Dear Prime Minister Justin Trudeau,
I am a veterinarian. I am educated, trained, and licensed to protect animal health and welfare, protect the environment, and human health as well. Veterinarians are stewards of the One Health principle, which is built on the principle that animal health, environmental health, and human health are intertwined. This training, and my commitment to the One Health principle, is why I have immense pride in my career in salmon aquaculture.
I have worked in the aquaculture industry since 2011 in a variety of roles, both on the East coast and the West coast, from research in academia to regulatory at a provincial level. In 2018 I began my career in the aquaculture industry directly as an employee of a salmon farming company in British Columbia. This has been, without question, the most rewarding part of my career thus far. I am continuously impressed by the passion, commitment to excellence and innovation shown by salmon farmers. The industry has changed so much in 10 short years, it is practically unrecognizable from what I started with in 2011. The industry employs state-of-the-art technology to make salmon the most sustainable source of protein produced in Canada.
As a veterinarian, I am abundantly aware that decisions can often be clouded by agendas and public pressure. It is never easy when one is being faced with multiple factors, especially when there is a strong undercurrent of emotion. All the same, at the end of the day, I believe that sound judgement must be based around facts and bias must be put aside. Minister Jordan’s decision in December of 2020 laughed in the face of her own departments report from September 2020 stating that the industry had met the condition laid out in Recommendation 19 of the Cohen Commission, and the farms of the Discovery Islands were of less than minimal risk to the migration salmon. Despite this announcement, a mere 2 months later the communities of North Vancouver Island were thrown into a tailspin when it was announced that in just 18 months, all farms in the Discovery Islands must close. This decision blind-sided the industry, the local representatives, and even the First Nations that were supposedly “consulted”. Minister Jordan claimed that this decision was made based on the collective disagreement of seven First Nations to these farms, but it has since become clear that her consultation process was one-sided, short-sighted and did not allow for meaningful dialogue. To argue that 2 months of discussion, at best, is enough time to foster true reconciliation is insulting to the spirit of the matter.
This decision has already cost multiple people very near and dear to me their jobs. These are people I worked with every single day, they are friends whose homes I gathered at before COVID-19 and who I looked forward to gathering with again once we are through this pandemic. I knew their families, their spouses, and their children. And now, I know their despair and their uncertainty of what their future holds. They will not be the only ones. I know myself, and all other employees of the salmon farming companies on Vancouver Island are, simply put, terrified. We are so scared for what the next year, and years to come, will look like for us, and for our communities. For the past 6 months my spouse and I have been looking to buy a house in Campbell River. As of last week, we put this plan on hold because we had to have a very frank look at our situation and realized we may not be wise to settle down here in the long term. What if in 6 months I lose my job too? I am the primary income earner for my family, and we could not afford a home here without my job. So we are continuing to rent, instead of investing in our city. We are not the only ones having these conversations. All through Campbell River, Gold River, Port McNeill, Port Hardy, Port Alice, and even further north to Klemtu, people are wondering if they will be forced to look elsewhere for work. Many of whom have been in the industry for 20+ years, and many of whom are young Canadians, just starting their careers. What will they do? Who will pay their bills while they re-train or go back to school? What if they are nearing retirement age or a comparable job does not exist for them to transition to? These are questions that Minister Jordan has not, and will not, addressed despite hers being the hand that struck this blow.
I have wanted to be a veterinarian since I was three years old, my parents can attest. In 2010, when I was first introduced to aquaculture, my dream got a little bigger. I wanted to be an aquaculture veterinarian. I saw my passion for animals, population health, the ocean and the environment come together with a bigger goal of feeding the world with sustainable protein. As a “millennial”, I have seen so many historic and catastrophic events in my lifetime, but I still have hope that Canada can emerge from these challenges as a global leader in food security, sustainability and environmental protections. Until this decision, the salmon farming industry had come out of the COVID-19 pandemic with no lost jobs. We were declared an essential service, and I took so much pride in that. I come from a family of farmers and they were, and continue to be, proud of me too despite the uncertainty. Minister Jordan has taken a lot away, but she has not taken my pride nor the pride of so many salmon farmers on Vancouver Island. Please, do not allow activist agenda and knee-jerk decisions to destroy one of the last sustainable industries in rural BC. Take a step back and put in the real work, instead of leaning on an easy scapegoat. If protecting wild salmon is the mandate, then let’s work together to do that. If the DFO’s own science has said that removing the farms will not improve the wild salmons chances of survival, then what does anyone hope to gain here?
I am writing you to implore Minster Jordan to work with us, First Nations, local leaders and government to pave a path forward instead of burning and salting the ground while we still stand on it. The lives of so many depend on it.
Dr. Terra MacDonald
Campbell River, B.C.