Canadian police make arrests as spirits soar in lobster feud

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Lobster is Nova Scotia’s most valuable seafood export


Police in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia made two arrests as tensions mounted over a lobster fishery set up by the Indigenous community.

Officers arrested two people for assault as crowds gathered to mark the launch.

Members of the Sipekne’katik First Nation say they have the right to issue fishing licenses to their own people.

Non-native lobster fishermen, however, say their boats operate out of season and should be shut down.

The dispute comes on the anniversary of a ruling that upheld the rights of indigenous groups to hunt and fish.

This 1999 decision stipulated that hunting and fishing should be for a moderate livelihood – but “moderate” remains largely undefined.

Lobster is Nova Scotia’s most valuable seafood export, and the associated fishing industry is worth about C $ 500 million (£ 293 million) per year.

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On Thursday, the Sipekne’katik First Nation issued the first licenses for its new self-regulating “moderate livelihood” fishery in Saulnierville Harbor. About 200 people gathered on the quayside to watch the boats disembark and a ceremony was held to bless the fleet.

Sipekne’katik leader Michael Sack told the crowd they were exercising their constitutional rights upheld in the 1999 ruling.

“Our problem is not with commercial fishermen, we have a problem with levels of government that do not respect our rights,” he said, as quoted by CTV. “Commercial fishermen should just back off and let us do our thing. “

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Government says it hopes to play a mediating role between the two sides


When the new fishery was launched, a flotilla of boats owned by non-native lobster fishermen surrounded the mouth of the harbor in protest.

Native fishermen later said their lobster trap lines were cut and flares fired at their boats.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said on Friday that officers had visited the wharf and other nearby places to try to calm the situation.

Local media said spirits frayed among a large crowd gathered at Weymouth Wharf, about 25 km (15 miles) north of Saulnierville.

“We arrested two people at Weymouth wharf,” RCMP spokeswoman Jennifer Clarke Both said as quoted by broadcaster CBC. “They were arrested for assault and escorted away from the scene and have since been released, pending court. ”

She said police would maintain a presence in the area over the weekend.

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Nova Scotia lobsters are prized around the world


Indigenous leaders declared a “state of emergency” on Friday in response to escalating tensions.

Non-native lobster fishermen are calling on the Canadian government to crack down on the new fishery. They say the law that bans lobster fishing for several months is vital for conservation purposes.

They also allege that the aboriginal fishery is in fact a commercial operation that removes large numbers of lobsters – although First Nations leaders strongly dispute this.

Canadian Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan told CBC Nova Scotia News she wanted to meet with representatives from both sides of the conflict to discuss “the best way forward.”

She said she was confident both sides would come to the table for security reasons.

“We need to find a place where we can foster a good conversation and make sure we can all listen to each other and not talk to each other. We must listen to each other and find the best way to resolve this situation ”. she added.

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In recent years, Canada has grappled with a series of issues affecting the rights of indigenous peoples.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal Party came to power promising to transform the country’s relationship with Indigenous communities.

Indigenous peoples in Canada have rights which include the right to land, self-determination and self-government, and to practice their culture and customs.

There are over 1.6 million Indigenous people in Canada, which includes First Nations, Inuit and Métis, and they represent approximately 5% of the national population.

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