Micmac Rights Association stands with Daniel Francis in lobster case

Invoking Aboriginal and Treaty Rights, two former National Chiefs attended Dartmouth courthouse as supporters were barred from court due to nonsensical Covid-19 restrictions.

By Real People’s Media

DARTMOUTH – When Micmac fisherman Daniel Francis attended the Dartmouth Provincial court on February 15th, 2023 he was accompanied by over a dozen supporters including two former National Chiefs – Del Riley and Putus Hector Pictou. On September 10th, 2021, Francis was pulled over by half a dozen DFO officers while driving a refrigerated reefer truck near Popes Harbour, Nova Scotia. The officers demanded ID from Francis, but they refused to explain why they were pulling him over in the first place. 

Caption: Livestream of the arrest of Daniel Francis by Department of Fisheries Officers.

In a livestream video taken at the scene, Daniel Francis is heard saying “get away from us, go… go away, leave me alone!” to an officer. The officer replied, “Just so you know, you’re under arrest. And we’re going to transport you to [unintelligible]. You’re not giving us any ID, so you’re under arrest sir.” When Francis asked if he was under arrest “for not giving you ID?” he was told in response, “You’re under arrest for obstructing. I’m asking for some identification… I want to see identification.” Francis kept repeating “Did I do something wrong?” The officer replied, “You’re not letting me in the back of the vehicle. I’m asking you for identification. So I can identify who you are.” Francis kept asking what he did wrong, and the officer replied, “If you give me identification, maybe nothing.”

After Daniel Francis and his cousin Trent Francis provided their status cards as ID, the DFO opened the truck and seized over 7000 lobsters weighing a total of 9400 pounds. The DFO released the lobsters to the Bedford Institute of Oceanography, and charged Daniel and Trent under Section 62 of the Fisheries Act – “Obstruct a Fishery Officer conducting their duties under the Fisheries Act.” 

With his truck and nearly 100 lobster crates seized by the DFO, Daniel Francis’ constitutionally protected Aboriginal and treaty rights to fish and trade were violated. This case is just one of many examples of the Federal and Provincial governments refusing to honor Supreme Court decisions guaranteeing Aboriginal rights to fish.  

Caption: Daniel Francis in his reefer truck, which was stolen by the DFO.

Supporters denied access to court of law

On February 15th, when Daniel and Trent came to court to plead not-guilty to the charges, supporters were stopped by Sheriffs from entering the court rooms and required to wear facemasks even though the Province had removed all remaining Covid-19 Health restrictions  in July of 2022. 

According to the Sheriffs, due to Covid fears, the judge has the “discretion” to limit the number of people able to enter any given courtroom on a case by case basis, and to decide if facemasks are required to be worn in the court or not. In other words, there is no actual medical science or government mandate behind the masking and capacity restrictions at the court. Such arbitrary decisions may be influenced by the judge’s personal fears, their political views, and even the advice of the Sheriffs. 

Caption: Video of the argument supporters of Daniel Francis had with court Sherriffs denying them entry to the court.

Commanding officer Andrew Lantz, the Inspector for the Dartmouth Provincial Court, informed the supporters that the courts are still operating under “certain Covid protocols.” Inspector Lantz then barred entry to the court and claimed that the judge would only allow “one support person in for each” accused.

Supporters of Francis contested their exclusion from the courtroom and argued that the judges and Sheriffs were breaking hundreds of years of common law practice. Fisherman Matt Cope exclaimed, “that’s bullshit, and snakey and sneaky for you to use Covid to keep us out of the courtroom to support our person.” Mr. Cope added, “You better fix this kangaroo court system. This is a mickey mouse joke. We all came down here to support our brother who’s being unjustly charged for nothing. Charged for exercising his rights [on treaties] that your ancestors and my ancestors signed so you could occupy here…. They’re called peace and friendship treaties. We didn’t cede no land. We’re not your servants.” 

Thomas Durfee of Millbrook First Nation added, “We’re Micmac people. This is unceded Micmac territory. We belong in that courtroom and you know it.”

Sheriff Lantz responded, “I understand that. My position is that I’ve been given direction by the courts and I have to follow it.” When asked if this was the “first time this has ever happened?” the Sheriff agreed, and then later clarified that what he meant was that this was the first time that the court’s arbitrary Covid rules had ever been “challenged.”

Caption: Video of Feb 15th rally for Daniel Francis. 

Rally held outside courthouse

Once Daniel and Trent Francis pled “not guilty” and emerged from the courtroom, a rally was held on the courthouse steps. Chief Del Riley explained that in speaking as Trent and Daniel’s representative in the courtroom, he had informed the judge that a constitutional challenge would be raised, and stated that the rights of Micmac fishermen “are constitutionally protected, by Section 35 and 25… their treaty rights supersede anything that’s written in Canada as a racist law of the Indian Act.” Chief Riley noted that, “I’ve probably worked for 50 years in land claims and Indian rights. I know it inside out. I put four sections in the Canadian Constitution, and I had to open an office in England to get it done, but I got it done.”

Former Atlantic Region National Chief Hector Pictou then spoke. “We came here in support of Daniel Francis and other Micmac people who got charged under the Department of Oceans and Fisheries laws in this court. Today, we are proud to tell you that we made a distinction that we are governed by treaties, not the Indian Act. We made ourselves known to the court that we’re here for Daniel. And, when they ask us are we gonna have lawyers, we told the court that we have the expertise and the treaty rights.”

Caption: Former National Chief of the Atlantic Region Hector Pictou, with former National Chief Del Riley and David Francis.

Fisherman Matt Cope explained what happened in the courthouse, and said “they’re afraid of Mi’kmaw people that have support. They’re afraid of Mi’kmaw people that have knowledge. They know they’re in the wrong here…. And, it scares ’em.”

Maureen Googoo of Ku’ku’Kwes News noted that some 30 other Mi’kmaw fishermen were also facing court battles and asked the group about their position on supporting other fishermen. Chief Riley replied, “if they’d come to me, I’d probably be supporting them all.” Daniel Francis encouraged those fighting for their rights to join with him and his supporters. “We have our Micmac Rights Association right here,” said Francis. “Join it up.”

Matt Cope added that the Association was “willing to help anybody who’s going through a rights challenge, whether it be cannabis, whether it be fishing. If it it has to do with your rights, we will support you. We have great resources, and we’re open to anybody that’s trying to exercise their rights.”

For more information or to join the Micmac Rights Association visit www.micmacrights.com/join.

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