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Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on 
Fisheries and Oceans

Issue 2 - Evidence

OTTAWA, Tuesday, December 7, 2004

The Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans met this day at 7:09 p.m. to examine and report on matters relating to the federal government's new and evolving policy framework for managing Canada's fisheries and oceans.

Senator Gerald J. Comeau (Chairman) in the Chair.


The Chairman: We meet again today to continue to examine and report on matters relating to the federal government's new and evolving policy framework for managing Canada's fisheries and oceans.


Our witness this evening is Mr. Garth Mirau, Vice-President of the United Fishermen and Allied Workers' Union, from British Columbia. The UFAWU is a local of the Canadian Autoworkers Union and represents fish plant workers in British Columbia. UFAWU members own vessels as independent owner-operators, work on vessels as skippers or deck hands or work on off-loading or processing plants. Members are engaged in all types of fishing and fish processing.

Mr. Mirau represents a huge cross-section of many of the sectors of the fishery in British Columbia, and we are fortunate to have him with us tonight. Mr. Mirau, please proceed.

Mr. Garth Mirau, Vice-President, United Fishermen and Allied Workers' Union: Thank you for this opportunity this evening. I will speak to the Pearse-McRae report and briefly about how it started, where it is going now and the concerns that we have about that. As you know, in 2002 there was a huge return of sockeye salmon to the Fraser River and there was little opportunity to harvest that fish. The United Fishermen and Allied Workers Union, in company with the Native Brotherhood of British Columbia, NBBC, and others, attempted to organize a campaign to develop some fishing opportunities. Out of that campaign came two fisheries that were "protest fisheries," as we call them. They resulted in another legal fishery after the fact as well as a series of meetings and hearings that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans described as external but that, in fact, were led by then Assistant Deputy Minister Pat Chamut. Out of those meetings, consultations and the report, was a focus on changing the way in which the advisory process works and the issue of whether there are too many boats chasing too few fish. As you know, the Mifflin Plan 1996 resulted in a fleet reduction for the salmon of at least 50 per cent. We have gone from 4,400 boats in 1996 down to 2,200 licences, but only 1,700 boats fishing salmon in B.C.

The federal and provincial governments put together a task force of two people, Mr. Donald McRae, from the University of Ottawa, and Mr. Peter Pearse, known and self-described as the godfather of individual transferable quotas, ITQs, from the University of British Columbia. They put together a report entitled "Treaties and Transition: Towards a Sustainable Fishery on Canada's West Coast." Ostensibly, however, they were supposed to do a report on what fisheries would look like after treaties but they went further than their terms of reference, we believe. At the end of the day they made many recommendations but it boils down to quotas for all fisheries, privatization of all fisheries, and no restrictions on the transfer of quotas. While I am not aware of any public statements made by the provincial government, the B.C. Minister of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, Mr. John van Dongen, told the union one month after the report was released that they supported it. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada made a statement in which he said that the report's forecast for commercial salmon fisheries is realistic. The recommended reforms represent fundamental change but half measures will not restore the salmon industry to profitability. In keeping with the report's emphasis on the need for industry to assume more responsibility, I will be asking stakeholders to provide advice on implementation and will be seeking their views on the best approaches to resolving the issues facing Canada's Pacific fisheries.

I want to make a case today that ITQs, are not the way to fix Canada's fisheries. There needs to be a new approach. I believe there is no vision at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, DFO, particularly in respect of the Pacific region, for sustainable fisheries. I do not believe that there is any vision there beyond getting through today, getting through this meeting or getting through the end of the day without the stockade falling down. That is our belief, and all the actions of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in the Pacific region support that.

The minister said that he is receiving advice on implementation of the Pearse-McRae report but that the Acting Regional Director, Don Radford, told us in a letter dated September 7:

I assure you that there will be ample opportunity to you and all parties to provide advice on the particular subject this fall as well. We are in the process of developing a consultation plan for Pearse-McRae.

We have been assured by the minister's assistant, Mr. Bilal Cheema, that there would be consultations. However, letters have gone to the mayor of Prince Rupert and others saying that only stakeholders will be consulted. We believe that this is a bigger issue than to be restricted to licence holders that happen to be fishing in British Columbia today. It is a fundamental change to the fishery and it is privatization; there is no question about it. We believe that it is likely illegal to bring in ITQs in the manner that the federal government is doing it now, and that the minister has been misled.

Since the publication of Mr. Garrett Hardin's 1968 essay, "Tragedy of the Commons," known to senators, I am sure, some have claimed that the central problem in the world's fisheries is its common-property nature. Since Dr. Peter Pearse's Royal Commission report in 1982, "Turning the Tide," DFO officials have pursued the privatization theories advanced by economists such as Mr. Pearse. In fact in 1982, Mr. Pearse recommended massive changes in the fisheries in British Columbia but that idea was beaten back at the time. As a consequence, numerous papers in DFO surfaced as discussion documents but certainly laid out what we are faced with in British Columbia today. Many of our fisheries are already under quotas and that has resulted in coastal communities dying because of loss of employment. It has also resulted in 80 per cent of the value of the fisheries, up from 50 per cent, going out of the fishery before any gear goes into the water to the licence holders. The small amount of money that is left after the fishery is shared with the boats and their crews is unacceptable. As well, in 2004 the quotas have resulted in the return of foreign processing ships that process hake off the West Coast of British Columbia on the advice of, once again, the quota holders. Today, the quota holders have more to say about fisheries than anyone else.

We think that is wrong. We think that fundamental change that is being brought to fisheries in this country without the light of at least Parliament having an opportunity to make that decision is wrong.

If you will, I want to read a couple of small positions that DFO took as recently as 1988. They wrote the following in the first paragraph of a document published in 1988 entitled "The British Columbia Salmon Fleet Financial Performance, 1981-85:"

...the British Columbia salmon fishery is one of the most valuable in the world. The industry makes a significant and long-standing contribution to the economy of the province. It is especially important to many isolated coastal communities as the main source of income and employment.

It goes on to say, further on, under a note on crew wages, that "the average wage of crew members over all four fleet components is substantially above the average wage in the province."

That was in 1998. In 1996, the Mifflin Plan was brought in because the Department of Fisheries and Oceans said there were too many boats chasing too few fish and we need to make some changes. As a result, the salmon fleet was reduced by 50 per cent.

A great amount of discussion has been about salmon, because salmon actually defines the people of British Columbia. It defines our First Nations. It defines our coastal areas. There is no question about that.

There are many more fisheries out there. In 1990, DFO brought in the halibut. They privatized and brought about in every single fishery some changes to licensing, such as allowing people to stack licences on their boat to bring in actual ITQs.

Concerns are starting to surface now about the ability of DFO to have access to the science and management around fisheries such as black cod. DFO holds that up as an example of how good the quotas are. However, the result has been that of the 48 licences that were issued, there are now between 16 and 19 boats fishing. There are about 30 owners. That has resulted in a massive dislocation of people who once worked in that fishery, as well as other fisheries.

I fished from 1972 until 1996, when I went to work for the union. Never was there a time when we could earn a living just fishing salmon. We would have good years, but, generally speaking, we depended on all the other fisheries to earn a living. The coastal communities depended on people like me earning a living from other fisheries.

Those fisheries have been removed one at a time. Pearse-McRae is saying, and it seems as though the federal minister has accepted the report, that all fisheries should go to quotas.

We are calling on the minister to implement a judicial inquiry. We certainly hope that this committee will support that call for a judicial inquiry.

I made a presentation to the Commons committee last Friday. It was pointed out to us then that you might not like what you get out of a judicial inquiry. I said to them, and I would say this to you and the people of Canada, that there has to be some light shone on this issue. Fisheries around the world are moving to quotas. We have not gone so far down the road that we cannot save the fishery in Canada.

Generally speaking, in the Pacific region fisheries are in pretty good condition. There are problems. There is no question about that, and nobody would ever argue about that. Generally speaking, things are pretty good.

Some of the people that worked in DFO in the past who advocated quotas and were responsible for delivering some of those quotas to their friends are now working for those quota holders and are the spokespeople and do the management for them. I think that is wrong.

In a report that we put together in 2003, the total licences in the Pacific Region were valued at $2.1 billion. That was based on recent sales, and about $1.5 billion of that are quota fisheries.

We think that those quotas and those licences should continue to be owned by the people of Canada. If they are to be rented or traded, it should be done by our government. The people of Canada own it, and they should get the benefit from it.

We are not opposed to individual ownership of licences. The owner-operator provisions around all fisheries would solve most of the problems. When people have access to all fisheries, they are fishing for a living rather than fishing for money. Investors who own those licences are fishing for money and the situation changes. There is much more pressure put on the resource.

We are calling for a judicial inquiry into DFO in the Pacific Region. We are asking for an immediate moratorium on changes to licensing. If that judicial inquiry is implemented, and we certainly hope it is, these are the concerns that we would bring to the inquiry from the United Fishermen and Allied Workers' Union.

We believe that the minister should immediately announce a policy change in DFO that will make it mandatory to take into consideration socio-economic impacts in the decision-making process. The minister should immediately announce that area licensing for salmon in B.C. is discontinued, and in the 2005 season, there will be coast-wide licensing.

The minister should provide access to capital to develop community licence banks to redress disenfranchisement that happened in the past. The minister should immediately announce an owner-operator and fleet separation policy and immediately begin a process to allocate back to licensed fishermen, fisheries that were taken from a licence and reallocated to others.

The minister should immediately make representation to the cabinet and the House of Commons to reinstate the budget for DFO operations that allows DFO to fulfil its obligations to manage fish and protect fish habitat.

The minister should immediately announce DFO will enforce the Fisheries Act as it relates to the aquaculture industry, and the needs of wild fish should be put first.

Those are the things we should talk about. We have, of course, background and reasons for saying that. Certainly, in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in Pacific Region, there are managers that work in the fishery now that are calling us and saying that we have to do something about what is happening. We are going to lose access to fisheries by ordinary fishermen, and we are not getting the information that we need, either around management decisions or science, because these fisheries have been privatized.

We need some money put back into budgets so that these managers can do the job that they are supposed to do. Highly trained fisheries managers do not even have gas to put in their boats in many cases to go out to do the work.

They are being asked to do many more things in some respects without the information or the budgets that they need to do it. In salmon, they are being asked to deliver fish to many more places than they ever were before. With treaties coming up it will be harder and harder for them to do that.

Finally, our position on treaties is simply that we support the treaty process, and we think that the quicker we settle treaties, around fish particularly, the better off we will all be. I want to point out that the Pearse-McRae report is supposed to be about treaties. In fact, the report by the First Nations panel on Fisheries recommends that ITQs not be implemented at this time.

Mr. Ron Kadawaki, acting director of south coast fisheries, DFO, has been tasked with doing consultations on implementation. They do not talk about ITQs in their road show. They call it "Pacific Fisheries Renewal." If ever there were a misnomer, I believe that is it.

The Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans in 1998 wrote a scathing report on ITQs. If the recommendations that your committee made would have been implemented, we would have healthy, prosperous fisheries in Canada today. We also have a paper that we had put together for us called, "A Rich Fishery or a Fishery for the Rich."

It is a critique of the McRae-Pearse report that calls into question the legality of the ITQs that are recommended, and seems to be bound to consultations and implementations saying that the minister will do it.

We have a paper, "Catch 22," from Ecotrust Canada that was released about three weeks ago. We have the only document put together in the Pacific region from 1991, and it was updated in 1995, the Cruickshank report. It was accepted by virtually everyone in the industry at the time, with a few naysayers.

I would like to table those documents, the Pearson-McRae and Cruickshank reports. I would like to talk about the first quota fishery in British Columbia that was implemented in the mid-1980s. It was the abalone fishery. It was closed forever in 1990; at least it might as well have been. I do not think it will ever reopen in our lifetime and that was a quota fishery that lasted less than six years. They are now talking about "stop poaching." That is what it is down to. I do not believe that we will ever see abalone fishing in my lifetime.

Finally, I took a clipping out of The Vancouver Sun last week. It talks about discrimination and harassment in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. I brought that along only to make the point that it seems as though the Human Rights Commission has made some accusations about discrimination, harassment and intimidation. It has been accepted by DFO, although they say it is overplayed. The only point I want to make is that every single time anyone disagrees with DFO's position on anything, whether it is a major or minor item, the department tends to discount what you have to say and tries to marginalize either you or the organization you are with. This is evidence that, if you are willing to do this to your colleagues, you certainly will do it to people that you do not know or that you do not disagree with.

The Chairman: Thank you Mr. Mirau for your excellent presentation and the continued leadership you have brought over the years to this important issue. We very much appreciate it. Please advise your members of that comment.

Mr. Mirau: I will.

The Chairman: Is it agreeable that we list the documents in the minutes of this committee, senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chairman: We will go on to our first list of questioners.

Senator Watt: I will dive right into your recommendations. Why? You state that the minister should immediately announce a judicial inquiry into DFO specific regions.

You also mentioned on the next page that there is a need, before anything happens, for a moratorium before the changes take place.

Could you tell committee whether this subject of privatization, to your knowledge, has this gone through the House of Commons?

Mr. Mirau: I believe it has not gone to the House of Commons. Is that what you asked?

Senator Watt: Yes. They have not taken it to the House of Commons, so the buck stops at the ministerial level. Is that your view?

Mr. Mirau: That is our understanding.

Senator Watt: You also mention that the minister is being misled by the DFO officials. Is this so?

Mr. Mirau: Yes.

Senator Watt: The person promoting these privatizations?

Mr. Mirau: We do.

Senator Watt: Why is it, to your knowledge? I am puzzled here because this seems to be the time that we should tighten up, when the resources are not necessarily within the big bundle any more throughout Canada, an area where everyone fishes. Privatizing it is not going to help. I think it is going to make it worse. We are not going to have anyone to manage it anymore, looking at it from a distance, for the benefit of the country and the people. It is the people who are — and rightly so — the owners of the resources. Putting it into the hands of licence holders, how do you see the regulatory aspect of it being dealt with by the licence holders? How will they manage the management itself? What will the relations be between the licence holders and DFO?

Mr. Mirau: The licence holders will manage the fishery. There is no question about that. I referred earlier to the fact that foreign processing ships had been allowed back into the country this year at the behest of the licence holders of the hake quotas. When we objected to them coming back, one of the quota holders said to us, in eloquent terms, "They are our fish and we will do what we want with them." I think that speaks to the whole issue. When you have private ownership, the owners tend to believe they can do whatever they want with them and they fish them for the bottom line rather than fishing for a living.

I perhaps should quote from Dr. Daniel Pauly, who is with the University of British Columbia, a well known fishery economist around the world. At a recent conference in New Zealand, The Economist to which he was speaking at the conference said, "Do not worry about our fishery. It is under quota, so we do not have to worry about those things any more." They were talking about conservation. We know once it is under quota you do not worry about it, because the management and conservation issues are set aside and you do not deal with them until there are no fish left. In fact, we know there are concerns with some stocks in New Zealand. They are not being dealt with because the government has given up and given management and conservation over to the quota holders. That is the consequence of privatization.

Senator Adams: I live in Nunavut and we just settled a land claim just over 10 years ago. In the last four or five years, the DFO and the Minister of Fisheries began allocating some of the quotas in the Nunavut territory up to 200 mile limit between Greenland and up to Baffin Islands.

In the last couple of years I have been studying some of the land claim agreements between the Government of Canada and us. In the future, the economy will change in our community. Before anything was started, some of the organizations were not really concerned about the people in the community locally. Some of the communities have quotas. We have a policy at DFO and land claims to give out quotas to organizations in Nunavut and we have 4,000 metric tonnes for the turbot. Further up to the Hudson Strait and up to the Baffin Strait, we have 1500 metric tonnes of turbot and about 2,500 tonnes of shrimp quotas in those two areas.

I started to travel within the community and up to Baffin Island about two years ago. I found out in the communities that the biggest quota was 330 tonnes awarded to Nunavut Wildlife Management Board. The new board has been operating over the last three years. We have 11 member organizations that come from every community and one director from Newfoundland to see how the fishing system works.

Three communities, Pond Inlet, Clyde and Barton Island, have been looking for a fish plant at Pangnirtung for the last 20 years. A brand new fish plant was built there 10 years ago. Since that was built and the organization set up, not one person in the community has been asked how the fishing is up in that area.

One director had been hired by an organization; he came from DFO here in Ottawa to work at the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board. The Nunavut Wildlife Management Board through the Baffin Fishery Coalition, BFC, had 11 Inuit members. Not once in the last five years have people in the community been asked if they are interested in the future of the commercial fishery. Yet a guy in Newfoundland is being hired to bring ships up there and do turbot fishing up there for the last five years.

We have been dealing with Clearwater and Davis Strait for the last 10 years, and some communities have a few quotas. However, I am finding out that the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board, the people up there are all locals and they are paid by DFO. Their salary comes from DFO. As soon as they get the quotas from the minister, they give them to the Baffin Fisheries Coalition, BFC. The Baffin coalition has 11 Inuit members and not one said they were interested in the future of the commercial fishery.

You have worked for the union for awhile. Is that the way they run the fishery, other fishermen?

Mr. Mirau: Certainly, there has been a move away from the fishing belonging to communities. More and more resources are being removed from those communities and shipped to the city, with the consequent loss of jobs in the communities. That is the reality of what is happening in British Columbia now.

It is because the small boat fleet is being squeezed out, the people that live in those communities do not have access to fish any more and the processing jobs at both. There is it no question about that.

Senator Adams: In the meantime, those communities are interested in working that way. We have the Nunavut government that is supposed to be helping the people get into commercial fishing within the community. They are not pushing that.

You have quotas in B.C. that come from DFO for the fishermen in B.C. We were expecting the same thing. Every year in February, the minister sends us Nunavut quotas. I figure these should benefit people in the community. We would be better off if the minister would tell the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board we will give X number of applications to the people in the community to fish. Right now, people are interested in the cost to run a boat and to get into business, and so on. However, the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board is not telling them how to run a business, and the BFC is telling them they have to learn how to fish. Do you have any policy in your union for people who want to do commercial fishing to get a certificate to get into that type of fishing?

Mr. Mirau: We used to have a vibrant fishing community in British Columbia previous to the move to quotas. We still believe that there could be a vibrant fishery in British Columbia, a vibrant, prosperous fishery where First Nations and others could earn a living, and the communities can survive.

I belong to an organization of organizations called the Canadian Council of Professional Fish Harvesters. We stand basically for small boat owner-operators and for training for people to get into the fishery.

One of our biggest concerns now is generational transfer of licences, which is something different than you are talking about, but it really is the same thing. We are concerned about the intergenerational transfer of licences from people who were gifted with these quotas and licences; how do you transfer them to the next generation, particularly since you can rent them or lease them? The prices go up and there is no incentive to sell ever, so there is no opportunity for young people from the communities to stay involved in fishing. That is a shame.

Senator Adams: I hate to mention how many million of dollars are given to BFC, and so far they are not training the people up there. In the summer, those foreign ships arrive in the North and the crew that is supposed to train those Inuit people, who work on the boats, are Danes and Icelanders. They cannot even speak English and they are supposed to train those guys about commercial fishing. It is difficult.

The government needs to think about what kind of person or captain or crew is able to train local fishermen, and to provide the funds to train the local people how to fish. They did not even ask the question. They just gave them money to do it and people got in talking in sign language, because they do not understand the other.

Mr. Mirau: I am not familiar with the situation, but I understand what it is that you are saying. It is really about a need for people to have employment in communities.

Senator Adams: Yes. I have some other questions here. I do not want to mention that on television. I will give you some information personally. Most of it concerns DFO and how they are treating some of the people and the fishermen, especially the Natives. Perhaps I can give you that later and you can answer it by letter.

Mr. Mirau: I would be glad to do so.

The Chairman: Before I go on to Senator Hubley, you were mentioning that New Zealand had stock problems, and that some of their stocks were disappearing since they implemented the ITQ system. The northern cod was under an enterprise allocation system, or IQs, when the northern cod stock collapsed. We see some kind of history here.

Senator Hubley: Welcome. How many members would you have in the United Fishermen and Allied Workers' Union in British Columbia?

Mr. Mirau: We have now more than 3,000, and that is in the fishing, packing and processing sector.

Senator Hubley: What percentage would that be of all the fishers and fish packers and people working on boats?

Mr. Mirau: Certainly, we are the largest fish organization in British Columbia. I am not sure what the percentage would be. The numbers of people who continue to earn a living from fishing has plummeted in the last 10 years because of changes to licensing and the consolidation of the processing sector. I am not sure how many people continue to work in the industry but it is probably in the neighbourhood of 12,000.

We also work closely with the Native Brotherhood of British Columbia. We negotiate collective agreements together in the fishing sector and their members work in plants where we have certification. I do not know the number of their membership but collectively we total about 35 per cent of the industry. All the collective agreements are voluntary and our members are volunteers. Our members do not have to join to have the benefit of working there.

Senator Hubley: Was I correct in hearing that you represent the Native fishery?

Mr. Mirau: We have many First Nation members and we work closely with the Native Brotherhood of British Columbia.

Senator Hubley: In your submission you listed a number of serious problems within DFO. Could you elaborate on a couple of those problems?

You said that the department had no vision for sustainable fisheries on the West Coast. What information have you to back that statement? What examples can you give me of decisions made that will challenge the fisheries on the West Coast?

Mr. Mirau: All the fisheries in British Columbia are managed by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. The fisheries that are in trouble and that have been used as an example of the need to bring in ITQs, have all been managed by DFO in the past. As recently as one and one-half years ago, the-then acting director general in the Pacific Region, when asked about his vision of the fishery, replied that beyond conservation and sustainability, there is no vision. There is no vision for employment in the communities, and for determining whether resources should be caught and processed in those communities. Until Parliament deals with the whole issue of the bigger picture on fisheries, we will see more and more fisheries in trouble. DFO does not have a policy and no longer has the resources to manage them.

Senator Hubley: Would that be a lack of enforcement? Would it come under that heading?

Mr. Mirau: Absolutely. The lack of enforcement is brought about in large part because of the lack of resources. When you do not have enforcement, it is the same as not having policemen on the street. Enforcement is necessary; there is no question about that.

Senator Hubley: Could you comment on the manipulation of the entire quota licensing issue by DFO staff.

Mr. Mirau: We think that we could show that there has been some wrongdoing by former senior staff at DFO who advocated quotas at the time and who, if not directly responsible because of the advice that they gave, gifted quotas to the people that own them now. Some of those same people are working now for the quota holders, working for their organizations and are the spokespeople for those organizations. We think that is wrong.

Senator Hubley: Thank you.

The Chairman: We might, Mr. Mirau, have a private conversation as well after the meeting on this. I have always found it fascinating that often we, as parliamentarians, do not have the kind of power that some bureaucrats have to access information and to go into negotiations, et cetera. However, we call upon ourselves to impose codes of conduct on senators in respect of ethics and yet we do not have anywhere near the kind of access that these people have. That this could be happening in this day and age is incongruous with the times, as we self-flagellate over codes of ethics when we do not have such great powers.

I wish to raise another point. We were talking earlier about the salmon and the proposal of the Pearse-McRae report to prepare ITQs for salmon. I was reviewing the response of the department under the minister's signature. I will read the last line, which states:

As well, the department has acknowledged that individual quotas may not be suitable for all fisheries such as species of a highly migratory nature such as salmon.

In other words, the department, as late as 1998, acknowledged that it was not practical to put salmon under ITQs. Something seems to have happened since that time.

Mr. Mirau: Yes. In 1996 Mr. Paul Sprout, Acting Regional Director General, Pacific Region, wrote a paper for the Fraser Institute that said the same thing — salmon could not be managed under quotas.

The Chairman: The letter was written in April 1999. In five short years things have changed.

Mr. Mirau: Yes.

Senator Downe: Mr. Mirau, I am interested in a comment you made this evening about the budget reductions in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. In your opinion, how many of the current problems are a result of the budget reductions directly?

Mr. Mirau: I think most of them are the result of budget reductions in various ways. Some people who were committed to fish, who I know and worked with closely when I was a fishermen, were well respected in DFO and left DFO partly because they felt they could no longer do their jobs. As well, when the department and the managers are constantly trying to shuffle dollars, the focus then becomes, rather than the protection of fish, a matter of just getting through the meetings and getting to the end of the season in any way you can manage. I believe that most of the problems in DFO are the result of budget cuts, including the need for cost recovery, which is all-pervasive at DFO. Quotas are the natural way for cost recovery; I believe they are absolutely linked.

Senator Downe: As you are probably aware, the government is currently doing an expenditure review exercise whereby they hope to reallocate $12 billion over the next five years from low priorities to high priorities. One of the concerns I have is with institutions and departments like fisheries located at 200 Kent Street in downtown Ottawa. The imports from the regions, including Pacific, often have not heard of the Ottawa office. Some people are of the view that decentralizing the department to the regions would be more helpful in that people would see the direct impact of their policies on the community and on the fishers involved, as opposed to reading press clippings in their office tower in downtown Ottawa. Do you have any view on that?

Mr. Mirau: I think that the decentralization is fine but we need national policies; there is no question about that. There must be a national vision of the future of fisheries in Canada. As far as policies go, particularly in Pacific Region, there are many but none are written down. That and the fact that you are dealing with an unknown set of rules because they are constantly changing, creates all kinds of other problems.

In DFO Pacific Region, I would say that there has been a reign of terror and the DFO in Pacific Region is already stand-alone. The clipping that I read to you refers to that and, certainly, reinforces that. I would say that it is probably worse in Pacific Region than it is anywhere else.

I will give you an example. A woman, who is a manager in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Pacific Region, told me recently in conversations about the ITQs and consultations, and the lack thereof, that she was told she had better just be quiet, or they would bury her in Ottawa and no one would ever hear from her again. That is a danger when you do not have a set of national policies, and you turn over the management to the regions.

On the other hand, if you have a director-general such as Jim Jones in New Brunswick, you then have a different set of circumstances. Perhaps some of you know him. He is involved in his community and is interested in what is happening in the fishery. Unless you have national policies, it comes down to personalities, and that is not the way to run any department.

Senator Downe: What is your association's view on sport salmon fishing?

Mr. Mirau: I was a sports fisherman for a long time, and I wish I had time to do it now. We work with recreational fishermen. We have been working with the Sport Fishing Institute of British Columbia. They, too, are opposed to quotas. Everyone has the right and privilege of catching fish when they are available.

The Chairman: Before I go on to the second round, I would like to come back to several points if I could.

You mentioned that New Zealand is mostly privatized now. New Zealand has a similarity with Canada in a certain fashion. It has a sizable Maori population. The New Zealand government needed to deal with treaties, just as Canada did, especially on the West Coast.

My understanding now is that a great deal of this dialogue has taken place and that allocations are in place. Are you familiar with that?

Mr. Mirau: I am vaguely familiar with it. I understand that the Maori have a large ownership in the resource now. They were given money to buy quite a bit of quota.

The Chairman: Has your group looked at the impact of this massive privatization in New Zealand? Have you looked to assess if it had an impact on communities and the result of such an impact?

Mr. Mirau: Mr. Chairman, it has all been second-hand. You do not get quite the same flavour. We were hoping, a year ago or so, to visit New Zealand and have a first hand look at it.

Our understanding is that communities are no longer aware that there are even fisheries in some cases. They have lost the connection to the fishery already.

As Mr. Daniel Pauli said, it is out there now and someone else is taking care of it. There are quota fisheries, they are not our concern, and everything is okay. I do not think that everything is okay.

The Chairman: We were discussing in committee the other day that probably two countries in the world now could almost provide us with a picture of what Canada will be in five to six years, if the current trend to privatization continues. It would be like climbing aboard a time machine to go to the future for Canada if we visited New Zealand or Iceland. We could ask mayors, wardens and community people how it was a few years previous and how it is now.

In Canada, many of our communities still have a sizable segment of quota that has not been privatized yet. Would it not be of valuable as Canadians to step into that time machine and visit the future? Should we not go both to New Zealand and Iceland?

Mr. Mirau: Yes, I think it would be valuable. You referred to Iceland. Mr. Arthur Bogason, president of Iceland's national association of small boat owners, told me that when they brought small boat quotas into Iceland, which were transferable, 70 per cent of those quotas were lost to the larger processor vessels. Communities had to go into debt to buy some of those licences back so that they could survive. That is a real shame.

On the west coast of Vancouver Island there is a First Nations community that is not accessible by road. That community has depended on fish forever. It no longer has access to halibut. There is not even one halibut licence left in that community. They may have four salmon licences for the entire village. There is no other employment. That really speaks to what will result from privatization of fisheries for the West Coast of British Columbia.

From talking to my colleagues on the East Coast, I understand that there is a drive there to do that also, as you are well aware.

The Chairman: I do not recall Parliament, other than probably this committee in 1998, bringing forward the ITQ report. I do not recall this kind of discussion being held in Parliament.

This is a public issue. What right does DFO have to pursue such a policy if it has not been sanctioned by Parliament?

Mr. Mirau: We do not believe that they have the right to do that. There is no question that fishery is a common-property resource. In fact in, medieval England there was an uprising over fisheries being removed.

The Chairman: The King John period.

Mr. Mirau: That is right, 1200 or whatever. Privatization of fisheries is stealing from Canadians. There is no question about that. A person walking down the street owns the fishery as much as I do, or my neighbours. The removal of that common-property resource simply is stealing.

I would put this to you, as politicians, although you need not run for election. If any politician in the country said, "I want to represent you in the next Parliament, but I will get rid of all the jobs in your community. I will ensure that nothing comes to take their place. By the way, there will not be any help for you from government." Do you expect that any of those people would get elected? I put to you that there is not anyone sitting in the House today that would say that to their constituents, but that is what is happening in the fishing industry, no question about it.

The Chairman: DFO officials went some years ago to Iceland, New Zealand and other places promoting the great benefits of ITQs. As a matter of fact, I think that in large part this is why these countries did adopt ITQs, because such a pretty picture was made by our DFO officials in some of these countries. It was placed as a panacea.

I have been reading some of the news clippings from around the world during the past number of days. I found some clippings that refer to the concept of privatization being placed in such areas as the coast of Africa and some of the poorest countries as selling off resources to the highest bidders in Europe and other places. Privatization may not be a localized Canadian problem, but may be spreading worldwide.

I read that Prince Charles, of all people, was referring to buying the right to fish in the Solomon Islands in the Pacific as posing a threat to some of the world's poorest people who depend on fish for food. There was another article talking about an industrial fleet raking fish from a local poor population off Africa.

As a matter of fact, the Geneva-based UN Commission On Human Rights is looking at this question, the shift towards privatization of fishing resources, as a human rights issue.

If Canada is getting involved in this there and on the home front, would it be wise? If we are going to set it up in Canada, are they going to start selling it worldwide? Will this not have the kind of repercussions down the road of a negative image of Canada? We all like to have an image of ourselves as a people who promote indigenous people, the poorest of the poor. Will this negative image be the kind that we seek to avoid at all costs? Excuse my speech.

Mr. Mirau: No, we do. We talk the talk, but we do not always walk the walk, and I think that is happening here. In the privatization of fisheries in New Zealand, for instance, Dr. Peter Pearse, gave them some of that advice. He gave advice to Iceland and to governments around the world on privatization of fisheries. However, in fact, I do not believe that any of those fisheries have proven to be more sustainable under ITQs than they were before, and in most cases there are now indications of problems.

Our own halibut fishery that they hold up as an example is one, from the point of view of fish, that has worked because it is an international fishery under an international agreement. What it has resulted in is the removal of jobs, and wages and the death of communities.

The Chairman: I do have a great number of other questions that I would like to ask and we will probably have to go to my second round. Senator Watt wants to come back in on questions.

Senator Watt: I already covered most of them. There is one area that I left behind. This is shocking in the sense of what is happening in this country here. It already took place in one other country at least. If they are going to continue moving in the current direction, even though they realize that they are making mistakes, what else could be the motive of the government in privatization, and letting go of their control? What is the other motive? What is the possible other motive aside from the fact that maybe it is related to cutting the budget down? This whole issue does not make sense.

Mr. Mirau: It does not make sense. No, I would like to think that Canada is a better country than it seems to be proving around fisheries. I do believe, though, that this is bureaucratically driven, and not driven by the minister. I am not sure the minister even understands the issue, and we change ministers so often in this country. In fact, there have been 20 ministers since the Davis Plan of 1968 spoke to that issue. I asked Mr. Robert Brown, the Director of the Institute of Fisheries Analysis at Simon Fraser University, not long ago at a Species at Risk meeting, whoever demanded that there be cuts to budgets in fisheries. He said that outside of the bureaucracy, nobody.

I do not know what that means, but it does not make any sense to me.

Senator Watt: That means that the smallest people, the vulnerable ones, will be impacted more than anyone else. The corporate world is going to be moving in the direction of saying thank you very much and this is a really good policy. That is a short-term thing, but it does not have a long-term stability of the fishing industry. In other words, when that is gone, it is gone. We cannot turn the clock backwards, because the damage and the impact on the stock itself, whatever the fish might be, will be tremendous.

Mr. Mirau: Yes. There is no question, senator, that under individual transferable quotas there is a concentration of ownership. There is already a concentration of ownership in this country that we should all be worried about.

In British Columbia, as I said earlier, there are fewer than 2,200 salmon licences. I see a document from DFO the other day. It was under Species at Risk legislation, stating that there are only 902 owners of those 2,200 licences. That set off real alarm bells in my head. I never realized that before.

That information on the ownership is not public, but certainly, we should be concerned about that. I know, the minister has absolute authority and he can make any decisions, within the law, within the Fisheries Act that he chooses. He can change any of the things that the minister previous to him has done. Over the years the privatization of the fishery and the gifting of quotas have been brought about under various ministers on the advice of various bureaucrats. The minister could undo that if he had the political will to do it. I am just concerned that nobody has the political will to do that.

Unless we find a minister that has a political will, we keep moving more and more down the road. However, if there was an opportunity for legislators in the House of Commons to deal with this issue, it may not proceed in the manner it has been and there may be an opportunity to turn it around. I do believe that the people who sit in that House do believe in Canada, and believe that everyone should have the right to earn a living.

Senator Watt: If this committee did an interim report, what would you suggest our focus be; where do we hit first? You mentioned the minister is the one, if he has the political will, who can make some changes. He can put a stop to this, set up public inquiries on the issue and put a moratorium on the plan. Are those the two areas that you would like us to hit first?

Mr. Mirau: Yes. I think you can never get to the bottom of an issue with simple inquiries. We have an inquiry going now in British Columbia where a former British Columbia judge has been given the task of looking at what happened to 1.8 million sockeye this summer. Some indicate 600,000 or 900,000, depending on which numbers you use, but there are a lot of fish missing. He will never have the ability to get to the bottom of that, unless he can call witnesses and swear evidence. You can never understand what has happened in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans particularly in the Pacific region, unless you have a judicial inquiry. You will never get the DFO employees to tell you what they know about what is going on because their jobs are at risk.

Senator Watt: You will not tell us exactly where to focus?

Mr. Mirau: I would like to see you support our position for a call for a judicial inquiry into the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Senator Watt: As you indicated, this will take a long time. We will never get to the bottom of that. That is another issue. That could be very well true, too, within the inquiry.

Mr. Mirau: There should certainly be a moratorium put on changes to more licensing until there has been some light shone on the whole thing by the House of Commons, or there has been a judicial inquiry, for sure.

Senator Watt: I bet the Prime Minister does not even know what is going on in Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

The Chairman: We will not touch that one.

Sometimes we do it in a little bit of a guilty way, not always making the distinction between government and the DFO. You did make that distinction quite well, that you feel and sense that a lot of this is being DFO-driven rather than government-driven, with which I happen to agree.

The trend seems to have happened under previous governments and under current governments, and under previous ministers and the current one. It seems to be like a grinding wheel, that regardless of who is in charge, there is someone who seems to be in charge even deeper. You have made the distinction quite clearly, that it is a difference between the DFO and the government.

Before I go on to Senator Hubley, I did want to ask one brief question. Are you aware that New Zealand has been actively considering the question of foreign ownership of its stocks, and how far they are into that now, the selling off of their fishery stocks?

Mr. Mirau: I know that it was under discussion. I am not sure whether they allow foreign ownership. Certainly, in this country, you do not have to be a Canadian to own licences.

The Chairman: It is one of the items that this committee intends to bring — the question of, once quotas go into private hands, how can we limit or stop foreigners from owning the resources, which effectively belong to Canadians? By a roundabout way, or through some kind of an agreement of looking the other way, we have created these privatized assets now. How can we stop foreigners from owning what was essentially a Canadian heritage?

Mr. Mirau: A very simple way to stop foreign ownership is owner-operator provisions under all licences. In order to get a personal fishing licence, you have to be a Canadian, but in order to own the licence to harvest that fish, you do not have to be a Canadian. Anyone can buy that.

The Chairman: Good point. Senator Hubley.

Senator Hubley: I would like you to comment on the community licence banks. The DFO wants to remove itself over time from decision-making concerning commercial allocations because of criticism that such decision-making is political. On the East Coast, the department's new, March 2004 policy framework suggests that fleet planning boards could also issue licences and quotas.

I am wondering, in the concept of community licence banks, what organization would it be — a fisher's organization or DFO? Who would you like to see operate that?

Mr. Mirau: There are a number of models that you can look at, but certainly community licence banks were first talked about in the context of — at least when I became aware of them — if you had a community licence bank, in times of abundance you issued the licences out to people in the community. Fish go in cycles, there is no question, and the community would have the ability to not have those licences out, but could keep them for use in the future.

In some cases, a community licensing bank would simply be that, that people in the community have to own the licences and fish them. There are a number of models. In British Columbia, in 1998, we got an agreement with the trawl quota holders that the community would control where 20 per cent of their quotas were delivered. While that worked a little bit — the Groundfish Development Authority, you may be aware of it — there is a movement afoot, now that the fish are under quota, to take that away. After all, there are fish. Why should anyone tell us what to do with it?

I think the communities, while they certainly do not own the quotas, should have some ability to say whether they leave the community or not.

Senator Hubley: Would a fisher's organization within that community be the ones to administer that? I am just trying to get a handle on how that would be administered.

Mr. Mirau: We are dealing with something that I have never had any experience in, but certainly there is in southwest Nova Scotia, I believe, a couple of community fishing banks, and they seem to work there under various ways. However, I have never had an opportunity to visit those communities.

Senator Hubley: Would cooperatives work?

Mr. Mirau: Cooperatives would work. I believe they will. We have tried cooperatives in British Columbia. As a matter of fact, one of the most successful co-ops in the country was a Prince Rupert fishermen's co-op, and I had the pleasure of working there for awhile.

It was very successful. It returned its profits to the community, and it created some long-term, well-paying jobs on shore. The problem with that was that some fishermen became very wealthy, in the herring and salmon fishery in the 1970s. As a result, they started to focus on their own earnings rather than the good of the co-op. This is my editorial, but certainly I was connected at the time. They started to run it like a business, and when tough times hit, they disappeared. They went bankrupt, because they never put anything aside for tomorrow. Basically, the board of directors bled the co-op.

However, co-ops certainly can work. There has to be some safeguards put in place.

Senator Adams: In New Zealand, do you have any clue about the relationship of the Maoris with the New Zealand government — how much are they able to have territorial water after they are privatized?

Mr. Mirau: No, I am not sure. I know that the problems associated with the settlement of fisheries with the Maoris were exacerbated by the quota fisheries because they became so valuable. The quotas, by their nature, become valuable, so it is harder to do treaties. If you are talking about Canada, the very fact that halibut quotas are now selling for $40 a pound in British Columbia makes it is very difficult. It takes a lot of money to get quotas that will maintain the villages that are looking for quotas. Quotas do not make it easier to settle treaties; they make it tougher.

I had the pleasure of talking to Chief Bill Kramer of the Namgis Band on the way out here from British Columbia yesterday. He is involved in treaties, and they are offering money now instead of fishery, because the fish are too expensive for the federal government to buy back and they created them in the first place.

Senator Adams: If the quotas are privatized, in my area, we have 26 communities. All are on the coast, except one — Baker Lake is on the mainland. Since they settled the land claim, we own 60 per cent of the coastal water; in B.C., Yukon and down to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, they only own 40 per cent. That is a big area up there for Nunavut. We do not have open water like the rest of Canada. In the future, if the government listened to us, especially since we settled the land claim, we have lived there for thousands of years with the fish, so why do we have to learn how to fish?

Every time we want to feed the family, we go out and catch a fish. It is no different from commercial fishing.

According to the DFO policy, we have to learn how to fish. If I get hungry, I do not have to worry how to catch a fish. I could go anywhere to catch a fish.

In the future, especially in Nunavut, the Government of Canada could settle a land claim. Why privatize something and take away from the quotas? Would it not be better off in the future to have a policy? Every Native community should have quotas.

I just bought turbot. I do not know how many kilograms, but three pieces cost me $30. It was not even one pound of fish.

Mr. Mirau: Speaking of community licence banks, I want to thank Senator Hubley for raising it, and I should have said this. The problem is that there is no place that you can discuss that question in DFO. There is no forum to do that. That creates another problem. If people have ideas, there is it no way to discuss it at DFO.

Senator Adams: That is the problem. That is where the problem lies.

Mr. Mirau: That is the problem with which we are faced.

Someone who has done a little work with us in the past said, "Why do you not just make a deal with DFO rather than constantly banging your head and fighting with them?" My answer to that there is no one with whom to make a deal. That is the problem.

Senator Watt: I think you referred to the endangered species act in your presentation. Do fish fall under that legislation to your knowledge?

Mr. Mirau: Yes, it does.

Senator Watt: How will that be utilized for fish purpose? I am not talking about other animal species, but fish only.

Since they are privatizing, it is up to the private sector to manage it and determine what happens. Will they let collapse? That piece of law will never be used for that purpose in the fish area.

Mr. Mirau: No. There is some discussion amongst people who are familiar with fish whether fish belong under the Species at Risk Act. That is another question.

Certainly, your point is well taken in that if the fisheries are privatized, and you lose control of the management and the science, there is no consideration at all under the Species at Risk Act. That can create other problems.

Senator Watt: Not only have we lost DFO, but we have lost everything else.

Mr. Mirau: That is right.

The Chairman: I have one quick last question concerning the question of community and community involvement and the decisions that will take place over the next few years. Have you had any success in getting communities to get more involved? I know the West Coast has done slightly better than we have on the East Coast on this.

Mr. Mirau: We have. Until about three years ago, there was more community involvement certainly than there is now. The former government in British Columbia fostered consultations with communities about resources. We changed governments, as you know. The current government has removed funding and removed the ability to have consultations.

I wish I would have got on board this a long time ago. I never believed, when I was a fisherman, that communities had any right telling me where I could and could not fish.

The Chairman: That is right.

Mr. Mirau: I thought I had a proprietary interest in fishing, and I knew what was best for the fish. I fished for a living. I did not remove jobs from the communities. In fact, in a period of 15 years as the captain of a boat, I did not have any more than 10 people cross the deck of my boat. There were not many people, but at least half were First Nations people. They contributed to those communities.

I have since, I hope, become more enlightened. I believe that unless communities get involved and have an opportunity to talk about removal of the resources from their communities and what that means to them — whether it is fish, lumber or something else — our rural communities on both coasts are certainly at risk.

The Chairman: You have gone on the road to Damascus, and you are finding a Canso at the end of the road. That is an original, by the way.

Senator Hubley: We can use it!

The Chairman: I do appreciate your time, Mr. Mirau. It has been a most informative meeting. You have been extremely helpful to us this evening. We appreciate your candour and forthrightness and the time that you have devoted to give us your knowledge of the West Coast issues from your many years both as a representative of the union and a fishermen. We have had the inside from both areas.

You have provided us with useful recommendation, which will be reviewed in the testimony of this evening. At the beginning of your presentation, you made a number of recommendations that the committee will want to review carefully.

Thank you again. Give our best to your colleagues in British Columbia. We look forward to being helpful.

The committee adjourned.

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