Marine Harvest vs. First Nations - In Court
May 22, 2017
June 1 is the first court date in the trespass suit that Marine Harvest filed against me and “John and Jane Doe” for boarding their salmon farm, at Midsummer Island, anchored in Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw territory.
Marine Harvest will be attempting to separate me from the First Nations. I am of no consequence in this case, mere cannon fodder, this is a contest between First Nations and the salmon farming industry.
Farm salmon exhibit poor health
clustering around air pump
Proceedings are open to the public Vancouver Court House 800 Smythe St. No time has been assigned and so the case will be heard at some point during the day.
Please consider helping with legal bills by donating to the Pacific Coast Wild Salmon Society: DONATE HERE
On August 23, 2016, approximately 60 First Nations from the waters of northeastern Vancouver Island, boarded a salmon farm in to perform a symbolic cleansing ceremony to protect Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw waters from the salmon farming industry.
The ceremony was a peaceful, political declaration of First Nation rights and title. It was visible opposition to the harm done by salmon farms operations to First Nations. This action followed 30 years of telling the provincial and federal governments and various Norwegian companies that they do not want salmon farmed in their waters. Despite this clear and sustained rejection of the salmon farming industry one third of the BC salmon farming industry is currently using Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw territory for profit and releasing disease, sea lice and tons of waste daily into the ocean, a direct assault on the survival of wild salmon, herring and many other species.
I attended this ceremony as a biologist who has spent these past 30 years studying the impact of salmon farms on Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw territory. While on the farm I put a GoPro camera directly into the pens and captured the first footage ever of farm salmon attacking wild fish trapped in the pens. Over 1 million people have viewed this disturbing footage of farm salmon in Musgamagw Dzawada'enuxw on facebook.
One month later, I read in the international aquaculture publication Intrafish that Marine Harvest had decided to sue us for boarding the Midsummer farm!
However, in their Notice of Claim, Marine Harvest named only “Alexandra Morton” as the sole defendant, but also included “John Doe, Jane Doe and all other persons unknown to the Plaintiff occupying, obstructing, blocking, or physically impeding the Plaintiff’s Aquaculture sites.”
On November 16, 2016 three traditional Dzawada’enuxw leaders from U’kwa’nalis at the head of Kingcome Inlet who led the ceremony; Chiefs Okwilagame (Willie Moon), Joe Willie and Farron Soukochoff, rose from the disrespectful anonymity of “John Doe” and filed their own response in BC Supreme Court in their own names. They contested Marine Harvest’s right to occupy Dzawada’enuxw Territory under section 35 of the Constitution Act 1982.
Marine Harvest now appears to perhaps regret casting their net so wide net by naming “John and Jane Doe” and on June 1 seek to avoid the return volley by these Dzawada’enuxw leaders and duck the question are they the ones in trespass. Marine Harvest will attempt to withdraw their pleading of “John and Jane Doe” and remain focused on me, the non-indigenous biologist.
Marine Harvest will seek to prove that under the Land Act, RSBC 1996 that they have the right to occupy Dzawada’enuxw territory, lay a charge of trespass on this Nation, and the Nations there in support, and win an interim and permanent injunction against everyone that boarded the pens.
At issue is whether a person can come forward and substitute their own name where they have been described as “John and Jane Doe.” The law is vague on the rights of John and Jane Doe.
It is clear this is a ramping up of the contest between First Nations and the salmon farming industry’s right to use First Nation territory where they are not welcome. The Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw and Namgis appear to be the only Nations in BC who have not entered into any agreements with the salmon farming industry that are using their territories and yet they have been disregarded and are losing their fish to this industry. Turns out it doesn't matter to the federal and provincial governments whether First Nations say yes or no to salmon farms, the industry has been forced on all.
The Dzawada’enuxw and I are represented by Greg McDade who will argue that if Marine Harvest wishes to occupy First Nation territory and then seek injunctions against First Nations in their own traditional territories, Marine Harvest should do so directly, not by using "John and Jane Doe" and attempting to avoid the First Nations issues by striking out the First Nations question of rights and title entirely from the Defence. The licences of occupation, the tenures issued to this industry by the provincial government, are non-exclusive and yet Marine Harvest has made a bold move by trying to exclude First Nations.
And so the primary question before the court is who is in trespass; the Dzawada’enuxw or Marine Harvest? Furthermore the neighbouring nations Mamalilikala 'Namgis Ławitsis Ma'amtagila Da'naxdaxw Dzawada'enuxw Kwikwasut'inuxw Haxwa'mis Gwa'wa'enuxw were also on the Midsummer farm in a display of support and are also captured by Marine Harvest's legal strategy.
Marine Harvest took aim at me as perhaps their longest standing irritant, but in an ill thought out moment decided to cast their net wide and have run afoul of three powerful Dzawada’enuxw leaders. On June 1, Marine Harvest will try to eliminate the Dzawada’enuxw from this case. This case involved the fate of salmon and the forests, whales, people and cultures that depend on them, because the growing weight of scientific evidence increasingly demonstrates that the salmon farming industry is killing off the wild salmon of this region.
It is with the greatest sense of humility that I have been given the opportunity to serve First Nations in this way, as the target Marine Harvest could not resist going after and as a result Marine Harvest that finds itself in the cross-hairs of a Nation at the end of its patience.