Members from the Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw and supporting communities boarded the Cermaq fish farm at Kingcome Inlet. (Melissa Willie/YouTube)
A coastal First Nation in B.C. is vowing to challenge the B.C. government’s new approach to fish farm tenures, which would give First Nations a say over where these operations can set up on the West Coast.
The province announced Wednesday that starting in 2022, fish farms will need First Nations approval to renew their tenures. B.C. fish farms to require First Nations approval starting in 2022
That’s not soon enough as far as the Dzawada̱ʼenux̱w First Nation is concerned.
Many First Nations in the Broughton Archipelago region, where the Dzawada̱ʼenux̱w are located, have long opposed fish farms, saying their presence has a negative impact on wild salmon and other marine species in the area.
There are 17 fish farm operating in the Broughton Archipelago, nine of those are in the Dzawada̱ʼenux̱w title claim area.
While the announcement was framed by the government as a move to protect wild salmon and advance reconciliation with First Nations, the Dzawada̱ʼenux̱w First Nation said they are disappointed.
Jack Woodward represents the Dzawada̱ʼenux̱w First Nation in their Aboriginal title claim. It was filed earlier this month, in part, to bolster the community’s efforts to get fish farms out of the area they assert title to.
The nation says it has been opposing the farms for 30 years.
Woodward said the nation will turn to the courts to "remove these fish farms immediately, as soon as humanly possible." B.C. First Nation files title claim to challenge fish farms in traditional territory1.4715237
"What the Dzawada̱ʼenux̱w require is legal rights now, not political promises four years from now," said Woodward in a video distributed by the nation following the province’s announcement. Dzawada’enuxw First Nation seeks injunction to stop renewal of fish farm licences
Province hopes to advance reconciliation
The announcement about changes at the provincial level comes on the day that 20 tenures for fish farms in B.C. expire. The province said those tenures will now become month-to-month agreements.
New criteria for tenures will take effect in 2022, according to the province. That criteria will Include a requirement that companies applying for tenure renewals make agreements with the First Nation, or Nations, whose territory they want to operate within.
The province said it will also require fish farm operators to also show the Department of Fisheries and Oceans their operations will not have a negative impact on wild salmon.
On Wednesday, Environment Minister Lana Popham said the announcement "will enable us to advance toward reconciliation with our First Nations, protect wild salmon and strengthen our coastal communities." Popham said discussions are ongoing with First Nations in the region. However, the Dzawada̱ʼenux̱w First Nation says it walked away from those talks last month and decided the courts are its best way to get a positive result.The province says three First Nations from the region remain in government-to-government talks: the Mamalilikulla First Nation, ‘Namgis First Nation and Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis First Nations.Bob Chamberlin is the elected Chief Councillor of Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis, and vice president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.He said the outcomes from talks with the province may be different than the province-wide announcement made on Wednesday."We are very very close to finalizing the process that we’ve been negotiating in good faith with the government for the past number of months and then we can begin the examination of each tenure," he said, adding that he thinks timeline of the province-wide changes is too long."I believe the four year timeline is four years too late," he said.
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