by New Democrats before the House.
One is Bill C-232, which was introduced by my colleague for Parkdale—High Park. This bill would remove animals from the section of the Criminal Code on property and create a new section for animal cruelty offences. In short, animals would be considered people and not property. Part of the reason the bill was introduced is that the current definition of “animal” is inadequate.
The second is Bill C-592, which was introduced by the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine. This bill seeks to better define what an animal is under the Criminal Code and what is meant by “intended acts of cruelty”.
I wonder if the member could comment on the fact that although the Conservatives have been in government since 2006, they still failed to introduce good legislation with regard to animal cruelty.
- MPndpOct 27, 2014 10:30 am | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
Mr. Speaker, I want to continue in the vein of mandatory minimum sentences.
Earlier in my speech I quoted from an article by the Heritage Foundation in a legal memorandum of February 10. In this memorandum, it is contended that mandatory minimum sentences did not reduce crime. University of Minnesota law professor, Michael Tonry, has concluded, “the weight of the evidence clearly shows that enactment of mandatory penalties has either no demonstrable marginal deterrent effects or short-term effects that rapidly waste away”. The article states, “Statutes imposing mandatory minimum sentences result in arbitrary and severe punishments that undermine the public’s faith in America’s criminal justice system”.
Could the member comment on that? Does she agree that mandatory minimums can undermine the faith of citizens in the justice system?
- MPndpOct 27, 2014 9:45 am | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government, with its continued use of mandatory minimums, seems to be saying, in part, that it does not trust judges to review the evidence before them and use their knowledge, expertise, and long history in the courts to make the appropriate determination about what an appropriate sentence would be. By imposing mandatory minimums, in this particular case, it continues that line of reasoning and thought that seems to be evident in so many other pieces of legislation we have seen before the House.
Serious concerns have been raised, with regard to Bill C-10, the omnibus crime bill that was referenced, and a number of other bills, that the Conservatives continue to undermine the ability of judges to make appropriate decisions.
If there are judges who are completely outside the norm in sentencing, there are other ways of dealing with it other than putting mandatory minimums in bill after bill.
- MPndpOct 27, 2014 9:40 am | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
Mr. Speaker, of course, the member is also a lawyer, so she has had some personal exposure to the criminal justice system.
Like many people, I did a Google search today in preparation for speaking. I was looking for both the pro and con arguments with regard to mandatory minimum sentences. Interestingly, the legal memorandum by the Heritage Foundation provides some arguments for and against. The problem is that in the United States, prosecutors are actually the ones making some determinations about mandatory minimums, because prosecutors are defining what the charge will be. Sometimes they are defining the charge so that it does not fall under a mandatory minimum. There are people somewhere else in the chain of decision- making in the United States who are making decisions about whether mandatory minimums will or will not apply. That has been raised as an issue in Congress. Although there are some opinions in favour, they have more to do with procedural things in the United States.
- MPndpOct 27, 2014 9:30 am | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Newton—North Delta for her very kind comments. She has also done yeoman's work in the House, particularly with regard to issues recently around child care. I want to acknowledge the good work she has done. As well, the member clearly indicated that the New Democrats would be supporting Bill C-35. It was interesting to hear questions from the other side.
We talk about this place being a democratic institution. Part of being a democratic institution is ensuring that my constituents are represented in the House. That means as members of Parliament we should have an opportunity to rise in the House to speak to particular legislation. The members ask why do we not just get it to committee. I do not happen to sit on the justice committee, so I would be unable to participate in the questioning of witnesses and in any debate at the committee with regard to the legislation. Therefore, it is important that I am able to rise in the House to express what I think are concerns for my riding and to have that voice on the record.
Again, we support the bill and as the member for Newton—North Delta rightly pointed out, we do have concerns. However, let me talk about what the substance of the bill is.
According to the legislative summary, Bill C-35, an act to amend the Criminal Code (law enforcement animals, military animals and service animals), is as follows. It is also called Quanto's law in honour of the police dog which was stabbed to death while helping to apprehend a fleeing suspect in Edmonton, Alberta in October 2013. Quanto had four years of decorated service and had participated in more than 100 arrests. The legislative summary says:
Currently, an offence is committed under sections 444 and 445 of the Criminal Code (Code) when someone wilfully kills, maims, wounds, poisons or injures cattle or when someone kills, maims, wounds, poisons or injures a pet wilfully and without lawful excuse.
There are also a number of provisions that address cruelty to animals, including section 445.1 of the Code, which establishes that it is an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to an animal.
The legislative summary goes on to talk on to talk about what the new offences are and it indicates:
Clause 3 creates new subsection 445.01 (1) of the Code,3 which establishes that it is an offence to wilfully and without lawful excuse kill , maim, wound, poison or injure a law enforcement animal while it is aiding a law enforcement officer in carrying out that officer's duties; a military animal while it is aiding a member of the Canadian Forces in carrying out that member's duties; or a service animal while it is assisting a person with a disability.
It goes on to say that, “A minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of six months takes effect only if a law enforcement animal is killed”.
Subsequently it refers to the consecutive sentences clause 2:
Clause 2 of Bill C-35 creates new section 270.03 of the Code, which establishes that, if the abovementioned offences are committed against a law enforcement officer...the sentence imposed shall be served consecutively to any other punishment imposed on the person for an offence arising out of the same event or series of events.
We certainly support an initiative that protects service animals. We know they play a very important role in aiding police officers, border security in airports where the service animals are being used for drug detection. We support legislation that enhances the protection for these animals, but as other members have rightly pointed out, there are some serious concerns with regard to the continuing use of mandatory minimum sentences and the consecutive sentencing clause within the legislation.
I want to turn for a moment to the mandatory minimum sentences. There have been a number of scholarly articles written over the last several years with regard to the effectiveness of mandatory minimum sentences in the United States. I want to quote an article that was published February 10, 2014, by the Heritage Foundation. The articles says, “Reconsidering Mandatory Minimum Sentences”. In the abstract, it indicates:
Mandatory minimum sentences are the product of good intentions, but good intentions do not always make good policy; good results are also necessary.
With respect to each crime, is justice best served by having legislatures assign fixed penalties to that crime? Or should legislatures leave judges more or less free to tailor sentences to the aggravating and mitigating facts of each criminal case within a defined range?
There were numerous arguments with this article, both for and against. As members can probably tell, I am not in favour of mandatory minimum sentences, so I will quote from the parts that support my argument.
I do not have time, unfortunately, to go through some of the cases, but in the conclusion, it says:
Congress was right to be concerned about reducing sentencing disparity and ensuring that sentences are neither unduly lenient nor unduly harsh. Nonetheless, just as law should be tempered with equity, so should rigid sentencing rules leave room for adjustment in certain cases where a legislatively fixed sentence would be manifestly unjust. No statute can account for every variable in every case, and the attempt to do so with mandatory minimums has given rise to punishments in some small-scale drug possession cases that are completely out of whack with the purpose of the federal sentencing laws.
Again, I want to stay with cases in the United States. Over a number of years it has had its “three strikes and you're out” laws and some other mandatory minimum sentencing laws that have now proven to be not that effective.
There was an article on February 22, entitled “Texas an unlikely model for prison reform”. It is a California senator who quoted this, but the article states:
For over 30 years, spending on our prison system has steadily climbed from 3 percent of the state's operating budget to 11 percent. Even during the depth of the Great Recession, spending on prisons and jails increased while spending on education and health care was slashed. It continues to increase today. It doesn't have to be that way. There are alternatives, and unlikely as it might seem, Texas seems to be leading the way...
Among the members of his board of directors are national conservative leaders Grover Norquist and Newt Gingrich.
That is to highlight the fact that it not just the New Democrats or Democrats or Liberals who are indicating that there should be a review of the mandatory minimum sentencing; it is also conservatives in the United States.
The article continues:
How is this happening? Texas is investing in alternatives to incarceration that are proving to be cheaper and more effective at keeping people out of prison. It is also doing a better job of rehabilitating people to keep them from reoffending and...back in prison.
Texas uses risk-assessment and better probation procedures to divert large numbers of nonviolent offenders away from the prison system, keeping them away from hard-core criminals. It requires strict implementation of victim-restitution measures, while offering alternatives to prison such as civil sanctions, drug courts and drug-abuse and mental health treatment. It also offers rehabilitation programs like job training for those in prison to prepare them to re-enter society. And Texas has invested heavily in reducing the caseloads of parole and probation officers so the state can keep better track of the people it supervises and help them move in a new direction.
Texas, which I think most people would agree has had a fairly strong approach to the criminal justice system, is implementing measures that do not rely on mandatory minimums and other such measures. It is actually looking at rehabilitation.
When we talk about prison reform, I want to reference Howard Sapers, the ombudsperson for prisons. For years, he has been raising the issues around how people are treated once they are in the prison system and how many of the things that happen do not contribute to keeping people out of jail once they are released. Many other voices out there are speaking up.
However, the last point I want to touch on is the failure of the current Conservative government to adequately address prevention measures, because the best measure in the justice system is to stop people from going to jail in the first place.
The Institute for the Prevention of Crime at the University of Ottawa has a number of resources, but it also has an article titled, “Building a safer Canada: effective planning for crime prevention”. In the introduction to this, it states:
Safety is a vital component of our quality of life. Our police and criminal justice systems play an essential role in helping to achieve these goals, and we should continue to do everything we can to help make them more responsive, efficient and effective.
However, there are no easy solutions to the problems of crime and victimization, and little evidence that simply relying on more enforcement and more punishment will significantly increase our individual and collective safety...
There is also a convincing body of evidence that prevention is an effective way to move forward. The concern is that Canada is not doing enough to make the best use of this knowledge and expertise—we need a sustained commitment to doing more to translate proven approaches into common practice.
Because my time is almost up, I do not have time to go through the whole article, but it has a framework for prevention planning. It says that there are five interconnected questions. One is understanding the problem and developing a vision, an action plan, and responsibility centres. Second is concentrating resources. Third is relying on evidence-based approaches. Fourth is assuming adequate and sustained support, and fifth is informing and engaging the public.
In conclusion, New Democrats support Bill C-35, but we look forward to a full review at committee.
- MPndpOct 27, 2014 9:25 am | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
Mr. Speaker, the member for Newton—North Delta clearly outlined why the New Democrats will support the legislation. However, she also outlined some of our concerns.
I want to refer to the speech that was given by the member for La Pointe-de-l'Île, in which she highlighted the fact that the New Democrats had two private members' bills before the House dealing with animal cruelty.
In her speech, she referenced Bill C-232 from the member for Parkdale—High Park. Her bill would remove animals from the section of the Criminal Code on property and create a new section for animal cruelty offences. In short, animals would be considered people and not just property. She went on to say that the definition of animal was inadequate, which Bill C-232 would attempt to address.
The second private member's bill is Bill C-592 from the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine. That bill seeks to better define what an animal is under the Criminal Code and what is meant by intents and acts of cruelty.
Since 2006, we have seen a failure on the part of the Conservative government to address some very valid concerns with regard to animal cruelty. Could the member comment on the government's failure to address some of those other issues?
- MPndpOct 24, 2014 9:00 am | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
Mr. Speaker, I have three petitions to present. Two of the petitions are with regard to a moratorium on GM alfalfa.
The petitioners outline concerns with regard to the fact that genetically modified alfalfa is currently being planted and tested in Canada.
The petitioners are calling on Parliament to impose a moratorium on the release of genetically modified alfalfa in order to allow a proper review of the impact on farmers in Canada.
- MPndpOct 24, 2014 8:40 am | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
Mr. Speaker, first nations children receive 22% less funding from child welfare services than what other children in Canada receive. That is a fact, and it is one that the minister continues to ignore.
Can the minister explain what he will do to ensure that child welfare services for first nations children meet the same standards as for all other children in this country?
- MPndpOct 23, 2014 11:45 am | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
Mr. Speaker, the final arguments in the first nations child welfare case continued today at the Human Rights Tribunal. First nations children receive 22% less funding from child welfare services than what other children in Canada receive. What steps are being taken by the government to ensure that we are not discriminating against children living on reserve and that we are funding child welfare services to the same standards as all other services in this country?
- MPndpOct 23, 2014 9:50 am | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
Mr. Speaker, I am going to take this back to a local issue just for one moment. I live in Nanaimo—Cowichan, and I actually live in the Cowichan watershed. This summer we had a crisis in the Cowichan watershed. Our river was so low that not only was the health of our returning salmon going to be impacted but our local industry, a large pulp mill, was literally days from shutting down because it also draws water from the Cowichan River.
The reason I raise that in this context that it is an example of ending up with unintended consequences if we do not do a good job of looking at the whole watershed and looking at all the impacts on the watershed, whether they are mining, resource development, farming, or other industrial uses.
In the context of the South Nahanni, it is very important to look at the intact watershed and make decisions based on the health and well-being of that watershed.
- MPndpOct 23, 2014 9:45 am | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
Mr. Speaker, I am going to refer back once again to the report from the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development. The commissioner specifically talked about ecological integrity and its importance. The commissioner's report said:
Ecological integrity is a characteristic of healthy ecosystems: those that have complete food webs; a full complement of native plants and animals that can maintain their populations; and functioning ecosystem processes such as nutrient, water, and natural fire cycles that ensure the survival of those species.
It goes on to talk about the importance of this ecological integrity.
If we recognize that a functioning ecosystem is very important, what we need to do is to ensure that when we are developing parks and park reserves, we have enough of a land base to protect the whole ecosystem and that we put the resources in place to ensure that the integrity remains intact.
- MPndpOct 23, 2014 9:25 am | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
Mr. Speaker, before I begin my speech, as other members have done, I would like to convey condolences to the families of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Corporal Nathan Cirillo.
Today, I am rising to speak to Bill S-5, an act to amend the Canada National Parks Act with regard to the Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve of Canada. In an earlier exchange with the member for Yukon, I indicated that New Democrats will be supporting this bill. It is very important to get the bill to committee to review after second reading.
I am going to quote some background information from the legislative summary to put this bill into context:
The bill amends the Canada National Parks Act to establish Nááts’ihch’oh...National Park Reserve of Canada in the Northwest Territories. The park reserve, which measures 4,895 km², is located in the northern one sixth of the South Nahanni River watershed in the Northwest Territories, adjacent to and to the northwest of the existing Nahanni National Park Reserve.
Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve is situated entirely in the Tulita District of the Sahtu Settlement Area. It is being established as a park reserve rather than as a park in accordance with the stipulation in the Canada National Parks Act that “[p]ark reserves are established … where an area or a portion of an area proposed for a park is subject to a claim in respect of aboriginal rights that has been accepted for negotiation by the Government of Canada.” It is not until “outstanding Aboriginal claims have been settled and all necessary agreements are reached that provide for the park’s establishment [that] the park reserve is given national park status.”
The South Nahanni River watershed is an important cultural, spiritual and natural area for the First Nations and Métis peoples of the Sahtu Settlement Area, Dehcho Region and eastern Yukon. It is home to several important species, including grizzly bears, woodland caribou, Dall’s sheep and Canada’s northernmost populations of mountain goat and hoary marmot. The Sahtu Dene and Métis peoples of the region have long recommended that the area that will form this park reserve be conserved.
The legislative summary goes on to discuss the path to creating the Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve of Canada:
The Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve will complete the protection offered by the national parks system to the Greater Nahanni ecosystem. Nahanni National Park Reserve, which is situated in the Dehcho Region, was created in 1972, in large part to prevent the construction of a hydroelectric project at Virginia Falls. Initially the Nahanni park reserve covered about one seventh of the Greater Nahanni ecosystem. At the time, research indicated that, in this area with many competing land uses and with most of the water in the park reserve coming from outside its boundaries, a larger park would better protect the ecological integrity of the ecosystem. In 2009, Nahanni National Park Reserve’s size was increased six-fold within the Dehcho Region.
To expand protection of the greater Nahanni ecosystem into the adjacent Sahtu Settlement Area, in 2007, Parks Canada approached the Sahtu Dene and Métis peoples of the Tulita District. The negotiation process and requirements for creating a new park or park reserve within the Sahtu Settlement Area are defined in chapter 16 of the Sahtu Dene and Metis Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement (1993). The purpose of such parks is:
to preserve and protect for future generations representative natural areas of national significance, including the wildlife resources of such areas, and to encourage public understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of such areas, while providing for the rights of the participants under this agreement to use such areas for the harvesting of wildlife and plants.
In addition to affirming various traditional rights and uses, the agreement states, “Exploration for and development of minerals shall not be permitted within a national park, except as may be required for construction purposes within the park.”
As part of the process of creating a park reserve under the agreement, an impact benefit plan was required to lay out “the relationship between the Sahtu Dene and Metis and Parks Canada for managing a national park reserve.” A memorandum of understanding for negotiating the impact benefit plan was signed in April 2008.
While a number of competing uses for the land, including outfitting and sport hunting, were proposed for the park reserve, the most contentious issue was mining and mineral exploration.
I will come back to this point in a moment.
I want to comment for a moment on the process, and for this I am referring to Wikipedia, because it had a very succinct description of the process. It says:
Following the announcement, three plans for the park boundaries were proposed. The region is known for its mineral potential, and mining companies were concerned that the park would limit their access to these minerals. The first scenario would have made the park 6,450 square kilometres, protected 94 per cent of the upper watershed of the South Nahanni River, 95 percent of the grizzly bear habitat and 81 percent of the woodland caribou summer habitat, leaving 20 per cent of the overall mineral potential outside of the park's boundaries and potentially available for development. The Government of Canada chose the third option for the final park boundary that leaves 70 per cent of the overall mineral potential outside the park while retaining 70 percent of the grizzly bear habitat and 44 percent of the summer calving grounds of the woodland caribou herd within the park boundary." During negotiations, concerns were raised about the impact that mining the region would have on the South Nahanni watershed. ...
In reviewing these three options, I want to refer to Parks Canada's own consultation process. This was the final consultation report from August 30, 2010.
In that report, one of the things that happened was that participants were asked to indicate what their preference was of the options that had been proposed. Although only three options were presented for choosing a preference, there was actually a fourth option, but only three options were indicated as preferences.
Option number one, which is not the preference that was chosen by the government, had 92.3% of participants indicate that this was the option that they would prefer. Option number two had 4.6%, and option number three had only 3.1%. We can see that participants in the consultation overwhelmingly favoured that first option.
From that final report, I want to refer to some of the findings from the consultations with aboriginal peoples in the Sahtu region.
The report states:
A frequently expressed comment in the Sahtu region consultations was that it does not make sense to have a national park reserve if you also allow mining to exist in the watershed. Participants stated their distrust of the mining industry and the environmental assessments to protect the natural environment concerned, that the impacts of mining would be harmful to the watershed downstream. It was suggested by participants that protecting the water should be a higher priority than obtaining the employment and financial benefits of mining (seen as small benefits). While some participants saw a balance of economic and conservation values as beneficial (e.g. Option 1 was seen to accommodate miners to keep their leases and Sahtu to protect the watershed and animals), many others felt that mining should not be allowed at all in the watershed. It was suggested that the key concern in deciding on the boundary should be the conservation of wildlife and water.
The beauty and importance of the Naats'ihch'oh area was highlighted by many consultation participants in the Sahtu. They stated that the area was very important to peoples of the Sahtu, Dehcho and Kaska (Ross River Dena Council and Liard First Nation, Yukon). One Tulita Elder described the mountain itself (Naats'ihch'oh) as sacred to these peoples; it has been used to teach and to heal. “This area has power...powerful medicine. The area is so powerful that it will heal you...used in the past to heal people before white medicine. For these reasons we don't want to lose this area to development and it should become a park.”
Of course, there were many other pieces of input with regard to the consultation, but that very succinctly sums up what the Sahtu peoples were talking about in terms of preservation of the area.
Further on in the public consultation report, there was an analysis of the proposed options. It states:
...Option 1 was seen as the best way to facilitate maximum protection of the watershed and habitat of the important species, while also accommodating resource potential in the park. A number of the participants who preferred Option 1 qualified this choice by indicating that Option 1 represented the next best approach to protection of the entire South Nahanni River watershed and preferred that mining leases be bought out. They also indicated that if mining activities are allowed in the vicinity of the park reserve in the upper watershed of the South Nahanni River, the most stringent environmental controls and management should be applied.
We can see clearly that the participants in the study preferred option number one. They talked about what needed to be in place in order to preserve this very important area, an area that is important economically, spiritually, and culturally. Part of the concern that the member for Northwest Territories raised when he gave his speech here in the House was that despite the consultations and the preference from people in the region, this was not the option that was selected.
In addition, the member raised some concerns with regard to the funding and resources needed to support the development of this park and to protect its integrity in the longer run, and in this connection I want to refer to the report from the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development that was tabled in this House in the fall of 2013. This report was on ecological integrity in national parks.
In the introduction of this report, one of the things that the commissioner did was outline the benefits that national parks provide, and these include the following:
...serve as storehouses of biological diversity, including species at risk...; provide vital functions in the ecosystem, such as carbon sequestration, stormwater surge protection, freshwater filtration, and pollination; provide benchmarks for researchers to compare undisturbed ecosystems within national parks against lands outside of national parks that have been subject to human activities; and protect areas so that the present and future generations will have opportunities to connect with nature, appreciate natural heritage, and support its conservation.
In the report from the commissioner, she raised a number of concerns. I am going to focus on the resources for maintaining ecological integrity because that is one of the concerns that has been raised, whether those resources would be available. The commissioner, in paragraph 7.68, found that overall spending on heritage resources conservation decreased by 15% in the 2012-13 fiscal year, compared with the average of the preceding six years, with further reductions planned as part of decisions flowing from the 2012 federal budget. The planned staffing numbers in heritage resources conservation were reduced by 23% in the 2013-14 fiscal year, compared with the average of the previous seven years. More specifically, staffing in the science work stream was reduced by 33% during this period, as 60 of 179 positions were eliminated.
The report also found that the number of positions that are seasonal increased from 37% to almost 60% in 2013-14 fiscal year. This exacerbates the impact of the reduction in the number of positions because seasonal staff work for only part of the year. Further on in that same report where the concerns were being raised, we find that the spending on heritage Canada resources conservation of Parks Canada has recently decreased by 15%, and it goes on to cite some of the same numbers.
However, it states that Parks Canada has not clarified how and by when, with significantly fewer resources, the agency will address the backlog of unfinished work, the emerging threats to ecological integrity, and the decline in the condition of 34% of park ecosystems that it has identified. As a consequence, “there is a significant risk that the Agency could fall further behind in its efforts to maintain or restore ecological integrity in Canada's national parks” system.
Earlier, when I posed a question to the member for Yukon, with regard to whether the government would commit sufficient resources in order to ensure that the ecological integrity of the proposed park reserve would be maintained, the member referenced the budget announcement, and I just want to put some facts on the table.
First, Parks Canada identified aging infrastructure and inadequate levels of funding in maintenance as a key risk for the department in its November 2013 departmental performance report. The departmental performance report also showed that over $17 million in approved funding for heritage resources conservation and $22 million in townsite and throughway infrastructure funding was allowed to lapse in the 2012-13 period.
When we were talking about the budget, the member was correct when he indicated that the budget announced $391 million over five years to deal with crumbling buildings, roads, and dams. However, what he did not indicate was that, first, the amount would not cover the backlog, but more importantly, because the money is being phased in over five years, in 2014 only $1 million would be spent, in 2015 $4 million would be spent, and the bulk of the money, $386 million, would be spent after the next federal election.
We have been seeing these kinds of smoke-and-mirrors budget announcements in any number of areas. I am the aboriginal affairs critic for the New Democrats. We saw an education announcement that indicated that most of the money would flow after the next federal election.
Therefore, this is another one of those cases of “Trust me; the cheque is in the mail”. It is important to note that money is not a slam dunk. If the government really does want to support the development of this park reserve, if it really does want to support the peoples of the region, it needs to indicate, very clearly, its intention to ensure that money will flow.
Again, New Democrats are wholeheartedly behind the creation of this park reserve. We are wholeheartedly in support of the bill moving forward and making sure it happens expeditiously. Members will know that this has been a long time in the making and it is well past the time that we do this preservation.
However, a number of other organizations have also raised concerns and I will refer to the CPAWS Northwest Territories analysis. In its analysis, it indicated:
Protecting the South Nahanni watershed is broadly supported locally, across Canada, and internationally. In 2006, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee recommended that Canada protect the entire South Nahanni watershed in recognition of the area’s globally significant values. Scientists have also recommended that the entire watershed be protected in order to secure its ecological integrity, including adequate habitat for woodland caribou, Dall’s sheep and grizzly bears....
The original study area for Nááts’ihch’oh NPR included important habitat for grizzly bears and key calving and breeding grounds for the Nahanni and Redstone herds of mountain woodland caribou. Both of these species are listed under the federal Species at Risk Act, and need large intact areas to survive. The area is also home to the northernmost populations of mountain goats in Canada, and is home to Dall’s sheep which are part of the genetically unique Nahanni population that was isolated during the last ice age....
The boundary announced by [the Prime Minster] in 2012 falls far short of what is needed to protect the ecological integrity of the world-renowned South Nahanni watershed, leaving critical wildlife habitat, including caribou calving and breeding grounds, and source waters of the Nahanni River outside the park boundary. This boundary disregarded public input in the park establishment process, as well as scientific evidence of what’s needed to fully protect the ecological integrity of the area and the habitat of these sensitive species. The boundary takes full advantage of potential industrial development in the area, protecting less area than any option presented during the public consultations....
Though relatively pristine, resource exploration, mine development and road access have encroached upon the headwaters of the South Nahanni River. There is a real risk that the ecological integrity of the entire watershed will be compromised if Nááts´ihch´oh NPR is not expanded to fully protect the remaining part of the watershed. Its role in completing protection of the Greater Nahanni Ecosystem, as well as its ecological and cultural significance, make it a critical area to fully protect.
As I indicated earlier, New Democrats are fully in support of the bill being sent to committee. At committee, I am sure there will be an opportunity for a very fulsome review of the bill and of the final consultation report that Parks Canada conducted, and an opportunity to hear from witnesses from the first nations and Métis peoples of the region, environmental organizations and industry on their perspectives on the particular option that was proposed.
One thing I think many people will be looking forward to hearing about is how the ecological integrity of the park reserve will be preserved in the context of other kinds of activities that can be allowed. As well, it will be very important for the government to clarify exactly what resources will be available, both in terms of financial and human resources, in order to ensure that Parks Canada will be able to do its job in promoting and supporting the ecological integrity of the park reserve.
In conclusion, New Democrats are supporting the bill at second reading and I look forward to the discussion that will happen at committee.
- MPndpOct 23, 2014 8:55 am | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
Mr. Speaker, I will be speaking later to indicate NDP support for this bill, but I do have a question for the member. He is probably aware that in 2013, in the report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development on the ecological integrity of national parks, the commissioner raised some concerns about the state of repair of many national parks.
I wonder if the member could comment on whether the government is prepared to commit the resources and staffing required to make sure that this park can be the best possible park.
- MPndpOct 21, 2014 11:45 am | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
Mr. Speaker, the failure of the government to protect the basic rights of first nations children on reserve is an absolute shame. We have more first nations children removed from their homes and put in foster care than at the height of the residential school era. This is unacceptable in a country as rich as Canada. When will the government stop discriminating against first nations children and start funding child welfare at the same standards and quality as all other services in the country?
- MPndpOct 21, 2014 11:40 am | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan
Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister promised reconciliation with the 2008 residential schools apology, yet the Conservative government is facing an unprecedented human rights tribunal for systematically discriminating against first nations children on reserve, providing them with 22% less funding for child welfare services than what other children receive.
Its own experts have confirmed this shortfall. How can the Prime Minister justify treating children on reserve as second-class citizens?
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