Natives say moratorium won't swim

Canadan Press
Friday, October 8, 1999

BURNT CHURCH, N.B. It appears the truce in the Maritime lobster war will be short-lived.

Native fishermen at the Burnt Church reserve -- the flashpoint in the dispute over aboriginal fishing rights -- turned their backs yesterday on a moratorium suggested Wednesday by the Atlantic chiefs.

They said they'll head on to the cold waters of Miramichi Bay as soon as they get 1,000 new lobster traps to replace those destroyed last weekend by angry non-native fishermen.

'PROVOKE WHITE PEOPLE'

The replacement traps are expected as early as today.

The native fishermen also said they'll wait for the weather to improve.

"I know this is going to provoke the white people," said native fisherman Clarence Dedam of Burnt Church.

"But we have to take a stance. It's all right to fish. We waited more than 200 years to fish and we're going to fish."

The mood was defiant and euphoric as fishermen and other band members poured out of a private meeting on the reserve with Chief Wilbur Dedam, who presented the moratorium.

Late Wednesday, the Atlantic chiefs agreed to ask native fishermen to observe a 30-day voluntary shut down of the Maritime lobster fishery.

SUPREME COURT RULING

The fishery has been rocked by a Supreme Court ruling Sept. 17 granting Mi'kmaq and Maliseet treaty rights to year-round, unlicensed hunting and fishing on the East Coast.

But when Dedam put the idea to Burnt Church members, who have been the most determined to take advantage of their treaty rights, he was told there would be no backing down.

"This community is traumatized," said band manager Alex Dedam.

"But we're asking the police and fisheries officials to ensure we have an unobstructed fishery. It's our right and we intend to exercise our right.

"We're going to go fishing."

Federal Fisheries Minister Herb Dhaliwal said he wasn't concerned by the decision by Burnt Church natives, adding bands have until tomorrow to decide whether to stop fishing.

"I'm confident people will abide by this position that they all took together as chiefs," he said.

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