Ready for real change
Atlantic Canada’s First Nation communities prepared to lead
Last week, Atlantic Canada’s Chiefs were pleased to host Hunter Tootoo, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, to our quarterly All Chiefs meeting held in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
In our meeting with Minister Tootoo, we expressed both our willingness and readiness to work collaboratively together in order to build a prosperous middle class population within First Nation communities. Each of the Chiefs had the opportunity to speak to the Minister directly about the opportunities and challenges facing their community.
Sixty per cent of Atlantic Canada’s First Nation population is below the age of 35 and the average age of a fisher in our community is 30 years old. The fishery is our single greatest resource. We fundamentally believe that we must build, expand and sustain our fishery to ensure that we have jobs and opportunity for our youth today and for tomorrow.
The Atlantic fishery is a critical part of the First Nation’s past, present and future. The economic and social benefits that the fishery creates has brought many of our families out of poverty and created many economic spinoffs. In 1999, the Supreme Court of Canada recognized our Treaty Rights with respect the fishery. With a new Nation to Nation relationship, First Nations and the government must work together to realize how best to recognize and implement our treaty rights, including the importance of incorporating our traditional values and knowledge into the resource management process.
First Nations in Atlantic Canada have grown in both capacity and business expertise with respect to building and expanding viable sustainable business opportunities in the fishery. Program supports such as the Atlantic Integrated Commercial Fisheries Initiative (AICFI) from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has done a great deal to grow our business capacity and focus. While this program has been renewed for funding to 2016, we believe it should be funded for another 5 years.
As Canadians saw on October 19, First Nations and Indigenous people are more engaged in the political process than ever before. What’s more, Minister Tootoo is one of 10 new First Nation Members of Parliament elected to serve in Ottawa. There has never been a better time to work together so we can build a new Nation to Nation relationship.
We’re not only ready for change, we’re prepared to lead it. Chief George Ginnish and Chief Bob Gloade are co-chairs of the Atlantic Policy Congress