New Brunswick

Shippagan settles lawsuit over crab riots

Officials with the Town of Shippagan are "happy" and "relieved" that a company whose fish plant was burned down in the 2003 crab riots has agreed to a settlement that will head off a lawsuit.

Receivers for fish plant that burned down accept undisclosed amount out-of-court

The Daley Brothers fish plant in Shippagan burned down in 2003. (Radio-Canada)

The bubbly was flowing at Shippagan Town Hall over the news a lawsuit against it by a Newfoundland-based fish processor had been settled, and no financial contribution to the settlement by the town was necessary.

"I could not believe it," said Mayor Anita Savoie Robichaud, speaking in French.

"It was a sword of Damocles hanging over us all the time."

The town was preparing to go to court in mid-February to defend itself against allegations of negligence, said Robichaud. Word of the settlement came on Friday. 

The $50-million lawsuit was launched in 2004 by Daley Brothers, whose fish plant burned down during crab riots the previous year.

The town has not disclosed the exact amount of the settlement but confirmed it is $5 million or less and, therefore, will be covered by its insurance.

The mayor of Shippagan, Anita Savoie Robichaud, said the lawsuit had been hanging over the town like the 'sword of Damocles.' (Radio Canada/René Landry)

Traditional fishermen rioted in May 2003 after the federal government assigned a portion of the crab quota to inshore fishermen and to Indigenous people.

Besides the Daley Brothers fish plant, four boats, a warehouse and many traps were set on fire.

Several rioters later admitted their guilt.

Even though they were suing us, we can have sympathy for them.- Anita  Savoie   Robichaud , Shippagan mayor

Daley Brothers alleged Shippagan's emergency services didn't do enough.

After 15 years, the mayor said she's "happy" and "relieved."

Savoie Robichaud said the town never expected it would have to pay the full amount Daley Brothers was seeking, but it's only insured for up to $5 million, so even a much smaller penalty would have hit hard. 

"We were confident there was no negligence on the part of the town. … But even if we'd had to pay one, two or three million, that would have been a lot."

Regardless of the outcome, the legal fees for a three-to-four-week trial were expected to be in the $200,000 range, she said.

CBC News attempted to contact Daley Brothers. 

Telephone numbers for two of its former Newfoundland plants have been disconnected.

A man who answered a cellphone thought to belong to Aiden Daley said he had no comment.

The company is still suing the RCMP.

Savoie Robichaud said she believed the company lost about $36 million in assets during the riots.

Inshore and Indigenous fishermen were given part of the crab quota in 2003 and the Daley Brothers factory in Shippagan was going to process some of it. (Radio-Canada)

"Even though they were suing us, we can have sympathy for them," said the mayor.

Savoie Robichaud is also hopeful the settlement will help the town put a damaging chapter behind it, so it can attract new investment.

At one time, Shippagan was known as a capital of commercial fishing, she said, but since the riots it has had no operating fish plant.

The large catches of lobster and crab landed in Shippagan are put in containers and sent south for processing, she said.

"We think it created a climate that wasn't as welcoming as we'd like."

"Even for other entrepreneurs at one time we were known as a place where we burned boats. It's not a reputation we'd like to have."