Along the Fraser: Honesty, willingness to listen

Maple Creek moved five metres to the north under changes made by Conservatives

Conservative changes to Fisheries Act have hurt streams.

“Current legislation is not in the business of protecting habitat any more. It reads, serious harm to a fishery. Is it (destruction of part of Maple Creek, Pt. Coquitlam) serious enough? My colleagues felt it wasn’t.”

– DFO community advisor, Maurice Coulter-Boisvert.

 

Dear Mr. Trudeau:

Maple Creek nurtures thousands of salmon fry. You could avert the tragic fate of this salmon stream and the fate that all small-stock creeks face because of changes to the Fisheries Act made by former prime minister Stephen Harper.

On June 11, 2016, DFO used the new wording of Section 35 (2) (b) to approve digging up 55 metres of Maple Creek and moving it north five metres.

DFO’s permit, June 2, says this would “accommodate the construction of a single family home,” 10,000 sq. ft. in size, with a 3,000-sq.-ft. garage, in Coquitlam.

The DFO statement of approval continues, “Pursuant to paragraph 35(2)(b) of the Fisheries Act the Minister of Fisheries authorizes the carrying on of your proposed work, undertaking or activity that results in serious harm to fish arising from the infilling and subsequent destruction of a portion of an unnamed tributary of Maple Creek.”

The Maple Creek Streamkeepers, Port Coquitlam  Coun. Brad West, residents, and Coulter-Boisvert, all say nobody, including DFO management, consulted them.

They all oppose the stream rechanneling.

First Nations, not consulted, considered legal action. Protests delayed work that could have been completed by Aug. 1.

Sir, in your Aug. 18 mandate letter to your Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc, you say: “I expect our work be informed by feedback from Canadians.”

Maureen McConnell lives on Maple Creek. She wrote LeBlanc in April and again in June, asking him to stop this application.

Did she hear back?

“Not a peep,” she said.

It’s easy for government to say it wants  collaboration with citizens; harder to mean it.

DFO requires the proponent to “mitigate” the stream work by salvaging fish and moving them into the new water channel that is to be created.

Sandy Budd, president of Maple Creek  Streamkeepers, insists that won’t work, and years of nurturing the creek will be wasted.

Coulter-Boisvert says he wasn’t provided details of the proponent’s plan.

“I would not have been in favour of that. We’re not in the business of trashing habitat. We’re in the business of protecting it.”

Stream mitigation?

“To think when you do that you can simply create a stream somewhere nearby and have equivalent value is ridiculous.”

Sir, let’s be clear. The DFO ‘triage’ or new process for assessing requests for development on streams – citing fuzzy and enabling legislation – approves destruction of them.

A project now awaits a ruling at Port Coquitlam, where planner, Bryan Sherrell says he hasn’t had time to assess the application and send his thoughts on to council. He didn’t answer when I asked if stream disruption was more likely to pass if it was approved by the agency recognized as the authority on salmon habitat.

But, sir, why wouldn’t it?

Sir, you say: “It is important we acknowledge mistakes when we make them.”

Your predecessor, Mr. Harper changed the Act. Your mistake is not having reversed those changes, and your minister’s decision to engage Canadians in more workshops around the act’s wording, instead of fixing misguided DFO procedures and policy.

Been there, done that, with Harper.

Reverse his act mistakes, now. Then let’s talk.

Four years ago, an ad hoc committee in Maple Ridge concluded the current Act would “shift responsibility for environmental protection to municipalities.”

Sadly, this has happened.

Mr. Trudeau, Budd’s community has written its council, asking it to quash DFO’s habitat destruction approval, tucked flyers into Halloween trick ’r’ treat bags, circulated a petition to halt this nonsense, hoping you or your minister intervene.

Sir, 1,000 B.C. schools participate in “Salmonids in the Classroom.” Kids in this program release chum into Maple Creek every spring.

They weren’t consulted.

Streamkeeper and DFO’s community adviser – not consulted.

First Nations – the group you’re struggling to bridge with – not consulted.

Residents snubbed.

Municipalities facing development proposals on watercourses need the old act free of permissive language, if we’re to save vital small salmon streams in every town.

At one time, a specialized DFO officers and biologists within the Habitat Protection Branch did the job. It’s needed again.

Sir, to quote you: “If we are to tackle challenges we face as a country, Canadians need to have faith in their government’s honesty and willingness to listen. Let’s honour the trust Canadians have given us.”

Respectfully, Jack Emberly.

I welcome your response.

 

Jack Emberly is a retired teacher, local author and environmentalist.

 

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