United Nations committee seeks answers from Canada over racism, violence against Mi’kmaw fishers


A United Nations committee is seeking answers from Canada regarding the racism and violence Mi’kmaw lobster fishers experienced while they exercised their treaty right to fish for a moderate livelihood in Nova Scotia last fall.

In a letter dated April 30, the chair for the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) asked Leslie Norton, Canada’s permanent representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland to explain what Canada has done to:

  • Investigate alleged acts of racism, violence and vandalism against Mi’kmaw fishers and supporters
  • Investigate alleged lack of response by officers with the RCMP and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to protect Mi’kmaw people
  • Prevent further acts of violence, racist hate speech, incitement of violence and destruction of property against Mi’kmaw people
  • Respect, protect and guarantee the rights of Mi’kmaw people right to fish and be consulted
  • The CERD chair has also requested that Canada “provide details on the status of the treaties concluded between 1760 and 1761 and the implementation of Mi’kmaq fishing rights under such treaties.”

    The UN committee has given Norton until July 14 to provide a response.

    The letter, written by committee chair Yanduan Li, was in response to a formal submission the committee received under its Early Warning and Urgent Action Procedure on behalf of several Mi’kmaw fishers from the Sipekne’katik First Nation.

    The submission, prepared by three Indigenous lawyers and a human rights expert, included details and evidence of alleged human rights violations against Mi’kmaw fishers while they exercised their treaty right to earn a moderate livelihood from the lobster fishery during the fall of 2020 in southwestern Nova Scotia.

    “It’s about calling attention to both Canada and Canadians that something isn’t right here and Canada needs to come to the table in a good way,” said Pam Palmater, a Mi’kmaw lawyer and one of the authors of the formal submission to the UN.

    “For every allegation that we made, we provided them with documentary evidence. Most of it came from the government itself,” Palmater explained during a news conference on Monday.