Asking the Outside World for Help : Support the Wild Salmon Defense Fund

For thousands of years, the Dzawada’enuxw First Nation (DFN) of Kingcome Inlet, BC sustained themselves with the abundant ocean resources of their territory, in what is today known as the Broughton Archipelago. Wild salmon, eulachon, crabs, prawns, clams, halibut – this natural wealth made them self-sufficient. “Our elders referred to the ocean as our food basket,” says Melissa Willie ('Tła'tłagwoł).

That is, until foreign-owned factory fish farms arrived several decades ago – filled with Atlantic salmon that spew waste, parasites and diseases into the marine environment. “We’ve seen our wild Pacific salmon stocks decline year after year,” says Hereditary Chief Joe Willie (Hawil’kwo’lal). 

This small, resilient nation has tried everything to remove fish farms – flotillas, letters, government engagement – but to no avail. Norwegian giants Marine Harvest and Cermaq still operate 10 farms in DFN territory, even after most of their provincial tenures expired on June 20 of this year. The DFN were left with no choice but to go to court. They hired lawyer Jack Woodward, Q.C. to help them.

Building on the landmark decision for the Tsilhqot’in First Nation , whom Woodward also represented, the DFN have devised a multi-pronged legal strategy that is “unstoppable”, says Woodward. Using a combination of legal tools – Aboriginal title and rights claims, injunctions, judicial reviews, and other legal challenges – the DFN are the best hope for finally removing fish farms from BC’s coastal waters.

“It will cost some money, but once we get this thing moving, there will not be fish farms in DFN territory,” Woodward assures. “I believe that this man can do it for us,” says Melissa Willie. We will get fish farms out of our territory – we just need your support.”

The DFN have received virtually no revenues from the resources taken from their territories over the years and they maintain their remote community through hard work and perseverance. “It’s not easy for us to ask the outside world for help,” says Joe Wille, “but we will need help for this important work.” 

The benefits of the DFN’s legal challenges will extend far beyond their community. “When you look at the tourism economy or people who just want to fish for wild salmon, this fight is for all of BC, not just our nation,” says Chief Willie Moon (Okwilagame). Victory for the DFN would also blaze a trail for other First Nations to follow as they seek to remove fish farms from their own territories and defend our shared environment from other threats.

The process is already under way, with the DFN having filed their title claim on May 28  and begun an injunction process on June 19. But they need your support to ensure they have all the resources required to see these cases through.

Your donation goes directly to the DFN’s Wild Salmon Defence Fund, through a lawyer’s trust account which is regularly audited and held to the highest standards of accountability, according to the rigorous rules of the Law Society of British Columbia. 

Now is the time to stand up for our wild salmon and ocean resources by backing the DFN in court. “The legal and constitutional defenders of the environment in Canada are the First Nations,” says Woodward. “I’m honoured to support them and I hope you will too.”

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