I now call this meeting to order.
Welcome to meeting number two of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. The committee is meeting to discuss committee business.
Today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format. I would like to start the meeting by providing you with some information following the motion that was adopted in the House on Wednesday, September 23, 2020.
The committee is now sitting in a hybrid format, meaning that members can participate either in person or by video conference. Witnesses must appear by video conference.
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All questions must be decided by recorded vote unless the committee disposes of them with unanimous consent or on division.
Finally, the committee may deliberate in camera, provided that it takes into account the potential risks to confidentiality inherent to such deliberations with remote participants.
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Mr. Battiste, I believe you raised your hand first. We will now go to you.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I hope I can go now.
I'm going to introduce the motion again. I understand that it's in both languages now.
The motion is as follows: “That the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans undertake a study to examine the implementation of the Mi'kmaq constitutionally protected treaty right to fish in pursuit of a moderate livelihood, in order to evaluate the current Rights and Reconciliation Agreement process and identify issues that need to be addressed and a recommended path forward; that the Committee call witnesses including senior officials from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, First Nations, Fisheries association, scientists and interested stakeholder groups to testify before the Committee, that the Chair be empowered to coordinate the necessary witnesses, resources and scheduling to complete this task; and that the Committee report its conclusions and recommendations to the House of Commons.”
Mr. Chair, I know I said this last week and I think we've all seen the urgency. I say this not only as a Mi'kmaq person but as someone who represents a riding that has a lot of commercial fishermen as well.
I feel we have an urgent situation that needs to be addressed. I hope we will take a look at this and be able to move forward on an urgent basis and put in place the proper meetings that we need to do this. I would suggest no fewer than five meetings to make sure we're hearing from all stakeholders.
Of course, I'll respond.
The motion is less clear, which is exactly why I'm moving an amendment. The motion refers to “officials from First Nations”. This is very broad, when we think of the consultations taking place. Each band council is consulted in order to reach agreements. Obviously, in this case, we want to hear from the people representing the Mi'kmaq and Maliseet nations.
In Quebec, there are nine first nations. We won't be inviting witnesses from all the first nations in Canada, but specifically witnesses from the Mi'kmaq and Maliseet nations. I thought that it would be useful to specify this in order to establish the focus of our discussions around this virtual and physical table.
Mr. Chair, if I may make an intervention, as Conservatives, we also will be moving an amendment once this particular amendment has been dealt with.
I'm concerned that in the depth and breadth of what the committee is being asked to do here, it is trying to have this boiled down to something that's very simple when in fact it's not simple. This motion is asking the committee to undergo basically an examination of not just this particular instance, because this challenge and the situation unfolding in Atlantic Canada right now likely will be setting the first steps in the definition of a “moderate livelihood”.
As such, I believe the committee has a responsibility if we're going to adopt this motion, and I suggest to you that there's no reason to think the committee wouldn't adopt it. I think we would have before us a significant task in order to provide some type of clarity and in order for all parties to have a venue or an avenue to be heard.
I'll be moving an amendment after this that would broaden the number of people this committee would invite to talk to this—
I thought that we were moving an amendment without discussing the previous amendment.
Perhaps Mr. Battiste can enlighten me. I thought that the purpose of the motion was to discuss the current case, in particular the issue concerning the Maliseet and Mi'kmaq in Nova Scotia. However, my colleague Mr. Calkins said that the discussion should be broader. I want to know where things stand. I don't see how we could have just five two-hour committee meetings to discuss such a broad topic with all the first nations.
I'm a bit surprised. I don't think that we should meet with all the first nations. However, at the same time, everything is negotiated between the first nations and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Mr. Battiste, I want to know the purpose of your motion. We can then clarify it one way or another. I maintain that your motion is very important.
I want to point out to everyone that there are 634 first nations in Canada. I move that we amend the amendment to ensure that we ask the committee to specifically invite the Mi'kmaq and Maliseet nations. We can also make another amendment. You know that the term notamment
means “among others”, so the term isn't restrictive. There may be others. However, at the same time, we're making sure that the Mi'kmaq and Maliseet nations will be invited. As Mr. Battiste so aptly put it, this is a troubling and urgent situation involving these communities, which are affected by the Marshall decision. As Mr. Cormier so aptly put it, we're obviously talking about first nations with an s
, but particularly the Maliseet and Mi'kmaq nations.
That said, we're talking about the fact that I'm naming these communities. However, the amendment also included an important component concerning traditional knowledge. I believe that one of the recommendations in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report is to always take into account this traditional knowledge, which I may not be aware of as a member of this committee. If I could hear from these people, I may be able to make more informed recommendations.
Although I don't want to make any assumptions, I imagine that the same is true for several of my colleagues, who may not be familiar with the culture and history of the Maliseet and Mi'kmaq nations.
No, I am. I'm going to go there.
Madame Gill brings forward a very good point. Whether we look at the Maliseet or the Nuu-chah-nulth, where I live, or the four big decisions that have protected rights inherent in our Constitution, whether it be the Gladstone, Sparrow, Ahousaht et al v. Canada, or Marshall decisions, they are relative. I think it's important that we get an idea of where Canada is at in terms of supporting and accommodating those court decisions that have been clearly in support of the nations exercising their rights, whether it be a moderate livelihood or their right to catch and sell fish. The government hasn't been sending their negotiators to the table with a mandate to accommodate the exercising of those rights.
I am in support of expanding it, but if we do expand it, I think we should have a narrow focus for a few meetings, and then expand it in separate meetings. I too believe that the Nuu-chah-nulth would like to be part of this conversation, and I think it's warranted, given the situation.
Where he's going and what he wants, I believe, and what she wants, are actually intertwined. They intersect. I think there's an opportunity, but we also want to mitigate any sort of conflict in the future in those other communities where they're also looking at implementing their own fisheries plans because of the lack of consultation with the government and the lack of resources provided to the regions to actually negotiate fairly. They want to earn a livelihood and participate in exercising their rights, but the government has failed to accommodate in every court case. The amount of money the government is spending in fighting these nations would also be of interest to this committee, I believe.
I think it's very important that this study take place and I support Madame Gill's push, but I'd like to further expand that. I hope she's willing to be open and amenable to a friendly amendment to modify her amendment to broaden the scope of this study. I believe it's warranted.
I have to be very clear here that when we talk about the Mi’kmaq right to a moderate livelihood, it's based on the Marshall decision. The Marshall decision is based on a treaty right. That is a specific treaty right of 1760 and 1761. If we include indigenous nations from all across Canada, we muddy the waters a bit on inherent right versus treaty right versus a specific treaty right.
I am in favour of saying that we include notamment the Mi'kmaq and the Maliseet. The Passamaquoddy are part of that, but they're not recognized in Canada as having a band there, so it's the Mi'kmaq and Maliseet. As well, if you want to include indigenous knowledge as part of this, I have scientists whom I'm looking to call who have that indigenous knowledge. They have both science and indigenous knowledge. I have no problem with the amendment saying that it's the Mi'kmaq and Maliseet, and adding additional indigenous knowledge stakeholders to the amendment if that's agreeable.
If we get into other first nations and other treaties that are outside of the realm of the moderate livelihood, we do a disservice to the current urgency that's going on and that we need answers to. In the long term, what I'm looking to get from this is a study that hears from the different stakeholders and for us to move forward on this in such a way that they feel heard and they get a chance to say their piece in the fisheries committee.
I would hope that's agreeable to Madame Gill and MP Johns.
Mr. Chair, if I may have the floor, I would add something to it through a subamendment to Mr. Battiste's amendment.
I propose that we also include local authorities. At some point, after “fisheries associations, scientists”, let's put in “local authorities and interested stakeholders”, if that's amenable to the committee. Also, just prior to the language “fisheries associations”, if we make that “non-indigenous and indigenous fisheries associations”, that would be a little more inclusive as to who might be on the witness list.
I assume this would be amenable to Mr. Battiste.
If it would be considered worthwhile by colleagues at the table, I would simply suggest that we also add this. After the words “current Rights and Reconciliation Agreement process”, put in a comma and then add this text: “identify better ways to engage interested parties in order to improve communication, reduce tensions and prioritize conservation”.
If somebody would like me to speak to that proposed amendment, I'd be happy to do so, but I think it pretty much speaks for itself. I don't think it necessarily changes any of the intent of the mover of the motion, but I do think it's important that as members of the fisheries and oceans committee we take a look at conservation. This is very consistent with the language that a multitude of ministers used today in their press conferences in talking about this particular issue. I think it adds to the value of the text of the motion and doesn't substantively change it in any way that is contrary to the intent of the mover of the motion.
I want to continue along the same lines.
I'm very interested in the conservation aspect, of course. We also spoke about communication. However, once again, according to the Marshall decision, the way in which rights are limited or defined reflects a desire for management and conservation, which I find worthwhile.
Of course, we spoke about senior officials. However, we could have included scientists, for example, who are involved in stock management and conservation.
Now I've made the ultimate sin.
Seeing no further interventions, I'd ask for the clerk to call a recorded vote on the amendment as proposed by Madame Gill.
(Amendment negatived: nays 10; yeas 1 [See Minutes of Proceedings])
The Chair: Before I go on, I would like to remind members that we have exhausted all of the time that was allotted for committee today, but if I have the consent of the majority of members, I believe we can extend the time frame.
Nancy, could you let us know if staff and interpreters are available for us to continue, and for how long they'd be available? Can we agree on a length of time for the extension?
Okay. I think I'll ask for consent from the committee to carve off the last 10 or 15 minutes, if we can get a two-hour session, to deal with committee business at the end of the meeting, especially if we get extra time this Wednesday.
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair:Seeing all thumbs-up, I think we're good to go.
Again, thank you, everyone.
Hopefully we'll do a bit better with the mute and unmute next time, and hopefully when the clerk checks on it we can add an additional meeting this coming Wednesday. Please get in your witnesses to the clerk as soon as possible.
Good evening, everyone. We now stand adjourned.