Columbia River Salmon Reintroduction Initiative

Bringing the Salmon Home! Columbia River Salmon Restoration Initiative (CRSRI) 

“The Government of Canada is committed to a renewed relationship with Indigenous peoples based on the recognition of rights, respect, cooperation, and partnership. By combining science and research with Indigenous knowledge and advice, we stand a much better chance of successfully reintroducing salmon to this portion of the river ” Chief Keith Crow, Lower Similkameen Indian Band

 

This year, the Nation sought to expand the negotiations and opportunities under the Columbia River Treaty, creating more precedents in the process. The CEC’s Policy Legal and Negotiations team helped lead, secure and advance another ground breaking outcomes and agreements with the two senior settler Governments. This Upper Columbia River Basin Initiative, the first of its kind between Five Governments, including the three First Nations in the Basin, is an initial three year agreement with $2.5 million in technical funding, that seeks to investigate and plan for the re-introduction of salmon into their historical spawning grounds in the Canadian portion of the Columbia River.

The re-introduction of anadromous salmon into the Upper Columbia River Basin across their historical range has been a central issue for the Syilx Okanagan, Ktunaxa, and Secwepemc Indigenous Nations since the blockage of anadromous salmon passage into Canada beginning in the 1930s due to the construction of Grand Coulee Dam. This and other hydroelectric developments in Canada have impacted fish habitat and have had an effect on the Aboriginal rights and title and interests of Indigenous Nations.

As such, the Government of Canada, the Government of British Columbia, led by the Indigenous Nations have solidified the need and interest in working together in an urgent basis under the new and ground-breaking ‘Columbia River Salmon Restoration Initiative – Bringing the Salmon Home’. This collaborative salmon process will identify common interests, develop options, explore their feasibility, and take appropriate collective action to re-introduce anadromous salmon into the Upper Columbia River Basin. To demonstrate their interest and commitment in working together all five Parties signed a Letter of Agreement (LoA) on July 29, 2019 that provides the resources and mandates necessary to  work together in a formal working relationship, in good faith, and in a respectful and transparent manner to explore the risks and benefits of pursuing different actions in support of salmon reintroduction.

The commitments made in this Letter of Agreement represents an opportunity for the Parties to:

  • Acknowledge that the re-introduction and passage of anadromous salmon into the Upper Columbia River Basin is of critical importance to the Indigenous Nations due to their connections to anadromous salmon for cultural, spiritual, and livelihood purposes since time immemorial;
  • Advance reconciliation between the Government of Canada, the Government of British Columbia, and the Indigenous Nations as guided by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
  • Acknowledge the goal of the Indigenous Nations to achieve self-sustaining anadromous salmon populations and their passage throughout their historic range in the Upper Columbia River Basin;
  • Accept that technical, scientific, and governance complexities and uncertainties require collaboration amongst the five Parties;
  • Align, complement and share expertise from existing initiatives and priorities related to the reintroduction of anadromous salmon stocks and their habitats, where possible; and
  • Benefit from the distinct perspectives, authorities, attributes, and capacities that each of the Parties brings to the collaborative effort.

This strategic direction framework provides a summary of the priorities, activities, and approaches to guide implementation of the “Columbia River Salmon Reintroduction Initiative” (the “Initiative”) by the Parties over an initial commitment period, but also in the longer-term as momentum grows around it into the future. In particular, the joint document clarifies:

  • The principles and responsibilities for collaboration and decision-making;
  • The organizational structure for collaboration and decision-making amongst the Parties;
  • The current status of knowledge and activities related to salmon reintroduction;
  • The strategic goals for the Initiative;
  • The scope of issues and actions to be considered;
  • The guidance around priority activities to undertake more detailed work; and
  • The communication and reporting needs of the Initiative.

As the Initiative proceeds this document will be reviewed and may be adapted based on new information, learnings, and circumstances.