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February 21st 2019 - Bill C-55, An Act to amend the Oceans Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act - Assembly of First Nations & Qikiqtaaluk Corporation

Senator Poirier: Thank you both for being here and for your comments. I did take note in your speech that you had recommended three amendments. Some of the amendments you mentioned are similar to what other witnesses have shared.

Major concerns we’ve heard from other witnesses are the lack of consultation as well as the socio-economic consequences for communities, when something is put forward or done in a community without proper consultation. I’m sure you’re aware of the issues we had in New Brunswick last summer with the whales and the closure of zones in the Acadian Peninsula of New Brunswick. The economic and social ripple-down of what happened affected the whole community, not only the fisherman.

If I understood correctly, I don’t think you were consulted prior to Bill C-55 being drafted. Am I right in understanding that there was no consultation with your groups?

Mr. Paul: The consultation process was not as well-defined as some of the other consultation activities in some of the regions that I’m familiar with. I don’t work for a consultation organization. We want to encourage and support that they follow local consultation protocols.

Senator Poirier: With the lack of consultation for First Nations communities, could it ripple down to socio-economic consequences if there was not the proper consultations put in place?

Mr. Silver: I think there could be negative effects, yes. Not just socio-economic effects. Our people also have concerns about is lack of access to traditional food sources. Not just economically, but for sustenance. I shared with some others that I have relatives from the Coast Salish community that actually did a study at Swinomish in Washington state about the health effects overall on our people from lack of access to traditional food sources. The change in diet, for my people — we had repatriated some of our ancestors from museums, to take them home, to put them in proper resting places. Over a lot of deliberation with our elders, we allowed some tests to be done and 80 to 85 per cent of the diet of ancestors from about 2,700 to 5,000 years ago was marine. So the changes in diet to our people have resulted in almost epidemic proportions of diabetes and other diseases that were never in our communities before. These are some of the things we need to try to get back.

There is a community in the West Coast that reverted to a traditional diet and some of their members eliminated the diabetes that they had been diagnosed with. They had a lot of success. So, the lack of access to traditional food sources is something we are really concerned about.

Senator Poirier: The average time frame for designating an Oceans Act MPA is between seven and ten years. This is significantly longer than the interim protection MPA which has a five-year time line. Do you think it is feasible for DFO to establish an Ocean Act MPA. within the proposed five-year time line? Or would doing it in that amount compromise the consultation and its output?

Mr. Paul: It depends on the supports provided to the First Nation consultation tables. Until the capacities of First Nations are built up it is detrimental for First Nations to speed up that process.

There is also a cultural aspect. I am from the Atlantic region. We don’t really have healthy salmon stocks anymore. For example, I have pictures of my grandfather with 30-pound Atlantic salmon. I’ve never seen that in my lifetime. What I’m missing in my lifetime and what my kids are missing is that transference of traditional activities and the ability to provide for the community and to provide for elders.

If we get into co-governance, to allow for recognition of First Nations jurisdiction to protect areas, then I think that First Nations will be able to better articulate and mitigate the impacts of some of these restrictions fisheries in a culturally appropriate manner.

It is really hard to say whether five years is too quick. It depends on the readiness of the First Nations communities and the willingness to allow them to participate in the process of designations.

Senator Poirier: Thank you.

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Senator Poirier: Thank you, Mr. Ward, for being here and for your presentation.

My first question goes back to comments you made in your presentation. You mentioned the continued push towards the 10 per cent of the marine conservation target by 2020. I think everyone agrees that goal is to achieve the right balance between sustainable access into the resource for the communities who depend on it and the conservation efforts.

In your opinion, is Bill C-55 more about attaining the 10 per cent instead of the proper conservation efforts?

Mr. Ward: I’ll be quite frank. From my perspective, it’s more about attaining the 10 per cent. One would assume as well that conservation efforts are important; there’s no question about that. There was such a push for that. But it could have been done over a different time frame and still achieve what was required.

We’re concerned about the rumour that once we get to 10 per cent in 2020 that pressure will be exerted to go significantly beyond that to 2030. Us being in the North, it being such a large pristine area, the sexy thing to do will be to say that we’re going to freeze everything in the North. Keep in mind that when you do that, you create major problems for us to develop our inshore and offshore fishery.

In an economy such as Nunavut, with 25 communities, 37,000 people, the ability to create good, high-paying jobs is very difficult. Of course, that’s why we don’t particularly want to freeze the footprint per se without good science behind it.

Senator Poirier: In your opening remarks you mentioned a few times about the socio-economic benefits and concerns over that. I share that because I’ve seen things like that in New Brunswick that has been affected also. We have also heard from other people in different meetings concern about the mistrust between various stakeholders and DFO, especially when it comes to the socio-economic and the cultural impact during the consultation process.

Could you comment on DFO’s capability or capacity to evaluate the socio-economic and cultural impact in their decision-making? Do you think they are able to do that?

Mr. Ward: That would be a challenge for them because they need people to do it. Somebody has to be assigned to carry this out. They have to realize that and this needs to be addressed to move forward.

If you look at Nunavut from a socio-economic perspective, in the seafood sector in the offshore in particular, that fishery today has grown from practically nothing 30 years ago to the fishery today in Nunavut, which employs over 300 people, inshore and offshore, and the plant in Pangnirtung specifically. There are good high-paying jobs in the offshore, of course.

At one point, in the offshore fishery as an example, you might have had one or two Inuits working on the boats. Today, we have anywhere from 50 to 85 per cent of the factory workers are now Inuit on the boats. In our company specifically, there are 12 to 14 Inuit out of 28 people in total on the vessel. From a socio-economic perspective, it is a real driver in the economy. But to answer your question, I don’t think that DFO has the ability to do that today, not from what I’ve seen.

Senator Poirier: Are you aware whether there has been any sort of consultation in your area from DFO before Bill C-55 was brought forward? Do you know if there was any consultation at all?

Mr. Ward: Yes, there has been some consultation. The Inuit groups would be consulting with the DFO and so on, and they can better answer that than I can.

Through the various industry associations I mentioned earlier — Nunavut Fisheries Association, Northern Coalition and the Fisheries Council of Canada — a fair amount of consultation is going on. There needs to be more, of course, as I’m sure you have heard from the presentation of the Fisheries Council of Canada and others in the private sector.

I don’t want to evade the issue. This bill is very important. I will give you an example of the closures that occurred in Nunavut. The DFO came out and said they will close these areas. We, of course, objected very strongly in the beginning. Where we ended versus where we started was significantly different. There was a significant amount of consultation in that area between the DFO, the various associations that we are a part of and the NGOs. It was a consolidated effort to come up with these three major closures, which, of course, played very prominently in reaching that 5 per cent target.

As I indicated earlier, we are certainly committing more than our fair share to that 5 per cent or that 7.75 per cent as it is today.

Back to: Questions in Fisheries and Oceans Committee