Changes to the Fishery Act: Ecological Disaster by Design?

Each time I take a close look at the Federal government’s current doings it seems to be worse than the last time and I keep wondering how far the administration plans to take us all. First it was the crime bill, then the copyright bill, then the surveillance bill and now the changes to the fishery act.

About the fishery act—the major change that has me bothered is this: the proposed new wording of the relevant section is as follows:
35(1) No person shall carry on any work, undertaking or activity, other than fishing, that results in an adverse effect on a fish of economic, cultural or ecological value.
Not too bad, right? Here is the way it used to be:
35(1) No person shall carry on any work or undertaking that results in the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat.
Notice they have added ‘other than fishing,’ to the statement while, at the same time, removing ‘fish habitat.’

At first glance this may not seem like much of a problem. However if you give it some thought you will realize that this brings in two major issues.
1—It starts out bad enough. The new statement seems to lesson the limits on where we can fish, thus opening up ‘in danger’ areas to overfishing. The legislation sets no limits on what is out of bounds. If, for example, there was an area that could sustain a fishery but which has been damaged than, in principle at least, the old legislation could allow for setting it aside and allowing it to repair itself. Now there seems to be no allowance for that.
2—But it gets worse than that. Fish habitats include much more than areas where you actually find fish right now. In particular they include areas where fish used to be—or maybe ‘ought to be’ would be a better word. By removing ‘fish habitats’ from the legislation the federal government is basically writing off areas that have previously been damaged. In effect the legislation is implying that if we have already messed up an area where fish should be then we can simply write it off and do whatever we want. In particular, as I see it, that means we can knock it around all we want while we remove all the oil or whatever happens to be there.

So where is this coming from? After all, this whole generation should be steeped in an abiding value for the environment. David Suzuki is only one of many who have spent entire careers working to ensure that we Canadians are not ignorant of the relevant issues. We are not stupid; we know that our economic future, as a country is closely tied to the whole concept of sustainability. We have plentiful resources and, if wisely managed, they can bring us all prosperity for the foreseeable future.

So WHY THE HELL is our federal government considering such an obviously asinine move? Why would we enact legislation that (a) lessens the amount of land that is protected while (b) fixing it so that it becomes essentially impossible to prosecute those who do break our laws?

I wish I had the answer for sure but I do have my suspicions. Check this out:

Bill C-10 enforces a cut-and-dried version of law an order that makes it very easy to take those who do not ‘toe the line’ and lock them up out of the way.
Bill C-30 makes it easy to keep tabs on all citizens’ private affairs, once again making sure that voices of dissent are, if not silenced, at least constantly monitored.

Alright, so let’s see: keep everyone quiet. Quiet to do what? That part is easy. Look at the changes to the fishery act. The outcome is simple if you ask me. The changes basically mean that environmental laws are rendered for the most part null and void this ensuring that bug business can do whatever it wants, whenever it wants and to whatever it wants.

I saw the same with Bill C-11 with its ‘digital content locks’ which effectively put citizens’ rights ahead of the concerns of big business.

It is too bad that the written word does not render anger very well because I have to admit that I cannot feel anything but anger and frustration toward a federal government that seems bound and determined to put the best interests of its citizens and of society in general well behind immediate economic issues as presented by the wants of big business. What’s next I wonder? Sorry to sound so negative but it looks like a tidal wave is coming in and all we have is a little wooden breakwater.

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About Maurice A. Barry

Coordinator: Teaching and Learning Commons, Faculty of Education, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Parent & Husband. eLearning consultant/coordinator. Program Development Specialist - eLearning (Department of Education; Retired). Writer: over 40 Math/Physics texts/webs. Developer & Manager of web content. Geek. Not into awards but loves comments.
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