Natives suspicious of fishing agreements
Wednesday, March 14, 2001
HALIFAX. Native leaders say they are still suspicious about the government’s true intentions when it comes to interim fishing agreements.
|‘If we signed it … they could use it against us in court,” – Chief Lawrence Paul|
Last year there were several violent clashes between DFO and natives trying to fish for lobster.
This year DFO hopes to avoid that by offering a three-year-deal that includes money, training and equipment, if the bands sign the fishing agreements.
But now even the chiefs who went for a deal last year say they want nothing to do with this year’s offer.
“If we signed it, we would be in a twilight zone and they could use it against us in court,” says Chief Lawrence Paul with the Millbrook First Nations.
Paul wants stronger language to make sure the proposed agreement doesn’t weaken Mi’kmaq Treaty rights. As it stands now, the chiefs say the proposal would amount to signing those rights away.
“Our lawyers find a lot of things troubling in the agreement,” continues Paul. “Many of the clauses are worded in a way that can be used as future advantage against our people.”
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans denies it’s trying to sneak one by the chiefs.
“One of the first things we have to do is get some wording we can agree on,” says federal Fisheries Minister Herb Dhaliwal in Ottawa. “I think we can do it.”
The interim agreements that are now in place expire at the end of March.