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.


‘The salmon will come back again’: First Nations document devastating low returns on B.C.’s central coast

Mike Reid was never on shore in the summertime as a child. He was out on his uncle’s fishing boat, beginning when he was five or six years old when he helped out by doing dishes, surrounded by the sea. He graduated to fishing when he was 12 years old. The men started fishing at 3:30 a.m., and while his uncle told him he could sleep later, Reid wanted to wake up with everyone else. “I wanted to work hard because everyone else was working hard,” Reid, citizen of the Haíɫzaqv (Heiltsuk) Nation, told The Narwhal.

B.C. holding out on federal conservation targets and large-scale protected areas

British Columbia still hasn’t endorsed the federal government’s promise to protect 25 per cent of lands and oceans in Canada by 2025, leading conservationists and First Nations to call on the province to support more Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas in the face of climate change and biodiversity loss. B.C. has protected 15.5 per cent of its land and 3.2 per cent of marine and coastal areas, putting it far ahead of many other provinces and territories. However, it hasn’t established any new large-scale protected areas for a decade, adding just one percentage point over that period through a series of smaller designations.

Stories from Auntie on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

My auntie, Shellene Paull, or Skwét7siya, made a pot of coffee and cut up fresh watermelon. She put out some grapes in a ceramic bowl. She smudged, prayed for strength for everyone and cleared papers from the kitchen table so we could sit and talk. She pushed aside books about Squamish history and Indigenous law, and binders of copies of land transactions, newspaper clippings and letters from the early 1900s, all pieces of our history and how we got here.

How Clayoquot Sound’s War in the Woods transformed a region

As a young boy Tutakwisnapšiƛ, or Joe Martin, would peek out his bedroom window across the ocean water to see Tofino. He remembers the town had just three visible lights: the fuel dock, the post office and the grocery store. Martin shared the room with his brother at their home in Opitsaht, a Tla-o-qui-aht village in Clayoquot Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island. It’s a short boat ride to Tofino.

Meet the Cheakamus, the only community forest to develop carbon offsets in B.C.

When Leigh Joseph, a Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) ethnobotanist, walks through the woods along a stream, she knows she’ll come across some cottonwood trees. When infused into oil, the buds of the toothed, triangular leaves can help with muscle aches and congestion. As she moves from the riparian area deeper into the forest, Joseph may come across stands of stinging nettle. She knows these plants are favoured by local red admiral and satyr comma butterflies when they’re ready to lay their eggs.

B.C.’s Copper Mountain mine proposes major tailings pond expansion, sparking cross-border concern

A B.C. mine that was fined $51,000 for unauthorized release of wastewater late last year is proposing to increase its tailings pond capacity by 70 per cent in a move that won’t automatically trigger an environmental assessment. At 155 metres high, the Copper Mountain mine’s tailings pond dam is already four times taller than the Mount Polley mine tailings dam, which caused the largest mining spill in Canadian history when it failed in 2014. Now, a proposal by the Copper Mountain Mining Corporation to increase the allowable height of the dam to 255 metres — potentially making it taller than Vancouver’s highest skyscraper — is sparking concern.

After the fire: the long road to recovery

Bright-green plants sprout against a black backdrop of burned trees in some areas devastated by the 2017 Elephant Hill fire in B.C.’s interior. In other spots, the forest floor remains ashy with no signs of new life. It’s a visual reminder of both the hope and challenges that lie ahead for those working to restore the fragile ecosystem. “It reminds me of a moonscape,” Angie Kane, CEO of the Secwepemcùl’ecw Restoration and Stewardship Society, said of the areas with no new growth.

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.

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.
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