Jurisdiction of Fisheries and Oceans

Res #: 23-08A
Number: 23
Year: 2008
Midterm: No
Expired: Yes
Responses Received: No
Departments: Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Resolution No. 23 – 08A
Jurisdiction of Department of Fisheries and Oceans

WHEREAS there is an overlapping of jurisdiction between the Provincial Ministry of Environment and the Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans; and

WHEREAS this overlapping of jurisdiction between the provincial and federal departments cause undue delay and expense to municipalities; and

WHEREAS the agriculture industry has long been considered responsible stewards of the land;

BE IT RESOLVED that the Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans be removed from the Province of Saskatchewan and that all approvals over or near waterways be under the jurisdiction of the province.

Response From Honourable Loyola Hearn, Minster of Fisheries and Oceans

Under the Constitution Act, the federal government has exclusive jurisdiction over seacoast and inland fisheries, for the benefit of Canadians.  Between 1899 and 1930, formal  agreements were negotiated between the federal government and a number of provinces, including Saskatchewan, such that the federal government would retain its responsibilities to conserve and protect fish habitat and the provinces would manage freshwater fisheries.  The Fisheries Act sets out the responsibilities of the federal government concerning fish habitat protection and DFO carries out these responsibilities within the Province of Saskatchewan.

DFO recognizes that costs are sometimes incurred by rural municiaplities to satisfy the habitat requirements of the Fisheries Act.  However, DFO has recently modernized its Habitat Management program and streamlined its decision -making process to make it more transparent, effective, predictable and timely in an effort to reduce cost to proponents.  For example, through the implementation of Operational Statements, routine, low-risk projects such as bridge maintenance, culvert maintenence and beaver dam removal, can now be undertaken without requiring a review by DFO.  DFO is currently in the process of concluding a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Province of Saskatchewan in order to ensure the consistency and effectiveness of out jurisdiction's activities in the conservation and protection of fish habitat.

DFO has also recently signed a MOU with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM).  This MOU establishes a formal process for cooperation between DFO and FCM on issues of concern to municipalities related to the application of the Fisheries Act, as it currently exists.  Municipal governments have direct oversight over public works projects, infrastructure and services that could have impacts on fish and fish habitat.  Work under this MOU will help ensure that municipal officials are aware of requirements for the conservation of fish and fish habitat fo that projects are designed and carried out with this in mind, and so that regulatory reviews  of these projects can be made more efficient and are completed in a more timely manner.

I appreciate that concerns you have raised and I assure you that DFO employees are sensitive to the financial burdens facing rural municipalities in Saskatchewan.  They carry out their responsibilities in a reasonable and professional manner and would like to continue working with municipalities to protect valuable fish habitat while continuing to ensure that development occurs in a cost efficient manner.