Kwick’kanum (Eric Pelkey), a hereditary chief of the Tsawout Nation, addressed the crowd that gathered at Mount Newton Cross Road and Highway 17 on Oct. 23. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)

Kwick’kanum (Eric Pelkey), a hereditary chief of the Tsawout Nation, addressed the crowd that gathered at Mount Newton Cross Road and Highway 17 on Oct. 23. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)

UPDATED: Pat Bay Highway reopens after rally supporting Mi’kmaq fishing rights

Supporters call on government to recognize Indigenous treaty rights

Traffic was detoured off Highway 17 in Central Saanich on Friday morning for a demonstration in support of Mi’kmaq fishing rights.

Despite the rain, a large crowd gathered on the Pat Bay Highway at Mount Newton Cross Road just before noon on Oct. 23.

Kwick’kanum (Eric Pelkey), a hereditary chief of the Tsawout Nation, spoke about the inherent right of Indigenous people to live, hunt and fish on their land in peace.

A dispute over Mi’kmaq fishing rights in Nova Scotia has been ongoing for several weeks and recently escalated to violence and destruction.

“A treaty is a nation to nation agreement,” he said, referencing the treaty between the Mi’kmaq and Canada that indicates their right to fish lobster. “The rightful owners of the land are the ones you have the treaty with.”

RELATED: 5 things to know about the dispute over Nova Scotia’s Indigenous lobster fishery

Steven Lawton, a member of the Mi’kmaw Nation, told the crowd the dispute in Nova Scotia is not “a lobster issue” but rather a “treaty issue.” He noted that October is Mi’kmaq History Month and each year on Oct. 1, Mi’kmaq Treaty Day, the leaders in eastern Canada “get together and affirm and recognize the treaty rights.”

Lawton said the Canadian government needs to recognize the treaty rights of the Mi’kmaq and all Indigenous people.

Drummers and singers led the crowd in various songs between speakers and the demonstration finished at 1 p.m. Lawton and another member of the Mi’kmaw led the group out of the intersection and east on Mount Newton Cross Road.

Central Saanich Police Department diverted traffic between Island View Road and Amity Drive during the demonstration.

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Steven Lawton, a member of the Mi'kmaw Nation, addressed the crowd gathered at Mount Newton Cross Road and Highway 17 on Oct. 23 in support of Mi'kmaq fishermen. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)

Colin Smith, a member of the Mi’kmaw Nation, lit sage during a demonstration in support of Mi’kmaq fishers at Mount Newton Cross Road and Highway 17 on Oct. 23. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)

Colin Smith, a member of the Mi’kmaw Nation, lit sage during a demonstration in support of Mi’kmaq fishers at Mount Newton Cross Road and Highway 17 on Oct. 23. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)

A crowd gathered at Mount Newton Cross Road and Highway 17 on Oct. 23. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)

A crowd gathered at Mount Newton Cross Road and Highway 17 on Oct. 23. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)

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