Attacks on Mi'kmaq treaty fishing

Burnt Church - Federal boats assault treaty rights in
New Brunswick/Nova Scotia "lobster war." - Canada

August 2000
30th,   29th,   20th,   19th,   18th,   July 28th

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2000 : [ Sept. 26th - Nov. ] [ Sept. 23rd - 25th ] [ Sept. 20th - 22nd ] [ Sept.  1st-19th ] [ August ]
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Aug. 30, 2000

Burnt Church natives say they won't back down

WebPosted Aug. 30, 2000
CBC News

BURNT CHURCH, N.B. - Unfazed by the largest – and most violent – raid by fisheries officers so far in the ongoing dispute on Miramichi Bay, native fishermen say they plan to set more traps.

An early morning raid yesterday in which 900 lobster traps were seized and two native boats sunk also has native leaders saying the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is using unreasonable force in confrontations with fishermen from the Burnt Church reserve.

"When you see these great big boats travelling at high speed, and you see these four little fishermen jumping into the water in order to save their lives, that is not reasonable use of force," said Ovide Mercredi, former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations. DFO officers used pepper spray, boats were overturned and people on both sides were injured Tuesday in the latest pre-dawn raid. The band says it is exercising its treaty right to fish. DFO says they're breaking the law.

And the dispute is spreading. The Tobique First Nation is rejecting an agreement with the federal government worth $7.5 million. One band councillor says it's to show solidarity with Burnt Church. The agreement would have given the band money for boats and training. But it would have also limited the amount of fish the band members can catch. The band says it will defy Ottawa and fish when and where it wants.

The raid on burnt Church started at 2 a.m. Tuesday as fisheries officers swooped in and began seizing lobster traps. Lloyd Augustine watched from the shore. "The scary thing about this process is that Canada accepts this to be a normal thing to be done out there to First Nations people." DFO spokesman Andre-Marc Lanteigne says the department was only doing its job and says every effort to negotiate had been exhausted. "Law enforcement is never pretty - that's what it boils down to - and this is consistent with the minister's ongoing message that he will continue to enforce the Fisheries Act. It's not to have a confrontation, definitely not, but our officers are prepared."

Federal fisheries Minister Herb Dhaliwal said in a statement that any dialogue with the community would not yield results as long as the band continues fishing. Dhaliwal hopes this latest manoeuvre will bring the two sides back to the table. Dhaliwal says he'll meet with the Burnt Church chief and council as long as there are no traps in the water. But Burnt Church isn't prepared to back down. Mercredi says it's time for Ottawa to stop putting conditions on this dispute and meet with aboriginal people on their own terms.

August 29, 2000


Christian Peacemakers Call for
End to Government Attacks on Mi'kmaq

1562 Danforth Ave, Box 72063, Toronto ON M4J 5C1
ph. 416-421-7079, fax 416-467-1508,

August 29, 2000

Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) calls on all people of faith and the citizens of Canada to join us in denouncing Canada's recent attacks on the treaty rights of Mi'kmaq lobster fishers. CPT is present in Esgenopetitj (Burnt Church NB) and has witnessed the militarization of the conflict between the Mi'kmaq and the Canadian Government.

CPTer Lena Siegers, a Mennonite grandmother from Blyth, Ontario, says, "Since this community started their fall fishery, they have suffered constant assault. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has joined together with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in a series of attacks. The RCMP has been seen with a dozen squad cars, assault rifles and riot gear when they come to antagonize this tense community. Surveillance planes and helicopters make regular flights at low altitude over the houses, causing a great deal of stress for the children and the elders. Early this morning I watched as Canadian Government forces nearly killed several Aboriginal people by ramming and sinking boats and pursuing people floating in the water after being thrown overboard."

CPTer William Payne of Toronto has previously worked in Chiapas, Mexico in communities facing military occupation. He expresses great sadness at the similarities between the two conflicts: "Both in Mexico and in New Brunswick, government forces alternate between attacks on communities and thinly disguised attempts at ´┐Żnegotiation'. In both places the besieged communities are faced with the option of negotiating with guns to their heads or continuing their resistance to an unjust use of force."

CPTer Janet Shoemaker of Goshen, Indiana speaks of parallels between the Canadian Government's actions and the actions of military forces she has witnessed in the West Bank, Palestine: "Again here I see a use of excessive force against people armed only with their rights to their own resources and a few stones. This is what I saw in the Middle East. I did not expect to see it in Canada."

A group of Mi'kmaq women, who are both fishers and mothers, expressed their outrage to CPT concerning the actions of the Canadian Government: "I see this situation as an invasion," said a mother of two small children. Another said, "Canada is attacking Burnt Church. They are robbing us. It is like they are raping us."

We believe that if Canada's actions continue to escalate, its forces will kill someone who is only acting to protect his or her children's future.

The time is long past for the Canadian Government to begin dealing with Aboriginal people in a spirit of truthfulness, justice and peace. As a programme of the Mennonite Church, the Church of the Brethren, and Friends United Meeting (Quakers) and two hundred supporting congregations, we demand that the Canadian Government stop these attacks.

Members of the CPT New Brunswick team currently include John Finlay (Walkerton ON), William Payne (Toronto ON), Janet Shoemaker (Goshen IN) and Lena Siegers (Blyth ON). CPT has come by invitation of the people of Esgenopetitj to accompany the First Nations people as they struggle for respect and for the recognition of their inherent and treaty rights to fish.

For more information contact:
Christian Peacemaker Teams
Esgenoopetitj (Burnt Church NB)
506-779-5886, 506-779-6012



August 29, 2000
Kwegsi (Lloyd Augustine)

The DFO has been in the water today with 22 boats versus the Mi'kmaq 14. There has been violence on the water today with DFO ramming boats, and which includes trying to do a sandwich type crunch on Mi'kmaq small boats. Two boats were sunk by running over the top of small Mi'kmaq boats.

In one case they ran right over the top of one boat whereas three men inside the boat had to dive off of the boat to keep from being killed. At that point DFO still seeing them in the water proceeded to try to run over the men who were in the water. If it wasn't for the Esgenoopetitj Rangers intervening, they probably would have succeeded.

Due to this and the extensive damage done to Mi'kmaq vessels the tribe is strongly considering a lawsuit as well as laying an attempted murder charge on DFO.

All these events on the water today were taped by various supporters of Burnt Church. Some were the ARC (Aboriginal Rights Coalition) and others CPT (Christian Peacemakers Team)... plus various other people were filming at the same time. These tapes have been passed on to the media who at this point seem to be pretty angry with DFO.

- Lloyd Augustine


August 20, 2000


International Call for Prayers for Burnt Church

August 20, 2000
Burnt Church, New Brunswick

The situation regarding the lobster fishing dispute between Burnt Church First Nation and the Canadian government has escalated. Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has reneged on their agreement to temporarily cease the seizure of lobster traps and equipment while negotiations take place.

Armed DFO and Police officials have resumed militaristic attacks; last week, 4 Burnt Church fishermen were arrested at gun point; one of the men was pepper sprayed and another choked to unconsciousness. The RCMP have stated that they intend to bring in reinforcements. At the time of this writing, RCMP are at Burnt Church in full riot gear, while the defenders of Burnt Church have only rocks to protect the territory.

There is no need for the Canadian government to increase their use of force against unarmed people.

We call at this time upon the spiritual leaders of all nations and religions to join us in prayer for the restoration of peace and sovereignty for Mi'kmaq people, whose lives have become endangered while exercising their inherent right to natural resources.

We ask that spiritual leaders begin prayer vigils for peace and open, nation-to-nation discussions for Burnt Church and Canada.

For more information, please contact:
James Ward (506) 776-5926
Danny Ward (506) 776-8589

August 19, 2000

Dear friends,

We are asking for your support in getting this to the international press. Currently, our warriors are in the process of defending what few traps and boats that we have left.

All My Relations,
James Ward
Burnt Church, New Brunswick
(506) 776-5629,


Canadian Government Backs Out of Agreement
with Burnt Church Natives

August 19, 2000
Burnt Church, New Brunswick

Department of Fisheries and Oceans New Brunswick and the Mi'kmaq of Burnt Church had reached a tentative agreement that would allow the Natives to fish in a certain perimeter. However, the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) had broken protocol by restricting further the fishing grounds allocated to the Mi'kmaq as well the number of traps has been reduced further.

As the talks degenerated further, DFO stated that they would use "force" to achieve their objective of shutting down the lobster fishery at Burnt Church. Many of the Mi'kmaq depend on the lobster fishery as their only means of support, as the unemployment rate is near 90%. Burnt Church First Nation is not in a position to lose any more traps as over 3000 have already been confiscated by DFO or destroyed by non- native fishermen.

We are urgently requesting any assistance you can offer as this is a desperate situation. We cannot give up this fight and must continue to ensure that our Treaty Rights are honored by the Canadian Government, and we must protect our Inherent Right for the next 7 generations, we are obligated by honor and duty to do so.

It is critical for us at this time to plead for the presence of witnesses to the continued assault of the DFO, RCMP and Canadian military on our fishermen. Unarmed

members of our community members have suffered repeated violent attacks by government officials; these have not been reported by mainstream media, further compromising our safety and well-being. We have tried our best to trust in the peaceful process of discussion and negotiation, and are left to defend ourselves against the bad faith of the government officials. We thank you for your consideration.

For More Information, please contact:
James Ward: (506) 776-5629
Danny Ward: (506) 776-8589


August 18, 2000


Tough Talk from AFN chief lifts natives

By Tu Thanh Ha
The Globe and Mail
August 18, 2000

Burnt Church, N.B. -- Canadian natives have the right to keep fighting on the water for their share of natural resources even if Ottawa says it's illegal, Assembly of First Nations chief Matthew Coon Come said yesterday in a show of support for the Mi'kmaqs here.

During a visit to this Mi'kmaq reserve, scene of the latest flare-up in the Atlantic native lobster-fishing dispute, Mr. Coon Come urged Fisheries Minister Herb Dhaliwal to stop his agents seizing native lobster traps. "Mister Minister, I ask you to call off your troops."

But behind the strong words were also behind-the-scenes attempts at diplomacy. A meeting between federal negotiator James MacKenzie and the natives is tentatively set for today, fisheries official Andr*-Marc Lanteigne said.

There were also plans to remove temporarily the two roadblocks the natives erected on Highway 11, because of the community's annual pow-wow celebrations this weekend.

Burnt Church residents are discussing whether to dismantle the barricades fully or partly and hand flyers to the passing traffic during the pow-wow, said James Ward, the Mi'kmaq in charge of fishing policy and the barricades. The roadblocks could reappear again after the weekend, he added.

The barricades were erected after 748 traps set by natives were removed from the water by fisheries agents on Sunday, but their impact has been minimal because drivers can detour around them in 10 minutes.

Fisheries agents deem the Burnt Church traps illegal because they exceed the government's non-commercial allotment of 40 cages during the off-season. The Mi'kmaqs want to run the fishery themselves, and their management plan allows up to 5,000 cages.

While a Supreme Court of Canada ruling last year expanded the rights of natives to fish, Ottawa notes that an ensuing court clarification gives it the right to regulate such activities.

"We will have an orderly and regulated fisheries," Mr. Dhaliwal said yesterday.

The natives look beyond Canadian laws, however, and argue, as Mr. Coon Come did yesterday, that international law and the United Nations give them the right to control their own means of living.

"He [Mr. Dhaliwal] is attempting to misrepresent the issues of law, particularly the extent of the federal government's authority," Mr. Coon Come said. "He is clothing the actions of his government in legitimacy when there is none."

Mr. Coon Come's presence gave a visible face to the outside support that the Burnt Church natives are getting from other natives, Mr. Ward said. "We now know that we are not alone in our struggle," said Burnt Church elected chief Wilbur Dedam.

While Mr. Coon Come's tough talk boosted Mi'kmaq morale, Quebec Mi'kmaq chief Allison Metallic was playing good cop, acting as the go-between with federal officials.

"Everything is in the works, everything is coming along pretty good," said Mr. Metallic. He said he had been speaking to local fisheries officials and playing telephone-tag with Mr. MacKenzie, who reached lobster-fishing deals with 29 of Atlantic Canada's 34 native bands.

But first, both sides have to agree on what to talk about. The Mi'kmaqs want their management plan to be recognized, while fisheries officials say the activities of the Mi'kmaqs are illegal.


July 28, 2000===========================


TORONTO: A pattern of harassment

by Natasha J. Krahn
July 28, 2000

On Monday, July 17 two officers from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) showed up on Doug Pritchard's doorstep. "They came wearing bullet proof vests, and carrying pepper spray and handcuffs," Pritchard reported. "One officer came up on the porch while the other waited down below in the yard."

They came to charge Pritchard, the Canadian coordinator of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), in relation to an incident that took place on June 12 in Miramichi Bay in northeastern New Brunswick. CPT maintained an observer presence with the esgenoopetitij First Nation (EFN) during the lobster fishing season this spring.

CPT's presence was requested because earlier this year the EFN refused to sign agreements with the DFO. The EFN have been exercising their treaty rights to regulate their own fisheries and this has gained them unwelcome attention from the DFO, including lobster trap confiscation.

On June 12 at about 1:30 pm three DFO boats with eight officers came and once again began pulling up EFN regulated lobster traps and confiscating them. Two members of the EFN went out on the water in a small twelve foot dory to challenge the officers and Pritchard went along to observe.

The EFN members said that the DFO officers were breaking the law by confiscating the traps, as well as violating treaty rights, stealing fishing equipment and trespassing in territorial waters. The DFO officers responded by circling the dory in their speedboat which generated large waves. Then the DFO officers turned their motor towards the dory, lifted the motor and gunned it. This created a wave that swamped the dory.

Meanwhile another boat from the EFN came out to help, bringing four more members of the EFN and two more observers: Chris Buhler, also of CPT, and Ron Kelly of the Aboriginal Rights Coalition (ARC). When it arrived, the DFO officers rushed towards the boat with full force threatening to broadside it. At the last second, however, they swerved and collided with one of their own boats.

The DFO boats finally left after confiscating about twenty traps.

As a result of this challenge to the DFO's actions, all six EFN members on board the boats have been charged, along with Pritchard, with obstruction of a fisheries officer, which carries a maximum fine of $500,000. Buhler and Kelly were not charged.

"It's a pattern of harassment," Pritchard commented. "First they [the DFO] charge the people who go out to fish. Then they charge the people who go out to challenge the DFO officers. Now they are charging the people who go out to observe."

All those charged are to appear in court in Neguac, New Brunswick in September to enter their pleas and set a date for trial.



[ UPDATES ] [ Background ] [ Wider implications ] [ 2001 ]
2000 : [ Sept. 26th - Nov. ] [ Sept. 23rd - 25th ] [ Sept. 20th - 22nd ] [ Sept.  1st-19th ] [ August ]
Military actions against First Nations, 1995 ] [ Links to First Nations news, Canada ]
Return to MTN Contents ]