APTN National News
Mi’kmaw harvesters are back on the water fishing for lobster and following their own food, social and ceremonial fishery plan.
But the large contingent of police and fisheries officers is intimidating and infringing on their Treaty Rights.
“Of course it makes you feel prouder,” says community member Angel Slauenwhite who learning to fish with her own tags. “You’re showing your community that you know you can get out there and practice your rights and hopefully not have any problems doing that.”
Shy Francis says officers are around the wharf every day.
She says she spoke with a fisheries officer last month.
“They wanted to know when we were going out,” she said. “I even asked the why because you’re going to handcuff us, you’re going to charge us even before we get out on the water?
Francis says she will never forget last fall, when her community launched their Moderate Livelihood fishery Plan.
The non-Indigenous fishermen reacted with violence, they say the fishery will put the lobster at risk.
Vehicles were burned, people were assaulted, intimidated with racial slurs and a lobster pound that stored Mi’kmaw lobster was burnt to the ground.
The police and fisheries officers were criticized for standing by.
“They aren’t here to protect us, they’re here to monitor us to see when they are going to attack us and make any excuse to come after us,” says Francis.
Boats with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans can be seen going by a local wharf with lobster traps on board.
Sipekne’katik lobster harvesters are fishing for food and ceremony.
Francis says there have been more police and fisheries officers present in the last few weeks.
“If they were working with us then we wouldn’t have our people wouldn’t feel attacked when they’re going up to our boats and they’re asking for identification and what not, like it feels like we’ve done something wrong when we actually didn’t,” she said.
DFO wouldn’t confirm whether traps had been seized.