Opinion

In the end, it's about fish conservation

A letter to the editor defending the American fisherman who was caught pretending to be a B.C. resident, published March 11, deserves a response and since no one  better qualified has stepped up to do so, allow me.

Right off, let me concur the regulations regarding whether or not a non-Canadian qualifies as a B.C. resident are as clear as the water in a spawning area. Even a lawyer’s eyes must boggle when he reads this:

“B.C. Resident means: your primary residence is in British Columbia, AND

(a) OR (b) Canadian Not Resident in B.C. means:

you are not a BC Resident but (a) you are a Canadian citizen or landed immigrant,

OR (b) your primary residence is in Canada, AND you have resided in Canada for the immediately preceding 12 months.

Not a Canadian Resident means:

you are neither a BC Resident nor a Canadian Not Resident in B.C. you are a Canadian citizen or a landed immigrant, AND have been physically present in B.C. for the greater portion of each of 6 calendar months out of the immediately preceding 12 calendar months, you are NOT a Canadian citizen or a landed immigrant, but have been physically present in British Columbia for the greater portion of each of the immediately preceding 12 calendar months.”

I’m not a lawyer, a fisherman, or a fishing licence vendor. But I would take it from those regulations, the American claimed Terrace as his primary residence and expected to qualify as a B.C. Resident under the last paragraph, until the conservation officer determined he had not been physically present in British Columbia for the greater portion of each of the last twelve preceding calendar months.

Now, he may have gone back to the U.S. for weeks or more to be with an ailing sister. All well and good. But my experience with American immigration rules is they don’t bend for compassionate grounds. Why should B.C.’s?

If I had been him, with any doubts, I would have consulted a conservation officer. Or a lawyer. Surely a lawyer would have charged much less than the $4375 fine the court imposed for making false statements to obtain B.C. resident angling licences.

The fact this fisherman “had been faking residency for nearly half a decade to avoid paying for expensive non-resident angling fees” would have been easy to do once he obtained his first B.C. resident licence.

Checking with three fishing licence vendors, a B.C. Driver’s license could have gotten him started. He would have been assigned an angler’s number which could then be used in successive years to register for an annual licence without further proof of his residency status. An inviting loophole in the rules for obtaining a proper licence.

As an aside, presenting a B.C. Driver’s Licence, whether honestly obtained or bought from a home production company, is an open sesame to all sorts of B.C. taxpayer funded services, including medical care.

Asked what further proof a vendor required if they had any suspicions an applicant was a non-B.C. Resident, one vendor explained, to be a B.C. Resident he would have had to relinquish his right to vote in the U.S. and would carry legal papers to prove that. He would also possess a B.C. Residency card given to him after he qualified as a landed immigrant.

Another vendor said they would ask where he pays his taxes. Not proof of where he pays his taxes, but his word alone. We know how good his word was or he wouldn’t have been in court pleading guilty. A spirited defence of an individual is understandable. But unlawful fishing depletes our fish resource for many more years, and cannot be tolerated.

 

 

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