Mr. Paul Mariineau (Poniiac-Timiskam-ing):
Mr. Speaker, rising after hon. members who have dealt with the question of water pollution in a masterly way, with a wealth of supporting evidence, it will be very difficult indeed, for me, especially in this, my maiden speech, to make a new and very definite contribution to this debate.
However, because it is an important problem, I did not want to miss my chance of congratulating the hon. member for Selkirk (Mr. Stefanson) for bringing before the house a problem which is becoming increasingly serious with the growing development and industrialization of this country.
The fact of the matter is that today water pollution is affecting more and more areas of Canada. As an Ottawa valley resident, I know that for several years now the pollution of the Ottawa river has been a very serious problem. What I did not realize is that the problem is so acute in every area of the country, especially in circumstances such as those mentioned by the hon. member for Selkirk.
He, in fact, spoke of a river in his district, the Red river, which I knew only by name and through old songs that lumbermen and some of our pioneers, more particularly the early settlers in my own constituency of
Pontiac-Timiskaming, used to sing. I was therefore quite surprised to learn that this river, which to my mind seemed full of poetic charm and magic attractions, was polluted to the extent where it constituted a serious threat in that area.
I wonder however if the remedy proposed by the hon. member for Selkirk would really solve the problem.
Before amending the Criminal Code, we should study the question thoroughly in order to avert a possible clash of jurisdictions. A number of provinces have, in fact, already adopted legislation which, in certain specified cases, prohibit water pollution. I wonder if this parliament would have jurisdiction in this connection. Another thing which we should consider is that nobody, wilfully or maliciously, would really wish to contribute to the pollution of waters. If there is water pollution, Mr. Speaker, it is not because people want to break the law governing public health. It has merely been brought about through the force of circumstances. Our country has been developing at a very rapid rate over the past few years and we are undergoing what are commonly called growing pains, among which we must include sewage disposal.
If this parliament were to adopt legislation which would make water pollution a criminal offence, what could we do, since, up to now, we have taken no adequate action to change the situation? If we were to amend the Criminal Code to make water pollution a criminal offence, we would perforce be turning into criminals a great many law abiding citizens.
Mr. Speaker, just as did previous speakers, I submit that, before we proceed to amend our Criminal Code, we should call a federal-provincial conference which would include representatives of municipalities so that the authorities concerned may act together in seeking means to solve this problem which is becoming a real plague. This conference could set up a permanent controlling agency, whose duty would be to study all aspects of the matter.
Mr. Speaker, I heartily commend the hon. member for Carleton (Mr. Bell). He brilliantly stated the case and ably went into the most technical aspects of water pollution.
After such a complete and comprehensive speech, I find it very difficult to deal with the matter. However, I do wish to say that in my view this discussion was most useful and that it will certainly cause not only in
this house but in the public and among other authorities, a favourable reaction which will stimulate the search for a solution to this serious problem. I am convinced that, with the modern technology and methods that we have had for the past few years, we will manage to put an end to this situation.
This problem interests me all the more because it affects the Ottawa river, which rises in the pellucid streams of the mountains and remote areas of my constituency. It is certainly too bad that on reaching the national capital, this water should be so polluted instead of being improved, as it were, by the presence of so many luminaries in this house. I therefore hope that the house will be able to find the means of putting an end to this problem.
Topic: CRIMINAL CODE
Subtopic: AMENDMENT TO PROVIDE PUNISHMENT FOR WATER POLLUTION