A crate of lobsters sits on the sidewalk outside the legislature in Halifax on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. The chief of the First Nation behind a disputed moderate livelihood lobstery fishery in Nova Scotia says recent vandalism and the loss of potential sales has cost the band more than $1.5 million. THE CANADIAN PRESS /Andrew Vaughan

A crate of lobsters sits on the sidewalk outside the legislature in Halifax on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. The chief of the First Nation behind a disputed moderate livelihood lobstery fishery in Nova Scotia says recent vandalism and the loss of potential sales has cost the band more than $1.5 million. THE CANADIAN PRESS /Andrew Vaughan

‘Blacklisted:’ Nova Scotia First Nation pulls commercial lobster boats from the water

Two buildings storing lobsters caught by Indigenous harvesters were vandalized last week

The chief of the First Nation behind a disputed moderate livelihood lobster fishery in Nova Scotia says recent vandalism and the loss of potential sales have cost the band more than $1.5 million — and he wants those responsible to be held accountable.

Mike Sack, chief of the Sipekne’katik First Nation, also alleged the band had been blacklisted by lobster buyers.

“The (non-Indigenous) commercial fishery has systematically boxed us out of the market,” Sack said in a statement. “It will take time to rebuild our relationships in the supply chain of people and companies we did business with who are now rightly afraid of retaliation.”

Sack later told reporters the band has filed an application for a court injunction aimed at preventing people from harassing Indigenous fishers at the wharf in Saulnierville, N.S., where the livelihood fleet is based.

“We want the injunction to make sure people are safe in and around the wharf,” Sack told a news conference in Digby, N.S.

The First Nation attracted national attention on Sept. 17 when it launched a “moderate livelihood” fishing fleet in St. Marys Bay in southwestern Nova Scotia, almost two months before the federally regulated fishing season was set to open.

Sack has said the Mi’kmaq band’s members are exercising their constitutionally protected treaty right to fish where and when they want, as affirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada in a 1999 decision.

Citing treaties signed in the 1760s, the court said the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet and Passamaquoddy bands in Eastern Canada can hunt, fish and gather to earn a “moderate livelihood.”

However, non-Indigenous protesters have asked federal authorities to stop the Indigenous harvest because the Supreme Court ruling also said Ottawa could continue to regulate the fishery — so long as it can justify such a move.

The dispute has escalated into confrontations marked by violence, arrests and allegations of assault and arson. Two buildings storing lobsters caught by Indigenous harvesters were vandalized last week, and one of them was burned to the ground on Saturday.

Amid rising tensions, the First Nation says it can’t sell lobster caught by those taking part in its moderate livelihood fishery or the band’s commercial communal operation to the east in the Bay of Fundy.

“It’s like we’ve been blacklisted, and we’re just hopeful that we can quickly come to some resolution and expedite getting our lobster to market,” Sack said, adding that the band is also having a hard time buying new lobster traps.

“Pulling our commercial fishery this week and for the upcoming seasons will financially devastate our community,” he said.

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

A spokeswoman for the First Nation said the 11 boats taking part in the moderate livelihood fishery will continue to haul in their catches from Lobster Fishing Area 34 and put them in storage.

However, Sack said the band’s three boats used for the communal commercial fishery, which were operating in an adjacent area that opened for fishing last week, have been pulled from the water due to “intimidation and market embargoes.”

The chief said the three boats will be dispatched to St. Marys Bay to provide protection for the livelihood fleet. As well, he said the band is looking for a way to sell the 6,800 kilograms of lobster the band has harvested from the bay since Sept. 17.

The provincial government regulates the sale of lobster by granting licences to approved lobster buyers. Sack said the band is looking for a provincial exemption, but he indicated the province wasn’t in a co-operative mood.

“(Premier Stephen) McNeil just seems to be hiding behind the federal government,” he said.

Meanwhile, the RCMP continues to draw fire for their response to the violence, which included an alleged assault on Sack last week.

Speaking at a news conference Wednesday in Ottawa, RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki defended the police force, disputing Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller comment Monday that the Mounties had “let down” Indigenous people.

“We are fully committed to keeping the peace, keeping people safe and enforcing the law,” she said. “Our actions to date are indicative of our strong commitment to this mandate.”

Lucki confirmed additional officers from the other Maritime provinces had been dispatched to Nova Scotia: “When we saw that this situation was evolving, we felt that there was a need to bring in additional resources.”

Senator Murray Sinclair, who was chief commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, said Wednesday he was dismayed by the RCMP’s lack of enforcement in Nova Scotia.

During an online conversation with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, the senator criticized the RCMP for “literally standing by and doing nothing” while criminal acts were being committed.

“To me, (it) was an act of negligence,” Sinclair said, adding that he had submitted a complaint to the RCMP’s complaints commission. “They were in fact facilitating the actions of the (non-Indigenous) fishers.”

On another front, Mi’kmaq leaders in Cape Breton are accusing the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans of illegally removing lobster traps set recently in St. Peters Bay.

The 200 traps were placed in the bay as part of a similar moderate livelihood fishery, which is also operating outside the federally regulated season.

“The seizure of these traps by local officers are without the authorization or authority of their department or the minister,” the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Chiefs said in a statement. “This is unacceptable and unlawful.”

Michael MacDonald, 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

skip2
Rimbey Christian School students experience the joy of giving

Grades three and four students raised $2,000 for Somalian children

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Alberta reports 1,731 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday

The province’s central zone has 992 active cases

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said growing COVID-19 case numbers continue to be a concern in the province. (Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta announces 1,077 new COVID-19 cases Thursday

There are currently 14,052 active cases in the province

Bids for Kids poster
Wolf Creek Youth Foundation online auction gets ‘overwhelming’ response

Santa’s Bids for Kids auction to benefit youth programs in Rimbey, Ponoka

Idyllic winter scenes are part of the atmosphere of the holiday season, and are depicted in many seasonal movies. How much do you know about holiday movies? Put your knowledge to the test. (Pixabay.com)
QUIZ: Test your knowledge of holiday movies and television specials

The festive season is a time for relaxing and enjoying some seasonal favourites

A person enters a building as snow falls in Ottawa, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. Ottawa has been successful in limiting the spread of COVID-19 during its second wave thanks to the city’s residents who have been wearing masks and staying home, said Ottawa’s medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
People to thank for Ottawa’s success with curbing COVID-19: health officer

The city’s chief medical officer said much of the credit goes to the people who live in Ottawa

The Red Deer Games Foundation has made changes to its grant program as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo supplied)
Red Deer Games Foundation adjusts grant program due to COVID-19 pandemic

The foundation postponed the spring 2020 grant program due to the COVID-19 pandemic

Alexandre Bissonnette, who pleaded guilty to a mass shooting at a Quebec City mosque, arrives at the courthouse in Quebec City on February 21, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mathieu Belanger - POOL
Court strikes down consecutive life sentences; mosque shooter has prison term cut

The decision was appealed by both the defence and the Crown

Gold medallists in the ice dance, free dance figure skating Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, of Canada, pose during their medals ceremony at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Charlie Riedel
Olympic champions Virtue, Moir and Tewksbury among 114 Order of Canada inductees

Moir and Virtue catapulted to national stardom with their gold-medal performances at the Winter Olympics in 2018

Shoppers line up in front of a shop on Montreal’s Saint-Catherine Street in search of Black Friday deals in Montreal, Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Black Friday shopping in a pandemic: COVID-19 closes some stores, sales move online

Eric Morris, head of retail at Google Canada, says e-commerce in Canada has doubled during the pandemic.

skip2
Rimbey Christian School students experience the joy of giving

Grades three and four students raised $2,000 for Somalian children

File Photo
Sylvan Lake Town Council asks for a mask bylaw to be brought forward for consideration

The bylaw would require face coverings in all indoor Town-owned and operated facilities

Most Read