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Ottawa affirms Mi'kmaq treaty rights in Nova Scotia lobster dispute

Last Updated Sep 22, 2020 at 8:30 am MST

A Mi’kmaq drummer pauses during a prayer as members of the Sipekne'katik First Nation bless the fleet before it launches its own self-regulated fishery on the wharf in Saulnierville, N.S., on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020. Two federal ministers have confirmed Indigenous fishermen have the right to fish to earn a living after meeting with Mi'kmaq chiefs in Nova Scotia on Monday.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

SAULNIERVILLE, N.S. — The federal government is affirming the Mi’kmaq First Nation’s treaty rights in an ongoing dispute with non-Indigenous fishermen in southwestern Nova Scotia.

Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan and Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett released a statement Monday saying the Mi’kmaq have a constitutionally protected treaty right to fish in pursuit of a moderate livelihood.

Non-Indigenous fishermen have been protesting the Indigenous fishers’ attempts to set lobster traps in St. Marys Bay during the off-season, which runs until the end of November.

Some 350 traps set by Indigenous fishermen were pulled from the water by non-Indigenous fishermen over the weekend, continuing the long-standing conflict.

Jordan and Bennett denounced what they said were the threats, intimidation and vandalism they had witnesses in southwestern Nova Scotia.

The two ministers say they plan to work with Mi’kmaq leaders on the implementation of the First Nation’s treaty right, which was confirmed in a 1999 Supreme Court decision.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 22, 2020.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

The Canadian Press