Journalist writing about Indigenous rights, the environment, the arts, and social justice. All about reading, podcasts, coffee and comfy clothes. Citizen of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Nation and reporter for The Narwhal.

Stories

Want to save B.C. salmon? Bring back Indigenous fishing systems, study says

On the Nass River in northern B.C., the current spins six fishwheels managed by the Nisg̱a’a Lisims Government. The fishwheels, which carry baskets round and round, are like “ferris wheels for fish,” according to Andrea Reid, a Nisg̱a’a fisheries scientist. After fish are caught, the baskets drop them into a holding pen submerged in water next to the wheel. “It’s a friendly way to capture fish because it doesn’t really stress them out,” said Reid, adding that the fish aren’t exposed to air and are rarely damaged. These fishwheels are just one example of Indigenous fishing technologies that allow for a selective harvest.

Public money ‘helped fund extinction’ of B.C. caribou through mining subsidies: report

Endangered caribou in northeast B.C. have been “sacrificed” for the economic benefits of coal mining — benefits that turned out to be “grossly exaggerated,” according to a new report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. “Habitat-destroying coal mining projects are approved because decision-makers believe financial and economic benefits outweigh the cost of caribou loss,” states the Who Benefits from Caribou Decline? report, written as part of the Corporate Mapping Project, an academic and community-based research partnership.

‘A lost run’: logging and climate change decimate steelhead in B.C. river

As Kent O’Neill, general manager of a fishing lodge in the village of Gold River on Vancouver Island, looks ahead to the winter steelhead run, he worries that no fish will show up after a survey last winter found zero. “I want my grandkids to be able to experience the way these fisheries were before,” said Kent O’Neill, who is also president of the Nootka Sound Watershed Society.

The last free river of Manitoba

A five-year-old Stephanie Thorassie sat in front of her father on his snowmobile, nestled between his legs as he drove away from their home in Tadoule Lake, Man. They went over two hills before descending to a beach. Thorassie was stunned. “On the beach, there were thousands of caribou — right behind my house!” she reminiscing about her childhood in the 1990s. Little Thorassie jumped up and stood on the snowmobile while her dad drove them closer to the herd. She couldn’t contain herself. “Caribou!” she yelled. Her dad laughed. It was her first time being so close to a big herd.

‘I wanted to show them I wasn’t extinct’

Rick Desautel, Shelly Boyd and Derrick Lamere stood on the steps of the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa on a chilly October morning. They are Sinixt, or ‘people of the place of the bull trout,’ and members of the Arrow Lakes Tribe. Inside, nine supreme court justices heard arguments from a slew of lawyers about whether or not the Sinixt hold rights in Canada, since the federal government declared them ‘extinct’ in 1956.

Blue carbon: the climate change solution you’ve probably never heard of

Gail Chmura, a professor at McGill University, was struck by her findings: salt marshes stored lots of carbon. They could even store more than peatlands. “I didn’t think anyone was going to believe me,” she said with a laugh. But she was right. Over her years of researching the Bay of Fundy, she found the bay’s salt marshes contain more than 14.2 million tonnes of organic carbon, which it has been accumulating for 3,000 years. That’s equivalent to emissions from over 106 million barrels of oil being consumed.

Seabridge Gold asks B.C. for more time to begin KSM mine construction, citing COVID-19

The mine’s owner, Toronto-based Seabridge Gold, originally received approval for the project in 2014, under an environmental assessment certificate that stated the project must be “substantially started” within five years. In 2018, the company received a five-year extension to its environmental assessment certificate. If Seabridge’s request for an emergency extension is granted, the mine will end up having 12 years to achieve a substantial start on the mine from the time it was initially approved.

Four reasons 2020 is set to see the lowest Fraser River sockeye salmon return on record

Scientists at the Pacific Salmon Commission knew 2020 wouldn’t be a great year for Fraser River sockeye salmon — but they didn’t know it would be this bad. Returns of adult sockeye averaged 9.6 million between 1980 and 2014, ranging from two million to 28 million per year. The commission predicted just 941,000 salmon would return this year. But returns have been so low this summer, the commission had to update that projection in early August. It now expects only 283,000 adults will return, which would be the lowest return ever recorded.

Meet the people saving Canada’s native grasslands

It’s home to bears, elk, coyotes and birds, as well as people. It sequesters millions of tonnes of carbon. It’s taken millennia to become so biodiverse. It’s one of the most endangered ecosystems on the planet. It’s not the rainforest. It’s the grasslands. “In the prairie around here, it doesn’t look like much,” said Kansie Fox from Kainai Nation / The Blood Tribe, part of the Blackfoot Confederacy. “You go out there, it just looks like grass.”

Who owns Northern Pulp? The B.C. company embroiled in Nova Scotia’s Boat Harbour controversy

After 50 years of having effluent pumped into their waters, the people of Pictou Landing First Nation in Nova Scotia are happy Northern Pulp has finally turned off the tap — a tap that ran up to 90 million litres of liquid waste directly into the harbour every day. The mill stopped producing in January, but the story of Northern Pulp isn’t over yet. On June 19, the company — represented by its B.C.-based owner, Paper Excellence Canada — was granted creditor protection by the B.C. Supreme Court.

Roberts Bank Terminal 2 would make Fraser River estuary a ‘giant parking lot,’ observers warn

When Tsawwassen Chief Ken Baird, whose ancestral name is swənnəset, looks at where the Fraser River meets the ocean, he worries about the effects of industry on the water that is a life source for his people. “It’s a real challenge to protect our land given all that is happening on the Fraser,” he said. “It’s becoming harder to be stewards of the Salish Sea.”

How a salt marsh could be a secret weapon against sea level rise in B.C.’s Fraser delta

Biologist Eric Balke was biking through Richmond, B.C., a few years ago when something caught his eye. He stopped at the dike and looked over to the other side — and saw a huge salt marsh expanding in front of him. He was surprised he’d never known it was there. “I’m a biologist. I should have known better,” he mused. “It’s like you build a dike and that’s the end of the world, that’s the end of the area we care about.” “But these marshes are truly the gem of the Fraser estuary.”

B.C. old-growth data ‘misleading’ public on remaining ancient forest: independent report

According to the B.C. government, 23 per cent of forest in the province is old growth, about 13 million hectares. Yet a new study found only three per cent of B.C. is capable of supporting large trees and within that small portion of the province, the ecologists found only 2.7 per cent of the trees are actually old as “old forests on these sites have dwindled considerably due to intense harvest.”

‘We’re going to have no protected land at all’: locals fight wetland development on Vancouver Island

A quiet wetland home to waterfowl and amphibians is at the centre of a clash between a conservation group and the local leadership of Qualicum Beach on the east coast of Vancouver Island. The green space in the corner of town, called the Laburnum wetland, is favoured by locals for recreation with walking trails a sort distance from the sandy beaches of Parksville. So when the local government decided to approve a 4-hectare housing project on the wetland, it spurred disagreement over what development and environmental protections in the region should look like.

Adapting to coronavirus: how B.C. First Nations balance food security and conservation

When Chief Byron Louis was a boy, he would walk into his grandmother’s root cellar and see a combination of garden and traditional foods. The 58-year-old, now chief of the Okanagan Indian Band, remembers that cellar well. He said it was filled with fresh produce from their gardens, tree fruits and canned vegetables and meats. “You’d look up into the shelves, you’d see saskatoons, you’d see huckleberries, you’d see soap berries,” he said, adding that the stocked cellar was necessary “so we could survive” since they didn’t rely on any outside supply.

B.C. First Nation ‘flooded’ with resource project referrals from industry, province amid coronavirus lockdown

In many ways, industry and services in B.C. have ground to a halt due to COVID-19. But according to an employee of the Skeetchestn Natural Resources Corporation, resource extraction proponents appeared to be operating as usual after the band office shut its doors and reduced community services. The office was “flooded” with about 30 referrals from industry and the provincial government between March 9 and March 23 regarding resource extraction projects, according to Joanne Hammond.

Coronavirus forces Wet’suwet’en to explore online talks on rights and title agreement

An all-clans meeting to discuss Wet’suwet’en rights and title could be moved online as the COVID-19 crisis upends plans for in-person talks, according to a spokesperson for the Gidimt’en. “We’re looking at possibly doing something online,” Jennifer Wickham told The Narwhal, saying discussions were also delayed by a death, unrelated to the novel coronavirus, in one of the communities. “I’m not sure what that’s going to look like but there’s definitely multiple things delaying the process.”

B.C. taxpayers on the hook for $1.2 billion in mine cleanup costs: chief inspector report

British Columbians are still on the hook for more than $1 billion in clean-up costs for the province’s mines, according to a new report from B.C.’s Chief Inspector of Mines. The recently released 2018 annual report says the province has secured $1.6 billion in bonds from mining companies to cover land reclamation costs but estimates the total cost of reclamation is $2.8 billion.

How the Wet’suwet’en crisis could have played out differently

Dozens of arrests. A week-long raid on Wet’suwet’en camps. Grainy videos of armed officers. Doors blocked at the B.C. legislature. Railways stalled across the country. For a conflict that began in a remote place, the impacts of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs’ opposition to the Coastal GasLink pipeline are now reverberating across the nation. As tensions flare and politicians seize on the moment to criticize their adversaries, one has to ask: was this escalation inevitable, or could it have been avoided?
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