NTI calls on Ottawa to protect the rights of Mi’kmaq fishers
“The Government of Canada has spoken loudly in favour of reconciliation, but the essence of reconciliation is respect for the rights of Indigenous peoples”
Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. is calling on the federal government to uphold the rule of law to allow Mi’kmaq fishers in Nova Scotia to exercise their harvesting rights, free of harassment and violence.
The Sipekne’katik First Nation launched its own lobster fishery last week, marking the 21st anniversary of a Supreme Court ruling that upheld the treaty rights of Indigenous groups in eastern Canada to harvest in order to secure “a moderate livelihood.”
That move has sparked anger among the province’s non-Indigenous lobster fishers, who want the authorities to ban any harvesting while the season is closed, typically from May to November. There have been a number of reports of fishers vandalizing and removing Sipekne’katik lobster traps from St. Mary’s Bay, about 250 kilometres west of Halifax.
Nunavut’s Inuit birthright organization said it condemns the violence and hostility against Mi’kmaq fishers. In a Sept. 23 release, NTI called on Fisheries and Oceans Minister Bernadette Jordan and the RCMP to intervene in the case.
“As a constitutionally protected land claim holder, we are watching this escalating situation very closely,” NTI said in the release.
“Like the Mi’kmaq, NTI has worked for 21 years to ensure Inuit fishing rights recognized and protected under the Nunavut Agreement are formally implemented through the draft Nunavut Fishery Regulations.
“The Government of Canada has spoken loudly in favour of reconciliation, but the essence of reconciliation is respect for the rights of Indigenous peoples,” the organization said.
“NTI calls on the Government of Canada to take immediate actions to protect the right of Mi’kmaq fishers and to uphold the rule of law, and to continue to build trust and sustainable partnerships and to further the goal of reconciliation between the government and Indigenous peoples.”
The RCMP has said it’s monitoring the situation, while DFO officials have met with the Sipek’nekatik First Nation’s leadership.