First Nation challenge month-to-month salmon farm tenures in British Colombia

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The Dzawada’enuxw First Nation (DFN) has filed a judicial review of provincial salmon farm tenure extensions.

The North Island Gazette has reported that the First Nation Dzawada’enuxw from Kingcome Inlet, B.C has launched a legal challenge against 10 salmon farms in their territory operated by Marine Harvest Canada and Cermaq.

They are challenging the governments decision to allow expired tenures to continue to operate on a month-to-month basis.

“In order to transition these tenures to a month-to-month arrangement, the province must first consult with the First Nations in whose waters the farms are located,” said lawyer Jack Woodward, who represents the DFN talking to the Gazette. “Since my client has received zero consultation on the matter, this decision is unconstitutional and should be overturned.”

The judicial review is the latest in a series of legal challenges led by Woodward and the DFN. The group – called the Wild Salmon Defence Fund – say that legal and constitutional defenders of the environment in Canada are the First Nations.

Hereditary Chief Hawil’kwo’lal (Joe Willie) said: “The fish farming industry is infringing on our way of life, by breaking the natural circle of life that has sustained us since time immemorial. This cannot continue.” Melissa Willie (‘Tła’tłagwoł) added, “An elder told us the ocean was our food basket, and that is what these fish farms are destroying.”

While several Broughton-area First Nations continue to negotiate with the province for the removal of open ocean factory fish farms, the DFN are looking to the courts. “We’ve been fighting fish farms in our territory for over two decades and our people need justice now,” said Dzawada’enuxw First Nation Elected Chief and Traditional Leader Okwilagame (Willie Moon).

“We don’t begrudge other First Nations for engaging with government, but, based on our experience, the courts are the only effective path forward,” added Melissa Willie.

SalmonBusiness has contacted Marine Harvest Canada and Cermaq for a reply.