Newly-elected Gwich’in Grand Chief Ken Smith has thrown his support behind Mi’kmaw fishers in Nova Scotia exercising their “inherent and constitutionally protected” treaty rights.
In a statement on Thursday, the Gwich’in Tribal Council said it stood in solidarity with the Sipekne’katik First Nation.
A conflict between Indigenous and non-Indigenous fishers has been ongoing for about a week.
On Thursday, Sept. 17 the Sipekne’katik First Nation launched its own “moderate livelihood fishery”.
Non-Indigenous fishers are calling the operation illegal as it falls outside the sanctioned fishing season.
However, a 1999 Supreme Court case known as the Marshall case upheld the Mi’kmaw’s treaty right to fish.
“The complete lack of respect for Indigenous rights and cultural practices being expressed by members of the commercial lobster fishery and local residents of the area is very concerning,” says Grand Chief Smith in a news release.
He also said the conflict is an “opportunity for us to achieve the reconciliation that Canada desires and so desperately requires”.
Leaders from the Sipekne’katik First Nation have met with both Bernadette Jordan, the federal fisheries minister, and Carolyn Bennett, minister of Crown-Indigenous relations.
Both ministers issued statements supporting the Mi’kmaw’s right to fish.