Cullen delivers Heiltsuk demand for emergency meeting directly to DFO minister

OTTAWA  -  MP Nathan Cullen today hand-delivered a letter to fisheries minister Gail Shea from the Heiltsuk Tribal Council that demands the department shut down any further herring fisheries in Heiltsuk traditional waters this year.

“The DFO-sanctioned test and commercial fisheries last Sunday occurred without a shred of consultation with the Heiltsuk, and with full knowledge that the Heiltsuk are absolutely opposed to these activities because of the collapse of Area 7 (Central Coast) herring stocks,” Cullen said today.

“The Heiltsuk have repeatedly stated they will not consent to herring test or commercial fisheries because their traditional knowledge and scientific data show the area cannot sustain both traditional and commercial fisheries.

“The law is very clear that Aboriginal harvesting rights must take priority over non-Aboriginal interests when conservation concerns exist,” Cullen said.  “Despite this, DFO has allowed commercial openings in the area year after year, for many years.”

Cullen spoke with Heiltsuk Chief Councillor Marilyn Slett yesterday about last Sunday’s fisheries that occurred without notice to the Heiltsuk.  He thanked the Heiltsuk leadership for its even-tempered handling of the incident and continues to press Shea to hold emergency meetings with Chief Councillor Slett as soon as possible.

“There’s a lot more at stake here than survival of the stocks, and that’s of huge importance,” Cullen said.  “The ongoing DFO-sanctioned assault on herring stocks also threatens the survival of a traditional way of life and livelihood for the Heiltsuk.

“And that could lead to a completely avoidable court battle that sets back government-to-government relations with the Heiltsuk for generations.”

In related developments, NDP West Coast Fisheries Critic Fin Donnelly (New Westminster-Coquitlam) rose in Question Period today to criticize the Conservatives for “mismanaging the BC herring fishery into a state of crisis.

“Why are the Conservatives ignoring experts and the Heiltsuk First Nation and putting this herring fishery in jeopardy?”

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