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Nova Scotia to Alberta: Racism runs rampant

John Bell

September 23, 2020

In Nova Scotia, Mi’kmaw lobster fishers have been under literal attack from commercial fishers for exercising their treaty rights. Past Supreme Court rulings have recognized their rights to hunt, fish and conduct commercial trade.

As Pam Palmater asks: “[W]hen Mi’kmaw at Sipekne’katik (formerly Indian Brook First Nation) develop their own governance plan for their fisheries, they are met with racism, threats, violence and destruction of their fishing gear. Where is the so-called ‘rule of law’ when Mi’kmaw rights and lives are at risk?”

The short answer is, federal and provincial politicians pander to rural settler fishers for votes and the big commercial fishing corporations that pull the strings. The “rule of law” and Indigenous treaty rights are swept aside when billions of dollars are on the line.

So we see the RCMP stand idly by while white fishers, some clutching the Acadian flag, attack Mi’kmaw boats, destroy equipment and threaten Indigenous fishers. In a new development, gangs of white fishers have been surrounding the homes of allies who dare to purchase lobster from the Mi’kmaw.

The Acadians were early francophone settlers who were allied with the Mi’kmaw against the British. They were expelled en masse in the midst 18th century, specifically to weaken Mi’kmaw resistance. Use of Acadian symbolism by modern corporate settlers is a typical ploy of the far-right and an insult to history.

Sipekne’katik First Nation, at the centre of the violence, has granted 7 licenses to boats using 50 traps each. According to treaty rights they can fish outside the established commercial fishing season. White fishers make the bogus argument that the Mi’kmaw fishers will deplete the lobster stock, ignoring the fact that Indigenous people have been sustainably harvesting from the sea since before European incursion.

As one Mi’kmaw activist points out, Nova Scotia has granted 985 licenses and each of those commercial boats can use between 375 and 400 lobster pots. One boat belonging to a white settler hauls in more lobster than the entire Mi’kmaw fleet. The conservation argument is a smokescreen for a racist attack on Indigenous rights.

Red Deer rednecks

A local anti-racist group in Red Deer, Alberta was forced to cancel an event when a large group of far-right “patriots” showed up and began assaulting people.

There is no mystery here. A local TV news crew took extensive footage of the attacks. The fascists were so confident and emboldened by the tacit support from local police they didn’t bother to hide their violence. And there was no question it was premeditated; before the event, local fascist thugs used social media to invite creeps to come and take part in the attack.

There were RCMP officers on site but they did nothing to protect the peaceful, legal protesters and, to date, have issued no charges against the fascists. The UCP government denounced the attacks, prompted more by outrage when social media spread the news than by concern about “law and order”. They announced an investigation–to be conducted by the negligent RCMP, so we know what that is worth.

Disturbing incidents across the country show that fascism is on the rise in Canada. It primarily uses racism to organize and motivate. And the actions and inactions of police forces reveal that arguments about “law and order” and “rule of law” are bogus. What we face is law of the ruler.

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