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Minister Jordan puts electoral politics ahead of reconciliation, says Listuguj Mi’gmaq Government
Refusal to discuss adjusting fishing seasons more about maintaining status quo than science
March 5, 2021, Listuguj, QC – Late on Wednesday, March 3, the Honourable Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, issued a statement on what she called a “new path” for First Nations who benefit from the treaty right to fish for a moderate livelihood confirmed by the Supreme Court in Marshall. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (“DFO”) now says it will negotiate moderate livelihood fishing plans with individual First Nations, but that existing fishing seasons will not change, and new access will only be available through buybacks of existing licences from willing non-Indigenous sellers.
“This so-called new path is just the DFO’s old way of doing things,” said Chief Darcy Gray of the Listuguj Mi’gmaq Government. “We agree that conservation is paramount and that an orderly fishery is essential, but where is the discussion if the DFO has already decided on effort and seasons? We are prepared to have a facts-based discussion to find innovative ways of exercising our treaty right while keeping stocks healthy. The Minister’s announcement doesn’t make that possible.”
Listuguj conducts its lobster fishery in the Bay of Chaleur, off the south coast of the Gaspé Peninsula. The DFO allows commercial lobster fishing in this area every spring. The DFO also permits Listuguj to fish lobster for food in this area every fall but prohibits Listuguj from selling any of its fall catch. Listuguj has filed an application in Federal Court arguing that the DFO’s refusal to permit the sale of lobster in the fall violates its treaty right. The so-called “new path” announced by the Minister will do nothing to resolve this dispute.
The DFO’s refusal to allow Listuguj to sell lobster in the fall has nothing to do with conservation. Listuguj has a community law and fishing plan that keep its fall fishing effort within the DFO guidelines. The community also imposes its own conservation measures beyond what the DFO asks for, including dockside monitoring. With the Minister’s announcement, the prohibition on commercial lobster fishing by Listuguj in the fall will continue without explanation.
“It is important to understand that conservation concerns and community needs vary from place to place,” explained Chief Gray. “The situation in the Bay of Chaleur is different from the situation in Saint Mary’s Bay or Saint Peter’s Bay. There is no one size fits all solution. We want to sit down and work out a solution that fits our circumstances, respects the science, and respects our rights. The Minister is unwilling to have that conversation. It’s the same old colonial attitude.”
“I think the Minister’s announcement was meant as a message to the non-Indigenous industry saying not to worry, that things are going to stay just the way they are,” said Chief Gray. “It’s another example of electoral politics coming before reconciliation.”
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