Statement of Support for Mi’kmaw Treaty Fishing Rights

Date Published

The Ecology Action Centre (EAC) affirms our support for the inherent right of Mi’kmaq to fish as enshrined in the Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1752[1] and upheld in the Marshall Decision of 1999[2]. Indigenous rights are non-negotiable and must be respected. Mi’kmaw fishers should be able to exercise their right to fish in accordance with Mi’kmaw law without intimidation. 

The right of Mi’kmaq to govern their own fisheries and inherent right to self-governance is further recognized by Article 4 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples[3]. The Sipekne'katik First Nation have put a management plan forward to test a moderate livelihood fishery in accordance with their rights, as other Mi’kmaw communities have sought to do in the face of federal inaction on the Marshall Decision.  

Sustainable management with conservation must be a core consideration for any fishery to ensure resilient and abundant marine ecosystems that can support coastal communities for generations to come. Conservation needs must be based on the best available science and knowledge from both western and Indigenous ways of knowing[4]. 

Through our work with local fisheries over the past two decades, we know that both Mi’kmaw and commercial fishers hold conservation dear. We also know that the Mi’kmaw and commercial fishers in Southwest Nova Scotia share a long history of dialogue, collaborative research, and good relationships going back to the time of the Marshall Decision.  

We are saddened to see the eruption of racism and hatred that has occurred in recent days. The reported acts of violence, threats, intimidation and interfering with gear are inexcusable. We call on commercial fishermen and their leadership to publicly condemn all acts of violence and intimidation against Mi’kmaw fishers and their families.  

The escalation of tension is a direct result of Canada’s inaction and inadequate response to the Marshall Decision. For the past 20 years, successive Canadian governments refused to enter into good faith dialogue with Mi’kmaw to negotiate implementation of Moderate Livelihood fishery, instead pushing buy-ins and now a process of Rights Reconciliation agreements that many have deemed coercive[5] and an infringement of treaty rights.  

Also, during these decades, markets have increased in competitiveness, our oceans are changing, and lobster license costs have skyrocketed for commercial fleets. This has increased worries about the future of fishing communities, and there is a lack of trust that DFO will prioritize coastal community access and inshore livelihoods. 

We call on Minister Jordan to move swiftly to ensure the safety of Mi’kmaw fishers, respect treaty rights and Mi’kmaw law, and for Canada to enter into truly nation-to-nation negotiations towards a collaborative solution for management of shared resources.  

We also call on Minister Jordan to recognize and respect the deep history and knowledge in all our coastal communities, upon which true co-governance and community-based management can thrive.  

We hope Mi’kmaw and commercial inshore fishermen can find a way back into dialogue in good faith and based on common values, to work together and share their knowledge and expertise in community-based fisheries management.  

High-impact, industrial fisheries and consolidation of access pose a far greater threat to ocean ecosystems and coastal community livelihoods than does the current moderate livelihood fishery of the Mi’kmaq. Cooperation and alliance between Mi’kmaw and commercial inshore fishermen could be powerful in protecting marine abundance and ensuring independent, sustainable fisheries remain in our communities for future generations. 

Layers of history and complexity will take time to work through. However, we remain hopeful that communities will find a way forward that supports social, cultural, economic, and environmental wellbeing on all sides. 


In this feature-length documentary by Alanis Obomsawin, it's the summer of 2000 and the country watches in disbelief as federal fisheries wage war on the Mi'kmaq fishermen of Burnt Church, New Brunswick. Obomsawin delineates the complex roots of the conflict with passion and clarity, building a persuasive defense of the Mi'kmaq position:

Food Fish, Commercial Fish, and Fish to Support a Moderate Livelihood: Characterizing Aboriginal and Treaty Rights to Canadian Fisheries, D. Harris & P. Millerd:

Canada’s Emerging Indigenous Rights Framework: A Critical Analysis:

One More Dead Fish (film) - The story of desperate handline fishermen in Nova Scotia, many from southwestern Nova Scotia, fighting for survival. The battle of local handliners against corporate, destructive fishing and their own government:

Lobster Node Network - Industry led, academic partnered research:

Recent thoughts from Darren Porter a small-scale, commercial fisherman and Apoqnmatulti’k collaborative researcher:







National Chief Perry Bellgarde statement:

Senators Dan Christmas and Brian Francis statement:

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