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Liberals to protect more fish by overhauling Harper reforms

In the case of fish, there will be no discrimination. The Liberal government of Justin Trudeau rescinded the 2012 Conservative legislative changes that restricted protections to only those caught for recreational, commercial or Aboriginal purposes. Ottawa is taking the opportunity to act more quickly in crises such as right whales, and is committed to incorporating Aboriginal traditional knowledge into its decisions.

Bill C-68, tabled Tuesday in Ottawa, restores habitat protections for all fish. Officials at Fisheries and Oceans admitted in an information session that the change will bring greater clarity by eliminating regional variations. In the wake of the 2012 change, they explained, the provinces had adapted differently. Some, such as Saskatchewan, had continued to protect all fish, while others, such as British Columbia, had listed commercial, recreational and Aboriginal fish. If a fish was not included, it was unclear whether or not its habitat required protection when carrying out a project. This ambiguity will be lifted, claims one.

The Liberal bill does more than just restore the Fisheries Act to its pre-2012 version. It gives the Minister two new powers: short-term measures to respond quickly to unforeseen threats to fish conservation, and the introduction of fishing restrictions in certain areas to protect biodiversity .

This second power could have been used to protect North Atlantic right whales. Officials explained that at present, if the minister wishes to restrict the number of fishing nets that are harmful to these whales, he should amend each of the issued fishing licenses. However, they pleaded, there are “hundreds, even thousands”. This creates an administrative delay. The new power will help act faster, we promise. At least 16 North Atlantic right whales, an endangered species, died last summer in Canadian and US waters. Necropsies revealed that they had died either from a collision with boats or after getting entangled in fishing gear.

C-68 also introduces a new ban on capturing cetaceans in Canadian waters with the intention of keeping them in captivity (in aquariums or marine parks). Those already captured are not targeted. Officials acknowledged that these catches in Canadian waters are now rare. The last would go up, according to them, more than 15 years, although they were unable to provide more precision.

However, there is no question of going as far as the Senate bill currently under consideration, the S-203, which proposes to ban the captivity of cetaceans altogether. Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, did not say why he was not going that far, when he admitted, by unveiling his bill in Vancouver, that “public acceptance of captivity these majestic creatures are changing. ” Temporary captivity will still be allowed for injured animals.

Traditional knowledge

The bill also formalizes the consideration of aboriginal interests when the minister makes decisions. The legislation states that the Minister must take into account the “detrimental effects that the decision may have on the rights of Aboriginal peoples of Canada recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982”.

This could be felt when the minister grants fishing rights, for example. “People and stakeholders in the fishing industry need to understand that when we talk about a nation-to-nation relationship based on the recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights, there will be adjustments in the future for some Aboriginal nations and I’m ready to do that, “said Minister LeBlanc.

C-68 also states that the Minister “may” take into consideration “the traditional knowledge of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada that have been communicated to him”. There is no obligation. When such traditional knowledge is communicated, it can not be made public. Proponents of a project who would be denied their project under this knowledge would not be more informed. “We have the responsibility to protect the intellectual property of this knowledge,” said the minister. This knowledge belongs to them. If they want to share it with the public, it’s their decision. ”

Political reactions

The NDP and the Green Party applaud the bill. “I am very pleased to say that this bill is very similar to the old Fisheries Act,” said Green Party leader Elizabeth May.

The Conservative leader deplores the fact that this first bill (another reforming the environmental assessment process of major projects such as pipelines is expected later this week) is part of a broader policy of systematic blockage of development.

“A lot of what they do is built so as to get a” no “. They want the process to lead to rejection [of projects], “said Andrew Scheer.

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