VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Hundreds gathered in downtown Vancouver to protest the attacks on a Mi’kmaq lobster fishery, to condemn the inaction of the federal government, and to demand the RCMP commissioner’s resignation.
The rally is one of many held across the country amid ongoing harassment, violence, and vandalism in Nova Scotia.
Mi’kmaq lobster traps were cut, large crowds gathered at the wharfs and hurled racist insults at fishers, and vehicles were set on fire. A lobster pound handling Mi’kmaq catch was burned to the ground, and big crowds damaged another.
UBCIC Statement on Lobster Fishery and RCMP Inaction to Protect the Mi’kmaq from Violence: "[Canada] stands to face
another #shutdownCanada if it continues to blatantly disregard the rights of Indigenous peoples" https://t.co/CGQbjZPpZG pic.twitter.com/fg4XgpabG9
— UBCIC (@UBCIC) October 23, 2020
Chief Don Tom, Vice President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC), says the constitutionally protected rights of the Mi’kmaw fishers are being violated.
“They have recognized rights and in my view, they’re just trying to live their lives and to be able to provide a moderate living for themselves and their families,” he says.
“I think Indigenous people and non-Indigenous people — allies — are seeing the injustices. People are outraged by this and I think that they’re looking to lend their support in any way they can whether it be with warm bodies at a rally, or monetary contributions, or political advocacy.”
Indigenous fishers in Nova Scotia are conducting a fishery outside of the federally regulated season, asserting a treaty right to a self-regulated Indigenous fishery in the province. A 1999 Supreme Court of Canada decision that ruled East Coast Indigenous groups have the right to fish for a “moderate livelihood.”
— Trevor Nault (@trevor_nault) October 24, 2020
“What is happening to the Mi’kmaq is certainly wrong,” Tom says.
“The inaction from the RCMP is disheartening when they have a role to protect Canadians. The inaction from the federal government, their inability to connect with Indigenous people about implementing their rights, and to have that partnership with them, that relationship with them is key. I think the delay in action has led us to this point. Clearly the Mik’maq have a right to fish. That’s not in question.
The UBCIC is joining the Assembly of First Nations, and demanding the resignation of RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki.
“The commissioner has to resign. She is failing Indigenous people all across Canada, particularly the Mi’kmaq people, and lives are in danger, buildings are burning down.”
The call for RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki’s resignation comes as the RCMP continues to face heavy criticism for its response in Nova Scotia.
Earlier this week, Lucki defended the actions of RCMP officers in Nova Scotia after Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said they had failed to properly protect Indigenous people there.
“Indigenous people have been let down by the police, those who are sworn to protect them,” Miller said. “The protection of people on both sides has to prevail, and clearly that has not been the case up until now.”
– With files from Bethlehem Mariam and The Canadian Press