Mercredi returns to Miramichi Bay

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
Tuesday, September 26, 2000

BURNT CHURCH, N.B. - The national leader of Canada's natives is sending his highest-profile adviser to Burnt Church with a specific mission in mind Ü don't let the warriors there get into a violent conflict.

Tensions are high on the shores of Miramichi Bay as fisheries officers continue their campaign to remove all lobster traps from the water, and the native fishermen vow to defend their right to fish.


Ovide Mercredi

So Matthew Coon Come has dispatched Ovide Mercredi, the former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

He wants to make sure the situation, which has escalated recently to include incidents of gunshots being fired over the water, doesn't go further.

"It's very important for the people in Burnt Church to use restraint and nonviolence, or the government will win," said Mercredi.

Meanwhile, charges have been laid against a 41-year-old non-native man from nearby Neguac in connection to an incident on Saturday in which shots were fired from a boat.

Roger Leblanc was arrested along with two other men. RCMP say he faces one count of careless use of a firearm and one count of possession of a weapon for dangerous purpose.

The AFN is worried Ottawa is trying to provoke a violent conflict with the warriors at Burnt Church Ü a possibility the warriors themselves are preparing for as they defend their traps.

Yesterday, they led the charge against federal fisheries officers who made a daring dash to seize the last of the native lobster traps set close to the reserve.

"I know myself, along with the others, are willing to put our lives on the line," said James Ward. "We've all talked about it. We've actually had traditional ceremonies concerning it."

The natives are defending their right to fish when and how they choose, something they say is their right by treaty, affirmed last year by the Supreme Court in its Marshall decision.

The federal government has maintained it has the power to regulate all fisheries.

Non-native commercial fishermen insist there be one set of rules for everyone.