Mikmec lobstermen in Nova Scotia face attack by fishermen

Jason Marr, an indigenous lobberman in Nova Scotia, was unloading his live catch at a storage facility last week, he said, as an angry mob of 200 commercial fishermen started shouting at the door.

Terrorized, he turned himself inside a cold storage area, waited for more than 90 minutes for police officers to respond to his call for help, as the crowd threw rocks and a man stood outside his Pissed on the passenger seat of the van.

When officers finally arrived at the plant, Mr. Mara’s upbringing was not yet over. As several officers surrounded them, he said, commercial fishermen formed a human chain and began passing boxes of lobster from the building to the shore, dumping more than 3,000 pounds of their live lobsters.

Then, just a few days after the plant was ransacked, it was burned to the ground last weekend, and the fire is being investigated as arson, ripping off a sleeping community whose local economy depends on fishing. is.

“It feels like they have declared a lobster war against us,” said Michael Sack, head of the Sipekne’katik First Nation, whose lobster fishermen were targeted in the attacks and were attacked by a commercial fisherman himself Was, he was attacked for the last time. Protest at lobster facility. “I think systemic racism is in play,” he said, noting that local suppliers were refusing to sell fuel, bait or traps to their people.

Recent violence in southwestern Nova Scotia is part of growing tension over Canada’s lucrative lobster trade.

On one side are commercial fishermen who say that indigenous fishermen are endangering their livelihoods by trapping crustaceans during the federally regulated shrimp season.

On the other hand are indigenous lobsmen who say they are being attacked for exercising their legal right to hunt and fish, a centuries-old treaty backed by a rightful negotiation and a decades-old court ruling.

It is a battle with high stakes.

Canada is the world’s largest exporter of lobster, with approximately $ 1.1 billion worth of lobster shipped annually to the United States. Nova Scotia is one of the country’s premier lobster producers.

Sipekne’katik First Nation opened a lobster skirmish last month after opening its fishery venture and fishing the lobster outside the federal season, which takes place in the region from 30 November to 31 May.

Commercial fishermen saw indigenous fisheries as a threat to their livelihoods, and sabotage operations soon began. As soon as the conflict turned violent, a fishing boat owned by an indigenous fisherman burned.

The Sipekne’katik is part of the Mi’kmaq people, who live on the Atlantic coast of Canada in other areas. Under a treaty of 1752, Mi’kmaq has the right to hunt and fish in order to earn a “generous livelihood”. That right was confined in a decision by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1999.

But successive governments have failed to define what a “moderate livelihood” is, and commercial fishermen argue that indigenous fishing is reducing their occupation of lobster conservation efforts and, by extension, their occupation.

This fight over lobster is only the latest flashpoint in a series of abuses against indigenous people that are a national repurchase about systemic racism in Canada’s health care, education and law enforcement.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has reconciled with Canada’s indigenous community, which has been deprived of land, resources and food for centuries in such a country. In 2018, Mr. Trudeau acknowledged the country’s “past humiliation, neglect and abuse” of the country’s 1.4 million indigenous people.

Violence has become a national political issue in Nova Scotia, with leaders of opposition parties criticizing the government’s response. Opposition New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh has The attacks are called “terrorism”.

On Monday, Indigenous Services Minister Mark Miller called the violence “disgusting, unacceptable and racist in nature”, joining a chorus of disapproval from government leaders, including Mr Trudeau.

Members of the commercial fishing industry blamed the government for tensions for failing to adequately regulate lobster fishing.

Colin Sproul, Gulf Vice President of the Fannie Inhaster Fishermen’s Association, which represents 150 family-owned lobster businesses in southwestern Nova Scotia, condemned the violence. He said the issue boiled down to “commercial scale” fishing by indigenous people during the off season, which he said was reducing local lobster supplies.

“There are extant consequences for the livelihood of our members,” he said, adding that the well-thought-out imperative to reconcile with the local indigenous community was taking precedence over science and conservation.

But Jeffrey A., a professor of biology at Dalhousie University. Hutchings said that specializes in fishing stability, about 550 nets being used by Mi’kmaq were negligible in a province where about 900,000 nets were used for shrimp fishing.

“One can conclude that the death of shrimp fishes in the region has been described as minimal relative to the death rates of fishermen,” he said.

The lobster fight is concentrated in a fishing area that links commercial fishing ghats and villages with lobster plants. The issue has polarized this corner of Nova Scotia, where tensions over fishing rights have increased in the past.

But the recent violence has shocked many with its intensity.

Police have accused one person of assaulting Chief Sack while another has been charged with setting fire to a van during a mob attack on Tuesday. In another attack on the same night, another shrimp fish plant was also targeted.

Indigenous leaders said the latest attacks underscored how indigenous people were being unfairly targeted across the country.

In late September, a national outrage ensued after Joyce Iquan, an Indigenous woman and mother, aired a Facebook live video showing her being humiliated by hospital staff with racist taunts.

After an incident during the summer when Canadian First Nations leader Alan Adam in Alberta was tackled on the sidewalk and police punched an expired license plate.

Mr Mara was shocked by the vitriolic hatred he saw during the attack, seeing how commercial fishermen dumped paint thinners and cement powder into lobster holding tanks in the building.

“There wasn’t a shrimp that went out of that live,” he said.

Chief Sack said he was concerned with what he characterized as a lack of police response during last week’s attacks, adding that indigenous lobster fishermen feared being attacked while fishing. He has called on the Canadian military to intervene.

Over the weekend, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair approved a request by the Attorney General of Nova Scotia to send more officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the National Police Force, into the area. On Monday, he said law enforcement has been changed, including the deployment of more police officers and the Coast Guard.

Dora Mellett of Saulnierville, a village where native people come for shrimp, said people in the area were shaken by the increasing violence.

“Usually there’s not a lot going on there and it’s quiet,” she said. “It scares you.”

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