National | Media Release

National Farmers Union Stands in Solidarity with Mi’kmaw Struggle for Treaty Right to Fish

The National Farmers Union (NFU) stands in solidarity with Mi’kmaq fishers as they lawfully assert their treaty rights to a moderate livelihood fishery, and strongly condemns the ongoing racist, reprehensible acts of violence and hostility being perpetrated against them. It is within the inherent and constitutionally affirmed treaty rights of the Mi’kmaq people to hunt, fish, and gather and we support their struggle to realize these rights and the right to food sovereignty. The lobster fishing industry in the Maritime provinces is dominated by one corporation (Clearwater – one of the world’s largest seafood vertically-integrated companies), and we demand that the legal right of Mi’kmaq fishers to access a livelihood from these waters be respected.

In 1999, the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed the Peace and Friendship Treaties (signed between 1725-1779) through the Marshall Decision and stated the right of the Mi’kmaq people to earn a “moderate livelihood”. The Sipekne’katik First Nation, as a sovereign nation, decided to exercise these rights under a self-regulated fishery for the first time on September 17, 2020. This decision was met with outrage and violence from the commercial fishing community and inaction from the government and RCMP.  Violence continued to escalate as non-Indigenous fisherpeople formed blockades, burned buildings, boats, and vehicles, and damaged fishing gear in an attempt to restrict fishing – all infringements of legal treaty rights. On October 21, 2020 it was confirmed that an injunction had been placed on those interfering with Sipekne’katik band members’ access to their fishery.

As farmers, we are privileged to have a close relationship to the land and have the responsibility to sustain its health for future generations. We, like the Mi’kmaq fishers, strive to feed our communities and make a living while protecting the land and water and work towards food sovereignty in the face of corporate controlled food systems. It is in this common interest that we stand in solidarity with their struggles. We call upon Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Minister Bernadette Jordan, and Minister Carolyn Bennett to negotiate in good faith to ensure that the Marshall Decision is respected, based on the inherent rights and treaty rights of Mi’kmaq people to hunt, fish, and gather, as protected by Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution. This includes agreeing to self-management by the Mi’kmaq, rather than continuing control by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. We also demand that all acts of violence and criminal behaviour against Mi’kmaq fishers and community members be met with strong repercussions. We are pleased that the Mi’kmaq have secured an injunction against those interfering with their fishery, but we call on Bill Blair as Minister of Public Safety and David Lametti as Minister of Justice to be held accountable for equal application of law enforcement and ensuring that the rule of law be upheld.

The NFU urges all relevant government agencies at the provincial and federal level to take bold and timely steps to ensure Mi’kmaq inherent rights are respected and that the safety and security of Mi’kmaq communities is prioritized. We are all treaty people.

More information and link to letter writing template:  https://drive.google.com/file/d/1u_LF_bCFBbSijzqJgHNh4-MfpYz0hfdv/view

For media inquiries, please contact the NFU office.

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