Injunction against non-Mi’kmaq fishers posted on Nova Scotia wharves

Injunction was posted on three wharves in western Nova Scotia.

The injunction warning non-Indigenous fishers against tampering with or confronting Mi’kmaq fishers has been posted at a checkpoint on several wharves in Nova Scotia.

The court order will force the RCMP to protect against the kind of violence that has erupted in western Nova Scotia since the Sipekne’katik First Nation started its moderate livelihood fishery in September.

It prevents anyone from blocking access to the Saulnierville wharf, Weymouth wharf or the lobster pound at New Edinburgh.

Robert Syliboy, a Mi’kmaw fisher whose boat was set on fire earlier in October, is cautious.

“Now that we have this injunction in place I feel a little more at ease,” he said. “But we’ve experienced a lot of empty words and even with a court injunction it’s going to be hard to believe until we can see.”

The court injunction warning against interference with the MI’kmaq fishery posted on the Saulnierville wharf on Thursday. Photo: Angel Moore/APTN.

The violence has been intense since September. Lobster traps have been cut or seized, tonnes of lobster have been destroyed and Mi’kmaq fishers say they’ve been edged out of the market.

Still, there is a sense of relief now that the courts have stepped in.

”A lot more smiles today than there was in the previous days,” said Syliboy. “I think people feel a little more sense of security now that we know that the law enforcement has to stand up and you know charge those accountable for breaking the law.”

The interim injunction is in place until Dec. 15.

In Ottawa, the House of Commons Fisheries and Oceans committee met Wednesday night to discuss the moderate livelihood fishery.

The discussion explored the 1999 Marshall decision from the Supreme Court of Canada, and conservation of the lobster stock.

Watch Jamie Pashagumskum’s story about the committee here: 

According to Colin Sproul, of the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fisherman’s Association, the main concern is simple.

“It’s never appropriate to fish in a lobster breeding ground during the closed season because of that the lobsters are soft shelled at that time and really susceptible to damage,” Sproul told the committee.

But Allison Bernard, of the Mi’kmaq Rights Initiative, feels the violence shown towards Indigenous fishers is exactly why a Mi’kmaw developed management plan is needed.

“We are nature’s conservationists, we are the only life that they do have,” he said. “As I respect to the elder, Elder Marshall, who was a neighbour of mine, as always said, you have to speak on behalf of the species because they can’t speak for themselves.”

Shelley Denny, a researcher and marine doctoral student at Dalhousie University, said traditional Mi’kmaw knowledge is essential.

“Let’s take that opportunity to use shared values of governance to explore how they can co-exist and employ innovation to address values that are unique to each perspective,” she said.

A common theme at the committee is the government’s inability to remedy the question of what is a moderate livelihood or sit down with Mi’kmaw fishers to define it.

At one point Jaime Battiste, a Mi’kmaw MP from Nova Scotia, challenged Sproul on his interpretation of the Marshall decision when Sproul said DFO has the regulatory authority over the fishery.

“And so, Colin, you feel that it’s the government’s fault but we’re seeing vigilante justice, the cuttings of traps, do you think that’s a right way to handle the situation? Do you condemn the cutting of traps and what has happened in that area?” Battiste asked.

Sproul admitted that traps were hauled out of the water in full view of DFO officials and police, but said violence is not the answer.

“I condemn violent acts of any kind and as well as sending any kind of fishing equipment to the bottom on the ocean,” he said. “I don’t think any sustainability minded fisherman would ever be advocating for something like that.”

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