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Legislation to protect Canada’s fisheries debated in Senate


Legislation to protect Canada’s fisheries debated in Senate

Bill C-68 aims to help preserve, protect and restore Canada’s freshwater and marine fisheries.

Government legislation that restores lost protections for Canada’s fisheries and introduces new ecological safeguards will help to ensure the long-term economic and environmental sustainability of the industry, according to the Senator sponsoring the bill.

Bill C-68 also seeks to better recognize the rights and knowledge of Indigenous peoples with respect to Canada’s freshwater and marine fisheries.

Senator Dan Christmas said that “as a proud Mi’kmaq” from Cape Breton, N.S., he is pleased to sponsor legislation that prioritizes the ocean.

“Habitat loss, degradation and changes to fish passage and water flow are all contributing to the decline of freshwater and marine fish habitats in Canada. This decline is an important environmental issue, and that is why the restoration of degraded fish habitats is essential,” he said in a speech to the Senate on October 18, 2018.

“It’s with a sense of duty that I stand before you to affirm the importance of safeguarding and protecting Indigenous rights through this important legislation.”

One key element of the bill would restore protection back to all fish. Legislation adopted under the previous Government in 2012 limited protections to only those that were part of commercial, recreational and Aboriginal fisheries.

“Industry partners were thus thrust into uncertainty with regard to their responsibilities,” Sen. Christmas said. “In contrast, Bill C-68 will help restore some of the public trust by extending protection back to all fish.”

Other key elements include:

  • A new permitting system for big projects that could be harmful to fisheries and a nimbler approach through codes of practice for smaller projects;
  • The introduction of a public registry to enable better transparency and access to government decisions on fish and fish habitat protections; and
  • Two new tools to address area-based management: the ministerial authority to amend licence requirements once a fishery is under way in order to respond to emergent issues and the ministerial authority to make biodiversity protection regulations.

“I encourage honourable Senators to learn more about Bill C-68, to study and debate its provisions and, if necessary, identify means of improving them. I make this encouragement as a maritime Mi’kmaw Senator with a deep and abiding connection to the ocean and to the creatures who abound in its waters,” Sen. Christmas said.

Legislation to protect Canada’s fisheries debated in Senate