Nugget_LettersLetter to the Editor:

Shame on The Nugget for running a story promoting an online petition calling for the end of the Anishinaabe commercial fishery on Lake Nipissing. It is irresponsible journalism that really does nothing but target us well-meaning, law-abiding Nbisiing citizens and provide a pedestal to those peddling ignorance.

Let’s make a few things clear. As Anishinaabe people, we have a right to the fishery. This is a Constitutionally-protected Aboriginal and Treaty Right. In the eyes of the global community, it is also an Indigenous Right. There is no room for interpretation or subjective personal opinion. It is fact. It is as real as the right of free speech, the right to assemble, the right to religious freedom and human rights.

What this petition calls for is the majority (mainly the angry, misinformed, ignorant and anonymous) imposing their will on a minority. At it’s essence, it calls for extinguishment of our Constitutionally-protected legal rights. That is plainly unacceptable. It’s one thing for one of our fellow Band members to call for a moratorium on our own fishery, but it’s quite another to advocate extinguishment of the legal rights of another.

Sure, The Nugget has a right to freedom of speech and to print whatever you feel is in the public’s interest. But by publishing it, you also play a role in encouraging the extinguishment of our legal rights. By virtue of some of these attitudes, you may also play a role in propagating hate. Your printed words hurt us, hurt me and hurt our children. More importantly, this does nothing to help address the issue of abandoned nets and good regulation of our fishery. It may, however, sell a few papers.

Ladies and gentlemen, we need to find proactive, practical and constructive means of working through these issues together. Finding whoever is responsible for abandoned nets and bringing them to justice; Taking steps to improve the Nbisiing commercial fishery, regulation and enforcement; and working together to address the declining health of Lake Nipissing. We can’t take our eyes of these goals. This cannot be done if we’re continuing to fight amongst ourselves, those of us that care and Love our beautiful lake. That is one thing we all have in common.

For those responsible for this vile petition and even those signing it, I’m sure there were many people in the South who signed petitions against the rights of blacks and visible minorities during the civil rights era. I’m sure they felt just as strong about their issues too. Although many still harbour unjust attitudes, most have come around to understand what’s right. I hold out hope that some years from now, there will be a better understanding of our Aboriginal and Treaty Rights.

It’s a slippery slope. Maybe one can draft a petition calling for the extinguishment of your rights of private property ownership? Maybe someone can advocate the extinguishment of your right to religious assembly? Extinguishment anyone? No chance.

Bob Goulais
Nipissing First Nation