Clearwater acquisition should be paused

Opinion

To the Editor:

To Honorable Minister Jordan & Honorable Chairman & Honorable Ministers of the Standing Committee:

My name is John Collins and I am a concerned commercial fisherman in the Northern zone of Nova Scotia. I am not a representative of any organization and simply wanted to point out a few things with regards to the current situation regarding the Clearwater acquisition by Premium Brands Holdings Corporation and the Mi’kmaq First Nations Coalition. Here are a few reasons to ‘pause’ the current Clearwater acquisition:

• The resource is owned by Canada, both inshore and offshore and is subject to ‘Ministerial Discretion’, as was made obvious by the Minister of Fisheries regarding allocation of the additional Surf Clam quota to a group of First Nations, a couple of years ago.

• This current and present acquisition is limited to six bands, but includes the transfer of Clearwater licenses to these six First Nations. This could potentially ‘tie your hands’ with respect to ‘Ministerial Discretion’ in future consideration for numerous reasons, including public opinion regarding reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, etc.

• The majority of First Nations access to the fisheries to date has been from the inshore; the offshore should be included for various reasons including the limited access to date for the larger fishing community.

• There are only six Mi’kmaq Bands involved in the deal, but there are 29 other bands including Mi’Kmaq, Maliseet and Passamaquoddy, in N.S., P.E.I., New Brunswick, Quebec and Newfoundland, that could potentially be Treaty beneficiaries now and into the future with regards to Canada’s (monopoly by Clearwater at present) offshore fisheries resource.

• Clearwater valuation of share price obviously includes the existing offshore licenses, but what is going unnoticed is it must include the catches, into the distant future of the First Nations Commercial/Communal licenses that are currently held by the existing six Bands. Public shareholders should be made aware of the fact these and the offshore licenses are subject to Ministerial Discretion. Transparency of the Minister’s authority needs to be explicit for a stable business model of the fisheries now, into the future, and the specific intent of the Minister, for the direction of the fishery. (To either preserve a commercially prosperous inshore fleet of or to pursue a more centralized corporate model for East Coast fisheries). I know there was a major announcement regarding the Fleet Separation, Owner/Operator Policy into law. Regardless, it must be realized, the Clearwater acquisition by a First Nations coalition, as FN’s currently do not have to adhere to this policy or new law, is opening the gateway of a publicly owned corporation into the inshore fishery via First Nations ownership. Depending on the desired direction of the Minister, inshore fishermen would hope the future negotiations would include the adherence of all fishers, with regards to the Fleet Separation, Owner/Operator Law.

• At present, the major attention is with the lobster fishery. A moderate livelihood and Treaty Rights could successfully be realized with the addition of the expanding offshore fisheries, including the developing fisheries.

• A potential free trade agreement violation may exist if unmonitored and or government subsidies with regards to a moderate livelihood and related fish products, if made apparent to U.S politicians/fishermen. As per the illegal, unreported and unregulated, (IUU) and government subsidies restrictions & clauses; FNFA, DMI, etc., with regards to the current acquisition and the present laws as they pertain to the Fisheries Act and the USMCA agreement.

John R. Collins

Loch Broom