Nova Scotia RCMP say they have laid arson charges in connection with a vehicle fire that happened on Oct. 13 outside a lobster pound in New Edinburgh.
Police say they responded to a “disturbance” and when they arrived at the scene, officers dealt with a vehicle that was “on fire and heavily damaged.”
At the time, a lobster pound in Middle West Pubnico, N.S., was being used by Mi’kmaw fishers.
On Oct. 13, the facility was swarmed, vandalized and ransacked by a large crowd of non-Indigenous commercial fishers and their supporters.
Mi’kmaw fisher Jason Marr told Global News earlier this week that he and others were forced to take cover inside the lobster pound as the building’s windows were smashed out and Marr’s vehicle was damaged, he said.
A separate vehicle at a New Edinburgh lobster pound was set on fire.
RCMP have charged 31-year-old Michael Burton Nickerson from Yarmouth County with arson causing damage to property.
Nickerson was arrested Saturday afternoon and released from custody on conditions, police say. He is scheduled to appear in court Dec. 21.
In addition, another man was charged on Saturday in relation to the assault of Sipekne’katik First Nation Chief Michael Sack that occurred on Oct. 14 in New Edinburgh.
RCMP said they have charged 46-year-old Chris Gerald Melanson of Digby County with assault.
Early Saturday morning, the Middle West Pubnico lobster pound burned to the ground. That fire is still under investigation.
Sack released a statement Saturday saying that the fire “illustrates the need for greater police presence in the region … I do believe with the proper police presence, however, this could have been avoided.”
According to Sack, the facility is owned by “a friend and ally of Sipeknek’katik, where one of our community members was barricaded and his catch destroyed last week.”
Sack said he hopes to try to find some balance with the commercial fishery, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the province and the RCMP.
“I say this with the utmost respect, we have been calling for dialogue and recognition of our rights for years and we appreciate every officer and every minute of their service in what has become a very dangerous environment for so many.”
In a Sunday morning release, police said:
“The RCMP has a significant presence in the Meteghan area, including general duty officers from several local detachments; officers from across the division and RCMP in Prince Edward Island with specialized training in de-escalation and crowd control. Our division liaison team is also fully engaged in the area, continuing their work to build and maintain relationships among those involved.”
Police also said the investigation into the lobster pound vandalism is ongoing. “RCMP will continue to take steps to ensure that those who unlawfully interfere with or threaten the safety of any person or property may be held accountable in accordance with the laws of Canada,” read a release.
Senators representing Nova Scotia issued a statement Friday condemning the violence and calling on the RCMP to “restore peace and order.” They also called on the federal government to “move rapidly, respectfully and appropriately” to address the Indigenous fishers’ concerns.
National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Perry Bellegarde said on Sunday there is work to be done on defining the treaty right of Mi’kmaq lobster fishers to fish for a “moderate livelihood,” but the first step needs to be cooling the escalating tensions.
In an interview with The West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson, Bellegarde said the situation which saw RCMP standing by as a violent mob attacked two Mi’kmaw lobster fishing compounds last week is “not acceptable.”
“There’s two things that have to happen on the East Coast right now,” Bellegarde said.
“One, we have to make sure that there’s calm heads and that cooler heads come together so that there’s peace on the ground. That’s where we call on the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to do their jobs,” he said.
“I demand a full and thorough investigation by the proper authorities.”
— With files from Sean Boynton, Amanda Connolly.