Thursday, March 15, 2018

City Council's letter for Fisheries Minister a call for equal treatment with Atlantic Canada

Part of Prince Rupert's shrinking fishing fleet, tied up at Fairview Floats
Prince Rupert City Council will be forwarding a letter to
 Dominic LeBlanc the Federal Fisheries calling for  equal treatment
for the North Coast as  that found with the Atlantic fishery

Prince Rupert's City Council will collectively be getting their pen out once again, after the majority of Council members in attendance at Monday's Council session, voted to adopt a resolution from Councillor Joy Thorkelson to write a letter of concern related to some issues raised about the North Coast Fishing industry.

Ms. Thorkelson, who is also the President of the UFAWU-Unifor which represents fish workers on the North Coast introduced the motion to Council by telephone, providing for an extensive preamble to her resolution.

Much of that narrative to her request, focused on the impact of corporations, many of which, the councillor noted are now foreign based, stressing the need to bring some control back to the owner operators and workers of the region and how it was important to rebuild the industry on the North Coast.

She highlighted the value of landed fish to the community, to fishermen who live in our community, and for shore workers when that fish is landed in our community. The main element of her concern comes from the recently announced plans of the Federal government to reopen the current Fisheries Act.

With Ms. Thorkelson noting of the  provisions to support a strong independent inshore  commercial fishery in Atlantic Canada and Quebec, but not in other provinces. Those Atlantic provisions are elements that she would like to see extended to the North Coast and British Columbia fisheries,

You can review the changes that are being considered for the Fisheries Act from our blog item of early February.

Among some of the aspects that would be put in place from the Atlantic model, would be to ensure that only the holder of a license retains benefits generated by fishing; ensure that only the licensed holder personally fishes using that license; support the fleet separation policy by prohibiting certain types of corporations from holding licenses in the inshore sector and allowing the suspension or cancellation of licenses when license holders are party to an agreement that violates any part of the act or regulation.

As Ms. Thorkelson notes from the proposed new act, those changes are designed to protect middle class jobs in coastal communities by helping to keep the benefits from fishing in the hands of harvesters and local communities and strengthen the implementation of the owner operator and fleet separation policies.

The proposed changes to the legislation known as Bill C-68 can be examined here.

When the time came for the resolution, Ms. Thorkelson delivered City Council's lengthy call for action, which states:

Be it resolved that the City of Prince Rupert write the minister of Fisheries asking that the changes to the Fisheries Act apply to the Pacific coast, so our working fishermen and BC coastal communities benefit from these fisheries; and be it further resolved, that the City of Prince Rupert forward this resolution to the provincial government asking for their support for this resolution; and be it finally resolved that the city of Prince Rupert forward this resolution to the Regional District and ask for its support and the support of the member communities.

Councillor Thorkelson also provided a snap shot of some of her recent discussions with provincial officials during her stay in the provincial capital and Lower mainland, noting that she believes they understand the issues that are facing the industry and coastal communities and how she is hopeful of their support and the prospect of economic development in the coastal industry in the coming years.

Mayor Brain followed up her resolution review, by offering up an amendment that would also see the City also forward the resolution to other coastal Regional Districts for their consideration.

All but Councillor Mirau and Councillor Kinney voted to support the motion, Councillor Mirau was not in the chamber for the discussion as he had declared a conflict owing to his family's participation in the fishing industry, and thus had stepped out of the chamber and was not available to go on the record for the issue.

While Councillor Kinney was absent from the Council Chamber on the night.

The remainder of council that was in attendance for the discussion offered strong support for the motion how and had many points to make about the nature of the fishing industry on the North Coast and the need to impress on Ottawa and Victoria the issues that the community is facing, among their commentary:

Councillor Randhawa: "I think it is a great motion, we need all of our jobs back in the community, that we lost from the workers and students, so I fully support this motion."

Councillor Niesh: "I don't think we can make the fishing industry any worse by supporting this, I think we've pretty well hit rock bottom as it is and I think this is a good start to try and hopefully turn it around and head back in the right direction."

Councillor Cunningham: "I walk the docks down on the waterfront quite a bit and you see the gill net fleet in dis-repair, people almost walking away from their boats because they can't afford to spend any money on their boats. And whereas our fleet is shrinking, like I just looked up in Nova Scotia and the last year for stats for there was for 2013 and 4,000 registered vessels and 4700 commercial fishing licenses and these are privately owned. And so people are making money out of the fishery and putting it back into the industry in the vessels and creating a lot of spin off jobs that we are seeing shrink in this town simply because men don't have money to spend on their boats. Because the fishing impact is shrinking more and more every year. You know the biggest impact was our cannery last year, hundred of jobs were cut there and you know one person controls a bunch of licenses and landed product when it comes here and its being shipped everywhere but where it should be.  And if we can get an adjacency law, which we, this Council has promoted before or something like that where this fish gets processed in our town and not over in China, Taiwan or down the Lower Mainland, but here in Prince Rupert where we create a lot of extra cash for spin offs to buy furniture, it's just a win-win for us if we go back to the owner operated vessels."

Mayor Brain: "It's absolutely astonishing to me that the rules on the East Coast are that much drastically different than on the West Coast and even at that level should be an even playing field"

Councillor Barry Cunnigham put significant focus for his remarks Monday
on the Canadian Fish Company plant in Prince Rupert and 

the control of licenses that the company has over the North Coast.

You can review the full introduction and follow up discussion of the resolution from the City's Video Archive, starting at the twenty three minute mark.

It's not the first time that City Council will have forwarded a correspondence to the Fisheries Minister, most recently having followed the lead of Councillor Thorkelson in August of 2017 issuing the call for fish adjacency for the North Coast.

Back in the summer of 2016, Council also invited the Fisheries Minister to come to Prince Rupert and address concerns with City Council, however to this point, Minister LeBlanc has not taken Council up on their invitatoin.

Now in her third term on Council and as one of the longest serving members of Prince Rupert City Council, Ms. Thorkelson has over the  years used the Council forum quite effectively on behalf of the UFAWU membership and the region's fishing industry, below are just some of the topics raised related to fishery issues in recent years.


October 13 -- 'Way more fish, way less work' -- City Council receives Salmon season update from Councillor Thorkelson
July 29 -- Despite good returns coming ashore, Prince Rupert's fishery is providing for fewer jobs this summer
January 19 -- City Council resolution makes for part of UFAWU letters to Ottawa


December 9 -- UFAWU leadership speaks to City Council seeking support of fishery issues
December 7 -- Prince Rupert Council to receive presentation from UFAWU at tonight's session
November 13 -- Canfisco plant restructuring plans bring reaction from area politicians
July 23 -- Council hears more concerns over 2015 Salmon season
July 8 -- Warning signs for the North Coast Salmon Fishery for this year?
March 31 -- No bounty of jobs from herring fishery for local shore workers
February 13 -- Councillor Thorelkson looks for civic engagement on fishery issues on the horizon


September 6 -- Everything you may want to know on fishing the Skeena in thirty minutes ...

For more items related to Monday's Council session see our Council Timeline Feature here.

More background notes on the Council session can be found here, while a wider overview of City Council Discussion topics is available for review from Council Discussion archive.

Items of interest on the North Coast Fishery can be found from our Fishing Industry archive.

To return to the most recent blog posting of the day, click here.


  1. It's strange that councillor Mirau would think that he could not vote because of a conflict of interest. The motion was about high level fisheries policy, not about conferring personal benefits on family members or anyone else in particular.

  2. If by strange yiou mean setting the bar high then ya. nobody at the city can do anything right according to your worldview. you are the same guy complains about efforts to lower/freeze taxes