Leah Ritch, of Fish Farms Out Now, protests a speech by Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Dominic LeBlanc, at a celebration marking the arrival of the Canada C3 expedition in Victoria Oct. 28. Kristyn Anthony/VICTORIA NEWS

Fish farm protestors challenge Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Peaceful protest leads to conversation between fish farm opponents and Minister LeBlanc

Protesters calling for the shutdown of fish farms interrupted a speech by Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Dominic LeBlanc on the dock of Victoria’s inner harbour Saturday.

Joined by Minster of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna, LeBlanc addressed a crowd gathered for the arrival of Canada C3, a vessel ending its 150-day voyage through the Northwest Passage. The Canada 150 signature project set sail June 1 from Toronto in an effort to improve education around reconciliation and science and research for Canada’s oceans.

The two ministers were invited to speak to announce the federal government had reached its 2017 conservation goal of designating five per cent of Canada’s oceans as protected areas.

But that announcement was interrupted by a peaceful protest by a group called Fish Farms Out Now.

Protester Leah Ritch called LeBlanc “the biggest barrier we’ve got” saying if he was serious about the issue, action would have already been taken.

“He hasn’t really been vocally opposed to fish farms in the media and in his platform,” she said.

After his speech, LeBlanc met with Ritch and fellow protester Greg Horne to speak about issues facing Indigenous communities at risk of losing their salmon stock as a result of open-net fish farms.

“These nations have been waiting 30 years for some sort of attention given to their rights,” Horne said, asking the minster, “When are you going to stand up?”

“I’m not a scientist but I want them to talk openly and publicly and publish their information as part of getting to a better decision,” LeBlanc told protesters, thanking them for their expressing what he called a “reasonable concern.”

“It’s all words at this point,” Horne said of LeBlanc’s response, adding five per cent of protected oceans is hardly a drop in the bucket.

“Five per cent is a tiny amount and that leaves 95 per cent of the coast and I guarantee you that 95 per cent of that coast includes all of the major industrial proposals right now.”

Fish Farms Out Now is planning a rally on the lawn of the B.C. Legislature Nov. 2.

kristyn.anthony@vicnews.com

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