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

PET CARE: Canada Day tips for our pet’s anxiety

Columnist Nicolette Joosting examines different ways to help your pets relax through the celebration

Fraser Valley author launches second crime novel

Seamus Heffernan releases book Ten Grand on June 27 in Abbotsford

Agassiz author pens a kingly book

Long-time writer and producer Alexander Hamilton-Brown just finished his first novel

Chilliwack car show cancelled due to weather forecast

Popular Village Classic car show will not be rescheduled, say organizers

Missing Chilliwack woman may be in Surrey area

Jennifer Lynn Aleck, 44, last in contact with a friend on June 2

VIDEO: Reading splashes into Agassiz’s Ferny Coombe Pool

The Agassiz Library held its annual Reading in the Pool event Friday, June 14

Wildfire burning in coastal forest

A fire beside the Sea to Sky Highway is burning up a steep slope

PHOTOS: Event marks one year since soccer team rescued from Thai cave

Nine players and coach took part in marathon and bike event to help improve conditions at cave

Rock climber dies after fall at Stawamus Chief in Squamish

The man had fallen about 30 metres while climbing in the Grand Wall area

Five B.C. students taken to hospital after playing with vaping device

School district said students were taken to hospital ‘out of an abundance of caution’

Being a pot dealer is not what it used to be

Sunday Big Read: the business of selling marijuana in B.C. is a slow bureaucratic slog

VIDEO: Two more pride flags have been stolen from Langley woman

Lisa Ebenal was “angry” and “fed up” after the latest theft. Then people started showing suppport

Canucks acquire forward J.T. Miller from Lightning

J.T. Miller, 26, had 13 goals and 34 assists for the Lightning last season

Most Read