AFN National Chief calls on Canadian government to “stop criminalizing our treaty rights”

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Composite photo from this Facebook video posted by AFN National Chief RoseAnne Archibald.

Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief RoseAnne Archibald has called on the Canadian government to “stop criminalizing our treaty rights”.

On Thursday September 9, Archibald was on a Zodiac boat in St. Mary’s Bay, Nova Scotia and watched Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) vessels surround a Sipekne’katik nation fishing boat and seize lobster traps from it.

Archibald stated: “No more seizure of lobster gear. That is taking food from the mouths of our children. That has to end. Stop criminalizing our treaty rights. No more arrests. No more intimidation.”

She added: “Intimidation and violence on the lands and on the water must stop.”

Archibald further commented: “It’s kind of like the government who put our children into institutions of assimilation and genocide, that they did not want to take responsibility for that. And we’re seeing that same thing with this fishery issue.”

CBC has noted: “The [Indigenous] fishery is taking place when the commercial season in the area is closed. The dispute pits the treaty right of the Mi’kmaq — as recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada to earn a moderate living from the fishery — against the government’s right to regulate it, which has also been recognized by the court.”

Ku’ku’kwes News explains: “The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in the [September 17] 1999 Marshall decision that Mi’kmaq, Wolastoq and Peskotomuhkati have a treaty right to earn a moderate livelihood from catching and selling fish. That treaty right was guaranteed under the Peace and Friendship Treaties of 1760-61 which was signed between the three Indigenous nations and the British Crown. In a second ruling in November 1999, the Supreme Court of Canada issued a clarification stating that the federal government can regulate the treaty right. However, the ruling stated that the federal government has to justify any limit or infringement on the treaty right as well as consult with the affected Indigenous groups on any plans to infringe or limit the right.”

Twenty-one years after the ruling, the Sipekne’katik said: “Since Marshall was decided, [the federal Fisheries Department] has done nothing to recognize the treaty right to harvest and sell for a moderate livelihood. This breach of Mi’kmaq constitutional rights and can no longer continue.”

Global News notes: “Last September, the Sipekne’katik band launched a self-regulated lobster fishery outside the federally regulated season, which led to violence [by white settler fishers] and the burning of a lobster pound that stored Indigenous catch.”

After the burning of the Mi’kmaq lobster pound (building), Idle No More posted: “The violent actions of the commercial fishermen against Indigenous people is terrorist vigilantism. Mi’kmaq people have been threatened, physically attacked, fishing boats have been damaged, and lobster pounds have been destroyed.”

PBI-Canada continues to follow this situation with concern.

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