The Supreme Court of BC has ordered fish farm protestors to, vacate a Marine Harvest fish farm site, while court processes are underway.
A hearing was held Nov. 14 where Marine Harvest Canada, asked the B.C. Supreme Court for an injunction to remove protesters from its Midsummer Island salmon farm located off the east coast of Vancouver Island in the Broughton Archipelago, about 50 kilometres east of Port Hardy.
The supreme court of BC adjourned the company’s application for an injunction, to allow the defense to prepare its response until the next court date on Dec. 14. During the adjournment, however, the court has ordered the protestors to vacate the Midsummer Island site.
“The decision wasn’t favourable for us, but we don’t feel defeat,” said hereditary chief Ernest Alfred, who has been staying at a site near Marine Harvest’s Swanson Island farm since late August. “Although it ends the occupation at midsummer the adjournment allows us to compile our evidence and present it in 30 days.”
The application for injunction named three women, Sherry Janine, Molina Dawson, and Karissa Glendale, as well as Alfred and biologist and activist Alexandra Morton.
Protestors have been occupying the Midsummer Island site since Sept. 4, calling for the removal of fish farms from Musgamagw, ‘Namgis and Mamalilikala traditional territories, stating that consent was never given for the company to operate in the territory and they are concerned about the impact fish farms to have on wild salmon.
The protestors now have until Friday, Nov. 17 to remove all tents and structures from the site.
“We are still committed to our effort and our position of peaceful protest so essentially we move somewhere else but we are committed to pressuring the government to get to the same table and deal with this issue already,” said Alfred.
The application for an injunction comes after Marine Harvest delivered a letter to the protestors on Nov.7 requesting them to vacate the site.
“Your occupation of the Midsummer facility creates an unacceptable risk for yourself, Marine Harvest staff, and Marine Harvest property,” read the letter, which cited the narrow open water walkways that the protesters were camped on to be a safety risk.
“We are glad that even in the short term the courts have decided that our workplace should be free from harassment and intimidation and this is a positive step for our employees,” said Ian Roberts, Director of Public Affairs for Marine Harvest, adding he knows this decision will be welcomed by the company’s employees.
“We have an incredibly strong case, we are confident that a judge will look at this situation that our people are in and rule in our favour,” said Alfred, citing the First Nations active opposing of the crown tenures which were granted to Marine Harvests 2013, and expire in June 2018 for several of the company’s farm sites.
“This important government to government discussion needs to occur so our businesses and many other businesses in the Province have clarity about this process,” said Vincent Erenst Managing director for Marine Harvest in a Nov. 14 press release, adding “we remain willing to find compromise for the short term and long term solutions.”
Before the hearing took place there was rally where roughly 40 people attended to show their support for the occupiers.
“They are resolved committed and determined to have fish farms removed from their territory that has been inspirational to me and all the other people with me,” said Eddie Gardner, from the Skwah First Nation in Chilliwack, who drove to drove to Vancouver with five other people to attend the rally.
The court order states, that if the protestors re-occupy the site “the Plaintiff may reset its application for hearing upon 36 hours notice.”