Feds provide $500M for native fishery, reserves

The Toronto Star
Thursday, February 8, 2001

OTTAWA (CP) – The federal government was expected to announce Friday that it will provide $500 million to help the native fishery in Atlantic Canada and to expand reserves in the region.

Fisheries Minister Herb Dhaliwal and Indian Affairs Minister Robert Nault scheduled a morning news conference to announce details of the government’s strategy to address the Supreme Court’s 1999 Marshall decision. The ruling held that Mi’kmaq and Maliseet bands in Atlantic Canada and Quebec have the right to earn a moderate living from hunting, fishing and gathering. Neither minister would confirm the $500-million fund, but sources said it is to be spread over three years. The main component of the strategy is said to deal with getting more natives into the fishery by purchasing licences and paying for training. Some is also reportedly to be used to buy land to expand reserves in need of more space. Money will also be used internally at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for salaries and other expenses related to the implementation of the Marshall decision, sources said. After the 1999 ruling, the high court issued a subsequent clarification that said Fisheries had the right to regulate the resources. The federal government is trying to come up with a strategy to deal with native fishing before the spring lobster seasons open on the East Coast. Ottawa started last year to improve native access to the fishery through interim agreements that expire in March. The deals, which provided training, equipment and licences to native bands, cost the government $160 million. Dhaliwal has said he hopes all 34 Atlantic bands will sign new deals lasting three to five years, but he acknowledged some might hold out. Bands at Burnt Church, N.B., and Indian Brook, N.S., refused to sign deals last year, claiming they undermined inherent aboriginal treaty rights to the fishery. Federal authorities and native fishermen clashed violently last summer and fall, as natives from both reserves defied Ottawa by fishing out of season and without federal tags. Natives say they hope to prevent more confrontations on the water by developing a national fishery strategy and submitting it to Ottawa.