Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reiterated his stance that his ministers are working to resolve the Mi’kmaq lobster fishery dispute Tuesday in the House of Commons.
“Over the past 21 years many different governments have moved forward on granting licences to Indigenous communities on insuring that there is progress being made.” Trudeau said
Trudeau said he has taken the issue very seriously and that the safety of Mi’kmaw fishers involved in the lobster fishery was important to him going forward in respecting their rights that have been long recognized.
Read More: Mi’kmaw Fishing Rights
At an emergency debate Monday, that went well into the night, Opposition Leader Erin O’Toole was sceptical of the government’s response to the crisis.
O’Toole implied the government wasn’t doing anything to resolve the situation and asked Trudeau when the “real work” was going to begin.
“I mentioned this to the prime minister a month ago,” O’Toole said. “Before parliament reconvened the tensions were rising. They ignored it then.”
O’Toole referred to the fact that in the five years they have been in power, the Liberal government never perused substantive mediation between the Mi’kmaq and the commercial fishermen.
At one point the discussion turned to racism and NDP MP Nikki Ashton questioned Conservative MP Chris D’Entremont on the motives of the commercial fishermen’s violent actions.
“Will the member not agree that the first step to ending racially motivated violence is to call out the racism that is driving it and to defend the indigenous community that is the target of this violence?” Ashton Asked.
D’Entremont is the member of Parliament for West Nova, ground zero to where the violence has been occurring.
He defended his constituents denying that they are racist. He invited Ashton come to his riding calling them “beautiful Acadian communities.”
“Does the member want to talk about racism?,” D’Entremont asked. “Let us talk about some of those very things. They are not a racist people. They are very concerned about the livelihoods of their families. Shame on her for calling them racists.”
Liberal MP Jaime Battiste spoke as a Mi’kmaw from his home in the Eskasoni First Nation in eastern Nova Scotia.
He said the Mi’kmaw have always had the right to fish and Aboriginal treaty rights are the supreme law of Canada.
“In 1999 the courts said our rights existed the whole time,” Battiste said. “And the fact that Mi’kmaq aren’t looking for reparations or revenge, rather they’re looking for reconciliation, shows our commitment to this country and our allies.”