Last night, UFAWU-Unifor staff and leadership had the opportunity to meet virtually with the newest Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, Joyce Murray.
Minister Murray was appointed to her newest position back in October of 2021. Since her appointment, UFAWU-Unifor President James Lawson has had the opportunity to meet with Minister Murray to make presentations on specific issues. However, last night’s meeting let staff and leadership educate Minister Murray on a range of critical topics currently impacting West Coast fishermen.
The Union discussed the development of an Owner-Operator license designation and an Owner-Operator proposal created by UFAWU-Unifor President James Lawson. Fishing sector support and collaboration on the Owner-Operator proposal, components of the Owner-Operator proposal for exploration and expansion, and a formal request to implement a freeze on the sale of licenses to parties other than First Nations and Owner-Operators were all touched on in the meeting.
PSSI closures and buy-out plans were also discussed at the meeting and a copy of The Future Of B.C. Commercial Fishing Report was shared with the new minister. Staff and leadership went into detail on the key considerations for realizing future fishing fleet dynamics, factors for determining a fair buy-out of harvesters, funding for a labour force adjustment program, and the shortfalls of E.I. qualifiers.
The recent closures of West Coast Herring fisheries was another key topic raised by UFAWU-Unifor — with staff and leadership formally requesting both the elimination of license fees for herring this season and the increase of $5 million to the budget for herring data collection.
Loss of allocation to First Nations was the final topic of concern presented to the minister. The union discussed how federal license reserves should be sufficient so that the reduction of existing licenses’ access is not required, how the reverse buy-out plan is not keeping up with First Nation demand while creating racial tensions and socioeconomic dilemmas, and the continued collaboration with First Nations to achieve common goals of access and allocation.
Formally presenting key topics of priority to Minister Murray was an important first step in achieving the progress that UFAWU-Unifor would like to see in these areas of concern.
UFAWU-Unifor is hopeful for a close and productive relationship with the new minister.