Fisheries Act sea change aims for conservation, clarity but Bill C-68 includes plenty of work for regulatory lawyers – The Lawyer’s Daily

Martin Ignasiak

Feb 7, 2018

Osler partner Martin Ignasiak tells The Lawyer’s Daily that the most important change from Bill C-68 – which includes significant amendments to the Fisheries Act – for project proponents is the reversion back to a prohibition on any activities that could harm or disrupt fish habitat. In her article, author Cristin Schmitz examines the wide-ranging impact of Bill C-68 on project proponents and those assessing regulatory requirements for those projects. Martin, Co-Chair of Osler’s Regulatory, Environmental, Aboriginal and Land Group, explains the implications of the Fisheries Act amendments.

“This is the test that was previously used before the Fisheries Act was amended by the previous government,” Martin tells The Lawyer’s Daily. “The current Fisheries Act is based on a ‘serious harm’ test, meaning death to fish, or the permanent alteration or destruction of fish habitat. In addition, the proposed amendments will apply to all waters frequented by fish as opposed to only fisheries that are part of a commercial, recreational or Aboriginal fishery, or to fish that support such a fishery. This means that many more activities will be caught by the [proposed] Fisheries Act.”Martin also says that some of the proposed changes mean certain projects will be exempted from having to obtain authorization from the Ministry under the Act.

“These exemptions will likely apply to family boating docks and certain dredging activities,” Martin tells The Lawyer’s Daily. “Depending on what is decided, they may also apply to other activities such as pipeline or transmission line crossings of certain watercourses. In addition, designated projects will be set out, and these will be subject to a new permitting procedure as opposed to the requirement of a ministerial authorization.”

Martin adds that the regulatory impact is also a “critical issue.”

“It is these regulations that will have a real impact on how project proponents are impacted by these proposed amendments to the Fisheries Act.” 

For more information, read Cristin Schmitz’s full article “Fisheries Act sea change aims for conservation, clarity but Bill C-68 includes plenty of work for regulatory lawyers” in The Lawyer’s Daily.