• Michael Laxer

"We have waited long enough"

Listuguj Mi’gmaq First Nation fishing boats have begun fishing for lobster in the community’s traditional territory – referred to as Gespe’gewa’gi – in the Bay of Chaleur, off the southern coast of the Gaspé Peninsula. (CNW Group/Listuguj Mi’gmaq Government)

Listuguj Mi’gmaq Government press release excerpts, September 21, 2020:

On Sunday, September 20, the Listuguj Mi'gmaq Government ("LMG") began its fall lobster fishery. The catch will be used to provide for the community's needs, with most distributed to community members for food and the rest sold to finance fisheries operations and community initiatives to support economic recovery in the wake of COVID-19. Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), however, will issue a licence prohibiting the sale of lobster caught by the LMG this fall, restricting its use to food, social, and ceremonial purposes. This goes against the Supreme Court of Canada's 1999 decision in Marshall, which confirmed that the Peace and Friendship Treaties of 1760-61 protect the right of Mi'gmaq communities to fish and sell fish in pursuit of a moderate livelihood.

"Canada tells us repeatedly that they acknowledge our treaty right to sell fish in pursuit of a moderate livelihood. But, as an institution, the DFO won't change how it operates to allow us to sell the lobster we catch every fall. Instead, they criminalize us for exercising our rights. That is systemic racism. It continues year after year.

The Minister says that implementing the Marshall decision is a priority. Well, I requested a meeting with the Minister to discuss our lobster fishery in July and never received a reply. The Minister says that this issue is best addressed through negotiations. Well, we have been negotiating in good faith for years, but out on the water nothing has changed. The Minister says that a sound management framework is necessary for the conservation of fish stocks. We agree, and we have developed our own management framework that meets and exceeds the DFO's requirements. Frankly, the Minister is running out of excuses, and we are running out of patience.

It comes down to the rule of law. The DFO must uphold the law by respecting our treaty right and implementing the Marshall decision. The DFO is not entitled to ignore our rights while we negotiate a new agreement. We have an agreement. It's in the Peace and Friendship Treaties. The DFO's willingness to violate its legal obligations to Mi'gmaq people year after year is deeply troubling." - Darcy Gray, Chief of the LMG

"We have adopted a community law and fishing plan that will keep our fall fishing effort within the DFO guidelines. We have also imposed heightened conservation measures on ourselves beyond what the DFO has asked for – including dockside monitoring – to ensure we do not exceed the maximum allowable effort. We are taking every precaution to ensure that our fishery remains sustainable." - Alfred Metallic, LMG's Director of Natural Resources

"It has been 260 years since our treaties were signed. It has been 21 years since the Marshall decision. We have waited long enough. If the DFO won't provide a regulatory framework that allows us to exercise our rights, then we can do that for ourselves." - Sky Metallic, LMG Councillor