Background Info On Treaties And Rights Implementation

What are the Peace and Friendship treaties?

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The Treaties of Peace and Friendship were signed with the members of the Wabanaki Confederacy: the Mi’gmag, Wolastoqey, Penobscot, Abenaki and Peskotomuhkati Nations. The Peace and Friendship Treaties were signed in the following years: 1725-26, 1749, 1752, 1760-61, 1776, 1779. These treaties are also considered the covenant chain of treaties as each treaty renewed the previous treaties.

The Peace and Friendship treaties were not land surrender treaties. The Mi’gmaq have never surrendered our title to Mi’gma’qi. The Mi’gmaq negotiated the treaties as a sovereign Nation.

 

What is a Treaty right?

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Treaty rights and Aboriginal rights are recognized and affirmed in Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. The Crown signed treaties to support peace and friendship between the Indigenous nations and the settlers. Treaties defined the respective rights of Indigenous peoples and European newcomers living on lands traditionally occupied by Indigenous people. Treaties recognize the inherent rights of Indigenous peoples to self-govern.

Treaties vary across Canada depending on the time they were signed and the circumstances in which they were negotiated. Across Canada, there are approximately 70 historic treaties, signed with 364 Nations between 1701and1923.

 

How do the treaties benefit me as a Mi’gmaq person?

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The treaties were intended to protect Mi’gmaq traditions of hunting, fishing and gathering for future generations. Treaty rights are collective rights, not individual rights. Treaty and Aboriginal rights have not always been upheld or respected by the Crown. But the courts continue to recognize and affirm Mi’gmaq Treaties. The Mi’gmaq have been successful in applying the Treaty of 1752 to legal cases such as Simon recognizing hunting rights and treaties of 1760-1761 in Marshall. The decisions have ruled in favour of the Mi’gmaq.

What is being negotiated with the Crown?

Currently Mi’gmawe’l Tplu’taqnn, on behalf of seven of our member communities (Eel River Bar, Pabineau, Metepenagiag, Natoageneg, Indian Island, Buctouche, and Fort Folly), is negotiating the implementation of Mi’gmaq Aboriginal and Treaty rights through trilateral discussions between the Mi’gmaq, provincial and federal governments.

These discussions are governed by a Framework Agreement which acknowledges that Aboriginal and Treaty rights are constitutionally protected and the existence of those rights is non-negotiable. The Framework Agreement also makes clear that these discussions are not intended as a re-negotiation of the Mi'gmag Treaties, nor as a process leading to their extinguishment. Canada has further confirmed that this process will not lead to the extinguishment of Mi’gmaq Title to our lands. This is not a “comprehensive claim” or a “modern treaty” process.

Negotiations Specific To Fisheries

How did the Marshall decision recognize Treaty rights?

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In R v. Marshall Donald Marshall Junior was charged in Nova Scotia with catching and selling eels. Marshall was a test case to challenge the Crown’s charges against Donald Marshall Junior. The Supreme Court of Canada in the Marshall decision upheld the right of the Mi’gmaq under the Treaties of 1760-61 to fish for the purposes of earning a moderate livelihood. This right is not species-specific.

Was the Marshall decision implemented?

The Marshall decision was not implemented. Instead, Canada provided funding to communities to purchase commercial access through so-called “Marshall Agreements” with individual communities, which did not address the moderate livelihood right.

 

What do the current negotiations with the federal government mean for fisheries?

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Mi’gmawe’l Tplu’taqnn working on a proposed Rights Implementation Agreement (RIA) on fisheries, which would implement the Marshall decision by recognizing Mi’gmaq priority access to the fishery, provide new access funding, and a greater role for the Mi’gmaq in the management of our own fishery, as well as the overall fishery. This agreement would be for a period of ten years and is not a treaty document. This agreement will be focused on the implementation of the Treaty right to a moderate livelihood.

Our Chiefs are clear that they are not prepared to sign an agreement that surrenders rights in exchange for access dollars.

 

What is next for negotiations on fisheries?

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MTI is committed to ensuring a true rights implementation agreement is negotiated for the seven Mi’gmaq communities we represent and their members. Once that agreement is reached, it will be brought to communities for further discussion and ratification.

MTI will also continue to work with our communities on interim measures to build to implement and govern our own Treaty fishery, including the development of Mi’gmaq Fisheries Stewardship Plans, and community-based research on implementing a moderate livelihood.