MARCIL, The Hon. Serge, P.C., B.Ed., M.Ed.

Personal Data

Beauharnois--Salaberry (Quebec)
Birth Date
January 20, 1944
Deceased Date
January 12, 2010
business executive, school principal

Parliamentary Career

November 27, 2000 - May 23, 2004
  Beauharnois--Salaberry (Quebec)
  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry (February 19, 2002 - December 11, 2003)
  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment with special emphasis on Parks (December 12, 2003 - July 19, 2004)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 1 of 39)

May 14, 2004

Hon. Serge Marcil

Mr. Speaker, I want to make a comment. The member for Red Deer understands the situation perfectly well, but he is a bit of a demagogue in some respects because we are in a pre-election period.

What we have to realize—especially for the benefit of those who are watching to us—is that this is not new legislation. Two other acts already exist: the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994, and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.

Most of the concerns raised have been addressed and appear in these two acts. Bill C-34 proposes some amendments to these two acts. Public consultations were held for the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994, and for the Canadian Environmental Protection Act as well.

Today, with Bill C-34, we are amending these two acts. We are not creating new legislation.

The member wondered why we do not impose a minimal fine and what duck hunters had to do with it and so forth. I can understand his line of questioning. The answer is that these elements are already included in the existing legislation of 1994 and 1999. These matters are already covered in these acts.

With respect to imposing a minimal fine, I will give an example. Say the hon. member for Red Deer and I, the member for Beauharnois—Salaberry, go fishing together and our boat's motor accidentally hits a sandbar and loses oil. Are we going to be fined $1 million because we had an accident?

It is the same for the family man, a crab fisher, who has a small fishing business and goes fishing with his son or daughter. It should be up to the judge applying the legislation to weigh the repercussions of the accident.

If the boat belongs to a company, the company is in a position to pay and a $1 million fine is a more severe punishment.

That is why in the legislation we cannot introduce a minimum for fines. This is a bill to amend two acts that include environmental measures related to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994, which addresses hunters and an entire range of stakeholders in the field of nature.

I understand. Our colleague from Red Deer might be frustrated because consultations were not as open and extensive as in the case of a piece of legislation with broad impact. However, consultations were held in 1994 on the 1994 Migratory Birds Convention Act and also in 1999 on the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

What we are doing today with Bill C-34 is making amendments to give more teeth to the law. We thought we had the necessary tools under the existing laws. We thought we would be able to pursue people without restriction and punish them. However, when we were tried to make a case, we found that loopholes in the legislation prevented us from getting a conviction

Yes, we are rectifying this situation by amending the legislation. This is not a new act. The bill does not make substantive changes to the 1994 Migratory Birds Convention Act or the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. It amends the two acts I just mentioned.

As far as the Americans are concerned, I understand certain things. The United States is what it is, and Canada is what it is. We have our own sovereignty, our own Canadian values. We see things differently, and we always try to—

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994
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May 14, 2004

Hon. Serge Marcil

Mr. Speaker, I can understand my hon. colleague's reaction, but to say that this has been going on for 30 years and that all of a sudden we are taking action is wrong. It is wrong to make such a statement in this House.

Legislation was put in place in 1994, and again in 1999. That was just five years ago. Recently, we passed legislation respecting species at risk, in force as of April 1, 2004.

So, to say that it took the government a long time to react, that this has been going on for years and that, all of the sudden, the government realized it and figured it had to legislate is wrong. I am sorry but legislation already existed. We had already identified the problem. We had passed legislation in this House in 1994 and again in 1999, just five years ago.

In spite of this legislation, it now turns out that we had to drop our lawsuits and the cases we had built, because there are holes in these laws. Therefore, we are correcting and amending them to strengthen our response in this respect.

We could take my hon. colleague's argument and ask, “Why do it right away? You could have waited. Hundreds of thousands of birds have died already”. Are we going to wait another year and let another 300,000 birds die? That is the question we have to ask ourselves.

Once we realize there is a problem, and have proof of its existence, and see that species at risk are dying off and that the legislation passed previously did not have enough teeth, it seems to me that we have a duty, as a responsible government, to act. We must not wait, come back in six or seven months and let more birds die in the meantime.

This bill is appropriate. For the past 12 months, officials have been working on finding a way to tighten enforcement. That is how we have come to this point, and today is the day. I am proud to see that my hon. colleague supports this bill.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994
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May 14, 2004

Hon. Serge Marcil (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to address today a silent catastrophe that has been occurring along the Atlantic coast every winter. Bird watchers and people who enjoy walking along our beaches can tell you about this silent catastrophe. I am talking about the fact that 300,000 seabirds and maybe even more die every winter because some ships discharge their oily waste into the ocean.

No, they are not allowed to do so. Yes, there are laws against this. Because it is both easier and quicker to dump this waste illegally rather than dispose of it legally, the ships are willing to take the risk of getting caught and paying a fine which is not high enough. They know that the law is not enforced as stringently as it could be.

What exactly are they dumping in the ocean? Every ship produces oily waste. The waste accumulates in the bilges or the engine rooms and then is discharged into the ocean. Were you to take a sample of that water, you would notice that it always has oil on the surface. The ships should separate the oil from the water using special separators. It can be done through a special process that takes a little time. However, if time is short and the ship is travelling fast, the crew might decide it was easier to just discharge the waste into the ocean. It is done at night, of course, in dense fog and bad weather.

We would provide the necessary incentive for doing the right thing.

People who frequent our beaches will tell you—and we have videos showing this very thing—that huge numbers of birds are washed up on shore, already dead or struggling to survive.

As an example: a litre of oil may seem a very small amount, especially if dispersed over a large ocean surface. Obviously, a litre in the Atlantic is very little, microscopic even. But a tiny drop the size of a quarter is enough to kill a bird, just as a pinhole in the suit of a diver would kill him. Petroleum products destroy the bird's natural defences.

The cold winter waters of the Atlantic penetrate at the spot affected by the oil, and so the bird is no longer able to maintain its temperature, and dies of the cold. This is not something that happens just over one winter; the same thing happens year after year.

On Sunday mornings, volunteers walk the beaches of Canada's Atlantic and Pacific coasts, and they frequently pick up as many as 15 birds.

People living along the St. Lawrence and the Great Lakes are also familiar with this problem. Some birds hang on for days, because, rather than dying from the cold, they starve to death because they are unable to move around.

The waters off Atlantic Canada, where the problem is more serious, are an important crossroads for seabirds. They teem with life that supports tens of millions of birds. Other species stop in this area as well during migration.

These include murres, puffins, dovekies and various species of gulls: herring gulls, great black-backed gulls, as well as black guillemots, common eiders, Atlantic puffins, Northern gannets, oldsquaws, common loons, red-throated loons, double-crested cormorants and black-legged kittiwakes.

People generally do not have an opportunity to come in contact with such a proliferation of species, particularly city-dwellers.

There are also South Atlantic albatrosses. I would invite everyone to visit Canada's east coast, be it the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the Magdalen Islands, Nova Scotia or Newfoundland. They will be able to see for themselves what absolutely extraordinary things abound in nature.

Also affected are the phalaropes, several species of gull, eiders and eastern harlequin ducks, all categorized as of special concern in the endangered species classification.

Our scientists now know that 80% of dead birds found on Newfoundland beaches alone died from chronic oil pollution.

So much damage is done to so many wild species. What a tragedy that could have been avoided.

The bill before us will deal with this problem by increasing fines under the Migratory Birds Convention Act to as much as $1 million for people ignoring our environmental laws and discharging oil waste at sea.

It will hold these seamen and these operators, as well as their directors, responsible for their acts and will help to harmonize our approach with that of the United States, where fines have always been higher.

This act to amend the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 will also provide clarity for law enforcers as well as ship owners and operators in waters under Canadian jurisdiction, including the 200 mile exclusive economic zone.

We can say, at this time, that none of the species that I talked about today is endangered. This is good news. However, with such a high mortality rate, how long do you think that we will be able to prevent their names from being added to the list of species at risk?

Our own scientists say that it is clear that death from fuelling at sea can seriously reduce the abundance and growth of populations of sea bird species that have a long lifespan, particularly when mortality rates are sustained, adults are affected or species having small populations are suffering the consequences of fuelling at sea.

Do we want to be the ones responsible for some of these species being put on the endangered list? I think no one in this House wants that when we could have acted, and done something very simple that would have quite an impact.

The bill before us will send a very clear message. It will tell those in the shipping industry who do not care about the species with which they share the ocean that their actions are repugnant to us and that we are going to go after them with the full force of the law.

There are some in the shipping industry who find it deplorable that the Government of Canada makes laws to punish people for polluting, treating them like criminals in the sense that they could be held personally liable in a court of law.

Let me point out that it is people who pollute, not ships. Marine pollution should not be treated like a parking violation. It only makes sense that Canada demand that sailors and vessels' operators abide by the exemplary practices of their own industry and by the laws of our country.

It will tell people in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Quebec, British Columbia and other coastal provinces that we too care about the marine wildlife that makes us unique and enriches us. Also, it will tell Canadians that our environmental laws are consistent with their vision of preserving and protecting.

Such are the messages we can send by adopting the bill before us, a measure that will make a difference as early as the winter of 2005, when we are in a better position to detect offenders, charge those we catch, and deter others by imposing hefty fines that will eliminate oil dumping as a cost of being in business. Those are the messages we want to send.

Not all shipping lines, ship owners and ships break the law. Most ports have equipment to pump out oil waste. Most responsible shipping lines use this equipment. Those that do not may be considered sea vagrants. They dump their waste at night or when they have left our country. Obviously, when this happens in the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence River, or the seaway, it is easier to deal with them, because they are still in Canadian territorial waters. We can force them to comply because we can board the vessels.

It is very often when they leave the St. Lawrence seaway and our coastal waters, in our 200 mile economic zone, that these tramps dump their oil waste at sea. The whole environment is affected.

In parliamentary committee, we were asked why we are introducing this bill now and why we did not do it earlier. As concerns the 1994 and 1999 legislation, you know that when Parliament passes legislation, it takes a while before it is implemented. The delay can be lengthy. Later on, when we assess these new statutes, we often find out there are shortcomings that make it impossible for us to deal with the issues in the way it was envisioned when the bill was passed.

Whether it is the Environment Act 1997 or other legislation, obviously, while members of Parliament are considering a bill, the public service is drafting it based on cases and facts. They bring it to us and we study it in the House and in parliamentary committee. We pass it in the House, with some amendments. It is sent to the Senate, which does the same thing. The senators consult people, rework the bill, pass it and send it back here to the House for a final reading before it is passed. Some people think that once it is passed, the bill becomes an infallible law.

In the present situation, there have been some rather important cases, particularly the Tecam Sea and the Olga . These two cases led us to discover the loopholes in our law. We realized that, even with the evidence we had for prosecuting them, we were not certain that we would be able to finish the job and punish them by fines or seizure of the vessels, and so forth. We had to let the charges drop.

In the past year, people have had to work on drafting a new bill that would arm us with tougher measures for those who break our laws, so that we could really intervene and set an example.

The bill before us is intended to amend the 1994 and 1999 statutes. Based on our experience in enforcing these two laws, we have drafted a bill that makes it possible for us to intervene with some real muscle, to ensure that we are able to punish these seafaring vagabonds, these people who take advantage of bad weather, storms and fog to flout our laws and dump their oily waste in our waters.

There have been many consultations. Some people say that we should have heard from witnesses in a parliamentary committee. Obviously, the basic work was done in consultation with the provinces and environmental groups, at the request of certain groups.

I shall simply give the example of the Shipping Federation of Canada, established by an act of Parliament in 1903, which represents ships involved in Canada's overseas trade, their owners and operators and their agents. The federation, representing 90% of the traffic in and out of Canada's eastern ports, from Newfoundland to the Great Lakes, encourages and promotes an environmentally responsible transportation system and supports initiatives to sanction operators that do not respect environmental standards.

In other words, when things are done the right way, any economic environment may be involved. People want standards that are clear and well defined for everyone. People who want to do things right do so in a positive environment. There are offenders, of course, because there always be people who will want to circumvent the laws.

However, our laws must be rigorous enough to allow us to intervene and sanction the guilty.

Also, like the Sierra Club, the World Wildlife Fund and the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the Canadian Nature Federation is doing its part by supporting the bill. These organizations applaud the efforts of the Government of Canada, which wants to protect nature and our species by passing this bill.

In closing, I would like to invite all parliamentarians to support this bill. They have already done so at first reading, as well as at the committee stage. Of course, one may question at times the rapidity of the process. However, I believe this is an emergency. We had already passed the legislation twice, in 1994 and 1999, and we really had to intervene. We know also that implementing this legislation will take time. Consequently, I invite all the members of Parliament to support this bill.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994
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May 14, 2004

Hon. Serge Marcil

Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to thank my hon. colleague. Of course, the election is on everybody's mind. I do not believe that a bill such as this one would get us more votes. It does not have anything to do with the election. It is not a commitment that was part of the agenda of the Liberal Party of Canada. In fact, its only purpose is to strengthen two pieces of legislation lacking the muscle to permit the government to properly prosecute the offenders in the shipping industry.

What the hon. member has said about the Canada Steamship Lines shows that the legislation applies to everybody. Nobody is above the law. Therefore, that company was punished and paid the fine.

However, other companies, many of them from abroad, commit offences, and we do not always have the tools required to prosecute them.

So, I agree, several groups have approved this bill. In fact, we have received a lot of letters at the Department of the Environment urging the government to act more quickly and pass this bill as soon as possible. We are correcting a situation and legislation that does not give us the tools we need. I think it is never too late to do the right thing. In this case, the time has come to ensure that everyone abides by the law.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994
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May 10, 2004

Hon. Serge Marcil (Beauharnois—Salaberry, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I was greatly saddened to learn today of the passing of Eric Kierans, who was a pillar of Canadian politics at a pivotal point in our history.

Born in Montreal in 1914, he entered provincial politics in 1963. After his first victory in a by-election, he went on to the revenue portfolio and then to health in the government of Jean Lesage.

Today, everyone agrees that the Lesage government was the architect of the quiet revolution in Quebec. In 1968, he made the leap to the federal level, where he made a name for himself as Postmaster General and Minister of Communications in the government of Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

Mr. Kierans was a larger-than-life figure in Canadian politics. We extend our condolences to his family and friends on behalf of all Canadians. Canada will never forget this man who was so devoted to his country.

Topic:   Statements By Members
Subtopic:   Eric Kierans
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