B.C. First Nations want apology from William Shatner, Ryan Reynolds after salmon farm video goes viral

B.C. First Nations want apology from William Shatner, Ryan Reynolds after salmon farm video goes viral
CHEK

B.C. First Nations are demanding a public apology from Canadian actors William Shatner and Ryan Reynolds, following a newly released F-word-filled video starring the former, produced by the latter, and calling for an end to open net pen salmon farming.

“The video itself … it’s actually incredibly disturbing,” said Cyrus Singh with K’awat’si Economic Development Corp.

The call-to-profanity video recently posted on YouTube is part of a new campaign from Pacific Wild, an organization that aims to raise conservation awareness. While Reynolds does not appear in the video, his company, Maximum Effort, produced it.

“Repeat after me: F*** off open net pen salmon farms! Your a**hole salmon farms are f***ing up our wild salmon population,” Shatner, the 93-year-old Star Trek star, says in the video, which was uploaded on June 20. “It’s a s*** stain on our nation.”

In the video, the profanities are bleeped out.

Watch the report below:

But now the Coalition for First Nations for Finfish Stewardship is seeking an apology from the actors, saying the ad attacked the dignity of their Nations and their members.

“Sadly, this response from people like Mr. Shatner and Mr. Reynolds is all-to-common in today’s Canada,” the Coalition, which is made up of 17 First Nations, said in a statement.

“This is a classic example of a rich, elite, removed, urban white men overriding the wishes of vulnerable Indigenous communities, a reoccurring theme within the Liberal government and recent decisions made by politicians like (Natural Resources) Minister Wilkinson.”

Former Vancouver Canuck Kirk McLean was also in the video, which calls for an immediate ban on open net pen salmon farming. It was posted a day after the federal government announced it would allow such farms in B.C. to operate for another five years.

READ PREVIOUS: Feds delay closure of B.C.’s open-net salmon farms until 2029

The delay to 2029 comes as Fisheries Minister Diane Lebouthillier said Wednesday that she would allow aquaculture farms to renew their licences in a “responsible, realistic and achievable transition” away from ocean farms.

Pacific Wild’s video “comes from a place of extreme privilege. You have these actors, these celebrities, that are, in essence, undermining the economies of Nations that have been pushed into poverty,” according to Singh.

The Coalition says Indigenous people work both directly and indirectly in salmon farming, a sector it claims brings millions of dollars to First Nations each year.

“There are nearly 700 Indigenous peoples working directly and indirectly in salmon farming, a sector that brings $133 million a year to First Nations annually,” the Coalition says.

“To repeatedly say “f*ck off” to a sector that is woven into the social and economic fabrics of a dozen First Nations along B.C.’s coast implies that you do not care about the human well-being of our remote communities that do not have a lot of options to turn to economically.”

“These jobs, this sector, cannot be replaced.”

Shatner, Reynolds have ‘no clue’: Singh

B.C.’s open net pen salmon farms have sparked ongoing debate.

In the video, Shatner says the farms harm wild salmon populations and the environment. Critics agree, saying the facilities can spread disease and lice to wild fish, though recent science indicates uncertainty over the risks, as cited by former fisheries minister Joyce Murray.

“You have these individuals who really have no clue what’s happening on the ground,” said Singh, “and to be quite frank, it’s because they’ve only heard one side of the conversation … these Nations are familiar with the industry, they’ve been ensuring higher safeguards.”

“…we’re constantly monitoring lice. We’re consistently engaged.”

Yet those opposed to the farms, like the actors, say the shutdowns can’t come soon enough.

“I mean let’s be clear, this process is about protecting wild salmon,” said Bob “Galagame” Chamberlin, chair of the First Nation Wild Salmon Alliance, in a previous interview.

The B.C. Assembly of First Nations, which represents more than 200 Nations, has also advocated for the closures.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged during the 2019 election that his government would phase out open ocean pen farming, while the BC Salmon Farmers Association (BCSFA) argued that about 4,700 jobs and more than $1 billion in annual economic activity would be lost.

“So yeah, I’m pissed,” BCSFA executive director Brian Kingzett told CHEK last week, calling it “the Liberal government’s insanity at its best.”

“We know that the science says the disease risk that the public hears about on social media does not stand up, but we have rich activists, and that activist voice has been heard,” said Kingzett, “and the science, the reputable science that the federal government has been doing, has been largely ignored in this debate.”

Pacific Wild’s video can be watched here.

“People are using platforms like this to attack Nations and really their livelihoods. There should be a balanced discourse around this, and that’s not what’s happened,” added Singh.

“These folks, I have no doubt that they mean well, but they’ve done more harm.”

Ethan MorneauEthan Morneau

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