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Two arrested during protest at wharf where Mi’kmaw fishery underway

September 11, 2023
Mi'kmaw fishery

A peaceful moment on the Saulnierville Wharf. On the weekend, two people were arrested after a protest against the Mi’kmaw fishery. Photo: Angel Moore/APTN. 

APTN News: The RCMP says two people were arrested and later released for alleged assaults on Saturday after police responded to what they described as “an assembly” at a fishing wharf in southwestern Nova Scotia.

The Mounties say eight officers from six detachments attended a protest by a group of people gathered at the Saulnierville Wharf road. RCMP spokesman Const. Guillaume Tremblay said police couldn’t provide further details on the reason for the gathering of about 30 people, or whether there were conflicts between Mi’kmaw and non-Indigenous fishers during the afternoon protest.

But some of the people who showed up on the wharf can be heard taunting Mi’kmaw fishers after inspecting the lobster boats.

About 40 Mi’kmaw fishers spent the night on the wharf to protect their boats. Robert Sack of Sipekne’katik First Nation was one of them. “They’re coming here and they’re driving through the parking lot, spinning their tires and staring us down and there’s no need for it,” he said.

The Mi’kmaw fishers are harvesting lobster under their community’s food, social and ceremonial fishery management plan.

Read More: 

The Facts Behind Mi’kmaw Fishing Rights 

Last week two Conservative MPs, Chris D’entremont and Rick Parsons wrote a letter to the federal fisheries minister calling the Mi’kmaw poachers, claiming they’re hauling up hundreds of thousands of pounds of lobster per day.

Shannon Sack says with only 12 boats going out – that’s impossible. “Each boat would have to bring in 200 crates of lobster and nowhere have I ever heard, even during the commercial season, that a boat has brought in 200 crates of lobster in one day,” she said.

Robert Sack said the letters are criminalizing treaty rights.

“He’s inciting hate and he’s going to get people riled up,” Sack said. “He said that tensions are rising and we’re an illegal fishery and al this stuff like that and we’ve been through the Supreme Court so many times it’s not illegal.”

Mi’kmaw fishers have a right to harvest lobster to earn a moderate livelihood and for ceremony under the Peace and Friendship Treaty.

The wharf on St. Mary’s Bay was the scene of confrontation from commercial fishers towards Mi’kmaw fishers in September 2020 when the Sipekne’katik First Nation launched a self-regulated lobster fishery. Investigators say while the officers were at Saturday’s gathering, they saw a 34-year-old Digby County man assaulting another man, after being pushed.

Police say a few minutes later another man grabbed another person by the neck, and a 29-year-old from Hants County was also arrested. The two men who were allegedly assaulted were uninjured and investigators said they requested that charges not proceed. The RCMP release says the 34-year-old and 39-year-old men were later released and apologized to the victims.

Tremblay said Mounties will remain in the community to “promote public safety.”

Tensions have been mounting this summer in southern Nova Scotia over what the federal government calls unauthorized lobster fishing, and the province’s fisheries minister has said he intends to increase the maximum fine to $1 million for commercial buyers who are caught selling out-of-season lobster.

As of last week, the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans said it had seized 464 traps for non-compliance with the Fisheries Act in two fishing areas in southwestern Nova Scotia known as LFAs 33 and 34. The department also said it arrested two people from Saulnierville, N.S., in Moncton, N.B., last Wednesday and seized more than 8,000 lobsters caught in southwestern Nova Scotia, which were returned to the ocean.

With files from the Canadian Press