First Nations assert their fishing rights

Five First Nations on Vancouver Island are standing up to the Liberal government over inadequacy of action for their fishing rights.

First Nations on Vancouver Island are taking a firm stand against the Liberal government over what they say is the inadequacy of action for their fishing rights.

The Ha’wiih (hereditary chiefs) and leaders of five Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations—Ahousaht, Ehattesaht/Chinehkint, Hesquiaht, Mowachaht/Muchalaht and Tla-o-qui-aht—are sending a message to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that certain actions must follow his promise of a “new and respectful relationship” with Indigenous people.

In 2009 the British Columbia Supreme Court ruled that the group of First Nations has the right to harvest and sell all species of fish found within its territories. However, over the past seven years negotiations for the nations’ commercial fishing rights have stalled.

“It feels like someone is shaking your hand and then kicking you in the shin after,” said Ken Watts, vice-president of the Nuu-Chah-nulth Tribal Council. “[The Liberals] basically haven’t brought anything more than the previous government.”

The nations are asking the federal government to appoint a senior representative with a mandate to negotiate fishing plans.

“The prime minister said there’s no relationship more important than First Nations people,” Watts said.

“I try to give hope and be optimistic that the prime minister really means what he says, but it’s just not being reflected within the department staff and the bureaucracy and the legal team.”

Watts said the negotiation of fishing rights is important, not just for Nuu-chah-nulth people, but for all Canadians, especially on the West Coast of Vancouver Island to help create a stable and thriving economy.

“If Canada came forward and said we’re actually going to negotiate… it could be in the millions into the local economy and helping poverty in or local economy,” Watts said. “The same fishers that are out there fishing…they live, eat and sleep in our communities and they’re going to spend in our communities too.”

At a First Nations Summit meeting last Wednesday in Vancouver, MLA Scott Fraser stood with Indigenous leaders in support of the five nations.

“The Nuu-chah-nulth have reacted and they’ve been patient. They’ve waited seven years for a government to change and actually come to the table in a meaningful way and actually respect the court decision, Fraser said.

“This government so far has not done that.”

Fraser believes the lack of new negotiations by the government is a “complete failure for the Nuu-chah-nulth fisheries issue.”

“It’s scary when governments choose not to listen to court decisions. Court decisions apply to governments too, they can’t pick and choose,” Fraser said.

Also firmly supporting the Nuu-chah-nulth nations is Gord Johns, Member of Parliament for Courtenay-Alberni, who has recently raised the issue of fishing rights in the House of Commons in Ottawa.

“The hereditary chiefs have taken the unprecedented action of dismissing government officials from their meeting and told the prime minister he is no longer welcome on their lands,” said Johns in the House of Commons on Oct. 19.

“When will the prime minister take his own promises seriously, show true respect for the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations and begin fair negotiations?”

Johns has asked about the Nuu-chah-nulth fishing rights seven times in the House of Commons, and is the only MP in the 42nd Parliament to do so.

“I’m doing everything I can to stand with the Nuu-chah-nulth to ensure that they have a voice here in Ottawa on this important issue,” Johns said.

“We won’t let up. We will ensure that they’re going to be heard and get the respect that they deserve.”

 

karly.blats@albernivalleynews.com

twitter.com/alberninews

facebook.com/albernivalleynews

 

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

Just Posted

A poignant Pandemic Postcard Project submission has led Lesley Wright and Graham Hughes of Literacy Alberni on a new path toward anti-racism education. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Literacy Alberni tackles racism

Society receives $50K in funding to create web-driven reporting system

Kelly McGiffin, left, Dwayne Stern, batboy Jackson McGiffin and Kirk McGiffin are reviving the Port Alberni Cubs—this time as an over-55 baseball team. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Port Alberni’s McGiffin brothers revive Cubs baseball at 55-plus

The boys of summer are 55-plus now, but back on the baseball field

The intersection at 10th Avenue and Dunbar Street. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Safety improvements planned for Port Alberni intersection

10th Avenue and Dunbar Street is an “intersection of concern” based on incident data

Members of Huu-ay-aht First Nations conducted two checkpoints on Monday, May 10, asking people who enter the territory to respect the sacred principles and to act accordingly while on Huu-ay-aht land. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Huu-ay-aht First Nations set up checkpoints in territory

Access restrictions come after forestry incidents

Bulldogs forward Brandon Buhr is knocked off the puck by Grizzlies defenceman Lindsay Reid. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
BCHL: Alberni Valley Bulldogs beaten back-to-back by Victoria Grizzlies

Victoria Grizzlies named Island Champions while Bulldogs take second place

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

Keith MacIntyre - BC Libertarian
Penticton’s Keith MacIntyre new leader of the B.C. Libertarian Party

The Penticton businessman was voted in by members of the party on May 8

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a 'person of interest' in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
Man sought in suspicious Kootenay death found in Lake Country

Philip Toner is a person of interest in the death of Brenda Ware

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP reported to 287 mental health calls between Jan. 1, 2021, and May 1. (Black Press files)
‘It’s not the police’s responsibility to deal with mental health calls’: Vernon RCMP

RCMP remind public to take care of mental health and well-being, while better solutions are sought

Thompson Rivers University campus is in Kamloops, B.C. (KTW file photo)
Thompson Rivers the 1st B.C. university to supply free menstrual products

The university will offer the products this September

Fraser Health is using ‘targeted’ vaccination clinics in high-risk areas of the Lower Mainland. (Fraser Health photo)
B.C.’s COVID-19 decrease continues, 515 new cases Tuesday

426 seriously ill people in hospital, up from 415 Monday

A scene from the Schoolhouse Squat from October 2018, where Alliance Against Displacement members and supporters occupied the Rutherford Elementary School site, advocating for people experiencing homelessness. (News Bulletin file)
‘Schoolhouse Squat’ activists get conditional discharge in Nanaimo school occupation

Ivan Donald Drury, Tingchun (Listen) Chen sentenced in provincial court in Nanaimo

The site of Sunfest, Laketown Ranch, will be open for camping this summer. (Citizen file)
Sunfest country music bash won’t be shining on B.C. in 2021

Annual Vancouver Island Festival cancelled due to COVID-19, along with Laketown Shakedown

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
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

Most Read