After three months of negotiations, Sipekne’katik First Nation has called off moderate livelihood fishery negotiations with the federal government.
Chief Mike Sack says treaty rights are non-negotiable, and the federal government has not been negotiating in good faith.
“They’re trying to cap our rights, right off the get go and they have no right to do so, it’s not very good move on Canada’s part and just a dirty move in my mind,” said Sack.
Sack said the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) is trying to lump the moderate livelihood fishery in with commercial licences.
The band has small vessels and are not equipped to fish there deep waters for the commercial fishery.
Sack is suspect of the DFO’s timing.
“You know three months go by and then they throw that at us, just as they clean the bay out for traps you know, as the commercial industry is starting, doesn’t sit well with us,” said Sack.
In September, Sipekne’katik First Nation launched their moderate livelihood fishery. It was historic for the Mi’kmaw as they were exercising their treaty rights.
The launch was quickly met with violence from the non-Indigenous harvesters who saw the fishery as illegal and the fishery was a threat to the lobster stocks.
Experts and the DFO have refuted the claims and say the lobster stock is healthy.
In 1999, the Supreme Court of Canada decision affirmed the treaty right the Mi’kmaq have a right to hunt, fish and gather to earn a moderate livelihood.
But that term has never been defined. And has been a contentious issue since.
Over 20 years later, the Mi’kmaw and the DFO have not resolved the issue.
In negotiations today, Sack says the DFO are ignoring treaty right and are risking nation to nation relationships.
“One hundred per cent, DFO was just trying to make sure that no rights were upheld,” said Sack.
Sack said negotiations must be based on treaty rights for talks to continue. He added that he has exhausted all avenues, and every proposal has been refused.
Meanwhile, Sipekne’katik harvesters will keep fishing till next week. The moderate livelihood fishery season ends as the lobster move into the deep waters.
Sack says they will harvest lobster in the spring.