Violence jeopardizes negotiations on moderate livelihood fishery: fisheries minister
HALIFAX -- Federal Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan says continued violence by people angry over Mi'kmaw First Nations participating in moderate livelihood fisheries is putting negotiations in jeopardy.
"We've been at the table with First Nations communities," Jordan told CTV News in an interview Thursday evening. "Unfortunately the situation that happened (Wednesday) in Digby County may have stalled those negotiations."
Jordan says she's been having regular conversations with commercial harvesters and her officials talk to them almost daily. She said there has also been constructive dialogue with First Nations.
"We have been making progress," Jordan said. "We've been having very positive dialogue. We've seen a very good fishing plan from Sipekne'katik (First Nation). It's things we can work with."
Jordan said the issue will be resolved through constructive dialogue.
"I strongly believe that the best way forward is through negotiations," Jordan said. "Of course we don't negotiate in public."
The issue of what a moderate livelihood fishery is has been 21 years in the making since a 1999 Supreme Court of Canada decision. While it might not seem like it to some, there is a sense of urgency -- at least now.
"It is something we are desperately working around the clock to find a solution to," Jordan said.
When asked by CTV News anchor Steve Murphy why the negotiations do not include all parties at once, Jordan replied: "Negotiations with First Nations communities are on a nation-to-nation basis."
That doesn’t mean the commercial harvesters aren't heard, she said, adding that she and DFO staff talk to them almost daily to hear their concerns. Their voice is strong and their concerns are well understood by DFO officials, she said.
Jordan said conservation is the underpinning for any solution to the dispute.
"We all want the same thing, and that's a long-term sustainable fishery and that's what we are working toward," Jordan said. "I recognize that the commercial harvesters are concerned. I recognize that there is fear with regard to their livelihood and changes that they see possibly coming. I want to make sure that we're listening to them and that we're addressing the concerns that they have."
When asked by Murphy what a moderate livelihood fishery is, Jordan said it wasn't for her to define.
"I think that's something that we determine at the negotiation table," Jordan said. "The First Nations communities do not want a top-down approach and for us to tell them what a moderate livelihood is. This is a right that was affirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada we recognize that this right has to be implemented."
As negotiations continue, she said DFO will address the concerns that it is hearing from commercial harvesters while protecting the rights of First Nations communities.
You can watch the full interview here.