VANCOUVER, Dec. 14 /CNW/ -The Canadian and British Columbia governments have fallen behind public opinion with regard to recognition of First Nations rights and Title to fisheries, according to a new independent survey conducted across the province.
The results of the survey -released this morning by the First Nations Fisheries Council-outline a clear discrepancy between the perspectives British Columbians and the actions of government when it comes to attitudes toward First Nations rights and title to fisheries and aquatic resources.
"The results of this survey demonstrate overwhelming public support for First Nations' fisheries rights," said Ken Malloway, Co-Chair of the First Nations Fisheries Council. "It is significant that today, when the Cohen Commission is hearing testimony from First Nations on their world view of fisheries, that eighty-seven percent of British Columbians support First Nations' right to access our fish and aquatic resources for food, social and ceremonial purposes."
Steve Carpenter, First Nations Fisheries Council member from the Central Coast, noted the increasing frustrations that First Nations face when dealing with the Government of Canada on fisheries issues: "Canadian Courts recognize First Nations fisheries rights, the Canadian constitution protects those rights, the general public supports these rights, but government and politicians are not moving forward on these issues. Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy funding has not increased for the last 20 years, treaty negotiations are stalled because of a lack of movement from DFO, and Canada cannot meet its basic consultation obligations with First Nations on fisheries issues."
"First Nations are working in their communities to protect, enhance, and sustainably manage aquatic resources," stated Council member Thomas Alexis from the Upper Fraser. "We are also working together on a B.C. wide basis through the First Nations Fisheries Council." Alexis notes that the results of this public opinion survey show that British Columbians are increasingly supportive of First Nations rights to fisheries and their engagement in management. "We can bring a lot of experience and knowledge to the table, but the Government needs to engage us in the management of aquatic resources as equal partners with other levels of government."
"Our culture and way of life is intertwined with the need to protect our fisheries resources," said Malloway. "The physical and spiritual health of our people is at stake, but federal politicians and bureaucrats seem unable to engage with us in discussions that need to take place on these important issues."
- 87 percent of those surveyed support First Nations rights to the use of fish and aquatic resources within their traditional territories for food, social and ceremonial purposes.
- 87 percent of British Columbians who support First Nations fishing rights believe First Nations should have priority rights to fisheries for food.
- 73 percent of British Columbians believe it is "important" or "very important" for First Nations to be involved in fisheries management within their own territories. Only six percent said it was "not important.
- Old and young support First Nations rights: 91% of British Columbians under the age of 34 expressed support for the legal rights of First Nations to the aquatic resources within their traditional territories; 83% of those over the age of 55 were also in support.
- 86 percent of British Columbians surveyed were aware of the legal rights of First Nations to use fish and aquatic resources located within their traditional territories for food, social and ceremonial purposes. 88 percent of those who are aware of these rights are in support of them.
- 69 percent of those surveyed who support First Nations rights to use fish and aquatic resources within their traditional territories, believe First Nations should be able to use the resources for economic benefit.
The summary of the independent survey can be found on the First Nations Fisheries Council's website at www.fnfisheriescouncil.ca
About the First Nations Fisheries Council
The First Nations Fisheries Council was established in 2007 to implement the First Nations Fisheries Action Plan—an agenda for action in the Pacific fishery for all First Nations in British Columbia. The First Nations Fisheries Action Plan's vision includes all First Nations in British Columbia working together to address issues in the fishery which are of common concern and to enhance the well-being of communities. The plan calls for maintaining healthy aquatic ecosystems and species and restoring them as necessary while sharing management responsibility based on ownership of territories and the inherent rights of First Nations. The Council works with governments and stakeholders to ensure recognition and respect of First Nation's title and rights and to improve the conservation and management of the resource.
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