Editor’s note: This is a response to “Supporting C-38,” the letter from local MP John Weston that appeared in June 14 in The Chief. It was copied to The Chief for publication.
We appreciate your continued dialogue with the Sea to Sky Fisheries Roundtable. As discussed, a significant level of concern remains within our group regarding many of the proposed legislative changes to the Fisheries Act and other environmental legislation within Bill C-38, the pace at which these changes are moving forward and the lack of meaningful consultation Canadians are receiving on these issues.
In your letter, rather than consulting the legislation, you emphasized the government was committed to future consultations on regulations that it would enact in relation to the Fisheries Act. However, we note that s.35(4) of the proposed amendments to the Fisheries Act appears to exempt ministerial regulations from the normal process of regulatory review. Therefore, while the government’s repeated assurances that it will consult are noted and appreciated, the amendments in fact reveal a much less rigorous regulatory process. Could you advise what form consultations will take? What is the government’s consultation plan for developing the upcoming regulations?
We understand that through order of cabinet, the prohibition against harm to habitat will be significantly narrowed (see Bill C-38, s. 136) to “serious harm to fish that are part of a commercial, recreational or Aboriginal fishery, or to fish that support such a fishery,” where “serious harm to fish” is defined as “death of fish or any permanent alteration to, or destruction of, fish habitat.” Technically speaking, nothing in our world is “permanent,” given enough time.
The intended legislative meaning of these words is unfortunately unclear and may be due to the lack of meaningful debate in parliament. While the government’s intent is not the same as parliament’s intent, we would nonetheless welcome your clarification of what the government means by “permanent alteration.”
In your letter you write, “We will also be able to provide enhanced protection to ecologically sensitive areas and enforce conditions associated with Fisheries Act authorizations which, at present, is not be[ing?] done.” Recently DFO announced the closing of five enforcement offices in Comox, Madeira Park, Quesnel, New Hazelton and Clearwater. How is enforcement going to take place protecting fish and fish habitat if these offices are closed?
We note that on your website www.johnweston.ca you state, “I am sure that other British Columbians will join me in looking forward to the upcoming consultation process, involving the Minister of Fisheries, who will consider such input in fleshing out regulations needed to complete the framework established by Bill C-38.” Your representations on our behalf may have resulted in this commitment. Where will this consultation take place? Who will be able to attend? Will current and past DFO officials be available for presentation and questioning?
Our collective remains deeply troubled by the proposed changes to environmental legislation via Bill C-38. We wholeheartedly reaffirm our interest in an explanatory public meeting very soon with you, Minister Ashfield and knowledgeable staff that can answer detailed questions regarding the proposed changes and future steps forward.
Hon. John Fraser
Randall Lewis, Squamish First Nation
Dave Brown, Vice-Chair Squamish to Lillooet Sportfish Advisory Committee
On behalf of the Sea to Sky Fisheries Roundtable