Canada, First Nations reach fisheries reconciliation agreement

An agreement between the Canadian government and Coastal First Nations aims to advance economic opportunities and collaborative governance, as well as expansion of community-based commercial fishing access for seven First Nations entities.

The historic agreement, signed in Vancouver, British Columbia on July 26, is the result of years of collaborative work to strengthen relations between the government of Canada and Coastal First Nations members, said Jonathan Wilkinson, minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard. “In partnership with Coastal First Nations, we are advancing collaborative fisheries management on the north and central coast of our province to best support the prosperity of these coastal communities,” Wilkinson said.

Chief Marlyn Slett, president of Coastal First Nations, hailed the agreement as a means of re-establishing a small boat fleet in these coastal communities. “By working together, on a nation-to-nation basis, we will provide opportunities for our communities to fully participate in the fishing economy; create new jobs and investments, and increase economic opportunities and build capacity,” Slett said.

Coastal First Nations territories make up 40 percent of British Columbia’s coastal waters. The agreement could result in a significant job creation in these coastal communities and a substantial increase to household incomes as a result of growth of community-based commercial fishing operations, government officials said. Such economic growth would allow more people to stay in their communities to work, secure a good stable income to support their families and re-invest the profits generated from fisheries back into the community.

Government officials said Coastal First Nations will now have better access to existing commercial fishing licenses and quota, and an enhanced role in fisheries governance.

The seven participating Coastal First Nations are the Heiltsuk Nation, Kitasoo/Xai’xai First Nation, Metlakatla First Nation, Nuxalk Nation, Wuikinuxv Nation, Gitga’at First Nation and Gitxaala Nation. They are all located in the central and north coasts of British Columbia.