The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is the representative body for over 630 First Nations across Canada. As part of its mandate, the AFN actively engages First Nations communities and government partners to promote broad engagement on initiatives with the potential to affect First Nations rights and title. The AFN actively monitors policies, regulations and legislation that may impact, alter or effect First Nations constitutionally recognized rights to food, social, ceremonial and commercial fisheries. In this capacity, the AFN has an integral interest in engaging with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) on the proposed changes to the Fisheries Act within the Budget Implementation Act (2012).
On April 26, 2012, the AFN received a briefing from the DFO on the broad themes of the proposed changes in the Fisheries Act. Based on the briefing, and following the release of the contents of the Budget Implementation Act, the AFN submits the following questions to the DFO:
- What are the plans and timelines for consultation with First Nations on changes to the Fisheries Act?
- How will the DFO involve First Nations in consultations on any regulatory or policy frameworks that may emerge from the proposed changes?
- What resources will be made available to First Nations to participate in the consultation or engagement processes?
- What programs will be made available to facilitate the implementation of the amended Fisheries Act? Will any of these programs be specific to First Nations or Aboriginal peoples?
- Will changes to the Fisheries Act be retroactively applied to projects currently under environmental assessment or currently undergoing DFO authorization processes?
- Will there be a transitional phase following the establishment of new legislation, regulations or policies?
- What new regulations are planned by the DFO under the framework of the proposed Fisheries Act amendments?
- How does the DFO intend to define “third-party stakeholders” in section 4.1 (1) of the proposed amended Fisheries Act?
- How does the DFO intend to define “Aboriginal Fisheries?”
- How does the DFO intend to define “serious harm” in section 35(1)?
- How does the DFO intend to determine conditions with respect to the “quantity or concentration” of deleterious substances in s. 36?
- How does the DFO intend to define the situations under which a Minister may require plans and specifications for activities that are likely to result in serious harm to fish?
- How does the DFO intend to define ecologically significant areas?
- Does the DFO intend to define Food, Social and Ceremonial Fisheries?
- How will the DFO engage with the AFN to jointly communicate, interpret, and define the proposed amendments to the Fisheries Act?
- How will the DFO engage with the AFN to facilitate joint dialogues with First Nations communities?
The AFN welcomes ongoing opportunities to discuss the proposed amendments to the Fisheries Act and looks forward to participating in direct discussions with the DFO on these matters.