(Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde says immediate action is required to ensure the rights of Natoaganeg (Eel Ground) First Nation are respected and upheld by all governments. The Natoaganeg First Nation, a Mi’kmaq First Nation in New Brunswick, has been trying to work with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) for years to exercise their rights to a moderate livelihood fishery – a right recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1999 – with no positive result.
“Canada and all its agencies must recognize the Treaty rights of Natoaganeg First Nation to fish and to a moderate livelihood fishery,” said AFN National Chief Bellegarde. “Fishing is part of their culture, identity and economy and has been for generations. Natoaganeg First Nation has been pursuing a peaceful and cooperative way forward for years and they are still open to discussions, but any path must recognize and respect their Treaty rights, inherent rights and the decision of Canada’s own Supreme Court. We want Canada to immediately stop seizing their traps and work with them. I stand with the citizens and leaders of Natoaganeg First Nation.”
In 1999, the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed in the Marshall Decision that the Mi’kmaq have a Treaty right to hunt, fish, harvest and gather in their territory for the purposes of trade and to earn a moderate livelihood. The direction from the court was clear that the Natoaganeg First Nation has a right to fish and operate their fisheries under the Natoaganeg Treaty Fisheries Authorization Plan and the Snow Crab Stewardship Plan, both of which are consistent with the management framework and regulations under the Fisheries Act.
“In this time of reconciliation, First Nations and Canadians need to embrace and build on the relationship set out in the Peace and Friendship Treaties, some of the earliest Treaties in this land” said AFN New Brunswick/Prince Edward Island Regional Chief Roger Augustine. “The people of Natoaganeg sustained themselves through the fishery, yet today there is a high incidence of food insecurity for the people. Many of them rely heavily on fishing to support themselves and their families. It is disturbing to me and does not make sense that a First Nation would be given a license but no quotas. This issue must be resolved to ensure the livelihood and prosperity of Natoaganeg. They are asking for nothing more than for Canada to honour their rights and the decisions of its own courts.”
Natoaganeg (Eel Ground) First Nation began to exercise their Aboriginal and Treaty rights and title to fish for a moderate livelihood through the implementation of a snow crab moderate livelihood fishery. DFO, as of today, has seized 31 snow crab pots. Natoaganeg First Nation is requesting the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard, Jonathan Wilkinson, to step in, direct the DFO to return the snow crab pots, and work with them to respectfully resolve this issue.
The AFN is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates.