British Columbia

RCMP arrest four Indigenous protesters for fish farm demonstration

The four members of the Yaaskwiis Warriors say the company operating the fish farm has no right to fish in their waters.

Protesters were at Dixon Bay fish farm north of Tofino

Four members of the Yaakswiis Warriors — whose members are part of the Ahousaht First Nation — were arrested this week after protesting a fish farm operation north of Tofino.

"We were protecting our water and our land," said Lennie John, who drove up to the Dixon Bay fish farm — operated by the Cermaq Group — in a "tin can boat."

"I put my boat where they were going to put the barge down, and they wouldn't halt. I asked them to stop, and they told me to stay off their channel, that it was their channel."

John and the other three protesters were arrested and later released on August 23, a day after the protest.

The Yaakswiis Warriors is a group of protesters — the group's Facebook page says its members are "protecting the Ahousaht Hahoulthee from unnecessary economic development and harmful practices."

"We will continue our defence of our food sources, our lands and waters and our future generations," they said in a written statement.

"The RCMP should not be interfering in these matters, by doing so, it is clear that they have overstepped their role by acting as enforcers for corporations against and in violation of the clear rights we have as members of the Ahousaht Nation to our Territories."

Cermaq is in the process of restocking the farm, which was closed in 2012 after a deadly virus was uncovered. 

The protest came days after hereditary chiefs for the Musgamagw Dzawada'enuxw First Nation served a 72-hour eviction notice for a different fish farm operated by Cermaq.

But in the case of Dixon Bay, many elected officials of the Ahousaht First Nation support Cermaq, and there are 17 fish farms within their territory.

John says the Yaakswiis Warriors disagree with their stance. 

"There's a lot of money coming in, but it's not coming into our reservation. Housing is short, jobs are short," he said.

"I have no intentions of doing it again, but they're putting in our waters illegally a farm that shut down, and operating in a different area, and they don't have the permission of a lot of our people."

The RCMP say no charges have yet been laid against the protesters, but the matter has been referred to the crown.

With files from Megan Thomas