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December 19, 2022
After careful thought and deliberation, Potlotek First Nation and the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Chiefs have decided to discontinue the ongoing civil case filed to test the provisions of the Fisheries Act in the Nova Scotia Supreme Court (Trial Division). Instead, the Assembly has decided it will put its efforts and resources into the defence of a Potlotek harvester fishing under their community plan.
The discontinuance of the civil suit is without prejudice to the Treaty Rights. The civil suit was filed in 2020 in response to enforcement action taken against harvesters from Potlotek First Nation upon the launch of their community’s netukulimk livelihood fishery. Since then, DFO has refused to respect that these issues are before the Supreme Court and has continued to harass Potlotek livelihood harvesters.
Mi’kmaw communities and the Assembly only have limited resources and can not afford to be involved in a civil action as well as defend fisheries prosecutions. “Deciding to discontinue a lawsuit is never an easy decision,” said Chief Gerald Toney, Fisheries Co-Lead for the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Chiefs. “But we also recognize that in order to best protect our Treaty Rights and our netukulimk authorized harvesters, we had to shift our support to do what’s best for all Mi’kmaw harvesters.”
The Assembly will continue to express to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) that the Fisheries Act and Regulations unjustifiably infringe upon the Treaty Right affirmed in R v. Marshall . The Assembly remains adamant that DFO’s Conservation and Protection Branch has no jurisdiction to take any steps against approved community livelihood harvesters.
“It is important that DFO understands that our harvesters have a court affirmed Right to pursue a moderate livelihood and we will continue to push for solutions so that Mi’kmaq can harvest for a livelihood without any infringement by DFO on our Treaty Rights,” said Chief Wilbert Marshall, Potlotek First Nation and Fisheries Co-Lead, Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Chiefs.
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