WEYMOUTH NORTH, NS – A Nova Scotia First Nation says nine of its lobster boats were voluntarily detached from a dock Thursday.
Sipekne’katik First Nation Chief Mike Sack issued a statement saying the boats had been thrown adrift from their berths in Weymouth North, Nova Scotia, with “intent to cause damage and intimidate the community ”.
Sack said the boats were ready to participate in the band’s food, social and ceremonial lobster fishery, which is regulated by federal rules but is not limited to a particular season.
The Band caught the nation’s attention last fall when it launched a separate, self-regulating commercial lobster fishery in St. Marys Bay, three months before the start of the federally regulated season.
The decision to create a so-called moderate subsistence fishery was met with violent protests among some non-native fishermen and their supporters, which resulted in numerous arrests.
At the time, Sack said that the First Nations of the Maritimes and Quebec had never given up the right to fish, gather and hunt when and where they wanted, as stipulated in treaties signed with the Crown in the 1700s.
Further, he noted that the Supreme Court of Canada upheld these treaty rights in a landmark 1999 ruling known as the Marshall decision, but the court also said Ottawa retained the right to regulate fisheries. for conservation purposes.
In a separate decision from the same court, known as the Sparrow, First Nations are allowed to fish outside of the regular commercial season to feed their communities or to provide ceremonial gatherings – but they are prohibited from selling those catches.
Disputes in Nova Scotia over food, social and ritual fishing (FCS) surfaced in 2017 when non-Indigenous fishermen launched a series of peaceful protests to draw attention to their claims that a small faction of Indigenous fishermen was selling their FCS catch.
On Thursday, Sack said what happened at Weymouth Wharf would delay FCS fishing by a week.
“This is unfortunately what we have to face, harassment and property damage without recourse or substantial protection to protect our people,” he said in a statement.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has said it strongly condemns what it called “the activity” at Weymouth Wharf.
“The Government of Canada is firmly committed to advancing reconciliation, implementing rights-based fisheries and ensuring that everyone feels safe on the dock and on the water,” wrote Stephen Bornais , a spokesperson for the ministry, in an email.
“Threatening and criminal activity will not be tolerated. Damage or destruction of gear or boats is illegal and any fisherman whose property has been destroyed or altered must report incidents to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. “
Bornais said the ministry will continue to work to promote peaceful and orderly fishing, and with the RCMP and local police to monitor and combat criminal activity in the area.
The RCMP could not be reached immediately for comment.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on August 5, 2021.