Charges against Mi’kmaw lobster harvester over moderate livelihood should be withdrawn says lawyer

All charges brought by Canada against a Mi’kmaw lobster harvester should be dropped says a Mi’kmaq lawyer.

Ashton Bernard of Eskasoni First Nation the Mi’kmaw lobster harvester. He’s been harvesting lobster for a moderate livelihood for the last two years even before Mi’kmaw bands launched their own management plans.

In September 2019, Bernard was fishing with his crew for a moderate livelihood. Officers with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), and the RCMP were waiting for him at the dock of Pinkney’s Point wharf, southwestern point of Nova Scotia.

The DFO seized about 3,000 lbs. (1,500 kg) of lobster.

Mi'kmaw lobster harvester
Ashton Bernard outside court Monday. Photo: Angel Moore/APTN.

Some are the charges Bernard and his crew are facing are fishing during a closed season.

Bernard now fishes a moderate livelihood under his community’s plan, but he says the DFO is still harassing him.

“It’s great the band are putting their plans together right now and the chiefs are standing with us but it  doesn’t matter, DFO is still taking our gear,” he says. “Even (when) the band issues’ tags I got from Eskasoni.”

More Mi’kmaw bands are launching their own moderate livelihood management plans.

Read More: Mi’kmaw Fishing Rights 

In 1999, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the treaty rights that the Mi’kmaw have a right to hunt, fish, and gather to earn a moderate livelihood, known as the Marshall Decision.

Mi’kmaw lawyer Michael McDonald says the government is wasting the court’s time and the charges against Bernard should be dropped.

“I think they should withdraw all charges against Mi’kmaw fishers right now, especially now that you have the prime minister of Canada saying straight up that the Mi’kmaw people have a right to fish for a moderate livelihood,” he said.

“The department of fisheries need to lay off and leave these Mi’kmaw people alone and let them practice their right.”

Mi'kmaw lobster harvester

The charges against Bernard ands crew are stayed till Dec. 1.

The negotiations between the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Chiefs and the federal government over the moderate livelihood have fallen through.

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