Monday, June 14, 2021

Demonstration in support of Indigenous Nova Scotia fishers planned in Victoria

(Demonstration in solidarity with Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs who opposed the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline in northern B.C., February 2020/Photo by Brishti Basu)

The W̱SÁNEĆ First Nations of Tsawout, Tsartlip, and Tseycum are planning to blockade a Victoria highway as part of a demonstration in solidarity with Mi’kmaq lobster fishers in Nova Scotia.

The procession will begin at 11:30 a.m. on October 23 at the Tsawout band office. From there, demonstrators will head to the intersection of Pat Bay Highway and Mt Newton X Road.

They plan to blockade the highway for about one hour, between 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. Central Saanich Police say they are aware of the demonstration and diversions will be in place for drivers as the highway will be closed from Island View Rd to Amity Dr.

The demonstration has been organized to show support for Mi’kmaw lobster fishers in Nova Scotia who have been the target of commercial fishers for weeks.

Recently, according to APTN News, an angry mob of commercial fishers barricaded Mi’kmaw fishers in a lobster pound three hours west of Halifax. After police escorted to Mi’kmaw fishers out, the commercial fishers then stole their lobsters.

A few days later, the lobster pound in question was burned to the ground in a fire that has been deemed suspicious by police.

Tracy Underwood, Tsawout First Nation resident and one of the organizers of the demonstration on Friday, says she expects up to 70 to 80 people will show up.

“We support the Mi’kmaq treaty rights and livelihood because we are [on] Douglas Treaties here in W̱SÁNEĆ and our treaty has been in just as much turmoil as theirs,” said Underwood in an interview with Victoria Buzz.

“We understand closely what they’re going through so we support them.”

Underwood says Indigenous hunters, fishermen, and gatherers on Vancouver Island have long suffered similar restrictions to their livelihoods, on a quieter scale than what Mi’kmaw fishers are going through right now.

“Ever since I was a child, my dad practiced his rights to hunting, fishing and gathering and one [his livelihoods] was clams. And he had many encounters with Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) officers who would even lie to infringe on our rights,” said Underwood.

She said the authorities would go to lengths of closing the beach at irregular times, “look down on our people”, and take away her father’s clams and dump them (“it was just a big waste”).

“I know many of our hunter-gatherers can tell stories for a long time about how our rights were infringed and stopped and not totally understood,” she said.

Underwood herself is a PhD student at the University of Victoria who conducts presentations for various organizations to help settlers better understand W̱SÁNEĆ First Nations treaty rights, their languages, customs, and relationships with other First Nations.

She has recently been invited to present her insights, perspectives, and experiences to Vancouver Island RCMP detachments.

Underwood was also involved in a demonstration at the same Pat Bay Highway/Mount Newton X Road intersection earlier this year, in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who opposed the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline in northern B.C.

“Our treaty rights are so important and it is so important for our children to see that we need to fight for our rights.”

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