Nova Scotia

Hurricane Teddy creates lull in fishery dispute in southwest N.S.

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.

2 Trudeau cabinet ministers signal frustration with commercial fishermen

Hurricane Teddy creates lull in fishery dispute in southwest N.S.

1 year ago
2:09
Some of Sipekne'katik band's fishing fleet, tied up at Saulnierville wharf on Tuesday ahead of Hurricane Teddy. 2:09

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.

Commercial fishermen left about 100 lobster traps in front of the DFO office in Meteghan on Monday. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

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.

To make their point, commercial fishermen on the weekend pulled First Nations' traps. On Monday they dumped some at DFO offices in Meteghan.

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.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Paul Withers

Reporter

Paul Withers is an award-winning journalist whose career started in the 1970s as a cartoonist. He has been covering Nova Scotia politics for more than 20 years.

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