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Canada is violating the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and sidestepping international environmental law in its handling of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and a proposed three-berth marine container terminal south of Vancouver, contends the Lummi Nation in northwest Washington state, in a letter this week to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.

“We’re in a state of emergency,” Lummi Nation Secretary Lawrence Solomon said in the release. “Our qwe’lhol’mechen (orca relations) are dying, our salmon are disappearing, our people are suffering. Our schelangen (way of life) is in peril. We have a Xa xalh Xechnging (sacred obligation) to care for our culture and all our relations.”

“As our ancestors keep telling us, there is hope for the Salish Sea, there is hope for us. But we have to do the work,” added Raynell Morris, director of the Lummi sovereignty and treaty protection office. “Part of the work is our nation talking directly to the United States and to Canada about what we all need to do to save and protect these shared waters.”

The Lummi are “requesting a meeting with Canadian officials regarding the environmental impacts of industrial projects on the Salish Sea off the coasts of Washington and British Columbia,” The Canadian Press reports, maintaining that projects like Trans Mountain “will result in unavoidable, irreversible, and unacceptable harm to the nation’s territorial waters.”

The letter “points to the effect of increased shipping traffic on fishing areas, as well as the dangers of ship strikes, noise pollution, and oil spills for endangered southern resident killer whales,” CP adds. “The letter says so far, Canada has dismissed the Lummi Nation’s concerns with respect to Trans Mountain,” and shows no apparent change of approach with the container terminal plan.

CP notes that Canada officially adopted UNDRIP in 2016, but Conservative senators defeated a bid to harmonize Canadian laws with the principles in the declaration. SOURCE

Canada considers ’emergency’ warning from scientists that could complicate Trans Mountain pipeline expansion

Coldwater Indian Band Chief Lee Spahan speaks at a news conference with other First Nations leaders in Ottawa on Dec. 5, 2018. File photo by Alex Tétreault

The Trudeau government has been weighing scientists’ “emergency” warning about an endangered species for more than a year in a case that could have serious implications for the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

The species in question, steelhead trout, is of great importance to Coldwater Indian Band, a First Nation in southern interior British Columbia that is directly affected by the proposed pipeline expansion.

Local salmon and steelhead populations are “integral to Coldwater’s way of life and have been for generations,” the First Nation has said in a formal submission to the federal pipeline regulator, the National Energy Board.

The Thompson River population of steelhead trout spawn in the Coldwater River, which runs through Coldwater’s reserve and traditional territory along the proposed path of the pipeline expansion. MORE


Tŝilhqot’in’s ‘spiritual war’ to protect land, water, rights

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The Tŝilhqot’in Nation, not unlike other Indigenous Nations across this young country known as Canada, often prioritize their own legal systems and values over colonial legal orders that in most cases were brutally enforced on sovereign nations.

For the Tŝilhqot’in, the most important laws, Chief Alphonse explained, have to do with the protection of water.

Through oral history, Chief Alphonse learned from a young age that other crimes, like stealing, perhaps wouldn’t have traditionally been considered such a big crime. There would be consequences, he said, but they wouldn’t be severe.

“But you come and do damage to the quality of water,” he said, his face suddenly serious, “or you damage the highest elevation spawning grounds in North America… You do damage to the quality of water, in some cases, that was considered one of the biggest crimes you could commit.

“You’re talking about our livelihood and our dependence on the sockeye run, you’re talking about the starvation of a whole nation. To maintain a healthy run you have to have clean water. Water is the most precious thing for our people.” MORE

HUNGER: The decline of salmon adds to the struggle of Puget Sound’s orcas

 Twin monarchs of the Pacific Northwest, chinook salmon and southern resident orcas, are struggling for survival after a century of habitat losses. From the Pacific to the inland waters of Puget Sound and its freshwater rivers, the changes have outpaced adaptation.

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Scientists are worried orca grandmother J17 won’t live through the year. Here, she has lost so much fat that the curve of her neck shows, a condition called “peanut head.” (Courtesy of The Center for Whale Research, under NMFS permit 21238 and DFO SARA permit 388)

What the scientists see each year on this survey underway since 1998 has taken on new importance as oceans warm in the era of climate change. Decadelong cycles of more and less productive ocean conditions for salmon and other sea life are breaking down. The cycles of change are quicker. Novel conditions in the Pacific are the new normal.

The search to understand why Puget Sound’s orcas are in decline continues, as scientists probe a range of threats, from inbreeding and disease, to pollution and vessel noise. But a key area of investigation is the primal necessity of regularly available, adequate, quality food.

Across the Pacific Northwest, 40 percent of chinook runs already are locally extinct, and a large proportion of the rest that remain are threatened or endangered. Meanwhile, most other marine mammals are surging in population, adding to the competition both southern residents and fishermen face. MORE

The uncertain fate of the lower Fraser River’s last salmon island strongholds

Most of this iconic salmon river’s foreshore wetlands, marshes and islands have been logged, diked, drained and converted to farming. Only a handful of un-diked islands remain, but now three of them have been bought and logged by developers, while conservationists mount a last-minute attempt to buy them

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The tip of Carey Island in mid-February 2019. At this time of year, cutthroat trout can be found in this side-channel habitat, along with sturgeon overwintering in deep gravel holes. Winter steelhead are also moving along the Fraser main stem (in the background of this photo), which will soon see the first spring returns of chinook salmon beginning in March. Photo: Jayce Hawkins / The Narwhal

Three of the last un-diked islands on the lower Fraser River have been bought by developers and heavily logged, threatening the most productive habitat stronghold for salmon and white sturgeon left in the entire Fraser watershed.

Fisheries scientist Marvin Rosenau, an instructor in the British Columbia Institute of Technology’s fish, wildlife and recreation program, found out about it by accident. Back in June 2017, he was driving home to Abbotsford from a fishing trip in the interior, when he turned a bend just above Bridal Falls and looked down at Herrling Island.

“The whole landscape was bereft of trees,” he said of the 780-hectare island in the main stem of the Fraser River about 20 km northeast of Chilliwack. “It just ripped my guts out to see that.”

For Rosenau, a biologist and obsessive sports fisherman who has dedicated over 30 years to protecting the river, it was just the latest calamity for the Heart of the Fraser, one of the planet’s most productive networks of fish-friendly channels, islands and wetlands stretching 80 kilometres between Mission and the town of Hope. MORE

Work on Trans Mountain pipeline crossing in B.C. destroyed salmon habitat, scientist says

A Trans Mountain pipeline crossing in Stewart Creek, in Chilliwack, B.C., on Dec. 12, 2018. MIKE PEARSON /THE CANADIAN PRESS

Work on a Trans Mountain pipeline crossing in a British Columbia stream has destroyed salmon habitat, raising concerns about the Crown corporation’s ability to build infrastructure through waterways if the expansion project proceeds, a scientist says.

Mike Pearson says the “amateur hour” work on the Stewart Creek crossing in Chilliwack will reduce food sources for coho and chum salmon and limit their ability to hide from predators. The fish are part of the diet of endangered southern resident killer whales.

“There was no consideration given whatsoever to the habitat, which is just not acceptable,” said Pearson, a biologist with 30 years’ experience, in an interview. MORE


‘Drastic and scary’: Salmon declines prompt First Nation to take Canada to court over fish farms

In an unprecedented move, the Dzawada’enuzw nation is claiming in court that farming Atlantic salmon — which often carry disease — in their traditional waters constitutes a violation of Aboriginal rights

A salmon fish farm operates off the coast of the Broughton Archipelago near Vancouver Island. MYCHAYLO PRYSTUPA /THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Moon and other members of his community were in Vancouver Thursday to file an Aboriginal rights lawsuit against Canada that challenges federal fish farm licenses within their traditional territory in the Broughton Archipelago — the latest action in the nation’s escalating bid to revive shrinking Pacific salmon and eulachon stocks.

If successful, the lawsuit would not only close fish farms that affect the Dzawada’enuxw nation but could potentially be used by other First Nations to shut down salmon farms throughout B.C.’s coast, according to lawyer Jack Woodward, who is representing the Dzawada’enuxw [pronounced ‘tsa-wa-tay-nook’]. MORE


Is the next Standing Rock looming in northern B.C.?

Ground zero in the global battle against climate chaos this week is in Wet’suwet’en territory, northern British Columbia.

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As pipeline companies try to push their way onto unceded Indigenous territories, the conflict could become the next Standing Rock-style showdown over Indigenous rights and fossil fuel infrastructure.

Since 2010, the Unist’ot’en clan, members of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, have been reoccupying and re-establishing themselves on their ancestral lands in opposition to as many as six proposed pipeline projects. MORE