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Standing in solidarity with Indigenous rights-holders in the Maritimes: Investors and fisheries in Canada

By Katherine Wheatley, Shannon Rohan & Anthony Schein

Last week, our team watched the escalating violence against Mi’kmaq fishers and started exchanging emails and messages internally: “How much do we know about the Nova Scotia fishery supply chain?” “Which major companies buy Nova Scotia lobster?” “Do seafood sustainability labels have any human rights analysis?” “Has the Fisheries Council of Canada made a public statement?”

At first glance, the escalating violence against Indigenous fishers seemed far removed from the investment context. As we examined the relevant fishery and market dynamics further, we found opportunities for companies, and investors, to uphold Mi’kmaq treaty rights – and their own commitments to reconciliation.

First and foremost, the onus is on the Crown. Through its nation-to-nation relationship with the Mi’kmaq, the Government of Canada must ensure the Mi’kmaq can fully exercise their treaty right to fish to support a “moderate livelihood,” as set out in the Marshall decision .

Yet Canadian companies also have an important role to play in supporting reconciliation and respect for Indigenous rights and title, as reinforced by the Truth and Reconciliation Call to Action #92 for the corporate sector. In this case, as elsewhere, investors should be attentive to how Canadian companies support and respect Indigenous rights and title, such as the Mi’kmaq’s treaty right to fish.

Investors can start by asking which companies in their portfolios are significantly involved in the lobster trade. Some public companies are members of fishery and industry associations, such as the Fisheries Council of Canada. Other companies have joined OceanWise, the Marine Stewardship Council, and other seafood sustainability labelling programs.

We recommend that investors ask major Canadian grocery retailers that are involved in the lobster industry through trade associations or purchasing arrangements to do three things:

On behalf of our network of institutional investors, SHARE will be putting these questions to some of Canada’s leading food retailers. We urge others to do the same.

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