Good morning, everyone.
Pursuant to the order of reference of Tuesday, October 17, we are studying Bill , after successfully going past second reading.
First of all, I want to say hello to our guests who are here with us today, not our witnesses but our colleagues. We have Mr. Stetski again. Mr. Blaine Calkins is also joining us today. Last but not least is Mr. Robert Sopuck. Thank you for joining us.
Now let's go to our guests.
We are joined this morning by video conference by an associate professor from the school of environmental studies, University of Victoria. Dr. Natalie Ban. We also have Dr. Rodolphe Devillers, professor, department of geography, Memorial University of Newfoundland. Last but not least, again, a gentleman we know and who certainly is no stranger to this committee, whose name also comes up quite a bit, is Dr. Boris Worm, professor of biology, Dalhousie University.
Thank you to all our witnesses for getting up this morning and joining us at this early hour, especially Dr. Ban. It's viciously early on the west coast.
As you know, we do up to 10 minutes for opening statements, and then we start with our colleagues asking questions.
Dr. Ban, would you please start.
Good morning. It's an honour to have been invited to present to you today.
I've been working on the science of marine conservation for about the past 14 years, with a focus on the design and effectiveness of marine protected areas, or MPAs. I also presented to this committee back in May about MPAs. Thanks for having me again.
Today I'm going to reflect on the proposed amendments and recommend some additional changes to the Oceans Act. I'll mention some scientific evidence supporting my comments, and I'll follow up with a written submission that includes the peer-reviewed scientific papers that support my point.
First of all, I'd like to commend this government for the proposed amendments outlined in Bill to improve the Oceans Act. I support the main changes that the bill would make to the Oceans Act. In particular, adding interim measures or freezing the footprint is very important so that consultations about studies, and studies about proposed MPAs, can take place without additional ecosystem degradation.
Clarifying fines and enhancing enforcement capacity are very welcome, especially in creating the opportunity to provide a role for indigenous guardians. Amendments to the Canada Petroleum Resources Act would allow the minister to prohibit new oil and gas activities and cancel existing interests. This is excellent because oil and gas activities are inherently unsustainable and not compatible with biodiversity conservation. Similar amendments would be needed for the accord acts to allow for a consistent approach across Canada.
Finally, having the precautionary principle enhanced in the act is also a great step forward.
I'd like to make five key additional recommendations for changes to the Oceans Act that would once again make Canada a leader in this area, as it was when the Oceans Act was first created.
The first of these is to add minimum protection standards to the Oceans Act. I know the committee has already heard from many witnesses about the importance of minimum protection standards. I won't belabour this point but wanted to add my support and one additional point. Opportunities to amend acts do not come up very often, and hence it would be a missed opportunity to delay discussing minimum protection standards. Also, there's a fear that not having minimum standards would lead to a decline in protections throughout Canada's protected area systems, on land and in the sea.
I'm a director on the board of the Canadian Council on Ecological Areas, a not-for-profit organization that facilitates and assists Canadians with the establishment and management of the comprehensive network of protected areas that are representative of Canada's terrestrial and aquatic natural diversity. On the board are federal, provincial, and jurisdictional representatives who work on protected areas in those jurisdictions, and some others who are academics like me. Those working in terrestrial jurisdictions fear that weak protection in the ocean could have the unintended consequence of lowering the bar for protections on land as well.
My second recommendation is to add a requirement for fully protected zones. You've also heard about this already, and there's documented scientific support for biodiversity benefits of strongly protected MPAs. My own recent work shows that MPAs that permit varying levels of fishing and other damaging activities are less effective at biodiversity conservation than are fully protected areas. Fully protected MPAs are also needed so that we can understand the impact of fishing and other activities on marine ecosystems. In other words, they can become a control site for understanding the impacts that humans have on the ocean.
My third recommendation is to add the ability to establish networks. As you know, best practice in MPA design is to establish networks rather than individual MPAs, and indeed many regions in Canada are working toward this. Thus encouraging establishment of networks of MPAs also means recognizing that representation is a legitimate and indeed essential rationale for MPAs. The Oceans Act should facilitate implementation of networks of MPAs by having provisions to establish a network rather than having to do each MPA in a network individually.
My fourth recommendation is to add a mechanism for co-management with indigenous peoples and recognize indigenous protected areas. There's an unprecedented opportunity to use MPAs to work toward reconciliation with indigenous peoples. There's a grave concern about the state of the oceans among the indigenous peoples I've worked with, and a keen interest to explore MPAs to engage in marine management. Joint management of MPAs, or co-management, means sharing of power equally, and this is seen as an opportunity both to revitalize cultural practices and to recover culturally important species.
The Oceans Act can provide for true joint management of indigenous marine territories on a nation-to-nation basis where desired by indigenous peoples. The planning toward a network of MPAs in the northern shelf bioregion in British Columbia is a great step in that direction. If done in partnership with indigenous peoples, MPAs can provide ecological conservation, cultural opportunities, and food security, and play a role in reconciliation. Additionally, the Oceans Act should also be amended to explicitly recognize indigenous-led protected and community conserved areas. Currently there is no legal tool for implementing marine indigenous protected areas. Those areas would rest decision-making with indigenous peoples.
My final recommendation for an addition to the Oceans Act is to ensure sufficient funding to manage and enforce MPAs. Implementing MPAs is only the beginning of managing our oceans for protection of biodiversity. Once established, MPAs need resources and staffing to ensure that they are managed properly, including enforcement, education, and outreach. A recent study found that MPAs with adequate staff capacity had an effect almost three times greater than that of MPAs with inadequate capacity. The rockfish conservation areas, or RCAs, in B.C. are illustrative. While they're not MPAs, they have a similar spatial management mechanism.
About a quarter of people interviewed in a recent study by one of my students admitted to unintentionally fishing illegally inside these rockfish conservation areas. The main reason for this non-compliance was lack of knowledge. About a quarter of the people had never heard that these places existed, and less than 1% knew all the rules of permitted and prohibited activities inside those areas. Most had never seen an enforcement officer, and this is in the southern Gulf Islands region in southern British Columbia, which is very populated. Outreach and education are thus essential for successful MPAs. Enforcement officers, be they DFO or other designated parties, need to have the resources to do their jobs properly or these areas will not protect biodiversity.
Another important resourcing issue is to compensate ocean users for lost livelihood opportunities, and not just oil and gas, as currently in the bill. This point was brought home to me by my terrestrial colleagues on the Canadian Council on Ecological Areas board, who work on protected area establishment and management federally, provincially, and in the territories. Compensation is simply an everyday reality for a terrestrial protected area establishment. Agencies buy land, compensate timber licence-holders, forgive property and capital taxes, while land trusts buy land, issue charitable gift receipts, and even buy out subsurface rights, and the Canada Revenue Agency writes off tax revenue, all to facilitate protected area establishment.
A key benefit ecologically is that, if you have such compensation or a structural adjustment, it can facilitate better protection of better sites. The political reality is that it's hard to achieve community support for well-protected MPAs where they are most needed because of the fear of loss of livelihoods. Communities can't always look past the near-term negative impacts to the potential long-term benefits. Compensation thus embodies an implicit recognition that protected areas benefit all of us, but sometimes put a disproportionate burden on a few.
One model that's worked well to engage communities in conservation-related activities is the coast fund in the Great Bear Rainforest, which provides a funding source for activities that support a sustainable economy in conservation. A similar fund could be established in regions where MPA networks support indigenous and non-indigenous coastal-dependent communities' engagement in marine conservation.
I thank you for the opportunity to present to you today, and I look forward to your questions.
Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee, for the invitation to contribute to your study on the proposed amendments to the Oceans Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act.
I am a professor of geography at Memorial University of Newfoundland. I've been a scientist for about 20 years, specializing in geographic methods that can help us to understand and manage our oceans. One of my areas of expertise is conservation science, specifically the design of marine protected areas and area networks, and the assessment of their effectiveness.
When I testified in front of this committee last June, I was also in Ottawa for a workshop that focused on this exact topic: potential revisions to the Oceans Act. This workshop involved representatives from Fisheries and Oceans Canada, from the Canadian industry, and from environmental non-profit organizations. A lot of excellent recommendations came out of this workshop, and I strongly encourage you to review the report that was recently released by one of the organizers, the West Coast Environmental Law Association.
Let me start my statements by reiterating a warning I gave you in my previous testimony. Do not confuse the goal of meeting the Aichi 10% target with the real goal of protecting marine biodiversity. They can be very different things. As a matter of fact, a paper published only two weeks ago by Dr. Venter, a scientist at the University of Northern British Columbia, has shown that, globally, terrestrial protected areas tend to be placed in locations characterized by little economic value, and fail to protect areas that show high concentrations of threatened species. Canada's oceans are no exception to this trend, including a lot of areas that contributed to the recent 5% interim target.
We often put MPAs in places of low economic value and are not ready to make the hard choices required to make it right. Our government cannot only be driven by an area-based target. It needs to monitor Canada's progress using a more complex set of metrics.
Marine protected areas have been shown to be a useful management tool to help maintain healthy oceans. I understand the concerns some members of this committee shared about impacts on the economy and employment. Those are valid concerns, but let me remind you what happens when ocean health is not maintained.
In 1992, over 20,000 people from Newfoundland and Labrador were put out of work due to the cod moratorium—20,000 people. This was the single largest mass layoff in Canadian history. This is what happens when decisions favour short-term growth over long-term sustainability. The health of our oceans is declining globally, including in Canada. We have to make sure that what happened in Newfoundland and Labrador will not happen again, and effective marine protected areas have an important role to play in this.
With regard to Bill , you may remember the letter that I co-signed last June with all the marine scientists from across the country, including Dr. Ban and Dr. Worm, who are present today. This letter was sent to Ministers LeBlanc and McKenna.
Our first recommendation was to amend the Oceans Act to include minimum protection levels for MPAs, similar to terrestrial parks. I cannot overstate how important it is to review the Oceans Act in more depth. While the Oceans Act was novel legislation 20 years ago, it has many gaps that have to be filled if we want Canadian MPAs to be useful for protecting marine ecosystems and biodiversity.
The changes proposed in Bill are a good start and aim to help the government meet its targets, but those changes are not sufficient in the long term. I will focus on four main areas I think should be addressed.
First, the Oceans Act should start by providing a clearer definition of what an MPA is. As mentioned in my earlier testimony, I believe the only logical choice would be to adopt the existing definition from the International Union for Conservation of Nature, IUCN, the international authority on the topic.
The Oceans Act should explicitly list activities that should be prohibited in all Canadian Oceans Act MPAs, something mentioned by Dr. Ban in her last testimony. This is what has been called “minimum standards”. Minister LeBlanc, I believe, is establishing an advisory committee on this topic. I hope that academic scientists with expertise on MPAs will be involved in this process to help review the scientific evidence that supports this advice.
There are already many recommendations from the IUCN that could be explored, and there is no shortage of literature on negative impacts from many human activities on the marine environments. Possible activities that can be reviewed include oil and gas activities, bottom trawling, and seabed mining.
My first point is that the Oceans Act, like the Canada National Parks Act, should require MPAs to maintain ecological integrity. In short, they should be considered marine parks. The Oceans Act should also require a minimum amount of no-take areas for each individual MPA and for the entire network, in order to reflect international recommendations.
My earlier testimony was supported by a number of scientific studies demonstrating that no-take areas tend to provide much higher benefits to marine ecosystems.
Finally, and this may be my most important point, the Oceans Act should have a clear process to support adaptive management of those MPAs. Once created, Oceans Act MPAs are generally not modified, even in cases where there is ample scientific evidence that an MPA does not work in its current design. We need to learn, and we need to leave room for improvements. The current culture and context makes those changes very hard to make in practice.
A study published earlier this year by the World Wildlife Fund of Canada showed that half of Canadian species have declined over the past 45 years. Those species have declined by 83% on average. This is alarming and clearly shows that current management measures are not sufficient to prevent this rapid decline in Canadian wildlife. As mentioned by Kevin Stringer, associate deputy minister for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, during our workshop, this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to advance ocean protection and management. I strongly encourage you not to miss it.
Thank you for the opportunity to present my view on the key challenges I see with the Oceans Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act. I look forward to your questions.
Thank you, Chair, and my thanks to the committee for inviting me again to talk to this panel.
As I had presented in May, I wanted to take a slightly different angle today. I always enjoy showing a piece of data, because it gives us a grounding in which our discussion can be based.
I want you to look at the second slide of my presentation, “Human impacts on land and in the sea”. This is a map that was created last week, and this is the first time that, at a very fine spatial resolution of about 50 kilometres by 50 kilometres, we can map out all human impacts on the land and the sea. If you will, it's the environmental footprint that human activity has on land and sea.
I want you to notice two things. One is that, in the ocean, when you overlay our impacts—and this includes various impacts, from fishing to oil and gas to mining, and even to climate change and pollution—they tend to be much more evenly distributed than on land. On land, they tend to be more spatially concentrated in the areas where lots of people live. In the ocean, we have them more spread out, and that requires a different conservation strategy.
The second thing I want you to notice is that, in the ocean, there are very few places that have low impact, in contrast to land. In the ocean, most places have medium to high impacts, necessitating protecting the biological and socio-economic assets we have in the ocean against damage.
Although we have, for the first time, this unprecedented spatial detail that allows us to intelligently plan our use of the ocean, we have great uncertainty about what those impacts have been for those assets we're trying to protect. Because of that uncertainty, that is the very reason we need a global insurance policy to protect those assets. Just as we insure any other valuable assets we have, we need to do the same with the ocean.
Marine protected areas or other spatial management that effectively removes certain impacts from the ocean, or constrains them in sensitive areas, forms such an insurance policy. As you can see from the map on the next slide, Canada is still lagging behind in contributing to that insurance policy. Fortunately, we have made a commitment internationally to protecting 10% by 2020, and so to catch up with the rest of the world.
If you will allow me to bring this analogy of an insurance policy a little further, you may want to consider the next slide, where I list the key traits of an effective and reputable insurance policy like one you would personally choose for your home or car. This policy would be timely. It would allow you to insure your car as soon as you buy it. It would, of course, be cost-effective, as you are trying to minimize cost. You are trying to have it be comprehensive, so that all possible damages, such as liability for injuring others or damage to your car are covered.
You will want to have a well-managed and reputable company, staffed and funded to do the job of insuring your assets. You want it to be transparent and to have clear standards. You want to know exactly what you are signing.
Also, the very reason we sign an insurance policy is so that it accounts for the inherent uncertainty we all encounter in living our lives. Whether or not your house will burn down is very uncertain—it's actually extremely unlikely—yet we buy house insurance to prepare for that uncertain case.
What makes Bill effective, or what would make it even more effective? Building on this analogy, I think it allows the MPA process to be timely. Therefore, as soon as we find out that an area has large biological value, and/or that biological value or that asset is unduly threatened or harmed by various activities, we can take steps to protect it. That's a very important feature.
What's the most cost-effective approach of pursuing marine conservation? It's to protect large areas of biological value. In terms of economies of scale, it's more cost-effective to protect larger areas than smaller areas, and the 10% target allows just that.
It has to be comprehensive. Drs. Ban and Devillers brought up that a network or ecosystem approach to planning, not a piecemeal protective approach, would be very advantageous to having a comprehensive plan. This currently is not explicitly stated in the Oceans Act.
We talked about properly resourcing these to make it well managed. That's clearly something that still has to be improved, but what Bill offers is that it makes the whole affair more transparent by establishing clear ground rules and processes for establishing MPAs. However, we're still, as the other speakers have pointed out, missing minimum standards that we would demand from any insurance policy that we personally purchase. Finally, there is accounting for uncertainty, again the very reason we are doing this, and I was extremely happy to see the precautionary approach implemented in Bill C-55.
Generally, I think this is a big step forward. In conclusion, it takes overdue steps towards greater efficiency, transparency, and clarity in the MPA process. I want to point out this is something that everybody who's involved in this process was asking for, including resource users who, of course, need planning security to know what an MPA actually is and is not. To this end, I think that comprehensive minimum standards are needed so that there's no question what an MPA actually stands for, at a minimum, whereas that's currently not well defined in the Oceans Act.
I really want to talk about the ecosystem approach, which generally should underpin ocean management and which is not explicitly mentioned in Bill , or in marine protected area management. Just to give you a quick example, here at the Ocean Frontier Institute at Dalhousie, we're working on a project to future-proof marine protected areas by accounting for climate change and how climate change may affect our protected area networks and the assets that we're trying to ensure. When those assets move or change in response to climate change, some of which is foreseeable, some of which is uncertain, we need to have both the legal and the scientific...and the planning tools to account for now. This is something we currently don't have, and to have such an ecosystem approach, I think, is sorely needed and it should be mentioned in the Oceans Act.
Then, finally, I think what we're also lacking is the commendable effort to protect 10% of Canada's waters as marine protected areas. It needs to be better integrated with other tools for ocean planning, fisheries management tools, and other ocean planning tools that are specified in the Oceans Act, the Fisheries Act, and other relevant acts. That comprehensive or integrated marine spatial planning is currently not happening nearly to the extent it could. We still have a siloed approach to marine conservation and marine planning, and I think as we're considering the ocean as a whole and we're trying to protect assets against a variety of threats or potential compromises or problems, this integrated marine spatial planning approach is needed and should be specified in the Oceans Act.
With that, I thank the committee again for including me in today's panel and I'm looking forward to your questions and discussion.
Welcome back, everybody, to the second hour of analysis of Bill . Thank you, everybody.
Don't forget, at the end of this we have five minutes of committee business. If you notice, we're running a little over time. I'll explain that a little bit later, but first let's get to our witnesses.
First of all, they are both from the west coast of this country, so as I've said before, and I'll say again, to our two witnesses, thank you so much for getting up at this viciously early hour to join us here in eastern standard time. You have accommodated us greatly and we will always appreciate that.
That being said, from the Council of the Haida Nation, we have Peter Lantin, president. You are joining us from Skidegate. Thank you for that.
Also, from the Heiltsuk Tribal Council, Chief Marilyn Slett, chief councillor. Thank you for joining us from Bella Bella this morning.
Good morning, everybody. The sun isn't even up here in Haida Gwaii yet, but it's always a great opportunity to provide some perspective on behalf of my nation and here on the west coast of British Columbia.
My name is kil tlaats ‘gaa Peter Lantin, and I am the president and official spokesperson for the Haida Nation. The Haida Nation supports Bill . We have a unique experience to share, having established two protected areas in the ocean portion of our territory, and later, jointly working to manage these areas with the Government of Canada. We will also propose changes to strengthen the bill to protect Haida interests and rights, but before I do that, I want to provide a brief introduction to Haida Gwaii and to the Haida Nation.
The Haida Nation's territory includes the islands of Haida Gwaii, the surrounding waters, which include the entire Dixon Entrance; a half of Hecate Strait, north and south; Queen Charlotte Sound, halfway to Vancouver Island; and westward beyond the 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone.
The land and sea of Haida Gwaii has been our homeland since time immemorial. Haida oral traditions tell of our origin from the oceans surrounding Haida Gwaii. As an elder said, “We came out of the ocean all over Haida Gwaii. We can point to it and say this is where our ancestors came out of the ocean.”
Our name for these islands, Haida Gwaii, means “islands of the people”. Living in this territory of more than 150 islands, we are never far from the ocean in our daily lives. More than 25% of the island's interior is within one kilometre of salt water, and no place is further than 20 kilometres from the sea. We have over 4,000 kilometres of inlet and island shorelines. The seamless sea to mountaintop connection is an integral part of the Haida heritage and cultural identity.
The influence of the ocean on the land base of Haida Gwaii is pervasive in Haida life, culture, and history. Every Haida village is carefully selected, based on the abundance of seafood and its marine geography. Well-protected harbours are selected for year-round or winter sites, and more exposed locations for seasonal summer camps. The bounty of the sea provides many Haida foods and medicines. Sea creatures, from the most common to the supernatural, figure prominently in Haida art, design, and our family crests.
For all of these reasons, the protection of our marine territory and the species within our marine territories has been one of the key mandates of the Council of the Haida Nation since our inception over 40 years ago now, in 1974. Haida designations of protected areas, such as Gwaii Haanas, Duu Guusd, and Sgaan Kinghlas-Bowie Seamount, as well as provincial conservatories, were subsequently designed in parallel by Canada and British Columbia. We worked with Canada and the Province of B.C. to protect sensitive areas within Haida territory. We have engaged in marine planning since 2006, first with Canada, and more recently with the Government of British Columbia, under both the Haida Gwaii marine plan and land use plans.
Co-operative management has provided a mechanism to balance crown and Haida interests by allowing both parties to co-operate on management and planning, and work toward mutually agreed upon objectives, while maintaining individual jurisdiction and authority.
Now I'm going to provide some of the Haida Nation's recommendations in terms of amendments to the bill. We support the proposed amendments to the Oceans Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act, but we make seven sets of recommendations to strengthen the proposed bill, based on our experience with co-operative management of the two marine areas within our territory. Both the Sgaan Kinghlas-Bowie Seamount and Gwaii Haanas marine areas would have greatly benefited from interim protection and an accelerated timeline, which are not possible under the existing Oceans Act.
The Sgaan Kinghlas-Bowie Seamount Marine Protected Area, or SK-B MPA, was identified as a DFO pilot project for MPA designation about 1998, but there was no federal protection until the area was established as an MPA under the Oceans Act in 2008. It took 10 years. Part of the delay was due to the need to develop a co-management agreement between the Haida Nation and Canada.
The Gwaii Haanas terrestrial and marine area has been called “one of the world's ecological and cultural treasures”. The crown's intention to protect the Gwaii Haanas marine area was identified when the South Moresby agreement was signed in 1988. The reinforcement of Gwaii Haanas was not protected under federal legislation until 2010, when the Gwaii Haanas Marine Agreement was signed, and an interim management plan was approved by Canada and the Haida Nation.
A final integrated land, sea, and people management plan is anticipated in 2018. Gwaii Haanas is not an Oceans Act designated MPA, but our co-operative management experience in Gwaii Haanas has relevance to our recommended amendments to the Oceans Act.
I'm going to get into the seven recommendations.
The first recommendation, which is a critical challenge for our marine protected area co-managers right now, is the lack of authority to manage, restrict, and close fisheries. We need to enable co-operative management boards to manage marine protected areas. Under both national marine conservation areas and marine protected areas, fisheries continue to be managed under the Fisheries Act. Instead, fisheries' activities must be consistent with management objectives and, in the case of Haida Gwaii, accountable to the agreement between Canada and the Haida Nation. This will avoid future litigation, curtailing fisheries that are unsustainable or that result in degradation to sensitive habitat. The ability to manage fisheries must be explicit in the Oceans Act and should not be circumvented by regulations.
Our second recommendation is that the bill include separate sections on sustainability principles, including ecosystem-based management and the precautionary principle. While a precautionary approach is mentioned in the recital of the current Oceans Act, there is no definition or guidance on how it should be applied. The precautionary approach should be applied in the assessment of all activities occurring within the marine protected area. Both of these principles and others are expressed in traditional Haida laws and our marine use planning processes.
The third recommendation is that we welcome new provisions from the Minister of Natural Resources Canada or the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada to prohibit oil and gas activities or to cancel a company's oil and gas interests in an interim marine protected area. However, restrictions should go further.
In our fourth recommendation, we support the recommendations of West Coast Environmental Law in areas that coincide with mandates from Haida citizens to prohibit specific activities. We seek minimum protection standards under the Oceans Act from oil and gas, mineral exploration and development, wind farms and tidal power development, open-net pen aquaculture, and trawling in high protected zones, meaning International Union for Conservation of Nature, IUCN, categories one, two, three, and four.
On our fifth recommendation, we also support the further recommendations of West Coast Environmental Law such as recognizing ecological integrity as the top priority for marine protected areas and interim protection MPAs. Second, assign IUCN categories to marine protected areas for consistency. The Haida Nation in British Columbia used these categories in the Haida Gwaii marine plan. Finally, we recommend that a significant portion of marine protected areas with a high level of protection be closed to extractive activities, including commercial and recreational fishing.
Our sixth recommendation is that we echo the recommendation of both West Coast Environmental Law and the Heiltsuk nation that an explicit statement be incorporated into the bill confirming that nothing in the bill limits the constitutionally protected rights of indigenous people.
Finally, we agree with the recommendation by West Coast Environmental Law that the bill require explicit recognition of indigenous governance rights and co-governance of marine protected areas. There is an international precedent for this in addition to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. The IUCN provides a mechanism for recognizing indigenous and community conserved areas.
There's also support for this in Canada. Indigenous protected areas were identified as an opportunity for Canada in the report “A “new Shared Arctic Leadership Model” by Mary Simon, the minister's special representative on Arctic leadership. According to Ms. Simon, “Indigenous protected areas are based on the idea of a protected area explicitly designed to accommodate and support an Indigenous vision of a working landscape.”
In conclusion, the Haida Nation has breathed life into and has taken the first steps toward implementing our vision for a working seascape. A mechanism to recognize indigenous protected areas through the Oceans Act or other Canadian legislation would provide an additional stepping stone to begin reconciliation of marine spaces while also meeting and exceeding targets for marine protection.
I want to thank you for your time this morning.
Good morning. My name is Marilyn Slett. I am the chief councillor for the Heiltsuk Tribal Council, which is the elected leadership for the Heiltsuk First Nation. Heiltsuk thanks the committee for this opportunity to talk about the proposed amendments to the Oceans Act.
Heiltsuk peoples have lived on the central coast of B.C. and harvested marine resources for thousands of years. Archaeological evidence dates our fisheries back 14,000 years. Harvesting is central to our health and well-being, and lies at the heart of our culture. We depend on the fish and the health of their waters.
Heiltsuk supports increased powers for government to create marine protected areas, MPAs, including interim MPAs, but only if they are used to create interim and permanent MPAs to protect marine areas, especially nearshore areas that have been prioritized by our own marine use plan areas. The former federal government, despite having powers under the Oceans Act to create MPAs, did not do so in a meaningful and transparent way. Heiltsuk trusts that the federal government will not only seriously apply interim MPAs to freeze activity levels, but also seriously consider additional restrictions for interim MPAs.
Immediate additional restrictions will help curtail harms that are arising from existing activities. Many marine resources are being overfished by commercial and recreational fisheries, such that they will need more than a mere freeze at current levels of activity.
Heiltsuk has seven recommendations for improving Bill . They deal mainly with the role of indigenous nations like Heiltsuk in making decisions under the Oceans Act, combined with their role in enforcing what we hope to be many more MPAs within our traditional territories. Heiltsuk also recommends increased transparency in the federal government's processes.
In a briefing note that Heiltsuk filed yesterday, we set out two examples that illustrate the fragility of our traditional harvesting areas and how they are being damaged by industrial and commercial activity. The first example is recent damage to one of our breadbasket harvesting areas. In October 2016, the Nathan E. Stewart sank and spilled about 110,000 litres of diesel and lubricant oils. We harvest at least 25 food species from the spill area. A year later, Heiltsuk's harvesting closures and DFO's bivalve closures are still in place.
A second example is the impact of the commercial and recreational fisheries on our traditional crab harvests. In the last several decades, and especially in the last few years, crab harvests have declined dramatically. We are harvesting only a fraction of what we have caught in the past. Many traditional harvesting areas are fished by commercial vessels—which can run about 200 traps at a time—and are simply stripped of crabs.
In 2008, the four central coast first nations, including Heiltsuk, told Canada that we could not harvest enough crab to meet our basic needs. We have been requesting crab closures from DFO for about nine years. It took many meetings, and eventually talk of litigation, before DFO agreed to close only one area, Troup Passage, in late 2016.
Crabs are just one species that are under pressure. Industrial and commercial activities are decimating stocks that have been a part of our way of life for thousands of years. The time has come for the federal government to use different tools, such as MPAs, to safeguard marine resources.
At present, only one marine protected area is close to Heiltsuk. That is the Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte sponge reefs area. However, Heiltsuk has been pressing the need for more areas. I understand that other speakers have referred to the central coast first nations marine use plan, which was developed with the Province of B.C. It already identifies 17% of its area for protection.
What Heiltsuk needs is action. Heiltsuk looks forward to a process of reconciliation that includes self-government, including co-management of our marine resources. Until that occurs, we have seven recommendations for improving Bill .
First, Heiltsuk seeks recognition that Heiltsuk and other coastal nations have never ceded their jurisdiction over their marine territories. Heiltsuk recommends that the power of the government to designate MPAs be exercised with the consent of directly impacted indigenous nations.
Second, Heiltsuk recommends that the Oceans Act expressly state that it does not take away from the inherent jurisdiction of indigenous nations over their traditional marine territories.
Third, Heiltsuk recommends that the many grounds for MPAs under subsection 35(1) expressly include the conservation and protection of indigenous fishery resources.
Fourth, Heiltsuk recommends that the power of government to make regulations under subsection 35(3) be extended to allow for rules. The rules must require transparency and the involvement of indigenous nations in the MPA process. The current Oceans Act does not require transparency and does not require any sort of government-to-government approach in how the government may consider or investigate or to designate MPAs.
Heiltsuk recommends an express power of government to make regulations governing how the minister receives and assesses information relating to potential and other MPAs; governing how the minister discloses information relating to potential and other MPAs to indigenous communities and to the public; giving effect to co-management agreements between the federal government and indigenous communities; governing decisions about making and working with MPAs; governing how the minister may establish advisory or other tribunals to investigate, assess and make recommendations about potential and designated MPAs; and requiring that the government consult with and obtain consent of coastal indigenous communities in relation to designating or altering potential or other MPAs.
Such regulations would be a step forward such as in article 18 of UNDRIP, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which affirms that:
||Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decision-making in matters which would affect their rights, through representatives chosen by themselves....
Fifth, Heiltsuk supports many measures recommended by West Coast Environmental Law. Heiltsuk supports minimum content for MPAs, such as automatic restrictions on exploring for and exploiting oil or minerals.
Heiltsuk supports some degree of automatic restriction on commercial and recreational fisheries. Our ability to engage in much traditional harvesting is impaired by overfishing due to commercial and recreational fisheries. Conservation by the federal government on a discretionary basis has been, in our opinion, totally ineffective.
Heiltsuk supports a statement of first priority for ecological integrity. Heiltsuk further recommends a statement that the second priority of government be to protect indigenous fisheries. This would be consistent with the legal principle that the first priority after conservation be indigenous fishing.
Sixth, Heiltsuk recommends an express provision that authorizes the minister to designate any indigenous organization as an enforcement officer under the Oceans Act. This would recognize the role of indigenous nations enforcing MPAs that are within their traditional territories.
Seventh, Bill provides for fines but this would depend on prosecution by Canada alone. As part of a larger role for indigenous nations in managing their marine territories, Heiltsuk recommends that indigenous nations be permitted to engage in private prosecutions or alternatively have the right to bring civil action against violators with a right to seek sums comparable to the fines proposed in Bill C-55.
Civil fines could be paid into local and regional environmental funds to pay for past and future enforcement proceedings by indigenous nations for conservation activities such as impact assessments and restoration projects and for research into the baseline conditions of various MPAs. Indigenous rights of enforcement, funded by polluters and other violators, would allow for rigorous enforcement by the peoples who are most interested in protecting marine resources.
I'm just closing right now.
I've been involved in conservation in provincial parks, in fish and wildlife management in British Columbia, for 37 years, and I want to start by thanking you and the other first nations for your leadership around conservation in many aspects of British Columbia, whether it's the Ktunaxa and Jumbo in my riding of Kootenay—Columbia, the protection of Moresby Island, the creation of the co-management agreement for Gwaii Haanas, or the Great Bear Rainforest and the fact that indigenous guardians are the people on the ground who are making sure that conservation continues there. I really want to start with a sincere thank you to both of you.
Now, to go to my question, there's a 2014 report, done by a Mr. Edgar, regarding marine protected areas that concluded that many marine protected areas around the world can't be ecologically distinguished from areas that are fished. It found that 79% of the global sample of protected areas weren't meeting thresholds for basic management. They lacked staff and funding to accomplish effective monitoring and enforcement. While it may sound good that we're establishing marine protected areas in keeping with our international commitment, without proper resources, these designations quite frankly could be meaningless.
As we expand the number of marine protected areas and perhaps even in the ones that you're already involved in, what resource will be required to help enforce marine protected area regulations within your territories? In your opinion, should Bill be amended to provide explicit options for the delegation of monitoring and enforcement authority to indigenous guardians in those areas?
I'd like both of you to respond.