Vancouver Sun

UN to consider fishers' bias complaint



• 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 UN, 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 it wishes, based on a decision by the Supreme Court of Canada.

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

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.

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.

Talks with the band broke down earlier this year, and Sipekne'katik says it is planning to resume a self-regulated lobster fishery outside of federal seasons.

However, the United Nations committee says it is considerin­g allegation­s the RCMP and the federal Fisheries Department “failed to take appropriat­e measures to prevent these acts of violence and to protect the fishers and their properties from being vandalized,” and that treaty rights weren't respected last year.

“The committee is concerned about allegation­s of lack of response by the state party authoritie­s to prevent and to investigat­e the allegation­s of racist hate speech and incitement of violence online as well as acts of violence and intimidati­on against Mi'kmaq peoples by private actors,” says the letter of notice to the Canadian representa­tive.

The notice is signed by Yanduan Li, the chair of the committee and a representa­tive of China.

The First Nation's leader, Chief Mike Sack, said in a news release Sunday that it intends to proceed with a lobster fishery beginning in June, despite the lack of an agreement with the federal Fisheries Department.

Sack has said he will request United Nations peacekeepe­rs if federal enforcemen­t officers remove his band's lobster fishing gear from the fishing area in southwest Nova Scotia.

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