Dhaliwal happy with Big Cove prospects

Canadian Broadcasting System
Tuesday, June 19, 2001

MONCTON, N.B. – Big Cove, the province’s biggest reserve says it’s close to signing a three year fishing deal with the federal government. 

‘Chief Levi’s shown a lot of leadership.’ Last time the band made a deal with Ottawa, it got a fleet of brand-new, high-tech boats. That deal has since expired. Ottawa wants Big Cove and other reserves in Atlantic Canada to sign a new agreement, this time for 3 years. The last one was only for one season. 

Big Cove Chief Robert Levi says the band is very close to a new bigger and better deal. 

“More boats, more training, more money, more resource, more opportunity for our people, more quota, more licenses. Just a big package that we feel we can do it for one year but we’re seriously looking at a three year deal and we’re very close to it,” he says. 

The agreements were a way for government to peacefully integrate natives into the lucrative commercial fishing industry. 

Last year most reserves like Big Cove hammered out deals with the government Big Cove fisherman Gary Augustine was a beneficiary of the old deal. But he remains defiant and distrustful. 

“I wouldn’t trust the government as far as I can spit.” 

Augustine says the government made promises it didn’t keep. For instance, he was supposed to get a boat last year but it arrived only three weeks ago. Augustine says natives always the lose when they deal with government. 

“My rights are more important than money itself. I could have done without the boat, but my rights I can’t do without them,” he says. 

This sentiment is shared by many bands, particularly Burnt Church. Last year, it refused to sign a fishing deal. That led to clashes on the water between native and non-native fishermen. 

Federal Minister Herb Dhaliwal says he hopes to avoid a repeat this year and praised Big Cove for working with him. 

“Chief Levi’s shown a lot of leadership last year when he signed on. I’m glad to see that we’re going to be able to build on the foundation that we built last year and it’s very encouraging.” 

Dhaliwal hopes Burnt Church will follow Big Cove’s lead. But the band says no. Burnt Church says it’s not negotiating now and has no plans to in the future.