Last month I told you about Alexandra Morton’s Get Out Migration, and how it would end in Victoria on Saturday, May 8. Shortly after writing those words I decided that, as someone who cares about wild salmon and is in the process of educating myself about the issues surrounding salmon conservation, I wanted to be there. So, I called an amazing friend and asked her if she would be willing to walk 30km with me on a Saturday in support of wild salmon conservation.
On Saturday morning we woke up early, had a quick breakfast and made sandwhiches for the road (unlike wild salmon which stop eating when they migrate upstream, we decided we would need snacks), and headed to Sidney to join the walk. After getting lost and then getting a ride from two other migrators, we met up with the back of the walking group – there were, we later found out, about 250 people. We were told by a man at the back of the group who had walked almost the entire way with Alexandra where to find signs, water, and who to ask for help if we had questions. Then, catching up with the main body of the group, we began our long trek.
As we walked along the highway, and then into the city of Victoria, the support from the passing motorists was incredible. People honked, cheered, and even thanked us for being there. What was even more incredible was that people who were stuck behind us – we were blocking a full lane and the shoulder – honked as they went past. Of course there were people who were unhappy with us, and more than once we wondered if a long honk indicated displeasure.
Along the entire route, the police were out to help us safely cross intersections as a group. They were a wonderful help, and along the way a self-appointed “official thanker” made it her job to thank every officer for his or her hard work.
As we approached the MLA’s office, a band started to play and the group there cheered as we entered. Then, after a few speeches, we were on our way down the busy Quadra Street towards downtown. People waved from their houses and the migrators invited them to join the walk, which some did. Our numbers were now around 400-500, and passing motorists were still honking and cheering us on.
When we got to the corner closest to Centennial Square, a small band met us and escorted us noisily to the square, which was already full. Gratefully, my friend and I fell onto a shady patch of grass for a good stretch before beginning the final leg of the journey.
Arriving at the legislature was a powerful experience. As we made our way down Government Street towards the building we could see that the lawn was already very crowded. There a sea of people in front of us and a sea of people behind us. Passing pedestrians and tourists were joining the migration right off the sidewalk – even those who were not sure at first what the rally was about, but knew that they loved wild salmon. They were quickly filled in by the migrators.
As we were nearing the legislature, I saw the sign which for me encapsulated what the entire day had been about. It read: “My BC Needs Wild Salmon.” And other people seemed to agree. There were also people carrying signs representing eagles, orca whales, and different fish species, as well as many other text- and photo-based signs.
One of the speakers asked us to look around at the people on either side of us: she said that this rally included all races and all ages, and it truly did. There were even several children in strollers or wagons, and the lead horse-drawn wagon held children who were too young to walk the entire distance.
At the very end of a long, tiring day, and what was for her the culmination of a 500km, two week trek, Alexandra Morton got up and surveyed the crowd. “Well,” she told us, “I don’t know but I think maybe we get to keep our wild salmon.” She went on to note that the fish farms are still welcome in the province, as long as they move to closed containment or land-based pens which do not interfere with wild salmon runs.
I went to the rally in order to support wild salmon, which I personally find important, and to learn about the issues surrounding conservation, wild salmon, and fish farms. The one unfortunate part of this experience for me was that there were no Liberal MLAs or fish farmers there to enter into a dialogue with Alexandra Morton and her supporters. I would have liked to have a conversation with someone from the other side in order to understand their views as fully as I now understand Morton’s.
So I will end this post with some thank-yous and some requests. I would like to thank my friend for coming on this journey with me, and the police officers (especially Saanich) for keeping us safe. And I would like to request that any other migrators please contact me with your experiences. Last, I would like to ask any people involved in the fish farm industry to contact me so I can understand your point of view as well.
You can find media coverage of the rally here.