That, in the opinion of this House, the government should declare an international week of awareness about the benefits of small-scale fishing for the environment and for the sustainability of communities.
Mr. Speaker, I thank the House and the Canadian people for the opportunity to speak to this motion.
The motion basically states that we should respect and honour those fishermen, fisherwomen and plant workers in our coastal communities, on all three coasts, and those who fish in our inland waters of the Great Lakes and in the inland waters of provinces like Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba.
It all started in the 1950s with the invention of the freezer trawler and the ocean factory freezing draggers. These technological advances, the new way of catching fish, have literally destroyed different species of stock throughout the entire world.
In 1977 the present Governor General, Romeo LeBlanc, was the fisheries minister of Canada and he extended our limit from 12 miles to 200 miles. One of the reasons for doing that was to have greater control of our ocean resources.
The unfortunate aspect is that the current Minister of Fisheries and Oceans has indicated, quite rightly, that governments of the past, Liberal or Conservative, have favoured the large corporations over the inshore sector. I thank him for that admission.
This motion does not in any way reflect on monetary value from the government. It does not reflect in any way any on political partisanship. This motion honours those fishermen who risk their lives every day on the oceans to put food on our tables.
It was announced today in the Gulf of St. Lawrence that search and rescue crews are searching for three more fishermen who are presumed drowned. There were five fishermen on that ship. Two bodies have been found and three more are still missing. Fishermen spend their entire lives working so they can put food on our tables. All this motion does is honour and recognize them.
November 21 is international oceans day. On that day we stop to reflect upon what benefits the oceans provide the human race. We also reflect upon those individuals who work in the resource in all countries.
The resources of the oceans do not just belong to Canada, they belong to all Canadians and to all human beings in countries bordering oceans.
In Nova Scotia, in Newfoundland and in other coastal areas we often see on top of people's homes architectural pieces called the widow's walk. The widow's walk enabled women, especially the wives of fishermen, to watch and hope that their husbands or sons would come back from fishing. Widows' walks can still be seen throughout Nova Scotia and in other provinces as well. They were put there so that the wives could watch for the return of their husbands and sons from their perilous days or weeks of fishing.
Fishing in the old days was not like it is today. It was not the hook and line and small dory fishermen who destroyed the fishery, it was advanced technology. It used to take weeks to catch the fish. Now it takes just minutes.
Today is the opening of the lobster fishery in West Nova and literally thousands of small boats will be out fishing. The chances of some of them not returning are very real. Fishermen risk their lives to earn their livelihood. It is said that farming is one of the most dangerous occupations. Fishing is right behind it. Every year we lose dozens of lives in our coastal communities to fishing.
This motion proposes that we honour fishermen internationally for one week a year. It would provide the opportunity to reflect on what benefits small scale fisheries bring to Canada.
It would be a tragedy if we lost our coastal communities to a lack of resources. Currently in Halifax there is a week long conference on the oceans. This motion is in perfect timing with debates concerning what the world should be doing with the resources of the oceans.
Recently we had the Swissair disaster in Nova Scotia. The very first people on the scene were inshore fishermen; people from Sambro Head, Blandford and from the St. Margarets Bay area. They were the very first people at the scene when that Swissair plane went down.
If we continue in our ways and force fishermen and their families out of these communities that type of ability will be lost forever.
It is not a good idea to pull people out of their communities and move them into urban centres. We absolutely cannot do that.
Again, this motion would allow us to honour for one week of each year these people and their commitments, their ancestors and their communities. I will ask for unanimous consent later on in the debate for this to be made a votable motion.
Many people in my caucus agree with the fact that coastal communities, inland communities, small communities are really what make this country great. They built this country and they will sustain this country.
All I am asking parliament to do, this House of Commons, this very respected and hallowed place, is to honour the inshore fishermen and the small scale fishery, which was, by the way, very sustainable. It went on for hundreds and hundreds of years.
Just recently, since 1956, we have destroyed many aspects of the fishery. Now we are slowly starting to consult and to work with people in the industry to rebuild the stocks and to make employment in the industry as equitable as it was before.
We know there have been changes to the fishery, some good and some bad. All this motion asks for is one week to recognize the hard work of these people, what they do for our environment and also what they do to put food on our tables. It is important to reiterate that these fine, outstanding people risk their lives every day on these small boats, mostly to sustain those in urban centres.
A lot of the children of these fishermen will not realize what it is like to be with their dad, mom, uncle or brother on a small boat because, as we speak, more and more small inshore fishermen are being forced out of the industry. Even the government admits that big scale, big corporate fishing is the way to go. I am certainly not here to debate that. That debate is for another time in our committee hearings.
I know that the parliamentary secretary who is here today realizes that beautiful Prince Edward Island also has thousands of inshore fishermen and that these people risk their lives as well. Members of the Reform Party, including the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, my hon. colleague on the committee, also know that there are hundreds of people in their ridings who realize their livelihood from this resource.
When we travelled to the riding of a former member of our committee, the member for Vancouver Island North, thousands of people came to speak to us about the feasibility and the possibility of retaining small scale fisheries to keep their communities alive. Many of these communities are coastal communities. They do not have road access and many other things that the great urban areas have.
It is an honour, a privilege and a real treat to go to communities like Sointula, Alert Bay, Port Hardy and Prince Rupert, B.C.; Burgeo, Newfoundland; Malpeque, P.E.I; Sheet Harbour, Sambro and Shelburne, Nova Scotia; Broughton Island, Baffin Island in the Northwest Territories and thousands of other communities. It is an honour as a parliamentarian to visit those communities.
All these people ask for is the opportunity to remain in their specific field of fishing. They do not want to become rich. They just want to make enough money to maintain their livelihood and look after their children. That is not very much to ask.
This motion would recognize a symbolic week. It would be a gesture from the House of Commons saying “We respect you. We appreciate what you have done in the past and will do in the future. We will honour your commitment to fishing and providing sustenance for our tables so that we can survive as a species. We will do that by giving you an international week”.
Some people may say that it will be difficult to have an international week. It was difficult, but we managed to do it fairly quickly on the land mines issue. We give the current Minister of Foreign Affairs top marks and a lot of credit for his efforts and other countries' efforts in establishing the treaty on land mines.
If we can do that we can certainly honour fishermen in all coastal regions around the world like those of India, Bangladesh, Namibia, the United States, Chile and Canada. I could go on and on. All nations that have coastal communities and people within those communities can certainly get together either through the UN or through parliament to recognize these communities, fishermen and their families throughout not only Canada but the entire world. It would be a symbolic gesture. It would go a long way toward honouring their commitment to the economy of nations and to the livelihood of their communities.
It is a real pleasure to speak today. I hope the government of the day and future governments will be able to respect and honour small scale fisheries and the people who live within those communities.
There have been many protests directed toward government. I remember the ones in February 1996 when many inshore fishermen occupied DFO buildings because of their perception that their livelihoods were being taken away from them and traded over to big corporations. That argument still continues and the battle still continues.
The unfortunate part right now is that people have given up hope and dignity. The motion will restore some hope and dignity to the lives of these people. I do not have to go into the number of suicides of inshore fishermen and plant workers which have recently happened in South West Nova. A rash of suicides is also happening on Vancouver Island. These people were at one time proud people who worked hard in the fisheries and made a little money to look after their families.
The unfortunate part is that in their perception, and sometimes in their reality, their livelihoods have been taken away by the government or past governments in co-operation with big corporate industry. Evidence abounds which indicates the government today is still favouring certain sectors of the fishing industry over those of the small inshore fishers. That debate would be for another day.
I ask for the indulgence of the House. I will at the end of my speech ask for the motion to be votable. It is not a monetary motion. It is not a motion that binds the government or future governments in any, way shape or form. It is a symbolic gesture to say to people in the inshore communities and our coastal communities that we respect them, that we honour their way of life, and that we will do all we can as a government and as an opposition to respect their way of life and their families.
I thank all members in the House who are taking part in a debate which I think is a very important one.