October 16, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
OTTAWA – The Indigenous Bar Association (IBA) in Canada denounces the attack by non-Indigenous fishermen on Mi’kmaw harvesters providing a livelihood and food for their families and community in Mi’kma’ki (what is currently known as Nova Scotia).
The recent violent and disturbing acts of terrorism are directly linked to the federal governments’ failure to uphold the Peace and Friendship Treaties and implement the Supreme Court of Canada’s landmark decisions in R. v. Marshall. This harmful deterioration of the relationship between the Crown and the Mi’kmaw in the region is compounded by the RCMP’s inaction during the attacks.
The IBA stands in solidarity with the Mi’kmaw. As sovereign nations, they have been negotiating with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada for a Mik’maw-managed fishery. The ongoing violence experienced by the Mi’kmaw highlights a reluctance to respect Treaties and obey laws around Mi’kmaw fishing rights, on the part of non-Indigenous businesses and people. Treaty rights are a part of the constitutional fabric of Canada. Canada is a party to the Peace and Friendship Treaties, and a partner with the Mi’kmaw in Confederation. As such, the federal government is obligated to respect the rights embedded within those Treaties, Canadian law. They must enforce the terms of the Treaties by immediately de- escalating tensions between non-Indigenous businesses and Mi’kmaw providers.
The RCMP also has a responsibility to act and de-escalate tension but, IBA President Drew Lafond says “they have once again been unresponsive to the terrorism and violence inflicted upon the Mi’kmaw.”
“As seen far too many times in the last year—and as was also an issue when violence erupted against the Mi’kmaw following the Marshall decision—the RCMP is quick to act against Indigenous people, but slow to step forward and protect Indigenous lives, property or livelihoods,” said IBA President Drew Lafond.
“This inaction undermines any trust that Indigenous peoples have on the RCMP as an institution. It further calls into question their statements and commitment to combating systemic racism within their ranks, and the justice system at large. The RCMP must do better, before this senseless violence creates even more losses for the Mi’kmaw”
The situation unfolding in Mi’kma’ki evokes events earlier this year on Wet’suwet’en Territory, when the RCMP failed to take decisive action to uphold the rule of law. Instead of protecting the right of the Wet’suwet’en to protect their territories, police led a shocking tear-down reconciliation in a moment that will not be forgotten by Indigenous Peoples for generations.
The rule of law, a foundational principle in Canada, means the law applies equally to everyone and no one is above it. The facts of this week’s attack on Mi’kmaw fisheries and their livelihoods shows the one-sided nature of how the rule of law is being upheld and enforced around Indigenous nations in Canada today.
“The unlawful use of violent tactics to coerce, intimidate and pressure the Mi’kmaw providers is boldfaced terrorism, plain and simple. The IBA wholly supports the Sipekne’katik First Nation and other Mi’kmaw in
their fight against unlawful violence. “We offer our support to the Nation in any efforts of peaceful conciliation that they may deem fit,” Lafond furthered.
“The Supreme Court of Canada has already found that the Mi’kmaw have the right to a moderate livelihood in Mi’kma’ki fisheries. Why are we still having this conversation? Over twenty years after the conclusive decision in Marshall, why is implementation and exercise of rights that have been recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada still a live issue? Again, this calls into question Canada’s willingness to deliver on its promises under Treaty or act to uphold the honour of the Crown.”
The IBA is a national non-profit association comprised of Indigenous lawyers (practicing and non- practicing), legal academics and scholars, articling clerks and law students, including graduate and post- graduate law students. Our mandate is to promote the advancement of legal and social justice for Indigenous Peoples in Canada and the reform of laws and policies affecting Indigenous Peoples