I now call this meeting to order.
Welcome to meeting number 14 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.
Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2) and the motion adopted by the committee on Monday, October 19, 2020, the committee is resuming its study of the Pacific salmon.
Today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format, pursuant to the House order of September 23, 2020. The proceedings will be made available via the House of Commons website. So you are aware, the webcasts will always show the person speaking rather than the entirety of the committee.
To ensure an orderly meeting, I will outline a few rules to follow.
Members and witnesses may speak in the official language of their choice. Interpretation services are available for this meeting. You have the choice at the bottom of your screen of either “floor”, “English” or “French”.
For members participating in person, proceed as you usually would when the whole committee is meeting in person in a committee room. Keep in mind the directives of the Board of Internal Economy regarding masking and health protocols.
Before speaking, please wait until I recognize you by name. If you're on video conference, please click on the microphone icon to unmute yourself. The microphones of participants in the room will be controlled, as normal, by the proceedings and verification officer.
As a reminder, all comments by members and witnesses should be addressed through the chair. When you are not speaking, your microphone should be on mute.
With regard to a speaking list, the committee clerk and I will do the best we can to maintain a consolidated order of speaking for all members, whether they are participating virtually or in person.
I now welcome our witnesses today. From the Ahousaht First Nation, we have Clifford Atleo Sr.; from the First Nation Wild Salmon Alliance, Robert Chamberlin, chairman; from the Pacific Streamkeepers Federation, Zo Ann Morten, the executive director; from the Stó:lo Tribal Council, Chief Tyrone McNeil, vice-president and tribal chief; and from the St'at'imc Chiefs Council, Arthur Adolph, director of operations.
We will proceed with opening remarks from our witnesses.
Mr. Atleo, you'll go first, for five minutes or less, please.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Good afternoon to everyone.
I'm going to say a few words in our language very briefly, but I will interpret.
[Witness spoke in Nuu-chah-nulth and provided the following translation:]
On behalf of Ha’wiih from Ahousaht, I'd like to formally thank the House Standing Committee on Fisheries for the invitation to talk about a most important issue affecting the whole west coast of Canada.
In particular, our area is severely impacted by what we're talking about.
I'll give you a little background in terms of pre-contact. Most streams and rivers contained salmon in British Columbia. Some had sockeye, some had Chinook and some had both. Others had chum, coho and steelhead. Some had pinks. Larger rivers had all species. Indigenous people managed them all very well.
Since contact, the newcomers learned to harvest and process all the species. Canneries existed on the Skeena River, Rivers Inlet, Fraser River, Nootka, Ceepeecee, Kildonan, Port Alberni, Victoria, Prince Rupert, Bella Coola, Namu and Tofino Inlet. I did make a mistake in my written document, saying that I'm not aware of any canneries operating today. There is one. It's called St. Jean's. It is partly owned by first nations people from Nuu-chah-nulth.
In terms of my history with fisheries, I grew up in Ahousaht. Every family used to participate in a commercial salmon fishery. Our participation enabled our community to be self-sustained. We didn't have to travel far because we fished most of our local stocks. All species were plentiful. All indigenous nations were similar to ours. We trolled, we gilnetted and we seined. This was 60 years ago.
Over time, our participation was reduced, as were the run sizes of all species. In the 1980s, salmon farms were permitted to operate on inlets and bays of the west coast of Vancouver Island. It was around this time that the Canadian government used our trollers to target U.S. chinook stocks. The strategy was to force the U.S. into negotiating what became the Pacific Salmon Treaty. However, our west coast of Vancouver Island chinook stocks were impacted negatively by this strategy. Our chinook stocks have never recovered from that policy and the policies that allowed large numbers of open-net pen fish farms to operate in west coast of Vancouver Island waters. Other species that have suffered as well are sockeye, chum, coho, pink and steelhead.
The existence of salmon farms along the west coast of Vancouver Island migration routes have severely impacted rebuilding efforts of all species.
The management by our Department of Fisheries and Oceans has not helped either. The evidence is that with the newcomers, laws were enacted with good intentions, with conservation being rather prominent in legislation, only to have DFO fall way short of upholding the law. DFO has the authority to manage, with devastating results. This evidence of shortcomings in management has resulted in the current dismal state of salmon stock coast-wide.
Poor logging and inappropriate land use policies by the B.C. provincial government have contributed to the destruction of salmon habitat. Functional habitat is required for long-term rebuilding of all salmon stocks in British Columbia.
Poor action in addressing climate change by all governments is not helping either.
[Witness spoke in Kwak'wala and provided the following text:
Gila’kasla Hama’thlal Lal’kwala’tly. Wigya’xans hutli’laxa la’man wathdam. La’man wath’dam gyan no’kia kas Lal’kwala’tly.
[Witness provided the following translation:]
Greetings, gathered people. Listen to my words today. My words are from the hearts of my people.
I just wanted to follow Cliff's lead and speak in my language a little bit. I am imploring you to hear the words that I have to say today on behalf of the hearts of the people of the first nations.
I am grateful for this opportunity to speak to you today about the state of B.C.'s Pacific salmon. This is a critical topic to B.C. first nations, as salmon are a primary traditional food source and are constitutionally protected and recognized by Canada's Supreme Court.
In terms of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, wild salmon are considered or captured within a number of the areas, including food security, culture, traditions, education, environmental standards and territorial decision-making, which of course means free, prior and informed consent.
This current government is beginning to set a table for the implementation of the United Nations declaration, and free, prior and informed consent must be a foundational component, especially to the current Discovery Islands fish farm consultations and accommodations process; to embrace the details that have been provided by the first nations involved in this consultation to meaningfully implement the precautionary principle, especially given that none of the Fraser River first nations were included in the consultations that will further impact their aboriginal rights.
The crisis that is B.C. Pacific salmon simply cannot wait any stretch of time for the fulfilment of the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
With the historic low returns, notably to the Fraser River, this is clearly the beginning of a downward spiral to extinction, and I say this with no drama. Historic low returns equal historic low eggs being spawned in the Fraser River. Historic low spawning eggs equal historic lower juvenile salmon entering the ocean.
It is an accepted fact that only 1% to 4% of juvenile salmon return to be the next generation of spawning salmon, so we can reasonably and logically anticipate that we will experience further historic lows, continuing the downward spiral to extinction in the coming years.
DFO recently announced this government's response to Cohen commission recommendation 19. The announcement included the determination that the open-net cage fish farms of the Discovery Islands area posed less than minimal risk or harm to Fraser River sockeye.
This determination was founded upon nine science papers that were so-called peer-reviewed through the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat, CSAS. The CSAS peer-review process is horribly flawed and provides great opportunity for an extremely biased outcome.
Proponents—in this case, a fish farm company and fish farm industry associations—are involved in in every component, every step, of determining if the operations pose a risk to Pacific salmon, such as the steering committee developing the scope of the science, terms of reference, and discussion paper development, and the peer review itself can be unduly influenced by industry, as they can select who will participate in the peer review.
This is far less than the impartiality and objectivity that I and many first nations, commercial and tourism industries and Canadians who rely upon healthy and abundant wild salmon stocks would expect as a reasonable starting point. Decades of science that withstood international peer reviews were ignored, even though that process was far more rigorous and subject to a completely impartial review assessment and outcome.
Sea lice was to be a 10th science paper related to the Cohen recommendation 19 announcement in determining the minimal risk or minimal harm. Sea lice were omitted from this suite of science papers.
This is extremely concerning, as fish farms are located sequentially along key out-migration corridors of juvenile Pacific salmon and produce billions of larvae that reside in the upper water column where the juvenile salmon are to be found. Given that fish farms are located where there is good tidal flush, the juvenile Pacific salmon are brought in very close proximity of areas inundated with billions of sea lice larvae. Sea lice can physically kill juvenile salmon, but also change their behaviours, making them more susceptible to predation.
Regarding the sea lice conditions of licence, the three sea lice average is the trigger for treatment on a fish farm.
Three sea lice may seem like an innocuous number, but considering that each fish farm has 500,000 to 700,000 Atlantic salmon, the number of sea lice becomes staggering. There's also the production of billions of sea lice larvae as well. Within the sea lice conditions of licence, there's an identified out-migration window for juvenile Pacific salmon, this being from March until June. The conditions of licence are to provide special regulatory protection for juvenile Pacific salmon during this time. The conditions of licence are completely and utterly untethered from juvenile Pacific salmon that they are designed to protect, as DFO does not monitor the presence of sea lice on juvenile wild salmon whatsoever—
I want to thank you for your invitation to present on the state of the Pacific salmon.
I've been involved in many aspects of salmon, but my passion is with community engagement through the salmonid enhancement program, SEP. SEP involves enhancement activities as well as programming, such as Streamkeepers, Stream to Sea, community advisers, science branch, veterinary services, and resource restoration teams, which include an engineer and biologists. These were all brought together and built upon under the SEP banner since 1975 to assist the Pacific salmon.
As I listened to witnesses—and the Big Bar slide kept being referenced—I heard reference to the salmon being in jeopardy prior to this catastrophic event.
It was this knowledge that led to the rewriting of the federal Fisheries Act. The work done by this committee on the Fisheries Act assisted in the renewed federal act, with the meaning and intentions of rebuilding salmon runs and protecting salmon in their habitat. The Fisheries Act can be a strong tool, and we await the regulations being written and followed that will allow it to live up to its potential.
Going back to the Big Bar and the response to it, there was questioning around whether there had ever been a time in history where there was a slide of this magnitude. Hell's Gate was brought up. While I wasn't there in 1914, I did work on the Hell's Gate tram in summer 1974 and got to inform thousands of interested tourists about the slide and the efforts that went into the building of the fishway to allow for the safer journey of our amazing salmon after years—
I worked on a Hell's Gate airtram in 1974 and got to inform thousands of interested tourists about the slide and the efforts that went into building the fishway to allow for the safer journey of our amazing salmon after years or decades of being blocked by rock and turbulent waters.
The amazing part of Big Bar was the response, the coming together to fix it, the concern for the salmon. Politics dropped away, and survival mode kicked in. It took just five days to put together the 3G unified command structure, a very different response from that after the slide of 1914. Studies undertaken in 1937 may have led to a pathway to follow, but in my estimation it was the strength of the salmonid enhancement program that provided the knowledge and staff that would be needed. The ideas flowed about how to fix it, and some parts could be hired out: “Take this rock and put it there.”
For many ideas, the SEP program staff were vital. Existing hatchery staff were brought in to assist in building holding areas and transport tanks. The resource restoration engineers helped build fish ladders and boulder structures. SEP managers were seconded to oversee the day-to-day operations, and area directors who knew the area and the local people came to assist.
DFO Pacific region has a small number of staff, but they hold the unique skill set that understands salmon, water and landscapes. There was a team to turn to and lessons that had been learned.
It's my understanding that when the Big Bar slide happened, the Seymour Salmonid Society was asked to share their experiences of the slide that had blocked the Seymour River in 2015, saving hundreds of hours of research time.
As for communications, Big Bar was and is a big deal. People wanted to know what was happening, what was being done to fix this travesty. The communications tools that were put in place allowed for the participation of all to get a blow-by-blow account as to what was happening, what was being tried, what was being worked on. Never before have I seen such an effort to engage the public to help unravel the story.
This is a very complex problem that the public has a huge concern over. We know full well that salmon and their habitat are in peril. Where's the command centre? Where are the communications teams allowing the public to see what is being done for the sake of our salmon?
We have not become numb to the plight of Pacific salmon. It is the reason we are here today. It is why thousands of regular everyday citizens and some extraordinary citizens have stepped up and volunteered with DFO's SEP programming. It is why we want to help the federal government undertake the changes that the Fisheries Act was rewritten to address. We want to assist in the protection and rebuilding of habitat that will help fish populations recover.
Where is the 3G command centre for the salmon today, where the work is done just for the sake of salmon; where the urgency is real; where those who can, do; where acts, programming, policy and regulations are drawn upon to ensure that the response to flooding is not just the erection of salmon-harming dikes; where economic pressures are relieved by rebuilding our salmon resources, not by exploiting the last few; where environmental conditions are to strive for the best conditions for salmon, not look at the very minimum before their demise; when we stop damaging and losing habitat and instead look to protect and preserve first, and then rebuild and restore what is lost?
We recently almost lost a large part of the SEP programming through government reductions, and very soon afterward we needed the skill sets and passions that these very people have in order to respond to Big Bar. At this time, the number of resource people who understand salmon and salmon habitat is dwindling rapidly, and it is hard to replace them.
We will need to focus on recruitment and training in order to have the expertise needed for today and for our future. It will take every partnership, process and tool we have made and those yet to come if we truly have the will to address salmon rebuilding and protection. We have shown that we can work together for a common cause and have the pieces needed to create a pathway towards this goal.
[Witness spoke in Halkomelem
Thank you for the opportunity to share here. I ask the interpreters to excuse me, as I don't have prepared notes to share with them.
Thank you for the opportunity to appear before the Standing Committee. In preparing to do that, I couldn't help but think of being about seven or eight years old with my late mother. This would have been about 1968 or 1969, something like that. My mom was having a conversation with two other ladies about her age. They were talking about how many fish they had put away for the summer.
The one lady responded 108, and the other one said 52, and my mom's response was 96. They chuckled at my mom because with a big family she had put away only 96 jars of salmon. Those would have been quart jars back in the day. My mom's response was that it was not 96 jars; it was 96 dozen quarts of salmon put away in one season.
Hearing this narrative about where we are with salmon in today's state, I can't help but think of growing up on salmon, as we did throughout our early years, right up until a point in time when the stocks started declining, and we had less and less access to fish.
Also, on the other end of it, we had some studies that showed us as Stó:lo people. What you know as the Fraser River, we know as the Stó:lo. It's the mother of all rivers. It's the food provider for us, the Stó:lo people.
When the first Europeans arrived on the shores, they calculated that we Stó:lo people consumed about 1,000 pounds of salmon per capita per year. They looked at other tribes around us, but we had by far the greatest consumption.
I'm thinking of those two baselines in a narrative of reconciliation. My community now consists of 1,000 people. Had we still been consuming salmon at 1,000 pounds per capita, that would be a million pounds per year. We are certainly not anywhere near that, due only to how DFO regulates us and manages the fishery as a whole.
I would really encourage folks to think about that impact of going from such sustenance to where we are now, where we would only have a chance to fish every weekend like we did growing up. If we have a wedding, we barbeque fish. If we have a funeral, we barbeque fish. If we have a birthday, we barbeque fish. Sometimes we barbeque or cook fish just for the fun of it, because it's in our blood. It's in our DNA.
Thinking of that from a reconciliation manner, Mr. Chair, I would think that in this day and era of reconciliation and of the declaration, folks like you and the department would be doing everything they possibly could to ensure that at a minimum our sustenance is met. In doing that, you have tools in front of you around the wild salmon policy, the Cohen commission recommendations and the precautionary principle.
The 10 principles are supposed to be driving the federal bureaucracy, particularly around the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Articles 18, 19, 24 and 38 really stand out for me, Mr. Chair.
It's about utilizing existing tools that the federal government has at hand through the department, and what can be done to prevent any harm, particularly man-made harm. We know that there are climate change factors that we can do only some things about, but we're in control of the man-made influences, particularly around the open-net pen fish farms and the migratory route around the Discovery Passage in particular.
You can't imagine the harm that those fish farms do on a migratory path. When our salmon are out migrating right by these farms and there are lice outbreaks on them, DFO allows a 42-day window for those farms to respond to the lice. In doing that, they are not monitoring the amount of lice that are on the wild salmon, period.
I think there's a missed opportunity in terms of not using tools that the people have available right here and now to better protect and to do everything you possibly can to minimize the man-made negative impacts on something that's so vital to us. It's more than a food source. It's a way of being. It's who we are as Stó:lo people and who other first nations are as well.
Thank you for the opportunity, Mr. Chair.
Thanks, Mr. Ken McDonald, chair, and vice-chairs, as well as the committee members, for the invitation to present before the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.
My name is Arthur Adolph. I'm from the community of Xáxli'p, formerly known as the Fountain Indian Band, located 15 kilometres north of Lillooet and 365 kilometres north of Vancouver, overlooking the Fraser River.
I was chief for my community for eight years and a council member for 17 years. My career began after graduating from high school, when I enrolled in heavy-duty mechanics. After an industrial accident, I went back to school and received a B.A. in sociology and anthropology.
Early in my life, when I was eight months of age, my mother passed. Through custom adoption, Chief Sam Mitchell and his wife Susan, who were 66 and 65 years of age respectively, raised me. They immersed me and indoctrinated me in St’át’imc culture, traditions, way of life and authentic St’át’imc ecological knowledge, as well as our St’át’imc language.
My presentation will be from this perspective: the importance of the Fraser River sockeye to our St’át’imc culture, way of life and, most importantly, our food security and well-being.
Since time immemorial, in early spring we have the annual beckoning calls of ecological and phenological indicators that begin at the valley bottom with the blossoming of the buttercups and then the rose bushes, and, shortly afterwards, the distinct clicking sound of the grasshopper we call tl'ek'atl'ék'a to the mountain top with the melting “snow horse”, all of which resonates throughout our territory for the St’át’imcs' annual return to our fishing ground and fishing rocks.
Throughout St’át’imc territory, each one of our fishing rocks has its own distinct traditional name. Also at our fishing rocks are distinct rock markings left by the Transformers. According to our legends, Coyote, one of the Transformers, brought the sockeye from the coast to the interior, leaving his marks by our fishing rocks to remind us of his endeavours.
In the Lillooet area, the St’át’imc are well known for our wind-dried salmon, which is called sts'wan. Prior to B.C. joining the Dominion of Canada in 1871, this food staple was well known to the Hudson's Bay Company as well, which purchased substantial amounts for their staff stationed at the Kamloops trading post.
Sam Mitchell, who was born on June 2, 1894, and who raised me, stated that there used to be so much salmon at the Bridge River Rapids that you could almost walk across the river on their backs.
In regard to the abundance of salmon, Michael Kew stated that the heavy commercial catch was beyond the aboriginal catch. Kew also pointed out that there was an abundance of sockeye in the Lillooet area, and that over 23,580,000 sockeye passed by in the peak years and 5,050,000 in low years. CBC News reported on August 11, 2020, that the Pacific Salmon Commission estimated the pre-season Fraser River sockeye salmon forecast to be 283,000 sockeye for 2020. Last year's return of the Fraser River sockeye is 1.2% of the historic peak years of the sockeye return.
As you are aware, the Cohen commission was initiated by the federal government on November 5, 2009, to investigate the decline of the Fraser River sockeye. The Cohen inquiry concluded with 75 recommendations to improve the future sustainability of the sockeye fishery. One of the major components that we see is recommendation 3, which identifies the conflict with the DFO and in their mandate: promoting fish farms while protecting wild salmon.
I'll move to my conclusion.
In closing, using the analogy of big-box stores, it is not like if we cannot go to Costco, we have the alternative of going to Walmart. This is not so if the Fraser River salmon become extinct; we do not have another alternative. Our St’át’imc culture, traditions, way of life and well-being will all collapse, forcing us further into fourth world conditions within our own homelands.
Thank you to all the witnesses for being here today.
I'd like to start out with Mr. Chamberlin.
Mr. Chamberlin, on November 30, 2018, the B.C. government's Broughton LOU steering committee submitted its consensus recommendations. These recommendations included that a first nations-led monitoring and inspection program be immediately put in place to monitor fish health and screen for sea lice, pathogens, disease agents and so on.
My understanding is that the CFIA and the DFO do perform monitoring and inspections on open-net pen salmon farms. Why was the additional inspection and monitoring program deemed necessary?
First off, we need to acknowledge that there is a clear lack of any measure of trust between the first nations of British Columbia and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. I'm not trying to be untoward or combative. I'm just stating what I've seen and heard many times over. As a result of that, there is a very high level of mistrust of science.
In terms of the DFO's monitoring of disease and sea lice on the fish farms, you have to understand that it's a monitoring program. They come by and they just check on the audit. They audit the fish farm company's work.
I'm mindful of a recent science paper that spoke about how numbers were higher when the DFO was around and lower when it wasn't. This is the kind of information that causes great consternation for first nations. We want independent monitoring and oversight, by the standards that we insist upon.
The DFO relies upon counting adult and sub-adult sea lice, but we know that the ones in a smaller life cycle will grow into adults, so we consider counting those, which the department doesn't do, as well as science and the methodology.
Next I want to move on to a question for Ms. Morten from the Stó:lo and for the other Fraser chiefs who are here.
As recently as late September, the was to make a decision on the net pen farms in the Broughton Archipelago. That decision was basically kicked down the road. Then there were to be consultations started with the seven first nations in that area.
Does that constitute consultation? Someone, I believe today, mentioned that the consultation hadn't taken place with those other first nations. Does that consultation with the seven nations in the area...? Will that be sufficient, or will it be another failed attempt by this government to form reconciliation?
Ms. Morten, are you able to speak?
Thanks for the question.
First, we're extremely dissatisfied that the government originally committed to begin removing fish farms by September 30 as per Cohen and at the very last minute came up with an airy-fairy decision to allow them to stay there and then shoot for another date down the road.
Specifically to your question around consultation, the government is obliged to formally consult with those seven closest first nations, but I'm a thousand kilometres away from that and I'm directly impacted. I'm not potentially impacted; I'm directly impacted by those fish farms being there, and I have no opportunity to consult at all.
I can't remember the last time we engaged a minister or a deputy minister in a conversation around fishing in general. Too often we correspond to a minister, and we get a non-response back that's not even worth the paper it's written on.
The government has to do a lot of work on consultation, I think, in particular on article 19 of the declaration, which speaks of free, prior and informed consent; article 18, which speaks to our right to be involved in decisions that affect our rights—fish are a big piece of our rights—and, in particular, article 24, which speaks to protecting our food and our sustenance.
The short answer to your question is that the federal government has completely dropped the ball with regard to consultation for those of us who aren't part of those seven communities, but we do need to be involved.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you all for being here.
The whole issue here is try to figure out what we have to do to rebuild abundance in those fish stocks. This is not about how we share the catch between all the various interests; this is about making sure that there are more salmon. This is difficult. We have the example, which our chair knows only too well, in Newfoundland, where we're building back stocks of cod after everything was shut down. We're still not back yet, so this is not easy.
There are two things. First of all, we hear you and we've heard so many people express a lack of confidence in the DFO. Therefore, in your opinion, who best, of anybody you can think of, is in the position to lead the effort it's going to take to really get serious about rebuilding our salmon stocks?
I'll throw it wide open. If you have a thought, put your hand up and I'll call on you.
Go ahead, Robert.
Well, in Maple Ridge, you have people wanting to build in the flood plain, so that might be part of it. We have riparian area regulations, but the ombudsperson said they were not working, and that was the end of it. We just got the report that it was not working, but nobody looked to try to make them actually work. We have a fisheries act now in place, but we have regulations that are either ignored or not strong enough to do anything.
This week, Beaver Creek in Stanley Park has been drained. We had spawners in there two weeks ago, and now it's without water. If you go to metro Vancouver, you can have, day to day, moment by moment, how many sewage spills are released into the Fraser River and into Keith Creek, which goes into Lynn Creek.
We have fish passage issues. We have all these issues that have paperwork to go along with them to say this isn't going to happen, but it keeps happening.
My thanks to the witnesses for joining us today.
My question is about the First Nations' trust in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. A number of you have brought that up on several occasions.
I have heard snippets of answers, but I would like you to be able to develop them and talk to us about the reasons that have led to the loss of that trust. Of course, there's the other side of the coin, which is what could be done to regain the trust of the First Nations.
My question goes to all the chiefs, so you can all answer. Take the time to do so.
Three things jump to mind in response to that.
First, implement Sparrow. What I mean by this is that in the Lower Fraser, we typically go after what's called “early timed” chinook. The way DFO manages the fishery is that they allow the marine recreational sector to get their full feed on it, so by the time the early timed chinook reach the Fraser, there are not enough for us to access. They're not implementing Sparrow.
Second, take the open-net fish farms mandate away from DFO. They're in too much conflict. They can't do fish farms and protect wild salmon at the same time. Their default is to support farms over wild salmon.
Third, the Fisheries Act right now suggests an ecosystems-based approach to the management of the fisheries. I really encourage that. The current management regime by DFO is simply access and nothing else, although they do have a broader mandate. Put it on the table and do it, particularly with us.
I want to thank all the witnesses for your important work around fighting for wild Pacific salmon.
I also want to thank, obviously, Wickaninnish, who is the head of the Council of the Huu-ay-aht for being here, because I am in Nuchatlaht territory today.
I'll start with you, Wickaninnish. The B.C. salmon restoration fund right now is an agreement between the province and the federal government. It's $142 million over five years to invest in restoration.
Right now we're seeing many projects denied in our region as well. We've seen 3% of the traditional return in the Tranquil and in rivers in your territory.
Can you speak about how important it is that government urgently increase that amount? Many people are saying we need five times that. That $142 million is over five years, and we need that ever year. Can you speak about the importance of that and about the opportunity for reconciliation in investing in that?
Absolutely. Thank you for that.
When I think about the conflict of interest—and you look at the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat, CSAS,—this is such a confirmation that the conflict and bias is built into every aspect of DFO and the fish farm industry. This is something that must change.
When you consider the condition of licence, if you have three average sea lice producing larvae on a fish farm, it triggers the need, by regulation, to treat the farm. Well, three sounds innocuous, doesn't it? When you consider there are a half a million or three-quarters of a million fish on each fish farm, you're getting into the millions of sea lice producing larvae, which of course means billions of larvae in the upper water column where the Pacific salmon are migrating through. It's a clear threat. It's a clear impact. With the condition of licence, there is no monitoring of how many sea lice are on the juvenile salmon. It's completely untethered from what it's intending to protect.
The biggest farce of all is the 42-day window that's given to industry if they're out of compliance. When you think about the reporting, the response and the 42-day window, you now have an industry, coast-wide, that's allowed to operate in defiance of regulation during that critical out-migration window.
It's absolutely useless and it is not looking after wild salmon.
Thank you, Chair. I appreciate the testimony that I've heard today. I've not only been educated a lot; I've also been entertained at times during this meeting. I appreciate the good nature in which we're discussing a very serious issue.
I think everybody in the room right now wants the same thing. They want the protection, longevity and health of wild Pacific salmon. I don't think anybody here wants anything but that.
I'm going to ask along a bit of a different line of questioning. When it comes to abundance, Mr. Hardie and I would agree on this particular point—that the issue is abundance. Commercial fishermen tell us that DFO has mismanaged and that there's no more abundance. Sport fishing and recreational fishers would say that DFO has mismanaged and there is no abundance anymore. Of course, first nations would also—yourself included today—say that there are issues in regard to abundance. I don't think anybody is disputing any of that.
I do want to talk a little bit about what some of the potential options are going forward, rather than just looking at one or two options. I think there are couple of other opportunities that are available. One of them would be the potential use of hatcheries, not as a permanent solution, but as an interim solution to increase abundance and to restore stocks. Of course, there's going to be ongoing efforts for cleaning up our streams and making them more productive, but there's also the use of selective gear to ensure that wild salmon are given every opportunity.
Would any of you want to talk about what changes we can make, whether it's the harvest taken by first nations along the fresh water or along the coast, or whether it would be sport fishers or others? What sacrifices or ideas can we make in order to ensure that wild salmon are allowed to return to spawn? We can use different vehicles.
What we're doing right now is basically watching salmon disappear. We have to do something different. What things could we do differently, other than just closing or moving the fish farms? I don't think that, in and of itself, is going to solve the problem. What other things can we do?
Who would like to take a shot at that?
I would agree that we should look at the Cohen commission again, and not just say, “Working on this,” but actually say how we're working on it.
I remember my first day on the fisheries renewal board of directors, coming in and Joy Thorkelson asking, “How come the only salmon that we talk about as being removed from the system are the adults?” Why are we not looking at when a cow steps on a red? Why are we not looking at water pollution? Why are we not looking at all the other ways that salmon die?
That's something I'd very much like to see. Where are salmon dying? At what stage in their life cycle? When they do come back as pieces, as they're called, we're finding a lot of the coho pre-spawn mortality is due to the water quality issues. They're dying without laying their eggs. It's fine and dandy to have a fish come back, but they are not providing the next generation for us, and I think we have to look at that full cycle and ask where our fish are disappearing in that cycle.
I would think that, yes, we could, given the fact that we have Supreme Court law that gives footing for the government to act and to pursue reconciliation on something that's so heavily nested inside the United Nations declaration and given the crisis that is Pacific salmon. Of course, if we were just talking Cohen, we would be talking about Fraser sockeye, but we're talking about Pacific salmon across the province.
What DFO has done with the programs and so on that they've moved forward with, be it AAROM or AFS, is they've compartmentalized the discussion to different pieces around the province, whereas we need a very broad and cohesive plan informed by first nations, but that's not going to happen unless there's a key decision and resourcing made from the government to facilitate such a bringing together of all the technical pieces and formulating it into a province-wide strategy, which then can be brought together with the federal and provincial governments.
As well, of course, the message of reconciliation is not just a Crown initiative but something that needs to be communicated to society at large. I think the salmon and the rebuilding can be a unified experience for streamkeepers, for commercial fishermen and sport fishermen. They've all been brought together, primarily this past year that I've worked on it, in relationship to the fish farm impacts. It's something to build upon that we could capitalize on right now, if we were serious about it, if the government was.
I would like to put this question to all the chiefs.
Forgive me for being blunt, but we have just finished studying the crisis in Nova Scotia. It is still going on there, because there is still no conclusion.
As an elected official, I am concerned about people's welfare. A lot of parallels between the two situations can be established, although they are very different. But the fact remains that we are talking about livelihoods and rights. So, since prevention is better than cure, and since we want to prevent the same thing from happening again, I would like to know whether you, who are on the front lines, feel any tensions in terms of that situation.
I'll jump in. Thank you very much for your question.
I think we need to understand where the man-made, government-controlled opportunities to effect change are, in whatever industry it may be that is harming wild salmon. We are challenged with global warming, a warming ocean, and a lack of food, things that we can't reach out and change, but there are things we can change. I think a strong partnership federally and provincially would be beneficial, because many of the contributors to the demise are provincial, whether it's forestry, mining or farming. We need to come together and provide the resources necessary. As I believe Cliff identified earlier, what has come forward is a pittance, because $120 million over five years is not going to do what's necessary.
Thank you for your question.
Thank you to the presenters.
On the precautionary principle, I'm from agriculture, being from the Prairies. The way it's used in agriculture is to just keep everything the same and not change it. You just keep on. It's kind of insanity. That's the way the precautionary principle is applied in agriculture.
There were comments, Ms. Morten, about where the salmon are dying. Have there been any studies? Is there any data? I think you brought up the streams. Where are the salmon dying? What is the biggest cause of salmon being taken out prematurely? Is there any knowledge on that? I think you mentioned cows stepping on them.
How do you answer that? I guess being new to this committee, I don't know what I'm going to get for an answer here. What kind of information is there about predation, and where should we be looking at that?
I think it has continued, when you look at the nine science papers and the faulty CSAS process. This is another delay and distraction. When the consultation that I've been involved with for the three first nations on Discovery Island wanted resourcing, they said, “Sorry, there's no resourcing, but maybe there will be in the next round of work that Mr. Beech is going to be taking on.”
Then, in terms of deny, delay and distract, you have DFO saying that sea lice aren't going to a part of the assessment. We found in the documents in 2018 that DFO identified within their science that sockeye are more susceptible to sea lice, yet on their website it says it's the Atlantics. The guy who was part of this paper didn't include either of those in the PowerPoint he shared for consultation.
When I think about that as one small example of how they are contradicting, how can you say that there's conclusive science? If there is an absence of conclusive science, the precautionary principle must be implemented, and part of the problem is that there is simply no policy to guide the implementation of the precautionary principle for aquaculture.
There are so many things I'd like to say, but I know we have a time limit.
[Member spoke in Mi'kmaq
I just want to thank you all for opening up with your indigenous languages. As a Mi'kmaq language speaker, it's always great for me to hear other languages.
I also want to thank you for your continued advocacy in speaking of UNDRIP. Many of you may know that my father was part of the initial UN indigenous working group that drafted UNDRIP.
I'm going to ask two questions. I'm going to open it up to the floor, because you probably all have recommendations on this.
Do you think that implementing UNDRIP is a good first start in achieving reconciliation and a recommendation for this committee to look at?
Second, in 2017, the Liberal government announced $25 million over four years to support the indigenous guardians pilot program, and with it sunsetting in 2021, I'm wondering if you think that it has been effective. Do you believe that when indigenous nations are able to co-manage the resources, that is one of the best practices?
I'll leave that open for you guys to answer, with short answers if you could, so that I can hear from everyone.
In that component of management, it's about managing and monitoring the access during fisheries.
In the nineties there was still abundance—not as much as there was in the seventies and eighties, but still lots for us, for recreational, for sport and for commercial fishing. We were working with our citizens, who were transitioning from a time when if we were hungry, we would go out and fish for the table, to lesser runs, especially the Early Stuarts. That's when they started to decline, so we had to really monitor ourselves. We did it effectively by working with people, with fishers, with communities, but now DFO's management approach is to charge as many of us as they can. If we don't plead guilty, it takes five to seven years in court to finally come to whatever the decision is by the court. That's, by default, DFO's approach on management now: tying us up in court. We lose our jobs. We don't want to say we're guilty because we're not guilty, so we have to keep going to court. It's hugely problematic.
They take our boats, our trucks. They take everything from us, whereas when recreational fishers and others are caught, they don't do that.
I would like Mr. Adolph to have the floor, as he wanted to answer my question. But I would like to rephrase the question because the answers were not what I was expecting.
I would like to address Mr. Chamberlin's hypothesis about the salmon becoming extinct, the uncertainty about traditional food, and the suspicion with regard to DFO. Those concerns could lead to dissatisfaction among the First Nations.
I would like to know whether, in the long-ish term, they feel tensions like those that have arisen with the Micmac in Nova Scotia.
I don't want to be a prophet of doom or talk about a crisis, but do you see that as a possibility?
Yes, actually, it is possible. In regard to taking a look at the situation that was happening on the east coast in comparison to the west coast, I think really what occurred on the east coast was that there was lag. There was a long lag of time for the federal government to actually look at implementing the court case, and it kind of erupted into this situation for the lobster. When we look at that context in the east coast compared with the west coast, really what we need to look at are the court cases that have recognized our right to fish. We need to actually move these forward so that we can become part of the solution in relation to management.
What I was going to also mention earlier is that we have two paradigm shifts that are competing within our culture, our values and our principles. In Xaxli’p here in Fountain, we take only what we need, but the environment we're in is a capitalist society. What happens in a capitalist society is exploitation of the resources, compared to our need for the fish and taking only what we need, knowing that the fish are going to feed the bears and the eagles. In turn, that's going to be carried into the forest and the old-growth forest is going to flourish.
Building on Mr. Chamberlin, provincially, we need to take a look at how best we manage the forests so that we're not taking out the old-growth forests and the fish will come up and replenish the old-growth forests. Then the bears will come and the eagles will come. Right now, everything is collapsing. The whole ecosystem is collapsing because of the state of the fishery.
Yes, very briefly. It's something that we haven't dwelt on too much in this particular discussion, even though it's alive and well.
I want to cite one of our representatives from Hesquiaht—which is part of the Tla-o-qui-aht table—who overheard two DFO officials talking about how the government has dealt with an indigenous problem, asking how it did that, and replying, “Well, they don't have any more wild stocks, and we know that they don't eat farmed fish.” They were gloating about that. These are our employees of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
We formally levelled that charge to the government in our negotiations in a press statement that really didn't get a lot of traction. However, it's real, and somebody needs to wake up and say that we can't have racism in the management of aquatic resources. I know it's alive and well, and so do many other first nations, as has been presented here on occasion.
We really don't spend a lot of time.... Nobody has stood up and said, “zero tolerance”. I ask the question: Why not? Is it because it's okay to have those policies in place that negatively impact our way of life as a people?
If I hear a resounding “no”, I'll say, “yes”, but I hear nothing.
I think the witnesses have all gone.
You've all been sent a copy of the budget, which was circulated by the clerk. We need approval for this. I don't know if I can just ask. Do I have unanimous consent for the requested supplementary amount of $3,100? That's necessary to supply our witnesses with equipment. I see thumbs up all the way around. I don't see any thumbs down.
(Motion agreed to)
The Chair: I'll take it that it's passed unanimously, Nancy. You can go ahead with that.
There's just one thing I want to say to the members of the committee. When we're in the questioning part of our committee meeting with witnesses, I would ask you to try to identify whom you're asking the question to. Your time is your own. You can do as you want with it. I shouldn't have to manage the time for the individuals who are asking questions. Identify whether it's John Q, or Betty B, or whoever you want to answer it. Sometimes the witnesses just stay there, looking at the screen, the same as we're doing, but nobody is saying anything. Your time is running out as nobody is speaking. Your time is getting used with no response.
Keep in mind, in the future, to try to identify whom in particular you want to answer the question. If not, as somebody said, you have dead air. Keep that in mind.
I hate jumping in and using your time to identify this witness who may have their hand up, or another witness. It's your time. You manage it how you see fit. I'll tell you when your time if up, of course, as always. I know we are a little free on it at times.
Again, thank you to everybody: the clerk, the analysts, the translators and our own individual staff, for another very insightful and interesting meeting.
Of course I wish everybody a merry Christmas and happy and safe New Year. Until we meet again, goodbye, all.
The meeting is adjourned.