Commission confusion?

It may just be my younger-ish years, or maybe just general confusion. It started with trying to determine what “standing” meant — in regards to the Cohen Commission into the crash of Fraser River sockeye. And through seeking clarification on the initial news release from the Commission suggesting there would be a variety of ways for the public to participate in the Commission.

I’m still not clear — the Commission website has a page “How to Participate“. On that page, under “Public Submissions“:

Members of the public may participate in the inquiry by making public submissions. Beginning in March, submissions will be accepted through the commission’s website, as a medium for exchange of ideas and information. As the commission’s work progresses, other opportunities will be described on this website.

Yet further down the page under “Participants” it states:

A “participant” is a person whom the Commissioner is satisfied has a substantial and direct interest in the subject matter of the inquiry and to whom the Commissioner has formally granted standing.

So, am I to conclude that public submissions are simply a nice way to chat about the issue — not really “participate” as a participant is someone granted “standing”?

So will the public submissions be more like a wiki, or chat board, or like a comment section under an article — like on CBC?

As I’ve mentioned previously, any one salmon-related article on a media website can unleash a tense, slur-filled, tirade-laden blitz of comments, rants, and raves. Who will mediate this?

What sort of standing, or weight, will the public submissions have? If someone makes a strong, provocative submission could they then be subpoenaed to appear before the commission?

Without the information for understanding the nature of the “public submissions” and how they might be weighted or considered — as compared to someone granted “standing” with a “substantial and direct interest” suggests a lack of clarity around participation.

Added, there is no definition of what “substantial and direct interest” means.

Salmon are considered a public resource — so wouldn’t anyone living on the Fraser have a direct interest? Salmon are the central component of the Fraser watershed — they don’t just feed people and fisheries; they feed bears, eagles, marten, wolves, and so on, and so on.

For example, no salmon, or few salmon, in the Fraser River means more “problem” bears in communities. Does this not comprise a direct interest?

On the website “How to Participate” it states at the beginning of the document:

The commission will facilitate public input and discussion, and as its work progresses, specific opportunities for involvement will be described on this website.

The commission’s mandate will be of interest to many in the scientific and fisheries communities.

So what about the 40-50 First Nations living on the Fraser that have depended on salmon from eons? Many of these communities now relying on salmon being trucked from other areas.

My guess is that First Nations living on the Fraser would fit under the definition of “substantial and direct interest”. This then begins a potential wrangle of aboriginal rights and title. And yet, there is not even a mention (that I’ve seen) of First Nations on the website. If some apply for “standing” and others don’t — will this mean ‘too-bad’ for those that don’t apply.

However, there is no legal obligation for the government or Fisheries and Oceans to implement the Commission’s recommendations.

Lots of questions… is it just me?

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