The hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam will have seven minutes remaining for his comments. He can pick it up from where he left off when the House next returns to debate on this particular question.
For now, the time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.
Mr. Speaker, earlier this fall I joined the co-chair of the all-party oceans caucus, the hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam, in hosting a breakfast where parliamentarians heard from a leading ocean scientist on the issue of ocean acidification. It is a phenomenon that is harming, for example, the shellfish industry in the Pacific northwest, an industry providing an outstanding product, but also valuable jobs and business opportunities for rural coastal communities. Shellfish farmers are working hard to adapt their operations by incorporating water monitoring and treatment practices. It is innovative work to improve knowledge and ultimately help ensure the continued success of this industry for the future.
I welcome all hon. members to join us today after 4:30 p.m. in room 216-N, as our oceans caucus joins with the World Wildlife Fund in presenting our third Oceans on the Hill event for this year on the topic of ocean acidification.
Before I go to questions and comments, I want to remind all hon. members of this. The last two speakers have held pieces of identification in their hands. If they are doing that in order to refer to information, that is not problematic. If they use them as visual aids, that crosses the line and becomes a problem.
Questions and comments, the hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-13.
The first part of the bill is very clearly a critical issue that we have been dealing with in Canada. I would hope that every member in this House would support expedited action, across the board, to prevent cyberbullying and the inappropriate, illegal, non-consensual distribution of sexual information, in particular related to children.
I welcome the fact, as do my colleagues, that the government is finally coming forward with a more reasonable bill, and that we do not have the slinging of insults. We appreciate the respect being given to this matter and the more respectful bill, and perhaps it is because the bill is now being tabled by the Minister of Justice. We hope we will have a better balancing of rights to privacy and the rights of children, and other people who are harmed by inappropriate acts through the Internet.
I do wish to bring to the attention of the House that this is not the first time that members of the House have sought action on the issue of cyberbullying and action, particularly where youth have been harmed, and in some cases have committed suicide, because of extensive bullying.
I would like to bring to the attention of the House the motion M-385, tabled by the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord in October 2012. It was debated in this House. The member recommended that there be a broad-based strategy on dealing with cyberbullying.
It is noteworthy that just before I rose to speak a member across the way referenced the report on cyberbullying that was put together by federal, provincial and territorial ministers of justice and public safety. The very first recommendation is that the working group acknowledged the benefits of a multi-pronged, multi-sectoral approach to the issue of cyberbullying and called for action in a comprehensive manner.
That is very appreciated. Obviously, the justice ministers and the public safety ministers across this country recognize that we need to have clarification in criminal law. However, we need a lot more than that.
The member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord recommended that. He recommended a broad-based strategy that all members of the House could develop together and, heavens forbid, reach a consensus on the measures we need to move forward on. Very sadly, the Conservative members all voted down that motion.
Also, members on this side brought forward Bill C-540, a private member's bill, from the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour. In that bill, he recommended the creation of an offence to produce or distribute intimate images of an individual without their consent. That was the response to the tragic suicide of Rehtaeh Parsons in his province.
In addition, another member on this side, the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam, tabled Bill C-213, which very succinctly addressed the matter of communication for the purposes of child luring.
Very clearly, the members of the official opposition strongly support action by the government to address child luring and to address and punish any cyber crime that would lead to bullying and could cause serious harm or suicide of our children.
Canadian families would clearly be grateful for expedited action, certainly the families of the victims of previous bullying incidents would. Most importantly, we would like to prevent any such incident from ever occurring again. I think all members of the House would concur with that.
What we want to do is to protect our families from harm. I concur. I join with my colleagues in strongly supporting the first provisions of this bill, which deal with and address cyberbullying. I am certain that we did our best to try to suggest to the government that it would be wise to expedite these measures by dividing the bill.
We may need to strengthen the investigative powers but, as I will speak to later on, we need a lot more than stronger criminal law; we need to make sure that our enforcement officers are fully capable of actually taking action on these matters.
However, as I mentioned at the outset, the most important measures we need are ones to prevent these acts from occurring at all, not simply taking enforcement action after the fact.
Why do we have these issues? Why are Canadians, in particular legal experts and privacy experts, raising concerns with the majority of the provisions of this bill? I am informed that 37 of the 47 clauses of the bill do not directly relate to cyberbullying. Therefore, it appears eminently reasonable that we would have further debate on those provisions to expedite the cyber crime provisions.
One of the matters that was of deep concern to Canadians from coast to coast to coast, in particular legal scholars, was the previous provision of a bill that was tabled in the previous Parliament. It would have allowed for intervention into accessing Internet material without a warrant. When objections were raised, the then minister of public safety accused anybody who had raised any concerns or had proposed amendments to the bill of being pro child pornography. That caused the government to ultimately withdraw its bill, and I think appropriately.
We are encouraged that the government has moved forward now with a more reasonable bill. However, legal experts are raising some concerns with the direction the bill is taking on the way it is imposing conditions on warrants. Those are critical matters.
We have long-standing legal precedents on when it is appropriate to allow for the seizing of material and where it might be a violation of a charter right. The prerequisites to obtain a warrant have been long debated in the courts. If we are to move in any way on shifting the burden on having to show cause before obtaining a warrant, it justifiably merits a good discussion in committee over those matters. However, the government has decided that it does not want to divide the bill, so unfortunately all matters will be going to committee.
I previously mentioned the matter of the warrantless disclosure. An equally concerning matter is the possibility for Internet providers to voluntarily disclose information. I would suggest that is a matter that also needs to be looked at closely. People exchange information of a private matter day in and day out. There should be some level of protection when there is an exchange of that information.
As I only have a few minutes left, I would like to speak to a matter that comes from my personal experience. I was involved for many years in the field of environmental enforcement. One of the lessons I learned from that is that the best way to deter a crime is to have a high probability of detection and punishment.
In order to make that happen, most agencies now, when they are developing legislation, are simultaneously taking a look at the capacities of their enforcement agencies to deliver. They ask whether they have enough personnel and whether they are appropriately qualified. This is an area that police and enforcement officers have been identifying for quite some time, that it takes very special skills and training.
I have not seen the government come forward with a parallel skills, training and capabilities strategy. I would encourage it to move expeditiously on that, so that the moment the bill becomes law, the government is immediately capable of enforcing that law.
In closing, the bill is going in the right direction, generally speaking. However, it will be important for particular matters, including the changing of the burden of proof and warrants, to be explored at committee with the appropriate experts.
The hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam, with a short answer, please.
It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for Thunder Bay—Superior North, Natural Resources.
Resuming debate, the hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam.
Mr. Speaker, this is an extremely important debate. This is not an academic debate. This is a debate that really strikes at the heart of issues that Canadians are living from coast to coast to coast, and the issue is transportation safety. We have seen over the last few months an unprecedented number of accidents and deaths, and I would attest that there is a growing level of public concern right across this country about the actions of the Conservative government that have led to a deterioration in transportation safety.
We welcome the new minister here. Hopefully this will be a big change, a turning of the page, from what has been a series of profoundly irresponsible actions. The reality is that the Conservative government has to take transportation safety seriously; it has not, and in fact has done the opposite: it has cut back on the fundamental safety systems that Canadians have relied on in the past to protect them.
There are some small baby steps in Bill C-3 that we will of course support. There are some housekeeping items that are long overdue. However, the reality is that the legislation would do nothing to change the fundamental framework that has been put in place by the government and that has put so many Canadians at risk.
I will be speaking later to some of the other modes of transportation safety that have been sadly eroded. We are all aware of the tragic and profoundly sad circumstances that we have seen over the past few months in rail transport safety. We are aware of the increasing number of pipeline spills across the country because of the irresponsibility of the Conservative government. However, I would like to address just for a moment the whole question of marine safety.
For 30 years British Columbians have protected the coast of British Columbia by putting in place a tanker moratorium on the north coast. That is why there has been a good safety record. It is not because of the actions of the current government or the actions of any other government; it is because provincially and federally British Columbians said very strongly that we did not want to see tankers thrown willy-nilly around the coast of British Columbia. That is why British Columbia's coast has been protected.
Now the government is pushing to eliminate that respected moratorium and is pushing a number of projects that undoubtedly will lead to increased tanker traffic on British Columbia's coast if they go through.
The question then is this: what is the government's credibility on issues of marine safety? I would submit to the House that if we look at the record of the government and what it has done over the past couple of years, we see that it has done more harm to the coast of British Columbia, more potential harm to British Columbia's pristine coast and the tens of thousands of jobs that rely on B.C.'s coast being pristine, than any other government in our history.
Let us look at the record.
Just in the last few months we have seen the closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station. The member for New Westminster—Coquitlam has been a strong advocate on this issue. He has risen in the House of Commons to speak repeatedly on this issue, but he is not the only one. New Democratic MPs from British Columbia have risen repeatedly to speak on this issue. I myself have spoken on it. The member for Vancouver East has spoken on it. The member for Burnaby—Douglas, the member for Newton—North Delta, the member for Surrey North, the member for Vancouver Kingsway, the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan, and the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca have all spoken on this issue. We have seen NDP MPs from British Columbia repeatedly raise this issue, the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam being the most forthright.
Despite the fact that parliamentarians have raised this issue, despite the fact that the provincial government raised it, despite the fact that municipalities such as the City of Vancouver have raised it repeatedly, the Conservative government said it was going to close off the Coast Guard station and did not care if people were put at risk.
This is profoundly irresponsible. If it were just perhaps that one Coast Guard station, rather than a pattern, then perhaps we could say there was some justification, but there are a lot of expenses by the Conservative government that I profoundly disagree with. They include flying limousines around the world, the tens of billions of dollars that it wants to throw into an untendered fighter jet contract, a billion dollars for a weekend meeting, $16 glasses of orange juice. Speaking as a former financial administrator, I can say that Conservative financial management is an oxymoron. The government has been absolutely appalling when it comes to financial management. It is beyond comprehension.
Even if the Conservatives could justify the closure of the Coast Guard station, let us look at what else they have closed, which has been a repeated slap in the face to British Columbians and all those concerned with the safety of our coasts and the tens of thousands of jobs in fisheries and tourism that come from having a pristine coast. They also closed the Marine Communications and Traffic Services Centre, which helped to facilitate and ensure safe transportation on the coast. They said we do not need that; let us throw it out.
Then the Conservatives decided to close the B.C. office for emergency oil spill responders. Conservatives will say there is a 1-800 number for an oil spill off the coast of British Columbia. It goes to some desk in Ottawa, but British Columbians need an immediate response. We need to feel safe about our coast, not with a 1-800 number going back to Ottawa that no one ever answers. That is the Conservatives' attempt to provide some damage control.
What else did they do? They actually closed a whole system of environmental emergency programs as well. This has been a systematic pattern of shutting down the safety mechanisms that were present on the coast of British Columbia. What they have done is simply to put British Columbia's whole coast at risk.
The then minister of natural resources decided that he would do a press conference in Vancouver to address the concerns raised by British Columbians throughout the province. It would show British Columbians just how good the Conservative government is at marine safety. He did his press conference. He even brought a rescue ship across the Salish Sea from Victoria. What happened? The rescue ship ran aground.
It just proves the point that we cannot trust Conservatives with the safety of the B.C. coast. However, we can trust New Democrats, and that is what British Columbians will do in 2015. That is for sure.
The Conservatives have shut down all of this. They had a debacle of a press conference that proved our point that transportation safety was being undermined. To date, although we have a new minister who we hope will address all the concerns being raised by British Columbians, we have not seen the fundamental problem being addressed.
When we look at the small steps in Bill C-3 that address in a housekeeping way some of the small things that obviously the Conservatives wanted to bring forward as a package to say they are saving the coast, we remain skeptical, although we certainly support the baby-step measures that are contained in it.
However, let us be clear about what the bottom line is for us. We believe that the Coast Guard closures need to be addressed, and that process can start by reopening the Kitsilano Coast Guard station. It would respond to the concerns raised for British Columbia. We would like the Conservatives to reopen the marine traffic communication centre in Vancouver. That would start to address issues of safety concerns along the coast of British Columbia. We would like them to reopen the B.C. office for emergency oil spills. They can keep their 1-800 line, but let us have people who can respond to oil spills in British Columbia. If they do that, it would start to restore some of the confidence that we have completely lost in the Conservative government.
We proposed all of that. Just a few months ago the official opposition, the NDP, sent a letter to the transport minister and said that we support the tiny steps contained in their legislation. We disagreed with the title of the “safe coasts”. They must be kidding. After all the Conservatives have done, they simply are not guaranteeing safe coasts in any way, shape, or form. We said they should start including these elements in the legislation, and then we would actually have legislation that would help to address public confidence.
That is what we have put forward. The Conservatives have steadfastly refused thus far, but we are going to take this issue into committee and will be offering these kinds of positive amendments on behalf of British Columbians.
We certainly hope that B.C. Conservative MPs will step up to the plate and help support British Columbians, that they will step forward and say, “For goodness sake, there is a fundamental problem here. British Columbians have completely lost confidence in the government on marine safety, so we will address that by voting for the NDP amendment”. That is what we are hoping to see. We can support this on second reading to bring it forward, but let us see some action from the government. Let us see some positive action that actually addresses the concerns that British Columbians are raising.
With Bill C-3, there is no doubt that we see the Conservatives spinning around the northern gateway pipeline. The northern gateway pipeline has been shown, in poll after poll, that 80% of British Columbians reject it. They reject it because they are concerned about destroying the moratorium for tankers on the north coast. They are concerned about the lack of tanker safety. They are concerned about what the impact will be with the potential loss of thousands of jobs in the tourism and fisheries sectors. There are thousands of British Columbians who depend on a pristine coast. They are concerned about all that, and they have raised it repeatedly.
A few weeks ago, my wife and I went to see a movie in Coquitlam, which is next to Burnaby—New Westminster. I am looking at the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam because I want to acknowledge that we are spending some money in his riding. Before the film came on, there was a paid advertisement from Enbridge for the northern gateway pipeline. This was a non-partisan movie crowd. We were all there to see the movie. We were not there as New Democrats, Conservatives, Liberals or people from any other political background. We were British Columbians who were out to see a movie, and Enbridge put on the ad. What was the reaction of the crowd? There were round boos. People were throwing popcorn at the screen. That shows the extent to which British Columbians reject the northern gateway pipeline. There will be 104 full-time, on-site positions created, but thousands of jobs are threatened by the northern gateway pipeline. That is why communities along the right of way, and British Columbians generally, have said no.
For the Conservative government to put forward Bill C-3 today, hoping that somehow that will change British Columbians minds about a project that does not provide any economic or environmental advantage, is simply wrong-headed. In fact, it will do the opposite. It threatens our environment and our economy. For the government to think that Bill C-3 will address those concerns is simply wrong.
British Columbians feel profoundly strong about our coast. Many of us gain our living from the coast. We will not accept a Conservative government that tries to ram through a project when it has so many negative environmental and economic repercussions.
For the Conservatives to think they can ram this project through is simply wrong-headed. I have said this publicly outside the House, and I will say it in the House as well. If the Conservative government tries to ram through the northern gateway pipeline over the objections of first nations, the communities and British Columbians, there will not be a single safe seat for the Conservative Party in British Columbia in the 2015 election. I can guarantee that. British Columbians will say no to the Conservative agenda, and they will say yes to having strong New Democrats representing British Columbia in the House of Commons.
With only a few minutes left, I want to touch on the other concerns that have been raised by Canadians across this country in regard to transportation safety. I am the energy and natural resources critic. My work as a former refinery worker is part of what I bring to that job. I have been in situations where, with an oxygen tank, I was cleaning out the oil drums at the Shelburn refinery in Burnaby, British Columbia. The reality is, I have a very healthy respect for the impact of petroleum products. They are very dangerous and they have to be handled carefully. I do not see the same due regard for safety being applied by Conservatives.
We see that in terms of pipeline safety. We have seen a clear deterioration in pipeline safety over the last few years on the Conservatives' watch. We have seen this in the number of pipeline spills, which have increased exponentially, by almost 200% over the last few years. That should bring cause to concern for any government that is concerned about safety measures. We are talking about marine safety, and the government is bringing forward very small baby steps. The concerns about pipeline safety are now front and centre, yet the government is doing nothing to address them.
This is a substance that we have to be very careful with. It kills. It destroys. There has to be a very strong and reinforced investigation and inspection process. We have to make sure, at all times, that we have the best safety equipment possible. That has not been the case with pipelines. It has not been the case with any sort of oil spill response. In fact, an audit that came at the beginning of the summer found that in 83% of the cases, oil spill response equipment is out of date. We see a situation where there is “a number of significant deficiencies in the program's preparedness capability”.
Whether we are talking about marine safety or pipeline safety, very serious concerns have been raised by Canadians. We are all aware of what has transpired over the last few months. There was the profoundly saddening tragedy in Lac-Mégantic. We have just seen the tragedy in Alberta. There have been various communities in the last few months that have been impacted in terms of rail transportation safety. I am not just talking about Gainford and Lac-Mégantic; I am talking about Sexsmith, Brampton, Calgary, Landis, Ottawa, Lloydminster, Gogama, Wanup, Okotoks and Jansen. We are talking about communities that have been impacted just in the last few months by the lack of serious regard for safety in the transportation sector.
These are unprecedented accidents that we have seen, and they are multiplying. We are seeing a government that simply does not have the due regard for safety that is required of any responsible government.
I have asked before, and I will ask the new Minister of Transport, that the Conservatives reverse all of the cuts, the irresponsible actions and the gutting of safety in the transportation sector. Whether we were talking about marine safety, pipeline safety or rail safety, they are all linked.
The official opposition has brought forward very constructive ideas. The NDP has said that there are things we could do now. Our transport critic, the member for Trinity—Spadina, brought forward a whole series of recommendations after the appalling tragedy in Lac-Mégantic. The government has not implemented them. We have brought forward a whole series of recommendations on marine safety. The government has refused to implement them. We have raised concerns about the lack of pipeline safety. The government has refused to act.
We are doing this on behalf of the populations of Canada. We are doing it on behalf of all of the communities that are suffering from the lack of due diligence and responsibility by the Conservative government. We have never seen a government that has been so reckless and irresponsible with our nation's public safety. We have seen an increase in the number of fatalities and incidents in a whole series of sectors.
Canadians want to see a change from the government. They want it to be responsible with the public's safety. If the government chooses to continue its reckless path, not only is it saddening and a tragedy, it also means that in 2015 New Democrats will be stepping forward with a safety agenda that we believe Canadians will support.
We ask the Conservatives to do the right thing. If they do not, we will. That rendezvous is in 2015.
Mr. Speaker, as always, I welcome the opportunity to respond to my hon. colleague, the member of Parliament for New Westminster—Coquitlam, on the provision of search and rescue resources in the Vancouver area.
The Canadian Coast Guard is responsible for the effective and efficient use of federally supported maritime search and rescue resources to respond to distress calls. The Coast Guard carefully considers all resources available to respond in any given area, as well as their combined capacity and capability to meet local search and rescue needs when making decisions regarding asset placement. I assure the House that the decision to close Kitsilano was made with careful consideration and planning.
As with any transition, there are upfront costs associated with it. In this case, there were start-up costs for the inshore rescue boat station. However, the ongoing costs of the inshore rescue boat and the increased contribution to the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue is less than a quarter of the full costs of operating Kitsilano station. After accounting for these costs and the anticipated increased operations of Sea Island hovercraft, the Canadian Coast Guard is achieving significant net savings while maintaining a very high level of service.
The Canadian Coast Guard developed the Vancouver search and rescue plan in collaboration with the search and rescue partners in the area. The plan enhances interoperability and improves communication among agencies to ensure that search and rescue responses will continue to be coordinated in an effective manner. The Vancouver search and rescue plan is fully implemented and working well in Vancouver.
Since the closure of the Kitsilano base on February 19, the Canadian Coast Guard Sea Island hovercraft has consistently had a reaction time of less than 10 minutes after receiving a tasking, which is well within the national service standards of 30 minutes.
In addition to the highly professional services of the Sea Island station, we have implemented a number of initiatives to ensure the ongoing integrity of the search and rescue system in Vancouver.
On April 15, the new inshore rescue boat became operational at HMCS Discovery, located in Coal Harbour. This inshore rescue boat station is strategically located and is providing an enhanced level of service during the busy summer boating season, similar to other locations in Canada.
The inshore rescue boat program has been a successful and integral part of the Canadian search and rescue system since the 1970s.
Furthermore, the increased investment in the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue volunteer organization has enhanced its response capabilities in locations throughout the Vancouver area. In fact, one station was relocated to a more central location several months ago, adjacent to the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge, which will reduce response times within the high traffic areas of the harbour.
It is important for mariners to remember that the Coast Guard is only one element of a network of government organizations, volunteers and private or international entities that make up Canada's search and rescue system. All available resources will be directed and expected to respond to distress incidents.
Let me conclude with the assurance that the resources and plans are in place in Vancouver to ensure a professional and timely response to all maritime search and rescue incidents. The safety of Canadians is always the top priority of the Conservative government and the Canadian Coast Guard.
Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure for me today to offer support for Bill C-380, an act to amend the Fish Inspection Act and the Fisheries Act, which would prohibit the importation of shark fins not attached to the rest of the shark and enshrine in legislation Canada's prohibition on finning.
I would like to thank and applaud my colleague from New Westminster—Coquitlam for his courage in raising this important issue.
As we all know, an illegal trade in animal body parts exists in the world, such as ivory and rhino horns from Africa, tiger parts from Siberia and bear parts from North America. I am not a hunter but I understand full well the practice of killing animals for food when done in a responsible way to feed people. One might say that shooting a deer in the wild could be considered more humane than putting animals through a slaughterhouse. However, being a meat eater, as most of us are, I accept all of these practices.
On the other hand, killing animals for trophies or body parts is totally reprehensible. That is why I do not support the hunting of grizzlies in my province or anywhere else for that matter.
I have seen the documentary Sharkwater and have watched how sharks are caught, their fins are cut off and they are thrown back into the water. This practice is repulsive, immoral and is largely driven by an underground market controlled by organized crime that exploits threatened and endangered species to maximize profits.
Nearly 100 million sharks are killed every year, mainly for their fins. Trade is under-regulated, and it is almost impossible to ensure that imported fins have not been removed illegally or are not from threatened species.
Shark populations are slow to reproduce and cannot support the current overfishing. Sharks are essential to the health of marine ecosystems, and the decline in their population threatens to profoundly disrupt these ecosystems. In 2009, the International Union for Conservation of Nature reported that one-third of shark species were threatened with extinction because of this trade.
In a few decades, shark populations in certain areas have dropped by more than 95%, and they continue to decline. According to some experts, up to 20 shark species could disappear by 2017. In addition, it is impossible to know whether imported fins come from sustainable and respectful fishing.
Shark fin soup currently sells for between $8 and $100 a bowl in restaurants. However, in Canada as abroad, more and more people are refusing to serve or eat this kind of soup, and many Chinese restaurants have voluntarily taken this soup off their menu, including Floata in Vancouver, one of the largest Chinese restaurants in Canada.
Some municipalities in Canada have also passed, or will soon pass, bylaws prohibiting the sale of shark fins and related products. The communities in British Columbia that fall into this group are Coquitlam, Abbotsford, Duncan, Langley, the Township of Langley, Maple Ridge, Nanaimo, New Westminster, North Vancouver, Port Moody and White Rock. I congratulate the municipal councils for having the courage to pass these bylaws.
The Chinese government has required that shark fin soup no longer be served at state banquets. A number of prestigious hotels have removed this type of soup from their menu. Many countries, including the Bahamas, Ecuador and Fiji, territories like French Polynesia, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, as well as the American states of California, Hawaii, Illinois, Oregon and Washington have issued similar bans.
Some people say that Bill C-380 will have an impact on international trade. Based on our research, that is not the case.
We studied the possible consequences of an import ban in relation to the WTO obligations, and we feel that this bill complies with Canada's international trade obligations. Furthermore, my colleague from New Westminster—Coquitlam is open to amendments at committee stage.
We need to get the bill to committee to address any concerns anyone has.
There are a number of myths about Canada's current shark fin import laws. Some elected members have suggested that Bill C-380 is unnecessary because Canada already has enough laws and that Canada bans the trade of shark products from species protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) or the Species at Risk Act.
According to the Canadian branch of Humane Society International, this is false. Both CITES and SARA only protect three species of shark: basking sharks, whale sharks and great white sharks. In other words, out of 141 threatened or near-threatened shark species only 3 are protected by Canadian federal laws.
Another myth we hear is that Canada bans or restricts the trade, possession or sale of shark products that present human health or safety concerns. This is also false. Shark fins, which continue to be legally imported into Canada contain high concentrations of a potent neurotoxin, BMAA, which scientists have linked to neurodegenerative diseases in humans such as Alzheimer's and Lou Gehrig's disease. This is not unlike, for example, the link between phenylbutazone in horsemeat and aplastic anemia in children.
The third myth states that working through regional fisheries management organizations to ensure strong global management and enforcement practices is the most effective way to prevent unsustainable shark fishing practices such as finning. This is also false. As long as there is a demand for shark fins, there will be local industry pressure on governments not to prohibit the practice. This demand will also perpetuate the poaching of sharks in the waters of countries that already prohibit finning.
Canada has already been identified, for example, by CSIS as a destination country for poached shark fins from Australia, even though some Australian states have some of the world's strongest shark finning laws. Eliminating the demand removes incentive for fishermen to continue finning and poaching sharks.
We have a chance in the House to do something right together, to take a major step and end this disgusting practice. At a bare minimum, I strongly urge my colleagues who are here, and others who will be here later on, to support getting Bill C-380 to committee where there can be a detailed study with feedback from witnesses, as is the case in a democratic process.
It does not hurt, in any of these crucial issues, to have some more insurance. If we think we have good laws, let us beef them up and provide more insurance to toughen them up. We can always ease back on a law after we have toughened it up, but it is really hard to try to enforce something when we do not have the legislative background to do it.
For this reason, I urge my colleagues to support Bill C-380. I thank my colleague from New Westminster—Coquitlam for having taken the initiative to bring this forward.
Mr. Speaker, again, I want to thank the hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam for bringing this important issue to the attention of this House.
I think I can safely say that every member of this House, as do I, thinks the practice of shark finning is an awful thing. It involves the removal of the shark's fin while it is still alive and discarding the rest of the animal into the sea to die of suffocation or predation. We all agree that this is deplorable. Where we might disagree is on how to deal with the issue of shark finning, and I am not yet convinced that Bill C-380 is the way.
To remind hon. members, the bill proposes to amend two federal acts: the Fish Inspection Act, to prohibit the importation of shark fins; and the Fisheries Act, to prohibit the practice of shark finning in Canada. As my colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture, has spoken on the Fish Inspection Act, I will focus primarily on the changes proposed to the Fisheries Act.
Bill C-380 calls for amendments to the Fisheries Act to ban the practice of shark finning. However, the bill attempts to fix something that is not broken. Shark finning is banned in Canada and has been for almost two decades. In fact, the practice of finning has been banned in Canada since 1994, through licensing conditions under the fishery general regulations. That ban applies to Canadian fishery waters as well as licensed Canadian vessels fishing outside of our territorial waters.
Shark fishing in Canada is governed by sustainable management plans that include strong enforcement regimes to ensure that finning does not occur in Canadian fisheries, and these apply to all shark fisheries in Canadian waters. Indeed, only a few shark species are harvested in Canada, including spiny dogfish, porbeagle shark, shortfin mako shark and blue shark. These harvests are carefully managed based on the best scientific advice, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada is allowed to monitor shark populations in order to ensure their conservation. The shark fishery in Canada is highly regulated, with rigorous dockside monitoring. In fact, Canada maintains the first and only shark fishery in the world to be certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council.
As mentioned, in 1994, due to rising concerns over the practice, the Canadian government prohibited shark finning. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans was given the ability to do this under section 7 of the Fisheries Act, which sets out the minister's authority to issue leases and licences for fisheries or fishing. Section 22 of the regulations provides the minister with specific authority to set out targeted licence conditions for the proper management and control of fisheries and the conservation and protection of fish. These provisions provide the minister with the authority to impose measures to eliminate shark finning as a licence condition.
Therefore, the regulations already allow the minister to impose, as a licence condition, measures to eliminate shark finning, which has been done. Today, all licence holders for Canadian shark fisheries and for fisheries where sharks are landed as bycatch are subject to licence conditions that prohibit them from engaging in shark finning. Why try to reinvent the wheel with Bill C-380?
The ban is enforced through a number of different internationally accepted methods across Canada. One approach requires that the number of fins correspond with the number of shark carcasses landed by shark fishing vessels. Under a second and more common approach, the number of fins on shark fishing vessels cannot exceed 5% of the overall weight of carcasses onboard when it lands. Both methods are intended to ensure that sharks are not being caught solely for their fins.
All licensed shark fishing vessels in Canada are subject to 100% monitoring to ensure this ratio is respected. Any violation of a licence condition is an offence under the Fisheries Act. Penalties for those found to be in contravention of their conditions of licence range from warnings, to prosecution, to requests for a court-imposed licence suspension and quota penalties, to loss of the privilege to renew the licence.
These measures were put in place to ensure Canada's shark fishery conforms to sustainable harvesting practices. It is a very practical approach and it has worked well. There has been only one minor breach in recent years; otherwise shark finning has not been an issue in Canadian fisheries. I would also add that Canada's approach is an internally accepted standard within regional fisheries management organizations.
While the bill is flawed, there are other ways to address the issue. For example, the proposed amendments to the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act would provide new tools for Canadian officials to seize shipments of fish products that have been caught illegally, such as shark fins. The proposed revisions to the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act currently being reviewed by the Senate, as Bill S-13, would provide the legislative authority for Canada to prevent the import of fish products from illegal sources. Additionally, Canada has worked with other countries to put an end to this practice. The Government of Canada will continue to work with our international partners to ensure sustainable management of sharks, including the prohibition of the practice of finning.
Globally, Canada promotes the sustainable management and conservation of sharks through international organizations, including the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, and regional fisheries management bodies, such as the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas. There are also a number of international agreements, to which Canada is a party, which govern the conservation management and trade of certain at-risk shark species. For instance, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, usually called CITES, protects the great white shark, and basking and whale sharks. Imports of any of these shark species, or any of their parts, into Canada is only permissible if accompanied by an export permit from the country of origin that certifies the imported shark, or products derived from it, was caught in a scientifically proven sustainable fishery.
Furthermore, proposals have been submitted to have three more added, at the sixteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties convention to be held in March.
To summarize, Canada has taken action against the deplorable practice of illegal shark finning. This practice has been banned in Canada since 1994. Canada believes that working through regional fisheries management organizations to ensure strong management and enforcement practices globally is the most effective way to prevent unsustainable shark fishing practices, such as finning. A complete trade ban would penalize responsible legitimate fishing practices without addressing overfishing practices or improving global fisheries management. We will continue to support responsible, legal shark harvesters and crack down on those who break the rules.
Given the above, the government cannot support the private member's bill, Bill C-380.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-380, an act to amend the fish inspection act and the fisheries act (importation of shark fins) sponsored by my hon. colleague, the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam.
Bill C-380 is an important bill with very important implications. It would enshrine in legislation Canada's ban against shark finning. Shark finning is a cruel and inhumane practice that I believe the Government of Canada should be doing whatever it can to end on a global basis. Besides cruelty, shark finning is an awful practice for a number of reasons.
Shark fin fisheries are associated with excessive mortality, as the fishing effort is not limited by hold space. Shark finning threatens the sustainability of fisheries. Finning hinders the collection of the catch data needed to monitor population trends and set sustainable catch levels. Overfishing, which may be driven by finning, is widely recognized as the greatest cause of extinction risk to sharks.
The removal of large numbers of top predators may destabilize marine ecosystems.
It was a Liberal government that banned shark finning in Canada back in 1994. It has been enacted through fisheries regulations and management plans since then. Bill C-380 would place it directly under the Fisheries Act. This would be a good step to take and would send a clear and renewed message that Canada would never accept this practice in any shape or form. It would be a strong symbolic gesture of Canada's stance on the issue.
The stocks of some shark species are in bad shape, and some of the problem can be traced to the practice of shark finning by those countries that allow it. Canada should be doing its part to take a strong stand and take effective action against others who participate in this awful practice.
It is the other part of the bill, which I partially support, that gives me some hesitation. This part of the bill would add to the Fish Inspection Act a prohibition against importing shark fins that are not attached to the rest of the shark carcass. It would also allow the minister to import fins used for scientific research related to the survival of shark species.
In 2011, Canada imported over 100 tonnes of shark fin, which were worth $6.3 million. None of these fins were attached to the rest of the carcass at the time of import. Therefore, this bill would essentially ban all shark fin imports to Canadian soil without making a difference as to whether they were obtained through shark finning or through sustainable and proper fishing methods.
About half of the 2011 shark fin imports came from other countries that already ban the practice of shark finning. I wonder what message it sends if we completely ban the import of shark fins and do not note the difference between the countries that ban the practice of shark finning and those that still allow it to take place. I believe that we must make a distinction and send a clear message to those countries that still allow the practice to take place in their shark fisheries.
If we do not make a distinction between which species the fins come from, I would also wonder whether they were from endangered species or from those with stocks that are in good shape. These are important points to make.
As it is currently written, the bill would place a federal ban on imports of a food that is still seen as very valuable and very important by many in the Chinese Canadian community. I do not believe that a complete federal ban on all shark fin imports to this country, whether they were obtained through shark finning or through proper sustainable fishing methods, would send a very good message to those countries.
I believe that we should have the right to choose to eat a culturally important food as long as it is obtained properly from species that are not threatened and that the shark fishing did not involve cruelty.
It is dependent upon us as federal legislators to be very sensitive to the cultural and identity concerns of Canada's many different communities, while still taking a strong stance against the very cruel and inhumane practice of shark finning, which is still practised in countries around the world. Not all shark fisheries involve species that are threatened, and not all shark fishers participate in the cruel practice of shark finning.
This is also an important point to make. We must not put countries that do a good job of regulating their shark fisheries to prevent overfishing and cruelty in the same boat as countries that permit overfishing and shark finning. If we punish only those countries that allow these practices by banning imports from them we would send them a very clear message that this is unacceptable. Perhaps this would be an incentive for those countries to change the way they handle their shark fisheries and perhaps other countries would follow suit.
However, if we also punish those countries that are doing a good job regulating their shark fisheries and preventing cruelty, what message are we sending to them? We would be sending the message that it makes no difference whether they regulate their fisheries and prevent cruelty; that we will treat them the same as countries with unregulated fisheries that allow overfishing to destroy shark stocks and that allow the cruel practice of shark finning. I certainly do not feel that this would be a prudent thing to do.
I would like to explore the bill further in committee and see whether we can make a distinction between where the shark fin comes from and what species it comes from. Some shark fins may very well come from countries that ban shark finning already. The shark may be of a species that is fished sustainably and in an appropriate manner by countries that ban shark finning. The fin may also be separated from the carcass properly once the shark has been landed and brought to the shore of that country. Other shark fins may come from countries that allow shark finning, or from threatened species of shark. These fins are the fins we should focus on banning from importation to Canada.
If Bill C-380 passes as it is currently written, it would make Canada the first country in the world to ban shark fin imports. It is a very important bill and we must look at it closely. I agree completely that shark finning is an awful practice and we need to do more to pressure those countries that engage in this practice to stop it from happening. We must do what we can to make sure shark fins coming into Canada are legally harvested.
I come from an area of the country where fisheries are very important. Having sustainable fisheries is something that is truly important to me and to the many people involved in the fisheries in my riding of Cardigan and in the province of Prince Edward Island. We all agree that a sustainable fishery is something we must have. However, the people involved in the fishery must be able to make a living if they are fishing the proper species of shark and if they are using the proper methods.
We should not punish those people involved in sustainable shark fisheries. We cannot lump them in together with people who fish critically endangered species and those who practise shark finning. I believe if we look at the bill more closely at committee and are able to make some amendments, it would serve this purpose.
Order, please. The hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam has the floor and I would like to hear the question.
Sorry, I do not mean to cut the hon. member off, but I know other members may have questions.
The hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam.
Order, please. The hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam has the floor.
I hear them laughing, Madam Speaker. I guess that homelessness and housing is a laughing matter for the Conservative members. How outrageous and how insulting that is to the 1.5 million Canadians who are struggling to meet their housing costs. I find it reprehensible that the Conservatives cannot even listen respectfully to a debate that is based on bringing forward the real experience of people who are having difficulties in their local communities.
Whether it is housing, pensions, EI, or even something like the Coast Guard in Vancouver, this budget is disappointing. Recently, I was very happy that two of our members, the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam and the member for St. John's East, came to Vancouver and held a very successful forum regarding the cutting of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station. There is an uproar in our city about why this cut has to take place. There are attacks on environmental organizations. In British Columbia, environmental assessments and proper reviews are really important. People take them very seriously. One only has to look at the hearings that are taking place for the northern gateway pipeline to know that people are very concerned about how our environment would be placed at risk. What would this bill do? In one fell swoop it would completely gut our environmental assessment process, after years of developing it into a legitimate process.
No matter which way we look at this bill, when the Conservatives put out the line that somehow Canadians are going to benefit, really what are they thinking about? Are they so blind to what is actually taking place? They do not have to take our word for it. They can talk to any organization, whether it is the Canadian Association of Retired Persons, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, or environmental groups. Any organization will point out how this bill would have such a deep impact on people in this country.
I have not even spoken about the process we have gone through, but I will end by saying that besides the substance of the bill, the process has been completely appalling. Imagine a bill that is over 400 pages long. Imagine a bill that would change over 70 pieces of legislation. Imagine a bill that was rushed through one committee and a subcommittee. Even the Senate has five committees studying this bill right now, before the bill has even been sent to the Senate, assuming it is going to pass here after the Conservatives ram it through. Even the Senate has taken more time to consider Bill C-38.
In this place, the Conservative government only has one agenda. The Conservatives do not care about what anybody has to say. They are hell-bent on getting this bill through. It is a crying shame that we are at this point.
More and more Canadians are waking up to this. The Conservatives may laugh today. They may say they do not really care what people think, but I think they have a surprise coming. I think that people who maybe even voted for local Conservative members of Parliament, people who are living on pensions and people who are struggling are very upset about this bill and how it would impact them.
Tonight we are debating this bill. We are going to go to the very end and use all the energy we can to show that the amendments we have brought forward on this bill are a reflection of the opposition that Canadians have to it. We are going to do that as much as we can.
The electoral district of New Westminster--Coquitlam (British Columbia) has a population of 111,231 with 81,805 registered voters and 198 polling divisions.
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