Eskasoni lobster fisherman 'saddened' after boat vandalized
'All we're trying to do is just make a living off our treaty rights'
The first mate of a lobster fishing crew from Eskasoni First Nation says his vessel was vandalized while docked at St. Peters Canal over the holidays.
Sceven (Seki) Anthony Bernard said he and other crew members of the April and Brothers found the 10-metre vessel underwater on Boxing Day.
"I started noticing that the boat was sabotaged," Bernard said in a phone interview Saturday, adding that he spotted lines that had been untied or cut.
A crane arrived the next day to hoist the boat from the water. Bernard said RCMP, the Canadian Coast Guard and DFO were also on scene.
"They hauled the boat out of the water, pumped the water out of the boat and set it back in the water to check for leaks. That's when we noticed four holes on the deck," said Bernard, who is also the crew's mechanic.
Bernard said he's not sure what caused the holes, but he thinks it could have been gunshots or a drill.
He added that the device that pumps water from the boat was shut off. He said the way the boat was vandalized makes him believe that the person, or persons, responsible knew what they were doing.
"It was a veteran fisherman," said Bernard, who is Mi'kmaq.
"I'm saddened.… It's a sad world we're living in with so much hate and jealousy. All we're trying to do is just make a living off our treaty rights."
A landmark 1999 decision by the Supreme Court of Canada acknowledged the right of the Mi'kmaq to make a moderate livelihood off commercial fishing.
But Fisheries and Oceans Canada have been negotiating with Indigenous leaders for two decades over how to define "moderate livelihood."
Bernard said he believes the boat was vandalized sometime between Christmas Day and Boxing Day morning, because someone who lives in the area saw the boat afloat on Christmas Eve.
He said the boat is owned by a friend of captain Ashton Bernard.
The RCMP are investigating and say the incident has been deemed suspicious. They're asking for information from the public.
Bernard said the boat had been seized by RCMP as part of the investigation, but was on its way back to Eskasoni on Saturday. He said once it arrived, he would begin assessing the damage, including removing all the electronics from the vessel.