Canada court upholds native Indian-only fishing

Fri Jun 27, 2008 3:43pm EDT
 
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Canada's highest court allowed a native Indian-only fisheries on Friday on a key Pacific coast salmon river, rejecting a complaint the policy fostered racial discrimination.

The Supreme Court said the government was allowed to pursue an affirmative action goal by giving members of three Indian bands a special license to fish on the Fraser River near Vancouver before the start of the regular fishing season.

"The bands granted the benefit were disadvantaged in terms of income, education and a host of other measures. This disadvantage, rooted in history, continues to this day," the court said in a summery of its ruling.

The native-only fishery was challenged by a group of mostly non-aboriginal fishermen who were charged with illegal fishing in a mass protest in 1998.

The issue of who has access to salmon on Canada's Pacific coast has become increasingly acrimonious in recent years as fish stocks decline.

(Reporting Allan Dowd, editing by Rob Wilson)