Ha-Shilth-Sa Newspaper March 24, 2022

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INTERESTING NEWS Canada’s Oldest First Nations Newspaper - Serving Nuu-chah-nulth-aht since 1974 Canadian Publications Mail Product Vol. 49 - No. 06—March 24, 2022 haas^i>sa Sales Agreement No. 40047776

Photo by Eric Plummer

Nuchatlaht Tyee Ha’wilth Jordan Michael (right) stands before the B.C. Supreme Court on March 21 with Councillor Archie Little and fellow Nuchatlaht members and supporters. The First Nation is fighting for Aboriginal title over 20,000 hectares of territory on northern Nootka Island.

Was it ‘stolen’ land or is it in the ‘public interest’? In a trial expected to last several months, B.C. Supreme Court examines the Nuchatlaht’s historical occupation By Eric Plummer Ha-Shilth-Sa Editor Vancouver, BC - On Jan. 20, 2017 the late Nuchatlaht Tyee Ha’wilth Walter Michael stood before the B.C. Supreme Court, declaring his small First Nation’s efforts to seek rights and title over land they had called home for thousands of years. More than five years after that statement of claim was filed, his son Jordan Michael, who now holds the head hereditary seat for the Nuchatlaht, stood on the same steps March 21. It was the first day of a trial to determine the First Nation’s Aboriginal title over its traditional territory on the northern part of Nootka Island. Although the Nuchatlaht number less than 170 members, the title case is expected to have widespread impacts on First Nations across British Columbia, building upon the historic Tsilhqot’in Nation’s territorial claim that was recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2014. Aboriginal title entails the right for a First Nation to use, enjoy and profit from its territory, something that the Nuchatlaht believe they have been excluded from concerning 20,000-hectares of Nootka Island. For the last six years Jordan Michael has run a cedar salvage operation in the area, a practice that rests more easily on his conscience than his past work as a logger.

“I come from a logging background, I’m a faller,” said Michael during a public event introducing the court case at Vancouver’s Roundhouse community centre on Sunday, March 20. “It was a good career, good money, but it just didn’t feel right. It was eating away at my soul.” But as he scoured through “the decimated forest”, Michael noticed that the trees weren’t the only things affected by logging practices on Nootka Island. “We were salvaging our fish creek, our sockeye creek,” he said. “We noticed that Western had it all ribboned off and slated to be logged. They were 1,000-year-old trees, 1,500-year-old trees, some of the biggest trees I’ve ever seen in my life, they were all slated to go…That’s when I got serious.” The title claim area is provincially recognized as Crown land, with a harvesting tenure currently held by Western Forest Products, which subcontracts to smaller logging companies. As “a major employer and contractor on Vancouver Island and one of the largest sources of employment and economic activity in the claim area,” in its statement of claim to the court the forestry company argues that the continuation of its tenure is in the best interests of the “economic development of British Columbia.” “We’re not against access, but how can we do it better?” said Nuchatlaht Councillor Archie Little, stressing how the First Nation has not benefitted from the

Inside this issue... Tyee fights to save his people from alcoholism..............Page 3 Addiction resources out of reach....................................Page 5 Basketball tournaments..............................................Pages 8-9 Shipping containers still missing..................................Page 11 Seafood for Victoria’s needy.........................................Page 15

harvesting in their back yard. “I hear time and time and time again, ‘Logging feeds my family’,” he added. “We want it so everybody benefits from the logging. It can’t be just a few people.” The Nuchatlaht’s lawyer Jack Woodward believes that the case cuts into the injustice of how First Nations were historically excluded from development in B.C. At the March 20 event he referenced an 1888 law that allowed Crown land to be dispossessed. “It’s open for anybody to apply for this Crown land, except the Indigenous people,” said Woodward of the historical practice. “This is a fundamental thing about this case; it’s a chance to fix the original sin of British Columbia, which is that the land of the Indigenous peoples were just outright stolen.” Woodward represented the Tsilhqot’in Nation, who successfully had their territorial title claim upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2014. Despite being considered a “semi-nomadic” Indigenous group, Canada’s highest court recognized the nation’s right to determine the future of over 1,700 square kilometres in central B.C. This decision was made based on three factors: the nation’s exclusivity in an area, the occupation of the region before British sovereignty and a historical continuity of occupation. With Tsilhqot’in as a precedent, now the Nuchatlaht’s case hinges on proving continued occupation of northern Nootka

Island since 1846, which is the date that the British Crown asserted sovereignty over the area. Part of the First Nation’s argument is that the Nuchatlaht have retained their hereditary system of governance for countless generations, and that Tyee Ha’wilth Jordan Michael is the direct descendant of a man who is documented to have met the American sea captain John Kendrick at Tahsis Inlet in 1789. Since Tsilhqot’in was upheld, B.C. became the first province in Canada to pass legislation that adopts the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Article 26 of UNDRIP states that Aboriginal groups should have legal recognition of the lands and resources that they traditionally occupied. But the province is disputing how the Nuchatlaht’s place on Nootka Island applies to this. In its statement of claim to the court, the provincial government called the First Nation “a relatively small and relatively weak affiliation of groups” that “were not known to effectively assert and defend territory, including the claim area, and other Indigenous peoples claimed and used tracts of land and resources in the claim area.” Overseen by Justice Elliot Myers, the trial is expected to last as long as 14 weeks. See ‘Nuchatlaht trial’ on page 2.

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Page 2— Ha-Shilth-Sa— March 24, 2022

Photo by Eric Plummer

A crowd of supporters stand with Nuchatlaht members before the B.C. Supreme Court on March 21, the first day of their trial.

Nuchatlaht trial delves into lineage in territory First two days of multi-week trial hears statements from First Nation, province & Western Forest Products By Eric Plummer Ha-Shilth-Sa Editor Vancouver, BC - The Nuchatlaht’s fight to gain Aboriginal title over the northern half of Nootka Island is expected to be in the B.C. Supreme Court for months. But the trial doesn’t have to take that long if the court looks at the groundwork set out by the Tsilhqot’in Nation decision in 2014, says the Nuchatlaht’s legal team. The First Nation’s trial began on March 21. The Nuchatlaht are seeking legal recognition of its territory on northern Nootka Island, west of Vancouver Island. Aboriginal title would grant the Nuchatlaht the right to use, enjoy and profit from the remote 20,000-hectare area. The trial is destined to draw upon the precedent set by Tsilhqot’in, which was upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2014. After a trial and lasted over 300 days, Canada’s highest court granted the “semi nomadic” group of First Nations title over 1,700 square kilometres in central B.C. This authority is not limited to former village locations, but can extend “beyond physically occupied sites, to surrounding lands over which a nation has effective control,” stated the 2014 ruling. The Tsilhqot’in decision found that Aboriginal title requires proof of a nation’s exclusivity in an area they occupied before the British Crown asserted authority, as well as the historical continuity of living and using the claimed territory. In his opening statement on March 21, the Nuchatlaht’s lawyer Jack Woodward said that the First Nation’s occupation of northern Nootka Island at the time of British sovereignty is indisputable. He described the Nuchatlaht confederacy that existed in the area at the time, a collection of at least half a dozen tribes with a governance structure in place. “In 1846 the Nuchatlaht were in an organized society, occupying that land as their forefathers had before them for centuries,” said Woodward. “The Nuchatlaht were there when the Europeans first came, and they are still there.” Woodward represented the Tsilhqot’in in their case, considered one of the longest and most expensive trials in B.C. history. But he sees the Nuchatlaht’s time in court unfolding more expediently. “This case is vastly shorter and less complicated than Tsilhqot’in,” he said. “This case isn’t about the facts; it’s about grappling with different legal concepts and doing justice for my clients.” But in its opening statement for the court on March 22, the province disputed the Nuchatlaht’s continued occupation of

northern Nootka Island. The provincial government’s lawyer Jeff Echols argued that the Nuchatlaht in 2022 are not necessarily the direct descendants of all the groups that occupied the area when Britain claimed sovereignty in 1846. He questioned if the modern-day Nuchatlaht should presumptively gain aboriginal title if different Indigenous groups occupied the claim area historically. “The Nuchatlaht membership of today was drawn from a different base of Nuchatlaht membership historically,” said Echols. “You can’t say that the groups in 1846, or the date of sovereignty, were necessarily Nuchatlaht.” The trial is destined to delve into different archaeological accounts, including some published in the mid 20th century that list multiple tribes who inhabited northern Nootka Island at one time. To avoid disputes, the trial’s claim area has a boundary that stays clear from territory of the neighbouring Mowachaht/ Muchalaht and Ehattesaht First Nations. But the province’s submission says that these overlaps were previously brought to the court by the Nuchatlaht in 2003 as part of the long-fought Ahousaht case, which determined the rights of five Nuuchah-nulth nations to harvest and sell fish from their territorial waters. The province plans to bring up these past territorial overlaps during the Nuchatlaht trial. “The Ahousaht proceeding is something we’re going to have to wrestle with,” said Echols. Woodward believes this distracts the court from the larger issue at hand. “British Columbia’s attempt to stir up the spectre of disputes with neighbours is mischief making,” he said during his opening statement. Northern Nootka Island is recognized as Crown land, with a tenure held by Western Forest Products. The forestry company also gave an opening statement for the court on March 22, when WFP’s lawyer Geoff Plant cautioned that if Aboriginal title is granted “there will be a world to understand and make sense of.” “What do we do about the roads that are in the claim area,” he asked, noting that many will need to be decommissioned, as tree planting will also be necessary. “What about silviculure obligations?” If a land ownership transition is granted, Plant questioned how the complicated regime in place to protect forestry resources would be replaced by unregulated private ownership. “The public interest should not be ignored,” he said. “Let’s face it, we’re all here to stay.”

March 24, 2022—Ha-Shilth-Sa—Page 3

Ahousaht Tyee fights to save people from addiction Hasheukumiss asks Tofino council for action, as up to 500 vodka bo•les are brought to remote community By Denise Titian Ha-Shilth-Sa Reporter Maaqtusiis, BC – Ahousaht Ha’wiih (hereditary chiefs) are working hard to address social issues in the village caused by alcoholism - including asking Tofino council to pass a bylaw that would limit the sales of hard liquor to two 26 oz. bottles per person. “There have been 65 deaths in two years and about 90 per cent of those are due to liver failure (or other alcohol-related causes),” said Hasheukumiss, acting Ahousaht Tyee Ha’wilth (head chief) for his father Maquinna. Add to that the domestic violence, drunk driving, sexual assaults and other attacks happening to young people. “There were two 16-year-olds raped last week,” said Hasheukumiss in an early March phone interview. Alcohol addiction and the social issues that come with it are a problem everywhere, but in the fast-growing and isolated Ahousaht community the problem has people crying out to their hereditary chiefs for help. Hasheukumiss said that he has been speaking on behalf of his father Maquinna for the past two years. In that time he has received a steady flow of messages from the muschim (his people) complaining about bootleggers and that minors are buying their alcohol. The people want the problem addressed.

Big bootlegging profits There is a shocking amount of alcohol flowing into the village with a population of about 1,000 every week. The Ha’wiih stated that a witness reported seeing Ahousaht residents walk out of the BC Liquor Store in Tofino with full cases, 24 bottles of vodka. “The amount of liquor leaving the store is alarming – 300 to 500 bottles of vodka every week going to Ahousaht,” said Hasheukumiss. In addition, there is the cold beer and wine store that sells liquor for several more hours after the BC Liquor Store closes. According to the BC Liquor Store website, a 700 millitre (26oz) bottle of Red Label Smirnoff vodka sells for $22.99. In Ahousaht, bootleggers resell the bottles for at least $60. According to the Ha’wiih, the price increases based on supply and demand. People will pay $80, $100 and even up to $200 a bottle if there’s nowhere else to buy it cheaper. A case of vodka would cost just over $550. In a single weekend, a bootlegger could make $1440 on the low end, up to $4,800 if they could get top dollar for every bottle. Hanuquii noted that’s a lot of money in a place where full-time employment opportunities are limited. This prompted the Ha’wiih to approach Tofino municipal council on March 8 with an unusual - but urgent - request to pass a bylaw limiting the amount of alcohol an individual could buy. If passed, the Tofino bylaw would only apply to the privately-owned beer and wine store. The BC Liquor Store is owned by the provincial government and would require a longer, more drawn-out process to implement limits on individual sales.

Hasheukumiss to enforce curfews and to ensure nonresidents were not coming into the village. They were given authority to search incoming bags for alcohol. If any were found, they were dumped on the spot. Even though a vast majority of residents don’t drink, the Ha’wiih estimate that 10 to 15 per cent of the population drink to the point that it’s a problem. “It’s a small percentage but it causes a lot of pain for the nation,” said Tom Paul, an addictions counsellor in Ahousaht. There have been some efforts to gain support for making the community safe. “There have been marches led by elders with kids demanding change and it was a large turnout,” said Hasheukumiss. According to the Ha’wiih, the security team met with resistance when dumping liquor bottles. “Some threatened them with two-byfours and one even pointed a gun,” said Hasheukumiss. In the past year, the Ha’wiih heard from the RCMP that there were 54 reports of alcohol-related domestic violence in Ahousaht. Over in Tofino, which sees an estimated million-some visitors annually, there were 30 similar domestic violence cases. In addition, Hasheukumiss stated that in the past two months 19 people, including youth, came forward to report they had been raped, some many years ago. “This stuff gets swept under the rug, especially when it’s time to go to court,” said Hashuekumiss, noting that people are being told to be quiet. “Our people are not going to be silent anymore – I want to make our village safe.” He noted that it’s not only women and girls being assaulted, but men and boys, too. For that reason, the Ha’wiih have coordinated retreats for women and separately for men at Kackaamin Family Development Centre in Port Alberni. Once there, the people can begin healing from past trauma. “I went there with Cliff Atleo to blanket the girls,” said Hashuekumiss, adding that the blanket represents real protection. “It lets them know that we’re behind them and when they feel heavy, they know they can wrap themselves in the blanket and, with the Creator, will feel lighter.”

Disproportionate domestic violence At the beginning of the pandemic Ahousaht received federal funding to support measures to protect people from COVID-19. A security team was set up

Resistance to enforcement The Ha’wiih say there are 40 bootleggers and they know who they are; they refer to one as “the big guy”. Previous efforts to deal with this particular boot-

Photo submitted by Ahousaht First Nation

Wally Thomas, Chief Hohomiius, an Ahousaht Tribal Police officer, dumps out a confiscated bottle of vodka at the main dock in Ahousaht in 2020. In a measure to discourage gatherings and prevent the spread of COVID-19, Ahousaht blocked the arrival of booze during the coronavirus lockdown. related,” he said. legger have failed, partly due to jurisdictional issues. Hopes for a dry reserve According to Paul, a dry reservation Paul said there are only three detox bylaw was voted on and passed several years ago, but without enforcement, noth- centers on Vancouver Island so Tofino General Hospital is a “revolving detox ing changed. There are no bylaw officers door”, repeatedly treating people for in Ahousaht. withdrawals and other alcohol-related But on a positive note, the Ha’wiih conditions. He noted that the First Nasay that the RCMP were able to act on a tions Health Authority is in the planning municipal liquor law, recently charging stages of opening detox beds in Tofino one resident twice for contravention of to serve surrounding communities from liquor laws. Hesquiaht to Ucluelet. It was about a decade ago when leadThe Ha’wiih, through their Maaqutusiis ers attempted to make Ahousaht a dry Hahoulthee Stewardship Society, plan to reserve but it failed. Hanuquii is on the buy a remote resort within their territories security team and it’s their responsibility that they will run as a healing centre. The to patrol the streets and escort the intoxivision is to make it available, with the cated people home. help of First Nations Health Authority, to He said there’s a lot of resistance when all Nuu-chah-nulth nations as a beautiful they attempt to press people to get help. place to heal. “It’s hard to engage with them, there’s There are also plans to train the existlots of protection by their family telling ing security team in bylaw enforcement us to leave them alone,” said Hanuquii, so that they can serve as official bylaw Hereditary Chief Nate Charlie. “I cruise officers. the streets…some people hate me.” The Ha’wiih know that what they’re In the past, Tyee Ha’wilth Maquinna doing will meet with strong resistance spent $600,000 on healing retreats in an by some, but they say they are not in a attempt to solve the problem. Bootlegpopularity contest. gers were confronted and people willing “Our job is to keep people safe,” said to get help for alcoholism were offered six-week healing programs with minimal Hasheukumiss. “We want to raise awareness, educate people on the detrimental success. effects of alcohol on our nation – and we “We now know that six weeks is way want to do it in a healthy way, no shame.” too short,” said Hasheukumiss. The long-term vision is to use their faIn the past two years 60 people went to cilities as healing destination resorts and the retreats and, according to Hasheukueventually become a dry reserve. miss, only one maintained sobriety for Hasheukumiss lost a niece to liver two years. failure. “We’re burying way too many people “On her deathbed she said she wanted a before their time,” said Hasheukumiss. ban on all liquor at home, she wanted the Tom Paul agrees. new bylaw to be called ‘Helen’s Law’,” “It’s sad that our new graveyard is gethe shared. ting filled, 90 per cent of them alcohol-

Page 4— Ha-Shilth-Sa— March 24, 2022 Ha-Shilth-Sa newspaper is published by the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council for distribution to the members of the NTC-member First Nations, as well as other interested groups and individuals. Information and original work contained in this newspaper is protected by copyright and may not be reproduced without written permission from: Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council P.O. Box 1383, Port Alberni, B.C. V9Y 7M2. Telephone: (250) 724-5757 Fax: (250) 723-0463 Web page: www.hashilthsa.com facebook: Hashilthsa Ntc

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Systemic racism in Canada’s healthcare An issue recently highlighted in B.C. is present coast to coast, say advocates By Melissa Renwick Local Journalism Initiative Reporter In effort to address ongoing critical gaps in our understanding of Indigenous health, EHN Canada hosted an online webinar on March 10 to highlight the disparities in healthcare access among Indigenous peoples living in urban centres. Hosted by Celina Sqwasulwut Williams, a spiritual advisor at Ravenswood Consulting, participants were guided through the current state of the healthcare system and how it needs to improve its diversity and inclusion measures for Indigenous communities. Williams said she can speak to being marginalized within Canada’s healthcare system first-hand. Raised within the Songhees Nation, Williams said she was in and out of police custody while growing up, had her driver’s license revoked 20 times, and was court mandated to Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. “I had a very tumultuous life,” she said. “I had doctors who didn’t trust what I said. Nurses were tired of seeing me in and out of the hospital. Receptionists at doctors’ offices refused to book me because of so many missed appointments. And I had no medication because no one would prescribe anything to me.” Her family ended up stepping in and brought her to a treatment centre, which Williams said opened her eyes to an array of services she didn’t previously have access to. “I couldn’t advocate for myself,” she said. “When I arrived at treatment, I finally saw what I was missing out on my whole life – that my voice had never been heard before I stepped into the treatment centre. I was marginalized and I didn’t even know it.” Williams has been in recovery for nearly five years and aims to highlight the work that needs to be done so Indigenous peoples are no longer disproportionately impacted by Canada’s healthcare system. “Canadian governance was built by nonIndigenous people for non-Indigenous people,” she said. “Our political leaders, at the time, created systems designed to oppress and exclude Indigenous people from opportunity to flourish.”

Celina Sqwasulwut Williams Those long-standing historical issues have led to ongoing consequences, she said. Some of these consequences have been highlighted in a 2020 report published in the Canadian Journal of Public Health, which points to the “critical gaps” that remain in Canada’s understanding of Indigenous health. “We have to give equal consideration to diverse, Indigenous and non-Indigenous world-views, such that one view does not dominate or undermine the contributions of others,” she said. “By using this twoeyed seeing approach, we can reshape the nature of the questions we ask in the realm of Indigenous health research.” Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council Vice President Mariah Charleson said it’s been over 10 years since she sat on a working group during the first Truth and Reconciliation national event in Victoria. Discrimination in Canada’s healthcare system is not a new conversation, she added. In 2020, the In Plain Sight report identified “widespread systemic racism against

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Indigenous peoples” in B.C.’s health care system which resulted in a range of negative impacts, including death. Led by independent reviewer Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, the report made 24 recommendations to address Indigenousspecific racism in B.C.’s health-care system. Over a year after the recommendations were made, Turpel-Lafond said there have been “some” signs of progress but that they don’t go far enough. Indigenous governments need to be co-creating law and policy with provincial and federal governments, she said in December. Eliminating racism and the future of reconciliation depends on “our ability to make rightful space for Indigenous decision making and sovereignty,” TurpelLafond added. “For non-Indigenous people who are working with Indigenous people, the best thing you can do is try to reach them at a human level,” said Williams. “Meet people where they’re at.” Persisting conversations about discriminatory issues is the only way forward, said Charleson. “It has to be the starting point for finding ways to provide culturally safe and accessible health care for all of our people, whether they live in urban centres, or in our rural and remote communities,” she said. It wasn’t long ago that Charleson said her Nuu-chah-nulth “aunties and uncles experienced horrendous things in the Indian hospitals and within the Indian residential school system.” “They were essentially treated as test dummies,” she said. Those experiences have resulted in intergenerational post-traumatic stress disorders that can only be addressed if “our people feel safe when they’re going to access basic health care needs,” Charleson said. “Before we can even begin to right the wrongs that have been done, we have to highlight the truth,” she said. “We have to listen to the people who have experienced these things. We have to uplift their stories so that people know these events happened.”

Ha-Shilth-Sa belongs to every Nuu-chah-nulth person including those who have passed on, and those who are not yet born. A community newspaper cannot exist without community involvement. If you have any great pictures you’ve taken, stories or poems you’ve written, or artwork you have done, please let us know so we can include it in your newspaper. E-mail holly.stocking@nuuchahnulth.org. This year is Ha-Shilth-Sa’s 48th year of serving the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations. We look forward to your continued input and support. Kleco! Kleco!

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March 24, 2022—Ha-Shilth-Sa—Page 5

Addictions resources out of reach for many in need Governments push for prescribed alternatives, but access to supports is almost non-existent in remote places By Denise Titian Ha-Shilth-Sa Reporter Port Alberni, BC – Two Nuu-chahnulth mothers are fighting for their sons to break free from drug addiction – but supports are not as accessible as they would hope. Jackie Dennis of Huu-ay-aht had to wait more than a month to get her heroinaddicted son an online doctor`s appointment so that he could get on a methadone program. Without methadone her son would suffer terrible withdrawal pain and craving - or go back to using heroin. She was fortunate enough to find a friend of his that shared methadone as they continue to wait to get on the program. Grace Frank of Tla-o-qui-aht hopes that her son will quit drugs someday and she takes him home from time-to-time. But with no access to detox beds, her son returns to the streets and back to drugs. Port Alberni`s Shelter Outreach Centre, called SIS or Safe Injection Site by some, offers harm reduction supplies, referrals and medical professionals that can intervene during an overdose. A visit to the facility on lower Third Avenue found three Nuu-chah-nulth people wanting to get off of the streets and out of addictions. A local man grumbled something about his family and said he’d rather stay on the streets – but, he said, nobody can tell what’s in the street drugs. Another, from a remote community, said he wants to go home but there’s no Naloxone kits there. He said he was still upset about a friend of his who died of an overdose there because there was no Naloxone, a lifesaving medication that can temporarily reverse an opioid overdose. And there’s no place to detox at home. Getting people on long-acting drugs Ha-Shilth-Sa reached out to Jim McCarthy, Manager for Mental Health and Substance Use, and learned that he is in office once a week. Two weeks after reaching out to MHSU an envelope with brochures about available services was provided. The MHSU Port Alberni is located at 4780 Roger Street, offering a variety of professional support for those struggling with addiction. The MHSU assists clients with Opioid Agonist Therapy (OAT), which helps those addicted through the withdrawal process using methadone or Suboxone. These medications work to prevent withdrawal and reduce cravings for opioid drugs. Methadone and Suboxone are long-acting opioid drugs that are used to replace the shorter-acting opioids

Photo by Denise Titian

Leon Titian (right) stands with others behind Port Alberni’s Safe Injection Site facility, where a variety of support services are available. the person is addicted to. They act more the government is supporting health auproportionately represented in overdose slowly in the body, for a longer period of thorities with $22.6 million to implement deaths in the province. time. By acting slowly, it prevents with“We see drug use as a health issue rather a safer supply policy. drawal for 24 to 36 hours without causing than a moral issue,” reads the FNHA “One of the most important ways we a person to get high. can save lives is to separate people from website. To access services, clients are invited the toxic drug supply,” she said. “We The FNHA has developed a framework to drop in without an appointment from know the toxic drug crisis needs to be for action – their response to the toxic Monday to Friday between 10 a.m. to drug crisis for First Nations with a vision tackled from all angles. That’s why our noon and 1 to 3 to meet with in intake government has made unprecedented to stop deaths. Among their goals is to worker. Or clients may call 250-731investments in mental health and addiccreate an accessible range of treatment 1311. The Crisis Response Team can be tions supports across the spectrum of options, such as virtual health services, reached at any time at 1-888-494-3888. treatment, recovery, and harm reduction. clinical care, more treatment centres and But the hours and requirements for these pressing for a safe supply as an alternaTragically, this has not been enough.” services don’t work for many on the Johns said that Bill C-216 would tive to Fentanyl-laced drugs found on the street. decriminalize simple possession listed street. Grace Frank points to the lack of supin the Controlled Drugs and Substances On March 2, NDP MP Gord Johns’ port in her community, not only for peoAct so that users won’t face charges bill to decriminalize drug possession for ple wanting treatment, but also for those personal use and expand access to crucial when seeking support. More importantly, that have completed treatment. She says it implements a national health-based harm reduction, treatment and recovery that there is no Alcoholics Anonymous or services was being debated in the House strategy to manage the risk of overdose similar support groups in the Tofino area. of Commons. by providing access to a safer, regulated She says there is one alcohol and drug drug supply. Bill C-216 was at the second Johns noted that the number of deaths counsellor who serves three or four of the from toxic drugs has increased every year reading stage where it was debated in the west coast First Nations communities. House of Commons on March 2. over the past six. “People are so afraid of relapsing that “My bill follows the advice of the gov`Why can’t we do this ourselves?` they’re going back to treatment,” said ernment’s own expert task force which Ha-Shilth-Sa caught up to Jackie DenFrank, adding that she knows someone recommended decriminalization, somenis. She was proud to report that her son who has gone to treatment five times. thing that has been called for by public “When I asked her why, she said there’s health authorities, police chiefs and major is now one month drug-free. Unfortunately, he hasn’t gotten that in-person no support here and she was afraid of cities,” he said in a statement. appointment with a doctor. Dennis relapsing.” According to the Canadian Drug Coalicontinues to make calls to access support tion, prohibition was meant to reduce Failure of prohibition services from her home in Anacla, but is illicit use and the perceived associated According to the First Nations Health having difficulty coordinating between harms. They say history has proven that Authority, Indigenous peoples are disit has failed and that prohibition has done her son and the doctor. But through it all, she talks to people in more harm than good. her community. Having her son detox at “Evidence clearly demonstrates that it Anacla, far away from the streets of Port is time for a bold policy shift away from Alberni, helps. But there is a shortage of criminalization towards a health and huhousing, and Dennis hopes that she will man rights approach,” they stated. get a larger home so she can help more On March 9 the Ministry of Public people suffering from addiction. Safety and Solicitor General and B.C. Grace Frank has similar ideas for her Coroner’s Service issued a news release home near Tofino. calling for a safer drug supply to reduce “I have a dream of building something deaths from illicit drugs, based on the here, where our people can detox and not advice of an expert panel appointed by have to wait to go into treatment,” said the government. Frank. “Why can’t we do this ourselves?” In their report, BC Coroners Service Jackie’s dream is to go back to school Death Review Panel: A Review of Illicit Drug Toxicity Deaths, they point to 6,007 and one day become an alcohol and drug counsellor. deaths from illicit drugs in the province “I want to help make change,” she said. in four years, from summer 2017 to sumGrace says that if her son got into treatmer 2021. They said the deaths primarily ment, it would be the happiest moment in resulted from the increasing toxic and her life. unpredictable drug supply. “I would jump for joy,” she shared. Sheila Malcolmson, minister of Mental Health and Addictions, announced that

Page 6— Ha-Shilth-Sa— March 24, 2022

Book to be released on making a traditional chaputs Making a Chaputs wri•en by master carver Joe Martin and Alan Hoover, a former Royal B.C. Museum curator By Denise Titian Ha-Shilth-Sa Reporter Vancouver Island, BC – A new book detailing how to make a chaputs (cedar dugout canoe) from beginning to end by Nuu-chah-nulth master carvers is about to be released. Making a Chaputs – The Teachings and Responsibilities of a Canoe Maker was written by Master Carver Joe Martin and Alan Hoover, formerly a curator and manager at the Royal British Columba Museum in Victoria. Joe Martin is a master carver from Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation. By 2014 he estimates he made more than 60 dugout canoes. The new book contains dozens of photos showing many of his works in progress along with finished canoes slicing through the ocean at various gatherings. The 86-page book is loaded with 76 beautiful photos featuring canoe makers, mostly from Martin’s family. It describes the process of canoe making from tree selection to finishing touches. “Tla-o-qui-aht master canoe maker Joe Martin, in collaboration with former museum curator Alan Hoover, describes the meaning and method behind one of the most vivid and memorable symbols of the Northwest coast: the dugout canoe,” reads the inside flap of the book. Traditional dugout canoes have long been revered for their beauty and seaworthiness. “Both artform and technological marvel, the chaputs carries Indigenous cultural knowledge passed down through generations, not only of the practical forestry and woodworking that shape every canoe, but also the role and responsibilities of the canoe maker,” says the book. Martin also shares teachings and family history that he learned from his father – lessons passed down the generations from elder canoe makers to the younger generation. Also included are the spiritual

Photos from Ha-Shilth-Sa Archives

A new book delves into the traditional importnace of dugout canoes, how they are made and where they come from. Pictured is a photo of Meares Island (above) and the cover of the new book. teachings and the importance of giving thanks for gifts from the Creator. The book will be available in both paperback and audiobook. To be released June 17, 2022, the paperback or audiobook will cost $24.95, and the eBook will sell for $13.99 in Canada. Published by the Royal British Columbia Museum, Making A Chaputs, the Teachings and Responsibilities of a Canoe Maker can be ordered by calling Ampersand Inc at (604) 448-7111 in Vancouver, B.C. or (416) 703-0666 in Toronto.

March 24, 2022—Ha-Shilth-Sa—Page 7

Community remembers Dontay Lucas, four years later No charges have been laid in the six-year-old’s death, a tragic incident that the police are treating as suspicious By Denise Titian Ha-Shilth-Sa Reporter Port Alberni, BC – Through a grey, misty spring day a burst of vibrantly colored balloons float to the heavens as family and friends gathered for a candlelight vigil to remember Dontay Lucas, the six-year-old Hesquiaht and Ahousaht boy who succumbed to injuries at a family member’s home on March 22, 2018. NTC Vice-President Mariah Charleson told the crowd that she knew Dontay and spent time with him at an event in Hesquiaht not long before he died. Known for his brilliant, happy smile, Charleson recalled being with him on the beach, entertaining him by turning over rocks so find hermit crabs. “I remember his big smile as I turned each rock over,” she said. “What happened to little Dontay is he was murdered at the age of six years and there are still no answers four years later – the community can’t sit silent with no justice… Dontay’s life mattered.” The tragedy unfolded at a townhouse in south Port Alberni on March 13, 2018. The following month Ha-Shilth-Sa reported that, at approximately 9:30 a.m. that morning, the RCMP responded to a report of a child in medical distress at a residence. The boy was transported to hospital, but sadly did not survive. Police and the BC Coroner’s Service began an investigation that continued over the following two weeks. “The child’s death is being treated as suspicious and the investigation is ongoing,” stated the Port Alberni RCMP in a news release on March 28, 2018. The release noted that police believe there are people who have information regarding the death of the child, and ask for the public’s assistance as the investigation continues. Citing a popular quote, that it takes a community to raise a child, Charleson said that many loved and cherished Dontay and that he deserved to be here today. “We call for people to speak up. If you

Photo by Denise Titian

On Tuesday, March 22 family and friends gathered for a candlelight vigil at Port Alberni’s Victoria Quay to remember Dontay Lucas, the six-year-old Hesquiaht and Ahousaht boy who succumbed to injuries at a family member’s home on March 22, 2018. have information to share with RCMP “He had dreams, he wanted to be fireuntil justice is served. please do so, the family deserves anman when he grew up,” she added. After wiping his tears, the father reswers,” he said. Patrick Lucas thanked everyone for leased a shiny red firetruck balloon for A group from Tseshaht, including Chief coming to support him that day. He said his son as others in the crowd released Councillor Ken Watts, were there to he learned a Hesquiaht prayer song after colored balloons. honor Dontay’s memory. They said he his son died. Raising his face to the sky, “If I could talk to him now, I’d say ‘I was part of their community and attended he sang the song for Dontay. love you son, you mean everything to me their school. Together, they sang a song Lucas said he met with RCMP officers and I’ll always be here for you’,” said of comfort for children as a portrait of in December 2020, when he was told the Lucas. Dontay’s smiling face was passed around case was almost solved. The last meeting Anyone with information is asked to so that people would not forget him. with police was March 2021, when he contact Const. Carroll of the Port AlGrandmother Judy Campbell, tears was told he would have answers in four berni RCMP at 250-723-2424 or Alberni streaming down her face, said her grandto six weeks. Valley Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222son grew up loving culture. He would “I really hope something gets done,” he 8477(TIPS). dance and join in the singing circle. told the crowd, adding that he won’t stop

Memorial items removed from bridge, structure plans By Eric Plummer Ha-Shilth-Sa Editor Port Alberni, BC - As part of the Tseshaht First Nation’s larger ʔuuʔatumin yaqckwiimitqin (Doing it for our Ancestors) initiative, memorial items were removed from the bridge over the Somass River on March 16. In a statement from the First Nation, the Tseshaht referenced how it is working to deal with the legacy of having a residential school in its community for most of a century. “Tseshaht First Nation had the Alberni Indian Residential School (AIRS) placed in our territory and look to find ways to undertake our work in a respectful way, but also look for ways to commemorate those that attended AIRS,” reads the statement. Items such as lines of children’s shoes and orange flags had remained on the bridge over the winter, the memorial collection starting when the First Nation gathered on May 31 to sing in honour of children who were buried at the Kamloops Indian Residential School. The First Nation noted environmental considerations, as what is locally known as the “Orange Bridge” passes over the

Tsuma as (Somass) River, which the Tseshaht sees as “our lifeblood”. “Unfortunately, degradation of these memorial pieces has started to happen, threatening the fish and other wildlife ecosystems that feed our community. In addition, we want to continue to promote highway and pedestrian safety,” stated the First Nation. “Honouring our sacred responsibility as stewards of our lands and waters, we ask that our community and members of the public refrain from placing memorial items at this location to help prevent any long-term irreversible damage.” In May 2021 the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation sent shock waves across Canada with the announcement that the remains of 215 people had been identified at the former residential school site, a discovery enabled by the use of ground-penetrating radar. This announcement was particularly relevant to the Tseshaht, who had the Alberni Indian Residential School on its territory from 1900 to 1973. News of unmarked graves at a residential school confirmed what many former students had known for their whole lives. Now the Tseshaht are undertaking plans to scan the AIRS site this spring and summer,

Photo by Eric Plummer

Shoes are placed on the Highway 4 bridge in Port Alberni on May 31, 2021 in recognition of the children who never returned home from residential schools. On March 16 Tseshaht members removed the shoes and other memorial items, as the First Nation moves forward with plans for a permanent memorial structure. approximately 100 hectares of land that will be examined once soil conditions are ideal. Discussions with a working group of AIRS survivors is ongoing. Meanwhile, the First Nation has been fundraising for a permanent memorial

structure, with over $60,000 collected so far. Information on how to contribute to the memorial fund is available at www. tseshaht.com/airs-team.

Page 8— Ha-Shilth-Sa— March 24, 2022

Totem tournament returns after COVID-19 forced delays and ca

From a total of 16 basketball squads, the Alberni senior girls team wins the 66th annual tournament, as Carihi Secondary School cl By Melissa Renwick Local Journalism Initiative Reporter Port Alberni, BC - When Mike Roberts looks back on his time attending Alberni District Secondary School (ADSS) in the mid-80s, the Totem Tournament continues to stand out in his mind. Roberts, who’s now the school’s athletic director, said he’s not alone. “If you were to ask anybody who has gone to this school to name five things they remember 10 to 20 years from now, I’m going to guess almost everyone will mention Totem,” he said. It’s part of the fabric of the school, he added. As the longest running high school basketball tournament in the province, Totem has been passed down through the generations. It’s not only an event for the participating students, but for the grandparents and parents who have gone before them. That’s why Roberts said it was “crushing” when the province shut it down last year to curve the spread of COVID-19. Many students felt like they’d been robbed of the experience. Justin Ferrer was on track to play on the Armada senior boys’ basketball team during his graduating year at ADSS last year, but when the season was cancelled, his dream of playing in Totem vanished. “I feel like I missed out on such a huge opportunity,” he said. “Everybody missed out in their senior year.” After this year’s tournament was postponed in late-December due to the rapid rise of infection from the Omicron variant, many students wondered if they too would miss out on their chance to compete. Ethan Henderson, who plays on the senior boys’ team, said the uncertainly left the team feeling “unmotivated.” But when the news came that the 66th annual tournament was back on, Henderson said “we all got hyped.” “We started cheering like this crowd,” he said, looking around at the packed bleachers inside the school’s gymnasium. The Totem Tournament kicked off on March 10, and students, family and friends came out in droves to cheer on the Armada athletes. Spectators were decked out in red and white Totem apparel, along with temporary face tattoos that displayed the tournament’s slogan, “it’s kind of a big deal.” “It’s been a long two years,” said Craig Brooks, Armada senior boys’ basketball

team head coach. “Everyone wants normalcy and what is more normal in Port Alberni than the Totem Tournament, even if it is a little bit late?” Launched in 1955 as a boys’ tournament, Totem expanded to include female teams in 2011. Now, eight boys’ and eight girls’ teams from around the province annually compete for the title. After being cancelled last year, Brooks said the tournament was the first time a lot of parents were able to watch their kids play in two years. “This whole season, parents haven’t been able to come watch their kids,” he said. “There’s a lot of excitement.” Missy Knoll sat on the edge of her seat while watching her son, Blake, from the bleachers. As a former graduate of ADSS, she said she understands first-hand how important the tournament is for the school. It’s something the kids look forward to, she said. “They were so worried it wasn’t going to happen,” Knoll said. “And now, it’s all they talk about. It’s an adrenaline rush for them – knowing that all these people are here for them.” Henderson’s grandparents, Ima Dick and John Campbell, were also in the crowd. When Henderson moved from Ahousaht First Nation on Flores Island to Port Alberni a couple years ago, Dick said it was a big transition for him. “It’s exciting to see him play,” said Dick. “To show support for him and encourage him.” Now, a lot of his “little brothers” look up to him, she said. “They come to see him and feel the energy,” she added. The tournament wrapped up on March 12 with the Alberni District Secondary School’s senior girls’ basketball team taking home the title. Carihi Secondary School won the boys’ championship. “It was so good to feed off of all that energy that everybody gave us,” said senior girls’ Assistant Coach Dennis Bill. “To have our own fans, our own family, and our classmates there to cheer us on was amazing.” As the girls huddled together after their win, Bill said “happy tears” were shed. For some of the Grade 12 students, the game marked the end of their basketball careers. And while it was bittersweet, Bill said “it was the perfect end to the season.”

Alberni District Secondary School Armada senior girls’ basketball player Natalie Clappis (above centr high school basketball team at the 66th annual Totem Tournament, in Port Alberni, on March 10. The to

March 24, 2022—Ha-Shilth-Sa—Page 9

delays and cancellation in 2021

arihi Secondary School claims the boys division on March 8

Photo by Mariah Charleson

The Hesquiaht Descendants, pictured here following a weekend practice, will participate in next month’s All Native Basketball Tournament.

Hesquiaht Descendants hoping for success at ANBT The female basketball team are aiming for a Top 3 finish at the Prince Rupert tournament, which begins April 3 By Sam Laskaris Ha-Shilth-Sa Contributor

Photos by Melissa renwick

Natalie Clappis (above centre) defends the court against the Kwalikum Kondors senior girls’ in Port Alberni, on March 10. The tournament included 16 teams from across Vancouver Island.

Mariah Charleson and her Hesquiaht Descendants teammates are pretty pumped. That’s because it’s almost time for them to compete in the All Native Basketball Tournament (ANBT). The Descendants are one of 16 squads that will participate in the women’s division of the ANBT, the prestigious Indigenous hoops event which has been staged annually in Prince Rupert since 1960. The 2021 tourney, however, was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. And there were plenty of concerns whether this year’s event would be staged. The ANBT is traditionally held in February. Organizers had originally planned to start the 2022 tournament on Feb. 13. But because of the rising number of COVID cases in the province at the start of the year, officials opted to push back the dates of the event. It will now be staged Apr. 3-9. “We’re all super, super excited,” Charleson said of the Descendants, a team she founded in 2015 and one that she continues to play for. The Hesquiaht team will feature 11 players at this year’s tournament. “Everybody is healthy and we’re super stoked to go,” Charleson said. The only other Nuu-chah-nulth squad that will compete at this year’s ANBT is the Maaqtusiis Suns from Ahousaht First Nation. The Suns are one of 14 clubs in the senior men’s category. The ANBT will also feature intermediate men’s (21 and under) and men’s masters (35 and over) divisions. There will be 12 entrants in the intermediate grouping and also an even dozen in the master’s category. As a result, there will be a total of 54 competing clubs in the four divisions. Some are still questioning whether such a large event should indeed be held considering the pandemic is ongoing. Charleson said members of the Descendants are keeping close tabs on all health and safety regulations. “Obviously we are watching the case numbers,” she said. “Obviously we want this tournament to be safe for everyone and those from our community.” Traditionally, communities bring large contingents to the ANBT to support their local teams. But that won’t necessarily be the case this year, Charleson said.

She said she believes all 11 players on her club will have at least one family member or supporter in attendance. Plus, members of the Descendants will be cheering on the Suns, and vice versa, whenever possible and if their game times don’t conflict. “It will be a small crew,” Charleson said of the Nuu-chah-nulth representatives. “But we will be mighty.” The Descendants placed fourth in their division at their inaugural appearance at the ANBT in 2015. Charleson would love to see her team improve upon that performance this year and earn a Top 3 finish. The Hesquiaht club will square off against a team from Bella Bella in its tournament opener on April 4, the day after the ANBT’s opening ceremonies. The ANBT will feature a double-knockout format, meaning squads must lose two games before they are eliminated from further action. “The goal is to go up there and do as best as we can,” Charleson said. “We have a lot of experienced players and some of our young girls are pretty good.” The Descendants’ youngest player is Jada Touchie, who is 18. And the team’s oldest player is Bonnie Frank, who is in her 40s. Other team members are Shauntelle DickCharleson, Destiny Hanson, Shania Sabbas, Chantelle Thomas, Heather Campbell, Jaylynn Lucas, Francine Charleson and Shaneal Ignace. The Descendants are coached by Preston Campbell while Bev Hansen-Michel serves as the club’s manager. Charleson was pleased with the efforts team members displayed at a practice held this past Saturday, March 19. The majority of the Hesquiaht players were able to show up for that practice. As in previous years, an obstacle that the Descendants have faced this season is the fact that its players do all not live in the same community. Any members of the First Nation are eligible to play for the Hesquiaht squad, regardless of where they are currently living. When they are able to team members get together for practices. “Everybody is training on their own,” Charleson added. Unlike previous years, there was no qualifying tournament in the fall for clubs that were interested in taking part in the 2022 ANBT.

Page 10— Ha-Shilth-Sa— March 24, 2022

‘It strengthened our people’: Whale festival’s 34th year Over 500 grey whales were found on North America’s shores since 2019, a sign the species could be threatened By Melissa Renwick Local Journalism Initiative Reporter Ucluelet, BC - Almost every aspect of Nuu-chah-nulth life was enriched through whaling, said Huu-ay-aht Hereditary Whaling Chief Tom Mexsis Happynook. “It strengthened our community’s economic structure by providing very valuable products to sell, trade, and barter,” he said. “It strengthened our relationships with other communities because it brought people from all around the Pacific Northwest, which often resulted in intertribal relationships and marriages … and finally, it strengthened our people physically and mentally because of the nutritional value of the whale.” Hereditary whaling chiefs would prepare for a whale hunt for up to nine months before the species’ annual migration from Mexico to the Arctic. It involved fasting, bathing, praying, as well as secret rituals and sacred ceremonies that were performed in harmony with the moon’s rhythms in caves and pools, Happynook described. Happynook comes from a long line of whaling chiefs. Both his father and grandfather participated in his family’s last whale hunt in 1928 at Chap-is, Huuay-aht’s old summer village site on Diana Island. “I feel very proud of my family’s whale heritage and will soon hand my hereditary seat and treasures to my son, Tommy,” he said. While traditional hunts are no longer held, whales continue to be celebrated on the west coast every year through the Pacific Rim Whale Festival. The festival was born 34 years ago when a group of concerned citizens came together to raise awareness about the then-endangered grey whale. For centuries, grey whales were commercially hunted for their oil and it wasn’t until a year after the International Whaling Commission was formed in 1946 that they became protected. Festival coordinator Sarah Watt said grey whale populations have since rebounded, but new threats have emerged. Boat traffic, pollution, climate change and entanglement in discarded fishing gear, continue to threaten the species, she

Photo by Melissa Renwick

Onlookers watch as Ucluelet Aquarium staff carefully recover sea creatures from a seine net on Terrace Beach as part of the Pacific Rim Whale Festival, in Ucluelet, on March 21. said. tion and the ecosystem as a whole to ticipated in the festival by carefully dragMore recently, the USA’s National make people more aware.” ging a seine net along the ocean floor in Oceanic and Atmospheric Administra“We hope to make people feel more search of sea creatures for the aquarium tion Fisheries declared a spike in whale connected to nature through our educaon Terrace Beach. It’s the 10th year the strandings along the west coast as an tional, arts, and cultural events,” she said. aquarium has run the beach seine event, Unusual Mortality Event. For most of her life, Watt said grey which allows visitors to interact with the Since the phenomena began in 2019, whales only existed to her through books surrounding organisms. over 500 grey whales have been stranded and movies. That changed when she “Our local ecosystems can be so vibrant along their migratory route between moved to Canada from England four and full of life,” said Ucluelet Aquarium Mexico and Alaska, according to the years ago and saw one in-person for the Curator Laura Griffith-Cochrane. “And NOAA Fisheries. first time. it’s hard for people to know that when While the underlying cause remains “They were almost like this otherworld- they’re just looking at the surface of the unknown, Watt said that climate change ly species to me – they’re these huge water.” and shifting weather patterns in the Arctic mammals,” she said. “I think that’s part While the festival is largely a celebracould be impacting their food. of the fascination.” tion of whales, Watts said it aims to high“Even though the festival is in its 34th As part of this year’s whale festival pro- light how everything – from the rainforyear, it’s still just as important to be raisgramming, Jamie’s Whaling Station part- est to the ocean - is connected. ing awareness for grey whales and the nered with the Huu-ay-aht First Nations As Happynook reflects on his family’s ecosystem,” she said. to offer a tour to Bamfield, with whale relationship to whales, he attributes the In 2019, the NOAA Fisheries said the watching along the way. In Bamfield, species to strengthening their spirituality. North Pacific grey whale population was participants were given a guided tour of “We know that whaling was an imporaround 27,000. That number dropped the traditional Huu-ay-aht village site of tant part of our lives,” said Happynook. to an estimated 20,580 whales in 2021, Kiix ̣in by Wišqii. “All you have to do is look at the designs based on a new population assessment by Combining whale sightseeing with Inin our carvings, paintings and basketry the NOAA Fisheries. digenous cultural tours is “really imporand you will clearly see that the whale They aren’t the statistics Watt said she tant because they’re both so intricately truly inspired and influenced our way of hoped to see, but they emphasize the connected,” said Watt. life.” need to “celebrate the grey whale migraThe Ucluelet Aquarium staff also par-

Phrase of the week: Wiiqmis%iš%a> na@a h=aa %iih=%i muut paawa>ši> h=aašah=%ukniš Pronounced ‘Weak mis ish alth nah aa hah eer muut Pa wa shilt Tla hir ks Hah shak ion is’, it means, ‘We don’t like to hear of those big ships-losing their boxes in the ocean. Our ocean is important to us. It is our Life!’. Supplied by ciisma.

Illustration by Ivy Cargill-Martin

March 24, 2022—Ha-Shilth-Sa—Page 11

Shipping containers still missing, sonar scan planned Hazardous contents are identified as a bleaching agent for clothing and an industrial chemical used in mining By Eric Plummer Ha-Shilth-Sa Editor Victoria, BC - Over 100 shipping containers have been missing off the west coast of Vancouver Island since they fell off the Zim Kingston in late October, but in the coming weeks the ship’s owner plans to conduct a sonar scan to locate any of the wreckage remaining on the ocean floor. This was reported by the Canadian Coast Guard in a recent update on the disaster, which began Oct. 21, 2021 when a fire started on the large shipping vessel as it approached the Strait of Juan de Fuca west of Victoria. Over the following days 109 of the 40-foot steel containers fell from the Zim Kinston, dropping a wide array of consumer goods into the ocean that would soon spread as far north as Haida Gwaii. Only four of the overboard containers were found Oct. 29 along Vancouver Island’s northwest coast. The case is now being handled by the Canadian Coast Guard’s Vessels of Concern program, which gave an update on March 10. The program’s Acting Superintendent Gillian Oliver noted that the vessel’s owner, which is the Danaos Shipping Company from Greece, has so far been cooperative in attending to reports of unusual debris that have washed up since the Zim Kingston caught on fire. She said that last fall a thorough cleanup of four beaches in the Cape Scott area were paid for by the Greek company. “They did 35 helicopter lifts, and 123 bags of garbage,” said Oliver, adding that other debris found on the shore of Haida Gwaii was reported to Danaos. “We didn’t realize it would go that far. But when it showed up and there was bags of shrimp chips and Yeti coolers they didn’t say, ‘We don’t think this is us, we’re not going to do anything about it’.” By law, the company is responsible for material that came from the capsized

Photo submitted by Canadian Coast Guard

Since late October, only four of the 109 shipping containers that fell off the Zim Kingston have been recovered from the northwest shores of Vancouver Island. said Oliver. “It would have immediate efcontainers, explained Oliver. remain a mystery – except to those who fects - like if there was something around “According to our legislation, we have shipped and ordered them. This leaves it right away when it came out it could the ability to direct the owner to locate, some who are closely watching Vandefinitely have deleterious impacts to the mark and potentially remove containers couver Island’s west coast to wonder if environment - but the long-term impacts, if we are successful in finding them,” she they are still encountering contents from it doesn’t sustain in the environment.” said, adding that a search was conducted the Zim Kingston five months after the Other shipping containers that went off the southern coast of Alaska. “The incident. missing from the Zim Kingston are listed vessel owner also conducted a sonar scan By December of last year Ray Williams of the Anchorage area around Constance was seeing unusually large chunks of Sty- to contain consumer goods like furniture, toys and Christmas decorations. But legal Bank to determine that there were no rofoam wash up at his home in Yuquot, issues prevent more thorough descripman-made containers there.” on the southern shore of Nootka Island. tions of what could emerge in the coming This spring a thorough sonar scan is Now he’s encountering material like wamonths and years. planned where the containers were first ter bottles and baby powder packages. “We don’t own that information, it’s reported to be missing, which is 38 “It’s unusual to see that kind of stuff private information between whoever nautical miles northwest of Ucluelet, the come ashore,” said Williams. “I have a bought the goods and who is shipping results of which will be shared with the strong suspicion.” them over,” explained Oliver. “They public. The Coast Guard encourages people don’t have the right to make that public.” But the exact contents of the containers to report sightings of strange debris to During the Coast Guard’s update 1-800-889-8852. Jerry Jack, a hereditary chief with the “If it’s not reported back to Coast Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation, Guard, we can’t ensure that the vessel expressed his appreciation to how the owner is taking steps to clean that up,” federal agency has dealt with the Zim said Oliver. “We work with the vessel Kingston incident. owner to let them know, and they go out “I have all the confidence in your orgaand connect with the reporting party and nization,” said Chief Jack. “The Coast conduct clean up. That’s what happened Guard is miles ahead of any organization in Haida Gwaii.” in working with First Nations people.” Further south at Long Beach, Esowista Meanwhile, others remain frustrated for resident Nicole Gervais found unusual debris, like toys and grey rubber mats, on being left out of the immediate response effort. Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council the shore late last year. Material continPresident Judith Sayers said the incident ues to wash up, but it’s become more revealed the need for better communicatypical of what she regularly collects tion protocols with First Nations. from the area. “At the very beginning, after the inci“I picked up a whole wheelbarrow full dent, we weren’t really being involved,” of debris two days ago, in about 500 feet of beach,” reported Gervais on March 11. she said. “We had a meeting with the “The polystyrene washed up in December Coast Guard and we made sure that we were on their list.” has now been pushed by the December Sayers stressed the need for Nuu-chahtides under the logs and into the bushes.” nulth observers as future sonar scans are Two of the missing containers that fell conducted in the First Nations’ territorial overboard have been identified to have waters. hazardous material in them. A document “There’s still a lot more cooperation and that lists the general contents of the missinformation that we need. This is directly ing containers identifies these hazards affecting our fisheries,” she said. “I reas thiourea dioxide, a white bleaching ally think they could be working more compound used in the clothing industry to remove colour from natural fibres, and with our communities to be finding out any kind of traditional knowledge, the potassium amyl xanthate, a yellow powcurrents, anything that’s important in the der used in mining to separate ores. waters.” The Coast Guard consulted Environ“You just don’t know the total impact on ment Canada about the dangers of this the environment until we find out what’s industrial chemical. “The long-term impact of that particular down there,” added Sayers. material, to the best of our knowledge, is not going to be a long-term hazard,”

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President’s message to Fisheries Minister speaks frankly about fish farms Nuu-chah-nulth-aht ‘Protection of B.C. wild salmon is imperative,’ says Hello Everyone. I am hoping you are all doing well and enjoying siihmuu, gwakmus, and spring break. This is a good time of year as spring is in the air and the blossoms and leaves will start to come in. March has been another busy month. The highlight of the month of course is that Nuchatlaht has finally begun their title case in court. After years of preparing, putting together evidence and fighting B.C.’s attempt to dismiss their case, they finally have their days in court ahead-probably months of evidence. The issue of Aboriginal title has been around a long time. First Nations were here long before the mamulthne arrived, the lands and resources were totally ours and we used lands and resources to thrive as a people. Nuchatlaht have never surrendered, or given their title away; they haven’t entered into treaty or other agreement with governments. Canada did not “discover” our lands as we have been here since iih-moot. Tyii Hawilth Jordan Michael is leading this case for his people, and many generations of his family have been hawiih and there has never been an election under the Indian Act. Their law is firmly in place and the courts have been recognizing First Nations laws. First Nations have been in courts for many years regarding our title. It began with the Calder case in B.C. and the Supreme Court of Canada 1973. Using a technicality, the court did not rule whether title existed in B.C. Then Delgamuukw in 1997 determined title should be proved, and finally the Tsilhqot’in case in 2014 that declared title exists and that the First Nations had title to certain areas they advanced in court. It has been a hard fought battle for title and the B.C. treaty process was put in place to try and negotiate lands, resources and governance. But the B.C. treaty process was not about recognition of title and the Nuchatlaht left the treaty process in frustration at lack of progress and recognition and respect for the Hawiih, their people and territory. They have also tried other negotiations that have failed, so the avenue open to them was to go to court to prove title to their lands. We now have the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), the B.C. law, the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People Act (DRIPA), and the federal law, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (UNDRIPA). These laws require the governments to put in place action plans to implement UNDRIP, to align all their laws with UNDRIP, enter into shared decision-making models. Nuchatlaht shall be arguing UNDRIP during this case. In particular article 26 states, “1. Indigenous People have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have tradi•onally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired. 2. Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources that they possess by reason of tradi•onal owner or other tradi•onal occupa•on or use. States shall give legal recogni•on and protec•on to these lands, territories and resource. Such recogni•on shall be conducted with due respect to the customs, tradi•ons and land tenures systems of the indigenous peoples concerned.” This article says it all, so if B.C. has embraced UNDRIP and passes laws, why

Murray, as 79 licences are up for renewal this summer By Mike Youds Ha-Shilth-Sa Contributor

didn’t they negotiate with Nuchatlaht? Why did they fight them at every turn denying their existence, saying they were too small to be a nation and government? Trying to prove Nuchatlaht gave up their title? Our Hawiih would never give up their title as it is their responsibility to use the lands and resources to look after the people. It is their responsibility to care for the lands and waters for use by future generations. These are the laws of Nuu-chah-nulth that will be advanced by Nuchatlaht in the courts. As Nuu-chah-nulth, we stand with Nuchatlaht in their case seeking recognition of their title. Sending good energy to them, the justice and the process of their case will be heard with open minds and hearts. We know this is a non-Indigenous court of law but the cases mentioned above, UNDRIP, reconciliation and s. 35 give more room for opening new doors since Calder, Delgamuukw and Tsilhqot’in. We will keep our eyes on this landmark case as it proceeds through trial and eventually, a decision. This could take years if there are appeals on a decision, but this is the reality of the court system and Nuchatlaht has waited a long time for this and will wait for as long as it takes. I have attended quite a few meetings this month. The Union of BC Indian Chiefs and B.C. Assembly of First Nations had their quarterly meetings giving updates to the chiefs on things that are being worked on. A lot of this is trying to hold accountable the provincial and federal government on the implementation of UNDRIP, residential schools legacies and the agreements on children and families. Also BC has many dialogue sessions going and I attended the Clean Energy Opportunities and roadmap to 2030. It is very important to attend these sessions and give the Nuu-chah-nulth perspective especially as it relates to climate change. We are working with a team from SFU that includes Cliff Atleo Junior, the Haida and many experts and students regarding the electrification of boats, which would of course be water taxis, fishing boats, barges and any other types of boats we use in our communities. This project is just at the beginning and I will update with highlights as they are available. We have been working to put out the 2022-2023 budgets and have met with the executive and the staff of the nations in preparation for the budget meeting, which will be on March 25th. Much more effort is needed in many issues facing Nuu-chah-nulth and the vice-president and myself make ourselves available and vocal on these issues. -Cloy-e-iis, Judith Sayers

Federal Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray has signalled clear intent to follow through on Ottawa’s commitment to remove open net pen salmon farms when a slew of licences expires in June. “The objective is a strong aquaculture economy on the coast of B.C., but the protection of wild salmon is imperative,” Murray said last week while releasing What We Heard, public input on the Liberal government’s Blue Economy Strategy. B.C.’s aquaculture sector is braced for bad news this summer while many along the coast feel removing open-pen salmon farming and transitioning to land-based fish farming is long overdue to protect struggling populations of wild salmon. Although 19 open net pen salmon farms were closed in Broughton Archipelago in 2020 after First Nations and environmentalists demanded their removal, the salmon farming industry still holds partnership agreements with 17 First Nations on the B.C. coast, including several Nuu-chah-nulth nations - agreements tied to jobs and small coastal communities. The industry, which has invested heavily in new technology and facilities to keep open net pen farming afloat, is campaigning in hopes of having licences renewed. Last month, the B.C. Salmon Farming Association released an analysis of the economic impact if 79 aquaculture licences are not renewed, arguing that B.C. stands to lose an additional 4,700 jobs and $1.2 billion in economic activity with a further $200 million and 900 jobs lost out of province. While the minister’s Blue Economy announcement last week was mostly upbeat — a survey of ideas for a more sustainable marine-based economy — the uncertain future of B.C.’s marine-based salmon farming industry dominated media questions that followed. The two concerns are closely linked in B.C. “Blue economy” is a concept that promotes economic growth, social inclusion and preservation of livelihoods while ensuring sustainability of oceans and coastal areas. The aquaculture industry maintains open net pens pose minimal risk to migrating stocks of wild salmon — a contention backed by DFO scientists in the case of Broughton — yet the tide is turning when it comes to public opinion. “A decision will be made when and as it needs to be made,” Murray said, responding to questions from reporters. “Even should the risk be minimal, it is imperative that we address even the minimal risks.” In the meantime, DFO is developing plans and consulting with stakeholders in preparation for aquaculture policy changes in store, she said. “This is a responsibility I take very seriously. We are putting together a responsible plan because we want to take the human factor into consideration,” the minister added, alluding to the impact any decision will have on jobs, commerce and communities. “We want to make B.C. a beacon of responsible and sustainable salmon aquaculture development.” One in five Canadians lives in a coastal community and ocean-based industries generate more than $30 billion a year. From February to June last year, DFO held public consultation, gathering input

Joyce Murray the department says will guide development of the Blue Economy Strategy. The strategy, according to DFO, will ensure “Canada and its industry, communities and people are positioned to succeed in the fast-growing global ocean sectors of the blue economy while advancing reconciliation, conservation and climate objectives.” Murray said the report lays a foundation to build on marine-based sectors as an economic resource while protecting the ocean for future generations. She held out the potential of land-based aquaculture as a successor to marine-based salmon farming, though the developing technology is not without challenges. “Canada’s oceans are a tremendous economic resource,” she said. “They have the potential to be part of climate solutions, and they can continue to be a source of sustainable economic opportunity, provided we recognize protecting its ecosystems and growing the ocean economy. I invite Canadians to read this What We Heard report, and I thank all those who contributed to it.” BCSFA has invited Murray to visit coastal communities to gain a better understanding of the role salmon farming plays. “Coastal communities in B.C. deserve better, especially during an ongoing pandemic that has already caused severe stress, mental health strain, and economic pressure on many families, households and communities,” said Ruth Salmon, interim executive director, BCSFA. “After years of instability and concern, these communities deserve a secure and prosperous future.” The association said loss of more fish farms would also place strain on Indigenous relationships with the industry with as many as 60 new partnerships expected over the next 30 years. At last week’s announcement, Murray repeatedly stressed increased involvement of Indigenous people in management and allocation of the resource: “Reconciliation with Indigenous people is a high priority and a very high priority for me as minister.” A lengthy list of recommendations from the public contained in the Blue Ocean What We Heard report includes increased Indigenous access to licences, quota and allocations in adjacent waters. “It’s eye-opening to me that part of Canada with considerable adjacency to the resource has so little access to it,” observed one contributor. The engagement report can be found at https://tinyurl.com/bde52w4f.

March 24, 2022—Ha-Shilth-Sa—Page 13

Employment Opportunities

City of Port Alberni EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY The City of Port Alberni is currently accepting applications for the following positions:

More job postings at www.hashilthsa.com

Summer Camp/Program Coordinator Summer Camp & Playground Leaders Summer Museum Assistants Parks Labourer Building Inspector II or III For more information including required qualifications and how to apply please visit: www.portalberni.ca/employment-opportunities

Page 14— Ha-Shilth-Sa— March 24, 2022

New fund will assist Nuu-chah-nulth businesses Vancouver Island businesses benefi•ing from Indigenous Growth Fund, open to small and medium operations conventional lender to engage,” Schmidt said. “In the case of NEDC, I was able to take the loan officer down to the farm and spend a day walking through each step of the production process and business model.” Little, a member of Ahousaht First Nation, said the $10 million it received through the IGF will primarily be geared to offering larger loans than NEDC has been accustomed to in the past. “We’ll still be doing smaller loans,” he said. “Indirectly it will allow us to do all size loans.” Besides the HFN Group of Businesses,

By Sam Laskaris Ha-Shilth-Sa Contributor Port Alberni, BC – Officials with the Nuu-chah-nulth Economic Development Corporation (NEDC) can now start assisting some businesses with grand and costly plans. Established in 1984, the NEDC is an Aboriginal Financial Institution (AFI) which has been providing loans to smalland medium-sized Indigenous businesses throughout Vancouver Island. Earlier this month it was announced that $10 million had been advanced to the NEDC through the Indigenous Growth Fund (IGF), a new initiative created and managed by the National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association (NACCA). NEDC’s general manager Al Little said the new funding announcement came at just the right time. “Our cash flow was exhausted when the additional $10 million became available,” he said. Little said the NEDC typically hands out between 200-300 loans each year. “We’re usually doing about $12 million a year in financing,” Little said, adding those loans were all considered small to medium in nature. But now, thanks to the IGF, Little added the NEDC will be able to provide considerably larger loans, in the neighbourhood of $500,000 up to about $2 million. “It adds to our cash flow and it will allow us to meet the demands of our customers,” he said. And yes, Little said there are various businesses on Vancouver Island, including Nuu-chah-nulth ones, who are seeking their share of hefty amounts when it comes to financial assistance. “There has been a growth for the demand in financing and in the amounts for the loans,” he said. Little anticipates it won’t be long before the $10 million funding it received from NACCA is accounted for. “I would say it would be utilized this calendar year,” he said. Indigenous entrepreneurs from across the country will be able to apply for loans through the IGF via the network of AFIs set up throughout Canada. The initial investors of the fund are the Government of Canada, Business Development Bank of Canada, Export Development Canada and Farm Credit Canada. “Indigenous businesses are hungry for capital,” said Jean Vincent, the chair of the board for the IGF. “And so many of our business owners have great potential. That’s why our network pressed for

Al Little creation of the IGF.” The IGF is considered to be a major step forward in economic reconciliation. That’s because it will provide funding to some Indigenous businesses that in the past faced numerous barriers and obstacles while trying to obtain loans through traditional banking systems. It should be noted that Indigenous entrepreneurs will not be able to apply for funding directly through the IGF. They must complete an application process through an AFI. The HFN Group of Businesses, which is the business arm of the Huu-ay-aht First Nations, has long been using the NEDC as its financial lender. And the group is among the first beneficiaries of the IGF. The NEDC provided a $1.5 million loan to the HFN Group of Businesses, more specifically the Huu-ayaht Fisheries Ltd. This funding will allow Huu-ay-aht to be part of a joint oyster seeding project with Mari Culture LP, based in Bamfield. Patrick Schmidt, the CEO of the HFN Group of Businesses, said the joint project is well underway. “We presently have about a million oysters in the water,” Schmidt said. “Next year we want three million. And the following year we plan to get up to 10 million.” The new business is planning to produce seafood as efficiently as possible and then export it throughout the world. Schmidt is uncertain if his First Nation would have been able to become a partner in the oyster seeding project if it were not for the NEDC and its available funding. “It would be really tough to get a


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the NEDC has already been able to assist others with loans from money it received through the IGF. For example, a loan was provided to the two sisters who run Ay Lelum, a fashion design business on Snuneymuxw First Nation. With their loan the sisters are building a facility to operate their business instead of running it from their homes. Meanwhile, the owners of Bigfoot Donuts in Courtenay have received a loan as they are looking to purchase a bigger facility to operate their successful business.

Photo submitted by Lesley Sugar Thompson

A healthy herring spawn was spotted in Yuquot on March 11, leading residents to collect k̓ʷaqmis. A whale was also interested in the fish.

Healthy supply of k`#aqmis comes into into Yuquot Eric Plummer Ha-Shilth-Sa Editor Yuquot, BC - Excitement came from the only remaining household in the ancient Mowachaht village site of Yuquot March 11, as residents encountered the richest herring spawn in years. “The whole bay has been spawning for two days,” said resident Ray Williams, who has lived in the Nootka Island village for most of his life. “The whole bay is just completely white, all the way to outside the cove.” Each year female ƛusmit, or herring, each lay thousands of eggs in various parts of the Pacific coast. As the k̓ʷaqmis, or eggs, stick to the ocean’s rocks, silt and kelp, males spread milt to fertilize them. This creates a whitish, or aquamarine cloud. Ray’s son Darrell collected the k̓ʷaqmis on branches, following a traditional method among Nuu-chah-nulth people of collecting the popular food. “It’s wonderful news for our people,” said Ray of the herring spawn, which could be a sign of health for the keystone species on the Pacific coast. Ray recalls it being three or four years since a healthy herring spawn was seen at Yuquot. “We had a good spawn here a few years ago, but not as good as today,” he said. “It used to be big many years ago, but this is a good one this year.” Concern over herring populations have enabled the fish to be protected from commercial fisheries throughout most of the West Coast in recent years. Unlike the seine and gillnet fisheries that usually

take place on the east side of Vancouver Island, a west coast commercial catch hasn’t been permitted since 2015. The previous year Nuu-chah-nulth nations had a court injunction against the commercial catch, but the Federal Court declined this in 2015. Commercial boats came to the island’s west coast to find hardly any fish worth catching, leaving shortly afterwards. Now Nuu-chah-nulth nations are pushing to ensure this doesn’t happen again so that herring stocks have ample time to rebuild. In November a letter was sent to Canada’s Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray, advising her that the time for a commercial catch has not arrived, and that the fishery’s closure should be indefinite and not up for consideration each year. In the Strait of Georgia commercial boats aim to catch females carrying eggs that are ripe, but not yet released. This roe is usually exported to markets in Japan, China and the United States. The caught herring are normally fed to livestock or ground down to be feed for fish farms. As news of the herring spawn spread beyond Yuquot, two boats ventured to the remote location to collect k̓ʷaqmis for Mowahchaht/Muchalaht elders living in the First Nation’s community of Tsaxana. Wayne Hinchcliffe and Sammy Johnson manned a vessel that came to the Nootka Island location on Saturday, March 12, as did Justin Blondeau and Preston Maquinna, who arrived in a fisheries boat. “A big thank you and a pat on the back for doing what they did for elders in Tsaxana,” said Ray.

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A taste of home: Seafood served to Victoria’s needy Monthly meals provided to those in need within the downtown area, with opportunity to arrange for services By Denise Titian Ha-Shilth-Sa Reporter Victoria, BC – A group of Indigenous outreach workers invited the downtown Victoria community to their first-ever seafood feast at the Downtown Community Center on March 16 on Pandora Street. Co-organizer Herb Dick of Ahousaht joined other service organizations to put the feast together - not only to feed the people, but also to deliver services to atrisk guests. Dick works as an Indigenous support worker for Island Health in Victoria. He works with other service providers through an umbrella organization called Indigenous Outreach Network. The partners include organizations like Peers, Pacifica, Cool Aid Society, the Aboriginal Coalition to End Homelessness and Our Place. Together, the workers gathered seafood like salmon, clams and herring eggs. “We buy crab, fish and clams from local First Nations harvesters, but many donate when they find out what the food is for,” said Dick. The food is cooked and served up to people that hardly ever get to enjoy a seafood meal, like the Indigenous people who are living on the streets of Victoria or those with low income. “It’s a little soul food for those who haven’t had good ol’ fish soup, bannock or crab – it’s a treat for them,” said Dick.

Photo by Denise Titian

Marilyn Jones of Pacheedaht (right) enjoys a meal with her daughter Kathryn at Victoria’s Downtown Community Centre on March 16. Organizers managed to collect enough seafood to serve up fish soup, steamed clams, herring eggs and dried seaweed to grateful guests. There were also hotdogs and chili for those who don’t care for seafood. The meal was rounded out with chumus (desserts) and cultural entertainment. Marilyn Jones of Pacheedaht lives in Victoria during the cold season and said it was her first time to come to the Seafood Feast. “Oh my God, it means everything to me,” she said of her opportunity to have a

free seafood meal. “I haven’t had seafood in forever!” Marilyn and her daughter Katherine feasted on clams, crab, salmon and herring eggs, calling it delicious. Taz Wilson of Cook’s Ferry Band (Nlaka’pamux First Nations) near Spences Bridge, B.C. feasted on a plate of crab legs. “It’s been a long time,” he told HaShilth-Sa. “I took a long time eating it… savouring it.” As people ate, Joe Thomas and his family from Esquimalt First Nation provided

entertainment in the form of drumming, dances and stories in the courtyard. Inside the community centre more drumming could be heard as people were invited to take part in brushings. A Nuu-chah-nulth cultural group also provided entertainment at the event. Dick estimates 160 people were served food that day. The crowd was more than half Indigenous with people from the Nuu-chah-nulth nations of Huu-ay-aht, Ahousaht, Tseshaht and Nuchatlaht along with people from other First Nations. The meals are provided in downtown Victoria monthly, but this was the first seafood feast. Dick said the event not only allows people a rare chance to fill their bellies with food they love, but also provides an opportunity to connect with necessary services. “We were able to place two homeless Nuu-chah-nulth people in housing at this event,” said Dick, adding that they had somewhere warm to sleep that night. “There are multiple services agencies working together to connect with the people and provide supports.” IOW Networks feeds the people once a month. Dick says he has a connection that has donated sea urchins for a future seafood feast. The IOW Network has a Facebook page for those looking for information about their events or those wishing to donate food.

B.C. budget takes aim at province-wide homelessness By Karly Blats Ha-Shilth-Sa Contributor The Province of B.C.’s 2022 budget makes big investments in responding to homelessness across the province. Investments include complex-care housing, rent supplements and extending support for youth aging out of care until age 27. The province has announced their goal to address homelessness by preventing individuals from becoming homeless in the first place. On March 17, David Eby, B.C.’s attorney general and minister responsible for housing, said at a press conference that there’s a housing crisis in the province and a serious affordability problem that has been magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic. “In our most recent homeless counts, many communities saw either a small increase or a large increase in homelessness and we need to do more,” Eby said. “One of the key opportunities for government is to move upstream to identify the feeders into homelessness and to intercut those feeders, so people don’t become homeless in the first place - or if they are homeless, they’re homeless for as short a period of time as possible.” To address the homelessness issue across B.C., the province has committed the largest housing investment in B.C.’s history—$7 billion over a decade. “Overall there is $633 million in the budget to expand services and quickly help people experiencing homelessness secure stable housing,” Eby said. “This incudes $264 million over three years to ensure the approximately 3,000 people that came indoors during the pandemic to temporary housing will have permanent and stable housing,” Eby added that the budget also includes a new rent supplement program. “This is a $600-per-month supplement

for families and individuals that also gives them access to integrated health and social supports, health care, food services and employment training,” Eby said. “This will assist up to 3,000 households over the next three years.” The province is also developing a crossgovernment homelessness strategy that responds to the issue throughout B.C. and works to prevent it. A first-of-its-kind report on homelessness will give better information to help target provincial programs and services to improve supports for people experiencing homelessness, as well as help prevent people from becoming homeless. The strategy will be released this year. The project compiled and analyzed data on homelessness from provincial employment assistance, shelter and health programs. The report uses anonymized provincial data from 2019 to create a reliable picture of people experiencing homelessness, including the community where they lived and whether their homelessness was short-term or chronic. The province has previously only had data on homelessness from community homeless counts that provided a snapshot of the phenomenon at a particular point in time in 25 B.C. communities, including Port Alberni, but these were known to be undercounts. This new data project allows B.C. to count people experiencing homelessness who have always been a part of B.C. communities but were previously difficult to count through community homelessness counts. The data will be collected and reported each year to provide information on trends and find solutions to homelessness. The 2020/2021 count for Port Alberni recorded 125 individuals experiencing homelessness, compared to 147 in 2018. 65 per cent of those respondents identified as Indigenous and 88 per cent said they were suffering from addictions.

Sheila Malcolmson The province’s 2022 budget will also include $164 million over three years to build 20 complex care housing projects serving 500 people across B.C. “It’s a ground-breaking approach to address the needs of people with overlapping mental health issues, substance use, trauma and often a brain injury,” said Sheila Malcolmson, minister of Mental Health and Addictions, at the press conference. “Complex care housing will help people beyond supportive housing… complex care housing is voluntary, it’s delivered through health authorities and it delivers direct connections to treatment and specialized care.” Todd Patola, president of the Canadian Mental Health Association Port Alberni, said the increasing cost of rental housing is creating a widening gap in the budgets of low-income individuals and youth as they seek suitable rental accommodation. Patola said the B.C. government’s announcement to address homelessness is a positive step forward and indicates the province has a desire to solve the societal issues of homelessness and poverty. “The greatest benefit to Port Alberni’s homeless population will be an opportunity to obtain safe, clean and appropriate

housing,” Patola said. “The commitment to providing complex care facilities is central to the success of any policies regarding homelessness. Such a facility in Port Alberni could be the one, most important factor in addressing homelessness. We eagerly hope that such a facility will be announced for Port Alberni as soon as possible.” Patola added that rent supplements could assist in keeping people from losing the stability they currently have and provide a foundation from which they can more safely live within the community. “This includes not only affording a rapidly increasing monthly rental cost, but also associated costs such as heat and electricity,” Patola said. “Along with financial assistance, it is positive to see the B.C. government is also recognizing functional needs within the community by providing health and social supports to assist people in a holistic environment.” Wes Hewitt, executive director with the Port Alberni Shelter Society, said the province’s announcement to provide rent supplements is an “excellent move” and will help to get low-income individuals and families into market housing. “There are individuals that don’t need supportive housing, they can go into market rentals with support,” Hewitt said. “[Rent supplements] opens up the opportunity for these individuals right now. To build housing for them takes a minimum of two years, so this is an immediate solution. The other side of that is we don’t have an abundance of rental housing to begin with, there are a bunch of buildings planned and being built but that’s going to take time for them to open up.” Hewitt has noticed more people in the community at risk of homelessness due to increasing rent costs, including seniors who are on a fixed income. He’s happy to see the province’s commitment to address homelessness in a proactive way.

Page 16— Ha-Shilth-Sa— March 24, 2022

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