Another First Nation in Atlantic Canada has entered into an agreement with the federal government that will support its Indigenous and Treaty rights to fish.
The Abegweit First Nation, Scotchfort, Prince Edward Island, signed a five-year renewable Collaborative Fisheries Management Agreement on April 14 that will provide it with funding to support implementation and governance related to its fisheries management activities.
The agreement recognizes the Mi’kmaq Indigenous and Treaty rights to harvest and sell fish provides funding to the First Nation to strengthen its capacity for fisheries management activities and establishes joint structures and processes for a collaborative fisheries management approach.
“This agreement marks a new chapter in our relationship with the Government of Canada,” said Abegweit First Nation Chief Roderick W. Gould Jr. in a media release. “It signifies how, through partnership and collaboration, we can work together as Canadians to reconcile our differences and create positive outcomes for our communities. This agreement does not replace our treaty right to hunt and fish under the Peace and Friendship Treaties but is a positive first step towards future moderate livelihood discussions and will commit Abegweit and DFO (Department of Fisheries and Oceans) to a collaborative partnership rooted in good faith.”
The agreement was reached under the five-year Rights Reconciliation Agreements (RRA) mandate initiated in 2017 by DFO, Parks Canada Agency and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada to negotiate time-limited and legally binding RRA on issues related to fisheries and national parks with the Peace and Friendship Treaty Nations.
Once signed, a fisheries RRA can provide funding to acquire new fisheries access, vessels and gear. It can also establish a process for collaborative fisheries management and provide funding for implementation, and governance. Depending on the interests of each Treaty Nation, a fisheries RRA can contain both the access, vessels and gear and the collaborative fisheries management component or just one of them.
“Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples and recognizing the rights of self-determination and self-government is an ongoing priority for our government. Today’s signing of a Collaborative Fisheries Management Agreement with Abegweit First Nation advances this commitment. We will continue working with First Nations to rebuild respectful, cooperative and collaborative nation-to-nation relationships,” said Joyce Murray, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard.
The agreement, renewable up to 25 years, also establishes a collaborative management process between DFO and Abegweit to manage its Mi’kmaq fisheries through a Joint Operational Committee and an Executive Oversight Board, commits to ongoing discussions through the Joint Operational Committee or the Executive Oversight Board to address the priority to facilitate the further implementation of the right to fish in pursuit of a moderate livelihood, and commits to consultations with the Joint Operational Committee or the Executive Oversight Board on a process for Mi’kmaq participants to enter new or emerging fisheries on a priority basis.
In addition to signing the agreement, Minister Murray also announced up to $1.47 million in funding over four years to the Abegweit Conservation Society as part of the Aquatic Ecosystems Restoration Fund under the Oceans Protection Plan.
The Aquatic Ecosystems Restoration Fund, formerly known as the Coastal Restoration Fund, was launched in 2017 to preserve and restore marine ecosystems as part of the Oceans Protection Plan. This initiative provided funding for over 60 projects on all coasts which are expected to restore approximately 650 million square metres of aquatic habitat and contribute to the survival and recovery of threatened or endangered species.
The funding will help the Abegweit Conservation Society apply an ecosystem-based, whole watershed stewardship approach, integrating both science and Indigenous knowledge principles to manage threats affecting two culturally significant species at risk: Plamu’k (Atlantic salmon) and Kataq (American eel).