Mi'kmaw fishermen to assert treaty right for lobster fishing in court case

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The men said they landed 2,560 lobsters, which were seized by Fisheries officers and returned to the water.  (Kayla Hounsell/CBC - image credit)
The men said they landed 2,560 lobsters, which were seized by Fisheries officers and returned to the water. (Kayla Hounsell/CBC - image credit)

The stage is now set in Nova Scotia for another round in the court battles over Indigenous fishing rights.

The lawyer for four Mi'kmaw fishermen appeared by phone Tuesday in Yarmouth provincial court.

The men admit they were fishing for lobster aboard the vessel Charlene Helen off Pinkney's Point, Yarmouth County, in September 2019.

The area they were fishing in is part of Lobster Fishing Area 34, which was closed to fishing activity at the time.

Two of the men — 31-year-old Ashton Joseph Bernard and 22-year-old Arden Joseph Bernard — are members of the Eskasoni First Nation. The other two men — 22-year-old Rayen Gage Francis and 34-year-old Zachery Cuevas Nicholas — are members of the Pictou Landing First Nation.

In an agreed statement of facts entered into evidence, the men admitted they landed 2,560 lobsters that day, which were seized by Fisheries officers and returned to the water. The officers also seized 32 lobster traps.

Exercising treaty right

The men said they were not authorized to fish for lobster under Atlantic fisheries regulations or the Aboriginal communal fishing licences regulations. They plan to argue that they were exercising their treaty right to fish.

The case will return to court in April.

A fifth man, Michael Roland Surette, was charged along with the other four fishermen. Surette is not Indigenous and the Crown requested that his charges be severed from the other four cases, which are proceeding together.

The judge granted the Crown's request for severance. Surette is still working on getting a lawyer to represent him.

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