Condemnation of Racist Attacks on Mi’kmaq Fishermen
September 28, 2020
We, the SSMU Executives, Indigenous students, and allies at McGill University, condemn in the strongest possible terms both the recent violence perpetrated against the Mi’kmaq fishermen in Saulnierville, Nova Scotia, at the hands of non-Indigenous fishermen, as well as the Federal Government’s failure to respond to long-held and rising anti-Indigenous sentiment. Non-Indigenous politicians and leaders have done little to ease the tensions as conflict has escalated in light of the Mi’kmaq’s recent attempts to assert their sovereignty and their constitutionally protected treaty right to fish according to the 1752 Peace and Friendship Treaty. This Treaty provides that “[the Mi’kmaq] shall not be hindered from, but have free liberty of Hunting & Fishing as usual”. These rights were later upheld in the 1999 Marshall decision, which maintained that the Mi’kmaq are entitled to fish for a “moderate livelihood” and are not required to be in possession of a license or limit their activities to within any particular time of year.
Sipekne’katik First Nation kicked off its first “moderate livelihood fishery” at the Saulnierville wharf two weeks ago in peaceful celebration and ceremony on the 21st anniversary of the Marshall decision, only to be met with violence at the hands of non-Indigenous fishermen with little action taken by the Federal and Provincial Governments to protect the Sipekne’katik Nation, their fishing equipment, and their rights. Mi’kmaq fishing boats have since been blocked, lobster traps cut, and flares dangerously fired at fishing boats in a series of violent attacks by non-Indigenous fishermen in protest of the fishery.
These tensions are nothing new, with ongoing racism and conflict on the rise since the Marshall decision. To complicate things further, public perception on the matter is skewed by problematic news coverage labelling the constitutionally protected fishing activities as “illegal.”
These attacks and others like these not only affect the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia, but constitute attacks on all Indigenous peoples of Canada. Indigenous students at McGill and all over Canada suffer their effects, as they are just a few of the many reminders that Canada does not respect and uphold Indigenous peoples as sovereign, self-determining nations. The Canadian Government and non-Indigenous citizens alike must be held accountable for the ongoing colonial violence perpetrated against Indigenous peoples. As such, we demand that the Federal Government take decisive action to protect the rights of Mi’kmaq fishermen and call upon students and allies to join us in standing unequivocally in support of the Mi’kmaq.
Indigenous Affairs Commissioner / Indigenous Affairs Commissioner
Brooklyn Frizzle / Vice-President (University Affairs)
Jemark Earle / President
Gifford Marpole / Vice-President (Finance)
Maheen Akter / Vice-President (Student Life)
Ayo Ogunremi / Vice-President (External Affairs)
Linked below is a compilation of resources to support Mi’kmaq in exercising their treaty rights.