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

Wineries in the Central Okanagan this year saw a high quality harvest, but a low yield. Pictured is a winery in West Kelowna, in October. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
B.C. Master of Wine reflects on industry’s teetering economic state

Pandemic, for some wine makers, has been a blessing in disguise. For others, not so much.

Business district is pictured during a traffic jam in Jakarta, Indonesia, June 20, 2019. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan
Morning Start: By 2050, 95 percent of North Jakarta could be submerged

Your morning start for Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020

Gord Portman has been reunited with his dog Zippy after reaching out to the community for help covering the cost of Zippy’s surgery. Zippy had successful mouth surgery Nov. 19, 2020 and has made a full recovery since. (Jesse Day - Western News)
Penticton rallies to save dog’s life

Gord Portman reached out to the community to help with the cost of his dog’s surgery

Masks are now officially mandatory in all City of Campbell River facilities. (Black Press File Photo)
Interior Health reports 49 new COVID-19 cases overnight

302 cases remain active; two in hospital

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. daily COVID-19 cases hits record 941 on Tuesday

Further restrictions on indoor exercise take effect

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Report of gunfire leads RCMP to men barricaded in North Shuswap home

Chase RCMP said investigation related to firearms offences is ongoing

A fentanyl test strip is used at Vancouver Coastal Health in Vancouver, Tuesday, January, 21, 2020. The test strips will be made available to drug users to ensure that their drugs are safe and free of Fentanyl. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Drug overdoses lead to 5 deaths each day in October; drug toxicity continues to increase

COVID-19 crisis continues to exacerbate the overdose crisis

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The Vernon Public Art Gallery is looking to the community to support its programming, which VantageOne Credit Union is matching for Giving Tuesday. (VPAG image)
Vernon art gallery gets a boost for Giving Tuesday

VantageOne Credit Union matching donations

The Vernon swimming pool is closed Friday. (morning star file photo)
Swim, skate and play fees rise 5% in North Okanagan

Weekend hours also reduced as rec centre struggles with fewer people and fewer funds

The City of Salmon Arm erected a fence around the Ross Street Plaza on Nov. 24/2020, citing reasons centering on safety and security due to camping by people who don’t have homes. The closure is temporary but it’s not known when it will be reopened. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
City of Salmon Arm erects fence around public plaza to prevent camping

Lieutenant says lack of public space affects people without homes but he understands city’s decision

An employee of the Adventure Hotel was taken to hospital on Nov. 20 after she confronted a customer of Empire Coffee about not wearing a mask. File photo.
Nelson hotel employee suffers heart attack after being assaulted in anti-mask incident

An accountant at the Adventure Hotel is in hospital in Kelowna

Interior Health and School District 83 are responding to a confirmed COVID-19 exposure at the Salmon Arm Secondary Sullivan campus. (File photo)
COVID-19 exposure confirmed at Salmon Arm Secondary Sullivan campus

School District 83 says member of school community self-isolating at home

Most Read