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View Darrell Samson Profile
Lib. (NS)
Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-68 following the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans' review and analysis of this bill.
We thank the committee members for their careful study of this legislation and their thoughtful amendments. During this review of Bill C-68, my colleagues in committee heard from many different witnesses and experts. I would like to take this time to talk about what they heard. I would also like to share the concrete steps proposed to make improvements and move forward with this legislation.
From the environmental NGO community and members across the aisle in the Green Party and the NDP, the committee heard about the importance of water flow for fish habitat. The government supported the associated amendments put forward in committee.
The committee also heard from industry groups seeking amendments to the rules proposed for the processing of applications for habitat authorization during the transition from the current to the new legislation. In response, the committee adopted the amendment to provide clearer transition provisions.
The committee also heard about strengthening the federal government's legal obligations when major fish stocks are in trouble. This is why the committee proposed the inclusion of requirements, under the legislation, that the minister sustainably manage or rebuild fish stocks that are prescribed in regulation. However, the legislation would require that when such cases arose, Canadians would be informed and provided with a rationale. Our aim is to sustainably manage fisheries resources for the long-term benefit of Canadians.
As members know, in 2012, the previous government decided to change habitat protection without the support of or consultation with indigenous peoples, fishers, scientists, conservation groups, coastal communities, and the Canadian public. In contrast, our government has worked with all Canadians and has encouraged everyone to be part of this process. The proposed amendments to Bill C-68 are part of our government's broader review of environmental and regulatory processes under Bill C-69, an act to enact the impact assessment act and the Canadian energy regulator act, to amend the Navigation Protection Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts, which was reviewed by the committee.
The Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development also adopted some important amendments, which have been reflected in Bill C-68. These include better protections for indigenous knowledge and clearer transition provisions that would ensure better business continuity.
The changes proposed in Bill C-68 would support several government priorities, such as partnering with indigenous peoples; supporting planning and integrated management; enhancing regulation and enforcement; improving partnership and collaboration; and, finally, monitoring and reporting back to Canadians. This is transparency.
This bill would include the reintroduction of the prohibition against the harmful alteration, disruption, or destruction of fish habitat as well as the prohibition against causing the death of fish by means other than fishing. There are measures to allow for better management of large and small projects that may be harmful to fish and fish habitat through a new permitting scheme, for big projects, and codes of practice, for smaller ones.
The amendments would enable the regulatory authorities that would allow for establishing a list of designated projects, comprising works, undertakings, and activities for which a permit would always be required. We have been, and will continue to be, engaged with indigenous peoples, provinces and territories, stakeholders, and others to capture the right kinds of projects on the designated project list.
Habitat loss and degradation and changes to fish passage and water flow are all contributing to the decline of freshwater and marine fish habitat in Canada. It is imperative that Canada restore degraded fish habitat. That is why we proposed changes to the Fisheries Act that would include the consideration of restoration as part of project decision-making.
The bill is motivated by the need to restore the public's trust in government, which was lost following decisions made in 2012.
In order to re-establish the trust of Canadians in government, access to information on the government's activities related to the protection of fish and fish habitat, as well as protecting information and decisions, is essential. We listened and we proposed, through Bill C-68, measures to establish the public registry, which will enable transparency and access. This registry will allow Canadians to see whether the government is meeting its obligations and allow them to hold the government accountable for decision-making with regard to fish and fish habitat.
The addition of new purpose and consideration provisions will more clearly guide the responsibility of the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard when making decisions and provide a framework for the proper management and control of fisheries, and for the conservation and protection of fish and fish habitat, including by preventing pollution.
Fisheries' resources and aquatic habitats have important social, cultural, and economic significance for many indigenous peoples. Respect for the rights of the indigenous peoples of Canada, taking into account their unique interests and aspirations in fisheries-related economic opportunities and the protection of fish and fish habitat, is one way we are showing our commitment to renewing our relationship with indigenous peoples.
We listened to Canadians on the need for modern safeguards. That is why we have proposed changes to the Fisheries Act that provide a new fisheries management order power to establish targeted fisheries management measures for 45-day increments where there is a threat to the proper management and control of fisheries or to the conservation and protection of fish. This will help to address time-sensitive emerging issues when a fishery is under way and targeted measures are required.
Proposed changes to the Fisheries Act include a new ministerial authority to make regulations to establish long-term spatial restrictions to fishing activities under the act, specifically for the purpose of conserving and protecting marine biodiversity. This will support our international commitment to protect at least 10% of our marine and coastal areas by 2020. Proposed changes also include authority to make regulations respecting the rebuilding of fish stocks.
As I mentioned earlier, our government reached out to Canadians to help put the bill forward. We listened to the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development and the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans and provided direction for the restoration and recovery of fish habitat and stocks. We were pleased with the amendments of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans during its clause-by-clause review. We listened to environmental groups, and the committee proposed provisions aimed at implementing measures to promote the sustainability of the major fish stocks.
In addition, in keeping with modernizing the act in line with other federal environmental law, changes are being proposed to the Fisheries Act to authorize the use of alternative measures agreements.
Through Bill C-68, the Government of Canada is honouring its promise to Canadians. By restoring the lost protections and providing these modern safeguards, the government is delivering on its promise as set out in the mandate letter from the Prime Minister to the Minister of Fisheries.
Since introducing this bill, we have heard support from a broad range of Canadians for these amendments that will return Canada back to the forefront when speaking about fish for generations to come.
I urge all hon. members on both sides of the House to join me in supporting this bill, which is so important.
View Gord Johns Profile
NDP (BC)
View Gord Johns Profile
2018-06-11 20:45 [p.20660]
Mr. Speaker, reconciliation should be a part of all legislation and the federal government's commitments to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and working in true nation-to-nation relationships with Canada's indigenous people should be consistent with the Canadian Constitution and should be reflected in the Fisheries Act.
Keith Atleo addressed federal staff in Ahousaht. He told them that DFO was served notice because Ahousaht felt that it was not adequately consulted about the changes to the act.
Our party supports the bill, but I have concerns, and I shared them with Mr. Atleo. He said that the word “may” consult first nation and “may” recognize first nations rights was disheartening. He asked if DFO was wasting its breath around the table if the minister “may” consider what the Ha’wiih, which is the hereditary chiefs of the Nuu-chah-nulth, were saying.
Does he believe it is “may” or does he believe we should be implementing the rights of indigenous people?
View Darrell Samson Profile
Lib. (NS)
Mr. Speaker, I am so glad my colleague touched on consultation. Over the 10 years of Conservative government, it did not consult in any way, shape, or form. When the former prime minister visited a province, he would not even let the premier know. That was disrespectful.
With respect to indigenous people, a large majority of them support the pipeline, for example. We are not going to get 100% support. What is important to note is that the minister will have the authority to enter into any agreements with indigenous people, and this is in the bill as well. They will not be consulted but they will be part of the solution, and that is really good when it comes to what we are trying to accomplish as a government.
View Gord Johns Profile
NDP (BC)
View Gord Johns Profile
2018-06-11 22:17 [p.20672]
Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise to speak on Bill C-68, an act to amend the Fisheries Act and other acts in consequence. As members can imagine, as a coastal British Columbian, I understand the importance and significance of protecting our fish. Where I live, it is not just our food security, our economy, or our culture, but it is integral to everything and is what connects us. It is even in our language. As saltwater people, fish and the protection of fish is given utmost priority. We always say that the health of our fish and our salmon is a reflection of the health of our communities. The importance and significance of this bill would restore the act that needs to be put in place as soon as possible so that we can protect our fish and bring ourselves back to abundance.
One of the key changes made to the Fisheries Act in 2012 that removed protection for fish and fish habitat, and that will be restored, is the harmful alteration and disruption or destruction of fish habitat. It goes further by restoring the definition of fisheries to include all fish. However, it still does not address the conflict mandates, which Commissioner Cohen identified, of conserving wild salmon while protecting harmful salmon practices. This was in the mandate letter to the Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard. The Prime Minister himself instructed the minister to act on the recommendations of the Cohen commission on restoring sockeye salmon stocks in the Fraser River.
In recommendation 3 of his report, Justice Cohen recommended, “The Government of Canada should remove from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ mandate the promotion of salmon farming as an industry and farmed salmon as a product.” DFO is still continuing to promote salmon farming, its industry, and the product. We are concerned that the government has not followed through with this promise. It is impossible for the government to be an agent and also promoting an industry that might have detrimental impacts and effects on our wild fish. The goal and mandate of DFO should be restored to that of just protecting wild salmon and wild fish. New Democrats would like the government to follow through with the promise it made in the 2015 election campaign and that was outlined in the Cohen commission.
It has not done that, and it is something that is raised repeatedly. In fact, the Pacific Salmon Foundation just came out against open net salmon farming. Many groups in my riding are raising concerns about the impact it is having. Many indigenous communities in my riding are raising concerns around the impact of salmon farming. We would like that to be split out so that we can make sure DFO is doing its historic job of advocating for and protecting our fish. That is not happening now, and it is not in this legislation.
It is the first time that rebuilding of depleted fish stocks has been included in the Fisheries Act. However, details on rebuilding this will be in regulations. Those regulations need to be strong, with timelines and targets, and it needs to take into account the impacts of climate change and species interactions. We know in my area that climate change is real. In 2014, it was so dry—and then rained just in time, in August—that we were worried we would lose all of our fish as the streams ran dry at the time when the fish needed to spawn upstream. It is important that is integrated in the legislation, but also setting clear targets and necessary investments. The government keeps talking about its oceans protection plan and its record investments in coastal restoration, but in fact we are not seeing that on the ground.
As I said earlier, the Somass River still has no coastal restoration funds. It is expecting about 350,000 pieces of sockeye salmon this year, which is well below the average of just over a million and the high of 1.9 million. How do we get back to abundance? We need to make adequate investments, and we are not doing that. The salmon industry in British Columbia brings in well over $1 billion, yet we do not even invest $50 million in that sector. As a former business person, I know that is far from adequate in terms of investment in an industry that is so critical to British Columbians, in tourism, the commercial sector of fishing, the recreation sector, and for food security.
It feeds many people, especially indigenous people who rely on that fish, people living in poverty. It is important that the government backs it up with real investment. The bill states the following:
require that, when making a decision under that Act, the Minister shall consider any adverse effects that the decision may have on the rights of the Indigenous peoples of Canada recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, include provisions respecting the consideration and protection of Indigenous knowledge of the Indigenous peoples of Canada, and authorize the making of agreements with Indigenous governing bodies to further the purpose of the Fisheries Act;
It is concerning that it is still far from free, prior, and informed consent, a specific right that pertains to indigenous peoples and is recognized in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
I am going to quote from the Nuu-chah-nulth's Ha'wiih, who are the hereditary chiefs of the 14 Nuu-chah-nulth first nations on the west coast of Vancouver Island. They have identified five concerns, and one is the purpose of the Fisheries Act, which must include reconciliation with aboriginal people. They said there is no reference to aboriginal people or unique and important ties to the fishery.
The Prime Minister has said that the “failure of successive Canadian governments to respect the rights of Indigenous Peoples in Canada is our great shame. And for many Indigenous Peoples, this lack of respect for their rights persists to this day.”
Second, there is another quote from the Prime Minister: “We now have before us an opportunity to deliver true, meaningful and lasting reconciliation between Canada and first nations, the Métis Nation, and Inuit peoples.
Lastly, he has stated before that, “We are all in this together, and the relationships we build need to reflect this reality. In Canada, this means new relationships between the government of Canada and Indigenous Peoples – relationships based on the recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership.”
They would like to see this mean true, meaningful, and lasting reconciliation that includes reconciliation with aboriginal people in the purpose section of this legislation, and say, “We do not submit that Reconciliation is achieved by the Fisheries Act alone; rather, we submit that the Fisheries Act can assist in achieving Reconciliation.”
They would like to see incorporating respect for indigenous law. They say, “We respectfully advise that section 2.5 should be amended by adding the following: the traditional and contemporary laws of the Indigenous peoples of Canada, as provided to the Minister.”
Third, they are concerned about controlling ministerial discretion. They say “that the minister 'may' consider certain named issues when making a decision.” They recommend that the word “may” in section 2.5 be changed to the word “shall”. They say that, “We remain to be convinced that the government of Canada will always be a government that shares the need to preserve the environment, conserve and manage fish species conservatively, and respect the rights, laws, and traditions of Indigenous people.”
Fourth, they would like to see consistency of the reference to aboriginal peoples.
Fifth, with regard to restoring fish habitat, they say, “While we approve of the protections being given to the Fisheries habitat, we cannot concede that enough is being done to restore the habitat and repair the damage done by industry, over-fishing, or mismanagement. We therefore recommend that the purpose of the Act be amended further by adding the following: 2.1(c) the restoration of damage for compromised fisheries and fish habitat”.
They would like to see that in there. They say the time is now for the federal government to take the lead in habitat restoration. This legislation provides the perfect vehicle to do so.
Last, the bill gives a great deal of discretion around decision-making to the minister, allowing decisions to be made based on the minister's opinion rather than on scientific evidence.
In closing, we support the bill. We support restoring fish habitat. We would like to see some of these concerns addressed. These are concerns that are shared widely in my riding of Courtenay—Alberni, that are shared by many of the groups that are doing the hard work, many of the groups that are advocating for our salmon in particular, and our fish.
Many of the salmon enhancement groups have identified that they have not seen an increase in 28 years in many of the hatcheries.
This has been a failure of repeated governments. Hopefully the government will put forward a real plan so we can bring back our fish stock to abundancy.
View Marilyn Gladu Profile
CPC (ON)
View Marilyn Gladu Profile
2018-06-11 22:29 [p.20674]
Mr. Speaker, the Liberal government continually talks about how the nation-to-nation relationship is the most important one, but then what it does is disastrous. We have heard my colleagues talk about how the murdered and missing aboriginal women inquiry and the pipeline were inadequate.
I would like to hear more detail from my friend in the NDP about the consultation that has happened on this legislation and how he feels it has helped indigenous people.
View Gord Johns Profile
NDP (BC)
View Gord Johns Profile
2018-06-11 22:30 [p.20674]
Mr. Speaker, we do not agree with the Conservatives around this legislation. We are trying to restore and implement things they cut when they were in government that did not protect our salmon.
The member has raised a valid concern about consultation with indigenous people. The letter I have from the Ha'wiih, the hereditary chiefs of the Nuu-chah-nulth people, is because they have not been adequately consulted around the bill. They have brought forward their concern that they “may” be consulted instead of “shall” be consulted. That is a huge concern. It flies in the face of Bill S-262 that was recently passed, which was put forward by my colleague around applying UNDRIP. I am calling on the government to change the wording of that.
The government is currently fighting the Nuu-chah-nulth people in court. The government has repeatedly fought the nation in court, and the judge has ordered the government to get to the table and negotiate responsibly. It has not done that. It is carrying on the same policies from the Harper government in the past. The Liberal government has failed to sit down and have meaningful dialogue with the nation and negotiate fairly. It was in the recent judgment with the Nuu-chah-nulth, Ahousaht et al v. Canada, that the government had done everything it could to stymie negotiations.
If the government is going to honour and respect indigenous peoples, it should get to the table and negotiate with the Nuu-chah-nulth, who have won repeatedly in the Supreme Court of British Columbia. Canada needs to stop fighting indigenous people in court and show respect.
View Ken Hardie Profile
Lib. (BC)
View Ken Hardie Profile
2018-06-11 22:57 [p.20678]
Mr. Speaker, sitting on the fisheries committee, I had an opportunity to question many of the witnesses who came in as we looked at aspects of the changes that were made back in 2012 versus the gaps that people perceived. Notwithstanding my friend's comments about consultation, when I asked a panel of people from industry, particularly industry on the Prairies, in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, they certainly agreed they had been consulted. However, we consistently asked members of the indigenous community what kind of consultation they had been involved in, and they consistently told us that they had not been consulted. Not only that, during the course of our hearings we were constantly challenged by the Conservative members about accepting submissions from indigenous groups who had prepared material with financial assistance from the department for other purposes.
It was very clear that during our most recent deliberations they were not interested in hearing that input from indigenous communities, and it would not appear that they very actively sought it out when they did their process. I am wondering if my friend could comment on those reflections.
View Mark Warawa Profile
CPC (BC)
View Mark Warawa Profile
2018-06-11 22:59 [p.20678]
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member. He is in a neighbouring riding, and I think we live in one of the most beautiful parts of the world.
It is interesting that we invite the witnesses and often the Liberals will invite people knowing what the answers are likely to be, but he said it was perceived that they had not been consulted. Then he connected the dots and said the previous Conservative government was not interested because there is this perceived lack of interest. In fact, science will show us, if he goes to Hansard he will see the long list of people who actually were called as witnesses, who were given the opportunity to testify over those many years before those changes were made.
There was, therefore, a massive amount of consultation. What we heard often was that sometimes within the process they found it frustrating when a provincial assessment would be done and finished and then there would be a federal environmental assessment. The same witnesses were called twice. They asked to just be called once because they did not like being called twice, and asked if people had not listened to them the first time. That was a common concern.
View Ken Hardie Profile
Lib. (BC)
View Ken Hardie Profile
2018-06-07 23:01 [p.20518]
Mr. Speaker, I sit with the gentleman on the fisheries and oceans committee. I thought we did an awfully good job on Bill C-68. We went back and forth, we discussed amendments, we accepted some of each other's, and worked it right through. We were fixing years of neglect and cuts, cuts to science. Yes, it was easier for the DFO to administer the old act because the Conservatives gutted DFO's ability to do anything by cutting it back. It is pretty easy to follow the rules when there are only a few rules.
Does the member remember the testimony we heard from first nations, reflecting upon the fact that back in 2012-2013 it was very clear that the only voices the Conservatives heard in that consultation were the voices of industry, which showed in full measure in the bill they produced? Maybe the member can recall what we heard from indigenous people who felt totally shut out by that earlier process.
View Terry Beech Profile
Lib. (BC)
View Terry Beech Profile
2018-06-07 23:19 [p.20520]
Mr. Speaker, Bill C-68 would restore lost protections, including the HADD protections, and it would strengthen the role of indigenous communities.
When I was first made Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, one of the things I did in my first summer was make sure that I went out and visited as many indigenous communities as I could get to. Most indigenous communities had not had a parliamentary secretary or a minister of fisheries and oceans visit for maybe one or two generations, if at all.
This legislation would strengthen the role of indigenous communities. It would provide an increased role in decision-making, policy-making, and monitoring. It would go right alongside our investments in indigenous communities, including $250 million to give more indigenous communities access to the fisheries. That is going to cause generational changes that will be very positive for all Canadians, especially indigenous communities.
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