Mi'kmaq parliamentarians call for co-managed Indigenous fishery in Nova Scotia

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Three Mi'kmaq parliamentarians say Ottawa should create a co-managed Indigenous fishery off Nova Scotia as a long-term solution to conflicts between First Nations and non-Indigenous fishers in the lobster harvest.

The proposal comes from Sen. Dan Christmas, a former chief of the Membertou First Nation in Cape Breton, Sen. Brian Francis, of Abegweit First Nation in Prince Edward Island and Jaime Battiste, a Liberal MP from Nova Scotia.

Christmas said in an interview this week the trio held discussions last Friday with Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan and Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett to push their proposal.

The effort comes amid the launches of multiple Mi'kmaq lobster fisheries, each tied to the 1999 Supreme Court of Canada decision stating Donald Marshall Jr. had a treaty right to fish for eels when and where he wanted, without a licence.

The Marshall decision said the Mi'kmaq, Maliseet and Passamaquoddy bands could hunt, fish and gather to earn a "moderate livelihood," though the court followed up with a clarification two months later, saying the treaty right was subject to federal regulation for conservation purposes.

The Sipekne'katik First Nation opened their lobster fishery in St. Marys Bay last month, provoking criticisms from non-Indigenous fishers who argue fishing outside of the normal season violates federal rules -- and the second part of the Marshall decision.

The Sipekne'katik fleet includes 10 boats…
The Canadian Press, Michael Tutton
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