Nova Scotia RCMP say a man is in hospital with life threatening injuries believed to be related to a large fire that destroyed a lobster pound in southwestern Nova Scotia overnight.
Sgt. Andrew Joyce says Yarmouth County RCMP and the West Pubnico Fire Department responded to the blaze at a fish plant in Middle West Pubnico, N.S. around midnight.
He says although the lobster facility was not occupied, a man is in a Halifax hospital with injuries police believe are related to the fire.
Joyce says he is a person of interest in the ongoing investigation into the fire that police are calling suspicious.
The fire capped a week of rising tensions over a treaty right to a self-regulated Indigenous fishery in the province.
Chief Mike Sack of the Sipekne’katik First Nation issued a statement saying the overnight blaze “further illustrates the need for greater police presence in the region.”
“I am once again calling on Prime Minister (Justin) Trudeau and the RCMP to dedicate the necessary resources to this region to protect everyone,” he said in a statement Saturday morning.
“I am extremely concerned that someone is going to get hurt or worse.”
Sack said the facility is owned “by a friend and ally,” adding that one of their community members was barricaded and his catch destroyed there last week.
Jonathan LeBlanc, fire chief for Eel Brook District Fire Department, said his team got a call around midnight about a blaze at a large commercial structure in West Pubnico.
He described the building as “a lost cause” with everything inside was destroyed, but said crews were able to prevent damage to adjacent buildings.
LeBlanc said it’s too early to identify the cause of the blaze, but the fire marshal’s office is investigating.
The incident comes after recent violent clashes and damage to lobster pounds over the Indigenous fishery in the province.
The non-Indigenous protesters oppose the band’s decision to start a commercial lobster fishing business that has operated outside the federally regulated lobster season since mid-September.
But Sack argues Indigenous people in Atlantic Canada and Quebec have a treaty right to fish for a moderate livelihood where and when they want, based on a 1999 Supreme Court of Canada decision that cites treaties signed by the Crown in the 1700s.
Many non-Indigenous critics, however, cite a clarification issued four months after the 1999 ruling, stating the Mi’kmaq treaty rights would be subject to federal regulations to ensure fish conservation.
On Twitter Saturday, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde said he’s reached out to the RCMP and the federal government to express First Nations’ “deep concern.”
“I demand a full and thorough investigation by the proper authorities,” Bellegarde said. “I will be monitoring the situation and will update later today.”