Widespread commercial fishery denied to B.C. First Nation
The B.C. Court of Appeal has upheld a ruling that denies widespread commercial fishing rights to a First Nation in the Prince Rupert region.
The aboriginal band, called Lax Kw'alaams, had been seeking a declaration they were entitled to a native right to harvest and sell all species of fish on a commercial basis in their traditional territory.
A lower court said that while the band's predecessors, the Coast Tsimshian, did fish a variety of species including salmon and halibut, they didn't trade in fish except for a special product of grease derived from one species.
The band appealed the ruling but the Appeal Court has upheld the decision, citing the trial judge's conclusion it would be stretching the idea of aboriginal fishing rights to find that the ancient grease trade must lead to a modern right to fish all species.
The ruling follows one made by the B.C. Supreme Court in November, which found a Vancouver Island native group known collectively as the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation had the right to harvest and sell all species of fish found within its territories.
However, the judge in that case also dismissed a claim to aboriginal title over the fishery, upholding the federal government's control over all fisheries, and urging the band and Ottawa to negotiate how to handle native fishing and fish sales.