Federal Fish and Habitat rule changes coming

When it comes to tourism, development, perhaps even agriculture, our federal government is about to make big splashes.

It isn’t just with hipwaders, clipboards and measuring tubes. There is more. Add new laws and rules that for all purposes, look like a host of multiple ways of creating second, third and even fourth class citizens across Canada.

In the best tradition of politicians everywhere, these new rules coming down the road are being sold as increased protection for fish and fish habitat. Of course. Also, they are supposed to be restoring regulations said to be abandoned in 2012 under the previous government of Stephen Harper. Harper changes bad, more rules good.

Don’t be surprised that campground operators, tour guides, anglers of all kinds, agricultural producers, plus commercial fishermen and indigenous peoples might soon be waking up to a order they really might not like.

Here is a small sampling of the changes, and how one might interpret them:

– Changing ability to address Fisheries Act offences outside of courts. The idea is to “use alternative measures agreements, to reduce costs and repeat offences.” This might mean side deals with special groups, like some Maritimers. Repeat offences? How can enforcement or politicians decide rules don’t have to be followed for some people but others must?

– Changing provisions to specifically create marine refuges. Does this mean the north shore of Lesser Slave Lake will be off limits to “protect marine diversity.” Maybe, if some special interest group gets motivated. Or how about closing off half the salmon fishing areas in B.C.?

– Provisions recognizing social, economic and cultural factors, as well as recognizing and promoting the independence of commercial inshore fisheries be considered when making decisions. Meaning three or four classes of citizens, all with their own special rights and privileges?

– Expanding present negotiating with provinces and territories in making special agreements with Ottawa to include negotiating and making special agreements with indigenous groups. Meaning provincial citizens can have rights taken away, or given to them, by the federal government, with no input from the province affected?

There are more rules proposed. Certainly, a controversial one is restoring “protection of all fish and fish habitat.” Under that old rule, it was left to authorities to decide what was a habitat. In bureaucratic tradition, this stretched to include drainage ditches and swales in farm fields. The Harper government wisely limited this to habitats more closely related to commercial, recreational or Aboriginal fisheries, as it should be.

These changes are online. We encourage you to talk to your member of parliament and your MLA.

As one American president said a few weeks ago, “Can you believe it took 14 years to get a permit to build a road in one state? We’re going to get that down to two years or less.” In Canada, we head in exactly the opposite direction.

Perhaps, some won’t get permits at all.

Jeff Burgar

These are changes, reported on the Govt of Canada website, regarding changes in 2012/13:
2012-2013 CHANGES

These are new, proposed changes. This also has links to comparisons to the 2012 changes:
NEW PROPOSALS

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