MMF: Manitoba Indigenous Fishers Hold Emergency Meeting
On May 8, 2019, the Manitoba Metis Federation, (MMF), Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) and Southern Chiefs Organization (SCO) hosted an emergency meeting to address the consequences of Manitoba’s recent commercial fishing licence buy-back program. Implemented last month, the buy-back has removed 126 quotas from 90 fishers on Lake Winnipeg. With the buy-back, more than a million pounds of fish have been taken off the market. The meeting was held at the Fort Garry Hotel in Winnipeg.
“The buy-back is already devastating our Metis villages which rely on the Lake Winnipeg fishery,” stated MMF President, David Chartrand. “This action is putting fishers out of business and will result in the closure for fish sheds. These are our People all of whom have families and mortgages, all of whom spend their hard-earned money in their villages. The job losses from the devastated fishery means that community already had to close the school as more and more families moved away. With this buy-back program it is clear the Pallister government wants to force more people out of work.”
“To add insult to injury, Minister of Sustainable Development Rochelle Squires claims to have consulted fishers,” added President Chartrand. In a March 11th press release Squires said her government recognizes the value of listening and finding better ways of doing things in partnership. “We welcomed 120 active Metis and First Nations fishers at our emergency meeting,” said President Chartrand. Not one person had the opportunity to speak to the province about the buy-back program. If they consulted, it certainly wasn’t with any of us.”
Statistics reveal close to 80 per cent of fishers on Lake Winnipeg are Indigenous. “When the commercial fishing industry is gone out of our community our economic base is gone,” said Valerie Disbrowe from the Berens River Commercial Fishery. “85 per cent of our people are on social assistance and the other little portion of us working as commercial fishers. So how do we come together as people to fight the province and all these people that try and do changes without consultation?”
“The commercial fishing industry is one of the last remaining traditional economies in the province,” stated President, Chartrand. “Now, one snap decision by the Pallister government and people lose their jobs. Imagine the domino affect if the provincial government decides to expand the buy-back program. This will destroy rural fishing villages and leave the countryside littered with ghost-towns. Is this what Pallister calls fiscal responsibility?
At the meeting President Chartrand, Grand Chief Settee, and Grand Chief Daniels confirmed their commitment to take the necessary actions to protect the fishers and the fishery.
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Manitoba Metis Federation
Director of the Communications