(Hereditary Chief Ernest Alfred, left, and his niece Karissa Glendale have been ordered by the courts to vacate a fish farm on their traditional territory)
Hereditary Chief Ernest Alfred and his niece Karissa Glendale say they have no intention of stopping their work trying to shut down a fish farm on their traditional territory.
On Thursday, the B.C. Supreme Court ordered the two from the ‘Namgis First Nation, to vacate Swanson Island salmon farm.
“Marine Harvest must think that we will simply go away if we are no longer occupying, but that won’t happen,” said Alfred.
“I’m going to make even more noise, knock on more doors of politicians, now that I’ll have time.”
Alfred and Glendale, among others, have been occupying Swanson Island for almost 270 days.
The open-net fish farm, owned by Marine Harvest, the world’s largest producer of farmed Atlantic salmon, is located off northern Vancouver Island in ‘Namgis’ traditional territory.
The ʼNamgis say the fish farm is operating without their consent.
They believe that open-net fish farms pose a serious threat to wild salmon, and they want Swanson Island removed.
But instead, on May 17, the court ordered the occupiers to leave and remove all their belongings by 6 p.m. Saturday, May 19.
The ‘Namgis, along with a collection of First Nations in B.C.’s Broughton Archipelago, are putting pressure on the Provincial government to pull fish farm tenures.
“22 are up for renewal in a month,” said Alfred. “The tenure for Swanson Island expires on June 20th.”
“This latest move by Marine Harvest to eject us from our own land is a desperate act.”
Alfred and Glendale were also ordered to remain off 12 other fish farms and related sites owned by Marine Harvest until the hearing on June 25.
“We asked for a court injunction after our employees endured many months of aggressive protest activities,” said Jeremy Dunn, a spokesperson for Marine Harvest.
“In Canada, everyone has the right to peaceful protest, but not when it interferes with legitimate activities or crosses the line into aggressive, bullying behaviour.”
But Alfred doesn’t agree with Marine Harvest.
Last fall the salmon protectors moved from living on the actual grates of the fish farm to occupying abandoned cabins built by Marine Harvest just a few hundred meters away on land.
The occupiers monitor and document activities at Swanson Island from a deck overlooking the fish farm.
“We have not harassed or bullied staff,” said Alfred. “In fact, Marine Harvest assaulted my niece.”
Alfred alleges that two men arrived unannounced and attempted to push passed Glendale on a ramp leading up to the cabins.
RCMP investigated the incident, but no charges were laid.
“We’ve actually accommodated them every step of the way, even when we lost our bid for an injunction against them re-stocking the fish farm.”
“We had no choice but to stand by and watch.”
Although Alfred is disappointed with the court order, he says he’s not afraid of another court battle.
“It’s frustrating and sad that we have to leave our own land, but our people have been put through the ringer before, and we will survive this too.”