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

Okanagan College students Michael Ochoa and Tallin Gregoire, both members of the Okanagan Indian Band, raised the Okanagan Nation Alliance flag on July 16, 2019,  outside the Vernon campus. (Karissa Gall photo)
First Nations reconciliation personified at Okanagan College

President Jim Hamilton’s foresight has opened post-secondary education doors for Okanagan College’s Indigenous students

Movie crews filmed a holiday parade in Summerland in July. The parade, filmed on Main Street in Summerland, is for the movie, The Christmas Yule Blog. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: Test your knowledge of holiday movies and television specials

The festive season is a time for relaxing and enjoying some seasonal favourites

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
47 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health region

1,538 total cases, 399 are active, ten in hospital

Employees at The Bargain! Shop pose with Santa at last year’s toy drive. There will be no photos with Santa this year to keep him healthy for Christmas, but the toy drive will be back for a fourth year. (Claire Palmer photo)
Fourth annual toy drive fundraiser underway

The Bargain! Shop is looking to raise $5,000 locally

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest weekend of COVID-19 pandemic with 46 deaths; more than 2,300 cases

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides COVID-19 update

Vehicles drive past a display thanking essential workers in Burnaby, B.C. on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
B.C. changing COVID-19 case reporting as virus spread continues

Manual counting takes more time, leads to errors

Incidents where local retailers were allegedly subject to ridicule and abuse over mask requirements prompted  a call from Salmon Arm RCMP for respect. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)
Police urge respect after Salmon Arm businesses allegedly harassed over mask requirements

Wearing of masks in businesses and public spaces is currently mandated by the province

Salmon Arm RCMP officers attended two public COVID-19 demonstrations held in Salmon Arm on Saturday, Nov. 28.  (File photo)
Organizer of Salmon Arm COVID-19 demonstration fined $2,000 by RCMP

Police said some participants weren’t aware of the public health order prohibiting gatherings

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Sunny the cat, who jumped out of the truck at the Revelstoke Landfill earlier this month, was quickly reunited with his owners. (Contributed)
Cat returns home with the help of two landfill workers

Sunny jumped out of the truck at the landfill in November

Christy Jordan-Fenton is the co-author of the book Fatty Legs, which has been mentioned amid the controversy of an Abbotsford school assignment on residential schools.
Fatty Legs co-author responds to Abbotsford class assignment on residential schools

Children’s book mentioned amid controversy at W. A. Fraser Middle School

Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka takes over as energy and mines critic for the B.C. Liberal opposition. Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick (right) moves from health critic to assistant deputy speaker. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals pick critics to take on Horgan’s NDP majority

Interim leader Shirley Bond takes seniors, long-term care

An impaired driver was found responsible for a crash on Highway 97 near Seacrest Hill in Oliver Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020 in Oliver. (Black Press file photo)
Impaired driver rolls vehicle in violent crash near Oliver

Vehicle crashed through a fence, tree and telephone line

Most Read