Find common ground in conservation and non-violence to solve lobster dispute: Vickers
HALIFAX -- The conflict and violence that has erupted in southwest Nova Scotia over the Indigenous lobster fishery seems like history repeating itself.
Twenty years ago, shortly after the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed the Indigenous right to fish for a moderate livelihood, violence erupted in Miramichi, N.B., when Mi'kmaw fishers took to the water to fish lobster outside the federally-regulated commercial season.
Their traps were pulled and their boats chased, while on land there were fights and fires -- all part of what became known as the Burnt Church Crisis.
Former New Brunswick Liberal leader Kevin Vickers was an RCMP officer at the time and he was credited with defusing the situation at Burnt Church, N.B.
Although he has not been asked to mediate the dispute in Nova Scotia, he said the solution lies in everyone focusing on the conservation of the species and ensuring that there is no violence.
"Aboriginal fishers, as a nation, have a right to fish as established by Supreme Court," Vickers said. "I know that they don't want to place the harvest in danger; they are as conservationist as everyone else is."
Vickers also downplayed the strict adherence to limiting fishing to certain seasons.
"The fishing season, as we know it, is a construct of white society," Vickers said. "Aboriginal fishers have been fishing this time of year for centuries."
On the other hand, Vickers said that the characterizations he has heard of white fishermen being greedy, racist or terrorists, does not mesh with his impressions.
"My experience is the opposite," Vickers said Wednesday in an interview with CTV News Anchor Steve Murphy. "They're fearful for their livelihood, the well-being of their families, their mortgage."
He did not condone the violence, however, and hopes the perpetrators are brought to justice.
"This behaviour is predicated on fear and ignorance," Vickers said.
He says, even though white fishermen are not part of the nation-to-nation talks, it is important to keep them involved.
You can watch the full interview here.