West Coast Environmental Law has been an advocate for strong legal protection for fish and fish habitat in Canada for close to 40 years. In this submission we offer comments on the legal framework established through Bill C-38 and C-45 amendments to the Fisheries Act in 2012 and an April 2013 discussion paper from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) regarding implementation of these amendments.
There was no consultation with environmental organisations, nor meaningful government-to-government engagement with First Nations prior to the very substantial Fisheries Act amendments in Bills C-38 and c-45 (the 2012 omnibus ‘budget’ bills). The limited outreach that is occurring now about how these amendments should be implemented is clearly insufficient. The fundamental question remains whether the highly controversial amendments to Fisheries Act, s. 35(1) and related provisions should be brought into force at all.
We unequivocally submit that the long-standing prohibition on harmful alteration, disruption or destruction (HADD) in section 35(1) of the Fisheries Act should be retained and that Bill C-38 and C-45 amendments to the Fisheries Act that weaken protection for fish habitat should never be brought into force (or repealed).
The Fisheries Act authorization procedure has always offered considerable flexibility and discretion that is more than adequate (given appropriate training and direction) to address any concerns that have offered as a rationale for the C-38 and C-45 amendments.
Our longstanding experience working with the Fisheries Act requires us to condemn the amendments made Bill C-38 that weaken protection for fish and their habitat. The Governor in Council should not bring the proposed legislation into force when there is no compelling case for changing one of Canada’s longest-standing laws for fisheries management and environmental protection.