(This column was published in the North Shore News on May 2, 2001)


Time in the can for illegal salmon sale justified

By Leo Knight

WHEN Melford Williams was sentenced to 30 days in jail for selling salmon caught in a so-called native food fishery, there was a certain inevitability to hearing aboriginal leaders start screaming. Especially Ernie Crey, fisheries manager of the Sto:Lo nation, which has long been the target of federal fisheries officers.  


Now, it must first be understood that what Williams did is common practice among our coastal native brethren. Ask any fish and wildlife officer, you don't have to believe me. The whole concept of a fishery for "food and ceremonial" purposes only is a bad joke perpetrated on the citizens of this country by the oh-so-politically-correct governments we are saddled with.  


So too, is the nonsense spewed forth by the First Nations people about how only they are the stewards of nature.  


Conservation officers throughout the province have filing cabinets stuffed to overflowing with cases aptly demonstrating the converse is true. Whether stretching nets across the Fraser River or using bright lights to kill deer at night (a process called pit-lamping), they continually break every common sense rule of conservation and then hide behind the "food and ceremony" provisions they are allowed.  


Now don't get me wrong in this. If the salmon taken from the Fraser was used solely for feeding the native's family then there is no issue. But does anyone really believe that?  


It doesn't matter which reserve you are talking about, you can easily go and buy salmon at any time of year. By any definition that is a commercial use of the fish. Never mind the tons of fish that are routinely trucked down to Bellingham by some aboriginal fishermen. Or the restaurants that buy directly out of the trunks of cars.  


No, what happened to Melford Williams when he got caught selling over a thousand pounds of salmon to a Port Coquitlam Japanese restaurant was appropriate. The problem is that for years our courts have been afraid to do much more than give a small financial penalty for those caught breaking the law and raping our rivers.  


Now that a court has finally taken a stronger position the native leaders are screaming foul. And with that the usual threats start. We can now expect another year of confrontation and violence on the Fraser between militant natives and fisheries officers trying to protect a dwindling resource.  


For the record, I'm not saying the native fisheries are the only reason the West Coast salmon fishery is dying. But, they are certainly part of the problem, whether they wish to admit it or not. Personally, I believe the big seiners, which operate off the coast, should be outlawed by our country and the U.S. as well, whatever the big corporate interests think about it. But that's another column.  


The thing that irks in this issue is the way political correctness gets in the way of the discussion. When the Chief of the Cheam Band, June Quip, says "We disagree strongly" with the court's decision and says the bands along the Fraser will be meeting to discuss their response, we all know what is coming. Yet, Quip is not publicly decried for the threatening implications. Why not?  


Bill Wilson, an executive officer of the seemingly endless First Nations Summit was quoted in The Province as calling the sentence, "disgusting." I suppose the rape and pillaging of our rivers and oceans for nothing more than money is fine as long as it is a native doing it.  


The once bountiful Adams River salmon run is now in serious danger of extinction. The Capilano River mouth used to teem with salmon. No longer.  


This country, at some level, has to say "no more" to being held hostage to political correctness. This is not a native/white issue any more than property crime is a rich/poor issue. It is no more complicated than a right/wrong issue.  


It is wrong to rape nature's resources for any reason. It is right to use nature's resources in an appropriate and sustainable manner.  


It is wrong to allow any one group to dominate the issue simply because of ancestral guilt or the fear of offending. It is also wrong to allow the lawlessness of blockades, guerrilla actions and armed attacks on federal officers.  


Look back at the situation from Burnt Church last summer on the East Coast. Get used to the images, because in all likelihood that's what is coming to a river near you this year.  


All because, finally, a judge did the right thing.






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