First Nations activists rally in support of Mi’kmaq peoples

A man burns sage among the crowd at the All Eyes on Mi’kma’ki rally outside the Vancouver Art Gallery in Vancouver, B.C., Oct. 24, 2020. (Photo: Tyson Burrows)
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By Tyson Burrows

Activists including Dakota Bear and Audrey Siegl gathered on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in solidarity with Mi’kma’ki. Many speakers addressed ongoing tensions in Nova Scotia surrounding Indigenous fishing treaty rights.

The All Eyes on Mi’kma’ki rally, hosted by Idle No More, took place in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery as part of the Mi’kmaw National Week of Action. The demonstration came just days after mobs of non-Indigenous commercial fishers vandalized two Mi’kmaw fishing plants in Middle West Pubnico, N.S.

At the heart of these tensions lies a dispute between Sipekne’katik First Nation, which belongs to the wider Mi’kmaq nation known as Mi’kma’ki, and commercial non-Indigenous fishers in Nova Scotia.

On Sept. 17, Sipekne’katik First Nation began fishing outside of the federally regulated lobster season, which runs from November to May, saying they have a constitutionally protecting treaty right to do so that was reaffirmed by a 1999 Supreme Court ruling.

Non-Indigenous commercial fishers are outraged, claiming that this is against the law, and that it endangers their livelihoods as well as lobster conservation.

During lobster season, there are 2979 active licences in lobster fishing areas (LFAs) 27-38. Of those, 979 operate in LFA 34, Southwest Nova Scotia — the same area where the Sipekne’katik fishery operates 11 licences.

The 979 commercial licences of LFA 34 have a trap limit of 375/400, dwarfing the limit of 50 traps per licence of the Sipekne’katik fishery.

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