Fish farm pro­test­ers or­dered to leave site

Times Colonist - - News - RANDY SHORE

First Na­tions pro­test­ers have been or­dered to va­cate their camp on a fish farm near Mid­sum­mer Is­land for 30 days while they pre­pare for a court date on Marine Har­vest’s ap­pli­ca­tion for an in­junc­tion that would see them per­ma­nently re­moved from the site.

Pro­test­ers from the Mus­ga­m­agw and Namgis First Na­tions have been oc­cu­py­ing a shel­ter at­tached to the fish farm, south­east of Port McNeill, since early Septem­ber, de­mand­ing that Marine Har­vest shut down op­er­a­tions in their tra­di­tional ter­ri­to­ries.

At the di­rec­tion of the Supreme Court of B.C., the pro­test­ers now have three days to re­move their struc­tures from the farm.

“This [ad­journ­ment] gives our hered­i­tary and elected lead­er­ship more time to get le­gal ac­tion and ne­go­ti­a­tions or­ga­nized to re­move these farms from our waters legally and per­ma­nently,” Mus­ga­m­agw pro­tester Molina Daw­son said.

The lo­cal First Na­tions have asked the B.C. gov­ern­ment not to re­new leases on farm sites in the Broughton Archipelago when they ex­pire next June.

“We would have pre­ferred to stay on Mid­sum­mer,” Daw­son said. “Our con­cern now is that Marine Har­vest will use this time to re­stock the farms.”

Marine Har­vest has har­vested salmon from the farm in re­cent weeks, but has de­layed re­stock­ing be­cause of safety con­cerns for the pro­test­ers.

“We will re­view the bi­o­log­i­cal sched­ule of our fish as we raise a liv­ing, grow­ing an­i­mal,” said Marine Har­vest Canada man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Vin­cent Erenst. “Un­til mean­ing­ful dis­cus­sions are tak­ing place to find long-term so­lu­tions, we will con­cen­trate on con­tin­u­ing to take care of our fish and our em­ploy­ees.”

Erenst urged se­nior lev­els of gov­ern­ment to find a so­lu­tion to First Na­tions con­cerns about their rights and ti­tle.

“This im­por­tant gov­ern­ment-to-gov­ern­ment dis­cus­sion needs to oc­cur so our busi­ness and many other busi­nesses in the prov­ince can be given clar­ity about this process,” he said.

Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Lana Popham, the gov­ern­ment’s lead min­is­ter on the fish-farm file, has in­di­cated a will­ing­ness to hear First Na­tions con­cerns.

“We are look­ing for­ward to mak­ing that con­sul­ta­tion process gov­ern­ment to gov­ern­ment and we are look­ing for a start­ing point,” Popham said.

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