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Examining the implementation of Indigenous commercial fishing rights

Senate Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans

Briefing for the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans for her June 15, 2021 appearance at POFO

DFO Parliamentary Affairs - June 2021

Table of contents

Opening remarks

Good morning, Mr. Chair. I appreciate the invitation to speak to the honourable members of this committee. I am joining you today [Information was severed in accordance with the Access to Information Act.] in Mi’kma’ki – the traditional, unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq People.

Before I begin, I want to take a moment to say that my thoughts are with Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc (tuh-kam-loops-tuh-she-kwe-pem) First Nation, and with all Indigenous communities across Canada, as the country continues to grieve the loss of the 215 children found buried at the former residential school in Kamloops. [Information was severed in accordance with the Access to Information Act.] This is a horrifying reminder of the work that still needs to be done to advance reconciliation.

I have been following this study and want to thank Senators for undertaking this work and engaging in thoughtful discussions with the many Chiefs and witnesses who have appeared before this committee. I also want to let this Committee know that the Government of Canada fully supports Senator Francis’ Motion 40 that was adopted in the Senate last month. As we have this discussion today, I would be remiss to not recognize the ongoing work of members of this committee—in particular—Senators Christmas and Francis, who come from communities that are directly impacted and who have always been a part of the moderate livelihood discussion. I thank you for your input thus far, and I look forward to comments and suggestions from all members of this committee.

Today, I am accompanied by:

After my brief remarks, my officials and I will be happy to answer your questions.

As federal fisheries minister, it is my responsibility to ensure that our marine resources are managed for the long term and in the public interest. It is also incumbent upon me to advance Canada’s commitments to reconciliation by ensuring that my department works closely with Indigenous peoples to manage Canada’s fisheries.

This can only be done by working together on solutions that are consistent with the constitutional protections provided to Aboriginal and treaty rights.

Working nation-to-nation is integral to our approach to implementing the Supreme Court affirmed treaty right for the Mi’kmaq, Wolastoqey and the Peskotomuhkati (Passamaquoddy) Nation at Skutik (Scoo-dik) to fish in pursuit of a moderate livelihood.

When Canadians elected a Liberal Government in 2015, our government expanded the mandate for moderate livelihood negotiations. These changes led to two Rights Reconciliation Framework Agreements being signed in 2019. More recently, we introduced further flexibilities to this process following feedback from First Nations. These changes helped us move forward in our agreement with Listuguj First Nation. As you heard from Chief Gray, the five-year Agreement puts in place a process for a collaborative fisheries management approach between the Listuguj Mi’kmaq and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Nation to nation discussions continue with other First Nations as we work to implement this right across Quebec and the Maritimes.

We have also been engaging earnestly with industry associations and their members. We appointed a Federal Special Representative to advise us on how to strengthen the relationships in our fishing communities. And we are increasing our communication with the public, being open and transparent as we can about what lies ahead.

Recently, as you know, our government introduced a new alternative path for First Nations to fish in pursuit of a moderate livelihood.

This approach is in keeping with the Marshall decisions, which have guided DFO’s work for more than 20 years, and is based on three key principles: a respect for conservation, transparent and predictable management, and reconciliation.

Our goal is to have a fishery that is peaceful, productive and prosperous, one that upholds the Marshall decisions and ensures that First Nations are able to exercise their treaty rights in a way that is reflective of their Nation’s vision and needs.

Through this approach, we are working collaboratively with participating First Nations to develop Moderate Livelihood Fishing Plans that are unique to each community or aggregate, and which are authorized and licensed.

Under this approach, First Nations can fish this season, in season, in advance of longer term Rights Reconciliation Agreements.

As our fisheries are fully subscribed, this approach ensures that fishing effort will not increase in order to help protect the long-term sustainability of our stocks. Additionally, having well-established and regulated fishing seasons helps prevent overfishing and allows us to maintain the health of our shared and finite marine resources.

I would also like to emphasize that this is not the only approach, but an option that is available should First Nations seek a shorter term plan to fish this season.

Earlier this month, Canada and Potlotek First Nation reached an understanding for their community members to fish for a moderate livelihood and to sell their catches this season.

Potlotek’s fisheries plan was developed by the community with support from the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Chiefs and the KMK Negotiation Office.

We thank the community for their ongoing partnership, and we are pleased that this fishery will strengthen their community’s self-determination and economic self-reliance.

The 2021 fishing season is an opportunity for all of us to work together and while the path forward may be difficult at times, we are all striving towards shared and common goals: the sustainable use of our fisheries while implementing the First Nation right to fish in pursuit of a moderate livelihood.

I am happy to take your questions now.


Marshall decisions


Marshall Response Initiative


Atlantic Integrated Commercial Fisheries Initiative


Marshall negotiations

a) History

b) Rights reconciliation agreements



Rights reconciliation agreements

State of relationships (Indigenous-commercial fishing sector)


Industry engagement


Role of Federal special representative


Forward plan - [Information was severed in accordance with the Access to Information Act.]


Moderate livelihood – issues

Indigenous fisheries in pursuit of a moderate livelihood


Banked licences


Lobster fisheries management

History of the Canadian Lobster Management Regime (origins of/rationale for effort controls – area restrictions, seasonal restriction, trap limits, carapace size, etc.)

History of Canadian Lobster Management:

Purpose of Lobster Seasons:


Landings and value – overall fishery


Maritimes Region Landed Value by Major Species, 1998-2019 (preliminary)
see description below


This chart shows the landed value in DFO Maritimes Region by year for major commercial species. Landed value has reached record levels of $1.56 billion in 2019 (preliminary). The inshore lobster fishery (red bars) generated the most revenue to harvesters, accounting for $940 million in 2019 or about 60% of regional landed value. Other shellfish and crustacean fisheries in Maritimes Region, particularly Scallop, Shrimp, and Snow Crab, generated about $405 million, or 26% of total landed value. Groundfish fisheries, particularly halibut and haddock, had $92 million in landed value in 2018, and Pelagic & Other Fisheries were $109 million.

Licences, landings, and value for inshore lobster


Communal commercial landings and value


Purchase of Clearwater by a coalition of Atlantic First Nations and Premium Brands

If asked about the Marshall Decision, moderate livelihood and/or treaty rights:


Other Indigenous issues

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples




CIRNAC process


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