Letter re: BC Angler/Conservation Groups Opposed to Ominous Bill C-38

Dear Prime Minister, Minister Oliver, Minister Ashfield and Mr. McCauly:

The extensive and far reaching proposed changes to both the Fisheries Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) weakens the original intent and very essence of both acts to protect Canada’s environment and its indigenous fish and aquatic species. As separate and distinct organizations we are aligned in our condemnation of your government’s action for taking such a disrespectful and alarming position that reverses the fundamental mandate that you, our Federal Government, is responsible for upholding. Further, by not including all Canadians in a dialogue over these proposed extreme changes to the two acts is an affront to Canadian democracy, the common good and unity of our nation.


Astonishingly, it appears that government will be consulting a choice few regarding the new wording of the two Acts. What of the 1000 scientists who have recently expressed alarm and dismay over the many programs that are going to be, or have been, cut and that are so crucial to Canada’s environment? Are those scientists to be consulted? Their concern appears to be over programs such as the special Ontario Lakes study which is a world-leader in the information and breadth of science on water quality. As well, the closing of the high Arctic Science lab by your government at the end of April--which provided critical CO2 data and other air quality monitoring information--is impossible to understand when climate change appears imminent and the greatest threat to human life and the survival of natural world.

Further, the dismantling of the Round Table of the Environment, a body intended to provide advice and sober second thought to the federal government based on wisdom and common sense from a cross section of people and disciplines, makes little sense. We are also dismayed that Federal opposition parties have not been able to reasonably represent the interests of all Canadians when having to digest and debate the impossible list of hidden bills and changes incorporated into the Omnibus 2012 Budget bill in such an unreasonable time frame. This is an affront to Canada’s democratic process.

The proposed changes to the CEAA and the Fisheries Act ignores the views of the majority of Canadians and clearly puts the economic interests front and center in decision-making. Unfortunately, the environment and wild things cannot be put into uncompromising situations and be able to come out on top or for that matter to be able to survive.
That very disturbing word mitigation--so often misused and abused--implies that in some magical way our country can have both resource extraction and wild, natural places and species, when it is widely known that such is impossible. Development, harvesting and extraction always impact the natural world. Only thoughtful and careful planning and public involvement can truly minimize that impact and, in a very few cases, may be able to mitigate the change and damage by artificial or technological means.

As a government you only have to look at the Lower Mainland and the Fraser Valley of British Columbia and see the effect of development and human activity upon the rivers, tributary streams and aquatic areas that drain into the Fraser River. The majority of the damage to this system took place before the Fisheries Act was amended in the 1970’s. Rivers were dammed, streams diverted and altered, wetlands were drained, spawning gravel removed for industry, agriculture and community expansion, pollution took place and water was diverted for domestic water supply. It is fair to say that 60 % or more of the original fishery and aquatic production for the region has disappeared, likely forever.

With a stroke of a pen the changes being proposed by your government will reverse the protection and management of fish and their habitat that was so difficult to attain, back to that bygone era when so much of the damage took place.
The Minister of Fisheries has often talked about conflict between fish in farm drainage ditchs and the conflict with agriculture production. This is a common issue in the Fraser Valley where fish have often been the losers. The Minister has not been clear or honest in his assessment and discussion with Canadians and he should be aware that most often the water flow in such situations are from a stream that has been diverted and or channelized because it interferes with a farm operation. Unfortunately those streams are often home for indigenous fish species and aquatic life.


The amendments to the CEAA will create unnecessary animosity and division between Canadians. What is required is a national discussion over how we manage Canada’s economy and its natural resources. Such a discussion will take time and good will by all levels of government and all Canadians. Contrary to your government’s view, it’s in the long-term best interest of our country to take this extra time to get it right.
The decisions regarding where and when pipelines should be built and energy projects and production decided upon should evolve from a national energy strategy and a policy established through a “Royal Commission on Energy” because the implications are so important. A half-baked, narrow focused energy policy emanating from the four western Provinces and the self interest of the natural resources industry will only further divide Canadians and national unity. Such an approach is unacceptable. Our Federal Government is responsible for mediating and setting a direction that is thoughtful and creates an atmosphere in which Canadians can work together for the common good.
Ramming legislation through should not be a mantra of government. Rather, the aim should be to make the wisest management and development decisions for both the short and long term best interests of our country and its natural and wild creatures.

Yours truly,

Brian Braidwood, President of Steelhead Society of BC

Greg Gordon, President(acting) of BC Federation of Fly Fishers



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