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First Nations group wins lucrative clam fishery, breaks up Clearwater monopoly



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  • OTTAWA — A company made up of First Nations members from Quebec and Atlantic Canada — and led by the brother of a Liberal MP — has won a new licence for Arctic surf clam, ending a longtime monopoly on the multimillion-dollar industry held by fisheries giant Clearwater Seafoods Inc.

    Granting the lucrative offshore licence to Five Nations Premium Clam Co. will boost Indigenous participation in the industry and spread economic and social benefits across eastern Canada, said Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc.

    “This is a powerful step toward reconciliation,” LeBlanc said.

    “The inclusion of participants from each Atlantic province and Quebec will allow the benefits of this lucrative fishery to flow to a broad group of First Nations, and will help create good, middle-class jobs for Indigenous peoples in each Atlantic province and Quebec.”

    Last year, the government announced it would add a fourth licence comprising 25 per cent of the total allowable catch of Arctic surf clam, and that the successful applicant would be an Indigenous entity and majority Canadian-owned.

    Five Nations Premium Clam will partner with Premium Seafoods to harvest, process and market the catch.

    Edgar Samson, whose brother is Liberal MP Darrell Samson, is listed as president for both companies.

    “Our company, its employees and the small rural communities of Isle Madame (in Cape Breton) are excited to participate in the surf clam fishery with our Indigenous partners,” Samson said in a statement.

    Samson said in an interview he is committed to working with current licence holder.

    Chief Arren Sock of the Elsipogtog First Nation in New Brunswick said he applauds the government for “its commitment to reconciliation” and for the jobs the fishery will create in his community.

    Clearwater is crying foul over the announcement and promising legal action against the government following its own unsuccessful bid, which involved partnering with 13 Mi’kmaq bands in Nova Scotia.

    “We are disappointed in this outcome,” the company said in a statement, adding that it invested $156 million over the past three years to boost its capacity and develop the fishery and the market.

    “The minister has destabilized the investment climate in the Canadian fisheries and the Canadian natural resource sector.”

    Clearwater took in more than $90 million from Arctic surf clam sales in 2016, which amounted to about 15 per cent of its total annual revenue.

    The fishing grounds for Arctic surf clams are located mainly off Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, and the current quota is about 38,000 tonnes and worth tens of millions of dollars annually.

    The clam’s purple colour turns red when blanched and is attractive to the sushi and sashimi market.

    (Companies in this story: TSX:CLR)

    — Follow @gwomand on Twitter

    Geordon Omand, The Canadian Press

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    Alberta suspends caribou protection plan, asks for assistance from Ottawa



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  • EDMONTON — Alberta is suspending portions of its draft plan to protect threatened woodland caribou, saying more research needs to be done and that Ottawa needs to help out.

    Environment Minister Shannon Phillips told the house Monday that the province is acting on concerns about the economic impacts of the protection plan.

    “The federal Species at Risk Act is an extremely inflexible instrument that has already had negative economic consequences (in Alberta),” said Phillips.

    “We are going to do our best to make sure that we protect jobs on this.”

    She said she has sent that message in a letter to her federal counterpart, Catherine McKenna.

    Phillips is urging the federal government to help Alberta come up with a workable solution rather than have Ottawa impose an environmental protection order.

    Alberta’s draft plan is in response to a federal deadline under the Species at Risk Act passed last October and is designed to help threatened woodland caribou recover in 15 different ranges.

    The province released its draft plan on Dec. 19 and then held a series of town hall meetings.

    “The public meetings were attended by thousands of Albertans who are concerned about the impact caribou range plans will have on their communities and on the industries that support those communities,” stated Phillips’ letter, which was co-signed by Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd.

    The province plans to spend more than $85 million in the next five years to restore caribou habitat by eliminating seismic lines, building birthing pens and bringing in other measures.

    It has already invested $9.2 million and the estimated cost over the next 40 years is $1 billion.

    Phillips said the feds need to step up on planning and consultation, and on the money side as well.

    “Caribou recovery cannot occur without an infusion of federal funds to restore habitat necessary to ensure population growth,” she wrote.

    “While we need more time and partnership from the federal government on this matter, we also need your support in not prematurely implementing federal protection orders that will not have effective outcomes for Canadians and Albertans.”

    The federal government has the option of imposing an environmental protection order if a province doesn’t come up with a plan to protect the caribou. The order would halt any development, such as oil drilling, that could harm the animals.


    Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

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    Five Things to know about Canada’s forthcoming peacekeeping mission in Mali



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  • OTTAWA — The Liberal government has unveiled Canada’s 12-month UN peacekeeping commitment to the west African country of Mali. It includes two Chinook helicopters to provide medical evacuations and logistical support, along with four smaller, armed Griffons to act as escorts for the larger transports. Here are five things to know about Mali and the mission.

    1. Lots of Canadian aid dollars. Mali has relied heavily on Canadian foreign aid, with only the United States and France contributing more. In 2014-15, Canadian development spending reached $152 million. Since 2012, Canada has also contributed $44 million in humanitarian aid following the country’s 2012 crisis (more on that below) and about $10 million to support the UN peacekeeping mission, making Canada its ninth-largest supporter.

    2. The 2012 crisis. It started when soldiers overthrew the country’s president, creating a power vacuum that was filled by an Islamic insurgency. The fall of Libya in 2011 busted the locks off Moammar Gadhafi’s arsenal, spreading weapons across north Africa, which armed various militia groups, including al-Qaida linked organizations. France led a war in 2013 that succeeded in driving the jihadists out of the stronghold they established in northern Mali. A UN peacekeeping force was established that year, and it has become its most dangerous mission with more than 160 fatalities.

    3. Canada’s drop in the peacekeeping bucket. Canada’s contribution of 250 personnel is far less than many of its allies. The UN mission comprises more than 13,000 troops. Germany, the country whose air support operations Canada will be replacing, has authorized the deployment of more than 1,000 troops. In addition to the UN mission, Germany has contributed 350 troops to a training mission for Mali’s military. France has 4,000 troops deployed to a counter-terrorism mission in northern Mali separate from the UN’s peacekeeping efforts. “This announcement is a small but important step towards Canada’s re-engagement in peacekeeping,” said peacekeeping expert Walter Dorn of the Canadian Forces College in Toronto, noting that Canada’s contribution to peacekeeping has hit an “all-time low” of a couple of dozen.

    4. The political peace process. In June 2015, a peace agreement was signed between the Malian government, Tuareg rebels and other rebel groups. The Tuareg first sparked the 2012 rebellion, but that was soon hijacked by the better-armed jihadists. Those jihadists are outside the peace process. Gen. Jonathan Vance, Canada’s chief of the defence staff, said “there is a prospect of a brighter future for Mali” but that “the basic deconstruction of Libya and the rise of terror groups, terror armies” has to be addressed.

    5. The human rights situation. The UN’s latest report on the human rights situation, tabled last month, offers a grim update of the situation in Mali. Between January 2016 and June 2017, it documented 608 cases of human rights violations involving almost 1,500 victims. These occurred across the country, including Gao, where the Canadian air contingent is expected to be based, and further north in Timbuktu. The perpetrators include signatories to the peace process and “non-signatory and splinter armed groups.” The vast majority of the victims are men. The abuse included illegal detention, torture, extrajudicial executions, recruitment of child soldiers and sexual violence.

    Sources: Government of Canada, The United Nations, Deutsche Welle

    Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

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