Ottawa sets fishery strategy Dhaliwhal aims at long-term agreements with Natives

The London Free Press
Saturday, February 10, 2001

OTTAWA. The federal government announced plans yesterday to launch sweeping negotiations on Atlantic native fisheries and other treaty issues, including economic development, among Mi’kmaqand Maliseets. 

But neither Fisheries Minister Herb Dhaliwal nor Indian Affairs Minister Robert Nault would divulge their budgets yesterday as they introduced their chief negotiators going into talks with — they hope — 34 bands. 

Sources have said up to $ 500 million has been approved for native fisheries and improvements on reserves. Dhaliwal said he doesn’t want to undermine the government’s negotiating position by quoting figures. 

“I can assure you that sufficient resources have been provided for us to deal with our mandate,” he said. 

The ministers introduced two negotiators: lawyer Thomas Molloy to lead talks on aboriginal and treaty rights and James MacKenzie to negotiate native fisheries agreements of one to three years. 

The talks are part of the government’s strategy to address the Supreme Court of Canada’s 1999 Marshall decision, confirming native rights to earn moderate livings from hunting, fishing and gathering in Atlantic Canada and Quebec. 

The high court issued a subsequent clarification, saying Fisheries has the right to regulate the resource. Ottawa hopes to settle the issue before the spring lobster seasons open on the East Coast. 

Matthew Coone Come, chief of the Asssembly of First Nations, declined comment on the announcement after a two-hour meeting with Nault, where the two discussed several issues. 

The two agreed to meet once a month to discuss aboriginal issues and implementing the government’s recent throne speech promises. 

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. 

Bands at Burnt Church, N.B., and Indian Brook, N.S., refused to sign agreements last year, claiming they undermined inherent aboriginal treaty rights to the fishery. 

In Burnt Church, the scene of violent clashes between federal authorities and defiant native fishers, band councillor Brian Bartibogue said he doubts his band will participate in the process. 

Bartibogue said he would prefer to continue fishing under band regulations rather than submitting to a process that would “extinguish our treaty rights.” 

“If we do opt in to the MacKenzie process we have to tell 90 per cent of fishermen that you can’t go fishing.” 

Said Reg Maloney, chief of the Indian Brook band: “I’m really disappointed in it because it doesn’t address the treaty rights to the fishery. They don’t justify the seizing or our equipment.” 

He said he doesn’t know if he’ll participate in the negotiations.