Home Published Unpublished Arctic Mentors Photos Links ContactBlog

Lion's Roar : Unpublished Writing

Conversation with Claire Culhane

Community's Not a Hobby

An Open Letter to Prime Minister Jean Chretien

Open Letter to Prime Minister Jean Chretien

One year ago, in its Marshall decision, the Supreme Court of Canada accepted the argument of the Mi'kmaq people and acknowledged the continued authority of treaties signed in 1760-1761. In so doing, the court made it clear that the Mi'kmaq retained a treaty right to fish for commercial purposes.In recent weeks, the Mi'kmaq at Burnt Church, New Brunswick, have exercised their legal, constitutionally-recognized treaty right to fish for commercial purposes. Under their own conservation plan, they are fishing for 0.2% of the allowable lobster fishery--99% of the fishery (over 3,000,000 traps) remains in the hands of the non-Native commercial fishery.The Mi'kmaq have declared that they intend to use their 5000-trap autumn fishery to alleviate decades of economic suffering in their community and to demonstrate their capacity to manage the resource in their area. What has been the Canadian government's response to the legal exercise of this treaty right? Mi'kmaq boats have been rammed, swamped and seized. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent on RCMP, Coast Guard, and Department of Fisheries and Oceans policing efforts. Canadians have witnessed ugly scenes of Mi'kmaq-government confrontations. The Federal Fisheries Minister has made false and inflammatory accusations about the illegality of the Mi'kmaq fishery which have increased tensions with their non-Native neighbours. Canadians are very concerned that there are now regular reports of gunfire across Miramichi Bay. The prospects for a settlement based on Mi'kmaq treaty rights appear to diminish with each passing day. This is unfortunate and unnecessary. We, the undersigned, call on the Government of Canada to seize the opportunity to start a new relationship with the Mi'kmaq and the First Nations of Canada. Burnt Church need not become a symbol of Canadian government aggression and confrontation with First Nations; it can, instead serve as an example of the government's willingness and ability to work with First Nations. The Supreme Court Marshall decision has validated Aboriginal demands and has raised First Nations hopes across Canada for a sharing of the nation's bountiful natural resources. We call on the Prime Minister and his cabinet to abandon the aggressive and confrontational tactics of the past weeks and to seek, instead, the means to reach a lasting partnership with First Nations people. Only in such an approach is it possible for the country to make Burnt Church a shining example of Canada's potential instead of a testament to its inability to come to terms with Aboriginal aspirations.

Signed,

Taiaiake Alfred (University of Victoria)
Heesoon Bai (Simon Fraser University)
Brian Calliou (University of Alberta)
Ken Coates, (University of Saskatchewan)
Kalpana Das (Intercultural Institute of Montreal)
Robin Fisher (University of Northern British Columbia)
Trudy Govier (Calgary)
Joyce Green (University of Lethbridge)
Anthony Hall (University of Lethbridge)
June McCue (University of British Columbia)
Anne McGillivray (University of Manitoba)
John McLaren (University of Victoria)
John Milloy (Trent University)
Dianne Newell (University of British Columbia)
Wes Pue (University of British Columbia)
William Ramp (University of Lethbridge)
Derek Rasmussen (Iqaluit, Nunavut)
Mark Roseland (Simon Fraser University)
Ned Searles (University of Laval)
Bob Steele (University of British Columbia)
Robert Vachon (Intercultural Institute of Montreal)
Cora Voyageur (University of Calgary)
C.A.Bowers (Portland State University, Oregon)
Frederique Appfel-Marglin (Smiths College, Massachusetts)
Alice Nash (University of Massachusetts, Amherst)
Calvin Luther Martin (retired, Rutgers University)
Ron Welburn (University of Massachusetts, Amherst)
Colin Samson (University of Essex, UK; and Memorial University)
Itesh Sachdev (Director, Centre for Canadian Studies, University of London)

Scholars' Letter, P.O. Box 1136, Iqaluit, Nunavut X0A 0H0


Burnt Church Scholars News Release

Scholars speak out on Burnt Church: Call on Prime Minister to abandon aggressive tactics

Iqaluit, Nunavut (September 28, 2000) Scholars from across Canada, the U.S., and England today called on Prime Minister Jean Chretien to put an end to government confrontation at Burnt Church and to seek lasting partnerships with First Nations instead.

We call on the Prime Minister and his cabinet to abandon the aggressive and confrontational tactics of the past weeks and to seek, instead, the means to reach a lasting partnership with First Nations people, the scholars say in their letter sent to the Prime Minister today.

The letter says that hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent on RCMP, Coast Guard, and Department of Fisheries and Oceans policing efforts over a Native fishery which represents a mere 0.2% of the non-Native allowable catch. The Mi'kmaq are fishing under their own conservation plan with a 5000-trap limit non-Natives have a 3,000,000 trap limit which represents over 99% of the allowable lobster fishery for the area.

In their letter, the scholars expressed their concern that Mi'kmaq boats have been rammed, swamped and seized, and that prospects for a settlement based on Mi'kmaq treaty rights appear to diminish with each passing day. This is unfortunate and unnecessary.

For further information contact:
Derek Rasmussen
Liason for Scholars Letter on Treaty Rights
P.O. Box 1136,
Iqaluit, Nunavut X0A 0H0
(867) 979-6549
dharma_eh@yahoo.ca
Ken Coates, Professor
University of Saskatchewan
81-72-867-8804 (currently in Japan)
[kennethcoates@hotmail.com]