(ANNews) – October 19, 2020, AmiskWaciwaskahikan (Edmonton, AB): In September 2020, the Sipekne’katik First Nation launched its own fishery, with the hopes of collecting data towards making fishery operations sustainable in years to come. The launch of the fishery in what is the off-season for non-Indigenous fishers has been met with acts of racial violence, including the burning and vandalization of operating equipment.
Assembly of First Nations Alberta Regional Chief Mar1ene Poitras stated,
“What we are seeing is yet another industry plagued by systemic racism showing its ugly face as the stresses of a global pandemic wear on the country, just as we have seen recently in policing and in healthcare. This isn’t reconciliation. The action by non-Indigenous commercial fishers is motivated by greed, hate, and is a denial of Indigenous Peoples Inherent and Treaty Rights.”
The Chief of the Sipekne’katik First Nation Mike Sack has called for military intervention to prevent the commercial fishermen from engaging in continued acts of violence. Many people have condemned the actions of the commercial fishers Including National Chief Bellegardge and New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh.
Regional Chief Poitras adds her voice to the condemnation and calls for action, stating “Allowing violence against our people is unacceptable and must stop now!”
On Sunday October 18, Ministers Jordan (Fisheries and Oceans), Bennett (Crown-Indigenous Relations), Miller (Indigenous Services) and Blair (Public Safety) called for an emergency debate on the issue with the rising violence.
“It is my hope that the emergency meeting called by federal ministers will lead to quick and full affirmation of Mi’kmaq treaty rights, and end the violence occurring in Nova Scotia,” – Regional Chief Poitras stated on the matter.
The Sipekne’katik Fishery was enacted in accordance with the Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1752, which is Constitutionally protected and has been upheld through court rulings. In 1999, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in R v Marshall that Mi’kmaq and Maliseet people have the right not just to sustain themselves by hunting and fishing, but to earn a ‘moderate livelihood.’ In the 21 years since the SCC decision, the Government of Canada has not worked with the First Nations to provide a clear definition of a ‘moderate livelihood’, leaving the rights of Indigenous fishers unprotected.
“We are all Treaty People, and we need the full implementation of our Treaty rights.”
Time and time again, the courts have upheld these rights with landmark cases won by many First Nations, yet the Federal Crown has shown no consistent follow up, this is the case we see now in Nova Scotia,” stated Regional Chief Poitras.
The actions of the Sipekne’katik people have inspired other First Nations in the region, with the Potlotek First Nation launching their moderate-livelihood fishery on October 1 (Treaty Day) and the Membertou First Nation planning to launch its own moderate livelihood fishery in the coming weeks.
“We support the right of the Sipekne’katik, Potlotek and Membertou First Nations to exercise their rights to a moderate-livelihood fishery and call on Prime Minister Trudeau to intervene,” concluded Regional Chief Poitras.