2nd man charged with assault amid Nova Scotia lobster fishery tensions

RCMP in Meteghan, N.S., have charged a second man with assault a month after a fish plant in New Edinburgh was vandalized.

In a release Saturday morning, the RCMP said they charged 74-year-old Yvon Thibault of Digby County with two counts of assault in relation to the Oct. 14 incident.

Another man was arrested last month for allegedly assaulting Sipekne'katik Chief Mike Sack that same day.

RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Andrew Joyce clarified Saturday morning that Thibault is not accused of assaulting Sack. He said there were two other victims that day.

The alleged assaults at the New Edinburgh facility happened the day after several hundred lobster fishermen ransacked two lobster plants in southwest Nova Scotia last month. Mi'kmaw fishers had been storing their catches in the buildings.

Robert Short/CBC
Robert Short/CBC

The second plant in Middle West Pubnico was destroyed in a suspicious fire on Oct. 16. Police are seeking the public's help to identify two persons of interest.

Thibault is scheduled to appear in Digby provincial court on Feb. 15, 2021.

"The Nova Scotia RCMP will continue to take steps to ensure that those who unlawfully interfere with or threaten the safety of any person or property may be held accountable in accordance with the laws of Canada," police said in the release.

Weeks of unrest

At the time of these incidents, tensions were running high between non-Indigenous commercial fisherman and First Nations fishermen who had started a moderate livelihood lobster fishery outside the federally mandated commercial season.

Commercial fisherman have been accused of damaging First Nations fishing gear, torching a van and stealing lobster.

Twenty-one years ago, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled the Mi'kmaq had the right to earn a "moderate livelihood" from fishing. The court later said the federal government could regulate the Mi'kmaw fishery but must justify any restrictions it placed on it.

Many commercial lobster fishermen say they consider the new Sipekne'katik fishery in St. Marys Bay illegal and worry that catching lobster outside the mandated season, particularly during the summer spawning period, will negatively impact stocks.