It was just a few weeks ago on this site that I wrote about what has been happening in Nova Scotia regarding threats being leveled at Mi’kmaw fishers who are simply exercising their constitutional rights. It’s been extremely disturbing to witness, especially when time after time we Indigenous peoples are giving Hell for fighting for our rights only to be told by “fine folks” to “do things the right way”.
In this case, these Mi’kmaw fishers did exactly that, going all the way to the Supreme Court and winning there too to have their treaty rights re-affirmed 21 years ago. 21 years have gone by since the courts, the law of this country, told the people of Canada the Mi’kmaw have the right to fish for a “moderate livelihood”. And 21 years have gone by with the government of Canada dragging their heels on actually enacting that court decision, nothing has moved. Nothing has changed, as the Mi’kmaw waiting patiently and when the finally moved to enact their rights, as asserted by the Supreme Court of this country, stuff hit the fan.
It was bad a few weeks ago and sadly it’s gotten even worse since. We’ve seen Mi’kmaw boats set ablaze in clear acts of arson, we’ve seen intimidation of Mi’kmaq fishers and families, all by the supposedly “law abiding” non-Indigenous folks in the region. Everyone has been waiting for the Trudeau Government to step in, do its damn job (the one Canada has refused to do for 21 years) and settle matters. Well last night things took another disturbing turn, as the evidence below shows:
A van set on fire. Most of their legal catch either stolen or destroyed. A mob of 200 people surrounding these Mi’kmaw people doing legal acts and with the RCMP apparently spending as much time giving the Mi’kmaw grief as they are those who apparently committed clear illegal acts. At one point, Ku’ku’kwes News reported that the RCMP actually told Jason Marr, the Mi’kmaw fisher who was acting completely within the law, “that the non-Indigenous fishermen would let them leave the pound if they hand over the lobster.” Of course they told them know but imagine the temerity of that.
Imagine the RCMP showing up at a bank, surrounded by a mob, and the officer went into to tell the Bank Manager “you know, the mob will let you go if you just give them all the money.” You really can’t imagine that, yet that’s exactly what happened last night in Nova Scotia. The facts in this case are very clear, the law is on the side of the Mi’kmaw; their treaties say it, the courts have upheld it and the government agrees it is the fact. So the Mi’kmaw have jumped through every bloody hoop that they were told they had to in order to “do it right” and still this crap? How in the Hell would any other Canadian accept this garbage yet here we are.
Where are the outraged calls of “respect the law” or “we must stand up for the rule of law” from those who constantly belittle and attack Indigenous peoples for simply asserting our rights? They’re dead silent of course because that’s just how things seem to go in this country. And if you want to say that this isn’t about race, watch some of those videos and hear the racist stereotypes thrown at the people filming them. It’s been clear for the longest time that only Indigenous peoples have to constantly go before the courts to have our rights re-affirmed over and over again, regardless of what the constitution or treaties clearly say about them. Regardless of all the court decisions lined up in our favour, no matter how many times they tell Canada to respect our rights, there are always more and more court challenges because, you know, they hope is that after losing 49 times the courts might finally see it another way on the 50th attempt.
What is happening in Nova Scotia right now is completely unacceptable and it should be unacceptable to all Canadians of all backgrounds. If the rulings of the Supreme Court literally have no meaning, if they are completely unenforceable and if people can decide to ignore constitutionally protected rights because it’s easier to do than actually dealing with the issue, then that should worry everyone. For all the talk and worry-warting we hear about the “sanctity of the rule of law”, those voices go dead silent in moments like these. Those should be the loudest voices in this moment, calling for those people destroying property, intimidating people and ignoring the law because it doesn’t suit them to stop. But instead, we get crickets from them.
And honestly folks, for as mad as I was seeing what happened last night, I’m equally depressed by it all. I’ve been a bit believer in doing everything we can through the courts, through Parliament, using Canada’s democratic levers to ensure our rights are respected. But when I see that, with Mi’kmaw people acting completely within the law, being attacked, violated and robbed in plain sight, all while the police stand by, any hope I have quickly disappears. Seriously, what can I say or offer in this moment that “WTF?!?!?!”. I really don’t know what to say anymore because what we saw last night was so wrong, yet because of the latest 21 years of inaction, it was clearly something that could have been avoided. It’s time for the Trudeau government to get off their asses and do much more than they have so far because right now, what we’re seeing on the ground in Nova Scotia is sending a lesson all it’s own to Indigenous peoples across Canada. If having the courts, the law and the constitution of Canada on your side isn’t enough to do legal things in 2020, then what hope is there? I leave that to Canada to answer because, well, WTF!