Indigenous Fisheries in Quebec

Indigenous Peoples have fishing rights that are recognized and protected by the Constitution.

Food, Social and Ceremonial (FSC) Fisheries

In 1990, the Supreme Court of Canada in Sparrow found that a First Nation has an Aboriginal right to fish for food and social and ceremonial purposes, under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. Following this decision, DFO extended access to FSC fisheries to other First Nations in Canada.

Since then, in Quebec, DFO has issued communal FSC fishing licences to many band councils of various First Nations. Licence conditions vary from community to community, and to establish them, DFO consults with First Nations to understand each community’s specific needs and circumstances.

Attached to each licence are conditions that must be met to help sustain healthy fish stocks, including conditions regarding species, fishing periods, gear, geographical areas and authorized catch limits.

Most FSC fisheries operate at the same time as commercial fisheries. However, DFO authorizes some to operate at other times when there is no impact on the resource.

Because FSC fishing licences are issued to communities and not individuals, it is up to the band council to designate which community members may catch the authorized quantity of fish.

Some band councils designate only a few fishers to catch what is needed for the community, while others designate several persons to fish under the authority of the licence to catch small quantities for family needs. The band council must provide DFO with the list of those designated to fish under the licence. This makes it possible to monitor the fisheries and protect resources.

Fish caught for food or social and ceremonial purposes may not be sold, bartered or traded.

The right to fish for food, social and ceremonial purposes, takes priority, after conservation, over other users of the resource.

Fishing in Pursuit of a Moderate Livelihood

In Quebec, only the Mi’kmaq and Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) First Nations of the Gaspé Peninsula have the Supreme Court-recognized right to fish, hunt and gather in pursuit of a moderate livelihood. These rights were clarified by the 1999 Marshall decision.

Fishing in pursuit of a moderate livelihood allows catches to be sold for a reasonable profit to support community members.

For over 20 years, the Government of Canada has been working to implement this right by fostering First Nations’ access to commercial fisheries, by helping them acquire commercial fishing licences, boats and gear for example.

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