One hundred and two British Columbian First Nations are calling for fish farms to move onto land. The Klahoose, Tla’amin, Homalco and K’omox First Nations are among them. On May 12, Chief Bob Chamberlain, Chair of the First Nations Wild Salmon Alliance, told Parliament’s Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans that DFO is a captured regulator of the fish farm industry

Chamberlain began by addressing the committee in his native tongue.

This is a transcript of the rest of his opening presentation.

Screenshot of Chief Bob Chamerlain taken during his presentation

I’ve acknowledged you all as knowledgeable and respectful people, giving me my traditional name of Owadi. I’m from what you may know as the Broughton Archipelago. And the words today that I’m going to share are on behalf of are from my heart on behalf of many, many First Nations of British Columbia.

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to present to you. Two. I opened my testimony to you stating that the First Nation Wild Salmon Alliance completely supports the previous full pole meeting presenters, Andrew Bateman, and Brian Ridell of the Pacific Salmon Foundation and Gideon Mordecai of the University of British.

Their combined testimony outlines extremely well the absolute disaster that is the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat (CSAS) in relationship to the open net pen fish farm industry. CSAS as a peer review secretary has zero credibility with the First Nation members of the First Nation Wild Salmon Alliance.

When one examines the CSAS process, this is of course no surprise at all. A so-called science peer review process that allows a proponent fish farm company, industry And stakeholders, industry associations to participate from the beginning to the end of this process is utterly and completely lacking of any measure of objectivity or credibility. Canada’s environment, wild fish and citizens deserve far more from government.

CSAS is a shining example of the environment within DFO that needs to be been meticulously, analyzed and restored back to its original mandate. The mandate of actually working to protect the environment and wild fish for Canadians. You would be hard pressed to find a single First Nation in BC that would stay that DFO is doing a good job in managing wild salmon in British Columbia.

This is well earned given that I cannot think of a single wild salmon run in BC that could be characterized as healthy or abundant. It’s oft spoken the Aboriginal rights that First Nations have recognized and section 35, 1 of Canada’s constitution. And of course the Sparrow decision of Canada’s Supreme court and the government’s commitment to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

These three legal realities, speak to food security. It has been said to me that 90% of BC First Nations really rely upon wild salmon, 90% of 203 first nations. This means that wild salmon are far more than a simple menu choice. It is the foundation for culture traditions, and of course, a stapled traditional food that is now becoming near impossible to attain for these purposes.

The decision DFO minister, Joyce Murray will be making soon needs to be deeply guided by the legal realities of the Supreme court of Canada and Canada’s constitutional protection of Aboriginal rights. Simply stated, this is a case of rights versus the privilege of a license. DFO is accomplished measures of agreement in BC with some First Nations.

I suggest that these will suffer in credibility and function. If transitioning open net cage fish farms, as committed to by this government and supported by all parties, does not occur. A recent poll of British Colombians demonstrates vast support for this transition.

I attended a recent DFO minister’s round table for this transition..

The framework questions to guide discussions were entirely predictable and offensive, and frankly represented a Buffalo jump of a predetermined outcome. This opinion was expressed very clearly by all First Nations Chiefs whom attended, demonstrating further the need for substantive change within the DFO to remove science from management so a minister can enjoy clear information and recommendations that are unbiased not to continue having government direction consistently undermined by DFO staff. This was abundantly clear in the recent MOWI court decision of DFO minister Jordan’s decision for the discovery islands, where the director of aquaculture stated, which I paraphrase, that she had no idea that not issuing the fish farm licenses was being considered.

This is preposterous. As I know for fact that Miss Allison Web attended many of the first nation consultation sessions with Discovery Islands First Nations, which I was part of. Not issuing these fish farm licenses was spoken of at every consultation session. Previous full poll reports and both federal and provincial governments commitments to UN drip call for greater involvement

of First Nations in the management of wild salmon in British Columbia. This is also found within the previous DFO parliamentary secretary MP, Terry Beaeh’s “What we heard” report pertaining to developing and implementing the transition of open net cage fish farms from BC waters. This needs to occur.

For today’s topic of CSAS and science, First Nations can play a clear and objective role in this effort. One outcome of the Broughton fish farm LRU, which I helped negotiate and of course is the first time Canada witnessed the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, one of the outcomes with the building of a genome lab, (‘how’sit’?)

the Okanagan Nation Alliance hatchery. This prepares First Nations to accomplish science that is leading edge with an outcome that is focused solely on identifying disease and pathogen threats, the constitutionally protected food security. True arms length resourcing for this lab could be invaluable to safeguard severely depleted wild salmon and escape the environment of DFO as a captured regulator of the fish farm industry.

Environment, wild salmon, and First Nations and the citizens of Canada deserve far better than what we are experiencing today.

When I was part of the consultation process for Discovery Islands, the first question that I asked Jay Parsons was about the CSAS process itself. I asked him about the proponent of science, about industry and about stakeholders. This. Elicited about a four minute speech non-answer.

The committee had set a five minute limit for witness presentations and at this point Chief Chamberlain was informed he had exceeded it.

Top image credit: salmon jumping by Ingrid V Taylar via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)