September 24, 2021, Listuguj, QC –
On Sunday, September 26, the Listuguj Mi’gmaq First Nation will launch its fall lobster fishery. We will launch our fishery in keeping with our inherent rights and responsibilities in our ancestral lands and waters of Gespe’gewa’gi.
Mi’gmaq are the sovereign nation of present-day Mi’gma’gi, also known by Canadians as Atlantic Canada. Mi’gma’gi is comprised of seven districts, and Listuguj is situated in Gespe’gewa’gi, the largest of the seven. What is less well-known Canadians is that still today, Mi’gmaq have sovereignty, that is jurisdiction and laws. What this means is that Mi’gmaq have an inherent right to govern our own affairs on lands and waters including how we make decisions about communal lobster fisher.
In Mi’gmaq, some Elders have described our authority this way: “Weja’tegemgeg wesgijinuiteg Nnu, Mi’gmawa’j, ne’gaw geggung aq e’w’g assusuti siawiango’tmn sipu’l, nme’jg, nipugtl, wi’sisg, aq sisipg ula tet Gespe’gewa’gig, lluignegewei maqamigew Migma’gig. Ula assusuti wejiaq Gisu’lg.” In English, this teaching translated this way: “Ever since the Mi’gmaq were born, we have always had and used our authority to continue to care for the rivers, fish, woods, animals, and birds, here in Gespe’gewa’gi, the Seventh District of Mi’gma’gi. Our authority comes from the Creator.”
Our inherent right comes from the Creator, from our relations with our territory and waters. In 1999, the Supreme Court of Canada (Marshall 1999) recognized that the Mi’gmaq have a treaty right to fish and sell fish in pursuit of a moderate livelihood. Aside from the treaty right, the Supreme Court recognized that the Peace and Friendship Treaties signed in 1700s, were as valid today as the day they were signed.
From the perspective of the Mi’gmaq, Peace and Friendship Treaties allowed settlers to establish communities, governance institutions, and put in place legislation to govern the activities of its citizens. Nowhere in the Treaties does it say that the Crown (present day Canada) can exercise exclusive jurisdiction over fish and fisheries. In fact, Treaties are to be interpreted as a framework for recognizing British and Mi’gmaq sovereignty- including our laws and governing structures.
Today, we exercise our fishing rights in the fishery. The right to access, manage and make decision in accordance with our inherent right, jurisdiction and sovereignty. As a community we pass laws (Salmon, Lobster, etc) and we put in place governance structures for the effective exercise of our jurisdiction.
With that said, in 2019, Listuguj passed a Lobster law, which states that when interpreting our law one must be mindful of the following principles:
Ango’tmu’q: “Taking care of something in a careful manner.” Ango’tmu’q also suggests “acknowledgement” and “responsibility” when using the resources of the territory, e.g., “I take care of it.” As Mi’gmaq, we acknowledge our territory, our lands, waters, and all life forms that have sustained our nation for generations;
Apajignmuen: “Sharing” and “giving back” to one’s community, thereby strengthening relations. Mi’gmaq customary practices, ceremonies, and feasts, as well as information sessions and meetings, are ways of giving back. Apajignmuen also implies having gratitude, being aware, and being grateful for what has been given to you;
Gepmite’tmnej: “Respect.” In caring for the lobster, we need to respect that everybody brings knowledge and has a role to play in fishery management. We need to recognize and incorporate both Indigenous and scientific knowledge into decision-making processes; and
Welte’tmeg: “We agree in thought.” This is a form of consensus-building to reach a shared agreement. Elders emphasize that, as Mi’gmaq, we need to work together to come to an agreement about how best to take care of the lobster. We can achieve welte’tmeg through building awareness, education, sharing, and exchange of views. Welte’tmeg requires that we be open to other views, experiences, and possibilities.
With these principles in mind, it is the responsibility of the LMG Natural Resource Directorate to develop annual fishing plans. Under the Listuguj Lobster Law, the fishing plan promotes a sustainable fishery, with safe and equitable community access across the Bay of Chaleur.
The Listuguj Mi’gmaq Government supports community members who participate in our community management system in the following ways: registering as a fisher, registering their vessel, fishing regulated tags, and give back to the community.
As a self-governing community, it is our responsibility to promote sustainable access with proper monitoring and enforcement.
The fishery is governed by the community’s own law—the Listuguj Lobster Law—and is monitored by the community’s own enforcement agency—the Listuguj Mi’gmaq Rangers.
This year the fishery will run from September 26th, 2021, to October 10th, 2021.