(Watch the full episode of Nation to Nation above, including an interview with Marjorie Flowers, an Inuk land protector arrested on Parliament Hill this week during a demonstration over the Muskrat Falls hydro dam project.)
Nation to Nation
The Trudeau government’s awarding of a multi-million dollar license to harvest clams in Atlantic Canada doesn’t pass the smell test after it has been learned the president of a company involved is the brother of a Liberal MP.
“This clearly smells,” said Conservative MP Kevin Waugh on Nation to Nation Thursday as the political panel dug into the growing controversy.
“You’ve got, as I mentioned, a brother of a current Liberal MP getting the contract.”
Waugh is referring to Nova Scotia Liberal MP Darrell Samson, the brother of Edgar Samson, who is the president of Premium Seafoods.
Premium Seafoods owns 75 per cent of the license, with the rest controlled by the Indigenous-led consortium of Five Nations Clam Company, made up of two Innu communities and three Mi’kmaq. The president of Five Nations is Aaron Sock of Elsipogtog First Nation and also involved is former Liberal MP Todd Russell.
In Atlantic Canada, Arctic surf clams have long been harvested and processed by the Halifax-based company Clearwater Seafoods.
The department of Fisheries and Oceans took away 25 per cent of the Clearwater’s monopoly in February and awarded it to Five Nations and Premium.
The license was meant to be an act of reconciliation through an economic development opportunity.
But it’s also recently come to light that a family member of Fisheries Minister Dominic Leblanc’s wife apparently also has a financial stake in the winning bid.
Instead of reconciliation, it’s turned into a week-long grilling of the government by the Conservatives during Question Period.
Cariboo-Prince George MP Todd Doherty accused Leblanc on Wednesday of helping his wife’s family in approving the winning bid.
“What we’ve also learned through these recently released documents is that Five Nations is headed by Gilles Thériault. Who is Gilles Thériault, you ask? None other than a cousin of the minister’s wife,” he said.
Leblanc has called the allegation ludicrous.
Doherty was citing Federal Court documents filed after the Miawpukek Mi’kamawey Mawi’omi First Nation asked the court to have the approval squashed in March.
That case is ongoing.
Northumberland-Peterborough South Liberal MP Kim Rudd defended the government’s decision on Nation to Nation.
“This is really about building capacity in Indigenous communities, economic benefit and development and something certainly quite in line with our government’s commitment to reconciliation,” said Rudd, who is the parliamentary secretary to the minister of Natural Resources.
She said the awarding of the license was above board.
On Feb. 21, LeBlanc said Five Nations had won a competition for the licence because the company met criteria that called for an Indigenous entity located in the Atlantic region with majority Canadian ownership.
LeBlanc also said the company included partners from five First Nations in the region and Quebec, though he could name only one at the time: eastern New Brunswick’s Elsipogtog First Nation near Rexton.
The remaining partners were revealed two weeks later, but not before LeBlanc had confirmed the original proposal from Five Nations had only included “reserved spots” for other Indigenous partners.
The Conservatives are also asking the federal Ethics commissioner to reconsider his decision not to investigate the Liberal ties to deal.
The Arctic surf clam fishery generated $90 million in sales in 2016 and mainly supplies the Asian sushi and sashimi market.
The fishing grounds for Arctic surf clams are located off Nova Scotia and eastern Newfoundland, and the current catch-limit is about 38,000 tonnes.
– with files from the Canadian Press