Mi'kmaw fishery looking to define moderate livelihood

·2 min read

Sipekne'katik band Chief Michael Sack says the Mi'kmaw community is looking to define what a moderate living is in relation to its new fishery.

"We'll define our own moderate livelihood. We're not here to have anybody decide anything for us. We'll decide as a Mi'kmaq nation and and move forward that way," Sack told reporters at the Saulnierville, N.S. wharf on Thursday.

Twenty-one years ago, a Supreme Court ruling affirmed a treaty right to hunt, fish and gather in pursuit of a "moderate livelihood," but the government never came up with a definition.

Sipekne'katik launched its fishery last Thursday in Saulnierville and have been met with opposition from non-Indigenous commercial fishermen who claim it's illegal.

Sack did not share a definition of what he would consider to be a moderate livelihood, but he did say the average Nova Scotia income could be a good starting point. He said factors such as "overpopulated houses" would also need to be addressed.

"The financial part of it, our community is in poverty. It's been like that for as long as forever," he said. "With this here, we're hoping to lift people up and make our people entrepreneurs with their own vessels."

So far, Sack said the new fishery has been a costly endeavour. He said a lot of the expense has been due to losing gear and replacing it and having support staff on site.

Message to commercial fishermen

Sack said he would "appreciate it" if commercial fishermen, who have been in and around the St. Marys Bay area, would "back off" and leave their traps alone.

"We're not here to ruffle any feathers," he said.

About 10 kilometres away, commercial fishermen were in Meteghan out on the water to send a message to Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Olivier Lefebvre/Radio-Canada
Olivier Lefebvre/Radio-Canada

"The next step is a communication of some sort from [Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan] to us informing us on the situation and what's going on," said Luc LeBlanc, a fisheries organizer with the Maritime Fishermen's Union.

LeBlanc said it had been "several days" since the last communication with the minister. He said conservation in the fishery is key.

A spokesperson for the minister referred CBC News to a statement she made on Monday regarding the fishery where she thanked the Nova Scotia Mi'kmaw chiefs for "respectful and constructive" ongoing discussions.

In the statement, Jordan said the department wants to work with the Indigenous fishery "on the path forward of the implementation of their Treaty right."

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