First Nations land dispute erupts at open house for proposed fish farm site – Campbell River Mirror

A proposed fish farm off northern Vancouver Island has sparked controversy among First Nations communities.

Two open houses were held on November 30 to provide information and answer questions about a proposed Chatham Canal fish farm as a joint venture between Tlowitsis First Nation and Grieg Seafood British Columbia Ltd.

These events took place as part of the “harmonized” regulatory approval process for licenses and permits from provincial and federal authorities required for construction and start-up of the farm. These include a license of occupation from the province, an operating license from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and a license from Transport Canada.

The first session, held virtually, began with remarks from Tlowitsi leader John Smith on the proposed farm and what it would mean for the nation.

The new salmon farm is located in Chatham Channel, east of Minstrel Island, on what is the nation’s unceded territory, Smith said. If approved, it will join three other farms already operating in the nearby Clio Canal, which have helped the Tlowitsis Nation thrive, he added.

“It was a boon to our tribe,” Smith said. “Before we got income from fish farms and forestry, we had next to nothing. “

The new farm will help the Tlowitsis Nation develop a new community, for which they have already purchased land south of Campbell River. It’s called “Nenagwas”, which means “a place to come home” because the nation has not had a home for over 40 years, he said.

Smith said the farms operating in the Nation’s territory had not damaged the environment or the spawning of wild fish.

“The reality is that farms don’t do the damage people say they do,” he said. “It is time for people to admit that they have been giving people misinformation, and it must stop.”

The virtual meeting then turned into a question and answer session, in which several members of the public, many of whom identified themselves as neighboring First Nations, said the consultation process was flawed.

Ruby Manila, a member of the Da’naxda’xw First Nation, said three of the four Da’naxda’xw hereditary chiefs had not been notified of the request.

“I would have expected that at least the Tlowitsis would reach out to all affected First Nations, tell them they were making a request – and instead we kind of find out that things are going on without consultation,” he said. she declared. “We have the right to know what is happening in our own territories.

The app has the potential to affect all Kwakwaka’wakw who use the area for fishing, she said.

Andrew Wadhams, a hereditary chief in Ma’amtagila, also said several hereditary rulers had not been contacted.

“I took my time yesterday to contact all the hereditary chiefs of the Ma’amtagila, as well as all the hereditary chiefs of the Tlowitsis and many members, and none of them have ever been consulted about the fish farm. ” he said.

Brian Wadhams, another Ma’amtagila hereditary chief and councilor for the ‘Namgis First Nation, said it was important for the Tlowitsis Nation to negotiate with all surrounding nations.

“What bothers us the most is that we fought for 30 years to take down the farms in the Broughton Archipelago, and here we are coming back to the same old, the same old,” he said. “It’s really frustrating for us as First Nations people who depend on these areas for our livelihood and food security needs. “

Mayana Slobodian asked if Grieg Seafood was aware of an ongoing legal dispute between Tlowitsis and Ma’amtagila.

“Considering that this conflict is really escalating right now, I wonder if an application should be considered in this territory, when there is so clearly a conflict going on,” Slobodian said.

Andrew Wadhams stated that this consideration is important because the proposed fish farm is located in an area of ​​overlapping land.

“He is going to be anchored in the lands of Ma’amtagila, and the Ma’amtagila have never been consulted or approached by anyone in any form,” he said.

Other respondents expressed concern about the potential impact of the new farm on eulachon, a small fish important as a source of traditional food and medicine, which lives in the ocean but spawns in freshwater.

“We have some of the only rivers in the world that provide us with Eulachon – and that’s our livelihood; it is our way of life; these are our generational teachings – they are really central to who we are, ”said Felicia Greekas.

The central coast populations of this species were assessed as Endangered by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada in 2011, but have not been formally protected under federal law. Species at risk Act.

The second engagement session was held in person at the Port McNeill Community Hall later that night, where anti-fish activists demonstrated inside the building run by “First Nation Councilor Namgis Ernest Alfred, who is also a hereditary chief of the Tlowitsis, ”Namgis and Mamalilikulla First Nations.

Alfred asked why the open house was being held in Port McNeill, arguing that his group of people had to travel from Cormorant Island by boat, which made it difficult for them to consult, then he asked the Tlowitsis to hold a meeting with the ‘Namgis at Alert Bay.

“And for those who are pro in the industry, we’ve said it before, we’ve said it loud and clear, we want farms to go,” Alfred said.

The hereditary chiefs of Kwakiutl First Nation and Ma’amtagila First Nation spoke after that, all calling for more consultation and once again confirming that the land on which the proposed fish farm will be attached is in dispute.

After the hereditary chiefs finished speaking, Bernie Taekema, an independent consultant hired by Tlowitsis First Nation for their tenure application, made a brief presentation, explaining all the logistics behind the proposed fish farm and how the nation would benefit. .

“The fish proposed to be cultivated is Atlantic salmon,” said Taekema, who also noted that the government had a list of species of special concern, “and none of these species have been observed in the area proposed for the fish farm “.

He added that the farm would create 27 full-time jobs with both direct and indirect jobs, including additional support from North Island entrepreneurs and trades.

Smith himself was the last person to speak on the open house, his voice breaking as he explained how his people feel lost and how the proposed farm will have a positive impact on their lives, while telling again categorically that he believes that fish farms are not dangerous for the environment or other species.

“We haven’t seen it and science hasn’t seen it, so that’s fine with us – I wish they [activists] would forget about us and let us do our thing to help our people.

After he finished speaking, the presentation ended with Alfred yelling for Smith to hand in his resignation.

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First Nations Salmon farming

Bruce Lloyd (far right), resident of Port Alice, listens to the speeches of the hereditary chiefs. (Tyson Whitney – North Island Gazette)

Port Hardy Mayor Dennis Dugas attended the meeting.  (Tyson Whitney - North Island Gazette)

Port Hardy Mayor Dennis Dugas attended the meeting. (Tyson Whitney – North Island Gazette)

Discussion in progress during a break.  (Tyson Whitney - North Island Gazette)

Discussion in progress during a break. (Tyson Whitney – North Island Gazette)

Bernie Taekema (far left) and Chef John Smith (far right).  (Tyson Whitney - North Island Gazette)

Bernie Taekema (far left) and Chef John Smith (far right). (Tyson Whitney – North Island Gazette)

Protesters drumming and singing outside in the rain before the start of the open day.  (Tyson Whitney - North Island Gazette)

Protesters drumming and singing outside in the rain before the start of the open day. (Tyson Whitney – North Island Gazette)

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