Nfld. & Labrador

No Indigenous group from N.L. in surf clam venture, premier says

The Five Nations Clam Company claims to have an Indigenous partner in Newfoundland and Labrador, but the premier says he can't find one.

Five Nations Clam Company won't say who is partner is in Newfoundland and Labrador

The premier of N.L. is asking the federal minister to reverse a decision awarding quota for surf clams to a company that will process it in Nova Scotia (Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

The Five Nations Clam Company claims to have an Indigenous partner in Newfoundland and Labrador, but the premier says he can't find one.

"There are no Indigenous groups in our province that are actually participating now in any proposal, and therefore we take exception and we object to this decision," said Dwight Ball.

That contradicts what Fisheries and Oceans Canada said when it announced that the company would be awarded part of a lucrative surf clam quota off Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.

Premier Dwight Ball said he has talked to all the indigenous groups in the province and none have partnered with the Five Nations Clam Company (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

A news release from the federal fisheries minister, Dominic LeBlanc, said there will be a Indigenous partner in Newfoundland and Labrador but Ball said he's had two meetings this week with Indigenous groups and none were included in the bid.

The quota for the Indigenous partnership came from a 25 per cent share taken away from Clearwater Seafoods, which had been processing the clams in Grand Bank. 

Workers in the Clearwater fish plant in Grand Bank package arctic surf clam but quota changes mean uncertainty. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

The fisheries and oceans department wouldn't tell CBC News which group from N.L. was included in the partnership, instead referring questions to the company.

Aaron Sock, who represent the Five Nations Clam Company, last week refused to identify the Newfoundland and Labrador partner, saying the group didn't want its name made public until details were finalized. 

Double standard

Other Indigenous groups are alleging that the company didn't have any partners when it applied for the clam quota and is only now approaching groups in this province to form a partnership.

"It's a serious breach of the assessment criteria, which in our view, creates some procedural irregularities and presents a very very strong situation of unfairness to the other applicants," said lawyer Shayne McDonald with the Qalipu First Nation.

The Qalipu put in its own competing bid, which was not accepted, and had to line up partners and finalize details in advance.

Ball is requesting a meeting with the federal minister, encouraging LeBlanc to reverse his decision.

The deal has also been criticized because the president of Five Nations Clam Company is the brother of a Nova Scotia Liberal MP.

The Anne Risley has a 450-tonne hold for Arctic surf clam. It was built by Clearwater before it was told that part of its quota was being handed over to a company with Indigenous partnerships (Robert Short/CBC)

The decision to take quota away from Clearwater has raised objections from federal, provincial and municipal politicians  who are afraid the move will leave workers on the Burin Peninsula unemployed.

"The fact that we will potentially see workers on the Burin peninsula lose jobs to a company in Nova Scotia, that is not something we can tolerate,' said Ball.

"And we can certainly not tolerate Indigenous groups in our province left out of this process."