The chief of a Mi’kmaq First Nation says an angry group of non-Indigenous people damaged lobster pounds holding his people’s catch and burned a vehicle on Tuesday night.
Video being circulated on social media shows a van being set alight in West Pubnico, N.S., during one of the tense encounters.
Chief Mike Sack of Sipekne’katik First Nation says damage occurred at two locations, one in West Pubnico and the other in the Weymouth area, and lobster caught by the Indigenous fishers was removed from lobster pounds.
“Local fishermen attacked two lobster buying facilities and did a lot of damage, burned vehicles, took lobsters,” Sack said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “Whatever they wanted to do, happened.”
Sack said two Indigenous harvesters were at the lobster pound in West Pubnico when people broke a door, a van was burned and their catch was taken away.
“My reaction is, I can’t believe how they are getting away with these terrorist, hate crime acts and the police are there,” he said.
“I called an emergency meeting with my council this morning, and we’re trying to figure out our next steps to figure out what we’re going to do to ensure our people’s safety.”
The RCMP were present for some of the incident but did not have official comment Wednesday morning on what had occurred.
The Indigenous fishers are conducting a fishery outside of the federally regulated season based on a 1999 Supreme Court of Canada decision that ruled East Coast Indigenous groups have the right to fish for a “moderate livelihood,” though a second ruling stated this was subject to federal regulation.
Since the Mi’kmaq fishery opened last month, there have been tensions on and off the water, with traps hauled from the sea by non-Indigenous harvesters and a boat belonging to a Mi’kmaq fisherman burned at a wharf.
Sack says he has contacted federal Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan about the growing strife as well as the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations.
The chief says the latest incidents began to unfold Tuesday evening as he was meeting with the 11 lobster harvesters his band has licensed for a moderate livelihood fishery in St. Marys Bay. Each of their boats uses about 50 traps in the inshore fishery, while commercial Indigenous and non-Indigenous fishers who operate beginning in late November use between 375 and 400 traps.
Sack says that as the Indigenous fishers were meeting, they heard of the incidents at the holding pounds, and some of the Indigenous fishers went to the locations. The chief said nobody was hurt in the incidents, but there were confrontations and shouting at the scenes.
Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press
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