OUR COMMUNITY: Eddie Gardner wild salmon warrior

He's been busy organizing peaceful rallies outside chain stores selling open-net farmed salmon.

'My number one passion is protecting the wild salmon

'My number one passion is protecting the wild salmon

Eddie Gardner is the ‘wild salmon’ guy of Chilliwack.

He’s been busy organizing rallies outside chain stores selling open-net farmed salmon, part of a national movement he started called the Open-Net Salmon Boycott.

If you’ve shopped at a big-box store over the lunch hour in Chilliwack you may have seen him in the past couple of years.

Gardner would be the one wearing a woven cedar hat and salmon t-shirt, passionately urging shoppers to purchase wild salmon over farmed open-net options.

He often makes little speech in the store parking lot. Or you might spot him drumming and singing, alongside other salmon warriors, to honour the cause from outside a big box store.

“My number one passion is protecting the wild salmon,” he says.

He’s become convinced, in part by the work of B.C. biologist Alexandra Morton, that open-net industrial fish farms need to be removed from the migratory routes of salmon in the Pacific ocean. A lot of it has to do with the impacts of feedlot waste, parasites like lice and salmon diseases, he says, pointing to research showing that farmed salmon from feedlots tends to have more toxins than wild fish.

“This is a people’s movement. I started it from Chilliwack but it is growing, and I hope one day there will be chapters across North America,” he says.

Gardener’s car as well as his hand drum, and a new line of t-shirts, all have the iconic salmon painted on them.

It’s not an accident. And it’s not an artistic statement.

Saving the wild salmon has become his singular focus. He’s fought for a range of causes in the past like recognizing the impacts of Indian Residential schools, and trying to revive the dying Halq’emeylem language. But this is different.

“The salmon are the very lifeblood of B.C.,” he explains.

That’s what he concentrates on when he’s not helping to put on a medicine wheel workshop or a monthly sweat lodge.

Protecting the salmon for him is a deeply spiritual quest. A sacred one even.

He got involved with other like-minded individuals, like those at Salmon Are Sacred, to raise awareness of the concern for wild salmon, especially after the Fraser River sockeye run suffered a steep decline in 2009 — a crash that spawned the federal Cohen Commission. Even though the next year 2010 saw record numbers returning, he still felt the need to take action.

He has come to the conclusion that so many foreign-owned, open-net fish farms in the Pacific ocean is like “playing Russian roulette” with the wild salmon resource, which is precious and irreplaceable, he says.

“No other part of the world has this amazing resource,” he says.

Born in Hope, B.C. Gardner’s family moved to Sept Isles, Quebec, where he was raised, after they moved there to support his dad’s career. After obtaining a BA from University of PEI in 1972, he went to work for various agencies across Canada, delivering programs and services from a distinctly aboriginal world view, toiling for provincial, federal, as well as the private sector and First Nations governments. He returned to Sto:lo territory in 1994, worked on reviving his traditional language, and has been here ever since.

These days Gardner lives off-reserve in his Chilliwack condo with his wife Fran, and is an elder and member of the Skwah First Nation. At 68 he’s semi retired, but still working as an Elder-in-Residence at both the University of the Fraser Valley and Nicola Valley Institute of Technology, sharing his knowledge of Stó:lo culture and traditions.

The value of wild fish is being overlooked, and that is the central problem, he figures.

People don’t always realize salmon is a “keystone” species that feeds so many other species and creatures down the line, like the whales, sea lions, wolves, bears, eagles and more.

“Losing it would be a terrible blow to First Nations people, who have a spiritual and cultural relationship to the salmon.”

The traditional name he was given is T’it’elem Spath, which means Singing Bear, and he’s been singing this song for years now.

“It’s an amazing gift to the world so you’d think the federal government would do everything in its power to protect it.

“On the contrary they have abdicated their responsibility entirely, at great peril to the fish.”

He says he strongly believes in the “people’s movement” as advocated by the late George Manuel of UBCIC and Chief Wayne Christian, and he still promotes this basic concept in his work.

The federal government, in failing to implement the recommendations in the wake of the Cohen Commission, such as removing fish farms from the paths of migrating salmon, have failed to protect salmon.

“The thing is if the government doesn’t do anything about this, we the people, have to rise up and do their jobs for them.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Logan Buchwitz of the GW Graham Grizzlies tackles a Windsor Dukes player during the 2018 AA junior varsity provincial championship game at BC Place in Vancouver. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)
Logan Buchwitz gets second selection to CanadaFootballChat.com Prospects Game

The G.W. Graham football star participated in last year’s inaugural event in Ottawa

Shane Goodvin had just bought a house with wife Laura Major when he started experiencing severe back pain. That led to a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, and the father of five children is now in rough shape. (Submitted photos)
GoFundMe set up for Chilliwack man fighting pancreatic cancer

Shane Goodvin has five children and a loving wife, and he’s worried about their future

Chilliwack school board trustee Barry Neufeld. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress file)
New punitive measures for Neufeld over in-camera privacy breach

Chilliwack school trustee to be excluded from future in-camera meetings over breaches

Dan Coulter, on screen in centre, is sworn in as the Chilliwack MLA by Premier John Horgan on Nov. 24, 2020. (Screenshot)
Chilliwack school trustee officially steps down to assume MLA role

The loss of Dan Coulter at the board table will trigger a byelection in Chilliwack

Justin Louis of Chilliwack, seen here on Nov. 21, 2020 beside a mural of his wife Inez Louis, is one of the designers who will be featured on Nov. 26 as part of Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Indigenous Chilliwack fashion designer steps onto national stage

Justin Louis with Section 35 clothing will present his collection at Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. daily COVID-19 cases hits record 941 on Tuesday

Further restrictions on indoor exercise take effect

Barrels pictured outside Oliver winery, Quinta Ferreira, in May. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
B.C. Master of Wine reflects on industry’s teetering economic state

Pandemic, for some wine makers, has been a blessing in disguise. For others, not so much.

A fentanyl test strip is used at Vancouver Coastal Health in Vancouver, Tuesday, January, 21, 2020. The test strips will be made available to drug users to ensure that their drugs are safe and free of Fentanyl. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Drug overdoses lead to 5 deaths each day in October; drug toxicity continues to increase

COVID-19 crisis continues to exacerbate the overdose crisis

An employee of the Adventure Hotel was taken to hospital on Nov. 20 after she confronted a customer of Empire Coffee about not wearing a mask. File photo.
Nelson hotel employee suffers heart attack after being assaulted in anti-mask incident

An accountant at the Adventure Hotel is in hospital in Kelowna

Damien Smith, with father Thomas Smith, is “frozen” with joy as he watches a special message Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds recorded for Damien’s 9th birthday on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020. (Contributed)
Shuswap boy celebrates 9th birthday with family, community and Ryan Reynolds

People from around the world send birthday cards showing young Canoe resident he’s not alone

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Refuse to follow B.C.’s mask mandate? Face a $230 fine

Masks are now required to be worn by all British Columbians, 12 years and older

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s inability to manufacture vaccines in-house will delay distribution: Trudeau

First doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected in first few months of 2021, prime minister says

Most Read