Rally supporting N.S. Indigenous fishers held in Saint John, N.B.

A big show of support for Mi’kmaq fishers was held in New Brunswick on Saturday, as more than 100 people gathered at Saint John’s city hall, showing their support for their fellow Indigenous Maritime fishers in Nova Scotia.

It’s been a contentious issue for weeks, garnering headlines across the country, and even escalating into violent confrontations.

Protestors in Saint John say they stand in solidarity with the Mi’kmaq fishers in Nova Scotia.

“One of our members is from the area herself, and it was important for us to come together for her and her Nation to represent and stand in solidarity with what is going on with the treaty violations,” says Cassandra McLaughlin, a member of the Eastern Circle.

Commercial fishermen in Nova Scotia say they’re simply trying to protect the industry, and their livelihoods.

They’ve also expressed serious concerns about conservation, demanding lobster fishing be limited to regulated seasons.

The Mi’kmaq fishers say they are asserting their treaty rights.

Saturday’s event in Saint John was organized and led by members of Eastern Circle Saint John.

Elders, matriarchs, and leaders of the New Brunswick Indigenous community attended, along with representatives from other racialized groups.

“I talked about Indigenous sovereignty and Indigenous People’s rights to their own land, and how Black and Indigenous people need to form a very strong, long-lasting, enduring relationship and solidarity, to be a united front against racism, systemic or individual, discrimination, and white supremacy,” says Aaliyah Hogan, who spoke at the rally on behalf of Black Lives Matter Saint John.

Organizers lead the group on a march and held a water ceremony to send their prayers to the Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw fishermen.

One of the co-founders of the Eastern Circle says she believes many issues between commercial and indigenous people fishing is that there isn’t a clear understanding of the treaty rights for Mi’kmaq fishers.

“It’s absolutely horrendous that they cannot see that the treaty is being violated when our government is on par with their government,” says McLaughlin.

Both sides have been urging Ottawa to define ‘moderate livelihood’ as referenced in the treaties, but so far, the definition has been elusive.