The Christian Science Monitor : 2020-12-07

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In early November, a coalition of Mi’kmaw nations announced the purchase of a 50% stake in Halifax-based Clearwater, North America’s largest shellfish producer. The deal involves offshore fishing, not the inshore lobstering that has been in dispute. Many in the local community feel that Indigenous fishers have already received sufficient support. They resent special privileges granted to Indigenous groups. They don’t understand the rights that First Nations possess outside the federal Fisheries and Oceans Canada management system – notably, the right to fish when they want, just as their ancestors did prior to colonizati­on. Susanna Fuller, a marine conservati­onist at Oceans North in Halifax, says she can see the non-Indigenous perspectiv­e. “Particular­ly in lobstering, which has got this strange informal tenure system where usually a fisherman will fish in the same area year after year. ... There is a lot of ‘this is where Danny fishes, and that’s where Steven fishes,’” she says. “So imagine you’re a non-Indigenous fisher, and you’re sitting in your house and your boat is hauled up, and you’re not fishing right now because it’s outside the agreed season for non-Indigenous fishery. And you see somebody out there fishing where you usually fish. “But that feeling of wanting to protect their territory should in some way give non-Indigenous people a sense of what the Mi’kmaq and First Nations are feeling and have felt for 300 years,” she says. Mi’kmaw fisher Marilynn-Leigh Francis is one who felt aggrieved, and in 2016, decided she’d had enough. Ms. Francis, who is from Acadia First Nation, started taking her small boat out in St. Mary’s Bay in the summer to drop roughly a dozen traps for lobster. She harvested enough for herself and to give away to members of the community, with some for sale. She did so without a license. Instead, she saw her fishing as part of her inherent right to resources, including lobster. She marked her buoys with “1752” to reflect the date of peace and friendship treaties signed between Europeans and the Mi’kmaq. “I was tired of being a federal ward of the government. I was tired of being a prisoner within my own homeland,” she says. “I talked to my mom. I talked to our elders. And I was told to fish like our ancestors did. So that’s what I did.” Federal authoritie­s seized her traps, members of her own community criticized her, and non-Indigenous fishers at the wharf intimidate­d her. They vandalized her property and circulated her photo on social media. It all wore her down. Then, at a gathering in 2018, a young girl approached Ms. Francis. “She kind of tapped me, pulled my ribbon dress. And she said, ‘ You that lobster fisherwoma­n?’” When Ms. Francis confirmed it, the girl said, “When I grow up, I want to be like you. I want to fish like you.” “Everything switched,” Ms. Francis says. “And I realized if I quit, who would these children look up to? Who would these sisters look up to? I’ve inspired a handful of women to buy boats and to go fishing. And that, to me, means more than anything.” r r r The clash over crustacean­s has turned into a larger protest for Indigenous rights in Canada. Dwight Newman, a law professor at the University of Saskatchew­an who studies the issue, says the launching of the moderate livelihood fishery in Nova Scotia fits in with a larger pattern across Canada. The year started with the Wet’suwet’en demonstrat­ions against the building of a natural gas pipeline through their traditiona­l territory in British Columbia. In the face of heavy-handedness by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police – who have been criticized in Nova Scotia for reacting passively as First Nations have been attacked during the lobster dispute – the protests spread through First Nation lobster boats gear up in Saulniervi­lle, Nova Scotia (photo right). Indigenous lobsterman Jason Lamrock tosses an undersized lobster overboard (photo bottom right). Michael Sack, right, chief of the Sipekne’katik First Nation, presents the first lobster license and trap tags at a fisheries launch (photo below). ANDREW VAUGHAN/THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP 26 THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR WEEKLY | DECEMBER 7, 2020 PRINTED AND DISTRIBUTE­D BY PRESSREADE­R PressReade­ +1 604 278 4604 ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY COPYRIGHT AND PROTECTED BY APPLICABLE LAW