DFO needs to do more to include Eel Ground First Nation in snow crab fishery, regional chief says
The Assembly of First Nations 40th annual general assembly will take place in Fredericton next week
A regional First Nations leader says Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans needs to do more to help a New Brunswick First Nation get its fair share of the snow crab fishery.
Earlier this week, about 25 Members of Natoaganeg First Nation, also known as Eel Ground First Nation, gathered outside the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to protest the band's lack of access to the lucrative fishery.
"They treat people like we were treated back in Sir John A. Macdonald days, trying to starve the Indians and reduce their power and their influence," said Chief Roger Augustine, the Assembly of First Nations' regional chief for New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.
Natoaganeg First Nation Chief George Ginnish has complained the government denied his band its treaty rights, and for 20 years he's been asking to have them reinstated.
In May, fishermen from the community had the backing of the band council when they began fishing snow crab in the Gulf of St. Lawrence without an agreement with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
But dozens of their traps were seized by the department.
"It's totally unfair and it has to be addressed," said Augustine, a former chief of Natoaganeg First Nation.
Natoaganeg fishermen also couldn't sell their catch to processors. Earlier this week, the department has said it would be "illegal to purchase, sell or possess any fish caught in contravention" of the Fisheries Act, meaning processors could risk losing their licence.
Augustine and many of the country's First Nation leaders are gathering in Fredericton next week for the Assembly of First Nations 40th annual general assembly, where he hopes the topic will be addressed.
Wants rights honoured
"All we want is to be recognized that we have a right to fish and we have a right to feed our families," Augustine said.
The assembly will take place Tuesday to Thursday under the theme "Celebrating our Successes and Giving Thanks."
Chiefs want to ensure the rights of First Nations to territory and resources are recognized and honoured, Augustine said.
When you see an unnecessary death in the community, that could've been avoided with proper resources, it is a cultural genocide.- Roger Augustine, Assembly of First Nations regional chief
They'll be discussing issues pertaining to their respective regions such as flooding, fires and the Trans-Mountain Pipeline system.
Another focus of the gathering will be the recent national inquiry into the murder or disappearance of thousands of Indigenous women in Canada, described as genocide in the inquiry's report.
"When you see an unnecessary death in the community, that could've been avoided with proper resources, it is a cultural genocide," Augustine said.
Keeping a culture alive
Representatives from the federal government will also attend the assembly, which consider Canada's progress in relations with First Nations.
The chiefs will highlight the importance of language, culture and leadership, Augustine said.
"Those things are so important now," he said. "For us to survive, it is our link to a better life and a better world."
With files from Information Morning Saint John, Tori Weldon