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U.N. committee to consider racism complaint of N.S. Mi’kmaq fishers against Ottawa

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WATCH: The United Nations wants the federal government to explain how it is investigating alleged racism against First Nations fishers. Jesse Thomas reports. – May 10, 2021

A United Nations committee on racial discrimination is asking the federal government to respond to allegations it committed racist actions in its treatment of Mi’kmaq lobster fishers in Nova Scotia.

The April 30 letter of notice from the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination asks Leslie Norton, Canada’s permanent representative to the U.N., to respond to allegations by Sipekne’katik First Nation by July 14.

The First Nation has argued that it has the right to fish for a “moderate livelihood” when and where they wish, based on a decision from the country’s Supreme Court.

Read more: Ottawa, Mi’kmaq community on collision course over plan for second lobster season

The court later clarified that ruling to say Ottawa could regulate the treaty right for conservation and other purposes.

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Members of the Sipekne’katik band encountered violence from non-Indigenous residents last fall, resulting in the destruction of a lobster pound and the burning of a band member’s van as the First Nation conducted a fishery outside of the federally regulated season in southwestern Nova Scotia.

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

The federal minister has repeatedly noted the principle of closed seasons exists for conservation purposes and has said her department will negotiate the distribution of commercial licences, which occur within existing seasons, tailored to the needs of each First Nation.

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