Indigenous people see “Norwegian invasion”

William Stoichevski

Indigenous people with claims to key salmon-farming waterways, wild-salmon hauls and shellfish harvesting see themselves as at war with “Norway”, judging by a Namgis chief’s letter read in Parliament by a lawmaker from British Columbia, the province known for its fish-farm “protests”.

“The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans has teamed up with Marine Harvest and is fighting us in Court,” Fin Donnelly, Member of Parliament for Port Moody, BC, said in Parliament, reading the Chief’s letter.

“It seems to me that the Government of Canada is attempting to reconcile with Norway but using our territory to do that. That is wrong! Our waters have never been surrendered, neither have our lands and our hereditary rights to oversee them,” the Chief said through Donnelly.

Enshrined consultation
The letter went on and suggested protests might not be over, although the Federal Government has penned First Nations’ (indigenous) rights to inclusion and consultation into the new Fisheries and Aquaculture Act that was being given its second reading this week, when Donnelly continued:

“The very status of fish farms in the Broughton Archipelago (off northwest Vancouver Island) have come into serious question. A Norwegian Invasion has taken place in our waters, and we have been forced to act to defend our investments in wild salmon.

Read Marine Harvest’s BC backlog looks like build-up

“Eviction notices have been given. Heavy (police) involvement. Arrests. B.C. Supreme Court proceedings. Lost aquaculture industry status and reputation. Government reviews and investigations have had little or no influence on the reckless practices of the aquaculture industry within our territories. The companies have restocked almost all the fish farms in our waters, against numerous warnings of serious consequences. We have had enough!”

Right to barter
Donnelly, after reading the letter, urged the government to meet with the Namgis again. He urged — and the new Act seems to open a path for — the government to meet and negotiate more commercial say for the First Nations, including a restoration of their right to “barter”.

He also restated another B.C. politician’s idea and asked the government “to discuss moving open-net salmon farms off the wild salmon migration route”.

Fisheries Minister LeBlanc, for his part, responded by saying he will immediately transfer new licenses and quotas for salmon (understood to be wild) and shellfish to “the five nations” kick-start Bill C-68, the new Fisheries Act.