Skip to content

Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on 
Fisheries and Oceans

Issue 6 - Evidence, May 19, 2005

OTTAWA, Thursday, May 19, 2005

The Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans met this day at 10:53 a.m. to examine and report on issues 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: Welcome everyone. In 2004, this committee was given an order of reference to examine and report on issues relating to the federal government's new and evolving policy framework for managing Canada's fisheries and oceans. We are continuing to hear witnesses this morning in order to fulfill this mandate.

Our witnesses this morning are from the British Columbia Aboriginal Fisheries Commission, which was formed in 1984 to protect and enhance the Aboriginal fishing rights of the First Nations of British Columbia. The commission affords a united voice on Aboriginal fisheries issues and provides a province-wide forum for First Nations to work together in dealing with issues of common concern.

We are pleased to have before us Mr. Arnie Narcisse, the commission's Chair and Speaker, and Mr. Edwin Newman, Coastal Co-Chair.

Welcome gentlemen. We look forward to your presentation.

Mr. Arnie Narcisse, Chairman and Speaker, British Columbia Aboriginal Fisheries Commission: We would like to thank the committee for the opportunity to present our perspectives from the Pacific region on First Nations issues and concerns.

The foremost activity of the commission is facilitation and coordination of policy issues on behalf of our membership. We have recently been dealing with the Wild Salmon Policy, quota development and other such issues in the Pacific region.

We have condensed our issues into14 points. I will review those and then Mr. Newman will elaborate on them. We will then be happy to entertain your questions with regard to what is happening in the Pacific region.

Our first point is the response to the First Nations Panel Report, which was submitted to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and to First Nations in May 2004. To date, there has been no substantive response from Canada, and First Nations have not been able to use the report to advance their interests. If you do not have that report, we will forward it to you. The minister and has staff have it, and we are awaiting action on it.

The second issue is the response to the Pearce-McRae Report, which was submitted to Canada and British Columbia last April. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans recently announced that some of the changes recommended in the report will be implemented, particularly the issue of transferable quotas, an issue of specific concern to us. Pilot projects and experiments will be conducted in 2005 with more implementation in 2006.

The third issue is the privatization of the salmon fishery through quotas and the impact of that on economic opportunities, through treaties or otherwise. This privatization of the salmon fishery will displace First Nations participants in the commercial salmon fishery, as quotas have done in the halibut and herring fisheries, and increase the cost of transferring allocations to First Nations. There is already speculation in British Columbia about the cost of this transfer of treaties from non-natives to natives.

The fourth issue is the Wild Salmon Policy, which the minister announced will be in place by the end of this month. If implemented, it will fundamentally change the way salmon are managed. These changes could have positive or negative benefits for First Nations, depending upon, among other things, whether they are from the coast or the interior.

The fifth issue is the Species at Risk Act, which may have significant impacts on First Nations. Initial indications are that it will not be implemented for Pacific salmon. We are specifically concerned about the non-listing of Cultus Lake salmon and Okanagan chinook, which have been recommended for listing by COSEWIC.

We understand that the minister is hesitant to agree with that, particularly if it interferes with commercial fisheries. The Cultus Lake stocks were not listed on the premise that it would impact the commercial fisheries to the extent of $125 million over the next number of years. The reality is that they have not been clearing more than $7 million a year on that fishery, so we wonder about that calculation. This is a concern for First Nations in whose territories some of the endangered stocks spawn. I believe that the next stock to be targeted will be the Early Stuart Complex.

Our sixth point is environmental degradations. Habitat protection remains a significant concern for First Nations with regard to fisheries resources. In British Columbia, all the environmental protection agencies have been gutted, and we are very concerned about that.

Our next point is with regard to the Bryan Williams report, which was an inquiry into missing sockeye salmon on the Fraser River in 2004. It implicates First Nations in illegal fishing or poaching. Mr. Newman will tell you about a conversation he had with regard to that on the plane last night.

Next is the parliamentary committee report that again points fingers at First Nations, particularly at the Stalo Nation and other of my good friends in the Lower Fraser River.

Our ninth point deals with consultation, as per Haida/Taku. I am sure that you are all aware of that Supreme Court decision. Consultation on fisheries management plans as well as other initiatives at DFO seemed to be less and shallower than before the Supreme Court decisions. We are extremely frustrated that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in the Pacific region is still operating as if the Supreme Court decision calling for special accommodation and terms of consultation had not happened. You need to tell the department to pay attention to that ruling.

Our tenth point is on the environmental impacts of salmon aquaculture. This remains a significant concern for coastal and interior First Nations alike. The observed and potential environmental impacts outweigh the economic benefits to most First Nations communities. This may be news to some of you.

Our next concern is with regard to herring management and conservation and respect for the Gladstone decision. There are concerns that the herring roe fishery is threatening the sustainability of herring stocks on the coast. The Aboriginal right to the commercial herring spawn on kelp fishery, recognized in the Gladstone decision, has not been implemented adequately, and the continued roe herring fishery interferes with the stocks needed for the spawn on kelp fishery. Mr. Newman will elaborate on this.

A matter of specific concern and consternation is the sale of the recreational sector's halibut quota for cash. The recreational fishery was allocated approximately twice as large a share of halibut quota for their fishery as an independent mediator recommended. Catch accounting indicated that the recreational fishery was not going to take its full allocation so the remaining quota was transferred to the commercial sector in exchange for the net proceeds from the sale. These funds are to be used to support sport fishery organizations. We believe that this is tantamount to authorizing the sale of recreational fish. We have not been afforded that opportunity, yet it has been given to the recreational fishery.

Next, both the provincial and federal governments are planning to establish many marine protected or marine conservation areas in our territories. First Nations are concerned that there be adequate consultation and accommodation. They are also concerned that these protected areas may interfere with traditional hunting and fishing activities.

Finally, on offshore oil and gas, the spectre of large-scale offshore oil and gas exploration and development has many First Nations concerned about the environmental and social impacts.

Needless to say, that list of issues and concerns is not exhaustive. We could spend two days with you, if we were given the time and opportunity.

Mr. Edwin Newman, Coastal Co-Chair, British Columbia Aboriginal Fisheries Commission: Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. We bring you the same message we brought the last time we were here. I read with great interest the material you sent to us outlining the things you do. I hope you will do the same for us.

I sent you a summary of the DFO 2004 action plan. We have some serious concerns about the quota system. I will read to you the letter that was sent with that to Steven Joudry, Regional Director of Indian Affairs in British Columbia.

It states:

Re: “Department of Fisheries and Oceans Renewal Plan”

On April 14th, 2005 the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Geoff Regan, announced an Action Plan to Reform the Pacific Fisheries, particularly the salmon fisheries. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) Plan is designed to implement the Pearse-McRae recommendations to create a quota system for the commercial salmon fishery.

This DFO management plan is like all the other plans put in place by DFO, Limited Entry, Quota Systems, Area Licensing, Licensing Buy Back Programs, are all designed to push out the weakest people in the fishing industry and the Aboriginal commercial fishermen have been the victims. This plan is designed to exterminate the Native commercial fishermen and to kill the Treaty Process.

Minister Regan states in his announcement that the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, Andy Scott, endorses the DFO action plan for the Fisheries. Minister Scott is quoted as saying “That the Plan will help to create economic opportunities for the First Nations in B.C.”

We do not agree with Minister Scott's statements. The Department of Indian Affairs (DIA) have never done a study to find out how these DFO management plans have impacted the Aboriginal coastal communities and the Treaty Process. DIA stood by and did nothing while DFO management plans took away our economic opportunities in the commercial fishery.

  • These DFO management plans are responsible for the serious social problems that now exist in all the Aboriginal coastal communities.

  • We have the highest unemployment rate in B.C. — between 80-9 per cent.

  • We have the highest suicide rate in B.C. — this is supported by studies done at the University of B.C.

  • Our young people face an uncertain future.

  • We have very serious housing problems on our Reserves.

  • There is no certainty for our coastal people because of the loss of economic opportunities in the commercial fishery.

Mr. Joudry, these are very serious issues that you and your Department need to start dealing with. You cannot continue to ignore these issues and pretend that they don't exist.

Enclosed is a copy of our summary of the DFO 2005 Action Plan and documents obtained through the Access to Secrets Act that show that since 1994 DFO and Aboriginal Affairs were aware of the impacts that quota systems in the fisheries would have on the Aboriginal coastal communities and the Treaty Process.

The Native Fishing Association would like the opportunity to meet with you to see if we can create ways to work with your Department to deal with these issues.

Both levels of government have ignored these problems since the Davis plan on limited entry was introduced 20 years ago.

The situation in the coastal communities is getting worse, and everyone wants to ignore it. We have written to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs. The Minister of Fisheries says that he is not responsible for Indian people and tells us to talk to the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs. That kind of buck-passing has been going on for the last 20 years. Something has to be done.

I was interested in your 1998 study on what privatization and quota licensing in Canada's fisheries would do, as well as the study you did on Iceland and New Zealand. That was very interesting.

You made ten recommendations to the government in your report. You recommended a full assessment of coastal community, Aboriginal and other needs related to the socio-economic effects of privatization, and more equitable distribution of the fishery resource to allow better opportunities for small-scale fishers. Those were two important recommendations that you made to the Government of Canada to look at the impacts that these management plans have had on Aboriginal communities and would have on the treaty process.

The documents we received through the Access to Secrets Act show that, since 1994, the Departments of Fisheries and Oceans and Indian and Northern Affairs were aware of the impacts the quota system would have on Aboriginal communities and on the treaty process. Yet, they decided to proceed regardless of the negative effects.

There are many issues that we did not bring up today that we are concerned about with regard to the impact of management plans put in place without full consultation with Aboriginal people.

These are the issues we bring to you. We have no other place to go. No one wants to listen to the concerns of Indian people. Every time we meet with you, we bring the same story because no one wants to pay attention. The Departments of Indian and Northern Affairs and Fisheries and Oceans have never come to the communities to look at the impacts of their management plans. Everyone wants to pretend this does not exist.

The Chairman: Thank you very much. It is always a pleasure to hear from you.

You mentioned our 1998 report entitled Privatization and Quota Licensing in Canada's Fisheries. We are proud of that report. We hope that it influenced government policy in the following years, although perhaps it did not to the extent we would have liked. Our current study is a follow-up to that 1998 report to measure the impact of ITQs and IQs on coastal communities and Aboriginal groups.

This afternoon we will table in the Senate an interim report on the work we have been doing on this issue since October of 2004. Although is will not be the final report, it will put on the record some of our ideas and thoughts, in which you might be interested. It will also contain a summary of the testimony we heard to date and recommendations this committee will offer.

The eighth point that Mr. Narcisse raised was that a parliamentary standing committee report points fingers at the First Nations, particularly in the lower Fraser Valley. I want it to be clear on the record that that was a report of the committee of the House of Commons and not the Senate.

Your third point was about the privatization of salmon through quotas and the impact on economic opportunities through treaties and otherwise. Mr. Newman raised the issue in the letter he sent to Mr. Joudry about the impact of privatization on the displacement of First Nations from the fishery.

My understanding is that even the prospect of a fishery going to individual transferable quotas almost automatically increases the price of licences, which causes problems for those who do not have access to plenty of cash. It causes them to be displaced or to be unable to access the fishery. I assume that is what you are referring to here.

Has anyone, be it yourselves, the department or anyone else, done an assessment of how many people this displaces who would otherwise have access to the fishery?

Mr. Narcisse: Mr. Newman has a long history in commercial fisheries, so I will leave that to him.

Mr. Newman: The Native Fishing Association did a study on the impacts of the buy-backs of salmon licences from Aboriginal people. We reviewed the history of what happened to our people with the management plans that were put in place.

The first program that was put in place was to limit the number of licences, and Indian people were negatively impacted at that time. Then the quota systems came in. This again had a negative impact on Aboriginal people. Next was area licensing, and Aboriginal people tried to stack so they could fish the coast, and that created problems. The price of fish dropped, they had to sell out, and many of them went broke.

Now a quota system on salmon is coming in, and that is a concern for our people. That study showed that there are very few of us left in the fishery. It also showed that a higher percentage of Aboriginal licences are bought out than non-Indian licences. It was not supposed to be that way.

This showed a very clear picture of what has happened to Aboriginal communities because of those management programs. We presented that study to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, to the Department of Indian Affairs and to the House of Commons Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. No one paid attention.

The Native Fishing Association has a contract to review all sales of licences under the Aboriginal Transfer Program. We noted that as soon as there was talk of quotas the value of salmon licences went up because the speculators want to make money at the expense of the government and the Indian people.

The Chairman: When a fishery goes to ITQs, the quota shares of the TAC are usually based on the history of the catch. When they are going to be granted a percentage of the TAC, the commercial fishermen would want to increase those numbers, would not they? The prospect of the DFO introducing an ITQ for salmon is probably placing pressure on commercial fishermen to increase their numbers because, when the percentages are allocated, those with the biggest historical catches will get the biggest percentage.

Is that not putting pressure on the fishery and endangering conservation of the stocks?

Mr. Newman: Your study showed that the quota system does not improve conservation at all. As a matter of fact, it has a negative impact on conservation. Quota systems put the fishery in the hands of investors and big corporations, as your study also showed. We see that in B.C. already, where the companies control a big part of the fishery.

The geoduck fishery is lucrative on the coast. It is a $60-million-a-year industry and is controlled by about 35 people. Licences are worth $5 million each and you never see a geoduck licence for sale on the market. If you want to go into aquaculture to raise geoduck, they will try to control it. They do not want anyone else to have it.

Mr. Narcisse: Many people are proclaiming the benefits of quotas on halibut, geoduck and other more lucrative fisheries. Halibut and geoduck are fairly sedentary compared to salmon, which are highly migratory. It is an entirely different game.

From our perspective as First Nations people, this situation is creating a right for non-Native people, before we even go to the treaty table to deal with our issues. I am glad that you raised the issue of ITQs being based on historical catch. No one is reflecting on our history in the fisheries in these discussions. That is completely ignored.

Speculation is rampant in the Pacific region as a result of this quota discussion. Before coming here this morning, I cautioned Minister Murray not to rush into this, to ensure that he does right by the Indians before dealing with the rest of society.

I will again remind you of the priorities: Conservation, then Indians, then commercial, and then the sports fishery. In the Pacific region, the priorities are the sports fishery, commercial, conservation, and then Indians. That needs to be changed.

Senator Hubley: A warm welcome to both of you. Thank you for bringing your story to our committee. As you probably know, we are looking at the effect that fisheries policy has on coastal communities.

I would like to flesh that out a bit. Sometimes when policy is made, unless there is proper consultation with all the stakeholders, they can do irreparable damage, and we are seeing that in our coastal communities on both coasts.

You said that you are experiencing social problems. You mentioned unemployment, suicides and housing problems. Are you losing members of your communities? Was there another part of the fishery, such as processing, that was beneficial to your communities that has declined or ceased to exist? Sometimes fishing will spawn other industries.

Could you talk to us about that in order to give us a picture of what is happening to the people?

Mr. Narcisse: It must be recognized that fisheries policies affect not only coastal communities but also interior communities. I fish in Lillooet, 300 miles upstream from Vancouver. I dry salmon there. There are many people upstream of me still waiting for salmon, so the interior perspective must be considered.

You referred to stakeholders. We operate on a three-tier process in the Pacific region, tier one being First Nation-to- First Nation, tier two being First Nation-to-government, be it federal or provincial, and tier three being the other interest groups. We prefer to characterize ourselves as a level of government on the tier one basis. When we interact with the federal government, it is on the tier two basis. We take great offence at being termed “stakeholders” because we view the rest of society as the stakeholders. We are the rights holders based on the fact that we have been here longer than everyone else.

Our concern is that that is not being recognized and represented in various fora and processes, such as the integrated fisheries management planning and the integrated harvest planning processes and committees, and that we have to go through bodies such as the Commercial Salmon Advisory Board for fair access to economic opportunity in the fishery. These are issues and concerns that still exist. That is why I referred to the status quo in the Pacific region. That mentality is still operating there and we are attempting to change it in reflection of Haida/Taku.

Mr. Newman: There is a big ocean out there full of wealth, and the Aboriginal people no longer have access to that wealth. At one time we did, and we were a very wealthy people. We did not depend on the government for handouts. Someone took away the economic opportunities that our people had and created the problems we have today.

Our young people have no place to go, so they stay on our reserves. Currently about 60 per cent of the population of our reserves is 20 years old or younger. They have no jobs to go to. When I was 14 years old, I was already on a sailing boat. Our young people do not have that opportunity because the fishery in British Columbia is controlled by a very few people. The economic opportunities have been taken away from us.

Senator Hubley: Do you think the Aboriginal people should have first priority in the fishery, or do you think there should be an allocation that would support your community? Would an allocation infringe on what you believe to be your right to the fishery?

Mr. Newman: The needs of the people who live in those areas should be taken care of first. The opportunities to harvest the resource in those areas should not be given to someone who is just an investor, someone who sits at home in his easy chair, leases out his licences and becomes rich. The people of the stable communities in those areas should be given the first opportunity to harvest the resources.

Senator Hubley: Would a community quota fulfil your needs?

Mr. Narcisse: The first point in our brief talks about the First Nations Panel Report. This was an extensive effort we undertook after meeting with the minister. The Pearse McRae report was based on Canada and British Columbia coming together to examine the post-treaty situation. The Indians believed that it should be a tri-partite process that included First Nations as well as B.C. and Canada. We wanted the opportunity to have a say.

Some of our representatives met with Minister Regan and convinced him to listen to our story. We tasked three learned gentlemen to undertake this exercise. They came forward with a suite of recommendations, the first and foremost of which was to ensure a fair share of access to food to allow us to feed ourselves. The up-river tribes have not been able to feed themselves in the face of modern fisheries management.

This reminds me of something Simon Lucas said about the early days when Indian agents came to our communities. When an agent came to Simon's community on the west coast of Vancouver Island, he looked at a shelf and said, “You poor Indians. All you have to eat is fish. I am here to give you something better.” He brought the Indians their first baloney and macaroni, and we now see the impacts of that on our health. Compare that to the benefits Omega 3. People are selling Omega 3 and becoming millionaires.

We recognize the relationship between adequate access to fisheries resources and our health. We have seen the health of the coastal communities, in particular, decline. My good friend, Simon Lucas, has diabetes, as do many of his contemporaries. That is a situation that needs to be addressed.

The Chairman: Chief Lucas appeared before us on March 10 and gave us a tremendous presentation.

Senator Watt: Welcome. You mentioned in your presentation that you are waiting for a response to a report. I imagine that a large number of the issues in that report are included in this presentation.

Mr. Narcisse: Yes. We called for 50 per cent of fisheries resources to be transferred to us so that we could get a foot hold in the economy and feed ourselves.

The modern fishery in the Pacific region is worth $2 billion a year. We are asking for half of that. We believe that if we can access that amount many of our problems would be resolved. You referred to processing facilities that used to be there. They could be there again. That was the first recommendation of that panel report. We will have the AFN office forward copies of that to you immediately.

Mr. Newman: The summary we have states that the minister's action plan totally disregarded the First Nations Panel Report and strictly pushes the Pearse-McRae recommendations.

Senator Watt: Do the problems with regard to lack of access apply not only to commercial fishery but also to subsistence fishing?

Mr. Narcisse: Theoretically, we have a 400,000-piece exemption right now. I am a Canadian commissioner with the Pacific Salmon Commission, so I am familiar with these details. That situation has not changed for the last 20 years.

Senator Watt: That is despite attempts you have made to negotiate with DFO?

Mr. Narcisse: We have attempted to increase allocation through every forum you can name, and it has all fallen on deaf ears.

Senator Watt: You believe that you are not only entitled to 50 per cent of the allowable catch but that it belongs to you?

Mr. Narcisse: Yes.

Senator Watt: I understand that perfectly. Does that take into account subsistence fishing as well as the commercial fishery?

Mr. Narcisse: Yes, it includes both.

Senator Watt: If 50 per cent of that were allocated to you, would you establish your own management?

Mr. Narcisse: Yes.

Senator Watt: Would you move toward establishing a harvest level?

Mr. Narcisse: Yes.

Senator Watt: Each community would control, for purposes of conservation, what is taken for subsistence purposes and commercial purposes?

Mr. Narcisse: Yes. The capacity currently exists to do that. The problem lies with the integrated fisheries management planning process that we are told we are to participate in. The problem is that we are highly outnumbered at every stage of that process, including the Integrated Harvest Planning Committee and the Commercial Salmon Advisory Board, which has the final say on access and allocation.

We have been calling for the development of a parallel process. For a number of years, we worked on an initiative called the intertribal fisheries framework, which would include all of the 202 First Nations in British Columbia. The primary requirement would be to co-manage highly migratory stocks.

In 1996, we did this. In 1996, the Early Stuart Complex salmon were highly endangered. We created a reverse clockwork mechanism. We gave the lion's share of that fishery to the Carrier Sekani people, in whose territory those fish spawn. We gave them 1,000 fish. We afforded the Chilcotin nation 1,000 pieces. The next nation down was afforded 500 and the Stalo were afforded 250. The nations on the coast were given none, as they have access to a number of other stocks of salmon.

These are our concerns with regard to this, as well as the fact that we are clearly outnumbered. Representation at those bodies is a primary concern to us. That is why we are calling for the development of a parallel process under the auspices of an intertribal fisheries framework.

Mr. Newman: Halibut is a prime example of what happens when allocation is increased for one sector. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans increased the allocation for the recreational fishery by 20 per cent. That had a serious impact on the halibut food fishery for the coastal bands. Their quota was not increased, although our population is increasing. In the past year, we have had a difficult time getting our share of halibut for the food fishery. Yet, the recreational fishermen could not catch their full allocation, so they sold it to commercial fishermen. The coastal people believe that is wrong. We were never consulted on that.

Mr. Narcisse: That is contrary to section 35(1) of the Constitution. That is why I talked about the reverse priority in the Pacific region.

Senator Watt: In responding to Senator Hubley, you said that you do not want to be classified as stakeholders. As a rights holder, you are saying that if the new policy of Fisheries and Oceans on IQ is implemented, you will no longer have a role to play and that would have a tremendous impact on your communities because you have no other way to earn an income and feed your families. The Aboriginal people on the coast will be so disadvantaged that they might never fully recover, because there is no alternative way to earn a living.

Mr. Narcisse: That is correct, senator. Even sadder is the cultural disconnect that can happen. I am Stlatlimx- Blackfeet by heritage, and when I give talks I often give a brief overview of that. My father's people are from the State of Montana, and I often reflect on the strength of the Blackfeet when the buffalo populations were strong. As those went down, so went the strength of our people. I would hate to see that happen in the Pacific region.

I also reflect upon the dry salmon fishery in which I participate. My grandfather taught me how to dry fish, and I am now teaching that to my grandson, who is six years old. Last week, someone asked me why I fight so hard to keep this fishery alive. It is because it is a living cultural right. In order for it to continue to be so, we need healthy salmon. I do not want my grandson to ever look at a picture in a book and say, “My grandpa and I used to do that.” I want him to say, “This is what my grandpa taught me how to do, and this is what I will teach my grandson to do.” It needs to be a continuous living right. I think that the potential for cultural disconnect is much more serious than the economics. I do not wish not to downplay the economic aspect, but I do want to emphasize that point.

Mr. Newman: An incident took place in B.C. that is getting much press attention. A Vietnamese fisherman blew his car up in front of city hall in Vancouver. He is on a hunger strike to protest the native-only fishery. Member of Parliament John Cummins was there and is going to bring this issue to the attention of the Government of Canada. No one has ever done that for Indian people. No one has ever come to my community to see how DFO management has impacted it. John Cummins has never come to see what we are going through. Yet, when one Vietnamese person highlights a problem, he gets attention.

Senator Watt: It would be useful for this committee to have information on how your organization is structured. Is it a not-for-profit corporation? Is it a legal entity that is used collectively by the people?

Mr. Narcisse: The B.C. Aboriginal Fisheries Commission has been in existence since 1984, as the chairman indicated. We predate the Aboriginal Strategies Fishery. The requirement for it was recognized in discussions among senior leadership in Indian country. They wanted a body that could facilitate and coordinate on their behalf when dealing with policy issues.

We do our best to represent the issues and concerns of the 202 First Nations in the Pacific region on all issues, including respect for our rights, a fair share of access to the resource and an opportunity to co-manage. Those are our aspirations in the Pacific region, and we have laid them out time and again in the panel report and in responses to various committees and other organizations.

Mr. Newman: The structure of our commercial fisheries organization on the B.C. coast includes the Native Brotherhood of B.C., the Aboriginal Fishing Vessel Owners Association, the Northern Native Fishing Corporation and the Native Fishing Association. Under an MOU we have decided to come together and deal with our issues collectively.

Senator Watt: That is your non-profit organization. I presume that you have an arm's length relationship with the individual fishing companies. Is that structured in the same way as the organization in the south?

Mr. Newman: The four organizations deal with the commercial fishermen.

Senator Watt: Does your organization deal with the individual, for-profit fishermen?

Mr. Newman: Yes.

Mr. Narcisse: My clientele are the rights holders. We represent different bodies.

Senator Watt: I am trying to clarify the distinction between the two.

Mr. Narcisse: The British Columbia Aboriginal Fisheries Commission represents the rights holders, being the First Nations communities. Mr. Newman`s organization represents the commercial entities.

Mr. Newman: We have a right to fish commercially.

Senator Watt: How is the subsistence fishery dealt with?

Mr. Narcisse: That is the 400,000-piece exemption I referenced earlier, and that is theoretically to be shared among all of us.

Senator Watt: We need to have a clear understanding of this.

Mr. Narcisse: The first point is that we need to increase that allocation to ensure a fair share for food purposes. The economic opportunities are reflected in the First Nations Panel Report on fisheries which calls for the transfer of 50 per cent of all fisheries.

Senator Watt: If DFO goes ahead with privatizations, the little people will get nothing. Those few people who own the ships will make money while the people at the community level starve. If this is implemented, where do you see your communities in a few years?

Mr. Newman: As we said in our letter to Mr. Joudry, there is no certainty for the coastal Aboriginal people. Even through the treaty process, there is no certainty, because we are losing ground faster in commercial fisheries than we are advancing. Community licenses that will be issued will not take care of the needs of the communities in the future.

Senator Adams: I would like to apologize for the three times that our committee's visit to the tribal communities in B.C. has been cancelled. Sometimes urgent business arises in the Senate and we are told by our whips and leaders that we cannot leave. We have planned to travel to visit you, and then suddenly we could not make it. We know that it looks bad from your perspective, but it is not our fault. Sometimes we have to listen to our leaders in the Senate.

I have been on this committee for quite a few years, and I was on it when the salmon fishery collapsed in B.C. David Anderson was the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans at that time. You mentioned earlier that some of your people at that time were stuck with gill nets and all sorts of equipment when that fishery collapsed. How many people in your community were affected by that?

You mentioned that the department was supposed to have bought some of the gill nets to help people pay back some of the money they owed to the banks. Some people owned $300,000 or $500,000 worth of equipment when the salmon fishery collapsed. We heard about some of the effects this had on the people in the communities, including suicides.

Can you tell us what the department did when the salmon fishery collapsed in B.C.?

Mr. Newman: It would be nice if the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans did a study of the impact on Aboriginal communities of all the management plans that have been developed and implemented by DFO. No one has ever done that. It would be good to go and see for yourselves how serious the impact has been. When Mr. Dhaliwal was the minister, he came to Alert Bay, but he did not comment on what he saw.

Senator Adams: We heard from representatives of the salmon fishermen's unions in B.C. I believe that some foreigners were able to get licences for farming salmon. The people from the unions said that decisions were made in DFO that resulted in the buying out of some of the companies. We heard that DFO makes decisions on quotas and that type of thing that affect many of the companies.

I have been investigating the Nunavut fishery for three years, and I am finding out that some companies have a lot of money for quotas. They talk about $60 million a year worth of fish in the salmon fishery in B.C. It is very much the same in Nunavut now in the turbot fishery. Foreigners are coming in and setting up companies. Quotas that are supposed to be in Nunavut are instead going to Europe.

Do you see that happening in your area in salmon or halibut or any other fishery?

Mr. Newman: The big fishing companies like Canadian Fishing Company, which is owned by Jimmy Pattison, are pushing hard for a quota system. They want to cut down the number of boats they have to send out to get the fish. They say, “Why send out 140 boats when 40 boats can do the job?” That will create problems for Aboriginal people as the majority of the boats owned by the company are run by Indian people. Those people will lose their jobs if the quota system comes in.

Senator Adams brought up the subject of the fish farming industry in B.C. That has impacted the commercial fishery, too. There is a lot of money in that and much of that fishery is owned by foreign companies. Those companies contributed a lot of money to the election this week in British Columbia, because Gordon Campbell was pushing the expansion of fish farms very hard.

The political picture in British Columbia changed drastically the day before yesterday. The NDP won the majority of the seats on the coast, and the MLAs who were pushing for the fish farm industry are gone. I do not know how that will affect Gordon Campbell's plans to expand the fish farming industry.

I went out myself to look at the effects of sea lice on salmon, because until then all I had seen was pictures. What I saw just about made me cry. I saw a chum fry covered with lice from head to tail, hardly moving. Yet, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans continues to say there are no problems.

I clipped an article out of The Vancouver Sun the day before the election in British Columbia that said Geoff Regan, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, did not want to release the study on sea lice because he felt it would affect the election in British Columbia. He was going to release that information after the election was over. Those kinds of things are worrisome.

The ministers are supposedly pushing a wild salmon policy. How can the Department of Fisheries and Oceans say they want to protect the wild salmon when they are promoting fish farms?

Senator Adams: In your presentation you spoke about sports fishermen. Are there any rich people coming into your community to fish salmon, thereby bringing money to the community? Have people from the city set up fish camps? They are doing that in Nunavut.

A couple of years ago, I travelled north of Yellowknife with some people from Ivanhoe Mines out of Toronto. We visited a caribou hunting camp. The company is allowed to hunt 200 caribou a year from the herd in Nunavut in the area near Copper Mine. They bring in non-native sport hunters from the outside, including from the United States, who pay $10,000 for one caribou. If you multiply that by 200, that is a quite a lot of money that is not coming to Inuk people from Nunavut.

Sometimes it is difficult to understand how the government works. We are supposed to be creating employment for native people, yet non-natives are allowed to have that type of business.

Do you have similar experiences in your community with fishing camps? How does the Department of Fisheries deal with that?

Mr. Narcisse: In the Pacific region, we do not get along. We made concerted efforts in 1998 to reach out to the Sport Fish Advisory Board to look at the potential for those opportunities that you talk about in terms of sport fish guiding, although the whole concept of sport fishing runs contrary to all that is holy to Indian people, especially when sockeye are migrating and do not even eat on the way. That causes us great concern.

Part of the solution may lie in our recommendation that 50 per cent of fisheries resource be transferred to us. We may allocate a portion of that 50 per cent for sport fish opportunities. However, that discussion has not yet taken place, because we need to get access to 50 per cent first.

There is potential for sport fishing. A number of tribal groups have expressed an interest in it. Unfortunately, a man named Bob Wright presently controls the sport fishery in the coastal community. There are a number of other guiding outfitters, on the Fraser River in particular, that do not get along with our fisherman. You have heard of the confrontations that have occurred in Stalo territory around Chilliwack. This is caused by competition over a diminishing resource and non-recognition of our priority above those people.

Senator Adams: Are any of the members of Parliament who represent your area in Ottawa First Nations people? Are they Conservative or NDP? I believe that the Liberals come mainly from the Vancouver area.

Mr. Narcisse: Stockwell Day is my MP.

Mr. Newman: We have a reformer too.

In response to your earlier question, I come from the central coast of British Columbia, which is the last frontier on the B.C. coast. Yet, this has become a favourite area for the sports fishermen. A large part of our area was closed to accommodate the recreational fishermen. Milbanke Sound was closed to commercial fishermen. That took away 75 per cent of the earning power of some of our people. It totally wiped out our troll fleet before the buy-back came in.

We have a little airstrip there to service our people, which we paid for ourselves. The government took it over, and three years ago they spent $3 million to expand the parking area at that airstrip. That was not to accommodate the needs of the local people but to accommodate the huge numbers of recreational fishermen who come in every year. That little airport is plugged every day in the summer time.

We have fishing camps in Milbanke Sound to accommodate the recreational fishermen. They do not bring any wealth to our communities; they go right by us. Yet, they affect the economic opportunities of our people and our food fisheries. They have a huge impact on us, and that is uncontrolled.

The Chairman: Mr. Newman, you mentioned salmon aquaculture. We did a report in 2001 that you might want to access. In that report we touched on salmon aquaculture and fish farms. That report is on our website. It was an excellent report.

Senator Mahovlich: Gentlemen, thank you for coming.

I know that the fish runs are improving in the Fraser River.

You referred in your presentation to the Williams report of 2004 which implicated First Nations in illegal fishing and poaching. Yet, First Nations have a constitutional right to fish. Is that a major problem for you, or has that been solved?

Mr. Narcisse: The issue of missing fish is not new to us. The matter first arose in 1994, when John Fraser was tasked with examining the situation.

Senator Mahovlich: Was John Fraser with the provincial fisheries department?

Mr. Narcisse: He was the previous chair of the Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council and is now the chair of the Pacific Salmon Forum. He has been bought off by the Province of British Columbia to run their forum.

Unfortunately, B.C. and Canada could not come together under the B.C.-Canada MOU to fully implement the Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council. The goal was to bring Canada and B.C. together to look at the situation cooperatively. I am ex officio to PFRCC, and John Fraser has jumped ship and gone to work for the province with the Pacific Salmon Forum.

Mr. Newman: I tell people stories about the first time I saw Senator Mahovlich on this committee. I thought, “What does a hockey player know about fishing?”

The Williams report did a lot of damage, not only to the Fraser River people but to all Aboriginal people in British Columbia. My seatmate on the plane last night asked me the purpose of my trip. I told her I was involved in politics and was coming to make a presentation to the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. She said that Indians sell fish illegally. All she knows about Native people is that we sell fish illegally. That is the result of the Williams inquiry. It caused a lot of damage to our people. It does not talk about who else fishes illegally in British Columbia or what percentage of non-Indian people are involved in illegal fishing in British Columbia.

There was a raid in Musqueam a few years ago that was quite controversial. It showed that 85 per cent of the illegal fishing on the Fraser River is done by non-Indian people; that only 15 per cent of the people who fished illegally on the river are Aboriginal, but no one talks about that. On the B.C. coast, 100 per cent of the poaching of abalone is done by non-Indian people. One hundred per cent of the poaching of geoduck and halibut is done by non-Indian people. No one raises that issue, and yet it is common knowledge. The Williams inquiry did a lot of damage to Aboriginal peoples, and it should be dealt with.

Mr. Narcisse: First Nations representation to that committee was very limited. There were three individuals tasked to represent our interests; Chief Robert Hope from the YaleFirst Nation, Chief Tommy Alexis from Tl'azt'en, and Fabian Harry from the Klahoose First Nation. Chief Alexis did not attend any of the sessions. The other two individuals were told by the First Nations that they represent no one other than themselves. From our perspective, the Williams inquiry has no validity or credibility. This is why we talk about the requirement for a parallel process that will allow us to determine who our representatives to these bodies and processes will be. We must agree on who our representatives will be to take forward our issues and concerns.

The only reason our fishing is considered illegal is because the Fisheries Act was created in 1888 without our participation. There was no semblance of consultation even back then.

Back in the Pacific region I tell people that the great grandfathers of Phil Eidsvik and John Cummins probably recognized that they had a good thing going with a lucrative fishery. They had friends in Ottawa whom they could convince to pass legislation giving them the lion`s share of the fishery and making it illegal for Indians to sell fish. We are still living with that situation in the year 2005 and that is the only reason our fishing is considered illegal. If we were given 50 per cent of that resource, our fishing would no longer be illegal and all this nonsense about missing fish would be moot.

The Chairman: Mr. Newman, you spoke about New Zealand in your presentation. You are aware that in New Zealand there was not much of a commercial fishery prior to the introduction of ITQs and privatization, so New Zealanders were able to approach the question of the distribution of fish through privatization differently than we can here in Canada. In New Zealand, there was an attempt to find accommodation with the Maoris right away. We are living quite a different experience in Canada.

Have you followed the evolution of the New Zealand experience to learn whether there are any lessons for us to learn in Canada, given the different realities? We do know that there was not a heavy fishery in New Zealand at the time.

In New Zealand, some of the people working in the commercial fisheries and on the boats are cheap labour from poor Asian countries. Also, the Maori allocation seems to be turning into a commercial allocation? Do you know whether there are any lessons for us to learn from that?

Mr. Newman: I have read your study that states that those quotas are now being leased to offshore fishermen rather than being fished by the Maoris or local people. That could happen to us. We also discussed with the Maoris, with regard to the treaty process, how they acquired their quotas. They were offered a certain amount but were given the opportunity to buy more quota. According to your study, that system is not working.

The Chairman: That study was done in 1998. We will try to follow up on it to learn what is happening now. From the New Zealand newspapers that we read we have an indication that on the commercial side of the fishery the workers on the vessels are exploited people from poor countries. The excuse used is that, if they do not use that cheap labour, they will not be able to compete in the international marketplace. We are starting to get that same excuse here in Canada. We hear that if we do not amalgamate licences into fewer and fewer hands, we will not be able to compete with the Chinese.

Should we fall into the trap of handing the fishery over to an industrial fishery in order to be able to compete? Is that the reality you see, as a long-standing fisherman?

I know you have been fishing for a long time. Is that where we are heading?

Mr. Newman: It is already happening in the herring fishery with the Indian herring licences that were created for Aboriginal people. Non-Indian people have control of those licences, but they have to have an Indian on the boat, so they just pay the Indians a wage. That is already happening in the B.C. fishery.

Mr. Narcisse: With regard to the Maori experience, I understand that they were able to get their access through the buyout of Sealord. That sort of scenario is being posed as a possible solution to our problems here. However, I heard another side of that story, and that is about the indigenous Maori person who was charged because he did not have a licence for food fish. DFO is telling us that buying into the industrial solution and taking out a licence will ensure our access until we die. We are calling for recognition and respect for our rights. That is the point of divergence. We believe that we do not need a licence to access our food fish requirements.

Senator Adams: Do you represent all Aboriginal fishermen?

Mr. Narcisse: The role of BCAFC is do deal with anything that impacts our rights. Mr. Newman represents the economic interests of our people.

Senator Adams: With regard to the recommendations that our committee will make, I want to understand what percentage of the fishery you believe you should be given. Some people say they want 50 per cent but others may want more.

Mr. Narcisse: Fifty per cent is a starting point. The recommendations call for up to 100 per cent in some instances. The Haida razor clam fishery is a perfect example. We presently have 98 per cent of that fishery. We might be calling for 100 per cent control of that fishery in the future.

Mr. Newman: We claim 100 per cent, but we are prepared to concede 50 per cent.

Mr. Narcisse: We need to reflect on the Judge Boldt experience. Judge Boldt said that Indians are prepared to share 50 per cent with the rest of society. There is a vast difference between what is happening south of the border and what is happening north of the border.

Senator Elizabeth Hubley (Deputy Chairman) in the chair.

The Deputy Chairman: You have mentioned 50 per cent. What percentage of the fishery is available to you at the present time?

Mr. Narcisse: We presently have 4 per cent.

Mr. Newman: Through the treaty process we are offered from 3 to 5 per cent.

Mr. Narcisse: Under the current treaty process, they are saying that if the Indians are lucky, we might get 5 per cent at the end of the day, which falls short of the 50 per cent we are calling for as a starting point.

The Deputy Chairman: We appreciate your attendance here and the information you have shared with us. If there is any other area you would like to comment on, please take the opportunity to do so now.

Mr. Narcisse: We would like to extend to you an initiation to visit us.

Senator Adams, even if you came out on your own we would give you a tour. If you were able to come out and report back to your colleagues here, that would be useful.

Come out and see the situation for yourself so that you can validate the comments we have made here today.

Mr. Newman: I would like to echo what Mr. Narcisse has said. It is important that you see for yourselves the impacts the DFO management plans is having on Aboriginal communities. You have already made recommendations, but I do not think DFO listened to them. To whom do you make the recommendations? Are they made to the government as a whole or do you talk to the Minister of Fisheries?

The Deputy Chairman: When we produce a report, we send it to the minister and government officials. We also send it people who have been witnesses before us and to the general community of fishers. We try to disseminate that information as widely as possible.

Mr. Newman: I am 79 years old and have been involved in politics for over 40 years. I have seen many studies done on the fishery and Aboriginal involvement in it. I remember when Sol Sinclair was hired by the Department of Fisheries to do a study on Indian involvement in the fishery. When he came back a second time and asked me the same questions again, I asked him what happened to his first study. He said that it was probably sitting on a shelf in Ottawa gathering dust, that no one ever reads them.

What happens to the studies you do? When people like us make presentations, what happens to them?

The Deputy Chairman: It is a common practice that we request a reply to our report from the minister, and we then have an opportunity to follow up on that with the minister.

Mr. Newman: When I travel over 3,000 miles to bring the concerns of my people to you and I do not hear any response or read anything about how it is being dealt with, I begin to wonder what the purpose is of us appearing before this committee and making a presentation if the report will just sit on a shelf and gather dust.

Senator Adams: That is a good question. I have been on this committee for 20 years. Senators are appointed, as opposed to the elected members at the House of Commons, where they have a Fisheries Committee as well. Our reports and recommendations go to the Minister of Fisheries, and from there they are supposed to go to the cabinet for decisions. However, sometimes the cabinet does not see our recommendations, because the Senate is not elected. The elected members in the House of Commons or cabinet make the decisions on the recommendations.

The Senate report is useful for politicians who want to get re-elected in the next election. They may use our good recommendations, although they do not tell us. It is difficult for us as appointees to make recommendations to elected members in the cabinet and House of Commons.

Mr. Narcisse: I am glad you brought that point up, Senator Adams. The first job of a politician is to get elected, and the second job is to get re-elected. Unfortunately, we are a minority. This poor fishing community has a membership of 400,000 individuals. There are a large number of people in the commercial fishery as well. When they look at the number of voters they have to please, we unfortunately find ourselves at the bottom of that pile.

We try to emphasize our right as First Nations people in order to ensure respect for that right, to ensure access to a fair share of resources, and to ensure an opportunity to co-manage that resource in the near future.

Mr. Newman: The Heiltsuk people are the only Aboriginal tribe on the coast that went to court and established that they have an Aboriginal right to harvest herring roe commercially. We deal with that in our own way. We have an allocation and establish our own quota for our people. If we handled it ourselves, it could work for our people.

The Deputy Chairman: This meeting is being broadcast on CPAC, so you are speaking to many Canadians today. That sharing of information is critical to your message getting through. As our Chairman, Senator Comeau, said, our website is

Thank you, Mr. Newman and Mr. Narcisse, for coming here today and sharing your information with us.

The committee adjourned.

Back to top