Sipekne’katik First Nation lobster harvesters are back on the water, harvesting lobster for their community’s food, social and ceremonial fishery plan.
They say the large presence of police and fisheries office are intimidating and infringing on their treaty rights.
“Of course it makes you feel prouder,” says community member Angela Slauenwhite who is learning to fish with her own tags.
“You’re showing your community that you know you can get out there and practice your rights and hopefully not have any problems doing that.”
Shy Francis says officers are around the wharf every day.
She spoke with a fisheries officer last month.
“They wanted to know when we were going out,” she says. “I even asked why? Because you’re going to handcuff us, you’re going to charge us, even before we get out on the water?”
Francis says she will not forget last fall, when her community launched their Moderate Livelihood Fishery.
The non-indigenous fishermen reacted with violence, who say the fishery will put the lobster stock at risk.
Vehicles were burned, people were assaulted, and a lobster pound was burnt to the ground.
The police were criticized for standing by.
Last week, Mi’kmaw lobster harvesters saw a Canadian Coast Guard vessel with lobster traps on board. They were concerned DFO seized their traps.
“They aren’t here to protect us, they’re here to monitor us to see when they are going to attack us and make any excuse to come after us,” says Francis.
Francis says there have been more police and fisheries officers present in the last few weeks.
“If they were working with us then we wouldn’t have, our people wouldn’t feel attacked when they’re going up to our boats and they’re asking for identification and what not, like it feels like we’ve done something wrong when we actually didn’t,” says Francis.
DFO wouldn’t confirm whether traps had been seized.