PAGC calls for inland fishing industry aid
- EFN Staff | May 06, 2020
Prince Albert Grand Council (PAGC) expresses concerns for First Nations families who depend on the Inland Freshwater Commercial Fishing Industry for their livelihood.
PAGC is calling for a federal aid package to help those families during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We are also experiencing how the supply chains that would have taken the fish from boat to market no longer exist in a stable and dependable way, and this aid package should have also included inland fisheries in northern Saskatchewan that have contributed millions to the Saskatchewan economy,” said PAGC Grand Chief Brian Hardlotte in a release. “There is still a demand for our products but most of the focus has been on food that has a long shelf life, and this has effectively shut down our industry.”
The inland fishing industry has faced great uncertainty due to the COVID-19 virus pandemic and support is needed for this year’s fishing season.
According to the prepared statement, the federal government announced on April 25 they will provide a $62.5-million aid package to help the country’s fish and seafood processors to protect workers from COVID-19, and to ensure they can continue to keep the seafood market alive. The funding is earmarked for PPE and to help fish and seafood companies adapt their plants to comply with health directives. The funds will also be used by processing companies to cover equipment, such as freezers.
“We are concerned that the federal announcement does not address the distinction between oceanic and inland fishers. We not only need to receive financial support to look after our families, but we also need to restart our industry, so we are asking for similar funding or be identified as an industry eligible for a portion of the aid package,” said Hardlotte.
John Beatty, Vice President of the Saskatchewan Cooperative Fisheries Limited (SCFL) added with the closure of the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation plant and the collapse of the fish market in Saskatchewan, northern fisheries need a year’s extension on their EI benefits.
“The fishing industry falls under seasonal self-employment, and therefore an extension of twelve months on the fishers’ EI is more appropriate than the provision of the CERB, since it would ensure fishers would receive an amount they are accustomed to through EI during the off-season,” according to the release. “A capital investment is also required to upgrade their local plants, docks and ice sheds not only to store fish but to provide fresh fish to their communities. This could be done during COVID-19’s closure of the fishing industry and preparations came be made now for when fishing resumes, including improvements, such as a local co-op.”
The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) Chief Bobby Cameron responded and added the federal government must provide for the inland fishers in that fishing is not only an inherent right of our peoples, but it is also a fundamental right of Treaty.
“It has been a source of sustenance for First Nations since time immemorial,” stated Chief Cameron. “Families in the north rely on this industry to feed their families, and they need all the support they can get to make ends meet, especially during this pandemic.”