The Marshall Agreement

A: Everything. He went fishing thinking he had a right to fish if he wanted to fish. And now the federal government is formalizing this right in an agreement with the Sipekne`katik First Nation. Its leader, Michael Sack, on behalf of his nation, a large Mi`kmaq community in N.S., began distributing his own fishing licences this summer (normally the task of the federal Department of Fisheries). This has triggered conflicts with non-Aboriginal fishermen. A: “This would have been the case,” said Professor O`Byrne, “if the federal government had negotiated modern harvesting agreements based on these historic treaties and found a way to establish the relationship between native and non-native fisheries.” It was not the other. But over the weekend, Mr. Sack said the Sipekne`katik Chief had secured a draft agreement with the federal government allowing members of the Mi`kmaq community to sell their catch. Professor O`Byrne is optimistic that the conflict with non-native fishermen will subside, as there will be some certainty about the rules. But non-Aboriginal fishermen have expressed concerns about not sitting at the table. Nearly two years after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in the 1999 Marshall decision that the Maritime Mi`kmaq have the right to fish, hunt, collect and act for needs, the federal government continues to work on a strategy to comply with the judgment.

Its goal is to create rules that meet the needs of Aboriginal and non-aboriginal people, as well as other issues such as conservation. On February 9, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (DIAND) and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) presented Ottawa`s long-term plan. The strategy is twofold: DIAND will negotiate long-term agreements (or contracts), while DFO will work over three years with $500 million to help Atlantic Nations participate more in commercial fishing. A: Because in the Royal Proclamation of 1763 and in various treaties and friendship contracts, the British Crown recognized that Aboriginal peoples have rights to the arrival of settlers before they exist, says Nicole O`Byrne, a law professor at the University of New Brunswick. “We are all “treaty people.” Contracts show a relationship… but if one part of the relationship does not know the rights and duties of the other side, you will inevitably have conflicts. Since the pioneering decision in 1999, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has launched several programs in response, starting with the Marshall Response initiative, which has provided these First Nation communities with licences, ships and equipment to increase and diversify their participation in commercial fishing and contribute to the pursuit of a moderate livelihood for First Nations people.