Culturally and linguistically distinct peoples throughout the interior of what is presently known as British Columbia established and protected their territories near the salmon-rich “Fraser River” and its tributaries. From time-immemorial these territories sustained hunting, fishing, gathering, trading, and cultural and settlement uses.
1888 – Canadian legislation was passed forbidding Aboriginal fishing except for food purposes only. This benefited non-native commercial fisheries at the expense of coastal and interior First Nations.
In modern times, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) became the Crown’s arbitrator with respect to the enforcement of the unilaterally imposed Aboriginal food fishery. On-going conflict ensued, including legal challenges initiated by First Nations.
1982 – Section 35 of the Constitution of Canada recognized and affirmed the “aboriginal and treaty rights” of this country’s original peoples, which provided them a measure of protection for their rights.
Meanwhile, it became evident to all that the predominant non-native commercial fishery was overly destructive to salmon stocks, thus unsustainable; all the while salmon habitat everywhere, no less than in the interior, was increasingly threatened from multiple industrial pressures.
1989 - 1999
1989 – The Inter-Tribal Fishing Treaty Between Indian Nations – “A Treaty of Mutual Purpose and Support” – was signed by Fraser River and Columbia River Aboriginal groups. Three objectives of the treaty, among many, were conservation of the salmon stocks, protection of their habitat, and the re-establishment of economic benefits from this traditional resource. In practical terms, however, achieving the necessary unity on these matters proved difficult.
1990 – In Sparrow, the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed that the Crown had a fiduciary (“trust-like, rather than adversarial”) responsibility with respect to aboriginal rights, and specifically in this case to un-extinguished aboriginal fishing rights.
1992 – As result of Sparrow, the Crown, under the management of DFO, emerged with its Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy (AFS), which was intended to address:
Numerous upper Fraser River First Nations sign AFS agreements under conditions imposed by the unilaterally designed Fraser Watershed Agreement (WA). However, many First Nations eventually found they wanted much more from the agreements than the strategy had originally intended to provide. The inadequacies of the AFS agreements and their outcomes become abundantly clear as more precedent setting court cases (Delgamuukw/Gisday’wa, et al) emerged, specifically around the issue of “consultation”. Meanwhile, the upper and lower Fraser River First Nations brought together under the WA began to diverge for a number of reasons.
1999 – The 1992 Fraser Watershed Agreement expired, including the related AFS agreements. This same year, technical staff from upper Fraser River First Nations organizations and DFO agreed that significant benefits could be achieved by both working together and apart from the lower Fraser River First Nations.
January – The Carrier Sekani Tribal Council and DFO hosted a workshop in Prince George for upper Fraser River First Nations and First Nations organizations in order to pursue common objectives around fisheries. This gathering resulted in the formation of an informal alliance known as the Upper Fraser Fisheries Conservation Alliance (UFFCA or “Alliance”).
February/March – Follow-up workshops were held to inform and integrate DFO staff and potential funding agencies into the Alliance’s intended purpose. Thereafter, the Alliance met every two months or so. In time, the Alliance adopted a mission statement with several goals with an emphasis on watershed management and technical objectives as opposed to political ones.
Over the following three years (‘02-‘04) the Alliance continued to meet and develop a comprehensive strategic plan encompassing the major watersheds in the upper Fraser.
October – Minister of Fisheries and Oceans announced two new programs for Aboriginal groups: Aboriginal Aquatic Resource and Oceans Management (AAROM) Program and the Aboriginal Inland Habitat Program (AIHP), with the former being applicable to the Alliance. Both intend to enable Aboriginal groups to become more involved in aquatic resources and oceans management.
"We want to assist Aboriginal groups in acquiring scientific expertise and administrative skills to help their participation in aquatic resources and oceans management," said Minister Thibault. "The programs are designed to contribute to the government’s broader objective of improving the quality of life for Aboriginal people." - DFO News Release, October 9, 2003
February – The Alliance completed its “Strategic Plan for a Watershed Based Approach to Facilitating First Nations’ Co-Management of the Anadromous Resources of the Upper Fraser Watershed”. The report was prepared by the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council with funding from DFO. Among other things, the report listed sub-unit technical summaries for the following watersheds: i) Upper Fraser/McGregor, ii) Nechako/Stuart, iii) Cottonwood/Blackwater, iv) Quesnel/Horsefly, and v) Chilcotin/Chilko.
The Alliance was awarded an AAROM contract to engage in dialogue around the use and management of aquatic resources and ocean spaces through capacity building and by encouraging inter-community dialogue and collaboration along watershed and broad eco-system areas. The contract was administered by the Cariboo Tribal Council.
March 9 – An initial planning session was held in Quesnel. Along with regular members of the Alliance, an Elder from each of the following language groups: Northern Carrier, Southern Carrier, Northern Shuswap, and Tsilhqot’in, attended, including representatives from DFO. Together, they planned four community information sessions.
March 16 – A community information session was held at the Prince George Native Friendship Centre.
March 17 – A community information session was held at the Quesnel Native Friendship Centre.
March 18 – A community information session was held at the Tsilhqot’in National Government Office, in Williams Lake.
March 19 – A community information session was held at the Cariboo Tribal Council office, in Williams Lake.
April – Cariboo Tribal Council Fisheries Program submitted a “Capacity Building Support Contribution Agreement – Final Report” to DFO, as per the early AAROM contract, which contained the following key documents:
June – The Alliance submitted a B.C. Capacity Initiative proposal to deliver the Fisheries Field Technician Certification Program.
September/October – The Alliance delivered the Fisheries Field Technician Certification Program in conjunction with Malaspina University-College, with funding provided by the B.C. Capacity Initiative.
November – The Supreme Court of Canada issued its Haida and Taku River-Tlingit decisions, which outlined the Crown’s duty to meaningfully consult First Nations who possess known interests in their territories, citing the “honour of the Crown.”
January – The Alliance submitted the AAROM proposal in support of the “Strategic Plan for a Watershed Based Approach to Facilitating First Nations’ Co-Management of the Anadromous Resources of the Upper Fraser Watershed.”
March 18 – UFFCA is registered as a Society under the B.C. Society Act. Shortly after, AAROM program funds are approved by DFO in support of the Alliance’s start-up costs.
April 13-14 – UFFCA holds its first formal monthly meeting of the Board of Directors in Quesnel, followed by a general membership meeting.
April 25 – UFFCA holds a community meeting with the Esket First Nation.
May 11-12 – UFFCA hold its regularly scheduled monthly Board of Directors meeting in Quesnel, followed by a general membership meeting.
June 14-15 – UFFCA holds its regularly scheduled monthly meeting of the Board of Directors in Williams Lake, followed by a general membership meeting.
Sources Cited: Fisheries and Oceans Canada website; “Establishing a Fraser Watershed Process” Gaertner, Brenda (2003); DRAFT UFFCA M.O.U. Background (2003); Inter-Tribal Fishing Treaty Between Indian Nations (1989)