Members of the Sipekne’katik First Nation, supported by other First Nations, stand on the breakwater in Saulnierville, N.S., as non-indigenous boats protest the launch the Mi’kmaq self-regulated fishery on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Members of the Sipekne’katik First Nation, supported by other First Nations, stand on the breakwater in Saulnierville, N.S., as non-indigenous boats protest the launch the Mi’kmaq self-regulated fishery on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Draft fishery deal possibly a ‘historic recognition’ of treaty rights: Mi’kmaq chief

The chief said he’d like to get a deal finalized as soon as possible

A draft agreement between Ottawa and a Nova Scotia First Nation over a “moderate livelihood” fishery has the potential to be a historic recognition of Mi’kmaq treaty rights, the community’s chief said Sunday.

Mike Sack of Sipekne’katik First Nation said he is reviewing a draft memorandum of understanding he received from the office of Fisheries and Oceans Minister Bernadette Jordan late Friday.

He said the Sipekne’katik Treaty Fishery agreement would allow the Mi’kmaq community to legally sell their catch.

“It’s very significant,” Sack said in an interview. “It can help lift our people out of poverty.”

The community’s lawyers are going over the agreement and clarifying a few points to ensure nothing infringes on the treaty rights of future generations, he added.

But the chief said he’d like to get a deal finalized as soon as possible, noting that “these last couple of months have seemed like a lifetime to us.”

Indigenous fishers faced violence and vandalism earlier this fall after launching a rights-based fishery in southwest Nova Scotia.

Tension with non-Indigenous fishers ignited almost as soon as Mi’kmaq boats entered the St. Marys Bay area.

An escalating series of events ensued, leading to the destruction of a lobster pound that had housed the Indigenous fishers’ catch.

Other flareups included the cutting of Mi’kmaq lobster traps, warf-side gatherings of large crowds of protesters hurling racist insults at fishers, and the alleged torching of multiple vehicles.

The attacks prompted widespread condemnation and calls for clarification on Mi’kmaq treaty fishing rights.

Jane Deeks, press secretary for the Fisheries and Oceans Minister, said the federal government and the Sipekne’katik First Nation are continuing to work collaboratively towards an agreement.

“Our negotiations have been positive, constructive, and progress is being made,” she said in an email on Sunday. “While there is still more work ahead of us, we are making progress together.”

She confirmed that a draft memorandum of understanding is currently with Sipekne’katik First Nation.

“We share the same goals of a productive and sustainable fishery, and to further implement Sipekne’katik First Nation’s Treaty Rights,” Deeks added.

Meanwhile, Sack said the agreement follows through on the Supreme Court of Canada’s recognition of Indigenous treaty rights in its landmark 1999 Marshall decision.

The ruling affirmed the Mi’kmaq treaty right to fish for a “moderate livelihood,” though the top court later clarified that the federal government could regulate the fishery for conservation and other limited purposes.

“This agreement has the potential to be a historic recognition of our treaty rights and to make good on the promise and legacy of Donald Marshall Junior’s work,” Sack said.

“The big part for us is making sure we can harvest and sell and it’s reflected in there.”

READ MORE: Nova Scotia RCMP say man faces assault charges in violent clash at lobster pound

Brett Bundale, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

fishingIndigenous

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Amanda Parsons, a registered nurse on staff at the Northwood Care facility, administers a dose of the Moderna vaccine to Ann Hicks, 77, in Halifax on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan-Pool
61 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

Twenty-nine people are in hospital, seven of whom are in intensive care

Community mental health workers are in high demand, and a new program at Selkirk College will provide opportunities in this field. File Photo
Selkirk College to train community mental health workers

Twelve students will complete two courses enabling them to work in health and human services

Dr. Cori Lausen, bat specialist, has questions about logging in an unusual bat habitat near Beasley. Photo: Submitted
Kaslo biologist questions logging at unique West Kootenay bat site

Dr. Cori Lausen, a bat specialist, studies a population of bats above Beasley

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

Vancouver Canucks’ Travis Hamonic grabs Montreal Canadiens’ Josh Anderson by the face during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horvat scores winner as Canucks dump Habs 6-5 in shootout thriller

Vancouver and Montreal clash again Thursday night

Interior Health has declared the Cariboo Chilcotin a community cluster. (Angie Mindus photo)
Interior Health declares Cariboo Chilcotin region a COVID-19 cluster, 215 cases since Jan. 1

Most cases are related to transmission at social events and gatherings in Williams Lake

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Vernon's Noric House long-term care facility is dealing with an influenza outbreak amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (File photo)
Two more deaths at Vernon care home

Noric House case numbers remain steady, but death toll rises

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Southern resident killer whales in B.C. waters. Research shows the population’s females are more negatively influenced by vessel traffic than males. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Female orcas less likely to feed in presence of vessel traffic: study

Research the southern resident population raises concerns over reproduction capacity

(Black Press Media files)
Transport Canada not budging on enclosed deck rules, despite calls from BC Ferries union

There have been at least 23 cases of the U.K. variant detected in Canada, four of which are in B.C.

The Elk Valley Hospital is adapting to meet the needs of patients in the Elk Valley.
1-in-5 COVID tests coming back positive in and around Fernie, sparking concern

Dr Ron Clark of Elk Valley Hospital said one in five tests was returning positive for COVID-19

Most Read