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

Police are looking for the driver of this truck after it nearly hit a group of kids in Esquimalt on Thursday. (Photo courtesy of Victoria Police)
Victoria police looking for driver of truck that nearly missed kids before crashing in Esquimalt

The truck’s driver, a man, fled the scene after the truck crashed into a house’s fence

Rainbow trouts thrashing with life as they’re about to be transferred to the largest lake of their lives, even though it’s pretty small. These rainbows have a blue tinge because they matched the blue of their hatchery pen, but soon they’ll take on the green-browns of their new home at Lookout Lake. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
VIDEO: Lookout Lake stocked with hatchery trout to delight of a seniors fishing club

The Cherish Trout Scouts made plans to come back fishing soon

A driver stopped by Saanich police following a road rage incident on April 15 was found to be impaired, in violation of a license restriction and in a damaged vehicle. They received a 90-day driving prohibition and a 30-day vehicle impound. (Saanich Police Traffic Safety Unit/Twitter)
Driver stopped on Pat Bay Highway after road rage reports fails breathalyzer test: police

Several witnesses reported driver to Saanich police, school officer intercepted

Police escorts for Victoria bylaw workers entering encampments in parks will continue for this month, after council approved a $25,000 budget request from VicPD. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria bylaw staff encampment work to include police escort through April

Taxpayers to see modest increase in property taxes for 2021

Victoria’s bylaw restricting businesses from providing most plastic checkout bags came into effect on April 15. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson)
Victoria’s bylaw banning plastic bags back in effect

The bylaw restricts businesses from providing most plastic checkout bags, charges for alternatives

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Top doctor warns B.C.’s daily cases could reach 3,000 as COVID hospitalizations surge

There are more than 400 people in hospital, with 125 of them in ICU

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: Do you have a plan in place in the event of a tsunami?

Tsunamis have claimed the lives of more than 250,000 people between 1998… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of April 13

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

The District of Sooke will continue to flower with Communities in Bloom. (Pixabay)
Sooke will bud but not bloom in provincial competition

Council scales back participation in Communities in Bloom

An armed officer walks outside Cerwydden Care on Cowichan Lake Road near Skinner Road Wednesday, April 14 around 5:30 p.m. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Police standoff at Duncan apartment ends peacefully

Officers surround building as homeowner held in apartment for nearly four hours by adult son

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

Hwy. 4 was shut down in both directions for 10 hours on March 23 as a rock bluff was blasted as part of Kennedy Hill’s ongoing construction. Commuters can expect five more 10 hour closures on five consecutive Wednesdays beginning April 28. (Photo courtesy of Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure)
Five 10-hour Pacific Rim highway closures planned in the next 6 weeks

Closures needed for rock blasting as part of the Kennedy Hill Safety Improvement project.

Bulldogs forward Stephen Castagna flips the puck into the Clippers zone during a game on Oct. 24. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Island BCHL game postponed due to ‘potential positive’ COVID-19 test

Nanaimo Clippers team suspends activities, players isolating pending further test results

Most Read