Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside is known as one of the poorest areas of one of British Columbia’s best-known cities, its reputation one of forgotten souls. But a pile of sockeye salmon changed all that on Saturday August 23, when a First Nations fisherman donated 500 of the fish to organizations and a homeless encampment in the downtrodden neighborhood.
“It’s been a long time for a lot of those people to have salmon in East Vancouver and a lot of those people are First Nations,” said Joshua Duncan, a commercial fisherman with R.A. Roberts Fishing Ltd. in Campbell River, to The Province. “I was doing this as a gesture to people who really would like and appreciate the fish, and are trying to make a stand for themselves in their small part of the world.”
The encampment holds 150 people who have been living in Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park for weeks to protest the city’s dearth of affordable housing. Friendship centers and women’s centers in East Vancouver also received fish, The Province reported.
Recipients were moved.
"Bless that man's heart. What a glorious day for the people of Oppenheimer Park," said Karen Clark, who has been homeless for two years after fleeing an abusive relationship, to APTN News. “This is going to bring what we commonly refer to as the inside circle and the outside circle together, finally, with a feast of fish given by a man—obviously a humble man—who wants nothing more than to see us fed and happy and family and housed."
The fish donation project started when Tlatlasikwala First Nation Hereditary Chief John Wallace put out a call on Facebook for donations, APTN reported. Duncan, who has fished for the past 15 years on a boat owned by another hereditary chief, Tony Roberts Sr, heeded.
“We just like to say pay it forward to the people who don't have access and I'm sure haven't had a fresh salmon in a very long time,” Duncan told APTN. “We're just happy to help out whatever little bit we can, and there’s enough fish to go around."