Premier John Horgan was in Alert Bay yesterday to talk with local First Nations about overlapping of their territories, salmon security, and fish farms.
Horgan released a statement saying he was pleased at the invite from Chief Bob Chamberlin to visit the community of ‘Namgis and meet with people there.
Chamberlin echoed that same sentiment, telling CFNR working with the new was night and day compared to the previous government, seeing as they actually made the effort to come to the community and talk with their people.
Chamberlin says the meeting was very significant, as elected councils and hereditary chiefs banded together to talk about one of the most important issues of the day- Atlantic Salmon fish farms off the coast of BC.
7 First Nations presented the argument that there is little overlap when it comes to traditional territory, but the First Nations in the area are all on the same page when it comes to wanting the fish farms out.
Their argument, besides the potential harm to the environment and local ecosystems, is that wanting the aquaculture farms out of their territory is compliant with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as well as rulings from the Supreme Court of Canada.
Chief Chamberlin welcomed the opportunity to have a follow up meeting with the Premier to continue these discussions.
Chamberlin says they are pleased that Horgan and his ministers made it out to the community stating they “have never had enjoyed such a meeting to hear our concerns so directly”.
Talks are already underway about when a following meeting will take place. Chamberlin says the real triumph in the meetings was that the local bands were united and he is grateful for the leadership of elected council and hereditary chiefs with their strong voices.
Chamberlin says he is hopeful that the new NDP-Green coalition government will see the importance salmon have to First Nations, not only for food but also ceremony, and removing those fish farms would be Horgan’s first true action on implementing UNDRIP.
He says that although he does not have grandchildren yet, he hopes to be able to share with them in the future the comforts of smoked salmon, or fish sandwiches.
None of the Atlantic Salmon that escaped from a fish farm in Washington state have been caught yet by his community members, although Chamberlin has seen reports of the invasive species coming closer and closer to where his community fish for salmon. He says that if they can swim from Washington to Saanich, if the fish ever escaped from the farms local to Alert Bay they would have no problem making it to the North Coast.
Chamberlin says all in all the message was clear: the vast majority of First Nations oppose fish farms. He says this demonstrates that the government has lost sight on what is important to local Indigenous communities and the government needs to work on what is most important- protecting wild Pacific Salmon stalk for everyone who depends on it.