The chief of Sipekne’katik First Nation in Nova Scotia says he’s looking forward to a clean slate with the newly appointed fisheries minister.
MP Joyce Murray, who represents Vancouver Quadra, was named minister of fisheries and oceans when Justin Trudeau unveiled his new cabinet Tuesday.
Joyce replaces Bernadette Jordan, who lost her re-election bid in the riding of South Shore—St. Margaret’s in the September election. Jordan had come under fire for her handling of the lobster fishery dispute along the south shore between commercial and Indigenous fishermen.
Sipekne’katik Chief Mike Sack told Global News on Wednesday he is encouraged that the new minister is not from the area.
“It should be more of an unbiased opinion, in my mind,” he said.
“There should be no reason why she should have to worry about anybody’s feelings in her neighbourhood.”
The Sipekne’katik First Nation argues that a 1999 Supreme Court of Canada decision affirming its members’ treaty right to fish allows them to harvest lobster year-round to earn a “moderate livelihood.”
But the court has also said the government can regulate that treaty right for conservation and other limited purposes. Federal regulation dictates that the area where the Sipekne’katik First Nation fishery is operating in southwestern Nova Scotia — LFA 34 — is open for lobster fishing from the last Monday in November until the end of May.
In September 2020, the band launched a self-regulated lobster fishery outside the federally regulated season, which led to violence and the burning of a lobster pound that stored Indigenous catch.
Sack was arrested in August of this year by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) officers for being “party to the offence of (an) unauthorized fishery,” but Sack said at the time that his band members would continue to fish in St. Mary’s Bay whether Ottawa liked it or not.
Sack said since the federal election, he has been “waiting patiently” for Trudeau to name a new minister. He adds he plans to reach out to Murray soon for a one-on-one chat.
“I’m hoping that she just follows what’s set out in the treaties,” he said.
“I just want to remain optimistic and am hoping to get in front of her right away.”
Sack said he spoke to DFO on Monday to reiterate the urgency of getting their fishermen back on the water.
–with files from Graeme Benjamin and The Canadian Press