Thank you for the time.
Good day to our MP, Michael McLeod.
I'm here today to bring to your attention the Government of the Northwest Territories' concerns with Bill , an act to amend the Oceans Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act. In making this presentation, I will be sharing with you some of the recent history of the Northwest Territories so that you can hopefully understand both our specific concerns and the cumulative impact of federal actions, including Bill C-55, on the people in the Northwest Territories.
The Government of the Northwest Territories supports self-determination of indigenous people and indigenous government, and has developed a public government with self-government in mind. We have been at the negotiating table with Canada and indigenous governments from the territories for many years negotiating land claims and self-government.
Of particular interest to this intervention is the Inuvialuit Final Agreement, which created the Inuvialuit settlement region and was signed by Canada, the Inuvialuit, Northwest Territories, and Yukon in 1984. The signature of the current 's father is on that agreement. I'm also a beneficiary of the Inuvialuit Final Agreement.
On April 1, 2014, the Government of Canada and the Government of the Northwest Territories brought into force the Northwest Territories Land and Resources Devolution Agreement. This agreement was negotiated over many years, and finally gave the Government of the Northwest Territories responsibility for onshore land, water, and resource management. Prior to our 2014 devolution, the federal government made all resource management decisions in the territory.
For the people of the Northwest Territories and the nine indigenous governments that signed onto the agreement, devolution was a game-changer. Devolution meant that decisions about the Northwest Territories land, water, and resources would finally be made in the Northwest Territories. This is something the vast majority of Canadians take for granted. The engagement of first nations, Inuit, and Métis governments, and inclusion of resource revenue sharing was historic.
What does this have to do with Bill ? Section 3.20 of the devolution agreement contains a commitment for Canada, the GNWT, and the participation of the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation to commence negotiations for the management of oil and gas resources in the Beaufort Sea and other northern offshore areas. This commitment includes a negotiation of resource revenue sharing resulting from offshore oil and gas development.
Negotiations were to start 60 days from the signing of the devolution agreement, which occurred on June 23, 2013. That means the negotiations should have begun no later than August 23, 2013. Despite repeated requests from both the GNWT and the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, the federal government has not been willing to sit down to negotiate this critical agreement.
On December 20, 2016, the called my premier 20 minutes before announcing that all Arctic Canadian waters were indefinitely off limits to future offshore oil and gas licensing. “Indefinite” was the word the Prime Minister used, and neither the yet-to-be negotiated interests of the Government of the Northwest Territories nor the rights of Inuvialuit were taken into consideration prior to that decision being made.
This is despite other provisions in a separate agreement included in the devolution agreement, and signed by then Minister Valcourt, Premier McLeod, and Nellie Cournoyea, chair and CEO of the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, that states the parties will share information around terms and conditions of licences as well as any other petroleum resource management matter that the parties consider appropriate to share. Surely, an indefinite moratorium fits the description of appropriate information to share through our trilateral committee. It concerns us greatly as a government that despite a clear commitment to negotiate the management of the offshore, including resource revenues, Canada made a unilateral decision to shut down development in that area.
Yes, the announcement also said there would be a five-year scientific review, but almost one year later, we still don't know exactly what will be included in that review. In addition, as a direct result of the federal government's refusal to begin negotiations on the offshore, the NWT has no clear role in the review of a decision that clearly impacts the livelihood of our people.
Now Bill is on our lap, proposed legislation that will once again impact the offshore.
Bill has made its way through second reading in the House of Commons and contains a significant increase in ministerial power and authority, and yet again, the GNWT was not consulted on its development. Specifically, we are very concerned with the amended ability for the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to designate marine protected areas by order and without consultation. We are also concerned that the amended bill will give the appropriate minister under the Canada Petroleum Resources Act the ability to simply cancel an oil or gas interest in an area that may be designated as a marine protected area.
Let me recap for you. The federal government is still refusing to fulfill its commitment to come to the table to negotiate the management of oil and gas resources in the Beaufort Sea with the GNWT and the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation. While actively avoiding this commitment, the Prime Minister announced an indefinite moratorium on Beaufort and is creating a process to review this moratorium without allowing the GNWT to define its jurisdictional interest and significant increases in federal ministerial authority that have been added to both the Oceans Act and the Canadian Petroleum Resources Act in Bill , which is making its way through parliamentary review again without any consultation with the GNWT. This is being done in the absence of any clear federal communication of the revision for the Arctic. Although the Prime Minister announced the development of an Arctic policy framework at the same time as he announced the moratorium, the federal government has not given the policy framework the same momentum as Bill . We are involved in the Arctic policy framework and look forward to seeing our priorities reflected in it.
We think there's a very real possibility that prior to a clear statement of Canada's vision for the Arctic and prior to the required consultation, Bill will become the law of the land. Similar to our position prior to devolution, we are being relegated as bystanders in decisions that affect the very livelihood of our communities. I do not want to give the impression that the GNWT does not support conservation. Many of our residents continue to pursue traditional lifestyles. In many cases hunting, trapping, and fishing are a predominant source of income and food for NWT households.
Conservation is integral to our way of life in the NWT. We also live daily with the legacy of decision-making far from home prior to today's robust regulatory regime. The NWT is home to one of Canada's most toxic waste sites. If the current contents of Giant mine were to enter the water system, there is sufficient arsenic there to kill the entire world population 10 times over. For that reason the GNWT is on track to surpass the 17% Canada target 1 conservation target for 2020. Once the planning and decision-making processes are completed, the Northwest Territories conservation network will extend from 13.5%, which is its current size, to 20.4% of the territory. The NWT offshore is also currently home to two marine protected areas, the Tarium Niryutait and Anguniaqvia. I was a beneficiary of the Inuvialuit Final Agreement. Protected areas and the marine portion of our territorial protected areas cover about 5,300 square kilometres of the Inuvialuit settlement region.
In addition to conservation, it is important that NWT residents are provided with every opportunity to enjoy a good quality of life. Every northerner deserves the opportunity to experience the wellness and strength of community that people equate with Canada and with being Canadian. The Government of the Northwest Territories has a clear vision of what is needed to achieve this bright future for the people of the Northwest Territories, but the reality is that right now, this is not the experience of indigenous people living in NWT's remote communities. The Government of the Northwest Territories is working to change this. We are working to lower the cost of living and increase community wellness and quality of life in each of our communities. The key to achieving this vision is sustainable development through economic diversification and developing our many natural resources that can be used to drive the global green economy.
We understand that opportunity and personal and community wellness are derived from education attainment and good jobs, which are integral aspects of reconciliation. Achieving our vision through sustainable economic development will create these opportunities in each of our communities. We need a strong federal partner who wants to be part of creating this positive future for all of our remote communities in the NWT, including the infrastructure that most of the rest of Canada takes for granted.
For centuries, people have been coming north looking to take advantage of its natural resources, and northerners have had to adapt to these demands. At one time it was for whale oil and fur. Right now it is for diamonds. Our people had hoped that oil and gas would be part of that story too, but it appears that southern tastes and priorities have changed again. As a result, northerners are being asked to sacrifice their hopes for good jobs and a strong economy yet another time because of decisions made elsewhere.
In summary, for your purposes today, I need to leave you with two thoughts for your consideration.
First, the GNWT has concerns with Bill as drafted, specifically the increase in unilateral authorities given to federal ministers.
Second, the NWT, although cold and remote, is a real place with 44,000 people living in it in 33 communities, who right now are living with the cumulative impacts of your decisions. It is easy to say from Ottawa that there has not been real economic impact from this decision because your budgets are on a scale that doesn't show the economic impact that even a $7.2-million decrease in activity, as the federal government has described, can have in a region like the Beaufort Delta.
It is easy from where you are to miss the importance residents place on the money coming from outside of government. You may not feel it there, but the unfulfilled federal commitment to negotiate responsibility for the offshore with the Government of the Northwest Territories and the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, the imposition of a moratorium, and Bill arriving in Parliament without our consultation are all connected. They have created a cascade of mistrust that we are asking you to recognize and begin to repair.
I'll stop there. That was a little more than 30 seconds. I have a bit more, but I think we'll just go—
The BC Seafood Alliance is an umbrella organization whose 16 members represent about 90% of wild harvested seafood from Canada's west coast, worth about $850 million annually. Our members are associations representing virtually every major wild fishery in B.C. We are, by far, the most representative fishing organization on the west coast, and our ultimate constituents are commercial fishermen up and down the coast. These are the people who provide food to Canadians and the world.
Thank you for inviting me here today to give our perspective on Bill . We believe MPAs are part of the marine management took kit, and we support the marine conservation targets. We remind you, however, that sustainable development is one of the three key principles of the Oceans Act and that MPAs are created, in part, to conserve and protect fishery resources. The purpose of the Oceans Act, and therefore MPAs, is not to eliminate commercial fishing, as some of the witnesses have essentially proposed.
One of your witnesses last week contended that the greatest threat to our oceans is the removal of billions of tonnes of biomass. That may be true globally, but it is not true for Canada. On the west coast, landings were about 160,000 tonnes annually. Pollution, habitat destruction, and climate change are far greater threats, and MPAs will do little or nothing to alleviate their effects.
Canada has already met the target of protecting 5% of its coastline by the end of this year. It will easily meet the second target of 10% by 2020.
I understand you have a copy of this map in front of you. Very quickly, the little yellow closures are rockfish conservation areas. The green ones are sponge reef closures. Then we have the Gwaii Haanas national marine conservation area and the Scott Islands national marine wildlife area just off the top end of Vancouver Island. We have the Bowie seamount, which is now fully closed to fishing. We have the huge offshore area of interest. We have, coming up, the national marine conservation area in the southern Strait of Georgia. We're also looking at an MPA network in the northern shelf bioregion, which is the most valuable area for fisheries, both economically and ecologically.
We estimate, using Environment and Climate Change Canada's international reporting, and assuming the huge offshore area is designated as planned, that we will have protected 37% of the Pacific coastline by 2020.
Conservation has driven our sector for the past 20 years, shaping the way it is developed and encouraging a pragmatic approach to stewardship that has had clear market benefits, as well. More than half our fisheries are in the Marine Stewardship Council program. That certifies only about 10% of world fisheries as sustainable. Most of our other fisheries are recognized either by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s seafood watch or the Vancouver Aquarium’s ocean wise as good choices for consumers.
By volume, almost two-thirds of our fisheries are managed under the Canadian groundfish integration program. CGIP integrates the management of 66 different species, seven different fishery sectors, and three gear types. Under CGIP, a vessel is fully accountable for every single fish it catches, whether retained or released, through a monitoring program that includes 100% at-sea monitoring and 100% dockside monitoring.
This program has been recognized by the MSC as “one of the most rigorous in the world”. It has also been recognized by His Royal Highness Prince Charles' sustainability unit and by the David Suzuki Foundation as among the best managed fisheries on the planet.
CGIP creates incentives for long-term stewardship of the resource and the ecosystem, encouraging fishermen to be highly selective, catching the fish they want and not weak species or those with low abundance. For example, our groundfish trawl fleet, working again with the David Suzuki Foundation and other conservation groups, through a habitat conservation collaboration agreement, has frozen the trawl footprint, removing 9,000 square kilometres of the coast, protecting 50% of all habitat types, especially deepwater habitat, and instituting the world's first conservation bycatch for corals and sponges.
Fleetwide, this quota was set at 4,500 kilos. The total catch of corals has been less than one-fifth of this annually.
I'm providing this as context for my specific comments on Bill . We agree that the current process for establishing MPAs is too long. It's quite simply ridiculous that it took 15 years since we voluntarily closed the Hecate Strait sponge reefs until they were designated as an MPA last year.
I want to make four points where we would like to see some changes.
First, many of the delays on both coasts have more to do with regulatory delays, often five years or more, than with the shortcomings of the science and socio-economic assessment. We propose, therefore, that the appropriate trigger point for the establishment of an interim MPA is at the conclusion of the science socio-economic review. This allows the implementation of protection before the regulatory process, but it also ensures the proposed boundaries are evidence-based and the result of thorough review with all ocean users, thereby increasing co-operation and support.
Second, we are troubled by the current concept of freezing the footprint based on the previous 12 months of activity. Many fisheries are rotational, for instance, geoduck on the west coast or scallops on the east coast. They are not fished every year for conservation reasons. Other fisheries may not take place in a particular year because of environmental conditions or harvesting limitations. They should not be excluded just because no fishing took place in the previous 12 months. We propose, therefore, that a five-year time frame is more appropriate than the rigid 12 months as currently drafted. Of course, the minister can introduce an immediate spatial closure under the Fisheries Act if there really is a conservation concern.
Third, we are concerned that the current drafting does not provide that the minister must consult with those who will be affected by permanent MPA closures. Such an approach is completely at odds with how to arrive at durable solutions that all parties can support.
Fourth, we urge you to ensure that any revisions to the Oceans Act do not preclude compensation to fish harvesters for access to the resource. If an area proposed for permanent protection contains a significant harvestable area or if that loss cannot be made up for elsewhere, then compensation should be paid.
Many of your witnesses have called for minimum standards for MPAs, including no oil and gas and no bottom trawl. We do not believe that such standards should necessarily include bottom trawl.
I spoke already of how our trawl fleet on the west coast has already reduced its footprint by more than 20% and frozen it, protecting 50% of all habitat types. I spoke of how it has pioneered a bycatch quota for corals and sponges, and I spoke of how it voluntarily closed the Hecate Strait sponge reefs long before Canada got around to formal protection. It is also highly selective in its fishing and accounts for every fish it catches. It should not be penalized for what it has already done by being automatically shut out of an MPA.
Properly managed fisheries are the most sustainable protein source on the planet. The threats to our oceans are real but they come from oil and gas exploration, the prospect of seabed mining, ocean acidification, and climate change, not fishing for food in Canada. Large no-take fishery zones will not help with these problems.
We are partners in the goals of 5% and 10%, and we're always ready to protect special features, as we have done in the past. However, closing large areas to fishing off the west coast does little for biodiversity or conservation, little for the men and women up and down the coast working in our sector who are middle class or aspire to the middle class, and little for the health of Canadians who deserve access to local sustainable seafood. On the west coast we believe we can have both biodiversity and healthy, sustainable fisheries that provide food to Canada and the world.
Thank you very much, everyone.
Thanks for the opportunity to appear before you and to represent the Coastal First Nations committee. I bring greetings from our president, Chief Marilyn Slett; board chair and CEO, Mr. Patrick Kelly; and our whole board and leadership.
I'm pleased to appear before you from Vancouver on the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples represented by the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh first nations.
I have divided my commentary into three sections: whom I speak for today, the comments and considerations under Bill , and then some larger policy considerations.
The territories of the Coastal First Nations Great Bear Initiative, CFNGBI, member communities lie in the Great Bear rainforest, one of the largest temperate coastal rainforest systems left on earth and on the coastal shores of traditional waters of the Pacific Ocean.
CFNGBI is an alliance of first nations that include the Wuikinuxv, Heiltsuk, Kitasoo/Xai'xais, Nuxalk, Gitga'at, Metlakatla, Old Massett, Skidegate, and the Council of the Haida Nation, with approximately 15,000 members. We are a unique organization because representation includes various cultural and language groups, indeed, different nations.
CFNGBI is not the rights and title holder. The member nations hold these. We are a 17-year-old not-for-profit service organization created and directed by the nations.
I do want to be clear that in terms of Bill and reconciliation, there needs to be clear and strong provision for indigenous governance and the opportunity for proper co-governance and co-management.
Let me comment a little on Bill .
CFNGBI communities have forged a rich culture in the north Pacific bioregion. The cultures, languages, and livelihood are deeply connected to the riches of the rainforest and ocean. For at least 14,000 years, the people carefully managed an abundance of resources: ancient cedars, herring, salmon, halibut, shellfish, and more. They relied upon their knowledge of seasonal cycles to harvest land and rain resources without harming or depleting them. Many believed these resources would last forever, and they were wrong. After mere decades of over-exploiting the forest and ocean resources of the Great Bear rainforest and oceans around, they have been depleted. Our region's economy has dwindled; jobs have become scarce, and the communities are challenged to survive.
The common reality of where the nations reside, obtain their identity, and need to establish a conservation-based economy has brought them together to work together through CFNGBI. We understand the standing committee is interested in first nations planning, PNCIMA, and the MaPP program, and how they contribute to the development of MPAs, in our case specifically the network of MPAs for the north Pacific shelf bioregion.
CFNGBI first nations have a long history and experience with marine area planning, most recently working with British Columbia and other partners in the bioregion.
The north Pacific bioregion process is an objective-driven and data-focused process that will conduct detailed impact assessments to understand the way sectors are affected by closures. It is designed carefully to achieve conservation of biodiversity while trying to avoid negative impacts on resource users.
First nations have spent five years in internal planning where each community has developed internal community marine plans focused on their values, interests, and opportunities. These plans have then been rolled up into subregional plans. In parallel and subsequently, these plans have been integrated into regional plans and into other initiatives such as PNCIMA, MaPP, and the northern shelf bioregion MPAs.
The early benefits of MaPP are engagement and commitment to MaPP and the MPA network. The subregional engagement model has involved local fishermen and local communities. There is a revitalized interest of first nations in commercial fisheries; e.g., a reconciliation framework agreement in fisheries resources was signed by our nations and Canada on October 11, 2017, with and signing.
A data-driven approach to identifying first nations areas of interest is another benefit of MaPP. The core principle of MaPP is ecosystem-based management, which embraces marine spatial planning with strategic focus upon human well-being, governance, and ecological systems that work. MaPP has been constructed upon a partnership model between first nations and British Columbia that is very much government to government.
The environmental community has been an active and important partner in MaPP. As an example, the Moore foundation has been an important contributor to the marine planning work. This funding, like all funding that MaPP has received, has been utilized based upon strategic, operational, and work plans. There are clear deliverables that benefit communities and community goals and objectives, such as, for example, special management zones for shellfish aquaculture and alternative energy. MaPP's engagement process has been robust and inclusive, built upon regional and sub-regional advisory committees.
Let me turn to final comments on larger policy considerations.
Bilateral engagement between CFN and Canada, based upon implementing UNDRIP and mindful of a new reconciliation priority, has CFN members and Canada engaged in two major reconciliation framework negotiations: one, in oceans management, and two, in fisheries resources. CFNGBI chiefs and ministers and signed a reconciliation framework agreement on fisheries resources on October 11, 2017, in Vancouver. The goal now is for cabinet to endorse a mandate with real funding investment to give meaning to reconciling and repatriating fish and fisheries to the rights and title holders.
CFNGBI chiefs and other nations in the Pacific northern shelf region are currently engaged in a joint government-to-government working group to achieve a similar oceans protection and management and reconciliation framework agreement before the new year. Protecting ocean resources, ensuring safe shipping, engaging the people who protect and maintain Canada's sovereignty on the coast, and combatting the effects and impacts of climate change are priorities.
CFNGBI is also engaged with British Columbia to build upon the existing reconciliation protocol we signed with British Columbia in 2009. I won't go through the details of all of the achievements that have been done there. It's a good government-to-government model.
Today, CFNGBI member communities employ over a hundred stewardship staff and guardians. They are on the land and seas looking out for the interests of all Canadians, as Canada and B.C. no longer have the field staff nor the data-gathering systems in place to monitor a changing environment and human use activity.
The nations need an economy that works for them whilst protecting the environment. They do so around three core principles: one, absolutely protect the environment; two, build legacy infrastructure if infrastructure is to be built; and, three, definitely enable sustainable economic development.
At the heart of the matter for CFNGBI nations is that, having made significant strides in protecting the environment, they are fashioning a sustainable economy that supports healthy communities and human well-being. The key is sustainability. Canada, B.C., and first nations need robust and healthy thriving CFN communities. They are the sentinels on the coast who are doing the monitoring that is the basis for science and data collection in a climate-changing world. This is what reconciliation looks like for CFN.
Thank you very much.
To our witnesses, thanks very much for your presentation and for accommodating our antics here in Ottawa with votes and what have you.
There is a kind of constant theme here. We had the Honourable Robert McLeod here prior to both of you, and there was something that he said quite clearly when he talked about the economic hit on communities that MPAs can cause. He was talking about the delaying tactics used by a lot of environmental groups and others when it comes to oil and gas approvals, which would have helped his community, and you may be able to relate to that, Mr. Kariya, to yours in the north. He says that the delays go on for so long that they make whatever the project is economically unfeasible.
Ms. Burridge, you commented on the amount of time it takes for MPA approval.
We can't have one without the other. Some rule changes were made by the previous government to make the approval process more streamlined and what have you. I think there seems to be agreement about this in a lot of areas from a lot of people on both sides of this issue in regard to helping with this. What can we do to speed up the approval process but still go through the proper channels? There's no doubt about it: this MPA thing isn't going through the same process as, say, an oil or gas well. The government is hell-bent on basically ramming this through in no time flat.
Mr. Kariya, could you comment on that and include your experience? Have your community and the Great Bear Initiative been consulted in the proper way, in your opinion?