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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 2 of 10: 'Pink gold'


Tofino locator The farms pump close to $2-million a year into the reserve, and have sharply reduced Ahousat's welfare rate and drawn people back to a community that had seen half of its 2,000 residents move to Tofino, Port Alberni and Vancouver in search of a better life.

Not since Frank's childhood has something seemed to offer so much hope. Back then, Ahousat flourished in the wealth of the West Coast fishery. He remembers elders talking of an age, before the 1950s, before the first federal agents came, unasked, with food rations, when Ahousat was self-sufficient. Because his father knew the water the way a tracker can follow a trail, his family never suffered.

When the fishery expanded to meet rising demand through the 1960s and 1970s, so did Ahousat's commercial operations. While the natives never had access to the sort of bank money that financed bigger fleets in the area, they still bought dozens of trawlers that crowded the village pier.


'Never be greedy and the salmon will always be there for you'
Archie Frank Jr

The boom years of fishing, which carried through the 1980s, are still talked about as if it were yesterday. Deck hands made $40,000 or $50,000 in a few months, and then went on social assistance for the winter, when community life thrived. The boat owners earned enough to go to Mexico or Fiji for their holidays.

But then the fish disappeared - a function of human greed - taking with them much of the West Coast's economy. At the same time, local native groups supported the campaign against clear-cutting Clayoquot's remaining old-growth rain forest, although it further stripped the area of jobs.

With roughly three-quarters of the reserve's families on welfare, the idled village became a haven for alcoholism, drug addiction and, according to one social worker, sexual abuse. The problems had been there before, just not to such a degree.

The farms promised to change all that, with floating pens carrying so much salmon - "pink gold," the farmers called it - that every bit of manpower of the reserve might be needed to nurture and harvest the fish. The Ahousat people had heard about the dangers - of alien fish species escaping into their waters, of chemical waste floating through their sound and, especially, of their way of life being shunted aside.

Surveying his two-storey house, and its front lawn strewn with children's toys and candy wrappers, Frank can even hear his father's words. "My father taught me, `Never be greedy and the salmon will always be there for you,' " he says.

His father lived long enough to see the wild salmon disappear, but not long enough to see a $2-million salmon farm floating by his reserve. Or to ask whether such a high-tech fishery could secure for Ahousat a better future or merely betray its past.

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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Two worlds - photo essay


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