Friday, August 7, 2009

Between equal rights, force decides

Juvenile pink salmon infested with sea lice. Photo Alexandra Morton

The following letter was published in the Campbell River Courier-Islander, July 8, 2009 under the title "Civil disobedience may be the next step for British Columbia":

Alexandra Morton's victory in her epic battle against salmon farming giant Marine Harvest and the BC government appears to have been short lived. Rafe Mair reported the following in the Tyee, July 6:

"I have been reliably informed that the provincial government has already made the necessary bureaucratic moves to transfer this file back to the tender mercies of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and that Marine Harvest abandoned the constitutional part of their appeal having been assured that nothing would change."

This is a chilling reminder that our legal system is an instrument of power, not of right. Something that I have personally learned the hard way as I observed and occasionally helped Betty Krawczyk in her heroic yet unsuccessful court battles to assert our right to public participation.

You lose in court? Tough luck. You go to jail and get stuck with the court costs, as did Betty.

You win in court? Who cares. The power elites quickly work out backroom deals among themselves to cancel your victory, as with Alexandra Morton.

Those two remarkable women perform an essential public service, one through her repeated defeats and the other through her deceptive victory.

They expose the nature of the beast. They demonstrate that the so-called "representative" democratic system in which we live is a fig leaf for the elite class to assert its power over the people.

The elite class, this strange hybrid of the government and corporate spheres, does not give a damn about the rule of law. They simply use it when it suits them and treat it as irrelevant when it does not.

Marx (not Groucho, the other one) once wrote that between equal rights, force decides. Most normal people believe that they have the right and duty to protect the commons against corporate recklessness. The elite class believes that it has the right to accumulate money whatever the cost. Well, here you have it. Between those two rights, force indeed decides.

In the latter part of his Tyee column, Rafe Mair illustrates an essential point, that force does not necessarily have to equate violence. It can also take the form of peaceful resistance. Today, the West Kootenays are pretty much in insurrection mode over the privatization of their rivers, yet their show of force has remained non violent. Rafe Mair is predicting a wave of civil disobedience in our province, Clayoquot style, and I see it coming too. Indeed, it is the next logical step once one has lost confidence in the ability of the courts to protect the people from corporate thievery.

Ivan Doumenc
Vancouver, BC



  1. Marine Harvest responded to my letter in the following terms:

    "Ruling could rationalize single set of regulations for aquaculture industry

    JULY 15, 2009

    The July 8th edition of the Courier-Islander included a startling letter from Ivan Doumenc of Vancouver which cited Rafe Mair's view of our company and the recent BC Supreme Court case brought by Alexandra Morton on the provincial government's regulation of the aquaculture industry.

    Life is too short to try to refute the diatribes (paranoid? misleading?) of Messrs Doumenc and Mair; they likely would not listen anyway.

    What is worth our brief attention, and that of your readers, is to clearly state that Marine Harvest is abiding by the Court's decision and, like any citizen of Canada, has the right to appeal - which we are doing in regard to our private property rights as the obvious owners of the fish in our pens.

    Marine Harvest only became involved when the petition specifically challenged our farm license and tenures as being invalid; an assertion that was thrown out in the judge's ruling.

    While that was a relief, probably the most important outcome of the court case decision has been to dismiss the tired old notion that salmon farming in BC is unregulated.

    We believe that the ruling will eventually rationalize the present jumble of often colliding Ottawa/Victoria initiatives into a single set of regulations under the Federal Fisheries Act.

    We suggest that this outcome will better serve the interests of local residents who recognize the importance of the 500-plus jobs Marine Harvest provides and who value the far-reaching economic contribution we make on the north half of the Island.

    Finally, we uphold the law in everything we do, and for Mr. Mair or Mr. Doumenc to assert otherwise is nonsensical.

    Clare Backman,
    Director Environmental Relations,
    Marine Harvest Canada"

  2. Alexandra Morton's response to the Marine Harvest response:

    "Salmon farming unconstituional as it's practiced

    JULY 17, 2009

    In regards to the July 15 letter in the Courier-Islander from Clare Backman, Director of Environmental Relations - Marine Harvest Canada, two points need addressing:

    1. Marine Harvest is not the "obvious owners of the fish" in their pens. Judge Hinkson ruled that the Pacific Ocean flows through their nets, making the water in the pens subject to the same regulations as the water outside the pens. Marine Harvest has net pens in the Canadian ocean because they want Canada's ocean waters to flow through their pens. Under the Constitution of Canada no one can own fish swimming in the Canadian ocean.

    In addition, which fish exactly do Marine Harvest own? All the fish in the pens, or only the salmon they put in the pens. What about all the other fish? Is Marine Harvest claiming ownership of every fish in their pens?

    2. Marine Harvest might think they are upholding the laws, but which laws? What about the Fisheries Act? Until now fish farms have been regulated as farms by the Provincial government and I imagine these are the regulations Clare Backman is referring to, but the Fisheries Act is supposed to apply to all marine activities. It prohibits using bright lights, possessing by-catch and I am pretty sure it prohibits transporting fish with no license visible on the boat.

    The way salmon farming is done today in BC waters is unconstitutional because it attempts to privatize marine waters and own fish in the Pacific Ocean.

    Either we need to change the Constitution to suit the fish farmers or put the fish farms in tanks on land, in which case they become Provincial farms once again.

    Alexandra Morton"