SuCESS member Robert Corlett and his wife Eve attended the Get Out Migration rally held in Victoria on May 8. Here is Rob's report on that memorable day.
We hear about apathy from the elegible voters. I heard over and over again that there is no place to place your vote. "Politicians are not to be trusted". " I would vote if there was someone to vote for". "They are all the same".
[blockquote]See Robert Corlett's photo gallery from the Victoria Rally.[/blockquote]
We came early to Centenial Square, and as we were donating monies to the rally we received two t-shirts for our donation. I mentioned to the lady that I had worked in the fish farm industry. Not only had she, as an eighteen year old, a couple standing next to us stated that they had also (helped move some of the first fish farms into the Broughton).
Throughout the course of the day, several people talked about having worked in the fish farm industry including a First Nations woman that had "spent ten years working on the farms, harvesting and plant" (processing plant). This woman suffers from blurred vision. She told me that her eye Doctor was "stunned at the build up of scar tissue in her eyes due to a bacterial infection". It is her belief that this infection was caused by "juices that had sprayed into her eyes from cists in the kidney line along the backbone of farm fish".
Most likely what she was referring to was BKD (Bacterial Kidney Disease). In highly infected farm fish these become slow swimmers that tend to be on the surface of the pens then swim slowly in the corners till they die. I recall one fish farm in Narrows inlet that had a massive BKD infection. The farmer surface seined the slow swimmers off the pen tops and we live-hauled them to the processing plant. Many died in transport as they were unable to handle the additional stress. She found the "pollution heartbreaking" The young woman went on to talk about the deformed and diseased fish sold into the market.
I began to notice that there was a dominance of people at the rally who came from communities where fish farms exist. It seems that those of us that have witnessed the bad and the ugly of open net fish farms would like to see them leave our coast.
Many First Nation communities were represented in the walk and rally. The reverence and respect shown Alexander Morton by elders and members of First Nation communities reminded me of where I was born (Bella Bella) and where I spent my first few tender years (Kismet).
The "Musgamagw tsawatainuk" First Nations community from the Broughton/Kingcome Inlet/Clifford Sound/Wakeman Sound/Hope Town area were represented by several generations. They are witnesses to the effects of fish farms in their traditional territory.
As we were walking from Cenntenial square to the Legislature I spotted Anita Corvette on the sidewalk. We hugged each other and I heard her say that she was glad that the Sunshine Coast was represented. I estimate that I asked 150 plus people where they were from, all but a handful were from Vancouver Island and surrounding islands including the Broughton Area. I could not help but wonder how many would have been at the walk if the Legislature was in Vancouver?
To me this wasn't about the speeches, this was about who participated in the walk and rally. This was a cross spectrum of our society. This was not fringe environmentalists, although there was some. Out of hundreds of signs I only saw two that were offensive and did not belong. This was a walk of ordinary British Columbians who place their trust in Alexander Morton and distrust the information put out by the Norwegion companies operating on our Coast.
I talked to three teens from Cortez Island one of who will be reporting back to her school newspaper. They came to "support Alex". I asked the three young women if they feel they were having an effect? To which they replied "we hope so" and "every person counts". Up-beat, positive and a belief that they make a difference. Something that I needed to be reminded of.
I talked to two of the people that canoed from Hope to Sannich then carried the canoe to the Legislature in Victoria. Utterly fatigued yet determined. One a school teacher still full of energy (I suspect she did not paddle much-- no blisters--) was running on an adrenaline high. This was her first act of activism. Many of the people that I talked to did not consider themselves as activists and told me this was the first rally that they had participated in.
Alex gave a very short speech, four hundred kilometeres of walking, along with many speeches and interviews and demands on her time from those of us that support her showed in her fatigue. What I got to see in the few seconds that I stole from her was the iron will to resist the invasive species known as Norwegian fishfarms and her love for the wild salmon.
Alex has for some time been asking us to increase our concern for our wild salmon. As Alex looked towards the thousands of every day people crowding the Legislature lawn she stated "Its over to you now." "It is beserk that fish farms are put ahead of wild salmon." "Do we live in a democracy or not? "This is a test." "Ignore us at your own peril."
Alex talked about hearing over and over again that "people want to know what to do". It reminded me of the young woman from Cortez who said every voice counts. Do not give up, your voice matters.
Alex left a jaw-bone from a wild salmon that had spawned in the Broughton Archeolpelogo as a symbolic reminder of the journey from Sointula to the Legislature in Victoria. This was a historical journey in the history of British Columbia, hopefully someone in the government building recognized this and has kept the jaw-bone rather than tossing history in the garbage.
It was nice to hear Alex say "the RCMP were phenomenal." That has not always been the case in the history of protests in our province.
I talked to many that walked different portions of the 400 kilometeres with Alex. To a person, they were overwelmed by the support from people along the way from friendly honks to supportive waves and yells to people donating food and money and opening their homes for shelter, ect.
People of all ages and many races came together for a common cause. I talked to a Courtney resident who walked the Courtney leg with Alex and the last leg from Mill Bay to the legislature. I asked her how she came about to be a participant. " I have never done anything like this in my life. My circle of friends were talking about how we could support the wild salmon and Alexander Morton. This led to many emails back and forth amongst us and I thought 'hey I want to do this'."
Many people expressed their anger at the Norwegian salmon farmers hiding behind jobs as a good reason for us to allow them to exist in our waters. I heard comments like "if they were truly concerned about jobs they would be talking about the jobs taken away by fish farming." " Why did they bring boats over from Norway?" "Why are they continually reducing their labour needs by increased mechanisation?" To this I would add that things are done on fish farms to save costs including labour costs. It is cheaper to wheel a tote full of dead fish to the end of the net pens and dump them in the ocean then pay someone to haul them away. Do not worry the dead fish 'morts' are dumped on the end of the system where the current is flowing away from the pens where the dead fish were recovered . Fish farmers learned that lesson from the effects of slashing open the bottom of fish pens where the bulk of the farm fish had died from algea bloom and left to decay under new pens of fish.
It is a small world. One of the fellows that made the canoe journey from Hope to Victoria had worked at Scanpesca a fish farm across from the Earls Cove ferry terminal. He had nothing good to say about the ethics of that fish farmer. He talked about how they sorted their fish. Sorting tables were used to grade fish for size. "The hose for the runts, the deformed fish like the Ben Mulroneys (named after the prominent jawline) dumped these fish into the open ocean". During a bloom this farmer cooked up some of the morts and expected the farm workers to eat them. I witnessed this.
I think back to the years past when I activley spoke out against fish farms including appearing as a witness before a federal standing committee on fisheries where Wayne Easter Liberal MP said that if what I was saying was true International law had been broken. As Judge Legitt said to me some time after" you are too small of a potatoe to be of concern to the government".
When the NDP was in power, I met with and talked to a ministerial aid to attempt to get a meeting with the Minister whose portfolio included fish farming. I got nowhere. At one point during a discusion he said that we had lost the ability to govern. He was referencing the power of big corporations. I will never forget that comment. Gordon Wilson was our MLA at that time. In a lengthy meeting with Gordon it became clear that he would not be of any help. Funny what we remember from conversations, Gordon asked me what a pinepod was, I did not know at the time. I have often wondered if this was the point where he became dismissive of me. Strange how just before the election in which he lost his seat in the Legislature, Gordon was able to offer me an opportunity to speak to the full Cabinet. I declined the offer for obvious reasons.
As Alex said on the steps of the Legislature " you will ignore us at your own peril". As the young woman said "every person counts". I needed that reminder and am honoured to have participated in such an historical event in our history. This was about people walking the walk for the future of our salmon and for the future of democracy.