Mi'kmaw leaders in Membertou to discuss fishing rights
'We still haven't been able to attain our right to a livelihood fishery,' says Chief Terry Paul
Mi'kmaw leaders from across Nova Scotia are meeting in Membertou, Cape Breton, this week to discuss and commemorate the Marshall decision.
"It's been 20 years and we still haven't been able to attain our right to a livelihood fishery," said Chief Terry Paul of Membertou First Nation.
A 1999 Supreme Court decision in the case of Donald Marshall Jr., an eel fisherman from Membertou, affirmed that Indigenous people on the East Coast had a right to hunt, gather and fish to earn "a moderate livelihood."
But the decision didn't clarify what that phrase meant.
Paul said the chiefs, councils, grand councils and fisheries managers meeting Tuesday and Wednesday will try to better define the issue.
Today marks 20 years since the Marshall Decision. <br><br>On this day in 1999, our people waited to hear of Donald Marshall Jr.’s fate & the fate of all Mi’kmaq. <br><br>He won.<br><br>We are gathered today at MTCC to continue moving forward in the pursuit of a moderate livelihood in fisheries. <a href="https://t.co/AJfNomPLl4">pic.twitter.com/AJfNomPLl4</a>—@MembertouCorp
"We hope to get to that point," he said. "We will be going to the communities because that's where the real answers are, but we want to make sure that leadership is on the same page."
Paul said they will, as a collective, determine a meaning for the phrase, although it may take "many months."
He has his own ideas what it means.
"Well, for one thing, for sure, to stop being poor," he said. "That's what our people are sick and tired of. They know they have a right to access to the fishery where they can make a half decent living, like any other middle-class family."
The Marshall decision is based on treaty rights signed in 1760 and 1761.
While the Supreme Court ruling 20 years ago affirmed those rights, it did not solve disagreements about how much Mi'kmaq can fish.