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Canada Mi'kmaq fisherman intends to fight federal charges alleging illegal lobster catch

02:55  27 october  2020
02:55  27 october  2020 Source:   msn.com

Bellegarde says calm needed in lobster dispute ahead of work to define key right

  Bellegarde says calm needed in lobster dispute ahead of work to define key right 'Defining that moderate livelihood is the next big step going forward,' said the Indigenous leader.In an interview with The West Block's Mercedes Stephenson, Bellegarde said the situation which saw RCMP standing by as a violent mob attacked two Mi'kmaw lobster fishing compounds in southwestern Nova Scotia last week is "not acceptable.

Commercial fishermen dumped about 100 lobster traps outside a federal office in southwestern Nova Scotia on Monday, after others protested outside the home of someone alleged to have purchased Protest also forms at home of someone alleged to have bought lobster harvested with Mi 'kmaw traps.

Mi ’ kmaq fishers say non-Indigenous commercial fishers in the Maritime province have threatened them, cut their lines, pulled their traps from the water Tensions boiled over this month when angry mobs ransacked two lobster pounds holding the Indigenous fishers’ catch , pelting the buildings with rocks

a man standing on a snow board © Provided by The Canadian Press

HALIFAX — A fisherman from a Mi'kmaq community in Cape Breton says he intends to plead not guilty to charges of illegal fishing after his lobster traps were seized last year by federal fisheries officers in southwestern Nova Scotia.

Ashton Bernard, 30, of Eskasoni First Nation, said in a telephone interview Monday he will rely on the 1999 Supreme Court of Canada decision in the Donald Marshall Jr. case.

The Supreme Court ruled that East Coast Indigenous communities have the right to fish for a moderate livelihood, citing peace treaties signed by the Crown in the 1760s. A subsequent clarification of the court's decision, however, also affirmed Ottawa's right to regulate the fishery to ensure conservation of the resource.

Mobs are attacking Indigenous fisheries in Nova Scotia. Here’s what’s going on

  Mobs are attacking Indigenous fisheries in Nova Scotia. Here’s what’s going on Tensions between Indigenous and non-Indigenous fishermen have come to a head over fishing rights in Nova Scotia — a dispute that has a history spanning hundreds of years. In 1999, Canada's Supreme Court ruled in the landmark case R. v. Marshall that several treaties signed in the 1760s granting the Mi'kmaq the right to harvest and sell fish were still valid. The over 250-year-old agreement, known as the Peace and Friendship Treaties, specified that the Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq had the right to earn a "moderate livelihood." The Sipekne'katik First Nation would go on to open its own fishery in St. Mary's Bay, N.S.

Across Atlantic Canada, First Nations fishermen began fishing lobster out of season, claiming the ruling It added that because the Federal Court does not have the power to stay criminal charges in provincial court cases Why one Mi ' kmaq fisherman says commercial fishing licences aren't working.

Many commercial lobster fishermen say they consider the new Sipekne'katik fishery illegal and worry that fishing outside the mandated season will "Nova Scotia Mi ' kmaq are working as a nation to determine what is required to implement those treaty rights, what it means, what it looks like and what

Bernard said he believes the first portion of the Supreme Court decision will prevail.

"The highest court in Canada affirmed our treaty rights and we're allowed to fish under a moderate livelihood," he said. "I wasn't going to wait around for the government to tell us when to fish or not.

"I told the boys, 'Let's go out and see how it goes,' and now we're into court."

Bernard's case is proceeding amid tensions over the launching on Sept. 17 of a livelihood fishery by the Sipekne’katik First Nation, on the 21st anniversary of the Marshall decision.

Since the Sipekne'katik fishery began, federal Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan has confirmed she is committed to respecting the Mi'kmaq treaty right to pursue a moderate livelihood. Her officials have been in talks with the band to define the fishery.

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As Mi'kmaw fishers continue their moderate-living lobster fishery under the protection of a court injunction, they're struggling to sell their commercial catch . What’s behind the tensions between the Mi ’ kmaq and commercial fisheries? Even though the commercial lobster season in Area 35, located

Nova Scotia Mi ' kmaq chiefs say Indigenous fishermen should be exempt from any prohibition on fishing within marine protected areas because of First Nations' treaty rights. "Our concerns and our input should have a greater weight in the decision making process than those of, for example, non-Mi'kmaw

The seizures of Bernard's catch occurred Sept. 7, 2019, when Bernard says fisheries officers raided his boat in the early hours of the morning and removed 32 crates of lobster.

He said he had caught the lobster after fishing off Pinkneys Point, N.S., about 20 kilometres south of Yarmouth, for two days. He says his boat had a crew of four and was using 80 traps, and he says when he was approached by DFO officers on the water, he informed them he was fishing under provisions of the Marshall case.

Meanwhile in Ottawa, the House of Commons fisheries committee delved into the dispute Monday with testimony from Indigenous leaders.

Paul Prosper, the Assembly of First Nations' regional chief for Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, told MPs it was a rude awakening when he learned the federal government doesn't always uphold treaty rights.

"There is no mechanism to force government to, under the laws of this land," he said. Indigenous fishers have been waiting for 21 years since Marshall decision for a mandate to practice their moderate-livelihood fishing rights, Prosper said.

Nova Scotia restaurants boycott lobster in response to violence against the Mi'kmaq

  Nova Scotia restaurants boycott lobster in response to violence against the Mi'kmaq HALIFAX — Kourosh Rad, owner of Garden Food Bar and Lounge in Halifax, says he removed his popular lobster-based menu items in support of the province's Mi'kmaq fishers. The Mi'kmaq are in a dispute over fishing rights in southwestern Nova Scotia and have been targeted recently with violence and intimidation. Rad is among a few restaurant owners in the province who have responded to the conflict by boycotting lobster. “The lobster that we areThe Mi'kmaq are in a dispute over fishing rights in southwestern Nova Scotia and have been targeted recently with violence and intimidation. Rad is among a few restaurant owners in the province who have responded to the conflict by boycotting lobster.

Mi ' kmaq community plans to sell catch from treaty fall fishery for COVID-19 recovery efforts. Listuguj Mi'gmaq Government has developed a fisheries management plan to fish lobster this fall, which The licence from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans prohibits the sale of Listuguj's catch this fall

The Mi'kmaw community in Nova Scotia that recently launched its first self-regulated lobster fishery is "We encourage the federal government and Mi ' kmaq of Nova Scotia to continue this important Luc Leblanc, a spokesperson for the Maritime Fishermen 's Union, did not respond to a request for

Darcy Gray, chief with the Listuguj Mi'kmaq, a First Nation in Quebec, testified that his nation has launched its own fishing management plan but continues to be rebuffed by federal authorities.

"For the last two falls, we have conducted our own self-regulating fishery," Gray said. "Lobster stocks in our fishing area remain healthy."

But the Department of Fisheries and Oceans prohibits the sale of his nation's lobster, he said. "Every fall, we are refused. Every fall, the minister insists on prohibiting us from exercising our treaty right."

Back in Yarmouth, Bernard was in provincial court on Monday to face charges of fishing outside of the closed federal season, lobster fishing without authorization and possessing lobster in contravention of the Fisheries Act.

Two other First Nations fishermen, Zachery Nicholas and Rayen Francis from Pictou Landing First Nation, were also charged with those three offences.

Ashton Bernard's younger brother, Arden Bernard, is facing the same charges, and the brothers are also both charged with violating Aboriginal communal fishing licensing regulations.

Another man, Michael Surette, is facing the same charges in the matter, and he said in a teleconference with the judge that he intends to hire a lawyer.

The lawyer for the Indigenous fishers, Michael McDonald, and the federal prosecutor agreed to set a date of Dec. 1 for election and plea in the case.

Before becoming a fisherman, Bernard played major junior hockey for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies and the Shawinigan Cataractes. He says he entered the fishing industry with a snow crab licence obtained by his band, and shifted into lobster fishing last year.

Bernard said he is currently fishing for lobster in St. Peters Bay in another of the recently opened livelihood fisheries. "It's been 21 years since the Marshall decision, and we didn't want to wait another 21 years," he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 26, 2020.

Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press

For Mi'kmaq fishers, dreams of a peaceful harvest on N.S. waters repeatedly dashed .
HALIFAX — Mi'kmaw fisherman Robert Syliboy says he dreams of peacefully trapping lobster off the shores of southwestern Nova Scotia. But the hopes of the 27-year-old from the Sipekne'katik First Nation have been repeatedly dashed by the vandalism and arson that has descended on his community after it launched a self-regulated fishery in St. Marys Bay. One of his boats was burned at a wharf on Oct. 5. "Everything I worked for was right there," heBut the hopes of the 27-year-old from the Sipekne'katik First Nation have been repeatedly dashed by the vandalism and arson that has descended on his community after it launched a self-regulated fishery in St. Marys Bay.

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