Reconciliation, Fisheries, and Governance: Vanessa Scott and the Broughton Agreement

March 24, 2023

In 2018 a landmark agreement was finalized between First Nations, the salmon farming industry, and the BC government which charted the path for decommissioning marine based salmon farms in the Broughton Archipelago of BC. It was an important step towards First Nations’ economic and environmental control over their own territories, and it went on to win the 2019 Premier's Innovation and Excellence Award under the government-to-government category.

SFU CED alumna Vanessa Scott (’18) played a small but important role in making the Broughton Agreement a reality. A journalist and community organizer, Vanessa was recruited out of the CED certificate program by a consulting firm to help lead community engagement and research efforts for the farming industry. She developed a methodology for engagement, and then conducted interviews and dialogue sessions with hundreds of workers, residents, business owners, and others from across the region.

One of the deepest learnings from the engagements was how much everyone, on the whole, cared about wild salmon. “It was so powerful to have a truck driver, farming executive, and a young environmentalist college student all sitting together and realizing that the core reasons for why they live where they do are actually shared environmental values related to the ocean.”

While interviewing salmon farm workers, Vanessa also found how much their own personal conflicts reflected the broader conflicts of the region. “Workers in the industry were caught in a really tough position. They could see the impact of climate change on the ocean every day, and they were also concerned about the impacts of the industry on wild fish stocks that were being processed into feed for the farms. At the same time these workers genuinely loved their jobs. They thought they were contributing to food security on some level, and some saw farming as an alternative to overfishing of wild stocks.”

At the intersection of all of these competing issues was where some of Vanessa’s CED training in economic reconciliation came in. “The whole agreement came down to negotiating between different visions of economic development. So finding shared values and communicating narratives in ways where different participants could see themselves in a reconciled future was important.” This was also personally important to Vanessa herself. “My family has been in BC for four generations, and the reason why we came here was to exploit these resources. So I know part of my responsibility is to contribute to meaningful reconciliation that returns sovereignty to First Nations and brings back some balance.”

Since the Broughton Agreement project Vanessa has continued to work on issues that lie at the heart of that intersection between economy, society, and environment. Currently she has been involved in work on BC’s Old Growth Strategic Review which will be made public by the BC government soon. Vanessa has become a leader in social change in her own way, even though much of her work is behind the scenes. "SFU CED provided me with a baseline of knowledge that I continually draw on, as well as an outlook rooted in values like collaboration, Indigenous rights, and strategic problem-solving for some of the biggest, most stuck challenges facing our communities. I have met multiple BC Premiers and been told that this work matters more than anything to the future of our province, which is an exciting call to action, especially now when Covid-19, climate change and the state of the world calls us to reimagine healthier futures together."