An angry mob of non-Indigenous lobster fishermen trapped two Mi’kmaw fishermen inside a lobster pound in southwestern Nova Scotia late Tuesday evening.
According to Jason Marr, a Mi’kmaw lobster fisherman with the Sipekne’katik First Nation, N.S., the angry crowd also set fire to his van and threw rocks at the facility’s windows in West Pubnico while he and another fisherman, Randy Sack, were trapped inside.
“Right now, I’m barricaded inside the building. I’ve got it all locked down,” Marr said when reached via cell phone.
“Even while the (RCMP) are outside now, they’re throwing rocks through the windows and kicking the doors,” Marr said while describing the scene as it happened.
Marr said he fled to the lobster pound in West Pubnico Tuesday evening when he heard that a mob of non-Indigenous fishermen were heading to the wharf in Saulnierville to seize lobsters caught by Mi’kmaw lobster harvesters like himself and release them back into St. Mary’s Bay.
“I took my valuables off my boat and put them in my van and grabbed my lobsters and put them in my van,” Marr explained.
He said a friend who owned a lobster pound in West Pubnico allowed him to store his catch of 5,000 pounds of lobster until the situation calmed down.
“When I got here and I wasn’t here for more than ten minutes and they were out there just going wild,” Marr said.
According to Marr, approximately 200 non-Indigenous fishermen were outside the lobster pound. He said RCMP officers arrived approximately two hours after he called 9-1-1.
Marr said the RCMP told him and Sack that the non-Indigenous fishermen would let them leave the pound if they hand over the lobster.
“I said, ‘No, you’re not doing this. You’re not taking my catch.’ I’ve been fishing for a couple of weeks. You’re not taking my catch,” Marr said.
Non-Indigenous fishermen held protest in Digby
Earlier in the day, non-Indigenous fishermen gathered in Digby to protest the Sipekne’katik First Nation’s moderate livelihood fishery currently taking place in St. Mary’s Bay. A group later gathered in front of a lobster pound in New Edinburgh believed to be doing business with Mi’kmaw harvesters.
Tensions have flared between non-Indigenous and Mi’kmaw lobster harvesters in southwestern Nova Scotia since Sipekne’katik First Nation launched its moderate livelihood fishery on Sept. 17, the 21st anniversary of the 1999 Supreme Court of Canada decision in the Marshall fishing rights case.
In that decision, the high court ruled that Mi’kmaq, Wolastoq and Peskotomuhkati have a treaty right to catch and sell fish to earn a moderate livelihood under the Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1760-61 signed with the British Crown.
Marr is one of more than a dozen Mi’kmaw harvesters who were issued licenses to fish for lobster under the Sipekne’katik First Nation’s moderate livelihood fishery.
RCMP escort Marr, Sack from lobster pound
During Marr’s phone interview with Ku’ku’kwes News, an RCMP officer can be heard in the background shouting several times at Marr to open the door.
The officer can be heard telling Marr that “the owner of this property does not want you folks here. We’re removing you from the property.”
“I’m here to escort you off the property,” the officer can be heard telling Marr.
“What? To walk down the road by a lynch mob?” Marr asked. “No, you guys can’t do that. That’s not an option,” he said.
After a terse back and forth with the RCMP officer for several minutes, Marr and Sack are forced to leave the lobster pound without the lobsters.
Mi’kmaw harvesters arrived in West Pubnico to support Marr and Sack. Several of them live-streamed what they saw using their smartphones which they uploaded to Facebook.
Marr also live-streamed what was happening to him inside the lobster pound.
In the videos, many non-Indigenous fishermen could be seen standing in front of the lobster pound. There were several shouting matches between them and the Mi’kmaw harvesters.
At one point, the fishermen turn their attention to a building next to the lobster pound. The video shows one of them ripping apart cardboard boxes and throwing the bait inside onto the ground.
According to the video, Marr’s family members were able to get inside the lobster pound only to find all but ten crates of lobster missing. The remaining lobsters appeared to have been poisoned with a can of PVC cement.
An RCMP officer can be heard telling Marr’s family members an investigation into the break and enter and theft of lobster will get underway.
In a post on Facebook, Sipekne’katik First Nation Chief Michael Sack called for prayers for the Mi’kmaw lobster harvesters in Saulnierville. He called the actions by the non-Indigenous fishermen Tuesday evening as hate crimes
“I have been in contact with the (Assembly of First Nations) National Chief and will be talking to him in the morning,” Chief Sack wrote.
“I am very proud of our people for not engaging. I do not expect us to sit back and keep being bullied with these acts of terrorism,” he wrote.