United Nations committee seeks answers from Canada on racism and violence against Mi’kmaw fishermen – Ku’ku’kwes News
United Nations committee seeks answers from Canada to racism and violence Mi’kmaw lobster fishermen suffered as they exercised their treaty right to fish for a living in Nova Scotia last fall.
In a letter dated April 30, the chair of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) asked Leslie Norton, the Permanent Representative of Canada to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, to explain what Canada has done to:
- Investigate allegations of acts of racism, violence and vandalism against Mi’kmaq fishermen and supporters
- Investigate alleged lack of response from RCMP and Department of Fisheries and Oceans officers to protect the Mi’kmaw
- Prevent further acts of violence, racist hate speech, incitement to violence and destruction of property against the Mi’kmaw
- Respect, protect and guarantee the rights of the Mi’kmaw right to fish and to be consulted
The CERD president also asked that Canada “provide details on the status of treaties made between 1760 and 1761 and the implementation of Mi’kmaq fishing rights under those treaties.”
The United Nations committee has given Norton until July 14 to provide a response.
The letter, written by committee chair Yanduan Li, responded to an official brief the committee received as part of its early warning and urgent action process on behalf of several Mi’kmaw fishermen in the First Nation. by Sipekne’katik.
The brief, prepared by three Indigenous lawyers and a human rights expert, included details and evidence of alleged human rights violations against Mi’kmaw fishermen as they exercised their treaty right to earn their money. living moderately thanks to lobster fishing in fall 2020 in the southwest. New Scotland.
“It’s about drawing attention to both Canada and Canadians that something is wrong here and that Canada needs to come to the table the right way,” said Pam Palmater, Mi’kmaw lawyer and one of the authors of the official submission to the UN.
“For every claim we made, we provided them with documentary evidence. Most came from the government itself, ”Palmater said at a press conference on Monday.
The conventional right to a “moderate means of subsistence”
The treaty right to fish for a moderate living was affirmed in the 1999 Supreme Court of Canada decision in the Donald Marshall, Jr. case on fishing rights. Marshall, a Mi’kmaq from the Membertou First Nation, was charged with catching and selling eels without a license in Pomquet Harbor, Nova Scotia, in 1993.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that the peace and friendship treaties of 1760-1761 signed between the Mi’kmaq, Wolastoq and Peskotomukati and the British crown guaranteed Marshall’s right to fish and sell fish. .
In a rare second decision in November 1999, the Supreme Court clarified that the federal government can regulate treaty right “where justified for conservation or other reasons”. However, the High Court said those covered by the treaty have the right to be consulted before the limitation on their right is imposed.
Tired of waiting for DFO to begin talks to define a moderate livelihood, the Sipekne’katik First Nation launched their own moderate livelihood fishery in September 2020 at the Saulnierville wharf in Nova Scotia.
This decision has met with strong opposition from non-native lobster fishermen who believe Mi’kmaq fishermen should only set up lobster traps during commercial fishing seasons defined by DFO. Mi’kmaw fishermen have been harassed in St. Mary’s Bay and on the docks at Weymouth and Saulnierville. The harassment escalated into acts of racism, violence and vandalism.
UN CERD President Cites Allegations Against Canada in Letter
In the letter to Norton, CERD Chairman Yanduan Li referred to several allegations listed in the official submission on behalf of the fishermen of Sipekne’katik.
“Although they are aware of the high risk of violence, the relevant Canadian authorities – in particular the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) – have not taken appropriate measures to prevent these acts of violence and protect Mi’kmaw fishermen and their properties from vandalism, ”Yanduan Li wrote.
“It is claimed that Canadian authorities have also failed to thoroughly investigate allegations of racially motivated harassment, racist hate speech and incitement to racist violence online, violence and intimidation by private actors against Mi’kmaq human rights defenders and fishermen, ”she wrote.
“According to allegations received, the provincial and federal governments failed to fully respect the Mi’kmaw’s treaty right to their traditional fishing activities,” Yanduan Li wrote.
“I suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder because of this stuff” – Jason Marr
In one of the incidents listed in the official submission to the UN, Sipekne’katik fishermen Jason Marr and Randy Sack drove from the Saulnierville wharf to a lobster pound in West Pubnico, NS. on October 13, 2020 to store their lobsters when it was learned that an angry crowd was on their way to the wharf to grab their catch.
When they reached the pound at West Pubnico, another angry mob surrounded the pound and the mob threatened to set the pound on fire unless Marr and Sack returned their hold and left. Marr’s vehicle was vandalized while the two men waited inside for police to arrive.
“I called 9-1-1 that night and it took (the RCMP) two hours to come,” Marr said at the press conference. “This 9-1-1 is an international number for distress and emergency services, but it’s not working for us.
“Who controls the police and who governs the government?” He asked. “I suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder because of this stuff.”
UN could hold Canada to account internationally – Palmater
Palmater said the formal submission to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is one way to hold Canada accountable for the racial violence suffered by Mi’kmaw fishermen.
“We knew it wasn’t just going to end in the fall, that there will always be fishing in the future and our people are at risk,” Palmater said.
“So by engaging in this process now, we knew there could, at least, be some kind of action at the international level to hold Canada to account.
Palmater said the formal submission was sent specifically to UN CERD because “they have an early warning and urgent action procedure to help when we are in the middle of a crisis.”
“The fact that they gave it, Canadians should be very aware that they consider this to be an urgent situation of potential human rights violations,” Palmater said.
Sipekne’katik chief Mike Sack said he was happy to see the letter from the UN committee.
“It shows some hope that Canada will have to answer for its actions or its lack of action,” Chief Sack said Monday.
“I just hope this keeps the spotlight on the RCMP and DFO to make sure they’re doing their job to protect everyone, not just a biased approach,” he said.
Ku’ku’kwes News contacted by email the office of the Permanent Representative of the United Nations in Geneva for comment, but did not receive a response.