‘Breakthrough’ in fish talks in doubt

By Steve Proctor and Truro Bureau
Halifax Herald
Monday, April 23, 2001

Truro. Just one day after announcing a breakthrough in efforts to resolve a dispute over fishing deals, the co-chairman of the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs says there are new storm clouds forming on the horizon. 

Chief Lawrence Paul was jubilant Saturday as he announced native leaders and Ottawa had ended months of bickering and agreed on wording for fishing agreements that would provide native bands with $375 million worth of training, gear and boats over the next three years. 

Chief Paul said the wording would not compromise treaty rights and he predicted at least 30 of the 35 bands in Atlantic Canada would sign the deal. 

But on Sunday, Chief Paul said he was concerned about access to the resource and that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans would have to make policy changes to ensure there were enough licences and boats for native fishermen.

“What’s the point of signing the deals if we can’t get licences to access the fish,” he said. 

He was especially critical of a department policy that prevented the government from buying working operations from interested non-native fishermen and transferring them to the native bands. 

“There’s a number of non-native fishermen . . . that want to work with the bands but the Department of Fisheries and Oceans won’t look at them because they are incorporated. They want to sell their company to gain the best tax advantages, but the DFO doesn’t want to have any part of it.” 

Rob Turner, fisheries adviser to the band, said the department could ensure native access by creating new licences, but that would only enrage existing fishermen and create tension. 

DFO spokesman Andre Marc Lanteigne said the process of retiring licences to create space for aboriginal access has been going well and at this time the department doesn’t envision any need for change. 

The department does not want to buy a number of licences and boats in anticipation of anything because that could drive prices up and interfere with the market, he said.