As March roars out as a lion, the Heiltsuk Nation follow suit and let out their “roar” at the Department of fisheries and Oceans (DFO) to stop the Commercial Herring Fishery in their territory. The reverberations of that roar are being heard from Bella Bella to Vancouver to Victoria to Ottawa.
The Heiltsuk are occupying DFO Offices in Denny Bay, BC, and need help to ramp up the pressure against the federal government in their fight to stop commercial openings for herring. Young adults got busy and organized a rally and got a large crowd to gather at Save On Foods at Fort And Foul Bay in Victoria. It was well organized, respectful and got the message out.
The crowd was about 200 people. They all came to help bring attention to what is happening to the Heiltsuk-their herring fishery is being jeopardized by DFO opening in Area 7 for herring. The Heiltsuk know that such an opening will endanger the stocks. The rally was chanting “Stop the herring kill”.
The chosen target was Jimmy Pattison’s Save on Foods at Fort and Foul Bay. Pattison’s group has a large commercial fleet that are fishing the herring and of course selling their products to businesses owned by Pattison. Pattison refused to stop fishing when he was requested to do so by the Heiltsuk. It was important to also send him a message to take First Nations concerns seriously.
Some of the crowd stood in the doorway and people were not going in. The manager locked the doors and only people needing prescriptions were being allowed in. This lasted for over an hour. I have to give credit to the staff at Save On, they took this in their stride and worked with the organizers although I am told it was tough negotiations.
People were standing in the entrances to the parking lots at Save On and people were being allowed to leave the parking lot. Several cars tried to run over people. They could see people standing there and still tried to push their way through. One big truck speeded up and almost hit a woman. Others joined that woman pretty quickly. The guy in the truck jumped out and went nose to nose with those women. Tense moments but the women won and the man went to find another way out.
Some people asked what was going on and told us they agreed with us. Two elderly ladies asked and then said oh, yes, we saw this on the news. We support you. Other people when they asked said we will go elsewhere. They were thanked for their support.
Others were very angry and tried to push their way into the parking lots by keeping driving. Supporters held their ground. They explained what was happening, apologized for the inconvenience, and directed them to Thrifty’s or other businesses. Pamphlets were handed out explaining what the issue was and what they could do to help. If people were still angry we told them the Heiltsuk had been inconvenienced for a long time. For those people who got angry today I hope they will rethink the issue and think about how they can help so these kinds of rallies don’t have to happen.
Police were on the scene to keep things under control. They were taking lots of pictures of the crowd. Hope they got good pictures. Keeping us on file for when Bill C51 becomes law I am sure. The police did their job well and spoke to those who needed to be called on their behavior. I thanked two of them but they weren’t too receptive.
When the roads into the parking lot were again opened after about an hour, the crowd walked around the lot drumming and singing and shouting slogans. “Solidarity with Heiltsuk, We support the Heiltsuk”. It was quite the afternoon at Save On Foods.
The solidarity rally was about helping to get the message out about preserving the herring stocks for the Heiltsuk. I think it was a message that was clearly conveyed. There were so many young people there. Young indigenous leaders who will be leading their communities, heading up negotiations with governments and raising their voices to protect and assert their rights. Governments should be prepared for these young people as they will be strong, passionate and unwavering in their need to get things settled.
The word from the Heilstuk central at the end of the day was that the commercial fishers said if they didn’t get anything in their nets today they were packing it in. We are all praying for no herring to get in their nets. But there is no doubt in my mind that those that were present for the rally would do it again if the Heiltsuk need support. Even with April being ushered in tomorrow, the "Heiltsuk Roar" will continue until they reach their objective. Strength and solidarity to those that are in tents and the DFO offices, there are many that support you.
For Further background read:
“What the Heiltsuk Nation does today will affect future generations.
We must ensure the viability of the land, water and resources for future
This can only be achieved by following the values and teachings of our
Hemas and elders.”
Chief Marilyn Slett