Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for his comments. He and I are neighbours; we share a border. We also share a passion for serving our constituents, and I greatly appreciate the opportunity to speak to this issue today.
As a British Columbian, I understand the very real concerns that individuals have about finfish aquaculture. In fact, since taking the role as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, I have spent a considerable amount of time researching and learning about this particular issue. I have done site visits at facilities throughout British Columbia, have had meetings with stakeholders, and have worked with members of the Pacific caucus who have expressed great interest in the overarching issue. I have compiled more than 500 pages of reports and have participated in meetings with more than 100 stakeholders.
The situation is of concern to our government, and we are very much looking for constructive ways to move forward in a way that is satisfactory to indigenous people, the aquaculture industry, the province, as well as the federal government. As we have said many times before, the only way we can find solutions to these situations is through meaningful and constructive dialogue. We saw demonstrations of this when we held various symposiums last summer.
The minister has previously noted the many opportunities he has had to discuss aquaculture in British Columbia with provincial and indigenous leaders, covering the full range of issues in respect of environmental concerns, scientific evidence, the importance of the sector as an economic driver, and importantly, following through on the government's response to recommendations made by the Cohen commission. These meetings are always fruitful and aim to find common ground.
Of paramount importance in these discussions is respect, respect for the rights of indigenous people, respect for the rights of individuals to engage in peaceful protest, as well as respect for free enterprise that is operating within the regulatory framework which has been put in place to protect the marine environment.
The aquaculture sector currently has 20 economic development agreements with numerous indigenous nations covering approximately 80% of all salmon farms in the province. Moreover, industry has committed that no new farms will be developed without the full support and direct participation of indigenous communities. This, combined with the broader national discussion, is an important backdrop through which to consider the situation at hand and the occupation of the farms in question.
While we may not be able to reach a similar agreement in this particular case, I do believe that industry as well as indigenous communities can co-exist in the province. In fact, I have been encouraged by the many conversations I have had that point to how we can work closely together to create real economic benefits for communities while protecting our marine environment.
Our government also takes our commitments under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples very seriously and we are actively committed to building a renewed relationship with indigenous peoples. The minister and I had the opportunity to discuss how this can be accomplished in concrete terms with four different indigenous groups when we visited British Columbia just last week.
Renewed nation-to-nation relationships based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership is the foundation for transformative change. Fisheries and Oceans Canada officials are presently engaged in concluding negotiations for treaties and reconciliation agreements at six treaty tables in British Columbia alone.
I believe that through these and other respectful and constructive discussions, we are demonstrating to the Canadian people and the world that we are following through with our commitment to indigenous peoples.