ALGONQUIN ANISHINABE TERRITORY – Representatives from our coalition of First Nations for Finfish Stewardship from British Columbia are in Ottawa this week. We are inviting federal ministers to listen to our concerns regarding the Department of Fisheries and Ocean’s (DFO) lack of consultation with our Nations prior to making decisions that and will continue to hurt the wellbeing of our coastal communities.
When it comes to the Government of Canada, what we have seen and experienced is that their version of UNDRIP is an empty box, and as chiefs and leaders, we’re in Ottawa to put something into that empty box.
On March 21st in Campbell River, B.C., we introduced our coalition, formed as a result of those concerns, and with a united voice to call on the federal government to re-issue all the salmon farming licences in our territories in 2022. We also launched an important socio-economic report that highlighted the many benefits that salmon farming brings to Indigenous communities.
As the rights and title holders of our territories, what the future of salmon farming looks like should be up to us. Leading up to our trip to Ottawa, we had not been consulted by the Minister of DFO regarding the re-issuance of licences or any transition plans for the sector in our respective marine space. This is especially concerning to our Nations because the current Minister is referring to moving salmon farms to land, which would not be possible in many of our territories.
This very lack of understanding would lead to the loss of farms in our territories and the benefits that come with them. Many of our people would return to poverty, and as leaders, we cannot let that happen. How can the Government of Canada put our communities on a path to poverty without any proper consultation with us? Frankly their ‘checking-the-box’ style of consultation is an insult considering what is at stake.
So far in Ottawa, we have spoken to various ministries regarding the benefits of salmon farming in our communities, as well as our Nations’ unique plans for the sector going forward which include our potential to lead Canada’s Blue Economy, and helping the country decrease its carbon footprint.
The ministries we met with this week now know what will happen if licences aren’t renewed in our territories, and what the return to poverty would do to remote Indigenous villages.
We would like to thank the Premier of British Columbia, John Horgan, for his letter to Prime Minister Trudeau supporting the rights and title of First Nations who are choosing to pursue salmon farming in their territories. We are grateful for him acknowledging our rights and title and for his concern regarding the federal government’s lack of consultation with our Nations about licence renewal and the transition of salmon farming in our waters.
The federal government could learn a lesson or two from Mr. Horgan regarding reconciliation. Following our discussion with Minister Murray this week on her stated process of transition planning and licence renewal, we call on Prime Minister Trudeau to meet with us and listen to our chiefs and Elders about: 1) our sovereign rights and title, 2) our goals for economic self-determination, and 3) how salmon farming strengthens the health and wellbeing of our coastal Indigenous communities.
We also want to discuss the commitments made in the federal government’s mandate letters that refer to UNDRIP and reconciliation. The credibility of these letters hangs on Trudeau’s response to our Ottawa visit, and whether Minister Murray re-issues the salmon farm licences and consults with us meaningfully on what transition means in our respective territories. Like Premier Horgan said, anything less flies in the face of UNDRIP and reconciliation.
Mr. Trudeau, as the original stewards of Canada’s coastal waters for millennia, we are calling on you to re-issue salmon farming licences in the territories of the Nations who want to pursue it. The time is now to start filling your empty UNDRIP box with meaningful action, dialogue, and consultation with First Nations.