Lighting matches

Opening of the spring lobster season

An editorial

SHUNPIKING, Upfront, May, 2000 / Volume 5, Number 33

Shunpiking has followed the developments in the fisheries since the Marshall Decision of the Supreme Court on September 17, 1999 and the winter lobster season with deep concern. This situation requires a serious and cool-headed approach. Fishermen, First Nations and all enlightened people should oppose any attempts to inflame the situation.

Our magazine condemns the federal Liberals and the executive bureaucracy of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for their "divide-and-rule" policy of native and non-Native fishermen, and the First Nations themselves.

The federal government is criminalizing fishermen in the name of "law and order" and a "conservation regime" and requiring everyone to submit to it as the authority.

To this end, the new federal budget allocated an additional $13-million to DFO for "enforcement". As long ago as April, 1999 it activated agents of the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) into the fisheries, according to documents released to the CBC in December. CSIS representative Bob Rae was also directly involved in "negotiations" at Esgenoopetitj / Burnt Church. This policy is designed to inflame the situation, as it has done, to perpetuate the problem and continuously construct "law and order" problems.

We equally oppose the stand of the Canadian Alliance (Reform Party) and the monopoly media, which is diverting the attention of the public with stories about "corruption" in Indian Affairs, etc.

In response to the Marshall Decision, a new "alliance" has been formed. It is named the Atlantic Fishing Industry Alliance and it is calling for "individual rights" to oppose the hereditary rights of the First Nations. Its spokesmen are also issuing intimidatory statements about fishermen being "armed". Its goal is to replace Aboriginal rights with private, non-Indian "property rights," which conforms with the overall state program to convert the public property of the oceans into private, corporate property through the system of Individual Transferable Quotas (ITQs). Utilizing hysteria about "loss of jobs," the aboriginal food fishery and broad popular discontent with the DFO, this "alliance" and the vested interests speaking through it are presenting the Mi'kmaq as the scapegoat to divert fishermen and the public from the very forces which are the cause of the capitalist crisis in the fisheries and the degradation of the ocean. We do not agree with this "alliance" either.

Shunpiking magazine reiterates the following principles:

1. We are for the fraternal unity of all the people of Atlantic Canada and the First Nations. We do not wish to see any conflict on the basis of fishing rights or any other question. One of the ingredients of this unity is the permanent settlement of the fisheries question.

2. We stand for the realization of the rights of the fishermen -- including the abolition of the ITQ system.

This permanent settlement would guarantee an end to the privatization of the fisheries and guarantee the rights of all fisher collectives to flourish, ensuring full economic, social and cultural assistance, including mutual assistance between Native and non-Native fishermen. The policy of paying the rich in the fisheries must be ended. All licenses legally and illegally controlled by processors should be suspended.

3. Settlement of the fisheries question also entails settling the question of national sovereignty. The Canadian government, when it originally declared the 200-mile limit in 1978, had already signed agreements leasing out 86 per cent of this vast territory to foreign powers. The government's conception of territorial integrity presupposes that the Canadian state is sovereign and inviolable and no one else. It disregards the fact that such a sovereignty can only be sanctioned by a sovereign people. All foreign fishing should be terminated. We stand for trade based on mutual benefit.

4. A new settlement entails respecting the sovereign rights of other nations, including the First Nations, who never voluntarily passed their territories and sovereignty to the Canadian state, and negotiating with them in this spirit. This should not be considered a mere formality, and it must not be a means either to incite or to dictate and suppress fishermen of any nation, as it has become.

6. While it has further opened Canada to foreign fishing, and multinational ownership of our fisheries, the federal government is actively co-sponsoring conferences organized by the World Bank to promote "property rights," ITQs and corporatization in the fisheries on a world scale, especially in the North Atlantic and the Indian Ocean. Canada should withdraw from such blocs.

7. We urge all men and women of conscience to demand that all criminal charges be dropped against the thirteen hook-and-line fishermen of Cape Sable Island and their president, Ronnie Wolkins, for so-called "fishing out of season."

All charges against Native fishers must be dropped.

Shunpiking magazine will carry on, editorially and journalistically, to uphold this stand so as to facilitate a permanent solution to the fisheries question and the hereditary rights of the First Nations in Atlantic Canada.

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