(Halifax) Nova Scotia Premier urges Ottawa to define what constitutes legal fishing for a “decent livelihood” after dispute over rights of native fishing community escalated over 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 fire was the target of a suspicious West Pubnico fire early Saturday that saw lobster catches from Mi’kmaq fishermen go 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”.