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We Wai Kai Nation members: “We don’t want the fish farms in our territory”, says petition.

Signed by over 100 members of Cape Mudge and Quinsam Reserves, support government decision
Aquatic science biologist Howie Manchester picks a salmon to collect samples from during a Department of Fisheries and Oceans fish health audit at the Okisollo fish farm near Campbell River, B.C. Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018. Members of the We Wai Kai Nation have signed a petition supporting the federal government’s decision to shutter 15 Fish farms off the coast of the Discovery Islands. File - THE CANADIAN PRESS /Jonathan Hayward

In spite of the Wei Wai Kai and the Wei Wai Kum’s Chiefs’ decision to be included in a judicial review regarding the federal government’s decision to cancel the licence of 15 fish farms off the coast of the Discovery Islands, a petition from We Wai Kai band members has surfaced that support the decision.

READ MORE: B.C. salmon farm closure decision was necessary, says DFO amid court challenges

Signed by over 100 residents of the Cape Mudge and Quinsam reserves, the petition reads that the group ‘declare our opposition to the actions of the elected leadership’ in the request for the judicial review, and that they boldly ‘do not want the fish farms within our territory’.

Petition organizer Barbara McCoy says that the number of potential supporters is likely more that the signatures on the papers indicate.

“We don’t want these farms within our territory,” said McCoy. “All the people who live on the reserve, they don’t want it period. I think there’s a lot of Campbell River band members who also don’t want it.”

McCoy feels that there is a lot more than meets the eye, when dealing with large corporations such as MOWI Canada West, Grieg Seafood, and Cermaq, who along with the Laich-wil-tach Nations filed the review.

“They are killing off all the wild salmon,” said McCoy. “Putting lights on the pens at night where the farms are, attracts the baby salmon. The baby salmon go into the pens and the older salmon eat them.”

McCoy says that in joining the fish companies in the judiciary review process, elected Chiefs such as Chris Roberts and Ronnie Chickite didn’t go their populace in doing so.

“They are pooling us all in with them,” said McCoy. “I went to elders’ meetings. The council of elders are going with the Chiefs and the council. But they all wanted to sign it too.”

The fish farms off the Discovery Islands have long been a contentious issue. In 2020, then Fisheries minister Bernadette Jordan announced the intention to close all the farms by June 2022. Last April, Federal courts said the need for procedural process was needed. In February, the decision was confirmed by current Fisheries minister Joyce Murray, with a plan of transition slated to be released in June.

Regardless of that outcome, McCoy says her group will not give up their fight.

“We don’t want them. We’ll keep protesting them,” said McCoy.

Edward Hitchins

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