Let’s get “a few” things straight.

There are a few individuals who are getting it wrong when it comes to the issues surrounding the Lake Nipissing fishery. There are a few on the Nbisiing side, a few on the opposing side, and a few more smack dab in the middle of the controversy.

  • There are a few – I’ll stress again – a few, Nbisiing harvesters who are illegally disobeying our self-imposed moratorium and community regulations on spring gill netting and spearing.
  • There are a few – I’ll stress again – a few Nbisiing harvesters who are losing their nets, are too lazy to go and get them, or forget about them in a fitful stupor of stupidity. We’ll refer to this problem as ghost nets.
  • There are a few – I’ll stress again – a few Nbisiing harvesters who are wasting perfectly good fish and not taking the care and consideration to reduce their by-catch waste and honour the fishlife that is provided to us by our Lake. They are making a mess of our back roads and garbage dump and upsetting a few petty anglers dedicated to spewing their agendas of hate.

Speaking to you directly: You are selfish and doing a great job at making us all look bad. You don’t deserve to fish. You’re reducing your Aboriginal and Treaty Rights to a few bucks at the expense of everyone else. You’re an embarrassment to our people.

  • There are a few of us – I’ll stress again – a few, Nbisiing people that want the commercial fishery shut down entirely until our Lake and the walleye regain their health. The number may only be a few, but that number is growing more and more everyday.

To other matters.

  • There are a few – I’ll stress again – a few, media outlets who seem dedicated to feeding the monster of intolerance, growing a biased and racist readership and doing absolutely NOTHING to make the situation better.

Almost single-handedly, the local media have created a firestorm of racial intolerance that I haven’t seen the likes of in my lifetime. On one side, Nbisiing citizens defending their rights and dignity from the onslaught of negative media and social media comments. On the other side, readers and commentators who “think” they know something about these issues, or claim to have an informed opinion.

These media outlets continue to allow social media forums to disseminate uneducated and racially-divisive “opinions” about matters concerning inalienable legal rights.  One might argue that these forums border on inciting hate.

Some advice on your social media feeds and comments section: shut them down or moderate them. Play a role in educating your readers. Don’t just shrug your shoulders and let these types of divisive discussions and repulsive “opinions” linger in the name of free speech. People have a right to free speech, not advocate the elimination of legal rights, or promote racism and intolerance.

  • There are a few – I’ll stress again – a few, media and social media readers and commenters who don’t know what the heck they are talking about when it comes to the Lake Nipissing fishery and the rights of the Nbisiing people.  They don’t realize that their so-called “opinions” shows a complete and ignorant lack of knowledge, and an intolerance to learning the facts about Aboriginal and Treaty Rights.

Let’s clear a few things up.  Nipissing First Nation is a sovereign nation. That sovereignty was not given up in the Treaties. With that sovereignty comes a set of rights and responsibilities as well as laws and regulations governing our people.  One of these rights is the Treaty and Aboriginal right to fish in Lake Nipissing. Even the offenders who I’ve written about above, have that same right. But this right is a collective right and not to be confused with some individualistic right to rape and pillage the Lake at the expense of our nation.

Moreover, with a great right comes great responsibility. We have a right to regulate ourselves and the commercial fishery to ensure conservation and the ultimate health of the Lake.

A singular message to the “ban gill-nets” people: gill-netting cannot be “banned” except by our own regulation. Period.  The right to fish is a constitutionally-protected legal right arising from the Treaties. This fact has been tried, tested and true by the Supreme Court of Canada, the highest court in the land.

The Treaties were the source of indigenous nations giving rights to Canada, and their descendants – not the other way around. If it weren’t for the Treaties, there would be no forestry or mining. There would be no resource economy. There would be no Crown land, municipal land or private land ownership. Nor would there be a sport fishery, angling, or tourist economy. These are the rights the settlers and residents received when Nbisiing signed the Treaties with Canada.

Legal rights should be respected not debated. No matter whose legal rights they are.

  • Yet, there are a few – I’ll say again – a few, who continue to openly write to advocate the taking away of Anishinaabek legal rights. This shows a complete ignorant, lack of knowledge and intolerance to learning the facts about Aboriginal and Treaty Rights.

You’re constantly writing about “natives” this… and “natives” that.  You don’t write about solutions, perspectives or understanding, you write about blame, blame and more blame of an entire nation of people.  And you disguise this as an opinion.  When you use the broad brush of intolerance, you also paint our children, our Elders and non-harvesters.  You also point the finger of intolerance at the Anishinaabe man and woman just getting his coffee from Tim Hortons or picking up The Nugget at the corner store.

The final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) has states that Canadians need to better understand indigenous people. This includes our ways of life (i.e. gill netting and spearing), why our nation has these legal rights (because of the Treaties) and that our nation and our citizens have, and always will have these rights.

That’s right. Our nation and our citizens have, and always will have Aboriginal and Treaty Rights.

Just a little fitful message to leave you with on this lovely Friday night.  Our people are always told: “well, can’t you just get over it?” when it comes to Aboriginal issues, residential schools, land claims and addressing the wrongs of the past.

Well, right back at you. Can’t you just get over the fact that we have and always will have these rights?

It can’t be that simple or obtuse.

We all need to work together to find a cooperative solution to improving the health of Lake Nipissing.  We need to learn more about each other’s perspectives.  Whether it’s the perspectives of anglers, lodges and outfitters, or the perspectives of the Nbisiing people.  We can’t just dig out heels in and come out swinging.  This mess isn’t going to be fixed by the MNR, it’s going to be fixed by all people, native and non-native alike, through regulation, conservation, cooperation and understanding.