While the news this week that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has no formal plans to consult the public or stakeholders on still-pending changes to the Fisheries Act included in Bill C-38 back in June is not surprising, it is troubling.
On June 27, 2012, in the wake of Bill C-38, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Keith Ashfield announced a “nationwide public engagement and consultations process to be held throughout the summer and fall to develop the policy and regulatory framework that will support changes to the Fisheries Act adopted by the House of Commons earlier this month.” Background documents supporting this announcement state: “Through Summer and Fall 2012, the Department will engage Canadians, through a series of roundtables and meetings, and online, to get their feedback on various elements of the Government of Canada’s fisheries protection approach.”
These announcements signal that there may still be an opportunity for people and organizations like WWF to influence the governments’ new approach to fisheries management, and to appeal to the Minister and the Department through a formal process to maintain the important protections for fish habitat – not just fisheries – that have not yet been removed from the Fisheries Act(but remain on the chopping block). But it seems now that the department is backing away from this commitment to consult or is being quite selective and surgical, far from transparent with respect to who they consult and how.
The changes to the Fisheries Act and new regulations made under it, will have implications for the health of rivers and lakes across the Canada – not just for fish – but for all species, including us humans, who all depend on safe, healthy waters.
Please take a moment to call or email the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to share your concerns on this issue and to ask if the government plans to make good on their commitment to engage Canadians on protecting our fisheries and the waters that sustain them.