Although last minute, Sunday’s demonstration gathered close to 100 hundred cars along Highway 640. (COURTESY AL HARRINGTON)
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What started off as an ordinary weekend for Kanehsata’kehró:non, quickly became something of note.
A last-minute rolling blockade was organized at 9 a.m. on October 18 to show support for Mi’kmaq fishermen in Nova Scotia.
“It needed to happen now,” said Al Harrington, one of the organizers, as he addressed the urgency of the improvised demonstration. Along with Karonhienhawe Nicholas and Ellen Gabriel, Harrington scrambled to inform those on his contact list about the last-minute event.
Sure enough, people answered. By 11:30 a.m., more than 30 cars met in the Pines, where 30 years ago the Siege of Kanehsatà:ke took place. The supporters came in many vehicles, ATVs and even a yellow digger. The convoy drove along Highway 640 toward Two Mountains – 30 minutes east of the community.
“We all stand on the same page when it comes to racism and hatred,” said Harrington. He explained that the mobilization was possible with less than a three-hour warning. “We stand together.”
Sipekne’katik First Nation, the second-largest Mi’kmaq band in Nova Scotia, has been the target of racism, flouting Indigenous treaty rights for the past two months. The community launched its moderate livelihood fishery on September 17 in Saulnierville, a fishing village 280KM west of Halifax.
It has since been facing daily intimidation, threats and vandalism from non-Indigenous fishermen, who are blatantly ignoring Mi’kmaq constitutional rights to fish outside of the federally scheduled commercial season. A right earned more than 21 years ago.
In 1999 the Supreme Court affirmed the Marshall decision, the right to earn a “moderate livelihood” from fishing. Over the years, they have continuously failed to create a clear definition of what that term means.
Former and current federal governments, along with the RCMP, have since been repeatedly criticized for their lack of response and insufficient actions. Opposition parties called for an emergency debate in parliament this week to address the federal government’s incapacity to ensure the safety of the community.
“This is terrorism,” tweeted NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, after a fire was set to one of the lobster facilities on Saturday, destroying Mi’kmaq catches.
Katsi’tsaronhkwas Stacy Pepin didn’t hesitate when she received Harrington’s message the morning after the appalling fire.
The 26-year-old Kanien’kehá:ka has been following the situation and was immediately on board with the initiative.
“I wasn’t born in 1990, but I know we got a lot of support during the Crisis and we wanted the Mi’kmaq Nation that was there to help us to know that we are returning the favour,” said Pepin.
Pepin live-streamed the rolling blockade on TikTok where she has over 15,000 followers. She started her account, @katsitsaronhkwas, earlier in March to raise awareness for Indigenous injustice.
The Youth and Adult Correctional Intervention student from John Abbott College said she uses her knowledge to help open people’s eyes to the violence perpetrated by non-Indigenous people.
Harrington expressed that the kind of hatred unfolding in Nova Scotia is experienced by all Onkwehón:we. He said the rolling blockade was a way of protesting and showing that racism shouldn’t be tolerated.
“This is something that is inconvenient for people stuck in traffic, but we need to be heard,” said Harrington, adding that further actions haven’t been planned yet, but will be taken if the situation doesn’t improve.
Another initiative was launched over the weekend to show support.
Watsenniiostha Nelson thought that a raffle would be a good idea to raise money for this cause.
Along with Kayla Kaniehtenhawis Lazore, she put together the online event to raise money to send out to Mi’kmaq territory. The two Kanien’kehá:ka women joined forces after hearing about the violence and vandalism that the Mi’kmaq were dealing with from non-Indigenous fishermen.
“It made me really angry to see that the Canadian government ONCE AGAIN is not interfering or helping to stop the violence from continuing,” said Nelson. “The RCMP is just standing back and allowing the non-Indigenous fishermen to continue their harassment.”
Nelson explained that, as she couldn’t physically get to Nova Scotia to show her support, she looked for another way to help the community. She reached out to a good friend over in Nova Scotia, Sabre Pictou, who she met while studying at Concordia University.
Pictou told her they were in need of gas, food and supplies.
Finding donations for the jackpot was easy, she said, knowing that everybody in the community would want to help once they found out about the raffle.
“I never doubted my community,” said Nelson, as she described the prizes.
Nelson and Lazore were able to collect so many different prizes that they decided to separate the raffle into two wins. The first prize would be a beaded purse by Kawisaienhne Albany, a cake by Amber’s Delectables, an etched shadow box by Strong Roots Creations, and a drum by Wenhni’tiio Will Gareau.
The second would be a t-shirt by K’s custom creations, beaded earrings by Alana’s Mohawk Jewels, baby moccasins by Kaiewate Bonspiel, and a blueberry pie by Desserts By Babito.
“For some, it takes time to create something so beautiful and amazing, so for them to be willing to donate a prize for this raffle means a lot, especially on somewhat of a short notice,” said Nelson.
Tickets are $20 each. The draw will be on November 1.