Estuary

Estuary and fishing activities on Gesgapegiag Micmac territory and rivers.





The Council of the Micmacs of Gesgapegiag is holding a three-phase consultation process aiming at making a community decision regarding the agreements related to the Estuary and fishing activities on Gesgapegiag Micmac territory and rivers.

BACKGROUND

Since the 1980’s, the community of Gesgapegiag has been faced with agreements regarding fishing quotas and gillnet fishing practices.

In 2008, an agreement was signed with the government of Quebec where in exchange for monies (≈$400,000.00/ year) given to the community, members suspended their fishing rights in the Cascapédia River.

A new agreement was signed in 2009, for a period of 5 years, this time with a new compensation amount (≈ $800,000.00/ year). This new agreement was signed after consulting with community members through a survey. The one-question survey had the following question: “Would you agree to suspend your netting rights in the estuary of the Grand Cascapédia River for a period of four (4) years if the Band received monies from the government and other organizations that would be used for job creation and housing and to compensate each house old in the community and each fisherman/fisherwoman?” and the results of the survey was a unanimous “yes”.

In 2013, the agreement was renewed for a period of 10 years, but this time, extending the suspension of gillnet fishing rights of the Mi’gmaq in the entirety of the rivers in the Gaspésie region.

The agreement is in force until March 2013, but can be terminated at any time on April 1st of any year.

ELEMENTS OF CONCERNS

  • The agreement signed in 2013 specifies that the “financial assistance was provided annually for the duration of the agreement to support Gesgapegiag's economic recovery plan, including support for community projects”. However, rather than going towards community projects, the funds have been divided up and distributed directly to individuals who met the criteria of a) owning a house in the community, and b) owning a fishing boat.
  • After checking with a biologist from the Government, it was confirmed that there are no concerns for the survival of any species in the Estuary, through the agreement also specifies that the agreement serves a purpose of conservation of the fauna. 
  • According to legal counsel, there are no precedents to an agreement that suspends the ancestral rights of an Indigenous community in Canada.  
  • There was no evidence found of any community consultation taking place for the renewal of the agreement in 2013 which not only extended the agreement for a 10 year period but also extended the suspension of gillnet fishing to all the rivers in the Gaspésie region.  

POSITION OF THE COUNCIL

The Council has some concerns with the agreement signed between Gesgapegiag and the Government of Quebec which suspends the ancestral fishing rights of the Mi’kmaq in the in the Estuary.

Taking into consideration that the Council has a fiduciary obligation not only to ensure that these inter-governmental agreements are followed, but also that the Indigenous rights of the members of Gesgapegiag are recognized and respected, the Council is exploring the option of terminating the agreement.

Before taking any action on this position, Council will be informing and consulting community members. The objective of the consultation process is for the community to make a decision together so that the council can take political action with the government of Quebec that reflects the wishes and best interests of the community as a whole.

The Council of the Micmacs of Gesgapegiag genuinely wants to get input from the community and take all points of view into consideration, with regards to the Estuary file.


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