The Newfoundland and Labrador government did fishers in this province a disservice when it did not stand in support of their rights on a national level, a fisheries advocate said last week.
Marc Allain, of the Canadian Independent Fish Harvesters Movement, spoke to a group of delegates at an annual general meeting of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union held in Gander Nov. 26 and 27.
Mr. Allain said it was “shameful” this province’s government did not join its Atlantic Canadian counterparts in condemning any talk of changes to federal policies regarding owner-operator and fleet separation.
“We had three or four weeks to tell (Federal Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield) what we thought, and what kind of changes we wanted to see,” said Mr. Allain. “More than 2,000 individual letters came from Newfoundland (and Labrador) in favour of owner-operator and fleet separation. We heard from the minister himself he got 6,000 pieces of mail in all.
“I think that’s pretty good. We’ve got 10,000 owner-operators (in this country), and we managed to get 60 per cent to write in, and we did that in about three weeks. They were inundated, absolutely inundated, with mail.”
What stuck out, Mr. Allain said, were the letters not received by the minister.
“The minister also heard from four provincial governments who all adopted unanimous resolutions in support of their owner-operator fisheries and fleet separation — Nova Scotia, P.E.I., Quebec and New Brunswick,” he said. “It’s shameful that there’s one province that didn’t. The government of Newfoundland (and Labrador) didn’t have the courage to stand with the fishermen in Newfoundland (and Labrador) and the fishing communities in Newfoundland (and Labrador).”
The government of Newfoundland (and Labrador) didn’t have the courage to stand with the fishermen in Newfoundland (and Labrador). - Marc Allain, Canadian Independent Fish Harvesters Movement
The delegates on hand for Mr. Allain’s session agreed with him.
“Shame!” they yelled aloud. “Shame on them!”
Policies currently in place at the federal level are aimed at ensuring large corporations are not able to corner markets in the fishery, thus allowing for smaller operations to be successful in communities across the country.
Mr. Allain said Minister Ashfield’s office also received a letter in support of maintaining current policies from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
“They (FCM) adopted a unanimous resolution calling on the federal government to respect owner-operator and fleet separation, because the small coastal communities across this country were saying, ‘These are critical for us. They are critical for our survival. If we have any hope of remaining municipalities with a tax base, we need these owner-operator fishing operations. They are (our) lifeblood.”
Mr. Allain said it’s crucial organizations such as the FFAW work collectively with other similar groups across Canada in order to ensure the existing policies remain intact and in place.
“If we stick together, and if we speak with one voice, we can be very, very powerful,” he said. “It’s not worth the paper it’s written on if there’s no commitment to it.
“We’ve got a little bit of breathing room now in the short term, because they’re not going to be able to move forward with their plan to get rid of it. But it’s only a small amount of breathing room, and we can’t afford to stop our efforts.”