stats Making the Business of Life Easier

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Canada's Apartheid, by John Stackhouse
  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 9 of 10: The risks and challenges of learning to adjust

Tofino locator If Ahousat's ancient fishery is in the last throes of a slow death, it is taking a way of life with it. An older generation, the men and women who spent their best years on the water, no longer believe the latest troubles are merely a downturn.

Sid Sam, a former chief, has seen and survived bad decades before. The wild salmon always came back, but this time he's not so sure. Just in case, he encouraged his grown son to take a job with Pacific National. He is even beginning to respect that job, for its regular hours, decent pay and the array of skills his son is exposed to, from computer monitoring to environmental assessments.

"There's a future for our people in this industry as long as it's done right," Sam says. "When we all accept responsibility for all our resources, instead of pointing fingers, then maybe we can start to repair some of the damage."

But accepting joint responsibility is something that Ahousat and Pacific National have not been able to do, not when they may be speaking different languages.

The Ahousat people believe they are developing a long-term partnership, an understanding of sorts that will see them through good times and bad. The jobs that are being grabbed up by Ahousat's young people are seen as part of that relationship, and not a temporary deal.

The company, on the other hand, is trying to manage a commercial operation, and is doing so in a harsh economic environment.

Despite rising costs, prices have plunged this year, as other countries, led by Chile, have flooded the world market with farmed salmon. If environmental groups persuade consumers that salmon raised in captivity pose a health risk, the company may have to shut down the whole operation.

The risks and challenges are flying at the Ahousat people with such speed that they are not sure how to adjust. The same challenge faces countless resource-based communities across Canada - native and non-native - but somehow the latter seem to cope. People migrate. They start new businesses.

But as the fish farms are learning, a native community like Ahousat is different. Many aboriginal people see their harvest as part of their relationship with nature. Fishing is not a job. For the salmon people, it's a birthright. Even those who have taken jobs on the farms, and spend their time off watching American television, drinking Canadian beer and eating packaged food, say they do not like change.

A growing number of young people disagree. They no longer yearn for the cycles of their parent's lives - long, idle winters and intense summers on the water; decades of wealth followed by decades of poverty. The computerized feeding operations and underwater cameras have exposed them to new skills that promise to open doors to other industries, and perhaps even bring those industries to Ahousat.

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'



photo essays
Two worlds - photo essay

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