Attacks on Mi'kmaq treaty fishing

Burnt Church - Federal boats assault treaty rights in
New Brunswick/Nova Scotia "lobster war." - Canada

September 1- 19, 2000
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September 19, 2000

From: "David Marshall"..thanks!

Deadline Draws Near At Miramichi Bay

WebPosted Sept. 19, 2000
Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

BURNT CHURCH, N.B. - Native fishermen in New Brunswick have decided to stand firm in their battle with Ottawa over the lobster fishery. In a meeting today they say they won't compromise with federal fisheries officials over control of their lobster traps, and won't sign any interim agreements. But they are proposing to take their traps out two weeks earlier than previously planned.

The news comes as the deadline for a breakthrough set by mediator Bob Rae draws closer. Rae says he'll walk away from the week-long talks unless progress is made by 5 p.m. Tuesday.

The standoff continues over interpretations of last year's Marshall decision handed down by the Supreme Court of Canada. The mood on the reserve today is described as tense. Native warriors from across eastern Canada have come to the site and are manning a checkpoint at the community wharf.

The RCMP have stationed patrol cars along all roads leading to Burnt Church.

The Mi'kmaq say they'll keep setting lobster traps because the Marshall decision affirms their treaty rights to fish how and when they choose.

But the federal government says it retains the right to regulate all fisheries, even under Marshall. Ottawa warns it will shut the native fishery down if a settlement isn't reached.

And non-native fishermen say there has to be one set of rules for everyone.

They warn if Ottawa doesn't do something, they will. Earlier this week a gathering of fishermen told Rae there could be bloodshed if the dispute isn't settled and the natives don't stop fishing out of season.



6:39 a.m.

"Reflections of
Mi'kmaq Grand Council Captain Noel Knockwood
re: native history and relationships."

Host Laura Chapin

September 19, 2000

CBC:Interior BC natives recently blocked a railway line near Chase, in support of Burnt Church natives. It's been just over a year since the Marshall decision from the Supreme Court. The case affirms that aboriginal people in the Maritimes have a right to earn a living from the fishery, according to the terms of a 250 year-old treaty. A fight over how many Mi'kmaq can fish and what rules they must follow has raged for the past twelve months. A spiritual leader of the Mi'kmaq, Noel Knockwood says the Marshall decision should lead Canadians to know more about the history about their relationship with the Mi'kmaq. Here are his reflections.

KNOCKWOOD: I always tell people - you know, [speaks in own language]. What I said to you in the aboriginal language is 'Prior to the arrival of the Europeans, the Mi'kmaq people were here and will always be here.' The treaties in ancient times were signed by two governing nations, and the British people recognised the sovereignty of the Mi'kmaq Nation because they signed treaties with us. And a premise I think that's important to mention, not one inch of land or any of its resources were given away under that treaty. It was a treaty of friendship and peace and it was intended for a peaceful co-existence.

Prior to the arrival of the Europeans, my ancestors lived as - had all of the correct characteristics of a nationhood. We had everything in place: language, belief systems, occupancy of land, and everything. They had stratification - social stratification that addressed the political issues of the day. And they conducted themselves according to accepted codes. And this was the way it was when the Europeans arrived.

This is the way it must be today, so that we can stand with the Europeans who came to our homeland, on equal grounds. And they should not be in a superior position.

If we did not take on that perspective, people would consider us - and I'm using English language here, as a tribal people. A tribe - the word tribe is very belittling. We need to take that word and throw it away and replace it with nation, because that's what we call ourselves today - aboriginal First Nations, scattered right across Canada.

Any society where things are imposed, naturally you're going to get a certain amount of resistance. If there's injustice you're going to have unrest, and in this case - you know, the European justice system was not just to the aboriginal people. And this is the reason why you're going to get - you know, some formal civil disobedience.

And this could happen to any society in the world, if certain privileges and rights are taken away and not replaced by others, by imposition. Sure they're going to objected to - and natives have every right in the world to object to those imposed - various and imposed laws.

I think the native people are saying 'We will follow the rules and regulations, policies and procedures, providing if you give us a more equal distribution of the traps and of the licenses that are distributed to us. If we look at the distribution now, it's not on even grounds. And I think once we get that on even grounds - through a mathematical formula, if you like. Then we could sit down and they we would recognise all the laws, policies, procedures and environmental safety measures and everything.

But right now, because they're at this stage, I hope that negotiators will be able to sit down and come up with a meaningful solutions for both sides. So I would suggest that perhaps it would be ideal to have an agreement where there are no losers; everybody is a winner.

When we look at our history, we are basically a non-violent people. We are a people who seek meaningful co-operation because we wouldn't have allowed the Europeans to come here, back in 1497 when they arrived. There were only 14 people on the boat. They could have been slaughtered and killed and wiped out. But there weren't.

They were welcomed. This reflection tells me that my ancestors were people of compassion. They were people of understanding. They were kind and gentle. The sad part of that is that kind people lose. And it's always the bad guys that sort of win.

We have paid a terrible price to be an Indian, and the price we have paid is very, very high. I'll give you an example.

We've paid with our land. We've paid with our religious beliefs. We've paid with our language. We have paid until we have nothing else to give. Now they're trying to take the natural resources away by the imposition of their laws, their values, the rules, their regulations and their policies and procedures.

Although that is the contemporary situation today, we need to adjust to that, and we can come to an agreement if both sides are willing to compromise. My heart tells me that I need to teach the philosophy. I need to be able to teach them the language. I need to be able to share with them the beautiful concepts of sharing, of responsibility, of love, of compassion, and the willingness to live in peaceful coexistence. I pray for those conditions.

CBC: That's Noel Knockwood. He is Captain of the Mi'kmaq Grand Council, and also a spiritual leader.

Turtle Island Native Network
Aboriginal News & Information, E-mail:

September 18, 2000 ===========================

N.B. natives call Rae's final proposal 'insult'

By Kelly Toughill
September 18, 2000
Toronto Star Atlantic Canada Bureau

NEGUAC, N.B. - Native fishermen must agree to pull their lobster traps from Miramichi Bay by tomorrow or efforts to solve the crisis in Burnt Church will die, says mediator Bob Rae. On the first anniversary of a controversial Supreme Court decision on native fishing rights, both sides were preparing for war. More than 1,000 non-native fishermen gathered for a stormy rally in this tiny town while just a few kilometres away, dozens of members of the Warrior Society met in Burnt Church to discuss an expected raid on native lobster traps.

Even former Ontario premier Bob Rae, who is serving as mediator here, offered little hope that peace will be found. "I've been here for nearly a week," Rae told reporters after leaving an emotional rally of non-native fishermen. "This isn't rocket science. It shouldn't take that long to get an agreement if there is a willingness to talk. If there continues to be profound philosophical differences of opinion, that isn't something that's going to be solved by mediation."

Rae has proposed a short-term solution that would see Burnt Church give up the essential principle at the heart of this conflict - the right to a fall lobster season for native people. Several band members predicted last night that Rae's proposal will be dead by this morning. James Ward said that in exchange for pulling their traps, the natives were being offered an unspecified amount of money. "It is an insult," said Ward, who wrote the fisheries plan that Burnt Church has been following since August.

"For us to accept any amount of money in exchange for our rights is just short of treason for Mi'kmaq nations." Even band members who were urging compromise appeared shocked last night by the proposal. "I'm shaken and I'm really, really disheartened," said band spokesperson Karen Somerville."I don't think I can talk right now." Rae said conservation of lobster stocks must be the first priority in a dispute that has flared into violence several times.

"It simply isn't possible for there to be two commercial fisheries," Rae said, referring to the separate season set up by Burnt Church fishermen. "The waters won't sustain it, the stock won't sustain it, conservation won't sustain it. We have to find a way to substantially reduce the number of traps in the water right now." Several biologists and environmentalists, including the president and the policy director of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, have said the Mi'kmaq fishery in Miramichi Bay does not threaten lobster stocks.

But Rae said unpublished government studies have persuaded him those environmentalists are wrong. "Frankly, it's always better to err on the side of conservation than the other way around," he said. "Once they are gone, it isn't easy to get them back." Rae has been here since last Tuesday, trying to solve a problem that began after the Supreme Court recognized Mi'kmaq, Maliseet and Passamaquoddy people have a right to fish commercially.

'Frankly, I think we've done a great job'

The Sept. 17 ruling plunged this region's fishing industry, which is governed by hundreds of complex laws and traditions, into chaos. Mi'kmaq people throughout the region immediately took to the water to try to cash in on the lucrative lobster fishery. That infuriated non-native fishermen, many of whom come from families who have fished the same waters for more than 100 years. Last October, fishermen set out in more than 100 boats from nearby Baie Ste. Anne and systematically destroyed more than 4,000 lobster traps set by native people.

At the time, the federal government said the native traps were legal. However since then, Fisheries Minister Herb Dhaliwal has decided they pose a conservation threat to lobster and has ordered Burnt Church to remove all but 40 traps in the fall. Dhaliwal has come under harsh criticism from both sides for his handling of the issue, which has several times flared into violent conflicts that left people recuperating in hospital. In a recent interview, Dhaliwal said Ottawa has done a good job of smoothing the waters since the Supreme Court's controversial decision came down.

Dhaliwal pointed out that only two of the Maritimes' 35 bands are actively fighting his government over the issue. Burnt Church continues to fish in defiance of federal authority and Nova Scotia's Indian Brook First Nation has challenged Dhaliwal's strategy in court. Most of the other bands have signed one-year agreements that see them fish in the regular season in exchange for hefty payments from Ottawa. "Those agreements are a foundation to build on," Dhaliwal said. "I've worked extremely hard on getting agreements and helping aboriginal people. Frankly, I think we've done a great job."

Not many people on either side here agreed with that statement yesterday. More than 1,000 commercial fishermen, their friends, relatives and neighbours, met for two hours yesterday afternoon in a rally that was fuelled by rage. The biggest cheers came for speakers who urged the crowd to repeat the raid of last year and destroy the native lobster traps on their own. "It is the wrong thing to do, but it is the only thing that will work," warned Guy Cormier.

Others complained of feeling like prisoners in their own homes and said they are intimidated by members of the Warrior Society who stand guard at the wharf in fatigues, often with their faces covered by bandanas. "We are told to stand back and let them have the wharf, well I'm not gonna," said Michele Morrison, the wife of a local fishermen who is charged with assaulting a native man after last fall's raid. "When we speak the truth, we are labelled racist and that's not fair. The government is teaching our children that people can break the law and get away with it."

Fishermen came from around the region and P.E.I. to attend the rally. At the Burnt Church reserve last night, a group of B.C. chiefs stopped by to offer their encouragement. And several carloads of warriors from other Maritimes reserves arrived to swell the ranks of warriors who have been here for weeks. Ward, who has set up tents in a field for the warriors, said the fight is about power, not lobster.



September 17, 2000 ===========================


Rae Issues Ultimatum In Burnt Church Dispute

September 17, 2000

NEGUAC, N.B. - After being warned that a bloody confrontation over native fishing rights in New Brunswick is possible within days, mediator Bob Rae set a deadline Sunday to settle the dispute.

The former premier of Ontario said he will pull out of the talks by Tuesday unless there's a breakthrough.

He made the comments after a heated meeting with non-native fishermen in the Acadian village of Neguac.

They're furious over a native lobster fishery set up by the Burnt Church band in nearby Miramichi Bay.

"I've been here for nearly a week," Rae said. "If there continues to be a profound philosophical difference of opinion, that's not something that's going to be settled by mediation."

More than 1,000 people crammed into an arena in Neguac to complain about Ottawa's failure to regulate the Burnt Church band's fishery. They want one set of rules for everyone.

Saying their livelihood is at stake, some predicted that a violent showdown is possible within the next few days.

"We're not going to wait 10 years, we're not going to wait 10 days," one fisherman said, as the crowd cheered. "We're going to wait a little bit longer my friend, then we're coming down the road."

"There could be bloodshed," warned another.

Federal officials have urged commercial fishermen not to take the law into their own hands again, the way they did last fall when native lobster traps were destroyed.

The Mi'kmaq fishermen, meanwhile, have vowed to defend their right to put as many lobster traps in the water as they want all year round. They too have warned that someone might get hurt or killed.

Last September, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled old treaties give them the right to earn a moderate living from hunting and fishing. But in a later clarification, it said Ottawa has the right to set rules on the grounds of conservation.

Rae has called the size of the Burnt Church band's fishery "problematic" because of concern that too many traps are being put into the water in the fall - six months before the main commercial lobster season opens.


M�kmaq Net -
M� -
Mawi�mi -
Aw�kejit -

Sept. 13, 2000 ===========================


Gathering Place First Nations,Ca
Confrontations endangers mediator's role

Sept. 13, 2000
From: "Gathering Place First Nations,Ca"

BURNT CHURCH, N.B. - About two dozen angry native women and some children have occupied the federal fisheries office in Tracadie. They walked into the building late Wednesday afternoon, demanding the return of seized lobster traps and boats. The women say they're not leaving until they get what they want.

Federal employees have called police, who say so far, the protest is peaceful.

Meanwhile, mediator Bob Rae admits tension in the area makes his task of getting both sides together more difficult.

Bob Rae's reaction as mediator

On one side, native fishermen say they're still willing to talk with him, but are demanding a public inquiry into federal action Tuesday that led to arrests and boat seizures.

Fisheries Minister Herb Dhaliwal, however, says if the Burnt Church band is serious about finding a solution to the impasse, they'd stop putting more and more lobster traps in the water. He says there are still more than 2,000 illegal traps in the waters of Miramichi.

It was illegal traps that led to Tuesday's raid by fisheries officials and the RCMP. When native boats confronted them, federal officals arrested 16 natives, including Burnt Church chief Wilbur Dedam. As well, four native boats were seized and one fisherman injured.

Michelle Guenard looks at the mood in Burnt Church. Karen Somerville of the Burnt Church band says one of their boats was rammed by a federal vessel and four people thrown in the water. She says a public inquiry should be held into actions taken by the RCMP and DFO officials.

Police deny boat ramming

RCMP Sgt. Roger Somers says video footage of the boat seizures and arrests are being reviewed, but he believes officers are not to blame for the capsizing.

Copyright � 2000 CBC All Rights Reserved


CP Rail blockade

September 13, 2000
CBC Vancouver

VANCOUVER - About three dozen natives blocked a CP Rail line near Chase, B.C. Wednesday to show support for the Burnt Church band of Mi'kmaq natives.

Members of the Interior Alliance were protesting against Tuesday's arrest of 16 Mi'kmaq natives for fishing in waters off New Brunswick. They say the Mi'kmaq have a legitimate treaty right to fish and feed their families. The Mi'kmaq band is locked in a dispute with Ottawa over lobster fishing rights.

One Alliance member, Richard Manual, says he placed his own fishing boat across the train tracks to show his support.

"When the federal government does utilize heavy handed tactics to suppress and try to deal with sensitive issues, the Interior Alliance will respond," says Manual.

He says CP Rail was notified about the blockade in advance.


Native protest
Blockade erected on railway line

Sept. 13, 2000

PENTICTON (CKOR) - The Okanagan Nation Alliance has put up a blockade of the CP railway line on the Neskonlith reserve near Chase. The blockade is to protest the actions of officers from the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans against members of the Burnt Church reserve in New Brunswick. Four fishing boats were seized and 14 people were arrested Tuesday, including the chief of the Burnt Church First Nation.

Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, said he is outraged by the government's use of force, saying there is no logical reason for it.

"All these people are doing is exercising their treaty rights to fish to feed their families, and we believe that use of deadly excessive force is totally unwarranted and unacceptable."

Turtle Island Native Network
Aboriginal News & Information

September 12th, 2000 ===========================


September 12th, 2000

Dakota Ojibway Tribal Council Chiefs
call on the Prime Minister
to intervene in Burnt Church

The Dakota Ojibway Tribal Council is calling on Prime Minister Chr�tien to become personally involved in the search for a peaceful solution to the lobster fisheries dispute at Burnt Church, New Brunswick.

The DOTC Council of Chiefs urge the Prime Minister to take advantage of the offer of mediators from the first nations' and broader community "to diffuse the volatile and hostile situation" before further escalation puts lives in danger.

Chief Ken Whitecloud, Chairman of the DOTC Council of Chiefs stated, "It is apparent to all of us that the situation has been out of control from dayone under the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans."

"We are insisting that the Prime Minister personally intervene...(and) that the federal government consult and negotiate and in good faith with the Mi'kmaq Nation."

"The honour of the Crown is at stake." Stated Chief Ken Whitecloud.

The Supreme Court of Canada affirmed last September the treaty right of Mi'kmaq, Maliseet and Passamaquoddy natives to earn a moderate living from fishing, hunting and gathering.

The Dakota Ojibway Tribal Council also concurs with the lawyers who are of the opinion that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has made a serious error in its interpretation of the law in the Marshall decision.

With their practical, extensive knowledge in the area of Aboriginal and Treaty rights, these lawyers have rightly declared that the government has misinterpreted the law.

This error has been compounded by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans' overreaction to the situation at Burnt Church, New Brunswick.

The Fisheries Minister acts as if the federal government has an absolute right to regulate the Treaty fishery in Atlantic Canada.

It does not have that right.

In fact the Department only has a limited ability to regulate the Treaty fishery.

In order for it to exercise that function it must meet specific criteria. Based on public statements issued by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Minister has failed to disclose sufficient information to meet the necessary criteria in the Burnt Church situation.

In its clarification of the Marshall decision the Supreme Court of Canada said that the government must establish that the limitations on the Treaty right are imposed for a pressing and substantial public purpose.

However, first there must be consultation with the First Nations concerned. Limitations must go no further than is required.

The concerns and proposals of the Mi'kmaq communities must be taken into account.

Different techniques of conservation and management may apply to First Nations' exercise of the Treaty right. The actions of the Department are contrary to the Marshall decision's requirements.

DOTC also supports the need for the Mi'kmaq people from the Indian Brook reserve to continue fishing lobster in St. Marys Bay while awaiting a Federal Court ruling.

Lastly, we concur with our National Chief, Mathew Coon Come's view that the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is attempting to divide First Nations on the dispute and further attempting to turn public opinion against them, in a bid to exclude them from their inherent right to share the East Coast fishery.

We echo the words of our National Chief�. "We are here to stay. We want access and a share in the wealth of this land and the public and the Canadian Government must decide whether they're going to lock us out, or whether we're going to receive our fair share of those natural resources from our lands. Burnt Church, Indian Brook, these are symptoms of a larger problem and they will not go away. For we as first nations are demanding a fair share in the natural resources, for the fish, for the treaties, for the minerals, and even for the water. The status quo has not solved our high unemployment in our communities, of our poverty. The status quo is unacceptable. This is a new millennium. We need new approaches, new initiatives."

For more information, contact:

    Chief Ken Whitecloud, Chairman
    Council of Chiefs
    Dakota Ojibway Tribal Council
    Telephone: (204) 988-5370



BULLETIN --- Mi'kmaq arrested, including the Chief of the Burnt

Church First Nation. More boats have been seized by Federal Fisheries officers in another raid in Miramichi bay, New Brunswick. Fourteen people have been arrested including Chief Wilbur Dedam. One boat capsized. One Native fisherman was injured.

Turtle Island Native Network, Aboriginal News & Information, E-mail:
From: John Shafer


September 12, 2000

Fisheries department clamps down Arrests,
boats seized during raid at Burnt Church reserve

BURNT CHURCH, N.B. (CP) -- Up to 14 people were taken into custody Tuesday as the Department of Fisheries seized boats from several native bands in waters off New Brunswick's Burnt Church reserve. A native official said Burnt Church Chief Wilbur Dedam was among those arrested, but Fisheries spokesman Jim Jones said he couldn't confirm that.

Fisheries officials say those accused will face charges under the Criminal Code and Fisheries Act for fishing illegally. "Some will undoubtedly face a number of charges," Jones said from Moncton, N.B.

One of the native boats capsized during the raid, dumping four people into Miramichi Bay, the scene of an ongoing dispute over native lobster fishing. Jones said one native fisherman was apparently hurt in the raid. Four boats were seized. Two belong to the Big Cove reserve, located north of Moncton. The others are from Burnt Church and Quebec. Former Ontario premier Bob Rae said Tuesday he hoped the seizures wouldn't affect the proposed mediation process he will be leading.

"Clearly, there is a very real difference of opinion between the parties about what the law is," said Rae. "There is a difference of opinion about the fishery itself and there is a need to find common ground. It's not going to be easy. I still think, however, there is a need to find this common ground."

Jones said there was an urgency to the seizures since it appeared to officials that natives were stepping up their presence on the water.

"The level of activity and the marked increase in the level of activity that has occurred in last few days is a greater complicating factor," said Jones.

Police were also investigating a boat-burning incident which may be linked to the native fishing dispute at Burnt Church. RCMP in Bouctouche, N.B., confirmed Tuesday there was an investigation under way into the burning of a lobster boat which had been purchased by an off-reserve Mi'kmaq group for use by natives at Burnt Church. John Williams, spokesman for the coalition of status and non-status natives, said the burning appeared to be arson and his group suspected non-native fishermen were behind the incident, which happened in the early morning hours of last Friday.

"It was well known the boat was intended for use at Burnt Church," Williams said. "We had threatening phone calls saying that if we got involved in that, we'd lose the boat and there would be trouble. Now it's gone."

The boat was registered to Alvin Petitpas, an off-reserve Mi'kmaq. He said there was no insurance on the 13-metre boat, which was completely gutted.

"Some people are totally against the native fishery," Petitpas said, adding that he didn't believe the RCMP were aggressively investigating the incident.

The flare-ups were just the latest in a series of sometimes violent confrontations between federal fisheries officials and natives from Burnt Church.

Natives say they have treaty rights to fish year-round and without federal licences. Ottawa claims the fishery is illegal and that they have to follow the same rules as non-native fishermen.

September 08, 2000 ===========================


Friday, September 08, 2000

7:45 p.m.
"Interview with re-elected Penticton Indian Band Chief Stewart Phillip."
Host Lynne Trebasket

CFNR: Do join us now as we hear from the president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, Chief Stewart Phillip. He's also most recently re-elected as the Chief of the Penticton Indian Band. He talks to us today about a number of issues, including Burnt Church.

I guess first of all, congratulations. You've just been re-elected as chief of the Penticton Indian band?

PHILLIP: Yes, that's right. Our elections were held on the 5th, on Tuesday. And I was returned to office by a substantial margin, so I'm quite happy about that. I was re-elected on the basis of the record of band council activities for the last four years. But the interesting point to note is we were able to balance our economic and political agendas, without compromising either. I noticed that some communities tend to focus on the economic agenda, at the expense of compromising their political agenda, and we were able to advance both agendas, concurrently. Well needless to say, both the Penticton Indian Band, and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, and the Okanagan Nation fully support the Mi'kmaq people of Burnt Church, and their defence of their aboriginal right to gain a livelihood through the lobster fishery. We're deeply concerned about the developments that we're witnessing on TV. And I think aboriginal people in British Columbia have a duty and an obligation to be prepared to fully support the Burnt Church people, in the event that DFO continues with their heavy-handed enforcement, or on the other hand, if the non-native fishermen undertake vigilante action, in an attempt to stop the Burnt Church people from practising what is their legal, constitutional and treaty right to the lobster fishery.

CFNR: Now I understand the peoples were so upset about what was happening with Burnt Church, with the sinking of their boats, and the fishermen having to jump into the water to save their lives, that you did come together in Kamloops at the DFO offices, and host a demonstration?

PHILLIP: Yes. We staged a rally and a demonstration in front of the DFO offices, in Kamloops, and served notice on DFO that in the event that the savage attacks continue on the Burnt Church people at the hands of the DFO officials, that we're not going to stand idly by and watch that kind of brutality continue. IF those tacts continue and persist, the Interior Alliance has made it abundantly clear that we're prepared to take action, here in British Columbia. And what was discussed at a strategy meeting after the demonstration, was the - I suppose contingency planning to shut down the national rail lines.

CFNR: Is that a step that would be taken if the DFO doesn't back down and stop the attacks on the Mi'kmaq?

PHILLIP: Well I think that as aboriginal people of this province we have to recognise an attack on the people of Burnt Church, an attack on their aboriginal rights. It's an attack on our aboriginal rights, out here in BC. And we have a duty and an obligation to stand by those people in Burnt Church, and to undertake whatever political, legal, or direct action activities are necessary to send a clear signal to the federal government that we will not stand idly by and allow our people to be savagely attacked by a government-sponsored enforcement agency.

CFNR: Now when you look at - like the past few days' activities at Burnt Church, and the - you know, the possibility of the vigilante action on the Miq Ma'q on behalf of the other fishers in Eastern Canada, have you had the chance to look at - you know, what are the possibilities there, and how would you be able to help - you know, if there was vigilante action against indigenous peoples - the Miq Ma'q Nation?

PHILLIP: Well I think that there are many, many aboriginal communities in British Columbia that are closely monitoring the situation at Burnt Church. And I also believe that many native communities across Canada are also participating in this political vigil, if you will. And I don't think anyone is prepared to [?] continued attack on the people of Burnt Church. I was in contact with them today by telephone, and we have been maintaining that type of contact here, in Penticton, with the people. We know a couple of individuals from British Columbia that are out there, assisting the warriors. And we're able to talk to them on a daily basis, to find how the activities are escalating and what we might expect. Again, I think that the bands and the tribal councils and native organisations in British Columbia have to be prepared to act immediately, in the event that the Burnt Church people are once again attacked by DFO, or if a vigilante action takes place. I do not believe we have time to sit around and contemplate our navels. We need to begin to develop contingency plans that we will be in a position to execute, at the moment that something happens back there, that represents a continued assault on the Burnt Church people. Again, one has to understand the fact that what's happening in Burnt Church is the aboriginal people are exercising their treaty rights. They're exercising their aboriginal rights,which are entrenched in the Constitution of this country, and they're exercising rights that are acknowledged in Supreme Court decisions of this country. And unfortunately, the federal government, the Department of Fisheries and other authorities seem to feel that they're above the law, and they don't have to recognise our aboriginal rights and our attempt to enforce a jurisdiction that they have no right to enforce. And they're undertaking their enforcement activities in a very brutal fashion. And we're simply not going to tolerate that. We've discussed that issue at great length here, in the Interior of BC. And the consensus of opinion is that the national rail lines represents a national target, and it has less impact on the travelling public of British Columbia, with respect to possibly setting up a series of road blockades. So the national rail lines is a national target and would send a national message to the Prime Minister's office, as well as to the Ministry of Fisheries - Herb Dhaliwal.

CFNR: Do people need to be contacting these offices - Herb Dhaliwal, DFO, the Prime Minister, and - you know, telling them to - you know, abide by the treaties that were signed, so many years ago?

PHILLIP: Well I know here in Penticton, and through the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, and the Interior Alliance, we've been sending numerous letters to both the Prime Minister, and to Herb Dhaliwal's office, and we've been issuing a number of press statements. But I think that the critical period is going to be if there's an enforcement action - a heavy-handed enforcement action, we need to go far beyond issuing press statements and sending letters; we need to physically demonstrate our intolerance to that kind of action, taken on the part of federal government officials. Well I'm thinking that given the fact that the native communities across this country are closely monitoring the situation at Burnt Church, there's no doubt in my mind that other native communities, other native organisations across this country are contemplating some form of action that they can take, in the event that there's open hostilities break out. I think we've learned our lessons of the Mohawk crisis, and we need to arrest this situation at the early stages, before it develops into another Oka standoff. And one of the ways that we can do that is by demonstrating to the federal government that we stand united on this issue at Burnt Church, and we're prepared to act in unison, across this country.

CFNR: We were speaking the other day - so last week, with a gentleman - a band member of the Penticton Indian Band. And he says that we can no longer allow authorities, whether they're the DFO, the police, the conservation officers, or anybody else; we can not allow them no longer to beat on us, or to be - in his words 'murdering our people'. And is this part of the statement that might be made to the public, that what these people are doing is simply abiding by their treaty?

PHILLIP: Absolutely. And you know, I recall - I was at the Assembly of First Nations' leadership conference, in Ottawa, when Matthew Coon Come was elected as national chief. And as national chief, the first words that came out of his mouth when he took the podium to make his victory speech, was that Canada has to begin to respect the law of the land. That Canada has to begin to respect the rule of law, rather than violating their own system of laws, handed down by their own Supreme Court, and infringing on our aboriginal rights. There's a huge issue here, not only in British Columbia, but across this country, that is about to erupt, and that's the federal gun legislation. We see it as an outright infringement on our aboriginal right to hunt. And in the event that the provincial agencies attempt a heavy-handed enforcement of the federal gun legislation, there's going to be very serious trouble develop. And the organisations such as the UBCIC, and the Interior Alliance, and the Okanagan Nation Alliance, are setting the stage to undertake legal [?] and to file a suit to challenge the federal gun control legislation, and take the matter to the courts and have it heard, eventually at the Supreme Court of Canada level. And that's going to take place very, very soon.

CFNR: When you look at some of these issues, it seems to be like a parallel thing happening here. On the one hand you've got Canadian laws, yet on the other hand you've got aboriginal rights and title. Both are legal, but they seem to criss-cross in areas of fisheries, of accessing hunting and other areas as well, sometimes logging. And where they criss-cross or they touch,rather than running parallel, it's the federal government not abiding by their own laws, or it's the aboriginal peoples trying to straighten out that line and implement their aboriginal rights and title. And it seems the aboriginal peoples are always the one who get the rough end of the stick when these two lines cross. And even back East, in Burnt Church, I remember one woman saying 'There's two laws in Canada: there's the federal laws and then there's these laws that the indigenous people have, that they are two separate nations: one is the state and the other is a complete nation. Can these two laws live side by side, in a peaceful manner?

PHILLIP: Yes. I believe that there can be harmonisation of aboriginal law, aboriginal rights, and Crown rights and Crown interests. However, the political will must exist within the federal government and the provincial government, to work towards that end. At the moment, there's absolutely no political will within the provincial governments or the federal governments,and those governments are acting as though we were acting in the 1950's,rather than the 21st century, where we have a series of Supreme Court decisions that affirm aboriginal rights. We have aboriginal rights entrenched in the Canadian Constitution, and yet these governments simply fail to abide by their own system of laws. And in my view, it's largely based on the inherent racism that exists in this country.

CFNR: Does it seem as though the laws get bent in their favour, when it comes to dealing with aboriginal rights and title and resource issues?

PHILLIP: Well I think if we allow that to happen, that's - you know, that's what will take place. But I think there are many communities, such as Penticton, Adams Lake, the Neskonlith - communities like Burnt Church, that simply will not allow our rights to be infringed upon and trampled. And I believe that there are more and more native communities beginning to realise that government does not have the political will to negotiate in good faith, to reconcile aboriginal Crown interests. That's certainly been proven here, in British Columbia, where after seven years of intense negotiations, the only result we have is the First Nations groups are hundreds of millions of dollars in debt, and the federal and provincial governments are not willing to negotiate in good faith, and advance offers that are anywhere near acceptable. So we have a very serious situation developing across this country, from - directly as a consequence of both levels of government denying the aboriginal treaty rights of the aboriginal people of this country. And given the fact of our demographics and the tremendous pressures in our community, the impoverishment of our communities across this country, we have a very volatile situation developing.

CFNR: Is there a way to get this information out, into the international community, so they have a complete understanding of what's going on?

PHILLIP: Well I think that the politics of the aboriginal people in Canada has advanced to the point where there are a lot of inroads being made into the international community. Here in the Interior, due to the efforts of Chief Arthur Manuel of the Neskonlith Band, and Art is also the spokesperson and chairman of the Interior Alliance, he has made a number of trips, not only to the United Nations in New York, and Washington, DC, but also he's been overseas in Geneva, carrying the message of the abuse and denial of our aboriginal rights, here in Canada. And I believe that through these very powerful and articulate spokespeople, that the message is beginning to get out, that Canada isn't cracked up to what - it likes to portray this image that - you know, that Canada has, in fact, a just society. Nothing could be further from the truth.

CFNR: Now when you look at the impoverishment of the peoples, I understand there were two surveys done at the United Nations' level. In one survey, aboriginal peoples were at level 48, but Canada is up there at level 1. In another survey, a gentleman told me that indigenous peoples - aboriginal peoples of Canada were at level 68 - 67-68, yet other Canadians were at 1. Like the top living conditions in the world, and yet aboriginal peoples are way down there at the bottom. And for an aboriginal person, who is treaty, like the Miq Ma'q - you know, a couple of lobster - feed their family, and put themselves up a little higher on the rung; it's their land, its; their territory. Why is there such a big fuss when indigenous peoples try to step towards just a little bit better standard of living?

PHILLIP: Well aboriginal people are speaking very loudly, and they're saying 'We're sick and tired of poverty. We're sick and tired of massive unemployment. We're sick and tired of economic marginalisation and economic racism.' Our populations are growing exponentially. There's a tremendous amount of pent up demand in our communities, and it's directly due to the fact that the government policies deny us access to our lands and resources. And this is an intolerable situation. The logging disputes here in British Columbia, the fishing disputes along the Fraser River, and the lobster fishery dispute back East all have a fundamental economic component attached to these disputes. We're simply saying that we have a right to access land and resources and provide our people with a standard of living that is comparable to the rest of this country. And the fact and reality of the matter is that is not happening today. We're not talking about history. We're not talking about the residential school system decades ago, we're talking about here and now. And we're being economically marginalised, and we're saying enough is enough. That has got to stop.

CFNR: Exactly. Our guest today is the Chief of the Penticton Indian Band. He's the president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. Our guest is Chief Stewart Phillip. Do you have any final comments you'd like to share with us, before you go today?

PHILLIP: No, I don't think so.

CFNR: Thank you for your time.

PHILLIP: OK. Thank you.

-------- Turtle Island Native Network
Aboriginal News & Information


September 7, 2000 ===========================


Burnt Church natives doubt they will get justice in court

Canadian Press with Globe and Mail Update
September 7, 2000

Neguac, N.B. � New Brunswick natives from the Burnt Church reserve have taken their case for fishing rights from Miramichi Bay to a courtroom, but they doubt they'll find justice in the Canadian legal system.

At least a dozen men and women from the embattled reserve in northeastern New Brunswick stood before a provincial court judge Thursday to answer to charges arising from the often-violent dispute over aboriginal lobster fishing in Miramichi Bay.

The charges range from obstruction, mischief and illegal fishing under the Fisheries Act to assaults against fisheries officers under the Criminal Code.

"I think it sucks," Burnt Church resident Martina Parker said when asked what she thought of the process as she left court. Ms. Parker is charged with obstructing a fisheries officer. "I'm not going to enter a plea. I didn't do nothing wrong."

The mood was unruly and volatile in the tiny courtroom in Neguac, near Burnt Church. The proceedings got off to a bad start when Judge Denis Lordon asked a native man standing at the back of the court to remove his ball cap. The man refused but Judge Lordon insisted, saying he had to show respect for the judicial system.

"When are you going to show us some respect?" the man said, grudgingly removing the cap.

Some of the accused did not appear on time and when the judge asked where they were, people in the court shouted they had gone fishing.

Judge Lordon held off taking pleas once it became obvious that most of the people charged did not have lawyers. They have been ordered to appear again on Oct. 5.

Outside the court, defiant natives made it clear that they have no respect for the legal system. There were angry references to the case of a native man, Dudley George, who was shot to death by police five years ago. He was among a group of aboriginal protesters who occupied Ipperwash Provincial Park near Sarnia, Ont., saying it was a sacred burial ground.

"No one here has any faith in the judicial system," said Burnt Church spokesman James Ward, who is facing four charges.

Many of the native people charged wanted to know what has happened to their complaints against fisheries officers in connection with the violence on Miramichi Bay.

The federal Department of Fisheries has carried out several seizures of native lobster traps in the past few weeks, hoping to force an end to what Ottawa considers an illegal fishery.

The confrontations between fisheries officers and natives have occasionally been dangerous, with boats dodging, duelling and charging at each other. At least two fisheries officers were hit with rocks thrown by natives.

Dominique Benoit, a fisheries officer who was injured in an Aug. 22 confrontation in which he was struck in the face with a rock and suffered a fractured cheekbone and a broken nose, is said to be recovering.

Several native people have reported minor injuries; two of their boats sank during one fray and a number of native boats have been damaged in collisions.

RCMP Sergeant Roger Sommers said Thursday police are investigating the native complaints. Sgt. Sommers said the RCMP has appealed to the reserve to supply witnesses and any videotape it has of the incidents. He said the investigation probably will take several months.

Mr. Ward said people on the Mi'kmaq reserve are skeptical that anything will come of the police inquiries.

"These are sister law-enforcement organizations," he said of the RCMP and the federal Fisheries Department. "They'll cover each other's ass."

Meanwhile, Fisheries and Oceans Minister Herb Dhaliwal remained firm in his commitment to regulate the fisheries industry Thursday but said he is still open to work out an agreement with Burnt Church natives.

Speaking at a Winnipeg news conference, Mr. Dhaliwal reaffirmed his authority to regulate the fishery, and his adherence to the Supreme Court of Canada's constitutional decision last year granting the treaty right of the Mi'kmaqs to earn a moderate livelihood from fishing.

Mr. Dhaliwal said the DFO has been "patient, flexible and reasonable. We have done everything possible to reach a negotiated outcome." But he did not give further answers as to how that outcome could be reached.

The minister emphasized that he is still open to negotiation, but he disagreed with Burnt Church natives choosing two mediators unilaterally � leaving the dispute without a mediator.

Mr. Dhaliwal also said the Burnt Church natives would not agree to a cooling-off period "during which my department would not enforce, and the level of fishing effort permitted would be determined by the mutually agreed mediator."

He outlined his reasons for the fishery to be regulated � including ensuring the conservation of marine species and the need to protect the interest of both native and non-native fishermen, which provides employment for many individuals in Atlantic Canada.

He said the fishermen from the Burnt Church reserve who plan to set 5,600 lobster traps this fall will cause a depletion of the resource for other local members of the fishing industry.

A Nova Scotia group of fishermen from the Indian Brook band spent Thursday trying to obtain a court order from the Federal Court of Canada to prevent fisheries officers from seizing gear and allowing its fishermen to set lobster traps in St. Marys Bay, N.S. until Oct. 15.

However, Mr. Dhaliwal said the DFO is confident it has complied fully with the Supreme Court decision.



Fisheries and Oceans Makes Legal Error at Burnt Church

OTTAWA, Sept. 7 /CNW/ - The undersigned lawyers, all with practical, extensive knowledge in the area of Aboriginal and Treaty rights, are of the opinion that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has made a serious error of law in its interpretation of the Marshall decision. This error has been compounded by its overreaction to the situation at Burnt Church, New Brunswick.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans acts as if it has an absolute right to regulate the Treaty fishery in Atlantic Canada. It does not have that right. In fact the Department has a limited ability to regulate the Treaty fishery. In order for it to exercise that function it must meet specific criteria. Based on public statements issued by the

Department, the Minister has failed to disclose sufficient information to meet the necessary criteria in the Burnt Church situation.

In its clarification of the Marshall decision the Supreme Court of Canada said that the government must establish that the limitations on the Treaty right are imposed for a pressing and substantial public purpose. However, first there must be consultation with the Aboriginal People concerned. Limitations must go no further than is required. The concerns and proposals of Native communities must be taken into account.

Different techniques of conservation and management may apply to an Aboriginal Peoples' exercise of the Treaty right.

The actions of the Department are contrary to the Marshall decision's requirements.

Joanna Birenbaum; Suzanne Birks D Jur.; D. Bruce Clarke; Tracey Cutcliffe; David English; Olivier Fuldauer; Nigel G. Gilby; Stuart C.B. Gilby; Colin Gillespie; Ron S. Maurice; Candice S. Metallic; Martha Montour; Guy Morin; James O'Reilly; Andrew Orkin; Sara Thibodeau; H�l�ne "Sioui" Trudel; Bruce Wildsmith; Kenneth J. Winch; Eric Zscheile.



Shut down native fishery in Nova Scotia, Ottawa told

September 7, 2000
Canadian Press

Yarmouth, N.S. - About 200 commercial fishermen and politicians gathered on the Yarmouth waterfront Wednesday to urge Ottawa to end the native lobster fishery.

Municipal officials from Yarmouth and other areas along the province's south shore said natives are destroying the lobster stocks by fishing out of season and outside government regulations.

Non-native fishermen angrily accused Ottawa of applying two different sets of rules on the fishery - one for them and one for aboriginals.

"You mean to tell me I could go up to Indian Brook and do what the natives are doing up there and I wouldn't be behind bars?" said Yarmouth fisherman Frank Gillis.


Natives from the land-locked Indian Brook reserve near Shubenacadie, N.S., have been fishing in St. Mary's Bay near Yarmouth for months. Several of the band's boats and gear have been seized by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in recent weeks because they do not bear tags issued by DFO. Fishermen said there were still a couple of native boats out in the bay.

The commercial fishermen want DFO to clamp down on what they say is an illegal fishery. Otherwise, they say there could be confrontations like those seen in Burnt Church, N.B., where natives have clashed with fisheries officials for weeks over the management of the lobster fishery.

"Two nations fishing on the same grounds under different rules and regulations is just a recipe for one of the biggest civil wars you ever seen on this coast," fisherman Harold Theriault said on the Yarmouth wharf.

The aboriginals say they have a treaty right to fish lobster since the Supreme Court of Canada handed down a decision last September that gave natives the right to earn a moderate living from fishing, hunting and gathering.

A subsequent clarification said Ottawa had the right to regulate the fishery.

Leaders from the Indian Brook bank were to appear in Federal Court in Halifax on Thursday in a bid to get an injunction to stop the trap seizures.

"We have to try to do it peacefully in the court system," said Indian Brook Chief Reg Maloney. "Our resolve is quite strong."

Non-native fishermen in the region say the native fishery could devastate the industry, worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

In Halifax, the head of the Assembly of First Nations said natives will continue to fight for their treaty right to harvest lobster and other resources, including lumber and minerals.

"We want access and a share in the wealth of this land," Matthew Coon Come said at a meeting of native chiefs on Wednesday. "The Canadian government must decide whether they're going to lock us out or if we're going to receive our fair of those natural resources."

September 1, 2000

Sent by Mikmaq Support Council

Oceans Apart in Canada

By DeNeen L. Brown
Washington Post Foreign Service
September 1, 2000 ; A01

BURNT CHURCH, New Brunswick, Aug. 31 -- Long before the sun swept over Miramichi Bay, the government fishing regulators appeared. They began pulling up lobster traps that belonged to native fishermen, and the battle suddenly got ugly between the people who say they were here first and those who came later and now govern.

The Indian fishermen jumped into their boats and headed out into the waters off New Brunswick to save their traps. Officials in boats owned by the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) rammed the Indians' smaller boats, squeezing them, picking up speed, charging and knocking the Indians into the chilly waters of the bay. The Indians threw rocks, shattering one official's jaw, and the fisheries regulators fought back with pepper spray and steel batons, beating the Indians down.

The clash Tuesday might have ended as a "they-said-he-said" dispute. But an amateur photographer standing on the rocky shore captured it on videotape, arousing outrage among many people in Canada. Some Canadians are embarrassed, saying that the actions conflict with the country's reputation for peaceful ways. Others say the Indians are Canadians and are subject to Canadian law.

The explosive conflict on this bay on Canada's east coast is the latest chapter in the country's long and often sad struggle to deal with its native population. Like that of the United States, Canada's record is far from glorious; Indian organizations complain their people have suffered from years of neglect, paternalism and despoliation.

The video of the clash has been shown over and over on Canadian television, capturing government boats pushing through the water, capsizing two Indian boats and forcing the fishermen to jump. Now the native people of Burnt Church say the Canadian fishing enforcers should be charged with attempted murder, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police has launched an investigation. Two Indians were injured.

"This is no longer an enforcement issue" said Wilbur Dedam, chief of the Burnt Church First Nation, a community of native people. "Film footage and witness statements clearly show that the officers deliberately and willfully charged at the boat and sank it."

Paul Alvery, 40, a Burnt Church council member, said he got a call that morning from his sister. She was worried about her husband, who had gone out to protect his traps. "When we got to the wharf, we seen about 25 DFO boats," said Alvery, standing on the wharf recalling what happened. "We pulled out our boat to go look for my brother-in-law. We got about three miles out, and the DFO intercepted us."

As he spoke, another boat headed out into the bay to drop lobster traps, defying DFO warnings.

"A DFO boat came in on the left side of my boat," he continued. "Two came side by side, squeezing the boat together. A third came in front and rammed me on the left of my boat. My windshield cracked. I grabbed the wheel and gave full throttle. They were really aiming to do damage not just to our boat, but to us."

The indigenous people of Burnt Church, a small reservation of about 1,300 people, have been entangled in a battle with the federal government over lobster fishing in the bay since Aug. 10, when they defied government regulations requiring them to obtain a license to catch lobsters from the bay. They say they don't need a Canadian government license to fish, arguing they have the right to manage the lobster fishery themselves. They note they have a treaty going back 240 years that confirms "free liberty of hunting and fishing as usual" and freedom to sell goods in exchange for "good harmony" and "peace."

The government says the natives' fishing rights under the treaty are subject to federal limits and has been raiding native fishing grounds to enforce its rules. Federal officers have confiscated more than 2,000 lobster traps owned by native fishermen. Two fishermen have been arrested, charged with obstructing government regulators as they pulled up traps.

Herb Dhaliwal, the federal fisheries minister, has said that the government will conduct an internal investigation into the boat-ramming incident. "The government of Canada prefers dialogue to confrontation and conflict," Dhaliwal said.

He explained the fisheries officers were doing their duty by removing illegal lobster traps and said the native fishermen were trying to interfere with the officers. He said the government has made many attempts to negotiate with the native fishermen but that they all failed. "Under these circumstances," he said, "only one course of action remained. . . . Enforcement action has to be taken to end the unauthorized fishing."

Lloyd Augustine, hereditary chief of the Mi'kmaq Grand Council, which governs Mi'kmaq territory in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, parts of Newfoundland, Quebec, New Brunswick and Maine, says a Supreme Court of Canada decision last year gives native people the right to manage their own fishery and make a reasonable living from fishing.

Therein lies the conflict.

Augustine is 43. He is wearing a white shirt over which a single black braid is tossed and tied with tan leather. Wisps of hair have come untucked and frame his face. He was born and raised in this territory, where there are houses with wooden stairs and wooden doors. Dogs with wild-blue eyes roam freely. There is a small, new brown brick school with tinted windows and a learning center. There is a Roman Catholic church with a white steeple and a statue of the Virgin Mary out front. Most indigenous people here, Augustine says, have accepted Catholicism but practice a native spirituality.

"We have a belief in the Creator and a belief that all things have a spirit as life," he said. "When you see things in that manner, you are more likely to treat them with respect. When you realize everything is connected."

At the wheel of his blue car, the chief pulls into what they call the Point, which has become a look-out for government boats, so the native fishermen will know when the officers are coming. There are wigwams and tents. A sacred fire, which the Indians describe as a keeper of the wisdom, is protected by small, round stones. Young people who have come from other tribes throughout Canada are stoking it.

"This is where we have powwows to pass on the teachings," Augustine says. "A sacred fire right there." He points. "We keep that on to keep the community together. As long as this is going on it will go. If it gets too cold, we shut it out."

They started the fire two weeks ago, just as the tensions with Canadian authorities heated up.

"There is a build-up of frustration," he says. "We figured we needed something to calm them down." Laughter, he says, is a good stress reliever. And after the men were knocked from the boats into the water, they laughed. They laughed, claiming a small victory over the government "because they could have been killed."

The Indians say they need those small victories because they have been fighting this battle a long time. And they are losing. But they will not give in. Because to give in would mean they don't exist as a people, that their laws do not matter, their language does not matter, their ancestors do not matter.

"We are taking a beating," Augustine said. "But we have been taking a beating since 1492."

He and other native people say they do not believe Canada has the right to tell them how to hunt, how to gather, how to fish. They also do not believe they are Canadian, but citizens of a larger nation.

"Who would want to be part of an oppressive society?" asked Karen Somerville, a spokeswoman for Burnt Church First Nation.

Augustine said: "I am a citizen of Mi'kmaqkik, a member of Wabanaki Confederacy," an alliance of tribes that stretch from coast to coast in Canada.

Augustine says the native people just want to control and manage their own resources; the government says only that they need a license. And so the stand-off continues.

"We are going to fish," the chief says, bending over to pull an empty lobster trap on the wharf. "They will take our traps. DFO is trying to agitate us to the point where we fight back, and at that point they will criminalize our right. It is the government trying to impose rules on a people, rules that don't work on our people."


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