Ecojustice Blog – Nature Posted on March 21, 2013 (updated: February 17, 2015)

Why the Budget Act is bad news for fish

Kimberly Shearon headshotKimberly ShearonStaff

Suppose for a moment that Canada were to pass a law saying that humans were protected but not the air, water and land around them. Suppose further that that law would say that certain kinds of humans were protected — perhaps those of us who contribute most to the economy or entertainment industry. But not all humans. It’s unthinkable, isn’t it?

Yet Canada has proposed that kind of law for the fish that inhabit our streams, lakes and ponds. With the introduction of Bill C-38, the Budget Implementation Bill, Canada is proposing changes to the Fisheries Act. These changes would remove the protection of some fish habitat from the Act. But without their habitat fish will not survive. It’s that simple. And you don’t need a degree in biology or logic to figure that one out.

That single change represents a shift in focus in the Fisheries Act. Instead of an enactment that protects fish, it now becomes an enactment that enables the destruction of fish habitat and eventually spells the end for many of our fish. This bill is a game changer for fish and fish are definitely on the losing side.

And there are other damaging changes in store for the Fisheries Act. Not all fish are protected. A fish must have aboriginal, commercial or recreational value before it is protected from serious harm. The words in the proposed amendment to the Fisheries Act are vague and loaded terms. Just what is serious harm? Just what is a fish of a recreational fishery? Is that fish that one would need a recreational fishing licence to catch? And even if serious harm is a defined term in this bill (as it is,) the words are new and lack the meaning that the old statute had.

There are some who say, “But we increased the penalties in the bill!” But what use are increased fines and penalties if the language is so vague and the bill so full of loopholes that it is doubtful that anyone would ever be successfully prosecuted under it? That situation is simply unfair to those of us who buy our fishing licences and keep within the law. It is unfair to those developers who build their projects in a way that minimizes damage to the environment.

This new law also allows for a significant amount of power to be vested in the Minister of Fisheries. It allows a Minister to make regulations and in some instances those regulations do not even have to be published so that ordinary Canadians can find them and know exactly what the laws are! This kind of behaviour is not only unfair, but also undemocratic. Our laws should be out in the open — ready for scrutiny and debate — not tucked away hiding within a budget implementation bill that is brought by the Minister of Finance.

Canadians deserve fair laws. We deserve laws that protect the things that we cherish —the things that we need to survive in this great land of ours. Clean air, clean water, wilderness to explore and enjoy for ourselves and for our children’s children. We deserve a law that protects fish and their habitat. If we don’t speak up now those memories of fishing trips with the family alongside of one of our beautiful lakes will be just that — a distant memory. It’s time to act.

That’s why we’re asking you to join the thousands of other Canadians who have already pledged their support of Black Out Speak Out, a campaign that aims to defend our Canada — a Canada that values nature and democracy.

Take action today. Visit Black out Speak Out to learn more. Together, we will not be silenced.

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