VANCOUVER – First Nations activists who lost a legal battle to continue protesting at a fish farm off British Columbia’s coast say the decision hasn’t dissuaded them from bringing an end to aquaculture on their territory.
A B.C. Supreme Court judge has granted an injunction to Marine Harvest Canada’s Midsummer Island farm, which is located amid a series of islands in the Broughton Archipelago, about 50 kilometres east of Port Hardy on Vancouver Island.
The court’s decision was released online Wednesday.
Protesters began occupying the farm in September, although Molina Dawson, a protester with the Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw Nation, said they scaled back their activity while the legal proceedings were underway.
Justice Peter Voith said in the decision that the protesters’ presence “gives rise to real safety issues” and he agrees that Marine Harvest will suffer irreparable harm if the occupation of the farm continues.
Marine Harvest issued a statement following the decision, saying the company is pleased that the court recognized it has a “legal right to operate without harm, and that its staff may work free of harassment, threats, and intimidation.”
Legal counsel for the protesters, some of whom are Indigenous, say the defendants have an Aboriginal right to govern the land and waters where the farm is located.
But Voith said in his ruling that the activists sent an eviction notice to the company, among other actions, which extend beyond simply monitoring the farm, and that other unnamed protesters failed to provide any legal justification for their behaviour.
Karissa Glendale with the ‘Namgis First Nation said she anticipated the outcome, but is frustrated by the judge’s decision.
“This government and all the laws, they’ve never recognized our government that we’ve had and that has worked for us. They don’t recognize our ways,” she said. “For me personally, I won’t be wasting my time and money with this court system.”
Glendale said that doesn’t mean she’s going to stop fighting fish farms on her traditional territory.
She said she will continue monitoring activities at the farms operated by Marine Harvest and Cermaq, an aquaculture company that has also been granted a court injunction to have protesters removed.
Marine Harvest said it reached out to the protesters, but a meeting was declined.
Glendale and Dawson said they were never contacted by the company.
“Every time we go there, no one talks to us other than telling us we’re trespassing,” Glendale said, adding she won’t negotiate her stance.
First Nations have not provided their consent to the operation of fish farms, Glendale said, and she remains certain that they’ll one day be rid of them.
—Follow @Givetash on Twitter.