UNITED CHURCH OF CANADA 37th General Council actions regarding Burnt Church

Shunpiking Magazine has received the following resolution adopted by the United Church of Canada on the events in Esgenoopetitj (Burnt Church) in northeastern New Brunswick.

August 11-20, 2000

Whereas the 36th General Council called on the Government of Canada to take seriously the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People, entitled People to People, Nation to Nation, whereby negotiations between First Nations peoples and the Canadian government should be conducted on a nation-to-nation basis;

Whereas the Supreme Court of Canada Sparrow Decision has recognized the First Nations' right to a fishery for food and ceremonial purposes in Canada;

Whereas the Supreme Court of Canada Marshall Decision has recognized the First Nations' right to a moderate livelihood from the fishery in Atlantic Canada;

Whereas the Canadian fishery policy currently being enforced by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) in Atlantic Canada neither acknowledges or respects these decisions;

Whereas the DFO is making offers of fishery agreements to the First Nations community of Esgenoopetitj (Burnt Church, New Brunswick) which do not respect the Sparrow and Marshall decisions;

Whereas Esgenoopetitj has created and has begun to fish under a viable fisheries management plan, consistent with the guidelines developed by the Mik'Maq Fish and Wildlife Commission, which conserves the resource;

Whereas the community of Esgenoopetitj voted in a recent referendum 306 to 28 in favour of their own fisheries management plan, rather than signing an agreement with DFO;

Whereas the DFO has refused to recognize, meet or work with the community of Esgenoopetitj with respect to this management plan;

Whereas the DFO has, this week, refused an offer from the federal Department of Indian and Northern Affairs of a mediator to assist dialogue between DFO and Esgenoopetitj;

Whereas the DFO is currently confiscating all lobster traps set under this plan in the waters off Esgenoopetitj;

Whereas the DFO is using threats, brute force, taunting and drawn weapons to provoke the people of Esgenoopetitj, confiscate their fishing equipment, and arrest their people;

Whereas the Canadian media are using biased terms such as "defy" and "illegal" to misrepresent the First Nations' role;

Whereas no peaceful community deserves such treatment by the Canadian government or the Canadian media;

Motion: Leslie Jay/Nelson Hart

That the 37th General Council of The United Church of Canada

1. Condemn the use of threats, brute force, taunting and drawn weapons by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans personnel in Esgenoopetitj;

2. Exhort the Government of Canada to sit down respectfully, Nation to First Nation, and develop fishery policy which acknowledges the Sparrow and Marshall Supreme Court decisions, and the right of both Nations to a fishery in Canada

3. Challenge the media to work harder at bringing correct, unbiased information to the attention of the Canadian public; and

4. Express our regret and shame that the Government of Canada has caused fear and insecurity in the community of Esgenoopetitj.

Carried

Motion: Leslie Jay/Gail Carter Jay

Further, that we communicate our action by immediate fax, to the Prime Minister, Minister of Fisheries & Oceans, Herb Dhaliwal, leaders of the Opposition as well as the community of Burnt Church/Esgenoopetitj. Carried

Whereas the 37th General Council of the UCC has expressed its concern for the well-being of the community of Esgenoopetitj and declared its support for the rights of Aboriginal people to participate in the fisheries to secure a moderate livelihood:

Whereas many in the non-Native fishing communities desire a peaceful resolution to the present impasse between the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and the First Nations people of Esgenoopetitj;

Whereas the Non-Native and Aboriginal fishers are both concerned with the preservation of the lobster fishery as well as for their livelihood and security of their way of life;

Whereas non-Native lobster fishers in Atlantic Canada have at times of their own volition reduced their harvesting capacity to protect the stocks;

Whereas recent dialogue on community-based management of the fisheries between non-Native and Aboriginal fishers at the community and Atlantic regional levels has proven fruitful as a framework for respecting the concerns of both Aboriginal and non-Native fishers;

Whereas the DFO has given little support for non-Native fishers to participate in community-based management;

Whereas we are called to follow Jesus who walked through Samaria and healed the child of a Roman centurion, freely sharing his love and concern with people of contrasting cultures and faith;

Therefore Be it Resolved that the 37th General Council:

1. Declare our intention to walk with both non-Native and Aboriginal peoples who seek a path to reconciliation and a common vision for the preservation of lobster stocks and their joint livelihood;

2. Commend those people of faith who have attempted to create cross-cultural dialogue in the communities of Esgenoopetitj/Burnt Church in recent months;

3. Call on the Government of Canada to abandon policies which exclude non-Native fishers from sharing in the management of the fisheries, and to develop policies that promote dialogue on community-based management for the non-Native and Aboriginal fisheries of Atlantic Canada.


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