House of Commons Hansard #7 of the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was pandemic.


A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Livelihood FisheryAdjournment Proceedings

October 1st, 2020 / 8 p.m.


Jenica Atwin Green Fredericton, NB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday was Orange Shirt Day, a day that honours residential school survivors, a day that reflects our attempts as a country to erase indigenous peoples, and for what purpose? It was to have access to the resources of this land unhindered, because our colonial government signed treaties they seemingly had no intention of following.

Canada underestimated the strength and resilience of indigenous peoples, and continues to do so. Indigenous peoples have had to fight for their lives, for recognition and for rights. It is a matter of survival. Five of the poorest postal codes in Canada are in New Brunswick first nation communities, and some Nova Scotia communities are not far behind.

The livelihood fishery in St. Marys Bay is not a large fishing operation. It is a collection of individuals exercising their right to provide for their families and lift themselves from poverty. I read the article from The Guardian that the Minister of Fisheries shared today, which honours October 1 as Mi'kmaq Treaty Day. I respect the words that she shared, although they do seem to come a bit late considering how long this conflict has been going on.

She stated that she grew up in a generation that was never taught about the history of indigenous peoples. It was not until she became a member of Parliament that she came to see the huge, unsettling gaps in her education, including the legal and cultural significance of treaties, and her obligation as a Canadian to uphold them. I commend her for being brave enough to admit that she began to learn about indigenous history so late in her life. This is important, and I truly believe that a severe lack of understanding and education is at the root of the current dispute.

In 1760, the Mi’kmaq, Wolastoqiyik and Passamaquoddy signed a peace and friendship treaty with the British Crown. It was recognized as an international treaty between two sovereign nations, and is upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada as being legitimate.

On September 17, 1999, the Supreme Court of Canada acquitted Mi'kmaq Donald Marshall Jr. of three charges relating to federal fishing regulations. Marshall's legal team argued that he had the right to sell fish to make a living under the peace and friendship treaties. Here is where the moderate livelihood comes into the picture. Marshall's ruling stated:

The accused’s treaty rights are limited to securing “necessaries” (which should be construed in the modern context as equivalent to a moderate livelihood), and do not extend to the open-ended accumulation of wealth.... Catch limits that could reasonably be expected to produce a moderate livelihood for individual Mi’kmaq families at present-day standards can be established by regulation and enforced without violating the treaty right.

This begs the the following questions: Did the Supreme Court of Canada mean indigenous peoples have the right to fish with no regulations, under DFO regulations or under their own regulations? What does a “moderate livelihood” look like in 1999 or 2020?

I would argue that a treaty right is a designate of a sovereign nation, and to extend the right without the ability to self-govern is not appropriate. Indigenous communities and leaders must take the lead in determining the definition of a livelihood fishery with the support of the federal government rather than the intervention. To begin to set monetary limits on a livelihood fishery, through definition, is problematic.

A policy drawn by the Mi'kmaq, Wolastoqiyik and Passamaquoddy describes a commitment to conservation as the first priority for the indigenous fishery. The policy also specifies a commitment to education and peaceful coexistence with Canadians. It is as follows:

Mi'kmaq [and Wolastoqiyik] people will exercise control of all fisheries resources within traditional tribal territories.

Any fisheries policy must protect and promote fishing rights recognized within relevant treaties and laws.

Mi'kmaq and [Wolastoqiyik] leaders will not enter into fishing agreements that appear to abrogate or derogate from Treaty or Aboriginal rights, recognized in applicable treaties or are protected by law. Such treaties and laws express Mi'kmaq and [Wolastoqiyik] responsibilities and intentions to assert full control over all fisheries resources within traditional tribal territories.

In 2017, Fisheries and Oceans Canada began to negotiate time-limited rights reconciliation agreements on fisheries, signing two such agreements in 2019. While these agreements seem to be in good faith, there is no formal mechanism for negotiation for indigenous peoples. The unfairness on display continues an uneven relationship and ignores self-governance and sovereignty on unceded lands. Indigenous chiefs have the capacity and the knowledge to advocate for their nations and negotiate with the government.

I ask that the minister immediately convene a discussion table founded on respect and recognition that allows for these conversations to continue. I would also add that non-indigenous fishermen must be given a voice. As frustrations boil over, the situation in St. Marys Bay will only get worse.

Livelihood FisheryAdjournment Proceedings

8:05 p.m.

Burnaby North—Seymour B.C.


Terry Beech LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries

Mr. Speaker, thanks to my hon. colleague for the very thoughtful presentation she just gave. Let me be clear. No relationship is more important to Canada than our relationship with indigenous peoples. Our government is working to build a nation-to-nation, government-to-government relationship based on respect, partnership and recognition of rights. We are fully committed to working in collaboration with first nations to implement their treaty right to fish in pursuit of a moderate livelihood.

Since the landmark Supreme Court of Canada Marshall decision in 1999, which affirmed these treaty rights, the path toward implementation has had successes and setbacks. Over the years, the department has launched several programs and made investments to address the rights of Mi'kmaq and Maliseet communities in Atlantic Canada and Quebec, beginning with the Marshall response initiative.

Subsequent programs, like the Atlantic integrated commercial fisheries initiative, continue to this day to provide funding and support to Marshall communities to build the capacity of their commercial fishing enterprises and to strengthen community economic self-sufficiency.

Last year we signed rights and reconciliation agreements with three first nation communities, but there are challenges. Recent events surrounding Nova Scotia's fisheries have brought these issues to the forefront. I want to stress, first and foremost, that our government's priority remains the safety of everyone involved and lowering all tensions on the water for a calm resolution to this impasse. This has to be a common objective for all.

It is also this government's commitment to work collaboratively and respectfully with first nation communities to fully implement their treaty rights. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans speaks directly and regularly with first nations leadership and industry representatives. I think we can all agree that reconciliation is a Canadian imperative and it is important, especially on this being Treaty Day in Nova Scotia, for each of us to acknowledge that we have a role to play.

The issues surrounding this fishery are long-standing and deeply personal to all involved. The only way to resolve them is through a respectful and collaborative dialogue. We know that we need to do things differently and work in partnership with first nations to launch a fishery where members of the community can earn a moderate livelihood. This fishery must be viable, sustainable and have the tools it needs to succeed so that this fishery can be a resource for generations to come.

Livelihood FisheryAdjournment Proceedings

8:10 p.m.


Jenica Atwin Green Fredericton, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am sad that this issue has led to blatant displays of racism, threats and intimidation. Traditional ceremony has been mocked. There are social media posts about the need to re-establish residential schools, and signs in the woods of New Brunswick saying, “save a moose, shoot an Indian.”

I have heard from fishermen that there is a lot of anger, a lot of frustration, but the majority of people are not racist and they are just fed up over a perceived threat to the sustainability of the fishery. I understand the uncertainty of our economy, the fluctuation of our natural resources and the stressful cycle of fishing season and unemployment.

I understand the concern around conservation, but none of this can override the behaviours exhibited throughout this dispute. These are the questions and concerns that must be raised with government. As the lead federal agency for aquaculture development, and consistent with its departmental mandate, DFO must act and discharge its responsibilities in a manner that adheres to the policy principles, including addressing issues of public concern in a fair and transparent manner, communicating with Canadians and respecting constitutionally protected aboriginal and treaty rights.

Today is Mi'kmaq Treaty Day. How fitting that we are here to discuss this topic of such historical relevance on a day meant to remind all of Canada that we are treaty people, and that a treaty is a covenant of law signed between sovereign nations. In Digby there were celebrations at the wharf, cultural displays and ceremonies where the Mi'kmaq and Acadian flags flew together as they should.

My work today is to ensure peace and prosperity for all, as the treaty originally intended.


Livelihood FisheryAdjournment Proceedings

8:10 p.m.


Terry Beech Liberal Burnaby North—Seymour, BC

Mr. Speaker, we as a government are fully committed to working in collaboration with first nations to implement their treaty right to fish in pursuit of a moderate livelihood. The Marshall decision was the trigger for many departmental programs and initiatives that have been implemented over the years. These programs have provided fisheries-related training and increased employment in Mi'kmaq and Maliseet communities, especially for women. They have also put licences, vessels and gear in the hands of these communities to help build their fisheries.

We have been negotiating with Marshall groups since 2017 to collaborate on the articulation of their rights through the Rights and Reconciliation Agreements, but there have been challenges. Recent events surrounding Nova Scotia's fisheries have brought these to the forefront. We remain strongly committed to working collaboratively and respectfully with first nation communities to implement treaty rights.

The issues surrounding this fishery are long-standing and deeply personal to everyone involved. The only way to resolve this impasse is through respectful and collaborative dialogue, much like we saw from the hon. member opposite today.

Livelihood FisheryAdjournment Proceedings

8:10 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The motion that the House do now adjourn is deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 8:13 p.m.)