Attacks on Mi'kmaq fishing rights

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Attacks on Mi'kmaq fishing rights

There has been a growing level of violence against Mi'kmaq fishing rights and their catches in the Atlantic provinces while the RCMP and Trudeau Liberal government do nothing to enforce their rights or stop the violence. 

In a small warehouse on the southern tip of Nova Scotia, near Yarmouth, two indigenous fishermen found themselves trapped with nowhere to go when an angry mob raided the lobster pound where they had stored their catch.  Jason Marr, one of the indigenous fishermen stuck inside, said he had moved his lobster there that evening, because he heard there might be a raid at another location. All was quiet at first, but soon he says he was surrounded by about 200 men.  "They were pounding on the door, screaming obscenities, 'give us the lobster'!" he told the BBC.

There were also four non-indigenous men inside with them, who worked at the pound. The crowd cut the power and threw a rock through the window, while he called police, he says. "I didn't know if they wanted to kill me or whatnot... they said they were going to give us until midnight or they were going to burn us out."

Mr Marr says he saw men urinate on his car and slash his tires. The mayhem ended when police forced him to leave, he says, and he watched as the men stormed the pound and took his catch, as well as others.  Just a few hours earlier, a similar raid had been carried out at a second location, where a car was burned. In both instances, police gathered outside but made no arrests. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police say they are still investigating. 

This dispute is the latest in an escalating feud between Mi'kmaq fishermen and non-indigenous commercial fishermen that began when the Sipekne'katik First Nation launched its own fishery in September, during the off-season.  Non-indigenous commercial fishermen say the fishery should be shut down, while indigenous fishermen say it is their constitutional right.

The roots of this discord go back over 250 years to the Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1752, which promised Mi'kmaq the right to hunt and fish their lands and establish trade. For centuries, the treaty and others like it were ignored. But in 1999, the Supreme Court of Canada issued a landmark ruling making it clear that the Mi'qmaq and Maliseet people had the right to not just sustain themselves by hunting and fishing, but to earn a "moderate livelihood", even in the off-season.  The court defined "moderate livelihood" as a living that provided for "necessities" like food and shelter, but not the "accumulation of wealth". What that means practically was never addressed in the regulations, leaving a grey area that has yet to be resolved to this day. ...

For decades, the Mi'kmaq say the government has failed to enforce that ruling. So after several years of failed negotiations, they are coming up with their own solution.

Operating outside of the province's commercial lobster fishery, the Sipekne'katik First Nation plans to make their lobster fishery a test case, issuing just 11 licences, with the hopes of collecting data towards making the operation sustainable in the years to come.



In the last few days the violence has been escalating. 

Twenty-four hours after it began, it came down to this: Some 30 members of the Sipekne’katik First Nation, protecting a lobster storage space Wednesday, suspiciously eyeing the 200 non-Indigenous fishermen whose trucks lined the narrow road along St. Mary’s Bay as far as the eye could see.

The mood was tense, the frustrations evident.

The previous night, somebody had severely damaged the water-filtration system in the warehouse, and torched a van in the parking lot.

In another incident on Tuesday, a Sipekne’katik fisherman found himself trapped in another lobster storage facility in nearby West Pubnico, as a mob of about 200 men gathered, some hurling rocks and racist insults, and refusing to disperse when police arrived. They had come for the lobster the fisherman had caught that day, and when he was finally able to leave the building the catch was plundered.

Sipekne’katik Chief Mike Sack said he’d been told that there had been a rally of commercial fishermen Tuesday night — the night before the opening of the local commercial lobster fishery, which includes Indigenous and non-Indigenous fishers — and that a portion of the fishers had left the rally and gone first to New Edinburgh, then to Pubnico.

Sack expressed frustration early Wednesday that the RCMP had not taken more action against members of the mob. ...

“I can’t believe how they are getting away with these terrorist, hate-crime acts, and the police are there.”

The incidents followed almost three weeks of relative quiet between the Sipekne’katik and non-Indigenous fishers in the area after an initial — and at times, violent — backlash when the First Nation first began its “modest livelihood” fishery on Sept. 17 in the face of opposition from non-Indigenous fishers and stalled negotiations with the federal government.


With the police standing by and the Trudeau Liberals doing little to address the situation, there has been a large escalation in violence with the burning of a lobster pound that processed Mi'kmaq lobsters and a man in hospital with burns that are life threatening. He is a 'person of interest' to the police with regard to the fire. 

Mi'kmaq lobster facility on fire

One man is in hospital with life-threatening injuries after a large fire that police are calling suspicious destroyed a commercial building reported to be a lobster pound used by Mi’kmaw fishers.

Shortly after midnight on Saturday, Yarmouth County RCMP and West Pubnico Fire Department responded to a structure fire at a fish plant located at 1065 Highway 335 in Middle West Pubnico, N.S.

RCMP say the building incurred "significant damage," but was not occupied at the time, and no employees were injured.

Sgt. Andrew Joyce of the RCMP confirms that the man taken to hospital was not an employee of the building, and is "considered a person of interest in the RCMP’s investigation".

RCMP remain on scene Saturday morning and are investigating the fire as suspicious.

Chief Mike Sack of the Sipekne’katik First Nation confirmed in a statement Saturday morning that the building was "owned by a friend and ally of Sipekne’katik".

"The devastating fire at the lobster pound in Middle West Pubnico further illustrates the need for greater police presence in the region," wrote Sack in the emailed statement. "This should never have happened and the people responsible should be brought to justice. I do believe with the proper police presence however, this could have been avoided. I am once again calling on Prime Minister Trudeau and the RCMP to dedicate the necessary resources to this region to protect everyone. I am extremely concerned that someone is going to hurt or worse." ...

LeBlanc estimates that 80 to 120 firefighters from eight area fire departments were at the scene overnight. He says that after several hours, crews were able to contain the fire around 4:30 a.m....

There is no idea of the fire’s cause at this point, and LeBlanc says it will be difficult to determine as the building was fully involved when crews arrived. The fire marshal has been called to investigate.

While LeBlanc wasn’t able to confirm the use of the building, a media representative for Sipekne'katik First Nation confirmed to CTV Atlantic that the building was the same lobster pound where two employees had barricaded themselves in on Tuesday.

RCMP confirmed in a news release that about 200 people were present at two incidents Tuesday night outside lobster pounds in southwestern Nova Scotia, during which employees were prevented from leaving, rocks were thrown and a vehicle was set on fire. ...

On Twitter Saturday, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde said he's reached out to the RCMP and the federal government to express First Nations' "deep concern."

"I demand a full and thorough investigation by the proper authorities," Bellegarde said. "I will be monitoring the situation and will update later today."

A group of six Nova Scotia senators, meanwhile, condemned what they described as escalating violence against Mi'kmaq fishers. Their remarks came in a statment released just hours before the Middle West Pubnico blaze broke out.

"Regardless of whatever concerns individuals or groups may have, there can be no justification for the vigilantism and blatant racism that is now being witnessed," the statement said.

"We urge everyone involved to remain calm and peaceful and let the discussions currently underway proceed without any further violent acts, racial insults or threats of any kind."

The senators said the Mounties must "rapidly and effectively uphold their responsibility to restore peace and order."


The RCMP have been criticized for their failure to arrest anyone before the lobster plant fire, thereby creating the impression that further increasing violence would be accepted. 

Nova Scotia RCMP are under fire for failing to stop an angry mob from attacking two rural storage facilities holding Mi’kmaq lobster, throwing rocks, setting a van ablaze and restraining fishermen in one of the most violent confrontations yet in a dispute over the fishery.

RCMP say a group of around 200 people blocked employees from leaving a lobster storage facility in Middle West Pubnico on Tuesday night, five hours after a similar-sized crowd surrounded workers at a facility in New Edinburgh, N.S., about a 110 kilometres north. In both cases, police were on the scene as the mob pelted vehicles and the buildings with rocks. ...

The RCMP, who struggled to calm the crowd down, say they’re investigating both incidents – but have been widely criticized by Mi’kmaq communities and Indigenous leaders across the country for allowing what one local chief called an act of "terrorism.”

The vigilantism is an escalation in the fight over a Mi’kmaq band’s moderate livelihood fishery, which launched last month despite protests from non-Indigenous fishermen in southwestern Nova Scotia.


Only after the violence escalated to the burning of the lobster processing facility and the injury of one man, who is a 'person of interest' with regard to the fire, have the police finally laid charges with regard to the earlier incidents.

Nova Scotia RCMP say they have laid arson charges in connection with a vehicle fire that happened on Oct. 13 outside a lobster pound in New Edinburgh. Police say they responded to a “disturbance” and when they arrived at the scene, officers dealt with a vehicle that was “on fire and heavily damaged.”

At the time, a lobster pound in Middle West Pubnico, N.S., was being used by Mi’kmaq fishers. On Oct. 13, the facility was swarmed, vandalized and ransacked by a large crowd of non-Indigenous commercial fishers and their supporters. Mi’kmaw fisher Jason Marr told Global News earlier this week that he and others were forced to take cover inside the lobster pound as the building’s windows were smashed out and Marr’s vehicle was damaged, he said.

A separate vehicle at a New Edinburgh lobster pound was set on fire. ...

RCMP have charged 31-year-old Michael Burton Nickerson from Yarmouth County with arson causing damage to property. Nickerson was arrested Saturday afternoon and released from custody on conditions, police say. He is scheduled to appear in court Dec. 21.

In addition, another man was charged on Saturday in relation to the assault of Sipekne’katik First Nation Chief Michael Sack that occurred on Oct. 14 in New Edinburgh. RCMP said they have charged 46-year-old Chris Gerald Melanson of Digby County with assault.

Early Saturday morning, the Middle West Pubnico lobster pound burned to the ground. That fire is still under investigation.

Sack released a statement Saturday saying that the fire “illustrates the need for greater police presence in the region … I do believe with the proper police presence, however, this could have been avoided.”

According to Sack, the facility is owned by “a friend and ally of Sipeknek’katik, where one of our community members was barricaded and his catch destroyed last week.”


The Canadian settler-state, like the Israeli one it supports, features racist gangs of settlers ready, able and willing to attack and undermine Indigenous subsistence, whether it is destroying olive trees or lobster traps. Governments of both pretend to act as 'rule of law' referee even as they work to institutionalize and perfect their power, occupation and control.

"I didn't create this meme, but I think it captures how the Mi'kmaw Treaty Lobster Harvest exposes how the fake Trudeau government's national 'Reconciliation' Plan and Canadian definition of UNDRIP really is when it comes to stolen lands, territories and resources that feds/provinces have stolen."


Abject failure': Sen. Murray Sinclair criticizes federal response to Mi'kmaw fishery dispute

Senator discusses ongoing tension in N.S. as part of Ask Me Anything series

laine lowe laine lowe's picture

Senatr Murray Sinclair did not mince his words and I hope many heard him speak. This is not a dispute, it is a terrorist attack.


In Parliament NDP leader Jagmeet Singh called the attacks on the Mi'kmaq a clear example of racism and that a clear plan of action is neede to protect them. Liberal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennet said the failure to define moderate livelihood has “maintained the uncertainty.” The problem is that both Liberal and Conservative governments have had 21 years to recognize Mi'kmaq fishing rights since the Supreme Court ruling recognizing these rights based on a 200+ year old treaty and failed to do so despite now saying violence against the Mi'kmaqs is wrong. The Liberals have also failed to provide the police protection that is required in this case, although they have been to suppress First Nations protests elsewhere. 

The RCMP Federation of course say the matter is a political, not a policing issue, something they don't say during First Nations protests.

Speaker Anthony Rota approved the request for an emergency debate Monday afternoon from Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan and NDP MP Gord Johns. ...

Speaking at the debate Monday evening, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh called on the Liberal government to develop a plan to ensure the safety and livelihood of the Mi’kmaw people.

“We need timelines, we need a clear plan, a clear plan of action to protect the Mi’kmaw people,” he said. “We need to see a clear plan to protect them on land when their fishery operations are on that and in water. We need to ensure that there is no more violence or intimidation against the Mi’kmaw people.”

Singh continued, saying there is “no question” that the Mi’kmaw fishing operation poses any threat to lobster conservation. “Any suggestion that this is about conservation is wrong (and) is clearly an example of systemic racism,” he said. ...

Earlier on Monday, members of the Liberal cabinet condemned the violence as “disgusting” and “racist,” warning the Mi’kmaq have a constitutionally protected treaty right to fish for what the Supreme Court in its 1999 Marshall decision described as a “moderate livelihood.”

Jordan said in a joint press conference with cabinet colleagues Monday morning that discussions are ongoing with Mi’kmaw communities to come to a definition of what that means. ...

The National Police Federation, which represents roughly 20,000 RCMP members, pushed back on those criticisms on Monday, arguing the matter is a political — not a policing — issue. ...

Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennet said the failure to define moderate livelihood has “maintained the uncertainty.”


laine lowe laine lowe's picture

Very happy to hear this statement:

Singh continued, saying there is “no question” that the Mi’kmaw fishing operation poses any threat to lobster conservation. “Any suggestion that this is about conservation is wrong (and) is clearly an example of systemic racism,” he said

As for the RCMP's official response, it just reinforced how entrenched systemic racism is in that organization.

CBC Radio's "As It Happens" interviewed a professor in fish biology and conservation who confirmed that Mi’kmaw fishing operations only account for a small fraction of what is being harvested by commercial fisherman and said that conservation arguments were basically false. He did say that the issue needed to be resolved moving forward to ensure sustainablility and that the elephant in the room that wasn't being addressed was the over-fishing of offshore corporate fishing operations.


The Assembly of First Nations has called for the resignation of the RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki. Her failure to initially recognize systemic racism as a problem in the police force and society, which was only corrected upon immense criticism, and her ready willingness to use the RCMP in the Wet'suwet'en protests  stand in sharp contrast to the failure to provide sufficient police protection to Mi'kmaq fishers. 

While I agree she has not been effective, especially with regard to indigenous issues and her resignation may well be called for, the problems with RCMP issues concerning indigenous people going far deeper than the Commissioner into the force itslef and are, in a significant way, a reflection of the problems of the Trudeau Liberals on indigenous issues across the country. 

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde is calling on RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki to resign days after she defended the RCMP's response to an ongoing dispute between Mi'kmaw lobster harvesters and non-Indigenous commercial fishers in Nova Scotia.

"Given months of civil unrest and multiple issues relating to the safety of First Nations people across the country, I will be writing to Prime Minister Trudeau to express that we have lost confidence in Royal Canadian Mounted Police Commissioner Brenda Lucki," Bellegarde said in a media statement. "The safety and security of all Canadians, including First Nations people, must be the top priority of the Prime Minister and the federal government."

Bellegarde said he will ask Trudeau to replace Lucki with someone who will focus on public safety and combating racism.

Lucki told CBC News in an email that she has no plans to step down. "I remain committed to fulfilling my mandate of modernizing the RCMP with a strong focus on advancing Indigenous reconciliation," she said.

His [Her?] statement comes after weeks of tensions in southwest Nova Scotia over the launch of a self-regulated lobster fishery by the Sipekne'katik band outside of the federally mandated commercial season. ...

RCMP officers — who operate as the provincial police force in Nova Scotia — have been accused of not doing enough to defend Mi'kmaw fishers against the arson and abuse. On Wednesday, Lucki pushed back against claims that RCMP officers have done little to curb the violence directed at Mi'kmaw people. Lucki rejected Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller's assertion that the RCMP had "let down" the Mi'kmaw and said she had full confidence in the officers on the ground. ...

When asked today what he thought of Lucki's defence of the RCMP response, Trudeau defended the force but acknowledged calls from the public for improvement. "We have seen some challenges in Nova Scotia ... in how the RCMP has been able to deliver, but at the same time, they continue to serve Canadians day in, day out right across the country," Trudeau said.

"I've heard concerns from many Canadians about the functioning of our national police force. We'll continue to listen to Canadians and work with the commissioner in terms of making sure that we continue to keep Canadians safe."

Lucki came under fire earlier this year when she told several media outlets that she struggled to define the term "systemic racism" at a time when several Indigenous people had been killed in police shootings in the span of a few months. She later walked back those comments and said systemic racism exists in every institution, including the RCMP, and that she has a responsibility to ensure the force is "free of racism, discrimination and bias."

laine lowe laine lowe's picture

Seriously, are they waiting for a third strike before she is out? She should have been fired the moment she refused to admit that systemic racism was fully entrenched in the RCMP. It was worse than unconscious bias with overt racist actions accounted for year after year.



Ottawa names N.S. university president to rebuild trust between Mi'kmaw, commercial fishers

Former Liberal MLA Allister Surette has experience as facilitator in fishery disputes 


Allister Surette is president and vice-chancellor of Université Sainte-Anne in Pointe-de-l'Église (Church Point), N.S. The former provincial Liberal cabinet minister has been named as the federal special representative to work with commercial and Mi'kmaw fishers in their ongoing dispute over fishing rights. (CBC)

The head of a francophone university in Nova Scotia with experience in fishery disputes has been named as the federal special representative to rebuild trust between commercial and Indigenous fishers following violent opposition to a Mi'kmaw lobster fishery.

Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan and Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, announced in a statement on Friday evening that Allister Surette, a former provincial Liberal cabinet minister, will act as a neutral third party in the dispute.

Surette is president and vice-chancellor of Université Sainte-Anne in Pointe-de-l'Église (Church Point), N.S., which sits on St. Marys Bay in Digby County, where the Sipekne'katik First Nation launched its "moderate livelihood" fishery in September.

"It is with great humility and enthusiasm that I begin my work as federal special representative. I will be listening carefully to the concerns of the treaty nations whose rights were affirmed in the Marshall decisions, as well as stakeholders in the fisheries sector," Surette said in the release, referring to a 1999 ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada.

"I look forward to creating a forum for respectful dialogue so that, together, we can move forward."

While the Supreme Court decision affirmed the right of the Mi'kmaq to fish for a "moderate livelihood," the federal government has never defined what that means. 

According to the school's website, Surette is originally from West Pubnico, in southern Nova Scotia, and was the MLA for Argyle from 1993-98.

His biography on a federal government website, prepared by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, says Surette "has previously acted as a facilitator to resolve conflicts between parties in the fisheries, including the lobster fishery." In December 2003, it said, he led discussions between herring fishers from P.E.I. and New Brunswick, as well as their provincial governments. And in March 2006, Surette "facilitated an independent process to resolve a dispute between fishers from Prince Edward Island and the Magdalen Islands regarding lobster fishing on MacLeod's Ledge."

The government release said Surette's work begins immediately. His first priority is to meet with Mi'kmaw representatives, as well as commercial sector leaders and harvesters, to listen to concerns and foster dialogue "with the objective of decreasing tensions and preventing further escalation of this conflict."

In the coming weeks and months, Surette will also meet with commercial leaders and harvesters in other parts of Atlantic Canada; Indigenous leaders in Nova Scotia and in other parts of Atlantic Canada and the Gaspé region of Quebec; provincial governments; and others as needed.

He will gather the different perspectives on the issues, build understanding and make recommendations to the federal ministers, "as well as to the public," so all groups can move toward a positive resolution.

Mainstreet NS1:19:13Catch up on our coverage of the lobster fishing dispute -- nine stories that aired Oct 19-21

00m excerpts from federal ministers' news conference; 08m Chief Mike Sack talks to reporters; 12m Mainstreet Spinbusters Barbara Emodi, Chris Lydon & Michelle Coffin; 30m Indigenous governance expert Pam Palmater; 38m some listener emails; 41m West Nova MP Chris d'Entremont; 59m RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki; 64m reporter Blair Rhodes explains the injunction won by Sipekne'katik; 73m Potlotek protests seizure of traps by DFO in St Peter's Bay. 1:19:13

"Commercial and Indigenous harvesters have been fishing side-by-side for decades, and we need that to continue. You have shared the wharves, and we must find a way to share the resource as well," Jordan said in the release.

The fisheries minister said while the federal government continues to work directly with the Mi'kmaq in nation-to-nation talks about the fishery, this structured forum led by Surette provides "the right environment to ensure all voices are heard throughout the process. A peaceful resolution is achievable, and this will strengthen our fisheries and our communities."

Recent violent incidents

Commercial fishers say they oppose the Sipekne'katik's fishery because it operates outside of the federally mandated season and they worry it will hurt lobster stocks in St. Marys Bay. 

Earlier this month, several hundred commercial fishers and their supporters targeted and vandalized two facilities where Mi'kmaw fishers store their catch. One of those facilities was later burned to the ground in what police said was a suspicious fire.

A Digby County man has also been charged after an assault on Sipekne'katik First Nation Chief Mike Sack.

A Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge has now issued a temporary court injunction to end blockades, interference and threats against Sipekne'katik band members who are fishing for lobster in southwest Nova Scotia.


NorthReport wrote:


Ottawa names N.S. university president to rebuild trust between Mi'kmaw, commercial fishers

Former Liberal MLA Allister Surette has experience as facilitator in fishery disputes 

You can't rebuild trust whatever the skills and intentions of the facilitator until the government shows that it is  protecting the Mi'kmaq fishers from violence and prosecuting those who have already committed violence to the full extent of the law. 


Some good news for Mi'kmaq fishers: they have been able to sell their lobster catch after fear of retaliation on buyers had previously prevented this. 

 A First Nation in Nova Scotia that was struggling to sell its lobster amid tensions over its self-regulated fishery says it has managed to find a buyer for a portion of its catch.

Chief Mike Sack of Sipekne'katik First Nation said today his band had been stuck with about 14,000 pounds of lobster its commercially licensed boats caught in the Bay of Fundy.

He estimates the value of the lobster at about $150,000, but last week he said potential buyers feared retaliation if they did business with the band.

Sack says the new buyer -- who is not being named by the band -- won't be purchasing lobster harvested in St. Marys Bay under the band's self-regulated moderate livelihood fishery.

Sipekne'katik opened the St. Marys Bay fishery last month, saying their fishers were exercising the treaty right of East Coast Indigenous communities to fish for a "moderate livelihood," as confirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1999. ...

Sack said the band's three commercial vessels, which were licensed to participate in the fisheries as a result of the Marshall decision, have sold their catch to licensed buyers for years.

However, he alleges since the launch of the self-regulated fishery all of his band's catch was blacklisted by lobster buyers.

Last week, a potential buyer emerged and then withdrew, saying his company was concerned it could not distinguish between the lobster caught under federal fisheries licences and the lobster caught in the moderate livelihood fishery.

The provincial government regulates the sale of lobster by granting licences to approved lobster buyers. Sack said the band is looking for a provincial exemption to sell the moderate livelihood lobster, but he said the province hasn't offered to help.

Premier Stephen McNeil has said the province is awaiting the completion of negotiations between Ottawa and the band to define moderate livelihood fisheries.

Sack also says the band is grateful for offers of individual businesses and citizens to purchase the band's lobster.

"Restaurant owners, chefs, seafood brokers and Canadians far and wide have approached us with sincere and creative proposals and more importantly with their support, which has meant so much to my community, this is the Canada we know," he said in a news release.


On the other hand, a Mi'kmaq fisher, who is facing charges for illegal fishing, will fight them in court. 

A fisherman from a Mi’kmaq community in Cape Breton says he intends to plead not guilty to charges of illegal fishing after his lobster traps were seized last year by federal fisheries officers in southwestern Nova Scotia.

Ashton Bernard, 30, of Eskasoni First Nation, says he will rely on the 1999 Supreme Court of Canada decision in the Donald Marshall Jr. case. ...

The Supreme Court ruled that East Coast Indigenous communities have the right to fish for a moderate livelihood, citing peace treaties signed by the Crown in the 1760s.

However, a subsequent clarification of the court’s decision also affirmed Ottawa’s right to regulate the fishery to ensure conservation of the resource. ...

Bernard’s case is proceeding amid tensions over the launching on Sept. 17 of a livelihood fishery by the Sipekne’katik First Nation, on the 21st anniversary of the Marshall decision.