Indigenous lobster boats head from the harbour in Saulnierville, N.S. on Oct. 21. Elected officials in the Yukon, including all 19 members of the legislature, are backing the right of Mi’kmaq fishers on the East Coast to launch a moderate livelihood fishery. (Andrew Vaughan/CP)

Indigenous lobster boats head from the harbour in Saulnierville, N.S. on Oct. 21. Elected officials in the Yukon, including all 19 members of the legislature, are backing the right of Mi’kmaq fishers on the East Coast to launch a moderate livelihood fishery. (Andrew Vaughan/CP)

Yukon legislature passes motion to support Mi’kmaw fishery

“It’s not easy, but it’s also necessary for us to have these very difficult conversations”

Elected officials in the Yukon, including all 19 members of the legislature, are backing the right of Mi’kmaw fishers on the East Coast to launch a moderate livelihood fishery.

The motion calls on the government to denounce the violence against Mi’kmaw people and the RCMP’s failure to protect Mi’kmaw communities, and to call on the Government of Canada to work with the Sipekne’katik First Nation to implement a moderate livelihood fishery.

“The violence that has erupted in Nova Scotia is jarring. It is hard to watch even from the other side of the country,” said NDP leader Kate White, who introduced the motion on Oct. 21.

“Today, I welcome my colleagues to join me in this uncomfortable conversation so that we can talk openly about Canada’s racism problem and ultimately stand together so that we can show our support and solidarity for the Mi’kmaq people,” she said.

On Sept. 17 the Sipekne’katik First Nation began setting lobster traps to begin their commercial season. It was a decision based on a 1999 Supreme Court of Canada ruling that affirmed the Mi’kmaq have the right to a “moderate livelihood fishery.”

Violence from non-Indigenous fishers targeting Mi’kmaw fishers in Nova Scotia, in retaliation to the early season, has been ongoing since September.

In the legislature, all three parties backed the solidarity motion and made comments around racism and Indigenous rights.

“I see this as a huge opportunity — if we’re going to do anything in terms of standing beside and behind our brothers and sisters from across the country — to put our voices and our efforts behind them. Also, at the same time, what is happening there is no different from what we see in our society here and now,” said minister Pauline Frost.

“I see it every day. It’s not easy, but it’s also necessary for us to have these very difficult conversations,” Frost said.

Premier Sandy Silver noted that his father was a lobster fisherman from Nova Scotia who “would be rolling in his grave right now if he knew what was happening back home.”

Silver said when his father travelled to Yukon he was impressed after a meeting with Harold Gatensby, and how much he had in common with the Tlingit around fishing and northern life.

Carcross/Tagish First Nation’s Executive Council also put out a statement of support condemning “all acts of violence and racism targeting Indigenous fishers in the ongoing dispute in Nova Scotia.”

“Our Indigenous rights are not simply words on paper,” said Lynda Dickson, Haa Shaa du Hen (Chief) of the nation.

Contact Haley Ritchie at haley.ritchie@yukon-news.com

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