Fisheries vessels apparently have sunk two Mi’kmaq boats in violent confrontations near the Burnt Church First Nation, in New Brunswick.
Video footage shows federal boats ramming at least one smaller boat and spilling three Native fishermen into the bay, according to one report.
Federal fisheries boats were out picking up what they call illegal lobster traps. The Native fishermen tried to block the government agents, leading to the confrontation.
A federal spokesman called the incident “a nightmare” from a public-relations standpoint, and said conditions are “extremely tense out there.”
Mi’kmaq officials say they are exercizing their treaty right to fish for lobster. The government insists that it is merely regulating the catch for conservation purposes.
“I would condemn any group, Native or non-Native, who would take the law into their own hands,” Fisheries Minister Herb Dhaliwal told a reporter.
But the First Nation retorts that the Fisheries Department stood idly by for decades letting commercial fishers overharvest the region’s cod and other sea creatures.
They say it is ironic that Fisheries is putting so much effort now into stopping a few dozen Mi’kmaq from pursuing their recognized treaty rights.
The Mi’kmaq are calling on other First Nations and Canadians to support their cause. They need help buying boats, traps, food, clothes, video or still cameras and money for gas.
As an added insult, they say the Scalping Proclamation of 1756 is still in effect. It says anyone can legally scalp a Mi’kmaq and claim a reward.
The Nova Scotia government has apparently asked Ottawa to confirm that the 1756 proclamation by then-governor William Lawrence no longer has any force.