Rally supports Mi’kmaq moderate livelihood fisheries

    Rally comes weeks after peaceful protest by commercial fishermen at DFO office

    There was a rally on October 17 in Antigonish supporting the Mi’kmaq moderate livelihood fishery.

    ANTIGONISH: The great niece of Donald Marshall Jr. says Nova Scotians need to respect that everyone is on un-ceded Mi’kmaq territory.

    Membertou’s Salena Sylvester made the comments on October 17, as she addressed a rally of about 250 supporters in Antigonish for Mi’kmaq moderate livelihood fisheries that have been established across the province recently.

    “The [1752] treaty is supposed to allow us to live together in peace and friendship; we need to find that way again,” she said. “I look at it as, if this was a vice-versa situation, this wouldn’t be happening right now – there would have been extreme force already happening, where’s that force now?”

    Desiring to be in a leadership role herself such as an RCMP officer, Sylvester said without the proper law enforcement involvement in Saulnierville, soon it’s going to be too late, somebody is going to die.

    “We need to create that awareness; everyone’s voice matters,” she said. “Justin Trudeau has the power to issue the enforcement towards the commercial fisherman – nothing’s happening.”

    Sylvester’s great uncle, Marshall Jr., fought this same battle 21-years-ago, the only difference between him and the commercial fisherman today, is he went through the courts.

    “That’s the right thing to do. Our commercial fisherman here, went out to the water, and attacked our people, how come they didn’t go to the courts,” she said. “I’m really proud of our fisherman out there for staying really strong.”

    While the 1999 Supreme Court of Canada Marshall decision affirmed treaty rights to fish or hunt for a “moderate livelihood,” it also allows Ottawa to set regulations in consultation with Indigenous communities and for the purpose of conservation.

    Photos by Drake Lowthers
    Shiloh Pictou was in attendance for a rally in Antigonish on October 17 supporting the Mi’kmaq moderate livelihood fishery.

    Earlier this month on October 2, over 100 commercial fishers took part in their own peaceful demonstration at the Antigonish Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) office.

    The group indicated they were concerned with the moderate livelihood fisheries that had been established across the province.

    The demonstrators want the federal government to uphold their responsibility and legal obligation to regulate the fishery. The fisherman said their concerns are with the federal government and DFO, not with the Mi’kmaq fishers.

    However, in regards to issues between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous fishers, the commercial fishers want to have a say in the ongoing negotiations between First Nations and the government; highlighting they feel their input would assist in the development of more peaceful resolutions.

    Michelle Sylliboy, a Mi’kmaq artist who was raised on un-ceded territory in We’koqma’q, said these Mi’kmaq fishers who’re putting up with being harassed, beaten up, bullied, and having their trap lines cut are true vigilantes of treaty rights.

    “I don’t know what the right words to say, to describe what we’ve witnessed in the last three weeks in the lack of inaction by the RCMP,” she said. “I thought they were there to protect us all – but institutional racism is alive and well.”

    Sylliboy had a message to the commercial fisherman – they’re not afraid, they’re not going to keep them, down, and even despite what they’ve done – they are still strong.

    A real fisherman, she said doesn’t kill lobster; a real conservationist doesn’t kill lobster, which was drawn with heavy applause from the crowd.

    “I want them to know that we’ve been here a very long time, we’re not going anywhere and that no bully is going to intimidate us,” Sylliboy said. “We have a treaty that was written in 1752, my own ancestors ensured the livelihood of my people will go on forever.”