- Hridya Chaudhary
We Are All Treaty People.
With all the chaos around us, it is easy to not-pay attention to minor misunderstandings happening right below our nose. However, it is important to keep your eyes open and stand for what’s right. The spike between Indigenous fishers and non-Indigenous fishers is not a minor misunderstanding, it is a direct result of various microaggressions as well as direct blatant racism against the Indigenous community of Nova Scotia.
Pc – NB Media Co-op (https://nbmediacoop.org/2016/02/16/we-are-all-treaty-people-read-the-treaties-here/)
Although fishing disputes are not a recent thing, it all started on September 17, when Sipekne’katik Mi’kmaq launched its fishery, which is to be controlled by Mi’kmaq themselves, on a right-to-right basis. The lobster fishery is located in St. Marys Bay, 250 kilometers from Halifax. This fishery was supposed to revolutionary in terms of changing what “moderate livelihood” means for Mi’kmaq people. Sipekne’katik started off by blessing the fishing fleet, proceeding to distribute livelihood tags. This decision that came into effect 21 years after First Nations treaty rights to hunt, fish, and gather was given away; wasn’t very well received by the non-Indigenous fishers. It led to a violent outburst between concerned parties in Saulnierville.
Sipekne'katik First Nations is 1/13 First Nations of Nova Scotia.
Timeline of the dispute –
September 17: Fishery launch. As a response, non-Indigenous fishers allegedly blocked boats, shot, harassed an alleged buyer, cut traps, and removed traps from the water.
September 18: In order to protect themselves, Indigenous fishermen put up lobster trap blockades at the wharf.
September 20: A statement was put out by the Sipekne’katik Chief, Mike Sack which stated that while they will ensure safety of the community, they will still not back down from their fishery plans.
Is the fishery legal?
Why is the 1999 Supreme Court Ruling controversial?
The ruling states that First Nations people have a right to hunt, fish, and gather for a “moderate livelihood”. It was never made clear what the term “moderate livelihood” means. This is where problems start.
Why are non-Indigenous fishermen so angry if the fishery is legal?
In the eyes of non-Indigenous fishermen, since Indigenous fishermen are fishing all year round, it’s illegal. They’re also concerned about lobster stocks going down, if out of season fishing continues.
Is all year-round fishing legal for Indigenous people?
Yes. The 1999 Supreme Court ruling aka The Marshall Decision - “moderate livelihood”. This ruling came into fruition because of the Peace and Friendship Treaties between Mi’kmaq and the British Crown.
What do we mean when we say, “we’re all treaty people”?
“We’re all treaty people” refers to the us residing on Peace and Friendship Treaties. Various treaties were signed by the British Crown with Mi’kmaq / Nova Scotia between 1725 – 1779. To maintain balance and aid in commercial relations, the treaties ensured chasing, fishing and land-use rights for the kin of the Indigenous signatories.
In conclusion, hopefully everyone (including the lobsters) aren’t hurt in the process of resolving this issue.