Salmon farm industry faces harsh glare of court spotlight

By bringing suit for trespass, Marine Harvest Canada Inc. moves a critical discussion beyond the court of public opinion and into legal court

QUATHIASKI COVE, B.C. Oct. 19, 2016/ Troy Media/ – A lawsuit brought by a West Coast salmon farm operator will likely shine a harsh light on the industry.

Marine Harvest Canada Inc. has filed a Notice of Civil Claim for trespass against “Alexandra Morton, John Doe, Jane Doe and all other persons unknown to the plaintiff occupying, obstructing, blocking, or physically impeding the plaintiff’s aquaculture sites.”

The move is unlikely to win public support for a salmon farming industry already bearing a tattered reputation.

And it may raise legal complications that will test the wisdom of the court.

This is the first time Marine Harvest has sued Morton – an activist and independent biologist – for anything she has said or done. One possible explanation for this legal action is that her Operation Virus Hunter campaign aboard the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s RV Martin Sheen this summer may actually be harming the industry. Corporations tend to only trouble themselves with individuals when they feeling threatened.

The salmon farming industry has previously responded to Morton’s solid science and legal victories with either silence or court appeals – and, likely, with political lobbying.

Was the presence on their Broughton Archipelago salmon farms of stern and resolute First Nations chiefs and elders with eviction notices too much to disregard? These sites represent about one-third of the industry’s total and their loss would be significant.

There is no indication that Morton incited the Musgmagw Dzawada’enuwx Nation. RV Martin Sheen simply became a platform for them to gather, discuss and focus the frustration and resentment that has been building against salmon farms for nearly 30 years.

If they were encouraged by Morton’s findings that 39 per cent of their local wild salmon were being killed by sea lice emanating from nearby salmon farms, then the court may accept their action as justified – a “salmon people” without their salmon face cultural genocide.

During their alleged trespass, Dzawada’enuxw First Nation Hereditary Chief Willie Moon asked, “Where did you get your authorization to be in this territory? This area you’re talking about belongs to the Musgmagw Dzawada’enuwx people. We’ve never ever given you the right to come and take over our territory. You’re here illegally.”

Another First Nations leader explained, “We’re here because we have every right to be here. This is our territory and has been so for at least 13,000 years. Our roots go deep within these waters, deep within these territories. So we’re here under our authority. Our law has been here way before British law even got here. So to ask us to try and protect your interests here in our territory is disrespectful.”

The parade of chiefs, elders, women and children, who either identified themselves or were photographed on the salmon farms, were designated by Marine Harvest as “John Doe, Jane Doe, and all other person’s unknown. …”

But they are known persons. And the defence they presented reverses the issue of trespass. How could they be trespassing if the salmon farms were the trespassers?

If Morton is guilty of trespass, are all the others also guilty? On this point, the evidence in the suit could expand to involve issues of aboriginal land claims, unceded territory, social justice and justifiable self-defence against a threat to an entire aboriginal culture.

Undoubtedly, the suit will expose the darker secrets of the salmon farming industry, so even a win may be yet another loss for the industry.

Ray Grigg is the author of seven internationally published books on Oriental philosophy, specifically Zen and Taoism. Ray is included in Troy Media’s Unlimited Access subscription plan.

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