‘I realized I could have died out there’: Mi’kmaw harvester says he was shot at out on the water


A Mi’kmaw lobster harvester says he was shot at three times when he went out on the water to confront the people stealing his traps that were set under his community’s moderate livelihood fishery.

Garry Denny was not physically injured but he said he’s still in shock.

“After the last shot, it just hit me as a Mi’kmaw community member here, we’re never going to be accepted and that’s how I feel,” said Denny.

Denny said this is a whole new level of violence from non-Indigenous fishers.

He said he’s worried about his family. A few hours earlier, his wife and son were on the water.

Denny said he is teaching his children to fish, and exercise their treaty right to earn a moderate livelihood no matter what the backlash is from the non-Indigenous fishers.

Mi'kmaw harvester
Garry Denny with his wife in front of the boat he was in when he says shots rang out. Photo: Angel Moore/APTN.

His traps have been cut since his community, Pictou Landing First Nation, launched its moderate livelihood fishery, following Potlotek and Eskasoni.

Pictou Landing First Nation community members harvest lobster in the waters off northwest Nova Scotia.

RCMP say they arrested four people in connection with the shooting.

Cpl. Lisa Croteau said Monday no injuries were reported and no charges have been laid so far, as the investigation continues.

Croteau said one person was taken into custody Sunday after officers were called to the scene at around 5:30 p.m., while the other three suspects were arrested Monday.

Pictou Landing Chief Andrea Paul said in an interview Monday that members of the First Nation were shocked and unnerved by the incident.

“They’re very upset, (but) I don’t think many of them were too surprised by it,” she said.

Non-Indigenous fishers have reacted violently to the Mi’kmaw run fisheries in the past three months.

Denny said he will continue to fish, and fight for treaty rights for future generations.

“But there’s one thing that Saulnierville fishermen from Sipekne’katik and PLFN have in common, we’re not giving up,” said Denny.

Along with the four people under investigation for the shooting, police have arrested 21 others for acts of violence.

It started when Sipkne’katik First Nation launched its moderate livelihood fishery in Southwestern Nova Scotia a few months ago.

It was met with violence from non-Indigenous fishers and their supporters who say the fishery is illegal and the lobster stocks are at risk.

Both claims have been refuted by experts.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans and experts have agreed the lobster stocks are healthy.

The Mi’kmaw have a treaty right signed in the mid 1760s to hunt, fish and gather to earn a moderate livelihood.

That right was affirmed in 1999 by the Supreme Court of Canada. But the court didn’t define moderate livelihood and in 21 years since the decision, Canada has failed to do so.

Violence to date against the Mi’kmaw harvesters include a van being torched, Mi’kmaw fishers being surrounded in a lobster pound by an angry mob, the building being burned to the ground a few days later, and the chief being assaulted.

Also on the water, flares were fired at boats, traps were cut and stolen, and Mi’kmaw boats were surrounded and chased by non-Indigenous fishers’ boats.

However, this is the first instance a firearm was used.

“It wasn’t till the last shot I realized I could have died out there; my kids could have been left without a father,” said Denny.

With files from the Canadian Press 

Video Journalist / Halifax

Angel Moore is a proud Cree from the Peguis First Nation in Manitoba. Angel grew up in Winnipeg and has a Journalism degree from the University of King’s College. She also has a degree from Dalhousie University in International Development Studies and Environmental Sustainability. Angel joined APTN News in June 2018 as the correspondent in the Halifax bureau and covers Atlantic Canada.