B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham, Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs vice-president Chief Bob Chamberlin, Fisheries and Oceans Minister Jonathan Wilkinson and Premier John Horgan announce closure of coastal salmon farms at the B.C. legislature, Dec. 14, 2018. (B.C. government photo)

B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham, Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs vice-president Chief Bob Chamberlin, Fisheries and Oceans Minister Jonathan Wilkinson and Premier John Horgan announce closure of coastal salmon farms at the B.C. legislature, Dec. 14, 2018. (B.C. government photo)

B.C. salmon farm agreement a milestone for Indigenous rights

In 2018, province effectively surrenders authority over sites

“Free, prior and informed consent.”

That’s the key phrase in the United Nations Declaration of 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 in the last days of 2018, 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 amount 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 to be gone by 2023, and the other seven can continue only if the Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis, ‘Namgis and Mamalilikulla First Nations give their 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 ocean-based salmon farms are on the way out of their territory.

Provincial officials note that there remains debate 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 where they spawn.

A December report by Ottawa’s independent panel on aquaculture science was also cautious, recommending mostly processes for further research.

Opposition MLAs argue that the province has thousands of other land-based Crown tenures that could be jeopardized by B.C. conceding to Indigenous claims as they have 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 prominent group backing protests against pipelines and other development around the province.

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 guarded and 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 mapped by the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs when it formed in 1969. 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.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureSalmon farming

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson)
30 new COVID-19 cases, five more deaths in Interior Health

This brings the total number of cases to 7,271 since testing began

Winlaw artist Lou Lynn is one of eight Canadians to win a Governor General's award this year. Photo: Janet Dwyer
Winlaw artist Lou Lynn wins Governor General’s award

Lynn is among eight artists honoured throughout Canada

General voting will occur March 27 at the Prestige Lakeside Resort. Advance voting meanwhile will be available March 17 and 24 at Nelson City Hall. Photo: File Photo
Candidate drops out of Nelson byelection

Dan Nolan says there should be more women on council

Card-y Be: Kootenay Co-op Radio will be reaching out to 6,000 homes throughout the Nelson area, from Blewett to Proctor, in an effort to boost their membership after a challenging year. The little local station celebrated its 20th anniversary last year. KCR’s sponsorship and advertising co-ordinator Amelie Sauquet holds all three versions of new promotional cards that will be arriving in mailboxes next week. Photo: Darren Davidson
BUSINESS BUZZ: Devito’s making tracks, Purcell teams up with the Sherpas, big win for Kalesnikoff

Darren Davidson has all the latest on Nelson’s business community

Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.'s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
456 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., 2 deaths

Since January 2020, 78,278 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in B.C.

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Vaccinating essential workers before seniors in B.C. could save lives: experts

A new study says the switch could also save up to $230 million in provincial health-care costs

The late Michael Gregory, 57, is accused of sexually exploiting six junior high students between 1999 and 2005. (Pixabay)
Former Alberta teacher accused of sexually assaulting students found dead in B.C.

Mounties say Michael Gregory’s death has been deemed ‘non-suspicious’

According to a new poll, a majority of Canadians want to see illicit drugs decriminalized. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Majority of Canadians think it’s high time to decriminalize illicit drugs: poll

More than two-times the B.C. residents know someone who died from an overdose compared to rest of Canada

Interior Health officially declared a COVID-19 outbreak at Creekside Landing in Vernon on Jan. 3, which was followed by the first death from the virus 10 days later. (Kaigo photo)
COVID outbreak over at Vernon care home

Creekside Landing cleared of coronavirus, despite additional death in last day

Photograph By @KAYLAXANDERSON
VIDEO: Lynx grabs lunch in Kamloops

A lynx surprises a group of ducks and picks one off for lunch

(Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. residents can reserve provincial camp sites starting March 8

B.C. residents get priority access to camping reservations in province

Most Read