Marshall urges calm over fishing rights

The London Free Press
Wednesday, September 29, 1999

HALIFAX. The man behind a Supreme Court of Canada ruling on native fishing appealed for calm yesterday, saying he fears there could be violent confrontations on the water.

"There's a big crisis going on out in the waters," Donald Marshall Jr. told a radio call-in show discussing the landmark court decision that recognized native treaty rights to fish and hunt without a licence.

"I'm asking our chiefs and native leaders to talk to our fishermen and pull out their nets and negotiate everything and then we'll see what comes out of it."

Non-natives in New Brunswick had threatened to sabotage lobster traps in Miramichi Bay if the federal government doesn't step in by today to resolve the situation, which has grown more tense since the court decision Sept. 17.

Federal Fisheries Minister Herb Dhaliwal said yesterday he was waiting to get more information on what Ottawa can do legally to suspend or clarify the decision.

"I hope that in the next day or two days the Justice Department will give me some clarity," Dhaliwal after a cabinet meeting in Ottawa.

Natives set thousands of lobster traps after the federal court decision gave Mi'kmaq and Maliseet unfettered rights to fish and hunt year-round and without licences.

The court ruling enraged non-natives, who fear the expanded fishery will deplete lobster stocks and destroy a way of life that has sustained Maritime communities for generations.

There is still confusion about who falls under the 1760 treaty natives say gives them the right to fish, hunt and gather without government involvement.

The case was launched by Marshall, who had earlier been convicted of illegally fishing eels.