Saturday, October 24

Indigenous fishing rights: Nova Scotia calls on the federal government to decide


Nova Scotia Premier urges Ottawa to define what constitutes legal fishing for a “decent livelihood” after a dispute over the rights of an indigenous fishing community escalated over the weekend in the southwest of the province.

In a Twitter post, Premier Stephen McNeil said the federal Fisheries Department must first decide the issue so the province can regulate the sale of seafood.

Provincial and federal authorities are working together to designate a facilitator and resolve this conflict through “respectful dialogue”, he added.

Mr. McNeil’s statement comes in the wake of an outbreak of violence against Mi’kmaq who fish for lobster in a “self-regulated” manner.

A warehouse was the target of a suspicious fire in West Pubnico early Saturday and lobster catches from Mi’kmaq fishermen went up in smoke.

Reinforced RCMP presence

A few days earlier, two clashes involving hundreds of people broke out outside facilities used by indigenous fishermen.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) arrested a man for assaulting an Aboriginal leader and another for arson.

In response to mounting tensions, Federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair authorized an increased RCMP presence at the request of the provincial attorney general.

Chief Mike Sack of Sipekne’katik First Nation praised the additional police resources, but believes these reinforcements should have been deployed sooner to avoid any “destruction, racist behavior, harassment and intimidation.”

Saturday the prime minister Justin trudeau said he was “appalled by the acts of violence, intimidation and destruction taking place in Nova Scotia”. “The perpetrators will have to answer for their acts”, he wrote on Twitter, while saying to have for objective “to ensure the safety of all”.

Non-aboriginal fishermen are frustrated with the “self-regulated” lobster fishery launched outside of the federally regulated season, which is scheduled to begin in late November.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 1999 that the Mik’maq and Maliseet peoples of Atlantic Canada and Quebec have the right to fish where and when they wish, under treaties signed by the Crown in the 18th century, with the aim of to ensure a “decent livelihood”.

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