June 14, 1993 (34th Parliament, 3rd Session)


Bill Rompkey


Hon. William Rompkey (Labrador):

Mr. Speaker, first of all I want to congratulate my colleague from Bonavis-ta-Trinity-Conception on bringing this bill forward and having this debate today. I share his sentiments. I believe this is a measure that we must take now, simply because nothing else has worked. We are left with the only option we have, as far as I can see.
He is behind this and I congratulate him for bringing it forward. It would be very interesting to know where his opponent stands on this bill. His opponent is the former minister of fisheries from Newfoundland who went to Europe time after time to try to convince the Europeans of our case and try to get them to stop overfishing. He did that time after time and he failed. I failed. We all failed. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans failed. Everybody who tried negotiations failed.
It seems to me that it is very important to know where he stands. Does he support this, or does he support the government in saying: "No, we must not take possession of the jurisdiction of the nose and tail of the Grand Banks. We must just continue to negotiate and try to talk our way out of this. We must just try to invoke international agreements to our benefit". Does he take that
Private Members' Business
position or does he take the position of the Conservative opposition members in Newfoundland? They believe that not only must we take jurisdiction over the nose and tail of the Grand Banks, but we must call in the navy, not just the Canadian navy but the American navy as well.
I listened to an interview with Mr. Matthews, the Official Opposition critic for fisheries in Newfoundland, on CBC radio two weeks ago. He said very clearly that the time had come to stop talking. On that day there were 103 foreign vessels fishing just outside the 200-mile limit. There were 103 foreign trawlers, mostly Spanish and Portuguese, fishing outside the 200-mile limit on the nose and tail of the Grand Banks. It was after the election so there was obviously no election agenda, no election ploy and no votes to be gained. He said very clearly that the time had come to stop talking. The time had come to not simply take jurisdiction but to bring in the navy to enforce that jurisdiction.
He is right because this is our only option. Why is it our only option? Because this is our life. What is happening in our province now and I suspect will start to happen throughout other parts of the Atlantic region too is that we are bleeding to death. In terms of our life, our culture and in terms of what we are about as a people and what we have been, we are bleeding to death. Somehow or other we have to stop that.
I listened to the hon. member as he said: "What would happen if we did retaliate, if we did take this action? Would they not retaliate?" That seems to be the same as the Muslims saying: "If the Serbs attack we must not fight back otherwise they will retaliate", or in Somalia if the Somali war-lords attack the UN the UN must not attack back otherwise the Somali war-lords might retaliate. Sure they are going to retaliate. We have been attacked and we must fight back.
The hon. member knows just as well as I do because of where he comes from that this is our life. He knows that. He knows that this is the life of the Quebec north shore. He and I share a constituency. The people who fish north of Blanc-Sablon and the people who fish south of Blanc-Sablon share that way of life and have no option. It seems to me we have k responsibility to protect those people who cannot protect themselves. They are the real victims of overfishing because they have not been able to

June 14, 1993
Private Members' Business
catch those fish inshore and they also have no alternatives.
I want to get back to what I said about the present situation. As a result of the moratorium we have people drifting in our province now. They see no future in the road ahead. They are confused and frustrated. Some are even getting into a situation of despair about the future. Those are the people we have a responsibility to protect.
Regarding the EC agreement, we have talked to the European Community and we have some things written on paper. However, it is very clear the European Community has no control over Portugal and Spain. That is obvious.
Not only does the European Community have no control in North American waters, it has no control in European waters. My impression is that what is happening off the coast of Norway is the same as what is happening off the coast of Newfoundland. The European Community can put all it likes on paper, but it cannot back it up. It cannot put that agreement into effect because it has no real control.
The European Community at the present time is completely immersed in its own agenda. It has problems of its own. It has to try to draw some unity out of the disparate states that presently make up Europe. I hope it succeeds in doing that, but that is where its focus and energy is and that is where its problems are.
The European Community does not see this as a top priority problem at the present time. Neither does it presently have the means to enforce any agreements it makes with Canada. Those agreements are not worth the paper they are written on. If the government is putting all its hopes on the agreements that we have and the fact that we may be able to talk the Europeans into living up to those agreements, I think it is a false hope. I think that is an empty hope. It is a hope that has proven to be ineffective.
As I said at the beginning, we have tried all other options. We have tried discussion. We have tried diplomacy. We have tried agreements. They have not worked.
At the present time people who depend almost wholly and solely on the fishery, people who are vulnerable, people who have no alternatives, people who have seen
their resource destroyed through no fault of their own are now asking what we are going to do about it. They want to know if we are going to take meaningful action or if we are going to continue talking.
The only answer is the one the member for Bonavis-ta-Trinity-Conception has put forward today. The government has to listen to this debate. It must take it seriously and act on the suggestion that has been put forward. It seems it is the only answer for us. I hope that the House as a whole will take this seriously, see the wisdom of this motion and support it.

Subtopic:   FISHERIES
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