Tensions increase in Burnt Church - boat rammed

Wednesday morning, fisheries officers and native fishers were both out on the waters of Miramichi Bay. Band members set out to replace hundreds of lobster traps seized by the officers Sunday night. Fisheries officers followed and rammed one of the natives' boats.

A crowd of about 100 people watched from shore as at least five fisheries boats descended on the native vessels. No one was injured, but the boat was damaged and returned to shore.

A Christian peacemaker who is at the reserve to help find a non-violent solution to the crisis says the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is trying to show its force and intimidate people.

Matthew Bailey-Dick was aboard a speed boat belonging to Quebec's Listuguj First Nation reserve when it was rammed three times by a fisheries vessel.

He told reporters the ramming was deliberate and could not have happened by accident.

Andre Marc Lanteigne, of the DFO, said it's not the policy of his department to ram boats, saying it may have been more of a mutual collision.

The Listuguj band came to Burnt Church as "facilitators," hoping to open a dialogue with the federal government. It has been using several of its open boats to protect Mi'kmaq fishers.

Fisheries Minister Herb Dhaliwal warned Tuesday he has the right and responsibility to regulate Atlantic Canada's valuable lobster fishery.

But defiant native leaders at the Burnt Church First Nation insisted they have the right to regulate their own natural resources. They say the Canadian government has stolen the resources from the First Nations peoples.

Native road blockades are still up on a major public highway near the northeastern New Brunswick reserve.

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Assembly of First Nations National Chief, Matthew Coon Come, is expected in Burnt Church Wednesday, to try to start negotiations.