Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources

Issue 24 - Seventh Report of the Committee


THURSDAY, September 9, 1999

The Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources has the honour to present its

SEVENTH REPORT

Your Committee, to which was referred the Bill C-32, An Act respecting pollution prevention and the protection of the environment and human health in order to contribute to sustainable development, has, in obedience to the Order of Reference of Tuesday, June 8, 1999, examined the said Bill and now reports the same without amendment, but with observations which are appended to this report.

Respectfully submitted,

RONALD D. GHITTER

Chairman


APPENDIX

to the Seventh Report of the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources

MAJORITY OBSERVATIONS

In the course of its deliberations on Bill C-32, An Act respecting pollution prevention and the protection of the environment and human health in order to contribute to sustainable development, the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources heard 26 groups of witness, in addition to receiving many more written briefs expressing views concerning the objectives of the Bill that were sometimes encouraging, sometimes hesitant and sometimes stated that it "did not go far enough."

This polarization probably contributes to the two sets of observations incorporated in this one report, the majority observations which find Bill C-32 a careful and sometimes slow step forward to an improved environment for Canada, and the minority observations penned by the Chairman that want amendments that will make the Bill more aggressive.

A concern frequently expressed before the Committee was that the legislation was not strong enough, but most agreed that the Bill was a step in the right direction.

The Bill improves on the 1988 CEPA by providing effective new legal tools for environmental protection, by setting out a process for aboriginal participation and oral evidence, by introducing biotechnical precautions (the Committee is, however, concerned that there could be loopholes resulting from possible uncertainty as to which Ministry controls what in this field), by the concept of virtual elimination and by providing whistle-blower protection.

The Bill provides a solid platform upon which to build, by regulations and knowledge gained from future experience, one of the world's best environmental regimes.

Bill C-32 will continue to improve our ability to meet Canada's environmental challenges and, although many doubts and possible scenarios were presented, none were of the magnitude that your Committee majority felt that an amendment was required.

Representatives of municipal and provincial governments, public interest groups, industry, labour, aboriginal people, and academics were all consulted during the other place's review of the 1988 CEPA legislation.

While the Committee majority is pleased with the provision that continues to call for a review every five years, it recommends the government begin the next review immediately after the passage of Bill C-32.

This will ensure that Canadians from across the country will have the opportunity to express their views and to monitor the progress the Minister makes in carrying forward and further defining concepts such as "cost-effective," "virtual elimination," "intergovernmental environmental agreements," and "precautionary principle."

The Committee majority supports the virtual elimination provision because it will reduce risk to our environment and is a step forward over the existing legislation. However, the Committee majority recommends the government continue to monitor this approach step-by-step, in order to ensure that risks to health are avoided, while maintaining the ultimate objective. Your Committee majority also believes that the federal government needs to respond to concerns about the impact of "cost-effective" when determining environmental clean-ups, particularly in the North. The cost of living in the North is high, which in turn would suggest that the cost of an environmental clean-up there would be even higher than in southern Canada. This being the case, it is feared this higher cost may be a factor in determining whether it is "cost-effective" to clean up in the Arctic. "cost-effective" is also a term about which the Committee heard conflicting testimony as to the correct French-English translation. This issue should therefore be addressed by the Minister in the future.

The Committee was pleased to hear from Aboriginal leaders and elders whose oral traditions highlighted serious concerns about the environmental challenges facing our North and its people.

Long range trans-boundary air and water pollution are having an effect on the health of Northerners and the environment on which they depend for food.

The Committee also heard testimony concerning Inuit women found to be carrying high levels of PCB's in their breast milk. Given these health concerns in the Arctic, the Committee majority recommends that the Minister of the Environment undertake to work with the Minister of Health to develop a system of continuous and widespread testing of "country food" to ensure safe human consumption.

Although Bill C-32 includes for the first time the participation of Aboriginal governments and Aboriginal lands that fall under the Indian Act, the Committee majority observed that the definition of Aboriginal governments and lands is a "moving target" as land settlements, treaties and "self government" are constantly being re-defined and negotiated. The Committee majority recommends that in the years ahead, in the review of the CEPA legislation, the government keep current with the status of the Métis, who are not specifically mentioned in the Bill, the Inuit, and First Nations that fall under Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. This will ensure that all our Aboriginal nations will continue to participate and be consulted and that there will be no erosion of their constitutional rights.

The Committee recognizes that the greatest legacy we can leave our children is a clean and healthy environment. Protecting our children from environmental threats is an objective we all share. In general the Committee majority was pleased with the aggressive stand the legislation takes with environmental contaminants, but the federal government should undertake to work to continue addressing the special needs of children in the context of environmental protection in its next review of CEPA.

Even though the Committee majority has expressed some concerns with certain provisions in Bill C-32, it recognizes the advancements made in this legislation to better protect our environment. We look forward to the next CEPA review, when we can continue to work to protect our environment for generations to come.

The Committee majority also recommends that the Minister of the Environment meet each autumn with the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources to exchange information, views, and discuss progress on the legislation.

MINORITY OBSERVATIONS

Observations of Progressive Conservative Senators of the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources on their study of Bill C-32, An Act respecting pollution prevention and the protection of the environment and human health in order to contribute to sustainable development

BACKGROUND

Bill C-32, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 has had a long and sometimes tortuous history. While the Bill was introduced in the House of Commons on March 12, 1998 by the Minister of the Environment, its predecessor Bill C-74 was actually tabled in the House on December 10, 1996. Bill C-74 died on the Order Paper when the last general election was called.

What is at stake here is the health of Canadians. Young people who are increasingly suffering from asthma, allergies and cancer, our Inuit people who are afraid to eat their traditional food, babies who face the risk of ingesting toxic pollutants in their mothers' breast milk and inside the womb are at risk.

Mr. Sam Bock, a well-known Canadian Olympic coach who has worked with top athletes and studied nutrition for many years, painted a bleak picture before the Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources:

Pollution in the form of contaminated air and water, chemically and genetically altered foods, chemical fertilizers which alter the mineral balances of the soils, pesticides sprayed on crops and yards, artificial food additives, electronic radiation, et cetera, is causing much of the degenerative disease and biological mutation among life forms. Many of us now get sick because our bodies are overwhelmed trying to eliminate non-natural substances that interfere with our own biochemistry.

Contrary to what experts and governments thought in the past, we are discovering that there are no safe levels of toxic chemicals. These chemicals have slowly spread themselves throughout the food chain and are weakening immune systems and causing illness to all life forms. There is no reason for this to be happening. Short-term political and economic interests have created enormous environmental damage and are unnecessarily giving the chemical industry a bad name.

Most people do not understand how toxins make us sick. If they did, they would not be eating and or using so many of the products we buy today. Chemical pollution can take a long time to damage the genetics of an adult animal or human so that it almost looks as though there is nothing wrong until it is too late.

Worse, it creates immediate genetic damage in the unborn. In 1986, in Arkansas, the milk of 70 per cent of breast feeding mothers was found to be contaminated with heptachlor, a commonly used but toxic pesticide which had been banned several years before. Around the same time, a Hawaii study of 120 infants whose supply of breast milk was found to contaminated with heptachlor found the development of the infants' brains to severely retarded.

In addition, Senator Willie Adams of the new territory of Nunavut described for the Committee the issues facing the people of the North:

Right now, our people are out hunting caribou. There are toxins in the fat, which is what we like to eat... The same applies to seal meat. We use the oil from seals to heat and cook our food.

The Minister is not saying that he will protect us from pollution which affects the country food we eat.

My concern is with really how much of these substances are detected in the body. People up North tell us that meat is affected by chemicals. More people are contracting more cancers every year.

Protecting the environment is a serious matter. That is why Progressive Conservative Senators wished to give Bill C-32 serious, detailed consideration.

Bill C-32 represents the culmination of the five year review mandated by the first Canadian Environmental Protection Act passed by Parliament in 1988. This five year review began in 1994 with hearings held by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development which resulted in a Report released by the Committee in June 1995 entitled "It's About Our Health! Towards Pollution Prevention." The theme of the report was pollution prevention. The government's response to this Report was released in December 1996 and it disagreed with some of the basic premises of the House Committee Report.

Bill C-32 was referred to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development on April 28, 1998. It was before the Committee for almost one year. The clause-by-clause examination of the Bill in the House Committee took 93 hours. Over 500 amendments were considered and 150 accepted, with 90 of those having been put forward by the government members of the Committee. The final report of the Committee on the Bill was approved with all Liberals on the Committee voting in favour of the Report. At Report Stage in the House of Commons over half of the Committee amendments were reversed by the government, sometimes by amendments which had never been considered by the Committee previously.

The Senate of Canada gave second reading to Bill C-32 on June 8, 1999 and the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources held hearings on June 15 and 16, 1999 prior to the summer recess and sat for only 7 more days in late August and early September. Due to scheduling conflicts the Committee was not able to meet again until August 24, 1999. However, we believed that we would be able to sit for as long as it took to hear as many witnesses as necessary to enable us to understand the Bill and, where necessary, consider and perhaps pass amendments which would in turn be considered by the full Senate.

THE INVOCATION OF CLOSURE ON COMMITTEE PROCEEDINGS

During its hearings on June 15 and 16 and on August 24, the Committee heard only from officials from the Department of the Environment in order to gain background knowledge of the Bill and to obtain answers to technical questions posed by the Senators. The Committee had not yet heard from the Minister of the Environment nor from a single witness representing the public interest when the following motion was presented:

That with respect to Bill C-32, An Act respecting pollution prevention and the protection of the environment and human health in order to contribute to sustainable development, the Committee shall follow the agreed upon schedule of witnesses and complete its examination of those witnesses no later than Wednesday, September 1, 1999;

That if any further witnesses are found to be necessary by the Committee following the completion of the said schedule of witnesses, they shall be heard no later than Thursday, September 2, 1999;

That any vote on any motion dealing with the disposition of the said Bill be held no earlier than at the completion of the hearing of all witnesses; and

That the Chair put all questions necessary to dispose of the Bill and report the Bill to the Senate no later than 12:00 o'clock noon on Tuesday, September 7, 1999.

Despite the outrage and vigorous opposition by Progressive Conservative Senators, the motion was supported by all of the Liberal Senators and passed. The motion prematurely judged the work of the Committee and effectively limited the time which could be spent with witnesses discussing the Bill as well as a detailed clause-by-clause review. It demonstrated the unwillingness of the Senators representing the government to carefully consider evidence which would be heard by the Committee during its hearings and their further unwillingness to consider amendments.

Progressive Conservative Senators on this Committee have taken their work seriously and believed they were involved in a meaningful process which might result in better legislation. PC Senator Ghitter, Chair of the Committee stated at the outset of the hearings:

Honourable senators, this morning we are embarking on what will probably be the largest task this Committee has faced in the years I have been a member of it. Our task is to examine Bill C-32, respecting pollution prevention and the protection of the environment and human health in order to contribute to sustainable development.

It is, indeed, an important bill which I know members of our Committee will very much want to have explained to them. It is not a simple bill. I look forward to some enlightenment from our witnesses today and from, I am sure, others who we will hear in the future.

The invocation of closure on the proceedings of a Committee, especially before it has heard any public witnesses goes against the traditions and conventions of the Senate and indeed the very purpose of its review of legislation.

In the Confederation Debates, Sir John A. Macdonald was quoted as saying:

There would be no use of an Upper House, if it did not exercise, when it was thought proper, the right of the opposing or amending or postponing the legislation of the Lower House. It would be of no value whatever were it a mere chamber for registering the decrees of the lower house. It must be an independent House, having free action of its own, for it is only valuable as being a regulating body, calmly considering the legislation initiated by the popular branch.

It should also be noted that the work of Senate Committees has received praise from virtually all commentators on Parliamentary activities. For example, Robert and Doreen Jackson in "Politics in Canada: Culture, Institutions, Behaviour and Public Policy" (1986) have written:

... aspects of Senate Committee work have often been cited as beneficial to Canadian Society and have increased the status of the upper house. From time to time, the Senate establishes special committees to investigate key social issues and to make recommendations for new policy initiatives ... Senate Committees ... helped to build consensus around particular problems and alternate responses. (Pp. 345-346)

As well, Professor F. A. Kunz, of McGill University, author of the "Modern Senate of Canada, 1925-1963," made the following comment:

The role of the Committees in the Senate is a reflection of the composition of the Senate and the manner in which it is composed. We all know the structure includes both standing and special committees. Some committees have been of the highest quality and importance throughout the years... (Keynote Address: Senate Committees Professional Development Workshop, 1991, p.5)

Senate Committees can only be a credit to the Senate if they are allowed to function properly without undue interference and unreasonable time limits. It was the belief of the Progressive Conservative Senators that sufficient time had to be taken by the Senate Committee to study the work done in the House of Commons Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. A number of the amendments put by the government and passed at Report Stage in the House of Commons introduced new elements into this Bill which have not been studied in detail. While the study and amendments put in the House Committee may have swung the pendulum towards the protection of the environment, the amendments passed by the government, under extreme pressure from industry, essentially gutted the work of the House Committee and created an imbalance towards industry which we believed through reasoned amendments could be bridged by the Senate Committee.

However, it became clear after questioning the Minister of the Environment and through the comments made by Liberal Senators that these types of amendments would not be tolerated.

THE 1988 CEPA

This has left the Committee in the unprecedented position where a number of witnesses, including the Minister of the Environment have stated that the present legislation is better than Bill C-32, or in the case of Minister Anderson, in response to a question by Senator Spivak, he stated:

... I respect your comment that perhaps the existing Bill C-88 is better ... I think we can live with the 1988 legislation if we have to, yes.

... It is always possible to work under the old legislation.

This view was reiterated by Mr. Wayne Fraser from the Mining Association of Canada. He concluded his statement to the Senate Committee by saying:

In summary, the Mining Association of Canada is not certain that Bill C-32 as it stands will provide any improvement over the existing Act in benefit to the environment or cost to the economy ... We feel our proposals are the minimum alterations that must be made.

This view was also shared by those representing "environmental groups." Paul Muldoon, Executive Director, Canadian Environmental Law Association reflected that "the legislation process has gone awry ... At the end of the day I have to attribute this to lack of leadership by the government in the area of the environment and the lack of hard decisions."

Ms Elizabeth May, Executive Director of the Sierra Club of Canada, summed up her views by stating: "it would be a big mistake to pass the Bill as is. If the choice is this Bill or the 1988 Act, we would take the 1988 Act."

Mr. Michael Anderson, Research Director, Manitoba Keewatinowki Okimakanak Inc. cautioned against passing this Bill unamended:

I believe the suggestions I am making today will make the Bill stronger. Passing it today, ... will cause great difficulty if it is not restructured. I do believe that it is important to restructure the intent of the Bill to recognize Canada's obligations to First nations under treaty and to make many of the other changes that I suggested.

But perhaps it was professor Bill Leiss of the Faculty of Management, University of Calgary and President Elect of the Royal Society of Canada who described the situation best when he said: "it is an unbelievably ugly can of worms which has been sealed into this Bill."

With all of these comments on the deficiencies of Bill C-32 as reported out of the House of Commons and with the Minister of the Environment stating categorically that he can live with the existing bill, it is beyond the comprehension of Progressive Conservative Senators as to why the government insisted on cutting off these hearings and refused to consider amendments. The evidence of its own Minister would indicate there is no rush.

The Minister of the Environment insisted in his reasons for not wanting amendments to Bill C-32 that this would mean re-opening the debate on this Bill in the House of Commons. He said: "if we put this back in the House, it might take another two, three, or four years. I would say that probably there is not enough time on the House side to bring all this back together once again."

Progressive Conservative Senators disagree with this analysis of the situation. Only the amendments passed by the Senate would have to be considered by the House of Commons and they could be dealt with in an expeditious fashion.

The Minister was also concerned about the effect of prorogation on the Bill if it is not passed by both Houses. First, the timing of prorogation is entirely in the hands of the government. There is nothing compelling the government to terminate this session of Parliament. Second, even if the government does prorogue this session, there is a process by which this Bill could be brought back to the stage it was at in the House of Commons prior to prorogation, which in this case would mean that the Bill would be returned to the Senate immediately. There is ample precedent for this occurring in the last Parliament.

For example, Bill C-7 died on the Order Paper in the 1st Session of the 35th Parliament on prorogation while it was before the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. It was re-introduced in the 2nd Session of the 35th Parliament on March 6, 1996 as Bill C-8, when it was read the first time and then, pursuant to Government Motion #1, was deemed adopted at all stages and to have been passed by the House. The Bill took only one minute in the House of Commons before it was returned to the Senate.

The arguments raised by the government concerning the problems of sending this Bill back to the House of Commons with amendments or the length of time which would be required to bring the Bill back following prorogation are specious at best.

SPECIFIC ISSUES RAISED BY WITNESSES

A a result of the numerous amendments made in Committee in the House of Commons and the fact that many of these were reversed at Report Stage, with new concepts added, some confusion has resulted as to the real intent and purpose of the Bill. It was the hope of Progressive Conservative Senators that all matters would receive a full and fair hearing before the Senate Committee and that amendments proposed and adopted in the Senate Committee would bridge the obvious gaps in the legislation and among the views of all parties interested in this legislation.

This, because of the closure motion imposed on the Committee by Liberal Senators, has become impossible. It is our purpose here to outline seven of the substantive areas of Bill C-32 which we believe should be looked at in greater detail than the Senate Committee was allowed to because of time constraints.

1) Virtual Elimination

Through amendments made at Report Stage in the House of Commons to clause 65(3) the government changed Bill C-32 from one which would eliminate toxic substances to one where control of emissions of toxic substances is the primary intent of the legislation. The government through its amendments is saying that there are actually acceptable levels of toxins which may be allowed to contaminate our world and everything within it. When the government amended the preamble to take out the goal of phasing out toxic substances, it changed the whole basis of Bill C-32. Now we are faced with a so-called environmental bill which actually permits toxic substances to be released up to certain specified levels.

This amendment clearly weakens the Bill and, as Ms Elizabeth May stated, "creates a loop from section to section and never arrives at the goal of virtual elimination." In her questioning of the officials from Environment Canada on this issue Senator Spivak referred to an internal departmental memorandum prepared by Mr. Steve Mongrain which detailed the desire of industry representations to bring significant changes to clause 65(3) in the House of Commons. Changes were made to this clause and, in the words of the Chair of the Standing Committee of the Senate, they watered down the meaning of virtual elimination so that the clause "talks only in terms of control."

Ms Stephanie Meakin, an advisor to Inuit Tapirisat, endorsed the comments of Senators Spivak and Ghitter in her testimony when she stated:

What we need in the new CEPA is that provision in clause 65 which stipulates that those worst substances will be eliminated, not interim steps which are set out in this new CEPA that would in essence allow producers to move towards an acceptable release or use of a substance.

2) Precautionary principle -- cost-effectiveness

During Report Stage in the House of Commons the meaning of the precautionary principle, which is found in the preamble and its definition within clause 2 of Bill C-32, were changed by adding the phrase "cost-effective." Therefore, in order to invoke the precautionary principle the measures taken must be "cost-effective." This virtually stands the precautionary principle on its head. There is no definition of cost-effective in the Bill. The introduction of the cost-effective element brings ambiguity, confusion and ineffectiveness to the very heart of the Bill.

However, added to this problem is the fact that the French and English texts of the Bill differ. In the French text, the word "cost" is not found and the measures simply have to be effective. Progressive Conservative Senators believe this is clearly a flaw in the Bill which must be corrected. Unfortunately, an amendment put in Committee by Senator P.C. Nolin to harmonize the English and French text was defeated by the Liberal majority.

In order to clarify this situation, the Senate Committee heard from Mr. François Blais, the Director of the Centre for Translation and Legal Documentation at the University of Ottawa. He was asked to compare the wording in English with the wording in French. His opinion was "I said that they are contradictory...they simply do not say the same thing."

When questioned by Progressive Conservative Senators, departmental officials responded that they had simply used the words of the Rio Declaration. Questioning on this subject gave rise to the following exchange:

The Chairman (Sen. Ghitter): If a Francophone comes before you and argues that the Bill calls for cost efficiency and not cost-effectiveness, you say that will not give trouble for your department? ... Have you no answer?

Mr. Duncan Cameron (Legal Counsel, Justice Department): I have nothing to add, Mr. Chairman.

The Chairman: That is the position of the department? There are no further answers?

Mr. Lerer (Director General): That is correct, sir.

We deplore the inconsistent use of the two official languages in this Bill as it establishes a dangerous precedent which violates the rules which govern the construction and interpretation of federal statutes.

3) Aboriginal issues

While this Bill acknowledges the experience and knowledge of Canada's aboriginal peoples in relation to the environment, it excludes the Métis from taking part in the National Advisory Committee established by clause 6 as the Métis are not governed by the Indian Act. Senator Chalifoux pursued this at length with departmental officials, pointing out to them that under the wording of the Bill the Métis are not covered in that they do not have a treaty, and most do not have a land base. In fact, Senator Chalifoux at one point suggested that the term "aboriginal" in the Bill would be amended to explicitly include the Métis and the Inuit.

This point was also raised in an extended exchange between Senator Nolin and Mr. Bob Stevenson, Advisor, Endangered Species and Harvesting, Métis National Council. There was general agreement from the Métis witnesses that they would like to be explicitly included in clause 6 and would also like to receive some finanacial help so that they could do the environmental work which is so necessary on their land.

Mr. Michael Anderson, Research Director of the Manitoba Keewatinowki Okimakanak Inc., raised another concern of the aboriginal people. He stated:

I am concerned that this bill does not recognize the obligation to protect lands for the continuing pursuit and protection of traditional harvesting activities. In numbers, this is the single largest activity conducted by First Nations within our region.

If authorization for the release of substances into the environment affect the environment such that harvesting cannot take place, then that is a prima facie infringement of the Constitution.

Other environmental problems encountered by aboriginal women in particular were pointed out by Ms Sheila Watt-Cloutier, President, Inuit Circumpolar Conference of Canada. She referred specifically to the high levels of PCBs in the blood of Inuit women being as much as five times the normal level.

All of the environmental issues which affect Canada's aboriginal people should be reviewed in depth to determine whether a legislation solution under Bill C-32 would be effective. Or should a completely different piece of legislation be brought forward dealing specifically with the myriad environmental issues confronting Canada's aboriginal peoples?

4) Support for voluntary approaches

Bill C-32 is virtually silent with regard to giving support to voluntary approaches which result in a cleaner environment. This was an issue raised by the Canadian Chemical Producers Association. They went on to detail one of their voluntary approaches to a cleaner environment which involves a rapid response by industry to any chemical spills.

In a discussion between the Chairman and Mr. Richard Paton, President and CEO of the Canadian Chemical Producers' Association, the idea was advanced by the Chairman of an amendment to the Preamble which would recognize that companies can be responsible and would encourage a voluntary approach to environmental problems by industry.

5) Children's health and the environment

Progressive Conservative senators were particularly impressed by the presentation made to the Committee by the Canadian Institute of Child Health on Bill C-32. This group drew the attention of the Committee to what it believed were omissions from the Bill in the area of protection of children's health. They explained that at various stages of a child's development a child is particularly susceptible to or vulnerable to toxins which may cause irreversible damage to growing nervous systems. It also brought to our attention certain international commitments dealing with children's health to which Canada is a signatory which require Canada to make children's environmental health a high priority.

Progressive Conservative Senators believe that the Committee, if given more time, would have had the opportunity to explore the concerns raised by the Canadian Institute of Child Health with government officials and other knowledgeable witnesses.

Progressive Conservative Senators believe that certain amendments to Bill C-32 should be accepted by the government in order to highlight concerns with children's environmental health. For example, the Preamble could be strengthened by including a clause recognizing the special susceptibility of children to environmental contaminants. As well, Parts 3 and 5 of the Bill should be amended to include the unique physiology and special susceptibility of children to environmental hazards.

Finally, Progressive Conservative Senators were particularly impressed with the recommendation that the government establish an Office of Children's Environmental Health Protection. Such an office could be mandated to promote research and policy development in the area of children's environmental health, develop separate assessments of risks to children and adults and develop guidelines to reduce and eliminate exposure of children to environmental pollutants in areas accessible to children.

6) Biotechnology

Progressive Conservative Senators are gravely concerned about amendments brought to Bill C-32 at Report Stage by the government which render this Bill completely ineffective when dealing with biotechnology. In Committee in the House of Commons, amendments were made so that the Ministers of Health and the Environment would determine whether what other departments were doing was adequate to protect human health and the environment. The preamble and administrative duty clauses of the Bill were also amended to explicitly recognize biotechnology as a potential threat to biological diversity. The government reversed the amendments at Report Stage.

Many witnesses expressed concern over these Report Stage amendments on biotechnology which virtually leave Canadians unprotected. Mr. Mark Winfield, Director of Research, Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy addressed this issue at length in his presentation. He stated that the Bill as passed by the House of Commons removes any objective test as to the assessment of biotechnology products.

He recommended that:

... consistent with Canada's obligations under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, Bill C-32 should be amended to recognize products of modern biotechnology as potential threats to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity.

The Canadian Health Coalition brief said:

Bill C-32 feeds into a legislative and regulatory agenda that totally abdicates the duty to prevent, protect and anticipate hazards. If you pass C-32 in its current form, the effect will be to expose your grandchildren to an uncontrolled experiment over a lifetime with biotechnology products that have no therapeutic value and whose safety is unknown. Surely this is not the kind of legacy you want to leave the children of Canada.

Senator Spivak, during clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-32, put forward an amendment to the preamble to include "products of biotechnology" along with toxic substances and other wastes so that the preamble would read as it was approved in Committee in the House of Commons. As she stated in the discussion of her amendment:

One does not wish to have the product of biotechnology linked with any threats to biological diversity in the wording of Bill C-32 ... I am not suggesting for a moment that we should eliminate all biotechnology products. What I am trying to achieve is to get back to the House of Commons wording.

Unfortunately, this amendment like others advanced by Progressive Conservative Senators was defeated by the Liberal majority.

7) Reduction in the Authority of the Minister of the Environment

In a number of instances in Bill C-32, what should be a decision made by the Minister of the Environment has become a decision to be made by the entire cabinet. For example, the determination of the adequacy of the regulation of biotechnology products by government departments has become a decision for the whole cabinet, not just the Minister of the Environment.

Progressive Conservative Senators find this situation to be unacceptable. Leaving important environmental decisions to be made by the whole cabinet increases the opportunity for lobbying and takes the focus off protection of the environment. What should be a decision made totally for environmental reasons may become a totally different decision when the Ministers of Industry and International Trade have their input into the decision making process.

We believe that the protection of our environment is too important to be left to the vagaries of negotiation around the Cabinet table. Environmental decisions should be made by the Minister of the Environment.

CONCLUSION

In spite of the concerns raised by Progressive Conservative Senators and amendments which we attempted to advance to strengthen Bill C-32, the government majority on the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources kept to its artificial timetable rather than protecting the health of Canadians by producing meaningful, clearly enunciated and workable environmental protection legislation.

We deplore the position taken by the government on what we considered to be the most important bill to be considered by this Committee in many years.

We trust that through these observations, Canadians will see that this government is only concerned with meeting the demands of its own self-imposed timetable, rather than meeting the needs of Canadians in relation to the protection of the environment.


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