Submitter: Celia Brauer
Date Submitted: April 1, 2010
The commission should make room in or alongside its formal process for those individuals and groups who will not formally apply for legal standing yet have information and evidence that should be in the public domain. Their interest and energy will make the commission's work more comprehensive, more influential, more enduring and ultimately more successful.
I am writing before the deadline for applications for standing, but not to apply for standing at the inquiry per se. Rather I would like to articulate my concerns over the very strict Terms of Reference and the process generally.
I have been personally concerned about the fate of Wild Pacific Salmon for at least 7 years. My thoughts first turned to the story of the salmon and their life on this coast when I learned that salmon had historically been plentiful in 57 streams in the City of Vancouver and today very few streams support healthy salmon populations.
My actions in response to learning this were numerous. In 2005 I co-founded a non-profit group called the False Creek Watershed Society (FCWS). In 2004 I created and produced a BC Rivers Day event called “The Salmon Celebration – Remembering our History, Celebrating the Living” which has been occurring annually for the past 6 years. The mandate of FCWS is to educate the public about the lost natural history though arts and culture and to emphasize urban sustainability. The role of the Salmon Celebration was to offer a celebratory and attractive venue in which to come together and share the knowledge about the current state of fish and watersheds. Since 2005 I have also maintained an annual initiative to have September declared “Wild Salmon Month” in the City of Vancouver.
Doing this community work has brought me into contact with those I affectionately call “fishy people” whose passion for salmon and water issues is very strong. Salmon seems to do this to people. This humble fish brings out the fighting spirit in those who hope to save and revive them. I quickly discovered there are many fishy people on this coast. In early 2009 I started a small “Friends of Wild Salmon” list serve because I was getting so much information on salmon and thought it should be shared with kindred souls. The list now has a library of 910 posts which show the breadth of the issues involving wild salmon locally and the depth of public interest.
The appointment of this Judicial Inquiry makes it all too clear that we are presently working on borrowed time. Salmon numbers are plummeting in many areas, habitat is clearly shrinking, water bodies are getting dirtier and their temperatures are rising, disease from human intervention seems to be increasing and the fisheries conservation efforts of DFO seem ineffective. The list is endless. Yet the claims on the salmon resources are as great as ever. This inquiry, certainly not the first of its kind, has been put in place to try and sort all this out.
It has commonly and historically been our method in western democracies to rely on judicial or other formal legal inquiries as a means to gather and analyze complex information, to identify problems and pinpoint their solutions. This does not however create a comfortable space for groups like the FCWS and individuals like myself to make the full contribution we can to a vital public process. We need a forum within or alongside the Inquiry to express what we feel. We honestly feel we represent the view of any thousands of citizens who themselves are not yet in a position to establish legal standing at the Inquiry (and indeed FCWD and groups like it are themselves probably not able to establish standing either). Not being in a position to have formal standing should nonetheless not diminish our message of public concern about the critical status of the humble Wild Pacific Salmon.
I am aware of many other individuals and groups – locally, upstream along the Fraser and further northwards up the coast of BC who are in the same situation. Because of this I sincerely urge the Cohen inquiry to make some room in or alongside its formal process for those who will not formally apply for legal standing yet have information and evidence that should be in the public domain. These people – most of whom do not make a living from salmon but chose to emphasize the conservation of salmon and natural capital generally - are vitally interested both intellectually and by strong passion in the future of salmon. And their interest and energy, if properly channeled to support the more formal and technical work of the commission, will make its work more comprehensive, more influential, more enduring and ultimately more successful.
Other than FCWS, I am aware of a few groups locally in the Lower Fraser River region who are very concerned about the conditions for salmon as they enter the mouth of the river. Here salmon encounter dwindling and threatened habitat in the estuary and upriver and high pollution loads. These groups are the Rivershed Society of BC (which connects stewardship groups along the entire length of the Fraser River), the Stream of Dreams Mural Society, Surrey Environmental Partners and the Burns Bog Conservation Society. There are many other groups too and their membership includes many very knowledgeable individuals.
I have included an “Op-Ed” article I wrote recently for the Georgia Straight Online on this subject. I look forward to hearing that there is some organization put into place at the Inquiry that will consider facilitating opportunities for interested individuals and NGO’s who have not applied for formal standing so that they can participate in a corollary process of public education and exchange of ideas. I truly believe that these additions will in not in any way derogate from the formal inquiry but instead buttress and enhance the fulfillment of its mandate.
Wishing you “very best fishes” in your journey ahead (upstream!),
See attachment below: “Recovery of the Fraser River Sockeye calls for Olympian Effort” From the Georgia Straight Online