Hon. J. D. HAZEN (Minister of Marine and Fisheries):
My hon. friend from Selkirk (Mr. Bradbury), who has introduced this Bill, and who, during the past two years, has introduced Bills very similar in character, has suggested that the matter should now be dealt with by the House. In the session of 1913 a Bill of this character was introduced which was referred to a committee of the House and a similar course was taken in the session of 1914. The committee, as pointed out by my hon. friend, met on a good many occasions and gave a great deal of consideration to the matter. They heard the opinions and the
evidence of members of the Conservation Commission who had made a special study in regard to this question, and of sanitary experts, bacteriologists and other men of scientific training who had made scientific researches regarding it. They also, in the summer of 1913, had a conference with representatives of the different provincial authorities, and the health authorities of the different provinces, and they gave a great deal of thought and consideration to the matter. At the last session of the House they made a report to Parliament which report is found in the Votes and Proceedings of the 11th of June, and in which they made the statement that it was evident that sufficient time was not available to the committee for the completion of the task which had been committed to them, and therefore they reported back without amendment the Billg to the House. They took this course because there had been certain practical objections raised to the Bills yrhich they thought required serious consideration and further because they believed that it was well to ascertain, if they could do so, what action the International Joint Commission proposed to take in regard to the pollution of boundary waters. There is no doubt at all, I think, that this Parliament has the right to pass legislation preventing the pollution of waters that constitute the boundary line between Canada and the United States. But that was not the difficulty which they had to face. What the committee felt was that if Canada should pass legislation to prevent raw sewage from Canadian cities and towns being placed in the waters of boundary rivers, such as the St. Lawrence and the St. John, very little good would be accomplished thereby unless the United States passed similar legislation preventing sewage from the Republic going into these boundary waters, thus preventing the pollution not only of their own waters but of the waters that were on the Canadian side of the boundary as well.
As pointed out by the hon. member for Selkirk, the International Joint Commission representing the United States and Canada, regarding the pollution of boundary waters, have made an investigation of that subject. I hold in my hand the progress report which they have made thereon. Since then they have devoted a good deal of research and study to the question, and they considered it, I believe, at a meeting which was held by the members of the Joint Commission in the city of Torontoa week or ten days ago. I am told
they have practically come to a conclusion as to the recommendation they will make. While legislation in this direction should not be too long delayed, I think we should know before proceeding, the findings of the International Joint Commission, which I am led to believe will be of a very drastic character, in order that we may not pass any legislation that will conflict with or be inconsistent with the conclusions arrived at by that commission which represents the Governments of both countries.
While the Committee of this House was unanimous in favour of legislation to prevent the pollution of navigable streams, yet it was felt that to pass a sweeping law saying that no sewage should be put into any river or stream in Canada would work hardship in many cases. In the past, cities, towns, and villages, with full authority of law, have established sewage systems depositing their sewage in these streams, and were they to be at once ordered to cease this practice it would entail great financial responsibilities upon them. I am told that the city of Montreal alone would be put to an expenditure of seven or eight million dollars to change its sewage system, and of course the city of Toronto and other cities and towns would have to bear proportionately large expense.
My hon. friend has introduced quite an important provision in this Bill which was not to be found in his Bill of last year, a provision giving the Governor in Council power to exempt any water or waters from the operation of this Act, for such length of time as may be prescribed, and may from time to time extend, withdraw, or vary such exemption. That places very wide powers as to the administration of the Act in the Governor in Council, and practically makes them the judges as to the waters in which sewage can be put, and as to what time may reasonably elapse before cities, towns and villages shall be compelled to introduce some system of purification of sewage approved of by sanitary engineers. This makes a very considerable change in the Bill, as compared with that which was introduced by my hon. friend last year.
I believe this measure to be in the public interest, and that the public desire legislation which will prevent the rivers and streams from being polluted. Yet, in view of this change, and as the committee which dealt with the measure last year reported that they had not time to complete their findings, it occurs to me that the Bill
should go back to the same committee. With the information which that committee has already obtained, with knowledge of the change made in the Bill, and with the information they would have as to the action of the International Joint Commission, I think the committee should, at an early date this session, report the Bill back to the House with their recommendations.
I would suggest to my hon. friend, who has shown so much zeal in promoting this Bill before the House, that he should consider this suggestion. I think the Bill may properly be read a second time now, and in the meantime I will consult with my hon. friend as to the propriety of referring the Bill back to the same committee, with the understanding
that the recommendation and report of the committee sat., be made, so that the House can possibly deal with the Bill at the present session.