Sipekne’katik First Nation Chief Mike Sack says the number of people arrested and charged for violent acts against Mi’kmaw lobster harvesters is “disheartening.”
“I couldn’t believe it when I was told that they actually said that they have bigger cases to worry about and for me a burning van is not bigger than assaulting one of our Mi’kmaq woman,” said Sack.
“That just speaks volumes.”
Sack said community members are still affected by the violence from the non-Indigenous fishermen over the moderate livelihood fisheries.
The fact that the Mounties have only charged three people is making matters worse, he said. To date, no charges have been laid against non-Indigenous harvesters seen on video harassing, assaulting and damaging the property of community members.
“For us, it’s been very disheartening the amount of charges that have been laid and in what’s going on and how our people are being treated. Systemic racism at it’s finest; it doesn’t sit well with us, and we are doing everything we can to make sure changes are made,” said Sack.
Read More: APTN News coverage of Mi’kmaw Fishing Rights
Over a month ago, Sipekne’katik First Nation launched their moderate livelihood fishery, exercising their treaty right to fish.
Immediately, they were confronted with violence from the non-Indigenous fishermen who say the lobster stock is at risk – a belief that has largely been dismissed by some fisheries scientists.
Sack said lawyers are gathering evidence and statements from Sipekne’katik community members and are preparing lawsuits.
Sack said he’s determined people with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans are also going to be held accountable.
“All too often we expressed concern the traps (they) were hauling from our people but when we call them to protect our people nobody was there,” said Sack.
“We’ve all seen over the last numbers of years all across Canada that you know First Nations people been pushed aside and cases are left on a desk until everyone forgets about them and that’s not going to happen here, like they are going to be held accountable one way or another,” said Sack.
Sipekne’katik Moderate Livelihood Management Plan says since the Mi’kmaq are semi nomadic, the plan covers the traditional territory of Mi’kma’ki, which includes the province of Nova Scotia.