First Nations coalition reaches landmark deal to become co-owners of Clearwater Seafoods
One of North America’s largest seafood suppliers is being acquired in part by a coalition of Miꞌkmaq First Nations in what is being called a “historic” deal that will facilitate the largest investment in the Canadian seafood industry by an Indigenous group so far.
The group of Miꞌkmaq First Nations — led by Membertou First Nation and Miawpukek First Nation — in partnership with Canadian specialty food company Premium Brands, are purchasing Halifax, Nova Scotia-based shellfish supplier Clearwater Seafoods for $1 billion Canadian dollars ($765.8 million USD).
“This deal is a transformational moment for all participating communities,” Membertou Chief Terry Paul, who led the deal on the Miꞌkmaq side, told CBC News. “We’re a player now. In order to be in business, you first have to play the game … You have to play to win, and we won.”
Paul told CTV News that the plan is to eventually integrate Indigenous workers into Clearwater Seafoods and to create an enduring legacy for Miꞌkmaq communities, leading to a positive economic impact for generations to come.
The deal has attracted criticism from non-Indigenous commercial fishermen in Nova Scotia, who say that Clearwater Seafoods has monopolized the industry, as the company holds all the licenses for the offshore deep-water lobster fishing area known as LFA 41. Per the Globe and Mail, tensions between non-Indigenous fishermen and Miꞌkmaq fishermen over Indigenous fishing outside of the federally regulated season “boiled over” in October when non-Indigenous fishermen destroyed Miꞌkmaq fishermen’s catch. Shortly thereafter, one Indigenous lobster pound was suspiciously burned to the ground.
Halifax-based Miꞌkmaq historian Dan Paul told the Globe and Mail that the deal is a step in the right direction for economic independence for the region’s Indigenous people. “The Miꞌkmaq lost their livelihood when the Europeans invaded, and now they’re on the cusp of reclaiming it,” he said.
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