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On the path to reconciliation

The Government of Canada is committed to a renewed relationship with Indigenous peoples, based on the recognition of rights, respect, cooperation, and partnership.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) recognizes that fisheries, oceans, aquatic habitat and marine waterways are of great social, cultural, spiritual and economic importance to many Indigenous peoples. The Department values open dialogue with Indigenous peoples, founded on the recognition of their rights, and believes that Indigenous, non-Indigenous and recreational fishers, as well as environmental groups can work side-by-side toward sustainable and well-managed fisheries and aquaculture sectors for all.

The development of a new Aquaculture Act provides an opportunity for dialogue with Indigenous partners to advance reconciliation and the recognition and implementation of rights.

On August 17, 2020, the Department published a discussion paper that outlined the proposal for new legislation and draws heavily from input received from Indigenous partners during the process to amend the Fisheries Act (Bill C-68).

While the opportunity for written submissions to the discussion paper closed on February 12, 2021, dialogue with Indigenous people is ongoing.

What is the objective of the new legislation?

The proposed Act is based on the 2018 agreement between federal, provincial, and territorial ministers, as well as feedback provided by stakeholders and Indigenous partners during previous rounds of engagement. The new federal legislation is intended to:

  • foster national consistency, while respecting federal, provincial, and territorial jurisdiction;
  • improve clarity and certainty for the industry;
  • enhance environmental protection; and
  • help sustainably grow the industry for the benefit of Indigenous and rural communities.

The proposed Aquaculture Act may adopt relevant elements from sections of the Fisheries Act that concern aquaculture and adapt them to the sector’s context, while some may be purpose-built for the proposed Act, providing an opportunity to improve aquaculture management in Canada.

All elements are proposed for input and the proposed act is expected to draw much from, and be consistent with, the Fisheries Act, but the engagement process will allow for important public policy discussions that will help further refine the legislative proposals.

How will the Act support reconciliation?

The Act would respect Canadian laws, including section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 and any other legislation, existing or to be developed, that would define and/or protect Indigenous rights. The Act would also contain provisions equivalent to the ones introduced in the Fisheries Act as part of the 2019 amendments to support the recognition of Indigenous peoples’ rights.

How can we be kept informed?

The Department’s web page will be updated when appropriate while the bill is being developed. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and guidelines from public health officials, the Department is assessing available means for meaningful engagement with Indigenous communities. Once the bill is introduced in the House of Commons, updates will be available on the House of Commons’ website.

What happens after public engagement is closed?

Partnership and dialogue with Indigenous people is essential to the successful development and implementation of the Act. While online public consultation on the discussion paper came to a close February 12, 2020,  Indigenous engagement is in its early stages and is expected to continue into 2021. Once engagement of all partners and stakeholders is closed, the Government will finalize the proposed legislation.

Once the bill is introduced in Parliament, input received by DFO can no longer be incorporated into the proposed legislation. However, input can still be provided through the parliamentary process.

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