NORTH WEYMOUTH, NS – RCMP are opening a criminal investigation into a report that nine lobster boats operated by Mi’kmaq fishermen were voluntarily detached from a wharf Thursday in southwestern Nova Scotia.
Sipekne’katik First Nation Chief Mike Sack alleged the boats were thrown adrift from their berths in Weymouth North, Nova Scotia to damage band property and intimidate their fishermen .
Mounted police said in an email Friday that they are taking the complaint seriously and are looking into the matter.
Later that day, the RCMP issued a press release adding that a lobster case containing $ 800 worth of lobster was stolen from one of the boats.
Police encourage citizens to report anything they know about the allegations.
Sack says the boats were prepared to participate in the band’s food, social and ritual lobster fishery, which is regulated by federal rules but 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 tribunal, 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 these 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 fisher 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.