A Mi’kmaw chief harvesting lobster in northwestern Nova Scotia was met on the water by federal fisheries officers following a treaty fishery launch on Wednesday. But Chief Andrea Paul of Pictou Landing First Nation remained defiant.
She livestreamed her encounter as she explained treaty rights to the officers. The fishery is called Netukulimk, which means sustaining resources for future generations, and her community is harvesting lobster in the waters of the Northumberland Strait.
“The only one that is preventing us is you not authorizing our fisheries. We already authorized this in our community,” Paul told the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) officers. “So we’re going to continue to do what we have a right to do, and that is to fish for Netukulimk fisheries.”
The fisheries officers seized some traps, but the harvesters did catch some lobster.
The Mi’kmaw Nation has a right to catch and sell fish commercially enshrined in treaties made in the 1700s. The Supreme Court of Canada affirmed the Mi’kmaw right to sell fish in pursuit of what it called a “moderate livelihood” in the landmark 1999 Marshall decision.
The court later said the federal government can regulate the fishery, infringing on the constitutionally protected right, only if it has a substantial and compelling reason to do so such as conservation. The court also urged Canada to implement the right through negotiation, which has not happened in more than 20 years.
In a statement, the Assembly of Nova Scotia Chiefs demanded DFO stop hauling gear. “In the interest of respectful treaty relationships, we urge DFO Gulf Region officers to cease the planned seizure of livelihood gear,” the statement said.
Meanwhile in New Brunswick, fisheries officers seized a boat from St. Mary First Nation fishers.
They were harvesting lobster within Wolastoqey territory in the Bay of Fundy, known as Lobster Fishing Area 36.
The Wolastoqey Nation said, “DFO must cease the use of aggressive intimidation tactics and provide equal and fair treatment without prejudice to First Nations treaty beneficiaries.”
In the meantime, Paul is calling for support.
“If you have any wood you would like to donate, if you have a tub you’d like to donate, if you have carpentry skills you’d like to donate, we are going to set up a treaty truckhouse.”
Paul plans to start selling any lobster caught by her band members as soon as the truckhouse is built, so the fishers will earn a moderate livelihood.