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Canada's Apartheid, by John Stackhouse
Stories
Introduction
  Nov. 3

Welcome to Harlem on the Prairies
  Nov. 3 (Saskatoon, SK)

Crystal's choice: The best of both worlds
  Nov. 5 (Mississauga, ON)

How the Mi'kmaq profit from fear
  Nov. 6 (Cape Breton, NS)

The healing power of hockey
  Nov. 7 (The Pas, MB)

Norma Rae of the Okanagan
  Nov. 8 (Westbank, BC)

Comic genius or 'niggers in red face'?
  Nov. 9 (Regina, SK)

Praying for a miracle
  Nov. 10 (Lac Ste. Anne, AB)

To have and to have not
  Nov. 12 (Moosonee, ON)

Trouble in paradise
  Nov. 19 (Tofino, BC)

A cut of the action
  Nov. 26 (Wabigoon, ON)

The young and the restless
  Dec. 3 (Ashern, MB)

The wireless warrior's digital dream
  Dec. 10 (Ottawa,ON)

'Everyone thought we were stupid'
  Dec. 14 (Salluit, QC)

First step: End the segregation
  Dec. 15 (Last in the series)

 

Trouble in paradise

Story by John Stackhouse. Photos by John Lehmann.
The Globe and Mail, November 19, 2001

Part 1 of 10: 'I took the farm job because it was a last resort'


Tofino locator On an outer reach of Clayoquot Sound, past the snow-capped peaks and cathedral groves of cedar that run down to the water's edge, the Ahousat are enjoying another day in paradise.

The sun is high and warm over their golden beach, where a gaggle of children plays in silence, digging for treasures in the tide pools. Out on the tranquil sound, where an American yacht is moored, the only noise comes from a passing Zodiac filled with whale-watchers, screaming in delight as they bounce toward the open sea.


I took the farm job because it was a last resort. I'm going to do what I have to do to feed my children.
Archie Frank Jr
Salmon farm worker

It's the sort of lazy day that used to draw the salmon people, as the Ahousat are known, to the water to scoop what they could of the West Coast's bounty - herring, crab and the tenacious fish from which they take their name.

But today, most of the salmon people seem to be following Archie Frank Jr.'s lead. The 39-year-old new grandfather is inside his big new house, listening to an Eric Clapton CD as the sweet smell of marijuana wafts by. On the water is no place to be on a day off, he says. He'll be out there tomorrow - not catching fish on a trawler like the one his father taught him to operate, but on a high-tech floating farm where the salmon people are learning to raise their legendary namesake in captivity.

"I took the farm job because it was a last resort," Frank says of the work that pays him $12 an hour. "I'm going to do what I have to do to feed my children."

The same could be said by most of the Ahousat people as they try to cope with the loss of their ancestral fishery, and the arrival of an aquaculture industry brimming with jobs, skills and revenue for their band - along with a radical departure from their traditional way of life and an array of apparent threats to the environment.

Around their isolated fishing hamlet on Flores Island, half an hour by boat from Tofino on the west coast of Vancouver Island, Ahousat's young people are so desperate for work that they have turned against tradition and embraced the new farms, which are controlled by one company, Pacific National Aquaculture. But the appeal of an emerging industry is not shared by everyone in the band, or even enthusiastically by most.

Tall and muscular, Frank isn't sure how else he could care for his six children, including a 20-year-old daughter who is single and has two babies of her own. He knows the wild salmon fishery of his youth may never return in full. And he appreciates how his new shift work is more reliable than the gruelling months he used to spend on the open water ever were.

With this job, he's home every night of the year, and every weekend too. But like the 60 other Ahousat residents who work on the farms and in a new Tofino plant that processes their harvest, Frank also wonders if he has betrayed his heritage by embracing the newest offer from the white man's world - a world that has already devoured much of their culture as well as the forests and, poignantly, wild salmon they once relied on.

THIS STORY AT A GLANCE (Parts 1 to 10):


Photo Essay
The Salmon People


1. 'I took the farm job because it was a last resort'
Big industry, new technology changes life for the salmon people

2. 'Pink gold'
Ahousat's fishing boom

3. 'Friends don't let friends eat farmed salmon'
The reserve's dispute over salmon farming

4. The science of aquaculture
Escapes, 'die-offs', and the many sides of debate

5. Life at Ahousat
No one gets rich, but neither is anyone destitute

6. The frenetic growth of the industry
'When something's been in your family for four or five generations, anything new is a tough pill to swallow'

7. Farming, not catching, the fish
'There's a reason 30 per cent of the world's fish is now produced by aquaculture'
8. Negotiating with the natives
'People really need to spend some time learning about each other. If you end up in court, you've failed.'
9. The risks and challenges of learning to adjust
'There's a future for our people in this industry as long as it's done right'
10. Bridging the gap
'Three or four years ago, we were ready to fight these guys'


 
 

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