The Agassiz Harrison Observer ran a story titled “B.C. First Nations call for closure to commercial, recreational fishing on Fraser River” (Aug 7, 2019 online). A letter in response by Mr. J. Tonelli and published by AHO concerns me, as it is worded to place full blame for the closure of the Fraser River recreational fishery directly on First Nations fishers, citizens and advocates.
(Quote from letter: “the recreational angling community is really quite fed up with FN efforts to keep US from fishing when our methods are selective and have extremely low impact.”)
All user groups whether First Nation, commercial or recreational, are legally bound by the decisions of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
The DFO holds jurisdictional authority in Canada to open or close fisheries within designated licensing regimes, of which recreational fishing is one of many regulated categories. The fishery to the west coast includes First Nations food, social and ceremonial fisheries that fall under rights protected within the Constitution Act 1982.
The right to a food and cultural fishery goes well beyond the leisure of a recreational fishery and the purchase of a licence.
It concerns me that a letter like this would be published as it invites colonized misinformation that only feeds anger and distrust towards First Nations citizens and their rights to a fishery for cultural, food or ceremonial purpose that is an ongoing practice from time immemorial, and constitutionally recognized within Canada.
I hope that the AHO would be more selective in their editing or reproduction of published letters.
Leah Ballantyne, Harrison Hot Springs (traditional territory of the Sto:lo Nation)