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Marilynn-Leigh Francis’s many fights for her right to fish

Yesterday I had the chance to travel to Plympton, Nova Scotia, to meet with Marilynn-Leigh Francis, a lobster fisher and treaty rights holder. She has been fishing for lobster in St Mary’s Bay her whole life, and bringing her three nephews along with her since they were children.

She’s fighting to protect her treaty right to fish in more ways than one. Marilynn-Leigh fishes for lobster as her ancestors have for thousands of years – without a lisence issued by the colonial state. She’s been speaking out about the fact that offshore drilling, which is approved and promoted by Canada, could end her way of life and damage her relationship with the land and sea – a relationship that she says is integral to who she is and the purpose of her life. 

Marilynn-Leigh was in a great mood and we had a lovely afternoon despite her fishing gear being once again seized by DFO the day before. 

In a CBC article she said,

“I did ask if I was going to be charged, and [a DFO officer] didn’t give me a straight answer.” 

“I said ‘It’s either you give me my gear back or charge me’. They refuse to charge me, so I don’t know why they keep harassing me,”

In April she told CBC:

“As a fisherwoman, [offshore drilling] is something we all worry about and that we all think about.”

“I won’t support any oil drilling anywhere near Nova Scotia. We don’t have many [natural] resources left, and if something were to happen on that rig, it’s not just a matter of fishing for a livelihood, it’s a matter of sustaining our way of life. Interrupting the way we’ve [fished] for thousands and thousands of years.” 

Francis said she’s been fishing with family members “by her inherent right” for 20 years, outside of Canada’s fishing regulations, and is the only person doing so in Mi’kmaq territory. She said the integrity of Nova Scotia’s ecosystems and Mi’kmaq ancestral territory “can’t be bought,” no matter the economic benefit. 

I brought a handful of lawn signs and bumper stickers courtesy of the Campaign to Protect Offshore Nova Scotia to give to Marilynn-Leigh, and she immediately put one outside her home and gave another to a neighbour. It is a real pleasure and honour to be able to support people like Marilynn-Leigh in her fight for justice.