The federal government is failing First Nations fishers, Senate committee finds

Topic(s): Economic Development, Fisheries, Food Security, Health & Wellness, Reconciliation, Self-Sufficiency

A new report from the Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans asserts that the federal government has failed to fully implement Indigenous rights-based fisheries. 

The report, Peace on the Water: Advancing the Full Implementation of Mi’kmaq, Wolastoqiyik and Peskotomuhkati Rights-Based Fisheries, examines the federal government’s response to the Marshall decision and the implementation of the rights of First Nations communities in parts of Atlantic Canada and Quebec to fish in pursuit of a moderate livelihood.

The committee also heard several allegations of systemic racism within federal departments and agencies, including Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Witnesses testified how federal authorities have pursued an enforcement approach that has surveyed and criminalized First Nation fishers, yet failed to protect them from acts of intimidation and violence.

The study makes 10 recommendations on how the federal government can fully implement Indigenous rights-based fisheries, including reallocating commercial traps to the Mi’kmaq, Wolastoqiyik and Peskotomuhkati, developing tools to educate the public about rights-based fisheries, and integrating Indigenous laws, principles and knowledge with scientific data into decision-making processes.