Aug 19 2010

Cohen Commission transcript – First Nations on DFO

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Submissions on behalf of The Stó:lo Tribal Council
and Cheam Indian Band page 95 and 95

The Stó:lo Tribal Council and the Cheam people hold inherent title and rights over their traditional territories, which flow from their connection to their land and water. These rights are enshrined in indigenous languages, laws and protocols. They are recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada as sui generis rights and legal systems, protected under section 35 of the Constitution. The Supreme Court of Canada has recognized that there is an economic and jurisdictional dimension to Aboriginal title, which therefore has to be taken into account when dealing with fisheries management decisions in the traditional territories of Aboriginal peoples.

In terms of the Aboriginal right to fish… Aboriginal peoples have the right to be the first to access fish before commercial and recreational fishers. There is an economic dimension to this right. But, more importantly, there is also an indigenous dimension to conservation. Indigenous peoples share in the jurisdiction in regard to conservation, and DFO cannot claim exclusive jurisdiction over conservation and management of the fisheries, and thereby exclude indigenous peoples from the management of the resource that is so central to their survival and culture.

Indigenous peoples… hold one of the keys to saving the Fraser River sockeye stocks. Traditional indigenous knowledge constitutes the longest term knowledge about the Fraser River sockeye runs, and the marine and river ecosystems that sustain them. Research has shown that there is a strong correlation and overlap between biodiversity and cultural and linguistic …interaction with ecosystems and different species is actually enhanced by diversity…

Multilateral [legal] environmental agreements recognize indigenous knowledge as a key tool for sustainable development. Indigenous traditional knowledge is treated on equal footing with scientific knowledge, and indigenous peoples participate independent of governments [and on equal footing with governments] in many processes, including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. …there is… recognition of [Canadian] constitutional protection for a food fishery and ..that food fishery has priority over all other non-conservation uses, [however,] DFO routinely infringe that right.

…DFO commonly allow[s] the commercial fishery and …the… very significant recreational fishery to proceed when the Stó:lo’s food and social and ceremonial rights are unfulfilled. DFO… does not respect and accommodate Aboriginal title and rights. DFO does not allow for meaningful participation of Aboriginal Peoples in the management of the fishery, nor does DFO incorporate traditional knowledge of the sockeye that Aboriginal Peoples have gained over thousands of years, instead, DFO relies on science and modeling that is often criticized as weak and outdated. …the Stó:lo have witnessed DFO preside over a precipitous decline in Fraser River sockeye and it is no wonder that the Stó:lo and I believe other Aboriginal Peoples view DFO’s management of the fishery as lacking in effectiveness, in credibility and in legitimacy.

…the Commission needs to investigate the failure of DFO to respect and accommodate Aboriginal title and rights in respect of Fraser sockeye. But what is more pressing… is… the possibilities for a more effective management model than DFO’s command and control approach. This Commission needs to consider the benefits of a truly cooperative management of the Fraser.

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