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Sipekne'katik First Nation boats sit docked in Saulnierville, N.S., Sept. 20, 2020.Mark O'Neill/The Canadian Press

A First Nations chief in Nova Scotia has released a letter from Ottawa outlining a plan to have Indigenous fishers participate in moderate livelihood fisheries during the commercial season.

In the letter released today by Sipekne’katik Chief Mike Sack, Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan says her department wants to give Indigenous fishers access to commercial fisheries through voluntary buyouts of existing licences.

She says her department is prepared to negotiate agreements with Indigenous communities to establish “small-scale” moderate livelihood fisheries during the commercial season in the “near term.”

Ms. Jordan says the fisheries will operate while negotiations continue on how First Nations in Nova Scotia can affirm their treaty rights to fish for a moderate livelihood.

She says any moderate livelihood fishing activity must be authorized by her office through licences issued under the Fisheries Act.

Indigenous fishers in Nova Scotia say a 1999 Supreme Court of Canada decision affirms the Mi’kmaq treaty right to fish for a “moderate livelihood” when and where they want – even outside the federally regulated commercial fishing season.

That decision was later clarified by the court, however, which said Ottawa could regulate the Mi’kmaq treaty right for conservation and other limited purposes.

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