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Charges laid after alleged threats on social media directed at Indigenous fishers

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SHELBURNE, N.S. – Alleged online threats to Indigenous fishers made on social media have resulted in charges laid against a Shelburne County man, with the RCMP looking for a second man. 

According to a Sept. 27 RCMP media release, following a month-long investigation a 36-year-old man from Clyde River, Shelburne County, is facing two counts of uttering threats and is scheduled to appear in Shelburne Provincial Court on Dec. 6. His name was not released.

He was arrested without incident on Sept. 22, near a residence in Clyde River and was released from custody later that day. The RCMP are attempting to locate a second man.

Both men are alleged to have made online threats to Indigenous fishers who are fishing in the waters off southwestern Nova Scotia.

"The RCMP 's role in a situation such as this is to keep the peace, while keeping in mind that everyone has the right to freedom of expression by publicly voicing their opinion in a peaceful and lawful manner," said Supt. Bruce Stuart, acting Southwest Nova District Policing Officer. "We take allegations of threats seriously and following a thorough investigation charges are being laid."

There has been some tension in the region over the past couple of months as commercial lobster fishermen have held demonstrations saying they feel the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is not doing enough to enforce what they claim to be out-of-season commercial sales of lobster. They have said they are not demonstrating against the food, social and ceremonial (FSC) fishery – an enshrined right upheld by the court – but they are protesting against other activity they claim is happening by some under the guise of the FSC fishery.

It has led to heated debate on social media platforms, such as Facebook.

RCMP media relations officer Corporal Jennifer Clarke said people must remember that any words of a threatening nature are treated the same by police and the court regardless of whether they are said face-to-face to someone, or if they are posted online. Both methods can carry the same serious criminal implications.

“You can't just say stuff without consequence on there,” she said about online activity.

WE HAVE A RIGHT

On Sept. 26, the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs issued a media release saying the Mi'kmaq have a constitutional Right to harvest for a moderate livelihood. The assembly of chiefs say in the 1999 Donald Marshall ruling, the Supreme Court of Canada found a series of Treaties signed in 1760-61 by the Mi’kmaq and the British Crown are still valid, and that there is the right for Mi’kmaq to harvest and sell fish, wildlife, wild fruit and berries to provide a moderate livelihood.

“The time is long overdue for DFO to recognize the Supreme Court’s ruling on our Right to a Moderate Livelihood Fishery,” said Chief Terrance Paul, Lead of Fisheries for the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs. “We have been calling on DFO to work with the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia to properly implement this fishery from the moment the Marshall Decision came down.”

 “Mi’kmaq have fished these waters since time immemorial. We practice Netukulimk (a Mi’kmaw concept of responsible co-existence with the Earth’s resources and each other, without jeopardizing the integrity or diversity of the environment) as conservation and management of resources has always been an important part of our culture,” continued Chief Paul. “Yet, the issue still remains that we have a constitutional right that DFO has not recognized, and a need to feed and to provide a livelihood for our people.”

Chief Paul added, “We are prepared to have these crucial discussions, but the onus is on DFO to come to the table to work, in good faith, with the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia.”

In recent weeks DFO has said Indigenous fishers have a protected right to fish for food, social and ceremonial purposes, noting after conservation of the resource this is the next priority. But DFO has also said buying and selling in the FSC fishery contrary to the regulations is not permitted. It has promised heightened enforcement to ensure rules and regulations are being followed.

At a lobster forum held in Yarmouth on Sept. 20, assistant fisheries deputy minister Morley Knight said the department wanted to work collaboratively with commercial harvesters and First Nations communities to reach solutions, while reiterating that it is important that FSC fishing rights are respected and upheld. He referenced the moderate livelihood right in passing but did not expand on this.

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