Sipkne’katik First Nation has filed legal action against the government of Nova Scotia over its legislation that states that fish sold in the province must be registered under a federal commercial license.
The claim says this ignores treaty rights, and therefore, is unconstitutional.
“The promises made in these Treaties were promises of the Crown. The Province is responsible for fulfilling these promises when acting within the division of powers under The Constitution Act, 1867,” says the statement of claim.
The claim is seeking a declaration from the province that the regulations infringe on Sipkne’katik members treaty rights, and that they have no effect on the purchase of fish from the moderate livelihood fishery.
In Nova Scotia, The Fisheries and Coastal Rescources Act and the Fish buyers’ License and Enforcement regulations govern the commercial purchase of lobster.
According to the claim, the regulations state that it’s illegal for anyone to buy, sell, or possess fish that has been illegally caught, or caught by a person who does not have a commercial fishing licence, issued by the Department of fisheries and Oceans.
The regulation defines “illegally” as fishing without an appropriate license, or violation of federal or provincial legislation such as size, season and quota.
“The fact that the Provincial and Federal regulations do not correlate is not our problem to solve yet here we are filing court papers,” said Sipkne’katik First Nation Cheif Mike Sack in a media release.
The treaty right from the 1800s was affirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1999. The ruling upheld that the Mi’kmaw have a right to fish and sell their catch to earn a moderate livelihood.
Last fall, Sipkne’katik first Nation launched their moderate livelihood fishery and was met with violence from non-Indigenous fishermen who say the fishery is illegal.
“We are more resolved than ever to bring this to court as we have lost so much in the face of the violence and economic racism aimed at us from the commercial fishery throughout the fall,” said Sack.
APTN News reached out to the government to comment on the suit.
“It would be inappropriate to comment on the matter you’ve raised as it is before the courts,” said Natalie Webster, communications director for Aboriginal Aiffairs.
The province has 15 days to file notice of defence.