Setting a new course for Indigenous and Government of Canada collaboration through the co-development, co-design, and co-delivery of fisheries programs

News release

May 24, 2019

Ottawa, ON — The Government of Canada is committed to a renewed relationship with Indigenous peoples, based on the recognition of rights, respect, cooperation, and partnership. As part of this commitment, we are working to modernize federal government structures to enable Indigenous peoples to build capacity and support their vision of self-determination.

Today, the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, and the National Indigenous Fisheries Institute are pleased to announce the completion of a two-year review of Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Indigenous programs, with a commitment to move forward with a joint vision for the future of these programs.

As part of this review process, the Institute engaged more than 50 Indigenous communities to inform the development of the Northern Integrated Commercial Fisheries Initiative (NICFI) which officially launched today. This new program provides funding and support to northern Indigenous groups and communities for the development of Indigenous-owned communal commercial fishing enterprises and aquaculture operations. 

While Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is still reviewing the Institute’s final report, we have taken a number of early actions based on the Institute’s phase one report to address program gaps and support collaboration to drive growth and innovation in the programs’ operations. We will build on this work by accepting the overall findings of the Institute’s final report and commit to developing a multi-year action plan for implementation in the coming months.

Moving forward, DFO will continue to work alongside Indigenous partners in growing and improving these programs, as well as bringing them into greater alignment with the needs and interests of Indigenous peoples and communities. This means reinvesting in these programs and redesigning them alongside Indigenous experts who best understand what is required to build capacity within their communities and institutions, in order to support access to real economic growth opportunities.


“Today is an historic day for my department and for the federal government’s relationship with Indigenous peoples. It is the first time we, as a government, are taking a co-development, co-design, co-delivery approach to Indigenous programs. Indigenous fisheries are an important driver of economic development and of significant cultural importance to Indigenous communities across Canada. I look forward to continuing on this path in a spirit of respect and reconciliation, for the lasting benefit of Indigenous communities.”

The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

“Indigenous Program Review has been a rewarding experience. We appreciate the efforts of program participants and community leaders to inform this review and to guide our recommendations for improvements. We also value the collaborative relationship that has further developed with Fisheries and Oceans Canada through the review and their commitment to implement the changes necessary to ensure Indigenous communities and groups across Canada, as well as fish and aquatic resources, benefit from these programs.”

John G. Paul
Executive Director of the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs Secretariat and Chair of the National Indigenous Fisheries Institute’s Board of Directors

Quick facts

  • In Canada, Indigenous fisheries play an important role in many communities. They serve as a main contributor of own-source revenue and job creation. They employ more than 4,500 people and generate over $260 million in annual revenues.

  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Indigenous fisheries programs support Indigenous groups as they establish, grow, and maintain the capacity to participate in commercial and food, social, and ceremonial fisheries, as well as the management of aquatic resources.

  • Building on Budget 2017’s support for the renewal and expansion of the Department’s Indigenous programs, including to expand Indigenous commercial fishing enterprises into Canada’s North, the Government of Canada collaborated with the Institute to conduct a technical review of its Indigenous programs to ensure that they meet the needs and aspirations of Indigenous communities from coast to coast to coast.

  • Led by Indigenous executives from across Canada, the Institute engaged Indigenous fisheries sectors and communities in all regions of the country over the last two years as part of this technical review. This involved 76 workshops, plenaries, and interviews with more than 720 Indigenous participants. The review focused on how the programs can function more efficiently, fairly, and effectively for the benefit of Indigenous communities.

  • The review looked at the following five federally supported programs:

    • The Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy program provides a framework for the effective management of the Aboriginal food, social, and ceremonial fisheries in a manner consistent with the 1990 Supreme Court of Canada Sparrow decision.
    • The Atlantic Integrated Commercial Fisheries Initiative assists 35 Mi'kmaq Maliseet and Peskotomuhkati First Nations with the means to develop commercial fishing enterprise governance and business management skills in a manner consistent with the 1999 Supreme Court of Canada Marshall decision.
    • The Pacific Integrated Commercial Fisheries Initiative was built on fisheries reform work begun in response to the 2004 reports of the First Nations Panel on Fisheries and the Joint Task Group on Post-treaty Fisheries. It helps build capacity in commercial fisheries operations and helps communities have a more effective voice in fisheries collaborative management.
    • The Aboriginal Aquatic Resource and Oceans Management Program supports Indigenous groups as they develop, grow and maintain aquatic resource and oceans management departments that can provide fisheries, habitat, science, and oceans related services along a watershed and/or support participation in advisory and co-management processes. The current national AAROM network includes 35 AAROM departments: 8 in British Columbia, 11 in Atlantic Canada/southern Quebec, five in the Northwest Territories and northern Quebec), and one national organization.
    • The Aboriginal Fisheries Guardian Program was established under the Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy. Guardian duties generally involve a mixture of fisheries monitoring, catch reporting, habitat restoration, fish sampling, technical assistance to projects and community engagement/education.
  • It also examined the development of a new commercial fisheries initiative for the North:

    • The Northern Integrated Commercial Fisheries Initiative will fund and support Indigenous groups and communities that are not eligible for the Atlantic or Pacific programs in all areas where Fisheries and Oceans Canada manages the fishery. Funding will be aimed at commercial fishing enterprise and aquaculture development, with a particular focus on business development planning and targeted training.

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Jocelyn Lubczuk
Press Secretary 
Office of the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

Media Relations
Fisheries and Oceans Canada 

National Indigenous Fisheries Institute
Shannon Sheil, 1-250-508-7763

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