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.