Minister Ashfield Impressed with Eskasoni
June 05, 2011
Federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway, Honourable Keith Ashfield, made his first public appearance as the new Fisheries Minister by taking part in the Coast Guard College graduation, in Sydney, Nova Scotia, where he met and congratulated the Class of 2011 on June 4, 2011.
The following morning, Minister Ashfield took time before his flight back Ottawa to visited Eskasoni First Nation, which became Minister Ashfield’s first official visit to a First Nation community in Canada.
Eskasoni Chief, Leroy Denny was surprised yet honored by Ministers last minute change in his itinerary to come down to Eskasoni on a Sunday morning, “I just found out a few days prior, that Minister Ashfield wanted to visit our community and learn more about our commercial fishing success. “
Chief also added, “We are very honored by his visit and he was extremely impressed by our commercial fisheries and our scientific research in respects to the Bras d’Or Lakes.”
Chief Denny spoke about the socio-economic challenges Eskasoni has with it growing population. He emphasize to the Minister that our community just wants to work and Chief Denny suggested areas in tourism and additional licenses as possible opportunities.
Chief Denny also spoke on Eskasoni’s vision of empowering the community and making the leadership and the band to become more professional and accountable. This in return will create stronger possibilities for economic investment for Eskasoni.
Leonard Denny, Manager of Crane Cove Seafoods spoke on the commercial aspects of Eskasoni commercial fishing and how it has evolved to become the success that it is today.
Denny said it is not perfect and many sacrifices have been made in the last few years. Denny spoke on one aspect that was a struggle in the community, when fishermen had to go through drug test before they were allowed to fish. Denny said, “When we started this program we had 35-40 percent failure. Today those numbers have gone down to 5-10 percent.”
Denny spoke about the positive relationship Eskasoni has with Department of Fisheries and Oceans and have supported any decision’s DFO has made.
Tom Johnson, Director of Eskasoni Fish and Wildlife Commission, spoke on the Food Social and Ceremonial aspect of the commercial fisheries and said the Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy Program hasn’t received increased funding since the early 90’s. Johnson hope this issue could be addressed.
Lisa Young, Director of Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources (UINR) which represent the all the First Nation communities in Cape Breton, spoke about the great history UINR has with DFO with relations to scientific research of the Bras d’Or Lakes.
Young felt UINR needs to be more actively involved in DFO’s fishery management decision within Brad d’Or Lakes and surrounding areas and always keep conscious of sustainability and respect for the species.
Young also noted that UINR is big on collaboration and mentioned one success initiative which was the creation of the Collaborative Environmental Planning Initiative (CEPI) where all parties, from First Nations to Federal representatives coming together for the sustainability of the Bras d’Or Lakes.
Minister Ashfield was thoroughly impressed with all department under the fisheries and said, “I had the honour and pleasure of visiting the largest First Nation in Atlantic Canada, and of learning about the governance and operational structures that have been put in place in the commercial fishery there.”
In his statement he added, “As a new Fisheries and Oceans Minister, it is important for me to listen more than I talk and I was honoured to sit with Chief Denny and his colleagues to learn more about the Eskasoni approach to the fisheries.”
Minister concluded, “I look forward to continuing our collaborative fisheries management relationship, and to working together to secure the long-term socio-economic prosperity of this and other communities where the fishery plays such a central role.”