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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Qualicum Beach resident Harold MacDougall won $75,000 off a Casino Royale II Scratch & Win ticket, purchased the ticket at Qualicum Foods on Memorial Avenue. (BCLC photo)
Qualicum Beach man $75K richer thanks to scratch-and-win ticket windfall

MacDougall plans on trips to Cape Breton and Scotland

The property at 113 and 161 Island Highway is currently being dismantled as the developer attempts to salvage ‘usable’ lumber for their development application to the City of Parksville. (Mandy Moraes photo)
Development application delayed for high-profile Parksville property

Council refers application to staff for further improvements

(File photo)
RCMP warn of counterfeit bill use in Parksville Qualicum Beach area

Police have received four calls in November regarding bogus bills

The COVID-19 pandemic had an effect on film production on central and north Vancouver Island, says Vancouver Island North Film Commission. Pictured here, production of TV series Resident Alien in Ladysmith earlier this year. (Black Press file)
Film commissioner says COVID-19 cost central Island $6 million in economic activity

Jurassic World: Dominion, Chesapeake Shores among productions halted due to pandemic, says INFilm

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks along the seawall in North Vancouver Wednesday, November 25, 2020.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
911 new COVID-19 cases, 11 deaths as B.C. sees deadliest week since pandemic began

Hospitalizations reach more than 300 across the province

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A photo from 2017, of Nuchatlaht First Nation members outside court after filing a land title case in B.C. ( Submitted photo/Nuchatlaht First Nation).
Vancouver Island First Nation calls on B.C. to honour UNDRIP in historic title case

Nuchatlaht First Nation says Crown counsel continues to stall the case using the ‘distasteful’ argument that the Nation ‘abandoned’ their land

West Vancouver Island’s Ehattesaht First Nation continues lock down after 9 active cases were reported today after a visitor tested positive last week. (Ehattesaht First Nation/Facebook)
Ehattesaht First Nation’s COVID-19 nightmare: nine active cases, a storm and a power outage

The Vancouver Island First Nation in a lockdown since the first case was reported last week

The Ahousaht First Nation confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on Nov. 26, 2020. (Westerly file photo)
Ahousaht First Nation on lockdown over COVID-19

“Emotions are high. The anxiety is high. We want our community to pull through.”

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

Penny Hart is emotional outside the Saanich Police Department as she pleads for helpt to find her son Sean Hart last seen Nov. 6 at a health institution in Saanich. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
VIDEO: Mother of missing Saanich man begs public to help find her son

Sean Hart last seen leaving Saanich mental health facility Nov. 6

A big job: Former forests minister Doug Donaldson stands before a 500-year-old Douglas fir in Saanich to announce preservation of some of B.C.’s oldest trees, July 2019. (B.C. government)
B.C. returning to ‘stand-alone’ forests, rural development ministry

Horgan says Gordon Campbell’s super-ministry doesn’t work

Most Read