INTERESTING NEWS Canada’s Oldest First Nations Newspaper - Serving Nuu-chah-nulth-aht since 1974 Canadian Publications Mail Product Vol. 47 - No. 10—May 21, 2020 haas^i>sa Sales Agreement No. 40047776
Nations work to keep alcohol out of villages Kyuquot and Ahousaht block booze during coronavirus lockdown, but bo!les are smuggled in by airplane By Denise Titian Ha-Shilth-Sa Reporter West Coast Vancouver Island, BC – Leadership in remote Nuu-chah-nulth villages have managed so far to prevent coronavirus outbreaks, but some in the coastal communities worry that incidents of reckless partying behaviors may jeopardize their safety. Kyuquot is a particularly remote Nuuchah-nulth village, accessible only by boat or ﬂoat plane. Like other island First Nations, they have blocked non-residents from entering. A post in Fair Harbour is manned 24/7 to ensure that no non-essential travelers come to the village. The guards are probably not terribly busy, since road travellers must ﬁrst pass another manned gate at the Ehattesaht First Nation, next to Zeballos. The nations are turning away visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic to prevent the spread of the deadly virus to their communities and, more importantly, to their precious elders, who are most vulnerable. In Kyuquot members are forbidden to travel in and out unless it is necessary. A resident, who wishes to remain anonymous, says the nation enforces their non-essential travel rule by imposing a ﬁne of $1,000 for those defying the order. According to the source, because it’s so diﬃcult to leave the village, people have found a way to bring alcohol in. People know alcohol is there when they hear the late-night parties. “There have been two ﬁghts so far and one person got taken out by the RCMP,” said the source, who went to state that the RCMP have been called in to deal with alcohol-related domestic violence. The source points out that when the authorities or ﬁrst responders come in, it increases the risk of COVID-19 exposure. So how is the alcohol coming in with such stringent travel measures in place? “The members are ordering booze and it is delivered to the dock on our scheduled mail ﬂights, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday,” said the source. On May 6, the witness stated they saw nine boxes of liquor, each carrying 12 – 18 bottles, arriving via Nootka Air. “Air Nootka has been made aware we are in a state of emergency and bringing alcohol in is not acceptable,” said the witness. The person alleges that it is probably a pilot that takes the orders for liquor and does the shopping. “It’s concerning because there were four house parties last night,” said the witness, adding that later in the evening they inevitably hear calls for help on the VHF radio. “I’m afraid; what if they are sick
Wally Thomas, Chief Hohomiius, an Ahousaht Tribal Police oﬃcer, dumps out a conﬁscated bottle of vodka at the main dock in Ahousaht. (from COVID-19)?” members, and there is food distribuScott Carlsen of Nootka Air says that tion every two weeks in Kyuquot,” said his company provides delivery services Blackstone. to remote communities, including mail, Residents are given meats, vegetables, medical supplies, courier parcels and yes, rice, ﬂour and pet food. care packages to Kyuquot. Local stores have increased stock of “I can’t deny some of the packages may items not provided by the nation. Blackhave contain alcohol,” said Carlsen. stone says it is expensive, but keeps But he is in a diﬃcult position. people from needing to leave the village. “We want to provide a service to the “Early on we opened up food ﬁshing so community but we can’t open up packthat our people can have fresh salmon, ages,” said Carlsen. halibut, and clams,” said Blackstone. He conﬁrmed that Cynthia BlackIn Ahousaht, Hereditary Chief Hanuquii stone, chief administrative oﬃcer of (Nathan Charlie) has organized a tribal the Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’/Che:k’tles7et’h’ First police force that works to enforce a comNations, asked the airline to discontinue munity curfew and prevent non-essential deliveries of alcohol to Kyuquot. His staﬀ visitors from coming in. They check has complied by stopping pick-up and returning residents for contraband. delivery of alcohol. According to Hanuquii, the idea of tribal The First Nation declared a state of police came because of the coronavirus. emergency March 22, which is in eﬀect “Oldtimers and some parents wanted for two weeks. The state of emergency help with all of the booze coming in and has been extended three times with the the risk of having the virus coming in on next review date on May 22. bottles,” he added. To support members the nation issues In the past Ahousaht had a security monthly cheques and, for residents of force. The tribal police are similar and, Kyuquot, groceries are brought in. according to Hanuquii, have been depu“We provide emergency support for tized by the Ahousaht Ha’wiih, granting
Inside this issue... Tla-o-qui-aht deliver ﬁsh to Alert Bay........................Page 2 Friendship centres see growing demand for food.......Page 5 8 year old runs for cancer research.............................Page 8 Drug overdose deaths rise during pandemic..............Page 9 Study ﬁnds sea otters need better management........Page 11
the same powers as Witwok. Witwok are traditional police, a role that goes back before the time of contact. “In old times they would make sure everything is on order; if someone is not behaving they would be the ones doing the correcting,” said Hanuquii. “Today we are trying to keep the peace and keep the virus out,” he added. In order to protect residents Ahousaht has set a 10 p.m. curfew. “I announce it on VHF every night and everyone listens,” said Hanuquii. On April 31, following a cluster of COVID-19 cases in Alert Bay, Ahousaht instituted an alcohol ban on the reserve. “We shut the harbor down, funneling boat traﬃc to the main dock in Ahousaht,” said Hanuqui. Two people are stationed on every Ahousaht dock directing boats to the main dock. Once there, boats and bags are checked by the tribal police. If alcohol is found it is dumped, said Hanuquii. When asked if much alcohol was disposed of, Hanuqui replied, “Yes! Oh my, that ﬁrst weekend we started that, we got three big garbage bags ﬁlled with vodka bottles and four ﬂats of beer in two days.” Even though some are angry, the Ahousaht Ha’wiih are doing what they feel is necessary to protect the people. “It’s really important because there are 40 or 50 new babies on the reserve and our elders,” said Hanuquii. “(Coronavirus) spreads like wildﬁre, so we put this in eﬀect so that we can protect the children and the elders.” As for complaints, Hanuquii says that about 98 per cent of the people are happy with the enforcement and maybe two per cent are angry. “And we expected that. It will blow over once this virus lifts.” He said that this a temporary measure. “And we will be better prepared if the second wave comes,” said Hanuquii. Blackstone says the idea of banning alcohol from the community during the pandemic is a complex issue. “There are all sorts of concerns and we worry about safe withdrawals; we want to come across with more of a focus on drinking responsibly,” she said. But she is concerned that by saying this, people may take it as permission from the leadership to drink. “We worry about how it aﬀects people in our community, it’s not black and white at all,” said Blackstone. On the bright side, Nuu-chah-nulth communities have escaped COVID-19, so far. “We haven’t had any cases of it here and want to keep it that way,” said Blackstone. “If you take care of yourself you’re taking care of your community.”
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Page 2— Ha-Shilth-Sa—May 21, 2020
Fishermen deliver to village stricken by outbreak Hundreds in Alert Bay enjoy fresh seafood over the Mother’s Day weekend, thanks to a Tla-o-qui-aht delivery By Sam Laskaris Ha-Shilth-Sa Contributor Alert Bay, BC – It might have seemed like a simple gesture but it won’t be soon forgotten by residents of a remote Indigenous community in British Columbia. Those in the ‘Namgis First Nation in Alert Bay have been reeling in recent weeks following a COVID-19 outbreak in their community, located on Cormorant Island, east of Port McNeill. A total of 30 people in Alert Bay tested positive for the virus. One of those individuals, a 59-year-old woman died with the virus in late April, becoming the ﬁrst person in an Indigenous community in the province to pass from COVID-19. Don Svanvik, the Chief of ‘Namgis First Nation, conﬁrmed on Tuesday, May 13 that all of the others who had tested positive for the virus in his community have since recovered. The spirits of community members were also greatly lifted this past Saturday (May 9) when three members of the Tla-o-quiaht First Nation arrived via a ﬁshing boat with a massive gift of fresh ceremonial groundﬁsh, to be distributed to community members still in lockdown. “It was a magniﬁcent gift and we’re forever grateful for that,” Svanvik said. Two of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation ﬁshermen who made the delivery were brothers Gary and James Martin, sons of the elected chief from the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation. Daryon Charleson was the other Tla-o-qui-aht member who assisted with the delivery. “We were just trying to help out another nation that has been hurt pretty hard by
On Saturday, May 9 ﬁshermen with the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation arrived at Alert Bay to give an estimated two tonnes of seafood. Alert Bay has seen 30 coronavirus infections, with one fatality. the virus,” said Chief Moses Martin. “We ﬁsh. Though there was no oﬃcial weighing, it is believed as much as two tonnes were just helping out a community that of ﬁsh were dropped oﬀ. needed some help.” About 20 ‘Namgis First Nation memThe chief added his own community bers, including Svanvik, came to the has been fortunate that it has not had any community dock to greet the boat. A welpositive COVID-19 cases. coming song and dance were performed “So far, so good,” he said. for the Tla-o-qui-aht ﬁshermen. The Tla-o-qui-aht ﬁshermen had conUpon accepting the ﬁsh, ‘Namgis tacted ‘Namgis First Nation oﬃcials to members had set up tables to process tell them about their Saturday morning them into freezer bags. Svanvik said arrival. community members then delivered the The day before Moses Martin had ﬁsh to 190 households, with the amount contacted Svanvik and the two chiefs had agreed the Nuu-chah-nulth ﬁshermen of meals provided for each determined by how many people are in each home. would be allowed to enter the lockedHe added several people in his commudown ‘Namgis First Nation to make their nity had meals of ﬁsh and chips during delivery. the Mother’s Day weekend. The trio stayed on their boat, named “This is real old-time stuﬀ making that Constellation, while they unloaded all the
kind of gesture,” Svanvik said. “We’re ﬁlled with gratitude. Everybody was extremely happy what they did for us. This is really an awesome thing and it goes back obviously to being traditional people. In our tradition you help people that need help.” Expenses for the gesture were covered by TFN Seafoods, a business owned by the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation. TFN Seafoods manager Roy Alexander said expenses totaled about $800, the majority of that being gas for the boat to get from the west side of Vancouver Island to the east coast. “I think they just wanted to help another First Nation that was pretty downtrodden,” Alexander said. Alexander added the move had a great eﬀect. “The people that received this ceremonial gift felt honoured,” he said. “Some had said they were feeling lonely and it really lifted their spirits in the community.” Alexander added he’s hoping others feel inspired by this generosity and do their bit to help others who might need assistance. “We’re hoping people help out their neighbours like this,” he said. Alexander mentioned another delivery of ﬁsh could possibly also be made in the future. “We’ll see if it helps the community and who knows about other communities (that might need help),” he said. Moses Martin also hinted at another delivery. “My sons are ﬁshing all summer,” he said. “So, we’ll see. If we need to do it again we might.”
May 21, 2020—Ha-Shilth-Sa—Page 3
Photo by Melissa Renwick
A message reading “It’s time to stay home and bend the curve - not bend the rules. Thank you,” is posted to a sign at the Toﬁno and Ucluelet junction.
Toﬁno launches initiatives for economic recovery By Melissa Renwick Ha-Shilth-Sa Contributor Toﬁno, BC - As local businesses in Toﬁno wrestle with when to re-open their doors safely in response to COVID-19, many are waiting for the green light from government. The Best Western Tin Wis intended on doing a soft-open of their resort in May, but has pushed that date to June 1 following the advice of health oﬃcials. While the resort is monitoring the provincial and federal expectations of business owners, it is also leaning on municipality input, said General Manager Jared Deaton. On May 4, the District of Toﬁno launched two COVID-19 Recovery Task Forces, that are “intended to help advise on and coordinate recovery actions that will help the people and businesses of Toﬁno get back on their feet again as quickly, and as safely, as possible,” the district said in a press release. Tla-o-qui-aht Chief Councillor Moses Martin said he is following the recommendations of Provincial Health Oﬃcer Bonnie Henry ﬁrst and foremost. “The main thing that we’re doing is monitoring the incoming and outgoing [traﬃc] of the community by our own members,” said Martin. In a bid to collect resident’s input on the municipality’s ongoing response to COVID-19, the District of Toﬁno also launched a public engagement process on May 4. Using an online platform called Thoughtexchange, the District is calling on community members to anonymously share their thoughts, while rating other’s ideas using a ﬁve-star system.
The week-long survey is asking participants to consider, “What is important to be thinking about as our communities and West Coast region responds to COVID-19 and prepares for the future?” Input from residents will be grouped into themes by the B.C.-owned tech company, which will inform the District of Toﬁno where there are agreements and disagreements within the community. Over 400 people have participated in the Thoughtexhange survey, but only a “tiny fraction are identifying themselves as Indigenous,” said Toﬁno Mayor Josie Osborne. Of those who have participated, Osborne said that residents have been questioning how more consideration of First Nations perspectives can be implemented in community planning. “That’s something I’m really excited to see people commenting about,” she said. The District will share the results of the public engagement process widely with all of the communities on the west coast. “I think it’s really important to continue to protect Indigenous communities in the way they want to be protected,” said Osborne. “As tourism slowly begins to resume, we want to make sure that First Nations are aware of and engaged in the conversations around that.” Through her conversations with First Nations leaders, Osborne said that each community is concerned with how to keep its residents safe and that they are “carefully taking those baby-steps forward together.” “I don’t mean to sound trite,” she said. “But it is so true that we are all in this together.”
Photo by Eric Plummer
In keeping with social distancing guidelines, the NTC`s main oﬃce in Port Alberni has been closed since March 23 and no status cards have been issued since. Indigenous Services Canada recommends that service providers should accept status cards with identiﬁcation, even if the expiry date has passed.
Old Indian status cards should be accepted: Feds By Denise Titian Ha-Shilth-Sa Reporter Canada – If you thought it was hard to renew your expired Indian Status Card in the past, it has now become impossible in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. According to Indigenous Services Canada, all ISC oﬃces for Indian status and secure status card applications are closed until further notice. Processing times, including return of original documents, are delayed. In keeping with social isolation guidelines, the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council oﬃces have been closed since March 23 and no status cards have been issued since. Because it is impossible for people to renew their status cards during the pandemic, ISC is recommends during this time that service providers should accept status cards or Temporary Conﬁrmation of Registration Documents (TCRDs), with identiﬁcation, even if the renewal or expiry date has passed until oﬃces re-open. “ISC will be reaﬃrming to businesses and service providers that Indian status does not expire, and that the registration number provided on these documents remains the same and is what is required
to conﬁrm eligibility for programs and services,” reads a written statement from the regional ISC oﬃce. Rosie Marsden is the Indian registry administrator at the NTC main ofﬁce in Port Alberni. She administers the Indian Registry Program on behalf of Indigenous Services Canada as per policy for Ehattesaht, Hesquiaht, Hupacasath, Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’/Che:k’tles7et’h’, Mowachaht/Muchalaht, Nuchatlaht, Tseshaht and Uchucklesaht. Marsden did not have information on when she will resume services to members, however, she knows that when this happens it will be appointment only. In preparation for staﬀ returning to the oﬃce, the NTC is implementing protective measures to prevent transmission of viruses and germs. Part of the plan includes continued social distancing. Marsden will be spacing her client’s appointments 30 minutes apart so that she can have time to sanitize her workspace in preparation for the next client. This will prevent a backlog of people waiting outside. For more information, please visit Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Indigenous communities (www.sac-isc.gc.ca) or email the Public Enquiries Contact Centre at InfoPubs@aadnc-aandc.gc.ca.
Page 4— Ha-Shilth-Sa—May 21, 2020 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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Fishing aid met with praise and concerns Increase in docking fees, social distancing on boats blamed for discouraging ﬁshers By Sam Laskaris Ha-Shilth-Sa Contributor An announcement from the federal government detailing massive emergency funding to those in the ﬁshing industry reeling from COVID-19 impacts is being met with mixed reactions on Vancouver Island. This past Thursday the Canadian government announced $469.4 million in new funding to assist ﬁsh harvesters in the country who are not eligible for previously announced emergency aid. This new aid is in addition to the $62.5 million announced last month through the Canadian Seafood Stabilization Fund to help those across the country working in the ﬁsh and seafood processing sector. Though pleased some help was on the way, Gord Johns, the MP for CourtenayAlberni, believes much more needs to be done. “Today’s announcement is long overdue for independent ﬁsh harvesters,” he said in a release which came out shortly after the amount of federal funding was revealed. “Extending EI and making business loans available to ﬁshers and harvesters are things the NDP have been calling for weeks. “We’re glad the government has ﬁnally recognized these as practical solutions but the government needs to do more to help ease the anxiety that ﬁshers and harvesters are feeling,” continued Johns. “As it is, the loan program will not be suﬃcient for most harvesters. It must be raised signiﬁcantly to reﬂect the reality that ﬁshers on all coasts are facing.” Even with the new emergency aid announced, Larry Johnson, president of the Nuu-chah-nulth Seafood Limited Partnership, believes the ﬁshing industry will take a massive hit in 2020. “I think we’re going to see a huge reduction in revenues,” he said, adding he believes NCN Seafood Limited Partnership will experience a 50 per cent drop. Johnson added social distancing practices, which must still be adhered to on ﬁshing vessels, reduce the number of workers who can go out on boats that are usually 30-40 feet long.
Johnson said an increase in docking fees is also discouraging some ﬁshermen from working. “With the increase in prices, you don’t want to be losing money before you even head out,” he said. Alex Gagne, the T’aaq-wiihak ﬁsheries manager, was happy to see some federal funding would be forthcoming for those in the ﬁshing industry. “I think it’s good,” she said. “Fishing has been really aﬀected by COVID-19.” Though she knew a federal announcement had been made, Gagne said she has yet to review all of the details and had requested her staﬀ to look into the situation and brief her early this week on how those in the T’aaq-wiihak enterprise will be aﬀected. T’aaq-wiihak is a ﬁsheries collective involving ﬁve Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations: Ahousaht, Hesquiaht, Tla-o-qui-aht, Ehattesaht/Chinehkint and Mowachaht/Muchalaht. Gagne said she would in all likelihood agree with Johns upon hearing that he felt more needed to be done. “I’ve found him to be a good advocate for west coast ﬁshermen over the years,” Gagne said. Johns was also looking for more clarity about the funding announcement. “Fish harvesters need more information about how seafood will be included in the Canada Purchase Program,” he said. “Getting their seafood into Canadian markets is especially important now that (American) President Trump is tightening restrictions on seafood entering the U.S.” Johnson is seeing U.S. restrictions on Canadian seafood massively impact the industry. “I’m guessing 80 per cent of our ﬁsh go to the U.S.,” he said. “Most of our ﬁsh go right down Highway 95 into the ﬁsh markets down there.” “Canadians want to support their communities by buying locally produced foods,” added Johns. “The government needs to back that up with help for local food hubs, seafood distributors, retailers, and charitable organizations like food banks. A government focus on selling domestic seafood to Canadians would not only support, but also validate, the hard
work of Canadian ﬁshers and harvesters.” Meanwhile, Johnson is unsure how many of the ﬁshermen his company employs (anywhere from 40-60 on various boats each year) will be able to access the federal funding. “Lots of our guys live in remote areas,” he said. “They don’t have access to the Internet and if they do service is very intermittent. And most of our guys are 60 and over. They don’t have a computer or know how to use one.” Last week’s announcement included two programs. For starters, the Launch the Fish Harvester Beneﬁt, worth up to $267.6 million, is a program to provide income support for those in the industry who cannot access the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy. Money will be provided to those that have a loss of more than 25 per cent of their ﬁshing income this year. For those eligible they can receive up to 75 per cent of their lost ﬁshing income. Also announced was the Fish Harvester Grant, a program worth up to $201.8 million. Those who do not qualify for the Canada Emergency Business Account are eligible to apply.
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MP Gord Johns
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May 21, 2020—Ha-Shilth-Sa—Page 5
Why are friendship centres left out from federal aid? The support organizations rely on corporate and private donations to fund a surge in requests for food hampers By Eric Plummer Ha-Shilth-Sa Editor Victoria, BC - The COVID-19 crisis has sparked a widespread response in Canada, with a multi-billion-dollar social spending initiative that resulted in the largest deﬁcit the federal government has run since the Second World War. Canada’s pandemic response spending has included the $305-million Indigenous Community Support Fund. But despite the reality that the majority of Canada’s First Nations people live in cities, a remarkably small fraction of this fund has trickled to the friendship centres tasked with assisting urban Indigenous people during diﬃcult times. Instead, these support organizations have relied on private and corporate donations to fund a surge in requests for assistance. Like other service organizations, friendship centres in British Columbia have continued to operate, but access to staﬀ and oﬃces has been restricted to limit the potential transmission of the novel coronavirus. The Port Alberni Friendship Center has reduced its oﬃce hours from 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m. “As we are practicing social distancing to keep both our clients and staﬀ safe during these challenging times, our supports services are only accessible by phone until further notice,” stated Executive Director Cyndi Stevens in an email reply. During these hours the front lobby is open, where clients who don’t have a phone can use a telephone to consult staﬀ on employment insurance, social assistance, tenancy issues or other pressing matters of concern. “We are still oﬀering coﬀee and have food and clothing available as it is donated,” continued Stevens. “Please feel free let people you know in need to check our front lobby for these items as there have been donations dropped oﬀ on a daily basis.” The COVID-19 pandemic has borne a growing need for basic necessities as job losses and facility closures are leaving many households without staples. Friendship centres have found themselves on the front lines of this emerging crisis, gathering any funds they can to deploy a regular ﬂeet of food hampers to those struggling in their urban communities. In Victoria the need is plain to see on Pandora Avenue, where nearly 200 people were living in a cluster of tents at the end of April. With the absence of running water, cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment in such close
Photo by Eric Plummer
Ron Rice, executive director of the Victoria Native Friendship Centre, has seen demand for food hampers from his organization increase to 500 people a week as a growing number of families face economic hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic. quarters, the potential for the coronavirus spreading in B.C.’s homeless communities caught the attention of the provincial government as it works to identify new COVID-19 cases and control spread in cluster outbreaks. In April arrangements were made with motels to provide temporary shelter that makes physical distancing possible, but by early May it became apparent that Victoria’s homeless encampments would remain a concern. The deadline to move everyone from Victoria’s larger tent communities has been extended to May 20, said Shane Simpson, minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, in a provincial statement. “While we have been working with the hotel sector and service delivery partners toward the May 9 target in Victoria, it is now clear that more time is needed to ensure each person leaving Topaz Park and Pandora Avenue is moved into the accommodation that best meets their needs,” he said. “No one will be asked to leave these encampments without being oﬀered a suitable temporary housing option.” The Victoria Native Friendship Centre has closed many of its in-person services
“In support of the eﬀorts to ﬁght against the coronavirus, Copper Island Camp will not be operating its summer camps in July. As health and safety regulations allow, Copper Island Camp is there to assist your community if needed during this time.”
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to the public, instead oﬀering telephone and online sessions to youth, elders and others in need. But the overnight shelter will remain open until at least June 30 to assist the city’s homeless. The facility’s gym is divided with tape to ensure the mats laid on the ﬂoor each evening follow the six-foot distance requirements set out by B.C.’s provincial health oﬃcer. Executive Director Ron Rice continues to see approximately 15 visitors a night, less than what the Victoria Native Friendship Centre served through the winter. “Some of those guests have been transferred into motel rooms here in Victoria where they are comfortable and capable of being alone,” he said, adding that outreach workers regularly check in on these clients. “These are people who don’t have any issues with severe drug or alcohol addiction, who aren’t experiencing any mental health challenges and breakdowns.” While the Victoria friendship centre has cut back on some in-oﬃce duties, additional staﬀ have been hired just to clean between showers and laundry loads at its shelter. Despite these safety measures, some clients are opting to spend the night outside. “There are people who have made the decision to just show up for the food, just show up for a shower, maybe show up to do their laundry, and then leave,” said Rice. “They have their own anxieties around sleeping in a giant room with other people, so we’re trying to respect that.” According to provincial statistics, 264,100 jobs were lost in B.C. during April, rising the unemployment rate to 11.5 per cent – a jobless ﬁgure that more than doubled since the ﬁve-per-cent-rate B.C. enjoyed before the pandemic took hold of the economy. In Victoria alone 14,500 jobs were lost last month, and this economic decline became evident to the city’s friendship centre with the rising demand for food hampers. In mid-March when coronavirus restrictions began this weekly distribution started with 27 hampers for elders in need. But requests have poured in from
a variety of households, and now the friendship centre prepares and delivers over 200 hampers, feeding approximately 500 people of all ages in Victoria. Rice expects this demand to continue until the end of the year. “The reality is that this is only going to get harder with more and more people losing their jobs, more and more industries shutting down,” he said. “We think that we’ll probably get to 300 hampers a week, then we’ll have to cap it oﬀ there.” Funding for this service has relied on donations from businesses and generous individuals, an issue that the BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres has stressed in its lobbying for more government support. Most – or $215 million - of Ottawa’s $305-million Indigenous Community Support Fund goes directly to First Nations, including almost $40 million for those in B.C. Another $45 million is allocated to Inuit groups, and $30 million is set aside for Métis Nation communities. This leaves $15 million for urban Aboriginal organizations, a fund friendship centres across Canada are trying to tap into. In Victoria Rice has seen little of this federal money trickle through to his organization. “In British Columbia 85 per cent of the Indigenous population lives oﬀ reserve, and yet we got less than 0.5 per cent of the funding that came from the federal government,” he said. But other sources have noticed the friendship centre’s need for support. Rice recalls one afternoon this spring when he received a surprise visit. “A single woman in James Bay, ﬁrst sunny day got on her bike and rode across town, came to the front reception area. We’re just about to close,” he recalled. “She said, ‘I just want to drop oﬀ something for your hamper program’.” The woman, who appears to be in her 70s, has remained anonymous as a donor. “She reaches into her saddlebag and pulls out two cheques for $10,000,” continued Rice. “That one non-Indigenous elder gave me more money than the federal government did.”
Page 6— Ha-Shilth-Sa—May 21, 2020
Commission recommends Indigenous self-regulation Inquiry advises to revive the Standing Oﬀer Program after some Nuu-chah-nulth nations faced stalled projects By Karly Blats Ha-Shilth-Sa Contributor The British Columbia Utilities Commission (BCUC) recommends that First Nations should be given the opportunity to self-regulate an Indigenous utility when providing services on their reserve land. The BCUC’s recommendation comes as one of many in their ﬁnal report on the regulation of Indigenous energy utilities in British Columbia that was sent to the minister responsible for the Hydro and Power Authority Act. The BCUC is the independent regulator for British Columbia’s electric, natural gas, and thermal energy “public utilities.” In March 2019, the Lieutenant Governor in Council directed the BCUC to provide recommendations to the provincial government regarding the regulation of Indigenous energy utilities in B.C. The direction came after Beecher Bay First Nation in Sooke wanted to build and run an electrical utility using ocean thermal for a large new housing and commercial development within the reserve, but was denied by the BCUC in 2016. The BCUC’s Indigenous Utilities Regulation Inquiry sought feedback on a number of essential questions including, what are the characteristics of an “Indigenous utility” and should Indigenous utilities be regulated or not? And if so, how? During their research, the BCUC heard feedback through several community input sessions and draft report workshops across the province and from representatives of more than 50 diﬀerent First Nations groups including the Nuu-chahnulth Tribal Council. Following the community input sessions, a draft report was submitted in November 2019 that provided a summary of the feedback the BCUC received and prepared 14 draft recommendations. A ﬁnal report with revised recommendations was released on April 30. Encouraging economic development During the inquiry, the BCUC heard that owning a utility is important to many First Nations as a means to promote economic development on their land and that the regulation of a First Nation-owned public utility can impede these economic development beneﬁts. The BCUC’s ﬁnal recommendations included that an Indigenous utility be deﬁned as a public utility for which an Indigenous nation has control and it is not limited to the types of services it provides. It is also recommended that any BCUC oversight ceases when a First Nation notiﬁes the BCUC that it no longer requires their regulation and demonstrates that there is an arm’s length complaint and dispute resolution process to protect all ratepayers. In addition, recommendations include that a panel be composed of Indigenous people and others with specialized knowledge, like First Nations governance, to assess a First Nation’s complaint and dispute resolution process and that First Nations collectively develop a province-wide appeal body that can be available to customers of Indigenous utilities. Judith Sayers, president of the Nuuchah-nulth Tribal Council, was highly involved in the proceedings of the inquiry and provided ample feedback for Indigenous utility regulation. “[The BCUC] said there should be
Barkley Project Group photo
A pen stock carries water down a mountain to the Canoe Creek Hydro powerhouse. Canoe Creek began operations in 2010 near the west coast of Vancouver Island. Just 35 per cent of Vancouver Island’s electricity is generated on the island. First Nations utilities on reserve and that we can put together our own oversight body. They didn’t say we had to use BCUC, so First Nations can put together a regulator—I thought that’s a form of governance and self determination so I was really happy that they said that,” Sayers said. “I would really love to see us be able to do this oﬀ reserve for Nuuchah-nulth because most of our reserves are really small. If we could get some customers and start selling to people in Port Alberni, it’s a huge opportunity.” The BCUC also recommends that the province reconsider the Standing Oﬀer Program (SOP) along with the cap for that program and any other provision that places economic barriers on potential participants. The BC Hydro Standing Oﬀer Program was launched in 2008 to provide independent power producers an opportunity to develop small-scale renewable energy projects and to sell power back into the electrical grid. The project was indeﬁnitely suspended in 2017, leaving some First Nations, including several Nuuchah-nulth nations, with stalled developments. Sayers, who’s been involved in clean energy projects since 2002, said since the suspension of the SOP, many First Nations have felt frustration with the lack of opportunities for independent power production. Reliance on power from mainland According to BC Hydro, just 35 per cent of electricity used on Vancouver Island is generated there, despite its abundance of streams, rivers and lakes. The rest of the power comes from B.C.’s mainland and large-scale hydroelectric dams on the Columbia and Peace rivers. With 95 per cent of the province’s electricity being generated by water, some First Nations on Vancouver Island question if large-scale dams, such as the
multi-billion-dollar Site C project on the Peace River are the best answer. “[The B.C. government] never talked to First Nations at all when they were deciding to go ahead with Site C because they knew they would have to suspend the Standing Oﬀer Program,” Sayers said. “That was a really bad faith thing that they did. They should have talked to all of the First Nations in B.C. to see how it would impact.” An article published by the Clean Energy Research Group (CERG) says analysis by its team of engineers found that B.C.’s projected electricity demands cannot be met by Site C alone. “The projected demand, including the electriﬁcation of B.C.’s natural gas ﬁelds and the switch to electric cars to help meet the province’s 2030 goal to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent, show that additional supply will be needed,” states the article. Remote villages dependent on diesel Many remote First Nations in British Columbia rely on diesel generators to power their communities, like the Hesquiaht First Nation at Hot Springs Cove. Construction for a run-of-the-river hydroelectric project by the HFN has been in hiatus for years due to lack of funding. But Sayers said she believes funding has recently been secured for the nation to ﬁnish the project and get the remote community oﬀ diesel fuel. “Hopefully this spring they get that built because it’s the late Richard Lucas who really, really pushed to get money and it took him years. I was so sad that he passed away before they decided to give him the money,” Sayers said. Another Nuu-chah-nulth-led clean energy project includes the Ditidaht First Nation’s hydro project on the Little Nitinaht River, which would run water through a pen stock pipe to a downhill generating station with a 4.5-megawatt
capacity. By selling power back into the BC Hydro grid, the Little Nitinaht River project would have brought major revenue for the First Nation. Unfortunately, the project was halted when the province announced the suspension of the SOP. At risk of jeopardizing negotiations with the province, Bryan Cofsky, executive director of the Ditidaht Economic Development Corporation, declined to comment on the development of the project at this time. The Hupacasath First Nation own 72 per cent of a green hydroelectric plant on China Creek that during peak operation produces enough electricity to power 6,000 homes. This project started producing power in December of 2005, when Sayers was chief of the Hupacasath, and had a total cost of approximately $14 million. “There’s so many beneﬁts you get out of clean energy projects. This is the wave of the future,” Sayers said. “We really need to have regional economic dependence of power because of the way things are happening with climate change and all these other things like COVID. We’d be so much better oﬀ not reliant on the gird and all the issues it’s going to have in the future.” After reviewing the Final Report, the Government of B.C. will consider the BCUC’s recommendations and may use them to inform future changes to legislation or policy. “The BCUC has to make recommendations to B.C. government and then it’s what the government does with it. In all our recommendations we really pushed UNDRIP (The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples),” Sayers said. “The B.C. government has to guide Indigenous relations. I don’t think they have any choice but to go with this.”
May 21, 2020—Ha-Shilth-Sa—Page 7
Mitigation measures have been put to the test at the Big Bar Slide, revealing that rapids still pose an obstacle for ﬁsh passage. A ﬁshway built won’t be useable until the river level drops. The slide is believed to have been triggered by seismic activity in November 2018 and blocked the river because ﬂow was unusually low.
The moment of truth arrives at Big Bar landslide By Mike Youds Ha-Shilth-Sa Contributor Lillooet, BC - Chinook salmon arriving at Big Bar Slide in the next few weeks won’t be able to swim past rapids or negotiate their way through a nature-like ﬁshway constructed along the canyon wall. Instead, the ﬁrst ﬁsh migrating up the Fraser River after a year of slide remediation eﬀorts will probably have to be transported over a waterfall by a “ﬁsh pump,” a pneumatic tube system used for the ﬁrst time in Canada. DFO has known since last winter that it would be impossible to remove enough slide debris from the river channel to permit natural salmon passage in 2020. The sheer volume of debris from the rock slide south of Lillooet — 75,000 to 80,000 cubic metres of boulders constricting the ﬂow of B.C.’s most important salmon pathway — was too great to clear in a limited time frame. That grew apparent after contractor Peter Kiewit Sons ULC began blasting and channel clearing last winter during seasonally low water conditions. “In February, our worst fears were conﬁrmed,” said Gwil Roberts, DFO’s slide response director. They would need more time, at least another year to complete channel remediation work. Only 10 to 15 percent of the rock has been removed so far. Rock removal came to an end around Easter with the ﬁnal blasting of what’s known as the East Toe, Roberts said. They were also able to widen the channel. River levels then spiked in late April due to an Interior warm spell that halted work for a couple of days. A higher than average snow pack in the Interior hasn’t helped. “We’re at the mercy of the elements to some extent,” he said. The ﬁrst migrating salmon to arrive will be spring, due in late May, bound for natal waters in the upper Fraser basin. Mindful of the run timing, about
40 workers are on site. They’ve worked continuously through the COVID-19 pandemic and Easter holiday to bring short-term mitigation projects on stream in time. Three mitigation measures are designed to provide salmon and steelhead passage this year, starting with a nature-like ﬁshway that will allow them to swim upriver if the ﬂow rate is between 1,700 and 3,200 cubic metres per second. When the river exceeds that rate, as it typically does in spring and early summer, a commercial ﬁsh pump called the Whooshh Passage Portal becomes the backup system. Two pneumatic tubes to send ﬁsh 160 metres upriver should be operating by late May. Expanding to six in early June, they will probably be needed until late July when the river ﬂow drops and the ﬁshway becomes viable. Seattle’s Whooshh Innovations adapted fruit transport tubes a decade ago as an innovative means to transport ﬁsh past dams and other river obstacles. About two dozen of the systems have been used on waterways in the U.S. and Europe. “More than anything, we see it from a ﬁsh perspective, knowing the ﬁsh don’t have time anymore,” said Vince Bryan III, founder and CEO. In most cases where the technology is applied, obstacles to anadromous ﬁsh are man-made, such as dams and low water due to irrigation demands, he noted. “How do you prevent losing runs year after year?” Research has shown that ﬁsh are not stressed by the brief transit through the tubes and that they fare better than in ﬁsh ladders, conserving energy reserves essential to their migratory journey and successful spawning. They’re also healthier for not being handled in automated-feed systems such as this one, a system ﬁrst used in 2017, he said. Some feel the pneumatic system should have been deployed from the outset at Big Bar Slide to deal with the disastrous impasse after it was discovered last June. That was felt to be too risky since it would have required a barge in the tur-
Whooshh Innovations photo
A Whooshh installation, similar to what is used at Big Bar, is pictured in the U.S. bulent river in the absence of an access this as quickly as possible but that’s still road. unknown.” “A huge part of the eﬀort this past In the meantime, ﬁsh migration and winter was getting the access road built hydrological monitoring will be done to the slide area. Kiewit has put in an through the summer. amazing eﬀort to build that road,” said A tri-partite committee comprised of Roberts. First Nation community and agency Crews are building a ﬁsh ladder, stackrepresentatives, DFO and the provincial ing more than 500 interlocking concrete government has project oversight. Job blocks, designed to direct salmon to a opportunities will be available, ensuring holding area for either “tubing” or truckhealthy passage for ﬁsh. ing, Roberts said. Trapping and trucking “We intend to employ a sizeable continsalmon four kilometres upriver is the gent of First Nation workers for transleast preferred method but oﬀers better port and hatchery work,” Roberts said. prospects for success than last summer, “We rely on their technical know-how when beach seining and helicopter buckand proﬁciency for transportation and ets were also hurried into action. enhancement.” “Last year, when the slide was discovThe slide is believed to have been trigered in late June, the ﬁsh had already gered by seismic activity in November been at the slide for well over a month,” 2018 and blocked the river because ﬂow Roberts said. “The ﬁsh were tired, worn was unusually low at the time. out and injured by poor conditions.” Roberts said there is also speculation With the limited winter window for that migrating ﬁsh had diﬃculty passing channel work, how much longer will it those same rapids for some time, well take before ﬁsh swim past Big Bar Slide before the slide. on their own? “This has been a constricted point and The hope is that channel clearing can be the ﬂows have been high for many freshcompleted next winter, said Roberts, who ets,” he said. considers himself an optimist. Although costly, the remediation project “I hazard to guess,” he added. “Again, oﬀers an opportunity to improve ﬁsh paswe’re hoping for the best. We’ll resolve sage in the long term, he added.
Page 8— Ha-Shilth-Sa—May 21, 2020
Young Tseshaht lad stages successful fundraising run In support of his grandfather’s chemotherapy treatment, Solomon Wa•s ran for the Canadian Cancer Society By Sam Laskaris Ha-Shilth-Sa Contributor Port Alberni, BC – The fundraising eﬀorts of a young Tseshaht First Nation youth far exceeded original expectations. Eight-year-old Solomon Watts was keen to run an estimated two-kilometre route through streets on the First Nation’s reserve on Thursday, May 7 to raise cancer awareness. The event, dubbed Solomon’s Run For Cancer, was also to recognize his grandfather Wally Samuel Sr., a well-known and respected Ahousaht member, who is currently undergoing chemotherapy following colon cancer surgery this past December. Solomon was intent to raise funds from his run for the Canadian Cancer Society. The original goal was to raise $81. The number 81 represented the combined ages of Solomon and his 73-year-old grandfather. Before the run, however, a total of $733 had already been raised. Slightly more than $200 was also collected during the run. And Solomon’s mother Robyn Samuel said several others had also mentioned they would be sending her e-transfer donations, which would in all likelihood push the total past the $1,000 mark. Donations will continue to be collected and can be sent via etransfer to firstname.lastname@example.org “It made my son really proud,” Samuel said when she told Solomon that donations were closing in on $1,000 on Thursday. “His eyes really lit up.” Samuel, who has four children, said family members are disappointed that a pandemic has prevented them from showing aﬀection. “With this COVID-19 going on my kids really miss hugging their grandparents,” she said. Though Solomon has been going on frequent bike rides recently, Samuel said family members discussed the possibility of having Solomon do a fundraising run about a week before. “He’s quite the little athlete,” she said. “He really missed school and his (physical education). P.E. is his favourite class.” The Tseshaht First Nation had promoted the run via its Facebook page. Samuel
Photo by Eric Plummer
Eight-year-old Solomon Watts runs through the Tseshaht First Nation reserve on May 7 to raise funds for the Canadian Cancer Society. The eﬀort was inspired by Solomon’s grandfather, Wally Samuel, who is undergoing chemotherapy. said she tagged her popular father in a Facebook post as well. “I always say if you want to get something out then tag my father in a post,” Samuel said. “He’s got almost 4,000 Facebook friends.” Solomon began and ﬁnished his run at Haahuupayak School, where he is a Grade 3 student. The route, through the reserve next to Port Alberni, is the same one that students from the school follow each September during their Terry Fox Run. Solomon completed the run in about 10 minutes and 30 seconds. “I feel happy and proud,” he said. Solomon’s father Richard Watts cycled behind his son and paced him during the run. About a dozen staﬀ members from Haahuupayak School also showed up to oﬀer support for the run. Some others also
lined the course to cheer on the young runner. “He wanted to sprint right oﬀ the bat because the fans were there,” said the elder Watts. Richard Watts said that his son did cramp up brieﬂy near the halfway point of the run because of that initial burst of energy. “I told him to keep going,” Watts said. “He never stopped moving his feet.” Solomon was also able to ﬁnish strong, in front of the supporters, including his grandfather, waiting at the school. Wally Samuel said he considered running the last stretch alongside his grandson. But he was persuaded by his 15-year-old granddaughter Neve not to. “I didn’t expect him to run that fast,” Wally said. “My granddaughter was telling me ‘No grandpa, you can’t do that because he runs too fast’.”
Wally, however, was rather pleased of his grandson’s eﬀorts. “It made me really proud of him,” he said. Wally was especially pleased Solomon was helping out a worthy cause. “He’s aware and he acknowledges cancer has happened in our community,” he said. Solomon has lost family members on both his mother’s and father’s side of the family to cancer. Because of recommended COVID-19 restrictions, Wally Samuel was not able to kiss or even hug his grandson at the completion of his run. “There was a lump in my throat and I was holding back the tears,” Wally said. “I told him how proud I am of him. And I told him a lot of people were proud and appreciative of what he’s doing.”
Phrase of the week - h=ii qwa>%a+niš caa@as Pronounced ‘heeqwalth alt nish sawhars’, this means ‘We will go picking cedar bark soon.’ Supplied by čiisma.
Ivy Cargill-Martin Illustration
May 21, 2020—Ha-Shilth-Sa—Page 9
Illicit drug deaths sharply increase during pandemic Island Health reports 80 per cent rise in March since before the coronavirus crisis, injection site sees less traﬃc By Denise Titian Ha-Shilth-Sa Reporter Port Alberni, BC – The BC Coroner’s Service has issued a report stating that illicit drug overdoses in the province have risen sharply since February, just prior to the social isolation protocols set in place due to the coronavirus pandemic. According to the coroner’s report, issued May 7, there were 113 suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths in the province in March 2020. This is the ﬁrst time the number of illicit drug deaths exceeded 100 in a month since March 2019. The number of illicit drug deaths in March 2020 amounts to an 80 per cent increase in unintentional overdose deaths in the Island Health region, over January and February 2020 averages. “The increase in March occurred in every health authority, notably in Fraser (91 per cent increase) and Island Health (80 per cent increase),” the report states. In Port Alberni, Wes Hewitt of the PA Shelter Society works on the front lines with marginalized people in the valley. He says that several service organizations collaborate to provide food, shelter and social supports to people dealing with addictions and/or barriers to aﬀordable housing. He says the Safe Injection Site (SIS) has remained open during the pandemic but fewer people are using it. “I speculate it’s because there is so much money around,” said Hewitt, referring to emergency funding programs that arose out of the COVID-19 crisis. “It’s happening all over island; we think people are hunkering down, couch surfing, maybe pooling money for a hotel room.” “One issue is CERB (Canada Emergency Response Beneﬁt) and other emergency beneﬁts; people on social assistance, for example, are getting extra money (during COVID-19) and there is a worry that people are now able to buy more drugs, so they are consuming far more,” Hewitt noted. The Canada/US border has been closed for several weeks due to the pandemic but that has not seemed to have had much of an eﬀect on Port Alberni’s illicit drug supply. “[T]here is no shortage in the drug supply in the community,” said Hewitt, adding that clients have reported that some dealers are charging more for drugs since the pandemic began. In terms of safety of the drug supply, Hewitt says there are always the same issues with Fentanyl. “Depending on where crystal meth and other drugs are coming from, it’s always a concern,” he said. Testing services are oﬀered at the Safe Injection Site, supported by Island Health and the BC Centre for Disease Control. “We will test a small amount of their supply for fentanyl before they use,” said Hewitt. Most of the local drug supply, 80–85 per cent tests positive for Fentanyl, according to Hewitt. But that does not deter the client. “Even after a positive test they will continue to use,” said Hewitt. “We try to convince clients to a try smaller amount than normal.” Because Fentanyl is out there, support workers urge drug users to be more careful away from the site. They are asked to buddy up or arrange for someone to check on them.
Photo by Eric Plummer
Although if has remained open during the pandemic, Port Alberni’s Safe Injection Site on Third Avenue has seen fewer clients. At the site staﬀ are equipped with Naloxone kits (below).
“One issue is CERB (Canada Emergency Response Beneﬁt) and other emergency beneﬁts; people on social assistance, for example, are getting extra money (during COVID-19) and there is a worry that people are now able to buy more drugs, so they are consuming far more” ~ Wes Hewitt “That’s why (safe consumption) sites are important – because they are supervised,” said Hewitt. According to the BC Coroner’s Report of Illicit Drugs, there have been no deaths reported at supervised consumption or drug overdose prevention sites. Social service agencies in Port Alberni have taken measures to deliver services to clients in a safer manner. Since social distancing requirements have been in place, Hewitt says the Safe Injection Site remains open, delivering services and food to clients. “We’ve changed up food distribution to meet social distancing requirements and to reduce handling of things; we’ve always had a high standard of cleaning at site,” he added. But he remains concerned about what happens when clients leave the site. “Sometimes there’s not the best social distancing once they leave the site; we do our best to educate,” said Hewitt. A group of community volunteers have been making cloth masks which are then distributed throughout the community and at the Safe Injection Site. “There are lots wearing them, some are using bandanas,” said Hewitt.
The Port Alberni Shelter Society has space for anyone experiencing homelessness. One of their houses is transitional and the other for low income families. There is a unit for women and children ﬂeeing abuse. The Phoenix house has 15 low barrier beds, which means, according to Hewitt, not many rules. There is also the Sobering House where intoxicated people can be assessed on site and have a safe place to sleep it oﬀ. “We oﬀer four beds and, if they are medically ﬁt, they can stay,” said Hewitt. This is a short-terms shelter which, in safe situations, prevents unnecessary use of the hospital emergency department. During the winter, BC Housing funded an additional 27 spaces at the shelter for Extreme Weather Response. The PA Shelter Society added 27 spaces at both the old and new shelter buildings on Eighth Avenue. BC Housing has continued to
fund these spaces during pandemic. Hewitt says there are spaces available if people want to get inside. But with the weather warming up, some like to be outdoors. According to Hewitt, a Canadian Mental Health Association outreach worker and the RCMP recently did a cursory count of homeless people in Port Alberni. According the Hewitt, they counted 15 people. “Some of them stay with us in inclement weather, but when the weather warms, they prefer to be outside where there’s no rules,” he noted. When it comes to the pandemic, Hewitt is relieved that Port Alberni has done as well as it has. “Due to some good planning and people working together, not traveling, social isolating, we’ve been fortunate to not have an outbreak in our community,” he said.
Page 10— Ha-Shilth-Sa—May 21, 2020
Research initiative aims to empower First Nations By Andrea D. Smith Ha-Shilth-Sa Contributor Victoria, BC – For too long academics with little understanding of a First Nation have stepped in to study an Indigenous community, producing data that provides little beneﬁt to those who live there, says a UVic researcher at the helm of an initiative designed to change this pattern. The University of Victoria’s Charlotte Loppie, associate dean of research in the Faculty of Human and Social Development, is now the steward of a $3.5 million grant awarded to her by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR). She describes herself as a steward because while she is listed as the recipient, and the funds will be held at UVic. There is an entire team of Indigenous health researchers and knowledge-holders at multiple levels who will be deciding how the money is dolled out going forward. The BC Network Environment for Indigenous Health Research (BC NEIHR) has been specially created for the occasion. NEIHR existed prior to this, with multiple locations across the country, but there was no BC branch until now. “This network will lead to expanded opportunities to establish and promote Indigenous-led research, to engage students and to develop new ways in which we can continue to work together,” said Vice-president of Research, Lisa Kalynchuk. According to Charlotte Loppie, the funding will be broken up into amounts of $700,000 per year over the ﬁve years. The funding will not exactly go towards actually carrying out research, as health research funding generally does, but instead to help “build capacity” for Indigenous communities and organizations to prepare to carry out the research they’re interested in doing. Preparation is an often-overlooked area, which can make or break a project. Funding for such a thing will help level the playing ﬁeld, said Loppie, and ensure Indigenous people have more adequate access to funding—funding for health research that can ultimately bring about better overall wellness for Indigenous people, she added. “Rather than a platform for research, we envision the BC NEIHR as a blanket that supports innovation and uncovers brilliance; it is a representation of our values and principles as well as a tangible foundation upon which to build meaningful partnerships in the pursuit of enhanced wellness for Indigenous peoples,” said Loppie. Other vital areas of research preparation covered by BC NEIHR will include writing grant applications to provincial and federal agencies, developing research budgets, and connecting with research partners, and for participants to learn more about what it means to be Indige-
nous-led during these kinds of tasks. Indigenous people, communities, and organizations already have the ability to do good research, said Loppie, and they often have clever ideas for research projects, they just need a boost in areas which might not be as clear for them, or that they simply don’t have the manpower to ﬁll. As mentioned above, there are already Indigenous health professionals and researchers on board. BC NEIHR has been launched, and the advisory council will help steer it. The three major partner organizations are the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA), the BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres (BCAAFC), and the BC Metis Nation. Those three partners have one designated representative sitting on the council. And there is also one representative from the National Collaborating Centre for Indigenous Health (NCCIH), as well as one student representative. The council is not yet complete, though; COVID-19 created some roadblocks because no in-person meetings can be held right now. But it will also have elders and knowledge-holders from various communities and organizations involved, said Loppie. Part of the grant amount will also go to having assigned research facilitators for each of the ﬁve health regions in BC (Fraser, Northern, Vancouver Island, Vancouver Coastal, and the Interior health regions). And the BC Metis Nation has also requested they have a research facilitator of their own. Next, the team with BC NEIHR plans to hire students in the fall, and place them in communities wanting their help. This beneﬁts the communities, of course, but also the students, by giving them real on the ground experience, said Loppie. And she is not only happy to see the BC NEIHR formed, but also somewhat relieved, she said. Loppie is all too familiar with stories of what has happened throughout much of the past with researchers from outside communities going into them, conducting research, gathering data, and leaving, she said. Sometimes it’s very invasive, and leaves those who have been the subjects of the research without any access to what happens afterward, including to data or the results of the data. The process is “extractive,” like mining or logging. Loppie credits this entire movement of Indigenous-led health research coming up now to Dr. Carrie Bourassa, who is the scientiﬁc director of one of the 13 Institutes under CIHR - the Institute for Indigenous People’s Health (IIPH). It was Bourassa who rallied the other institutes together last year and encouraged them to allocate a huge sum of money for Indigenous health research. That led to the creation of NEIHR, said Loppie.
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Le•er to Editor Kyuquot Elementary School Lesson/Learning Plan Kyuquot Elementary Secondary School and Ky:’yu:’k’t’h’/Che:k’tles7et’h’ First Na•ons have come up with a plan for social distance lesson and learning. High school students arrange with the school and schedule a day and •me to meet with their teachers. They limit how many are allowed to be at the school gym for a morning or an a•ernoon session. This is op•onal for everyone’s comfort. They do have procedures in place for staﬀ, students, and parents to follow. As it has been a challenge for high school students to do home-school, the students have responded quite well to the idea in the ﬁrst week of social distancing. The majority of the Kyuquot community has been isolated since it was ﬁrst advised to isolate; no visi•ng, no large groups, etc. Therefore, it’s allowed our community to take these steps. Monique Comeau, KESS Vice Principal: “The Pandemic has disappointed our community and school in many ways as a new Vice Principal, it has been a very challenging •me to work, with changing news and guidelines and less interac•on with my students. We have one of our largest gradua•on classes in recent years, a group who is feeling hugely discouraged that they do not get to ﬁnish their ﬁnal year with regular connec•ons to school and their peers. Not to men•on, our community suﬀered nearly a week of power outages that led to school closures before the break. “Overall, we have been experiencing many barriers to school and learning. Despite the challenges, we have been doing our best to persevere. Our push to have face-to-face instruc•on has been crucial given the technological capacity and internet speed of the community that doesn’t compliment huge virtual mee•ngs. Not to men•on, we have many students that are craving connec•on to their teachers and friends. “Our gym has been carefully set up to accommodate our students, with spaced out desks, a new smart board, and whiteboard. We have non-mandatory sessions, where students can get in person guidance with assignments, posted each week to Google Classroom. This is also a place we can discuss material and smile at each other, laugh and learn. The students know that we are living in a historic moment, and I hope they will look back at this •me with a sense of pride they worked through it, passed their classes through it, and perhaps even graduated.” Daisy Hanson, Nuu-chah-nulth Educa•on Worker: “As the Nuu-chah-nulth Educa•on Worker, I have to give praise and thanks to our teaching staﬀ, principal and vice principal for their incredibly awesome commitment to ensure con•nued educa•on for our children of Kyuquot. Also, to our maintenance workers Derek Chidley and Jeﬀ Osenenko, for keeping up with the protocol for a clean and safe environment, so our children can con•nue to go to school during this trying •me. Praises to parents of our community who do have the drive to make sure our kids, who are s•ll learning at home, are engaging and staying caught up with their school work.” Now week 2 of social distance lessons and learning at KESS is coming to an end. The students have con•nued to u•lize their •me with their teachers. They will con•nue to make schedules each week so that each student has an opportunity to meet with their teachers and be around their peers.
May 21, 2020—Ha-Shilth-Sa—Page 11
Animal’s growth points to need for be•er management Unlike Indigenous people in Alaska, the Species at Risk Act blocks First Nations in B.C. from hunting sea o•ers By Eric Plummer Ha-Shilth-Sa Editor Kyuquot, BC - One of the opening shots of The Way Back, an early 1970s ﬁlm documenting the return of sea otters to the B.C. coast, shows one of the furry creatures wrapped in kelp, cuddled like a baby in a blanket. The governmentfunded piece details part of the translocation of 89 otters from 1969 to 1972 from Alaska, after more than a century of overhunting made the animals extinct in British Columbia. “Where the sea otter population still survives there is an abundance; it seemed natural to restore them to one of their habitats,” states the ﬁlm’s narrator. “Man decided to undue the damage and give sea otters a hand.” Early in the ﬁlm the late Mowachaht/ Muchalaht Chief Jerry Jack speaks of the traditional use of sea otter fur, which was often worn by a Ha’wilth to greet visitors to his territory. “It’s the best fur in the world, but since only the chiefs could wear it, not many were killed,” says Jack while being ﬁlmed on the shore of Nootka Island. But this changed after Captain James Cook ﬁrst landed in Yuquot in 1778. As they were the best hunters, First Nations from Vancouver Island’s coasts were soon engaged to acquire pelts for lucrative European and Russian markets. By the mid 1800s intensiﬁed trading brought the species to serious decline, leading eventually to the last sea otter being killed on the B.C. coast in 1929. Exponential growth Fifty years after sea otters were reintroduced to British Columbia, populations have grown exponentially to approximately 5,000. But this has brought unforeseen ecological consequences, including a correspondingly sharp decline in sea urchins in the areas where otters inhabit. With a metabolic rate up to three times that of land mammals of a similar size, sea otters are highly adept at gathering shellﬁsh to satisfy their voracious appetites. They can dive 30 metres, and are able to use rocks as tools to open urchins, crabs, clams, mussels or other shellﬁsh. The animals can eat 30 per cent of their body weight in a day, which translates to up to 15 kilograms for an adult male. Nowhere is the inﬂuence of sea otters more apparent than in waters around Kyuquot, as witnessed by Hilda Hanson over her 100 years of life. “We had big clam beaches in Kyuquot. Actis, it was the best clam beach that ever was. All kinds, big clams, little clams,” she recalled, adding that people could once go down to the beach with a can to dig up whatever they wanted. “No more. No more clams. That’s when k̕wak̕aƛ [sea otter] came around, ate up all the clams. We had to go somewhere else.” The account of Hanson and other members of the Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’/Che:k’tles7et’h’ First Nation helped to inform a recently published research project on the resulting complexities of the reintroduction of sea otters to the B.C. coast. Titled Enabling coexistence: Navigating predatorinduced regime shifts in human-ocean ecosystems, the study explores how to better manage the species to enable a balance with others who rely on the ecosystem - including people living in remote coastal communities. According to the project’s co-author Jenn Burt, the current situation has
Photo by Kevin Head
Since they were translocated to the west coast of Vancouver Island from Alaska 50 years ago, the region`s sea otter population has grown to 5,000. The animals are capable of eating up to 15 kilograms of shellﬁsh in a day. “Having more [income] sources would not help because there is still no seafood,” said Peter Hanson.
disrupted time-honoured subsistence practices in Kyuquot. “Imagine you lived ﬁve hours from the nearest grocery store,” she explained. “And your whole existence and the existence of your family has lived oﬀ this productive garden in your backyard - and then all of a sudden somebody came in and ripped up all the things from your garden.” Generations after the reintroduction of sea otters, younger Kyuquot residents are so unfamiliar with the shellﬁsh that their ancestors lived on that they decline it when oﬀered, observed Wii-tsts-koom, Anne Mack, who also authored the study. This points to the larger issue of the removal of seafood from the modern Nuuchah-nulth diet, which Mack believes could be contributing to cancer rates. “It’s a health issue,” said Mack, who is also Ha’wilth of the Toquaht First Nation. “That’s been really prevalent in the last years.”
Beneﬁts for kelp, eco-tourism The project notes that while otters can cause shellﬁsh to thin out, the absence of sea urchins allows kelp forests to ﬂourish. More kelp can beneﬁt some ﬁsh. “[More otters] are good for the herring and for other little ﬁsh,” reported Richard Gillette of the Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’/ Che:k’tles7et’h’ First Nation in one of the study’s many interviews. “There was a pass that didn’t have any kelp and now it’s thick with kelp - and last year we saw a herring spawn on it.” The multi-year study also indicated other beneﬁts with the return of sea otters, including providing an attraction for tourists who venture to Kyuquot for a taste of the wild northwest coast. But while eco-tourism may bring some employment and revenue into the remote area, several respondents commented that the money that comes with being an attraction doesn’t replace the value of eating healthy food from one’s own territory.
Comparison to Alaska Besides Kyuquot, Enabling coexistence studied another coastal Indigenous community living through the resurgence of sea otters on the West Coast. Situated on the southcentral shore of Alaska, the Sugpiaq Tribes have a similar population to Kyuquot, and also reside in a remote location with a strong history of subsisting oﬀ the ocean’s bounty. But the sea otter came to their territory a decade earlier in the late 1950s, naturally moving in from a nearby location on the northern state’s coast. Interviews with the Sugpiaq noted a more balanced view of the sea otter – without the degree of frustration towards the ocean hunter as was observed in Kyuquot. This could point to the diﬀerence across the US border in how the federal government permits the Suqpiaq to pursue their traditional methods of population control: While sea otters are protected from hunting under Canada’s Species at Risk Act, in Alaska the US Marine Mammal Protection Act permits Indigenous Peoples to harvest for subsistence, traditional handcrafts and clothing. Although a halt in government funding has ended the program, Burt credits the Indigenous involvement in the Alaska Sea Otter and Stellar Sea Lion Commission for establishing a better management regime. “Models like that are deﬁnitely things we can learn from and the Nuu-chahnulth management plan for sea otters has a lot of the same kinds of things in it,” she said, noting that those in coastal villages will need to play a major role for the plan to be put in place. “It has to be implemented in the communities because there aren’t DFO oﬃcers in communities.”
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