Since time, immemorial Indigenous nations around the world have lived in harmony with the land - hunting, fishing, and harvesting everything they need to survive while respecting the delicate balance of nature. As a result, Indigenous foodways are some of the most sustainable food systems in the world.
When colonists first arrived in Mi’kmaq territories, they negotiated what are considered Peace and Friendship Treaties. These affirmed the rights of the Mi’kmaq [peoples to continue supporting their communities in the ways they always had. These rights are further upheld under Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution, and by the Supreme Court decision of R v. Marshall in 1999. The courts determined that Don Marshall Jr. had not violated the law when he fished for eels and sold them outside the prescribed season without a deferral license. This decision cited Marshall’s Mi’kmaq treaty rights to derive a moderate livelihood from his territory.
On September 17th 2020, the 21st anniversary of this decision, Sipekne’katik First Nation exercised their treaty rights by launching a self-regulated lobster fishery. The response was an explosion of violence from non-Indigenous commercial fishermen. They’re claiming that the Indigenous fishing operation is a risk to conservation (even though it operated at a fraction of the capacity of the commercial fisheries), these fishermen protested this perceived wrongdoing by forming a violent mob and storming two Mi’kmaq lobster facilities. They destroyed facility property, set a vehicle on fire, threatened Indigenous fishermen with physical violence (including threatening to burn down a facility while they were locked inside), and in one shocking display of irony, destroyed countless stocks of lobster. Putting them to waste by damaging their oxygen supply and temperature regulation devices, stealing them, and throwing them on the street to die, while for the most part, the RCMP stood by watching.
As the Sipekne’katik fishery prepares to reopen this summer, the Federal Government has elected not to support the Mi’kmaq in asserting their treaty rights, stating they will only allow the Mi’kmaq to fish their own ancestral territory with Federal licenses during the prescribed season. They have also stated that they will be providing funding for heavier police presence in the area, and arranging for the Department of Fisheries Officers to be deployed in order to “Enforce the Fisheries Act”.
If you would like to donate to support the Sipekne’katik in exercising their inherent rights, information on how to do so can be found at sipeknekatik.ca/moderate-living-fishery-fleet