With Summer now in full swing, Manitobans are embracing everything that makes our beautiful province great - fantastic natural landscapes that open into majestic forests, rivers, and lakes.
Today, many families rely on Lake Winnipeg - the 11th largest freshwater lake on Earth and the largest in Manitoba - for their livelihood. However, the Pallister government has failed to support fishers in Manitoba throughout the pandemic, and despite commitments from the federal government for help, fishers have yet to receive any emergency funding.
I have heard from some fish harvesters that they have even had to sell their licenses, boats, and equipment to support their families. Many of these commercial fishers have carried their families’ trade for generations; it is disheartening, and unnecessary, that they will not be able to pass this tradition on to their children and grandchildren as a result of the pandemic and lack of government support.
As an Anishinaabe man from the Onigaming First Nation on Lake of the Woods, my family and relatives have long survived by fishing, harvesting wild rice, and hunting – living off the land. Many of the people I grew up with are now commercial fishers. The importance of sustainable fishing across Canada is critical for rural and northern families who are looking just to catch a few pickerel as well as those who pull nets out of the lakes and bring their catch to market. It makes little sense not to make emergency investments to sustain families and fishers that have long term effects.
That’s why my NDP team and I have called on the Pallister government to provide relief for fishing families by suspending the interest on loans that fishers receive through the Community Economic Development Fund. Fishers who can’t access the federal aid program are having to rely on the CEDF, but the interest fees are an added burden. It’s a simple step the province can take to make life a little easier for a community that plays such an important role in Manitoba’s economy and environment.
Not only do fishers contribute nearly $30 million a year to Manitoba’s economy, they also provide vital conservation and environmental management for our lakes and rivers. Being out on the water and land gives them a frontline view of the health of fish species, pollution, and erosion of banks and shores. Manitobans unknowingly rely on fishers for advice and expertise in the health of our food source, but also of our lakes and waterways. We must continue to support this work – again, the Pallister government has failed to make short term investments that would have long term effects.
Is your family affected by the lack of support for fishers? My team and I are here to listen. Feel free to get in touch with my office at OLO@leg.gov.mb.ca or call me at (204) 945-3284.
Wab Kinew is a former musician, journalist, broadcaster, university administrator and a bestselling author. He is currently the leader of the Manitoba NDP.