Mr. Rodger Cuzner (Bras d'Or--Cape Breton, Lib.)
Mr. Speaker, in addressing Bill C-10, an act respecting the national marine conservation areas of Canada, it is important to focus some attention on the process leading up to the establishment of a national marine conservation area, the final step of which would be the entrenchment of the land description under the proposed legislation.
How national marine conservation areas are established has after all been the subject of a number of hon. members who have expressed concern in this area. The creation of national marine conservation areas is a time-consuming and complex undertaking. It cannot simply be established by the federal government acting alone. It requires the support of provincial or territorial governments and the support of local communities.
It may take several years before an establishment agreement is signed. It takes time to conduct meaningful public consultations, to secure the support of all levels of government and to negotiate the agreements setting out the terms and conditions for a new national marine conservation area.
How will these areas be created and managed? The answer can be found in the bill, in Parks Canada's policies and in the co-operative consultation process currently underway in several regions. Five major steps are involved.
National marine conservation areas are meant to be representative of a region in which they are located. This is not a random process. The first step in establishing a marine conservation area is to identify potential sites. This involves a number of studies to determine the physical, biological and cultural characteristics of a marine region. The geology, oceanography and habitats of the regions are examined in detail,as well as the occurrence and distribution of its species from plankton to whales.
The known maritime history, both pre-colonial and post-colonial, is also incorporated into the studies to gain as complete a picture of the region as possible.
There are some 24 representative marine areas. Areas that encompass the majority of these features are identified within the region. These areas are then rated and based on how well they represent the region in their natural state. Once these representative marine areas have been confirmed, further studies and consultations are undertaken to select one of these sites as a potential marine conservation area. This is the second step.
A wide range of factors are considered when comparing representative marine areas, including the quality of regional representation, the importance of the area in maintaining biodiversity, essential processes and critical habitats, the occurrence of exceptional, natural and cultural features, the value of the area for ecological research in monitoring, minimizing conflict with existing or probable marine uses, and the implications of land claims or treaties. Consultations with concerned provincial and territorial governments and implicated federal departments are also undertaken.
The third step is assessing the feasibility of the potential national marine conservation area. This is the most complex and time-consuming part of the entire establishment of the procedure. One of its main purposes is to determine if there is sufficient support for a marine conservation area. The provincial or territorial government and any affected aboriginal organizations must agree to proceed to this step. They will also be directly involved in any study.
A feasibility study involves extensive consultation with local communities, stakeholders, aboriginal people and the general public, usually by means of local regional committees set up to participate directly in the study and make recommendations to the minister.
In order to allow the public to make an informed choice, detailed studies of the physical, biological and cultural features of the area are done. Social economic impact studies are also undertaken as required.
Federal policy dictates that mineral and energy resource assessments must be done on federal lands to determine if significant non-renewable resource potential would be foreclosed by the establishment of a national marine conservation area.
If the resource potential is high, this information would be considered when boundary options are being developed. Discussions are also undertaken with the appropriate departments, in consultation with the public, with respect to the management of fisheries, navigation and shipping. Possible boundaries for the proposed marine conservation area are drawn at this stage taking all these considerations into account.
As the feasibility study is concluded, a report is produced. It will provide an indication of the level of public support. It will include recommendations on conservation and management objectives. It will speak to boundaries, draft management and zoning plans. Finally, it will identify any specific issues of concern to local communities and affected user groups.
If the study demonstrates that the proposed national marine conservation area is feasible and there is public support for it, the governments could then proceed with the next step. If it is not a feasible option, other representative marine areas within that region could be considered.
If the governments have decided to proceed, a federal-provincial or federal-territorial agreement is formally negotiated, which sets out the terms and conditions under which the national marine conservation area will be established and managed. These agreements cover many topics, including final boundaries; management of fisheries and marine transportation; land transfer; and co-operation in marine conservation area planning and management.
Where lands are subject to a claim by aboriginal peoples in respect to aboriginal rights, the national marine conservation area can be provided for as part of a negotiated claim settlement. Alternatively a national marine conservation area or reserve can be established pending resolution of the claim. Reserves are managed as if they were national marine conservation areas but without prejudice to the settlement of the claim.
All of the studies and negotiations would occur before any national marine conservation area is brought to parliament for formal establishment under the act. At this stage, Bill C-10 requires that the minister table a report and that the report include information on the consultations undertaken, including a list of names of organizations and persons consulted; the dates of the consultations and a summary of their comments; any agreements reached respecting the establishment of the area; results of any assessments of mineral or energy resources undertaken; and the interim management plan that sets out management objectives and a zoning plan.
Parliament will thus have the opportunity to see the results of the time and effort put into the proposal to establish one of these sites. It will also be able to satisfy itself that there is community support and that all aspects have been taken into consideration.
A national marine conservation area is formally established when its land description is added to the schedule of the act. This brings those lands under the formal protection of the legislation.
Bill C-10 sets out an order in council process for the establishment in law of national marine conservation areas and reserves. It requires that proposed additions to the schedules must be tabled in both houses and referred to the appropriate standing committees for their consideration. Should either house reject the establishment of the new area, the order in council would not proceed.
In going through the process, I believe I have demonstrated that the decision to establish a national marine conservation area lies in the hands of Canadians and their elected representatives. Let us now quickly pass Bill C-10.
Topic: Government Orders
Subtopic: Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act