Lax Kw’alaams Band Mayor John Helin spoke to the Standing Committee of Fisheries and Oceans on April 9, 2019 in Ottawa. (Government of Canada)

B.C. North Coast residents to Ottawa: ‘We can’t make a living fishing’

Lax Kw’alaams mayor, Prince Rupert biologist speak to standing committee on Fisheries and Oceans

As the federal government reviews the Fisheries Act, two North Coast B.C. residents flew to Ottawa to present how they think the act should be improved.

There are eight key areas to Bill C-68 and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples is listed as number two.

John Helin, mayor of the Lax Kw’alaams Band near Prince Rupert, painted a grim picture of his Indigenous community as he spoke to the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans – how members are struggling to make a living, and his experience with fisheries enforcement officers “racially profiling” members.

“We have a fleet of 70-80 gillnetters that can’t make a living anymore fishing for salmon. We have a fish plant in my community that at its peak, employs up 100 members in the village and we’re having a lot of challenges keeping that operation going,” Helin said.

To keep the fish plant going, they’ve diversified by processing groundfish, but he said with all the other fisheries coming into the area, they’ve lost an opportunity.

“There was a herring fishery in our day in the 70s and 80s, a seine herring fishery, and it wiped out that fish. To this day, that stock doesn’t come back. So herring is a staple, not just for people, but for other fish in the sea that feed off herring. So it’s alarming to us when DFO allows one guy to go out fishing and everyone else agrees to tie up,” Helin said.

Helin said the band wants to sign a comprehensive fisheries agreement with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, but had never done so since losing a fisheries case. He said it’s resulted in members being targeted on the water.

“It got so bad where one of the fisheries enforcement guys boarded my son’s boat, he was fishing my boat, and he had his 10-year-old kid on the boat, and this guy pulls his gun on the deck of my son’s boat without provocation. That went to court and it was tossed out. That shows how we’re treated in our own traditionally territory,” he said.

“When you talk about reconciliation, consultation, they’re just empty words for us. So hopefully coming before committees like this, we can make the improvements that we want.”

READ MORE: Lax Kw’alaams, Metlakatla oppose commercial herring fishery

Earlier in the day, third-generation fisherwoman, fisheries biologist and Prince Rupert resident Chelsey Ellis presented her suggested amendments to Bill C-68, saying more and more licenses and quota are being transferred from fishermen and away from coastal communities.

“For the few young fish harvesters trying to persevere, it’s getting harder to earn a living and find a safe, reliable and professional crew to work with,” Ellis said, adding young people are not joining the industry because they don’t see a future in it.

She called for measures to prioritize and incentivize licenses and quota for “those taking the risks and working long hard hours” to harvest Canadian seafood, and the promotion of independence of owner-operator enterprises within all commercial fisheries.

READ MORE: Young B.C. fishers instigate study on West Coast licence, quota system

To report a typo, email: editor@thenorthernview.com.


Shannon Lough | Editor
Shannon Lough 
Send Shannon email
Like the The Northern View on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Parksville youngsters design problem-solving robot

Lego robotics team gearing up for gold in Victoria competition

Parksville wants consultant to examine feasibility of rec centre

Strong demand from residents for a multi-sport facility

Developers withdraw rezoning application for huge Parksville waterfront plan

IAG to create new draft after processing public feedback

Part Three: 10 questions with a Qualicum Beach historian

Local guide shares stories of town’s foundations

Chilliwack woman wins right to medically assisted death after three-year court battle

Julia Lamb has been the lead plaintiff in a legal battle to ease restrictions on Canada’s assisted dying laws

NDP, Liberals promise more spending, while Tories promise spending cuts

Making life more affordable for Canadians a focus in the 2019 election

UPDATE: Police probe third threat against a Kamloops high school in eight days

Police have not released any further details into what the threat includes

Charges dropped against Mountie involved in shooting death of Surrey man

‘I feel like I’ve lost Hudson all over again,’ says mom

B.C. Interior caribou protection area big enough, minister says

Proposals sparked protest in Kootenays, Williams Lake region

Two B.C. women selected to compete on ABC’s The Bachelor

Mykenna Dorn and Alexis Thind will compete for bachelor Peter Weber’s heart

Vaping-related illness confirmed in Ontario believed to be first in Canada

Middlesex-London Health Unit had no further details about the case — believed to be the first confirmed in Canada

Canadian stars Virtue, Moir say in video they’re ‘stepping away’ from ice dancing

The pair thank fans for their support in an emotional message

Woman held at gunpoint during carjacking in UBC parkade

University RCMP say the vehicle is still missing, and two suspects are at large

Most Read