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The conflict on the fishing wharves in Nova Scotia has rattled the country, unnerved by acts of public violence and overt racism. Non-indigenous fishers are upset about First Nations fishing outside open seasons and the potential impact on the future of the Atlantic fishery. Indigenous people are disappointed with the federal government’s failure to negotiate a workable definition of “moderate livelihood” and other provisions of the Supreme Court decision on the 20-year-old fishing case of Donald Marshall Jr. Anger is building on all sides.
While the conflict has immediate causes and consequences, its real significance rests in the formidable challenge of changing the fundamentals of history. The simple truth is that injustices weigh heavily on the victims of the past, who carry the costs through multiple generations. In the case of First Nations in the Maritimes, the current dispute is the inevitable result of decades of governments ignoring indigenous and treaty rights in the region.