700 Indigenous jobs at risk if fisheries minister closes more BC salmon farms
First Nations slam ‘rushed, disorganised, and unpredictable’ engagement process over transition
A coalition of First Nations in British Columbia, Canada, has urged the federal government to extend a consultation about a proposed “transition” from net pen salmon farming in the province by six months after a “failed” process so far.
The Coalition of First Nations for Finfish Stewardship, whose members rely on the salmon farming sector for jobs and income, said it was appalled to learn last week that Canadian fisheries minister Joyce Murray will soon propose a transition plan that could remove salmon farms from the Nations’ traditional territories without their knowledge, input, or consent.
“As the sector (in BC) has already been shrunk by 40% by this Liberal government, we have been warned by the salmon farming companies we partner with that any further reductions will eliminate the financial viability of the sector and could lead to the exit of the major salmon farming producers from British Columbia. The result, if approved, will be devastating to our many remote, coastal communities,” wrote the Coalition in a press release.
These meaningful, full-time, year-round jobs cannot and will not be replaced despite activist claims, and federal compensation for this loss strips us of our goal of economic independence from the government
Coalition of First Nations
for Finfish Stewardship
“Our Nations have healthy working partnerships with these companies, and operations in our waters are done with our say and under our watch. These partnerships provide our Nations with own-source revenue and reliable, regular sources of revenue through benefit agreements.
“There are over 700 Indigenous people working directly and indirectly with the salmon farming sector, and dozens of Indigenous-owned businesses that support farming operations or receive substantial financial gain from the sector. In total, BC First Nations’ annual direct socio-economic benefits from salmon farming is $51 million. Indirectly that number is $120 million per year.
“For most of our communities from North and West Vancouver Island to the Central Coast, these meaningful, full-time, year-round jobs cannot and will not be replaced despite activist claims, and federal compensation for this loss strips us of our goal of economic independence from the government.”
The Coalition said it had been meeting with Murray’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) unsuccessfully on the transition engagement process since July 2022.
“From the start, this engagement process with DFO has been rushed, disorganised, unpredictable, and everchanging. The high level of engagement and respect our First Nations were promised by the government has devolved into a lack of trust with the Minister, heightened frustration, reduced communication and clarity, and a complete change to the original process.
“This ongoing and escalating deviation from the previously communicated transition process does not support reconciliation – it undermines it. It has proven to be a total waste of our time, as we now know Minister Murray has had her mind set from the start. This process has failed.”
The Coalition said the federal government must not accept Murray’s “dangerous proposal” that would devastate First Nations communities and deny Nations their rights to self-determination, social wellness, economic independence, and their sovereignty.
“It would go against every commitment to reconciliation and UNDRIP (United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) that the Liberal government has touted since 2015,” said the Coalition.
“We call on the Prime Minister and other federal ministers to intervene immediately in DFO’s current and failed transition process with our Nations. This will help ensure that this critical decision isn’t rushed through by a biased Minister who has proven that she will not practice meaningful consultation.
“We also reiterate our ask for: 1) an extension of DFO’s transition plan consultation process by six months, and 2) that all social and economic impact analyses be conducted and completed in our communities prior to any transition plan decision being made by the federal government.”