Mi’kmaw fisher talks about being trapped in lobster pound

House of Commons to hold emergency debate on violence facing Mi’kmaq fishers.

Mi’kmaw fisher Jason Marr and his daughter Jazlyn Paul are still emotional after what happened to them last week when he was barricaded inside a lobster pound with a couple of hundred non-Mi’kmaw fishers waiting outside.

He livestreamed from inside the building.

‘They destroyed my van, there’s a couple of hundred out there, and I refuse to leave, I’m not leave, they said they won’t let me leave unless they have my lobsters,” Marr said on the livestream.

In the end, the mob did get the lobsters and destroyed approximately 1,500 kg of his catch – part of the MI’kmaq moderate livelihood fishery.

Mi'kmaq Fishers
Jason Marr, seen here with his daughter, speak about being surrounded by non-Mi’kmaw fishers. Photo: Angel Moore/APTN

Now Marr is speaking publicly about what happened.

He says he’s still getting threats.

“He hated me, I asked him why, he said cause your Indian, and I hate Indians he texted me and I gave that to the RCMP last night,” he says.

Sipekne’katik community members have faced violence and harassment by some commercial fishers since the moderate livelihood fishery was launched a month ago.

Chief Mike Sack was assaulted last week.

“I mean there’s been a lot of criminal action in the last month that charges should be pending, not saying their pending but you know there should be action taken towards anyone that did commit a crime,” he says.

Sack says he’s continuing to negotiate with Canada to implement the moderate livelihood plan.

At the same time, there is growing support for the Sipekne’katik First Nation.

Hundreds of people showed up at a rally in Halifax on Sunday – and Idle No More is calling for a  national week of action to support Mi’kmaq treaty rights.

The RCMP have ‘let down’ Mi’kmaw fishers facing violence in Nova Scotia: minister

The RCMP in Nova Scotia have failed to properly protect Mi’kmaw fishers who are exercising their inherent rights to fish lobster Canada’s Indigenous services minister said Monday.

Marc Miller was one of four federal cabinet ministers who took part in a news conference that followed a turbulent weekend in the southwestern corner of the province, where a lobster pound was burned to the ground and the Mounties accused one person of assaulting a Mi’kmaq leader and another of setting fire to a van owned by a Mi’kmaw fisherman.

“Indigenous people have been let down by the police, those who are sworn to protect them,” Miller said as he opened the news conference in Ottawa. “The protection of people on both sides has to prevail, and clearly that has not been the case up until now.”

Miller said even though Indigenous people have experienced discrimination throughout Canada’s history, the Mi’kmaw fishers in Nova Scotia have stood up for their rights without resorting to violence.

“It is a testament to who they are that they do so peacefully,” Miller said. But he said he fears the violence could lead to loss of life, adding, “We must reach a resolution.”

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said additional RCMP officers have been deployed to respond to the violence shown by non-Mi’kmaw fishers.

The violence against Mi’kmaw fishers started Sept. 17 when the Sipekne’katik First Nation launched a self-regulated commercial fishery outside of the federally designated fishing season.

Blair said Nova Scotia RCMP are now able to draw on resources from other provinces within the Atlantic region.

“The RCMP reports that they have deployed ground resources, resources on the water, liaison teams and investigative resources required to maintain the peace and uphold the law at that location,” Blair said.

“I do acknowledge that there are concerns within Indigenous communities,” Blair said. “We’re working hard to resolve them.”

The decision to dispatch more officers to Nova Scotia follows complaints from Mi’kmaq and other Indigenous leaders who have pointed to images on social media that appear to show Mounties standing by while protesters vandalized property and allegedly assaulted Sipekne’katik Chief Mike Sack last week.

Miller made it clear that Ottawa will be taking action to ensure the Mi’kmaq can exercise their constitutionally protected treaty right to earn a moderate livelihood from fishing.

“The acts of violence we have seen in the past days and weeks are disgusting, unacceptable and racist in nature,” he said. “It is a disgrace to see these threats and acts of intimidation and violence take place in this country.”

Mi'kmaw Fishers
A member of the RCMP stands and watches non-Mi’kmaw fishers haul lobster out of a pound in Nova Scotia.

In 1999 the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed the Mi’kmaq right to fish for a moderate livelihood but left it in the hands of the federal government and Mi’kmaw fishers to work out what that means. The court said Canada could regulate the fishery but in more than two decades since the ruling, Ottawa has failed to do so.

Non-Indigenous fishers say Mi’kmaw fishers should not be allowed to fish outside the federally regulated season because that could harm lobster stocks – a theory that has been widely dismissed by fisheries experts give the number of traps being set.

Meanwhile, Blair confirmed that the suspect accused of assaulting Sack on Oct. 14 had been released from custody with conditions.

Sack has criticized the RCMP for being “useless” in the face of violence. And on the weekend he called on Ottawa to send in the military to keep the peace.

Read More: Mi’kmaq Fishing Rights

Blair dismissed that request Monday, saying the incidents in Nova Scotia require a police response, not a military operation. “It is a peacekeeping operation and it is the responsibility of the police,” he said. “We have taken steps necessary to ensure that (the RCMP) have adequate resources to do the job.”

He said the RCMP will pursuing charges against those who commit crimes. “Those investigations are ongoing,” he said. “Those court cases will proceed.”

With files from The Canadian Press 

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