First Nations leaders say 'frustration is mounting' over fishing negotiations
First Nations leaders met in Vancouver to call out feds on fishing rights for Nuu-chah-nulth
First Nations on Vancouver Island are calling out Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over a lack of action on fishing rights.
Several court rulings have upheld commercial fishing rights for five Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations on Vancouver Island's west coast, but negotiations over the past seven years that would allow them to take part in the industry have stagnated.
At a Wednesday meeting in Vancouver, they and other Indigenous leaders used the one-year anniversary of the federal Liberals being in power to express their frustrations.
"Get us out on the water, we just want to generate a moderate living for our people. That is all we are asking," Nuu-chah-nulth lead negotiator Francis Frank said.
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"It's like shaking your hand and kicking someone in the shin after you do it," Ken Watts, vice-president of the Nuu-Chah-nulth Tribal Council, said of the lack of progress from the current federal government. "That's what it feels like to our Nuu-chah-nulth Nations."
The nations are calling on the federal government to appoint a senior representative with the ability to negotiate fishing plans and to stop challenging the issue in court.
'Frustration is mounting'
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde says Nuu-chah-nulth shouldn't have to keep winning the same battle.
He says the Trudeau government must live up to its promise of a new and respectful relationship.
"To see this happening now, in 2016, in the year of reconciliation, in the year of the nation-to-nation relationship, it's like we're going backwards, not forwards," he said.
First Nations Summit Grand Chief Ed John told On The Coast host Stephen Quinn that overall, Indigenous communities have had little reason to trust governments of any stripe, but he's pleased with the commitments the Trudeau governments have made.
But on this issue, "the frustration is mounting."
"A year from now, if there is no substantive movement, I think people will go down and exercise their rights that the Supreme Court of Canada says they have: the right to fish on a commercial basis," he said.
"The court didn't say it's subject to negotiation. The right's established."
He says on other issues, particularly those of resource development like the Site C Dam and the Pacific Northwest LNG terminal, the federal government needs to be more committed to consulting Indigenous groups.
With files from Megan Thomas, Tim Weekes and CBC Radio One's On The Coast
To hear the full interview with First Nations Summit Grand Chief Ed John, click the audio labelled: First Nations leaders say 'frustration is mounting' over fishing negotiations