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 B.C. man decided to create a website to help people find family doctors accepting patients. Because Victoria is considered high-demand, clinic openings can’t be posted publicly. (Unsplash)
Greater Victoria in high-demand on website that connects B.C. residents with doctors

Nanaimo man started project to help people find family physicians accepting patients

B.C. NDP leader John Horgan poses with members of the public during a ‘mainstreeting’ campaign stop Sunday, Oct. 18, at Parksville Community Park. (Peter McCully/Black Press)
‘Buy a boat,’ premier advises anti-maskers on B.C. Ferries

John Horgan talks COVID-19 misinformation, cancer centre, long-term care with News Bulletin

The French Creek Pollution Control Centre. (PQB News file photo)
RDN targets grants for major projects in Nanoose Bay, French Creek and Whiskey Creek

Official says projects have a strong chance to be approved for cash

The B.C. Ferries vessel the Queen of Alberni. (News Bulletin file photo)
UPDATE: Ferry breakdown will affect Monday’s Duke Point-Tsawwassen sailings

Queen of Alberni out of commission for the rest of the day

Nanaimo’s Rose McCulley brings a sampling of gloria mundi apples to the farmers’ market, where she was selling her canned fruit and secret-recipe apple pie filling. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
Giant apples are in season for Nanaimo farmers’ market vendor

Rose McCulley helped bring gloria mundi apples back from the brink

In this photo provided by Shannon Kiss, smoke from the CalWood Fire billows, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, as seen from Gunbarrel, Colo. (Shannon Kiss via AP)
‘First guys out:’ western Canadian air tanker fleet busy despite drop in wildfires

CEO believes wildfires have become more dangerous in recent years as people live closer to where they start

Fort St. John councillor Trevor Bolin (B.C. Conservative Party)
BC Conservatives leader fights back after BC Liberals leak 2018 workplace harassment case

Sexual harassment case led to employee being terminated, WorkSafeBC found

Canadian and American flags fly near the Ambassador Bridge at the Canada-USA border crossing in Windsor, Ont. on Saturday, March 21, 2020. Restrictions on non-essential travel between Canada and the United States are being extended until at least Nov. 21. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rob Gurdebeke
Non-essential travel restrictions at Canada-U.S. border extended to at least Nov. 21

The restrictions do not apply to those providing essential services in either country

Candidates in the Nanaimo riding include Kathleen Jones, B.C. Liberal Party, top left; Sheila Malcolmson, NDP; Lia Versaevel, Green Party. (Photos submitted/News Bulletin photo/Elections B.C. image)
B.C. VOTES 2020: Nanaimo candidates

Provincial election candidates discuss their priorities in their own words

Candidates in the Nanaimo-North Cowichan riding include Chris Istace, B.C. Green Party, top left; Duck Paterson, B.C. Liberals; and Doug Routley, NDP. (Photos submitted/Elections B.C. image)
B.C. VOTES 2020: Nanaimo-North Cowichan candidates

Provincial election candidates discuss their priorities in their own words

Candidates in the Parksville-Qualicum riding include Rob Lyon, B.C. Green Party, top left; Don Purdey, Conservatives; John St. John, independent; Michelle Stilwell, B.C. Liberals; and Adam Walker, B.C. NDP. (Photos submitted/Elections B.C. image)
B.C. VOTES 2020: Parksville-Qualicum candidates

Provincial election candidates discuss their priorities in their own words

Jordan Naterer, 25, was last seen Saturday Oct. 10. He planned a hike in the Manning Park area, and has not been seen since. Photo Facebook.
Family devastated as search for missing Manning Park hiker suspended

‘It was an extremely difficult meeting with the parents when we had to tell them.’

FILE - Nathan Cullen speaks to media in Smithers, B.C., Friday, February 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, Cullen apologize for NDP candidate’s comments about Haida candidate

Nathan Cullen had made insensitive comments about Roy Jones Jr. Cheexial

In this photo illustration, a provincial election mail-in ballot sealed in an Elections B.C. return envelope is seen before being deposited in a Canada Post mailbox, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. The final result of British Columbia’s provincial election won’t be known for at least two weeks because more than 700-thousand mail-in ballots have to be counted by hand. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s snap election means 700k ballots will be counted manually, delaying results

Elections BC spokesman said employees in 87 electoral districts will count mail-in ballots one by one

Most Read