Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Fisheries and Oceans
Issue 4 - Evidence - Evening meeting
NANAIMO, Wednesday, March 26, 2014
The Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans met this day at 7:03
p.m. to study the regulation of aquaculture, current challenges and future
prospects for the industry in Canada.
Senator Fabian Manning (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Good evening. I will call the meeting to order. I would
like to welcome everybody once again. My name is Fabian Manning. I'm a senator
from Newfoundland and Labrador. I have the privilege to serve as chair of the
Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. I am pleased to be here in
British Columbia for the past number of days as we continue our study into
aquaculture, the current challenges and the future prospects for the industry in
Canada. We are very pleased that you have taken the time this evening to join
us. Before I go to the panel I would ask the senators to introduce themselves to
you first, please.
Senator McInnis: Senator Tom McInnis, Nova Scotia.
Senator Hubley: Senator Elizabeth Hubley, P.E.I.
Senator Lovelace Nicholas: Senator Lovelace, New Brunswick.
Senator Stewart Olsen: Carolyn Stewart Olsen, New Brunswick.
Senator Raine: Nancy Greene Raine from B.C.
The Chair: I'm sure most of you know Nancy Greene Raine very well. We
are delighted that she has joined us. I am going to give the floor to our
panelists now but I will ask you if you would first introduce yourselves and
then I understand that you have some opening remarks you would like to make, and
then we will open the floor up for questions from our senators, whoever may want
to ask the question too. So if you would introduce yourselves first for the
record and then we will go to whoever would like to begin with their opening
Linda Hiemstra, Projects Manager, Sable Fish Canada Ltd. (Kyuquot Sound):
Linda Hiemstra, Sable Fish Canada.
Chief Richard Harry, President, Aboriginal Aquaculture Association:
Chief Richard Harry, Aboriginal Aquaculture Association.
Jordan Point, Executive Director, First Nations Fisheries Council of
British Columbia: Jordan Point, Executive Director of the First Nations
Fisheries Council of British Columbia.
Chief Bob Chamberlin, Vice-President (Kwicksutaineuk Ah-kwa-mish First
Nation) Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs: Chief Bob Chamberlin,
Vice-President of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.
The Chair: Who would like to go first? You can, Ms. Hiemstra.
Ms. Hiemstra: Thank you very much for inviting me to speak. I am
really appreciative of this opportunity. I have worked in the aquaculture
industry for over 20 years in British Columbia in science and research and at
the university here in Nanaimo, and I have worked for Sable Fish Canada for the
past four years. Tonight I want to tell you a little bit about the opportunity
for Sable Fish aquaculture.
Sable Fish Canada is a 100 percent B.C. owned company, a small company, 38
employees. We have a hatchery on Salt Spring Island and two farm sites in a very
remote and beautiful Kyuquot Sound on the West Coast of Vancouver Island.
Sablefish, or black cod as they are locally known — I have heard other
speakers refer to them today as black cod — are found naturally in the Pacific
Ocean from Alaska right through to California. We have had a wild sablefish
fishery since the early 1900's but more recently the wild stock has been reduced
and the commercial catch has declined. This has created a very large opportunity
in the market as there is a much greater demand than a supply.
Sable Fish Canada products are all exported and we have created an additional
niche market for fresh sablefish into the very high end sushi and five-star
restaurants in Asia and North America.
Sablefish aquaculture is unique to British Columbia. Currently sablefish are
not cultured anywhere else in the world, so Canada has a very real opportunity
in this regard.
Sable Fish Canada, the company, has invested eight years and $21 million in
research in developing the techniques required to have a successful sablefish
culture industry, and currently we are the only company that grows sablefish
from egg right through till market.
The aquaculture industry in British Columbia, as you have heard earlier
today, is dominated by salmon aquaculture with three major international salmon
farming companies. The future of the industry, because the salmon aquaculture is
so tied up now, the future of the industry in British Columbia will come from
new species and sablefish being one of them.
Sablefish are good candidates for aquaculture. They are a local fish. They
grow quickly and they thrive in a farm environment. As a local fish, sablefish
have developed mechanisms to avoid many of the natural conditions that are
detrimental to fish farming in British Columbia. They have no sea lice; they are
resistant to local diseases; they are not affected by fluctuating water
temperatures or different oxygen levels. They have mechanisms to avoid toxic
phytoplankton which are a main cause of mortality for Atlantic salmon and, of
course, there is no issues should the fish escape the net-pens because they are
the same fish inside the net-pens as we have naturally in our surrounding
Sable Fish Canada partners with the Kyuquot Checleseht First Nation for our
farm sites in the Kyuquot Sound. Kyuquot Checleseht is one of the six nation
members of the Maa-nulth treaty and Kyuquot Sound is part of their traditional
territory. The band also has a small village of Kyuquot which is on the very
outer edge of the Sound. The employment and economic opportunities for the band
in that area were once based on fishing and forestry and now are extremely
Kyuquot Checleseht's immediate priorities are improve finances and keeping
their young people in the Kyuquot village and within their social network so
they can support them. They have indicated to us that the initial steps in
addressing these priorities, the general steps are local economic development
which would provide income and improve the quality of life in the village and
long-term employment, especially for youth.
So the Kyuquot Checleseht partnership with Sable Fish Canada is based on
these principles and it has taken us a number of years in negotiation and
development for our agreement but we now have an agreement with them that
provides a number of benefits to the band initially. Of course, to us as well
because we want to farm there.
The first one is a source of income. There's financial compensation paid to
Kyuquot Checleseht for each fish that is grown in the Sound. The second is we
provide assistance with development of natural resources in the Sound. As an
example, they used to harvest clams there but haven't lately and it is one of
the things that we have agreed we will assist with.
Local employment, currently eight of the band members have full-time
employment on our farms. That is more than half of our complement for both of
our farms. The employment is currently at a technical level, but we expect that
a number of those band members will be ready for training and management
positions, and that's where the band wants to go, full ownership of a number of
sites there and they need to have their community people trained up as managers.
There is a very detailed program of capacity building for the community. It
includes providing information on training and education even outside of the
area, providing social events and information events and having an open policy
on both of our farm sites where any members are welcome at any time. Our
information about farming and our practices is provided to the community and the
council at any time they want.
Kyuquot Checleseht were not interested in a short-term arrangement with us
and that's because we are not the first company that they have partnered with in
the Sound. They have experience that wasn't especially positive, so they wanted
some security of this arrangement. So they will have an ownership position in
the company, and we are providing them assistance to obtain tenures and licences
in the requirements so that they will have their own sites. There are three more
possibilities in the Sound and we are providing the support for them to obtain
So there is many First Nations that see potential in aquaculture, especially
sablefish because it is a local fish and because there is such a high return in
the marketplace so there is an opportunity for profit there.
In spite of the interest, not all of the First Nations would like to have
been able to turn the opportunity into real benefits.
I would like to take this opportunity to highlight a couple of regulatory
hurdles or barriers to that. First of all, is a lack of support from our
regulatory body, Fisheries and Oceans Canada for aquaculture development.
Decisions are made internally within that department that affect the viability
of the aquaculture industry, and they are made without industry input. There is
currently no official feedback mechanism for the aquaculture industry to provide
information and to be consulted while these decisions are being made. For
example, in the wild resource industry fisheries and management decisions on how
many fish will be caught are all made in consultation with the commercial
fishing industry. So their profitability and their liability are consulted and
decisions are made accordingly. That is not what happens with aquaculture.
The second point I would like to make is that the process to obtain an
aquaculture licence is prohibitive. There are sites that First Nations could
take over right now and become owners and farmers if they wished, and the
process to obtain a licence for those existing aquaculture sites is incredibly
detailed and at least eight months in duration. These are existing aquaculture
sites. A new aquaculture site would be much, much longer.
The types of licences that are available don't reflect the industry
accurately. For instance, there is no licence for a new and emerging species.
The conditions for saltwater finfish licences are the same. We, Sable Fish
Canada, only farm sablefish yet our conditions of licence are identical to an
Atlantic salmon farming site. Some of those conditions don't even apply to us.
Then there are ongoing regulatory requirements for reporting numerous
monthly, quarterly and annual and bi- annual reports and those, again, all
reflect Atlantic salmon farming.
In summary, I think that aquaculture and aquaculture opportunities are a good
fit for many First Nations and for those First Nations that are interested, some
have the aquatic resources and they have transferrable skills from other
industries, especially from fishing industries. They have the desire to improve
their economic and social conditions, but for long-term benefits First Nations
need to own and manage their own aquaculture businesses, not just partner with a
big company. This is made difficult by the complicated process of obtaining the
Also future finfish aquaculture expansion in British Columbia will come from
new species. Development of emerging species is being held back by the
regulatory processes that do not support expansion. There's no specific licence,
there is limited or no access to broodstock and everybody in the finfish
industry needs to comply to regulations that were developed for Atlantic salmon
I truly believe that a viable and sustainable aquaculture industry will
provide opportunities for First Nations. We have a very real opportunity with
the culture of new species but in order to move forward with this, we need to
enable the acquisition of aquaculture licences and have ongoing and meaningful
stakeholder consultation; that is, the current industry, First Nations, anybody
that is interested in getting into the industry. We need to implement an
aquaculture policy that supports industry expansion, especially for new species.
The Chair: Thank you, Ms. Hiemstra.
Mr. Harry, go ahead.
Mr. Harry: Thank you. My name is Chief Richard Harry. I am Chief of
the Homalco First Nation, President of the Aboriginal Aquaculture Association. I
just want to provide you with a bit of background on how the association came to
be. We formed the association 10 years ago. The founding members were all
commercial fishermen and I'm still involved in a commercial fishery today. I
have a vested interest in the same vessel, a salmon seine licence, and a herring
gillnet licence and when we are active, we have a crew of five or six. So we
have seen the highs and lows of the fishery, and over the last 15, 20 years we
have seen the decline of the industry, the wild fishery, just as forestry has
What has happened in First Nation country really is that fishing at one time
was probably our biggest employer. It was on the decline and people were being
forced out of the industry and it was affecting our coastal communities. So the
intent at the time amongst the handful of coastal chiefs, and they are all
fishermen as well, we thought what can we do to lend some support to our people
as well as our communities, and we looked at aquaculture for that. How do we
create some opportunities for ourselves, and that was the creation of the
aboriginal aquaculture at the time. The objective, of course, is to advocate for
aquaculture but also for the First Nations and to create some economic
development opportunities, and I've seen the transition from the wild fishery of
skippers as well as crew members finding employment in the aquaculture sector.
It is difficult when you are a middle-aged individual. Today the average age of
our crew members is 60-plus years. You talk about a sunset industry, the
opportunities aren't there, and 10 years ago a lot of these fellows were middle
aged. I have two sons, and they have gotten out of the industry. They have had
to find new careers, and every family has run into that.
In our communities the out-migration of youth is a reality. But we as leaders
still need to find some ways and means to generate employment opportunities and
restoring job opportunities. Also our youth need to see our First Nation
governments take a leader role in resource management and getting involved in
the resource sector, and aquaculture is but one of them. Forestry is there,
tourism is there but you need to have sustainability. We see that in aquaculture
for those First Nations that have chosen to partake in that.
The expansion of aquaculture as I see it on this coast, be it finfish or
shellfish or freshwater opportunity, really has to be led by the First Nations
in their respective territories. It's all part of the duty to consult and that
is really the way it is. It doesn't matter what resource development it is,
whether it is forestry or energy or mining or aquaculture, the duty to consult
with the First Nations is critical and important. The proponent needs to get
that support. It is a requirement of the regulatory body as well as provincially
and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
The one thing that we have with the association and what we do respect is the
autonomy of those individual First Nations. It's too easy for government to
create bodies that they do their referral process and approvals, but the duty to
consult is with the individual First Nations and it is very, very critical that
that take place. And that is something that we are doing. It is happening today.
I just want to share with you some of the successes of some of our coastal
communities. Kitasoo First Nation in the Central Coast, it is very rural. The
decline of the wild fishery sort of hit them first, probably 40, 50 years ago,
and they were really left with no canneries, the resource was depleting and the
solution to improve their community well-being was in aquaculture. They created
a partnership with Marine Harvest, I believe they have six sites up there. They
have created employment for their community because there was no other
employment in their area, it is very remote, and they have been able to do that.
They have their own processing plant to complement the partnership. They have a
vessel to transport the product, the resource from the site from the farms to
their processing plant, and I believe they have achieved their goal of having an
income earner in every home, in every family. From almost 80 to 90 percent
unemployment they have cut that in half in that 20, 30 years that the
partnership has been there. That is a good example of just what aquaculture can
do when a First Nation decides to be involved.
The other one that I'm very proud of myself personally is the Pentlatch
shellfish operation of the K'omoks First Nations. They have taken the
aquaculture from the early stages to creating an entity that employs 20, 30
people. They have tenures, they have licences, and probably the last 10 years
they have acquired their own processing plant. It has not been without its
challenges. They're finalizing their treaty process and, for example, we are
struggling with geoduck policy. It seems that Fisheries and Oceans has a geoduck
policy that does not allow for geoduck aquaculture, and how do we overcome that?
The aspiration of First Nations is let's create a geoduck industry. It is not
just a wild harvest but that policy doesn't allow for it.
We spent the whole day today with other First Nations trying to counter a new
framework dealing with that policy and what DFO just released the last couple of
weeks. It is not a very inclusive document. It is going to be a huge struggle,
and it is really important that the committee here really understands what that
framework document means. I hate to put it really bluntly, but you have to say
it is protectionism of the worst kind for the handful of people involved in the
wild fishery there.
The way to deal with this may be through the treaty process, but presently
the fishery is not on the treaty table. Every First Nation that is at the treaty
table, that fishery issue is not there. We need to get it there to be able to
provide equity positions for First Nations so they can develop aquaculture, and
the means to do that is to transfer licences and quotas so the First Nations has
some assets and equity so that it is bankable.
One of the challenges First Nations face on the coast is a lack of access to
capital. There is no equity for any of the aquaculture initiatives that we
The farming industry is such that you plant the seed then you wait for it to
grow and go to market. It is two, three years to get a resource to market. In
that time you have your business plan, you have got financial commitments but
you have no revenues coming in to offset your debt. So we need to address that
somehow, and I feel that we can do that but government needs to make that
necessary investment. One way to do it is to sort of set up these capital funds
that can address some of these concerns on the coast that our communities are
The other First Nations, I have kind of wandered a bit and I apologize, but
the other First Nations that I want to share with you, the Quatsino First Nation
has aquaculture in their community. It is on the north end of Vancouver Island,
and it has taken away the dependency on social programs to almost zero by
creating employment for themselves. These are positive stories. It creates
employment and skills at the community level and the quality of life has
The other First Nation is on the West Coast of the Island, the Ahousaht First
Nation. They have a partnership with CIRMAC in the finfish sector and I believe
they have twelve sites there. The band has worked very hard to improve the
partnership. I believe they have an equity position. At the high peak of the
year, they probably have close to 100 people working in their partnership
arrangements on the sites as well as the processing plants.
Some of their band members have water taxis to support the industry. So there
is a bit of a spinoff that is going on from this arrangement that they have
negotiated for themselves. These are all very good things. I believe they are
considering acquiring a vessel that would transport the product from their sites
to the processing plant in Tofino.
The Chair: Excuse me, chief, I am being as lenient as I can with my
time but we need to get in some questions. If you could find a conclusion I
would be pleased.
Mr. Harry: I am halfway through but I am going to conclude by saying
that it is necessary that the expansion of aquaculture be dependent on the
inclusion of First Nations. It is going to take some political will, and we are
going to have to work together with the federal government and the provincial
government to be inclusive of First Nations. A good example that I will make in
closing is that the framework document on geoduck that DFO just released
recognizes every level of local government except First Nations. That says a lot
in itself. I will close my comment on that. Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you, chief, and there will be ample time to expand
with questions from the senators later if you need to expand on something that
you didn't get the opportunity to get to.
Mr. Point: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Please, as a point of order allow me
to observe cultural protocol and extend you the courtesy of cultural protocol.
[Mr. Point spoke in his native language.]
I'll translate for you. I'm greeting you as high status people. I'm wishing
you strength as it has been a long day for you. I'm also recognizing the
territory of this Nanaimo First Nation and where we are doing this work today. I
am also saying to you that I bring good thoughts in my mind and good feelings in
my heart for the work that you are doing. So that is how we observe cultural
protocol. In the old days, if you didn't do that people might think you were
coming into their territory with ill-will, so we want to express that we are
here for good purposes.
The Chair: Thank you.
Mr. Point: Again, my name is Jordan Point, and I am Executive Director
of the First Nations Fisheries Council of British Columbia. I want to thank you
for allowing us to make a presentation to you on this most interesting and
complex item of aquaculture in British Columbia. I am going to read verbatim. I
will be brief, but I want it on the record, and I have left with you our
strategic plan and some appendices that I will refer to in the note that I am
The First Nations Fisheries council, otherwise known as the FNFC is a
provincial scale umbrella organization that is mandated to convene, elicit, and
advance the interests of B.C. First Nations pertaining to their fundamental and
inherent aboriginal title and rights on fisheries matters, and by extension the
land and resources related to fish, fisheries and their habitats. The council
was formed by way of a resolution of the chiefs in assembly and has formal
articles of incorporation as the First Nations Fisheries Society.
There are 207 First Nations in British Columbia with unique self-governing
structures that are described as hereditary, traditional, custom elected, or
Indian Act elected. These 207 Nations, in terms of fishery matters, align
themselves at various scales from local processes, independent bands to tribal
councils, to watershed committees and/ or commissions. This collaboration
framework amongst First Nations continues to evolve and change as First Nations
continue to gain capacity and expertise on different and diverse fisheries and
species related activities.
The First Nations Fisheries Council has established a strategic plan that you
have as a handout, and the strategic plan, given the complex environment in
British Columbia, sets out a process framework for First Nations to organize
themselves with geographic regions and advisory processes and structures to
enable the appropriate conversations at the appropriate level, and to separate
operational matters from political and policy matters.
In terms of aquaculture, First Nations in B.C. have many differing and
diverse views and perspectives depending on the topic and the species and the
interest of a particular First Nation.
The FNFC will attempt to provide the committee with a concise and brief
summary of this complex issue. But before responding directly to the elements of
your review, I would like to express a perspective on the general DFO policy
approach on aquaculture.
The issue of promoter and regulator in the two agendas: The national agenda
of DFO is to promote aquaculture as an emerging development opportunity,
however, in consultation on the policy objectives for NASAPI, the National
Aquaculture Strategic Active Plan Initiative, and Aboriginal Aquaculture in
Canada Initiative they focus mainly on the business development, marketing and
production of aquaculture. Meanwhile, the regional agenda focuses on the
operational management and regulation of aquaculture, and neither process has
engaged in direct consultation with the First Nations on the aquaculture agenda,
nor has the appropriate funding been identified for First Nations engagement,
other than for feedback on specific elements and plans that DFO sees as
This conflicting role was identified as problematic in the Cohen inquiry, and
it leaves gaps in the ability of First Nations to effectively articulate
coherent feedback on either policy direction. The protection of wild salmon
stocks and their habitat is of particular and primary importance to First
Nations. When government considers aquaculture there is no comprehensive
approach to consolidate the two agendas of aquaculture in the agenda of DFO.
So getting to your review, the regulation of aquaculture, First Nations of
British Columbia have a history of legal decisions that support and require the
principle of the ``honour of the Crown'' in dealing with First Nations on
legislative or policy matters that infringe or may infringe on aboriginal
rights. The 2009 Morton decision and the subsequent jurisdictional
transition for aquaculture to a federal responsibility should have triggered the
honour of the Crown to consult with First Nations on the Pacific aquaculture
regulations. During the introduction of the draft regulations, the Cohen inquiry
was well underway in B.C. and there was an assumption that, given the concerns
of aquaculture impacts identified during the inquiry, a precautionary approach
would be taken in developing the draft regulations and that further consultation
would be required. In fact, the regulations promulgation was continued and First
Nations consider this unfinished business. First Nations were advised that this
unfinished business would be addressed by way of the structure and process below
which is the AMAC process, the Aquaculture Management Advisory Committee process
The Pacific Aquaculture Regulation is a very vague body of work and places
much emphasis toward the development of the Integrated Management of Aquaculture
Plans, otherwise known as IMAP. That would be the guiding mechanism for how
aquaculture activities will be managed in the Pacific region. The process
mechanism for developing the IMAP is intended to be the Aquaculture Management
Advisory Committee, the regional committee.
In May of 2012, First Nations met with regional and national officials of DFO
to indicate our concerns with the ability to structure themselves effectively to
engage on this new provincial process. We identified the resources required to
inform First Nations participation at the AMAC table in the AMAC process and the
diverse First Nations with many different concerns. Clear linkages with
transparent science continues to be raised as a critical issue, and it is not
demonstrated in the regional approach.
The First Nations Fisheries Council has held regional forums around the
province and identified 10 consistent themes expressed by the First Nations.
These 10 themes in point form are further expanded in the attachments. The
concerns can be summarized as follows: The fiduciary recognition of title and
rights; meaningful engagement, consultation and accommodation; area based
management structures and mechanisms; capacity development; increasing First
Nations decision-making and control; transparency and information sharing;
inclusive science and integration of aboriginal traditional knowledge and
tradition ecological knowledge; a balance of economic opportunity and
environmental impact; and protection and restoration of fish and fish habitat.
In conclusion, First Nations in British Columbia have recently begun to take
ownership of the gaps and have developed a shared declaration on aquaculture
governance. That's the second appendix in your attachment. They have built this
declaration on aquaculture governance based on the concerns raised above. The
declaration indicates in general that there are diverse and differing
perspectives regarding First Nations involvement in aquaculture and there is a
need to ensure that given the biodiversity importance it plays in many
ecosystems, the protection of wild salmon in British Columbia is paramount and
that aquaculture development methods and science should be proven as non-
harmful before any expansion is considered. This was a recommendation of Cohen.
First Nations continue to explore pursuing aquaculture developments in B.C.,
in marine finfish, shellfish and emerging freshwater concepts and that is based
on their respective interests. But the most consistent and cohesive message
heard from B.C. First Nations is that open net fish farming operations and the
potential for disease transfer and contamination to wild fish is a critical
It is acknowledged that cumulative effects play a role in impacting the wild
salmon population, however, the future of aquaculture governance in B.C. should
fully consider First Nations perspectives in charting a course forward.
Fisheries and Oceans should contribute to developing an inclusive governing
mechanism to ensure the development of aquaculture is precautionary in approach
and transparent in its decision making.
Given that DFO has taken on a business resumption position with the expansion
of aquaculture in B.C., since Cohen, and the indication of moving ahead with
multi-year licensing, it appears that the business perspective is taking
precedence over sound scientific and precautionary approaches. If the course
remains the same, I foresee future conflict between the various parties. Thank
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Point.
[Mr. Chamberlin spoke in his native language.]
My traditional name is Owaide, the elected chief councillor of the
Kwicksutaineuk Ah-kwa-mish First Nation. Of course I'm here on behalf of the
Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.
Following Jordan's lead I have acknowledged the territory of the peoples that
we're in. I thank them for allowing us to be here. I have referred to you as
``ninoc solac'' and in our Kli-kla-mo-gilowx language that means ``the
knowledgeable ones.'' I have asked for you to hear my words that I speak from my
heart for our people. I have asked you to hear these words in the context of
something that is so spiritual to our people, it is wild salmon. The foundation
of our culture and our traditions largely is based on feasting, and we turn to
the resources in our territories in order to be able to sustain and perpetuate
our culture that has been handed down to us through the eons.
We take a very clear view on the importance of wild salmon over top of any
other economic opportunity because this staple food is something that has become
so integral to our people that we have bestowed upon it a very sacred dance.
Anybody here have twins in their family? Very rare, isn't it? My younger sisters
are twins. That is who we put the salmon dance on as a way to recognize the
importance and the specialness of this resource in relationship to our existence
on this planet.
I want to speak to you about the process that is in front of us here and why
we are gathered. I want to talk to you about the consultation. It has been
articulated by a couple speakers now about the Crown's duty that the honour of
the Crown to be upheld, and this is certainly nested within the Constitution of
Canada and various and numerous Supreme Court of Canada rulings. And these are
what give your government and your roles, the good guidance for a fair,
democratic process in Canada.
I will speak about the regulation development that DFO took on. I will speak
of the integrated aquaculture management planning process that DFO took on. I am
going to speak about the Aquaculture Management Advisory Committee. I will speak
about the National Aquaculture Strategic Action Plan Initiative and I will speak
about the strategic partnership initiative which was rolled out in relationship
to aquaculture at the National Aboriginal Fisheries Forum II.
I can speak in some authority in relation to all of them, as I have taken the
lead and have chaired an aquaculture working group for the First Nations
Fisheries Council since DFO was charged with taking on the responsibilities of
developing regulations, of developing management and to engage with the First
Nations that hold title.
I will speak to you of the Cohen recommendations. I will speak to you about
the Pacific Salmon Forum, another well-resourced examination of the health of
wild salmon in relationship to aquaculture and fish farms.
I will speak about the false profit nested within this industry. I will also
talk to you about something which has come up recently, the First Nation Wild
So in terms of the Senate process, I understand that you are to gather this
information and consider and give direction in Canada. I do not understand that
this is an opportunity for you individually or collectively to examine science
and make a judgment call on it. I think that that is a very fair statement
because I believe the science that has been put forward, especially when I
mention the Cohen recommendations, is well-founded, well-examined and well-
resourced to arrive at the report recommendations that we have in front of us.
In terms of the consultation, I took part in and involved myself with the
First Nations Fisheries Council. We went out to nine different communities in
B.C. to talk about First Nation aspirations for regulations of this industry. At
that time Eric Gilbert, a gentleman of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans,
wanted us to consult also, on the very same day, on this National Aquaculture
Strategic Action Plan Initiative.
If you were to ask DFO for the correspondence from the fisheries council you
will note that we rejected that, simply because it was far too much information
to be put in front of nine different sessions, to speak about aquaculture
regulations and NASAPI in the morning and have some measure of legitimate and
thoughtful feedback to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in the afternoon.
Now, when we went around the next time with the First Nation Fisheries
Council we went out and we sought out the perspective of collective First
Nations on the management of this industry, and in the end I can honestly tell
you that not one word of our aspirations for regulations or management made it
into DFO's efforts, and it is extremely troubling.
When our First Nation engaged with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in
relationship to the issuance of fish farm licences in our territory, we were
unsatisfied with the level of consultation that the Department of Fisheries and
Oceans enacted with us. I reference this because I read the transcripts from, I
believe it was February 25, when senior members of DFO reported about
consultation with First Nations and the fact that the courts have made it a
declaration that there was sufficient consultation on regulations.
Well, I can tell you, again, if you were to peruse the correspondence between
the fisheries council and the DFO, you would see that all the reports that came
out of the efforts of the fisheries council were quite clearly stated, from the
financial agreements to the final reports, and that this does not entail
consultation with First Nations. It is very clear. The problem is, somebody in
the Department of Justice decided to capture every meeting I attended on behalf
of the fisheries council talking about high level management and regulation, and
they put it in front of the judge saying that was consultation with our First
Nation on licence-by-licence consultation.
I put that on the record for you to correct, what was stated by the
Department of Fisheries and Oceans. From that traditional review, you would
anticipate that First Nations are largely in opposition to this industry and
would pursue such a thing. It is not true.
I'm aware that the Pentlatch, as Richard Harry has mentioned, of the K'omoks
First Nation, they also engaged in a judicial review based on the lack of
consultation by this government. I think that crystalizes for me the
shortcomings in which that department of the Government of Canada has engaged.
The Cohen commission cost $26 million. I believe there was 197 days of
examination. It reopened again the discussion about disease on fish farms. So it
was with great anticipation that I read the recommendations in the final report.
Of course, I felt extremely validated by what was put forward in the
recommendations because this has been our peoples' concern all along, the
negative impact of open net cage fish farms on resident wild salmon populations.
Again, it is not for us to decide on whether the science is truthful or not; it
is for us to accept what the recommendations are from Justice Cohen.
If you were to examine the final report that came out of the Pacific Salmon
Forum, again another well-informed, well-resourced effort, you would also find
much comment about the potential disease transfer or sea lice and potential
impacts on wild salmon. I know that with the fish farm siting and the
recommendations from Cohen, it was very clear that there has been no examination
of these sites for fish farms in relation to either inward migration wild salmon
or outward migration wild salmon smolts. This is what Cohen has put in front of
the government to act upon, and I say that the Government of Canada must act.
When I think about the false profit that you hear about this industry, of
course it's profitable, when they are able to discharge all of their waste and
negative aspects of their industry into the environment, it is our territories
that absorb that cost, and if this industry was supposed to be a hundred percent
responsible for all aspects of its work, this would not be profitable, and that
needs to be considered because that captures an incremental and a cumulative
impact on the environment. You cannot consider one farm at a time.
There is mention of Kitasoo. There is mention of the Quatsino First Nation,
and I want to be clear, we are talking apples and oranges. I believe in Kitasoo
they have six sites and I think in Quatsino they have three, maybe four. We have
20 some odd in our territory so our experience is remarkably different, and I
would say to you that if these First Nations that are often referred to as being
supportive of this industry, if they had as many farms as we did, they would be
talking as I am today.
I will say that when we talked about consultation on the issuance of the fish
farm licences, Department of Fisheries and Oceans said you are not going to want
to consult on a licence-by-licence basis because you are going to have such
great comfort in the management plan, the IMAP, and so we carried on and did the
work developing the IMAP, only to find out that the Department of Fisheries and
Oceans puts another table in front of us that's been referenced, the AMAC, and
that is a tier-three stakeholder table. So now they want the tier-three
stakeholder table to be the filter to define what the management is going to be.
So we are going to have a First Nation perspective engaging with DFO and the
output going into an Aquaculture Management Advisory Committee to make the
decision what management will be. This is completely unacceptable. It is
completely offside with the Crown's duty to consult and its obligation that it
has to First Nations people.
When I talk about NASAPI I'm very clear. We pushed back and said that we are
not going to be doing any consultation on it, it was far too much information.
What has happened is the Department of Fisheries and Oceans representing the
Crown failed to consult with First Nations in British Columbia. Failed to
consult with First Nations of British Columbia. The very same applies to the
strategic partnership initiative.
I was appalled at the final report that was presented at the NAFF II, and I
will say why. There were no negative comments. There was no contrary position to
wave in a flag over this great industry, and so I challenged the man that
presented it. I said, how is it that you can have only one comment that says the
First Nations that are in opposition to this industry simply don't understand
the full economic benefit. I pointed out then and I put it to you, those are two
very key documents in terms of the DFO's approach and fast forward for this
industry. I would say and suggest to you that it is incumbent upon you to be
aware of that and to look at that and examine the resolutions that are in the
package from the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs. We have been in existence since
1969. We have a membership of 110 First Nations of the 203 and we have many
resolutions protecting wild salmon; many resolutions from a collective of First
Nations that do not accept that fish farms are an acceptable risk to our wild
When you consider the aquaculture management advisory committee you have to
understand that the ENGO, the environmental groups, formally withdrew before it
began. I'm talking about the Pacific Salmon Forum and I'm talking about
Watershed Watch, and we can provide that letter to you from the fisheries
council that quite clearly saw that that advisory committee was very much
slanted in support of the industry. So they would not participate because they
could see the fix was on and they could see that their concerns and aspirations
would be shouted down by industry and government. Keep in mind the fact that
Cohen made the recommendation and comment that DFO is conflicted in advancing
this industry while protecting wild salmon and the environment.
So in this instance, it's the first that wins. So this is what has drawn me
to put forward resolutions to the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs and the First
Nation Summit for the creation of something called the First Nation Wild Salmon
Alliance. Now this wild salmon alliance is very clear in opposition to fish
farms. It is very clear in its support of wild salmon period, without apology.
And it will be very vocal. I have traveled the length of the Fraser River. I
have the support of the Tl'etinqox-t'in government, the northern Stswecem'c, the
Esk'etemic, the Stellat'en, the Shuswap, the Okanagan Nation Alliance, the
Musqueam and tribal council, the 'Namugwis and We Wai Kai First Nations. That I
say to you is the length of the Fraser River.
I have had conversations with a number of the St:lo chiefs as well down at
the bottom end of the Fraser River. They are supportive but they haven't
formally come forward.
So what I'm saying is that we have an organized group of First Nations that
will be very clear about protecting wild salmon. The first target of this effort
is going to be holding the government accountable in terms of enacting
meaningfully and broadly the principles found in the Cohen recommendations.
So these are the statements I have to put on record for you. I have a lot of
passion for wild salmon, and it is without apology that I make strong statements
to protect because this is the direction of my people. This is the direction of
First Nations up and down the Fraser River and they see that the greatest
potential for the annihilation of wild salmon on the coast of British Columbia
is the disease transfer which is commented on rather thoroughly on the Cohen
commission. I really encourage all of you to take a look at those
recommendations, and if you find you have some extra nights that you can't
sleep, give the report a read because there is plenty there to understand, and I
want you to be able to understand it, and not through the eyes of a government
department that wants to promote this industry at all costs because it has
failed in the management of the wild salmon fishery.
I was a commercial fisherman for 12 years and fished in the very same areas
as Chief Richard Harry, and I don't understand how the governments can lose
sight of such a wonderful resource that healthy and abundant wild salmon stocks
are in relation to isolated and remote communities because it has sustained who
we are commercially.
So with great passion — don't mistake it for anger — I believe in wild
salmon. Our people believe in wild salmon. We will be the voice for wild salmon
in the face of a conflicted government department that doesn't know whether it's
protecting wild salmon or promoting the very industry that will kill all of it.
The Chair: Thank you, chief.
Thank you all for your comments and, as you know, I was a bit lenient on my
time for the simple reason that you are our last panel after a long day and I
want to make sure that everybody had an opportunity to have their say. But
always we like to give the senators an opportunity to ask questions and feel
free to elaborate on some of the things you have already talked about. I want to
start with our deputy chair, Senator Hubley.
Senator Hubley: Thank you all for your presentations this evening. It
is hard to know where to begin again. I'm going to go, I think very directly
into what might be considered a need within the industry and that would be for
an aquaculture act that would address and support the needs of the industry. I
certainly acknowledge in both of your presentations your objectives, although I
find they may not be able to succeed — they may succeed, but I think the
Fisheries Act, which is a very old act founded when aquaculture was not in
existence, is probably not a good vehicle to move that industry forward. I find
that a lot of impediments and a lot of the somewhat barriers that you are
running into are found within the Fisheries Act, and perhaps an act supporting
aquaculture would help to alleviate some of those problems and perhaps move the
possibility of success a little bit closer to reality. That would be my first
comment that you might comment on.
I think Chief Harry touched on the out-migration of youth from your
communities and that they're finding it difficult getting into aquaculture and
the opportunities are not there for them. I think that's a real serious problem,
and there again I think making an industry more accessible is something that
might be something that we should be looking at.
I'm wondering if you would comment first on how you look at the possibility
of having an act that would govern the aquaculture by itself, stand-alone.
Mr. Harry: I'm not sure how to address your question. It's something
that I personally hadn't thought about that far along. We have dealt mainly with
the communities and that, but I think if I understand your question, what should
an aquaculture act look like, I work from the other way, that the autonomy of
the individual First Nations should be inclusive in that process to achieve that
goal. That sort of would be my answer there.
The Chair: Go ahead.
Ms. Hiemstra: I think an aquaculture act would clarify some of the
issues within Fisheries and Oceans Canada, whether they are a regulatory body or
whether they are supportive of a developing industry or are they an enforcement
body. Currently they are all of those things, and I don't see any of us speaking
here being happy about the way that they have implemented that on the ground. I
think everybody here spoke about the lack of consultation, and as a result the
regulations that come out of that body don't suit any application. So if I
understand it correctly a revision of the Fisheries Act and then a clear
aquaculture act would, I hope, create some clarity and create some
responsibilities in the managers and then filter down to the actual regulations
and policies that are put in place on the ground.
Senator Hubley: Do you have any comment, Mr. Point?
Mr. Point: Yes, I would agree. I concur that there may be utility in
such a concept. As I indicated in my report, the PAR, the Pacific Aquaculture
Regulations, is a very vague and weak legislative document when you really look
at it. Its main thrust is to put focus on the development of an integrated
aquaculture management plan and then that plan is developed annually by way of a
committee, the Aquaculture Management Advisory Committee. So it is a really weak
way of developing the legislative approaches, law, applications. To me it would
have some utility. At least there would be some kind of understanding and
especially if it was consulted upon and people were able to contribute to it.
Senator Hubley: Chief Chamberlin?
Mr. Chamberlin: I think if the Government of Canada chooses to pursue
an aquaculture act that it has to be mindful of all aspects of the argument. You
cannot in good conscience within this democratic process go forward and talk
only to those that want to benefit. Canada has a responsibility to look after
the environment that is within this country, and it cannot be done with the sole
focus of full steam ahead for an industry that has many, and I'm referencing
open net cage fish farms, many documented impacts, spacially, environmentally
and to wild salmon.
I think Canada has a lot to learn in terms of how it engages with First
Nations people, the true title holders. You cannot go around that responsibility
to uphold the honour of the Crown by engaging with First Nation stakeholders
rather than First Nation title holders because that's what the courts say. So I
think it would be a very interesting exercise. If we are going to do that, I
look forward to talking to you about it.
Senator Hubley: We have heard that some of the companies that are
working in aquaculture have protocols with First Nations. Would you care to
comment on that? Do you feel that that is a way to go or do you feel that the
First Nations should have their own business structures and their own entities?
Mr. Chamberlin: I believe that our First Nation, and it is founded on
law in Canada, as I understand it, holds title unless they have entered into a
treaty to relinquish their territories. And so what I would say is a First
Nations wishes and what they want to see in their territories and more
specifically what they do not want to see in their territories must be
respected. Your government has embraced the UN Declaration on the Rights of
Indigenous People and I always look to that document and I ask, ``Well, where is
it going to hit the ground,'' because it is quite clear in there about
environmental protection, First Nation authority over their territories and the
safeguarding of traditional food sources. So that is what I would say if you
want to talk about what an agreement with a First Nation could look like, it
first must be premised on recognition of the true title holders and the wishes
they have for their territory. Thank you.
Senator Lovelace Nicholas: Welcome. Chief Harry mentioned that DFO
recognizes all levels of government except for First Nations. Why is that?
Mr. Harry: That reluctance to recognize First Nations is troubling to
be honest with you. The duty to consult is government to government. The
provincial government today is negotiating in the treaty process with First
Nations to establish foreshore and water law-making agreements. That is
recognizing the First Nations. Those powers stand on their own. It's over and
above the regional district, the municipalities.
I think on the federal government side we need to establish that in a better
way, and how to define it, I'm not sure, but I know that we certainly will
continue to work towards that. Our respond document to the geoduck framework
that was released recently by Fisheries and Oceans we are stating that, the
recognition of our title and rights, and not only that but our government.
Senator Lovelace Nicholas: Does anybody know the percentage of First
Nations people that own licences compared to non-aboriginal people owning
licences? Is it the case of low per cent First Nations, high per cent
non-aboriginal people holding licences?
Mr. Chamberlin: Which kind of licences are you referring to?
Senator Lovelace Nicholas: Aquaculture licences.
Mr. Harry: I will try and answer that the best I can.
I will use Kitasoo again. I gather those six licences in that part of the
agreement is owned by Kitasoo. The Ahousaht, I'm not sure there, with their 12
sites. With other First Nations I'm not sure, but I know that moving forward
that any new agreements; my understanding is that First Nations will hold those
Senator Lovelace Nicholas: Well, the question I want answered is, is
there more aboriginal people that have aquaculture licences from DFO or is there
more non-aboriginal people that have licences for aquaculture?
Mr. Chamberlin: I would offer to you a comment: seeking just an answer
based on who owns the fish farm licences is premised upon the acceptance of this
industry as being welcome in the waters. So I would counter with a statement
seeking the answer you seek, thatthere is far more First Nations in British
Columbia that completely and outright reject fish farms. That's the message I
bring, and I think that that is something, instead of focusing on how many hold
a licence or don't hold a licence, I think it is incumbent upon this committee
and Canada in general to consider the aspirations of all First Nations in
British Columbia, especially given the outward migratory route of wild salmon
and that way we all rely upon the resource when they come back.
Senator Lovelace Nicholas: Thank you.
Mr. Point: Can I address your first question?
Senator Lovelace Nicholas: Sure.
Mr. Point: On your first question about DFO recognizing all levels of
government except First Nations. One of the things that we found is that
Fisheries and Oceans, in order first of all to recognize First Nations as a
government you have to recognize their rights and their title. DFO constantly
messages and says it on the record that they don't have a mandate to address
rights. They defer that to Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, AANDCI.
However, they're the front portfolio holder on the fisheries front, and
fisheries, if you haven't noticed is integral to the identity of all First
Nations in British Columbia.
If you look at the reserve sitings, every one of them is on a waterway where
people access fish. It has been historically identified as integral to the
identity of aboriginal communities, First Nations. So it's a bit baffling that
the department says we don't have a mandate to deal with rights, however, we're
going to negotiate with you on everything else fisheries-related. And not only
that, the omnibus bill last year actually defined what aboriginal fishing was.
So they say we don't have a mandate to do that, but yet they actually changed
the Fisheries Act under section 2 to change the definition of what aboriginal
fishing was. So there is kind of a lot of disconnect and dysfunction.
Ms. Hiemstra: I just wanted to say that as far as fish farm licences,
it is my experience that the majority are held by non-aboriginals.
I also want to comment that the process of obtaining a fish farm licence is
complicated, onerous, extremely expensive and very lengthy. A lot that is
involved in that process, so should a First Nation desire to set up a new farm
in their territory, I couldn't even estimate how long that would take and the
cost. Even if there was an existing salmon farm, for instance, in the Kyuquot
Sound they no longer want to grow Atlantic salmon there, they want to culture
sablefish there, just transferring an existing licence is an eight-month process
and probably upwards of about $15,000. That is my personal experience and that
is actually what I do for Sable Fish Canada.
Senator Raine: I must say that this whole subject is very complicated.
Obviously you people have a lot more experience than we do in the deficiencies
of the existing system of the development of aquaculture. You have differing
viewpoints and I respect that. I would ask Mr. Point and Chief Chamberlin, are
you against any form of aquaculture or only the aquaculture that might affect
Mr. Point: I wouldn't say that's accurate. The fisheries council
doesn't deal just with aquaculture. We deal with all other species, salmon and
economic development on the fisheries, etcetera, so if that's the way the
message is coming across that is not accurate. We are not into determining a
polarized position for or against. Our role as the council on a geographic scale
of the whole province is to elicit the aspirations of those First Nations, and
there are First Nations who aspire to pursue aquaculture, whether in shellfish
or hatcheries in freshwater locations, etcetera.
What we are trying to articulate is the primary concern of the effects and
the impacts to wild stocks that are integral to the identity of First Nations
people. Also there's a thoughtful and precautionary approach to assessing how we
look at implementation regulations and the management of aquaculture. To date,
what we're saying is the table of consultation and implementation on aquaculture
in B.C. has been slanted towards the promotion of aquaculture without taking
into consideration wild stocks in B.C., disease, transparent science, et cetera.
Those are the concerns that we've heard from First Nations, and when we try to
provide policy advice, whether it is national on regional level, those are the
messages that we're trying to put forward.
People are not necessarily concerned with shellfish aquaculture or other
species but there is a lot of concern with Atlantic open net-pens, and First
Nations along the Fraser system and the approach, ask constantly is it safe to
eat our wild fish because we don't know what kind of disease pathogens and
viruses are contained in them. It is not so much that we're trying to say that
we're against aquaculture. There are concerns with certain elements of
aquaculture, but I don't think we are trying to find a polarized position. We
are trying to say there needs to be some thoughtful approaches to implementing,
and we haven't seen DFO really take that kind of balanced approach. I hope that
Senator Raine: Would you like to write an aquaculture act?
Mr. Point: Would I like to? Not really. I will contribute to but I
have got too much work to do.
Senator Raine: Not you personally but be involved in writing an
aquaculture act? It seems to me that at least in British Columbia that the first
point of contact with regard to fish should be the First Nations whose territory
fishing is taking place on. It concerns me that you are not being properly
consulted, and, instead of being the last to put your two cents worth in, if you
were the first people, maybe it could be changed in a whole direction. However,
most people seem to think that we need to have an aquaculture act that will
ensure that there aren't impacts on the wild fish.
Mr. Point: Well, we would be open to working on a process that has
more rigour and more clarity and that puts First Nations in their respectful
place in consultation on the act, if that is what was going to happen.
Senator Raine: Does the First Nations Fisheries Council of British
Columbia represent all First Nations in B.C.?
Mr. Point: Representation is a trigger word.
Senator Raine: Are all First Nations in British Columbia members of
Mr. Point: Well, we have what we call a charter process where people
sign on; it is in the back of our strategic plan. The approach in dealing with
First Nations was like popcorn, it was fragmented, pop, pop, pop, and people had
different positions. We have really tried to build articles that start to
identify a coherent and cohesive process. We have a charter process — in the
back of your strategic plan is a draft of it. So what we do is we develop
charters, mutually supportive agreements with certain First Nations and at their
discretion, at their comfort at their capacity and as their literacy grows then
we agree to work collaboratively together.
Right now about 130 Nations in the province have signed on to the charters
and agree with the action plan and the process for moving forward, and that's
ongoing work. It, again, is up to those First Nations to determine how they want
to move forward. So we don't represent all.
Senator Raine: I appreciate that.
The Chair: Chief Chamberlin?
Mr. Chamberlin: I will answer your questions in the order you
The First Nations I speak with and the First Nations that we are organizing
under the First Nation Wild Salmon Alliance, we are not against aquaculture. We
are against open net cage fish farms because when you examine what has been put
forward in Cohen and the Pacific Salmon Forum's report you will see quite
clearly that very well-informed and educated individuals have offered comment on
disease potential and impacts from this industry to wild salmon. So that is what
I see as the focus of many First Nations.
Now one of the things that I consider is the cumulative impact and I don't
mean just the cumulative impact in the benthic environment. I'm talking about a
school of little wild salmon leaving the river and going by a farm after which 5
percent of them die. Seems like a reasonable number. Then it goes by another
farm, then that school goes by another farm, then that school goes by another
farm; and this is why we want to start considering in a regional area the
cumulative impacts and I think that is something that is quite important.
Would I write an aquaculture act? I have learned that participating with the
government in relation to finfish aquaculture is not in the best interests of
our First Nation, and that is the shame Canada wears about how it re-
characterizes its commitments, where it does not have any sense of honour. In
terms of engagement with myself when I was working with fisheries council it
completely mischaracterized our work and put it in front of a judge to set us
aside. Now that is Canada's current behaviour, so I would have some serious
concerns about an aquaculture act. I would say that it would darn well have to
be going through a very rigorous consultation process with title holders; not
stakeholders, title holders.
In terms of the First Nation membership on the First Nations fisheries
council, I think the fact that I'm speaking about the First Nation Wild Salmon
Alliance speaks to the difficulties and challenges that my friend here, Jordan
Point, faces with the fisheries council, because it is quite clear that he must
be respectful of all First Nations' aspirations, and that includes those Nations
that want to pursue fish farms and I can understand that. I have tried very hard
to get a counter point of view to that strongly worded and I have had some
difficulty; hence, the reason why we are creating the wild salmon alliance. We
don't have to be bothered with respecting choices which affect our rights by
somebody else to get the benefit.
Senator McInnis: Thank you for coming.
It is at best confusing to me because several panelists today have presented
differing points of view. Even here tonight we had talk of First Nations unable
to take over existing aquaculture sites. The long process. We had the so- called
geoduck policy, prevents native wants. Aquaculture not being there in the treaty
discussions. DFO not there, and no dollar commencement for aquaculture projects,
So you hear that, and then I hear this declaration on aquaculture governance
which is reasonable, I think, if I can get some explanation. The concerns can be
summarized as follows, I will skip a few, capacity development. Can you give me
an explanation of that? Increasing First Nations decision-making and control, I
take it you mean some kind of approval process where you would be involved.
When you say, ``In conclusion First Nations in British Columbia have
recently,'' —and I'm reading what's written here — taken ownership of the
gaps,'' I would like an explanation of that; ``and have developed a shared
declaration.'' I take it that's with the respective members of the council, I'm
Declaration on aquaculture governance, and it is governance and I understand
what you are talking about there in the sense that it is not a takeover of the
whole thing. Based on the concerns above, this declaration indicates in general
that there are diverse and differing perspectives regarding First Nations
involvement in aquaculture and then you go on to mention Justice Cohen and his
concern over the effect on wild salmon.
So I guess my question is this, apart from those other explanatory questions
I have asked, what weight does this carry? Are we saying now that the native
community of British Columbia will not tolerate or have anything to do with open
pen salmon farms; yet, on the other hand, sitting at the table we hear about
sablefish, I guess that's all right.
Mr. Chamberlin: It is a native species.
I do not see a problem with raising native species to British Columbia
because it doesn't open a door for potential introduction of an exotic disease
that is not present in the Pacific Ocean now.
Senator McInnis: So it is exotic diseases you are concerned about?
Mr. Chamberlin: I encourage you all to look into what happened in
Chile and the disease outbreak there. The only solution that the industry had
was to cull all their fish because there was no treatment for what broke out
there. Now consider if that made its way into our river systems with wild
salmon, the only solution would be to cull them. So this is where people get
very antsy about this potential disease transfer.
What I would offer in conclusion to this: the Supreme Court of Canada, in the
Haida and Taku Telingit Court case was very clear that even the potential to
infringe on a First Nations rights triggers the duty to consult. So I would say
that First Nations out in the Tl'etinqox-t'in up by Williams Lake, their fish
are going to die at the farms by their territories. That's an infringement on
their rights. What I'm finding now they are very receptive to review what Cohen
recommends and beginning to understand and see it for the potential infringement
on their rights. I see that there is going to be more First Nations and
especially the ones that I have been speaking to. It is a real easy win if you
like. I speak to them, I talk about wild salmon, how important it is and I point
to, not my opinion, but what Cohen says and what the Pacific Salmon Forum says,
and that's enough to get quite a good group of people quite upset and realizing
that this is potentially one of the biggest reasons why we don't have the wild
salmon runs that we used to enjoy.
Senator McInnis: I'm not purporting to debate with you. All I'm saying
is that consistently hear today and throughout our visits over the last two
days, I heard positive things about aquaculture and people wanting the economic
growth and so on. Then you come in and you, quite eloquently, elaborate why this
is not going to go ahead, these open pen salmon farms. Let me not put words in
your mouth, you were talking about the governance. That is what your declaration
does. So that's my point. So we're trying to ascertain some kind of direction,
and it tends to be a mixed message when I hear Chief Harry talk here earlier
this night. I heard you tonight and so on. Do you understand what I'm saying? It
is at best confusing.
Mr. Point: Absolutely, and maybe I can respond because it is the
fisheries council's declaration that you're talking about. So the best way that
I can lay it out to you is with 207 different First Nations with their own
inherent rights in B.C., you have a complex environment because they are all at
different levels of literacy, capacity, etcetera. Aquaculture itself is a
complex world, working with government is complex. When you throw all three
together you are in a very complex environment.
What I want to express to you is that just because we all live in the same
province doesn't mean everybody agrees on different things. What the fisheries
council had to do was build structure, so on the back page you see the province
and there are geographic regions. What we did in 2010 was really identify these
geographic regions and then we started to have First Nations in those areas
identify geographic delegates to sit on the council to advance the interests
from those regions. Those regions may be salmon related, they may be shellfish
related, they may be aquaculture related but we have to build advisory processes
for each one of those different species. Whether we are even dealing with
community fishing enterprises, that is more economic development and another
advisory process so we start to get complex.
So what the fisheries council is doing is building process and structure. In
the fisheries council strategic plan, the three-year plan from 2012 to 2015, we
wanted to start building that structure. You say what do these mean; in the
appendixes that are attached to this handout and the bullet points, in the
second appendix is a break-out of those that you can refer to. I was trying to
So the declaration on aquaculture was put together because there were so many
diverse views. We as the fisheries council said, ``Well, here are the 10 themes
that you all agree on, let's take that as a foundational basis about where we
are going from here so that we can provide coherent and cohesive advice to
government on their position on aquaculture.'' Given the differences in
diversity and differing opinions, that's the intent of the declaration because
we couldn't even get people in the same room half the time.
So the declaration really starts to get people to say, ``Well, you know it is
consensus based. I may not agree with it but I can live with it.'' And these are
the things that we heard from the communities all around the province that Chief
Chamberlin referred to and these are our concerns. So once we identified that we
said, ``Let's sign a declaration,'' and the main thing that we are trying to do
here is create a process on the flowchart because Chief Chamberlin, as the vice-
president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, is also part of the political
framework that exists in B.C. There are three main political organizations - the
Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, First Nations Summit, and Assembly of First
Nations. Those three associations mandated the creation of the fisheries
council. So this flowchart starts to say, how are we going to take those local
issues on finfish, shellfish and how are we going to start to raise them to the
political level where there are policy gaps? We had to develop structure to make
sure that we were building coherent messaging. The declaration is part of
forming that element of structure so that we can start to move, whether it is
policy advice to the political level because we have a declaration with the
leadership council to say we are going to work to support you.
The fisheries council operates in that intersection between the policy and
the operational level so the First Nations that we work with are real technical.
They are working on their own initiatives. They are not dealing with provincial
scale stuff. We are trying to move information up from the local level to the
policy level. So hopefully that explains some of that.
The Chair: Chief Chamberlin, you have a comment on that last question.
Mr. Chamberlin: I will be as succinct as possible.
You listed off a number of questions at the outset, wondering about First
Nations with contrary views on this industry. I think that it is human nature
that some will support something and others will not support something and I am
not too surprised, especially now with the science that is coming forward and
the potential impact or what I believe is a very real impact on wild salmon.
I can't speak about treaty as the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs is not a fan of
the current B.C. treaty process. Capital start-up dollars, I'm assuming that
Chief Richard Harry would have comments on that. When you asked about capacity
development, to me when I hear the shortcomings there, it is in relation to the
aspirations put forward by First Nations in management where we want to take an
oversight, a monitoring and a compliance role of this industry independent of
DFO and fully nested within the title holders in the territory.
You mention about First Nation control. I'm assuming if they wanted to be
part of the industry there is benefits and so forth economically, but I would
say control is about having our authority respected in our territories. So if we
don't want this industry, then it must be respected in as much as somebody has
to say yes.
In terms of gaps, I believe that that's talking about the management and so
on but primarily talking about science. I don't want to talk about science. I
believe it, I know it's true. I want to talk about the authority of my First
Nation to say yes or no. That's what's paramount.
Senator McInnis: So you are asking for total control?
Mr. Chamberlin: I want authority over our First Nations territory that
we have never ceded to Canada and the very fact that there are treaties in
Canada; any one of them recognizes that First Nations hold title and to satisfy
your laws you had to have treaties. We haven't got a treaty so we still maintain
that uninterrupted use and occupancy of our territory so that, I would say,
needs to be respected.
Senator McInnis: I think that's another committee.
Let's not part by thinking I disagree with you. I understand what you are
talking about here and what you are saying is that it is a critical concern if
it is injurious to the wild salmon. That's what you're saying.
Mr. Chamberlin: Correct.
Senator McInnis: So what is concerning, though, is that you are
against all open pen salmon farms. Did I not read that or did you not say that?
Mr. Chamberlin: I spoke about the introduction of exotic species and
the potential of exotic diseases to the native salmon.
Senator McInnis: Because you have evidence that that could be a
Mr. Chamberlin: That has been vetted through Justice Cohen's exercise
and the Pacific Salmon Forum. It is not my opinion. It is science. Like I said
at the outset, I don't think we're here to discuss or come up with a comment on
the science. It has already been made.
Senator McInnis: We could debate that but I'm not going to. Let me say
this: We have in Ottawa the Department of Aboriginal and Northern Affairs. In
the experience I have in dealing with the Donald Marshall results and the 82
recommendations of the Donald Marshall inquiry, I always found it helpful to
deal with that department as it was called then, I think, Indian and Northern
Affairs, very, very helpful. My question is do you do that? What is the liaison
there and have these points of views been put to them and, second, have you had
any meaningful discussions on this with DFO because I think those are important
items. It is one thing for you to say that here. And when you say that here, we
have native communities in Eastern Canada and what will be their point of view?
It could be totally opposite to what you're saying. So we're talking here about
a Senate committee that covers the country, so that is why it is important that
you at least understand the import of that.
Mr. Chamberlin: Thank you, and I do. I think there is a similarity
here that I will point out: Atlantic salmon in Atlantic Canada is a native
species. Atlantic salmon in the Pacific Ocean is not. If you have First Nations
on the East Coast which are supportive of the industry, perhaps they don't have
the same concerns about disease transfer. I don't know. I have been out there
but not to talk about this subject, but I would say that the concerns about the
species and disease transfer are here. In terms of your question of INAC or
DIAND or Aboriginal Affairs Northern Development of Canada as they are currently
called, where is their role in this? I would turn to the federal consultation
policy. When there is a multi-department, multi-level of government discussion
or consultation on policy, AANDC is supposed to play the quarterback role but
It has also been spoken about very clearly, First Nation opposition to that
imposed consultation process. I would encourage you and I will instruct our
staff to forward to your clerk a First Nation document put together by the
organization of BCAFN, First Nation Summit, Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs that
clearly articulates what we see as due process in terms of consultation and
accommodation from our understanding of the law.
My last comment on this, thank you Mr. Chair, is when we are talk about the
management of this industry I want to draw your attention — and I'm very certain
that Jordan's staff will be able to provide this to you — is the summary report
from the Tseshaht meeting in Port Alberni on the Integrated Aquaculture
Management Plan. I was apprehensive going in because I was facing two groups of
First Nations that are supportive of the industry and I walk in on behalf of
ours in opposition. I left there feeling very empowered and I felt very unified
because our aspirations for management were identical to one another, by and
large, for different purposes but in the oversight management, compliance and
disease testing we all wanted very similar things.
Like I said, Jordan's staff would be able to provide that to you. You will
see a First Nation perspective from both sides of the coin lining up with a very
clear direction. I'm always one to try and find those cumulative statements, so
that way what I'm saying becomes more credible than being one side or the other.
The Chair: Senator Nancy Greene Raine, you will have the final
opportunity to question.
Senator Raine: Chief Chamberlin, you said you don't want to talk about
science but I feel that we do need to talk about it and I particularly want you
to talk a little bit about science. My view of science is that it is an analysis
a subject area by experts who have put forth their opinions which are then
debated by somebody on the other side, and it goes back and forth. People with
real expertise debate and discuss and continue to try to poke and get at the
final truth, though there may never be a final truth in the sense that more
information may come and the discussion continues.
I am very concerned when I see cases where people refuse to debate and
discuss rationally, calmly without calling each other names, in a desire to get
at the very best knowledge that we can. If you think back to traditional ways of
science, that was always happening in every culture where people with wisdom
passed it on and people improved on it, debated it and looked for new ways,
looked for new things. So I'm a little bit concerned when I hear you say never
to open pen Atlantic salmon farming in the Pacific Ocean because you are
convinced that it is harming the wild fish. What if more knowledge, more
science, more testing and more analyzing determines that they can control any of
the exotic diseases or pathogens or lice, all the things we have heard about.
When you look at the population of the world and how we need to feed the world,
I am afraid that we will have a collapse of wild salmon if we don't have farmed
salmon. I mean wild salmon seems to be a little bit healthier right now and I
would say it is because we have learned and are paying a lot more attention to
the habitat all up and down our rivers. More and more people are getting
knowledgeable and are understanding the real dangers of habitat destruction.
So I think with more knowledge we can have a strong wild fish but if out in
the ocean all the fish that go there are scooped up by whoever is out there
catching them, that's going to impact us. I mean there is no doubt in my mind,
and maybe I'm wrong because I'm not from the Atlantic Coast, but I think
over-fishing caused the collapse of the cod fishery.
The Chair: I want to give the chief an opportunity to answer now.
Senator Raine: I want to say one last thing and that is we need to
keep an open mind.
Mr. Chamberlin: Thank you for your question. I appreciate it and the
opportunity to clarify my statement. When I mentioned that I'm more concerned
with the title expression what our First Nation wants to see in our territory,
it doesn't say in the Supreme Court that our title has to be supported by
science. Our title exists and it is the assertion of the Crown that tries to
impose upon that.
In terms of science and I point to the Cohen commission, Justice Cohen's
work, many days, $26 million, many witnesses, all kinds of science papers. There
is a good body of science found within that judicial examination. It is
impartial so I have faith in the outcome and the recommendations. I feel it was
very thorough. I would also, like I have mentioned before, examine the Pacific
Salmon Forums final report — again, some very credible people with many initials
behind their name examining science and putting forward recommendations. That is
what I see as science, that's what needs to be done. We need to respect existing
work. Can we do more science? Certainly. Is it going to be independent science?
That is one of the concerns that those of us that support the recommendation
from Cohen about the conflict inherent with DFO is supporting this industry and
protecting wild salmon, so there is a lack of faith in terms of the scientific
work by and large.
It begs another question about what kind of testing is going on; and, of
course, I invite you all to examine the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's wild
testing regime and talk to some friends of yours that perhaps are scientists. I
know that the folks that I have talked to that have really examined this, it is
designed to not catch anything, but it sure sounds good if you go to court. I
think that that's something that we have to be aware of as meaningful science,
something that is objective and not intentioned, and I think we could find that
through universities with their pursuit of higher education.
In terms of all those who might be catching our fish out in the deep blue
sea, I would suggest this and I refer to this quite often in terms of global
warming and food availability and that kind of thing: if our First Nation could
reverse global warming through consultation, I can commit to you that we would,
but we can't. So in terms of what is impacting wild salmon, I'm interested in
things that I can reach out and say we need to change them because they
represent an impact, and that needs to be considered over the things that we
cannot change to protect what we have left of this wild salmon. I hope that
answers your question.
The Chair: Thank you, chief.
Senator Raine: I'm just looking at a quote here from Cohen,
investigating the decline of river sockeye with respect to salmon farms said,
``Data presented during this inquiry did not show that salmon farms were having
a significant negative impact on Fraser River sockeye''. So we all have to be
very careful how we read these things and how we evaluate.
The Chair: That is your 30 seconds, and you have 30 seconds to answer.
Mr. Chamberlin: Part of the recommendation I want to draw your
attention to is when Cohen said that existing siting location has never been
evaluated against wild salmon migratory routes. It is in the report and it also
says that this is the greatest potential impact to the Fraser River sockeye.
The Chair: Thank you very much. As I said earlier, we are lenient on
our time for the simple reason it was just a great conversation we had here
tonight. I'm sure we could stay here for a long time. We have been here since
early this morning and I want to thank my senators, I want to thank the staff
and I want to thank you for your input here this evening.
It has been a great opportunity to hear from the First Nations who play a
very important role in this industry and in this province and in this country.
Certainly that anything that you want to follow-up with that you did not get the
opportunity to express here this evening, feel free to forward it to the clerk
of the committee. Our study is ongoing and hope to present a report by June of
next year is our plan. We are not rushing this. We are hearing from all sides
and hopefully make some recommendations to this industry on a forward basis.
Once again, thank you very much.