Indigenous fishermen carry lobster traps in Saulnierville, N.S. on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS /Andrew Vaughan

Federal representative hopes to ease tensions in Nova Scotia lobster dispute

HALIFAX — The man tasked with lowering the temperature in a heated dispute over Nova Scotia lobster says he has a deeply personal relationship with the coastal area that has seen the most violence.

“This one is right in my backyard,” Allister Surette said in an interview Saturday, less than a day after Ottawa appointed him as mediator of a clash that has pitted Indigenous fishers against non-Indigenous commercial fishers.

“I grew up in that community, so it touches me a little closer.”

Like many of the longtime residents of southwestern Nova Scotia, Surette is Acadian. He was born in Yarmouth, raised in West Pubnico and has has lived along the province’s Acadian shore all his life.

He is also president and vice chancellor of Université Sainte-Anne, the province’s only French language university, based in Church Point, N.S.

Last weekend, a lobster pound in Middle West Pubnico that was holding a store of lobster caught by Mi’kmaq fishers was burned to the ground. The fire, which is under investigation, followed weeks of rising tensions.

At issue is the establishment of a self-regulated Indigenous lobster fishing fleet on St. Marys Bay, which started setting traps outside the federally regulated commercial season on Sept. 17.

Members of the Sipekne’katik First Nation have said they have a constitutionally protected treaty right to fish when and where they want, based on a landmark Supreme Court of Canada ruling in 1999.

Mi’kmaq leaders say the ruling means they’re allowed to fish and hunt year-round to earn a “moderate livelihood.”

Some of the non-Indigenous commercial fishers in the area contend the addition of more traps in the bay poses a threat to the conservation of the lobster stocks.

“The ultimate solution is to find some resolution to this issue, and the immediate challenge is to try to de-escalate the tensions,” Surette told The Canadian Press

He has mediated previous fishing disputes in Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Iles-de-la-Madeleine.

But he said this time, tensions are higher.

“At the end of the day, the goal is to try and find some common ground, some shared perspective and some way forward,” he said.

Surette was asked to work as Ottawa’s “special representative” by Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan, who is also a Nova Scotia MP, and Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett.

The federal government said Surette is expected to deliver recommendations to the ministers, but no deadline was set.

“There’s obviously tension between those communities right now that, while we’re working to implement the treaty right, we also need to … repair that relationship,” Fisheries Department spokeswoman Jane Deeks said Saturday.

“We can’t have long-term tension.”

The Crown-Indigenous Relations Department said in a statement that special representatives are sometimes used to “engage with Indigenous groups and organizations, industry, and federal, provincial and territorial officials, on how Canada could improve its approach to specific issues.”

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

Just Posted

Heather Buelow, owner of Aerial Edge Studio in Blackfalds, says she has spent ‘all of my saving keeping the studio going’ through government-mandated shutdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Contributed photo)
Either open in-person or close permanently: Central Alberta yoga studio defying rules

A central Alberta woman is allowing clients back into her yoga and… Continue reading

Sandra Schmirler Foundation donates $10,000 to Red Deer hospital

Donation will go towards electronic fetal heart monitoring project

A sustainability audit for Westerner Park suggested 33 changes, including more city involvement. (Advocate file photo)
Westerner Park expands volunteer program

As Westerner Park refocuses the organization, they are reigniting their emphasis on… Continue reading

Ukraine’s leader requests a talk with Putin, gets no answer

Ukraine’s leader requests a talk with Putin, gets no answer

Madelyn Boyko poses along with a number of the bath bombs she makes with her mom, Jessica Boyko. Madelyn says she enjoys making the bath bombs with her mom as it is a special time for just the two of them. (Photo Submitted)
5-year-old Sylvan Lake girl selling bath bombs in support of younger brother

Madelyn Boyko is selling bath bombs for CdLS research in honour of her younger brother

Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on December 11, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Patrick Doyle
New regulator to stop sexual exploitation of children online: public safety minister

OTTAWA — Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says the government will introduce… Continue reading

Gordon Greenwood Elementary Grade 7 students were assigned to write about climate change. The Langley Advance Times is pleased to present a selection of their writings. (Sasha/Special to the Langley Advance Times)
Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions increased slightly in 2019: report

OTTAWA — A new report shows Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions increased slightly… Continue reading

Conservative leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
O’Toole to vote against Conservative MP’s private bill on ‘sex-selective abortion’

OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says he will vote against a… Continue reading

Eugene Kwon of Gratia Bakery and Cafe says the business will be relying on take out orders and a small patio. (Neil Corbett/The News)
Small business struggling amid COVID-19 pandemic looks for aid in Liberals’ budget

OTTAWA — A group representing thousands of the country’s small businesses says… Continue reading

Ron Howard is photographed at the "Inferno" film premiere on Oct. 25, 2016 in Los Angeles. (Buckner/Rex Shutterstock/Zuma Press/TNS)
Brothers Ron and Clint Howard have memoir coming in October

NEW YORK — Filmmaker-actor Ron Howard and actor Clint Howard, brothers, former… Continue reading

FILE - In this Saturday, March 27, 2021 file photo, Buffalo Sabres’ Taylor Hall plays against the Boston Bruins during the second period of an NHL hockey game, in Boston. The Buffalo Sabres could trade 2018 MVP Hall, who signed for just this season and is a pending free agent. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)
Boston Bruins acquire Taylor Hall to kick off NHL trade deadline day

Trade deadline day in the NHL has started with the Boston Bruins… Continue reading

Most Read