Christian group vows to keep peace during tribal fishery off Nova Scotia
Wednesday, June 13, 2001
DIGBY, Nova Scotia. Two Christian peacemakers arrived in southwestern Nova Scotia this week, prepared to place themselves in harm’s way if tensions escalate over the tribal lobster fishery on St. Mary’s Bay.
”Ours is a violence reduction group,” Doug Pritchard, the 52-year-old director of Christian Peacemaker Teams, said Wednesday in a telephone interview from Toronto.
”Our team is in Digby at the moment and will be joining (Indian Brook band members) once they’re ready to fish if they fear there is a risk of violence,” he said.
The observer force was invited by the Indian Brook band, Pritchard said.
The band, near Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia, has indicated it may begin its summer fishery this week on the waters off Digby County, where it plans to fish more than the 35 traps allocated by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
No one from the band was available for comment Wednesday.
In Ottawa, federal Fisheries Minister Herb Dhaliwal vowed to stop tribal fishermen from holding a fishery.
”If they fish illegally, we’ll enforce the law,” he said without elaborating.
St. Mary’s Bay and Burnt Church, New Brunswick, have been flashpoints for violence between tribal fishermen and non-native fishermen and fisheries officers since the landmark Marshall decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in 1999.
The peacemakers will also contact Royal Canadian Mounted Police and DFO officials to let them know they are in the area, Pritchard said.
”We want to hold law enforcement officials to account,” he said.
”That was a real concern in our observations at (Burnt Church) last year, that the fisheries officials and police were using what we believe was excessive force even dangerous and reckless use of force as they patrolled the fishery and seized traps.”
He said the peacemakers were in New Brunswick last year from April to October at the request of the Esgenoopetitj First Nation at Burnt Church.
”There was no bloodshed last year and I think folk in the region were attributing that in part to the presence of observer teams like ourselves,” Pritchard said.
”It has been our experience that people who are visible with cameras in an area can restrain the hands of those who are bent on violence.”