When these 200 treasonous lobster fishermen are behind bars for a decade, who will ply the waters of Digby?

A group of as many as 200 white people are suspected of participating in a series of violent, racist raids which saw buildings besieged, property damaged, commodities destroyed and (as of last night) at least one building in Digby, Nova Scotia completely burned to the ground. One person was also seriously injured overnight on Friday but details are not immediately clear and police are presently investigating the injured person in connection with the suspected arson.

By Kevin Metcalf

I’m not going to talk about lobsters, or molting, or seasons or conservation or stewardship or the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The building which was destroyed housed catches of live and frozen lobsters, some of which belonged to Mi’kmaq lobster fishers who are entitled to earn a ‘moderate income’ from the fishery.

Rights to fish the waters off Nova Scotia are afforded to the Mi’kmaq under historic treaties with the crown. I won’t argue whether it is right or fair or well considered. This is the agreement that exists. Still, there has been a historic dispute between the Indigenous and white commercial fisheries, itself a part of tensions which have simmered since whites first arrived on the shores of Turtle Island with an aim to colonize the land and usurp title to its ownership.

In the most recent incident, a white mob explicitly breached that treaty-guaranteed agreement by destroying boats, buildings and a Mi’kmaq lobster fishery’s catch: an act which proves that to many settlers, the treaties are not worth the time it took to write them down. Since behaving like barbarians seems to be the “new normal,” I’ll point out that what we’re seeing in Digby is nothing new from the “might makes right” white set.

Viking ship carrying Harold III of Norway against his half-brother Olaf II in 1030, c.1375.

One of the most prominent and recognizable behaviours and cultural practices in ‘white’ (Indo-Aryan) historical cultures is something called ‘cattle raiding’. It’s the subject of early Greek, Irish and Viking stories and forms the foundation of white male power fantasies. I’m not even saying this is a wholly terrible thing—raids make for good fiction, but we can’t deny the inexplicable way in which the behaviour of taking and destroying what is not ours to accomplish our goals or impose subjugation by force is central to (and celebrated in) white culture in history.

Interestingly the Viking raiders and Mi’kmaq may have actually met, traded and likely raided in and around the same presently disputed waters and coastline. Echoes in history and a lack of permanent settlement records suggest the European raiders may have had the worst of it. Seafaring whites are still raiding Indigenous people a thousand years later.

Some obviously disastrous cultural practices are clearly difficult to unlearn. In many early European cultures, during what could be called their ‘tribal’ phases, raiding and despoiling each other’s fields, forests and fisheries was seen as a way to demonstrate masculine prowess, provoke feuds, destroy wealth, suppress economic activity or enforce the transfer of hereditary titles through pressure or starvation. In their mythological context, such raids are often inspired by forces at a much higher level of (nation to nation) state intrigue.

Vehicles pull up to view the remains of a lobster pound in Middle West Pubnico, Nova Scotia, Canada, October 17, 2020. REUTERS/John Morris

Nobody’s surprised that some angry racist fishers and their conservative, backward rural mafia families (think, Maritime Taliban) decided to make 2020 the year of escalation against Indigenous treaty fishers. And they’re real, 20-30 year old white men who are proudly proclaiming their involvement on social media while their friends, family and neighbours express shock or consternation.

There’s a term for a mob like this: Useful idiots. It’s worth pointing out that all of the interested parties in the Nova Scotia lobstering dispute have not yet been named. I don’t think it’s a huge leap to say that in 2020, there’s probably something at play here: I don’t know how else to put it, but the whole industry is surrounded by some high level international drama involving the competing Maine lobster fisheries, Chinese tariffs on Maine lobsters and some drama over the US-Canada border closure.

As the stocks are shared, American fishers no doubt benefit from any disruption affecting lobster fisheries across the border in Nova Scotia. Also worth noting, for the first time ever a Maine Lobster fisher spoke in support of Trump at the Republican national convention. Lobsters are in political vogue this year and it’s not just all the molting memes.

If you’re a concerned member of the public or anti-racist activist from outside of Canada’s Indigenous population, one of the most useful things you could be doing right now is figuring out exactly who the people in this racist mob were, broadcasting their photographs, names and social media commentary for the world to see. It’s time to shame these 200 people so hard their behaviour will never again be repeated. Angry white mobs must be annihilated, not tolerated.

You could also start finding ways to provide direct support to people at the frontline of the conflict or to pressure the Canadian government to take action to protect its treaties. And please before the corporate media tries to steer you into a nuanced, de-escalated conversation about what happened, let us call these incidents and the advocacy which has fueled them what they are: racially motivated terrorism, treasonous in nature and in wholesale violation of a crown treaty, committed with full knowledge, demonstrable malice and in open provocation by the most backward of Canada’s rural dwellers.

In times past, if a group of the Crown’s subjects went out and conducted an unsanctioned raid which caused grievance or strife in the realm, the Crown would be reasonably expected to either back them wholesale or to apologize and pursue swift and effective punishment against the raiders for that greatest of all sins – treason, or that is, the wilful and knowing breach of the Crown’s treaty without the Crown’s consent.

“You can’t arrest all of us” say 200 mostly young white people who committed actual, legal treason in their unsanctioned raid. Sure, but actually the state can—and the state will. In fact, if the Canadian state has any remaining pretense that its treaties hold any meaning at all, it has no choice but to punish the unsanctioned raiders. And please also note, I use the word ‘unsanctioned’ here because the Crown opposing raids by settlers, against Indigenous lives and livelihood is a very new historical phenomenon.

Of course, people will ask, “who will feed the hungry families and console the children of Digby whose pleasant rural lives of sea and surf have been traded for foster homes and institutional landscapes of brick and bars by their greedy, foolish and hateful parents?” The impending annihilation of an entire Settler community and their way of life has a bitter irony to it.

People will also ask. “When these 200 treasonous lobster fishermen are behind bars for a decade, who will ply the waters of Digby?” It will be the Mi’kmaq, who call the place Oositookun and who have been there since long before the first white raiders drew up their boats.

Kevin Metcalf is a settler activist and polemicist based in Toronto, Ontario. He writes at the intersection of national security, political extremism and free expression issues.

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