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Fisheries and Oceans quietly cancels plans to award Indigenous surf clam licence

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OTTAWA — The federal government says it has cancelled plans to issue a controversial clam fishing licence to a First Nations company with ties to the Liberal party and several sitting Liberal MPs — including the former fisheries minister.

A news release from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans says the process to issue a fourth licence to harvest arctic surf clam off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia was cancelled in early July, and that it won’t be issued this year at all.

That multimillion-dollar licence was supposed to go to the Five Nations Clam Co., a company court documents suggest did not initially meet key eligibility requirements spelled out in the government’s tender process.

The deal, which would have ended a 19-year monopoly on the Arctic clam fishery held by Clearwater Seafoods, was supposed to offer 25 per cent of the catch to local Indigenous communities as a way of promoting reconciliation and economic growth.

On Feb. 21, Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc announced the deal had been awarded to Five Nations, which he said was composed of “First Nations from Quebec, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick.”

In fact, the company only had two Indigenous partners at the time: the Elsipogtog First Nation in New Brunswick and the Nutashkuan Innu in Quebec.

“The current process to issue a fourth arctic surf clam licence was cancelled in early July, and the reasons subsequently shared with the proponent,” Fisheries and Oceans said Friday in a news release. “A new arctic surf clam licence will not be issued in 2018.”

Instead, a new process will begin next year in order to issue a licence that would be valid in 2020, with an “independent third party” evaluating the bids, the department says.

The remaining 25 per cent of this year’s total allowable catch “may be made available” to the existing licence holder, the release says. “This would allow for the economic benefits to remain in coastal communities while Fisheries and Oceans Canada continues to work to broaden access to this fishery.”

The new process, it continues, “will once again focus on confirming and validating the specific direct and significant benefits that will flow to Indigenous communities, as well as the proponents’ readiness to implement their submissions.”

Conservative fisheries critic Todd Doherty was very pleased with the decision, describing the original process as seriously flawed.

“This is great news,” Doherty said. “It’s what we said all along should happen.”

In its original proposal, Five Nations admitted it was not officially registered in Nova Scotia until Dec. 13, 2017, records show — well past the Nov. 22 deadline to submit proposals. The company was not registered in New Brunswick until Feb. 28 of this year.

Five Nations is partnered with Premium Seafoods, a non-Indigenous Nova Scotia company whose president is Edgar Samson, the brother of Liberal MP Darrell Samson. A newly added Indigenous partner, NunatuKavut, is headed by former Liberal MP Todd Russell.

In the spring, Doherty requested the ethics commissioner to investigate because those Liberal ties. Doherty has also drawn ties between the deal and LeBlanc himself: The Five Nations proposal said it would be headed up by Gilles Theriault, who is cousin to the former minister’s wife.

LeBlanc was shuffled out of the Fisheries portfolio late last month and now serves as intergovernmental affairs minister. He was replaced at Fisheries by Vancouver MP Jonathan Wilkinson.

Doherty called the timing of the decision “suspicious,” considering the fact LeBlanc was shuffled just weeks later.

The Miawpukek Band in Newfoundland, which had submitted its own proposal during the original process, launched a court challenge alleging LeBlanc breached his duty of fairness in awarding the licence to Five Nations. The office of conflict of interest and ethics commissioner Mario Dion has also been looking into the issue.

The Canadian Press

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Several anti-pipeline protesters released from BC jail days before week-long sentences end

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Several pipeline protesters were released from a British Columbia jail on Sunday, a few days before their week-long sentences were set to end.

Seven protesters in all were sentenced to a week-long jail term on Aug. 15, after pleading guilty to contempt charges in B.C. Supreme Court.

Five who were released on Sunday issued a joint statement, saying they were imprisoned because of their opposition to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

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In the statement, the five women – who include anti-poverty activist and Order of Canada recipient Jean Swanson – said they are not criminals, but “political prisoners.”

Swanson said in a phone interview that her four days spent at the Alouette Correctional Centre for Women in Maple Ridge, B.C., had not deterred her in what she said is a fight against climate change.

“I don’t know how anyone can look at the sky in Vancouver today and say global warming is not an issue,” said Swanson, in reference to the smoke and particulate matter from wildfires hazing the skies in southwestern B.C.

“We need to do something, we need to stop the insanity.”

From her perspective as an anti-poverty advocate, Swanson said the Trans Mountain pipeline ties the issues of homelessness, poverty and climate change together.

“For all those billions and billions of dollars, governments could actually create jobs building renewable energy…. Governments could end homelessness, they could put clean and safe water on Indigenous reserves.”

In May, the federal government announced its intent to acquire Trans Mountain from Kinder Morgan Canada.

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According to recent documents filed with the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission, the sale could cost as much as $1.9-billion more than the initial quote of $4.5-billion.

The documents also suggest the project could take another 12 months to finish.

More than 200 activists have been arrested for demonstrations against the Trans Mountain project since March.

Those released on Sunday also included former B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Susan Lambert.

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Online pot sales will leave a lot of information at risk, say experts

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TORONTO — Buyers who have to provide personal information to purchase recreational pot online after legalization this fall should be able to rely on existing laws to protect their privacy but the issue needs to be watched closely to ensure regulations are obeyed and mistakes are avoided, experts say.

The matter is important given the stigma many people still attach to marijuana use, and the potential for Canadians to be barred from the United States if their otherwise legal indulgence becomes known to American border agents.

“We need to keep eyes on it, meaning we have to make sure this information is not abused or used for secondary purposes that were never intended,” Ann Cavoukian, Ontario’s former privacy commissioner and now an expert at Ryerson University, said in an interview. “Theoretically, it should not be used for any other purpose.”

A spokesperson for federal Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien said the office had not looked specifically at online marijuana sales. At the same time, the commission said it recognized privacy concerns around buying or using marijuana given its longtime status as a controlled substance.

“The legal sale and use of both medicinal and recreational marijuana raises privacy issues, particularly since laws and regulations differ from country to country and even within countries,” Tobi Cohen said. “We have repeatedly raised concerns about the effectiveness of (Canada’s two privacy laws) in the digital age and have called for both laws to be strengthened.”

Last week, Ontario’s new Progressive Conservative government announced that consumers 19 years or older will have to go online to buy weed after legalization federally on Oct. 17 because private retail stores won’t be up and running until April. A government agency called the Ontario Cannabis Store will run the online sales, although private e-commerce provider Shopify will be involved.

Online buyers will, at minimum, have to provide a name along with email and delivery address, and payment information. In Ontario, as is currently the case with online alcohol sales, buyers will be able to order as a “guest” without creating an online account.

However, Scott Blodgett, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Finance, said buyers will have to provide proof of age via government-issued ID, which a delivery person will verify but not copy. The cannabis store website will have data security and privacy controls “aligned with global e-commerce best practice,” he said.

Personal data will remain in Canada and not be shared with third parties, Blodgett said.

Ontario’s Privacy Commissioner Brian Beamish was unavailable to discuss the issue but his office said in a statement that public institutions are accountable for the information they collect.

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