Indigenous fishermen adjust lines on their boat in Saulnierville, N.S. on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS /Andrew Vaughan

Indigenous fishermen adjust lines on their boat in Saulnierville, N.S. on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS /Andrew Vaughan

Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq chiefs demand stop of alleged federal plans to seize lobster traps

A dispute over moderate livelihood fisheries has grown increasingly tense in recent weeks

A group of Nova Scotia Indigenous leaders has levelled harassment allegations at the federal government over an ongoing moderate livelihood fishery dispute, accusing the department responsible for fisheries of planning to seize gear from lobster trappers in the province.

The Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs issued a statement on Friday saying they’d learned of unspecified plans from the conservation and protection department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, but did not disclose the source of their information.

The chiefs alleged department members may be planning to seize gear and traps belonging to fishers exercising what they describe as a protected right to earn a moderate livelihood from their efforts.

A departmental spokeswoman declined to comment on their specific allegations, but said federal officials are not necessarily aware of all actions taken by local staff.

“The Assembly condemns this action and demands all planned action related to seizure is aborted,” the chiefs said in a statement. “The Supreme Court of Canada has recognized the Mi’kmaq Right to fish for a moderate livelihood.”

A dispute over moderate livelihood fisheries has grown increasingly tense in recent weeks, with multiple violent clashes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous fishers taking place throughout October.

At the heart of the dispute lies a 1999 Supreme Court decision affirming that the Mi’kmaq have a treaty-protected right to earn a “moderate livelihood” by fishing, hunting and gathering when and where ever they want.

The federal government has confirmed it is committed to implementing the Mi’kmaq treaty right to pursue a moderate livelihood.

Many non-Indigenous people involved in the province’s $1-billion lobster industry, however, have argued the court’s decision also affirmed Ottawa’s right

to regulate the industry to ensure conservation of the lobster stocks. And they have raised concerns that a growing “moderate livelihood” fishery could deplete the resource.

In the statement, the assembly accused Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan of “acting in bad faith” during recent consultations to end the dispute.

Departmental spokeswoman Jane Deeks said Jordan remains committed to working with the First Nations in Nova Scotia to implement their treaty rights.

“There are more than 600 DFO fishery officers working in communities across the country, and the compliance measures they take are based on numerous factors,” she said.

The assembly also expressed concerns about the safety of Mi’kmaq fishers following a series of violent encounters and vandalism, including a fire that ravaged a lobster pound holding Sipekne’katik First Nations catch in Middle West Pubnico, N.S. earlier this month.

READ MORE: Mi’kmaq band finds buyer for portion of lobster catch after alleged blacklisting

Yarmouth County RCMP released photos and videos in connection with the fire on Friday, asking the public for help in identifying two persons of interest.

Cpl. Lisa Croteau said in an interview the RCMP is currently working through the tips it’s received as it continues to investigate the blaze.

Meanwhile, Sipekne’katik’s commercial fishers contend it’s “not worth the risk” to fish for lobster for fear of more violence and vandalism.

Band Chief Mike Sack said concerned emerged during an emergency meeting with commercial fishers held on Friday.

The fishers are concerned about going out in the water alongside non-Indigenous fishing boats once the season begins in November in the fishing area surrounding the southwestern shore of Nova Scotia, he said.

Currently, Sipekne’katik has nine commercial fishing licenses, he added.

“Nine-hundred-and-thirty-five commercial boats go to the area and they don’t feel safe,” Sack said. “It’s just too much of a big loss compared to what they could benefit from it so none of them want to risk doing that.”

“I don’t feel like pressuring them into doing so if safety is a concern,” he said, adding that the band had yet to lock down a buyer for its catch.

Sipekne’katik estimates financial losses from previous damage will come in at more than $3 million.

Sack said while the commercial fishers have expressed reluctance to get out on the water, those working for the band’s livelihood fishery would continue to catch lobster.

He referred to a temporary injunction granted by the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia on Oct. 21 aimed at preventing people from interfering with the fishery.

The injunction said some of the opponents of the new fishery are using “criminal intimidation, threats, and property destruction.”

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Danielle Edwards, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

fishingIndigenous

Just Posted

Ultra runner Jerry Hughes circles the track at the Cowichan Sportsplex as he nears the end of his six-day Canadian record attempt and fundraiser in November. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Ultramarathon a few miles short, but many dollars beyond its goal

Six-day run misses record bid, but Help Fill A Dream fundraiser a big success

(file)
Editorial: Please don’t travel for the holidays

You are in control of what this province will look like come New Year’s Eve

British Columbia provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry wears a face mask as she views the Murals of Gratitude exhibition in Vancouver, on Friday, July 3, 2020. Dr. Henry frequently reminds people that there are those people who cannot wear a mask for legitimate reasons and they don’t have to. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Island woman reminds community that not everyone can wear a mask

People enforcing mask rules frequently ignore that possibility

Emergency crews used a backhoe loader to clear fire debris from the scene of a fire on Wesley Street Thursday as police and firefighters gathered up propane tanks, stoves and fireplaces used by camp residents to heat tents. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
UPDATE: City dismantling Wesley Street homeless encampment after fire

Fire broke out at about 12:15 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 3

Joe Robertson and Jack Amos ran the length of Vancouver Island, with the help of their van Pippi, raising more than $12,000 for 1Up Victoria Single Parent Resource Centre. (Photo submitted)
Greater Victoria pair finishes running length of Vancouver Island a day early

Joe Robertson and Jack Amos raised more than $12,000 for single parents

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Another 694 diagnosed with COVID-19 in B.C. Thursday

Three more health care outbreaks, 12 deaths

The Chemainus Theatre Festival’s Playbill Dining Room reopened to host small musical performances. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Chemainus Theatre receives Island Coastal Economic Trust funding

Project will involve recording and live-streaming Playbill Presents series content

Nanaimo ballerina Jillian Vanstone is giving a hometown performance at the Port Theatre on Dec. 12. (Photo courtesy Karolina Kuras)
National Ballet of Canada principal dancer’s hometown return postponed

Nanaimo’s Jillian Vanstone will celebrate favourite choreographer at the Port Theatre at a later date

A demonstrator wears representations of sea lice outside the Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices in downtown Vancouver Sept. 24, demanding more action on the Cohen Commission recommendations to protect wild Fraser River sockeye. (Quinn Bender photo)
First Nations renew call to revoke salmon farm licences

Leadership council implores use of precautionary principle in Discovery Islands

Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps poses for a photo with his parents Amanda Sully and Adam Deschamps in this undated handout photo. Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps was the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy through Ontario’s newborn screening program. The test was added to the program six days before he was born. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Children’s Hospital Eastern Ontario *MANDATORY CREDIT*
First newborn tested for spinal muscular atrophy in Canada hits new milestones

‘If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different’

BC Ambulance Services reassures people that the service is well staffed and ready to respond. Photo by Don Bodger
BC Ambulance assures the Island community they’re ‘fully staffed’

‘Paramedics are not limited to a geographical area.’ — BCEHS

(Pixabay)
Canadians’ mental health has deteriorated with the second wave, study finds

Increased substance use one of the ways people are coping

The notice at Port Hardy Secondary School’s athletic track. (Zoe Ducklow photo)
North Island school tracks closed to the public during school hours

To keep P.E. classes safe, the restriction went into effect Nov. 30

Most Read