Evidence of meeting #80 for Fisheries and Oceans in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was mpas.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Natalie Ban  Associate Professor, School of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria, As an Individual
Rodolphe Devillers  Professor, Department of Geography, Memorial University of Newfoundland, As an Individual
Boris Worm  Professor, Biology, Dalhousie University, As an Individual
Marilyn Slett  Chief Councillor, Heiltsuk Tribal Council
Peter Lantin  President, Council of the Haida Nation

9:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Scott Simms

Welcome back, everybody, to the second hour of analysis of Bill C-55. Thank you, everybody.

Don't forget, at the end of this we have five minutes of committee business. If you notice, we're running a little over time. I'll explain that a little bit later, but first let's get to our witnesses.

First of all, they are both from the west coast of this country, so as I've said before, and I'll say again, to our two witnesses, thank you so much for getting up at this viciously early hour to join us here in eastern standard time. You have accommodated us greatly and we will always appreciate that.

That being said, from the Council of the Haida Nation, we have Peter Lantin, president. You are joining us from Skidegate. Thank you for that.

Also, from the Heiltsuk Tribal Council, Chief Marilyn Slett, chief councillor. Thank you for joining us from Bella Bella this morning.

9:50 a.m.

Chief Marilyn Slett Chief Councillor, Heiltsuk Tribal Council

You're welcome. [Technical difficulty—Editor]

9:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Scott Simms

I'm sorry, Chief Slett, could you repeat that? You broke up there for a minute.

9:50 a.m.

Chief Councillor, Heiltsuk Tribal Council

Chief Marilyn Slett

I'm in Vancouver at the moment.

9:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Scott Simms

You're in Vancouver. I see. Very good, but you are from Bella Bella, correct?

9:50 a.m.

Chief Councillor, Heiltsuk Tribal Council

Chief Marilyn Slett

Yes, but I'm calling in from Vancouver, just to let you know.

9:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Scott Simms

Perfect.

What we do is we allow you up to 10 minutes for an opening statement. You don't have to use the whole 10 if you don't wish to. Then we do questioning from our members of Parliament here.

We're going to start with you, President Lantin, for up to 10 minutes, please.

9:50 a.m.

Peter Lantin President, Council of the Haida Nation

Good morning, everybody. The sun isn't even up here in Haida Gwaii yet, but it's always a great opportunity to provide some perspective on behalf of my nation and here on the west coast of British Columbia.

My name is kil tlaats ‘gaa Peter Lantin, and I am the president and official spokesperson for the Haida Nation. The Haida Nation supports Bill C-55. We have a unique experience to share, having established two protected areas in the ocean portion of our territory, and later, jointly working to manage these areas with the Government of Canada. We will also propose changes to strengthen the bill to protect Haida interests and rights, but before I do that, I want to provide a brief introduction to Haida Gwaii and to the Haida Nation.

The Haida Nation's territory includes the islands of Haida Gwaii, the surrounding waters, which include the entire Dixon Entrance; a half of Hecate Strait, north and south; Queen Charlotte Sound, halfway to Vancouver Island; and westward beyond the 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone.

The land and sea of Haida Gwaii has been our homeland since time immemorial. Haida oral traditions tell of our origin from the oceans surrounding Haida Gwaii. As an elder said, “We came out of the ocean all over Haida Gwaii. We can point to it and say this is where our ancestors came out of the ocean.”

Our name for these islands, Haida Gwaii, means “islands of the people”. Living in this territory of more than 150 islands, we are never far from the ocean in our daily lives. More than 25% of the island's interior is within one kilometre of salt water, and no place is further than 20 kilometres from the sea. We have over 4,000 kilometres of inlet and island shorelines. The seamless sea to mountaintop connection is an integral part of the Haida heritage and cultural identity.

The influence of the ocean on the land base of Haida Gwaii is pervasive in Haida life, culture, and history. Every Haida village is carefully selected, based on the abundance of seafood and its marine geography. Well-protected harbours are selected for year-round or winter sites, and more exposed locations for seasonal summer camps. The bounty of the sea provides many Haida foods and medicines. Sea creatures, from the most common to the supernatural, figure prominently in Haida art, design, and our family crests.

For all of these reasons, the protection of our marine territory and the species within our marine territories has been one of the key mandates of the Council of the Haida Nation since our inception over 40 years ago now, in 1974. Haida designations of protected areas, such as Gwaii Haanas, Duu Guusd, and Sgaan Kinghlas-Bowie Seamount, as well as provincial conservatories, were subsequently designed in parallel by Canada and British Columbia. We worked with Canada and the Province of B.C. to protect sensitive areas within Haida territory. We have engaged in marine planning since 2006, first with Canada, and more recently with the Government of British Columbia, under both the Haida Gwaii marine plan and land use plans.

Co-operative management has provided a mechanism to balance crown and Haida interests by allowing both parties to co-operate on management and planning, and work toward mutually agreed upon objectives, while maintaining individual jurisdiction and authority.

Now I'm going to provide some of the Haida Nation's recommendations in terms of amendments to the bill. We support the proposed amendments to the Oceans Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act, but we make seven sets of recommendations to strengthen the proposed bill, based on our experience with co-operative management of the two marine areas within our territory. Both the Sgaan Kinghlas-Bowie Seamount and Gwaii Haanas marine areas would have greatly benefited from interim protection and an accelerated timeline, which are not possible under the existing Oceans Act.

The Sgaan Kinghlas-Bowie Seamount Marine Protected Area, or SK-B MPA, was identified as a DFO pilot project for MPA designation about 1998, but there was no federal protection until the area was established as an MPA under the Oceans Act in 2008. It took 10 years. Part of the delay was due to the need to develop a co-management agreement between the Haida Nation and Canada.

The Gwaii Haanas terrestrial and marine area has been called “one of the world's ecological and cultural treasures”. The crown's intention to protect the Gwaii Haanas marine area was identified when the South Moresby agreement was signed in 1988. The reinforcement of Gwaii Haanas was not protected under federal legislation until 2010, when the Gwaii Haanas Marine Agreement was signed, and an interim management plan was approved by Canada and the Haida Nation.

A final integrated land, sea, and people management plan is anticipated in 2018. Gwaii Haanas is not an Oceans Act designated MPA, but our co-operative management experience in Gwaii Haanas has relevance to our recommended amendments to the Oceans Act.

I'm going to get into the seven recommendations.

The first recommendation, which is a critical challenge for our marine protected area co-managers right now, is the lack of authority to manage, restrict, and close fisheries. We need to enable co-operative management boards to manage marine protected areas. Under both national marine conservation areas and marine protected areas, fisheries continue to be managed under the Fisheries Act. Instead, fisheries' activities must be consistent with management objectives and, in the case of Haida Gwaii, accountable to the agreement between Canada and the Haida Nation. This will avoid future litigation, curtailing fisheries that are unsustainable or that result in degradation to sensitive habitat. The ability to manage fisheries must be explicit in the Oceans Act and should not be circumvented by regulations.

Our second recommendation is that the bill include separate sections on sustainability principles, including ecosystem-based management and the precautionary principle. While a precautionary approach is mentioned in the recital of the current Oceans Act, there is no definition or guidance on how it should be applied. The precautionary approach should be applied in the assessment of all activities occurring within the marine protected area. Both of these principles and others are expressed in traditional Haida laws and our marine use planning processes.

The third recommendation is that we welcome new provisions from the Minister of Natural Resources Canada or the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada to prohibit oil and gas activities or to cancel a company's oil and gas interests in an interim marine protected area. However, restrictions should go further.

In our fourth recommendation, we support the recommendations of West Coast Environmental Law in areas that coincide with mandates from Haida citizens to prohibit specific activities. We seek minimum protection standards under the Oceans Act from oil and gas, mineral exploration and development, wind farms and tidal power development, open-net pen aquaculture, and trawling in high protected zones, meaning International Union for Conservation of Nature, IUCN, categories one, two, three, and four.

On our fifth recommendation, we also support the further recommendations of West Coast Environmental Law such as recognizing ecological integrity as the top priority for marine protected areas and interim protection MPAs. Second, assign IUCN categories to marine protected areas for consistency. The Haida Nation in British Columbia used these categories in the Haida Gwaii marine plan. Finally, we recommend that a significant portion of marine protected areas with a high level of protection be closed to extractive activities, including commercial and recreational fishing.

Our sixth recommendation is that we echo the recommendation of both West Coast Environmental Law and the Heiltsuk nation that an explicit statement be incorporated into the bill confirming that nothing in the bill limits the constitutionally protected rights of indigenous people.

Finally, we agree with the recommendation by West Coast Environmental Law that the bill require explicit recognition of indigenous governance rights and co-governance of marine protected areas. There is an international precedent for this in addition to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. The IUCN provides a mechanism for recognizing indigenous and community conserved areas.

There's also support for this in Canada. Indigenous protected areas were identified as an opportunity for Canada in the report “A “new Shared Arctic Leadership Model” by Mary Simon, the minister's special representative on Arctic leadership. According to Ms. Simon, “Indigenous protected areas are based on the idea of a protected area explicitly designed to accommodate and support an Indigenous vision of a working landscape.”

In conclusion, the Haida Nation has breathed life into and has taken the first steps toward implementing our vision for a working seascape. A mechanism to recognize indigenous protected areas through the Oceans Act or other Canadian legislation would provide an additional stepping stone to begin reconciliation of marine spaces while also meeting and exceeding targets for marine protection.

I want to thank you for your time this morning.

10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Scott Simms

We thank you for yours, sir. Thank you very much. We'll get back to you in just a moment.

In the meantime, we'll go, for an opening statement, to Chief Marilyn Slett, please.

10 a.m.

Chief Councillor, Heiltsuk Tribal Council

Chief Marilyn Slett

Good morning. My name is Marilyn Slett. I am the chief councillor for the Heiltsuk Tribal Council, which is the elected leadership for the Heiltsuk First Nation. Heiltsuk thanks the committee for this opportunity to talk about the proposed amendments to the Oceans Act.

Heiltsuk peoples have lived on the central coast of B.C. and harvested marine resources for thousands of years. Archaeological evidence dates our fisheries back 14,000 years. Harvesting is central to our health and well-being, and lies at the heart of our culture. We depend on the fish and the health of their waters.

Heiltsuk supports increased powers for government to create marine protected areas, MPAs, including interim MPAs, but only if they are used to create interim and permanent MPAs to protect marine areas, especially nearshore areas that have been prioritized by our own marine use plan areas. The former federal government, despite having powers under the Oceans Act to create MPAs, did not do so in a meaningful and transparent way. Heiltsuk trusts that the federal government will not only seriously apply interim MPAs to freeze activity levels, but also seriously consider additional restrictions for interim MPAs.

Immediate additional restrictions will help curtail harms that are arising from existing activities. Many marine resources are being overfished by commercial and recreational fisheries, such that they will need more than a mere freeze at current levels of activity.

Heiltsuk has seven recommendations for improving Bill C-55. They deal mainly with the role of indigenous nations like Heiltsuk in making decisions under the Oceans Act, combined with their role in enforcing what we hope to be many more MPAs within our traditional territories. Heiltsuk also recommends increased transparency in the federal government's processes.

In a briefing note that Heiltsuk filed yesterday, we set out two examples that illustrate the fragility of our traditional harvesting areas and how they are being damaged by industrial and commercial activity. The first example is recent damage to one of our breadbasket harvesting areas. In October 2016, the Nathan E. Stewart sank and spilled about 110,000 litres of diesel and lubricant oils. We harvest at least 25 food species from the spill area. A year later, Heiltsuk's harvesting closures and DFO's bivalve closures are still in place.

A second example is the impact of the commercial and recreational fisheries on our traditional crab harvests. In the last several decades, and especially in the last few years, crab harvests have declined dramatically. We are harvesting only a fraction of what we have caught in the past. Many traditional harvesting areas are fished by commercial vessels—which can run about 200 traps at a time—and are simply stripped of crabs.

In 2008, the four central coast first nations, including Heiltsuk, told Canada that we could not harvest enough crab to meet our basic needs. We have been requesting crab closures from DFO for about nine years. It took many meetings, and eventually talk of litigation, before DFO agreed to close only one area, Troup Passage, in late 2016.

Crabs are just one species that are under pressure. Industrial and commercial activities are decimating stocks that have been a part of our way of life for thousands of years. The time has come for the federal government to use different tools, such as MPAs, to safeguard marine resources.

At present, only one marine protected area is close to Heiltsuk. That is the Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte sponge reefs area. However, Heiltsuk has been pressing the need for more areas. I understand that other speakers have referred to the central coast first nations marine use plan, which was developed with the Province of B.C. It already identifies 17% of its area for protection.

What Heiltsuk needs is action. Heiltsuk looks forward to a process of reconciliation that includes self-government, including co-management of our marine resources. Until that occurs, we have seven recommendations for improving Bill C-55.

First, Heiltsuk seeks recognition that Heiltsuk and other coastal nations have never ceded their jurisdiction over their marine territories. Heiltsuk recommends that the power of the government to designate MPAs be exercised with the consent of directly impacted indigenous nations.

Second, Heiltsuk recommends that the Oceans Act expressly state that it does not take away from the inherent jurisdiction of indigenous nations over their traditional marine territories.

Third, Heiltsuk recommends that the many grounds for MPAs under subsection 35(1) expressly include the conservation and protection of indigenous fishery resources.

Fourth, Heiltsuk recommends that the power of government to make regulations under subsection 35(3) be extended to allow for rules. The rules must require transparency and the involvement of indigenous nations in the MPA process. The current Oceans Act does not require transparency and does not require any sort of government-to-government approach in how the government may consider or investigate or to designate MPAs.

Heiltsuk recommends an express power of government to make regulations governing how the minister receives and assesses information relating to potential and other MPAs; governing how the minister discloses information relating to potential and other MPAs to indigenous communities and to the public; giving effect to co-management agreements between the federal government and indigenous communities; governing decisions about making and working with MPAs; governing how the minister may establish advisory or other tribunals to investigate, assess and make recommendations about potential and designated MPAs; and requiring that the government consult with and obtain consent of coastal indigenous communities in relation to designating or altering potential or other MPAs.

Such regulations would be a step forward such as in article 18 of UNDRIP, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which affirms that:

Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decision-making in matters which would affect their rights, through representatives chosen by themselves....

Fifth, Heiltsuk supports many measures recommended by West Coast Environmental Law. Heiltsuk supports minimum content for MPAs, such as automatic restrictions on exploring for and exploiting oil or minerals.

Heiltsuk supports some degree of automatic restriction on commercial and recreational fisheries. Our ability to engage in much traditional harvesting is impaired by overfishing due to commercial and recreational fisheries. Conservation by the federal government on a discretionary basis has been, in our opinion, totally ineffective.

Heiltsuk supports a statement of first priority for ecological integrity. Heiltsuk further recommends a statement that the second priority of government be to protect indigenous fisheries. This would be consistent with the legal principle that the first priority after conservation be indigenous fishing.

Sixth, Heiltsuk recommends an express provision that authorizes the minister to designate any indigenous organization as an enforcement officer under the Oceans Act. This would recognize the role of indigenous nations enforcing MPAs that are within their traditional territories.

Seventh, Bill C-55 provides for fines but this would depend on prosecution by Canada alone. As part of a larger role for indigenous nations in managing their marine territories, Heiltsuk recommends that indigenous nations be permitted to engage in private prosecutions or alternatively have the right to bring civil action against violators with a right to seek sums comparable to the fines proposed in Bill C-55.

Civil fines could be paid into local and regional environmental funds to pay for past and future enforcement proceedings by indigenous nations for conservation activities such as impact assessments and restoration projects and for research into the baseline conditions of various MPAs. Indigenous rights of enforcement, funded by polluters and other violators, would allow for rigorous enforcement by the peoples who are most interested in protecting marine resources.

I'm just closing right now.

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Scott Simms

Sure.

10:15 a.m.

Chief Councillor, Heiltsuk Tribal Council

Chief Marilyn Slett

May I continue?

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Scott Simms

Yes. Go ahead, please.

10:15 a.m.

Chief Councillor, Heiltsuk Tribal Council

Chief Marilyn Slett

The amending of the Oceans Act is an opportunity for Canada to implement its commitment to UNDRIP, not only by allowing government to protect marine resources but also by recognizing the role of indigenous nations in managing their own marine territories and enforcing protective measures.

Giaxsixa. Thank you.

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Scott Simms

Thank you, Chief Slett. I appreciate that very much.

Now we go to our round of questions. We're going to start with Mr. Hardie for seven minutes, please, from the government side.

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you to everybody for getting up very early out on the west coast. Mind you, I guess if you were going out in the boats you would be up just about now, anyway, wouldn't you?

I want both of you, President Lantin and Chief Slett, to imagine that you are the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. What would you want to be thinking about before you deemed an area for interim protection? What would trigger your decision to exercise the powers that would be given to you under Bill C-55? Who would like to start?

10:15 a.m.

Chief Councillor, Heiltsuk Tribal Council

Chief Marilyn Slett

Perhaps Peter should start.

10:15 a.m.

President, Council of the Haida Nation

Peter Lantin

That's a very interesting question. I'm trying to say that, if I were minister, I would be an indigenous minister, of course.

From our point of view, historically it's boiled down to where infringements take place, where we believe that indigenous rights are being infringed upon within our traditional territories. Those are the areas where, from our point of view, we work with the Government of Canada, with the crown, on establishing these protected areas.

But on the Haida Nation side of it, we have our own process of establishing protected areas. It's more based on our cultural history and the presence we had in these areas for perpetuating our culture moving forward. Over history, a lot of these areas get infringed upon by commercial fishing interests and other interests, and our rights aren't regarded in those decisions. Making decisions on which areas should be protected, from my point of view, is really based on that.

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Thank you, President Lantin.

Chief Slett, what are your thoughts?

10:15 a.m.

Chief Councillor, Heiltsuk Tribal Council

Chief Marilyn Slett

If I were the minister of fisheries I would be thinking about the impact to fisheries and the ecosystems, and working together with indigenous communities, working toward that renewed relationship and reconciliation.

November 30th, 2017 / 10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

It's a fairly common belief that, once something gets put in place on an interim basis, it's devilishly hard to get it out. Just a couple of days ago, we celebrated the 100th anniversary of an interim measure called personal income tax in Canada. Again, here's the same question, only turned inside out. What would you think about, if you were the minister, before taking an area out of interim protection, and not necessarily going the other way and making it a full marine protected area? What would you want to see happen?

We'll start with Chief Slett this time.

10:15 a.m.

Chief Councillor, Heiltsuk Tribal Council

Chief Marilyn Slett

Definitely it goes back to why we're designating those areas as interim or permanent MPAs. We need to look at the impact to fisheries. We need to make sure that area's healthy and the ecosystem can maintain any other impacts to it.

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Go ahead, President Lantin.

10:15 a.m.

President, Council of the Haida Nation

Peter Lantin

I'm not sure. If you can, clarify the question again. I'm a little bit confused on what you were trying to get at.

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Bill C-55 allows a minister to create interim protected areas, so on an interim basis for up to five years. What conditions would you like to see present in order to come to the end of the five years and open it up again to, basically, the way it was before the interim measure was put in place?