HANNA PETERSEN PHOTO NISS students bring their demonstration to the IGA in Port McNeill.

NISS students defy principal and walk out of class to protest fish farms

The group entered the IGA where they handed out flyers

A group of 12 North Island Secondary Students (NISS) walked out of classes for the second time in protest of the fish farming industry.

The students left the school grounds carrying signs, banners, and drums, during the Dec. 8 ‘Walk out for Wild Salmon” event in Port McNeill, which was organized by Grade 12 NISS Student Gwantilakw Hunt-Cranmer.

Hunt-Cranmer and fellow NISS student Laura Bullock read a statement and then the group marched down Campbell Way towards the IGA, where they entered the store and handed out flyers which detailed the statistics of wild salmon’s contribution to the B.C. economy.

“The youth are highly concerned about our future,” said Hunt-Cranmer, adding, “We need to see direct action from the government if they are serious about truth and reconciliation. If they truly care about First Nations people than they would stop the destruction towards our way of life.”

Bullock added that, “We have decided to walk out of our school to show that we stand in solidarity with Karissa Glendale and Molina Dawson, who have been occupying the Swanson Island and Midsummer fish farm for more than 70 days.”

Karisa Glendale and Molina Dawson are two of six people named in an injunction by Marine Harvest, requesting them to vacate the Midsummer Island site.

Glendale and Dawson are due back in provincial court on Dec. 14 after a 30-day adjournment was granted in order to allow them to prepare a defense, in the meantime they were court ordered to vacate the site.

RELATED: Port McNeill students walk out in fish farm protest

The first NISS walk out on Oct. 19 saw roughly 20 students participate, where they presented a statement to Principal Jay Dixon. However, the second walkout was not supported by NISS.

“We don’t condone the students walking out,” said Principal Jay Dixon, in a telephone conversation with the Gazette on Dec. 7. “Any student that is choosing to walk out will be marked as absent,” he added, stating, he would prefer it if the students “were in class learning.”

“I don’t think any principal wants their students to just leave school for any reason, especially if they are trying to get other students involved,” said Hunt-Cranmer. “It was nice that they did it the first time, but we don’t really need their support.”

The students did ask for the support of other students from across Vancouver Island.

“We contacted a few students and they agreed to do it but one of them ended up being out of town that day and the other one was shut down by their principal, but they decided to do a screening of Salmon Confidential instead,” said Bullock.

“It’s incredibly important that our voices are heard during this time,” said Ernest Alfred, who attended the student’s protest.

Alfred has been staying near Marine Harvest’s Swanson Island farm since late August.

“The real pressure needs to be written in a letter and sent to Mr. Horgan,” he added.

Marine Harvest declined to comment on this story.

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