The Dzawada’enuxw First Nation (DFN) from Kingcome Inlet, B.C. has filed a petition for a judicial review in the BC Supreme Court challenging the provincial government’s decision to allow recently expired tenures for salmon farms in the Broughton Archipelago region to continue to operate on a month-to-month basis.
“In order to transition these tenures to a month-to-month arrangement, the province must first consult with the First Nations in whose waters the farms are located,” said lawyer Jack Woodward, who represents the DFN. “Since my client has received zero consultation on the matter, this decision is unconstitutional and should be overturned.”
The judicial review is the latest in a series of legal challenges led by Woodward and the DFN against 10 salmon farms in their traditional territory operated by Marine Harvest and Cermaq. The DFN nation filed a title claim in the BC Supreme Court on May 28 and an injunction on June 19 to block the renewal of expiring provincial tenures. The DFN launched a Wild Salmon Defence Fund earlier this month to raise public support for its various legal challenges.
Hereditary Chief Hawil’kwo’lal (Joe Willie) said: “The fish farming industry is infringing on our way of life, by breaking the natural circle of life that has sustained us since time immemorial. This cannot continue.” Melissa Willie (‘Tła’tłagwoł) added, “An elder told us the ocean was our food basket, and that is what these fish farms are destroying.”
While several Broughton-area First Nations continue to negotiate with the province for the removal of open ocean factory fish farms, the DFN are looking to the courts. “We’ve been fighting fish farms in our territory for over two decades and our people need justice now,” said Dzawada’enuxw First Nation Elected Chief and Traditional Leader Okwilagame (Willie Moon).
“We don’t begrudge other First Nations for engaging with government, but, based on our experience, the courts are the only effective path forward,” added Melissa Willie.
The Province will have 21 days to file a Response to the petition. “The DFN is anxious to see the contents of that document because this is a case about non-consultation, and this will be the very first occasion upon which the Province is forced to give a substantial explanation of why the fish farms are being allowed to remain within DFN territory,” said Woodward.