Toronto

Toronto fish store stops buying lobster from N.S. fishers in wake of rights dispute

A Toronto fish store with four locations in the city has stopped buying lobster from Nova Scotia commercial fishers as a show of support for Indigenous fishing rights.

Dan Donovan, co-owner of Hooked Inc., says racism and violence must end

Dan Donovan, co-owner of Hooked Inc., says: 'We don't support people who behave that way.' (Kelda Yuen/CBC)

A Toronto fish store with four locations in the city has stopped buying lobster from Nova Scotia commercial fishers as a show of support for Indigenous fishing rights.

Hooked Inc., which describes itself as "Toronto's knowledgeable fish store," took the stand this week in support of the Mi'kmaw people. Lobster harvested by N.S. commercial fishers used to be a primary source of fresh lobster for the store. 

Dan Donovan, co-owner of Hooked, said he was not surprised by the dispute but he is shocked at the violence and disappointed. He runs stores in Kensington Market, Leslieville, South Kingsway and on the Danforth. 

"We don't support people who behave that way," Donovan told CBC Toronto on Saturday.

Donovan said the racism must stop, the violence must end and the federal government must ensure the safety of the Mi'kmaw people.

The dispute between N.S. commercial fishermen and the Mi'kmaw people has led to violent clashes and a fire that destroyed a lobster pound used by Mi'kmaw fishers.

A view of a display counter in a Hooked store in Toronto. Lobster from N.S. commercial fishers is no longer on sale in Hooked stores in the city. (CBC)

Donovan said Hooked wrote on a position paper on the issue in response to questions from customers. He said customers have been largely supportive of the store's position.

"At the end of the day, our customers trust us to make good decisions for them," he said.

Position paper says acts of violence 'inexcusable'

In the paper, Hooked says: "We are saddened to see the eruption of racism and hatred that has occurred in recent days. The reported acts of violence, threats, intimidation and interfering with gear are inexcusable. We call on commercial fishermen and their leadership to publicly condemn all acts of violence and intimidation against Mi'kmaw fishers and their families."

The store calls on federal fisheries minister Bernadette Jordan to ensure the safety of Mi'kmaw fishers, to respect treaty rights and Mik'maw law and to enter into "truly nation-to-nation" negotiations to find a solution to the management of shared resources.

"We hope Mi'kmaw and commercial inshore fishermen can find a way back into dialogue in good faith and based on common values, to work together and share their knowledge and expertise in community-based fisheries management."

Business to donate portion of shrimp roll sales to Mi'kmaq

Meanwhile, Toronto chef Matt Dean Pettit, whose latest business, Coast, operates out of Pearl Diver restaurant downtown, said a portion of all shrimp roll sales starting from Saturday onward will go toward supporting the Mi'kmaq. Coast, which opened a month ago, is delivery only.

Toronto chef Matt Dean Pettit, whose latest business, Coast, operates out of Pearl Diver restaurant downtown, said a portion of all shrimp roll sales starting from Saturday onward will go toward supporting the Mi'kmaq. Coast, which started a month ago, is delivery only. (Kelda Yuen/CBC)

The business gave away shrimp rolls on Saturday in the hopes that customers would make a donation to the Mi'kmaq. Pettit said lobster has been taken off the Coast menu for now in solidarity with the Mi'kmaq.

"The second that it turned to clear-cut racism and violence, it's obviously something that, as Canadians, we can't stand for and can't be part of. We knew immediately that we had to at least say something," Pettit said on Saturday.

Pettit actually didn't source his lobster from Nova Scotia, but he hopes the boycott will shed light on the issue here.

"At the end of the day, we've made a decision to stand with other cooks and chefs in solidarity across the country — Halifax, Montreal, here in Toronto, retail stores, a bunch of places — and said, we're going to do our small part as a company, as a small business, during a really tough time."

Tension ignited shortly after First Nation began fishing

Five weeks ago, Mi'kmaw fishers in southwest Nova Scotia began harvesting lobster outside the federally regulated fishing season.

They said they had the right to do so based on 1999 Supreme Court of Canada decision, known as the Marshall decision, which affirmed a treaty right to hunt, fish, and gather in pursuit of a "Moderate Livelihood" based on the 1760-61 peace and friendship treaties.

When the First Nation began fishing in September, tensions between their boats and non-Indigenous fishers ignited almost immediately. A series of escalating events ensued, leading to the destruction of a lobster pound that had held the catch of the Indigenous fishers.

Mi'kmaw lobster traps were cut, large crowds gathered at the wharfs and hurled racist insults at fishers, and vehicles were set on fire. A lobster pound handling Mi'kmaw catch was burned to the ground, and big crowds damaged another lobster pound in New Edinburgh, N.S.

Donovan said the move to stop buying lobster is "good business" for his store but it is unlikely to have much of a financial impact on the N.S. commercial fishers. "We're a small player," he said.

With files from Muriel Draaisma, Kelda Yuen, Metro Morning, The Canadian Press

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