2018 file photo of Joy Thorkelson cross examining government officials at the Northern Gateway Hearings in Prince Rupert. (File photo) Joy Thorkelson cross examines government officials at the Northern Gateway Hearings in Prince Rupert. On June 15, Thorkelson was appointed to the new Wild Salmon Advisory Council alongside James Lawson and Tasha Sutcliffe. (File photo)

Net comes up empty for UFAWU-Unifor fishermen seeking disaster relief, city council offers help

Also in council briefs: New policy to better communicate with media and public

The United Fishermen and Workers Union UNIFOR (UFAWU-Unifor) continues to get “kicked around like a political football” in their struggle to get emergency compensation for fishermen.

Joy Thorkelson, president of UFAWU-Unifor used the analogy at Monday’s city council meeting as she spoke about their fight to get both levels of government to respond to the terrible fishing season.

Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) responded to a letter from UFAWU-Unifor stating it is not in their mandate to provide disaster relief while ministries in the federal and provincial government have been passing responsibility onto the other, according to Thorkelson.

“What happened is that DFO is 150 per cent wrong or 500 per cent wrong. However you want to do it,” said Thorkelson. “This was the worst year on record in British Columbia. Nothing came back, except for spring salmon which did not too badly.”

READ MORE: Advocates sound alarm on worst B.C. commercial fishing season in 50 years

City councillor Nick Adey has been a champion of UFAWU-Unifor, inviting Thorkelson to come speak to see if there was anything Prince Rupert could do municipally to help.

While the issue is largely a federal one that falls under the mandate of the DFO, with provincial consequence, Adey believes there is a place for municipalities to grease the wheels of the government.

“I think we are quite limited because it is a coastal industry but there are individuals who live in this community who’ve had a really hard time therefore we have a responsibility to be interested in it. It’s frustrating to hear about the lack of success,” said Adey in an interview after the meeting.

“We can approach other local authorities however and get them on board with dialoguing with higher levels of government.”

New communications policy for the media and public

City council voted to amend their outdated 2003 communications policy now allowing for better communication with the public and the media.

“The previous policy it didn’t really reference the kind of internet communications that we now use pretty frequently.

“We also didn’t have communication staff on hand so there are a lot more commitments on the city’s part to communicate with the community and the [new] policy outlines those,” said Veronika Stewart, communication manager for the city.

Employees are now allowed to give information on facts provided they do not interfere with the Information and Privacy Act.

READ MORE: EDITORIAL: Is researched, reasoned journalism the next endangered species?

They may also communicate with the media about specific operational, safety and prevention issues at their discretion with prior permission from the supervisors and may not disclose their opinions to the media about city projects or city employees.

The city added a social media policy, as part of their effort to reach out to the public by a variety of channels, highlighting standards and procedures for employees to create an account on behalf of the city.

According to the policy, pages created by the mayor and councilors do not represent or belong to the position of the city.

The Property Tax Exemption by-law was officially adopted for 2020 with no objections from the public after notices for comment took place.

READ MORE: Council briefs: Moresby Tank Removal Project moves forward; Port Edward to receive more than $1M from Ridley Tax

Jenna Cocullo | Journalist
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