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A 24-year-old man from East Pubnico, N.S., is facing a charge of arson in connection with a lobster pound fire in Middle West Pubnico, last October.
RCMP say they were called to the fish plant near midnight on Oct. 16, 2020, after receiving a report of a fire. The fire destroyed the plant, which was unoccupied at the time.
Brendon Douglas James Porter of East Pubnico was arrested on Wednesday and charged with arson. He has been released on conditions and is scheduled to appear in Shelburne provincial court next month.
At the time of the fire, tensions were running high between non-Indigenous commercial fishermen and First Nations fishermen who had started a moderate livelihood lobster fishery outside the federally mandated commercial season.
The blaze broke out at one of two facilities raided and vandalized by commercial fishermen in southwest Nova Scotia earlier that week protesting the moderate livelihood fishery.
Mi'kmaw fishers were storing their catches at the facilities.
One person was seriously injured in the fire at the lobster pound and was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries. Police said at the time that the injured person was "a person of interest" in the investigation.
RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Chris Marshall confirmed on Friday that Porter was the person who was injured.
After the fire, police released images taken from a surveillance camera at the fish plant, asking for the public's help to identify two people. Marshall could not say whether Porter is one of the people in the images.
Asked why it took nine months for police to lay the arson charge, Marshall said it can take longer to investigate large fires where there is significant damage.
"Interviewing witnesses, gathering further surveillance, trying to gather further evidence, if there's any, and basically following up on every lead can take a significant amount of time, especially in a large incident where there's lots of damage," he said.
"Sometimes even knowing the identity of someone versus being able to gather enough evidence and gather all the facts and be able to present all that information to a prosecutor for prosecution in court, sometimes does take time."
Accused released on conditions
Porter has been released on conditions, including that he:
Remain in Nova Scotia.
Have no contact with 10 specific people.
Not possess any weapons.
Not consume controlled substances.
Not consume alcohol outside his home.
Refrain from participating in any activity that interferes with the fishing activities of another individual, group, association, community, band or company.
Porter is also under house arrest except for when he needs to go to work or attend medical appointments.
Asked about the alcohol prohibition, Marshall said, "in any case, I guess, if somebody's being released on a condition with no alcohol, then there's usually an indication that alcohol may have been used in the commission of the offence."
Pending charges and previous convictions
Porter is currently facing a number of other charges, including breaking and entering and mischief from an incident on March 14, 2021, breaking and entering on May 8, 2021, and six counts of failing to comply with release order conditions for incidents between May 1 and July 10, 2021.
He has also been convicted of previous offences, including being in possession of undersized lobster, fishing for lobster during closed season, refusing a breathalyzer and failing to comply with an undertaking, all of which occurred in 2015.
In 2016, he was sentenced for driving with a blood-alcohol level over 0.08 and forcible entry, and in 2017 he was convicted of failing to return incidental fish catches and failing to comply with a recognizance or undertaking.
He is also one of three fishermen who were fined for fisheries violations after they were caught on video abusing a seal pup on their fishing boat in 2017. The pup was also killed, though that was not seen in the video.
The charges in that case involved mistreatment of a marine mammal and treatment of incidental catch. Porter was also charged with fishing without a registration card in relation to that incident. Porter was ordered to pay a fine of $2,500.
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