Council of Canadians Comox Valley chapter activist Alice de Wolff tells us:
The science surrounding Atlantic salmon farming and First Nations' opposition to these farms on their territories in the Broughton Archipelago came together last night at a powerful event in Courtenay. Two hundred people attended a solidarity evening between the people of the Comox Valley and the salmon defenders of the Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw, 'Namgis, Mamalilikala and Lawit'sis First Nations.
The event took place two days after a judge in Vancouver ordered the defenders to take down a camp they had been occupying since August on a Marine Harvest farm on Midsummer Island. While it is a disappointing moment in their struggle to have the farms removed, it made it possible for two of the key activists, Molina Dawson and Karissa Glendale, to attend the event in person. Their presence brought a very personal sense of immediacy to the gathering. They took the opportunity to let their supporters know that they are not going to stop opposing the farms in their territory.
The Kumugwe Dancers opened the evening. They shared traditional dances that honoured the salmon, offered healing and called to the powerful spirit of the ocean.
The documentary film, "Salmon Confidential", followed. It features biologist Alexandra Morton and her struggle to help identify what is causing dramatic declines in wild salmon populations. She and others have been concerned for many years about the extent to which parasites, viruses and heart disease are present in Atlantic farmed salmon and their impact on B.C.'s wild fish. The film investigates disputes between scientists, and the apparent muzzling of any who are critical of the industry. It includes interviews with BC's Animal Health Centre's fish pathologist Gary Marty, whose findings and connection with the industry have recently come under scrutiny by the new provincial government.
The film was made and narrated by Twyla Roskovich. The gathering took a moment to honour her work and to encourage donations to the scholarship that has been established in her name.
Activist Sally Gellard delivered a statement of solidarity on behalf of Maude Barlow, Honorary Chairperson of the Council of Canadians. Sally travelled to the Midsummer Island camp two weeks ago, along with six other Council of Canadians supporters, and delivered the same message then. She emphasized that one of the key acts of reconciliation our governments could take is implementing the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Molina Dawson and Karissa Glendale then spoke about their experience of being served with an eviction notice and appearing in front of the judge in Vancouver. Their quiet clarity and unwavering dedication to the removal of farms from their territories brought the audience to it's feet in a long standing ovation.
Carla Voyageur also spoke. She is a central coordinator of the campaign, and is Molina's mother. She reminded the audience about the need to pressure both levels of government to come to the table to meet their demand that licences are not renewed. She encouraged all supporters to not purchase farmed Atlantic salmon. And she brought the gathering back to a key reason that pushed her community into action - her relatives and others on the coast do not have enough food fish for this winter and she is very concerned about how people are going to survive.
The evening was hosted by the Comox Valley Council of Canadians. It raised funds for the Twyla Roskovich Scholarship held by the Gulf Island Film and Television School, and the on-going work of the salmon defenders.