KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Much like last year, Mi’kmaw fishers exercising their treaty rights are once again the victims of vigilante acts by white settlers and harassment by RCMP and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).
Earlier this month nine Mi’kmaw fishing boats had their lines cut and were set adrift near Saulnierville, in DIgby County, the scene of so many racist and often violent incidents late last summer.
While these acts of settler vandalism occur Mi’kmaw fishers are reporting DFO hauling their traps and an increased surveyance by police and DFO officers altogether, aiming to intimidate them.
Yesterday, a few days after the start of the treaty fishery, DFO officers even arrested Chief Mike Sack of Sipekne’katik for violating the Fisheries Act.
Meanwhile the provincial government adds to the harassment by continuing to make it illegal for treaty lobsters to be purchased.
The Mi’kmaq people have always had the right to conduct their moderate livelihood fisheries, and these rights have been recognized and protected by a variety of decisions of the Supreme Court.
In these decisions the onus is put on the federal government to prove that regulation is justified for reasons having to do with conservation.
The feds have never even tried to make that case, likely because the Mi’kmaq are doing a fine job regulating themselves, and anyways, their harvest is minuscule compared to what commercial fishers pull in. A concern that soft shell lobsters are being taken has also been found to be unwarranted.
Last year many non-Indigenous Nova Scotians showed their support for the Mi’kmaw fishers. They came out in large numbers to buy treaty lobster, attended rallies, and many came down to the Saulnierville wharf to show their solidarity.
It’s that time again.
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