Outside activists bring in supplies for salmon farm protesters occupying federally licensed aquaculture operation at Midsummer Island, fall 2017. A B.C. Supreme Court judge issued an injunction in December 2017, citing interference with operations and refusal to meet with operators. (Marine Harvest photo)

B.C. VIEWS: If this isn’t an Indigenous veto over development, what is?

Province surrenders salmon farms without scientific basis

“Free, prior and informed consent.”

That’s the key phrase in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which B.C. Premier John Horgan has vowed to implement in a province that has long struggled with unresolved aboriginal title and a lack of treaties over much of its area.

That goal came closer as Horgan unveiled an agreement with three Indigenous communities to shut down up to 17 net-pen salmon farms in their traditional territory off B.C.’s coast.

Horgan and other politicians frequently say the UN declaration is not a veto over development, but the province’s retreat from the Broughton Archipelago amounts to much the same thing. Ten of the long-standing provincial tenures between Kingcome and Knight inlets off the north end of Vancouver Island are gone by 2023, and the other seven can continue only if the Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis, ‘Namgis and Mamalilikulla First Nations consent.

The salmon farming companies, Marine Harvest and Cermaq, give up their sites and get little in return. They are allowed to apply to the federal government for new aquaculture licences elsewhere on the B.C. coast, and company representatives say they intend to protect the jobs of 600 employees affected by the shutdowns.

Scientific study of salmon farms and their effects on migrating wild salmon is to continue, and Indigenous communities are to establish monitoring and inspection of remaining sites in the region. But as all sides were praising a new spirit of cooperation, a ‘Namgis councillor said the deal doesn’t change the community’s long-standing demand that all ocean-based salmon farms must be moved out of their territory.

RELATED: Judge orders salmon farm protesters to stay away

RELATED: B.C. minister warned salmon farm not to restock

Provincial officials note that debate continues among marine scientists about the impact of parasites and viruses from salmon farms on wild salmon, which are subject to many stresses at sea and in streams.

A December report by Ottawa’s independent panel on aquaculture science offered no conclusions, recommending further research.

Opposition MLAs argue that the province has thousands of land-based Crown tenures that could be jeopardized by B.C. conceding to Indigenous claims as they have with shoreline tenures in the Broughton. B.C. is unique in Canada with more than 200 recognized Indigenous communities, many with overlapping territorial claims and most without treaties ceding land to the Crown.

The salmon farm settlement is “critical to Canada’s development,” Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis Chief Bob Chamberlin said at a ceremony at the B.C. legislature Dec. 14. Chamberlin is vice-president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, a militant group joining protests against pipelines and other development.

Technically, the B.C. agreement is only a set of recommendations to the federal government. Fisheries and Oceans Minister Jonathan Wilkinson was on hand to receive the report, and his remarks were cautious. He noted that his department provided “scientific input” but was not involved in the decision to shut down or move salmon farms from disputed areas.

Ottawa is “developing a risk management framework that will focus on implementing the precautionary approach in consultation with provinces, territories, indigenous peoples, industry and other stakeholders,” Wilkinson said.

Former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell made his own effort to solve the puzzle of Indigenous rights, with a province-wide aboriginal title proposal based on historic territories. The “Recognition and Reconciliation Act” was withdrawn after Indigenous leaders, notably those in the UBCIC, rejected it as a backroom deal that was pushed through just before the 2009 B.C. election.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press Media. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Federal government commits $9.1 million toward UVic Indigenous Law building

Contribution supports Canada’s first Canada’s first Indigenous Law program

Three-car crash that includes RV snarls afternoon traffic on Highway 17

Northbound traffic approaching Quadra Street is down to single lane

Island Health issues safer drug-use tips ahead of music festival season

Health authority aims to reduce overdose risks at festivals

PRIDE on the Barge caps off last Friday of Pride Month

Starting at 5 p.m. with music from Rocksteady

National HIV Testing Day comes to the West Shore

17.1 per cent increase in new HIV infections in Canada between 2014 and 2017

VIDEO: Tributes flow on 10th anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death

Jackson received a fatal dose of the anesthetic propofol on June 25, 2009. He died at age 50

POLL: Do you think the penalty should be increased for tossing a burning cigarette from a vehicle?

With grasslands and forests around Vancouver Island and across B.C. reaching tinder… Continue reading

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of June 25

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Delta cat severely injured in animal trap was likely stuck for days, owner says

Blu, a three-year-old house cat, suffered severe damage to his hind leg after being stuck in trap for days

Vancouver Island woman assaulted after confronting thief

RCMP warn residents to call for police assistance

VIDEO: Killer whale steals fisherman’s catch off North Coast

Fishing duel results in eager orca snagging salmon in Prince Rupert

40 cats surrendered in apparent hoarding at B.C. home

Officers found the cats living among piles of garbage and feces, suffering from fleas

Campers hailed heroes in rock face rescue at Vancouver Island provincial park

The campers quickly noticed the man in distress and jumped into the river to swim across.

Tsilhqot’in Nation urges Taseko Mines to stop drilling plans before conflict grows

Nation said Teztan Biny area is of ‘profound cultural and spiritual importance’

Most Read