Mi'kmaq power, inside and beyond Ottawa, stronger than in past fishery battles

globalnews.ca
6 min read
fairly difficult
'I wonder if they ever thought, 20 years ago, that they'd have two Mi'kmaq senators and a Mi'kmaq MP who could help influence and work with government to find a solution.'
Send this page to someone via email

HALIFAX – When Jaime Battiste was in his early 20s, cable news channels were full of images of Mi'kmaq fishermen in New Brunswick battling federal fisheries officers over seized lobster traps.

Now, Canada's first Mi'kmaq MP is on the inside of federal power, trying to help as the launch of an Indigenous lobster fishery in St. Marys Bay in Nova Scotia meets fierce resistance.

"I wonder if they ever thought, 20 years ago, that they'd have two Mi'kmaq senators and a Mi'kmaq MP who could help influence and work with government to find a solution," the Liberal MP said in a recent interview from his Cape Breton riding.

His role is seen by some observers as one sign Mi'kmaq political influence is gradually growing, when compared to the clashes off Burnt Church, N.B., in Miramichi Bay, between 1999 and 2002.

Story continues below advertisement

Curtis Bartibogue, a Mi'kmaq lobster fisherman who was arrested by Department of Fisheries and Oceans officers during that earlier unrest, said public knowledge of treaty rights remains poor, but governments are more reluctant to bring in enforcement crackdowns.

A Sipekne'katik First Nation community member holds a drum as he sits on lobster traps in Saulnierville, N.S. on Sunday, September 20, 2020. A flotilla of non-Indigenous fishing boats moved into St. Marys Bay off western Nova Scotia on Sunday to remove lobster traps set by fishermen from the Sipekne'katik First Nation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark O'Neill. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark O'Neill

"There's a big difference now between government and Indigenous relationships due to our ability to have our voices within government," he said in an interview Friday from his community, now known as Esgenoopetitj First Nation.

He recently was following closely as Sipekne'katik First Nation held a ceremony on Sept. 17 at Saulnierville wharf in southwestern Nova Scotia, issuing five lobster licences.

2:28 Indigenous lobster traps removed from Nova…
Michael Tutton
Read full article