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Aug 16 2010

First Nations have the First Right to Fish

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I hope you can read the Cohen Commission testimony that’s posted on their website. First Nations have the first legal right to fish – for food, for ceremony, and for selling. That’s in our Constitution – that’s the law in Canada but DFO is allocating fish that belongs to someone else. Would it be a “courtesy” if DFO informed the First Nations that they opened a sport fishery?

“Oh by the way, we’ve let the sport fishers have the first go at your fish – hope you don’t mind.”

DFO manages fish that First Nations have a lien on and that deserves First Nation consultation on every aspect of Fish Management.  DFO is acting beyond it’s Constitutional jurisdiction.

Why would First Nations people not criticize a sport opening as premature for the run? That is their fish DFO is giving away – that fish is for First Nations to eat, to celebrate and sell.  Why would they not be willing to have both a food fishery and a commercial fishery on the first good return?  However, if DFO gives the fish away first,  First Nations get what’s left and lately it’s not enough to feed their people let alone sell.

Sport fishing has no Constitutional first right to fish in Canada.

First Nations do not need to be conservation gurus they have a bigger stake in the management of fish than DFO.  Fish are the culture of First Nation’s people. It’s not in their interest to see any fish stock extinction. You can’t compare the two. If fish become extinct, DFO management will just move to another department – they have no cultural ties to fish – not so with First Nations.

For Canada and DFO, wild fish are a problem. DFO supports fish farms and Mr.Harper wants a corporate economy.  With wild fish out of the way (like the cod) it’s on with Mr.Harper’s economic action plans: off shore drilling, tar sands and pipelines, sour gas, polluted water from resource extraction, logging, hydro dams, mining and feed lot agriculture.

When it comes to fish – “we” (Canada or British Columbia) don’t “need” anything except fish in the water – fish that feed the bears, the birds and the forest that grew this land (and a government that obeys the law). “We” have little right to any thing more since “we” are responsible for the demise of an ecosystem that was managed by First Nations for centuries. An ecosystem that spawned many millions of fish every year. Fish that Canada has tried to take from First Nations in every conceivable way.

If you want to read a reasoned perspective on salmon conservation and the problem with DFO management . Check out salmon guy’s blog.

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