An enormous fire overtook a large commercial building believed to be a Mi’kmaq lobster pound in Middle West Pubnico, N.S., early Saturday morning.
Jonathan LeBlanc, a member of the Eel Brook Fire Department, told Global News that several local fire departments were called to the scene around midnight and were still working to contain the blaze around 4 a.m. local time.
LeBlanc said it was too early to say if the fire was suspicious, adding fire investigators would be on scene later in the morning.
Reached early Saturday morning, Nova Scotia RCMP said they were unaware of the incident.
The lobster pound is believed to be the same one that was swarmed, vandalized and ransacked by a large crowd of non-Indigenous commercial fishers and their supporters Tuesday night.
Mi’kmaw fisherman Jason Marr told Global News he and others were forced to take cover inside the lobster pound as the building’s windows were smashed out and Marr’s vehicle was damaged, he said.
“They vandalized (my van) and they were peeing on it, pouring things into the fuel tank, cutting electrical wires,” Marr said on Wednesday. He also claimed they smashed the windows of the van, and said he saw them kicking, punching and hitting it with objects.
Video taken on Tuesday night and posted on Facebook shows a damaged vehicle at the scene.
Marr alleges the non-Indigenous fishers threatened to “burn” his group out of the building if they didn’t leave and allow them to seize the lobster catch.
“I thought they were gonna kill me,” the Mi’kmaw fisherman said.
A similar incident happened at another lobster pound in New Edinburgh, N.S., earlier Tuesday, where the crowd removed and damaged video cameras then ransacked the lobster pound and storage facility where the lobster catch was to be housed.
Mi’kmaq lobster fishers in southwestern Nova Scotia are asserting that right in defence of the decision to set up licensed lobster fisheries for both feeding their communities and commercial safes in the area outside of the commercial lobster fishing season.
For weeks, non-Indigenous lobster fishers have targeted the Indigenous fishers and fisheries. On Friday, the chief of the Sipekne’katik First Nation said between 150 and 200 lobster traps were lost after non-Indigenous commercial fishers cut lines and destroyed buoys.
While the 1999 Supreme Court of Canada Marshall decision affirmed treaty rights to fish or hunt for a “moderate livelihood,” it also allows Ottawa to set regulations in consultation with Indigenous communities and for the purpose of conservation.
The definition of a “moderate livelihood” has not been agreed upon between the Sipekne’katik and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
The Indigenous fishers have called on the RCMP and the federal government to intervene in the dispute, accusing the federal police force of not doing enough to protect the community.
On Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appealed for calm and said violence and harassment are not acceptable.
“This is a situation that is extremely disconcerting,” Trudeau said. “That’s why we’re calling for an end to the violence and harassment that’s happening. … I understand the concerns and the conflict going on right now but we need to find a solution.”
RCMP said in a statement issued earlier in the week they were working to “de-escalate the situation and disperse the group.”
—With files from Global’s Alexander Quon and Amanda Connolly
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