Sipekne'katik chief appeals to prime minister to intervene in self government, parallel fishery
Sack lashes out against DFO bureaucrats, accusing them of 'continuing to use colonial approaches'
The Sipekne'katik First Nation called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Friday to intercede in its fight to secure a moderate livelihood fishery as part of Mi'kmaw self-government.
The call came in a news release criticizing a draft agreement for a moderate livelihood fishery that it received one week ago from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
"Although we had tempered our response of this first draft as a potentially ground-breaking and historical undertaking, Sipekne'katik remains very disappointed in the draft document's intent and content," Chief Mike Sack said in the release.
Details remain hidden
Neither the band nor DFO has released the draft memorandum of understanding.
Sack was not specific about his objections. He said: "Sipekne'katik will never renegotiate or limit the rights that our ancestors protected through the Treaties centuries ago."
The band launched its self-declared moderate livelihood fishery in September without DFO oversight or approval.
It said it was exercising a Mi'kmaw treaty right to fish for a moderate living recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada 21 years ago.
The moderate fishery was never defined.
Successive federal governments instead focused on integrating Maritime First Nations into the commercial fishery, spending over half a billion dollars on training and buying up and distributing commercial fishing licences.
The Supreme Court also ruled that the federal government, not the Mi'kmaq, had the right to regulate any moderate livelihood fishery for conservation purposes.
Blames bureaucrats for impasse
On Friday, Sack lashed out against DFO bureaucrats, accusing them of "continuing to use colonial approaches in colonial language," and blaming them for the impasse.
"The problem we are currently facing is the disconnect between the department's bureaucrats' understanding and the evolving nation-to-nation relationship," he said.
Sack said his discussions with Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan are "for the most part on the same wavelength."
"This is a testament to her respectfulness and character."
Still, he went over Jordan's head in his appeal to Trudeau to "facilitate a constitutionally protected self-government agreement for the Sipekne'katik Treaty Implementation Fishery Management Plan that is acceptable and parallel to Canada's Fisheries Act."
Jordan's office responded with a statement Friday saying that reaching a deal is "an essential part of our government's larger promise to support First Nations on their path to greater self-determination."
"We are working closely with Sipekne'katik First Nation to ensure negotiations are respectful, constructive, and able to evolve. Where challenges have arisen, we have addressed them, nation-to-nation. We will continue to do so, and we will continue to work collaboratively toward an agreement," the statement said.
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