CBC Digital Archives

Lesson Plan: For Teachers: Fish Story

Social Studies, Science
1 lesson
To examine both sides of the debate over native fishing rights
Students examine and debate the issue of aboriginal fishing rights and set up a classroom court to find a resolution.

Lesson Plan

Before Exploring

Form students into groups of four or five and present them with the following problem: Your school has organized a field trip to a ski resort. All the students in a class of 32 want to go but there is only space for 20. Twelve of the 32 students have had extensive ski training and would be able to handle themselves very well on the slopes and feel they have a greater right to go because of this. Challenge the students to devise a plan to fairly and equitably choose the 20 students for this trip. Discuss their solutions. Ask: Can there be resolutions to such complicated problems that completely satisfy everyone? Why or why not?

Outline the Opportunity

Direct the groups to the topic The Battle for Aboriginal Treaty Rights on the CBC Digital Archives website and have them watch the clips "Overfishing, out of season" and "Donald Marshall wins Supreme Court victory."


Students devise a resolution to the issue of aboriginal treaty rights and the depleted fishery in the Atlantic region. Have half the groups look at the issue from a Mi'kmaq perspective. Have the other half examine the issue from the perspective of a non-native fisherman.


Remind students to remember all the players concerned with this issue: the Mi'kmaq, the non-treaty Aboriginal Peoples and non-native fishermen who are trying to follow the law, non-aboriginal and non-treaty aboriginal fishermen who are not following the law, the federal government, and the environment.

Establish an in-class courtroom and present the problem: How can the Atlantic fishing issue be resolved to effectively consider the laws of the land (including treaty rights), the peoples involved, and the conservation of the environment?

Select a judge from the class. Groups of students who examined Treaty Rights in Outline the Opportunity from a non-native perspective will form the prosecution. Those who looked at the issue from the Mi'kmaq perspective will form the defense team. Select students to act as witnesses in role as Mi'kmaq fishermen, non-native fishermen, government representatives, and environmental experts. Those students not actively participating in the court will be the jury and will arrive at a final resolution.

Revisit and Reflect

Following the final resolution, discuss as a class whether the process was fair, whose arguments were persuasive, and why. Ask: Could this judgement apply to other native claims? Why or why not?




Students can prepare a final draft of the resolution and send it to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada and to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada in Ottawa, requesting a response from the ministers' offices.

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