Madam Speaker, the hon. member alleges that the minister is defying the courts and that the policy of pilot sales should be dropped.
DFO is not defying the court. The judge offered opinions, only opinions, on the validity of the aboriginal communal fishing licensing regulations. Those comments were made in obiter, in passing so to speak, and had nothing to do with the case before him, which was the hon. member's prosecution for illegal fishing.
This decision does not cancel the aboriginal fisheries strategy. It does not nullify the aboriginal communal fishing licensing regulations. It does not preclude DFO from authorizing aboriginal commercial fishing, including pilot sales arrangements under the existing regulatory regime.
In short, there is nothing in Judge Thomas' decision that alters the minister's authority to allocate and manage fisheries resources in the interests of all Canadians.
The judge's comments were taken seriously by the minister. He asked for a review of the regulations and the legal basis for pilot sales.
During the week of February 2, 1998, based on expert advice, he concluded that the current regulations provide a sound legal basis for the pilot sales fisheries.
The minister intends to continue with the pilot sales program in 1998. Pursuant to this decision, DFO officials are currently discussing with all affected parties how to refine and make improvements to the fisheries that will be acceptable to all parties in the fishing community.