RCMP are investigating a video released by Haida matriarchs alleging that Queen Charlotte Lodge (QCL) boats put them in harm’s way.
G̲aandlee Guu Jaalang, the daughters of the rivers, say an uncut video released on July 22 that has been shared more than 1,200 times on social media shows a fleet of QCL boats operating unsafely in their vicinity.
“These ladies here that are fishing with a net only have paddles, they can’t really go too fast, and we have some boats racing in right now being very unsafe … hopefully they slow down,” a woman behind the camera says at the start of the video.
One of two women in the motorless boat stands up as the QCL boats begin to pass by at speed, continuing toward two other boats with a Haida flag raised, waiting bow-to-bow in the distance.
“That is not safe and this is not what we want here on Haida Gwaii,” the off-camera narrator says. “We do not want this on our territory.”
Several of the QCL boats then circle the Haida boats in the distance and words are exchanged.
“This is not safe for our women to be out here, but we will continue to fish in our traditional territory,” the narrator says before the video ends.
Another edited video released by the daughters of the rivers on July 19 depicts an exchange between a man identified as Matt Tucker, captain of a QCL boat, and several Haidas.
“That’s not cool man, don’t smile about that. You feel good about yourself?” Tucker asks.
“We have our right to fish,” a woman replies.
“You guys get hurt, it’s going to be a real problem,” Tucker continues.
“Who’s going to hurt us?” a man replies.
“You’re running in front of our boats,” Tucker alleges before another man interjects.
“We’re not,” he says. “This is Haida territory. It’s Haida Gwaii.”
The tense exchange ends with comments made about sovereignty, white privilege and whether or not Haida values are being represented, as well as Tucker telling the Haidas to “back off.”
In an email, North District media relations official Cpl. Madonna Saunderson said the RCMP are aware of the reports of dangerous boating and are investigating.
“This includes reviewing the video that was released,” Saunderson said.
She said RCMP continue to patrol the area and “work with all parties to ensure that everyone practices safe boating,” as well as West Coast Marine Services, which patrols areas from Washington State to Alaska.
Part of staying safe on the water, she added, is watching your speed and being mindful of others.
A communications advisor for Fisheries and Oceans Canada told the Observer the Canadian Coast Guard is not involved.
Meanwhile, at least two related petitions have been launched on Change.org.
One petition started by a Haida woman living in the Fraser Valley, that had more than 6,300 signatures at the time of publication, aims to stop fishing tourism on the archipelago while “Haida Gwaii is closed.”
Another petition that had more than 70 signatures at the time of publication asks people to boycott QCL and the West Coast Fishing Club, located on the west coast of Graham Island, because both lodges announced they were reopening amid the COVID-19 pandemic against the wishes of the Council of the Haida Nation (CHN).
Haida hereditary chiefs added their voice to criticisms of QCL in a statement on July 21, as well as larger criticisms of catch and release recreational fishing.
“Since its arrival, Queen Charlotte Lodge has treated this precious part of our homeland as little more than a playground for those who make money spoiling the Earth,” the statement says.
“The ongoing carnage and waste by way of ‘catch and release’ is taking its toll, not only on every species of salmon, but also halibut and rock cod.”
The statement from the hereditary chiefs also alleges that QCL “has shown disregard for marine etiquette and safety.”
“If Queen Charlotte Lodge had ever been welcomed, it has lost its welcome on Haida Gwaii,” it says.
QCL president Paul Clough released a statement on July 5 saying the lodge would reopen on July 10, despite calls from CHN to keep the archipelago closed to non-essential visitors.
Clough’s statement also alleged QCL staff had been harassed by a CHN boat and others working in coordination with it.
“This behaviour is unacceptable and has been reported to the RCMP along with staff videos of the incident,” it said.
Following Clough’s statement, on July 9, the daughters of the rivers announced the Naden Harbour fishing resort was putting island residents at risk and they would be “occupying” two ancient villages in its vicinity, Kung and Sk’aawats.
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