Attacks on Mi'kmaq treaty fishing
Burnt Church -
Federal boats assault treaty rights in
September 20 - 22, 2000
|22nd, 21st, 20th|
|[ 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 ]
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ESGENOOPETITJ (BURNT CHURCH)
The deadline for the Mi'kmaq in New Brunswick to submit to federal demands was 9 CST am today. Armed federal forces have moved in to take out tribal lobster traps, despite last year's Supreme Court ruling upholding Mi'kmaq treaty rights.
A support rally is scheduled for Saturday 10 am at the Canadian consulate in Chicago. The consulate officials already knew who Midwest Treaty Network was from our pro-treaty commentary in the Toronto Globe and Mail, and had visited our website. They are very concerned that Americans are following the issue.
Please call the consulate immediately at 312-616-1860 to urge a peaceful resolution of the crisis and a recognition of Mi'kmaq treaty rights. The Minneapolis consulate is (612.) 333-4641.
Grand Chief Leon Jourdain of Grand Council Treaty 3 believes the possibility of a Burnt Church incident occurring in the Treaty 3 area is all too real and he is sending a delegation of members of the Ojibway Ogichiitag Society to support the citizens of Burnt Church in their struggle to protect aboriginal and treaty rights.
The Ogichiitag Society is little known outside Ojibway circles. The society is a warrior society in its purest form. "The Ogichiitag Society and specifically these men are not warriors in the present day 'bastardized' context; they endeavour to live as traditional Ojibway men, which implies pride, traditional values, assertiveness, respect, policing, protection and honour," said Jourdain. They are not aggressive or violent, but rather are strong and honourable.
In dispatching the members of the society to Burnt Church, Jourdain said in a letter to Burnt Church Chief Wilbur Dedam, "I am confident you can count on them to assist your efforts responsibly."
Jourdain expressed his admiration and respect for the efforts of the Burnt Church community in their bid to have court decisions upheld, and their defence of aboriginal and treaty rights.
In his letter to Dedam, Jourdain added, "These Ogichiitag men will place themselves at your disposal, to assist your efforts in any way that you see fit. In the event they are asked to participate in activity that is not consistent with our traditional teachings, they have been instructed to politely refuse. I am confident that you will not ask of them what they cannot complete."
Jourdain wrote that the goal of Treaty 3's grand council is to support the efforts of the Burnt Church community, and to defend treaty and aboriginal rights in a respectful but firm manner consistent with the teachings of Ojibway elders.
He said he felt some action was required to demonstrate that Treaty 3 leadership condemns the government's heavy-handed unilateral action, and the misleading spin they are putting on the dispute. Jourdain questions the government's portrayal of aboriginal lobster fishing as a conservation issue, saying Burnt Church has adopted a strict conservation and management plan which accounts for less than one per cent of the total fishery.
"The possibility of a Burnt Church in Treaty 3 is all too real, government refusal to acknowledge what the courts have determined - that treaty rights exist and must be respected - is cause for increasing frustration. We cannot continue to have pockets of poverty and third world living conditions in resource rich areas," said Jourdain.
He would not say how long the Ogichiitag Society would be expected to remain in Burnt Church, but suggested that their role will be to help the citizens of that community to resolve this issue as quickly as possible.
Jourdain said he has some hope for a mediated settlement due to the appointment of Bob Rae, Ontario's one time premier, as mediator.
Federal Fisheries officers began pulling lobster traps out of Miramichi Bay, New Brunswick late last night even before the government's deadline of 11 a.m. Atlantic time today. Native fishermen are out fishing again and the school at Burnt Church is closed in a community concerned and fearful of more violence. - First Nations across the country are calling for prayers in the wake of Canada's latest raid and the likelihood of more military tactics. - Prayer gatherings are being held in various places including at the Native Canadian Centre in Toronto. This is an international issue now.
A rally is planned for Chicago and in various U.S. cities the Canadian consulates are being targetted with protest calls and faxes. --- The federal court has rejected the Indian Brook First Nation's efforts to halt Federal Fisheries from seizing Native lobster traps. --- National Chief says Aboriginal people across the country are watching the east coast closely. To avoid similar occurences in BC he said the status quo is unacceptable and calls for new incentives to bring progress to the stalled BC Treaty Process. Matthew Coon Come says Canada's must get rid of its extinguishment of aboriginal rights policy. --- The Union of BC Indian Chiefs has reaffirmed its support and launched an emergency fundraising campaign to support the Mi'kmaq. --- Several grand chiefs from Manitoba are in Burnt Church to provide support.
Federal Fisheries officers began to pull lobster traps from Miramichi Bay even before the deadline arrived that was set by the Minister. They weren't supposed to start their raid until eleven o'clock this morning but they started late last night to pull traps out of the water. Despite that, Native fishermen from Burnt Church began fishing again and the Chief and Council refused to give in to government demands they pull out their traps. One sign of the concerns and fears in the community of the potential for more violence - the school at Burnt Church is closed.
First Nations across the country are calling for prayers in the wake of Canada's latest strategy and the likelihood of more military tactics. Canada's Minister of Fisheries has delivered a 24 hour ultimatum to the Burnt Church First Nation - get all the lobster traps out of Miramichi Bay or else. Prayer gatherings will be held in various places including Burnt Church and Toronto and a rally is planned for Chicago. In various U.S. cities Canadian consulates are being targetted with protest calls and faxes.
The federal court has rejected the Indian Brook First Nation's efforts to halt Federal Fisheries from seizing Native lobster traps. The National Chief says Aboriginal people across the country are watching the east coast closely. To avoid similar occurences in BC he said the status quo is unacceptable and calls for new incentives to bring progress to the stalled BC Treaty Process. Matthew Coon Come says Canada's must get rid of its extinguishment of aboriginal rights policy. --- The Union of BC Indian Chiefs has reaffirmed its support and launched an emergency fundraising campaign to support the Mi'kmaq. --- Several grand chiefs from Manitoba are in Burnt Church to provide support.
Yesterday, the People of Burnt Church (Esgenoopetitj) informed their national and international support network that they expect a Canadian government assault on their community members at any time. They have identified a high possibility of this assault occurring at 11 am today, which is the deadline set out by Minister Dhaliwal in his ultimatum to them to stop fishing. They will hold a Public Prayer Vigil on the Burnt Church wharf at that time, and ask Canadians and Aboriginal Peoples across the country to join them in this act.
With the events at Ipperwash Park STILL unresolved, it is clear that Canadian authorities enjoy an unjust impunity when they launch violent assaults on non-violent Aboriginal Rights activists. This has been happening on the Miramichi Bay waters for the past weeks. Today's Prayer Vigil in an act of solidarity. We hope that community support can save lives. People who cannot join the Vigil on such short notice will be taking a few moments for prayer at 11 a.m.
At 10:00 pm last night, the AFN released a statement clarifying the First Nation's and mediator Bob Rae's positions with regards to continuing negotiations, and contradicting mass media reports and comments by Minister Dhaliwal. The AFN released comments by Rae, stating his position that he is willing to continue the mediation process "if both parties agree".
The Chief of the Burnt Church First Nations, Wilbur Dedam, responded to Rae's statement, "I remain committed to work with the mediator and the government. The community is also supportive of the process. The government must now show that they want to work to a peaceful resolution," said Chief Dedam.
"The mediation process is the only possible peaceful solution at this point," said AFN National Chief Coon Come. "In every instance where an understanding was established between the parties, the federal government has been the party to break the agreement. I urge the government to enter the process and to give it a chance to make it work. That has yet to happen."
If there is a raid tomorrow on the community, then the government will have shown that it has no intention or desire to find a peaceful solution. Does 'the war against the Indians' continue?
This message sent
by the Coalition for a Public Inquiry into Ipperwash: 416-537-3520
For information on Vigil, call the Native Canadian Centre at 416-964-9087
AFN (Jean LaRose): (613) 241-6789x251; (613) 795-9664 (cell); (613) 834-1481
PRINCE RUPERT, B.C. (CP) - The explosive fishing dispute in Burnt Church, N.B., is fuelling aboriginal anger across Canada, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations told British Columbia aboriginal leaders Thursday.
"I'd hate to see what could happen across this country," said Matthew Coon Come. "How long can we restrain our people?" Aboriginals are witnessing the federal government, through the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, trampling the constitutional and treaty rights of the Burnt Church native fishermen to catch lobster, he said.
Coon Come suggested Ottawa will do the same thing to quell other aboriginal protests in Canada. "What happens in Burnt Church definitely affects all of us," he said.
B.C.'s First Nations Summit, the largest aboriginal organization in the province, is holding a three-day meeting in this north coast city.
B.C. Premier Ujjal Dosanjh addressed the leaders after Coon Come, but focused his remarks on treaty-making in the province. "The B.C. government continues to believe that success in the current treaty process is critical to long-term stability in this province," he said. "My government believes treaties are a matter of social justice."
The Burnt Church area has been the scene of violent and verbal confrontations between aboriginals and DFO officers, who have been removing lobster traps.
An attempt at reaching a mediated solution ended in failure.
"The federal government seems to be saying it has the right to ram our fishing and ranger's boats, thereby endangering our lives, threatening public peace," Coon Come said. "The Criminal Code says it's wrong. The Constitution says it's wrong. International laws of human rights say it's wrong. Common decency says it's wrong."
He told B.C. aboriginal leaders that Ottawa will take similar steps to end future attempts by natives to exercise their treaty or constitutional rights. "I don't think we can stand back any more and just sit and watch as billions of dollars are being extracted from our land," Coon Come said. "We truly are at the crossroads."
He said he would rather avoid confrontations, but aboriginals must stand together and fight against what is happening in Burnt Church. Coon Come suggested mounting international campaigns and boycotts designed to tarnish Canada's world image as a tolerant nation. "It's not just about blocking roads," he said.
B.C.'s aboriginal leaders appeared to agree with Coon Come's call for unity on Burnt Church. Several said they supported national and international campaigns to bring more attention to aboriginal issues.
Most leaders told Coon Come they were concerned about the slow pace of treaty talks in British Columbia with provincial and federal negotiators.
There are few treaties in British Columbia and many aboriginal groups are voicing frustration about their inability to resolve longstanding disputes with government.
"As we sit here, the First Nations Summit has a war council set up," said Richard Watts, a Vancouver Island aboriginal leader. The summit is looking at ways to speed up the treaty negotiation process and some of its plans include public protests, he said. "I think direct action is probably one of the last ways of doing it," Watts said.
Dosanjh told the aboriginals there is perhaps six months left in his government's current mandate and now is the time to make progress on treaties. "We have to be realistic, this government has a limited amount of time left in its mandate," he said. "Either we work together to make progress now or we miss an opportunity which may not come again for a generation."
Dosanjh, who hinted at a fall election last week, said he was not conceding defeat when he suggested the treaty process needs to move forward quickly or face a possible lengthy delay.
He must call an election by June 2001. Dosanjh is leading an NDP government struggling to stay above 20 per cent in the public opinion polls. The Opposition Liberals, harsh critics of the treaty process, are hovering near 50 per cent.
Grand Chief Edward John, a summit leader, joked about a bad political wind on the horizon, but warned that aboriginal people were not about to sign away their futures to meet a political time line. "Justice in our time, that's what we are looking for," he said. "We cannot abandon that for the sake of a real estate deal."
He said the eight treaty offers made by the federal and provincial governments to B.C. aboriginal nations have all been rejected.
The AFN has issued the following statement tonight at 22:00 hours.
Contrary to media reports and the statement by Minister Dhaliwal in the Commons today, the mediator, the Honourable Bob Rae, has not "quit" and is willing to continue the mediation process "if both parties agree".
Burnt Church has agreed.
We are awaiting the response from the Minister. If there is a raid tomorrow on the community, then the government will have shown us that it wasn't serious in finding a solution.
This notice asks for prayers at 11:00 am EST today, when another awful raid is expected; please pass it along.
Last month, about a week after I wrote my first press release asking for prayers for Esgenoopetitj, Nina, one of the CPT observers came to tell me, "You keep asking for those prayers, I think it's working! I believe this too, especially since more of us are asking for prayers now. Those of you who would rather think "positive thoughts" can do this, it will help too.
Thank you for your continued support. Willi
September 21, 2000 1:18 PM
From: JLaRose JLarose@AFN.CA
To: "Wilhelmina Nolan (E-mail)" firstname.lastname@example.org From:aboriginal rights coalition email@example.com
The following message from ARC Atlantic member Judy Loo explains that observers in Esgenoopetitj expect a morning raid by government officials. Please do all you can to help. Let me know if you need more information.
Sept, 21, 2000 16:38:59
I just received a call from Brigid, one of the observers in Esgenoopetitj. She says that people expect a raid tomorrow morning, on the basis of Dhaliwal's press conference, and probably other information. They do not, at this point, expect the non-native fishers to come into the bay cutting traps.
There are three boats from the community in the bay as I write this, doing a count. An Observer and a Christian Peacemaker Teams member are on the boats along with three independent observers, including Brian Atkinson, a member of our Oxfam group and a former accompanier in Guatemala, who is also a photo journalist. The RCMP apparently declined to participate in the count after saying all along that they would.
The community is planning a prayer vigil tomorrow. They ask for our prayers too, particularly around 11:00 when they expect the raid to occur. 200 Aboriginal and non-aboriginal people are coming from Manitoba and are expected to be present in the community tomorrow, along with many other supporters from various locations. They are hoping that there will not be a confrontation on the water - instead they plan to pray.
I have been asked by Karen Sommerville, the spokeperson for the fishing issue in Esgenoopetitj, to ask you to organize public prayer vigils around 11:00 tomorrow morning, if possible. Please share this information in any way you want to.
HELP!! Burnt Church Situation Worsens
Sept. 21, 2000 11:10:49
Willi Nolan firstname.lastname@example.org
Please respond immediately to this plea for help to stop increasing militaristic attacks from the Canadian government on the people of Esgenoopetitj/Burnt Church, NB. The writer chose not to mention the increasing threat of extreme violence from non-native fishers (a number of Esgenoopetitj residents and Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) observers have already suffered violence from non-native fishers and Dept of Fisheries & Oceans (DFO) staff!); please understand that this possibility is imminent. For your convenience, I attach a copy of my letter to my own MP, Angela Vautour, at the end of this message.
I suggest that, in addition to Prime Minister Chretien, Ministers Dhaliwal and Nault and Wouters, that you contact your own elected representatives and leaders of any religious organizations that you can make contact with, and demand their immediate action to demand that Canada stops these "enforcement actions". I am currently working with the United Church of Canada and the Inter Faith Council of Halifax to organize Inter-Faith Prayer Gatherings (and media coverage for same) to seek peace and cooperation between government and First Nations, and most especially, to encourage dialogue between First Nations and non-native fishers in their dangerous positions as pawns behind a smokescreen of corporate interests.
After working with this crisis for a while now, I am convinced that unless the Canadian government is embarrased into it via a deluge of national and international protest, that they will continue to deny that their activities are contrary to the law and morality.
Your continued support is gratefully acknowledged and critical at this time.
Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Dear Mr. Nault;
I am writing to express the concerns of our organisation over the failure of the federal government to adequately protect aboriginal fishers who are exercising their treaty rights in Burnt Church, New Brunswick.
The Burnt Church first nation is trapping lobster as per their right defined by the Marshall decision last year. However, since that decision, there has been a blatantly racist outpouring against aboriginal fishers exercising their rights.
The false argument has been raised that somehow the issues at stake are those of balancing environmental concerns with those of first nations fishing rights. Nothing could be more false. The aboriginal fishery comprises less than one percent of the entire commercial lobster haul. If there is anything jeopardising the long-term viability of the lobster fisheries, it is not aboriginal fishers, but rather the commercial fisheries.
In the same way that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans failed to protect the cod fishery, despite warnings from its own department, so has the department failed to protect the lobster fishery. Now, however, it is convenient to use aboriginal fishers as the scapegoat for the government's own mismanagement.
Our organisation urges you to intervene to ensure that aboriginal treaty rights are respected allowing first nations fishers full access to lobster fishing. We call on you to ask your government to stop scapegoating the Burnt Church first nation and to stand up against the racist attacks unleashed by your government's attempt to mitigate the Marshal decision.
RCMP, DFO AND POSSIBLY MILITARY
URGENT - HELP NEEDED - URGENTSeptember 20, 2000
TO: ALL ALLIES
FROM: Coalition for a Public Inquiry into Ipperwash
The Coalition has just recieved a emergency call for support from the AFN re: Burnt Church.
From the vantage point of our work in the Ipperwash Coalition we know too well that this can have a tragic ending that will have repercussions for many years to come.
I have attempted the calls they request (see below). The P.M.'s line does not answer at night; I left messages at the #'s given for Dhaliwal and Nault, and the number for Wayne Wouters (as I discovered!) is his home - so I got to speak with him; he had had a FEW calls already.
Please let Jean LaRose at the AFN know what you have done: JLarose@AFN.CA
Coalition for a Public Inquiry into Ipperwash
t: 416-537-3520, f: 416-538-2559, e: email@example.com
September 20, 2000 18:50
We have just learned that the situation in Burnt Church has deteriorated.
The federal government has refused to discuss any of the issues notwithstanding the goodwill displayed by the community to make the mediation process work.
Current reports state that the mediator, Bob Rae, has or will quit due to the federal intransigence. Of greater concern to all of us are the reports that major, very major enforcement action including the DFO, RCMP and possible military assistance will be undertaken tonight or early tomorrow.
This will lead to a serious confrontation with possible, if not probable, injuries to our citizens.
You are all urged to call the various federal players in this dispute and strongly voice your concern about the government's actions.
The phone numbers are:
Wayne Wouters: (613) 236-5265 phone (Note from AP: this is a home DM at DFO
Minister Nault: (819) 994-7617 phone (819) 953-4941 fax
Please call now and relay this message (with cc's to me, if you would) to all your contacts.
The situation is critical.
Jean LaRose Media Relations / Relations avec les m�dias
Willi Nolan firstname.lastname@example.org
Sept. 2000 01:16:04
Dear Ms. Vautour:
I received the message below, which outlines the Canadian government's increasing use of militaristic force against the people of Burnt Church. My understanding of the situation is that by law, the Canadian government MUST negotiate in good faith with the First Nations people, and that enforcement activity is contrary to Canadian law and constitution in this situation.
Legal experts have informed published reports that DFO and RCMP attacks on Burnt Church are criminal and unconscionable.
Please respond to my request as your constituent, for your intervention without delay, and demand on my behalf that the government officials not hold themselves above the law, avoid potential injuries and deaths, and stop embarrassing the people of Canada with regard to acknowledging First Nations Treaty rights and Human Rights to the use of our vast national resources.
As the world watches and reports on this situation, it has become more than apparent that DFO is covering up a $500 million lobster fishing industry dominated by multinational corporations. It is also apparent that both non-native and First Nations fishers are being played as pawns with their lives and livelihoods offered up to protect large national and foreign business interests.
Thank you for your expeditious response to my request. I further request that you provide me with copies of any correspondence that you undertake with regard to this situation.
AND THIS FROM ARMAND MCKENZIE, INNU NATION LEGAL COUNSEL
Here is another number where you can send your letters:
As a representative for a non-governmental organization in consultative status at the U.N. We have already phoned at Minister Nault's office and at Herb Dhaliwal's office. We have already sent letters of support to Mr. Dedam's office and are sending letters stating our concerns to various federal officials and human rights organizations in Canada and at the United Nations.
(From here I reached Heather Bala on her cell and got busy numbers at the others - will keep trying - AP / CPI)
Tension increases in fishing disputeSeptember 20, 2000 5:56 PM EDT
BURNT CHURCH, N.B. - The agreement mediator Bob Rae reached Tuesday night with leaders of the Burnt Church reserve has yet to proceed, and that has commercial fishermen edgy.
Natives and federal fisheries officials were to have held a joint count of lobster traps in Miramichi Bay and all untagged traps would be removed. As of late Wednesday, however, now counting had taken place.
That has commercial fishermen angry. Tuesday night dozens of them gathered at the wharf in Neguac as federal fisheries officials prepared to conduct another raid on the native traps. The situation was volatile, and RCMP officers were called in. The fisheries people decided not to inflame the situation, so they cancelled the raid and police escorted them away from the wharf.
Some non-native fishermen had earlier warning mediator Rae that there could be bloodshed if the dispute wasn't settled soon.
Burnt Church braces for violence
[ 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 ]