Marshall leads fishing march
Man who sparked native rights fight breaks silence to urge Indians on

Canadian Press
Friday, September 29, 2000

SYDNEY, N.S. - The man whose Supreme Court challenge set off a national battle with Ottawa over native fishing rights ended his self-imposed silence yesterday, urging natives not to give up their struggle for autonomy.

``We've got to keep fighting it. It's not only me - I don't want our kids in another 10 years fighting the same s---,'' said Donald Marshall as he walked with nearly 100 natives who gathered for the peaceful protest march.

Marshall led the solemn noon-hour procession, punctuated by the beat of a solitary drum, through the quiet streets of the small industrial town in Cape Breton.

Known for his reluctance to step into the public spotlight, the soft-spoken Mi'kmaq said he couldn't stand by and watch the significance of his court victory fade.

``The flame was dying out,'' said Marshall, 47, a resident of Membertou, a struggling reserve of about 900 people that overlooks Sydney.

``Hopefully the government will start waking up because we're wide awake.''

In a decision last fall, the Supreme Court ruled natives had the right to make a moderate living by hunting, fishing and gathering. The decision came after Marshall was convicted in 1993 of fishing eels out of season and without a licence.

But in a rare followup clarification, the court said the federal government had the right to regulate the fishery under certain circumstances.

Since then, federal Fisheries officials have seized hundreds of native lobster traps off the coasts of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. They estimate about 250 native traps remain in Miramichi Bay, in northeastern New Brunswick, where the majority of confrontations between natives and officials have taken place.

Marshall warned that natives will settle for nothing less than equal access to the fishery and urged a return to negotiations to peacefully settle the dispute.

A recent attempt by former Ontario premier Bob Rae to mediate the controversy failed.

``The government and our leaders are going to have to sit right back down again, and try to sort everything out and stop whining and crying about everything,'' Marshall said.

The gathering of natives - and several non-natives - was escorted by police. Marshall had said he did not plan to use violence to press his case for aboriginals' right to fish.

Protesters at the march carried placards that read Keep Fishing, Don't Quit and chanted No more DFO.

Some who joined the demonstration said they supported natives in Burnt Church, a reserve near the Miramichi Bay, where aboriginal fishermen have clashed repeatedly in recent weeks with Fisheries officials.

``I believe in the treaty and I believe in helping my people,'' said John Sylliboy, a 34-year-old native from the nearby Whycocomagh reserve. He spent a month in Burnt Church and New Edinburgh, N.S., to protest Ottawa's treatment of native fishermen.

``It shows that we are united and getting together to help.''

In a display of solidarity, several non-natives also joined the protest.

``It's time we, the white people, recognize what's going on,'' said Joe MacNeil of Sydney, an industrial town with a population of about 28,000.

``Hopefully people like us will stop what's happening and let (natives) get what's coming to them.''

Some native fishermen have said they will pull their traps on Oct. 1, when bands around the Maritimes celebrate Treaty Day - traditionally the day that government and chiefs were to meet each year to discuss treaty issues and renew commitments.

A delegation of 250 provincial leaders and elders planned to travel to the reserve for Treaty Day.