Deadline today for N.B. fishing agreement
Nearing 'end of the line'

National Post, with files from The Canadian Press
September 19, 2000

Native leaders in Burnt Church, N.B., have until this afternoon to reach a deal to end a dispute over lobster fishing in the area or federal fisheries officials will begin confiscating traps.

Bob Rae, the mediator in the dispute, plans to walk out of negotiations today unless a deal is reached.

Mr. Rae set the deadline over the weekend and expressed concern about the survival of the fishery unless native fishermen reduce their lobster catch.

Yesterday, Herb Dhaliwal, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, said his officials will take action if the deadline passes.


"At the end of the day, I'll have to look at all my options available, but our priority is trying to resolve this in a peaceful way," he said in Ottawa.

Mediator Bob Rae plans to walk out of the lobster fishery negotiations today if no deal is reached.

Andrew Vaughan, The Canadian Press

"But I think we're coming to the end of the line. Every effort has been made, and I hope Bob Rae comes [up] with some solution, but at the end of the day, I have to make sure I enforce and I protect the resource for all Canadians. And I'll do that."

Negotiations to end the dispute were not proceeding well yesterday.

Andr*-Marc Lanteigne, spokesman for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, said negotiations were "very slow and very difficult."

Non-native fishermen are furious at the native fishing and some are vowing violence if a deal is not reached.

The dispute centres around a Supreme Court decision last year that recognized the right of Mi'kmaq and Maliseet people to earn a moderate living from hunting and fishing.

The Mi'kmaq in Burnt Church say the decision means they can fish for lobsters in the fall when the commercial fishery is closed. Non-native fishermen and the government say the native fishing will harm the longevity of lobster stocks.

Mediation experts say Mr. Rae has a difficult role in the dispute because the negotiations have become so public.

"There must have not been a confidentiality agreement, which really binds his hands because a mediator can work a lot more effectively with a confidentiality agreement," said Allan Stitt, head of the ADR Institute of Canada Inc., a national organization for alternative dispute resolution professionals.

"I think the fact that it is all public and being reported is probably hurting him, unfortunately."

Mr. Stitt, a Toronto lawyer and mediator, said many disputes between native bands and the government are being settled by mediation. However, he said most of those mediations are facilitative, which means the mediator tries to find common ground.

Mr. Rae, he said, appears to be following an evaluative form of mediation by making recommendations about what should happen.

"It sounds like he as a mediator is saying, 'You have to be prepared to remove the traps', " Mr. Stitt said.

"Mediation is possible in this situation," said Owen Shime, a Toronto-based mediator.

"If some people feel they can settle the Mideast crisis through mediation, they should be able to settle this through mediation."