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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sooke fitness facilities reopen to the public

Extra measures set in place to ensure user safety

VIDEO: Neighbours help Sidney woman mark 103rd birthday with surprise parade

Barbara Chorlton celebrates her ‘best birthday so far’

Racism is here too, say Victoria’s black community leaders

White Victorians have role to play in combatting systems of oppression, prejudice

Shortage of foreign workers costs Saanich Peninsula berry farmer thousands

Gobind Farms says hiring local has been difficult during pandemic

VIDEO: B.C. dentist gets grand welcome home after two months in hospital fighting COVID-19

Michael Chow was given a surprise send off by hospital staff and ‘welcome home’ from neighbours

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

‘Like finding a needle in a haystack’: Ancient arrowhead discovered near Williams Lake

The artifact is believed to be from the Nesikip period between 7,500 BP to 6,000 BP

Indigenous families say their loved ones’ deaths in custody are part of pattern

Nora Martin joins other Indigenous families in calling for a significant shift in policing

PHOTOS: Anti-racism protesters gather in communities across B.C.

More protests are expected through the weekend

Indigenous chief alleges RCMP beat him during arrest that began over expired licence plate

Athabasca Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam calling for independent investigation

‘I’m pissed, I’m outraged’: Federal minister calls out police violence against Indigenous people

Indigenous Minister Marc Miller spoke on recent incidents, including fatal shooting of a B.C. woman

UPDATED: Pair accused of ‘horrific’ assault at Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park arrested

Police say Jason Tapp, 30, and Nicole Edwards, 33, did not show up to meet their bail supervisor this week

Most Read