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Maple Ridge New Democrats rally for fish act
Changes to the Fisheries Act that would have killed protection for fish habitat never did make into the House of Commons, as predicted by a leaked document. But a handful of protesters weren’t letting down their guard and said so outside Conservative MP Randy Kamp’s office on Lougheed Highway on Wednesday.
The local NDP organized the brief demonstration of about six people carrying signs.
Former NDP candidate Craig Speirs wanted to be proactive and to pressure the government before any changes to the Fisheries Act.
Former Fisheries and Oceans Canada biologist Otto Langer leaked documents last month that he said showed the Conservative government was rewriting Sections 35 and 36 of the Fisheries Act, removing habitat protection.
He said in its place would be a clause that only protects fish of “economic, cultural or ecological value.”
But an announcement of that policy never appeared in the recent federal budget.
Critics say the government wants to weaken the Fisheries Act to make it easier to build a pipeline from Alberta across northern B.C. to Kitimat to allow exporting of oil sands oil.
“It’s important that we have some kind of input, and give some kind of feedback to these folks before they create the legislation, because once it goes through Parliament, we’re pretty well done. They’re going to defend it to the death,” Speirs said.
“If we can soften the blow ahead … and ensure some level of fish habitat protection, we’re going to go for it. I think it’s really important we try to moderate their approach.”
He said that’s the approach the federal NDP, under new leader Thomas Mulcair, will follow the next three years under the majority Conservative government.
“Finally in Parliament we have real opposition. The Liberals weren’t real opposition, they were two tones of grey.”
Kamp, parliamentary secretary to the fisheries ministry, didn't comment.
Speirs, a former Maple Ridge councillor, said the tone of debate in Parliament is getting nasty.
“When I get called a terrorist for standing up for something I believe in, then I’ve got a problem with that. That’s what you do with bullies, you always face them down.”
Under Public Safety Canada’s Building Resilience Against Terrorism: Canada’s Counter-terrorism Strategy, low-level violence from environmental, white supremacists, animal rights and anti-capitalist groups “remains a reality in Canada.” (http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/prg/ns/2012-cts-eng.aspx).
“We’re Canadians. We have freedom. April 17 is the anniversary of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Canada, 30 years. And that’s what we’re doing, we’re expressing that right of dissent,” Speirs said.
“Dissent is democracy. It’s the only reason we have democracy, because people oppose things.”
The brief demonstration drew scattered responses from passing motorists. Some honked.
But one motorist bellowed from a Chevy Cavalier, “You’re killing jobs, man, you’re killing jobs.”
Someone from one of the businesses next to Kamp’s office asked demonstrators to move their vehicles if there were using the parking lot.
“That’s nice, nice to hear from the locals. Just a little bit of class would be helpful,” Speirs added.
Speirs said if the NDP is elected one day, it would strengthen the Fisheries Act.
“Our commitment to fisheries is huge.”
NDP supporter Bob Goos, who ran last municipal election, said the NDP has good strength in the House of Commons and that it has moved to a more centrist position under late leader Jack Layton.
“We’re arguing for a balanced view,” Goos added.
Speirs opposes the proposed Enbridge pipeline that would carry oil across northern B.C. for export to China, where it would be refined.
“It will create jobs, but not here. Why can’t we have the jobs here?” he asked.
“The options are absolutely horrible.”
• Domestic issue-based extremism: (From Public Safety Canada's Building Resilience Against Terrorism: Canada's Counter-terrorism strategy)
Although not of the same scope and scale faced by other countries, low-level violence by domestic issue-based groups remains a reality in Canada. Such extremism tends to be based on grievances—real or perceived—revolving around the promotion of various causes such as animal rights, white supremacy, environmentalism and anti-capitalism. Other historical sources of Canadian domestic extremism pose less of a threat