Micmac go fishing following top court's ruling

Calgary Herald
Wednesday, September 22, 1999

HALIFAX. Maritime Micmac have taken the landmark Donald Marshall Jr. ruling and gone fishing.

Lobster fishermen from at least two bands have defied federally imposed fishing seasons and taken to the water since the Supreme Court of Canada upheld last Friday a 1760 treaty that gives East Coast bands the right to hunt and fish for sustenance without a licence.

''There's just the decision to go on, so people are going fishing and they're going to sell their catch,'' Margaret Sark, a councillor with P.E.I.'s Lennox Island First Nation, said on Tuesday.

Lennox Island fishermen dropped traps in their traditional fishing grounds in Malpeque Bay on the Island's north shore Tuesday morning -- despite a call from federal Fisheries Minister Herb Dhaliwal on Monday for everyone to ''show goodwill and to exercise patience and restraint.''

Sark said they have waited long enough. ''(The federal government) had 200-and-some years to get ready. They've had all this time to decide what they want to do. We're just going to go ahead. They can come along whenever they're ready.''

Lennox Island followed fishermen at the 1, 100-member Burnt Church reserve just north of Miramichi, N.B., who were on the water within hours of the ruling. A band spokesman said they had set 250 to 750 lobster traps in and around Miramichi Bay.

Wayne Easter, Dhaliwal's parliamentary secretary and a P.E.I. MP, said native fishermen should ''cool it'' until officials in Ottawa have had time to discuss conservation measures with native leaders, commercial fishermen and the provinces.

Aside from Dhaliwal's statement on Monday, the federal Fisheries Department has said little on the ruling. Natives, the Nova Scotia Fisheries Department and the Maritime Fishermen's Union said Tuesday they were waiting for meetings with the department.