Great Lakes groups on both sides of the Canada/U.S. border are not going to let the Conservative government of Stephen Harper gut one of Canada’s most effective pieces of environmental protection legislation.
Canada’s decades-old federal Fisheries Act – a piece of legislation that was actually approved and embraced with pride by the former Conservative government of Brian Mulroney – is being “overhauled” by a Harper government that has, of late, been doing a great deal of scrapping and overhauling of environmental rules it feels are standing in the way of resource exploitation and development.
The Fisheries Act has proved to be an effective tool over the years for everything from controlling development that might destroy critical spawning grounds to prosecuting industries discharging toxic wastes into waterways. Given the act’s effectiveness, it was probably just a matter of time before this Conservative government, which has gone on record calling environmentalists enemies of the state, went after it with a meat cleaver.
In an insulting attempt to dampen fears that the legislation will be defused completely, Harper’s fisheries minister Keith Ashfield recently insisted that whatever the government does to Fisheries Act, it will still be there to protect “important (fish) habitat.” And who is going to decide which fish habitat is important and which ones are not? Some bureaucrat the government has muzzled from making any public comment in the federal fisheries department? Will it be Harper and his cabinet?
The bottomline is it is hard to fathom anyone short of God deciding what an important fish habitat is? Anyone who has taken an Ecology 101 course might know that fish play a critical role in a very intricate and fragile web of life and food chains that includes we humans. Mucking around with it can impact the health and welfare of all of us in ways that may be subtle in some cases, but could be catastrophic.
Yet this kind of insight into our environment and our dependency on keeping it relatively clean and healthy does not seem to have a place at all in a government intent on grabbing for any short-term gains from exploitation over responsible environmental stewardship.
So thank goodness some groups are beginning to take notice of what Canada’s Harper government might do to a leading-edge piece of environmental legislation like the Fisheries Act and its responding to it. Great Lakes United, a Canada/U.S. coalition of public groups headquartered in Buffalo, New York, and Lake Ontario Waterkeepers is offering we, the people, an opportunity to participate in a free issue briefing this May 17 on the implications of all of this. Please read the group’s notice below for more details.
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