Hands Off the Mi'kmaq Nation!
For more than a month Mi'kmaq fishers of the Sipekne'katik First Nation
in Saulnierville, Nova Scotia have been subjected to brutal violence,
arson and destruction of property for daring to assert their hereditary
and treaty rights. Government officials from Trudeau on down -- the
Minister of Indigenous Services Marc Miller, Public Safety Minister
Bill Blair, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Coast Guard
Bernadette Jordan and others -- blame everyone but themselves. They
"condemn" the violence, stand aside while it happens, and wring their
hands over Canadians being "racist," when in fact it is the Canadian
state which is responsible and must be held accountable.
affirmed their hereditary and treaty rights, in launching a
self-regulated, sustainable lobster fishing enterprise on September 17.
Eleven Indigenous fishers were awarded licences by the First Nation.
The day their fishing enterprise started, federal Minister of Fisheries
Bernadette Jordan declared the Mi'kmaq outlaws.
a statement issued September 17, she acknowledged the Supreme Court's
Marshall Decision, stating that "First Nations have an affirmed treaty
right to hunt, fish and gather in pursuit of a 'moderate livelihood.'"
But she did not say Canada would abide by the Court ruling. Rather she
called on the Mi'kmaq "to find a collaborative path back to the
Until then, she said "there
cannot be a commercial fishery outside the commercial season. ...
Fishing without a licence is a violation under the Fisheries
Act and anyone fishing outside the activities authorized
under a licence may be subject to enforcement action."
other words, the Sipekne'katik First Nation lobster fishery is illegal
because the colonial racist state has not authorized it. The state
declares the Mi'kmaq outlaws, making them fair game for violence
This is the modus operandi
of the Canadian state: violate hereditary and treaty rights and when
Indigenous people affirm their rights, they are met with violence.
Since 1990 alone, attacks include the police and military assault on
the Mohawk of Kanesatake at Oka in 1990; the Shuswap people at
Gustafsen Lake in 1995; the Ojibway of Stoney Point in Ontario in 1995;
and earlier this year the Wet'suwet'en people in northern BC, when they
asserted their sovereignty and opposed the Coastal GasLink pipeline
being built on their territory.
of Fisheries Officers ram Mi'kmaq fishers' boat in Burnt Church, NB in 1999.
people are no strangers to state-organized violence and racism either.
Following the Marshall ruling in 1999, Mi'kmaq fishers of Esgenoopetitj
First Nation (Burnt Church) in New Brunswick faced three years of
threats, violence and arrests for asserting their treaty and inherent
right to fish. At that time Canadians were outraged to see video
footage of RCMP and Department of Fisheries and Oceans enforcement
officers ramming Mi'kmaq fishers' boats and endangering their lives to
"uphold the law."
A month ago, faced with attacks,
the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq Chiefs declared a State of
Emergency. The Trudeau government did not act to end the violence. RCMP
officers stood by, watching and videotaping. Were they at the ready to
intervene should Mi'kmaq resistance "turn violent"? That's what it
looks like. The RCMP were quick to act with violence against the
Wet'suwet'en on their own territory. The contrast is not lost on the
The Mi'kmaq are not
intimidated. Chief Mike Sack of the Sipekne'katik First Nation and
fishers of that community say they will continue to assert their
rights. They say Canada has to not only recognize their rights but
defend them. The resistance of the Sipekne'katik First Nation has
inspired others such as the Membertou First Nation of Cape Breton
Island to do the same.
The affirmation of their
rights by Indigenous peoples has the broad support of the people of
Canada and Quebec.
Hands Off the Mi'kmaq Nation!
No to State-Organized Racist
End Colonial Injustice!
Hereditary, Treaty and Constitutional Rights of Indigenous Peoples!
This article was published in
Volume 50 Number 40 - October 24, 2020
Hands Off the Mi'kmaq Nation! - Philip Fernandez