Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
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
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
RONALD D. GHITTER
to the Seventh Report of the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the
Environment and Natural Resources
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
The Chairman: That is the position of the department? There are no further
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
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.
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.
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.