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Anti-fish farm campaign results in Duncan Superstore kerfuffle

RCMP officers question Kwakwaka
RCMP officers question Kwakwaka'wakw hereditary Chief Beau Dick (second left) about Thursday's incident at Superstore, while city Councillor Joe Thorne (centre) listens.
— image credit: Courtesy Geoffrey McNamara

Fishing for samples of Atlantic salmon in Duncan’s Superstore got a group of First Nations folks — dressed in regalia and some costumes — asked to leave the premises Thursday, police say.

“We received a call and attended after a report of a group of people causing a commotion, and refusing to leave the store,” said North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP Cpl. Jon Stuart.

“Our members attended, and the group had already left the store. The people involved were spoken to,” he said, noting no charges were laid. “Any business has the right to refuse service, and to ask people to leave.”

Duncan’s Superstore management referred News Leader Pictorial questions about the incident to Loblaw’s corporate brass.

“Specifically to the events on Feb. 7, certain customers were asked to leave because they were demonstrating inside the store, and their actions were disruptive,” Loblaw’s Brampton, Ont-based spokeswoman Julija Hunter’s email to the NLP states.

“Because it’s important for us to maintain a safe and pleasant environment for all of our customers and colleagues shopping and working in the store, we asked them to leave.”

And they left, explained Joe Thorne, a Duncan councillor and Cowichan Tribes elder.

He also attended the situation at Superstore where Kwakwaka’wakw hereditary Chief Beau Dick, and a group of others, was examining and taking pictures of Atlantic salmon in the seafood department.

Samples were purchased to be sent for testing by biologist Alexandra Morton, she said, as part of her ongoing campaign against fish farming.

Folks with Chief Dick said Dick asked cameras be put away and were, though some shoppers continued snapping cell-phone pictures of the Aboriginal regalia.

Thorne said the “verbal debate” could have been misconstrued by Superstore’s management as a protest in private premises, as at least one person in Dick’s group wore a fish-head mask.

“It was a mistake that shouldn’t have happened,” Thorne said of the in-store incident, “and this could have been handled better by both sides, with (awareness of) policies and protocol.”

Superstore sits on Cowichan Tribes land. RCMP officers attended Superstore, then talked with Dick at nearby Quw’utsun’ Cultural Centre, Thorne said.

“We all shook hands and the RCMP left,” he said, noting recommendations were made that perhaps Superstore managers should meet with Tribes leaders to revisit protocols and policies of both sides.

Dick and family members were walking from near Port Hardy, and through Cowichan, last week en route to Sunday’s copper-cutting ceremony on Victoria’s legislative lawn.

The ceremony was described as a symbolic shaming of the federal government about harsh treatment of the environment and Native rights.

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