METEGHAN — An Indigenous band councillor and two fishermen are facing charges in relation to tensions that erupted on the water after a Mi’kmaq First Nation launched a self-regulated fishery in southwestern Nova Scotia.
Thirty-four-year-old Brandon Alexander Maloney is facing charges of unsafe operation of a vessel in relation to a Sept. 20 incident in the St. Marys Bay.
At the time, Maloney was fisheries manager for Sipekne’katik First Nation, but he has since stepped down after being elected to band council on Nov. 3.
Police have also charged 26-year-old Shaquest India Miller of Yarmouth County with the same offence, in relation to an Oct. 12 incident in St. Marys Bay.
Both are scheduled to appear in Digby provincial court Feb. 15.
Chief Mike Sack of Sipekne’katik said the band will fund a legal defence for Maloney in the incident.
“We will 100 per cent support him. He was acting within the guidelines of a regulated fishery we have set up,” said Sack.
The chief said the incident occurred during a conflict in the waters off Saulnierville wharf as the Mi’kmaq fishery was being launched.
Sack said Maloney was acting in his capacity as the band’s fisheries officer and was trying to determine why non-Indigenous fishers had taken Indigenous traps onto their boats.
In a separate news release, RCMP said a 42-year-old man faces a charge related to disobeying an interim injunction prohibiting interference with the First Nation’s lobster fishery.
Investigators in Meteghan, N.S., said Dale Richard Wagner of Digby County is also set to appear in Digby provincial court Feb. 15.
Police say the charge was laid after another incident on St. Marys Bay on Oct. 23.
They say they received a report of a vessel that had moved toward another vessel that was forced to manoeuvre to avoid a potential collision.
The injunction was obtained by the Sipekne’katik band in Nova Scotia Supreme Court in October.
In effect until Dec. 15, the order prohibits any interference with the band’s fishing activities, including interfering with their gear at sea or on land, and also says the Saulnierville wharf, another in Weymouth and a lobster pound in New Edinburgh used by the band cannot be blockaded.
The Sipekne’katik band launched a fishery on the 21st anniversary of the Supreme Court of Canada’s Donald Marshall Jr. decision, following a ceremony at Saulnierville wharf on Sept. 17.
That decision affirmed the treaty rights of East Coast First Nations to hunt, fish and gather in pursuit of a moderate livelihood.
However, a clarification by the Supreme Court indicated the federal Fisheries Department retains the ability to regulate for conservation purposes, in consultation with the First Nation.