Motion Pertaining to Mi’kmaw Fishers and Communities

By: The Hon. Wanda Thomas Bernard

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Hon. Wanda Elaine Thomas Bernard: Honourable senators, I stand in support of Motion 40 brought forward by Senator Francis. Thank you to Senator Francis and Senator Christmas for bringing this very important issue to our attention last fall. I stand in solidarity with Mi’kmaq fishers and the Mi’kmaq community.

As an institution, many of us have vocalized the desire to address systemic racism. Supporting this motion is one of the ways that we can do that. Systemic racism and colonialism are intrinsically linked, and one cannot be addressed without examining the other. The racism and violence faced by Mi’kmaq fishers are forms of unacceptable colonial violence and are a result of generations of systemic discrimination and normalized marginalization. As an institution, we should be standing up against this violence and resisting the denial of treaty rights.

I wanted to speak today to stress the importance of upholding and respecting treaties. We all live on Indigenous land. We are all treaty people. As Canadians, we are responsible to respect treaties, and as senators, we are responsible for upholding these agreements. Treaties are agreements or promises made to respect Mi’kmaq rights to land and resources. Living in Nova Scotia, living on Mi’kmaq land, I am responsible to those historic treaties.

In addition to being a treaty person, I firmly believe in the strength of cross-racial allyship. As many of you are aware — especially Nova Scotian and East Coast senators — I live in East Preston, an African-Nova Scotian community. African Nova Scotians and Mi’kmaq are deeply linked, dating back to the early 1600s, when the first African person to come to Canada, Mathieu Da Costa, served as an interpreter between Mi’kmaq and Europeans. Given our shared history, I support Mi’kmaq because I understand the multi-generational impact of colonization and the colonial context in which this violence exists. I honour our shared history, and I honour our differences.

Honourable colleagues, I support Motion 40 to uphold the Mi’kmaq rights to a moderate livelihood fishery as established by the Peace and Friendship Treaties signed in 1760 and 1761. I urge the Senate to condemn the violence and support the protection of Mi’kmaq fishers and communities. Asante. Thank you.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.

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