A decade ago a group of First Nations communities on Vancouver Island approached Health Canada and asked whether it was safe to eat the foods, like wild salmon, or harbour seals, that make up a traditional diet. Health Canada did not have the answer, but introduced these communities to a Department of Fisheries and Oceans scientist named Peter Ross who made it his mission to find out.
Dr. Ross worked his last day as a government employee in late August, which officially brings his study on the contamination of traditional seafoods to an end. At the sixth annual Vancouver Island Traditional Food Conference, Ross expressed the significance of this: coastal aboriginal peoples will be the first to feel the effects of the DFO’s reduced capacity study ocean pollution in Canada.
An elder named Ipswa Mescacakanis described the cutbacks to DFO and ocean pollution research in particular as a broken trust. “The government of Canada has promised us access to food, to safe food, and culturally appropriate food. We can no longer be sure if the food we eat is safe.”