Good morning, everybody.
Pursuant to the order of reference of Tuesday, October 17, we are considering Bill , an act to amend the Oceans Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act. Here we are at committee, after the passage of second reading, and onwards and upwards we go.
To our witnesses, thank you for being with us. I'm not sure if you're on the west coast or not, but if you are, welcome to the early morning hours.
Welcome to Paul Crowley, vice-president of the Arctic program of World Wildlife Fund Canada—it's good to see you again, sir—and Mark Brooks, Arctic oil and gas specialist, also from World Wildlife Fund Canada.
From the Lax Kw'alaams Band we have Mayor John Helin. Thank you very much, Your Worship, for joining us here today.
As well, welcome to Dean Allison, our colleague from Niagara West. It's nice to see you this morning, Dean. Thanks for joining us.
We have up to 10 minutes to hear from each group.
Mr. Crowley, go ahead, sir. Thank you.
Good morning, everyone. Thank you for the invitation. I just want to start by acknowledging that the work you're doing is critically important to ensuring that Canada has the necessary laws and policies in place to protect the health of our oceans. We have submitted written comments, which I trust you've received.
Just quickly, I'm sure you're familiar with the World Wildlife Fund. We're one of the largest independent conservation organizations in the world. We have projects in 100 countries. WWF-Canada creates solutions to the environmental challenges that matter most to Canadians. We work in places that are unique and ecologically important so that wildlife, nature, and people thrive together.
With respect to our marine conservation work, WWF-Canada believes healthy oceans depend on a network of marine protected areas that account for ocean currents, species migration, and other ecological connections. We are working in partnership with coastal communities, indigenous peoples, and groups to advocate for MPAs and sustainable oceans management. WWF is pushing to have stronger conservation standards, including better management, and to exclude industrial activities, oil and gas, and mining within MPA boundaries.
I would like to begin by emphasizing the position of our organization on the need for modernizing the laws governing environmental protection of our oceans, including the need to review and reform the rules governing offshore oil and gas activities, which have not been substantially updated in decades and which, certainly in the Arctic, tend to favour industrial development at the expense of other alternatives.
With regard to Bill , WWF-Canada does support the proposed amendments to the Oceans Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act in favour of expediting the MPA designation process, and we commend the government for its ambitious conservation targets. We agree that the process to establish new MPAs in Canada is much too long. The proposed legislation should help expedite this process.
Marine protection designation must be meaningful, however. Bill is a step in the right direction but it will not ensure that new MPAs in Canada effectively protect marine biodiversity. Setting an ambitious conservation target is commendable, yet the government must also do the right thing to ensure that marine protection is meaningful and effective.
WWF-Canada believes the goal of all of Canada's environmental legislation should be to modernize the Canadian economy to meet the sustainability challenges of the 21st century. To effectively meet this goal, a set of unifying objectives should be followed.
First, maintain and restore vital ecological goods and services upon which communities and species depend. Uphold Canada's international climate commitments and decarbonize energy production and consumption. Uphold the rights of indigenous peoples to access to and stewardship of our natural wealth including the crown's duty to consult. Finally, uphold the right to a healthy environment.
With regard to the Oceans Act amendments, the proposed Oceans Act and CPRA amendments will streamline the process of creating new MPAs. However, the absence of minimum standards for MPAs that would include prohibitions on certain activities is a significant shortcoming. Lack of minimum standards for MPAs leads to weaker protection and uncertainty if restrictions must be determined on a site-by-site basis.
Industrial activities are not permitted in terrestrial parks. We need the same level of protection for our marine protected areas. Minimum standards must include prohibitions on oil and gas and mineral exploration and development, bottom trawling, open-net pen aquaculture, tidal power development, and wind farms.
Subject to indigenous rights in Canada, minimum standards should also include a requirement for significant no-take zones that are closed to all extractive activities but that would not preclude low-impact fishing, ecotourism, and recreation activities as well as marine transportation.
Our Oceans Act does not explicitly recognize indigenous protected areas declared under indigenous law and has insufficient provisions to allow meaningful ocean co-governance. The Oceans Act must be amended to recognize indigenous law for all indigenous groups to achieve food security, allow for sustainable livelihoods, recognize IPAs—indigenous protected areas—and achieve meaningful oceans co-governance.
Finally, the ongoing activities exception in the bill when a new MPA is given interim protection is overly broad. In some cases, it may not be clear whether an activity will be prohibited or allowed once interim protection is given.
With regard to the CPRA, the Canada Petroleum Resources Act, it needs to be amended, and the fact that it needs to be amended demonstrates a fundamental weakness in this legislation. The CPRA is over 30 years old, and its guiding policy focuses almost exclusively on expediting the development of petroleum resources at the expense of other possible alternatives, such as marine conservation. Full modernization of the CPRA, along with the entire oil and gas regulatory regime, is long overdue.
For now, the three following amendments to the CPRA could be implemented through Bill to help balance conservation priorities with industrial development.
First, ensure the provision allowing for cancellation of oil and gas interests applies to all permits and is not limited only for the purposes of MPA designation. The revocation of a licence must also be permitted if unexercised rights interfere with the public good. Next, add a guiding policy section or preamble that explicitly sets out the policy intention of the legislation within the context of important contemporary issues, such as marine conservation. As well, include a statutory requirement to conduct an environmental assessment before an exploration licence is granted to a company.
With respect to Bill amendments specifically, it should be noted that the CPRA does not apply to the Atlantic accord areas. Regulatory solutions therefore need to be considered for the accord areas in the same context as the CPRA amendment to ensure the ability to restrict oil and gas from MPAs, and therefore would be applied Canada-wide.
In addition, when an interim MPA is to be designated, the minister will be given discretionary powers to prohibit oil and gas activities and/or cancel a company's interest. This should be a mandatory—not discretionary—prohibition.
As noted, Bill must also allow for the cancellation of all oil and gas interests in areas where MPAs are designated, including permits that are subject to boundary disputes and/or prohibition orders, some of which have been held for decades. If not, these licences could remain an impediment to MPA designation in the future.
With regard to the public review of of Canada's offshore oil and gas regulatory regime, in the Arctic offshore, where CPRA rules apply, Canada's oil and gas regime consists of multiple pieces of legislation. The government completed a review of the CPRA last year and is currently carrying out a review of CEAA, the National Energy Board modernization review, and the frontier and offshore regulatory renewal initiative, yet it's not clear how all of these various reviews are connected, if at all.
A comprehensive public review of the entire regulatory regime governing oil and gas development in Canada's offshore Arctic areas is required. This review should consider how the various pieces of legislation work together and which elements should be improved or modernized.
Oil and gas development, particularly in the Arctic, is only one outcome amongst a number of possible alternatives and should not be seen in isolation from other priorities. Fully modernizing the regulatory regime will help ensure that the priorities and concerns of Canadians are adequately considered if new licences for oil and gas activity in Canada's offshore Arctic waters are issued by any government at some point in the future.
To bring us to a conclusion, I will say that Bill is a step in the right direction, but it will not ensure that MPAs in Canada effectively protect marine biodiversity. We encourage the government to take this rare opportunity to consider further amendments to both the CPRA and the Oceans Act, which are necessary to ensure that both are fully modernized and updated to reflect contemporary sustainability challenges.
Thank you again for your invitation.
I thank the committee for allowing me to speak before it here today. I think it's important that I travelled all the way from northwestern B.C. to Ottawa, because I feel that we're left out on the northwest coast of B.C. I say that because a lot of policies and regulations have been put in place without our input. You talk about informed consent, and there are some buzzwords we keep hearing. I'll point to the Great Bear Rainforest that was put in place without a lot of consultation with our members.
I was out here a few days ago speaking before the standing committee on the tanker moratorium. I found out that you have an Atlantic fishery fund for the east coast of the country. My community, which has over 3,800 members, has the biggest gillnet fishing fleet on the B.C. coast. We can't afford to put fuel in those boats because we don't get the fishing time. We don't have the ability to get the quotas that are worth money from the halibut, the geoduck, and all those fisheries that people make good money from when they fish them. Our members don't have access to them.
All the plans that were put in place in the past, like the Mifflin plan and all these fisheries plans that were going to improve how we access the fish on the coast, are just not working. We went through a court procedure with the government a few years ago and lost. Through that court procedure, DFO enforcement started a program called “Operation Laundry List”, through which they targeted our fishermen on the fishing grounds. It's frustrating when I have to write to the and the fisheries minister and say that we're being racially profiled on the coast because we lost that fisheries case. And it's real. A few days ago I met with RDG Rebecca Reid in Prince Rupert. Hopefully we are turning the page on the ugly past that we share. How do we improve that?
There's a PICFI plan in place. I met with here last year. He said we were the poster child of that program. We were following all the guidelines and doing what we were supposed to do. Then we found out that some of the quota we could have gotten went to other bands, and that when they get it, all they do is flip it to non-native fishermen. We have the biggest fishing fleet on the coast, and we don't have that access.
There are a lot of problems. I'm here to point them out, but I'm also here to work with the necessary people to improve.... Our members have been living there for thousands of years. You talk about looking after the ocean. That's what we do. The environment is always first, but we should be allowed to make a decent living in our territory. We've done it for years on fish resources as well as on forestry. It's important that I bring this message to Ottawa . It's frustrating for me to come out here and talk to people, and then go away and not be heard from again.
I met with Minister Tootoo when he was the minister, , and a whole bunch of ministers on LNG and on some other issues that we were dealing with. To have NGOs come into our traditional territory and divide us.... I'll just mention that because of what happened with LNG out there. People come into our territories and spread false information, and it's a hard job for me to go to our membership and correct that, through meetings that I have to hold. But they have to get the real story, not the stuff that is disseminated by some of the groups that don't want to see things progress in our area. It's very frustrating.
We hear about the Atlantic fishery fund. When I go to a lot of our docks in B.C. and see how we're.... There are some improvements, but look at east coast Canada. The docks they have compared to what we have on the west coast show how we're treated out there. I'm here to make some noise and say that I don't like being treated like that, especially when we have the biggest fishing fleet in B.C., a gillnet fleet, and we can't make a living.
People are desperate. Some of our elders have to make a choice between hydro and food, and that's a reality in Canada in my community.
I come here with that message. How do we improve that? Policies and regulations are made in Ottawa, and hopefully you'll come to meet with us and understand who we are so we work together to improve those situations.
Thank you, Mayor Helin.
We're now going to our questions, but before we do, there are just a couple of things to point out.
Over the next little while, colleagues, and this is just a suggestion on my part.... If you recall, a few meetings ago, we passed a motion to incorporate testimony from MPAs into this study of Bill , where we spoke to bands such as those on the west coast. It occurred to Thai, our analyst, that it would be helpful if we could convert or take some of the testimony here and put it into our MPA study as well, so the flip of that.
Have a think about that, because we need a motion to do that, and we can't do it in public, of course, unless we have 48 hours' notice. Would anybody like to bring forward a motion to have evidence from this testimony regarding Bill included with our MPA study down the road in the next few months? It was his idea, not mine.
Okay, folks, now we go to our questions.
Mr. Hardie, you have seven minutes, please.
Welcome back, everybody. I have a couple of things before we get to our witnesses.
It has been brought to my attention that there may be a vote at 11:10 eastern time, which of course means that the 30-minute bells may start ringing at 10:40.
Do I have the permission of the committee to continue until 10:45 a.m., missing out on five minutes? Are we okay with that, everybody?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: Okay, let me just go back to an earlier point that was made about referencing people in the gallery. We've done some checking here.
I appreciate the point made by Ms. Jordan about the fact that we are an extension of the House of Commons. However, according to the Standing Orders—and really it's O'Brien and Bosc that I'm referring to—it is the right of the Speaker to identify people in the gallery. It's more for decorum, for diplomatic reasons, and so on and so forth. When people from within debate in the House of Commons point out people in the gallery, they would be overruled.
However, there's no precedent or ruling per se—a hard ruling—about pointing out people in the gallery. I have done it in the past, but I suppose you could argue that I am an extension of the Speaker and able to do so. Some of us have also done it in the past with some contention. Therefore, we will refer to the clerk in the House to see what the rule has been, because we can't seem to find a precedent for it.
In the meantime, my personal opinion, as chair, is that I'll use my own discretion to do that. Colleagues, if you wish to point out somebody's presence in the audience, it's your seven minutes or five minutes, and you can do that if you wish, as long as it doesn't disrupt the debate. Okay?
In the meantime, we will refer to the Clerk of the House of Commons, and I'll come back with that.
Meanwhile, let us return to our regularly scheduled program.
Ms. Macdonald, nice to see you. Nikki Macdonald is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Victoria who wrote us directly, and with the permission of committee, we are glad you could make it here today.
We also have, joining us by video conference, Mr. Bill Wareham, who is a science projects manager for the western region of the David Suzuki Foundation.
That being said, Ms. Macdonald, we're going to go with you first. You have up to 10 minutes for your opening statement.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, honourable members. I really appreciate being here today to speak about Bill . Before I get into the substance of my remarks, I have just a quick, few personal notes. Some of you I've met in the past, through my work with the University of Victoria and with Ocean Networks Canada, but today I'm here as an individual and as a Ph.D. student at the University of Victoria's school of public administration. I have focused my research on ocean policy, and specifically on Canada's Oceans Act.
I really compliment the government on the initiative to amend the Oceans Act. As has been mentioned here in committee and in the House, it's been 20 years since the act was written and it's due time to ensure that we're meeting our international obligations, as well as the challenges of oceans management, and take another look at the act. I also applaud the government for seeking to meet the target of 5%, in 2017, of designated marine areas, as well as 10% in 2020. Designated marine parks or marine areas are important ocean management tools, but my objective here is actually to talk about the other 90% of the water. That's where I have focused my research.
Canada's Oceans Act was created as a foundation to ensure the wise development of Canada's oceans' waters. When I began my research three years ago, I was addressing the question of how we go about, as a country, making decisions about ocean use. I began my research by looking at that through the public consultation process that was under way for the northern gateway project. I'm a west-coaster, so that's part of the reason behind that. I was puzzled as to why there did not appear to be a framework through which the government was making decisions around ocean use. That puzzlement led to research, which led me back to Canada's Oceans Act.
I've also been investigating the public narrative that was exposed through that public consultation process that the joint review undertook as part of the northern gateway project. The intent of my research is to compare that public narrative around ocean use with the normative frame that is underpinning the Oceans Act.
There are three key observations that I want to share with you today. The first is that the Oceans Act contains, in its preamble, a set of principles that are intended to guide Canada in managing its ocean resources, and these principles remain relevant to today's challenges.
The second observation is that the act was a promise of a solid foundation upon which Canada would build its ocean management strategy, as the minister of the day described it, to address the “piecemeal, fragmented and scattered” character of Canada's ocean policy prior to 1996. From the evaluations conducted by this committee in 2000, by the Auditor General's office in 2005, and further government evaluation in 2006, the act has largely failed to meet this objective.
The third observation arising out of my review of the public consultation around the northern gateway project is that the public expectation around decision-making on ocean use has changed in 20 years. While the expectations are mostly in alignment with the founding principles of the act, there is a broader definition of what is “ocean”. It is no longer simply, to quote, the “gravel pit for fish”, as described in the Senate hearings in 1996, nor the transportation route for shipping. Instead there is a clear public awareness of the interconnectedness of the ocean within its own systems to the relationship with climate and human activity.
When Canada's Oceans Act was first passed 20 years ago, it was the first of its kind to put in statutory form the key principles of ocean management that had been developing through international law and agreement. During the same period, Australia had proposed an ocean policy that included many of the same elements as Canada's Oceans Act, but it was not given legislative form.
A key aspect, as I mentioned, of the act was the preamble that sets out the core principles to guide Canada's ocean management strategy. The two founding principles were sustainable development and integrated management.
The definition of “sustainable development” was drawn from the Brundtland commission that had in its 1992 report brought the concept to international stage. The concept of integrated management, according to the testimony provided to this committee at that time, was intended to be implemented at a federal level through better co-ordination and collaboration under the leadership of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, and at a regional level through the creation of integrated regional plans. Other principles that were added to the preamble following the committee hearings included the recognition of the common heritage of the oceans, the importance of the ecosystem-based approach to maintain biological diversity, and the application of the precautionary principle.
These principles remain the guides of the ocean policy according to the broader literature. There's little evidence to suggest they cannot continue to guide Canada's decision-making around ocean use. They have, however, been evolving. One example of the evolution in the concept of sustainable development is that Canada's Federal Sustainable Development Act was amended recently by the . It's important, in the interpretation of the Oceans Act, that it mirror the definition of principles outlined in the Federal Sustainable Development Act.
The real challenge with the principles, however, has been with the implementation. As noted, the act and the subsequent oceans strategy and oceans plan called for the creation of integrated regional marine plans that would incorporate aspects of coastal zone management. Five plans were initiated, and it took almost 20 years for them to be completed. It is worthwhile to note that Australia initiated a similar process, and after a decade, they vacated it.
Similarly, within the federal government there has been little success in moving away from sectoral-based decision-making towards a holistic and integrated approach. Explanations that have been given as to why that was not achieved include the lack of resources to enable implementation, the lack of political will to champion an integrated approach, and that the act lacked the prescriptive detail to direct the bureaucracy in its implementation. The good news is that today, the current government, through its mandate letters and the oceans protection plan, has demonstrated a commitment to a collaborative approach to oceans management.
The question for the committee is whether there's any need to amend or improve upon the act to ensure that future governments continue to promote this approach.
As I noted earlier, the public expectation around ocean use has been evolving over the past 20 years. As one official from Transport Canada noted to me several years ago, marine safety used to mean getting a vessel from point A to point B without collision or accident. Today marine safety includes evaluating the impact of freighter traffic on marine mammals in their habitat through such programs as the eco-project under way in Port Metro Vancouver.
It is a combination of science and technology that has fuelled this change in public expectation. Science, defined here to include natural and social science as well as the humanities, has exposed the important linkage between the ocean, climate change, and the impact of human behaviour. Technologies such as improved hydrophones allow us to pick up not only the different dialects among the orca, but also the distress that they exhibit around marine traffic.
Infrastructure such as Ocean Networks Canada and the Ocean Tracking Network are opening up the ocean in ways we were not able to see 20 years ago. The consequence in policy terms is that we can no longer make decisions about ocean use on a sectoral basis. We need to explore new mechanisms to support more holistic approaches to decision-making at a federal level, a regional level, and a local level.
Therefore, my question to the committee is whether the act should be amended to include a commitment to capacity building to meet this need—a suggestion made by the Brundtland commission 20 years ago.
I would like to thank the committee for providing me with this opportunity to share my observations regarding the Oceans Act and the impact on decision-making around ocean use, and I look forward to your questions and comments.
Good morning, honourable members, and thanks again for inviting me. I've spoken to many of you before, and I always appreciate this opportunity. This particular issue is one that is dear to me and one I've worked on for many years.
I've been with the David Suzuki Foundation for 15 years and was previously with the Sierra Club of British Columbia for five years. I've lived the life of the Oceans Act, I guess, in my work on the west coast, as well as working nationally with different governments and people in the agencies to try to realize the terms of the Oceans Act and apply them as they were intended. I've worked in this field for 30 years in total, with the last 10 years of my career focusing specifically on marine conservation.
I was involved in many advance planning processes, consultations, discussions, and dialogues with government over the implementation of the Oceans Act. That goes back to the development of Canada's ocean strategy and the oceans action plan. As many of you know, the description in the act that required the establishment of these large ocean management areas—one of which was the PNCIMA area off the central north coast of British Columbia—was one of the most robust examples of where the act was applied in the context of integrated management.
There are a lot of examples that I could give on how that was developed, the consultation process that occurred, and the engagement of a variety of federal agencies, stakeholders, and first nations. To me it was moving towards a very prominent model of how integrated management could and should be done. Unfortunately, that process failed in the end. I'm happy to answer questions about that, and I think it's worth revisiting because, as our previous speaker said, there's an expectation now about integration. There's so much information, more science, more participation by people, and more use in our ocean. There are people wanting to participate at another level.
To speak to the earlier question about consultation, it's moved to a range of consultation processes that need to be engaged. That's something that could be articulated in more detail in the act. The Oceans Act overall was a very bold document with good moral intentions, and it's provided a real focal point in Canada to look at marine conservation. Prior to its enactment, we really didn't have as much opportunity. Much of the conservation effort, much of the non-profit organization effort was on terrestrial conservation. I was part of that. I worked for many years on land use plans and planning throughout western Canada, but moved to the marine because it was always the poor cousin that wasn't getting the attention and wasn't getting resolution.
In the wake of much of the land use planning in British Columbia, where many of the stakeholders and government people learned a lot about process and about opportunity to get some positive outcomes, we start working on the marine area. When the federal Oceans Act integrated management plan was taken down, we moved to a process with the provincial government and first nations called the marine planning partnership. This embodied many of the objectives and principles of the Oceans Act, and carried on to try to identify planning opportunities and outcomes for the B.C. coast. That took us part of the way, but as you know, the federal jurisdiction over much of the ocean really requires the federal agencies to be involved.
Again, that's where the Oceans Act is the driver. There are some things I'd like to see changed there, and I'll speak to two main elements of the act. One is the integrated management provision, and the other is protected areas.
First, on the integrated management piece, there's a clause that is very specific about directing the minister, saying that he or she shall lead the development and implementation of integrated management plans. That was done, and large ocean management areas were defined—there are five of them—but they only cover a portion of Canada's oceanscape, and I believe we should amend the act in some way to require that.... It implies that we do this in all of Canada's ocean, but there are no timelines and no targets, so we could be another 20 years down the road without having defined action.
One of my concerns is that in some of the most developed areas of our coast, some of the ones that have been most heavily impacted, we don't have a planning process. We don't have a large ocean management area established. The Strait of Georgia, on the west coast, is an area that needs planning. It's the area that gets so much of the activity and would benefit from an integrated management plan. Somehow, I would like to see us mandate this work in a broader scale across Canada's landscape.
For the other component in the act to be effective, I propose the insertion of targets and timelines around protection as well. I think these timelines should ideally line up with those reflected in the international commitments that Canada signs, including biodiversity targets under the Convention on Biological Diversity, known as the Aichi targets, or the United Nations sustainable development goals. These are provisions that Canada has signed on to, and they continue to be a forum for conversation and developing the thinking and anticipated outcomes for biodiversity conservation.
I'm sure many of you have seen the international report by the World Wildlife Fund that defines the ongoing decline of wildlife on the planet, both marine and terrestrial. Granted, some species are doing well—some fish stocks are doing very well, including some Canadian fish stocks—but many are not.
On some, we're losing both the number of species and, also, the overall abundance of species. As long as that trend is moving in a negative way, my proposal is that we need to find ways to implement the Oceans Act provisions in a more timely manner and stem the loss of species diversity and abundance.
We know that other climate impacts and things like that affecting the oceans are having previously unseen consequences to ocean biodiversity, so a higher level of intensity of management is needed, both to track and maintain what we hope will be productive ecosystems that serve our communities, serve the fishing industry, and serve our opportunity to maintain a food supply from our oceans.
I also think the act would be improved by enabling a legal requirement for the implementation of the plans so that they can guide decision-making across all agencies that share the regulatory management space in our oceans.
We know that DFO has a lot of power under this act, but it doesn't have all the power necessary, given what the other agencies have in their statutory powers as well. Having Indigenous and Northern Affairs, Transport Canada, and Environment and Climate Change Canada actively involved, and mandated through the act to be part of realizing the outcomes driven by the act, is an important piece. We've had some effort in the past through ministerial committees, deputy ministerial committees, and management groups across the agencies, but I think it needs to be embedded more solidly so that it isn't an option for an agency to participate or not.
The requirement for integrated management planning does not stand alone, rather, it helps to accommodate the second part of the act, which is the protected areas piece. Through the establishment of comprehensive marine plans, we have the opportunity not only to identify specific areas for conservation, but to achieve efficiencies in time, cost, and conservation by establishing networks of MPAs. I'll refer back to the Pacific north coast integrated management area.
We had many good objectives developed for that region, including a network of MPAs, and we were getting into the analysis where we were looking at the entire seascape there. We were looking at the high biodiversity values, looking at the economic values, looking for ways to maximize conservation and maintain the productivity of fisheries, while at the same time maintaining those opportunities for economic activity.
I think the act should be amended in a couple of ways to more specifically provide direction and authority to designate a collection of protected areas through one designation process. This would identify a suite of protected areas, and instead of having to go through a very rigorous timely process around each one, you could have a network of areas that become one package of protection, similar to what we've done in the national parks system, where we have things like the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, which is a consolidation of many pieces.
I think the other area of the act that needs strengthening is the area of indigenous protected areas. Many indigenous peoples have a long-standing interest in conserving resources and protecting areas of their traditional territory, and there's an opportunity to enable the government to accommodate indigenous protected areas, which are determined, managed, and governed by indigenous people. This amendment would not only facilitate additional conservation of natural resources, but would take Canada further down the path of reconciliation with indigenous communities.
There is a lot of discussion—
A special thank you to our guests, Ms. Macdonald and Mr. Wareham, for being here in person or by video conference this morning.
My first question would be to both of you, so Ms. Macdonald, you can probably answer first and then Mr. Wareham can follow up.
I've said it in this committee before while doing this study, “Do we have the ability this time to get it right?”
For anyone familiar with the geography of Newfoundland and Labrador, my riding takes in about 90% of the land mass of the Avalon Peninsula. All but one community in that riding has a direct connection to the ocean and what takes place there. Whether it be fishing, oil and gas, you name it, they're connected to it. I've said before that I don't believe successive governments of all stripes have paid enough attention to what's going on in the ocean, what's coming out of it, what's happening to the habitat, as well as what is going into the ocean.
My fear is that we'll go through this process again now and we won't get it right. So much depends on it, whether it's the individual fisherman who has a very small quota, or whether it's like the people at Ocean Choice International who export 100 million pounds of product to 35 countries around the world. They have just as much in the game here as anybody does, regardless of size. I think everybody would like to see the fish stay for quite a long time, for generations to come, and for the habitat to be protected to enable that to happen.
Do we have the ability to get it right?
If anyone says there is a single answer to that question, then I can tell you they're wrong. The simple response I have is, yes, we have the ability to get it right. This is enabling legislation. This is very broad legislation. It's not prescriptive and for some they may see that as a barrier. For me, I see that as an opportunity because it means that what you really want to focus on is the implementation, how this act is going to be implemented.
In that regard I'd say there are a couple of elements. One of them is that we've put a significant investment in understanding our ocean, and that's absolutely important, the focus on ocean sciences and on marine sciences. We've put a certain amount of effort on the legal side of it, which is understanding the definition of Canada's ocean territory.
Where in Canada we have been less active is on the broader policy side, which is really focusing on making the investments and the research to understand how to engage with community, how to engage on a regional level, and how we get federal departments talking to each other in a way.... I wouldn't use the term “integrated” anymore. I'd use the term “holistic”, and I can clarify why that's the case. But we need to invest more in that.
One of the things I found surprising in my research was that Canada really does lag behind the U.S. in terms of building capacity around ocean policy, whether that's more broadly on the government side, or whether that's on the third party side. There is a need for investment there, so decision-makers like yourselves, as you're going through these kinds of deliberations, have the capacity to understand what the different models of consultation are that could work, and what the distinction is between consultation and decision-making, because I do hear those two being overlaid on top of each other. Then there's what decision-making is, and how that's made transparent back to the community and back to stakeholders so that they are more comfortable with how those decisions are being made.
I absolutely believe that we can get it right. I think there are a lot of examples. We have good science on planning. We have some good social science on decision-making with communities. There have been examples.
In British Columbia 20 years ago, when we were at 3.5% of our terrestrial landscape protected, people said there was no way we could get to 10%, 12%, or 15%, but over a period of 12 years we did that. We now have over 14.5% of the province protected on the terrestrial landscape. The forest industry didn't collapse. The mining industry didn't collapse. The agriculture industry didn't collapse.
We put reductions of risk to species, and we have some areas that will be legacies for hundred of years for our communities, so I think we know how to do this. It does take resources. It takes that commitment, but I also think we have ways now with technology to create a lot of efficiencies in the process. We have ways of bringing information to the table that we didn't have before. I strongly believe we can do that.
We set an example on the west coast as well in the fishing sector with the groundfish fleet. The fleet was closed for three years because of problems with overfished stocks. This was many years ago. Through the groundfish integration program, we managed to come up with a closure system and a planning system to reduce impacts on corals and sponges. After that closure was set in place, the fishing industry has managed to maintain its quota on that fishery, yet we have protected large areas of the ocean.
There are ways to do this. It just needs the investment and a commitment from government. As I saw with the PNCIMA process, when we were in that effort, the stakeholders came with great energy to that table, and I think we can repeat that.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to both our witnesses for being here and providing your testimony on Bill .
I think both of our witnesses have referenced Canada's international commitments. There's been some comment at this committee that this has been a rushed process, but Ms. Macdonald, you point out now, and rightly so, that Canada committed to our international agreement back in 1992, so Canada, essentially, has had 25 years to get to 5%, not a couple of years. We're looking at 28 years to get to 10%. Some would now argue that these targets are actually quite low, when you look at other countries around the world and what they've been achieving in terms of protecting their oceans.
I want to talk about two things, the consultation process and the idea of sectoral versus holistic. Starting with Mr. Wareham, on the consultation process, you've outlined what that process might look like. You talked about defined timelines, defined targets, and a defined planning process.
First of all, can you or have you written or provided those recommendations or your testimony in writing, or could you provide this committee with those recommendations or suggestions in writing?
The reason I make the distinction between holistic and integration is from the work of Joanna Vince from Australia. She's taken a look at the Australian example around their success, or not in their case, with regional integrated management plans. She's asking the question of what is integration and whether that's what we should be looking forward to. From my point of view, the reason I use “holistic” is that it encourages us to take a broader view of what we mean by ecological systems and bringing in human systems, ecological environmental systems, socio-cultural as well as economic systems, so we're broadening the framework, if you will, through which we're making our decisions.
I think in the past, certainly if you talk to folks over at DFO, a large part of their methodology has really been confined to the environmental and the economic aspect and putting those two systems together. Whereas, more and more we're seeing in the literature an encouragement to expand that so decision-makers are getting a better and broader perspective, whether it's in how you make decisions around MPAs or regional plans.
I want to make a distinction as well between what we're asking of federal departments. Fourteen federal departments have ocean-related activities in their portfolios. Getting them to work together versus the work that needs to take place at a regional level, recognizing the diversity of our three coastlines, and then within those three coastlines, as well as at a local level, again recognizing the diversity of the various communities....
Much of my work has been thinking more on the federal level and how you get the federal family working together. As noted, in the past interdepartmental committees have been chaired by the deputy minister. I would like to see those committees having more force. I'd like to see whether there should be some kind of mechanism where, if a decision is going to cabinet and it has an ocean-related impact, some kind of assessment is carried out to understand that impact on oceans.
Again today, as this committee is probably aware, environmental assessments around oceans are divided between the Minister of the Environment and DFO. There's a split jurisdiction there, if you will. Perhaps there's a need to really look at that split and ask if we are doing the oceans and ourselves any favours by keeping them in two separate jurisdictions.