Thursday, 29 Oct 2020

Trudeau calls for calm in lobster fishery dispute: ‘We need to find a solution’

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called for calm on Friday as tensions continue to escalate following a violent mob attack on two disputed Mi’kmaq lobster compounds in Nova Scotia earlier this week.

In a press conference on Friday, Trudeau said finding a solution to the dispute won’t be easy but that violence and harassment are not acceptable.

“This is a situation that is extremely disconcerting,” Trudeau said. “That’s why we’re calling for an end to the violence and harassment that’s happening. … I understand the concerns and the conflict going on right now but we need to find a solution.”

“This is not going to be an easy thing to resolve,” he continued, but said the country must continue working toward reconciliation with Indigenous people.

“We all must do the difficult work of improving our country.”

According to the Supreme Court’s 1999 Marshall decision, Indigenous people have “a treaty right to hunt, fish and gather in pursuit of a ‘moderate livelihood.’”

Mi’kmaq lobster fishers in southwestern Nova Scotia are asserting that right in defence of the decision to set up licensed lobster fisheries for both feeding their communities and commercial safes in the area outside of the commercial lobster fishing season.

For weeks, non-Indigenous lobster fishers have targeted the Indigenous fishers and fisheries, escalating on Tuesday into a mob assault on two of the compounds that saw roughly 200 individuals light the compounds on fire, destroy caught lobsters, and threaten the Indigenous fishers.

Reports that RCMP stood by as this happened are worrying, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said on Thursday when he also addressed the matter.

“The first job of police is to serve, protect and preserve the peace,” he said.

“It was obviously alarming. People need to be protected and space needs to be given for negotiations under very difficult circumstances.”

RCMP said in a statement issued earlier in the week they were working to “de-escalate the situation and disperse the group.”

 

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