House of Commons Hansard #14 of the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was medical.

Topics

Lobster Fishery Dispute in Nova ScotiaEmergency Debate

8:50 p.m.

Bloc

Sylvie Bérubé Bloc Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.

This once again proves that the current government is dragging its feet. The government needs to pull up its socks and move forward.

Lobster Fishery Dispute in Nova ScotiaEmergency Debate

8:50 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Vis Conservative Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Speaker, Canadians across the country think that DFO is not directing its operations properly. Could the Bloc Québécois member give us an example of how the government could do better and find a middle ground for indigenous and non-indigenous fishers in Nova Scotia?

Lobster Fishery Dispute in Nova ScotiaEmergency Debate

8:50 p.m.

Bloc

Sylvie Bérubé Bloc Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a one-word answer: negotiation. It is through negotiation that an agreement will be reached with indigenous communities.

Lobster Fishery Dispute in Nova ScotiaEmergency Debate

8:50 p.m.

Bloc

Kristina Michaud Bloc Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am always pleased to participate in emergency debates, even though an urgent need to act does not usually signal good news.

This is the second time that the members of the House have come together to talk about violent disputes and the federal government's failures when it comes to first nations. The first time was the rail crisis. Today, it is the uncertainty surrounding livelihood fisheries.

It is rather ironic that the Liberals were the ones who requested this emergency debate and yet there is only one Liberal on the other side of the House. If this is so important to the Liberals, I hope that many of them are participating in the debate virtually. I really hope that is the case.

To begin—

Lobster Fishery Dispute in Nova ScotiaEmergency Debate

8:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I would remind the member for Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia that she must not talk about the presence of members in the House, but I will allow her to continue her speech.

Lobster Fishery Dispute in Nova ScotiaEmergency Debate

8:50 p.m.

Bloc

Kristina Michaud Bloc Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Mr. Speaker, I must reiterate that the Bloc Québécois strongly condemns the crimes committed in Nova Scotia and the acts of hatred and racism against the Mi'kmaq that we have witnessed recently. In particular, my colleagues and I feel it is deplorable that DFO and successive governments, including the current one, have failed to uphold the Marshall decision by implementing a regulatory framework negotiated nation to nation that respects constitutional treaty rights and the need to conserve the fisheries.

We also condemn the inaction of successive governments, including this one, which has caused the situation to deteriorate and led to the present crisis. Many things could have been accomplished long before now. I sent the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard a letter about this, urging her to finally define a moderate livelihood fishery. That could provide a concrete solution to the current conflict raging both in Nova Scotia and in various indigenous communities elsewhere in Quebec and Canada.

Despite what we are hearing from the ministers concerned about police inaction regarding the acts perpetrated, it is not just about what the police did or did not adequately do in the current situation. There has been tension between indigenous and non-indigenous fishers for more than 20 years. Yes, I recognize that the escalating violence has led to an emergency debate, but the issue of the regulation of fishing rights arising from the Marshall decision did not seem to be one of the government's most urgent concerns in its last throne speech, nor even last year or in the previous four years. Resolving this issue was not even included in the mandate letter of the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard in the last parliamentary session.

Must we wait for acts of violence such as those we have seen in Nova Scotia to take action? In my riding of Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia there is also tension between indigenous and non-indigenous fishers, and I believe that is the case in many other places. Fortunately, there has been no violence in my riding, but we must take action now to prevent these types of incidents.

The Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard tweeted this past weekend that her government would continue to work with the Mi'kmaq to implement their treaty rights. However, this crisis has been going on for over a month, and as my colleague from Manicouagan rightly pointed out, it goes back much further than that. Where has the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard been all along? What has she done to ease tensions?

This problem did not begin with the violent outbursts we have seen in southwestern Nova Scotia since the lobster fishery opened on September 17. The government is clearly having a hard time finding solutions in collaboration with the first nations, given that, as I mentioned, it has been 21 years since the Marshall decision and the situation is still not resolved. In a press conference this morning, four Liberal ministers denounced the lack of a police response to the intimidation and violence being perpetrated by non-indigenous fishers against Mi'kmaq fishers in Nova Scotia.

Rather, I think we need to take a closer look at Ottawa's tendency to drag its feet, as we have heard over the last few minutes, when it comes to first nations claims in general. Yes, the Prime Minister himself condemned the violence in Nova Scotia and added that he and his government would continue to work towards reconciliation with first nations, but essentially, we know that no real progress is being made.

Now is the time for concrete action and clarity on the regulations. I think that is what we are really talking about here tonight. The federal government's unwillingness to resolve the matter and take responsibility for its decisions is what is preventing harmonious relations in the fishing areas shared by the indigenous and non-indigenous fishers.

This reminds me of a situation very similar to that of Nova Scotia. The lobster fishery in the community of Listigouche in the riding I represent, and where Fisheries and Oceans Canada has not been very clear on first nations' rights, remains a very contentious issue. Tensions are mounting among non-indigenous fishers because negotiations continue but nothing ever comes of them, either on the band council side or the fishers' association side. By deciding to manage its own fishing activities, the Mi'kmaq community is firmly reminding us of the impasse that indigenous and commercial fishers have been stuck in for 21 years.

I would also like to look back on recent and not-so-recent history. This evening, several parliamentarians mentioned the right of indigenous peoples to fish for a moderate livelihood. This right was confirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada, but it is still surrounded by uncertainty, creating a lot of tension.

In 1999, a little more than 21 years ago, the Supreme Court made a decision in the Marshall case. It ruled that Donald Marshall, who was charged with illegally fishing eel outside the fishing season as set out by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, had the right to fish in accordance with the Peace and Friendship Treaties signed by indigenous peoples in the 18th century. The Supreme Court affirmed the right of indigenous peoples to hunt, fish and gather in pursuit of a moderate livelihood.

However, the concept of moderate livelihood was never defined.

A few months later, in November 1999, following protests by commercial fishers, the Supreme Court issued a clarification, known as Marshall II. It states that the federal and provincial governments have the power to regulate the fishery that indigenous people have the right to practise where justified on conservation or other grounds.

Ever since, the first nations and DFO have been unable to agree on the definition of moderate livelihood. That is why the Mi'kmaq decided they would fish and sell their catch according to the regulations enforced by compliance officers. That is what happens when the government fails to put measures in place. The communities themselves define the measures that apply to them.

Is it not the responsibility of the federal government, more specifically the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, to put regulations in place to ensure the prosperity and conservation of the resource, in consultation with indigenous and non-indigenous peoples? Again, my colleague from Manicouagan asked this question earlier. Why is no one able to answer? Whose responsibility is this?

Last year, Listuguj fishers also defied the federal government by going out to sea in September to fish for lobster that they planned to sell rather than just distribute in their communities. The Mi'kmaq claimed they were within their rights because of the Marshall decision, but Fisheries and Oceans Canada considered their activities to be unauthorized commercial fishing. The Listuguj band council confirmed that DFO had refused to grant it a commercial licence for the fall fishery but had not explained why. That is often what people hear when they try to contact the department. They get little in the way of explanation, and sometimes no response at all.

The first nation finally signed an agreement with the federal government last November, and that led to official negotiations on fishing rights, which are ongoing but are not actually making any headway.

If you try to please everyone, you will please no one. That is what is happening with a number of first nations issues. Just look at what is happening with moose hunting in the La Vérendrye wildlife reserve. The same is true in fishing zones in the Gaspé: Non-indigenous commercial fishers in the southern Gaspé are also angry because they feel unheard. For the past eight years, they have been calling on Fisheries and Oceans Canada to listen to them about the management of stocks, which necessarily involves the treaties negotiated with the first nations.

The Regroupement des pêcheurs professionnels du sud de la Gaspésie has been denied or simply ignored by the department. It has complained about being left out of negotiations, even though the changes made to the fishing plans affect all users of the same zone, including indigenous and non-indigenous fishers. The organization has also been critical of the agreements regarding independent fishing plans for the different communities, which it feels create inequalities. It says that two parallel fishing systems are being created.

According to the association, the government's actions go against its own lobster conservation laws, or efforts to reduce fishing to increase stocks, by increasing the number of traps allowed in certain areas and increasing the number of fishing licences, some of which are issued for the same areas fished by Gaspé fishers, in Chaleur Bay.

Indigenous and non-indigenous fishers likely do not agree, and it is the federal government's responsibility to draw the line. The government needs to clearly define livelihood fishing, invite all parties involved in managing the fishery to the table, come up with a licensing system and set out clear and transparent rules.

Once again, we find ourselves caught in a conflict with the first nations because the government did not fulfill its responsibilities. When it comes right down to it, everyone wants the same thing: clear directives.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is responsible for enforcing the Canadian Navigable Waters Act. It must therefore have the necessary political courage to take a stand and put an end to 21 years of uncertainty and tension between indigenous and non-indigenous fishers. That is what this government is missing on several issues: political will.

A collaborative approach is critical to formulate a comprehensive agreement like the 2002 peace of the braves agreement between Quebec and the James Bay Cree. That could be a solution.

My time is up so I will finish my remarks in my answers to my colleagues' questions, if they do not mind.

Lobster Fishery Dispute in Nova ScotiaEmergency Debate

9 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Madam Speaker, I am somewhat concerned by most of the remarks I heard tonight. They have all be on the moderate livelihood side, and yes, that does need to be addressed. However, there was also another key point in terms of the Marshall decision, and that relates to conservation.

The court stressed the priority of conservation and the responsibility of the minister. I would like to quote the Marshall decision, which states, “The paramount regulatory objective is conservation and responsibility for it is placed squarely on the minister responsible and not on the aboriginal or non-aboriginal users of the resource.” That is a point that is not talked about in the media and has not really been talked about tonight.

Both those issues have to be addressed: the right for a moderate livelihood and the conservation of the resource for both commercial fishermen and aboriginal fishermen. Would the member agree with that?

Lobster Fishery Dispute in Nova ScotiaEmergency Debate

9:05 p.m.

Bloc

Kristina Michaud Bloc Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Madam Speaker, I think those two issues go hand in hand.

What we want is for the federal government to issue clear guidelines. We saw the indigenous fishers' side and the non-indigenous fishers' side. We can understand the current tensions. The federal government is dragging its feet on defining the terms in relation to fishing in pursuit of a moderate livelihood.

We need the government to negotiate with all parties involved, to draw the line and to define moderate livelihood. That might be a solution to the current dispute.

Lobster Fishery Dispute in Nova ScotiaEmergency Debate

9:05 p.m.

Conservative

Eric Melillo Conservative Kenora, ON

Madam Speaker, we have heard from the government and from this Prime Minister many times that no relationship is more important to the current government, supposedly, that its relationship with indigenous peoples. However, the Liberals have had an opportunity to show that, by addressing some of these long-standing issues and they have failed to do so. Now the minister has failed to take appropriate action to help keep everyone safe and to go to Nova Scotia and meet with all parties involved and have those negotiations.

I would like to hear from my colleague from the Bloc Québécois to know whether she agrees that, if the minister were to go to Nova Scotia and have those negotiations and conversations, it would go a long way in easing the tensions.

Lobster Fishery Dispute in Nova ScotiaEmergency Debate

9:05 p.m.

Bloc

Kristina Michaud Bloc Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

I think the minister absolutely needs to go to Nova Scotia and sit down with the stakeholders to negotiate an agreement. That is long overdue. The problem is that the government always waits for something really serious to happen before taking action.

As parliamentarians, we are always brought back to reality by the news showing us the atrocities happening in our own communities. As a result, we have to hold emergency debates and we are slow to act.

This time we have a chance to do something before this happens in other communities where tensions are rising, such as in Listuguj. This is the perfect opportunity for the government to take action and be more proactive in the future with respect to these kinds of negotiations.

Lobster Fishery Dispute in Nova ScotiaEmergency Debate

9:05 p.m.

Green

Jenica Atwin Green Fredericton, NB

Madam Speaker, we are hearing a lot about a nation-to-nation relationship. We are hearing a lot about constitutionally enshrined rights from treaty negotiations. It is important to understand that a treaty is between sovereign nation and sovereign nation. I would like to ask what the member thinks about the idea of sovereignty, and whether it should be the indigenous fishers who have the right to determine their own moderate livelihood.

Lobster Fishery Dispute in Nova ScotiaEmergency Debate

October 19th, 2020 / 9:05 p.m.

Bloc

Kristina Michaud Bloc Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.

When it comes to sovereignty, whether it is Quebec's sovereignty, environmental sovereignty or the territorial sovereignty of indigenous peoples, I like to take a rather positive approach.

Of course, in an ideal world, everyone would decide for themselves. Clear guidelines and benchmarks are needed. In this case, the federal government has a duty to set clear guidelines. In fact, this should have been done 21 years ago. It is time to act.

Lobster Fishery Dispute in Nova ScotiaEmergency Debate

9:05 p.m.

Toronto—St. Paul's Ontario

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett LiberalMinister of Crown-Indigenous Relations

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Sydney—Victoria.

I am speaking to the House from my Toronto home, which is located on the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation. We honour all indigenous peoples who paddled these waters and whose moccasins walked this land.

To begin, I would like to thank the Mi'kmaq communities that have worked very hard to keep their members safe despite the escalation of violence. All Canadians were horrified by the violence inflicted on the Mi'kmaq people in recent weeks. They have been attacked and intimidated because they exercised their right.

With the destruction of property and attacks on people's attempt to obtain a moderate livelihood, unfortunately this escalation of tension has exacerbated divisions. No dispute can be settled through violence, and no durable solutions are found through threats and intimidation. It has to stop. Human rights and the treaty and inherent rights of indigenous peoples must be respected. That commitment is at the very heart of our country's very identity and enshrined in our Constitution.

We have much more work to do to forward the unfinished business of Confederation. We need to accelerate the progress and we need all Canadians with us on this journey. Racist colonial policies have resulted in denied opportunity, sustained harassment and a justifiable mistrust in all of our institutions and civil society. Systemic racism is evident in all of our institutions and all Canadians need to know that it is their responsibility to end it. The Government of Canada is committed to a renewed relationship with indigenous people in Canada, nation to nation, Inuit to Crown, and government to government, built on the affirmation of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership.

It has been over 20 years since the Marshall decision reaffirmed the right of the Mi'kmaq to fish in pursuit of a moderate livelihood. The court upheld the treaty right of Donald Marshall to fish. The court found that his treaty right was protected by the section 35 of the Constitution. The Mi'kmaq people have the right to exercise their rights, free from violence, threats and racism.

Canada has reaffirmed our commitment to working in partnership with the Mi'kmaq to implement their treaty rights on the path to self-determination. Over the weekend, in our conversations with Chief Sack and the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq Chiefs, we reassured them that we agree with them, that the safety of their communities is the priority, the violence is unacceptable and the perpetrators will be brought to justice. We heard their frustration with respect to the implementation of their right to a moderate livelihood.

The Marshall decision was a long time ago, but is not where this story starts. In 1760-61 the Crown signed peace and friendship treaties with the Mi'kmaq people, treaties that guarantee hunting, fishing and land-use rights for the descendants of these communities. These treaties are the foundation of our relationship and remain in place today. Canada, and all Canadians, have a responsibility to understand this and ensure that these treaties are upheld and implemented. To achieve this, Canada is currently engaged in discussions on aboriginal treaty rights and self-government with 10 of the 13 Mi'kmaq nations in Nova Scotia. We are also pursuing discussions with the remaining three communities, which are not involved at the self-determination table.

Implementing the historic treaty rights recognized in the Marshall decision is a critical component of these discussions and a priority for the Government of Canada. For millennia, indigenous people have held conservation and sustainability as a core value. The Mi'kmaq nation has been working hard on its plans to exercise and implement its rights in a sustainable fishery based upon science.

I am proud of the progress we are making together to affirm the treaty and inherent rights of first nations, Inuit and Métis on their path to self-determination. Together, we and our partners have transformed how government engages with indigenous people and how we work together. The renewed relationship has been furthered by the establishment of the recognition of indigenous rights and self-determination discussion tables, which represent a new flexible way to have the discussion of how to affirm the unique rights, needs and interests that matter most to indigenous communities.

Since 2015, we have created over 90 new negotiation tables. There are currently over 150 active negotiation tables across the country to help advance the relationship with indigenous people and to support their version of self-determination. We are making significant progress at these tables, but we cannot move forward as a country without the understanding and support of all Canadians.

Part of the path forward was highlighted in the Speech from the Throne and that is the introduction and implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. UNDRIP is not scary. Implementation of the inherent and treaty rights of indigenous peoples is the way forward to a much stronger and fairer Canada.

The great challenges we have already endured in 2020 have presented us with a world that is in need of renewal. For Canadians, that renewal must begin with our longest lasting partnership. Our government is as determined to address historical injustice and racism born of colonialism, as we are determined to root out and expose racism today. Canadians have seen all too clearly during this difficult, tense time that racism, both systemic and societal, continues to be all too present in our country. The death of Joyce Echaquan has shown us this horrible truth.

Once we know the truth, we cannot unknow it. June Callwood said that if someone is an observer of an injustice, that person is indeed a participant. All of us need to identify racism in all its forms and then speak up, call it out and be part of the concrete changes that will stop it. It must not and will not be tolerated.

The Government of Canada remains fully committed to supporting the Mi'kmaq right to fish and to maintain a moderate livelihood. We will continue to engage in constructive dialogues with the Nova Scotia chiefs to implement these rights. I am working closely with my colleague, the hon. Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, toward a peaceful resolution and the advancement of Mi'kmaq rights.

The Mi'kmaq leadership is inspiring. I am confident that we will be able to find a path forward together that affirms their right to fish and creates certainty so that the Mi'kmaq people are able to live with dignity and security, free from violence. A timely and peaceful resolution will make Nova Scotia and Canada stronger and fairer. We will all win.

Lobster Fishery Dispute in Nova ScotiaEmergency Debate

9:15 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Madam Speaker, I would suggest that the minister is forgetting that the government has the responsibility and the ability to be out there resolving this issue. I know in past crises, ministers have hopped on planes and put their energy and focus into getting a negotiated solution, and getting it done now.

Therefore, why is the minister sitting in her home talking to Parliament tonight instead of being in Nova Scotia, saying they are not going to leave and will go through sleepless nights until they have a resolution and have de-escalated the situation?

Lobster Fishery Dispute in Nova ScotiaEmergency Debate

9:15 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

I would like to advise the hon. member that we are in the midst of a pandemic. I have not been on a plane since March. I have been conducting my business from here and from Ottawa throughout this time. We have had very successful negotiations, including the signing of the agreement with the Wet’suwet’en, here from my home.

The member needs to understand about the Atlantic bubble and its 14 days of self-isolation. It is really ridiculous, actually, for the member to speak like that in the middle of a pandemic, when we are trying to be able to do real work at a distance, together while apart, as we fight the pandemic, put Canadians first and only do the kinds of urgent visits that do not put ourselves, our families and our communities at risk.

Lobster Fishery Dispute in Nova ScotiaEmergency Debate

9:20 p.m.

Bloc

Marilène Gill Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. minister for her presentation.

I will paint a picture because there has been a lot of talk about reconciliation and we are getting lost in the details. We agree on the fact that we are at least 150 years behind and I am not even talking about the Indian Act, which sets us back even further. That legislation is absolutely racist and when we talk about systemic racism, we are talking about the Indian Act.

That being said, I would like to ask the minister a question while we are talking about lagging behind.

Today, at the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, we were talking about the Mi'kmaq and Maliseet peoples. I agree that this is urgent, but there are 634 first nations in Canada and we are negotiating fishing rights on a case-by-case basis.

I would like to know what the minister's timeline is when it comes to all these urgent requests for all the indigenous communities in Canada.

Lobster Fishery Dispute in Nova ScotiaEmergency Debate

9:20 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her extremely important question.

The Indian Act is truly a vestige of colonial policies. It is very important to me and our government that every indigenous community is freed from the Indian Act. Currently, half of the communities are at the table and are part of the discussions on their self-determination, with their priorities, in a more flexible—

Lobster Fishery Dispute in Nova ScotiaEmergency Debate

9:20 p.m.

NDP

Leah Gazan NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, the member across the way spoke a lot about systemic racism. Unfortunately we have yet another example of the government's systemic racism: its failure to uphold its constitutional duty to ensure the rule of law was applied and to take the necessary actions to protect the Mi'kmaq fishers from experiencing acts of domestic racism.

The Mi'kmaq are experiencing their constitutionally recognized right to fish being violated, and the federal government continues to watch. The violence is a direct result of the government's failure to negotiate a definition of “moderate livelihood”, which has led to the Mi'kmaq having to self-regulate a fishery that in fact honours and supports the practice of conservation. They currently have less than 1% of the traps being used to date.

Instead of talking about this nation-to-nation relationship that the current government claims is so important to it, when will it stop stalling and immediately begin to negotiate with the Mi'kmaq, give clear directions to the RCMP and Department of Fisheries and Oceans to support a swift end to these acts of violence and—

Lobster Fishery Dispute in Nova ScotiaEmergency Debate

9:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

The hon. minister has the floor.

Lobster Fishery Dispute in Nova ScotiaEmergency Debate

9:20 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

Madam Speaker, I really do think the member knows the government does not direct the RCMP to do anything. This is about protecting populations and maintaining the law as peace officers, hopefully.

I want to reassure the member that the fish plants being put forward are based on science and conservation. I believe the Mi'kmaq people really do want to be able to regulate a fishery in a way that is in keeping with their customs and that they have the right to do that. The conversations going on with the assembly of Mi'kmaq chiefs is—

Lobster Fishery Dispute in Nova ScotiaEmergency Debate

9:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

I am sorry, but we have to resume debate.

The hon. member for Sydney—Victoria has the floor.

Lobster Fishery Dispute in Nova ScotiaEmergency Debate

9:20 p.m.

Liberal

Jaime Battiste Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

Madam Speaker, I am joining the House today from the Eskasoni community, the Mi'kmaq community, the largest Mi'kmaq first nation in the heart of Mi'kma'ki, on the unceded territory of the Mi'kmaq. I rise today as the lone Mi'kmaq MP in the House, the only MP of Mi'kmaq descent this House has ever known, but also as someone who is part of a large fishing community. I told constituents that I would always look for collaborative solutions to the challenges we face in Canada. I have spoken to many stakeholders over the past month: Mi'kmaq fishermen, Mi'kmaq leaders and fishing associations, and the RCMP. I believe in my heart that there is room for all of us, and that we, together, can move forward.

Before I address the solutions that I would like to put forward, I would like to share a little about how we have come to this escalation.

Mi'kmaq values are ingrained in our language. Netukulimk tells us that in the Mi'kmaq world view, we are connected to our environment, not above it. Chief Seattle, who is not a Mi'kmaq, said it best: “Man did not weave the web of life—he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.”

With this in mind, I want to give a little treaty history. In 1605, our grand chief of the Mi'kmaq grand council, Henri Membertou, on the shores of Port-Royal in the southwest Nova Scotia area, welcomed French newcomers, took them under his wing and showed them how to survive in the area. This created a great friendship between the Mi'kmaq and the French. It was so great that in 1755, when the Acadians were being expelled, the Mi'kmaq hid them. The Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, Arthur LeBlanc, told me a beautiful story about how his family was saved by the Mi'kmaq.

The Covenant Chain of Treaties within the Mi'kma'ki, from 1725 to 1778, began a process whereby the British Crown began negotiating with the Mi'kmaq. Early treaties between the Mi'kmaq and the Crown were based on peace, friendship and trade. The common misconception is that the Mi'kmaq gave away resources or surrendered resources. The Mi'kmaq were a fighting force. I want to quote a part of Donald Marshall's case, from 1999. It said, “It should be pointed out that the Mi’kmaq were a considerable fighting force in the 18th century. Not only were their raiding parties effective on land, Mi’kmaq were accomplished sailors.”

Subsection 35(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982, says:

(1) The existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed.

That, together with the section 52 supremacy clause, means that aboriginal and treaty rights are the supreme law of Canada once recognized.

In 1985, the 1752 treaty was recognized in the Simon case, where it is said, “The Treaty was an exchange to solemn promises between the Micmacs and the King's representative entered into to achieve and guarantee peace. It is an enforceable obligation between the Indians and the white man”. That is their language, not mine.

Then we have the Marshall decision in 1999. I have heard members of the opposition quote one section of the clarification, instead of looking at all of the Mi'kmaq case law combined, and all of the case law in Canada. It is true that the Mi'kmaq were granted a moderate livelihood, not once but twice, in 1999. Today, the Mi'kmaq are asking for a right that they have always had. It was not created in 1999. In 1999, the court said that the right had existed the whole time. Mi'kmaq are not looking for reparations or revenge, but rather reconciliation, and this shows our commitment to the country and our allies. I want to remind people that the Supreme Court of Canada recognized that moderate livelihood not once but twice.

l have also heard a conversation about regulation in the fisheries. I want to be very clear that the Mi'kmaq right is constitutional in nature. That means it is the supreme law of Canada. The only way to infringe a treaty right is through conservation or safety. The 2005 Mikisew Cree First Nation case stated that before going to conservation or safety, we have to show that the honour of the Crown has been met in a negotiation or in any infringement that takes place. Any infringement must be compensated, and that has never happened to this day.

Where are we today? What have we learned since 1999? Have we learned anything from the Burnt Church crisis? I remember watching the Burnt Church crisis as a young man, and I never thought that today we would have two Mi'kmaq senators appointed in the past five years, as well as a Mi'kmaq MP.

During this first escalation, which did not happen last week but in mid-September, I went to Saulnierville with the Grand Keptin of the Mi'kmaq Nation, Andrew Denny, the political spokesman of the Mi'kmaq Grand Council, which represents the seven districts of Mi'kma'ki. We talked to the Mi'kmaq fishermen, we talked to the RCMP and we talked to the community. What we saw was a perfect storm of frustration that has led us to where we are today.

We have seen 20 years of frustration through the non-implementation of the Marshall decision for sure, but we have also seen a really bad fishing season as a result of COVID, during which fishermen did not make what they usually make. Also, the Mi'kmaq who had traditionally gone down to the United States to be part of the blueberry harvest in Maine were not given the opportunity to make money there this year.

I reached out to the Mi'kmaq senators and said that I believe we have the ability, as Mi'kmaq, to talk and figure out how we can move forward to find solutions. In a thorough discussion with not only ministers of our government but also people within the fisheries association and Mi'kmaq fishermen, we heard loud and clear from the chiefs that this is not a dispute about money and jobs and it is not a right they want to sell. It is a right they want to pass down to generations. It is about culture; it is about knowledge. What we heard is that the rights are not for sale and extinguishment, at any price, is not acceptable.

Therefore, what is the way forward? The Mi'kmaq have created great success, national success in fact. They have the highest graduation rate of any nation out there, at 90%, despite having a deplorable rate of children in poverty. The reason is that they have the ability to control their own jurisdiction in education. When Mi'kmaq hold each other accountable and Mi'kmaq have jurisdiction, they succeed.

When we were looking at ways forward, the senators and I said that we needed to come up with principles moving forward. The first is sustainability for the future, or Netukulimk, which I talked about. We also need to look at implementation, not infringement or extinguishment of any right. We heard from the fisheries industry that there is fear out there, so we need to look at total transparency of the fisheries and work on a model that creates economic growth for Mi'kmaq and Maliseet in fisheries within the Atlantic. To me, it is hard to look those in my community in the eye when the rate of children in poverty is 75% in my community despite their having a right to earn a moderate livelihood.

We feel that these solutions are the best way forward, but I have heard questions in a lot of conversations so far: Why has this government not done more in five years? Why has this government not done it in 20 years? One of the biggest reasons is that people are not aware of the treaty rights. People are not aware of the treaty litigation that has been taking place. I was a treaty education lead for Nova Scotia before I ran for election. I remember something Nelson Mandela stated. He said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Creating awareness of treaties and indigenous history is key to moving forward. I believed this in my prior role in treaty education lead in Nova Scotia and I believe it today, but I also believe that the failures of one generation are the opportunities of the next.

I am really proud to be standing here tonight, for the first time hearing debates about the Mi'kmaq fisheries, to join members as a Mi'kmaq member of Parliament. I am proud and thankful that members are taking part in this debate. I wanted to not only give them a chance to share in the history, but also give them opportunities to talk solutions. I know we all, at times, curse in the darkness, but I want to be the MP who tries to light the candle.

Lobster Fishery Dispute in Nova ScotiaEmergency Debate

9:30 p.m.

Conservative

Eric Melillo Conservative Kenora, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his important insight.

We have witnessed recently the terrible acts of violence in Nova Scotia and the RCMP has been involvement. Now people are asking the military to get involved. Many members on this side of the House want to know what it is going to take for the government to get involved to ensure there is a peaceful solution right now and in the longer term as well.

Lobster Fishery Dispute in Nova ScotiaEmergency Debate

9:35 p.m.

Liberal

Jaime Battiste Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

Madam Speaker, one of the things we have to understand is that the Mi'kmaq have been governing and policing themselves for a very long time. I have talked to the minister about this. We said that we would increase the police presence there. We have had this conversation.

With respect to the military, one of the things that Mi'kmaq leaders are quite afraid of is having an increased presence of military in that area. One of them jokingly said to me, “When they call in the cavalry, it is not usually good news for the Indians” or indigenous people.

We have to understand that there is systemic racism in all levels of government and while we want the RCMP and police keepers, what we really want to see is more Mi'kmaq police keepers, peacekeepers and RCMP people to help protect.

Lobster Fishery Dispute in Nova ScotiaEmergency Debate

9:35 p.m.

Bloc

Marilène Gill Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for his speech. I have a great deal of respect for the work he does and I am also pleased that he represents the Mi'kmaq community.

I have a question for the member. After talking about Nelson Mandela, he mentioned that he wanted to be positive and light the candle for first nations. I would like to hear his thoughts on the scope of the debate we are having right now. This is an emergency debate on fishing rights, but in my humble opinion, it is about much more than that. Earlier I talked about the Indian Act and the systemic racism that is inherent in the colonial system. I would like to hear his thoughts on that.

The issue we are addressing here is perhaps a tiny part of what we should be working on, that is, all federal laws that oppress first nations to one degree or another. Of course I will leave it up to first nations to express this in their own words.