N.S. Assembly of Mi’kmaw Chiefs say feds have failed them amid discussions with DFO

Boats from Sipekne’katik First Nation were tied up, after lobster traps were cut in dispute with commercial fishers. Sipekne’katik launched a self-regulated fishery on Sept. 17, in an effort to assert Treaty Rights upheld by the 1999 SCOC Marshall decision. Ross Lord / Global News

The Nova Scotia Assembly of Mi’kmaw Chiefs released a statement Friday condemning the “colonialized approach” the federal government is taking in discussing and negotiating the Mi’kmaw right to fish for a moderate livelihood.

The assembly says its members met with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) in an on-the-record consultation meeting on Thursday.

While DFO conservation and protection (C&P) officers, who seized traps from Potlotek and Eskasoni authorized harvesters, were invited to attend the consultation discussions to explain their actions, the assembly said representatives of C&P refused to attend.

“DFO representatives in attendance said they would not exercise authority over C&P officers,” the assembly said in a statement.

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“In a very critical moment, the Federal Government has failed us,” Chief Terrance Paul, assembly co-chair and fisheries lead said in a press release. “We have been pushing for movement from Canada to work together on the Right to a Moderate Livelihood and we have been met, once again, with roadblocks to these discussions moving ahead.”

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Paul said that the discussion with DFO have broken down, and that is no fault of the Mi’kmaq.

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“We have attempted to work Nation-to-Nation, but the Federal Government refuses to look beyond their colonialized approach,” he said.

“They have not recognized our Supreme Court affirmed Right for over 21 years, and it has now become clear that they have no intentions of seeing the Mi’kmaq exercising our Constitutionally affirmed Rights.”

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In light of the situation, the assembly said that the Mi’kmaq are now prioritizing a new way forward.

“We will not stand by and watch DFO seize any more livelihood traps,” Chief Wilbert Marshall of Potlotek Mi’kmaw Community said in a press release. “Exercising our Treaty Rights is something that we can and will continue to do.”

Global News has reached out to DFO and Chief Terrance Paul for comment but has yet to receive a response.

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