Indigenous and non-indigenous people rallied Thursday in Nanaimo to show solidarity with Mi’kmaq lobster fishers in the Maritimes, who have seen their catch dumped and facilities burned.
There is tension in Nova Scotia, with Mi’kmaq allowed to harvest lobster outside of fishing season, as per the 1999 Supreme Court of Canada Marshall decision, and non-indigenous fishers taking exception. Charlene Richardson, an organizer of the Nanaimo rally, said the event was to show support “to East Coast brothers and sisters who are fishers, asserting their birthright to fish.”
“It is an established treaty since 1752 and it was also acknowledged within the Supreme Court in their favour,” said Richardson. “It was said that it is part of the indigenous right to fish or to harvest.”
Mariah Charleson, Nuu-Chah-Nulth Tribal Council vice-president, said systemic racism is at the heart of the matter and a “denial of inherent rights.”
“We have seen inaction from the RCMP, from Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans, from our prime minister, to protect people who are literally practising an inherent right that they have proven in the highest courts of the land,” said Charleson. “What we’re here today to do is to call upon the RCMP, all governments to really look upon this as an example and to figure out ways that we can do things local. How we can end racism at a local level.”
Paul Manly, Nanaimo-Ladysmith member of Parliament, told the crowd that the situation had been brought to the attention of the Canadian government previously by his colleague Jenica Atwin, Fredericton MP.
“She was the first one to get up in Parliament to talk about this situation with the fisheries and she warned the government,” said Manly. “She said this is a dangerous situation and you need to respect the Marshall decision and you need to come in and negotiate and deal with this situation before it gets out of hand.”