Posts tagged ‘fishery’

It’s time to speak up for our Lake, the Nbisiing fishery & our rights from it’s biggest threat.

nbisiingfisheryThere are a few people around here that think they are back in the 1970s and 1980s fighting for Anishinaabeg fishing rights. They’ll post videos and messages that will trick you into thinking that they are the last free band of Indians fighting for their rights and freedom.

But it’s just not the case.  In reality, these misguided few are acting out of greed demanding their individual rights above all else.

They speak of “inherent rights” and “treaty rights”.  But what they’re really demanding is their individual rights above their fellow band members, above their grandchildren, above the Lake and above the fish.

Well let me tell it like it is.

These Nbisiing fisherman… or let me rephrase that… these “Nipissing-Indian-Band-status-card-holders” are fishing illegally! They’re certainly not acting like real Anishinaabeg.

They are, in fact, the biggest threat to our Lake, our fishery and our rights.

More reality…

  • The right to harvest fish is a collective right.  Period.  It belongs to me, you and our compliant commercial fishers.
  • The right to an indigenous fishery also means we have the right to regulate ourselves. Nipissing First Nation, our elected Chief and Council is doing just that with the help of the MNR.
  • My unborn grandchildren, your grandchildren, even their grandchildren and seven generations of future Anishinaabeg also have a right to fish.  They most certainly have a right to harvest walleye.
  • The fish have a right to survive as a species on our lake.
  • We have a right, responsibility and obligation to adhere to our most sacred of Anishinaabeg teachings: to look after all of Creation as stewards of the land and water… to speak for all those creatures who cannot speak for themselves. The Lake Nipissing walleye.

Do those fishing illegally care about these rights??  Of course not.  They are on the wrong side of the rights fight.

Our research… yes, Nipissing First Nation research which includes accepted scientific data, methods and analysis, clearly indicates, unequivocally, that the walleye fishery is in severe collapse.  The MNR’s data shows the exact same thing.  Our commercial fishery is not sustainable. That’s why our Chief and Council have closed the fishery.

You argue that the numbers aren’t right. Well you got us on that one!  They’re not right because you hide your real numbers in your freezers and coolers strewn about your front yards.  If we had more accurate numbers from you, the data would certainly show the fishery is far worse shape.

By your actions, you are saying “F*CK YOU” to the rest of us, to responsibility and to the collective rights of us Nbisiing Anishinaabeg.  You wrap yourself in a phoney cape of a “rights crusader” and continue to take-take-take.  That’s all you know.  Take-take-take.

You claim to be harassed by the MNR.  Well, for the first time in history, the MNR is on our side.  Nipissing First Nation signed a Memorandum of Understanding that enables them to help enforce our fisheries regulations.  They’re lifting your nets because we want them to.  The MNR and our fisheries department are working in partnership to stop you from fishing illegally in order to protect our fishery.  This is a good thing.

With all due respect, if it was my choice – you’d not only lose your nets.  You’d lose your boats, trucks, and ATVs too.

You don’t offer any new ideas to help the situation that you’ve helped create.  How will you help protect our fishery?  How will you ensure the sustainability of our fishery?  How will you protect the walleye that had fed us for millennia?  Instead you call your little meetings, talk sh*t about our Chief and Council, our fisheries program and accepted science, and wail on about standing up for indigenous rights.

Well boys and girls, the right to take-take-take is NOT Anishinaabe.  To disregard me and your fellow band members is NOT Anishinaabe.  You teach your children to disregard the fish, the science, regulations and the rest of your fellow Nbisiing Anishinaabeg.  If you continue on this course the walleye fishery in Lake Nipissing will be extinct.

Our ancestor’s signed the Treaty, created this way of life and fought for these rights for the benefit of seven generations into the future.  Not just for you.  Not just to take-take-take.

Here’s my call to action:

ACTION:  My fellow Nbisiing Anishinaabeg, I’m asking you to speak up.  It’s time to stand up and protect the lake, the fish and our right to a future fishery.  I’m asking you to stand up and speak out against those who threaten our fishery.  That’s not the MNR, our fisheries officials or our Chief and Council.  The real threat are from those who are fishing illegally, pretending to be the righteous, who disregard what is right.

Gill nets, check. Time to turn our attention to combatting a more pressing issue: Racism..

racismNow that a solution to the Lake Nipissing fishery is in motion, it’s time to turn our collective efforts towards addressing the other, more significant issue that came about during the Lake Nipissing fisheries crisis.

On a regular basis, First Nation people in Nipissing First Nation have faced blatant, hard-hitting criticism and racism arising from the fisheries debate. Racism has manifest itself by becoming socially acceptable in everyday dialogue and among users of social media.

The health of Lake Nipissing is a serious issue and addressing the fishery needs to happen. But this issue pales in comparison to the issue of racism, discrimination and hatred. This has far greater negative impact on our society and on our people.

Racism in any of its forms is unacceptable and needs to be dealt with. There is an urgent need for a focussed anti-racism initiative in North Bay to address the fall-out from the fisheries issue and bridge the gap between the Anishinaabe community and our neighbours.

We need to build on the good work that has already taken place and address this heinous monster that has reared it’s ugly head.

Don Curry, Executive Director of the North Bay Multi-Cultural Centre and Maurice Switzer, a renowned Mississauga public educator, have done a commendable job in exploring the topic a few years back. I was proud to be a part of the important work that was done to analyze the issue of racism targeting Anishinaabe people. However, specific and comprehensive follow-up to their study has not taken place, mainly due to funding constraints.

I feel that a new, and focussed anti-racism initiative should encompass Treaty education, Canadian-Aboriginal history, a cultural exchange and focussed and wide-spread Anishinaabe awareness training. It should be integrated in the schools, as well as with businesses and community organizations. It should focus on healing and fostering understanding between our communities. It should also involve feasting and celebrating – and the best parts of Anishinaabe culture.

The youth and Elders should be a part of such an initiative. The initiative should be based in the culture and values of our people – so that we may share the beauty or our ways of life to all people in our area.

We aren’t just spears and gill nets. We don’t let our fish rot and we don’t waste fish. We are a kind, generous and hospitable people, wanting to share with our neighbours.

We have a lot to share, including the realities and facts about Aboriginal law and our perspectives on our rights.

Aboriginal and Treaty rights are as inalienable as the right to free speech, the right to religion and the right to liberty and freedom. They’re rights that come from the Creator and are very sacred to us.

But on a regular basis during this fisheries crisis, we’ve seen finger pointing. We’ve seen people calling for the arbitrary elimination of our rights. We’ve seen our neighbours generalize about our people using contemporary stereotypes and highly racialized commentary.

The sad reality is that many of these people don’t understand or don’t care that Aboriginal and Treaty rights are legal rights. They are a part of Canadian law, defended in the Supreme Court and protected by the Constitution.

The subject of eliminating the legal rights of another, by arbitrary act of an oppressor, is not and should not be acceptable commentary.

I’m very concerned that such commentary and unchecked racism is becoming wider spread, socially acceptable and is reinforcing intolerant attitudes in the community.

If you hear something, no matter how heinous, over and over again, it starts to seem okay. It seems acceptable to use disparaging comments on a public Facebook page, or in the online comments section. Everyone else is doing it, so others feel they can vent their vitriol, ignorance and hostility of First Nations. I find this unacceptable, offensive and hurtful. It is wrong.

Anishinaabe children hear that they are the cause of “a slaughter” on the Lake. They open Facebook and read that they are “raping” the Lake.

These are words from the very people organizing on social media. These are also the people on stage, at the front of the crowd, inciting action from dozens of angry residents. If this were the south, fifty years ago, they would conclude their rally by marching into Duchesnay Village looking for someone to make a example of.

All Canadians and all local residents, need to stand up and say something about such racist commentary and attitudes. People shouldn’t sit idly by and be complacent when seeing and reading this kind of racism.

We need to learn from history.

For a generation, people on the outskirts of Brantford watched, day-after-day, First Nations children marched into the Mush Hole (a residential school) and didn’t say anything.

During the war, people in eastern Europe seen trainloads of Jewish people, being shipped off in railway cars bound for extermination camp, and didn’t do anything.

Today, thousands of social media users, right here in our area, see and read these comments, week after week. And didn’t say anything about it.

It’s not right. It can’t be right. But it’s happening right here, right now, in our area, by our neighbours. We all have to do something about it.

I wish to say a heartfelt ‘chi-miigwetch’ (big thank) to those social media users and good neighbours who stand up for what is right and say something about racism. There are still a lot of good people out there.

When it comes to the fisheries issues, we are all on the same side. We want to find out who is responsible for these offenses and bring them to justice. We want to see our Lake flourish and see the walleye restored to abundance and health. There are many of us are happy to see our First Nation ban gill nets and see the commercial fishery curbed. But none of this should come at the expense of our rights or the dignity of Nbisiing Anishinaabeg people.

If you only read a few things about the Lake Nipissing fishery…













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.