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N.S. RCMP lay charges against 23 in ransacking of Middle West Pubnico lobster pound

Click to play video 'Why the term ‘moderate livelihood’ is at the centre of N.S. fishery dispute' Why the term ‘moderate livelihood’ is at the centre of N.S. fishery dispute
What does it mean to fish for a 'moderate livelihood'? That’s the question at the centre of the dispute between Indigenous harvesters and commercial fishermen that has led to an escalation of violence targeting Mi’kmaw fishermen in Nova Scotia. – Oct 22, 2020

RCMP have charged 23 people in connection with the raid of a Middle West Pubnico, N.S. lobster pound that would be destroyed by a suspicious fire days later.

The incident at the facility on Oct. 13, 2020 was one of the many violent responses commercial fishers, many of whom are non-Indigenous, had to Nova Scotia First Nations launching moderate livelihood lobster fisheries.

Moderate livelihood fisheries

The Sipekne’katik First Nation launched its moderate livelihood lobster fishery in September, exercising a treaty right that all Indigenous nations in Eastern Canada have, which is to fish or hunt for a “moderate livelihood.”

It was a right further recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada’s 1999 Marshall decision.

Although the term “moderate livelihood” was not formally defined by the court, a subsequent decision ruled that the government has the authority to impose some regulations for the purposes of conservation, subject to nation-to-nation consultations.

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Read more: Why the term ‘moderate livelihood’ is at the centre of N.S.’s fishery dispute

But in the 21 years since the Marshall decision was handed down, those negotiations have never occurred and the Sipekne’katik First Nation has argued that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ failure means their fishery is permissible.

The Sipekne’katik have since been joined by the Pictou Landing First Nation and the Potlotek First Nation in Cape Breton. Other bands, such as the Bear River and Membertou First Nations, have declared intentions to launch their own moderate livelihood fisheries.

Since September, commercial fishers in Nova Scotia have insisted that the moderate livelihood fisheries are illegal and should not be operating outside of the regulated season as they pose a danger to conservation efforts and the long-term health of the lobster stock in the region.

Click to play video 'Local biologist says indigenous-run fisheries won’t affect conservation efforts' Local biologist says indigenous-run fisheries won’t affect conservation efforts
Local biologist says indigenous-run fisheries won’t affect conservation efforts – Oct 22, 2020

First Nations in Nova Scotia, as well as fisheries experts, have disagreed with their assessment.

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Violent opposition

Initially, the opposition to moderate livelihood fisheries was constrained to heated words and the vandalization or seizure of fishing lines but in October tensions ratcheted up.

The incidents culminated on Oct. 13, with mobs of as many 200 people swarming two lobster pounds in southwestern Nova Scotia.

At a facility in New Edinburgh, N.S., the crowd removed and damaged video cameras then ransacked the lobster pound and storage facility where the lobster catch was to be housed.

A van at the facility was set on fire.

Read more: N.S. Mi’kmaw fishers have property vandalized, lobsters destroyed

Later that night, the same thing occurred at a lobster pound in Middle West Pubnico, N.S.

Mi’kmaw fisherman Jason Marr 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.

“They vandalized (my van) and they were peeing on it, pouring things into the fuel tank, cutting electrical wires,” Marr told Global News.

He also said they smashed the windows of the van, and that he saw them kicking, punching and hitting it with objects.

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Click to play video 'Sipekene’katik First Nation says it’s taking major financial hit due to crisis in lobster industry' Sipekene’katik First Nation says it’s taking major financial hit due to crisis in lobster industry
Sipekene’katik First Nation says it’s taking major financial hit due to crisis in lobster industry – Oct 21, 2020

Marr alleges the non-Indigenous fishers threatened to “burn” his group out of the building if they didn’t leave and allow them to seize the lobster catch.

“I thought they were going to kill me,” the Mi’kmaw fisherman said.

Eventually, the group taking shelter inside the pound was forced to leave. Marr claims the non-Indigenous fishermen destroyed his catch, which he estimated was probably worth $40,000.

In a press release issued Tuesday, RCMP said 15 people have been charged with break and enter in relation to the incident in Middle West Pubnico.

  • Devin Edward Belong, 26, Shelburne County
  • Leslie Edward Belong, 29, Shelburne County
  • Roderick Bruce Conrad,53, Shelburne County
  • James Alfred D’Entremont, 55, Yarmouth County
  • Marcel Renald D’Entremont, 29, Yarmouth County
  • Kevin Paul D’eon, 41, Yarmouth County
  • Kevin Mark Donaldson, 51, Yarmouth County
  • Christopher Howard Goreham, 40, Shelburne County
  • Curtis Leigh Conrad Goreham, 36, Shelburne County
  • Josh Andrew Larkin, 27, Yarmouth County
  • Shawn Joseph Muise, 46, Yarmouth County
  • Travis Nickerson, 27, Yarmouth County
  • Sterling Scott Penney, 49, Shelburne County
  • Troy Warren Irvin Penney, 43, Yarmouth County
  • Jered Owen Scott, 22, Shelburne County

Read more: More arrests made in dispute over Indigenous lobster fishing in Nova Scotia: RCMP

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Eight people face charges of break and enter and mischief. They are:

  • Tyler Leslie Belong, 28, Shelburne County
  • Samuel Spencer Corning, 27, Yarmouth County
  • Blair Daniel Dentremont, 46, Yarmouth County
  • Charles Richard Hines, 50, Shelburne County
  • Sean Roy Messenger, 28, Yarmouth County
  • Michael Pearle Nickerson, 66, Yarmouth County
  • Gordon Malcolm Stoddard, 57, Shelburne County
  • Merle Kevin Swaine, 65, Shelburne County

The decision to lay charges was welcomed by Perry Bellegarde, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

On Tuesday he said he hopes the charges send a strong message that destruction of property or inciting hatred will not be tolerated.

“Violence is never the answer. Education, awareness, and mutual respect should always guide our actions,” said Bellegarde.

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The facility in Middle West Pubnico was destroyed by what police called a “suspicious” fire only days after the incident.

A man was taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries that are believed to be related to the fire.

Click to play video 'RCMP release surveillance video of persons of interest connected to fisheries fire' RCMP release surveillance video of persons of interest connected to fisheries fire
RCMP release surveillance video of persons of interest connected to fisheries fire – Oct 30, 2020

RCMP have released photos and video that they say show persons of interest connected to the blaze.

The charges on Tuesday follow other charges that have been laid in connection with the oppositon to the moderate livelihood fisheries.

RCMP have charged 31-year-old Michael Burton Nickerson from Yarmouth County with arson causing damage to property in relation to the van that was set on fire at the facility in New Edinburgh.

In late October, a man was arrested for the assault of Sipekne’katik Chief Mike Sack after a large crowd gathered at the New Edinburgh lobster pound on Oct. 14 – a day after the altercation at the two pounds.

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Read more: RCMP release photos, video of persons of interest in fisheries fire

On Nov. 14, the RCMP announced that a 74-year-old Nova Scotia man from Digby County had been charged with two counts of assault.

On Nov. 30, the RCMP said an Indigenous band councillor had been charged with unsafe operation of a vessel following a Sept. 20 incident on St. Marys Bay, where the self-regulated Indigenous lobster fishery opened on Sept. 17.

As well, a 26-year-old fisher from Yarmouth County was charged with the same offence in relation to an Oct. 12 incident on St. Marys Bay. And a 42-year-old man was charged with disobeying an interim injunction prohibiting interference with the First Nation’s fishery.

On Dec. 4, the Mounties said a 49-year-old Nova Scotia man had been charged with assaulting a woman on Oct. 14 in New Edinburgh.

Click to play video 'Sipekne’katik ends discussions with DFO on moderate livelihood fishery' Sipekne’katik ends discussions with DFO on moderate livelihood fishery
Sipekne’katik ends discussions with DFO on moderate livelihood fishery – Dec 10, 2020

The RCMP say they will continue to take action against anyone who “unlawfully interfere with or threaten the safety of any person or property.”

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Individuals with any information on the incidents are asked to call the Yarmouth RCMP detachment at 902-742-9106,