Media Release

CELA Welcomes Proposed Changes to Federal Fisheries Act

Feb 06 2018

Toronto – The Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) welcomes the wide-ranging reforms to the Fisheries Act that were announced today by federal Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc.

The proposed amendments to the Fisheries Act are contained in Bill C-68, which has now been introduced for First Reading in Parliament.

“CELA is pleased to see that the federal government has taken an important step towards fixing and modernizing the Fisheries Act,” said CELA lawyer Richard Lindgren.

If enacted, the amendments would restore important protective provisions that had been removed from the Act by the previous government. Bill C-68 also contains a number of new or improved measures to safeguard fish and their habitat across Canada.

For example, Bill C-68 proposes to reinstate the prohibition against the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction (HADD) of fish habitat. This prohibition had been repealed and replaced in 2012 by a much weaker and controversial provision that is being inadequately enforced by federal officials at the present time.

“In our view, restoring the HADD prohibition is one of the most important reforms contained in Bill C-68,” stated Mr. Lindgren. “However, the federal government must commit to providing sufficient resources, staffing and funding to ensure timely enforcement of this key prohibition.”

Bill C-68 also proposes to create or update provisions relating to statutory permits, orders, penalties, habitat restoration and management measures under the Fisheries Act. For example, the Minister is specifically obliged to consider science, fisheries sustainability, traditional Indigenous knowledge, the precautionary principle and the ecosystem approach when making decisions under the Act.

In addition, the Bill requires Ministerial decision-making under the Act to consider “adverse effects” upon the rights of Indigenous peoples, as recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. Bill C-68 also proposes to empower the federal government to enter into agreements with Indigenous governing bodies for Fisheries Act purposes.

“We look forward to participating in the legislative process as Bill C-68 proceeds through Parliament,” added Mr. Lindgren. “Given that Fisheries Act reform is long overdue, it is our hope that Bill C-68 can be debated, passed and proclaimed in force as expeditiously as possible.”

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For more information, or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Richard D. Lindgren, CELA Counsel, 613-385-1686, r.lindgren@sympatico.ca