Indigenous lobster boats head from the harbour in Saulnierville, N.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS /Andrew Vaughan

Mi’kmaq lawsuit alleges intimidation, harassment in Nova Scotia lobster fishery

Mi’kmaq lawsuit alleges intimidation, harassment in Nova Scotia lobster fishery

HALIFAX — A Mi’kmaq First Nation that encountered violence after launching a self-regulated lobster fishery last fall has filed a lawsuit against non-Indigenous fishers in Nova Scotia, the RCMP and the federal government.

In a statement of claim filed Friday with the Nova Scotia Supreme Court, the Sipekne’katik First Nation alleges that commercial fishermen stole and damaged hundreds of band members’ traps and engaged in a co-ordinated campaign of intimidation and harassment.

The lawsuit alleges that between 75 and 100 boats operated by non-Indigenous fishers headed to St. Marys Bay near Saulnierville, N.S., where they were used in late September 2020 to “intimidate and harass one or more of the plaintiffs, and to steal or damage their lobster traps.”

None of the allegations has been proven in court. A representative for the non-Indigenous fishers could not be reached for comment.

The lawsuit follows months of tension surrounding a moderate livelihood lobster fishery that the band launched on Sept. 17, 2020, before the opening of the federally designated fishing season. “The opening of the moderate livelihood fishery … provoked a violent response from non-Indigenous commercial fishers and their supporters,” the lawsuit says.

The court action also alleges that non-Indigenous fishers operated their vessels in a reckless manner, “intentionally driving close to certain of the plaintiffs’ vessels or creating large wakes to swamp the … vessels, threatening the safety of one or more of the plaintiffs.”

Indigenous fishers also claim they were chased, swarmed and surrounded on the water, and that some non-Indigenous fishers fired flares at them.

Indigenous fishers in Nova Scotia argue that a 1999 Supreme Court of Canada decision affirms the Mi’kmaq treaty right to fish for a “moderate livelihood” when and where they want — even outside the federally regulated season. That decision was later clarified by the court, however, which said Ottawa could regulate the Mi’kmaq treaty right for conservation and other limited purposes.

The plaintiffs include about 30 Indigenous fishers who took part in the band’s food, social and ceremonial lobster fishery, as well as nine who participated in the moderate livelihood fishery. Five band members took part in both fisheries, the document says.

Among the named defendants are the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermen’s Association and more than two dozen owners, operators and crew of various fishing boats and enterprises in western Nova Scotia.

The lawsuit alleges that the association “actively encouraged” members to “interfere with the plaintiffs’ traps and remove them from the water” on Sept. 20, 2020.

“The fisher defendants and the association acted in concert by operating their vessels on the water in a co-ordinated and dangerous manner, all with the intention … of threatening the health and safety of the plaintiffs,” the court document says.

The statement of claim also alleges that both the RCMP and the federal Fisheries Department failed in their duties to ensure the safety of Indigenous fishers.

It says the Mounties knew or ought to have known the Indigenous fishers were at risk, but the lawsuit says the RCMP failed “to act appropriately … to deter or prevent the unlawful acts” or to deploy adequate resources to keep the peace.

The RCMP issued a brief statement, saying it had yet to receive a copy of the lawsuit. “We will review and consider any such claim once received,” Cpl. Mark Skinner said in an email.

The band is seeking financial relief for “assault, intimidation and false imprisonment.” It also wants compensation to cover the cost of replacing stolen or damaged traps and the lost opportunity to catch lobster for the food, social and ceremonial fishery.

The First Nation filed another lawsuit filed last month targeting the constitutionality of a Nova Scotia law that has prevented the band from selling lobster it caught in St. Marys Bay.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 30, 2021.

Michael MacDonald, The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer Rebels forward Arshdeep Bains eyes a loose puck in front of the Medicine Hat Tigers net Saturday night in WHL action at the Centrium. (Photo by ROB WALLATOR/Red Deer Rebels)
Rebels fall short in 12th straight loss

Tigers 5 Rebels 2 (Saturday) Tigers 3 Rebels 2 (Monday) The Red… Continue reading

Red Deer property owners will receive their 2019 property assessment notices in the next few days.  (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer awaiting more details on how federal budget impacts city

The City of Red Deer is awaiting more information on how much… Continue reading

With a ban on sit-in dining once again in place, Las Palmeras owner Andre Lemus is gearing up for more takeout and delivery business. He has also applied to set up an outdoor patio, where dining is allowed under new restrictions. Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Big interest in outdoor patios in Red Deer as sit-down dining banned again

City of Red Deer has tweaked its patio regulations to make it easier to get a permit

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy www.medicago.com)
Red Deer clinical research centre participating in plant-based COVID-19 vaccine trial

A Red Deer research centre has been selected to participate in the… Continue reading

Canada head coach Bev Priestman reacts during the women's international friendly soccer match between England and Canada at Bet365 stadium in Stoke on Trent, England, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. Priestman says her goal is to help Canada move up the Olympic podium after back-to-back bronze medals at the 2012 and 2016 Games. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Rui Vieira
Olympic soccer draw will allow Canadians to start planning on and off the pitch

Olympic soccer draw will allow Canadians to start planning on and off the pitch

Federal government’s extension of CEWS in budget is some good news for CFL franchises

Federal government’s extension of CEWS in budget is some good news for CFL franchises

Canada's Brendan Bottcher dropped a 6-3 decision to Scotland's Bruce Mouat in the men's final of the Humpty's Champions Cup. Bottcher makes a shot against Scotland at the Men's World Curling Championships in Calgary, Alta., Friday, April 9, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Mixed results for Canadian teams at Champions Cup as Homan wins, Bottcher loses

Mixed results for Canadian teams at Champions Cup as Homan wins, Bottcher loses

University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. The University of Victoria says Williams has resigned effective immediately. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
University of Victoria women’s rowing coach resigns by mutual agreement

University of Victoria women’s rowing coach resigns by mutual agreement

Stewart Cink watches his drive down the second fairway during the final round of the RBC Heritage golf tournament in Hilton Head Island, S.C., Sunday, April 18, 2021. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
Cink coasts to win at Hilton Head for 2nd title of season

Cink coasts to win at Hilton Head for 2nd title of season

The Official UEFA Champions League match balls are on display ahead of the Champions League quarter final second leg soccer match between Liverpool and Real Madrid at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, England, Wednesday, April 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
Threats of expulsion as UEFA confronts Super League rebel 12

Threats of expulsion as UEFA confronts Super League rebel 12

San Jose Sharks center Patrick Marleau (12) motions to the crowd during a break to mark his passing Gordie Howe for most NHL games played in the first period of an NHL hockey game Monday, April 19, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Sharks’ Marleau breaks Howe’s NHL games played record

Sharks’ Marleau breaks Howe’s NHL games played record

Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley announces proposed new legislation to protect Alberta's mountains and watershed from coal mining at a news conference in Calgary on Monday, March 15, 2021. A group of 35 scientists from the University of Alberta are urging the provincial government to rethink its plans for expanding coal-mining in the Rocky Mountains. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Alberta legislature turns down Opposition request to debate bill to protect Rockies

Alberta legislature turns down Opposition request to debate bill to protect Rockies

Most Read