Dallas Smith lead a conference arguing for fish farming licences to be reissued at the Tidemark Theatre in Campbell River on March 21, 2022. Ronan O’Doherty/Campbell River Mirror

Dallas Smith lead a conference arguing for fish farming licences to be reissued at the Tidemark Theatre in Campbell River on March 21, 2022. Ronan O’Doherty/Campbell River Mirror

BC Centre for Aquatic Health Sciences announces new Indigenous governance model

The BC Centre for Aquatic Health Sciences (BC CAHS) announced that in the spirit of reconciliation and UNDRIP it is revamping its governance model to better represent local First Nations’ values and priorities.

The BC CAHS is located in the territory of the Laich-kwil-tach-speaking peoples, specifically operating in the territories of the Wei Wai Kum and We Wai Kai First Nations. As an independent, not-for-profit society in Campbell River, BC CAHS provides laboratory services, research, and outreach to support the health of aquatic species, their environments, and recovery.

Moving ahead, BC CAHS’ new board composition will honour reconciliation, respect, and recognition of Indigenous governance, territories, and rights by incorporating Indigenous ecological knowledge in its practices while empowering increased First Nations’ oversight to operations in their traditional waters.

Dallas Smith, president of Nanwakolas Council and member of Tlowitsis Nation, will immediately be assuming the position of Chair of the BC CAHS Board of Directors. Joining him on the Board are Chief Chris Roberts of the Wei Wai Kum First Nation and Chief Ronnie Chickite of the We Wai Kai First Nation.

“This is not only an important step in reconciliation, but also an important step in building local, Indigenous-led science capacity,” Dallas Smith, newly elected Chair of the BC Centre for Aquatic Health Sciences, says in a press release. “Our First Nations leaders want reliable, local science advice that they can trust and understand in the face of so much competing and activist-driven science in the media, which can be a very confusing and deceptive landscape.”

“This is an exciting time in Canadian history as we chart a path of reconciliation and deliver on the Truth and Reconciliation’s call to action for businesses and corporations. The board is in support of BC CAHS to become First Nations led and we look forward to the next chapter in its successful, marine science service delivery for Vancouver Island and beyond,” says Maureen Ritter, former Chair of BC CAHS.

Growing Indigenous-led science capacity and equity stake will allow for an increased focus on wild salmon conservation, innovation, resource industry stewardship, and broader environmental and aquatic animal health monitoring in the context of changing ocean conditions and climate change. This model will build the scope required for assessing future marine-based, economic opportunities in the terms of environmental protection and future cultural needs.

BC CAHS will continue to work towards enhancing relationships to provide educational opportunities focused on efforts to enhance wild salmon with the best of both western science and Traditional Ecological Knowledge.

“As First Nations we have an inextricable connection to our lands, waters and resources which is predicated on our stewardship obligations for future generations, bestowed to us from our ancestors,” says Chief Chris Roberts of Wei Wai Kum First Nation.

“When we talk about resource management in a modern context, acknowledging our rights over resource use and development as decision makers, we must be full participants in all aspects of monitoring, research, and analysis to give more confidence to decision making processes that include Indigenous knowledge systems and scientific practices for outcomes and results that we all understand and can live with.”

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