Indigenous lobster boats head from the harbour in Saulnierville, N.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS /Andrew Vaughan

Indigenous lobster boats head from the harbour in Saulnierville, N.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS /Andrew Vaughan

Mi’kmaq lawsuit alleges intimidation, harassment in Nova Scotia lobster fishery

Among the named defendants are the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermen’s Association and more than two dozen owners

A Mi’kmaq First Nation that encountered violence after launching a self-regulated lobster fishery last fall has filed a lawsuit against non-Indigenous fishers in Nova Scotia, the RCMP and the federal government.

In a statement of claim filed Friday with the Nova Scotia Supreme Court, the Sipekne’katik First Nation alleges that commercial fishermen stole and damaged hundreds of band members’ traps and engaged in a co-ordinated campaign of intimidation and harassment.

The lawsuit alleges that between 75 and 100 boats operated by non-Indigenous fishers headed to St. Marys Bay near Saulnierville, N.S., where they were used in late September 2020 to “intimidate and harass one or more of the plaintiffs, and to steal or damage their lobster traps.”

None of the allegations has been proven in court. A representative for the non-Indigenous fishers could not be reached for comment.

The lawsuit follows months of tension surrounding a moderate livelihood lobster fishery that the band launched on Sept. 17, 2020, before the opening of the federally designated fishing season. “The opening of the moderate livelihood fishery … provoked a violent response from non-Indigenous commercial fishers and their supporters,” the lawsuit says.

The court action also alleges that non-Indigenous fishers operated their vessels in a reckless manner, “intentionally driving close to certain of the plaintiffs’ vessels or creating large wakes to swamp the … vessels, threatening the safety of one or more of the plaintiffs.”

Indigenous fishers also claim they were chased, swarmed and surrounded on the water, and that some non-Indigenous fishers fired flares at them.

Indigenous fishers in Nova Scotia argue that a 1999 Supreme Court of Canada decision affirms the Mi’kmaq treaty right to fish for a “moderate livelihood” when and where they want — even outside the federally regulated season. That decision was later clarified by the court, however, which said Ottawa could regulate the Mi’kmaq treaty right for conservation and other limited purposes.

The plaintiffs include about 30 Indigenous fishers who took part in the band’s food, social and ceremonial lobster fishery, as well as nine who participated in the moderate livelihood fishery. Five band members took part in both fisheries, the document says.

Among the named defendants are the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermen’s Association and more than two dozen owners, operators and crew of various fishing boats and enterprises in western Nova Scotia.

The lawsuit alleges that the association “actively encouraged” members to “interfere with the plaintiffs’ traps and remove them from the water” on Sept. 20, 2020.

“The fisher defendants and the association acted in concert by operating their vessels on the water in a co-ordinated and dangerous manner, all with the intention … of threatening the health and safety of the plaintiffs,” the court document says.

The statement of claim also alleges that both the RCMP and the federal Fisheries Department failed in their duties to ensure the safety of Indigenous fishers.

It says the Mounties knew or ought to have known the Indigenous fishers were at risk, but the lawsuit says the RCMP failed “to act appropriately … to deter or prevent the unlawful acts” or to deploy adequate resources to keep the peace.

The RCMP issued a brief statement, saying it had yet to receive a copy of the lawsuit. “We will review and consider any such claim once received,” Cpl. Mark Skinner said in an email.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans said it could not comment on the lawsuit as it is before the courts.

Carole Saindon said in an email that the federal government is firmly committed to advancing reconciliation and implementing Indigenous Treaty rights through respectful, constructive dialogue.

She said First Nations affected by the Marshall decisions have a Supreme Court affirmed Treaty right to fish in pursuit of a moderate livelihood and the federal government is working in partnership to implement that right.

The band is seeking financial relief for “assault, intimidation and false imprisonment.” It also wants compensation to cover the cost of replacing stolen or damaged traps and the lost opportunity to catch lobster for the food, social and ceremonial fishery.

The First Nation filed another lawsuit filed last month targeting the constitutionality of a Nova Scotia law that has prevented the band from selling lobster it caught in St. Marys Bay.

ALSO READ: New UBC Indigenous fisheries centre aims to uplift community rights

Michael MacDonald, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

fishingIndigenous

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

File photo
Greenwood streets due for spring cleaning

City crews to start on residential streets Friday, April 16

Barbed wire hangs over a chain-link fence at Grand Forks public works yard at 130 Industrial Dr. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Grand Forks to increase security following theft, break-ins at city properties

Grand Forks RCMP said break-ins at abandoned homes accounted for majority of recent property crime

The Rock Creek Fall Fair is coming back next September. It's size and scope depends on pandemic constraints, said general manager Lisa Sims. Photo: Facebook — Rock Creek Fall Fair
Rock Creek Fall Fair planners hoping for as big a return as possible

The fair launched 50-50 ticket sales Thursday, April 15

Easterly winds vent smoke from a controlled behind rural Grand Forks’ Spencer Hill Wednesday, April 14. Photo: Darlainea Redlack
Grand Forks’ wildfire operations centre reports successful controlled burn near city

Lead officer James Kastonoff said some smoke will stay in the area through Thursday, April 15

Mayor and council on Monday, April 12, narrowly voted to keep the old Hardy View Lodge shelter open for potentially another year. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Grand Forks to keep shelter open during housing negotiations with province

The current facility at 2320 78th Ave. will stay open as a COVID-shelter, according to city council’s resolution

Thursday, Feb. 4: RDKB Chief Engineer Darryl Funk hoists a banner commemorating last year’s championship season by the Bantam House Bruins. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Bantam Bruins honoured at hair-raising banner ceremony at Grand Forks’ Jack Goddard Arena

Asst. coach Mike Tollis said he reluctantly gave in to the team’s victory wish that he cut his pony tale

The father of Aaliyah Rosa planted a tree and laid a plaque in her memory in 2018. (Langley Advance Times files)
Final witness will extend Langley child murder trial into May or June

Lengthy trial began last autumn with COVID and other factors forcing it to take longer than expected

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The corner of 96th Avenue and Glover Road in Fort Langley now has traffic signals, and new “touchless” signal activation buttons. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
Busy Fort Langley intersection gets ‘touchless’ crosswalk signals

The new traffic light started operation in April

A crossing guard stops traffic as students wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 arrive at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. A number of schools in the Fraser Health region, including Woodward Hill, have reported cases of the B.1.7.7 COVID-19 variant first detected in the U.K. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID-infected students in Lower Mainland schools transmitting to 1 to 2 others: data

Eight to 13 per cent of COVID cases among students in the Lower Mainland were acquired in schools, B.C. says

Norm Scott, president of Royal Canadian Legion Branch # 91, is disappointed the Legion does not qualify for COVID financial assistance from the provincial government. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C.’s pandemic aid package passing Legion branches by

Federal non-profit status stymies provincial assistance eligibility

Latest modelling by public health shows cases generated by COVID-19 infections into places where it can spread quickly. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
Industrial sites, pubs, restaurants driving COVID-19 spread in B.C.

Infection risk higher in offices, retail, warehouses, farms

Vancouver Canucks forward J.T. Miller said it would be “very challenging and not very safe” for him and his teammates to play as scheduled on Friday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Canucks’ return to ice postponed again after players voice COVID health concerns

Friday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers was called off after the team met virtually with the NHLPA

Most Read