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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
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 Robert Chisholm Profile
View Robert Chisholm Profile
2012-06-11 23:25 [p.9219]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to get up and speak for a few moments this evening about this important piece of legislation.
I am somewhat confused by the responses of the members opposite when they say a couple of things. They say that this is common sense way to deal with a number of problems, by introducing an omnibus bill that changes 70 important pieces of legislation; it is a common sense approach to dealing with important matters; it is simply a way of growing the economy, creating jobs and moving the country forward; and that a lot of the changes they have introduced in the legislation are important changes that will benefit the country, and that they are very proud of them.
What I cannot get over is, if that in fact is the case, then why do they not take some time to consider each one of those changes? For example, when we look at the changes to the employment insurance system contained in the bill, none other than the four Atlantic premiers have come out in the last few days and said they have very serious concerns about the proposed changes. They have not been consulted and would like to examine those changes.
We have talked a lot in the House over the past number of weeks about the changes to the Fisheries Act. Contrary to what one member opposite said, many of us have looked at the bill, examined the changes that have been made and have listened to a number of experts who have considered what the impact will be. As recently as this afternoon, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission came before our fisheries committee to talk about invasive species. They spoke to a resolution that had been passed and forwarded to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans by the advisory committee to that commission, asking that the government engage in further consultation on the changes to the Fisheries Act, and failing that, that the government recognizes that the definition of fisheries habitat it has used is completely and utterly inadequate. They suggested different language in order to do that.
That does not sound to me as if the people who are affected by the legislation are understanding or being supportive of these changes. Therefore, what is confusing me and confusing many Canadians who are being directly affected by the legislation is that if government members are as proud as they say they are about the changes they are trying to implement, why do they not take time to talk with Canadians about what they are proposing to do and make sure that everyone is on board?
Unfortunately, what we have seen over the past number of weeks is the government hell bent on getting the legislation through. It is trying to prevent Canadians actually seeing what is in the bill and understanding what is here.
The member before me spoke glowingly about the changes to EI, the changes to the temporary foreign workers program, and the changes to the Fair Wages and Hours Act and how this was going to help employees. What they are doing with those three changes alone is driving down the wages of working people in our country so they will not be able to afford to purchase goods and services in our communities. How in the name of heaven is that supporting the economy in Atlantic Canada or in the member's own constituency? I would like him to give that some consideration.
I was on the subcommittee of the Standing Committee on Finance that considered Bill C-38, the 70 pieces of legislation that were being affected, and we had only 14 hours to do that.
We had 14 hours to consider the employment insurance changes and the Fisheries Act changes. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act would be completely repealed and replaced in Bill C-38. We had 14 hours to examine and to listen to representations by Canadian experts, by people who would be directly affected by this legislation. These people came before us and told us what they thought about it. They told us how the bill would affect them and the issues that they are interested in. They brought their expertise before us. It was revealing. I learned a great deal from both those who supported the legislation and those who were opposed to the legislation.
However, what concerned me the most, as a parliamentarian and as someone who has some experience in legislation, in dealing with these matters, was the dismissive way that many of these witnesses were dealt with. I was disgusted, frankly. Members opposite, members of the government side, challenged anyone who raised any questions. They treated them poorly. In fact, if we look at the subcommittee's report that was tabled in this House when the finance committee reported back to this House, we will see a report that is nowhere near reflective of the testimony that we heard in those 14 hours.
Let me give an example. The Grand Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Chief Atleo, came before our committee. He told us in no uncertain terms how upset he and his people were. They had not been consulted, the government had completely ignored the duty to accommodate and the duty to consult that has been reaffirmed in Supreme Court decisions over the past 20 years. The changes being proposed in a number of pieces of legislation do not consider the role that the first nations play in this country. It would create extraordinary hardship and extraordinary damage to many of the things that the first nations people in this country hold dear.
Do members see that sentiment reflected in the subcommittee's report? Not a word. Grand Chief Atleo's testimony is not even referred to once in the subcommittee's report. How can that be? We are talking about the Assembly of First Nations that represents over 600 first nations communities in this country, first nations that have rights, treaty rights, constitutional rights that have been defined by and confirmed by the Supreme Court. His testimony and the concerns of the first nations people in this country are not even reflected once in that report.
Members opposite are laughing. They think this is a great joke. But let me say that as a member of this chamber, I am thoroughly embarrassed and disgusted with the way that this matter has been handled. It is so disrespectful of the people who have taken their time to come before us to provide testimony. It is as though, if anyone disagrees with the current government, whether it is a member of the National Round Table on the Environment and on the Economy, or Grand Chief Shawn Atleo or members who came before us today of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, or anyone who has any objection with the government, the members will shout them down, they will rule them out, they will not include them in their reports. It is shameful behaviour. I am telling members that Canadians are paying attention and they are not going to stand for this. They are not going to stand being railroaded by the government.
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