Dis­pute not be­tween na­tives, non-na­tives: fish­er­man


When Alex McDon­ald went to check on his fish­ing boat in Comeauville on Mon­day, it was gone.

Later that day a Depart­ment of Fish­eries and Oceans pa­trol found the Buck and Doe burn­ing on St. Marys Bay.

“Maybe it’s be­cause I’m na­tive,” said McDon­ald, who as well as be­ing a com­mer­cial lob­ster fish­er­man is a coun­cil­lor with the Sipekne’katik First Na­tion.

“But I don’t be­lieve it’s the (non-na­tive) guys I fish be­side. I think it’s out­siders that did this.”

McDon­ald isn’t the only fish­er­man to have his boat sab­o­taged.

Two other boats that be­long to non-Abo­rig­i­nal fish­er­men, who also fish from Saulnierville, have been hit.

A fire be­ing called “sus­pi­cious” in the wheel­house of the Amanda’s Pride 1, which be­longs to a non-na­tive fish­er­man, was dis­cov­ered and put out only af­ter it caused ex­ten­sive dam­age.

Then the en­gine went on the Mary & Brook­lyn as Rick Wag­ner was pre­par­ing to sell the boat.

“I can’t say for sure (that it was sab­o­tage), but it is pretty sus­pi­cious,” said Wag­ner.

Wag­ner said the me­dia has it wrong – that the con­flict in south­west­ern Nova Sco­tia is not be­tween na­tive and non-na­tive fish­er­men.

“What’s caus­ing the prob­lem down here is the white man that’s buy­ing the lob­ster,” said Wag­ner.

“There’s lots of money in­volved in it.”

Other fish­er­men who have spo­ken to The Chron­i­cle Her­ald, but didn’t want their names used, echoed the same opin­ion, that white lob­ster buy­ers have been pur­chas­ing lob­ster caught through the sum­mer by First Na­tions mem­bers.

“We’ve got no prob­lem with the na­tives,” Wag­ner said.

“I fished all win­ter with Alex (McDon­ald) and I got no prob­lem with Alex.”

McDon­ald leases a com­mer­cial li­cence from the Sipekne’katik First Na­tion for $40,000 a sea­son and hires two band mem­bers as crew.

Through the sum­mer, he also set a cou­ple of traps for the food and cer­e­mo­nial fish­ery, which al­lows a lim­ited har­vest of lob­ster to be dis­trib­uted among First Na­tions fam­i­lies and eaten at cer­e­monies but not sold.

The ac­cu­sa­tion by Wag­ner and other fish­er­men is that some non­na­tive lob­ster deal­ers have been buy­ing lob­ster from First Na­tions mem­bers while the sea­son is closed.

That has hap­pened be­fore. In 2012, Reg LeBlanc, owner of Wedge­port Lob­sters Ltd., was fined $15,000 for of­fer­ing to buy, sell, trade or barter lob­ster with­out a li­cence. Michael Sack, who is cur­rently the chief of the Sipekne’katik First Na­tion, was fined $5,000 in con­nec­tion with the same of­fence.

There is also the still un­re­solved grey area of the Mar­shall de­ci­sion.

In 1999 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Mi’kmaq have a treaty right to earn a “mod­er­ate liveli­hood” off tra­di­tional re­sources, in­clud­ing lob­ster.

The Supreme Court never said what a “mod­er­ate liveli­hood” is and the DFO, along with the prov­ince and Mi’kmaq, have been in ne­go­ti­a­tions since 2006 to fig­ure out how to com­ply with the court rul­ing.

In the years fol­low­ing the de­ci­sion, the DFO spent $600 million buy­ing fish­ing li­cences and gear around At­lantic Canada and dis­tribut­ing them to First Na­tions gov­ern­ments.

“It was a bit of a stop­gap mea­sure to al­low Mi’kmaq com­mu­ni­ties to ac­cess com­mer­cial fish­eries and then later on to ne­go­ti­ate the pa­ram­e­ters of the treaty ac­cess,” Tuma Young, a pro­fes­sor at Cape Bre­ton Univer­sity, said in a re­cent in­verview.

On Sept. 25, the As­so­ci­a­tion of Nova Sco­tia Mi’kmaq chiefs is­sued a news re­lease call­ing for the DFO to rec­og­nize the right of in­di­vid­ual First Na­tion mem­bers to make a “mod­er­ate liveli­hood” off the fish­ery.

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