Senate report would help remove 'difficulties' with treaty-based fishery, chief says

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Chief Darlene Bernard of the Lennox Island First Nation, says the recommendations would help ensure Indigenous perspectives are respected. (Travis Kingdon/CBC News - image credit)
Chief Darlene Bernard of the Lennox Island First Nation, says the recommendations would help ensure Indigenous perspectives are respected. (Travis Kingdon/CBC News - image credit)

A Senate committee's report on Indigenous rights-based fisheries released Tuesday should serve as a "catalyst for change," says Lennox Island First Nation Chief Darlene Bernard.

Lennox Island launched its inaugural treaty-based fishery in the spring, though it was not sanctioned by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

One of the 10 recommendations in the report, titled Peace on the Water, was to transfer negotiations of the treaty-based fishery from DFO to the Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations. Bernard said it should be a relatively simple move that will "help to remove many of the difficulties we have been experiencing."

"From my own experience with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, I know that there is a wide gap between the promises of elected representatives and the practices of federal departments," Bernard said in an email statement.

"Too often, Epekwitnewaq Mi'kmaq have heard high-level commitments — and then been frustrated by bureaucratic approaches."

CBC/Brian Higgins
CBC/Brian Higgins

Another recommendation — to include Mi'kmaw voices in the review, amendment and modification of relevant laws, regulations and policies —  will help to ensure that the Indigenous perspective and knowledge is valued, Bernard said.

"The Mi'kmaq are very conscious of the need for environmentally sustainable practices. Conservation and respect for the environment are part of our heritage. Therefore, I believe our involvement in such an exercise will be of enormous benefit to all players involved — and we can offer unique insights into this important sector."

The Mi'kmaq are very conscious of the need for environmentally sustainable practices. — Lennox Island Chief Darlene Bernard

Another recommendation suggests quotas should be redistributed without having to use a license buy-back process to offer First Nations communities access to fisheries.

P.E.I. Sen. Brian Francis, a member of the committee who wrote the report, said it gives the federal government "a clear roadmap to advance the full implementation of the rights-based fisheries for the Mi'kmaq, Wolastoqiyik and Peskotomuhkati."

"I really urge the prime minister and colleagues to read the report and if they are truly committed to meaningful reconciliation, take immediate action to advance the recommendations. It's my opinion, we'll have peace on the water."

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