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

school
Rimbey Christian School building projects nearing completion

New gym, soccer field and skating rink will be open to community use as well

SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, which causes COVID-19, emerge from the surface of cells isolated from a patient in the U.S. and cultured in a lab in a 2020 electron microscope image. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-HO, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories
Alberta now has 17,743 active cases of COVID-19

Province now has 17,743 active cases

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, confirmed eight additional virus-deaths Monday afternoon including one in central zone. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Central zone up to 1,249 active COVID-19 cases

Red Deer sits at 257 active COVID-19 cases

Kelowna RCMP Stock Image.
Bentley post office damaged, armed robbery at Subway

Sylvan Lake RCMP respond to incidents in Bentley last month

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’

People line up at a COVID-19 assessment centre during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Wednesday, December 2, 2020. Toronto and Peel region continue to be in lockdown. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19 vaccine approval could be days away as pressures mount on health-care system

Many health officials in regions across the country have reported increasing pressures on hospitals

File Photo
Sylvan Lake Town Council squashes mask bylaw

The bylaw did not make it past first reading, after a 4-3 vote defeated the motion

A logo for Netflix on a remote control is seen in Portland, Ore.,Aug. 13, 2020. Experts in taxation and media say a plan announced Monday by the government will ultimately add to the cost of digital services and goods sold by foreign companies. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Jenny Kane
‘Netflix tax’ for digital media likely to raise prices for consumers, experts say

The government says Canadian companies already collect those taxes when they make digital sales

Gaming content was big on YouTube in 2020. (Black Press Media files)
What did Canadians watch on Youtube during isolation? Workouts, bird feeders

Whether it was getting fit or ‘speaking moistly,’ Canadians had time to spare this year

A teacher places the finishing touches on the welcome sign at Hunter’s Glen Junior Public School which is part of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Sept. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Hindsight 2020: How do you preserve a year many Canadians would rather forget?

Figuring out how to preserve the story of the pandemic poses a series of challenges

Team Manitoba celebrate after defeating Team Ontario to win the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Moose Jaw, Sask., Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020. Curling Canada wants Calgary’s Canada Olympic Park to be a curling hub for the season’s top events. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Calgary facility set to become curling hub during pandemic

Curling Canada has provisional approval for Calgary’s hub-city concept from Alberta Health

Most Read