The newly elected Chief of Walpole Island First Nation made a surprise announcement on Friday, October 23, 2020 during a press conference held at Wallaceburg’s hospital.
Chief Charles Sampson said Walpole Island is moving forward with commercial fishing in the area.
“I would also like to serve notice to the Government of Ontario, that the people of the Walpole Island First Nation will begin to again exercise our inherent constitutional right to commercially fish in our surrounding waters and traditional waters,” Sampson said during Friday’s event.
“This economic activity will begin in the very near future and will create opportunities for our people.”
Before making this announcement, Chief Sampson acknowledged the situation taking place on the East Coast of Canada with the Mi’kmaq First Nation, who are attempting to establish a lobster fishing industry in Nova Scotia.
“On a more serious note, I’m going to take an opportunity to state to Minister (Monte) McNaughton and to the Government of Ontario that we the Chief and Council for the Walpole Island First Nation are very concerned about the treatment our Mi’kmaq brothers and sisters are receiving in the exercise of their inherent right to fish and make a living,” Chief Sampson said.
“Some of this treatment appears to be racially motivated and this concerns us.”
Chief Sampson added: “We believe the Mi’kmaq people have the right to fish and make a living and that right is protected by the Canadian Constitution and by the Supreme Court of Canada. We also firmly believe the Mi’kmaq people are equal partners in the East Coast fishing industry and that they have an inherent right to participate in that industry. They were given that right by the Creator.”
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry website stated commercial fishing is part of Ontario’s heritage and culture.
“Many towns, such as Port Dover and Port Stanley on the Canadian shores of Lake Erie, were founded because of commercial fishing activities,” the Ministry website states.
“Today, the towns of Kingsville and Wheatley Harbour are home to some of the largest commercial freshwater fish processing centres in Canada.”
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