A Mirror file photo from Sept. 26, when First Nations marched in Campbell River, in solidarity with 100 other Nations throughout the province to protest against fish farms in B.C.’s coastal waters. (Photo by Marc Kitteringham)

A Mirror file photo from Sept. 26, when First Nations marched in Campbell River, in solidarity with 100 other Nations throughout the province to protest against fish farms in B.C.’s coastal waters. (Photo by Marc Kitteringham)

Vancouver Island First Nation chief tells mayors to butt out of Discovery Island fish farm consultations

Homalco chief asking mayors to be ‘respectful’ of the ‘government-to-government’ process

A Vancouver Island First Nation chief schooled four North Island mayors on how Aboriginal Rights work in response to them asking to be let in on Discovery Island fish farm consultations with the federal government.

Last month in a letter addressed to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Bernadette Jordan, mayors of Campbell River, Port Hardy, Port McNeill and Gold River asked to be a part of the ongoing consultation process between the minister’s office and seven First Nations with regards to the transitional plight of 18 fish farms in the Discovery Islands.

READ MORE: Mayors asking to be let in on fish farm consultations

The mayors cited economic and cultural repercussions that could affect their communities and wanted an opportunity to have their voices “heard and considered” before a “final decision” was made in this matter.

Homalco First Nation chief Darren Blaney is irked that the North Island mayors did not contact the Nations involved directly “before involving other levels of government.”

In a response statement, Blaney said that the mayors’ requests should have first been communicated to the neighbouring First Nations in the “spirit of collaboration and reconciliation.”

“Imagine the surprise felt at reading your request, not in a letter to our own governments, but in the local media,” wrote Blaney in a letter addressed to the mayors.

“Asking to be inserted into a consultation process between First Nations and the Government of Canada is no small request, and is one that I would have much preferred to be discussed among our communities prior to involving other levels of government,” he said in the letter which is also copied to North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney and North Island MLA Michele Babchuk.

The Homalco chief also said that the consultation process is a government-to-government undertaking, very much like the ‘Broughton process’ which was recognized by the industry, provincial and federal government and Indigenous governments.

(Blaney is referring to the 2018 consultations that the Namgis, Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis and Mamalilikulla First Nations had with the province regarding the plight of 17 open-pen finfish farms in Broughton Archipelago. )

“The Cohen Commission specifically set out the requirement for these discussions between existing parties,” Blaney said, and further asked municipal governments to be “respectful during this time” and to reach out to the Nations personally if they wish to discuss the matter.

Fresh out of a meeting with DFO, Blaney told the Mirror that the mayors are rightly not part of the consultation process as it is based on constitutionally-protected Aboriginal Rights.

“The mayors are not aboriginal, they have not been here for thousands of years, they do not have the rights. They don’t have to pass on knowledege about salmon to their next generation. So they are happy with the tax base they collect from the fish farms and that is their only concern,” he said and added, “It’s our culture, territory and its stewardship.”

Along with Homalco First Nation, Jordan’s office is also in talks with Klahoose, Komoks, Kwiakah, Tla’amin, We Wai Kai (Cape Mudge) and Wei Wai Kum (Campbell River) First Nations in the region.

Parliamentary Secretary Terry Beech is leading the consultations with First Nations, the aquaculture industry and conservation groups on the transition.

Minister Jordan will ultimately conclude whether licences for these farms will be renewed at the end of the year.

The fisheries minister announced that DFO will come up with a plan to transition away from open-net pen salmon farming in B.C.’s waters by 2025.

The Cohen Commission had called for removal of the 18 Discovery Island farms by Sept. 30, unless the health risk was determined to be minimal. While DFO announced on Sept. 28 that the Discovery Island farms pose little risk to wild salmon, opponents of open-net farming cried foul and pointed to a separate study that concluded that the risk was significant.

– With files from Zoe Ducklow, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Black Press Media.

First NationsFish Farms

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

Just Posted

The City of Victoria filed a petition with the Supreme Court of B.C. March 2 to have it clarify whether, under the Trustee Act, Beacon Hill Park can be used for temporary sheltering. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria asks court to clarify if Beacon Hill Park can be used for sheltering

City of Victoria filed petition to Supreme Court of B.C. March 2

The application proposing to rezone Western Speedway was passed by Langford’s planning, zoning and affordable housing committee Feb 8. A petition has since been started by residents of Trudie Terrace, hoping to stop the proposed residential portion of the development plan. (CBRE Victoria)
Petition opposing Western Speedway development proposal gains steam

Save Thetis Heights Neighborhood petition aims to stop extension of Trudie Terrace

Activists from the Fairy Creek Blockades hold the injunction application notice which was submitted by logging company Teal Jones to the B.C. Supreme Court. The application, which asks to have blockaders removed from the sites that stop access to cut blocks, is set to be heard on March 4. (Photo contributed/Joshua Wright)
Activists hunker down to protect Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew from logging

Forest company Teal Cedar applies for injunction to remove seven-month-old blockades

Boma Brown won the Emerging Leader Award for her work founding the Support Network for Indigenous Women and Women of Colour. (Courtesy of Boma Brown)
Victoria SNIWWOC founder up for national women’s award for volunteer efforts

Victoria’s Boma Brown is a semi-finalist in the running for the L’Oreal Paris Women of Worth award

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

The victim of the homicide on Cowichan Lake Road early Monday morning was 17 years old, and was stabbed in the incident. (File photo)
Duncan homicide victim was 17 years old

RCMP report that teenager was stabbed

(Black Press file photo)
Agassiz boy, 11, dies from ‘extensive injuries’: Homicide team

Agassiz RCMP were called out Friday to assist with a child in medical distress

(File photo)
RCMP arrest man after report of gun-toting threat-maker near Parksville schools

43-year-old man taken into custody; students at nearby schools were asked to stay inside

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

The machines are located in four cities across Canada, including Vancouver and Victoria

Kelowna’s lakefront visitor centre is one of 130 around the province. Tourism businesses have been hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions on travel. (Destination B.C.)
Tourism, small business getting COVID-19 help, B.C. minister says

$300M grant program has delivered $50 million so far

Most Read