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

Family overwhelmed with 14 Lab puppies

Litter may be one of the biggest ever

Cowichan Performing Arts Centre, Big Stick light up red to signal COVID devastation

“COVID-19 has been truly devastating to the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre”

MacGregor hosting virtual town hall on green COVID economic recovery

“Making the right investment decisions now to ensure a visionary carbon-conscious recovery…”

Elder College going online with dozens of courses this fall

There are 16 courses in the September session

Thanksgiving Food Drive coming to your door in Cowichan

Next week will be your chance to help meet the food crisis

COVID-19: 4 more deaths, 366 new cases in B.C. since Friday

A total of 8,208 people in B.C. have tested positive for COVID-19 since January

Paper towel in short supply as people stay home, clean more, industry leader says

While toilet paper consumption has returned to normal levels, paper towel sales continue to outpace pre-COVID levels

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

Group wants Parliament, courts to hold social media to same standard as publishers

Daniel Bernhard made the comments shortly after Friends of Canadian Broadcasting released a research paper

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C.’s Chase Claypool catches first NFL touchdown pass

Abbotsford grad establishes new record for longest scrimmage TD by a Canadian

B.C. has highest number of active COVID-19 cases per capita, federal data shows

B.C. currently has 1,803 active cases after weeks of COVID-19 spikes in the province

Most Read