As I reflect on my time as Salmon Beyond Borders’ B.C. Organizer, I’m thinking back...way back...
I’m channeling 10 year old Sierra - playing her favorite computer game - The Yukon Trail. The Yukon Trail is a 1994 computer game based on The Oregon Trail series set during the Klondike Gold Rush of the late 19th century. Players travel through Seattle to Skagway and into the Yukon - to “strike it rich” along the river. I played this game in elementary school for years and it taught me what the foundation of Canada’s mining history had looked like. Those images played through my mind as I considered what it would be like to be a gold-rush era miner - claiming a stake! How exciting. The adventure! The hardship!
Well today, the billion dollar mining industry looks quite a bit different. But rather unfortunately, the regulations that are supposed to protect the ecosystems they operate in - do not. Our mining laws in B.C. haven’t changed in 150 years - that’s right, not since the gold rush.
Considering that British Columbia’s gold rush was important in the history and settlement of European and Chinese people in western Canada, the presence of gold in what is now British Columbia is spoken of in many old legends that, in part, led to its colonization. Still to this day, most Indigenous peoples in British Columbia have never ceded or surrendered their traditional territories.
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (“UNDRIP”) affirms the rights of Indigenous peoples to participate in decision making about their traditional territories, and be entitled to give free, prior and informed consent before development can occur. As we have heard commitments from Canadian lawmakers, we eagerly await their action to fully adopt “UNDRIP” and “FPIC” - which not only will apply to First Nations, but to downstream sovereign tribes as well.
Bottom line, the way mining is currently done here in B.C. does not address indigenous jurisdiction, and it will plunge this generation into ecological and financial debt. We are spending our shrinking inheritance on cleaning up the mining industry’s mess.
So what can we do about it?
Well, first off, you can let Minister Heyman and Premier Horgan know that they need to modernize B.C. mining laws. In May of 2019, nearly 30 local, provincial and national organizations from a wide range of sectors, including citizen and community groups, First Nations, academics, and social justice and environmental organizations launched the B.C. Mining Law Reform Network, dedicated to ensuring equitable mining policies in British Columbia. I was able to be part of the launch event in Victoria, as Salmon Beyond Borders is one of 30 organizations behind this great effort. Please consider joining with support for the B.C. Mining Law Reform movement and take action here.
Next, you can tell Minister Freeland that the federal government of Canada needs to push B.C. to improve its mining laws and work with the United States to ensure our shared salmon rivers remain productive for generations to come.
The shared wild salmon rivers of this region are integral to our identities and ways of life in British Columbia, a common trait we share with our neighbors in Alaska and Washington.
People need wild spaces - if only to imagine and be comforted by the fact that there are things bigger than themselves out there. Until recently, I imagined everything north of Prince George as miner’s country - a place so wild and vast that there was no way industrial mining would put these rivers on the brink. Well, after countless markets and tabling and talking to the public about B.C.’s large-scale mining in shared wild salmon rivers - it seems many other British Columbians feel the same.
Mining has played a big role in British Columbia, and it will continue. Our job as citizens of B.C. is to take responsibility for the impacts that B.C. mines have had, and will likely have on our wild salmon rivers. We need to ask ourselves questions such as: Where should mining take place? How should it be done? Who is at the decision table? Who should benefit? And what are we willing to do to protect the places we love?
While I am leaving my official role with the Salmon Beyond Borders campaign, I will not be taking my thumb off the pulse. Pressure needs to come from people throughout the province - this is our task as British Columbians- to stay informed and take action. You can do this by taking these urgent actions, signing up for our newsletter, staying connected and attending events. Staying informed is our best form of activism (and voting is a close second!) See you all at the polls this month!
With that in mind -
Meet Breanna! Breanna is Salmon Beyond Borders’ campaign coordinator. She is based in Southeast Alaska - and is your go-to person when you have questions about the campaign and our work to defend and sustain the Taku, Stikine, and Unuk transboundary rivers. Among many things, Bre will continue to plan events throughout the region and keep you all up to speed - please reach out to Breanna if you want to collaborate in the name of wild salmon!
For me - I will continue working with, and for salmon. My focus is shifting to restoration, but my heart will always be with this transboundary campaign and the people who so passionately work for these magical places.
B.C. Organizer for Salmon Beyond Borders
SALMON BEYOND BORDERS is a campaign driven by sport and commercial fishermen, community leaders, tourism and recreation business owners and concerned citizens, in collaboration with Tribes and First Nations, united across the Alaska/British Columbia border to defend and sustain our transboundary rivers, jobs and way of life.
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