VANCOUVER, B.C. (CN) – The Gitanmaax Indian Band says that unauthorized blasting by the Canadian government 50 years ago devastated a rich fishing site essential to the band’s cultural and economic well-being and its “cultural standing” with other tribes.
The band says that rocks that fell into the middle of the Bulkley River Canyon around 1820 made the site a prime fishing spot from the banks of the river. But between August 1958 and March 1959, the Canadian government entered the band’s traditional territory and blasted the rocks away, which “drastically diminished the value and viability of the Gitanmaax fishery.”
“The defendant destroyed the fishing rock to enhance the value of the commercial fishery on the Skeena (River) and/or the commercial fishery on the west coast of British Columbia,” the complaint states.
“The defendant chose to destroy the fishing rock despite knowing of less drastic technology available at the time of the blasting, including the installation of a fishway to bypass the fishing rock, which was likely to enhance the value or prospects of the Skeena fishery and west coast fishery without destroying the Gitanmaax fishery.”
The destruction of the rock caused the band to lose “cultural standing” among other native bands in the region and contributed to the “estrangement of individual members of Gitanmaax Band from significant elements of their culture, language and identity,” according to the complaint
The band seeks declaratory judgment and exemplary damages. It is represented by Jason Gratl.