Nova Scotia

Federal court dismisses DFO appeal of ruling in fisherman's licence fight

The Federal Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal by the DFO challenging a judge's ruling that the department must consider disabled fisherman Dana Robinson's charter rights.

'I hope that we can get along with life and just keep making a living,' says Dana Robinson

Dana Robinson's boat is shown in Granville Ferry, N.S. He can only stand for a few hours a day and can't operate the boat himself. (Submitted by Dana Robinson)

The Federal Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal by Fisheries and Oceans Canada against a federal court judgment involving a lobster fisherman's charter rights on Friday.

Parkers Cove lobster fisherman Dana Robinson, 60, has a disability that limits his ability to stand on a boat for long periods of time.

He was operating his boat in the Bay of Fundy under a DFO provision that allows fishermen to designate a substitute operator once they provide adequate medical proof of their condition.

The provision only allows the substitution for five years. An extension was denied in 2019.

DFO denied extension

A federal court ruled in 2020 that the DFO's deputy minister did not adequately consider Robinson's charter rights when it denied the extension.

"I'm just glad it's over," Robinson said Saturday

He said the decision will have repercussions for the whole fishery as people who are disabled will not have to sell their licences and can keep fishing. 

"I hope that we can get along with life and just keep making a living," he said.

Back in DFO's hands

Richard Norman, the lawyer representing Robinson in the case, said it is now up to DFO to determine how it will deal with fishermen who have disabilities and medical conditions.

"There's really no good reason why somebody who has a disability and has operational control of their licence and their fishing enterprise … should be forced out of the industry," he said.

He questions the DFO view that the five-year limit on a substitute operator is an accommodation for people in the industry with a disability or a medical condition.

He compared it to an employer who has to install a ramp so that an employee with a wheelchair could access the workplace.

"And the employer is saying to the disabled employee, 'Yeah, we're going to install a ramp, but only for five years. At the end of five years, we're going to remove the ramp and you'll have to find a new job,'" Norman said.

He said it was a shame that his client had to spend money and time and wait 18 months to get through the appeal process.

In an email to CBC News, DFO said it is in the process of reviewing the decision.

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