May 21, 2018
(Ottawa, ON) – First Nations leaders from across Canada marked May 21 this year as the first ever National Day of First Nations Fishing Rights. The day was established through AFN resolution 75/2017, dedicating the first Monday preceding May 25, or “Victoria Day”, to be recognized to honour First Nations’ rights to fish.
“Fishing is part of First Nations cultures and identities,” said AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde. “It sustains our peoples and economies and is interconnected to healthy individuals and strong, sustainable nations. Fishing has been at the forefront of exercising and asserting First Nations inherent rights many times in recent history and the subject of a number of landmark court decisions. The intent of the National Day of First Nations Fishing Rights is to reaffirm and exercise First Nations’ inherent right to fish and manage our own resources, while at the same time raising awareness of our role and responsibilities in conservation and water protection.”
First Nations in Canada have inherent and Treaty rights protected in the Canadian Constitution and recognized in a number of Supreme Court decisions such as Sparrow (1990), Gladstone (1996), Delgamuukw (1997), Marshall (1999), Haida (2004) and Ahousaht (2009). These rights include the right to traditional and customary governance of traditional lands, waters and resources, including fisheries. First Nations rights are further articulated in international law, including the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
A number of First Nations are exercising the right to institute their own laws in regard to fishing, including Sheshegwaning First Nations first aquaculture law, Listguj Miqmaq first-ever salmon law and Nisga Lisims fish and wildlife laws.
“Victoria Day reminds us of a period in our shared history when many Treaties were signed,” said AFN Regional Chief Roger Augustine who co-chairs the AFN National Fisheries Committee. “The National Fisheries Committee chose this day in an effort to decolonize a day named for the Queen who presided over many of the Treaties made with First Nations and remind everyone in this land of First Nations rights.”
“National Fishing Rights Day is about asserting our rights, but also raising awareness among Canadians,” said AFN Regional Chief Terry Teegee who co-chairs the National Fisheries Committee. “We declare this day in the spirit of reconciliation and education of our rights and practices.”
The AFN is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates.
For more information, please contact:
Press Secretary – National Chief’s Office
Assembly of First Nations
613-241-6789 ext. 222
Jenna Young Castro
Assembly of First Nations
613-241-6789 ext 201
Bilingual Communications Officer
613-241-6789 ext. 282