Atlantic Indian tribes balk at signing new fisheries deals with Ottawa

The Boston Globe
Friday, March 9, 2001

SAINT JOHN. New Brunswick (AP) A federal plan to sign new fisheries agreements with Micmac and Maliseet bands in Atlantic Canada and Quebec has ended in failure, according to a tribal leader. 

J.J. Bear, communications officer with the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nation Chiefs, confirmed Friday that talks have ended without an agreement between the federal government and the Millbrook, Nova Scotia, reservation the first to sign a similar interim deal last year. 

”I don’t think any of the bands will sign the new agreements,” Bear said. ”I think the whole process will be scuttled.” 

Andre-Marc Lanteigne, spokesman for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, said he had no idea how the negotiations were going. 

However, he said the federal government still plans to give Indian tribes access to the fishery even if agreements can’t be reached. 

”What we won’t have is the accompanying resources that we can provide to the communities for them to benefit more from this industry, such as training, infrastructure and so on,” Lanteigne said. 

The federal government announced earlier this year it is willing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to sign interim fishing agreements that would include fishery licenses, equipment and training for tribal fishermen. 

Ottawa last year launched a similar first round of interim deals, worth $160 million, in the wake of the Supreme Court of Canada’s 1999 decision that upheld the right of tribes in Atlantic Canada and Quebec to earn a moderate livelihood from fishing, hunting and gathering. 

That effort resulted in agreements with 30 of the 34 First Nation tribes affected by the ruling. Two other tribes were too late in agreeing to participate while the ones at Burnt Church , New Brunswick, and Indian Brook, Nova Scotia, refused to sign. 

Bear said the tribal resolve against the deals is growing stronger because they ”essentially force the bands to sign away their treaty rights. 

”Bands are being a little more wary because it can be used against them in the courts, and they don’t like it,” he said.