LABRADOR — A bill currently before the Canadian senate being heralded by environmental and Indigenous rights groups doesn’t go far enough according to the organization that represents commercial fish harvesters in Labrador.
Bill C68 seeks to amend the Fisheries Act and other laws to increase protection of fish and fish habitats. If passed, it will, among other things, also explicitly require the minister to take into consideration the protection of Indigenous rights prior to making any decisions on fisheries law and incorporate traditional Indigenous knowledge into the decision-making process.
In a brief provided to the House of Commons standing committee on fisheries and oceans, Alistair O’Rielly, executive director of the Northern Coalition (NC), noted the organization’s members—which include the Nunatsiavut Group of Companies, the Torngat Fish Producers Co-operative and the Labrador Fishermen’s Union Fish Company—generally endorse the bill, particularly its provisions for the protection of resources, but want to see adjacency specifically addressed.
“There is no reference to adjacency in Section 2.5, Considerations for Decision Making,” the brief stated. “This appears to be a departure from past policy according high priority to adjacency as a primary factor in resource access and allocation decisions. Throughout all southern regions of Canada, the benefits of resource access, to all intents and purposes, are for those adjacent to fishery resources. This is not the case in Canada’s Eastern Arctic and Labrador Sea regions (NAFO Areas 0 and 2), where roughly one-third of commercial fish allocations are allocated to fishing interests outside the North.”
The government of Newfoundland and Labrador also addressed adjacency in its brief while applauding the bill in general terms.
“We have always maintained that fisheries management decisions should be based on sound scientific advice, and we support incorporating elements such as the ecosystem approach and the precautionary approach, along with fisheries sustainability into the Act,” stated the document signed by Gerry Byrne, Newfoundland and Labrador fisheries minister. “We have also maintained that decisions should respect and reflect the rights of the people and communities adjacent to the resource that have historically depended on the fishery. We strongly believe that the amendments to the Act must ensure benefits from the fishery go to these people and to coastal communities.”
O’Rielly said the NC brief was not received by the committee in time for the organization’s concerns to be addressed. The bill passed third reading in the House and was kicked up to the Senate on June 20 with no specific language regarding adjacency. Nevertheless, O’Rielly remained optimistic it would be taken into consideration at the regulatory phase.
“It is hoped that our perspectives may influence the committee members, the minister of fisheries and oceans and departmental officials as regulations pursuant to the act are developed and implemented,” he wrote in an email to The Labradorian.
Bill C68 fulfills a Liberal election promise to reverse laws adopted by Stephen Harper’s Conservative government in 2012 that reduced regulatory barriers to industry.
While opposition to the new legislation has been tepid, many industry groups fear increased protection for fish and fish habitats and enhanced participation from First Nations will hamper industry.
Organizations such as the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) also provided input to the committee.
“An unpredictable, complex, and inefficient regulatory regime will increase risk and deter investment, and consequently exacerbate the waning of Canada’s mineral industry competitiveness on the global scale,” stated PDAC in its submission. “Mineral industry investment is also particularly sensitive to legislative and policy changes as such changes often generate uncertainty and unpredictability.”
PDAC also hopes its concerns will be addressed during the regulatory process.
The bill was introduced and received first reading in the Senate June 20 before Parliament recessed for the summer. Senators return to work on Sept. 18.