A crate of lobsters sits on the sidewalk outside the legislature in Halifax on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. The chief of the First Nation behind a disputed moderate livelihood lobstery fishery in Nova Scotia says recent vandalism and the loss of potential sales has cost the band more than $1.5 million. THE CANADIAN PRESS /Andrew Vaughan

A crate of lobsters sits on the sidewalk outside the legislature in Halifax on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. The chief of the First Nation behind a disputed moderate livelihood lobstery fishery in Nova Scotia says recent vandalism and the loss of potential sales has cost the band more than $1.5 million. THE CANADIAN PRESS /Andrew Vaughan

‘Blacklisted:’ Nova Scotia First Nation pulls commercial lobster boats from the water

Two buildings storing lobsters caught by Indigenous harvesters were vandalized last week

The chief of the First Nation behind a disputed moderate livelihood lobster fishery in Nova Scotia says recent vandalism and the loss of potential sales have cost the band more than $1.5 million — and he wants those responsible to be held accountable.

Mike Sack, chief of the Sipekne’katik First Nation, also alleged the band had been blacklisted by lobster buyers.

“The (non-Indigenous) commercial fishery has systematically boxed us out of the market,” Sack said in a statement. “It will take time to rebuild our relationships in the supply chain of people and companies we did business with who are now rightly afraid of retaliation.”

Sack later told reporters the band has filed an application for a court injunction aimed at preventing people from harassing Indigenous fishers at the wharf in Saulnierville, N.S., where the livelihood fleet is based.

“We want the injunction to make sure people are safe in and around the wharf,” Sack told a news conference in Digby, N.S.

The First Nation attracted national attention on Sept. 17 when it launched a “moderate livelihood” fishing fleet in St. Marys Bay in southwestern Nova Scotia, almost two months before the federally regulated fishing season was set to open.

Sack has said the Mi’kmaq band’s members are exercising their constitutionally protected treaty right to fish where and when they want, as affirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada in a 1999 decision.

Citing treaties signed in the 1760s, the court said the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet and Passamaquoddy bands in Eastern Canada can hunt, fish and gather to earn a “moderate livelihood.”

However, non-Indigenous protesters have asked federal authorities to stop the Indigenous harvest because the Supreme Court ruling also said Ottawa could continue to regulate the fishery — so long as it can justify such a move.

The dispute has escalated into confrontations marked by violence, arrests and allegations of assault and arson. Two buildings storing lobsters caught by Indigenous harvesters were vandalized last week, and one of them was burned to the ground on Saturday.

Amid rising tensions, the First Nation says it can’t sell lobster caught by those taking part in its moderate livelihood fishery or the band’s commercial communal operation to the east in the Bay of Fundy.

“It’s like we’ve been blacklisted, and we’re just hopeful that we can quickly come to some resolution and expedite getting our lobster to market,” Sack said, adding that the band is also having a hard time buying new lobster traps.

“Pulling our commercial fishery this week and for the upcoming seasons will financially devastate our community,” he said.

READ MORE: 5 things to know about the dispute over Nova Scotia’s Indigenous lobster fishery

A spokeswoman for the First Nation said the 11 boats taking part in the moderate livelihood fishery will continue to haul in their catches from Lobster Fishing Area 34 and put them in storage.

However, Sack said the band’s three boats used for the communal commercial fishery, which were operating in an adjacent area that opened for fishing last week, have been pulled from the water due to “intimidation and market embargoes.”

The chief said the three boats will be dispatched to St. Marys Bay to provide protection for the livelihood fleet. As well, he said the band is looking for a way to sell the 6,800 kilograms of lobster the band has harvested from the bay since Sept. 17.

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, but he indicated the province wasn’t in a co-operative mood.

“(Premier Stephen) McNeil just seems to be hiding behind the federal government,” he said.

Meanwhile, the RCMP continues to draw fire for their response to the violence, which included an alleged assault on Sack last week.

Speaking at a news conference Wednesday in Ottawa, RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki defended the police force, disputing Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller comment Monday that the Mounties had “let down” Indigenous people.

“We are fully committed to keeping the peace, keeping people safe and enforcing the law,” she said. “Our actions to date are indicative of our strong commitment to this mandate.”

Lucki confirmed additional officers from the other Maritime provinces had been dispatched to Nova Scotia: “When we saw that this situation was evolving, we felt that there was a need to bring in additional resources.”

Senator Murray Sinclair, who was chief commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, said Wednesday he was dismayed by the RCMP’s lack of enforcement in Nova Scotia.

During an online conversation with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, the senator criticized the RCMP for “literally standing by and doing nothing” while criminal acts were being committed.

“To me, (it) was an act of negligence,” Sinclair said, adding that he had submitted a complaint to the RCMP’s complaints commission. “They were in fact facilitating the actions of the (non-Indigenous) fishers.”

On another front, Mi’kmaq leaders in Cape Breton are accusing the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans of illegally removing lobster traps set recently in St. Peters Bay.

The 200 traps were placed in the bay as part of a similar moderate livelihood fishery, which is also operating outside the federally regulated season.

“The seizure of these traps by local officers are without the authorization or authority of their department or the minister,” the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Chiefs said in a statement. “This is unacceptable and unlawful.”

Michael MacDonald, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

fishingIndigenous

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Contributed Photo/Louisa Van Vliet)
Community Camera: November 26, 2020

Submit your photos to news@ahobserver.com

Volunteers sort food donations during the Agassiz Fire Department’s food drive on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019. (Agassiz Fire Department/Facebook)
VIDEO: Agassiz Fire Department to host COVID-safe food drive

This year’s drive looks a little different

With news that Santa won’t be coming to Cottonwood Centre this year, April Blais wanted to set up a photo op with the jolly old elf in her front yard. (Submitted photo)
Chilliwack family blown away by response to Christmas light display

The Blais family has decked out their yard with holiday decor, collecting food bank donations

Abbotsford residents gather in the Clearbrook area on Monday to demonstrate against what they say is unfairt treatment by the Indian government to farmers in the Punjab region of that country. (Maan Sidhu photo)
Abbotsford residents gather to protest unfair treatment of India farmers

Locals believe new bills will devastate small farms, demand farmers be allowed to protest peacefully

The paraglider pilot, while attempting to free himself, dropped 30 feet and sustained serious injuries as Kent-Harrison Search and Rescue members worked quickly to extract him from the trees. They were able to get him to a waiting ambulance at the end of a nearby forest service road. (Contributed Photo/Dave Harder)
UPDATE: Rescued paraglider being treated for non-life threatening injuries

Pilot tried to self-rescue but sustained serious injuries in a 30-foot fall

A tongue-in-cheek message about wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 on a sign outside a church near Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection count climbs back up to 656

20 more people in hospital, active cases still rising

Mirandy Tracy, left, and Tara Kurtz are two Langley mothers who are organizing a "sick out" for Tuesday, Dec. 1 to protest COVID conditions in schools. They're calling for masks and smaller class sizes, among other things. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
Politician, labour leader throw support behind student Sick Out day

Langley parents started the movement to keep kids home on Dec. 1 as a protest

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A family emerged with a purchase at the Tannenbaum Tree Farm at 5398 252 St in Aldergrove on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)
Christmas tree season is off to an early start

People are ‘bored’ with staying home due to COVID-19 and want to decorate early, farm owner believes

A heavy police presence was on scene on Dec. 28, 2017 following the shooting death on Bates Road in Abbotsford of Alexander Blanarou, 24, of Surrey. (Abbotsford News file photo)
Three men charged with Abbotsford shooting death of Surrey man

Alexander Blanarou, 24, was killed in a rural area on Dec. 28, 2017

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. researchers launch study to test kids, young adults for COVID-19 antibodies

Kids and youth can often be asymptomatic carriers of the novel coronavirus

Most Read