Big Qualicum River Injunction

by Andrew Kolasinski

Vancouver Island anglers are faced with a new barrier in pursuing their sport on the Big Qualicum River. The Qualicum First Nations has obtained a court injunction to prevent non-aboriginals from being on the portion of the river that passes through the Band's reservation property.

     The B.C. Fisheries Survival Coalition plans to appeal the injunction. The coalition says that all navigable rivers in Canada are public property as established by the Supreme Court of Canada, and the Qualicum First Nations cannot prevent anglers from using the river. The fisheries coalition doesn't believe the injunction will stand after the appeal process.

     Phil Eidswik, spokesman for the BC Fisheries Survival Coalition described this injunction as, "An indication of what's to come if the recreational fishing community doesn't get its act together."

     Eidswik says that many anglers are concerned this injunction sets a precedent that will further restrict access in other fisheries. The fisheries coalition has also raised allegations that the Band is over-harvesting stocks of chinook, chum, and coho salmon returning to the Big Qualicum River.

      Qualicum First Nations Chief, Barb Burns says, "The injunction applies to only a small portion of the river that flows through the reservation and is non-tidal. It's a trespassing issue. Traffic on opening day was unbelievable. There were more than 200 anglers in less than one quarter kilometre of river."

     Many of the homes on the Big Qualicum reservation back directly onto the river. Confrontations between fishermen and reservation residents have been escalating for several years. Last fall, during the salmon fishing season, incidents of rock throwing and fist-fights between some First Nations residents and anglers resulted in police investigations but no criminal charges.

     Signs at the boundaries of the reservation  were posted early in April. Chief, Barb Burns says, the Band will be enforcing the no-trespassing injunction. 


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