Our response to the Marshall decisions
Over the past 21 years, the Government of Canada has continued to work on implementing the treaty right to fish, hunt, and gather in pursuit of a moderate livelihood, as set out in the Marshall decisions. Much has been done, including several Fisheries and Oceans Canada initiatives such as the Marshall Response Initiative, the Atlantic Integrated Commercial Fisheries Initiative, and the Rights Reconciliation Agreements process.
Through these initiatives, Fisheries and Oceans Canada has provided over $550 million to the First Nation communities, which has helped to increase Indigenous participation in commercial fisheries and contribute to the pursuit of a moderate livelihood.
Over the years, the Mi’kmaq and Maliseet First Nations have been able to increase their participation in commercial fisheries. They have been able to employ more community members in their fishing enterprises, increase training for these community members, and benefit from higher earnings from fishing:
- In 1999, the value of Indigenous communal commercial landings in the Maritimes and Gaspé region was estimated at $3 million. By 2018, the value of these same landings was $140 million. Additionally, in 2018, these fishing enterprises earned $52 million in indirect fisheries-related revenue.
- The First Nations’ fishing enterprises currently employ almost 1,700 people, of which more than 1,300 are fish harvesters and 358 are land-based employees.
- Each First Nation fishing enterprise has developed and maintains a training plan and to date, over 7,730 days of fisheries training have been delivered to more than 3,475 participants.
- Women make up as much as 33% of the workforce in the First Nations’ fisheries operations, with approximately 10% of fish harvesters being women, and up to 50% of management positions within their fishing enterprises being held by women.
But more work has to be done. And we are working to do it more quickly together with the Mi’kmaq and Maliseet First Nations and the Peskotomuhkati Nation at Skutik, so that they can continue to realize their right to fish in pursuit of a moderate livelihood.
Marshall Response Initiative
Since 1999, Fisheries and Oceans Canada has launched several programs to respond to the Marshall decisions, beginning with the Marshall Response Initiative. Agreements were reached with 32 of the eligible First Nation communities for assets and training to help increase and expand their participation in commercial fisheries. Through the initiative, investments made between 2000 and 2007 provided the First Nations with commercial fishing licences, fishing vessels and gear, and training, all in support of increasing Indigenous participation in commercial fishing. The Marshall Response Initiative ended on March 31, 2007, and was followed by other initiatives.
Atlantic Integrated Commercial Fisheries Initiative
Following the Marshall Response Initiative in 2007, Fisheries and Oceans Canada launched the Atlantic Integrated Commercial Fisheries Initiative. This initiative provides funding and support to the Mi’kmaq and Maliseet First Nations and the Peskotomuhkati Nation at Skutik so that they can continue to build and strengthen their own self-sustaining, communal commercial fishing enterprises.
Through the Atlantic Integrated Commercial Fisheries Initiative, we are increasing First Nations' access to commercial fisheries, providing business management and capacity building support, and helping Indigenous harvesters access training resources. Together, all of this will help First Nations support their community members’ participation in commercial fishing and meet other long-term objectives, including industry expansion, developing additional fisheries-related business opportunities, and increasing community employment.
More than 30 years ago, First Nations in Atlantic Canada and Quebec had only a small share of commercial fisheries licences and quotas. Today, 33 of the 34 First Nations impacted by the Marshall decisions participate in the Atlantic Integrated Commercial Fisheries Initiative.
We have also established complementary programs for Canada’s other coasts: the Pacific Integrated Commercial Fisheries Initiative, which provides funding and support for commercial fisheries and co-management for West Coast First Nations, and the Northern Integrated Commercial Fisheries Initiative, which provides funding and support to Northern Indigenous-owned communal commercial fishing enterprises and aquaculture operations.
Rights Reconciliation Agreements
In the Marshall II decision, the Supreme Court of Canada noted that implementing forward-looking approaches for the treaty right might be best achieved through consultation and negotiation of modern agreements with First Nations. To that end, the Government of Canada has made the negotiation of Rights Reconciliation Agreements a priority – though these Agreements are not the only option available to First Nations seeking to access commercial fisheries.
In 2017, Fisheries and Oceans Canada received a mandate to negotiate time-limited Rights Reconciliation Agreements on fisheries with Mi’kmaq and Maliseet First Nations in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and the Gaspé region of Quebec, as well as with the Peskotomuhkati Nation at Skutik. We continue to negotiate these Agreements, which will recognize the rights and interests of these First Nations and will help further advance their vision of self-determination and economic self-sufficiency.
Each Agreement is intended to be a reflection of the moderate livelihood-fishing needs and interests of a specific Nation and its members. They also aim to outline how we can work together to collaboratively manage fisheries to ensure stability and predictability, for the benefit of everyone.
To date, Fisheries and Oceans Canada has signed three Rights Reconciliation Agreements on fisheries:
- August 15, 2019 – Elsipogtog and Esgenoôpetitj First Nations (New Brunswick)
- August 30, 2019 – Maliseet of Viger First Nation – Wolastoqiyik Wahsipekuk (Quebec)
- April 18, 2021 – Listuguj Mi’gmaq First Nation (Quebec)
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