Native leaders want Ottawa – to accommodate – not regulate fishery

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 
Thursday, February 1, 2001

HALIFAX. Even before the federal government can make an announcement, native critics are already jumping on rumours of a $500-million program. 

Fisheries Minister Herb Dhaliwal has said he will make an announcement soon about how his department plans to deal with the native fishery, but First Nations leaders meeting in Halifax this week already had objections. 

“Throw more money our way and they think that’s going to let them off the hook in terms of dealing with us on our right,” said Herb George, B.C. vice-president of the Assembly of First Nations. 

George was at the AFN National Fisheries Strategy Conference, which wrapped up Wednesday night.

The proposal in question is rumoured to be worth half a billion dollars, to be spent on training and buying licences for native fishermen. 

But George says none of that is needed. 

“Coast to coast, we have a right to fish,” he said. 

That native position was affirmed by the Supreme Court’s Marshall decision of 1999. 

The government, on the other hand, says it retains the right to regulate the fishery. 

But AFN Atlantic vice-chief Rick Simon says Ottawa needs to come around to a new way of seeing its relationship to the native fishery. 

“The onus is going to be on the federal government,” he said. “How are they going to accommodate the treaty right?”