Arctic surf clam quota available by 2020

Former minister found in conflict of interest

OTTAWA: The federal government said it will make a lucrative clam quota available in two years and it wants a First Nations bid to assume control.

The next day, Canada’s Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner ruled that the former fisheries minister violated the Conflict of Interest Act in awarding the Arctic surf clam quota.

On September 11, Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans confirmed that the remaining 25 per cent of the 2018 and 2019 Total Allowable Catch (TAC) will be made available to the current licence holder, Clearwater Seafood, with the goal of identifying a new participant for the 2020 Arctic surf clam fishery.

DFO said it will be launching a new Expression of Interest process to identify an Indigenous entity to hold a fourth license for the fishery in the spring of 2019, so the successful applicant can begin fishing a new license in 2020. An independent third-party will evaluate the submissions received, the DFO said, noting that further details on this process will be made available later.

“The decision to introduce Indigenous participation in the Arctic Surf Clam fishery is consistent with the Government of Canada’s commitment to developing a renewed relationship between Canada and Indigenous peoples,” a DFO press release reads. “Enhancing access to the Arctic Surf Clam fishery broadens the distribution of benefits from this public resource, and is a powerful step toward reconciliation.”

Then in a report released on September 12, Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion found that former Minister of Fisheries Dominic LeBlanc was in a conflict of interest in relation to his decision to issue the Arctic Surf Clam licence to the Five Nations Clam Company.

“A first cousin of Mr. LeBlanc’s spouse, Mr. Gilles Thériault, could have benefitted financially from an Arctic surf clam licence being awarded to the Five Nations Clam Company,” Dion said. “Mr. Thériault would have served as the company’s general manager if the process to grant it the licence had been completed.”

Under the Conflict of Interest Act, public office holders are in a conflict of interest when they exercise an official power, duty or function that provides an opportunity to further their private interests, or those of their relatives or friends, or to improperly further another person’s private interests. The act defines relatives as persons related to the public office holder by birth, marriage, common-law partnership, adoption, or affinity.

“As Minister, Mr. LeBlanc was exercising an official power when he decided to pursue issuing the licence to the Five Nations Clam Company, and his decision provided an opportunity to further Mr. Thériault’s private interests,” Dion said.

The commissioner found that LeBlanc contravened subsection 6(1) of the act, which prohibits public office holders from making a decision that would place them in a conflict of interest, and section 21, which requires them to recuse themselves from any discussion, decision, debate or vote on any matter in respect of which they would be in a conflict of interest.