On Monday, Sipekne’katik First Nation chief Michael Sack held a planned press conference to announce the opening of its new treaty fishery season. What wasn’t planned was Sack’s arrest following the press conference. Ku’ku’kwes News was on scene in Saulnierville, reporting that a handful of boats headed into the St. Mary’s Bay after the announcement.
The arrest comes less than a month after Mi’kmaq lobster boats were cut from a nearby wharf, and nearly a year after disputes over a “moderate livelihood” fishery made national headlines when a lobster pound storing the catch of Mi'kmaw fishers was burnt down.
Last week, with the Nova Scotia election nearing its end and the federal election campaign about to start, chief Sack told CBC that treaty rights were an important election issue. After Sack announced the fishery would open, federal fisheries minister Bernadette Jordan called it “very concerning” and “unauthorized.”
But Sack says the band is asserting treaty rights, and the “treaty fishery” (Sipekne’katik is no longer using the term “moderate livelihood fishery”) will employ about 100 people on 15-to-20 boats. Before his arrest, Sack made an announcement at the Saulnierville wharf, saying 13 treaty fishing licenses had been given out, but the band was still worried about government interference.
“Our people know that there’s nothing they can do,” he said. “If they’re going to take our traps, we’ll get more traps and fight them in court for the last ones. It’s unfortunate that they can come in and push their weight and do what they want and not be held accountable.”
The DFO also made a series of tweets saying it wouldn’t back down.
Anyone found to be fishing without proper authorization may be subject to enforcement action. Improperly or untagged lobster traps will be hauled and seized.— DFO Maritimes (@DFO_MAR) August 16, 2021
Just before 3pm, chief Sack was released from the department of fisheries and oceans office in Methegan. Ku’ku’kwes News reported he has not been charged with anything.