Esgenoôpetitj

For three seasons, 1999-2001, the Mi'kmaq people of Esgenoôpetitj First Nation (Burnt Church) in New Brunswick, Canada, sought to assert their inherent and treaty rights to manage their own lobster fishery. Each season they were met with violence and destruction of their fishing equipment by their neighbours and by Canadian authorities. The Mi'kmaq asked CPT to be present through the 2000 and 2001 fishing seasons to reduce the extent of this violence. When CPT returned to Esgenoôpetitj in 2002, we found the community had little fishing equipment left, and in August they signed an agreement submitting their fishery to Canadian government control in return for fishing licences and money for training and equipment. There was a sense of resignation in the community–part disappointment and part relief. However the agreement was probably better than it would have been without the community's determined assertion of its rights, and everyone in Canada knows that "Burnt Church" was another example of the unresolved issues between Aboriginal peoples and European settlers.

Court cases against the Mi'kmaq continued from charges laid in earlier seasons, and CPTers testified in these proceedings in support of community members. People expressed gratitude for CPT's presence during this conflict. We were told repeatedly, "If you had not been here, there would have been blood in the water."