Marshall decision: twenty years of progress for indigenous communities

Jugement Marshall: vingt ans de progrès pour les communautés autochtones

Tanya Condo, at left, represents the diversification of the activities aboriginal people after the decision, Marshall. She performs here a marine inventory, with a team native.

December 9, 2019 4: 00 am


Marshall decision: twenty years of progress for indigenous communities

Jugement Marshall: vingt ans de progrès pour les communautés autochtones

Gilles Gagné

The Sun


GESGAPEGIAG — When the supreme Court of Canada rendered September 17, 1999, a decision legalizing the commercial fishing aboriginal people in eastern Canada, Quebec, maritime included, Lina Condo is a guide to salmon fishing on the river Grande-Cascapedia. It ignores that the “Marshall decision” will revolutionize his life.

The Mi gmaqs of the Gaspé peninsula, the Maliseet of the Bas-Saint-Laurent, and the Innu of the North Shore will enjoy sport now species such as shrimp, lobster and snow crab. The community of Mrs. Condo, Gesgapegiag, as Listuguj and Gespeg, also in the Gaspé peninsula, will be the number. The council of Gesgapegiag contact Lina Condo to organize and manage the commercial fisheries.

“I didn’t know what it was, the snow crab. But thanks to Herman Synnott and Sylvio Coulombe, who worked at Fisheries and Oceans Canada Gaspé, it was successful. […] I called Herman, before taking any decision. In the first time, it was caught shrimp, with the support of Herman”, she said.

Herman Synnott, a shrimp boat of Gaspé, is one of the fishermen “whites” who have decided to collaborate immediately with the indigenous. It has gained a huge respect to Gesgapegiag and Gespeg, where he played the role of mentor. Other non-indigenous people, including Maxime Lambert, human resources, supported Lina’s Condo.

“We have developed a policy of fisheries and descriptions of tasks. For the remuneration, it has followed the industry. When I heard comments saying that our fishermen were perhaps paid too much, I answered : “I am out in the sea. It is a difficult profession.” Bernard Lacroix, who managed the plant E. Gagnon and Son in those years, bought our crab. If I hadn’t had these people, I don’t know what would have happened. We started well supervised,” she said.

Now, Lina Condo, born of a white mother and a father native, admits that she was well placed to manage the post-Marshall. “I have the two cultures. It has facilitated the task, as my knowledge of French and English”.

Jugement Marshall: vingt ans de progrès pour les communautés autochtones

Lina Condo has highly appreciated the guidance received by some non-indigenous people, a framework which has been instrumental in the implementation of the Marshall decision.

Special Collaboration Gilles Gagné

She took the insurance. “I started to make decisions, maybe not always the right one. One time, we had an offer from another factory that E. Gagnon and Son to buy our crab and I decided to try it. We returned to E. Gagnon and Son, but Herman said to me : “I’m happy, because you have made a decision.” He had to let me make my mistakes.”

Lina Condo has gained a lot of respect out of Gesgapegiag. She has been a consultant in business development for Ulnooweg, which supports the commercial fisheries of 13 communities in Quebec and New Brunswick.

“All-star activities are dependent on Marshall, or were born after Marshall. Ulnooweg is one of them, as the AGHAMM,” she said. The Association of management of fisheries mi’gmaq and maliseet participated in the consultations and decisions of management of aquatic resources and oceans.

The Mi gmaqs think big. “Before, the lobster was sold directly to fish markets or factories out of Gesgapegiag. Now, we buy the lobster from our boats, we do sell ourselves to our store, the Lobster Hut, and if we have excess, it is sold at the factory. We bought a truck, it has a warehouse and three employees working out of our pool. The diversification is needed. […] We are trying to get permits for other species,” points out Lina’s Condo.



LISTUGUJ — commercial fisheries have generated revenues of $ 26 million and 160 jobs in the communities women from Listuguj, Gesgapegiag and Gespeg, in 2018. There are approximately 3500 residents. The data of 2019 are coming. The revenues from catches increased in Quebec, the trend will also affect aboriginal people.

This money is used throughout, notes Fred Metallic, director of the natural Resources of Listuguj.

“The funds generated by the commercial fisheries play an important role on economic, ecological and social, but […] the money is also used to financially support the students who need to complete their training outside, in the field of health, people who need a short-term employment, education offered in the community and in other areas,” he said.

“The difference with our fisheries, it is that, unlike other fisheries, they are not held privately. […] Part of a fishing licence of Listuguj is managed directly by the department of natural Resources, while some licences are leased to aboriginal fishers. In the end, this money is co-mingled to finance projects of a diverse nature”, he notes.

“Too often, people are under the impression that this development of our fisheries came at the expense of others. This is not the case. We have made our contribution to the fishery in general. Twenty years after the Marshall decision. We are far from a sector in difficulty”, said Mr. Metallic.

The numbers prove it. The total income of commercial fisheries in québec is increasing steadily since 2013, except for a slight decrease in 2018. These revenues were $ 388 million in 2017, prior to processing in the factory, and 364 million, a preliminary figure, in 2019. It is approximately the triple of the income before Marshall.

“The fisheries and forestry to help us become more independent of transfer payments [from the State]. We do not want to depend on these transfers and any way, they will decrease”, said Mr Metallic.

Johanne Basque, coordinator of the fisheries in Gespeg, ensures that the fisheries are “the main source of income for the community. Without commercial fisheries, it would be difficult to provide the services that we offer to members. We don’t want to stop there. We have diversification projects, to go beyond the capture. We envision the transformation”.


Half of aboriginal people under 25 years of age. The Marshall decision and the organizations born since 1999 in order to structure the fisheries have created opportunities for young people.

In Gesgapegiag, Tanya Condo, 24 years old, is liaison officer between the Association of management of fisheries (AGHAMM) and the canadian coast Guard, a job that requires versatility.

“There are a lot of office work, but also work on the boats. It even works on the rivers. I like it. I tripe. This is the job I wanted,” she said.

Ex-biology student, she had conducted inventories of striped bass before participating in an inventory of lobster conducted by the AGHAMM and the Regroupement des pêcheurs professionnels du sud de la Gaspésie.

“These jobs and our fisheries management agencies would not have existed without the Marshall decision”, emphasizes Tanya Condo.

Eric Polichuck was sport fishing guide looking for a better job when he joined the commercial fisheries, and Herman Synnott.

“Herman was my captain. He taught me everything. He was my mentor,” sums up Éric Polichuck, now supervisor of the five vessels mid-shore of Gesgapegiag. He is captain since 2013.

“As supervisor of fleet, I have to coordinate everything that is connected to the boat, I ensure that the boats are spotless and in order for the season. We started 20 years ago with the shrimp and the crab, but it was now allowed to halibut, turbot and sea cucumber,” he says.

“I wanted to find me a job in 2002, but I fell in love with peaches. I’m still at sea. I would not have been able to find a better one,” he says.




The Marshall decision bears the name of Donald Marshall son, a Mi’gmaq of Membertou reserve, Nova Scotia. It was already known in Canada in 1996 when he was accused of illegal fishing to the eel by the federal department of Fisheries and Oceans. In 1971, he had been wrongfully accused of the murder of his friend Sandy Seale, and he had spent 12 years in prison for that homicide committed by Roy Ebsary.


Found guilty in the provincial Court, a judgment upheld in the Court of appeal, he carries his case to the supreme Court, basing its advocacy on treaties of 1760-1761, attributing the Mi gmaqs the absolute right to fish and sell their catch. He wins on the 19th of September. “The Marshall decision” makes most of the 34 aboriginal communities in the east of the country, and those of Quebec, to start a lobster fishing, a species mostly caught in the spring.

Several incidents take place in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, where fishermen, non-aboriginal refuse the judgement and see the fall fishing a threat to the resource. A violent exchange occurs near the Burnt Church and Indian River. Many of the pots and three plants are destroyed, boats are damaged, a dock was destroyed and roads are blocked.


In the winter, a huge work begins for Fisheries and Oceans Canada : organise the fisheries of the spring, determine the part-aboriginal, to buy permits, and implement these fisheries. February, Ottawa buys 1000 licenses, including licenses coveted lobster, shrimp and crab, but also species less fished, fish especially. These acquisitions arising out of 5000 permits made available by 1400 fishermen, many seeing no future in sea. The State pays out $ 160 million in four provinces. On April 21, the 13 reserves are to be understood with Fisheries and Oceans Canada. In August, 27 have signed. Burnt Church and Indian River are resistant. Other incidents will take place during the fall, including a blockade of the road by the Burnt Church. The lull did happen in 2002.

In the Gaspé, 1999 and 2000 are calm. The incidents occurred in September 1996 after a Mi’gmaq of New Brunswick has initiated a lobster fishing at Miguasha. The lobster had reacted, especially in hot racks at Carleton.


Death of Donald Marshall, a cancer. It will have marked the canadian law. In 1989, six years after his acquittal for murder, a royal Commission suggests more transparency in the law on the disclosure of evidence collected in the investigation.

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