OTTAWA, Oct. 19, 2016 /CNW Telbec/ - Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde today called on Canada to act on the federal government's commitment to rights recognition by changing its position in ongoing litigation with five Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations, stating it is time for Canada to fully support the right of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations to harvest and commercially sell fish in their traditional territories.
"Canada has an opportunity to take real steps toward reconciliation by engaging in an accountable and collaborative process with all First Nation fisheries to achieve full implementation of their Aboriginal rights to fish and sell fish in their territories," said AFN National Chief Bellegarde, who participated today in a press conference with Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations. "I will continue to support the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations in the exercise of their rights which have already been recognized by the courts and are further protected by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples."
AFN BC Regional Chief Shane Gottfriedson said: "It is disheartening to see government lawyers continuing to focus their litigation on restricting the commercial right that was articulated in the 2009 decision of Ahousaht Nation v. Canada. These lawyers are now attempting to re-characterize this right as a 'low-level' and 'artisanal' right. A right to fish commercially is a substantive right, there is nothing 'low-level' or 'artisanal' about it. The conduct and tone of the litigation does not uphold the honour of the Crown and the negotiations leading up to this litigation were not in good faith. The 2009 decision stands and should be respected. The fact that these nations have had to return to court seven years later because an agreement has not been reached with DFO is indicative of seven years of hostile and fruitless negotiations."
"We will continue to call on Canada to work with the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations to support First Nations jurisdiction and their capacity to manage their traditional territories and aquatic resources as part of a nation-to-nation relationship," said AFN NB/PEI Regional Chief Roger Augustine, who holds the AFN fisheries portfolio. "The AFN National Fisheries Committee is working on a National Fisheries Strategy and this includes support for the development of multi-agency mechanisms that can bridge the gaps between negotiations and implementation processes. First Nations are running out of patience. Some of these decisions are decades old and it's high time that they are honoured. We believe resources would be better spent and directed towards the implementation process."
After more than seven years of attempted negotiations to implement their Aboriginal right to fish commercially, the five Nuu-chah-nulth Nations remain without an agreement or reasonable offer from the federal government to allow their communities to exercise their rights and participate in the fisheries in their territories. On September 23, 2016, the Ha'wiih (hereditary Chiefs) put an end to a meeting with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans representatives and asked that they only come back when Canada develops a mandate to implement their rights-based fisheries.
Earlier today, the five Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations held a press conference in Vancouver to talk about their fishing rights.
The AFN is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates.
SOURCE Assembly of First Nations
For further information: Alain Garon, Bilingual Communications Officer, 613-241-6789 ext. 382, 613-292-0857 (cell), [email protected]; Jenn Jefferys, Communications Officer, 613-241-6789 ext. 110, 613-222-9656 (cell), [email protected]