Important “Certification” step in BC First Nations Class-Action lawsuit

Class-Action lawsuit to save Broughton Archipelago wild salmon begins today in Supreme Court of British Columbia
April 13, 2010

(Vancouver, April 13, 2010) A Certification Hearing, a critical stage in the advancement of the Kwicksutaineuk/Ah-Kwa-Mish First Nation's (KAFN) class-action lawsuit against the British Columbia Government for devastation caused by open net-cage salmon farming in their Territories, began in a Vancouver courtroom today. The sessions are before the Supreme Court of British Columbia’s Mr. Justice Slade and are scheduled for nine days.

The KAFN lawsuit was launched on February 4th, 2009. Certification is a procedural step required under the BC Class Proceedings Act to seek the approval of the Court for the case to proceed as a class action.

Bob Chamberlin is Chief of the KAFN and the Representative Plaintiff in the Court. Chamberlin stressed that going to Court was not a decision taken lightly. He also relayed his disappointment in the continued failure on the part of the government to respond to KAFN concerns. “Our firsthand knowledge of the impacts of salmon farms in our Territories has not been recognized. Nor have our constitutional rights to fish for food, social and ceremonial purposes."

Chief Chamberlin, accompanied by Hereditary Chiefs and Musgamagw-Tsawataineuk Tribal Council (MTTC) leaders, explained the importance of the undertaking before he entered the Court, "Legal action became necessary when interventions so urgently needed to save the wild salmon of our Territory, the Broughton Archipelago, did not occur”.

He observed that, “Despite promises for shared decision-making found in the New Relationship and years of intensive efforts by the KAFN and others to engage the B.C. government in improving salmon farming regulations and reducing the impacts on wild salmon, the response continued to be delay, deny and distract. This is why we are here today."

The wild salmon are fundamental to the cultural and spiritual integrity of the KAFN and to the ecological integrity of their Territory. When juvenile pink and chum salmon migrate out to the open ocean, they must run a gauntlet of open net-cage salmon farms, densely stocked with Atlantic salmon, which are breeding grounds for parasitic sea lice and disease.

Chamberlin described an ever-increasing body of peer-reviewed, published science confirming the severe impacts of these open net-cage farms. He stated, “The impacts of open net-cage salmon farming continue to severely threaten the wild salmon that are essential to the survival of our distinct aboriginal culture."

Chief Chamberlin went on to “Express satisfaction with the speed of the class action process indicating that this legal avenue was chosen because of the potential for comparatively quick processing through the judicial system. Speed is crucial to the fish, in light of the rapid decline of wild salmon populations in the Broughton Archipelago.” There is an ever- increasing urgency to seek solutions and the KAFN are hoping for the earliest possible resolution of this legal action.

Chamberlin expressed his deep appreciation and respect for the “legions of supporters” and the efforts made by so many others in fighting for the survival of wild salmon. He concluded by asking two questions, "Why doesn't government realize what's at stake? Why has government, federal or provincial, not acted on what they can control - fish farms and sea lice?"

The certification hearing will determine whether or not the action can go forward as a class action. If the Court approves this procedure, all First Nations who utilize the wild fishery in the area will be notified, and will then have the opportunity to make a claim under the class action or opt out.

Legal counsel for the KAFN are J.J. Camp Q.C. and Reidar Mogerman of the Vancouver-based Camp, Fiorante and Matthews and Krista Robertson of Robertson Law in Victoria.


To schedule media interviews, contact:
Don Huff, Penasi Communication/Environmental Communication Options, at 416-972-7404 (Cell) 416-805-7720 or email huffd(at)huffstrategy.com.

To view the original KAFN Statement of Claim filed in February 2009, go to:
http://huffstrategy.com/MediaManager/Media/Text/1233780246_Microsoft+Word+-+0052+Pleading+Statement+of+Claim+Chamberlin_2.pdf  

http://huffstrategy.com/MediaManager/release/KAFN/4-2-09/KAFN-Statement-of-Claim/1511.html

UBCIC is a NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.