On the heels of a new report by the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans (FOPO), the First Nations Leadership Council (FNLC) is calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to act on what the FNLC states is “systemic issues” within the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).
In an open letter, dated April 17, the FNLC, along with the Union of BC Indian Chiefs and the BC Assembly of First Nations, states that the federal government’s upcoming Fish Farm Transition Plan, slated for release in June, “exacerbates” the group’s concerns.
“The recent FOPO report speaks to the prioritization of industry above science and First Nations title,” the letter reads. “We call on this plan to be founded on First Nations input, and involve title and rights holders in all aspects through co-management.”
The FNLC goes onto say that almost all the recommendations and decision making within the DFO remains within the status quo, and reiterates the conclusion given by then Conservative Government’s Coen Commission in 2012, which called for the removal of the ministerial mandate to promote aquaculture due to its conflict with wild salmon protection.
The FNLC brings into the discussion the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, saying that the charter should give it the right to conserve, protect and control the productive capacity of waters within First Nations territories.
“First Nations desire the preservation of our traditional ways of being rather than legal victories,” the letter states. “To prevent the loss of wild salmon, First Nations must be at the table throughout all decision making processes, and Indigenous knowledge must be instrumental to the development of science and management plans.”
The letter concludes that “we urge Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister Murray to publicly outline a transparent and collaborative path forward to reform DFO and establish processes grounded within the precautionary principles.”
In February, the federal government announced the closure of 15 fish farms in the Discovery Islands region. Last month, the Laich-Kwil-Tach Nations, the Wei Wai Kum and We Wai Kai, joined seafood companies MOWI Canada West, Cermaq and Grieg Seafood in seeking a formal judicial review.