September 25th, 2020
Liberal government continues to pit fishers against each other
OTTAWA– The Liberal government continues to fight Indigenous fishing rights in court and provide unclear instruction to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), irresponsibly fueling mounting tensions between Indigenous and non-Indigenous fishers on both coasts.
NDP Critic for Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard, Gord Johns, called on the government in the House today to immediately intervene before the situation escalates even more.
“From the Nuuchanulth on the west coast to the the M’iqmaw on the East Coast, the Liberals have spent millions on lawyers to fight Indigenous fishing rights. And time and time again, the courts have upheld Indigenous rights. Now, the Liberals are talking out of both sides of their mouths,” said Johns. “By trying to play both sides, they’re leaving DFO officials without a clear mandate and putting lives at risk.”
Even though the courts sided with the nations in reaffirming their constitutionally protected rights, consecutive Conservative and Liberal governments keep knowingly sending their negotiators to the table empty handed. This neglect is creating conflicts on the water and on the docks between users. The government needs to stop the talk and actually support self-determination.
A 2018 ruling from the British Columbia Supreme Court found that, "Ottawa failed to allow the Regional staff to engage meaningfully and wholeheartedly in the Negotiations" and that "there [was] no evidence before the court of any engagement by Ottawa staff ... other than the occasional signature on a Briefing Note."
“The Liberals have abandoned Indigenous fishers and left DFO officials without mandates or direction to respect reconciliation and constitutionally entrenched rights reaffirmed by the courts,” said Johns. “Successive Conservative and Liberal governments have done this for decades and it needs to stop. The government must show with actions that they respect the rights of Indigenous peoples and the safety of all fishers.”
“The Liberals need to understand that just saying you’ll respect rights is not the same thing as actually doing the work to respect and uphold rights.”