Native fishermen vow to return to lobster grounds: The moratorium is expected to end when new traps arrive to replace those destroyed by non- aboriginals.

The Vancouver Sun
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 Thursday 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.

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 proposal.

Late Wednesday, the Atlantic chiefs agreed to ask native fishermen to observe a 30-day voluntary shutdown of the Maritime lobster fishery, which has been rocked by a Supreme Court of Canada ruling granting Mi'kmaq and Maliseet treaty rights to year-round, unlicensed hunting and fishing on the East Coast. They also asked Ottawa to impose the same ban on commercial fishermen.

But Burnt Church members refused to back 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.''

Natives have set roughly 12,000 traps in the Maritimes since the Sept. 17 ruling -- a figure dwarfed by the roughly two million traps annually set by commercial fishermen.

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