Micmacs start fishing after high court ruling

The Toronto Star
Wednesday, September 22, 1999

HALIFAX. Maritime Micmacs have taken the landmark Donald
Marshall Jr. ruling and gone fishing.

Lobster fishermen from at least two bands have defied federally imposed fishing seasons since the Supreme Court of Canada upheld last Friday a 1760 treaty that gives East Coast bands the right to hunt and fish for sustenance without a licence.

''There's just the decision to go on, so people are going fishing and they're going to sell their catch,'' Margaret Sark, a councillor with Prince Edward Island's Lennox Island First Nation, said.

Lennox Island fishermen dropped traps in their traditional fishing grounds in Malpeque Bay on the island's north shore yesterday morning - despite a call from federal Fisheries Minister Herb Dhaliwal on Monday for everyone to ''show goodwill and to exercise patience and restraint.''

Sark said her people have waited long enough.

''(The federal government) had 200-and-some years to get ready,'' she said. ''We're just going to go ahead. They can come along whenever they're ready.''

Lennox Island followed fishermen at the 1,100-member Burnt Church reserve just north of Miramichi, N.B., who were on the water within hours of the ruling. A spokesman for that band said they had set between 250 and 750 lobster traps in Miramichi Bay.

Natives, the Nova Scotia Fisheries Department and the Maritime Fishermen's Union said yesterday they were waiting to meet with the fisheries department.

Jo-Anne Brisebois, a department spokeswoman, said officials are reviewing the court decision and could not say when new guidelines would be in place.

The Marshall ruling is to be discussed at a meeting of Canadian fisheries ministers in Quebec city today.