B.C. aboriginals won't stop fishing despite closure of program

Leaders of a B.C. aboriginal group vow to keep catching salmon despite closure of federal pilot program

Aboriginal fishermen in British Columbia have vowed to continue catching salmon despite the cancellation of a federal pilot salmon fishery.

The B.C. Aboriginal Fisheries Commission made the announcement Friday after meeting with representatives of the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Ottawa shut down an aboriginal-only pilot fishery Tuesday after a B.C. provincial court ruled it was unconstitutional and racially discriminated against non-native fishermen.

Arnie Narcisse, chair of the Aboriginal Fisheries Commission, says aboriginals will return to their "old ways" until a new deal is struck, including the sale of legally caught food fish in back alleys.

Aboriginal leaders say they will ask DFO to appeal the decision, as the summer salmon runs are worth millions of dollars to native bands in the Vancouver area.

Musqueam Band Chief Ernie Campbell says the court ruling will not matter to his people.

"When a salmon passes through our territory, our rivers, when we catch it, that's ours," says Campbell. After the fish is caught, the band can do whatever they want with it, he says.

Aboriginal leaders accuse DFO officials of being eager to shut down the pilot program.

DFO Assistant Deputy Minister Pat Chamut says the department had no choice but to comply with the court's ruling.

"The court has clearly indicated they view the pilot program as being racially discriminatory and contrary to the charter," says Chamut.

The department takes those views "very seriously," he says.