The momentum against the Harper government removing “habitat” from the Fisheries Act is growing rapidly - with 625 scientists having signed onto a letter to Stephen Harper urging him to kill the plan. Even former Fisheries Minister Tom Siddon, the prodigal son who was part of the Federal government’s tawdry deal with Alcan, has joined in.
Let’s talk a little about the man who blew the whistle on this latest fiasco, Otto Langer. This man, with no fanfare or appeal to the cheap seats, aka the mainstream media, has been a relentless lifetime fighter for our sacred salmon. He also had the dubious “honour” to be on my last show on CKNW just prior to my being fired in June 2003!
Here’s a brief overview on what Otto has done over his career:
Worked for DFO and DOE for 32 years in habitat and water quality protection issues. Helped organize BC Assoc. of Prof. Biologists and was President of the group. Qualified as an expert witness on over 100 pollution and habitat destruction cases in Canada from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island. Published and directed many studies relating to the protection status of BC habitats. Author of the red, yellow and green habitat color zoning system that is used to protect the Fraser River Estuary. Promoted the inclusion of habitat protection provisions into the Fisheries Act in 1975.
Awarded the BC Government Silver Metal for urban stream riparian protection in 2000; BCWF BC Conservationist of the Year 2009; Co-recipient of BC Best Regional Book Prize 2005 - Stain Upon the Sea - a book dedicated to exposing the salmon farm industry in BC. Awarded the CWF Roland Michener Canadian Conservationist of the Year Award for 2010. Left government in 2001 and joined the David Suzuki Foundation (2001 to 2005) and formed their Marine Conservation Program. Has been retired for past 7 years and does volunteer work for many conservation causes including VAPOR (no jet fuel tankers in the Fraser River) , Fraser River Gravel Stewardship Committee (Chilliwack), oil and oil sands issues, London UK based MSC (2001-2010), BC Marine Conservation Caucus and had legal standing at the Cohen Inquiry on declining Fraser River sockeye stocks.
When Otto speaks, people listen. He is one of my heroes.
Another of my heroes is former Speaker of The House of Commons and lifetime friend, John Fraser - who also came out this week against Harper's plan to gut the Fisheries Act. Amongst many other accomplishments, John was Federal Minister of Environment at the same time I held the same position in BC. Two 1949 graduates from tiny Prince of Wales had the environment field covered! John has been a lifetime fisherman and his passionate commitment to his province and its amazing runs of Pacific salmon has led to his membership and leadership on too many committees to number and name.
The publicity of the feelings of this pair of passionate defenders of our salmon has a profound effect upon the Environmental movement. I want to be careful here because, as Otto and John would doubtless agree, the backbone of the defence of our province’s environmental integrity has been many, many people who remain largely anonymous. Many community leaders have done yeoman service, often in the face of media and indeed public opposition and mockery.
What Otto brings is an unmatched resume of public service for our province. It was he who made public the plan to remove habitat protections from the Fisheries Act - the fact it was leaked to him in the first place demonstrates the confidence others place in him.
John has spoken, in no uncertain terms, in criticism of his party and its leader. This has special meaning, for to speak against a party you don’t support is easy compared to dumping on a party you’ve been a part of for your entire adult life.
Otto reminds us that the establishment intentionally overlooks careful examination of environmental issues – that added to his lifetime service to our heritage is an example we in BC won’t overlook and the Harper government can’t ignore.
John brings awesome credibility to our fight, the awesome part being recognized as a thoroughly passionate environmentalist in face of opposition of his party and its leadership. This takes guts, something both Otto and John have in abundance.
Our province and coming generations are blessed to have people like Otto Langer and The Honourable John Fraser provide the leadership and reputations behind which we gird up our loins and continue the fight with renewed commitment and vigour.
This article originally appeared in the Common Sense Canadian. Reprinted with permission.