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Mohawk-Mi’kmaq solidarity

(Marisela Amador The Eastern Door)

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(Marisela Amador The Eastern Door)

Hundreds of people showed up to a march in Montreal on Sunday in support of Mi’kmaq fishermen in Nova Scotia.

The demonstration was organized by two sisters from the community, Waienhawi and Kaiatanoron Lahache.

At around noon, people from different communities, including Kahnawake, Kanesatake, Mi’kmaq communities, and Montreal, gathered at Place Émilie-Gamelin park, carrying banners and signs to partake in the demonstration.

“I think the biggest message for the non-Indigenous communities is to shine a light on the issues that we are facing as a whole nation,” said Kaiatanoron.

“There are a number of people who are uneducated. There’s a lot of them who don’t understand why we are here or what we are doing,” she continued.

The crisis over Indigenous fishing treaty rights began in September when Sipekne’katik First Nation launched a self-regulated fishery based on a landmark 1999 Supreme Court ruling that affirmed a Mi’kmaq treaty right to hunt, fish and gather in pursuit of a “moderate livelihood.”

Throughout the month of October, the situation turned increasingly violent as commercial fishermen ransacked, barricaded and burned lobster pounds where Mi’kmaq fishermen stored their catches.

“We want them (Mi’kmaq people) to know that they are not alone. The RCMP hasn’t really done anything,” said Waienhawi.

The RCMP came under heavy scrutiny by government officials and activists for not doing more to protect Mi’kmaq fishermen as they endured harassment, intimidation and assaults from commercial fishery workers. These workers have said that Mi’kmaq fishermen should not be allowed to operate outside of the federally-mandated commercial season.

“The government hasn’t stepped in. Thankfully the injunction that was signed has slowed down the criminal acts out there that were portrayed against them,” said Waienhawi.

“But we just want them to know that they are not alone. We will continue to stand with them for as long as they fight. Their fight is our fight,” she continued.

On October 21, Sipekne’katik First Nation secured a temporary injunction prohibiting any form of interference with their fishing activities.

Don Barnaby, who is Mi’kmaq and a Kahnawake resident, was invited to speak and sing the Mi’kmaq honour song at the rally.

“I have a lot of friends that are on the frontlines in Nova Scotia,” said Barnaby.

“They are still in a lot of need for supplies, and not just supplies for the frontline workers, but also to replace ropes and traps that the commercial fishermen have damaged or destroyed,” he said.

Barnaby said that Mi’kmaq fishermen are frustrated because the RCMP seems to be more in line with commercial fishermen.

“When it comes to the Mi’kmaq fishermen standing up for their rights, and they are setting camps, singing songs and gathering together in peaceful protest, it is an act of terrorism in their eyes, which I don’t understand at all,” said Barnaby.

Barnaby believes that it was important to bring the demonstration to Montreal so that non-Indigenous communities have a better understanding of the ongoing issue and how it impacts not just the Mi’kmaq, but all Indigenous communities across Turtle Island.

“We are fighting together, and it is something that is happening all across Indian Country. There have been a lot of warriors from out west that are coming out to Nova Scotia,” he said.

(Marisela Amador The Eastern Door)

Karonhianoron Canadian and her son Kenneth Canadian came to support the Mi’kmaq people during their time of need. “I came here because I have a lot of Mi’kmaq friends, and a lot of their families are being directly affected by the attacks,” said Kenneth, who has a few friends that are currently on the frontlines. Kahnawa’kehró:non Tom Dearhouse said he fully supports the Mi’kmaq people and that fighting systemic racism and discrimination is an ongoing battle. He also advocates for healing and reconciliation with non-Indigenous communities but said it was a complicated balancing act.

“There is always going to be another issue that needs addressing,” said Dearhouse.

Mi’kmaq hip hop rapper Q-052 (real name Quentin Condo) came to the march to support his community and to shoot a music video for his new song ‘All Eyes on Mi’kma’ki’ that came out today.

“We have to be standing together. We have to show solidarity. It has to be done from the grassroots. That is how we do things,” he said.

Right before the large crowd started marching on Berri St., Melissa Montour-Lazare spoke to the crowd and read a message from Mi’kmaq communities.

“First and foremost, we would like to say wela’lin (thank you) to the gwatej (Kanien’kehá:ka) of Kahnawake and the two sisters for showing us support, sending help and needed resources in our time of crisis,” Montour-Lazare read.

The Lahache sisters said they never expected the crowd to be so large and are very pleased with the outcome.

“We got a tremendous amount of support from our family and friends in town and also from our non-Indigenous family and friends. A lot of them came out here today, and it really means a lot to get the recognition that we got,” said Kaiatanoron.

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