Wednesday, December 14, 1994 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Abel: I would like to introduce to the House a former MLA for Old Crow, Kathy Nukon.
Mr. Penikett: In my capacity as Health critic, may I also call attention to the presence in the gallery of a very distinguished member of the medical community in the Yukon, Dr. David Skinner.
Speaker: Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have for tabling a legislative return.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Are there any Petitions?
Are there any Bills to be introduced?
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Penikett: I have a notice of motion regarding fundamental democratic rights
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a notice of motion regarding public consultation.
Speaker: Are there any further Notices of Motion?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Beringia Interpretive Centre
Mr. McDonald: I have a question for the Minister of Tourism. I think it is fairly obvious that the less-than-enthusiastic response from the museums community regarding the construction of the Beringia museum and the historic resources centre on the highway is the direct result of a complete lack of consultation with the Yukon public before the government committed itself. This is obviously in violation of the Yukon's museums policy, which the Minister said only yesterday that he supported. Can the Minister tell us what research and planning has taken place to justify the construction of the Beringia museum and, particularly, to justify it being located on the Alaska Highway? I would point out that this research would be no less than expected of a museum that was wishing to build or expand its own operations.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: As I have said to the groups I have met with, we examined all the possibilities to make the best use of all of the buildings we have. The main concern at the top of the hill, if we were to move the visitor reception centre away from that location, is that there be another tourist attraction created there, using the visitor reception centre as a lure for it and to help the Transportation Museum. Based on that, and looking at where the traffic was, the decision was made that the Beringia display would be better there than elsewhere.
Mr. McDonald: Could the Minister give us the sum total of the research that the Department of Tourism has done to justify the Beringia museum? Is it only anecdotal information or does the Minister have some solid research done by people who know what they are talking about that he could table.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The side opposite likes to study the world to death. It is not a complicated problem. We are talking about an exhibit within the City of Whitehorse and within three miles of other exhibits that will attract people.
I believe this is a commonsense decision, that for the most part has been supported by everyone I have talked to.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister should leave his office. I would suggest that proper research is probably the cheapest portion of a large project, such as the Minister has suggested. Clearly, the type of research that the Minister has identified would not be acceptable if the museum came looking for funding from the government. Is the Minister honestly telling us that the anecdotal information provided to us is the sole justification for the Beringia museum, and that nothing more has been done to justify the project other than what he has provided us?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It is interesting that the Member opposite is criticizing me for having done no research, because it was the side opposite who had all kinds of studies done about having the visitors' centre located up the hill. All recommendations indicated that it should be put downtown, but they put it up the hill. They did not listen to the recommendations they were given at the time.
We looked at all of the options available to us, such as moving the visitor reception centre downtown, using the existing building and capturing traffic as it comes down the highway in one of the most suitable locations. I think that the visitor reception centre up the hill will be a good site for the Beringia Interpretive Centre, and will provide all kinds of benefits to the Whitehorse community and to the Yukon as a whole.
Question re: Beringia Interpretive Centre
Mr. McDonald: The Minister has indicated that there has been no involved research done at all. This is based on his own opinions about things - opinions which, only a few of years ago, included wanting to put the visitors reception centre up the hill.
I have heard a concern that existing museums are competing for many of the same tourists, and a new, highly visible government museum will push visitors well past the saturation point for people who want to visit museums. Yesterday, the Minister appeared to casually dismiss this concern. I hesitate to ask this question, after the Minister's last response, but I would like to ask him this: does he have any research to justify his belief that more museums mean more tourists?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We have not done a big, long study. However, Mr. Speaker, common sense should tell you that, if you create a world-class exhibit in the City of Whitehorse, that tourists will consider spending more time here. That is one of the reasons we are developing the Canyon City area. It is one of the reasons we are working on the Beringia exhibit, and one of the reasons we are developing exhibits in other communities in the territory. We are doing these things so that people will stay here longer. One of the problems we have had for a long time here in the Yukon is trying to stop the pass-through traffic. I believe this will go a long way toward stopping the pass-through traffic and bringing more benefits to Yukoners.
Mr. McDonald: His sense of what is common sense is not shared by the people in the business and museums community. I would strongly recommend that the very significant research that he is undertaking for the visitor exit survey, at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars, might be applied before they make an extremely expensive decision, such as the one they are proposing.
My next question involves the museums policy, which clearly states that the priority for government is to first address the museological needs of existing museums and then to address the needs of future museums. Can the Minister tell us how he reconciles the museums policy with this latest announcement?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This latest facility is an interpretive centre. It is not a museum. It is not going to be acquiring artifacts. It is the same as the Dempster Highway Interpretive Centre. It is the same as other interpretive centres we have built. This will be the Beringia Interpretive Centre. I think that this particular facility will cause people to stay here longer and spend more time in other exhibits that we have in Whitehorse.
I can tell the Member that I disagree with some of the people in the museum community who think that the Transportation Museum and the Beringia Interpretive Centre and the SS Klondike are their competition. I think that our competition is in Paris, France, in Niagara Falls or in Banff National Park. When people are looking to areas they want to travel to in the world, they look at destinations. They do not necessarily divide it up among which exhibits they will see at what time. I think that once we get them here, if they are going to spend two or three days in Whitehorse, and a few more hours in the Beringia exhibit, they will take the time to see other attractions in Whitehorse.
Speaker: Order please.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister is contradicting himself, because he has just indicated that the market we are trying to compete with is around the world, yet he has already stated that the purpose of the museum is to keep people, who are already coming through, an extra day. That is not logical.
Can the Minister tell us how this announcement jives with the umbrella final agreement, which is now law, which clearly states that the priority in allocation of government program resources will be given to the development and management of heritage resources of Yukon Indian people and, until an equitable distribution of resources is provided, the first priority will be for interpretive centres and museums, to expose First Nations' culture and history?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: That may be in the umbrella final agreement, but that does not mean we cannot do anything else. The resource centre will be working in conjunction with First Nations people on their archaeological history. The resource centre will be tied to the Beringia exhibit, only for convenience and for cost. This will help the Beringia exhibit, and it will also help First Nations, and it will be tied directly to that.
Question re: White Pass Railway
Mr. Cable: There were some news reports, not so long ago, that White Pass was going to move its headquarters down to Skagway. These were followed by further news reports, late last month, that the petroleum division was going to be sold. There have been concerns expressed to me about the movement of jobs out of the Yukon, and the possible implications of the sale of the pipeline right-of-way.
Has the Government Leader, or any of his Ministers, approached White Pass officers, to
determine what this major corporation's plans are for the Yukon in the future and, in
particular, what its plans are for the movement of jobs out of the Yukon and the
disposition of the pipeline right-of-way?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I met with the president of White Pass about two months ago. I met with him prior to that in the summer, when they were discussing moving their head office jobs to Skagway. As the Member opposite knows, that decision was reversed and the jobs are still in Whitehorse.
From what I can gather from the corporation at this time, there are no immediate plans to move anyone from Whitehorse.
Mr. Cable: Is the Government Leader concerned at all that the railway right-of-way may slip out of Canadian hands, and that the railway right-of-way may be abandoned and closed?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, that certainly is a concern. We think about it quite often because, although the railway is not operating all the way to Whitehorse at present, there is the possibility - pending the availability of the appropriate amount of freight and passengers to be hauled - that it could be reinstituted to Whitehorse.
Mr. Cable: I suppose we can explore, in further questions at a later date, just what the Minister is doing about it, in view of that concern.
Let me ask a particular question. In the four-year plan, there is talk about a tourist railway. In the government's Toward Self-Sufficiency by the 21st Century document, there is talk about a railway to Carmacks. I believe that that latter proposition was reiterated in a letter to Cash Resources. How does the Government Leader see that these two propositions will be possible if there are no ongoing conversations with White Pass about the disposition of the railway right-of-way?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I believe that the Member opposite is aware that White Pass is a private corporation. It is not a department of the government. While we may have some concerns and discuss them with White Pass from time to time, I must say that White Pass has been very good about keeping us informed about what it is doing. If at some time in the future White Pass decided to sell their railroad, we would be very concerned about who was buying it and what they intended to do with it. I cannot offer any more on the subject.
Question re: Marsh Lake blockade
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services regarding the Marsh Lake blockade and forestry permit. The Yukon government sits, already, on at least two land use review committees. The Yukon government wants to see devolution of forestry.
What we have seen here is a permit being issued over the objection of Kwanlin Dun. Can
the Minister tell us why that happened?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I must point out that the federal government issued the permit, not us. We have met with them and offered to try to negotiate between the two, and I think that things are going along quite fine, unless, of course, they get destroyed in this House.
Ms. Moorcroft: What is being destroyed in this House is the credibility of the Minister who has been unable to answer any of the questions that I have been asking him about a serious matter. It is not in my constituents' interest, and it is not in Kwanlin Dun's interest, to have a forestry permit issued when it is opposed by the First Nations. My constituents gave me a copy of the letter that they received, which said that the First Nations and the Land Use Advisory Committee would have 42 days for a review of this forestry permit. This contradicts what the Minister said yesterday, that the permit is not part of the process.
Does the Minister know today who, from the Yukon government, participated and how this disastrous decision was made?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have the FTLAC list, which I did not want to give to you
now because we have not been able to get the list from the federal government's land use
Speaker: In the future, would the Minister please refer to the Member as the Member for Mount Lorne? Please speak through the Chair.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister has had six months in this portfolio to learn the ropes. I want to ask him a pure and simple question to which he should know the answer. If there was a miscommunication among three levels of government - which is what the Minister said three days ago when I first started asking him what happened here - why did that happen? What happened?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: As I have already said, I have tried to speak with both organizations to see if we can get together to come to some agreement as the territorial government has done on two other occasions when we had dealings with the First Nations.
Question re: Curragh employees, payment of lost wages
Mr. Harding: I have a question for the Justice Minister.
I have been lobbying the government for two years to work hard to ensure that former Curragh employees receive their lost wages after the shutdown of the Faro mine. Recently, YTG agreed to pay out employees first, if they received any monies on the mine sale. Discussions I have had with the receiver indicate that YTG may be getting $2.4 million and upwards from that sale. Will the Minister recommit to paying the money, firstly, to my constituents and other former Curragh employees?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I may be better informed than the Minister of Justice, as I have been dealing with that file. The Member is absolutely right. We have made a commitment to ensure that the affected employees will be paid, as a result of the lawsuit filed under the employment standards suit. I have no difficulty standing here and reiterating that position. That was and is still our plan.
I can tell the Member opposite that no monies have been paid out yet, and it will probably be four to five months before any monies are paid out.
Mr. Harding: The press release that made the commitment to my constituents said that the Yukon government had been involved in negotiations with secured creditors about the potential monies owing to the government as a result of the failure of Curragh Inc.
As the Government Leader is aware, some of my constituents are owed up to $16,000. I believe it is absolutely criminal that they have had to wait so long to receive their money.
Could the Government Leader be more specific about why the pay out of the monies owing will take another four to five months?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We have been involved every step of the way in ongoing negotiations with the lien claimants about the percentage they will be paid and the priority of claims, without forcing the company into bankruptcy. If the company is forced into bankruptcy, the pay out will be totally different.
Prior to coming in to the House today, I was handed a package that arrived from Toronto - I have not had a chance to read it yet, but it appears there is a final agreement about how the money will be divided. However, the agreement has not yet been signed or approved by the court.
Mr. Harding: It is my sincere desire that this money be paid out as soon as possible. I hope the government continues to work on that matter.
My next question should probably be directed to the Minister of Justice.
I have lobbied for changes to improve and speed up the process for the recovery of lost wages. During the last session of this House the government proposed a bill that went some of the way toward addressing that concern, but some improvements are necessary. Is the Minister considering introducing a bill that would protect employees in similar situations?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, we intend to introduce an amendment to the Employment Standards Act to include that provision.
Question re: Faro Real Estate Limited
Mr. Harding: I have a question for the Minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation.
I have been working with the Minister about issues of concern to Faroites during the foreclosure action initiated against Faro Real Estate by the Government of Yukon. It is my understand that Faro Real Estate has initiated a civil court action to remove the important rent controls that YTG presently has over the units.
Could the Minister tell me the status of this matter and what position the government is taking?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I can tell the Member that the Yukon Housing Corporation is opposed to any rental increase and to having that clause removed. As the Member knows, if Faro Real Estate Limited brings its arrears up to date and/or buys out the mortgage, we will not have the control over rents that we do now. My information is that that court case is pending at the moment. It was filed and has been adjourned. I do not know when it will be brought back, or if it will be reintroduced. Again, as the Member knows, Faro Real Estate Limited has until the end of December to bring the arrears up to date. If they do not, the foreclosure will proceed.
Mr. Harding: The matter of large rental increases proposed by Faro Real Estate Limited has been a real concern to many of my constituents. From discussions I have had with Anvil Range Mining, the government and Faro Real Estate Limited, the status of their proposal for large increases appears unclear. I have asked that my constituents should only be exposed to minimal rent increases, due to rural community high costs of living and the fact that many of my constituents are just getting back on a decent financial footing. Can the Minister tell me what position his government has taken about the proposal for major rental increases by Faro Real Estate Limited in the restructuring and foreclosure action negotiations?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: We share the concern of the Member and are absolutely opposed to any large increases. I think we may be faced with minimal increases. However, we do not know what they will be. Certainly, we do not want the rental increases to jeopardize Anvil Range and its ability to open the mine or the ability for people to live in Faro and work at the mine. So, it is very clear on the record that the Yukon Housing Corporation is opposed to any substantial rental increases.
Mr. Harding: I have asked the Minister to investigate why houses, which were to be available for rental purchase options at a price around the $25,000 range, have now been pushed up to the point where the rental purchase option is all but gone and houses are $50,000-plus. It is my understanding that the original Curragh, YTG and Faro Real Estate Limited agreement called for a rental purchase option at a price in the $25,000 range. Can the Minister investigate these old agreements and try to re-establish the rental purchase option at the originally intended price range.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I will undertake to do that. I know that one of the reasons put forth was that Faro Real Estate Limited was not receiving the dollar-per-tonne subsidy from Curragh that it was before, and that was its excuse for raising the price of houses from, as the Member said, $25,000 to $50,000, or whatever. I understand that Faro Real Estate Limited is trying to work out a similar arrangement with Anvil Range, where Faro Real Estate Limited would be provided with a subsidy of one dollar per tonne, or something in that area. I hope that, when that is in place, that program can be reinstituted. I will investigate that, however, and provide the Member with details on what is happening with it.
Question re: Granger school
Mr. Penikett: I have a question for the Minister of Education. Recently the Minister announced a new school for Dawson City and indicated a reason for the new school was the growing population in that area. The fastest growing neighbourhood in the territory is the Granger subdivision. I would like to ask the Minister if the possibility of a new school for that neighbourhood is under active consideration in the department.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We are certainly looking at the need for an additional school in Granger. I am not about to say that we are on the verge of announcing something. There are several issues that we are dealing with at this time. Of course, l'École Emilie Tremblay is going to be situated there. We will be assessing the population growth and seeing what is required. We are having a hard look, for example, at the burgeoning population in the junior high schools.
Mr. Penikett: I want to ask the Minister about the original plan for the whole neighbourhood, fully developed, from the top of Two Mile Hill all the way to the top of the South Access Road, in which five schools, including a high school, were being contemplated. A casual observation of the structure of the population in the neighbourhood suggests there may soon be a need for a junior high school. Can the Minister indicate to me in what kind of time frame he will be making decisions on that matter?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We are reviewing some options and we will be looking at, first of all, a decision involving whether or not there ought to be a second high school. The issue of a junior high in that area will be something we will be making our mind up about in the spring.
Mr. Penikett: This may be rather a radical suggestion, but I wonder if the Minister has any plans to consult with people in the neighbourhood about these decisions, perhaps even the MLA?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is not really too radical a suggestion. I would be pleased
to discuss these issues with the MLA.
Question re: Officials appearing before Committee of the Whole
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Government Leader. Opposition Members have requested that officials appear before Committee of the Whole during budget debates. The Government Leader has agreed that the Yukon Development Corporation officials, the Yukon College president, and the Workers Compensation Board officials may appear, but is absolutely refusing to have Department of Finance officials appear. He says that it is not right for Finance officials to appear to discuss things like the loan write-off that the Auditor General said contravened the Financial Administration Act, or the special warrants for over $20 million.
He says that the Public Accounts Committee is the correct avenue to use. This committee is controlled by the government, and this includes the questions that they are allowed to ask. They will not be sitting until after -
Speaker: Order. Would the Member please ask the question.
Mrs. Firth: I was about to do that. I would like to ask the Minister why it is not right to ask the Finance officials to appear before the Legislature. Can he give us a good reason they should not appear?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: First, I want to correct the record. Nowhere in the Auditor General's report is there a statement about illegal loan write-offs. I want that on the record again, because the Member opposite continues to make that statement, and it is totally false. It is not mentioned in the Auditor General's report.
The Member has requested that Finance officials appear before Committee of the Whole, but that is not the correct forum, because the Minister is the one responsible for answering to this House regarding financial decisions. I do not feel it is appropriate for the officials to appear before Committee of the Whole. It would be unusual. Traditionally, the only time witnesses appear before the House are in those situations where there is no direct ministerial responsibility.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister's answer is exactly the reason that we should have Finance officials appearing before the House. I will address the issue of every one going home, as was mentioned by the Minister for the Housing Corporation, in my future questions. The Minister says he is responsible for answering to this House. What happens is that he answers a couple of questions, becomes frustrated, and then gets up and says he does not know, and then says he will arrange briefings with the Finance officials for us. Why is it all right for us to have private briefings with the Finance officials, but they will not bring the Finance officials in here to answer publicly? What is the Minister afraid we are going to find out?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: If the Member opposite does not want private briefings with the Finance officials, I will see that she does not get them. We are just trying to accommodate the Member. The Standing Committee on Public Accounts has been established under the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly. All of the Auditor General's reports are automatically referred to that committee. That committee can call Finance officials as witnesses to appear before them.
Mrs. Firth: The government is obviously trying to hide something. The Government Leader will not even recognize that there is a question here as to whether a law has been broken or a section of the Financial Administration Act has been contravened. I think the public has a right to hear what the Finance officials have to say. Because the Government Leader has not given us one good reason why they should not appear before the House, perhaps he could stand up and tell us what would be wrong with the information they would give us. What are they trying to hide? What is it that they are concerned about us learning? What, exactly, is the reason?
What are you hiding? Something is going on.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: If the Member would ask a question, I would answer it.
Question re: Electrical rates
Mr. Penikett: Perhaps I can have a go.
The Government Leader will recall that when Faro shut down, the power rates went up. The media have been calling a number of us in the Legislature about indications from the Yukon Energy Corporation that, with Faro reopening, power rates may not be going down, but up again in the new year.
In consideration of residential consumers, will the Government Leader kindly explain to the House what is happening?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite is aware that the Utilities Board will be setting the rate for the Anvil Range mine, once it is brought forward by the Yukon Energy Corporation for approval.
I do not believe that there will be a change in energy rates shortly after the new year. It will be some time yet before there is a rate worked out for Anvil Range.
Mr. Penikett: The Utilities Board sets rates based on applications from the utilities - Yukon Energy Corporation and Yukon Electrical Company Limited. As the Government Leader knows, the Public Utilities Board has recently proposed a policy of cost-based rates, under which government rates would go down and residential rates would go up.
Since he sets rate policy for the Public Utilities Board, let me ask the Government Leader if the policy of cost-based rates is the policy of the present Yukon government.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite is quite right that the Utilities Board has recommended that we go to a closer cost of service for all user groups. Right now, my understanding is that the government pays about 146% of the cost of service, which is a hidden subsidy to other ratepayers. Along with that, we have the rate relief program, which will run, at minimum, until December 31, 1995.
I do not believe there should be any concern on the part of ratepayers that their power bills are going to go up. We have the rate relief program in place, and we said that the rates will not be increased or decreased until that program is removed.
Mr. Penikett: The current rate structure is a matter of conscious government policy. It was when our party was in government, so I assume it is now. The Government Leader has said recently that the rate relief program to residential consumers has to end some time. Given the concern about the huge impact on consumers of a policy based on having rates closer to the actual costs - as the Government Leader has just described them - could I ask the Government Leader exactly when he plans to end the rate relief program? If I can ask this as a related question: when does he plan to introduce a policy of bringing rates closer to costs?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite is aware that we brought the rate relief
policy in to offset the increases that were being proposed due to the closure of the Faro
mine. We need the Faro mine, at a very minimum, to come back on the grid before we can sit
down and rationalize exactly where the rates are going. We must rationalize how we can get
out of the rate relief program, without it having a tremendous impact on the ratepayers.
Question re: White Pass Railway
Mr. Cable: I have some follow-up questions for the Government Leader on the White Pass operation. The railway, as we are all aware, has been shut down for the better part of a decade, yet the government speaks as if it has been going on forever. There is a railway to Carmacks, and a tourist railway has been spoken about. We are getting mixed signals. Let us look at the tourist railway proposition that is in the four-year plan. The four-year plan talks about providing funding for tourist attraction infrastructure, which could include initiatives such as the introduction of a tourist train service in Yukon. Could the Government Leader tell us - in view of his statement that we are dealing with a private corporation and he does not want to talk to it - how this element of his four-year plan is going to happen unless there is some initiative taken with White Pass to seize, take over, buy, lease, or whatever, the rail bed?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not know if the Member opposite is suggesting that the government should enter into negotiations to buy the White Pass railroad or not, but I would like to direct my answer to the four-year plan. The thought behind that was the possibility of assisting some corporation or company to run a tourist train from Whitehorse to Canyon City and back, or something in that neighbourhood. It was not to subsidize an existing railroad to run all the way.
Along with that, White Pass is making plans of its own to see how much further they can come into the Yukon with their train, and I know that there is discussion about planning to come as far as Carcross in 1996.
Mr. Cable: At the most, we have two years until the end of this government's mandate. What is the Government Leader going to do in a positive sense - not just a reactive sense - to fulfill that particular part of its four-year plan - the introduction of a tourist train service in the Yukon? I do not mean some casual conversations with the president of White Pass about possibly extending the tourist train to Carcross or Fraser, but what is he going to do? What has he charged the Minister of Economic Development with doing?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I always thought Carcross was in the Yukon. If we can get White Pass to extend its service to Carcross and encourage it to do that, there is a much further opportunity of getting it to Whitehorse at a future time.
Mr. Cable: We are all in agreement that Carcross is in the Yukon, but what we are not in agreement with is that the Minister, speaking for his government, appears to indicate that that part of his four-year plan is going to go out the window.
Let me ask another question. The Minister is talking about extending the railway to Carmacks, and in the letter to Cash Resources, which was tabled in the Legislature not too long ago, about negotiating transportation needs, including port facilities in Skagway -
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please ask the question.
Mr. Cable: I am getting very frightfully close to that.
- and possibly providing an extension of the White Pass rail system to Braeburn. How is that going to happen if the Government Leader is now actively talking to White Pass about his plans for the future and about his plans for possibly abandoning the railway right away?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We can talk about four-year plans and red book plans, but I know of at least two plans in the red book that seem to have gone down the tube: the one on free trade and the one on GST.
We supported the proponents of the coal properties at Braeburn, based on their success at getting overseas markets and, if large-volume transportation is needed, we would work with them to see if extending the White Pass railroad is a possibility.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Joe: I would like to introduce Na-Cho Ny'ak Dun Chief Robert Hager and his wife, Christine. I would ask all the Members to join me in welcoming them to the House.
Speaker: I am sorry. The Member had passed me a note that he was going to do that.
We will proceed with Government Private Members' Business.
GOVERNMENT PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
Unanimous consent requested
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am rising as House Leader. Yesterday, pursuant to Standing Order 14.2, I gave notice that the items to be called under Government Private Members' Business today would be Motions No.. 24 and No. 23, both standing in the name of the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin. At the request of the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, and after discussion with the House Leaders earlier today, I would ask the unanimous consent of the House for Motion No. 24 not to be called for debate today.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: Unanimous consent has been granted.
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Clerk: Motion No. 23, standing in the name of Mr. Abel.
Motion No. 23
Speaker: It is moved by the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the proposed amendments to the federal government's firearms legislation to be presented to the Parliament of Canada in February, 1995, do not accommodate the needs of northern Canadians and their lifestyle; and
THAT the Yukon Legislative Assembly urges the federal Minister of Justice, the Hon.
Allan Rock, not to proceed with the proposed firearms amendments until such time as the
needs of northern Canadians are met.
Mr. Abel: I have presented this motion for debate in this House on behalf of my constituents in the Vuntut Gwitchin riding. The proposed amendments to the federal government's firearms legislation do not accommodate the needs of the people of Old Crow and their lifestyle.
The federal Minister of Justice has a very difficult job to do. He is attempting to
present legislation to the Parliament of Canada that will address the use of firearms in
the commission of crimes in Canada's large cities in the south, while trying to respect
the needs of northern Canadians, many of whom still live off the land.
The people in Toronto do not go ratting, nor do they need to hunt caribou like the people of Old Crow do. When they want food, they just go down to the nearest grocery store. The grocery store for the people of Old Crow is the land itself, our traditional territory: Old Crow Flats.
To my constituents, a firearm is a tool. We need a rifle to hunt and to live off the land. A carpenter needs tools, such as a hammer and a saw, to do his or her job. A mechanic needs tools, such as wrenches and screw drivers, to do his or her job.
My constituents are hunters. We need to use firearms to do our job. The current federal firearm proposals do not appear to recognize that there is a difference between how the people of my riding use firearms and how the people in Toronto and Vancouver use, or need to use, firearms.
Through this motion, I am asking the federal Minister, the Hon. Allan Rock, to come back to talk with us, to talk to Yukoners and to northern Canadians. We will try to help him. Canada is a big country and we recognize how difficult it is to have one law that will meet the needs of all Canadians, whether they live in Old Crow or Sault Ste. Marie.
I know the federal Minister was in the Yukon in October of this year to listen to Yukoners' concerns about the proposed firearms legislation. We thank him for that but somehow what Yukoners have said was not accurately reflected in the Minister's new proposals.
I believe that if he takes a second look at his proposals and the concerns of northern Canadians, we can produce a firearms bill that is fair to all Canadians. Therefore I urge all Members of this House to support this motion.
Mr. Joe: Before I say anything, it is getting too close to Christmas to be mean, and I will try my best not to be. Every time I hear about gun control, I do not know what the government is going to control next. This bill would mean the end of our lifestyle.
My father trained me, from the time I was 12 years old, to use a rifle. I have had a rifle all my life. Now the government is interfering with my rights and my lifestyle, and this goes for the rest of my old friends, who are old trappers and all are experienced.
It is going to be hard. We are going to have a lot of mean people. Whatever happened to gun control? Right now, I cannot go into a store and buy a rifle. At one time it was no problem. We had a good lifestyle, and we did not have to worry about this.
If you want to buy a rifle, just go into a store and buy one, without any problems. The people who are causing all the problems should not be allowed to buy a rifle. It should be restricted more toward those kinds of that one should look at. When one goes to court, there is a record; this should be the same.
As I said before, many of my friends and I used to go out and have lots of fun. We would go on a river trip or hunting, and had no problem sharing things. If my friend wanted to borrow my rifle, I would say sure, and I would trust him. That does not happen any more.
I do not know what to call this. I think they are calling it a new world. I do not think this new world has done us any good. I guess even if I do not like it, I have to live with it. I do not think it does anyone any good.
As I said, there are going to be very mean people who do not need that trouble.
Who is causing all these problems? It is the government.
Let me tell Members a story. Long ago, we and my white friends used to share things
without any problems. Everybody was happy. Today, I do not think I would even be allowed
to give even a piece of steak to my friend. What is going on? What will happen to all the
people - not only me, but probably half the people in the Yukon and the north - who want a
different lifestyle from the big city. I am not only referring to Los Angeles; I mean even
places like Toronto. The big cities cause most of the problems, and we have to suffer
because of it. I do not think it is right.
Whatever happens, I might as well say good-bye to my lifestyle. If this happens, it
will be the worst thing that ever happened in my life. Whether we like it or not, we have
to live with it.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I rise today to support the motion put forward by the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin. We are very concerned about the proposed new gun legislation being presented by the Hon. Allan Rock, the federal Liberal Justice Minister. There is even more concern that what we are doing here today, and what other jurisdictions are doing, may be in vain.
Just last week, at a public meeting, Mr. Rock stated that he was firm in his stand on this issue. I hope that Members of this Legislature, Yukon residents, and others across this country can persuade him to change his mind.
Although we support the protection of the public from violent crimes committed with firearms, we do not believe this is the right approach. It seems that what we have here is an urban Canadian law that will not solve this serious problem, even in southern Canada. I believe this new law will have far more impact on law-abiding Canadians, and gun owners in Canada, specifically in the northern and rural regions of our country.
I believe this law again demonstrates the lack of understanding of northern realities.
I have to tell this House that I was concerned when I met Mr. Rock on his visit to Whitehorse in October. At that time, he told us he was open to our suggestions, but it appears that the masses in southern Canada are being listened to more than we in northern Canada are.
We - meaning myself and officials in the Justice department - were concerned that officials in Mr. Rock's department were already making noises, just shortly after his visit, about the types of new law we would see. It was almost as if the decisions had already been made. Those of us now in government, or who were in government in the past, know the only way this could have happened is if the proposed legislation had already been drafted.
Mr. Rock did make some concessions for northern Canadians, and we thank him for that, specifically with respect to First Nations; however, even those exemptions are not that clear, at this time. The Member for Tatchun spoke very eloquently on how this type of legislation will affect First Nations people.
There appears to be no recognition, even in the concessions Mr. Rock made, of the
legitimate users of firearms who are non-native. This is an issue I plan to bring to Mr.
I have written to the federal Justice Minister and have laid out several of our concerns. As I said earlier, we do support the need to eliminate offences committed with firearms. Some of the proposed changes in the legislation are going in the right direction, but I do not believe they are strong enough.
Mr. Rock has suggested that we impose mandatory sentences for certain types of crimes committed with a firearm, and I support that. However, we believe that the message is too weak. Four years can be reduced to virtually nothing with the kind of plea bargaining and time-off-for-good-behaviour system that we have in place. If we are going to continue with this approach, the lengths of mandatory sentences should be increased. There should be no doubt in anyone's mind that if you use a firearm during the commission of an offence, you are going to pay, and pay big. That should be very clear.
We support increased efforts to control the import of illegal firearms at our borders. If we are going to spend money on this issue, it should be focused here, and not on the law-abiding citizens.
We support moves to replace more restrictions on para-military weapons, but this law should allow for the recognition of bona fide collectors.
We support the principle of exemptions for First Nations, but the proposed legislation does not in any way give us comfort about how this will actually happen. This is about as positive as I can be about the proposals that have been presented by Mr. Rock.
I would like to speak for a moment about some of the areas with which we have a great deal of difficulty. Yukoners have told me that the main area of concern is the proposed registration system. The Liberal Justice Minister, Mr. Rock, told us that it will be an easy system that will not cause us any trouble. I do not agree with that. I do not believe that anyone has proven that at all. It has yet to be proven that this inclusive registration system is even needed.
There are estimates that this new registration for all firearm users could cost over a half-billion dollars. I have heard from many people that that is a low estimate. That is a lot of money. Let us look at ways in which that money could be used that would really reduce crimes committed with firearms. Every year there are domestic disputes that involve firearms. The majority of the cases involve alcohol and drug abuse. Would we not be better off to put some of the $500 million into alcohol and drug programs, and programs to prevent violence against women and children?
Does anyone really think that a person involved in a domestic dispute is going to worry about whether or not the firearm he is about to use, in a fit of rage, is registered before he uses it? I do not think so. Is the common criminal in downtown Toronto or Vancouver going to change his mind about committing an offence because he is worried that the gun he has might be registered? I do not think so. In most cases, the gun he is going to use was acquired illegally anyway, and is probably one that was smuggled in across the border, or was stolen from a legal gun owner.
Firearm registration will do nothing to prevent this in the future. It is my understanding that the firearms registration was abandoned in New Zealand because it did not work. Such a large registration system could easily be unmanageable. The experience in New Zealand with mandatory registration of all rifles provides a good lesson for us. Administrators could not keep up with the sheer volume. In Canada, it is estimated that there are at least five million rifles and shotguns. The system was very expensive, constantly out of date and full of errors, and a large number of rifles were just not registered. I see that as a very large problem in Canada.
If the Liberals proceed with this legislation, they will force a lot of legitimate gun owners to break the law just because they refuse to participate. That would be a real shame. These are not the people who are committing violent crimes, but he will make criminals out of them if Mr. Rock proceeds with this proposal. Is that what we want? I do not think so. The efforts in New Zealand were fraught with problems. They dropped the idea of a firearms registration program in 1983.
There are serious concerns from us and other provinces about inheriting some of the costs of this system. We already are experiencing cost problems with the last set of gun control laws that have not even been given a chance to see if they actually work. Yukoners and other jurisdictions are finding that, because of these new laws, there is an increase in demand for firearms safety courses. We support the idea of these courses, as do all responsible firearms users. In these changes, the federal government was to provide adequate funding for this new demand, and we have not received the total amount we need, and neither have other provinces. If we are going to carry out this program, the Yukon taxpayer is going to be forced to pick up the tab. Will this happen with the new registration system as well? If it does, we, for one, cannot afford it.
We are not alone in opposing some of the proposals in this legislation. Other areas of Canada have expressed strong concerns as well. The Northwest Territories, Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan all have reservations. We will be bringing those concerns to Allan Rock when we meet as Justice Ministers in Victoria in late January.
We share another concern that Saskatchewan has raised concerning the hunting industry. This law will require the out-of-country hunter, in most cases Americans, to register all their weapons when they enter Canada. The concern they have, and we share, is that this group, who do not believe in gun control, will just not choose Canada as a destination because of our laws. This would be unfortunate because, in Saskatchewan, they bring over $100 million into their economy. We have a much smaller industry, but we believe it would have a significant impact on the Yukon economy as well. Again, an interesting note to this is that these visitors are not the problem. I do not recall one incident in Yukon in my time here, which is some 47 years, of an American hunter using his or her firearms to commit a criminal offence. I ask you: what problem are we trying to cure?
I could speak for a long time on this issue because I feel very strongly about firearms. As many of you know, I am an avid user of firearms for recreational purposes, as most Yukoners are. We are concerned, as any citizen in this country, about crimes that are committed with firearms, and we want to put a stop to it. Unfortunately, the Liberal solution before us will not do the job.
Today, I will be very interested to listen to the words of the Liberal Member for Riverside when he puts forward his party's position on the record. Pardon the pun, but our Liberal friend on the south side opposite is really between a rock and a hard spot on this one.
I would urge all Members to support this motion before us today.
Ms. Commodore: I was under the impression that we were dealing with a motion, proposed in this House by the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, "that the Yukon Legislative Assembly urges the federal Minister of Justice, the Honourable Allan Rock, not to proceed with the proposed firearms amendments until such time as the needs of northern Canadians are met." He was talking about the use of firearms, and how important they are to people in the north. It appears that the Minister of Justice is talking about positions we should all take with regard to guns.
I am not a user of a gun of any kind. I did not have to live off the land, as did the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin and the Member for Mayo-Tatchun. I grew up in the south on a reserve where everything was plentiful. We had salmon going right through the reserve, in the Chilliwack River. It was very easy to go down there and fish almost any time of the year. We had orchards, and my grandparents were farmers, so we always had chicken, eggs, beef, and everything else imaginable.
My involvement with guns consisted of target practicing with a .22 at tin cans on the ends of branches of an apple tree. Needless to say, my precision with guns is not as great as that of the Member for Riverdale South. However, I have lived here long enough to appreciate and respect the manner in which northern Yukoners have to live, and what they have to do in order to survive. There is no question in my mind that I will support what the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin is asking for in his motion today. I will probably never shoot an animal with a gun. However, that is the choice I have made. It is not something that I have had to do, and I have the deepest respect for every single person I have ever met who lived off the land. People on this side of the House have no problem supporting what the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin is saying.
We might have had an opportunity to speak to the Minister responsible for this gun legislation, had the Liberal Party been a bit more open about making the Minister available. Unfortunately, that was not the case. At that time, we wanted the opportunity to find out what the Liberal Minister was proposing in his bill. There is no way I am convinced that he did not know then, because that is not the way they do things. He must have had some idea of what was going to be included in the changes. He should have told us what they were, so we could have had the opportunity of responding or making a presentation to him.
I was very disappointed. The Minister was available to the public in other parts of Canada but, for some reason, not in the Yukon. I raise that point, because I hope it does not happen again. I hope the Liberal Party in the Yukon, which organized this, will be a bit more open in the future, and allow other Yukoners the opportunity to speak on something that is going to affect so many.
We have to talk about some of the problems that we do have here in the Yukon. The Member for Porter Creek South and yourself, Mr. Speaker, went on a tour of the Yukon, and we have a copy of the report that came out of that tour, which was tabled in the House. What the report was saying was not new, but it was said as a result of the tour the Members had been on. They talked to a lot of people, and there were some very tragic things people talked about with respect to social problems and the manner in which people were dealing with them.
One of the things that was stated in the report was that the public be made aware that guns have been the main means of committing suicide, and that a campaign to encourage the safe storage of guns and ammunition should be implemented. So, there is some indication that guns in the Yukon, more than anywhere else, have been a problem.
In another report - the Community Health Status Assessment of the Yukon, by Paul Cappon, M.D., Ph.D. - it is mentioned, as part of the study, that "one reason for the extremely high rate of suicide in the Yukon, relative to Canada, is the fact that more attempts in the territory are actually completed. This is due to the use of firearms in 78 percent of Yukon suicides, a more lethal method of suicide than others." I think we have to look at those kinds of statistics very closely when we talk about gun control and new gun legislation.
We all know of someone who has committed suicide with a firearm. I know of many. It is very tragic and sad for the family and friends of the individual who commits suicide. Most of these individuals are young, aboriginal males, so we lose a lot of young people because guns are so available.
Another problem that we have with guns is that of violence against women. I am sure the Member for Mount Lorne will be speaking more on that. I have a daughter who was in a violent relationship many years ago. One night, she was able to get out and come running to my house. Her husband at the time had held a gun to her head.
I have to tell this House, and everyone who can hear me, that that has to be the most frightening thing that could ever happen to anyone. Ever since that happened - it was in the newspapers, and everything - I heard from a lot of women who had suffered the same thing. Can any of us here imagine what it is like to be a helpless woman with a gun to her head? That is the sort of thing that happens with guns everywhere, but it appears to be more prevalent in the Yukon.
We have to look at all of those situations. I heard what the Minister of Justice was saying. He was talking about gun owners being turned into criminals, because they were not going to be able to live by the proposed changes, and that could be so.
I was surprised at the crowds, and at the number of people who lobbied against proposed changes to gun laws right across Canada. What always amazes me is the passion with which these individuals lobby for their rights. We must do the same thing, but for other reasons.
We certainly believe in the kind of things that we do. We believe when we demonstrate and walk down the streets of Whitehorse to take back the night; we are there and passionate against violence against women.
When we attend other lobby functions to make people aware of battered women, we speak as passionately as they do about owning guns. Each of us has our own priorities in life, and if owning a gun and being able to use a gun in a responsible manner is what they want to do, that is their choice.
I have no problem standing here in support of the motion by the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin. I think it is a very responsible motion. I think that the Minister has to undertake further research on how his legislation is going to affect the people in the north.
I remember - and I am sure the former Minister of Justice has had discussions at ministerial meetings - going to those meetings and talking about gun legislation when the Tories were in power, and ministers making presentations to the former Minister of Justice, Kim Campbell. One of the issues that was raised by the Minister from the Northwest Territories is exactly the same as what the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin is saying today. There has to be special consideration for people living in the north, because many people rely on rifles for their livelihood.
The Member for Mayo-Tatchun said some very reasonable and sensible things about how
guns are treated in the north. There has been lobbying in the past, but whether or not
those efforts fell on deaf ears, I do not know. It is possible that happened, but I hope
this motion convinces the federal government not to proceed with this legislation until
such a time as the needs of northerners are met. That is very important.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I rise today in support of the motion put forward by my colleague from Old Crow.
I no longer hunt - I probably stopped hunting big game 10 or 12 years ago, but I own
guns, and I have for a long time. I think I bought my first .22 caliber rifle when I was
12 years old. If I remember correctly, I paid $3.00 for that rifle, and I still have it to
this day. I also
have larger rifles.
Living where I live, out on a little farm, I still keep a .22. As some of you may know, I have a market garden, and a lot of gophers, so I keep a .22 for predator control. That is about the extent of the hunting I do.
I do not think that making people like me register guns will do anything to stop crime in Canada. Over the past decade, more homicides were committed with knives than with any type of firearm. Out of 9,000 accidental deaths in Canada each year, less than half of one percent are firearm related. Despite what some urban dwellers might believe, Canadians do not harbour the same attitude about firearms as do our American cousins.
The Member for Riverdale North alluded to the hunting industry we have in the Yukon Territory. That industry brings over $10 million into the territory each year. There is a good possibility that we will lose a lot of our American hunters if we require them to register their guns when they come across the border.
Registration of firearms will not even attempt to keep firearms out of the hands of criminals. A good example of that is that we have been required to register handguns in Canada since the 1930s. Yet, most criminal activity with firearms is with handguns. So, registration of handguns has not helped one iota.
It is estimated that there are between six and 10 million long firearms in Canada, spread among two and three million owners. One million new firearms are purchased each year. How will any registration system even begin to deal with this volume?
The Minister of Justice alluded to New Zealand. They had to drop their registration policy, because they could not administer it. Will we be doing something similar?
The national cost is estimated to be up to $500 million, just to handle the
registration. The Yukon and provinces are already burdened with implementing the present
federal firearm laws. The cost, based on Ottawa's present trend, will be imposed directly
Canada may have a social or a crime problem but not a gun problem. We should deal with disease through improved social programs, such as better counselling and enforcement of better laws. The majority of homicides in Canada are a result of family violence. You have heard it said before: guns do not kill people, people kill people, attitudes kill people and ignorance kills people.
A very high percentage of Yukoners and Yukon homes have firearms, most likely in excess of 50 percent. I do not think we have statistics on that, but I would guess that it is over 50 percent. Firearms form an important part of the Yukon's economy and lifestyle. The Member for Old Crow and the Member for Pelly have both spoken about subsistence hunting. There is also big game hunting, bird hunting, trapping, outfitting, guiding, sports shooting, biathlon, et cetera.
We do support some of the present firearms legislation but we believe in better training, and proper storage of firearms will go a long way to ensure accidental deaths are even further reduced.
I would like to quote from a speech given by a woman by the name of Deborah Ure, and this speech was made to the Islington, Ontario Sportsman Club in September of this year. "On the weekend of June 29, 1992, my son and his buddy were at a cottage near Baysville visiting friends. On the way home that Sunday night, being the nice kids that they were, they stopped to offer their help at a single-car accident on Highway 117. Both of the boys were repaid for their kindness with a .38 caliber bullet in the head. Their bodies were left in the middle of the road. They had just turned 19 years old. The two murderers then proceeded south on Highway 11 in Santos' new Ford pickup truck." - that was one of the boys.
"When they got to Berry, they were pulled over on a routine speeding check by the Ontario Provincial Police. That officer, the father of two young daughters, was shot three times, also with a .38 caliber revolver. Luckily and amazingly, he lived.
To the credit of the police forces, the two men were apprehended later that day in Hamilton. They were arrested and each charged with two counts of first degree murder and one account of attempted murder of a police officer. After an intensive search, the gun was found and the Ontario Provincial Police were able to trace it to some gun shop in one of the southern states. Obviously, it had been smuggled, like thousands of others, across the border, and through an elaborate underground network, ended up in the hands of two very evil men.
"The other guns that the men allegedly carried that night were never found.
"When these men came into possession of this gun - the murder weapon - did they have an FAC? Was the gun registered? Did they store the gun safely? Of course not. Criminals or want-to-be criminals do not respect our country's gun laws. Safe storage to them is having the gun stuck down the back of their pants or inside a boot until they need to use it. With the right connections and a few dollars, even a 12 year-old child can buy any restricted weapon, if he wants to, on the streets of any Canadian city. As we all know, none of these guns will ever be registered."
She goes on to say, "My husband and thousands of other honest, responsible, law-abiding citizens enjoy owning rifles and shotguns for their once-a-year hunting trip. If our government has its way, it will be easier for these hunters to tap a moose on the shoulder and convince them to get into the back of their truck, than to buy ammunition for their rifles. The innocent people are being punished by laws that do not even affect the guilty.
"Wes and Santos are both dead. It does not matter to me that they were killed by a gunshot wound. They could just as easily have been stabbed, beaten or mutilated. The end result is the same: our children are dead. The gun did not kill them; two poor excuses for human beings did. What is the penalty for that? I will tell you. One of these men, after intensive plea-bargaining, plead guilty to two counts of manslaughter, one count of aggravated assault on a police officer and numerous gun-related charges. All of these added up to 39 years. He was sentenced, and is now in Millhaven Penitentiary. However, as per the Corrections and Conditional Release Act of Canada, he will be eligible for unescorted, temporary absence in March 1996, day parole in September 1997 and full parole in March, 1998. Ridiculous, isn't it? What message does such a lenient sentence for such heinous crimes give to the potential criminal? Where is the deterrent to make people think twice before committing such serious offences?
"This is a problem that our Minister of Justice should be addressing. We need criminal control, not gun control. Instead, honest, legitimate gunowners are being treated like potential criminals, and the actual, proven criminals are being given a slap on the wrist.
"It upsets me to know that in just 18 months, my child's murderer will be back out into the community unescorted. One of the conditions put on him by the courts is that he never again own a firearm or ammunition - great. What is wrong with this picture? I strongly believe that the entire judicial system in Canada needs to be revamped and toughened up. Gun charges should not be dropped during plea bargaining. If a gun is used in connection with a crime, an additional five mandatory years should be automatically tacked on to the sentence. There is too much plea bargaining done in the courts these days anyway.
"That night on the highway, Wes and Santo must have tried to plea bargain for their very lives. What good did it do them? Why should the men who killed them get any leniency from the courts? Serious offences should be treated as such. 'Life' should mean life. We need to let the criminals, and those contemplating a criminal act, know, through the courts, that we Canadians are fed up with it and are not willing to take any more.
"The victims pay. Some pay with their lives. Others, the families, pay for the rest of their lives. It is time for criminals to pay also. It should be the priority of our Justice Minister to address what I feel is the real cause of the crime problem, and leave the hunters and their annual treks into the beautiful Canadian wilderness alone."
Mr. Speaker, that reflects my sentiments entirely.
Mr. Harding: I do not intend to speak long today on this motion. I have said publicly many time how I feel about this issue, because I believe it is one of great importance to society. It is a debate that should be handled, I believe, with the clear perception of what we want to do, as a society. How do we want to handle the problems of society? It is not through the implementation of laws that may or may not address, or even help to solve, the problems that we have identified.
It is an issue that cuts across all party lines: Reform Party, Yukon Party, Social
Credit Party, New Democratic Party, Liberal Party and National Party. To me, it is clear
that, within each of the political parties in this country, there is a wide spectrum of
views about how we should address the problem of violence in our society.
There is a wide spectrum of views as to what the particular problems of violence in society are and whether guns contribute to a large degree, and if they do, how do we create laws that accomplish the goals we have of making the use of guns work in a more responsible manner.
Having said that, I have to say that I personally am confused in understanding exactly what the federal bill is all about. I recently spent a lot of time looking over and changing my habits, as a gun owner, based on the laws that were passed by the Progressive Conservative Party in Ottawa over the last couple of years, prior to the election defeat, by the then Justice Minister, Kim Campbell. A lot of legislation was created about the use of firearms at that time. A lot of it was not very popular, and it certainly was not very popular in my riding, and I heard about it. Much of it was being established at a time I was not in the Legislature, but I was actively involved in the Yukon Fish and Game Association, going out hunting, target shooting and doing all those things that a lot of people in the Yukon like to do.
I can remember talking about it just as a private citizen and wondering what it was going to mean to me. I can remember driving around with my rifle beside me in my truck during hunting season without having any gun lock or any other kind of security - I used to lock my truck when it was in it - but my rifle basically was in the truck all of the time. I was fortunate to never have a problem with that. During hunting season, I remember getting a couple of moose just because I happened to have the rifle fairly handy, and I was able to load it and hunt the moose that I was interested in shooting and putting in my freezer.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
The Government Leader says I am a road hunter. I also hiked a few mountains and I had my rifle with me then. I had a few sheep in my freezer, too.
I would like to say that since that legislation came into effect, I had to purchase some trigger locks to address the concerns that were identified in society, and that was that the quick and ready access and availability to firearms was contributing to violence in society and to violence against women. There was also a provision that called for safer storage. Again, that was to address the problem of firearms being too readily available.
At the time, I grumbled a bit, but I bought my trigger lock and put it on. I store my weapons much more safely now.
The concern I am getting at is this: we just finished doing that in the last year or two. I went out and complied with the law, but I have never been told if those last provisions made before 1993 accomplished what they were set out to do. What is the standard we are using to measure whether or not we have been successful? Why do we want to bring in more legislation that will put further restrictions on law-abiding gun owners, when we cannot even measure the effectiveness of earlier changes to the legislation.
I have a problem with that. I do not think we have closely evaluated whether or not the target goals of the previous legislation that was brought in have been reached, and whether or not that legislation has helped to achieve what we wanted to do.
Now we have a whole package of new legislation. I can say, at the outset, that I agree with some of it. I have absolutely no problem with some of it. I have concerns about another area of the legislation. I am wondering whether these things are going to enhance what we have set out to do, and I wonder if what we set out to do in the first place has even been achieved. Speaking as a person who likes to hunt and own a rifle, I find it confusing.
I would also like to say that I object to the Liberal consultation plan for the Yukon. I was deeply offended by that. I can remember that, when I heard Mr. Rock was coming to consult with Yukoners about his gun control proposals, I sent a letter to a lot of my constituents who I thought might be interested in having some say about what should be brought forward in the legislation - if there was to be any legislation at all. I did not know at that time that the meeting would be orchestrated by the local Liberal Party. They went to some lengths to close regular Yukoners off from that meeting, and I found that abhorrent, given the comments about public consultation that were made by the federal Minister.
I even asked the federal Minister to come to my riding, because I thought that he would certainly get a clear picture of how the vast majority of people there feel about a lot of the things he was saying - not everything. I do not want to sound as if my views on this are extreme. The Minister has goals that I share, such as an interest in ensuring a safer society. However, I want to make sure that what we do leads to the creation of a safer society, and does not just address some political concerns that a particular government of the day may have.
To that end, I believe he has made some in-roads in his proposals but, in other, very serious areas, he has entirely missed the boat.
When we evaluate gun control legislation, we have to base decisions on proper research and enact laws that deal with the problem. What is the problem? It is a violent society; it is criminals using weapons to threaten and intimidate people; it is violence against women, because of a too-readily available access to firearms. Those are serious problems, and legislation should address them, but how far should legislation go in infringing upon people who have never engaged in any such behaviour? What about aboriginal people? What about the average recreational or resident hunter who needs to put a moose or caribou in the freezer to supplement their family's needs for nutrition? I think these are critical questions.
Does the package the federal government has put forward address the need for a safer society? Does it address the needs of aboriginal users of firearms? Does it address the needs of law-abiding recreational users? In some areas, yes, but in most areas, no.
We have a tremendous number of laws already passed in Canada that would have significant impact on some of the concerns the federal Minister has addressed. The problem is that, in many cases, there has been no enforcement of these laws.
I will read a couple of laws that I believe should be enforced, so as to give my constituents and others some idea of what the laws are. They include: section 85(1), using a firearm during the commission of an offence, punishable by up to 14 years in prison; section 86(1), pointing a firearm at a person, punishable by up to five years in prison; section 86(2), careless handling of a firearm, punishable by up to two years in prison. That is only a smidgen of laws we already have in place. Perhaps these laws have to be tightened up to address the criminal element; that is, the people who commit these crimes.
I have no problem in saying that a person who commits an offence with a weapon should lose their right to own a firearm. I have no problem in making that statement. Why should someone who takes a gun, or other weapon, and uses it against another person, be allowed to own a firearm?
I think the risk to the general public out there demands that something be done in those cases to address those people who would do such a thing.
We have to very clearly understand that targeting legitimate, recreational gun users and those whose livelihoods rely on gun ownership misses the boat. We have to deal with the concerns that have been expressed by society in a way that does not do that. I believe that we have to look at the real root causes of violence, of death, of suicides, and not just suggest some quick fix with guns to address that. Depression, joblessness, alcohol and drug abuse are all contributors as well. We should be careful not to put too much emphasis on gun control when there are lots of other avenues through which to address these problems that lead to the concerns society has.
The registration system is a classic example. What is that going to do to address the problems we have identified? How much is it going to cost? How is the territory going to be helped to pay for the cost? I remember the last round of gun control legislation called for hunting courses and registration to be put on in order for people to get an FAC. From talking to the government, the people in the communities, and the RCMP, I know there have been a lot of problems for the territorial government and the RCMP in delivering on that legislation - not just in terms of cost, but also in putting the people together to deliver the courses.
Some of the laws went to the extent where, if an RCMP officer essentially would vouch for someone, that person would not be required to take a test to qualify for an FAC. But an RCMP officer would be unwilling to sponsor anyone because if anything ever happened, the officer would be held responsible for it. The practical problems of that legislation were immense. And that was the round just prior to this latest round. So, I would say that those types of issues have to be thought out well in advance of the legislation coming down.
What about enforcement? I am not one of those people who says that the answer to everything is to build more jails, and lock everybody up, throw away the key and that will solve all our problems in society. I do not, for a minute, suggest that. It seems that in this country, enforcement budgets are being consistently cut and slashed.
I was shocked when I watched the Whitehorse City Council on television a few weeks ago. The number of people we have on the force, both in the rural communities and especially in Whitehorse, is quite disturbing. I was told, as I watched, that on some evenings there are only four people on shift in the entire community of Whitehorse, which seemed, to me, given the distances that the community stretches, to be a very low number. I think the problem of enforcement is contributing to the concerns that have lead to this particular bill.
I would also like to say that I do not think that concerns about suicide can be ignored. In a report that was authored by the Speaker and the now Independent Member for Porter Creek South, who were both with the Conservative Party caucus in 1989, they say, in one of the points on page 5, that the public must be made aware that guns are the main means of committing suicide and that a campaign to encourage safe storage of guns and ammunition be implemented.
This is something that the earlier bill by the Conservative government in Ottawa tried to address. They did and it was not a popular implementation. I personally did not like it that much, but it has addressed some concerns with the trigger locks and the safe storage provisions. It has not been given enough time to be evaluated properly to see whether it has worked. I have never been shown any hard evidence one way or the other, and now I have a new bill to consider.
A factor pointed out in the report was that people attempting suicide by using guns are usually successful. It is a very deadly proposition. Obviously, it is an effective method if somebody wants to commit suicide. It does not answer the question for me, that if someone wanted to commit suicide, would they use another weapon.
The report also makes the statement that a public awareness campaign aimed at telling people how to avoid easy access to guns would be beneficial. In the conclusion section of this report, commissioned by the former Conservative Party, it says that it is clear that the factors that contribute to suicidal behaviour are as important to deal with as the suicides themselves.
We have to agree with that statement, as I think it is very true. I think that any
legislation that impedes the right of law-abiding gun owners has to be cognizant of that
statement. Legislation has to provide answers to questions that society is asking, without
targeting them to the point of having to jump through so many hoops and barrels that they
cannot continue with the lifestyle they have chosen.
I believe that there is a strong role in society, and not just in the Yukon, for the responsible use of firearms. I have no problem with most assault weapons being unavailable, as long as legitimate gun owners and collectors are respected, and properly regulated, so as to ensure that their particular collections are not going to contribute to some of the problems in society.
It is important for bills, such as this, to hit their target and not miss the point, which many people are saying is true of this particular bill: target where it is going to be effective, not at people who do not contribute to the problem. When this is done, I think most Canadians will accept it. However, if it is not the case, in the deliverance of a bill, then there is no broad consensus, which is clearly the case with this bill.
I have no problem in supporting this motion and would strongly recommend that we send
this message to Ottawa.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I want to begin by thanking those people who have spoken before me, and by thanking the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin for bringing this very important motion forward. Thus far, it is my view that the speakers have covered many extremely valid points.
For the first time, I found myself entirely endorsing the Member for Faro, and I congratulate him on his speech - it was excellent.
I would certainly endorse the points that he makes. The issue really has to do with how you address problems of violence, and the issue is whether or not this proposed legislation makes any sense.
It is more than that. I found myself reflecting on the issue as I listened to the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin and the Member for Mayo-Tatchun, reflecting on the huge cultural gap between those who live in Toronto the Good and eastern Canada, and we who live in the rural north, particularly our First Nations people. I found myself thinking back to all the times I have had the occasion to meet with new federal ministers over the years, who have been raised and have worked in central Canada, in big cities. I found myself recalling, as I sat here, the times that I have met with these ministers on their first occasion to fly across northern Canada and come to the Yukon. I can recall previous politicians and ministers who would expect to do a tour of the entire north in a couple of days. When they finally got on the plane and tried to go to the various communities, they realized just how much they underestimated the size of this land and the nature and lifestyle of the people who live in northern Canada.
When the current federal Minister of Justice was making arrangements to come to Whitehorse, his aids phoned my executive assistant. They said that they would be in our neighbourhood, and they were going to drop over to visit us. They were talking of being up in Frobisher Bay, I believe it was, and they were in the neighbourhood, so they would drop in to see us. I felt like saying at the time, "Well, I am going to Florida next week. I will be in your neighbourhood, Toronto, why do you not drop in and see me there?" It is just about as sensible and about as close as Whitehorse is to the eastern Arctic.
I do not want to single out that particular Minister. It has happened many times to ministers and MPs of all political stripes. They just have no concept of the rest of Canada, particularly if they are from urban, central Canada.
I met with the federal Minister when he was here. I know that he had been meeting and listening to people across Canada about his proposals. We had a fairly short meeting. I personally like the Justice Minister. He is attentive, and certainly does not brush off people's comments. However, I truly believe that he does not get it. I think he has some appreciation for some of the arguments that have been made here today, and some appreciation of the validity of people owning guns and using guns for sporting activities, including target practice. However, he does not understand the lifestyle. He does not understand the day-to-day life in a small community such as Pelly, Old Crow, Ross River or most, if not all, communities in the Yukon and the NWT.
I guess what we are talking about is radical surgery to that lifestyle and to our cultures, particularly to the culture of First Nations people. I represent a riding that is predominantly First Nation. There are Tlingit people, Kaska people and Tagish people in that riding. They are very concerned about what these changes mean to their lives and the future of their children. However, this does not only apply to just First Nation people, but virtually everyone who lives in a community like Teslin, Ross River or Tagish.
Mr. Speaker, I recall, in the not-too-far-distance past, you and me taking a river trip. We decided to go to Pelly and put our boat in there and then go down the river to Dawson. On the way, we wanted to drop in on the MLA for Mayo-Tatchun, and this we did. But the feeling I had, after talking to people in Pelly and telling them about wanting to drop in on their MLA and needing directions to his fish camp, was that he has a tremendous stature in the community. It is partially tied to his success as a hunter, fisherman and provider in that community. The people of Pelly, some of whom I have known for many, many years, spoke with respect. They could tell me that their MLA had been up the river - the Macmillan, I believe - and that the river was extremely low. This kind of information is what is shared in a small community such as this.
You will recall that we went down and visited the MLA at his fish camp, spoke about hunting and then carried on down river to Dawson.
What the people in Toronto and central Canada do not get is how important this lifestyle, heritage and stature as hunter and provider is to people here, and how important it is to virtually every Yukoner in small Yukon towns. Where I am from, we do not talk about the weather that much. We talk about who has been fishing, where they have gone, where they are camping and who is going out with whom to do something on the land and water. The conversation, from August to October, is laced with discussions about and references to who has gone hunting, who did not get a moose, who did get a moose, and so on. Everyone in my community knows if I went out and got a moose, and where I went, not because I run around telling everyone, but that is simply the topic of conversation.
Everyone knows if the chief or ex-chief has been out and how successful he has been. They speak about him with respect. It is part of who he is. It is likewise with my friend from Old Crow. Not only has he been a leader of his people and struggled for justice for his people, but part of the respect that his people have for him as an individual is his knowledge about how to survive on the land, how to gather food and how to hunt.
It is that critical. To me, it is part of the whole soul of these people and of many, many Yukoners.
The federal Minister of Justice and others like him, simply do not understand. They do not get it. They do not appreciate this aspect of life here. They pay lip service to it and they genuinely want to understand, but they do not really understand how important this issue is to us.
I am really concerned about this legislation. I do not have any trouble regarding the motive behind it. I do not think there is some sinister scheme afoot, or that the Minister is in any way acting in bad faith. The point that I am trying to hammer on and make in my speech is that he just does not know what he is doing to people. Toronto, "T.O. the good", has long been the source of complaints - even hatred - from western Canada and northern Canada. These issues really relate to a perceived attitude that they, in the east, are the centre of the universe, and that, somehow or other, if you live anywhere else you have to be nuts.
I know a lot of people who have been raised in Ontario stay there. They would not even consider going to see the rest of Canada. They think you have to be crazy to do that. I know people in Ontario who are in their forties and have never been on an airplane. They would not even think of taking a vacation to go out and see what the rest of Canada is about. I personally know lots of people like that.
I must say that it is an attitude problem, but it is not something willful on their part. It is simply that they do not know, and have no reason to know or to understand, how we feel or perceive things. They do not know, and they could care less what our true lifestyle is. It is an easy one to mock. It is easy to say that we are just a bunch of gun nuts; we are this or we are that. The lack of understanding is something that we have gotten used to - at least I have.
I do not really react emotionally about it any more. I understand that it springs from a lack of knowledge, and a lack of chances to understand rural Canadians, northern Canadians, and particularly our First Nations people.
However, it is not a sufficient excuse to destroy a lifestyle and a culture. That is where this kind of legislation leads. I listened to the Member for Mayo-Tatchun and he said, "What is happening in this new world?" He genuinely sees - and I share that with him - fundamental changes to his cultural values. More than that, he sees a fundamental change in how he is perceived, how his people are perceived, and how they perceive life. This is part of the essential person that we are tinkering with. This is what the social engineers in Toronto are tinkering with in an ill-advised piece of legislation - a terrible piece of legislation. It does not address the problems. There are other ways of addressing the problems. Other speakers have said that.
I hope that somehow we can cut through the misunderstanding, and get through to the Minister and his colleagues. I plead for some understanding from them that what they are suggesting and what they are doing represents a sea change to life in Yukon. There would be a complete change in the way we live, and to the way I was brought up. We were brought up to really look up to hunters, such as people like Alex Van Bibber and Johnny Johns, who have always been heroes to young people, as least for as long as I can remember.
These are the things placed in jeopardy with this bill. The registration of long arms will lead to the destruction of this way of life. There is no justification for this legislation. There are so many other avenues that could be pursued to try and reduce violence and actually achieve meaningful gains in that crusade.
I do not want my remarks taken out of context, but I do want to see this legislation
fail and not go through.
Mr. Cable: Let me first say how pleased I am that the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin has brought this motion forward, and that the Justice Minister has given a positive response to virtually all of Mr. Allan Rock's gun control proposals.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: I was listening very, very carefully, and I will get to that topic as I go along.
The issue of gun control has certainly engendered a lively debate in the Yukon and in Canada. What we have, as I see it from out on the Takhini Hotsprings Road, is a clash of value systems between those who are fearful of an increase in violence in society, and who link the number of guns with that increase in violence, and those who are fearful of increasing government intrusion in our lives. They are leery of that ethic that says, "For every societal problem, there must be a legislated solution."
The argument between those, on the one hand, who believe that a weapons culture fosters violence, and that the more weapons present increases the opportunity for crime, and those on the other hand, who believe that guns are inanimate objects and do not shape societal values. They believe that violence prevention must focus on the individual and society as a whole, rather than on the inanimate object - the weapon.
Unfortunately, the debate is being carried on with a number of unproven assumptions on both sides. Governments do not operate in vacuums, and government ministers and policy formulators must take people and their views as they find them. One of the views we now have in Canada relates to the climate of fear - not just in the cities, but also in rural areas - and the government must deal with that climate.
What we have before us today is a motion that is couched in fairly general terms. During the course of this afternoon, I hope that specific concerns will be defined, and that the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin will have an opportunity to give his concluding remarks, so that some specific concerns and reactions may be given to the federal Minister of Justice.
I would like to review what is being proposed and pass comment on those proposals. The first thing to note is that I understand that no legislation has been tabled. There are, as yet, no amendments. What we have is the federal Justice Minister's speech to the federal parliament, some background information on firearms control, and the government's action plan on firearms control.
I would first like to go to what I assume was a ministerial statement by the Justice Minister, entitled his firearms speech. He says, "In the first place, there is no doubt that the subject of firearms regulation is controversial." That is, perhaps, an understatement, but he goes on to say, and this would certainly reflect the remarks of our own Justice Minister, "I can also report that there are broad areas of consensus."
He says, "Firstly, Canadians believe strongly they do not want a country in which people feel they must own a firearm to protect themselves." He goes on to say, "Secondly, Canadians want, above all, to have a lawful and safe society in which the criminal misuse of firearms is dealt with severely. Canadians do not want the approach taken by the United States of America." He goes on to say, "He has learned that the firearms question is not a rural/urban issue. Canadians who live in the rural environment are just as concerned about their safety as the rest of us." Finally, he makes the point, which is of particular interest to the Member from Vuntut Gwitchin, "Canadians want our firearm laws to acknowledge and respect the legitimate interests of hunters and of farmers. They too are an important part of the Canadian way of life. Hunting is a long and valued tradition and a pastime enjoyed by many Canadians. Of equal importance, it is a significant economic activity for many regions of Canada."
The Minister then goes over his proposals and breaks them down into three categories. First - and this is an area where, I believe, our Minister of Justice agrees - criminal sanctions for the use of firearms in crime; second, the controls over firearms and private ownership; and, third, the efforts to reduce firearms smuggling. Let us look at the criminal penalties of each of these in turn.
The federal Minister of Justice says, "We have known for some time that the present criminal law does not sufficiently deter the use of firearms in the commission of offences, nor", and I think this is important, because several of the speakers have made this point, "in many cases do the penalties received by criminals reflect Canadian's abhorrence for the use of firearms in crime". He goes on to say what he is proposing to do and what he will eventually introduce in the form of legislation: "To strengthen the law and to provide real deterrence in sentencing we will introduce new, strong, penalties for 10 specific serious crimes".
There will be a mandatory minimum penitentiary term of four years, together with a lifetime prohibition against the possession of restricted firearms, where firearms are used for robbery, attempted murder, manslaughter, sexual assault, and six other serious offences. I am in favour of these propositions and, as I understand our own Justice Minister's remarks, so, also, is he.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: I will pass those comments on to Mr. Rock.
What we have just heard, by way of comment from the Justice Minister, is that he wants even tougher penalties.
This is what our federal Justice Minister says: "Those who choose to use a firearm in that manner must know that the consequences will be stiff, and that they will be certain." He then goes on to say, "We will also introduce mandatory minimum jail terms for possession of a stolen firearm and for possession of an unregistered handgun, either that is loaded, or where the person also has ammunition within reach."
He then speaks to the issue of the import of guns, the issue of border control and the issue of firearms smuggling. He makes a variety of points. He says, by way of preface, that "the control of Canada's borders represent a unique challenge. There are over 130 million border crossings a year, and it is simply impossible to open every trunk and glove compartment".
His propositions include the following: firstly, "We will end the practice of using Canada as a conduit for weapons shipments to countries that would not allow them to enter directly"; secondly, "all shipments of firearms entering the country will require a permit to be issued in advance"; thirdly, "inspections and enforcement at borders will be enhanced"; and, fourthly, "a new criminal offence of possession of smuggled weapons will be created, with a penalty of up to 10 years in jail. That same penalty will also apply to those who import or export firearms without a permit".
That is difficult to argue with, and I am sure our own Minister of Justice agrees wholeheartedly.
Now we come to the most contentious issue of all: the extension of controls over private ownership of firearms. The federal Minister, Allan Rock, speaks, firstly, about the restriction of paramilitary weapons. I think our own Minister has indicated his agreement with that position. There is no point in putting our police in a position where they are looking down the gun barrel of an automatic weapon.
The main focus of the debate is about universal registration. The main issue in the territory is the registration of rifles and shotguns. The proponents of this registration system - and there are many here in the territory, though it is not a unanimously backed issue - say that the removal of opportunity reduces weapon violence generally, and in such areas as suicides and spousal abuses. The opponents say - and we have heard this today - that weapons do not commit crimes, people do, and that the whole system being proposed is bureaucratic and costly.
I was interested in the comments of our MP, Ms. Audrey McLaughlin, made a few days ago, when she indicated that the concessions made for northerners are vague. She had some concern that northerners would not have to pay to register their rifles and shotguns.
She indicated that the registration of rifles and shotguns is one of the most controversial proposals that Mr. Rock has made. She goes on to say that she would like to see some evidence that registration makes a difference. I wholeheartedly agree. From what I have seen, the jury is still out. The theory that the use and ownership of those guns sold for peaceful purposes enhances violence is an unproven proposition, and the creation of a large bureaucracy and the siphoning off of funds to administer the system, based on what we know today, is not warranted. We are better to focus on how we acculturate our young to the violence ethic. We are better to focus on dealing with the criminal, rather than the weapon. I am, therefore, not in favour of registration of what are called long arms: rifles, and shotguns.
Let me deal specifically with the concern of the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin. I have a couple of documents that were given to me, and I believe these are the documents that the federal Justice Minister tabled at the time he gave his speech. One is entitled, "Background Information on Firearms Control", and the other is entitled, "The Government's Action Plan on Firearms Control." In the document entitled "Background Information on Firearms Control", the Justice Minister seems to go a long way toward dealing with the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin's concerns. There are two chapters, one entitled, "Impact of Firearms Control on tourists, outfitters, and hunters." In that chapter, it states, "New firearms requirements for tourists and outfitters will be as straightforward as possible. As a result, the impact of these proposals on hunters is minimal."
He goes on to relate his experiences as he travelled across the north. There will be no limit placed on the amount, kind or caliber of ammunition that can be bought. So, for example, someone living in Yellowknife will be able to buy ammunition for a friend in a remote area.
Then there is a chapter, which I think would be of most concern to the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, entitled "Aboriginal Hunting and Sustenance". There are several paragraphs where I think the Justice Minister is trying to reach out to the aboriginal community and deal with their problems related to gun control.
Many aboriginal people have aboriginal and treaty rights to hunt and trap. Aboriginal people, especially those in remote northern communities, live a traditional lifestyle and exercise their hunting and trapping rights often as a means of sustenance. The legislation will apply equally to all persons: aboriginal and non-aboriginal people who hunt and trap for sustenance will have the same opportunities to maintain their lifestyle. In the policy, which is approximately one page long, the federal government says it will consult with aboriginal groups, the provinces and the territories to introduce regulations which will enable firearms possessions search certificate applicants, who are already proficient in firearm use, to obtain the personal certification of a firearms officer.
It goes on to say that part of the course dealing with handgun safety could be amended or shorted in the Northwest Territories and the Yukon in favour of more emphasis on wilderness survival.
Special measures will be taken to ensure that aboriginal individuals are designated as firearms officers.
Under the section of offences and penalties, when hunters and trappers who are sustenance hunters, either for themselves or for their families, are at risk of losing their firearms for criminal misuse, courts will be able to issue partial firearms prohibition orders. And he finally goes on to say that aboriginal/non-aboriginal sustenance hunters and trappers will continue to be exempt from the firearms acquisition certificate fee. So, there is at least an attempt to meet the concerns of the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin and other aboriginal people.
I had earlier written to the Minister expressing some concern about the need for handguns for wilderness and game operators, and trappers and prospectors for safety purposes. It will be interesting to see whether the legislation actually reflects my concerns.
I should point out to the Members here a resolution of the Yukon Liberal Party, which was passed in October, to the effect that the Liberal Party urges the federal Minister of Justice and the Liberal caucus in Ottawa to ensure that any proposed changes to firearms regulations do not limit the ability of Yukoners and other northerners to use firearms for subsistence, occupational safety or recreation. It would appear that the Minister is going, and has gone, a long way to meet those concerns.
I would say, in view of the concern expressed by the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, and in
view of the fact that, on occasion, what is on the printed page sometimes does not get
translated into legislation, that I would be happy to support his motion so that we can
pass the motion on unanimously, I am sure, to the federal Justice Minister, so as to
ensure that the concerns raised by that Member are met when the legislation hits the floor
Hon. Mr. Nordling: I believe that every Member wishes to speak to this motion. In view of that fact, and our limited time for debate, I have set aside my 40-minute speech. It started with my childhood in the Yukon, and my use of firearms from a very tender age, to hunt rabbits, grouse and ducks for food for our family, and larger game, as I got older. It addressed all the ills of our society, and the failed attempts at resolving them over the past 30 years, everything from family violence to cigarette smuggling. Having decided to forego making that address, I will simply make a few brief remarks in support of this motion.
What Allan Rock is doing with the proposed amendments reminds me of a story I heard awhile back. It seems that a fellow was walking along Main Street late one night, here in Whitehorse. At Second Avenue, he came across another fellow. The guy had obviously had a few drinks and was down on his hands and knees, crawling around the lamppost. The first fellow stopped and asked what he was doing. The guy said, "I am looking for my wallet." The first guy said, "Well, I will help you. Where exactly did you lose it?" The drunk says, "I lost it outside the Westmark." The first guy says, "Well, that is two blocks away. What are you doing looking here?" And the drunk says, "Well, the light is better here."
Allan Rock reminds me of the guy looking for his wallet. He knows what the problem is, and where it is, but he is looking in entirely the wrong place. He is simply looking where it is convenient and easy. As a new Minister of Justice, I think Mr. Rock simply wants to say, "Look at me. I am addressing the concerns of Canadians on criminal activity and violence in our society." And around the lamppost he goes.
Measures, such as universal gun registration, are the easy way out. My fear is that this measure will give people a false sense of security. As the Member for Faro said, we do not even know if the gun control measures that were recently introduced by the previous federal government have achieved the desired results.
Guns are dangerous weapons and education is critical. As the Member for Whitehorse Centre pointed out, and it was also mentioned by the Member for Faro, our task force on suicide confirmed the serious problem in the Yukon and that the use of guns was the largest contributing factor to successful suicides. However, as you will recall, of all the people we spoke to all over the Yukon, I do not recall anyone who felt that banning or registering guns was the solution. Yukoners felt that the solution lay in education and safe storage and handling. That was our recommendation.
The federal Minister saying that northerners will not be charged a fee to register guns
is a feeble attempt to accommodate our needs. I do not believe that the proposed
amendments accommodate the needs of northern Canadians and I believe that we, as Members
of this Assembly, should urge the federal Minister of Justice not to proceed with the
proposed amendments until the needs of northern Canadians are fairly and seriously
addressed and met.
Mrs. Firth: I want to begin by thanking the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin for bringing this motion forward and giving us an opportunity to debate gun control in the House this afternoon.
This whole issue started back with the federal Conservative Party, when Kim Campbell proposed new gun laws. That got the ball rolling. Then the Liberal government came to power in Ottawa. I watched Mr. Chretien on television during the election campaign telling Canadians that he was going to get rid of all handguns in Canada. I knew then that we were in big trouble. It took me back to the days of the Trudeau era and Warren Allmand, and all that bad news and fight that we had to put up with as citizens of Canada during that time. I was much younger then and I was a member of the National Firearms Association. In fact, I was the secretary of that organization, trying to impress upon the federal Liberal government that what they were advocating and proposing was not going to solve what they saw as problems. I think it has been proven it did not solve the problems.
As much as I like to believe Mr. Rock when he says that he is going to get tougher on criminals and do something about it, I have yet to see a Liberal government in Canada get tough on criminals.
I cannot have any confidence that this Liberal government is going to really do to the justice system what Canadians are asking them to do. I think Canadians are asking politicians - the federal Liberal government - to get tougher on those people who break the law, to get tougher on criminals, and to leave the law-abiding citizens alone. This proposal and this direction is completely contrary to what I think Canadians want.
I was interested in the Liberal motion that was referred to by the Leader of the Liberal Party, proposed that subsistence, occupational safety, and recreation would be taken into account in this new legislation. If that is the case, then we would not have any need for this legislation. I have in my hand a copy of the resolutions that were proposed at the last Liberal convention. This comes from a presentation of Liberal resolutions called "Keeping the Promise. This resolution was sponsored by the Nation Women's Liberal Commission. The resolution reads as follows - it is fairly short - "Be it resolved that: a) sanctions against the criminal misuse of firearms be increased and strengthened to better reflect the serious nature of crime; b) the private possession and ownership of military assault weapons be prohibited; c) the sale and ownership of ammunition be more strictly regulated by requiring, among other things, that the buyer be at least 18 years of age, and in possession of appropriate documentation" - whatever that means - "d) a national system of registration for all firearms be considered; e) the private possession and ownership of handguns be severely restricted; and f) strong action be taken against smuggling and the importation of illegal firearms into Canada."
Aside from the disastrous approach taken by the Minister in his visit to the Yukon, I was prepared at the time, as other Yukoners were, to give him the benefit of the doubt, when I thought about the fact that he was prepared to come and listen to us. When I received these Liberal resolutions, I knew that my suspicions were correct and that the Minister's mind was completely made up about what he was going to do before he ever came here. I think that also applies for all of the other visits he made across Canada. I think his mind was made up.
He knew what he wanted to do. He was taking his marching orders from the Liberal Party and from the National Women's Liberal Commission. He then launched a public relations campaign, where he intended to give the impression that he was a nice guy, that he was listening to people, and that he was actually going to perhaps implement some of the things that they were asking him to do, or refrain from doing some of the things they were asking him not to do. I can appreciate the diplomacy of the Minister for Health and Social Services when he indicated he thought that Mr. Rock was kind of a nice guy and that perhaps he had listened. However, I have constituents who were allowed to go into the meeting with the Minister who are calling the Minister a liar. They are calling him a liar out in the open, in front of everyone.
They obviously are not prepared to be as generous with their feelings about this individual. I do want to state on the record that I think the federal Justice Minister is living in la-la land. He epitomizes and absolutely reflects every undesirable trait that the Minister of Health and Social Services mentioned this afternoon about people who live back east, who live in Toronto. There is absolutely no respect for the way anyone else in Canada lives if you do not live like the people who live in Toronto - absolutely none. Not only do they not understand it and not get it, they do not have any respect for the way other Canadians want to live, or their lifestyles.
I have friends who left the Yukon and are presently living in Ottawa, working for the federal government there. When I first went to Ottawa to visit them and was introduced in their social circles, I was told that I was not to mention anything about being a gun owner, particularly because I was a woman. If I were a woman and also owned firearms, particularly handguns, I would be perceived to be some kind of social outcast and an extremely weird person - "weird" was the word that was used. So, in general, it was better if I did not mention anything about firearms in those social circles.
I think the problem is even worse than we can anticipate. The fact that we are not going to be invited to participate in any of these meetings or communications that the federal Liberal Justice Minister is going to have gives me a great deal of concern. I am concerned because the only avenue, the only link, we have with the federal Liberal government is through the Liberal Member here in the Legislature. He has to toe his party's line and represent his party's philosophy, so it does not give me a lot of gratification that we are even going to be heard by the federal Minister of Justice. Any Minister of the Crown who allows himself to come into a private meeting through the back door, through the kitchen, does not exactly inspire confidence and trust in the people with whom he is dealing. I have heard a lot of Yukoners comment about that.
Does the legislation make any sense? I do not think it makes any sense, but then a lot of things that the federal government does makes no sense to other Canadians. The story that the previous speaker told is very refreshing. I think, in a nutshell, it says exactly what is happening with respect to the federal government's direction. These new laws will, of course, be more government intrusion, despite what the Liberal representative here said. I do not want the Member to think I am picking on him personally. I think he is a good gentleman, and I have a lot of respect for him; however, I do know he has to represent his party's position, and I think he made a valiant attempt to do that.
His party's position is different from that of the gentleman on the other side of the House, and generally the position of the other Members on this side of the House. I have not quite figured that one yet, but I will try to get control of that.
As to whether there is a sinister scheme or whether there is something that people should be concerned about, I think there is. I do not know whether I would call it sinister; that may be perceived to be a bit extreme, but I have no doubt in my mind that the intention of the federal Liberal Government is to disarm Canadians. I think that was its intention 15 years ago when Trudeau was running things and he sent Warren Allmand around the country to tell us about the new gun laws that were going to be implemented. I strongly believe that that is their intention and if they felt they could get away with that tomorrow, that is what they would do.
The only thing that is preventing that is people being vocal, politicians being vocal, civilians being vocal and people constantly bombarding the federal government. I want to encourage people to continue to do that.
I would like to finish by getting my position quite firmly on the record. There was a comment made this afternoon about guns being very dangerous weapons. I think guns are weapons, but I think it is the individual who is handling the weapon who is dangerous. I get sensitive about people giving guns some living personality or some characteristics such as that.
With respect to my position on offences and penalties, I want it noted on the record that I fully support the increases in the penalties, and that I do not think that what Mr. Rock is proposing is going far enough. I think that they should be much tougher. There should be absolutely no plea bargaining, and people who commit offences using firearms should be prohibited from ever being allowed to own firearms again.
I have not heard anybody mention that but I do not see it as a contentious point. I think a lot of people would agree with that, but I wanted to add that in as well.
With respect to smuggling, the government should be putting more emphasis on the control of illegal firearms. If they want to put money toward that, I would be supportive of increasing funding in that area.
On the issue of registration of all firearms and owners, I do not support total registration of all firearms. I do not support the registration of long arms - rifles, shotguns and so on. I think the system we have in place with respect to handguns is adequate and we do not need further regulations with respect to registering handguns. I do not think it is even practical to think about registering long arms. I am absolutely in opposition to that. I think it is impractical and I do not think there has been any common sense applied to it. I do not think there has been one ounce of practicality applied to it. It is simply an initiative that some group thought was a good idea and has lobbied the Liberal government and has convinced the Liberal Party to make it part of their policy.
Further education, safe handling and proper use of handguns - no gun club members dispute or disagree with that, and we already have that in place. I think provisions should be made for genuine gun collectors to possess military or para-military weapons. With respect to ammunition, I am opposed to a specific age requirement for the sale of ammunition. That is my position on the record.
I want to make one last comment. I understand, from some information I have, that the federal government has indicated in some of their internal communications that they know that such a system - meaning the total registration of firearms - could not be implemented without the full cooperation and support of provincial and territorial governments. My advice to this government is to take a very strong and tough position and just tell the federal government that it is going to refuse to participate in this. They will have my support in taking that position.
I think it is time to stop thinking that Mr. Rock is going to listen to us and that he
may do something in our best interest here in the Yukon. I think it is time to lobby the
ministers who have the ear of Mr. Rock, to lobby other politicians who have his ear, to
lobby other Members of Parliament who can put pressure on Mr. Rock, and to lobby groups
and organizations that can put pressure on him and make his life miserable. I think it is
time for those provinces who do not agree with this initiative to stand up and say,
"We are not going to cooperate with you. We are not going to participate in this, so
do not come ask us to do so."
Mr. Millar: I would like to take a few minutes to speak to the motion brought forward by the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin.
Basically, the motion urges us to appeal to the hon. Allan Rock, not to proceed with the proposed legislative changes. I will certainly be supporting this motion, as I have been doing some Christmas shopping around Whitehorse and I have noticed this to be a very hot topic. There are many people talking about this subject in the coffee shops, hallways and stores. There is a lot being said both for and against the different parts of this proposed legislation.
It is quite refreshing to see that everyone seems to be coming from the same direction. I, like the Minister of Health and Social Services, found myself for the first time totally agreeing with what the Member for Faro said. It is good to see that there are some issues on which we all agree.
I think the intent of what Mr. Rock is trying to do is good. I think he is trying to improve public safety and deter the criminal use of firearms, and I wholly applaud that attempt. However, I am not at all convinced that some of the things contained in this legislation will accomplish those goals. I think there are some good things and I would like to quickly go through some of them.
For example, the criminal sanctions and what they are planning to do about people who break the law is good. I think there are laws on the books right now that, if enforced, would certainly go a long way toward addressing those problems. I believe the Member for Faro mentioned that there were recently new laws introduced. With regard to the handgun legislation that was brought in - I can speak from personal experience - about having them in lock boxes or safes and equipped with trigger locks - it was a bit of an inconvenience in our family. Not that we have a lot of handguns, but we do have one. My point is: we do not know if that legislation has been effective, or if it accomplished what the government of that time intended. Things such as this should be reviewed.
The smuggling of firearms is an issue on which I think we can all agree. We do not want this happening. I also have no problem with the banning of assault weapons, except in the case of legitimate gun collectors.
The very controversial aspect, which most people are objecting to, is the registration of firearms. I believe it could be a very cumbersome policy. I do not know what can be accomplished by it. As has been pointed out many times in this House today, criminals have access to weapons. If they want a gun, they can get one. All the registration policy will do is make law-abiding citizens, in some aspects of life, criminals. That is something with which I cannot agree. I do not understand why this is necessary at all.
One sector that would be adversely affected, as was mentioned by the Minister of Renewable Resources earlier, is the outfitting industry. This industry brings in millions of dollars each year to the territory.
The Liberal Member said that we do not want to have the same outlook on weapons as the Americans, and I would agree with him. However, there are a lot of Americans who come to this territory and support our big game outfitters. I honestly believe that many of them would not come if they had to register their weapons.
I will not be speaking any more to this issue; that is all I have to say.
Mr. McDonald: I will be brief, in order to allow everyone who has yet to speak to do so, and to permit our coming to a vote this afternoon. I support the motion for a variety of good reasons, a couple of which I will now relate.
Clearly, we, in the north, require more time to analyze the problems we have regarding the use of guns, and violent crime, in our community. I say that from the perspective of someone who is not, by nature, an eastern- or urban-basher. The people who reside in eastern communities, including my hometown of Kingston, Ontario, and people in Vancouver, Saskatoon and Ottawa, all have problems. As fellow Canadians, I feel that I have a vested interest in helping them solve their problems.
However, I believe, as other Members have stated, that we should not provide our support, while sacrificing our interest in our own community. That is a reasonable position to take.
I agree with the notion that we should promote a safer society. I also agree that we should take actions that strike at the root of the problems we all face; we should not just hack away at the symptoms associated with those problems. We should not, knowingly, pass new laws or rules that restrict our lifestyles, when we are not sure if they will significantly improve safety.
There ought to be further research done to identify what precisely it is we are trying to achieve in designing an action plan to resolve our known problems.
Some people have said to me that they knew of a time in our community where the ownership of guns was widespread yet, at the same time, violence with guns was virtually unknown. People did not own guns to protect themselves from each other, but they did use them for subsistence lifestyle purposes and for recreational hunting. That is how they lived then, and how they want to continue to live.
I will not deal at length with all the elements this complicated issue involves, but I would like to briefly sample some statistics from the Canada Safety Council, and compare them with some of the elements of the federal gun control proposals. This will tell Members why I believe some of the measures being proposed will not achieve what they are meant to achieve and why, therefore, some of the measures will simply mean more cost and more intrusion into our lives, for no particularly good purpose.
The document that outlines the statistics is from the Canada Safety Council and exposes some of the statistics and trends we are facing, particularly with homicide in Canada. I will briefly relate them.
Guns are used in approximately 30 percent of homicides each year. There were 245 gun-related homicides in 1993 and, in the last 15 years, most gun-related murders were committed with rifles and shotguns. Despite the highly publicized incidents of random violence, most Canadian murder victims are killed by family members and acquaintances, and not by strangers. Most Canadian murder victims are murdered during the course of an argument or dispute, not during another crime, such as robbery or sexual assault.
Over 40 percent of the women killed by their husbands each year are shot. A recent study on domestic violence by the Department of Justice indicated that most of those were shot and killed with rifles and shotguns - 80 percent - and most of the guns used were legally owned at the time of the shooting - 78 percent.
Given those trends, and that statistical base, it is doubtful that the registration of firearms will help reverse the trend. Consequently, one would have to draw the conclusion that some of the elements of the federal proposals are misdirected and, consequently, unnecessary. Obviously, more time is needed to express our views and to open a proper dialogue with the federal minister.
I would like to end by saying that I would like to ask our own Justice Minister to communicate with the federal Justice Minister that we would like a real dialogue with that minister. We do not like, and I find objectionable, the notion that unelected people in our community, who happen to own a Liberal Party card, will act as gatekeepers in deciding who can participate in a federally funded - by taxpayers - public consultation process.
The staff of the Minister protested that they did not have an MP to lead the
discussions in the Yukon.
They may not have had an MP, but the Yukon people have an MP, and that is what counts.
I would ask our Justice Minister if, in his meetings with other Justice Ministers in
Canada and with the federal Justice Minister, that he urge Mr. Rock, if he is a person who
truly believes in proper consultation, to make efforts to have a proper dialogue with
Yukoners in an open and public way, and that we not have more of those unseemly events
where local Liberal Party members are keeping elected people, and other interested persons
in this territory - the public - from meeting with the federal Justice Minister. I say
this because I think it is a very important issue, and may have been one of the reasons we
felt it necessary today to review why we feel the federal gun proposals do not meet the
needs of northerners.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I guess I have learned one lesson: you do not want to speak near the end of this discussion, because everybody has said just about everything that you think, so some of it is going to have to be repeated here. There is no question about that.
The regulation of firearms is probably one of the most emotional issues that has come along for a long time. There is certainly a great division, and it is very apparent that the large urban population in southern Canada has a very different view of the use of firearms from the majority of northern Canadians. Many rural Canadians need rifles to earn a living, to enjoy hunting, or to live off the land. It is very obvious to me that Ottawa is appeasing voters in the highly populated areas in the east at the expense of rural Canadians and, particularly, Canadians in the north.
I wholeheartedly agree that guns manufactured for the purpose of a war should be restricted and, if they are made available to gun collectors, those guns should be disabled. It is not the restriction of guns made for war that I am concerned with. I agree that this type of gun, for a collector, should be allowed to come in registered, but disabled, so that it cannot be used.
My main concern is with rifles used for hunting. Hunting rifles are very rarely used in urban robberies or murder. Some people here will say that is not true, but I challenge them to show me the figures. I do know that such rifles have been used in cases of domestic violence, but is there any evidence that registration would prevent that? I doubt that you can find that evidence anywhere.
I do agree that people who misuse guns should lose them. I do not accept, as a Member said, that there should be a penalty of four years for murder and 10 for smuggling. I hope I heard that wrong. It should be the other way around. It really bothers me when persons smuggling get more than someone who takes a life. I have a problem with that one.
In this time of fiscal restraint, the tremendous cost that this bureaucracy is going to create is a concern, and we are now going to get into another bureaucracy. All governments are saying we have to cut bureaucracy, and now we are creating another one - and one that will not work. The PC government tried this once already, and it failed miserably. I wonder what is going to happen on the third go-around. Will they take guns away from everybody and just leave the criminals with them, leaving the rest of us with no guns to enjoy our lifestyles?
I understand that law enforcement agencies are in favour of registration. I think I can understand the reason for a lot of that. Firstly, the courts are not enforcing the laws that are already there. There are plenty of laws, but our courts have become so weak that they do not put anybody in jail any more. They put them on probation and back on the street, and they can go and get a gun right down the next block, because it was smuggled in. This is happening all over the place. They let them out of jail and place them on probation and, immediately,cthey are back - armed and ready to go.
Those are criminals; they are not the ordinary people who have guns.
The argument that people should be required to pay a fee to own a firearm does not make sense to me. To pay for a driver's licence and a licence for a vehicle, I can understand and agree with, because that money is used to maintain the highways. It makes no sense to make people pay to register the guns they have at home.
The federal government's proposed firearms registration policy will be a hindrance to northern hunters and trappers. The government is proposing such a policy, because it is unable to control the criminal element - that is practically admitted, day after day. It is highly unlikely that the criminal element will ever register their weapons, so the people being punished are the law-abiding citizens, and particularly those in rural and northern Canada.
I ask that the Government of Canada take into account the lifestyles of northern Canadians prior to amending their former policy. I would also point out that the First Nations are not the only ones who live off the land. People from a lot of other cultures also do that, and they should be included in this.
Many of the First Nations, and some of the other cultures who live off the land, cannot read or write. Now, we are going to force them to register something they have used in their lifestyle for years. This does not make a lot of sense.
They have lived this lifestyle for many years and then, all of a sudden, as the Member for Mayo-Tatchun says, the modern world has come along and taken all the rights away. Let us stop and look at some of those rights. They were a lot happier living then than now.
In closing, I would like to make the following statement: the charge has been made that
suicides committed in the Yukon are committed largely with rifles. There is no evidence
that, if those rifles were registered, they would not be used to commit suicide. We are
wasting time, and spending a lot of money, but we are not getting into the issue. Suicide
is a horrible, I suppose you would say, disease. I do not know if a doctor would accept
that, but you are not going to prevent it by registering a firearm. I do not have the
answer for suicide, but I know that registering guns is not going to stop it.
Ms. Moorcroft: Gun control is a difficult and complex issue. Initially, I thought when we were discussing this at our caucus table this morning, that I could just not speak, but we all have a responsibility to address issues, e
ven when there are no easy answers. The problem is we have a violent society. I certainly do not believe for one minute that because we are a northern community we are immune to violence. I think ready access to firearms is part of the problem.
I talked to my constituents who are gun owners, and I own a couple of guns myself. I do not have any problem with people owning guns who are not going to misuse them.
Allan Rock's proposal suggests a national registry for firearms. That is certainly the most contentious proposal that he has put forward. The proposal that assault weapons and other particularly dangerous weapons that have no legitimate uses should be banned is one that I think most Members agree with.
The measures calling for criminal penalties and prohibitions where there are convictions of attempted murder, manslaughter, criminal negligence causing death, robbery, kidnapping, hostage-taking, sexual assault with a weapon, aggravated sexual assault, extortion and discharging a firearm with intent to cause harm are certainly crimes for which, I think we have all agreed, people should be prohibited from future firearm use.
There is a wide-spread feeling, as we have heard today, that the legislation will be both expensive and it will be an administrative hassle to register all firearms. We must ask ourselves, and do the research, to find out if a national registry will save lives. If a national registry will allow a police officer to be aware that there is a firearm, and take it away from someone who has threatened violence against another person, then we should look at registration.
We have to ask if a registration system will mean there is less money for law enforcement. The larger issues are the issues of justice in our society. I believe the major problem that underlies the issue of gun control is the need to change our legal system, so that crimes against people are regarded with as much seriousness as crimes against property.
The federal Department of Justice conducted a study that found police rarely seize firearms from homes where they respond to what are termed as domestic calls - police response when a woman's life is being threatened.
I would like to tell a story that was related to me by a friend who called the police when her husband threatened to kill her with his gun. The police officer came and took statements from my friend, who did not want to leave the home, because her infant was sleeping and it was late at night. After taking statements, the police officer prepared to leave. The woman was put in the position of pleading with the police officer to take the gun away. The officer turned to her husband and asked, "Do we have to take the gun, sir?"
I would like to believe that attitudes have changed. The Criminal Code of Canada, for many years, has made it an offence to threaten someone's life with the use of a gun.
I would like to believe that that law is being enforced by police officers who are called to the scene of what is euphemistically called domestic violence. Violence against women is of enormous magnitude in our society. Feminists recommend that the safety of women and children should be the first consideration in what is a just and appropriate sentence. I will return to that in a moment.
We look at how this has been dealt with and how changes have been made around the country. In Manitoba, a family violence court has been established. Yukon First Nations are involved in community justice initiatives. As I understand it, community justice is a form of acknowledging the harm that has been done to others, and where the community decides the consequences for the offending behaviour, with the offender and the injured party present.
I believe that we all need to look at ways of reducing the risk of repeat offences, including restricted access to firearms. I think there is a need in our general society to have prosecutors, police officers and judges more accountable to the public. This means such changes as devolving the federal Crown attorney's office to the Yukon government. This means appointing advocates to the Legal Services Society's board. Our legal system is not responsive to victims. We need more women police officers who are often successfully able to diffuse violent situations. It also means that we have to continue the work of having police officers and women's shelters working together on responding more appropriately to the women who are the victims of violent men.
We have heard a lot of talk this afternoon about northern communities, aboriginal culture, trapping, recreation and subsistence hunting. All of us - myself included - support the aboriginal culture and their right to trap, hunt and fish. I believe that prospectors and others who do business in the bush should be able to carry a handgun with them, if that is the most effective weapon against bears and if that is what they need for their safety. However, we also have to recognize that violence against women is not only an urban problem. I think we all know, and can remember, the deaths of women in the Yukon who have been killed by men with guns. Some of the women whom I knew, before they were killed, had reported being threatened. Even though this is a crime, even though threatening to kill someone is against the law, guns were not taken away from the men who threatened those women's lives. They are now dead.
Suicide by firearms also accounts for three-quarters of all deaths in Canada. Mr.
Speaker, you were one of two Members who travelled around the Yukon looking at suicide in
the Yukon. You recommended the safe storage of guns as one of the ways of dealing with
that problem. A home with a gun is three times more likely to be the scene of a homicide,
and five times more likely to be the scene of a suicide, than a home without a gun.
The proportion of completed suicides is highest when it is attempted with a firearm.
It seems that reducing access to guns will save lives. The Canadian Centre for Justice statistics recently reported that almost half of those who kill a family member have a prior criminal record for violence. Existing criminal code provisions take guns away from people who commit violent crimes. It is very disturbing, therefore, to read transcripts of courtroom decisions where judges apologize for mandatory prohibitions on weapons ownership that accompany convictions.
Sexual assaults are not necessarily viewed as crimes of violence by the sentencing judge. I believe education for judges must be part of the solution, and must be something into which the federal government directs some of its money.
A victim-centered approach should be used in the prosecution and sentencing of convicted crimes of violence against women and children. We need to make use of existing provisions in the Criminal Code, and we need to make sure that prosecutors do not plea-bargain away firearms charges, without even discussing this with the victims. I am very pleased to have heard the Members opposite making exactly those points in debate this afternoon.
We are all concerned about public safety and about reducing crime. I am very concerned that we need social change, and the Member for Mayo-Tatchun has reminded me to speak to the need for change, and for funding to deal with drug and alcohol addictions, because a large number of crimes are committed because people have problems with addictions.
I hope that the Yukon government will look at ways of improving public safety for all
Yukon citizens, and I hope that the federal government will be looking at ways of meeting
the needs of Yukoners in these proposed changes. I think we all need to understand that
targeting legitimate gun owners will not result in fewer deaths. We all need to understand
that social change is necessary, and we have to work on reducing the crime in our society
and on having a less violent society.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I rise today in full support of this motion. I want to say, for the record, that I am fundamentally opposed to the legislation proposed by the federal Justice Minister.
The legislation that is being discussed in, as many Members have pointed out, very closed circles and very closed forums, is, in my opinion, flawed - totally flawed. It was interesting to watch and listen to the Member for Riverside trying to defend the indefensible. Until he finished his speech, I was unsure whether he was going to support the motion, or go against it. I understand that he has the same philosophical beliefs as the federal minister, but he also represents a Yukon riding. I would urge that Member to use all of his political influence within the Liberal Party to kill this legislation.
The Hon. Brian Evans, the Minister of Justice for Alberta, said on television the other night that Albertans would do everything within their legal power to railroad this legislation. I believe that we should do the same here in the Yukon.
This is not an issue of north versus south. This is an issue of a Liberal Party that is not prepared to use the legislation that is now available to put in stiffer penalties - and not even stiffer penalties. They have only to enforce the legislation that is in place now, and that would go a long way toward solving the problem that many Canadians are facing. The Member for McIntyre-Takhini is absolutely right. This is a problem in some jurisdictions of Canada, but I believe they are trying to address problems in major urban centres with a broad brush, which is going to catch every Canadian in the net and do absolutely nothing to reduce violent crime in urban centres in Canada.
There is a rural Ontario, a rural New Brunswick, and a rural Saskatchewan, where the issue is the same as it is in the Yukon. The registration of firearms is not the answer to the problem that is facing Canadians today. I believe that if the Liberal government is to continue with this farce of trying to use smoke-and-mirrors legislation to say that it has done something to correct violent crime in Canada, it is not going to accomplish very much and only add to the problem.
One of the problems that has been related to me by quite a few Yukoners over the last few weeks and months, as this debate has continued, is with respect to buying ammunition. Many Yukoners have told me that they are going to stock up on ammunition prior to this legislation coming into effect. They are fundamentally against this legislation and are going to oppose it. They will not adhere to it, they will not register their firearms, and they will store up ammunition, so they do not have to get a permit to buy it. This is going to add to the problem. I am not going to say it is going to add to the violent criminal problem out there, but it could add to potential suicides, and other such issues, which the federal government is also trying to alleviate with this legislation. It will not accomplish that.
I share many of the concerns that the Member for Whitehorse Centre brought up about suicide in our communities, especially in some of the aboriginal communities, being committed with a firearm. I share those concerns. There are very, very valid concerns. The registration of rifles will not address that problem. What we need to do - and if the Liberal government is on the right track, they would be looking to implementing educational programs - is to teach people how to properly handle rifles and to have respect for rifles. Members on both sides of the House have said it is not the rifle, it is the person behind the rifle. That is the truth. I think we all agree with that.
If I thought for one moment that that legislation would save innocent lives, I would be able to half-heartedly support it, but I believe the legislation is taking the wrong direction. All we are going to do is create more bureaucracy, as has been mentioned today, and our society will not be any better off for it.
The Member for Mount Lorne said that we need judges to impose stiffer sentences, and I fully agree with that position. She says that we have to take rifles away from people in domestic disputes; I agree. If people are threatening people, they should be punished. I do not think there is anyone who would not agree with that philosophy. Guns are used in many violent situations. Again, I want to reiterate that I do not believe the registration of firearms will solve that problem.
The Member for Kluane said that he supported the banning of military assault rifles, and for the most part I agree. They are not a tool that you can use for hunting. You can use them on a gun range, but they should be treated as such - registered with a gun club and stored at the gun club. I do not think it is necessary to have liberal laws for military assault rifles, and I support that portion of the legislation.
I am not going to be speaking a long time, because everything that needs to be said about this bill has been said quite well today. I would like to respond to a statement made by the Member for Riverdale South by saying that in my capacity as Government Leader I will fight this legislation to the bitter end. I am sure that my Justice Minister will also do that.
I feel very strongly about this and I believe that this motion is going to pass
unanimously. I do not know if we need to amend the motion in order to do this, but I would
urge that this motion not only be sent to the Justice Minister, but a copy also be sent to
every MP and every senator who represents Canadians in Parliament. Let us let them know
that the Yukon is not going to buy into this legislation, and that we will fight it to the
Mr. Penikett: Let me begin by saying that I am opposed to the gun control provisions that Mr. Rock has outlined, but my view is a little different from the Government Leader's. To say that there is no problem with guns in our society is, in my opinion, a myopic point of view.
I was recently reading a very celebrated American social philosopher, who has written in defence of the constitutional right to bear arms. The gentleman has pointed out that if everybody in the United States exercised their right to bear arms and went around with a loaded weapon on their person at all times, the United States would become, very suddenly, a very, very polite society - something it is not now. There is a reason for that, and the reason is obvious. It is because strange men with loaded guns are scary.
If you have ever been into a country that is a police state or is a scene of insurrection, being on streets where there are 17 and 18 year olds with submachine guns - even if they are uniformed police officers - is very, very scary. I think it does us no credit, in speaking in favour of this motion and speaking in defence of the traditions of this territory and the long hunting and trapping traditions of the First Nations, to ignore the fact that there are some very, very serious problems with firearms, as has been mentioned today.
If I may, I want to refer to some observations made by a constituent of mine - Paula Pasquali - who spoke on this question at a recent meeting in Whitehorse. She pointed out that the problem with the current debate is that it is often fairly simple-minded to state whether you are for gun control or opposed to gun control, rather than, as the Member for Mount Lorne pointed out, having, as a starting point for the discussion, the questions: how do we have a safe society; how do we reduce the risk to people from accidents, or conscious, deliberate violence, or, perhaps, even the violence of the mentally deranged, who have access to firearms.
It is important, as other Members have said, to point out that we have to take note of the number of deaths by firearms and note that, contrary to the numbers indicated by one Member opposite, three-quarters of all deaths by firearms in Canada are suicides. There is something like 1,000 suicides per year in this country, and about one-third of those suicides are done with guns.
I think it is pretty hard to ignore the relationship between gun ownership and overall suicide rates, as well as suicide by firearms. I think it is also clear that reducing access to guns does not lead to an increase in alternative means of suicide. The point about suicide with guns is that the termination of a person's life is instant and immediate, usually. If they choose alternate methods, such as pills, slashing of the wrists, or any of the other methods, the death is slow, and there is often a chance to salvage the life and, perhaps, even restore the person to some kind of mental health.
The truth is that there is a case to be made that, for some people, reducing access to guns may save lives. The kind of people I am referring to are people with a history of violence, people with mental health problems and others. There may be a case to be made in the criminal justice system for limiting or denying their access to guns.
Someone mentioned that in 1993, there were 193 firearm homicides in Canada, and that was roughly one-third of all the homicides. Approximately one-half of these homicide victims were women, killed by their current or ex-husband. If we are looking at this problem, we should be looking, as my constituent has suggested, at concentrating on the problem of domestic homicides where, as she said, the homicide is likely to be a culmination of a history and a pattern of escalating violence.
The Member for Mount Lorne referred to statistics from the Canadian Centre for Justice, which found that almost one-half of those who killed family members have a prior criminal record for violence.
It is interesting that homicides by handguns have increased, over the last four to five years, from 30 to 50 percent of all handguns. The argument that I am sure will be made by Mr. Rock is that reducing the availability of handguns may have an effect on national homicide rates.
The fact of the matter, though, is that we must agree that as my constituent has pointed out, cracking down on illegally owned firearms would probably have a small effect on domestic suicides, and that creating a national registry of guns, as Mr. Rock has suggested, probably would do absolutely nothing to prevent death by suicide.
One point that she has made is that, in a study funded by the Department of Justice, the research has found that the police rarely seize weapons in homes where they respond to domestic calls, even though they know of their power to do so, and are aware of the extent to which firearms are used against women.
I think there is a reasonable proposition to be made that taking guns away from violent people, even violent people who rely on hunting and trapping, is something that the justice system may have to face. I do not think that you have to take food off the family table or take the hunter or trapper away from their livelihood, but if someone has had a history of spousal violence or family violence - and especially if they have a record of firearms assaults and abuses - it seems to me that the courts could easily - and I am not a lawyer - require that such a person, who needed the weapon for their livelihood, would have to store it in some place other than their home. Options would be perhaps storing it on the trapline or in some other secure place.
I want to pay tribute, as others have done, to the report done in 1989 by the Member for Porter Creek South and the Member for Watson Lake, where they noted that the public should be made aware that guns were the main means of committing suicide, and there should be a campaign to encourage the implementation of safe storage of guns and ammunition. They also reference a national task force report, entitled Suicides In Canada, where it is noted that one of the facts responsible for the high rate of completed suicides among native Canadians is the availability of firearms. They also noted, and I quote, "It is the opinion of the task force members that a public awareness campaign aimed at telling people how to avoid easy access to guns would be beneficial in reducing the possibility that they will be used for suicide."
I think those were useful comments. It is a regrettable reality, as is noted in the Member's report, that the suicide rate for Indian persons is significantly higher than that of the non-Indian population, with self-inflicted gunshot wounds accounting for 78 percent of the completed suicides, which is 2.4 times the national rate. The Member's report notes, "This fact may help explain the high rate of suicide in the Yukon, in that firearms are more lethal than most other methods, and are probably more accessible and prevalent in the Yukon."
This view was confirmed in the report entitled Community Health Status Assessment of the Yukon, by Dr. Paul Cappon, who is a nationally-renowned epidemiologist and specialist in community medicine. He noted in his report of January 1991 that much of the reduced life expectancy among Yukon males was accounted for by an excessive probability of death during youth. For example, a life expectancy gap between Canada and the Yukon Territory of 2.34 during infancy, increases to 3.36 by age 5 to 9, and remains a difference of 3.25 by age 15 to 19. You will see that much of this difference is attributable to excessive male death in the Yukon from preventable causes.
He goes on to point out, "In contrast, the excessive native probability of dying from injury averages 86 percent in a territory in which both the average probability of dying from an accident and from suicide is already in excess of Canadian norms, which are themselves unacceptably high. Native mortality from injury merits special attention for those responsible for health and safety interventions in the Yukon." He then makes note of a feature of such health centre reports, which is the potential years of life lost, which is an indicator. He points out, in a section entitled Suicide, A Special Problem, that "the rates of suicide attempts and mortality are an important indicator of community health, which may relate to many economic, cultural and social variables." I agree with that statement.
I also agree where, on page 23 of his report, he states, "One reason for the extremely high rate of suicide in the Yukon, relative to Canada, is the fact that more attempts in this territory are actually completed. This is due to the use of firearms in 78 percent of Yukon suicides, a more lethal method of suicide than others."
This was a point made by the Member for Porter Creek South and the Member for Watson Lake in their report.
Dr. Cappon goes on to say, "Easy access and prevalence of firearms in the Yukon also explains this choice of method." He indicates that the person years of male life lost to suicide is the highest in the country, and is increasing more rapidly than in any other region. The mortality from suicides among males appears to be stabilizing in Canada, as in many industrialized countries. The Yukon's increasing rates run counter to trends.
I will not speak at length, because I want to make sure that the mover of the motion has a chance to conclude the debate, and so that we can vote. I want to say that I have agreed with many of the things said by other Members about the importance of guns as tools, not just in the traditional lifestyle, but also in the recreational lives of many of our citizens. However, I am concerned about the motion, especially when it comes from public policy makers, that guns are not a problem. I am concerned - and we may want to ask questions about this later - about whether or not we have done enough as a territory - not just as a nation - about the suicide rates, and the fact that so many involve guns, and the violent deaths from guns in family violence situations. These issues should be the subject of a debate some Wednesday afternoon in this House.
I will say that I agree completely with the points made by Members about the
effectiveness of the existing laws. The measures that are already in place have not been
tested. Their efficacy has not been established. I am not someone who believes that
registration, which seems to be the central proposition of the Rock measures, will achieve
any of the objectives alleged for it, even in the case of family violence. I was reading
the Rock proposals, which suggested that registration would allow the police to come to
the house with the knowledge of what weapons were in it. Rather than have the police
search through files to find out what weapons were in the house, I would much rather they
respond quickly - which is sometimes a problem - to the domestic violent situation, and
get in there an intervene, rather than do a computer search. Perhaps computer technology
and the expenditures of large sums of money would make it possible to do that, but,
frankly, that argument is not persuasive for me. I do not believe that the registration,
in and of itself, would address what I believe is the serious problem that I - and others
- have mentioned this afternoon.
Speaker: If the Member now speaks he will close debate. Does any other Member
wish to speak?
Mr. Abel: I would like to thank the Members of this House for supporting this
motion. I hope that the Hon. Alan Rock listens to our concerns, and that he reconsiders
the gun control legislation before taking it to Parliament.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Question.
Speaker: Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called. Mr. Clerk, would you poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Agreed.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Agreed.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Agreed.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Agreed.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Agreed.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Agreed.
Mr. Abel: Agreed.
Mr. Millar: Agreed.
Mr. Penikett: Agreed.
Mr. McDonald: Agreed.
Ms. Commodore: Agreed.
Mr. Joe: Agreed.
Ms. Moorcroft: Agreed.
Mr. Harding: Agreed.
Mr. Cable: Agreed.
Mrs. Firth: Agreed.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are sixteen yea, nil nay.
Speaker: I declare the motion carried unanimously.
Motion No. 23 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is it the wish of the Members to take a recess until 7:30 p.m.?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are dealing with Bill No. 35, entitled An Act to Amend the Agricultural Products Act.
Bill No. 35 - An Act to Amend the Agricultural Products Act - continued
Hon. Mr. Fisher: When we get into the line-by-line section of the bill, I will be proposing two amendments. I would like to thank the Member for Riverside for pointing out one of them - the substitution of "repealed" for "amended". There was a difference between the French and the English text. The French was correct and the English was wrong. There will be an amendment for that.
The other was adding the word "private" after the expression "occasional".
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Would the Member like to do it?
During line-by-line debate, I will be bringing those amendments forward.
On the explanation of "occasional sale," we discussed this term after the
session last night. The department talked about it today, and had quite a go-around about
it. I have some notes here. Further to the Member's questions yesterday regarding the use
of the term "occasional sale", I would like to provide some comments.
Upon further consideration of the options available, it was decided that it would not be suitable to arbitrarily pick a number or percentage of animals that could be sold for meat. To do so would artificially create limitations that may not reflect the reality of operating a game farm. "Occasional sales'' is the most suitable term to use, as it directly reflects the realities of game farm operations. For example, game farm animals culled for meat are those that do not have value for breeding stock or velvet production. These are primarily male animals that may have limited value in any given year in the marketplace. Another reason to cull animals would be to prevent the herd from exceeding the operational capacity of the farm.
We will just use a hypothetical example. If for instance in a given year a game farmer had 50 cows that had calves, and if 46 of those calves turned up to be bulls - now this has never happened but it could hypothetically happen - then that year he may very well want to sell 40 of those bull calves because, generally speaking, the bulls are not nearly as valuable as the heifers for shipment to outside game farms.
The following year, one would have mostly heifers, with no need to sell any bulls. That is one of the reasons it would be very difficult to determine the number that a farmer could sell.
Given that a game farm operator has limited control over the population dynamics of the herd, and no control over the marketplace, the term "occasional" is the most suitable one to address these constantly changing realities. In the Yukon to date, the experience is that this is only one or two animals every year on any farm.
The provisions regarding the sale of meat under the proposed game farming regulations require records to be kept for all sales made. These records are to be provided to the Minister on an annual basis. This will allow the department to track the sale of meat at the farm gate.
In addition, section 19(3) provides a mechanism to allow for the sale of game farm meat at the farm gate. For enforcement and compliance purposes, the term "occasional sale" is defined as infrequent or irregular sales. The enforcement of the provision will be at the discretion of the inspectors appointed under the act. Inspectors can monitor the records of game farm meat sales from each farm to see if an operator is selling products more frequently than the norm established by other operations.
Inspectors have the authority, under this act, to order an operator to stop making frequent sales. In the case of a dispute between an operator and the inspector regarding decisions or orders made by the inspector, the act provides for an appeal process.
Mr. Harding: I said to the Minister yesterday - or whenever it was we were last debating this issue - that I would not raise a huge fuss over this particular issue. When the Minister introduced his comments and his explanation to this bill, he defined "occasional sale" as infrequent and irregular, and basically wrapped up on that same note tonight. It is not a particularly critical issue. I do not believe, and I never intended, that there be a two-elk or a two-musk-ox limit, or anything like that. My suggestion mainly is to define the intent of an "occasional sale". It could be words to the effect of "infrequent" or "irregular", but the word "occasional" could just as easily do that. I will not push that particular issue any further with the Minister. I thank the department for undertaking to thoroughly analyze the question that I raised.
The next issue that I want to move on to is the specifics of the bill - and it will probably get us into the muddier issues in this particular legislation - and, in particular, the inclusion of 1(d), which states "any other animal named under the Game Farm Regulations made under the Wildlife Act" in the definitions of section 1 of the Agricultural Products Act. Yesterday, in debate, the Minister said, for a number of reasons, we are going to have to revisit this act, but when I raised this issue initially, he said he did not want to bring in another bill to change 1(d) if that was going to expand the list because it would be an administrative problem. There is a very big inconsistency here. If the Minister is acknowledging that he is going to have to come back to this act, has no problem with it, and things will be changing in the future, then I think there is no need at this point, if he knows that is going to be the case, to insert 1(d), because that leaves me with the impression that there is consideration of an expansion of the list. I am going to get into that debate in a little while.
Can the Minister tell me why he feels that that has to be included? Is it critical that it is included? In the game farming regulations, I feel that we are talking about three particular species of animals. I do not understand why he would insist on having 2(d) to expand that particular list, or make it much easier. Because we have to revisit this bill later, in conjunction with other things surrounding the sale of game meat, I do not understand why we could not remain consistent throughout this legislation and the game farming regulations.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Again, we discussed this in fair detail last night. The department worked on it again today. I will read the notes I have.
Subsection 2(d) provides for the inclusion of any other animal named in the game farm regulations, made under the Wildlife Act. The proposed game farm regulations are explicit in defining what species are permitted as game animals. They are rocky mountain elk, wood bison and musk-ox. Any proposed changes to the list of permitted species, under the regulations, would require a full 60-day public review, under the Environment Act. This would provide the forum for public discussion on amending the list of allowable animals. The review would be carried out in cooperation with the Yukon Fish and Game Wildlife Management Board.
Proposed wildlife regulation changes are made available at all government offices and sent directly to all First Nations. They are advertised in both local newspapers, are sent directly to stakeholders and interest groups, and are available to any member of the public upon request.
If a decision is then made by Cabinet to change the permitted species, it would be done by regulation under the Wildlife Act. The reason for including subsection 2(d), under the Agricultural Products Act, at this time, is to provide for consistency with proposed regulations, and provide consistency if the list of permitted species is amended in the future.
Given that any changes to the list of allowable species under the Wildlife Act
is subject to a comprehensive public review, I believe that all concerns would be
adequately addressed through that process.
Mr. Harding: The Minister has made my point regarding consistency. In my view, it is not consistent. There are three animals specified in the game farm regulations, and I think that was done cognizantly. I have read some of the old discussion regarding what should be listed and what should not be. The Agricultural Products Act has a section 1(d) inserted, which has the effect, as far as I can tell, of removing any opportunity I might have as the critic to debate this issue in the Legislature in any forum other than during Question Period. I find that process flawed, in that I cannot really explore the issue. One of the frustrating things about the game farming issue appears to be that there is a lack of time in the Legislature where we would be allowed to discuss or debate issues about the game farming regulations.
There were a lot of issues involved in the development of the regulations, and I guess we will discuss some of them tonight. I suppose that general debate on the budget affords another opportunity, but there are usually so many issues to cover that it is sometimes more practical when there is a specific bill in which to debate the principles that the government is trying to bring into the legislation.
I do have a problem - a bone of contention to pick with the Minister - about his point that section 1(d) makes this Agricultural Products Act consistent with the wildlife regulations. I think it is not consistent. In my mind, if it was consistent it would have listed three species. It might make it consistent in the future, but at this point it is not consistent.
I would suggest to the Minister that a 60-day public review is something I support. It should happen, as it was put into the legislation by the previous administration, and I applaud that. As a person who is supposed to be responding to bills in the Legislature, I also feel that consistency is important, and that the issue of the insertion of section 1(d) does not make the Agricultural Products Act consistent now, but perhaps it will do so in the future.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The problem I have with it is that if the game farm operators were to include another species - and, for example, the Yukon Game Farm has 10 different species of animals - into the regulations for whatever reason, then to change the legislation of the Agricultural Products Act may take a very long time. It takes 60 days to change the regulations and there is public consultation required about whether it should happen or should not happen. If it were included, then the legislation under the Agricultural Products Act would have to be changed, which could be quite a long time later.
I do not see that being a problem right now, but it may very well be at some future time when they want to add mule deer or rocky mountain sheep to the list of species.
Mr. Harding: That is not a very valid argument for not accepting what I have said because, at this point, there are three species on the game farming list. They have been there since the regulations were adopted in March of this particular year. We have been with a revision to the Agricultural Products Act since then, and the game farming industry has not stopped dead in its tracks, so to speak. So, I do not understand how that is a valid argument in this case.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The regulations have not yet been passed. I think the Member may be referring to the policy.
I do have some problems with it, but if it is going to mean the passage of this bill, I would entertain an amendment to remove section 2(d). Again, I really and truly cannot see the relevance. If anything, if you were to add species, it would provide more control than what is currently in place for the species that are not included in the game farm regulations.
Mr. Harding: I thank the Minister for that answer. I should point out that everything has been trucking along; nothing has stopped with or without the new game farming policy issued in the press release of March 31, 1994, with or without the regulations being in final form.
What is the status of the regulations? Will they be brought before the Legislature?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The regulations will be going to Cabinet very shortly.
Mr. Harding: What public review process was in place for those regulations after the March 31 time frame?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I believe I read the consultation process out last night. I believe October 12, 1994, was the final day of the 60-day review process. I have some notes here - if Members will bear with me for a moment.
June 11 to August 12, the final stage in the public consultation process, was a 60-day review of the regulation proposal as required under the Environment Act. Thirteen responses were received.
Mr. Harding: The one other issue is with regard to the occasional sales of meat. At this point, there is nothing other than occasional sales of meat, if I am correct in understanding what the Minister said, and other sales of meat would not be allowed. That is why we have had to put the occasional sale of meat provision in the Agricultural Products Act - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: This is essentially farm-gate sales and it is occasional, private sales, which is the way that it is worded. It is meant for a small operation, as we stated earlier, where there are two or fewer animals sold per year or slaughtered for meat purposes.
Mr. Harding: The proposed third subsection for section 19(3) says, "A person may make an occasional sale of meat from a game animal the person owns...". It will say, "...occasional private sale of meat from a game animal the person owns if the processing of the game animal complies with the game farm regulations made under the Wildlife Act." If I read that and think about it, it basically says that none other than occasional private sales of game meat will be allowed. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, that is the intent under this particular piece of legislation.
Mr. Harding: Why, then, does the Wildlife Act game farm regulations have a section 29 discussing sale of game meat, which includes no mention of occasional or broad scope or any restriction whatsoever on sale of meat?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The game farm regulations are created to allow for expansion of the industry. If, at some future point in time, there is a call, or a market, or an ability to provide meat for commercial purposes, the game farm regulations will allow that.
Mr. Harding: And that would obviously require the Agricultural Products Act coming back into the Legislature for revision in order to accommodate that expansion; is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Yes, that is correct, and it would also require additional inspection, holdings facilities and those types of things.
Mr. Harding: There was a discussion paper put out in April of 1992 that talked about the issues surrounding game farming/game ranching. It is a policy from 1989. The definition of a game animal included a caribou, reindeer, rocky mountain elk, wood bison, musk-ox, deer and thin-horn sheep. It makes mention that other species or sub-species will not be permitted except for exhibition purposes in zoological parks.
This policy does not address fur bearers, birds of prey or other unnamed species. It is quite different than the policy of 1993, where the regulation proposals came up with a definition for rocky mountain elk, wood bison and musk-ox.
My question is this: if the Minister has told me that he would like to see an expanded list for the game farming industry, in order to further regulate it, why has the policy shifted to a much reduced list for game farm animals?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The list of three - musk-ox, rocky mountain elk and wood bison - was established following consultation with the industry. The Yukon Game Farm has, as I stated, 10 species, but the other seven are on the farm for viewing purposes. They are not considered to be game animals.
Mr. Harding: What did the other people, aside from people in the industry, think about that? Did they not express any opinions to the effect that they would like to see the regulation of any other animals, or was it just placed in the hands of the industry to decide what would and would not be regulated?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I understand that it was a compromise between the industry, some members of the public and the department. The list is limited to those three animals. They are the only animals that are currently farmed in the Yukon. Although there are other animals on the Yukon Game Farm, they are strictly for viewing purposes. The department, as well as some other interest groups, wanted to limit the number of animals that could be game farmed in the territory, at least at the beginning.
Mr. Harding: What was the reaction of the Council for Yukon Indians and the Yukon Fish and Game Association? What did those large organizations want in terms of regulations in the public consultation process?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not have all the comments that came back through the consultation process. Generally, though, I understand there were not many comments on the species, or the number of species, but there were some fears expressed that a large proliferation of game farm animals may cause additional problems. The idea was to limit the number and, in the future, if someone wanted to farm, for example, mule deer or thin-horn sheep, or some other species, they would have to go through the process and obtain that approval.
Mr. Cable: To avoid a protracted debate, as I understand the thrust of the game farming regulations, the Minister and his predecessor started with non-indigenous animals. I believe this was because of disease transmission and genetic pollution fears. I hear the Member for Faro saying that he is concerned that the list will be expanded to, I presume, indigenous animals. I hear the Minister saying that he does not want to run back into the Legislature to tack on other animals, such as llamas, which were mentioned yesterday.
If there is going to be an amendment dealt with, is the Minister prepared to restrict subsection 2(d) to any other non-indigenous animals, as a way of breaking this impasse?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: There may be a bit of confusion here. The regulations only allow indigenous animals, not non-indigenous. For instance, llamas are not covered by the regulations, at all. The idea is to allow indigenous animals. Then, if there is an escape of some sort, there is no possibility of contaminating the gene pool.
Mr. Cable: I am off on the wrong tangent, then. I thought the musk-ox was a
Whatever the definitions, can we work out some compromise relating to whatever the Minister wants to use as the common denominator for the enlargement of the game farm regulations, to prevent us from having to run back into the House if some other animals that do not pose a problem are added to the list?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Any future addition will have to be an indigenous animal - one that is here, or has been here in the past. For example, the reason the wood bison is included is that they were here in years past.
Mr. Cable: Correct me if I am wrong, but are the elk and wood bison now in the territory not offspring of animals brought in by previous administrations? So, in that sense they are non-indigenous.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: The definition of "indigenous" is that they once roamed in the Yukon Territory, so maybe we could bring back the mammoths, too. You know, we will have them in Doug's museum. That is why buffalo is included in the list. But the Member is absolutely right. The animals currently being game farmed in the territory are mostly - and all of the bison and elk - from somewhere other than the Yukon. I do not think that any of them were actually purchased or taken from the wild here.
Chair: Is there further general debate?
Mr. Harding: I thank the Member for Riverside for his efforts to break the log jam, but I am not sure if it is breakable. We might need some dynamite for that one. I do want to express some concern to the Minister over what I would consider to be some information that I was not aware of regarding this determination of regulation and how it was arrived at. Tonight he told me there was a compromise solution to determine what animals would be regulated and that there is a much-reduced list from what was on the original proposals.
The Minister said that the compromise was reached among the industry, some members of the public and the department. Now, I know of many members of the public who have expressed concern about the policy. I would like to review the petition of support for the industry that the Minister spoke of last night. I am sure it did not speak to the number of species. To me, it illustrates a narrow discussion on that particular issue. I would like to ask him who "some members of the public" were who were consulted regarding the list of regulated species.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I do not have a list of all of the groups that were consulted, nor do I have all of the responses. I understand that the list of groups for public consultation was kept quite small, because there was concern about genetic pollution. They felt that the list covers the animals that are currently being farmed in the territory and that was satisfactory to the industry at that time.
Mr. Harding: I understand the position of the industry. I am trying to ascertain the position of the Yukoners who do not necessarily have a private interest in the industry. To me, that is a critical point.
The species the Minister refers to that caused the narrowing down, because of the risk of genetic contamination, has already been stated by the Minister as those species that are being kept for wildlife viewing purposes. Those animals are in captivity. There is some risk whether or not the animals are being kept for wildlife viewing or game farming.
Is it still the practice that offspring from species that are kept for wildlife viewing can be sold? If so, how does that differ from a game-farming industry that is based almost entirely on the sale of offspring?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: To purchase an animal for viewing purposes or as a pet, it is a requirement for the purchaser to have a sundry permit under the wildlife regulations. I am concerned that the sundry permits do not have the teeth the regulations have, and that is why I would like to see a larger list of animals under the game farming regulations.
Mr. Harding: I guess that brings us right around in a circle. I have to admit that my view about the bill is changing as we go through this debate, because of what I am hearing from the Minister. He made a comment tonight that the Yukon Game Farm, for example, has 10 species of animals, three of which are now listed under the game farm regulations, and seven others which are not. I would expect, although I have never been out there, that some of those species are indigenous, including, for example, thin-horned sheep. Incidentally, I have never been invited out there, either.
The Minister said that if they choose to regulate the species, the list might be expanded - he was referring to the industry. My question is this: who is driving this bus, in terms of what is going to come under the domain of the game farm regulations? I have had a concern about the game farm regulations right from the beginning. I did not comment about it publicly, because I leave that to the public, but I raised it with the previous Minister and could never get an answer about it. I even had a briefing about it with the department official that is here with us tonight, but I never got a satisfactory answer.
As far as I am concerned, this is a fledging industry. We have talked in this bill about the fact that the Agricultural Products Act will have to be brought back in when the industry gets actively into meat sales. As of right now we are allowing occasional, private game meat sales. We have essentially the same situation in terms of indigenous species of wildlife viewing animals as we have with game farm animals.
I have the draft proposed regulations here from 1993, and, if I understand it correctly, it says that, with a sundry permit, as the Minister said, they can sell the offspring, which is the same situations that exists with game farming. What regulation would they fall under?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I suppose we are going around and around here. A game farmer can only sell a live game farm animal, like one of the three species named to another game farmer, or he can ship it out to an auction house in Alberta or Saskatchewan, or somewhere. The unfortunate thing that I see is that a non-game farm animal such as a mule deer could be sold to a member of the public. The interesting thing here is that they cannot sell it as meat but they could sell it as a live animal. You could take it home and tie it to your porch.
That is one of the things that is wrong with having this smaller number of species. The other thing is that I would like to extend an invitation to the Member opposite. If he wanted to come to my place some Sunday, I would certainly take him through the Yukon Game Farm.
Mr. Harding: Only if the Minister provides a bullet-proof vest. I might take him up on that one, but I will have to think about that. The Member for Riverside would obviously treat me with gentle kindness and perhaps the Member for Laberge might as well.
The simple, hard question then is this: if the Minister has all these concerns and this is what can happen with viewing wildlife and the offspring can be sold, which is a complaint I had awhile back, why then would do we not have any regulations about it, and why then would they not be considered game farmed?
If the Minister is prepared to answer that properly, I could very well see the 1(d)
being in the Agricultural Products Act fairly quickly.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: This one-line bill has caused a tremendous amount of debate, but it has been good debate.
The Member opposite is raising a point that was a topic of great debate when this bill came forward, in that it was limited to three species. I believe that the Minister has described the concern well; that they did not want to see the rapid expansion of game farming in the Yukon. However, at the same time, the Member opposite is probably of the same opinion as we are. If we are going to have an agricultural industry in the Yukon, game farming holds the greatest potential.
The department is trying to differentiate between a game farm for viewing and a game farm that will raise animals to sell either as breeding stock outside or as farm-gate sale for meat.
Mr. Harding: In some ways, I see the distinction the Government Leader has made. It is the same distinction that was made to me in the department when I was briefed, if I remember correctly. However, this was last year. It is now December 1994. We have, to use the Minister's words, a game farm with 10 species, three of which are regulated and seven which are not. They are all indigenous to the Yukon. To me, having seven species not regulated seems to be more cause for alarm with regard to the expansion of the game farming industry than the inclusion of more species in the existing regulations.
If the government is only going to allow wildlife viewing of three species, it would be different; however, the government has not made that distinction in law. They have only said that they will regulate the three species, and left it carte blanche as far as viewing goes. In fact, it is even more carte blanche than the game farming regulations, which at least, as the Ministers pointed out - and as I read in the regulations for the sale of live game animals - they would have to sell to another game operator. Someone could get started in the industry very quickly by picking up only wildlife viewing animals. They could acquire a few and become a game farmer. That could proliferate the industry far more quickly than if they were included in the game farming list.
Does the Minister understand my point? If so, what is he going to do about this
concern? He said last night in Hansard that he would like to expand the list and
that he would like to see it more inclusive, as he is concerned that some game farms,
under the auspices of wildlife viewing, are proliferating the industry.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am certainly not worried about the Yukon Game Farm flooding the market with non-game farm animals, but we are working on an animal health act, which will give us some ability to deal with animals. For instance, right now there are llamas in the territory - those are non-indigenous - that we essentially have no control over. Through the animal health legislation, we will be able to deal with animals coming into the territory - indigenous or non-indigenous - and will be able to regulate, to some extent, those particular animals.
Mr. Harding: That does not answer the question I asked. The Minister stated last night, "If anything, I would like to see more animals listed in here because we can in fact regulate those animals." He has made that comment, but, at the same time, he has a list of animals that are unregulated, and he lives right beside some that are unregulated as wildlife viewing animals. Other than the proposed Animal Health Act, what is he going to do to address that? He has already identified it as a concern, and that was identified as a concern by me over a year ago, when I commented on the proposed game farm regulations.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: All the animals that are currently held in captivity that are not game farm animals are covered by one of the sundry permits. The conditions of that permit are very similar to the game farming regulations, as far as fencing and proper enclosures are concerned.
Mr. Harding: The Minister says that the issues are covered under sundry permits, and, therefore, they are similar to the game farming regulations. Is that in all facets of the game farming regulations, or just in some? What about disease control? What about fencing? How similar is it for fencing?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: We do not have a copy of the permit with us, so I am not sure of the specifics it covers. Some of the conditions are very similar to what is in the game farm regulations.
Chair: At this time, is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will call Committee of the Whole to order.
Mr. Harding: When we left this electrifying debate, I was becoming quite alarmed because today the Minister of Education said that he agreed with everything I said. Then the Government Leader said that I had engaged in good debate. I had better quit while I am ahead. There is obviously some force at work here.
Before the break, the Minister was saying that he was not very concerned about the wildlife viewing aspect of the non-game farming wildlife in captivity. However, last night he said that he would like to regulate more species that are indigenous under the game farming regulations. This led me to believe that there was something missing in the sundry permit system.
Why did the Minister say last night that he would like more power to regulate other
species? Incidentally, he could have that power; he is the Minister.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Right now, one of the things that we are concerned with is genetic pollution. Without regulation, it would be possible to buy a couple of mule deer as pets and take them home. One would need a sundry permit to take home a couple of mule deer, but I do not believe that the sundry permit has the same clout as regulations would, although the sundry permit could be written to include all the things that are in the regulations.
Each time animals are brought in or sold, one would need more permits. I would sooner see them in the game farming regulations. However the industry is only farming three that they are selling for breeding purposes. For instance, a r
ocky mountain sheep is not worth $8,000 if sold for meat.
Mr. Harding: Therein lies my point. There is no difference between the wildlife viewing sale of offspring, given the early development of the industry here, and the game-farming sale of offspring, except that the game-farmed offspring must be sold to a licensed game farmer - is that not correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: A live game animal must be sold to another game farm operator. Again, they are two different activities. One is wildlife viewing and the other is game farming.
Mr. Harding: At some of the game farms, the animals are also for display. On the particular game farm that the Minister has talked about there are 10 species, three of which are for game farming. Are musk-oxen, bison and elk not available for viewing on that particular farm?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Certainly they are available for viewing.
Mr. Harding: So that is not really much of a difference. Let the record show - and I have made this representation in the past - that if the Minister feels that the sundry permitting system does not give him enough "clout" - to use his word - as do the regulations, and if he, "would like to see more animals regulated", as he said last night, and if they are essentially performing the same function as game farm animals, with the exception of a couple of technical details - for example, "A game farm animal has to be sold to another game farm, while the offspring of a wildlife viewing animal - he should be actively working - and I am not talking about the proposed animal health act he referred to earlier - to ensure that his concerns, and the concerns that have been identified by so many Yukoners, including the Council for Yukon Indians, the Yukon Conservation Society, and the Yukon Fish and Game Association, are met. The Minister can take that under advisement. I will not be satisfied with the answer he has given me tonight the next time we debate Renewable Resources. I am going to want to know what has been done to address the concerns he identified with regard to the lack of so-called "clout".
On December 12, two days ago, the former Minister was engaged in some frantic cheerleading for the game farm industry. He got a bit ahead of himself, and I had to go back and do some research. I also have some letters from different people in the industry. As he was ranting, he made this point: "Also, the environmental study, and I believe I raised this issue a number of times, made by the Minister, Sheila Copps, had nothing to do with any animals bought and raised in Canada." In a letter dated October 19, the Prime Minister, the Hon. Jean Chretien, said, "Clearly, Canada's efforts to achieve tuberculosis-free status, which would have been of great economic benefit to our agricultural sectors, have been hindered. Some $15 million has been spent to compensate farmers for the destruction of animals exposed to infected animals." This is the official position of the Liberal Party. The Liberals also went on to say, "However, we agree that game farming has potentially wide-reaching implications that have never been subject to a thorough public discussion. We therefore support an environmental assessment with a public review." Nowhere does it say what the Minister claimed: that it would not apply to species that are bought and raised in Canada.
The federal Minister of Agriculture, Sheila Copps, stated in a letter to the Alliance for Public Wildlife, on March 25, 1994, "In cooperation with the Hon. Ralph Goodale, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food, I am preparing to consider conducting a review of game farming from a federal perspective. Unless provinces volunteer to participate, that scrutiny would be restricted to federal responsibilities." The Minister is not saying that would not include a review of species bought and raised in Canada.
The Deputy Prime Minister is saying that she would like to see cooperation from the provinces and territories, because many of the responsibilities surrounding game farming are provincial or territorial in nature, as we are all aware.
The Premier of New Brunswick, Mr. Frank McKenna, another good Liberal, said that he feels that he would support a federal environmental assessment review process of the game farming industry in Canada. He certainly has many concerns, as the Premier of New Brunswick.
I do not think that the former Minister of Renewable Resources was correct in the statement he made, and I wanted to clear the record for him and this House.
Would the Minister like to respond?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: In defence of my colleague, there is a later letter dated August 2, 1994. I will read that letter very quickly, and I am willing to table it.
The letter reads, "Thank you for your letter of May 2, regarding the inclusion of provisions on the Law List Regulations under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA).
"At this time, the government is not contemplating the review of the game farming industry under the Environmental Assessment and Review Process Guidelines Order currently in force. However, it is seriously considering the inclusion of a provision on the Law List that would require the environmental assessment of the import of non-indigenous game-ranched animals before an import permit is issued. Inclusion of paragraph 10(1)(a) of the Health of Animals Regulation is being contemplated, because exotic animals can have adverse effects on indigenous wildlife and eco-systems.
"The public registry requirement under CEAA will ensure that information for all environmental assessments conducted under the act, from screenings to public reviews, are made available in a manner that ensures convenient public access....
"Yours sincerely, Sheila Copps."
I will table this letter for the Members to review.
Mr. Harding: That is interesting information, and I will look forward to reading that more closely. He is tabling it.
The Government Leader and the former Minister are laughing, but she said in the letter that she was not going to do it under EARP. She also said in the letter that it has been difficult to get cooperation from the provinces and territories, and probably from the former Minister of Renewable Resources, and that is probably what has not allowed her to undertake the review that the Prime Minister promised. One would hope that the Liberals would have a good reason for breaking the commitment that the Prime Minister made. Certainly, it is not as definitive as the chuckling Members think the letter is, and I will have more chance to analyze that and respond in the very near future.
Again, I would stand by the comments I made to the Minister today, based on the correspondence that I have from the Prime Minister and from the Environment Minister, and that his interpretation of that letter is lacking. It very much depends on what the provinces and territories are prepared to do, as is pointed out by the Minister for the Environment in her letter of March 1994. From correspondence that has been sent to some of the provinces subsequent to this, a couple of provinces, namely Saskatchewan and Alberta, have not been willing to cooperate very much in a broader review, which would have taken into account animals that were bought and raised in Canada. I think the point that I made is still a valid one, and the Minister can, I hope, understand that there are broader issues at stake here.
There was a long dissertation the Minister made on Monday about the issue of game farming. He said to me that there was a broad consultation. Every point I have heard from people opposing this legislation has not been with the amount of consultation, except in the case of the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board, but what they said was that the question they wanted asked was never asked. In a letter dated April 21, the Yukon Fish and Game Association said this - and I probably could not say it any better myself -"Your drawn out response to the Yukon Fish and Game Association's concerns regarding game farming was hardly necessary. We know - and that is underlined - that the Yukon public was invited to comment on the proposed game farming policy in the new regulations. That is not the point."
When asked in her CBC interview why Yukoners were never asked whether there should be a game farming industry in the first place, her comment was, "That is because the question was not on the table." There was a subsequent quote, "It is rather shameful ... to waste Yukoners' time with a meaningless chronology on the review process of game farming regulations and policy, and let us quit evading the issue of whether we even want game farming."
I know the list that the Minister talked about and read into the record last night, but I also want to read into the record some comments, and ask a question of the Minister on this particular letter. The letter is signed by the vice-chair for the chair of the Council for Yukon Indians. It says in a letter to the Minister dated October 12, that the board's co-chair, Sonya Stange, made several comments on the proposed game farming regulations, followed by an appraisal by board member Patty Denison that, in their view, this does not constitute a review by the Fish and Wildlife Management Board, which is composed of 12 members. In addition, they say that the Fish and Wildlife Management Board has an obligation to seek input from key stakeholders, such as First Nations, in its review of legislation affecting wildlife, and that at no time were First Nations approached or consulted.
Secondly, they state that the board, of which Ms. Stange was the co-chair, was disbanded and its mandate terminated, effective September 16, 1994. As discussed earlier in this letter, a new board had yet to be appointed, as Mr. Fisher told us in his October 25 letter, "Because their memberships have expired, the previous board is unable, legally, to carry out any formal work." They ask how, then, Mr. Fisher is able to accept the comments of one member of the former board and be "satisfied it has expressed its views on the issue". Officially, there was no Fish and Wildlife Management Board on October 12.
How does the Minister respond to that concern identified by CYI? Is there merit in it?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: First of all, the First Nations were consulted. I believe I
read the dates of those consultations into the record yesterday. Secondly, although the
board appointments had expired by September 16, I think it was, it was agreed by members
of that board, and by government, that subcommittee work in a number of areas, including
game farming and outfitting quotas, would continue. Therefore, the October 12 response
from the board's co-chair was viewed by the government as a legitimate expression of the
board's views on the game farming regulation packages.
I take it then that the Minister believes that the complaints registered by the CYI are not legitimate. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I feel that CYI and the First Nations were legitimately consulted. Their views were taken into consideration in the development of the regulations.
Mr. Harding: It is obvious that the legitimacy of their concerns has not been recognized by the Minister. The letter goes on to say - and this is becoming a familiar pattern with the government - "We believe that your government has acted illegally in this case, and wish to advise you that we are currently seeking a solicitor's advice to determine our legal recourse". Has the government been approached with regard to any civil action, in addition to the case under appeal by the First Nation proponents of the Taga Ku project?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: None of which I am aware.
Mr. Harding: The concerns are raised under the intent, spirit and wording of the umbrella final agreement and as a result of the definition of "consultation" in the development of legislation and regulations affecting wildlife.
Does the Minister believe that they have acted in a manner that clearly remains within the guidelines of the umbrella final agreement and the legislation contained therein?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I most assuredly do.
Mr. Penikett: I do not have a question for the Minister, but I would like to record an observation about the process that he has just described.
From my point of view, it does not seem at all satisfactory. It seems to me that if a legally constituted body, such as the Fish and Wildlife Management Board, creates a subcommittee, or delegates some review to an individual or to some kind of subcommittee, given its described purposes, it is an absolutely essential component in the process that the delegated body - the subcommittee, individual or whatever - report back first to the wildlife body in order to have their recommendations accepted and sanctioned before they could be legitimately passed on to the parent body - in this case, the government - as a valid representation of that body's views. I understand the Minister's point that that could not have happened in this case, because the body that had created the subcommittee or delegation would no longer exist. Perhaps a lawyer could clarify this, but a body that no longer exists cannot make recommendations.
A body that created a delegation or a subcommittee cannot have their delegate or
subcommittee outlive the parent body. It has no mandate beyond the body that created it. I
am assuming that, in such cases, due process would require it to report back to the Fish
and Wildlife Management Board, and someone would have to report to the Minister on behalf
of the Fish and Wildlife Management Board. One could use this Legislature as an example,
which could not appoint the Hon. Member for Kluane, for instance, to go off and
investigate a new program for AIDS prevention, suicide prevention or such things as we
discussed today, and then just allow him, based on his own observations, to make a
representation to a federal minister.
What would have to happen first is that the Minister would have to come back here, report and have his report accepted by this body, sanctioned by it, and only then might we give him a further assignment, which is to make a recommendation or a representation on behalf of all of us to some other agency.
I do not want to sound like I am beating the Minister about the brains about this but we are in the early days of establishing some institutions under the land claims agreement and I am extremely concerned that we do not get sloppy and careless, even behaving contrary to what I think is the legally acceptable process in these early days, because if we do, we will be setting some unfortunate precedents.
Chair: Is there further general debate?
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Mr. Chair, I move
THAT Bill No. 35, entitled An Act to Amend the Agricultural Products Act, be amended in clause 3 at page 1 by replacing the expression: "amended'' with the expression "repealed'' in the English text of the said clause.
Chair: It has been moved by the Hon. Mickey Fisher
THAT Bill No. 35, entitled An Act to Amend the Agricultural Products Act, be amended at clause 3 at page 1 by replacing the expression "amended'' with the expression "repealed'' in the English text of the said clause.
Amendment agreed to
Clause 3 agreed to as amended
On Clause 4
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I move
THAT Bill No. 35, entitled An Act to Amend the Agricultural Products Act, be amended in clause 4 at page 2 by adding the expression "private" after the expression "occasional".
Chair: It has been moved by the Hon. L. M. (Mickey) Fisher,
THAT Bill No. 35, entitled An Act to Amend the Agricultural Products Act, be amended in clause 4 at page 2 by adding the expression "private" after the expression "occasional".
Amendment agreed to
Clause 4 agreed to as amended
On Clause 5
Clause 5 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I move that Bill No. 35, An Act to Amend the Agricultural Products Act, be moved out of Committee with amendment.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Abel: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 35, An Act to Amend the Agricultural Products Act, and directed me to report it with amendment.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:16 p.m.
The following Legislative Return was tabled December 14, 1994:
Social assistance fraud investigations: number and cost of (Phelps)
Oral, Hansard, p. 143