BC's Fraser River sockeye face increased risks as many DFO employees working in habitat protection stand to lose their jobs

Harper Wasting No Time Slashing DFO Habitat Jobs as Notices go out to Staff


According to Otto Langer, the former senior DFO scientist and manager who first blew the whistle on Stephen Harper’s plan to gut the Fisheries Act, the job cuts associated with Harper’s program will soon be taking effect in BC. Langer sent out the following warning on June 27.

Today all DFO habitat protection and management staff in Canada are receiving letters that they are now “red-circled” – i.e. they are being affected by Bill C-38 with it’s budget and habitat legislation and program cuts (i.e. DFO downsizing) and many will soon not have a job. Yesterday all staff in the BC-Yukon region were advised of this happening in a telephone call from Pacific Regional Director General Susan Farlinger. Staff were directed to not discuss this with anyone and only DFO Ottawa was allowed to comment on the issue.

132 habitat staff across Canada will be fired (laid off) in the next few months in that many will have to compete for remaining jobs. In the Pacific Region, they now have 92 staff and that is to be reduced to 60 – an approximate 33% cut in staff. Also, all habitat office locations in Pacific Region are to be closed down, with the exception of Whitehorse, Prince Rupert, Kamloops, Vancouver and Nanaimo. That means offices such as those in Mission, Campbell River, Prince George, Nelson, Williams Lake, Smithers, Port Hardy, etc. are to be shut down. If the Enbridge and natural gas pipelines go across northern BC, there will be no habitat staff in Prince George or Smithers, etc. to respond to potential disasters – the closest offices will be Prince Rupert or Kamloops.

The office in Port Hardy has looked after salmon farming issues, which it will be unable to do now.

This puts DFO back where it was in the early 1980s, i.e. 5 offices in BC and even less staff than they had in 1983 with many giant projects such as Enbridge, gas lines, gas liquification plants, New Prosperity Gold Mine, Site C Dam on the Peace River, Panamax tankers of jet fuel up the Fraser River, Roberts Bank Port expansion, etc. now being proposed and pushed along. Never in the past 50 year history of habitat protection have we seen such great cuts in staff the face of upcoming massive industrial development that can and will harm habitat and our fisheries of the future.

Finally, Ottawa has given all DFO habitat staff directions to remove the “Habitat Management Program” title from their organization and from their offices, etc. in that they are now to be called the “Fisheries Protection Program”.

In summary, this puts DFO back to where they were in the late 1970s in terms of habitat staff numbers in the Pacific Region, but with next to no legislation to protect overall habitat and a greatly reduced presence in the field where the habitat damage takes place. Their efforts will of course be distracted over the next year or more in that staff will have to compete for the surviving 60 positions and put their minds to what they can do for a living when laid off and where they move to to get a job to support their families, etc. I am told the already very low morale of the staff was destroyed by Bill C-38 and now it has received its final blow – the willingness and direction to do their jobs can now be measured in negative quantities.

One can now say that the Harper Government has ‘right-sized’ the workload for the reduced number of staff! They will protect less habitat, despite the incredulous claims of DFO Minister Ashfield and many Conservative MPs that DFO will provide the fishery with better, more focused protection. More staff-related budget cuts have been outlined for 2013 and 2014.

All DFO habitat protection offices from Quebec to the BC-Alberta border, i.e. Central and Arctic Region, will also be drastically cut and all offices will be shut down except in Ottawa, Burlington, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Yellowknife. It is indicated that of 63 DFO offices in Canada with habitat staff (now “fisheries protection” staff), most will be closed and the number of offices having habitat-type program staff will be reduced to 14 for a giant geographic area – i.e. Canada.


About Otto Langer

Otto Langer BSc(Zool) (1968) and MSc (1974) worked for the Department of Fisheries and Environment Canada from 1969 to 2002 pioneering the enforcement of the habitat provisions of the Fisheries Act appearing in over 100 courts as an expert witness. In 2002 he joined the David Suzuki Foundation establishing its Marine Conservation Group specializing in salmon farming issues. His articles appear in numerous technical publications and in 2005 he co-authored Stain Upon the Sea: West Coast Salmon Farming which won the Roderick Haig-Brown BC Book Prize.

7 thoughts on “Harper Wasting No Time Slashing DFO Habitat Jobs as Notices go out to Staff

  1. i am extatic over harpers decision to downsize dfo and other government . we are far to socialist and have been going more and more green for to many years ,at last there is a move the other way and alittle more balance .

  2. If Christy Clark wants to jump the gun and say, That’s the balance of risk over the benefits. She was referring to the last Enbridge oil spill. What about the impacts it will have on the Skeena and other rivers. I wonder what her take is on the ISA, Hn viruses and Kudoa thysites parasites from farmed salmon. Maybe she’ll foot the Bill not if but when she gets the virus herself being all googly eyed about the economic benefits.

  3. Dear Otto — I’ve admired you since you came to speak to my classes at Langara College many years ago. Thank you for your earlier warning, for your blog in Common Sense Canadian, and for your principled opposition to Mr. Harper’s ideology and actions. No one person should have the kind of power he has. Change is needed.

  4. Mr. Langer Thank you for your courage, some one has to speak for the environment and we know for sure that is not our Prime Minister !

    Building the economy of Canada is important but we cannot sacrifice the environment to do it. Our long range plans have to look at how we can protect the environment for future generations and still grow as a country.

    Mr. Harper is not a visionary but rather a short term thinker who does not are or possibly understand the seriousness of the environmental decisions being made in Ottawa.

    It is our responsibility as Canadians to speak out and let our elected officials know today ,that this is NOT acceptable.

    Canada is a beautiful country and we need to keep it that way.

  5. May all of these laid off people support the F.N. to stop the Enbridge pipeline and the dirty tar tankers, from coming into BC. The dirty tar sands are, an abomination on the face of Canada. That filthy oil has the potential, to kill the entire planet. At what point, will Common Sense trump Harper’s greed?

    The filthy diseased fish farms, killing our wild Salmon, need to be torn out. Campbell’s theft and sale of our BC rivers, were for hydro dams. Those dams are killing off, thousands of fish. They need to be blown up, so the rivers can go back to nature, as they were intended for in the first place. When you interfere with nature’s plans, disasters follow. Oil spills. poisoned drinking water, Poisoning thousands of rivers, streams, lakes, the sea and the lands.

    Harper puts his greed first. How absolutely stupid is that?

  6. Harper is bound and determined to see fairness prevail in this great country of Canada. The cod fisheries collapse on the east coast must be followed by the salmon fisheries collapse on the west coast-doesn’t it?

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