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AFN chief calls for resignation of RCMP commissioner as N.S. fishery dispute continues

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Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde is calling on RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki to resign days after she defended the RCMP’s response to an ongoing dispute between Mi’kmaw lobster harvesters and non-Indigenous commercial fishers in Nova Scotia.

“Given months of civil unrest and multiple issues relating to the safety of First Nations people across the country, I will be writing to Prime Minister Trudeau to express that we have lost confidence in Royal Canadian Mounted Police Commissioner Brenda Lucki,” Bellegarde said in a media statement.

“The safety and security of all Canadians, including First Nations people, must be the top priority of the Prime Minister and the federal government.”

Bellegarde said he will ask Trudeau to replace Lucki with someone who will focus on public safety and combating racism.

Lucki told CBC News in an email that she has no plans to step down.

“I remain committed to fulfilling my mandate of modernizing the RCMP with a strong focus on advancing Indigenous reconciliation,” she said. 

His statement comes after weeks of tensions in southwest Nova Scotia over the launch of a self-regulated lobster fishery by the Sipekne’katik band outside of the federally mandated commercial season.

A landmark 1999 Supreme Court decision affirmed the right of First Nations people on Canada’s East Coast to earn a “moderate livelihood” from fishing. The court later said the federal government could regulate those fisheries but must justify any restrictions placed on them.

Many commercial lobster fishermen say they view the fishery, located in St. Mary’s Bay, as illegal and a threat to lobster conservation.

Several hundred commercial fishermen and their supporters raided two lobster facilities on Oct. 14, vandalizing the buildings where Mi’kmaw fishers were storing their catches and removing crates of lobster. One of the facilities, located in Middle West Pubnico, N.S., was destroyed days later in a blaze RCMP have deemed suspicious.

RCMP officers — who operate as the provincial police force in Nova Scotia — have been accused of not doing enough to defend Mi’kmaw fishers against the arson and abuse.

On Wednesday, Lucki pushed back against claims that RCMP officers have done little to curb the violence directed at Mi’kmaw people. Lucki rejected Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller’s assertion that the RCMP had “let down” the Mi’kmaw and said she had full confidence in the officers on the ground.

When asked today what he thought of Lucki’s defence of the RCMP response, Trudeau defended the force but acknowledged calls from the public for improvement.

“We have seen some challenges in Nova Scotia … in how the RCMP has been able to deliver, but at the same time, they continue to serve Canadians day in, day out right across the country,” Trudeau said.

“I’ve heard concerns from many Canadians about the functioning of our national police force. We’ll continue to listen to Canadians and work with the commissioner in terms of making sure that we continue to keep Canadians safe.”

Lucki came under fire earlier this year when she told several media outlets that she struggled to define the term “systemic racism” at a time when several Indigenous people had been killed in police shootings in the span of a few months.

She later walked back those comments and said systemic racism exists in every institution, including the RCMP, and that she has a responsibility to ensure the force is “free of racism, discrimination and bias.”

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