Membertou First Nation fishing boat damaged in fire
There is outrage in the First Nations community and beyond after a fishing boat belonging to Membertou First Nation was burned overnight in Sydney Harbour, in an act of suspected vandalism.
Representatives from the Membertou First Nation confirm that they learned early Saturday morning that the fishing boat Membertou II was engulfed in flames.
“I got a call this morning, that the boat was burned last night,” says Membertou II captain John Paul, who is also the son of Membertou Chief Terry Paul.
At approximately 3:30 a.m., representatives from Membertou were informed that the boat, which was located at the Dobson Yacht Club in Westmount, N.S. was on fire.
“Sad and disappointed. We’re trying to work our way into a position where we can use our 1752 Treaty Rights to fish for a moderate livelihood,” says Paul.
Membertou was celebrating those treaty rights less than a month ago. September 17 marked the 20th anniversary of Donald Marshall Jr’s landmark court victory for Mi’Kmaq fishing rights.
“Our community has a food fishery, and we also have the right to a moderate livelihood within the fishing resources,” said Membertou Chief Terry Paul in a statement. “Our entire community was disappointed to learn about the fire last night aboard the Membertou II, but as always, we will keep fishing.”
The boat sustained significant damage and the fire is now under investigation with the Cape Breton Regional Police Service.
As police investigate, Chief Paul is condemning the act, and says it’s not the first act of vandalism against these Mi’kmaq fishermen.
In a statement, representatives from Membertou say they have been experiencing issues with vandalism since September.
According to the statement, 100 lobster traps belonging to Membertou were cut in September, leading to a loss of $10,000 to the community.
“The boys were only out there fishing for food,” says Membertou resident George Woodberry. “As many steps forward as we take as a people, there’s always somebody that’s gonna bring us back and try to knock us down.”
John Paul says he only started docking at the location a few days ago. He believes resentment to the First Nations fishery runs deep in some circles.
“Shocked, just shocked. The ignorance is unbelievable,” says Paul.
Representatives from Membertou say they are working with police in the ongoing investigation, and are committed to ensuring that acts of vandalism do not continue.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Ryan MacDonald.