Menu Close

Lobster Tales: How the Mi’kmaq First Nations came out on top of the Nova Scotia Lobster Dispute

By Emma MacFarlane

The tale of fishing disputes in Nova Scotia dates back to the early 1990s, when Donald Marshal Jr. was charged with illegal catching and selling of eels in Cape Breton. By 1999, Marshal had appealed his decision all the way to the Supreme Court, citing a 250-year-old treaty that ensured his right to fish anytime, anywhere, so long as it was in order to support himself and his family. The court agreed with this ruling, and Marshall was acquitted. The court, however, came back to clarify that their ruling meant that Marshal could only fish to provide a “moderate living” and could not fish to accumulate mass amounts of wealth. According to legal experts, this clarification was a call to action for the federal and provincial governments to create policy to protect Indigenous rights and prevent issues such as this one from arising again, however no policies or practices were implemented to form a sustainable solution.

This lack of action allowed Indigenous fishermen to take matters into their own hands. In September of 2020, after Ashton Bernard was charged for fishing and selling lobster in a similar fashion to Marshal, the Sipekne’katik First Nation opened a livelihood lobster fishery in order to protect themselves from the scrutiny of commercial fishermen. Commercial fishermen highlighted environmental and livelihood concerns should the First Nations overfish the waters. In recent years, lobster fishing has become and extremely lucrative market, and it seemed that commercial fishermen were unhappy they would be sharing the waters and profits with Indigenous fishermen.

The claws came out on October 12th, 2020 when well over 200 commercial fishermen and their associates vandalized and burgled two separate facilities where First Nation fishermen had been storing their lobster hauls and fishing supplies. Fires, threats, and theft were the weapons of choice by commercial fishermen, and the “environmental concerns” they had voiced when originally confronting the Mi’kmaq fishermen seemed moot, as hundreds of pounds of live, sellable lobster were dumped onto the pavement to meet a cold end. As of November 14th, 2020, the RCMP has only made a handful of arrests and laid even fewer actual charges. Furthermore, they have not confirmed whether the arrests are related to the incident itself, despite video and eye-witness evidence. This lack of action on the part of RCMP has been publicly criticized by Chief Sack of the Sip’knekatik First Nation, who has had to instead pursue civil lawsuits against individuals who partook in the vandalism of the fisheries.

With the threatening and intimidating behaviour of commercial fishermen and little assistance from authority or government, the Indigenous fishermen of Nova Scotia needed a creative solution for peace, and fast. Enter Premium Brands Holdings Corporation. Partnering with several Mi’kmaq First Nations, they structured a $1billion dollar deal to purchase Clearwater Seafoods Inc. This is the largest seafood purchase by a Canadian Indigenous group in history and will likely be marked as a pillar for change and cooperation between Indigenous and commercial fishermen. Upon completion of this deal, this partnership will give Mi’kmaq fishermen sole holding rights Canadian Clearwater’s fishing licenses.

This is a major win for Indigenous fishermen, and for First Nations across Canada. This collaboration will hopefully encourage collaboration with commercial and First Nation fishermen, otherwise they will likely see a drop in their sales and livelihood. Without violence or force, the First Nations are now able to turn the tables in their favour in the lobster fishing industry. Clearly, this is a fantastic example of triumph over those who would continue to oppress Indigenous rights and is a step in the direction of independence and self-sufficiency for First Nations. Only time will tell how this victory plays out for them.

Despite this victory, there is still a need for government intervention. The Mi’kmaq establishing themselves as a major player in the lobster fishing industry should be a wakeup call to the federal government to play a much more active role in issues such as this one, to prevent them from reoccurring and alleviating the pressure First Nation’s face when having to solve these issues. In order to promote peaceful collaboration between commercial and First Nation fishermen, policies and attitudes must be adjusted. Further policy is needed to outline the actual meaning of a “moderate livelihood” and the “mass accumulation of wealth” on the part of Indigenous fishermen. Furthermore, the provincial and federal government must be tasked with achieving a balance between Indigenous fishing rights and sustainable fishing policies to be applied to all fishermen. Finally, an inquiry should be launched to examine RCMP practices when acts of targeted violence such as the vandalism in October occur, and examine why it was necessary for the First Nations to take settlement matters into their own hands. Though these processes may be a long and tedious process, it will be undoubtedly shorter than the decades that the parties involved have gone without substantial policy on the subject.

Region of Waterloo Residents Priorities 2020

By Onomo Ogbe

The results of this poll were based on an interactive voice response survey conducted on Wednesday, July 15th, 2020 from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm. A total of 1306 individuals completed the first question of the survey and 633 individuals completed the entire survey.

The survey was designed to provide information to the Region of Waterloo in order to review the priorities in the 2019-2023 Strategic Plan. The first question respondents were asked was about how their wellbeing has been impacted during the COVID-19 pandemic. The results show that most respondent’s (54%) wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic has stayed the same. The pie chart below represents the results.

On the survey, participants were asked about the level of confidence they have in their local government. The results are shown in the chart below, indicating that a majority of citizens (59%) are confident in the regional government to some degree (including somewhat confident, confident, and very confident levels).

  Confidence level   2020 Region of Waterloo Survey
  No confidence at all   12%
  Somewhat confident   23%
  Neutral   24%
  Confident   29%
  Very confident   7%
  Unsure   5%

The poll surveyed region-wide opinions on the quality of life in Waterloo region since the beginning of COVID-19 pandemic. According to the results, most respondents (49%) stated that their quality of life has declined in Waterloo region since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Comparing the above result to the 2019 Region of Waterloo Survey where respondents were asked how their quality of life in Waterloo Region has been over the past few years, we can see that since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic quality of life in Waterloo Region has declined. The chart below compares the results from 2019 and 2020 Region of Waterloo Surveys.

Quality of life 2019 Survey 2020 Survey
  Improved   34%   11%
  Stayed the same   40%   33%
  Declined   26%   55%

The survey was a way to identify the top priorities to inform the review of their 2019 – 2023 Strategic Plan. Respondents were asked what they think is the most important social concern that the regional government should address.  The results, as shown in the chart below, have been ranked based on the number of respondents choosing a given category as their top priority. The top 3 priorities are 1) affordable housing and homelessness, 2) unemployment, and 3) mental health. The bar chart below represents the priorities of respondents.

A significant component of the Strategic Plan focuses on the services that are delivered by the Region of Waterloo, such as public transportation, waste collection, and so forth. In order to better understand the preferences among citizens living in the Waterloo region in relation to payment for the delivery of services, the survey asked: “Regional Government must balance the cost of delivering services with taxation. Which of the following would you most prefer for property taxes in Waterloo Region?” 

Results indicated that 21% preferred increasing taxes to improve services while 16% preferred having property taxes decreased. 17% preferred keeping taxes the same and possibly reducing services. The largest proportion (46%) preferred having taxes increased with the rate of inflation and maintaining current services.

Comparing this result to the 2019 Region of Waterloo Survey we can conclude that there has been a slight change over the year. The chart below compares the result between the 2019 and 2020 Region of Waterloo Survey.

Preference for property taxes 2019 Survey 2020 Survey
Increase taxes to expand or improve services 19% 21%
Increase taxes at around the rate of inflation to maintain services 44% 46%
Maintain taxes and possibly reduce services 23% 17%
Reduce taxes and cut services 14% 16%

Ultimately, the survey helped to provide the Region of Waterloo with important information that can be used to review the 2019-2023 Strategic Plan. A total of 14 questions were administered, yet the responses that have been analyzed above highlight the most critical results that will be taken into consideration by the Region.

Survey Details

This survey was an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) survey which was conducted by Dr. Anthony Piscitelli with the help of Public Service co-op students at Conestoga College.

Sampling Approach

The sample used for this study was created by randomly selecting Waterloo Region landline phone numbers as listed in a digital phone book. As well, a sample of likely cellphone numbers was added by randomly selecting phone numbers that were originally assigned to Waterloo Region according to the Canadian Numbering Administrator. Phone numbers of businesses were filtered out of the randomly selected phone numbers.

Response rate

A total of 1306 individuals completed the first question of the survey and 633 individuals completed the entire survey. The first question response rate was 4.2%, with the full survey response rate being 0.6%. There was a large drop off between questions 1, 2, and 3, due to the fact that 11% of respondents were ineligible due to being under 18 or living outside of Waterloo Region.


Results of this survey have been weighted by age, gender, and city/township according to the 2016 census. The full weights are posted along with the raw data on and can be found by visiting:

Margin of Error

Results are considered accurate +/-3.9%, 19 times out of 20. The margin of error on subsamples is higher.

Raw Data

Raw survey data is available on The data can be found at  


This survey was approved by the Conestoga College Research Ethics Board. Sampling error exists due to the mismatch that is created by the random dialing of phone numbers as opposed to randomly sampling actual Waterloo Region residents.

Living in Waterloo Region 2020 Survey

By Sarah Jefferies

This survey was designed to gain insight on various topics from those who live in Waterloo Region. Several academic researchers, Union Sustainable Development Co-operative, and Scaled Purpose have partnered on this project to learn more about region-wide opinions on different topics and will use this data for research in the future. The questions in the survey explored the respondent’s opinions on COVID-19, politics, investing, and affordable housing, just to name a few. A total of 101 individuals completed the survey, thus the results should not be generalized to a population but instead used to demonstrate some areas that warrant further study.


Although there were many topics covered in this survey, there are a few worth highlighting. One of the first questions asked was their age, which was then categorized into age ranges to present the data. The results show that respondents’ age who participated in this survey are heavily weighted in the categories of 50-64 years old and 65+ years old.

The participants to this survey show that they approve of how well both the federal government and provincial government is handling the COVID-19 pandemic. Results show that 39% strongly approve and 46% somewhat approve of how Premier Doug Ford is handing the COVID-19 situation, with only 12% somewhat disapproving and 3% strongly disapproving of the handling of the current situation. Similar results are shown with the approval of how well Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is handling the COVID-19 Pandemic. 40% strongly approve and 44% somewhat approve of his handling of the situation, where only 10% somewhat disapprove and 5% strongly disapprove of his action during the pandemic.

With the recent mandate of mandatory masks in Waterloo Region, it is promising to see that 86% of the surveyors approve of this practice to help reduce transmission of COVID-19. With only 14% opposing this practice, these efforts will continue to help reduce the cases of contracting COVID-19 in the future.

Another important topic worth highlighting is around opinions on affordable housing, both on a regional and provincial level. Most participants agree that the Ontario government should take action in making housing more affordable for renters. This strong consensus in favour of affordable housing will hopefully translate into support for Union Sustainable Development’s planned Community Land Trust in efforts of developing affordable opportunity development co-operatives in Waterloo Region. Union Sustainable Development Co-operative buys and manages multi-unit residential and commercial properties for the environmental, social, and economic benefit of Waterloo Region.


This live-caller survey offers many insights into the perspectives of those who live in Waterloo Region. Although there was a lack of variety in age ranges, these results can show some insight on Waterloo Region opinions on these important topics. In the future, it will be interesting to see if different age groups would slightly change the results of this survey.

It will be interesting to see if those perspectives change over the next year especially since 2020 has been a historic year in which the world and the Region of Waterloo have witnessed a pandemic. Topics such as wearing masks had no bearing on people’s lives last year but will now continue to be an ongoing conversation.

The survey contained many other questions if you would like to see the detailed results please visit