Heal Our Planet Earth


The Vancouver Sun
by Craig McInnes and Doug Ward

[S.I.S.I.S. note: The following mainstream news article may contain biased or distorted information and may be missing pertinent facts and/or context. It is provided for reference only.]

VICTORIA -- B.C. will not sign any treaty with native Indian bands that includes the right to hunt whales, Premier Glen Clark declared Monday after the Makah tribe of Washington state made their first kill. Clark said whaling falls under federal jurisdiction, but it would be "outrageous" if a band were to be allowed to kill a whale.

The Makah killed a grey whale Monday morning, first harpooning it, causing the mammal to dive, then firing at least two shots into it at close range from .50-calibre rifles when it resurfaced several minutes later.
Two B.C. coastal native groups have claimed a hereditary right to hunt whales.

"We will use whatever leverage we have at the bargaining table and the treaties to ensure that there is no whale hunt in British Columbia." Clark said he was repulsed by the killing of the whale Monday, a reaction he believes most people will share.

But Aboriginal Affairs Minister Gordon Wilson was less certain that B.C. natives could be prevented from whaling. "It may well be that the rights that they have under Sparrow with respect to salmon may have similar application to harvesting of whales. That's something we have to look at," Wilson said. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 1984 that Reginald Sparrow, a member of the Musqueam band, had an aboriginal right to fish for salmon that superceded the right of the federal government to regulate the fishery.

Wilson said the current position is to refuse to approve any treaty that includes whaling, but if natives go to court to establish a right to hunt whales, that could change. "One obviously has to respect the law, but it's purely hypothetical at this point." He stressed that no band claiming a hereditary right to hunt whales has yet brought the issue to the treaty table. "Our view is that they don't, they're going to have to prove that they do and if they choose to pursue it, I guess they'll have to do so in the courts," Wilson said.

Liberal leader Gordon Campbell called the whale kill "an appalling, senseless, wasteful, disgraceful act."

"I certainly don't want it happening in British Columbia for any purpose, whether it's commercial or ceremonial or customary." Campbell said he had legal advice that natives do not have an aboriginal right to hunt whales. "I think it's a brutal and archaic practice. I think that it should be stopped."

Clark's remarks were criticized by Nelson Keitlah, co-chair of the Nu-Chah-Nulth Tribal Council, which represents 13 bands on the central and north coast of western Vancouver Island and wants to negotiate whaling rights in its treaties. "Colonialism hasn't really left us, has it?" said Keitlah. "He [Clark] is saying what we should eat and what we shouldn't eat."

Keitlah also said that it was improper for the premier to determine which issues will be on the bargaining table in the Nu-Chah-Nulth treaty talks.

"We are in treaty negotiations and that is one of the issues that will be there. It's not on the table. But upon our insistence it will be."

Keitlah said that whaling is important to his people for food but also for cultural reasons. "It's part of reaching for that epic where capturing a whale is the ultimate for any of our hunters." Keitlah said that members of his band are proud of the whale killing carried out by the Makah. "This is a historic day for our people. We want to send our congratulations to the Makah nation. It's been 70-80 years since it was last done."

Keitlah, who is based in Port Alberni, said it was whaling by white men that seriously reduced whale stocks -- not whaling by native people.

"We had nothing to do with their [the whales'] demise. But all of a sudden people are upset when we want to take one."

The Ditidaht and Pacheedaht bands, located about 120 kilometres northwest of Victoria, also have significant cultural ties to whaling.
Anthony Marr of the Western Canadian Wilderness Committee, said the anti-whaling campaign is not aimed at aboriginal rights. "We are not pointing fingers at the native people. We are just against whaling." Marr said it was "ludicrous" to describe Monday's whale killing as a revival of tradition. "How traditional is a power boat, or a .50-calibre gun?"
Marr said that the Makah's whale hunt has little to do with the band's food needs. "It's something they've chosen as a vehicle to assert themselves as a self-determined people.

"If they want to do that -- all power to them. But if they do it at the expense of a whale, they should first of all consider the self-determination of the whales."

The whale kill was also attacked by animal-rights activist Peter Hamilton of the Vancouver-based Lifeforce. "Anyone who enjoys subjecting an intelligent, sentient whale to an agonizing, slow death is a bloodthirsty savage," said Hamilton. "I don't know how these whale murderers can live with themselves."

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