The second wave of salmon farm closures on the B.C. coast came without notice to the province and without the consultation that led to a 2018 agreement to phase out aquaculture operations in the Broughton Archipelago, Premier John Horgan says.
Aquaculture companies that have operated in the Discovery Islands east of Campbell River for decades were given abrupt notice by Ottawa in December that all 19 sites have to be gone by June 30, 2022. The industry estimates the closures will mean the loss of up to 1,500 jobs, mostly in remote coastal communities with few employment alternatives.
It’s the second group of ocean-based salmon farms to be targeted for closure, after the B.C. and federal government negotiated the closure of most or all of 17 sites in the Broughton region north of Vancouver Island.
“The federal government took action in Discovery without consulting us at all,” Horgan told Black Press Media Feb. 10. “They told us after the fact. We have asked the federal government what their plan is to mitigate the job loss, for example.”
The industry is still waiting for communication from federal Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan, two months after ministry officials told them of the Discovery Islands decision, said John Paul Fraser, executive director of the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association. Industry representatives were called to a meeting and a clock was put on the table to keep track of the 15 minutes allowed for the decision to be conveyed to the industry.
“We got 15 minutes to close down 19 sites on a consultation that we had no participation in, with many nations who don’t even have territorial rights,” Fraser said Feb. 11.
Horgan said Indigenous reconciliation means careful consultation, and that was what he attempted to do in the Broughton region after forming a minority government in 2017. B.C. also passed legislation to implement the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People in all areas of provincial law, starting with an environmental assessment process that means projects have to create Indigenous impact and benefit agreements at the beginning of the permit application.
“The federal government didn’t do that,” Horgan says. “If the federal minister is saying that this is a start towards reconciliation, I would have to respectfully disagree. We need everybody together to find a way forward. That has been what we have done with respect to fish farming. That’s what we have done with respect to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”