POLITICS

Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq call on Canada to recognize fishing treaty rights

02/22/2013 03:17 EST | Updated 04/24/2013 05:12 EDT
MEMBERTOU, N.S. - A dozen Mi'kmaq communities filed a notice of application with the Nova Scotia Supreme Court on Friday alleging that Canada has not met its obligation to accommodate fishing treaty rights.

Membertou Chief Terry Paul says a 1999 Supreme Court of Canada decision found that Mi'kmaq have the right to harvest and sell fish to sustain a moderate livelihood for their families.

In that case, Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq Donald Marshall launched a legal challenge after being charged in 1993 with fishing eels out of season, fishing without a license and trying to sell illegally caught eels.

The Supreme Court decision cited fishing treaties made with the Crown in 1760 and ruled the Fisheries Act and its regulations were unconstitutional, said Paul.

"Yet, after 14 years, Canada is still enforcing the Fisheries Act legislation," said Paul from Membertou on Friday. "Canada has done nothing to accommodate the livelihood fishery."

The Justice Department referred requests for reaction to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans which couldn't be reached for comment.

Paul said the government amended the definition of an aboriginal fishery last year in the Jobs and Growth Act, but it stills prohibits Mi'kmaq from fishing without a license.

He alleges Canada had a legal obligation to consult the Mi'kmaq before amending the definition.

"The livelihood fishery hasn't been defined. We would like to discuss with the government what that would mean and come out of it in agreement," said Paul.

"They have a legal obligation to consult with us in a fair and meaningful way, and they haven't done that."