OTTAWA – Following last week’s decision by Fisheries and Oceans Canada requiring Indigenous lobster fishers in Nova Scotia to participate in moderate livelihood fisheries only during commercial seasons, the Green Party of Canada urges Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan to restart talks with the Mi’kmaq First Nation on a nation-to-nation basis.
“The government of Canada has committed to implementing the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous Rights (UNDRIP),” said Green Party Leader Annamie Paul, “yet here it is, once again, ignoring one of the fundamental tenets of that framework, and casting aside the right to self-determination. This is the kind of unilateral decision that undermines any confidence that people in Canada might have that the federal government is indeed committed to reconciliation.”
In Atlantic Canada, relationships between British and French settlers and First Nations were negotiated through peace and friendship treaties that were signed between 1725 and 1779. These treaties did not cede land, but did guarantee hunting, fishing and land-use rights for the descendants of the Indigenous signatories. In 1999, the Supreme Court’s Marshall ruling recognised First Nations’ rights to earn a moderate living from fishing. More than twenty-one years later, the federal government has still not defined a “moderate living”.
“For Fisheries and Oceans Canada to unilaterally announce that it will not issue fishing licences to First Nations in Atlantic Canada outside of the commercial season, without adequate consultation or agreement, is disrespectful of the inalienable rights of the Mi’kmaq and other First Nations,” said Ms. Paul. “This does not reflect true nation-to-nation negotiations, in which both parties must be agreeable to the terms concluded. Yet again, the federal government is imposing terms.
“Our understanding is that Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq nations are united in their rejection of the government’s unilateral decision. Minister Jordan must reverse this decision and return to negotiations with the goal of achieving an agreement that respects treaty rights. It is incumbent upon the government to do everything possible to respect and implement UNDRIP. Not doing so means that we will continue to undermine the right of Indigenous Peoples to self-determination.”
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