Canada

Burnt Church leaders calling on RCMP to lay attempted murder charges

An RCMP investigation is underway into Tuesday's DFO raid at Burnt Church. It follows complaints that fisheries officers used excessive force against native boats while seizing lobster traps from the Miramichi Bay. It was the most violent confrontation since the dispute began almost a year ago.

Band official Karen Somerville says they laid the complaints.

During Tuesday's battle on the bay:

  • Two native boats were swamped and damaged
  • Two natives were arrested after being pulled from the water
  • One fisheries officer was struck by a rock
  • One native was maced and suffered head injuries

The two natives arrested were released and will appear in court next month.

A trauma team was at the Burnt Church reserve to help members of the community deal with the tension.

Native chiefs offering support

Fallout from the confrontation is not limited to Burnt Church. Sommerville says they have been getting calls from chiefs from across the country.

"They are appalled at the treatment of our people," says Sommerville, "and they're all in agreement with us. They say, 'You are not illegally fishing. The Marshall decision has reconfirmed your treaty right to fish.'"

On Wednesday DFO fisheries officers stopped a commercial fishing boat from Big Cove carrying lobster traps to Burnt Church. Although no traps were in the water, authorities seized the vessel and its traps.

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