Concerns deepen after violence against Mi’kmaq fishers in southwestern Nova Scotia
There are deepening concerns about violence against Mi’kmaq fishers on Sipekne’katik territory in Nova Scotia on the east coast of Canada as they assert their right to fish for a moderate livelihood affirmed by the Supreme Court 21 years ago.
On the morning of October 14, Agent NDN tweeted: “So I’ve just seen some live streams on FB showing what happened tonight. Settler fishermen raided the Mi’gmaw fishing compound. They cut the power; ransacked the buildings; poured chemicals on living lobsters; lit a van on fire; stole lobster traps; threw rocks; made threats.”
A few hours earlier on Facebook, Dorene Bernard posted: “Prayers for our Mi’kmaq fishermen/women down in Digby. There are hundreds of commercial fishermen surrounding them, trying to start a riot, burned my cousin’s van and broke into the pound, destroying property and cops won’t do anything. Trying to break into Jason Marr’s pound now, cops can’t or won’t do anything. WTF!! No law, no justice for Mi’kmaq in Mi’kmaki.”
This incident is now also being reported by Ku’ku’kwes News at Angry mob trap Mi’kmaw fishermen at a lobster pound in southwestern Nova Scotia.
That article highlights how the RCMP (police) responded to Jason Marr and Randy Sack who were inside the building being attacked.
It notes: “According to Marr, approximately 200 non-Indigenous fishermen were outside the lobster pound. He said RCMP officers arrived approximately two hours after he called 9-1-1. Marr said the RCMP told him and Sack that the non-Indigenous fishermen would let them leave the pound if they hand over the lobster.”
Nearly a month ago, Sipekne’katik Chief Michael Sack called on authorities “to uphold the rule of law amid ongoing violence, threats, human rights discrimination” and highlighted “our fisher people are facing harassment, vehicles have been damaged, boats have been damaged. Their fishing gear has been stolen, their lines have been cut. Boats have been burned.”
On October 6, PBI-Canada expressed concern about the arson attack against Robert Syliboy’s boat the previous day at the Comeauville Wharf.
In terms of background, the Supreme Court of Canada issued its decision on the case of Donald Marshall, Jr. on September 17, 1999. It ruled that Marshall’s fishing activities fell within the Peace and Friendship Treaties of 1760–61 and affirmed his right to sell the eel he was catching in limited quantities to earn a “moderate livelihood”.
The Sipekne’katik say: “Since Marshall was decided, [the federal Fisheries Department] has done nothing to recognize the treaty right to harvest and sell for a moderate livelihood. This breach of Mi’kmaq constitutional rights and can no longer continue.”
On the anniversary of that ruling, the Sipekne’katik First Nation issued 5 licences to Mi’kmaq fishers for 250 lobster traps. It has also been reported that the total capacity of the lobster traps is between 350 and 500 traps.
In comparison, the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans has previously issued 979 licences permitting 375 to 400 traps per licence. This has also been reported as 925 licences for 367,125 lobster traps.
The Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermen’s Association has responded against the Mi’kmaq lobster fishing by stating: “In the absence of law and order good people can be forced to take the law into their own hands…”
PBI-Canada is deeply concerned by the violence against the Mi’kmaq last night and the ongoing context of violence identified by the Sipekne’katik nearly a month ago.
For further updates on this situation, search #ModerateLivelihood on Twitter.