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Indigenous fishers in N.S. have lobster taken, van burned as tensions heighten: chief

HALIFAX — The chief of a Mi’kmaq First Nation says an angry group of non-Indigenous people damaged lobster pounds holding his people’s catch and burned a vehicle belonging to an Indigenous harvester on Tuesday night.

Video being circulated on social media shows a van being set alight in West Pubnico, N.S., during one of the tense encounters.

Chief Mike Sack of Sipekne’katik First Nation says fires and damage occurred at two locations, one in West Pubnico and the other in Weymouth, and lobster caught by the Indigenous fishers was removed from lobster pounds.

He says one of the Indigenous harvester’s vans was burned at the lobster pound while he was in the area.

The RCMP were present for some of the incident but early today did not have official comment on what had occurred.

The Indigenous fishers are conducting a fishery outside of the federally regulated season based on a 1999 Supreme Court of Canada decision that ruled East Coast Indigenous groups have the right to fish for a “moderate livelihood,” though a followup ruling stated this was subject to federal regulation.

Since the Mi’kmaq fishery opened last month, there have been tensions on and off the water, with traps hauled from the sea by non-Indigenous harvesters and a boat belonging to a Mi’kmaq fisherman burned at a wharf.

Sack says he’s contacted federal Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan about the growing violence as well as the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 14, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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