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No Historical Commercial Fishery for the Lax Kw’alaams

The BC Supreme Court ruled today that the Lax Kw’alaams (Coast Tsimshian; Prince Rupert area) do not have a right to fish for commercial purposes. Ian Mulgrew, of the Vancouver Sun, quotes the judge’s ruling:

But their claim that an “ancient trade in eulachon grease has transmogrified to a modern-day right to commercial fishing of salmon, halibut and all other marine and riverine species of fish, ignores the fundamental fact that the Coast Tsimshian fished for sustenance, not for trade,” Justice Satanove said.

“The rendering of the eulachon into oil was an unique ancestral practice that brought wealth and prestige to the society, but it was not interrelated with the subsistence fishing of salmon, halibut, and other Fish Resources and Products.

“In my opinion, it would be stretching the concept of an evolved aboriginal right too far to say that the Coast Tsimshian practice of trading in eulachon grease is equivalent to a modern right to fish commercially all species in their Claimed Territories.”

The judge also complained that the evidence simply did not support the assertions of the Lax Kw’alaams. Again, from the Sun:

Justice Deborah Satanove concluded the first nation put forth a “simplistic” argument, unsupported by the historical record.

She called the band’s recitation of facts during the year-long trial “notably one-sided” and oblivious to numerous documents that were at odds with its interpretation.

“Once again, on a factual basis alone, the [first nations] have not established the dishonourable conduct of which it accuses the Crown.”

The Union of BC Indian Chiefs posted some of highlights from the Reasons for Judgment on their list serv.

For the full ruling — which is a long and detailed review of historical and anthropological evidence — click here.


B.C. Supreme Court rules against native fishery (Globe and Mail)

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