Bear River First Nation voices concerns about lobster fishing dispute
Published Monday, October 26, 2020 10:11PM ADT Last Updated Monday, October 26, 2020 10:13PM ADT
SAULNIERVILLE, N.S. -- It was calm on the water and wharves of Nova Scotia's St. Marys Bay this past weekend as the Sipekne’katik First Nation fishers caught lobster quietly.
In the backdrop, there are concerns summed up in a letter from the nearby Bear River First Nation.
Chief Carol Dee Potter says her fishers have been forced out of St. Marys Bay due to the ongoing dispute.
"Our community members are currently suffering the backlash of events we have no control over and are denied safe access to resources that are rightfully ours," Potter writes.
Mike Sack, the chief of Sipekne’katik First Nation, says it was "never our intent for any community to suffer backlash and our community suffers backlash as well, even in our surrounding area."
The letter says, prior to these events, no one from Ottawa or the Sipekne’katik First Nation reached out. But Chief Sack says their plan was shared with every First Nations chief in Nova Scotia.
"I did reach out the other day and let her know if there’s any questions or concerns just to give me a call and I’ll answer whatever I can," Sack said.
In Yarmouth, the dispute moved to the courtroom, where the case of four Mi’kmaw fishers charged for fishing out of season a year ago was moved to December. They aim to have the charges dropped.
"We have a right to fish for a moderate livelihood," said Ashton Bernard. "The highest court in Canada says we’re allowed to."
These are among the perspectives federal facilitator Allister Surette intends to hear as he begins his work to de-escalate tensions and build trust between communities.
"I’m going to try reach out to the key people," Surette said. "By that I’m meaning possibly later today, maybe tomorrow."
The Maritime Fisherman’s Union calls the talks a step in the right direction.
Chief sack says his focus is on developing a moderate livelihood management plan.
Federal Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan’s office says they have met with the Bear River First Nation to hear the chief’s concerns directly. They also want to establish a moderate livelihood fishery.