Stand with Homalco and Tla'amin : "Sister Nations"
Homalco and Tla’amin Nations are headed to federal court to secure the removal of salmon farms from their territories. They will be facing four salmon farm companies that are challenging Canada’s recent decision to phase out all open-net salmon farms in the Discovery Islands by June 2022.
By standing with Homalco and Tla’amin Nations, you can help all five species of Pacific salmon - and the critically endangered Fraser river sockeye run - recover and thrive.
Stand with Sister Nations Homalco and Tla’amin to keep fish farms out of Discovery Islands.
Are you a Wild Samon Defender?
On their way out to the ocean, young salmon smolts from the Fraser River must pass through the narrow channels around the Discovery Islands where they run the gauntlet of 19 fish farms. There they are exposed to sea lice and viruses that thrive in the crowded conditions within the farms. In 2020, 99% of the juvenile sockeye sampled in the Discovery Islands were infected with sea lice. One of the viruses, piscine orthoreovirus (PRV), is highly contagious and can cause a heart disease in wild fish. This is a major contributor to sockeye returns to the Fraser River being at an historic low.
Farming of Atlantic salmon was brought into First Nations’ territories without their consent. The presence of fish farms, and the resulting decline of wild salmon populations in their territories, has caused great disruption to the culture and traditional economy of Homalco and Tla’amin. There is simply not enough salmon to catch to even fill the Food, Social and Ceremonial allocation. Shellfish are also impacted: traditional clam gardens have been destroyed by waste from the fish farms.
The lack of traditional resources to harvest has limited the Nations’ ability to pass on traditional teachings. If salmon stocks and other resources are not restored before the current generation of elders passes away, these teachings may be lost forever.
Canada decides to act: at long last
After many years of studying the problem without much action, in December 2020 Canada announced a decision to phase out 19 salmon farms in the Discovery Island region by June 2022. In the meantime, the decision prohibited the companies from restocking the farms with new fish. Homalco and Tla’amin welcomed the decision as a necessary accommodation to prevent the sterilization of their Aboriginal rights to fish.
Fish Farm Industry Digs in its Heels
The four fish farm operators in the Discovery Channel promptly filed a Judicial Review of Canada’s decision, and obtained an injunction allowing the restocking of fish farms - despite the federal government’s ban.
The companies aimed their legal challenge at Canada, but Homalco and Tla’amin do not intend to sit on the sidelines while an issue vital to their survival is haggled over by government and industry lawyers. The two Nations have applied to be heard as “respondents” - an equivalent status to Canada’s in this legal challenge in which the future of wild salmon hangs in the balance.
Indigenous Nations bring critical evidence
If successful, Homalco and Tla’amin will bring important evidence of the damages wrought by fish farming to their livelihoods, culture, and ecosystems. Indigenous Nations are uniquely positioned to present this evidence as, on its own, Canada may be unwilling to present evidence that could be used in future court challenges to fish farms in other jurisdictions, such as Clayoquot Sound.
“Our water and lands are precious. Our foods, medicines and all that we needed came from the land and waters of our territory. This is why Tla’amin members continue to be good stewards. It is each member’s responsibility to care for our lands and waters.”
Hegus (Chief) John Hackett, Tla’amin Nation
The Homalco, or Xwemahlqwu, are a North Coast Salish Nation. They are traditionally known as the “People of the fast running waters,” named after the turbulent waters of their traditional territory around Thurlow, Sonora and Stuart Islands, Phillips Arm, and Bute Inlet.
Today, Homalco has a population of approximately 477, with the majority of members residing in the community of Campbell River. Homalco people hold a strong concept of territory, comprising the lands and waters where their winter and summer villages are located, and where they harvest food and material resources. The Homalco vision involves Ma?am 'tarri ?El-tans qaymixw ?i:na yiq8 tams gigi (“sustainably accessing our traditional foods and lands”). Homalco people bear a strong connection to their lands, air, water and resources. This connection is honoured by protecting these sacred resources for future generations.
The Homalco have unsurrendered Aboriginal title and rights. They are currently in a modern-day treaty process with Canada and British Columbia.
The Homalco are one of three “Sister Nations” (comprising also the Tla’amin and Klahoose). The Sister Nations share the same ancestry, language and traditions.