C/O Korinthos Loutraki

Commercial fishers spark violence as anger builds toward Mi’kmaw fishers’ fishery

In September, Sipekne’katik First Nation launched a self-regulated fishery in Southern Nova Scotia, distributing licenses and regulating harvest amongst Mi’kmaw persons without the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. 

According to the Supreme Court Marshall ruling in 1999 and the 1760s Peace and Friendship Treaties, Mi’kmaq people are entitled to fish outside of the DFO regulated season. 

However, as Mi’kmaq fishers began to harvest outside of the commercial session, many non-Indigenous people were angered, sparking violence and ultimately, a rehearing of the previous Marshall ruling in November 1999. 

A clarification was issued by the high court, stating that the federal government can still regulate the Mi’kmaq fishers if there are concerns over conservation. The clarification also noted that there should be consultation with the First Nations groups first and the government should be able to justify its concerns. 

Although the Supreme Court ruling stated that they have the right to hunt, fish and gather in pursuit of a moderate livelihood, the ruling did not clearly define what a moderate livelihood entails. Sipekne’katik First Nation Chief Michael Sack said that the definition of their moderate livelihood should be defined by Mi’kmaq persons themselves. 

While non-Indigenous fishers claim to have concerns over conservation, conservation has been and continues to be a priority amongst Mi’kmaq persons. Others have also pointed out that the number of traps non-Indigenous fishers hold are extensively greater than Mi’kmaq fishers.

Now, with the launch of the fishery, non-Indigenous people are once again opposed to the idea of allowing the Mi’kmaq community to fish outside of DFO regulation. 

Anger from non-Indigenous fishers has been high since September when dozens of Mi’kmaq and commercial fishers gathered at a wharf in Saulnierville, Nova Scotia. 

“We’re just here to exercise our right. We don’t want to fight with anyone and we ask the commercial fishermen to please respect that,” said Sack. 

“We’re just here to exercise our right. We don’t want to fight with anyone and we ask the commercial fishermen to please respect that,” said Sack. 

Over the next few weeks, hostility from commercial fishers continued to escalate and on Oct. 5, a Mi’kmaw fisher’s vessel was destroyed in a suspicious fire. The vessel was used for commercial fishing and the owner of the vessel was one who received new licenses for the Mi’kmaw fishery. 

In the next week, non-Indigenous commercial fishers and their supporters raided and vandalized Mi’kmaw lobster storing facilities. Several hundred non-Indigenous fishers had gathered together and made their way to a lobster pound in New Edinburgh. A van was later set on fire, lobsters were stolen and the facility was damaged. 

Another raid took place in Yarmouth, a neighbouring county, where Mi’kmaw fisher Jason Marr had to hide within a lobster pound as his vehicle was vandalized by a mob outside. The group called on the fisherman, telling him to give up the lobster that he had harvested. 

“They totally annihilated that building, just tore it all apart. They took all the lobster,” Marr told CBC.

“They totally annihilated that building, just tore it all apart. They took all the lobster,” Marr said.

Marr also noted that the RCMP did not respond efficiently to the situation and did not try to stop the vandalization. 

On Oct. 16, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended the government’s response, saying that they are active in trying to resolve the situation. 

Across social media, there has been a call to action to support Mi’kmaq fishers in standing their ground and spread awareness about the ongoing hostility toward the Mi’kmaq. 

 

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BLACK INDIGENOUS SOLIDARITY OVER HERE! Our Mi’kmaq friends need our help. Today settler commercial fishers burnt down a Mi’kmaq fishery while the RCMP stood by and did nothing. The government is refusing to address the fact that this is domestic terrorism & hate crimes being committed. They refuse to enforce the treaty rights that say the Mi’kmaq have inherent rights to fish on their land. The Canadian government is completely complacent and responsible in their allowance of violence to continue. They uphold the racism, violence & genocide Canada was founded on. It’s time to be actively anti-racist. We need to stand up for the Mi’kmaq as allies & in solidarity to colonial violence that oppresses our Black kin in the same breath. Please start here with this post, on actions you can take RIGHT NOW. We are keeping our story & twitter updated with actions you can take and indigenous voices you can uplift. Fuck white supremacy 🖕🏽 Be sure to continue paying attention to #1492landbacklane & The @wetsuweten_checkpoint And offering mutual aid & financial support! Thank you @girlupcanada for these amazing graphics! Please follow these accounts for updates: @wetsuweten_checkpoint @junnygirldecolonized @onecraftymikmaq @brookewillisss @jennifer.l.denny @justicegruben Be sure to tag more accounts & more actions in the comments below! #landback #shutdowncanada #moderatelivelihood #1492landbacklane #mmiw #indigenoussovereignty

A post shared by #NOTANOTHERBLACKLIFE ✊🏽✊🏾✊🏿 (@notanotherblacklife) on


Activists are encouraging people to contact the DFO, asking them to stand by the Mi’kmaq, as well as reach out to various politicians such as the Prime Minister, Minister of Indigenous Affairs and Minister of Justice. 

“The Canadian government is completely complacent and responsible in their allowance of violence to continue. They uphold the racism, violence & genocide Canada was founded on. It’s time to be actively anti-racist. We need to stand up for the Mi’kmaq as allies & in solidarity to colonial violence that oppresses our Black kin in the same breath,” wrote an activism-focused Instagram account, notanotherblacklife

“… It’s time to be actively anti-racist. We need to stand up for the Mi’kmaq as allies & in solidarity to colonial violence that oppresses our Black kin in the same breath,”

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