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Court rules RCMP not to blame for losses in 2003 Shippagan fishery riot

Angry out-of-work fish plant workers express their frustration outside their burned-out plant in Shippagan, N.B on Tuesday, May 6, 2003. Several boats and buildings were destroyed by fire on the weekend as fishermen protested cuts to the crab quota. A Moncton judge has dismissed a $40 million lawsuit against the RCMP and ordered the receivers of a Shippagan fish plant — destroyed in a riot in 2003 — to pay $210,000 in legal costs.
Angry out-of-work fish plant workers express their frustration outside their burned-out plant in Shippagan, N.B on Tuesday, May 6, 2003. Several boats and buildings were destroyed by fire on the weekend as fishermen protested cuts to the crab quota. A Moncton judge has dismissed a $40 million lawsuit against the RCMP and ordered the receivers of a Shippagan fish plant — destroyed in a riot in 2003 — to pay $210,000 in legal costs. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

A Moncton judge has dismissed a $40-million lawsuit against the RCMP and ordered the receivers of a northeastern New Brunswick fish plant destroyed in a 2003 riot to pay $210,000 in legal costs.

Deloitte Restructuring Inc. alleged the RCMP failed to duly protect the property that was burned down in Shippagan after the Department of Fisheries and Oceans reallocated crab quotas.

The protest led to the destruction of fishing boats, a fish plant, a warehouse and several hundred traps.

READ MORE: Southeastern N.B. community kicks off lobster season with weekend celebration

In the lawsuit, Deloitte had argued the RCMP should have called in its riot and tactical squads to be at the ready when the DFO published the fishing plan.

But in a decision released last week, Justice Jean-Paul Ouellette of the Court of Queen’s Bench said the plaintiffs were unable to establish any liability on the part of the RCMP.

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“The Court rejects the contention that it was reasonably foreseeable that there would be acts of violence and civil disobedience on the scale of the events in Shippagan on May 3, 2003, with respect to the property that was burned,” Ouellette wrote.

“The RCMP is not liable for the losses suffered by the plaintiffs on May 3, 2003. The damage sustained was not the fault of the RCMP. Moreover, the plaintiffs did not prove that the RCMP was negligent,” he added. “The plaintiffs’ main argument that the RCMP failed to assemble the tactical squad so it could be deployed in a timely manner cannot be accepted.”

Lobster fishermen frustrated as government closes parts of the Gulf
Lobster fishermen frustrated as government closes parts of the Gulf

Deloitte was the receiver for Daley Brothers Ltd., Sea Treat Ltd. and Les Fruits de Mer Shippagan Ltd.

Federal Justice Department lawyer Toni Abi Nasr welcomed the ruling.

“We are very happy with this decision, especially that it helps the RCMP and the community of Shippagan to turn this page, because we saw that people were still feeling hurt with everything that happened,” he said Monday in an interview from Montreal.

“What happened was a criminal act. It was beyond what could have been planned for,” he added.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2019.

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