Fisheries and Oceans: Dhaliwal Provides Update Following Marshall Case Ruling

Canadian Press
Monday, September 27, 1999

OTTAWA, ONTARIO. Today, Herb Dhaliwal, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, sent a letter to provincial Fisheries Ministers, First Nations and other aboriginal organizations, as well as commercial fishing organizations in Atlantic Canada on the Supreme Court of Canada decision in the Marshall case.

Attached is the text of the letter.

LETTER FROM HERB DHALIWAL, MINISTER OF FISHERIES AND OCEANS to provincial Fisheries Ministers, First Nations and other aboriginal organizations, as well as commercial fishing organizations in Atlantic Canada on the Supreme Court of Canada decision in the Marshall case

September 27, 1999

Dear :

I am writing to you today regarding the recent Supreme Court of Canada decision in R. v. Marshall and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans' actions to date in relation to that decision.

The judgment is complex, and a full understanding of all dimensions must await the outcome of our ongoing legal analysis of the decision. Once that assessment is completed, I will be in a better position to determine options and processes for moving forward with an application of the ruling.

In the meantime, my staff and I have been using every opportunity to encourage all fishers and other stakeholders to remain calm and exercise restraint in this immediate period of uncertainty. My goal is to maintain proper and responsible management of the fishery while working with Aboriginal groups, provinces and the fishing industry to address the implications of this decision for all of us. In this new reality, our challenge is to find ways to work together to secure the future of the fishery for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities. We must formulate a process for integrating fishing under the treaty right into the overall fishery. We need to develop a management scheme that will respect the treaty right described by the Court, while being sensitive to the social and economic realities of the Atlantic fishery and those dependent on it.

We are working closely with other federal departments in addressing the implications of the decision. I have spoken with Aboriginal leaders and industry representatives to seek their patience and support as well as their views as to what process they envisage for implementation of the decision. I have discussed the decision and its implications with my provincial counterparts and have received their commitment to be part of the solution. Furthermore, my departmental officials and I will continue to meet with Aboriginal leaders, provincial officials and industry representatives in the near future to find solutions that will respect the decision of the court, and is fair to the interests of others.

Through this interim period, my immediate priority is to ensure stewardship and protection of the fishery resource. DFO has an enforcement plan in place to ensure that conservation and public health and safety are not compromised. The Department's enforcement capabilities have been redirected to ensure that any fishing resulting from the Marshall decision conforms with the law. Fishery officers are closely monitoring and recording fishing activity. The Department will take enforcement action where conservation or public health and safety are concerned.

Where an Aboriginal person is fishing in violation of conservation measures (such as retaining undersized lobsters) Fishery Officers will take the appropriate action if necessary. If the fishery as a whole is creating a clear risk to conservation, the appropriate Aboriginal organization will be notified. In that case, Fishery Officers may close down the fishery and take enforcement action if necessary. Non-Aboriginal fishers on board vessels will be subject to regular enforcement procedures. If protest fisheries are taking place, regular enforcement procedures will apply.

Let me reiterate the importance of patience and restraint in the short term, and the need for all interested parties to work together. Through open dialogue, we can work together towards a fishery of the future that will be sustainable, respectful of treaty rights, and provide for the continued social and economic well-being of coastal communities and those dependent upon the fishery. I am encouraged by the cooperation shown by all parties in keeping the lines of communication open, and I trust this will continue.

Yours sincerely,

Herb Dhaliwal