May 31, 1935

SECOND READINGS


Bill No. 76, for the relief of Nora Ellen Moore McCabe.-Mr. Bell (St. Antoine). Bill No. 77. for the relief of Hildur Emilia Hill Soucy.-Mr. Bell (St. Antoine). Bill No. 78, for the relief of Ethel Ellis Callow Randles.-Mr. Bell (St. Antoine). Fisheries Act


FISHERIES ACT AMENDMENT


Mr. THOMAS REID (New Westminster) moved that the house go into committee on Bill No. 17, to amend the Fisheries Act, 1932, (as reported against by the standing committee on marine and fisheries). He said: Before the motion is put I have a few remarks to make concerning the bill and what took place in the committee. It i3 not my intention to cover the ground I covered when the bill was first introduced. At that time I dealt with the matter very fully. But in view of the fact that the committee has reported against it I want to make some statement as to what took place. First I draw the attention of the house to the fact that on that committee there are some thirty-five members, and that when the matter came up for final decision there were seventeen present besides the chairman, and the vote was nine to eight. In view of that I felt it my duty to protest against the report of the committee being brought in, and to make a statement relative to some of the evidence that was laid before it. When the final report was laid on the table there was at least one paragraph in it that I do not think the committee considered at all. I shall not read the whole of the third report, but it states in part that: After consideration, your committee is of the opinion that the public interest, as a whole, would not best be served by the passing of the proposed legislation. Now that question was not discussed before that committee when the vote was taken. The question was simply put to the committee whether my bill should pass or not, and the vote was taken simply on that question. In view of the small number by which that vote was carried I ask the house to refer the matter back to the committee, not only for further consideration along the lines I have stated, but also in order that witnesses should be called. The matter is so vitally important that the fishermen concerned, men who are employed in gill net fishing in the Fraser river, should be called from the Pacific coast to put before the committee the actual facts of the case. Although I did the best I could I still believe that had those men been allowed to come before the committee they would perhaps have made a greater impression than I did. Briefly I wish to review some of the statements that were made by the deputy minister, as many of his statements before the committee were misleading. I am not say- ing they were deliberately so, but in my opinion they were put forward in such a way as to becloud the issue and so left a wrong impression with the committee. In clause 2 he stated that fifty per cent of the seine boats were owned by the canneries. I dispute that statement very strongly. It may be true that only fifty per cent are owned outright by the canneries, but the committee were not informed by the deputy minister that another forty per cent are partly owned by them. At a mass meeting in the city of New Westminster at which the deputy minister and the district supervisor were present neither of them thought fit to refute the statement made by the fishermen there that ninety per cent of the seine boats were owned or controlled by the canners; they were either afraid or they knew better. Then in clause 4 of paragraph 2 he states that the United States got most of the fish. That aspect was not gone into very fully, but if anyone cares to look at the record he will find that there were years when we on the Canadian side of the line put up more fish than the Americans. Then the deputy minister in making his statement to the committee quoted the pack of fish, not the amount of fish caught. We on the Canadian side are catching more fish than are caught on the American side, and have so done for years, but what happens? The cannery men, who are endeavouring to control the whole industry, tell the fishermen how many fish they will take, and other fish by the thousands are often thrown overboard and so destroyed. That waste has taken place for many years. If all the fish caught in the Fraser river and the gulf of Georgia were canned the pack on the Canadian side would be as great as if not greater than that put up by the Americans. The American canners can all the fish caught on their side of the line, but that is not the case on the Canadian side. So it was very unfair for the deputy minister to state to the committee that the pack on this side is lower than on the American side, giving the committee the impression that the Americans were catching greater numbers of fish than we on this side. Then he stated that there is no demand for second quality. One has only to go down to some of the stores in Ottawa and see second quality fish being sold. And what does the storekeeper tell you if you ask for a can of that fish? He says: I cannot get enough of this second quality to supply my customers. Yet the deputy minister says there is no demand for the second quality pack. I ask any hon. member of the house to go to any store Fisheries Act in which is exhibited the second quality pack, together of course with the first quality pack; I venture to say he will be told the same thing I was told right here in the city of Ottawa. The deputy minister also states that no purse seining has been allowed for early sockeye salmon. That may be so, but this year the canners came out in their true colours; they were advocating that the whole area at the mouth of the Fraser river be thrown open at all times for purse seining. Then the deputy minister states that up to 1916 there was no sockeye fishing allowed after August 21. He omitted to tell the committee, however, that for years before 1914 the date was October 1. Then he tried to interject the statement that the British dealers reserved their best labels for Canadian goods in years past. Did he tell the committee that some of the British buyers are taking the second quality fish and actually asking for a rebate to take' off the- first quality lids? During the past year there has been a great demand in the old country for second quality fish, because by simply flipping off the second quality lids those fish can be sold in Great Britain as No. 1 quality. If I had more time I could place a number of these definite facts before the- committee. The deputy minister stated that when the Fraser river emptied into the gulf it flowed north. At its mouth that river is almost two mi-les wide; it flows approximately five miles an hour, and it flows south, not north. He did not place anything before the committee in support of that- statement. I make the unqualified assertion that the Fraser flows south towards the international boundary line. Anyone who crosses from Vancouver' to Victoria can see the line of demarcation away towards the gulf islands; the waters of the Fraser are brown and muddy, in contrast to the clear salt water. He also said it had been decided to limit purse seining to a small area. That was not an exact statement of the fact, because the area embraces practically the whole surface covered by the waters which flow from the Fraser river. One of the most terrible statements made, if I may use that term, was that the area which I am asking to have cleared of seines was not frequented by gill net fishermen. When I was home during the recess I took occasion to call the fishermen together and place before them all statements made. I could produce at least a dozen affidavits that gill net fishermen have operated in the area under dispute for the last thirty or thirty-five years. The deputy minister spoke of the inspection board. That board stated, I suppose after being asked by the department whether they could tell by inspecting fish whether they had been caught by purse seines or by gill netters, that they could not tell by inspection. What did the deputy minister tell the committee, however? He said they had asked the canners. What is the use of arguing any further about this when, as I say, the canners own or control ninety per cent of the seine boats? What is the use of asking the cannery men whether the fish condemned had been caught by seines or gill nets? I suppose it is only human nature for them to say that the condemned fish were caught by gill nets, because naturally they are all for the seines and against the gill nets. But the inspection board, that board of brokers appointed to inspect the fish they are buying, say they cannot tell. A delegation of fishermen went to the canners two months ago and asked the canners if they could tell whether the fish were caught by gill nets or seines. They told the fishermen they could not tell, and it seems very strange- that those statements should be made to the deputy minister. The inspection board seems to be all right when its opinions agree with those of the department, but when the board is against what the department has been advocating, then the opinion of the board is ignored. I claim that the area under dispute is brackish water. The water of the Fraser flows into the gulf for many miles, but that point was not elaborated very much by the department. They simply ignored the fact that I had claimed that it was brackish water. That is one reason- why I think the fisheries committee should have gone into this matter more thoroughly. Witnesses should have been brought from the coast; the cannery men should have been invited also; proper tidal maps should have been produced by the deputy minister to support his contention that after the Fraser entered the estuary of the gulf it flowed north and that the area under dispute was not brackish water. So many misleading statements have been made that I have not time to go into all of them; I can only touch a few, to which I should like to direct the attention of the house. But may I say that while there have been many arguments advanced with regard to the quality of fish and the method of catching them, very little if any argument has been advanced by the department in regard to the time of year when the fish are caught, which is an all important question as far as quality is concerned. What did the department do last year? This is very interesting. At a public meeting it was stated on behalf of the department that the FraseT river had been closed because sixty per cent of the fish were too poor in quality to be



Fisheries Act



canned, but two weeks later they opened up the river for fishing. This question has been asked and never answered properly: If the fish were not fit to be canned on September 12 last why, after closing the river for two weeks, was it decided that the fish were all right, as was shown by the fact that the river was opened for fishing again? As a matter of fact when the river was reopened two weeks later the cannery men, naturally enough, were afraid to can the fish caught, with the result that the fishermen took them across the line and received more for their fish than they would have received if they had been accepted by the Canadian cannery men. Then it was stated by the department that the fishermen were not injured by reason of the fact that seines were allowed in this area, and it was stated further that in 1934 the fishermen received more money than they had received in the previous year. They overlooked the fact that there were actually more fishermen in that area than the number given out by the department. The department simply took number of licences issued in that area, divided them by the sum total of the price received and said, "There you are; each individual received so much. We have taken the number of licences and divided that into the total amount, and therefore the fishermen got more." I ask: Is that evidence? I say it is not evidence and we could prove the contrary; had the fishermen been given an opportunity to appear before the committee it could have been amply proven that hundreds of fishermen came from other areas into that area. The fact has been overlooked, also, that while it is true'some individual fishermen obtained larger catches, they might have obtained such catches and more because some individual boats were in operation twenty-four hours of the day. In 1922 a commission was sent out to British Columbia to investigate the fishing industry, and the report adopted by this house stated that no seines should be allowed where gill nets could operate. Well, gill nets have been operating in that area for fifty years. It is strange that from 1922 nothing was done until 1933, at which time it was suddenly opened up. Why? That was done because other areas had been fished out and the cannery men were demanding more places for their boats; they have a certain amount of money invested in those boats. It is their idea to keep their boats operating for as long a period as possible and be in a position to move them from one district to another. I state in all seriousness my belief that the fishing industry as a whole has suffered greatly [Mr Reid.l because we have had no minister of fisheries. I make that observation advisedly and in all kindliness to the present acting minister. The present arrangement does not give the present acting minister or any person who may hold that office the proper incentive to go ahead and to look into all aspects of the field with a view to conducting the Department of Fisheries as it should be conducted. I claim that no matter how efficient may be the department in this city of Ottawa, the men on the Pacific coast and the fishermen engaged in the trade know more about the fishing industry than do the officials in the department. With^ the statement that we should have had a minister of fisheries I would couple the observation that the fishing industry is one of the most important. In 1929 the total trade in the fishing industry was valued at S53,000,000. In the fishing operations 65,391 men were employed and on shore 13.927 found employment, making a total of 79,318 persons. An industry showing that volume of trade and this large number of persons engaged in it might well have had a minister of fisheries who could have devoted the greater part of his time to the industry. This is an instance of vested interests operating against the individual fishermen. When the price spreads commission was investigating conditions in the Atlantic coast fisheries I should like to have seen them investigate and take evidence from the Pacific coast. Had they done so I believe conditions revealed on the Pacific coast would have been far worse than those on the Atlantic seaboard. I believe the fishing industry on the Pacific coast is being mainly controlled by certain large interests in the east. It is a well known fact, I believe, that the Gundy interests control some fishing companies out there. Then we hear talk about prices. It is very strange that although United States cannery men pay far more for their fish they can sell it much cheaper to the United States consumer than does the Canadian cannery man to the Canadian consumer. I hold in my hands two tins of salmon of the same variety, one a Canadian can and the other an American. I bought these cans of salmon because I thought it worth while to bring the evidence with me; there is nothing like producing the goods. Although the United States fishermen receive more money than the Canadian fishermen for the same variety of fish, the American consumer can buy a one pound tin of fish far cheaper than can the Canadian consumer. I say the vested interests in Canada are soaking it to the Canadian consumer. What do we find so far as No. 1 sockeye is concerned? In Canada the consumer is charged 35 cents Fisheries Act a tin while in the United States he is charged only 21 cents for the same variety. No wonder I have suggested that the price spreads commission should have considered this matter. No wonder I say that commission should have gone to British Columbia and investigated what is really happening out there. Endeavouring to eliminate any observations I made in a previous speech, I shall proceed to state as briefly as possible the meaning of the measure before us. This appeal of mine is on the principle of the greatest good to the greatest number. Surely in these days, when we are wondering what we will do with modern machinery, when we are wondering what we will do with our idle men, when we have a bill which will save an industry and would bring about a condition whereby twice or three times as many men would be employed-surely under these circumstances it is very strange to have, it fall on deaf ears. The fame of Fraser river fishing has been built up during the past fifty years by individual gill netting. We see now that vested interests are making a demand to be allowed to go into the estuary of the Fraser river and to scoop out the fish by the thousands. If this is permitted not only will 2,000 men be driven off. and deprived of their livelihood but the great fishing industry of the Fraser river will be destroyed. I claim it is a serious matter, and that is why I make my appeal to the house. I am appealing to hon. members to allow this measure to go to the committee, or to send it back, so as to have witnesses from the coast. Ah, yes; witnesses from the fishermen would not be allowed to come here, but w-e find that the vested interests can always afford to send their representatives to speak to the deputy, and to state what they want. We know that in the last few days one of them has been very busy wiring back to the Pacific coast, and saying: "For heaven's sake, appeal to the members of parliament to kill Reid's bill." Is it any wonder I raise my voice on behalf of the fishermen? Surely they need some one to plead their case. I make a final appeal to this chamber to at least send this matter back to the committee; let the witnesses and all records be brought forward so that the statements made by the department will be more fully gone into.


LIB

Albert Edward Munn

Liberal

Mr. A. E. MUNN (Vancouver North):

Mr. Speaker, I do not intend to discuss the bill in detail, because the hon. member for New Westminster (Mr. Reid) has covered the ground thoroughly. First may I compliment the hon. member upon his gallant fight for the fishermen. I know that he has no personal gain in mind, he is simply fighting for

the individual and against the vested interests. He is thoroughly familiar with the situation in his constituency, and undoubtedly knows more about conditions at that point than I do.

I happened to be a member of the committee, and as such I was greatly disappointed to note that the committee chose to reject the bill. It is only in recent years that conditions in the territory in question have been different. I say the hon. member is not asking for too much, and I would voice my plea to have the matter returned to the committee. Let us in some way obtain evidence from the men affected, because we know there are thousands of them. I would plead with hon. members to take a fair minded view and, if necessary, to forget politics. I think we should endeavour to help a man who needs assistance and hon. members should consent to the request of the hon. member for New Westminster that this bill be sent back to the committee.

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CON

William Gordon Ernst

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. W. G. ERNST (Queens-Lunenburg):

Mr. Speaker, as chairman of the committee which considered this bill I feel I ought to say a word or two by way of explanation. This bill seeks to eliminate purse seining in the waters not of the mouth of the Fraser river but adjacent to the mouth. The bill was referred to the standing committee on fisheries early in the session. A statement has been made, particularly by the last speaker (Mr. Munn), which would intimate to hon. members that fair consideration was not given to the bill by the committee. The hon. member for New Westminster (Mr. Reid) appeared before the committee with charts and maps to explain his bill and was as well posted with respect to it as he has been to-night. The deputy minister of fisheries then explained the attitude of the department and the reason which prompted them to allow purse seining. The statement of the deputy minister was subsequently put into writing and circulated to every member of the committee. It was sent to the Pacfic coast and every interest affected was given an opportunity to make a reply. The fishermen's union made a reply through the hon. member for New Westminster, largely in the terms in which he has addressed the house to-night. With the exception of the particular fishermen's union represented by the hon. member, all the replies were opposed to the bill. The hon. member again appeared before the committee to answer as best he could the arguments of the deputy minister. After fair consideration, quite apart from politics, a vote was taken

Fisheries Act

and the bill was defeated. I fail to see where either vested interests or politics enter into the matter. There has been an imputation against what I might call the good name of the deputy -minister. During the five years I have been chairman of this committee I have had the privilege of working with that gentleman; I knew him before that time and I believe that every hon. member who has come in contact with him knows that he is sincere and honest in his endeavours to help the industry.

One or two words as to the merits of the bill. There are two sharply conflicting opinions with regard to this matter. One opinion favours unlimited purse seining, while the other favours the elimination of this type of fishing. The department has tried to steer a course between these two opinions. Purse seining is now permitted only during the late months of the year when the late sockeye and pinks are running; it is not permitted during the other seasons and at all times it is under strict regulation. The argument put forward by the department in favour of purse seining during this limited period is that it produces a better quality of fish for canning than does the gill net method. The purse seine takes the fish before they enter the river, before they reach any brackish water and before discolouration or loss of colour takes place. The statistics furnished by the deputy minister show conclusively that since purse seining was inaugurated in these waters the pack in that particular area has been far superior to the pack in previous years when the fish were taken by the gill net fishermen after they had entered the river. It must be remembered that the purse seiner takes the fish while they are still in the open water, while the gill netter takes the fish after they have entered the river. As I say, the statistics show that since purse seining has come into effect in that area the catch has been immeasurably improved so far as canning quality and marketability is concerned. The statistics showed also that despite purse seining the gill net fishermen were taking more fish than they had been taking previously. There is nothing more *o be added; that is the whole crux of the matter. As to the change of attitude of the department, the deputy minister explained that compulsory inspection of canned salmon was first started in 1933 and that limited purse seining became complementary to the compulsory inspection in order to provide a suitable product for our markets.

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LIB

Charles A. Stewart

Liberal

Mr. STEWART (Edmonton):

Did purse

seining commence only in 1933?

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CON

William Gordon Ernst

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. ERNST:

In that area. I am not

speaking from first hand knowledge; I speak only from the evidence given by the deputy minister.

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LIB

Charles A. Stewart

Liberal

Mr. STEWART (Edmonton):

But it

started only in 1933?

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CON

William Gordon Ernst

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. ERNST:

In that area. Purse seining is carried on in other localities along the coast, but it has been carried on in that area only since the compulsory inspection was put into effect.

Mr. ANGlUS MaoINNIS (Vancouver South): Mr. Speaker, I have just a word or

two to say in connection with one or two points in this bill. In answer to the question asked by the hon. member for West Edmonton (Mr. Stewart) I would say that purse seining did not go into effect in thi3 area until 1933. This was not commenced because of the inspection; the department had wanted to put inspection into effect long before but the canners would not agree. Other areas had been fished out with purse seines and the canners wanted to get into this particular area which previously had been limited to gill netters. If purse seiners are to be allowed to continue to fish this area it will mean the depletion of the area to a point where it can be replenished only by long closed periods. As the hon. member who introduced the bill (Mr. Reid) has said, this is a struggle between large scale fishing and what is generally termed hand fishing. If the results obtained by the machine fishing went to the men in the community I would not have any objection, nor do I think anyone could object; but as the situation now is, the results all go to the canners. Some of the large shareholders of these canneries are not even residents of this country. During the last week or two we have been endeavouring to create employment and we certainly will not create employment by allowing the greater use of purse seines. I think the house should refer this bill back to the committee or pass it without reference back and give the men in the gill net fishing industry an opportunity to continue to earn their livelihood.

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LIB

Charles A. Stewart

Liberal

Hon. CHARLES STEWART (West Edmonton) :

Mr. Speaker, this is a matter in which

I took a great deal of interest in the early twenties, when I first came to Ottawa. I am surprised to learn that seine fishing has been allowed in the mouth of the Fraser river.

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CON
LIB

Charles A. Stewart

Liberal

Mr. STEWART (Edmonton):

Practically

in the mouth of the Fraser river, according to what I am told.

Fisheries Act

An bon. MEMBER: It is not in the

mouth.

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LIB

Charles A. Stewart

Liberal

Mr. STEWART (Edmonton):

Just outside the mouth. At least it is in the area that was formerly prohibited, and that is the point at issue. Since 1933 the policy of the department in this respect has changed, and changed for the very obvious reason that the canners were not able to catch in the waters where they formerly fished. My hon. friend shakes his head, but I had a good deal to do with the controversy in the west when that decision was arrived at, and my hon. friend can be sure that if seine fishing is allowed there for any length of time it will put the gill net fishermen out of business. If that is the object to be attained, you will succeed admirably. My hon. friend says there is no politics in this, and I am not approaching it from the political standpoint at all; I am approaching it from the standpoint, at this time particularly if at no other, that seine fishing should be prohibited in order to provide employment for a greater number of men. My hon. friend has practically the same conditions down in the east, although I am not so familiar with conditions there. But if a certain amount of fish can be consumed it stands to reason that the greater the number of men employed in catching them the more employment there will be, and so far as I am concerned if this bill comes to a vote I am going to support it for that very reason, and despite the fact that the committee voted against it.

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CON

Grote Stirling (Minister of Fisheries; Minister of National Defence)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. GROTE STIRLING (Acting Minister of Fisheries):

Mr. Speaker, I have very little to add to what has been already said with regard to this bill. It appears to me that there can be no finality in dealing with legislation if a bill is to go through the ordinary course of first and second readings, be considered by a committee as closely as this matter was considered, then rediscussed here with the same statements repeated on both sides, and perhaps be sent back to the committee. It is a controversial matter, as I was careful to point out at the commencement of my remarks on the second reading, but it is a matter to which the department has given a very great deal of attention.

My hon. friend from West Edmonton (Mr. Stewart), at the last moment, shall I say, introduces his suggestion that perhaps seining has been permitted in this small area for the purpose of ultimately driving out the gill net fishermen.

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LIB

Charles A. Stewart

Liberal

Mr. STEWART (Edmonton):

That is

what will happen.

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CON

Grote Stirling (Minister of Fisheries; Minister of National Defence)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STIRLING:

A more extraordinary

misconception, if the hon. member has listened to any of the statements which have been made heretofore, I can hardly conceive. Let me in a very few sentences simply put the case.

The late run fish come through the straits of Juan de Fuca, hugging the Washington shore. There they are taken in the cold, clear, salt water in enormous numbers for the purposes of the Washington canneries. When they get close up to the dividing line between the United States and Canada, which is not many miles from the area into which the Fraser river pours into the gulf of Georgia, they can first be taken by Canadian fishermen. They mill around in that triangle of water, beyond the brackish discoloured water of the Fraser, and in that water they can be taken, but they cannot be taken in that water by the gill netters. When I say they cannot be taken there I mean that the gill nettens principally do their fishing in the discoloured brackish water off the mouth of the Fraser, but as soon as the fishermen get into this cold, clear water where their nets are easily visible they do not succeed in taking fish, and they go back again to the brackish water. Therefore if these fish, where it is first possible to take them in Canadian waters, are not taken by gear that will take them they will not be taken by Canadians, and the amount of trade in canned salmon which Canada can do in world markets will not be as great as it otherwise would be.

My hon. friend the sponsor of the bill (Mr. Reid) has repeated here this evening a good many of the statements which he has made on two previous occasions. He has expressed considerable disagreement with the statements of the deputy minister. I should certainly have thought that the place to make known those disagreements was in the deputy minister's presence on the occasion when this matter was so fully discussed by the committee.

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LIB

May 31, 1935