Indigenous fishermen in Canada are claiming their right to fish for a “moderate livelihood” outside of the regulated fishing season.

A leader of an indigenous community in eastern Canada renews its call for concrete action by the federal government following the destruction of a lobster pound in the province of Nova Scotia on Saturday night.

In a statement shared by APTN News, Mike Sack, Chief of the Sipekne’katik First Nation, said the fire at the lobster pound in Middle West Pubnico, a small fishing village 270 km (168 miles) to the West of Halifax, demonstrates “the need for a police presence in the region.”

Sack said the storage facility was “owned by a friend and ally of Sipekne’katik”.

“This should never have happened and those responsible should be brought to justice,” he said. “I ask the Prime Minister again [Justin] Trudeau and the RCMP (Federal Police) to devote the necessary resources to this region to protect everyone.

The Nova Scotia RCMP said they were investigating the fire as “suspicious”.

“The fish processing plant suffered significant damage, it was unoccupied at the time and no workers were injured, a man is in hospital with potentially fatal injuries from the fire Said the police in a declaration Saturday.

Tense clashes have taken place in recent weeks between commercial and native fishermen in Nova Scotia, who exercise their right to fish outside of Canada’s federally regulated fishing season.

The Mi’kmaw people have the right under the Canadian constitution and treaties signed with the British Crown in the 1700s to fish in order to maintain a “moderate livelihood”.

But although this right was upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1999, the court has never defined what “moderate livelihood” means in practice.

RCMP officers investigate the remains of a lobster pound that was destroyed by fire in Nova Scotia [John Morris/Reuters]

Sipekne’katik First Nation launched its own moderate livelihood fishery last month to be able to harvest out of season, which has angered non-Indigenous commercial fishermen in the province.

Last week, a crowd of hundreds of non-native fishermen surrounded native fishermen, APTN News reported. A pickup truck was set on fire and hundreds of lobsters from native fishermen were destroy in two separate incidents in the region.

A man was accused of an assault on Chief Sack on Oct. 14, the RCMP also said on Saturday.

Police have come under fire for appearing to stand up during last week’s acts of violence against Indigenous fishermen, while Indigenous leaders across Canada have called on the governments of Nova Scotia and the federal government to do more to ensure the protection of people.

Canada’s Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said he was “confident that unacceptable acts of violence will be fully investigated and the perpetrators will be held to account.”

“Threats, violence and intimidation must stop. We must all recognize that a lasting resolution to this dispute can only be achieved if it is based on the recognition of the legitimate treaty rights of the Mi’kmaw, ”Blair said in a statement.




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