PEI

Cut DFO from treaty fishing rights discussions, says P.E.I. Mi'kmaq group

The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans should be replaced by Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs in any future talks with the Mi'kmaq on treaty rights, including discussion on implementing a moderate livelihood fishery, says the P.E.I. Mi'kmaq rights group L'nuey.

‘DFO … has failed to consult and accommodate,’ L'nuey tells PM in letter

The Sipekne’katik First Nation in Nova Scotia launched its own fishery last month. (Rob Short/CBC)

The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans should be replaced by Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs (CIRNA) in any future talks with the Mi'kmaq on treaty rights, including discussion on implementing a moderate livelihood fishery, says the P.E.I. Mi'kmaq rights group L'nuey.

In an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, L'nuey makes the case that DFO was designated as part of the federal government's short-term response to the 1999 Marshall decision by the Supreme Court of Canada. That response involved the negotiation of increased access to the regulated commercial fishery, according to L'nuey.

L'nuey said the responsibility for a long term resolution of treaty rights was supposed to be handled by the then department of Indian and Northern Affairs, which is now CIRNA.

"DFO has continued to support a negotiation mandate based on limited access to the existing commercial fishery only and over the last 21 years has failed to consult and accommodate on the infringements to our rights," the letter says.

The Marshall decision affirmed the treaty rights of the Mi'kmaq to a moderate livelihood fishery. It did not define moderate livelihood. That question was left to negotiation between the federal government and First Nations.

Last month, the Sipekne'katik First Nation in southwest Nova Scotia launched a moderate livelihood fishery in the absence of an agreement, arguing its members are exercising their treaty rights.

Since then there have been violent confrontations between non-Indigenous and Indigenous fishermen. 

In the release L'nuey also asks the prime minister to "take charge" of the situation in order to diffuse tensions over the treaty fishery.  

The letter says L'nuey is speaking on behalf of only P.E.I. Mi'kmaq in calling for the removal of DFO from negotiations.

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