House of Commons Hansard #46 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was national.

Topics

Fisheries Act
Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Val Meredith South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I got the impression from my colleague's comments that the government's proposed legislation is not where the priority should be, that there are more important issues in the fishing file that should be addressed.

I would like the member to expound on that, please.

Fisheries Act
Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I may have been misunderstood in some of my comments. There is no question that it is a priority, but it is a delayed priority.

The government has introduced the bill, but if an election is called the bill will die on the Order Paper. The reality of what I am trying to stress is that we have many issues dealing with aboriginal and non-aboriginal people when it comes to access to the fisheries. I do not believe that introducing a bill at this late stage of the game is the way to do it. If the government were serious about this it would have introduced a bill of this nature a long time ago and put it forward for serious debate.

To have a debate of this nature this late in the game on such a serious issue just shows the government's priorities, which is that there is no priority when it comes to this issue. The government will say “Look what we are trying to do but unfortunately there is an election”. We never heard the minister say that if the Liberals were re-elected they would reintroduce the bill. No, what we have, this is it.

I wish my colleague from British Columbia future good luck. She is a great member of the House of Commons but, unfortunately, circumstances dictate that she may not be back again. Although I am on the NDP side, I must say that it has been a pleasure working with her on many issues.

Fisheries Act
Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am not on the fisheries committee, but after listening to my colleague from the NDP, I got the feeling that maybe there was something in the bill that I had missed. The member was comparing a communal fishery and a co-operative fishery. It is my understanding that they would be two totally different things. I would like the member to clarify that first of all.

The second thing I would like the member to clarify is the term “aboriginal organization”, which is explained in the regulations. The regulations define and provide express regulation making authority to cabinet for designating persons who can fish and vessels that can be used to fish under a licence issued to an aboriginal organization and for authorizing designations to be made through licence conditions.

My difficulty with that particular term and my reason for asking about it is that it is not clear to me whether the licence will be handed down through the communal aboriginal fishery and therefore determined by the chief or if the licence will be determined by DFO and it will tell the aboriginal community who will fish the licence.

I raised the point with the minister that it takes a long time for a fisherman to become trained and become an expert in the fishery. It is not just throwing a net in the water or throwing a couple of lobster traps overboard. It is a matter of knowing the currents, the fog conditions and the different smell in the air. There is also a safety component. It is a huge job to train expert fishermen, especially fishermen who are going to be involved in the offshore fishery.

My first question for my colleague from the NDP is most important. Could he explain the difference, as he sees it, between a co-operative fishery and a communal fishery. The second question is how this licensing will work under the bill, because I do not see how it can work.

Fisheries Act
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, yes, there is a difference between what I would interpret to be a co-operative fishery and a communal fishery.

A co-operative fishery would be the example on Fogo Island in Newfoundland where the people operate through a co-op, through a co-management basis, which means that decisions on the fishery are done mutually between DFO and the fishing community. As well, that fishing community has obligations to pay, for example, for monitoring, for science reports, et cetera, but DFO does have the final say in that regard.

A communal fishery, as I see it, is where we have a group of people, for example in the Eskasoni Band in Nova Scotia. Let us say that band is issued 10 licences. It is then the band that decides which one of its people will be offered the rights to fishing and how that money, if there is any from the revenue sources of that, will go back into the band. That is my understanding of how that is supposed to work. However I have heard that there has been some favouritism as to who gets the licence and some of the difficulties with that.

My colleague from the south shore definitely brings up a very important point. We should not just give fishing licences and the ability to fish to just anybody off the street. It is a very hazardous and dangerous situation. He knows all too well, as I do in my riding, that every single year we lose people from our small coastal communities to the treacherous waters. These fishermen are experienced and even the most experienced fishermen can have great difficulty and risk their lives sometimes.

The lobster fishery, for example, is not an easy thing to partake in. It takes a lot of time to be properly trained and to understand the weather. One also needs the fishing gear and the ability to fish properly. This is why, when it comes to communal licences being issued, there should be opportunities for proper training and so on. We cannot just give someone a licence and tell him or her to go fish. It simply cannot be done.

The hon. gentleman also has other questions which I would have assumed would have been vetted by the department and the minister long before they introduced the bill. This shows us that the bill is a bit ad hoc. We also do not believe, because of this late stage in the game, that the government is very serious about it.

If we look at it objectively without dissecting it, we could almost say that we can understand what the government is trying to do. There are some good points and some other things that need to be rectified but by doing it at this late stage, we do not believe government members are very serious at all. They are just trying to muddy the waters for their own election benefits. Fortunately, we on this side of the House see through that and will be mentioning that on the doorsteps of Canada.

Fisheries Act
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Bras D'Or—Cape Breton, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure to enter into the debate here today on Bill C-33. It has been a very engaging debate and much has been said from the opposition benches and many concerns rendered on this particular bill about the fishery in general. With all the talk in the air, one might think that some of it might even be rhetorical. We are not above that in the House.

I myself have been around the harbours in the last number of weeks and have been able to speak with a great number of fishing groups. In my constituency of Bras d'Or--Cape Breton, we start in the harbour of Glace Bay and run through to Morien around the Louisbourg-Gabarus coast and up to Richmond county, up the Strait of Canso, and then back around the other side of the island, the west side, Port Hood, Mabou, Inverness and up to Chéticamp. Like most MPs from the Atlantic, I will say that the fishery is the engine that drives the economy in coastal communities in Atlantic Canada.

I have been speaking with those fishermen and there is a great deal of enthusiasm. There is excitement and there is anticipation at this time of year. We have had a number of meetings with harbour authorities. This is the time of the year where we have had great success with some of the investments we have made through many harbour authorities in my constituency. I look at the jobs that have been done in Glace Bay, Morien and Louisbourg. There has been a major investment in Petit-de-Grat where the aboriginal fishery is fishing hand in hand with the traditional fishery with great success.

Going up the other side of the island, again we have had investments in a number of harbours, investments that have made those harbours safe, effective and great places for my constituents to ply their trade. We are hopeful. I just spoke today with a group from Grand Etang. It is the first time in over 50 years that a dredging project was done in Grand Etang. Over 50 years since that harbour was dredged and we got that done last year. We were very fortunate. Obviously as we go forward here over the next while, I think that some of the anticipation is banking on further announcements in the coming weeks.

Another reason for some of the anticipation and excitement is the FRCC's proposal coming forward to the minister. Today in the House the Minister of Fisheries responded to a question from the member for St. John's West. He is currently in receipt of the recommendations coming forward from the FRCC. Of course the FRCC is an independent body. The Fisheries Resource Conservation Council is primarily responsible for the science that surrounds the resource.

The minister will accept that report and study the recommendations put forward from the FRCC. He in turn will make allocations of the resource as we go forward into the season. Of course, the bottom line with the minister, when those decisions are made, is that the conservation of the resource and the orderly management of the fishery remain the priorities of not just the minister but the department. Certainly what we hope is that he will study the recommendations closely.

The decisions have to be science based, but the anecdotal information in our conversations with fishermen and fisheries groups is that the stocks on the east coast are subtly starting to grow. There are some very positive signs. I am not trying to dismiss the state of the fishery there. I am not trying to make light or say that we have fully recovered the cod stocks on the east coast, not at all. I would not want to mislead the House in that regard, but if we speak to the individual fishermen and to the crews that are on those boats, they will tell us that a lot of the signs have been encouraging. Some of the tows and some of the catches have been very surprising at times and very encouraging at the least. I would hope that the minister, as he goes forward to make his recommendations on this year's quotas, weighs these factors as well.

Of course there is a lot of excitement and anticipation. I have fishermen friends who are looking out at the pack ice each day hoping for a good wind to move the ice off so the crabbers and the lobster fishermen can get going. There are some very positive early indications that in several of the areas catches will be strong. This is a tribute to the conservation efforts that have been undertaken in some of the management areas. There has been a great deal of sacrifice in some of those areas over the last number of years. Looking at just outside of Glace Bay, for example, they have increased the carapace size over the last four years. They are in a four or five year management plan. They think this might be a year where they will see the benefit from that sacrifice and from those years of increased conservation. The price is still a little low, but that will come as the season progresses.

The other thing in speaking with the various fishermen from the different harbours is that what I have seen over the last number of years is the growth in acceptance, understanding and cooperation between our aboriginal and traditional fishers. I know that it varies from harbour to harbour. Experiences change from harbour to harbour, but overall I think we are starting to see through this. It has been much more accepted and it is very positive and encouraging to see these people fishing side by side as fishermen. I think we have come a long way and I think there is still a ways to go. Again, it varies from harbour to harbour, but overall we have made significant progress in the last number of years.

That brings us to one of the main reasons why we are speaking today, which is Bill C-33. As I have said, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-33, an act to amend the Fisheries Act.

The Government of Canada has been clear in its desire to increase the participation of citizens in the nation's business and to re-establish confidence in the federal government and in those who represent Canadians.

The bill being debated today is one example of how the government and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is reaching out to members of Parliament and, by extension, to Canadians.

By introducing Bill C-33, the government is responding to concerns raised by the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations. I know that the hon. Minister of Fisheries and Oceans appreciates the hard work of the committee. The issues are complex and the committee felt that they were important and worth studying.

Over the past few years, hon. members from both sides of the House and the Senate have spoken about the need for greater clarity on matters addressed in the bill. The Fisheries Act is a general piece of legislation that is used to conserve and protect the fisheries and to govern the way our government manages fishing. The amendments proposed add more detail to the broad general authorities in the Fisheries Act and address issues raised by the committee.

While the bill is limited in scope, it offers a range of changes that will provide greater clarity and certainty on matters of legislative authority. Quite simply, it is aimed at clarifying existing authorities.

For instance, the bill is intended to clarify the authority of the minister and aboriginal organizations to designate persons who may fish under the authority of a licence and vessels that may be used to fish. It will define what is meant by the term “aboriginal organization” and, to the extent that there may be inconsistency, provide the authority for licence conditions issued to an aboriginal organization to prevail over regulations.

These proposed amendments address very specific issues that were the subject of a commitment by the Government of Canada to the standing joint committee.

I think it is important to note at this point that these amendments will not change existing practices on the ground. Rather, they will provide greater clarity and certainty on matters of legislative authority with respect to regulations that govern Canada's fisheries.

As the February Speech from the Throne made clear, the Government of Canada is committed to helping aboriginal Canadians attain greater economic self-reliance and a better quality of life.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has been a key contributor to this long term, government-wide goal. For example, DFO's response to the 1999 Supreme Court of Canada Marshall decision served to increase opportunities for Canada's first nations to participate in the fisheries. I think the comment that was made by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans earlier today in the House recognized that over 1,200 jobs have evolved as a result of this decision.

Every member of this House can be proud of the achievements realized through the Marshall response initiative. Today we have an orderly, regulated fishery, where hundreds of aboriginal fishers are learning new fishing skills, learning how to run a business and assuming their new role in the fishery. While there is still a great deal of work ahead, there has been measurable progress over the last four years. To build on this, the minister announced two new initiatives in February.

The new at-sea mentoring initiative, with total funding of $6 million over the next four years, will help the Mi'kmaq and Maliseet first nations in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and the Gaspé region of Quebec further develop skills to fish safely and effectively in various fisheries.

Trial and error is one way of learning, but trial and error is an inefficient and unsafe way to learn new skills. Mistakes at sea can be costly. They can be costly in loss of gear, costly in loss of revenue and, in extreme cases, costly in the loss of life.

I think the mentorship program will go a long way in continuing to bring the aboriginal community along. It will also assist first nations in diversifying the catch in these inshore fisheries and improving overall fishing skills in the midshore fishery as well as learning vessel maintenance.

The fisheries operations management initiative, with total funding of $1 million over the next four years, will support these first nations in learning more advanced skills to manage their communal fisheries assets with the objective of maximizing benefits for fishers and their communities.

DFO seeks to manage fisheries in a manner consistent with constitutional protection provided to aboriginal and treaty rights. Policies such as the aboriginal fisheries strategy and the Marshall response initiative, together with a legislative framework that includes the aboriginal communal fishing licence regulations, provide a flexible framework that assists DFO in this regard.

It is important to note that the minister will continue to issue communal licences to aboriginal organizations under the regulations should this bill pass. The aboriginal communal fishing licences regulations will continue to serve as an essential tool in the effective management of fishing by aboriginal groups while conserving the resource on behalf of all Canadians.

The minister and indeed the Government of Canada are committed to working cooperatively with aboriginal groups in the management of the fisheries. This is the best way to achieve the department's priorities of conservation and an orderly managed fishery.

Bill C-33 will provide clarity and certainty on matters of legislative authorities while supporting our government's ongoing work to improve the quality of life of aboriginal Canadians. This is why I encourage all my colleagues in the House to support these amendments.

Fisheries Act
Government Orders

6:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I listened closely to my hon. colleague's speech. To be honest, it kind of reminded me of the Prime Minister's trip to see President Bush. He promised that everything would be fixed, that softwood lumber would move, that cattle would move. However, when we read the fine print, nothing has changed and it is business as usual. The cattle are not moving. There is no progress and no future to see cattle moving. Softwood lumber had nothing to do with the Prime Minister. We would still be waiting for the wood to be sawn, if it did.

Now we have legislation here that has not been clearly thought out. The main difficulty I have with the bill is very simple. This legislation does precisely the opposite of what it is supposed to do. It allows certain aboriginal organizations to prevail over certain regulations.

It is important that all Canadians, especially Atlantic Canadians and Canadians who live in maritime regions, whether it is B.C. or Atlantic Canada, to know exactly what those regulations are.

The minister was having difficulty explaining the regulations. It is important to know if is it just a matter of licensing or if it is simply a matter of who will fish first. We live with that already. That is not a difficulty. Is there something else that we do not know about?

Under Marshall, we understand there is the right to fish. That is a given. Under Sparrow there is a right to fish. Those rights can be accommodated and they are being accommodated. What we need to know is exactly what they mean when certain aboriginal organizations have a right to prevail over certain regulations.

Fisheries Act
Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Bras D'Or—Cape Breton, NS

Mr. Speaker, first, I will address a comment made by my hon. colleague at the outset, that not much progress had been made. Particularly in the wake of Marshall, much progress has been made. What we have now is an almost fully engaged native fishery. As was mentioned in the House before, over 1,250 jobs have been created as a result of the initiatives undertaken by the department to deal with the Supreme Court ruling of Marshall.

As I made note of in my remarks, it is the growth within the different fishing communities and the harbours that has been most rewarding. We cannot expect the aboriginal community to come in and take part and engage in a commercial fishery.

I grew up in the fishing community of Glace Bay and in Port Morien. I have married into the fishing community. Fishing is a livelihood that has been handed down from father to son, from generation to generation. The skills acquired are ones that have evolved over the years and traditions have come down over the years.

It is a bit much for us to accept and expect that the aboriginal community will come in and experience tremendous success from the outset without any type of mentoring and without any type of patience or understanding from the outset.

That is why I support in the legislation the ability to deal with the regulations. There is enough latitude within those regulations so we can deal with the aboriginal community on a basis where it can go forward as it continues to gain capacity and experience. As its fishing community continues to grow, hopefully the legislation or the regulations as they evolve from this bill will allow the DFO officials to factor in those types of provisions.

Fisheries Act
Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the hon. member's comments, but he is still not answering the question. The question is very simple. This is not about opportunities for first nations. This is quite simply not about even implementing Sparrow and Marshall. My question is on licensing and regulations and how they will be governed. What is the difference? How does one look at and pass down a communal licence?

I understand the mentoring, the training and the years it takes to be a professional fisherman. However, what happens if the chief of any of the bands decides that a licence will go to someone else and that someone else has no experience in the fishery? The success of the fishery is that family owned licence and the training that goes on from father to son or father to daughter. That success is the years of work and mentoring it takes to be a successful fisherman. What happens if there are no rules and no regulations in place to ensure that the first nations that get involved in the fishery can stay in the fishery?

Fisheries Act
Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Bras D'Or—Cape Breton, NS

Mr. Speaker, my friend has alluded to the fact that the cultures, the training and skills have been passed down from generation to generation within a family enterprise. Obviously, from the aboriginal communities that I know, they have a communal nature and that enterprise lies within that aboriginal community.

First, we should know that Bill C-33 does not compromise any of the practices that are on the ground as we speak. What it does is allow for the flexibility and the respect within the aboriginal community that would allow the regulations from the fishery to be applied in its specific case.

Fisheries Act
Government Orders

6:20 p.m.

Yukon
Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, my interest is with the aboriginal people and I want to ensure that I am on record. The NDP spoke about the consultations and suggested that two groups were being pitted against each other. I want everyone to know that all aboriginal groups across the country were consulted. They understand the situation will be better after this bill because certain regulations that would help them would have been disavowed. Now the exemptions will be in the act. It is a chance for the minister and cabinet to put into licences those things resulting from court cases.

Does the member want to add anything on the aboriginal front? I just wanted to ensure that was clarified.

Fisheries Act
Government Orders

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Bras D'Or—Cape Breton, NS

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the intervention of my colleague from Yukon. A number of consultations took place among department officials and representatives from the minister's office with the various stakeholders and committee members. From all indications, the consultations have been ongoing. They started back probably a couple years ago. That is why we are this juncture, where Bill C-33 has come forward.

Fisheries Act
Government Orders

6:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, on the final comment of the member for Bras d'Or—Cape Breton's, it is my understanding, from what the Minister of Fisheries stated in the House, that he had not met with the fisheries committee on this legislation and that any consultation had occurred under a former minister some time ago.

Again, when bringing legislation into the House of this magnitude and importance, it is absolutely essential that the minister of the day meet with the committee of the day. Things change, issues change, dynamics change and it would have been important to at least have met with committee.

The basis of Bill C-33, an act to amend the Fisheries Act, we have had a long and prolonged debate over that. I think we all understand where the bill came from and why, and I will review that.

Before I do, let us go back and look at the original aboriginal fishery strategy of 1992 and the Sparrow decision of 1990. There has been nearly 14 years to bring the aboriginal community into the fishery. In Atlantic Canada, to a great degree, the aboriginal fishing strategy has worked well. Certainly, a majority of the bands have fishing licences, if not all, which range everywhere from mackerel, to crab, to offshore shrimp, to offshore clams, to the lucrative lobster industry and to the groundfishery. It is not as if suddenly today the aboriginal community will start to partake in this fishery.

Let us look at 12 years of an aboriginal fishing strategy. I just pulled a clip off the wire and the best comparison to that is the same amount of time, actually 13 years, or 12 years of this government dealing with the offshore, specifically the nose and tail of the Grand Banks and foreign overfishing.

I am not about to try and blame all the ills of the fishery upon the foreign fleet. It is not only the fault of the foreign fleet, it is our fault as well. However, it is important to be consistent with regulations and it is extremely important to be consistent with enforcement. I do not see any of that in this legislation, Bill C-33. I certainly have not seen any of it on the nose and tail of the Grand Banks for the last 12 years.

Newly released data shows that more than 90% of foreign ships caught illegally fishing on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland over the past decade got off scot free. Between 1992 and 2003, Canadian fisheries officers caught foreign ships illegally fishing 319 times on the nose and tail of the Grand Banks, but the foreign ships faced fines in only 21 cases. Basically it was carte blanche. They could do what they wanted and fish where they wanted. I am not certain we will see anything different here.

The success of the fishery is to base it on conservation, to have trained fishery officers and to have trained fishermen who understand the resource. There is a willingness to incorporate the aboriginal fishery, certainly there is in the South Shore. There is no question that the aboriginals have a stake in the fishery and they will be participants in that fishery.

The question is how does one bring legislation like this into being without talking to the fishery committee, without having committee hearings that include first nations and other stakeholders? How can that happen.

I agree with the member from Bras d'Or that absolutely, there is a very important economic component to this piece of legislation. It provides opportunity for first nations. It provides much needed opportunity for first nations entry into the fishery. What are the parameters of that opportunity? What are the rules and regulations that will govern it?

There is not even agreement among the individual Mi'kmaq, Maliseet, and Passamaquoddy bands. They have not all signed onto this. There are still a few of them that are holding out. There is far from unanimity on this subject. There is still division even among the first nations.

As was mentioned here a few times, the September 17, 1999 Marshall decision affirmed the treaty rights of the Mi'kmaq, Maliseet and the Passamaquoddy people to hunt, fish and gather in the pursuit of a moderate livelihood. That court agreement has come down. No one is arguing about that decision.

There needs to be open and intelligent discussion on how we can best incorporate first nations into the fishery. It was not DFO that said we are not going to have extra effort in the fishery. It was the first nations who put that idea forward because they and the non-native fishery saw the importance of not over-exploiting the resource.

There are a number of amendments. The bill amends the Fisheries Act to expressly provide that a breach of a term or condition of a permission granted under section 4 of the act or of a licence or lease issued under the act is an offence. That is a change to the Fisheries Act.

Changes to the Fisheries Act should not be brought in without having a debate, without trying to look 20 years into the future to see how it could affect the individuals involved. How will it affect the aboriginal fishery? That is the first component we are talking about. How will it affect the non-aboriginal fishery?

My great concern is the whole basis of a communal fishery. I am not proposing at all that a communal fishery cannot work. It probably could work and could work well. However, how do we enable the mentoring and training of fishermen to be passed on intergenerationally within the fishing family? I do not think that question has been answered at all, and it is an extremely important one.

In summary, I do believe the bill is being rushed through. I do believe it has been brought in late. It has not really been thought through. Unfortunately, we need this piece of legislation, but we cannot use it in its present form.

Fisheries Act
Government Orders

6:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for South Shore will have approximately 12 minutes remaining if he so chooses when the bill comes back before the House.

The House resumed from April 30 consideration of the motion that Bill C-30, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 23, 2004, be concurred in as amended.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004
Government Orders

May 3rd, 2004 / 6:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It being 6:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division at report stage of Bill C-30.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)