Monday, September 28, 2009

Part 4: Interviews from Sointula - LEK from BC's Central Coast

Part 4 of a 6 Part Series - by Kirie McMurchy

During my interview project with Living Oceans Society, every single person I interviewed mentioned the Mifflin Plan. The Mifflin Plan is the colloquial name for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Pacific Salmon Revitalization Strategy that came into effect under then-minister, Fred Mifflin. The Mifflin Plan was a reaction to a decrease in fish stocks in the 1980’s and it attempted to conserve the stocks by reducing the size of the fishing fleet. The plan went about this in two ways: buying back fishing licenses to reduce the number of boats able to fish and sectioning up the coast into zones so one fishing license no longer allowed one to fish the whole coast. It has been said that in one year alone, the west coast lost more than 8,000 jobs from the salmon industry. In a community whose lifeblood was the salmon fishing industry, it is understandable why this was such a huge blow.
The following is an excerpt from an interview I conducted with Living Oceans own, Will Soltau about his recollections of the Sointula-hatched action against the Mifflin Plan in the mid ‘90’s.

Excerpt of Interview with Will Slotau (contributed with permission)

"It was April of ’96 [that] we decided that we had to do something. There was a bunch of us from [Sointula] that went up to [the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) office in] Port Hardy. The secretary came up, these two guys just jumped up on the counter, went inside, one of them opened the door and we all rushed into the main office and we said “We’re not leaving until we hear from the minister that he’s not going to implement the Mifflin Plan!” and they said “Okay, good luck.” DFO got on the phone to find out what they should do." "So we made promises [that we would not be violent or destructive] and DFO left that night from work and they brought in a couple of commissionaires to sort of babysit us all night. The rotation of our people that were in the office changed on a daily basis. After about a week DFO didn’t like this free flow of people in and out of the office, and they didn’t want to drag us out and create a scene like that so what they decided they’d do was they would lock the doors and the people that were in there that day could leave at any time but they would not be allowed back in. There were eight of us, I believe, and we spent another eighteen days in there. It got pretty tense after a while. We were sleeping on the floor people would bring us food and they were still marching outside, they had placards by that time. " "Because of us, the DFO office in Tofino, Nanaimo, and finally in Vancouver got occupied but we were the first ones that actually took action like that. They might have even occupied the Prince Rupert office, I can’t remember. There were people that came from Port Hardy and Port McNeil once we occupied the office but the plan was hatched by a bunch of Sointulians." "Glen Clark was premier of BC at the time and he was all for supporting the fishermen, he had gotten the union behind him and there was a big press conference down in Vancouver one day and there was a bunch of people that had come to the office to protest. It was getting pretty noisy outside and I kind of felt like things were coming to a head with this whole press conference and the way people were feeling. Those of us that had been inside had had enough after eighteen days. So I let a bunch of people that were outside in and some of the people that were inside went out and from there it just kind of dissolved. Everybody was cleared out that evening, the cops showed up but they just kind of escorted people outside and then DFO locked the doors and that was the end of that. Nothing really came of it, DFO didn’t change one bit. "

Kirie McMurchy is a Guest contributor to coastal voices blog. If you have Local Knowledge about the ocean or about living on the Central Coast of British Columbia - we want to hear from you! Contact us at

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