National Chief Perry Bellegarde Fully Supports the Listuguj First Nation in Exercising their Treaty Right to Fish in their Territory

Published: Sep 26, 2019News

(Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde says he supports the Listuguj First Nation as they assert their rights and conduct a commercial lobster fishery, this fall, despite Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ (DFO) refusal to issue a commercial license. Listuguj, a Mi’gmaq First Nation in Quebec, has been trying to work with the DFO to exercise their rights to a moderate livelihood fishery – a right recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada within the Marshall Decision of 1999.

“The Supreme Court of Canada, in the Marshall Decision, made it clear, Canada and all its agencies must recognize the Treaty rights of the Listuguj First Nation to fish and to exercise a moderate livelihood through fishing,” said AFN National Chief Bellegarde. “Fishing is a part of the Mi’gmaq people’s culture, identity and economy, and has been for generations. The Listuguj First Nation has been pursuing a peaceful and cooperative way forward. Any path must recognize and respect their Treaty rights, inherent rights and the decision of Canada’s own Supreme Court. I support their right to harvest and make a living off of lobster, and I stand with the citizens and leaders of the Listuguj First Nation.”

In 1999, the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed in the Marshall Decision that the Mi’kmaq have a Treaty right to hunt, fish, harvest and gather in their territory for the purposes of trade, and to earn a moderate livelihood. The Supreme Court of Canada confirmed that the Peace and Friendship Treaties of 1760-61 and the Canadian constitution protect the right of Mi’gmaq communities to fish commercially to provide for themselves. The DFO has the authority to impose limits on Mi’gmaq commercial fishing, but only if these limits are minimally intrusive, follow meaningful consultation, and are aimed at achieving a compelling objective, such as conservation or safety. The DFO has offered no explanation that could justify its refusal to issue a commercial fishing license this fall.

Last November, Canada and the Listuguj Mi’gmaq Government signed a Framework Agreement on Reconciliation and the Fisheries. That agreement kicked off formal negotiations on fisheries governance and fishing rights. Those negotiations are ongoing.

“The people of Listuguj rely on fishing to support themselves and their families. It does not make sense that this First Nation would not be given a commercial license,” said AFN Quebec Regional Chief Ghislain Picard. “The community cannot be made to wait for permission to exercise a right they already have. This issue must be resolved to ensure the livelihood and prosperity of the people of Listuguj. They are asking for nothing more than for Canada to honour their rights and the decisions of its own courts.”

The Listuguj First Nation has held a fall lobster fishery for the past two decades for the purposes of feeding its citizens, and has no intention of increasing fishing beyond what is sustainable. However, this year some of the lobster caught in the fall will be sold to offset costs. Since the Marshall decision, Listuguj has also conducted a limited commercial lobster fishery each spring. For the spring fishery, the DFO issues the Listuguj Mi’gmaq Government a commercial licence. The Listuguj leadership remains committed to negotiating a long-term arrangement with Canada, but they cannot be made to wait indefinitely.

During its recent Annual General Assembly, the AFN passed Resolution # 65-2019 “Recognition of the Marshall Decision”, which recognizes and affirms the 20th Anniversary of the Marshall Decision by the Supreme Court of Canada. It also affirmed the Nation-to-Nation relationship of the Mi’kmaq, Wolastoqey and Peskotomuhkati with the Crown on the unceded traditional territorial lands and waters of these First Nations. It directed the AFN to continue advocacy with the federal government to uphold and honour all Treaty relationships with First Nations in Canada.

The AFN is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada.  Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates.

For more information, please contact:

Monica Poirier
Bilingual Communications Officer
Assembly of First Nations
613-241-6789 ext. 382
613-292-0857 (mobile)
[email protected]

Michael Hutchinson
Communications Officer
Assembly of First Nations
613-241-6789 ext. 201
613-859-6831 (cell)
[email protected]