Friday, July 29, 2011
July 18, 2011
FCA Interim Auditor General of Canada
Office of the Auditor General of Canada
240 Sparks StreetOttawa, Ontario
Dear Mr. Weirsema,
I am writing to formally request that the office of the Auditor General of Canada launch an investigation into the management practices of the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) in relation to commercial groundfish stocks off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Despite 19 years of commercial fishing moratoria, groundfish stocks such as northern cod and flatfish have failed to recover.
In fact, some stocks are in worse condition than they were in the early 1990s when the commercial fisheries were first closed.
What role, if any, have DFO’s management practices played in the failure of groundfish stocks to rejuvenate?
In 1997, the office of the Auditor General of Canada investigated DFO with regard to a sustainable fisheries framework for Atlantic groundfish, with one of the key recommendations being the institution of a national policy for sustainable fisheries.
Such a national policy was never instituted.
As the 1997 report highlighted: “Although background papers have been prepared, a national fisheries policy and an action plan have yet to be developed.”
In 2000, the Auditor General’s Office carried out a follow-up report, again highlighting the absence of a national fisheries policy.
Indeed, such a national policy has never been adopted.
In 2005, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans compiled a report: “Northern Cod: A Failure of Canadian Fisheries Management.”
The report took DFO to task for failing to recognize “mismanagement” as one of the reasons for the stock collapse.
The report also questioned why a recovery plan had not been drawn up, describing DFO’s lack of long-term vision as “astonishing.”
“The Committee has a clear impression that, from DFO’s perspective, cod is no longer a priority,” read the 2005 standing committee report.
The absence of a national fisheries policy has led to inconsistencies in management approaches across Canada.
The federal Conservative government called an inquiry in 2009 into the decline of sockeye salmon on British Columbia’s Fraser River.
How can the federal government investigate management policies in one end of the country and not the other?
How can there be such a discrepancy from coast to coast to coast?
The northern cod fishery closed in 1992 and has witnessed no recovery for almost 20 years.
Again, the question is why?
It is time to revisit the issue.
Fin Donnelly, Fisheries critic for the federal New Democrats, warns “our oceans are on the brink of unprecedented mass extinction.”
Newfoundland and Labradors population has declined by 80,000 people since the closure of the northern cod fishery.
There are no signs of stock recovery.
We cannot afford to wait another 20 years.
I implore the Office of the Auditor General of Canada to investigate the management practices of DFO in relation to commercial groundfish stocks off Newfoundland and Labrador.
MP, St. John's South-Mount Pearl
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
My response (after attending today caucus meeting) was the party will actually become stronger, more united.
Our rallying cry: Do it for Jack.
Monday, July 25, 2011
Speaking on the steps of the Colonial Building
on Sunday (July 24) to kick off the annual St.
John's Pride Parade. Below is the text of my speech.
When you run in an election campaign and speak with people on their doorsteps, you get to know what’s on their minds.
The diversity of opinions.
What they’re concerned about.
What they’re worried about.
What the issues are.
What the biases are.
And you get a handle on the kind of changes we need in society — the things we need to work on.
From pensions, and how — often — they’re not enough to live on.
To health care, and how — just as often — people have to make choices between prescription drugs and food, for example.
You name it, you’ll hear it on the doorsteps.
I’ll give you one example of a day on the campaign trail in late March while knocking on the doors of a street in the west end of St. John’s.
This is what I heard on the doorsteps of Canada Drive.
I heard people say they don’t like Stephen Harper — he couldn’t even sing a Beatles’ song properly.
One woman stepped out onto the snowy step in flip flops to say she was desperate for a job.
One man —carrying a small black dog came straight out and said he won’t be voting New Democrat because he doesn’t agree with, and I quote, “killing babies or gay marriage.”
He asked me where I stood.
I told him that I’m for a woman’s right to choose, and that people should be free to marry whomever they want.
Another elderly lady said she would be voting New Democrat — no question.
Those were the first words out of her mouth: “I will be voting New Democrat — no question.”
The woman’s daughter was gay and had to move home to Newfoundland from Alberta because she and her partner had been victimized.
The woman said her daughter’s car had been vandalized.
Which is no way to live — they felt threatened.
I asked the woman what she thought about it here in St. John’s, in terms of how her daughter and her partner are getting along.
“It’s good here,” she said of St. John’s.
That’s a taste of what I heard on the doorsteps of Canada Drive.
It’s good here — is it?
I would say from knocking on doors that there’s still work to be done, there are attitudes that need to be changed.
I attended the federal New Democrat convention in Vancouver a few weeks ago and a resolution was passed on the floor.
The resolution called on the Conservative government to revoke the charitable status of groups that support those seeking to overcome same-sex attraction.
The resolution passed unanimously.
As Pride celebrations take place across the country, I’m proud to stand with members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans-gendered and transsexual communities.
Along with fellow New Democrats, of course.
Let’s not forget that LGBT people around the world still suffer prejudice and discrimination — even to the point of violence and death.
As my leader Jack Layton said recently: “Our work is not done.”
It’s far from done.
New Democrats will continue pressing issues of concern to LGBT Canadians — LGBT Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.
Our work won’t be done until we have a world that includes members of the LGBT as equal, without a second thought.
Equal, without a second thought.
Friday, July 1, 2011
Earlier this week, I published a blogpost that described European nations — the same nations the federal Conservative government is negotiating a secret free-trade agreement with — as having “fished out/raped” the Grand Banks of Newfoundland.
Indeed, I went so far as to call the EU countries “serial rapists.”
I received some criticism for my choice of language.
I first used the term "serial rapist" in a Sept. 3, 2006 column for the then-Independent newspaper, headlined A fishing story.
The column follows …
Attention Newfoundlanders out for a fight — this column’s for you.
You may have read a news piece this week about a Portuguese trawler cited for illegal fishing.
The Independent had the story nailed down but it broke in another media before we could get it to print.
Normally the story would have been dropped altogether at that point, but the article’s author missed a critical point.
Wait for it …
The Joana Princesa was caught with its pants down on Aug. 25 in the act of raping the Grand Banks of Newfoundland.
Rape is a harsh, harsh word that’s only used these days in American courts, but it’s a lot stronger than Canada’s word for the crime, sexual assault, and a much more fitting description for what foreigners do every day — decade in, decade out — to our precious fishing grounds.
Two Canadian inspectors aboard a zodiac snuck up on the trawler just as it was pulling in its nets.
The inspectors asked to be allowed on board, but the foreign crew ignored them. (No. 1 slap in the face for the fighting Newfoundlanders keeping count.)
One of the two determined inspectors then maneuvered the zodiac alongside the Princesa (not exactly a name befitting a rapist), while the second officer dared a high seas boarding.
The Portuguese wouldn’t lower a boarding ladder. (No. 2 slap in the face — the Canadian inspector could have been killed.)
Both inspectors eventually got on board to find the Portuguese had been fishing with a liner inside their net.
The foreign crew tried to get rid of the evidence, but they weren’t quick enough for our high seas lawmen.
A liner was once described to me as an onion bag — water and stunted plankton are about all that can get through.
Whatever fish the foreign crew was chasing that day didn’t stand a chance.
The Canadian inspectors then waited on board the foreign trawler for a day and a half until a European Union patrol vessel could steam to their coordinates and verify the citation.
In fact, the EU officers found the illegal liner was even smaller than the Canadians had reported — fish about the size of pens and pencils were about all that could swim through its mesh (oh, for the days of palm-sized catches).
In the end, the citation stuck. The Canadian inspectors were picked up by their mother ship and the EU patrol boat went on its way.
Before I get to what happened to the Portuguese rapist/trawler, I should mention a little about the vessel’s history.
The Princesa (there’s that sweet name again) was cited in December 2004 for illegally catching more than five tonnes of American plaice, a species under moratoria.
In that particular incident, Canadian inspectors boarded the Joana Princesa and discovered the unprocessed plaice on the ship’s deck.
The inspectors found even more fish when the net was pulled (like you would).
In 2003, the same vessel was issued three citations, including one for exceeding the five per cent bycatch limit for American plaice.
It was also charged in 2001 for using small-mesh gear.
In other words, the Portuguese trawler is a serial rapist.
So what became of the Princesa once the citation was issued and the authorities went on their way?
Wait for it …
Contacted in Brussels, Conservative Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn patted the Canadian government on the back for doing such a good job, which they are.
“We have a constant presence and have done a very good job in monitoring,” Hearn was quoted as saying.
He’s a firm believer NAFO can be reformed.
Forget the fact that Newfoundland politicians have been trying to do that since the day it was born.
Hearn will fail like the ministers before him.
Countries such as Norway have begun taking a heavier hand against Spanish and Portuguese vessels, known there as “trawler pirates.”
Dozens of fishing vessels have been arrested, but even that doesn’t seem to be working.
In July, the captain and owner of a Spanish trawler arrested for illegal fishing in Norwegian waters announced they had no intention of paying fines levied against them by local police — who don’t seem to be able to do much about it.
What’s clear is that countries adjacent to fish resources must have the power to enforce quotas and arrest ships.
Diplomacy is a joke — Loyola is a fool if he believes otherwise.
So what happened to the Joana Princesa once the authorities went on their way?
What was the repeat rapist allowed to do as soon as it was released on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland after being caught red-handed?
The answer is a perfect example of why custodial management is our only prayer and the Conservative government must be forced to live up to its commitments, come hell or high water.
The Princesa resumed fishing.
The above column was nominated for a 2006 Atlantic Journalism Award for commentary.
It wasn’t so much a sunrise ceremony this morning at 6 a.m. on Signal Hill, as a “fog-rise ceremony,” as one person put it.
Most people wore raincoats (hood up, pulled tight) or winter coats, which haven’t been put away just yet.
At least it wasn't snowing.
The trumpet melded in with the foghorn, and the Ode to Newfoundland was powerful.
Caplin weather can be lovely.
Today is Memorial Day in Newfoundland and Labrador, the most solemn day of the year.
Today is also Canada Day, the country’s 144rd birthday — a day of celebration.
The tragedy for Newfoundland at Beaumont Hamel, France during the First World War is often overshadowed by the nation’s birthday.
At midday we’re supposed to switch from a Memorial Day focus to Canada Day focus.
That’s hard to do.
July 1, 1916 was the bloodiest day in Newfoundland and Labrador history.
Of the 801 Newfoundlander officers and men who took part in the assault at Beaumont Hamel — most of who were in their late teens or early 20s — 710 were either killed or wounded.
Only 68 of the 801 Newfoundlanders who went into battle that July 1st answered the roll call the next day.
The Commander of the 88th brigade — Brigadier-General Cayley — wrote to then-Prime Minister of Newfoundland, Sir Edward Morris.
He wrote about the courage and discipline displayed by the members of the Newfoundland Regiment in their first battle on the Western Front at Beaumont Hamel.
He wrote: “It was a magnificent display of trained and disciplined valour, and its assault only failed because dead men can advance no further.”
For the small nation of Newfoundland, the loss was absolutely devastating — felt in every town, in every outport, and in every family.
July 1st — Lest we forget.
July 1st — Happy Birthday!