(Halifax) Escalating tensions around the lobster fishery in Nova Scotia prompted a mobilization in solidarity with the Mik’maq people on Sunday in Halifax.
Hundreds of people gathered outside the capital’s city hall to show their support for indigenous fishermen, after a conflict over their rights escalated over the weekend.
In front of a banner on which one could read “Respect the treaties, protect the sacred”, several activists spoke and denounced the recent outbreak of violence.
Meanwhile, the premier of Nova Scotia is urging Ottawa to define what constitutes legal fishing in order to ensure “a decent livelihood.”
In a Twitter post, 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 made this statement after a warehouse was the target of a suspicious fire in West Pubnico early Saturday. Lobster catches by Mi’kmaq fishermen went up in smoke.
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 a native chief 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.”
On Saturday, 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 on 18e century, with the aim of ensuring a “decent livelihood”.