Lobster fishery violence sparks concern on west coast

As ugly threats and intimidation give way to violence against a Mi’kmaq lobster fishery on Canada’s East Coast, Nuu-chah-nulth leaders are demanding that Ottawa upholds the law.

NTC President Judith Sayers said she has been shocked by images captured over the past week showing tense confrontations between Indigenous fishermen and non-Indigenous protesters blocking their path in Nova Scotia.

On Saturday, a Mi’kmaq lobster storage facility was destroyed by fire, sending what police are calling a “person of suspicion” to hospital with serious injuries.

“I think anybody looking at that really finds it shocking,” Sayers said Sunday. “It’s shocking that nothing is happening with the RCMP and it’s shocking that nothing is happening with DFO to try to support the Mi’kmaq fishermen.”

Sharing a common interest with the Mi’kmaq in asserting Indigenous fishing rights, the five T’aaq-wiihak nations — Ahousaht, Ehattesaht, Mowachaht/Muchalaht, Hesquiaht and Tla-o-qui-aht — threw their support squarely behind the M’ikmaq last week.

“We support what goes on back there because we are dealing with the same attitudes and same approach by the government,” said Wickanninish, Cliff Atleo, lead negotiator for Ahousaht First Nation. “It’s just not acceptable. The government, because of their racist policies, seems to find it easy to stand by and watch non-Indigenous people violate the law, violate the Canadian constitution, and it’s OK for them to do that. They say it’s too dangerous for them to go out on the water… but what is it like for the Mi’kmaq?”

Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, based on a common bond with the Mi’kmaq in asserting Indigenous fishing rights, is urging Canadians to speak out against the violence and destruction of property.

“It is not enough for Prime Minister Trudeau, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller and Commissioner Brenda Lucki to say systemic racism exists,” Sayers said in a statement released Monday. “They must act now and direct the RCMP to deal with this They must act now and direct the RCMP to deal with this situation to protect Mi’kmaw, and ensure DFO works with the Mi’kmaw to implement their constitutional right to a moderate livelihood in the lobster fishery.”

Meanwhile, Tla-o-quiaht donated $1,000 and urged 14 other Nuu-chah-nulth nations to follow suit.

“Thank you for implementing your fishery plan,” said Tla-o-qui-aht Councilor Terry Dorward,  Tweeting his moral support for Mi’kmaq rights on the weekend. “It has a rippling effect right across the country.”

“All Canadians should be astounded by these consistent acts of outright hate, racism, and violence,” added Mariah Charleson, NTC vice-president. “We cannot allow this to be accepted and tolerated, all governments need to act immediately.”

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