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Denman committee not pursuing objection to aquaculture near island

The Denman Island Local Trust Committee has decided not to proceed with bylaw enforcement actions regarding Pentlatch Seafoods Ltd.’s aquaculture operations near Denman Island.

The local trust committee has written to K’ómoks First Nation, which owns Pentlatch Seafoods Ltd., acknowledging that the outcome of treaty negotiations may affect its zoning authority in the area.

“Given that treaty negotiations are underway and that there is an interim agreement by senior governments with the K’ómoks First Nation to permit aquaculture in such areas, we want to respect that process,” said David Graham, a Denman Island local trustee.

Graham added, “Issues of aboriginal rights and title are the responsibility of senior levels of government to resolve. It doesn’t make sense for us to attempt to resolve these complex issues through a costly court process when the treaty negotiation process is intended to do just that.”

“We are committed to developing and maintaining good relationships with our First Nations neighbours, including respecting their assertions of constitutionally protected aboriginal rights,” added Laura Busheikin, also a Denman Island local trustee. “The K’ómoks First Nation is nearing the final stage of their treaty negotiations and the outcome may affect our zoning authority,” Busheikin added. “Therefore, the Denman Island local trust committee is not proceeding with enforcement of its bylaw in this case at this time.”

In April 2013, the K’ómoks First Nation, through its wholly owned company Pentlatch Seafoods Ltd., established aquaculture infrastructure at Henry Bay, contrary to Denman Island’s zoning regulations, which identify the area for marine conservation.

Pentlatch Seafoods Ltd. had previously obtained the necessary licenses and permits from provincial and federal government agencies.

In July 2013, in response to complaints from Denman Islanders about zoning violations, an Islands Trust bylaw enforcement officer wrote to Pentlatch Seafoods Ltd. advising them that the operation was not permitted in the W1 zone and requiring the removal of the “aquaculture infrastructure.”

In October 2013 the chief councillor of the K’ómoks First Nation advised the Denman Island local trust committee that it was asserting its aboriginal rights and title through Pentlatch Seafoods' aquaculture operations in Henry Bay.

The Denman local trust committee subsequently considered advice from treaty negotiators and legal counsel, which led to its decision about bylaw enforcement.

“I think it’s important to note that local government zoning does generally apply to aquaculture operations and we understand federal and provincial processes recognize local government jurisdiction in these matters”, said  committee chair Peter Luckham. “This decision reflects some very specific circumstances, involving traditional use of this area by First Nation peoples.”

The Islands Trust is a federation of local government bodies representing 25,000 people living within the Islands Trust Area and another 10,000 non-resident property-owners. The Islands Trust is responsible for preserving and protecting the unique environment and amenities of the Islands Trust Area through planning and regulating land use, development management, education, co-operation with other agencies, and land conservation.

The area covers the islands and waters between the B.C. mainland and southern Vancouver Island. It includes 13 major and more than 450 smaller islands — including Denman and Hornby islands — covering 5,200 square kilometres.

— Islands Trust

 

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