The Communist Party of Canada stands with Mi’kmaq fishers, the Sipekne’katik First Nation and Indigenous nations across Canada who are demanding protection for Indigenous fishers and the legal Indigenous fishery under attack by mobs of 200 or more people in New Edinburgh and Middle West Pubnico, Nova Scotia this week.
The attacks have escalated over the past weeks from harassment and interference with Indigenous fishers on land and at sea, to the illegal theft and destruction of Indigenous lobster traps, equipment, ramming Indigenous boats, burning a fish boat, and firing live ammunition at Indigenous fishers, to the destruction of two Indigenous fish storage facilities with rocks and gasoline while fishers were trapped inside this week. Throughout all of these events, the RCMP and police have stood idly by, watching the attacks unfold.
The RCMP’s failure to intervene to stop the attacks, to arrest mob leaders, and protect Indigenous fishers endangered by mob violence, combined with the federal government’s failure to order the RCMP to protect Indigenous fishers and the legal Indigenous fishery, is clear evidence of systemic racism and of government collusion to wipe out the Indigenous fishery using the full force of the state.
The right of the Indigenous peoples of NS to an Indigenous fishery is undeniable. The 1752 Treaty of Peace and Friendship guaranteed the Mi’k Maq the right to earn a “moderate livelihood” from hunting and fishing. This was challenged by the federal government with the arrest and prosecution of Donald Marshall for eel fishing in the 1990s. In 1999 the Supreme Court of Canada rejected the government’s arguments in the Marshall case, and upheld Indigenous rights to hunt and fish.
But the RCMP, police, and the Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) have not upheld the law, and have actively enabled mob rule to overpower and crush the Indigenous fishery, and Indigenous rights.
Largely invisible in media coverage is the Clearwater corporation, the largest producer of shellfish in North America, which operates year-round with exclusive rights to trap 720 tonnes of lobster in the biggest lobster fishing area off NS, annually. Clearwater has a direct interest in diverting attention from its own massive profits, unsustainable fishing practices, and court appearances for gross violations of DFO regulations. Its virtual monopoly on fishing in NS means it effectively sets the price for the lobster catch, and for the poor wages and living standards of small commercial fishers.
Clearwater has a direct interest in fanning the flames of racism and hatred, and ensuring that widespread anger is directed at the Indigenous fishery and not at Clearwater and its owner John Risley whose net worth is $1.21 billion.
The Communist Party demands that the federal government act now to protect Indigenous fishers and communities, by ordering the DFO and RCMP to end mob violence, arrest and charge perpetrators, and enforce the law. Indigenous fishers and communities must be provided reparations for the damages inflicted on their livelihoods and on their communities, and be guaranteed that their rights to fish and hunt will be protected henceforth.
We call on the labour and democratic movements to speak up in support of the Indigenous fishers and communities affected in NS, and to demand government action to end the violence against Indigenous fishers and communities, to enforce the law, and to obey the law that successive federal governments have worked so hard to overturn legally and otherwise.
Central Executive Committee
Communist Party of Canada
October 16, 2020