Recreational boats lie dormant at Clutesi Haven Marina on a sunny February afternoon. MIKE YOUDS PHOTO

Fisheries Act fix doesn’t go far enough, says Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council

Not even close to what we need,’ MP Gord Johns says

BY MIKE YOUDS

Special to the News

Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council will seek changes to impending Fisheries Act amendments in hopes of winning better protection for wild salmon stocks.

Tribal council chiefs discussed the amendments, currently before the House of Commons, at a meeting in Tofino Friday.

The NTC welcomes amendments that restore fish habitat safeguards removed by the former Conservative government yet they have significant concerns over “a whole host” of other matters tied to the legislation, said Tseshaht councillor Hugh Braker.

“The council of the hereditary chiefs of the Nuu-chah-nulth have agreed to apply to the standing committee of Parliament to make suggestions for changes to the legislation,” Braker said.

He’s not optimistic about having their concerns addressed, though.

“I’ve been kicking around a long time and I know it’s very difficult to get changes once legislation has gone to committee,” he said. “We will certainly voice our concerns.”

Key environmental legislation, the Fisheries Act used to prohibit “harmful alteration, disruption of destruction” of fish habitat, but the Conservative government removed that wording in 2012, arguing that it represented an unnecessary regulatory burden. They also removed protections for fish species other than those harvested for Indigenous, commercial or recreational purposes.

Braker said those changes “gutted” the act and the NTC is glad to see protections restored.

“The changes to the act go a long way to repairing the damage done to the legislation by the previous government under Prime Minister Harper,” he said. “A lot has been put back for fisheries but unfortunately I don’t think it goes far enough.

“Only if the government follows through will it mean anything,” he added.

Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns said the federal NDP is pleased with legislative changes to restore habitat protection, though they would have preferred that the Liberal government had acted with greater haste immediately after the 2015 election. On the other hand, the amendments don’t address the alarming decline of Pacific salmon stocks that are integral to life on the West Coast, he said.

“We’re not even close to what we need,” he said. “We’re not seeing the steps they promised. There’s no understanding of the urgency of the threat to our wild salmon.”

Johns said he has additional concerns about legislative changes that would enable greater participation by Indigenous peoples in fisheries-related decisions. The amendments don’t recognize a requirement for free, prior and informed consent, which he said is critical in light of the government’s recognition of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. He noted that Bill C-262, proposed legislation to ensure Canada’s compliance with the UN declaration, has just been sent to committee for review after it was introduced as a private member’s bill by Quebec NDP MP Romeo Saganash.

The MP pointed to substantial work done on Canada’s East Coast to revive cod stocks through investments in research and monitoring. He’d like to see similar resources invested in rebuilding West Coast salmon stocks. The amendments as proposed won’t ensure that.

“That’s the other part we’re disappointed about.”

The 2012 Cohen commission on the decline of Fraser River sockeye recommended removing DFO authority over salmon farming because it conflicts with the department’s primary responsibility for protecting wild salmon stocks. That’s another change Johns would like to see.

“This is something that even salmon farmers understand, and they agree to it,” he said.

Braker said the Fisheries Act is but one component of a suite of four overlapping pieces of federal legislation that are undergoing revisions. These include the Navigable Waters Protection Act, which used to protect the right to travel on waterways. Under the Conservatives, the major tributaries of the Somass watershed were de-listed from protected waters.

Just Posted

Alberni university zeroes in on disability and poverty

BY MIKE YOUDS SPECIAL TO THE NEWS The road to poverty can… Continue reading

Celebrate cycling in Port Alberni during Bike to Work and School Week

Numerous ‘celebration stations’ are planned for May 28 to June 2

Ahousaht welcomes massive Surfrider Canada conference to Meares Island near Tofino

“It was the first time we’ve all come together.”

Alberni RCMP kept busy with 170 calls over May long weekend

Detachment answers calls from fatal vehicle crash to man with a gun, trailer thefts

Alberni pub owner kicks off new event for car lovers

Car enthusiast Helen Poon debuts Cars and Coffee on May 27

Vancouver Island girl scores with winning song for BC Summer Games

‘Colours’ is a perfect theme for 2018 BC Summer Games

B.C. pipeline goes ahead despite scrapped Pacific Northwest LNG

NEB approves amendment for $1.4-billion natural gas North Montney Mainline Project

Update: Wildfire northwest of Kamloops jumps from 60 to 800 hectares

Ground crews and aircraft are responding to an estimated 50 hectare wildfire approximately 55 kilometers northwest of Kamloops, near the Deadman Vidette Road.

Feds limit chinook fishery to help killer whale recovery

Chinook is main food source for only 76 southern residents killer whales left

B.C. mom who died just before daughter’s wedding wanted family to be happy: twin

Ann Wittenberg was pulled into the ocean while on a surf board in Tofino last weekend

Courtenay-Alberni MP calls for lifeguards at popular surf spot near Tofino

The Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is defending its decision to cancel the surf guard program.

Harvey Weinstein to surrender in sex misconduct probe: officials

Would be first criminal charge against Weinstein since scores of women came forward

Fuel truck crash closes B.C. highway, sends two to hospital

The Trans-Canada Highway on Vancouver Island is expected to be closed until Thursday evening

Media are not an arm of the police, Vice lawyer tells Supreme Court hearing

Ben Makuch challenges Ontario Court of Appeal ruling that he must give materials for stories to RCMP

Most Read