Meeting of the Continuing Committee of Ministers on the Constitution, Notes for Statement by Quebec, Fishing (8-11 July 1980)

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Date: 1980-07-08
By: Quebec
Citation: Meeting of the Continuing Committee of Ministers on the Constitution, Notes for a Statement by Quebec, Fishing, Doc 830-81/018 (Montreal: 8-11 July 1980).
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DOCUMENT: 830-81/018
_ (Secretariat translation)
Notes for a Statement bv Quebec
I» The problem
At present the federal parliament has the exclusive
right to regulate fishing. Because of their jurisdiction over
property and civil law, the provinces also act in the area fisheries,
and they can regulate operations after the fish have been caught.
I Quebec is an exception, for it has administered
both its interior and coastal fisheries since the agreements
of 1922 and 1943, under which the administrative responsibilities
of the federal government were transferred to the Quebec
government. However, these agreements is no way affect the
distribution of powers under the constitution. Despite the
fact that authority has been delegated to Quebec, the federal
government has administered the Fisheries Act since 1959 when
fishing and the inspection of fish for export have been
On the other hand, the BNA Act, by conferring on
the federal parliament the necessary authority to establish
measures essential to protect species, has justified a number
of federal actions directly involving water management.
Amendments made in l969 to the federal Fisheries Act gave the
federal government authority to control substances hazardous to
fish entering the water. In 1977, the federal government began
to control not only substances hazardous .to fish, but any
action likely to lead to a decrease in or the disappearance
of the biological qualities of the fishes‘ habitat, whether
through the discardhn of harm??.subsunres, construction or
exploitation. By providing itself with such broad means of
protecting the fisheries, the federal government is at the
same time becoming involved in a major way in water management.
The suggestions put forward by various people fall
under the following headings:
— interior or coastal waters;
~— tidal waters and the others;
e quotas, licences and water development;
— provincial coastal borders;
— the migratory nature of species and international
— salmon;
— legislative preponderance by sector;
— supervision and inspection;
— constitutional changes and administrative agreements;
— the Indians’ rights.

II— Quebec’s position
A) The importance of fishing
Aware of its responsibility to manage and exploit
the resources in its territory for the welfare of Quebecers,
the government of Quebec proposes conferring on the provinces
exclusive legal jurisdiction over fishing and fisheries in the
waters within its territory. It is time that the anomaly in
the constitution, which excludes fishing and fisheries (tha? is, the facilities
and equipnent related to fishing} fron general provincial jurisdiction over natural
The importance Quebec attaches to fishing and fisheries
need not be demonstrated, considering that, since 1922,
Quebec has been largely responsible for administering federal
laws and regulations on fishing under a federal~provinci”l
agreement. It seems more logical and more respectful of
Quebecers’ interests that Quebec should administer its
own laws in this area rather than laws enacted by another
authority. Furthermore, because of the importance of the
fishing industry in the life of their citizens, the governments
of the provinces bordering on the sea (Quebec, British Columbia,
Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick)
obviously have greater interest in fishing and related facilities
than do the other governments in Canada.
Furthermore, progress in science and technology
oblige the provincial governments not to restrict themselves
to exploiting natural resources, but also to actively work to
protect their ecological systems, including man’s interaction
and that of his products and works with other species, the
land and waters. Since the decision handed down on June 17, 1980
by the Supreme Court of Canada in the case of Dan Fowler v Her
Majesty the Queen which declared unconstitutional a section in
the federal Fisheries Act aimed at protecting the waters against
certain substances, the need for the provinces to take control
over their aquatic environments has become more and more pressing.
B) ‘ ‘~
Quebec s position
Quebec’s proposal has two aspects. First, “the
fishing and fisheries in the province” would be added to the
list of substances over which the provincial legislatures have
the exclusive right to enact legislation. At the same time,
fishing and fisheries would be eliminated fromxthe list of subjects
over which the federal parliament has the’exc1usive right to enact

Secondly, we will add to the Canadian constitution a
provision which will confirm, in the Gulf of the St. Lawrence,
the rights of the adjacent provinces, specifying that the
borders of the provinces of Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia
Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland extend t0 the
dividing lines equidistant from their respective Cnasts in the

Quebec’s Erogosal
l) Repeal subsection 12 of section 91 of the BNAA, 1867.
2) Add to section 92 of the BNAA, 1867, the following subsection
after subsection 13:
“l3A. Fishing and fisheries in the Province”
3) Add after section 7 of the BNAA, 1867, the following provision:
7A_ The Gulf of the St. Lawrence is, and has always been,
an integral part of the territory of the Provinces
of Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia,
Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland in accordance with
a plan following the dividing lines equidistant
from their respective boasts“.
July 1980

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