Police investigating shots fired at Pictou Landing First Nation lobster fisherman
Pictou Landing chief says fisherman was shot at on the water, not injured
RCMP in Pictou County, N.S., have four men in custody after reports of shots fired Sunday in the area of Pictou Landing First Nation.
Pictou Landing Chief Andrea Paul says the man who was fired at is a lobster fisherman from her community. He was not injured, but is shaken.
She said the man was at his home Sunday when he spotted a large vessel on the water near his traps, which was a red flag because of several instances of Pictou Landing traps being vandalized in recent weeks.
"So my fisher went out on his aluminium boat and went to go see what was going on. I don't know exactly how it all went down other than I got the call to say that they tried to ram his boat ... they shot at him," Paul told CBC Monday morning.
Paul said she called 911 when the incident was reported to her and the RCMP responded quickly. But she said she's disappointed they didn't advise the public about the incident.
Paul said she believes three people were on the other boat.
"It's just a reminder, I guess, for me, when things happen in our Indigenous communities, the response needs to be improved ... It was a safety concern and something should have been put out."
Paul took to Facebook to share details of the incident because of the RCMP's lack of communication to the community.
A news release Monday from the RCMP said they responded around 5:30 p.m. Sunday to reports of shots fired in the Northumberland Strait near the Pictou Landing First Nation.
A 51-year-old man from Pictou County turned himself in Sunday night and was arrested without incident.
Three other men from Pictou County were arrested Monday morning.
The news release said the RCMP believes it was an isolated incident and there is no threat to the public.
Season was already scheduled to close
The alleged shooting happened one day before the scheduled close of Pictou Landing's moderate livelihood lobster fishery.
Gordon Beaton, president of the Maritime Fishermen's Union Local 4, said he suspects Sunday's incident was the result of mounting frustrations among commercial fishermen over the First Nation's self-regulated fishery — frustrations that he hopes will dissipate now that the season is closing.
He said his union does not condone violence, but he knew trouble was brewing.
"We warned [the federal government] frustrations will at some point boil over," said Beaton.
Pictou Landing launched a self-regulated moderate livelihood fishery in northern Nova Scotia in early November, following the lead of Sipekne'katik First Nation in southwest Nova Scotia.
The Mi'kmaw moderate livelihood fisheries have been decried by many commercial lobster fishers who think lobster fishing should only occur within the federally regulated season.
Mi'kmaq in Nova Scotia say their treaty rights exempt them from federal regulation.
The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans has been in talks with Mi'kmaw bands that are pursuing moderate livelihood fisheries over the question of regulation. Sipekne'katik abandoned those talks last week, with the band saying things had reached an impasse.
In October, two lobster pounds that had been storing Sipekne'katik catches were ransacked, four assault charges were laid related to confrontations that followed, and one of the lobster pounds was later burned to the ground. Last week, RCMP arrested 21 people related to the incidents at the pounds.
Pictou Landing fishery had been relatively peaceful
Paul said her community didn't face any overt opposition to its moderate livelihood fishery when it first launched, and it had been operating relatively peacefully until recently.
Some Pictou Landing fishers started finding their traps tampered with a few weeks ago, she said, which they reported to DFO and RCMP.
Sunday's incident, she said, was a marked escalation, and a shock for the community.
"People were angry, people were quite upset — as they should be. It was a very traumatizing experience to know that this had happened," said Paul.
She said she hopes there will be "serious consequences" for those involved.
Prior to the launch of the moderate livelihood fishery, Pictou Landing fishers and the commercial fishing industry in that area had been allies in their opposition to the Northern Pulp mill's proposal to build a pipe to carry treated industrial waste into the Northumberland Strait.
Beaton said he does not want the current disagreement over fishing rights to permanently damage the relationship between the First Nation and commercial fishers.
"Hopefully this will be only a small bump and things will go back to the type of relationship we've had for the last 20 years, which has been very good."