By Nithila Theivendrarajah
This article is part of our “blog series” — written by youth, for youth, by members of our very own VSBSC executive team. We hope you enjoy reading these as much as we did writing them and stay tuned for future posts!
In Nova Scotia, Mi’kmaq First Nations’ rights to fishing are being threatened– despite the existence of a legal obligation to protect that right through the 1752 Treaty. In late August of this year, a Mi’kmaw fisherman, Mathew Cope, had his lobster traps seized by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO). Mathew confronted them, saying, “I have a pre-existing inherited treaty right for fishing and I have a right to do so unhindered.” Regardless, they seized the traps aboard the Canadian Coast Guard vessel, but Mathew will be filing an injunction against DFO for seizing them.
This sparked a series of injustices, and non-Indigenous fishermen began terrorizing Mi’kmaq First Nations’ for protecting their rights to fish. Starting in the late summer and continuing to the present day, non-Indigenous fishermen are creating blockades to stop Mi’kmaq from fishing and refuse to sell any fishing equipment/boat fuel from their stores.
The Mi’kmaq had no support from RCMP, the Canadian government, DFO, despite reaching out and sending letters. In mid-September Mi’kmaq decided to organize their own Fishery, this would mean they no longer have to rely on DFO for fishing licenses, as they would be able to give Mi’kmaq fisherman fishing licenses themselves. This is all to say, they don’t need a fishing license to fish according to the Treaty and the Supreme Court of Canada recognized this in the 1999 case, R vs Marshall.
This stand to protect their right was met with white fishermen setting aflame a Mi’kmaq lobster boat in their self-regulated fishery.
The racism, injustices, and abuse that the Mi’kmaq are facing are enraging. Their right to fish is not being protected, non-Indigenous commercial fishermen are being protected instead. All despite the fact that is it Mi’kmaq First Nations’ right and every settler’s privilege. Please have your eyes on Mi’kmaq First Nations. Ku’ku’kwes News is a great source to stay updated with.