Rose Henry (left) is joined by a fellow activist and Bobby Arbess (right) as the group voices opposition to fish farms on unceded traditional territories during Canada Day celebrations at the B.C. legislature, Sunday. Kristyn Anthony/VICTORIA NEWS

Fish farm protestors in Victoria use Canada Day event to voice opposition

“We’re here to today to draw attention to the responsibility the federal government has to make true reconciliation happen.”

This story has been updated from its original version.

Protestors peacefully voicing their opposition to fish farms in British Columbia crashed Canada Day celebrations on the legislature lawn in Victoria, Sunday.

As thousands of people donned in red and white assembled to take the city’s annual living flag photo, roughly twenty activists took the opportunity to spread their message, sitting before the large audience, chanting.

“We’re not here just to blindly celebrate,” said Bobby Arbess, a Victoria resident and settler Canadian.

“We are in the era of post-truth and reconciliation and we need to think very seriously about how the economic conditions in this country continue to oppress and dispossess Indigenous peoples,” he said, pointing to the 30-year history of fish farms on unceded traditional territories.

“This is a form of genocide,” he added, calling fish farms the decimation of the food staple of the coastal Indigenous peoples of B.C.

RELATED: Canada not properly managing fish farms, environment commissioner says

Activists say fish farms have proven to pollute the waters in which they operate, threatening native wild and sea life as well as producing unhealthy seafood and harming local fishing communities – many of whom are Indigenous.

Arbess said Canada Day was “a great opportunity” for people to reflect upon the true history of the nation “literally founded on the backs of Indigenous peoples.”

Rose Henry, a First Nations activist and educator originally from Tla’amin Nation said it is time to start looking at alternative fish farms like the one on her home territory, operating on land since the late ’70s. “We need to get the fish farms out of the ocean.”

Indigenous people living in poor health, or without basic necessities like hydro and clean water, or experiencing homelessness directly affects all Canadians, Henry pointed out, citing rising health care and homelessness costs.

RELATED: B.C. chefs call for end to open-net fish farms as province reviews renewals

“The struggle is real for many of us,” she said. “So many of us don’t live on reserves because there is almost a substandard life for people residing on the reserves.”

And, that has a rippling effect to the rest of Canada, stressed Henry, who said a peaceful protest at such a popular Canada Day event was a way to bring more awareness to the issues.

“A lot of these people don’t know what is really happening,” she said. “That is what is great about living here on this land – we still have the freedom to voice our opinions.”

kristyn.anthony@vicnews.com

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