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Tribes square off in fishing-rights dispute

Aug 10 2012

Protests on the lower Fraser River are pitting the Musqueam Indian Band against Cowichan Tribes in a dispute over fishing rights.

"The members of the Musqueam Indian Band have reluctantly decided to peacefully protest fishing by members of the Cowichan Tribes in Musqueam's traditional territory without having first entered into a protocol with Musqueam to do so," the Musqueam said in a statement.

"This is a breach of wellestablished customs and practices among local First Nations - and has been respected by members of the Cowichan Tribes in prior years."

Musqueam Chief Ernest Campbell said Cowichan Tribes obtained licences from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to fish in the Steveston area, despite their objections.

"We offered to sit down with them and work out a protocol agreement. We have no problem with Cowichan Tribes because we are traditional trading partners," Campbell said.

"But they didn't want to have a protocol agreement."

Musqueam has agreements with other First Nations, but a sticking point with Cowichan Tribes is they want to include a group that is not a recognized First Nation, Campbell said.

"We protected our territory before contact and we will continue to do so," he said.

"We are going out there just to remind them."

Cowichan Tribes Chief Harvey Alphonse could not be reached Thursday afternoon.

jlavoie@timescolonist.com

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