Bill C-38 took away the resources and the impetus for DFO to act on local overfishing

Elizabeth May

Madam Speaker, I want to revisit some of what happened in BillC-38 in 2012. I was not able to put this question to a Conservative member.

The language that was inserted in the Fisheries Act, only protecting fish if they were commercial fish, aboriginal fish, or recreational fish, was language that came straight from a briefing note from the Canadian Electricity Association. It did not come through DFO scientists, did not come from experts; it came from an industry lobby group. It was nothing I had ever seen in Canada. It reminded me of the Bush administration. It put 80% of the 71 freshwater species in this country that are under the Endangered Species Act without any protection at all.

I was not a witness before the committee; I was never able to answer a member’s question. However, in my riding, constituents call me all the time about certain stocks that are being overfished or clam beds being overharvested, where they could not get DFO to act because it did not have the resources, and did not have the impetus for fish habitat protection because of the changes made in Bill C-38.

Richard Cannings – Member for South Okanagan-West Kootenay

Madam Speaker, the member mentioned a number of issues. One was the removal of the habitat provisions of the old Fisheries Act. There was the de-staffing. That was something we certainly felt in the interior of B.C. DFO literally vanished from the Okanagan and Kootenays. That staff had been very important in helping local groups with habitat restoration, which is at the core of bringing back a lot of these stocks that have suffered.

The member also brought up the direct action based on a request from an industry group, without perhaps listening to the other side. A lot of local people are very concerned about fish habitat. They are not interested in hearing that our fish will be sacrificed to try to restore some habitat somewhere else. There are a lot of issues that have come up in the last few years that have concerned a lot of people, and they are very happy to see this habitat and other protections restored.