5 B.C. First Nations call out Canada for ‘discriminatory’ food fish practices

West Coast nations say government ignoring court-won right to chinook and coho

Five western Vancouver Island First Nations have called on the federal government to take “meaningful action” and “redirect” surplus allocation of chinook salmon to their communities.

The First Nations are irked by the “disregard” of the federal government when they continue to prioritize tourists and recreational fishers over their food fish needs.

Ahousaht, Hesquiaht, Tla-o-qui-aht, Ehattesaht and Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nations, in a joint statement have urged the government to “not take the usual path and simply move the fish around” between non-indigenous sectors.

“People with only the privilege to fish, such as the sports fishermen and Area G trollers, seem to have more rights to the fish than our Five Nations do,” said Wickaninnish (Clifford Atleo), lead negotiator for the Ahousaht First Nation.

The First Nations called government practices are “discriminatory,” adding Canada is refusing to acknowledge the impact they have on their Nations, culture, and well-being of their communities, especially in this time of the pandemic.

“We need the income and our members want to fish. Our Nations have an aboriginal right to fish commercially,” read the statement.

On April 19, 2018 – after years-long legal battle between the five nations and the federal government– B.C. Supreme court ruled in favour of aboriginal fishing rights above those of sportfishing.

In a 400-page judgment, the judge called for changes to government policies, and gave the federal government one year to make those changes. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) was also asked to reconsider the priority they gave recreational fishermen for chinook and coho Salmon.

READ MORE: B.C. First Nations get clarity on fishing rights from top court

But First Nations have said that despite winning the right to fish, victory seems “hollow” due to the “disregard and a refusal to move by the federal government. “

The First Nations have accused the DFO of again refusing to provide more fish to them, despite the low numbers of recreational and commercial fishers on the waters due to COVID-19.

“Given less tourism and conservation measures, there will be less catch by the recreational sector. This made an easy opportunity for DFO to give more fish to our Nations so that we could exercise our right and help support our remote communities, which are in economic crisis,” said the First Nations.

They also said that the DFO has been unwilling to engage with them about this issue, and if the call to make meaningful changes goes “unheeded”, the Nations will defend their rights.

“We cannot allow another season without meaningful access, with lost revenue for our fishermen, lost resources for our communities, and the continuation of harmful patterns that move us away, rather than toward, the reconciliation that the Prime Minister and ministers claim they support.”

More than 5,000 members of these First Nations have received as little as 1.5 food fish per member for the whole year, despite the Supreme Courts directive to the DFO to allow a ‘generous approach’ for first nations to harvest food fish.

“Each year, the amount of fish is so small that we have to make very difficult decisions about how to distribute fishing opportunities so that at least some members can cover expenses and make a go of it. But this damages our communities and it strikes at the core of our identity as fishing people,” read the statement.

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

chinookDFOFirst Nations

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

Just Posted

Grand Forks' Everett Baker filed his nomination at city hall Tuesday, Oct. 27. Facebook: Everett Baker
Baker files nomination ahead of Grand Forks byelection

The downtown business owner stands unopposed in bid to fill vacant council seat

There has been COVID-19 exposures at two elementary schools in District 42. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 24 additional COVID-19 cases

This includes three school exposures in Kelowna

There have been no confirmed COVID cases among SD51 students since the school year got underway Sept. 10, according to School District 51. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Student absences spiked four times in Boundary schools in October

There have been no cases of COVID-19 in district schools, says Superintendent Ken Minette

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 18 COVID-19 cases, highest daily count since July

The total of COVID-19 cases in the region is now at 662

Roly Russell, the predicted MLA for the Boundary Similkameen, and his wife Christine Carlson celebrate on election night. (Contributed)
B.C. Votes 2020: Russell leads as election heads to mail-in counting

Russell is likely to replace incumbent BC Liberal Linda Larson

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. records 217 more COVID-19 cases, mask use urged

Infection spike continues, 21 senior facilities affected

Premier-elect John Horgan and cabinet ministers are sworn in for the first time at Government House in Victoria, July 18, 2017. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)
Pandemic payments have to wait for B.C. vote count, swearing-in

Small businesses advised to apply even if they don’t qualify

A raccoon paid a visit to a Toronto Tim Hortons on Oct. 22, 2020. (shecallsmedrew/Twitter)
Who are you calling a trash panda? Raccoon takes a shift at Toronto Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons said animal control was called as soon they saw the surprise visitor

The duffel bags were found to contain 84 pounds of cocaine, valued at approximately $1.2 million and 198 pounds of methamphetamine, valued at approximately $960,000. Photo courtesy U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
2 men accused of fleeing border agents near U.S.-B.C. border with $2M in drugs

Cocaine and methamphetamine seized by U.S. law enforcement in remote Idaho area near Canadian border

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Slippery roads led to this crash in West Trail on Friday morning. Photo: Trail RCMP
First snow in Kootenays causes multiple crashes; one suspected of involving alcohol

The Trail and Greater District RCMP’s weekly brief contains details on collisions

Pixabay photo
‘Horrific’ abuse of volunteers, staff by parents must stop: Chilliwack soccer club

Parents have become abusive after being told COVID-19 rules, email says

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

FILE – The Queen of Alberni ferry leaves the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal in Delta bound for Vancouver Island, Sunday, July 29, 2007. (CP PHOTO/Richard Lam) CANADA
Mechanical failure leaves nearly 200 passengers stranded on BC Ferries ship for hours

A tug arrived after dark to safely nudge the vessel into a berth so travellers could finally disembark

Most Read