N.S. First Nations chief calls for military support after lobster pound fire

N.S. First Nations chief calls for military support after lobster pound fire
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A federal promise of more police resources to contain escalating violence in southwestern Nova Scotia fishing communities met with scant approval Saturday, with one First Nations leader calling for military support in the wake of a suspicious fire.

Federal opposition leaders, meanwhile, said the blaze that gutted the lobster pound in Middle West Pubnico, N.S., was the result of past government inaction.

Charred debris from the burnt out fish plant lay scattered along the shore, the lobster catch of Mi kmaq fishers destroyed.

It s the latest battleground in an escalating crisis over Indigenous fishing treaty rights.

No one was inside the building at the time, though police said a man believed to be a person of interest in the suspicious fire was sent to hospital with life-threatening injuries.

The incident prompted statements of solidarity from various federal cabinet ministers and a pledge to deploy more RCMP officers to the area.

But Chief Mike Sack of the Sipekne katik First Nation said the army is needed to prevent commercial fishermen from "taking the law into their own hands."

"They re doing whatever they want and getting away with it," he said in an interview. "We need the military to come step in to keep the peace."

The fire erupted hours after police arrested and charged a man in relation to an assault against Sack in New Edinburgh, N.S., earlier this week.

"This was retaliation," Sack said. "We re being targeted now. These are hate crimes."

The blaze capped a week of violence that included two other clashes involving hundreds of people outside lobster pounds that store Indigenous-caught lobster.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said he has approved a request by Nova Scotia s Attorney General to step up the RCMP presence in the region in an effort to keep the peace.

"The recent acts of violence in Nova Scotia are unacceptable and I strongly condemn them," he said in a statement.

"The current tensions cannot continue," Blair added. "The temperature of this dispute must be lowered, now. The threats, violence, and intimidation have to stop."

The move fell short for two of the federal opposition leaders.

Conservative Leader Erin O Toole said the government is not doing enough to ensure public safety and find a peaceful resolution to the fisheries crisis.

He said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau "cannot abdicate responsibility in this case or hide behind empty words."

"His government s dismal handling of this situation and his lack of leadership are undoing decades of relationship building ... and putting lives and livelihoods at risk," O Toole said in a statement.
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