Thursday, May 08, 2014

First Nation bans non-Native boat access in traditional territory

Hot news on the Salish Sea -- paddlers take note!
The Stz'uminus (Chemainus) First Nation has issued notice that it is banning non-Native boat access to their traditional territory, as reported in the Cowichan News Leader Pictorial. The newspaper's article reads: “Until further notice, Stz’uminus First Nation will prohibit access to its core territory in the Salish Sea by all vessels, including but not limited to, commercial fishing vessels, Fisheries and Oceans Canada vessels, and any non-Native civilians and government officials,” John Elliott, chief of the Ladysmith-area band said in a statement released Friday.

The affected area is shown in the image below -- it runs along the Vancouver Island shoreline from Sansum Narrows to Dodd Narrows, along the shoreline of Gabriola Island, and south-west to Active Pass.

image credit: courtesy Stz’uminus First Nation

While this action will affect kayakers and other recreational boat users, the primary intent of this ban is to draw the attention of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to the need to obey the federal laws for management of fisheries in this traditional First Nations territory.
The press release says:

“The ongoing actions of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans have failed to follow federal Aboriginal consultation and accommodation laws, failed to appropriately manage or allow for co-management of fisheries within our territory and, ultimately, have failed to recognize Aboriginal Rights and Title,” Elliott writes.
“The DFO continues to favour existing commercial monopolies and continues to inadequately consult with Aboriginal groups when enacting policy,” he wrote. “Due to its gross mismanagement and failure to follow government mandates, we can no longer allow the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to manage fisheries within our territory. We cannot stand by while fish stocks within our territory continue to be depleted and our rights ignored.”

The entire article is short and to the point. It's well worth reading, at this link or another similar article in the Cowichan Valley Citizen is here. So far, this ban is a peaceful, non-violent demonstration with goals of protecting the harvest of fish and geoduck clams and maintaining the natural resources of the area.

It's not certain at this moment how this ban will affect small boat users. But if you're wondering where you've heard the name John Elliott before, readers of Kayak Yak have seen him mentioned here on our blog. Our John Herbert took a photo of Elliott at the 2011 Paddlefest in Ladysmith, where Michael Pardy led a flotilla of kayakers ashore to ceremonially ask this First Nations chief for permission to visit these ancestral lands.

Elliott's presence at 2011 Paddlefest is a good indication that kayakers and other small boat users can hope to continue to be recognized as a small part of the larger community with interests and responsibilities in these waters.

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