Halifax-area restaurants haul lobster off the menu in support of Mi'kmaq
'I'm happy to be there in solidarity,' says restaurant owner
Some Halifax-area restaurants have taken lobster off their menus to show support for the Mi'kmaq and their treaty right to fish.
"I really feel like this is a pivotal moment for Nova Scotia to face its racism and address it head on," Kourosh Rad, the owner of Garden Food Bar and Lounge in Halifax, told CBC's Maritime Noon on Monday.
"And whatever role I can play in that conversation, I'm happy to be there in solidarity."
Simmering tensions have grown violent in the province's southwest, sparked by the launch of a Mi'kmaw fishery outside the federally mandated commercial season — 21 years after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in the case of Donald Marshall Jr.
The landmark decision affirmed the Mi'kmaw right to earn a moderate livelihood from fishing.
Many commercial lobster fishermen say they consider the new Sipekne'katik fishery in St. Marys Bay illegal and worry that catching lobster outside the mandated season, particularly during the summer spawning period, will negatively impact stocks.
Sipekne'katik officials have said the amount of lobster that will be harvested and sold is tiny compared with what's caught during the commercial season, which begins in late November and runs until the end of May.
Several hundred commercial fishermen and their supporters raided two facilities where Mi'kmaw fishers store their catch last week. One of those facilities was later burned to the ground in what police said was a suspicious fire. A man whom police described as a person of interest was taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries believed to be related to the blaze.
Rad said he and his staff decided to take lobster off the menu after they heard about the fire at the storage facility.
"It just seems like the violence is getting out of control and we had to do something," he said.
Rad removed three items from his menu, including the lobster mac and cheese, lobster sliders and a lobster sandwich.
The items are still listed but with a note: "Currently not offering lobster due to violation of Mi'kmaq's treaty rights."
Rad said he had never considered where the restaurant's supplier acquired its lobster, but he's now looking for a Mi'kmaw fisher who can provide fresh lobster.
RCR's Hospitality Group, which owns six restaurants in Halifax including East of Grafton Tavern, Cut Steakhouse, Shuck Seafood and Raw Bar, Waterfront Warehouse, The Arms Public House and Agricola Street Brasserie, also removed lobster from its menus Monday.
Dear Friend, a restaurant and bar in Dartmouth, N.S., took lobster off its menu on Sept. 22 — only five days after the fishery's launch — to show solidarity with the Mi'kmaq.
Owner Matt Boyle said the restaurant has received "a significant amount of hate" since then.
But Boyle said sometimes the principle is more important than the profit.
"I'm a bit disheartened and appalled — embarrassed a little bit, as well," Boyle said. "I just think that there's other ways to peacefully resolve these issues than violence or vandalism and alleged racism."
The restaurants plan to keep lobster off the menu until the dispute is resolved.
With files from Preston Mulligan