Hurricane Teddy creates lull in fishery dispute in southwest N.S.
2 Trudeau cabinet ministers signal frustration with commercial fishermen
With the arrival of Hurricane Teddy, Mi'kmaw and commercial fishermen were off the water Tuesday, creating a lull in a dispute over the First Nations' lobster harvest in southwest Nova Scotia.
It came as two federal cabinet ministers issued a statement signalling their frustration with protesting commercial fishermen in the area.
"We share the concerns of the Assembly [of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaw] Chiefs for the safety of their people," said Fisheries and Oceans Minister Bernadette Jordan and Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett.
"There is no place for the threats, intimidation, or vandalism that we have witnessed in South West Nova Scotia. This is unacceptable."
In Saulnierville on Tuesday, more than a dozen First Nations' fishing boats were tied up at the wharf after dropping lobster traps Monday night in St Marys Bay.
Commercial fishermen down the road in Meteghan were also tied up as weather Intensified ahead of the storm.
The Sipekne'katik band launched its own moderate livelihood fishery last week, backed by a treaty right recognized 21 years ago by the Supreme Court of Canada. But the fishery is outside of DFO regulations that do not permit commercial fishing when the season is closed.
The Supreme Court said the federal government has the authority to regulate that treaty right, if the Mi'kmaq were consulted and any restrictions were justified. But after two decades the department has not reached agreement with the Mi'kmaq on rules to govern a moderate livelihood fishery.
Sipekne'katik became the first band in Nova Scotia to initiate a moderate livelihood fishery under its own regulations.
Last week, Jordan said commercial fishing out of season is a violation of the Fisheries Act and subject to enforcement.
Protesting commercial fishermen argue permitting a commercial fishery in an area when lobster are breeding is irresponsible.
In their joint statement, Jordan and Bennett reaffirmed the First Nations' right to a moderate livelihood fishery and commitment to reconciliation.
"Reconciliation is a Canadian imperative and we all have a role to play in it. What is occurring does not advance this goal, nor does it support the implementation of First Nation Treaty rights, or a productive and orderly fishery."
Fishermen's union 'disappointed' with statement
In response, Ruth Inniss of the Maritime Fishermen's Union said commercial fishermen were "disappointed" with the ministers' statement.
"They sent out a very strong message where they stand, our Canadian government and its very one-sided," she said.
"For the Canadian government to empower and support a community to fish during a breeding time is a blatant disrespect for the sustainability of our fishermen, any fishermen, any community that depends on the fishery," she said.
Speaking on behalf of Sipekne'katik, operations officer Rhonda Knockwood said the band would continue to work directly with the federal government "on full implementation" of its lobster plan.
"Sipekne'katik is pleased that Minister Jordan and Minister Bennett had a constructive meeting with the Assembly of NS Chiefs yesterday and that the Ministers recognize that the safety of our fishers is paramount," she said in a statement to CBC News.