Indians resume lobster fishery as solution eludes Dhaliwal

The Vancouver Sun
Thursday, October 7, 1999

BURNT CHURCH, N.B. -- Native Indian fishermen went to sea again Wednesday to exercise their new rights to harvest lobster after a night tense with suspicion that their reserve was under threat of further attack by white fishermen.

The Mi'kmaq warriors, a native militia group called in from across New Brunswick as violence between native and non-native fishermen escalated, spent a tense night and day on alert following the torching of a ceremonial site on the Burnt Church Indian reserve on Tuesday.

The blaze was the latest in a string of suspicious fires on and around the native reserve, which has become the centre of an increasingly violent dispute since the Supreme Court of Canada ruled three weeks ago that East Coast natives could fish out of season while white fishermen sit idle and fuming over fish stock depletion.

Fisheries Minister Herb Dhaliwal, MP for Vancouver South- Burnaby, emerged from an all-day meeting with native chiefs Wednesday without the consensus he was looking for to impose a temporary moratorium on lobster fishing in an attempt to bring the dispute under control.

Twenty-five of the 35 native reserves affected by the court decision said they did not object to a moratorium -- but none of those 25 reserves represented is fishing lobster.

Of the 10 reserves involved in the lobster fishery, nine said they would continue to fish despite the vocal and sometimes violent objection of non-natives. One reserve has already pulled in its traps.

Dhaliwal said he will consult his officials before deciding what, if any, action he will take to bring calm to the fishery.

The dispute is threatening to draw in U.S. Indians as a Maine Indian tribe believes the court ruling also applies to it because it was covered by the same 1760 treaty on which the Supreme Court of Canada's decision was based.

The National Post said Wednesday that Passamaquoddy fishermen from Maine are preparing to begin fishing in Canadian waters by early November.

''It's only right,'' Edward Bassett, lieutenant-governor of the Pleasant Point Passamaquoddy tribe, was quoted as saying. ''The U.S-Canada border wasn't put there by us.''