Chiefs urge mediation for snow crab fishing rights

·2 min read
Chiefs urge mediation for snow crab fishing rights

Two Indigenous leaders are urging the federal government to join them at the mediation table to resolve a saltwater fishing dispute that has stretched on for decades.

The chiefs of Madawaska and Tobique First Nations say they have been seeking to exercise their treaty right to fish snow crab for 25 years, and point to volatile protests over lobster fishing as an example of the consequences of letting such disputes go unresolved.

"Our Aboriginal right to engage in the fishery is not being recognized, the consequence of that is playing out before us in Nova Scotia,'' Tobique Chief Ross Perley said.

Jacques Poitras/CBC
Jacques Poitras/CBC

In June 2019, the chiefs launched a court action after repeated requests to have band members' right to fish for moderate livelihood went unresolved. They filed a statement of claim to assert their rights to fish snow crab in the southern gulf of the St. Lawrence, and are seeking a permanent allocation of snow crab.

The matter is still before the courts.

In July 2019, Perley and Madawaska Chief Patricia Bernard met with Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett in an effort to resolve the snow crab fishing rights issue.

But despite a promise from Bennett to "settle our differences to keep matters out of court," nothing changed, Bernard said.

"We heard nothing after that, leaving us with no alternative."

Representatives of the communities were granted a meeting with federal Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan on March 18, 2020. They were promised a follow-up communication by March 27, 2020, the chiefs said, but have yet to hear anything further.

The CBC has asked for comment from Jordan and is awaiting a response.

Perley and Bernard said they are willing to talk if the government will join them in mediation, and said they will abandon the lawsuit if they can reach a mediated settlement.

"Reconciliation needs to be immediate, and the duty to consult must be meaningful and fulfilled on an annual basis, and it must include snow crab," Perley said.