Mr. Speaker, my comments today will be addressing fisheries issues but first I would like to offer my thanks to the voters of Delta for allowing me the honour and privilege to represent them as their member of Parliament. I would especially like to thank those people who worked so hard to get me here. I am sure that all my colleagues would agree that none of us would be here if it was not for the love, patience and support of our families and for that I am truly grateful.
I would like to thank my wife Sue, my stepdaughters Kristi and Erin, and most of all my little Carolyn. She is not talking to me on the phone these days. She does not seem to understand why I have to be away so much.
At the other end of the scale, despite 24 years of ill informed advice from me, my son Martin remains a reasonable loving person of whom I am most proud and I thank for his support.
I would be remiss if I did not also thank my father, John Cummins, and my late mother. Life is a little easier when you can look at your mother and father and say with pride "that is my mother and that is my father". I have been able to do that. My parents gave their all so that my brother, Mike, my sisters, Colleen and Joan, and I could have the opportunities they could only dream of.
We in this House should dedicate ourselves to the task of ensuring that the parents of every child in this country can provide the opportunity for their children to realize their dreams.
On a personal level, I believe that in building a better Canada we should not lessen our efforts in the area of medical research. Having lost loved ones to cancer and to Lou Gehrig's disease, I believe that no matter how hard things get we must always dedicate the necessary funds to find cures that would eradicate diseases such as these.
Might I also take this opportunity to congratulate all members of the House on their election. If I may I would like to share three thoughts with them. First, remember who you are; second, remember why you are here; and third, above all else remember who sent you here.
I represent the people of the federal constituency of Delta. It includes the municipality of Delta and a small chunk of the neighbouring municipality of Surrey. My riding is a desirable piece of real estate bordered on the north by the south arm of the Fraser River and on the west by the Straits of Georgia.
The temperature today in Delta is about 8 degrees and that is just one reason why I am going to be leaving here a little later today.
There are many reasons why the people of Delta elected me, the least of which was my personal popularity. I was elected because the people of Delta supported the policies of my party. They accepted as reasonable and desirable, and indeed necessary, my party's suggestion for parliamentary reform including an elected, equal and effective Senate. I am sure the people voted for us because of our desire to change the extravagant pension plan for MPs.
They supported my party's deficit reduction package and our calls for the reform of the criminal justice system. Many people in Delta voted for us because of our support for the continuation of two viable airlines in this country. Many voters supported us because of their concern over the future of west coast fisheries.
Pacific fisheries products account for 25 per cent of the total value of Canadian fish products. Fishing is, depending on the yardstick, the third or fourth largest industry in British Columbia. Although more than half of British Columbia's fish processing jobs are concentrated in the Vancouver area as a proportion of the local economic activity the industry is relatively more important in Prince Rupert, Port Hardy, Ucluelet, Tofino and other coastal communities.
To date we are encouraged by the actions of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and support his decision to break off negotiations over the Pacific Salmon Treaty. We have sent a firm signal to the Americans that we will not continue to pay the tab to conserve, enhance and manage Canadian fish stocks for the benefit of American fishermen.
Recently, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans announced his intention to introduce legislation to extend Canada's coastal jurisdiction on the nose and tail of the Grand Banks. In our view, article 116 of the 1982 convention on the law of the sea gives the minister, gives us, the right to enforce our fisheries regulations to the edge of the continental shelf.
We were very pleased to see the minister make clear to members of the European Community that Canada will no longer stand idly by while foreign draggers continue to pillage our fish stocks.
The minister is taking a tough approach on this crisis and if and when he decides to take tough action we will be there with him.
Those who would test our resolve should be duly warned.
We on this side of the House support a Canada in which everyone is treated equally in the Constitution and the law regardless of race, language, creed or culture.
The aboriginal fishing strategy imposed on the fisheries on both coasts by the past government is an example of the exact opposite. The creation of a separate commercial aboriginal fishery was not demanded in the Sparrow decision of the Supreme Court as some would have us believe.
Furthermore, last June the British Columbia Court of Appeal found that an aboriginal right to a commercial fishery did not exist. One would then have to ask why this unfair and discriminatory policy was foisted on the commercial fishing industry in 1992 only five months after the then fisheries minister, Mr. Crosbie, stated that he would never commercialize the native food fishery on the Fraser River.
Was it because of the constitutional negotiations that were going on at that time? Was the fishery simply a carrot to encourage native leaders to drop their demands to be considered a distinct society? Was the AFS put in place simply to encourage native support for what was to become the Charlottetown accord? One can only wonder.
This separate native commercial fishery was set up despite the fact that aboriginal people make up only 3 per cent to 4 per cent of British Columbia's population. Yet, they hold 20 per cent to 25 per cent of all commercial fishing licences in British Columbia and their share of the commercial catch is estimated to be 25 per cent to 30 per cent.
Continuation of this ill considered policy will only serve to drive Canadians apart. It will not and cannot achieve any of its stated goals.
In 1969, the Trudeau government white paper echoed the principle in the famous Brown versus Kansas City Board of Education decision that ended official discrimination against blacks in the United States school system.
It said: "you cannot have separate but equal. To be separate is to be inherently unequal".
I urge the Prime Minister to use the insight and wisdom he displayed then, as minister of Indian affairs and the minister responsible for this white paper, to put an end to the aboriginal fishing strategy.
On another point, we fully support all efforts by the government to put the thousands of east coast fishermen back to work. We know the seriousness of the problem and would urge the government to listen to those people who are affected, those people who fish and understand the problem. These people have valuable knowledge and experience that would benefit the minister in any future decisions he may make.
Finally, we understand that being minister of fisheries today is not an easy job. Indeed, some people would suggest that it is punishment for something one has done wrong. However, having spent some time with the new minister, I am sure he has done nothing wrong and appears to have the best interests of fishermen and Canadians in his heart.
We will not always agree with the government or the minister of fisheries, and at those times we will let them know loud and clear. In those instances where we do agree, no matter how controversial the stand, we will be there firmly beside him.