Here is the Aboriginal Oral Testimony that I delivered to the National Energy Board this morning.
(Total time - 90mins)
Caution: These are speaking notes. Please excuse the grammar, etc... Here it is.
Firstly, I would like to thank you for this opportunity to present Aboriginal Oral Testimony to the National Energy Board for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion proposed by Kinder Morgan.
I would like to thank my Elders Tom Sampson and Simon Smith from Tsartlip who have provided testimony yesterday. My Uncle John Elliott, my cousin Gord Elliott, my Chief Don Tom and my sister and Councillor, Joni Olsen.
It will be a challenge to stay within the parameters laid out in the Hearing Order. Admittedly, I am not an expert in much of this. You have heard, and you will hear, from my Elders, and I am honored to share this table with them, and I am humbled by their knowledge.
It is important though that you hear from folk like me, people who are directly affected by the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion, people who speak to the past, present and future of traditions of WSANEC.
I am a mixed-blooded guy, deeply entrenched in politics. I grew up with this identity crisis, this crisis of place, of belonging. I have learned slowly and over time, and frankly I have never been entirely comfortable.
No matter how different I looked or how misplaced I seemed, there was only one place that I am truly at home. WSANEC. I have travelled to other parts of the country several times and each time I go, only a few short months later I return to Saanich, I return because of a deep yearning, a disconnectedness, with a sense that a piece of me is missing.
That piece is WSANEC. I feel it is a connection to those stories, the ones I have never really heard before but when I hear them they sound familiar, those stories that perfectly highlight my worldview, a worldview that I inherited and that came naturally to me.
My culture is largely foreign to me, I am slowly learning who I am and what I come from. That is why it is so important to defend my inheritance, that is why is so critical for me to participate in this process, because I am, and to a great extent, we are, still re-learning what was earned by those who came before us.
Of course I must put a big caveat on what I say here, I do not believe that this process, the National Energy Board process, has sufficiently consulted with the Saanich people.
From I have seen of my culture, process is very important. While I am not the most experienced or knowledgeable, in fact I could be one of the least knowledgeable, from what I know, process is a fundamental part of who we are.
The NEB extends this opportunity to Aboriginal people because we have an oral culture, oral tradition, because there are things that can only spoken. In actual fact, much of that tradition is locked in our native languages, they become incredibly difficult to articulate in English.
As you heard yesterday, we learned that this process, a process driven by the countries two official languages, was highly problematic because there are things that we cannot relay in either of them. Fortunately for you, I will not speak SENCOTEN, because I only know English, so while I may have some question as to whether you are hearing what I say, at least I will have the comfort knowing that you understand the language I am saying it in.
So we passed information through the spoken word, through intently watching our rituals unfold, I have learned what I know through the repetition of seeing it numerous times.
In order for it work, in order for information to be preserved in time, I have come to understand that process is critical. Whenever my relatives undertake “work” the quality, appears to be largely judged on whether we have followed the appropriate process.
When I decided to participate in this process I was hopeful that it would be respectful of the numerous interests that are directly affected by this massive project.
This process is a vehicle for government and the proponent to build social license for the project. In my opinion this process has fallen short of its goals, in fact the acceptance of this project is diminishing rather than growing. This process has bred cynicism, anger and discontent.
In the context of “process” as I have witnessed in the WSANEC culture, the NEB and the proponent have fallen woefully short. With recent Supreme Court decisions, and the many Douglas Treaties decisions of the past that were highlighted by my Chief yesterday, a more respectful and perhaps appropriate process would have been to understand this about the WSANEC people, and you would have allowed what you have learned to have inform your actions.
Instead, the NEB decided to impose this assessment process on the WSANEC, and on our other Aboriginal relatives. No matter what I feel about this process I am a part of it, and I will remain in this process because there is no other process. If another is set up, I will participate in that one as well.
I will be reading my presentation today, because I wish to relate specific ideas and thoughts. This fits within the Aboriginal oral testimony because it is important that I say these things to you. It has very little meaning on this paper.
Remember, the best way for you to learn more about the WSANEC people is for you to listen and hear what we are saying. I have prepared and organized my words for efficiency and to ensure that I do not leave anything out. I only have three hours to relate to you how your decision is going to directly affect the rest of my life and the lives of those who will come after me.
In this presentation you will hear my story. You will learn about my relationship with Saanich Inlet and the Salish Sea. You will learn about my experience in local government and how our creeping impact on our ecosystems is much greater than we ever admit.
I will address the Douglas Treaty and how court cases of the past have negatively impacted my family. I will touch on the story of the reef net, commercial fishing rights and finally I will show you my relationship with salmon through the relationship of hundreds of my relatives across British Columbia.
It would be 4:00am when I was awoken, my dad shaking my leg from the end of my bed. “Time to get up Chum,” he would say. “Time to go fishing.”
It was the second time that he shook me that I would spring to my feet and then more slowly put on an old pair of jeans and a Cowichan sweater. The van would already be warming up in the driveway and my dad was just about done collecting breakfast for us both.
Back then Brentwood Bay was more alive at 4:30 in the morning. On my way out to the van I could already hear the low rumble of boat motors bouncing of the ocean just a few hundred meters away.
We would then take the slow roll down the road toward our boat. We had a few boats when I was a kid, in the late 70’s early 1980’s, we had a 27” Bayliner.
That was my dad’s guide boat. He used to work out of the Brentwood Inn. He was not the only guide fisherman in the Saanich Inlet. There were dozens of guide fishermen just like my dad.
When he shut down the guiding business and got rid of the Bayliner it marked a turning point in our fishing Saanich Inlet. The steady decline of the salmon runs spelled the end of a vibrant business. It spelled the end of a tradition, the end of a way of life.
It wasn’t a sudden end; it was more a slow bleed. So we bought a little clinker with an old five-horse Briggs and Stratton inboard engine. We would be lucky to make a wake, but it was a perfect little trawler.
For a few years we would still catch fish. Not like we used to, but there were still fish in the Inlet.
Back in the heyday the Saanich Inlet was one of the reasons that you would visit the Greater Victoria area. If you were running these hearings 30 years ago, you would have been advised to take an extra day in Victoria and head out to the Saanich Inlet for some fishing.
You would have probably taken the advice and you might have just been standing on the deck of my dad’s boat looking down at my big round eyes, telling you to keep the rod tip up and to relax a little.
I cannot count the number of times that I crossed Saanich Inlet when I was a kid. Sometimes I would be asleep in the bow of the boat, other times I would hang of the side, dragging my hand in the cool salt water.
I have made literally thousands of the passes in front of Bamberton all the way past the slide into MacKenzie bight. We had chance meetings with the resident eagles who thrived off of snatching up stunned shakers, that lay motionless at the surface, for just a few brief seconds before either flipping to life and disappearing into the deep or becoming dinner for a lucky aerie.
Harbour seals would glide past the boats moored in the marinas, peering up at us on the docks as if saying, “So how was the fishing today?” I cannot tell you how many pictures my family has of my dad, me and some random people standing proudly showing off our daily catch, cleaned and laying on the freshly cut lawn.
There was a diverse assortment of fishermen who worked the inlet. We would see the same boats and the same faces every morning. Usually with a series of hand gestures we would pass information back and forth between the boats.
Important information was shared this way. How many? How big? Where? How deep? On what? We would spend the morning testing hoochies, squid and strip bait until we served up just what the salmon was looking for.
I don’t remember any distinct conversation on the boat, just small talk. One morning I remember distinctly, I was awoken abruptly by my dad who was kicking the door of the cabin in, his eyes were huge and he had sweat on his brow, “Get up chum, I need your help here.”
When I jumped up on the deck with him he was working two rods and the stern rod was jumping. All of our work finding those fish in the Inlet came from local knowledge. It came from working the Inlet for decades.
Before me, it was my dad crawling around the clinkers in Saanich Inlet. My dad came from a big family, the families in our community were not wealthy and so my dad spent many days hanging out on the docks of Jimmy Gilbert’s Marina, cleaning his boats.
See my relationship with the fish came from my dad and his dad before him. They were informed by the relationships that preceded them. It was my dad that used to cut herring bait for Jimmy Gilbert. As a little boy, about the same age as my little boy Silas, my dad would always be hanging around the docks.
We was there for the fishing derby’s that used to happen, and when he was just a few years older than Silas, he won the fishing derby. That summer all the tips collected by Jimmy were put in a tin that he and my dad hand painted together.
He was raising money so that he could buy a bike at the end of the summer, but as it turns out he didn’t need to spend his savings on the bike because he won one in the fishing derby, so instead he spent his money on clothes.
His story is my story, all of his experiences have obviously become my personal stories. Everything he showed me on the boat all those mornings was stuff that his father showed him.
There are things that he couldn’t show me though. Things that ended before my time. Like raking herring when they were plentiful, or spear fishing for cod, at night at low tide, in the eel grass at KENNES.
This information is not being passed that easily now. This information is passing day-by-day, made irrelevant by a lack of salmon, a lack of herring and a lack of eelgrass.
After we got home from one of our morning fishing adventures, after a stack of delicious pancakes, it wouldn’t be long before I turned around with my buddy Ian, and headed back down to the docks.
We would spend hours down there, completely unattended, fishing for perch and bullheads between the boats. When the ferry left for Mill Bay we would sneak onto the pilings and go for a swim.
Clearly I had a close relationship with fishing, with salmon, with the ocean. That relationship was broken though. In the mid-1980’s, a little while after we got rid of the Bayliner, we abandoned fishing all together.
My dad may be able to tell you the exact date, or even the conversation with my mom, that predated his decision to get rid of the clinker.
It has been at least 25 years since I last heard the familiar hum of the Scotty downrigger, delivering the leader, flasher and bait to the desired depth in the Saanich Inlet. It has been at least 25 years, since I sat quietly with my father, before quickly jumping to my feet yelling “Fish On!”
So where did all the fish go? For a couple of decades we never talked about it. From time to time we lamented the complete decimation of our fishery, but we never talked about why.
I think there was a significant amount of shame and guilt, people used to say that we “fished it out!” That made me feel sad. It still makes me feel sad. I was responsible for catching the last salmon? I was responsible for the destruction of my inheritance.
This was an inheritance, it was preserved, conserved and managed for countless generations before me and it was my generation that saw its end. Awful. And they are saying that we “fished it out!”
A silly notion really. Fished it out. My grandfather, Ernie Olsen told me a story that when he was a little boy the Saanich Inlet had so many fish that you could walk across on their backs to the Malahat.
Now I am not sure that you want to enter my grandfather’s grandiose fish stories into this process as evidence, but perhaps you can appreciate that the Saanich Inlet was an incredible run.
How could we have “fished out” such a vibrant and valuable resource? We didn’t. One thing I know for sure, is that there was much more life in Saanich Inlet when I was a kid. Herring, whales, birds and people. Now we get the odd kayaker, scuba diver and fish. I hear there are more cod in there these days, but the Saanich Inlet is mainly an unmanaged parking lot for partly abandoned boats.
There is all sorts of science happening in the Saanich Inlet. None of it will be submitted along with this presentation because much of it is not particularly relevant to this application.
After getting elected as a Councillor in the District of Central Saanich in 2008, I spent many hours with the people from Peninsula Streams on the Saanich Peninsula and at the Environmental Law Clinic at UVic. They educated me by sharing their experiences and understanding.
I learned I had less to feel guilty about than I had originally shouldered. I learned that the reasons why the salmon runs have all but disappeared from the Inlet and from Goldstream are complex. The factors I learned were mostly man made, and could hardly be blamed on any one thing in particular.
Some of the problems started with the creeks themselves. Many of them were changed, straightened by agricultural activity on the Peninsula. Initially, they didn’t even think about the impact on the Inlet, their interest was to get water off the land as early as possible and to keep it off for as long as possible.
Straightening the creeks or culverting them has a major impact on storm water flows. Natural impediments created over many seasons to slow the water and filter it were removed and so major storm events devastated the fish habitat.
In Hagan/Graham Creek a major wetland was designated Agricultural Land Reserve and set aside for farming. Directly in between the Inlet and the industrial/business park in Central Saanich, the wetland is less effective in performing the filtering functions that it did forever before it was bypassed and farmed. Finally, increased nutrient loads in the agricultural run-off, from fertilizer and pesticide use, further polluted the streams and eventually the inlet.
The Saanich Peninsula remains the agricultural centre of the Capital Regional District. There is as much pressure there for more urbanization as everywhere else in Greater Victoria.
During the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s the District of Central Saanich developed major neighbourhoods. The Keating Industrial Park was built out and the engineers of the day employed contemporary storm-water management techniques. It is called hydrological efficiency. Essentially the plan was construct deep ditches on the sides of each road. They all either ran straight to a creek or straight to the Inlet.
No matter how hard the peninsula stream keepers work to rebuild the spawning grounds along comes another major fall storm event and the water that used to be welcomed by the fish, the water they needed to get to their final resting place, became their worst enemy, because it literally blew their spawning beds into the bay.
So why am I telling you this? Because it is an analogy to what we are addressing today, the experience that I have gained over the past few years has me concerned.
You will value the loss of my fishing traditions in the Saanich Inlet, however you choose. Some of your minds may have already moved on. This story is an example of the cost, in the cost/benefit analysis that we are doing right now. That is the dance that we are engaged in.
The story is an important one because it highlights the negative relationship we have developed with our natural environment. It highlights the disconnect we have when in comes to our decision-making.
This process, the Trans Mountain process, is one of great interest to me. All along it has been sold to us on its value to the Albertan, Canadian and even British Columbian economy.
The only costs really being accounted for in this process are the costs to the applicant to build the infrastructure. The costs of mitigating each river crossing or creek bed disruption and the costs of negotiating with First Nations groups.
But like we did in Central Saanich over the years, this process is not going to calculate the grand cost. Even if you do account for the potential costs, loss of habitat, damage to culture and tradition, decimation of whole ways of life, you will never put it together. Each “transaction” if you may, will be made independently and dispensed of in isolation of all the others.
It is an interesting way to do business, only in government can one afford to calculate only grand benefit and never really be accountable for the grand cost. I would suggest most corporations, if not all corporations behind energy projects such as the one we are discussing, must understand both the benefits and the costs of the decisions they make because their shareholders are strict in their expectations.
Well I am strict in my expectations. In Central Saanich there is a discussion about the cost of rehabilitating the wetland. To me this is a cost born by narrow-focused decision-makers and old-school engineering practices. If only the people of Central Saanich knew how valuable the Saanich Inlet fishery was to the local economy. Then maybe they would be able to appreciate the value of a renewed relationship with Inlet.
I am not aware of any studies that highlight the socio-economic impact of the long-gone fishery. I don’t know if anyone tallied up the revenue generated in the community because of fishing in the Saanich Inlet. I don’t think anyone has a real understanding of this anymore.
Thousands of tourists would flock to the region to visit the attractions and to kill some fish. They ate in restaurants, they stayed in hotels, and they rented boats or secured guide fishermen, just like my dad. The docks were bustling.
We don’t know the numbers because the Saanich Inlet died a slow death. The fishermen sold their boats because they grew tired of coming home skunked. One day, a day each of the fishermen encountered privately, there was a decision to just give up.
By then the fishing economy was dead and Saanich Inlet was left for the scientists to study.
We have seen the negative impacts of human activity on the ecosystems. We are constantly modifying, utilizing, enhancing and diminishing our surrounding environment.
The Douglas Treaty. You have already learned a lot about the Douglas Treaty, on Wednesday and Friday you are going to hear much more about it. Frankly, it is a mess. Governments acknowledge it and do nothing about it.
Until recently, BC Wildlife were actively picking up Douglas Treaty hunters, charging them and forcing the debate into the courts. My dad was picked up in the mid-1990’s along with the former Chief of Tsartlip, Wayne Morris.
Their case went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. It took over a decade of our lives. It took our soul. My dad was carrying out his right to hunt as formerly and he was forced to defend against this assault on his rights.
Throughout the process I would have to hear about the various ways he was dehumanized in court. He and Wayne were called a savage by one judge and eventually the Province of British Columbia admitted to the Supreme Court that it was their goal to get rid of both rights to hunt and fish as formerly.
In December of 2006, the Court released their split decision in his favour. There was a huge relief in our family. My father was really negatively affected by the court proceedings and at the end what he hoped most for was for there to be action.
He complains to this day that the government has yet to implement the outcome of his case, he laments the experience as not having achieved much.
The Douglas Treaty has been problematic for both the provincial and federal governments. They have tried challenging it in court a number of times and have never been able to get rid of it, so they ignore it.
I am grateful that the provincial government has funded an office at Vancouver Island University, led by Nanaimo leader Doug White. The Centre for Pre-Confederation Treaties and Reconciliation Office has an incredible opportunity to advance the issues associated with the Douglas Treaties. Hopefully, we find resolution.
From my understanding of the Douglas Treaties, we have some of, if not the most powerful fishing rights, in all of North America.
The Saanichton Bay Marina case that you may hear about at great length from my relatives from Tsawout First Nation on Friday, offers us the best example of how far a judge can take the fishing rights.
Briefly though, the decision favored the Tsawout, and found,
- The 1852 agreement is a treaty.
- In negotiating this agreement with the Saanich people Governor Douglas was carrying out official imperial policy.
- The word "fishery/fisheries" may be used to denote not only the right to catch fish but also the place where the right can be exercised.
- The right to carry on the fishery guaranteed by the treaty is unqualified.
- It does protect the Indians against infringement of their right to carry on the fishery as formerly. This includes the right to travel to and from the fishery.
- Treaties should be given fair, large and liberal construction in favour of Indian people, should not be construed technically but in the sense understood by the Indian people and any ambiguity should be interpreted against the drafters.
None of this treaty has been negotiated or changed. It remains in tact and in place just like it was when it was signed in 1852. It has withstood every legal challenge, it has been a good defense, but it has yet to be used in offense.
Now we turn our attention to the Salish Sea. As the speakers from Saanich have eloquently delivered to you and you will learn more later this week, you now know that the Saanich People, the Straits Salish, fished the southern Gulf Islands and the north San Juan’s.
In fact, our fishing locations in the Salish Sea line the current shipping lanes that cut past Pender, out past Victoria and Port Renfrew on the way out to open ocean.
Over the past few days you have been introduced to the reef net. You were told about how our ancestors used to fish for sockeye. You have been educated on the relationship between the WSANEC people and the fish. By now you know that they are our brothers and our sisters, and that their lineages are just as important as the lineage that I come from.
You are now aware that this relationship was critical to maintaining a long-term relationship with the fish. A good relationship was necessary to ensure the returns were lucrative on an annual basis. Decisions that were made this summer had major impacts on the future profits.
I was only really introduced to reef netting early this year. I was looking for some content to deliver to the Association of Biology Professionals conference in this very room last April. The reef net fit perfectly into their theme of “Looking back to build the future.”
I was part of a group this past Spring that initiated the first reef net fishery led by the Saanich People in nearly 100 years. We fished the inlets and bays in front of our village sites, but as described so beautifully by my Uncle John yesterday, each summer we worked the currents, the ocean-rivers that carried the sockeye through the islands on their way to the Fraser.
By now you have a decent understanding of the importance of this fishery. You will know that the Straits Salish People were governed by the traditions, practices and rituals of the reef net. When I was first introduced I was fascinated by the technology and the conservation values of the fishing technique gripped me.
The whole system appeared to be as applicable today as it was for hundreds of years, for thousands of years. The respect for the ‘lineages’ that passed by your nets ensured success in future years. The reef net and its governance system represent perfectly the value of sustainable resource extraction.
It is wrong-headed to assume the Straits Salish reef-netters were subsistence fishermen. Fishing is a commercial activity. Fishermen caught and preserved for food but fishing as formerly includes commerce.
There is likely a very long, torturous conversation with the federal government about the cost of decades of lost access to the salmon that was guaranteed by the Douglas Treaty.
I am sitting here today because of a current right, a modern interest. I am directly affected because I am part of the Douglas Treaty and the route of shipping traffic is directly over the places that we fish.
The traditions of then, are the traditions of today. We have learned from the Saanich Inlet that if we are not careful in understanding the impacts of our complex interactions with nature, we can lose valuable natural resources and the economy that thrives when they are in balance.
Should a perfect record be broken and a disastrous event involving diluted bitumen occur, it is quite likely our fishing locations, the locations where no one can do anything to impede us from practicing our rights to fish as formerly, will be impeded.
These are not traditions of yester-year. These are not past tense rights, they are reserved for this presentation as oral traditional evidence but they must be seen and acknowledged as current, modern and contemporary.
In other words these are not traditions that used to exist, they are alive and well in our communities. Reef net fishing is not what we did; reef net fishing is what we do.
In my application to you I outlined three of the twelve conditions set out by the National Energy Board that were used to determine that I was directly affected.
The board accepted my application and gave me full intervener status.
In my application, in less the 500 words, I argued that fishing rights are aboriginal interests; I suggested that “the potential environmental and socio-economic effects of marine shipping activities that would result from the proposed Project, including the potential effects of accidents or malfunctions that may occur would negatively impact the fishing rights.” Finally, I stated that I my commercial interests are directly affected.
Still to this day I am shocked that I made it through the process. With so many other turned away at the gates and despite the fact that Saanich is well represented by three of the four communities, I find it fascinating that I made it through the gauntlet.
It has been very clearly articulated to you that the Saanich People have a treaty, and that judges have confirmed it to be a treaty, and it has been effectively used to protect our relatives, who are practicing their rights.
Our elders have spoken to you, but I am just a young man who is on a journey of discovery finding out who I am and where I come from. Yesterday we heard each of our speakers talk about the charge we have been given by our Creator, the Great Spirit, to look after this place.
When my grandma Laura, my Uncle John’s aunt, was looking down at her confused mixed-blooded grandson, she knew she had to give me a job. My grandmother told me that it was my job to protect this place, and that it was my job to share that responsibility passed my relatives, to share it with everyone in Saanich.
That is exactly what I have done. Over the past months I have been asked to open events, to place the event whatever it is, in the territory. When I have this opportunity I tell everyone that they have the same responsibility as me, the same responsibility that was articulated to you yesterday. If you are going to live in Saanich, then you are responsible for protecting it.
As a citizen and a former district Councillor, everything I do is in service to the protection of our territory, I have taken and applied that message to an even greater territory as the Leader of a Provincial Political Party. No matter the area, I practice the same approach.
I am certain that our treaty will receive some extra special attention. It can’t be swept under the rug any longer. It has to be addressed. Those fishing rights pose a major threat to the current operations, never mind future expansion proposed by Trans Mountain.
The fishing rights are relatively untested in court. With recent rulings from the courts, I am curious as to what they would determine if they are ever asked these questions.
I think the simplest case for me to make was that my fishing rights constituted an “aboriginal interest.”
Since your board identified marine transportation and the potential impact of a spill into the discussion, having the shipping lanes go directly through the fishing locations of the Straits Salish people, the case for concern with this activity, is pretty straightforward.
What I do not think can be mitigated by you or Trans Mountain at this time is the relationship between the Government of Canada and the Douglas Treaty people.
Certainly they have carried on business as usual, ignoring the treaty, and why not eh they have gone unchallenged. Until now that is. Now that Trans Mountain made an application and the discussion about shipping dilbit through the Salish Sea is on the table, perhaps it can be addressed.
My colleague Dr. Andrew Weaver, MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head, the only British Columbia MLA who thought to join this process and intervene on behalf of the residents he represents, has been focusing heavily on the marine transportation.
He has already exposed some of the serious concerns coastal British Columbians should have on the weak information provided by the applicant and the weak responses that he has received to his questions. I have heard you, Mr. Chairman state in clear terms that this board, is not partial to one outcome or another, frankly that is hard believe with the quality of some of the answers that interveners have received.
It is an important question, whether this panel that I present to today, has the courage, the courage to go against the grain. The courage to stand in front of this massive oil company and the courage to stand against the wishes of your task-masters in Ottawa, and say no. From my understanding you would be the first, from my understanding you would be breaking out of decades of precedent. So you have to understand the extreme skepticism that I have when you say that all options are open to you and that all outcomes are possible.
That is what you told my sister and my Elders, that is what you said to them. But history is not on that side. Experience is that this business is a fore-gone conclusion. That you are going to entertain me here today, witness me spill my guts, console me, and reassure me, and then in a few months I predict you will offer your recommendation and it will be a conditional yes. See my chips are in, all my chips are on the table, I will put everything I have on that outcome, and I dare you to make me a poor man.
It is a perfect antidote for sleepless nights; the consternation that either decision will cause is to hand the decision over to the government and hang the yoke, the burden, on their necks.
Needless to say, a spill of dilbit in our fishing grounds would devastate our way of life. The result will be the same as the result in the Saanich Inlet. Both cases are man made catastrophes that could have been averted had we used a real accounting of the costs and the benefits economically, socially, culturally and environmentally.
Since you accepted me as an intervener, there is an acknowledgement that what I submitted was true. It has to be tested, just like everything else, but it has been validated.
It seems like every issue can be mitigated, but I question whether or not the NEB has the authority to override the Douglas Treaty, to simply overlook the treaty and make recommendations that violate the treaty or constitute an infringement of it. These are all interesting questions that will be very expensive and time consuming to answer, but if this project is to proceed, they will need to be answers.
I am not sure that this board can determine the fate of my, or our, fishing rights. I am not sure that you have the authority in this matter. Certainly you have been shown to have jurisdiction over municipal bylaws, but according to the judge in the Saanichton Bay Marina case the provincial government had no authority to derogate our fishing rights, I doubt the federal government does either. And if they do, have they explicitly given you the authority to make a recommendation in light of these unique conditions?
If you do have authority has the federal government consulted with the Douglas Treaty First Nations and notified them that the NEB would be acting on its behalf in this matter?
Of course these are all rhetorical questions that I do not expect an answer to, but it needs to be out there. Some of the lawyers that I talked to were curious about these questions themselves, intrigued by how the NEB will proceed.
Trans Mountain has opened this can of worms with this application. It is like the homeowner that buys a home that is legally non-conforming. Illegal work has been done on the house and now the new homeowner wants to build an addition.
In order to gain approval for the whole project the entire home needs to be conforming to the municipal bylaw, all previous work, no matter who did it needs to be permitted and inspected.
Trans Mountain may be delivering oil to the coast and responsible for loading it on to a supertanker. Over the years sweet crude evolved to dilbit and now a much more toxic, a more dangerous substance is being transported. No one ever said anything; the operation was like that legally non-conforming house.
Now that they want to expand their operation, and are forced into this environmental assessment they should have to open the books on their current operation as well. Now heavy oil transport on the west coast is a valid discussion. In a sense they have provided a forum for discussion for the whole operation, not just the new parts.
What is interesting about this is that Trans Mountain says in its advertising that they have been operating for 60 years, perhaps a question to ask at a later date would be whether they undertook the appropriate consultations at that time? The Douglas Treaty was signed in 1852.
To be clear, when you get to Saanich territory you are dealing with a whole new scenario. This will be the first time that you will be dealing with a treaty, a treaty that possibly is outside your control, not an issue that you can resolve, not something you have the power to mitigate.
In a sense this process has awoken a spirit, it has given us an avenue to develop our arguments and establish a foundation, a foundation for a much deeper discussion.
The way things have unfolded here in the Salish Sea is not right. You are by no means responsible but you, like me, are caught in a decades old battle over the control of natural resources.
I support the words that have been shared by my Elders here. They have done an amazing job of confirming our place in this process with their stories of who we are and where we come from.
They have explained in detail how a spill of diluted bitumen would destroy our way of life and impede our access to our right to fish. They have painted a picture with their words of the devastation that even one spill would cause.
For just a few moments I will reflect on issue #3, commercial interests. This is an interesting case all on its own. Recently the Nuu Chah Nulth won the right to sell their fish.
There is a whole sub-narrative that runs about First Nations and their fish. There are stringent rules that we cannot sell our fish. We are only allowed fish if we are going to eat it.
This is the sub-narrative that hit a nerve with First Nations people in British Columbia when it was reported that Trans Mountain lawyers asked how many fish does a First Nation in BC actually eat. I will address this more later.
As a result of First Nations not being allowed to sell their fish it turns into a black market, there are the whisper stories of First Nations who don’t eat their fish, instead they sell it.
I recognize a lot of this is out of your scope, but it is all information that is critical to this application. I have commercial rights; the Saanich People have commercial rights in the Salish Sea. We have had those rights forever, but they were affirmed by treaty in 1852 with the predecessor of the federal government.
The shipping routes are in direct conflict with the fishing grounds, a spill would likely negatively impact all the fishing locations throughout the Salish Sea. I think there is a conflict in commercial interests that needs to be resolved, especially considering these operations have been ongoing for more than 60 years and it does not appear there was much of a consultation process.
I am speculating about our commercial interests because we have always actively traded salmon. For blankets, other food stuffs, money. In doing my research on this presentation I read about Governor James Douglas’ brisk salmon trade.
Douglas sold salmon by the barrel, which is ironic, because just as the Salish Sea was home to an amazing trade of barrels of salmon in the late 1840’s, today we are talking about a much more sinister product, that we also sell by the barrel.
I learned from Douglas, that in the final year of the decade the number of barrels he purchased from my ancestors and shipped east, steadily increased. The price per barrel was even more attractive to Douglas and friends; in 1845 he was buying a barrel of salted salmon for $4 and selling it for $10. By 1851 the sale price per barrel was $15.
This was all pre-Treaty. Just as the fur trade depended on a good relationship with the Indigenous peoples, Douglas was able to maintain a strong economic relationship with his provisioners and an even stronger market for his product.
On the other side of the relationship the stories suggest that the Coast Salish were good business people as well. Our ancestors knew how to drive a hard bargain. Due to strong negotiating the local First Nations for higher quality blankets, Douglas sent out the message to his people that they were no longer to trade the high quality blankets with the Americans.
Not much different from what we are talking about today. Except pre-Treaty the First Nations people were part of the resource extraction, now we are completely cut off from our resource, our relationship interrupted. In the early 1900’s the government made it illegal for us to sell our fish. Too much good competition I guess.
So this is why First Nations can’t sell fish? When we were needed to sell our fish it was allowed, but once the colony had dominated the fishing, they ignored the treaty that allows us to fish as formerly, that allows us to fish like we did in the heyday, the good old days of 1848 when we had a vibrant business relationship.
I guess it could be viewed as a kind of unfriendly takeover, an acquisition, except it wasn’t. As a result the WSANEC people still have incredible fishing rights that cannot be impeded. Those ancient rights that we have inherited and the affirmation of those rights by treaty, create a massive conflict for not only the Trans Mountain expansion, but all current shipping of heavy oil that already exists.
This mess needs to be cleaned up and it needs to be cleaned up before another ship loaded with diluted bitumen passes through the Salish Sea. Before we need a clean up of another type. Ooooh… the liabilities. I do not want these liabilities to be passed along to all Canadians, if we can avoid them from existing in the first place. Canadians will already be shouldering the brunt of a toxic clean-up.
I am not sure how the proponent, the NEB, government and Douglas Treaty First Nations are going to handle our commercial fishing rights. I am not sure how this will be resolved.
In terms of how this process handles the commercial rights of the Douglas Treaty First Nations it most certainly needs to be quantified. I would have attempted to quantify this aspect of my application had I received participant funding.
I will only speak very briefly on the issue of participant funding. It is part of the historical record of this process so I think it is relevant to how this process and this application is directly affecting me.
My sister and I applied for participant funding. You would have had a more fulsome argument from me had I been given access to the participant funding program.
Unfortunately I was turned down because my application was sufficiently similar to the Tsartlip First Nation funding application. Despite being accepted as a full intervener, apart from my community, my application was denied.
Then the NEB put out a second call for funds. As you can imagine, not even words can adequately describe my frustration when I was informed that I would have to apply again, that you wouldn’t just simply review my initial application that was associated with my 500-word letter describing to you how I am directly affected.
Nonetheless, commercial fishing rights, is one area that you would have been significantly more informed about had I had more resources. I do not have access to endless amounts of money or time these days. I do not have the ability to apply a tax on a barrel of salmon, to fund my intervention on their behalf.
I understand I cannot offer any recommendations to this process, but I have to draw your attention to this gaping hole in the information that you are receiving. It is certainly an area of interest.
Our journey today, I have shared with you my relationship to this territory. We have been introduced to glimpses of the experience of my dad and grandpa.
You have heard about my relationship with salmon. Sockeye. You should know that when my wife and I were picking a design for our wedding bands we each picked an animal.
She picked a wolf and I picked a salmon. Both of these animals represent powerful symbols of who I am. They represent powerful symbols of who my children are. My son is Silas Wolf.
I have always related closely to the salmon. Drawn to it. As my last summer unfolded I began to learn why. I was born into an ancient relationship and a deep connection to the cycles of the seasons.
I am part of this process because of these connections. Just like I was drawn to the salmon, I was also drawn to this, it’s the same reason.
It is a deep concern for the Salish Sea, for the lineages of sockeye that continue to pass by our reef nets on their way to the mighty Fraser, so they can replenish the people of the river, and all the flora and fauna of British Columbia.
So as I have followed this process I have had a growing concern. As an intervener I am not well resourced, but I did find a creative way to express this relationship to you.
Social media. Certainly you are all very familiar with the power of Facebook and Twitter, and if it is harnessed properly you can achieve amazing results.
On October 18th the Vancouver Observer published an article titled Kinder Morgan questions how much BC First Nation still eats fish. As I found out later, the line of questioning highlighted in the story may have been misinterpreted; nonetheless I brewed over it for a few hours.
I doubt that the Trans Mountain lawyers, have any real understanding of the sensitivity around the question of what First Nations people actually do with their fish.
The whole discussion is quietly whispered around the neighbourhoods. There is a negative sentiment around First Nations and their food fish. There are many conflicts between commercial fishermen and First Nations.
Dominating the fish resources require to walk a tight rope. On one hand First Nations have to be appeased because questions raised by say the Douglas Treaty Peoples could be devastating to the status quo. On the other hand commercial fishermen have to be able to access the fish in order to get product in the market.
Aboriginal food fisheries are regulated. First Nations are only allowed to fish if they are going to eat it. They are not allowed to sell fish. As Department of Fisheries knows well, some First Nations people sell their fish anyway.
So when a question is asked that could be misconstrued as questioning what the relationship between First Nations and fish is, and when we read between the lines and make some assumptions, emotions and tensions grow.
Trans Mountain or the NEB may never consider the constant cloud that hangs over First Nations and their relationship to the salmon, when neither of you really have a good understanding and are seeking information to provide a clearer picture, to inform your base of knowledge. Three amazing days in the middle of October will help you in your quest.
Following that article, I tweeted @TransMtn and the #NEB that “we eat many, many fish.” After that tweet my mind was churning and I slept on it.
The next morning when I was pouring my morning coffee I looked out over the backyard toward our outdoor kitchen. It consists of a sink, cob oven and smokehouse.
My brother-in-law Nick was stoking the fire of the smokehouse and I wandered out there with my coffee. The doors of the house were closed and once I got to him I opened them and low and behold in front of me there were racks of beautifully smoked sockeye salmon.
Naturally, I snapped a photo of the gorgeous sight and quickly prepared another Tweet for @TransMtn and the #NEB. This time with a photo of the smokehouse, I wanted to show you what we did with our fish and I wanted to tell you know about my deep freeze.
As I hit “Tweet” a thought crossed my mind. If I am so proud of my salmon, if are so tight, I wonder how many others have taken photos of their fish?
It was a sleepy Sunday morning on the property, everyone was still out, except for Nick and I, and I sat down in the living room, turned on Sunday NFL Countdown and fired up my computer to get through some email.
When I checked Facebook I had an idea. Let’s show them I thought, and so I made a post on my politician page, asking my “First Nations relatives” to share their photos with me.
No matter everything I can tell you about our relationship with salmon you have to see if for your own eyes. You have to feel it, it has to move you. I don’t know how much movement has been made this morning, but when you see the response from First Nations people from across the province, I hope you will have a deeper understanding about the extent of our interaction, the complexity of the relationship and craftsmanship in harvesting, processing and consumption, you will see the depth of my connection.
After hitting “Post” on Facebook, I quickly received the first few responses and that was the first time that I thought about the size of the pandora’s box, that I had just opened.
As it turns out for the next three days I was collecting and processing hundreds of photos, engaging dozens of First Nations people all across British Columbia.
It only took about an hour for me to realize that I needed a more efficient process for collecting the photos, so I set up a Facebook page called Show Kinder Morgan your Food Fish! and I invited just five well connected First Nations leaders.
By now, I was in full scramble mode. When Doug White shared it with his network the project really took off.
As I am sure your research people have informed you, I am very active on Social Media. As the Interim-Leader of the B.C. Green Party I have built a decent profile with moderate interactivity.
This is the first content that I have created to go “viral”. Certainly I was encouraging participation, I shared the content on other groups and networks but the organic response was overwhelming.
As a result the original post has had over 32,000 organic views, it has been shared over 500 times and it received dozens of comments. And this is not a blooper reel, or funny joke, this is a very narrow, seemingly small community. Not so much.
My relatives responded with an amazing outpouring, pictures were flowing in from the peoples of the north coast, south coast and the rivers. I was inundated with photos of all the different ways we harvest fish, process fish and prepare fish for eating.
I have picture of kids with fish, kids kissing fish, pictures of adults kissing fish, elders teaching kids how to filet and prepare fish for preservation.
You will see all the pictures. I will submit them to you as evidence and you have will have the joy of witnessing the relationship between First Nations people and the salmon.
Never mind all the other seafood that we eat. See this project was not about trying to quantify how much salmon we eat, it was not, as some expected a counting exercise so you or the government could limit the number of salmon we need or want, as some had warned, this project was an expression of love.
These photos represent just another aspect of how we interact, anthropologists, and apologists, will want to dig through these photos, they will be able to learn so much about this relationship that I have been talking about today. Hopefully you will learn about this relationship.
This Social Media project has shown me the skill and mastery that First Nations people in British Columbia have developed. You will be amazed by workmanship of fileting fish, drying fish, smoking fish, canning fish and freezing fish.
It is said that one picture is worth a thousand words. With 1060 something photos you have many “words” to get through, but in respect to this testimony today I have provided a background of the photo response in a short Power Point presentation.
In conclusion, I am honoured to have this opportunity. Despite all the short-comings of this process, despite the lack of consultation, the cynicism and frustration for this process that we see playing out on Burnaby Mountain, I am proud to have been accepted as an intervener and have the opportunity present to you today.
I am not an activist like you see on Burnaby Mountain, I have great respect for them, I am an activist like you see today. I believe there is equally important work to be done in the legislature and the House of Commons; I believe that my best work is done here, and in the halls of government.
So you can rest assured that I will participate in these processes. Even though I know very little, it is what I don’t know that we should be focusing on today. It is my desire to learn more about who I am where I came from and that we have rights that cannot be overlooked or ignored.
Whether they are inherent Aboriginal rights, or Douglas Treaty rights, when you get to the Salish Sea and “Dilbit Alley” and you open up a discussion about shipping heavy oil, or whatever you want to call it today, through the fishing grounds of the WSANEC people, and of our relatives across on the American side in Lummi, you begin to open a can worms that makes government lawyers cringe.
I think my relatives and I are only just getting started here. Some may not want to address the Douglas Treaty because we had much more expansive rights long before James Douglas came along, we have complex governance systems and co-existed here for millennia.
Even if you don’t believe that, and you try to sum up what you hear, like the provincial court judge in my dad’s hunting case, I mean if you justify your decisions and the information you get in these hearings as just a bunch of savage-talk let’s focus on the words of James Douglas.
We are a contract driven society. In order for a lot of this to work we need contracts. Contracts to get the oil out of the ground, contracts to pipe it to the coast, contracts to ship it through my fishing grounds, contracts with other governments to welcome the ships on the other end, contracts to process it and eventually contracts for us to ship it back in the form of products, and finally a contract that we make when we exchange some of our hard earned money to purchase it.
If you choose to overlook all those inherent rights that should exist prior to James Douglas, do not overlook the contract he made with the WSANEC people in 1852.
Remember his words. “I informed the Natives that they would not be disturbed in the possession of their village sites and enclosed fields, which are of small extent, and they were at liberty to hunt over the unoccupied lands, and to carry on their Fisheries with the same freedom as when they were the sole occupants of the country.”