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.